Jeff Syracuse

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Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA) Programs

Our Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA) has a few programs that few know about.  Home improvement, weatherization, building ramps for disabled neighbors, and more.  Below are flyers that describes these programs.  There are income limits to qualify.  Contact MDHA for more information.

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Metro Nashville 2023 Budget Recap

July 1, 2022 begins our FY2023 fiscal year for Metro Government.  As reported in my last newsletter, overall, I was generally pleased with the budget proposal from Mayor Cooper.  I want to thank Council Member At Large Burkley Allen for leading Council through the budget process as Budget & Finance Chair and crafting a substitute budget that made some important tweaks to address critical issues, specifically the $22.6 million gap in funding for MNPS that we had to address.  It was unfortunate that the issue was caused by the timing of when the Mayor was required to send his budget proposal to Council and when the final new calculation from the State came in, which created the deficit.

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August 4th Voting Schedule

Please don’t forget the August 4th election is fast approaching. All information is located at www.nashville.gov/vote. Below is the schedule. Make a plan to vote! 

Please be sure to check out a sample ballot on the website.  It’s a long ballot.  There are also four Metro Charter amendment proposals on the ballot.  I’m advocating for voting in favor of all four.  Council Member At Large Bob Mendes does an excellent job of explaining them.  Check out his blog post about it here.

August 4 Voting Schedule Councilman Jeff Syracuse

 

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FY23 Budget Season, Pennington Bend Meetings and the Mayor’s Office of Music, Film and Entertainment

The Metro FY23 budget season has begun.  Fundamentally, the Mayor’s Budget is a good one as I see it thus far and focuses on critical needs.  Council has begun our budget hearings to take a deep dive into the Mayor’s proposal.  The Citizen’s Guide to the Metro Budget can be found here.  Some of the highlights of the FY32 budget proposal:

  • 4% COLA and step increases
  • Support for Paid Family Leave
  • MNPD personnel support for the 9th precinct – 46 officers
  • Emergency Communications personnel support – 36 additional staff
  • Fire Department personnel support – 31 positions
  • Highest ever support for affordable housing between budget and federal American Rescue Plan funds with personnel support for Housing Division
  • Support for homelessness via American Rescue Plan funds with personnel support for Metro Homeless Impact Division to address substance abuse, mental health and finally moving forward for a 90-unit permanent supportive housing complex.
  • Codes, Fire Marshall, Planning and Water – focused personnel support to meet continued growing demand for services
  • Additional much needed support for Parks, Arts and Libraries

Here is an invitation to attend the groundbreaking of the permanent supportive housing complex on Tuesday, May 31st.

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Trash Pickup Update, Development Community Meeting, Traffic Calming and More

After weeks of a new low in performance by our trash contractor, Red River, things are finally improving after hiring another contractor to begin picking up routes to coincide with Metro picking up a few other routes that should allow Red River to be able to handle the remainder.

As many have heard, Red River filed bankruptcy last October and so they are afforded protections under the law.  Metro has legal counsel in Dallas aggressively representing our interests.

Red River’s contract began in 2004 and while it worked OK for some years, their poor management, inability to keep up with our growth, and failure overcome equipment, truck, and personnel challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic is why we find ourselves in this continued frustrating and untenable situation.

As many will recall, I filed a resolution last year calling for the end of the contract with Red River.  That prompted some structural changes to the contract, which made the situation better for some months afterwards, but Red River’s internal problems have only become worse, and they are spiraling downwards.

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The Holidays are here with Tree Lightings, Parade, and Finally the Unveil of our new Donelson Branch Library

Dear Friends,

The Holiday Season is here and there is much to be thankful for and celebrate.  I hope you and your families and friends enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Here are some events coming up to put on your calendars:

  • The Donelson Hermitage Neighborhood Alliance has put together the 1st Annual Hermitage Christmas Tree Lighting on Thursday, December 2nd. 5:30pm decorating, 6pm tree lighting. It’ll be at the Hermitage Library.  See flyer below.

