Monday, November 05, 2007

Bicentennial Mall Safety: A Reply from Pruitt; An Unproductive Phone Call from the State Park Commissioner

After weeks of waiting, I finally heard back from my State Representative, Mary Pruitt, about my concerns over safety at Bicentennial Mall in the wake of a September rape. She said that she asked Park Commissioner Jim Fyke to call me with his suggestions on how the State was going to respond. She also said that she had been working on this issue with other government officials.

When Mr. Fyke called me he seemed to have no suggestions or ideas for doing anything differently, which to my surprise was a response consistent with his Tennessean editorial a few weeks ago. While he asked me what I thought his office should do, the phone call quickly degenerated into me throwing out ideas so that he could shoot them down. I don't know if the Commissioner shoots skeet, but I felt like a clay pigeon at every turn.

His main reason for rebuffing any suggestion that the State should do more to enhance overnight security (you'll remember that the park is unattended and unmonitored from 11:30 pm to 7:00 am) was that if they have to supply one park with preventative services or resources, then they have to do so for every park in the state.

I argued that his unwillingness to do anything to help prevent crime on the Mall puts neighbors like me in greater danger if, for instance, I happen to be driving through the park on my way home at 2:00 in the morning, break down there, and then cut across the Mall to reach a public phone on Rosa Parks Blvd. (formerly 8th Av). He maintained that if I was assaulted in the scenario it was the responsibility of the Metro Police to respond since my car was on the street. I had to repeat to him the part about short-cutting across the Mall to reach a pay phone.

When I pointed out that no changes mean that the Bicentennial Mall would be considered an unsafe no-man's land in the early morning hours, he snapped, "Our parks are safe!" I shot back that they weren't safe in the case of the woman who got raped, which itself gives me second thoughts about even risking driving through it after midnight. He responded that this was only 1 rape in the last 10 years. I replied, "So, what are you saying? That it was statistically insignificant?" he denied saying that the rape was insignificant.

I asked him how many people would have to be raped before the problem became significant enough to warrant a change in overnight security measures. He told me that as far as he knew I was the only one who had concerns about overnight security at Bicentennial Mall. He said that no one else was complaining to him about it, so others must be satisfied with park management. I wondered out loud whether he would be as hesitant to change if the rape victim had been a relative or friend of his.

One of the things that I tried to iterate to Mr. Fyke was that I did not believe that staffing rangers all night at the park was necessarily the answer. I suggested a phone kiosk or security camera as a couple of ideas that came immediately to my mind. (I had to explain to him what I meant by an "emergency kiosk," which seems odd to me given that he is the professional vested with the security of our public spaces). He took two shots at the kiosk. First, he asked rhetorically, "And what if the phone gets continually ripped out." The answer seemed pretty self-evident to me: "You replace it." I asked, "When a police officer gets killed in the line of duty, do we sit around and ask what we should do next? Don't we hire another police officer to replace the deceased one?" Geez. Is it any harder to repair vandalism?

Second, he asked, "So, are we supposed to put phones in big parks like Warner, too?" I suggested to him that hopefully he works with the neighbors around Warner to come up with the best solutions to fit their particular concerns in their unique context rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to security. If I would have had the presence of mind through my frustration I would have asked him rhetorically, "Does Warner have a fountain monument to Tennessee Rivers that kids can play in exactly like Bicentennial Mall does? Why not, if every service has to be the same in each park?"

The one other argument that I remember Mr. Fyke making was the Metro Parks don't so have the preventative services that I was asking of his department. I countered that I know first hand that there are a number of residents who live around Morgan Park who keep an eye on it and--through the Neighborhood Watches--act as an extension of the police. I told him that Bicentennial Mall had no established neighborhoods that came close to its edges, and thus, the state did not have the same security luxuries that the Metro Police do around many Metro Parks. I find it absolutely unconscionable that we have urban parks that are not being watched or secured in some way in the middle of the night.

Mr. Fyke practically ended the phone call by saying that he was keeping his word to Ms. Pruitt to call me and that he would reply to her that "we had talked" just as he promised her that we would. That came across to me as patronizing just as his Tennessean editorial had come off as cavalier. It was clear to me that "after 40 years working in parks" he has already made up his mind about the conditions of the parks in his charge and he was never seriously entertaining the notion of considering any other perspective that changed the status quo.

That exchange could have gone better. I will follow up with Rep. Pruitt and I continue to wait for Senator Thelma Harper's staff to respond after a letter and a couple of follow-up phone calls.

UPDATE: Commenter CMcT asks below that I post contact numbers so that folks can show the state that a few more people than myself are concerned about Bicentennial Mall safety.

Those numbers are: Jim Fyke (Parks Commissioner)--(615) 532-0109; State Senator Thelma Harper--(615) 741-2453; State Representative Mary Pruitt--(615) 741-3853

UPDATE: CatMac finds the new "open-closed" signs are unlit and post the erroneous hours. Your tax dollars at work.


