Friday, September 30, 2005

Two S-Words Used To Describe S-town In Today's Tennessean: "Spill[way]" and "Sister"

As foretold, the Tennessean published an overview today of the planned 5th Avenue Brownstones and the neighborhood. The press on Salemtown seems to be improving. We're metaphorically more of a legitimate "sister" now than an ill-conceived, unmentionable step-sister.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We Need A Hero, Whether It Be Family Dog Or Hound of Hell

We now have a sentinel-in-training for the back yard; although right now the term is just "sentinel-in-crate-training." And she's making progress; we're on our second day of four without an accident in house or in crate. We adopted her on Monday from "Love At First Sight" in Sylvan Park.

She is a Lab-Shepherd mix and she is named for two of the finest products to come out of New Orleans: "Dixieland Jazz" and "Dixie Beer," but she goes by "Dixie" for short. She's got her name down now and she's "going potty" just about exactly where we want her to, and she's even barking when she hears strange noises on the other side of the fence. Plus, she's irresistible. What more could we ask? (Let's see, I could ask for a few more hours of sleep after getting up to escort her to her powder room several times over the past three nights).

Police Comb Vacant Properties In North Salemtown For Body Of Murder Victim, Updated

The pictures below were taken this morning as Metro Police searched overgrown land at 1921 4th Ave., North after Marshall Frey reportedly told them that he killed a woman and dumped her body on the property. Frey was already in custody for allegedly murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

09/29/2005, 4:30 p.m. Update: News 2 just reported that the alleged victim for whom they were searching this morning is actually alive and well. Police are saying that they are still treating this as an investigation and that the search will go on. Cadaver dogs were brought in without any results.

T-Minus 10 Days And Counting

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dull-Witted Gangstas and Gun-Toting Crooks On The Loose, Updated

The bad boys in the pictures below are not wanted for choosing to drink "Natty Light," nor for being dull-witted enough to have their party pictures taken before they pull their piece in front of a Vanderbilt surveillance camera.

They are wanted as suspects--not affiliated with Vanderbilt--for brandishing and firing their guns at Vanderbilt students. If you see them, report them to police. If you see the Vandy student who swiped them into the residence hall, scold her for the posse she picks.

09/28/2005, 9:40 p.m. Update: The suspect in the white shirt and braids has been identified as Carlos Branch. He also has reportedly resided near the Hadley Park neighborhood in northwest Nashville on Morena St. Branch is to be considered armed and dangerous. Police are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Branch and his partner in crime.

Tennessean To Cover Plans For 5th Avenue Brownstones On Friday

Tennessean reporter Nancy Deville is writing a story on the new townhouses and retail space planned for the corner of Garfield and 5th Ave., North called 5th Avenue Brownstones. Members of Salemtown Neighbors were interviewed for the story. It is supposed to appear in Friday's edition.

Enclave and Salem's Lots introduced readers to the Brownstones at the beginning of September.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Nashville Bloggers To Appear In Upcoming Commercial

News 2 (WKRN) is making some commercials featuring area bloggers in order promote their website,, which linked the first commercial today.

Here is the direct link to the commercial. Recognize anybody?

Salemtown Neighbors Approves New Logo

At last night's monthly meeting, members of Salemtown Neighbors voted decisively to approve the new logo for the association. It was designed by Audra Harvey.

Local "Roots" Bassist Dave Roe Was On Imus This Morning

I often see Dave Roe over at Bongo East (I'm assuming he lives on the East End), and whenever I do, I harken back to the days of the Slow Bar over at 5 Points (where 3 Crow Bar currently stands). Slow Bar was a pretty good watering hole, but what made it great were nights like the nights Dave's old band, the Slow Beats, played their gigs.

Dave is currently backing Dwight Yoakam's latest offering, and they appeared on Imus and MSNBC this morning.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Now I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Well, I may not exactly know why the caged bird sings, but I do understand now why those who burglarized my shed the weekend before last stole a little bitty almost-empty gallon gas can along with my power washer and lawn mower. During a visit to Home Depot to replace my mower, I found out that they had experienced a run on gas cans. According to the employee with whom I spoke, no Home Depot closer than Lebanon had any gas cans to sell. I eventually found cans at Auto Zone, but the folks there told me that they were going fast, along with locking gas caps, which they could not keep in stock.

Consumers seem a bit panicky about gas prices.

Hermeneutic Preponderance: The Never Ending Quest To Find The Source Of Salemtown's Name

John H. over at Salem's Lots related an interesting exhange he had with a woman residing in Salemtown for the last 46 years. Among other things she claims that Salemtown was Salemtown before the Salem AME Church was ever built.

As John says, that apparently debunks a myth. I first heard the myth a few months ago upon meeting the current pastor of the Salem AME Church, who indeed told me that Salemtown was named after the church, which sits on 4th Ave., North.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Meets Monday Night

Salemtown Neighbors neighborhood association will hold their September meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Morgan Park Community Center on Monday.

Items on the agenda include a discussion of the Salemtown Neighbors Booth at Germantown's Oktoberfest next month, an update on the Block Grant Citizen's Advisory Committee, and further discussion of membership requirements.

Snacks will be served.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"God Our Father" Prohibits Soccer In White House and Evangelicals "Under God"

Two Aldermen in Robertson County intend to establish religious prohibitions against organized recreation on Sunday mornings. It seems that these two evangelicals (one is Southern Baptist) believe that Sunday morning worship should be forced on all White House residents simply because they believe that Sunday is the "Sabbath."

Never mind the facts: another Alderman rightly pointed out that in the Bible the Sabbath is clearly understood to fall on Saturday. In fact the Sabbath has been recognized as such for centuries by Jews and many Christians.

It seems to me to take a fairly strong mean streak to be threatened by the sight of some families and friends enjoying some leisure time together on a ball field. I cannot imagine why anybody would be threatened by organized sports on Sunday morning, unless these two guys are just jealous and they resent being stuck at church. Ruining other people's leisure time, regardless of whether those people are evangelical Christians who worship on Sundays or not, is not the answer. But they intend to use the power of their office to try and establish religious observance in White House anyway. Theocracy by any other name would not stink so badly.

But, then again, the continued spleen-venting from evangelicals who cannot possibly live without the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance reeks from some holy halitosis itself. Those who expect that religion not be forced on children in public schools are about as threatening to evangelical religion as those who play soccer in public parks in White House on Sunday morning are to the Alderman's Baptist Church. That is, there is no threat. It is regrettable that the evangelical notion of having "your own personal Jesus" has devolved into imposing that Jesus on everyone else's person.

The irony of caustic evangelicalism is punctuated by the actual history of the pledge. Lost in today's rancor among the evangelicals who simply stop at 1954 (the year that the Senate wrote "under God" into the pledge) and go back no further, is a sense of irony that would come if they had some proper Christian humility. The little irony of the pledge is that a socialist Christian (a Baptist to be exact) wrote the pledge for a magazine company as an advertising campaign to sell flags to schools over 100 years ago. Francis Bellamy penned these original words to the pledge:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Mr. Bellamy also meant for the words "equality" and "fraternity" to be included in the original pledge, but took them out because he thought that they would be too controversial in light of widespread opposition to equal rights for women and African Americans. Isn't it ironic that conservatives are up in arms about the possible exclusion of two words like "under God" and not about the exclusion of two words like "equality" or "fraternity"? It sure is; but, no more ironic than two White House Aldermen who intend to stop people from recreating in a park on Sunday and to force them to "rest" in a church instead ... and not even on the original day that God rested.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fall Festival At Watkins College Of Art & Design Set For Friday, September 23

Watkins College of Art & Design will hold its Fall Festival on Friday beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Fall Festival features a variety of fun, creative activities at the College’s Campus, located at 2298 MetroCenter Boulevard. Festivities will include: a trunk show featuring a variety of affordable student artwork including paintings, jewelry, pottery and more.

