Beacon Center ranks Morristown highly on its Freedom Index

David Rutherford, with the Sons of the Revolution, stands in period costume with the Liberty Bell replica at the Morristown CIty Center.

When it comes to freedom, Morristown is at the top of the heap in East Tennessee, according to a non-profit organization that provides data on free-market values for public policy.

The Beacon Center, located in Nashville, unveiled its first ever City Freedom Index Wednesday morning and Morristown placed fourth out of 30 cities in Tennessee for the most freedom based on a metric of 70 different criteria none of which were related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“After nearly a year of research, we are beyond excited to release our first-ever City Freedom Index,” said Ron Shultis, the author of the report. “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘A well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.’ We believe that by shining a light on the various policies of Tennessee’s cities, citizens and policymakers will finally have the knowledge needed to vote with their feet, or better yet, enact real change and make their own city more prosperous and free.”

The top three cities are in Middle Tennessee – La Vergne topped the list followed by Brentwood and Hendersonville.

In East Tennessee, the largest metropolitan cities, Chattanooga and Knoxville, were ranked 23rd and 28th.

In northeast Tennessee, Bristol ranked 21st, Kingsport was 22nd and Johnson City ranked 24th.

The center said they looked at 25 different metrics with four different categories.

According to the center, Morristown ranked fifth for free enterprise, third for private property, 8th for individual liberty and 16th for cost of government.

“Holding the highest ranking in East Tennessee, Morristown excels at respecting free enterprise and private property,” the report states. “Low-cost building permits, limited regulations on animals, and one of the few cities with no restrictions on the number of alcohol businesses all helped push Morristown to the fourth freest city in Tennessee. The only metric holding Morristown back from an even higher ranking is the high level of debt per capita on the city’s books.”

Beacon Center officials said that many cities across the state have restrictions on the number of alcohol permits that are available, while Morristown does not. There are also many cities with restrictions on animals, such as number of pets or whether residents would be allowed to have chickens.

“I think it speaks well of our city administration and staff and how we conduct policies,” said Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney.

Chesney said the city loves to compete against other cities and think they can do well.

“We work hard at trying to make Morristown the city, which other cities wish they were,” he said.