I had the pleasure of meeting new McGavock Elementary principal, Rae Covey. She’s wonderful and is already building a great culture to learn and work. I also picked up my McGavock Elementary shirts I will wear proudly in the community to support them.
Public Works was opened up the application period for their Traffic Calming Program. Visit this link to learn more and apply.
Here’s a great story about the 58th annual Christmas Story program by the Kelley family in Donelson Hills.
Big congratulations to Fletcher’s on their 40th anniversary. The new paper, Main Street Nashville, did a nice article on this milestone. Read it here.
Big thanks to Kursynske & Associates for the renovation they have underway at the corner Lebanon Pike and the entrance to Donelson Station. Here are a couple of artist renderings of what the building will be transformed into. No new tenants lined up yet, just construction and rehab at the moment.
Dear Friends –
I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season. Hard to believe 2019 is done. I know I’m a bit behind sending out a newsletter. Let’s dive right in. Lots to cover here, mostly on what’s happening in Metro and economic development in the community.
The biggest and most important focus right now is getting our finances back on track. Things have been moving quickly since the term began. I’ll try to break this down in a palatable way.
- The initial FY19/20 budget was not balanced because the plan to bring in a private company to manage on-street parking and selling our downtown district energy system was not approved, thankfully so, because neither were a good idea. However, that did leave us with about a $41.5 million gap to close in this budget.
- An unbalanced budget is against State law. Justin Wilson, the Comptroller for the State of Tennessee, visited Metro Council’s Budget & Finance Committee (of which I’m a member) to make a presentation of where we stand and actions that need to happen. CM Mendes, Budget & Finance Chair, added the presentation on his website here. CM Mendes and a number of other colleagues have become more adept than I at getting out quick communication (I know… my newsletters are long and have been working to get shorter e-blasts out there, especially with situations like this that are very fluid.) I encourage you to follow CM Mendes’s website for his excellent and informative updates here.
- Mayor Cooper has made some difficult decisions as we knew he would have to in order to correct our fiscal issues and balance the budget and fill the $41.5 revenue gap. Some of the below is rather complicated. Here is how the revenue gap has been filled and was approved by the State Comptroller:
* An agreement with the Convention Center Authority will bring about $12.6 million annually back into the general fund from the Music City Center via a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Taxes) agreement.
* $10 million via a PILOT with Metro Water Services.
* $7.2 million MDHA TIF (Tax Increment Financing) payment reduction ($10.8 million was the total, with $7.2 million to Metro and $3.6 million to Metro Schools).
* $3.6 million from the Convention and Visitors Corporation. Debt Service reimbursements for facilities that attract tourists are an allowable use of Tourist Promotion funds under TN Code and the CVC will adjust their spending from that fund to accommodate the $3.6 million reimbursement.
* $500k from program reimbursements from Sheriff’s Office / US Marshall Service. The Sheriff will be housing federal prisoners under an existing contract. It’s important to note this contract does not include ICE detainees. This is a net gain of revenue to Metro, and funds will need to be allocated to the Sheriff’s Office to budget for this new programming.
* $2.6 million in targeted savings, fund balances and deferrals:
$600,000 of excess fund balance that has built up in the impound lot fund that will be transferred to the General Fund.
* $450,000 budgeted for the staffing study and public property performance audit that have not been started and cannot be completed this fiscal year.
* $200,000 of the amount budgeted in post audits where current projections indicate this funding will not be needed to close out the fiscal year.
* $100,000 of contingency that has not been used and that Finance doesn’t believe will be needed this year.
The remaining $1.2 million is anticipated excess savings from various departments and agencies throughout Metro.Last year nearly all Metro departments and agencies exceeded their targeted savings amounts by a collective total of $8.8 million.Departments and agencies continue to be mindful of the need for savings and based on mid-year budget meetings, we believe they will again collectively exceed savings targets.
- Of the budgeted $10 million for the Barnes Fund that goes towards assisting affordable housing projects, only $5 million will be awarded. The Mayor has said this is a partial impoundment of this fund and will strive to ensure it is put back in future budgets. This does delay some critical affordable housing projects from moving forward.
