Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Might "The Rocket" Pitch Against the Sounds?

Roger Clemens agreed to a record pro-rated agreement with the Houston Astros today to pitch the rest of the season after a few weeks tuning up in the minors. If all goes according to plan, Clemens will be with the Triple-A Round Rock Express beginning June 16 (after assignments with Houstons A and AA teams) getting in condition to join the Astros on June 22. The Sounds have a series in Round Rock starting June 21st, meaning they could face Clemens in a tune up for his next-day trip to the majors, assuming that he is scheduled to pitch.

If the Rocket's conditioning schedule and his stint in the minors is prolonged, there is a slight chance that he could pitch with the Express in Nashville the next week (although the chances are probably slim, since Clemens has a reputation for grueling conditioning season in and out). The Express will travel to Greer for a four-game series beginning June 30. It would be great if things worked out so that we could see this future first-vote Hall of Famer in Nashville.

05/31/2006, 11:00 p.m. Update: Clemens is scheduled for a June 6 start with the single-A Lexington Legends, just north of us in Kentucky. If you plan to road trip it, you may want to get your tix ordered if they aren't already sold out. Unfortunately for Sounds fans, unless his tune up is prolonged, his one and only start with Round Rock is scheduled for June 16.

Another City Paper Botch? Will Kay Brooks Support Pedro Garcia?

The dust has not even settled on Kay Brooks' 18-17-vote appointment from Metro Council, and the Nashville City Paper--with its own checkered history of generally mucking up the news--speculates on her possible support for embattled MNPS Director Pedro Garcia.

Did reporter Vandana Atreya even bother to do some research on Kay Brooks' blog? I doubt it, because if so she would have found Garcia taking a general beating there. On October 26, 2005, Brooks wrote:
The morning media is making it pretty clear that Metro Nashville Public School Director Pedro Garcia is on his way out. This may be the first time I've agreed with my own school board member [Lisa Hunt]. She voted not to renew his contract at this time. I don't think this turn of events was a big surprise to anyone who's been watching or had a few conversations with parents of publicly school children in our town. [Note to District 5 voters: if you liked Lisa Hunt, you'll only like Kay Brooks on one issue].
Brooks, who recently mentioned my patronage of her blog as a way to find out what she believes, also insinuated that a recent nomination of Nashville's public schools for a prestigious national award had more to do with Pedro Garcia's political connections to Los Angeles (where the award is based) and less to do with the quality of our public schools. I have no doubt that she meant that as a knock on Garcia, even though the clear implication is that our public schools are not worth it.

In my research of Kay Brooks, I found no supportive or positive comment whatsoever on Pedro Garcia's leadership. She has been critical of Garcia's supporters for running a school system without their children actually being in it. She has echoed and magnified criticism from parents about Garcia's alleged lack of responsiveness. She faults Garcia for an e-mail sent out to Metro employees in support of the September 2005 tax increase, then encourages her readers to keep any tax supporters who call them on the line as long as possible to distract them from calling other registered voters (and I'm supposed to believe that a school board candidate with that kind of political savvy did not know, as she told the NCP, that the Republicans were communicating on her behalf for a yes-vote in Metro Council?) .

I fail to see any convincing evidence in any quarter that Kay Brooks would support Pedro Garcia, unless there are other deals being made under the table that we don't see. Politics does make strange bedfellows. If that's the case, then the City Paper owes it to its readership to be more forthcoming. But otherwise, I must ask: does the City Paper just make up stuff to run in its daily? If not, where in the Sam Hill do they get it?

Blogging Lawyer Offers Michael Craddock's Vote Mongering a Pro Bono (Non-Publicō) Legal Defense

The blogger at who broke the news about Michael Craddock securing just enough votes to put Kay Brooks on the school board has been trying to characterize Craddock's critics as merely opposed to having a home-schooling mom on the board, which as we've seen is very far from the truth. But when I pointed out alleged sunshine law violations by Craddock et al., said lawyer offered the following defense:

The sunshine law is horribly vague, almost to the point of jeopardizing its enforceability (what exactly is the “spirit” of the law? what constitutes a “meeting” under the act?).

According to the only real case law, if a public body convenes for one of two purposes: (1) in order to make a decision or (2) in order to deliberate toward a decision, then it is a meeting within the scope of the Act. Neese v. Paris Special School District, 813 S.W.2d 432, 435 (Tenn.Ct.App.1990). Unfortunately, that doesn’t answer most questions regarding the Act’s applicability. There are more restrictive interpretations in Attorney General opinions, but they are not supported by judicial opinions and are not law.

The last paragraph of the sunshine law, which qualifies the entire statute, isn’t clear by any stretch. One cannot hold official meetings outside of voter view. That’s fine, but circular, as noted above. Formal meetings are clearly addressed. Short of sitting in session, the law is vague. What constitutes a “meeting”, and what constitutes “deliberation” are big question marks.

But by the plain language of the statute, the sunshine law does say that casual meetings between legislators aren’t necessarily prohibited .... If anything, Craddock is overly protected by prior court decisions

“Deliberation under the Open Meetings Act ‘refers to discussing, debating, and considering an issue for the purpose of making a decision and does not include a discussion solely for the purpose of information gathering or fact finding.’ The University of Tennessee Arboretum Society, Inc. v. The City of Oak Ridge, slip op. (E.S.Tenn.Ct.App. 1983).”

There isn’t even close to enough evidence to grab the torches and riot for Craddock’s head.

Of course, that last bit of hyperbole tells the tale: no one is grabbing torches and chasing the Frankenstein monster around. On the contrary, I've asked for an investigation on the allegations that Michael Craddock put these votes together outside of public view. We won't know whether there is enough evidence without an independent investigation.

What I got from the MooreThoughts exchange was a lawyer doing what lawyers do: parsing terms and asking "What does this or that word exactly mean?" (I've always found it ironic that in attempts to show how vague a law is lawyers often introduce an even greater lack of clarity. "What exactly is the 'spirit' of the law?" is almost an oxymoronic question. Talk about your circular logic).

My sense is that a politically conservative lawyer who has a bias for and who wishes to defend politically conservative Michael Craddock would prefer that vote mongering in some kind of nebulous, non-legal netherworld remain veiled in obscurity relative to the law on open meetings. If clarity might dictate accountability, a good legal defense further clouds the issue. So, the MooreThoughts blogger is being an able lawyer on Michael Craddock's behalf.

However, for laypeople like me, it doesn't seem too much to ask to test the Open Meeting Law's "applicability" by investigating whether certain Metro Council members violated it. Our other option is to sit around and parse the term "applicability," asking what it means and then asking what exactly each of the terms in its exact definition means ad infinitum. We could chase rabbits in legal head games, but I say, let's test it practically in the real world instead, and at the same time let's find out whether 18 members of the Metro Council betrayed the public trust as has been alleged.

So-Bro Tug-o-War: The Public Spars with Convention Center Plans

It's good to live in an age when committees and private investors cannot simply run roughshod over public interest; or, at least if they are going to, they have to face the public and go through the motions of getting feedback. The first of the public charrettes on plans for a convention center was held at the downtown library last night, and the convention center committee had to face some criticism of their rah-rah mission to suck up a huge footprint south of Broadway that could otherwise be used for residential neighborhood development. I totally agree with the local developer who asked the committee last night to release the transcripts and minutes from the discussions that lead to selecting SoBro and rejecting all others as the best site for a revenue-depleting, cost-intensive convention center. Given that this is the Mayor's Task Force, I'm wondering if it might even be subject to open meeting laws.

The second public charrette will be held tonight at the Adventure Science Center, 800 Fort Negley Blvd. Sign-in starts at 6:30; meeting lasts until 8:30.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Nash-Trash Gets Sunday NY Times Showcase

Congratulations to Nashville's Best Trash, the Juggs sisters, whose entertaining enterprise, Nash-Trash Tours, is based in the North End at Farmer's Market. The Nash-Trash Tour was recommended in a Times article on Nashville in this past Sunday's Travel section as one of three things to do during the day in Nashville. We're always honking and waving at their pink school bus coming and going. We still intend to get a group together, BYOB, and "get trashed" ourselves like the tourists seem to be doing.

