Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
November 04, 2021

Happy Thursday everybody; let's get right to it.

  • Today's weather: Another cooler day with a high of 54.

Today's newsletter is 960 words — a 3.6-minute read.

1 big thing: Honoring an icon

Diane Nash
Diane Nash. Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images

New city legislation seeks to rename the plaza outside the Metro Courthouse to honor Diane Nash, the civil rights leader who made history there 61 years ago.

Why it matters: Nashville was a wellspring of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Luminaries trained here before fanning out across the nation to lead protests against racism.

  • Until recently, the city hasn't taken high-profile actions to memorialize its role in the era.

Between the lines: Council member Nancy VanReece filed the bill Wednesday after a months-long effort to rename Public Square Park for Nash faltered.

  • VanReece asked the Parks Naming Committee to suspend a rule against naming parks after living people. They rejected the request this week.
  • The new legislation, which VanReece shared with Axios, would instead rename the landing in front of the building Diane Nash Plaza. That includes the steps and large fountains around the park, which are overseen by the city's General Services Department.
  • Council members Sharon Hurt, Bob Mendes and Delishia Porterfield are co-sponsoring the new legislation.

Flashback: Nash led a march of thousands of activists to the steps of the Metro Courthouse in April 1960, where she pressed then-Mayor Ben West to call for the desegregation of downtown lunch counters.

  • She prevailed, and West endorsed the cause.
  • Downtown lunch counters agreed to desegregate the next month, a pivotal early victory for the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow South.
  • Nash went on to become a Freedom Rider and central figure in the movement.

Why now: As more civil rights luminaries involved in the Nashville sit-ins die, local leaders have taken more intentional and urgent steps to honor them.

The big picture: Tennessee State University professor and historian Learotha Williams tells Axios this kind of public recognition of Nash's impact is "long overdue."

  • "I applaud the efforts of everybody involved to make this happen," Williams says. "It's just a start, because we have more folks out there that warrant our study and our public praise."

What's next: VanReece's legislation requires multiple rounds of council review before it can be approved. A final vote is more than a month away.

2. Nashville offers kids vaccinations next week

Blue teddy bear with orange band-aid on its arm.
Maura Losch/Axios

Metro will begin vaccinating children ages 5 through 11 against COVID-19 at its drive-thru clinics starting Monday, Nov. 8.

  • The clinics, located at 350 28th Ave. North and 2491 Murfreesboro Pike, will offer the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccine for those younger children, which contains one-third the dosage than the version for older children and adults.
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools will also offer the vaccine at clinics set up during after-school hours at high schools. The drive-thru clinic schedule can be found here.

3. City officials bash health hiring bill

The Lentz Public Health Center building
Lentz Public Health Center. Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

State legislation approved over the weekend would change the way Metro has been hiring its top health official. It's the latest battlefront in Nashville's perpetual dispute with the Republican-led state government.

Why it matters: The change could reshape Nashville's response to public health crises. The bill also grants the governor exclusive jurisdiction to issue public health orders during a pandemic.

  • There were clear differences in how Nashville Mayor John Cooper and the city health department handled pandemic response compared to Lee's administration, including strict mask mandates and business restrictions.

Driving the news: Under the sweeping legislation, Nashville's mayor would submit up to three finalists for a new health director, but the appointment would then be made by the Tennessee health commissioner.

  • The Metro board of health currently hires the health director, typically in consultation with the mayor. The board earlier this year picked Dr. Gill Wright to lead the department.
  • Cooper spokesperson Andrea Fanta criticized the legislation for "undermining" local control. "The last 18 months showed us just how essential local, trusted evidence-based health expertise was in Nashville," she tells Axios.

What they're saying: Dr. Alex Jahangir, who led Nashville's pandemic response task force and serves on the city's health board, tells Axios that one thing the state got right in its pandemic response was preserving local governments' ability to craft their own responses.

  • "The choice of a health director for our county is a decision that should be made by those who have a thorough understanding of the needs of our county, specifically the mayor and members of the board of health," Jahangir says.

The other side: An existing state law technically granted the commissioner power to appoint local health directors. But the practice hasn't played out that way. Instead, the commissioner has been informally consulted during the hiring process.

  • Health Department spokesperson Sarah Tanksley tells Axios the newly approved legislation "is formalizing a previously informal process." For example, Tanksley said the department was "aware" of Wright's recent appointment and "had no objection."

What's next: Lee said earlier this week he's reviewing the Republican-sponsored bills.

4. The Setlist

Illustration of the windows of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, doubling as a graphic equalizer.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Nashville Predators beginning Nov. 13 will no longer require fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. (Nashville Predators)

Hospitals are worried about recently approved legislation that would allow visits to hospitalized Covid patients. (The Tennessean, subscription required)

Business groups continued to criticize last week's special session legislation. (Tennessee Lookout)

5. How TN measures up in deer hunting

Data: National Deer Association; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

It's deer hunting season, and much like the SEC football standings, Tennessee lags behind neighboring states.

By the numbers: Tennessee ranked 19th in the country by bagging 135,155 deer in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available.

  • By comparison, Georgia ranked sixth, Mississippi ranked eighth, and Alabama ranked ninth.
  • It's yet another case of everything being bigger in Texas, which ranked No. 1 with 846,330 deer harvested in 2019.

The bottom line: Tennessee's hunting and trapping season schedule.

Our picks:

🏈 Nate is prepping for the unofficial launch of the Jordan Love era.

ğŸŽ§ Adam is listening to this podcast featuring two of his favorite country queens.