Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Good for the North End: New Urbanism's Variations on White Flight

According to Jeff Woods, "Chamber of Commerce types" lobbied the School Board and the Redistricting Task Force to exempt Germantown, Hope Gardens, Salemtown, and Downtown from the MNPS redistricting plan because allegedly white parents here do not want to send their kids to school with black kids. This news couldn't have come at a worse time for the neighborhoods, given that the four presidents of the neighborhoods' associations were called together by HGI President Stacy Mosley to draft a letter opposing the plan roughly about the time that the lobbying commenced at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored conference in Miami, FL. The timing sucks dry any credibility the letter might have had, in my opinion, and I have to wonder if there was some coordination between the Chamber's lobbying and the calling of the presidents together.

While I already declared my opposition to Ms. Mosley's reasons for signing the letter, I was opposed to the redistricting plan because I thought that a neighborhood school needed to be placed in the old Fehr School Building in Salemtown rather than using Buena Vista. But I would have raised all kinds of objections about SNNA President Freddie O'Connell signing the letter if I would have known at the time what was going down in Florida. To his credit, Freddie has already told us that he was signing it not for the group but as an individual. And in a June 3 letter to the association he gave his personal reasons for signing, and he was explicit in his opposition to white flight:
I will not sign my name to anything I suspect of indicating a white flight mentality. Ultimately, I believe that neighborhood schools will play a critical role in revitalizing Nashville's public school system. For the reasons I cite in this letter, however, I'm not sure that this step taken in this way at this time is the best step toward neighborhood schools.
However, it is unfortunate that Salemtown is being associated now with what looks like a new urbanist strain of white flight. I wonder how much Ms. Mosley knew about the lobbying that she didn't divulge when she called the presidents together.

Finally and for the record, despite the Woods' characterization of young white professionals in these neighborhoods, we've never referred to ourselves as "urban pioneers" (every reference to "pioneers" on Enclave since 2005 is someone else's quote). Frankly, the people that seem to like referring to urban dwellers like us as "pioneers" are the Realtors and developers who are trying to invent and market a lifestyle that doesn't exist in reality. Also, the broad generalization that white parents don't want to send their kids to school with black kids may be true of the Chamber of Commerce types lobbying against the plan, but it is not true of all of us who live in these neighborhoods.

UPDATE: Task Force sticks by its guns, but adds three additional public hearings (which should have been scheduled in the first place), including one at MetroCenter/Buena Vista's John Early Middle. I'm pretty sure that Salemtown is not in the Hillsboro cluster as Amy Griffith reports; it's in the Hillwood cluster.


  1. Anything written by Jeff Woods lacks credibility.

  2. Actually, Griffith is correct. Salemtown, Germantown and the entire core downtown is all currently zoned for Hillsboro High School.

  3. I'm going to have to disagree with you on Salemtown's zoning. I went to the MNPS zonefinder ( and tried the main drag through both G-town and S-town: 5th Av N. It's Hillsboro zoning in the heart of G-town (400-1299), but it's Hillwood all of the rest of the way from G-town (1300-1500) through S-town to I-65 (1600-1906). I didn't try the other numbered streets, but I bet if I did, Salemtown would be all Hillwood.

  4. Ugh, I've hated that stupid "pioneer" term since I first heard it. Yuck.