News | May 20, 2016

SELC’s Anne Davis on the future of sustainability in Nashville

Anne Davis, managing attorney of SELC’s Nashville office, was recently named by Mayor Megan Barry to the Livable Nashville Committee—an initiative working to enhance Nashville’s quality of life, provide environmental leadership, and implement a wide range of sustainability projects.

As one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, the next decade holds challenges and opportunities alike for Nashville. Under the previous administration of Davis’s husband, former Mayor Karl Dean, a number of conversations and actions began that Mayor Barry is furthering about how to sustainably and responsibly address the city’s growth—efforts that include natural resource management, environmentally-friendly transportation, waste reduction and recycling, green buildings, and climate and energy.

Here is Davis’ take on her involvement on the new Committee, and how she anticipates the effort to unfold over the next few years.

As a new member of the Livable Nashville Committee, what are your goals for the Livable Nashville Committee during your time on the committee?

First and foremost, my goal as a Livable Nashville Committee member is to work with other Nashvillians to achieve the Mayor Megan Barry’s vision of being a healthier and more sustainable place to live.

How does this goal build on, or differ from, the successes and strategies of the past?

My husband, Karl Dean, and Nashville’s previous administration facilitated the Green Ribbon Committee. In 2008, they created a comprehensive plan for the city, called “Together Making Nashville Green.” In 2015, before my husband left office, he reported that 93% of the Green Ribbon Committee’s goals outlined in the report had been reached. The team that Mayor Barry has now assembled is a broad cross-section of our community, and with the involvement of various department heads and government officials, we’ll pick up where the Green Ribbon Committee left off.

Since my husband’s administration, Nashville’s population has grown, technology has changed, and overall, the public willingness to embrace sustainability initiatives has increased. The city feels ready to embrace even more sustainable living and this is a true opportunity to do so.

What sustainability challenges face Nashville, specifically, and how do you envision the Livable Nashville Committee addressing them?

It’s a challenge with many sustainability efforts to involve the business community. People think these efforts are going to cost more in both the short run and in the long run. You’ve got to have an administration like Mayor Barry’s that is truly committed to these initiatives, because change comes from the top down.

Another important challenge to overcome is involving and educating diverse populations from the community, including individuals from different industries, professions, demographics and backgrounds. Ideas come from all over the community, so it’s important that these individuals go back after learning about sustainable living efforts in order to educate their peers.

How will SELC’s work support the efforts of the Livable Nashville Committee?

SELC can bring expertise to various issues across our region, as well as Nashville-specific issues. One area we are particularly involved in is water restoration and management. We’re working to get our streams and rivers removed from impaired stream lists and endangered rivers lists, and also collaborating with partner groups to clean up local waterways.

Transportation reform is another area in which SELC’s expertise plays a critical role. As a community, we’re working to improve bicycle and pedestrian opportunities. It’s important that we bring our organizational knowledge from other cities and regions where we’ve helped address these issues.

What’s your advice to other cities in Tennessee, or in the Southeast region more generally, that are looking to start similar sustainability initiatives?

First and most importantly, you need a mayor who truly believes in your efforts. It’s the mayor’s responsibility to get the entire government involved, so that people on the sustainability committee won’t encounter impediments.

It’s also important to include a large cross-section of your community in order to be successful. You have to have accountability, as well as goals and recommendations that are measurable, so that several years down the road you’ll be able to see if they’re being achieved. If they’re not, figure out why not and what else can be done.

Read more about the Nashville Livable Committee.