Jeff Syracuse

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Run-Off Election Important Dates, New Business Updates and It’s Back to School

Dear Friends –

Thanks to everyone who has stayed active and engaged during this election cycle.  Turnout has been fairly low (around 20%), but there is another opportunity to ensure your voice is heard since we are now in a Run-Off Election.  Remember that Tennessee is 49th in voter participation.  We must do better. Visit this link for all voter information and to register or update your registration.

Thanks as well to those that attended my Town Hall on July 11th.  We had a great turnout.  Special thanks to Sean McGuire in Metro Finance, Rob Ward with the Metro Assessor’s Office, Mark North and David Proffitt with MNPS and John Honeysucker with Metro Water.  As promised, here are the slides from that presentation (click on slide below to see full slideshow).  For those not able to make it, we basically had two main sections to the meeting.  The first was an overview of what’s happening in the district.  I could do a long write-up of each slide, but if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  The next section was engaging our special guests with the topics of our current budget situation, taxes, the assessment process, and how we get back to securing a strong fiscal foundation to focus our efforts on supporting education and public safety.

Donelson Town Hall Meeting with Jeff Syracuse

The 2020 Census is gearing up to collect valuable statistics and as much has changed in Nashville over the last decade, ensuring we are an active participant is crucial to ensuring we are allotted our fair share of federal resources.  Learn more here.  In addition, there will be employment opportunities as part of this process, which you can learn about here.  Another reason that strong participation in the census is important is that it will impact our local Council district lines, State House and Senate as well as the reapportioning of congressional seats.  Here’s a jobs flyer for the Census 2020.

Census Flyer 2020

I had the opportunity to participate in a couple important events over the past month or so.  We Remember Nashville was formed to promote community awareness, education about lynching and racial violence that helps the stories are told with dignity, truth, and resilience.  Two historical markers were erected on 1st Avenue near where to lynching occurred. I was proud to join Mayor Briley and At Large Council Member’s Erica Gilmore, Sharon Hurt, and District 23 Council Member Mina Johnson at the marker dedication ceremony.

Week of Remembrance

As the Council’s Chair of Parks, Library and Arts, Joey and I attended a fundraising breakfast for the Friends of Mill Ridge Park, the regional park in the southeast part of the county.  It and our Ravenwood Regional Park in the bend of Stones River are the two new regional parks in development.  CM Rhoten (District 14), whose district Ravenwood is in, secured $12 million to begin the first phase of the development of it.  At some point in the future, we could have a Friends group like Mill Ridge does, that engages the community in support of the Park.  It’s wonderful to see these two regional parks preserving this great open space for the enjoying and benefit for all of Nashville neighbors.

Mill Ridge Park

Best,

Jeff Syracuse, Metro Councilman 15th District

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Join Me for a Community Conversation “Town Hall” on July 11, Paying Respects to Community Leaders of the Greatest Generation and More Updates

Dear Friends –

I’m humbled to be unopposed on the ballot and so I’ve given thought to how I want to proceed with the re-election process.  If you’ve saved my sign from last time and wish to put it out, please feel free! If you’d like one, please let me know and I’d be honored to get you one. Ensuring we have a strong turnout is important. We of course have Mayor, Vice Mayor and At-Large races as well.

Save the date!  Thursday, July 11th. The Donelson Fellowship at 3210 McGavock Pike across the street from McGavock High School.  Doors open at 6:30pm. Meeting starts at 7pm.  I’ve never done one before, so I’ve decided to do a town hall style meeting and hold a Community Conversation as we assess where we are, how we got here, and what’s ahead for Donelson and Nashville in the next four years and what we can do to get our priorities realigned to refocus on schools, public safety and our Metro employees. I’ve sent a mailer that looks like this below to every registered voter in the 15th District, so you should be receiving one. I look forward to seeing you there and having a constructive conversation about Donelson and Nashville’s future.

Early Voting Election Day

District 15 Community Conversation with Jeff Syracuse


Even though I’m unopposed, I’m honored to be receiving endorsements.  Thanks to our Firefighters and Medics at IAFF Local 140, the Fraternal Order of Police Jackson Lodge #5, and the political committee of the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods.

Nashville Fire EMS Rescue

Nashville Business Coalition

Fraternal Order Of Police

Coalition logo Nashville For Neighborhoods

Don’t forget you have until July 2nd to register or change your address, which can be done online.  Go to www.nashville.gov/vote for all voter information.  If you need one, you can secure an absentee ballot here.  Below is the Early Voting Schedule.

Voting Schedule

The community has lost four community and business leaders recently.  Charlie Cardwell was one of the longest (if not the longest) serving Metro employee and had been our Metro Trustee through six Mayoral administrations I believe.  He embodied professionalism, respect, integrity and what all elected officials should aspire to be.  John Harwell, Sr. invested in Donelson during the early days and brought businesses like Two Rivers Ford to Donelson that were here and thrived for decades.  Larry Keeton and John A. Hobbs were both World War II veterans, were top business leaders in Donelson, gave back in extraordinary ways, they took care of their neighborhoods and so much more.  Dick’s Flowers & Petals, The Larry Keeton Theater, Nashville Palace and John A’s Restaurant have all been places that became institutions in the community that Larry and John A created respectively.  All four of these men earned and deserved great respect from their community because of their leadership in making us the great place we are today.  They will all be missed and their legacy of service to community will be felt forever.

