Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Heartless Receive Their Satisfaction

MSNBC reported tonight that 1,500 New Orleans police officers have been pulled off the continuing rescue efforts in order to protect property from looters. An estimated 100,000 people are still trapped by flood waters and need to be rescued.

The Turn Has Been Made In Katrina's Wake

Now that New Orleans is submerged and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is in ruins, watch the conservative media's (including conservative blogger's) turn away from people and toward property. This is how some local conservative bloggers are starting to break: re-build New Orleans in order to get the flow of construction materials to help economic recovery vs. don't re-build New Orleans because it lies below sea level. Either way the focus is more on capital than on people. The focus here and here and here and here is on the mortal sin of looting, the highest crime against property, without reference people and how or why they loot.

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference at the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Coast (survived Katrina's storm surge) down in Long Beach. I shuttled back and forth down Hwy. 90 (now laying in chunks) from Gulfport and Long Beach, past Pass Christian and over St. Louis Bay to New Orleans and back again. The differences between New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast are stark: New Orleans is urban, mostly African American, largely working class to poor; the Gulf Coast seemed like a string of small towns with big houses, all white as far as I could tell, and wealthy.

I cannot help but wonder, as the discussion has turned to protecting property rather than people, whether the differences between New Orleans and the Gulf Coast drive some of the conservative turn to property. It apparently does in Steve Gill's case: apparently, he wants to send all federal aid to Biloxi and Gulfport rather than to New Orleans, but only after he's seen a couple of looters shot. In a diatribe reminiscent of old school southern lynch-mob mentality he seems to think that popping a cap in a couple of New Orleans residents would be enough to scare the rest. Obviously "continuing their celebration of virtue," Nathan and Sarah at MooreThoughts also call for gunning down New Orleans looters first and asking questions later, as does Blake Wylie at NashvilleFiles.

Perhaps once disaster conditions clear up suspected looters should be arrested and given a proper trial. But in no case should a crime against property ever be worthy of a death sentence, with or without a trial. My God, where have our priorities and "virtue" sunk if we are killing people to protect material goods or to send a message to other looters? The so-called "Culture of Life" seems to take a back seat when property and capital are behind the wheel.

We hear hurricane survivors say constantly that they are not upset about losing all of their material possessions because they can always get them back; they say that they are just thankful that their lives were spared. Yet, when it comes to property, some of us inlanders are apparently willing to start up a turkey shoot and summarily end somebody else's life over material possessions.

And I haven't even raised the question of whether some of those looters might be committing a crime in the name of staying alive in a submerged disaster area without electricity, gas, water, or telephone service. But Aunt B over at Tiny Cat Pants does that much better than I can:
It was like someone flipped a switch and now the story was going to be about looters, not about victims, when of course, those are the same people. People who lost everything in the hurricane and the flood in New Orleans are the ones looting. There aren't any outside bands of bad guys coming in to swarm down on Walmart and steal diapers and dry shoes and dry clothes and food. Those are people whose whole worlds are destroyed.
Why are we vilifying them?
[Snip]The people I saw on MSNBC and FoxNews looting were black. Partially ... this is because most of the poor people in New Orleans are black. Partially, as Atrios points out, it's because, according to the media (the AP in this case), black people "loot" and white people "find" [emphasis mine]
[Snip][F]raming it as if people who didn't leave deserved to die serves two purposes. One, it lets the rest of us continue that comfortable lie that we would have handled things differently, if something like that happened to us. In the face of unfathomable tragedy, it's sad human nature to take comfort in feeling a little smug superiority.
But, more importantly, two, it distracts us from questioning why, after the initial event no one could do anything about, is the water in New Orleans still rising? Why is there still chaos in the city? Why isn't there an enormous army of National Guard troops down there with helicopters and field kitchens and medics and the training to go into desolate urban areas and search for people?
So, even if looting is wrong, we still must distinguish those who loot to take advantage of a situation from those who loot just to stay alive or keep their family alive. That's part of what a system of justice does. However, those who focus on property rather than people don't make such distinctions.

08/31/2005, 11:55, Update: Add Bill Hobbs to the growing list of local conservative bloggers who are extolling the virtues of shooting suspected looters in order to send a message to other suspected looters. God knows we can't replace a pair of Nike shoes, so let's trade a human life for it, shall we?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Eye On The Ball, On New Orleans' City Neighborhoods (Updated)

In New Orleans urban neighborhoods, as in so many cities, poor and lower middle class folk are relegated to the cheapest, disaster-prone property. According to ABC News, a third of New Orleans residents live below the poverty level (which last time I checked was around $18,000). The poorest of the poor live south of Lake Pontchartrain. That's the much photographed area where the flood water is now up to their rooftops.

One in six of those residents do not have a car, and thus had no way out of town before Katrina moved in. 9,000 of those folk evacuated to the Super Dome, which had holes torn in its roof by Katrina. They slept on the floor and in stadium seats, only to be held in as trash stacked up around them and as moisture-saturated Dome facilities began to fail. Now, flood waters are rising to the point that they will threaten the Super Dome and those people are having to be evacuated to other facilities, according to tonight's CBS News.

Relocating 9,000 people sounds pretty daunting to me. I admit I do wonder how thin Louisiana's (as well as Mississippi's and Alabama's) National Guard is with units in Iraq. With FEMA calling this catastrophe "the most significant in American history," I imagine that evacuating people and protecting them is going to require a National Guard force of historic proportions. Thank goodness President Bush cancelled the last two days of his five-week vacation to "monitor" the situation.

BREAKING NEWS FROM ABC: Inmates at a New Orleans prison rioted in an attempt to take advantage of the catastrophe. They have taken hostages. The need for National Guard troops seems even more acute with this information.

08/30/2005, 10:00 p.m. Update: The Times-Picayune, whose off-line publishing capabilities were knocked out by the flood, is blogging their news.

Ethics And The Metro Council: Banning Meals-For-Deals Is An Appropriate First Step, But Only The First

September is upon us. That means it's time for the Metro Council to consider the question of ethics that they deferred at the end of June because the majority of them wanted to focus singularly on the budget rather than to multitask and to pass meaningful ethics legislation sooner rather than later. Unless they vote to defer it again, they are going to have to so something with their own Ethics Task Force's recommendations.

The first step at least 21 of them appear willing to take is to ban business and other private associations from providing their meals on Council nights. Unlike the current Council practice of accepting gifts over $25.00 without publicly reporting those gifts, the free meal program is not a huge influence-peddling mechanism. One free dinner from Group X is not nearly the same as accepting free Titans game tickets from Group Y's Personal Seat License or Season Suite arrangement. Therefore, the biggest ethics test for the Council is not this one. The biggest one is down the road: Council-at-Large member David Briley's bill requiring the Council's public accountability on gifts over $25.00.

In the meantime, I endorse the current bill that would ban free meals from private groups. It is an appropriate first step that at least indicates that members are willing to appear above reproach. I am disappointed to see that groups with whom I am sympathetic--like the Arts Commission, neighborhood associations, the education association, and Tying Nashville Together--chose to participate in the meal-for-deals program. I understand the logic of tapping into power networks, but the propriety of the tap-lines should have been questioned. Rather than raising red flags and asking hard questions, many groups just went along for the ride.

Having said that, I hasten to add that banning meals-for-deals does not go far enough as an ethical corrective. The Ethics Task Force did not even bother with it, because it represents such a piddling amount of money compared to unreported gifts to Council members. I hope that Council members Michael Craddock and John Summers and the other 21 sponsors of this bill aren't using it as a bone thrown out to us so that they can say they voted for meaningful ethics reform, while at the same time they both riddle Council member Briley's ethics bill and decimate the recommendations of the Ethics Task Force. Council member Charlie Tygard's resolution to defer ethics discussions to September was not a hopeful sign in June; even so, let's hope the meals-for-deals ban is a portent of important reform to come, rather than simply window dressing to cover the unchecked flow of gifts to Council members.

Is It Safe To Come Out, Yet?

The North End seems to have weathered Tropical Storm (now Tropical Depression) Katrina and come out unscathed. Only some small fallen limbs I saw laying around the neighborhood on my drive-about this morning. Not enough rain to indicate flooding beyond those run-off problem points we have every rain.

