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January Update

January 1, 2021

EVENTS

Bombing of Second Avenue - Nashville is still reeling from the December 25 suicide bombing on Second Avenue. The only good news is that no one else was killed, and only three people were injured. Forty-one buildings were destroyed or damaged to varying degrees, and at least forty-five businesses will be further disrupted as they wait for repairs and renovations. Metro departments are evaluating the damage to the buildings and to street infrastructure to start putting together the plan for rebuilding. A number of websites have been set up to provide financial assistance for employees and volunteer support in the interim, including:

Nashville has shown that we can survive hardship, and we have had more than our fair share this year. I hope those that are able to will continue to give generously to those who are dealing with this on top of the pandemic.

The Metro Council Budget Committee is hosting a series of webinars to provide detailed information to citizens about the budget process. These are broken into three categories – How we get the money, how we spend it, and a community panel discussion. The schedule is below:

HOW DOES THE CITY SPEND MONEY?

  • Jan 7, 2021 - Metro Nashville Public Schools - School Board Member Freda Player-Peters and Chief Operating and Financial Officer Chris Henson
  • Jan 14, 2021 - Metro Public Works and Parks Departments - Public Works Interim Director Shanna Whitelaw and Metro Parks Director Monique Odom
  • Jan 21, 2021 - Nashville General Hospital
  • Jan 28, 2021 - Public Safety - Metro Nashville Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office

COMMUNITY PANEL DISCUSSIONS

  • Feb 4, 2021 - Community Panel Discussion
  • Feb 11, 2021 - Expert Panel Discussion
  • Feb 18, 2021 - How the Budget Process works
  • Feb 25, 2021 - Participatory Budget - Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara

This series of sessions will provide helpful information, and everyone is encouraged to participate as the council works through this upcoming 2022 budget year. Members of the public can watch the meetings live online here or Metro Nashville Network on Comcast channel 3, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Google Fiber channel 3, and streaming on the MNN Roku channel. Links can also be found on the Metro Council Events Calendar.

Christmas Tree-Cycling: Recycling Christmas trees into mulch, rather than putting them in the trash, keeps them out of landfills and helps save Metro the cost of disposal fees. Trees can be taken until February 17 to the following locations:

  • Cane Ridge Park
  • Una Recreation Center
  • Whitfield Park
  • Cedar Hill Park
  • Two Rivers Park
  • Joelton Community Center
  • Sevier Park
  • Richland Park
  • Elmington Park
  • Edwin Warner Park
  • Lakewood City Hall
  • Frederick Douglas Park
  • Both of Living Earth’s locations at 1511 Elm Hill Pike and 6401 Centennial Blvd. (Living Earth’s of Tennessee’s operating hours are Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon).

Trees must be cleaned of all ornaments, lights, wire, string and other decor before bringing them to be tree-cycled. No artificial trees can be accepted. Please do not dump any other items at these drop-off locations.

Recycling Update. Metro Public Works wants everyone to understand how our recycling program works and offers frequent workshops and webinars. Judy Wright has summarized the detailed information based on Metro Public Works webinar in her blog.

Trash & Recycling Adjusted Holiday Schedule: The Urban Service District Trash and Recycling Schedule will be adjusted for holidays twice this month. January 1 trash and recycling will be picked up on Saturday, January 2, and the entire week of MLK Day, January 18, will be shifted one day. So Monday pick-up will happen Tuesday, and so on for each day after that.

Brush Pick-up begins January 5 in Area 8 (Green Hills, Hillsboro West End, Belmont Hillsboro, Percy Warner, Devonshire), January 8 in Area 9 (Bellevue, West Meade, Hillwood, White Bridge, Cherokee Park, Richland West End, Sylvan Park, Sylvan Heights, Hadley, Fisk Watkins Park), and January 18 in Area 10 (Whites Bend, Charlotte Park, Cockrill Bend, Nations, TSU, College Heights, Germantown, Buena Vista).

Walk Bike Nashville will reconfigure their annual Pedestrian Memorial from a service to an installation throughout Nashville indicating intersections where pedestrians have perished in crashes with automobiles. Their objective is to raise awareness about the growing number of pedestrian fatalities and to gain support for programs and traffic changes that will make streets, intersections, and crosswalks safer for walkers. One initiative underway is lowering the default speed limit on small local streets from 30 to 25 miles per hour, which has been shown to significantly lower the fatality rate. If you know of a pedestrian who has died while walking in Nashville and you’d like to have a pedestrian memorial installed in their memory, please contact familiesforsafestreetsnash@gmail.com.

