Thursday, June 30, 2005

"You Got To Be Cruel To Be Kind."

That is one cunning Mayor. Council attempts end around on his proposal; Purcell tackles Garcia in the backfield. Now all of those education advocates--who may have sacrificed pragmatic wile to their high ideals--may have to take a de facto cut for the team.

I believe that the Nashville Scene called him "diabolical." That's about right. He's got guile.

07/01/2005 8:30 a.m. Update: Manning makes correction. Mayor not so devilish in the end. Unless, this is not really the end!

My Note To Neighbors: What Does This Budget Mean For Neighbors?

On Tuesday, when it starting looking to me as if Metro Council member Diane Neighbors was gaining momentum on her now passed alternative to the Mayor's budget proposal, I sent her an e-mail query.

Enclave readers might be interested in the highlights of my e-mail. I want to know specifically how services to Nashville's neighborhoods would be affected. I want Ms. Neighbors to specify:
  • How the nearly $720,000 in proposed (now passed) tax cuts to Parks and Recreation are going to affect services at the neighborhood level. Salemtown Neighbors meets at Morgan Park Community Center a few evenings during the school year. What I want to know is whether the cuts will cause our community centers to shorten their operation hours, and whether Salemtown Neighbors will be left without a gathering place in the neighborhood. I have got to believe that shortening community centers' already short hours cannot be a good thing, not just for groups that meet there, but for our children and seniors who benefit from free community center programming.
  • How the proposed (now passed) $1.3 million in cuts in the Public Works budget would affect services provided to neighborhoods. Public Works has been responsive to our calls when we've had illegal dumping in our neighborhood and as we are completing a project to erect Neighborhood Watch signs. What I want to know is whether there will be any public service available now to help us clean up the riffraff.
I know Ms. Neighbors is probably a busy Council member right now, but I await her response on these questions. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

We're Back, Baby!

S-townwife and I had our first date in a couple of years. We nabbed a babysitter, paid her well and we went out to Soundstown to hear Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan.

We got the best and the closest seats we possibly could without actually having to stand in the infield at the stage: 1st row behind the 1st base dugout, on the right field end. We could see over the heads of the people in the infield and put our feet up on the dugout. We got those seats because we were able to enter 30 minutes before hundreds of others--who had arrived much earlier that we did--thanks to our Sounds season tix.

Impressions: "Crazy" is about the most perfect Country [and Western] song ever written, although my personal favorite is "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," because love actually is like a dying ember. Dylan's set described in 6 words or less: "Texas blues infused steel guitar rock." At one point, I could have sworn I heard Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets instead of Dylan.

We had a great time, but it was also good to come back to a tranquil home.

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).

A Few Rules 2

One of my favorite segments on any comedy program is "New Rules" on Bill Maher's Real Time (HBO). (Maher's funniest rule: "Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to 'beef with broccoli.'")

I don't think that I am nearly as comical as Maher, but I would like to attempt to brush ever so slightly against the spirit of Maher's rules by giving a few of my own rules directed to people I encounter on a daily basis. I won't be giving an exhaustive list of rules here. I plan to give one now and others at future dates (which will basically be whenever I encounter troubling behavior).

Let me clarify that I do not consider myself too rule-bound or legalistic. I'd like to think that I am guided by higher principles like justice and love; but there come times when rules are needed; there come people who definitely need them. So, here is my second of a few rules:

To trashy people: If you do not want your neighbors to consider you trashy, then do not litter the neighborhood with your trash.

There are some parts of Salemtown that are just downright trashy. When I say that, I am not using "trashy" to label with prejudice a particular group of people. I am saying: 1) the trashy parts are those streets where garbage literally litters yards, sidewalks, and boulevards in those parts of the neighborhood; and 2) that trash makes those neighbors look trashy, that is, it makes them look like they don't give a tinker's damn about living in their own dump.

Well, I care, because Salemtown is my home, too. The trash you throw on your lawn or on the street in front of your house gets blown or kicked into my yard and on the street in front of my house. Since I don't litter our neighborhood with my trash, all the trash I spend time picking up around my corner of Salemtown every week belongs to other people, to the trashy people. If it were legal, I would return trash to its rightful owner, because many times before it spreads I see where it starts:

A driver dumps her car-bage into a Salemtown street. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
But returning trash would make me trashy, so I pick it up and dispose it myself. And other untrashy neighbors here do so too. Some even get laughed at when they try to ask trashy neighbors for help picking up litter in the neighorhood.

People become trashy not because of station in life, but because of trashy behavior. If you trash out your street to keep people away, it's working. I rarely take walks on the trashier streets of Salemtown. Can't we all just get along; by that I mean, "Can't you just clean your act up?" While you're at it, if you're not going to help clean our neighborhood up at least tidy up your yard. As it stands, it makes you look trashy.

Shameless Other Promotion

A neighbor just down the street has started his own blog. Hip. See for yourselves. Over and over again now that he's rolled into "Blogs Getting Nods."

Also, I added a link in the plugged list to the newly formed, grassroots Christian Alliance for Progress, just as a reminder that Christianity and conservativism are not synonymous, despite claims to the contrary.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Grubby Overreaction

Beyond the fence, the corn lay beaten down by the wind and heat and drought, and the cups where leaf joined stalk were filled with dust.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
There I was feeling sorry for myself the past two weeks because I found brown spots in my grass appearing and growing larger with time. I had worked so hard on that friggin' lawn for months.

I thought that I had properly educated myself on lawn care, but I remained willfully ignorant about grubs, of all things. I just assumed they were merely annoying little moon-shaped ghosts that appeared in my shovel as I turned gardens over. Little did I know that these spawn of the green-mantled Japanese beetles (which themselves devoured our impatiens after they pupated from grubdom) could do such damage to the turf over which I had toiled in sweat.

So I fretted over the yard and shook my head with mighty dejection as I imagined dozens of grubs noshing the tender roots of the grass I had nurtured since last year. I moped around, that is, until I picked up Steinbeck's dust-bowl, depression-era masterpiece one day just on a lark and started re-reading it.
The people came out of their houses and smelled the hot stinging air and covered their noses from it. And the children came out of the houses, but they did not run or shout as they would have done after a rain. Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn .... The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men--to feel whether this time the men would break. The women studied the men's faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained.
I dried myself up directly and I got back to the yard work without another twinge of self-pity for problems that don't matter a hill of beans in perspective. I'll just rake up the rootless blades, nurture what's left, and start over again in the fall.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

That's A Fine "How do you do, Missus Wiley.
No coffee, tea, or punch, thank you."

Ernest T. Bass, common icon. Posted by Hello
Finally hearing yesterday about the few, the proud, the Metro Council's "Real Men of Genius," I was reminded of a 1964 Andy Griffith episode, entitled "My Fair Ernest T. Bass." That's the one where Andy and Barney try to "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear": they try to make undomesticated Ernest T. into a proper and cultured gentleman in order to keep him under control.

By taking it upon themselves to dodge open meeting laws, "Eric's Eleven" has unwittingly cast itself in the role of Deputy Fife and the public (that would be us common folk) in the role of Ernest T., particularly for one scene in which Barney mimes for Ernest T. the airs put on by a well-mannered gentleman arriving at a society function. Barney impersonates a squire entering a party and gives the salutatory gestures, handshakes, and hat tips to invisible guests that he thinks a gentleman entering a hypothetical social affair would.

Ernest T., being unrefined and common, has no idea why Barney is talking without uttering words to people he cannot see. Barney's frustration causes him to break out of his role play, leading to the following exchange:

Barney: "Doggone it, Ernest T.! Those are the amenities!"
Ernest T: "I can't hear the ammenenees!"

