Save Nashville Now begins television ads opposing Metro referendum

Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse (Photo: Nashville.gov)
Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse (Photo: Nashville.gov)

With the legal future of the Metro charter referendum still hanging in the balance, Save Nashville Now, the coalition of business groups, left-leaning grassroots organizations and labor unions, will launch its television ad campaign beginning Monday.

The group is launching two 30-second ads warning of the negative impacts the charter amendment proposals would have on Metro government’s operations.

An anti-tax group called 4 Good Government wants to amend the charter to roll back last year’s property tax increase and require voter approval for any future increase over 3 percent.

Critics say rolling back the rate would barely affect people’s tax bills this year. But, they also warn that limiting future increases would negatively affect the city and pave the way for major budget cuts.

In one ad, Save Nashville Now highlights the negative impact on public education funding. In another, the group warns that the ballot measure would be harmful for first responders, leading to slower response times if approved.

The ads will begin airing this evening on Nashville television networks. 4 Good Government has shown no signs of forming a traditional political campaign in support of its effort. The group has refused to disclose how its two petition drives were funded.

In the meantime, a complicated three-pronged legal battle is underway. Metro and the Nashville Business Coalition have filed separate lawsuits seeking to block the Davidson County Election Commission from holding the referendum.

In response to a proposed charter amendment from the Metro Council, the election commission has filed a motion for declaratory judgment seeking to clarify if the council’s amendment passes legal muster.

Much of the behind-the-scenes legal wrangling has focused on which Davidson County chancellor will hear the case. The lawsuits were originally assigned to Chancellor Russell Perkins. The expectation was that if Jim Roberts, the attorney and chief organizer for 4 Good Government, sought to intervene in the case that Perkins would recuse himself.

Roberts did file a motion to intervene, which he subsequently withdrew. Perkins has not combined the Metro and Nashville Business Coalition lawsuits, which for the time being remain separate cases with different hearing dates. The election commission’s preemptive lawsuit related to the Metro Council’s proposed charter amendment, which was filed with the intent of blunting the 4 Good Government charter changes should they pass, is also on a separate track.

On Friday, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce filed a brief in support of the city’s lawsuit, arguing that 4 Good Government’s charter amendment proposal should be dismissed, because the election commission did not choose either of the two dates proposed on the actual petitions. The legal filing, by attorney Daniel Horwitz, outlines how 4 Good Government argued repeatedly in earlier filings that the election commission did not have the discretion to choose a date other than the ones listed on the petitions. The election commission’s staff said it did not have time to plan for the election by the dates listed on the petition, and the referendum is currently set for July 27.

The link to the first ad, focusing on cuts to education, is below.