District 26 Metro Council runoff candidates 2019
The version of the browser you are using is no longer supported. Please upgrade to a supported browser.Dismiss

View only
CandidateJeremy ElrodCourtney Johnston
Office soughtMetro Council District 26 (incumbent)Metro Council District 26
Town or city and ZIP codeNashville 37220Nashville 37211
EducationBachelor of Arts - University of Tennessee at Martin
Juris Doctorate - Nashville School of Law
B.S. Finance, LSU
Job historyCurrently, I’m an attorney who serves as the Director of Government Relations for the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association, where I work with state policy makers and utilities across the state. Previously, I worked over a decade at the state legislature mostly dealing with state transportation and road safety policy for the House Transportation Committee. My career has been focused on improving and investing in vital infrastructure for communities and residents.Debt Reorganization Specialist, Deutsche Bank; Partner, One Call Catering; Owner, Acklen Park Cafe and Catering; Owner, Comprehensive Clinical Solutions; Realtor, KW and Synergy Realty (current)
FamilyMarried to my wife. We have two 4-year-old sons that start kindergarten at MNPS this fallHusband - Daniel Johnston (2017), no children, dog - Raleigh (westie)
Why are you running for this office?I'm running for re-election to continue protecting neighborhoods, making Metro work better, investing in our priorities, and dealing with Nashville's traffic and growth. I pledge to continue to always listen to my neighbors and their concerns to be their voice on the Metro Council.

Also, I have an old-fashioned view and passion that government should serve the people. I want to do everything I can to make sure Metro government serves the people and businesses in my district well, that it’s run responsibly and responsively, to empower the people I represent to get the services and information they want and make sure Metro responds to my constituents’ needs. In short, to make sure government is working well, and that it works for the people of my district and Nashville.
It’s time to get back to the basics of running a city by recentering our priorities around universal services that benefit everybody. Our police, firefighters, teachers, and metro employees have been unsupported and largely ignored while hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into developer incentives and ancillary projects. We need strong leaders who will be financially responsible with their neighbor’s tax dollars and trustworthy and transparent in the deals and negotiations they enter into. The current citizens of Nashville need to be at the forefront of every decision made.
What makes you qualified to hold this office and better qualified than your opponent(s)?Working to make governments work for its citizens has been my career and passion, and I bring an unique combination of skills and experiences that I want to put to work for my neighbors. I’ve spent my professional career on transportation, utility, infrastructure, and governance policy at the state and in countless local governments across Tennessee. I’ve made significant progress in making changes in Metro, and I want to continue that work. I understand where Nashville is as a city right now, how my neighbors and many Nashvillians view that city and the changes they want, and what can be done to accomplish those changes. During my career, I’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, on big ideas and small ideas. It the responsibility of leaders to work together, put personal issues aside, and get to work for the city. I’ve done that the past four years, and I want to continue to do that. Most of all, I want to continue to listen to my neighbors and constituents so I can be their voice to Metro government.It takes a strong business mind to be effective in a government leadership role, and my private sector career of building, selling, and managing enterprises has been the perfect preparation for public service. Along the way, I’ve developed strong customer service skills, which consist in communicating effectively by listening well. Perhaps most important, I’m committed to giving this my all, planning to set aside my career in real estate to focus 100% on the needs of my neighbors and our city.
What are your top 2 to 3 priorities for your new (or next) term in office?1. Invest in Schools, Safety and Sidewalks and Make Metro Work Better
- Focus on and budget for the priorities we want in our city – improving and fully funding our schools, higher paid and better equipped police officers and firefighters, and more sidewalks in our neighborhoods. We need to modernize our transportation system, revamp Metro departments and procedures, overhaul our city’s economic incentives, and overall make Metro government work better for the city we are and the one we’re growing to be.

2. Deal with Traffic and Growth While Protecting Our Neighborhoods
- To stay the city we all love to live in, Metro has to stop falling behind and must tackle traffic congestion, deal with the effects of Nashville’s growth, and protect our neighborhoods. Metro has allowed growth to happen without dealing with its effects, so we must invest in the infrastructure, city services, public safety and schools that are impacted from our city’s rapid growth.

3. Listening to My Neighbors
- The most important thing a member of the Metro Council can be is accessible. People can always contact me anytime about anything with a phone call, a text, an email or a Facebook/Twitter/NextDoor message. I am their voice on the Metro Council, and I pledge to continue to always listen to my neighbors and their concerns.
