Picture of the Nashville skyline.
Nov 18, 2021

Axios Nashville

It's Thursday and we can already smell the turkey wafting over from next week.

Situational awareness: Metro Nashville Public Schools will no longer enforce COVID-19 quarantine rules due to the new state law limiting safety measures.

Today's newsletter is 896 words β€” a 3.4-minute read.

1 big thing: Lab workload woes
Data: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Forensic scientists testing crime scene evidence for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation each handle an average of 382 cases per year, nearly a hundred more than their peers in Georgia.

  • The discrepancy between Tennessee and nearby states is even bigger, according to an internal review the TBI shared with Axios.
  • The review makes the case for the millions in new TBI funding that director David Rausch requested this month. Rausch told Gov. Bill Lee the money would pay for 40 new scientists, growing the existing roster by 38%.

Why it matters: As TBI scientists confronted a growing workload over the last decade, wait times for DNA tests and other evidence skyrocketed. Testing in some cases took more than nine months to complete during the 2019-20 fiscal year, the agency tells Axios.

  • The long turn-arounds slow down criminal cases, a fact that both prosecutors and defense attorneys find troubling.

Between the lines: In addition to addressing long wait times for evidence testing, Rausch told Lee the new staffing would help his agency with as many as 98,000 DNA samples that need to be collected from violent offenders and suspects.

How it works: Nashville police handle most testing for criminal cases in Davidson County. The TBI is on the hook for the state's 94 other counties, as well as some work in Nashville.

  • Lebanon defense attorney Jeff Cherry says he's waited more than six months for cases to proceed.
  • "You're just stuck in a holding pattern because they can't get all of the evidence back," Cherry tells Axios.

What they're saying: Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper tells Axios case delays are "concerning to me and certainly concerning to victims as well."

  • "It is a concern to ensure that defendants and victims are getting their day in court."

Meanwhile: Helper said several agencies within the criminal justice system, including her own, were under strain due to limited staffing.

  • "I hope TBI gets the resources they need, but I think there are others that are in that position as well."
2. Titans claim top spot
Table: Axios Visuals

The Titans this week ascended to the top of the Axios Sports' NFL power rankings after extending their winning streak to six games.

  • Respect has been hard to come by for the Titans. Despite knocking off AFC contenders Buffalo and Kansas City in October, they'd been slowly creeping up the rankings.
  • Following Sunday's win over the Saints, the Titans climbed three spots to No. 1.

Why it matters: The top ranking validates the belief this is the Titans' best chance at a Super Bowl in more than a decade.

  • Axios Nashville is calling it: Super Bowl or bust.
3. The Setlist

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🎀 Morgan Wallen has planned three shows at Bridgestone Arena after a year of controversy set off by a video showing him using a racial slur. (The Tennessean)

πŸ’‰ Rural counties show little interest in COVID-19 vaccines for kids. (WPLN)

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ A redistricting map from Democrats in the state Senate is getting a tepid reception from Republican leaders. (Tennessee Lookout)

The search for a missing 3-year-old continues after an Amber Alert. (News Channel 5)

4. Lee's jobs pitch

Gov. Bill Lee at an event in July. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Lee on Wednesday sent a message to law enforcement officers in other parts of the country resisting vaccine mandates: "We want you."

  • The governor said the state would help cover moving costs for officers who want to move here to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

What he's saying: Lee said in a statement his pitch was targeted to officers "who want to work in a state that doesn't get in the middle of personal health decisions."

  • In the video, he told officers he would "work to make sure your freedoms are protected."

Between the lines: Lee didn't explicitly mention the COVID vaccine, but his message referred to pushback against "restrictive mandates."

Driving the news: Republican leaders in Tennessee have taken high-profile steps to fight vaccine mandates and local efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

  • Lee recently signed a Republican-backed law that heavily restricts COVID safety measures.

By the numbers: 49% of Tennessee residents are fully vaccinated, according to state data updated this week.

5. The Groove asks for help

Photo courtesy of The Groove

The Groove record store is asking for help to buy its East Nashville building after the landlord is looking to sell.

  • The Groove's owners started a GoFundMe campaign looking to raise $500,000. There's a deadline of Jan. 31, 2022 to meet the asking price, or else the shop will have to relocate or close.

Why it matters: From beloved dive bars to music venues and mom-and-pop restaurants, the Nashville real estate market has made it tough for small businesses to stay afloat.

  • That's especially true of creative businesses such as The Groove, which enhance real estate values.

What they're saying: "Nashville is a hot market and while that is great for all business, it does create hardships for small businesses such as ours," The Groove's Jesse Cartwright said in the GoFundMe post.

  • "Many are tasked with coming up with unimaginable amounts to purchase property to continue operating, face exponential increases in rent, are forced to move, or ultimately end up shutting their doors for good."
  • As of this morning, the campaign had raised $12,455.

🍻 Nate is eating and drinking at TennFold Brewery in Donelson.

πŸ“ Adam is celebrating 25 years of "Strawberry Wine" and the rest of Deana Carter's debut album.