Sunday, December 31, 2006

Enclave's 2006 Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods

Just as I had in 2005, I spent some quality time this year dealing with local government operators and otherwise observing them in action. Based on my experience here you go:

Enclave's Official 2006 Best and Worst Rankings of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods


1. The Mayor's Office -- Ever reliable, Mayor Bill Purcell's administration continued its winning ways and made its long-term commitments to the general community over the special interests visible. Nashville has a new public square, which represents the largest downtown green gathering space, thanks to his leadership. He changed bad practices and proved himself to be the Mayor of all Nashville. The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods continues to be one of the vital places for neighborhood leaders to go for help. Thank you for your service, Mayor.

2. Metro Police -- Cops have a long established record of strong service to the North End. There is no other department that has been as available when called upon in the last two years as has been Metro Police. They continue to attend our neighborhood meetings faithfully and to update us on criminal behavior. Their forte is community policing: stopping to chat with us on porches and supporting our events with the ever popular horse-mounted patrol units. In May, the Police Department started a gang unit, not because they themselves perceived an uptick in gang behavior, but because neighborhood associations were reporting increased gang activities.

3. Metro Legal Department -- it is the lawyers who actually keep Metro Council idiocy from running amuck and getting Nashville into ethical quagmires and constitutional violations. Metro Legal opened the door in February for other Metro Departments to stop dispensing perks like free golf and free parking to Metro Council Members. The lawyers advised the Council Office that they would not allow Metro Council authorization to send $5,000 to an inner city ministry that clearly has a proselytizing mission.


Public Works -- 2006 began with much hope as Metro Public Works swiftly responded to replace signs that had been tagged with gang-related graffiti in Salemtown. And our neighborhood leaders were promised that a couple of remaining unpaved alleys would be paved before year's end. As 2006 ends, we still have unpaved alleys that are now dirt/mud roads with lots of potholes and more promises for 2007 remedies. Then there was the issue of traffic and parking. In August, when I contacted Public Works about some unfinished road maintenance and the safety of one of our intersections, a PW inspector gave me every reason against installing traffic control elements before he ever bothered to inspect the problem. Eventually Public Works came around with a courteous phone call from the inspector's supervisor, who met with me at the intersection to inspect the problems himself. PW eventually finished the road maintenance and put other traffic calming elements in place.

Parks Department -- The Morgan Park Community Center continues to provide important services including daily programs, holiday festivities (like a Halloween Party for the kids) and a place for the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association to meet free of charge. Parks officials did their usual bang-up job last spring of removing gang-related graffiti from Morgan Park buildings in less than 24 hours after the tagging. Unfortunately, the quality of the facilities at Morgan Park do not match the quality of the staff's everyday performance. Likewise, the 2005 plans for 2006 upgrades did not come through as promised within "a few months." We do have promises on the table for upgrades in 2007 by the end of the summer. We'll see whether they materialize.


3. Metro Water Services -- Metro Water's 2005 bubble popped in 2006, due to broken promises and to the fact that it is endangering the North End by openly storing hazardous chemicals without second thoughts. Metro Water officials promised to find remedies for water run-off problems over a year ago. Those problems languished through 2006 without any MWS attention beyond sending inspectors to look at them. The funky water treatment smell that seemed to abate in early 2006--as promised in 2005--returned with a vengeance as 2006 wore on. At first Water Services refused to address the real causes of the heightened funk, which was worse and more constant than it has ever been since we moved in in 2004. So, the Tennessean addressed the real causes: BFI shirking its contract, which had nothing to do with the "environmental conditions" that Metro Water kept giving us. After the Tennessean story was published, the funk seemed to abate again. Go figure.

Last but not least, we found out that MWS is storing WMD-grade chlorine gas, which it uses for water treatment, out in the open near a public road in 4 tankers protected only by a chain link fence and a single security guard. In a terrorist attack or an accident, the gas would kill most if not all of us living in the immediate vicinity of the plant. MWS does not have to use the hazardous gas for purification purposes. There are other less dangerous options used by other cities.

2. Animal Control -- Animal Control is the undisputed, perennial favorite to scape the bottom of the barrel of services rendered to neighborhoods. They got an early start on 2006 efforts to be the worst department: I never received a follow-up to a late December 2005 report I made about being consigned to phone on-hold hell. Despite the fact that I only spoke with AC officials who sounded like women during that hellacious waiting game, Health Department official Brent Hager told me that a man named "Kenny Mann" was the only AC official who took responsibility for speaking with me. Hager assured me that the Mann Man would call me. After one year, nobody from AC has called me. No woman. No Mann. No Hager.

In December 2006 I called AC to report two strays that belonged to an owner who lived on the next street over. The dispatcher told me that before he could send a truck out to pick up the mutts, I would have to give him the owner's address. About a week later I called with the owner's address; this time the dispatcher told me that she did not need the owner's address, but just a description of the dogs, which I gave. The dogs continue to run loose around the neighborhood daily. I have not seen a single Animal Control truck on patrol here.

1. Metro Council -- With a couple of notable exceptions, the Council has been a malfeasance machine, running away from the pack of dogs that race to the cellar of bad Metro services. There are so many bad things they've done that no survey of their misbehavior could do them justice. But let's look at the low lights:

  • The Absence of Ethics -- They macked for movie passes. They sought to isolate themselves from the public. They shirked their council responsibilities to watch the Predators' play-off run. They traded votes for special considerations. They ignored legitimate constituents for illicit ones. They got caught in lies. They exaggerated for the purposes of effect. They ignored oversight of ethics problems in utilities by switching the subject to privatizing utilities, despite the fact that private companies were already involved in the misuse of funds in question.
  • Budget Brawls -- There were several victims due to fights against the Mayor's budget this year. Storm-water run off suffered in order to protect big vendors like Vandy, who get multi-meter discounts. Average rate payers suffered likewise later. The arts suffered when Charlie Tygard didn't get the budget cuts he wanted and when he did want $50,000 to sponsor a council bonding activity. Historical Commission Director Anne Roberts suffered a Tygard Tyrade because Charlie misplaced his anger at Parks and the Public Square on her and the City Cemetery. The truth suffered Charlie's attacks on "monuments to government."
  • Ignoring Open Meeting Laws -- John Summers disappeared during introduction of his own important Sylvan Park Historic Zoning Bill. We found out later he was allegedly in a back room bartering his support of Buck Dozier's Electronic Billboard Bill in exchange for support of the zoning bill. Ludye Wallace confirms charges of back room politicking over appointing Kay Brooks as temporary seat-filler on the Metro School Board, as he admits that Michael Craddock approached him early about supporting Brooks, which leads naturally to:
  • The Kay Brooks Fiasco -- in a nutshell: a select group of council members met outside of the public eye and with the help of the local Republican Party selected an inexperienced, ideological replacement for the Metro School Board who faced significant public opposition (later proved by her significant loss in the August elections). Kay Brooks was council-coached, and council resources were used to stage her specially appointed swearing-in ceremony outside of the regular school board process. Kay Brooks's flawed service and questionable leadership made both the Council and the Metro School Board look bad.
  • English Only -- The main player is Eric Crafton who over the span of the four final months of 2006 found himself diluting his English Only bill in the face of mounting and withering opposition. He finally deferred to 2007 to see if he could muster enough votes to pass. Secondary players include Jim Gotto, who sought to use his position to influence the Tennessee Legislature to change its immigration laws and J.B. Loring, whose enlightened gnomes on race will go down in the annuls of council lore.
  • Tax Money Subsidies for Private Groups -- council members have earmarked hundreds of thousands of "infrastructure" funds for private non-profit groups. Nothing was spent on actual infrastructure. It smacks of special treatment and political cronyism.
In sum, the irony of the 2006 rankings is that the best of Metro Nashville is also the farthest away from the people: the executive. The worst of all services is the Metro Council who are in theory supposed to be the advocates closest to neighborhoods. Here's hoping that council members will strive to be more like Mayor Purcell and less like themselves in 2007.