Larry Keeton

John A Hobbs

Best,

Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council, District 15

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New Donelson Library Project Begins, Unopposed on the Ballot and a New Sister City in Music

Dear Friends –

The groundbreaking for our new Donelson Library was a memorable morning with beautiful weather.  Thanks to everyone who were able to attend.  Nashville Library Director Kent Oliver, student library patron Elijah Byrd and neighbor Diana Bradford spoke on the importance of our library to them.  Mayor Briley and I also spoke and then we officially broke ground on the full project.  As you’ve already noticed, road closures have begun as infrastructure work begins.  Most of the work done this year will be all related to stormwater, road and sidewalks.  Remember to keep tabs with the Donelson Plaza website.  The library itself may not go vertical until next year with hopefully (fingers crossed) completion by the end of 2021.  Below are a few pictures, including our fantastic Donelson Library Branch Manager, Chris Morin, who I couldn’t resist taking a selfie because of his “Libraries Rock” shirt.  They sure do and it’s in large part because of Chris and his staff!

New Donelson Library Project Begins

New Donelson Library Project Begins

New Donelson Library Project Begins

Thanks to everyone who supported our area restaurants on my six-stop Lunch & Brunch Tour and management and staff at Phat Bites, John A’s, Party Fowl, Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace, Nectar: Urban Cantina and Caliber Coffee.  I enjoyed our conversations.  I turned in my ballot and I am humbled and honored to be un-opposed on the ballot this year for re-election.  It’s been the most rewarding yet challenging endeavor of my life and I truly do love the job.  Thanks for your continued support and engagement.  There are a number of opportunities and celebrations ahead for us.

Lunch & Brunch Campaign Tour

Below is the Early Voting Schedule.  If you need one, you can secure an absentee ballot here.  We will of course be voting on Mayor, Vice Mayor and At Large, so be sure to put voting on your calendar and be sure to vote!

Early Voting Schedule

After the horrendous rains in February, they actually compromised the integrity of some bridges in areas along Greenways around us.  It appears one of the worst ones is a critical link between Donelson and East Nashville along Shelby Bottoms.  Metro Parks & Recreation released the below map recently with a detour and more information.

Shelby Bottoms Bridge

In April, I had the extraordinary opportunity to make my second trip to Chengdu, China (on my dime, not the taxpayer’s).  Chengdu is becoming a key city in Asia for trade in a number of industries, notably the music and entertainment industry.  Over the last couple of years, Nashville’s relationship with Chengdu has grown and we’ve officially become Sister Cities.  Council Member Sharon Hurt and I attended the 8th Music Cities Convention.  We were honored to present this framed resolution Metro Council passed and signed by Mayor Briley recognizing this Sister Cities relationship to Mr. Zhong Laizho with the Chengdu Office of Foreign and Overseas Affairs.  I am hopeful this will broaden our cultural sharing, strengthen the dialog on the importance of strong Copyright protections for creators and enhance Nashville’s presence as an international city.  48 cities around the world were present to showcase their music and entertainment economies and it was a fascinating learning experience.  I brought back new relationships from many of those cities that I believe will be of strong value to Nashville in the years ahead.  Special thanks to our Nashville Symphony and Nashville Opera for sharing some small gifts that I was able to present to our hosts and industry leaders in Chengdu.

Chengdu Sister City with Nashville

Chengdu Sister City with Nashville

I wanted to mention a recent story in the Nashville Business Journal I read recently regarding the growing discontent with how Nashville is managing our growth.  In my role as your Council Member, I have a particular acute sense of this from both hearing from you and managing the growth.  This budget season also in particular highlights some of the issues surrounding this.  Teacher pay and MNPS funding, the parking privatization proposal, WeGo (MTA/RTA) reduced service and increased fares, and other issues have surfaced as indicative of how and why we need to double down on efforts to be fiscally conservative, cease large incentives that negatively impact our operating budget, put our Metro employees first and protect the quality of life Nashville residents deserve to have.  The larger issue is that our property tax rate is the lowest it’s ever been in Metro’s history.  As we’ve gone through this budget process, it’s clear we don’t have sufficient revenues to meet the demands of our growing city, especially when after our regular property reappraisal that caused the rate to drop so low since per State law, we can’t generate revenue on a reassessment, so when the value goes up, the rate must come down to equalize the overall revenue generated by property taxes.  While I believe there is broad consensus we need to adjust our property tax rate, I want to first ensure we are fundamentally changing direction to not fund unabated growth downtown through “corporate welfare” type of incentives that will only add to debt and negatively impact our operating budget.  If we can achieve that and the increased revenues are dedicated to teachers, schools, police, fire and Metro employees, then I can support that.  The reality is that our Metro employees have taken the brunt of our growth in working so hard with little to no cost of living adjustments while we recovered from the Great Recession and May 2010 flood.  We owe our Metro employees a great deal because of the work they’ve done.  I’m not sure if will be this year or next, but I believe a property tax rate proposal will come before us at some point and I believe it will ultimately be warranted as long as it accompanies a budget that is not focused on debt and growth, but managing growth and funding basic services.

Metro Emergency Alert and Notification System (MEANS) is a new public safety program that enables Metro to let you know what safety actions to take when there’s danger.  Once registered, you can choose how to receive communications: cellphone, landline, text/SMS, or TTY.  Users can enter one or more addresses to receive location-based emergency notifications.  For example, if a user adds their home and work address to their account, they will receive emergency notifications when either of these two addresses is within the boundaries of an alert’s location.  If a user wishes to only receive countywide text/SMS messages, they can simply text the keyword ‘NashAlerts’ to 888-777.

Users with smartphones are also urged to download the Everbridge Mobile App from the Apple App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).  The Everbridge app brings the added security of delivering alerts to cell phones based on a user’s physical location at the time of an emergency.  When you register and provide your contact information, MEANS enables us to provide you with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as criminal activity and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods.  Get the alerts you want, the way you want – cell or landline phone call, text, email or TTY.

