While you and the rest of the Council continue to hear from the Dean Administration’s experts on how “feasible” the Music City Center is for Nashville, we wanted to share some data we collected from Metro employees.
On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, SEIU Local 205 ran a telephone poll of our members who work in Davidson County. These are people who work across all the General Government departments (Parks, Libraries, Public Works, Social Services, etc.), the various agencies that the city oversees (MDHA, MAC, Sheriff’s Office, Hospital Authority), and in Metro Schools. And while the sample we used did include some workers who live outside of the county, approximately 3/4ths of this poll’s respondents pay taxes (and vote) in Davidson County.
This was what is called an “automated poll”, which means that participants got a recorded message and were asked to push a button to indicate their preference. The official wording of our poll was: “A lot of politicians and experts have been talking about the Downtown Convention Center and its impact on Nashville. But we want to hear from you – Metro employees. If you oppose the new Convention Center, press 1; if you support the Convention Center, press 2”. You’ll notice that this was a very simple question and we deliberately asked it this way to avoid charges of it being called a “push poll” by people who disagreed with the results, as was the case with a recent professional poll commissioned by Nashville’s Priorities.
In any case, the results we saw were conclusive. We found in our poll that 72% of the respondents were against the Music City Convention Center project. And while we only polled our Union’s members, we can safely say that this result would be consistent among all Metro employees, regardless of whether they are in the union or not, based on past polling and experiments we have done with voting patterns, elections, and other referendums.
For this reason, and for other reasons that have to do with cost, the Mayor’s financing package, and the risk to taxpayers by using a General Fund Pledge, SEIU will not be supporting the Music City Center project as it is structured right now. What also concerns us – and should concern you – is the statement last night at Council chambers by Richard Riebeling. When he was asked by your colleagues about how $13.8 million in Hotel/Motel taxes that fund many General Government programs (including police & fire overtime and public transportation programs) would be replaced if it had to go to debt service on the MCC, Mr. Riebeling said that “there will have to be a different source of funding for these services” or the city would have to “cut expenditures”. He refused to say whether that meant cutting those funds out of the budget altogether, making cuts from other departments to make up the difference, layoffs, or a tax increase. It is now obvious to us that the Administration has no plan for replacing the funds for these programs or for reinstating the COLAs for city employees. That is a great concern to our members and it should be a great concern to you too.
Over the next several weeks, SEIU will engage in this debate until such time as the Mayor can present a specific plan to fund his $585 million project without putting taxpayers on the hook and without putting Metro services and employees at risk. As always, we look forward to hearing feedback from you and other elected officials on the proposals and we hope that you will continue to keep an open mind about the very real threat to Nashville’s long-term economic security from this project.
Thank you for your time.
President, SEIU Local 205
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Just sent out from the SEIU offices to Metro Council and the Mayor's Office (and note that they explicitly describe how their polling method was conducted in order to avoid push polling):