Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Outflanking Conservative Naiveté

Kevin Mattson at the American Prospect maintains that Christian realism (à la Reinhold Niebuhr) is a viable option for the left to engage religious faith against gullible conservatives who place blind faith in a utopic "free" market, while demonizing all government:
Anyone who believes that you can strip the government of power and let the market blossom into the best of all possible worlds has not learned the lessons of sin, self-love, and power. In his own day and age, Niebuhr called the pro-business organization, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), “sentimental.” It’s a perfectly apt description. And it easily applies to Grover Norquist and President Bush. These are not men who know sin and Christian humility. They are utopians enchanted with a naive sense of progress.
In a world where governance has become a joke and ethics is now a punchline, a world where politicians get in-your-face grilling, but private lobbyists enjoy the sounds of silence on the right, progressives need to use religious concepts like sin and pride against some very dupable and values-compromising conservatives.


With Channel 2 General Manager Mike Sechrist launching his own weblog, Channel 2 is almost fully submerged now in the blog end of the journalism pool after plunging in last year with the creation of Nashville Is Talking.

C'mon in ya'll; the water's fine!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Anybody Else See Possible Gang Connections In This?

Police pull over an SUV today for a minor traffic violation near the Napier Housing Projects, after being tipped off by the ATF, and they find assault weaponry, bullet-proof vests, and an improvised explosive device. On their 6:00 report tonight News 2 mentioned a possible connection to the President's visit to Nashville, while WSMV identified the motive as black-marketeering in area housing units.

Given the availability of high-powered assault weapons on our streets, the News 2 theory of some kind of connection to the President's visit seems pretty farfetched to me. Now, in my opinion, it might be plausible that the ATF wanted to get these weapons off the street before the President's visit, so they tipped the police off. But that doesn't mean that the couple in the SUV were a part of some clandestine conspiracy beyond outfitting urban youth with weapons with which they can commit crimes in their own neighborhoods. Unless the media does some more digging, we'll never know why here and why now. In Salemtown, we've recently become acquainted first-hand with the availability of assault weapons and continuing gang activities. Until another motive for the reported offense is produced with clear evidence to support it, I'm inclined to see this as an arrest of people who prey on the anger of disaffected youth in transitional neighborhoods by selling them assault weapons.

I sure wish the mainstream media would do a little more investigative work into possible connections to gangs in neighborhoods proximate to public housing, rather than floating speculative balloons or simply parroting what law enforcement officials tell them before moving on to something else. I hope the local police are looking into the gang angle, too.

Catholic Charity Announces Poverty Poll Results And Awards Special Grants To Gulf Coast Neighborhood Groups

The week before last, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) held a press conference in New Orleans to publicize the results of the "sixth wave" of a Poverty Pulse Poll, (previous waves conducted each year since 2000). CCHD also announced that it is awarding half-a-million dollars in special grants to community-based groups to help fight poverty.

The Pulse Poll (with a MoE +/-3%) found that concerns about poverty in America remain overwhelmingly high (88%) and it found that fears among Americans at the prospect of finding themselves impoverished have increased (to 64%) since 2000. Other important results:
  • When respondents were asked off the top of their heads to name "the single biggest social problem facing the U.S.," poverty ranked third on the list (chosen by 7%), just below health care and racism (each at 8%) which both ranked first, and above war-U.S. involvement in war (4%).
  • 90% of the public said that it is important for the federal government to ensure that all poor people have health coverage (it also found no gender gap on the priority placed by the public on health care).
  • 91% believe that health care should be guaranteed to all children.
  • 65% fear that poverty will increase in the United States in 2006.
  • Almost all Americans, 97%, think that it is important to decrease or eliminate poverty in the United States.
  • 60% said that the responsibility for ending poverty lies either with the federal government (31%) or with "everyone-the general public" (29%). Only 17% assigned the task strictly to the poor themselves.
The groups receiving CCHD grants include the Archdiocese of New Orleans, various interfaith groups, and local Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) groups. See the entire list here. The $515,000 grants supplement $150,000 in immediate CCHD hurricane relief provided in September.

Unlike so many other initiatives in the Gulf region, the Catholics are keeping their eye on the ball: the "permanent elimination of poverty" and the provision of healthcare for all poor people, but especially for impoverished children, who are most vulnerable.

Metro Council May Restrict Public Feedback

First, the Metro Council entertained the idea of ensconcing themselves in Plexiglas in order to restrict public contact, now they are considering member-at-large Carolyn Baldwin Tucker's proposal for cutting back the time that citizens have to speak in public meetings from three minutes to two. Let's put aside the arguments that cutting people's speaking time will neither guarantee that they stay on the issue nor actually cut the cumulative time of all speakers on a single subject, since community groups may adapt to the change by doubling or tripling the number of speakers they enlist for public hearings.

The democratic process is neither neat nor stream-lined, but the current limits are entirely reasonable. As long as the Vice Mayor keeps speakers in order, there's no need to limit them further. Besides, there will be a lot less public baffoonery for me to lampoon if speaking time is reduced. But if Council members really want to help citizens use their speaking time more effectively, they should be taking the time to communicate and meet with the community leaders of these groups beforehand. That will give members the opportunity to encourage them to minimize the baffoonery and rabbit-chasing that causes recent meetings to drag on until the wee hours of the morning. Council members should be meeting regularly with neighborhood associations in order to provide them with ideas for the most effective presentation of their support and opposition to Council business.

When I read that Council members want to shave public speaking time at Council meetings my views of them become only more jaded. I have to wonder whether they give a sufficient balance of their own time to read letters and e-mails that they receive from constituents.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

That Which Is Concretely Conceivable

Amy Gahran over at I, Reporter believes that it may be better to "start small" in citizen journalism rather than trying to take on a large exurban area as Bayosphere tried to for the San Francisco Bay Area, only to have to concede failure after a lack of interest. I wholeheartedly agree with her.

Some time ago I embedded a quote in the right-hand column underneath the green "About me" box from Robert Woods, who asserts that the neighborhood is "concretely conceivable" and the city is not, except as the latter is "organically integrated" through its neighborhoods. The same can be said about a region. Metro Nashville and Middle Tennessee would both be tough blogs. And I do not think that it would just be a problem solved with more time and energy. Neighborhoods provide definition and a sense of place that the cannot be captured by the inchoate boundaries set by broader scales.

Historic Homes

Good advice from Business Week for those of you in or looking to get into them.

Chances For The Mississippi Gulf Coast: New Urbanism and Old Beach Postcards

It looks like the destruction of Hurricane Katrina opened the door for creating a network of walkable neighborhoods spread out across 11 towns. New Urbanists are making some ambitious proposals for the Gulf Coast, including replacing the coastal highway with a beachside boulevard, where cars share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some of the sources they are relying on in their redesign effort include century-old postcards of the Gulf Coast.

As with New Urbanism elsewhere, the primary challenge is to provide affordable housing and amenities that do not strictly serve the well-to-do. A large number of working and lower class residents lived in places like Biloxi, Pass Christian, Waveland, and Bay St. Louis. While the New Urbanists should do what they can to plan for return of the residents from these groups, the real effort needs to come from the federal government. That possibility does not look too bright with George W. Bush & Co. occupying the White House.

If the Mississippi Gulf Coast is looking just to its west, it has to see an ominous future with hurricane season just a few months away. The White House is now offering the State of Louisiana a fraction of what it needs to help its residents:
Instead of the $30 billion Louisiana says it needs to get its residents back on their feet, the White House is instead offering $6 billion, with the provision that only homeowners without insurance who live outside the flood plain would qualify.

That means most everyone who was either poor, black, lived on low ground, or in the city of New Orleans need not bother applying. No controversy there [Source].
Watching an ABCNews report on Friday night, I heard Mr. Bush insinuate that the $85 billion earmarked for New Orleans is a large enough sum. He failed to mention that most of that sum is going to fortify the levees and to help small businesses, with little left over to help residents to get back up on their feet. It would seem that the Federal government owes people on the gulf some compensation for putting them through the terrible suffering they experienced because of the failures of the Bush Department of Homeland Security (the truth of those failures is now backed up with documents just released, including some that say that FEMA stopped search-and-rescue efforts a mere three days after the storm hit). Instead, the Bush White House is acting on its Jackson Square promises in the same incompetent manner that FEMA failed to come to the aid of the Gulf Coast.

