“Greetings from Nashville, the new LA, the money’s pourin’ in and I ain’t about to move away. Check out the cable station and then call me on the Codaphone. We’ll have lunch, but I got a hunch, we’re entering the great unknown.” – Jason and the Scorchers, “Greetings from Nashville”
“If writers had a little more guts, maybe they wouldn’t be writers.”
The lyrics to the aforementioned Scorchers song have frequently run through my head over the course of the last 30 years. When I moved to Nashville in 1989 Nashville was a very different city. It was a great small town with a proud music tradition and serious big city envy.
At the time, Bill Boner was Mayor of Nashville and the scandal of the day was when he went on the Donahue show and played “Rocky Top” with his fiancee while he was still married to his third wife. A move that angered many in Nashville because they felt it made us look like a real-life version of the show Hee Haw. At the time Nashville had just come down from what looked like an assent on greatness. Poised to boom in the 80’s the city had overbuilt and as a result, the economy instead of booming was showing a little busting. The embarrassment of Boner struck deep and personified the fears of city leaders.
As a result, Nashville went out and found them a nice slick Northeasterner in Phil Bredesen to be mayor and we started back to work on proving that we belonged in the same conversation with New York, Dallas, Boston, and other metropolitan cities. But always with the chip on our shoulder that we had something to prove.
Bredesen was followed by the equally slick Bill Purcell and then the photogenic Karl Dean. Thanks to their combined leadership over the last 30 years, we’ve mostly succeeded in our pursuit – Nashville ranks among the top destinations in the country – but along the way, we’ve lost something.
Our willingness to double down on prostituting ourselves in the pursuit of new businesses and new residents at the expense of those who’ve helped build the city has started to make more than a few people feel uneasy. That uneasiness exploded this week when news filtered out that the city had agreed to allow the NFL, in anticipation of the upcoming draft, to cut down 21 Cherry Blossom trees in exchange for 10K.
Within hours of news filtering out, an online petition collected over 61K signatures and Mayor Briley had rescinded the order to cut the trees down on Monday. Instead, they would be removed and replanted. Even with an apology from the NFL, few were placated. The reason being that the outcry wasn’t really just about Cherry Blossom trees. It was, as mayoral candidate John Ray Clemmons has stated, about the fact that a small number of Nashvillians have benefited from the massive growth in Nashville while the majority have made massive sacrifices.
Last year during a community meeting, I had an opportunity to ask Mayor Briley how he planned to address the thousands of Nashvillians that have felt disfranchised by the growth of Nashville. Growth that is potentially pricing them out of a city they love. Briley response was dismissive, stating life in Nashville was certainly better than 20 years ago when the only ethnic food in town was Mr.Gatti’s. That’s the disconnect. Who’s benefitting from all those new restaurants?
Let’s do some math for a minute. Keep in mind I’m not an economist, so the numbers are just estimations, but I think they are pretty close.
Say you are a family of 4 in Nashville and you are a teacher, or a cop, or one of the other thousands that make the city run. You probably have a household income of 75K. Which means after taxes you are taking home roughly 61,500 a year or $5125 a month.
Out of that $5125, knock off at least a grand for health insurance. Another 800 to a grand for mortgage or rent. Groceries are getting you for at least $750. Utilities including phone and cable probably around 500. Car related expenses maybe another 300 to 400 dollars, unless you have a car payment, then double that. Student loan debt, probably adds another couple hundred at a minimum. That leaves you with $1275 divide by 4 and you got $318 a week.
Those numbers don’t even account for savings, clothing, or other assorted expenses. If your kids do any kind of outside activities – sports, dance, martial arts, robot club – that’s another 100 a month per kid. So based on those numbers, how many of those great new restaurants are the average Nashvillians frequenting? Considering a trip to the movies is at minimum 50 bucks a pop for a family of four, how many natives do you think are frequenting all the new amenities in the new Nashville?
Again, the numbers aren’t exact, but I think they are representative. It’s getting increasingly harder for families to live in Nashville. Especially for those employed with keeping the city running.
Every time a new business gets a tax break, or a new public project gets started, we are told about how much revenue is going to come pouring in, but who’s pocket does that revenue go into? Is traffic better? Is public transportation better? Is our infrastructure better? Are we safer? Is there less poverty? Are our schools better funded?
I’ll let you frame your own answer, but in my eyes, the answer to all those is a resounding no. And I think it’s safe to say that there are a whole lot of other Nashvillians that would answer the same and are beginning to wonder, where is the cash going?