Neo-Egyptian, Neo-Neo-Egyptian

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Votes For Brooks from Wallace and Whitmore Still Do Not Add Up

The Tennessean has already pointed out that both Council members Ludye Wallace (District 19) and Ed Whitmore (District 21), who both represent heavily Democratic districts, were not dragged kicking and screaming to vote for Republican-backed conservative Kay Brooks as stand-in school board member for the summer (she won by one vote). It occurred to me that maybe the results of the sales tax referendum in September--which the Mayor would have used for increased school funding and which eventually got pitched as a referendum on Pedro Garcia and the School Board--could have made a difference in their assist of the conservatives and the Republicans who are seeking a clamp down on MNPS.

For instance, if the attitude in their districts matched the %70-%30 rejection of the sales tax by Davidson County voters (to be fair, only %6.5 of registered voters had shown up by 4:00 p.m. on election day, so it wasn't exactly a clear reflection of popular Metro-wide support or rejection), then I suppose that they might have a case for supporting a school board candidate who has been as vociferous in her attacks of the school budget and any tax increases as Kay Brooks has been on her blog.

So, I called the County Election Commission for the numbers last week. The results from Districts 19 and 21 came no where close to matching the lop-sided defeat in the County. In Ludye's district, only 16 votes separated the yeas from the nays (4% more voted against the sales tax than for it). In Whitmore's district only 14 votes separated the yeas from the nays (less than 3% more voted against the sales tax than for it). Both of those numbers are consistent with the fact that the districts are largely Democratic and with the general perception that Democrats (and progressives in general) were firmly ambivalent about this tax and that they split on the vote, if they showed up to vote at all.

So, both Wallace and Whitmore should have chosen more deliberate discretion, instead of the obviously cavalier and shortsighted approach with which they supported filling the school board vacancy. As far as I can tell, neither one of them bothered to do any research or fact-finding about the candidates before they voted. Neither of them notified their constituents about Michael Craddock's ante, and neither of them appealed to their constituents for feedback for a decision.

What's worse: Wallace seems to have based his support for Kay Brooks on a trade for a back alley. What's the worth of a school board seat in a city where it can be traded for a back alley?

Today's Legends of the Blues Festival Pictures

"The Queen of Soul Blues," Ms. Denise LaSalle, belts it out this evening in Centennial Park. "You Shoulda Kept It in the Bedroom."

Vice Mayor and campaigning mayoral candidate, Howard Gentry, taking a call after introducing Denise LaSalle.

Microwave Dave (on stage in front of the far left mural) slashing strings in the Robert Johnson style.

"All she wanted to hear were those down home blues."

A Study in Contrast

[I]t's a cheap heart tugging trick to say "it's for the children" .... [The] whole "education is the most important thing" motto was way wrong and arrogant, to boot. How many people could look face to face with a firefighter or policeman and tell THEM that education was more important than protecting life and limb?

- - Substitute Metro School Board member Kay Brooks reflecting on the September 13, 2005 sales tax referendum

Educating children is the most important thing that we as a people can do, and I think that the long term solution to crime reduction and abatement is education. So I am all for education .... This referendum is something I am very in favor of ... to give education opportunities to children is something that I believe in.

- - Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas reflecting on the September 13, 2005 sales tax referendum

Sunday, May 28, 2006

TeSelle's Letter Speaks of Trust in Cooperative Mixed-Use Development, Betrayal in Republican/Kay Brooks "Stealth Operation"

Gene TeSelle, whom I know from my days at Vandy when he was one of my dissertation advisors, has written a timely letter to the Tennessean. I'm reproducing it here for your consumption:
Last Monday there was a ceremonial groundbreaking for 5th and Main, an innovative construction project that will create a significant entry point to east Nashville.

Living units will range from affordable to luxury, and in the "mixed use" tradition there will also be commercial and office space.

The non-profit developer is Affordable Housing Resources. It took most of two years for all the contracts to be worked out with a variety of financing agencies.

At the groundbreaking we were reminded about the many partners — Fannie Mae and NeighborWorks, banks, Metro's own Housing Fund, MDHA, architects, engineers, marketers. Mayor Bill Purcell said this project helps us understand why Nashville ranks high on the livability scale nationwide.

Well, that's how a constructive project happens, through a spirit of trust and cooperation all around.

A week earlier, also in east Nashville, we had an unfortunate example of how to betray trust and cooperation. In a stealth operation, a member of the Metro Council who did not even represent east Nashville lined up votes to put on the school board a candidate who home-schools her children and avoided a community forum.

At first it looked like a power play by ideological extremists. Then it turned out that the Davidson County Republican Party was involved.

Being constructive takes persistence. Being destructive only takes ruthlessness and short-term vision. Examples of both are right in front of us.

Gene TeSelle
Nashville 37212
Looks like it is still "going down hard."

Top Down, Sippy Cup in Hand

Payback Is a Pitch

State lawmakers still being wined and dined by $232,000-wielding bid-ness lobbyists even after so-called ethics reform passed? You can't say I didn't warn you. The Guv and the Gen-Ass agreed on meaningless ethics reform and the chickens are coming home to roost. Lobbyists win: game, set, and match.

To Make Matters Worse

While the General Assembly kept the wages of average working stiffs depressed by killing the minimum wage measure, they were busy last night making sure that their own retirement pensions and the Governor's salary went up (and in an era when private corporations who support these guys are trying to make pensions in general extinct). So, while refusing to help minimum wage earners, they actually helped themselves to a little more public money for an extra green fee or two during their golden years at Del Boca Vista. It fits the hoarding class's MO: to perpetually behave as if there's not enough wealth to spread around.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bryson Joins Majority to Kill Minimum Wage Measure without Having to Defend Decision to Voters

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, State Senate Republicans watched an "acrimonious House debate" over establishing a $6.15 minimum wage in Tennessee, and voted to kill the bill by sending to a committee that will not meet again. Despite the bill's passage by the Commerce Committee, Republican Senate Leader, Ron Ramsey moved to refer it to the Judiciary Committee for review and Franklin Senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Bryson voted with the majority (17-12) in favor of the move.

Apparently Jim Bryson and his ultra-conservative co-hort didn't have the heart to stand up to successful House arguments made by Democrats that jobless rates dropped only slightly after the minimum wage hikes of 1991, 1995, and 1997. Nor did they have the fortitude to deal with the facts like:
  • The buying power of the $5.15 wage has eroded to $4.73 today; nonetheless, Tennessee offers many tax breaks and incentives to help "bid-ness."
  • Thanks to inflation, the current minimum wage buys a fraction of what past lower minimum wages bought. For instance, according to the Daily Plan,
  • in 1968, the federal minimum wage was $1.60 per hour-- or if adjusted for inflation -- $9.16 per hour. Yes-- almost forty years ago, the minimum acceptable wage in this country was over $9 per hour. But the federal minimum wage has been allowed to collapse down to just $5.15 per hour.
Or as some Tennessee Dems more precisely point out, $4.73 an hour. That's just not good management of financial resources. And it's just plain heartless of Republican leaders like Jim Bryson, who wants to be the next governor of this state. We can see what kind of people he would represent and it definitely is not most average Tennesseans. Worst of all he weaseled out of public accountability by hiding behind a technicality in Senate procedure. Not exactly a profile in courage, is it? Whatever happened to Republican calls for a "clear up or down vote"?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thanks for Stopping By!

According to my stat counter, Adam Dread visited Enclave this morning shortly before lunch. Stat Counter says that he arrived from an Earthlink web mail account. I hope that does not mean that he is just getting around to reading my Kay Brooks e-mail sent over a week ago.

I appreciate your patonage of my website, Councilman-at-large, but I'd also welcome a reply to my e-mail from last week on explaining the process of your decision to vote for Kay Brooks, including any discussions/plans that were made by the 18 members outside of the public eye.

