From Bill Freeman

As we push on into the new year, it is a good time to take a look at how Mayor John Cooper is faring. What has he accomplished? Where does he stand with his campaign promises? How do we judge his progress?

First, I think the mayor has done a reasonable job in being transparent, and we should be heartened by his efforts to address the fiscal challenges his administration inherited. I think that, as he addresses those issues, he is focused on achieving Nashville’s practical and philosophical goals. 

One of the most urgent of our practical matters is Metro’s financial management. It seems clear, and the mayor has made it his priority, that Nashvillians want to rein in spending and the ballooning debt burden. I’ve said many times that it is imperative that we achieve a truly balanced budget that does not rely on one-time payments, and many thousands of Nashvillians agreed with Mayor Cooper’s similar budget concerns on the campaign trail. Our Metro budget has grown by $789 million in the past 10 years, which accounts for a 51 percent increase in our spending, while our population has grown by a much more modest amount of roughly 10 percent from April 2010 to June 2018. We are spending more than we are making, and we are spending faster than we are growing. That’s not the direction in which we should be heading. Mayor Cooper has made it a priority to identify mismanaged services, underperforming assets, and assets with the potential to generate self-sustaining revenue. 

An example is the mayor’s intent to increase the use of solar power to generate energy for downtown buildings. We could say this is a philosophical initiative, a green effort to reduce Metro’s carbon footprint and meet climate change metrics — but it is as practical as it is philosophical. The existing solar panels on Music City Center’s roof currently generate enough energy to power its lighting for the year, as well as its electric car battery charging stations. Plans are also underway to install solar panels on the roof of the Metro Courthouse. I am proud to see efforts being made to incorporate climate-sensitive measures into new and existing structures, which has always been a focus of Freeman Webb. Our company headquarters was the first Gold LEED-certified building in the state of Tennessee. Incorporating smart and effective environmental building and renovation practices, as Metro is doing with solar panels, has paid off in both practical and philosophical ways at Freeman Webb. 

Increasing revenue streams —  such as the recent attention given to the much-needed increase in Metro’s provided water and sewer services fees — to fund Metro’s budget is another smart and practical focus for the mayor’s office. The Metro Council recently voted to increase Nashvillians’ water bills in order to compensate for the increasingly urgent infrastructure and debt burden of our water and sewer services. 

As I’ve said recently, safe drinking water and hygienic wastewater treatment are needs that all citizens expect to be met by their local city government. We should be able to rely on our government to provide these as part of the social compact between us. I am glad to see that the council saw the urgency of the situation and made arrangements to properly fund this critical city service at the level it requires.

Mayor Cooper’s First 100 Days Report identified major areas of focus, from financial management and neighborhood investments to transportation and public safety — all of which are core services expected of a municipal government. We must determine what we need, what we want and what we cannot do without. 

One of my favorite quotes to reference around this time of year comes from Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Mayor Cooper looks to be making smart, practical plans to accomplish our communal goals. The accomplishments made in his first 100 days and his plans to achieve further goals should inspire confidence in every Nashvillian.

Bill Freeman

Bill Freeman is the owner of FW Publishing, the publishing company that produces the Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and Home Page Media Group in Williamson County.

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