Hermitage Tree Lighting

  • The 36th Annual Donelson Hermitage Chamber Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, December 4th at 2pm. It’ll be on the same route it’s been for several years along Donelson Pike from Elm Hill Pike to Donelson Station, so pick a good spot anywhere on either side of the street on the sidewalk. For all information, street closure information, application to enter a float and more, visit https://www.donelsonhermitagechamber.com/christmas-parade/.
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Two Rivers Mansion Event Center, Metro Arts “Call To Artists” for New Donelson Library and Redistricting Update

Dear Friends,

Good news to share and important updates this newsletter.  First and foremost, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. AsafeNashville.org continues to be Metro’s information site for COVID-19 testing and vaccines. Here’s a great PSA from the TN Council for Development Disabilities featuring our State Representative Darren Jernigan and State Representative Sam Whitson supporting everyone to get vaccinated. It’s the fastest way to end this pandemic.

A major piece of good news is for Two Rivers Mansion’s 14-acre property and all our community. The long-awaited event center, to be located behind the mansion, was funded in Mayor Cooper’s recently released Capital Spending Plan. The Master Plan that Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation, Metro Nashville Historical Commission and the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion put together several years ago to support its preservation and advancement identified an event center as a needed investment to capitalize on the success of the total renovation at the mansion and renewed interest and excitement in hosting events there. This will help keep the mansion preserved while being able to host larger events that also will be a larger revenue generator. This has been a priority project of mine since I’ve been in office and this investment will be transformational for the property and the future of the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion. Stay tuned for more details to come.

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Ravenwood Regional Park Ribbon Cutting, Litter Clean-Up and Two Legislative Successes

Dear Friends,

Ravenwood Pavilion Rendering Donelson TNI look forward to joining Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation and Kevin Rhoten - Metro Council District 14 for a groundbreaking ceremony for Ravenwood Regional Park on August 20, Friday, 10:00 a.m. at the construction site of the park. The park will transform 800 acres of farmland near the historic landmark Stone Hall into a space for recreation, hiking, play, kids’ activities, and a quiet ambiance.

“Ravenwood Park is located only a few miles from downtown Nashville. It will fill a notable void in the area by providing vital recreational opportunities to the residents of Donelson and Hermitage as well as others across the county,” said Monique Horton Odom, Director of Metro Parks. The project is in the early stages of development. Phase One of the project includes demolition, earthwork, paving, landscaping, and site utilities. It will also involve the construction of an entry road, greenway and trails, parking lot, playground, large pavilion, sports court and fitness equipment, sidewalks, and open lawn.

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Donelson Plaza Palooza, Rezoning Community Meeting, Digital Inclusion Survey and Job Fair

Dear Friends,

As the weather warms up and everyone is getting out more after being vaccinated, here’s a great opportunity to enjoy our new green space in front of the new Donelson Library site and support Donelson Plaza businesses. On Saturday, May 22nd from 10am – 3pm, bring your chair or blanket, visit Plaza business booths with special deals and grab a lunch at one of the Plaza businesses while enjoying live music and performances in addition to special programming from our Nashville Library! Plus, the Civic Design Center wants your ideas for the public space in front of the Donelson Library. Visit their “Soundbox” shipping container during the event!

Donelson Plaza Palooza

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2021 Reappraisal and Tax Impact, Farmer’s Market 2021 Season, Community Clean Up and More

Dear Friends,

Everyone should be receiving their 2021 reappraisal information in the mail soon if not already.  As you’ll note in the packet in the graphic below, growth has not slowed down, even through the pandemic  Here are two graphics with heat maps that compare the 2013-2017 growth vs the 2017-2021 along with very important information about the reappraisal process, which is mandated by State law.