  1. That's awful. I think it's time Mr. Fyke got a few more calls...


  2. One of the exchanges that I forgot to include in that long summary was a third shot to the kiosk idea: he told me that a kiosk would not have stopped the recent victim's rape. I countered that having a telephone nearby in the park increased her odds of getting an emergency response compared to having no close line of communication at all. There is no fool-proof way to stop any crime that a criminal chooses to perpetrate, but the state could at least pursue measures to stack the odds against crime and to try to prevent it before it happens.

    What are we supposed to do? Throw up our hands and accept it? BOHICA-style?

  3. Good luck getting any help from Representative Mary Pruitt. That is... unless you offer her some PAC cash or offer to buy her a house:

    But remember, Representative Mary Pruitt told us "I work for FREE!!" (Her own words.)

  4. Ugh. No one else is complaining?

    Post the numbers you called again, Mike. Let's change that perception real quick.

  5. Jim Fyke called me, but I posted his number listed at the Dept. of Environment and Conservation website (see above), as well as Harper's and Pruitt's. Happy hunting.

  6. Why were you surprised that he was consistent? Did you think that he was going to bend to your self-professed superiority concerning matters of state park security? He asked you for ideas and you were then surprised that all of your brilliant suggestions were not immediately adopted and you were awarded a medal of honor for your coming up with ideas that all of the professionals over the entire course of the history of the State Parks Department had never thought of.

    Who do you think you are and why should anyone listen to you? Your “ideas” were shot down because they are stupid to the point of infantile.

    Why should the tax payers of this state pay to make a park safe for you to walk through anytime you want just because you want to. That is so arrogant and immature it is laughable. You would be the first one to say, “Put full time security in Radnor Lake Park because they are in Bicentennial Mall and I might one evening feel like taking a stroll in Radnor Lake Park at 3:00am while I listen to my IPod and count my cash. It’s not fair! Equal rights for all parks users!”

    The only reason you are at risk is because you live downtown and are too stupid to know if you stroll through a deserted park at 2:00 in the morning that you are likely to get assaulted. Why don’t you do something to stop criminals from being criminals instead of making law enforcement and tax payers clean up after your influence over the culture?

    Maybe if you didn’t have to spend so much money to live downtown you could afford a CELL PHONE. I mean every welfare kid in Nashville has one, why don’t you? I guess you think the tax payers should provide you with a cell phone in case you are attacked by the criminals that you helped to create.

    Call Rosa Parks if you are attacked.

    I’ll tell you that one rape in the last ten years is insignificant. What about all of the rape and other crime that occur in the neighborhood where the rapist came from? What are you doing about that? You get real concerned when some rich white woman gets raped and you think it is insignificant when rapes happen in black neighborhoods every day. You must be a racist because you aren’t doing anything about rape in black neighborhoods. How many rapes in poor neighborhoods are you going to tolerate before you do something about it? Would you feel differently if a poor black person was your sister or Mother who got raped? Apparently so. You only care when someone close to you is affected. It is obvious that you just care about yourself. If it could happen to a neighbor it could happen to you. How selfish!

    So let’s make a list of the tings you want the tax payers to finance so that you can live downtown and feel like some sophisticated urbanite and attack and denigrate the suburbs.

    1. Security guards 24/7/365
    2. Emergency phones (repaired or replaced daily/weekly/monthly)
    3. Security cameras (repaired or replaced daily/weekly/monthly)
    4. Supply 1, 2 and 3 above in all parks

    Are you really so ignorant that you don’t know that none of the Sate or Metro Parks have 24 hour security? Are you really so ignorant that you don’t know the difference between capital expenses to build a park (fountains, etc) and annual expenses to run the park (security. emergency phones, cameras).

    Thank you Mr. Fyke for sloughing off the pompous and ignorant suggestions of some busy-body nobody. It is too bad you had to waste your time making a phone call to entertain his hurbris.

    I’ll follow up with Mr Fyke, Rep. Pruitt and Senator Harper to express my satisfaction with Mr. Fyke and his response to your incredible waste of time.

    Ya’ want my suggestion for how to stay safe in a park that is closed and that you aren’t supposed to be in in the first place – stay out of the park. Dumbass.

  7. Well, related but UNrelated ; My then wife, (we'll call her Terri) and her then lover, (we'll call him Wilbur), were both found naked in her Hummer in Two Rivers Park. The no nonsense (GOD bless him) Park Ranger, issued them both an indecent exposure citation. This only bolstered my divorce case and ultimately got me full custody of both of my children.This was 11:08 P.M. MY POINT ; since this was the Donelson/ Opryland area do the Police/Park Rangers actually patrol the park(s) more viligantly ? This , if true could be the direct or indirect result of better (more affluent) neighborhoods, the race of park frequenters, and possibly money spending tourists in the general area. Hate to say but some don't care what happens to those on a certain level of the socio-ecomic scale.