Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Drop Dread

I not only voted for Council member-at-Large Adam Dread in the last election, I voted for him twice: once in the regular election and once in the run-off. After his decision to join "Eric's Eleven," there will not be a third time that I vote for him.

Rather than airing my grievance with Mr. Dread on Enclave first, I wrote him yesterday. Here is my entire e-mail message to him:
I was disturbed to read in various sources this week that eleven Council members had met in private to discuss their personal plans for the public business of adopting a budget. I was even more troubled to see that one of the Council members was you, one of the at-large members, one of my representatives. I must say that I have never been as disappointed in an elected official for whom I previously voted than I am in you at this time, Mr. Dread.

Using private e-mails, off-microphone planning, softball games, and back-room discussions for working out details for the people's budget may be a violation of open meeting laws and, as far as I am concerned, such actions are unethical, given the legislative responsibilities of Council members. That the leaders of your group would defend this type of behavior by saying that the discussions occurred during public meetings and in earshot of David Manning and Diane Neighbors, and call that "public" eventhough they did not occur for the public to hear, makes this whole affair even more despicable.

Your very public support of this group late last week indicates to me that your wish to cut the Mayor's tax proposal has overpowered any commitment you might have had to open communication and being an ethical, square-dealing legislator. I am truly disgruntled by your participation in these events. If you decide to run again in the future for any office, regardless of party or platform, you have forever and without question lost my support and my vote.
God knows, I'm not always the finest tactician. I can be hard-charging and blunt when greater diplomacy is called for. But elected officials have to learn to use a red cape deftly against oncoming horns; Mr. Dread chose instead what seems to me to be a bad attempt at polemical jujitzsu: turning the issue into one of gullibility on my part, when he should have explained his logic and given reasons for his actions, even if he stood pat. Here is Mr. Dread's verbatim e-mail response to me:

What is most disturbing is that you believe what you read in the Tennessean. I have never participated in any "backroom" meetings pertaining to the budget. When asked by another Councilmember if I could support a cost of living budget, and attend a press conference, I replied in the affirmative. Period. Anne Paine from the Tennessean is doing yet another a "witch hunt" in attempt to mislead the public (seemingly successfully), away from the real issues [emphasis mine].
"Period"; usually meaning "nothing more to add." No other qualifications, but also no other explanations. "Period." So, Mr. Dread was simply asked by another Council member for support and he said, "Yes." "Period." No process of reflection, no deliberation within himself or with other Council members or, heaven forbid, with constituents, and no time taken to decide whether supporting Eric Crafton's latest attempt to drive down revenues was the best choice for Nashville. He was asked; he assented. "Period."

I know that George W. Bush has made decisiveness with no deliberation vogue in early 21st Century America, but I had no idea that Adam Dread wanted to model that mechanical style. If I had, I certainly wouldn't have voted for him twice in 2003. And that's the thing about it: the guy couldn't garner enough votes to be elected Council member-at-Large without a run-off; yet, he's talking to me like he's ensconced-at-large with some kind of mandate that exempts him from explaining his decisions and his reasons to voters.

It's not like this was the first time, either. Dread's brusque propensity for terminal answers to this voter's questions had already been established previously when he low-balled an estimate of the Council's jurisdiction over the school budget: "zero," as in "The Council has 'zero' jurisdiction over the Public Schools. All decisions are made by the elected School Board." And darn it, if I didn't brush his curtness aside and go to bat for Dread in that debate, charging the Tennessean with sloth right here in this venue!

If Dread is more mechanical than deliberative in his decision-making process, then his qualifications as a Council member are open to question. But I don't believe that he is mechanical. The guy is a Vanderbilt and law school graduate, after all. I believe that he has deliberated both with himself and with other Council members before coming to a calculated decision to join Eric's Eleven. "Period." He just is either too cocky or too afraid to admit that he took part in private discussions about the budget, in my opinion, whether they occurred in literal back rooms or not. Either way, his decision-making abilities are probably intact, but I have to wonder about the trustworthiness of his character in a political season rife with ethics problems. Since I cannot trust Mr. Dread, I cannot support Mr. Dread. "Period."

So, I do not know whether Adam Dread is running again for the at-large office in 2007. But I can say that if he is, I will not be one of those in his camp. In fact, I may just be writing columns and letters against his candidacy, recalling all of these events. Or I might be helping put up "Drop Dread" yard signs.

At the very least, I'll be looking for someone else to take Adam Dread's spot in the 2007 election cycle, and this guy may be the ticket. The fact that he linked an Enclave piece critical of the Metro Council's budget process on his website makes his candidacy worth a mention, as far as I'm concerned. Take a look for yourself and let me hear what you think. (Note: this is not an official Enclave endorsement as yet; it is promotion of a website of an at-large candidate for the sake of an informed electorate; but Enclave is ready to endorse the idea of voting for anyone but Adam Dread in 2007).

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