During Tuesday’s meeting, the Metro Nashville City Council approved a resolution increasing the sales tax for downtown businesses. The .25 percent tax increase will go into effect July 1. According to the Metro Nashville Finance Department, the estimated revenue from this increase amounts to at least $2.4 million.
Per the state law, certain businesses are exempted from the sales tax increase: professional services, transient lodging, tickets for sporting or other live events, alcoholic beverages, newspapers or other publications, and overnight or long-term parking.
For the Metro Nashville area, the month of June will be “Nashville Pride Month” and one week in May will be “Black Restaurant Week.” Metro Nashville City Council passed two resolutions confirming these celebratory declarations at their last council meeting on Tuesday.
The Tennessee Star reached out to the sponsors for both resolutions. We asked “Nashville Pride Month” sponsor Zach Young what he meant by the statement that the LGBTQ+ communities had given “enormous contributions to the quality of life in Nashville and Davidson County[.]”
Metro Nashville City Council is considering two resolutions, one declaring June to be “Nashville Pride Month” and the other reserving a week in May as “Black Restaurant Week.”
The first resolution declared that LGBTQ+ communities add to the Metro area’s quality of life. The resolution said that it would also recognize the 33rd anniversary of the first Nashville Pride event. If adopted, the Nashville Pride Board of Directors would receive an official copy of the resolution.
The Metro Nashville City Council is considering a resolution to increase downtown sales taxes for generalized safety and cleaning. This .25 percent increase would apply to the Downtown Central Business Improvement District (CBID), and would result in an estimated $2.4 million in revenue. The Tennessee General Assembly authorized the increase during this past legislative session.
The resolution didn’t include an exhaustive list of what safety and cleanliness measures would be funded with this sales tax increase, but did note that it would include public safety, social services, and sidewalk cleaning. Additionally, the resolution noted that the funds would be deposited into the city’s event and marketing fund to assist in promotional materials and the recruitment of major conventions and group meetings.
Metro Nashville Council Member Bob Mendes condemned a recently-deceased local faith and community leader in front of his widow and community supporters during the last council meeting. That leader, Louie Johnston Jr., had a resolution drafted in his honor, which the city council deferred indefinitely earlier this month.
Multiple individuals attempted to speak about Johnston – but only one non-council member was able to do so. Mendes cut off the lineup of community members waiting to speak. Mendes asserted that Johnston’s Christian commitment to proclaiming God as the one true God, along with Johnston’s criticisms of the Muslim religion, were the reasons why Johnston shouldn’t be honored.
The Metro Nashville City Council adopted a resolution to inventory all of Nashville’s music venues in order to preserve and support them. The council took less than a week to adopt the resolution after its initial introduction – no council members voted against it. Nashville Mayor John Cooper approved the resolution on Thursday.
The sale of the historic music venue Exit/In largely prompted creation of the resolution. As The Tennessee Star reported, the current Exit/In owners are skeptical about the purchasers’ promises to preserve the venue.
The General Assembly passed a bill to limit local government efforts to impose stricter regulations and oversight on Thursday. State Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville) and State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) were sponsors on the legislation.
The legislation would prohibit local governments from accessing the personal information of employees, imposing additional safety laws beyond state and federal standards, and entering job sites without permission.
Metro Nashville City Council and the Wilson County Commission recently approved a request by Davidson County resident Mason Hunter to move the county line dividing the counties so that his entire property would be located within Wilson County.
Press reports questioned the merits of that decision.
A bill to reduce lifetime health benefits for Metro Nashville City Council members passed on Tuesday. Mayor John Cooper quickly approved it on Wednesday. However, there were significant amendments from the initial proposal to the adopted version.
Notably, the final version of the bill extended the grandfathering deadline – which also required council members to serve eight years or more – from 2023 to 2027. Additionally, Metro government will cover 75 percent of benefits during the first two years of continued participation in their healthcare plan, 50 percent for the next two years, and 25 percent after that. In the initial proposal, Metro government would’ve covered 25 percent.
An amended bill would effectively block Metro Nashville City Council’s ongoing efforts to impose stricter regulations on the construction industry. The legislation limited local government from enforcing oversight measures like obtaining employee data, enforcing safety and health standards beyond federal and state requirements, gaining entry to worksites, and obtaining the information of suppliers for labor or materials.
The Senate last passed an amended version of the bill, 27 to 6. The amendments widened the bill’s scope to include remote in addition to prime contractors, and to include bids, proposals, and agreements within what governments couldn’t enforce as oversight tactics.
Just enough Metro Nashville City Council members voted to prevent an individual from joining the Fair Commissioners Board because she was Black – not Hispanic, as they’d wanted. The motion to appoint Vice Mayor Jim Shulman’s recommended candidate – Sandra Moore – failed by one vote only because of the color of her skin.
The bid to appoint Moore failed during last week’s committee meeting. During their meeting, council members opposed to Moore didn’t discuss the merits of her qualifications. The Rules, Confirmation, and Public Elections Committee had just approved her hours before.
