Metro Nashville City Council approved legislation implementing annual boards and commissions demographic reports during Tuesday’s meeting. Council member Tom Cash introduced the legislation; his proposed report would focus on the makeup of racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ-identifying individuals. Following submission to the Metro Clerk by October 1 of each year, the report would be posted publicly.
The council voted unanimously to add an amendment to the legislation to include sex and gender on the demographic. The legislation passed on second reading, 33-2. Only council members Steve Glover and Robert Swope voted no.
It is unclear what the council or Metro government plans on doing with the data.
Glover raised that very question. He asked if the information would be used to establish quotas for boards and commissions.
The Tennessee Code expressly prohibits the restriction or limitation of membership within boards such as the community oversight board based on demographics.
Cooper acknowledged that fact during the floor discussion. He stated that this demographics analysis would be a “reporting mechanism,” and not used for a quota.
“If you started setting aside specific positions for boards and commissions, that could pose a constitutional problem,” stated Cooper.
However, Cash’s subsequent response to Glover and Cooper’s exchange appeared to indicate that the demographics reports would influence the council’s decision-making for boards and commissions appointments.
“What we do with that information, I know that I hope that we make sure that our boards are diverse,” stated Cash. “This is making sure that we have good information so that we can make informed decisions about the makeup of our boards and commissions. And I made sure that the mayor’s office is included in the recipient [of] who receives that report.”
Council member Ginny Welsch concurred.
“I feel like even the sense that some might think that this bill means a quota system is misguided. Just because you have a quota of representation in terms of how you’re defining diversity does not mean it is in fact diversity,” stated Welsch. “Diversity is much more than that. It is gender, it is racial, it is ethnic, it is economic. And we just need to make sure as a city that we are giving voice to every person who has to live with the decisions that we make on all the things that are collectively owned by our city so that their concerns and their interests and their perspectives are not dismissed. ”
Glover retorted, “I’m very glad to hear that we want to make sure that we hear from the citizens of Nashville because [if] we’d have done that during the massive tax increase there may have been a different outcome. So, glad to hear that we want to hear from folks[.]”
The measure will come before the council for a third reading and final vote in two weeks’ time. It would need at least 21 votes to pass.
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