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Conversation begins at 'On the Table' this week, creating Franklin's future

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By the time six participants at Table 39 concluded their On the Table conversation Tuesday, they had made new friends, solved a few traffic issues and learned from each other.

With satisfied smiles all around, the result of the conversation was exactly what Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate was hoping for – robust conversations that address community issues, identifying the positive aspects of Franklin and those parts that warrant solutions.

Dozens of those robust conversations ensued Tuesday at Breakfast With the Mayors as part of the On the Table initiative, launched by Franklin Tomorrow to create community discourse, while envisioning the future direction of Franklin.

On the Table conversations kicked off at Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin as over 50 tables made up of eight to 10 people conversed, met new friends, addressed issues in the community, named top draws and drawbacks about Franklin and even came up with solutions.

Attendees of Breakfast With the Mayors were given a number and randomly assigned to one of 50 tables to join a discussion and inevitably to see where the conversation led.

“The point of the conversations is to see how issues arise organically and not to limit nor try to direct the conversation,” Tate said.  

The purpose of On the Table is to spark community discussions and build a sense of community to create a vision for the future of Franklin.

Even though the conversations started Tuesday morning, various discussion groups will continue throughout the week at community locations such as coffee shops, places of business, civic institutions and nonprofit locations. Each conversation is organized by a host over coffee, a snack, lunch or even dinner in which eight to 10 guests are invited to join private discussion groups or open community groups.

“This is one of the best community events I’ve ever been to,” Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, said Tuesday, who served as a participant at Table 20, led by Table Host community entrepreneur Deb Enright.

“It’s absolutely great to gather with people you’ve never met before. I love how they mixed it up.”

“I think every community should have an event like this,” Enright said.

 Meanwhile at Table 39, six women talked about their experiences in Franklin, their hopes for the future, ways to enhance the livability in the community and learned from each other. 

Winafred Hubbard, RN with HeathSouth in Franklin told about her experience volunteering for Graceworks Ministries nonprofit as part of the Franklin Breakfast Rotary Club, which opened her eyes to poverty in Franklin.

“I saw trailer parks in Franklin that I didn’t know were there,” Hubbard said.

“If I had not volunteered, I don’t think I would have ever known.

“I think sometimes we take things for granted. You need to get out and see what’s out there.”

The group also talked about Franklin’s beauty, friendliness as a city, vast preservation efforts and quality standard of living.

They also discussed key issues to be addressed, including the lack of workforce housing, traffic, transit and poverty.  

Housing, traffic needs

“Workforce housing is a very large problem,” Vickie Manning of Pinnacle Bank said. Manning has lived and worked in Franklin for over 30 years, dating back to when there were “no restaurants in Cool Springs.” 

“It’s hard to drive change.”

Manning pointed out that impact fees and the booming real estate market affect builders’ ability to create workforce housing.

Table host Susan Seiling of Graceworks Ministries, who is from California, said homes there don’t sell for under $1 million.

“It reminds me of what was happening in California 25 years ago.”

“We need teachers and police officers here, the people we respect,” Manning said about housing.

“It blocks out a segment of the community,” Seiling said. “If you block out a whole section of the community, it doesn’t work.”

A key solution to solving the issues the group agreed is “to vote.”

“There is voter complacency,” Manning said. “Things are going well.”

“One thing I’ve learned is to never doubt that one person can make a difference,” Seiling said.

The group also identified traffic as an issue that negatively impacts the community, with one member suggesting the implementation of light rail.

“I think we would use light rail a lot,” Kathy Logan of Johnson & Hayes Physical Therapists said. And adding "express lanes" to facilitate heavy traffic during peak hours, would be beneficial, Manning added.

The conversation continues

Tate said she hopes group discussions throughout the week will result in forming a vision in shaping Franklin’s future in multiple areas, just like the conversations at Table 20 and 39.

“It is so exciting and rewarding to see how deeply the citizens of Franklin care about the future of their community,” Tate said.

“We hope the momentum created by this morning's Breakfast With the Mayors will carry over into the 20-plus events scheduled over the three-day period, as well as to the 30 or so private events planned in homes, businesses and other locations over the next five days.”

In the next day or so, participants will be reminded to complete a survey of which results will be released in January 2019. A copy of the survey will be posted on the Franklin tomorrow website to complete even if one is not able to attend a talk.

Register for a talk

To register to participate in a conversation in the community, visit franklintomorrow.org.

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