TLDR: The State of the State... and Local

February 7, 2023

We're trying something new here. Because my original Council newsletter audience and our new subscribers to our mayoral email list both have a lot of interest, we're going to try calling my in-depth Council newsletters "TLDR" (for "too long; didn't read"). They're full of longer analysis. Some of the mayoral newsletters are, too, but this should help you sort them however you're reading your email these days.

So we hope you'll stay subscribed to both and just choose the ones you want to read.

Now, back to the program ...

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

You might have heard Gov. Lee's State of the State address last night.

There were some important investments highlighted.

But what struck me is how—despite multiple mentions of Memphis and even their bright future—there was almost no mention of Nashville and how our economic success is literally driving so much of the investment the state is preparing to make serving Tennesseans in all 95 counties.

Meanwhile, if you head over to the Cordell Hull Building, all you'll find is bills filed targeting Nashville.

  • HB48 proposes to forcibly cut in half the size of our Metro Council. While I'm happy to have a conversation about what the best size is for our local legislature—a power we already possess under the Metro Charter—the state doing this after we've just completed a lengthy redistricting process will introduce unbelievable chaos into our local governance, for everything from elections to the land use decisions that must get made before and after another series of ridiculous electoral uncertainty.
  • SB648 would effectively defund our convention center substantially. As one person very familiar with the financing described it to me, it would "put us out of business." Another acknowledged the immediate burden it would put on our property taxes. This is a legislative act of fiscal war. While it might be a stunt produced out of anger over the Republican National Convention—a decision that was not Metro's to make, fundamentally—the signal it sends is incredibly dangerous for predictable municipal finance.
  • HB1372 would rename a portion of Rep. John Lewis Way after Trump. Yes, a civil rights leader with direct connections to Nashville would be erased despite a previous effort already renamed a street by the Metro Office Building to Ronald Reagan Way. We've already experienced spite. This is just gross.
  • HB1176 and HB1197 represent an unprecedented state takeover of local authorities, whose bonds are backed by Nashvillians.

I'll say it this way: last time I checked, Nashvillians were Tennesseans, too.

A few thoughts, here:

  • The business environment in Nashville is booming. We continue to grow and attract great companies.
  • That business success is providing the state with great revenue.
  • Economic and political destabilization are bad not just for governance but for business.

Rather than try to control our ability to govern ourselves, maybe our peers in the General Assembly should recognize that we're producing tremendous opportunities for them.

They can say whatever they want on the TV stations and in the newspapers back home, but the more control they exert over the economic engine of the entire state, the more I think it's going to backfire.

We don't try to export either our policies or our values to Perry County or Robertson County or anywhere else. And yet we produce tremendous economic opportunity to all Tennesseans.

We need to find a pathway to de-escalation, to partnership, and to collegiality that lets the Tennesseans that live within the boundaries of Davidson County pursue life, liberty, and happiness on our own terms.

There's plenty of room across our grand divisions for differences in beliefs and values. But I hope state and local stakeholders can now find within ourselves an opportunity for a grand reunification of sorts as far as Nashville is concerned and the extraordinary economic power we offer to the state. It doesn't happen by accident.

What's Happening in Council

  • Elections and Confirmations
  • We have two seats to fill on the community oversight board (also under threat by the state). My general principle is to reappoint qualified members to boards they continue to be interested in serving on. To that end, I'm inclined to vote to re-elect both Shawn Whitsell and Mark Wynn.
  • Public Hearing
  • CM Syracuse has introduced a new tool that appears to offer a form of protection for neighborhood character, holding houses within a new overlay to two stories. [BL2022-1509]
  • Similarly, CM Benedict is looking to put an end to electric meters on detached walls by the sidewalk, a relatively recent trend that is starting to unnecessarily detract from our infill streetscapes. [BL2022-1581]
  • I support CM Sledge using some remaining ARP funds to offer an e-bike rebate, but I'm also pursuing getting our HBCUs stood up on WeGo Ride, and I intend to take this proposal through the committee, as I believe CM Sledge intends to do with this proposal. [RS2023-1951]
  • The mayor has proposed a new Capital Spending Plan. Transit investment didn't even merit a mention in the public commentary. Expect an amendment from me. [RS2023-1978]
  • I'm excited about the next phase of Kossie Gardner, Sr. Park. [RS2023-1984]
  • We're still discussing film & television and entertainment. Given the work that's been done, I'm going to have to pay careful attention to the floor discussion and any amendments or substitutes. I understand the rationale of both, and I've heard from stakeholders supporting each. [BL2022-1630, BL2022-1631]
  • I'm excited to have the possibility of updating "LifeWay Plaza" to "Josephine Hollway Avenue." [BL2023-1649]
  • The discussion of overcrowding, related/unrelated, and number of residents continues. This bill will be deferred. [BL2022-1471]

What's Coming

What I've Been Up To

  • I'm continuing to work with multiple Metro departments to get a better understanding of capacity and process issues with regard to developments in progress across District 19.
  • I attending Historic Germantown's annual meeting. This wonderful historic neighborhood is so intentional about their growth, development, character, and history. It's been great to visit with them so often through the years.
  • I attended the Nashville Downtown Partnership's annual open house.
  • I attended the Civic Design Center's annual celebration.

What I'm Hearing

  • People are frustrated about even parking prices downtown.
  • People were very surprised by Mayor Cooper's decision not to seek re-election. Correspondingly, people have been very excited about our campaign, which received a surge in new financial support. If you'd like to join our great and growing donor community, please do!

What You Can Do

This is an incredibly important time for our city. Thank you so much for joining the conversation and being part of it with me.

My best ...


Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19

Mayoral Candidate, 2023


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