Forced Birth Is Hitting Home

September 6, 2022

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

It didn't take long. After Tennessee became a forced birth state with no exceptions—for the life of the mother, for rape, for incest—I knew we would confront our own horror stories.

Before last week, I knew about tragic stories from Ohio, from Texas, but we now have our own indicator of how deeply transformed America and Tennessee within it is.

Going forward, everyone who becomes pregnant in Tennessee—including many who might not realize it when they first seek medical care—is at risk. Because their health providers are at risk of prosecution.

I'm a father of two daughters. I'm partner to their mother. And I'm a friend of a woman who confronted an ectopic pregnancy. And to many women who have had abortions. These are not easy moments. They do not create easy choices. But we used to have the right for them to be choices.

We don't ordinarily talk about abortion as a local issue. But elimination of a right that stood for my entire life has meant that we are now confronting a local public health crisis.

Which is why I helped form a coalition of women of color (on whom the burden of the impact of this terrible policy will predominantly fall), LGBT leadership, a woman with an abortion story, and another father of daughters to try to protect access to safe, legal abortion services, provide comprehensive sex education, and to provide safe sex supplies.

The story Quin shared could happen to any pregnant person now. I want to make that less likely and to ensure that anyone who is denied care locally can afford to seek it elsewhere.

What's Happening

  • I'm not ready to support CM Hurt's proposed rule change allowing an at-large member to parachute into a committee to provide quorum. Ideally, committees should be made up of members who can attend regularly. If they're not, then the vice mayor should address the issue directly. [Rule 6]
  • Public Hearing
  • CM Parker continues to try to steward a tough conversation about the future of RiverChase, where two community benefits agreements have been proposed, one by Stand Up Nashville and another one based on it by the Urban League. I don't think consensus has been reached, and I expect this to get deferred again tonight. I hope that the parties will press for an agreeable resolution after another deferral. It seems within reach. [BL2022-1140]
  • We have a Germantown proposal on public hearing that should result in greenway enhancements. As usual, we have worked on this extensively in the community. [BL2022-1339]
  • We don't have a recommendation yet from the Planning Commission on CM Murphy's proposed changes to building height and accessory structures, so I'm not sure if we're ready for a public hearing. [BL2022-1346]
  • CM Sledge has proposed an appropriation from the reserve fund, and I'll be interested to see how he and the administration proceed from here. I can sympathize a bit with his sensation of promises made but unkept. [RS2022-1590]
  • Because of an issue with the Charter and the approach we're taking with fund allocations, our abortion services package will need to be deferred till the first meeting in October to align with the quarter boundary. [RS2022-1734]
  • We're still discussing the most appropriate way for Metro to support our "entertainment" industry. [BL2022-1379]
  • I'm interested to hear the departmental response to proposed geographic equity for traffic calming projects. [BL2022-1384]
  • I support making our sidewalk café permits permanent. [BL2022-1405]

What's Coming

  • CM Murphy has been working on some further regulations to protect our tree canopy. These should supplement work CM Henderson and others have done to date. I'm inclined to be supportive, but I'll look forward to hearing more details. [BL2022-1409]
  • We have an extremely out-of-date wayfinding system downtown that relies on signs installed after a collaborative effort involving the now-defunct Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. I've been looking for ways to modernize it. I don't think we've addressed all concerns yet, but I think it's worth starting a conversation about a possible procurement process. We'll need considerable stakeholder engagement before this advances to 2nd reading, though. [BL2022-1410]
  • CM Benedict wants to ensure that the basics of family planning services are available to all Nashvillians, and I agree that this is a worthy goal. [BL2022-1411]
  • CM Sledge has proposed taking the elimination of required parking minimums that is already available in the Downtown Code and expanding it to the boundaries of the Urban Zoning Overlay. One thing this anticipates is a much better transit system and much safer infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. But as we have witnessed a surge in e-bike demand and other cities doing incredible things with transit and related infrastructure, I strongly believe it's time we joined their ranks. To be clear: this proposal does not eliminate parking; it merely says we don't require minimums. [BL2022-1412]
  • Perhaps sensitive to some of the concerns raised by CM Mendes during the budget, CM Allen has proposed a study and formulating committee to review incentives and tax abatements. [BL2022-1415]

What I'm Hearing

  • People love our new 3rd Ave N playground with an obstacle course and water feature.
  • There is still so much (justifiable) concern about speeding in neighborhoods and unsafe crossings among neighborhoods in District 19. We had another pedestrian struck crossing from Germantown to the Capitol Mall a few weeks ago.
  • I'm still hearing concerns about call times and concerns about the sheer amount of enforcement energy required to maintain the entertainment district downtown, particularly from law enforcement.
  • I'm still hearing concerns, too, about changes in behavior from itinerants and vagrants who are being unusually aggressive and too frequently committing actual crimes.

What I've Been Up To

  • I've been working with our beautification commissioner, NDOT, Water, and WeGo to address litter and collection of small, scattered site trash cans around District 19.

What You Can Do

  • Pledge to vote no on 1 and yes on 3 and make a plan to vote in November. Getting familiar with the issues and candidates now can help you have a reason to vote on Election Day.

A constituent recently told me, "We can't afford to lose you." This was gratifying to hear, and I have two thoughts: 1) I'm encouraged by the conversations emerging about people interested in running in the new District 19 after this term, and 2) I'm working hard every day to ensure that the work we've done in District 19 scales to a citywide conversation over the coming year!

Thank you for being a part of that and letting me be.

My best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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