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No. 649: Constitutional Crisis?!
Photo by Anthony Garand / Unsplash

No. 649: Constitutional Crisis?!

📅 Today, Davis talks about the border, Hamilton joins us to talk about the promise of nuclear energy in a small Middle Tennessee town, Megan thinks about transit, and we furnish our weekly film rundown.

Good afternoon, everyone.

People are saying there's a constitutional crisis brewing. Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a strongly worded letter to the Biden administration declaring that the "federal government has broken the compact between the United States and the States." 

Penned in response to the Supreme Court's ruling that the federal government has the right to remove barriers along the Texas-Mexico border, Abbott's letter has drawn responses from a number of red state governors, including Bill Lee, pledging their support of Texas' efforts to defend itself from the "invasion."

Many states have sent their National Guard down to the border over the past year, including Tennessee. Lee authorized two separate deployments last year in May and October. This time is different, however.

"James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the other visionaries who wrote the U.S. Constitution," writes Abbott, "foresaw that States should not be left to the mercy of a lawless president who does nothing to stop external threats like cartels smuggling millions of illegal immigrants across the border."

People have been drawing comparisons to the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and the secession of Southern states in 1861, but that’s not an apt comparison: in this instance, Abbott is not putting up a direct affront to the federal government by threatening an insurrection. He’s stepping in to enact and enforce laws that the federal government has failed to do itself.

Will be interesting to monitor the Biden administration's response over the next few days.

Onward.

Nashville

ATOMIC HARTSVILLE

A small Tennessee town's forgotten history as a nuclear leader

From Hamilton Wesley Ellis

Hartsville, Tennessee is a small town nestled in the hills overlooking the Cumberland River about an hour north of Nashville. It sits just beyond the bustling bedroom communities that encircle Davidson County. The most action you’re likely to see on the road to Hartsville is turkey buzzards making a roadside picnic out of unlucky deer on the shoulder of State Route 25. But if you look in the right place, there’s a silent giant on the hillside.

It’s the 535-foot-tall cooling tower of the abortive Hartsville Nuclear Plant. The quiet Middle Tennessee town was once party to a brilliant dream, it's now a ghost of the promise that man’s mastery of the atom would usher all of humanity into a new age of prosperity.

Today, the town stagnates under the weight of the same economic hardships that plague so many small communities in the South, but it was supposed to be different for Hartsville. Today, the abandoned nuclear facility sits next to the Trousdale-Turner Correctional Facility, a private prison where inmates in the yard can look up at the tower like medieval poets gazing upon Roman aqueducts, wondering just what giants wrought such wonders.

Continue reading...
Nashville

➭ SO, WHAT IF O’CONNELL PROPOSES A NEW TRANSIT PLAN?

From Megan Podsiedlik

Two weeks into the year, Mayor O’Connell informed the press that he may be proposing a transit referendum by the end of the month. According to the king of transit himself, the undertaking is contingent on a few things: financial and legal implications, the planning process, and whether there’s time to get a referendum on the November 8th ballot.

In 2018, former mayor Megan Barry’s “Let’s Move Nashville” plan tanked spectacularly: the proposal, which would have implemented mass transit to the tune of $8.9 billion, was rejected by a whopping 64 percent of voters.

Before the O’Connell administration takes any decisive action, we wanted to find out what Nashvillians really need from a transit system. This week, we sat down with the Beacon Center’s Ron Shultis, who revisited the alternative transit plan the think tank released after Barry’s failed referendum. “Nashvillians, I think wisely, voted down that plan,” said Shultis. “You don't build a nine billion dollar light rail plan to have something shiny, you do it because it will help move people from A to B throughout the city and region.”

RELIABILITY, AFFORDABILITY, AND EFFICIENCY

When taking a look into the crystal ball, Shultis says a new plan could benefit the city, but only if it focuses on making public transit a better option, rather than the only option. “What's the most effective way to move people from A to B?” he asked. “People will generally always choose the independence and flexibility that a car has, unless there's some benefit to taking the bus.” In other words, the best PR campaign for a public transportation referendum is one l that emphasizes reliability, faster trip times, and bus fees that budget better than your monthly parking pass payment.

Furthermore, public transit idealists often gloss over the actual infrastructure of the city itself: “You want to think of Nashville as on par with the Chicagos and New York cities of the world,” Shultis noted. “And what do those cities have that ours doesn’t? Oh, you know, public transit systems.” The difference between those cities and ours, he says, is “they were essentially built out before the mass adoption of the car. And so it creates just a totally different environment than Nashville does… Nashville has really grown and exploded post-car.”

IS THERE ANY MIDDLE GROUND?

According to Shultis, many of the solutions offered from Beacon’s 2018 plan are still relevant. Not only are they immediately applicable, he notes, they don’t require a sweeping proposal that drains the coffers. One of Beacon’s key suggestions is an adaptive traffic control system. “What those systems allow you to do is to adjust signal timing on the fly in order to adaptively respond to traffic conditions,” explained Shultis. “Currently, what happens is: the data is collected, and then, every three to five years, the timing on signals changes…It's a slow process.”

When it comes to adaptive traffic control systems, Shultis says the numbers speak for themselves. “What we've seen in other cities, for example, is that it increases speed by 15 percent,” he explained. “In some cases, travel time decreases by 15 to 30 percent. It also makes our roads safer… Especially for first responders.”

