Sunday, April 19, 2015

Are you engaged in the NashvilleNext process? We need to slow down the process and actually read it.

I know I ought to, but I have not yet read the NashvilleNext plan.  This three year process that cost us $x million dollars to develop (a lot of money, I do not have the figure) and had the participation of 17,000 Nashvillians has now produced a draft.

The reason I have not read and analyzed and commented on the NashvilleNext draft is that I have been more interested in other things, such as the Council agenda, the race for mayor and Council and the financing of those races, Bob Corker's effort to keep the President from unilaterally approving a nuclear arms deal with Iran, various pieces of state legislation and what is going on at the School Board and the search for a new Director of schools and other things.

Another reason, is that I feel the whole thing is somewhat of a sham.  I attended the first meeting rolling out the NashvilleNext process and a lot of meetings since then. I heard some interesting speakers. I sat in small groups and shared my vision for the future. I put little sticky dots on various policy options and I put my opinion on sticky notes. I went on line and shared my opinion about a lot of things. Somewhere along the way however, I felt like I was no more than a prop. I got the feeling, that this was all one "big dog and pony show" to make people feel like it was "our" plan and a plan developed by the people. I lost my motivation to participate.

Some of the questions in acquiring input were almost insulting, they were of the type, "Do you like good development or bad development."  And some of the choices were of the type that the answer had to be "yes" or "no" when the answer should be, "if done in a responsible way, respecting private property rights, then yes."  I suspect the people doing NashvilleNext already have a template and change the name of the city.  One  scientific poll would have probably presented a better gage of what people want than the three years of public input that went into NashvilleNext. One thing wrong with gaining pubic input the way NashvilleNext did, is that the participants providing the input select themselves.  They may not be representational. Also, while the planners brag about 17,0000 participants, that may mean someone showed up for part of one meeting or logged on and quickly logged off of a NashvilleNext video.

Another thing I see wrong with this process, is that to fully participate, it would have almost been like a full-time job.  Even civically engaged people like myself have other thing that interest them and they have private lives.  I would have liked to have watched the Metro budget hearings this year but simply did not have the time. One can not stay informed about everything.  One has to pick and choose their involvements. So, those most engaged in NashvilleNext are those for whom this is a priority.  It is those with an agenda who feel passionate about the topic. Anyway, I do hope to get re-engaged in the NashvilleNext process before it is a done deal, but time is running out.

The two minute  video above is an overview. To see other short video on specific areas of the plan, such as transit, neighborhoods, and centers, follow this link. To read the NashvilleNext draft plan, follow this link. While an overview may make you feel informed, be aware that the full text of NashvilleNext is hundreds of pages long. Volume one is 151 pages long. The devil may be in the details.

There are opportunities to get involved:

  • April 18: Tennessee State University (Downtown Campus), 10am - 1:30 pm
  • April 20: 5 - 7pm at both the North Nashville Police Precinct and the Edmondson Pike Branch Library
  • April 27: 5 - 7pm at both the Madison Police Precinct and the Bellevue Branch Library
I would like an independent review of the plan from someone who is somewhat knowledgeable about planning, and who values private property rights and limited government.  All we are going to get from The Tennessean are puff pieces and with their limited news staff, I doubt they have actually had anyone read the plan. I do not expect any reporters to be informed enough to ask serious questions about the plan.  With newspapers and other media outlets reducing the news hole and tailoring their news to give people the news they want, we can only rarely expect journalist to be the experts and informed enough to ask hard questions.

If you have read NashvilleNext and have an opinion, I would welcome you sharing  it on this blog or if you are reading this on Facebook, please let me know what you think.  If you share my values of limited government and private property rights and would like to actually read and analyze the draft and write an essay, sharing your view to the document, I would like to talk to you about posting such an essay. Email me at

Several neighborhood activist are expressing reservations about the NashvilleNext process. Below is an email written by Tish Bolian to NashvilleNext. I am not sure which neighborhood she represents but I know she is a neighborhood leader.
I am finding it rather impossible for people to have adequate time to
review, critique, get feedback to given feedback, etc. in the time
This has been a plan 2 years in the making. To basically give citizens a few
weeks to read, understand, go to a handful of meetings is not appropriate in
my view.
I know you have changed the timeframe several times to meet your needs.
I am now asking you to change the timeframes to meet the needs of the
community and the neighborhoods. Spring is the busiest time of year for
everyone. To add this and the intensity and time it takes is inappropriate
given its importance. 
Please have more public meetings and contact all those involved in community  plan development (you have their e mail addresses) and give them a chance to have you explain what you are changing in their community plan, why, get  feedback, etc.  To carry out this kind of change without that courtesy is inappropriate. 
I wrote to you before a critique of the process and made recommendations for change in part give people more opportunity for dialog (without the
ridiculous maps and stickies that no one can see and inaudible hearing
rooms such as the Bridge Building). You want this to reflect
Nashville...then it needs input from its citizens in forums where they can
ask questions, hear proposals, give input and know what is done with their
This rush to meet a deadline when you have changed it multiple times to meet your needs is rather insulting to taxpayers aka citizens of Nashville. This document is far too important to all neighborhoods toward the future to rush this through. 
Trish Bolian Nashville, TN 37205
Margo Chambers, a leader of the Richland West End neighborhood group is urging people to object to the plan.
 Two ways to register our opinion on this is to
1. Reserve June 10 on our calendars. This is thr Date of the MPC public Hearing of the adoption of the proposed General Plan - which apparently contains far more density than has been communicated.

2. Log on, now, to the MPC website. Find your "future" Community Plan. If you do NOT agree with what has been proposed, simply leave a comment of 'Do not Support such & such proposed Community Plan', your name & email. Get your neighbors to do the same. At this point, I would not recommend getting any more 'specific' than a No Support.
The Metro Planning department is chronically not specific with us; I think a dose of their own medicine is now required.

Reminder: Metro Council does not approve the General Plan.
Only the unelected Metro Planning COMMISSIONERS get to approve an 'adoption' of the new General Plan. In my opinion, the MPC has proven itself to be tone deaf to the public for the last 3 years, AT LEAST.

Margo Chambers
Richland West End
Long  term neighborhood activist John Stern has expressed concern about the limited opportunities for input on the specific area plans.

One reason I think this plan is being pushed through the way it is, is because Nashvillians want two contradictory thing.  We want to preserve opens space, reduce urban sprawl and maintain the low-density character of our communities and yet still have great mass transit.  Those are contradictory things.  You cannot have low density and great mass transit.  You cannot have low density and avoid urban sprawl. I suspect planner know this, if not the public, so I suspect that in the details of the hundreds of pages of text is a prescription for much greater population density.

We need to slow down the push to get NashvilleNext approved and let people learn what is in it before it is passed.  Nancy Pelosi famously said about Obama care, "we have to pass it so we will know what is in it."  We don't want the planning commission to pass NashvilleNext and then then find out what is in it. We don't want to assume that because 17,0000 people "participated" in the development of the plan and it took three years to produce it that, that makes it a good plan.

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