Former Vanderbilt professor Dr. Carol Swain joined host Leahy live in-studio on Music Row in 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.
During the second hour, Swain reflected upon her recent meeting with Mayor John Cooper and a few other prominent citizens to discuss ways to cut city budget costs and eliminate the need for an immediate 32% property tax increase. She somberly expressed how Cooper seemed more concerned about optics than he did about the citizens of Davidson County.
Leahy: We are now in the studio with our good friend all-star panelist Carol Swain. Carol, we’re going to put that microphone closer to you because we have a very sophisticated social distancing mechanism here as you can see. Welcome back Carol.
Swain: Good morning.
Leahy: It is Studio Freedom Day! And for the first time in awhile you are back in the studio with us. We are delighted to have you back Carol.
Swain: I can say your set up is quite awkward. I’m quite uncomfortable.
Leahy: It’s sophisticated! (Laughter) We are, six feet apart. Wouldn’t you say?
Swain: I think it’s more than six feet.
Leahy: Is it more than six feet?
Swain: I think so. I’d rather be an adult and take my chances and sit closer. (Leahy laughs) I’ll take my chances.
Leahy: So here what’s we’ll do. We will move that mechanism over there. You sit as you normally do. We’re still six feet away.
Swain: I’m comfortable now.
Leahy: You weren’t comfortable.
Swain: I’m more comfortable now.
Leahy: Because it’s all about Carol being comfortable.
Swain: Yes. I’ve driven across town to be here today.
Leahy: We want to make it easy for you. Carol, what have you been up to?
Swain: Many things.
Leahy: Just fill us in. It’s so different when you are doing a half an hour on a newsmaker line. It’s not the same. It’s more fun being in the studio I think.
Swain: It is more fun being in the studio. Well I’ve had many citizens of Nashville contact me about the mayor’s tax increase and various things taking place in the city. I think some of them forgot that I lost the election.
Leahy: A lot of us wish you’d won it. (Swain chuckles) I among them Carol.
Leahy: But I’m not a resident of Davidson County. So I couldn’t vote for you.
Swain: OK. Earlier this week a group of citizens, a small group, we met with the mayor about his tax increase.
Leahy: Whoah! Breaking news! Carol you’ve been holding out on me!
Swain: And the purpose of the meeting…
Leahy: Where did you meet?
Swain: I think it’s ok to say the name of the person. Her name is Karen Moore.
Leahy: How long did you meet?
Swain: 45 minutes.
Leahy: How many people were there?
Swain: Four of the most important citizens. Maybe it was more than four. Let me count. A few. A handful of concerned citizens. The purpose of the meeting was to offer suggestions to the mayor. And my position has been that he should not have a tax increase this year and he should make substantial cuts and lay the groundwork for a tax increase of some sort next year.
Leahy: That’s a good position. Now was the mayor there? Did he have an entourage or was he there by himself?
Swain: He was there by himself and came in wearing a mask.
Leahy: Did he have a flag of Kurdistan on it?
Swain: No, it was one of those cheap ones that lets in everything.
Leahy: This is so exciting! What can you share with us about that meeting with the mayor?
Swain: Well I can tell you that we were able to confirm that the mayor has not made substantial cuts of any kind. And we asked him about why no Metro employees had been furloughed if even for just briefly.
Leahy: This is the question that I would have asked him if he would have come into the studio. So you ask him that question and why have there been no cuts to the Metro budget? It’s increasing to 5% this year right?
Leahy: So what was his response?
Swain: His response was that he was less concerned about the optics of the fact that he hasn’t furloughed any of the Metro employees that they are drawing their full salaries where everyone else in Nashville is suffering. The people that have businesses and those that have been laid off enjoying unemployment. He said he would not save that much money by furloughing employees and that it would only be for reasons of optics that those people would take vacation pay and I guess other forms of payment from the city and there would be not savings.
Leahy: Yes. And you are a very honest academic and you accurately report things. This is exactly what he said right? Paraphrasing.
