Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore has made it clear that she thinks Nashville’s new bus rapid transit route should include stops that service North Nashville.
But if that doesn’t happen, Gilmore has another idea to help her constituents benefit from the $136 million BRT plan. She wants low-income citizens and other marginalized populations from North Nashville to be hired to work on the street improvements and other construction aspects of the BRT.
Gilmore and other North Nashville community activists unveiled the plan, which they referred to as a “community benefits agreement” at a political forum on Monday night.
“We want to see something that’s an economic driver in our area as well,” Gilmore told The City Paper. “Whether it’s employing people through this community benefit agreement or whether it’s putting a [BRT] stop over there, it’s about revitalizing our area. That’s what we are expecting at this point, and it’s not negotiable.”
Specifically, the agreement would require construction companies to hire a set percentage of employees from low-income zip codes and another percentage of employees with employment barriers like people who are homeless, single parents, veterans and ex-offenders.
“We are pro-transit upgrades. We are in favor of the BRT but we want it to be equitable,” said Tonya Sherrell, a community activist. “We want to see people who have not had opportunities in the past ... to participate in these large scale projects [and] to benefit from this.”
Gilmore said she hopes to meet with Mayor Karl Dean about the would-be agreement in the coming weeks. Eventually, she wants to introduce legislation that would legally require city-contracted companies to comply by certain workforce requirements.
Sekou Franklin, a political science professor at MTSU, also backs the plan. He said an ideal community benefits agreement comes along with a legally binding community workforce agreement and “wraparound services” that includes job skills training.
The BRT is currently scheduled to open in late 2015 along on East-West corridor that would run from Five Points in East Nashville to West End. However, several community members have suggested that the route may be better suited for Charlotte Avenue.