Acclamation and Accountability

October 4, 2022

We have a Metro Council meeting tonight. You can review proposed amendments and analysis of the agenda. There is a public hearing.

Tonight, I hope we'll do something extraordinary: invest $50m in our response to homelessness.

As someone who has spent so much of my time on Council invested in building trust, developing policy, strengthening systems, and trying to secure funding for homelessness I can say: this is a huge moment for the city.

And the people who need this huge moment most of all are our unhoused neighbors.

Actually, they've needed it all along.

We didn't see this proposed investment from our CARES Act funding (when I pushed repeatedly for a plan to help our most vulnerable residents). We didn't see this proposed investment from our first round of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding. We didn't see this proposed investment from our billion dollars of local capital last year. And the last time we saw investment like this, the mayor personally delayed using it. These are the accountability moments.

But we see it now. This is the acclamation moment.

I want to celebrate with my friends in the provider and advocacy spaces and especially my friends with lived experience.

But I still want to ensure accountability.

One of the best things about this investment is that it has prompted an important conversation about how to create permanent supportive housing (PSH). This is a key housing type recommend by Dr. Beth Shinn, a local expert who literally wrote the book on what to do about homelessness.

As filed, the proposal to commit $25m to PSH had two exhibits that were pretty thin overviews of a gap financing model, which we've never really used here, especially not for the purposes of producing PSH units. CM Johnston led an effort to put some guardrails on the model, which I contributed to and strongly support. Especially important is development of a full and final policy that is codified more fully than in a Q&A document provided to Council.

I still have some concerns that relying on the for-profit sector to produce housing for a population that has traditionally been the hardest to house will mean misaligned incentives for success.

But after an important conversation about whether we ought not split the allocation and give the Barnes Fund $15m to reach $30m for this fiscal year as recommended by the mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force, I think we'll achieve a both/and: we'll run an experiment that has a reallocation trigger in it, and I expect we can secure $15m more for Barnes—a proven tool—in an upcoming ARP allocation for affordable housing.

Ultimately, all of my questioning and criticism are intended to ensure that we're delivering the best possible use of funds that will have the best possible outcomes for people who need them.

And we know who that is.

What's Happening

  • Public Hearing
  • I'm excited to be pushing forward with C-PACER, another tool for green building.
  • I think the proposed rezoning of RiverChase is on rocky ground at best after a troubled conversation about establishing a community benefits agreement. I'll be interested in the public comments and CM Parker's remarks. I'm not spending a lot of room left for what seemed like a win-win initially. [BL2022-1140]
  • I've heard some concerns about a bill pertaining to accessory structures and building height and want to hear about the second substitute. [BL2022-1346]
  • I'm interested in why the Planning Commission deferred a bill on lot averaging indefinitely. [BL2022-1347]
  • We've had some controversy about a proposal for tall buildings at 2nd & Peabody, but we'll have to defer the bill tonight. [BL2022-1446]
  • I've heard from a lot of people in CM Hall's district opposed to a rezoning request. [BL2022-1366]
  • See above for some commentary on a proposal to spend $25m on gap financing to enable for-profit developers to include PSH in projects. If we can get CM Johnston's substitute on (and a commitment for a follow-up allocation to the Barnes Fund), I'm inclined to support this. [RS2022-1696]
  • I think $9m for housing first supportive services will be important to building long-term capacity for delivering more PSH. [RS2022-1697]
  • There's always some tension between whether investing in temporary measures is worthwhile when we could be building more long-term actual housing, but I don't object to this in the overall proposal. [RS2022-1698]
  • I still think our low barrier model should move external to Metro, but I don't object to expanding the model. [RS2022-1699]
  • After the sudden collapse of Roe this summer, I believe it's more important than ever for local governments in states that moved to forced birth with no exception to support strong family planning models. Because of increasing legal risks, we can't fund navigation, but I encourage anyone needing access to abortion services to use Abortion Finder. [RS2022-1734]
  • Our mobile housing navigation process has worked well for helping people find housing, but I do want to make sure we're being appropriately inclusive. [RS2022-1787]
  • We'll continue discussing an expanded smoking prohibition, as I seek to exempt THC-based vapor bars from the broad prohibition. [BL2022-1383]
  • I believe CM Benedict is comfortable with expanded family planning in the resolution referenced above and will defer her bill indefinitely if it passes. [BL2022-1411]
  • As an inaugural member of Mayor Dean's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, I was very disheartened that Mayor Cooper chose to dismantle it. We only became a Bicycle Friendly Community at any level because of our BPAC. We need to bring it back. [BL2022-1449]
  • As someone who has been sued as a Council member in cases found to be without merit, I can understand a proposal to protect board and commission members. [BL2022-1450]

What's Coming

What I'm Hearing

  • I generally hear that residents are tired of our entertainment district and frustrated to deal with its effects while trying to work downtown or enjoy other amenities like the symphony.
  • I continue to hear that people want better transit, bike, and pedestrian options to soccer games at GEODIS Park.

What I've Been Up To

  • I visited the Edgehill Village Neighborhood Association meeting, which took place in person for the first time since COVID.
  • I went to the most recent Historic Germantown neighborhood meeting, where there was some interest in the proposal to reduce parking minimums in the urban zoning overlay.
  • I enjoyed visiting the symphony's neighborhood residency in Edgehill.
  • I was proud to sponsor the Victory Fund Nashville reception.

What You Can Do

  • Register to vote! You have one more week to get registered in order to vote in the November state and federal election.

Thanks for always be so attentive to my thinking and for the level of engagement you offer.

My best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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