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Mayor-elect John Cooper: Nashville cannot and will not be a 'Sanctuary City'

Mayor-elect John Cooper: A one-on-one interview with FOX 17 News
Mayor-elect John Cooper: A one-on-one interview with FOX 17 News
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John Cooper sat down with FOX 17 News one day after being named Nashville's Mayor-elect.

“It was a huge win - 70% to 30% is really heard in an election in America when two candidates are really well known,” Cooper said. “I think it’s a response to a very positive campaign.”

Nashvillians have spoken, and they want change.

“We are capable on changing course and beginning to include everyone in Nashville’s fabulousness,” Cooper said.

Watch the full one-on-one interview in the video player above.

Cooper talked about many issues on the minds of Nashvillians: education, traffic and immigration. Here are a few of his stances on those issues:

Immigration: Nashville will not be a 'Sanctuary City'

When it comes to the subject of Nashville becoming a 'Sanctuary City,' Cooper was quite clear in his response.

"Nashville cannot and will not be a Sanctuary City."

Cooper said immigration is fundamentally a federal issue, "We are a creature of the state of so many ways."

He claimed a Sanctuary City is not obeying criminal judicial warrants.

“Well of course, that’s not going to be the case in Nashville.”

Cooper does not believe in "federalizing" Nashville's local officers.

“Meaning by that, our police needs to be for us and our local law enforcement and not always being agents of the federal government, the IRS, the EPA, Alcohol and Tobacco or ICE," Cooper said. "If they have a non-judicial warrant, that has not ever been before a judge, it needs to be a lower priority for what we need to do."

Cooper said Metro Police are 187 officers short already.

“If our police force started to be taxed as sort of a ‘federal enforcement mechanism,’ both that would not be fair to us because we need our police to be in good relationship with the communities that they serve rather than enforcing local laws."

Cooper: Educators need more money

Cooper is pretty clear when it comes to his priorities: education is right at the top. The biggest issues education is facing: money.

“My job is to try to get more money and get more money to them.”

This won't be solved immediately, but Cooper is ready to dive in and fix the issue.

He also spoke about using Nashville's success downtown and in the tourism industry to help pay teachers and first responders.

“We can build on the success of the city, but we need to be the city that succeeded. And the challenge right now is to be fair about pay for educators and first responders because their costs have gone up and their wages have not gone up.”

Fixing Nashville's Traffic Jam

Cooper doesn't have a billion dollar transit plan with tunnels or trains. His plan is to invest in neighborhoods, transportation and sidewalks, calling it a "people based investment."

"Everybody in the city needs to benefit from investment...It’s really power to the people."

Cooper said he needs to have a plan next year, including turning lanes, intersections, sidewalks and investing in the bus system.

“We learned from Nashville's transit vote the wrong things: which is to be paralyzed - Right now we need to build up trust that government can do improvements for everybody."

Cooper said frankly, Nashville should never not have a plan when it comes to traffic.

Where does Cooper see himself, and Nashville in one year?

Cooper said while he has a lot on his plate in the first year of office, he's ready to pull up his sleeves and get to work.

In one year, Cooper hopes to have a transportation plan, affordable housing initiative "that’s not just for our project housing sites," see a couple separate areas of Nashville have redevelopments, citing Jefferson Street, but first and foremost, finding better ways to manage the city’s finances.

Finding money for pay is at the top of Cooper's list.

"We need to find more money that can go to teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, police and firefighters."

He said he's going to try finding more money for pay by management first.

“We’re up to it because the city last night, 70 to 30, said this is what we want to have happen.’

On Working with Metro Council, Tennessee Government

Cooper, a former councilmember himself, said it’s now his job to be a great partner with Metro Council members.

“Running for public is hard, it’s a sacrifice, but we all try to do it for the same reason: to make life better for everybody.”

Prior to the one-on-one with FOX 17 News on Friday morning, Cooper had coffee with Bob Mendes, the current first chair of the Metro Council, a position Cooper once held.

“Of course he should be sort of your first conversation as Mayor-elect and to be partners going forward.”

Cooper spoke of the diversity on the 40-member council.

“It’s an amazing group because we have such a large council, we are also diverse in representing our whole community and I think we’re really beginning to really do that.”

Cooper was meeting with the governor, which he says is important since one-third of Metro’s budget comes from the state and the federal government.

“It’s important because the state controls a lot of money for Metro and I need to advocate for us to get more,” Cooper said. “Both Nashville and Tennessee and Nashville, Tennessee, want the same things for us to be a success.”

One thing state and city government can agree on is making them both successes.

“We are not going to agree on a whole lot of stuff, but we both need for Nashville to be a success and we both need for Tennessee to be a success.”

Where can you catch John Cooper on a day off?

Cooper said the "best cheeseburger in Nashville" can be found at Brown’s diner, which he said has been unchanged since Cooper went to school.

He also loves to carry golf clubs and walk on Metro’s great golf courses.

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Cooper paints as a hobby and has four dogs.

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