There's something going on inside of Eric's Eleven in the Metro Council that some of us common folk just do not comprehend. They're talking to each other under the cloak of privacy about the proper comportment of our city rather than talking to us, the public.

My response to finding out the truth about the secrecy in Metro Council deliberations is to embrace Ernest T. Bass as my icon. How can I possibly understand what the Metro Council is trying to do for me if I can't hear the "ammenenees" and if I can't see their propriety?

Eleven Good-Ole-Boy Council Men Privately Put Together Their Own Budget

Here's the list of "just some good ole boys," who by means of back-room meetings and private e-mails, according to yesterday's Tennessean, have come up with their own personal budget for our city, far and away from last week's public hearing.

Joining Eric Crafton, whose surreptitious actions have been documented here and elsewhere, are the rest of the good ole boys:
  • Adam Dread [one of mine, I'm sorry to say]
  • Michael Craddock
  • Jim Forkum
  • Randy Foster
  • Jim Gotto
  • Jason Hart
  • Michael Kerstetter
  • Charlie Tygard
  • Harold White
You'll notice from the Tennessean article that, while defending their private meetings, the leaders of this boys club offer some pretty narrow definitions of "public." While some of you may think that "public" means "in front of the public," these guys think "public" means "in front of David Manning and Diane Neighbors." Also, any private discussion at a public meeting out of range of a microphone now qualifies as public, even if the public cannot hear it. Point of order: isn't a discussion among Council members who have not had their microphones activated by the Chair considered "out-of-order"? "Common sense" may not exactly be a rallying cry for this group.

I have suggestions for the good ole boys if they would like to avoid the appearance of illegal discussions in the future: they may want to consider introducing their budget alternatives in Council while their microphones are turned on so that other Council members and the public can consider and debate the merits of the alternative; also, if they have e-mail correspondence about budget matters, how about CC:'ing it to the press (and I mean the mainstream press, not Council members' lackeys in the blogosphere) so that the public can be informed on all budget discussions?

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's Ugly When Council Members Act Like Executives Rather Than Like Legislators

Metro Council member Eric Crafton is up to his tired ways again. He was unable to persuade people that Metro schools suck. He all but lost the battle to pass a budget with no new taxes.

So, what is Crafty Eric up to now? He's working with select Council members on the sly to come up with a budget that would only raise enough revenues to support Cost of Living Increases for Metro employees. He's trying to set the bar as low as possible in order to avoid progress. This in spite of overwhelming support expressed at last Tuesday's Metro Council public hearing for either the Mayor's tax increase initiatives or bigger tax increases to support public schools.

John Spragens, over at the Nashville Scene, submits a revealing account of Mr. Crafton's behind-the-scenes coordination of "research sharing" this week that raises the possibility that Councilman Crafton might have violated open meeting laws. When asked about his raggedy actions in Spragens's piece, Crafton hemmed and hawed the now overused response about not recalling specifics. The statement, "I do not recall," made in the context of a decision that weighs so mightily on the well-being of a community, is the marquee mantra of character flaw, of those who lack personal responsibility.

In Spragens's article, Council member Charlie Tygard was equivocal in a different way about his attendance at these private discussions: he said that budget alternatives were discussed alongside specific topics like Fan Fair and Kerry Wood. However, that presents a whole new question of ethics: firstly, can council members shirk their reponsibility to have open meetings if they merely sandwich public policy discussions between chats about arts and entertainment? Secondly, how does Tygard have time to discuss matters outside the budget with other members of Crafton's ad hoc alternative budget committee, since he said on the record that he wants to devote all of his attention in council at this time to the budget and not to other issues (most especially, ethics)?

But the primary problem here is that Crafton and other Council members are trying to act like the executive branch of Metro government, rather than behaving as legislators. It's up to the Mayor's office to provide a budget proposal. It's up to the Council members to study the proposal, and to react by means of advise and consent based on feedback like that given at the public hearing. Crafton seems to be behaving as if the public hearing--with the exception of the statements made by the Republican Party Chair and the representative from Tennessee Tax Revolt--never really occurred or merely served as a gauge for judging just how low his denominator could go.

Crafton seems to have stuck his finger up the Council chambers' wind currents rather than outside of its doors; and he seems to have found that members' lowest common denominator is to raise enough taxes to pay employees more. His actions are cynical because they come only a matter of days after trying to spin the view that Metro government was so ineffectual that nobody--not employees, not anybody--deserved any more money. As one conservative blogger, who acts as Crafton's conduit, put the flip-flop to me earlier this week: "teachers good, administration bad," which is an oversimplified dualism that sounds like code for "divide and conquer."

That's what Crafton seems to be up to with his private meetings about public matters that are generally the privilege of executives, who are supposed to be relatively independent of voters in their larger vision and through their administrative proposals. But legislators are supposed to provide democratic balance and to advance public demand as they respond to the Mayor's budget. Councilman Crafton seems uninterested in being beholden to the public on the Mayor's budget. He's crafted mercurial agendas of his own and he seems bent on setting the bar as low as he sees fit to keep revenues down and progress at bay. And he seems disinclined to let anything as trivial as ethics stop him.

06/25/2005 10:14 p.m. Update: I e-mailed Council member Ludye Wallace yesterday asking him not to support Crafton's COLA concoction, and at the very least to support Mayor Purcell's proposal. I also expressed the hope that he had not been sitting in on private budget meetings with other Council members, which might be in violation of public meeting laws. I'll keep you updated on his response, if any.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Meet Tonight

Salemtown's neighborhood association will be meeting at Watkins College at MetroCenter tonight at 6:00 p.m. With people out of town and others just enjoying the summer, agenda is expected to be short and quick.

Facing East

The more I live in our house the more I enjoy living in our house. There are many pleasurable aspects of our dwelling, but two that stand out on these muggy summer days are: that our house faces east and that the backyard has a full canopy of trees to shade it.

What that means for me is that I can step out on the front porch early in the morning and enjoy the new rays of the rising sun. And then as the rays turn to scorch on days like this, I can step out into the backyard, which is always about ten degrees cooler than the frontyard thanks to the trees and its westward bearing.

By the afternoon, our tall roof blocks the withering sunlight from the frontyard--making the front comfortably cool once again--and the trees still obstruct the rays in the back. As the sun sets in the evening, the trees filter its light, which dances across the glowing western cedar fence. Likewise, the trunks, boughs, and branches cast long, nostalgic shadows.

There are only three or four trees in the back yard, but they are huge. The guy who built our fence told me that they are probably 100 to 200 years old. They are all hackberries, which are notorious for shedding leaves before fall sets in and which provide annoying starlings with lots of purple berries to process and to deposit on our cars, but right now they are a godsend and they create an urban oasis of relief from the heat and a mythology of early evening luminance.

In the winter, the bright morning sun heats the chilly front up quite nicely and since there are no leaves on the trees in the back, it gets enough sunlight to warm it up as morning gives way to afternoon. We've still got a long way to go to develop flower beds and put in other trees, but the bones are perfect and I could not and would not wish for anything better.

Young Child Allegedly Left At North Nashville Day Care After Closing

Reportedly, a five-year-boy was left at P.H.P. Learning Center on Buchanan St. off of 22nd Ave., North for hours before a girl passing outside the Center heard him crying and called police.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dry Monument to Tennessee's Rivers

When my teenager was much younger, we used to go to the Riverwalk Fountains at the south side of Bicentennial Mall on a regular basis in warm weather. This was even before we moved to the North End. One of my most treasured pictures from her childhood is a drawing she made of herself playing in the Riverwalk Fountains with the words, "Me and Daddy at the fountains."