Another decision that was made that I fully support is $18 million that was debt already approved for the Gulch pedestrian bridge has been reallocated for other critical infrastructure projects, traffic calming, street lights and needed new trash cans around the county. In addition, the promised extra 3% pay increase last summer that teachers would get starting January 1, 2020 was kept under the new administration. So, where do we go from here? As this upcoming budget planning cycle is absolutely critical, there is agreement to start it early. Our fiscal year is July 1, but the budgeting process has already been started in the administration and the cycle will be moved up one month to June 1, so that the Comptroller has ample time to oversee and approve that we have improved cash management, redevelop adequate reserves.
Will a property tax increase be on the horizon? I believe so, yes. Is it warranted? I believe so, yes. What will it be and where will it go? That’s the critical question we will address in the months ahead. I have voted against a property tax increase over the last two years. I didn’t feel there was 1) a substantial long term plan for how revenues would be used and 2) a lack of trust that there wasn’t a fundamental change in direction that would’ve otherwise just fueled more development and not directed the money to critical areas of schools and public safety. You may hear from a colleague or two on Council who believe we need to make more cuts. I disagree and have yet to hear what cuts there are left to make. I believe we’ve cut to the bone. I have engaged with staff at our departments at all levels. Our staffing levels at departments and they’ve consistently made more and more cuts. Their staffing levels are what they were during the recession more than a decade ago and our ability to recruit and retain teachers, police officers and fire fighters is hampered by our lack of ability to support them with competitive salaries. This absolutely must change. Here’s one recent story highlighting the challenges we face. Our property tax rate is the lowest in Metro history after the 2017 property reassessment. We will have another reassessment in 2021. I believe under Mayor Cooper’s leadership and Council’s hard work, we will continue to trim spending, address our revenue needs and ensure every penny is put to address our top priorities.
Here’s a good story about where we are headed with the budget process this year.
Mayor Cooper’s administration is hosting a series of eleven public listening sessions about where we go from here in regards to transit. Read about all of them here. The one for our side of town will be on Thursday, January 16th at 6pm at FiftyForward Donelson Station. Please mark your calendars and make plans to attend this important meeting.
At Council last Tuesday I had the honor of presenting a resolution I sponsored honoring the 50th Anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. I was joined by Councilwoman Zulfat Suara, Council Member At-Large Burkley Allen, Erin Evans, Metro Councilmember District 12 and Brett Withers for Council District 6. Thanks to Councilwoman Joy Styles - District 32 for the picture. CEO Melissa Hudson-Gant accepted the resolution and was joined by David Fish and his little brother Jayden (who also had the opportunity to use Vice Mayor Shulman's gavel and start the meeting) along with Nicole Cochran and her son William, who was the little brother of Frank Trew, which made it very special and personal for me. I'd like to think Frank would be proud of the resolution and especially how great of a young man William has become. I'm very thankful for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee and the incredible impact they've made on thousands of young men and women over the years. Read the resolution here.
Thanks to those that attended the rezoning meeting for 1590, 1600, 1602 and 1604 Lebanon Pike. The initial proposal for a 100-unit apartment complex has been changed after feedback from neighbors. The proposal is now 19-townhomes in front and 60-unit condo complex with a rooftop amenity to view downtown. Thus, for-sale product instead of apartments. There will be no short term rentals and the townhomes will have elements of brick in them. It is a much improved plan that will add value to the area. It will be on the February 4th Council Meeting for second reading / public hearing.
A number of folks over the past few years have asked about segmenting off a portion of our Two Rivers Dog Park for smaller dogs. It seems easy enough, but as we know, nothing really is. I asked some specific questions about the feasibility of this. What I learned is that just putting up a section of fence to divide it in two doesn’t work. All the animal behaviorists and other experts that have advised our Metro Parks Department over many years recommend against doing this. It creates “fence aggression” and other undesirable activity. Also, if each zone (big and small) don’t have all the same amenities (water, shade, trails, etc.) that’ll create another issue to address. Instead, the best practice is to create an entirely separate dog park. Parks has strategically chosen to hold off on installing separate small dog parks using Metro funds until the entire county is first well-served with a general purpose park. I support this. I wish it could be done more easily than this, but it is indeed equitable to ensure all parts of the county have access to a dog park before we start building other ones for our smaller dogs.
The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring thousands to help with the big 2020 census. This is very important as this data collected helps direct grants and other federal support for a variety of topics. Visit their website here to learn more about the process and job opportunities.
