Tag Archives: Nashville

Nashville approves unisex restrooms for businesses

Nashville businesses with single-toilet restrooms are no longer required to have one facility specifically for women and another just for men, reports The Tennessean.

The Metro Council voted unanimously on a final of three readings Tuesday to broaden exceptions for unisex restrooms, which are only allowed in Nashville businesses that fall below a square-footage threshold.

The ordinance was introduced by Councilman Brett Withers, who filed the bill last month after learning that the owners of Wild Cow, a vegetarian restaurant in his East Nashville district, were warned by Metro codes inspectors that they could not have unisex restrooms in a new restaurant the couple is planning nearby called Graze.

He said he later learned that several restaurants and businesses were technically in violation of a law that few realized existed.

“This just allows businesses who choose to do so to go ahead and make all of their single-user restroom facilities available to males and females,” Withers said.

“It (also) accommodates folks who might be transgender or might have a gender expression that doesn’t line up with traditional gender expectations in terms of hair style or clothing style,” said Withers, who is one of two openly gay members on the council. “It helps people to avoid having that kind of discussion or examination.”

The new law, which was signed by Mayor Megan Barry on Wednesday, authorizes unisex restrooms at most businesses that have two or more bathroom facilities that each consist of single toilets and have locks..

Nashville suing state for more school funding, too

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board voted Tuesday evening to sue the state for a greater share of education funding, reports The Tennessean. Members said Tennessee is not providing enough money to help teach English to children for whom it is a second language.

The board approved the lawsuit, with six members in favor and two — Elissa Kim and Mary Pierce — abstaining. Board member Jo Ann Brannon was unable to attend the meeting.

The subject of suing the state for education funds has been a topic for the past year, and the issue came to a head after Metro Law Director Jon Cooper sent a letter June 1 asking the state why Nashville received less money for its English language learners, or ELL, this year.

In a June 3 response, Maryanne Durski, the Tennessee Department of Education’s local finance office director, notified Cooper that the funding allocation through the fiscal year general appropriations act provided adequate funds.

Board Vice Chairwoman Anna Shepherd said the letter was the last straw for her.

“This is state law, and they are just being flippant about it,” she said. “And I don’t think this is a flippant topic.”

Board member Will Pinkston, who has advocated to sue the state for the past year, said Nashville schools have the highest ELL population in the state and the district has a unique opportunity to teach those students.

“The idea that these schools — which literally sit in the shadow of the state Capitol — are getting intentionally short-shrifted by the state is frankly maddening,” he said. “Local taxpayers are doing our part, and the state Department of Education sends us a blow-off letter.”

…With the district suing the state for education funding, it joins Shelby County Schools and seven Hamilton County-area districts in their pursuit of more Basic Education Program funds.

Karl Dean takes statewide tour with eye toward run for governor

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is traveling the state with an eye toward running for statewide political office, reports The Tennessean. Dean is most widely seen as a prospective candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018.

He was in Chattanooga and Memphis last week to talk to leaders in both cities and has other stops planned. (Note: He has a stop scheduled June 10 in Oak Ridge; a press release HERE.)

In an interview with The Tennessean, Dean characterized these trips — and visits to other cities on the horizon — as educational and part of the process to determine whether to run for office in 2018 when two statewide seats are up for grabs.

He declined to say specifically whom he met with in Chattanooga and Memphis, calling them a “broad range of people.”

“I think for this calendar year, it’s a time for me to see whether I have something to contribute,” Dean said of a possible run for state higher office. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn more about the state and it’s also an opportunity, frankly, to see whether something like that is doable.That’s really all I’m doing.

“Going through an exercise of thinking about this is a wonderful way to get educated about different issues that face the state,” he said. “People look at things differently in different parts of the state. And there are different issues that certainly confront different parts of the state. Then you’ve got to figure out whether it’s a realistic thing to do or whether it’s the right thing or right timing for my family and myself.”

Dean, whose two terms as Nashville mayor concluded in September, is more frequently discussed as a possible Democratic candidate in 2018 in what will be an open governor’s race to replace Bill Haslam. In addition U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — who has received recent speculation as a possible running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — will be up for re-election the same year.

Dean said he wouldn’t make a decision on his plans until sometime next year.

…Dean could be in position to self-finance at least a portion of a future campaign, having dropped more than $1 million of personal funds into his first mayoral campaign in 2007.

