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No. 620: The Look of Confusion

No. 620: The Look of Confusion

📅 Today, Davis discusses the Lookout overthinking something simple, Porter and Miles each dig into some football news from the weekend in high school and college respectively, and Megan talks about the city's failed participatory budgeting campaign.

Good afternoon, everyone.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” goes the saying. But in some instances, it does repeat itself. Or maybe this is just a case of persistent, institutional stupidity. I’ll let you decide.

In the late 1990s, New York Times journalist Fox Butterfield earned himself undue attention for publishing a series of articles that sought to parse the supposed paradox of crime rates falling while the prison population grew due to tougher sentencing guidelines.

The headlines of Butterfield’s stories puzzling over this phenomenon included “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” and “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

His obtuseness motivated WSJ columnist James Taranto to coin the term “The Butterfield Fallacy” which consists of misidentifying as a paradox what is a simple cause-and-effect relationship 

Channeling the spirit of Butterfield, Anita Wadhwani published an article this morning in the Tennessee Lookout with the headline “Tennessee’s prison population grows as violent crime drops steeply.” You can almost see the disapproving head shake Wadhwani unwittingly performed as she typed out that title.

The article places blame for the rising prison population on Tennessee’s so-called truth-in-sentencing law which, believe it or not, requires heightened minimum sentences for a number of crimes, specifically those of a violent nature.

Despite the seeming success of the bill, criminal justice reform advocates are less than enthused. One quoted in the article declared, “Everything that we said was going to come true has come true.”

Don’t let the credentialed experts fool you here, people. The only way to reduce crime is by removing those committing the crimes from the communities in which they commit the crimes.

In the meantime, we’ll await the next Lookout op-ed headlined “Our state has never been safer and more orderly, here’s why that’s a bad thing.”


Get notified when we go live (More Info)

🏟 Miles discusses the heated debate around the College Football Playoff selection as Alabama sneaks in over Florida State. (Read)

🏈 And Porter runs through this past weekend's TSSAA high school football state championships with commentary on each of the games. (Read)



Last Thursday, voting closed for Davidson County’s latest round of participatory budgeting, and the numbers were dismal. Despite assigned district liaisons, two months of open voting, and over a half million spent in marketing, the process only yielded 13,365 votes.

For comparison, just over 100,000 of Davidson’s 496,185 registered voters cast ballots in the recent mayoral election, and it takes over 49,000 signatures for citizens to even attempt petitioning a Metro decision. 

“I expect if it does go forward, it will be revised pretty significantly,” said Mayor O’Connell during Friday’s media roundtable. “We're not seeing— even with hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing— we are not seeing particularly heavy voting rates on participatory budgeting.”

O’Connell said he wants to take a closer look at the process to assess what went wrong and what went right. However, evaluating this round of PB may prove to be inconclusive: not only did the original process attract little engagement, its loose voting parameters were always a concern. 

“You don't want to see either a community or an individual effectively game the system because it is public money at stake,” the mayor acknowledged. “You want to have accountability in that process, the same way that we have audit committee functions within Metro for public spending.” 


How can you tell it’s the holiday season in Nashville? The inlets to BNA turn into a travel scene from Dumb and Dumber. Over Thanksgiving weekend, fed-up travelers were seen walking on the highway in an attempt to catch their flights. Though Donelson Pike’s ongoing construction work is supposedly to blame for this phenomenon, the congestion around the airport is nothing new.

“We're working toward [an] NDOT review of the situation for anything that can be done on the roads and signals that we control, and certainly we're in discussion with how the airport and TDOT are arranging this,” Mayor O’Connell said last week. “It is absolutely a concern.”

The mayor also outlined his frustrations with the state: “I'd say this is one of the reasons why the state's involvement… I would characterize [it] as disruptive,” he said, referring to the ongoing airport authority debacle. “This is another reason why I was disappointed to discover yesterday that the state attorney general's office had decided to appeal the ruling on the three-zero unanimous decision that this is, in fact, our board and that the state's approach was unconstitutional.”


“We are also asking WeGo to evaluate, as a part of their spring service improvements, could they improve transit service to the airport,” said O’Connell. Though there are currently some services to the airport, what’s typically a 10-minute Uber ride takes well over an hour by bus when traveling from Downtown. For now, the airport will be opening up overflow lots to mitigate highway congestion during peak travel days this holiday. 


Potential scenarios for Tennessee’s new state Senate map (Tennessee Lookout)


DOJ orders Tennessee to stop enforcing a statute, finding that it discriminates against people with HIV (WPLN) Under Tennessee’s aggravated prostitution law, people convicted of conducting sex work with HIV are put on the “violent sex offenders” list for life. The DOJ found the policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

MNPS Board Approves Two Charter Renewals, Denies One (Scene) After operating for 10 years, charters must apply to renew their contract with the school districts they operate in. If the school board denies that renewal application, the charter operator can appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which has the power to overturn the decision of the local school board.

TDOT releasing its road map this month on where it will spend $3.3B of new state funding (NBJ) December is the month when Butch Eley, the state's deputy governor and commissioner of the Department of Transportation, pledged to present a plan for how and where to spend $3.3 billion of funding approved in the Transportation Modernization Act earlier this year.


  • Developer Unveils 247-Unit Project Near The Nations In Nashville (Now Next)
  • Community planned for 600 acres along West Harpeth River (Post)
  • Vanderbilt finalizes latest campus-area acquisition (Post)
  • Whataburger location to open in Springfield (WSMV)


View our weekly film rundown here.

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

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and our 2023 southern festival guide and 🎥 2023 movie guide.

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 619: The City Built on Sand
📅 Today, Davis talks about building, Jerod reviews The Shift, and Megan catches us up with the latest on the manifesto and comments on another recent high-profile crime.
No. 618: Blocked!
📅 Today, Davis ponders his next move, Jerod reviews the movie Thanksgiving, and Megan looks at the latest from the airport and Meta’s efforts to censor lawsuits against it.
No. 617: Educating Everyone and No One
📅 Today, Davis talks about Bill Lee’s announcement yesterday and Megan digs deeper into the state’s issues with keeping repeat offenders off the streets.
No. 616: We Fixed Traffic
📅 Today Davis solves traffic, we revisit Jerod’s piece on Hillsdale from last year in light of the pending school voucher push, and Megan takes another look at the sketchy rules around the city’s participatory budgeting.
No. 615: Overserved
📅 Servings, College Football, School Boards, Much More!


  • 👾 The Shift brings authentic moral weight to the multiverse genre. (Read)
  • 🦃 With Thanksgiving, a titan of horror proves he’s also one of America’s most savage social critics. (Read)
  • 🌄 A review of Jeff Fynn-Paul’s Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World (Read)
  • 🎞 The Pamphleteer's Fall 2023 Streaming Guide (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.