by Steven Hale
At around 8:30 Thursday night, Goodlettsville City Commissioner Zach Young tweeted his spleen.
"Hard to sleep tonight knowing @TheContributor sales will end in Goodlettsville," he said. "May have been on losing side of the vote, but was right side."
For a couple of months, Young, who was elected last year at the age of 20, has been fighting against a city ordinance similar to one in Brentwood that effectively bans sales of The Contributor. The street newspaper — the most successful of its kind in the country — is sold largely by homeless vendors.
The ordinance arose under the guise of safety concerns — vendors typically sell the paper to people in their cars — but Young has asserted what many observers assumed: that "safety concerns" were few until homeless folks arrived in Goodlettsville to sell the paper. Goodlettsville Mayor John Coombs and City Manager Tim Ellis have said the paper, and its vendors, are not being targeted.
In any case, after deferring the ordinance last month, the commission passed it by a vote of 3-2 last night, over Young's objection and attempted amendments. Vice Mayor Jane Birdwell joined Young in voting against.
At a recently held study session on the ordinance, Young offered an amendment similar to a compromise adopted in Franklin. His proposal would have allowed Contributor vendors to continue selling the paper, with requirements that they wear a reflective safety vest, and not sell on interstate on and exit ramps, or to cars who have a yield sign rather than a full stop. His amendment received Birdwell's support Thursday night, but was defeated 3-2.
At that point, Young says he was so upset that he offered another amendment: one that said the city would take a jackhammer to every sidewalk in the city "since they're so dangerous to the public." It was refused as well. And the ordinance passed as proposed.
Young says he hopes the city will monitor public safety and accidents related to people on the side of the road, to see if the ordinance has a positive effect.
"Because I have a pretty good idea that it's not going to affect that at all," he says. "So my hope would be that if minds change next year or if after next year's elections when we have a different board, maybe I can draft an ordinance to repeal the terrible thing that happened last night."
His sincere frustration is apparent.
"It really weighed on my heart a lot last night as I laid down to go to sleep," he says. "I was real upset. Because I was thinking, what kind of message has the City of Goodlettsville just sent? Regardless that people who are doing without are making it on their own to lift themselves up, that we want to take that away from them. It really bothers me deeply."
Tasha A. French Lemley, the paper's executive director, sends Pith this statement:
"The Contributor is disappointed in Goodlettsville's ban on sales of our newspaper, especially since we have been distributing The Contributor in Nashville in the same manner since 2007. This creates not only a loss of income for our currently and formerly homeless newspaper vendors, but a loss of relationship between our sellers and Goodlettsville community members who have embraced our project.
We are thankful to those citizens of Goodlettsville who support our vendors and attempted to work with the City Commissioners on a reasonable compromise. We remain hopeful that the City of Goodlettsville will reconsider its ordinance and work with us to identify a way that vendors can sell The Contributor in their community consistent with both the city's interests and distribution through Contributor vendors."