My mission is to prioritize our tax dollars, paying for basic needs first: Public Safety, Education, and Infrastructure. While enjoying the highest revenue dollars in its history, Metro government is still in the red due to debt (the highest in the country per capita of any city of its size) and rampant irresponsible spending. Any new tax dollars must go only to those first priorities and nowhere else until they are fully funded.
Do you think Nashville is headed in the right direction? Why or why not?Parts of it is. In overall growth metrics, Nashville’s economy is doing well with a low unemployment rate as most people can find a job if they want one. However, the growth and good in the city has been spread out unevenly. What jobs are available? What do they pay? What is the quality of life? How easy is it for people to get around town? Do people feel safe in the city, in their neighborhood, on their street? Is Metro providing the level of education and public safety that it should? In many of these we are lacking, but they aren’t anything we can’t improve or fix. There is much more good about our city right now then there is bad. However, every measurable will eventually trend the wrong way if we don’t deal with the effects of growth that are impacting our city’s ability to meet the expectations of Nashvillians and provide the city leadership and services they deserve. There has been so much focus and investment into the downtown and tourism, and it’s been wildly successful. But our neighborhoods, our students and teachers, our first responders, and our city employees have been largely ignored and left behind. If we don't change our focus and get our priorities straight, we are absolutely headed in the wrong direction. It makes no sense to give millions of dollars in incentives to developers and big corporations for galloping growth when we don't have a sustainable foundation to keep people safe, educate our children, or properly compensate the people who make Nashville work. We have to take care of the people that take care of us.
What is your opinion on Nashville's growth and should it be sustained? If so, how?The high level of growth is likely unsustainable, but Nashville growing in general should be able to be sustained. Every city wants to grow, but it matters how we grow and how we handle it. We aren’t handling it well enough right now. We need to make the investments in schools, transportation like transit, sidewalks, and neighborhood traffic calming, and public safety. If we don’t make these investments, we will be paralyzed by our growth. Just like a business, any city that isn’t growing is going in the wrong direction, but we have to have leadership that wants to tackle handling the growth. That’s the biggest thing I want to work on for the next four years. Nashville's growth is exciting in so many ways, but it’s time to focus on balancing that growth and taking care of the people that already live and work here. I’d like to shift the focus to local small business and encourage entrepreneurship rather than corporate welfare and handouts for big developers.
In his State of Metro address, Mayor Briley said he wants Nashville to be the most equitable city in America. How do we get there and what barriers are holding the city back?Generally, it’s it unequal access to opportunities that is the biggest barrier. Too many people are in a cycle of poverty, even though they may work several jobs to provide for their family. We need better schools for areas of high poverty, with additional services that those children need that other children in the city and county may not need. We need to make sure our city’s courts administer fines and fees in a way that just doesn’t add to the burden of the poor. Better transit and other city services will help people get around the city more cheaply and reduce their cost of living as a car is expense to maintain. We need to do more to make sure the growth we incentivize spreads investment in more parts of the city. Additionally, when we grant economic incentives, we can’t just count on a rising tide limiting all boats. We should see where there are more opportunities to have community benefit agreements to help make sure neighbors benefit as much as developers. We must make the purposeful investments as a city in schools, public safety, and other city services that should go along with the growth the incentives bring. So many citizens have been left behind, priced out, or fallen victim to gentrification. Reining in spending and spending any new tax dollars only on the universal needs of all taxpayers, instead of special interests, is the way to get to a more equitable city. Excessive spending on non-essentials, the enormous amount of debt we have, and the interest we are paying on it are holding us all back and benefiting some at the expense of others. The only fair way to spend tax dollars is on services that benefit everybody.
What are you hearing most from voters about what they want you to accomplish, if elected?Protect their neighborhood and deal with growth. A neighborhood should grow as the residents in the neighborhood want it to, if they want it to. Neighborhoods must be protected against growth they don’t want, and in my district many neighborhood streets are seeing cut-through traffic that must be slowed down or redirected back to main roads. “Deal with growth” encompasses a lot: make our transportation system work better with the increasingly bad traffic congestion, capture more revenue from tourism and the city’s visitors, improve our schools, pay our teachers/police officers/firefighters the salaries they deserve with the increased demand on them and to attract, add teachers/police officers/firefighters that we should be doing with the increase in students, people and buildings, get the Metro budget in line, and overall make Metro government work better for residents that live here.Most people just want to live in a safe, quiet neighborhood, get to work without fighting hours of traffic, and feel good about the education their children are receiving. They don't want to have to pick up the tab with higher property tax rates because the Mayor and Council can't spend wisely and responsibly. They want Metro government to get back to basics.
