Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Not Like Karl Dean Doesn't Have a Public Mandate to Follow Through with the Riverfront Plan

The mere facts that grassroots Nashvillians helped devise the Riverfront concept, that consultants gave a form and a realizable time line to it, and that the previous administration and council approved it takes a lot of pressure off of Karl Dean to put the concept in motion. Such conditions alone warrant the claim that the Mayor's recent foot-dragging is either some kind of power-play or vendetta.

Jonathan Belcher sees Dean's gambit as more part of Nashville's malaise with not being able to move from discussing concepts to putting shovels in dirt:
Our current Mayor, Karl Dean, has talked about implementing BRT. But when he came into office and the city was in a budget crisis, mass transit was one of the things that saw cutbacks. It was understandable because this nation is in an economic crisis.

Now, after several years and half a million dollars of studying the correct way forward on redeveloping our riverfront, Mayor Dean wants to stop and study the redevelopment process some more. And make changes (hopefully this isn't just political bickering). Again, we as a city are likely to give the benefit of the doubt as the economy IS in shambles and this is supposedly the reason that a change in course is needed on the riverfront development.

It's time for Nashville to realize some of the potential that its planning and studying and proposing suggests that it has. The original riverfront development project was an organized, well-thought-out step in that direction. More importantly it was a project that was made with citizen input and support. It is, or at least at some point was, a funded project that was ready to begin. So here's a thought--why not find a way to go with the plan that has already been decided on. Let's take a step out into the real world and see what one of these proposed plans actually looks like when shovel meets ground.
I agree with Jonathan that there is almost a cultural hesitation with breaking eggs here. We seem to avoid moving from safe abstracts to concrete realization.

However, I also wonder whether the Dean administration is using that hesitancy for its own political purposes. Karl Dean did not have to be very bold with the Riverfront plan. Most of the bold work has already been done. Few could have blamed him if flaws emerged as concept became architecture. All he had to do was follow through as planned.

However, with his recent shifts we have to consider the distinct possibility that he has his own designs on the Riverfront and that he is using constituents' short memories about what happened two years ago and their caution with moving too quickly on major developments for more cynical purposes.

If he is not being a political tactician with the Riverfront plan, then the only other judgment left to us seems to be that he is simply inept at follow through along a publicly mandated time line. Whether inept or imperious, the Dean administration is showing a penchant for less-than-effective governance, even with a mandate earned by someone else.

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