NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Paper fans were appropriate at 15th Avenue Baptist Church on a hot Sunday afternoon as two candidates for mayor were on the hot seat answering questions from the crowd.
Many questions centered on teacher pay raises.
"I will come to the people of Nashville and we will get the resources we need to do it. I promise I will do it," said incumbent Mayor David Briley.
Challenger John Cooper wants to tap money from the Music City Center for teacher pay. The convention center has a $135 surplus. That's because it gets a cut of all the sales taxes paid in and around downtown.
The Briley administration has used some of that surplus for police overtime downtown, and the convention center contributed $8 million to the Museum of African American Music.
Cooper suggests that Music City Center should start paying property taxes. They don't now.
"NES (Nashville Electric Service) pays property taxes. Why is another authority with a surplus not paying taxes? It could be as much as $13 million a year. A step increase for teachers is only $8 million," Cooper said.
Both candidates said the mayor's office should demand more accountability from the school board.
Both also support creating an independent entity for affordable housing.
Briley has a lot of catching up to do. On election night he was 10 points behind Cooper.
Voters said the 90-minute forum helped define their choice for mayor.
"I thought Briley was incredibly concrete about what could be done and I found that a real contradiction over the other candidate," said Bob O'Gorman.
"It amplified that we need a change in leadership. Cooper did an amazing job of moving the narrative forward," said Jeff Carr.
The forum was sponsored by NOAH, a social justice nonprofit in Nashville.
On Sunday, Aug. 25, there will be a forum for the eight candidates running for four council-at-large seats.
Early voting begins on Friday, Aug. 23 and ends Saturday, Sept. 7. Election day is Sept. 12.
Early voting is available the first week only at the Howard Office Building on Second Avenue South. Beginning Aug. 30, you can vote early at Belle Meade City Hall, Bellevue Library, Bordeaux Library, Casa Azafran Community Center, Edmondson Pike Library, Goodlettsville Community Center, Green Hills Library, Hermitage Library, Madison Library, Southeast Library and Howard Office Building.