Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Greatest Texas Liberal is Gone

Journalist, political author and the mother-of-all-gadfly-writers, Molly Ivins, passed on today after her bout with breast cancer and at the young age of 62. This is a shattering loss, since nobody can take her place or bear her stature. To paraphrase a comment in her October 2006 Texas Observer epitaph to Ann Richards: "A-men. A-Molly."

UPDATE: The entire front of the Texas Observer webpage is currently dedicated to Molly Ivins. The editor of Creators Syndicate has a moving tribute. Here's a video remembrance from an Austin TV station.

UPDATE II: Here are a couple of great Ivins-anecdotes from this morning's New York Times to add to her lore:

In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by “truly impressive amounts of beer,” landed her a job at The New York Times. She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive.
She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town “that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David.”

But the newspaper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she wanted. When she declared of a congressman, “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day,” many readers were appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper.

UPDATE III: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the one tribute to Molly that everyone should read: the trials, tribulations, and fond feelings of her old editor. I'm still laughing.

Report Says that Baptist Minister in Memphis Sexually Abused Son; Church Leaders Less Than Accountable in Response

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Last Sunday Bellevue Baptist Church--a Fundamentalist Memphis institution--issued a report specifying allegations of that one of the ministers, Paul Williams, had molested his son over the period of a year or a year-and-a-half 17 years ago.  Several years after the abuse stopped, Williams told an unidentified retired Bellevue staff member, who kept the information a secret. The report says that Williams told no one else for fear of losing his Bellevue job.  However, throughout 2006, several ministers and others at Bellevue became aware of the abuse after Williams's son and family sought counseling from a "non-Bellevue psychologist."
The report concludes that no one with knowledge of the molestation ever appeared to give any consideration to the "the effect of having a child molester on the ministerial staff" would have on the church.  In early 2006 "a trained psychologist" and a former church staffer learned of the abuse and could have contacted the Department of Child Services.  The psychologist chose to insist that Williams "follow through with the Biblical principle of being under authority and go to his pastor and confess."  Senior Pastor Steve Gaines found out about the abuse early in the fall of 2006, but did not focus on Williams's church responsibilities until December, when the abused son asked Gaines why Williams should be allowed to continue "in light of the scriptural qualifications for ministers."  Rev. Gaines has been roundly criticized for his actions.

Despite the fact that the reports claim that there are no excuses for the mistakes in these events, the language used by the church still indicates a lack of accountability on the part of church leaders.  The Memphis Commercial Appeal quotes report writers as referring to Williams's own abuse as a child in connection with the cycle of abuse he perpetrated on his son.  While it is widely acknowledged that abuse tends to get passed on in families, there is no necessary causal link between the abuse Williams suffered and the abuse he made his son suffer.  By linking these events, leaders minimize Williams's free choice in the matter.
Also, at no place in the report do investigators challenge the hierarchic "authority" structure--favored by Fundamentalist churches--that would perpetuate abuse and that probably led--especially in the case of the "trained psychologist"--to delay reform and to belay the prevention of future abuse.  The Fundamentalist authority structure was found lacking in these events precisely because the senior pastor denied his own responsibility by saying that he had never dealt with such an incident.  However, the highest authority ought to claim the most responsibility.  Further, he called the events "uncharted waters," a comment which critics rightly point out to be false, given that abuse has happened in churches for a long time.
In fact, it is precisely in those narrowly-defined, rigid structures (pastor/laity; husband/wife; master/slave) unapologetically unbeholden to the outside world where abuse is more likely to be hidden, unacknowledged, and denied.  The report does recommend that church staff, including the senior pastor receive DCS training on responding to molestation, but that further brings into question the idea that a pastor or any minister should claim hierarchic authority over laity.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Suburban Poor Need Local Social Services

Here's a story on the rising need in suburban areas for social services since more impoverished people now live in suburban areas rather than in urban areas. It is relevant to a debate we had a while back on why social services tend to continue to get clustered in urban areas rather than spread to suburban communities, too.

High numbers of poor are moving to suburbs for cheaper rents and jobs but because social services are clustered in cities, they are challenged to find transportation to get to services agencies. So, rapid changes in demographics are creating not just a need in urban areas to spread some of the services around, but those changes also generate a demand in the suburbs for more conveniently located services, even though there is resistance from upper class suburbanites who are NIMBY, rather than AIMBY.

Mom Moves Kids Out of City to Avoid Gangs Only to Face Gangs in Her New Suburban Subdivision

Have I failed to mention that gangs are not just an urban problem any more? If you missed it, meet La Vergne: 'burbs with Bloods, Crips, and MS 13.

Council Member to Change Car Wash Exemption Vote to "No"

Council Member Lynn Williams (District 34) e-mailed the Salemtown Neighbors President after receiving the association's letter opposing BL2006-1178 and she informed him that she will be not be supporting the car wash exemption bill. That would be a change from her "Aye" during the bill's second reading roll call vote on January 2. The bill passed on second reading, 27-7 (2 abstained; 4 absent).

