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No. 661: Testing the Water
Photo by Linus Nylund / Unsplash

No. 661: Testing the Water

📅 Today, Davis takes the cultural temperature, and Megan reviews the mayor's first capital spending plan.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Writing to you today from a Mexico duck blind, so excuse any typos. I heard there was a Super Bowl yesterday and that Blackman High School grad Jauan Jennings was the second player in Super Bowl history to throw and catch a touchdown. His team didn't win though. Taylor Swift's did. Oh well. Maybe she and Travis Kelce will get married, have a kid, and save the world by ending the fertility crisis after Taylor Swift writes an album about it all.

I also saw a crazy Joe Biden post on Instagram that really confused me. "Just like we drew it up, @Chiefs," the post read under a picture of laser-eyed Joe Biden—a wink and a nod to the conspiracy crowd convinced the fix was in for the Chiefs. Why is he—or whoever runs his account—posting like that?

If you're looking for context, half the country seems convinced that the Chiefs are a weapon of the Deep State to inflict the Kelce-Swift matrimony on the population and defeat Donald Trump in the process. I didn't make up this theory, by the way. The formally talented and interesting Rick Reilly did.

I only caught the tail end of the game, but learned after the fact that the NFL had someone perform the black national anthem, and at least four commercials referred to UFOs. On the heels of the Putin interview with Tucker Carlson and the concurrent Joe Biden presser in which he comically insisted he's not senile, the vibes in America are starting to get very weird. Living in a shack on the Gulf Coast of Mexico doesn't seem like the worst option at this point.

Something is off, it's just hard to say what. Or maybe that's just the tequila talking.




From Megan Podsiedlik

At the end of last month, the mayor unveiled his first $514 million Capital Spending Plan. Two weeks ago, the mayor’s office put out a press release detailing the plan, which will pour money into public schools, libraries, parks, and transit, among other things. Kevin Crumbo, Metro’s finance director, said the plan “demonstrates a commitment to investing across the city while living within our means.” This, preceding an additional statement he made during January 26th’s media roundtable where he expressed concerns about potential tax caps from the state: “I think it would be very harmful. Property taxes are the most stable form of revenue that we have.” 

Below, we take a glimpse at the mayor’s spending plan and the effects it may have on the city.  


O’Connell explained the function of a CSP best when he was still a council member: “This is basically money we're choosing to invest into large capital projects. Things like schools, equipment, and infrastructure,” he wrote in a newsletter at the beginning of last year’s budget season. “These moments where we allocate capital come almost entirely at the discretion of the mayor's office. There is no fixed schedule according to which Metro must appropriate money for capital investments.”

In other words, the city’s chief executive uses a CSP to outline his priorities and create fiscal thresholds for the year. The council then has until the end of June to make any adjustments to the plan.


From the first page of the plan, we notice O’Connell is making good on his commitment to convert all metro buildings to solar energy. About $2.3 million is set aside for solar installations at both South Nashville’s Glencliff High and MLK, Jr. Magnet. 

Further down the page, we get into the NDOT budget. The mayor explained some of the confusion over the allocations listed for “Safety / Vision Zero / Traffic Calming” and “Sidewalk Program,” stating that the line items don’t tell the whole story. “We actually have a larger overall pool of money going into sidewalks, bikeways, Vision Zero, state of good repair,” said O’Connell at last Friday’s media roundtable. 

In addition to what was listed in the plan, there are surplus fund balances you can add to the totals that look like this:

Safety / Vision Zero / Traffic Calming:

  • $12.5 million in the CSP + 
  • $12 million from the Vision Zero surplus fund balance +
  • $4 million from the traffic calming surplus fund balance
  • = a grand total of $28.5 million

Sidewalk Program

  • $10 million in the CSP + 
  • $7.5 million from the surplus fund balance
  • = a grand total of $17.5 million

In addition to the $15.6 million more in NDOT spending compared to last year’s CSP, the mayor’s office also told the Pamphleteer that his referendum would include a plan to improve the county’s sidewalk network. O’Connell’s transit plan will be unveiled this week.

The mayor has also followed through with his ambition to prioritize the expansion and upkeep of WeGo, as evidenced by the $30,862,000 set aside for the MTA, which includes $8.6 million for replacement buses, $4,838,000 for bus fleet expansion, $4 million for neighborhood transit centers, and $3 million for transit shelter improvements.

During 2023's budget season, O’Connell shared his aspiration to facilitate regular investments into Nashville’s public transportation: “I want to get to the point where we're intentionally treating this as opportunistic funding opportunities for our transportation plan, and specifically its transit elements,” said O’Connell. Now that he’s in the driver’s seat, the mayor is making good on his vision. In his words: “It is a thing that if you build it, people will ride.”


O’Connell Funnels Cash to State Allies (Scene) Mayor Freddie O’Connell sent $5,250 to state lawmakers this month via a new political action committee created in November with leftover campaign cash. Every incumbent state lawmaker in Davidson County — including sole Nashville conservative Sen. Mark Pody — received a check, with two exceptions: Democratic Reps. Vincent Dixie and Justin Jones.

Jones, Sexton hold $1M+ in cash, Save Nashville donors, plus more notes from campaign filings (Lookout) House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, leads the way with $1.3 million combined in his campaign account and political action committee, Cam PAC. Rep. Justin Jones has just over $1 million in his campaign account. As of February 1, the Nashville Democrat who raised most of his money following his expulsion in April, hasn’t formed a PAC.


  • Vertical Construction Begins At Solstice At June Lake In Spring Hill (Now Next)
  • Bar, Venue Planned for Ex-Tubb Records Building on Broadway (Scene)
  • Trinity Lane church plans affordable housing project (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.


🪕 Nate Leath & Friends @ Jane's Hideaway, 8p, Info
+ bluegrass-jazz fusion

🎸 Time is Tight February Residency - A Tribute to Booker T. & The M.G.'s @ Dee's Lounge, 8:30p, Info

🪕 Bluegrass Monday with The Stephen Mougin Bluegrass Band @ Dee's Lounge, 6p, $10, Info

💀 Grateful Monday @ Acme Feed & Seed, 8p, Free, Info

🕺 Motown Monday @ The 5 Spot, 9p, $5, Info

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 660: You’re forgetting something, mayor
📅 Today, Davis talks priorities, Jerod reviews American Fiction, Megan reviews a hospital visitation bill and recaps today’s mayoral roundtable, and we furnish our weekly film rundown.
No. 659: Fighting the Law
📅 Today, Davis debunks a talking point about gun laws, and Megan wonders if Justin Jones is good or bad at his job.
No. 658: What is a housing crisis?
📅 Today, we download last night’s council meeting. Davis talks about the zoning bills, and Megan, the rest.
No. 657: Pouring One Out for Toby Keith
📅 Today, Davis eulogizes Toby Keith and Megan reports on the governor’s State of the State address last night.
No. 656: Nashville Punches Above Its Weight
📅 Today, Davis talks about Nashville’s cultural clout, Miles previews NSC’s 2024 season, and Megan gets us ready for tonight’s State of the State address.


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  • 🤼 The Iron Claw is a Heartland epic. Of course it isn’t an Oscar contender. (Read)
  • ☢️ A small Tennessee town's forgotten history as a nuclear leader (Read)
  • 🤡 Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples' (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.