Nashville Mayor John Cooper this month delivered a speech that invoked race and even Donald Trump as a means to frighten voters out of supporting the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act.
The referendum, if voters approve it, would roll back Cooper’s 34 to 37 percent property tax increase.
Attorney Jim Roberts helped craft the referendum. Roberts said Monday he did not hear Cooper’s speech, but what he heard about it embarrassed him.
Cooper spoke last week to an audience at Nashville’s Cathedral of Praise Church of God in Christ. Church officials uploaded the speech to the church’s Facebook page.
“You are creating a path for anarchy in Nashville, Tennessee that will not end well, all because there is this path of [a] super-small weaponized kind of Trump-oriented divisiveness that enters into Nashville,” Cooper told audience members.
Cooper cited California’s current woes as a reason why voters in Nashville should reject the Taxpayer Protection Act.
“This is how California got into its current trouble. Everything [there] is done by referendum. Everybody is counting on people using their worst judgement, their smallest moments, to go to the ballot box and vote that way. What has been the result?” Cooper asked.
“For first time in their history of a state they lost population. Can you imagine? A state like California is losing people because everybody is leaving because they knew the government there is not addressing the problems and not solving any of their needs. That is what happens when everything ends up being by referendum.”
On their website, 4GoodGovernment.com, Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act backers list other priorities they want the referendum to accomplish through various amendments. That includes forbidding the county’s elected officials from receiving any benefits at taxpayer expense, at least not without a referendum.
“This Amendment DOES NOT affect any pension or other earned benefit resulting from employment with the Metropolitan Government. It applies only to elected officials and those benefits arising from holding public office,” according to the website.
Cooper seemed to suggest that that amendment has a concealed meaning.
“OK, but who are they talking about? Nashville has made such progress. Thirty of our 72 countywide office holders are minorities. Twenty-eight are African-American,” Cooper said.
“We are finally hitting a good mark for representative government in Nashville and now for them to run for office [and] any of their pay or benefits has to be approved by referendum, which means the referendum could go the other way and say you are cancelled.”
Cooper said the referendum will thus punish public servants and discourage qualified people, especially minorities, from seeking office.
Roberts told The Tennessee Star Monday that he thought Cooper “had more integrity than this.”
“The campaign against this is going to be based on ignorance and hysteria, but probably not in that order. All they have are scare tactics. It’s all they will ever have,” Roberts said.
“They have no interest in any sort of intelligent and substantive discussion about any of these ballot initiatives. It’s not what this election will be about. It will be about whether Metro can scare people with lies and deceptions.”
Various unions, religious organizations, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Visitor Convention Bureau, and the Greater Nashville Realtors Association oppose the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act.
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