So when word leaked out that once again Nashville officials had sold something that Nashvillians valued without their consultation, the town exploded forcing officials to respond in a manner that showed they still didn’t get it. The Tennessean’s David Plaza turned out an editorial that showed he was kinda on the right path but still failed to grasp the depth of frustration Nashville residents are feeling.
Ironically Plaza’s advises city leaders,
The moral of the story is that they must acknowledge that the latest controversy is not just about trees.
Yet’s Plazas has never indicated a grasp that the controversy of MNPS Director Shawn Joseph’s use of a driver was not just about the driver. Ironic behavior is on the rise in Nashville, though it’s recognition is in decline. One point that Plazas didn’t miss is that if actions don’t change, “citizens may be inclined to uproot their politicians”.
Another chance for politicians to sell the city’s soul for a few extra baubles comes today when the United States Secretary of Education Betsy Devos comes to town. She’s here to meet with Governor Lee to talk education policy. According to the governor’s office, DeVos and Lee will attend a roundtable discussion with families, educators, local elected leaders, and others. The visit will then end with a tour of LEAD Cameron, a charter middle school in Nashville.
I’m curious about how many Nashville politicians will afford the opportunity to fawn over Devos in hopes of currying favor from the Ed Secretary? I suggest Nashville voters take note of those who do.
MAYOR BONER…I MEAN BRILEY PART II
On Friday I touched on Mayor Briley calling out the school board in defense of short-termed Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. As promised, here’s some follow up.
What the hell was he thinking? The more I think about, the bigger the gaffe becomes. Briley several times used the talking point, “I’m on the side of the children during his press conference.” Yet his whole appearance spoke more to a political stunt than an honest effort to calm the waters for the benefit of kids.
It was held at a time teachers and families couldn’t attend. That’s a huge sticking point. If you are “for the children” then perhaps you should put forward your message at a time where those charged with their care can hear it first hand. Here is a little insight for ya mayor, when you deliver a message on education at a time where educators are busy educating, it symbolizes that you are busy being a politician and not a leader. Write that done in case you need to refer to it later.
The press conference was held in a low-income school with a predominantly African-American population to defend an African-American Director of Schools. The town may have gotten slow deciphering symbolism, but sometimes it’s so blatant that you can’t miss it. My only question is, when was the last time you were in this school mister mayor? I suspect that it isn’t a regular haunt.
My father always taught me that if you have an issue with someone you look them in the eye and tell them your issue straight up. You don’t tell a bunch of friends and hope the message gets back to them. Apparently, this mayor was raised different, because the press conference room was packed with friendly faces – probably would have been a good time to break into central office – without a single school board member, or Joseph critic in sight.
Reporters had to run off and find board members to tell them about the mayor’s message – one he didn’t even have the decency to share privately before giving it publicly – in order to get a response. I’m sorry, there is no other way to word it, that’s just a cowardly way of doing things and is no different than hiding behind a keyboard and posting things on social media, something the mayor admonished the school board for doing.
In laying problems solely at the feet of the school board he ignored the voices of teachers and families who had been calling attention to leadership deficits for months. He also ignored his very own words on the need to form consensus,
Leadership also means working to build consensus, if not unanimous approval. And it means being willing to accept when you’ve been on the losing side, and being willing to move on, so that all sides can move forward together for the sake of bigger goals.
In District 6 they had an election last August and Fran Bush won. She won by nearly 500 votes on a platform that was rooted in dissatisfaction with Dr. Joseph’s leadership against an incumbent that was seen as a close ally. That fact has not stopped council members like Jacobia Dowell, Karen Johnson, Sharon Hurt, and Tanaka Vercher from constantly attacking her and attempting to discredit her words. Strangely enough, Briley has not once told them to accept being on the losing side and to be willing to move on for the sake of bigger goals. Nor has he told one his personal allies that attacks on her intellect are inappropriate. I guess that’s one of those hard conversations he’s just not up for having.
I suspect that part of the reason for that lack of desire is that the mayor has probably spent about as much time in District 6 over the last year as he has at Napier Elementary School. The other part is that he’s not leading, he’s busy making political calculations. I’ve known David Briley for almost 15 years and I never once suspected that he would put politics over principles. Yet here we are.
Leadership would have been calling up people that have been elected to the school board and hearing their perspective. It would have been perhaps organizing a summit where an expressing of insight and ideas could take place. It would have included talking to people other than fellow politicians. It wouldn’t be taking advice and insight from a failed political hack that couldn’t be bothered with attending a third of the meetings of the governing body he was elected to serve on. Keep word being “serve”.
