If Mayor Karl Dean has learned anything during his first 15 months on the job it should be that the CEO of the city cannot please everyone.
Dean has come under a hail of rather faceless criticism of late for his decision to work outside the prescribed status quo in Metro government when it comes to some very crucial topics. He has been getting some pushback for the interest he has shown in the school system — part of the promise he made as a candidate to be Nashville’s “education mayor.”
Specifically, Dean has been criticized by some in the realm of public education for his decisions to move ahead on efforts like consolidating public and school library systems.
Dean helped raise private dollars to fund a national search for a new director of schools and then offered a fairly strong opinion that the search should continue and an interim be named. All of this took place amid the ongoing notion Dean might take over the school system as a steward should it continue to fail under federal guidelines.
Now, Dean is being critiqued privately by Metro Council members and members of volunteer boards for his efforts to advance the Metro Parks system outside the accepted status quo that exists within Metro government.
Dean has a handful of different committees looking at potential changes in the parks system, including stretching Metro’s dollars further using public-private partnerships to add more pocket parks in areas using small spaces and already available land.
This and efforts to reconsider the plan for Centennial Park runs somewhat outside the master plan for the city parks system established under Dean’s predecessor, Bill Purcell. It is also a process that is taking place outside the auspices of the Metro Parks Board.
Right now, doing things “because that is the way they have always been done” is not the right answer for much of anything in Metro government or Nashville’s civic life. Dean inherited a failing school system, massive deals on the table like a new lease for the NHL’s Predators and a looming convention center project. All this comes during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.
Certainly, it would be better for Dean and the School Board to be more on the same page about hiring a director — working collaboratively rather than at odds.
Yes, it would be nice if longtime volunteers on the Parks Board and Council members felt more like their opinions were being counted and heard.
At the same time, there are quite a few pressing matters in Davidson County that have been ignored or slow-walked for far too long. Public education is at the top of the list. There is also a need for green, public spaces in a city that aspires to be a place where people can live, work and play.
Given the challenges and opportunities Nashville is presently facing, having a mayor willing to ruffle a few feathers is what is needed. We encourage Dean to keep challenging the status quo in Metro government.