Live from Music Row Monday morning on the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy was joined in studio by all-star panelists, Ben Cunningham and Nashville Metro Councilman at-large Steve Glover.
During the third hour, Glover explained what expenses Nashville could cut to decrease the budget issues now facing the city after years of mishandling. He suggested that cutting funds to the MTA which nobody rides anyway would be beneficial to the city and making first responders and metro employees the top priority. Glover added that this is something the city did to itself and argued against those in council who want to spend more to fix the problem.
Leahy: Steve Glover, Metro Council member at Large. We were talking before the break. You were going to tell us what Nashville can do to cut expenses to get out of this deficit hole that we’re temporarily out of. We got a little bit of a reprieve. What do you recommend?
Glover: There’s several things I recommend. We’d have to be here for hours.
Leahy: Hit the top two.
Glover: If you’ll indulge me.
Leahy: We are all about indulging Steve Glover today. (Laughs)
Glover: One of the things we heard over the last week. Two weeks, three weeks, four weeks whatever is that we got painted into a corner. Let me assure you, we didn’t get painted into a corner. We went to the paint store. We picked out the color. We picked up the brushes. We picked up the rollers. We bought an airsprayer.
We bought a brand new compressor. We bought clothes in order to paint with. And then we needed new shoes in order to paint with. And then we had to have something to cover those things with so we didn’t have to buy another pair in a week or two. So we didn’t get painted into a corner because what happened was…
Leahy: By the way.
Leahy: That is very good Steve. How long you been working on that?
Glover: It just popped into my head.
Leahy: Did it really? It’s because you are here with us and we are filled with great thoughts.
Cunningham: That’s communication.
Leahy: That was excellent. I like that. (Laughs)
Glover: And then to finish it off, we decided which way were going to paint the room. We didn’t get painted into a corner. We painted ourselves into a corner. And then the other thing I heard was that we can’t cut our way out of this. Well we spent our way into it. There’s a lot of frivolous things out there.
Leahy: See now, this is a very good point. You see we’ve got a common sense guy in metro council now who understands business responding to the typical liberal tropes right? We painted ourselves into a corner. You’ve got the great answer to that.
Cunningham: And he represents taxpayers that’s an identifiable group. That’s the one thing the left will not do. They always represent the people that are taking the money. The taxpayers are the ones that are going to have to cut their budget if you raise their taxes.
Leahy: So when your colleagues say these things and then you kind of hit back with a dose of common sense, does the light bulb go off? Or do they just, no it doesn’t…I didn’t think so. (Chuckles)
Glover: We should have been Facebook living that one so you could see the expression on my face.
Leahy: Maybe we will.
Glover: Here’s the challenge. And I read in an article and I don’t remember which magazine over the last week agoa that talked about the fact that the far left is going to think what they want to think. The far right is going to think what their thinking.
And those who are in the moderate categories, those are the ones who will work with you and how you do this stuff. For me it has never been about fixing it by reaching more into your pocket and taking more of your money away. Now, I want to talk to you guys. You know what I do for a living during the day. I do retirement income planning.
Leahy: And Ben is getting to that age. (Glover bellows) I’m getting to the age too.
Glover: Ben says, I’m there. (Laughs)
Leahy: We’re your target market.
Glover: If you are interviewing money managers, would you want to give the city of Nashville more of your money out of your pocket right now?
Leahy: Ben, what would you say?
Cunningham: Absolute great point. It’s all about alternatives and making decisions about priorities. That’s what budgeting is always about you know? With the left, it’s always a crisis that we’ve got to spend more.
Glover: Well here’s my simplest solution to that. If we actually work and compromise on reductions. See I don’t call it cuts. I’m going to call it reductions because it doesn’t mean you’re going to have to do away with every program out there. You reduce it. You look at the complexity of the issue. You determine what’s good.
What’s bad. What will create a true hardship on a majority of people. My definition of majority is 50% plus one. And so unless it’s going to do those kinds of things, I don’t know that I would call it a cut. I’d call it a reduction. First point. Second point is if we reach a point that everybody says, no no, we have to raise taxes to a degree.
