Liberation photo

Liberation photo

The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing and Employment led a march through downtown Nashville on December 11 to bring attention to the negative impact that Amazon’s Nashville hub will bring to the city’s housing market and transportation system.

The group gathered at the corner of 10th and Church Street and marched several blocks to the city’s Courthouse. City officials have agreed to give Amazon $15.3 million of taxpayer money to build a hub downtown that has been dubbed the Operations Center of Excellence. This decision has proven to be controversial among many Davidson County residents.  Many people argue that $15 million would be put to better use in fixing the city’s roads, revamping Nashville public transportation systems, investing in public schools, and building more affordable housing.

The marchers walked through downtown Nashville shouting “No welfare for billionaires!” and “Hey hey,ho ho.  Amazon has got to go!”  Some honked at the marchers as they drove by or shouted in agreement with the group’s message and gave thumbs up of approval.  The march concluded at the Courthouse.  There, everyone gathered on the building’s steps and people spoke before the crowd through a megaphone.

One speaker was Jackie Sims, a local activist and PATHE member.  She discussed the problems that Nashville is currently experiencing with homelessness and transportation deserts. There are thought to be about 20,000 homelesspeople in the city.  Homeless rates rose almost 10 percent between 2017 and 2018.

The roads in Nashville can be terribly congested at times, which annoys many residents. Things are not much better for those reliant on public transportation because there are many areas in Nashville where buses do not travel. Consequently, a person may have to walk over a mile to find the nearest bus stop, and this can be demoralizing to the average worker. Jackie said that the city needs to look at Amazon’s record in Seattle to see how Amazon’s presence in Nashville will cause housing prices and rents to spike, the homeless population to grow, and congestion to get worse on city roads.  She also raised the point that city officials claim to be unable to afford to give teachers a cost of living adjustment but are somehow able to give Amazon over $15 million.

Another speaker at the rally was Sam Knox, a Seattle native. He explained that housing prices have skyrocketed 73 percent since Amazon built its headquarters in the city, and rents went up 31 percent. Homelessness has doubled since the headquarters’ arrival.  Workers in Seattle make a $15 minimum wage, but many can no longer afford to live there.  He said that Amazon is a bad neighbor because the company refuses to address the social ills that it is exacerbating. He warned that “the unrestrained capital of Amazon” will worsen traffic and raise housing costs inNashville.

Amazon’s hub in downtown Nashville will bring an influx of new residents into the city.  Nashvillians are already dealing with a housing shortage due largely to rapid growth throughout the city and an average of about 100 people moving to the city a day. City officials admitted over a year ago that 31,000 housing units need to be erected in Nashville by 2025 to deal with the arrival of so many new residents.

PATHE has four demands from the city:  1) The city must fund the construction of 31,000 homes and build them by 2025; 2) The city must fund the construction of at least 5,000 more homes to manage the “Amazon Effect” upon Nashville’s housing market; 3) The city must not give any subsidies to Amazon;  4) The city must draft a referendum that addresses mass transit with priority being given to bus riders and that includes the input of Davidson County residents.