(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Nashville’s last two mayors hold responsibility for the city’s failure to purchase body cameras for police, a Nashville councilmember said over the weekend.
Councilmember at Large Bob Mendes, chair of the Metro Council of Nashville and Davidson County’s budget committee, made the remarks in a Facebook live conversation about the city’s $2.45 billion budget with fellow member Zulfat Suara.
“There’s been no leadership from either of the two previous mayors to get coordination,” said Mendes, referring to former mayors David Briley and Megan Barry. “There’s not an agreed upon architecture between police, the district attorney, public defender and judges. The bottom line is due to a couple of mayors in a row not making this a mayor’s level priority, we aren’t as far along as we should be as a city.”
Mendes’ response came in answer to a question from a participant as to why Mayor John Cooper continues with a pilot program of body cameras and not a full rollout. With protests roiling the country over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police, the question was timely.
“So many years had been wasted in planning, he wanted to get something in the field,” Mendes said.
The Suara-Mendes stream was one of two by public officials over the weekend to allow citizens to ask questions prior to Tuesday’s public budget hearing.
Vice-Mayor Jim Shulman hosted Budget Director Kevin Crumbo on a Saturday live stream, available on YouTube.
Mayor Cooper has proposed a $1 property tax increase, moving the tax rate from $2.155 to $4.155, a 32 percent increase. Both Crumbo and Mendes say the move is an undesirable but necessary one to begin restoring the city’s rainy day balance.
In November, Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson informed city officials the state would not approve Nashville’s budget without proactive measures to restore the city’s depleted fund balance.
“It’s ridiculous to run a city on 14 days worth of savings,” Mendes said of Nashville’s current status. “The average rainy day fund for a big city is four months of savings set aside. If we were average, we would have had $600 million set aside but we are dead last of the 25 biggest cities.”
Mendes has proposed a substitute budget to Mayor Cooper’s that is similar in that it includes the property tax increase but restores several items trimmed in the Cooper budget, including a boost for Metro employees.
“Metro is the third largest employer in the state and paying a livable wage is one way to impact livability,” he said.
Metro Council has until the end of the month to approve a budget with Fiscal Year 2021 starting July 1.
The public budget hearing will be Tuesday, June 2 at 6:30 p.m. Those interested may attend in person or via remote access.
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