Best Metro Council Member: Brenda Gilmore There are a number of quietly capable council members worthy of this honorDavid Briley (whom we honored with this pick last year), Amanda McClendon and Jim Shulman, among several others. But I’m partial to my District 1 legislator, Brenda Gilmore, who managed to avoid any opposition in this summer’s election despite having to represent the interests of very different constituencies in a district blending middle-class black neighborhoods with, well, white country folk. It may well be the weirdest, most culturally incongruent district in all of Davidson County. We’re not saying there haven’t been District 1 squabbles, but to avoid an election challenge under such diverse circumstances means only one thing: Gilmore, now beginning her second four-year term, has generally offered evenhanded, thoughtful leadership to this part of the city. Responsive, professional and accessible, she’s a model member.
Liz Murray Garrigan
Best State Lawmaker from Nashville: Rob Briley Perhaps the almost universal media fawning over this 36-year-old state lawmaker from East Nashville can be explained in part by generational bias. The press corps is by and large young (at heart, anyway) and inclined to think like him. But there’s more to it than that. Briley is also well-educated, articulate and, at times, delightfully sarcastic. He is the majority floor leader for the state House, which is one of those titles whose specific meaning is less important than its general one: Briley’s a young dog in a leadership role typically reserved for older, more tenured (and crankier) members. He offered some difficult leadership last year when he advocated for the passage of a nearly $1 billion state tax hike. Without it, Gov. Phil Bredesen would almost certainly have had to propose a similar measure when he took office in January. Briley is the younger of the so-called Briley Boys. His brother David was just elected countywide for a second term as an Metro Council member.
Liz Murray Garrigan
Best Public Servants Without Office: Leo Waters and Chris Ferrell Because of terms limits, both Ferrell and Waters got bounced out of the Metro Council, where they held at-large positions. The liberal Ferrell recently formed a political action committee to help other like-minded progressives in local races. Waters, who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in the tail end of his council term, is likely to remain active both in politics and various nonprofit endeavors. Both are honest, smart and well-meaning. It’s tough to see ’em on the sideline.
Best Politician in Tennessee Who’s Got the Big Mo: Marsha Blackburn Marsha Blackburn is here; she is there; she is everywhere. Brandishing the conservative sword, she launches jeremiads against bloated federal bureaucracies and promises tax relief around every corner. In her bid for congressional office last year, she whipped up on a crowded field of men in dark suits. Prediction: Marsha defeats another crowded field of men in dark suits for the U.S. Senate race in 2006. That’s when Bill Frist retires to run for president.
Best Community Role Model: Elizabeth Jacobs My wife calls her the “mother of social services in Nashville,” and there’s no arguing the point. At 96, Elizabeth Jacobs has seen and done it allfrom midwifing the birth of the United Way and Metro Social Services to nurturing generations of community leaders and civil servants, to being an outspoken conscience among people of privilege (who too often mistake their charitable activities for social change).
Best Piece of Legislation: Gov. Bredesen’s Budget Bill Sometimes the answer to the most divisive, complicated, enduring question is hiding in plain sight. When Phil Bredesen was running for governor last year, amid nasty, wearing debates over a possible income tax, he swore that he could manage the state’s fiscal calamity, that he could steer clear of the tumultuous income tax question, and that he could balance the budget. Lawmakers, journalists and others laughed and all but called him a liar. (Actually, um, I think I did that. Sorry Phil.) It helped that, before he was elected, the state legislature passed a $1 billion tax increase, without which Bredesen would have had serious problems. Even still, the former Nashville mayor took office and gave a speech about a “third” wayno income tax, no draconian budgetsomething altogether alternative. In the end, he got it done, and with relatively little discord. Some argued with pieces of his balanced budget plan (me again), but on the whole there was very little to debate. It was a masterstroke, the likes of which somebody should have thought of long ago.
Liz Murray Garrigan
Best Local CEO: John Ferguson, Corrections Corp. of America John Ferguson speaks softly, but he wields a wicked red pen. In the depths of its misery, some were predicting a horrible flameout for CCA after an ill-advised and complicated real estate-asset spin-off. But the company that pioneered the business of privately operated jails and prisons has rebounded beautifully under Ferguson’s stewardship. After all, he came to the post as a veteran administrator experienced in the ways of crisis management: He was Don Sundquist’s finance director.
Best City Father: Nelson Andrews A formative member of Watauga, the secret society of men who wielded immense power in Nashville from the ’60s to early ’80s, Andrews continues in his dogged efforts to improve the city in which we live. A markedly Western man, Andrews nonetheless cuts a large swath through all racial and ethnic communities here, as evidenced by his recent work to create a forum for people of different races to communicate with one another. Listing his board memberships would require additional space on the hard drive, but suffice it to say that where there’s activity in the city, Andrews has been there at some point in his life.
Best Place to See Nashville: the Deck of the Shelby Bridge You can catch fabulous views of the Cumberland River and the city skyline from here. The night lighting of the renovated pedestrian/bike bridge makes this historic feat of engineering Nashville’s newest public art work. It’s also the perfect place to stroll off the calories after downtown dining.
