JULY 30, 2015 - Nashville Scene l Steven Hale
Vice Mayor: Who Does No. 2 Work For?
"I don't have some sort of House of Cards game in play," David Briley says. "I'm not trying to become mayor."
The former Metro councilman, 2007 mayoral candidate and member of one of Nashville's political dynasties is now running for Metro's No. 2 office, and he says he's been assuring people that it's not part of a back-door scheme to get into the mayor's office. No, Briley, an attorney at Bone McAllester Norton, really just wants to be vice mayor.
Which brings up a more basic question: Why would anyone want to be vice mayor? Beyond that, why would anyone care who the vice mayor is?
Starting with the second question, the vice mayor appoints council committee chairs — like, say, the leader of the powerful Budget and Finance Committee — runs the council's bimonthly meetings and casts the tie-breaking vote if necessary. As for the first question, Briley has been pitching a more active role for the vice mayor. He says Nashville has long been a city where a mayor's proposals find easy support, but that's shifting as the city changes and the issues become more complicated.
"I think that if we're going to do a good job at building that public support and persuading people that something is the right thing to do, we've got to refocus and invigorate how we approach the legislative body," Briley says.
As the man at the head of the council chambers, he says he would make sure the body "reaches out affirmatively to the community" about issues it's considering. With three priorities — inclusion, transparency and accountability — he hopes to combat public cynicism about citizens' ability to influence their government.
Asked what personal goals he would pursue, he names a couple. He says he would create a regional municipal legislators group, à la the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus, that would meet to discuss issues that need regional collaboration (such as mass transit). He cites another idea he'd like to steal: the national bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative taken up by Newt Gingrich and Van Jones with the goal of cutting the prison population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
"We have the capacity in Nashville to do a lot in our county jail in that respect," Briley says. "There are a lot there for mental health reasons, substance abuse, simple poverty. I'm not talking about taking dangerous people out of jail, I'm talking about spending money more wisely so that it's not so killer."