The Nashville grassroots group NoTax4Nash announced that it and other like-minded groups pledge to recall Mayor John Cooper and any members of the Metro Nashville Council who vote for a property tax increase without an audit to determine if there is need for one.
The NoTax4Nash pledge comes as the Metro Council is scheduled to vote on Mayor John Cooper’s proposed budget Tuesday, June 16.
In the April introduction of his fiscal year 2021 budget, Mayor Cooper proposed a 32 percent property tax increase.
Mayor Cooper’s huge increase is needed to fund the fiscal 2021 spending increase of $115.9 million over the current year.
The year-over-year spending increase is proposed, despite the fact that the current 2020 fiscal year is expected to be $215.8 million short of the $2.3 billion budget and revenues for the upcoming fiscal 2021 will be $280.6 million short of original expectations largely due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Michelle Foreman, spokeswoman for the citizen-led NoTax4Nash opposition to Mayor Cooper’s 32 percent property tax increase, draws attention to the ongoing COVID-19 shutdowns that are damaging to local businesses and, in turn, Nashville revenues.
“At a time when Mayor Cooper, with the acquiescence of the Council, are keeping businesses closed and citizens out of work, they are determined to pass a tax increase over the very loud and clear objections of their economically devastated constituents.”
Foreman addresses the Mayor’s inconsistencies in recent dealings with the public relative to his COVID-19 restrictions.
“Further, Mayor Cooper continues to demonstrate a lack of leadership by not only encouraging and participating in protests that violate his own ‘Roadmap for Reopening Nashville,’ but also in his use of Metro officials to issue citations harassing and abusing Nashville businesses simply because they oppose Mayor Cooper’s interference with their right to conduct business,” says Foreman.
From the vantage point of what had already happened in other U.S. cities plus violating his reopening plan, Mayor Cooper welcomed thousands to downtown Nashville for the protest-turned-riot on May 30.
Just two weeks later, 14 Nashville businesses were issued citations for not complying with social distancing or face mask protocols, reported NewsChannel 5.
Foreman also referenced polling results that reveal the unpopularity of Mayor Cooper’s property tax increase.
“A recent poll of Davidson County voters indicated overwhelming opposition to the Mayor’s proposed property tax increase, or any increase at all. By a huge margin of 2.5 to 1, voters opposed this unconscionable and most untimely tax increase.”
Additionally, slightly more poll respondents said that Metro council should disapprove Mayor Cooper’s budget with the 32 percent property tax increase, and most registered voters would be less likely to support a Metro Council candidate who voted to approve the budget that includes Mayor Cooper’s 32 percent property tax increase.
Yet, as Foreman points out, “It is evident that the Mayor and Council members do not believe they will suffer any consequences from their acts of ultimate betrayal.”
A very different story is being heard from citizens and businesses who are suffering through a devastating economy, says Foreman.
“They do not want their taxes increased, they want to go back to work and be able to pay their bills.”
Foreman concludes, “Recall is the only option left to citizens if a tax increase is approved at this time.”
To that end, the Charter of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County includes a provision for recalling the mayor, vice-mayor and council members.
Article 15 of the Metro Charter details that the removal and replacement of those officers starts with a petition that includes the signatures and addresses of 15 percent of the registered qualified voters of the council member’s district or Davidson
County as a whole for the mayor, vice-mayor or council members at large.
The entire NoTax4Nash.com press release can be read here.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.