Werthan Sunset

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Council Darling Takes One on the Chops

The Metro Council has given him $250,000 out of the Arts budget that he didn't ask for, toyed with the idea of giving him more police-like blue lights for his auto fleet, and may just try to transfer Animal Control to his oversight. But the ethical cauldron Sheriff Daron Hall now finds himself in concerns charges of self-promotion and a conflict of interest over department Christmas cards. The cards were financed by one of the jail's private vendors and have Hall's name on them. This story has gone national.

Big Mama

I've been up all night with the toddler; poor thing tossed her cookies several times after bedtime and I've been alternating between cleaning her up, washing linens and towels, and keeping her bed made. I'm finally catching a break and a breather at 3:00 a.m. to unwind to Big Mama Thornton before scrubbing myself clean and loading the dryer one last time (knock on wood).

Blues you can use:

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Nerve of That Guy

I confess that I find it difficult to dislodge from my craw a local pastor's recent comparison of Muslims to Klansmen, especially in finding an old post I wrote nearly a year ago on news from Lebanon in the wake of Danish cartoons of violence-denouncing Muslims and separatist militia-forming Christians. I'd guess that the Cornerstone Church fellowship remains blissfully oblivious to such stereotype-busting images from other places.

Glad Winds Shift Net Neutrality's Way

To bolster their chances of trust building corporate merger with BellSouth, AT&T has conceded on the matter of net neutrality (charging all content providers equally, rather than charging more for greater speed), reportedly dropping its opposition to restrictions on how it charges for internet service. One of the factors influencing this course change appears to be the neutrality of the overseeing Federal Communications Commission itself, which refused to break its deadlock and allow AT&T to pursue BellSouth without any ethical restraints, which the Bush Justice Department had allowed.

The emboldened opponents of this deal are demanding even more concessions from AT&T, which they should now that the conditions and momentum in Congress have shifted away from the failed oversight of the past 6 years. AT&T needs to be watched like a hawk, especially with their increased economic and political power after the merger.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Salemtown Neighborhood Meeting Tonight on 5th and Garfield Special Exception Variance

Trust Development is hosting an informational meeting tonight at 6:00 at the Morgan Park Community Center (located at the corner of 5th Av. and Hume St.) on their request for a set-back variance on the 5th Av. and Garfield St. corner property for this announced development. Developers will have conceptual drawings on display and they will be available to answer any questions.

Dim Memo

Given that [Mayoral Candidate David] Briley is a coherent, seemingly normal person, his inability to connect with voters who live more than 1000 yards from a Bongo Java coffeehouse is hard to explain.

- -From the "Mayoral Memo" published at Volunteer Voters

I live more than 1,000 yards from Bongo Java, and I have not sensed any inability to connect. What am I? An anecdote?

Object in Morning Skies over Salemtown

Becoming a Tool: The Charrette Cannot Resist New Developments

The multiple Germantown forms springing and about to spring has the Charrette in thrall, ya'll. Don't miss the debate about the import of front porches.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Council Bill for Sending Tax Money to a Religious-Based Organization Deferred, Not Withdrawn

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Metro (Nashville) Council Member Ronnie Greer moved last Tuesday (December 19) to defer indefinitely his resolution that would have drawn $5,000 from council infrastructure funds to send to Nashville Inner City Ministry (NICM) after the Metro Legal Department recommended that his bill be withdrawn entirely. The Legal Department based its position on probable Establishment Clause violations.

The NICM is affiliated with Churches of Christ, which bind benevolence and evangelism together in their mission "to relieve human suffering and share the gospel with the lost." That is clearly a proselytizing purpose, which draws into question the allocation of public funds.

During debate on deferral the advisor from the Council Office told Mr. Greer that, even if the council voted to send the funds to the ministry, the Legal Department would never permit Metro to follow through with the council's wishes. Mr. Greer asked if the Legal Department saw any difference between NICM and the YMCA (which has received Metro funding in the past). The advisor replied that they did see a difference; hence, funding the YMCA was not a violation of the 1st Amendment.

Comparing NICM's mission to that of the YMCA seems to bear Metro Legal out. One of NICM's self-stated goals is very clearly proselytizing: it intends to "reach the lost." NICM also intends to "plant churches in the Inner Cities" and to "share Christ." The Mission of the YMCA seems to lack any explicit reference to converting the people whom it helps:

A worldwide charitable fellowship united by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ for the purpose of helping persons grow in spirit, mind and body.

"Helping persons grow" seems to serve a broader public purpose than does sectarian commitments to planting churches and converting those whom NICM serves. Even if it would pay just for transportation costs, the money would be going to help NICM propagate a personal faith.

Nevertheless, two of Greer's fellow council members, Randy Foster and Carolyn Baldwin Tucker (both of whom are Churches of Christ members), called the deferral "a travesty." The council voted to sustain Greer's indefinite deferral, which means that Greer can still bring the NICM resolution back for a vote in the future.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Lawson on Non-violence

Non-violence tries to create a different configuration of power so that the opponents come to recognize that they can do nothing about the movement that is intervening with their daily life. In the city of Nashville in 1960, the incidents of the white thugs beating up on us, throwing rocks at us and all the rest of us, and all the taunting and the name calling we responded not with attitudes or behavior like that. We responded with our own dignity and with insisting that the problems needed to be faced and could be solved.
- - James Lawson, 12/26/2006 NPR Interview

Check out the Vanderbilt Professor's NPR interview on non-violence. The NPR reporter's conventional blinders on non-violent resistance are as interesting to me as James Lawson's view points. The mainstream media has a tendency to bifurcate responses to social conflict into either active or passive roles, and then to lump non-violence with the latter.

Advocates of non-violence, like Lawson and Walter Wink, tend to see it as more active, but unlike violent action, undominating. Wink himself argues that non-violent fighters are closer to soldiers than to pacifists; they are willing to fight strategically and tactically in order to win, but without resorting to actions that only beget a widening circle of domination among victors and resentment among the defeated.

