Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to give updates on the Davidson County Election’s vote to put the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act on the ballot and the possibility of endless litigation from Metro legal.
Leahy: On the newsmaker line, our good friend attorney Jim Roberts, the man behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Jim, the big question, has the Davidson County Election Commission put your proposal of the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act to roll back the 34 percent property tax increase on the ballot for the voters in Davidson County to go to the polls and decide on?
Roberts: They haven’t done it yet, but they are meeting on Monday, and we believe that they will vote at that time. They have been recommended by their legal counsel that I met all the requirements and that they are going to vote, hopefully unanimously to put this on the ballot. And we can end all this sort of preliminary dancing that Metro is doing to us. And we’ll move forward towards a campaign.
Leahy: Jim, it seems like this thing is just taking longer and longer than we thought to get it on the ballot. They were going to, I thought decide it last week. What has happened in the interim?
Roberts: I’m not in control of the Election Commission. I thought based on all the information I had, that they would meet either Wednesday or Thursday of this week and vote. For whatever reason, they waited until next Monday. I do know that they were waiting for an independent legal counsel’s opinion on the issue.
One of the complaints the Election Commission has had, they didn’t feel like the lawyer that Metro had recommended last year really had the people or the Election Commission’s interest at heart. That was one of our complaints is that the law firm they hired really was carrying water for Metro the whole time.
They wanted an independent opinion. And I think that opinion is going to be very clear and forceful. I think they know they’re going to get sued. If they vote to put this on the ballot, the Metropolitan government is going to sue the citizens and the election Commission to try to stop it. They’re just that desperate.
Carmichael: There was not an Election Commission meeting last evening, is that right?
Roberts: No, there was not. I had thought and I believe there was going to be one, but it never got noticed. The notice went out, I think, late last night that they’re having a meeting on Monday. They have to give notice under state law.
Carmichael: It has been resolved that the election that matters was the last Metro election, which was in August, not a general election, which is in November. And so that threshold has been passed, is that correct?
Roberts: That’s right. Even though there were four different general elections in August, we had enough signatures for all of them. So it didn’t matter which one they used. (Inaudible talk)
Leahy: Walk us through the timeline here. We think it’s likely that the Davidson County Election Commission will vote on Monday to place the initiative to roll back the 2019 property tax increase next time around and all the other elements on it. What then happens? Does Metro legal immediately sue the citizens again to keep this off the ballot?
Roberts: I certainly know they want to, but of course, the optics on that are going to be pretty bad. The mayor’s budget, which I haven’t had a chance to look at, was due to be given to the Metro Council this week. And so there’s a lot of focus on the Metropolitan government and the Metro Council. I think it’s going to look bad if they turn around and try to raise our taxes for next year while fighting a referendum to lower taxes. I think they’re a little nervous about that.
Leahy: They may be nervous but they looked bad last time they sued and the judge had a ruling in their favor. You didn’t appeal that and you probably could have, but you chose tactically which I think was the right choice to go with a new one that complied with the Chancery court judge’s ruling. If they sue, what will happen?
Roberts: Most likely we would intervene, which means we would ask to join the lawsuit. We would be backing the Election Commission’s decision. And I think the Election Commission knew it was going to get sued and it wanted to be on some firm ground to push back against Metro. I think they know what Metro is trying to do here.
They’ve heard those dishonest arguments being advanced by Metro illegal, and they’re going to fight back, which is what they’re supposed to do. The Election Commission doesn’t exist to represent Metro. It’s supposed to represent the voters, people who want to vote, people who want to run for office, people who want to have a ballot initiative.
That’s who their constituents are. Metro has thrown up the same terrible arguments. No matter what we do they’re never going to say it’s good. They’re going to nit-pick it to death, and that’s just their job. They are still arguing that people were confused and didn’t know what they signed. Try that when you rent a car, saying, I was confused.
I didn’t know what the rental contract was. Anywhere in society when you sign a contract. But they’re just acting like people don’t have any sense at all. They just can’t get over the fact that people want to restrain the government from a decade-long series of bad decisions.
Carmichael: How does somebody argue that the voters are unable to read a ballot initiative? How do you argue that?
Roberts: Well, you can’t do it honestly. We know that there are certain groups probably funded by Metro and we’re not sure who has been sending out letters to people that that basically say very clearly that you didn’t know what you signed. You didn’t realize that there were six amendments, even though the petition has on it in at least two places.
There are six amendments everywhere on there that say six amendments and each one separate. We made that very clear because of what happened last time. And yet people are out there saying trying to confuse people to fearmonger, that they didn’t know what they signed. The real problem, Crom is real simple.
By doing it as six amendments, there’s almost no possible way that, or at least the majority of the six amendments complied with what the judge said. No matter what Metro argues we’re going to have an election. And the real question is are we going to go ahead and vote on all six or are we just going to have endless litigation and possibly have to have a second election?
Leahy: So back to endless litigation. If they choose to sue the citizens and the Davidson County Election Commission to stop this from getting on the ballot and this proposal to roll back the property tax increase, how long will that process take?
Carmichael: And which judge gets it? Do you know?
Roberts: We don’t know but it’s likely to be Chancellor Lyle, because that seems to be the only judge that will take these cases. The real timeline is once they vote to put it on the ballot, things start to happen. I have to pick a date. It’ll probably be mid-July, which is later than we wanted. It might even be towards the end of July, but they have to pick the date because they have to work backward for absentee ballots and military ballots and all those kinds of things.
I expect Metro to file suit almost immediately. They’re trying to derail this. And part of that is because in their Community Oversight Board case two years ago, the oversight board for the police, it was Metro’s argument that once the process started, you might as well go ahead and have the election. We’re going to bring that up this time if that was their argument last time. And so they don’t want the election process to start. So they probably already got their pleadings ready to go.
Leahy: Well, here’s the good news. You’re making progress one small step at a time.
Listen to the third hour here:
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