Less than half of the people who vote in a presidential election will actually vote in the local election. Folks are really missing the opportunity to decide how we're gonna invest in public infrastructure, how we're gonna educate our children, how we're gonna provide public transit, those kind of things. You really miss an opportunity to weigh in on if you don't vote in the, in the local election.
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Hey everybody. My name is Sally Hendrick. This is the Shout Your Cause podcast. Today my guest is David Briley, former mayor of Nashville, Tennessee. Welcome David, how are you?
I'm doing great. Thanks for having me on today.
Awesome. Thank you. I want to tell this quick story about how this interview came about, cuz I think it's kind of funny so what was it two or three weeks ago? I got a text message that said, you know, Hey, this is David Bri. I'm running for, is it first circuit judge, et cetera. Uh, you know, the elections coming up at this point and I wrote back and said, tell me more, send me a website and you sent it back to me. And I said, great, sounds good. Uh, good luck or whatever. And somehow I think I probably responded with, oh, by the, um, I have a podcast that you might be interested in being on and I'd love to interview you because you told me that it was actually you getting these text messages, which I thought was quite impressive. So what do you think about that?
Yeah, uh, it's uh, you know, the technology of campaigning changed a lot in the last year and certainly a ton in the last 20 years. And so, uh, instead of going door to door knocking on people's door, uh, a lot of folks are just communicating electronically with people. Not everybody loves it. And I'll admit that, uh, some folks still consider a text to be an invasion of their privacy. For the last few weeks. I've spent a couple hours, uh, every couple of days, uh, sitting down and uh, you sit in front of your computer, you use a little program and you hit enter, enter, enter, enter, enter each time you hit the inner key. You're sending a text to somebody that you've identified as a potential voter. Uh, certain percentage will respond back. Some will say, please delete me. Uh, others will say I'm for you. Others will have questions. And uh, I just feel, uh, it's important for voters, uh, to be able to personally exchange ideas and talk to, uh, candidates. And so probably, uh, contrary to some of the advice I got from my campaign consultants, I've been, the I've been actually doing it. My self most can, most campaigns will have a volunteer or somebody do it, but, uh, I, I enjoy it. So, uh, even when I get a, uh, a negative one,
I was about to ask how many of those come back with, uh, a few choice words?
Uh, very, very few, uh, very few mean I, uh, most folks are, are, um, either just very clearly just don't want to interact with you or for you, or, um, have questions occasionally you'll, you'll get the, the person who really doesn't like you or is upset. Maybe their day is going bad and they take it out on you. That's fine.
So I've got a question then, if you, you said how that you were selecting people to send those text messages to, would you share that process of how you select people?
Sure, sure. So um, every political campaign, uh, starts in part with identifying the folks that you think are gonna go vote or might go vote. You never fully, your list is never 100% accurate, but it's, you know, got some you can based on, uh, a person's voting history based on the typical, uh, turnout in a particular election, you can go through and pretty easily identify a universe of voters. That probably includes 80% of the people who are actually gonna vote. And then there are commercially available and through the political party, you can get lists with telephone numbers and such. And so that's how you start. And so I can't remember exactly what our select was for this cycle. It's the lowest turnout election city generally has. So, um, uh, you have to work pretty hard to figure out who might actually go vote.
Well, I definitely vote in every election that I know about. And I usually have a few conversations with people I know and trust yeah. When it comes to selecting, because now that I'm in the marketing world and I understand marketing very deeply, it's very easy for people to not really understand what's behind the candidate or who's behind the candidate. So why don't you tell me a little bit more, you know, how, how important is it for local elections to be elevated and put in front of people? How do we even get those messages out to people so that they will care and vote and get the right information?
