Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
October 25, 2021

Happy Monday, all! No spoilers, but we're excited about a big week of important stories planned for our readers.

β›ˆ Today's weather: Showers and thunderstorms are likely, especially during morning rush hour, with a high of 71.

πŸŽ‰ Situational awareness: The Titans are now 5-2 after scoring another commanding win yesterday, thumping the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-3.

Today's newsletter is 927 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Cooper commits $1B to capital spending in 2021

Mayor John Cooper.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Fifth + Broadway

Nashville Mayor John Cooper on Friday unveiled $568 million in construction and infrastructure projects, running up the city's capital spending commitments this year to over $1 billion.

Why it matters: Hamstrung financially by the pandemic and tornado recovery, Cooper followed up modest capital commitments in previous years with two substantial spending plans in 2021.

Driving the news: Cooper touted the city's sound financial standing as the reason he is able to commit Metro to so much spending in the coming years.

  • Nashville is a little over one year removed from the largest tax increase in city history, while the pandemic didn't hurt tax collections as much as expected. Combined with stimulus funds from the Trump and Biden administrations, Metro is suddenly flush with cash.
  • Education benefited onceΒ again, with Cooper proposing $134 million to Metro Nashville Public Schools, including four new or substantially renovated buildings at Antioch, Percy Priest, Haywood and Paragon Mills.

What they're saying: "The thing that Metro has not necessarily been the best at is long-term capital planning," Cooper tells Axios. "But we fixed the finances back in 2019 and now we're using that to fix problems, to create a stable financial platform so that you can commit to strong long-term capital program spending."

By the numbers: In addition to schools, Cooper invested heavily in transportation ($141 million, which will be leveraged to access up to $199 million in grants) and Metro Parks (a record $85 million).

  • Cooper also proposed $20 million to help rebuild Second Avenue, which was blown apart by a suicide bomber last Christmas, and $30 million for a youth justice campus, which will feature green space, sports facilities and a new Juvenile Court building.

What's next: Metro Council still must approve the capital spending plan. A vote could take place as soon as next month.

Go deeper: Will Cooper run for re-election and see these projects to completion?

2. Zoo gets a boost

Photo courtesy of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

The mayor's spending plan also included $15 million for a new parking garage at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.

  • Cooper tells Axios the city dollars will allow the nonprofit zoo to continue its rapid expansion.
  • The zoo plans to match Metro's money with $15 million in private donations, the mayor's office said. The zoo's fundraising campaign also seeks to pay for two new exhibits: an African Savannah and Village and an African Forest.

Why it matters: Nashville Zoo, which sits on city-owned parkland, has for years been growing in popularity. The zoo is expected to reach over 1.3 million visitors next year, a spokesperson said.

  • "Ultimately the zoo is going to be the second most-visited thing in Tennessee, second only to Dollywood. So you're getting a lot out of that $15 million."
  • With the private donations matching the city's funding, the zoo plans to add several species at the new exhibits, including a family of gorillas.

Yes, but: Not everyone was bananas about the large investment at the zoo. Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell tells Axios he is "worried about Nashville's biggest priorities β€” housing and mobility."

  • O'Connell said he is readying an amendment to Cooper's plan to re-route some of the zoo funds to pedestrian and transit projects.

"This plan proposes to spend three times more on private parking at the zoo than on housing, three times more than on sidewalks and more than six times what is proposed to spend on bikeways," O'Connell said.

3. Yola debuts new video

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Yola in a new music video at the Ryman Auditorium. Courtesy of Opry NextStage

Yola, one of Nashville's buzziest artists, unveiled a new music video today as part of her month-long partnership with the Opry NextStage project by the Grand Ole Opry.

Why it matters: The Opry launched NextStage in 2019 to identify ascending artists and spread the word about them to fans.

  • In conjunction with Opry NextStage, Yola performed at the Opry earlier this month and also released interviews and other content.

What they're saying: Jordan Pettit, director of artist relations and programming strategy at Opry Entertainment Group, says NextStage was created to "double down on the future of the Opry and one way we can do that is helping artists earlier and earlier in their careers."

  • Yola is the most established of this crop of artists. Pettit says she was selected because the Opry saw potential in her early performances.
  • "Yola had played the Opry in years prior and we always enjoyed having her and the audience seemed to like her and respond to her music," Pettit says. "We feel like she's an important artist people should know."

Watch the full video here.

4. The Setlist: Second Avenue rising

Illustration of a neon sign in the shape of an arrow reading "THE SETLIST."
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A statue commemorating the sacrifice of Black soldiers during the Civil War was unveiled in Franklin. (WSMV)

🚧 The latest proposal for rebuilding Second Avenue seeks to be more pedestrian-friendly and provide more access to the riverfront. (The Tennessean, subscription)

🏈 Vanderbilt football continued its march to a winless SEC campaign with a 45-6 loss to Mississippi State. (ESPN via the AP)

5. Music Mondays: Halloween edition

Our readers came through with some fantastic Halloween-inspired suggestions for this week's Music Monday playlist β€” including songs from new and old Nashville bands.

  • Recommendations ranged from '90s rock band Fleming & John to newcomers The Spirit League. Props to readers James, Buddy, Rick, Ryan, Michael M., Michael C., Holly and Skye for sending in their picks.

Nate's picks include his all-time favorite Halloween song β€” "Skeleton Man" by Evangelicals.

Adam still found a way to include Taylor Swift and Trisha Yearwood.

Our picks:

🐾 Nate is scrambling to complete the family's Scooby-Doo-themed costumes before the Halloween bash this weekend.

πŸ§€ Adam is still thinking about the slow-cooker cheddar soup his mom made Saturday night.