2021 Reappraisal Packet 1

2021 Reappraisal Packet 2

2021 Reappraisal Packet 3

2021 Reappraisal Packet 4

As you’re probably aware, the State mandates the reappraisal process to be revenue neutral, so as the values go up, the tax rate must come down.  That also means that if you’re above the average countywide reappraisal rate, the impact to your property taxes is that they usually go up.  If you’re below the median increase, they generally go down.  Check out our tax rate compared to Tennessee’s four biggest cities.  You’ll note the impact of the reappraisals over the years.

Property Tax Graph 25 Year 4 Cities

A lot people were understandably upset at the 34% tax increase last year.  It couldn’t have come at a worse time due to pandemic and economic shutdown.  Among the financial issues we have, the biggest one is that we haven’t managed the tax rate well.  If you’ll note on the 25-year tax graph, historically after the appraisal occurs and affects the tax rate to go down, the Mayor and Council will nudge it up nice and easy in the years afterwards to account for growth.  That didn’t happen in 2017 and we were left with an unsustainably low rate.  We hadn’t nudged the rate up since 2012 and should have done that so we wouldn’t have been looking at such a stark increase last year (which was still 30 cents cheaper than it was in 2017).  So, here we are again with an appraisal that shows rapid property value increases, which means the rate will drop back down to historic lows.  Yes, we have issues with overspending and too high of debt, but our overall financial outlook is strong if we can keep our hands tight on the reigns of the tax rate.  We’re still operating with fewer Metro employees than we had in 2003.  We have a lot of work to do to manage growth and ensure it is benefiting everyone.  When you add the impact of the pandemic and the economic shutdown, the trillions of dollars that has come from the federal government assistance to states, cities and local municipalities, we have to be laser focused on stable fiscal management, which means budgeting thinking about the long term and not using federal government assistance to balance our budget.  That would be dangerous as those funds will not be here forever and we need to focus on those funds supporting schools, small business, out of work neighbors and other critical areas so we can get through the pandemic’s impact.  We will get through this together.

The Hip Donelson Community Farmer’s Market returns for the 10th season at Two Rivers Mansion on Friday, May 7th at 4pm.  This is a treasure of an event for the community and hope you will make plans to support it every Friday through October.

The Donelson Gateway Project needs your help for the annual spring cleanup.  “Many hands make light work”.  Meet at the Briley Pkwy / Lebanon Pk site on Saturday, May 8th at 10am.  We can disperse to other sites as needed.  Thank you for your support of keeping Donelson beautiful!

The Buchanan Family Festival Fish Fry & Flea Market will be May 15th at 11am.  See flyer below for details.

BLH 2021 Festival Flyer

The annual Phil the House with Arts and Friends at Two Rivers Mansion will be on Sunday, May 16th from 1-4pm and will feature the photography of local resident and Friends member Doug Almy.

I’m now fully vaccinated and encourage everyone to do the same so we can get back to opening the city back up 100%, all our kids back in school and put this pandemic behind us.  All COVID19 related info, including how to sign up for vaccine appointments can be found here.

Finally, I will be sending out another newsletter about two rezoning meetings coming up (one for a single family home development at 2600 Pennington Bend Rd and the other for condo developments at 2842 and 2850 Lebanon Pike) plus an exciting community event on Saturday, May 22nd.  So, stay tuned to another newsletter on the heels of this one once I firm up dates and details.

Best,

jeff syracuse

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Let’s Work Together to Create a Better 2021

Dear Friends,

The recent insurrection attempt at the US Capital shows that the complexities that arose in 2020 are not yet in the rear-view mirror.  Many have asked about reports of continued protests and rallies that may turn violent.  The below letter from MNPD Chief Drake was received by Metro Council Members.

January 11 Letter To Metro Council

There is an understandable amount of anxiety and frustration about the rollout of the vaccine.  As with all things related to COVID-19, this website is your best local source to follow Metro Health Department processes and find when your eligible timeframe for receiving the vaccine is here and how to sign up.  That’s also the place to continue to get the latest information on testing centers.  Further helpful information at the State Department of Health here is a good resource as well.

