Good afternoon, everyone.
After yesterday’s report on Metro Arts’ effort to “decolonize” itself, the council met and confirmed five new members of the Metro Arts Commission. Nary a word was said about the radical language brought up in our report.
In fact, as you’ll learn from Megan’s recap of the meeting, Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda had each nominee verbally confirm their commitment to “distribute funds equitably” or “commit to equitable practices,” requiring each to pledge fealty to the DEI-style shakedown Metro Arts is attempting.
More to come on this story.
✸ EXCLUSIVE: Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples'
Since Daniel Singh was appointed Executive Director of Metro Arts two summers ago, controversy and dysfunction have reigned supreme. Not only is the organization’s fifteen-member commission short seven members after a spate of resignations, but the city is also conducting an audit of its financial management after it failed to fully pay out the operating grants it was designed to administer. Much of the chaos has arisen from Singh’s efforts to introduce a “more equitable funding model.”
A presentation circulated internally to staff and members of the Metro Arts Commission reveals that a radical agenda has taken hold at the beleaguered office. Authored in collaboration with Justin Laing of Hillombo Consulting and titled “What Could An Anti Racist Cultural Planning Process Look Like,” the presentation outlines a vision advocating the organization’s adoption of “antiracist planning” to create “antiracist outcomes.”
According to the presentation, a racist arts practice is one that “maintains the distribution of land, money, & narrative resources between European and Indigenous, African/Black and Asian peoples within the ‘cultural community.’” Conversely, an anti-racist arts practice “returns land, money and narrative resources to Indigenous, African and Asian peoples within the ‘cultural community.’” Another slide reads, “‘Race’, ‘the arts’, and ‘white people’ emerged at a similar point in history and worked together to facilitate the development of colonial and imperialism.”
The slides reveal the guiding principles Singh hopes to promote within the organization as the Metro Council is set to approve five new commission members during tonight’s meeting.
✼ METRO ARTS COMMISSION FILLS FIVE SEATS
From Megan Podsiedlik
Humorously described by Councilmember Parker as having “big ‘this could have been an email’ energy,” 2024’s first council meeting began with the approval of a whopping 14 board, commission, and authority appointments. Though tedious, these placements were likely the most impactful accomplishments during the three-and-a-half-hour meeting.
Aside from filling five of the vacant Metro Arts Commission seats, the council also confirmed three Sports Authority appointments, two Fire and Building Code Appeals Board appointments, and single appointments to the Emergency Communications District Board, Sexually Oriented Business Licensing Board (yes, this is a thing), Stormwater Management Commission, and the Transportation Licensing Commission.
Instead of voting individually on each nominee, the council heard all the committee recommendations at once: Vice Mayor Henderson then placed them on consent to be voted on in one fell swoop. However, Councilmember Johnston requested Beverly Watts, one of O’Connell’s Metro Arts nominees, to be pulled from the consent agenda. This seemed to be a widely appreciated request, considering the controversy surrounding Watts’s nomination.
METRO’S EVALUATION OF BEVERLY WATTS
“I live in District 11 in a place called Hopewell,” Watts shared while introducing herself to the Rules, Confirmations, and Public Elections Committee during yesterday’s interviews. “Some people might know it as the Hopewell Box.” Though her reference seemed to go over nearly everyone’s head, Watts was referring to Jim Squires’ The Secrets of the Hopewell Box, a nonfiction account of Nashville ballot swapping, jury tampering, and corruption made famous in the 90s.
During her evaluation, Watts disclosed that the allegations filed against her during her tenure as director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission weren’t “her first rodeo.” “In Louisville, Kentucky, I spent the summer in the press with allegations of all sorts” she told Councilmember Sepulveda.
When pressed by Councilmember Johnston upon the circumstances of those additional allegations, Watts explained it as workplace politics. “I was a new director,” she said. “The staff decided they didn’t want me, so everything I did went to the Courier-Journal.” She concluded, “I did have a commission body that conducted a full investigation that cleared me of all charges.”
Councilmember Evans made sure to ask Watts if she would be a collaborator if elected to the commission. “I currently serve on six boards, one national,” she replied. “So I do understand collaboration. I’m a pretty collaborative person, but every once in a while one must be the third-grade teacher I knew when I went to school.” Watts was unanimously approved by the committee and later voted onto the commission by the council by a vote of 22 yeses, 11 noes, and 5 abstentions.
In fact, all five arts commission nominees were unanimously approved by the Rules, Confirmations, and Public Elections Committee. Keeping in lockstep with Daniel Singh, the Executive Director of Metro Arts, Sepulveda asked each nominee whether they would “distribute funds equitably” or “commit to equitable practices.”
While the community comment period was mostly monopolized by protestors supporting Palestine, the council aired their own grievances with a protest of their own. A resolution opposing the expansion of the Education Savings Account program was discussed then passed, despite— as Councilmember Nash pointed out— Davidson County already being part of the ESA program.
Of more significance was the passing of a bill regarding the agreement between the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, United Way of Greater Nashville, and Metro Government. Following an audit of the Community Foundation, its director has since requested to recuse the foundation from the responsibility of distributing funding. Six months in the works, the amended bill was commended as a victory for transparency, efficiency, and accountability when it comes to the distribution of disaster relief funds.
Tennessee lawmakers consider making the rape of a child a death penalty-eligible offense (Channel 5) The rape of a child is one of the most heinous crimes someone can commit, but does the perpetrator deserve the death penalty? Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, who also serves as House Majority Leader, says yes.
Nashville schools to phase out grades 7-8 at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School (Tennessean) The Martin Luther King Jr. School, an academic magnet that offers grades 7-12, will phase out its middle school grades by the 2027-28 school year. The move, announced by Metro Nashville Public Schools last month, is part of the district's ongoing ReimaginED initiative.
Years after public outcry over unspent funds for needy families, Tennessee has $717M stockpile (Lookout) In the coming years, all but $190 million of the amassed funds will be distributed in the form of multi-year grants to community groups, transferred to a health department nurses for newborns program and paid to IT contractors to overhaul the agency’s aging computer system.
- Metro Plans $30 Million Pump Station To Serve The Nashville East Bank (Now Next)
- Apartment management giant opens downtown Nashville office (Post)
- 12South slated for outpost of Dallas Tex-Mex chain (Post)
- Airport's Hilton Hotel to open in February (Post)
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