So, New Urbanists can plan, look at postcards, and do what they can for Mississippi. Without federal help for the poor and the dispossessed along the flood plains, the communities will never be able to recover, and they will only become havens for the wealthy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Reevaluating Priorities

At the last Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee meeting, the top two vote-getters in the contest between numerous neighborhood-enhancing projects were distinctive "identifying signs" (7 votes) and "entrance signs" (6 votes) for Salemtown (a similar distinctive sign from the Hope Gardens neighborhood is pictured to the left for reference). I was among those originally voting for such signs, because I believed that they would give the neighborhood greater definition, an attractive aesthetic, and they seemed to be something on which many committee members could agree.

With the recent rash of gang-related graffiti vandalism I have reconsidered my support for such signs. I am no longer willing to support the idea of putting any more landmarks up in Salemtown that would be vulnerable to such ugly vandalism. It is just not the right time to put signs up. Maybe at some future date when vandalism is the least of our worries, this would be a great idea.

For the time being, signs present more opportunities for crime and they do not provide any deterrent as far as I can see, unless they can be constructed with some kind of paint-proof surface. But constructing naked stone, brick, or concrete signage is an invitation to vandals, especially if it includes the word "Salemtown," which would be a source of pride for the local gang and a target for rival gangs. It is also not clear to me who would clean vandalized signs; if it would be a private matter, no one in Salemtown has a sandblaster, as far as I know. If we could not get Metro to remove graffiti, then a marred sign merely becomes a long-lived eyesore, undermining the very quality it was originally designed to enhance.

I welcome other residents' thoughts on the matter, but at the next meeting where we consider project priorities again, I am going to try to encourage other committee members to reconsider the sign project idea unless we can come up with something impervious to graffiti. This is too important a decision to get ruined by either our short-sightedness or the destructiveness of local hoodlums.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lobbyists At The Gates

You ready? The lobbyists are striking back nationally against the push for ethics reform. Nary a disparaging word is said by conservative "reformers" against the private interests pushing and pulling their way to the pork barrel. So, lobbyists are set to organize to continue to waltz right up through the pecking line of privilege.

At the national level, special interest business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and others are mustering forces. Meanwhile, they are loading up their big guns with minimizing logic:
Our big issue right now is that we're not sure you can say the system is broken.
¿Qué dijiste? Excuse me? Not broken?

Does that show you how out-of-touch the lobbyists are? Well, how about this little pearl of denial:
Each lawmaker's personal integrity determines whether unethical lobbyists are able to corrupt government.
I guess the idea of a "two-way-street" for lobbyists only counts with special favors. God forbid that these lobbyist groups take some sort of hard line with the unethical members of their community and use a little peer pressure to keep lobbyists ethical. But they're spending too much time and energy working over our elected officials to work on their own character flaws.

We Got To Get Us Some O'That Re-form

Junior O'Daniel: We could hire our own midget, even shorter than his.

Pappy O'Daniel: Wouldn't we look like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies, bragging on our own midget, doesn't matter how stumpy.

- - O Brother Where Art Thou, 2000

It's getting unseemly around the State Legislature now as Republicans are competing with Democrats to extract as many teeth from the overbite of meaningful ethics reform as possible. It was easy for Republicans to mount a high horse when few of their numbers faced indictment and when they weren't the party caught with special election irregularities, but now that the Legislature is getting down to business and away from side shows, there are just too many constituencies in the corporate business community that need pleasin'. So, talk of reform has itself become a show, what with voting to "free up lobbyists"; what with "midget, broom, and all."

Even perpetual Legislature foil, Tennessee Tax Revolt, which has lately attempted to "get some o'that reform," by calling for "full disclosure" by legislators, is not saying a word about "full disclosure" by lobbyists. Of course, lobbying is what TTR does, so "bragging on their own midget" in some Johnny-come-lately re-form campaign may not be a smart course for them. When it does become a smart course for them, I'm sure we'll be hearing from them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Let The Watering-Down Begin

Much like the Metro Council months before, the State Legislature is under pressure to dilute meaningful ethics reform. We've seen in China how corporate enterprise can be easily uncoupled from democracy (via Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google search engines) and now we're seeing in Tennessee how corporate enterprise can be easily uncoupled from ethics (via the private lobbyists' lobby).

I am interested in how the conservative bloggers break on this one. How they do so might just determine whether they are serious about ethics reform or they use ethics reform only when it serves strategic partisan purposes. One conservative blogger has sided with business today saying that the ethics reform bill "insulates" the legislature from "ordinary citizens." As if. Most notably, Bob Krumm, who has posted regularly on ethics reform--especially on reform stories coming through the Tennessean--is silent on this one. That fact would not be remarkable for just any blogger, because we all pick and choose our battles, but Mr. Krumm is not just any blogger, he is a blogger seriously considering a run for the very same Tennessee legislature that is considering ethics reform. In that light, he owes the public some comment on the issue, in my opinion.

In the meantime, I was struck by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce President's comment to the Tennessean:
Even members of a 4-H Club on a field trip to visit the state Capitol could find themselves classified as lobbyists.
That prospect frankly would not be a problem for anybody if lobbying were a more honorable profession that didn't now require registration because lobbyists have abused the system. Why should pro-business lobbyists have more influence over the direction of ethics reform when they are just as responsible for abuses as elected officials in the first place? Shouldn't the business community have to accept some negative consequence for the misbehavior of their lobbyists? Or do we now live in a world where personal responsibility doesn't matter?

01/26/2006, 9:05 p.m. Update: H. Monroe (the first conservative blogger above) has responded in the comments section below. Bob Krumm responded to the Tennessean piece this evening here. Prospective candidate Krumm concludes:

[M]aybe the answer to reform is not to place further special restrictions upon lobbyists, but to remove from lobbyists both restrictions and privileges. Thus, granting to lobbyists the same rights as are already guaranteed to each of Tennessee's citizens.
Sounds to me like he's coming down on the side of business interests. The comment about "same rights" is confusing. Lobbyists already have the same rights as other citizens; surely Krumm is not suggesting that more money translates to more rights. The trouble is that lobbyists are paid by corporate funders to peddle their influence to legislators. Your average Tennessee citizen cannot afford to pay lobbyists, and hence, has less influence. If lobbying is itself a business and as long as lobbyists are paid for their services, they should be regulated by some ethical arm of the government. Otherwise, the abuse will continue.

Enclave Nominated For Progressive Blog Award

Enclave has been nominated for a "Koufax Award 2005: Best state and local blogs." Thanks to M.B. Williams at the award host blog, Wampum, for the honor. Muchas gracias to classic conservative blogger, A.C. Kleinheider, over at Hard Right for making the original nomination of Enclave to Wampum.

Advance thanks, Enclave readers, for those of you who might head over to Wampum to vote for my little hyper-local blog. Voting has not opened, yet, but when it does, thanks.

Quote Of The Day: He's Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

My parents' generation ... was young during the Depression .... My generation, the end of the baby boomers, we can be anything we want to be .... Since we can be what we want to be, we want to be everything.

- - Bob "Bongo Bob" Bernstein, quoted in today's Tennessean

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just A Neighborhood Nuisance Or A Potential Basis For Metrowide Insurgency?

In the preceding post I mentioned the possible peril to the broader community when local journalists ignore developing neighborhood problems. There are some glaring examples of the broader threat of gangs beyond the neighborhoods that they call "home" at this "gang intelligence" site.

While I referred to the press's pre-9/11 inattention to al Qaeda as an analogue for the local news stations' inattention to neighborhood gang activities, Anthony documents past gang members' literal connections with al Qaeda and their plans to use battlefield explosives on a scale much larger than a single neighborhood. Alleged al Qaeda conspirator and gang member, Jose Padilla, is perhaps the most prominent example. Anthony also refers to the spread of recruitment of teenagers by gangs beyond inner cities to suburbs and small townships and across class lines to middle and upperclass youth, such that no place and no teen is truly safe. Accordingly, the whole stereotype of gang as an exclusively urban and impoverished threat is misguided. Gangs present potentially what Anthony calls "domestic insurgency" that presents a society-wide problem.

And yet, the local news media does not seem concerned enough to look into these possibilities. They don't seem interested in probing underneath the stereotypes. Gangs seem to be somebody else's problem. However, as Anthony points out, gangs are a "power outage away" from becoming armed guerrillas as many did in New Orleans after Katrina, with little police response (because the crisis pinned them down elsewhere) and late National Guard response (because our domestic forces are stretched thin by the Iraq War). If the local news media waits until a sensational crisis to delve into gang dynamics, it may just be too late for many Nashvillians.

Are Consultants To Local News As Lobbyists Are To Government?

I am currently reading Tom Fenton's recent book on the media, Bad News, which my mother-in-law gave me as a Christmas present.

