By Justin Owen
These two staggering statistics offer important context for this post:
1) If you serve two terms on the Metro Nashville City Council, you get lifetime health insurance.
2) The city of Nashville has more than twice the debt held by the entire state of Tennessee.
The lifetime council benefits are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city’s fiscal woes. But they are a tip that must be lopped off if the city is going to seriously pursue reforms to restore some fiscal sanity.
Despite his earlier failure to use his historically high property tax increase to drive meaningful fiscal change elsewhere—such as our debt, pension system, and other liabilities—Mayor John Cooper is at least now discussing the issue. And some Council members are joining the call. Sadly, nearly half still refuse to make sacrifices that they are asking their own constituents to make. The push to merely review lifetime health benefits for Council members recently squeaked by on a 20-18 vote.
We have found no other city in America that lavishes such rewards for public service. Sure we should provide reasonable compensation and benefits to elected officials, especially so that those at all socioeconomic levels can participate, as some defenders of lifetime benefits suggest. But should we offer the most handsome benefits package there is? No. Especially not when our mayor and the Council demand that we pay 34% more in taxes, all while still to this day forcing some businesses to remain closed or at limited customer capacity.
The tone-deafness of Council members who defend such preposterous benefits is trumped up by the union bosses who adamantly refuse to acknowledge that benefits hardly any other American receives should be reconsidered. At a time when every Nashvillian has been forced to sacrifice more for the city, so too should those who work for us. That’s especially true for those we elected to serve us, not plunder our pockets for life after just eight years of service.