Mayor Barry’s Transit Plan Raises More Taxpayer Questions Than Answers

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry

From Tribune Staff

It matters not that the Transit for Nashville coalition held a sparsely attended kick-off campaign complete with a an outwardly diverse group of speakers like Howard Gentry, Congressman Jim Cooper, Brenda Wynn, and Renato Soto – all who gave personal testimony as to why they are “for transit.”

And it matters not that the event was held at Plaza Mariachi on Nolensville Road in South Nashville.

It matters not that social media is ablaze with a barrage of pre-scheduled posts hailing the merits of the “Let’s Move Nashville” plan, making it seem like voting “for transit” on the May 1st referendum will solve all of Nashville’s problems.

And it matters not that the “plan” is craftily being disassociated with its creator and biggest advocate.

What matters is that Mayor Megan Barry’s transit plan, titled, “Let’s Move Nashville,” raises more questions for every day taxpayers than it answers.

For instance, it’s still not clear whether or not a multi-billion-dollar bus-enhancing, tunnel digging, “Jetson’s” style light rail system actually can alleviate traffic congestion in a town that has been labeled “car friendly” and deemed mass transit averse.  It’s not even clear if the cost will be $5.4 billion dollars as originally claimed by Barry, or more than $9 billion dollars as projected by business, finance and economic experts on all sides of the debate.

And while some argue that the details and real problem solving will come once the referendum is passed on May 1st,  others – well most – may no longer be willing to take that risk now that it is  becoming clear that Mayor Barry is not standing for all Nashvillians, alike and everywhere.

Last week the Tennessee Tribune issued a scathing, revealing preliminary report card giving Mayor Barry failing grades on Fort Negley, the Nashville Construction Readiness Partnership, Diversity and Inclusion, Community Engagement, General Hospital, the Northwest Family YMCA and Housing.  Upon first glance, the “Fs” have a lot in common in that they affect North Nashville, African Americans, other minorities, the poor, the aging, the unemployed, the homeless – pretty much anyone who is not of means and of majority.  Add to this the surprise announcement for closing inpatient services at General Hospital that shocked the Metro Council and citizens just days after approving the soccer stadium, rejecting community oversight for the police department after the brutal killing of Jocques Clemmons, and again, the lack of minority participation in contracts.

Now cue the still evolving transportation plan for Nashville.  Notice any gaps?  Let’s just say “light rail” isn’t coming to Bordeaux any time soon.

Mayor Barry and the “Transit for Nashville” coalition presume that the plan will evolve and be improved upon once the referendum is passed on May 1st.  Therefore, they are encouraging everyone to just vote “for transit” and then worry about the details of the plan after the plan is approved.  Essentially, the Mayor is asking taxpayers to “trust me” – an ask that she no longer has the credibility to make.

Let’s leave her personal life out of this, and simply look at the facts pertaining to how to fund and pay for the $5 Billion plan that mostly likely will end up costing $9 Billion dollars.

According to the “NoTax4Tracks” Coalition – a group that is for public transportation—but not with this plan—here’s what the tax increases really mean for all of those who labor, work hard for their money, spend other people’s money, own and operate small businesses, venture to vacation in Music City, host those who vacation in Music City, or simply have to rent a car for a few days.

• A 0.5 percent sales tax increase from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent. By 2023 the tax will have increased to 10.25 percent – making Nashville’s sales tax the highest in the U.S. Higher even than New York City.

• A 20 percent increase in the business and excise tax – making it harder for small businesses to operate.

• A one quarter tax on hotel rooms that will increase further through 2023 – jeopardizing Nashville’s ability to continue to grow our tourism and conference industry.

• A 20 percent tax increase on rental cars – further burdening those who rely on our tourism industry.

“NoTax4Tracks” points out that these tax increases will put greater strain on seniors and anyone else on a fixed income.  Commuters will still have to endure congested freeways and highways and then pay higher sales taxes.  Parents and consumers alike will pay more for food, clothing and other consumables, and small businesses will take another hit by paying higher taxes—in the case of minority and female-owned business, on revenue the city is yet to share with them as it stands.

It seems that all would agree that traffic congestion in Nashville is a problem that needs a solution, but the Mayor’s proposed solution appears to put the burden of paying for the solution on the most vulnerable and the most uninvolved.  “Let’s Move Nashville.”but not in this direction.

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