Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fighting Mindless Growth Begins NOW, Nashville

Thursday is Election Day, here in Nashville. We will pick a new Mayor for the first time in 8 years of unprecedented growth. No matter how you vote, I urge you to vote!  Here are my own thoughts on this election.

By Peter Rodman

The notion that all liberals must vote for Megan Barry for Mayor of Nashville is preposterous.  Just below you will find one of her numerous TV ads (called "Earn") which repeats over and over again how she’s going to “earn” our votes.
The plain fact is, she hasn’t.
On the issues we all care about most, Ms. Barry has been vague, if not slippery.  

But my instinct would still be to support her, because I disagree with (the more conservative) David Fox on even more issues. 
The problem with Ms. Barry, for me, is one of trust.
Look for yourself:

"I want to earn your vote," she says over the music, "because these are fights that I am willing to keep fighting!" ...huh? 
Now watch the above Robert Redford scene from The Candidate, and draw your own conclusions.

Any of Megan Barry's ads (or speeches) could just as  accurately be called “Continue,” because her obvious intention is to continue the mindless madness of ‘growth without purpose’ that has recently begun obliterating the Nashville I moved to, over 25 years ago.

Downtown Nashville, 2015~ Photograph Copyright 2015 by Peter Rodman.

Current Mayor Karl Dean has giddily welcomed the world to Nashville, lopping 90% of his attention (and our resources) into a single square mile of our 7,500 square mile city:

He has shown laughably little interest in outlying areas-- which, let's face it, produce few politically beneficial headlines.
Police and Metro Codes enforcement are a joke everywhere else but downtown--and I'm not just talking about “cars on lawns,” although that should have been cracked down on years ago. (Just try selling your house, next door to some slob whose lawn is littered with vehicles.) 
Just this year, Mr. Dean attempted to fob off the entire downtown jail on Near South Nashville, in order to clear out yet another classic developers could erect even more condos downtown.
The madness has got to stop--and the sad truth is, it WON’T stop, under a ‘Mayor Megan Barry.’

I have repeatedly been told Megan Barry’s a nice person, and I believe that.  More than one friend has written that I should “Have coffee with her!” as a remedy for any nagging doubts about trusting her to be more than just a continuation of the voracious 'Karl Dean Growth Machine.'
I don’t need to.

From the earliest days of our seven-candidate scrum,  Ms. Barry--and no one else--was the candidate whose campaign first pulled a smear campaign. 
It was nasty, too.
As Bill Freeman (a fellow liberal) outspent and out-polled his six rivals, Ms. Barry used her connections at The Tennessean to parlay story after (inaccurate) story into portraying him as a right wing conservative.
For example: Freeman is pro choice, and a ‘pro life
group of protesters followed him around for several days, finally tracking him down in a parking lot, where they videotaped him answering their taunts, by saying he agreed that abortion shouldn’t be used as birth control--an obvious way to get rid of these pests. 
Quite strangely, Megan Barry was there before the story was even written--the ONLY candidate asked for (or ready with) a retort for publication---and although she knew it was inaccurate, immediately painted Freeman as ‘anti-choice.

The next morning’s paper carried a headline to the effect that ‘Freeman Speaks to Anti-Abortion Group,’ as if he had given some kind of speech to them in support of their ‘pro life’ views!
It was this kind of chicanery that gradually whittled away liberal votes from Mr. Freeman, until Barry eeked out a narrow victory.
The Tennessean later endorsed Ms. Barry, though the slant of its ‘story telling’ columns was transparent from the very beginning.
It then proceeded to chip away at Mr. Freeman’s commanding lead, by citing “polls” that turned out to be Barry-sponsored.   (These are commonly known as ‘push polls,’ designed to ask questions which lead to a desired answer--thereby puffing up the numbers for a given candidate. No reputable news organizations report them as ‘news.’  The Tennessean has pretty much damaged its reputation beyond repair, during this mayoral race.)
Essentially, “the fix” has been in for Megan Barry, from the start.
In the early going she spent very little, as free publicity emerged from the paper. Meanwhile, Barry quietly held fundraiser after fundraiser, in the kind of homes where the crown molding and nick-nacks alone cost nearly as much as most other Nashville dwellings. 

David Fox has long sought to be portrayed as the ‘fiscally responsible, conservative’ candidate--code words for the usual 'austerity' Republicans tout as the solution to everything, these days. 
I have never voted Republican in my life, and don’t intend to start now.
And yet…
What if paring back our ‘It City’ bullshit resulted in a return to paying attention to how we grow, instead of just growth-for-its-own-sake?
What if fewer resources were siphoned off from the rest of the city for downtown, and more attention was paid to details--like the depressing collection of Gannett circulars piling up in driveways all over town, while that conglomerate continues to chuck ‘em in driveways overnight, every Wednesday?  The amount of trash that generates weekly--from literally hundreds of thousands of yellow plastic bags that do NOT go away, and often are left to rot for weeks or months at a time--is staggering. 

