Sign up for newsletter >>
No. 662: The Looming Transit Referendum
Photo source McGraw Electrical Collection, University of Texas

No. 662: The Looming Transit Referendum

📅 Today, Davis looks ahead briefly, and Megan reviews some bills flying through the state legislature that stick out for different reasons.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Transit referendum incoming. Expect the mayor to announce his mass transit plans in the next few days. It's sure to kick up some dust. To the average citizen, I expect the argument to be that more transit means less traffic—something that a visit to any proper city in the country with functioning transit should immediately dissaude you of.

Nashville's current transit system has almost reached pre-pandemic levels, but nationally, transit ridership is 22% short of pre-Covid levels. One way to interpret Nashville's relatively speedy recovery is that its transit system is smaller, more focused, and less white collar than in other cities like New York City where remote work has reportedly eaten into ridership. The most trafficked routes in Nashville are along Nolensville Pike, Murfreesboro Pike, and Gallatin Pike.




From Megan Podsiedlik

Every year, politicians on both sides of the aisle put forward a number of ceremonial, contentious bills. With little hope of passing, most are introduced as either a political badge of honor or a means to expose the will of the body. That being said, we also see bills that should raise a little Cain, yet glide through both chambers without much fanfare. Here are a few bills on the docket that should make you go huh?


On the third day of last August’s special session, the Government Operations Committee heard Covenant mother Mary Joyce’s testimony on behalf of herself; Erin Kinney, mother of William Kinney; and the Scruggs family.  At the time, Joyce expressed support for an autopsy bill filed by William Lamberth and Jack Johnson, the respective majority leaders of the House and Senate. 

According to Joyce, the autopsies of the Covenant tragedy’s victims were being held by media outlets and would be released if the bill didn’t pass. In the end, the bill was not passed and no pictures were ever released: Current law does not allow the release of victim images and protects the identities of minor victims in autopsies made public.

Despite this, the exact same autopsy bill is back on the docket with two new sponsors: Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) and Sen. Shane Reeves (R-Rutherford). Though the bill may have been put forward in good faith last summer, its resurrection may point to an ulterior motive. 

While Joyce supported the autopsy legislation, the committee also heard testimony in opposition to the bill. Deborah Fisher, Director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, called for further review of any “unintended consequences” its language may result in. As of this writing, no adjustments have been made to the bill, which changes Tennessee Code and creates new restrictions on the release of county medical examiner reports, toxicological reports, and autopsy reports.


Three weeks ago, Leaders Lamberth and Johnson filed a bill that would exempt county mayors from the Open Meetings Act, a bog-standard Sunshine Law. Claiming them to be “ex officio [members] of the county legislative body,” the bill would allow mayors to sidestep transparency.

In a similar spirit, both majority leaders filed another bill meant to keep government doings in the shadows, this time allowing the Department of Tourist Development to keep certain records under lock and key. If passed, the legislation would allow the commissioner, with the agreement of the AG, to make “sensitive” information exempt from FOIA requests for up to ten years.


Mirroring much of the zoning legislation that’s reshaped Nashville in an attempt to create “affordable housing,” Rep. Elaine Davis (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) have proposed a bill that would require “each municipal and metropolitan government” to adopt at least four “housing strategies.” These include things like zoning to reduce size requirements for single units, reducing restrictions on facades and building materials, encouraging the construction of tiny homes, and allowing for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes. 

In addition, Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Dale Carr (R-Sevierville) put forward a bill that would allow local governments to adopt a “voluntary attainable housing incentive program by ordinance.” Among other things, if passed, the legislation helps municipalities incentivize “property owners who seek to build attainable housing.”

On top of these bills of questionable rapport, there are also a few half-baked notions such as Sen. Adam Lowe (R-Calhoun) and Rep. Clay Doggett’s (R-Pulaski) bill to create a committee to monitor federal government overreach: A bureaucratic solution that partially echoes the bolder "Restoring State Sovereignty Through Nullification Act" that failed to get a “second” during senate committee last year. Huh


New bill would tighten access to absentee voting in Tennessee (WPLN) The Tennessee General Assembly is poised to tighten the state’s absentee voting process. Right now, voters can request an absentee ballot seven days before an election, but Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, wants to change the cutoff date to 10 days before.

In Assessor’s Race, Wilhoite Faces Former Deputy (Banner) The Assessor of Property’s office is responsible for identifying, listing, appraising, and classifying all taxable properties in Davidson County. The smooth operation of this office is vital not only to residents, but also to Metro — property taxes represent Metro’s primary revenue stream.

Lawmakers look for compromise on vacating Tennessee State University’s board (Lookout) Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said Monday legislators are trying to reach an agreement in which a smaller number of the governor-appointed board members could be removed, if the vacate legislation passes. Of the board’s 10 members, eight receive gubernatorial appointments.


  • Tony Giarratana's latest Church Street tower, Prime, to open this summer (NBJ)
  • Five Points property sells for $2.5M (Post)
  • Chocolate shop slated for SoBro high-rise (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.


🎸 Woah @ The End, 7p, $15, Info
+ nostalgic indie-pop

🎸 Hank Born @ The Underdog, 8:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Beppe Gambetta & Mike Bub @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info

🎺 Todd Day Wait @ The Underdog, 11:30p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ Honky Tonk Tuesday afterparty, down the street

🎸 Honky Tonk Tuesday @ American Legion Post 82, 5p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ two-step lessons @ 7p, The Cowpokes @ 8p

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 661: Testing the Water
📅 Today, Davis takes the cultural temperature, and Megan reviews the mayor’s first capital spending plan.
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.


  • 🇸🇻 President Nayib Bukele’s historic transformation of El Salvador (Read)
  • 🤼 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.