Ralph Schulz: Legislative Fight Wasn't A Blow To The Amp

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My piece in this week's print issue is on the just-concluded state legislative fight over The Amp — a fight I say Mayor Karl Dean's administration and others on the side of the project ultimately lost.

I shared that analysis with Ralph Schulz, the president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce who one of the project's visible spokesmen on the hill over the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, he sees the outcome differently. So here's the other side:

"I don't see it as a blow," Schulz says. "I think it would have been better if the discussion about this project evolved next year, rather than this year. Because next year, you would have had final design plans, you would have had the community meetings, comments would have been done, discussion at the Metro Council, etc. I think this discussion in this legislature was premature. And so the fact I think that we were able to clear this legislature with a legitimate review process intact was good."

As the business community's chief cheerleader, Schulz is relentlessly positive. He says he understands why the opposition wanted to jump-start the debate now — "they wanted to try to pre-empt the project before the information and the details were out." But asked if the fact that the opposition seems to have pulled that of is a sign that the pro-Amp side let the argument get away from them, he's ready with a silver-lining.

"On the one hand you could say the fact that this debate took place over these four months really brought out to the community the debate over the need for transit," he says. "So in that way it was a positive."

In other words, the press covers a fight, and to the extent that the fight raised awareness about the need for transit investment and, in Schulz's mind, The Amp, it was worth it — although he does acknowledge that it "drained a lot of people and a lot of resources."

Pressed about how the fact that the project will require explicit approval from a seemingly unfriendly legislature if it doesn't receive state funds — which has seemed like a definite possibility, if not likelihood, in recent months — can be anything but negative for the project, he argues that by the time that approval was needed, details from TDOT and the support of the Metro Council would be in place, making the argument on the hill easier for the project.

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