Transit Plan, Short Term Rentals, Major League Soccer, Recommend Infrastructure for Pennington Bend and the Full Story on the Dancing Lights of Christmas

Dear Friends –

Mayor Barry announced the comprehensive transit plan and proposal for what taxes would support it to Council Members on Tuesday, October 17th and was in conjunction with the Tennessee Public Transportation Association annual conference at Music City Center. The proposal will not include any property tax increase. The passage of the IMPROVE Act earlier this year by the State Legislature, in addition to funding road and bridge projects across the state, authorized local government to collect surcharges on various taxes and fees currently being assessed by the local government, if approved by voters by referendum. Metro will seek federal grants where available, while also proposing four surcharges to fund the project implementation and long-term maintenance of the system. The proposal is as follows:

• One-half percent sales tax surcharge beginning in July of 2018 and graduating to one percent in 2023. A recent study released by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce shows that nearly half (47%) of sales tax collections in Davidson County are generated by out-of-county residents.

• One-quarter percent surcharge on the hotel/motel tax, graduating to three-eighths of a percent in 2023. The Convention Center Authority, which is funded in part by local hotel taxes and fees, is anticipated to help pay for the transit system by constructing a SoBro station for light rail and rapid bus service. Additionally, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority has agreed in principle to fund a light rail spur from Murfreesboro Road to the Airport with terminal access.

• 20% surcharge on the rental car tax. Metro currently charges a 1 percent tax on the gross proceeds derived from the lease or rental of any passenger motor vehicle, truck or trailer for a period of five days or less. This 20% surcharge would result in a total of 1.2% surcharge on rental cars.

• 20% surcharge on the business and excise tax. Businesses in Davidson County are assessed a business and excise tax based on a variety of classifications established under TCA 67-4-708 . If a business currently pays $1,000 in such a tax, this surcharge would result in an additional $200 annually.

This proposal will come to Metro Council to vote whether or not to put it on the ballot as a referendum for the May 2018 ballot for the residents of Davidson County to vote on. In related news, I was happy to recently be part of an article written by David Plazas of The Tennessean title The Stakes in Nashville’s Transit Future: Getting Left Behind. It is a very thorough look at the situation we face and the major decisions we have before us.

At the October 3rd Council Meeting, BL2017-608 that would phase out non-owner occupied short-term rentals was deferred for the sixth time. Vice Mayor Briley put together an ad-hoc committee to study a possible compromise (specifics still unknown at this time) and so 608 was narrowly deferred until Jan 2, 2018, as it’s expected that a proposal for some sort of compromise will come to Council in December. While I’m open to learning about the compromise, I also understand that many neighborhoods feel under attack and have no recourse to deal with the negative issues that come with some non-owner occupied STR’s, especially in regards to enforcement. I have seen the number of permits steadily increase in the 15th District and so I decided to support 608 as I believed it would give neighborhoods solid grounding in order to achieve some stability while we wait on the compromise proposals and since it had been deferred five times already, I was ready to provide neighborhoods with some sense of relief. I know there are some non-owner occupied properties in the district that are high quality and do not cause any issues. I certainly recognize that and know that’s the case across the county as well. But, I will put the integrity and quality of life of our neighborhoods first and foremost. However, there are a couple of elements of the current situation that I deem positive. Even though it was deferred again, because it’s pending legislation, no additional non-owner occupied permits are being issued. Also, to address the enforcement issue, a 24/7 hotline has been established that will help direct resources more quickly to issues as they arise. All information about the hotline can be found here. A graphical representation of the process is below.

STR 1

STR 2

The prospect of bringing a Major League Soccer team to Nashville is both exciting and creates many questions as well as far as the impact to the tax payers and to the Fairgrounds. I attended the presentation to Council about the financing package and overall I thought it was positive and thankfully very different from the deals for Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium and First Tennessee Park. The vote for this is likely to occur at the November 2nd Council Meeting, so I encourage feedback as always. The financing for the stadium will largely fall on the owners of the team. It was described as a 90 / 10 split with private money and revenues funding 90%. Metro will float the $200 million revenue bond, but the revenue from the stadium (including a surcharge on tickets) will go towards the debt payments. I have asked for some specific information about substantiation of the revenue and to review some sort of amortization schedule showing how this would work, but I do have confidence that the Ingram family, who are deeply rooted and committed to Nashville’s success, have put together an overall favorable proposal in my opinion that they are serious about succeeding. My other question remains about the impact to the future of the Fairgrounds. The proposed private development as part of the deal has many questions and the owners and administration have already tweaked the plan so that revenues from the private development are directed back into the Fairgrounds. The regular programming of the Fairgrounds should not be altered. Thus, with some specific questions being answered that would make me comfortable with the financing and ensuring no negative impact to the Fairgrounds, I’m poised to support it. There will be a public hearing on this on Tuesday, October 24th at 6pm at the Creative Arts Building at The Fairgrounds – 625 Smith Ave, Nashville, TN 37203.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time on Holiday Traffic issues in the Opry / Music Valley area and have always put the residents of Pennington Bend first. The situation with the Dancing Lights of Christmas is not something that just popped up as some have suggested. The owners put out a press release specifically mentioning that I “cancelled” their event. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is unfortunate that they stooped to dishonorable tactics in my opinion, and I’d like to set the record straight with the facts and chronological timeline of the efforts over the past few years.

