NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After two decades worth of experience in education, business and government, Alice Rolli wants her next job to be Nashville mayor.
Rolli previously served as the assistant commissioner of strategy for the Tennessee Department of Economic Development. She also served as campaign manager for former Sen. Lamar Alexander.
NewsChannel 5 sent every person running for mayor a questionnaire with the same questions. We have not edited these answers from the candidates, meaning these responses are straight for them.
Nashville’s violent crime rate outpaces the national average as well as that of similar-sized cities. As Mayor, how would you work with MNPD to ensure Nashvillians can feel safe in our city?
As Mayor, Alice Rolli will reset the attitude at the top around our approach to crime and our support of our police. While Alice has never worn the uniform, her husband wore the uniform for 20 years and she understands what it means to support those who swear their lives to serve others. Alice has advocated for a re-set from a criminal justice system to a victims’ justice system – and she believes that the pendulum has swung too far in not enforcing sentencing guidelines for crimes like firearm theft.
Morale in our police force will continue to decline if we continue to accept a catch-and-release attitude around crime. Based on national crime data currently two-thirds of our crimes reported are never cleared – this is making our criminals more bold and our victims more helpless. As Mayor Alice Rolli will demand accountability for our residents — and for victims of crime — so that we can avoid following the path of other big cities in America.
We’ve seen multiple neighborhoods grapple with the proliferation of homeless encampments that pose threats to public safety and sanitation. How would you balance compassionate treatment of the unhoused with the desire of citizens to live in clean, safe neighborhoods?
As Mayor we will continue to advance the resources to create more housing (Nashville spent more of its federal COVID relief money on housing for the homeless than any other city in the country, this should be applauded). We will challenge the many strong non-profits and departments within the city working on homelessness to determine how we can be more streamlined and accountable in our services and in delivering solutions – because we’ve seen that programs where there is accountability (such as the Contributor) achieve greater long term results in reducing homelessness, teaching job skills, and ensuring individuals ability to maintain permanent housing.
We will advocate for legislation proposed to build more residential mental health treatment beds across the state to ensure that individuals with mental health challenges have a bed in a state-funded treatment center. We will support our police in their work to apprehend and arrest individuals committing crimes in homeless encampments – and contributing to higher crime and reduced quality of life for nearby neighbors.
Metro Nashville government has been involved in a series of spats with the Republican-controlled state legislature that could have far-reaching effects on how the city functions. How will you work with the state legislature and preserve the will of Metro Nashville’s voters?
Alice Rolli believes it is possible to love both Nashville and Tennessee and our residents benefit when we work together. The highest point in the county is named for Alice’s great-grandfather — Ganier Ridge at Radnor Lake. Residents nearby don’t care that it is a state park — they are glad that our city leaders worked with the state and today we have a park instead of 300 houses on that land. Alice’s approach — and position as a common sense, pragmatic, Republican leader capable of building bridges — is decidedly different from the rest of the field. She is the only candidate who has been to talk with the county mayors leading our fast-growing neighboring counties. And she is the only candidate to meet with the head of the 70-member Mayor’s caucus. Davidson County is not alone in experiencing challenges of growth — and challenges that are exacerbated by certain state laws that make it difficult for us to charge impact fees to capture the cost of growth at the site of growth.
Uniquely, Alice believes we will get more done to change laws when we work together with our regional mayors to arrive at solutions that benefit county governments grappling with the cost of growth. Also, to repair relationships with the state we’ve got to get our city’s priorities in order – we are dead last in the state for high school preparedness and we devote more of our city’s budget to our debt payments than the entire state of Tennessee, combined. Managing our city well — and working with the state — will ultimately benefit our residents.
For the first time ever in Vanderbilt’s annual poll, a majority of Nashvillians said our city is moving in the wrong direction. How do you think we can get Nashville on the right track?
Nashvillians see that they are paying a lot more for city services and getting less — we have more than 100 homicides a year, emergency call times are longer and we are rated 95 out of 95 counties for our schools. To get Nashville on the right track requires injecting accountability of our government to our taxpayers.
This means bringing Alice Rolli’s perspective — she is less concerned with defending the way that things have always been done — and more concerned with getting results for our citizens so that when you call 911 an officer comes, so that you can expect to be able to secure a seat in a high-quality tax-payer funded school for your kids, and that you can make ends meet because your taxes aren’t continually going up.
As Nashville has grown, so has the cost of living. What strategies would you employ to make our city affordable for working families?
First, Alice Rolli is the only candidate who has pledged not to raise taxes. Davidson County residents are the most taxed of any city in the state. The downtown crowd will talk about how low your tax rate is — but that’s not the same as the percent of your income you pay as a resident in taxes — that makes us the highest taxed residents in the state, and it is why working families are moving out of the county to find relief from high taxes and live in counties where services like schools and public safety are fully functioning. Government has to get back to the basics and live within our means.
We have to get our schools on track — right now nearly 80% of our graduates are not graduating prepared for career, college, or military. That means our kids are not able to compete for the maximum-wage jobs coming to our city. To make the city more affordable means we’ve also got to be sure our neighborhoods are safe – which means increasing accountability for criminals so that our most affordable neighborhoods remain safe from crime. To make the city more affordable means we need to continue to support bus routes that people are actually using – so that we can help reduce the costs of commuting for working families. Above all, we need to provide value for the dollars that our citizens are paying to deliver the basic services of government – and to get away from using City Hall as a backdrop for picking National Political fights.
