In the wake of a budget shortfall in Nashville and a bitter campaign by the city's unions and community groups to get an amended budget passed, the Council began a new initiative - a "public comment" session - which permits members of the public to come before the government and speak about anything they want for two minutes.
It's a new idea for the Metro Council, and one that SEIU took immediate advantage of. During the first night of "public comment", Local 205's executive vice-president, James Bradley, gave some prepared comments to the council. They touched on how he and other city employees felt about being betrayed by council members who had only a year earlier promised to fully fund a new pay plan. He also poked fun at how many council members refused to vote for a property tax adjustment (something that is a normal course of government operations in Metro) because there "wasn't enough public input" by rattling off a list of questions that SEIU would like to have the council get input from us on over the next year while they run for re-election.
Here's the full text of James' comments (though he wasn't able to complete them because time ran out):
"Good evening, members of the council. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address you this evening. My name is James Bradley and I serve as the executive vice-president of SEIU Local 205. My organization represents the men and women who work for so many of our public agencies including General Government departments, the Hospital Authority, Metro Action Commission, and we represent the support employees in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
First of all, on behalf of the thousands of city employees SEIU represents, I want to thank the 19 members of the council who voted in favor of Councilman Mendes’ budget two weeks ago. We appreciate your integrity and courage and we will not forget your support for us.
Having said that, we will also not forget the 20 council members who voted against us.
You are the people I would like to direct my public comments to this evening.
Two weeks ago when you voted on the budget, we heard your speeches about how there wasn’t enough "public input" on correcting the property tax rate. Every member of this council knows full well that correcting the tax rate has never had "public input" but if we have to have more "public input" on something that you all know is necessary for the city to do, let’s start with a couple of questions to get that ball rolling:
First, how do we explain to city employees who already took cuts to their pay and raises for four years that they have to do it again while we’re in a boom? I was one of the people whose taxes went up and then didn’t get a cost of living raise. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but when do these private developers start paying theirs?
Second, how do we explain that we couldn’t find the political will to fully fund our schools but we can find it to keep giving more TIF and PILOT deals to developers and corporations? Or for a water park at Opryland that only Opryland guests can use?
How do you justify asking Metro department heads to begin preparing budget reductions for next year when you are literally getting ready to vote tonight on another tax increment financing deal?
There’s a whole host of other questions too. Like where is the accountability on these TIF and PILOT deals? Which Metro department or office is tracking whether these companies are creating all the jobs they say they are? Is privatization saving us money or costing us more while quality goes down?
Hopefully, addressing these questions over the next year while many of you are campaigning will help educate and enlighten our teachers, firefighters, police officers, bus drivers, and General Government employees who live and vote in Davidson County.
We will be watching and trust me… we will be giving you and your political opponents our "public input" in 2019. I appreciate your time and again… thanks to those of you who voted for what was right, not for what was easy."
Who Voted FOR Us on the Mendes budget?
Erica Gilmore Decosta Hastings