A City Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

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Over at The City Paper, Steven Hale has an interesting profile of Josh Stites, the Metro Councilmember who represents the area of town out by the airport. There's loads of good stuff in there and Hale himself already hyped the article, but I want to focus just on this part:

Over the course of knocking on 4,000 doors throughout his airport-area District 13, he said he was inspired by “hard-working people that really aren’t asking for anything” other than, “Just don’t make it harder on me than it already is.” It was then, he said, that he began to see a need for a voice that said “No.”

[...]

“I think Josh has very accurately assessed his community,” [Councilmember Emily Evans] said. “And they are physically located very far from a lot of the projects that are the benefit of these incentives. They know that if they even see that project in the next few months, that’ll be a fairly big surprise, and if they benefit from them, that’ll be nothing short of a miracle. And he knows that, so he’s representing his constituents.”

If this sounds familiar, it's because it fits in with Hale's recent Scene story about North Nashville, which touched on the fact that "in five of Metro's 40 council districts — 17, 5, 2, 21 and 19 — the unemployment rate is above 13 percent. That's more than five points higher than the city as a whole."

It's going to be incredibly unfortunate if we have some parts of town that flourish and are supported in their flourishing by ambitious programs and mayoral support and other parts of town that don't see the benefits of that flourishing and don't feel supported by the mayor's office. That's just the truth.

However, if the divide between "cool Nashville" and "ignored Nashville" falls along our same old racial and class fault lines, that's going to be worse than unfortunate — it'll threaten all the good stuff we've got going on. See, the thing is that most of us here, we didn't do those bad things. It's not Mayor Dean's fault that North Nashville is impoverished, for instance. The roots of that go back before he was born. But that doesn't change the fact that we have this past that leaves us with some scars, some sore joints that won't bear the load of injustice anymore and hold up. And that is the mayor's responsibility to deal with.

I'm sure cutting ribbon on the MCC or boasting about high-speed buses down West End is more fun than dealing with moldy schools or pockets of high unemployment or parks with unmowed grass or whatever other crap has been let slide so that outsiders see us at our best — and our best is pretty spectacular. But the Mayor of Nashville is the mayor of all of Nashville, not just the fun parts.

If Dean doesn't start finding a way to reassure the city that he understands that, his legacy will be not of the man who thrust Nashville into the limelight, but of a man who presided over a city as fake as Rock Ridge, all a facade designed to fool outsiders that had little to do with the actual citizens.

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