NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was handed a big defeat Tuesday night as council members put the brakes on three major capital projects. Such a dismissal in one night has never happened during Dean's tenure and political experts say the common problem was a lack of buy-in from the public.
“It was kind of like a huge slap in the face,” resident Lorinda Hale said about Mayor Dean’s April announcement about plans to move the jail to an existing facility in her neighborhood. “They had no intention of having a public hearing.”
The announcement almost sounded like a done deal, but not if Hale had anything to do with it.
“I set up, with my daughter in all honesty, a Facebook page,” she said. “We came up with a name for ourselves, Southeast Nashville United.”
It didn't take long before hundreds of residents were on board and t-shirts were made.
“If it's on a t-shirt it's real,” Hale added.
Their t-shirts flooded Metro Council meetings. They were joined by residents from Jefferson Street who opposed the plan to move Metro's Police headquarters to their neighborhood.
“We felt like it was David versus Goliath but I also knew that council members do respond if given enough pressure.”
Their strategy worked.
“I've never seen three projects basically scuttled in one night in one budget,” NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan said. He’s been covering Metro Council for forty years.
Plans for a new jail and Metro Police headquarters are now on hold. So is a proposal to construct a $100 million flood wall in downtown Nashville.
“It's a little bit like what your mother said,” Nolan explained. “Haste makes waste, follow the process and do your homework.”
Metro Council had to approve the Mayor's budget by June 15th.
“Everybody started feeling pressed in the council, rushed because this is the end of the (Mayor Dean’s) term and everybody wanted to get it done,” Nolan added.
Rushed or not residents sent a clear message to their leaders.
“All we ever asked for, all we wanted was to be a part of the process,” Hale said. “To try to shove something down the throats of any community is wrong.”
She also issued a warning about what would happen if the community is left out of key decisions.
“Nashville will no longer be the ‘It’ city,” she said referring to a recent national designation, “It’ll be the ‘was’ city.”
The new Mayor and the next council can add the projects back in before the next budget cycle next year.
To do that would require a two-thirds majority, which will be hard to come by.