Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The gang of three and their weak tea

The last time we saw the 3 mayoral candidates--Charles Robert Bone, Jeremy Kane and Megan Barry--together in North Nashville it was 3 months ago for the town hall meeting held in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. In August and then in September I pointed out that none of three had said anything meaningful about how to deal with either the militarization of police or the problem of police brutality in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

I'm not aware of any promises or policy proposals that any of these candidates made on the subject in October. Now, after 100 days, on the eve of a grand jury decision on the shooting, with Missouri in a declared state of emergency and protests planned around the nation (including Chattanooga), these candidates made a second appearance in North Nashville this week. Nothing has changed. They still offer scant insight regarding what they are willing to do to deter a Ferguson from happening in Nashville.

Not only did they fail to address the question again, but their solutions for equality of prosperity leave something to be desired:

Bone, who spoke first, said investment and attention on downtown Nashville isn’t being felt in all neighborhoods, even just five miles from the city’s core, where the forum took place.

“In many respects, we sit 50 miles away,” said Bone, an attorney. “As a city, I think we should have the obligation to keep our foot on the gas, but at the same time to be very intentional about taking the investment and that prosperity that some of us are seeing and pushing it out to communities like Bordeaux and North Nashville.”

Barry...was unequivocal about the state of the city: “There’s a lot of work still to do.” She briefly spoke about economic investment, education, social justice and transit.

“Neighborhoods are what knit all of this together,” Barry said. “I will make sure the neighborhoods we cherish exist even though all that economic development is coming.”

Taking only a slightly different approach, LEAD Academy charter school founder Kane used his time on the microphone to recount his family’s involvement in underserved neighborhoods.

He said that while the candidates agreed on Nashville’s needs, the difference would be the solutions they pursue. He said he has the track record in the school he founded and in his community service.

He said he wants to make sure the city’s reputation for nonprofit giving, entrepreneurship and strong faith improves all places.

What each of these candidates is offering North Nashville is not bold. It is weak tea for our edification. The vision for governing our communities must be larger than the trickle down strategies of Mr. Bone. The next mayor has to do more than merely make sure that neighborhoods "exist" amidst exclusive prosperity, as CM Barry suggests. Mr. Kane's claims that philanthropy and entrepreneurship are answers to preventing the destructive side of economic growth seem short-sighted, paternalistic and unsound.

These are all just the extension of Mayor Karl Dean's policies and practices, which have not been good for North Nashville. No less significantly, they still do not offer anything to address police militarization and brutality, which are issues that continue to be important and unresolved to North Nashville residents. Do these candidates really understand their audience when they come into our community? They all seem more at home in West Nashville.

The gang of three minimize the disjuncture of Metro Nashville's financial investments in big business downtown and the shrinking resources for services to neighborhoods outside of the Courthouse sphere of opulence. Many of our communities are dislocated from the rising wealth focused on the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries. Unchecked economic growth, leveraged by self-serving developers, tends to cause untrammeled gentrification of North Nashville neighborhoods, driving folks of more modest income out while dismantling diversity.

With that kind of dislocation, police may be more prone to mobilize to protect the movers and shakers if movements appear to protest the injustices. With whom will Metro Police identify in neighborhoods bypassed by subsidized wealth? What kind of patience and forbearance will cops show for people who orbit far and away from the inner bands of Music City influence?

We can be sure that Metro Nashville will protect its huge investments in Nashville's wealthiest private enterprises. Local government cannot afford to lose its corporate welfare wager. Will the police follow suit? How they will treat the 99% as well as dissenters remains open to question. But let us be crystal clear: they have the firepower to suppress popular dissent, especially non-violent civil disobedience, if they choose to; they have a militarized arsenal suited for urban warfare if necessary.

And Ferguson showed that when cops march against protesters a good number of innocent bystanders and local neighborhoods are dealt the unjust collateral damage.

For Nashville's mayoral candidates to continue to fail to address the capacity of Metro Police to exercise different standards in North Nashville neighborhoods than they do elsewhere indicates to me that none of them is truly serious about being mayor of all of Nashville.

Ferguson will stay on our radar. When will it appear on theirs?

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