@startleseasily is a fervent observer of the Metro government's comings and goings. In this column, "On First Reading," she'll recap the bimonthly Metro Council meetings and provide her analysis. You can find her in the pew in the corner by the mic, ready to give public comment on whichever items stir her passions. Follow her on Twitter here.
On Tuesday night, the Metro Council bought a mall and advanced a proposal that could help ease the affordable housing crisis in Nashville.
Breaking the Fourth Wall
On Monday evening, I made a simple and reasonable request of the Metro Councilmembers: enough of the mic tapping. Find another way to see if your mic is on before you speak. I was rewarded with a guest starring (albeit off-camera) role in Tuesday night’s meeting.
In this clip, CM Kevin Rhoten — who has heretofore avoided my ire — can be clearly seen encouraging CM Russ Bradford to troll me. For his part, Rhoten claims that he was actually encouraging CM Erin Evans to do the trolling. Evans, who I believe to be largely innocent in this matter, did not take the bait.
Vibe check: loose and a little unhinged, but in a fun way?
Get In, Loser, We’re Buying a Mall
Citizens of Nashville, we will soon become the collective owners of a mall. With surprisingly little pushback outside of a few CMs who were determined to, like, know literally anything about the terms, the Great Cooper Mall Deal of 2022 passed with votes to spare. Thank goodness it did, because can you imagine how embarrassing (read: hilarious) it would have been if Cooper had to deliver the State of Metro address amid the backdrop of a mall that the Metro Council hadn’t given him permission to buy?
I personally did not have this on my proverbial bingo card for this administration, but now that we’re here, I just want to know where my fraction of a square foot is located. I’ve got some great ideas for how to really activate the space. Mike Jameson, if you’re reading this, please send those details my way so I can prepare accordingly.
Look, this might be a great deal. It might be the best thing to happen to Southeast Nashville in years. Time will certainly tell. But it’s fundamentally alarming to see the council look at a “TBD”-laden letter of intent that has all the force of a promise ring and say, “Sounds great; where do I sign?”
Apparently CM Zach Young isn’t looking for Metro to buy Rivergate any time soon, but I’ll keep an eye out for any movement in that direction.
Affordable Housing Grab Bag
The council has been throwing a lot at the wall and hoping it sticks lately in the affordable housing arena. Their latest endeavor, BL2022-1170, would allow Metro to give developers a break on their property taxes for mixed-income housing projects. In theory, this could incentivize a wider variety of developers to build affordable housing and advance efforts to deconcentrate poverty.
The program would be administered by the Health and Educational Facilities Board, an institution that CM At-Large Bob Mendes has spent years trying to disinfect with sunlight. I encourage you to watch his effortless takedown of the HEFB in Monday night’s Affordable Housing Committee and to read about his hero’s journey in his blog.
In my very first installment of On First Reading, I reported on the unusual volume of late-filed legislation coming out of this mayoral administration. I regret to inform you that nothing has changed since then. Another thing that hasn’t changed: CMs complaining about how pressured they feel to approve late-filed items without having enough information and then promptly approving those items.
I have an undergraduate degree in psychology, so I apologize if the following analysis is a little advanced. If a person does a thing you don’t like, but you give them what they want anyway, that person is probably going to keep doing that thing you don’t like.
On Tuesday night, the mayor’s office brought yet another late-filed resolution; this time, they were asking the Metro Council to approve a grant application to fund planning work on Nashville’s Next Great Neighborhood, the East Bank. CM Brett Withers went strangely out of his way to assure his colleagues that this grant has literally nothing to do with the Titans.
Looks like the grant writers disagreed. Buried in the 104-page application was this little gem that explicitly called out the Titans as a “private entity that will receive a direct and predictable financial benefit” if Nashville receives the grant. So, you know, maybe do a quick Ctrl+F for “Titans” next time.
May 3 is Election Day, which means the next council meeting will take place on Cinco de Mayo. I hope someone’s bringing margaritas.