During the past year or so, I have found myself more and more in conflict with the priorities the current mayoral administration. Honestly, this surprised me a bit, for I had voted for Karl Dean, and had worked closely with Jim Hester and others in the battle against the English Only amendment. And yet, as the weeks and months passed, I found myself at odds over a number of issues – seeing a greater emphasis from the mayor on economic development at the expense of other important priorities for our city. I had been sold on Karl Dean as a somewhat progressive candidate, and yet more and more it seemed like his first priority was and continues to be to meet the needs and goals of the business community, something that isn’t necessarily bad, but often seems to push out the concerns of those of us arguing for social justice, neighborhood concerns, and being (surprisingly enough) more conserving in regard to large development projects. And so I’ve been pretty hard on him, wanting to hold him accountable in an environment which seems more intent on raising him up on a pedestal (just read Gail Kerr’s article this past Sunday).
But in spite of my concerns, there are moments when I have to applaud and support his efforts, and if nothing else Mayor Dean has been a consistent voice of reason in regards to concerns around immigration in Nashville, and in the state of Tennessee. He continued this yesterday in his speech to the Rotary Club in which he took a risk and spoke on the looming morass we likely face coming from the state legislature which wants to turn Tennessee into another Arizona. In words directed toward the legislature, Dead said:
"I’m asking them, as the mayor of Nashville, not to do anything that will put our city and our state at a competitive disadvantage," Dean said in a speech to the Rotary Club of Nashville. "Being a diverse city, a city that is perceived as a friendly, welcoming place, is key to business recruitment. Our hospitality industry and the success of our colleges and universities depend upon it.
"We need to be serious right now about jobs and prosperity and education, and we can’t do that if we tie our hands by creating a global reputation as an unwelcoming, unfriendly state. … It’s about doing what’s right and what’s in the best interest of our city’s economy."
Kudo’s to Mayor Dean for speaking the truth to a group of folks who is pandering to a political base at the expense of our well being and the lives of men and women who have come here to better their lives. He has, again, been willing to stand on the edge of a precipice, taking a position that is far from popular in our state, to acknowledge that the rhetoric which sounds so good has consequences which go far beyond what many are willing to recognize. And for his willingness to take this stance, I have no choice but to say thanks.
Of course, we continue to have differences. Mayor Dean wants to focus on the economic consequences of the policy, whereas I simply see that being hospitable and friendly is the right thing to do (and as a person of faith, the biblically Christian thing to do). For me it is about having a conversation about who we think our city should be, regardless of the economic consequences, but I am willing to recognize that as an idealistic vision which may have to be balanced by practical realities.
In the end, however, this is a place where we can agree and stand together to oppose those voices of xenophobia and fear that want to demonize others so as to gain political power. We will have to disagree in other areas, but this is one area where I am willing to support our Mayor.