NASHVILLE, TN – Blacks in this town voted for John Cooper because they were tired of lip service to fair play and equal opportunity. He promised a city that works for everybody. And he promised to put sidewalks and bus stops in other neighborhoods besides Green Hills.
“I think with all that’s happened in Nashville over the last two years with the instability, Cooper represented a stable voice and that’s what Nashvillians were looking for,” said Jeff Obafemi Carr. A former mayoral candidate, Carr joined Cooper’s campaign in June as senior advisor.
Cooper wants to audit the Finance Department and the sweetheart contracts it has been passing out to the “good old boys” network that has enjoyed an inside track on city business for decades. There are a lot of pissed off developers and contractors in Nashville right now. A reform mayor like Cooper in City Hall is their worst nightmare.
But on election night at Cooper’s victory party at Nashville Palace, there was nothing but hope and satisfaction that Cooper unseated the incumbent, David Briley, by a whopping 69% to 30%.
“As Mayor, I will work every day to continue to listen and learn. To put neighborhoods first and make sure that this administration reflects the values of our city and her people in all of our actions to restore trust that our people and their needs come first,” Cooper said.
Just a year ago, Cooper was polling at 2%. He threw his hat in the ring, then withdrew it, and belatedly entered the Mayor’s race last April with a Marshall Plan for Metro. A savvy campaign team worked voters and the press with a clear message: Nashville needs to change direction. And his numbers began to rise.
Cooper won endorsements from Metro teachers, firemen, police, laborers, and the Tennessee Building and Construction Trades. He spent big on campaign ads and held dozens of events putting his plan before the voters.
Councilwoman Brenda Haywood backed Cooper and her family was on hand at the victory party.
“Briley just conceded. He just conceded!” exclaimed a breathless Haywood as if she couldn’t really believe it. Three generations of her family were seated around a table in front of the stage. They all voted for Cooper. Grandson Chad Haywood said he made up his own mind.
“He offers the best thing for our city and he’ll be the best Mayor,” said young Haywood.
Cooper’s win was a victory over the well-connected by the little people like Havron Boyd who works at Frederick Douglass Head Start program in East Nashville.
“He’s for the teachers and he’s for families and neighborhoods. He’s going to give the neighborhoods what they need and help the teachers get what they need. So we’re for him,” Boyd said.
And there was Shane Smiley, sunburned from a day spent at the polling location at Brush Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Inglewood. Smiley is Chairman of the Flea Market Vendors Association. He said for the last 18 months Briley’s people never gave him the time of day about the MLS stadium deal at the Fairgrounds.
“I requested numerous meetings with him to sit down and talk about the impact of what was going to happen at the Fairgrounds with the proposed MLS stadium and mixed use development. Multiple emails, multiple personal requests where he told me to call his office and schedule a meeting and I’ve had zero response,” Smiley said. “I’ve never been on his page because he’s never been on our page,” he added.
Steve Reiter said he voted for Cooper because the alternative would be more budget troubles down the road.
“Parking modernization is the wrong policy. Selling the district energy system, selling real estate for fire sale prices, that’s not the way to go. We have to have balanced budgets and the only way we’re going to get that is with Mr. Cooper who has been a watchdog on the budget for four years,” Reiter said.
It was an odd gathering: mostly white political conservatives sat at booths at the back of Nashville Palace and reform-minded blacks sat closer to the stage. And then there was a general mill of all races in between. There was food and free drinks and a Mariachi band and two fiddlers. Everybody had a good time on election night. How it will all play out as time goes by remains to be seen.
Cooper had a help wanted sign posted on his website the day after the election. Here is a link for people who want to send him their resumes: https://johncooperfornashville.com. Cooper said his administration will be guided by four core values:
- Making Nashville a city that works for everybody
- Focusing on neighborhoods
- Restoring fiscal responsibility
- Restoring trust