On Thursday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy welcomed special guest host, Ben Cunningham to the show and chatted about his urging of conservatives in metro Nashville to run for office in District 29’s January special election. The men also reminisced about the Tennessee Tax Revolt, how people became transformed and activists, and how today there is so much a citizen can do to make a difference if they just get involved.
Leahy: Guest hosting today is our good friend Ben Cunningham. Ben we were talking about getting involved in activism both the parents and grandparent’s and kids. Possibly encouraging somebody to run for metro council in the 29th district here a special election in January where Karen Johnson has left. Um, there’s also other things that need to be going on here…
Cunningham: All the council seats are coming up in August of next year. August of 2019 is, be a full slate of the council member elections. Anybody can run for those seats also if you’re in Davidson county you have to qualify by, I think it’s May 13th I believe it is, I may not be quite right. But sometime in May that you have to submit your petition and then run for office. You’ll be on the ballot in the August election. And this is extremely important because next year, this year we’re coming up on, everybody’s gonna be up for election so there’s not going to be a tax increase I can bet ya. The Mayor Briley who’s going to be running for re-election and all the council members…
Leahy: Oh so he’s on the ballot too?
Cunningham: He’ll be on the ballot too.
Leahy: Now that’s going to be interesting.
Cunningham: The special election just took him through.
Leahy: Just took him through August 1s.t
Cunningham: So he’s got to be on the ballot again. I don’t know what kind of competition he’s going to have…
Leahy: I’m hearing, I’m hearing there’s going to be competition.
Cunningham: Good, well I certainly hope so. I certainly hope that somebody’s going to be on the ballot. But timing becomes very important in these tax issues and knowing how politicians respond to things is very important. They’re not going to pass a tax increase this upcoming year. Can’t do it, they won’t do it. Their not going to do it and then run for office. Politicians may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but they know that if they pass a tax increase..
Leahy: Read my lips.
Cunningham: During, because they’d have to formulate the budget in the first half of the year during the campaign period. So we know their not going to pass a property tax increase but, all of this pressure for more revenue has been building up for three or four years. And 2020 boy the gates are going to open and people are going to be proposing tax increases left and right for the 2021 budget if we don’t do something. And the time to act is now and get those people running for office while their campaigning! Get them to commit not to vote for property tax increase.
Leahy: So what do you suggest?
Cunningham: We’ve got to take the model that Grover Norquist uses nationally, the no tax pledge and present it to these candidates and if they refuse to sign it we make hay with it! We put it in hopefully the Tennessee Star will…
Leahy: Of course, the Tennessee star will cover it, the Tennessean, naaaah…
Leahy: Maybe, depends. By the way, just you guys on the side, you know Harriet Wallace was guest host here on Tuesday and she was fantastic. And we probably pointed out she was the last native Nashvillian to actually work for the Tennessean. (Laughter)
Cunningham: The others have left the building
Leahy: They’ve sold the building and left the building.
Cunningham: And you know, these local, local TV stations. Every time you turn on the TV station there seems like a new young reporter…
Leahy: There’s a new young person.
Cunningham: That has absolutely no institutional knowledge about local politics.
Cunningham: And the Tennessean there’s three people now that cover politics and there’s no way they can
Leahy: I don’t think any of them were here in 2000 during the tax revolt when you stopped income tax.
Cunningham: No, I don’t think so.
Leahy: Yeah, there’s no institution.
Cunningham: Joe’s been there a long time but even he I don’t think has been there during that time. So, and it’s funny you talk to these young reporters about local tax issues and they all have to move up their learning curve.
Leahy: Their eyes glaze over, what are you talking about?
Cunnigham: Right you know.
Leahy: I got twenty years of history here. You might want to start taking notes here.
Cunningham: Exactly. What are the political dynamics? And you know, twenty years ago all the reporters knew all the local figures and they knew where the skeletons were buried and they knew exactly what the political dynamics were.
Leahy: You see this is another advantage of reading the Tennessee Star at the Tennessee Star.com. Because Steve Gill was there with you leading the horn honkers that stopped the state income tax.
Cunningham reminisced about the occasion and reflected upon the three thousand people honking their horns and that, although that was a small percentage out of six million Tennesseans, how it still made a difference. He went on to point out that they managed to get their story out the right way. The reporters that reported on it did so falsely that Cunningham decided to grab his camera and take pictures everyday and then post them on the no state tax website. This ultimately crushed the meme “Lexus Brigade” which misled the public about the true nature and cause and enabled him the ability to show the true intent of the protest. Leahy reconfirmed Cunningham’s point by saying that people that showed up to the protest were everyday working citizens in pick ups and average cars and that they’ve since called into the show proud and passionately engaged about having had been a part of the horn honking event.
Cunningham: It was so funny, people went through this kind of mental transformation. They would come down there. The first week or two they were involved and they would stand outside…
Leahy: Yeah, watching. (Laughs)
Cunningham: Watching. And then they would kind of tentatively get involved. And then the next time they’d come down they had their own handmade sign that they’d bring. And then the next time they would come down, they would go down in the legislature and they would see all the lobbyists standing right in the legislature and see actually what was happening down there. And it was just really fascinating to watch this transformation that people made. And so many activists came out of that. We formed…
Leahy: A lot of our friends were involved with that.
Cunningham: Absolutely. We formed Tennessee Tax Revolt which is a 501C-3.
Leahy: Non-profit for you non lawyers out there.
Cunningham concluded the conversation by describing the function of the 501C-3 and how it was able to act as a service bureau for taxpayer groups across the state of Tennessee. He joyfully reflected about how it’s been energizing and exciting to help people and teach them about how to petition and get involved on their own initiative. Leahy described Cunningham as what the founding fathers envisioned as an example of a “citizen leader.”
Listen to the full segment:
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