As you may have seen, I’ve been on the news a bit to talk about the uptick in crime, mostly stemming from our hotel / motel and hospitality businesses in the district.  As mentioned to the media, some of this is not new to an uptick we see around the holidays, but certainly some is attributed to the ancillary issues from the pandemic.  I have worked hard at establishing a stronger communication network between our Hermitage Precinct and hospitality businesses and has already shown to have some efficacy.  It will be a monthly meeting focused specifically on how our hospitality businesses can unite together, apply best practices of managing their parking lots guided by the Hermitage Precinct, share resources for being more proactive in protecting their properties, and utilizing improved technology to create a faster, more effective communication network to all area hospitality businesses and MNPD when an incident happens.

As you have likely noticed, we have an uptick in homelessness issues in the district and new camps have been set up in various locations.  Homelessness is one of the most complex issues to deal with and must be done with sensitivity and support for our unhoused neighbors.To that end, I am hosting a virtual community meeting on this topic on Thursday, January 28th at 7pm.  I strongly encourage everyone to attend.  Thanks to Donelson neighbor Tara Shaver, she will host the meeting on her corporate Zoom account and manage the logistics.  We will hear from our Metro Homeless Impact Division and learn about their role and efforts, non-profit partners engaged in this effort, including Open Table Nashville, Room at the Inn, Mental Health Cooperative and People Loving Nashville.  Sergeant Jeff White with our Hermitage Precinct will be in attendance to discuss MNPD’s role and efforts as they interact with the homeless community and how they interact with other Metro Departments.  He will also discuss panhandling, which is a separate issue, but is somewhat connected to community concerns.  State Representative Darren Jernigan will be in attendance to discuss this from a State perspective.  This meeting will require registration.  Please visit this link to register.

I continue to work hard on all things related to any further development in the Pennington Bend area, specifically on infrastructure.  Last term I focus efforts on attempting to push for a third interchange.  That does not appear likely to happen at all for several reasons, so am now focused on ensuring private development proposals to include ample infrastructure support and have created a couple new Capital Improvement Budget requests of Metro for future planning.  Stay tuned for a community meeting within the next two months that’ll hold to bring everyone up to speed with my efforts.

Despite the challenges before us both at a national and local level, I have strong faith in our ability to come together and meet these challenges and create a brighter future for the next generation.  I hope you will join me in working to find common ground, vehemently reject extremism as a cancer upon our democracy, create and participate in constructive dialogue (especially on social media), and be part of solutions to our problems in service to each other.

Best,

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Donelson Christmas Tree Lighting and Closing out 2020

Dear Friends,

It’s time for the 2020 Donelson Christmas Tree Lighting!  Join us LIVE Sunday, December 13, 4:00pm on the Hip Donelson Facebook page. 

It’s a different kind of tree lighting this year for a couple of reasons.  For safety we are hosting this virtually.  In addition, the location begins a new era as we begin to utilize our new civic space in front of where the new library will be.

Please consider driving by and dropping off an unwrapped toy for the Metro Police Christmas Charities, started by District 15’s very own Chief Joe Casey.  Those who donate a toy will receive a coupon for a complimentary Bacon Popcorn at Homegrown Taproom & Kitchen!

Thanks to District 15 Beautification Commissioner Michele Mazzu, Hip Donelson, The Donelson Gateway Project, JVI Secret Gardens and Donelson Cafe and Catering for all coming together to make this event possible.

Donelson Christmas Tree Lighting in 2020

Click here to review Mayor Cooper’s Transportation Plan for Nashville.  As the Mayor’s Office describes is, this is a “people-focused approach to help set us up better for grant opportunities”.  There is no direct funding appropriated with this plan.  It does help identify the infrastructure needs with “critical projects for community resilience, neighborhood livability, shared prosperity, and system preservation and performance.”