PRO TIP: When you register, please provide at least one street address. This can be your home address, or the address of a nearby grocery store, library or fire station. An address is not required, but it will ensure that the alerts you receive are focused on locations that matter to you -- places where you live, work and play.

Metro Emergency Alert and Notification System

This summer, consider taking a class through Nashville Community Education.  Check out their Summer 2019.

Thousands of veterans will receive free dental care on Saturday, June 8th, when Aspen dentists and their teams from more than 450 offices across 39 states open their doors for Aspen Dental’s 6th annual National Day of Service, including 4054 Lebanon Pike in Hermitage.  Many veterans struggle to find accessible and affordable dental care, in particular because most aren’t eligible for dental benefits through the VA unless they’re 100% disabled, have a service-related mouth injury or were a prisoner of war.  It’s estimated that 470,390 veterans live in Tennessee.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Interested veterans need an appointment to receive care and should call 1-844-AspenHMM (1-844-277-3646) to find a participating practice in their community and schedule an appointment in advance – space is limited and appointments are filling-up fast!
  • Spread the word in your community! Be sure to use #HealthyMouthMovement and @AspenDental when posting on Twitter and Facebook. Below are some sample posts you can share.

Best,

jeff syracuse

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New Donelson Branch Library Groundbreaking, Petition Signing Brunch & Lunch Tour and Why I Voted No on Amazon’s Incentive

Dear Friends –

I’m excited to announce that the closing happened on the piece of Donelson Plaza where Castner Knott was located and as they say the “keys have passed and checks have cashed”.  The people of Nashville-Davidson County own a central piece of property in the heart of Donelson where we will start a new era in Donelson’s future with a beautiful new 25,000 square foot Donelson Branch Library.  To celebrate this and kick off the work about to commence, I invite you to join Mayor David Briley and me at a groundbreaking on Monday, May 13th at 10:00am.  What will begin to occur soon is roadwork improvements, sidewalks and other related infrastructure upgrades.  The library construction likely won’t begin until early next year once the groundwork is laid with all the infrastructure.  Exciting times are ahead.  Keep tabs on the new website for Donelson Plaza.

Donelson Plaza Site Plan

I’m so thankful to everyone who came out to my Birthday Party and Re-Election Kick Off.  My big thanks to Barrett Hobbs and all the staff at Scoreboard Bar & Grill.  They did a fantastic job and it was a special night.  Thanks to each and every one of you who came and showed your support.   Big thanks to my Treasurer, Jenny White, former 15th District Beautification Commissioner Naomi Regensburg and my son Joey for managing the front table where folks signed in and contributed.  Scoreboard’s regular Wednesday night musical entertainment was of course among the great singer, songwriter and musicians, Randy Moore.  Check out his incredible career here.  Everyone who contributed helped create a truly strong foundation for this campaign that will help ensure success in August on Election Day.  So again, my sincere thanks!  Here’s a few pictures of the evening.  Thanks to everyone for singing Happy Birthday to me.  It was a fun night!

Jeff Syracuse Re Election Campaign

Jeff Syracuse Re Election Campaign

Jeff Syracuse Re Election Campaign

Jeff Syracuse Re Election Campaign

The next step in the election process is to secure signatures of my 15th District neighbors to get my name on the ballot.  So, in keeping with the theme of having an enjoyable time on this campaign, I thought I’d do a “Brunch & Lunch Tour of Donelson”.  We’ve had so many great restaurants open up over the last handful of years in addition to the ones we know and love, so I thought as part of this process, we’d support local and gather together for coffee or a meal and I can also hear your thoughts, ideas or any issues you’d like to chat about.  Here’s the schedule of where I’ll be and when and I hope you’ll come out to support our local restaurants, sign my petition and chat about Donelson.

I’ll have a newly printed batch of fridge magnets.  They’ve been a big hit during this past term and I ran out about six months ago.  I’ll have them at all of our brunch & lunch meet-ups.

Fridge Magnets - Jeff Syracuse Re Election Campaign

As you may have read in the Tennessean, I spoke out against Amazon’s job incentive package.  To reiterate what I said on the Council floor, I welcome and support Amazon’s investment in Nashville.  It is historic in that it’s the single largest jobs announcement in Tennessee’s history.  I also don’t have a problem with supporting the standard jobs incentive package that we’ve been using for years.  From a broader perspective, I understand the discussion on whether or not we need to use these incentive packages.  The reality is that most all cities across the US are authorized by their State governments to use them and they do so as a competitive tool.  Unless there is some change at the federal level that equalizes their use, they’re not going anywhere and we will lose out on quality economic development in Metro if we don’t compete.  That said, what crosses the line for me with Amazon’s incentive is the correlation between asking for a jobs incentive while at the same time at the federal level, fighting against an equitable royalty rate for streaming services that is a fundamental income stream to the job of being a songwriter.  This coming month, I celebrate 20 years working at BMI, where I’ve worked tirelessly to line the pockets of songwriters, not shareholders.  While the streaming rate in question is a totally separate copyright than the area I’m involved with in my day job (mechanicals vs. public performance), songwriters have struggled immensely to maintain the stability of their own jobs over the last two decades as digital technologies have brought massive change to the way we all listen to music.  That has resulted in a stark drop in working songwriters right here in Nashville.  Even so, Nashville remains the place where the most concentration of songwriters live in any city in the world.  With the recent unanimous passage of the Music Modernization Act in Congress that paves the way for stability for the industry and the January 2018 decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (a panel of federal judges that set the standard rates for royalties), we are finally getting to a place where songwriters will be able to eventually make a living wage for their craft again.  We can never take for granted what makes use Music City, USA.  Amazon, Spotify, Google and Pandora have all appealed the CRB’s gradual raising of the streaming rate.  Only Apple Music decided not to appeal.  My objection to Amazon’s jobs incentive deal is taking a stand with our neighbors here across Davidson County who do not deserve to be asked by a massive company that generated $11.2 billion in profit last year to take more money from their pockets if they are not going to respect an equitable rate for songwriter royalties.  That said, I’ve had respectful conversations with Amazon and while I will voted No on their jobs incentive, I pledged to work with them and engage them in our music community.

