There is something magical and innocent about our quaint little piece of Americana. Visitors from all over the world agree it is a virtually unknown Shangri-La. Celebrities, creatives and families alike are moving here from the four corners of the globe to escape “the real world.” A friend visiting from Toronto who regularly traverses the planet on business told me last week, there are very few, if any, places like Franklin, TN. I agree. I live here. I love it.
But, there is something seriously amiss in this “perfect” little historic mecca. A much older and wiser new neighbor and resident of Franklin mentioned at a recent porch dinner that misuse of taxpayer money and government ineptness is our fault. Why? He says, “Because we do nothing.” We sit idly by and let whatever happens happen.
A resident who recently moved to Franklin from Michigan, another family from Greenwich, CT who just purchased a historic home downtown, and many other of my acquaintances are asking the same troubling and probing questions.
1. What is that monstrous building on Columbia Ave?
2. How much did it cost?
3. Why are there police EVERYWHERE?
4. Is crime really that bad?
5. Why are there not more local tourists in downtown?
1. That monstrous building is a Police Headquarters for Franklin, a city which has only 60,000 residents. It is bigger than the Memphis Police HQ, where there are 670,100 residents. Memphis, not Franklin, is the largest city in the state of Tennessee, the third largest in the Southeastern United States and it also has the sixth worst crime rate in the U.S. compared to Franklin which has one of the lowest in the entire country. Shangri-La?
2. The Police Headquarters cost us $38 MILLION Dollars. 38 MILLION. Shangri-La?
3. In Franklin, a city of 60,000, one cannot drive more than four minutes without seeing a Police car (there must be hundreds of them), a Policeman on a Segway, a Policeman on a BMW motorcycle, Policeman on bicycles, Policeman walking in historic costumes, and oh yeah, an old Policeman in an electric golf cart. One only needs sit on the corner at Starbucks or Sweet CeCe’s for fifteen minutes and watch the Police continually ticket downtown visitors. I suppose you could call the traffic tickets a downtown Franklin “shopping tax.” We should warn all who visit Franklin to go ahead and bring an extra $100. to pay the “tax” they are sure to receive. Shangri-La?
4. Crime is not that bad. Franklin has one of the lowest crime rates in America. And it’s not because of the Police. It’s because of the hard working citizens and creatives who are honest and trustworthy and believe in capitalism and free enterprise. Very few people in Franklin have time to commit crime. They are trying their best to do business in a bad economy. But in Franklin, police and government business is good. It’s very good. See #2. Shangri-La?
5. Locals know about the Franklin Police “shopping tax.” And they are smart enough not to come to Franklin unless they have an extra hundred dollars to help finance the new Police HQ and government officials. A downtown restaurant manager was lamenting about the dismally small number of visitors from surrounding communities. Look around. Most of the visitors in Franklin are from outside Nashville. They have yet to pay the “shopping tax.” But they will. It is inevitable. As a local citizen, it is sad to drive a one mile round trip to Kroger to get milk and return to your driveway with a sigh of relief because you did not receive a traffic citation. And by the way, when did the slogan To Serve and Protect on Police cars digress To Enforce the Law? Shangri-La?
There is a fine line between Shangri-La and a Police State.
I find it chilling, as a law abiding, hard working American citizen, that as I struggle to pay my taxes AND my mortgage during this tough time, a $38 million Police Headquarters that looks like a Saddam Hussein palace appears seemingly without question — when a $16 Million dollar building could have more than taken care of the obvious need for a new headquarters.
I find it chilling, that as we sit in Merridees with our artist mentoring group yesterday morning, we hear the traffic judge and his cronies laughingly joke and ask if any Westhaven (an affluent neighborhood and locally known speed trap) residents were in court this morning, and he disparagingly replies “No, but when Westhaven residents do come in they tend to walk with a certain swagger.” So, beware if you walk with a ‘certain swagger,” and especially if you are Latino, or African-American, and if you are any other creature other than a Southern born and bred Franklin “good ‘ole boy”. Sooner or later, if you visit Franklin, Tennessee, and sooner if you live here, you will be paying homage to the King, I mean, Judge, in his filled to overflowing courtroom.
I find it chilling that suddenly all the Police vehicles now have huge metal “cow catchers”. I suppose this if for the myriad high-speed crime chases. But, unfortunately, the only high speed chase involving Police cars in the ten years I have lived here was witnessing two Police cars chasing each other at over 60 MPH down West Main Street on Hallowe’en as hundreds of little kids screamed and scattered and parents desperately tried to protect their children…from the Police. Emergency vehicles careening high-speed with sirens blaring down Main Street is an hourly occurrence.
I find it chilling that our elected Franklin government officials allow this to happen on their watch. Oh yes, they all blame the previous administration and each other, but any leader with integrity would not allow these things to happen on his or her watch. Period.
And finally, I find it chilling that when the Nashville media was called and asked about an investigative report into the Franklin Police Headquarters – can you say $38 Million…MILLION? Can you say bigger than Memphis? ONLY ONE of the media outlets was courageous or caring enough to do a report. The Tennessean’s Kevin Walters has been the lone voice of reporting. For example:
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By KEVIN WALTERS Staff Writer
FRANKLIN – Posting a $12.3 million proposed budget for 2007, the Police Department will likely have the highest overhead of any Franklin city department for the second consecutive year, thanks to rising costs. For example, Franklin police are planning to spend $59,200 on ammunition alone this year — a whopping increase from the $600 spent last year.
There is a fine line between Shangri-La and a Police State.
A call to action must be issued to Franklin citizens to CHANGE THINGS.
Many people have asked for suggested actions:
- In the elections, VOTE!!
- Vote against EVERY “good ‘ole boy” incumbent government official in this election and subsequent elections. We need a change.
- Make your voice heard. This is no longer a “good ‘ole boy” city. It is a diverse, technologically savvy citizenry.
- Write letters to the editor, inundate the local media and maximize your blogs, social networks and creativity. Make sure your voice is heard!
- Support our local downtown merchants. Free enterprise needs our help in SPITE of the local government.
- Remember to vote. It takes just a few votes to sway the Franklin election. Only 10% of us vote in city elections. Every vote does count.
- Plan to be conspicuously absent from the May 15 Grand Opening of the new Police Headquarters.
- Citizens, this is OUR city. It does NOT belong to the government nor the Police. Last time I checked, this is America.