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Consider an empty bus

Consider an empty bus

🎙️ Recapping yesterday's State of Metro · Beshear comes to town · Crime don't pay · A quote from the past · Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

Wow. How bout that storm yesterday? That's all I have to say about the weather. Good newsletter this morning. Get after it.

Onward.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you to a special meeting of the Metro Council,” said Vice Mayor Angie Henderson as she opened the 61st annual State of Metro Address. “[It] is not our usual meeting place, but this big purple bus would not fit inside our council chamber at the historic courthouse in City Hall.” Indeed, an empty WeGo bus was hauled into one of the Fairgrounds’ expo centers to serve as a fitting backdrop depicting Nashville under Mayor O'Connell's leadership. 

The presentation of the colors by Metro Nashville Police and Fire Joint Color Guard, a Christian prayer by Reverend Sondrea Tolbert, a spoken word by Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Jadyn Marshall, and a performance of “The Pink Panther Theme” by the John Overton Commercial Music Ensemble set the tone for the mayor’s first State of Metro Address.

After reminding the crowd that, for the first time, the event would be translated in sign language, Spanish, and Arabic, Mayor O’Connell began his speech. “Today we'll be talking about a lot of numbers, and they matter,” he said. “But I know it matters more when we pave the pothole you encounter every day than that we've filled twenty thousand potholes this year alone.” Known for his technical delivery, O’Connell prioritized the meat-and-potatoes topics of public concern instead of leaning into his typical heady recitations.

After indulging in a few personal anecdotes, his $3.1 billion transit plan took front and center. Priming the audience, he brought up the friendly topic of sidewalks first. “Eighty-six miles of sidewalk improvements. When combined with annual capital spending, this will let us complete the entire Walk Bike Nashville priority sidewalk network.” He continued by laying out the rest of his ambitious, 24/7/365 public transit plan before ending his spiel by outlining the benefits of another less divisive component of his robust vision: traffic signals. “And the thing that might help us all the most: upgrades to almost six hundred traffic signals – two of every three traffic lights in Nashville – to make sure we all hit fewer red lights after Nashville SC games or in our daily commutes,” he told the audience.

He then announced that the Choose How You Move transit program got the official green light from the state, following the completion of an independent audit. Now, the only things standing between O’Connell’s transit referendum and its appearance on November’s ballot are twenty-seven votes from the Metro City Council.

That being said, Freddie didn’t shy away from adding a little flare to his first State of Metro speech. After commending Chief Development Officer Bob Mendes for negotiating the East Bank development agreement, citing that “Forty-five percent of the homes in the first phase of development — 695 out of 1,550 — will be affordable,” O’Connell added: “We did all this while we suffered conspiracy theorists reopening the wounds of the Covenant School shooting, while we grieved with Chief Drake over the loss of his only son under extremely trying circumstances, while we weathered deadly and devastating tornadoes, while we endured winter weather that only comes along once every quarter century, while we responded to plane crashes and disappearances.”

The mayor concluded by highlighting both the strides MNPD has made, and the recognition MNPS received for its reading and math improvements, before reminding the audience of the financial resources available to them through the government: the property tax freeze and relief program, the Financial Empowerment Center, the TVA's Home Uplift program, TennCare reenrollment, and free eviction counsel through the Legal Aid Society.

Eventually, O’Connell left the podium and the address concluded with two closing prayers: one from Islamic Center of Nashville President Rashed Fakhruddin, the other from Rabbi Laurie Rice. “Rashed and I agree on so many things, and yet we also do not always see eye to eye. At times our friendship has, and will continue to be tested,” said Rabbi Rice. “Our mayor does not require that we feel the same or agree on all matters, but our mayor does ask that as Nashvillians we care for one another despite our differences and disagreements.” MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

You can watch the full State of Metro Address here.



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Nashville

📣 Who Invited You? Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is planning a little trip to the Volunteer State. While Tennesseans have never been known to turn away a fun-loving tourist, Beshear is stopping by next month to speak out against our state abortion policies. On June 21st, the Democratic governor will be hosted by the Tennessee Freedom Circle to speak at an event called Championing Reproductive Freedom.

Accompanying Beshear will be Hadley Duvall, whose personal story became the center of an ad circulated by the governor during his reelection campaign in 2023. The pair will be participating in an evening of dialogue, advocating for exemptions in cases involving victims of rape and incest—a topic that has continued to weigh on Tennessee legislators. In fact, we’ve seen quite a few bills filed over the last couple years.

