The Nashville Tea Party is calling on Nashville Mayor Megan Barry to release detailed plans for a tentative $6 billion regional mass transit project.
Barry has said she will put a referendum on the ballot next year to raise taxes for the project, designed to be phased in over 25 years. The proposal she’s backing makes heavy use of light rail, as well as rapid buses. The Nashville Business Journal has reported that Barry is also considering underground transit downtown.
“If approved, these new taxes will burden Middle Tennessee taxpayers for decades,” the Nashville Tea Party said in a press release Monday. “The mayor’s current petition campaign simply asks taxpayers to pledge they will ‘pay for it'”.
“This amounts to the mayor asking taxpayers to sign a blank check,” Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville Tea Party, said in the press release.
The press release says that the Nashville Tea Party wants the public to have the complete details now and not “in bits and pieces over the coming months.” It notes that the IMPROVE Act passed by the state legislature earlier this year requires that the public be well informed before a referendum vote. The IMPROVE Act raised the gas tax to improve roads and also allowed municipalities to hold referendums to raise funds for mass transit.
The press release poses a series of questions addressed directly to Barry, including why she’s ignoring newer technologies and “proposing to spend billions on legacy transit systems when rail and bus based transit systems are suffering from huge ridership losses all across the nation” and why she’s “proposing light rail when a study by a Nashville based transit expert indicates light rail will not reduce traffic congestion.”
Barry has been working to build a variety of coalitions to back her plans, but critics have said she doesn’t appear to be listening to ordinary citizens.
“Will you encourage an open and inclusive discussion by everyone in Nashville and Middle Tennessee and not try to marginalize or dismiss anyone who questions your plan?” the Nashville Tea Party press release asks. “You have amassed a huge war chest to advocate for these taxes. Please assure us there will be a level playing field for all who want to get involved.”
The Nashville Tea Party maintains that it “does not consider this matter a fight between right and wrong or left and right.”
“We consider it a healthy competition between two visions of a prosperous future for a city and region we all love equally. We hope you will allow us, and many others, the opportunity to present our case to the public before voters cast their verdict.”