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No. 504: Visions of a More Livable Nashville

No. 504: Visions of a More Livable Nashville

🗓 Today, Davis reviews a mayoral forum, Megan talks about another call to cancel the public safety special session, Geneva exhibits the unexplored offerings of UT Extension, and Jerod gives us his weekly movie rundown.

Good morning, everyone.

If you trawl the depths of the internet—Twitter and Reddit, mostly—where people voice their opinions about local politics, you’re bound to run into the transit clique. Mostly comprised of progressive, the transit people obsess over and advocate endlessly for new bus lanes, post articles about parking lots, analyze zoning laws, and use the words walkability and livability a lot.

There is probably something ancient within man that draws him to the questions that now sit under the heading of urbanism, though it's never been clear to me why the people obsessing over density and urban planning tend to have identically annoying politics in the modern world. These politics are best expressed by their general, collective disdain for the automobile.

This sentiment translated well to last night’s mayoral forum at Trevecca University. Put on by the Civic Design Center, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, Urban Housing Solutions, and Walk Bike Nashville, the discussion revolved around issues of livability.

Right out of the gate, candidates were asked, “When was the last time you utilized an alternative mode of transportation?” They then went down the line, showing their transit and/or walkability cred, capped off by Sharon Hurt’s quip that she drove a car without reverse for over a year. “Does that count?” she joked. Probably not, Sharon. These people are ruthless.

We’re car advocates here. I’m not afraid to admit that. We love our cars. One of my hobbies is taking them apart and putting them back together again. Cars afford a certain amount of freedom unattainable otherwise.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, Nashville is the second most car-reliant city in the United States behind Memphis. Ninety percent of Nashville workers commute by car, and that number still sounds low.

I lived without a car in both Los Angeles and San Francisco for enough time to get a sense of what a transit-reliant life was like. LA was awful, but SF had the infrastructure and, most crucially, the geography to support a robust transit system. Los Angeles sprawls across the desert like a lichen, while the Bay Area is stacked vertically along a peninsula with tidy grids bridging the gap between the bay and the ocean where mountains don’t interfere.

Which of those two cities does Nashville most approximate?

Aside from acolytes like Freddie O’Connell—who, despite his evangelical commitment to transit, was very poised and polished last night—no one rides transit in town. Don’t even get me started on bikes. I don’t own a motorcycle and so can’t ride one without a helmet, so if I’m looking for a thrill, I’ll take my bike down Charlotte.

Transit riders in town have to make the deliberate lifestyle choice to ride transit or bike to work. O’Connell even joked at one point that you discover new “time management skills” in the process.

Spend some time on Twitter and you’ll eventually run across Nashville characters who have sold their cars and pledged to bike everywhere. Often these martyrs end up getting hit by cars—which just further entrenches their position.

Over the course of the forum, another overarching theme emerged: that transit and housing issues are inextricably tied together. The conceit basically went like this: if you build high-density housing along transit corridors, you’ll see more residents ride the bus, save money by not having to rely on a car, and, forthwith, vast utopian vistas will open up before you.

I poke and prod at the transit obsessives because, well, they are obsessed. All that said, the city clearly does need to think about how to improve and enrich its infrastructure. Bill Lee’s transportation initiative, which Heidi Campbell mockingly called a “paving plan”, might be the first step in that direction. Candidates also brought up loosening zoning laws to increase density, which has basically become dogma at this point even despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

But beyond the desire of the transit dorks to piddle around town via bus, the unspoken dimension of traffic, commuting, and transit no one seemed to touch on is that Nashville is a commuter city. Ask a random sample of people that you run into over the course of a day, and you’ll find that nearly half of them live outside Nashville.

Aaron Renn recently profiled Columbus, Ohio in a column for Governing, showing that the Metro area is shrinking as the surrounding counties grow. This trend, as we’ve discussed before, mirrors what’s happening here in Nashville.

Candidates' solution to this problem is to make the city—among the most in-demand cities in the country, mind you—more affordable so residents don’t have to commute. But if you were to look at other cities that have undergone similar transformations, this worthy goal looks like a fool’s errand. Is there a way Nashville could chart a different course?

An alternative may be to work with surrounding counties to develop a regional transit and infrastructure plan or establish more city centers, pulling in the state to assist. Only one candidate, Heidi Campbell, brought up utilizing the Middle Tennessee Mayor’s Caucus to coordinate something like this, but as far as her relationship with the state goes….

A not-insignificant number of people move to Nashville because of the availability of single-family homes with yards in safe neighborhoods. The number of people moving to Nashville seeking density is minuscule. Probably around the size of the elite one percent who ride transit. As I’ve outlined before, we are a city of lebenskünstlers, not flaneurs or amblers.

We’ll have more on the particulars of each candidate in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for ongoing coverage, the Nashville Banner has done the best job from a raw information standpoint.


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☤ The Unexplored Offerings of the University of Tennessee Extension

With a variety of courses offered at affordable prices, UT Extension offers residents the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that will last a lifetime

From Geneva DeCobert

When I was informed of the vast number of evolving, low-cost, or no-cost classes available through the University of Tennessee Extension program, my first thought was how such a massive asset could slip under the radar. A perfect continuation of the ideals set forth by the Morrill Act of 1862, UT Extension utilizes its land and resources to offer a wide variety of classes; from agriculture specific, to cooking, to tai chi, to communication in relationships. What’s more, each county in Tennessee has its own extension office that regularly accepts outside input with regard to classes that should be offered.

Continue reading...