I've always considered the Riverwalk Fountains a great investment, because when it is operational, it is a virtual public square for people from all walks of life to gather. Not only does it offer water recreation gratis for children and children-at-heart, but it provides a shady spot in the hot asphalt jungle for picnicking families and local workers on their lunch breaks.

Alas, it seems like every year the monument stays closed for longer periods of time, and a dry river monument just does not attract as many people. Water works magic and crowds seem to respond. Once again, the monument is dry and signs are up saying that it needs to be repaired. I started keeping an eye on it beginning Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of summer. However, I have seen no one working on it, despite the fact that I drive or walk by it nearly every day.

The unfunctioning Riverwalk Fountains on Bicentennial Mall. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
My toddler is getting old enough now so that she would really enjoy it. I've been chomping at the bit to take her, so, today I called the State Parks Department to find out what gives. The person at the end of the line told me that a nozzle is broken and that she heard that they were working on it just yesterday. Today I saw yellow caution tape around the fountains, so it looks like some work is about to be done. At the rate the state is going and assuming they shut the water off for the season on Labor Day, visitors are going to have less than two months of fountain time. It seems like we can do better than that.

Jump In Metro Public Schools TCAP Scores "Huge" and "Rare For Urban School Districts."

Diane Long at the Tennessean reports this morning that Metro's TCAP scores are in and that they jumped 10 percentage points.

This is definitely crow-worthy news for the supporters of the school board's proposed budget. Advantage: Pedro Garcia, who appeared on 5+ (Channel 50, Comcast) last night at 7:00 p.m. and said that the district could work with the Mayor's proposed budget cut of $541 million. He told Ben Hall that $532 million or lower would cause the district to slash programs. Is he hedging, even with the good TCAP news?

Mayor still looks more moderate, but now there is more pressure on the Metro Council not to impede progress and momentum by approving a budget that underfunds education. All of the conservative advocates of No Child Left Behind's reliance on test scores (who also tend to be opponents of any new taxes) are caught between a rock and a hard place. Council member Eric Crafton's PowerPoint presentation is moot along with already being irrelevant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Is It The Full Moon Or The Summer Solstice Making Downtown A Bizarre Bazaar?

I've already mentioned tonight's honkin' and howlin' protests at Metro Council. And the MSM has got the TennCare protestors on Capitol Hill covered.

But I would be remiss if I failed to refer you to Kevin Barbieux, who has some outstanding pictures of the Southern Baptist Convention, which graces Downtown with its presence this week. My favorites include:
  1. The three men embraced in a group hug who either A) do not subscribe to Jesus' teaching to find a prayer closet to pray in, B) believe that the Entertainment Center qualifies as a metaphorical prayer closet, or C) cannot find a single prayer closet in the Entertainment Center, in which case the SBC screwed up by choosing this venue.
  2. The sign threatening to further clog our courts with frivolous litigation against anybody who disrupts the Convention and welcoming people to stay the hell away. "And stay out of the Woolworth!"

This Evening's Council Meeting: A Veritable Cacophony

Well, I have not yet heard from either Tennessee Tax Revolt or Democracy for America Nashville on my suggestions for making tonight's protests at the Council more impressive. My wife--who is not easily impressed by my shenanigans--thought that the idea of reporting aggressive horn honking to Metro's Aggressive Driving Unit was a stroke of coolness.

I did happen to get word from DFAN that they are encouraging their members to bring bells to ring to remind people that "Liberty Isn't Free" (huh?). I do not believe that Metro has an aggressive pedestrian unit, so ringing bells may be a smarter tactic than TTR's horn-honking, even if I do not understand the title of their protest (actually, liberty is free, since one of the definitions of liberty is "the condition of being free," and does DFAN really want to create the perception that they oppose freedom? However, I fail to grasp what liberty has to do with the Metro budget. Now if they would have called it "Ringing the School Bell to Call For Support of Funding Metro Schools," that would have made more sense; this whole "Liberty" slant is fuzzy-headed, but now I digress).

According to a separate e-mail I received, a third group plans to join the flying circus: Tying Nashville Together is encouraging 300 of its members to attend in order to tell council members to “support the Mayor’s proposed funding levels for Nashville General Hospital; The Bridges to Care Program for public health; Health Inspectors and public education.”

Looks like it is shaping up to be a real fine event. DFAN says they're bringing the ice cream. If TTR brings cokes, let's have floats!

06/21/2005 10:50 p.m. Update: Am I mistaken or were there more bells than horns during the protests tonight? "There's only one cure: more cowbell!"

According to my very subjective and unscientific count of speakers at the public hearing, tax increase supporters outnumbered tax increase opponents approximately 85%-15%. I'm counting increase supporters as both those who spoke in favor of the Mayors budget as is and those who spoke in opposition to the Mayor's cuts to the school board budget (and hence, in favor of higher taxes than the Mayor proposes).

The TTR spokesman was one of the few tax increase opponents. He basically reiterated TTR's point that studies show people have been outmigrating from Downtown in the past. He got really shrill in asserting that these are "not estimates, but hard numbers!" What he failed to mention is that the numbers do not explain why people outmigrated in the years those studies were done: TTR reads "higher taxes" into that blank space. The numbers may be hard, but the connection to taxes is not. As I have written before: there are many reasons why migration from cities to suburbs occurs. The ominous tone the TTR spokesman took also made it sound like Nashville was increasingly becoming a ghost town. Looking around, I'd say that's simply wrong. I noticed that one of the Chamber of Commerce leaders who rose earlier to speak in favor of the Mayor's budget shook his head "no" at the "hard-numbers" claim. If a Chamber leader is rejecting your Chicken-Little economic prognostications, your cause may be in trouble. If it would be better to live in the suburbs, what are these TTR folks hanging on to?

06/22/2005 7:00 a.m. Update: The Republican Party Chairman predictably spoke against the Mayor's budget last night. During his talk he made passing reference to the this year's higher TCAP test scores, but he didn't concede that a 10% jump is remarkable. Were the Republicans pleased that Nashville students are doing better than they thought or disappointed that they could not use lower test scores as leverage against the Mayor's budget?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Another Festivus Miracle!

Okay, there were no "feats of strength," but Father's Day here was the best ever.

Yours truly and daughters at Sunday's Sounds game. Posted by Hello
It culminated at Greer Stadium where we watched a premier major league pitcher give a less-than-premier performance through four innings.

Chicago Cubs' pitcher Kerry Wood during his 2nd rehab start on the Sounds' mound. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

A Capitol Morning

Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, to all! This is one of my favorite holidays, thanks to my wife and my children; they truly know how to make this holiday very special and quite memorable each year.

In honor of Father's Day, I give you my personal top ten of best movies about fathers:
  1. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
  2. Big Fish (2003)
  3. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  4. Boyz N the Hood (1991)
  5. Field of Dreams (1989)
  6. Parenthood (1989)
  7. Mr. Mom (1983)
  8. Finding Nemo (2003)
  9. Paper Moon (1973)
  10. i am sam (2001)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

No Door-To-Door Snake Oil in Salemtown Today

Well, I must say that I was a little disappointed this morning that no Southern Baptist evangelists came by the house to talk with me, but I am not at all surprised. I guessed all along that they would be pouring their efforts into the suburbs, which is where they get the most bang for their buck. The SBC churches started leaving the cities in droves with white flight to the suburbs. It was mostly mainline churches and African American Baptist churches that stayed.