Between active violence and passive submission, non-violence is more like the first, but it also a third way distinct from the dominating ways and goals of violence. Rather than actively pitting violence and brutality against violence and brutality, it is moral jujitsu: taking action that makes domination trip over its own clumsy weightiness.

The reporter's bifurcated bias shows in his loaded question to Lawson on why he thinks (which Lawson in fact does not) that the tactics of non-violent protests have seemingly been less effective in recent years. Lawson deflects the question and points out that it is academia and the media that have kept people from receiving the information about non-violent struggle.

Lawson also alludes to the irony of violence: in fact, the bloodiest century in history, the 20th, indicated the failure of violent action to bring peace and order to the world. At the same time, non-violent struggles just started to take off in the last century, in Eastern Europe (e.g., Solidarity), North America (e.g., the Civil Rights Movement), the Middle East (e.g., the Intifada--the non-violent wing; the media exclusively focused on the rock-throwing teenagers), and Asia (e.g., China's Tiananmen Square). Wink has an exhaustive chronology of non-violent resistance in Chapter 13 of Engaging the Powers.

Lawson effectively chides the NPR interviewer for journalism's failures to interrogate violent practicioners and "political realists" with the same skepticism and critical edge that it applies to non-violence. In the case of the application of non-violence to the current conditions in the Middle East, Lawson says:
All violence does is determine who gets killed and who may survive with enough power to take control of the situation and shape it .... why of all the power groups in the Middle East has there not been a call for all the parties putting down their weapons and declaring a moratorium on suicide bombing, on missiles being shot at people, at houses being destroyed, at people being killed?
Why? Because that would require that the dominant forces (including the Bush Administration) in the Middle East be put on an equal moral plane as every other party and be judged accordingly. The Powers will not stand for that.

However, it is fair to demand that journalists--who seem interested in embedding their own influence in halls of power--apply their skepticism to the failed policies of violence as quickly as they do to the relatively untried tactics of non-violent resistance.

News 2 Starting Its Own "Christmas Tradition": Bible Devotionals as News

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The parting shot in this season's local media Christmas Wars--in which the season of peace and good will is turned into a cultural battlefield--was WKRN Reporter Jamey Tucker's "new tradition" of music, coaching, and cartoon celebrities reading from the Christian New Testament during a December 24 evening news broadcast.  The News 2 anchors introduced Tucker's story by calling it a special Christmas message "for all."
Despite the idea that journalists should be balanced on public airwaves, Tucker has not had Charlie Daniels or the Veggie Tales reading from other sacred scriptures during the holy seasons of other religions.  For example, Tucker did not file a story of celebrities reading from the Qu'ran during the Islamic observance of Ramadan earlier in the fall, in spite of the facts that Nashville has the largest Kurdish population in the country (among other observants of Islam) and that Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qu'ran during Ramadan.
Lastly, it is wonderously ironic that News 2 can run Tucker's virtual Sunday School devotional (in his words, "what Christmas is all about") on the heels of predominating stories of holiday commercialism and retail sales rates.  Claiming that Christmas means one thing to all people--let alone all Christians--is intellectually dishonest and journalistically biased.  What works in the fantasy world of Charlie Brown and Snoopy (a beagle who shoots invisible bullets at imaginary flying barons from atop his dog house, after all) does not always sync with the actual lives that we live or with the ways that news should be reported.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Gesù Bambino, Venite Adoremus

The angels sang, the shepherds sang,
The grateful earth rejoiced,
And at his blessed birth the stars
Their exultation voiced.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ave Maria!

Maiden mild!
O listen to a maiden’s prayer!
For thou canst hear though from the wild
Tis thou, tis thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Tho’ banish’d, outcast, and reviled;
O maiden! see a maiden’s sorrow -
O mother, hear a suppliant child!

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.

Tonight we took Christmas Eve communion with the fellowship at Monroe Street United Methodist in Germantown. I found their short celebration reflective and moving; it prepared me for the coming 12 days of Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tennessean Wakes Up to Council "Infrastructure" Spending Race; Calls It "Good"

It is beyond me why the local print media are not running tote boards on Metro Council discretionary fund spending, but at least the two dailies have published at least one story a piece on where the money is going, after 3 months of allocating. The Tennessean joined the City Paper this morning. (When a few Nashville Scene staffers beyond Bruce Barry lose their zeal for emo-stylized "graffiti royalty" and for arriving at happy hour in time to rip spirits and to burn an alt-weekly buzz, maybe they'll hard-copy this developing story, too).

The Tennessean piece points to the fact that the council is on track to spend only about a third of the total $1.95 million before their June deadline. Reporter Michael Cass also includes quotes from council members--like Erik Cole--who question some uses of the tax money. Cass cites at least one misguided utilitarian defense of the non-profit, no-infrastructure money dump; to paraphrase: sending money to a private senior citizen center helps more people than fixing a ditch, which only helps one person (but what about spending the money on upgrades to community center facilities used for senior programming, Councilman Loring? Why compare apples to oranges? And where did we ever get the notion that fixing problems in a neighborhood only benefits one person in that neighborhood?). The story also refers to the council's unfulfilled promises to replace funds that it took from the Metro Action Commission earlier this year.

Despite the holes in the logic of spending tax money on private affairs, even at such a small clip, Reporter Cass seems to forget his journalistic balance when he refers to the private senior center spending as a "good use." It might be good use, but the question remains is it the best use of those tax dollars? Is there an even larger community than those in the private center whom they could have helped? We don't know because Mr. Cass did not ask those questions in the story.

He did quote the Senior Citizens, Inc. Director as saying that the $101,000 in Metro funds that she is receiving means that she doesn't have to do as much fundraising next year. But, of course. If the council sent my neighborhood association a hundred thousand dollars we wouldn't have to take donations or charge membership fees next year or the decade after that. But non-profits are expected to raise funds rather than rely on public tax dollars. That also goes without saying. To paraphrase Nathan "Unpainted" Arizona: isn't that their raison d'etre? However, when the Metro Action Commission doesn't receive its funds, they have to cut public services meant to address the widest community needs. But public services matter less to this council than the narrow missions of private organizations.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why Not Tall?

Intown Will wonders why--after seeing the elevations for the new Downtown ballpark--the structure is "submerged" rather than taller. I have not seen reasons from Struever themselves, but here are my guesses:
  1. Part of the charm of choosing to live around a ballpark is being able to see into the ballpark. The lower profile allows residents of Rolling Mill Hill to see the diamond action.
  2. At the ballpark feedback meetings I went to, one of the more constant refrains was from those who argued that the sight-lines from So-Bro to the river should be as unobstructed as possible. Perhaps the lower outside wall--which the "submerged" bowl allows--reflects those concerns.
  3. One of the other expressed concerns fielded by developers at the public meetings was the wish for fans to have unobstructed views of Downtown from their seats in the ballpark. A low outside wall allows a wider horizon for fans to enjoy Downtown as a backdrop for their backstop.
  4. The natural contour of the site allowed developers to create entrances so that fans could enter at the same level as their seats, rather than climbing stairs or taking elevators. Would that profile with a taller wall look rather odd? Does a shorter wall minimize some sort of visual imbalance that would not exist on level ground?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

An Alternative Story on Muslims and Klansmen

Like News 2 before it, NewsChannel5 has joined the Christmas Wars over Phil Bredesen's choice of personal (as in "unofficial") Christmas cards. Details after the jump. In his latest interview, pastor Maury Davis again links Islam and the Ku Klux Klan and he demands cultural purity from Bredesen's personal choice.