Among the several reasons that Fenton gives for the bad condition of news reporting, one stood out to me as most relevant from a hyper-local perspective. According to Fenton:
Nowadays, instead of using their best news judgment, television executives hire consultants who go from station to station peddling their version of what they think the public wants. Sanford Socolow ... describes how it all started under a "news consultant" named Frank Magid. Magid, he says, "gave advice to local news station--on the acceptability of on-air person, on what kinds of stories to air. He used to tell them not to bother covering city hall because it was boring." Out of that philosophy, Socolow observes, came a new maxim: "If it bleeds, it leads."
Perhaps the influence of consultants explains why so much of what we see and read in the local media has little to do with what actually happens in the neighborhoods and the halls of local governance. Like the abuses associated with lobbying the legislature, maybe the shortcomings of news reporting are due to short-cuts to higher ratings associated with outside consultants.

It actually takes sensationalism to get media attention perhaps because it will only lead if it bleeds. What comes afterwards does not seem to be any in-depth study and reportage, beyond mere fluff. The air time left over seems to be devoted to retreads of national news. Just as the ethics of governance have been eroded by legislators' ties to lobbyists, so the standards of journalism have been chipped away by consultants focused on issues peripheral to reporting the news.

The consequences can be dire. Al Qaeda was ignored, despite some reporters' best efforts, until 9/11. And, according to Fenton, news outlets in the months after 9/11 did not change, but simply went back to their pursuit of ratings above information. Local news sources also ignore hyper-local events at the peril of local neighborhoods and eventually the larger local community. I cannot help but think that the whole Sylvan Park mess over conservation zoning could have been mitigated by the television and print media doing some research into the problem months beforehand and by their tipping people off about the dynamics as well as the reality of the strife, rather than simply reacting as it blew up in the Planning Commission and in Council chambers.

We have had an on-going gang problem in Salemtown, but has any serious research or in-depth coverage of the problem been pursued by the local news media? None that I'm aware of. One of these days if things blow up, the local media will react just as it has with recent knowledge of inappropriate student-teacher relationships: figuratively scratching its head and wondering how so many reports of possible criminal behavior are coming in from no where. The stories didn't come from no where, it's just that the local news media was no where to be found as the stories were developing before they emerged.

Fenton's argument that news outlets have stopped being the early detection and warning systems they used to be holds here in Nashville. I detect little indepth investigation into latent community problems before they start festering into full-blown crises. Our local news seems prone to the same sensationalism that creates complacency among journalists when it comes to making potential, but ostensibly uninteresting local problems interesting by showing the audience why they are relevant. According to Fenton, we can thank the consultants for that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lighting The Hot Stove: Prince Is Gone For Good

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Major League Baseball's Spring Training in about 3 weeks and I've got XM Satellite Radio and its coverage of MLB to keep me going sportswise until then.

On tonight's broadcast of MLB Live, Milwaukee Brewers GM Gord Ash talked up Prince Fielder. Milwaukee is the parent club of the Nashville Sounds. Ash said that last year's Brewers 1B Lyle Overbay was traded in order to make room for Prince to be their everyday 1B in 2006.

I feel very fortunate that I saw some mammoth homeruns hit at Greer last year by Prince, including one that almost smacked my vehicle, but it looks like we will not ever see him again banging pitches out of the yard in Nashville.

Multiracial Churches Most Likely To Be Located In Urban Areas

According to sociologist George Yancey:
The vast majority of multiracial churches are located in the inner city or in racially diverse areas .... Suburban churches (often) are seen as rejection of minorities.
Location is just one of Yancey's "principles" of multiracial congregations. The other six can be found here.

What Our $25 Billion Paid For

A hobbled spoils system of contractors' turf-wars. Might taxpayers get a refund?

Association Meeting Recap

Among the more noteworthy items covered during last night's Salemtown Neighbors' meeting: Core Development presented on its plans to build new developments at the 8th Ave. & Hume intersection and on its intentions to attract a client to put a restaurant in the Werthan complex's old factory boiler room, which is large and vaulted and sits near Taylor St. We also found out from the police that suspects were arrested over the weekend on Garfield St. for shooting at one another while driving down the street.

Or The IRS Could Provide Emergency Tax Advisors And They Could Quickly Extend Filing Deadlines

It's a shame when Katrina victims get used as bait for advancing other political agendas. Did anyone really expect that working through the tax filing process in a hurricane-ravaged area would be any easier than working through any other challenge? Did anyone realistically expect that hurricane victims would not need some sort of federal help with tax preparation this time around? It's not clear to me that the professor addresses the real cause of the problem in the article he links, which is:
After Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, Congress responded in September by passing the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act, which included a batch of tax provisions designed to help victims of the storm. The Gulf Opportunity Zone Act, which offers up tax incentives specifically geared toward businesses, was passed in December .... But for taxpayers who have never claimed more than the standard deduction, the hurricane losses they'll be entitled to will likely create a steep learning curve.
So, congressional relief is more of a candidate for blame than the federal tax code, but in my opinion Dr. Cornwall went after the tax code to score some points for his conservative-minded wing of the business community.

But I do not think that congressional relief is blameworthy, either. The relief is needed. That's the whole point. If the administration fails to provide beaucoup help to gulf coast taxpayers who were the victims of natural disaster, then it would amount to the continuing inept response of the Bush White House to people in dire need; it would just be the extension of FEMA by other means.

Jackson Miller warned us locally a long time ago that solving Katrina victims' problems had more to do with available revenues to pay for solutions than anything else. Relief costs money; long-term relief costs more money. Yet, as Jackson pointed out, the costs of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts would have paid for congressional relief for Katrina victims. You can reform the tax code all you want, but "fiscal stupidity" continues to fail victims who need strategic federal help in navigating the tax relief already put in place by Congress. But FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have demonstrated over and over that the executive branch's political will to aid the region is lacking. Why should we expect anything different from the IRS?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why My Sarcasm Lacks A Fail-Safe

Michael Silence over at KnoxNews Blogs refers us to an article on a study that shows men use sarcasm more than women. Perhaps then, it is no accident that men use the internet--perhaps the premium medium for sarcasm--more than women. But women are catching up. Could they be catching up in this medium because they make sarcasm count as a social weapon when they use it? Might men be using sarcasm in archaic displays of alpha maleness, while women put it to more coldly efficient use, defining who's in and who's out of this community?

Has Tennessee's Population Growth Passed 6 Million?

According to one urbanplanet.org thread, the Census Bureau has released its 2000-2005 population growth estimates. For Tennessee, those estimates show progressive growth, including +1.2% from 2004 to 2005. For perspective's sake, the state with the largest rate increase in that period in this region is Florida, with +2.3%. Both Georgia and North Carolina are growing faster also at a +1.7% clip, matching Texas's growth rate from 2004 to 2005.

One commenter says that the estimates do not include Davidson County's estimated growth in that time, so the state population may well be above 6 million now, rather than at the 5.96 million Census estimate. The growth is noteworthy, but the most significant question remains: are we managing population growth well or are we virtually becoming a mismanaged and overgrown patch of kudzu, briars, and thistle?

Mistaken Loyalty: People Utterly Convinced Of Their Righteousness

An evangelical takes fellow evangelicals to task for their public comments during the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, saying that their self-righteousness damaged the standing of U.S. Christians in the fellowship of Christians worldwide by throwing Christian just war principles out the stained glass window. It's a lesson in "You always hurt the one you love most, especially when that one is yourself."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Salemtown Neighbors To Meet Monday

The January meeting of Salemtown's neighborhood association will start at 6:30 tomorrow night at the Morgan Park Community Center. A sampling of the agenda: discussion about planned residential and mixed-use developments near Werthan Lofts with a Core Development representative; discussion with police about the recent gang activities and other criminal activities in the North End.

States Raising Minimum Wage On Their Own

A Pew Research Center study, just published on Friday, finds that thanks to state legislation, nearly half of all Americans live in states where the minimum wage is set higher than the minimum $5.15 per hour set by the U.S. Congress almost a decade ago. Moreover, the number of states raising the minimum wage on their own is trending up. (Note: Tennessee has no minimum wage law, which means that the federal law is automatically in effect here).

Somehow, I don't think that these results are what some have in mind when they argue that we should leave such decisions to the states rather than to the federal government. Be careful what you ask for, you just may get it.

Prescient Prognosticator Predicts Ill Winds In 2010

The lone individual who predicted the historic stock-market expansion of the 1990's sees an even bigger "bubble" coming, starting late 2005 and running through 2010. With housing "deflating," Harry S. Dent sees no where for money to go except into the stock market. The real estate market has peaked accordingly and prices will "flatten," while stocks boom. A major depression is predicted for 2010, once the latest and last bubble bursts. He predicts that the economic downturn will be worse than that of the 1970s but not as great as the Great Depression of the 1930s. How's your 5-year portfolio looking?

