Thursday, March 23, 2023

Nashville needs to get with the program and submit a plan for a smaller Council.

by Rod Williams, March 23, 2023- Metro Council met in special session yesterday to consider RS2023-2062.  This resolution directed the Metropolitan Planning Department to prepare a Council redistricting plan consisting of 17 district councilmembers and 3 councilmembers at-large. There were several proposed amendments to the resolution proposing different Council configurations, such as a proposal for 15 districts and 5 at-large structure and one proposing 20 districts and no at-large. This resolution was to comply with state law requiring the Council have no more than 20 members.  This was the Council deciding what the new smaller council would look like. The Council voted to postpone their decision until April 4 to gather public feedback.  The vote to delay was 36-1.

Time is of the essence. The state law requires the Nashville Planning Department to submit a new district map to Metro Council by April 10, with or without recommendations from the council. So without direction from the Council as to how many districts, the planning department will have to decide for itself how many districts to draw. This is a short time frame.  It is my understanding that the Planning Department has already been working on plans, primarily the 17 district, 3 at-large plan. If Council does not act, that is probably the plan that Planning will present to the Council.  If the Council passes one of the other proposed plans, the Planning Department would have to hustle to meet the April 10 deadline. 

If a new map with no more than 20 districts is not approved by May 1, the law requires the current council members to serve an additional year, and in 2024 there would be Council elections with a smaller council and new districts.  The qualifying deadline for Nashville's upcoming local election is May 18, and potential candidates do not even know district boundaries. Further delay could mean a very rushed campaign season.

While Metro Council is delaying acting, Metro legal is fighting the new law. My advice to the Council is to accept the new reality of the law and on April 4, pass a resolution. Get the show on the road! Also, there would be nothing wrong with delaying for year but that opens up the likelihood of more legal action. 

I understand the frustration of those who feel Nashville is being treated unfairly, but they need to face reality.  Cities do not have sovereignty. City charters come from the state.  Even if the law is overturned that does not end this drama ends and a return to the status quo. The state could simply abolish the Metro Charter and mandate a new charter for Nashville, or the State could simply take over governance of Nashville. The city needs to accept that they lost this fight with the State and get with the program. Defiance will only make things worse. It is time to quit poking the bear. 

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