2018 East Nashvillian of the Year: Citizen – Anthony Davis
Do you like gathering fresh eggs from the urban chickens in your backyard? Value sidewalks, bike lanes, and pedestrian safety? Appreciate Google Fiber’s availability in the neighborhood? Want economic development in Davidson County to be more equitable, inclusive, and transparent?
Then thank Metro Council District 7 representative Anthony Davis, the 2018 East Nashvillian of the Year Citizen Award recipient, who has supported all these causes and more. You can toast him with a frosty mug of Roaming Dog ASB next time you see him at East Nashville Beer Works, his Trinity Lane brewery and community gathering space.
In all his endeavors, from informing Inglewood neighbors about zoning and development issues, to overseeing special events at the brewery, he sees himself as “the neighborhood captain, and I hope I’ve steered it in the right direction,” Davis says.
Davis’ ENOTY nomination noted that: “Throughout the year and beyond, Councilman Davis has done a phenomenal job of keeping his constituents informed of what’s happening in Metro government, bills being considered and how they might affect East Nashville at large, and happenings in his district, as well as taking the concerns of both his constituents and East Nashville residents on every part of the political spectrum to the Metro Council. Beyond his political career, Councilman Davis has brought a new and popular business to the depressed Trinity Lane area in the form of East Nashville Beer Works and has used their brewery and taproom as a meeting place and forum for those interested in moving East Nashville forward.”
“We want to be a warm, open, welcoming space,” Davis says of brewery. Over the last two years, they have hosted everything from college reunions to Nashville LGBT Chamber meetings and just about “any progressive group you can think of,” Davis says.
The brewery also hosts just-for-fun events like “Festivus for the Rest of Us,” “Noon Year’s Eve,” and a Parks and Recreation themed trivia night.
“We’ve done what we set out to do” with the brewery, Davis says, which is brew great beer, serve delicious pizza, and build community on the East Side. “We just want to keep it going.”
But life is not all beer and pizza parties when you’re an elected official and tireless neighborhood advocate. There are street lights to have repaired, pedestrian crosswalks to build, conservation overlays to pass, and schools to support.
As a strong public schools advocate, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High graduate, and the father of two young children, “focusing on schools has been a huge priority for me,” Davis says, particularly Dan Mills, Rosebank, and Inglewood Elementary schools, Issac Litton Middle Prep, and the Stratford STEM Magnet High campus. Davis notes Stratford’s $20 million renovation early in his first term as one of his proudest achievements.
With donations of time, talent, and treasure, Davis “has been very supportive of our school,” says Rosebank Elementary principal Kellee Akers. Davis has attended career day at the school and talked to third and fourth graders about how government works and his role in it; he’s donated to school fundraisers and been a vocal supporter of increasing teacher pay.
Last year, East Nashville Beer Works hosted a fundraiser for the local nonprofit organization Athletes Can and their “Christmas on Wheels” event, which raised money to purchase 50 bicycles and helmets for Rosebank students. “So he’s been very involved,” Akers says.
As the council representative of a rapidly growing district, Davis has been engaged with a number of contextual overlays, which limit the scale of new builds and require them to fit in with nearby existing homes.
He has also shepherded through a conservation overlay for Inglewood Place and Riverwood/Plymouth streets.
Inglewood Neighborhood Association (INA) president Rod Boehm, who lives within the conservation overlay area, says Davis was helpful laying out the ground rules and following through with neighbors during the process, helping build close to 90-percent support for the overlay before moving forward. “The overlay gives pretty good piece of mind for a homeowner,” says Boehm, who has lived in Inglewood since 1980.
Davis has navigated some tricky neighborhood issues during his tenure, perhaps none as fraught as the recent Riverside Village dust up concerning development plans for the intersection of Riverside and McGavock, including beloved local record shop Fond Object.
“I tried to be a leader on it, but we fell short on what I thought was the best thing,” Davis says. “Many neighbors wanted to compromise with developers and move forward with an SP zoning plan, which would guarantee we knew what we were getting with new development in that area.”
But a vocal group of neighbors resisted all plans for new development at the site, rallying to save Fond Object with a widely-circulated petition, an effort that ultimately failed. With no neighborhood agreement, “it just doesn’t make sense to move forward (with an SP),” Davis says. “I pride myself on being a consensus builder; if we don’t have consensus I won’t bring something forward.”
Now, the developer will use the original base zoning plan for the site, which allows multi-story, multi-use buildings along McGavock and the demolition of existing buildings, including Fond Object. The end result left many neighbors unhappy, but Davis tried to remain optimistic about future development at Riverside and McGavock. “I know in the end, we will get a good product,” Davis wrote in a Nov. 26 Facebook post. “I truly believe we will, and our growth in the area will be positive.”
“I give Anthony credit for keeping the neighborhood informed (throughout that process),” INA president Boehm says. “He didn’t ignore the neighborhood on that issue.”
In addition to issues that primarily affect residents of his district, Davis has moved a number of bills forward in the Metro Council that affect the entire county. One recent bill he is proud of is the “One Touch Make Ready” legislation. “OTMR” encourages new internet carriers to enter the Nashville market and “move visionary broadband policy forward,” as Davis says. One contractor would be allowed to do make ready work on a pole, moving lines and placing a new carrier. This kept Google Fiber in the market, Davis says and as a result, Comcast and AT&T have already have upped their game.
Davis was also a leader on passing the “Do Better” bill, which calls for more transparency on the front end and more accountability from businesses receiving economic incentives from the city. According to Davis, the bill asks for a report card on amount of local hire, wage information, and any potential wage theft or OSHA infractions, among other items. The “Do Better” bill ultimately gives Metro Council an effective tool to determine whether the incentives under consideration are serving the people of the city, and gives them a way to end an incentive agreement if the company fails to hold up its side of the bargain.
Today, the appetite is smaller for tax incentives like those recently offered to Amazon, Davis says. “We’ve cut way down on them, but to stay competitive with other cities we still need to do them. If we’re giving incentives out, we need more accountability.”
At the end of the day, Davis — whose term as councilmember ends this year — is proud of his big-picture accomplishments, but “I love doing the little things, like helping get a stop sign or a sidewalk in, reporting street lights out,” he says. “That’s what drives me.”