“That’s not something I’ve made any decisions about,” Dean said when asked about the use of personal funds in a possible campaign. “I can tell you that it will cost a lot to run for governor and have a serious campaign, and, obviously, I think you would need to raise a lot of money.”

Following his time in the mayor’s office, Dean has spent the past eight months teaching at Belmont University and Boston University, as well as chairing a new education nonprofit called Project Renaissance.

Nashville mayor appoints first TN transgender person to government board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Mayor Megan Barry appointed a transgender woman to the Metro Human Relations Commission — an apparent first for Tennessee.

The Nashville’s Metro Council on Tuesday confirmed all 20 of Barry’s board nominations, including voting unanimously to appoint Dr. Marisa Richmond to the Metro Human Relations Commission, media outlets reported.

According to the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Richmond is the first transgender person in the state’s history to be named to a local government board or commission.

Richmond is a Nashville resident, a professor in the history department at Middle Tennessee State University and former president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.

“Marisa Richmond is a dedicated community leader who is a champion for equality and has been at the forefront of the discussion over transgender rights in Nashville and Tennessee,” Barry, a Democrat, said in a statement. “She will be a strong voice on the Metro Human Relations Commission for making sure Nashville remains a warm and welcoming city for all.”

The 17-member commission oversees the human relations department, which is tasked with resolving discrimination complaints and carrying out educational programs in a number of areas.

“I was thrilled and I was honored,” Richmond said of the distinction. “I think it’s the right step in the right direction for Nashville. Especially in contrast to what the state is doing — Nashville and the rest of the country is moving forward even as the state is refusing to. I think it’s a real positive development for Nashville.”

Nashville overtaking Memphis as TN’s most populous city

After nearly 120 years as Tennessee’s largest city, Memphis is on the verge of surrendering that title to fast-growing Nashville, census estimates released Thursday show.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:
As of July 1 of last year, Memphis clung to a 1,160-person edge in population — 655,770 to 654,610, according to the estimates. The gap, which had totaled almost 12,000 just a year earlier, closed as Memphis lost 712 residents and Nashville gained 9,881. As recently as the 2010 Census, Memphis had about 45,000 more residents than Nashville.

The latest census numbers, which cover municipalities and other “sub-county” areas, reaffirm a continuing lack of growth not only in Memphis but in many of its wealthy suburbs. Four of the six suburban municipalities in Shelby County sustained slight drops in population, with only Bartlett and Collierville registering modest increases.

But if the figures show Memphis is not growing, they also confirm that it’s not in rapid decline, said John Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis.

“We can take pride in that we’ve at least been stable, which is more than a lot of cities can say,” Gnuschke said.

Memphis became the state’s largest city with the 1900 Census, when its population surged to 102,320 compared to 80,865 for Nashville. That achievement, which marked a dramatic rebound from the yellow fever epidemics that devastated the city during the 1870s, touched off wild celebrations that included parades and dancing in the streets.

“My sense is, it has always been a point of pride for Memphis that we were larger than Nashville,” said Wayne Dowdy, senior manager of the history department for the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. “It was a tangible way that we could argue that we were more significant than our sister city.”

State subsidies not enough to save ‘Nashville’ from ABC ax

The ABC television drama “Nashville” will not be renewed for a fifth season despite allocation of another $8 million in incentive money including in the state budget for the coming year.

From The Tennessean:

The show’s production reshuffled its creative team and negotiated in principal a lucrative government incentive package in making its sales pitch for renewal to ABC. But inconsistent ratings plagued the program, a fictionalized drama on the local music industry and city politics.

Still, “Nashville” made its mark on the local economy.

Tourism leaders say “Nashville” lured visitors from around the globe. The Bluebird Café, which was a regular setting for the show, enjoyed sell-outs and long, winding lines of fans hoping to gain a seat.

“We are incredibly disappointed to hear the news that ABC has not renewed the show ‘Nashville’ for another season,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a written statement. “The show has been an enormously successful promotional tool for our city, which is why the state of Tennessee and Metro Nashville were prepared to support production for a fifth season to be filmed here.

“This is a loss for ABC and for the millions of fans across the world who have grown to love this show. We have enjoyed hosting the cast and crew of the show over the last four years and look forward to future opportunities for film and television production here in Nashville.”

…In four years of production, “Nashville” brought in $45.65 million in incentives, mostly from the state. The state and Metro justified the incentives because they viewed “Nashville” as an hour-long commercial for visiting the city.

