April 1st marked the 53rd anniversary of what we know as our Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. That doesn't mean when Nashville was founded; we are hundreds of years away from that. What that means is, and what many people may not realize, our government was consolidated from 2 separately-operating governments to become one - city and county working together.
The 53rd anniversary is an odd one to celebrate, I acknowledge, but still worth celebrating considering when Nashville voters approved the charter for the new consolidated government in 1962, it made the city a pioneer in Metropolitan organization. They voted to create the first fully-unified government in the United States. Yes, there had been other cities to attempt the consolidation or achieved partial consolidation but, after this milestone in Nashville history - their new charter became a model for future consolidated governments.
Pretty cool, huh? Well I think it is, and it further exemplifies why I think Nashville is the greatest city in the United States. Hands down! Because we have many amazing citizens that understand that the best way to serve all is by cooperation.
A few other interesting facts about the consolidation:
- You know that parkway that almost surrounds the entire city with one name? Turns into White Bridge Road on the west side of town? If not, I'm referring to Briley Parkway. This parkway was named in honor of the first Mayor of the consolidated government, Beverly Briley. Briley was the County Judge prior to consolidation and was an advocate for the new government. He was in office from 1963 to 1975.
- The approved charter of 1962 was not the first attempt that Nashville made at consolidation. In 1958, the charter was rejected despite being supported by the current Mayor, Ben West, both newspapers in town (Tennessean and The Nashville Banner), and County Judge Beverly Briley. The issues plaguing both governments still existed in 1962. For rural areas of the county, a growing population left many without services. For the city, shrinking population meant fewer tax dollars. Annexation of land and implementing a wheel tax for cars traveling into the city were the next solutions. Many citizens of both areas did not like these options, and this is how another charter was proposed 4 years later.
- The second charter was championed by Briley with the Tennessean. Mayor Ben West and the Nashville Banner were in opposition of the 2nd consolidation, partly because they wanted to give annexation a chance to succeed. Several citizens that opposed the new government actually likened it to communism.
- Though several changes were made under this new government, a few communities were allowed to keep their charters. They were allowed to keep their existing police forces and zoning regulations but are still a part of the new Metropolitan government. You might recognize them: Berry Hill, Belle Meade, Oak Hill, Forest Hills, Goodlettsville, and Lakewood.
If you'd like to learn more about Metro's successful consolidation, come visit us on the 3rd floor of the Downtown Library, just up from the Public Technology department. We currently have an exhibit of documents and artifacts highlighting the entire consolidation process. You can also learn more about the history of Metro on Metro's website.