Tours of the new “Charles W. and Lee Ann Hawkins Residence Hall” will also be offered, and a student art show will be on exhibit in the Jack C. Massey Exhibit Hall.

Delicious food prepared by the owner of the newly-opened "Watkins Cafe" will be available, and music will be played by a student deejay. The Community Education staff will offer face painting for kids, and a screening of the Watkins Film School students’ Film 4 Productions takes place at 8:00 p.m. in the Watkins Theatre.

The public is invited to attend this free event. [Editorial Note: Watkins is the source of this announcement in its entirety; except for the picture of the residence hall, which I took. I've never actually had the food at "Watkins Cafe," so I could not judge for myself that it is "delicious," although I'm sure it is].

Nashville Association of Realtors Shows Metro Council The Way

Hats off to those Realtors for providing food at the Salvation Army instead of at last night's Metro Council meeting. Council member Ronnie Greer could not have been happy about this in light of his recent belly-aching. Propriety is a tough pill to swallow.

Summer Street Lofts Slated For Germantown

Further evidence that Germantown is the center of Nashville's trend toward New Urbanism. Germantown Partners is taking the name of this development from 5th Avenue's original name. They also might be taking the great view of the Downtown skyline away from patrons of Germantown Cafe and giving it to the home owner and renters at Summer Street. We will see.

CORRECTION: Summer Street Lofts will actually be going in across 5th Ave. from Germantown Cafe, not across Madison, which means that they will not block the view of Downtown from the Cafe. Sorry for the confusion, but I noticed that they will be located at 1201 5th (the west side of the street).

02/14/2006, 5:00 p.m. Update: The old building that stood where these lofts will be built was demolished this week.

Wake Them Up When September Ends

Almost as mystifying as the Council's brush off of ethics in June and September is the near total blogger silence on the Council's handling of the ethics recommendations. Many area political bloggers were all over the Council's budget considerations during the summer. I mean: they were thicker than flies on a rib roast; even the ones who do not live in Davidson County. Mostly conservative bloggers, they were ready to hoist Mayor Purcell's head on a pike just outside some suburban cul-de-sac for even suggesting raising revenues. Of course, many of those same bloggers failed to include in their head hunt the conservative Council members who flip-flopped and voted to pass an alternative tax increase (Enclave already told you about one who even signed a no-tax pledge but voted for the increase anyway). So, that might tell you how much they purely value character and ethics.

You might not participate in the blogosphere, but I have for months now, including reading multiple blogs daily. I believe that many political bloggers have an inflated sense of self-importance, promoting themselves as journalists telling the true story that mainstream media will not tell. I do not question the idea that in some cases, political bloggers force more attention to uncovered news. But I also believe that in general the story behind blogger's stories is that political bloggers are selective themselves in the attention they give to politics. And by that, I do not mean selective in the sense of writing on local vs. state vs. federal politics; I mean selective in the sense of a partisan bias for playing up some news and ignoring other news.

The Metro Council's ethics issue is a case in point. Outside of Enclave's coverage of Council member Charlie Tygard's June move to defer the ethics recommendations, I do not recall any other blog dealing with it. Nobody else raised a single red flag, despite the fact that the move to defer came no more than 2 or 3 weeks after the Capitol Hill ethics crisis exploded in the mainstream headlines. And boy, those conservatives bloggers milked the latter crisis for all it was worth, which makes me think that they were simply using the issue of ethics as pretense, pretext, and prelude to bludgeoning a particular party's officials (not that Tennessee Democrats did not deserve some kind of comeuppance). My guess is that some Council members' conservative standing on the Council makes them immune to criticism among many in the local blogosphere.

And now that we are deep into September, the blogosphere remains bereft of any coverage or criticism of the Council's seeming aversion to standards and last night's cursory consideration and vote to defer indefinitely. I am aware of only two bloggers who wrote on the Council antics either before or after the circus: myself and Bruce Barry at PiTW. Oh, one conservative blogger did give the slightest attention to the matter, but it was only to strike an easy target: Ronnie Greer's dopey statement about wanting to eat. Besides it confirms my perception: this conservative blogger merely used Greer's devotion to his appetite as an occasion to pour his contempt of liberals into the public eye (the linkage assumes that Greer is "liberal").

If taunt is the single most substantive form of response that conservative political bloggers have to make on ethical issues in the Metro Council, then one has to wonder whether they ever rouse when local politics fails to fit their own agenda. Oh, well, September is nearly at an end.

09/21/2005, 4:30 p.m. Update: Addition to list of conservative bloggers commenting on the ethics deferral now includes Blake Wylie at, who posted his criticism later this afternoon.

Death By Deferral

Last night the Metro Council once again deferred consideration of the ethics reform bill, but whereas in June they deferred it until September, in September they deferred it until the 12th of never.

In fairness to the Metro Council, I did not hear the debate last night because I did not attend the meeting and Metro 3's live coverage of it was obviously knocked out by the Howard Building's recent sewerage problems, but the admittedly sketchy reports in the Tennessean and in the Nashville City Paper this morning do not look good. Council members did not give themselves a deadline for reintroducing the bill, and common sense says that when one does not set deadlines, one does usually not feel obligated to deal. Deadlines make for discipline, and this Council does not seem to care for discipline.

Marathon discussions were held on the budget during the summer, because Charter deadlines would not allow the Council to defer or outright kill the Mayor's budget. However, now that our Council is left with a significant decision in their own hands with no external pressure (because they obviously don't consider people's low opinions on the propriety of elected officials as "pressure") all they have to spend is a measly 45 minutes on it. 45 minutes. After a three month hiatus to "have more time" to study the recommendations, Metro Council members mustered less than one hour turning the ethics proposal aside and putting it behind them. Council member Randy Foster even had the audacity to propose an amendment that would have gutted and field-dressed the ethics recommendations by allowing Council members to select the very group that would have monitored and governed their behavior. Who is this guy kidding?

I would, of course, like to see more of the recorded debate before I write this Council off entirely. But given Ronnie Greer's "I-ain't-voting-for-nothing-that's-going-to-keep-me-from-eating" approach to ethics legislation, I am not expecting that the short debate rose to landmark heights in the history of council oratory, either. You know, I never demanded that much from them; some simple and clear measure of accountability would have satisfied me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dusk Reflects Across The Place Into Morgan Park

Tonight We See Whether Ethics Matters In Metro Council

It is hard to believe that it has been a little over 3 months since Metro Council member Charlie Tygard introduced a resolution (which passed by six votes) to defer consideration of the independent Ethics Task Force's reforms until now because he preferred to focus all of his energy on the budget fight. But the time is upon us as the Metro Council has the bill in its sights on second reading tonight.

According to the Tennessean, Council member Tygard (along with 12 other members) could not be reached for comment on how he intends to vote tonight, but he did not seem too concerned about Council ethics in his June speech in support of deferral, as he claimed that most members seemed to be "behaving" themselves. However, he may have been a little distracted at the time by his focus on leveraging money in the Capital Budget from neighborhood-friendly repair of sidewalks in the Urban Services District to car-snarl-friendly street improvements in the General Services District. He eventually did succeed in persuading the Council to move $2 million from repair of city infrastructure to outlying parts of the county to spend on road repairs.