  • First, there is some confusion among some about the ownership and lease of the property where the Dancing Lights of Christmas show occurs. The Gleaves family has owned that property for many years. Jellystone Campground has a long-term ground lease to operate the campground. The Dancing Lights of Christmas is owned by Mike Scalf from East Tennessee and he had some sort of agreement to come to Nashville and operate the Light show during the Holiday Season.
  • The 2014 Christmas Season saw a big increase in popularity in the Dancing Lights of Christmas show. Councilman Phil Claiborne put together meetings in the Summer of 2015 with everyone who either causes or deals with traffic, from TDOT, Metro Police, Metro Public Works, Ryman Hospitality, Opry Mills, the Light show, all the various small businesses along Music Valley Drive and surrounding area, and neighbors on both sides of Pennington Bend. The result was Metro Public Works hiring a consultant to look at what tweaks to traffic control and infrastructure improvements could be implemented. Some of the signage improvements were implemented, but the majority of the elements were deemed not possible by the property owners.
  • I took office in September 2015 and put together a follow-up meeting in October to see what we could do to coordinate efforts. I took an approach looking at it from two aspects – 1) What could we do now to try and improve the situation, and 2) What does the area need for the long-term infrastructure improvement to improve the quality of life for both residents and visitors to the area, especially if more growth and development is to occur. At that point, it was largely too late to make any significant impact for the 2015 Holiday Season. As Nashville was growing, so was the popularity of the area as a regional tourist destination.
  • I started early in 2016 to try and work with everyone involved in previous meetings to try and create a cohesive traffic plan for the entire area. Metro Public Works and the Metro Police Department are to be highly commended for their above and beyond efforts. Without a doubt, Opry Mills and Ryman Hospitality (Opryland Hotel, ICE, Grand Ole Opry) create a significant amount of traffic during the Holiday Season. But their activities occur on private property and they have tweaked plans, modified operations, and increased their efforts to control traffic as the needs arise. The Dancing Lights of Christmas left it to Metro PD to create a traffic plan that was largely focused on the amount of traffic they caused on public roads, mostly Music Valley Drive and Pennington Bend Road.
  • While efforts continued with traffic control improvement, I began to meet with Ryman and Opry Mills to help me with long-term infrastructure needs. After a few meetings, they agreed to fund a cohesive infrastructure improvement study to put forth recommendations for what the area needs to manage traffic better and improve for future growth. Gresham, Smith & Partners won the bid for this project and began to work diligently.
  • The 2016 Holiday Traffic Plan that was created by Metro Police was comprehensive and required the Lights to secure a permit to modify the normal flow of traffic on Music Valley Drive and route traffic at various intersections along Pennington Bend Road. The plan for the whole area consisted of 23 Officers, 3 Sergeants and a Lieutenant to oversee the plan on Fridays and Saturdays from 4-10pm when the traffic volume was at its peak. Since this required Officers to work beyond their normal shifts, it could not be mandated for the entire season. The first weekend of the plan was mandated (meaning, we, the tax payers, paid for it) to show its efficacy. It did indeed help, but it also routed traffic over Pennington Bend Road through the residential area and I know neighbors were not all that happy about it. There were few options as the area is only so big and every possible aspect was considered when coming up with this plan by Public Works and MNPD who are knowledge leaders about traffic control for special events. When the second weekend was not mandated and all police shifts were not able to be filled, the plan fell apart. I immediately asked the administration for the funding to mandate the plan for the remainder of the Holiday Season. At that point, I felt we were left with no choice but to ensure that the plan was funded in order to work. Thus, the tax payers paid for it. It did help at times. However, there were times when the traffic was so bad, it wouldn’t have mattered how many Officers were down there. There were occurrences of drivers treating the Officers disrespectfully as well. Big thanks to Barrett Hobbs with Scoreboard Bar & Grill for feeding the Officers who were working those shifts.
  • The traffic volume increased again between the 2015 and 2016 Holiday Season. I held a follow-up meeting to discuss the traffic plan in late January 2017 at Grace Nazarene that likely had over a hundred in attendance. I was focused on ensuring the tax payers would not have to fund a traffic plan creation or management again. The Lights were told very early on that because of the growth of their event, they needed to be treated like any other special event in Nashville and come up with their own traffic plan to submit to Public Works to review and show improvement in their operations and logistics. Staging, advance ticketing and other suggestions were given to them by Public Works and Metro Police, but were ignored. Conference calls and meetings were held to try and help them and also clearly communicate what the requirements would be for the 2017 Holiday Season. The bottom line is they failed to ever submit a traffic plan or show how they would improve their operations. They were told clearly that if no traffic plan was submitted, they could not get a permit from Public Works. There were many months of opportunity for them to do so.
  • Instead of following the same path that any other special event follows, the Lights hired an attorney. I met with him and delivered the same consistent message -- that his client failed to follow the same standard procedures as any other special event. Since they hired an attorney, I wanted to be sure all aspects of this situation were covered, so I asked Metro Planning to look into the zoning of this property to confirm whether or not they were able to operate such a large event. As it turns out, they were not. This is a “Temporary Festival” and the Lights had not been following the normal zoning and use permitting required as they should’ve been since the beginning. When they were a smaller event, they basically operated under the radar.
  • In the end, the Lights decided to play the card of the victim and say that I was against a Veteran-owned business and even had one individual planted at the meeting from outside the community to accuse me of being anti-Christian and anti-Christmas. They claimed they were the “little guys” and being kicked out. On the contrary, if the math is accurate, they likely gross over $1,000,000 in revenue from their event in just several weeks. I submit that the “little guys” are the over 1,100 residents of Pennington Bend that I represent that have their quality of life compromised during the Holiday Season.
  • I’m happy for the Lights that they found another location to operate where they can hopefully continue to grow and be successful. It’s curious their attorney argued at our meeting that they were unable to move so quickly and offered me a deal that if I were to help them with a permit, that they “may” only operate in that location for one more year. I was not interested in making any deals. I was only interested in his client following the rules like everyone else. My job is to represent the people and businesses that live and work here in the community 365 days a year. The small businesses (hotels and restaurants) showed quantifiable proof that because of the amount of traffic caused by the Light show, they lost significant business. Even with the Light show moving to another location, I continue to work hard on behalf of the area for a successful cohesive traffic management plan. As the area continues to grow, it needs to remain a strong focus.
  • At the community meeting, Gresham, Smith & Partners presented a slideshow of the long-term infrastructure upgrades they recommend as part of the plan that Ryman and Mills paid for. The slides from that presentation are below.

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Naomi Regensburg has served as District 15 Beautification Commissioner for the better part of twenty years. Her work has been extraordinary and she has served humbly and done so much for Donelson. She has decided not to renew her term and so it was my honor to present Naomi a proclamation at the Hip Donelson Farmer’s Market to recognize her service as she rolls off. I’d also like to give a warm welcome to Michele Mazzu, who has already hit the ground running. She has already implemented daffodil planting for our schools, researched programs that will make Donelson greener and has also joined the board of The Donelson Gateway Project.