What's Good for the Goose: Kay Brooks on Open Meetings Laws

Kay Brooks' past blog posts on Tennessee's Sunshine Laws seem to indicate that she favors them, especially when elected officials are considering her pet projects involving home schooling. Here are some of her comments about government transparency and citizen access:
Government naturally creates a dependent society and works hard at protecting itself. One way that happens is by keeping folks out of the information loop. It worked for the church priests of old when they kept the Scriptures in Latin, it still works when our legislative priests create and maintain a convoluted legislative process .... let's begin to remove that cloud by embracing legitimate accountability and easy access by citizens to the information they must have in order to know what their own representatives are doing. And I'll push this even further down the pipeline. Every government entity ought to adhere to these rules. Citizens across the state need information from every governmental entity.
I am rather stunned by these comments. Not because they are farfetched, extremist, or unreasonable. In fact, I agree with their general principle. I am stunned at their seeming irony given that the process whereby she was recruited, promoted, and appointed by Metro Council was just as secretive, self-serving, manipulative, convoluted, unaccountable, and unruly as any state process she criticized. If Kay Brooks honestly opposes government as a closed system, how could she in good conscience accept her appointment to the school board? According to her own ethical standard, those are ill-gotten gains.

In another post she even advocated a fairly aggressive open meetings standard, which I think would be about right for Metro Council:
I want video streaming of every committee meeting, legislative session, and press conference by legislators, the governor and other agency heads. I'd even go for a link to the security cameras in the hall so I can know who's schmoozing and flesh-pressing whom.
We might know quite a bit more about the schmoozing and flesh-pressing between Council members, Davidson County Republican Party leaders and other Brooks supporters had there been more video feeds from more places that Council members meet outside Chambers and microphone shot. Archiving e-mails and documenting telephone calls concerning Council business would have probably shed even more light on the closed lobbying efforts in Council.

Finally, Brooks is hammerhead critical of a prospective mayoral candidate who was quoted as saying that that representative bodies are often required to make budgetary decisions that the public would not advocate. She writes:
So let's see if I'm following this correctly, we'll keep voting until we get the results we want, spending a half a million dollars every time. And we'll do an end run around the citizens by going to elected representatives to get this money.
Like 18 Council members did the end-around Nashvillians by appointing you via closed process to the school board, Kay?

Nashville Jazz Workshop Fundraiser Announced

One of the Nashville Jazz Workshop advisory board members, Elaine Wood, will be at Bobbie's Dairy Dip on Charlotte Ave as "guest server, soda jerk, queen of the root beer float, and goddess of the onion rings" next Wednesday, May 31st from 5pm to 7pm. A portion of the sales and all tips will go to the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Featuring Nashville's greatest jazz musicians on the jukebox.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Charlie Tygard Gives His Reasons for Voting for Kay Brooks

District 35 Council member Charlie Tygard explained his vote for Kay Brooks in a publication called the Westview. I reproduced a portion of it here (the several spelling and grammatical errors were in the original text):
Such as been written or spoken about the Metro Council's decision to fill the vacant 5th District School Board position for 90 days with a lady who chooses to home-school her 4 children. I have responded to several citizens inquiries as to why I voted in the majority for Ms. Kay Brooks? The simple answer is that she was the only one of the 4 announced candidates who took the time to track me down, ask me for my thoughts on education in the 35th district, explain why she wanted the position and ask me for my vote. Her initiative and willingness to think "outside the box" was impressive. She earned my vote.
His reasoning is consistent with the patronage expectations that I criticized Ed Whitmore for earlier. Rather than finding out more about the candidates--like, for instance, by attending the District 5 candidates forum--these Councilmen seem to be waiting for the candidates to come and kiss the ring.

Brooks Compared Public Education to Captivity, Vouchers for Private Schools to Emancipation

After reading the following from Kay Brooks' blog, I have a hard time believing that she will help public schools better educate students if elected in August:

Freedom in Ohio--

The state that was the demarcation between free and slave states does it again by demonstrating education freedom. That same ethnic group joyfully embraced and fought for choice in Cincinnati and their struggle has set more captives free in the rest of the state.

The State Legislature has passed a voucher program, okaying millions of public tax dollars to send students to private schools. Monday, the state began getting out the word on how the program will work.(snip)The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers says draining money from public schools is no way to help public schools: From WKRC

Note to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers: it's not about helping public schools--it's about actually educating students.

Note to Kay Brooks: your views scare me. If you believe that vouchers are analogous to freeing the slaves, then the path to siphoning money away from public schools and toward private ones is justified in your mind.

If voters are looking for line items that MNPS board member Kay Brooks would likely cut, she's given some hints on her blog:
As I began to read [the MNPS budget] certain phrases kept coming up again and again. No, they weren't curriculum, teacher salaries, utility expenses or even 'supplies' they were the words transportation, feeding, discipline, health and counseling. Well, obviously, we spend a great big chunk of that $570 million budget on stuff that isn't really education. Things I think exceed any mandate the government may have to educate its citizenry [from September 14, 2005, emphasis mine; "may have"?!].
[I]t's so hard to believe that MNPS needs more money. We're hardly past the handwringing over the failure to get the 1/2 cent sales tax increase and the horrors that will result in loss of jobs and services and, if I'm reading this correctly, MNPS is fixing to spend $494,000 for 11 more Pre-K classes. How can that be?

Of course, to me the whole idea is just wrong. 4 year olds need to be at home with their families [from September 30, 2005, emphasis mine].
"Advocates say afterschool programs can boost academic, physical, and social development of children while keeping them safe. From WATE in Knoxville."

What can really boost all of these is a parent who can stay home. Let's work at helping parents keep more of their income so they can do what they can do--should do [from October 22, 2005, emphasis mine].
There you have it. Unless Kay Brooks has had a change of heart in the last few months, budget cuts that she seems comfortable with include: transportation, feeding, discipline, health and counseling, pre-K classes, and afterschool programs. The question preying on my mind is would she support sending the surplus from cuts like this to voucher and/or homeschool programs?

Ludye Speaks: Craddock Asked Wallace Early to Support Kay Brooks

Ludye Wallace finally emerged to speak to the Nashville City Paper about his support of Kay Brooks:

Wallace, asked if his vote indicates he is tending toward a more conservative approach to the schools or to the budget, emphasized Brooks’ appointment is for two months only.

“Councilman [Michael] Craddock came to me early on and asked me if I would support [Brooks] and I committed to support her,” Wallace said. He said he would have voted for Porter if there had been a run-off.“

I don’t think there’s an attempt for any particular faction or any particular group to be trying to take over the school board,” Wallace said.

Sure, Ludye. And I've got a District 19 alley I want to sell you. Stick with good-ole boy patronage, Ludye. You're wading into culture wars that are over your head.

Well, my Councilman's comments further bolster the charge that Michael Craddock has been a very unpublic busybody from the start, probably violating the state's Sunshine Laws by politicking with other members to put Ms. Brooks on the school board.

But what the heck is Ludye's logic about this being only a two-month appointment, as if that's supposed to be consolation? It sounds more like one of the risk-factors one weighs in deal-making. Did Ludye simply rationalize the seeming low cost of the vote in exchange for something he got in return? I'd put that down in the "Closed Door" Craddock column, too, even if Craddock protests that he did not trade votes to get Kay Brooks in. I'd also say that Ludye has gotten more than he bargained for.

And then there's District 21's Ed Whitmore:

Some council members have voiced surprise that Councilmen Ludye Wallace and Ed Whitmore, who represent North Nashville districts with significant populations that have historically favored the Democratic Party, voted for Brooks, whose main support came from conservatives.

Whitmore said Wednesday he had never met Brooks’ opponent, Gracie Porter.

“However, had I met [Porter], maybe my vote would have been different,” he said.

That's pretty faulty and flighty thinking. It's testimony as to why Metro Council members should never be allowed to act on their own without proper feedback from constituents. We basically cannot trust this crowd to do something as simple and self-evident as meet with candidates for whom they will cast votes to fill important seats affecting even the welfare of our children. Apparently, Council members expect candidates to come hat in hand and to patronize them as Kay Brooks did via Michael Craddock.

