Friday, July 20, 2007

Why I'm voting for David Briley

Those of you following this blog know that I have taken this campaign for mayor very seriously, and I have thoroughly investigated the candidates over the past year. I make no secret of the significance that I think this election will have for our city and our future. I can say that my investigation reveals what is so often true of the men and women who volunteer to lead our communities. In general, these people are bright and capable, compassionate and concerned, and incredibly generous with their willingness to put their lives on hold to work for the good of our community. The candidates for Mayor of Nashville this time around are certainly no exceptions to that general rule, and I am confident that the discussions and debates that have occurred in this campaign will benefit Nashville and its citizens no matter who is elected.

The nature of this year's campaign is also commendable. The issues have really taken center stage, and those who have clear visions for the future of this great city/county have been pressed to describe and defend those visions. These candidates have shown that politics about ideas is still possible and that personal slander and attack are not necessary to the political process. This fact gives me even greater hope for our ability as citizens of Nashville to come together to deal with the issues that will confront us in the years ahead.

I have said all along that my decision would be based on clear criteria that are important to me. I respect and appreciate anyone whose criteria differ from mine or who evaluate the candidates differently along these lines. If you are reading this post, however, you must have at least passing curiosity about what I think, and while I have left my conclusions until now and enjoyed the conversations with many of you that have helped me to clarify my own thinking, it is now time for me to share my thoughts. As always, my goal is to inspire conversation, so please feel free to respond to this post with any thoughts it may provoke.

I have investigated the Mayoral candidates according to the standards I laid out in My Conversation with Bob Clement's Campaign. To remember, my hopes for an education mayor include:

1. Creativity, innovation, and ideas (specific ones) for helping the public schools meet the unique challenges of educating for the next century rather than the past.

2. A willingness and ability to work the legislative and bureaucratic process to secure significant and well-managed monetary increases to support those good ideas.

3. A charismatic personality and the passion to inspire the people of the city to support public education.

As I have followed the campaign and thought about the issues that confront Nashville, I have begun to believe that these criteria, good for education, are also criteria that will help to identify the best candidate on other issues as well. I have broadened my assessment criteria to include the following:

  1. Does the candidate have a clear vision for the future?
  2. Does the candidate have the political and governing skill to realize that vision?
  3. Does the candidate have the ability to inspire the citizens to see and support that vision?

I have decided conclusively that David Briley best meets the 6 criteria and is best suited to be the next Mayor of Nashville. I reach this conclusion knowing that it differs from those reached by some others whom I respect. I reach this conclusion confident that the other candidates would do a fine job and be excellent mayors. I simply believe that David Briley will be an even better mayor.

David Briley has impressed me with his vision. He seems to understand the dynamics of Nashville's current and future growth better than the rest. He has an effectively balanced perspective that can best be termed "wise growth." While other candidates have some very good ideas for the future of Nashville, David Briley seems to have a framing vision into which those ideas fit without becoming sidetracked or part of a single issue campaign. His sharp vision gives him a strong ability to inspire and guide political debates and deal proactively with issues that our city needs to address.

Nashville's Mayors Bill Purcell and Phil Bredesen have established a legacy of wise management and good government that has literally transformed this city over the last 16 years. The current slate of candidates for Mayor are all incredibly well qualified to continue this legacy. The city will be well-managed under Briley's leadership. However, the transformation that has taken place in the last 16 years makes the demands for leadership very different now than they were while Mayors Bredesen and Purcell were working hard to get the metro engine rolling. While each of these men is likely to keep that engine rolling at a high rate, David Briley, more than the rest, has impressed me that he has a clear idea how to be sure that the growth and development in this city will produce an even greater city and not simply more of the same. With all due respect to my friends in Atlanta, Nashville is great because it is not Atlanta, and David Briley convinces me that he understand how to chart a path for the future greatness of Nashville that will make this city both better and more liveable at the same time.