As a reminder as we close out 2020, here are a few resources to help you navigate these very difficult times:

  • Call 211 to reach the United Way, who is a critical resource for guiding you for various resources.
  • Affordable Housing Resources also has two programs to help with rent. Contact AHR at (615) 251-0025, Extension 0 or email sbosworth@ahrhousing.org
  • The Financial Empowerment Center stands ready to help you navigate these very difficult times for so many. See below for their contact info.

Free Professional Financial Counselling

As always, don’t hesitate to call me if I can be of service.  My cell is 615-886-9906.  I wish you and your families a very Happy Holidays.  Despite the extraordinary times we’re living in,

Best,

Councilman Jeff Syracuse

 

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An Overdue Newsletter with a New Format Coming and a Metro Budget 101 Series Everyone Should Attend

happy-thanksgiving-3727343_1280 Happy Thanksgiving from Councilman Syracuse!

Dear Friends,

It’s been a few months since I last sent out a newsletter.  I will freely admit it’s been a challenge to sit and focus on writing one during these strange times… tornado recovery, global pandemic, Presidential election and significant budget issues.  I am hopeful about the news regarding the success with progress towards a vaccine and recovery from the tornado is ongoing, but good progress has been made.

I’m going to soon change the format of my newsletters to be shorter and hopefully more regular.  As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.  For now, I wanted to get this critical information out to you ASAP.  I strongly encourage everyone to get more engaged in our budget issues and processes so we can have more productive conversations about them.  One of my greatest frustrations with this year is the inability to have town halls.  I started looking at doing a live streamed town hall, but this series below is even better.  I may be a day or two late getting this newsletter to your inbox before the first meeting of the series, but it will be rebroadcast and available to watch online as well.

Councilmembers Kyonzté Toombs (Chair) & Delishia Porterfield (Vice-Chair) of the Budget and Finance Committee, will be hosting a Virtual Metro Budget 101 Series over the next few months. The sessions, beginning at 6PM, will provide transparency and education for the general public concerning Metro Nashville Davidson County's revenues, and the budget process.

Questions from the public may be submitted to kyonzte.toombs@nashville.gov by 5PM on the day before the session. All questions must be on-topic.

How does the city get money?

  • November 19, 2020 - Property Taxes: Assessor of Property Vivian Wilhoite, Trustee Erica Gilmore
  • December 3, 2020 - Sales Tax: Councilmember At-Large Bob Mendes
  • December 17, 2020 - City/State Revenue: Finance Director Kevin Crumbo and State Rep. Harold Love

How does the city spend money?

  • January 7, 2021 - Metro Nashville Public Schools: School Board Member Freda Player-Peters, Chief Operating and Financial Officer Chris Henson
  • January 14, 2021 - Metro Public Works and Metro Parks Departments: Public Works Interim Director Shanna Whitelaw
  • January 21, 2021 - Nashville General Hospital
  • January 28, 2021 - Public Safety (Metro Nashville Police Department, Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office)

Community Panel Discussions

  • February 4, 2021 - Community Panel Discussion
  • February 11, 2021 - Expert Panel Discussion
  • February 18, 2021 - How the Budget Process Works
  • February 25, 2021 - Participatory Budget: Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara

This series of sessions will provide helpful Information, and I hope you will participate as we wort through this upcoming 2021 budget year. The schedule will be updated as speakers are confirmed.

The public may watch the following meetings live online at:

https://www.nashville.gov/.../Metro.../Live-Streaming.aspx

Metro Nashville and Davidson County residents can view Metro Nashville Network on Comcast channel 3, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Google Fiber channel 3, and streaming on the MNN Roku channel.

As always, don’t hesitate to call me if I can be of service.  My cell is 615-886-9906.  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Best,

jeff syracuse

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FY2021 Budget Virtual Community Meetings, Tree Replacement and Unveiling of a New Art Piece in Donelson

Dear Friends,
 
I’m going to keep this newsletter brief as I know we are inundated with information being sent to us from national, state and local levels and I don’t want to simply regurgitate information you’re already seeing elsewhere, such as all information related to Nashville’s COVID-19 response here, where it details the metrics being looked at and the Roadmap for Reopening Nashville.
 
