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No. 678: Is the transit referendum doomed?

No. 678: Is the transit referendum doomed?

📅 Today, Davis talks about threats to buses and Megan recaps Super Tuesday in Nashville.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Though we’ve yet to see a draft of Mayor O’Connell’s transit plan set to appear on the ballot this November, we’ve caught a glimpse of how the most supportive council members might react when it does surface.

On Twitter, a user posed an interesting question: “Will the intense backlash to the progressive council members' attempt to rezone Nashville residential neighborhoods also threaten support for new mayor's transit referendum?”

The “attempt to rezone Nashville” he’s referring to is freshman at-large Councilmember Quin Evans Segall’s Nashville’s Essential Structure for Togetherness (NEST) plan. Among the worst acronyms I’ve come across, it’s also extremely unpopular outside of the quixotic group of progressives that support it. On Monday, Megan wrote about the plan’s details and the contentious community meeting about those details that occurred last Saturday.

Evans Segall, along with a group of like-minded colleagues sponsoring her set of bills (Rollin Horton, Ginny Welsch, Jacob Kupin, Sandra Sepulveda, Emily Benedict, and Terry Vo) are the most public and progressive members of the council. The way they campaign for this set of bills resembles a shakedown more than anything. No doubt they’ll stump for O’Connell’s transit plan with equal fervor.

Unfortunately for O’Connell, whose first term has been studiously uncontentious, this cohort has become the most toxic element of the new council. Public statements and interaction about NEST have revealed that Evans Segall (who seems to believe the 14 percent of the vote she got in the September election granted her the mandate from heaven) is not interested in conversation, but instead in refining her sales pitch.

With the steady, unblinking cadence of the animatronic band at Chuck E. Cheese, NEST advocates drill out steady mantras and rhetoric in a machinelike manner, refusing to concede even the most basic concerns. An AI could do their community outreach. Hell, you wouldn’t even need that sophisticated of an AI, just an auto-reply program that responds with a random output.

The prior transit plan was unquestionably terrible. It proposed a 1.8 mile $1 billion subway under downtown, which made close to zero sense. Post-hoc analysis variously places the blame on either the intervention of the Koch brothers (lol), the breach of trust following then-mayor Megan Barry’s infidelity and her subsequent resignation, or failed efforts to reach out to citizens who would’ve most benefited from the plan—in particular, residents of North Nashville.

I think most people with IQs above room temperature saw that subway, got real confused, and thought, These people have no idea what they’re doing. O’Connell has indicated his awareness of the lack of trust between the public and Metro Government. By all accounts, he seems genuinely earnest about restoring trust, if only to successfully steward his transit plan .

Even Ralph Schulz, CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, has indicated the chamber will play a less public role in promoting the referendum, despite their support. The chamber’s unerring support for 2015’s referendum made the initiative appear merely as a boon for real estate developers, sowing further distrust between citizens and the city. 

Regarding NEST, residents have genuine concerns about who stands to benefit the most from such reforms. Yet, its proponents have done nothing to persuade voters that the initiative is— again— anything but another boondoggle for real estate developers, insiders, and transplants who want the city to mirror the Brooklyn neighborhood they fled, instead preferring to cast homeowners as pesky kulaks in the way of real progress.

What Evans Segall & Co. have shown is that there are still elements within Metro Government unworthy of trust. The core problem with their proposals isn’t the homeowners who stand in the way, nor the proposals themselves in some instances, but how they have been presented and the underhanded means by which they have sought to push them across the finish line without allowing adequate space for community input.

How O’Connell positions his transit referendum against this backdrop will be instructive.




From Megan Podsiedlik

Last night, the biggest day in primary season came to a close. Mid-state Republicans from Robertson to Maury gathered at various watch parties to see the numbers roll in. The presidential primary election enthusiasm wasn’t quite matched among mid-state Democrats, who are likely more eager for Thursday’s State of the Union Address. In the meantime, let’s look at the numbers.

As of this morning, the overall results from the Tri-star State’s Super Tuesday contest showed Donald Trump coming in with just over 77 percent of the vote. That means 446,682 of Tennessee Republicans cast votes for The Donald, while 112,914 chose Nikki Haley. Of the remaining three percent, just over 13,000 Tennesseans voted for presidential candidates who had already pulled out of the race, while 4,883 are uncommitted.