Local elections are incredibly important, I believe. Uh, um, I'll just give you, I'll, I'll focus on Nashville, which I know the most about. So Nashville, its local budget is more than $2 billion a year. And uh, every year we spend more than a billion dollars on public education. And the majority of the decisions about on almost all the decisions about how that money gets spent are based on who gets elected locally, the mayor and the Metro council. And, um, less than half of the people who vote in a presidential election will actually vote in the local election. And so your folks are really missing opportunity to decide how we're gonna invest in public infrastructure, how we're gonna educate our children, how, uh, we're gonna provide public transit, those kind of things. You really miss an opportunity to weigh in on. If you don't vote in the, in the local election,
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The lower the voter turnout, the older the voter is on average. And so it also tends to skew more towards, uh, um, one demographic it's not the fall off is not equal across age groups. The fall off is primarily amongst young people, which means that, you know, younger people generally have a slightly different perspective than older people. Uh, and so you see a lot of times that their perspective is not, uh, fully represented. And the finally, I, I would say that, uh, you know, there's not absolute gridlock, but near absolute gridlock in Washington, DC, the potential for making change for improving people's lives is much, uh, greater in the local arena than it is on the national level. They just are having a hard time coming to an agreement
As far as understanding the distribution of voters for these local elections.
You're talking about older people showing up and based basically making those decisions. However older people are typically getting their information in a different way than younger people, and that's quite a balance to strike as well. So how do you actually get real information behind the candidate? How do you really know what they're capable of doing and how powerful is a single candidate, for example,
Right. Historically 25 years ago, let's just say Nashville had two daily newspapers, uh, that were fully staffed up and probably had I'm guessing three local, three reporters, each covering only local news. Uh, we had three TV networks that were probably had two or three reporters covering local things as well. And, uh, so the flow of a information was, um, a, a, a staple I guess, is what I would say. People sort of knew where to get it. And, and, um, it was pretty readily available. I mean, we're in the midst of a radical transition in that world where those media outlets have law lost a lot of their revenue sources and have had to cut their staff pretty radically. So you can't get the same level of information from, uh, from the free media anymore. So what that leaves, uh, campaigns with candidates with are, uh, the most traditional, uh, forms of communication are television and direct mail.
Television remains probably the most effective broadcast television because, uh, as you pointed out, older voters still tend to watch the broadcast, uh, networks, uh, direct mail is still effective, not as effective as, as TV, but then there are newer ways that people are, are, uh, starting to communicate, which are just, I guess, lumped together as digital. And, you know, that's a Facebook ads. It is, um, uh, you have Hulu, it's integrating an ad into the Hulu stream. It's, um, having, uh, ads pop up through Google, um, searches, uh, it's all kinds of forms of digital communication, which are, uh, certainly effective amongst younger voters. And I believe starting to be more effective just across the board. So, um, and then you have texting, you have hand to hand combat where people are out, you know, knocking on doors and, and asking people to vote. And so those are, those are the methods right now that people use to communicate about themselves and about the elections
Makes a lot of sense. I do remember a few years ago and I'll mention that Diane Black was running for something. Was that governor?
It was governor, yeah, the, the Republican primary
And we haven't had cable television or network television in our home for 15 years. So we have only watched Hulu Netflix, and then the occasional rabbit ears on the TV. Mm-hmm to see if we could get a football game or something like that, that my husband wanted to want. So the only candidate that I've ever seen locally to do ads on Hulu back then, and I think it was Hulu, uh, was Diane Black. So I've never seen any sense. And that was a pretty heated, if you will. I remember there were a lot of people and, and this was when I guess Bill Lee, uh,
Won that's right. That's right.
So I'm just, I'm just curious. I'm like, it seems like the money should be going in that direction. It's a lot cheaper, it's $30 per thousand impressions and that's way cheaper than TV ads. So I'm curious why, you know, are we still slow to the gate about, about getting these social ads and other methods out digital ads?
Well, we are, we're spending a significant percentage of our total paid contacts, um, on digital. Um, it's not, it's not 50%, uh, it's probably not even 20%, but, uh, we are spending, I think, more than any other candidate right now doing that. And we, you know, we will have millions of contacts, uh, before the end of the campaign in that regard. It's interesting. One of the, it's been easy to do that in the recent past because of data that apple, uh, accumulates through iPhone use and, uh, apple has changed their private see policy. And so it may be that you see diminishing ability in the short run to target voters, um, because apple is, is cutting back on the data they provide to people, but it's not my guess is somebody in the techn technology world will figure a workaround or, or something so that, uh, that data continues to flow because it's very valuable, not just to political campaigns. It's very valuable across the board to, to business, to know who be able to talk to the folks that are they're most likely customers.
