All the issues that impact a community are connected in some way. President John F. Kennedy used the slogan, “A rising tide lifts all boats”. It takes strong leadership and vision to find the connectivity in the issues that keeps a community strong and healthy. I will continue to lead by example and do so with passion and strong dedication.
Looking back, I recall spending a great deal of time thinking about what the core values of my 2015 campaign for District 15 Council Member should be. “The Soul of a City Lies in the Hearts of the People” is a phrase that went through my mind while reading one of the first articles that put Nashville in a national spotlight. It was from January 2013, written by Kim Severson of the New York Times, titled “Nashville’s Latest Big Hit Could Be the City Itself”. It is very well written and made me think a lot about our city from a big-picture perspective in terms of where we were, are, and going.
New York Times (January 8, 2013) – Nashville Takes Its Turn in the Spotlight (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/us/nashville-takes-its-turn-in-the-spotlight.html)
This line resonated with me: “But to be a truly great city, some skeptics argue, it has to be a place that tends to its residents first and tourists second.” Our neighborhoods are changing and growing and where the soul of our city truly is. We are well known as a friendly and hospitable city and it’s the people who have created that atmosphere and made this city great. We have come to a point where greater intention and proactive measure to continue being a friendly and hospitable city needs to occur.
I stand by the theme of my 2015 campaign as I continue my community service into 2023.
When I moved to Donelson as a first-time home buyer just out of college with a new job and a one-year-old son, I was excited for my future. But a double-murder suicide occurred several houses down from me just a few days after I moved in. I began to think twice about my decision. But, that tragedy in the neighborhood plus a big development next door to the neighborhood also led neighbors to come together and decide to start organizing a neighborhood watch and figure out how to respond to the many concerns about the development. I jumped in to help and helped create the neighborhood watch and ultimately founded our neighborhood association. That effort was all about bringing people together. I’ve continued that focus as a Council Member and every decision I make I start with thinking about my neighbors. Helping support neighborhoods and the people in them is a passion. As a Council Member, I’ve put our Metro employees first and at every opportunity, I make sure our employees know that I work for them and when they succeed, we all succeed.
Over the years, I have championed historic preservation. But to become a truly great international city, it’s now time to take that effort to a new level in discussing how Nashville’s culture also plays a critical role in our success. Otherwise, we will continue a path of being a victim of our own success with rapid growth and development creating a more unaffordable and less equitable city.
Music is deeply embedded in our culture. Supporting our working creatives has been both a passion professionally and as a labor of love. I’ve had the opportunity to do things from creating a $5 parking program for downtown to musicians to traveling to Chengdu, China twice to advocate for creators and intellectual property while creating a new Sister City partnership to work on these issues.
I started in the mail room at BMI in 1999 and just one month later this new file sharing technology called Napster emerged. It changed everything. It took 20 years of extraordinary advocacy to bring about federal law change to bring our US Copyright Law up to speed with new technologies. I’ve watched over the last 20 years how technological changes and lack of change in copyright law meant rapidly decreasing royalties. And with Nashville’s meteoric growth in the 2010’s, it became a one-two punch to our working creatives who increasingly can’t afford to live here in addition to local independent venues continuing to be overrun by growth and redevelopment pressures.
Our music ecosystem in Nashville is unlike anywhere else on the planet. There was a grand realization of this as we went through the “Save Music Row” effort and realized saving it meant more than just saving historic buildings. It’s about a deep-rooted culture that has been established here organically for decades. Protecting and advancing our culture that ultimately drives our music economy is critical to our future. We’re seeing cracks in our foundation as Music City and we must collaboratively take more intentional and proactive measures to address them.
The dream of a songwriter and musician moving to Nashville to succeed in music must be protected.
And it goes beyond Music Row. The music created on Jefferson Street for decades has the potential to advance its own musical legacy and opportunity for future generations. Equity happens with intention and as music is the universal language, we must remember the city’s growth and success have not been felt by all. Opportunities for creatives also need to be made through a lens of equity and that work should be embedded within our growth across the whole county as communities and neighborhoods grow and evolve.
We’ve come to a time where our city must be proactive in development of local, music ecosystem policies, programs and tools to support our working creatives, local independent music venues, and ensure our overall culture is one that continues to be a beacon of light that attracts extraordinary talent from all around the world from every musical genre.
Sustainability and resiliency are key to our successful continued growth across Nashville and Middle Tennessee. We need to learn from the failure of the 2017 transit proposal and reinvigorate a discussion about dedicated funding for a transit system with a regional focus. The WeGo Star, while unique to Middle Tennessee, highlights the opportunity for neighborhood- led sustainable growth and development around regional transit centers. The recent news of “Downtown Donelson” coming to life with a revitalized station to potentially include housing and a new FiftyForward center anchored by a new Donelson Branch Library across the street was an extraordinary public/private partnership project to be part of. We must think regionally when it comes to land use planning, transit lines and housing to help neighborhoods develop in the right way with affordable and attainable housing. I want to be supportive of district Council Members in using my experience as they lead efforts in their communities with sustainable growth.
Sustainability and resiliency are key to our successful continued growth across Nashville and Middle Tennessee. We need to learn from the failure of the 2017 transit proposal and reinvigorate a discussion about dedicated funding for a transit system with a regional focus. The WeGo Star, while unique to Middle Tennessee, highlights the opportunity for neighborhood- led sustainable growth and development around regional transit centers. The recent news of “Downtown Donelson” coming to life with a revitalized station to include housing and a new FiftyForward center anchored by a new Donelson Branch Library across the street was an extraordinary public/private partnership project to be part of. We must think regionally when it comes to land use planning, transit lines and housing to help neighborhoods develop in the right way with affordable and attainable housing. I want to help district Council Members with efforts in their neighborhoods build more sustainable and resilient communities.
As I began my second term as District 15 Council Member and was elected President Pro Tempore, I engaged Vice Mayor Jim Shulman about leading a strategic planning effort to support Metro Council from the lens of it being a department and what support Council Members and staff need to modernize the job recognizing the extraordinary increase in workload.
This is not just a part time legislative job anymore and it needs proactive measures to help us be better public servants.
Working with Council Staff, our Metro Clerk, ITS, HR and General Services, I led a project to begin to address this. The result is better process to engage Council Members to determine the working needs of each and to help Council Staff tailor support services to those needs. Technology needs and availabilities have changed and evolved over time and ensuring we have the right policy analysis and research, communication, newsletter, and constituent service support are all essential to doing the job well. Council Staff should also be supported in delivering these services. Additionally, there is no standard onboarding program for Council Members. For a part-time Council Member to immediately become a successful fiduciary of a $3+ billion budget, thoughtful intention should be given to providing the history, tools and resources for Council Members to be successful. We have begun the creation of a robust onboarding program structure. Finally, anyone who has been on the second floor of the Metro Historic Courthouse knows that the layout is very non-functional to a large Council, Clerk and the public engaging with Council Members. The second floor will eventually receive a modest investment to reconfigure the space for Metro Nashville Network, Metro Clerk and Council Staff. This will allow us to recreate the Council Committee Rooms to be more conducive to this important work by Council Members as well as become more accessible and transparent for the public to engage with this process.