Anti-Transit Plan PAC Debuts First Ad

Posted at 8:12 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 21:23:10-05

Proponents for the Nashville transit plan boast 30,000 signatures and have local heavy hitters like Vanderbilt, Bridgestone and HCA on board. 

But it's the folks mobilizing against the plan who are gaining momentum this week. 

You've probably seen the ad.

"A total mess. And you know who's going to pay for it? You are," the ad states, running on local television stations starting this week.

The ad, which says Nashville may as well be called Taxville, was paid for by the political action committee No Tax 4 Tracks. It's the first ad from either side in the transit war leading up to early voting in April on the city's multi-billion dollar transit plan.

The city plan includes 5 light rails lines, neighborhood transit centers, an expansion and upgrade to the city bus system and additional crosswalks, sidewalks and bike paths around town. 

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People mobilizing against the city's plan say the 1 cent sales tax increase that would last the next 50 years would be an undue burden on Nashville residents.

"Sales tax disproportionately affects the elderly, it disproportionately affects those who are on a fixed income," said community advocate Jeff Carr, who recently joined No Tax in the fight, "it's not well thought out, it creates one of the highest sales taxes for the population in the nation."

Many know Jeff Carr around Nashville for his campaign to build tiny houses for the homeless.

On a rainy morning NewsChannel 5 Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher met Carr on Rosa Parks Blvd, near a bus stop in Germantown. It's an area he says he knows well.

Carr says the city promise that Nashville's low income residents will ride the bus and trains free of charge isn't enough.

"We have a lot of traffic," he said, "we also have a neighborhood that's not what it used to be. This neighborhood is almost fully gentrified. By the time the tracks come here this place will not be affordable to live in."

Carr's forged what some may call an unlikely partnership with No Tax, a group viewed by some as ultra conservative. It's original Treasurer is car dealership owner Lee Beaman who is listed as a Beacon Center Tennessee board member and has a known affiliation with the Koch Brothers after helping lead the fight against former Mayor Karl Dean's AMP rapid bus project alongside Americans for Prosperity.

Beaman is no longer listed as the treasurer for No Tax 4 Tracks, but spokesperson Jeff Eller says Beaman is "still very much involved in the campaign."

"Anytime you have people who seem to be different politically, racially, economically coming together over one issue, it means the issue is strong," Carr said.

No Tax 4 Tracks spokesperson Jeff Eller runs a crisis management firm in Austin. He explained what the group wants: "we think the city needs to go back to the drawing board, look at a plan B." 

Right now there is no plan B for voters. And by all accounts it would take years to form one.

"If the city leaders are committed to get this right then they don't mind hitting the reset button," Carr said.

No Tax says they want to deal with Nashville's traffic problem. But they would not give specifics on what kind of transit plan they would prefer. NewsChannel 5 asked the group why they aren't working on an alternative plan for voters to consider.

"We don't have the arrogance and the hubris the city does to think we have every answer," Eller said, "we think you have to vote this plan down and open the door up to a much broader set of views to move forward, not back."

Expect ads from both sides of the fight in the coming weeks. Pro-transit PAC Citizens for Greater Mobility has raised $1.3 million dollars, according to state records.

No Tax for Tracks filed with the city rather than state, and does not have to disclose their donors until April 10.

Because early voting begins April 11, Schleicher asked if in the spirit of transparency they would make their donor list available.

"We'll make our contributions public, we'll be open and transparent based on the filing schedule that's set by the law," Eller said.