Thursday, February 08, 2024

What Happened at the Metro Council Meeting of Feb. 6, 2024

From Megan Podsiedlik, The Pamphleteer, Feb 8, 2024- Reminiscent of the meetings of old, the council did not adjourn until midnight last night, largely due to the two-hour, pre-budget public hearing period and the fifteen items council members pulled off the consent calendar to discuss. 

A cast of characters both new and recurring came forward to speak. Several artists and board members asked for investments in equitable arts funding. MNPS workers pled the council to fulfill school funding requests. And of course, activists and nonprofit affiliates showed up to advocate for community policing programs to eliminate the cycle of “cops, courts, and cages.”


“I am one of the bike people,” said Nashville Triathlon Club board member Chris Ashton, who showed up to advocate for “increased funding for sidewalks, bike lanes, greenways and non-driving kinds of infrastructure.” Ashton brought up the mayor’s proposed budget, which slashes the Vision Zero budget in half and cuts sidewalk funding from “$60 million to $10 million.” “I don’t understand this,” he said, echoing the confusion many of O’Connell’s most avid supporters feel. 

Considering O’Connell ran on transit reform and strongly advocated for a more walkable, bikeable Nashville during his time in council, cutting the budgets of pivotal initiatives supporting that vision is a curious move. During January 30th’s media roundtable, the mayor did mention that he plans to announce the “reconstitution of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.” Perhaps we’ll understand his motives after WeGo and NDOT’s fiscal analysis concerning a transit referendum. 


Taking a different approach, Pastor Davie Tucker of District 6 offered some words of wisdom to the council during the public hearing: “Budgets are a direct representation of your stewardship of public funds…. Budgets expose your values. Budgets are moral documents. Budgets can also be the reflection of the influence of special interests juxtaposed against the common good.”

He went on to speak about equity, a topic that has recently taken center stage within Metro Government. “Many folk even now say that ‘if you want to achieve equity, we need more funding,’” said Tucker. “That is categorically false. Equity is not predicated on more money. Equity is predicated on two things: number one, acknowledging the inequities that exist. And number two, redistributing the funds you have to address those inequities. Don’t convolute the word.”


A very tired, somewhat confused, and mildly impatient council wrapped up their meeting with a final vote on a lease agreement between Metro and Cameron College Prep. Councilmember Russ Bradford stood in opposition to the agreement. “I think everyone understands where I stand on charter schools,” he said. “How they constantly underperform traditional zoned public schools.” He pointed to Cameron’s low score on “equity and other factors” before concluding, “I really don’t think we should be sending any more of our hard-earned tax dollars to a school that is not really performing any better than our zoned schools.”

Bill sponsor Councilmember Terry Vo then took the floor to defend her bill. “The lease was confirmed unanimously by the Metro Nashville school board,” said Vo. “And I do want to confirm that Cameron was named a level five, which is the highest rating in the TVAAS (Tennessee Value Added Assessment System)… for the past three years.”

The council approved the leasing agreement with 26 yeses, three noes from council members Russ Bradford, Delishia Porterfield, and Ginny Welsch, and one abstention by Zulfat Suara. 

Rod' additional Comment: The bills on First Reading which would liberalize Metro's zoning and allow greater housing density were all deferred. 

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