A new study that examines city regulations and policies statewide has ranked Cookeville as the sixth most “free” city in which to live.
The Beacon Center for Tennessee Freedom Index ranks the 30 most populous cities by freedom. The research looked at free enterprise, private property, individual liberty and cost of government. Director of Policy and Research Ron Shultis said Cookeville has chosen to give its citizens the ability to make decisions.
“Cookeville chose in a lot of opportunities to not regulate, and that is a great thing,” Shultis said. “Cookeville should be commended for doing so, where a lot of cities choose to stick its nose in every part of people’s lives, and Cookeville, in many cases, did not.”
This is the first year for the Freedom Index. The Beacon Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides public policy research to help solve issues statewide. Shultis said that goal led the center to examine how local governments govern.
“One of the things we started to think about was there is no tool or resource available in Tennessee for people to know what are the regulations, rules, taxes and permits at the local level< Shultis said. “So, we are trying to change that by undertaking the first ever city Freedom Index.”
Cookeville’s highest rankings came in the individual liberty category. According to the index, Cookeville has the fifth highest individual liberty out of the 30 cities. That covers items such as regulations over large group gatherings, accessibility of code information, and gun regulations.
The city also did well in keeping the cost of government low.
“Cookeville is a great example of a city doing a lot of things well,” Shultis said. “A great example is some cities have a city sales tax. Cookeville does not. Some cities use tax payers dollars to turn around and lobby at the state level often times for things the citizens do not want. It (Cookeville) does not.”
The city ranked 15th in free enterprise, its lowest ranking. The report ranked Cookeville poorly for its transient/solicitor business license fee. Cookeville received low marks for its short term rental policies as well as its regulation of yard sales.
The Index ranked La Vergne first among Tennessee’s 30 most populous communities, followed by Brentwood, Hendersonville, Morristown and Clarksville. Nashville ranked as the city with the “least freedom” followed by Collierville and Knoxville.