At 3:00 a.m. this morning the cable signal cut out on the televisions. I put on my rain gear and went outside for a while. Wind was gusting impressively and every once in a while I would hear a high-pitched whining like a combination of a car that needed its belts replaced and a siren. It was kind of eerie to hear, and nothing I have encountered in Salemtown makes a noise like that. Rain seemed to swirl dust-devilishly on top of the pavement and street signs swivelled and rocked back and forth during the strongest gusts. Clouds were barreling across the sky southeast-to-northwest in a matter of seconds.

If anybody else knows of any damage in the neighborhood, please weigh in.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Municipal Net On The Way For Nashville?

According to today's Nashville City Paper, At-Large Council member David Briley is going to introduce a Council resolution on September 20 to create a task force to look into the feasibility of developing a municipal high-speed network. I support that resolution.

This news along with recent word that Google might be working toward building a free nationwide Wi-Fi network is promising, especially for those of us who think we pay Comcast and other private providers too much money for mediocre service. At least these prospects might get the small number of corporate providers in gear to try and make themselves better businesses, rather than sitting back and complacently limiting our choices to either speed or price.

Tropical Storm Katrina Seems Headed Straight For North-By-Northwest Nashville

Made my last minute rounds before the outer bands moved in. Picked up extra batteries, case of drinking water, and filled up the gas tank. Strapped everything down outside the house. Checked flashlights and gathered candles. Wish I would have bought a chain saw just in case large old trees come down. But I did hear that wind gusts are predicted at 30 to 40 mph overnight and tomorrow rather than the 70 mph predicted this morning. Ready or not here she comes.

Nashville Pastor First Makes Excuses And Then Misleads About Pat Robertson's Wish For Assassination

Jerry Sutton, whose Two Rivers Baptist Church hosted Just-Us Sunday II (or as Bill Maher put it on Real Time recently, "Justice Sunday II, Electric Boogaloo") appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews a few days ago and he defended Pat Robertson's advocation of assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by first minimizing Robertson's intentions and then completely denying that Robertson said "assassination," even though Robertson apologized for saying "assassination" the day before. Some might construe the denial as lying on Rev. Sutton's part, but I'll leave that to your judgment. You will of course remember that lying breaks one of the Ten Commandments so prominently displayed at Two Rivers during Just-Us Sunday II.

Here is a partial transcript of the debate between Sutton and Matthews (via the Church-State Network):
MATTHEWS: I want to start with the Reverend Jerry Sutton, who is an evangelical minister. And he's a wonderful host to us when we went down to visit his great church down there in Nashville. What do you -- what should we make of Pat Robertson when he says one day, go kill that guy, and, the next day, says, never mind, like he is Gilda Radner saying, you know, never mind? Should we take him seriously?
SUTTON: Chris, I think that, in the situation here, that Pat was speaking off-the-cuff. Actually, he was speaking as political commentary. I don't -- from what I read in the transcript -- I didn`t see the show. I read the transcript. He sure seemed to me to be someone who was basically speaking as a frustrated American, more than an evangelical leader.
[crosstalk]
MATTHEWS: But didn't he say 23 times, something like that, that this action ought to be taken? It wasn't -- it wasn't really off-the-cuff, was it? This was a show that he could have corrected at any point during the show. He could have said, "I didn't mean to say, kill him.' " And he never did. He said "assassinate."
SUTTON: Well, I didn't hear the word "assassinate."
MATTHEWS: Yes, he used it.
[crosstalk]
SUTTON: I saw the word "take him out." Now, what I see here, though, is -- the question is this. Is the guy a danger and is he a terrorist -- a proponent of terrorism? And if he is, I mean, that needs to be looked at carefully, but Pat Robertson's not the
person to look at it carefully, and he's not the one who makes those kind of decisions.
MATTHEWS: Well, speaking for evangelicalism on the program tonight -- and I'm putting you in a big-time catbird seat here, Reverend Sutton, but Christianity, does it believe in assassination?
SUTTON: No, it doesn't. As a matter of fact, to talk about killing somebody because it's the best thing to do -- what I read was that he said it's better to take him out -- quote, unquote -- than to go to war against him, his country, for $200 billion. And it looked like he was framing it in an economic position. But, from my perspective, I mean, what he said was wrong. I think it was unwise. And if he had to do it over again, I would hope that he would be more careful in what he said.
Unless I miss my guess, Rev. Sutton even pulls a flip-flop at the end of that exchange.
On a related note, Jim Wallis, who will be at Vanderbilt on October 13 and 14 to deliver the Cole Lectures, was less evasive and misleading in attempting to hold Robertson responsible when he wrote this week that Robertson put biblical ethics and the Ten Commandments aside in advocating assassination. Wallis also called Robertson "an embarrassment to the church." Given Jerry Sutton's deceptive defense of Robertson, I would have to say that the local pastor is no less embarrassing to the Nashville religious community.

The Grace of Doing Nothing

When we do nothing we are also affecting the course of history. The problem we face is often that of choice between various kinds of inactivity rather than of choice between action and inaction.
--H. Richard Niebuhr, The Grace of Doing Nothing

Various parties, including the Tennessean, are getting riled up at Reverend Fred Phelps and his sect coming to Middle Tennessee to protest at the funerals of slain soldiers. Radio DJs, bloggers, and organizations used the weekend to whip up anti-Phelps emotions and they encouraged people to turn out at the funeral for a "counter demonstration." Mobilization seemed to be this weekend's watchword.

I believe that responding this way is a mistake. In fact, I believe that responding to Rev. Fred at all is a mistake.

I believe that those who publicly decry Fred Phelps and show up to wave placards in his face are playing right into his hands. While they think that may be beating his hatred down with sheer numbers and strong feelings, I believe that they are wrong. Numbers and feelings don't cow Rev. Fred. I believe that a popular outpouring against his crowd is exactly what Rev. Fred is hoping for.

Some who have known him very closely say that Fred Phelps is a man who "suffers from a mental illness that leaves him unsatisfied with life unless he can be responsible for the suffering of other human beings." And from what I have seen of Rev. Fred, the more suffering he causes, the better. This is guy whose church is held in the basement of his home with some of his immediate family members. Those are meager proportions, but hyper-Calvinists believe in an elect predestined by God for heaven over against the evil world, itself predestined by God to hell. The elect are an exclusive group, and Rev. Fred's family seems about exclusive as you can get. The strongly judgmental bent of hyper-Calvinism fits cleanly with the sadism said to be Rev. Fred's signature. He has created a siege mentality among his band and every time they go out to protest they call it an "epic."

Consequently, every detractor or heckler crossing their path is validation to them that the world is headed to hell. It is proof of their very message. And if a couple of Phelpsians suffer ridicule or even assault from hotheads on the other side, then all the better for Rev. Fred. That interfaces with both his purported sadism and the badge-of-honor mentality of the elect, who suffer the world's slings and arrows precisely because they are the elect.

Hence, they strike out even more demonstrably the more attention they get. They also seize on the latest high profile events to attach their cause to. They even tied their names to the Cindy Sheehan protest declaring both Ms. Sheehan and George W. Bush as equally "Hell-bound." So, when both mainstream and alternative media sources demonize the Phelpsians and glorify the counter-demonstrators, they in effect embolden Rev. Fred, who is even now probably gearing up for his next circus elsewhere. The Tennessean article is positive press to them. They may also post their own pictures of counter-demonstrators at the this weekend's funerals. They may use them to argue that the "hundreds of people" who showed up to shout Rev. Fred down are hypocrites in their own "hatemongering," as they have before.

So, whenever Rev. Fred shows up in Nashville again--and he will--I would like to recommend H. Richard Niebuhr's idea that there is a grace in doing nothing in response. Inactivity or choosing not to react may have political affects we had not considered in our rush to demonstrate against such hatred. Action in the form of counter-demonstrations are ultimately destined to fail, because they simply encourage Rev. Fred to try to make people on all sides go on suffering. There is a time for counter-demonstrations, especially when those protests call for greater risk and sacrifice than driving your car out somewhere and holding up signs or yelling at some inconsequential pastor from Kansas.

But there is also a time not to respond to hatred. Rev. Fred's brand of hatred is obvious to everyone. He's did us a favor long ago by calling attention to his hatred, which is obvious even to children. We don't need to see it over again to see it for what it is and oppose it. We can see the dragons we are up against with his band. But those dragons become more furious and more winged the more we publicly contest them. So, we should consider the "kinds of inactivity" as our response to those dragons.