Mayor Purcell Gets Credit for the Assist on This

The annual Chamber of Commerce breakfast, at which Bill Purcell gives his State of Metro address, becomes more user-friendly this year as they make some room for more of the public to attend without having to pay either $85 or $35 to hear the speech:
Critics have portrayed the annual event, which has been hosted by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce since Metro government was established in 1963, as catering to the city's business elite rather than average citizens. At Purcell's request, the Chamber of Commerce provided seating for 200 people to hear today's speech for free if they don't want to pay $25 for breakfast.

Purcell said he expects the mayor's office and the Metro Council chamber and offices to move back to the renovated Metro Courthouse by Labor Day. The courthouse is a possible location for future State of Metro speeches [source].
As a critic of this event, I'll be among those now who give credit to both the Mayor and the Chamber for coming up with a better, more democratic alternative for a presentation that affects all Nashvillians. It's a good first step, but it still needs to be moved to the courthouse with or without Metro Council getting special seating (or their own free meal). Let them fume.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Nashville Scene Has My Answers from Ludye Wallace and Adam Dread. Still No Word from Buck Dozier

Scene reporter William Dean Hinton seems to have dug up the reasons Ludye Wallace and Adam Dread voted for Kay Brooks. Adam Dread, a registered Republican, told Hinton that he just wanted somebody different than Gracie Porter, who came across to him as "cocky." Hinton does not divulge whether Dread attended the District 5 candidates forum or talked with either Porter or Brooks before the vote. My take on Dread's response, given Republican boss Jon Crisp's intimate connections to this vote is that Dread is set on higher political aspirations. Patronage matters, especially to partisans. However, how is Boss Crisp going to reconcile the links he sees with Vanderbilt and the liberal yankees whom he assumes are running MNPS with the fact that Adam Dread is a Vanderbilt alum? Think he'll hold it against Dread?

Speaking of patronage, if Hinton's sources are true, Ludye Wallace kicked it old skool in the patronage that he exercised in exchange for his yes-vote for Kay Brooks. Reportedly, he traded his vote in exchange for support to close an alley in our district. In true Ludye-style, he didn't return Hinton's phone call. You can believe that if I ever see Ludye around the North End, I will definitely follow up with him about this. But just keep this in mind: if Ludye did trade his vote for support, that means that someone else (possibly Michael Craddock? Craddock has denied that votes were exchanged) was on the other end of that exchange. Ludye's not the only guilty party if reports are true.

Dozier is still mum. The Buck watch continues.

Council Member Jason Hart Comments on His Vote For Kay Brooks

Well, we finally have found a Council member willing to defend his vote for Kay Brooks to a constituent. One of Jason Hart's constituents, who is also a community leader, forwarded me a response Mr. Hart made to her in light of questions she asked him regarding his support of Kay Brooks. These are her questions:

  1. Did you attend the candidates forum on Saturday, May 13th?
  2. Did you have an opportunity to speak with and have questions answered by Ms. Brooks (since she did not take part in the candidates forum)?
  3. What criteria did you employ in making your decision?
  4. Why did you ultimately decide to support Kay Brooks over the other candidates?
Here is the entire text of Jason Hart's response:

First, I would like to say that I tried to dismiss the appointment until the election at the beginning of the meeting (watch the meeting). However, this motion to defer was denied due to metro legal council and the Vice Mayor. I believe that the council should not have appointed anyone and let the candidates run for office and be elected by the people not by the council. Second, I would like to state that the current school system is in shambles as we speak. We have several schools that are about be taken over by the state, the dropout rate at 45% is absurd, and the disproportion of race ratio is ludicrous. Mrs. Porter has worked in this same school system that has provided us with these results. I was not happy as a student in metro schools and I am not happy with schools now. It is time for a change! I have son that is in public school and I am not going to gamble with my sons future. These head administrators like Mrs. Porter have no clue what they are doing which is deemed by their results and continuing failure. It behooves me to place a god old boy back into a failing system. In the real world if you do not provide results, you are fired. These administrators remain in the system because it is the government. It time that the government joins the real world. I have no problems with Mrs.... Porter as person or as a teacher. I am sure that she is a wonderful person. However, she is a part of the old system and the old system has not been successful. Third, I would like to point out the issue of funding of metro schools. We provide our student with more money than anyone else in the state, yet we have some of the worst test scores in the state and the nation. My number one complaint from constituents during the budget process was that to much money was being given to the schools. This idea is clarified during the referendum that failed miserably before the people. Now we have Mrs. Porter that has been accustomed to demanding metro tax dollars for 30+ years and spending it like theirs no tomorrow. This methodology must come to an end now. They must take the money that they have been given and make it work. If they cant make it work, then get out of the way and let someone else do it. Finally, I would like to tell you that I received good handful of people contact me that were in favor of Mrs.. Brooks. I had maybe 2 people contact me about Mrs. Porter before the vote. After the vote I had several people contact me and complain. I wish those people would have contacted before the vote, the result may have differed.
I should note first of all the caveat that Jason's father and former Metro Council member, Lawrence Hart, is a candidate running for the District 5 seat in August. That fact certainly colors all of his comments a deeper shade of self-interest. It also may answer why he moved to defer but then voted for Kay Brooks (rather than abstaining in protest).

Second, he does not provide any details directly related to what he sees as flaws in Gracie Porter's leadership skills. He merely recalls his bad experience in school and paints her with the same supersized roller with which he paints all Metro administrators. That's not fair. If we are going to get serious about solving MNPS's problems then we have to focus with laser-like precision on those problems rather than hacking away at the entire administration with Jason Hart's total indiscrimination.

His vote for Kay Brooks looks more like knee-jerk anger and political calculation than it does honest support or questions about Ms. Porter. He charges Ms. Porter with demanding money and spending wantonly, but gives no evidence of such from her record. He twists last year's failure of the sales tax referendum to suggest that all of us who opposed it (which I did) opposed it because we believe that schools get too much money (which I don't); I'd prefer to believe that a large number of voters felt that a sales tax was not the appropriate means of funding education.

He also blames his constituents opposing Kay Brooks for not contacting him before the vote. I've got to ask: who's fault is it when Council members are putting these coalitions together behind closed doors and not publicizing their deliberations and not comprehensively asking voters for direction on this appointment? I'd say the responsibility falls more on Mr. Hart's shoulders than on his constituents' shoulders. Whining now that you're in the middle of a firestorm of critical feedback is bad form. Council members should have done their homework on the front end.

Finally, you'll notice that while Mr. Hart responded to questions #3 & #4 above, he basically ignored questions #1 & #2. He refused to answer whether he attempted to inform himself on the issue by actually attending the District 5 candidates forum, and perhaps confirming or denying his preconceived notions about the candidates. He also neglected to say whether he actually ever talked to Kay Brooks to understand her views of public education. As far as I can tell, Mr. Hart's support for Kay Brooks was neither informed nor thoroughly thought out. Besides, he's already got a horse in this race, and voting for Kay Brooks was a means of handicapping that contest.

At the Old Ball Game

I caught her yelling "It's a hit!" during an ESPN broadcast the other night. I guess all of those Sounds games are sinking in.

Why Let Conservatives Destroy One of the Few Things Americans Still Feel Positive About?

The current poll numbers on how American feel about the federal government and how they feel about their local community show very stark differences. According to a recent ABCNews/Washington Post poll, Americans are pessimistic about the Republican-controlled Congress and White House, but optimistic about their local community:
Sixty-nine percent say the country is on the wrong track .... Pessimism about the policies Bush will pursue over the year ahead has jumped by 10 points since December, to 53 percent. Congress' approval rating is as bad as Bush's, and is the worst it's been since the mid-1990s.
Deep as it is at the national level, this unhappiness does not constitute a broad-based malaise .... It dissipates locally: While just 29 percent say the nation is going in the right direction, more, 45 percent, say their state is headed the right way, and 58 percent say their local community is on the right track.
Now comes local Republican Party boss, Jon Crisp to change all of that in Nashville. According to this morning's Nashville City Paper, Council member Michael Craddock's back-room orchestration of the Kay Brooks school board appointment is the first shot across Nashville's bow by the local Republican Party, which wants to do for to Metro what it's done for to the federal government.