Evangelicals often point to their denominations' explosive growth in the last half of the twentieth century as evidence that they were preaching the word of God correctly (as if sized mattered). They scolded shrinking mainline denominations and "liberal theologies" for dampening church growth and evangelistic zeal. In the SBC, fundamentalists justified their take-over in the 1980s by saying that moderates were guilty of being so liberal (an unfair label, since Southern Baptist moderates tend to be conservative by mainline standards) that they risked stunting the growth of the Convention (an unfair charge, because it had grown under moderate leadership).

So, the fundamentalists took over by out-organizing moderates and by rallying without rancor around single, consensus candidates; they took over, promising revival and expansion. And so, it's fair to ask whether they have delivered on their intentions to avoid mainline shrinkage. According to the Associated Baptist Press, evangelism statistics have declined since the fundamentalists took over. The SBC President expressed concern to ABP:
If Southern Baptists can't turn around the baptism decline after more than a year of "extraordinary effort," [President Bobby Welch] said, "we are going to have to face some reality out here in the convention. When we get to the end of that year, if something significant hasn't happened in baptisms, we'll have to look ourselves in the face and say, 'Something is wrong.'
Something is wrong, indeed. I watched the 10 P.M. news tonight for coverage of today's evangelistic effort. The story I saw covered President Welch and his team going door-to-door in the suburbs around Opryland. That is not insignificant, I think, because the past growth of the SBC is almost exclusively a matter of its organizational mobility and flexibility in the face of the vast migration from cities to suburbs during the 20th century. Their expansiveness had more to do with human leadership genius than with matters of faith. Welch's appearance in the suburbs to proselytize reflects that genius.

But the same flexibility that gave leaders the foresight to move to the suburbs and build huge mega-churches according to population migrations is itself waning as people seek to move back to urban neighborhoods. The demand for residences is slowly shifting toward the cities, and yet, the SBC continues to primarily target a suburban market that is currently oversaturated and overevangelized.

Something is wrong, alright. I wish a couple of SBC messengers had come to my door this morning so that I could talk to them about it, but I'm pretty sure that the SBC gave up on cities a long time ago.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tuesday's Protests At Metro Council And A Couple Of Suggestions

While I can find no evidence of it on the Tennessee Tax Revolt website as yet, an intercepted Democracy for America Nashville (DFAN) communique maintains that, during the Metro Council's Tuesday, June 21 Public Hearing on the Mayor's proposed budget, TTR "will be out in force, honking from their Lexuses and posing for the TV and radio crews." Far be it from me to question the argument that TTR will have their honkies out in force. It is reasonable, given their past actions, to assume that TTR has pre-mobilized and prepared its social capital. However, perhaps DFAN's generalization that they all drive Lexuses is a bit over the top. It's red meat for blue voters.

My guess is that we will see large numbers of protestors on both sides of the budget debate; even larger than the dozens of high school kids that showed up last week to express their support for the School District's requested budget increase. Some in the MSM minimized the teens' protest by saying that they protested "despite the fact" that they were not old enough to vote; as if the only means of democratic participation in public life were voting every once and awhile! I would not begrudge protestors who are of voting age but who either don't vote or are not registered to come out and protest. Why should our sons and daughters be so discouraged just because they cannot vote? If they do not have a stake in the debate about their schools, then nobody does.

One more point about TTR's honkies: they certainly have the right to blast their horn as they drive down Polk Ave. past the old library on Tuesday, but I wish they would stage something with a little more theatre. They don't have to look very far from home for some outstanding ideas. The Nashville Sit-in Movement involved a lot more personal risk and thus, a huger impact and higher pay-off. By contrast, there is very little risk to sitting in the comfort and convenience of your own car, honking your horn, and driving away. It's bad form. At least develop a more ambitious strategy.

I also have a recommendation for DFAN protestors: drop your concern with counting Lexuses and develop an eye for license plate numbers, driver descriptions, and various car makes. Might I suggest using Metro's new aggressive driving unit to your benefit: I know I said that the honkies have a right to blare their horns, but I could be wrong about that, especially since drivers are violating driving laws by "using the horn excessively," according to the new police unit. You can still protest while training one of your eyes on a TTR honkie. Once you have all of his vehicle info, just report it here.

Look forward to seeing you all at Metro Council on Tuesday!

Latest City Paper Curve Ball: Downtown Soundstown Not As Close To Autopsy As Readers Last Told?

If there's one thing the Nashville City Paper (NCP) does well in its reports on the negotiations on the Nashville Sounds Downtown stadium proposal it is its use of enigmatic allusions. I couldn't pick up the rotation of their spin on May 26th, when they were talking about the deal being on its death bed due to tax increment financing (TIF) issues. And now their latest pitch has got me back on my heels in the box once again.

Consider the following statement in today's edition by reporter Craig Boerner:
A sticking point in negotiations over the ballpark was tax increment financing. Points of disagreement have centered around the city's contribution of the former Thermal site and whether $20 million in tax increment financing needed to make the deal work includes that land value. Expanding the scope of the project helps make the numbers work.
I highlighted the cryptic words for emphasis. In Boerner's previous Sounds installment, TIF had put the proposal on its death bed. Today, he (assuming it's Boerner rather than his editor) is talking about the "sticking point" in the past tense, as if the impasse itself passed away. And his comment that the tripling of the value of the project now makes the numbers work, turns my perception of the health of the deal around. But the turning does not make me understand more; it only makes me dizzy.

If Boerner wrote other articles--providing greater detail and insight--between today and May 26, I could not find them. Yet, greater detail and insight are exactly what I need to understand that the once-dead deal is dead no longer. In fact, I needed more details in the May 26th article to understand why exactly the deal was due for autopsy in the first place. There is something grievously missing between the two reports and in the reports themselves.

Allow me be more to the point: today's report seems to assume undivulged and unattributed information of a miraculous resuscitation, just as Boerner's May 26th article seems to assume undivulged and unattributed information on an impending demise. What makes the NCP coverage of negotiations enigmatic is that it seems to assume that lunkhead readers like me can read "death bed" between the lines of TIF and can read "recovery" in the report that the scope of the project has expanded. Hence, Boerner and his editors do not seem to feel the need to let the reader in on the details of either how the proposal ended up on life support or how it dramatically turned around to become fit once again. Worst of all, no one at NCP is taking or attributing responsibility (including citing sources) for the rumors passed off as journalism.

But what about the previous word I received from a source that Boerner knows more about the deal than he is letting on? In light of today's story, either that source was unreliable or Boerner does not know as much about the negotiations as I was lead to believe. If the latter is the case, then readers cannot really trust Boerner's report that the deal is turned around. If the former is the case, then we are still left with two disparate and unconnected stories with a huge gap between death and life. So, after reading the NCP, I don't know what to believe about negotiations.

That's an interesting journalistic practice: to write stories to confuse rather than to inform the reader. It's a fascinating game the NCP seems to be playing on its readers.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Oddly Familiar

The editors of the Nashville Scene gave their own perspective on the Mayor's intentions on the sales tax increase proposal in this week's edition. I was struck by the seeming meeting of minds that Scene editors had with Enclave.

