The Secret Between the Covers of the Current Transit Plan

jeff obafemi carr Photo by Bralyn Stokes Photography

by jeff obafemi carr

When I was growing up in Nashville in the culture of barbershops and street corners out South, there was an old saying that, while pejorative, was wielded regularly whenever conversations began to lean toward conspiracy against progress in our communities:

“If you want to keep a secret from people, put it between the covers of a book.”

Over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve been involved heavily with what may appear to be a gargantuan task: getting people to actually read the so-called “Transit Plan” advanced by a powerful juggernaut of downtown-centric special interests. This economic machine is comprised of the previous Barry administration, its philosophical continuation via the Briley administration, the well-funded Citizens for Greater Mobility, and any number of African-American elected officials whose “John Q. Public” attempts are seen regularly in a visual blitzkrieg of television advertisements. It doesn’t stop there. At last count, there are sixty trained speakers/promoters, hundreds of former Barry campaign workers, the Chamber of Commerce and their battery of cause-filtered “statistics,” and business leaders who have contributed to—and stand to benefit greatly financially from—an all-hands-on-deck effort to convince the average citizen of just how “good” this plan will be for the city.

This plan is only, without question, good for one purpose alone: creating a $9 billion dollar pot of our tax dollars to spend as they see fit. Because the stakes are so high for so few, the African-American community is literally being saturated with black faces, holding signs to encourage us to vote “For Transit,” and offering up “Transit Talks,” that bear a striking resemblance to meetings that appear to be about financial freedom, but are actually recruitment parties to purchase beachfront properties via a time-share model.

The issue is, they don’t want us to look between the covers. They avoid this at all costs.

As many of you know, I am proudly working as a Senior Advisor with NoTax4Tracks to defeat this ill-conceived Transit Tax. NoTax is just one of several organizations and grassroots alliances who are working to reveal the truth about this referendum that appears on the ballot May 1. The reason I’m doing so is that I’m aligned with the founding principle of “No Taxation Without Representation.” It’s been an uphill battle. I have personally challenged the people who are advancing the “For” vote to have open forums where both sides are represented, and we can explore what is actually in the pages of a 55-page document that only reveals the actual potential cost to taxpayers on page 50. Those offers have fallen on deaf ears.

If you want to keep a secret from people, put it between the covers of a book (in this case, a “plan”—and just make some more commercials. Or host an event at a black-owned business. Or give away some t-shirts. Or open an office on the border of one of the largest African-American voting district and wave signs and smile.  Anything—anything—to prevent them from actually reading the plan.

Just don’t let them read the plan.

Tell them it’s “only $5.00 a month to the average person,” and when they ask for the math, move to the next talking point. Tell them that it’s going to be great for the elders, because now they will have faster bus service in their neighborhoods. Tell them their kids will have more jobs. Promise them, for the 10th time in thirty years, that they will now have  the “minority contracts” in this latest project that three separate Disparity Studies have proven—scientifically—they never receive. If they ask questions or have pushback, just say “trust us this time.”

I’m sorry folks, we’re just not buying it anymore. This time, we’re choosing to read and research for ourselves. Because people are reading now, we’re seeing the holes—and the numbers just don’t add up. Here are the facts to consider for yourself, specifically concerning the claim that this transit tax referendum is going to be beneficial to the population now being targeted by the “For” marketing team—our elderly:

1. If we allow this referendum to pass, our sales taxes alone will increase to 9.75% this August. With this first .5% increase, Davidson County’s senior citizens — like all of the county’s residents — will have to pay an additional $23 a month for the $9 billion transit plan.

2. When the sales tax increases to the full 1% hike in 2023, seniors will be forced to pay an extra $52 a month.

3. While others may have flexibility to earn more money or adjust their daily expenses, folks on fixed incomes already have every penny of their income devoted to basic living expenses.

4. 90% of the plan’s funding  ($150 Million dollars per mile) will go to rail lines that serve downtown.

5. Elders will have to pay for the tracks but will be left to ride the bus.

6. Davidson County seniors, who have a median income of $42,673, will have a tax burden that’s .48% higher than the national average.

This plan is not $5.00 a month for the average person. That’s the pitch number that makes it sound attractive. The real number is $43,608. That’s how much the average family of four will pay in taxes over the life of this plan that has been described—proudly—as a plan to increase density downtown, while the areas where congestion is heaviest get “rapid bus.”

Not one dime of this $9 billion dollars will go toward fixing city streets, potholes, bridges and overpasses, or easing traffic congestion. This is why we have to vote “Against” this referendum, so that we can go back to the drawing board—and we have to turn out in huge numbers to do so.

We’re being told by city leaders and marketing experts that once we get that bus in Antioch, Bordeaux, Bellevue, South Nashville, W. Trinity, Cane Ridge, and Donelson, we’re going to just turn in our cars and rejoice as we see people backed up on roads for another ten years of construction on our already congested roadways to lay down those 19th century railroad tracks.

Not this time. We actually do look between the covers, and we don’t like what we see:

“They get the tracks; We get the bus and the bill.”

No thank you.

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