NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Council members gaveled in for what turned out to be a contentious few hours, Tuesday evening and voted to remove three controversial items from the capital budget.
The proposed jail consolidation project on Harding Place, the police headquarters move to Jefferson Street and the downtown flood wall project were all removed from the capital budget. However, council members did vote to add money to renovate the current Criminal Justice Center downtown to the budget.
Just because money to renovate the CJC was included does not mean that is what will eventually happen.
Council members were not allowed to discuss how they’d vote or advocate for votes among their colleagues, so no one was quite sure how Tuesday night's vote would go.
Council members said the projects were sprung on them and the public with little information and little to no community involvement.
On the police headquarters funding, Councilmember Erica Gilmore said she wasn't able to answer her constiutents questions about the project, so she was forced to change her opinion on it.
"They said 'how does it look?' I don't know because we never had renderings. Normally with projects we usually have renderings," Gilmore said. "'What's the financial impact?' I don't know because we didn't get any of that."
Of both the police headquarters and the jail project, Councilmember Carter Todd said he couldn't give Mayor Karl Dean the benefit of the doubt like he had on the baseball stadium. Todd said that project came in millions over budget and without a parking garage.
Todd and others alleged too much was taking place out of the public's view.
"They're pushing too hard, pushing too fast," Todd said. "I'm hearing stories of backroom trades that would turn your stomach if they're true."
At-Large Councilmember Jerry Maynard had always been a strong supporter of the police headquarters moving to Jefferson Street.
Maynard said a majority of the businesses in the area supported the $23 million investment moving to the area, believing it would spur long-needed economic development.
"Don't take away this funding," Maynard said. "We had just a few people with loud mouths talk about their position on this."
Council members voted down the jail consolidation project by a vote of 19-17. Councilmembers Sandra Moore and Burkley Allen did not vote. Councilmembers Phil Claiborne and Sean McGuire were not present for the vote.
The police headquarters funding was rejected by a vote of 22-14. Councilmembers Anthony Davis and Jason Holleman did not vote. Claiborne and McGuire were not present.
The downtown flood wall was defeated by a vote of 19-18. Councilmembers Maynard and Fabian Bedne did not vote. McGuire was not present.
Community groups who had worked against the police and jail projects were ecstatic that their grassroots campaigns worked.
"It is time that they finally started listening to the people and they did that tonight," said Lorinda Hale who helped head up the group Southeast Nashville United. "Maybe, maybe the next mayor will understand you need to build consensus from the ground up. Do not try to shove projects down the throat of any community."
Sekou Franklin spoke on behalf of Justice For Jefferson Street and other groups who worked to defeat the relocation of the police headquarters.
"We never thought it was a done deal, contrary to what other people thought," he said. "If we could just explain to the indigenous people of North Nashville to fight with integrity, fight with humility and walk in the spirit of justice then whatever happens, happens."
Franklin says the groups were humbled that they were able to stop the projects.
Following the vote, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean released a statement, which read in part:
“The Council has voted, and I thank them for their consideration. Obviously, I am disappointed in the results of three crucial votes removing needed projects from the city’s capital improvement budget. Each of these proposals would have funded important public safety infrastructure that the city shouldn’t put off. I hope these projects will be taken up by the next administration and Council because these issues aren’t going away."
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall also said in a statement:
"Tonight’s council vote to remove funding for the relocation of our operations to Southeast Nashville was a very important decision for our city. As we have said, doing nothing about the conditions and long range future of our downtown facilities is not an option. The issues at the Criminal Justice Center are well documented and need serious attention now.
My hope is that the serious problems we face will remain at the forefront as a new mayor and city council take office later this year."
The council could vote to add any of the three projects back in this year.
However, it would take a super majority, or 27 of the 40 members, to do so.
Councilman Steve Glover withdrew his amendment filed Monday which would have stripped Southeast Nashville of $53 million in projects including an elementary school, a community center as well as parks and green space.