Rein of Council redefines mayoral relationship

Friday, April 9, 2004 at 1:00am

We may be seeing a historic shift in the relationship between Metro Council and the Mayor's Office.

Traditionally Nashville has had a strong mayor/weak council system of government.

That's not to disparage the Council, but, generally speaking, a council with 40 members has a hard time getting behind any meaningful initiative and that natural weakness leaves room for a strong mayor to come in.

The first crack in the armor of the Mayor's Office came with the rejection by Council of Mayor Bill Purcell's recommendation of former councilwoman Eileen Beehan to the Traffic and Parking Commission this year. Such appointments are routinely approved.

One theory that surfaced as to the reason was that council wanted to send Purcell a message that even routine requests from the Mayor's Office won't make it through Council unless Purcell consults with council members first. Some on the Council believe Purcell hasn't been inclusive enough, particularly with new council members.

The next crack came with the appointment of a Council task force to determine the best use of the former Thermal site. Such decisions are usually the mayor's to make, and many argue that potential businesses that might want the site would shy away if they thought they had to deal with a 40-member council instead of the Mayor's Office. That task force is currently meeting.

This week, Council's executive committee voted to hire its own accountant to review the mayor's budget. The implication is that Council no longer wants to be a red stamp but wants an active role in determining how Metro's money is spent. The move comes at a time when the city is projecting up to $100 million in budget gaps.

It's unclear whether these moves are to the benefit or detriment of the city or whether they're just political posturing.

But it's certainly interesting to watch this rather defiant Council make its moves and send its messages. And it will be equally interesting to see how Mayor Purcell, no stranger to gut-level politics, responds.

Filed under: City Voices