Harder to see are the more insidious forms of hatred and discrimination by groups much more mainstream; groups like right-wing evangelical Christians who say they don't hate gays and lesbians, but then turn around and compare them to child molesters and murderers. More difficult is the concealed contempt of those who refuse to concede that gays and lesbians deserve equal access to the same economic and political benefits of marriage that straight people currently enjoy. Such hatred is much harder to spot, more entrenched in dominant culture, more costly to confront, and hence, worthier of counter-demonstrations if we are truly serious about confronting hatred.

Fred Phelps, on the contrary, is only worthy of the grace of doing nothing.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Good, The Bad, And The Bureaucratic

The Good: I was totally, but pleasantly surprised to see a Metro Water official show up in front of my house last Wednesday morning after Tuesday night's Wastewater meeting, after which several of us spoke with Public Information Officer Sonia Harvat (tel.: 862-4494; e-mail: sonia.harvat@nashville.gov) in order to get Metro's response to water run-off problems in various parts of Salemtown. (Shannahs relates her post-meeting experience here with Metro Water's responsiveness to a water run-off problem on 4th Ave., requiring the imput of the brown-clad UPS guy, too). I told Ms. Shervat that last fall, after repairing a sewer line in front of my house, the pavers did not level the new asphalt they put down against the old asphalt. As a result, water backed up at spots in front of my house depositing silt and, during the winter, road salt and sand, which made the curbside parking more unpaved than paved. I also let her know that in the spring I shoveled and removed a wheelbarrow full of salt and sand from the curb. I never expected such quick turn around, and my guess is that the amount of problems reported and/or criticism fielded the evening before must have made an impression.

The Bad: After inspecting the newer asphalt patch and listening to me recount the drainage problems for several minutes on Wednesday morning, the Metro Water official told me that he was not sure that the problem could be fixed. That's not what I wanted to hear. He said that he would check with Public Works to see if the run-off channel could be "milled," but he seemed to hedge. He told me that he was not sure that milling was possible without creating more drainage problems below the curb. I tried to gently remind him that the sewer workers were responsible for the problem, since they repaired the street, which didn't seem to impress him at all.

The Bureaucratic: He responded that the real problem was unplanned and uncoordinated growth in the neighborhood. He told me that the Salemtown sewer lines were 100 years old and that in some cases there was no line left and that dirt was the only thing channeling sewerage. He blamed the developers and he blamed the lack of planning on the government side. He pointed down the street to some duplexes that were being built and told me that the sewer problems were due to developments like that one, where two houses were put on a lot designed for one house. He suggested that the problem might not be fixed until the street was re-paved, which might not be until 2010. That wasn't good enough for me. I just wanted the water run-off to be fixed before the winter arrives and requires more salt and sand to be dumped in the road.

Postscript: I don't totally disagree with the Metro Water official that development needs to be balanced by proper planning. I'm also not naive or dishonest enough to suggest that a free market could solve these development problems. But it's like a builder told me later when I related this story to him: many of these officials are less interested in proper planning than they are in protecting their own turfs and making sure that they are not blamed for problems, even if they are responsible for them. "Proper planning" is thrown up as a smokescreen to obscure accountability. That's the risk and danger of bureaucracies, whether public or private. The official's response to me might have been honest but we all need to keep in mind that he could simply be responding to a problem by shielding himself from blame and responsibility. The builder told me that Metro Water charged him $500.00 per duplex to hook up the lines. I don't know where that money goes, but that knowledge sure cut into the credibility of the Water official's complaints about new builds on old properties. I'll keep an eye on this situation and I plan to follow up with Ms. Shervat until somebody does something to fix the water run-off problems.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pushing 10,000

Enclave has nearly reached 10,000 total pageloads. When I wrote my six-month anniversary entry less than 3 weeks ago, I had just hit the 7,000 pageload mark. 3 weeks since equals 3,000 more pageloads, and it puts Enclave at a rarified threshold--for a hyper-local blog in its first year--much sooner than expected. Back on August 9, I thought if I might be able to reach 10,000 before Christmas, I would be fortunate. Never did I assume that Enclave would reach the magic number before the month was out.

I want to make sure that I express my thanks to all those who stopped in to check my little hyper-local blog out, especially those of you who keep coming back.

More Crye Leike Controversy, Updated: Formal Complaint May Be Filed With the Tennessee Real Estate Commission Against Terry Rymar

Readers who have returned to the comments section of this week's Crye Leike entries during the overnight hours will have noticed that ShannahS has announced her intention on Enclave to file a formal complaint to the Tennessee Real Estate Commission concerning Crye Leike Realtor Terry Rymar's allegedly questionable and possibly unethical business practices in Salemtown.

ShannahS maintains that she was told directly by Ms. Rymar that a new property "listing has a contract on it for the asking [price of] $187,000.00, but that it needed a mere $50,000 to rehab the house" on 5th Ave., North. ShannahS also says that Ms. Rymar stated that ShannahS could then turn around and "easily resell for $320,000." ShannahS tells me that she believes that Ms. Rymar has misrepresented the rehab and resell figures; she also says that Ms. Rymar is unethical for giving home owners definite figures that they can get for their homes and for giving buyers definite figures that they can get for rehabilitating homes that they buy.

ShannahS also tells me that she believes Ms. Rymar mislead her on the square footage of the house in question and that Ms. Rymar told her that the only work that needed to be done was gutting and upgrading the house's kitchen even though ShannahS knows that a previous buyer's inspector found a cockroach infestation and mold problems, which are unfavorable and poor conditions Ms. Rymar did not mention in their conversation about the property, even though their mention would probably affect the price of the property.

I have already maintained that I have heard and now believe that Terry Rymar preys on the wishes of long-time home owners here in Salemtown by promising them inflated, exaggerated returns on their real estate investments. It's time for somebody from the State to investigate this matter and if necessary either discipline Ms. Rymar or put the continuing allegations (which I've heard from buyers, sellers, and builders) to rest.

08/27/2005, 10:35 a.m., Update: Check out Benjamin VH's blog for recent conversations between neighbors concerned about Terry Rymar and their perceptions of the current controversy. See his comment section in particular.

Morgan Park Renovation Coming, Reports Tennessean

The Tennessean's Nancy Deville reports this morning that Morgan Park is due for $200,000 in renovations over the next few months. Those renovations include: "a walking trail, gardens along the trail, modified baseball field and new playground," which are funded by the Parks Department's Parks and Greenways Master Plan.


At the Central Wastewater meeting on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak with Germantown patriarch Ernest Campbell, who suggested to me that one use of Salemtown's block grant might be for the renovation of Morgan Park, a goal that he and his wife have been pursuing for awhile.

With this news that the Parks Department is funding renovations, spending block grant funds on Morgan Park might not be an option since those funds have to go to projects that are currently not funded by Metro. The slated renovations, which include long-overdue upgrades to the Morgan Park Community Center, could ostensibly move Morgan Park further down the list of priorities of possible Salemtown enhancements, since there could be a host of other needs around the neighborhood that Metro is not planning for. Then there is also the issue of boundaries: Germantown expanded its boundary to Hume St. not too long ago to encompass Morgan Park. Since the block grant area falls north of Hume, I'm not sure grant money could go to Morgan Park. These are questions I will raise at the Block Grant Citizen Advisory Committee meetings beginning September 13.

In the meantime, our venerable old park in the North End is due some lavish and extended attention, so I am glad to see Metro spending $200,000 on Morgan Park. That is tax money well-spent. Salemtown Neighbors partnered with Morgan Park Community Center back when the facility needed some attention and we'll be there to enjoy the facility upgrades.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Camel on the ceiling. C ... c ... C."

Rat Pellets To Neighborhoods

Yesterday I intimated that the mainstream print media pretty much ignored the August 23 proceedings of the Central Wastewater Treatment meeting at Neuhoff, which Enclave exhaustively chronicled. Neither of the Nashville daily newspapers gave any indication that a reporter was present for the meeting.

No stories appeared in either the Tennessean or the Nashville City Paper with details about the meeting other than Nancy Deville's Tennessean piece that came out before the proceedings. The Tennessean didn't even mention the meeting yesterday; not even in the North Nashville section of the paper.

The NCP published a piece yesterday by Craig Boerner, which looked more like an advertisement for Metro Water Services than a report on the meeting. It is the standard puff piece that probably followed a press release. It simply describes what the new biosolids buildings will do once built, as told by Metro Water's communication liaison, Sonia Harvat (who was also interviewed by Deville beforehand). Boerner did not even reference the meeting, let alone give any neighborhood responses, choosing instead to channel Harvat on how the fertilizer produced by the new human waste facility would resemble "rat pellets."

