15 Fixes on Day One
Frequent Transit Network
Better transit options will make Nashville more affordable. On day one as Mayor, I will immediately take steps toward building a Frequent Transit Network—one that brings transit closer to communities, extends hours and frequencies, and introduces more technology. This program will accelerate the SoBro community transit center, easing pressure on downtown, as well as finalize site selection and design for an East and Southeast community transit center. We will also intentionally work on increasing participation in the WeGo Ride program, an employer-sponsored commuter program, especially among businesses receiving incentives. When you reduce a family's transportation costs, you allow them to invest more in their future – and when you reduce transportation time, folks can invest more in their family and community. We don’t need more studies; we need action.
Office of Housing
I will create a dedicated, standalone department to tackle housing with a leader that will oversee the connections needed to other departments, such as Planning, as well as the production and implementation of related projects and policies. This office will work closely with data from the new Office of Homeless Services that I worked to create as a Councilmember to ensure that our housing strategies are inclusive of all incomes and abilities—and with our transportation planners—because housing affordability and transportation go hand-in-hand.
Working Families, Successful Students
We are way overdue as a city and a school district in taking necessary steps to ensure that working families can meaningfully choose Metro Schools. From guaranteed after-care seats—especially in elementary schools—to later high school start times, we will start making budget and logistical choices as well as pursuing partnerships that will improve student performance and reduce household stress. We’ll reinvest in both early childhood literacy and youth opportunity.
Community Safety Plan
The safest cities are not the ones with the most prisons, police, or guns or the harshest policies—they are the ones with the most hope, the best schools, and the most equitable economic opportunities. We need to create a public safety plan that doesn’t make us choose between safety and justice, and should bring together the community, law enforcement, the district attorney, the public defender, and the judiciary to build a roadmap to making Nashville as safe as it possibly can be. A huge part of this plan will be ensuring that we also have enforcement mechanisms in place to retain quality of life, including 24/7/365 enforcement. We need to engage other departments so that our police don’t have to respond to noise complaints, party bus violations, parking violations, and other things that aren’t criminal activity. And, we should continue the kinds of partnerships that work, like our police and housing authority partnership that brings police out of cars and into communities, as well as our partnership funding model that funds organizations already on the ground in the community to create opportunities for multiple generations.
Neighborhoods and New Nashvillians
I expect to strengthen the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods as well as the Office of New Americans and ensure that we bring neighbors into the mayor’s office regularly. I know how important it is for community leaders to have regular access to Metro leadership and for the mayor’s office to lean in to solving complicated problems of coordination across multiple departments, and will continue the MyCity Academy program to help further that knowledge. Organized neighborhoods provide accountability. Integrated neighborhoods and services, through things like translated transit maps or water bills, make our diversity our strength.
It’s time for every Metro department to be on the same page with regard to interactions with the public. When you submit a hubNashville request, you should know what is going to happen. We will establish new standards within Metro for notifications, response, and conduct as we seek to make our local government the premier customer service organization in the city.
Metro is at our best when we anticipate problems or demonstrate our awareness of community by solving problems before someone else reports them. Very often, we know the neglected parts of our community—the sites where illegal dumping occurs, where street lights are out, where there are unsafe road conditions. We should be there first. We should also know our community—its leaders and people, and we conduct regular outreach.
Taking Plans to Reality
With the exception of a community safety plan, we have all the plans we need to make progress – it’s time to act and implement projects rather than constantly producing plans that sit on shelves. Let’s dust them off and go to work. I’m going to take all the plans that exist, lay them out on a table for our transition team, and for our executive leadership team, make sure our neighborhood leaders and other stakeholders review them, and then we’re getting right to work.
No resident should be left with questions on how to communicate with Metro, participate in public hearings, or what city plans and policies mean for their daily lives. Not only will there be a website with dashboards; there can also be a manual, so the government and the general public both have clear expectations about things like public notice and engagement for public meetings. If only two people show up to a “community meeting” right now, we just accept it. Metro shouldn’t. We should reinvest in outreach. And we should be incredibly transparent about how our plans are working on behalf of our residents.
Liquid Water, Solid Waste
Catching many by surprise, the formation of the Nashville Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure resulted in the moving of solid waste services to the Metro Water Services department, which is otherwise a ratepayer-funded entity. Over the long term, this is not ideal. We should very likely create a separate, standalone department to manage our solid waste.
One Time Money for Special Projects
During this term, we have processed huge amounts of federal funding through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act. Frustratingly, we didn’t do transformative work on transit or related infrastructure or housing. Part of this is because we didn’t develop clear goals for what to do with these resources. We need to do two things quickly: be prepared to be shovel-ready for both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act opportunities as well as be prepared for how to sustain post-COVID policies initially supported by one-time federal funds.
In 2015, Nashville adopted NashvilleNext, a 25-year general plan for the city. But many Nashvillians are still concerned about our growth patterns and how they relate to other policies like infrastructure delivery. I would encourage the Director of Planning to undertake a 10-year review and update of NashvilleNext so we can respond to our growth and strategically prepare for how it impacts our future.
Ditch Red Tape
Right now, Metro is one of the greatest obstacles to delivery of affordable housing because our permitting processes and infrastructure demands are understaffed and insufficiently transparent. We need a technological and policy overhaul to ensure that Barnes-funded projects and MDHA aren’t impeded by Metro’s own red tape. But more than that, the same people trying to create grocery stores and restaurants can’t get them open for the communities that asked for them because we don’t have meaningful coordination across departments or transparency for applicants. We will fix this.
I developed a renewable portfolio standard for Metro’s energy policy, so we have the capability of powering all Metro buildings by solar within three years. We’ll embark on this initiative on day one. In addition to leading on climate, this also helps us lead on energy security. When we produce more energy in Nashville, we’re less reliant on TVA during extreme weather events.
A Tech-Savvy Government
It’s time for us to have programmers in Metro. We need to not just buy commercial-off-the-shelf products; we need to build our own and make use of our own Open Data Portal (ODP). We need a data policy for Metro that supplies the ODP, and we need to make sure our government is keeping pace with the 21st century by helping build it. Connected Nashville was a good first step, but now we need to take the next steps.
One of the worst things I discovered in the aftermath of the tragic Covenant shooting was that Metro is generally unprepared to be a second responder, helping people navigate tragic events. We need to build our capacity to create and distribute resources for communities who are suffering. Law enforcement and emergency communications can’t and shouldn’t be the only people responding, especially once the crisis is over. We need smooth transitions to experts on mental health, grief, and trauma.