Local Republicans are not happy with our general happiness with our local community, so they intend to pack the council and the school board with conservatives who will make you feel about Metro the way you feel about the current bunch in Washington. And you know what comes next: cuts to our residential services, larger holes in local law enforcement, deterioriation and decay of our infrastructure, and the acclerated decline of our public schools. They basically want to make us feel worse about our local community.

They probably intend to take advantage of low voter turn-outs for local elections and to use a network of conservative blogs and e-mail cells to turn out their vote. In other words, they probably intend to take advantage of your general satisfaction with your local community. I mean, dissatisfied people generally vote in larger numbers than folk who believe things are trending well. So, it behooves all of us, including the satisfied, to verify that our voter registration is up-to-date and then to get out on August 4 to vote. I'm sure we're going to see a lot of allegations about progressive conspiracies thrown around; Boss Crisp has already offered one: that Metro is run by "Vanderbilt-imported, liberal New England Democrats" (I believe that makes them "scalawag-recruited carpetbaggers" in the Reconstruction vernacular).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More Voter Responses for Kay Brooks to Consider

Brittney over at Nashville is Talking has a wrap of today's Kay Brooks-watch, including some notable letters to the editor that appeared in today's Nashville City Paper. There was also a comment that included some advice for Brooks that accidently got scrubbed from NiT when Brittney was attempting to clean out some comment spam off the site. Luckily I had copied the comment before the scrubbing, although I cannot remember the name of the commenter exactly (I think it was "Mark" something-or-other):
One thing I think has been missing from all of this (most notably, from Kay Brooks) is discussion about [previous District 5 MNPS board member] Lisa Hunt - who did a fantastic job in helping to improve the graduation rate at Stratford High. I believe that this past year, Stratford was taken off the "list" of failing schools - a lot of which had to do with Rev. Hunt's efforts. One thing Kay should do, if she is searching for ideas (which she clearly seems to be in need of - instead of having that "deer in the headlights" look about graduation rates), is look at what Lisa Hunt did as a school board the seat that Kay Brooks now occupies.
I think that is an outstanding idea. I can remember that at the time when the school board was considering closing Jones Paideia among others, Lisa Hunt was one of a couple of board members who followed up personally with me saying that she supported the idea of keeping Jones open. It would not hurt Kay Brooks at all to look at Lisa Hunt's accomplishments, even with her "different eyes"; the question is, did Jon Crisp and Michael Craddock move Kay Brooks through to this appointment just to have her learn from Lisa Hunt? They way they demonize the school district and the entire board, I don't think so.

Metro Council Members Remain Mum on Kay Brooks Vote

Last Thursday I sent the following e-mail to the 3 Council Members who represent me--Ludye Wallace, Buck Dozier, and Adam Dread--concerning their yes-votes for Kay Brooks last week:
I am one of your constituents, past president of Salemtown Neighbors, and writer and editor for the weblog Enclave ... which focuses on issues and problems facing North Nashville neighborhoods.

I was troubled to see that yours was among the 18 votes that appointed Kay Brooks to the open school board seat this past Tuesday night. As has been now publicized, Ms. Brooks has no experience with and only the slightest connection to public schools. Could you please explain how you reached the decision (including your reasons) to vote for rather than against Ms. Brooks rather than voting for a more qualified candidate?

I am further troubled by the indications floating around in the media that one or more of your fellow council members put the 18 votes together behind closed doors and out of site of the public. This was an important vote that affects your constituents, yet I am unaware of any attempts you or others made to publicize either your support of or discussions about Ms. Brooks that occurred in the days preceding the vote. I read in today's [May 17] Tennessean that one council member acknowledged that 15 to 18 votes were lined up by May 10 without publicity and that another council member has admitted that spoke with "several" members before the vote. Could you please explain why you did not publicize your inclinations about Ms. Brooks as they were developing? Also, why did you not consult your constituents on this matter after the papers were filed on Ms. Brooks the Thursday preceding the vote?

You should know that I will be publishing your responses to this e-mail on Enclave for the benefit of North End residents. I will also inform my readers should you choose not to respond, and I will draw my own editorial conclusions from that choice.
After 5 days, still no response.

While living two years in Ludye Wallace's district, I've learned to set my expectations low on his responsiveness to his constituents. Our consolation is that he is term-limited and it is only a matter of time before we are free from his tired, neglectful ways. As for Adam Dread, I've said it before and I'll say it again: my two votes for him were mistakes and I'll definitely be voting against him the next time around. He's gone from defensiveness at any hint of criticism to ignoring all criticism. It appears to me that Ludye and Dread both so bonded with the Council conserva-tive bloc during December's Steve Gill Sing-a-long to Save Christmas that they just seem to be included now whenever the group gathers to put votes together outside of public meetings (in the December picture above, Ludye and Dread are surrounded by fellow members Parker Toler, Jim Gotto, Randy Foster, and Michael Craddock, all of whom voted for Kay Brooks in May). In fairness to Buck, I did not see him at the December carolling rally, but I'll never get a response from him unless I join the business bloc of contributors to his mayoral campaign.

Nashville Pays $13,800 to Help Republicans Raise $250,000 for Mid-term Elections

A private Republican fundraiser that included VP Dick "Buckshot" Cheney in upper-crust Belle Meade raised a quarter of a million dollars for the Tennessee Republican Party. The problem is that security was provided for the event by Metro Police on the Nashville taxpayers' tab. The next time we start hearing the lectures from Republicans that too much local taxpayer money is going to pay for superfluous Metro programs, let's agree to shove this event right between their two-faces. I'd love to know whether any Metro Council members attended the event, so that they could rationalize to me why we can spend more on Republicans and less on public schools.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Each and Every Day Has Been a Chance for Kay

Well, the dust-up over blogger and home-school mom Kay Brooks's appointment to the school board by some very questionable tactics on the part of Metro Council member Michael Craddock seems to be settling as many of her supporters are calling for dissatisfied voters and parents to "give her chance."

The problem with that cliché is that she has been and continues to be given chances to prove to voters that she can do the job. In fact, the chances have never stopped. Let's set aside Kay's well-publicized refusal to attend the candidates forum before the vote; that was an obvious mistake on her part for which she has not been accountable (on the contrary, the time she addressed it, she minimized her mistake by saying, "I know that not attending that hearing is going down very hard. I can't do much about that now. I can only move on with the job at hand and hope that ... you all will realize that that was a small incident in a record of otherwise good service"). But I don't believe that she will ever be accountable for it, so let's focus on how she is handling honest questions on what she intends to do during her short term and if she is legitimately elected in August.

She has volunteered very little policy-wise in any of her public announcements, press releases, or on her blog. She generally criticizes graduation rates and resorts to couching her approach in the rhetoric of "doing it for the children" (a phrase that at least one Brooks supporter lampooned when he heard it from progressives, but now he accepts it on unquestioned faith from Kay). She is generally vague about policy measures she thinks would address problems. For example, a participant on the East Nashville listserv posted the following to Brooks:
What are your goals for our public school system? What do you think we can do to change the current graduation rate for Stratford and Maplewood? Please be specific. What do you think is in place so that the "same voices" have impeded the system. Again, I ask you to be specific.
I can't think of a better chance for Kay Brooks to be specific than when someone asks her to be specific, but what did she do? She again criticized the graduation rate and the need for corrections, but she never got down to the brass tacks of talking about specific corrections. She also resorted to high-sounding platitudes about looking at public schools with a "different set of eyes." It all sounded noble, but again what would Kay Brooks do?

In a listserv that she started for her district, she hasn't been exactly forthcoming. She cut and pasted a March 2006 comment from her blog that cobbled together some vague, general ideas about motivating parents and keeping underachieving students in core subjects with a teacher pay recommendation made in the Tennessean by Nashville-Davidson County Republican Party Chairman Jon Crisp. However, she also lacked diplomacy toward one parent who works for the state by accusing her no more than a day after she started the listserv of acting as a government eavesdropper in "shades of NSA."