What is your position on economic incentives to private companies in the past and in the future?The city’s current economic incentive programs and tools should be reexamined and revamped. They were put together during the Great Recession, when Nashville wanted any growth that would come our way. Now, we can and should be more selective about the growth we want to invest in and the priorities we have in the economic development we want to see in the city. Economic incentives have their place and purpose, but that purpose should be realigned with the city we are today. Many of the deals done ten years ago wouldn’t and shouldn’t be done today. Additionally, we need better metrics on the impact of economic incentives to know their true benefits and costs. The best way to make changes is with all the information possible. Economic incentives can attract certain industries and companies that spur similar companies and investment in the city, which in turn also spur more jobs and opportunities. How the city goes about using incentives in the future should be revamped and modernized. Economic incentives are great tools to bring businesses and jobs to our City and promote economic activity. We've done that in an extraordinary way. Moving forward, let's focus on the people that are already here, people who have been here for years, and let’s improve their quality of life by fully funding our metro employees, public safety personnel, education, and infrastructure. Let's get back to basics and find solutions for affordable housing before we incentivize any more growth.
How involved should the mayor and Metro Council be in governing Metro Nashville Public Schools?As involved as legally possible, because all of the city’s leaders need to come together to make our schools better and give children a better education. State law doesn’t allow the mayor and council to direct how MNPS spends money. MNPS receive their funding from the city, and they get to decide how to spend it. Right now, there is little confidence in the current school board as a whole, which results in a hesitancy to give them more funding. The mayor should work with the board on an MOU on the expectations of the board and the city. The council and the board should work together on how to accomplish the shared goal of improving Metro Schools, and how to make significant investments in pay for teachers and other support staff, along with other school resources like a text book for every student to take home. The mayor, council, schools director, and the board should have regular communications to improve their relationship. The school board must make meaningful changes to operate more like a body that can function. While there aren’t many legal ways for the mayor and council to be involved in the schools beyond appropriating money, I think practical and political necessity require a all-hands-on-deck to make MNPS better.Government works best when there are reliable checks and balances in place. At this point, the school board is not held accountable at all, so the next Mayor and Council should play an active role in selecting the next Director of Schools. What we have seen in recent months has been an embarrassment for our city and a travesty for our students. Ultimately, education should be considered an investment, not a cost, because it is the foundation of our future prosperity.
Do support increasing the property tax rate for Metro Nashville residents? If so, why? If not, why not?As of writing this, there are two public plans to raise property taxes. One of them has been public for a few weeks, another public for a couple days, with another possibly being made public mere days before it’s to be voted on. I am undecided on the plans until I see all of them along with the mayor’s plan that doesn’t have a property tax increase. Either way, this is not the way to handle a tax increase. We need to do more to capture revenue from tourism, visitors, development and growth, including putting some of the money that currently goes into the downtown tourist development zone into the general fund so that more of the revenue generated downtown does to the rest of city. We need to approach the state legislature about adding more tools to capture tax revenues from tourism and growth. The current property tax rate was set incorrectly based on a bad estimate on how much revenue it would bring in, a higher than normal number of appeals won at the Board of Equalization, and the anticipated passing of the transit plan, which would have moved MTA spending to the transit plan’s dedicated funding and freed up that money in the general fund to go to other things like schools and public safety. We also have structural issues in our budget due to rising debt costs due to a debt restricting done before I came onto the council. I need to see that we have cut everywhere we can in Metro, and done everything we can to capture revenue from tourism and growth, before I could support a property tax increase. I’m not a proponent of throwing more money at a spending problem. Nashville is facing a perfect storm of recent rampant and irresponsible spending as well as debt and debt service payments from previous administrations. We cannot continue to ""kick the can"" down the road. Paying your Master Card with your Visa just makes a big problem bigger. Instead, let’s make some cuts and restructure the current budget. Without cuts, a property tax increase is not equitable. Any net increase should be earmarked specifically for universal services such as public safety, education, and infrastructure. Progress depends on priorities.
We’ve got to get back to basics. We’ve got to take care of those who take care of us.
Although the transit referendum of 2018 failed, how should Metro approach transit and transportation issues into the future?Giving people more transportation options is too important to wait to tackle investing in transit and trying to make other options work. To make a significant investments in transit, the city must implement dedicated funding that goes to just transit and related services. Otherwise, we will continue to see city budgets like the current proposed one where transit invests are lagging because it competes for funding with the city’s other priorities. The next mayor and council should examine what a new transit plan could look like, with city-wide public feedback. The discussion should also include whether to pay for and how to do so. The next mayor should also ask the state and surrounding counties to be partners in a larger transit plan, otherwise it may not be successful. A smaller plan may be the next step, but the public needs to be involved with crafting it. The transit referendum failed because it was too expensive, it didn’t involve inclusive input from the community, and it didn't really solve any problems. The truth is our congestion problem is not just a Davidson County issue. It's a regional problem and, therefore, requires a regional solution with input and buy-in from every surrounding county. Including State and Federal agencies in the discussion will also be essential since many of our corridors and major thoroughfares are state or federal roads.