As the Chair of Metro Council’s Parks, Library & Arts Committee, I was proud to sponsor a resolution recognizing Metro Art’s 40th Anniversary.  A presentation of the resolution was presented at Metro Council recently.

Metro Arts

Metro Arts Annual Report for FY18 was released and I’m especially proud that they have positively impacted every district in the county.  I encourage you to read it here.

Also as Chair of Parks, Library & Arts, I had the duty to address the issue of the imminent destruction of the cherry trees at Riverfront Park.  Upon learning of the shocking news that 21 cherry trees would be cut down to make room for the NFL Draft stage, the public outcry was intense and rightfully so.  I am pleased that we were able to work with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation and the Mayor’s Office to stop that plan and instead only transplant 10 trees.  It is indeed a difficult time of year to transplant trees successfully, but I have faith in our horticulturist with Metro Parks who believes they can be saved.  During our regular Committee meeting, I asked our Parks Director, Monique Odom, Randall Lantz, Parks Horticulturist, and Butch Spyridon, CEO of our Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, to give us an update on the situation.  To ensure that we had enough room to fit everyone who wished to be part of the committee proceedings, I moved the committee meeting to the Council Chambers.  We all learned a lot and I have a better understanding of how to improve the overall coordination and transparency of our urban forestry and tree policies.  As I stated in the proceedings that you can watch here, I pledge to continue working towards that end.  Here is a fact sheet from Parks about the cherry trees.

The Davidson County Election Commission is hiring poll workers.  Please see below for more info.  Don’t forget that if you’re new to Davidson County or have moved, the link above will give you all the information you need to register or update your voter registration and provide a full calendar of this year’s important election.

Now Hiring Poll Workers in Davison County

Now Hiring Poll Workers in Davison County

I was happy to have had the opportunity visit WKRN News Channel 2 before the March 5th Council Meeting to discuss the agenda and the latest happenings at Council.  I enjoyed my time with anchors Nikki Burdine and Neil Orne.

News Channel

Speaking of happenings at Council, I was very happy to learn of Mayor Briley’s announcement that all Metro employees would be receiving their cost of living adjustments as well as step raises in his proposed budget.  That is a good start.  We’ve unfortunately been seeing plenty of strife happening with Metro Schools with Board Member Will Pinkston resigning and Director Shawn Joseph announcing he won’t be seeking a contract extension past 2020.  I’m very thankful for our District 4 School Board Member Anna Shepherd’s calm and confident leadership.  She has always been a presence of stability on our school board.  Ensuring we fully fund our schools is another essential aspect to the upcoming budget cycle and it will be vitally important we work closely with the school board and administration to pass a budget that reflects that Metro schools are indeed a top priority.  Metro employees, schools and public safety need to be made our top priorities in the upcoming budget.

Best,

jeff syracuse

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Planes, Trains and Other Events Plus Jeff’s Birthday Bash and Fish Fry Fundraiser

Dear Friends –

I’m coming up on another trip around the sun and I thought it’d be a good way to kick-off this campaign and have some fun as well.  I’m thankful to Barrett Hobbs and the Hobbs Family for hosting a Birthday Bash and Fish Fry Fundraiser at Scoreboard Bar & Restaurant on Wednesday, March 13th at 5pm.  Scoreboard is at 2408 Music Valley Drive just behind Cracker Barrel on Music Valley Drive.  Everyone is welcome.  Thank you in advance of the great support I’ve received already for my re-election campaign.  It’s an honor to serve this community and the 15th District.

Jeff Syracuse Campaign Kick Off at Scoreboard Bar & Restaurant

I’m very impressed with the new Metro Police Department Headquarters on Murfreesboro Pike.  I had the pleasure of attending the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.  It is a state of the art facility that includes the Family Justice Center, which will house components of the Metro Office of Family Safety as well as programs for Tennessee Department of Child Safety, Nashville Children’s Alliance, Victim Intervention, and Domestic Violence.  This new facility needs to be just one of the ways in which Metro needs to support our first responders.  I will continue to add my voice to the needed cost of living adjustments to all Metro employees and beyond that ensure we are paying wages that are competitive and indicative of the priority we need to set for public safety.

Metro Police Department Headquarters

Metro Police Department Headquarters

April is Transit Month and Transit Now Nashville will be offering another “Ticket to Ride” event riding the Music City Star from downtown to Donelson on Friday, April 5th.  We will then be walking over to Party Fowl to network and discuss the status of plans for the Music City Star, Donelson Station, as well as how transit needs to be addressed in the Opry area with the #34 bus line, especially with the announcement of the 130-acre development that Ryman is doing over the coming decade or so.  Stay tuned to their website and Facebook page for more information on getting tickets.

Transit Month in Nashville

A Toast to Tennessee Wine Festival will be served by the Music City Star on Saturday, April 27th.  Tickets are on sale now at this link.  Thanks to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring this.