In that way, the show influenced the incentive strategy for film work, with a new focus on productions that might help boost tourism.

“The state has supported the show, and we believe it was an excellent marketing vehicle for Tennessee,” said Bob Raines, executive director for the Tennessee Entertainment Commission. “The show had a great run, and it will live on through syndication and streaming services for people all over the world to enjoy. The show also leaves a terrific musical legacy that fans can continue to enjoy and associate with Tennessee and the city.”

Nashville GOP councilman seeks House District 60 seat

Metro Councilman Steve Glover says he will run in the Republican primary for the District 60 House seat in Nashville held by Democratic Rep. Darren Jernigan, reports The Tennessean.

Glover confirmed to The Tennessean that he will pick up petition papers on Wednesday to seek the Republican nomination for House District 60, which includes parts of Donelson, Hermitage and other parts of eastern Davidson County.

If Glover wins the August primary, it would set up an election challenge against Jernigan, a former Metro councilman who has served in the Tennessee House of Representatives since 2012. One other candidate, Donald McFolin, also has filed a petition to run as a Republican.

Glover, who served on the Metro school board before being elected to his Hermitage-area council seat in 2011…called Jernigan a “fabulous person and my friend,” but said Jernigan has faced challenges to move bills because of the Republican supermajorities in the state legislature.

Glover called Jernigan a “fabulous person and my friend,” but said Jernigan has faced challenges to move bills because of the Republican supermajorities in the state legislature.

In deciding to run, Glover also acknowledged he was encouraged by the March 1 presidential primary in which Republican turnout increased substantially both statewide and in Nashville as turnout in the Democratic primary declined dramatically.

House joins Senate to repeal Nashville local hiring law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican-controlled state House gave final approval Thursday to a bill nullifying a local hiring requirement approved by Nashville voters last year, sending the measure to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The ballot measure that earned 58 percent of the vote in August requires contractors on public construction projects worth more than $100,000 to assign at least 40 percent of work hours to employees who live within the city — and that 10 percent go to low-income residents.

But Republican in the Legislature were quick to bring legislation to block those rules, arguing that the local hiring requirement discriminates against workers living in surrounding counties.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville was approved on a 72-20 vote. The Senate earlier in the week passed the bill on a 27-5 vote. He said Nashville’s rules would lead to higher construction costs, building delays and more bureaucracy.

“This will ensure that Tennessee has consistent hiring policies and practices for the construction industry all across the state,” Marsh said.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement after the vote that she was disappointed in the Legislature for “overturning the will of the voters.”
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Senate votes to nullify Nashville local hiring law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican-controlled state Senate has voted to nullify a local hiring requirement approved by Nashville voters last year.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of neighboring Williamson County (SB2103) was approved on a 27-5 vote on Monday. Johnson said the measure discriminates against workers living in surrounding counties.

The ballot measure that earned 58 percent of the vote in August requires contractors on public construction projects worth more than $100,000 to assign at least 40 percent of work hours to employees who live within the city, and that 10 percent go to low-income residents.

Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville said he voted against the measure at the polls last year but opposed overturning the result through legislation.

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Lawsuit against Nashville schools dismissed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a student against the Metro Nashville Public School system alleging she was pulled out of an algebra class so she wouldn’t have to take a test, allowing her school to artificially inflate its scores.

WTVF reports (http://tinyurl.com/jzn69aw ) Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle dismissed the suit brought by 18-year-old Toni Jones, saying the teen hadn’t shown her constitutional right to an education was violated.

Jones was a freshman at Pearl-Cohn High in Nashville when she was pulled out of an algebra class before and End-of-Course (EOC) exam that is used to evaluate the school’s performance. Records show that Jones was passing the algebra class, but predictive tests indicated she might not score well on the exam.

The student was told instead to study algebra in a computer lab on her own. As a result, the teen maintains that without a teacher, she was unable to complete a course that she needed to graduate and her academic career has still not recovered.

The school system maintained that just because Jones had been put into an alternative setting did not mean she was being deprived of her constitutional right to an education. The government’s legal arguments did not address the allegations that the school had tried to game the testing system.

Metro School officials did not return a phone call seeking comment on the allegations.

Nashville attorney Gary Blackburn, who represents the teen, said after the ruling that they would appeal.

The state is investigating testing in Nashville schools after a series of reports by WTVF questioned whether some schools artificially inflated test scores.