Last week, between the holidays, the Tennessean named Mayor Karl Dean its Tennessean of the Year, in great part because of how he handled the May flood. And while I don't want to downplay the mayor's accomplishments during the flood (though a person might want to check out Mike Byrd for a corrective), I would like to point out one thing — Robert Woods is dead, killed by the creek that he tried to get the city to fix for 30 years.
I know folks all over town know this same feeling — people near Richland Creek, folks along the Harpeth — but when I drive down West Hamilton and I see the shells of house after house, when I see cars parked in the driveways of houses that are interspersed among those empty houses because those folks have no other place to go, I feel like I'm choking on a cry too deep to come out. And I also know that we're supposed to all get about the business of pretending that we all came together, united by our lovely mayor. "We are Nashville." Aren't we great?
But for 30 years, even during the Dean administration, Woods tried to get some help for his Bordeaux neighborhood and was unsuccessful. And he was right — that creek was a danger to the people in the neighborhood. It was a danger to him.
And I'm sorry, but handing out accolades for how Dean handled the flood without mentioning that his administration failed to help Woods and his neighbors while Woods was here to be helped — something even the Scene was guilty of in its Nashvillian of the Year issue, even if Joey Garrison made the point in last week's "In Memoriam" obituary — is a sugar-coating so thick on a tragedy (this one among so many in those terrible days) that it leaves me sick to my stomach.
Even if Dean was a hero during the flood, his administration failed the people along Whites Creek before then.