Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nashville's growth is inevitable, so let's embrace it

By Yuri Cunza

Returning from a recent visit to Chicago, I could not help noticing the size difference and contrasting quietness that camouflages Nashville so well.

Indeed, it is nothing like Chicago but, then again, it is not anything like it was when I first moved here about 11 years ago.

Why is it then that the most foreseeable future reads like we are to have a problem managing our population growth? (And, for all practical purposes, any growth.) And no, it is not the outgoing mayor's recurrent reference to Nashville as the "hottest destination to relocate" that has found its way into multiple self-repeating Craigslist postings, or word of mouth in espanol that is driving the interest of "coyotes" who have now added Nashville to their extended service route.

It could then be that, in fact, Nashville is growing because of the influx of a diverse crowd of people who believe in the opportunity that a place like this presents. It sounds very much like the same reason why the Europeans populated America so quickly.

Growth is inevitable and — as my mother did when I was a kid, buying me clothes a little bigger for my size just in case I happen to defy family genes and grow out of character for my ethnic heritage — we, too, need to understand that it is about protecting our economy.

Our imminent future involves rapid economic growth and development directly associated with new populations. Just drive around, be proud of those new beautiful structures; wish hard that you may, upon finishing school, see the city from your new job's office with a view.
Two out of three people I ask tell me they are not from Nashville. And if anyone is guessing (or concerned), none of those I am referring to is a Hispanic. In that case, three out of three Hispanics I ask, is not from here, either.At least I do not need Sheriff Daron Hall's 287(g) program to figure that out.
The 7 percent growth pattern estimated by the Census Bureau will amount to more than 45,000 Latinos in Davidson County alone in 2008. I was not counted in the first Census 2000 because I was not home, so this estimated projection is likely to be an undercount. I think we all knew that.

But really, why are we so afraid of growth? If we put that aside, we can begin addressing how we can best manage this most-needed single stage of development that can take us all to the next level.
This is not an overnight happening; we have had a taste for denial for too long. As we celebrate our new buildings that will give an added lifestyle dimension to a present and future generation, as we all agree that more is better and better is closely related to quality, we can also begin developing a taste for appreciating diversity.

I don't think all are clear about who belongs. And here is why a wake-up call is due. We cannot expect growth if we are not welcoming, when we are not willing to go the extra mile to be a good neighbor and embrace the landscape changes that no one doubts we all want for future populations that might be composed in part by our own children.
Managing growth is planning for the future — a future that can be the result of a common vision for the best interest of all. Foreseeing the challenges is the least I expect from city leaders in charge or public offices they plan to occupy for years. Management is inclusive. No exceptions.
And vision is necessary to create the best place to live, work and visit. A place where every one of us count — a native Nashvillian or a relocated company headquarters' multimillion-dollar operation, we are all part of the equation.

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