Naomi Regensburg

MIchele Mazzu 1

Metro Government has launched hubNashville, a comprehensive customer service system that makes it easier for residents to connect with Metro representatives and address concerns ranging from potholes to code violations. hubNashville, a one-stop shop currently accessible by phone and online, allows the public to report issues to Metro without needing to know which department to contact. Trained representatives are available to answer questions, record feedback and help users request services from the appropriate departments. The website lets users follow the city’s progress toward resolving their requests and provides emailed updates to those who register with an email. The new website, initially available in English and Spanish, complements a call center that Metro expanded in July. The Metro Public Works Call Center has transitioned to the hubNashville Contact Center, which the public can reach by dialing 311 or (615) 862-5000.

The lights in the tunnels on the Greenway under Briley Parkway will be replaced and/or repaired soon. Thanks to Metro Parks for addressing this.

The 8th Annual Tennessee Beer & Wine Festival returns to the Two Rivers Mansion on Saturday, October 21st. Visit their website here for more info and to purchase tickets.

TN Beer and Wine Fest 1

It was an honor to be in attendance for Jeannie Seely’s 50th Anniversary celebration as a member of the Grand Ole Opry and present a proclamation in her honor. I also had the pleasure of accompanying State Representative Bill Beck on stage at the Texas Troubadour Theater after the Opry show as he read a certificate signed by Governor Haslam honoring this milestone.

Jeannie Seely 1

 

Jeannie Seely 2

Tuesday, September 26th was National Voter Registration Day and I was honored to be asked to participate in an event at Grimey's New & Preloved Music featuring some great music and performances, including one of my favorites, the McCrary Sisters, who were accompanied by hit songwriter Danny Flowers. Thanks to HeadCount, Band Together TN and BriteHeart for making this event happen. As Tennessee is 50th in voter turnout, there's only one direction we can go... We absolutely need to do better and I'm ready to help. Please help spread the word and let's improve registration efforts and voter turnout. Don't forget you can register online now here.

Voter Regstration Event 1

Voter Registration Event 2 1

Best,


jeff syracuse

 

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Honoring Frank Trew, Important Community Meetings and Presenting a Vision for Our Stones River Regional Park

Dear Friends –

Our hearts have been heavy since the news of Frank Trew’s passing.  He was a close, personal friend of mine.  There was no one I worked more closely with on behalf of Donelson’s neighborhoods than Frank.  There was a shared passion of organizing neighborhoods and helping form Neighborhood Watch groups, supporting and celebrating local businesses and serving and taking care of our neighbors.  We talked a lot about Donelson’s future.  Hip Donelson has been that organization to bring the community together in great ways to support the community now and advocate for what we want to be in the future.  Frank’s leadership of Hip Donelson is a major reason you see “hip” pages on Facebook all around Middle Tennessee now.  Hip Donelson’s success of being that “virtual front porch” for neighbors to engage with each other has become a model many want to follow.  I encourage everyone to focus on Frank’s great example of service and follow his lead.  Our neighborhoods, schools, non-profits and civic organizations need each of us to be involved, serve one another and continue to keep us a strong community.

The board of Hip Donelson is strong and they have already been working on moving forward and continuing the good work.  Big thanks to Maggie Sidlinger, who served as Vice President of Hip Donelson and directed the Hip Donelson Community Farmer’s Market with Frank, has stepped into the President role and Marylee Locey is Vice President.  As a founder and ex-officio board member, I’m committed to supporting this organization that is very close to my heart.  And speaking of the farmer’s market, it felt like a one-two punch that we abruptly learned that Ace Hardware along with a few other locations had closed.  Hopefully even before this newsletter goes out, we will learn of a new franchise owner that will reopen Ace, but as of the writing of this newsletter, we are still awaiting to hear what the future will be.  However, I can confirm the market is secure at this location for the rest of the season.  As the season winds down, please make an extra effort to come to the market and support the vendors and this very special weekly event that kicks off our weekends with lots of community pride.

As we need to continue to celebrate Frank’s life and example, I write this newsletter on Sunday, September 10th and its World Suicide Prevention Day as well as National Suicide Prevention Week.  Losing someone close to you as we know is very painful.  It was a shock for me to learn of Frank’s cause of death and brought an additional depth of grief, anger and other difficult mixed emotions.  While we may never have total understanding and closure of why Frank took his life, in keeping with the sentiments above that we honor his life in service to others, take a moment to review the links above and remember to “take a minute, change a life”.  Wherever possible, let someone who is struggling know that they are not alone, they are loved and we are there for them.

Frank Trew

There are two important community meetings coming for the Pennington Bend / Opry / Music Valley area:

  1. Pennington Bend Development Along the Cumberland River – Thursday, September 21st at 6:30pm at Grace Nazarene Church. As I write this, I am watching as Hurricane Irma is about to make landfall in Florida.  Here in Donelson, development along the Cumberland River in the Pennington Bend area has recently seen an uptick in variance requests to develop in the floodway buffer.  I have opposed any variance request.  It is irresponsible development in my opinion.  There are about 43 undeveloped properties along the river in the area.  In order to try and facilitate a cohesive approach, each property owner and the community are being invited to a meeting with Metro Water Services to learn about the potential of a voluntary buy-out program that would allow Metro to purchase the land and ensure development along the river is kept to a minimum and is done so in a responsible way and not in the floodway buffer.  Big thanks to Grace Church of the Nazarene for hosting this meeting.

Below is an example of the letter going out from Metro to the owners of vacant properties, which are the focus of this meeting.

Sample Vacant Lots

  1. Opry / Music Valley Holiday Traffic – Wednesday, September 27th at 7pm at Texas Troubadour Theater. Dealing with both the short-term Holiday Traffic issues and long-term infrastructure needs in the area are two major focuses of mine.  Please join management from Ryman Hospitality / Opryland Hotel, Opry Mills and Gresham, Smith & Partners to discuss Holiday Traffic plans and also share an overview of the long-term infrastructure study recommendations.  Representatives from our Hermitage Precinct and Public Works will be in attendance as well.  Many thanks to the Texas Troubadour Theater in Music Valley Village for hosting us.

Metro Parks is ready to share a draft of the master plan for our Stones River Regional Park.  On September 20th from 12:00 non to 7:30pm at the Hermitage Branch Library, there will be a variety of activities and opportunities to engage with this plan and give your feedback.  See flyer below for details.

