NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Dozens of community groups today launched a new coalition to educate Nashvillians about a hostile national effort to rewrite the local Metro Charter in ways that would undermine the city’s ability to fund priorities including schools, health care, parks, and public safety.
Groups in the coalition — dubbed Nashville Stronger — represent thousands of working families, faith leaders, business owners, and civil-rights leaders who oppose a nationally led campaign to amend the Metro Charter and prevent local elected leaders from raising revenue to support vital public services.
If the Metro Charter is rewritten, “Nashville would move backward and become unrecognizable,” said the Rev. Ed Thompson, chair of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), a Nashville Stronger partner and organization of 60 congregations, labor unions, and other groups that give voice to traditionally marginalized people. “Thousands of Metro employees would be fired and needed services to neighborhoods and school students would disappear.”
In late August, an anti-government lawyer — working at the direction of Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Prosperity, political arm of the national Koch network — filed paperwork trying to force a special election to rewrite the Metro Charter and repeal a property tax increase to balance the city’s budget. The Davidson County Election Commission has asked a court for guidance on whether a special election must happen during the holidays and in the middle of a global pandemic.
“No one wants to pay more property taxes, but we agreed to do so for the good of our city,” Thompson said. If a special election is held, he added, “NOAH opposes the amendment and urges the citizens of Nashville to reject it.”
Joining the Nashville Stronger coalition in opposition to rewriting the Metro Charter are groups representing local business owners, including the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., and Nashville Business Alliance.
“Like many cities in America, Nashville is struggling right now with unprecedented economic and public-health challenges,” said Michael Carter, owner of a local construction company and co-founder of the Nashville Business Alliance to advocate for minority- and women-owned businesses. “But the solution isn’t turning over the management of our community to political interests in Washington.”
Carter added: “Strong cities provide adequate public services that help employers create jobs and make communities desirable places to live and work. Nashville can, and will, get back on track if we commit to shared sacrifices and a positive vision for the future.”
Also opposed to rewriting the Metro Charter: Organizations of working families such as the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, whose members include public-school teachers represented by the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) as well as other public-sector employees represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 140 and SEIU Local 205.
“Gutting the city’s budget would raise class sizes and jeopardize the ability of teachers and students to safely return to the classroom during the pandemic,” said MNEA President Amanda Kail. “It would also eliminate any future hope of attaining the small class sizes, instructional materials, and social and emotional supports our students need to thrive once the pandemic is over.”
Civil-rights groups bringing their voices to the Nashville Stronger coalition include the American Muslim Advisory Council, Conexión Américas, Nashville for All of Us, and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Faith-led partners include the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF), Clergy for Tolerance, and Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.
“The aftermath of the Nashville tornado and ensuing pandemic has created a time for our city to come together, not pull apart,” said Pastor Chris Jackson, president of the IMF. “A property tax cap would be another disaster, but this time it would be self-inflicted.”
Jackson added that, even with an increase earlier this year, Nashville still has the lowest property-tax rate of any other large city in Tennessee. “Let us all pull together and give our city and ourselves the funding we desperately need to survive and thrive,” he said.
In the coming weeks, Nashville Stronger will grow the coalition and host a series of virtual and socially distanced community meetings to share information with Nashvillians about the need for adequate funding of municipal services as well as the reality of the harmful effects that the proposed hostile charter amendment would have on the city’s future.
Mayor John Cooper thanked Nashville Stronger leaders for stepping up and advocating for the entire community. “I appreciate the efforts of this growing coalition to lead a rational conversation about the future of our city,” Mayor Cooper said. “Now is the time to look forward, not backward, as we all work together to truly make Nashville stronger.”
For more information: NashvilleStronger.org