VOL. 131 | NO. 128 | Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Dean: Cities Need Transit Solutions for Growth
By Bill Dries
During a busy day in Memphis last week, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean stopped at City Hall to talk with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland about a long-range city plan Strickland announced the following day.
The still-forming plan represents a move by Strickland to go beyond the “brilliant at the basics” strategy he’s put in place during his first six months in office.
Dean was among the featured speakers at the Mid-South Greenprint Summit last week and he is considering a run for Tennessee governor in 2018.
After eight years as mayor of Nashville that began with the national economic downturn, the capitol city is booming, so he has a perspective on how the nature of Nashville’s success can apply to other cities.
“What happened in the last five or six years is people around the country and the world have recognized Nashville is a unique place,” Dean said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program Behind The Headlines. “There’s a sense that it is a good place to live. It’s a desirable place to be. That… comes from paying attention to public safety and economic development.”
Behind The Headlines, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Dean’s biggest regret as mayor is the failure of his $175 million bus rapid transit project called the Amp that became controversial in Nashville and in the Tennessee Legislature through which state funding for it would have flowed.
“People are at a point where we need to have transit solutions,” Dean said of Nashville. “I think we got the discussion going … we put a lot of money into buses. We put a lot of money into improving transit, but I think for a city like Nashville, you have to invest in that infrastructure.”
Unlike Memphis, the population of Nashville is growing, which he says makes a move to improve mass transit there essential.
But like Nashville, some of the housing and mixed-use development in Memphis comes with a goal of increasing density in parts of the city as there is a shift in the existing population.
“Transit has an enormous impact on housing,” Dean said. “One of the things that’s happening in American cities is there are more and more people who want to live near the core of the city, particularly young people. … What you’ll see as a result of that is in the core of the city, prices will go up for housing. And if you don’t have adequate transit to get people to areas where the housing is cheaper, then you’re going to have even greater housing problems.”
Asked about a political clash between urban and rural in the Tennessee Legislature, Dean was diplomatic.
“I think having a rural-urban divide – I think it exists in the legislature – but I think that’s like going back to the 1920s,” he said. “The demographics of the state are changing. The urban areas are changing. The suburban areas are really the ones that are feeling this transit issue and road issue more than anyone else.”
Another possible contender in the 2018 governor’s race, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke had a much blunter view of the urban-rural chasm when he was in Memphis earlier this month.
Speaking at Memphis Magazine’s “Summons to Memphis” luncheon on June 2, Berke, a former Democratic state senator, said the Legislature is “anti-city.”
“What I tell my former colleagues is take the big four (cities) out of Tennessee and tell me what you have left,” Berke said. “The truth is that demographic patterns are clear. People are going into cities. That’s where they want to live. … They want that different lifestyle.
“We’re in danger of earning a poor reputation if we don’t invest in the places that are driving the most growth and prosperity for our state,” Berke added.