NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Several members of the Metro Nashville Council have responded after the Senate passed and the governor signed the bill that caps metropolitan government bodies at 20, effectively halving the size of Metro Nashville Council.
Shortly after it passed Thursday morning, Metro Legal Director Wally Dietz issued a statement saying in part the city would “rigorously defend” itself against the “unconstitutional” action by state lawmakers.
News 2 reached out to each of Metro’s 40 council members for their reaction to the bill that takes effect immediately.
Bob Mendes, Councilman At-Large
“Shrinking Council size creates chaos & requires immediately [sic] attention.”
Zulfat Suara, Councilwoman At-Large
“The rush to have this bill passed and signed shows it was never about Nashville but about retaliation. Despite their actions, I do not regret voting according to the will of my constituents. Unlike our state leaders, what I SAY & what I DO are aligned. It is sad that the governor an [sic] our legislators choose to throw our state’s political and economics capital into chaos. No matter what happens next, with your support, I plan to continue to run and serve on the council. #Nashvillestrong”
Freddie O’Connell, District 19 Councilman and Mayoral Candidate
“Among the bills in the ‘Punish Metro’ package, the state legislature has passed, and Governor Lee has signed, a bill reducing the size of the Metro Council to 20 members. This isn’t ‘We the People.’ This is ‘Because We Can.’
“Nashvillians have repeatedly asserted they prefer 40 Council members, most recently rejecting a change in 2015 with a 62% majority. This time, Nashvillians did not get a fair say, but dozens of legislators who live far from here did.
“This will also produce incredible chaos in the creation of new districts, the pitting of existing members against one another, and the upcoming August election.”
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Erin Evans, District 12 Councilwoman
On Monday, March 20th I will be going to the Davidson County Election Commission for petition pickup.
Tonya Hancock, District 9 Councilwoman
“Now that the State passed this legislation we need to make a decision, how many District and/or At Large? I am leaning towards 20 District and 0 At Large. Originally the At Large were created to keep out the minority vote, and it took 36 years until were [sic] were able to get a person of color At Large. Now it is a different kind of misrepresentation, one that favors the wealthiest area of our county. At Large, with all four coming from the South West Quadrant, we become a city of the ‘haves’ getting a larger representation than the ‘have nots.'”
Russ Bradford, District 13 Councilman
“Despite repeated concerns over how this legislation will disproportionately impact minority representation, the negative impact it will have on constituents, and throw our government into complete chaos, the TN General Assembly has directly ignored the will of Davidson county voters who have voted against any reduction of our city’s council size and passed HB48/SB78 [sic] slashing our council to 20 people.
“I suspect that there will be lawsuits filed by Metro and some local organizations to get this unconstitutional overreach by our state government tossed.
“This legislation further highlights the hypocrisy of our government. The sponsors of this bill claim to be all for local control and small government, however, they waste no time taking away control from local governments.”
Joy Styles, District 32 Councilwoman
“It’s unfortunate that our looking out for the concerns for the city and safety were well-founded, and the punishment is to have the council cut in half just because they can do it, just because they can punish us for not being willing to bring the Republican National Convention to town. It is disheartening; however, I am hopeful that moving forward we can have better communication between state and local when anything potentially acrimonious comes up and we may have some discussions before we just react. There were no conversations between the Council and the state to talk about this before it got to the point of filing legislation. I think that could have led to more productive outcomes than this punishment. The decision should be ours and ours alone with the constituents of Nashville.
“We’ve been very effective as a body of 40. Yes, there are benefits to being a body of 20, but certainly not because we’ve been ineffective. That’s the excuse; that’s the word salad to justify a petty retribution.
“We need to come up with solutions for how we move forward from here so we don’t’ have any other drastic measures in the future.”
Jeff Syracuse, District 15 Councilman
“I think it’s pretty clear that all roads are going to lead to federal court. We’ll see how it plays out, but I think it does create a lot of chaos and uncertainty from and administrative and logistical perspective on how to create a shorter council when we just did the redistricting based on last Census. People still at a local level have not voted yet in a redrawn countywide map, yet even before they have an opportunity to do so we’re doing it [redrawing the lines] again.
“You’ve got a lot of good neighbors wanting to run for office. You’ll have a lot of people having to run against each other in their communities, because what you’ll have is a mega district.”
Kevin Rhoten, District 14 Councilman
“Now that the legislation reducing the size of Council has passed and been signed by the governor, I will be working with the Vice Mayor and looking at all issues of how it will affect the operation of the Metro Council. Obviously, reducing the size of Council to 20 or fewer will significantly increase the workload for a Council Member in the years to come. I think salary and staffing will be one of the first areas we will discuss to make sure the future Council Members have what they need to help Nashville prosper.”
Tom Cash, District 18 Councilman
“The only good news in all this is that it’s more in our hands now. I believe there are constitutional issues and support pursuing legal challenges. If the size question stands, I believe we need to take the time for rich public dialogue and oversight about how we structure members and how we draw these larger districts.”
Kathleen Murphy, District 24 Councilwoman
“I am disappointed that our State Legislature and Governor have chosen to use the power and position given to them by the people to silence other Tennesseans.
“Was it not enough for the legislative majority to overturn Metro Voters on the 2015 Local Hire Charter amendment? Was it not enough to overturn the council’s efforts to require affordable housing when seeking new zoning entitlements, metro code increase protections for landlord-tenant relations, local choice in the ability to require living wages or non-discriminatory hiring practices? When will this attack on local control and the great city of Nashville stop?
“Each night I pray that the Governor and the Legislative majority will shift their focus to the state issues that Tennesseans desperately need solved. When will they focus on the children sleeping in state office buildings, helping the Tennesseans who cannot obtain affordable health insurance or who don’t have access to healthcare, assisting families who can’t afford basic necessities because the state budget relies on a high sales tax rate? Tennesseans don’t need grocery tax holidays. We need access to high quality affordable food no matter where we live.
“Tennesseans cannot continue to wait and suffer due to these political games putting partisan politics over the needs of the people.
“Ultimately, fewer council members/districts will mean fewer voices will have the opportunity to be heard by the government closest to the people. Silencing others and taking away choice in representation is not the American way.
“Thank you to Representatives and Senators who stood up to the majority and stood up for local governments everywhere by voted against the latest attempt to silence the voice of Metro Nashville voters and residents.”
Robert Swope, District 4 Councilman
“I respect the State for its continued perseverance in creating governments, both state and municipal, that are more efficient, effective and streamlined. I believe that a smaller Council Body will aid in achieving those goals, and support all efforts to do so.”
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.