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Sen. Oliver statement on East Bank Authority

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Sen. Charlane Oliver

Statement from Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, on Senate Bill 2968, creating the East Bank Development Authority:

Earlier this year I was approached by a Democratic colleague who asked me to co-sponsor legislation creating a governmental authority to manage projects and infrastructure development on Nashville‘s East Bank. While I opposed tax subsidies going toward the Nissan stadium effort, the entire East Bank project is located in my district. I viewed my support of the East Bank legislation as an opportunity to make sure my district received the best deal possible for the working families and small businesses of Nashville’s only majority-Black Senate District.

To my surprise, it soon became clear that the policies and language of the bill were set and the strategy for passage had been decided—without my involvement or perspective. This is the first instance on this legislation where I recognized the voices and priorities of constituents in my district were disregarded.

Despite this oversight, I requested to be the lead sponsor as I believed the optics looked bad if I didn’t carry the legislation that significantly impacts my district. As a freshman senator who is still establishing myself as a respected leader and as a team player, while rejecting a culture that abuses power, I continued moving forward with the bill.

The legislation first appeared on the Senate floor on March 11 as part of a local bill consent calendar that is designed to get unanimous support. But instead of gaining full Senate approval, as is the norm for local private acts, a Republican colleague on March 18 sent the bill back to finance committee for undisclosed reasons.

In the meantime, I have heard various rumors about the controlling party’s intent: that Republicans want to tie the East Bank legislation to approval of a deal to rebuild a racetrack at the Nashville fairgrounds; or that Republicans want more seats on the Authority with voting power; another rumor suggested Republican leadership is blocking the East Bank bill as retribution for words I used to describe the frustration I felt for my district after being silenced on an extreme GOP bill overturning local police reforms passed in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols.

In an attempt to address rumors of retribution, I opted to meet with the Speaker of the Senate on March 27 to resolve any issues diplomatically.

The undisclosed resistance is the second instance with this bill where my constituents were being disrespected.

It’s a pattern older than the state itself: Black voices get sidelined on major economic decisions and the benefits of those deals trickle up to the wealthy or out-of-state—not down to our families.

Whether it’s political exclusion or hurt feelings or both, I don’t know what the truth is, but I know my integrity is not worth these political theatrics and power plays—especially for legislation that lacks input from the residents I represent in the Senate.

After consulting trusted constituents, I am withdrawing my sponsorship of the East Bank legislation. I still want the East Bank legislation to succeed and I hope the people of Nashville are the primary beneficiaries, but I won’t be dragged into political sport.

Every day in the Tennessee legislature is a learning experience. Today, I’m moving forward with lessons learned and a clear vision for future success.

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