Stones River Regional Park Open House

Music Valley will have two Farmer’s, Flea & Arts Market events coming up.  Saturday, September 23rd and Saturday, October 21st will be a sidewalk event full of Fall farm fresh goodness, antiques, vintage, collectibles, local treasures, reclaimed and upcycled art and handmade crafts, food and more.  See flyer below for details as well as visit Nashville Music Valley for more events in the area.

Music Valley Farmers and Flea Market

As discussions begin about a possible MLS soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds, some have asked me a number of questions about that and what is the status of improving the current facilities.  Here is a letter from the Fairgrounds Board that gives a good bit of information

Nashville Fair Grounds Improvements - Page 1

 

Nashville Fair Grounds Improvements - Page 2

Best,

Jeff Syracuse - Metro Council District 15

Jeff

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Cavalia comes to Pennington Bend, Historic Overlay and Community Meeting for Belair Mansion and More Development Updates

Dear Friends –

Thanks to those who live in and around Pennington Bend who came to the community meeting about Cavalia, the equestrian theatrical show coming to Ryman Hospitality’s land just east of Briley Parkway.  Please visit the website at the link above for more information.  Below are some of the slides that were presented at the meeting.  Also of note is that as a token of good will, the management team of Cavalia is offering an opportunity for directly adjacent neighbors to see the show for free since they are the most impacted by this show.  If you attended the meeting and signed the Sign In Sheet, you should be contacted.  If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, please email info@cavalia.net and provide them your address to verify your residence.  Please do not abuse this kind gesture.

Cavalia Equestrian Theatrical Show

Cavalia Equestrian Theatrical Show Village

Cavalia Equestrian Theatrical Show Site Map

 

Cavalia Equestrian Theatrical Show Arial View

It’s a pleasure to introduce to you a very bright young man, Aidan Rowan, who has been shadowing me this summer learning about the job of a Council Member and assisting with a couple projects.  Aidan is a Nashville native whose parents grew up in Donelson and Aidan lived here his first nine years.  He was a part of the 2016 graduating class of University School of Nashville.  Currently he is a part of the Tufts University class of 2020, where he is majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.  He's passionate about the community.  In his spare time, Aidan likes to watch the Titans, Predators and Reds, as well as helping out with his school's Model United Nations organization.

Aidan Rowan Shadowing Councilman Syracuse

I’m very proud that the Historic Overlay passed on third reading at the July 18 Council Meeting.  The next step is to review a site plan and hold a community meeting.  The site plan will have to go through the same Planning Commission and Council process that the Overlay went through.  We will have a Community Meeting on Tuesday, August 29th at 7pm at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Russell Hobbs, Maplecrest Neighborhood Association, for helping set up this meeting.  I look forward to seeing you there and providing input on this proposed site plan.

I learned recently from State Representative Bill Beck and Darren Jernigan that Briley Parkway will be paved from where TDOT stopped last year at the McGavock Pike interchange down to Two Rivers Parkway.  They should be starting soon and done by around October.

The boat ramp at the end of McGavock Pike in the Opry / Music Valley area has officially been transferred to Metro.  Metro Parks is actively working on the site and creating signage.  When it’s ready in the next several weeks, we will have a ribbon cutting and officially open it up to the public.  Stay tuned for an announcement on that.

For those about to enjoy the Solar Eclipse, here is some information from Metro Parks.  Be sure to protect your eyes with the proper eye glasses!

Solar Eclipse 2017 Viewing in Metro Parks

 

MTA has created two flyers detailing the change in fares that recently went into effect.  See below.

MTA Announces Fare Reductions August 2017

 

MTA Fare Reductions August 2017

 

Best,

Jeff Syracuse

 

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Recapping the FY17/18 Budget Season, Legislative Updates and More New Developments in Donelson

Dear Friends –

My apologies for the delay getting this next newsletter out to everyone.  Both my day job at BMI and Metro are both on a July 1 fiscal year, so there’s been a lot of activity in my professional world over the past couple months.  Metro’s budget season for 2017/18 was in of itself an extraordinarily busy time for Council as we worked with the administration to help guide a strategic direction and prioritize investments with a $2.2 billion budget.  The Capital Improvement Budget is where projects are first identified and serve as a “wish list” and then prioritized for funding in the Capital Spending Plan.  The Operating Budget was also thoroughly discussed and one major challenge continues to be Nashville General Hospital, which has struggled in recent years to operate within their budget and have consistently come back to Council in the middle of the year to request an additional appropriation.  They have made improvements over the past couple of years and of course health care is a major issue at the national level so there are certainly broader issues but the bottom line is we must ensure our continued investment produces sustainable results. 

One other aspect of the budget process is to set the tax rate.  The recent property reappraisal process resulted in showing record increases and per state law, the tax collections must remain the same after the appraisal process, so the combined tax rate had to be lowered to $3.155, which is the lowest rate in Metro’s history.  Other notable aspects of this budget is that we also were able to support Codes with add more codes and zoning inspectors, which they greatly need, as well as adding about 12 – 14 school nurses, which is needed as well.   For the first time, FiftyForward will receive support from Metro that includes funding to support each center, including Donelson’s.  Two Rivers Mansion will receive $250,000 for the planning of an event center, to be located behind the mansion and was identified in the Two Rivers Mansion Master Plan as a revenue-generating facility to continue supporting the effort for preservation and enhancement of the historic site.  As part of the effort of securing this funding, former District 15 Councilman and Friends of Two Rivers Mansion founder Phil Claiborne and I along with Two Rivers Mansion manager Laura Carrillo welcomed Mayor Megan Barry for a tour of the mansion, 1802 House and surrounding property.  I’m very thankful to Mayor Barry for recognizing the great work the Friends group has done working with Metro Parks and Metro Historic to revitalize the property.  View pictures of Mayor Barry’s visit to Two Rivers Mansion here.

I have introduced and passed legislation (BL2017-738) banning hourly-rates at hotels and motels.  There aren’t many left in Davidson County, but places like Airways Motel is a good example of a place that only attracts prostitution, illegal drug use and human trafficking.  I’ve had good conversations with business owners who understand the intent and support this effort.  Read more about it here.

