Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm sure you've heard the news by now. Yesterday afternoon, Megan Barry announced she's going to challenge Mark Green for his seventh district Congressional seat. It seems like a fool's errand, but maybe her new faux-Southern accent and the influx of new residents ignorant of her past transgressions will work in her favor. One crackpot theory is that she's hoping to boost sales of her forthcoming memoir about her time as mayor.
Last night, I spoke with writer Aaron Renn on my weekly livestream program. Right out of the gate, Aaron had an interesting response to my question, "What is the biggest problem facing American cities?"
In his response, he lamented the fall of "civic leadership culture.” Compared to our current civic leadership—which is, in many ways, typified by Megan Barry—the old class of leaders were more secretive, but also more productive, unafraid to speak plainly, and able to get things done.
Today, Metro Government is full of career bureaucrats who speak more out of concern for keeping their job, be it as an elected official or in an appointed role, and less out of a desire to solve the city’s problems.
Instead of seeking the approval of residents, they seek the approval of national institutions and think tanks so that, when they go to something like the Program for New Mayors—which O’Connell is attending right now—they have something to brag about to esteem themselves among their mayoral peers.
Not to mention, because the present leadership class has shallow ties to the area, solutions to problems unique to the city are imported wholesale from think tanks or other organizations with little consideration for the circumstances which might render them more or less effective in a city like Nashville.
The conversation was interesting throughout. You can listen to the full thing here.
❍ IN LOCO PARENTIS
Like many conservative politicos, Ian Prior spent much of Fall 2018 in heated debates about Brett Kavanaugh. However, most likely never found themselves getting chewed out at a Halloween party by a wine mom dressed as a koala.
At the time, Prior had no idea that a half decade later, he’d be authoring a playbook for concerned parents who want to challenge their local school boards' decisions—much less one blurbed by Newt Gingrich, Don Jr., and Mark Levin. But the Loudoun County, Virginia, suburbanite, and Republican political consultant ended up at the epicenter of the parents’ rights movement that would change the trajectory of the commonwealth’s politics and the post-Trump Republican party.
Like Liam Neeson in Taken, the self-professed movie lover had a very special set of skills that made him the leader for the job. But as his new book, Parents of the World Unite!, indicates, those special skills also extend to crafting an engrossing yarn that could be a compelling movie in its own right.
✹ TWO CENTURIES OF SIDEWALK INSANITY UNRESOLVED
Sidewalks; people like ‘em, urban planners prioritize them, and contractors know they add to real property value. They're an easy enough pitch– until it comes time to pay for them. That’s always been the sticking point in Nashville. And more recently, the results of the city’s policies have taken a turn for the worse.
This May, the court of appeals sided with two homeowners, Jason Mayes and Jim Knight, in their lawsuit against Nashville’s sidewalk bill. The bill granted Metro the ability to withhold building permits, effectively allowing the municipality to coerce owners into building sidewalks on their properties. Since the court deemed the policy unconstitutional, the city has racked up legal fees and payouts, resulting in a sizable bill that taxpayers will have to foot.
SO, WHO’S TO BLAME?
Starting back in 2016, Councilmembers Angie Henderson, Freddie O’Connell, and others decided to prioritize expanding on the networks of sidewalks in Davidson County. Henderson in particular invested a significant amount of time in discussions with Metro departments and stakeholders, eventually arriving at 2017’s sidewalk bill.
According to 2017 documents, none of the current issues were foreseen by Metro Legal. In the routine analysis conducted by Director and Special Counsel Mike Jameson and Finance Manager Mike Curl, the only significant findings were Jameson’s analysis that the most significant impact of the legislation would be on single and two-family developments, and Curl’s fiscal note that reflected the agreed-upon “in lieu” fee for developers who chose not to build the required sidewalks.
When we asked the current administration’s legal team if any other warnings or suggestions were made about the sidewalk code changes prior to the court ruling, they told us that they could not comment.
Interestingly, while most of Metro lacked foresight, developers and stakeholders did not. At the time, lawyer Shawn Henry—former assistant Director for Urban Development with Nashville’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency—spoke during the bill’s public hearing on the behalf of his clients who were builders in Nashville.
Not only did he urge council members to consider implementing some of the proposed changes street-by-street instead of passing a bill affecting the code across the entire county, he mentioned the possible disaster of unconnected sidewalks. “Our builders are saying it’s almost effectively impossible to engineer a comprehensive sidewalk network, parcel by parcel, 50 feet at a time.”
OOPSIE: PLAYING WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS
If they knew better, why didn’t they do better? Though we reached out to Angie Henderson, the bill’s main sponsor who recently made the move from council member to Vice Mayor by running on her dedication to sidewalks, she has not given us a statement regarding the hundreds of thousands— potentially millions— of dollars the city will end up spending on this policy blunder.
Though Metro legal also had little to say, Associate Director Allison Bussell did inform us that “two additional lawsuits have been filed against Metro Nashville challenging the Ordinance.” This, on top of the Mayes and Knight suit that resulted in a payout of just over $224,000, over 279 reimbursement claims filed with Metro as of September, and over $200,000 more in payouts already awarded by the council. So, will policymakers own up to their mistakes, or will taxpayers just have to continue paying for them?
Still No Answers from Metro Arts on Unpaid Grants (Banner) A week after Director Daniel Singh asked for 48 hours to respond to questions about millions in unpaid grants, no explanation given as arts organizations scramble to replace lost funding.
Nashville's Megan Barry announces run against Rep. Mark Green (NC5) Nashville former mayor Megan Barry announced Wednesday she will run for Congressional District 7 against Rep. Mark Green.
New grant announced for rail line linking Tennessee cities to Atlanta (WSMV) Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen announced a $500,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development program for a proposed passenger rail corridor linking Atlanta, to major cities in the Volunteer State.
Chicago White Sox owner meets with Mayor Freddie O'Connell amid move speculation (NBJ) Alex Apple, spokesperson for O’Connell, said the meeting was introductory and nothing was shared that O’Connell hasn’t publicly said.
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