Elected officials getting it right

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Elected officials have an obligation to act in the best interests of their constituents and the community as whole. This means that they should be knowledgeable on issues affecting the community. Every now and then you find an elected official who changes their original position on an issue due to misinformation, pressure from outside forces, or not fully being aware of the dynamics truly involved at the time they took their original position.

The public as a whole feels that public servants should be stern and steadfast with the choices they support based on their knowledge of the subject matter, but elected officials can be misled and denied pertinent information, keeping them from making the right decisions involving the community. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s worth noting that sometimes an official feels so morally strong about an issue they will weather the verbal or written condemnation of those feeling deceived.

A change in an elected official’s taken position can come about from pressure from the community to act in their best interests, relooking at the situation when given additional information, or submitting to one’s own moral compass. It should never be wrong for someone to change their position when they truly feel it is valid.

Those opposed to the change may accuse the elected official of ‘flip-flopping.’ Many would disagree with that assumption, because flip-flopping means continuously wavering, going back and forth. This is not the case when someone changes their position and stays firm and committed to the change they made. In fact, I’ll wager that many constituents are leery of their elected officials’ unwillingness to bend or change positions regardless—especially when they know they are on the wrong side of what is right for the community.

Many native North Nashvillians want it to be known that they support the stance City Councilwoman Erica Gilmore took in changing her position on the Police Office Headquarters being put on Jefferson Street to opposing the plan. There are opposing forces trying to discredit her ability to make crucial decisions by alluding to Gilmore as a flip-flopper.

The truth is that Gilmore was approached by several local grassroots community leaders, students, and other service committees asking her to rethink her position given additional information. She was asked to respect the wishes of those in the surrounding community involved who felt their wishes and voices were being ignored. Blacks living on Jefferson St. or in North Nashville saw the headquarters as bringing about more police harassment; additional traffic; and speeding up gentrification, thereby driving indigenous residents out. Most community leaders felt that the headquarters was more about outside investors and developers than those in the community.

Some felt locating the police headquarters on Jefferson Street was being pushed on them. They felt pressured by the White population in Germantown, who were mostly interested in feeling safer in a predominantly Black North Nashville. No doubt, it would have made property values go up. But does money always have to trump people? While it is still slowly happening, the process was slowed down.

We should be proud to have elected officials who are not afraid to change their views when given full and correct information in order to support the voices of those they were elected to serve. In fact, one of the biggest problems we have as a community, city, state, or country is the inability of most politicians to alter their stances—even when it acts against the best interests of all involved. Whether you support Erica Gilmore or not, she changed her position honestly. She felt she was acting in the best interests of the indigenous people of North Nashville. For that the people of North Nashville should thank her, and urge her to keep standing up for the community!