Thanks to everyone who contacted me about BL2017-739 regarding immigration issues.  Passions run deep on both sides and I’ve listened carefully to everyone.  I empathize with our immigrant neighbors and the reasons why they leave their country of origin to come to America and begin a new prosperous life with freedom.  While I did vote yes on second reading, there were a number of questions still to be answered before third and final reading and quite honestly, I was surprised that some fundamental aspects of this proposal were not fully vetted before it was even brought to Council as a viable piece of legislation.  Metro Law Director Jon Cooper issued an opinion that this proposed legislation would not apply to the Sheriff or be enforceable as it violates our Metro Charter and State law.  With that information plus hearing from the majority of those that reached out to me not in favor of this, I was prepared to vote no on third and final reading, but the sponsors pulled it from consideration.

Last newsletter I let everyone know I was appointed to the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  I spent a great morning a couple weeks ago with BPAC and members of Walk Bike Nashville as part of their Annual Policy Ride.  I rode my bike from Two Rivers Park across the Cumberland Pedestrian Bridge to downtown and gathered with about 20-30 bicyclists and we rode through points of interest in downtown and East Nashville to highlight successes and challenges.  At Riverfront Station for the Music City Star I had the opportunity to address the group and share our efforts with Downtown Donelson and implementing a pedestrian-friendly town center.

Walk Bike Nashville BPAC Policy Ride

At the June 6th Council Meeting, I was appointed to the Nashville & Eastern Rail Authority Board.  I’m very thanks to District 26 Council Member Jeremy Elrod for nominating me, who also serves as the Chairman for our Public Works Committee.  I follow a good tradition of District 15 Council Members J.B. Loring and Phil Claiborne who have also served on this board.  This is a critical time in being involved in our short line rail road where the Music City Star runs.  As we work to implement the nMotion regional transit plan, improved infrastructure and private development around our stations that brings improved serve and greater frequency will be vitally important.  I look forward to the work ahead.

There is a new “one stop shop” for accessing important data from multiple sources throughout Metro government that has been requested by a number of Council Members.  Visit the Metro Council Resources page to access reports and data all in one place.

The Nashville Farmer’s Market has opened a survey until July 21st to receive input from visitors.  Please take the survey here.

Best,

Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Donelson TN

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Short Term Rental Bill Deferred, Stones River Bend Park Community Kick-Off and More New Restaurants Coming

Dear Friends –

The Business News section has the most updates this newsletter, but important information is in each section.  As always, don’t hesitate to let me know about things happening in the community to include in subsequent editions.

One of the hottest topics at Council right now is Short Term Rental’s and BL2017-608 is the latest bill to restrict non-owner occupied STRP’s.  The Council Meeting on Tuesday, May 2 was the public hearing for 608 and we were there until about 12:30am hearing passionate opinions from both sides of the issue.  We deferred the bill to wait for possible State action that could limit what we can and can’t do and based on that, there may be potential subsequent amendments to 608, so stay tuned.  I certainly see both sides, but lean towards protecting the character and integrity of neighborhoods.  This whole process has been messy to say the least. 

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Spring Clean-Up, the Hip Donelson Farmer’s Market Opens Soon and a New Restaurant is Coming to the Heart of Donelson

Dear Friends –

Hopefully Spring is here to stay and we get to enjoy it before the hot temperatures of summer.

Spring means it’s time to begin the 2017-2018 Metro Budget process.  This past week Mayor Barry held budget discussions with department heads, which can be viewed at the link above.  All departments submit a requested budget, which will exceed the available funds.  The administration continues the shift from incremental budgeting (year-to-year) to long-term financial planning.  Budget proposals will be for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.  As we grow as a city and a metropolitan government, this more strategic-focused process will bring more transparency and accountability.  This will also be the second year Mayor Barry’s administration will hear Public Investment Proposals (PIP’s), which is an innovative new way of approaching budgeting that challenges Metro Departments and agencies to creatively collaborate on citizen-centered pilot initiatives.  Learn more about the PIP’s here.  The administration will now put together a balanced budget proposal to send to Council in May for us to hold our own hearings with departments.

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Donelson Station is Ready for Development and a New Nashville State Community College Campus is Coming Soon

Dear Friends –

Over the past several months, Metro Planning, Public Works, MTA/RTA and I have been working on duplicating an effort already underway around the Music City Star’s Mt. Juliet Station where a developer is partnering with RTA on creating a Transit Oriented Development around the station on RTA land.  We have created a Davidson County version of this RFP (Request For Proposal) and it is now available for developers to review and submit proposals.  The link can be found here.  There is a story about it from The Tennessean here.  This is potential game changer that complements what Holladay Properties is formulating a vision of on the other side of Lebanon Pike at Donelson Plaza.  As these developments continue to take shape, I will keep everyone updated via subsequent newsletters.  It’s exciting times as we move ahead in realizing the vision for Downtown Donelson!

Lack of consistent and timely trash pick-up issues continue, but they are improving.  Red River Waste Solutions is the company that has the contract with Metro.  Metro put them on notice of violating the contract and they must act to resolve the issues they are experiencing quickly or they could lose their contract.  They have come to every Public Works Committee meeting and provided updates.  The company went through major management and personnel changes and now has a new management team working hard to fix their internal issues.  I have established direct communications with their team, so please do not hesitate to email me if there is an issue.  I will get on it immediately.

Charlie Cardwell, Metro Trustee, will be at FiftyForward Donelson Station on February 22 at 9:45am to discuss the Tax Freeze Act, which permits Metro to freeze the property taxes for homeowners 65 or older at the amount of the year they qualify.  Call 615-883-8375 to RSVP and then also stop by before for breakfast or stay after for lunch at Donelson Café in The Larry Keeton Theater.

The update to the Strategic Plan for Sidewalks & Bikeways is available and Public Works is asking for your comments.  Please review and you’ll note that Donelson is identified with a number of sidewalk and bikeway projects.  Thanks for your input!  Below is a great one-sheet that shows where we are headed strategically for sidewalk implementation.

Sidewalk Project Delivery Process

Metro Parks is ready to release a draft of the Metro Parks and Greenways Master Plan.  It was presented by Mayor Barry and Parks staff recently at the Nashville Downtown Library.  The plan will also be on display at the Hermitage Community Center (and other community centers throughout the county) from February 13 – 26.  Please plan on making your voice heard and give input to this plan.

Metro Parks is hiring Lifeguards for this coming summer.  See flyer below for details.

