NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Taxpayers took concerns over the budget proposal for Metro Nashville straight to council members during a public hearing.
Speakers addressed council for hours Tuesday after some protested outside before the meeting started.
One concern was the need for a different approach to how money is spent toward public safety.
“To be the most clear, the safest communities are not the ones with the most police but the ones with the most resources,” said Reverend Vahisha Hasan.
A group called the Nashville People’s Budget Coalition said there’s too much money being spent on law enforcement. The group said Nashville spends $329 million a year on police and jails, and gun violence is still up by nearly 40 percent.
“A few years ago our neighbor was shot directly outside our house. A few bullets lodged in the siding and one bullet came through our window. I found it in a pile of broken glass on the window sill,” Andrew Krinks told council members. “Now my wife and I have a 10-month-old and that fear is even more real. I have come to understand that the way to prevent another bullet from piercing our window is to not continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on police every single year.”
They want to see more money spent on violence interruption and prevention programs.
“Using public money for more policing does not make us safer. That’s a myth. It’s like putting a BandAid on a gushing wound,” said Wendy Behr. “We have to address the root causes of crime and violence and homelessness and unemployment.”
Mayor John Cooper’s proposal allocates $50 million to fund teacher raises, $30 million for new investments in affordable housing, a two percent cost-of-living raise for the city’s workforce, as well as funding for new firefighters, EMT’s and new police officers in the southeast precinct.
“Right now our people are facing mass evictions, Black people have been forced out of this city because you gave it away to developers, de-funded public jobs, and underfunded transportation and healthcare for working-class communities,” said Erica Perry.
Speakers said the budget needs to better fund fair wages, transportation and affordable housing.
“My fellow caseworkers and I already knew that Nashville had an affordable housing problem. But working with our tornado clients has given us a clear and sobering view of just how bad the problem is. Some people like to say that natural disasters don’t discriminate but that’s not true when they come through a city with as much inequality and little support for residents as Nashville has,” said Rachael Turnes.
Not all speakers opposed the mayor’s budget proposal. WeGo Public Transit officials said last year they sustained a 44-percent funding cut through grants so they could support Metro’s overall budget during an unprecedented year for the city’s finances. This year WeGo leaders are supporting the mayor’s effort to restore that funding.
“The mayor’s subsidy will restore stability to our operating budget and it’ll ensure that we’ll be able to sustain current levels of service, fare levels, and our employment, as we move beyond the pandemic,” said Janet Miller, WeGo Transit Authority Board Vice Chairman.