Nashville mayoral candidate Alice Rolli appeared on The Tennessee Star Report Wednesday morning, June 21, on TalkRadio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC.
Here’s host Michael Patrick Leahy interviewing her about her campaign.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Okay, so the big question, first.
You know, I look at the polling, Alice, the last poll and these polls of the mayoral race. . . The sample sizes are small. We had done some polling in various elections earlier, but it’s expensive to do and others are doing it. A real estate group showed 45 percent undecided. And I think you were in the top eight, maybe the top six. But it was Freddie O’Connell, 10 percent; and Yarborough and Campbell, both state senators, with name ID at 9 percent. I think you were at 4 percent – but you were in the top eight.
Alice Rolli: And there was a 4 percent margin of error, so if you do that, either way, it sounds like we’re all bunched up pretty much together.
Michael Patrick Leahy: So you got a shot, right?
Alice Rolli: Well, I do.
I have a lot of respect for people in the race. And I think the only bad election is when good people won’t run. I do think though, that elections are about setting priorities and letting the voters express those priorities. Both to the new mayor, but also to other people who hold elected positions in the city.
And in the campaign I have not shied away from issues that I think are problems in the city, in particular our approach to crime and policing. And our approach, what I would call, to catch and release with our D.A.
Frequently people say, but Alice, you’re not running for district attorney. Can you really change that?
The voters will can change that. And the voters recognize that we need to have the best urban police force in America. And we saw after Covenant the ability, the extraordinary ability of our officers. But we also see pretty much every day the frustration that when individuals are arrested, they are frequently let out. Before serving an even minimum time for stealing guns. When we talk about stolen guns . . . when laws were strengthened around stolen guns as part of constitutional carry, we strengthened gun penalties.
And a lot of those are not being enforced. So when we’re not enforcing the laws on the books and then we see crime increasing and we see officers frustrated and difficulty in recruiting people. I think those things all work quite a bit together.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Have you gone and been interviewed by the Fraternal Order of Police here?
Alice Rolli: I have. I’ve actually been to three of the FOP lodge meetings. They typically happen on the first Monday of the month. And they are open to candidates, if there’s other candidates listening. And what has struck me, as somebody who is a later entrants into the race. You mentioned Freddie [O’Connell] and Matt [Wilshire], folks that have been in the race for an entire year.
At the three meetings I went to, there was not one other mayoral candidate there. They’re open to mayoral candidates.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Do you anticipate they may be making an endorsement?
Alice Rolli: Yes, they will be. When will that come? It’s my understanding the voting period is just about to end. So they said it would be close to July that they endorsed, because I think, you know, they, and the firefighters group had both endorsed Mayor Cooper early, very early. And so they, and their process said they are going to wait, wait until I think right up before early
Michael Patrick Leahy: Do you anticipate getting their endorsement?
Alice Rolli: I would welcome their endorsement. I think that, like you said, it’s a big race. I would say I have a 40 percent or 50 percent shot.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Several of the leading candidates [for mayor] have not accepted our invitation to show up. Natisha Brooks has, she’s a Republican, you’re a Republican. Freddie O’Connell has multiple times. He’ll be back again. You’ll probably be back again.
Our listeners, [the conservatives here in Davidson County] are probably 35 percent of the voters in Davidson County. These are the people that listen to this program.
You have to demonstrate to them why they should vote for you over any of these other candidates. . . Tell us why they should vote for you for mayor, Alice Rolli.
Alice Rolli: Well, I would say that with my candidacy, you have the best shot to reset the priorities for our city, which have started to move out of line.
We are starting to hit that tipping point where if we don’t get a handle on our crime, if we do not get a handle on our debt – we have second largest line item in our budget, $413 million is service to our debt. That is huge.
That’s more than the entire state of Tennessee combined. The entire state of Tennessee budget for interest on, on the state’s debt is $342 million.
Meaning one county, Davidson County, labeled a “sinkhole city” by Truth and Accounting, is very worrisome from a balance sheet perspective.
The markets believe that we can raise taxes, and I have affirmatively come out and said, after meeting with multiple folks in state and municipal finance, that we will not raise taxes.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Crom Carmichael, who will be here right after you has, has pointed out that there’s a huge unfunded liability problem with Metro Nashville – particularly as it relates to the health benefits for retired Metro workers. Are you satisfied that Mayor Cooper in this past year has done enough to address that issue? Or are there specific things that you think should be done to address it?
Alice Rolli: Well, what he has done, which reduced the unfunded liability by about $700 million, was to create only a single option for Medicare eligible employees. And so that, that, in and of itself, has reduced that liability quite a bit. That liability has been there.
In 2015, David Fox, my treasurer, was talking about it, but it was not until 2018 when GASB, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, made a rule change that people finally realized and admitted it. The area there that I think we’ve got to look at is what we did similarly in 2013 in the Haslam administration is set a retirement plan, an employee benefits plan for new employees coming in and then allow the continuation of the existing plan for existing employees.
And the city had a strong recommendation in 2015 of how to do that. And we kicked the can down the road once again. And so that it is a large liability and it is going to become increasingly so as we’re about to hit the hockey stick part of it – in terms of the amounts coming due because the leading edge of the baby boom right now, my dad’s in that age group, they’re 77 years old, and the entire baby boom’s about to hit that retirement age.
Michael Patrick Leahy: You ready for a curve ball? We haven’t talked about this.
Alice Rolli: Yeah. I love curve balls here.
Michael Patrick Leahy: I’ve got a pretty curvy curve ball coming at you.
Alice Rolli: Throw it at me.
Michael Patrick Leahy: So this has to do with the Covenant Killer’s Manifesto.
If you’ve read the news, you know that we . . . are suing Metro Nashville government to obtain the Covenant Killer’s Manifesto.
They finally got the autopsy report out, and the toxicology report – which didn’t test, by the way, for testosterone or any of the drugs that somebody was transitioning would use. And Metro Nashville and a slew of others–I mean, you go down the list: Metro, Nashville Covenant School, Covenant Church, some of the parents, some of the parents of the deceased children– have all weighed in various ways saying, don’t release this under any circumstances.
We think, actually, that’s in the public interest to release this.
I’m gonna ask you the same question I asked Freddie O’Connell about this. If you’re elected mayor, will you instruct Metro Nashville Police Department to release the Covenant Killer’s Manifesto?
Alice Rolli: So, in front of my house, which is not far from here I have my own yard sign. I have a sign with the names of the six individuals killed at Covenant.
My neighbor is the Bible teacher at Covenant. And I know from working with Governor Haslam and Senator Alexander, I would actually look at this as – is there an opportunity to put a shield over a period of time to allow the families and allow the citizens an appropriate amount of time to grieve?
And at the same time, I believe that you can allow individuals that are looking at these papers for issues of what can we learn? What could we need to change in law? What, what sort of. Things do we need to look for from a medical perspective.
But I don’t believe in the near term that the full release of all of those materials is doing a greater good than harm.
Michael Patrick Leahy: So, as mayor then, just to be clear, if you were mayor, you would not instruct the police department to release the Manifesto. Is that your position on it?
Alice Rolli: I would instruct us to find an appropriate amount of time to go by, but probably three years or so. And then, in the interim, come and learn from it. Let’s get experts. To come in and learn and see what they actually need to learn. But the general public, to bring up everything, I see greater harm than good, especially for the families, here.
Michael Patrick Leahy: You’re on the record, we’re on opposite sides of this one.
Alice Rolli, thanks so much for joining us today. Come back again if you would. Thank you.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Alice Rolli” by Alice Rolli. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Michael Rivera. CC BY-SA 4.0.