Center Stage in Nashville (and Nationwide): Public Discourse about Climate Preparedness

As communities across our nation continue to experience record rainfall and flooding, high tempatures and drought, and other extreme weather patterns associated with climate change, public debate is escalating about how to best prepare for local climate impacts. In Nashville, for example, Mayor Karl Dean has proposed a city-county water bond issue to pay for a pump and flood wall to protect the economic heart of its city. However, critics of the plan argue that the $100 million would be better spent protecting lives first — by buying and demolishing homes in flood-prone areas — before protecting property and economic interests.

Similar discourse and debate is happening around the nation, with similarly tough questions about local proposals and climate planning priorities. Is it being done equitably? Are developers rebuilding in areas likely to flood again? Will the Army Corps of Engineers come through to help with flood protection systems for our cities? How much money should be invested in climate preparedness? In New York, billions are being spent, after having experienced the physically and economically devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. And last week’s flooding in Houston has sparked urgent public discourse about the adequacy of emergency preparedness there, with calls to build a (very expensive) coastal barrier system to protect Galveston Bay.

It is clear that the local Impacts of extreme weather events are uniting communities to work together to plan for emergency preparedness and effective climate solutions. Just as heated debates and tough decisions are inevitable, so are the sense of collective spirit and neighborliness in addressing these local challenges and vulnerabilities. For tools and resources to help engage your communities in constructive civic discourse about local climate solutions, please visit Path to Positive

Nashville debates how to prevent another devastating flood

By Richard Fausset / The New York Times / May 30, 2015

NASHVILLE — As Texas reels from catastrophic flooding, this booming city on the Cumberland River is contemplating what to do to protect itself in the wake of its own disaster from five years ago, the May 2010 flood that killed 10 people and damaged or destroyed 11,000 properties.

But, at a time when scientists say climate change is producing more extreme weather and forcing cities around the world to consider how best to safeguard flood-prone areas, Nashville is finding the sense of unity it had during the disaster is not as easy to summon up again.

Instead, Mayor Karl Dean’s ambitious plan to build a $100 million flood wall and pumping system meant to protect the heart of downtown, including a $623 million convention hall that opened three years after the deluge, is facing significant opposition here. Politicians running for his job and others say the plan would not do enough to protect less high-powered parts of the city.

“I’m a huge fan of Karl Dean,” said Bill Freeman, a real estate developer and one of the seven candidates vying to replace Mr. Dean, who is barred by term limits from seeking a third four-year term in an August election. “But we’ve got other neighborhoods that were completely devastated by the flood.”

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