However, one comment that Davis made hit me:
If on Martin Luther King day you sent a picture of a Klansman and said, "Martin Luther had a dream that this guy would one day get along with the people he is trying to kill," I'm not sure that the African American community would handle that very well.
That comment in particular called to mind a miraculous story told by Will Campbell; it is an impossible possibility that might not ever haunt the ungraceful mind of Maury Davis.

From Forty Acres and a Goat:

Word circulated among the black prison population [in Danbury, Connecticut] that the Grand Dragon of the [North Carolina] Ku Klux Klan [J.R. "Bob" Jones] was there [after being convicted of contempt of Congress]. Further word had it that he wouldn't be there long because he would be dead in the yard. A mutual friend [of Campbell's] in New Jersey, Pete Young, knew a Black Muslim minister who had members and numerous contacts at Danbury .... The word then became that if anything happened to Bob Jones while he was in prison, the one responsible would have to answer to Muslim justice. Jones continued in good heath, his best friend in prison a Black Muslim. Mysterious ways ....

A few years later Pete Young's house caught on fire .... His wife, their three-year-old daughter, and his wife's mother were killed. Pete lay in critical condition from burns he received when he tried frantically to save them. Pete was a Protestant. They were Catholic .... [The funeral had] twenty-four pallbearers. At the front of the line was the former Grand Dragon .... Beside him was his Muslim prisonmate.

While Rev. Davis--an ex-con himself--sees a world at cultural war, Rev. Campbell tells us a story of truce and of the laying aside the issue of cultural purity for the sake of a closer fellowship. Which one would Martin Luther King, Jr.--or, I daresay, Jesus--prefer?

Cornerstone Pastor Draws Islamic Comparison to Klan Again in a NewsChannel5 Interview

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Cornerstone Church Pastor Maury Davis once again compared Muslims to Klansmen in criticizing Governor Phil Bredesen's personal choice of Christmas cards in an audience with NewsChannel5 yesterday.
If on Martin Luther King day you sent a picture of a Klansman and said, "Martin Luther had a dream that this guy would one day get along with the people he is trying to kill," I'm not sure that the African American community would handle that very well .... I think that we have to understand that we have a problem right now between our culture, their culture, the religions, possibly, and I think Christmas ought to be kept pure at this moment.
While NewsChannel5 included comments from Gov. Bredesen as the alternative point of view, they failed--like News 2 earlier this week--to broadcast contrasting points of view from local Christian communities of faith.  At one point Rev. Davis claimed that the picture of the Afghani girl on Bredesen's personal card is a picture of the Muslim faith.  If Rev. Davis's face--broadcast on two news stations this week--is supposed to be a picture of Christian faith, then it is a distorted and narrow picture of diverse Christianity.

Memphis Outer Suburbs Break Laws to Shield Juvenile Offenders from Shelby County Court System

This troubling news from Memphis gives further credence to the argument that the very legacy of the suburbs is one of white flight more than anything else (like lower taxes). With 98% of its population non-black, Germantown, Tennessee's motto could be, Yes, We Have No Black People (and We Don't Want to Send Our Punks to Mix With Theirs).

Westin Revises

Nashville Post has the Lower Broadway façade revisions made by Westin developers. Compare these to the previous designs.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Holiday Cheermeister This Year

I am the only one I know of in the world who prefers the motion picture How the Grinch Stole Christmas over the cartoon version of Dr. Seuss's Grinch. The reason I enjoy the movie so much is that it works on multiple levels, appealing to children and providing good laughs for the older set, too. It is like Sesame Street (sans "Elmo's World"), which I find thoroughly entertaining.

And I identify with Jim Carrey's Grinch, who is more than just a one-dimensional "mean one." I can connect with his frustration with the avarice and materialism of the season as well as his cynicism about the pretty package that the vice of seasonal greed comes wrapped in. Moreover, even at his worst, you still sense with Cindy Lou Who that there is warmth and openness underneath Grinchy's hardened silo, just waiting for a catalyst to launch that charm.

I would rather read Dr. Seuss's book and look at the pictures therein than watch the cartoon. The cartoon is about as seasonally significant for me as is listening to 80's bubble-yum band Wham! sing Last Christmas. That's a void of significance.

But it looks like we are going to have our first Christmas without Ron Howard's film this year. We slipped the DVD in for the fifth or sixth Christmas running last night and our youngest went ballistic as soon as the previews came on. She ran around the room shrieking "I don't like Dr. Seuss! I don't like Dr. Seuss!" She dashed over to me and hid her tear-streaked face in my ribs, shouting her fear of Dr. Seuss into the muffle of my shirt. We were floored. We never saw this coming. So, unless I stay up late and sneak the DVD in myself for my holiday fix, I won't be getting to see the Grinch this year. This is not pudding.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wallace Craps Out

I know gambling. This is not gambling.

- - Council Member Ludye Wallace speaking tonight in support of his resolution requesting election lotteries

Wallace's bid to ask the Davidson County Delegation to the General Assembly to propose a constitutional amendment providing for state-wide and local election lotteries (a.k.a., paying people to vote) failed miserably by 20 or so votes. Wallace did get "aye" votes from 4 fellow members. He promised to bring another resolution that would ask the State Lege to enact a fee on voting-age Tennesseans who do not vote in elections.

Metro Council Approves Extension of Downtown Ballpark Deadline at Tonight's Meeting

All the parties involved in the design, financing, and construction of the new Sounds ballpark have until April 15, 2007 instead of the previously set date of December 31, 2006.

Ludye Watch: Wallace To Spend His First Discretionary Funds on Senior Citizens, Inc. Charity

While Ludye Wallace's name is not attached to the original resolution for sending money to non-profit Senior Citizens, Inc., the Council Office's analysis has him down requesting $5,000 to go to the charity. He has $43,000 left to spend on District 19 in whatever way he sees fit. That is troublesome, since I don't expect him to request money to help out our district at large.

Council Continues to Shunt Infrastructure Funds to Non-Profits

It's another Metro Council Meeting Tuesday, which means it's time to bankroll some more non-profits with local taxes.

Metro Council members requesting discretionary funds are still not able to bring themselves to spend anything on sidewalks, parks, libraries, or any other government service that helps the community. In what looks like more cronyism, five resolutions are up for council vote tonight, and every one of them would send more tax dollars to private non-profits

Earmarks in this hit list include a laptop computer, lighting upgrades for a private ballfield, and dinner theatre performances here.

These requests will push the total amount of tax dollars going to non-profits over $300,000, while nothing has been spent yet on public infrastructure. Still no public outcry or ground swell of opposition against this revenue dump.

