Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Metro Council hands Gulch businesses a new 700-foot luxury sidewalk at the price of over $25,000 per foot

Do you feel connected now, Nashville? You should, because the Metro Council authorized Mayor Karl Dean to spend $18,000,000 on a sidewalk ("The Gulch Pedestrian Bridge") under the pretense of "connecting Nashville." If you live in Madison or Antioch or West Nashville and you don't feel connected, well maybe ye place little faith in the words of 2015 mayoral candidate and at-Large CM Megan Barry, who defended her vote by saying that "connecting Nashville" is a "necessity." Dropping $18,000,000 on a sidewalk in a neighborhood that has sidewalks is now "a necessity."

Here is how CM Barry and everyone else voted last night with absolutely no debate for that much money to spend:

Last June during debate on an unrelated charter question, CM Ronnie Steine said:

We are as a body amongst the most responsive elected officials in the country, and that's one of the things that's special about Nashville .... this council is the great weather vane of this city. Every possible opinion in this county/city is reflected in this body at one time or another .... All positions and opinions are heard .... If you look at the quality of work in this council, it's high quality. We get hammered because we agree with the mayor sometimes .... When we agree with him on an issue .., we're not rubber stamps. We're all just reflective of what this community is working on.

Is a luxury sidewalk that connects the Gulch to downtown entertainment venues reflective of what Nashville-Davidson County is working on? Or do our communities advocate spreading the wealth equitably so that sidewalks in all communities benefit from the Metro tax base?

Keep in mind that the council approved the Gulch bridge plan only after Karl Dean committed to spending $17,000,000 in other neighborhoods on sidewalks. Not $17,000,000 per neighborhood, but spread out between competing neighborhoods. That is interesting math: for one 700 foot sidewalk, the Gulch gets $18,000,000. Everyone else gets to fight over and divvy up $17,000,000.

It seems to me that the Metro Council deserves all of the "hammering" it gets for rubber stamping the mayor because it does it dramatically more than "sometimes." Otherwise, please show me a vote against one of Karl Dean's major capital projects that either CM Steine or CM Barry has taken. With the controversy and contentiousness over the Gulch pedestrian bridge, with the blatant inequality of spending more on downtown infrastructure than in places that do not even have sidewalks, these council members had cover to vote independently, but still they chose to rubber stamp Hizzoner.

Make no mistake: they're Deanpendent.


  1. Couldn't the other neighborhoods do what the Gulch did, by having their chosen sidewalk projects paid for by taxes collected from that neighborhood's large developments? Your argument seems slightly askew, considering that the Gulch is unique compared to outlying neighborhoods regarding density and use. The pedestrian bridge [more of an elevated park than a "sidewalk"], is something clearly desired by the Gulch stakeholders and residents. Expensive? Perhaps. But even us Salemtown residents can appreciate such investments. It will be a destination that draws residents and tourists, and a place to rest and relax. You can't say that for your average 'sidewalk,' no matter where it is. No one is going to take out-of-town guests to look at new sidewalks in Donelson. I don't see how your 'sidewalk' comparison helps your argument. Dean should be contributing significantly more to sidewalks throughout the county, for sure, but I don't see how that discounts the feasibility of a project like this. The funding is unique, and the project seems to have unanimous support from the neighborhood in which it's being built. So, would the funding scheme used for this bridge work for sidewalks in other parts of the county? I'm guessing it wouldn't.

    1. The method you suggest, the method preferred by this mayor, renders neighborhoods powerless to the self-interests of developers. In terms of democracy, that is a backwards approach to planning.

      Governments are not supposed to brokering real estate for influence and campaign donations like Karl Dean does. Governments are supposed to be making sure that matters of fairness and inclusion impinge upon and control growth and development.

      Otherwise, less powerful neighborhoods never stand a chance against special-interest-oriented downtown. The Gulch is unique in that no communities existed there until they were invented by the real estate industry. That's it. There is no unique culture. No unique legacy. Hence, there is nothing special about it except that a lot of business people in luxury services have a lot of money to leverage government attention and preferential treatment.

      This bridge comes down to the fact that a few people have money and fiat and insider status with Metro government, while the rest of us don't.

      The tax revenues going to pay for this belong to all of us. The property taxes my family pays doesn't go to special projects that only suit the four of us. It goes into the same kitty from which resources are drawn to help everyone in the county.

      TIF started as an incentive to prompt developers to build in blighted areas. It was a social contract in which we mistakenly granted developer ambitions a pass for a greater good. What did we get in return? Developers and politicians have now co-opted that mechanism and use it to drive poor people out and invite rich tourists in. That was not the bargain. We were striving at diversity and inclusion. What we actually got is more avarice and exclusion. Neighborhoods get left behind and languish because of plans like this.

      To pretend now that developers are the community builders and that the rest of us are beholden to them is merely insult to injury.

  2. herodionromulus@gmail.comThu Oct 23, 07:51:00 AM CDT

    To the first poster
    Please show me how much money will "trickle down" to Madison or Bellshire or any other part of Nashville. Facts, figures, clinical proof that this will help anyone but a handful of already over-entitled people.

    In 2014 the Capital improvements budget called for widening Neelys Bend Rd. To date not ONE penny has been allocated. So daily, I see school kids walking along a narrow stretch of the street where there are NO shoulders.

    Demonbreun St Bridge is perfectly fine: wide sidewalks, dedicated bike lane. Maybe the Gulch denizens should get off their lazy asses and walk ONE more block to Demonbreun.

  3. I passed a woman walking (with headphones on) in the gutter on the side of Hillsboro Road, just below Woodmont yesterday. She wasn't 3 or 4 feet from the passing cars. It was quite a hike to the bus stop, even farther to the mall area.

    Of course, traffic moves at 5 mph on Hillsboro Rd., so she wasn't in much danger.

  4. Let the Gulch have their bridge only if they subscribe to private police, fire, ambulance, and school services. The money used for the bridge takes away from their fair contribution to these services. Taxes from neighborhoods with no sidewalks pay will have to pay for it all.

    So when the tourists and the folks from the Gulch need a cop, a paramedic, or a fire fighter please call Erica Gilmore to help you or maybe Karl Dean.

    Dean's administration continues to fund corporate welfare for the rich paid for by the middle class. Voters will remember this when electing leaders in the future, Megan Barry-Mayoral candidate-Sellout, Tim Garrett-Vice mayoral candidate-Sellout, Any of the Council members who voted yes-Sellout, Karl Dean future Governor candidate-Sellout.

    Local citizens are sick and tired of paying for luxury items for the few and those who don't live here, while we continue to get only what's leftover

    Maybe Donelson should keep the share it contributes. Try living without Gaylord's tax contribution.

    This "bridge too far" doesn't connect Nashville, in fact it divides Nashville and Nashvillians like never before. The Metro Council still doesn't get it.