This is just one of a few micro adjustments Shultis suggests in regards to the current state of the Nashville transit system. He also mentioned regulating construction road closures, collaborating with the state to use the future express lanes for a rapid bus transit option for commuters, and making cost-effective bus route adjustments based on ridership, among other things. 

BY DECREE OF FREDDIE

That being said, as part of Nashville’s Vision Zero initiative, Mayor O’Connell signed an executive order last week called the Green and Complete Streets Policy. A remnant of the Barry administration, one section of the policy calls for car-free streets

This is just one of the many Metro initiatives we’ve seen that goes against Shultis’s more practical advice, demonizing cars while forcing transit-related incentive structures on the populace. During his time on the council, O’Connell co-sponsored a bill eliminating minimum public parking requirements downtown. Part of an initiative to transform Nashville into a “walkable city,” the now-effective urban zoning adjustment is simply another policy that makes parking a pain. Will this kind of social engineering influence voters if Freddie puts a referendum on this year’s ballot? Only time will tell. 

Shultis perhaps put into words what’s really on everyone’s mind: “Hey, before you start talking about massive, region-wide transit systems, can you fix the pothole?”

HEADLINES

Who owns your Airbnb? Probably not mom and pop (Ledger) Short-term rental companies like Sonder are having a moment in Nashville, other tourist destinations.

Two officials leave new mayor's office (Post) Tanisha Hall, brought on in December as director of transportation and mobility, is returning to her company which was at risk of losing its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status as a result of her departure. Sam Wilcox, a holdover from Cooper's administration, is also leaving the mayor's office. Wilcox is launching a new health care venture.

Council Critics Say Board Appointment Process is Broken (Banner) After Arts Commission appointments, some want more time to vet Mayoral appointees. Now, the Council’s Rules, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee is exploring ways to make the appointment process for boards and commissions more transparent.

New Tennessee Bill Would Outlaw ‘Abortion Trafficking’ of Minors (TCN) The full text of the bill is not yet available, but State Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) said abortion trafficking is “considered recruiting, harboring or transporting” minors to have abortions in other states.

DEVELOPMENT

  • Southwest Value Partners lands construction permit for Nashville Yards music venue (NBJ)
  • Airport's Hilton Hotel to open in February (Post)
  • Fairgrounds-area project lands Japanese restaurant (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.

TONIGHT

🎺 LIVE JAZZ: Parker James, Paul DeFiglia & Caleb Reaux @ Vinyl Tap, 7p, Free, Info

🪕 Clay Hess Band @ The Station Inn, 9p, $20, Info

🎸 Zephaniah Ohora & Friends @ Dee's Lounge, 9p, $10, Info

🍀 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

✹ WEEKLY FILM RUNDOWN: January 26-February 2

The latest releases and special screenings hitting Music City this week.

Oscars Film Fest In the wake of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations, the ten contenders for best picture return to AMC and Regal. Experience pop-culture juggernauts Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Killers of the Flower Moon as they were meant to be seen. Take a chance on intimate dramas Past Lives, Anatomy of a Fall, and The Holdovers that didn’t quite get their due earlier this year. Support holiday releases American Fiction, Poor Things, and The Zone of Interest as they finally get nationwide releases. Sure, you can watch Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro on Netflix, but aren’t you tired of being home? This is the best crop of nominees since 1975, and a full-throated rallying cry that the movies still matter.

Godzilla Minus One Minus Color The king of the monsters found his Japanese roots in December and put Hollywood special effects to shame on a quarter of the budget. Now, a special presentation of the holiday season’s surprise hit in glorious black-and-white pays additional homage to the world’s most famous side effect of radiation. As Japan deals with the fallout of WWII, a group of private citizens do what government can’t in the most thrilling cinematic statement about individual autonomy in quite some time. Now playing in theaters.

Grace of My Heart Allison Anders’s 1996 dramedy loosely based on Carole King’s life finds Illeana Douglas as a singer songwriter snapped up by a hitmaking producer (John Turturro) and brought into the fold of NYC’s famous Brill Building. A criminally underseen master class in indie filmmaking. Playing as part of Music City Mondays at The Belcourt

See the full list
In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 648: Nothing to See Here
🏛 Business as usual, nothing to see here, at this week’s Metro Council meeting.
No. 647: Decolonizing the Arts
🎨 How Metro Arts is seeking to use anti-racism to decolonize the arts and what to expect from the new commissioners.
No. 646: The Metro Labyrinth
🗓 Today, Miles discusses men’s basketball at UT and the prospect of their reaching the Final Four for the first time in program history, and Megan breaks down the labyrinth-like stormwater fee snafu.
No. 645: Engineering Outcomes to Attract More Snow to Middle Tennessee
🗓 Today, Davis talks about the weather, Jerod reviews the new Wonka movie, Megan talks about the loophole keeping violent criminals on the streets, and we furnish our weekly film rundown.
No. 644: What’s An American?
📅 Today, Davis talks about America and Americans, and Megan talks about politics and politicians.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

  • 🤡 Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples' (Read)
  • 🍭 The latest iteration of Roald Dahl’s classic, Wonka, is a deeply felt ode to entrepreneurship (Read)
  • 🖊 G.K. Chesterton's commentary on Nashville and the broader South from his 1921 tour of the US still resonates (Read)
  • 🏘 The double-edged sword of prosperity in Tennessee's small towns (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.