Apr 28, 2023 - News

Outgoing Nashville mayor previews budget, touts legacy in final State of Metro

Photo illustration of Nashville Mayor John Cooper with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images

Months before he is set to leave office, Mayor John Cooper took a victory lap touting accomplishments that he said made Nashville "stronger than at any point in our history."

Why it matters: Cooper's final State of Metro address offered him a chance to define his legacy while previewing his last budget proposal, which is expected Monday.

  • The mayor said his budget would include $100 million in new recurring funding for schools and a 7% raise for all Metro employees.

By the numbers: The new budget proposal will include $15 million each in new spending for the police and fire departments.

  • Funding would support 36 new firefighters, which would bring the department in line with national staffing standards.
  • Four new city positions will be added to focus on noise enforcement, particularly in the downtown entertainment district, Cooper said.
  • While state lawmakers continue to consider gun restrictions, Cooper said the Metro budget would fund a program to distribute free gun locks that is modeled off of a program in Shelby County.

Between the lines: Cooper isn't running for reelection. But he argued that his term had been "a golden age of fixing government" despite an onslaught of challenges.

What he's saying: "Over the last four years, Nashville has been tested — maybe more than any city in America," Cooper said during his speech at the site of the new $150 million James Lawson High School in Bellevue.

  • "The investments we've made together have taken our city government from crisis to recovery."

Yes, but: His optimistic message comes a week after a poll from Vanderbilt University found a growing majority of residents feel Nashville is on the wrong track. (Although the same poll found Cooper had 59% approval.)

State of play: Councilmember Bob Mendes said Cooper's speech "seemed to foreshadow a budget that largely maintains current service levels" rather than funding "a litany of new programs."

  • The budget requires council approval.

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