Tomorrow the Metro Council will vote on the funding package for the Music City Center project, and most analysis suggests that the package will pass with little problem. While the fat lady hasn’t sung yet and there is always a chance that something could change, the political writing seems on the wall and then we have to determine how we will move forward.
The ultimate question that we have debated is whether the benefit of building the MCC is worth the risk. For the supporters of the project this has seemed like a silly question while those of us who have questioned the project fear that we are over extending ourselves and that we may find ourselves in a difficult position as a city in the future. The rhetoric has been heated on both sides of the debate, and the degree of political spin has been immense. In the end it appears that the proponents have convinced enough members on the council that the benefits outweigh the risks to pass the project, and tomorrow we will likely see great celebration by some and concern by others.
Yes, tomorrow ends the current phase, but unfortunately some of the concerns and unanswered questions won’t be answered tomorrow night with the passage of the funding package, and if we are going to address these concerns we are going to have to put aside the political battles of the past in order to arrive at creative solutions for the future.
You see, this year we will have to engage in a conversation on the types of services that a city needs to provide its citizens, both poor and rich, and how we will pay for those services. Do we as a city believe that access to essential health care is a right for all regardless of the ability to pay, and will we be willing to sacrifice so that others may live? Will we recognize that the plight of the homeless (a group that will likely be affected by the MCC project) is as much about access to mental health services as it is a character flaw and what is needed is fewer low rent motels and more case workers? Will we quit complaining about our schools and recognize that the only thing that will fix them is a city that values public education rather than trying to get along with the bare minimum for educating those who can’t afford a luxury private school education? Will we be willing to deal with the decline of some areas of town due to sprawl into other communities and policies that support gentrification of others?
Okay, it looks like we’re going to have a new convention center. It may or may not expand the tax base — I pray that the dreams of the proponents are fulfilled and that it exceeds expectations. But that is a long time down the road. The problems we face are still before us, and it’s time to put the brickbats down and get this thing behind us so that we can focus on something other than building a big box.
We have serious things to talk about — life or death things. And they can’t wait until 2017.
This is done, and life goes on. Let’s get on with it.