By Vera Warrick
NASHVILLE, TN — As the debate on the Barry administration’s Transit Tax Referendum begins to heat up, the more informed voters are, the better we can make decisions for ourselves, and it requires delving into the actual plan that is the source of the referendum Nashville will vote on May 1st. As is the case with close elections, the African-American Community is being targeted to push through a plan that will send between 5.4 billion and 9 billion dollars primarily downtown. The debate is heating up.
On a televised Town Hall debate on WKRN on February 15th even more questions were raised about the plan. Longtime community advocate jeff obafemi carr, who is a Senior Advisor for NoTax4Tracks, pointed out how difficult it is to find and download the actual transit proposal from the website www.transitfornashville.com. Carr pointed out, accurately, that one must first locate the actual link to the proposal, then download the document (which is 55 color pages), and then find a way to physically print it out—if people to have a comprehensive understanding of what is being presented. The website and pro-referendum effort is a literal Who’s Who of Nashville business wealth and Chamber of Commerce-affiliated downtown-based companies.
The “Let’s Move Nashville” proposal is forty-three pages long, with a ten page appendix that begins on page forty-four. The actual potential cost is buried on page fifty (50) of fifty-five pages. This makes for a difficult process for the elderly and people who may not possess the technology and means to actually read the document for themselves. It is only when you read the document that you get at least a basic understanding of potential long-term costs to people who will be asked to pay 9 billion dollars-plus in taxes on everything from clothing to food and services, for up to two generations.
“I’m questioning why there is so much secrecy and avoidance of hard numbers,” carr recently said. “Every single time I have walked someone through the actual physical proposal, they’ve conclusively agreed that this is a very bad plan that burdens average taxpayers unfairly, while doing next to nothing to fix the problem of traffic congestion in Nashville. Unfortunately, the only way to even explore more options is to vote against this referendum. That way, we can go back to the drawing board and do something that is fair and equitable for everyone.” Critiques of the referendum can be found at www.NoTax4Tracks.com.
Major concerns now being discussed include the massive 9 billion dollar price tag, and the fact that 90 percent of that 9 billion dollars will go toward light rail, primarily centered on the downtown corridor. Light rail is not a flexible option, because once it is laid, it is permanent. Opponents point out that as a forward thinking city, looking to out-dated technology at the cost of over 150 million dollars per mile is the very definition of governmental waste.
For everyday citizens, those who are on a fixed income, the elderly, and many who do not live in the rapidly gentrifying areas of town the rail lines will primarily serve, to pay one of the highest sales taxes in the nation for a plan that does not alleviate traffic congestion is an issue of common sense. Much of Nashville is concerned about traffic, bad roads, and extensive delays—which will increase with ten to fifteen years of new rail construction and tunnel-digging.
As we continue to explore the most effective options for transit in Nashville, we owe it to ourselves and our community to be informed and not just listen to people presenting us with talking points and yard signs, telling us to just “get on board.” We’ve got to ask the hard questions, and pay attention to the answers—or lack of them—we receive. The more we dig into this plan, the more we do not find. That is not a good sign at this point, especially with so much on the line for our community.
In any transit plan, we deserve to be consulted, involved, and empowered with a seat at the table. This plan does not address these issues. This plan, without a doubt, benefits businesses and tourism downtown. For the rest of us who will be primarily paying for it, the question we must ask is: when will it be our turn to share in the success of the “It City?”