Infill to Reinfill--A Classic Suburb Moving To Urbanize

The North End is made up of contiguous urban neighborhoods where existing structures are being knit together with "infill development," which often acts as a catalyst for further neighborhood growth, as it has in spades in Salemtown. For inquiring minds, the best definition of "infill" that I've seen is this: "the economic use of vacant land, or restoration or rehabilitation of existing structures or infrastructure, in already urbanized areas where ... public services are in place, that maintains the continuity of the original community fabric."

What about less urbanized, more suburbanized areas? I am thinking particularly of those suburbs where suburban-style infill occurred 30-40 years ago, such that "urban infill" doesn't currently apply as they undergo urbanization. I grew up in a bedroom community in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. I consider it the classic model of a middle-class suburb, relatively free until recently of urbanization. In fact, when a professional ballpark was built in the 1990s in my hometown, owners enclosed the structure with a high-rise office building in order to create the appearance of a more urban environment, absent the actual city-scape that so many ballparks enjoy: it is suburban hyperreality and a totally unurbanized urban simulation.

Now that the suburb is grown old and urbanization from Dallas and Fort Worth seems to be everywhere in the Metroplex, they are coming up with new terms like "reinfill" to describe the creation of high-density, vertical, multi-family, mixed-use structures and property emerging in classic suburbia. Texas sprawl, having reached its limits, seems to be moving up in the literal sense. And simulation in Arlington seems to be exhausting itself and merging into reality.

This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man.

At times like this, we need "the Dude."

The Best Way Of Preventing The Spread Of Gang Graffiti Is To Take It Off Immediately

When private property is hit with graffiti, the property owner is responsible for removing it. And the best way to keep it from happening again is to take it off of property immediately. The owners of the property where Garfield Place is to be built have immediately removed the gang graffiti from the front of their sign (as shown on Enclave yesterday). If graffiti stays on property for a long period of time, it only emboldens and encourages vandals to hit other property and to hit one's own property again after it is taken off.

When vandals hit public property, like this traffic sign at the corner of 6th and Garfield, immediate action is no less a priority. In fact, the sign department has been remarkably responsive in the past to vandalized signs in Salemtown. If you see any traffic signs with red spray-painted gang graffiti like that in this picture, you can fill out this on-line request form to have repairs made. If you would prefer to call, the phone number is 862-8750. The sooner we get graffiti off, the longer it stays off.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Time For Hair-Trigger Dial Pads

I don't know what it is about January and February, but this is about the time last year when gang activity, most notably wearing colors and graffiti (see this and this and this and this), became more prevalent around the neighborhood. It looks like the same vandalism the same time this year, with the painting of several private and public markers on Garfield near 5th and 6th Avenues. I am sad but frankly not surprised that the attractive signs for the 5th Avenue Brownstones and Garfield Place were hit. I am surprised that they were not hit sooner. But for whatever reason, the winter months seem to be the time gangs vandalize the most.

"Salem Town" refers to the "Blood Set" gang occupying 6th Avenue between Garfield St. and Buchanan St. The inverted "C" with the "K" refers to "Crip Killers" (the "Crips" are the opposing gang occupying the Cheatham Place neighborhood). At Salemtown Neighbors meetings, gang detectives have told us in the past that the gangs in Salemtown should not be taken seriously in that they do not present a threat to residents. Seriously complicating that message are recent incidents involving arrests for drugs and guns and alley gunplay after which I found a semi-automatic assault weapon that had been hidden by fleeing individuals. Police assurances last year were fine as long as we only dealt with graffiti. That graffiti now grows more ominous in light of recent potentially lethal events, and it is becoming more difficult to take the detective's assurances seriously.

A local developer called me today in order to let me know that he is following up with Vice about the graffiti. That's a good start. But all of us who are concerned about safety in our neighborhood need to be ready to contact the police at even the slightest indication of suspicious behavior (non-emergency calls go to 862-8600). We should not take our security for granted. The convergence of semi-automatic gunfire and graffiti may be a signal that things are starting to heat up. If increased police patrols can ward off gang behavior, then calling them is the only way we are going to get more patrols. That's just the way that this police department operates.

As it stand now, I have asked the police for increased patrols because having found the gun, we feel less safe. All who live in Salemtown should be doing the same. Numbers matter. Moreover, I call the police each and every time I witness any person exhibiting the slightest suspicious behavior, and I ask them to send a patrol just to check things out. No harm in that. But I make a point to tell them of both the assault weapon that was fired this week and the graffiti, because both lend more urgency to our pressing need for patrols. The more calls they get, the more patrols they will send. We also need to drive the point home to the officers who attend the Salemtown Neighbors meeting on Monday night, for the sake of our own peace of mind.

Conservative Bullies: Quote Of The Weekend

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news." Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.

- - Molly Ivins, I will not support Hillary Clinton for president, January 20, 2006

Friday, January 20, 2006

Still Doing A Heckuva Job

What are we to think of a meeting of meteorologists at a ski resort with the chance to listen to keynote speaker and former failed FEMA Director Michael "Brownie" Brown talk about best practices in disaster preparedness?

The slopes must be callin' and the powder must be bitchin'.

HT: Josh Marshall.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Biggest Losers In Tuesday's Metro Council Meeting

Those would be the well-intentioned and honest folks within the group of proponents of the Sylvan Park conservation overlay (you know who you are; I sure as hell cannot figure out which of you are) who originally pounded the pavement of the neighborhood to distribute and collect ballots. These people probably struck out believing in the fairness of their efforts and putting their faith in Council member John Summers, whose performance through this process has been somewhat short of admirable (not to mention the behavior of the opponents--who came off looking more like a rabble of Philistines and less like a well-organized, disaffected wing). Whether or not the overlay is passed, the good-hearted souls among the proponents deserved a better fate.

And as Bruce Barry over at PiTW maintains, the new "independent" poll is not likely to be an instrument of anyone's better fate.

Begging Some Suck-Up When The Media Gets Suckered

Employing his usual sardonic method, Nashville Scene reporter John Spragens took his aim off of Pedro Garcias this week and drew a bead on Police Chief Ronal Serpas:
Now, to be fair, we don’t necessarily disagree with Serpas’ philosophical critique of the cash-strapped, sensation-driven news media [which Serpas made at an Officers Association conference last fall]. But coming from a guy who’s never met a camera he didn’t like—the guy whose first action as Nashville police chief was to hold a press conference with the grieving family of a long-missing teen—well, it rings a little hollow.
Ostensibly, this sounds like a critique of Serpas, but if this really is the wag-the-dog indictment it seems to be, then who is to blame for a press that uncritically provides photo ops for government officials who live and die on photo ops?

We expect public relations from administrators. We expect a press that in the words of former CBS reporter Tom Fenton "punches holes" in public relations before and in the act. Spragens seems to be sniping after a non-issue: Serpas is guilty of both acting like an administrator--not like a reporter--and criticizing reporters. What other option would Spragens have? That Serpas owes the "fourth estate" some kind of quid-pro-quo suck-up because of all that they do for him? That's just silly. Spragens, perhaps unwittingly, has only indicted his own guild: it is nobody's fault but their own when they allow themselves to be tools in some public relations pitch.

Rifle Found In The Wake Of Yesterday Evening's Gunfire

I did not sleep much last night thanks to an adrenaline rush after finding this rifle while taking my dog out for her last chance to do her business before turning in. I called the police, who took the gun and a report. I do not have a trained eye, but it looks like a semi-automatic that I've heard referred to as an AK-47. Here's hoping that any evidence found on it leads to a quick arrest of the thugs who own it.

01/19/2006, 10:15 a.m. Update: Blake Wylie, who has a much better knowledge of guns, writes in the comments that the rifle is an "SKS," that is, a Russian military semi-automatic.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

BREAKING: Salemtown Residents Report Gunshots In Alley

Earlier this evening, police were called to the alley between 5th Ave. and 6th Ave. and Hume St. and Garfield St. to investigate neighbors' reports of multiple gun fire. One neighbor heard what she thought was a bullet ricocheting in her back yard. Several individuals were seen running down the alley and between houses on 5th Ave. immediately after the gun shots. No one was hurt in the incident. Police responded to calls within minutes and conducted a search for a gun believed to have been dropped in the alley.


Always approach reporters who say that a research study "proves" something with a grain of salt. Serious researchers will hedge and say that their studies indicate certain claims but do not prove theories in and of themselves.

