Live from Music Row Friday 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. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Roberts reported on the status of the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act petition which would allow Davidson County residents the right to vote upon any future tax increases and hold the Metro government to a budget transparency standard.
Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmakers line by our good friend, attorney, and supporter of all causes good Jim Roberts. (Roberts laughs) Jim welcome to The Tennessee Star Report. The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, tell us where we are with that.
Roberts: Things are going great. The mailman is about to get a hernia for bringing all these petitions back to us.
Leahy: How many petitions do you need? And what will the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act do?
Roberts: We need about 5,000 to 6,000 actual ballot signatures. We probably want to turn in twice that many because Metro government will nitpick to keep it off the ballot.
Leahy: And what will it do.
Roberts: It does a couple of things. The most important thing to a lot of people is it’s going to repeal this 34 percent tax increase. We’re going to rail that back and force Metro to live within its budget and only give it a small amount of authority to increase taxes every year so we don’t have this kind of nonsense.
Leahy: When do you have to turn these signatures in?
Roberts: We picked December 5 as the actual ballot date. Really they are not due till mid-September but we want to turn them in right after the August 6 election is our goal.
Carmichael: How many are you up to now Jim? How many have you collected?
Roberts: I think we are at about 6,200 maybe.
Carmichael: So to be comfortable you want to be north of 15,000?
Roberts: That’s right. If anything looks half wrong or there is a missing digit or a letter they will disqualify signatures. You always want to turn in two or three times more than you think. And truly Crom we don’t know how many we are going to need because it’s based on the number of people who vote on August 6 and of course we don’t know that right now.
Carmichael: Let me ask you a question. If I sign the petition and I put my name Crom Carmichael and I give my address and my voter ID card has me down as Crom Carmichael III and I didn’t put the III. Will they disqualify it?
Roberts: Crom, we don’t know that for certain but we do know that they will be looking hard for little technical things to pull on people. We could certainly challenge that. And the way this sort of works is if you turn in three or four times of what you need they know better than to get in a fight over it.
Leahy: That’s a very good point. What you do is you go to a couple of places on the web where you can go to is 4goodgovernment.com and you can also enter the nashvilletaxpayerprotectionact.com and it will take you to the petition which you can download. You said something very important there Jim. If you need 5,000 and you are at 6,200 right now and you turned in just 6,200 today this would not happen because they would get rid of half of them right? For whatever reason.
Roberts: They would go in there and find reasons to invalidate enough to keep it off the ballot because that’s the way, unfortunately, Metro works.
Leahy: If you turn in 15,000 though and you’re at 6,200 right now. But if you turn in 15,000 they are going to have to throw out 10,000 or two-thirds of the signatures and that’s going to be very very difficult for them to do honestly.
Carmichael: He’s saying they won’t do it. Here’s what I’m hearing Jim say. If they want to disqualify somebody then Jim has the right to look at the ballot that they disqualified and challenge that.
Carmichael: What he’s saying is they aren’t going to try to challenge if he turns in 15,000 when he needs 6,200 they are not going to challenge it. Is that what I heard Jim?
Roberts: That’s right. That’s right.
Carmichael: So for those that believe that this question should be decided by the voters. Even if you are for the 34 percent tax increase but you do believe that this issue should be decided by the voters than you should go to 4goodgovernment.com and print out the petition and get other friends and family to also sign it and send it in.
Leahy: Exactly. Jim, you say that you are getting hundreds and hundreds of these in a day in the mail?
Roberts: That’s right. We mailed out about 45,000 last week. So they are just hitting people’s mailboxes over the weekend and Monday. We expect to get 300 to 500 petitions back a day. Some are signed by one person. Some are signed by one or two people like a husband and wife. And some come in with 15 signatures and a nasty note to Mayor Cooper. (Leahy laughs)
Carmichael: So you have your stash of white-out to white out the nasty notes?
Roberts: You don’t want to publicize it. I understand there are high emotions here but some of the comments are actually funny. After this passes I’ll put those up on the web.
Leahy: I would love to hear those ones.
Carmichael: I tell you what, Nashvillians have a great sense of humor. Not only are we nice but we have a wonderful sense of humor. When this is all over we have to have a recap of the funniest ones. I’m sure there are some that are hysterical.
Roberts: We did have a guy yesterday that signed it 15 times. I was like I appreciate your enthusiasm but that wasn’t exactly what I meant when I asked for 15 signatures. (Laughter)
Leahy: Of course you know the bureaucrats are listening to the program here and they just made a note when you turn them all in.
Carmichael: Let me say this, there are a lot of government employees who do not agree with what the government is doing. there are a lot of government employees who don’t. There are a lot of teachers in Nashville who can’t stand what the teachers’ unions are doing to destroy our schools. But a teacher standing alone has no power against the brutes of the teachers’ unions. And they are brutes.
Leahy: That’s exactly right. Jim, just in terms of the actual mechanics of this. Shortly after the primary in early August will you have a truck with all of these petitions? How will you transport them and who will you give them too?
Roberts: We’ll put them in a little wagon. Things have changed in the post COVID world. But we’ll put them in a little wagon and roll it down to the clerk’s office.
Leahy: You have got to call us. We will get our photographers there.
Carmichael: Make sure you have plenty of security.
Roberts: (Laughs) There has been some concern. We are dealing with the soccer folks who are backed by some almost near-criminal elements lets call it. One of the things that we’re not being told about what’s going on with the soccer stadium is that some dishonest people behind it and they may see this ballot initiative as something that’s targeted towards them.
It’s not. This is about good government. We do worry about them and the opposition of dishonesty. What kind of campaign they are going to put forth. There are people who want to keep that 34 percent tax increase. We’ve moved these petitions to a safe location just in case something happens.
Leahy: And we will not tell our listening audience where that safe location is.
Carmichael: That’s right. We may provide 15 alternative locations. (Leahy laughs) like for example, they might be in the basement of the mayor’s house.
Leahy: So you cart them in on maybe the second week of August. And where do you take them to? What part of the city government?
Roberts: We take them to the Metro Clerk in the courthouse. The Metro’s clerk job is to verify the signatures and then they send them over to the election commission whose job it is to put them it the ballot. It’s kind of a two-step process. The clerk will check the signatures. But if you turn in 15,000 to 20,000 but they know you got it.
Carmichael: And you have copies of all the ones you turn in?
Roberts: Oh absolutely. We scan them and send them off sight.
Leahy: At a secret location.
Leahy: Is there like a whole crew of 20 or 30 people in the clerk’s office who review each one with a protocol and a standard? Is that how it works?
Roberts: Well this happens so infrequently that I’m sure they don’t have people on staff normally. They must pool everybody in for spot-checking. For all I know they spot check petitions. I’ve never really been in that part of it. They do have a duty and I assume that they fulfill their duty. But that’s part of their job is to check those signatures and get it to the election committee.
Listen to the full third hour:
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