Just before the final vote on Nashville’s budget for next year, community engagement hit a peak, with many people demanding the Metro Council decrease funding for police.
The demand wasn’t implemented, but some councilmembers and community advocates aren’t letting up: They’re asking for the community to be an integral part of the city’s budget process going forward.
Organizer Gicola Lane says she became more active after Metro Nashville Police’s killing of Jocques Clemmons and wants to ensure other residents are educated.
“There were faces that had never been to a council meeting — likely how I was in 2017 after Jocques got killed,” she says. “That’s what we should be encouraging.”
Lane wants to keep that momentum up for next year.
Metro Council typically listens to the community and city departments to determine what should be in the budget from April until June, then votes on what should be included. This year, Budget and Finance Committee Chair Bob Mendes and Vice Chair Kyontze Toombs started in February.
“With the exception of the defund police issue (which didn’t come up until June), what we heard in May and June was the same as what we heard in February,” Mendes said in an email to WPLN. “The basic message from the public since then was that most people did not seem to mind if the tax rate went up so long as they were seeing tangible improvements in their community.”
But Councilmember Colby Sledge says his colleagues should begin doing community outreach now to hear what priorities the people have.
“We spend more time explaining the process than we do having conversations about what really matters to people,” he says.
Vice Mayor Jim Shulman says in the next couple of weeks, he will figure out who he’ll appoint to be the next Budget and Finance Committee chair. The person will decide in what ways to reform or keep the status quo.
“I think the budget is really a yearlong process where people get a chance to talk about what they would like to see in the budget all yearlong instead of confined to a two-month period,” Shulman says.
Next year’s budget will include funding for two diversity officer positions and more money for public education, which were demands from the Metro Council Minority Caucus and community members.