Nonetheless, take note of this study that may indicate a physiological basis for connections between men and revenge and women and empathy.

The Tiny Truths Of "Cat-Herding"

The ballpark deal seems all but done, and not simply because, as the mainstream media puts it, bills that get through 2nd reading usually pass making 3rd reading all but formality. Opponents still have opportunities to kill this bill (the deferral of the Sylvan Park conservation overlay bill at its third reading indicates that) and both sides seem entrenched and unmoved from their positions. I think that margin in the vote taken last night is more evidentiary. I first interpreted the slim vote (15-16) defeating an attempt to defer the ballpark bill one meeting as an indicator that the Council was almost evenly divided on the ballpark. That possibility did not bode well for ballpark supporters, given all of the time and deliberation put into the matter over the past year. I was surprised then, when the bill passed by a relatively wide margin (21-12). Some minor changes may be made before 3rd reading, but the margin passed signals to me that it will be passed on 3rd reading, too.


After proponents of the ballpark bill argued that the $250,000 increase in maintenance costs per year of the proposed ballpark would not be taken from education or the hospital (particularly given education's multi-million dollar budget increases) Council member-at-large David Briley took exception. Briley, one of the more vigorous opponents, got public confirmation from the Metro legal official present that the extra "$250,000 would be taken from the general budget" to cover the increase. Briley repeated emphatically and without qualification that money would indeed be taken from education and the hospital. What he failed to mention and what proponents failed to drive home: if the Sounds stay at Greer, as much as $5 million extra dollars would have to pulled from education and the hospital to bring Greer up to ADA compliance. As vigorous as Briley's opposition is, so go his exaggerations about the cost impact to other Metro services. The fact that a new ballpark would save Metro $5 million makes the extra $250,000 per year a wash. That puts me back where I started: grudging support of a new ballpark.


Twilight Zone episode of the night: Sylvan Park Council member John Summers simply disappeared at the time that the Sylvan Park overlay bill came up for third reading and passage. After introducing and reading the resolution, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry looked around the room and asked, "Has Councilman Summers left the building?" The next sequence slipped further into weirdness. Rip Ryman rose and moved to defer third reading of the overlay to June. At that point Summers re-emerged and asked Ryman to withdraw the deferral so that he could make his own motion to defer. Ryman sat stone-faced straight ahead making no acknowledgement of Summers. Summers then moved to table Ryman's motion. Ludye Wallace stood to say correctly that Summers' motion to table was out-of-order since a member who wants to table a motion cannot rise for any other reason. Summers was eventually rescued when someone else moved to table Ryman's motion and tabling passed. At that point Vice Mayor Gentry with some irritation announced, "I have already read the caption [on the original Sylvan Park bill] and Councilman Summers was out of the room so I hope he read the motion. I need a motion from him." Summers stood and said, "I'm going to make a similar motion on Whitland." Gentry stopped him and replied, "We are on the Sylvan Park motion. Can we please discuss the motion on Sylvan Park?!" Summers said, "Yeah, but I want to say that I'm going to make a similar motion on Whitland." After taking some parting shots at overlay opponents, Summers moved to defer the Sylvan Park ordinance indefinitely (Council approved). When the motion to defer the Whitland zoning came up, Summers used some of his time to repeat anecdotes about dissension in Sylvan Park. Clearly John Summers is allowed way too much time to speak; but I wish I could have been a fly on Gentry's desk at that moment just to glimpse his nonverbals up close. After the motion to defer the Whitland ordinance was introduced, Council member Wallace then asked how Sylvan Park and Whitland residents would be notified of the new vote. Vice Mayor asked Summers to address the question; Summers redirected: "I hope that opponents will respect the results of this vote." Vice Mayor cut him off repeating that Wallace's question was about notification. Gentry ended the episode in frustration, saying, "I can't give an inch around here today." This episode is just further proof that dealing with this Council is akin to "herding cats."


Comic relief of the night unfortunately came early rather than late:
Ludye [Wallace] was on the Council then [in 1977 when Council was deliberating the plan to build Greer Stadium]. In fact, you've been on every Council haven't you, Ludye?
--Larry Schmittou, who was being honored at the beginning of Council Meeting for being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame

Over At The Dragon's Lair

Paul Chenoweth discloses that techno-charity has gone the way of a goodly number of misguided and paternalistic attempts at "1st world" relief in "3rd world" countries. It's become a dump.

Progress of Salemtown Development Resolutions On Metro Council Third Reading

Two ordinances involving development on 6th Ave., North were up for third and final reading late last night. Ordinance #BL2005-885 involved approval of a zoning change for the property on the corner of 6th and Hume. Ordinances #BL2005-886 and #BL2005-887 involved the approval of a zoning change and Urban Design Overlay for Salemtown Gardens mixed-used development at the corner of 6th and Garfield.

Without explanation, Council member Ludye Wallace deferred the first ordinance one meeting. With the Council's support on third reading, the Salemtown Gardens developers now have all of the approval they need to start construction at 6th and Garfield.

The Dog From Snowy Salemtown

Unless I am mistaken, I believe that she is making snow angels.

Snowy Salemtown Après-ski

Snowy Salemtown

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Metro Council Votes To Defer Sylvan Park Conservation Overlay Indefinitely

Council member John Summers moved to defer indefinitely the bill that would have changed Sylvan Park's zoning at tonight's Council meeting. He told Council that the deferral would allow Metro to mail out ballots to residents to gauge support and opposition to a conservation overlay, which then could be made clear to the Council. The bill had been up on third and final reading before Council supported the deferral.

Ballpark Bill Passes on Metro Council's Second Reading

After a couple of hours of discussion and multiple motions, the bill to approve the new Sounds stadium deal passed on second reading at tonight’s Council meeting, 21-12. Opponents exhausted every effort to stop the passage by making unsuccessful motions to amend the bill (which would have killed it), to defer the bill until next Council meeting, to defer it indefinitely, and to adjourn the meeting completely (even though the controversial Sylvan Park zoning bill had yet to be considered). Opponents came close to delaying action on the ballpark by just barely losing the vote to defer to the next meeting, 15-16.

The third and final reading comes two weeks from tonight is scheduled for February 7. Any changes to the agreement as it stands would require all of the parties involved in the deal to sign on followed by separate resolutions approved by the Metro Council.

Central Texas Public High School Establishes Bible Course

I've got little objection to public schools offering comparative religion courses to juniors and seniors as electives, except when school districts cannot adequately afford to fund the basics or to pay teachers enough or to order supplies. However, teaching a Bible class in public school--elective or not--using textbooks from unapologetic Bible advocates is merely a veiled attempt by local government to establish Christianity as the official religion of New Braunfels, Texas.

January 17, 1706: It Was All Downhill From There

Benjamin Franklin, who is famous for many things, is also responsible for founding the first fire department, the first public library, and the basic principles of electric charges, which inevitably led to the first public utilities.

Opponents of government-funded public services have no one to blame but Ben Franklin for helping invent service opportunities for the common good. Yet, one opponent, Tennessee Tax Revolt, writes today that people ought to be able to utilize public libraries--supported by tax dollars TTR demands to be cut--to go on-line and access lobbyist information. I guess it is TTR's own little way of getting off message to pay tribute to old Ben on his day.

Happy 300th Birthday, Ben!

Monday, January 16, 2006

For A Hero: No One Can Take Away Dr. King's Day

Well, the local conservative bloggers have made their predictable attempts to piss on this day commemorating one of the greatest Americans of the last century, Martin Luther King, Jr. I do not know why they feel the need to try to bring Dr. King down a couple of notches rather than just blog on other subjects and completely ignore the day. I am not going to honor their malarky, their balderdash, their drivel by linking them, which only raises their cache in the blogosphere. If you really want to read their hooey, then look through Nashville Is Talking's weblog aggregator.

To honor the memory of Dr. King, warts and all, I offer the thoughts of Alan Wolfe (via TPMCafe):
Our century's identity has been to insure that the ideal of civic equality announced to the world in 1776 would become a reality. Just to help make that come about, King had to overcome the determined resistence of terrorists without conscience, politicians without backbone, rivals without foresight and an FBI director so malicious that he would stop at nothing to destroy a man who believed in justice....
For all the tribulations his enemies confronted him with, it is not those who foolishly and vainly stood in his way whom we remember, but Martin Luther King, Jr., our century's epic hero.
Heroism, when any of the rest of us would shrink away. Thank you, Dr. King, for helping a country find its soul. We honor your memory even while others choose to pummel it.