What is your position on the future of scooters in Nashville?The future of scooters is, and always has been, up to Nashville. With the city’s increasing traffic congestion, particularly downtown, we need to examine multiple options to reduce the number of cars. Scooters could be an option that would help with that, but there are too many on the streets (and sidewalks), with no enforcement, lacking bike infrastructure, and no culture of using them correctly. Metro is also not using any of the tools the current regulations give it to reduce the number of scooters. A scooter ban is coming unless the number of scooters are significantly reduced, there is effective and visible enforcement, and the scooter companies paying for it. The current pilot project needs to be significantly revamped or scrapped completely. An RFP process that limits the number of companies and scooters, puts in place high permit fees to make scooter companies pay for the program, establishes enforcement that will work, requires significant commitments from the companies for corals and education, and other tools and regulations to give Metro flexibility to implement all of it to hopefully make scooters work. The number of scooters should at least be reduced dramatically as soon as possible, while a ban on scooters is certainly still possible if things can’t come together to make them work.Downtown Nashville, with its narrow streets, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and alcohol suffused activities, is no place for scooters. It's not safe for anyone.
How should Nashville address the affordable housing scarcity? And what is your position on Mayor Briley's Under One Roof initiative?We need to do more incentive affordable housing be built in Nashville, maintain/increase contributions to the Barnes Fund, encourage development along corridors so they’re close to transit (and thus reduced living costs), identify Metro property that could be used for affordable housing, collect information for the public to utilize on where affordable housing is, etc. I’m supportive of most of the mayor’s plan, but we still need to do more. Rapid population growth and downtown development have left many Metro communities behind. That, combined with rising interest rates, has made Nashville increasingly unaffordable for younger residents, blue collar workers, school teachers, and public safety personnel. In fact, home prices have nearly doubled over the past six years.

What is a non-starter with me is Mayor Briley’s plan to add $350 million to Metro’s debt. This would just be another massive government spending project administered by bureaucrats for the benefit of politically well-connected developers.

So what should we do? We can start by identifying unused land owned by Metro government where private developers could bid in a fair and transparent process for tax incentives to develop affordable housing.

Another option comes from The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which allows state and local governments to create “Opportunity Zones” in economically distressed areas where capital gains will go untaxed when reinvested there for a period of ten years.
What is your position on a proposal to privatize parking enforcement in the downtown and surrounding areas?I am opposed to the current plan. Nashville and Metro desperately need to update and modernize how we handle our city’s street parking, but the current plan isn’t the way to do it. We first should examine and determine how we can do all of the things in the plan with Metro employees. This plan (like the sale of DES) is the result of neglecting a key piece of infrastructure for too long, and then the years of neglect often necessitate a substantial change in the current way it’s handled. The current plan does too much, too fast, with a contract for too long, with a private company without fully determining if Metro can do all the things in the plan itself. For parking, we should look at other cities that have tried the same thing. In Chicago, it's been disastrous. Mayor Briley negotiated this deal with his back against the wall desperately trying to fill a $30 million hole in his budget. That's no way to negotiate. It's hard for me to speak on this specific deal as the details have not been made public, not even to the Council. The only thing that makes sense is more meters and higher rates...much higher. The sheer lack of transparency in this deal makes me take pause. Mayor Briley says it has been halted, but it's still in his budget apparently.
