The Tennessee Equality Project, which already auctioned their independence off and went all in for Mayor Karl Dean last year, is naturally accentuating the positive and hoping that the Mayor's statement of support will motivate CMs on the fence to vote for nondiscrimination. I honestly hope that their faith is well-placed, council votes with them, and the Mayor actually has the chance to sign. One local newspaper editor insists that Dean's support will bring 3 council member votes to TEP's cause.
But I just cannot shake this one nagging memory from last year regarding this bill. Karl Dean did not exactly equivocate on the issue of nondiscrimination regulations. He told City Paper that he was predisposed against regulations:
Council members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson have filed a bill that would require companies that contract with Metro to adhere to the same nondiscrimination policy that Metro has. What are your thoughts about that?
I’d have to look at it. My general sense of things is this: As a city, we need to be a city that embraces diversity and is a welcoming, friendly city. My general sense on how this works is that as a city government, it is certainly appropriate for us to establish policies that do that, and that those polices can set an example for the private sector. There are companies and institutions in Nashville that already have policies like that. I’d have to look at something [the bill] after it’s actually written, but in general, the less regulation we do of businesses, the better. My general reaction is not for the public sector to immediately begin regulating the private sector. I look at regulating the private sector very, very cautiously.
In 7 weeks the Mayor gave no indication that his views on regulation had changed but in one afternoon, almost to the hour that Chamber announced its misgivings on the bill, he announced his unabashed willingness to sign it. He went to the press first, rather than to bill sponsors. Now, I could be wrong, but given the way the Mayor's Office has managed information in the past, I cannot help but believe that there was some coordination of Mayor's Office and Chamber of Commerce.
If the council approves and the Mayor signs then I will be wrong. But I won't believe it until I see it with my own eyes. The bill was introduced in two council committees today but came out with no approvals and with one recommendation for deferral. It will be up for second reading Tuesday night. I hope council calls the Mayor's hand and that it is not a bluff.
UPDATE: Jamie Hollin's, Mike Jameson's, and Erica Gilmore's long-fought nondiscrimination bill passes tonight with 21 "aye" votes. It appears to me that a late amendment approved tonight that exempts contractors with less than 15 employees made the difference in the vote. Now all it requires is a 3rd vote and the Mayor's promised signature.