Reporter Bill Harless, who covers neighborhoods for the NCP, was silent on neighborhood response to the meeting. I understand that he was covering the Brentwood City Commission on Monday night; he published something on that yesterday. And it looks like while he was there he milked a second story on a Brentwood police charity for today's edition, but he wrote nothing on the North End response to the wastewater meeting, either before or after the meeting.

All in all, the print media's showing on this important meeting was truly poor and barely extant.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wastewater Wasting No Time On Construction, But Are They Wasting Our Time?

As not reported in any of today's mainstream print media, last night at the Neuhoff Complex about 40 people met to listen to and discuss the plans for Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. The footprint for the new campus appears in the picture at the right. 2nd Ave., North is the street running from the bottom to the top at the extreme left-hand side of the diagram. The Cumberland River would lie to the right of the picture, out of frame. The sidewalk running parallel to the right of 2nd Ave. is part of a new greenway to be installed connecting the greenway around MetroCenter to the North End. The managers of the project said that trees and other greenery will be planted along the new greenway. The various buildings around the campus will house the new biosolids process, which will include digestion and heat-drying. That process will convert toxic sludge--some days stinking up the neighborhood due to a current system that was suitable to the early 1950s, according to managers--to usable biosolids for fertilizer.

Managers told the attending residents of Germantown, East Germantown, and Salemtown that their committee had considered various options for a design based on the architecture of the neighborhood around the plant site. They decided to go with a brick structure for the main building on the campus that they said is consistent with the character of all three neighborhoods. When asked whether any actual neighbors from the North End served on the committee that picked the design, managers answered that one person from the North End was shown the plans, but that person did not have the power of suasion with the committee.

One long-time Germantown resident responded that he thought the building looked "like a prison." The pastor from a Salemtown church said he thought the building looked like the "top of a guitar," which he claimed would fit Nashville as "Music City." A couple of Salemtown residents told me afterwards that they were more concerned with stopping the odor problems than with architecture. Prominent North End developer, Skip Lawrence of Lawrence Bros. LLC, suggested that domed holding tanks be moved farther back behind the main building to enhance the neighborhoods' line-of-sight to the campus. Neighbors seemed quite prepared to provide a parcel of input, and they even got into a tank paint color discussion at one point. One could hardly blame their enthusiasm, given that the managers billed one purpose of the event as getting feedback from the community on their designs. This meeting seemed to be the only opportunity we have for input, since there were no residents serving on their Sludge Solution Committee.

The construction timeline starts next month with demolition and loud pile-driving which will start before 8:00 in the morning and will end before suppertime. Demolition is scheduled to run through the end of 2007. General construction is scheduled to run through the fall of 2007, and project completion is expected spring of 2008. In the meantime, other odor controlling processes that I have described elsewhere are being initiated.

My overall impression was that the meeting was pretty much what I expected. I was pleased to hear that a greenway was going in, and the fact that it will be across the fenceline from the biosolids buildings indicates to me that the managers are confident that the odor problems will be solved. Aesthetics are important to me, but placid olfactory nerves are a higher priority in this case. I was also happy that the managers assured some of us Salemtown folk with water drainage problems at our storm sewers that those problems would be addressed.

I was unpleasantly surprised that the managers seemed defensive at times. My impression was that they were thrown off and put off by complaints they were fielding from residents about the odors and about previous promises to blunt the stink before the last major upgrade to the Central Plant. Did they not prepare themselves for critical feedback? At one point, one of the project managers commented rather cavalierly that the purpose of the plant is not to manufacture waste but to dispose of it. That came off as premeditatedly callous in all of its self-evidence to me.

As far as I can tell, Metro Water has not attempted to build a neighborly working arrangement with the enclaves at the North End. Skip Lawrence made what I considered to be the most significant and constructive recommendation to the managers when he suggested that they host a get-together or a cook-out for their neighbors for the simple purpose of letting them get to know the people of Metro Water. I agreed with him that it would go a long way to helping their public relations in our community. Brooking the stench would be easier than it currently is if I knew that I had face-to-face relationships with the people who work right next door on solving the problem. This meeting did not have to be as rocky as it was; but some neighbors obviously feel that Metro Water is not being a good neighbor.

My perception was reinforced by one of the managers who deftly dodged a question that I put to the meeting organizers. I simply asked whether it was true, as one Metro Water supervisor previously told me, that days after holidays would be the smelliest days since truck drivers, contracted to ship out sludge to landfills, did not work those days. I got a bureaucratic response that "atmospheric conditions"--which Metro Water does not control--were the primary cause of odor problems on certain days. I was not satisfied with that answer. After the meeting I cornered the guy to ask him whether the previous supervisor had simply pulled the holiday explanation out of his butt (I did leave the double-entendre out of my actual question). At that point, the manager conceded that indeed contracted truck drivers did not work on holidays and that we should expect stronger odors afterwards. He also let me know that the truck drivers do not work on weekends and that we should expect Mondays to be bad as well.

Yet, he could not bring himself to admit that in front of the group. So, I ask you: should we wonder why there are a few tensions between Metro Water and some residents in the North End?

Crye Leike A Waterfall With Faeries

Kevin Newman sent me the art on the right. In it he pays tribute to Nashville Is Talking Producer Brittney Gilbert's creative title used to refer NiT's readership to my blog entry where I discuss my issues with Crye Leike's fanciful, yet sinister illustration of a skinny house they intend to build in Salemtown.

The house is not so skinny in Kevin's illustration, but the gentle waterfall and the mischievous faeries do capture the mythico-idyllic proportions that must have been intended in the original drawing.

Thank you, Kevin, for capturing the essence of what this dwelling just might be; a truly magical place where the world is remythologized once again ... at least until the giant Monty Python foot appears and stomps it down.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Or Maybe The Better Term Is "Crye-Leike Hell"

Crye-Leike patrols 5th Ave. today. The green SUV is the only vehicle I see more in the North End than the ice cream vans that also swoop down and occupy our fair neighborhood during daylight hours.

This realtor is relentless! She is on Salemtown's old school like white on rice. Buyer beware, but also buyer be smart.

Some Realtors Can Make You Crye-Leike Heck

John H. over at Salem's Lots beat me to the punch on this property. But there is much more to say about it. It is a house-yet-to-be-built on the 6th Ave. property where tires were illegally dumped, which Enclave and WKRN covered months ago. And John is right: there is no background to any house in Salemtown like the one in the picture. (In fact, the picture is eerily Gilliamesque such that I expect the big Monty Python foot to descend from the top of the frame and stamp the house and the pastoral fakery behind it).

In reality, though, the house is slated to sit on a plot that is 20'x180'. As I pointed out previously, the lot is not actually 1618, but 1618 1. At some point, 1618 was subdivided. The builders, who have already gone to the Planning Commission for a variance to build the house as wide and as close to property lines as possible, are squeezing this house on a 20' wide lot. So not only is the "Fall In New England" backdrop unreal, but the scale of the house is also deceptive in the picture. By my calculations, I'm figuring a house like that sitting on a 20' wide lot would resemble something like the picture to the right and not the one above and to the left.

The tall thin house in New England is being offered in Salemtown by Crye-Leike for $299,000, and one of its amenities includes a "gated community." I don't see a gate or fence in the picture and the last time I checked, Salemtown is not a gated community, so I'm not sure whether the property will be gated or whether Crye-Leike has come up with a scheme to gate our neighborhood.

I am sure that Crye-Leike's Realtor, Terry Rymar, has earned somewhat of a reputation among some of us here for aggressively speculating properties and real estate prices. I'm not surprised that she is asking $299,000 for a tall, thin house. I have heard that Ms. Rymar has convinced some long time residents in older houses in need of some repair to put their houses on the market at prices comparable to and more than the newer in-fills that are being built around Salemtown and Germantown. I am told that her sales pitch is oversimplistic and often compares apples to oranges in the name of driving up the price (for instance, merely comparing the number of rooms between houses--in both new in-fills and older houses--without reference to the differences in condition of houses).

She dropped off a flier to all of the old house owners with these comments:
Property Owners in Germantown & Salemtown are currently in an advantageous position to sell their property. As the surge in renovation increases, the demand for property is escalating. "We are needing more properties to list for buyers to choose from." If you are ready to sell give us a call today!
In some cases, those houses are in need of repair to the studs. In others, those houses can only be torn down. (One builder who wanted to buy a Crye-Leike offering that contained what were essentially shacks that could not be renovated told me that he was not going to pay Ms. Rymar's asking price of $150,000 to buy shacks to tear down and build something else).

