Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Petition drive for charter amendment to reduce the size of the Metro Council to 27 and expand to three the term limit

by Council member Emily Evans

Emily Evans
On September 1, 2015, Nashville will welcome a new Mayor, a new Vice Mayor and no less than 27 new Council Members. This turnover, brought to you by term limits, is unprecedented in our city’s history. When Mayor Bill Purcell was elected, he was joined by a new Vice Mayor and just 19 new Council Members. For a host of reasons, Council Member terms are coagulating around the eight years of the Mayor’s administration. We are, then, on track to have a government that changes hands almost entirely every eight years. However, you may feel about term limits the current situation cannot be a good one for Nashville.

In May of last year, Council Member Charlie Tygard and I proposed a charter amendment to address this issue. Knowing well that changes to the term limit law have been rejected three times by voters by increasingly wider margins, we proposed a compromise. In exchange for relaxing the term limit law slightly, voters would get a slightly smaller, more efficient Metro Council. Our amendment would have changed the maximum term limit a Council Member could serve from two four year terms to three four year terms while reducing the size of the body from 40 members to 27.

We took the amendment to the Charter Revision Commission, headed by Dewey Branstetter whose father Cecil was one of the authors of the 1963 Metro Charter. Recognizing the problem – the intractable position of voters with respect to the term limit law despite the consequences – the Charter Revision Commission approved a reduction in the size of the Council as part of a larger compromise. With that endorsement, CM Tygard and I asked for approval of the full Council to submit the measure to the voters in August 2014. We were denied.* The Council did not want to afford voters the opportunity to weigh in on this important issue.

The Metro Charter allows amendments to get to the voters two ways: a Council vote or a petition drive. Having been shot down by our colleagues, we decided to engage the grass roots and get the amendment on the ballot via a petition drive. For the last several months, several concerned Council Members, business leaders and neighborhood activists have been hard at work circulating petitions and gathering signatures. Today we have about 5,000 verified signatures and plan to mail more cards throughout the month of April. We must submit at least 6,845 verified signatures by May 18, 2015.

If you believe, unlike the Metro Council, that voters should have the opportunity to vote on this important issue, you can download, print and mail a petition (must provide original signature) at Thank you for your consideration.

*Council Members that supported the people’s right to vote were: Tygard, Bennett, Glover, Stites, Evans, Holleman, McGuire, Dominy, Todd, Mitchell. 
Council Members opposed to letting the people vote were: Barry, Steine, Garrett, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Pardue, Stanley, Claiborne, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Blalock, Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Duvall. 
Councilman Chris Harmon abstained.

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1 comment:

  1. I have a better idea. How about one term and then out you go. The voters like term limits more and more. Give them what they want.