We better be able to utilize and justify every red cent that comes in and how it’s going to be spent. We better make sure we take care of our police, our fire, our first responders and our employees. If we’ere going to use education..
Leahy: Yes. That’s our primary responsibility of the city.
Glover: Right. And if we’re going to use education as the poor poor pitiful me, oh gosh we got to find money. OK, let’s lay out the whole chart on how it’s going to work. This is going to shock you guys. Here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been out meeting with different departments going through penny to penny to see what it will take to get them to where they need to be.
Leahy: And what have you found?
Glover: I’m not quite ready but I’m only sitting to about a dime to eleven or twelve cents and that’s without having to cut anything yet. So for me, I could sit down. Look, let’s face it. You know I’m already going to make them mad.
Leahy: I want to see this.
Cunningham: (Laughs) They stay mad.
Leahy: So what are the interpersonal dynamics when you come into a meeting with these department heads? Are they polite?
Glover: Well, yeah they’re polite to me.
Leahy: Are they a little fearful perhaps?
Glover: You know I think some would say they are and some would say they’re not.
Leahy: So don’t identify the department. How many people are in the room when you say, let’s go over your budget. How many people are there?
Glover: On a low side, three or four. On high side, ten.
Cunningham: They’re probably shocked that a metro councilman would come and visit them.
Leahy: Is that unusual for a metro councilman comes to visit them?
Glover: I think maybe the more appropriate way to say that perhaps they’re shocked when I want to forecast out three or four years out down the road.
Leahy: Which is typical for financial planning.
Glover: Right. Which is what people need to understand.
Leahy: In the private sector you do that all the time.
Glover: If you’re getting to retire you come in a sit down and talk with me, I can tell you right now I’m not going to look at when you retire. You’ve got this amount of money this month you’ll be fine. It doesn’t work that way.
Leahy: So if you look at what’s being spent and you don’t understand what it’s for you ask that question of these people who run the department. And what do they say?
Glover: It’s varied greatly. Because obviously each department has it’s own needs. With the fire and with police, the problem is we’re short. Right now with police, and this number is very fluid. We’re short 108 officers. That number has gone up as high as 120, 140. But right now we’re sitting at about 108 officers short.
If we get those officers we’re going to need cars. We’re going to need equipment. We’re going to need computers. So I actually take it and go a little bit deeper than just the FTE (full time equivalent) than what the salary and the bidding’s are going to cost.
I want to know what is it going to cost us to have them ready to be out there and do their job. You look at the fire department. One of the problems we’ve got there, is over the last 20 years we basically added nothing as the city continues to grow massively. And we’re not following the standards in there. So we’re looking at about 60-67 firefighters that we’re short in Nashville right now.
Leahy: Those two areas are probably the most important areas and responsibilities of city government.
Cunningham: Fundamental public safety. Those are the priorities.
Leahy: What’s getting funded instead of that right?
Cunningham: Those are the priorities that should be number one.
Glover: Well, I mean we’ve added a boatload of money to the MTA and metro funding. We have! They can be as mad as they want to at me for saying that but we’ve done it. It’s there.
Leahy: This is the buses that no one rides?
Glover: It’s a lot of those, yes. There’s got a be a much more efficient way to run that.
Leahy: Put more buses out that no one will ride. That’s a priority over police and fire? At least in the old regime.
Glover: I kid you not. I wanted to cut it 10 million dollars a couple of years ago. And low and behold, Briley cut it 10 million last year. (Cunningham laughs) When it was my idea it was the stupidest thing you ever heard. When it was his idea, well we just have to do this.
Cunningham: Isn’t that funny how that works?
Glover: Well you know, it’s because once when they first heard it, it didn’t make sense the way I was describing it because it involved math. (Leahy laughs) When he described it it just described this is where we are. You know I’m going to go back to some of the things you were saying earlier. It’s scare tactics.
Glover: And they’re going to do the same thing with education and everything else. Look, we’ve got to vote on the teachers raise coming up tomorrow night.
Leahy: Tomorrow night? And what is on the table? What is the raise situation?
Glover: It’s going to move them three percent which is actually 1.5% for the remainder of this fiscal year. January one through June 30th.
Listen to the full third hour:
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