Coming up on the close of her first year as mayor, Robyn Tannehill knows that potential change often comes with critique from the community. The town’s physical growth and the university’s expanding student body are no surprise to Tannehill, who ran her unopposed 2017 campaign on a platform drawing attention to the growing pains brought on by booming development.
This week, Mayor Robyn Tannehill talked with The DM about her experience thus far in bringing a “Downtown District” to life.
The Daily Mississippian: How long has the idea for a “Downtown District” been in the works and what is your role in the conversation?
Robyn Tannehill: Chief East has presented many of the items in the proposed ordinance over the past two years. They haven’t gotten as much traction as they should have. The bottom line is we a have been sitting on a ticking time bomb for years and it is time to stop holding our breath and make some hard decisions. Perhaps the shooting at the Lyric made everyone realize that Oxford is not immune to this type of incident. It did not, however, spark the discussion. To do nothing is in fact a decision. I am not willing to do nothing. I’m not sure we have it exactly right yet, but doing nothing is not an option.
The Daily Mississippian: What was on your mind on the night of The Lyric incident, having had such a personal connection with Double Decker from the start?
Robyn Tannehill: The night of the Lyric shooting really made me realize that we can’t wait. It could have happened anywhere. Personally it made me sick for many reasons. It told us we’re not immune. It told us things are changing in the downtown area. It told us we can’t wait. And it told us we didn’t have the necessary policies in place in our venues to be doing everything we could to prevent it or to manage it that night. OPD handled it beautifully. They have had a plan in place for years and I was extremely proud watching them implement the plan. Unfortunately, since the Lyric had fake cameras there was no clear footage to help identify the suspect. There was no evacuation plan for the Lyric or venues around the area. These are easy things to fix. And we should.
It really made me sick that it happened on Double Decker weekend but honestly it just made me sick it happened. Although I feel such a personal attachment to Double Decker, this event had nothing to do with the Festival and I believe it became clear the next day that it didn’t leave a cloud over the Festival.
The Daily Mississippian: What did you learn during last week’s open meeting?
Robyn Tannehill: I had met with several bar and restaurant owners and their attorney prior to the first public meeting. We had actually implemented changes between the first reading and the public hearing based upon those meetings. Unfortunately, I think people have a belief that “the City” is just going to decide what they are going to do and their input doesn’t matter. Honestly, that is one of the reasons I ran for Mayor. I want to get input from every side. I firmly believe that getting people with different ideas and viewpoints together to discuss issues gives us the best final product. Public meetings are held for that reason. We learned a lot at that meeting and hope to work together in the coming weeks to have an effective ordinance in place.
The Daily Mississippian: If passed, what impact do you hope the ordinance would have on students, business owners or tourists?
Robyn Tannehill: As City leaders, it is in my opinion, our duty to provide a level of quality of life and safety to our citizens, our students who are here for four years and our visitors. That requires a partnership with venues serving alcohol. We have an underage drinking problem. Does this ordinance solve that? No. Is there a way to address safety and underage drinking problems that doesn’t inconvenience anyone or cost money? No. So, should we just throw our hands up and hope for the best? I still say no.