I am a proud yet concerned citizen living in a wonderful growing suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, in Wilson County.
As you know, we are one of the fastest growing counties in the state. And I am a taxpayer which is supposed to mean elected officials work for me. Our local elected officials have signaled their intent to build an Expo Center on the grounds of the James Ward Agricultural & Community Center to improve our local economy and the lives of Wilson County residents. In light of recent activity at the state legislative level, I feel the need to express my opinion.
Our elected County Commissioners voted to send a private act to the state legislature to be passed to raise the hotel/motel tax up to 3 percent to help fund the Expo Center. Now I understand people panic when they hear the words tax increase. I do, too. But you have to seek to understand, then to be understood. This concept is something no one at the state level or national level is seeking to do these days. We are not asking for the citizens of Wilson County to withstand a property tax increase, a sales tax increase, a wheel tax increase. We are asking for those people who choose to come into our county and stay in our hotels to pay a little extra. It’s no different than what other counties in this state have also had passed successfully by the state legislature.
Isn’t one of the best ways to decrease taxes on the citizens of any county is to increase sales tax revenue? How? By bringing more people into our county to shop, eat, stay in our hotels, buy our gas. How do you do that? Through building a structure that allows us to host events that people want to attend. This building is not going to increase our taxes. It’s going to decrease them! Our County Commission has done their due diligence. They have used our taxpayer money to get a feasibility study completed to seek to understand the impact this Expo Center would have on our community. And this study supports that the building of this facility would have a positive impact on our county in many ways.
So why is there opposition? Our Representative Mark Pody told our County Commission, “Every single legislator had received something from Hilton Hotels asking them to vote against the 3 percent. It’s being lobbied hard down there for us not to have it. It does not have any support.”
WOW… Why are so many Americans so fed up with government officials? This is why! Why are the ratings of the federal legislative body at an all-time low? This is why! Because the American people have lost faith in believing that government officials are working for them because of examples just like this. And if this does not pass, then our Tennessee legislative body is no different than Congress.
For us to be a red state, we are not acting very red. No wonder conservatives and the Republican Party are having such difficulty. Why are we not supporting every effort to let the individuals in this community decide what is best for them? Why are we OK with others trying to tell us what’s best for us? Where is that freedom that red states and conservatives are always preaching about? A private act means it has no bearing on anyone else but those people in our county. Period. Our County Commission voted, and it was approved to send this act to the state. What gives the representatives and senators in East Tennessee or West Tennessee the right to go against what we feel is right for us in our county?
I would bet there are a VERY small percentage of owners of these hotel/motels and lobbyists who are against this private act that actually reside in our county. So why should they get to dictate what’s best for our citizens? Are we going to let a handful of hotel/motel owners and their big powerful corporate bosses dictate what happens to the future of this county? They are not the elected officials, our county commissioners are. And so are our state representatives and senators. It is the job of these elected officials to bring to the state legislative body what the county has approved whether they agree with it or not. Your job would be to do the same thing if it passed in your county.
Other State Representatives and Senators, why are you not supporting this? Why don’t you feel the same way? How would you tell your constituents, “Sorry I can’t get this passed because Representative Sarah in Knox County and Senator Don in Shelby County think they know what is best for us and do not think you are capable of making a correct decision for your people”. That is what a “no” vote is and nothing more. A slap in the face of those people it would affect believing we don’t know what is in our best interest. Or better yet have the right to make those decisions for ourselves.
I once thought lobbyists were there to lobby for the good of the people. In this case they are lobbying for their pockets, pockets that will in fact get deeper when this Expo Center is built because we all know they will raise their rate per night to offset their “loss of profit” from the tax. They are not going to see a dip in their income but an increase!
This is nothing more than big government intruding in our lives at the local level. It’s other people removed from our county trying to dictate what is best for us. Let us be the deciders of that. Wouldn’t you want the same? This is why Americans across the United States are fed up with the federal government. I am hopeful that in the end our state legislators will not make those same mistakes!
Editor’s Note: This was a letter that was sent to members of the Tennessee General Assembly. Michelle J. Hill is executive director of Empower Me Day Camp which provides activities for special needs children at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. If the Expo Center becomes reality, Empower Me Day Camp would have use of the facility along with office space.