I don't object to Ms. Rymar's wish to make money. As a property owner and neighborhood resident, I do object to sharkish behavior that artificially drives up real estate values in the short-term (which is the only term in which Ms. Rymar makes her money) and sacrifices slower, measured, and more natural long-term growth. One neighbor told me that she confronted Ms. Rymar and told her as much one day when the realtor was showing properties to potential buyers. I wish I could have been there just to witness that.

08/23/2005, 2:25 p.m. Update: The Metro Planning Department actually gives the 6th Ave. property 5 more feet in width than Crye-Leike gives itself. To the right I have revised my adjusted mock up of the house accordingly.

Salemtown Neighbors Continues To Grow As The North End Grows

Last night Salemtown Neighbors had it's largest number attending an association meeting--since May--with 25 people present. At least 7 of those were attending their first Salemtown Neighbors meeting. We are experiencing unqualified success in growth and recruitment, which were priorities the association identified last spring as among the highest.

The highlights included:
  • A good-sized committee was formed to prepare for a strong showing at the Salemtown Neighbors booth during Germantown's Oktoberfest (I was really impressed that we actually were able to put together a committee of more than three people).
  • We started collecting membership dues of $15.00 per year per household/business.
  • We looked over the latest crime reports and heard the police tell us that we had made progress on our neighborhood watch, given our tremendous growth over the months.
To watch this association continue to stride forward and to make headway is exhilarating.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Want To Recall An Inept Council Member?

Thanks to a recently passed bill that makes it possible for 15% of residents within a Metro Council district to recall an ineffectual Council member, neighborhoods now have the possibility of a do-over within reach when they are unhappy with their representative’s performance. The Nashville Neighborhood Alliance is sponsoring a workshop this coming Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00 at West End United Methodist Church on “How To Recall Your Council Member.”

Sounds like a worthwhile workshop, since neighbors have got to know their options. Enclave has had The Nashville Neighborhood Alliance’s Neighborhood’s Resource Center linked from the beginning, but that site seems woefully neglected and never gets updated. As such it seems like it is not a very helpful link and it is due for deletion.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Returns To Morgan Park Tomorrow Evening

Salemtown Neighbors will have its first monthly meeting of the fall Monday, August 22 at 6:30 p.m. back at the Morgan Park Community Center after a summer hiatus at Watkins School of Art.

Tomorrow night's agenda items include a discussion of a Salemtown Neighbors information booth at Germantown's Oktoberfest, an evaluation of the Salemtown Night Out Against Crime, and the usual discussions of crime reports with Metro Police.

Snacks will be served.

Williamson County Government Promotes Christian Church And Encourages Non-Church Goer To Bear False Witness

Yessiree. You read it right. It all started when the government of Williamson County held its first fair in 50 years earlier this month. In and of itself a county fair is a pretty neutral event, right?

Not on Sunday, August 7," which Williamson County declared "Church Day." On "Church Day," Williamson County admitted for free entire Christian families who brought church bulletins to prove their church attendance, while those without church bulletins were charged the regular admission price. The County also provided a parochial group with the County Ag Expo Center so that they could hold a Christian worship service. Synagogue, mosque, and temple goers did not enjoy special promotions or County largesse.

That's only the half of it. Today Yesterday on the local on-line Church-State Forum, a member reported that when he called Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson to lodge a complaint, the Chief Executive "indicated" that an alternative for non-church-goers was to print a fake program to gain free admittance to the fair.

Let's put aside the fact that the County Mayor totally missed the point by confusing indignation at unjust and preferential treatment with a personal wish for free admittance. His Honor the Mayor was encouraging someone to bear false witness, to lie, and to cheat the promotion for selfish gain. Does that strike anybody else as un-Christian, and hence, hypocritical?

08/21/2005, 9:00 a.m. Update: It occurred to me during my early morning reflection today that Williamson County's "Church Day" promotion may be discriminating against some Christian denominations. For instance, take the Quakers (a.k.a., Religious Society of Friends--note to younger members of my readership: it has nothing to do with worshipping the popular television show). They do not meet in churches; they have meeting houses. Since they practice the discipline of Quietism during their meetings, I cannot see that there is very much activity or agenda to print up on a bulletin. Bringing a blank sheet of paper as their "church bulletin" to the fair would again be misleading and seemingly un-Christian, since it might force a ticket-taker to turn certain Christian families away from the gate because of their meeting habits.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Stray Pets, Power Outages, and Salem's Lots

Fellow Salemtown resident John H. has started his own S-town-based blog, called Salem's Lots. (Golly bum, John, why didn't you ever tell me about it before?). I found out about it by reading his very funny comments in a previous post on dealing with a power outage a few nights ago. I added a link to Salem's Lots in the "Blogging City" box in the right-hand column.

John's previous comments remind me of a phone call I made to Animal Control over a week ago to report a pack of 3 or 4 strays living under a neighbor's deck. The woman on the other end of the line took my name and other information and she asked me, "Now, are these dogs strays or are they threatening to bite anyone?" I told her that I had not seen them bite anyone, an answer that I regretted after her next comment: "Well, I can't guarantee that I can get anyone out today or maybe even this week, because we have to respond immediately to threatening dogs and dog bites. Strays get moved down the priority list."

This afternoon I watched a tiny puppy romp out from under my neighbor's deck with one of the pack dogs. I couldn't help but wish I would have told her that the dogs were the most vicious I'd ever seen in the neighborhood. My neighbors will wish I had too once the smell and the fleas from underneath the deck get bad enough.

Rave Review: Are You A Blogger-arian? Google Just Made Your Life Easier.

This post is unlike any other one I have made to Enclave in the past. It was written with a very cool Word add-on that Blogger came out with just this week. The add-on allows me to publish to Enclave directly from Word.

Rather than having to go to my Blogger posting page to write, edit, and publish my articles, I can now do the same faster and more efficiently in Word. Here are several ways the add-on makes on-line publishing easier:
  • I have the benefit of using Word’s spell-checker, which is streamlined with the text as I write and less awkward than Blogger’s clumsy spell-checker. Word also checks grammar as I write and it makes suggestions; Blogger does not do that at all. Inserting symbols and special characters in Word is simple; with Blogger, I have to cut and paste them.
  • Overall, Word handles the writing and editing part of publishing more efficiently. Blogger provides the final step in the process and the ability to post pictures.
  • I can now back-up and archive Enclave articles on my own computer without having to cut and paste to Word. Also, I don't have to worry now, when I push the "Publish Post" button and the broadband signal goes out without me having saved my most recent edits, that my edits will be irretrievably lost. Having everything in Word is a fail-safe when broadband fails me as it can do with Comcast once and a while.
  • The add-on integrates push-button publishing into Word by placing four straightforward buttons—“Blogger Settings,” “Open Post,” “Save as Draft,” and “Publish”—directly into the Word toolbar.
There are minimum requirements you will need for Word and Windows to run this add-on. There are also limitations to using Word for publishing. You can check both of those out here.

But I recommend this add-on to all who use Google’s Blogger. The format you see here is exactly as I typed it into Word. That's some seamless publishing. And since it’s free you’ve got nothing to lose.

08/19/2005, 5:44 p.m. Update: Kevin Newman has pointed to one drawback of the add-on. Enabling "smart quotes" in Word (which curves them in toward each other) seems to add hieroglyphic characters to the text as it appears in Apple's Safari browser. If you have a number of Apple-users in your readership, you may either try disabling "smart quotes" or replace the quotes after you save the draft to Blogger.

Power Outage on Jefferson Snarls Lunchtime Traffic And Closes Germantown Cafe

A little over an hour ago I was sitting in my car at the corner of Jefferson and 5th Ave. when I heard a hissing and popping sound above the intersection. I looked up to see a fire on top of one of the telephone poles. It was a little unnerving to watch--from less than 50 feet away--blue arcs about the size of a pitbull's head and orange flames shooting out a couple of feet, punctuated by a couple of loud, bejesus-scaring explosions.

The traffic lights snuffed out and traffic snarled. Police closed Jefferson between 4th and 5th Avenues. Power was knocked out both ways down Jefferson and down 5th into Salemtown. Germantown Cafe closed its doors and sent its staff home just as it was gearing up for its usually popular lunch hour (owners tell me they will be open for dinner tonight). The traffic snarled on Madison and 5th Ave., as disappointed lunch-breakers got in their cars and left all at once.

