Referendum Petition’s Signifance to Council Unclear

Not all members of Nashville’s city council believe a petition drive could persuade them to hold a non-binding referendum on the proposed new downtown convention center.

Some members say constituents can already voice their concerns in plenty of ways where their efforts would be better spent. But others argue the convention center’s high cost justifies additional public input.

Earlier this week, a group opposing the convention center announced it would try to gather tens of thousands of signatures to petition for a non-binding public referendum. That vote persuade sway a few on the council, but at-large member Charlie Tygard says he won’t be one of them.

“No amount of signatures is going to sway me. I’m going to be voting on the merits of the bill, and whether it’s good or bad for the city of Nashville.”

Tygard says he was elected to make that decision himself.

Council Member Mike Jameson agrees the city can’t conduct a poll on everything. But he argues the downtown convention center deserves extra input, calling it Nashville’s most important, and expensive, decision in the next decade.

“If there was ever any one issue that begged for an opinion poll, a referendum, some sort of survey, this is it.”

But as councilman Erik Cole argues, there are cheaper ways to gather public input than the non-binding referendum, citing the potential six-figure cost of a citywide vote. Cole is planning a meeting with constituents in his district, and he says the council as a whole will hear from the public as well.


Cole says he’s not afraid of a referendum. But he notes in history what’s right isn’t always the same as what’s popular. Hear his argument:

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