On Monday’s 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 – host Leahy welcomed all star panelist and metro councilman Steve Glover to the show to discuss Nashville budget resolutions.
During the third hour, Glover described his resolution for the Nashville budget by citing Mayor Cooper’s campaign which promised fiscal stewardship and government that would direct its resources for neighbors, safety, and education.
He added, that we cannot expect to take care of all our needs out of new revenues (i.e. taxes) and that raising taxes should not be the only solution. “And it should be a sign of what my resolution calls for, not everything else. If we don’t change our habits nothing is going to change in this city,” stated Glover.
Leahy: Steve, you have an important battle coming up. We have two competing resolutions. You have yours. And then Bob Mendes, another council member-at-large. He has a different resolution.
Glover: It’s the same number it’s just he put in a substitute on mine to bump mine out.
Leahy: Different views on how the city will spend money. Tell our listeners how you think the city should spend money.
Glover: So here’s what my resolution says basically. And I’m going to try and summarize it. Mayor Cooper campaigned on a promise of fiscal stewardship and directing government resources for neighbors, safety, and education. All right? What is goes on to say in my resolution is that we cannot expect to take care of all our needs out of new revenues (i.e. taxes).
By just raising taxes, we need to tighten our belts up and really look in areas that aren’t as efficient as they should be. We need to draw money out of that. If we’re going to raise property taxes, let’s make sure we’re trimming the budget down on the other side.
Because of the millions, and millions and millions that have been added by Dean, Barry, and Briley that’s in this operational budget that I feel needs to come out till we get ourselves back in line.
Carmichael: What are some of those areas?
Glover: For me, now I’m really going to make everybody mad now. But, MTA, we have added so much money.
Leahy: MTA stands for…
Glover: That’s WeGo, bus lines, etc.
Leahy: Metro Transit Authority?
Glover: Yes. I know there are federal dollars and everything else. We’ve added a ton of money into this and the ridership continues to decline.
Leahy: Hey Crom. Hold it. How does this work? Spend more money, use declines? Isn’t that the typical way government works?
Carmichael: That is.
Glover: And they’ll argue with me over that. A lot of money been added there. Now on the Barnes Fund. Now, this is where they’re really going to get mad at me.
Leahy: What is the Barnes Fund?
Glover: The Barnes Fund is the 10 million dollars that’s come out of the operational fund for the last 3 or 4 years to go for affordable housing. To try and subsidize some buildings and things of that nature.
Leahy: Why is it called the Barnes Fund?
Glover: It’s the minister who was reverend Barnes. It was named after him.
Leahy: His idea.
Glover: Yeah. And I’m not saying it is a bad idea. Let’s walk through some of the numbers as we go. So just in those two things, there are 20-30 million dollars we need to consider.
Leahy: Crom, let me ask you this from a free-market perspective. So there’s a Barnes Fund of 10 million dollars out of the operating budget every year to help ‘affordable housing.’ Is that a good use of government funds?
Carmichael: I have no idea how the Barnes Fund money is spent. If it is wasted then obviously it’s not. The Barnes Fund, the first time I heard of it was a minute ago. (Leahy laughs) So I’d like to better understand what it does. Not what it purports to do. But what does it actually do? You say its 10 million dollars a year. Now is that subsidized rents? What is it?
Glover: It could be for TIFF. Pilot programs. So it goes to help pay down ‘their debt.’
Carmichael: Who’s ‘their debt?’
Glover: Well, maybe private investors and doing affordable housing.
Leahy: So it’s a subsidy to the developers?
Glover: And there are several different ways it can be utilized.
Carmichael: And does it generate more affordable housing?
Glover: Well, there’s where I’m going to argue with them all day long. I’m not seeing it.
Carmichael: If it’s 10 million dollars that gives money to landlords that then does NOT cause the rents to go down.
Glover: The rent, as far as the free market, the rents are lower than the free markets. Problem is, I don’t know what percentage is really helping out. So the efficiency is what I’m arguing.
Carmichael: In order for me to answer the question, that’s where the rub is. Is whether or not that 10 million dollars actually results in 9.5 million dollars of lower rents are for people who need and qualify for lower rents.
Leahy: My general principle on these sorts of things is, is this a proper role for the government to set up a fund for affordable housing when we don’t know how effective it is or is not. I’m sure reverend Barnes was a very fine fellow.
Glover: He was a great guy, yes.
Leahy: But to me, this is not a proper role of government.
Carmichael: But how do you stop something once you’ve already agreed with the landlords to pay it?
Glover: Well, you can’t stop it once you’ve agreed.
Carmichael: Is this for new housing?
Glover: This would be for an ongoing operational budget. Until we get metro’s fiscal shape back in line I think we need to tighten our belt in areas.
Leahy: Are not a priority?
Glover: The other side will call it a priority. But this is where I want to walk through a number…
Leahy: Let me just stop for a minute. Is it the role of the city and local government to provide affordable housing? That’s the question. To me, I look at this and I look at a city government right Crom? It’s to provide roads. It’s to provide fixing the potholes.
Make sure the utilities run properly and oversee an effective public school system. And have police and fire. But beyond that, I don’t see what the local government should do beyond that. Crom, what do you think?
Carmichael: I can see that argument, Michael. The closer the government operates to the people, the more effective it should be. And so, therefore, if the people of Davidson County believe we need some affordable housing then the question is, is there an efficient way and a cost-effective way to provide some of that.
I’m completely opposed to the federal government or even the state government dictating terms to the local community. But my tendency is that if there is a need at the local level because every housing unit is local. If there is going to be support, it should be at the local level and the local level only.
Having said that, I still haven’t gotten, and Steve doesn’t have the information so I’m not trying to beat up on Steve on how effective that 10 million dollars are. There are some things where the money is appropriated and essentially goes into a black hole and is wasted.
Or it goes to developers who are tight in the city and then the rents aren’t any lower. But then that 10 million dollars goes into their pockets. And that would be the worst of all cases.
Glover: My resolution didn’t say anything about affordable housing, but it did say public safety and education and mirroring that. The one it substituted has specifically affordable housing. Affordable housing is a buzzword, guys. It’s code. It’s code.
Carmichael: Well, that’s what I’m asking.
Glover: So let me get on this. So the substitute adds a lot of things mine didn’t have.
Leahy: Hold it. The substitute? What do you mean? The Mendes proposal?
This is, by the way, a competing world view from council member-at-large Mendes.
Glover: A conservative versus a non-conservative.
Leahy: A progressive and liberal.
Glover: A conservative versus a non-conservative. That’s why I say.
Leahy: He’s smart, but he’s a liberal. That’s my view.
Glover: These substitutes don’t come out before Friday. So we get this stuff what I call late. I was on the phone with mortgage bankers and stuff and talking with them. So, every roughly every 8 to 10% we raise your property taxes it decreases your buying power in Nashville by $10,000.00.
So if you qualify for a $300,000.00 house or example, last week and we raised taxes by 20%, then guess what? You just qualified for a $280,000.00 home. So when we say affordable housing. Let’s make sure we walk it all the way down the road.
Raising taxes should not be the only solution. And it should be a sign of what my resolution calls for, not everything else. If we don’t change our habits nothing is going to change in this city.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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