Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Assessing the Purcell legacy

The City Paper takes a look at the Purcell years. Unfortunately much of the piece focuses on Internal Service Fees (yes, the phrase is capitalized in the story) in Metro government and how tough that made it for Council members to follow spending. Yawn. Do the presence or absence of Internal Service Fees make or break the greatness of a city?

If one were to talk about Purcell's legacy, why not talk about the growth of the neighborhood focus that he either tapped into or unleashed? The number of neighborhood forums that the mayoral candidates had to endure alone should be evidence that something is different and ought to be analyzed.

What about diversity issues? During Purcell's two terms, Nashville saw an amazing increase in our immigrant population--Latino, Kurdish, North African, etc. Did the city put in place structures to make that transition easier or more difficult?

Why not mention a couple of courageous stands he took in his last years like vetoing the English only ordinance or blocking the law that would have restricted the display of niche newspapers in the name of some vague notion of cleaning up clutter? Purcell ended up being something of a First Amendment Mayor. But to talk about that would mean we would have to focus on the substance of policy instead of the Byzantine world of procedures and processes. Ugh.

Of course, in the GLBT community, the debate continues about his legacy on equality issues. On the one hand he appointed staff and members of commissions (including Human Relations) who were out. To his credit, he also didn't try to hinder then Law Director Karl Dean from issuing the opinion that the Human Relations Commission could investigate charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation (the issue of gender identity was not addressed) without the need for a non-discrimination ordinance. But there are also many in our community who maintain that he offered no leadership when the ordinance was being debated in Council, even though he campaigned and raised money vigorously in our community. And I suspect that we will continue to debate that legacy whether the media decides to mention it or not.

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