Early voting for the Davidson County runoffs kicks off today. On the ballot are the mayoral candidates, four council at-large positions, three District council positions, and a state House seat in District 51.
Last night Alice Rolli and her opponent, established progressive Freddie O’Connell, returned to Belmont’s campus for the final mayoral debate. Local outlets News Channel 5 and the Tennessean moderated the event, which they hosted alongside American Baptist College and League of Women Voters of Nashville. Here’s a quick recap of the event, which you can watch in full here.
ROLLIN’ WITH THE POLITICAL PUNCHES
“We need an education mayor. Karl Dean was the last one,” said Rolli, addressing Nashvillians’ number-one concern. “Ten years ago, 40 percent of our kids were reading on grade level.”
Addressing the need for school choice, she called out O’Connell for his own hypocrisy. “I want parents in our county to have the same choice that Freddie’s children have,” she said. “Freddie’s children are zoned for a school that he does not send them to. He sends them to a different school. And yet… we continue to tell certain communities in Nashville that their kids, if they can’t provide their own transportation, need to stay at a school.”
We have 19 schools today in the bottom 5 percent of our state, and 11 of them have been there since 2015. We’ve proposed that if your child is zoned to one of those schools and you’re not able, like Freddie is, to drive your kids to a successful school, that we will provide that transportation assistance option so that you and your family can go to a publicly funded school within our county so that we can keep you here, and we can make sure that your child is successful.
ROLLI DELIVERS A BLOW TO THE BUREAUCRACY
Rolli continued to fortify the education cornerstone of her platform by addressing MNPS’ incessant lockdown policy, which ultimately led to a decline in student performance. “A state law had to be passed when the needs of parents were being overridden at every turn by bureaucracy committed to not listening to parents,” she said. She went on to point out the obvious–-Nashvillians wouldn’t be appealing to the state if local officials listened to their constituents. “If our city runs well, the state will manage itself.”
“Alice has just said that the appropriate thing for Nashvillians to do is not to use our authority under our existing charter to do things like set our Metro Council size, it’s to go ask the state to override our local elected officials,” O’Connell scoffed.
The council member was referring to the ongoing battle between Metro and the State, while ignoring Rolli’s reasoning about why that battle is taking place: the unresponsiveness of local government.
This mirrors a similar, dismissive decision the Metro Council made in response to a petition filed in 2020 attempting to repeal the 34 percent property tax increase. The council adopted a Charter Amendment to address the inconvenient lawsuit entanglements that spawned from the push back, making it exponentially more difficult for citizens to file petitions. O’Connell voted in support of the measure.
FINAL ROUND: LEFT HOOK, RIGHT HOOK
In his closing remarks, O’Connell took a swipe at his opponent:
I love Nashville, and that’s why I’ve worked so long on ensuring that we have the tools to build a better future. For me, that doesn’t mean investing in a team that has connections to shadowy right wing groups, it doesn’t mean taking radical anti-tax pledges, it means looking towards the future in a way that shows consensus.
Following O’Connell, Rolli opted to gloss over the insult, instead expressing her skepticism of handing over the key to the city to another Metro insider: “Three times in a row, in the last eight years, we’ve moved a desk from the city council to the mayor’s office,” she stated. “And in that time, things… have gone downhill. Our crime is up, our tax rate per capita is 70 percent higher, and our schools are declining both in their results, and in the number of families choosing [them].”