As for other Council members, the Tennessean score card has 12 as uncommitted and 14 as pledging to vote for ethics reform. One of the uncommitted, Council member Ronnie Greer, seems to believe that his appetite is more important than the mere appearance of favoritism in Council's feedbag initiative, which I have affectionately called, "Meals for Deals." I don't want to make too much of Meals for Deals, since it is one of the more minor improprieties of gift-giving, but Council member Greer's response to the Tennessean--"I ain’t voting for nothing that’s going to keep me from eating, That’s crazy, see, rich people can do that kind of stuff, see"--does not exactly inspire us to put him in the ethics reform column, especially if Council member David Briley moves to add the prohibition against Meals for Deals to the ethics bill, which he sponsors. I'm not sure where Mr. Greer gets off thinking that Council membership entitles him to a free meal, even if it makes him reproachable, but that attitude is a bit hard to swallow.

Our District 19 Council member, Ludye Wallace is one of the uncommitted, and he told the Tennessean that the ethics bill is
just a lot of paperwork. I think it’s creating an opportunity for members of the council to violate, because I don’t think some of the areas of the ethics bill, you’ll be able to police them, all the reporting, all of what you can accept, what you can’t accept.
That does not sound hopeful for those of us who desire ethics reform. I still am unable to fathom why the whole "we-cannot-police-this" argument seems to keep popping up in this Council. That excuse has become a worn-out mantra during various bill debates. Look for it tonight, too. But every time you hear it just keep asking the rhetorical question, "If the Council cannot police its own members, then how can we possibly expect Council members to police themselves in the absence of ethics reforms?"

09/20/2005, 4:05 Update: Bruce Barry over at PiTW also reflects on tonight's consideration of ethics reform and another Council member's stupid comments as reported in the Tennessean.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sneak Peek At The New Ad For Germantown's Oktoberfest!

While you will see this new ad promoting Oktoberfest in the black-and-white print of the Tennessean's Davidson A.M. and Weekender sections beginning Wednesday, Enclave brings it to you first and in living color days beforehand.

Kudos to Tim Templeton with the Strobell Group for creating such an eye-popping design. It's motivated me to dig out my multi-pint Paulaner stein and to dust off my German biergarten state-of-mind.

I also embedded the ad in the righthand column of this web page for your daily edification and as a reminder to everyone to come on down to the North End and join us on October 8.

Oktoberfest Volunteers Needed

The Historic Germantown Neighborhood Association is recruiting volunteers to help on October 8. This is a great way to meet your fellow North Enders. If you are interested, e-mail me and I will forward your request to the appropriate organizers.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Cumberland River Greenway Stroll

This afternoon I walked a small portion of the 2.75 mile greenway on the MetroCenter levee. It stretches from a trailhead just north of Salemtown, near the former location of the "Burns Island Race Track" (1828-1884), to the current Ted Rhodes Golf course. Since it is on a levee, it's a mostly flat and easy walk with great views of the river.

9/11 Commissioners Post Katrina: Communities "Not As Safe" As Previously Thought

An article in the Christian Science Monitor last week is a cause of concern for those of us at the local level. Former commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice-chairman Lee Hamilton told the CSM that some victims of Katrina died needlessly because several 9/11 Commission reforms were not adopted including:
  1. Make clear who the person in charge in national emergencies is. Katrina response had the same problems as 9/11 response; no one knew who was in charge.
  2. Require states to develop a detailed command-and-control plan, linking those developments to receiving federal funds.
  3. Allocate Homeland Security funds on the basis of priority rather than dispensing funds to all states regardless of risk.
If "everything has changed after 9/11," as we are often told, how is it that we still have not adopted the Commission recommendations that would help make our local communities safer in response to the change?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"Mayberry: Gateway To Danger" (or "Is There A Friggin' Full Moon This Weekend, Or What?!")

I marched out sadly but dutifully to repair my damaged shed this late afternoon just as I had fixed my fence early this morning. As I neared the back fence I heard some metallic rustling right at the spot on the alley side where the thieves knocked out the cedar pickets to commandeer my prized pressure washer and mower last night. I climbed up on the fence stringers and peered over to find a man squatting with a backpack, and sucking on a crumpled up beer can.

I asked him if I could help him, which I thought was extremely polite, given the circumstances. He replied, "No. Just smoking some weed." I restrained myself from grabbing the nearest garden implement; instead, retorting, and with good manners, "Please take it somewhere else."

It seems that my back fence has become crime central in Salemtown this weekend.

Fare Thee Well, Briggs and Stratton

Well, my brand new power washer was stolen overnight. 3,000 p.s.i. gone; just like that. Briggs and Stratton engine on that bad boy. Just repeating "Briggs and Stratton" makes me grieve. Though not as meaningful as "Braxton-Hicks," the very name "Briggs and Stratton" always gave me the closest thrill a man could feel to the quickening and expectation of effacement. The sheer power of the name was always confirmed when I started that mighty engine up. It was like giving birth to something new ... only without the excruciating pain, pouring sweat, and smeared blood of actual labor. Small details, right?

But those days are gone with the thieves who knocked some of my fence down, prised open the latch on my shed (I had a sheathed lock, so of course there was no cutting through it), and took my Briggs and Stratton along with a Toro lawn mower. I can almost, and I mean "almost," let the mower go. But the loss of my Briggs and Stratton is nearly too much to bear. They even took a small 1 gallon gas can that only had about .10 of a gallon in it; no doubt a sign of the times of ridiculously high gas prices.

I went through four of Kübler-Ross's stages of grief and loss this morning: denial (repairing the fence, as if that were the only problem), bargaining (driving through the neighborhood thinking that I might just be able to locate my property), anger (being snippy and rude to S-townWife, who was just as unhappy), depression (sulking at breakfast). If this blog entry is any indication, I still have not moved on to the fifth stage of acceptance as yet, but I'm sure I shall.

The thieves should get a lot of mileage out of that yard equipment, because I just changed the oil. But they need to be sure and clean the air filter on the mower; it's past due. Also, I always add a fuel stabilizer to the gas to keep the engines performing well; I noticed that they did not bother to take the remaining tube of stabilizer I had left. But dad gummit, if you're going to steal somebody else's equipment, why not take those additives that will keep it running in peak condition? The breakdown of social order should not have to lead to the breakdown of our power products.

Well, I have to go recycle all of that oil I changed out of my stolen machines now. Got to keep doing my part to protect the environment, because even though barbarians are obviously at the back fence, "We still live in a society, you know!," as Seinfeld's George Costanza was often wont to scream. We also have sped up our mission to find a family dog, who will patrol the back yard. Maybe we need two. If they are worthy of the name, maybe I'll call them "Briggs" and "Stratton."

