Early voting begins August 17 and will run through September 1 as Nashville voters return to the polls yet again for a run-off to decide who will be the city’s next vice mayor.
Due to Matt DelRossi’s spoiler candidacy, neither Sherri Weiner, the current acting-Vice Mayor, nor challenger Councilman Jim Shulman garnered the majority required to take office.
Both remaining candidates, Shulman and Weiner, had significant support in the LGBT community, and in the greater context of Tennessee politics, neither candidate is particularly alarming. Each, in their own way, is a safe bet for Nashville. But safety is relative.
Weiner, reportedly a Republican, is fairly conservative when compared to the Metro Council overall, but she is quite moderate-to-liberal when compared to the anti-LGBT disaster that is the Tennessee GOP. Shulman, on the other hand, will not be mistaken for a raving leftist anytime soon. Both represent moderating forces, Weiner leaning to the right and Shulman to the left. That may be enough to make the decision for some people.
Unfortunately, LGBT Tennesseans don’t have the luxury of easy decisions. Local elections can have a direct impact on our quality of life: our local leaders are sometimes all that stands between us and a very hostile state. So at every level it is essential that we ask, “Will this leader stand for us, stand with us, and stand for that which matters to us?”
It is true that we will not agree with either of these councilpersons’ every vote. Shulman has doubtless stepped in it with his vote on occasion. Weiner has likewise sometimes stood on the side of right, as when she joined a near unanimous council in sponsoring Resolution RS2016-484—”proclaiming that the citizens of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County will continue to welcome and to afford equal justice to all residents and visitors, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other protected status.”
But resolutions are easy ways to say much and do little. Where the rubber meets the road, who will be with us?
In 2014, the Council passed Ordinance BL2014-779 to provide domestic partner benefits for Metropolitan Government employees. A prime beneficiary of this action were LGBT employees of Metro, whose inability to secure equal marriage alienated them from a valuable benefit of their employment. In two roll-call votes, only a handful of councilpersons voted ‘No.’ Others abstained.
Weiner was listed as absent for both the June 3 and June 17, 2014 votes. This is peculiar since the minutes of the June 3 meeting clearly mark her as present, and persons in attendance recall Weiner being present at both meetings but absenting herself for the vote. Weiner hasn’t been a dependable ally. Weiner certainly hasn’t always supported the LGBT community. She simply avoided going on the record (thinking perhaps of a day when a citywide office might require votes of the under-70, outside-of-Belle Meade crowd?).
This is merely one example of Weiner’s words and deeds not matching. In our current climate regarding immigration and race, Weiner supports talk like Obama but acting like Trump. Why do I say this? She voted for a Resolution (remember, legislative all-talk) 2017-861, “expressing that Nashville is opposed to and stands against racism and bigotry in all its forms and urging all to seek unified solutions to encourage the inclusive society our founders envisioned.”
Now that’s a bland statement anyway… but at the same time—in the very same year—Weiner voted against Ordinance (where the action happens) BL 2017-739, to amend Title 11 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws regarding federal civil immigration laws. While this was presented as an attempt to make Nashville a “sanctuary city,” this law merely sought to require that Metro not spend money to participate in purely voluntary assistance “in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” That is—where required by law, Nashville would comply, but would not go out of its way to do the Federal government’s job for it.
So to summarize, Weiner gives lip service to gay rights with a resolution, but when actual rights are on the table, the best she can do is hide outside to avoid locking in an unfavorable (to her) vote. Meanwhile, she gives lip service to anti-racism with a resolution, but actively opposes an attempt to minimize our city’s voluntary participation in executing a racist, nationalist agenda.
Shulman voted for both the resolution and the ordinance by the way.
And while he wasn’t on the Council for the vote on domestic partner benefits, he’s been there for the LGBT and other minority communities when the chips were down. Thus, I, along with the O&AN Editorial Board, encourage our readers and community to come out and vote for Jim Shulman for the next Vice Mayor of Nashville.
Photo by Clint Confehr via The Tennessee Tribune