I understand what you're saying about that, but I also have a lot of inside scoop on that. Mm-hmm and believe me as of Facebook ads, agency owner, which I am, uh, we've had to do a lot of hoop jumping will jumping through lots of hoops to figure out how to get around all of that. Yeah. And it's not that we're trying to necessarily get around. It's just a matter of implementing new strategies that might have a few more manual touches to it, to make sure that the right people are getting the messages. And it's really not, not as much about who's getting the message up front. It's about, who's getting the message the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth night, 10th time. Because that, that flow of information is so important to go out multiple times to people, not just one hit, but multiple hits. And once someone pays attention to something, you have the opportunity to get back in front of them. Again, regardless if mm-hmm , if apple has blocked, you know, privacy that really has to do with hitting up an outside webpage. So that means that you just have to create some assets that will live on the social media platforms rather than being on your website. So you, so you kind of have to go at it from multiple angles with like a little space cheese model.
That's what we're trying to do. I think so mm-hmm
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So when it comes to how the judicial system works, would you explain some of these different judgeships and, and sure who does what, who presides over what, and, and, and explain, obviously the one that you're running for,
I grew up here in Nashville, but then I, I lived, uh, in, in America for about a year, at one point and got pretty fluent in Spanish. And, uh, so at one point in time, at least half my clients were, uh, Spanish speaking immigrants. So, um, for folks coming from out of the country, you have to really start at the very beginning about how our judicial system works. So I've done this a few times and, uh, I'll try to do it here in a concise way. Uh, so to start with there's a federal judicial system and a state judicial system, the federal one is the where the, the president points to the Supreme court and, uh, the, uh, the circuit courts and the district courts. Those are, um, generally handling federal matters, constitution, federal crimes, things like that violation of federal law. Then there's the state court system.
And that's what I'm running for for first circuit court judge here in Nashville in Tennessee, the state court system has the trial courts, the appellate courts, and the Supreme court has three levels, basically four levels. It has four levels. It has general sessions as well. The very bottom general sessions, trial court courts, courts of appeal. And then the Supreme court Supreme court is what it sounds like. They make all the final decisions, the appellate courts, the next level down, uh, you have an, a right after a trial to go to the court of appeals. The court of appeals will make a determination about your case. Um, you don't have a right to go to the Supreme court, Supreme court just handpicks the cases they want to handle. Then at the, at the trial court level, there are two, three kinds of courts. There are criminal court, circuit courts and Chancery courts.
That's here in Nashville, it's criminal courts do what they sound like. They, um, handle criminal trials, probation violations, things along those lines. The Chancery courts, uh, are sort, and the circuit it's handled just about the same thing. There's sort of a tradition of what they handle, but they both basically have the same jurisdiction with some small little minor deviations. And so I'm running for first circuit court. Nashville has eight circuits. So I'm running for the first one. Uh, it represents the entire county. It's not for a district it's the whole county and the first circuit handles typical civil matters, meaning non-criminal car accidents, medical malpractice, contract disputes appeals from the general sessions, court, uh, employment matters. All those things can go to, to circuit court. And, uh, I'm running for first circuit. The judge there has been, um, Kip Gaden, Hamilton Gaden for the last few decades he's retiring.
And so it's an open, open seat. Uh, each judge has an eight year term. So, uh, the next election wouldn't be till 2030. And, um, so, uh, it's a long time. Uh, and, um, but I think meant to keep judges from, uh, persistently getting involved in political, um, matters. You know, when you run for judge, folks want to know what your opinion is about everything, even if you got no control over it. Uh, yesterday I was asked about the Titan stadium, should they get a, a, a dome, should they get a roof or not? And I explained lightly that, uh, I didn't expect that that would be part of my role as a judge to decide whether or not they got a, a dome over their stadium. I do have my own personal opinion about it, but it's, we're actually, uh, dissuaded from offering personal opinions about those kind of matters.
