Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Who voted for transparency and who voted to conceal the $8.9 price tag of the tax for tracks plan

On February 6,  the Metro Council voted to approve Mayor Barry's transit improvement program (Bill BL2017-1031 (as amended)), or as it is better known, "tax for tracks"  Included in the bill was a request for the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum regarding the increase in taxes to fund the plan.

In debating the bill some members made the argument that they were simply passing the bill to let the public decide the issue.  That is not the way it works. That is a weak rationalization for not having the guts to vote against it. That is like a member of the Senate voting for a bill and claiming he is voting to let the House of Representatives decide. Or, it is like a councilman voting to pass a bill in the Council and saying he is voting for it and the mayor can decide to sign it or not. As the minutes describe the bill it is , "An ordinance adopting a transit improvement program for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, approving a surcharge for the program, and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018, regarding the levying of the surcharge on certain taxes to fund the program." For more proof, read the bill. This was a vote by the Council to approve the plan and to approve the tax increase.

Originally the bill required language in the referendum to state that the cost of the program would be $5.3 billion. On the night of final passage, the bill was amended to reflect the true cost of $8.5 billion. This of course assumes no cost overruns and historically projects of this nature rarely come in on budgets. Cost overruns of 50% to 200% are not uncommon for projects like this. Following the amendment adoption, the following language is what will be in the referendum:

This transit program’s capital cost is estimated to have a present day value of $5,354,000,000 and the program is estimated to require $8,951,062,000 in revenue through 2032. Once construction is complete, the estimated present day value of recurring annual operating and maintenance costs is approximately $99,500,000.
The amendment to include the transparent language that reveals the $8.9 Billion price tag was hotly debated. It passed by a vote of YES: 21, NO: 16, ABSTAIN: 1 and NOT VOTING: 1

A "yes" vote on Amendment 2 was a vote for transparency. It was a vote to include the $8. 95 million plan price tag.

Here is a list of those who voted for the transparency amendment.
John Cooper, At-large           Erica Gilmore, At-large               Bob Mendes, At-Large
Sharon Hurt, At-large            Jim Shulman, At-large                DeCosta Hastings, District 2  
Brenda Haywood, District 3   Robert Swope, District 4            Doug Pardue, District 10    
Larry Hagar,  District 11         Steve Glover, District 12           Holly Huezo, District 13           
Keven Rhoten, District 14      Freddie O'Connell, District 19   Mary Carolyn Roberts, District 20
Sheri Weiner, District 22         Mina Johnson, District 26          Tanaka Vercher, District 29      
Jacobia Dowell, District 33     Angie Henderson, District 34     Dave Rosenberg District 35  

Here  is a list of those who voted against transparency, voting to hide the $8.9 Million price tag.

Scott Davis District 5,                    Bret Witters, District 6        Anthony Davis, District 7
Nancy VanReece, District 8           Bill Pridemore District 9      Jeff Syracuse, District 15

Mike Freeman, District 16              Colby Sledge, District 17     Burkley Allen, District 18
Kathleen Murphy, District 24          Russ Pulley. District 25       Jeremy Elrod, District 26
Karen Johnson, District 29            Jason Potts, District 30       Fabain Bedne, District 32
Antoinette Lee, District 33

Abstaining was Davette Blalock, District 27 and not voting was Ed Kindall, District 2

How they voted on the final bill
After the bill was amended to make it more transparent, it was then voted upon. In the final vote every member of the Council voted for it except for Robert Swope and Holly Huezo who voted "No" and Angie Henderson and Dave Rosenberg who abstained.

If you are unsure who your councilman is, you can use the look-up tool at this link.  Also, if you would like to put a face with the name, you can see what your councilman looks at at that link and you can contact them from that page should you wish to communicate with your council member.

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