Summer Nonsense: The OTF Platform for the 2015 Nashville Mayoral Election
Rather than divebombing you with mindless trade speculation, clickbait, and forcing you to start watching the NASCAR Nationwide Series for better entertainment, we at OTF have decided to take on issues near and dear to our hearts and minds. We first turn our attention to the city itself.
Note: This is an absolute farce. We have no intention for actually running for office. This is all intended to be a poor attempt at offseason humor. And don't worry, more is coming. We're told that there will be hockey being played at some point.
Yes, the roads in Tennessee are great. But we all spend way too much time on them. With a growing city that wants to keep growing, transit must be a high priority. Otherwise, Nashville can lose out on new residents and new businesses who would rather start in the suburbs or avoid the city all together. Plus, we all would like an easier way to get downtown for a game/concert/night out/bachelorette party.
I'm not qualified enough to speak on behalf of Metro Schools, but I do know that new buildings are nice. I also know that I pass high schools that look like they were once a great idea during the Eisenhower Administration. Throwing money at new buildings is a start and will make everyone feel better.
MNPD has a very favorable view among most residents. So the trouble is trying to provide for them and serve the other needs. We got this.
Improving our Venues
Nashville now has a world class convention center, a new outdoor amphitheater, an arena that's constantly being upgraded, the best music theater ever built, a symphony hall, and a stadium that's essentially a nondescript concrete building with lights and scoreboards. Nissan Stadium will decay before our very eyes unless the City decides to be proactive, because clearly the Titans are not proactive about much. Plus, the design does not allow for many non-football events. It gets hot in Nashville, and it also rains a lot. So in addition to people not wanting to broil under the sun and get swept away by the current, the stadium is wearing faster than other venues built in the same period. Adding another factor: the (NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME), NCAA College Football Playoffs, NCAA Final Four, and other big events might continue to stay away due to the stadium's capacity and design.
This is going to be a wild card, but rail is the way to go. If we're going to be crippled by a snow storm 2-3 times a year, we might as well plan on it and combat it rather than starve to death eating French toast.
And that means we're looking at a rail solution.
Boston, a city that gets some stupid weather, has purchased right-of-ways from rail carriers in and around the city. Bostonians can take commuter rail trains from outer suburbs into the city, and then use the buses and subways to navigate around.
The trouble in Nashville currently is that people don't take the buses due to the obnoxious travel times. The Music City Star is finally gathering steam, but wasn't used rampantly due to the lack of area transit once people arrived downtown.
This would solve that issue. Rail lines can be doubled and existing tracks can be used. This is much more cost effective than laying down new light rail, and is already in use in several cities such as Orlando, Boston, Seattle, Albuquerque, and others.
To give you an idea on start up costs: Orlando spent around $1 Billion launching SunRail, which connects over 30 miles of the metro area from DeBary to the South Suburbs. Near $480 million of that was spent on purchasing right of ways from CSX. It should be noted that the Music City Star, the train that runs to Lebanon, only cost $41 million to start it's 32 mile route (including the right of way). That cost figure is mildly distorted since Nashville bought old trains and cars from Amtrak and Metra. Assuming buying used rolling stock is still on the table, the best transit plan may be the plan that was conceived over a decade ago.
Plus, who doesn't like trains? Trains are cool. And in addition to the trains being an easy way to get around, land speculation and development will be spiked. There's already a community that's being planned on the Star's existing route to Lebanon.
This would be a living, breathing cost on the city. It should be noted that just because the start up fee is cheap doesn't mean there won't be further bills down the road. And while the government funding will help, additional revenue will be needed. Transit doesn't make money, that's a reality. Anything extra should be considered surplus to improve and expand. But hey, roads don't make money by themselves either
Improving our venues
Firstly, it'll be awesome to be able to take a train to a game. And even better, taking a train to leave downtown after a game. Let that sink in. People will spend more money knowing they don't have to pay to park nor operate a vehicle before or after.
Okay, about that stadium... it's not near as useful as it should be. This is a common sense solution: a retractable roof. Spending $300-400 million on a shroud to pull over the stadium is far better than spending $750 million or more to build a new one. Plus, this would allow for those other events Nashville keeps losing to Indianapolis and San Antonio to come here.
I've heard some radio pundits say "it can't be done". They're not paying attention to the renovations that are happening to even older venues than Nissan Stadium.