Big thanks goes to Piedmont Gas for sponsoring the first ever Nashville Christmas Parade train ride. They sold around 600 tickets and about filled the train up. Some proceeds from the “Christmas Parade Express” went to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I believe it will be back next year. I’m always trying to find new sponsorships for weekend rides wherever possible. See flyer below to learn more about the opportunity.
I was very pleased that Merry Oaks was selected to be part of the revamped Traffic Calming Program. Launched last year in a new format, it ensures that data-driven decision making is used twice a year to ensure the greatest efficacy of efforts in our neighborhoods. Merry Oaks scored high as far as speeding and incidents within neighborhoods. Thanks to Merry Oaks neighbor John Landing for applying and leading this effort, the subsequent neighborhood meeting was well attended and feedback was used to put together the below preliminary investments to slow traffic down and make it more friendly for pedestrians and drivers alike. Work will continue with the neighbors of Merry Oaks to refine the investments. I encourage all neighborhoods to apply for the program and work towards improve the conditions in your neighborhood.
Big congrats to Lisa Maddox, who is our new Director of FiftyForward Donelson Station. Lisa is a fantastic leader at the center and her energy and passion for FiftyForward’s mission can be seen and felt each and every day. Thank you, Lisa and congrats on this very well deserved promotion! Lisa is seen here with Mark and Kevin with Donelson Café & Catering during the recent Casino Night fundraiser.
According to Second Harvest, one in 5 youth in Nashville are food insecure. Within the McGavock cluster there are approximately 350 students experiencing homelessness and a total of 2,449 youth in MNPS are homeless. 86% of our these students are “doubled-up” in the homes of friends and relatives as opposed to literal homelessness, but it’s still not a stable situation. As the season of thanks and giving approaches there are multiple opportunities to give back to help Nashville's most vulnerable and precious gifts. One way to give back locally is to support the Community Pantry that is housed at Two Rivers Middle. This pantry is open to families that have a child at schools in Donelson or Hermitage. Monthly, families may shop for can goods, snacks for youth, meat (when available), toiletries, and other personal items so that students can focus on learning and not the barriers that they often are faced with. In preparation for Thanksgiving, the Community Pantry is accepting donations of non-perishable thanksgiving themed food items, easy prep meals with pop-top lids, various snacks for kids, and $20 gift cards to Kroger.
At the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon in September, I had the privilege of joining Austin Smith, owner of Party Fowl, and Deb Varallo, of Vararllo Public Relations, on a panel to discuss small business growth, opportunities, challenges, and more. I was also thrilled to see the Chamber support Hip Donelson’s Hip Eats program with a donation of $1,000 from the Taste of DH event. That donation will go a long way to supporting this program that helps ensure our students have healthy food during the times they aren’t in school. It’s a real need within our students and their families and this program has made a big impact. Here to accept the donation is Two Rivers Middle is Nicole Valentine Vaughn, who also serves on the board of Hip Donelson.
Dear Friends –
Our second term began smoothly and as Mayor John Cooper’s administration takes shape, so does Metro Council as leadership roles have been assigned and elected as well as committee assignments have been made. In addition to serving on the Budget & Finance Committee and continue serving on the Parks, Library & Arts Committee, I was also honored and humbled to be elected President Pro Tempore (“Pro Tem”) of Metro Council, which serves as the presiding officer should the Vice Mayor be unable to serve.
Do you live in the Perry Heights neighborhood? You’ve no doubt noticed one of your entranceway signs along Elm Hill Pike has fallen. I’d like to help out and have engaged Joslin Sign Company to recreate them. I need your help and engagement. Please contact me and let’s raise a few funds in the neighborhood to bring back the neighborhood’s entranceway sign. If you’re on Facebook and live in Perry Heights, I encourage you to join their neighborhood group here. I’d love to see the neighborhood more organized and engaged. I think this need to rally around replacing and maintaining the entranceway signs is a good cause to get behind! Here’s a picture of the existing one on Donelson Pike.
Hip Donelson celebrates our 10th Anniversary! It’s been one of the most extraordinary community efforts I’ve ever been involved with and I don’t believe when Andrew Bradley created it, did he, Frank Trew or I ever think it would become what it’s become today thanks to so many passionate and dedicated community leaders. There will be a special celebration after the Friday, September 13th Hip Donelson Community Farmer’s Market. I hope you’ll make plans to attend.