And, you know, there's some chance that, uh, legal dispute over that issue might end up in circuit court, low chance, but some chance. And so you kinda wanna avoid, um, seeming, uh, predisposed to go one way or another. Uh, we talked earlier about, uh, what the, if there was a risk to, um, our democracy that you could see in the judicial system. And, uh, I guess that what I would, what I've observed as, as I've campaigned is that much like folks have a distrust of government generally right now, I think there's a high level of distrust. There's also distrust of the judiciary to some degree. And, uh, I think, uh, you know, what, you can hear what you hear from folks, what you observe is that on the criminal side, not, not something I would have anything to do with that. There is both a desire for criminal justice reform.
Uh, that folks feel like the system is tilted against, uh, folks. And there's also at the same time, uh, desire that the courts be tougher on folks who break the law and the, those two, not contrary, but, uh, disparate views of the criminal system, uh, lead to have led and will continue to lead to some conflict, uh, and some distrust of the criminal system on the civil side. It's a little bit different. I would say that, um, over the last, I'd say 30 years, the, the cost, the monetary cost of participating in the, in the civil system has gone up pretty notably. And, uh, what that means is that folks who are of more modest means have less of an opportunity to participate. Um, if it's Amazon versus Andy Smith, uh, you know, Andy Smith may have, uh, not even one, 1000000th of the financial capacity that Amazon has.
And so it, um, I think it's a, it does threaten folks belief in the judicial system that it has moved to so far in that direction. And so I think we're gonna have to do in the long run, medium run and see some change there. I would, I would think, and, you know, when people lose trust in the system, uh, they are less like less likely to stand up and defend it. The American Democrat system has lasted for more than 200 years, but not without threats and not automatically it's taken people stand up and fight for it. Uh, occasionally, and that, you know, that could turn out to be the case again,
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So you mentioned you've got civil and you've got criminal, and you've got a couple of different things going on. Mm-hmm, how in the world. And we didn't talk about this before, but how in the world did a malpractice case recently at Vanderbilt with that nurse named rodonda? I don't remember her last name. How did that turn from a, you know, I guess wouldn't that be more in the civil side of things, or you were talking about with malpractice and employee type things. Yeah. And how did it end up on the criminal side?
Well, I don't know too much about the actual facts of that case. So it's kind of hard for me to get into what the, the logic actually was, but I can sort of talk about the principles that would lead that lead to that. Um, generally, so it was a wrong that case someone died. And so that ha there are not hundreds, but there are dozens of wrongful death cases every year in Nashville, almost without exception, they are handled, uh, in the civil system. Non-criminal almost without exception generally that's because the level of negligence that, that resulted in the criminal case is, is contested or very low. Now I'm gonna back up and correct myself because there are a fair number of vehicular homicide cases, which are wrongful death, and which are just negligence generally, or could be negligence from the other driver's standpoint. So there are, that is one exception to it.
Um, so in the, in the nurse's case from a few weeks ago, uh, some at the district attorney's office made the determination that the level of negligence that resulted in the death was high enough, severe enough for the case to warrant a criminal charge. Uh . And so I, I don't know the facts of that case. It's hard to talk about then, but I maybe talk about it in the context of a, of a car accident, right? So if you are driving along and there's an auto accident and you're at fault, and maybe you just didn't put the brakes on fast enough, you hit somebody from behind. And for some bizarre reason, they ended up dying as a result of the accident. You were negligent, prob you were negligent, right? But not so negligent that it would warrant a criminal charge. On the other hand, if you had, um, consumed six beers were talking on your cell phone and speeding right before the accident, that's a different level of negligence, right? And so under those circumstances, you might well get charged criminally for your negligence. And so I guess that somebody in the district attorney's office looked at the conduct and made that determination, that the level of negligence was so high, that it warranted a criminal charge. I was very surprised that it happened. I think most folks were because generally those kind of cases are handled just in the civil arena.