Like I said, here we are though. Briley’s empty threat is on the table and people are more riled up than ever. So he wants to lead and be more involved than any previous mayor? He can start by picking up the check. And not just the one that he claims to be able to afford, the one Nashville schools need.
This is the perfect opportunity for the Nashville School Board to present the budget that Nashville schools need. Put in for substantial staff pay raises. Put in supports for the behavioral policy. Put in for increased funding for SEL? Ask for what we really need for textbooks. Afterschool programs that benefit low-income kids, put them in there. Add in capital needs funds for crumbling schools attended by kids who live in poverty. These are not luxuries but rather things our schools really need if we truly are “for the kids”. Now is the time to make Mayor Briley show that his words are than sound and fury signifying nothing.
Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen. We’ll just keep mean mugging each other and talking about all the revenue flowing into the city without discussing how little is flowing to those who really need it. Teachers along with police and fire will be told you got to wait another year, we all have to make sacrifices, maybe we’ll even get another “leadership takes courage speech.”
But the clock is running on that strategy and if anybody believes it’s not nearing its expiration date, they are fooling themselves. Few gave John Ray Clemmons much chance before this weekend, now, I’d say the door to mayor’s office is wide open. Let’s see so who really understands leadership and who really wants to have the hard conversations.
There is another option for Mayor Briley if he wants to get deeply involved in school board issues. He could forsake this mayoral thing and run for school board. See how that works out.
One last note on that consensus Mr. Mayor, a little quick math shows that the school board vote on firing Dr. Joseph falls at 4 – 4. So which side should cave?
Let’s get to the poll returns.
The first question asked for your opinion of who should serve as interim superintendent now that Dr. Joseph has indicated that he plans to move on. My personal feelings are that this position needs to held by a woman – we’ve never had one and its time to look through a different set of eyes – with deep personal ties to Nashville. Apparently y’all feel very similar. The number one vote-getter was current MNPS community Superintendent Adrienne Battle with 53 votes. In addition to her current position, Battle has served at every grade level and led Antioch HS as principal to a level 5 rating.
The number two vote-getter was a bit of a surprise. It was a write-in candidate. Former MNPS Senior Leader Amy Wyatt received 34 votes. Pretty impressive. Wyatt has been working nationally developing school leaders over the last year. An experience that could prove valuable in leading the district forward.
Here are the write votes:
|Just let Henson do it again||1|
|I’m at a loss on this one..||1|
|The HG Hill principal||1|
|Hmmm there is a Community Sup job posted already||1|
|Dr. Aimee Wyatt||1|
|Adrienne Battle; Schunn Turner; Chris Henson||1|
|None, get rid of all of them.||1|
|No central office. Why not a successful principal?||1|
|Does it matter?|
Question number 2 asked how you felt about Mayor Briley’s press conference. The number one vote-getter there with 36% of the vote was, “the best argument for John Ray Clemmons yet”. The number two answer with 24% was that it was more political grandstanding on the backs of kids. Only 3 of you said that it made you stand up and applaud while 2 others answered that they liked the sentiment but he could’ve chosen his words better. Here are the write-in votes.
|Can’t wait till next election||1|
|I’ve generally supported him, but no more||1|
|A complete failure to address what is truly wrong||1|
|How could I watch, I was busy doing my job.||1|
|Couldn’t listen. Was teaching in a priority school||1|
|Omg is he still Mayor?!?!||1|
|His was the voice of stupidity.||1|
|He’s part of ISIS||1|
|Too little too late.||1|
|What the hell does every leader have against teachers in Nashville? Seriously.||1|
|So tired of deflection, lies, & race card.|
The last question asked about whether or not the board should buy out the remaining time on Dr. Joseph’s contract. Most of you recognized the need and probability of this taking place. Here are the write-in answers.
|If the teachers get a raise then maybe||1|
|Fire him outright||1|
|Fire his ass.||1|
|He has to go, and they are obliged to comply with the terms of his contract||1|
|Any buyout should be tied to MEANINGFUL pay raises for teachers & staff.||1|
|Yes, if necesssry. Go ahead and end this.||1|
|Terminate with cause||1|
|NO!!! If he’a Not eligible for the job then that’s “cause” for termination.||1|
|Can you buy out criminals?||1|
|Performance Matters should cover it.||1|
|Send me the gofundme link. Get packing, Shawn.||1|
|Yes, because I think they are simply at an impasse and it is time to move ahead.|
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