Nashville Tree Conservation Corps Tree Sale continues through the spring. For around $200 property owners can get a 1.5 inch caliper tree delivered and planted. Trees reduce storm water run-off, heat island effect, and greenhouse gases; provide wildlife habitat and food; increase property aesthetics and values; and they are fun to climb. Nashville has committed to increasing our tree canopy for all these reasons, and individual homeowners can help in the effort. Orders placed by January 10 will be delivered the week of February 1. More information is available at the Nashville Tree Conservation website. For those on a smaller budget with a longer time horizon, the Tennessee Environmental Council is offering saplings to be delivered in March. Visit their website here.

Openings on Metro Boards and Commissions – Metro has over 75 boards and commissions that use expert citizens on a volunteer basis to make recommendations and rulings on everything from beer permits to zoning requests. The Mayor’s office appoints members of these boards with final approval by the Metro Council. Registered voters in Davidson County who are interested in serving on a board can submit a resume to me or to their district council member to be relayed to the Mayor’s office for consideration. Openings are coming up for the Solid Waste Region Board and Metro Historic Zoning Commission. For a full list of all boards and commissions, see the Metro.gov website.

ISSUES

COVID-19 Update – Although we continue to see high numbers of new cases, the availability of a very effective vaccine has finally given us a light at the end of the tunnel. There are some great videos that explain how the vaccine works, how we know it is safe, and why it is really important for everyone who can to get one. Here’s one from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Metro Health Department has detailed information on getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Metro is following the vaccination plan developed by the Tennessee Department of Health. Vaccine is currently limited and will be offered in four Phases. Nashville is currently in the beginning of the first Phase (Phase 1a1) for health care workers that have direct patient exposure, long-term care facility staff and residents, and first responders. Hospitals in Nashville are being provided vaccine directly from the vaccine manufacturer as it becomes available and will provide the vaccine to their employees. Long-term care facilities will offer their staff and residents the vaccine through the federal partnership with Walgreens and CVS, and through agreements with local pharmacies. Metro Government has a partnership with HCA/TriStar to vaccinate first responders.

The next Phase 1a2 includes all other outpatient healthcare workers with direct patient exposure including outpatient health providers, outpatient primary care providers and staff, outpatient specialty providers and staff, pharmacists and staff, patient transport, outpatient therapists, urgent care providers and staff, environmental services with direct patient contact or contact to infectious materials, staff of dental clinics, and behavioral health providers.

Additional Phases (1b, 2, 3, and 4) are still subject to change at this time. It is already under discussion to move teachers further up the list. The different “Phases” are included in the graphic at the bottom of the email.

Information on when vaccines are available for each subgroup will be on the Metro COVID website, in the weekly COVID press conferences, and through the general media, employers, professional organizations, state licensing rosters, and trade groups. When it’s your turn it should not be difficult to know. There is an option to register in the information under “WHAT IF I’M WORRIED … “ Additional information is available here.

The Metro Health Director’s Health Order requiring masks is still in effect, and the Governor has extended his Executive Order allowing electronic public meetings through the end of February. Even as more people are becoming vaccinated, it is still important to continue to wear masks, maintain distance, and wash hands.

At the federal level, Congress finally passed the long-awaited relief bill that includes $600 checks for qualified people as well as Emergency Rental Assistance.

The final legislation includes $25 billion that the Treasury Department will provide as grants to states and eligible local governments to fund emergency rental assistance, rental arrears, and utility costs for households at risk of homelessness or housing instability due directly or indirectly to the pandemic. Households must have incomes of no more than 80 percent of the area median ($65,850 for a family of 4) to be eligible for assistance, and grantees must prioritize households earning up to 50 percent of AMI and those with a member(s) who is unemployed and has been unemployed for at least 90 days. Households may receive assistance for a maximum of 15 months and must reapply every three months for ongoing assistance.

The bill extends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium from December 31, 2020 until January 31, 2021. Taking advantage of rental assistance is a better option than just depending on the eviction moratorium since all past due rent will still come due when the moratorium expires. Information on rental assistance should be available here.

Nashville Electric Service has again halted disconnections at least through January 4 due to the pandemic. Disconnections for this year compared to last year are shown to last year.

Month / 2019 / 2020
January / 8815 / 8773
February / 7510 / 9047
March / 9721 / 147
April / 7933 / 0
May / 8564 / 0
June / 9251 / 0
July / 7057 / 0
August / 9323 / 0
September / 7048 / 0
October / 15499 / 0
November / 10465 / 8585
December / 7789 / 11161
TOTAL / 108975 / 37713

After NES resumed disconnections in November, they also created a website, www.NESHelps.com, for customers to find assistance through NeedLink, Metro Action Commission and Metro CARES sources. A total of $6 million was made available through NeedLink for COVID relief, in addition to $700,000 Community Cares funding in partnership with TVA. There is a link to NESHelps.com on the NES website – it is front and center on the carousel. It says, “FOR PAST-DUE BALANCES, HELP IS HERE”. NES service advisors are trained to offer agency assistance to customers when they call.