Best Public Resource: Downtown Public Library By now, Nashville Public Library’s stunning flagship is a familiar part of the city. The main library is more than a pretty space, however. More than 900 magazines and 80 newspapers can be found on the periodical floor, which also houses back issues. Of course, the library is a great place to check out all sorts of CDs, DVDs and videosfrom classic series to Hollywood blockbusters. But did you know the library brings in extra copies of popular new releases to meet patron demand? According to Seth Alexander, the library’s marketing and publicity coordinator, the library rents extra copies of things like new Harry Potter books and videos, returning them once demand dies down. While the main library is the showcase, the entire system merits trumpeting. Take the upgraded online catalog, which now offers reviews, excerpts and images of selected items, along with the option to gather materials into a virtual book cart. Alexander says this last feature allows patrons to reserve a number of items without having to re-enter their card number for each one. While the Nashville library system fell short of its 2002 goal of 4 million checkouts, it was still a record-breaking year. (Alexander figures they missed their target by just one day.) Now that the branches are open on Fridays, he expects to “blow it out of the water” next year.MiChelle Jones
Best Place to go Postal: Broadway Post Office Here you’ll find a great collection of commemorative stamps for sale, photomurals of the old post office under construction and a sleek interior designupdated Federal Decoby Tuck-Hinton Architects, the same team that did the Frist Center upstairs. It’s a great place to go to take care of your postal affairs and get a dose of culture in one shot.
Best Place to Escape the Heat: Percy Warner Park Is it really 20 degrees cooler under the trees of Percy Warner than it is outside the park? Or is that merely a welcomed misconception? Either way, retreating to the park on a hot summer day makes a pleasant respite from the heat. If you exit your car for only a few minutes to take in the view from the scenic overlook, it’s worth the trip. Gazing out over the manicured, terraced lawn of the park’s entrance, Belle Meade Boulevard and the distant hills have an instant calming and cooling effect on humidity-weary Nashvillians.
Best Expanding Public Space: Shelby Bottoms Nashville’s youngest nature park continues to snake further and further into the wild bottomlands along the Cumberland River. And the park’s well-planned, deliberate expansion continues to thrill those who walk, run, bike and blade along its combination of paved and unpaved paths. At dawn, the paths provide a quiet sanctuary, teeming with mist, rabbits and a dazzling multitude of birds. By mid-morning, it’s abuzz with the activity of everyone from long-distance fitness fanatics to binocular-raising bird-watching clubsall enjoying the chance to escape motors and electricity to revitalize themselves in surroundings that remind them of something beyond human interaction.
Best City Project Still in Progress: Bike Lanes Thanks to Mayor Purcell’s Greenways program, Belmont Boulevard and Davidson Drive now have bike lanesa landmark development in our cycle-unfriendly town. And there are more lanes to come. Forty-Sixth Avenue (between Charlotte Pike and Murphy Road) and Belmont Boulevard (south of Gale Lane) are among the Metro streets tapped for bike lanes in the next year.
Best Billboard: Country Club Vodka, at the intersections of I-40, I-24 and I-65 Located at the city’s most congested interchange, Country Club’s post-modern, utilitarian logo and martini glass clock scream: “Time for a Cocktail!” Conceived by Double Diamond Design, the billboard gives the budget-priced libation and the Nashville skyline a big-city look. Keep your eye on this spotmore eye-catching Country Club ads are in the works.
Best Place to do Nashville History: City Cemetery When you pass through the stone gateposts on Fourth Avenue South, you walk among the ghosts of Nashville’s past. Established in 1822, the graveyard is the resting place of our city’s “First Lady Schoolteacher” and “First White Male Child,” along with the remains of 20,000 other pioneers and politicians, educators and warriors. This place is as good as it gets to learn who gave the nameslike Hume and Fogg, Rutledge and Robertsonto much of our civic map.
Best Public Restroom: The Gentlemen’s Bathroom at The Hermitage Hotel “This room has been the site of several music videos and numerous legislative deals.” These words aren’t describing The Capitol Grille or The Oak Bar, two of Nashville’s true power rooms located side-by-side in the newly renovated Hermitage Hotel. No, the words are etched in a plaque outside the bar and grill’s men’s bathroom. There’s good reason for all the attention: It is truly the Krispy Kreme of loos. Back in the 1930s, the men’s bathroom was remodeled in the art deco style, and it has been preserved ever since. Jade green urinals and sinks stand out against shiny black-and-green tiled walls and black tiled floor. Two black chairs on a platform facing the urinals symbolize the spot where men once sat to have their shoes shined. The spotless bathroom stalls look more like art installations than the real thing. And the hand towels are just thatreal cotton towels. As the plaque acknowledges, scores of women have sneaked a peek at the bathroom’s striking interior. One hotel staffer notes that it might well be the men’s room most frequented by women in the city. And to think that during the early years of the hotel women were not allowed to sit in the hotel lobby or bar, only on the verandah. Now we’re walking in and out of the men’s room as we please. Ladies, if you go, be sure to knock and say, “Housekeeping.”
Best Place to See a Kinder, Gentler TDOT: Wildflowers-By-the-Road Program If you think that all your department of transportation does is pave, check out the seeds the agency has sown to make driving less of a visual nightmare. In blooming seasonright now on Briley Parkway near Conference Drive and on the Hendersonville bypassthe medians and shoulders are carpets of color. Critics say the flower program is a waste of road dollars. I say it’s better than noise walls and billboards any day.
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