On her blog, Brooks divulges very few if any concrete ideas for governance of the public school system. She has posted 2 pictures (a package and a box of notebooks) that both convey that she has a large volume of paperwork to go over in order to get up to speed. But they just seem to reinforce the perception that she created that she is "overwhelmed" at the prospect of dealing with public school policy. These blog entries do not serve her well, in my opinion. Endless reading to stay up to speed is one of the thankless expectations of public service. Posting and depicting how overwhelming your "homework" is comes across to me as fishing for sympathy rather than proving to voters that one is up to the task.

That voters tend to be impatient with public servants who appear to be bemoaning their service came across to me in a comment to Brooks posted tonight on her "box-of-notebooks" blog entry. "Tom" the commenter writes:
Great. Tinkering with the website on Day Four of the job. One hopes this is not that refreshing point of view the Republicans have been talking about.

Speaking for that community that is new to you--parents in the system--we'd appreciate some engagement on issues, like the resegregation of our schools, the substitution of standardized testing for genuine teaching and learning, and the continuing fecklessness of the administration in destroying the Encore program.

When you finish updating the web site, I mean.
The comment sounds harsh, I know. But even this critic is giving Kay Brooks one more chance to tell voters how she will specifically lead on real issues to make public schools better. We'll see whether she handles this chance. Tomorrow's another day with even more chances.

Maggart Overplays Her Hand

One of Bible Bills of which I wrote in early April has stalled in the General Assembly. According to this morning's Tennessean, the major sticking point seems to be whether and how the Bible is taught as a primary text. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville), sponsor of the bill, told the Tennessean that she is unhappy and tht she wants to "protect the purity of Bible-based curriculum."

Maggart's comment should tip us all off about the agenda of legislators promoting bible courses in public schools. By using terms with devotional connotations like "purity" (which includes ideas of freedom from sin and guilt as well as doctrinal homogeneity), social conservatives like Maggart show us that they intend to impose something more than simply a historical study of the Bible on local public schools. And this imposition contradicts the self-styled conservative principle that state government should not be dictating elective curricula to local school boards.

And this is the rub for social conservatives: when you promote the teaching of devotional material as mere history and literature (or as one misguided comment put it, as "basic math"), you open that material up to the leveling processes of wider society. The edges of faith get rubbed down to match the smooth contours of all of the other colorful stones in the river of free thought. The sacred becomes profane; the absolute becomes relative. So, if you want the Bible taught in public schools, be careful what you wish for, lest it lead to impure thoughts.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

They Want the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons

Good to see that some Metro Council members are finally--after a year that included the passage of the Ethics Task Force proposals--coming around to advocate my position that the Mayor should find a venue other than the Chamber of Commerce to deliver his annual "State of Metro" speech. Trouble is, those council members are only upset because for the first time they would be required to pay $25 to get in and nosh and otherwise get lobbied by local business interests. So, now they are demanding that the Mayor visit them first and give his speech in Council Chambers before breaking bread with C of C. Where the heck were these "reformers" (a term I use loosely) last May when I was banging the drum? They were no doubt sitting at the Chambers' breakfast tables enjoying their gratis eggs and bacon while basking under the illusion that public service entitles them to a free breakfast lunch.

Ballpark Site Picture and Plan Drawings

Photo credits: bzorch published at Nashville Charette the picture of the current undeveloped site from the Shelby Street Bridge; the plan drawings were published by

Friday, May 19, 2006

NPR Interviews S-townMike

While leaving the ballpark design forum at the library earlier this afternoon, I was stopped by a sprinting National Public Radio reporter for my reaction to the expansion of minor league baseball in cities like Nashville. She is working on a story about several minor league towns and their fans views of the sport.

She asked for my thoughts on the part that minor league sports play for cities like Nashville that major leagues sports could not. She asked for my thoughts on how the new Nashville Sounds ballpark would enhance Downtown development. She asked for my thought about "failed" attempts in the 1980s to revitalize urban areas and how current revitalization efforts are different. She asked whether I had any reservations about the ballpark.

The story is supposed to run at some as yet undisclosed time later in the summer.

Recap of Today's Sounds Ballpark Design Forum

I attended today's third public forum on the new Sounds ballpark at the Downtown Library. I can honestly say that I left (after an hour) feeling even better about supporting the ballpark initiative than I did before. There are a lot of unique qualities that this ballpark is going to have that aren't the case with so many others, especially the major league parks.

One of the qualities--mentioned by the Sounds official co-presiding over the meeting--was that this ballpark will be built exactly in the fashion that the classic ballparks where: squeezed and shaped to fit an unusual city scape without altering easements or simply creating faux impressions of "throw-back" elements for which there is no reason. For instance, a huge rock-outcropping sits at the lower end of the river bluff beyond what will be the right field corner at the base of the Gateway Bridge. Hence, unlike Angel Stadium at Anaheim, which created a faux rock outcropping in center field, builders of the new Sounds ballpark don't have to create an impression of urban bluffs. And thankfully, they are not removing the outcropping, but incorporating it into the structure of the field and Downtown Greenway itself. According to the speakers, the bluff will afford the best view of Downtown (illustrated in the second picture below) while one watches a game.

Another element unique to this ball park will be the ability of ticketholders to enter at any of the four entrances wrapping around the front facing 1st Avenue and Gateway Boulevard and do so at the same grade level as their seats. This is because the field of play will be sunken 8 to 12 feet below ground level and the grade of the property slopes up from the corner of Demonbreun and 1st to the corner of 1st and Gateway Boulevard, and then slopes up further from the corner of Gateway Boulevard up to the Gateway Bridge. So no matter whether your seats are in the lower bowl or the upper bowl, you can go in an entrance at the same level your seats are without having to take stairs, ramps, or elevators external to the bowl to move down or up. Architecturally, that would seem to me to give the park a snug profile, too.

As you may be able to tell from the pictures I took (to enlarge click on them), the orientation of the park opens out to the Shelby Street Bridge and to the Cumberland River. Even on the undeveloped property now, it is hard to see the river from ground level, so the lower bowl fans will have a better view of the games, but a limited and obstructed view of the river. Upper bowl fans will have better views of the river in exchange for being farther away from the field action. Fans along the 1st base line will have good views of the Shelby Street Bridge and Downtown, especially the higher they sit. Fans along the 3rd base line will have views of the Shelby Street Bridge, river, and East Bank.

The Downtown Greenway will be extended from Riverfront Park up the river along the railroad line and up Rolling Mill Hill. Part of that greenway will from a 12-foot-wide concourse between right field and the river. Since the field will be sunken, there will be no outfield wall to obstruct the line of sight from that concourse. Pedestrians and picnickers on the greenway will be able to view the games unobstructed and with the river at their backs. Unlike Minute Maid Park in Houston, which harkens to its connections with their downtown train station by hoisting an old train engine on some faux tracks suspended above left field, the crowds at Sounds games will be able to watch a real train, the Music City Star, as it departs from and arrives at the new train station at Riverfront Park, again because the field is sunken and there is no wall obstructing the view of the tracks. The left field concourse--cutting from 1st to the greenway--will remain open even on non-game days so that pedestrians can either access the greenway or stop at one of the cafes that will line the leftfield boundary of the ballpark. Also, Demonbreun will be extended from 1st toward the river and a plaza will be built at the boundary of the greenway.

Finally, here's some baseball dimensions: the right field line will be 330' (318' to the wall and then 22' up the rock outcropping; the left field line will be 318' and slope out gradually to 325' in dead left. Officials told the audience a ball hit into the river would have to travel 490'.

Lame Councilmanic Quote of the Week

Their little [school board] club is threatened. What is wrong with a different perspective? [Kay Brooks] is a taxpayer too.