Swain: Pretty much that’s exactly what he said. He said there was no purpose for him to do it and he was not willing to do that other than to create a certain optic and he was not willing to do that.
Leahy: Let me just ask you, how did you respond to that?
Swain: Well I will tell you that some of the people that were at the meeting like Michelle Foreman, Lee Beaman, Carey Bringle, Steve and Karen Moore, and Jim Warren. These were the people.
Leahy: Carey Bringle is the owner of the Peg Leg Porker that was shut down.
Swain: Yes. It was a small group of people and we were there to be constructive.
Leahy: And so he says that and does anybody say, are you crazy? I wouldn’t have said it exactly like that.
Swain: I can tell you that we want them to take their vacation pay. There is no reason why civil servants couldn’t have been furloughed for a month. He could still furlough them for one day a week and it would be a tremendous saving for the city.
So the answer that he gave us is very weak. There is no good reason for him to furlough Metro employees that are non-essential. Some of the things that came up about the city is bankrupt. Maybe it should go into receivership and the state should step in.
Leahy: Let’s stop for a moment. Now to me logically looking at all of this. Nashville Metro Davidson County looks like a prime candidate to go into bankruptcy at this point in time because the revenues are not nearly equal too or up to the expenses. Apparently there is an unwillingness to cut expenses. I still can’t understand that. How was that question posed and what was the response?
Swain: For one thing he doesn’t’ want the optics of Nashville going into bankruptcy.
Leahy: Boy, he’s very concerned about optics!
Swain: He is concerned about optics but not from the right people. What about the optics that we’re seeing that he has not really done any substantial audits of various departments. During the time I was running for mayor I had people give me information about some of the corruption in the various departments where the corruption was. There is no evidence that he’s addressed any of that. They are still putting in bike lanes.
You know that four and a half miles of city streets have been closed so people can play in the streets. That’s what Walk Bike Nashville asked for when we were running for mayor. So he’s catering to the left with no evidence that he cares about the people. I reminded him about his promises to the people of Nashville when he went from community to community and told them that he would put them first. Many of those individuals are going to lose their homes and their businesses because they trusted him and his promises.
Leahy: Those realities are not good.
Swain: He doesn’t seem to care because I suspect that he’s surrounded by people and he has group-think and is getting accolades from the Democrats who want the city shut down because it’s really about the election. We know it’s not about the coronavirus. And right now he is preventing people from earning a living. Downtown has been decimated and yet he doesn’t seem to get it.
Leahy: He’s a smart guy right? He made a lot of money.
Swain: He was smart enough to dupe a lot of Republicans and some of them are probably listening right now.
Leahy: Yes. Duping Republicans is probably right because he’s revealing himself. It seems to me as a tried and true progressive liberal authoritarian who wants power and cares little about fiscal responsibility. That’s what it looks like to me.
Swain: He’s a Democrat in the era when Democrats don’t have the same sense government. But the average people are the ones that are suffering. One of the things that I’ll be doing this morning when I leave here is that I will be at the Panera on Old Hickory Boulevard from 9:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. with this petition of the Nashville Tax Payer Protection Act.
Leahy: Let’s talk about this. I like this. Nashville Tax Payer Protection Act. You’ve got signature places on this. Who’s behind the Nashville Tax Payer Protection Act?
Swain: There are several attorneys who put it together. Jim Roberts is one of them.
Leahy: Jim Roberts, a good guy.
Swain: Yes. They put this petition together and it would protect Nashville taxpayers in the future and we will need 4,500 signatures by July 1 to be able to have a vote on this in December.
Leahy: Do you have to be a resident of Davidson County?
Swain: Yes you do.
Leahy: If I were I would sign it right now.
Swain: Well you can still help us get signatures even though you are not a resident.
Leahy: Let’s get the bottom line on this. Signing this petition will place the charter amendment on the ballot to be voted upon to bring sanity and fiscal restraint to Metro before our city is bankrupted by policy choices and reckless spending. Go to www.nashvilletaxperprotectionact.com.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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