This election cycle sent a wave of progressives onto the Metro Council, with newcomers like Jeff Preptit, Sandy Ewing, Olivia Hill, Joy Kimbrough and Quin Evans-Segall winning seats.
Now, an upcoming vote on a license plate reader-related bill could offer the first look at just how progressive the supposed most progressive council ever really is. The bill, BL2023-71, passed its first reading on consent Tuesday night. It’s up for a vote on second reading next month.
Following a six-month pilot period, the previous council voted 24-14 in favor of full implementation of LPRs. But that approval, and even the pilot period itself, did not come without loud voices on both sides of the controversy, turning it into one of the bigger debates at the end of the previous council term. Metro is currently in a procurement process to find a company to contract for more permanent fixtures and the bill from District 7 Councilmember Emily Benedict would remove LPRs from Nashville streets until that contract is signed.
“In the interest of transparency with the public, I think it’s important that current cameras and signs are only posted where MNPD has approved them and when we are under an active agreement with a vendor,” Benedict told the Banner.
Benedict said several factors make leaving the current LPRs in place unnecessary. For one, the LPRs should not even be in use right now due to the parameters of the pilot program, she said. On top of that, not only do the cameras belong to three different companies — Benedict said she expects not all will win contracts — MNPD has to decide where to place LPRs once the contract is signed, meaning there is potential that they could choose not to place cameras in the places where there are currently LPRs.
“I’m hopeful this bill has broad support throughout the Council since it will help build trust with the public about the program, and because it has no impact on the current status of the program,” said Benedict.
LPRs, though broadly popular, have faced resistance from progressives at every step in the council. Advocates argue that the cameras, typically mounted at intersections and used to scan license plates as cars drive by, are a necessary tool in solving crimes. But while the technology is already in place in some cities in the state, including Belle Meade, critics have a long list of concerns surrounding the readers, from the possibility of them being used to target minorities, to being used for immigration enforcement, to the ability to enforce guidelines on how the massive amounts of data collected will be stored and used.
The council breaks down this way:
Of the 14 councilmembers who voted against the full implementation of LPRs, eight remain on the metro council this term. Mayor Freddie O’Connell, Vice Mayor Angie Henderson and former at-large councilmember turned Mayor’s Office Senior Adviser Bob Mendes were among the no-votes. The remaining three no votes were term-limited. Note: Antoinette Lee, who won re-election in August, abstained from voting on full implementation
- Zulfat Suara
- Kyontze Toombs
- Sean Parker
- Emily Benedict
- Ginny Welsch
- Brandon Taylor
- Delishia Porterfield
- Sandra Sepulveda
Of the 24 councilmembers who voted in favor of the full implementation of LPRs, 11 remain on the council. Notably, Jeff Syracuse and Russ Pulley, who were among the 24, both lost in their campaigns for a promotion from a district seat to an at-large seat, with voters instead choosing at least four women considered more progressive.
- Burkley Allen
- Jennifer Gamble
- Tonya Hancock
- Erin Evans
- Russ Bradford
- Tom Cash
- Thom Druffel
- Courtney Johnston
- Bob Nash
- John Rutherford
- Joy Styles
That leaves 20 new councilmembers to vote on Benedict’s legislation. During the campaign, the Banner asked candidates to fill out a questionnaire on various Metro-related issues, including LPRs. Below is a list of new members and where they stood on LPRs. Click their names to read their full response.
- District 1 Councilmember Joy Kimbrough – Unfavorable
- District 4 Councilmember Mike Cortese – Cautiously favorable
- District 6 Councilmember Clay Capp – Unfavorable
- District 8 Councilmember Deonte Harrell – Did not answer
- District 10 Councilmember Jennifer Webb – Did not answer
- District 11 Councilmember Jeff Eslick – Had concerns
- District 14 Councilmember Jordan Huffman – Favorable
- District 15 Councilmember Jeff Gregg – Favorable
- District 17 Councilmember Terry Vo – Unfavorable
- District 19 Councilmember Jacob Kupin – Cautiously favorable
- District 20 Councilmember Rollin Horton – Cautiously favorable
- District 22 Councilmember Sheri Weiner – Favorable
- District 24 Councilmember Brenda Gadd – Did not answer
- District 25 Councilmember Jeff Preptit – Unfavorable
- District 28 Councilmember David Benton – Did not answer
- District 29 Councilmember Tasha Ellis – Did not answer
- District 34 Councilmember Sandy Ewing – Openly unfavorable
- District 35 Councilmember Jason Spain – Favorable
- At-Large Councilmember Olivia Hill – Unfavorable
- At-Large Councilmember Quin Evans-Segall – Unfavorable
The next council meeting is November 7.