As I got back into Salemtown, I stopped to talk to an NES worker who told me that the problem was a switch that had caught on fire. The problem was fixed shortly after 12:30 p.m., and mercifully so, given the outdoor temperatures approaching 100 degrees today.

Tennessean Piece On Water Treatment Includes Salemtown Comments

Tennessean reporter Nancy Deville's anticipated article on the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant and their August 23rd meeting with the community at the Neuhoff Complex appears in this morning's edition.

Besides publishing the comments of Salemtown resident Shannah Sledd, the article also quotes a Metro Water Services spokesperson as saying that, at the meeting, the design build team for the new biosolids building planned for 2nd Ave will introduce themselves to the local residents and they will take input and suggestions from community members in order to build a structure that fits the character of the neighborhood.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Signature Tower May Stand Tall On 5th Avenue, North By 2009

Armed with a bold new design and with a make-over to all-residential (instead of residential, office, and hotel), Tony Giarrartana introduced his plans for the Signature Tower on Wednesday at the Civic Design Center.

Urbanplanet.org is all abuzz about the plans, and their conversation is also peppered with hints that the Peabody Hotel in Memphis is looking to build something in Downtown near the proposed baseball stadium.

On the Channel 4 News tonight Mayor Purcell told a reporter that residential units are in such high demand now in Downtown that 10,000 people may be living in Downtown at the end of the decade. The Downtown Partnership seems to affirm claims of a tsunami trend in residential growth as they report that demand for residences is outpacing supply.

At 55 stories, the Signature Tower would dominate the already stunning view of the Downtown skyline from the North End neighborhoods. Giarrartana has some hoops to jump through--getting MDHA approval and selling a good percentage of units before the bank will give him construction loans--but all of the indicators seem green-for-go at this point.

The dramatic in-flight to live in city neighborhoods continues ...

Follow Up On Effects Of Metro Council Budget Cuts To The Police Department

It's taken me almost a month to follow up with you about the effects of the Council's alternative budget on the Central Precinct, but here are the details from the Precinct Commander's office.

Each precinct has their own budget, which is controlled by each of the Commanders. During the year, each Commander has control, with permission from Police brass, to move funds from surplus to deficient services as needed. That means that if a service to a neighborhood is deficient, the Commander may muster funds from elsewhere to cover the deficiency.

The Commanders do not have any control over hiring; that is decided by the Metro Council. Fortunately, for those of us living in the Central Precinct, the Council did not stipulate any cuts to Police personnel. I was told that the Police Department currently has over 40 trainees riding with training officers in the field, that a new recruit class started recently, and that plans are being made for another recruit class next year.

It would seem that we can breath a sigh of relief that our neighborhood will continue to be patrolled at the same levels in the coming year. Of course, there is no guarantee that we will not need higher patrol levels and more community policing should crime spike in the future. Yet to be determined is whether the shuffling of patrol officers to fill administrative and clerical positions will affect patrol coverage.

The Buzz

The current buzz among Salemtown Neighbors is that some in the other neighborhood association (T.R.U.E.) are talking about the two groups starting to communicate with one another. In fact, talking between members of the two groups started immediately after the August 9 meeting with MDHA. Also, one of the Salemtown Neighbors officers attended a T.R.U.E. meeting last week and was left with the impression that leaders there are interested in collaboration between the two groups.

There is reason for guarded optimism. There are still important philosophical differences between the two groups, but Salemtown Neighbors has always emphasized the need for collaboration, so maybe the reported responsiveness on the part of T.R.U.E. represents a significant step forward.

Postscript: Just-Us Sunday In Donelson

Rob Garver pinpoints the true purpose of evangelicals and friends at Just-Us Sunday II. There is an indubitable irony in obscenely wealthy suburban southern megachurches playing the victim.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

October Neighborhoods Conference At the Convention Center

The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods announced its 5th Annual Neighborhoods Conference for Saturday, October 22, 2005 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Nashville Convention Center. The conference topic will be "Celebrating Safe Neighborhoods," and both Mayor Bill Purcell and Police Chief Ronal Serpas will address the group.

I attended last year's Neighborhoods Conference and found it very helpful, especially as I was moving to assist in the founding of Salemtown Neighbors. Besides a free lunch while listening to the keynotes, there are also workshops, speakers, booths for the various Metro Departments, panel discussions and networking opportunities. I highly recommend this conference to anyone even remotely concerned with happenings in their neighborhoods. This Mayor's neighborhood focus is truly reflected in the resources he provides neighbors at this conference.

Tennessean To Do Story On Central Wastewater Treatment, Including Responses From Salemtown Neighbors

As we get closer to the August 23rd community meeting on progress at the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, look for a story in an upcoming edition of the Tennessean on the problematic odors that the Plant emits at times. Two members of Salemtown Neighbors were interviewed for the story.

Is MDHA Unwittingly Subsidizing Illegal Activity In The Neighborhoods?

Today's Nashville City Paper has a piece by Bill Harless on some East Nashville renters who were taking advantage of section 8 rent assistance to bankroll their illicit drug business. Even respecting privacy laws, MDHA's response as printed in the City Paper was less than encouraging to those of us who have problematic MDHA-run properties or dubious section 8 residents (without stereotyping all section 8 residents) in our neighborhoods. Pat Clark--who oversees section 8 at MDHA--was somewhat cavalier in rhetorically asking, "whether three problem households out of the 6,000 Section 8 households in Davidson County is not a good track record."

Just this past week, I heard a resident of an MDHA-owned property yelling at and physically threatening someone on her cell phone. During that screaming match, I heard her say as she walked up to her front door, "I'm at one of my houses now ..." I couldn't help but ask myself, "How does someone who qualifies for MDHA housing assistance afford more than one house?"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Metro Council Passes Ordinance To Apply Institutional Overlay To Belmont Area Neighborhoods

A few minutes ago Council passed on third reading ORDINANCE NO. BL2005-555 by a vote of 28-3. Opposition and abstaining Council members who spoke during the debate mentioned the exclusion of the wishes of some property owners to be exempted from the overlay as a reason for not voting in favor of the bill.

An advisory committee will now be appointed per Council member Ginger Hausser's compromise agreement with Belmont University and its neighbors to work with Planning to apply the overlay. The committee will have 13 members: the Metro Planning Committee will appoint four members; the university will appoint four members; Ms. Hausser will appoint four members; and the Belmont-Hillsboro Association will appoint one member. While answering questions from another Council member during discussion of the ordinance, Ms. Hausser said that her committee appointments will come from the neighborhood and will more than likely be association members.

08/17/2005, 11:15 a.m. Update:
Paul Chenoweth clarifies the communicative role of the single association committee member in the comments below. I stand corrected. Thanks, Paul.

08/18/2005, 8:45 a.m. Update: Today's Nashville City Paper provides more details about the compromise reached between Belmont and the neighborhood.

A Pick To Click: Blogging From Berry Hill

I would like to introduce Enclave readers to Jonnelle, who just launched her own effort: Blogging From Berry Hill. Jonnelle describes herself as a "Nashville native who has migrated from the southern part of Davidson county into Berry Hill," where she is renovating a house.

She started Blogging From Berry Hill in order to "keep current with Berry Hill, Woodbine, and Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhoods in Nashville, TN." Since she graciously mentions and links Enclave in her maiden post, I am pleased to reciprocate: I encourage you to add Blogging From Berry Hill to your reading list.

I am also happy to say that seeing Jonnelle's blog gave me the great idea of adding a box to my standard right-hand column link offerings called "Blogging Nashville's City Neighborhoods," which I will use to link Nashville's other "hyper-local" blogs and on-line journals that focus on urban in-flight and local neighborhood development. Hyper-local blogging is a rapidly expanding niche, and I hope other writers who have toyed with the idea of jumping in it with both feet will soon do so. I have confidence that my "Blogging City" box will fill with other links sooner rather than later because of Nashville's continuing growth.

More Downtown Development: Union Station To Undergo Multi-Million Dollar Restoration

Via the Nashville City Paper.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Scenes In And Around Marathon Village





East Germantown's Jazz Workshop Announces Fundraiser

From the Directors of the Nashville Jazz Workshop:


The Nashville Jazz Workshop's 5th Annual Fall Fundraiser will take place Sunday, September 18th, at the Vanderbilt University Club, 2402 Garland Ave., Nashville 37212. All proceeds will benefit the Nashville Jazz Workshop, a non-profit educational facility established for the advancement of jazz musicians, the enrichment of jazz enthusiasts and the promotion of jazz in the Nashville Area.

