Capitol Hill lawmakers are expected to decide next week whether to move forward on a plan to weaken the Metro Nashville government structure in the same year the county celebrates the arrangement’s 50th anniversary.
The proposal, brought by a handful of cities in Davidson County, would allow towns falling under a metro form of government to provide their own services, like a court system, police service and public school system.
“For Nashville and Davidson County, this bill would gut a system that has been very successful in eliminating duplicative government and has become a national model for other local governments,” Mayor Karl Dean said in a letter to Davidson County lawmakers Thursday urging them to help defeat the bill. “It is only too ironic that this bill is being introduced as we celebrate Metro’s 50th anniversary.”
Any changes to the charter should happen by referendum, which is how the charter was approved in the first place, added Dean.
Rep. Joe Carr, a Lascassas Republican, said the intent is to update the laws and give municipalities an opportunity to provide the services they feel their cities need.
“The charter from 50-some years ago hasn’t kept up with the needs of the communities,” said Rep. Joe Carr who is cosponsoring the bill and said the proposal would update Metro Nashville’s consolidated government system. “I don’t know why anybody would be opposed to that.”
The legislation would largely affect Davidson County, which is home to satellite cities like Belle Meade, Berry Hill, Goodlettsville, Forest Hills and Oak Hill. Nearby Trousdale County and Moore County also operate under a metro form of government and would be affected.
In December, a Davidson County chancellor ruled that a court system Forest Hills had set up to enforce its city ordinances was illegal because it violated the Metro charter.
The charter, approved 50 years ago, folded cities within the county’s borders into one government system. The charter specifies that the cities could continue offering the same public services they did at the time — such as police, public works and trash pick up in Belle Meade — but is not allowed to duplicate Metro’s other government services in the future.
“Well, that’s kind of a hard pill to swallow because you don’t know what the future’s going to bring,” said Beth Reardon, Belle Meade city manager. “I think we would like to know that we don’t have to stay the same as we were in 1963 in this new century. There’s no other evil motive behind this, just wanting to have an opportunity in case something comes up in the future.”
People who live in the satellite cities pay taxes to Metro’s government, but also pay property taxes to their individual cities.
The legislation is up for a vote in both the House and Senate legislative committees that handle legislation concerning local government.
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