Friday, October 28, 2005

Nashville Mayor Wraps Up His Legacy In Two Terms

From Nashville Tennessean:

Mayor Bill Purcell set about the business of establishing his legacy yesterday, telling his cabinet to use the next 22 months to "get 'er done" on sidewalks, courthouse renovations and the other major projects of his administration.

Twenty-two months, the time he has left as mayor of Nashville, is plenty for them not only to finish all those projects but to cut the ribbons, Purcell told city department heads and mayoral aides at a lunchtime huddle with them yesterday.

It was the mayor's first meeting with his top city officials since announcing Saturday that he would not seek a third term. That move unlocks the floodgates for 2007's mayoral race, removing an incumbent who pulled down 84% of the vote in his last race.

Purcell, a lawyer by trade, has not said what he will do after his term is up but said he has ruled out running for governor or U.S. Senate next year. He turns 52 today and has led Nashville since 1999.

"I have given no thought to what I would do after" the mayoral term is up, Purcell told the group yesterday. Purcell told his department heads yesterday that even as the contest for City Hall hits a fever pitch in the coming months, they should maintain independence from all the political noise and focus their energies on running the city.

In a well-received reference to comedian Larry the Cable Guy, Purcell told his key staff they could "get 'er done," though he also told them it wouldn't be a cakewalk.

"For us to get it done in 22 months is going to require the same level of sustained focus, and in some cases a little more," Purcell said.

In round-robin fashion, his department heads committed to opening Public Square near the historic courthouse downtown, connecting east Nashville to Pennington Bend by a pedestrian bridge and building a new Head Start facility in south Nashville, as well as numerous other projects:

Public Works head Billy Lynch said his department would make all sidewalk ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as required by a 2000 Justice Department suit against the city. Based on the suit, the deadline for completion is the end of this year, a Public Works spokeswoman said in a later interview. After that's worked out, Lynch told Purcell, more sidewalks. Purcell has made neighborhood issues like sidewalks the hallmark of his time as mayor. He set up an Office of Neighborhoods, and that focus was apparent yesterday as numerous department heads talked about how their staff would work harder at the grass-roots level over the next two years. The new Head Start facility, on Cotton Lane, will be the first built from the ground up by the city, Purcell said, after a long history of that program inheriting the left-over physical plants that other city agencies did not want or could no longer use.

The Codes Department will put an online system in place that will allow people to look up derelict properties on the Web and find out how many inspections the city has made there and whether new permits are pending on the land, director Terry Cobb said. That will come online in the next few months, Cobb said in a later interview. "What we're trying to develop is a system where the information and the process is completely transparent," he said.

Public Works plans to expand recycling convenience centers to the outer ring of the county. Currently those centers, which are equipped for furniture, refrigerator, and other large-item drop-off, are only in the inner part of the city, or the Urban Services District.

The renovation of Church Street will be finished in November, said Lynch.

Parks Director Roy Wilson said his department would finish connecting Shelby Bottoms to Two Rivers Park via a pedestrian bridge, build nature/visitors centers at three parks and Fort Negley and open a Donelson soccer complex.

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