When Mayor Cooper announced his budget proposal, my phone started ringing off the hook as is expected, especially when a tax increase is part of it, and especially when our economy is largely shut down.  I get it and I hear you.  It’s frustrating that we can’t have community meetings in person, so what I’d like to do is set up two virtual community meetings via Zoom so I can offer a platform to hopefully have productive conversations as Council proceeds with our budget hearings with Metro Department heads.  Until then, the Citizen Guide to the Metro Budget and Mayor Cooper’s budget presentation are here.  All documents Metro Council Members are reviewing and our budget hearing schedule is here

  • Thursday, May 21st at 6:30pm – Zoom Meeting Link
    Meeting ID: 811 7969 9344
    Password: 995935
     
  • Thursday, May 28th at 6:30pm – Zoom Meeting Link
    Meeting ID: 830 0936 6439
    Password: 046653

Upcoming Public Hearing

The public hearing for the budget will be at the June 2nd Council Meeting.  How do you have a public hearing without the public?  Great question.  Governor Lee has extended his Order that allows local municipalities to meet virtually until June 30th.  If members of the public are interested in speaking either for or against any item on the public hearing agenda this is how you do it: 

  1. Tune into the meeting via live streaming on Nashville.gov, by watching on cable TV (Comcast channel 3, AT&T Uverse channel 99), or watch on the Roku Metro Nashville Network Channel.
  2. Wait for the Vice Mayor to announce when your item is ready for live call in.
  3. Dial 629-255-1931 and wait for operator assistance.
  4. You will be asked if you are calling for the current bill on public hearing.
  5. Mute your TV or live stream when it is your turn to speak.
  6. Once your time begins, state your name, address, and whether you are for or against the bill. You will have two minutes to speak.
  7. During your public comments, you will receive a 30-second warning before your time limit is up.

While the live call-in feature is strongly encouraged in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, members of the public may attend the Metro Council Meeting at the Historic Metro Courthouse (1 Public Square) and speak to the Council from the Council Chamber.  Additional information about virtual Council Meetings and remote participation in Council public hearings can be found here.
 

Affordable Housing Programs for Tornado Victims

Affordable Housing Resources has a new program to help homeowners who lost use of their homes in the tornado called the Tornado Mortgage Mitigation program (TMM).  The TMM is a free service designed to help these homeless homeowners get up to a 12 month “holiday” from their mortgage payments – basically as long as the home is unlivable.  From working in past disasters, including Katrina, they learned it takes most homeowners 12 months to settle on their FEMA and Insurance payments, find a contractor and get the repairs completed.  During this time most homeowners are responsible to keep their monthly mortgage current and are now also paying rent on temporary housing; however, experience has shown that it’s often challenging for many homeowners to deal with mortgage servicers.  This is because they do not deal with financial institutions and mortgage servicers often and these institutions are often full of pushbacks.  AHR is experienced at mitigating mortgages as they worked with thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure during the 2010-2014 Recession.  They know how to successfully negotiate with the various professional mortgage servicers.  Below is a flyer with more information about this free service to all homeowners whose homes were rendered unlivable by the tornado.  Most lawyers charge $2,000 or more for this mitigation work.   They are able to make it a free service because of generous grants from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Frist Foundation and NeighborWorks America.  Also, thanks to a recent gift from the United Way, AHR can now help those homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage due to recent job losses caused by COVID-19, so give them a call to learn more.
 

