As Nashvillians go to the polls to pick a new mayor, they may also vote on the size of Metro government itself. A referendum to shrink the Metro Council from 40 members to 27 will likely appear on the ballot. The candidates for mayor don’t have strong opinions on the matter, even though it would directly affect their prospective job.
“I actually can see it both ways,” says businesswoman Linda Eskind Rebrovick, who admits she’s on the fence but comfortable with the status quo. So is former school board chairman David Fox.
“I’m agnostic about it,” he says, though he does see some value in lengthening term limits for the Metro Council, which is also part of the referendum proposal.
The petition drive that gathered 14,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot says a 40-member council has served Metro Government well for half a century. But going forward, it needs a smaller, more nimble body.
Charter school founder Jeremy Kane says maybe so.
“Is this the structure we need for the next 50 years? That’s not just for me to decide,” he says. “The entire Nashville voting population should decide.”
Attorney Charles Robert Bone quotes a mayor from the mid-70s to explain his thinking.
“Mayor [Richard] Fulton always used to say if you can’t get 21 out of 40 votes, it’s probably not worth doing. So that’s not something that I lay awake at night thinking about,” Bone says. “I just don’t see that it’s a problem at this point.”
Three candidates in the field mostly oppose a smaller council.
“The thing that I like about the size of the Metro Council, even though it’s the third largest Metro Council in the country is that you’re connected to your council person,” says real estate investor Bill Freeman.
At-large council member Megan Barry says in theory, each representative should be able to return phone calls and know people’s names.
“By making the council smaller, you increase the number of constituents that a district council member has to serves and that doesn’t help,” she says.
The especially large council is a result of the city and county’s consolidation in 1962. African-Americans thought if there were fewer seats, minorities would have a tougher time getting elected.
Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry says nothing has really changed.
“It is more important now than probably ever that all facets, all communities, all people in this city have the opportunity to be represented at the highest level and heard,” Gentry says.
None of the leading candidates advocate for cutting the council’s size, even though some contend it might make life easier when trying to push through their proposals.