Where to begin? Bob Clement is hitching his wagon to the anti-tax movement. Pressing Karl Dean to express his opinion on last year's property tax referendum, Bob Clement is pressing the implicit assumption that the referendum is good policy. Karl Dean seems understandably reluctant to point out the potential damage this legislation will do to the City's budgeting process because if he does, he will immediately be labeled a tax and spend liberal who is out of touch with Nashville.
Kudos to Clement for painting Dean into a rhetorical corner, but shame on him for so completely sidestepping the real issues raised by that referendum. When voters have incomplete and biased information, leadership demands moving in another direction. Don't get me wrong, leaders should step out of line from public opinion only carefully, cautiously, and making every effort to help people understand and support the move. The blunt instrument that Clement is waving right now discourages any attempt to try to educate the people of Nashville about the quite reasonable disagreement that exits on this tax referendum issue.
Unfortunately, when the fiscal crunch hits, and we have not grown our way out of the problem (see More Statements on Education), severe budget cuts in education or a property tax increase will be our only choices. How will these two behave under those circumstances?
We know a property tax increase will be unpopular and presumed to lose in referendum. Only a full court press by the mayor has the chance to educate people to what will be lost and gained by such an increase. The mayor needs credibility on the issue, and unfortunately, neither man is showing the capability or credibility to argue for tough choices now.
Clement is sounding very much like a man who never met a tax he liked while also proposing a raft of new "ideas." One can easily wonder where the money for those will come from and what will remain when the crunch hits.
Dean, on the other hand looks almost incapable of making an aggressive argument for the money our schools will need. I understand the political game that Clement is playing, and right now, I blame him more, but I am discouraged by how completely that game (which will not go away) seems to paralyze Dean, whom I predict will gravitate toward more narrowly unpopular cuts rather than making the important case for a broad civic support and sacrifice on behalf of public education.
That's unfortunate, because it is all connected...to borrow a phrase.