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 to update listeners on the current events surrounding the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act with expectations that Metro Legal will sue.
Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now, our very good friend, Jim Roberts, the lawyer behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. He’s got the petition signed and waiting to see if it’s going to be put on the ballot. What, Jim, is the latest news to roll back the Nashville property tax 34 percent increase? Where does that amendment that charter amendment stand?
Roberts: Where we are today is that we believe that the Election Commission is going to meet next Tuesday or Wednesday, sometime early next week, and they will be voting to place it on the ballot. Because of the delays caused by the Metropolitan government stalling and delaying tactics, it’s not going to be on the June 14th date that we have selected.
But it’ll probably be mid-July. Metro is doing everything they can to stall this so they can get the budget process done and not have to be constrained by the petition itself. I don’t think that’s going to work, but that’s what they’re trying to do now.
Leahy: Why is it taking so long for the Election Commission? Five members, three Republicans, two Democrats. They have got to formally decide to accept the verification of your signatures. You had the 12,000 or so required. You had over 14,000. Have all of those 14,000 been verified as the Metro clerks office said? That they’re over the number needed? And when will this come on the agenda? And do you expect a three to two vote in your favor?
Roberts: The number they verify is really only the number they need. If you turned in a million signatures, they would still only verify 12,000 or something. Once they hit the number needed, they stop. The Election Commission has admitted that we have sufficient signatures. The next step is really just a vote to put it on the ballot. And we do expect that to happen early next week.
Metro has caused a lot of trouble here. They have threatened to sue the Election Commission and sue the citizens to try to stop this. They just absolutely don’t want it. They don’t want these citizens to have a right to vote on it. The Metro Department of Law has prepared a very dishonest legal memorandum and very self-serving. They are trying to explain why people shouldn’t get to vote on it.
Fortunately for all of us, the Election Commission hired its own independent council instead of hiring lackeys that Metro picked out, they hire their own counsel. And we were very confident that the counsel knows that this is right. The people should have a right to vote on it. And that’s just the way our society is. We don’t let the government tell us what we get to vote on in America.
Leahy: You say that what’s going on right now is that the Metro Legal Department is threatening to sue. Do you expect them to sue if next week the Davidson County Election Commission decides to put this on the ballot for the voters to decide probably in July?
Roberts: I think they will. I think they have no choice. They are truly so desperate to keep people from voting on this that they will sue the citizens. We made it harder for them, to be honest with you. We had originally followed a lawsuit because we thought they weren’t counting the votes. And we dismissed that lawsuit because they have verified the signatures. And so now it’s Metro again. Metro is going to have to file a lawsuit and they will have to Sue the election Commission and Sue the citizens if they want to stop this. And they probably will. They’re that dishonest.
Leahy: So next week, we think likely the Davis County Election Commission will approve the referendum and approve putting it on the ballot in July. You think that’s likely correct?
Roberts: That’s the first thing. There are certain things that have to be done, like military ballots and mail-out ballots. I mean, it’s just a timeline and because Metro stalled them so long, we could no longer have the June 14 date. When the citizens put forth a petition, we have to pick a date.
Leahy: Got it.
Roberts: The petition says on a space the date. But the Election Commission does have the authority to move that date around.
Leahy: Yeah, we got that. After they make that choice, you expect Metro Legal to file a lawsuit. Also, attorney Jamie Hollin who represents the Nashville Business Coalition has indicated he intends to file a lawsuit as well. Do you expect such a lawsuit to be filed after that likely decision?
Roberts: Attorney Holland is certainly a fine attorney, but I think he likes to be on TV more than he does in court. They don’t have a lawsuit. They don’t have any basis to stop the citizens from having a right to vote on this. I’d be very surprised that he would embarrass himself by filing a lawsuit. Metro doesn’t care. They’re desperate. The Nashville Business Coalition, there is no reason for them to embarrass themselves.
Leahy: The Metro Legal Department is happy to embarrass itself and other potential plaintiffs, perhaps less so.
Roberts: That’s our expectation. As you know, there has been some sort of secret groups out there trying to gather withdrawals of signatures. All of that has been done illegally. I doubt those people stick their heads up because of all the federal laws they’re broken. But I expect they will try to get in the media and try to make some noise. The bottom line is we gathered enough signatures. We followed the law and the citizens deserve the right to vote on this. They can vote no. And I’m sure that’s what Metro Legal wants, but in the end, the people deserve to vote on it. This is democracy. We have a right to vote on it.
Leahy: What are the odds that the lawsuit that you anticipate from Metro Legal will stop the likely July vote of the citizens on this charter amendment to roll back property taxes by the 34 percent increase from 2019?
Roberts: We did everything that the Chancellor told us that we should have done. Whether the Chancellor was right or not, that we just let it go and we said, what did the Chancellor say we should have done and once we did that, Metro Legal doesn’t have a leg to stand on. They are simply nitpicking. And that’s really the word for it. Nitpicking.
Leahy: I guess you would say that you would think it’s likely then that this will be on the ballot in July?
Roberts: I say there is a 99 percent chance. They will vote next Tuesday or Wednesday. The Election Commission knows it’s not their job to stop people from voting If you think about it the default is people get to vote. The default is people get to run for office. And the default in voter petitions is that people get to vote on them.
There’s no basis to say there’s some sort of incredibly strict rules, and we’ll do everything we can to prevent people from voting. That’s what Metro legal wants. But that’s not what the law is.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.