Sunset Over Werthan Mills

Friday, September 16, 2005

Cavalcade of Capitalists

Today's list of bottom-feeding private companies and their raggedy-ass ways:
  • Family Dollar in Spring Hill, Tennessee: fired employee Kolonie Sims from a $7.00 per hour job for taking time off to travel to Long Beach, Mississippi to rescue her teenage sister and brother after Katrina hit. After coming under blistering exposure in the national media, Family Dollar flip-flopped and offered her her old job back plus pay for her time off. I don't think she should take it. Once media exposure died down, I think Family Dollar would find a way to make things unprofitable for her. If they fired her for taking care of her family, should we expect anything better from them in the future?
  • Positronic Industries in Mount Vernon, Missouri: CEO John Gentry fired assembly-line employee Barbara Roberts who took time off to stay at home with her grandchildren after their parents, who were on a business trip, got trapped in New Orleans before Katrina hit. When initially asked about the firing, Gentry rationalized that Positronic Industries had made monetary contributions to the Katrina relief effort. After the media turned up the heat on him, Gentry offered Roberts' job back to her. I received a Positronic press release that made excuses: "the nation has never before experienced a disaster" like Katrina and the company's disaster policies needed to be "updated" to deal with such disasters. It also said that Barbara Roberts has accepted their invitation to take her old job back. They should probably give her a raise for her troubles, too.
One is left to wonder what these swamp rats would have pulled off had the mainstream media not honed spotlights on the mistreatment of their employees.

Now Memphis Asks, "Where Is FEMA?"

"Brownie" is long gone now; the Duct-Tape Man has replaced him as head of FEMA, and nothing seems to have changed for the beleaguered Bush administration, no matter how many apologies are forthcoming. They cannot seem to move even water and ice on some trucks down to people who needed water back at the beginning of September.

Snarled in Memphis as well as in Washington is the once proud FEMA, which during the 1990's answered directly to the president from a cabinet level position and never let red tape or bureaucracy stand in the way. Now, it's under the Department of Homeland Security and I just keep hearing the name, "Failure to Effectively Manage Anything."

North End-Spire

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Lone Wolf Of Cigarettetown

Once I get past the perennial question, "Where's Salemtown?" the next question I tend to hear is, "How did Salemtown get its name?"

I have yet to be able to track down an authority on the answer to the second question, although I have heard a couple of legends that I cannot disprove. My favorite is a story S-townWife related to me from a conversation she and our next door neighbor had with a life-long neighborhood resident at a local yard sale.

Upon hearing of the fellow's life-long status, our neighbor asked him why the place was called "Salemtown."

"I don't really know," he replied in a gravelly voice. "I'll tell ya why I think it's called 'Salemtown': this used to be where the workers lived. See, the Germans came here an' owned the slaughterhouses for the cattle an' this is where all'a their workers lived an' this was the part'a town where they would drink an' smoke an' gamble. This was one'a the only areas where you could buy cigarettes an' jus-bout everybody smoked Salems back then. I think it got called 'Salemtown' because'a that."

S-townWife said to him, "That was not exactly what I was expecting for an answer, but it was more colorful anyway. I'll bet you've got lots of stories like that."

The fellow chuckled and said, "Well, my buddy an' me are prob'ly the only ones who could tell the stories. We're the only ones left who've lived here all'a our lives. We both lived in 'bout 5 diff'rent places in Salemtown. I remember as a lil' boy, my Daddy worked at the Werthan Fact'ry. Yeah, you could hear the hum o' that plant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They had 3 shifts an' they never stopped. When I got old 'nuff I even worked there."

"You did? You mean you didn't have enough of it from your dad?"

He responded, "I worked there long 'nuff to draw a paycheck ... 1 week." His small audience laughed.

Our neighbor saw her opening and said, "Well, maybe you would like to help us and join our neighborhood association."

He effectively deflected her invitation. "No," he said, "I've never been one much for gangs. I'm kinduva lone wolf."

And with that our "gang" lost a recruitment opportunity, but gained a story about the naming of Salemtown.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Salemtown's Citizen Advisory Committee Meets

The Citizen Advisory Committee met for the first time last night with MDHA Planner, Linda Howard, and other residents in order to cover the group's by-laws and to discuss officer nominations. No member seemed willing to consider the officer positions of Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, or Secretary, so that decision was deferred to a future meeting. Members also drew straws to pick 4 to be assigned two-year terms and 5 to be assigned one-year terms. I drew a two-year term.

Now Nashville Asks, "Where Is FEMA?"

An addition to the litany of disaster response failures by the Bush White House: the Nashville City Paper reports today that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials failed to show up in Nashville over the weekend as they promised they would to help Metro officials put long-term housing plans for evacuees in place.

No satellite pictures of flooded buses around to shift the blame off FEMA this time. Local Metro officials have been working overtime coordinating evacuee response while maintaining the day-to-day operations of government. More importantly, President Bush admitted fault yesterday for the federal government's failures (rare contrition, given that the only mistake he has ever admitted before was trading Sammy Sosa). Those failures continue, as Metro officials, like their counterparts in New Orleans before them, sit and wait for the cavalry to arrive.

If ever there was an indictment of the merciless drive to slash the budgets of important government programs, the catastrophic failures of FEMA are it. Time's wasting away in Nashville; our evacuee community requires federal response sooner rather than later.

Sales Tax Referendum Post Mortem

Now that the referendum is past, I have to pronounce a pox on both the pro-sales-tax house and the anti-sales-tax house. I long ago voiced opposition to the Mayor's sales tax increase to pay for education, and I did so not because I support cutting education in general.

In fact, I think that the most vocal critics of raising revenues to enhance our public schools do not care about public education and would just as soon watch it wither on the vine. That's despicable enough, but to capriciously concoct and spread the urban myth that large numbers of people leave Nashville whenever we spend more on behalf of our public school students is deplorable itself. As these spinmeisters break out today proclaiming victory for "Nashville's citizens," I want to be clear that this Nashvillian who opposed the sales tax feels no sense of victory.

But the pro-sales tax crowd simply had it wrong in my opinion. One should not blindly advocate raising any revenues for schools at any cost, especially when most of the cost would be borne by low to moderate income residents. I don't understand those progressive voters who become so single-minded in their focus on education that they would actually take from the most vulnerable to give to the most vulnerable. I understand that many are feeling dejected today because of the setback, but I want to be clear that this Nashvillian who supports public education feels no sense of defeat.

There are better ways to raise equitable revenues for education. There will be increasing opportunities in the future for us to find them. We did not need to lock ourselves into a regressive sales tax even if the goals were laudable. The ends don't justify the means. And we do not need to listen to the crowing by the anti-tax crowd for whom slashing public education funding is a veritable, if not obsessed daily devotion.

At the end of the day yesterday, I could live with the knowledge that I have met taxes I don't like. This sales tax was one of those.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Today We Breath Our Own Waste

You can't airbrush air stagnation: air pollution and "particulate matter" shroud the view of Downtown from Germantown at Jeff St. this morning. My throat is burning this morning. How about yours?

Monday, September 12, 2005

City Paper's William Williams Lags Behind The Curve On Salemtown

In a recent article on Salemtown, Nashville City Paper reporter William Williams wrote:

[A] quick look at ... properties on Garfield, Buchanan and Coffee streets, and on Third through Seventh avenues north of Hume Street and south of the interstate are — by Nashville’s oft-outlandishly overpriced housing standards — very affordable. That’s because many are, bluntly, run-down, outdated and/or ugly.

Perhaps Mr. Williams' look was a little too quick. If he would have bothered to take a second longer look he would have seen more than a handful of infills starting at Hume on 5th Ave., wrapping around Garfield St., and starting to spring up along 6th Ave. and at a couple of points as far north as Buchanan.

Admittedly, Salemtown is a transitional neighborhood, a victim of urban renewal, so it has some ugly old houses. But it also has a few historic old houses that either are being renovated or have plans in the works for renovation. Seeing them requires more than a quick look. And frankly some of the infill houses are ahistoric and uglier than a armadillo's hairy beak, because some builders openly admit that they do not care what potential buyers want (I previously referred to one such ugly house on Buchanan St.).