News 2 Can't Let Go of Them Christmas Wars

The latest after the jump.

Cornerstone Church Pastor Compares Islam to the Ku Klux Klan in News 2 Interview

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

In a News 2 report on the non-issue of Governor Phil Bredesen's choice of personal (not official state) Christmas cards, Madison Pastor Maury Davis judged Mr. Bredesen's choice as "wrong," and compared it to sending out a card with a Klansman on it:
Can you imagine if the Governor had sent out a card on Martin Luther King day with a picture of a Klansman on the front of it?  It would be blood on the streets.  It would be bad.  If you put it in that perspective it's an insult to the church of Jesus Christ.
News 2 provided no alternative theological perspective from a clergy who disagreed with Rev. Davis on whether the Governor's personal choice of greeting cards represented a threat to Christian churches.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Trust Introduces Development Plans for 5th & Garfield to Salemtown Residents

If you missed the Salemtown Neighbors Christmas Party this past Friday night, you didn't just miss a festive and food-filled party. You also missed the first public announcement by Trust Development officers of plans (pending some requested easements) for a townhouse/single-family home development to anchor the corner of 5th and Garfield. Trust President Jim Creason (of The Clayton on 6th Avenue fame) also used the occasion to ask neighbors for feedback and suggestions on the preliminary drawings he brought for our perusal (they look akin to this). The buzz I'm hearing looks very good for Trust. 5th and Garfield is one of the more important corners in Salemtown, and we've been waiting for quality at that intersection. It looks like we may be getting it, pending Planning Commission proceedings (no date announced, yet).

The Dobie-Dozier Cosmetic Cafeteria Solution to Funding Schools

If it weren't enough that Metro Council is on track to spend millions of tax dollars on private initiatives, now comes the mainstream touting of Bruce Dobie's education endowment idea channeled by mayoral candidate and at-large councilman Buck Dozier. Dozier, in turning attention to non-profit answers to public problems, is en vogue. But there are plenty of opportunities for foundation development in the private sector; if Dozier wants to start endowment-mongering then a mayoral run is misplaced diversion, because public servants should worry more about managing government than about privatizing the purse strings.

The merits of the foundation idea are low, to begin with. It is a ball of yarn for us to bat. It is the next flashy blue plate in this cafeteria line that we imagine ourselves in. It is a head-in-the-clouds novelty that takes us away from harder discussions about school board priorities and actual tax dollars (which is what mayoral candidates should be focused on). After all, why not just create private foundations for taxing for electricity or water services? In that case those who agree that electricity and water are vital to our community can vote with the private donations of their choosing. Oh, wait. Everybody agrees that basic utilities are vital. So, why do some of us think that generating an educated citizenry around us is any less vital for our welfare?

I'm not vehemently opposed to setting up a private endowment for public education (although private dollars always come with their own strings, so it should be regulated and overseen by those vested with the public interest). Buck Dozier may be just the leader to spearhead that initiative. But he should not be doing so as Mayor of Nashville.

Council Office Recommends That Ronnie Greer Withdraw Appropriation for Religious Non-Profit

Metro's lawyers have determined that Council Member Ronnie Greer's resolution to draw $5,000 from infrastructure funds to send to Nashville Inner City Ministry, Inc. violates the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They base their judgment on the fact that the NICMI program is based on Biblical principles.

They are recommending that Greer withdraw his resolution. Public dollars have no business funding programs with parochial purposes. We'll see if he does during Tuesday's meeting.

UPDATE: Bruce Barry has more details after the jump.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Plan Of Nashville's Idea for Morgan Park

Here is Christine Kreyling's and the Nashville Civic Design Center's vision for the re-development of the Morgan Park area. In the Plan of Nashville, Kreyling proposes expanding Morgan Park west to the Werthan property and east to the river. The currently operational Werthan Packing Plant (corner of Hume and 5th) would be closed and torn down and a Governor's mansion, suited for functions but not for residence, would anchor that corner.

The recreational facilities in the park would give way to a "Governor's Green" with a reclaimed surface water shed to the river (it is currently buried). In one drawing, the baseball diamond has been moved east between 2nd and 3rd. However, our community center would go away in Kreyling's plans. This re-development would be part of what Kreyling calls the "River District," which includes Germantown, East Germantown, Hope Gardens, parts of Cheatham Place (a.k.a., Historic Buena Vista) and the blocks of Salemtown south of Garfield.

This is an ambitious plan that I don't see happening any time soon, and with the money that Parks is about to invest in a new playground, community center renovations, and diamond upgrades, I don't see this plan happening in my lifetime. I also have a hard time understanding how one could justify doing away with a neighborhood community center, even in the name of creating more green space and ridding ourselves of unsightly Werthan Packing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Coming Divorce Between the Titans and Nashville Just Leapt Closer

This hastens that fateful day when Tennessee Titans ownership moves the team out of Nashville. It represents the third generation of football stadiums: the largest single span arches in the world, the largest retractable end zone panel in the world, the world's only roof-suspended football scoreboard media panel--600 tons, mind you--that stretches from 20-yard-line to 20-yard-line, and a veritable playground for those with fat wallets. It makes LP Field look more like tinker toys than ever. And it relies on public funding and attracting more superrich into its 15,000 premium club level seats with attached restaurants and bars.

The Cowboys were the trendsetters for the last generation of NFL stadiums, too: they imported the concept of luxury suites and maximized prime seating into the game, unwittingly making the Oilers' move out of Houston and into Nashville years later inevitable. But, as Dallas reporter Michael Granberry observes, that generation of stadiums fundamentally changed the game from a class equalizer (where everyone generally paid the same parking fees and ticket prices and ate the same hot dogs) to a class divider where the gulf between a local community's haves and have-nots widened with the luxurious stadium amenities going to those who could afford them. The sport disconnected from the working class roots of its pool of talent.

The Dallas Cowboys' new $1 billion stadium--to be finished by 2009--is not only "state-of-the-art." While it prises the class gap even farther, it also compresses time for every other city that has a football team: bringing closer that day when owners will begin to hold it up as leverage to get their own. And the Adams Family will be no different. They will want their own $1 billion stadium and they (or whomever they sell to) will come calling on Metropolitan Government again to help finance it, while marketing it to the superrich of Williamson County.

I don't see how Nashville can pay that price again; there was too much acrimony the first time around and too many costs under the bridge since then. And too many Nashvillians cannot even afford to attend games with their families in the cheap seats (an archaic misnomer), let alone walk those lavish, climate-controlled concourses studded with flat panel screen monitors. Even the hallowed "game-day experience," the holiest of holies on autumn Sundays, has become more like the Iroquois Steeplechase and less like a bunch of working stiffs loading up the pick-ups and meeting before the game.

So, I don't see the political will to ante-up in Nashville when the Adams Family comes calling wanting a Texas-sized marvel that will only widen the gap between rich and working classes in Middle Tennessee. Enjoy this little affair with the Titans now, Nashville, because Dallas just guaranteed that we and our tinker-toy field are living on borrowed time.