  • 🎩 Jerod recounts Tom Hanks recent appearance in Music City promoting his new book (Read)
  • ☁️ A Trip into the clouds in search of the city's best rooftops with Valerie (Read)
  • 🧆 Mike Wolf fills us in on his latest culinary adventure to Kalamatas (Read)
  • 🪦 And, Megan explores the history of one of Nashville’s most beloved historic cemeteries (Read)


“It is ironic that you intend to call a special session on public safety that will actually put public safety at risk in downtown Nashville,” stated Rep. Jody Barrett (R-69) in a letter he sent to the governor this morning requesting he rethink calling a special session to pass gun reform laws.

Barrett framed his experience and opinion of how the Covenant tragedy has been usurped for political gain:

There are an opportunistic few who almost immediately seized on this terrible tragedy to promote their political ideology and personal profiles through intentionally divisive, repulsive, and completely inappropriate behavior. This vocal super minority stepped over the dead bodies of innocent children with their organized astroturfing to rob the Covenant families, the Nashville community, and the State of Tennessee of its moment to mourn and process together in peace. I submit that your special session will only serve to give this cadre of charlatans a stage and an audience to continue their exploitation of our State. Make no mistake these folks do not care about Tennessee or dead children. They care only about media coverage and winning political fights by whatever means necessary.

Though Barrett empathized with the pressure the governor has been under to "do something" in the wake of the shooting, he’s is not wrong about political gain being a factor in the Democrats’ response to the event. In fact, Rep. Bryan Richey (R-20) went on the Matt Murphy Show and told Brian Wilson that the reason he voted to expel Rep. Justin Jones (D-52) for occupying the House floor to hold an anti-gun protest was that Jones wanted the media exposure and to increase his political profile. "The only reason why I voted yes for Justin Jones was, basically, to honor his wishes… He said, 'This is going to amplify my voice.'"

Richey did not vote to expel Representatives Gloria Johnson (D-90) or Justin Pearson (D-86) who also joined Jones in the anti-gun occupation because he did not believe the punishment was fair. Interestingly, Richey also released an open letter of his own on May 24th calling on the governor to cancel the scheduled special session.

Read Rep. Barrett’s full letter to the governor here.


Tennessee takes small step toward bringing passenger rail trains to the state (WKRN) The state has submitted an identification application to the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) for service from Memphis east to Nashville, on to Chattanooga, and to Atlanta.

Tennessee Supreme Court strikes TennCare cap on emergency room payments (Lookout) The cap is now void. It was originally set as part of a broad cost-cutting measures as TennCare — the state’s publicly-funded health insurer for low-income and disabled residents —was facing a $100 million shortfall.

Alive Hospice will remain a nonprofit (Channel 5) Advocates of Alive Hospice are celebrating Tuesday night after the board voted not to sell the nonprofit to a for-profit company.

When air quality, hazy conditions will improve after Canadian wildfires (Tennessean) Krissy Hurley, a meteorologist at National Weather Service Nashville, said some fog and haze surrounding the region is expected to linger tomorrow as a cold front moves through in the coming hours.


  • Q4 Start Expected For Albion Music Row In Midtown Nashville (Now Next)
  • Greystar lands $49M construction loan for Madison apartment project (NBJ)
  • Nashville home sales down 13% in May (NBJ)
  • Buchanan Street set for Mexican eatery (Post)
  • South Nashville properties listed for collective $12.35M (Post)


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 our 2023 southern festival guide and 🎥 2023 movie guide.


🎸 Musicians Corner @ Centennial Park, 5p, Free, Info
+ Nashville Symphony, Liz Longley, Autumn Nicholas, Eli Fox

🎸 CMA Fest @ Multiple Venues, June 8-11, Info
+ Luke Combs, Jo Dee Messina, Shenandoah and more

🎸 Collin Nash @ The Basement, 7p, $10, Info

🎸 Catie Turner @ The Basement East, 8p, $18, Info
+ singer-songwriter

🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info
+ vet community here


The latest releases and special screenings hitting Music City this week. For a list of new and upcoming films, check out our 2023 Movie Guide.

32 Sounds Filmmaker Sam Green adapts the aural art he perfected working with the Kronos Quartet and Yo La Tengo to movie theaters for this one-of-kind sonic treat. Via headphones, viewers experience the way sound shapes the world around us through clips ranching from underwater sea creatures’ mating dances to answering machine messages. An experience to be talked about for years. Now playing at the Belcourt.

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts The Maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons join the Autobots and Decepticons in the fight for Earth’s future along with the guy who played Alexander Hamilton’s son for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I grew up in the 80s and have no idea what any of this means. 2018’s Bumblebee was fun enough–even if nothing will ever top the robot carnage of the Megan Fox–Michael Bay halcyon days. Now playing in theaters.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie I’d be much more excited for this documentary tracing Fox’s life from Canadian bit player to Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly to Parkinson’s awareness advocate if anyone but the goofball who made Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was directing. Now playing at the Belcourt.

Mending the Line A Marine wounded during a tour in Afghanistan learns to cope with his PTSD when a Vietnam vet teaches him fly fishing. Its solid reviews and central turn from a post- Succession Brian Cox could make it a formidable sleeper hit. Now playing in theaters.

Takkar (Tamil) When a youngster all about the hustle and a poor little rich girl get caught in a human trafficking web during a road trip, a musical action-soaked romp channeling prime-cut Guy Ritchie ensues. Now playing at AMC Thoroughbred 20 and Regal Hollywood 27.

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

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