The Look in Brief
Dixie: Special legislative session should assess West Tennessee infrastructure
Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, wants lawmakers to focus on West Tennessee infrastructure in the special session and not just Ford incentives.Photo: John Partipilo)
Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, spoke with a civil-rights group Monday morning about what to expect at Gov. Bill Lee’s special session discussing the Ford Motor Company manufacturing campus headed to West Tennessee.
The Urban League of Middle Tennessee, a non-partisan civil-rights group, asked Dixie, D-Nashville, about his goals to use the deal in an effort to address infrastructure issues and promote civic engagement in government deals that could ultimately affect the surrounding communities.
In late September, Lee called on the Tennessee General Assembly to address funding and support for their $5.6 billion deal with the Ford Motor Company and $883 million worth of incentives.
But there is much more at stake, said Dixie, who serves as the Democratic House Caucus Chair, considering state legislators tend to favor business contracts over public interests.
“We need to get this deal done but we don’t need to give away the kitchen sink with it. People need to understand, this is still taxpayer’s money,” he said.
In talking about the Ford deal, Dixie remarked on allegations that the state owed Tennessee State University $544 million to match federal funds given o the land-grant university since the 1960s’.
My goal is to make sure that people on that agency, on that board, are representations of the people that live in that area. I don't want to see a board full of white men.
– Rep. Vincent Dixie on creation of the Memphis Area Megasite Authority
Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, has led the charge as representative of District 58, but Dixie supported his efforts to provide more funding to the state’s public schools.
“Imagine where TSU would have been, what the campus would look like, how we could have expanded the staff, if we had this money and what kind of opportunities our students would have had in the past 56 years,” he said.
“Maybe we can negotiate something for education,” he added.
Although this week’s session will be primarily focused on the megasite, legislators will be discussing several bills related to the megasite that could impact other areas of infrastructure.
One bill, said Dixie, sets up an agency to oversee the megasite, which “has a lot of power.”
“My goal is to make sure that people on that agency, on that board, are representations of the people that live in that area. I don’t want to see a board full of white men,” he added.
A separate special session could focus on banning businesses from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, which is ironic, said Dixie, considering Tennessee is a “right to work” state, and these bills ultimately end up putting additional pressure on small businesses.
“Almost everyone in Tennessee knows someone personally who has been touched by the death of someone due to COVID, and for them to turn this into a political issue is maddening. It’s upsetting and asinine.”
The special session is set to begin Monday and largely without public involvement, but for those worried about how their representatives will react, the public will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at redistricting hearings hosted by a network of civil-rights groups across the state, including the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.
“That’s why the public comment is going to be extremely powerful in court if people come out to those meetings,” said Dixie.
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