City Leaders and the City Freedom Index


October 21, 2020 1:06PM

*While Beacon does not and cannot endorse candidates at any level, it’s important for voters to be informed of the policies their potential leaders are promoting.

With Election Day inching closer and closer, Tennesseans are being inundated with emails, phone calls, and direct mail from candidates asking for their vote. While the federal elections are getting most of the media attention, Tennesseans should keep an eye on those candidates looking to represent them at a local and state level. As the old saying goes, “all politics is local.”

For nearly 10 years, Mount Juliet residents have elected Ed Hagerty to be the mayor of the City Between the Lakes. But as Mayor Hagerty chose not to run for re-election this year, there are a couple of candidates looking to replace him as the city’s top executive. The Lebanon Democrat, a local newspaper covering Mount Juliet, recently asked the candidates a few questions including what they believe the Mount Juliet government does well. One of the candidates responded by referencing the City Freedom Index (CFI), a report released by the Beacon Center earlier this year. Mount Juliet is the “most efficient government in terms of cost in the state,” the candidate said. And that’s true. In the first-ever City Freedom Index, Mount Juliet earned the top spot in the “cost of government” category among Tennessee’s 30th largest cities.

In a separate interview, an incumbent running for his seat on the Mount Juliet Board of Commissioners responded to the same question with, “We have been named as one of the most business friendly cities in our state. That wasn’t by accident. The Beacon Center has recognized our city as one of the most efficiently run cities in our state.” Another incumbent responded with, “We are the No. 1 most efficiently run government in Tennessee, recognized by Beacon Center of Tennessee.

City officials deserve praise and should be proud when they are good stewards of taxpayer money, and the elected officials of Mount Juliet have managed their budget well. Yet the purpose of the City Freedom Index was not just for city leaders to see where they are doing well and use those areas as talking points, but also to see where their city can improve. As stated in a Beacon blog post from July announcing the release of the CFI, “Our hope and belief is that the City Freedom Index will serve as a resource not just for citizens within the state and those looking to move here, but also for local elected officials to tout what their city is doing well, and recognize opportunities for positive reform.” Mount Juliet leaders have reason to tout their city’s well-earned position, but they also have room for improvement, most notably regarding private property rights. Yet the leaders of Mount Juliet have done the best job in the state for handling public funds and it is something they should be proud of.

Beacon’s City Freedom Index was created to shine a light on the various policies of Tennesee’s cities and to provide information to citizens and policy makers on how to make their city more free and prosperous. With candidates making statements regarding their ranking on the CFI, we are glad to see our research as a point of pride for city officials. The CFI was created to provide citizens and local lawmakers with the knowledge of how to enact change in their local communities. As Thomas Jefferson said, “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” The Beacon Center’s hope is that citizens and policymakers will continue to reference and utilize the City Freedom Index to enact positive change. Then, hopefully, we’ll have more cities to praise where policies have made their city more prosperous and free.