Here is a portion of their commentary:
There's a theory gaining ground around town, and we happen to subscribe to it: Mayor Bill Purcell isn't really in favor of the half-cent sales tax increase he has proposed .... Framing more funding for schools in this way—that is, making it incumbent upon voter approval—is tactically brilliant, if somewhat diabolical. Wherever the chips fall, the mayor's hands are clean. If it tanks, he tried. If it passes, he got more money for schools.
Here is a part of an entry I made to Enclave back on May 24:
The Mayor's proposed sales tax hike is a bad idea. My guess is that the Mayor knows that this is going to fail at the ballot box. I do not see either conservatives or progressives organizing to vote for the sales tax. My guess is that he does not see that either. But at the very least, he can say that he proposed the revenues to support his plan while allowing Nashvillians to reject it come election time.
Now I'm not saying that mine was one of those theories that they had in mind when they wrote the editorial; I'm just saying that my theory may not be too far off base since it is a theory much like another "gaining ground around town."

(Note: Scene editors also comment on Councilman Eric Crafton's recent actions; I updated my June 13th "Crafty Eric" entry accordingly).

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Builders and Sellers Who Stay On Track And On Guard Enhance Neighborhood Safety

New housing construction on 5th Ave., North during the two week period that it sat abandoned and unguarded. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
Construction started once again this past weekend on this new house after several weeks of inactivity. Crews began building the house a few weeks ago, but then mysteriously stopped for a couple of weeks. During that time it was left unguarded. Strangers appeared on a couple of occasions and stole lumber. Police were called on at least one occasion, but because the identity of the owner was not known to neighbors, thieves could not be charged (owners have to press charges; otherwise, police officers can only hold suspects for a short period of time). It became a real concern, since all of the unsecured lumber was basically inviting criminal elements to Salemtown.

Then about 10 days ago the owner showed up. He was inspecting the site. I told him about the thefts and the police calls. He said that he could tell from looking that people had stolen stuff, including a power generator. He told me that during the two week period when no one was on site, he had been in the Caribbean and that his construction crew quit on him with no warning and walked off the site. He had hired a new construction crew and asked us to contact him if neighbors noticed any other suspicious activity.

The lesson in all of this is not for the rest of us in the neighborhood. We did everything we could to deter the thefts, short of posting ourselves on nightwatch for him.

The lesson is directed toward property owners who are building with the intent of selling: those owners are equally responsible for the public safety of the neighborhood in which their property sits. Neighborhood watches can only do so much if builders/sellers do not secure their equipment and materials or at least hire guards to stay on site.

As nice as this guy was, his lack of oversight was endangering the neighborhood. It was a serious mistake on his part not to have someone with his company overseeing the site in his absence. If the only cost is some lost lumber and a generator, then we are all fortunate. It would be unfortunate if the thieves discovered--while they were here for lumber--other potential targets they might hit in the future.

Tennessean Piece Shoots Even More Holes In The Myth That Metro Residents Are Moving To Outlying Communities

Tennessean reporter Megan Moriarty (who also wrote several articles on Salemtown a few years ago at the Nashville City Paper) writes in today's edition:
As the trend to live near downtown continues, local realty agents think people wanting more bang for their buck will rush to Charlotte Park [emphasis mine].
That's more confirmation that demand to live in Metro Nashville and to live proximate to Downtown is high, despite the "sky-is-falling-on-Nashville" fulminations of conservative bloggers and those who intend to "Save Nashville" from further progress.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

They May Show Up At Your Door On Saturday, But Southern Baptists Are Not The Only Baptists.

As the Southern Baptists convene in Nashville next week they will no doubt get a lot of positive press around these parts. But as you see them go door-to-door on Saturday, June 18 in order to solicit neighborhoods for new members, don't let their high visibility fool you. Keep in mind that there are other Baptists different than those in attendance at next weeks convention.

For example, the Associated Baptist Press (not connected to the SBC) reports today that it has teamed up with other agencies, including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (Southern Baptist moderates who fund ministries that the fundamentalist SBC will not) to provide Baptist churches with educational tools that celebrate First Amendment freedoms without binding themselves to "civil religion or misdirected patriotism."

I assume that means without binding themselves to certain party candidates, too.

Chicago Cubs' Pitching Phenom, Kerry Wood, May Pitch In Soundstown on Sunday.

Kerry Wood is rehabing with the Iowa Cubs, who will play the Sounds this weekend. The Nashville City Paper has projected Sunday as Wood's start day. These are the times that it pays to have season tickets, even though the Brewers are calling up the Sounds' best players right now (pitch crushers Prince Fielder and Ricky Weeks are gone).
Sounds confirm the Sunday start.

College World Series Time. Baylor Baseball Is In.

Baylor Bears in post-super-regional championship scrum. Baylor held off Clemson Tiger bats to gain a berth to the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, where they will face an old nemesis, the Texas Longhorns, in the 1st round. Photograph by Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Crafty Eric and His Symbolic Actions

If you watched the Metro City Council proceedings during the discussion on the first reading of the Mayor's budget last week, you saw Councilman David Briley point to the irony of voting against the Mayor's proposed tax increases on first reading, which--according to the Metro Charter--would have put the Mayor's submitted budget straight into effect. That immediately caused several opponents to fumble around with their decisions to vote against the budget on first reading, to ask for clarification on the Charter, and to voice support for abstaining from voting as a symbolic gesture against tax increases. Councilman Buck Dozier himself was critical of the symbolists in the Council who had planned to vote "nay" immediately, and called such behavior "silly, " given that voting against the budget on first reading would remove his chances to advise and consent.

Eric Crafton: A Silly Man? Buck Dozier may or may not have been referring to him, but I imagine that Heinz the Baron Kraus von Espy would have done so if he saw Crafton in action last Tuesday. Photograph from
One of those who expressed his determination to symbolically oppose all of the mayor's tax increases was Councilman Eric Crafton. In fact, he rose and asked neither a question of profound oratory nor a query of great legislative insight about the budget process. Instead, he was all show, checking and reiterating for the Council that those who wanted to express symbolic opposition to the Mayor's budget should abstain rather than vote "nay." Symbolism seemed to be Crafton's performative choice over substance.

Crafton was just as exclusively symbolic when, after the Council Meeting, he sent a PowerPoint presentation to two rightwing Tennessee blogs (one of whom is prone to overuse nautical metaphors) with the claim that they show that Nashville is paying more while getting less in return. The numbers crunched by Crafton's crack team did not compare apples to apples (that is metro areas to metro areas), but compared apples to oranges, as PITW's Bruce Barry effectively shows today in his criticism of Crafton's presentation and of the uncritical transmission of Crafton's carefully crafted stats by rightwing bloggers, who oppose taxes, period, without reference to any other consideration.

Crafton's research is biased because he starts from the preformed belief that Metro taxes are too high and school performance is too low and then selects the stats that support that belief. But it is also lazy research, depending on Department of Education statistics without any reference to auditable material on the ground. Crafton's presentation does not indicate any audit of any schools on his own. Doing so might have lead to more substance. For example, Tying Nashville Together conducted independent school audits in the 1990s and found that many of our public schools are old and crumbling and in need of repair. Older urban schools are metaphorical apples compared to the figurative oranges of suburban and rural schools, which are generally much newer, possess more up-to-date plants and facilities, and are less prone to disrepair. Urban schools--being more established--require more money just to operate, let alone accomplish their mission to educate all comers.

I am not going to sit here and suggest that Metro public school performance does not need to be improved. And I have been critical already this month of the public school system's lack of finesse with the budget process. But perhaps if Crafton was less concerned with symbolism and more concerned with substance, he might not have tried to make such a flawed presentation fly. And he might have checked his cynical abstention during Council session last Tuesday. Silly man.

06/15/2005 11:00 a.m. Update: Today's Nashville City Paper quotes Crafton as saying, “It is going to be a one-year budget and whatever we have will fund it for one year and that’s it .... I’m tired of this four-year stuff where we have this big pile of cash that is gone after two years.”

