Though his opponents are three no-name candidates, Mayor Karl Dean is going through all the campaign rituals, holding in blistering heat Saturday his first publicized rally to kick off what seems to be his re-election theme: “A City Rising.”
“I am happy to report to you today that Nashville is a city that is rising,” Dean told a crowd of approximately 175 spectators outside LP Field, a pack consisting largely of courthouse types and district council candidates. “It is a city whose best days are still ahead of us.”
After country singer and onetime American Idol contestant Danny Gokey ripped through an acoustic set, former Gov. Phil Bredesen stumped for the man who holds an office he once held.
Bredesen, who elevated Nashville to professional sports city status during his time as mayor, said he appreciates Dean’s ability to — as he described it — not consider politics when making decisions.
“You have to admire someone who steps up and does the job they’re hired to do, which is to consider the issues, think what’s best for the city, make a call, and move on,” Bredesen said.
“I can’t wait to see the new things that will be done in his second term,” he added.
But the items on the agenda-list are unclear two months before Dean will almost certainly be re-elected to another four-year term. Election Day is Aug. 4. Dean’s administration has commissioned a study to analyze locations for a potential new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium. There have also been discussions about a new amphitheatre at the 11-acre former thermal plant site. Nonetheless, Dean has yet to put forceful political clout behind these or any other future projects, leaving the course of his next term seem uncertain.
On Saturday, Dean briefly mentioned “mass transit” as one of the challenges “on our plate going forward that we need to make real steps on.” Metro has tapped New York City-based Parsons Brinckerhoff (and the company's Nashville office) to study transit option for the Broadway-West End corridor, which could include light rail or a streetcar. Movement on the transit end depends largely on finding a dedicated funding source.
“As a city, we need to begin the process of actually implementing mass transit solutions,” Dean said. “We need to continue to move ahead there.”
For the most part Saturday, Dean stuck to his script of touting “public education, public safety and economic development,” a message identical to the one he campaigned on four years ago.
As achievements, Dean referenced the construction of the $585 million Music City Center, and its adjoining Omni hotel; studies he says show six straight years of crime reduction; “fully funding” Metro schools; improved high school graduation rates; and not raising property taxes during his first term.
“We are a city on the rise,” Dean said.
But there are flip sides to some of those items. Though Dean is funding education to the level requested by the school board, 334 teaching positions have been axed because of vanishing federal stimulus dollars. The district’s graduation rate has jumped to 82 percent, but educators are expecting it to decline next year because of changing academic standards. And though Dean has stuck to his pledge of not raising property taxes, some wonder how long that trend can last.
Councilman Michael Craddock bowed out of the mayor’s race last week, leaving Dean with three long-shot opponents. With a stack of campaign cash totaling $525,000, as of the most recent filing deadline, Dean figures to hit the television airwaves in the weeks ahead in hopes of reminding people why they should care about an uncontested race.