What Moves You

July 19, 2022

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

I've gotten to go to a handful of Nashville SC games this season. And here's what I can tell you: among almost 30,000 fans, a surprisingly large share of them would love to arrive at GEODIS Park using transit, by biking, or by walking.

And yet:

  • WeGo's 77 Thompson Wedgewood route—an amazing crosstown route that connects North Nashville to South Nashville—almost never runs during games.
  • We just resurfaced Wedgewood with zero accommodations for cyclists.
  • Sidewalks in the vicinity of the stadium weren't widened at all (and Craighead St has no sidewalks or bikeways).

Honestly? We had years to solve these problems. Before a single game of soccer was ever played. Part of what a well run city does is solve problems exactly like this.

And I'm here to tell you: as a district Council member, I sympathize fully with CM Sledge because he's been fighting for better. So many of these decisions and the priority they carry are established by executive function within Metro.

For my part, it's surprisingly difficult to try to ride my bike from my house to the stadium, and it's not considerably easier to try to take transit on game days. Which is a shame because I'd strongly prefer to.

District 19 and District 17 adjoin, and one of CM Sledge's most recent, important, and popular victories was finally delivering on the improvements to 12th Ave S, transforming it into a complete street, safer for pedestrians, transit users, cyclists and, yes, motorists. This project connects our two districts and serves people from the Gulch to 12South and beyond.

Now here's the thing: 12th Ave S is being transformed, and the full implementation is going to be complete in less that a year.

This is a powerful demonstration that we can deliver safer, more accessible infrastructure if we choose to.

Unfortunately, here in District 19 and elsewhere nearby:

  • Reconfiguring Demonbreun Hill—one of the most important cyclist commuter routes from East Nashville to the Vanderbilt area—remains stalled, with a recent pilot (the third effort at improvement in six years) put on ice.
  • The core bikeways are—once again—on indefinite hold.
  • Rosa L Parks Blvd—despite multiple design proposals—was not actually designed into the North Nashville bikeways project despite being included in the initial scope.
  • Across the river, the Woodland backbone bikeways are once again on hold.

And perhaps worst of all, the budget we approved—a $3b budget—actually cut $1m from transit despite high gas prices, high rent and housing prices, and inflation.

But there's some good news!

  • CM Sledge worked with Nashville SC to get a B-Cycle e-bike kiosk at the stadium. It's there. I've seen it with my own eyes. (Photo credit: Neil Kornutick) And I expect more kiosks to be installed in the vicinity, too, as a result of his efforts.
  • Sidewalks along Craighead should start this fall.
  • E-bike interest is surging. And there are so many people willing to help you through the decision making process. (Honestly, feel free to reply if you're interested, and I can probably connect you to some friendly advice.)
  • Nashville Public Library has added a B-Cycle pass. Yes, that's right: with a library card in good standing, you can ride e-bikes for free.

A few key points: Transit is popular. Sidewalks and bikeways are popular. And if you know where people want to be, we can design safe, accessible infrastructure that gets us there. When we do, I'll be one of the people who gladly gets out of the way of someone who prefers to sit by themselves in traffic ...

What's Happening

  • Appointments
  • Thanks to VM Shulman and CM Welsch, the mayor's office won't fulfill their plan to decimate the leadership of the Human Relations Commission; instead, three of the current officers will be reappointed at our next meeting. While I affirm the right of a mayor to select members of boards and commissions, I also think major changes need to be clearly communicated and collaborative to the extent possible. These weren't, and I'm glad Council intervened.
  • CM Suara has proposed a rule change that would require that five CMs rather than two be required to object to a suspension of the rules. Though recently we have seen CMs disrupt the plans of other CMs, I worry that this would make it harder for Council to stand up to a strong executive. As we head in to the meeting, I'm not yet convinced this is a net positive change. [Rule 54 Amendment]
  • Per above, CM Sledge is fighting for funding for more B-Cycle e-bike stations at the Edgehill library and the Fairgrounds. I heard some suggestion that these were not automatically funded because of Council amendments to the budget. And yet, they are much needed and I suspect will be heavily used. Historically, it's relatively rare for 4% fund requests to be made directly by CMs, but there's a remarkable lack of alignment right now, and I understand and support CM Sledge's effort. [RS2022-1590]
  • I appreciate CM Styles focusing on noise from cars, but I'm concerned that involving Codes legislatively won't have any meaningful impact on enforcement. I think we need a comprehensive review of our approach to enforcing quality of life degradation. [BL2022-1168]
  • Based on the still profound disagreements among some CMs who have worked long and hard on strengthening our organized approach to being both Music City but also a city with a vibrant creative class, I'm having a hard time concluding that legislation to establish an entertainment commission is fully baked. [BL2022-1250]
  • I still need to hear the floor discussion on new requirements for department heads before I wind up in support of it. [BL2022-1343]
  • I'm not sure what's different between CM Hall's previous effort to establish an impact fee and this one, but I still believe this is not legal in Nashville under state law. [BL2022-1344]

What's Coming

What I'm Hearing

  • I'm hearing very frustrated residents share concerns about hold times on the non-emergency number operated by the Emergency Communications Center. Multiple people have shared with me that they've hung up before connecting with dispatch. I've done this once myself, recently. I hope new budgeted positions will help address this, but I recently called in a crime in progress that was automatically de-escalated for dispatch because I was on hold for too long.
  • There are plenty of concerns about troubling behaviors among itinerants and people who are extremely intoxicated downtown—ranging from indecent exposure to fights. I continue to coordinate with Central Precinct and the Nashville Downtown Partnership about these issues.
  • People are exhausted. The number of fights and their intensity is increasing, and the victories don't seem to be keeping up.

What I've Been Up To

  • I've been working to try to help a tornado ravaged church rebuild, and I've been working to try to help a small church's community development corporation build affordable housing. Where there are interactions with Metro, there's still too much friction involved with both of these projects.

What You Can Do

Mayoral Update

  • In preparing our disclosure for the first reporting period of the campaign, I was excited by a few things:
  • We had an almost even split of small donors (<= $100) and large donors. It's great to see us resonating among people who are politically engaged no matter their ability to give.
  • We received contributions from every zip code in Nashville but two. We're way beyond the boundaries of District 19 in terms of support.
  • We're starting to pick up recurring donors. This is great because it helps small donors increase our capacity to be active all year. A {{round_currency(zero_if_null(HighestPreviousContributionAmount)*1,1,20.00,2500)}} monthly contribution is a big deal for us!

At the end of all this, I can tell you I interact daily with committed, talented, passionate people, and they give me hope. People want Nashville to be a better city for more people, and I'm inspired by the people who continue to work toward that goal together.

Thanks for helping me be one of them.

My best

Freddie O'Connell

Metro Council, District 19





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