Metro Parks Looking for Lifeguards

Mayor Barry is challenging restaurants to reduce food waste, set a food-waste reduction target and work to reduce food waste over a three-month time frame.  By participating in the Mayor’s Food Saver Challenge, restaurants will reduce the amount of food sent to Middle Tennessee landfills, while helping to relieve hunger by donating wholesome, edible food to local nonprofits serving over 110,000 food-insecure residents in Davidson County.

Metro Water Services has a new map that shows all currently active water main breaks and the current status.  This is a valuable resource.  Access the website and map here.

Check out Nashville Public Libraries new Music Library!  NPL BoomBox highlights local musicians from a variety of genres to help us discover new music.  Enjoy!

I’m very proud of my next Hearts of the People blog.  Laura Carrillo is a very special member of our community and has focused her passions professionally and personally on behalf of Two Rivers Mansion, a great deal of her efforts are behind the scenes and deserves our community’s deepest thanks and appreciation.

Best, 

Jeff Syracuse

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Important Community Meetings Coming Up and Many More Updates to Kick Off 2017

Happy New Year, Everyone –

I hope your Holiday Season was enjoyable and restful.

The required, every four-year Property Reassessment is coming this year and each Council Member had the opportunity to meet with Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite and members of her staff regarding the work they have done and the reassessment process coming up this year.  They have also offered an opportunity for communities across Davidson County to have informational community meetings to help answer questions.  Councilman Steve Glover organized a meeting on Thursday, January 12th at 6:30pm at the Hermitage Precinct for a presentation from the Property Assessors Office regarding the process throughout the Donelson-Hermitage-Old Hickory area.  (Councilman Glover also has a community meeting at 6pm prior to this about a development happening in his district.)  As we know, Nashville is booming and property values are much higher than they were four years ago, so make every effort to attend this meeting and stay informed about the 2017 Property Reassessment.

Property Reassessment Meeting

Congratulations to 15th District neighbor and owner of Cumberland Hospitality Group, Barrett Hobbs, on his appointment by Mayor Barry to the Metro Historic Commission.

Barrett Hobbs - Mayor Barry - Jeff Syracuse

The 15th District has unfortunately been experiencing some trash pick-up issues over the past several months.  Not the whole district has been affected, but random streets have been missed (me included) and collection times have been inconsistent.  The collection before New Year’s was by far the worst experience the district experienced.  I serve as Vice Chair of the Council’s Public Works Committee and so I have brought this issue up and asked to see 1) Red River Waste Solution’s contract with Metro so I can review it, and 2) Receive documentation associated with the procurement of the contract.  I will be reviewing this and have also learned the Mayor’s administration and Public Works leadership has taken a more active role in ensuring they do not violate the contract any further.   I also had a friendly, but frank conversation with President and COO Weldon Smith and members of their staff came to the Public Works Committee to hear from us.  They have had some long-term key staff members leave the company and are rebuilding their team so we can return to safe, consistent, timely and efficient trash pick-up.

Short Term Rental Properties (STRP’s) is a hotly debated issue right now.  After a judge found the STRP legislation vague and ruled against them, it was back to the drawing board.  Legislation was filed (BL2016-492) to regulate them, but some feel it does not go far enough.  There are basically two type of STRP’s – owner-occupied and non-owner occupied.  Non-owner occupied STRP’s are owned sometimes by an owner from out of the country with a local management firm managing the rental.  These types of scenarios have too often including here in Donelson, most notably the development along Miami Ave of homes specifically for STRP use.  There have been instances where the home is rented out specifically to host large parties that are incredibly disruptive to what is usually a quiet neighborhood street.  The Nashville Neighborhood Alliance has proposed an amendment to phase out STRP’s in R and RS zoning (single family residential).  While I do understand the argument to not let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch, the situation has actually amounted to some negative impact to the character of residential neighborhoods.  Some argue they pretty much serve as mini-hotels in the middle of neighborhoods.  I am an advocate for our protecting neighborhoods, so I’m poised to support this amendment that will phase out non-owner occupied STRP’s specific to R and RS zoning over the next two years.

The update to Nashville’s Strategic Plan for Sidewalk and Bikeways (called Nashville WalknBike) is wrapping up and a draft will be presented on January 9th the public.  Visit their website for a list of Community Meetings where team members from Public Works will present the draft plan, answer questions and take feedback.  One of those meetings will be here in Donelson at Stanford Montessori School at 2417 Maplecrest Drive on Tuesday, January 10th at 7pm.  I know this is a big issue for many of us in Donelson, so please plan to attend and be involved.

Metro Animal Care and Control will begin offering three-year rabies vaccine and three-year license at monthly low-cost rabies vaccination clinics starting on the third Saturday of the month in February (February 18, 2017) and go through November.  Metro Animal Care and Control is located at 5125 Harding Place, Nashville, TN 37211.

With cold days ahead, it’s important to remember those that are homeless and need a shelter in times of cold weather.  As you may have read in The Tennessean, Nashville’s homeless rate spiked 9.8% from 2015 to 2016.  Before our December 20th Council Meeting, Open Table Nashville and the Mayor’s Office gave Council Members an update on current efforts and challenges this winter.  To that end, it’s good to be knowledgeable about Nashville’s Cold Weather Response Plan, which is a collaborative effort across non-profit organizations and government.  There is a How You Can Help section on their website.

Cold Weather Community Response Plan

Metro Public Works has completed the signal timing optimization project.  Read about it here in the Nashville Business Journal.  I know there are a few signals in particular for folks that don’t change fast enough.  Hopefully this will help.

The 15th District has been very fortunate to receive four funded projects via Metro Arts Commission THRIVE Program over the past couple of years.  Here’s a highlight:

FY17

  • Artist Elizabeth Davidson was awarded $3,000 to activate community with her production of a one woman play based on the life of the indomitable American author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her writing of her most famous novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin". 
  • Nashville-based Shelby Bottom Duo (Michael August and Nell Levin) was awarded $3,000 to engage 4 community based organizations (3 labor unions and 1 university) with vested interest in workers’ rights in their original multimedia educational show A Musical History of Joe Hill and the Early Labor Movement.
  • Playwright Carolyn German was awarded $4,000 to work with McKendree Village, Donelson Public Library, and FiftyForward Donelson Station to coordinate opportunities for seniors to come and share their stories.
  • Mural and graffiti artists J. Dante Bard and Troy Duff were awarded $4,000 each to activate two different sites at the pedestrian tunnel of the Two Rivers Parkway Greenway.