A Toast To Tennessee Wine Festival

The airport continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, which is indicative of course at how fast Middle TN as a whole is growing.  Even though we’re not even half-way through with the $1.2 billion expansion plan under the “BNA Vision” strategic plan, the airport is already engaged at looking at the next 20-30 years.  I’ve had the opportunity of attending a few meetings to learn about this process and it’s been quite fascinating.  There will be a community meeting on Tuesday, March 5th.  I encourage everyone to attend.  See flyer below for details.

BNA Master Plan

Stay tuned for more updates on this Master Plan process at their website.

 

Metro Water Services is offering its first ever Citizen’s Water Academy.  The Citizen’s Water Academy is an opportunity for MWS customers to learn about our most precious natural resource, water, and how MWS manages it from “river to river”.  The program includes tours of various MWS facilities, informative and interactive presentations, and the opportunity to interact with MWS staff and other water experts over four two-hour sessions.  Through the Academy, MWS hopes to provide a better understanding of our resource and our processes to build a diverse network of leaders and influencers who are willing to share their knowledge in the community and serve as ambassadors for water. Class size is limited and the selection process is competitive.  Please visit this link for more information and to fill out the application to apply.

The Spring 2019 dates and times are as follows:

  • Tuesday, April 9 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm
  • Tuesday, April 16 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm
  • Tuesday, April 23 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm
  • Tuesday, April 30 – 5:30pm – 7:30pm or Saturday, April 27 9:30am – 11:30pm (Group will decide)

Participants must have availability for all listed dates and times and must commit to attend all 4 sessions.

The application deadline is March 8, 2019. Applicants will be notified of acceptance no later than March 14, 2019.  If you have questions about the program or application process, please contact Sonia Allman at Sonia.allman@nashville.gov.

Best,

Jeff Syracuse - Metro Councilman  - District 15

 

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Looking ahead to 2019, My Re-Election Announcement and Much More

Dear Friends –

While two months of 2019 are almost already past us, this is my first newsletter of the year and I hope everyone had a good Holiday Season with family and friends. While I did have some real quality time to enjoy with my friends and family and especially my son Joey, I have kept a full schedule in the community over the past couple of months.  Some highlights are included in their respective sections below.

Probably the most major event that happened over the last couple of months since my last newsletter is that our new library was solidified and work has already begun at Donelson Plaza (check out their new website!).  Most of 2019’s activity will consist of infrastructure, road work and sidewalks.  Our new library construction won’t likely start until the end of this year or early next year, but the great news is that we’ve achieved a huge milestone and the new library and revitalized Donelson Plaza will breathe new life into the heart of our community.

Check out this news clip from 1963 when the land was purchased for our current library.  Thanks to our Nashville Library Director Kent Oliver for sending this to me.

Donelson Library News Clip

Hard to believe that it’s 2019 and that means its election year for Metro Council and Mayor.  With all of last year’s special elections (and even one going on currently in District 29 to replace CM Karen Johnson who was elected our Property Assessor) this year will be the final term of some talented community leaders who are great people and with whom I’ve enjoyed serving.  For other districts, like here in District 15, those of us who were new in 2015 are running for re-election.  This has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life and I have grown both professionally and personally.  I have worked hard to keep neighborhoods strong and represented, small businesses supported, encouraged and facilitated new businesses to invest here and much more.  Please visit my website to read about the legislation I have passed and things I’ve accomplished this term.  I am humbly asking for your support to continue serving District 15 for a second and final term.  There has been a lot I have been very fortunate to accomplish but there is more to do.  To support my reelection financially or to volunteer, please visit the Get Involved section of my website.  As always, my sincere and humble thanks for the support and privilege of representing a wonderful community.

Jeff Syracuse Metro Council District 15

As part of what I’d like to make progress on over the next term is greater public and private support for the Music City Star to increase ridership and number of trips.  The recent purchase of the Nashville & Eastern Rail Corporation by R.J. Corman Company was good news as they offer more resources and a broad experience in the rail business to help us achieve our goals.  As a Board Member of the Nashville & Eastern Rail Authority, we finalized approval of this purchase recently and are looking forward to working with the new ownership.  No changes or investments will happen immediately, but I’m hopeful that this new ownership brings new energy and focus to continue the NERR’s success.  As I explained in my last newsletter, we are capped at 12 trips per day during the week with the Music City Star until we can invest in Positive Train Control.  However, that cap does not include the weekends as long as they are privately sponsored trips.  With that in mind, I’ve worked with our Regional Transit Authority to create the below marketing flyer and we will begin to more proactively work with the Nashville Chamber, Convention & Visitors Corporation and other organizations to showcase this opportunity when large events and conventions continue to come to Nashville.Music City Star Event Sponsorship

 

Music City Star Event Sponsorship

The RTA Board of Directors has given approval for an extension of last year’s Vets for the Holidays program so that military veterans can ride RTA commuter bus services and the Music City Star commuter train for free.  The program, which ran from November 1 to December 31, 2018, was a first for the RTA.  It aimed to make public transportation services more accessible to military veterans, both as a gesture of appreciation and in recognition of the fact that access to transportation services is a critical resource for returning and disabled veterans as they connect to medical, employment, and support services while reintegrating to civilian life.  To qualify, participants need only show a valid form of military veteran identification to the RTA bus operator or Music City Star train conductor.  Forms of identification that will be accepted are:

  • DD Form 2 (Retired United States Uniformed Services Identification Card)
  • Tennessee Driver’s License or Identification Card with "Veteran" designation on front
  • VA Health Benefits Identification Card
  • DD214 form in lieu of a Veteran's identification card

For more information on the Vets for the Holidays program, contact RTA Customer Care at 615-862-5950 from 6:30am to 6:30pm on weekdays, 8am to 5pm on Saturdays and 10:30am to 2:30pm on Sundays, or visit www.rtarelaxandride.org.

