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
Leahy: On the newsmaker line our good friend Jim Roberts the attorney and the man behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Well, Jim, what are the twists and turns? Will this be on the ballot as a charter amendment on July 26th? What have the opponents of this done in court?
Roberts: Well, let me tell you, we are still on the ballot for the 27th, not the 26th.
Leahy: The 27th. I stand corrected.
Roberts: That’s right. Metro is still legal for the Metro government is still trying to throw up all the roadblocks they can. They’re still making the terrible, dishonest arguments that they’ve been making all along.
The best thing we’ve seen in the last week is that the other side is starting to show its colors. We’re starting to see the dishonesty of their arguments, and they’re having to come up with something.
I think what’s most amazing Michael is that they don’t really attack the ballot initiatives for what they say. It’s just doom and gloom. Chicken Little and the sky is falling. It’s really just hysteria. I think they think that hysteria is just going to carry them to victory or something.
Leahy: It sounds like they’re not making a lot of progress in litigation in the Chancery Court here in Davidson County. Is that right?
Roberts: That’s right. It doesn’t look like they’ve gotten anywhere. They’re trying. They’re making a lot of noise. I think they know they’re going to lose and they just want to look like they were going down swinging.
But the arguments they seem to be making are nonsensical and just dishonest. This is about voter suppression. What the Metropolitan government wants is to deny the citizens the right to vote.
Carmichael: What is the date right now, Jim of the election?
Roberts: July 27.
Carmichael: Has Metro filed a court suit in court to try to stop it?
Roberts: They did. They filed right after the Election Commission voted to put it on the ballot. That case goes to trial and about 10 days roughly. June seventh. But I think the court has telegraphed at least a little bit that they’re not going to win. There’s a second lawsuit that was filed by a downtown business group that’s pretty much on the dole for Metro.
Their trial got set in July. This will all be over in July. Obviously, the court is not taking their lawsuit very seriously. So in 10 days or within two weeks, if you’re back on in two weeks, you believe that the Chancerrory Court…
Roberts: Yes. The Chancery Court here in Davidson County.
Carmichael: You believe within two weeks the Chancery Court will have made a decision? The indications that you’re getting, of course, judges have to hear all the arguments before they make a decision.
Roberts: That’s right. I know that they’re expecting when I say they, the Election Commission, which again voted to let the citizens vote. The Election Commission is assuming that Metro will try to appeal to the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals.
Metro will spend as much of our tax dollars as it can to try to stop this. They will spend more than it costs to have the election.
Carmichael: Will people from the Election Commission do they testify as to why they believe that the that’s the referendum met all of the criteria?
Roberts: Certainly not in the loop of the trial strategy, but I certainly think someone on the Election Commission will. But the fact that they voted on it, the fact that they looked at it and made a decision, the court has to give a great deal of discretion to a governmental body like this. This is their job and they made a decision, and it’s really Metro attacking their decision.
Leahy: Jim, let me get your reaction to this. There’s a group funded by a bunch of left-wing organizations called Save Nashville Now. We had a story last week. Metro Nashville Public School Board Chair Joins Campaign to Stop the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. We think that’s a violation of the ethics rules of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Do you have any more information on that for us?
Roberts: I looked into that last week when it first came out and yes, it is it’s absolutely a violation of the ethical rules. And I think it shows how desperate and how willing the other side is to be dishonest in this campaign.
I mean, they’ll do anything. You should also know that throughout this, the opposition to this has actually taken several different names. And Save Nashville Now is just another phony organization.
There’s no organization recognized in Tennessee with that name. This is the fourth organization that’s come forward in opposition. And what you’re going to see is about every two weeks, they’re going to change the name of the organization, and that way they can hide the funding.
They can hide who’s behind it. They can do things that are illegal like they did earlier and then cover it up. So they’ll be gone in a week.
Carmichael: Jim, let me ask you a question. You can call when this goes to trial, Metro is suing the Election Commission correct?
Roberts: That’s right.
Carmichael: Are you planning on calling members of the Election Commission who voted in favor of the referendum? Are you planning on calling them as witnesses? What are you doing to be sure that when you have a chance to make your case, you’re making the strongest possible case and not just relying on precedent? That you are going to make a case well.
Roberts: It’s a little complicated Crom in the sense that we’re not actually active in this litigation for some complicated reasons. The Election Commission has shown its commitment to protecting the people’s right to vote. And in some ways, having us involved in this particular case would be very much a distraction.
Leahy: Very interesting.
Carmichael: Oh. So who is representing the Election Commission?
Roberts: That’s James Blumstein, who is the esteemed Vanderbilt constitutional law professor and pretty much nationally known, if not internationally known constitutional scholar.
He has a wonderful legal team with him, and they are basically making the same argument that I would make and doing a better job of it because they have sort of unlimited resources. They understand the issue here, and the issue is very simple.
The Election Commission is a government entity that has a job and it did its job. And now Metro is trying to come in and nit-pick it and overturn it, not for any good purpose, but really just for its own selfish interests.
There’s a great deal of discretion that’s given to an entity like the Election Commission. And you’ve got to always Crom fall back on the fact that there are six separate good government amendments.
If one goes to election, we have to have an election. If you’re going to have an election, you might as well go ahead and vote on all six just to save money. It’s very telling that Metro doesn’t care how much money it costs. They don’t care if we have six separate elections, as long as they can just throw as many monkey wrenches into the process as possible.
Carmichael: Now July 27 is the election. So it’s a one-day election. No early voting. There’s no absentee voting. If you want to vote, you go vote on that day. Is that right?
Roberts: First of all, there will be early voting and absentee voting. Some of those things are required by law. How much early voting there will be, I think the Election Commission has some level of discretion.
They have not announced the schedule yet although they’re going to have to very soon, which is why this litigation has been expedited. They have some flexibility, but things like early votes and military votes, have to be done pursuant to law. Those have to go out, probably in the next week or so. The election process is moving forward.
Leahy: Last question for you, Jim Roberts about the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act going to be on the ballot July 27. How much are the opponents going to spend to try and stop this in advertising between now and the 27 of July? And how much will you have available?
Roberts: They said they’re going to spend a million to a million, half, which sounds like an awful lot of money. I suspect a lot of that’s going to be taxpayer dollars from groups to get funded by Metro.
And they’re going to just put money in. We’re hoping to raise $200, $250,000. We think that’s plenty to counter their dishonest message. Remember, Michael, they’re not actually attacking the substantive aspects of this.
When you look at the anti-groups advertisements they have always mentioned my name. I’m just a simple country lawyer. The fact that they feel they have to attack me, I think, is very telling. They won’t get into a serious discussion about these issues.
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Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.