Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s choice to spend nearly $175,000 in taxpayer money on an extra-marital tryst just earned her top billing in the Beacon Center of Tennessee’s 2018 Pork Report.
Beacon, a Nashville-based free market think tank, releases a report detailing government waste, fraud, and abuse in Tennessee once a year. Beacon released this year’s report Monday.
The disgraced former mayor won Pork of the Year thanks to an online poll on Beacon’s website, according to a press release.
“We won’t get into the personal aspect of the affair,” said Beacon President Justin Owen, in a series of online videos that accompanied the think tank’s press release.
“What matters to us is that Mayor Barry did this on the taxpayers’ dime. She used taxpayers’ money to pay overtime pay to her bodyguard so she could be with him more often. The mayor of Nashville doesn’t need security in Paris, France or in Greece, but, ultimately she used taxpayer money to further her affair and that is why she pled guilty to felony theft as a result.”
As for other government excess, Beacon cited a company in Memphis, ServiceMaster, that received $5 million just to move to another part of the city.
Another example — Nashville’s new $25 million taxpayer-funded Major League Soccer stadium, funded while the city faces a gaping budget hole.
“We can’t give our teachers or first responders or police raises. Yet we can afford $25 million for a new soccer stadium,” Owen said.
“The vast majority of Nashvillians can’t afford to go to soccer games. Maybe they don’t like soccer — yet they are ultimately paying for this, yet we still can’t pay for our basic necessities as a city. This is totally irresponsible to use our taxpayer money in this way.”
Outside of Nashville
Elsewhere, this year’s Pork Report blasted $144 million in taxpayer money going to the West Tennessee Megasite, a large chunk of land near Memphis and Jackson. Local officials promised great things, but it has thus far floundered with no companies having yet moved in, said Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham, in another video that came with the press release.
“This has all the aspects of what we hate. It is a huge corporate welfare project. It was super poorly planned. They didn’t know how much money it would cost. It will take away property rights in the long term, and that is something we are never OK with,” Cunningham said, referencing possible eminent domain.
“The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development believes this was a great use of our money and we need to do more of this. But this shows the problem with central planning and putting millions of dollars into corporate welfare. They think they know better than the private sector. If it is a great place for the private sector to come then why has no one come here?”
Other examples cited, among many others, include Bristol, Tenn. officials giving a Tax Increment Financing grant to a hotel. This TIF enabled the owners to skip out on property taxes for up to 20 years. That gives them huge advantages over their competitors, said Beacon Executive Vice President Stephanie Whitt.
“TIF grants are supposed to be used to revitalize blighted areas and, in this example, this is a clear one where this area wasn’t blighted. It was just in the downtown corridor, and they wanted to add more hotel space around the speedway,” Whitt said in one of the online videos.
“This made the Pork Report because it’s one of those things where the government picks winners and losers.”