 
Thanks to organizations like Root Nashville, there are opportunities to engage in helping us restore our tree canopy we lost in the March 3rd tornado and recent storms of May 3rd and 4th.  For us to be successful in helping neighbors plant the right kind of trees in the right places and defray the cost, it’s important we support organizations like Root Nashville as plans are made available for us to engage with.  As you’ll note at the link above, “Planting Captains” will help coordinate the logistics.  The other program will be through the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps called “Operation Overstory”.  I encourage you to check them both out and support them as you’re able.  More information on this in the weeks and months ahead, but please let me know if you’re willing and able to assist with these efforts as we’ll need it.

The Donelson Gateway Project

To close this newsletter, I invite you all to join The Donelson Gateway Project's Facebook page LIVE next Thursday, May 14th at 6:30pm as we unveil a public art piece at the Briley Parkway / Lebanon Pike site.  This was inspired by our treasured Merry Oaks neighbor and former 15th District Beautification Commissioner Naomi Regensburg.  The idea came to life thanks to our Metro Arts: Nashville Office of Arts + Culture THRIVE program, artist Brian Somerville, and Brian Sexton with Creatives Day managing the process.  It’s an art piece that is poignant for the times we’re living in, so we decided to go ahead with an unveiling event live on Facebook.  It’d be a great night to support a local restaurant for dinner and tune in next Thursday, May 14th at 6:30pm live on The Donelson Gateway Project’s Facebook page.  See you then.
 

 
During this extraordinary time of challenges, if I can be of service, don’t hesitate to call my cell at 615-886-9906.
 
Best,
 


615-886-9906

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COVID-19 Information, Tornado Recovery, Federal Stimulus and State of Metro

Dear Friends,
 
Since the tornado, things have moved so quickly, it has been difficult to sit down and compose a newsletter.  I’d like to give a very big public Thank You to Chelsea Moubarak, who has assisted several Council Members with putting together a comprehensive list of information, resources and much more.  She’s done a great job with compiling much of the information below.
 
Between the tornado and now a global pandemic, I know it feels like we’re living in the Twilight Zone.  There has never been a time more than now as your Council Member that I have felt more helpless.  My heart breaks for those that were impacted by the tornado and now we’ve been hit with the one-two punch in dealing with COVID-19.  That said, I have seen extraordinary service to one another and unparalleled perseverance.  Thank you to each of you for taking care of your neighbors and community.  Please continue to support small business and their employees who are struggling immensely now.  Take-out, delivery and curb side service are being offered by just about all our favorite local restaurants.

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“The State of Donelson and Hermitage” Forum Coming Plus the Next Mayor’s Night Out and Budget Meetings

Dear Friends –

The Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association is hosting a “State of Donelson and Hermitage” forum at FiftyForward Donelson Station on Monday, March 9th at 7pm.  See flyer below for details.  See you there.

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Tornado Response and Donelson Community Support Day – Saturday, March 7th

McGavock Pike after tornado in Donelson Tennessee
 
Dear Friends –

My heart goes out to everyone who was in the path of the tornado. The outreach and support from neighbors and the community at large has been inspiring and words cannot express the appreciation and love we all feel towards those that are assisting with this recovery effort.

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Pennington Bend Update on Developments and Community Engagement for the Next Metro Budget and a Public Art Piece

Dear Friends –

I’ve received a great deal of phone calls, emails and social media tags with questions about the big 130-acre development that began recently, which will be called Pennington Centre.  I thought it best to detail this land’s history, where we are headed and also provide information on other projects and overall what my efforts have been specifically in the Pennington Bend area since I first took office in 2015.

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Happy New Year! What’s ahead in 2020, Update on Metro Finances and Important Transit Meeting

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.

Coffee with Mayor Cooper

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.

50th Anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee
 
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.

Rezoning meeting for 1590, 1600, 1602 and 1604 Lebanon Pike

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.
 
Big thanks goes to Piedmont Gas for sponsoring the first ever Nashville Christmas Parade train ride

Big thanks goes to Piedmont Gas for sponsoring the first ever Nashville Christmas Parade train ride


Best,


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New Term Begins, Election as President Pro Tempore, Community Meetings and More

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.

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