- - Metro Council Member Michael Craddock quoted in today's Nashville City Paper

Actually, Mr. Craddock, I'm not in their little club, but I'm threatened by your irresponsible actions, which actually threaten the principle of open, public meetings and an informed citizenry. I've been plenty critical of this school board, too, but I certainly don't advocate going to the partisan lengths you seem to have to keep this vote out of the public eye.

And what's with this I hear of you having Council staff spend Metro's (otherwise known as "our") time and energy tracking down the school board's oath of office so that Kay Brooks could be sworn in at a graduation ceremony at a school "located in the heart of historic East Nashville" instead of at the school board's next meeting on Tuesday when she was scheduled to be sworn in at taxpayer expense? Are you trying to heighten her visibility in District 5? (Say, is 5 in your district? It doesn't look like it.) Are you going to run her campaign for the August 4 election, too? If so, you need to do so on your free time and not muster Metro resources to help her get elected.

(photo credit:

County Republican Party Boss Boasted Council Votes Days Before Vote

According to this morning's Tennessean, Metro council member Michael Craddock told Davidson County Republican Party boss Jon Crisp weeks ago about the plan to put Kay Brooks into the vacant District 5 school board seat. Crisp then worked over time to form, as he put it in an e-mail to supporters a day before this week's meeting,
a group of councilmembers that exceeds the eighteen required votes needed for confirmation ... Kay will receive this appointment at the meeting of the Metro Council on Tuesday night.
Crisp admitted that he "pretty much knew" on Saturday before the Council vote that the Republican Party had their votes lined up. Saturday was the day that Kay Brooks skipped the public forum for school board candidates because she said that she found it "overwhelming." Other reports have said that she was coached by someone not to go.

I have already alluded to hyperbolic conservatives who so demonize and politicize the school board (calling it a "cess pool" for instance), that valid criticism is ecclipsed. Jon Crisp, and I guess the Davidson County Republican Party, seem to be among the hyperbolic. In his e-mail, Crisp referred to the public school district as "hostile territory," which Kay Brooks is entering on behalf of Republicans. Tell me, district employees, parents, teachers, and children: do you see your schools as hostile territory? And do you really want someone to remain on the board who represents those ugly views?

I've already noted that Crisp is an instrumental member of the conservative Save Our Schools group with Eric Crafton, and I have openly wondered whether there is a connection between Kay Brooks and Save Our Schools. The Tennessean report seems to support that possibility.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Getting Metro Council to Open Up

We've had to suffer through the Council's proverbial you-can-kiss-our-ass stance toward the idea of public disclosure of the people's business over and over and over and over and over again. The latest Kay Brooks episode continues to illustrate that the bulking hulk of them don't seem to be willing to buy into the state's open meeting laws. E-mails get passed, phone calls get made, school board candidates get coached on the sidelines. Oh, and these very plain words of the state's sunshine act get ignored:
No ... chance meetings, informal assemblages, or electronic communication shall be used to decide or deliberate public business in circumvention of the spirit [of this law].
Instead, circumventing and planning vote results on the sly seems to be as common among the cat herd as a Skoal ring is on a shit-kicker's hip pocket.

Something needs to be done to shake up this Council and make it accountable. If they are going to expect Nashvillians to kiss their ass on disclosure, then they are going to have to show their ass more consistently in public, rather than hiding behind excuses like "I'm not trading votes" (as if that's any consolation). In the Kay Brooks episode, the public was denied the opportunity for feedback as Council member Michael Craddock put together his 18 votes and 1 Amanda-McClendon abstention apparently via media other than Council Chambers and public hearings. The people were never given the option to authorize Kay Brooks' appointment. Deals just got done, and we will likely never know how so.

The Metro Council dysfunction must stop. We've got a disclosure law that basically seems to have no teeth, unless enough District 5 residents get up enough gumption and vigor to challenge Michael Craddock and the 17 other Yes-men in a court of law. That might help resolve the Kay Brooks case, but what about the next one that comes down the pike, and the one after that? It seems to me that we need something more comprehensive to hold the Council's feet to the fire on holding open meetings.

We need to figure out a way to organize neighborhood groups to place a ballot initiative that would propose re-writing the Metro Charter to require our local elected officials to document all of their off-of-microphone conversations and phone calls, as well as archive their e-mails on public business for public review at a later date. A similar ballot initiative was just defeated in Austin, Texas, but I don't know to what degree Austinians were pissed off by their leadership's follies. I think that it would be worth a try here, given the obvious smug arrogance of some in Metro Council. If nothing else the prospect might adjust their attitudes to fly right as they start hatching these schemes.

List of Council Members Voting "Yes" on Kay Brooks

Here is a list of council members who voted "yes" on Tuesday for the Kay Brooks appointment to the vacant school board seat:
Some of these are usual suspects on nose-thumbing our state's open meeting laws. If you feel as I do about this and your representative is on this list, I encourage you to contact him and ask: 1) How he reached his decision on Kay Brooks and 2) Whether he sought public imput on the matter before voting. I sent a letter to Ludye Wallace this morning and I'll keep you posted.

05/18/2006, 2:15 p.m. Update: I cut and paste the e-mail addresses of each of the "Yes-men" into the list above for convenience.

The Shakedown of Brooks' Views on Education Begins

PiTW's Bruce Barry alerts us to potential problems for Kay Brooks' service to the school board based on what seems to be a failure to understand, as expressed on her blog, how public schools actually function. He also points out that that she appears to favor teaching theology in science classes (a la the "theory" of intelligent design); and at a time when our students seem to be falling behind the rest of the world in the field of science.

Also, Brittney over at NiT passes on the following details for those who want to try publicly to direct questions to Kay Brooks:
The Metro school board will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 at the board room, 2601 Bransford Ave. The meeting is open to the public. The nine-member board, including newly appointed member Kay Brooks, is expected to discuss the expansion of a student leadership program, the creation of at least one new academic course and student progress on key exams.

05/18/2006, 3:35 p.m. Update: I believe that it is entirely fair to judge a candidate for office by how she deals with criticism. Kay Brooks has left honest questions unanswered. And as of this afternoon she seems to have disabled the links portion of her Google weblog, which was operating this morning and yesterday. That means that links to other perspectives will no longer show up there. It's her weblog, so she is certainly entitled to do with it as she pleases. But District 5 is not hers and the School Board belongs to all of us, so on those posts where the subject is her new appointment, she seems to be doing what she can to filter out the more critical voices. That's not a positive sign of openness from a school board member and from a future candidate for the position in my opinion. [See correction below].

05/18/2006, 3:50 p.m. Correction: Kay's links have disappeared, but so have mine. So, apologies to her and to readers if this is another Google glitch rather than an attempt to purge criticism over at her website.

05/18/2006 4:40 p.m. Correction Confirmation: The links have reappeared. I stand corrected. Linking critical material is a plus for Kay Brooks.

Kay Brooks Admits She Lacks Experience for Position

NewsChannel5 seems to be on top of the controversy surrounding Kay Brooks. In an interview with the station, Brooks acknowledged fears that she has "absolutely no background in education" and that the Metro Council made the appointment merely to "do something different." During that story Metro Council member Mike Jameson was quoted as saying:
I saw what happened last night, and I said, I thought: ‘Here we go again. It's the same thing of council members talking privately, deliberating issues without the public’s knowing or awareness or their input.
Here we go again, indeed.

05/18/2006, 9:15 a.m. Update: Jameson also told the Tennessean he heard that Craddock had 15 to 18 votes lined up May 10, a day before Craddock formally nominated Brooks. A conservative blogger broke the news on Thursday, May 11 and encouraged his readers to contact their Council members to support Brooks. I'm not sure that relying on a conservative blogger is a valid or even-handed means of notifying the public at large of Craddock's intentions. In the Tennessean piece, Michael Craddock admitted that
he talked to fellow council members in a place and way he considered open: in the council chamber during previous meetings. He said he even introduced Brooks to some of them at the May 4 meeting. "Sure, I lined up votes, but I didn't violate the law doing it," Craddock said, adding that he had not traded votes with anyone.
Has Michael Craddock even read the State Sunshine Act?