Consider the symbolism of a "big pile of cash" getting sucked up by ridiculous services like picking up garbage, maintaining streets and roads, improving public school facilities, catching stray dogs, arresting drug pushers, maintaining our public parks, and providing low-cost housing and a second chance for those who may be a little down on their luck. I don't know how Crafton expects Metro to operate with increasing costs and increasing demands for services. But I think he's too concerned with emotionally-laden symbols to care about common sense budget issues or long-term planning. Silly man.

06/16/2005 5:30 a.m. Update: The editors in this week's Nashville Scene effectively smacked both Crafton's symbolic gestures on behalf of society's downtrodden and his attempts to channel faulty PowerPoint presentations in one fell swoop. While defending School Board member Kathy Nevill's statements to Metro Council about the sterner tests Metro schools must face in academic achievement against Crafton's indignant comments to the Nashville City Paper, the editors wrote:
There's a difference between saying poor children can't learn and saying that poor children need more system resources to catch up to their more affluent peers. The first is bigotry; the second is simple fact. Metro is an urban system—we must educate the urban poor. If the Davidson County Republicans really want to find something to get bent out of shape about, they should focus on the state's education funding formula, which makes urban systems like Nashville's subsidize rural systems that lack the municipal burdens we must bear. Of course, that would require the Davidson County Republicans—all 12 or 13 of them—to do something other than ghostwrite PowerPoint presentations for Metro Council members like they did for Crafton.
I forgot to mention that the editors adroitly smacked the Davidson Co. GOP while smacking Crafton, too. Now that's what I'm talking about, people. I only wish I would have said it.

"The first duty of society is justice."

Alexander Hamilton's famous quote as it appears on the southeast facade of the new Justice Center being built in Downtown Nashville. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Curbside Recycling Was Never Recycling To Me

Sherry Sloan, Metro Recycling Coordinator, speaks with Salemtown Neighbors at their June 9 General Meeting. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
Sherry Sloan, the Recycling Coordinator for Metro Public Works, was kind enough to visit our neighborhood association meeting Thursday evening to talk about the program and to answer our questions. The program has run into some problems in our neighborhood since the big carts were dropped off last fall.

When I say "dropped," I do not mean it as a euphemism. They were unceremoniously dropped off a truck haphazardly in the alley a few weeks before Christmas. No instructions came with them. No educational materials were left for residents. The carts were pre-used, dirty, and mine even came with unrecyclable trash in the bottom.

No educational materials: that means that we had neighbors who had no idea that the new carts were recycling bins, let alone what was recyclable and what was not. So quite logically, people started throwing all of their garbage in them. Some did not use them at all.

Then things went from bad to worse. Just before Christmas I witnessed a Curby employee empty a neighbor's bin, not onto the truck, but into the alley. As he sorted he threw bags of items on the ground, and he dropped individual beer bottles in the alley, which would never be picked up by waste management when the trash truck came around.

When I called the Metro customer service line a few days later to complain, I was told that neighbors should look under the cart lid to find a sticker with instructions. With somewhat bitter irony, I asked her where we were supposed to get the original instructions to find the instructions sticker. I sent an e-mail to detailing my complaints. I got a quick response from Metro customer service saying that a Public Works supervisor would be distributing educational packets to our neighborhood soon. Six months have gone by. I have no packet. No neighbor that I know of has received a packet. There's a chance I may not fully comprehend what they mean by "soon."

The day after my exchange with Customer Care, a recycling truck came down the alley and checked the bins, but didn't pick up any trash they threw down the week before. They lifted the lids (I assume to see if there was more trash to throw on the ground), but they simply drove past the bottles they threw down the week before. Waste management also drove by the grounded bottles as well as bags of trash thrown on the ground by Curby employees the week before, long since shredded open by stray dogs and birds.

Trash littered our alley for weeks, thanks to recycling efforts. If this was recycling, I wanted none of it. In the name of saving us from burgeoning landfills they were essentially turning our neighborhood into small-scale landfills.

A Metro employee who attended our first neighborhood association meetings in February got an earful of our complaints about the alley. She is the one who put us in contact with Sherry Sloan. Ms. Sloan called me at the end of February. She assured me that the current Recyling Supervisor would be giving the Curby employees a stern message about keeping alleys clean as they pick up the recycling. She said that the Supervisor had been hired in January, and that the previous Supervisor may have been the reason dumping unrecyclables in the alley was tolerated.

Back to the present: At this week's meeting, Ms. Sloan acknowledged to the group that there had been problems in the past, but that pick-up employees were educated on proper procedures. She told us that she believes that things have vastly improved for us since late February. Things have gotten better than they were, but I do not know that they are "vastly improved," and I do know that they are not good enough. Ms. Sloan's talk was educational and helpful for those who attended the meeting, but what about the majority of Salemtown residents who have still not received any educational materials on recycling?

Granted we no longer seem to have a problem with Curby employees dumping unrecyclables in the alleys, but we have a new set of problems. Those infamous stickers under the lids are one such problem. If my cart had a sticker, it's gone now. When I mentioned that to Ms. Sloan at the meeting, she said that she had wondered about the quality of the adhesive on those stickers.

Another problem that I did not have a chance to raise with her this week was that recyclable items linger in my cart. While I do not actively participate in the recycling program as a means of protest, someone strolling through the alley threw a couple of plastic bottles in my cart a few weeks ago; plastic bottles, which the Recycling Program claims that it has been picking up since April. Nearly every day that Curby has come by, I have witnessed a guy jump off the truck, open the bin and close it without picking up the plastic bottles.

Inside my recycling bin. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
Granted, the plastic bottles rest alongside an empty glass beer bottle (unrecyclable) and a Styrofoam container in a plastic bag (unrecyclable), but at least one of those items was already in the cart when it was dropped off back before Christmas. The beer bottle appeared sometime early in the spring. Maybe if I offer to clean out the beer bottle, then they'll offer to clean out the container-in-the-bag, but it's just easier for me to continue to balk at recycling. I would just prefer that somebody else haul my trash, recyclables and all, to a distant landfill and get it out of our neighborhood. As for the items in the recycling bin: out-of-sight, out-of-mind until I absolutely have to bag them up and throw them in the trash bin.

The environmentalist in me would love to support a recycling program that works. This Recycling Program has a long way to go to show that it works. And with the lack of educational materials for six months, they're lucky I even know what they're up to in the alley.

Friday, June 10, 2005

High Ceiling Over Our Deck

Blue skies and clouds this morning before the rain set in. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

City Paper Story Further Debunks Urban Myth Of Metro's Outmigration Trend

Earlier this week I exhaustively questioned the urban myth--propounded by conservative bloggers and others who oppose any taxation ever--that higher revenues cause more people to migrate from Metro Nashville to outlying areas.

And then today there is this from the Nashville City Paper further undermining the outmigration myth:
Contributing to downtown Nashville’s recent homeownership trend, Riverfront Apartments will transform into Riverfront Condominiums under a joint partnership between Craighead Development and Andrews Properties.
If more people are migrating out of Metro Nashville, then why would these apartments in north Downtown be converted to condos for people to stay? If taxation were so high that it was driving people to outlying counties, wouldn't demand drop to the point that it would be more feasible just to tear down the apartments and build a parking lot where suburban Titans fans could park at a walkable distance from the Coliseum?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ethics Deferred. Graffiti Deterred.

Lost in all of the attention the MSM and bloggers have paid to deliberations over the Mayor's budget are two actions taken by our Metro Council on June 7.