However, more than what Mr. Williams calls a "handful" of attractive and popular infills have been built and sold over the past couple of years. Thanks to some who are moving into them (along with other residents in older houses), Salemtown Neighbors was formed in part to influence the zoning process and to encourage builders toward more restrictive and historically conscious architecture that increases demand and property values across the neighborhood.

While Mr. Williams seems to see properties that can be had for under $100,000, no infills that I know of sell for lower than $100,000, and most of the older houses that I see listed are going closer to $200,000 if not higher. There is only one remodeled house currently listed that is going for under $100,000. I know of at least one infill in Salemtown that has gone for over $300,000. I think that Mr. Williams is using hyperbole about Salemtown's transitional status in order to increase the shock value of seeing Garfield Place properties offered at well over $365,000. Prices in Salemtown may still be trending well under $300,000, but by no means is it as simple as he suggests to find properties under $100,000. Maybe a year ago, but not now.

I find it extemely unfortunate the William Williams only bothered to talk to the Garfield Place builders. If he would have talked with residents, he would have written a more accurate piece. We have experienced bad interpretations of Salemtown before with the Tennessean, now it looks like we may have to spend some time educating some City Paper reporters. Otherwise, they will continue to write inane articles making us sound like the "substandard-saturate stock" of Nashville.

Not Your Daddy's Dorm

The first and newly-opened residence hall at Watkins College of Art & Design off MetroCenter Blvd.

Local Katrina Fallout: Delayed Construction Projects, Including Schools (Updated)

Adversity caused by the destruction of the Port of New Orleans continues to ripple across the country, including through Nashville.

A Louisiana legislator was heard saying that God helped him "clean up" public housing by sending Katrina. Does that mean that God also halted Nashville's plans to renovate or to build public elementary schools by sending Katrina to destroy New Orleans?

09/12/2005, 11:50 a.m. Update: Speaking of God and hurricane victims, Tim Wise relates his encounter at La Paz with a certain kind of god who blesses the chimichangas of the Range Rover set "while letting babies die in their mothers’ arms, and letting old people die in wheelchairs, at the foot of Canal Street." Wasn't it Jesus who cursed the Pharisees who stood in public and thanked God that they were not like mortal sinners? How can people--who haughtily pray over their food and then sit back and harshly judge New Orleaneans in dire straights--honestly call themselves "Christian," when Jesus Christ taught otherwise?

Justifiable Raise In Ex-Urban Library Fees

The Metro Library Board is going to consider a proposal to raise the library card fee for those who live outside of Davidson County from $25.00 to $40.00, which reportedly constitutes the first increase in the fee since 1989.

This is an entirely reasonable increase given that the fee has not been raised in over a decade and a half. It reflects the current costs of service per person that the library provides the local community. The city's library should serve primarily those who live and pay taxes in the city; if residents from other counties live outside Metro in order to pay lower taxes for less services, they should not expect to leech Metro services without some personal compensation.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Germantown Moves Toward Oktoberfest

Germantown residents are working overtime preparing their side of the North End for the annual Oktoberfest, which is sponsored by and benefits Assumption Catholic Church, Monroe Street United Methodist Church and Historic Germantown Nashville, Inc. Funds will help pay for church restoration and neighborhood improvements.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Waiting On Ophelia And Karma

If projections hold and Ophelia comes on shore as a hurricane in the Carolinas, you can bet that those folks are going to get immediate attention from the Bush administration after the disaster in New Orleans (and I'm not referring to the natural disaster at this point).

But the administration is damned if they do respond quickly and damned if they don't respond quickly. A quick response underscores contrast, and it reinforces the idea that they care less about mostly African American, remarkably impoverished, and thoroughly urban New Orleans than they do about other places. Failure to mobilize quickly reinforces that either they are incapable of protecting Americans in harm's way or they only care about immediate disaster response during election years (like Florida in 2004).

The federal government has got no one else to blame but itself on this one. Their failure in New Orleans was huge. There was bound to be blow-back from Hurricane Katrina.

Salemtown's Citizen Advisory Committee To Have First Meeting This Week

The first meeting of Salemtown residents elected to the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) to assist MDHA in investing a nearly $600,000 block grant is Tuesday, September 13, 2005. The CAC will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Randee Rogers Training Center (1419 8th Ave., North).

MDHA's agenda for the meeting includes: introductions, a discussion of CAC by-laws, and election of officers for 2005-2006. Attendance of this meeting is not limited to committee members; any resident or business owner in the Salemtown neighborhood is welcome to attend and participate.

Calamity Pimping And Military Recruitment In A Post-Apocalyptic Neighborhood

Last week I wrote about the hellish Superdome as a Post-Apocalyptic Neighborhood for New Orleaneans in Katrina's wake. Now come to find out that the Astrodome has become a target for some military recruiters who sense an opportunity to bolster their enlistment numbers for what is an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq (Wall Street Journal via Josh Marshall via Aunt B). So, the Astrodome might be better than the Superdome--in that there are no murders and rapes and there seems to be food, water, and cots--but it has not exactly emerged Plato's Republic, either.

The evacuees are in a particularly vulnerable and desperate position such that the recruiters run the risk of posing the military option under duress. That's conscription by other means. I don't care how careful the recruiters are, many of the evacuees are going to be grasping at straws to try to support themselves and their families. Taking advantage of someone else's despondency in order to send more soldiers to Iraq constitutes calamity pimping. It is forcing a trade of one life-and-death struggle for another. That is not a good exchange, no matter how much money the military pays. There are millions of other Americans with less susceptible profiles whom they can recruit; why target the most vulnerable at their lowest moment?

Life in war-torn Iraq will probably be worse for evacuees than life was in the flooded Big Easy; and returning home from Iraq as a casualty of war is a distinct possibility. That possibility cannot and should not be pimped.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Possible Garfield St. Burglar Hunted By Police

Last night as we were tucking ourselves in bed, we heard a helicopter flying low over the neighborhood back and forth. I got up and walked out to the front porch to see what I could see. The chopper was circling over Garfield St., shining its intense spot light in each nook and cranny on the ground as it passed.

S-townWife called police dispatch to see if there was a cause for us to be alarmed or vigilant. Dispatch replied that there was a possible burglary on Garfield, that the helicopter probably had a light duty night, and that it was probably just backing up patrol officers on the ground.

I contacted the Central Precinct this morning and asked for more details, but I have not heard back from them yet. I'll update once I get a response.

How Much Of Nashville Would Be Covered By The New Orleans Flood?

The coverage area of the New Orleans flood is huge. Here's a New Orleans map with a pinkish overlay of the flood area.

If the same size flood hit Nashville, using Downtown as a mid point, here's what the overlay would look like on a Nashville map:

That is frightening.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Central Precinct Police Report That Officers "Jumped" Two Men Breaking Into 4th Ave., North Residence

According to a report I received from the Central Precinct: patrol officers jumped two subjects breaking into a residence on 4th Ave., North. They caught a male white, 5’8”, 195 lbs, brown hair and multiple tattoos, who lives at 1600 4th Ave., North. I believe that the residence of the white male suspect to which the police are referring is at the Shiloh Apartments, a rundown complex on the corner of 4th Ave., North and Hume, which was also the site of a beating reported on Enclave several weeks ago. The actual address of the Shiloh Apartments is 310 Hume, not 1600 4th Ave., North. A file picture looking down 4th Ave. toward Shiloh Apartments appears above.