The Donelson Pike / I-40 interchange project may very well begin within the year, pending final logistic preparations by TDOT and the Metro Nashville Airport Authority.  It’s a complex project that will ultimately bring a dynamic interchange that is safer, more efficient and accommodates the rapid growth at the airport.  Below is a graphic and more information about this project.

Donelson Pike Relocation

 

Donelson Pike Relocation

Here’s something I received late last year that I thought I’d share.  Metro Water Services was pretty busy during FY18 with maintenance service requests in the district.  Our Metro Water Department does a great job. They are working hard on addressing all the many issues throughout the county associated with the incredible amount of rain we’ve had lately. I’m turning them in to them as folks send issues to me. I strongly encourage everyone to use Hub Nashville so that you have a record of the request. It’s the most efficient way to request service from a Metro Department.

Metro Water Services SW FY18

Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation announced today that two bridges on the main paved Shelby Bottoms Greenway Trail are closed. The bridge located at the 1.75 to 2.0 mile marker will close on February 19 and reopen at noon, Friday, February 22. The bridge located at the 2.0 to 2.5 mile marker is closed indefinitely. Damage from recent heavy rains is the cause of needed repairs to both bridges. Users are advised to find alternate routes.

Shelby Bottoms Bridge Closings

You’ve no doubt seen or read a bit about our debt situation in the news.  That on top of hearing about our budget shortfall last year that led to us not being able to fund promised cost of living adjustments to Metro employees is certainly continued disconcerting news.  Below is a report from our Finance Director with a report on our audited fiscal 2018 year-end status.  While our bond rating and revenues continue to be very strong, I believe there is consensus that we can’t sustain the level of debt spending that we’ve done over the past decade.  The efforts to rebound from the recession and flood have obviously been successful and I’m thankful now that what Mayor Briley has said is that this next budget will focus on the basics and ensure we keep a strong foundation of funding public safety and education while taking care of our Metro employees.  We have made strong investments over the past decade and revenues show that, we just now need to pay our debts accordingly and manage sustainable growth.

Finance Director

 

Finance Director

Finance Director

Pursuant to BL2018-1184, a “Blue Ribbon Commission” was established to to identify government inefficiencies, practices, transfer payments, third party payments and subsidies with the targeted goal of achieving budgetary cost savings of $20 million in annual savings. The goals of the Commission should further include identification of potential savings — from both the operating and capital budgets — including one-time and on-going savings.  Residents can submit their suggestions for savings.  To learn more about this commission and to submit your suggestion, visit this link.

Metro Arts' robust grants program distributes just over $2.4 million annually for operational and project-based funding for arts activities taking place in Metro Nashville-Davidson County.  Non-profit organizations interested in applying can find the FY20 Grants Guidelines on the Metro Arts website. Applications must be submitted using our online grants management system, WebGrants.  New applicants are encouraged to register for an account in WebGrants as soon as possible. 

Important FY20 Grants application dates:

  • January 23, 2019: FY20 online application available in WebGrants
  • January 31, 2019: New applicant training video available on Metro Arts' YouTube channel
  • March 20, 2019 4:30pm: Operating support application deadline
  • March 27, 2019 4:30pm: Project support application deadline

Eligible property tax owners over 65 may qualify for the Tax Relief program (income less than $29,270) and the Tax Freeze program (income less than $41,780). Totally disabled and Disabled Veterans also may qualify.  Our Metro Trustee staff members will be on hand at Fifty Forward Donelson Station on February 19th from 10am-noon to answer questions and help you sign up.  See flyer below for details.

Tax Relief Handout

 

Best,

Jeff Syracuse Metro Council District 15

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August 2nd Election, FY 18/19 Budget Challenges, Donelson TOD and Library Update, Floodway Buffer Legislation and Much More

Dear Friends –

Well, I must start this newsletter with an apology.  I try hard to send out a newsletter every 4-6 weeks or so.  My last one was sent April 30th.  It’s been an extraordinarily busy 2018 with some big challenges in Metro Government.  I was very happy to see David Briley win the special Mayoral election with enough support that meant we did not need a run-off election, which would’ve cost the tax payers an additional $1 million.  Very frustrating that we even needed to spend the $1 million.  Now that the Mayoral special election is behind us, we now turn our attention to a special election for Vice Mayor, which thankfully is being included in the normal August 2nd election. 

In a consistent manor that I supported David Briley because of his strong institutional knowledge and much needed stability he brings to the Mayor’s Office, I’m also supporting Sheri Weiner for Vice Mayor, who is currently already in the seat because Council elected her as our President Pro Tempore last year, who is there to serve as Acting Vice Mayor in situations like the one we are in now.  As a new Council Member, Sheri was always there to support and encourage me as I learned the intricacies and operations of Metro government.  She is a strong leader who asks the tough questions, gets to the bottom of challenging issues and knows how to take decisive action.  Get to know Sheri and join me in supporting her.

I’m also supporting Bill Beck for re-election as our District 51 State Representative.  Bill is all about people over politics.  The main residential portion of our 15th District for Metro Nashville that is in Bill’s State House District is the west side of Pennington Bend Road.  The rest of the 15th District is in Darren Jernigan’s House District 60.  Darren doesn’t have an opponent and I believe that is a reflection of the fantastic job he is doing representing us.  Let’s keep both of these good public servants in office.

Early voting will start July 13 for the August 2nd Election Day.  Below is the voting schedule for August 2nd.

