Council voices opposition of state push to empower satellite cities

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 8:12pm

A quick Metro Council meeting Tuesday night ended on a familiar note for increasingly irritated members, with more talk of state legislators meddling in local government.

Just before the body adjourned, At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine introduced a late resolution requesting that state legislators reject legislation that would empower satellite cities in Davidson County beyond the authority granted to them by the Metro charter. It passed unanimously.

The state bill, which will appear before the House Local Government Committee next Tuesday, would allow satellite cities like Forest Hills, Belle Meade, Berry Hill and others to provide more of their own services — such as a court system, police service or public school system — even if they duplicate government services currently provided by the Metro government. The Metro charter currently allows such cities to provide only the services they were providing when Metro government officially formed in 1963.

“The council is unanimously on record as asking the legislature to kill the legislation that would change our charter without folks in Nashville having any say in it,” Steine told The City Paper. “I understand that the satellite cities probably don’t think that most of Nashville wants to dilute Metro government, but it really will open the door to many possibilities to be redundant. And at least in a couple of the satellite cities it’s going to cost those people more money because they’re going to start levying a property tax.”

That would not affect residents of Belle Meade, for instance, where a property tax is already in place.

“But Oak Hill and Forrest Hills are going to pay more taxes as sure as we’re sitting here, and it won’t be because of those of us sitting here,” said Steine.

“There is clearly a pattern,” he said. “And if one were a conspiracy theorist, one would think that there was a concerted effort on a statewide basis to try to somehow alter or change what’s working in this community. We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of this charter that’s served this city better than most other cities in the country. We have our intramural squabbles, but they’re all at the same table, which makes for much more efficient government. This will absolutely open the door to, ultimately, dismantling Metro government, at least in certain parts of the city.”

Councilman Darren Jernigan is also a newly elected state representative, and sits on the House Local Government Committee where he said he plans to “wear them out” on the issue.

“How would [Rep. Joe Carr, the bill’s sponsor] feel if I went to Lascassas and decided to fool around with his little government there?” Jernigan said. “Metro government is the best thing that’s ever happened to this city, if not the state, for the capital city. And to even come in and not even realize how hard it is to run a city. That little city, they would get drilled on stormwater, ADA, they would get drilled on all kinds of compliance issues.”

Mayor Karl Dean has said the legislation would “gut” the Metro model of government, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has sided with him, saying the proposal would “unravel Metro government.”

In a recent interview with The City Paper, House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican whose district includes some of the potentially affected satellite cities, was less direct about her feelings on the matter.

“So it’s a tough dilemma,” she said, “and I’m open to being understanding of both sides, and we’ve enjoyed metropolitan government; I think it’s been good for the county. I also understand the needs of these local governments to meet their constituents’ needs. I mean, that’s close to the people, right? And if people are saying then, we want this service provided by Oak Hill or Forest Hills, I want to understand that and hear that. So I really haven’t come down on that on a side yet.”

At-large Councilman Tim Garrett did make a point to remind the council that satellite cities Goodlettsville and Ridgetop did not sign on in support of the state legislation.

While the bill will appear before the House Local Government Committee next week, it has already been deferred to the Senate State and Local Government Committee’s final meeting of the legislative session.

15 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 3/20/13 at 12:56

This nothing. more than a "tempest in a teapot" subject. Probably well intended but veryexpensive to implement and the cost versus the reward is probably an imbalance.

For those on Davidson county who back this effort, I suggest movong to an adjacent county. The tax savings and the school quality along with lower crime should more than satisfy your "satellite"desires.

By: courier37027 on 3/20/13 at 6:38

Watch it Ras, common sense solutions like yours will be denounced by some message board regulars. TITAN1, are you out there?

By: hattrick3 on 3/20/13 at 7:26

I fully support these satellite cities. The city council only focus is on downtown and keeping charter schools out of Nashville. At the bare minimum, these cities should create their own school system so their children can get a quality education without having to pay 10k-24k a year to private schools.

