I read Narvel Blackstock’s recent letter to the editor with disappointment. Titled ‘Support the Music Industry’s Efforts to Replace Blight Near Music Row’, it defended MDHA’s decision to force Joy Ford off of her property to make room for $100 million worth of development. I’m sure Mr. Blackstock is a nice man. I have an enormous amount of respect for his wife, Reba McEntire. They have done much for Nashville and Country Music. Unfortunately for Mr. Blackstock, past good deeds don’t justify current dastardly ones.
Anyone sitting through High School Civics remembers the Constitution was written to limit the power of government and permit the greatest possible liberty to the people. The 5th Amendment’s Eminent Domain clause specifically prevented government from forcing people off their land because it had a different plan for it. An exception was made for “Public Use”. This did permit government, for narrowly defined purposes, to seize the private property of an unwilling seller. These purposes must have, oddly enough, a public use. Interstates and government buildings, for example, purposes with clearly understood “public use” parameters, were thereby exempted from the Constitutional restraints on government.
Blackstock has confused “public use” with “public benefit”. I won’t argue the proposed development will produce more revenue for the city. It likely will and that is a benefit. I won’t argue the proposed development will look nicer than the property looks now. It likely will and that is a benefit. I won’t argue the proposed development will employ more people than the property currently does. It likely will and that is a benefit. Unfortunately, none of those public benefits even begin to rise to the level of a “public use” of the property by the city and its citizens. The development Narvel supports is plainly a private matter and will benefit only a small part of the “public”. The vast majority of the “public” will never have cause to enter the proposed building or even set foot on the property.
With “public use” out of the way, only the desire of government to do as it pleases remains. MDHA and Nashville may well have compelling reasons to want the property developed. Unfortunately, our Constitution prohibits them from doing so by recognizing the rights of property owners as higher than the reasonings of government. It forbids Nashville from doing exactly what Narvel Blackstock wants done to Joy Ford. The men drafting the Bill of Rights understood government, if allowed to, would eventually grind up the citizens it was to represent in the name of representing them. It would seize their lands, confiscate their property, tax their prosperity and worse, deny them their God given Rights unless forbidden from doing so. They witnessed the Crown do exactly that and wanted no part of it for their fledgling nation.
Nashville, MDHA and Narvel Blackstock, despite reasonable sounding arguments, are on the wrong side of this issue. Due to ignorance on a stupendous scale, the Supreme Court ruled 3 years ago such takings as Blackstock proposes may be legal. However, legal does not equate to moral. Joy Ford’s Right to her property comes from God. MDHA’s power to force her off of it comes from men like Narvel Blackstock who believe their ideas of what is right for Nashville are more important than the Right of Joy Ford to her property.
The issue is not whether Narvel Blackstock’s belief in the value of the development is true (it may be). It is not whether Blackstock’s statements concerning Joy Ford and the history and use of the property are correct (they aren’t). It’s about Right and Wrong at foundational levels. What an incredible country we live in where a little, widow woman can stand up to the “King”, wag her finger in his face and tell him and his lackeys, “Get off my land!” and be in the right.
I understand that’s hard for Mr. Blackstock to accept. After all, the rest of the property Lionstone bought to develop, it bought from him. What happens to his vision, his legacy and his money if the development doesn’t happen. I understand he’s defending his dream! But Joy Ford is fighting for her dream, too. No one kept Blackstock from disposing of his property as he saw fit when he sold it to Lionstone. He should go back to managing his family’s affairs and quit denying rights he exercised for himself to another family because he thinks his is a better dream. He did what he wanted with his property and Joy Ford can do the same. With all respect due the man and his accomplishments, he does not speak for me or my family. He does not speak for many of us here in Nashville. And he sure doesn’t speak for the only person who has a say in this matter, Joy Ford.
It is in decisions made on issues exactly like this that a man’s, or a city’s, direction and destiny hinge. Narvel Blackstock believes the future of Music City depends on erecting a building rising into the Music Row sky. I believe our city’s future depends on building on a strong Foundation rooted deep in the character of a nation. There are a lot of choices to be made over the next few weeks. But there’s only one right one. I hope Narvel Blackstock can see his way clear to make it.
Blue Collar Muse
Starstruck I’m Not! by Kay Brooks at Kay Brooks
Condemning Country in Nashville by Chris Grodecki at Castle Watch
Will the Circle be Unbroken, Part I at Blue Collar Muse
Will the Circle be Unbroken, Part II at Blue Collar Muse