It's technically illegal...but Mayor Dean looks the other way.
What if he didn't?
It’s precisely the kind of
boring’ detail Karl Dean abhors. 
Unless there’s a blue ribbon to cut--and a high profile ceremony to go with it--Mayor Dean would rather not even be there.

Megan Barry’s backers--including Gannett Publishing, Karl Dean, and most of our mega-developers--consist almost entirely of the entrenched townie contingent. 
Most of her support comes from Belle Meade and Green Hills, where incomes are high and very few neighborhoods endure the kind of ‘shoebox-building’ on tiny house lots we’re seeing in East Nashville and elsewhere, these days.
Ms. Barry has been Mayor Dean’s most solid supporter, on
Nashville's "Mass Transit," circa 2015:
A man waits on Nolensville Road for one of the
'hourly' buses that never seem to arrive.
Photograph Copyright 2015 Peter Rodman.
everything from the insulting and ridiculous “AMP” bus lane proposal (connecting West End to East Nashville, instead of North to South, where people actually need a better bus system) to charter schools--which increasingly siphon tax dollars away from our public schools, and into a select few 'better performing' ones.

Here’s my opinion on charter schools:
I gladly pay my school taxes, though I have no children.
But can I withdraw MY tax dollars from public schools, for another purpose of my own choosing? 
Of COURSE not!!!
Neither should you, as a parent, be able to do so.
I fully sympathize with your desire to better educate your kid…but the Public School system only works when we all pitch in to it, period. If schools are under-performing, the answer is more resources--not withdrawing tax monies from them to fund your family's individual desires. Charter schools aren't "choice"--they're welfare for the few, at the expense of the many.
Nashville’s public schools deserve better.
Neither Mr. Fox nor Ms. Barry is in the right place, on this issue.

I always assumed I’d vote for Ms. Barry, until I finally saw all the debates, and realized I don't see much substance behind the pleasant, slightly-forced smile.  
She speaks in platitudes.  It’s scary how her vagueness gets rewarded, too--because tons of corporate 'growth' money has lined up behind her. Never forget, her underlying message is this:
             Continue the Mayor Dean legacy.


There are many great things Dean has done, mostly by picking low-hanging fruit and taking obvious paths.
After all, downtown Nashville was more or less an empty canvas, when he started!  There was virtually no residential housing downtown back then, compared to now.
But he’s managed to “grow” a theme park, not a real city.
There’s not a single drug store, grocery store, or hardware store--think about that--in all of downtown Nashville!
Name any other major city you could say that about.
You can’t...because it doesn’t exist. 

~ Nature is losing the fight, in downtown Nashville's 'Gulch' ~
Photograph Copyright 2015 by Peter Rodman.
As Bill Freeman pointed out in the first mayoral debate, Nashville ranks #49 in American cities, size wise.
The Top 48 cities all have REAL mass transit--meaning some sort of RAIL system, or a vast network of buses, or both.  But Nashville hasn’t bothered to even consider anything on the scale that it desperately needs--and the sooner, the better. We are slowly watching our city strangle itself, with congestion and growth.
“The way I figure it, we’re 10 years behind--and even if we start tomorrow, it’ll take that much more time just to fund, plan and build a mass transit system,” Freeman said. "So that's a total of 20 years behind, but we're still gonna need real mass transit connecting all these areas."
A network of REGIONAL TRAINS linking one end of middle Tennessee to the other seems like the obvious answer--but no candidates besides Freeman showed even the slightest interest in it.
Both Fox and Barry have continued to use generalities like “every neighborhood counts” in their stump speeches…but neither has offered anything substantive, that would effect real change.
In my opinion, we've ended up with a runoff between amiable (Barry), goofy (Fox), but sadly unimaginative candidates.
So it all boils down to this:
If neither candidate is my cup of tea, which one do I think would do the LEAST damage to the city I love, during the next four years?  
Mr. Fox is diametrically opposed to my every stand on social issues, I’m sure. After all, he’s conservative--I am liberal.
But Ms. Barry’s emphasis on social issues is an insult to our intelligence.  (What the hell does the MAYOR have to do with a woman’s right to choose, gun control, or ANY of that stuff?
The answer is “nothing.”)
And yet, Barry’s ad campaign and debate fodder has been peppered with these topics, as if to obscure her voracious appetite for unfettered GROWTH.
(She in fact supported Mayor Dean’s idea to move the jail out of downtown, and foist it upon South Nashville to clear the way for more downtown development--something she rarely talks about, and a direct indication of her intent to “continue” --her word--the Dean legacy.) 

Have you had enough growth yet, Nashville?

...because I have! 
At this point, I've reluctantly decided I am ***anti-growth.***
We need to put the brakes on, and reconnoiter. Regroup.

We need a plan.  
It's not that we have such a bad growth plan; it's that we have no plan.  ('Just Keep Growing' is not a plan.)

I’m not sure how badly Mr. Fox's ‘austerity’ will affect this town, other than to slow it all down a bit.  And seeing as how that’s not necessarily such a bad thing, I’m going to hold my nose and vote for him.
Because fighting back against mindless growth is the real "fight worth fighting," Megan.

This Opinion Column Copyright 2015 by Peter Rodman.  All Rights Reserved.

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