Every First Day and Last Day of school at McGavock High School, the McGavock Coalition puts together community leaders to greet students and wish them well and also hands out raffle tickets for prizes given out during the day. It’s a great way for the community to support McGavock. I was glad to join community leaders and the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce on August 5th.
Check out this great article from Nashville Eater about restaurants to visit in the community. More are coming. Sunflower Bakehouse is nearing completion and looking great. (Thanks to Ron Rice for taking this picture and posting on Hip Donelson.) And as you now have heard, two doors down at the former Providence Auto will be TennFold, a pizzeria and brewery. Read about TennFold in the Nashville Post here. More details to come.
Dear Friends –
Thanks to everyone who has stayed active and engaged during this election cycle. Turnout has been fairly low (around 20%), but there is another opportunity to ensure your voice is heard since we are now in a Run-Off Election. Remember that Tennessee is 49th in voter participation. We must do better. Visit this link for all voter information and to register or update your registration.
Thanks as well to those that attended my Town Hall on July 11th. We had a great turnout. Special thanks to Sean McGuire in Metro Finance, Rob Ward with the Metro Assessor’s Office, Mark North and David Proffitt with MNPS and John Honeysucker with Metro Water. As promised, here are the slides from that presentation (click on slide below to see full slideshow). For those not able to make it, we basically had two main sections to the meeting. The first was an overview of what’s happening in the district. I could do a long write-up of each slide, but if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask. The next section was engaging our special guests with the topics of our current budget situation, taxes, the assessment process, and how we get back to securing a strong fiscal foundation to focus our efforts on supporting education and public safety.
The 2020 Census is gearing up to collect valuable statistics and as much has changed in Nashville over the last decade, ensuring we are an active participant is crucial to ensuring we are allotted our fair share of federal resources. Learn more here. In addition, there will be employment opportunities as part of this process, which you can learn about here. Another reason that strong participation in the census is important is that it will impact our local Council district lines, State House and Senate as well as the reapportioning of congressional seats. Here’s a jobs flyer for the Census 2020.
I had the opportunity to participate in a couple important events over the past month or so. We Remember Nashville was formed to promote community awareness, education about lynching and racial violence that helps the stories are told with dignity, truth, and resilience. Two historical markers were erected on 1st Avenue near where to lynching occurred. I was proud to join Mayor Briley and At Large Council Member’s Erica Gilmore, Sharon Hurt, and District 23 Council Member Mina Johnson at the marker dedication ceremony.
As the Council’s Chair of Parks, Library and Arts, Joey and I attended a fundraising breakfast for the Friends of Mill Ridge Park, the regional park in the southeast part of the county. It and our Ravenwood Regional Park in the bend of Stones River are the two new regional parks in development. CM Rhoten (District 14), whose district Ravenwood is in, secured $12 million to begin the first phase of the development of it. At some point in the future, we could have a Friends group like Mill Ridge does, that engages the community in support of the Park. It’s wonderful to see these two regional parks preserving this great open space for the enjoying and benefit for all of Nashville neighbors.
I had the extraordinary honor and privilege recently to present a proclamation to Joe Davis, World War II veteran, serving in the US Army where he earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Joe celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day. I so enjoyed our visit as he told me about being part of the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943. After the war, Joe enjoyed a long career at the US Postal Service. An amazing man and hero.
I’m very aware and staying on top of construction related issues with folks living behind Donelson Plaza off of Benson Road. Don’t hesitate to call my cell – 615-886-9906, and I will stay on top of this and work to ensure there is safe passage for trash trucks, delivery and neighbors just trying to get back and forth to their homes. Thanks for your patience. It’s a big project and it’ll be great when finished, but I know it’s a big pain to deal with right now.
I am thankful the opportunity to return to visit with the Stones River Women’s Club. They do a great deal of impactful projects in the community and I always enjoy my annual visits to bring them up to speed on things happening at Metro Council and in Donelson.
