In a special interview, Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy was joined by former Vanderbilt professor and former Nashville mayoral candidate, Dr. Carol Swain to discuss her recent visit with Mayor John Cooper.
During the segment, Swain discussed how she and Cooper talked about him maintaining an open door to conservative voices in Nashville which could aid in the cities success. Swain referenced failing Democratic cities and how important it was that we do not go down that same path by working together instead of against each other.
Leahy: And in the studio with us is our Thursday, all-star panelist Carol Swain. Former mayoral candidate and professor at Vanderbilt. A very busy person this past week. Carol thanks so much for coming in as you always do on Thursday.
Swain: It’s my pleasure being here. And I think I’m busier now than when I was teaching at Vanderbilt.
Leahy: And doing really great stuff.
Swain: A lot of volunteer stuff.
Leahy: Yeah. (Laughs) I know, it’s like, OK. So we will get to your visit with President Trump and your leadership as part of the Black Voices for Trump which happened last week. But, the breaking news that you just texted me late last night. You had a one on one meeting with Mayor John Cooper yesterday.
Swain: I certainly did. And they have a form that people can fill out and you get an automatic reply that says it could be two to three weeks before you hear back. I heard back almost immediately within a day or so. And it took me a couple of weeks to get the appointment. But he was so generous with his time.
Normally, it’s a 30-minute appointment and I spent an hour with him just one on one. And we had a great visit. I had a list of topics that were important to me and a lot of the people who support me. So we went down that list. I would say that it was a great visit.
Leahy: So, set the stage for us. Where did this meeting take place?
Swain: In the mayor’s office.
Leahy: In the mayor’s office.
Swain: And I’m embarrassed to confess that that was my first time in the mayor’s office.
Leahy: What does his office look like? How do you get there? What’s that whole experience like?
Swain: It’s on the first floor of the main building at public square one.
Swain: And so that’s the first thing. And you know, it’s not decorated in any type of ostentatious way. It’s a functional government office.
Leahy: Does it have windows? Big office?
Swain: Well I mean he’s actually not in the wood-paneled office that I think he said, Mayor Fulton used. He’s just in a room, that’s a regular office and it’s decorated with drawings from school children around Davidson county.
And on one of the walls, the drawings are of children that are homeless. And of course, kids are such artistic talent. So that was a great thing to see that. And then there are a few things that Briley left that may get painted over.
Leahy: (Laughs) That’s a good point. So you go in. Is there a security detail you have to go through?
Swain: No, not really.
Swain: It was easy. I’m not suggesting that everyone swamp him because my sense is that between the ribbon cutting and the problems of the city that he’s pretty busy. And so it was really special to spend that hour with him.
Leahy: Not what’s interesting is, you were political rivals. And you were critical of certain aspects of some of his policies, campaign, and positions. And he was critical of some of your views. And yet, you had a very cordial meeting.
Swain: Well I mean, he never really attacked me on the campaign trail. I did more attacking (Leahy chuckles) of Briley and Cooper because of their belonging to political dynasties. I have to say that John Cooper reached out to me immediately after the election and I met with him and his wife Laura. And at that time he said he had gotten to know me on the campaign trail and he really respected me and promised an open door. And I think he’s making good on that.
Leahy: I see that all around and there are some issues that we disagree with the mayor policy, particularly has to do with the ICE policy and dealing with immigration policy. But nonetheless, I think a lot of good things are happening in terms of openness to the public. He’s got this public town hall and you can ask him anything. That’s number one. Number two, he does really seem to have an understanding of numbers and financing.
Swain: He does but here’s the thing, we can work together because I care about Nashville and he cares about Nashville. My campaign for mayor was never about me or my ego. It was about Nashville. And in some ways I can confess this now, I saw being elected as a four-year sentence. And so I’m pleased that John Cooper is the mayor.
And it allows me to do the national things such as supporting the President and dealing with some of the bigger issues. I care about Nashville. Some of the issues we discussed yesterday, spending a lot of time on public safety. I talked about racial disparities in school achievement. Affordable housing.
Some corruption that I was made aware of. People sent me documents. And also I encouraged him to be more inclusive with conservatives and to consider having a liaison to come on the Tennessee Star Report to meet with the…
Leahy: You actually invited him? Thank you by the way.
Swain: He actually said he would come on the show.
Leahy: Wow. Good.
Swain: I assume he can do that by telephone as well.
Leahy: He can do it by telephone however he wants. We’d be very happy to have him on. I would say since we described him before the election as the very very bad choice versus the very very very bad choice of David Briley I think that shows a certain graciousness on his part. So that’s a good sign.
Swain: Well we have to work together in this country. It can’t be Democrats against Republicans. But here’s the big thing, I told him that I did not know a single person that did not want him to succeed as mayor. Because if he succeeds, we all succeed. And the way he’s going to do that is he has to listen to conservatives.
Leahy: You know it’s interesting you say it that way. I think you’re right. I think everybody does want that. What good does it do to yell and scream and say, “Oh it’s awful, it’s awful, it’s awful!” The reality is, the city has problems. And clearly John Cooper is much better equipped at dealing with those problems than his predecessor.
I do know that and I’m very glad you brought this issue up to him. He said at his inauguration that he wanted to create a gorgeous mosaic of various folks from Nashville. And I noticed that mosaic until you met with him yesterday, did not seem to really include a dialogue with conservatives.
Swain: Well you know something? I think that he has been pretty busy. And you think about his network until he ran for mayor I don’t know how many conservatives it included other than the people that he worked with on city council and his social circle.
And I think maybe in some ways we have been an afterthought but I see an opportunity for us to bring some of the best ideas. And like when it comes to political appointments and stuff like that, if we have qualified conservatives out there, and I mean qualified, not just people that are idealogues that we can always advance names and see what happens.
Leahy: Was there anything in your meeting with Mayor Cooper yesterday at the mayor’s office that surprised you?
Swain: No, I was glad to see him. And he seemed glad to see me. And so we had a great visit. Even if I’m not invited I may go back quarterly. (Laughs)
Leahy: Hey, (Knocks on door) Mayor Cooper, its Carol Swain again. (Laughter)
Swain: Well here’s the thing. People contact me. I am representing some people.
Leahy: You have a constituency in the city.
Swain: Metro employees. I mean, people bring me data. And so I think it’s important to get information to him to help him govern better. But here’s the thing. All the big cities run by Democrats are failed cities. They have the same set of problems. If he’s going to be successful then he has to listen to Republican ideas and integrate those into how he governs.
Leahy: You make a very good point. And just as an aside, you say certainly under the previous administrations Nashville has been kind of going down the fiscal hole shall we say. That either Democratically cities have gone. But you look at San Francisco, you look at even Denver now.
Swain: Look at Memphis and the crime rate. The crime rate is much greater than what’s being reported on the news. And the situation with the police.
Listen to the full second hour:
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