Some of Nashville's most prominent jazz artists are NJW faculty or alumni. The event will kick-off with live jazz and a Wine Tasting sponsored by Nashville Wine & Spirits from 4:30pm to 6:00pm. Hors d'hourves will be served. Silent auction tables will open at 5:00pm. Restaurant and retail gift certificates, massages, orchids, jazz cd's, music lessons, original artwork and musical instruments will be among the items available for bid.

An All-Star Faculty Jam will begin at 6:00pm with performances by: Roy Agee, Rashaan Barber, Chris Brown, Jeff Coffin, Bruce Dudley, Sandra Dudley, Jim Ferguson, Tom Giampietro, Jeff Hall, Liz Johnson, Rod McGaha, Lori Mechem, Denis Solee, Roger Spencer, Chester Thompson, George Tidwell, Kirk Whalum and the JW Charles Mingus Ensemble.

Admission is a minimum donation of $25.00 per person, which includes the Wine Tasting, Hors d'oeuvres, and the All-Star Faculty Concert (advance reservations are necessary for the wine tasting). For more information visit here, and for reservations call 615-242-5299.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Belmont's Power Equation

Bill Hobbs, who works for Belmont University, responded to my critical comments about Belmont's pursuit of an institutional overlay in yesterday's post about David Lipscomb's new garage. I am writing a separate post directed toward his defense of Belmont so as not to detract from the genuine audacity of the Lipscomb garage; his claims deserve a thorough response. It has been awhile since I have updated you on Belmont's attempts to expand into its neighborhood anyway, so now is a good time to revisit the overlay.

Bill's interpretation of institutional overlay is incomplete. On the one hand, he is correct that, under an institutional overlay, a university or other entity identifies the properties it wants to acquire and specifies how it plans to develop them.

On the other hand, to say that the overlay does not confer power to take property is only half true. The institutional overlay is an "easement" for Belmont, and not for the neighbors who live around the school. It allows the school to target properties within a growth area and it relieves Belmont of the responsibility of having to go to the city for approval each time it acquires a new piece of property for expansion. That eases expansion conditions for Belmont, making it easier to acquire land than it would otherwise be. That gives Belmont an advantage in the neighborhood in which they sit. Greater advantage equals more power.

However, his comments slant even farther from truth where he says that the overlay "empowers" Belmont's neighbors. Based on their actions, residents in the Belmont area do not seem to have perceived any empowerment coming their way from Belmont. In fact, Belmont area residents organized to speak against the overlay at the Planning Commission in April. A few weeks later they organized themselves into bigger, more forceful numbers at the Council meeting where the overlay was being considered. Their Council member, Ginger Hausser, moved to defer consideration of the overlay until neighbors' concerns could be addressed. Those issues included the character of the neighborhood, street and alley access, and the allegation that Belmont has a history of allowing already owned property to blight in order to drive surrounding property values down and surrounding neighbors out (the charge of blight has been particularly troubling to me as is the prospect that residents have essentially lost their day before the Planning Commission--if they chose to have one--with this easement).

Ultimately the logic of Bill's response makes no sense: why would Belmont seek an overlay that gives them no power and gives their neighbors more power? That's counterintuitive. It also fails common sense. Belmont has at least one lawyer on staff--also their Vice President (which means he probably has his own staff to assist him)--working to move the overlay through to approval. That lawyer is paid by the university to represent the university's best self-interest. As an institution, Belmont has greater power to hire a legal staff and to lobby government agencies than families or individual neighbors living along 15th Ave. do.

The only person responsible to act on behalf of the neighbors in equal measure to her service to Belmont is Ms. Hausser. After getting deferment a few weeks ago, Ms. Hausser struck a compromise between Belmont and neighbors, and in the process, got commitments from Belmont including: the creation of a main entrance at Wedgewood and East Belmont Circle, the funding by the university of traffic calming pedestrian improvements, the formation of an advisory committee to follow implementation of Belmont's master plan and pedestrian improvements in the surrounding neighborhood. Without a government official exercising her representative power to take a couple of steps away from the overlay and to motivate Belmont toward the table with neighbors, Belmont would have gone through with its plans, with or without regard to empowering its neighbors. If the overlay were about empowering neighbors and not emboldening Belmont, then why did it take a Council member to get Belmont to the negotiating table?

And why are many neighbors in Belmont's neighborhood continuing to balk at the overlay, even as the negotiated plans head toward a third and final reading at the end of the month? The owner of the International Market does not want property he owns in the area included in the overlay. 1,900 International Market customers signed a petition against the overlay. One Belmont resident told the Nashville City Paper that the overlay would freeze the zoning currently in place on residential properties the university does not own while allowing Belmont to buy them for commercial uses. If that is true, it tips the power meter even farther toward Belmont's advantage. Even if Belmont chooses not to buy those properties for commercial uses, having that opportunity to choose gives the university much more power than any of the residents or small businesses in the community have.

So, I'm not sure what kind of math Bill Hobbs is using to erase his employer's empowerment from the same equation that he multiplies the empowerment of Belmont's neighbors, but it's some pretty funny math.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mainstream Media News Station Is Running Promotional Commercials For Just-Us Sunday II

I saw a commercial today for Just-Us Sunday II on Channel 5+ (which is News Channel 5's cable TV station). It was promoting the Channel's live coverage of Just-Us Sunday II, but it was also promoting the speakers and purpose of the event. I was disappointed in the blatantly partial tone of the commercial. I tried to find the downloadable version of the commercial on the News Channel 5's website without any luck.

President Bush's Transportation Bill Pays For Lipscomb University's Garage

It pays to be a conservative religious university; at least federal pork rendered by Bush II will pay conservative religious universities.

You need to read this just to witness the Lipscomb officials say how it will benefit the neighborhoods. I haven't seen such a strain in rationalization from a religious university since Belmont University started asking for easement of zoning restrictions, which would allow them to appropriate neighbor's neighbors' property on 15th Ave. because they had been so good to those neighbors.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Do You Know Kelo?

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on June 23 in the case of Kelo v. New London that the taking of private property to promote economic development in New London, Conn. was a "public use" and thus permissible.

Lawyers with the Boult, Cummings, Conners, & Berry Firm published an article in July's Nashville Business Journal on why this ruling should not concern property owners in Tennessee. I linked the article in my "Links for the Neighborhoods" box in the righthand column. Click on "Impact of Kelo."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nashville Scene Editorial Wonders What's Wrong With America, While I Merely Wonder What's Wrong With This Picture

Inside my recycling cart, beginning of summer.

Inside my recycling cart, end of summer.

To be ecclesiastical for a moment: there is a time and a place for everything. There is even a time to be snide. But there is also a time to stop being snide. The Nashville Scene has made its "alternative-paper" reputation on being irreverent. Periodically, being irreverent passes over to deprecation, which is timely on occasion. But sometimes being alternative, just because they can, causes Scene writers to go to the belittler's well one too many times and they appear overblown and irrelevant.

In this week's Scene editorial, Liz Garrigan and John Spragens go to that well one too many times by unfairly overgeneralizing about consumer waste in order to support the notorious trash stomp and Nashville's recycling program, which has been ineffective at times. They flame 8,000 people who took Metro at its word when it promised them earlier in the year the option of a second bin. They flame anybody who begs to differ with Chase Anderson's clumsy approach to Solid Waste's public relations. They flame critics of the Nashville Recycling Program, even the well-intentioned who want to create as little waste as possible but who still demand that their government effectively pick up their trash and haul it out rather than dumping it in their neighborhoods when it's not recyclable. They flame America, ya'll: even those of us in America who support conservation and environmentalism and who believe that improvements to trash pick-up and the recycling program deter "rampant consumerism" and inoculate the idea of recycling from the conservative will-to-kill worthwhile government programs.

Garrigan and Spragens are over-the-top and out-of-their-league in what has to be one of the Scene's least fine editorial moments in the twelve or so years I have been reading the paper. By being indiscriminate in their deprecation they exhibit the head-in-the-clouds flaw to which we progressives are prone when our remote theory does not interface with ground-level practice: irrelevance.

