The Coan-Council Member-Elect Cassie Chambers Armstrong transition is going smoother than Trump-Biden. Cassie and I have been meeting every other week since August to review internal office systems, discretionary budgets, capital projects, lingering issues, developing situations, need-to-know personnel, tips and tricks of the trade and more as she and I prepare to swap constituent-representative roles on January 4 at 6:00pm. We have even worked on legislation and an introduction to the process together, researching and drafting an ordinance requiring the implementation of paid parental leave for all city employees. (An amendment by substitution will be heard by the Labor and Economic Development Committee next Tuesday (11/24), hopefully in time for a vote at the last council meeting of the year (12/10) and as my final act as a local legislator.) Also, fittingly, Cassie was my 40th and final guest on Eight More Miles: the District 8 Podcast on Monday (11/16). Please give it a listen.
My whole experience with Cassie has been a pleasure and I am confident she will serve us and the city well in the years to come. As a preview, here is a message from your Council Member-Elect:
When I first became the District 8 councilmember-elect in July, it seemed like a long time until I took office in January. But I knew that Councilman Coan and I had a lot to do to ensure a smooth transition, so we got to work right away. We met regularly to talk about everything from sidewalk evaluation processes to paid parental leave policy. I have learned an incredible amount from him, and I am excited to hit the ground running on January 4th. It’s hard to believe that it’s now just a few short weeks away.
I know that things will begin to move quickly once I take office in January. Not only will we begin important conversations about a new budget cycle, but our city will also continue to talk about justice, equity, and how we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
I recognize that my role as your representative is to make sure that I am talking to you all about these—and whatever other issues are on your mind—on a regular basis. It’s important to me to put processes in place for us to communicate well and effectively. To that end, I’ll be continuing this e-newsletter (no need to even resubscribe!) to make sure you have up-to-date information about the goings-on in our district and our city. Thanks to Councilman Coan for all he’s done to build this newsletter platform over the years.
I’ll also be starting a weekly (virtual for the time being) “Coffee with Cassie” where you can pop into the office virtually and tell me whatever is on your mind. Details to come. I also hope to attend a lot of neighborhood meetings and gatherings to meet you all where you’re at. If you’re involved in an organization or group, I’d love to come visit you early in 2021 to hear about your goals and how I can support them. You can also stay up-to-date about what’s going on in the District 8 office by following me on social media.
If you have other ideas for ways that we can stay in touch, please let me know. Communication is a two-way street, and it’s important for me that you all feel like I’m accessible and communicating in ways that work for you. Until I have an official Metro Council email in January, you can reach me by sending an email to [email protected].
I expect that you will also be hearing a lot from my Legislative Aide, Megan Metcalf. Megan is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, a tireless advocate for low-income families, and most recently the legal director for a non-profit here in town. She is a District 8 resident, and she and I worked side by side at the Legal Aid Society. I can say from experience that we are lucky to have her fierce advocacy skills working on behalf of District 8.
In this season of thankfulness and gratitude, I want to end by saying how appreciative I am of the opportunity to serve as your voice on Metro Council. I take the responsibility seriously, and I am honored to have the opportunity. I look forward to doing meaningful work with you all in the years to come.
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In looking back over the last four years, I thought it was particularly important to highlight for Cassie – and you – the areas where I fell short or failed. I won’t be too hard on myself because: a) it is a hard job; b) we accomplished quite a lot; and c) that’s what social media trolls are for. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned specifically from goals set but not met, so I want to enumerate some of those here.
Many come from the District 8 Strategic Plan. In several instances, I set out and failed to change state law by way of Metro Council resolution and coordinated state action: on local term limits; a statewide “bottle bill” (container deposit law); local gun control; and immunity from liability for removing pets from hot cars. In the case of local gun control, we filed state and local legislation that went nowhere. In the good Samaritan case, the council and state senate passed legislation but it stalled in the house in both 2018 and 2019. I never got term limits or a nickel-or-dime refundable recycling deposit off the ground.
In terms of capital improvements, trail building was a bust and the Douglass Community Center, though now stabilized, desperately needs funding and a campus master plan. Policy-wise, I was unable to extend the Bardstown Road Overlay District (the “BROD”) south to the Watterson Expressway or protect smaller, affordable Highlands houses from market pressures. I couldn’t persuade LMPD to build a better (digital, social) block watch system or Baxter/Bardstown property owners to invest in a business improvement district.
Operationally, I failed to sustain a robust volunteer network. In the switch to a digital communications strategy, I likely left many of the elderly and unconnected behind. Perhaps as a result (coupled with COVID-19), my Homestead Exemption campaign floundered.
Even in the Metro Council Chambers, where I am proud of all that we accomplished, I consider the health care facility buffer zone ordinance and new police union contract resolution to be stinging defeats – and lapses of political tradecraft.
I put my foot in my mouth a time or two or ten.
And maybe that is the most important takeaway from public life.
For the latest news, resources and government response to the coronavirus pandemic, please visit these local, state and federal websites. For breaking news and information, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have a question or comment, please email me at: [email protected] (and copy [email protected]) or call: (502) 574-1108. If you have a service request, please call Metro 311 or visit Metro311 online. Visit the District 8 Strategic Plan page here.