Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
January 12, 2022

Good morning Axios Nashville readers. Hope everybody has a healthy and productive Wednesday.

☀️ Today's weather: Sunny and 48 degrees.

Situational awareness: State officials have released a draft of their plan to overhaul the public education funding formula, per the Tennessean.

Today's newsletter is 793 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Stevie and Tool and The Chicks, oh my!

A large crowd gathers at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
The Bonnaroo crowd at the festival in 2019. Photo: Josh Brasted/WireImage

Bonnaroo is sticking close to its roots for a comeback this summer.

  • The new 2022 lineup includes Bonnaroo's trademark mix of established icons (Stevie Nicks, Tool, The Chicks) and contemporary hitmakers (21 Savage, J. Cole, Machine Gun Kelly).

Why it matters: 2022 is a high-stakes year for Bonnaroo following two consecutive cancellations that put the festival that remade Manchester on shaky ground.

Between the lines: The back-to-back disappointments dealt a financial blow to the festival, its vendors and Manchester.

  • There's also an air of uncertainty within the concert industry due to the Omicron surge.

The latest: Organizers pushed past those disappointments, projecting their familiar brand of positivity when unveiling the new lineup.

  • Tickets go on sale Thursday. The festival is set to kick off June 16.
  • The bottom line: You know the roster is stacked when megawatt stars such as Ludacris and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss don't make the top line of the poster.

💭 Nate's thought bubble: Rumors swirled this week that Live Nation, Bonnaroo's owner, would skimp on the lineup after the financial losses of the last two years.

  • Instead, organizers are offering a deep and musically diverse mix. In non-pandemic years, this lineup would almost certainly sell out.

2. Nashville leaders react to redistricting

The Tennessee House of Representatives meets in October, 2021.
The Tennessee House of Representatives meeting in October 2021. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Plans to slice up Nashville's reliably Democratic congressional district sent shockwaves through the city.

  • Democrats reacted with disdain while Republicans were quick to defend a plan that could unseat 19-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.

Driving the news: The first official congressional map will be released today when the state House redistricting committee meets. The state Senate is expected to follow with its map Thursday.

Why it matters: The GOP redistricting plan represents a tectonic shift in Nashville politics.

The intrigue: "Nashville has had a congressional 'seat' since George Washington was president," Mayor John Cooper, Rep. Cooper's brother, tells Axios. "There's no sound reason to lose that, as Nashville is the 22nd-largest city in the U.S. and our region's primary economic engine."

  • "The decision to ignore Nashville is remarkably confusing — so much so that one must conclude it's just a partisan power grab," Mayor Cooper added. "This unfortunate decision will undermine Nashville and make Washington out of touch with our community."

What they're saying: Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has become convinced that, "in order to manage the explosive growth surrounding Nashville in Middle Tennessee, it makes sense the area be represented by more than one congressman," his spokesperson Adam Kleinheider tells Axios.

Yes, but: Democrats are outraged.

  • Rep. John Ray Clemmons called the proposal "a blatant attempt to silence the voice of a million Middle Tennesseans and thousands in our business community," Clemmons tells Axios.
  • Hendrell Remus, chair of the state Democratic Party, tells Axios the proposed maps could result in a legal challenge.

3. Vanderbilt named in antitrust suit

The Vanderbilt campus in 2015. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Vanderbilt University was named in a federal antitrust lawsuit that accuses a group of elite colleges of limiting financial aid for students, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

  • The lawsuit also alleges Vanderbilt was one of several universities that skewed admissions standards to "favor the children of wealthy past or potential future donors."

Driving the news: The suit alleges that a network of 16 schools used a shared formula for determining students' financial needs and then limited aid through price-fixing.

  • The lawsuit states Vanderbilt and other schools "participated in a price-fixing cartel that is designed to reduce or eliminate financial aid."

Between the lines: Colleges are permitted under federal law to collaborate on financial aid formulas only if they don't consider financial need as a factor in admissions decisions, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the suit.

  • The lawsuit alleges that these schools in some instances did consider financial need when making admissions decisions.
  • The suit quotes Vanderbilt officials who said the university was sometimes "need-aware" when considering waitlisted applicants.

Vanderbilt did not respond to a request for comment.

4. The Setlist

Illustration of the "Batman building" in Nashville with a bat-signal, with a note instead of a bat, shining on it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏥 Omicron is leading to a hospital staffing shortage. (The Tennessean)

ğŸŽ’ Key state senators are worried about moving too quickly on education funding. (Tennessee Lookout)

😷 Nashville is seeing an influx of flu cases as the COVID count continues to rise. (WSMV)

🛬 British Airways is temporarily discontinuing flights connecting Nashville to London. (Nashville Post)

5. Details on racetrack renovation financing coming soon

Cars race around the Nashville fairgrounds racetrack
Drivers race at the Nashville fairgrounds racetrack in 2021. Photo: Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images

Mayor Cooper's administration asked the Metro Fair Board to hold a special meeting the week of Jan. 31 to present details of its financing plan to renovate the fairgrounds racetrack.

  • Fair Board commissioner Jason Bergeron challenged the Cooper administration to offer more details sooner, but mayoral aide Ben Eagles told board members the answers would have to wait until the special meeting.

Why it matters: Cooper has reached a deal in principle to renovate the track, but specifics on the financing plan have yet to be revealed.

  • Eagles says the mayor's office is waiting on a report from a consultant hired to analyze the deal before presenting the entire plan to the board.

The details: Bergeron was especially interested in the financial guarantees that Bristol Motor Speedway — the contractor picked to run the renovated track — will provide the city as part of its lease agreement

  • Bergeron also wanted to know how much money the state will contribute to the deal, more details about Bristol's partnerships with nonprofit groups and how many dates the racetrack will be in use annually.

What's next: After receiving the financing plan, the board is expected to hold a public hearing to get feedback from the community before voting.

Our picks:

ğŸŽ¸ Nate is remembering that time in high school when his friends expressed concern because he was listening to bands such as Tool (and Deftones) too much.

Adam is waiting for the next Wordle puzzle.