A Nashville mayor hasn’t discussed rapid-area transit in earnest since Mayor Barry’s plan was rejected by voters. What are your thoughts on what the city needs for public transit?
For all the discussion of what the state is taking away from Metro, we were given the ability to levy dedicated transit funding and we failed spectacularly in 2018 when we took a go-it-alone approach. Davidson County voters — and just as importantly voters from the surrounding counties — are absolutely ready to engage in a thoughtfully planned process which should culminate in a ballot referendum either in November 2024 or 2026. As Mayor Alice Rolli will absolutely support running a process that listens to residents and is transparent, clear, and regionally aligned. Without dedicated funding we are not able to draw on federal and state dollars and we are putting our taxpayers at a disadvantage relative to other cities that are able to leverage those funds.
Near term, incremental improvements can be made with expanded schedule for the STAR commuter train and identifying expansion for satellite park-n-ride and neighborhood bus centers that can serve to reduce car trips into downtown. Where feasible, using technology (such as Adaptive Signal Control Technology) to improve traffic synchronization and flow can also alleviate some congestion. We are in for a painful decade ahead as we work to catch our infrastructure up to our expanded population.
Just under 30 percent of Nashville’s third graders are reading at grade level. Nashville has trailed significantly in education gains compared to other Middle Tennessee counties. What can a mayor do for education?
As a former educator, mother, and business leader Alice Rolli will be very involved in education as Mayor of Nashville. It is our city’s single largest expense item and the issue that most clearly defines long term success for a city. Cities like Miami-Dade, which spends slightly less on a per-pupil basis than MNPS, succeeded in moving their school system from an “F” rated to an “A” rated by focusing relentlessly on the results for kids – from early childhood literacy rates through preparation for college, career, and military service. Injecting urgency, accountability and transparency are paramount to getting results for families in Davidson County. Further, as Mayor Alice Rolli will boldly advocate for the safety of our students.
Currently MNPS does not have a School Resource Officer at every school in MNPS – even though the state has made $140 million dollars available to support us doing just that. We’ve got to take advantage of those funds. As Mayor Alice Rolli will insist that our students and teachers have an officer staffed full time in all of our schools – and we will take advantage of the new state money to pay for this common sense addition to improve safety for our schools.
There is a perception that downtown is more of a priority because of the revenue it generates. What policies do you propose that will serve all neighborhoods?
Revenue generated in about half a percent of our county funds about a quarter of our services. Both our downtown and our neighborhoods need to benefit from a more accountable and citizens-focused government. To do that means tackling inefficiencies in our government to be sure we are serving the most people possible at the least cost to taxpayers — and reducing complexity or bureaucratic bottlenecks that don’t help us achieve that goal. It means setting clear neighborhood goals for feet of sidewalk, lighting, and continued transit improvements (such as the new neighborhood transit centers and covered bus stops).
It means setting clear goals and accountability for literacy and graduation rates for our schools. It means setting clear goals for fully staffing our police and fire /EMS to meet defined targets for call times. Through injecting accountability and focus on the outcomes for residents vs. defending the processes created over decades – we can better serve all of our citizens.
Nashville has faced the following in the last three years: the pandemic, a tornado, a bombing, and a mass shooting. What makes you qualified to handle these levels of crises?
Alice Rolli’s 20+ year career in business, government, and education has well prepared her to manage a multitude of crises. As an owner-manager of Worldstrides, the country’s largest student travel organization, she managed crisis evacuations for university groups in issues as varied as the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan to armed robbery of a group in Buenos Aires to the shooting of a Nashville woman in the Mumbai terror attacks. As a high school teacher in our nation’s second largest public school system, Alice honed her ability to work with very diverse families experiencing various levels of success in education.
As an aide to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander Alice Rolli regularly managed complex and complicated issues in both the federal and high stakes campaign environment. As an army wife, Alice managed a multitude of moves, deployments, and the complexities that are experienced for military families in a time of war. Taken together these experiences in business, government, and life – have shaped her ability to lead and communicate effectively through times of crisis — and to bring to bear the needed perspective to empathize with individuals impacted in these situations while steadily charting a path forward for all impacted stakeholders.
Come July 1, Nashville’s Community Oversight Board, as we know it, will cease operating. How will you ensure that Nashville gets the same level of community oversight that voters overwhelmingly approved?
As required by law as Mayor Alice Rolli will appoint 7 community members to a reconstituted Citizens-Police Advisory Board committed to the importance of citizen perspective as a means to strengthen relationships between the police and the community at large. Alice is committed to appoint community members that represent a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences with the criminal justice system — including victims of crime and those who advocate for the rights of victims of crime, retired police, advocacy organizations related to reducing recidivism, and individuals with a variety of perspectives on the judicial system such as educators, religious leaders, business leaders and other community stakeholders. Our MNPD is held up as a best-practice, nationally, for how swiftly our body-worn camera footage is released — which continually reinforces the importance of transparency and trust in our police force. As Mayor, Alice Rolli will continue to ensure that there is a strong degree of transparency and accountability to citizens – whilst also ensuring that we are efficient in our adjudication of matters referred to the reformulated Citizens-Police Advisory Board.