Teachers have gone above and beyond to advocate for improved resources for schools that specifically brings equity to their pay. I have listened and met with teachers and agree that we are behind in ensuring their pay is fair and allows us to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers. Same can be said for our public safety and all Metro employees. The reality is our growth has been on the backs of Metro employees and we have to change that. Post cards from students whose parents are teachers drives this reality home. I felt strongly that the substitute budget that was offered (that would’ve raised the property tax rate almost .50 for an extra 1% that would’ve given nothing extra for all other Metro employees) would’ve hampered our ability to fix the structural issues with our budget that ultimately will put us on a course to improving funding for MNPS and all Metro employee pay in the long term. It will be a top priority in the coming year. We will discuss it in more detail at the July 11 town hall.
I’m pleased that the next Donelson Gateway Project is a beautification of their front entranceway. Below is the basic plan that JVI Secret Gardens put together for us. Stay tuned for a fundraising efforts, but feel free to donate at the website above and notate that it’s for Pennington Elementary. It’ll cost about $1,700.
You'll notice the red and white Metro signs along Lebanon Pike between Briley Parkway and Stewart's Ferry Pike in the Urban Design Overlay. Over the last several months, some business and property owners and I have been meeting with the Planning Department in terms of streamlining aspects based on how its implementation has been going since its inception a decade ago. Changes have never been made to it and these are purely administrative, working in tandem with Planning and property owners. It does not change anything fundamentally with the vision and rather enhances the ease of its applicability when development occurs. A few duplicative elements are being removed as they're already been addressed in subsequent plans that have been created since then, such as NashvilleNext and the Walk-Bike Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways. I'm pleased and thankful for how Planning and property owners were all on the same page with this process. It went before the Planning Commission on Thursday, June 26th and will next go before Council for three readings. Please feel free to review the red-lined edits here and don't hesitate with any questions.
Congratulations to Mehaul Oleary and team on the grand opening of his new restaurant and pub, The Lost Paddy. Located at 709 Spence Lane near Murfreesboro Pike, it’s a wonderful new addition to the district. Thanks to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for hosting a great ribbon cutting.
Check out Hi5 Practice’s transformation of 936 Allen Road where their new home is located. Check out the video of the before and after. Hi5 is a great marketing company that helps connects medical practices with their patients. Check out a picture of the inside of their office. Congrats again to Kevin & Sierra Barnett and their team and thanks for the investment in the district!
Dear Friends –
I’m humbled to be unopposed on the ballot and so I’ve given thought to how I want to proceed with the re-election process. If you’ve saved my sign from last time and wish to put it out, please feel free! If you’d like one, please let me know and I’d be honored to get you one. Ensuring we have a strong turnout is important. We of course have Mayor, Vice Mayor and At-Large races as well.
Save the date! Thursday, July 11th. The Donelson Fellowship at 3210 McGavock Pike across the street from McGavock High School. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meeting starts at 7pm. I’ve never done one before, so I’ve decided to do a town hall style meeting and hold a Community Conversation as we assess where we are, how we got here, and what’s ahead for Donelson and Nashville in the next four years and what we can do to get our priorities realigned to refocus on schools, public safety and our Metro employees. I’ve sent a mailer that looks like this below to every registered voter in the 15th District, so you should be receiving one. I look forward to seeing you there and having a constructive conversation about Donelson and Nashville’s future.
Even though I’m unopposed, I’m honored to be receiving endorsements. Thanks to our Firefighters and Medics at IAFF Local 140, the Fraternal Order of Police Jackson Lodge #5, and the political committee of the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods.
Don’t forget you have until July 2nd to register or change your address, which can be done online. Go to www.nashville.gov/vote for all voter information. If you need one, you can secure an absentee ballot here. Below is the Early Voting Schedule.
The community has lost four community and business leaders recently. Charlie Cardwell was one of the longest (if not the longest) serving Metro employee and had been our Metro Trustee through six Mayoral administrations I believe. He embodied professionalism, respect, integrity and what all elected officials should aspire to be. John Harwell, Sr. invested in Donelson during the early days and brought businesses like Two Rivers Ford to Donelson that were here and thrived for decades. Larry Keeton and John A. Hobbs were both World War II veterans, were top business leaders in Donelson, gave back in extraordinary ways, they took care of their neighborhoods and so much more. Dick’s Flowers & Petals, The Larry Keeton Theater, Nashville Palace and John A’s Restaurant have all been places that became institutions in the community that Larry and John A created respectively. All four of these men earned and deserved great respect from their community because of their leadership in making us the great place we are today. They will all be missed and their legacy of service to community will be felt forever.