Early Voting Schedule for August 2 2018

One of the biggest (and most frustrating) challenge we’ve been facing is with the FY18/19 budget.  These should be the good years with revenues flowing as we grow faster than most cities in the U.S. and third in job growth.  So, why are we experiencing a revenue shortfall?  We have roughly a $34 million revenue shortfall.  $26 million of that is due to the fact that property values have gone through the roof as evidenced by the every four-year appraisal we just went through.  There were many successful challenges to the appraisals that were decided by the Board of Equalization and most of the budget revenue associated with the successful appeals were from large commercial properties.  About $8 million of the revenue shortfall is because of decreasing enrollment in our schools, therefore reduced State funding.  I cannot in good conscious vote for a property tax increase, although that was one of the budget proposals before us.  There are no easy answers.  I am equally frustrated that the budget I supported is not able to fund the promised Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to Metro employees.  It’s not right, but that hard decision that I chose to make was to not fix these budget challenges on the backs of Davidson County property owners.  Generally what happens after a regular property appraisal and the rate drops to make the process revenue neutral (per State law), the Mayor and Council will raise the rate up a bit to take into account appeals and additional city expenses associated with growth, schools, new infrastructure, etc.  That did not happen last year.  Perhaps it should have.  We certainly have work to do in improving our budget forecasting processes.  Our budget challenges will not go away.  We have a few challenging years ahead of us I believe.

The Donelson Transit Oriented Development District was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission on June 28th. It is currently scheduled for third and final reading on July 17th, but it first has to go to the MDHA Board for approval of an amendment I put forth regarding the structure of the Design Review Committee that reviews development proposals. Currently, the DRC is managed by MDHA for the 12 current redevelopment districts downtown. My proposed amendment to the MDHA Plan would give our community a solid seat at the table with the DRC and make it function like any other Board or Commission with nomination by the Mayor and oversight by Council. I think this is fair and follows the spirit of the intent of the State authorizing legislation by State Rep Daren Jernigan and State Senator Steve Dickerson to make this more of a partnership between MDHA and the local community where the TOD is. They have written a letter to MDHA to that fact as well. I also have an amendment that differentiates non-owner and owner-occupied short term rentals. Non-owner short term rentals should appropriately be in the prohibited use. Owner-occupied would still be allowed. I’ve been taking the slow and steady approach to this legislation, especially because it’s the first of its kind. I believe that approach is paying off and tweaks and updates to it have improved it. If the MDHA Board approves my amendment, it may need to come back to Council for a public hearing, so I’m still figuring out what dates for future Council meetings that would be. I’ve been very patient with this and committed to getting it right. Additionally, as part of discussions, a MOU was signed between MDHA and Metro Planning to take time and further study the Design Review Process of all redevelopment districts in Nashville by hiring a consultant to review best practices across the U.S. Any further improvements to the process to help streamline red tape would then come back to Metro Council and the MDHA Board for approval.

Now that legislation for our new Donelson Branch Library has passed that detailed the purchase of a portion of Donelson Plaza where it will be constructed, the surrounding infrastructure and financing arrangement as part of the Plaza master plan with Holladay Properties, we’re ready to start the community engagement process to discuss the new library, its design, programming, etc.  I posted on Facebook to begin to solicit community members who are passionate about the library and want to be at the forefront of community engagement.  I received great response.  If you’re interested, please let me know.  There will community wide meetings towards the end of September.  Stay tuned for more info.

Over the past couple of years, increased interest in developing along the Cumberland River in the Pennington Bend area has resulted in variance requests at the Board of Zoning Appeals and Stormwater Committee to build larger.  Variances are required because there are two buffers next to the floodway – Zone 1 (50 feet from the floodway) and Zone 2 (75 feet from the floodway).  Zone 1 is designated as a “Do Not Disturb” area but the Metro Code allows variances to be decided by the Stormwater Committee.  In my opinion, this is a dangerous and irresponsible practice to try and secure a variance in an area that is directly next to the floodway and designated a “Do Not Disturb” zone.  As your Councilman, it’s my job to look at how our policies and laws impact our community 10-20 years out or more.  If we allow variances and rebuild to the level of density we had pre-May 2010 flood, we will be enabling the level of destruction we saw.  That flood also resulted in large amounts of shoreline to be destroyed, reducing the level of developable property.  This is an inherent risk of owning riverfront property.  Therefore, I have legislation that will make the 50-foot buffer permanent without option to receive a variance to build in the “No Disturb Zone”.  Here’s an article in the Tennessean about this.  Below is a map that illustrates the floodway, buffers and more.  You can access this information from Metro Property Maps.  Turn on the Stromwater filter and you’ll need to adjust the opacity to better see the buffers.

Cumberland River Floodway Map

Thanks to everyone who participated the Lebanon Pike Study, focusing on future growth and preservation along Lebanon Pike from Spence Lane to Briley Parkway.  As “Downtown Donelson” begins to grow, it’s very important for the transitional area between downtown and Donelson to be well planned and guide proper growth and development.  All information is at the link above.  It passed the Planning Commission on June 28th.

I’m pleased that we will finally be cutting the ribbon on the McGavock Pike Boat Ramp at the end of McGavock Pike where it intersects with Pennington Bend Road.  It will be on Saturday, July 28th at 10am.  Mayor Briley, Vice Mayor Weiner and other community leaders will join us to cut the ribbon and open the boat dock to the public to start using if to launch non-motorized boats on the Cumberland River.

Metro is putting together a Davidson County Long Term Solid Waste Master Plan and is looking for feedback.  Please review all information here and there are survey links on the website.  This is an important aspect of ensuring we manage our growth sustainably.

I have been gathering facts and discussing what we all recently learned about as it relates to emergency medical services operations at three Nashville Fire Department stations in Davidson County.  I have discussed this with Mayor Briley, Chief Will Swann, IAFF Nashville Local 140 President Mark Young and stopped by Station 28 to sit and listen to the perspective of those serving there as well.

