Saturday, November 26, 2005

Will Metro Nashville Become Just Another "Lousy Absentee Landlord" In The North End?

Kay Brooks suggests that the prospects of the conditions of Jones School and the surrounding neighborhoods may look ominous and bleak if Metro's appalling track record after the closure of Inglewood's Litton High School is any indication.

The frightening and ironic prospect of empty, unused public buildings and land allowed to rot in an otherwise vital neighborhood ought to startle even the most complacent or apathetic neighbor to some sort of response to school administrators. If nothing else it ought to prick the instinct to protect their quality of life. Sitting on one's hands is destructive.

If neighborhoods are going to sustain their long-term viability, they require generational diversity; that is, they require families with children. And families with children are attracted to neighborhoods with operational public services and strong public institutions such as schools. That is simply the natural order of neighborhoods. If the North End loses the fight to keep Jones School open it will sacrifice part of its long-term viability as a place to live.

While selling Jones School to a private developer may be preferable to letting it decay away to a shell and become a convention of unsavory elements, it is not the best option. Private buyers desire some decay in order to drive the asking price down; so, they would not have the common good of the neighborhood at heart. But allowing a sale also lets Metro government off the hook. That is unacceptable. In our democracy, government usually fails to serve when its constituents fail to demand quality without ceasing. Failing is not an option.

The only viable option is keep Metro from becoming an absentee landlord by demanding that Jones School remain an open neighborhood center. God knows, we already have enough pockets of blight where "lousy absentee landlords" do not hold up their end of the common-good bargain. If the battle to keep Jones Paideia is lost, then our neighborhoods need to hold the School Board's feet to the fire to develop neighborhood-friendly, family-focused plans for the building.

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