Jeff Syracuse Metro Council District 15
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.
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.