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No. 692: Don't Look at the Cumberland
Photo by Mike Gattorna / Unsplash

No. 692: Don't Look at the Cumberland

📅 Today, Davis talks about the city turning its back on the Cumberland River, and Megan looks at MNPD's latest effort to clamp down on street racing.

Good afternoon, everyone.

The first thing you notice while walking along the river on Gay Street is the massive homeless encampment replete with paths marked by warning signs. It’d been a while since I’d walked down there until last night.

When I showed up, People Loving Nashville was hosting its regular Monday Night Street Outreach, offering the homeless hot meals, showers, and help cleaning up their habitat. I walked past the operation by the path at the bottom of which Riley Strain’s debit card was found (now marked by a “Beware of Dogs” sign) and toward the general area where two weeks ago, Strain disappeared.

The site of his disappearance can only be described as the nexus of the city’s most unsavory elements. Just a few blocks from the glowing neon of Broadway, around the corner from Grumpy’s Bail Bonds, behind the courthouse, directly parallel to the Downtown Detention Center, and a stone’s throw from the aforementioned homeless encampment and the river beyond it, this abyss into which Strain wandered embodies the vacuum created by the city’s turn away from the Cumberland. It’s a little nook of town almost perfectly suited for this kind of tragedy.

Strain’s body was discovered on Friday eight miles from downtown. MNPD and the media were quick to reassure locals that there was “no evidence of foul play,” pending the opinion of the medical examiner.

In the interim period, Mayor O’Connell, Jacob Kupin (D-Broadway), and Night Mayor Benton McDonough, among others, have announced their intent to better manage the chaos downtown. We still haven’t a clue where he fell in, how his card ended up in the middle of a homeless encampment, or whether the homeless played any role in his demise, thus inviting the kind of conspiratorial thinking common in an era of anemic journalism and aloof political leaders.

So far, reporting on the incident has deferred to the accounts offered by the area homeless. One report relays the account of an anonymous homeless inhabitant who claims he saw Strain stumble into a bush, which saved him from falling into the river.

I’m not trying to insinuate that there’s some conspiracy to hide the truth, but the whole thing feels off to me. I don’t know what else to say about it. A more reasonable explanation might be that the police’s limited resources prevent them from examining the case more extensively. Meanwhile, members of the encampment know that if one of them were incriminated in his death, it would spell the end of their riverside villa. Thick as thieves, as they say.

Metro is also aware that the encampment’s involvement would put them in a politically tricky situation. Part of me believes that political correctness has dulled leadership’s worldview to the extent that they’re incapable of seeing the homeless in a suspicious light. Cleaning up the encampment, if the homeless did turn out to be involved, would be a massive undertaking requiring the expenditure of an immense amount of political capital. Given that even my use of the word “homeless” receives pushback, imagine how discussions about removing them would go. 

What is obvious is that Riley Strain wandered into an area with a well-known community of vagrants, one that has been coddled by the city for years, and didn’t come out the other side. Did he fall? Was he pushed? Who knows. We may never know these answers.

As for solutions, on first blush, one of the most obvious fixes would be to assume control of the area where all this occurred. Sure, Broadway is plenty chaotic, but Gay Street, right under the nose of the Metropolitan Courthouse, also invokes that word. And though Strain’s journey started with the chaos of Broadway, it ended in the tangled mess of neglect just a hundred yards from where Metro leadership gathers every day. Remove the homeless encampment from the river bank.

Another potential fix would be to construct a waystation like Austin, Texas’ Sobering Center, where overserved patrons can sober up as an alternative to the emergency room or jail. If you peruse Scoop Nashville’s feed, you’ll pick up on a trend: arrests of people who are too drunk to find their way home, but otherwise fairly benign threats to public safety. A sobering facility would be a good place to put them. Strain could've been safely admitted to one of these facilities.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how the city responds.




Back in 2020, MNPD established The Street Racers Initiative to deal with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, uptick in urban street racing. Since then, police have been busy coordinating operations near popular drag racing sites: this weekend, accompanied by aviation, officers were deployed to hot spots across Nashville, where they broke up a total of three races and made four arrests. 