Since the Dobbs ruling, Tennessee has banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions, placing the onus on the doctor and their medical judgment. Despite being a heavily pro-life state, the abortion conversation has remained volatile. Recently, the gavel came down on ten pro-life activists who blocked the entrance of a Mt. Juliet abortion clinic back in 2021. Six of the protesters were found guilty by a federal jury in Nashville this January and may face up to ten years in federal prison. Four others were convicted last month and sentenced to six months in jail, five years on supervised release, and fined up to ten thousand dollars. The convictions are a victory for the Biden Administration’s DOJ, made possible by the FACE Act of 1994. MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

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📝 GA tested, Lee Approved Speaking of governors, last week Bill Lee added his signature to a law allowing for the death penalty as punishment in child rape cases. During final discussions on the bill, House sponsor Leader Lamberth (R-Portland) read a number of letters he had received from victims across the state thanking him for bringing the legislation forward. 

Lee is also set to sign a bill easing fourth-grade retention, which holds back students who don’t meet certain TCAP test standards. Under the current provisions, about 6,000 fourth graders would be held back this year. The new changes would allow for certain students to move forward, with the requirement that they receive special tutoring. “We want every kid to find the path forward to success,” the governor told WJLN. “One of the worst things that we can do for a child is to push them into the fourth and fifth grade if they can’t read. It almost ensures their failure.” MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

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🚨 Crime Don’t Pay Like It Used To Another topic that received airtime during last night’s State of Metro was that homicides in Nashville are down 25 percent compared to this time last year. It’s a nationwide trend, but O’Connell was quick to associate that number with his administration’s work. “We’ve revised our overall approach to public safety, adding community-based safety programs and refining traditional policing programs, and it’s working,” O’Connell said of the decline. What’s really occurred is that homicides have returned to their “pre-pandemic” levels.

The cause of declining homicides across the nation is less clear. What we do know is that the Summer of Floyd brought about a nationwide increase in homicides exacerbated by favorable treatment of that summer’s riots by media and politicians alike. The racial justice rhetoric of the time and the retreat of police from more active patrolling emboldened people, leading to an increase in lawless activity across the board.

Nonetheless, in an article on O’Connell’s comment about declining homicides for the Nashville Banner, Steven Hale is completely incurious about what caused the spike between 2020 and 2023, preferring to quote experts who assure readers that “the police do not prevent crime.” Celebration of this decline is similar to Joe Biden’s rhetoric about creating more jobs than any of his predecessors. DAVIS HUNT

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🗣️ A Quote Out of the Past Nashville singer-songwriter Maren Morris, who “left” country music because of its alleged refusal to grapple with its history of racism and misogyny, had some choice words for Marsha Blackburn on the steps of the Library of Congress back in March. “I mean I can only speak for myself, but we live in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marsha Blackburn f*cking sucks,” Morris said amidst a group celebrating Elton John’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. This happened two months ago, but for some reason, The Tennessee Journal published it on Monday as if it happened recently before presenting an update on Gloria Johnson’s doomed campaign effort.

Morris was part of a group of 30 Tennessee songwriters who joined together to release a song touting the bonafides of progressive candidates such as Johnson titled “Tennessee Rise”. What’s ironic about this whole spat is that Blackburn has been among the most vocal and effective political advocates for musicians and songwriters in the country. Morris doesn’t have the temperament for politics, but it’s all she seems interested in talking about. I always take that as a sign that an artist doesn’t feel good about the music they’re producing. DAVIS HUNT

DEVELOPMENT

Proposed Development Pivots From Multifamily To Hotel-Use In Downtown Nashville (More Info)
  • Chicago firm pays $25.9M for Antioch industrial site (NBJ)
  • Chicago industrial giant buys in Southeast Davidson County (Post)
  • Downtown skyscraper, Fifth Third Center, listed for sale (Post)
Entertainment

THINGS TO DO

View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and yearly festival guide.

TONIGHT

🎸 Dead Poet Society @ The Basement East, 8p, $25, Info

🥁 Analog Jazz with Sofia Goodman @ Analog at Hutton Hotel, 7p, $15+, Info

🎸 Architects @ Marathon Music Works, 6p, $25+, Info
+ metalcore

🪕 Bluegrass Night @ The American Legion Post 82, 7p, Free, Info