Live from Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday 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 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.– Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by former Vanderbilt and Princeton Professor Dr. Carol Swain.
During the third hour, Swain commented on Mayor Cooper’s decision to maintain the Metro Nashville shutdown while raising taxes.
Leahy: Good morning Carol.
Swain: Good morning Michael.
Leahy: Are you sheltering at home?
Swain: I’m doing my best. (Leahy chuckles)
Leahy: Yeah. That’s a very good way of putting it. Everybody is doing their best. I don’t know about you but I’m suffering studio fever. That’s sort of like cabin fever when you’re in-studio and you can’t have in-studio guests and you’re just waiting for the time to be able to bring them in.
By the way, we have an aspirational goal of studio freedom day of May 4. That’s a week from this coming Monday. We have a hazmat suit Carol with your name on it. (Chuckles) We’re going to put the microphone six feet away but we have one person we have to wait on.
And that is Mayor John Cooper. He’s having a press conference at 9:30 today. He’s going to announce his plan to reopen Metro Nashville, Davidson County. I don’t know what that plan is going to be. I think he’s going to take his time on it. What do you think is going to happen with that Carol?
Swain: I don’t know. I pray for Mayor Cooper on my prayer list and I wish him the best. So I hope he will exercise some wisdom. We need him to think and act more like the economic conservative that he ran as for mayor. And I think that it would be a good idea for him to pull back on Metro expenses.
There were some departments that I knew were some duplicative services and had I been elected mayor I would have made some dramatic changes. I’ve not seen dramatic changes coming from the mayor’s office. He’s not made public safety reform a number one priority even though he’s using that as a justification, at least more funding as a justification for raising taxes.
Leahy: Yeah. That is very troubling to me. You look at what’s going with the pandemic. And today is Thursday and every Thursday they announce the unemployment numbers. So far in the country, 22 million people are unemployed. About 13%. This is all in the space of about a month.
And here in Nashville for people that make their living entertaining and performing and working at restaurants, unemployment is very very very high in that group. Probably almost at 100% because the mayor has shut down all the restaurants. But there have been no sacrifices that I can tell Carol in terms of the expenditures in the Metro Nashville government. Have I missed something there? Are they cutting something?
Swain: It’s my understanding from talking with a person who is an insider that all the employees are being paid as usual and that Mayor Cooper has not made any major changes to the structure of Metro government. So all of the constituency groups I suppose are rather pleased because they’ve not had to bare any of the pain. If you look at the people who are making the arguments to stay closed they are usually the people who are being paid. The people who are not suffering. They are on a paid vacation.
Leahy: Yeah. You see this and this is a lot of local, state and federal employees whose salaries are coming in at 100% of what they’ve been paid. I don’t know what they are actually producing. Reports I think in some cases. Now, first responders, that’s a totally different deal.
Swain: Oh no, they got the worst end.
Leahy: Yeah. They are out there being exposed to this keeping the peace. We are talking about policemen and firefighters. We aren’t talking about them but we’re talking about the pencil pushers who are producing we don’t know what. They are not baring any of the burdens of the local government action to shut down businesses that the mayor has decided are non-essential. I don’t think its very fair at all actually.
Swain: I mean it’s not fair. I think that Nashvillians will let the mayor know that. I also believe that we get the government that we deserve. So people have a choice. They elected a member of the Democratic Party and they tend to govern the same way. They tend to starve first responders and law enforcement.
They reward their buddies. And there’s always corruption when there is a Democrat in office. I have had high hopes that it would be different under Mayor Cooper. I believe that if we want revenue we should be going to Rich Riebeling, Megan Barry, (Leahy chuckles) Karl Dean, and some of the people who made out like bandits.
Leahy: Yeah in the previous administrations. But it’s very interesting that almost all of the Metro Council with the exception of Steve Glover and a few local councilmen, there are 40 members I guess of the Metro Council. Five at-large and 35 elected by districts. From what I can tell maybe five or ten of them are conservative and the rest are far-left progressive liberals.
They seem to want to follow the lead of the ambitious Metro Council member at large Bob Mendes who I think clearly is eyeing his own mayoral run whenever Mayor Cooper is not in that office. They are all excited about at least a 20% property tax increase. Perhaps 25%. Perhaps 30%. I don’t understand the fairness or equity of this.
Metro Nashville Davidson County taking no salary cuts at all from what I can tell. All of the businesses laying people off that are supporting Metro Nashville Davidson County. And now they want to increase property taxes by 20%-25%-30%. What’s your take on this Carol?
Swain: My take is that it’s morally wrong to raise taxes at this time during a time when the government is preventing people from earning money. I think that if I were mayor I would dramatically cut expenses. I would cut personnel in the mayor’s office. And any tax increase would come next year.
It would not come this year in the midst of this pandemic and in the midst of a government that decided to shut down everything even though we know now from the maps that only certain parts of the city are affected. Death rates and infection rates, we know those numbers are manipulated because they are counting people who were seriously ill with preexisting conditions or elderly people who would have died from the regular flu.
They are toting it as being COVID-19. If you had honest numbers around the country, and I’m not going to say around the world, I think that this pandemic would not really be a pandemic in the sense of Ebola and SARS and H1N1. The models were always wrong.
Leahy: If you were mayor how much would you cut from personnel of Metro Nashville Davidson County? Would you leave first responders, firefighters, and police officers at the same level? What would you do with the rest of the employees there?
Swain: First of all my campaign issue was the number one issue of public safety I would have addressed within the first 90 days. That would have been my priority. And I would have ordered reviews of all the various departments and where there were duplicative services I would have ordered cuts. And when it comes to the Metro school system, I realize that they are bound by law and there are certain things they can’t do, and we know that that’s a source of tremendous waste.
There is a lot of waste in Metro and they could do a better job of leading. So I think Mayor Cooper he would build the confidence of a lot of people if he would start with the mayor’s office and show us that he’s willing to make some dramatic cuts and restructuring of government. This city will fail if it’s run by Democrats because Democrat-run cities, they run them into the ground.
Leahy: That’s clearly the case in most major cities in the United States that are all run by Democrats. New York City which is not responded well at all to the coronavirus crisis. In fact, there are some reports that the actions of the folks running New York City helped spread the virus. Before the Chinese New Year celebration when the health director went out in early February and said come on down to Chinatown and travel by subway thereafter.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.