The role of Nashville's Mayor s changing with the city. We have had two great mayors who have taken us from a big, small town to the doorstep of a top tier city. Development, fiscal discipline, strong management, and growth have made this city incredibly popular and strong. David Briley seems to understand, better than the rest, what is required of a big city mayor. Big city mayors can be scary because they can lose touch with their communities, yet David Briley understands that challenge and seems very comfortable leading Nashville to greatness in ways that include all citizens of Nashville and bring us all along. Nashville will become a big city in the next 15 years whether we want to or not. David Briley understands that while the present direction is good, more of the same now will limit the potential that we have to shape our own destiny rather than having that destiny shaped completely by outside forces.

So, David Briley has an important vision, his vision is inspiring, he has the ability to mobilize effective actions both inside the halls of government and among the citizens of Nashville. He has the clarity of vision to understand the tools of a strong education system. His assessment of education issues in Nashville shows clearly that he understands not only the issues and challenges but also the relationship-building and hard work that a mayor must do in working with the School District, the School Board, and the City Council to make sure that all those involved in educating our children share the right vision for their incredible responsibility.

If you agree or disagree, I hope you will let me know. If you are in the 35% of undecided citizens, I hope you will consider my perspective, but whether you agree with me or not, I sincerely hope that you will take seriously the significance of this decision for our future as a community. Politics allows us to agree to disagree and still move forward together. The candidates in this campaign have given us all the opportunity to choose a future for our city, and we owe it to them to take that decision seriously.

David Briley has the clearest vision for a future grounded in our present strengths. He knows how to lead us to becoming a big city worth living in. He has an amazing grasp of the public policy details he will need to make good decisions, and he seems very capable of listening and hearing the good ideas that others have. He has the experience in leading, governing, coordinating, and inspiring that will enable him to bring out the very best in this city.

He can win, but that is something he cannot do without us.

That's why I'm voting for David Briley.


Carol said...

Hi Alan,
I appreciate your perspective and since you asked us to let you know, I agree! I, too, think he has a vision for Nashville that I find appealing and inspiring.

Of course, that is not new news to those that know me, but since I don't have a blog, I would like to shamelessly post my reasons for supporting David Briley for Mayor here. I hope that is ok!

Why I Support David Briley for Mayor

Progressive Values
• He understands that it is in our collective best interest—economically, socially, ethically—to foster civic engagement, to celebrate diversity and to focus on the environment, because to paraphrase his opponent’s slogan—we are all connected.
• He values the concept of public schools, recognizes that parental involvement is the key to making them work and has a model for engaging parents based on his experience with Lockeland Elementary.
• He supports thoughtful, long-term strategies to prevent and address crime such as true community policing (walking a beat and developing a relationship with neighbors) and investing in early, intensive intervention with offenders (rather than spending more resources on more jail cells later).
• He identifies with urban and suburban residents and is prepared to work with them to enhance the assets of both types of communities and to find solutions to the problems that are unique to each.
o He recognizes that Davidson County needs to do a better job of ensuring that infrastructure needs are met before development gets a green light. Controlled, sustainable growth is a pivotal issue in this election.
o He grasps the important role that economic development, affordable housing and convenient, accessible, public transportation in the urban core will play in defining the future of Nashville as a city.
o He emphasizes the importance of green spaces and walkable neighborhoods to create a greater sense of community and improve our health.
• He is both down to earth and wicked smart—a rare and wonderful combination to find. (Okay, so that’s not a value, but it is an accurate characterization!)

Community Presence
I go to a lot of meetings, frequently in neighborhoods that face significant challenges and could use the support of people in power (and all of the viable candidates for Mayor have power of some kind). When assessing a candidate’s own level of civic engagement, I contemplate [1] how often have I seen this candidate in the community before he or she was running for office, [2] how often have I seen him or her during the campaign, and [3] what was the context and quality of the interaction with the group (was it just about reporting about him or herself or was there give and take).