First, I want to address one thing that started this and prompted the media to do a story.  This began because of one member from NFD Station 28 violating NFD social media policy by posting on Hip Donelson and venting from his personal Facebook page about NFD operational decisions.  His action was inappropriate.  I heard from a lot of my neighbors immediately after that post very confused and fearful.  I refuse to react emotionally or come to a quick judgment about any issue with which I don’t have all the facts and perspectives.  Here are the facts I’ve learned from NFD:

  1. 1. Our NFD is not phasing out personnel. They are reallocating the Advanced Life Support (ALS) personnel to the outlying parts of the county where there is a greater need for ALS appratus because of distance.
  1. 2. The program of putting Paramedics on engines was instituted years ago because there was not as many ambulances in service. It was 19 at the time and now we have 28 medic units. The increase of medic units decreases the need for ALS Engines in the urban area.
  1. 3. All fire companies have EMTs and Advanced EMTs. Every Nashville fire fighter is an EMT or Advanced EMT and they are capable of treating patients with quality care.
  1. 4. Engine 28’s ALS unit will not transition to a Basic Life Support (BLS) unit in the near future. They will reassign the firefighter-paramedics to remaining ALS Engines through attrition. No one is being phased out or let go during this process.
  1. 5. Response times will not be impacted by this transition because fire fighters will continue to respond to medical calls.
  1. 6. This was a decision made several months ago and was not a function of the current budget. This was a plan that would have been implemented regardless of the budget passed recently by Metro Council.

I appreciate the input and guidance from Mark Young, President of IAFF Local 140 on this issue.  I agree we never want to see any reduction of service at any station or negative impact to NFD personnel pay rates.  Operational decisions should never compromise the level of care we receive and I will continue to support our NFD leadership who are confident this is not happening.  I do empathize and have concerns about how this potentially impacts pay rates for certain NFD personnel and stability of being able to stay at the fire hall and community they love to serve.  Leading a large county-wide Fire Department is certainly not an easy task and hard decisions have to be made, especially with the growth we are experiencing.  That should also mean our budgets need to reflect a consistent top priority to public safety and I will continue to advocate strongly for that.

Nashville MTA is now WeGo Public Transit.  The new image is part of a process that started with the adoption of the nMotion plan in 2016, and included extensive interviews and focus group testing of current riders, prospective riders, residents, business, and community leaders in Nashville, all of whom are affected by the ever-growing mobility concerns in a rapidly growing city.  It is just one part of their continuing efforts to improve public transit in Nashville as laid out in the nMotion plan, which includes a number of service enhancements as well as improvements to the customer experience.  Here’s an image of a new bus.

We Go Transit in Nashville TN

Best,

Councilman Jeff Syracuse

 

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Our Donelson Library is Finally Moving Forward, an Update on the Donelson Transit Oriented Development District and a Day of Trewth to Honor Frank

Dear Friends –

It’s been a long time coming…  When I was first elected, I became aware that Donelson was at the top of the list as part of the strategic plan for our library system that identified the needs as far as facilities and services throughout the county.  Our Donelson Library was celebrating a bittersweet 50th Anniversary at the time, knowing that its 5,500 square feet built in 1965 had become insufficient for proper 21st century library services, which have grown far beyond just about being about books.  21st century libraries are community centers with modern technology and places to access multi-media elements such as music, movies and the internet.  As discussions began about a new library, so were discussions of how to implement our Urban Design Overlay, which envisioned a walkable, mixed-used, transit-oriented future.  It occurred to me that if we are to reimagine the heart of Donelson as a walkable town center, what the vision truly needed was a civic anchor at the heart of it.  Also during that time going back a couple years prior when I was President of the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce I began a focus of trying to find a new owner for Donelson Plaza.  Holladay Properties stepped up in a big way and embraced the vision for the heart of Donelson and also agreed to begin working with Metro towards the possibility of incorporating our new Donelson Library as part of their plans for the Plaza’s future, which is also an aging property that is a prime opportunity for bringing the vision of the community to fruition.  Since we don’t have a town square per say, centrally locating the new library was important as an anchor.  The former Castner Knott / Ace Hardware location of the Plaza seemed perfectly situated.  As these discussions continued, the JB Estille Road sidewalk project became an important aspect to implement as a boulevard-style pedestrian-friendly street that would ultimately connect the new Library with Donelson Station (which is another project that has been moving forward that will be discussed in more detail in the months ahead with community engagement as it takes shape).

My heartfelt thanks to Holladay Properties and the many Metro Offices and Departments (Mayor’s Office, Library, Finance, Legal, General Services, Water, Public Works, Planning, and Arts) that worked together towards creating a very special opportunity for Donelson to build us a new beautiful 25,000+ square foot library.  It was a complex project that took some time to engineer and cost out all the various infrastructure elements and including how to structure the financing arrangement.  As you know, we have been going through meetings regarding our potential Transit Oriented Development District.  One costly element of this project was the entire related infrastructure around the library to include a relocated Cliffdale Road connection, sidewalks, shared parking, storm water and other relocated upgraded NES, Piedmont Gas, AT&T and Comcast utilities.  One element of the TOD District is the availability of Tax Increment Financing, which allows a developer to invest more into the project in lieu of deferred property taxes that will be higher as a result of what the new development will generate.  The TIF financing availability is there to incentive infrastructure, economic development and affordable and workforce housing.  The expense of the infrastructure around library was a perfect first opportunity to utilize the TIF availability and rejuvenate the heart of Donelson.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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