Last night, Democracy smiled on the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County. Ordinary citizens were treated with respect, and their concerns were heard. The Council even provided free parking tickets for the Court House Garage! Final victory for concerned citizens in Old Hickory, Goodlettsville, and East Nashville has not yet been won, but those citizens have certainly been heard.
What a delightful contrast this was with normal citizen experience at the Tennessee State Legislature. The legislature seems to delight in unexpected switches of hearing rooms and agendas, misinforming staff who then misinform the public, and making every effort to avoid discussing any issue about which interested demonstrators are present.
Fittingly, remarks by the public were begun by State Representative Carson W. Beck and a representative of U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper. It is wonderful to have people’s representatives who truly represent their people.
Then, ordinary citizens began to speak, and each spoke from his/her own area of expertise. The Council and interested members of the public learned about real estate taxes and how public monies might be affected by a quarry near a thriving recreational area, the effects of heavy trucks on both public roads and traffic flow, and information about the dust hazards of concrete production. Citizens who had worked on or consulted with the Army Corps of Engineers, who actually built and originally controlled Old Hickory Dam, spoke knowledgeably about problems that might result from blasting within 200 feet of the structure. Others spoke of mobile home parks in the area, the general age of area housing, and the number of elderly individuals in the area. Speakers ranged in age from those in their retirement years to youngsters in their teens.
The attorney from the limited liability company that intends to build the quarry, concrete making operation, and asphalt operation, stood his ground and warned that the Old Hickory project was ‘vested’. Any action by the Council, he reported, would not affect his company’s project. This gentleman spoke freely, but he was the only speaker against the Council’s providing a buffer zone to protect its citizens.
Both of Councilman Hagar’s amended bills were readily – almost eagerly – passed on the Second Reading, which was the ‘public comment’ phase. Congratulations to Vice-Mayor Briley and the Metropolitan Council for a well-run, civil, and thoughtful meeting.