Thursday, July 03, 2014

The lawyer that Hizzoner is, he won't do much more than he is legally obligated to

Disturbing patterns keep popping up in the Mayor's behavior: he excused Metro Water's dump of toxins near Salemtown saying that they complied with the state's environmental standards; he excused Metro's lack of robust remediation of soil excavated for the new Sulphur Dell ballpark insisting that he was in communication with the state and soil like Sulphur Dell's existed everywhere Downtown.

Now his response to the American Indian Coalition's frustration with his handling of sensitive archeology in the area of the new ballpark seems to be cut from the same legalistic thought:

the group wants Metro to delay or stop construction at Sulphur Dell because of its deep Indian history. Representatives from both sides met Thursday for another discussion on the issue.

So far, the city has made no plans to stop construction. Instead, they're offering to construct a wall along the greenway to honor the history of the area, as well as some artwork to go near the end of Fourth Avenue.

"That to me is minimalization and we're tired of being minimalized, American Indian people. We are tired of being just given the very least,” said Albert Bender with the American Indian Coalition.

The Office of Mayor Karl Dean said it’s complied with all state regulations for building on ground containing artifacts.

Doesn't bold leadership require at some points going above and beyond lawyerly arguments of what is required of Metro by state law? Instead of strictly what the law demands to protect the wealthy financial interests backing this project, why not try to strike a balance with all parties as equals in this debate? AIC has excellent points about the costs of culture and history that eclipse mere temporary motives of developers:

"There is evidence of a huge, huge Native American city - Native American metropolis, ancient American area," said Albert Bender, with the American Indian Coalition.

Archaeologists were excited when some Native American salt vessels recently turned up at the Sulphur Dell construction site.

They would like to see the construction of the new Nashville Sounds stadium put on hold to further study the findings, but that is unlikely.

"That's our priority that they will open up the excavation process so that more field recovery work can take place, because there is a treasure trove of knowledge waiting to be unearthed. And the knowledge is incalculable compared to any type of delay that may result from the construction of a ballpark," Bender said.

The artifacts include broken pottery from a salt factory dating back to 1150 A.D. But the digging to find more artifacts has stopped and construction of the ballpark is moving ahead.

"Now we've capped that with some dirt, and we suspect there are other things out there. But it's not going to be coming into place as part of this construction process," said Ronald Gobbel, with Gobbel Hays Partners, Inc.

Again the parallel is striking: when the Dean Administration was covering its collective ass on its new toxic landfill near the Cumberland River here, the bureaucrats justified it by insisting that they were going to "cap" the carcinogens with some dirt. So, down below dirt in our community is a toxic dump that we need protection from and a prehistoric metropolis that should be a source of pride and continuity of place. Karl Dean would rather bury both and appeal to the law in his defense.

This Mayor's term is nearly up and there is no hope of him changing his pharisaical ways any time soon. He wants to get this ballpark done before he leaves office so that he can throw out the first pitch as the guy who built it. It will be The House That Dean Built. We can only hope that the next Mayor is less prone to sticking to legalistic ways of governing this city. We can only hope that she or he has a vision that encompasses the past as well as the future.

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