Megan Barry, the public face of the proposed $9 billion light rail transit plan may be gone from office, but don’t expect the issue to die.
The Metro Nashville Democratic mayor resigned in disgrace March 6 after pleading guilty to felony charges following the revelation of her extra-marital affair with her chief bodyguard, former police Sgt. Rob Forrest.
The Tennessean reports that new Mayor David Briley has also been a staunch supporter of the light rail transit plan, which is set for a May 1 referendum. The newspaper calls him a progressive liberal Democrat who has long wanted to be mayor.
The newspaper says, “In the weeks ahead, he will take the torch on Barry’s May 1 transit referendum on raising four taxes to pay for a $5.4 billion transit plan with light rail.”
The Tennessean uses the $5.4 billion estimate, the figure transit supporters like to throw around.
NewsChannel 5 reported that after Briley was sworn in, he said he plans to hold a series of town hall meetings to talk about a variety of issues — including transit, which he called his first priority.
“It’s the most important thing that is confronting our city right now and I’m committed to working hard on that every day between now and May 1,” he said. “This is what this moment is all about. Is Nashville going to invest in itself?”
Opponents of the $9 billion transit plan are not backing down with the end of Barry’s political career.
The (Columbia) Daily Herald carried an WSMV News 4 story Thursday, March 8 previewing an affordable housing meeting in Nashville planned for the same day. The NOAH Task Force argues that building the light rail could increase gentrification, meaning lower-income residents could be pushed out to build more expensive apartments and homes.
Jeff Carr, who is with NoTax4Tracks, a leading opponent of the light rail plan, told WSMV he planned to speak at the town hall against the proposal. News 4 asked Carr if anything has changed now that Briley will be the face of the plan.
“The plan remains the same, so the concerns are absolutely the same, and that is that we are being asked to pay the highest sales tax for a comparable city of our size for a plan that doesn’t alleviate traffic congestion,” Carr is quoted as saying.
Bruce Campbell (@WBruceCampbell) has been an active opponent of the light rail transit plan on Twitter. He said on the social media platform on March 8, “So it turns out Megan Barry was LYING when she said, ‘There’s no plan B’ for transit. Plan B AND Plan C were fully developed, and of course cost FAR LESS. ($7B less).”
Campbell’s tweet shows maps detailing two alternative plans, one of them focused on bus improvements. The maps are from nMotion – Nashville MTA Strategic Plan.
Playwright/Actor/Director/Activist Dr. Jeff Obafemi Carr wrote an editorial that appeared on the Tennessee Tribune, a Middle Tennessee-based black newspaper.
In part, the editorial reads, “In the wake of Mayor Megan Barry’s felony conviction and subsequent resignation from office, we actually now have a chance to influence politics in a way never before seen in Nashville, and the way to do it is by first voting against the proposed ‘Transit Plan.’ I’m very proudly working with the NoTax4Tracks coalition for one reason: they are listening, pointing out the facts, and ensuring that we all actually read this complicated 55-page plan with an even more complicated referendum coming to us on May 1st.
“In the course of getting this word out, it’s been a unique challenge,” Carr continued. “The city’s politicians have working in their favor the power and influence of the Chamber of Commerce, the (Vice) Mayor’s Office, several members of the council who enjoy the spotlight, and a well-financed Political Action Committee, the Citizens for Greater Mobility, who have employed a small army of African-American consultants and marketers to persuade us to vote ‘for transit’ with the same old tactics we’ve heard before.”