Metro property tax charter referendum struck down; election will not be held July 27

Metro courthouse city hall
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 23:46:04-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A much-anticipated charter referendum for the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act has been struck down and there will not be a referendum election on July 27.

The referendum is the second effort in less than a year by the group 4 Good Government to change Metro's charter on multiple topics but primarily property taxes.

The first effort was struck down last fall in Davidson County Chancery Court after the election commission sought guidance through a declaratory judgment.

4 Good Government then filed the second petition with six proposed amendments to the Metro Charter - the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act.

The ruling stated that even though there were changes made from last fall's proposal, the proposed amendments are "in many respects similar to the 2020 measures."

The ruling, made by Chancellor Russell Perkins, stated, "Given that the six Proposed Amendments are not severable, none of 4 Good Govemment’s proposed Amendments to the Metropolitan Government's Charter are permitted to be considered for referendum election on July 27, 2021."

Mayor John Cooper released the following statement:

“We’re building a great city, and we’re grateful for a ruling that prevents a small group from hijacking Nashville’s future with an unconstitutional California-style referendum. Our next budget makes historic investments in our students, our transportation infrastructure, and affordable housing as we maintain a tax rate 24 percent lower than our average rate over the past quarter century – the third lowest property tax rate in Metro history. We will continue to fix problems and find solutions to build a stronger, more equitable city for everyone.”

Daniel Horwitz, Counsel for Amici Curiae the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws, also released a statement:

"As the Chamber and TSEL argued at length, the Davidson County Election Commission lacks authority to violate clear provisions of the Metropolitan Charter in an ill-advised effort to apply new and different rules to a favored petitioner. Compliance with straightforward and longstanding legal requirements is not voluntary, and ignoring provisions of the Charter while depriving opponents of fair notice solely because a bare majority of the Election Commission supports a measure is impermissible."

Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg took to Twitter, saying the election commission chair should not stay in his position.

"If the chair of the Davidson County Election Commission has any self-awareness, he’ll resign. I’m not holding my breath. This order (linked below) is a victory for anyone who wants to see Nashville survive and thrive."

However, Jim Roberts, leader of the referendum effort, criticized Mayor Cooper.

"Well, the Mayor has given us California-style mismanagement, California-style debt, California-style fiscal irresponsibility. It's hilarious to me that he would refer to the peoples' attempt to rein in his irresponsible governance, as being some California irresponsibility."

"This is Tennessee. This is Nashville. And we have a right, the citizens have a right to rein in out of control government," said Roberts.

Roberts said he expects the Election Commission to appeal the decision as early as Friday. But he admits because that process will take several weeks, any potential vote will be delayed.