Police Oversight Comes to Nashville

Ideas and Issues

Nashville    Visiting with students and professors at Vanderbilt University was interesting and educational.  The questions and concerns about organizing and organization building, both here and abroad, were deeply considered and fascinating.  It was a good room, as they say.

Tennessee did not have a good midterm.  A former Democratic governor tried to right the ship by returning to the contest for the US Senate to block a wildly conservative US representative, Marsha Blackburn, who was looking for a promotion.  Remarkably, Taylor Swift got in the race with a smackdown of Blackburn, boosting voter registration in the state and nationally.  Nonetheless, the state stayed bright red.

Folks in Nashville were hardly dancing in the streets over the Amazon consolidation prize of 5000 operations jobs anymore than many progressives were celebrating New York and metro Washington’s billion-dollar tax giveaways to make the rich richer.  The price tag was lower by a pile of zeros, but money is money.  Both the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the more liberal page of the New York Times have roundly panned the tax giveaways to the richest man in the America and one of the richest companies, although the Nashville Tennessean seems silent on this issue thus far from what I could tell.

The bright spot in Nashville was the passage of police oversight board which had been successfully put on the ballot in reaction to a controversial killing by police of a black man in 2017.  A group called Community Oversight Now coordinated much of the drive and the campaign.  The vote was not close.  Voters applauded the oversight with a 18% margin:  59 percent to 41 percent — 134,135 votes to 94,055

The main opposition was the police association which spent $500,000 on the campaign, overwhelming Amendment 1’s supporters to no avail.  Despite being shellacked at the polls, they are still threatening lawsuits and appeals of the vote.  Typically, of these urban/rural splits that play out in state legislature around the country, there are threats by the solidly Republican legislature of void the democratic vote and try to overturn the election, although that seems preposterous.  The cow is out of the barn.   We have seen a number of state legislatures takeaway a city’s future rights, but this one will be harder to overturn.  The mayor, despite having opposed the amendment, has committed to enacting it by executive order if necessary.

Meanwhile, the board is already in the process of being formed with momentum on their side.  Application deadlines for members among citizens have already been set and publicized.   The police opposition was bizarre.  They tried to fabricate a claim of potential future tax increases based on unsubstantiated costs of the oversight.

This hardly a revolutionary move in Nashville.  One hundred cities around the country already have oversight boards of one type or another.  What’s important is that progressives were able to win and do so handily, making Nashville a city to watch.