The other subject got away; he is a male black, 5’5”, 140 lbs.

Police encourage North End residents to report all thefts and to be on the look out for the male black and this male white (should he make bond) who seem to be roaming around in the neighborhoods.

Speaking of which, this week two neighbors on 5th Ave., North report separate incidents of suspicious people coming up to their doors. One resident reports that a male black with a white cloth hat, 5’7” or so, knocked on his door about 1:00 a.m. on Monday. The man asked for money to buy gas in exchange for some CDs. When the neighbor asked why he had money for CDs but not for gas, the man replied that the CDs were not his, at which time the neighbor closed the door and called the police.

In the second incident, another neighbor reports that a month ago, a male black in his late 30s knocked on the neighbor's front door at 12:45 a.m. The neighbor came to the door, but did not open it. The suspicious individual repeated, "I've got to ask you something," several times. The neighbor asked him to leave several times through the door, but the man kept on saying, "Wait, wait." The suspicious person left when the neighbor asked his cousin to get his gun.

North End residents should stay on guard for any of these suspects or any other suspicious persons coming and going through our neighborhoods. We have some good descriptions of the suspected burglars, and we even know where one of them lives, so be sure and keep an eye on homes for either one of these guys. And, whatever you do, do not open your door for anyone you do not know, especially late at night or early in the morning. If you have an alarm pad with a panic button, be ready to hit it. Call the police if they won't go away. If you believe they just need some help offer, through the door, to call the police or a tow truck or a charity. I've often found that when people who need legitimate aid come up to me, they are willing to accept my offers to call service providers who can help them more than I can. If they are asking you for aid, but they refuse the aid you offer for something that they prefer, like cash that you are not willing to give, then you can probably bet that they are not being entirely honest with you.

If they will not leave after you ask them to, then call the police. But regardless of what happens, please be sure and report suspicious people to the cops. This police chief places a premium on using statistical measures to determine which neighborhoods need police attention. The more our neighbors report suspicious activity, the more attention we will get, which in turn will discourage those with criminal intent from coming into the North End.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

5th Ave. Brownstones Planned For Salemtown

The real estate agent for the team building 5th Ave. Brownstones (same agent of Garfield Place) stopped by to chat about their developments. He also left informational brochures with me in case I encounter anyone who expresses an interest in the offerings. The Brownstones brochure is your standard bi-fold, magazine-style item, but in keeping with its more upscale feel, the Garfield Place brochure is a svelte little quad-fold, envelope-style number. 5th Ave. Brownstones are set for properties at the corner of 5th Ave., North and Garfield St. that previously contained a market that was the perpetual target of vandals and an adjoining dilapidated house.

The corner property was also the one that went before the Planning Commission for re-zoning a few months ago; that was a meeting where Salemtown Neighbors members spoke in favor of the Planning Department's more restrictive zoning recommendation, which was eventually passed by the Commission and by the Metro Council. As you can see, not only is the building a drastically and substantially more attractive improvement than what was there before, but it is also consistent with zoning sensitive to the historical character of the North End. It is also a testament to consensus that can occur between builders, neighbors, and planning officials for the common good of all.

According to the company's promotional material, the brick exterior Brownstones will include 3-story "Town Homes" with 2 car garages and Flats with assigned off-street parking. The first floor of the central building contains 2 retail properties. Pre-construction prices list from $249,000 for flats to $399,900 for the townhouses. Retail space goes for $199,900 and $219,900 (corner space).

As with Garfield Place, I am surprised by the prices, which are markedly more than what in-fills have been going for over the past year. Perhaps the difference is in the amenities, which include granite counter tops, marble tubs, garages, and stainless steel appliances. I understand that we sit in one of the hottest downtown housing markets. Time will tell whether it is that hot.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Brownstown brochure's section on "Nashville's fastest growing neighborhoods" includes a picture of our house with other historic and period in-fills. I made a feeble attempt to reproduce the picture at the left. Also pictured are the Mad Platter Restaurant and the Catholic Church of the Assumption in Germantown.

The plans for 5th Ave. Brownstones look promising and generally good for the neighborhood so far. I'll keep you posted as I find out more details. Please also keep me posted on anything you hear.

Public Schools Respond To Evacuees

Here is a tally so far of public school enrollment of evacuated students from New Orleans:
  1. State: 600 (Tennessean)
  2. Metro/Davidson County: 100 (Channel 2 News At 10:00 last night)
  3. Williamson County: 21 (Channel 2 News At 10:00 last night)
  4. Wilson County: Unknown (they may be too busy haggling over the important stuff, like whether stripes should be allowed on students' polo shirts).

Her Coming Out

This morning our youngest, lunch box in hand, headed out for her very first day of day care ever at Eastwood Christian Children's Center. I am at once very proud and somewhat melancholy as she crosses this threshold.

The Price of Failure (Updated Again)

Last week I wrote of the turn away from saving people's lives in post-hurricane New Orleans to having the police protect property, including shooting looters indiscriminately. I agreed with fellow-blogger Aunt B. of Tiny Cat Pants, who wondered why, after three days, the National Guard still had not been sent into the city to establish order.

The L.A. Times has a story from the weekend on the arrival of the first federally-mustered National Guard units in New Orleans five days after Katrina left New Orleans. It confirms my belief that pulling 1,500 exhausted police officers (hundreds of whom are themselves missing) from search-and-rescue in order to protect property (and quite possibly shoot kids just stealing shoes and risk hitting innocents) was not a proper course of action. The proper course should have been to mobilize the National Guard from multiple states under federal coordination immediately after the Louisiana Governor had declared requested a state of emergency on August 28 27.

The Times piece also confirms my sense that once the Guard landed in New Orleans, they would confront mostly people who were innocent survivors and who were doing whatever was necessary to stay alive. In fact, the story tells that many survivors were taking care of other survivors, even with stolen goods. The Times reporter says that the soldiers, who were prepped for marauding bands of gangs, instead found a different mission: aiding in the rescue and care of survivors, action from which the police had been called away nearly a week ago.

How many lives in the city could have been saved if the focus had not shifted to police guarding property and had the National Guard and waiting first-responders rolled in on Monday or Tuesday Sunday or Monday of last week rather than than this past Friday and Saturday? The cost in human lives was simply too high and New Orleans never deserved to pay it.

09/07/2005, 3:26 p.m. Update: I have corrected the date above of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's request for a federal state of emergency and distinguished it from her declaration of a Louisiana state of emergency. Sorry for any confusion. Here is a timeline of local and state actions before the flooding:
  • Aug. 26 (Friday): Governor's declaration of a state of emergency in Louisiana and her request for troop assistance.
  • Aug. 27: Gov. Blanco requests a federal state of emergency. Federal emergency is declared giving federal officials the authority to get involved.
  • Aug. 28: Mayor Ray Nagin orders mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. National Hurricane Center warns President Bush of levee failure. National Weather Service predicts area will be "uninhabitable" after Katrina. Local paper begins to report water toppling over the levee.

09/09/2005, 12:35 p.m. Update: MSNBC reported just a few minutes ago that FEMA Director Mike Brown has been removed from his post overseeing Katrina relief and is being called back to Washington, D.C. There is some justice in that but not quite enough, in my opinion. President Bush, who rarely removes those in his employ, must have been motivated by yesterday's poll numbers that show up to 60% disapproval ratings and by criticism he's been getting this week over the federal response to the disaster, even from some in his own party.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Local Community Block Grant News From Murfreesboro

According to today's Tennessean, Murfreesboro is using half of a $690,000 federal community block grant they received to fund a program for home improvement projects for low-income residents who live in houses with at least one "major" building codes violation. Income level restrictions do apply.

