Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It is beginning to look like Nashvillians will have no real choice when they cast their August 2 ballots for the city’s next mayor. The closing date for candidates to file their papers is noon April 5, and, so far, no strong candidates have risen to challenge interim Mayor David Briley. Consequently, there is no different vision for the city. Briley is about continuity and carrying forward the vision Megan Barry and the business leaders and developers cast for the city. No one seems to question if Megan Barry’s vision for the city was what native Nashvillians needed or wanted.
This is unfortunate because it deprives voters of an opportunity to hear competing ideas about what kind of city Nashville should be, how fast it should grow, and what, if any, responsibilities we owe to native Nashvillians who find the city they love unaffordable. In 2017, a financial and planning website, GoBankingRates, applied a cost-of-living index comparing cities and found Nashville had the greatest increase in cost and that it would take an income of $70,150 to live comfortably in the city. Meanwhile, U.S. Census data from 2016 placed the median household income at $50,484.
We have traffic woes and transportation issues that will not be fixed by the passage of the proposed $5.2 billion transit plan, with its projected long-term cost of $9 billion. As Ben Cunningham pointed out in an October 2017 op-ed, it is a “19th century solution to a 21st century problem. It is a boondoggle benefiting a wealthy few, while doing absolutely nothing to reduce the traffic congestion affecting anyone entering/departing the city from/to Bellevue, Brentwood, Franklin, North Nashville, or Antioch. It will worsen the traffic situation in the city and draw resources away from the buses used by low-income groups. Competing alternative plans using technological advances and ride-sharing, which are much more cost effective, have not been seriously considered by the Democratic mayors pushing for the costly light rail system.
Violent crime was on the rise last year in Nashville. Our murder rate of 107 was the city’s second-highest ever, just five fewer than Nashville’s all-time record of 112, set in 1997.
Before we start digging downtown tunnels and laying 20-plus miles of new tracks, Nashville has plenty of higher-priority issues that must be addressed. Start with health care, criminal justice reform, quality education, and race relations.
The black community in Nashville has some leaders who are beginning to wake up to the fact that the city’s long succession of Democratic mayors has often given them the short end of the stick in exchange for their loyal support. In the case of the transit plan, high-powered black leaders such as Howard Gentry and Jerry Maynard of the Maynard Group have been tapped to sell the plan to black voters. Blacks are told that passage of the transit plan will result in more jobs for them, more contracts for minority businesses, and better bus service to minority communities. However, the rising taxes that would accompany the passage of the bill will likely make the city more unaffordable for blacks and lead to increased crime and racial tensions.
Before the noon April 5 deadline, Nashville needs other candidates to enter the mayoral race. It is a false narrative that all was well before Mayor Barry’s downfall and that the solution is for a virtually uncontested David Briley to have a cakewalk across the finish line.
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Carol M. Swain is a former associate professor of politics at Princeton University and former professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University. Her forthcoming new book is Debating Immigration: Second Edition (forthcoming, July 2018).
Facebook: Profcarolmswain Twitter: @carolmswain E-mail: [email protected]