The Housing Fund has created a Housing Resiliency Fund to help qualified homeowners pay increased property taxes that may jeopardize their ability to stay in their home. Homeowners living in zip codes 37013, 37206, 37207, 37208, 37211, 37216, and 37218 who earn below 120% of the Area median Income ($69,150 for a single resident or $98,400 for a family or four) can apply at the Housing Fund website. This grant, which does not have to be repaid, is made possible by a donation from Amazon. The Housing Fund is accepting other contributions.

Subdivision Regulation Updates will be considered at the Planning Commission at its January 21 meeting. The proposed changes would require lot frontages of at least 50 feet in evolving suburban areas and 40 feet in evolving urban areas. Comments are due to the Planning Commission January 8. Comments may be sent to shawn.shepard@nashville.gov. The proposed changes will be on public hearing at the January 21 Planning Commission meeting. More information is available at the Nashville.gov website.

The Mayor’s Transportation Plan was approved by the Metro Council at our last meeting, paving the way for eligibility for federal funds expected to be available under the new administration. The Plan was developed based on eleven community listening sessions, where Nashvillians indicated their priorities. The key aspects of the plan are mass transit; sidewalks, bikeways, and greenways; good repair for roads and bridges; improving traffic operations and signalization; and safety. Funding will continue at current levels while actively pursuing grants to leverage local dollars.

The council is considering several pieces of License Plate Reader (LPR) legislation at our upcoming meeting. Currently Metro law prohibits operating LPR technology on public right of way. The new legislation was introduced in response to several issues, such as difficult-to-prosecute drag racing on public streets in the Antioch area, and increases in car related thefts in neighborhoods. BL2020-457, which was passed December 1, restricts Metro from entering into a contract with a surveillance company for data from a camera without specific permission from the owner of the camera. BL2020-494, on third reading Jan 5, would allow LPR technology used in the public right of way strictly to document illegal drag racing with appropriate safeguards to limit the use and storage of the data. BL2020-481, on second reading Jan 5 would allow LPRs within police cars. BL2020-582, also on second reading Jan 5, would allow LPR’s on public right of way for a broader category of uses, but spells out more specifically how data should be protected, and puts in place an oversight and audit requirement to prevent abuse of data for uses other than solving specific crimes. The Public Safety, Public Works, and Personnel Committees have held several special sessions to learn about the technology, the civil liberties risks, and safeguards other cities have put in place to prevent abuse of data. Those meetings can be viewed on Metro’s Youtube channel. Two additional meetings are scheduled for January 7 at 5 pm and January 12 at 6 pm. Links will be available on the Metro Event Calendar. Public input is welcome on this very complicated topic. With a robust discussion we should be able to create a way to balance safety and privacy.

The Metro Water Services rate study conducted in 2019 recommended an annual inflation adjustment to rates so that receipts would consistently keep up with the cost of providing safe and clean water. The 2021 adjustment will show up on January bills. This is not a rate restructuring, but an across the board 4% increase. I continue to hear from property owners with questions about water bills and am working with Metro Water to ensure that meters are operating correctly, and that rates are being applied accurately and fairly. The Metro Water website has a detailed explanation of the how the new rate structure and the annual adjustments were developed. The bottom line is that a typical family needs about 200 gallons a day for washing and cooking. That amounts to about 8 ccf per month (ccf is 100 cubic feet equal to about 750 gallons). The water and sewer rate for the first 2 ccf (1500 gallons) per month is $0 and for the next 4 ccf is about $10/ccf going up to $12/ccf for anything over 10 ccf (7500 gallons). Comparing that to bottled water may put things in perspective. At about $1.50/gallon, 1 ccf of bottled water costs $150. Most of us are comfortable paying $1.50/gallon for water to drink, but we would not buy thousands of gallons of bottled water to pour over our yard. The goal of the new rate structure is to provide a basic amount of water at low cost, to cover the actual cost to the city to provide clean water, and to encourage conservation.

I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start. Now that 2020 is finally hindsight, I’m excited about a new beginning in 2021, and I’m eager to hear new ideas from everyone on how to help Nashville recover from the many set-backs of 2020. Please contact me at burkley.allen@nashville.gov or 615-383-6604. Happy New Year!

Regards,
Burkley Allen
Metro Council At-Large

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