Coming on the heels of a national article by In These Times magazine about Amazon which Local 205 participated in, union officials delivered a statement to the Metro Council’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Study Committee on March 6. The union’s statement is on YouTube and was read by SEIU’s political director Jason Freeman – here it is in its entirety:
When it comes to Tax Increment Financing in Davidson County moving forward, we have a few things you should consider.
First, TIF was originally conceived as a way to entice development in ‘blighted areas.’ The idea was to use the incentive to build parks/green space, sidewalks or other public goods that would make an area more desirable for developers. In Nashville, we generally seem to use TIF to subsidize construction loans. The city should focus on how to deliver public goods with TIF, not build a few extra floors on a high-rise that is already being built.
Second, in Nashville TIF has been used on a project-by-project basis, meaning the increment only comes from the single property. There was an effort to change this process to a large district which freezes property tax revenue from say a 30 square mile area for 30 years. This also creates a silo of funding that feels a bit like an end run around the capital improvement budget for projects only in that area.
That becomes especially concerning when talking about replicating many of those districts around the city. The project-by-project model puts less of our future revenue at risk and gives the Council better oversight. TIF projects should, whenever possible, require approval by the council. Council should not give away it’s oversight on 30 years of property tax revenue for large sections of the city under any circumstance.
Third, the city of Nashville has a chronically underfunded school system whose scarce resources have been strained by Tax Increment Financing. Metro Schools is required to receive 40% of all the property tax revenue that comes into the city and until our investment in education matches our investment in tourism, we should not promise away one dollar of future revenue that is allocated for schools. If we continue to use TIF, it should only apply to the remaining increment after the schools get their funds.
Finally, at the current moment, the property tax revenues are at an arbitrarily low amount. This is a result of Council adopting the lowest property tax rate in the history of consolidated government. Promising away future property tax revenue from the current baseline would be irresponsible. The city is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, bringing into the question the need for these types of incentives in the first place, but our infrastructure is not growing. Needed investments in our city are not being made and we would argue that the focus of this council should be on fixing the current revenue shortage before promising any future revenues away. There is currently a voluntary freeze on Tax Increment Financing agreements until this committee makes its recommendations. This freeze should continue, and no Tax Increment Financing agreement should be considered until the council and the mayor’s office have restored the property tax rate to a normal level.
Thank you for your work and for taking input from the public.
Odessa Kelly at SEIU’s “Activist Day 2018”
Odessa Kelly, a member of SEIU Local 205 and an employee of Metro Parks and Recreation, was named “Activist of the Year” by Nashville Scene magazine.
By day, Odessa works as a recreation manager at Napier Recreation Center, which is located in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods. There, she supports and inspires kids every day by helping them with their homework and helping them acquire the skills and confidence they will need to thrive after they leave school.
When she’s not on the clock, Odessa has taken a lead role as a co-chair of Stand Up Nashville—a community non-profit which has, among other things helped draft the “Do Better Bill”. The legislation requires that before the Metro Council votes to give tax incentives to a company, the developers must release details about the jobs they claim will be created, including how many, what kind, whom they’ll hire, and what they’ll pay. This is landmark legislation for Nashville and for Tennessee.
Odessa was also one of the key players involved with the community benefits agreement (“CBA”) for the upcoming Major League Soccer stadium coming to Nashville. The CBA, which is a legally-binding agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings, requires the soccer group to provide affordable housing on the privately developed land and it sets a minimum wage of $15.50/hour for both construction workers and the employees who will eventually be hired by the soccer arena and its surrounding businesses.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, Odessa is also the co-chair of the economic equity branch of Nashville Organizing for Action and Hope (“NOAH”). She was part of the team which helped push through Nashville’s Construction Readiness Partnership, an initiative to ensure that Nashvillians have the skills and access necessary should they want to be employed as part of the city’s construction boom.
Congratulations to Odessa on receiving this incredible award!
Melissa Rucker & Odessa Kelly
SEIU members Melissa Rucker and Odessa Kelly were honored by Metro Parks and Recreation with employee awards in “dedication” and “community involvement”, respectively. Both are program coordinators and they were selected for recognition by their peers.
Congratulations to them and to find out more, visit Nashville.gov.
Thanks to ongoing advocacy by SEIU and its members, Metro Government employees in Nashville now receive paid family leave as part of their benefits package.
The new benefit allows Metro Government employees to have approximately six weeks of paid time off upon the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill spouse, parent, or child. The benefit is available for employees who have worked for Metro Government for at least 6 months. Employees did not have access to any paid family leave plan prior to passage. No state law in Tennessee or U.S. federal law currently provides for paid family leave.
The new benefit was made possible due to SEIU’s presence and activism on the Mayor’s Council On Gender Equity. The Council serves in an advisory capacity to Mayor Megan Barry and “will assess identified gender inequity issues and develop recommended solutions… that reflects the needs of all”.
Union members James Staub (Nashville Public Library) and Alisa Utley (Emergency Communications Center) were critical in the final stages of the Council’s work by providing testimony about the struggles they face. From the Council’s report:
“…When [James’] wife found out they were expecting twins James began to worry about how he would juggle the needs of a demanding career and the needs of his family. They already had a toddler son at home and the juggling act of two working parents was difficult, before the twins. James knew that his boss would be as helpful as possible but he was concerned because he loved his job and he was good at it but he also wanted to be present in his family responsibilities. He was concerned that he would need to use all of his leave time to care for his family and then heaven forbid if he got sick himself he would be out of time and could therefore face disciplinary action.”
“Alisa’s… mom was diagnosed with late term Leukemia. She was home bound and needed Alisa to take her to all her doctor appointments and treatments. Her Father was blind and had been cared for by her Mother but he too became dependent on Alisa for all of his daily needs. Alisa felt lucky to be able to work the overnight shift so she could care for both of her parents during the day. This went on for 8 years. During that period, the emotional stress of being a good employee and a good daughter was exhausting yet Alisa did it and continues to be a valuable employee to her department today. She says that she wished for flexibility of time so that she could have lessened the toll of caretaking and work.”
This is the end result of advocacy, action, and making politics work in favor of working people. Thanks to James and Alisa for sharing their stories with the Council On Gender Equity so that all Metro employees can enjoy this benefit which not only helps them and their families, but also ensures that the public continues to receive quality service.
The paid family leave benefit is the first item acted upon and passed by the Gender Equity Council. The Council will continue to be active for at least two more years.
SEIU members from dozens of city departments filled the seats during the Metro Council’s Public Hearing on the city budget to make the case that public services and the people who provide them are vital to Nashville’s future.
“Having growth means nothing if regular folks can’t afford to raise a family and take part in the American Dream,” said union steward Tyrone Jolley. “Those are the priorities we need to keep focused on.”
Despite some controversy over the budget request for Nashville General Hospital, the Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the operating budget, pay plan, and other ordinances related to employees that Local 205 supported.
|2017-2018 Budget Highlights:
METRO GOVERMENT Employees
- 2% cost of living raise
- Maintain step raises (2% for those eligible)
- Shift differential increase (70¢/hr for evening shift, 80¢/hr for night shift)
- Fund open-range raises
- Three -year pay plan (2%, 3%, 3%).
- Longevity pay distributed earlier (Nov. 15)
- No cuts to department budgets, several new programs implemented