TLDR: How Many State Legislators Does It

March 21, 2023

Welcome to TL;DR (for "too long; didn't read"), my newsletter about Metro Council that I've been writing for the past 7 years. We're grateful to all of our new readers who have joined us from my other project.

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

Unusually, we also have a special called Metro Council meeting tomorrow night. (You might be interested in proposed amendments for that meeting, too.) Why? Because the state legislature just passed a bill forcibly reducing the size of our Metro Council to no more than 20 members, effectively cutting it in half.

Now they just did this a couple of weeks ago with the intent of having it take effect by this August.

They gave Metro Planning 30 days to produce new maps (and left it up to us to determine how many at-large seats and how many district seats to allot among up to 20 seats). And we're supposed to approve those maps by May 1st.

Fortunately, Metro Legal is defending Nashville's interests here and has sued.

But for legislators who assert an interest in an "efficient council," they've done a surprisingly bad job at helping us govern effectively.

Right now, I literally can't tell you whether there will be a Metro Council election this August or how many Council seats might be available.

What could happen?

  • Metro Legal's suit could prevail. The law might be determined to be invalid. We keep all 40 seats and an August Council election and revisit the overall conversation in the future.
  • All 40 currently serving members might serve an extra year, and then we have an election for 20 Council members next year with a mayor's race and vice mayor's race still on the ballot this year.
  • We might have an election for 20 Council seats this August.

This is chaos for anyone planning to do business in Nashville over the coming year. It's chaos for candidates. And, most disappointingly of all, it's chaos for Nashville voters.

Meanwhile, as we speak, the legislature is also seeking to take over our airport and sports authorities, eliminate community oversight boards, remove local oversight for bars in the entertainment district, possibly eliminate 27-vote thresholds for some actions, and a bill to partially defund our convention center is still alive.

We need to join other communities across Tennessee and unite against state preemption.

What's Happening

  • CM Cash is advising Codes to update their landlord registration process to include acknowledgement of the number of unrelated tenants. This is an outcome of recent discussions about overcrowding. I think this is a good idea for landlord accountability. [RS2023-2032]
  • CM Allen is proposing to extend a tree funding bill based on permits. I support this. [RS2023-2063]
  • As a former citizens advisory committee member working to eliminate or mitigate combined sewer overflows into the Cumberland River, I'm surprisingly excited to see work advancing on separating some of our urban sewer system (different pipes for stormwater and wastewater so that raw sewage doesn't spill into the Cumberland during high rain events). [RS2023-2078]
  • I'm interested in the discussion of a bill related to the discharge of weapons. [BL2023-1740]
  • I talked to CM Allen about a bill requiring a dashboard on affordable housing. I've done a lot of data visualization in my day, and I don't think legislative definition of this will be sufficient for it to serve our long-term goals, but I do hope it prompts some visibility of the issue. [BL2023-1742]
  • We might finish our conversation about "overcrowding" tonight. [BL2022-1471]

What's Coming

  • Not much.

What I'm Hearing

  • I continue to hear from multiple project teams and organizations that interacting with Metro to complete projects—including affordable housing projects—is surprisingly difficult right now. I'm on the phone with multiple departments almost every week right now trying to figure out permit statuses and work on coordination.

What I've Been Up To

  • I was late to the Hope Gardens Neighborhood Association meeting but caught up with neighbors about issues of concern, including short-term rentals and infrastructure.
  • I attended a Transit Together session in Napier, which was full of commentary on the importance of transit and safe infrastructure.

What You Can Do

Mayor's Race

Thanks, and my best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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