MAYOR’S MARATHON

11 03 2007

A few months back, I promised you that I would be investigating the green aspects of Nashville’s various mayoral candidates. The election’s not ’till August, so I figured I had plenty of time—but then one of the candidates forced my hand. David Briley made the following proposals:

• Create a Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to coordinate public-private environmental cooperation, to study methods of lowering carbon emissions in Nashville, to create an environmental standards report, to “address environmental racism and injustice” and to develop environmental education programs for school children;

• Establish “green building standards” for public and private construction, requiring new Metro construction to meet environmental standards and incentivizing private developers so they would build environmentally-friendly projects “through density bonuses, through fast-track approval of green projects in our community – we can do that and save the taxpayers money,” Briley said;

• Dedicate one cent from the existing property tax levy for Metro to buy private open space.

• Expand curbside recycling throughout the entire county — from the Urban Services District into the General Services District — on a voluntary, subscription basis;

• Encourage the use of “hybrid, low-emission, and alternative fuel vehicles” by creating “a Metro fleet of hybrid vehicles” and encouraging public use of green vehicles through incentives such as cheaper and priority parking; Briley would lobby the Tennessee General Assembly so that it would let such vehicle owners use HOV lanes;

• Have Metro plant trees or other greenery in the city’s rights-of-way and public property — such as in medians and intersection islands — and have Metro plant at least 1,000 trees annually;

• Establish a target for Davidson County to reduce emissions levels 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2014.
Very good beginning, Mr. Briley! So I got on the stick and mailed a fairly lengthy and detailed list of questions to the other candidates. Karl Dean’s campaign and Bob Clement’s campaign both responded, but Howard Gentry and Buck Dozier have ignored me, so far. I’m not surprised to be ignored by Mr. Dozier, who after all is the godfather of those obnoxious new animated billboards we are now plagued with, but I’m a little disappointed not to have heard from Howard Gentry. The Clement campaign requested my question list and promised a reply, but hasn’t actually done so yet. Karl Dean had this to say to me on the subject of creating a sustainable Nashville:

“I am dedicated to making Nashville an even more environmentally-friendly city. One of the biggest contributors to global warming is vehicle emissions, especially those produced in the inner city by diesel vehicles. Metro government can make an impact by using alternative fuels like biodiesel in mass transit buses, garbage collection trucks, and school buses. It can be used without engine modifications in any diesel vehicle including cars, buses, trucks, and off-road equipment. I would pursue the use of federal and state grants to pay for infrastructure changes for refueling stations and encourage Metro School and MTA to do the same.

“Increased use of mass transit will also greatly cut greenhouse gases. Nashville should begin to plan now for its future use of mass transit. But before additional transit options are funded, we need to make the most efficient use of what we already have. Mass transit will only work if we have enough flexible routes. We need to study the current routing plans, get customer feedback and look to other cities that have successful plans.

“Education programs aimed at better public awareness of the causes and solutions for green house gases can make a major impact.  The public is open to hear about this issue and seems eager to be a part of the solution. We need to lead this wave and make the most of it.

“Lowering electricity usage is important for reducing overall greenhouse gases. Again, public awareness goes a long way. Grants, incentives, recognition programs, getting schools involved with the education and publicity, are all inexpensive ways to “get started.” Partnering with NES, Nashville Gas, the Home Builders Association, and engineering and the architectural associations for outreach programs is the best way to get some expertise and free assistance for the city.

“I am also a huge supporter of our Greenways and our Park System. I’ve sat on the Greenways for Nashville Board. And I am committed to the implementation of the entire 10-year masterplan for Parks and Greenways.

All the best,

Karl Dean”

I appreciate Mr. Dean’s views, but I would have to give David Briley points for being “fustest with the mostest,” as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, whose statue adorns the southern approach to our city, used to say. I would also give David Briley lifestyle points for having spent time teaching in Ecuador and getting to know the third world first hand, and a different kind of lifestyle points for using Jack Johnson’s “Let it Be Sung” as the song on his Myspace site. Dean’s Myspace site is run by his 19-year old son. He doesn’t feature any music.

On a perhaps more important note, dealing with crime in Nashville, Dean proposes to “Create a Plain-Clothes Neighborhood Intervention Unit. Citizens are on their best behavior when they know they are being watched. The Neighborhood Intervention Unit will reinstate the use of plain-clothes officers in unmarked police cars for daily patrol.”

This caused me to wonder if surveillance cameras would be the next step, and left me feeling slightly creepy.

Briley, on the other hand, notes that “10,000 young adults ages 16 to 24 in Nashville are responsible for 80 percent of our crimes, and that taking measures now to reach out to struggling students may help change this.” This seems like a much less scattershot approach to me, and one that I would feel more comfortable supporting—plus which, it would probably be cheaper than hiring plainclothes cops. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all that.

So, at this point in the marathon, David Briley is far and away the “greenest” candidate running, with Karl Dean a healthy second, Bob Clement saying he’s gonna get with the program, and no word from Howard Gentry or Buck Dozier. Stay tuned.

music: Greg Brown, “One Big Town”

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