ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Skip Malone. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Please excuse the above title, but I’m writing in response to your article, Nashville whipping Birmingham’s butt.
I’ve lived in Nashville since 1978, but I grew up in Birmingham and still consider Birmingham my home.
I only want the best for my hometown and thought I could add some insight since I’ve lived in both cities.
I’m aware of Birmingham’s recent renaissance, but Nashville has a huge advantage over Birmingham.
Nashville has a metropolitan government
Nashville is fortunate to have a countywide metropolitan government (metro) which was voted in during 1962 and became effective the following year. Prior to this time, there were Nashville City, Davidson County, and various municipal governments. This conversion to metropolitan governance was not without extensive controversy and discord. And the vote for metro government was not a landslide. But in hindsight, most Nashville citizens see the benefits of metropolitan government as far outweighing the disadvantages.
Smaller Nashville communities have been allowed to maintain their autonomy
As a part of Nashville’s Metro Government, four communities agreed to come under the Metro umbrella, but maintain their autonomy. Today, these communities, Belle Meade, Oak Hill, Hendersonville, and Goodlettsville, operate their own police, fire, and civil services while still part of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County government. Otherwise, like in most cities, there would certainly be many bedroom communities such as Donelson, Hermitage, Antioch, Bellevue, among others, and likely there would often be disunity, discord, and conflict between each other and Nashville and Davidson County. This phenomenon is common and can be highly destructive to the urban core.
Metropolitan government can be different in every city
Metropolitan government can take on many different forms, and one form that may be right for one urban area may not necessarily be best suited for another. The various communities in a prospective metro area would need to cooperate with each other and come together in discussion and dialogue to examine which plan may be in the best interest of the community.
The portion of Nashville’s Metropolitan plan that perhaps could have been done differently would be public schools. In our affluent areas, most students are either homeschooled or attend private schools such as Montgomery Bell Academy, Harpeth Hall, University School, and Battleground Academy. It might have been more prudent to leave the schools out of the consolidation as they did in Indianapolis.
A sense of togetherness
Likely the biggest positive of a unified metropolitan government has been touched on in a previous paragraph–the often volatile conflict between municipalities is practically eliminated. There is NO fighting and bickering between Nashville and say Hermitage or Madison because there is no such thing as a Hermitage government or Madison government. There is a sense of togetherness and ‘what’s better for the city as a ‘whole.’ Additionally, much duplicity and confusion is avoided.
Another area of interest is in the area of public transportation. Our Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A.) can provide bus and access ride services anywhere in Metro where the loads would uphold bus routes or where there is a need for access ride van service. M.T.A. receives funding from both Metro government and federal sources. However, due to funding requirements, M.T.A. cannot provide service to areas outside of Metro. One exception to this has been because of a special arrangement with three towns to the southeast of Nashville–Murfreesboro, Smyrna, and La Vergne in Rutherford County where M.T.A. can provide limited service. For commuter service to other cities in the area, the Regional Transportation Authority (R.T.A.) works in conjunction with the M.T.A. in providing parlor car style commuter service to cities such as Franklin, Spring Hill, Dickson, Springfield, and Clarksville, and operates a rail service (Music City Star) along an easterly route to Lebanon.
Every city would benefit from metro government if implemented properly
Every city would benefit from a metropolitan form of government, and especially one that has been carefully and thoughtfully planned, researched, and studied. Additionally, as much as possible, municipalities should be included in the dialogue and planning with sensitivity to the needs of each. Each government involved must be willing to negotiate and allow for give as well as take. All must be committed to working together as a team for the betterment of the metropolitan area and its residents.
Best of wishes, Birmingham, on your renaissance! I wish you the best.
Skip Malone grew up in the Birmingham area in what is now Hoover. Although living in Atlanta and then Nashville for many years, Birmingham is where he still considers home. Skip is retired from a major U.S. airline with 28 years of service.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, leads business development for the Small Business Division of the Intermark Group, and is co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).