Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Metro Beat Reporter Michael Cass tries to make a case for Metro Council inconsistencies on voting for and against development, but the case is weak. What look like inconsistencies could be traced to the differences in various neighborhoods and the community plans. The plans create a vision and a strategy for development in each sub-area and they are based on a participatory process every 7 to 10 years. In theory, they seem to provide a democratic balance to destructive growth. Mr. Cass seems to ignore the sub-area plans.

Yet, where Mr. Cass probably could have hammered the Council's inconsistencies more effectively would have been to demonstrate the ways that Council Members claim to represent their communities but then vote in opposition to the sub-area plans (the recent controversy over a Hermitage PUD is a case in point). Council members seem most arbitrary when they make no reference to the community plans for their decisions or they just completely ignore the frustrated references of residents to the plans in often hopeless attempts to protect neighborhoods from indifferent business interests.

Or take the case of at-Large Member Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, whom Mr. Cass claims is inconsistent in voting for the Westin Overlay but voting against the Sylvan Park Overlay. The real inconsistency in Ms. Tucker's votes is her selective application of the principle of protecting dissenting residents in the minority who oppose overlays. On the one hand, when the Belmont-Hillsboro Overlay came to Public Hearing, the neighborhood leaders spoke in favor of it in an impressively and excruciatingly long parade to the podium, with no more than 3 neighborhood leaders taking the opposing position. Nonetheless, Ms. Tucker mounted her protect-the-minority high horse both in speaking and voting against the overlay.

On the other hand, Tucker's defense (via Cass) that all of the businesses on Lower Broad supported the Westin Overlay is just wrong. A substantial majority from the neighborhood supported the overlay, but it was not unanimous. Nevertheless, Ms. Tucker voted to support the Westin Overlay. The inconsistency is in Ms. Tucker's headlong rush to defend minorities in some cases (even though the Belmont-Hillsboro Overlay is benign), but to downplay them in other cases.

I am disppointed that Michael Cass did not dig more into the difficult growth and overlay issues that affect communities or into the real problems of inconsistent Metro Council support.

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