FY16

The $40 million Metro Water Services Cumberland Low Water Project along Elm Hill Pike, Donelson Pike and Lebanon Pike will be underway soon.  You may have seen the large signs such as the one below.  There is a 24/7 Project Hot Line – 615-953-2899 for up to date information as well as the website link above.

Metro Water Services Project Sign

Best

jeff-syracuse

 

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Opry / Music Valley Traffic Flow Improvement Plan, 29th Holiday Lights Competition and 32nd Annual DH Chamber Christmas Parade

Thanks goes to our Metro Nashville Police Department and Metro Public Works Department for their hard work in working with business all throughout the area.  The below communication describes the traffic flow improvement plan for the Opry / Music Valley area.  While no plan will be perfect, there are more resources this year and MNPD is dedicated to managing these resources as effectively and efficiently as possible for both our neighborhoods and visitors to the area.

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Important Community Meeting, More Good News for Donelson and Strengthening Diplomatic Ties with Belfast, Ireland

I was thrilled to receive an opportunity for a trip of a lifetime representing Nashville as part of the Sister Cities program.  Belfast, Ireland has been a Sister City of Nashville for 20-years.  Aside from Canada and the Bahamas, this was my first time travelling overseas.  It was an extraordinary trip and I learned a great deal about their history, progress on overcoming socio-economic and political challenges, how they merge redevelopment with historic preservation, foster urban renewal and much, much more. 

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Great News – The Donelson Plaza Returns to Local Ownership!

There are a few consistent desires of neighbors across our community that I hear quite often.  Folks would like to ride the Music City Star at more convenient and additional times and they’d like to see more retail and restaurant options in the area.  Our Downtown Donelson Urban Design Overlay is a long term plan that fundamentally addresses these issues and provides the vision for sustainable growth and revitalizing the heart of Donelson into a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented town center.

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Donelson Council News - August 2016

Reflecting Back as a New School Year Begins…

I will freely admit it was hard just to start this next newsletter…  Just as the “new normal” began last Fall as your newly elected member of Metro Council, I struggled with another new reality.  As many of you already know, my Mom passed away on June 30th after a long battle with a neurological illness, to which even now we never were really able to receive a true diagnosis.  It was focused in the mid-brain, an area very difficult to scan, diagnose and treat.  It slowly debilitated her over many months to the point she was a quadriplegic.  It actually started while I was campaigning last year.  I first really noticed her symptoms when Mom & Dad drove up from Atlanta to be with me at my election night party.  It was a very difficult Christmas Season for my family and then Mom’s health really started to decline after the first of the year.  It was so difficult for me to juggle everything as I had to put family first and be in Atlanta most weekends.  I was also surprised and thankful to receive a promotion at work in October that came with a great deal more responsibility.  It’s said the Good Lord doesn’t put any more on your plate than you can handle.  Well, then I am truly a blessed man because there were times over the past months I just wasn’t sure if I could.  The support from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, Metro government colleagues and so many more was just extraordinary and my words of thanks will never be enough but I will be eternally grateful.

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Donelson Council News - June 2016

Dear Friends,

Over the past nine months since taking office, I’ve been focused on setting a strategy to achieving the goals of my time in office – strengthening neighborhoods, improving community support of our schools, supporting non-profits and continued positive economic development.  I’m proud to report that a substantial element in the Mayor’s budget proposal helps us address all of those areas – a new library for Donelson and is something I’ve been working on and advocating for, so I’m very happy to see this.  Mayor Barry has proposed $6 million for the replacement of our Donelson branch, which was built in 1966 and is quite inefficient from an infrastructure perspective as well as size and layout to meet our needs.  Our current library is about 6,000 square feet.  A proposed new library could be about 20,000 square feet, so the current site is not very feasible for redevelopment.  In addition, as we all know, it can be a difficult location to enter and exit.  My vision is focused on renewal and investment around the Music City Star Donelson Station to create a walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented town center for our community that offers more restaurants and retail options as well as green space.  A new library would serve as a perfect community center in the heart of Donelson that would help anchor this renewal.  I continue to work with the Mayor’s Office, our Metro Library Director Kent Oliver and Donelson Library Branch Manager Chris Morin on identifying a suitable location that can maximize this investment to help bring greater accessibility, use and expanded programming to better serve the current and future needs of our community.  Should the budget pass with the library funding included (I’m confident it will), there will be community input in this process and I’ll need your help to get the word out when there is a meeting scheduled.  It will probably happen in late Fall, so stay tuned.  As always, I welcome your input any time leading up to a community meeting.

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Donelson Council News - April 2016

Dear Friends,

This may be my longest newsletter yet!  Lots of good things are in each section.  Be sure to visit the Neighborhood News section about an important Community Meeting on sidewalks coming to the heart of Donelson and a lot more important information on great neighbors doing good things for Donelson.

McGavock High School graduate and MTSU student Robert Bagwell contacted me to ask if he could feature me in a personal profile video project.  I was honored.  It turned out really nice and of course my favorite part is how Joey is featured.  Check it out here.  Another personal profile that Robert did featured Donelson’s own former MNPD Chief Joe Casey.  Check that out here.

Mayor Barry will deliver the State of Metro address on Friday, April 29th at 11:30am at the Ascend Amphitheater downtown.  The administration has requested everyone RSVP here to get a count of those attending.  McGavock High School Marching Band as well as other performances will occur as well.  The Mayor presents her budget proposal to Metro Council after the address.

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Council News - February 2016

Dear Friends,

This year is a big voting year for all levels – local, state and national.  The first is our presidential and county primary election on March 1st.  Early voting has already begun.  See the below flyer for the full schedule.Early Voting Schedule Davidson County Election Commision

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Council News - January 2016

Dear Friends,

The new Star Wars movie was a fun part of the Holiday Season for many families.  I certainly enjoyed taking Joey to see it and having an engaging and philosophical discussion about this very timeless story.  It’s also an excellent analogy for how 2016 began – faster than light speed!  January has flown by but it has been an incredibly productive month.  I have been working very hard on a number of initiatives.

