Saturday, September 14, 2019

The cadre of new progressives elected to the Metro Council will have minimal impact on policy.

by Rod Williams - If the new cadre of progressives elected to the Metro Council could have their way, I would be concerned, but they can't.  Their impact on our city will be minimal. When the reality of what they can actually accomplish hits them, they will be frustrated.

We are not going to see Nashville become a sanctuary city. We are not going to see a $15 an hour minimum wage. We are not going to see illegal aliens vote in our elections. We are not going to see policies adopted that cause a proliferation of homelessness. In some progressive cities, homeless camps are not removed, laws against aggressive panhandling are not enforced and laws against minor infractions are not enforced.  The homeless are treated "humanely" and the number and visibility of the homeless increase. I don't see that happening in Nashville.

We are not going to see a total ban on short-term rentals.  We are not going to see a law that makes Uber and Lyft drivers and food delivery drivers employees, rather than independent contractors. We are not going to see inclusionary zoning or rent control. We could, but most likely will not, see higher taxes as a result of a more progressive council.

What we may see are symbolic things. We may see some outrageous things that will make you mad but they won't fundamentally change the city.  We may see an end to Council meetings opening with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. I doubt it, but it could happen. We probably will see a proliferation of meaningless memorializing resolutions. We will probably see memorializing resolutions advocating medicare for all, condemning Donald Trump, advocating Green New Deal policies, celebrating homosexuality, advocating the right to abortions and condemning abortion restriction, condemning immigration enforcement, and a bunch of others.  Memorializing resolutions express the opinion of the Council. They are not even signed by the mayor.  No one pays any attention to them.

We may see a ban on plastic straws and single-use plastic bags.  We may see increased conflict between Police and the Community Oversight Board and the Council siding with the Board.  We may see an attempt to trample property rights by the occasional down zoning of property. It will probably be rare and rarely successful. We may see the process of rezoing property slowed. 

We already have a policy that treats homosexuals as a preferred class in awarding contracts to businesses seeking to do business with the city. We may see more of this type of special treatment for the LGBTQ community. We may see policies that promote quotas for members of this community for employment with the fire department, police department, schools, and maybe all of Metro. We may see more displays of the gay rainbow flag on public buildings and a greater city-sponsored celebration of  homosexuality. We may see a more robust government celebration of all types of "diversity."

There are several reasons why I do not think this new bunch of progressives will have much impact on our city. One, John Cooper was elected and not David Briley.  John Cooper is a Democrat and probably a liberal democrat, but he is not a progressive social warrior.  One did not see John Cooper looking goofy wearing a pussy hat. Cooper has an agenda of getting our financial house in order.  I do not believe he is going to let his agenda get derailed by policies that could hurt our city. I don't expect Cooper to pick a fight with progressives either, however.  He probably won't veto a ban on single-use plastic bags for instance, but he is not going to let them adopt policies that cause a proliferation of homelessness, for instance.

Another reason the progressives will be frustrated is because there are a handful of  conservatives and pragmatic mainstream liberals on the Council. Conservatives like Steve Glover, Robert Swope, Courtney Johnston, Thom Druffel, Larry Hager, probably Robert Nash, and sometimes Angie Henderson will lead the push-back against the more radical proposals.  And then there are a bunch of liberal but mainstream pragmatic council members who are not going to want to pick fights with the State or who will not support the more  radical proposals that would harm our city.

Another reason, is that some policies cannot be changes by a city alone.  To change the way Uber drivers are classified, for instance, would require a change in State law.  Another reason that progressives will be frustrated is that there are non-profit national and state legal firms such as the Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center that will be watching if Metro violates property rights or the right to earn a living.  Institute for Justice has been active in Nashville before when the city tried to trample property rights. If Metro adopts policies that go to far, the city will be challenged in court.

Another reason the progressives will be frustrated is that the structure of our city government provides for a weak council and a strong mayor. The mayor has veto power and it takes two-thirds vote to override a mayor's veto. Cooper won his election in a landslide.  It will be extremely rare that the Council could muster a two-thirds majority against a popular mayor. It won't come to that, because when this reality sinks in the more radical proposals will not even move forward. 

Also, it will prove difficult for the Council to impose a greater tax increase than what the mayor proposes.  The way budgeting works in Nashville is that the mayor's budget becomes the city budget unless the Council passes an alternative budget. To pass a different version of the budget other than the mayor's budget, takes the vote of two-thirds of the Council. We may have a tax increase and with the new progressives in power it will strengthen the mayor's hand if he proposes a tax increase, but the progressive will not be able to pass a greater tax increase than what the mayor proposes.

The greatest reason the new progressives will be frustrated is that the State legislature keeps Metro on a short leash. The State has already weighted in when Metro tried to ban short-term rentals, when Nashville moved toward becoming a sanctuary city, when we tried to impose additional restrictions on businesses, and when the city considered inclusionary zoning. If Metro gets too far out of line, the State will yank that leash.

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