I wanted to bring that up because I know you're talking about the vehicular homicide angle of things. Mm-hmm , but that is around a single person who is not shielded by a corporation. Mm-hmm . So if you're looking at, and I know this case is just easy to talk about, cuz it happened here and it's recent, but let's say, you know, you're talking about Vanderbilt hospital that has a duty to report a wrongful death into the national data bank for malpractice cases or whatever it may be. And typically nurses are covered under the hospital professional liability insurance. Now I know a lot about this cuz I was in actuary for, for 25 years and my specialty was hospital professional liability, but also workers' compensation for employee accidents, things like that. So talking about this, it just seems like, wow, that really kind of opens this can of worms when it comes to many, many cases that happen like this, where someone is injured under the care of, of, of an employee within a hospital system, we can even go into, well, if that's the case, then what about police officers?
Cuz police officers seem to be very shielded by the insurance that covers their liability, uh, within what they're doing in the action of their employment. Mm-hmm so is that the direction that things may head do, people are really upset about this. Like there's this whole movement with nurses just having a fit about it. And so if it happens, you know, if it happens there, is it gonna bleed into other professions? You know, is there a threat of that or is this something that is just it's this is what's happening in the moment. And we don't think that this is something that's going to blow up into a worse situation
On the medical malpractice, on the healthcare liability front. To me, it seems like a one off. I mean it seems like a rare exception and I would be very surprised if it expanded beyond that. But again, I'm just talking about principles because I don't really know. I haven't even read the most of the articles about it. I've read the headlines, I've seen some of the news coverage, but I don't really know the details of that case. Um, police are, it's something different. And so there is a movement there. I don't know how strong it is, but there is a movement there to make police more responsible for deaths that they occur that they cause. Uh, right now there's a principle called, um, qualified immunity that protects police officers. So even if they are negligent and make a mistake, that's not necessarily going to result in any sort of civil or criminal, um, prosecution for them. And there's a movement, you know, like I said, I don't know how strong it is, but there has been a movement to eliminate that qualified immunity for police officers, which would generally make them more likely to be responsible for a wrongful death that occurred in the course of their, um, performing their job,
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I find that very interesting. Um, at one point I worked for, it used to be cor and black and then it was Willis. And now it's Willis. That was my very first job right out of college. I was an actuarial assistant or, you know, I don't remember what my title was at the time analyst or something. And the state of Tennessee was one of my clients. And so I actually did this. It was probably the biggest actuarial report I've ever done because it was about this thick and I'm holding up my fingers about three or four inches, uh, thick cuz we printed everything back then and put it in the books and sent it on to the state. And I do remember that there were a lot of different caps on liability with the state there because it's the government. You can't just go and Sue, like you could with amount practice case where you might get a $10 million, uh, award in and maybe even punitive damages and things like that.
And that type of thing, the, the state is shielded from because of the law and qualified immunity. I'm sure with the police officers, as part of that, that was a segment of this massive report. I, I do remember that. So there were cases that were, that were brought up and cases that you could look at, but for the most part, there was very little payout on things like that. Um, mm-hmm and or, or if it, if there was a payout, it was very much for the state to have to pay up to a certain limit. And then beyond that, the individuals were never held responsible from that standpoint financially mm-hmm . And I know that that's like, that's a huge thing. So I mean, we could talk about that in a whole completely different discussion about, uh, all of the different benefits and so on and so forth that a police officer could potentially lose, I guess, if they were held responsible.
Yeah. And the same is true for, so it's in, in the first circuit court that I'm running for actually, uh, handle what are called government tort liability act cases. And those are cases where you, uh, where an individual brings a suit against a municipality like a city or a county. And there are caps on how much can be awarded in those cases and is relatively low. It is meant to protect the municipality from getting wiped out by a big judgment. Generally it's probably good for all of us, but there are exceptions and I, you may or may not remember that maybe probably more than 20 years ago, there was an NES transformer that exploded down on lower broad. Uh, I think it was a young man ended up with burns over 60% of his body and was permanently disabled. And he was, I think about to the maximum that he could have gotten was $200,000 or something. And so he was gonna have literally millions of dollars of future medicals and such. And so there have been efforts to go to the state and change that law. So that folks aren't totally ruined by an error of the government. And, but, but there are still exceptions to that.
