Happy (Local) Election Year!

January 3, 2023

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

Some days, it feels like yesterday. Other days, it feels like an eternity ago.

On January 12, 2015, I was joined by family (ours was one member smaller at that time), friends, and community members from across District 19 at the old Garden Brunch Café on Jefferson Street to launch my campaign to represent the district in Metro Council.

By August of 2015, our campaign had been successful, and I got to work. I knew we had to tackle poverty reduction, and I knew we had to give ourselves more and better options for moving around the city, including a transit system.

I leaned into efforts to mitigate homelessness, increase affordable housing, and reduce punitive fines and fees in a prelude to what became the work of the 37208 committee.

In 2018, I hosted a town hall to review the work of that first term.

One of the reasons I took the risk of leaving the Nashville MTA board of directors to seek election to Metro Council was I knew how important the quest to fund an improved transit system would be.

Frustratingly, 8 years later, too much of that work remains ahead of us. We have missed opportunity after opportunity to invest in transit, but not for my lack of trying.

Meanwhile, down the road in Memphis, they will likely succeed in implementing bus rapid transit before we do. Memphis should be proud, and we—as the largest economy, largest city, and state capital—should be embarrassed.

This August, the voters of a new, more urban District 19 will elect a new Council member to represent them.

I've spoken to several prospective candidates or people giving consideration to the idea. If you're interested, please let me know.

Council races across the city have fewer candidate announcements at this point than cycles past, and I can't help but wonder if some of that is people waiting to see what the state does.

Generally, I think it's important for candidates for the new District 19 to understand the principles of NashvilleNext, the importance of 37208, the strategic planning work of the homelessness planning council, our strategic plan for sidewalks and bikeways, the Downtown Code and Imagine East Bank Vision Plan (and its complicated relationship to the proposed $4b Titans stadium) and the critical role of Connect Downtown.

There are several other factors relevant to the success of District 19—including our many neighborhoods, our community assets, the police precincts staffed by the people who help keep us safe, the DISTRICT, the Nashville Downtown Partnership, redevelopment districts, our district energy system, and more.

The past 8 years have highlighted the fundamental tension between growth and preservation. I don't expect that tension to be reduced in District 19 in the years ahead.

But over the past 8 years, I've tried to put in place stronger tools to manage growth, better designed and safer infrastructure, and more opportunities for people to access prosperity, and I hope those are useful to whoever leads District 19 next.

Meanwhile, I think the experience of representing District 19, coupled with other civic and non-profit experience and alongside my private sector experience, uniquely qualifies me for my own next challenge—running for mayor .

2023 is an election year in Nashville. I know we've been asked to vote a lot over the past few years and sometimes on unexpected things. But this year, our citywide conversation will be focused exclusively on the election of a mayor, a vice mayor, and a Metro Council.

Election Day will be August 3rd. Please pay attention, ask good questions, and be ready to vote. Elections have consequences.

What's Happening

  • Public Hearing
  • We've had a rezoning request active on Elm Hill Pk for months, and the applicant is not returning notices to the Planning department, so I intend to defer indefinitely until the applicant starts responding again. [BL2022-1152]
  • We have another tree bill up. This will be deferred to wait for consideration by the Planning Commission before we have our public hearing. [BL2022-1409]
  • We might be revisiting the idea of overcrowding at public hearing tonight. [BL2022-1471]
  • We have a few more midtown projects in the pipeline. [BL2022-1596, BL2022-1600, BL2022-1604]
  • CM VanReece has proposed an Economic Impact Plan (which manifests as a form of tax increment financing) for an ambitious approach to Madison Stations. While I understand CM Mendes's concerns, I think this is a reasonable way to provide smart growth in areas where it makes the most sense. [RS2022-1902]
  • We still have what appear to me to be competing bills for film and entertainment governance and support. [BL2022-1630, BL2022-1631]
  • After our recent fiscal crisis, I'm relieved that we'll apply a good lesson—establishment of a fund balance policy. [BL2022-1632]
  • I'm excited to be advancing another green building tool. [BL2022-1633]
  • CM Sepulveda is likely to secure an important new power for Council to appoint to more boards and commissions. [BL2022-1528]
  • We are still having an intense discussion about how this administration, the current Homeless Impact Division, and Council resolve encampments. [BL2022-1533]

What's Coming

  • I've been tracking a sidewalk vending bill as it and related rules have been considered by the Traffic & Parking Commission over the past several months. It's finally arriving at Council. [BL2023-1647]
  • We have no need for LifeWay Plaza anymore, and I received a good suggestion to rename it in honor of Josephine Holloway, which had some good support from stakeholders. [BL2023-1649]

What I'm Hearing

  • I still routinely hear negative impressions of our entertainment district from locals and visitors alike.
  • I heard a number of concerns about the mayor's $4b stadium proposal over the holidays.

What I've Been Up To

  • Before the holidays, I began hearing about a crane that appeared to have some safety issues near the Marlowe in the Gulch. I worked with Rep. Beck's office to get some state regulatory supervision in addition to a stop work order issued locally while this gets resolved.
  • I enjoyed several holiday gatherings.

What You Can Do

  • Stick with those New Year's resolutions!

I've thoroughly enjoyed putting these newsletters together over the past several years and the dialogue they've fostered. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your interest.

I'm looking forward to the final few months of representing District 19, which has been an honor, a privilege, and often a joy.

Thank you, and my best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023





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