I attended the first three hours of Metro Planning Commission’s May 28th hearing on Maytown Center, but, bowing to my infirmities, didn’t attempt to stay until the very end. My friends tell me I missed the best part, but between what I heard there, the deep background briefing I was graciously given, and what has emerged in the media, I feel well qualified to give you an update and, of course, my commentary.
The big story that emerged in the media was the highly conditional nature of the May family’s “gift” to TSU: no Maytown, no land, no endowment. The only money that TSU has received from the May family is $50,000 to conduct a “push poll” intended to promote Maytown to the black community, hungry for any crumbs the power structure might be willing to throw them. Others, of course, see through the ruse, which Rev. Joe Ingle, a white minister of the United Church of Christ, described to the Interdenominational Ministers’ Fellowship as “a bribe.”
Behind the scenes, there is the story of how it took all the pressure the Maytown foes could bring to bear to keep the Planning Comission from voting on the Maytown proposal before the hearing, and before the economic impact report was released. “Sentence first, veredict afterwards,” as the Queen of Hearts remarked. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, but many of those opposing Maytown feel that the Planning Commission is cheerleading the project rather than playing its legally-prescribed neutral role.
The big news (for me) that came out of the hearing was that, although Maytown Center advocates have long trumpeted that they are building their project on only 600 acres and preserving the other 900, 4- 500 of those “preserved” acres will be available for development as “corporate headquarters campuses.” When you subtract TSU’s 250 acres, that leaves only 2-300 acres that will actually be left undisturbed–and Metro might turn that into a golf course. So much for preservation.
The traffic impact study revealed that Tony G’s claim that building one bridge to Maytown would suffice was, to be polite, disingenuous–if I wanted to be rude, I say he lied–two or three would be necessary, and metro or the state would need to widen every major artery in northwest Nashville to accommodate an estimated additional 5,000 vehicles per hour during peak traffic times. While the Mays offered to build a bridge or two, they are not talking about paying for any of that. This will be very expensive, not to mention destructive of neighborhoods, and it will not be popular, although those factors rarely seem to bother TDOT–but that’s another story.
Back to the hearing.
Bell’s Bend preservation advocates allowed Maytown Center supporters to speak first in the public comment portion of the hearing. I was unaware of that strategic choice, so I found it unnerving to have person after person come up to the microphone and recite the litany of how the project would provide good paying jobs, development, and growth. None of these people seemed awake to the real condition the country is in. There is not going to be a recovery. We have maxxed out our personal and national credit cards, used up all the raw materials, and monetized everything there is to monetize. Yet, because we have known nothing but expansion all our lives, too many believe that there is some magic way to restart the bubble economy, and think of the comforting, deluded dream we have been living in since the last big depression as if it were reality. It is not.
The economic report came out a week after the hearing, and it was a whitewash. It merely confirmed that, if everything happened the way Tony G. says he thinks it will, Maytown will work. Happy thoughts and pixie dust, anyone?
Today, my wife came home from a yard sale and told me she had met a guy who has been closely involved with the May family. He told her that Jack May, the brother who is pushing Maytown Center, is a completely unprincipled, ruthless guy who will do or say anything to get his way–and get richer. Such a testimonial re-enforces Maytown Center opponents’ concerns that the “sustainability” promises around Maytown will be abandoned once the project goes through. Jack May has the do-re-mi to buy and sell Metro government, and that is probably what he is working on–all behind the scenes and under the table, of course. Jack May cannot be ignorant of the state of our economy. As I have said before, I think the secret agenda at Maytown is a kind of gated downtown for the uber-rich. Maytown is not just a struggle over land use–it’s a battle in the class war.
Maytown Center opponents, like advocates of universal single-payer health care, are in the uncomfortable position of having the facts on their side but the politics against them. We will find out at the next Planning Commission meeting, at 4 PM on June 25 at the Metro Southeast Building, whether the Planning Commission is honest enough, and awake enough, to resist the pressure of big money and do the right thing.
music: Incredible String Band, “Sleepers Awaken“