First, they passed the bill to prohibit the sale of spray paint, large sharpies, and "graffiti sticks" to persons under 18. As the bill notes, it is already illegal for persons under 18 to be in possession of these items in public areas or private property where an owner has not consented. The Council's expansion of the law effectively allows businesses to tell teenagers that they not allowed to sell them these items. The debate got personal with Councilmember Amanda McClendon questioning the law credentials of Attorney-by-day and Councilmember-by-night Sam Coleman who kept questioning the legality and constitutionality of prohibiting sales to minors. Councilmember Mike Jameson had a list of store owners who supported the bill in his district, while Councilmember Harold White merely moaned about hypothetical businesses who would face undue hardship if the bill were passed. It was good to see my own Councilmember, Ludye Wallace, switch and advocate giving the bill a chance. It may or may not work, but passing the bill shows that the Metro Council is starting to make more serious and proactive efforts to stop gang-related vandalism in urban neighborhoods like Salemtown.

What they gave on graffiti, they took away in ethics. Councilmember Charlie Tygard introduced and the Council passed by six votes a resolution to defer the Ethics Task Force recommendations until September. His basic rationale was that the Council needs to focus exclusively on the budget rather than to multitask. In a fit of convoluted logic he also argued that ethics is not a pressing issue since all of the members appear to him to be behaving themselves. I guess we can rest easy knowing that Charlie Tygard is keeping his eye out for misbehavior. Let's see how serious they are in the fall after three months of chances to focus on and to review the ethics recommendations.

Salemtown Neighbors To Discuss Recycling and Neighborhood Watch Signs Tonight

Salemtown's neighborhood association will gather at Watkins College (MetroCenter Blvd.) in Room 501 this evening to hear Recycling Coordinator Sherry Sloan from Metro Public Works discuss the recycling program. Business scheduled for tonight's meeting also includes final decisions on placement of neighborhood watch signs around Salemtown. The meeting will start at 6:00 p.m. and end at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

More On The Partially Broken Story Of No Soundstown For Downtown

At the end of May I expressed ambivalence about the possibility that the Sounds stadium plans Downtown were sinking, at least according to a Nashville City Paper article by reporter Craig Boerner.

When I originally read Boerner's article, I did not get the sense that he did in his opening that the deal is on its death bed. However, I denied my first perception and chalked my lack of discernment down to my layperson's ignorance about "tax increment financing (TIF)," which was to be the method by which the Sounds could afford to move Downtown. As I finished Boerner's piece, I just told myself that there is probably something within the structure of TIF itself that tells the knowledgeable reader, "Of course. The deal is practically off now."

Then, I read Bruce Barry's criticism of Boerner's article in the Nashville Scene weblog. Barry didn't see the connection, either. Moreover, he took Boerner to task for not explaining TIF in the first place. Apparently, there is no implicit TIF logic that indicated a deal killer, and even if there was, Boerner should have made the connection for his readers, as Barry argues.

Well, I took it upon myself to contact someone in the know to find out the real deal. I found out 1) that Boerner acknowledges that the material in his article does not support the title or the lead-in claims about the probable demise of the Sounds' move plans; 2) that the "proposal in doubt" headline of the article was not written by Boerner; and 3) there is more to this story coming than Boerner's article lets on or that the Mayor's Office or Sounds management are currently ready to acknowledge during negotiations.

So, Bruce Barry was right and I obviously still haven't learned to be more critical of reportage as I read it. But you have got to wonder about the questionable logic of intentionally running a title and lead-in that go unsupported by the material of Boerner's article. Whether or not the City Paper has privileged insider info on the health of the Sounds proposal is really less important than editorial tactics of simply grabbing attention and not substantiating the grab with facts. Somebody seems to have teased to mislead readers.

Stay tuned to the City Paper for more information on the supposed demise of plans to relocate Soundstown Downtown, but from now on skip the lead-ins to get to the actual dope on the deal.

Metro Budget Notes

As you probably all know, the Metro Council approved the Mayor's budget on first reading last night. The "honkies" (my name for the Tennessee Tax Revolt) were out in small force outside the council encouraging passing motorists to honk their horns as a profound and articulate show of opposition. TTR is not in favor of much; they are merely oppositional; not much staying power over the long-term. One of the reputations they will have to live down is being against all government services, including neighborhood development and maintaining public schools.

The Chamber of Commerce is supporting the Mayor's budget, including both of his proposed increases in property and sales taxes. I have previously supported the idea of a property tax increase and opposed the idea of a sales tax increase. (BTW, I also oppose Council Member Diane Neighbor's call for an increase in the wheel tax. Like the sales tax, the wheel tax is regressive and places the greatest economic burden on low and middle income drivers).

With the Council's initial approval on first reading, we're already starting to get those sky-is-falling opponents who oversimplify the problem of raising taxes. They warn that raising taxes will encourage people to leave Davidson County for suburbs like the Republican stronghold of Williamson County. This is a distortion for several reasons:
  • People leaving cities is not news. It has been a post-Depression, post-WWII phenomenon that was most appropriately entitled, "White Flight."Race was the first cause of our overly Caucasian suburban growth. Granted it is less of a reason now, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Now people leaving urban areas for suburbs give various rationales for doing so. Some include taxes, some don't. Reasons include: 1) better schools, which will require higher taxes as outmigration increases size; 2) lower crime, which also requires revenue influx to maintain; and 3) the ability to buy more property for the same money. That last one is the cost-benefit trade-off for outmigration. Land in all urban areas, not just Nashville (which is considered one of the most competitive urban markets in the country), is more expensive than in the suburbs and in the ex-urbs. It stands to reason that you can buy more land the farther you are willing to commute. The cost-benefit trade-off for moving closer in is paying less money and personal time for transportation costs.
  • The growth of the suburban counties around Davidson is no different than the growth of suburbia everywhere, because of greater demand and higher density closer in. According to market principles, if there is a massive flight away from Downtown Nashville, then urban real estate prices should go down, not up, as demand weakens. Yet, urban real estate prices continue to trend up (a builder in Salemtown told me that he thinks people moving into our neighborhood are willing to pay 12-13% more than we did nearly a year ago). That makes it tougher for lower class residents who are squeezed by higher sales taxes, higher wheel taxes, and their inability, unlike upper middle class Nashvillians, to move to outlying suburbs.
  • Lower class residents stand less of a chance moving to a Franklin suburb than they do surviving in Davidson County. Don't let conservatives convince you that lower class residents are moving out in droves for lower taxes. That's just their worst nightmare.
  • If people are moving to surrounding counties from the Metropolitan areas, then greater demand will be placed on government services in those areas, which in turn would call for higher taxes. The logic is self-defeating. I already intimated this point, but it needs to be iterated.
  • There are other variables that critics ignore in their attack on taxes. Population growth leads to upper middle and upper class "overflow" from urban into suburban areas. Gentrification and its sibling, "in-filling," are exploding in Davidson County like in other metropolitan areas. These are almost exclusively middle class processes of revitalization of urban neighborhoods. If the middle class were not returning or staying in Davidson County, then these processes would not occur at all, let alone proliferate.
Word from the Tennessean (if you want to give reporter Diane Long the benefit of the doubt this time) is that the School Board is going to ignore the Mayor's cut to their proposed budget and make an appeal directly to Metro Council. In my opinion, that strengthens the Mayor's hand and weakens the School Board's case. It makes the School Board look insensitive to budget constraints; it makes the Mayor's request more moderate and realistic.

