On July 27, Nashville voters will get a chance to weigh in on a restrictive government petition. The Davidson County Election Commission set the date last night.
The commission’s decision came after several more hours of back and forth — mainly about the petition’s legality, if and when the measure should go before voters, and when the election should take place.
The “4 Good Government” referendum wants to:
- restrict elected officials from increasing property tax rate more than 3% without voter support
- allow voters to recall elected officials
- get rid of elected officials’ benefits without voter support
- allow only voters to change the city’s charter
- take professional sport teams’ property if they don’t play for more than 24 consecutive months
Last year when the group tried to pass similar efforts, the city, the group and the commission went to court over its legality. But there’s been a shake up on the Republican-led commission since then. The shift was clear from the beginning of last night’s meeting to decide on the petition.
“This commission is not deciding on the merits of that referendum,” Commissioner Jim DeLanis, a Republican, started by saying. “It’s just deciding if it goes on the ballot and whether it has met the legal requirements that we’re allowed to consider before placing it on the ballot.”
On Tuesday morning, the Election Commission will get to work on preparing ballots. So far the mayor has been relatively quiet in this second attempt. But the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation and Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, or NOAH, have been vocal against it.
The election date will take place a few short weeks after the city’s next budget takes effect.
Newly appointed Republican commissioner Dan Davis raised questions about whether the Metro Council could develop two budget options that vary based on what the voters say. But the city charter requires the council to vote on a final budget before the new fiscal year on July 1.
It was only two weeks ago that the mayor pitched his spending plan, which included more funding for schools and more money towards affordable housing. Depending on how residents vote, his proposal could be undermined.
“It’s designed to hurt Metro. It will hurt Metro,” said Councilmember Bob Mendes, the former budget and finance chair.
Council is trying to offer a second option for people opposed to the petition. Its future hangs in the balance until the Election Commission meets Thursday to decide what’s next.
At-large Councilmember Steve Glover voted for the council’s resolution but repeatedly undermined Mendes and the council’s arguments during the meeting on Monday. He laid the blame on last year’s 34% tax increase.
City officials have said that they didn’t want to raise taxes, but without it the city wouldn’t be in a good financial position now.
“If this council, if this mayor would’ve listened to all of the people, we would not be here right now,” Glover said. “But we are because of a massive tax increase.”