What is your position on the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds?My position is to invest in the Nashville Fairgrounds to preserve and improve the current uses while making it a better public space by adding more venues and uses as the city and neighbors want. The Nashville Fairgrounds will be a vital venue for all Nashvillians for decades to come because of the investments made in the past few years that preserve all of the current uses . I’ve gone to the state fair and the flea market since I was a kid, so for me it is a beloved place that I wish would have seen investment years ago. The current buildings were in need of significant repair or replacement. The property wasn’t tied to the surrounding community, and it wasn’t realizing its full potential. With the soccer stadium, the general improvements to the Fairgrounds infrastructure and buildings, and the development on the ten acres, Nashville Fairgrounds will be a great place for Nashvillians for a long time. The soccer stadium is largely paid for by the team and tax revenue generated at the site. Property taxes generated by the ten acres will be reinvested in the fairgrounds. I hope NASCAR will come back to the track, and I will work to make it happen so long as it fits with the rest of the property and has a similar financing structure to the soccer stadium. Either way, I want the racetrack to get the proper investment and improvements just like the rest of the fairgrounds. I think it would be an incredible and unique NASCAR racing venue with the surrounding development and neighborhood excitement, and I hope and want to make NASCAR work there. Additionally, for District 26, it will encourage invest in the Nolensville corridor and fits in with the exciting things that are happening there. One development in my district has referenced the soccer stadium as a factor in his investment further down Nolensville, and I think this will happen more often. The Nashville Fairgrounds has a rich history here dating back to the 1800’s. That’s why I stand with Nashville voters who overwhelmingly voted to keep the fairgrounds and protect and improve the existing uses per the charter and the wishes of the Rains family who donated the land. MLS could be a good edition to the existing uses, and I hope that MLS and the racetrack can work together to bring the fairgrounds back to its former glory and truly be an asset and destination for people from all walks of life for years to come.
How could Metro better balance the needs and wants of downtown and the outlying neighborhoods?First, leadership that will prioritize neighborhoods, which I have done the past four years. One of the biggest things I worked on as the Metro Council Public Works Committee Chairman was neighborhood traffic calming. Previously, we had a program with no funding, run by a contractor, that only resulted in a little paint and a couple signs put up in the neighborhood. I fought for dedicated funding for the program, because I knew a little bit of funding could make a huge impact on the quality of life in a neighborhood. That program has been revamped for 2019, and that change and the funding is bearing fruit. I also got funding to double the number of speed trailers to give Metro more tools to help slow cars down. It’s small investments like this, along with much biggest ones like sidewalks and improving safety at intersections, that can greatly improve neighborhoods. We need to have more investments and policies that help neighborhoods. Neighborhood schools need proper funding. Metro Codes needs more Codes inspectors and STRP enforcement staff. We need more police officers and firefighters to keep our neighborhoods safe. Stormwater projects need funding in neighborhoods, not just downtown. We need to revamp our economic incentives because some may not be needed anymore, and we need to prioritize development and investments that benefit neighborhoods more than downtown. We need more sidewalks, which would be helped by bringing the cost and time to build them, something I’ve worked on with the administration and Public Works for years. Also, reducing the neighborhood street speed limit from 30 to 25 should be studied. Downtown has been the focus of attention and tremendous investment for many years now and the rest of us have been left behind. The wild success as a result of that focus indicates we can safely check that off the list of priorities. It’s time to turn our attention back to the people that live and work here, our friends and neighbors, our teachers, the people that keep us safe and educate our children.
When visitors ask you, "What should I do in Nashville?" what are the top 3 things or places you recommend?1. Arnold’s Meat and Three
2. The Nashville Zoo (located in District 26!)
3. Country Music Hall and Fame followed by the live music venue of their choice
I could never narrow it down to three places! Our city has so much to offer! Of course, there's downtown and it would be silly to not to have that "honky tonk" experience. I tell people who love the outdoors to go to Cheekwood and parks like Radnor and Percy Warner. I tell people who love history and museums to go to the Parthenon, the Frist, the Adventure Science Center, the TN State and Johnny Cash Museums, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. I tell people to try to catch a show at TPAC or a concert at the Nashville Symphony. I could go on and on...
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you, your values and priorities?The past four years, it’s been the biggest professional honor of my life to represent my neighbors on the Metro Council. My priority has always been to give the most service to my constituents that I can be, and to always listen to them. Representing my neighbors and making Metro work for them is a personal passion of mine. I want a second and final term on the council to continue the work I’ve done already, and to work on the changes necessary to make our city and neighborhoods the place we all want to call home. My message in this race is simple: Get Nashville’s government back to basics. That means focusing taxpayer resources on universal services that benefit the whole community, not special interests. We’ve got to take care of those who take care of us, and that means police, firefighters, EMS, and MNPS personnel have
to come first. Education is an investment in our future and is the foundation of success. Our students and teachers must be a top priority. I'm honest, hardworking, and passionate about the needs of my neighborhood, my district, and my city. I'm a strong voice that won't back down and will work every day to make our city a better place to live and work. While the Council is a “part time position,” in my opinion it’s a full time responsibility. I’m fully committed and plan to set aside my career in real estate to focus 100% on the needs of my neighbors and our city.
Will you commit to being civil in how you present yourself and the way you interact with opponents and others? (Our definition of civility is being a good, active, honest and respectable citizen)YesYes