By: mars on 3/20/13 at 8:03

I have lived in Nashville since 1966 and Forest Hills for the last 31 years. It is very apparent that the administration of Karl Dean has had a liberal agenda that the state legislature finds unpallatable. Like trying to force contractors to the city to protect gays, like forcing an enormous investment for the city's new civic center gainst the will of the majority. Like trying to control the state fair. Now our council, the largest in the nation, has had its hands slapped and a convicted felon, Ronnie Stein, is irked. Personally, I'd like to see the ridiculous right which this council bestows upon themselves of lifetime insurance benefits abolished and the number of the council members cut in half. And once a person has broken the law and been convicted then he/she can never have a job in the government.
As far as letting satellite cities have control of what they deem purposeful, suits me The city has way too big a gut -slice away.

By: Kosh III on 3/20/13 at 8:06

They already send their kids to restricted private schools.

By: C.A.Jones on 3/20/13 at 9:06

No sheet Sherlock. The idea here is that these sat. cities could stop spending 15K/yr on sending their kids to private school and have their own school district that is as good as the private school offerings. I for one cannot understand why Metro council is so opposed to this. How does it hurt them? They aren't losing money which is what they really care about.

By: Rocket99 on 3/20/13 at 9:27

The proposed legislation is totally rediculous. Why are the Republicans in the legislature trying to run Metro government through stupid, irrational laws?

As far as the Mayor just doing things for downtown, open your eyes people! There are things going on all over Davidson county. Just because you don't see anything happening outside your front door doesn't mean nothing is happening.

I propose that if this legislation is passed and these satellite cities want to do even one additional thing that they have to do it all with no help from Metro in any way. They have to establish and run their own police force, court system, school system, water system, garbage control, etc. Also, they get no existing public buildings in within their "city limits". They also should be required to keep paying any and all taxes/fees to Metro.

They want more control, make them do it all.

By: Rocket99 on 3/20/13 at 9:30

Don't you just love how the party of smaller government (Republican) keeps trying to find ways to INCREASE the size?

Also, they claim that things like this should be handled at the local level, unless it conflicts with their views and then they pas laws to BULLY local governments into doing it their way.

By: hattrick3 on 3/20/13 at 12:01

Really Rocket? Name two things the mayor has done outside of downtown? And saying he sent his kids to a private school outside of downtown does not count.

By: think on 3/20/13 at 1:09

They did this same exact thing in Miami, FL in the last 20 years. The wealthy neighborhoods saw all of their tax dollars going out the door and none of it being invested in their neighborhoods, so they got mad and formed their own municipalities. They have virtually eliminated crime, brought police response times for 17 minutes down to 3 minutes, built incredible new parks, installed all new street signs that were easier to read, changed traffic patterns by eliminating some red lights and replacing busy 4-way stops with roundabouts, and all while keeping property taxes flat.

Miami cities were not allowed to form their own school system, as that was still a right of the county. They have been fighting to have their own schools for years, but I dont see that fight ending anytime soon.

This is really just another example of differences in what "fair" means. Some people think fair means that those with lots of money pay a lot, and then popularly elected officials decide what to do with it. Others think fair means that every area of Nashville receive the same amount of funding per capita.

I see this as a very conservative measure in that it pushes to have government closer to home. Some people see it as unnecessary layering, but really it is just replacing a higher layer of government with a lower layer. It worked out incredibly in Miami for the cities that incorporated, but the county is sure starting to miss that tax revenue that they took for granted.

By: WickedTribe on 3/20/13 at 11:34

The state of Tennessee sucks. Not much more to say on the matter.

By: C.A.Jones on 3/21/13 at 8:01

Well put WickedTribe. I can't wait to hear how you like your new home. Now GTFO.

By: hattrick3 on 3/21/13 at 8:54

WickedTribe could live anywhere in the world but it decides to live in Nashville. Wicked must be to lazy or to broke to move it's butt out of here.

By: Jughead on 3/21/13 at 3:09

Metro Council is populated with criminals (Ronnie Stein), full-blown liberal Marxists (Megan Barry), and incompetents (the rest of them). Anything that irritates their corrupt DNA's is a good thing.

By: pswindle on 3/22/13 at 11:27

Why would Metro weaken itself with this crazy idea? This GOP Legislative Branch.has overstepped in every phrase of our lives. Believe me, I'm tired of it and I hope TN is waking up to you evil bills that you seem to have pleasure in passing and have signed by this incompetent Governor.