Local Lawmakers Did Not Realize Laws Were Being Violated

How ironic. Heaven forbid that Metro Council members actually know the laws on non-profits before they give away tax money to non-profits.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Purell is Unpopulist

During my own politicking period, my right hand often reeked of various colognes, barbecue sauce, and spilt beer--but to use a [hand] sanitizer [before and after handshaking] seems a bit like ballplayers using performance-enhancing steroids. If you're afraid of people's germs, find a new game.

- - Texas Observer Columnist Jim Hightower on the use of Purell liquid hand sanitizer by politicians, including 2008 presidential candidates John McCain (R) and Barack Obama (D)

Parks Department Reports 2007 Renovation Schedule for Morgan Park

According to Parks Director Roy Wilson, here is the latest list of Morgan Park renovations and 2007 schedule for completions:
  • Upgrades to the existing community center (according to other reports, upgrades include those to lobby, racquetball court, weight room, and floors and walls in other rooms) -- should be completed by early summer 2007
  • Replacement of the existing playground and repairs and enhancements to the basketball courts, baseball field and other site improvements -- should be completed by mid-summer 2007
  • A new greenway segment (the Magdeberg Greenway) connecting to the Downtown Greenway, including Phase One of a "botanical garden" along the greenway -- should be completed by late summer 2007

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Greatest Neighborhood Disappointment of 2006

I was really buoyed this past summer when Salemtown and Germantown leaders came together to develop plans to form a joint Germantown-Salemtown Committee on proposed Morgan Park renovations. The last word I heard on these plans in July was that it was pending Historic Germantown board approval. I was one of those S-towners to be on the park committee, but we waited on our side of the court for a return that never came. So, I don't know whether the plans were disapproved or they just never made it to the board. Now with Morgan Park renovation plans said to be going forward, it seems too late to collaborate and that seems like a profoundly lost opportunity to coordinate the interests of two neighborhood groups conjoined at Morgan Park.

Last Night's Salemtown Block Grant Meeting

The Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee finally reached the end of 6 months of discussions of the pros and cons of the various options facing us for projects to spend federal community block grant money on. We are at last entering a new phase of developing proposals to pitch to Public Works. Among the possible projects that floated to the top of the discussion so far include distinctive street ID signs, traffic-calming bulbs and speed bumps, trash receptacles, and decorative crosswalks.

Another possible project that dominated the final minutes of the meeting was seed money for elderly and children's programs. I did not attend November's CAC meeting (because I was down with that nasty bug that's been going around), but apparently there were fireworks over the seed money option between committee members. At least one proponent of seed money felt that the proposal was not being taken seriously by committee critics for its merits: actual infrastructure improvements to Morgan Park Community Center, like a computer center for children or facility improvements for elderly programming. Reportedly critics dismissed the seed money proposal as being just about programming rather than infrastructure and they said that Salemtown seniors could go to Elizabeth Park (which sits outside of the I-65 loop to the west) for senior programming.

I admit that I had not taken the seed money proposal as seriously as the other proposals myself, because I knew that HUD only allows 15% of a block grant to be spent on programming. Also, when this proposal came up before, it seemed pitched as a church-based alternative to the community center programming. Now that I know that the proposal is directed at infrastructure improvements to the community center programs, it is a more attractive option for me. If we vote on the proposals again, it will be one of my top choices.

One of the things the group agreed on at the end was that we needed to invite Parks Director, Roy Wilson, to come in and speak with us about the Parks Department's renovation plans for the center so that we can decide what kind of improvement proposal to make should the committee choose to go in that direction. We also found out that the community center renovations would begin in February, which will effectively close it down for a while.

Zoning Public Hearing Scheduled for 8th & Hume Development

Plans for a multi-use development at the corner of 8th Av. & Hume received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission in September and they are now slated for a Public Hearing in Metro Council on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 (meeting starts at 6:00). You can find the details on this development on a January Enclave post after the jump. Around the time that the Planning Commission gave them the green light, Core Development officials told me that the plans laid out to Salemtown Neighbors in January 2006 had not changed. If that is the case, I don't see public opposition to this development in January 2007. It looks worthy from where I sit.

Teachers Unions are Gradually Dropping Resistance to Merit Pay

However, they remain suspicious about how to measure teaching qualities that translate to higher test scores and they worry that good teachers who work with disadvantaged children will be unfairly penalized as other teachers get merit increases.

If It Ain't Broke the Metro Council Will Break It

"Anonymous" comments in yesterday's post that the $50,000 that the Council--spitefully led by Charlie Tygard--leveraged out of the Mayor's budget in June to send to the private non-profit Habitat for Humanity cost the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods one of their staffers. That information does not sit well with those of us who believe that the Office of Neighborhoods is one of the higher functioning arms of Metro government. It's bad enough that the dysfunctional Council won't fix what's broken in local government; it's much worse that this cat herd torpedoes what works.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lumped with "West End-Vandy"

We got our gratis copy of the Tennessean's "West End-Vandy" supplement, which apparently reflects Gannett's attempts of late to "go local." I guess that the Tennessean thinks that lumping the North End in with the West End, Sylvan Park, and Belmont-Hillsboro is sufficiently local or this was just a one shot delivery resulting from the Germantown Cafe profile that appeared in that edition. It may be local, but it is definitely not hyper-local.

A Convenient Church Ethic

Compare and contrast:

In 2005, Southern Baptist Convention attorneys told a woman reporting sexual abuse by her youth minister 40 years ago that the convention has no control over whom a church appoints as minister.

In 2003, on the occasion of the SBC dissolving ties with a Nashville church that appointed a lesbian minister, SBC Officer Richard Land told the Associated Press, "In having a homosexual or lesbian minister, they are clearly endorsing homosexual behavior, and thus have defined themselves outside of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Read more on this Southern Baptist hypocrisy at Free Tennessee.

Sexual Abuse More Prevalent Among Clergy Than Other Counseling Professionals

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The Associated Baptist Press reports that, despite the emphasis on faith-based institutions over the last few years, rate of sexual abuse among clergy far exceeds the client-professional abuse rate among physicians and psychologists.  Exacerbating the problem among Southern Baptists is their claimed emphasis on local-church autonomy, which often shields predators from outside attention.

However, the emphasis on local-church autonomy may be only conveniently and selectively applied.  In 2005, SBC attorneys told a woman reporting sexual abuse by her youth minister 40 years ago that the convention has no control over whom a church appoints as minister. However, in 2003, on the occasion of the SBC dissolving ties with a Nashville church that appointed a lesbian minister, SBC Officer Richard Land told the Associated Press, "In having a homosexual or lesbian minister, they are clearly endorsing homosexual behavior, and thus have defined themselves outside of the Southern Baptist Convention."  While the SBC applied local-church autonomy to allow the hiring of law-violating child predators, it did not apply it to allow the hiring of law-abiding gays and lesbians.

There is a website especially devoted to stopping Southern Baptist ministers who sexually prey on their congregants, even as the SBC is doing very little to stop sexual abuse in Baptist churches.

