Weekly Obsession: The 35 baronies of Davidson County

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 7:21pm

The movement to bring yard-fresh eggs to Nashville was successful.

The Metro Council gave its approval to the so-called chicken bill, allowing up to six hens in urban residences provided certain guidelines are met.

The chicken movement will not be a countywide revolution, however. Eight councilmanic districts opted out of the bill: six in the southwest — generously, it would be described as Greater Antioch, plus Donelson in the east and The Nations west of downtown.

Permitting poultry is a bold step, but opting out of legislation is an even larger legislative leap. Never before, according to council attorney and procedural guru Jon Cooper, has the city sliced up the legislative pie thus, with a law in effect in certain districts but not others.

The state does this all the time. Counties can be exempted from state law, but in a constitutional quirk, they can’t be named by name, leading to such ponderous legislative language as “this section shall not apply in any county having a population of not less than 28,350 nor more than 28,450, according to the 2000 federal census or any subsequent federal census.”

Wouldn’t it be easier to say “Rhea County”?

And knowing your county is one thing, but how many know the district number? Unlike counties, councilmanic districts squeeze and stretch every decade.

Picture this: It’s 2022 and the demographic explosion in Antioch has continued for a decade, thus more districts need to be pushed into the area. Existing districts are scaled down. Maybe the districts are renumbered. What’s to keep, say, District 24 from becoming an Antioch district in 10 years time? Then what? Part of Antioch has chickens — a broodish exclave of Nashville’s Free Bird Zone in the middle of a heretofore hen-free area?

All geographic distinctions — even national boundaries — are manmade constructs, of course. But when something so permanent as legislation is involved, isn’t it better to use a less transitory measure than council districts, the frontiers of which follow the vagaries of population shifts?

And where does it end? First chickens, but then what? What if Joelton wants to opt out of the leash law? What if a future anti-fun zealot wants to ban pinball machines from Sylvan Park?

Now that the council can pinpoint the applicability of laws down to neighborhoods, instead of one Metro government, Davidson County runs the risk of being a loose confederation of 35 baronies.

1 Comment on this post:

By: spooky24 on 1/26/12 at 8:54

Hard not to agree with your reasoning J.R. The entire council is overblown, filled with over representation, hopeless flawed by egos and incompetence not to mention powerless to stop the influence of the Mayors office.
This all resonates from the infamous 'Hoover -what Mafia?' strategy. In other words if you can't solve a problem that it is your job the solve-just say it doesn't exist. Now all you need to do is make up a problem that you can solve. It's easy just say "what 600million dollar debt?" lets vote on chickens. Or " What atrocious school system that is nothing but a money pit?" Do we have one of those? Lets divide the council by race into caucuses and call ourselves politically correct.
The state has vast experience in the ole J E Hoover switcharoo. Lately it's been "What 500 pounds of cocaine that comes into Tennessee everyday? All the heroin and meth that not a problem but granny had one too many Oxycontin before she died--Dig her up and indite her-string up the doctor and pharmacist as well!!!
How about we all 'opt out' and make up rules for each district? Out here we need a rule that says "Indians are not allowed to charge more than $5.00 for a 99c cold drink. Lets change the streets and rename one long one the Barnes Cove 500 throughway. That being the notorious neighborhood race each morning as commuters cut through to avoid Oliver middle school.
Yes, I think 'opt out' need to be adopted so each individual voter can decide what rules to follow.