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Harry Moroz

Mayor Dean of Nashville: Why Are We Still Talking about Mass Transit?

Senators Obama and McCain plod along through political realignments, off-the-cuff slips of true feelings, and downright “disgraceful” remarks. Congress balks at upholding even the most basic civil liberties, procrastinates on housing legislation, and puffs its chest with short-term fixes to a long-term oil problem.

While the rest of the country has been occupied thusly, cities have recently strained to implement innovative solutions to some of the country’s most basic and intractable problems.

Indeed, editorial boards continue to call for a national urban agenda that views cities as spurs of regional economic development and national prosperity. But mayors across the country still tell MayorTV that they have not heard enough about cities during the presidential campaign.

In a recent interview with MayorTV, Mayor Dean of Nashville, Tennessee expressed exasperation at the Nashville metro government’s inability to move forward on mass transit plans:

The frustration to me is that at this point it’s been talked about, mass transit, forever. I’ve been mayor for nine months, but the discussion of bettering our mass transit system has been going on for 20 years.

This is a problem that local governments throughout the nation are experiencing. Although a transportation bill that provides funds to expand transit services easily passed the House in late June (along with an earlier reauthorization of Amtrak), the money provided is simply too scant to go around (that is, if the president were actually to sign it). Indeed, later in the summer, Mayor Mufi Hannemann of Honolulu and Mayor Cicilline of Providence will talk to MayorTV about their cities’ efforts to develop alternative transit systems and their struggles to attract federal dollars and support for the projects.

Mayor Dean also talked about why he doesn’t support a Nashville ballot ordinance that would mandate English-only city services. Whatever the reasoning behind the ordinance, the Mayor thinks the initiative doesn’t make good economic sense for a region that wants to attract both tourists and outside capital:

I don’t think we’re sending the right message if we’re saying we’re not going to greet our visitors in their own language if we have the capacity to do that.

The Mayor takes a similar line when discussing why green initiatives are important:

You can’t be chicken little. You can’t talk about just the merits that come from sound environmental practices. You have to persuade people that you’re going to make money, you’re going to save money, if you follow sound environmental practices.

Mayor Dean’s interview demonstrates both the potential of urban areas – the great accomplishments that can be achieved at the local level – and the obstacles to realizing this potential.

You can find the entire interview with Mayor Dean here.

Harry Moroz: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:00 AM, Jul 10, 2008 in Election 2008 | Immigration | MayorTV | Urban Affairs
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