By John Ray Clemmons

NASHVILLE, TN — As we work together to address Nashville’s greatest challenges, Metro cannot continue to neglect communities of color. Fully funding MNPS, solving our affordable housing crisis, and improving transit are essential to ensure equity, create opportunity, and demand justice for all residents.

Ensuring equity is a primary value through which my administration will function.

Fully Funding MNPS is a critical first step. MNPS serves nearly 86,000 students, and it is chronically underfunded and understaffed. Seventy percent of students in MNPS schools are brown and black children, many who attend some of the most critically underfunded schools in our city. This is a severe injustice. My wife and I both attended public schools and we are proud to send our own children to an MNPS school. For the benefit of every child in every zip code, I will work to fully fund our school system and ensure that those funds are equitably distributed to address the unique needs of every school and its students.

Ending the affordable housing crisis will protect Nashville’s diversity. Nashville is facing a 31,000 unit shortage by 2025, with most of the shortage directly affecting low-income and indigent families. The housing crisis is only exacerbated in the African-American and immigrant communities. We have seen a shift in the diversity of Nashville’s most historic and culturally rich neighborhoods with many long-time residents being forced out of their neighborhoods. Displacement is robbing Nashville of its most important strength — its diversity. The consequences of unabated growth must be acknowledged and addressed head-on if we are to move forward in an inclusive manner.

Better jobs in Nashville start with Metro. Metro must lead by example and provide a living wage, and private companies wanting to relocate or do business in Nashville should follow our lead. Metro has over 1,300 employees that make less than $15 per hour. In a city where $80,000 is required to live comfortably, our focus should be on improving affordability. Our holistic focus should be on wages, as well as equitable access to public transportation, high quality pre-K, public schools, and housing.

Nashville’s economy is rooted in healthcare and Meharry and General Hospital need Metro’s full support. I am committed to supporting Meharry Medical College and General Hospital. Our city should finally recognize how fortunate it is to have Meharry, and the stability of our community’s safety net hospital should not be contingent upon the political whims of the mayor and the Metro Council. As mayor, I will continue strengthening the valuable partnership between Meharry and Nashville General Hospital, as well as the rest of our city’s booming healthcare industry, to ensure that all thrive in an innovative and comprehensive manner for the benefit of all.

Focus on 37208. My administration will work alongside community and faith leaders in North Nashville to support local nonprofits doing substantive work on the ground to address poverty, youth violence, and crime. Unfortunately, 37208 has the most incarcerations per capita of any zip code in the nation. Metro should take immediate and intentional steps to restore trust between our police officers and the community. We must finally implement body cameras and provide the Community Oversight Board with necessary support. As we work together to address Nashville’s greatest challenges, Metro cannot continue to neglect the deeper impact these issues have on communities of color. Fully funding MNPS, solving our housing crisis, and improving access to public transit are integral steps towards ensuring equity, creating opportunity, and demanding justice for everyone. I will serve you as a progressive mayor, with an inclusive vision that is committed to all of our families and neighborhoods. It is time for a change in Nashville. It is time for a fresh start.

State Representative John Ray Clemmons represents House District 55 in the Tennessee General Assembly and is running to be Nashville’s next mayor. Follow him on Twitter @Clemmons4Mayor.