It is shaping up to be an interesting budget approval process.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Strand of Micro-Parks: One Idea For Making Salemtown A Little Greener and A Lot More Civic

Salemtown has great recreational and green space centralized at Morgan Park, but a Civic Design Center (CDC) report's recommendations would transform seeming dead ends around the neighborhood into a string of micro-parks that would connect with Nashville's established greenway system.

The northern boundary of Salemtown looking east along Coffee St. from the 7th Ave., North terminus toward 6th, 5th, and 4th Avenues. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
The CDC's report maintains that Salemtown, bounded as it is by the interstate, could benefit as a whole neighborhood from creative thinking about its northern boundary. I discussed the features of the northern boundary previously. 4th Ave., North, 5th Ave., North, 6th Ave., North and 7th Ave., North all terminate at the I-65 loop. The CDC's creative option proposes "small neighborhood parks and gardens" be placed where each of these avenues terminate. In their report they say that the Salemtown residents whom they consulted suggested that these micro-parks could be points along a neighborhood greenway.

Looking north at the street truncation from the intersection of 4th Ave., North and Coffee Street. Will it be transformed from a "dead end" to a living end? Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
Current challenges to putting a system of peripheral micro-parks in Salemtown include funding and garnering support from Salemtown residents. I also was not sure how parks would fit at the 4th and 5th Ave. truncations, where houses currently stand on either side of the streets. However, the report shows a sketch of the 4th Ave. park fitting in the small space between the guard rail on the street and the highway wall.

This sounds like a positive solution to develop space that is currently not very functional given the awkward truncation of north-south arteries. Micro-parks would beautify Salemtown and they would give it more public space for families. It would also seem to clarify the northern boundary of our enclave. However it excludes any plans for the fractured sliver of Salemtown that sits north of the highway and south of MetroCenter. How does that part of Salemtown get integrated into the CDC's vision?

Monday, June 06, 2005

June Must Be Religious Conservatives on Parade Month

Well, we all survived "Porn Sunday" without too much damage to the traditional liturgical calendar. Although give these evangelicals--who are just a little too preoccupied with sex--much more room and they may just spin "Palm Sunday" to mean something uncouth.

Next up: here come the Southern Baptists to evangelize the buckle of the Bible Belt while enjoying all of the mercantile amenities at "Shopryland." Reportedly, SBC messengers are coming through Nashville neighborhoods door-to-door to pad their membership numbers and baptize a million new members. I hope they stop by here. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church years ago, but I want to have a little fun with them. When they ask me if I would like to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will tell them, "I imagine so, but I have to ask permission from my wife first." That ought to needle-prick their preference for submission of wives to their husbands. I also want to ask them why they are so hell-bent on destroying our public schools when so many of us are working so hard to rescue them.

One thing I don't get is that the SBC is headquartered here in Nashville, but they somehow have failed to take our town and to turn it into an evangelical Vatican City. Their best answer is to bring in several thousand interlopers to do the job? Southern Baptist leaders need to learn how to work this town better. Network. That's the secret. After all, this is a tourist and music industry town. We're used to interlopers. Half of us are interlopers. We won't be impressed just because they come from across the country to knock on our doors.

I don't think that either "Porn Sunday" or the SBC pose much threat to Nashville or to Tennessee. And it could be worse. We could live somewhere much more susceptible to religious hucksters, say Texas, where the Governor is just about to help the Lone Star State devolve into a church. That would be some kind of history: from a republic to a state to a church. It's like Texas is becoming the-Enlightenment-and-the-Reformation-in-reverse.

A Few Rules

One of my favorite segments on any comedy program is "New Rules" on Bill Maher's Real Time (HBO). (Maher's funniest rule: "Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to 'beef with broccoli.'")

I don't think that I am nearly as comical as Maher, but I would like to attempt to brush ever so slightly against the spirit of Maher's rules by giving a few of my own rules directed to people I encounter on a daily basis. I won't be giving an exhaustive list of rules here. I plan to give one now and others at future dates (which will basically be whenever I encounter troubling behavior).

Let me clarify that I do not consider myself too rule-bound or legalistic. I'd like to think that I am guided by higher principles like justice and love; but there come times when rules are needed; there come people who definitely need them. So, here is my first of a few rules:

To dog owners: if you really believe that your dog is a member of your family then stop letting your family member hike his leg or squat on my lawn when you walk him! The same goes for bitches. I'm tired of finding brown spots on grass. I'm tired of cleaning up your dog's deposits so that my family and friends will not step in them.

I would not allow a member of my family to come over and defecate in your yard. I could be arrested for indecent exposure (a.k.a. flashing) if I came over and pissed in your flower beds. So why do you allow your family member to soil my yard? If dogs are people, then why can't dogs (or better yet, their owners) be cited for indecent exposure?

I have a proposition for you. If dogs are really people and you want them treated as such, well then treat them as such: teach them to use the toilets in your home like all of the other members of your family do.

I'm just as much of a dog-liker as the next person. I've owned dogs at various times and we are going to get another one in the future. But I do not believe that they are people. That doesn't stop me from respecting your right to treat your dog as a person by letting him sleep in your beds, eat at the table or off your own plate, or ride in the passenger seat of your car (belted, of course!) while wearing a little do-rag or sweater vest. But at least be consistent! Why is it that you humanize your dog in every way possible except when it comes to taking a crap?

If you are going to let your dog go to wee-wee anywhere it pleases, rather than in the toilet where the rest of us humans go, then please make it your own yard so that your lawn can bear more spots than 101 Dalmatians, and you can get that excremass wedged in the lugs of your Birkenstocks or your running shoes and you can track it all over your own house. We don't want it at my house.

And the same rule goes for owners who don't humanize their dogs. For the love of Mike, my yard is not your cotton-pickin' canine's crapper.

Hail the Tall Grass Ordinance: The Maiden Voyage Of Our New Lawn Mower

As homage to Metro's excessive growth and accumulation prohibition, we finally bought ourselves a new lawn mower and I took it out for a first spin this past weekend.

We had been paying a very nice gentleman to cut our lawns. He is dependable and very friendly. But he just cut our grass too low, lopping it off at the crown; even when I asked him to set the blade higher. I'm not sure he understood what I wanted. So, I moved the ETA of the mower up sooner than we had originally intended for the sake of the fescue.

While I feel a bit guilty about ditching our yardman, I am very pleased with the results in the back. I do not remember ever having grass so cleanly cut. Before now, I had only mowed with pre-owned mowers, which generally kind of stripped and tore the grass. I have also cut with one of those manual mowers in an attempt to be environmentally friendly, but I realized right quick that they do not cut as well as the gas mowers.

Cleanly cut grass is Tao. It's a basic thing of beauty.

I realize that there there is a person out there who does not share my appreciation of mowed grass and would just as soon make a "meadow" of his yard. However, by definition, a meadow is an expanse of land dedicated to its natural state or to pasture for livestock grazing or for harvesting hay (my paraphrase of the American Heritage Dictionary definition). An "expanse" sounds a lot bigger than the less-than-one acre of a typical city property.

More to the point, a tract of urban land that is 60' x 180' does not qualify as large enough for a "meadow" in my book. Parcels like that in far northeast Nashville near Briley Parkway may qualify as meadows and be treated as such, but in Salemtown, they are just small, unkempt lots, which catch litter and provide cover for rodents.

Allowing a resident to make a meadow of a small plot of land as long as they tend it and jump through some bureaucratic hoops to avoid being in violation of the tall grass ordinance is reasonable. It just would not work in most urban neighborhoods.

For my part, I do not like burning fossil fuels, but having a meadow on a thin slice of land close to the city is not an option for us. I do like the way that burning fossil fuels makes the grass look. Some call it manicured; I just call it harmony.