Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Monday, May 29, 2006
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?
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."
[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"
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.Looks like it is still "going down hard."
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.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
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.
Friday, May 26, 2006
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.
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?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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."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?
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].
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.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.
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].
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
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.
- Did you attend the candidates forum on Saturday, May 13th?
- 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)?
- What criteria did you employ in making your decision?
- Why did you ultimately decide to support Kay Brooks over the other candidates?
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.
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
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
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 member...in 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.
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.After 5 days, still no response.
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.
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.
Monday, May 22, 2006
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.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.
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.
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
Friday, May 19, 2006
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.
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'.
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: http://kaybrooks.blogspot.com/)
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
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.
- Buck Dozier (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Adam Dread (email@example.com)
- Michael Craddock (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jason Hart (email@example.com)
- Jim Forkum (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Rip Ryman (email@example.com)
- Feller Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jim Gotto (email@example.com)
- Carl Burch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Harold White (email@example.com)
- J.B. Loring (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ludye Wallace (email@example.com)
- Edward Whitmore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Eric Crafton (email@example.com)
- Randy Foster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jason Alexander (email@example.com)
- Parker Toler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Charlie Tygard (email@example.com)
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.
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.
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
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.
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 VolunteerVoters.com 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
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:
- Paving Salemtown's 2 unpaved alleys
- Fixing the traffic speed & sight problem at 3rd Av. & Coffee St.
- Correcting the drainage problem at Coffee St. & 4th Av.
- Cleaning up 8th Av. & Buchanan, including exploring putting in surveillance cams
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:
- Distinctive street signs
- Neighborhood entry signs
- Street lighting
- Traffic bulbs
- Seed money for senior programs
- Microparks (including a new request to help purchase a private park at 3rd and Buchanan for Salem Church)
- Lamp posts & banners
- Trash receptacles
- Garbage corrals
- Purchase blighted lots
- Seed money for day care programs
- Speed bumps
- Underground wiring
- Morgan Park tennis courts
- Public Art