Though unopposed, Joe Biden secured the primary with 122,735 votes, while 10,442— nearly 8 percent of the 133,177 Democrats who pulled the lever yesterday— remain uncommitted. Before we take a look at the local numbers, it’s worth remembering how the results for Biden and Trump looked last go ‘round. As the incumbent president, Donald Trump received 384,266 Tennessee primary votes in 2020 while Joe Biden, battling against a pack of opponents on the Democratic ballot, received 215,390.

This year in Davidson County, 17,220 Republican votes were cast for Donald Trump, while 10,208 came in for Nikki Haley. Additionally, 33,276 Nashvillians voted for incumbent President Joe Biden, while 3,464 Democratic participants remain undecided.


Republicans voted for their 58 at-large and districted delegates, while Democrats secured 29 of their 70 Executive Committee seats that appeared on the ballot. (The remaining positions will be decided by the results of the write-in ballots.)

Stephanie Williams will run unopposed in August to become Davidson County’s fourth circuit judge. Likewise, Vivian Wilhoite will only face write-in opposition in order to keep her position as Assessor of Property. 

Incumbent City Commissioner Greg Mabey, secured his Berry Hill seat by just 14 votes, and as of this writing, it appears District 1 school board candidate Robert Taylor got the nod from Democrats. This summer, Taylor will face the only Republican school board candidate on the ballot: Demytris Savage-Short. Zach Young, TK Fayne, Freda Player, and Abigail Tylor will run unopposed for their seats in Districts 3, 5, 7, and 9, respectively.


Memphis Prison Refuses Reply to Rep. Ogles over Unjustly Imprisoned J6 Defendant Stewart Parks Until Congressman Uses ‘Proper Channels’ (Star) Ogles sent a letter to the facility on February 13 after The Star reported the conditions inside FCI Memphis as relayed by Stewart Parks, a former Tennessee candidate for U.S. House and unjustly convicted January 6 defendant who began serving an eight-month sentence at FCI Memphis in February.

Gillespie postpones bill overturning Memphis ordinance to end police ‘textual’ stops (Lookout) Tyre Nichols’ parents urged House lawmakers Monday to drop legislation that would subvert Memphis’ efforts to end minor traffic stops that can escalate into deadly police-involved incidents.

Projected cost estimate for business tax cut soars by 30% to $1.56B (TNJ) Potential costs for eliminating Tennessee’s franchise tax on business tangible property while simultaneously providing refunds to companies for prior years could soar from a previously stated $1.2 billion to as much as $1.56 billion. The additional $361 million — a 30% jump — is based on the state having to pay all potential refunds.


  • Neuhoff slated for cocktail bar by Los Angeles-based hospitality group Gin & Luck (NBJ)
  • In-N-Out Burger eyed for Lebanon (NBJ)
  • Couple buys Green Hills commercial building adjacent to their businesses (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.


🎺 The Rumble ft. Chief Joseph Boudreaux, Jr @ Analog at Hutton Hotel, 7p, $20, Info
+ funk

🎸 Bones Owens @ The Basement, 7p, $26.71, Info
+ melody-driven Americana

🎸 Viv & Riley @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info
+ indie folk

🪕 Bluegrass & 2-4-1's Featuring Sheriff Scott & The Deputies @ Tennessee Brew Works, 6p, Free, Info
+ bluegrass 6-8pm and 2-for-1 craft beer specials all day

🪕 Bluegrass Night @ The American Legion Post 82, 7p, Free, Info

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 677: Super Tuesday
🇺🇸 Super Tuesday, what do I do? How many potholes have been filled? And more!
No. 676: Keep Out
📅 Today, Davis talks about tourism again, Miles talks about the Preds hot streak, and Megan recaps Saturdy’s contentious meeting on zoning reform.
No. 675: On the Big Screen
🎞️ Movies galore, most anticipated of 2024, Titans stadium groundbreaking, AG takes action, and much more!
No. 674: Baby Bust
📅 Today, Davis talks about fertility rates and Megan breaks down the discussion around Rep. Gino Bulso’s flag bill.
No. 673: “Will you please stop?”
📅 Today, Davis delivers the quote of the day, Tyler reviews God & Country, and Megan examines how often MNPD plays the fall guy.


  • 🎞️ The Pamphleteer’s ten most anticipated films of 2024 (Read)
  • ⛪️ Rob Reiner's documentary on Christian Nationalism completely misses the mark (Read)
  • 🇸🇻 President Nayib Bukele’s historic transformation of El Salvador (Read)
  • ☢️ A small Tennessee town's forgotten history as a nuclear leader (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.