The Look in Brief

Beacon Center releases study of city freedoms

By: - July 2, 2020 3:26 pm
The Beacon Center of Tennessee.

In conjunction with the July 4 Independence Day, the Beacon Center of Tennessee released a report Wednesday ranking Tennessee’s 30 most populous cities on a series of measures of freedom.

The inaugural Freedom Index examined 25 metrics in four categories, free enterprise, private property, individual liberty, and cost of government, with LaVergne in Rutherford County taking the top spot and Nashville coming in at number 30.

Ron Shultis, director of policy and research, said he began research for the report a year ago.

“Every year, thousands of people move to Tennessee for a variety of reasons. Most people have a baseline knowledge of characteristics of states – that Tennessee has no income tax, for instance – but not a lot of knowledge or tools for what things are like at the local level,” said Shultis.

“We couldn’t measure everything but we think it provides a great snapshot of items like impact fees and property taxes, he said. “A lot of cities use common code and have similar ordinances: This index highlights the differences.”

Lavergne earned its ranking based on low property taxes, few corporate giveaways and a defined contribution pension plan for government employees. By contrast, Nashville collects more taxes on a per capita basis than any other city in the index. That figure will become more pronounced after the 34 percent tax increase Metro Council recently passed takes effect.

The state’s other three largest cities ranked 23 (Chattanooga,) 25 (Memphis,) and 28 (Knoxville.)

Shultis said he found some oddities in the research.

“We didn’t know how many cities are in the wedding business. Some cities own plantations and operate them as wedding venues,” he said. “Some cities have peculiar prohibitions or fees way outside the norm.”

For instance, shooting off fireworks within city limits can earn a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time in Knoxville, while most cities charge between $50-$100 for similar violations. Additionally, the keeping of chickens at home in Knoxville requires the suspension of Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights. 

Shultis said the intent of the study is to give policy makers and elected officials at local levels the information with which to make their cities more competitive for new business and to empower “everyday citizens to find what matters to them or spur change.”

Based in Nashville, the Beacon Center of Tennessee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization based in Nashville with the stated goal of identifying free market solutions to public policy issues and eliminating government barriers to success.

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J. Holly McCall
J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.