While they presume to diagnose the problem of solid waste management and suggest that people like me are part of the problem, they haven't walked in my shoes to see that despite my best efforts, recycling has not worked on my street. My preused recycling cart was dropped off the truck with nonrecyclables already in it and the recyclables that have appeared in it are not being hauled off by Curby to be recycled. Recently, I picked up some of the trash that litters my street. I didn't go far; three doors down on either side of the street and I filled a 13-gallon trash bag, which I threw in my one-and-only 96-gallon recycling cart. Now I only have 83 gallons left for our trash; going to even farther uber-environmentalist lengths of picking up trash across my block would probably have rendered only half the cart's capacity for my family's garbage. Yet, if I dare request a second bin for my good deeds, I join the ranks of "the spoiled," according to Garrigan and Spragens.

I would invite them to my house to help me figure out what I'm doing wrong, but I'm a little bit afraid that they would tell me that I should have stomped down the street trash in that 13-gallon bag before putting it in my own cart in order to get 1 or 2 more gallons of space for my family's trash. The reason I'm afraid is that one of the items I picked up out of the street was a used disposable diaper. Call me fastidious, but I don't like the idea of stomping on used disposable diapers someone else threw in the street.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Metro Water Services Will Hold A North End Community Meeting

Metro Water Services announced that it will be providing a progress update on the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant on Tuesday, August 23 at 6:00 p.m. at the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown. Water Services will discuss plant improvements, including biosolids management and odor control projects.

Given the periodic problem the North End has with odors, I would be surprised if the meeting is not well-attended.

08/10/2005, 11:00 p.m. Update and Repost: Shannah S. is exactly right in her comments below: the rest of us in Salemtown--even those who do not experience the smell as frequently as her side of the neighborhood--need to step up and attend this meeting. The smell is bad enough when it drifts as far as Germantown on the worst days, and I cannot imagine being any closer during those times. It is unacceptable that anyone in Salemtown should live with sewerage odors for any regular period of time.

I am also reposting below a picture that I took of the drainage problem to which Shannah refers. I originally published the picture in May (I snapped it at the beginning of March) as an example of one of the worst water run-off problems we have in the neighborhood. And it's our problem; not just Shannah's. It adversely affects the quality of life for our whole neighborhood and has needed Metro attention for too long.

Tennessean Discovers Garfield Place

As I foretold here last week, the Tennessean published a piece today on the coming luxury townhouse complex, Garfield Place. Despite the Tennessean's relatively minimalist treatment of the future complex (mostly just describing floor plans of the townhouses--Enclave reported only a little less information about the complex at the beginning of July), at least their reporters are starting to pay more attention to happenings in Salemtown; although, as commenter John H wittily observed in the previous block grant post, the Tennessean referred to the location of Garfield Place as the "Germantown area."

Also, reporter Nancy Deville contacted the Germantown Neighborhood Association for leads on Garfield Place before the good folks there referred her to Salemtown Neighbors for more information. I still cannot figure out why Salemtown Neighbors is still so invisible to the reporter whose news beat obviously (I guess) includes the Salemtown neighborhood.

For a complete run-down on Garfield Place by the realtors and builders see their website, which I linked in my "Links for the Neighborhoods" box in the right-hand column.

How Would You Spend Almost $600,000 On Salemtown?

About 45-50 residents, property and business owners, and religious leaders from Salemtown met last night with community planners from Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency to take their first step toward deciding how almost $600,000 in federal funds for revitalizing neighborhoods will be spent over the next three years. As part of MDHA's plan to invest money to make the quality of life in Salemtown better, they requested and were granted a community block grant for the neighborhood from the Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The meeting was held at the Randee Rogers Training Center on 8th Ave., across the street from the Werthan Lofts.

Salemtown is the 46th "Neighborhood Strategy Area" (NSA) that MDHA has assisted since the 1970s, according to Community Planner Linda Howard. In order to qualify for HUD funds, an NSA should have 51% of its population as low-to-moderate income, it should have working community organizations, and it should have a number of residents with some tenure in the NSA. The block grant has to benefit low-to-moderate income populations, has to be directed toward the elimination of slum areas, and must address urgent development needs posing threats to the health and welfare of residents.

Federal funds come with strings attached, said Howard. They cannot be spent on any development that Metro government has already planned for Salemtown. In addition, the block grant may not be spent on current government conduct, new in-fill homes, operating costs, personal property or earning interest. Examples of what is eligible for funding include: community planning; upgrades to community centers; street and sidewalk repair; historic rehabilitation of old homes; acquisition, rehabilitiation, and relocation of old structures; and water drainage problems.

After some discussion, the group nominated and appointed nine people present at the meeting to a Citizens Action Committee (CAC), which will meet once a month for three years to consider the eligible possibilities and to work closely with MDHA planners to develop an action plan for spending the block grant. The first meeting of the CAC is scheduled for Tuesday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Randee Rogers Training Center. The monthly CAC meetings are open to all members of the Salemtown community. Once the CAC and MDHA make decisions on how to spend funds, Metro Council must approve those decisions.

Both neighborhood associations were represented at the meeting, but Salemtown Neighbors seemed to me to have the larger turn-out, with over 15 of its members present. Ms. Howard publicized the next meeting dates and times of both neighborhood associations to the group in order to encourage attendance at both. One representative of the T.R.U.E. association told the group that he had heard a lot about "the other association" (Salemtown Neighbors) and that he was pleased "to finally meet them."

I was one of those appointed to the CAC last night, and I look forward to working with residents and community leaders to get feedback on solving eligible community problems. I also look forward to being able to relate my impressions of the experience here on Enclave. In the future I'll post what I learn about this significant process. It should provide an interesting civic primer for anyone headed into a similar experience or a record for anyone simply interested in how neighborhood leaders make decisions, work with local governments, and develop priorities for federal remedies to neighborhood problems. And, as always, it will provide a sounding board for your own comments and impressions.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Metro Public Service Director Rectifies Stolid Stupidity Of Solid Waste Director's "Stomp"

Since the automated trash cart program started a few months ago, 8,000 requests from around Nashville have been made for extra carts. However, only a few hundred requests have been honored. Last spring I spoke by phone with a Public Works official who promised me that if I wanted an extra cart at that time I could request one and that it would be available in June. While I did not choose to request one at the time, I can see now that it probably would not have made a difference, since we are now well past June and only a few people requesting extra trash carts have actually received them.

That black eye on Metro's reputation was only aggrevated recently by the Solid Waste Department. The Solid Waste Director, Chase Anderson, minimized his department's failure to provide the promised extra trash carts, and he offered some truly stupid advice to residents. According to the Aug. 3 edition of the Nashville City Paper, Mr. Anderson said,
“We are finding some households do not do the ‘Nashville Two-Stomp’ on their trash .... Residents may find it easier to set a bag of trash on the ground as opposed to stomping down their trash and placing that extra bag in the cart."
I would love to see the scientific method by which Mr. Anderson determined that households were not stomping trash. But beyond that, I would love to know why I should have to stomp my garbage when I could get an extra cart as promised if I needed one. I put my garbage in a bag inside of a container precisely so that I will not have to stomp around on it. If I wanted it stomped, I'd throw it on my kitchen floor until it was as flat as Mr. Anderson likes before bagging it and taking it to the cart. But I don't want to stomp on my trash. I want to be able to bag it up after it is full, making as little contact as necessary, and to haul it out to a cart. Then, I expect responsive service. "Stomping" was not a part of the original bargain.

And Mr. Anderson's second alternative is no better. He suggests that, in lieu of another cart, I recycle more. Apparently, Mr. Anderson is unaware of the problems we have encountered in Salemtown with recycling during the past year. I can't even get Curby to clean out recyclables that have been in my recycling cart for months. If I start recycling more now, I have no guarantees that I won't end up with a full recycling bin in a matter of days that will in turn sit full for weeks on end. That option is unacceptable for me until Curby shows itself to be a useful and a better working program at my house. Besides, I think that Mr. Anderson is merely doing the "Bureaucratic Two-Stomp" past his responsibilities in order to pass the buck to another department so that he will not have to deal with it.

I was encouraged to read today that the Public Works Director, Billy Lynch, is distancing himself from Mr. Anderson's bone-headed stomp suggestion and ordering the conversion of 2,500 stored recycling carts to trash carts, which will be delivered to a segment of the 8,000 who want an extra cart. Public Works is also promising that newly ordered trash carts will be in within two weeks. We will see. For now, it's good to see that Mr. Lynch gave Solid Waste an appropriate attitude adjustment. I wish he could straighten Curby up, too.

08/09/2005, 10:55 p.m. Aside: It occurred to me in reading this over again that repeating "Mr. Anderson" over and over in the post was reminiscent of "Agent Smith" in The Matrix.
"Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? It is the sound of inevitability."