Since last week’s defeat of the sales tax referendum, those who campaigned for the half-cent increase have tried to explain what went wrong: Turnout was higher than expected. Katrina. Rising gas prices. We tried to keep it quiet so as to motivate our supporters without stirring the naysayers, but that didn’t seem to matter.
The more we think about it, that last elucidation is troubling. Politics has never been all that pretty, but this was an initiative proposed by our mayor, supported by our Metro Council and trumpeted by our schools chief for the stated welfare of children, parents and senior citizens. On the surface, at least, what could be more populist than that? And, conversely, what could be less populist than narrowing your message—what little of it there was—to a choir so small as to be only faintly audible? If only a few can see the song sheet, how can you expect a vocal majority?
Besides being strategically flawed, which we could certainly forgive were it not for motives that were less than noble, the campaign to raise our taxes was intellectually dishonest, even lacking a certain degree of transparency. Many of us have been so busy arguing the demerits of the proposal, the weaknesses in the campaign’s message, our Metro teachers union’s selfish and shortsighted push for higher salaries at all cost, and Mayor Bill Purcell’s failure to generate consensus for his own proposal that we haven’t given voice to our outrage. Basically, someone tried to pull the wool over our eyes. Or, if not our eyes specifically, at least the people whom city leaders thought wouldn’t be paying attention to what was going on around them.
And here we should note: our outrage would be just as strong, perhaps stronger, if the measure had passed. This editorial page wasn’t friendly to the idea of jacking up our already staggering sales tax to nearly 10 percent on the backs of those would could afford it the least, but for purposes of this post-game analysis, that’s not really the point. The point is that no public good can come without public dialogue. If raising the sales tax was such great shakes, and would improve our schools and comfort our seniors, why was the campaign so shy about sharing the message? It didn’t know just how lame and lackluster its message was, so that can’t be the explanation.
By their own admission, leading proponents didn’t share the message broadly because they didn’t want those inclined to be against it to hear that message. We respect that about as much as we do former Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski. Because there’s not a single Nashvillian who didn’t have a stake in the outcome of this important decision.
We’re not naïve about politics, and we respect the rights of campaigns and elected officials to target voters as they see fit. But that doesn’t mean we have to admire it.
Just as we’d ceased wondering how WSMV general manager Elden Hale manages to walk upright, what with the missing backbone that led him to cave to irrational ravings and pull The Book of Daniel in Nashville, NBC up and announced Tuesday that it was canning the controversial drama altogether, citing a ratings disaster.
Imagine the Nashville Symphony without its string section, the Titans without their offensive line, the city’s meat-and-threes without the meat. The visual arts landscape of Nashville is facing a parallel prospect.
There are 70,000 students in our public schools, and most of us have been talking about director Pedro Garcia’s poor bedside manner or his elected board’s proclivity for divisiveness and concern with style over substance.