Convoluted Reporter Logic

[T]here's nothing Christian or even religious about the Christmas tree. Is there? Its roots are in paganism. A tree is nothing more than a traditional Christmas symbol.

- - Jamey Tucker

Where did WKRN's Faith and Ethics Reporter ever get the notion that evergreen-decking pagans were not religious? And what kind of convoluted logic is it for the same reporter to say that a Christmas Tree is devoid of Christian reference, when a whole culture war is being waged around him over calling it a Christmas Tree?

It would be one thing if any old garden-variety reporter had these lapses in logic about the admittedly difficult subject of religion, but this is WKRN's "Religion" Reporter: the guy who is supposed to have a firm handle on this subject.

One More Reason Why the Mayor Gets More Respect than the Metro Council

On the one hand, look around the community at the projects that have Mayor Purcell's fingerprints on them. He seems to direct tax dollars at community problems so to have the broadest impact, even when they are unsexy ones like the project that Metro just started in the Jones Buena Vista neighborhood to replace crumbling sidewalks along 9th Avenue North (pictured to the left). We can rest assured that there is public oversight of these projects.

On the other hand, look at the rare chance that our council members have been given to manage and to spend our tax dollars. They've given that money to the Nashville Songwriters Association and to fund upgrades to a private swimming pool. There are no guarantees of public oversight of these projects, outside of financial reports to Metro, or of measurable proof of broader public benefit.

I would say that the council members have more than earned their low reputation and that they lose any credibility when it comes to questioning the Mayor on his budgets. They cannot even manage their own money so that community-wide problems are effectively addressed. What makes them think they are entitled to question anyone else?

Mainstream Media Reports on Council's Non-profit Profit-Sharing: It's About Time

Without any hat tip to Yours Truly, the mainstream media seems to be waking up to the fact that Metro Council is on track to earmark 100% of the $1.95 million in "Reserve Council Infrastructure Program" discretionary funds to private non-profits. None of the funds so far have gone to any actual public infrastructure. Council members use their own discretion, and I have yet to see any council debate over any specific request or on whether funding these non-profits is appropriate or necessary. The earmarks sail through.

The City Paper says that 3 or 4 council members (who get $48,000 each) promise to earmark some of the public funds for public projects. But with 40 council members, that is not a high rate of yield for actual infrastructure. Only one council member--Mike Jameson--has committed to letting his constituents decide; that seems fair since the taxes were collected from constituents in the first place. He is taking proposals from the neighborhood associations in his district. Still no word on how District 19's Ludye Wallace is going to spend his windfall, but he has not made any overtures around here that I know of.

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Owners Target Gang Tags

Plumbers of Nashville (corner of 5th and Buchanan) also removed graffiti from their building within 24 hours of being hit.



Sea-Tac Takes Down Xmas Tree

The Seattle-Tacoma Airport has removed their Christmas Tree after a local rabbi requested that a Menorah be put up, too. Airport officials believe that they will keep having to put up more symbols for more religions if they go down that road. Sounds logical to me. I think it should be all or nothing when it comes to government-sponsored public displays of religion.

Owners Quickly Remove Graffiti

Kudos to the property owners at 5th & Garfield for cleaning up gang-related graffiti within 24 hours of getting tagged.



Historic Germantown Organizes to Oppose 7th & Taylor Development

The Neighborhood Board of Historic Germantown, Inc. is encouraging its membership to oppose the designs of a proposed a development near Werthan Lofts at the corner of 7th Av. and Taylor St. According to Historic Germantown, neighbors who have seen the plans maintain that they are "not in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood."

The development plans have other strikes against them: the Planning Commission staff disapproved them and the Planning Commission voted against them after Metro Council passed them on first reading. Council passed the plans on second reading (which included a public hearing; was there public opposition at that time? I did not see that portion of the meeting), but on third reading they voted to defer and re-refer them to the Planning Commission. Even so, none of the requested changes have been made by the developer.

Charrette Discussion on 6th & Hume Townhouse Development

Over the weekend I posted some first pictures of the new 6th & Hume townhouse development over at the Nashville Charrette to get some impressions from the thoughtful folks who frequent that on-line discussion on urban design issues. The response seems to be mixed. There seems to be agreement so far that this new development in Salemtown is good new urbanism. There is some contentious debate as to whether it is good or bad architecture. Go over and check out the discussion.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hope Springs

I believe that some of the more interesting-looking homes in the North End are currently being built in Hope Gardens.

Gang-Related Graffiti Returns to the North End

In the past 48 hours several business buildings and sign posts were tagged in Salemtown by rival gangs. Our last incidence of gang-related graffiti was in March. The night before last one gang tagged the buildings and last night another gang tagged the first gang's tags and hit other spots.

The best deterrance to gang-related graffiti is removing it as soon after the tagging as possible. That also keeps it from spreading to other buildings in the neighborhood.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Requiem for the Wagon

I've known of a while that the East End's premiere brunch stop, Red Wagon, was going to close up shop soon. In fact, I had kept information that this weekend would be it's last on the down-low; I was planning on doing a "Farewell to the Wagon" post tomorrow after it closed. And our family brunch today and tomorrow were going to to be at the Wagon regardless; nothing was going to keep me from my last chance to savor the best damned biscuits in Nashville, with some shrimp and grits or migas on the side.

Well, I found out today that weekend brunch has gotten a reprieve and that owner and chef Meg Guiffrida will keep the place open on weekends until her lease is up at the end of January. So, we've been given the gift of 7 more weekends after this one to scarf down Meg's wonderful fare. The end of the Wagon's trail is going to leave a huge vacuum in the weekend brunch market.

But Meg tells me that she has a friend who is planning on opening a restaurant in Germantown and that she may help him out once and a while there. If the menu includes those fat cat-head biscuits, I'm all over it.

Poorer Suburbs

For the first time in history, the number of poor people in the suburbs outnumber the number poor people in cities. And it isn't just because more people in general have moved into suburbs than into cities; the reason involves techtonic economic shifts in the workplace and a new flight of the affluent to the rurburbs for bigger houses and more land. Rather than problems of poverty, fiscal distress, poor schools, and low job growth being concentrated in urban neighborhoods with the suburbs acting as havens for the affluent, entire metropolitan areas are bifurcating with deteriorating conditions concentrating on one side across cities and suburbs and with affluence and growth concentrating on the other side, according to researchers at the Brookings Institute.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Wars: Touched a Nerve with the American People?

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Today's Tennessean delves into the culture war over salutations.  While it reports the high numbers of Americans who prefer wishing people "Merry Christmas" at this time of the year, it also seems to claim that prospects of non-Merry-Christmas salutations have "touched a nerve with the American people."  However, in making that claim, reporter Bonna de la Cruz has confused personal preference with a different question:  whether the semantics of the salutation really matter to many Americans.
A recent poll not cited in the Tennessean clears up that confusion.  According to the Pew Research Center, while personal preferences for "Merry Christmas" are indeed strong, Americans do not feel as strongly that being wished "Merry Christmas" matters more than being wished "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings":

Most among the U.S. public are largely unconcerned about how they are greeted as they enter stores and businesses during the holiday season. But, between the two, by a substantial 60%-23% margin the public does prefer "Merry Christmas" to non-religious welcomes such as "Season's Greetings," according to a Pew survey conducted in December of last year. However, given the choice, a 45% plurality says it does not matter much either way.

