Apparently the Council, the communities, and everyone else was blindsided when Mayor Dean announced plans to relocate the police headquarters to a new $23 million dollar facility on Jefferson Street and locate the jail to a new $149 million facility in Antioch. Both projects have ran into opposition.
While many Black ministers and other leaders and the Jefferson Street merchant group JUMP have endorsed the move of the police headquarters to Jefferson Street, others have expressed a concern. Some feel the police station will be a line of demarcation dividing the increasingly White and gentrified portion of North Nashville east of the new police headquarters from the remaining mostly Black and lower income part of north Nashville which will lie west of the new police headquarters. Others feel uncomfortable in the presence of police and see an increased police presence in their community as something that will lead to more of what they see as police harassment and arrest.
In the Southwest portion of the County many fear the relocation of the jail will lead to more pawn shops, bail bondsmen, crime and undesirable elements hanging out in their part of town. They fear it will hamper desirable development and will drive down property values.
I don't think the mayor did his homework on either of these projects. Communities and the councilmen representing the communities should not learn of developments such as these by reading about them in the newspaper. The district councilmen should have been consulted and informed throughout the process and there should have been community meetings early in the process.
In addition to thinking that these projects should be deferred until there is community buy-in, I am concerned about our cities indebtedness. I think these two projects and the flood wall should be deferred until a new council and a new mayor take office. These may not be the top priority for the new Council and new mayor, but if we have eaten up all of our debt service on these projects there will be nothing left to spend on what others may think are of a greater need. While our debt service as a share of the budget has not been increasing, our total debt has drastically been increasing.
We are in the situation of a family with two wage earners with a household income of $100,000 a year that has monthly mortgage, car payment and other debt equal to 40% of their income. One of the wage earners starts working a lot of overtime and the other starts earning commission bonuses. The family income increases to $200,000 and they move to a bigger house and buy fancier cars and their debt is still equal to only 40% of their income. But, then the overtime is cut and the bonuses are no longer earned. Then the family is in trouble.
Nashville may not always be the "it" city. I am bullish on Nashville and think the future looks good, but I don't think we can continue indefinitely this winning streak. At some point there will be a slow down. Just because times are good now we should not go hog wild on a spending spree. Also, repairing failing sewers and putting in more sidewalks may have higher priority than a new jail and new police headquarters for the next mayor. Dean got his Music City Center, the Ball Park, the Riverfront Park and amphitheater and the gulch pedestrian bridge. It is time to stop and leave some decisions to the next mayor.
Also, I am not so sure we should not keep the jail and police headquarters right where they are. South east Nashville has already suffered the demise of what was once a thriving mall and Antioch was one of the five hardest hit zip codes in the state during the housing crisis and still has not fully recovered. We should not dump the jail on Antioch. Also, North Nashville should have time to argue the merits of a new police headquarters before it is imposed on them.
Below is Mayor Dean's effort to sell his proposal for the police headquarters relocating to Jefferson Street, and his urging people to lobby their councilman to support it. The Tennessee Tribune is a newspaper that primarily serves the Black community.
Dear Rod,This past Friday, The Tennessee Tribune published an opinion column that I wrote explaining what the investment of a police office building will do for Jefferson Street. Building this new facility on what are now vacant lots – most of them very difficult to develop on their own – would be an economic boost for North Nashville.Please take a minute to read the column below and then let your council member know that you support investments like these on Jefferson Street. Here is the contact information for Metro council members.