Councilmember Tasha Ellis of Antioch not only commended the officers for their work, she also noted her intention to sign on as a co-sponsor of a council resolution in support of a state bill that would make drag racing a Class E felony.


This morning, the comptroller released the State of Tennessee Single Audit for FY 2023. “This Single Audit Report reflects federal expenditures of over $21.7 billion,” reads the cover letter addressed to Governor Lee and the General Assembly. “We noted instances of noncompliance that meet the reporting criteria contained in the Uniform Guidance. We also noted material weaknesses and significant deficiencies in internal control over compliance with requirements related to the state’s major federal programs.”

Of the $21.7 billion in federal expenditures, Health and Human Services makes up the lion’s share of over $12 billion. Education and Agriculture both come in second: each spent a little over $3 billion. However, as the 300-page document outlines, these federal awards come with strings attached, and there were several instances in which recipients did not comply with the stipulations. 


Yesterday, a bill requiring police to inform the Department of Homeland Security when they’ve encountered an illegal alien passed on final reading, and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law. Though the legislation inspired impassioned debate, the arguments made for and against the bill did not toe party lines.

Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), for example, expressed concerns about how the law would affect young children illegally brought into the country. “I didn't see anything in the amendment… about an age bracket, to where, ‘Okay, those over 18,’ or whatever” he said. “It just opened the door. Now, somebody tell me why a six-year-old ought to be punished like that.” Gardenhire voted against the bill alongside six Senate Democrats.

Following its passage, the Nashville Immigrant Caucus is calling for Governor Lee to veto the bill.

From Megan Podsiedlik


Tennessee Funding Board approves $10.3M in incentives to 7 projects (Center Square) The largest was $3.4 million to Schneider Electric for spending $85 million on a new facility on Maddox Road in Wilson County and to expand its Rutherford County location. Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development now has $54.5 million left in uncommitted FastTrack funds with $548.2 million committed to projects.

House toughens penalties for mass threats as Covenant School shooting anniversary arrives (Lookout) The measure sponsored by Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, increases the penalty for threatening to commit mass violence on school property or at school-related events to a Class E felony from a Class A misdemeanor.

The State of Short-Term Rental Properties (Scene) In late 2022, real estate agent Brittania Nosworthy sold a house in Madison for $343,000 to Daniel Hernandez, an investor from Illinois. Hernandez had bought the property to rent on Airbnb and applied for a short-term rental permit in December 2022.


  • Successful Relocation Of Manufacture, Makes Way For Project In East Nashville (Now Next)
  • Lainey Wilson opens pop-up at WeHo bar (NBJ)
  • TailGate taps Murfreesboro for eighth taproom (Post)
  • Sylvan Park commercial buildings listed for $6.25M (Post)
  • Florida co-working company to establish Nashville office (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.


🎸 Bob Dylan @ Brooklyn Bowl, 8p, $94.50+, Info

🎸 Kate Clover @ DRKMTTR, 7p, Info
+ retro-rock

🎺 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. 691: Straight Talk
📅 Today, Davis talks about Antioch, Miles celebrates Pat Summitt’s career, and Megan takes a look at the latest regarding the East Bank Authority.
No. 690: Banning Right on Red?
📅 Today, Davis talks about traffic lights, Megan wraps up some news from around the city, and Jerod furnishes our weekly film rundown.
No. 689: Southern Oasis
📅 Today, Davis talks about something happening in Knoxville this weekend and Megan lets you know what the AG has been up to.
No. 688: Last Night at Metro Council
🗓️ Megan recaps last night’s Metro Council meeting. Bagel places popping up. Californians buying property.
No. 687: Waiting for the Thunder
🗓️ Davis predicts the weather and Megan talks about the morbid history of the Cumberland River.


  • 🧠 The response to Poor Things exposes our inability to talk about art that defies ideology. (Read)
  • 🎞️ The Pamphleteer’s ten most anticipated films of 2024 (Read)
  • ⛪️ Rob Reiner's documentary on Christian Nationalism completely misses the mark (Read)
  • ☢️ A small Tennessee town's forgotten history as a nuclear leader (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.