Over the last few months, the contrast between our two mayoral hopefuls has become stark and self-evident. O’Connell’s focus tends to be on propelling half-baked projects into the future— urbanization, mass transit, and marrying community oversight with policing– while Rolli speaks about solving the urgent, in-your-face problems facing the city like crime, education, and institutional accountability.
A few recent endorsements make these differences clearer. Rolli’s assertion that we should focus less on the rights of criminals and more on the rights of victims earned her a nod from the Fraternal Order of Police; meanwhile O’Connell received an endorsement from progressive DA Glenn Funk.
Since Funk took office in 2014, crime rates have increased across the board: this includes both violent crime and property crime. In the recent past, one could call the police and expect timely assistance; now, hour-long wait times are the norm. Let’s look at the numbers: 7,432 of violent crimes were recorded in 2014, Funk’s first year in office, versus 9,015 in 2022. Calls for service hit the one-million mark in 2014; in 2022, calls fell by 80 percent. Lastly, MNPD conducted 358,612 vehicle stops in 2015 compared to 25,679 in 2022.
Accompanying this is Funk’s refusal to prosecute certain crimes: whether it’s pardoning minor marijuana possession charges or refusing $354,000 in state dollars to fund DUI prosecutions, the DA has shied away from tough-on-crime policies. The jury’s out on O’Connell’s opinion of Funk’s leniency, but Rolli has had enough, even taking him to task on WKRN for not prosecuting criminal behavior. "When the word gets out, 'There's nothing wrong with stealing a gun, you're not going to be prosecuted for it,' then I think that that crime continues to be committed...at a higher rate," Rolli told trusted Nashville anchor Bob Mueller.
ONE ROTTEN APPLE SPOILS THE WHOLE BARREL
By now, we’ve seen how Metro insiders operate. During O'Connell's tenure as a council member, his colleagues pushed to fund wildly irresponsible nonprofits, signed off on participatory budgeting that may result in non-citizens voting on how to spend taxpayer dollars, and attempted to restrict a business’s access to tax breaks if they didn’t fund abortion accommodations, just to name a few examples. This, added to other institutional shortfalls that have MNPS parents distressed over their kids’ inability to read, as urban residents worry about getting priced out while insider deals, like the new stadium, reap the benefits of a booming city.
In 2019, a group of Columbia Law professors released a city-by-city public integrity study that sums all of this up, using one of Nashville’s council members- turned-mayors as an example. “The recent corruption charges against ex-Mayor Megan Barry and the ‘Do Better’ law passed at the end of 2018 perfectly exemplify these dueling motifs of corruption and public integrity activism.” Are Nashvillians willing to try this formula again?