The Tennessean also reports that two North End/Downtown council members, Ludye Wallace and Edward Whitmore voted for Kay Brooks. Whitmore admitted that he "talked with several council members" before Tuesday's meeting, but he refused to name them. Has Ed Whitmore even read the State Sunshine Act?

This episode stinks more with each new revelation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Just Realized

Enclave has recorded well over 50,000 page hits since February 2005 inception. Thanks to all of my visitors for helping me reach and surpass 50K.

New School Board Member Kay Brooks Responds to Criticism

Kay Brooks has finally responded on her blog to criticism that she's not publicly discussing her views with constiuents. However, she doesn't exactly explain why she chose not to participate in the public forum before the Council vote:
I do intend to talk LIVE with my constituents. I'm sure in the next 2 months+ they'll be lots of opportunities to do so. We cannot begin improving the system without respectful conversation. And that conversation should be about the children and the system that is failing to serve so many if them. It should not be about my education choice.
Wrongo, Kay. Your "education choice" reflects certain values and commitments to something and against something. We ask other school board candidates to explain how their connections or lack thereof to public schools, professional groups, or PTOs qualifies them for the office. And you are no less accountable to the public than any one else in office and running for office.

In light of Kay Brooks' shying away from a discussion of her qualifications (or lack thereof) it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the Metro Council's decision to appoint her was more political than it was based on the most qualified candidate for the position. It really does smack of an agenda ulterior to just filling the position.

Metro Council Appoints Home-Schooler to the Public School Board

Councilman Michael Craddock lead a group of 18 of his fellows to "try something different" for the sake of being different last night as conservative home-schooling blogger Kay Brooks was appointed to fill the vacant spot on the School Board (final tally 18-17, with Amanda McClendon abstaining). We'll see if this moves the School Board once step closer along the conservative quest to defund and dismantle our public schools in the name of vouchers for private schools and public support for home-schooling. Brooks' District 5 will only have until the August election to judge whether she pitches in to make public schools better or merely acts to advance a conservative agenda on the Board. My guess is that since she intends to run for the office she now fills in August, she will lay low and not act boldly so as not to alarm voters. She did something of the sort when she chose to skip a public forum in East Nashville designed to allow parents in her district to ask her questions. Rumors are that a Metro Council member advised her not to go. But Kay Brooks needs to stand up to the questions that public school parents have of her, if not now then before August. Creating an e-list to field questions is just a means to control and filter the debate; at some point a candidate has to submit herself to public scrutiny. What qualifies a home-school mom to be in position of service to public schools? Beyond criticizing graduation rates, what does she plan to do? What proactive plan does Kay Brooks have on behalf of public schools? We shall see. Or if her absence from the public forum is any indication, maybe we won't see.

05/17/2006, 10:30 a.m. Update: I've got one other question that's preying on my mind. I'm wondering if there is a connection between Kay Brooks and the conservative (Republican-backed?) interest group started by Council Member Eric Crafton called "Save Our Schools." This is a group somewhat secretive about their membership, although we do know that it includes the Davidson County Republican Party Chair, Jon Crisp. The group mainly emphasizes that, compared to other counties, Metro is spending too much on education per student. We need to watch to see whether Kay Brooks mirrors this group's agenda, which does not seem to include going directly at the School Board, but instead seems to involve spinning information and influencing perceptions via the media and in the Council.

05/17/2006 11:00 a.m. Update: Both Kay Brooks and her nominator, Council Member Michael Craddock, have taken some heat from commenters on her blog. [I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the comments are from anonymous commenters]. Kay Brooks has not responded to these comments, even though they address some of the problems I cited earlier.
Why didn't you participate in the forum sponsored by Metro Council and attended by parents and voters? All the other candidates came and spoke about their ideas. Yet, you and the councilperson that nominated you declined to participate. AND in violation of the open meetings act, the councilmember in question has been lobbying for votes behind the scenes. Why exactly should ANYONE support someone who has had to resort to backroom dealings and is afraid to face the voters of the district you purport to "represent?"
Given that Michael Craddock has commented on Enclave before that he is a regular reader, I would like to ask him to address the charge of open meetings violation. Mr. Craddock: were other council members lobbied by you and others to support Kay Brooks in last night's vote? Here's another comment to Kay Brooks' blog:
I have never felt so sad for the students of District 5 as I did last evening. Kay could hardly say two words about what she plans to do as School Board member. Parents aren't bloggers, they are real people hurting for success in the schools she represents. This is just another tactic of divide and conquer. But it will not work. Stay at home Kay and educate your children. You do not have the faith to put them in Metro Schools. Let's find the candidate that really wants to work for the children of District 5.
Kay Brooks made a personal choice that she obviously believed was correct for her family; no one begrudges her that. But now she bears the burden of proving to her constituents that such a choice does not in fact limit her ability to be an effective leader in public education.

05/17/2006, 11:10 a.m. Update: The mighty, mighty A.C. Kleinheider over at is taking comments on the Kay Brooks episode and a pseudonymous commenter left the following:
Yes, I am concerned as well. Kay hid from the public because she was "overwhelmed" at the thought of appearing at the public forum (where ALL the other candidates showed up) where she would be asked hard questions from people who don't support her belief that prayer and evolution should be priorities in our curriculum. Perhaps, most disappointing was the manner in which she was appointed - in exactly the kind of closed-door, backroom dealings that all the conservatives rail about. Hypocrisy is such a great way to start a political career. Not that I'm surprised. This smacks of the neo-con ways.
Overwhelmed? Cry me a river of tears. If you're going to throw your "hat in the ring" then you better lace up those gloves and prepare to box. Perhaps Kay Brooks may find herself "overwhelmed" by serving on the school board, too. I've been to a couple of those meetings. Facing the public is not any easier there.

05/17/2006, 11:30 a.m. Update: We may have a harbinger. Here's what one of Kay Brooks' more prominent and more conservative well-wishers thinks of our public school district:
Now we must all pray for Kay, as she descends into that educational cess pool of conventional thinking ....
My issues and concerns with our school district are published here on Enclave for all to see, but I surely wouldn't call it a "cess pool" (making Kay Brooks pristine and undefiled?) . I wonder if Kay Brooks might distance herself from these sorts of stupid and hateful comments or whether she might consider them presage of her leadership?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Salemtown Block Grant Update

The last time I updated you on the Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee's work on our block grant was January. The February meeting was cancelled in observance of Valentine's Day, and our family vacation prevented me from attending the March meeting.

The April meeting was with officials of Metro Public Works and the meeting's purpose was to determine which projects on our list could be taken care of by MPW and thus be removed from the list. That meeting was basically just an extension of the March meeting. The committee removed several items from the priority list after MPW said that they would attend to them. They include:
  1. Paving Salemtown's 2 unpaved alleys
  2. Fixing the traffic speed & sight problem at 3rd Av. & Coffee St.
  3. Correcting the drainage problem at Coffee St. & 4th Av.
  4. Cleaning up 8th Av. & Buchanan, including exploring putting in surveillance cams
The CAC should be commended for making progress in persuading MPW to address these long-standing neighborhood problems. So, while the committee's role is primarily to decide how to spend federal money, it has already had a positive influence on getting Metro to respond with assistance that will enhance Salemtown's quality of life without spending a dime from the block grant.

While I only provided a list of top 10 priorities in January, here I am providing the full list of priorities that remain after our meetings with MPW:
  1. Distinctive street signs
  2. Neighborhood entry signs
  3. Medians
  4. Street lighting
  5. Traffic bulbs
  6. Crosswalks
  7. Seed money for senior programs
  8. Microparks (including a new request to help purchase a private park at 3rd and Buchanan for Salem Church)
  9. Lamp posts & banners
  10. Trash receptacles
  11. Garbage corrals
  12. Purchase blighted lots
  13. Seed money for day care programs
  14. Speed bumps
  15. Round-a-bout
  16. Underground wiring
  17. Morgan Park tennis courts
  18. Public Art
The committee will be voting to re-prioritize this list at the June 9th meeting. What do you think should be our top priorities?