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Project Nashville: Corporate welfare vs. your safety

Photo: FOX 17 News{p}{/p}
Photo: FOX 17 News

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Government handouts to companies to lure them to relocate to Nashville can be called corporate welfare. With all of Nashville's growth, you'd think Music City would have plenty of money to adequately fund public safety. A FOX 17 News investigation uncovers an alarming pattern of what some call misplaced priorities in Project Nashville.

Tim Wolf is new to Music City, having moved in the fall of 2017. Janna Black has lived in Nashville all her life and jokes she's been told many times that she's like a unicorn.

Both Wolf and Black are in the same boat, living in newer developments, a distance from a fire station in a booming city that reportedly has no plans to build any more to keep up with all of this growth.

"With growth, there's got to be an increase in taxes," Black said.

You'd think so, but Nashville can't seem to find the money to even give firefighters and police officers a promised raise.

“This is all coming under the aspects of the biggest economic boom that the city has ever had," Ron Shultis, Policy Coordinator with Beacon Center of Tennessee said. "Yet, last year we're still broke enough that some leaders still tried to propose a $150 million dollar property tax increase.”

The think tank has been front and center in the fight against so-called corporate welfare.

Project Nashville found there are plenty of your tax dollars to give Hospital Corporation of America grants, loans, subsidies and more. The company brought in $46 billion dollars last year.

“You've got all these new jobs and new growth. How can a city not manage its budget to make sure that the fire department can treat a fire if one of these high rises, they've subsidized, catches on fire," Shultis added.

Project Nashville discovered there are plenty of your tax dollars to give Bridgestone Americas high dollar loans and incentives. They brought in $32 billion in 2017.

“These companies hold you hostage. You know Bridgestone said if we don't receive this money, we're going to move. We're going to uproot," Shultis said.

Project Nashville also found there are plenty of your tax dollars to give hand to Amazon too. They raked in $232 billion in 2018.

"Those 5,000 people that are coming from Amazon, they're going to have heart attacks and strokes and somebody's going to fall," Former Nashville Fire Chief and Metro Councilman Buck Dozier said. "It just says again more people, more calls."

Previous Project Nashville investigations have shown Nashville could be as many as 20 fires stations short already. Even Chattanooga has more fire stations, according to the most recent investigation.

"What is more important for a government? It's to protect its citizens. It's not to give handouts to move from one part of the state to downtown Nashville," Shultis said.

Just ask Deputy Chief Larry Walker, who retired 3rd command two years ago, early.

"They kept saying there's no money, there's no money," Walker said. "That's one of the reasons I retired. I said 'It's time for someone else to do the asking,' I got tired of it."

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Some call it funny math, but not funny if you need help.

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