Metro Council members hear information on how to reduce size of council

A new state law requires Nashville to reduce the size of its council from 40 to 20.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:06 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:24 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Council members heard from the city’s legal and Metro Planning Department to look at how the new council reduction law will impact the Council and Nashville voters.

Thursday afternoon several council members attended an informational meeting regarding the new law passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bill Lee. The law calls for the Metro Council to be cut in half from the current 40 members to 20.

Council members Tom Cash said figuring out what number they plan to go with is one of the first steps.

“It’s a very, very tight time frame, and it gets shorter every day,” Greg Claxton, a staffer with the Metro Planning Department, told the council members.

The Metro Planning Department must create new district boundaries within 30 days of the law being enacted. During the meeting, the planning commission presented redistricting information showcasing how the city is represented by ethnicity and race. Council members asked several questions pertaining to the time frames, underrepresentation and how this will impact the general election for voters.

“Do you think 30 days is enough time to get sufficient input from the public given that there’s not a single piece of legislation that the council can efficiently pass in that time period,” Councilman Russ Pulley asked.

Planners also showed graphs and percentages how areas that’s represented by four council members could go down to two.

“The possibility that it will reduce minority representation, even with the best possible way that the planning commission is trying to draw it, you can tell that the number has definitely decreased,” Councilwoman At-Large Zulfat Suara said.

Suara and Cash said the council should reflect the diversity in the city and reducing the number of people who represent minorities could have lasting impacts for years to come.

“Another data that was shared was when there’s three at-large seats, there’s a possibility you have zero minority in that mix, and so what does this look like, and if we keep this, is this what Nashville will look like in 10 years?” Suara said. “We don’t want that. We’re right now in a place where we feel like what we have is a good representation of the population.”

This week Metro filed a lawsuit against the state trying to prevent the state from reducing the size of the city’s council.

“As we heard from the presentation tonight, there are some important consequences depending upon what we decide. So, I think thinking through that carefully and getting feedback from Nashvillians is important in the next step,” Cash said.

The Metro General Election is set for August and the county will have new districts, which could make registration or knowing where your polling places are tough.

Davidson County Administrator of Elections Jeff Roberts said his department is already working on it.

“At the point the Council decides which direction you’re going to go, at that point we will then work with Metro Planning, Metro GIS and the Comptroller to make sure we don’t have the same issues we experienced in November,” Roberts said.

Last November 200 voters were put in the wrong districts and they weren’t able to vote again.