Our Frist Love

Before we share in this morning's City Paper's nostalgic love in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's departure from DC, keep in mind that Frist is the main reason why the Congress did not finish any budget work after the November 7 elections. The only time that Frist scheduled for spending bills this year were for Defense Appropriations and Office of Homeland Security. My retrospective on Frist's last months in office would include the fact that he got paid to carve his name in his desk while accomplishing little else for his country.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Separate But Equal Languages

Check out the comments from "Anonymous" under my post on Tuesday's English Only deferral. S/he takes Nashvillians to task for channel surfing past council meetings and s/he interprets Crafton's second reading defense of English Only. It's long, but here is an excerpt:

I watched the entire session of the second reading [Nov. 21] of this on the public channel. Eric Crafton's speech sounded like something you'd hear from a 50's far right bigot trying to pitch the sanity of segregated water fountains. What's really scarey [sic] is that 20 other people in the room that we elected apparently are drinking from the same water fountain.

Listen to his speech: to actually entertain the idea that the Nashville government, the commission [council?] no less, is somehow going to be forced to speak Spanish in 15 years shows that there is something sadly lacking in logical progression in this man's mind.

Brownsville, Texas is 93% Hispanic, has been in existence since 1848, and still has their city commission meetings officially in English. So much for that theory Eric... I would like to know the real cost to the taxpayers of processing this waste of city government time and MY money for an obvious play at political grandstanding.

Might English Only be a linguistic counterpart to Jim Crow?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Waiting to See Those Elevations

The Struever Bros. updated ballpark master plan is out:

The Tennessean had an article on the rocky outcropping in right field--introduced in May--with the best views of the river, Downtown, and the ballpark. To the right is a picture of the Struever Bros. May 19 presentation where they show the slide of what the ballpark would look like from atop the rocky outcropping (let's not nickname the feature "Rocky Top," okay?). Click on to make the jump to the bigger picture.

Last Night's Launching Pad

Last night's "Launch Party" for a neighborhoods' "plan for progress" at the Courthouse: by my unscientific count, around 100 people showed up; acoustics were awful, and parking was not free, as advertised. It seemed a far cry from the momentum of the first meeting.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Down In Flames

Council Member Ludye Wallace's resolution asking the State Lege to pay people to vote in order to encourage voter turnout looked to be buried by snowballing, vociferous opposition until Wallace moved to defer it before it could be crucified by council vote. Not too surprising that The Gambler came up with the bright idea of twisting voting into a numbers game.

Council Votes to Defer English Only Bill Until February

Metro Council Member Eric Crafton mysteriously moved to defer his English Only Bill tonight, saying that there needed to be more discussion of it. Fellow member Charles Shumer introduced a motion to table the bill saying that the issue was too divisive, that parties from outside of Metro were trying to influence the vote, and that the discussion needed to end tonight. Shumer's motion was voted down by the Council, but did the breakdown of the vote on the tabling motion signal why Crafton moved to defer? Crafton could only muster 19 votes to kill the tabling motion; he needs at least 21 to get English Only passed. So did Crafton know that he only had 19 votes to pass English Only? Judging by the vote to approve Crafton's deferral is impossible; it passed by voice vote. Opponents of Crafton's Resolution did not choose to call for a roll call vote on the deferral vote; proponents had called for one on the less significant tabling motion. What do you think the latter is about? Using parliamentary procedure to intimidate or bully, perhaps?

During discussion of English Only, Council Member Mike Jameson revealed that Eric Crafton never bothered to reply to the 4 questions that he asked Crafton in September when English Only was introduced. Jameson said that not only had he asked Crafton the questions in council meeting, but he sent Crafton a letter with the questions, sent him an e-mail with the questions, and sent him Metro Staff with the questions without any Crafton response. Jameson asked Crafton the same questions tonight, but Michael Craddock buzzed in after Jameson and "moved the previous question," a parliamentary tactic that closed discussion without further debate. So, once again, Eric Crafton escapes without answering some important questions.

UPDATE: News 2's Chris Bundgaard reported at 10:00 that Crafton did not have the votes to pass English Only. Council Member Adam Dread told NewsChannel5 reporter Amy Rau that Crafton's votes were not there.

Dunkin Donuts Taking Tennessee

NPR's Morning Edition has a story on Dunkin Donuts opening 12 new stores in Tennessee. Hillsboro Village used to have a Dunkin Donuts right across the street from Pancake Pantry. It was the best place to get coffee in Nashville, and it would have competed well with Fido had it stayed. I agree with the guy in the story: DD coffee is wicked good; who cares about the donuts?

Bill Moyers at West Point

Giving one of the best speeches I've read on the Iraq War, Bill Moyers considers "the great divide that has opened in America between those who advocate war while avoiding it and those who have the courage to fight it without ever knowing what it’s all about."

Green Roof, Façade Elevations, and Historic Zoning

The "Lower Broad/Westin Resolution" is up for first reading tonight at tonight's Metro Council Meeting. Among other things it requires a minimum of nearly 16,000 square feet of "green roof" on the proposed Westin, a historic overlay along Lower Broadway, and "review and comment" of hotel façade elevations by the Metro Historic Commission.

Keeping Tabs on the Council's On-Going Conversion of Tax Dollars to Charitable Donations

With another Metro Council Meeting upon us on Tuesday night, it is time for the third Enclave report on how this council is electing to spend a $1.95 million windfall from uncollected property taxes this year that they earmarked for their own discretionary spending. And by "discretionary spending" they don't seem to mean adding funds to government services to address public need. So far, 100% of those tax dollars have gone to subsidize private charities close to council members' hearts.

This week's council agenda extends the conversion of property tax dollars to charitable donations with 5 "Reserve Council Infrastructure Program" resolutions up for council vote:
Our watch to see if any of the $1.95 million actually goes to public programs continues.

Despite glaring chances to pave some alleys or to solve a few water runoff problems or to refurbish the worst public parks in Nashville, council members continue to be set on playing philanthropists, pitching public money at private non-profits rather than at actual Metro infrastructure. Metro Water should have a bunker and more than one security guard to protect those dangerous chlorine gas tanker cars currently sitting out in the open on the North End, so why are these leaders not so allocating these tax dollars to protect us from the calamity of a chemical spill? Why can't they pool a couple or three million to build Charlie Tygard the fire station he says he needs (even as he's spending his own allocated funds on private sports groups and on private swimming pool upgrades)?

Why? Because it would probably get called "massive government expansion" by those who seem to fancy a world of declining municipal services as subsidies for private charities increase. Why is it perfectly fine to criticize spending on government programs that pave roads or build fire stations, but not to criticize the frittering away of uncollected property taxes on private charities, based on nothing but councilmanic discretion?