I want to begin this newsletter with acknowledgement specifically to our Music Valley / Pennington Bend neighbors and businesses, which have seen the 2015 Holiday Season traffic as the most challenging one yet.  As the Middle Tennessee region continues to grow, we can only expect it to increase and we need to take proactive action on.  Councilman Claiborne began the effort this past summer by bringing together many Metro and State departments and agencies, businesses and neighbors to meet and discuss the increasing challenges.  Metro Public Works did hire a consultant to analyze traffic flow and propose possible solutions.  While a couple of those proposals were implemented, we learned that we need increased resources and better coordination to successfully achieve improvement.  My primary concern is public safety when our roads are gridlocked and emergency vehicles have a difficult time reaching our neighborhoods, hotels and other tourist destinations.  I’ve engaged the Mayor’s Office and Metro Departments to begin early this year to assist in developing a plan that puts public safety first, improves traffic flow and helps ensure all our businesses can benefit from the positive economic impact from the tourist activity the area receives.  I will keep everyone informed with any new developments with this effort.

There was a big turnout for the 32nd Annual Donelson-Hermitage Chamber Christmas Parade and I enjoyed being a judge along with School Board Member Anna Shepherd, Councilman Kevin Rhoten (District 14) and DH Chamber 2016 President-Elect Sharon Kipp.  A very special moment in the parade is when the Music City Young Marines stopped at the Judge’s table and presented me with a U.S. Flag.

Young Marines - Donelson Christmas Parade

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Council News - November 2015

Dear Friends,

It’s nice to sit down and write this next newsletter reflecting on an incredibly busy couple of weeks that have been both productive and enjoyable.  I began a new job at BMI as an Associate Director of Licensing Customer Relations and am thankful for continued professional growth and opportunity to serve BMI’s songwriters, composers and publishers.  We had our third Metro Council meeting on Tuesday, November 3rd and it was also the National League of Cities conference that same week.  I’m looking forward to the Holiday Season approaching and hope everyone will have an opportunity to enjoy quality time with family and friends.

The National League of Cities held their annual Congress of Cities conference in Nashville during the first week of November and it was a great way to showcase our city’s success, thriving businesses, music and much more.  Attendees were Mayors and Council Members from all across the United States and was a great opportunity to share ideas and best practices.  I had the opportunity to bring Joey to the NLC Board of Director’s dinner where Emmylou Harris gave a wonderful performance after the dinner.  Joey got to meet her as well.  I love this picture of Joey with Emmylou taken backstage before the dinner and performance.

Emmylou Harris and Joey Syracuse - Jeff Syracuse Metro Council District 15

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Council News - October 2015

Dear Friends,

I hope everyone is well and enjoying these cooler temperatures.  I’m very thankful to each of you for the continued congratulations and well-wishes I receive as I see you out in the community.  Every one means a great deal and fills me with encouragement.

I was asked to officiate my first wedding on September 12 and it was a memorable experience.  Congratulations again to Tim & Jill Halterman and I wish you many wonderful years together.

Tim & Jill Halterman - First Wedding Officiating for Jeff

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August 2015 – A month of Preparation & Transition

Dear Friends,

This past month has been truly extraordinary and I am quite blessed.  Each and every message of congratulatory well-wishes has truly meant a great deal to me.  Sincere thanks goes to our Councilman, Phil Claiborne, for all his time, support and effort over the past couple of years as I worked towards running for the District 15 seat.  It’s made the transition to hitting the ground running that much smoother as well.  There are strong long-term initiatives and specific projects that began with CM Claiborne that the community will benefit from in the years ahead.  I believe there is a collective feeling in Donelson that very bright days are in front of us.  The energy in the community is palpable.  Look for an announcement coming soon about my first initiative to bring all our diverse neighborhood leadership together to help me be a strong voice for our community’s growth, development and preservation.  There is much to learn from each other and collectively support the variety of issues we face.

I’m proud to share the video of me taking the Oath of Office, administered by Judge Randy Kennedy.  Thanks to neighbor and friend Chris Lackey who was there and caught the memorable moment of Judge Kennedy recalling all the prior District 15 Council Members since Metro was formed and reflect on his time as a Metro Council Member in the Donelson-Hermitage area.  Big thanks to my lovely Markey for standing beside me, as well as CM Larry Hagar and my good friend Andy Depuy.  I also received the below Official Certificate of Election from the Davidson County Election Commission.

Official Certificate of Election - Jeff Syracuse Metro 15

My next Soul of a City blog is online.  It’s poignant that I feature Roland White & Diane Bouska as I reflect on another past big milestone of helping strengthen my neighborhood.  Not having organized a block party before and it being something never done in the neighborhood that anyone could remember, I had a little anxiety if anyone would show up.  Not only did 100+ neighbors come, everyone brought an amazing variety of homemade delicious food to share.  Roland and Diane and a handful of other talented neighbors shared amazing music with us.  They also gave a wonderful performance for the whole community at Music at the Mansion a couple years ago.  Enjoy the selection of their tunes and be sure to catch one of their shows down at The Station Inn!

Our first official Metro Council meeting is Tuesday, October 6.  In future newsletters, I will include a section to inform you on Council activities and decisions.  Please make sure you get out and vote in the run-off election coming September 10.  Early voting is going on now.  All voting information can be found at www.nashville.gov/vote.

I look forward to seeing you soon out in the community!

Best,

Councilman Jeff Syracuse Metro 15

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Thank You Donelson!

Thank You Donelson!

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

I am humbled and filled with deep gratitude for the strong victory last night electing me your next member of Metro Council for the 15th District.

I’m very proud to say that the confidence you have placed in me is not a statement of “now it’s time to get to work”, it’s a statement of “let’s continue the work we are doing on a greater and deeper level”. Just over the past month, the facelift of McGavock High School has begun, two Neighborhood Watch’s are being formed by new neighborhood leadership in Sunset View and Eva Mor Heights and the hard work and challenge of revitalizing the heart of Donelson’s business community continues. By electing me to be your next Councilman, you’ve given me the great honor of serving all our neighborhoods, schools, non-profits and businesses in Donelson. I love this community and will continue being an attentive, focused and dedicated public servant. I look forward to the years ahead and am confident of Donelson’s bright future.

One note – this election season is not yet over. As you know, there will be a run-off election on September 10th for Mayor and Council At-Large. Encourage your neighbors who may not be registered to do so by Monday, August 10. They will then be eligible to vote in the run-off. Head to www.nashville.gov/vote for all voter information.

With a grateful heart, I am sincerely yours,

Jeff,

Jeff Syracuse Councilman 15th District

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