Why Values Matter And Why Democrats Will Lose In November If They Fail To See Why

I frequently get accused--with no basis in reality whatsoever--by conservatives of being "anti-Christian" or "anti-morality" simply because I self-identify as a progressive who generally votes Democrat and because I criticize some of the idiocy I see in churches and some of the hypocrisy I see in self-proclaimed moralists. Ironically, I am both an ethicist and a Christian, and on Enclave I frequently provide links concerning issues of moral gravity and I regularly address religion from an insider's perspective, especially as those issues might affect neighborhoods.

While I think that conservatives are wrong, I lay some of the blame for their stereotyping ways at the feet of other progressives, especially those Party faithful, who seem loath to fight conservatives on moral grounds and who cede matters of faith to conservatives. And liberals can charge "gerrymandering" all they want; until they develop an agenda that connects with voters hungry for value-based ideas, they only have themselves to blame for losing one more national election this year.

Now comes a study in The American Prospect that confirms my beliefs about Democrats and values. That study finds massive demographic shifts away from the traditional Democratic base with the shift from industrial to information-based society. As a result, Americans are more locked into a "survivalist" mentality of "every-man-for-himself" with little hope of finding solidarity in neighborhoods or public institutions. Republicans have been not only savvy in addressing the fear that results from social isolationism and anomie, but have advanced policies that sustain a social Darwinist society of all-against-all. Thus the cycle: generate moral relativism on a broad scale; appeal to local moral institutions like churches to step into the breach, which seems more like a jump into a nihilist gorge. Voters respond just enough to keep Republicans in control.

Democrats have had plenty of opportunities to break that cycle by focusing on values, but they choose to focus on economic issues, which have lost their appeal because voters in "red states" sense the erosion of a moral core because of the dog-eat-dog world:
People in states like Massachusetts, for example, which has very high per capita incomes and the lowest divorce rate in the country, are relatively unconcerned about gay marriage, while those in Southern states with much higher poverty, divorce, and single-parenthood rates feel the family to be threatened because family life is, in fact, much less stable in their communities ....
American voters have taken shelter under the various wings of conservative traditionalism because there has been no one on the Democratic side in recent years to defend traditional, sensible middle-class values against the onslaught of the new nihilistic, macho, libertarian* lawlessness unleashed by an economy that pits every man against his fellows [emphasis mine].
For progressives, this is not simply a matter of parroting Republican talking points in order to get just enough plurality to put you on top. It is about fielding candidates who are embedded in communities of value and who can honestly appeal to values that inform their progressive agenda. If the Democrats do not do this, they will be ceding territory to Republicans, most of whom are comfortable pushing an agenda that sells survivalism in a life they maintain as nasty, mean, brutish, and short.

*I highlight "libertarian," because that is the latest fashionable term that conservatives misuse to wed ideals of individual initiative in a sometimes unjust world with government policies that sustain and often increase unfair conditions just to see who will survive and who will not. I think libertarianism is misused by conservatives in so far as it is self-serving. Rarely do they apply their social Darwinist views to influence their "right to free speech" or their "right to own fire arms." But if they were consistent in their views, they would argue that only those strong enough to speak or to get a gun by superior means are worthy of free speech and owning firearms.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Meanwhile, In New Orleans ...

The power brokers in the Cresent City (also referred to now as "The Sliver On The River," given the few neighborhoods that were untouched by Katrina's flooding) are double-teaming lower class and minority property owners with a recommended moratorium on issuing building permits and a design to use "eminent domain" to seize blighted property once the rebuilding deadline passes.

And, since the City Recovery Commission is beholden to federal money, the Bush Administration is probably going to have influence over any plan, and this White House is not exactly known for being community-based or neighborhood-friendly. President Bush's only stop last week while he was in New Orleans "was held in a gleaming visitor's center in the Lower Garden District neighborhood that never suffered serious damage." Exercises in bad taste like that indicate that the replaced and displaced New Orleaneans who want to rebuild rather than sell may enjoy only slim chances.

But from the looks of the 500 residents who showed up to confront the commission last week, city officials may have a fight on their hands, and I don't mean that figuratively. As one community activist shouted to the 500 in front of the commission:
"The question that we have for ourselves is: Are we going to allow some developers, some hustlers, some land thieves to grab our land, grab our homes, to make this a Disney World version of our homes, our lives?" .... Many in the chamber responded with shouts of "No!"

This Land of No Culture: It Has Some Way Of Sucking The City Out Of You

Check out this NY Times piece (from last Sunday's Real Estate section) on families who moved from NYC to the suburbs only to find a lack of community and some "disconnects between fantasy and reality."

HT: Barista

Communist Capital: China Is Where American Dollars Support Suppression of Dissent

Call it "free trade" if you will. Call it "backing Microsoft and Yahoo into a corner" if you will. Either way or whatever way, it is still a fundamental violation of human rights supported by American IT corporations. Business Week reports on charges that American IT corporations are colluding with the Chinese government to shut down freedom of expression on the Internet.

Suppression anywhere on the net is suppression everywhere on the net.

Ripping Out The Bottom Of The Bag

cul-de-sac .... a dead end street .... an impasse .... ETYMOLOGY: French : cul, bottom (from Old French, from Latin cūlus; see culet ) + de, of (from Old French, from Latin dē; see de- ) + sac, sack (from Old French, from Latin saccus; see sack) [Source].
The city of Charlotte, NC is about to hold workshops to generate "ideas on how to make cul-de-sacs more accessable to pedestrians and to reduce the need for cars." This feature of New Urbanism is a laudable idea. But try as they might, can suburbia be saved by applying urban ideas or are they just too sprawled and too far flung so that a pedestrian culture is nothing more than wishful thinking?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Circa 1950

An aerial photo of the southern part of Salemtown before it was called "Salemtown." Werthan Bag (now Werthan Mills Lofts) is at the bottom of the picture. The 5th & Garfield intersection (with the Fehr School Building) is at the top near the center of the photo. (Tennessee Historical Archives)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Werthan Developers Also Look North With More Preliminary And Conceptual Plans; Will Meet With Salemtown Neighbors

Besides their plan to develop an 8th Ave. parking lot into apartments and street-scape beautification, Core also has designs for the two properties that sit on the opposite (northeast) corner at the intersection of 8th & Hume. Developer Aaron White describes the proposed structure (pictured above) as "very conceptual at this stage," with construction tentatively planned to start Fall 2007.

The Hume development will transition architecturally from 8th Ave. to 7th Ave., parallel to Werthan Mills, which sits on the south side of Hume. The tallest structure fronting 8th will be 5 stories and it will be mixed-use with some retail space on the bottom floor and 30-40 apartments on the other floors. Those apartments are expected to be offered at market rates. The middle segment of the development will contain 20-30 loft flats for sale in a 3-story structure. The east end of the development will encompass 8-10 townhomes. Those townhomes will be 2-3 stories. White told me that the overall configuration from 8th to 7th is to progress from a more urban-oriented highrise to more neighborhood-oriented townhomes, in order to create a smooth transition with Salemtown's mostly residential character.

Aaron White is scheduled to speak to Salemtown Neighbors about these developments at the association's Monday, January 23rd business meeting. The time of the meeting is 6:30 p.m. and it will be held at the Morgan Park Community Center at Hume and 5th Ave.

They Just Don't Get It

Further evidence that the Metro Council's ethics resolution was DOA, thanks to their general indifference. Council member Ronnie Greer's self-serving combativeness says to me that enforcement will be toothless.

And how about District 19's own Mack Daddy, Ludye Wallace? This high roller is not going to let a little matter like ethics come between him and some free Carmike Cinema passes so that he can hook up with the chiquitas. As Leon Phelps would say, "Got me a bottle of Courvoisier, a free movie pass, and a lady."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Speaking Of Franklin Booby Traps, Updated

I listened to Franklin's State Sen. Jim Bryson (R) give reasons this morning for his resolution "to ask" indicted Sen. Ward Crutchfield (D-Chattanooga) and indicted Sen. Kathryn Bowers (D-Memphis) to sit out the ethics debate after two or three Democratic Senators spoke against it. His only reasons:
  1. He had worked on it and thought about it for a long time.
  2. A strong message needed to be sent out to constituents that Senators were serious.
  3. It was the right thing to do.
He would have been better served giving no reasons at all, because:
  1. Time and energy spent are moot if an act is dubious to begin with. A songwriter may spend a chunk of time and energy coming up with "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover," but that does not mean leaving a lover is always a moral course of action.
  2. Anybody can send a message that Senators are serious; the real acid test is what ethical restrictions the Senate actually comes up with to apply to themselves, not whether they symbolically purge a couple of easy targets from their midst. Asking two indicted Senators to leave does not accomplish meaningful ethical reform.
  3. "What is the right thing to do?" is exactly the question. Sen. Bryson made no mention of what made his bill "the right thing to do." He was begging the question and talking in circles without giving any answers.
These reasons are not reasons at all. They were evasive.