Candidates involved prior to actively campaigning and candidates that are clearly working to get in contact with groups in disadvantaged areas during their campaign get points. What really matters, however, is the context and quality of their interactions. David is head and shoulders above his rivals on all of these criteria. He has been and continues to be available to listen as well as talk and willing to hang out afterward to chat and connect. That is the foundation for developing relationships—relationships that lead to collective action to maintain and improve our community.

Firm Opinions and Strong Leadership
David says what he thinks, not what he thinks you want to hear. I am certain that this is maddening at times for his campaign advisors, but I find it downright refreshing.

Both in print interviews and in forums, I have seen David suggest that a question asked of him actually missed the point (and one of the questions was one I had written). He then proceeded to provide some history or other facts that fleshed out the issue and explained his position based on that information. It takes some guts to question the questioner rather than simply giving the pat answer that everyone is expecting.

We need a Mayor with the confidence to question things rather than one that will stick a finger in the wind and then make a decision based on public opinion. I want a Mayor that listens to the people, but I also want one that recognizes that following public opinion does not always lead to the best public policy.

Fosters the Leadership of Others
I also want a Mayor that challenges the people. As an organizer, it is my job to agitate people to take action to improve their lives—to work with them to identify their concerns, what they think the solution should be and what they are going to do about it. This grassroots approach to problem solving is very important to me [and has been a deciding factor for me in other races in this election] because I believe that lasting, positive social change only comes from such active, engaged citizenry (a concept which goes way beyond volunteerism).

David’s passion for Lockeland Elementary and the testimonials from parents involved in the process to improve that school are a testament to his approach to problem solving: bring together the people impacted by the issue and decision makers, collectively create your vision and your plan for action and do it! It sounds so simple, but it is astounding how rarely it happens.

Often, the problem is that leaders (in government, business, the non-profit sector, etc.) assume that you just need to get a handful of folks in the room and hammer it out because if you actually meaningfully involve the public it could be prolonged and messy and besides the public is just too apathetic to care anyway… It’s hard to be involved if you are never invited in the first place.

I expect Mayor David Briley to not only invite the public, but to inspire and challenge us to get meaningfully involved in addressing the concerns that we have.

Carol McCullough

RAH_RAH said...

Thanks for your honesty. In a runoff between Clement and Dean, which candidate would you likely support? I'm just throwing a question out there.


Willbillson said...


Thank you for the breakdown of the Briley candidacy. It is hard to stay informed as an absentee voter. Question: If you had to handicap the race right now, what odds would you assign to the top three candidates?

Alan Coverstone said...

Responding to the last two questions:
As far as handicapping the races, I put most of my thoughts on that into the next post, To Poll or to Vote; That is the Question. Clearly Clemment has the name recognition and funds to be the favorite. Dean's numbers, non-existent a couple of months ago, now seem to show clear momentum, and the other candidates don't seem to be changing much one way or the other. We'll see if that means Dean and Clemment will be in the runoff or if one of the other candidates can work the turnout engine well enough to sneak into the runoff.

Regarding the question of whom I would support in a Dean Clemment runoff: As I said, I think either man would make a fine mayor. I prefer Briley for the reasons I listed, and I agree with most of the perspective expressed here by Carol, so I believe that if I have made up my own mind, I should go ahead and work to achieve the outcome I prefer. If, as Rah Rah's hypothetical suggests, Briley is not part of the runoff, I will begin my evaluation again. I will try to arrive at another thoughtful conclusion and cast my vote on September 11th. Sorry to "dodge that question," but that's an honest description of how I approach elections.

Thaks for the feedback. Keep it coming!

Kristine said...

The new Davidson County Democratic Party's website has a Voters' Guide to the upcoming Metro Elections. The Guide contains biographies and responses to our Issues Survey. The candidates' responses are unedited except for formatting for consistency. All of the mayoral candidates submitted responses to our requests and many of the Metro Council candidates as well. The page is found at

We have received good feedback about the information from the community and would like for more people to know about this resource.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you picked the wrong horse!