Photo: A grassroots effort to repeal Nashville’s 34 percent property tax increase delivered more than 20,000 signatures to the Metropolitan Clerk’s office Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
A Nashville judge has ruled a measure to repeal Nashville’s 34 percent property tax increase and institute other limits on the city’s spending will not go to voters in a December election.
Deciding a dispute between citizen group 4 Good Government and the Davidson County Election Commission, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled Tuesday afternoon the charter amendment brought by 4 Good Government cannot be placed on a special election ballot.
“While there may be lawful ways to change the 34% Metro property tax hike prospectively, this Proposed Act is not one of them,” Lyle wrote in the ruling.
“Unbeknownst to the signers who were presented with the referendum Petition, it contains a Proposed Act that is defective in form, facially unconstitutional and under no set of circumstances could be valid,” the ruling reads.
Nashville Attorney Jim Roberts – who wrote the amendment, helped collect signatures, and defended the measure in court – said he was disappointed with the ruling.
“I’m very disappointed that the Metropolitan Government worked so hard to suppress the rights of the voters to vote on a valid petition,” Roberts told The Center Square. “We don’t agree that it’s invalid, but we have to take the court’s ruling and make a decision where to go from there.”
In response to the ruling, Roberts said he is considering an appeal or drafting a new, revised amendment to gather signatures and try again.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper lauded Lyle’s ruling, calling it “great news for our city.”
“The Chancellor’s thoughtful ruling calls out a misguided effort,” Cooper said in a statement. “Thankfully, the city does not have to spend between $800,000 and $1 million on something that would later be overturned. Instead, we can focus on the work Metro Council and I were hired to do.”
Cooper had threatened to make heavy cuts to police, fire and school budgets had a special election succeeded in repealing the property tax increase and put the city budget out of balance.
Tori Venable, state director of Americans for Prosperity, which collaborated on gathering petition signatures, said the ruling was “extremely disappointing.”
“Metro has continued to silence or tried to silence and ignore the voices of over 27,000 people that signed this petition,” Venable told The Center Square. “This tax hike is not going to do anything to corrupt Metro’s finances. It’s only going to add more fuel to the fire of their reckless spending and tax proposals.”
Roberts said he looks forward to taking the next steps.
“I think people are going to be galvanized by both this current election and the suppression of voter rights, and I think it’ll be even easier to get this on the ballot next time,” Roberts said.