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Memorial Day weekend activities in Nashville

Illustration of an animated neutral emoji changing into a smiling-with-sunglasses emoji.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Memorial Day signifies the unofficial start of summer. Here are a few ways to mark the occasion:

Nate Rau
May 27, 2022 - News

Inside Metro Nashville Public Schools' enrollment slide

Source: MNPS; chart: Axios Visuals
Source: MNPS; chart: Axios Visuals

Enrollment in Metro Nashville Public Schools is down 14% over the last decade.

Why it matters: City leaders are in the midst of debating the $1.1 billion MNPS operating budget while seeking to fill a $22.6 million gap driven in part by enrollment drops.

Adam Tamburin
May 26, 2022 - News

Lee's approval rating holds steady in Vanderbilt poll

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee's approval rating in the latest Vanderbilt University poll is 56%, up one point from last December, as he turns toward his 2022 reelection bid.

  • Meanwhile, President Biden's approval rating in Tennessee fell to 31%.

Why it matters: Vanderbilt's statewide poll offers insight into Tennessee voters' views on leadership, abortion and criminal justice.

State of play: The poll was conducted April 26-May 14. In the midst of polling, news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court seemed poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would quickly ban almost all abortions in Tennessee.

  • The poll found 36% of respondents think abortion should be legal in all cases.
  • An additional 44% favor allowing some legal abortions in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
  • Only 17% of respondents thought abortion should be outlawed altogether.

Meanwhile, the poll found bipartisan support for criminal justice reform at the national and state levels.

  • 70% of respondents said the criminal justice system needs "major changes" or "a complete overhaul."
  • And 72% said they supported using taxpayer dollars for convicted people to access rehabilitation programs such as mental health care or addiction treatment.

Between the lines: The poll surveyed 1,000 registered Tennessee voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Nate Rau
May 26, 2022 - News

Tennessee leaders respond to the Uvalde massacre

children and parents hugging and crying after the terrible tragedy in Texas on Tuesday
People mourn following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Tennessee leaders were quick to condemn the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Texas, but their responses laid bare the deep ideological schism on the matter of guns.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers seem willing to consider policy changes in the wake of the school shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead.

  • But gun control measures remain unlikely in a state that regularly expands access to firearms.

Driving the news: State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) held a fiery press conference Wednesday, imploring Gov. Bill Lee and lawmakers to act.

  • Clemmons said the starting point should be a special legislative session to "work together and take action on the public health crisis."
  • Clemmons called for a pause on gun purchases without background checks.

"Gun violence plagues our entire community. Whether it be the Waffle House in Antioch, the supermarket in Buffalo, ballparks and even churches, no part of our community is sacred or off-limits to gun violence," Clemmons said.

By the numbers: Clemmons built his argument around statistics showing rising gun violence in Tennessee.

  • From 2010 through 2019, the rate of gun deaths in Tennessee increased by 28%, compared to the national average of 17%. Gun homicides rose by 59% during that span, Clemmons said, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, one of Tennessee's most prominent Republicans, said in a widely shared tweet that he believes common ground is possible.

  • "Firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers in 2020, surpassing car accidents for the first time in 60 years," Frist said. "We can find ways to preserve the intent of the Second Amendment while also safeguarding the lives of our children."

Yes, but: Over the last decade, the Republican-led legislature passed laws making it easier to buy guns, and expanded where they can be carried to include places that serve alcohol, parks and vehicle trunks.

State of play: State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) said he reached out to the state Department of Education about expanding the security presence at schools, an effort supported by House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

  • "We must find a way to have a school resource officer in all of our schools," Faison said. "Evil exists and we must protect the innocent from it."
  • Faison did not mention gun control as an option.
Adam Tamburin
May 26, 2022 - News

Good luck driving in downtown Nashville

cars lined up bumper to bumper on Broadway in Nashville
Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports/USA Today Network

Trips to downtown Nashville are exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis of traffic patterns.

Why it matters: Somehow, traffic got worse despite the fact that many people are still working from home.

  • A report from traffic analytics firm Inrix identified Nashville as "a great example of bringing people back" to downtown areas in a "new normal" environment.

Zoom out: Researchers analyzed traffic patterns in 10 cities and found most downtown areas were still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. Nashville was one of the few exceptions.

State of play: In 2021, trips downtown were at 60% of pre-COVID levels. By this year, traffic had exceeded those levels by 25%

  • Morning commute volume is up 3.8% in 2022. But traffic during off-hours appeared to be driving much of the surge.

What they're saying: "Downtown Nashville, which has seen increasing traffic volumes during evenings and weekends, has shown that work-related trips may not be the main driver of traffic and economic activity downtown," the report stated.

Between the lines: Transportation analyst Bob Pishue, who wrote the report, tells Axios the findings suggest the entertainment and tourism activity layered alongside the business district downtown are key factors behind the numbers.

  • "That kind of environment seems to be bringing people in," he says.
Nate Rau
May 26, 2022 - News

Tennessee needs baby formula

Data: Datasembly; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The baby formula shortage has been more pronounced in Tennessee than in the rest of the nation.

Why it matters: The percentage of formula out of stock reached 54.7% in Tennessee, according to Datasembly, a retail software company. By comparison, the nationwide percentage was 43.1%.

State of play: About three in four babies are fed formula by 6 months old as a complete or partial substitute for human milk, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

Adam Tamburin
May 25, 2022 - News

Meharry teams with NFL to diversify sports medicine pipeline

Meharry Medical College
Meharry Medical College. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Meharry Medical College is teaming up with the NFL to try to establish a more diverse pipeline of medical students going into sports medicine.

Why it matters: The new partnership will give students the opportunity to practice sports medicine during a clinical rotation with NFL team medical staff.

  • That's in line with Meharry's mission of increasing diversity across the medical field.
Nate Rau
May 25, 2022 - Sports

Mayor Cooper doubles down on World Cup bid

Data: ESPN; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

Mayor John Cooper reiterated his administration's enthusiasm for bringing 2026 World Cup games to Nashville in a letter to a top FIFA executive earlier this month.

Why it matters: On June 16, FIFA is announcing the North American host cities for the 2026 tournament, which envisions using up to 18 sites.