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.
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.