Metro Nashville City Council is considering the imposition of sweeping regulations over construction, specifically the procurement code and industry standards. The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Greater Tennessee Chapter issued a press release formally opposing the legislation.
In part, the bill would extend direct employment to all temporary workers that are hired onto a Metro Nashville project for at least 30 days. It would also require that all contractors allow Metro-appointed, third-party entities to ensure compliance with the bill.
Metro Nashville City Council is considering a complete overhaul of street parking through a proposed “Smart Parking Program.” The legislation would overhaul the current street parking system (located as item number 44 under Bills on Second Reading). It would allow contractors to enforce parking violations; shift court date notifications, payment systems, and notice methods to a web and text message-based system; and implement license plate scanner technology. It would abolish free parking on Sundays and holidays, the use of coin-operated meters, and free parking perks for carbon neutral vehicles.
The bill also insisted on updating the term “meter maids” to “parking enforcement patrol.” The sponsors of the bill are Council members Freddie O’Connell, Robert Nash, Tonya Hancock, and Ginny Welsch.
The remainder of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) are registered voters in Davidson County. The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office confirmed this information with The Tennessee Star.
The Star inquired initially after discovering that a recently-resigned member of the COB, Ovid Timothy Hughes, isn’t a registered voter. Hughes was convicted of a felony in 2008 – mail fraud committed against a previous employer. Not only did Hughes not disclose this information, he stated falsely before the Metro Nashville City Council that he was a registered voter.
Previous Community Oversight Board (COB) member Ovid Timothy Hughes somehow skirted the Tennessee Code’s standards for COB membership. Hughes isn’t a registered voter – he’s a convicted felon. That begs the question: the COB’s purpose is to ensure police accountability on issues such as misconduct, but what happens when the members themselves aren’t being held accountable?
The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office confirmed with The Tennessee Star that Hughes isn’t an eligible voter. They explained that he was purged in 2008 for a felony conviction. This corroborates with details The Star reported on Friday. Hughes was arrested and charged for mail fraud, spending over $78,000 on items such as computer equipment and designer clothing using stolen credit card and private account information from a former employer.
Unlike their government employee peers, Metro Nashville City Council members receive special treatment when it comes to health benefits. If they serve the two-term limit in full, they are eligible to receive lifetime health benefits on the taxpayer’s dime. All other Metro Nashville employees must work 20 years before earning similar lifetime benefits. These lifetime benefits reportedly cost taxpayers over $800,000 annually, which is projected to reach over $1.2 million by 2024.
Council member Tonya Hancock proposed BL2020-387 to change that rule in August. Hancock argued the bill was a step toward balancing the city budget and, in turn, lower property taxes. The bill would cut back on the 75 percent government-subsidized lifetime insurance for Metro council members. Hancock noted that a 2014 study discovered that no other peer cities offer retiree medical coverage for their council members. She bolstered her argument for the bill by noting that last year’s largest-ever property tax increase and over $4 billion debt with depleted reserves were further signs that the lifetime benefits were unwise spending of taxpayer money.
The Community Oversight Board (COB) received four new members – all bringing similar perspectives and agendas concerning police. Metro Nashville City Council voted on the nominees during a meeting on Tuesday.
None of the nominees from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) – former mayoral candidate Dr. Carol Swain, former FOP President Mark Wynn, community members Mary Byrd and Brandy Holloway – were selected. Of all the votes cast, Holloway received no votes, Byrd only received one, Swain only received two, and Wynn received ten.
Metro Nashville City Council’s Community Oversight Board (COB) might continue to behave more like a police oversight board. During a special interview meeting on Thursday, the council’s Committee on Rules, Confirmations, and Public Elections raised objections to only one nominee: Dr. Carol Swain. The committee also posed slanted questions to those nominees that had law enforcement relationships or affiliations.
Swain stated that her qualifications include her 18 years as a Vanderbilt political science and law professor, her degrees in law and criminal justice, her two appointments to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Tennessee Advisory Committee, her courses taught on civil rights issues, and her multiple testimonies before Congress on civil rights issues. Additionally, Swain noted that while she was at Princeton University, her two sons experienced racial profiling and her intervention led to an investigation that ended with police reforms not just in the town of Princeton but within the community. However, the committee voted that those weren’t proper qualifications.
Nashville Metro Council agreed to create two new positions relating to racial diversity, equity and inclusion for “social justice” on Wednesday. If approved by Mayor John Cooper, these two hires could cost taxpayers over $250,000 a year. Cooper has already agreed to the creation of these positions, along with Director of Finance Kevin Crumbo and Director of Human Resources Shannon Hall. The ordinance passed unanimously without discussion, after a unanimous vote from the budget committee.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper released the final report from the Metro Immigration Task Force Friday that analyzed current Metro department practices and provided recommendations for future immigration policies for the city.
Nashville property owners may be carrying lighter wallets soon as some members of the council want to raise property tax rates by 50 cents. Councilman Bob Mendes has proposed the tax hike as a way to pay for government employee cost-of-living raises and for schools and make up a budget shortfall,…
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