____ better future for the city with the things that we need to have to be a 21st century city. BRILEY: We’re limited in terms of what we can tax, that we’re not already taxing, by state law. So, there’s very little that we could consider, frankly. One of the things we have done, it’s not a tax but it will be in this cycle of the budget, is we’re changing the fee for shortterm rentals. Right now I think it’s $50 a year, and we’re raising it to $300 a year for short-term rentals. What that will do is allow us to go hire three more inspectors to do enforcement on short-term rentals. We have more than a thousand short-term rentals that are unpermitted right now that are just getting onto one of the platforms and renting, so we’re not collecting the hotel/motel tax or any of the fees associated with them. So, we know that we can adjust our fee structure a little bit along those lines to be more efficient about enforcing the law without imposing a burden on the property taxpayer or sales tax. Another example is what we’re trying to do with the parking. Right now, our parking enforcement as a city is very ineffective. Most cities across the country have moved to some sort of a public-private partnership when it comes to that. We’re close to doing that too. We think that that will increase our collections by more than a million dollars a year in terms of revenue to go towards the General Fund.
I think there’s a tremendous amount of waste in Metro government. I’d like to set up some type of incentive system where employees that come up with creative ideas to save money for the city would get rewarded monetarily. They know where the waste is. They also know the departments where they have employees that may be on the payroll and are not actually there. I’ve been told that there are some departments where there are employees that no one has ever seen. I think that just by cutting waste, by having metro employees help you identify that waste, and just holding departmental heads accountable—that would generate revenue. I don’t want to see city employees being laid off, but in some cases, there are a lot of people that have used jobs as a way to reward people. There may be positions where people are retiring, or they quit that job—maybe they don’t need to fill all of them. But I would look to balance the budget. My goal as mayor would be to balance a budget. I don’t want to see Nashville have any more deficit budgets, and deficit budgets come from the inability of a leader to say, “No. I would love to help you, but the city is broke and this is all we have.” That needs to be said because departments are always going to ask for more and more, you know, that’s part of what they do. My priorities include public safety, and so I have to find money for the fire-
SWAIN: Mayor Briley has proposed borrowing even though we can barely pay the interest on the debt that we own. Last year it was $251 million. $1 in $10 taxpayer dollars go toward debt servicing, I think I have that right, so there’s not a lot of money left over. I think that you can work with the free market and private developers. A lot of the land that the mayor and the previous administrations have cut special deals for –people have paid as little as $5 million for land that might be valued at $100 million. I think it’s totally appropriate for the city to sell land, or to make land available to private developers who are building things that we need, such as affordable housing—but then it has to be done in a way that’s transparent and open, open-market bidding. The current administration did an online auction of land, and online auctions are usually used for discarded furniture and equipment—that’s how you get rid of it. You don’t use that for land. As mayor, I would also look at selling some of the land that the city owns that’s just sitting there, but I would do it with realtors and an open-market process and expect people to pay market value for prime land, especially some of the land has practically been given away downtown. It should be sold at market prices, and that is one way that you could generate revenue for the city. June–July 2019 | 372WN.com