"They've had press conferences. I'm sick of press conferences. For God's sake, shut up and send us somebody."

So were the honest and apolitical words of Aaron Broussard, the President of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, after describing on NBC's Sunday Meet the Press how the elderly mother of a man he knows drowned in a nursing home this past Friday night after almost a week of waiting for federal help.

If you saw Meet the Press on Sunday with an open heart, you could not help but be moved by how this man broke down as he quoted his acquaintance and expressed his own anger,
'yeah mama, somebody's coming to get ya, somebody's coming to get ya on Tuesday, somebody's coming to get ya on Wednesday, somebody's coming to get ya on Thursday, somebody's coming to get you on Friday.'
And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night. Nobody's coming to get us.
The despair in his voice was absolutely agonizing.

I heard on Monday's ten o'clock news that 8 days after Katrina left--3 days too late for that poor woman--FEMA finally arrived in Jefferson Parish.

Monday, September 05, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Fatal Accident on I-65 Near Salemtown Throws Two From SUV (Updated Again)

Within the past hour and a half, an SUV headed eastbound on the outer north loop of I-65 rolled and crashed. According to mainstream photojournalists on the scene, the driver was thrown from the SUV during the accident and killed; the vehicle also flipped over the concrete barrier and into westbound lanes. The accident occurred just east of the 3rd Ave., North overpass. Photojournalists also told me that the vehicle may have been involved in a hit-and-run farther west down I-65. Those are the only details I have. Watch your local news channels tonight for more information.

09/05/2005, 9:20 p.m. Update: Fox 17 News just reported that 2 unidentified people were in the SUV: 1 person was killed and 1 person was injured (no word on which was the driver). The SUV flipped over the barrier, according to Fox 17 News, because someone in another vehicle hit them and then drove on.

09/06/2005, 12:00 p.m. Update: This morning's Tennessean has a complete story on this tragedy involving high school football players from Pearl-Cohn in northwest Nashville. The driver was thrown from the vehicle and killed. There were four other players in the SUV. One was thrown from the vehicle and survived. Two passengers are in critical condition. Two passengers were treated and released.

Natural Gas Prices On The Rise

According to last week's Nashville City Paper, the company that supplies Nashville its natural gas has requested a 14% increase in benchmark rates. Here's hoping that we don't have a record-breakingly cold winter this year. Thanks to our hot, dry summer our last two electric bills set some personal records of their own.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Giving Aid To Historically Black Colleges In New Orleans (Updated)

The United Negro College Fund is asking for contributions to special fund 3 of its member universities/colleges that were hit by Hurricane Katrina: Xavier and Dillard in New Orleans and Tougaloo on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

According to the Washington Post:
Tens of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans colleges and universities are scattered across the country, trying to figure out how to salvage a school year that started with disaster. Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 college students in the New Orleans metropolitan area have been displaced by the storm and that more than 30 schools in the region have been affected.
More prestigious area schools like Tulane are being helped out by other prestigious schools like Rice in Houston, and they probably have the resource and alumni base to bounce back sooner thanks to their higher status.

Schools like Dillard, Xavier, and Tougaloo play an important role because many of their students are first generation college students who come from families living in areas like the lower-income neighborhoods near the breached levees in New Orleans. Those schools play an important role in breaking the cycle of poverty in which their families have lived. Click here to contribute to UNCF's Katrina Hurricane Relief Fund. You can also distinguish the institution to which to direct the contribution.

09/08/2005, 10:20 p.m. Update: From the Associated Baptist Press:
As of the evening of Sept. 7, [Baylor University] school officials said Baylor had already enrolled 25 undergraduate students from nine institutions in the devastated Gulf region. Those students include eight from the historically African-American Xavier University in New Orleans, as well as six from the city's prestigious Tulane University.
I am pleased to see that my alma mater is doing the right thing.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

More Nashville Community Help For Evacuees Displaced By Katrina

According to yesterday's Nashville City Paper: Nashville's Catholic schools are immediately enrolling Catholic high school students from the Gulf Coast whose schools have been destroyed and damaged this week.

"Say, do you remember? Ba de ya. Dancing in September?"

What a gorgeous day it was today to get out and away from the horror on the television news for the past 6 days. It was even redemptive to be outside of the on-line mountain of information and perspectives spewing since the last weekend. I just didn't feel like I could pull myself away until news arrived today that finally the federal government is adequately responding, as at long last large contingents of National Guard Forces are arriving in New Orleans.

My shock at the sheer neglect of people held my attention locked to the situation. My utter sadness and frustration simply held me in place.

But that changed today as we packed up the kids and my in-laws, put the top down, and drove over to the East Bank and Shelby Street Bridge. The sun was bright and warm and the breeze was steady and cool. Being riverside has its own soothing, healing powers.

From our stroll on the bridge we could also enjoy the dulcet tunes coming from the Jazz and Blues Fest at Riverfront Park. Jazz and blues are some of the finest gifts and highest art forms that New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta have left us. So, I am thankful to be reminded of my appreciation for the Big Easy on this peerless day, which bolsters my sympathies from this horrible week.

It's been a good day to be alive and well, and to have my family around me. I am grateful for it even as I know that others suffer and die and separate in conditions that didn't have to be as bad as they are.

Metro Nashville's Katrina Relief Efforts

I received the following from Michelle Steele, the Director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods:
Nashville is helping refugees of the Hurricane Katrina with shelter, food, donations and services.

2-1-1, the community services help line, can provide information about services.

The Nashville Area Red Cross is setting up a service center at its offices at 2201 Charlotte Ave. The center will be open during the Labor Day Weekend on Saturday from 7 am - 3 pm, Sunday 9 am - 1 pm, and Monday 7 am - 1 pm. The Red Cross is also providing shelters for refugees. The first Davidson County shelter is located at Crievewood Baptist Church, 480 Hogan Road, Nashville. The shelter opened its doors at 2:00 p.m. yesterday.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau provides information about discount lodging rates. The CVB also has information about Nashville area attractions that are providing free admission for evacuees from the coastal regions.

Metro Nashville Public Schools are enrolling students who have come to Nashville to seek refuge.

Several Nashville organizations are providing assistance to evacuees and are accepting donations. Metro Parks and Recreation Department will be accepting food donations during the Music City Jazz, Blues and Heritage Festival at Riverfront Park on Saturday and Sunday, and at the Live Along the Lake festival at Centennial Park on Monday.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is accepting donations of food for evacuees.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is accepting donations for the victims of Katrina.