Miami is in the midst of a massive stadium renovation which is expected to cost $350 to 400 million, all funded privately by the Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross. Knowing the Adams family, meeting them halfway on the cost would be a good start. It should be noted that SunLife Stadium will not have a fully retractable roof, but it wouldn't be hard to add on. But Nissan Stadium isn't in need of a full seat refresh, so the cost figure might be close to accurate.
If you're familiar with Alton Brown, you know how much he hates "unitaskers" in his kitchen. As it's built, Nissan Stadium is essentially a unitasker with limited upside and use outside of football. This would solve that issue.
Paying for it all?
Man that would suck having to pay for all this ourselves. We're talking some big changes here, and some of which we don't even know what we're doing (Education). The transit project will take some serious money to get started, same with improving Nissan Stadium. Plus, there always some other infrastructure project that needs money thrown at it. The property taxes are bad, the sales tax is already high, and no one wants an income tax.
So for our platform to better serve Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County and the people that work here will cost a lot. We're talking new schools, new events, better infrastructure, and the consistent service of our police and fire departments all without bleeding the tax base. That's some big plans, bro. We know. Just the stadium and the trains alone should total $500 million or more in new spending. Plus, the city is in debt.
But we're smart. We at OTF like to travel. We've seen other cities.
We have some great ideas. In fact, we'll give our biggest one away.
We're all adults here. And let's be honest, having a city where people flock to is awesome. Nashville doesn't need casinos in order to fill downtown with tourists. But Nashville could use casinos to pay for stuff residents actually use.
Check this out (emphasis mine):
Overall, August revenue at the state’s four casinos was $70.7 million, a 0.3 percent decline from a year ago. Horseshoe Cincinnati revenue declined 15.8 percent to $16.2 million.
Revenue at the state’s six racinos was $57.5 million, a 151 percent increase from a year ago, when only two were open.
Since the state’s first legal gambling venue opened in May 2012, the total revenue is $2.51 billion. Of this total, which is the amount gamblers lose, about one-third goes to the state in the form of a tax.
-Steve Wartenberg, The Columbus Dispatch
September 9th, 2014Monthly revenue from the Hollywood Casino in the outskirts of Columbus was $18 million. And per the article, the state collected a nice tax rate on that. We went there. It was nice.
That revenue figure is only slightly above par for the big Ohio casinos, per their reports from this year. And no offense to Columbus, a city that treated us very nicely while we visited, but you can imagine that a Downtown Nashville area casino might make a bit more money than one on the perimeter of Columbus. But being conservative in our estimates: what could Nashville do with an extra $50 Million+ a year?
I advocate for two mega-casinos to be constructed, which should generate over $100 million in annual tax revenue. We advocate for one downtown (there's room, trust us) and one near shOpryland. That's some serious money rolling in. Those are two areas that already have the infrastructure around, and are already tourism magnets. Plus, this would lead to an increase in hotel revenue. Those taxes are also nice for the city's pocketbook.
Why two? The market is very underserved. Where is the closest casino to here? Tunica? Metropolis? Evansville? There's a pattern here. There's all over 2 hours away. Atlanta is even more screwed than us, closest casino with table games is over 3 hours away.
Yes, there will be an uptick in gambling related crimes. And there's usually a honeymoon period where stuff gets a bit rough around the area if the area has never seen gaming before. That's why the suburban casinos don't normally work. Opryland Hotel and it's parent company have been lobbying for a casino for years, so they may have a chance to make it work.
So wait, are you actually running?
Nashville is awesome. It's one of the best places in the nation to live. It has it's flaws, but they're minor compared to most cities. And plus, people like coming here on vacation. That's a bit of a draw.
No, I will not accept your nomination for Mayor of Nashville. Jon and Sarge? Well both of them would take a pay cut from Vox to take the position, and one lives in Rutherford County. Both of them are out. However, we know someone ideal for the job.
Since he arrived in Nashville, the city has seen rampant development begin downtown. Leading economic scholars have pointed at Nashville as a city that's leading the nation by example. We believe it is in our best interest to give him added responsibility, and watch the city continue it's growth both in revenue as well as population.
His presence alone has inspired national companies to move closer to his place of employment. Yes, multiple corporations are moving closer.
In addition to his phenomenal talent, he's done wonders for the city's ever-growing tourism industry.
It's time for a change in Music City. Write in James Neal for Mayor, 2015.