My overall impression was that Bryson was attempting to scapegoat, so that a surrogate would take the heat off of the legislature. And I do not mean that Crutchfield and Bowers were the sacrificial victims. I believe that Bryson was quite willing to sacrifice due process--that accused individuals in general are innocent until proven guilty--in order to give his party a strategic advantage in front of rolling cameras in what may well be a protracted struggle over reforming state government.

01/12/2006, 9:00 p.m. Update: MooreThoughts posts an e-mail from Sen. Bryson that lends some insight into his motivation. He writes that the "very presence [of Sen. Crutchfield and Sen. Bowers] adds to the tension" in Senate chambers. I once had a football coach who offered sage advice that I think applies to the Senator: "Suck it up." I don't care if Old Scratch himself is sitting beside you with his red-hot pitch fork aimed at your sweat-soaked bum, Senator. You are an adult and an elected representative who is supposed to be doing what is best for the people regardless of who is making you a little more tense than you otherwise might be. There is no good reason why the presence of a couple of indicted Senators should delay the process of ethics reform.

The Boobs In Franklin

Leave it to conservative Williamson County to be thrown into a turmoil over the baby-nurturing, family-bonding act of breast-feeding, which some down there seem to associate with urination or defecation, given that mothers have been banished to bathrooms to feed their babies. The flap over flopping out a tit to furnish food for an infant is furious enough to effectuate legislation to eliminate the filth from un-bra-dled founts. Since when did brandishing mammaries in the name of bringing up baby become opposed to traditional family values? If they really value "discretion," Franklinites should put more effort into making their mall-bopping muffin-top girls wear larger jeans or longer shirts and they should spend less time embarrassing mommies and exiling them to back rooms and furtive nooks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Zoning Change To Develop Old Werthan Parking Lot On 8th

The folks renovating the Werthan complex are building a portion of the parking for the Werthan Loft inhabitants underground. That basically frees them to develop residential properties on what were the old surface parking lots that sit proximate to Werthan. On Thursday evening they will be pursuing one of those options as their request to rezone two properties that sit on the southwest corner of 8th and Hume between Werthan and Cheatham Place Public Housing (see picture at top right) goes before the Metro Planning Commission's Public Hearing.

Aaron White of Core Development (also developers of the Exchange, the Kress Lofts, the Church Street Lofts, and the Art Avenue Lofts) sent me an e-mail saying that the planned development includes 65 residential apartment units in 3 stories roughly the scale of Werthan. It will also include a plaza over the parking area and some "streetscape beautification" designed to help make 8th and Hume a "nice intersection." He also sent the rendering of the planned development (see picture to the left). The rental units will fall into the $500-$600 "affordable" range. The tentative construction timeline (pending Metro approval) is to start construction next Fall and to complete by Summer 2007. The designer is DAAD.

The preliminaries sound and look good. Core has quite a resume with Werthan et al. I would be shocked if this development does not meet with approval on Thursday night, especially given the current conditions of this highly transitional intersection. It needs some dressing up, and affordable housing seems a good direction to go in contrast to Werthan Lofts' higher pricing.

Karma Comes To The Convention

Religious conservatives are driven by an all-consuming anger. That's why many of us who long ago were driven out of the Southern Baptist Convention--because we dared to exercise moderation--believed that the self-righteous purging of the Convention would not stop once they took over in the 1980s. The conservative ideologues are like a plague of locusts that consume everything until there's nothing left to consume. An even better analogy is that of the Tasmanian Devil, a creature that goes into such an angry feeding frenzy that it often strikes out and kills other feeding Devils, even its own young.

Now that there aren't any moderates or liberals left in the SBC to devour, they are turning, consumed in their rage, on themselves. The conservative blogger reporting on these events has now been kicked out of one of their high profile boards for blogging the tribal warfare. In spite of the myth that they are saving evangelical denominations from liberal demise, conservative Baptists are in fact slowly imploding. What we are witnessing is the splintering and breakdown of the SBC in a long-term act of self-immolation. That will be just fine for those of us who didn't have to be asked twice to leave a long time ago. Good riddance.

Coffee Establishment To Locate In The North End

I was told by a developer today that an as yet unnamed coffee place is slated to go into commercial space in the new Summer Street Lofts. Construction on Summer Street is just about to start.

Does Six-Figure Funding Automatically Lend Objectivity and Credibility?

I was struck this morning by the counterpoint of two Nashville City Paper articles only columns apart from each other. One the one hand, Belmont University, a partner with the local music industry, conducted a study that found a multi-billion dollar impact by the music industry on Nashville. On the other hand, Council member John Summers catches criticism for conducting a poll to determine support for and opposition to a Sylvan Park conservation overlay, using proponents of the overlay to gather the information.

It seems to me that if one is going to criticize the use of proponents to gather info in one study (Sylvan Park), then one must also criticize the use of a proponent to gather info in the other study (music industry). To put it another way, if an independent source should have gathered info on attitudes to a conservation overlay because proponents are too embedded to be objective, then we should not accept Belmont's findings as objective without a more independent review of the data. Belmont might be too invested in the outcome of its study of the music industry to be objective.

Belmont sunk six-figure funding into its study, while Summers relied on volunteers. But let's be fair about this. That difference should not give Belmont's situation more credibility than the Council member's situation.

Waiting Again In the Cold This Morning To Stay Warm This Winter

Dozens line up along a Salemtown sidewalk at the old Fehr School before 8:00 a.m. today seeking assistance from the Metro Action Commission to pay utility bills.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tonight's Salemtown Block Grant Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting

The CAC, with modest attendance, nudged forward a bit more tonight by discussing and prioritizing possible projects on which to spend block grant funds. Each attending member also voted for their top seven picks for possible projects.

Here are the top ten picks with the number of votes received:
  1. Distinctive neighborhood identifying signs -- 7
  2. Distinctive neighborhood entrance signs -- 6
  3. Fixing the traffic speed & site problem at 3rd & Coffee -- 6
  4. Lighting the alleys -- 6
  5. Traffic calming medians -- 5
  6. Paving unpaved alleys -- 5
  7. Traffic calming bulbs -- 4
  8. Decorative crosswalks -- 4
  9. Street lights -- 4
  10. Seed money for senior programming -- 4
A majority of the group voted to cancel the February meeting because it was scheduled to fall on Valentines Day. The next CAC meeting is scheduled for March 14.

Funnier New Orleans Humor

Davis Nolan over at WKRN's "Weather.com" posts pictures that he says reflect "Katrina humor." I think the picture below lampooning anti-trailerites from "NOLA.com" is much more humorous.

Back to Assigning Blame

It is a simple matter of learned behavior.

Mine operators who face no negative incentives for creating unsafe work conditions for their miners will, more times that not, create unsafe work conditions, which might lead to lethal consequences in a disaster. The federal government is really the only agent strong enough to discourage the creation of dangerous work conditions. George W. Bush is the chief executive of the federal government and what has happened under his watch?

According to a Knight-Ridder report, what has happened is weak and flawed enforcement:
Since the Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward mining companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller major fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed ....

At one point last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined a coal company a scant $440 for a "significant and substantial" violation that ended in the death of a Kentucky man. The firm, International Coal Group Inc., is the same company that owns the Sago mine in West Virginia, where 12 workers died earlier this week.

The $440 fine remains unpaid.

Surely a man's life is worth at least $440.

The report goes on to say that, while inspectors have been citing mine operators in the field, those citations are rarely backed up with hard penalties, even for the worst offenders. Guilty pleas and convictions of violators have dropped 55% since 2001. Bad behavior has been learned.

Back to the question of assigning blame that I posted a few days ago: presidential leniency toward law breakers, who just happen to be mine operators, indicates that the Bush administration is very much on the hook for its law enforcement failures.

FEMA Can Add "Looting" To Its Impressive Katrina Resume

All this Slidell, LA man wanted was a trailer from FEMA. They sent him a looter to install it. If convicted that FEMA subcontractor will become a felon.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Images Of Architectural Splendor In The North End

Do yourself a favor and jump over to urbanplanet.org to check out pictures of the interior of the new chapel at the St. Cecilia Motherhouse that were recently posted by someone connected with the manufacturer of the pews for the building. It looks opulent.