The Office of Emergency Management is coordinating work crews interested in providing disaster reliefassistance to the coastal region with request from agencies in the affected areas.
I am particularly impressed that the Metro Public School System--like so many other Public School Systems--is enrolling those whose needs are the greatest, the children, so that they can continue their education away from home. Given their limited resources, this is a wonderful expression of care on their part (even if they are required to do it in times of disaster; I don't know whether they are or not).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Some Would Bury New Orleans Rather Than Rescue Her

What if they had merely said, "Don't rebuild North Nashville; move it"?: the North End of Nashville looking north from Downtown during the 1937 flood. The ballpark is historic "Sulphur Dell," which sat near Cherry St. (now 4th Ave.), Summer St. (now 5th Ave.), and Jackson St.
Photograph reprint with permission from and courtesy of

The Cumberland River used to have regular flooding problems, which meant that parts of Nashville were submerged at various times in its history. The lower parts of the North End in particular were prone to flooding and contamination of drinking water. The picture above is reminiscent of the pictures coming out of New Orleans this week. What if after the '37 flood the majority of people simply said, "Let's just give the river sections of Nashville. We just shouldn't try to build in these areas. Let's just move everything to higher ground." Here's a list of what we would not have if that kind of thinking prevailed:
  • Bicentennial Mall
  • A greenway where an historic old ballpark used to sit
  • Farmer's Market
  • The coming Museum of African-American Music and Culture
  • Major residential developments like Harrison Lofts
  • Facilities where various agencies of state functioning
  • Parking for state workers
  • Small and large businesses up and down Jefferson and 8th Ave.
  • Exploding neighborhood development in Germantown, Salemtown, and points west
Putting the kibosh on the North End would have sacrificed so much. But shortsightedness did not prevail. Instead, federal funds were channeled into the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to build locks and dams to help our community as well as others across the Ohio River Valley shed.

TVA uses 35 dams, in an expensive process, to reduce the effects of flooding by holding back the water from heavy rains in reservoirs. The TVA system prevents about $224 million in flood damage in the Tennessee Valley and along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers every year. As late as May 2003, Nashville experienced enough rainfall that could have led to flooding on the river, but TVA performed a balancing act to hold water in Percy Priest Reservoir until it experienced flooding. At that point they released some into the Cumberland without causing the flooding seen in Nashville before TVA. While 2005 water levels at both Percy Priest and the Cumberland are at lower levels due to less rain, at the beginning of May 2003, the Army Corps Chief of Water Management told the Tennessean, "Without the dams ... Nashville would have experienced devastating floods this week."

We can only imagine what would have happened if those with vision no longer than the nose on their face had prevailed and placed a kibosh on flooded sections of our city. Fortunately, those who believed that there is more to gain by rescuing flood prone areas than by cutting them loose carried the day. It was expensive, but the nation kicked in and we now enjoy the benefits of that investment.

There are those who want to put the kibosh on New Orleans now. They argue that it is a big mistake to have a city on land prone to flooding. They are unmoved, even against those who offer significant ideas for prevention, including landfill, new opportunities to build flood resistant structures, reinforced levees, locks and gate systems ideas from the Dutch (who are masters at reclaiming dry land from its watery grave), technologically advanced surge walls, and barrier islands. They tell us that New Orleans was a mistake all along and if we want it rebuilt then the nation owes the Crescent City nothing, if not mere pittance, to assist in that process.

If Nashville was worthy among others in Tennessee to have substantial federal funds spent to build and to maintain and to update a system of 10 dams and locks affecting its waterway, New Orleans is much more valuable as Nick Mamatas (via Chris Wage) points out:
New Orleans must and will be rebuilt because it contains the largest port in the US -- plus five other ports in the nearby region, all already under one coordinated framework. Six thousand vessels containing 134,000 shipping containers arrived there last year, and ... moved through rail, highway, and ports along 14,5000 miles of inland waterways. The big port, cleverly named the Port of New Orleans for the city that necessarily springs up around ports, handled 32 million tons of cargo last year, three quarters of it imported. Most of the exported stuff is corn, soy, and cotton. Then there's the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which carries 11% of the oil the US consumes into the interior.
The Port of New Orleans is more than just a local community on a coast. It's been America's Horn of Plenty sending our commercial bounty out to feed the world and bringing back riches leading us to economic prosperity. Some of those riches no doubt finance the maintenance of 35 expensive TVA dams. New Orleans is the main valve feeding our need for oil and gas; you may not believe that New Orleans is more than a Louisiana port, but the Georgia residents who are paying over $5.00 a gallon for gas and Missouri residents who are paying over $3.00 a gallon for gas know that their livelihood is entwined with the welfare of New Orleans. Oil can be brought in from anywhere, including from strategic reserves. But it has to be refined into gas somewhere, and New Orleans is that somewhere.

So, when you hear of people who are seriously suggesting that we ought to cut New Orleans loose or let the sea have her or rip her people from their hometown and move them to higher suburbs, just remember the good that New Orleans brings us. Relocating New York or San Francisco would never enter our minds. Not spending federal funds to rebuild any other major port city would not be an option. And those who argue that rebuilding New Orleans is the sole responsibility of its local population are simply willing to take from her bounty and ungraciously give back nothing in return when nature brings her to her knees. That's called greed in my book of vices.

Bear in mind that it could have easily been done in Nashville in 1937, except that those who lived in another hopeful time with far more insight and far less quit saw the value of engineering and flood management. I cannot imagine Nashville without a North End. I cannot fathom an America without her Crescent City. It would cost us far more to forget and to bury New Orleans than to bring her back. It would cost us a piece of ourselves.

UPDATE: historic floods returned to the area in 2010.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When Domes Become Post-Apocalyptic Neighborhoods (Updated)

"I know this sounds like a stupid question, but how are we supposed to go on as a community? As a people?"
--New Orleans resident in the Superdome, Washington Post

To read the Washington Post's exposè (via Roger Abramson at Pith in The Wind) is to get a Dante-esque view of the Dome as circles of hell. To read it is also to temper those triumphant pictures we see of people being plucked off of roofs in flooded sections with the awareness that they are dropped off to what is essentially a domed neighborhood for refugees where residents may die of dysentery due to failed water and bathroom facilities or where they could possibly be raped or murdered due to a lack of security. This gated community is designed to keep people locked in rather than to keep danger locked out.

The reason the domed neighborhood is hell is not because of idiotic and clueless comparisons of New Orleans to Sodom and Gomorrah. We don't turn to pillars of salt when we see the destruction. But some hearts of on-lookers do turn to stone; even as we watch someone else's community fall upon ruin through no fault of their own; even as we watch priorities shift from people to property; even as some loose cannons call for mustering an exhausted police force for shooting people in the streets while innocent children are probably dying among the tens of thousands who remain trapped in New Orleans.

As the first bus loads of the estimated 23,000 displaced Louisianians are arriving at the Houston Astrodome, their new post-apocalyptic neighborhood, it would be easy to take heart that at the very least they will be getting clean water, functioning facilities, medical treatment, and cots to sleep on--all of which they failed to get for days--just as we took heart when we saw Coast Guard choppers rescuing them from flooded houses. (NOTE: Reports this morning say that fires and gun-fire at the Superdome have delayed the continuing evacuation to the Astrodome).

However, we need to keep in mind that Houston officials did not exactly meet the first bus of Louisianians with open arms. Our televisions are now dominated by pictures of 20-year-old New Orleans kids wielding guns and carrying Adidas and Nike boxes. The deluge of looting pictures is so jading that reports of a 20-year-old kid who commandeered a school bus when New Orleans police told him to get to the Astrodome causes cognitive dissonance. Is it really possible to believe that a kid, who could just as easily be sacking stores, is acting like some kind of Lower 9th Ward Moses or Noah leading a bus load of refugees through the flood and even picking up stragglers along the way? It is believable that Astrodome officials initially denied those first refugees entrance, saying that the spaces were reserved for New Orleans refugees, but it is also ironic.

So, we shouldn't take heart in domed-over benevolence. Instead, we should open our hearts to the very question asked by the young woman in the Washington Post piece: how can they, how can we, as a community, as a people, go on living life under a dome, far from home?

09/01/2005, 11:30 p.m. Update: From MSNBC--the Red Cross reports that the Astrodome is full. Other Louisianians to be shipped elsewhere.