Nashville Metro Council voted Tuesday to place both the $5.35 billion and $9 billion transit plan price tags on the May 1 referendum.
An amendment showing the price range was approved on a 34-2-2 vote. The vote was part of the third and final reading of the referendum language.
Debate during the council meeting likened the transportation plan to buying a car. When buying a car, one looks at the dealer’s price as the purchase price; expenses like tires and fuel are operating costs, council member Jeremy Elrod said.
Council member Bob Mendes said “We’re not buying a car.” To buy an operating system, one pays not only the upfront costs but also debt and has to consider the debt terms and payback period. One must consider the bond debt payment. He said the $8.95 billion figure was good enough for the state comptroller.
Jeff Eller, campaign spokesman for NoTax4Tracks, which has expressed concerns about the transit plan, said, “We believe the Council did the right thing by letting voters decide on the full cost of the $9-billion light rail plan. They will now have the opportunity to understand this plan will result in the highest sales tax in the country and will do nothing to help congestion or traffic on our streets.”
Prior to the council vote, Twitter was filled with people speaking for and against the transit plan and referendum language.
Marc Hill, Chief Policy Officer at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, tweeted, “#LetsMoveNashville transit plan is the result of years of work, tens of thousands of citizen engagements. Thank you to Vice Mayor Briley and Metro Council members who are providing strong leadership to put the plan to a May 1 vote to let the people of Nashville decide.”
The chamber has ties to the Citizens for Greater Mobility PAC, which supports the transit plan.
Go Nashville! bills itself as “average people who support efficient, affordable, sustainable private/public transit.” In response to Hill, the group tweeted, “Whatever. Too bad they can’t be honest about the cost.”
Twitter was not the only venue in which the debate took place Tuesday.
Davidson County Republican Party sent an email earlier in the day calling on residents to email their council members about their concerns about the referendum’s language. The email pointed out the proposed wording using the $5.35 billion vs. the $9 billion price.
“It’s the right thing to do!” the email ended with.
NoTax4Tracks sent out a newsletter Tuesday also asking people to contact council members to ask for the amended ballot language, which it said would “bring some transparency.”
“Remember — the true $9 billion price tag and predicted $100 million in operating expenses per year are just starting points,” the newsletter said. “Every major transit plan in the US has gone over-budget. Most of them have gone WAY over.
“Davidson County definitely needs a plan to relieve our congestion, but this isn’t it. It’s too costly and it won’t solve our traffic issues.”