Yeah. I don't remember that case specifically because when I did this, it was probably closer to 30 years ago. and it was only like three years cuz or two or three years they had to, you know, they had that request for bid process. The whole process of they had to change. You couldn't have the same actuaries forever. So unfortunately
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Well, is there anything that you would like to share about maybe Nashville or about your daily duties that you would have? I mean, and also I'm curious, are you, who are you running? Is someone running against you? I know that this opened up with someone retiring, so who's running against you.
There's one other candidate. Uh, Wendy Longmeyer is the, is my opponent. And so, uh, we're both in the democratic primary, which is 19 to a, from today. Not that I'm keeping track and uh, then there's not a Republican running, so whoever wins, the democratic primary would be the, the judge. So, um, I guess what I would, um, say is I've spent my entire adult life for most of my adult life here in Nashville is, uh, splitting it between being a public servant and a lawyer. And I've represented folks in all kinds of different cases. Uh, the single mom who made six dozen Tamas, took them to the Mexican restaurant and they sold them to their customers and then refused to pay her for 'em. And so I I've represented folks like that. I've also, you know, represented businesses, suing fortune 500 companies, uh, and, uh, I've sued the state and the city I've basically made a career of trying to help people in the needed help.
And, uh, I served on the city council and as vice mayor and briefly as mayor and, uh, I've done my best, uh, over the last 25 years to make Nashville a fairer more compassionate city. And I'm asking folks to vote for me for judge, so I can continue that public service. So circuit courts, where I've done most of my work and, uh, it's in line with, uh, the kind of, uh, experience that I have as a lawyer, uh, in terms of Nashville, uh, you know, um, I was born here 58 years ago and the places unrecognizable in many respects, um, from a physical stand point, um, to those of us who've been around now, I will tell you anybody who flies in here for the first time, especially in the summer is astounded by how green it is and that hasn't changed. And we're still a very vibrant place.
Uh, very green, very, uh, and I think, uh, also Nashville remains is very hospitable, which it always was. And that, um, we, uh, continue to welcome people from all, um, around the, the, the globe at this point here and, and they quickly become part of the city, uh, some real challenges ahead for a city like net Nashville, uh, no different than any other city. Our size in the country, housing and costs have gotten outta control. Uh, and, uh, that will change the kind of folks who can live here. And, uh, not for the better, I think we need to do something pretty serious about that. Uh, the kinds of jobs we have have changed. Nashville's always had a diverse economy and as a result, we've always avoided the radical downside of recessions. We've always been pretty stable, uh, but we've added, uh, more tech jobs per capita than probably any other municipality in the country in the last, uh, last few years, uh, as a percentage, I'm sure Silicon kind of, Valley's added more total, but as a percentage, we've really changed a lot there, which is good because it, um, will keep us diverse and keep us from seeing a big, uh, trough the next time there's a recession, but it also change changes the city and makes it more expensive to live here.
So got real challenges, but I'm pretty optimistic that, and we'll see Nashville continue to thrive. And, um, and my son's away in college and I'm optimistic that when he is done, he'll want to come back. So, um, I guess that's what I would have to say.
Well, here, here for that, I've got twins, one graduated last year, she's back. The other one just finished up in Savannah and she'll, she got a job here downtown, two blocks from home. So she'll be back in June. And then my third child is going to school here in town. So, but I have a feeling that that child may end up somewhere else. I don't know. I'm just not really sure. ,
I'm not sure either. I'm not
Sure either. So, so, but that's okay. But I do understand about the housing costs. It's quite, it was quite the search that we had to go through with our daughter that got a place a few weeks ago literally, and it took five months to find it. So yeah,
It's never been worse, uh, than it is right now. Uh, I think that's pretty clear and part of it is we're not building enough and part of it is just the cost of going well. Yeah.
All right. Well, thank you very much. I've really enjoyed this. And I think that a lot of people will get a lot out of the education about the system and what's happening and, and thanks for exploring some of these other topics that, uh, that are affected.
All right. Well, I appreciate it a ton and, um, you've got my contact info. If you ever need me, just reach out.
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