You can also see more pictures, interior and exterior, of the progress of construction at the Motherhouse over the past few years at the building project website.

A School Boy's Dream

Dodge is trying to help some of us get in touch with our inner muscle by reintroducing the Challenger (circa 1970's) as a concept car at this year's Detroit Auto Show.

Forget "concept." Just produce the thing. I'll become a teenager all over again.

In Charity's Absence: Neighborhood Healthcare In New Orleans

The Times-Picayune has an extensive treatment of the current healthcare crisis in New Orleans, including a piece on the closure of Charity Hospital, which was a trauma center treating the poor and patients who lacked insurance coverage, and another story on a neighborhood clinic that has stepped into the post-Katrina breech in healthcare.

The latter facility, the Algiers Health Clinic, functions on the West Bank of the Mississippi and in the Lower 9th Ward (which sustained the worst flooding). According to their website, the clinic grew out of community activists' work to set up a first aid station on September 9, 2005 in a mosque that had been offered to them. What began as 3 "First Responder" street medics answering the call for volunteers to staff the station grew into a political arm called the Common Ground Collective and a nonpolitical medical treatment arm of "doctors, nurses, herbalists and massage therapists" to staff Algiers HC. Algiers HC is "a professional and effective primary care clinic, offering free treatment along with free supplies like vitamins, baby food, and health and hygiene goods." It counts as its "allies": the military, City workers, FEMA contractors, and the Red Cross.

Algiers HC issued a call for medical and non-medical volunteers. Expectations include:
If you support building community-controlled free health care clinics, this is the project you are looking for. We also seek experienced volunteers for project coordination and development.
We treat everyone with care and respect. We see a lot of stress induced hypertension, and chronic illnesses of diabetes, asthma, CHF, etc. Many patients lack money for meds and good food, have poor health education, and don't expect much from the health care system, etc..There are not many children back in the area due to unstable living conditions.
This important neighborhood effort looks worthy of support to stem the healthcare emergency that New Orleans residents are facing with the loss of hospital facilities and with the lack of universal insurance coverage.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Book of Daniel

I did not watch the premiere of NBC's controversial Book of Daniel this week because I was too busy reading the Gospel of Mary. However, local blogger A. C. Kleinheider saw all of the evangelical hubbub as a tempest in a tea pot, while he took some swings at Anglicanism in general.

Metro Action Commission Puffs On NewsChannel 5

NewsChannel 5 ran a story on its 10:00 p.m. newscast last night about the work of the Metro Action Commission to provide heating assistance to Nashvillians who need help this winter paying their utility bills. I was curious as to the timing of the "puff piece," given the bad news for MAC that hit the Tennessean late last month about having to return federal funds. I understand that the state has just allocated utility bill assistance to various communities and that MAC will distribute those funds in Nashville. But the timing and pitch of the story came across to me as an attempt to repair the previous public relations damage.

Nonetheless, the positive press does not change the fact that the Fehr School Building does not have the facilities to shelter people lining up for assistance at MAC. Even if MAC is able to avoid the embarrassment this time of returning unused funds, what are they going to do to alleviate the long lines of people--exposed to winter weather conditions--down Salemtown sidewalks?

Distinctions And Assigning Blame

Chris Wage has a thoughtful post today on how blame is assigned after disasters like those at the Sago Mine.

To me this seems a matter of simple distinction: 1) there were natural or "freak" disasters; 2) there were grim and glaring social problems that the disasters publicly exposed that could have been solved before becoming exacaserbated. In the case of Hurricane Katina: government is not responsible for the hurricane; government is responsible for failing to address the levees, the strangling poverty, and the disaster response problems that Katrina exposed to the harsh light of day. In the case of the mine accident: government is not responsible for lightning; government is responsible for regulating mine operations to ensure worker safety so that accidental death and injuries are minimized and become truly "freakish" rather than the trend they seem to be at Sago.

George W. Bush has built his presidency on cronyism and appointing corporate insiders to be industry watchdogs ("Brownie" being symbolic of that). Cronies and insiders cannot regulate natural and "freak" disasters, but they are quite capable of regulating safety and welfare factors to minimize the tragedy that occurs when random disasters occur. They just choose not to. And Bush is culpable for the choices of those he chooses, regardless of the "heckuva-job" mentality conservative bloggers would have everyone parrot in these crises.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Another FEMA Miracle: The Bush Administration Breaks Its Promise To Katrina Evacuees

Now that general attention to the welfare of Katrina evacuees is drying up, the Bush Administration is moving to reneg on its promise to pay for one year the rents of 425 New Orleans and Long Beach, MS evacuee families located in Colorado Springs. Most of the families signed 12-month leases based on that promise. According to the AP, their rent (passed from FEMA to the city to landlords) has only been paid through October. City officials are warning evacuees that all rent assistance for displaced victims will be cut off February 28.

The Bush Administration has to pay for its wartime tax cuts somehow. Looks like it is going to do so on the backs of the those victims of natural disaster. May the rest of us never have to survive such a tragedy and be forced to turn to this administration for assistance. It won't be there for us.

Fairness And Order In the Metro Council

Bruce Barry's recent PiTW response to the Enclave "Simply Gruesome" post has exponentially increased traffic coming through here, and I appreciate his comments. One of those folks following the PiTW link writes these comments:
The calling for an anonymous verbal vote from the council seems to hide a multitude of sins. They may as well use an applause meter instead; it may be more reliable. Don't you think the council should be required to do a machine vote for every bill? Are council members afraid of going on record?
Rather than responding in the comments section, I wanted to devote a post to these issues, because I have been thinking a great deal about them even before the questions were asked.

The whole purpose of parliamentary procedure is to conduct government and community business as efficiently as possible while ensuring fairness to all of those represented. Roberts Rules of Order and other such parliamentary authorities are designed by definition to strike this balance between order and democracy. So, I do not believe that parliamentary procedure in itself hides "a multitude of sins."

And "verbal votes" are not anonymous to those in the public gallery watching their Council member respond with an "aye" or a "no." Nor are they anonymous if constituents contact their Council member to find out exactly how and why they voted during voice votes. My guess is that many constituents, outside of those in special interest groups with larger election agendas, do not make an effort to find out how their member voted in Council. That does not make the votes "anonymous."

Moreover, I believe that it is fair to say that any voting mechanism--whether it be verbal votes, standing roll call votes, electronic ballot votes, conventional ballot votes, or votes by general consent--can hide "a multitude of sins." Would it be any less of a risk of creating an "applause meter" to disallow Ginger Hauser's Previous Question motion on Tuesday night so that the Council could debate the Sylvan Park overlay on second reading and have the meeting end at 6:00 or 7:00 the next morning? I do not think so. In fact, with the Council gallery so unusually full for such a significant amount of time, we would be subject to grandstanding and other attempts on either side to whip up audience sentiment rather than to strive to convince Council members on the opposing side by the force of argument alone.

Any voting mechanism can be used against the very democratic process that they are designed to protect. The chair called for a voice vote on the Sylvan Park bill. Then, the opposition mustered the needed 5 votes to send it to electronic balloting so that every member's vote could be registered.* Chances are good that there are some members who voted for the Sylvan Park overlay have ulterior motives. But chances are just as good that some, who voted against it and who wanted to express themselves in front of the full gallery, have their own political agendas that have little to do with Sylvan Park. However, to ask that Council debate this bill on second reading just because they have a gallery full of people that they might not have on third reading is unreasonable and in my opinion out-of-order. If Council debate is not allowed at the upcoming third reading, then there is cause to consider unfair treatment of the minority.

If the Council can muster 5 votes (out of 40 total) on controversial bills, members will record their votes electronically. That seems entirely reasonable. But subjecting every single vote, including the minutiae that often get put on the uncontroversial "consent agenda," to the public record would become grindingly excruciating and it would effectively mire the orderly process of the Council. It would also minimize the significance of those votes that are more significant like the Sylvan Park vote. The public is already thoroughly uninterested in Council business. Digging through dozens of roll call votes to find the ones that matter to them most is the last thing people want to do.

So, while some interest groups might like to have a roll call vote on every bill so that they can build a case for skewering the records of some Council members at election time, I do not believe that every single vote requires a machine vote, especially if the opposition lacks the will to demand it. That does not mean that Council members are afraid to go on record (although there may be some who are). It may just mean that they, like most of us, do not want to have to face 8-hour meetings every Tuesday or Thursday evening that they are in session. That prospect would cause a lot of good people not to run for Council.

*Although thanks to our anemic local mainstream media, we could not immediately find out how those voting results. In fact, I see no quick way of getting those results unless one has access to a computer loaded with Adobe Acrobat.