Council at-Large Candidate Has Strong Ethics Background

Let's do the math: ethically challenged Metro Council meets 2007 at-Large Candidate Megan Barry, who has an extensive ethics background, including stints on the Council's Board of Ethical Conduct and the Tennessee Ethics Committee. Could there be a better fit--for anyone besides the more unscrupulous among us--in any imaginable equation that involves integrity in local governance?

We are headed into a campaign season preceding the August 2 elections where we will be beset by candidates locating their moral compasses at their convenience. Megan Barry's ethics background seems more of an ethics firewall for this Council compared to the slight fob that other candidates might retrieve to get their bearings or to shore up their public relations.

It is too early for endorsements, so this is more of a referral and a general FYI to readers to go check out Megan Barry's website. She looks like a strong candidate.

Letter from Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association Opposing Exemptions for Car Washes Sent to Metro Council and Mayor

SNNA's Executive Board sent the following letter to Metro Council and Mayor Bill Purcell this morning:

January 30, 2007

Dear Members of the Metro Council and Honorable Mayor Purcell:

We write you to convey our neighborhood association’s opposition to Metro Council Resolution BL2006-1178, which would exempt car washes from categories of businesses permitted only pursuant to a specific plan approved by the Planning Commission and Metro Council. Salemtown Neighbors supports the calls of other associations—most notably White Bridge, Glencliff, Sylvan Park, and others—that car wash owners and developers not be given special treatment or favorable exception from the Council’s earlier resolution requiring certain business owners to consult neighborhood groups and the District Council Member before planning and developing properties.

We are concerned that this bill’s sponsors have failed to address popular objections about substantial increases in traffic volume off arterial streets and into the neighborhoods as the result of new car washes. We are also concerned about allegations that promises made to affected neighborhood groups to defer this bill before it went to Public Hearing were not kept, and as a result neighborhood leaders missed the opportunity to communicate their objections in a public forum. Finally, we are concerned that this resolution sets the bad precedent of encouraging businesses to use the Metro Council as a “back door” to exempt themselves from their responsibility to be good neighbors in local communities.

We call upon each of you to oppose this bill on February 6, but we especially ask our District Council Member, Ludye Wallace to withdraw his support for Resolution BL2006-1178, which we do not believe to be beneficial for our neighborhood. We hope that the addition of our voices to the growing collection of opponents of BL2006-1178 will help check the bill’s momentum. Thank you for your service to our community.


The Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association Executive Board:
Alan Maloney, President
Carolyn Williams, Vice President
Lynn Hutcheson, Secretary
Kyle Pendleton, Treasurer
Michael Byrd, Board Member
Donna Keeney, Board Member

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kick Up the Leaves and the Magic is Lost

In response to ACK's assertion that David Briley "had a bad day" after Karl Dean reported higher than expected contributions, Catherine McTamaney lends him some perspective:
Actually, it sounds like it's a great day for Briley. That $156k "raised" by Dean consists of $50k from Dean's "own" pocket, and by "pocket," I mean "trust fund" and by "own," I mean "his wife's." Since state law prohibits individual contributions over $40k, it's comforting to know that there's at least one lawyer who's figured out a way around the law. An additional $52k comes exclusively from the law firms to which Dean directed business over the years as the Director of OUR community's legal department... I guess there is some financial benefit to being a public servant after all. So, 50K from the in-laws, 52K from Metro-law and the dashing Mr. Dean is left with a mere 48K. Perhaps most discouraging for Dean, he had a total of just 120 contributors, almost all from one zip code (Quick! Guess which one! Hint... it starts with a 372 and it ends with an 05). Sure, those folks buy some pretty expensive loafers (pun intended), but word on the street is that Briley has contributions from well over five times that number. Good thing for Nashville that even the fattest wallets only get to vote once.
If this is all true, it's fodder for the argument that even when one has a lot of money, the details about that money can cancel out the inevitability, the juggernaut that the six-plus-figures are supposed to sire. Is Dean another progressive tainted by financial ties? We shall see.

UPDATE: Catherine comes on through the barn door left open for her. Read. Now.


Try as I might, I failed to get an answer, beyond what was said in the last Council Meeting, on how a letter made all of the difference in giving 5,000 taxpayer dollars to a Churches of Christ ministry.

But Where's the Happy Little Tire Swing?

Before walking out of Red Wagon for the last time yesterday, we took a couple of pieces of it home with us. We purchased the two gothic church pews that lined one of the walls of the East Nashville eatery and we put them on our deck at home. There they will remind us of the happy little brunch place across the river where everyone greeted us by name when we came in. We are now regulars-in-waiting for the next cozy establishment to take us in as generously as the staff at the Red Wagon did.

Counting Her Chickens Before They Hatch?

Vice Mayor Candidate Diane Neighbor's letterhead lacks a preposition between her surname and her prospective title:

I have to say that I was firmly neutral on Council at-Large Diane Neighbors until this whole car wash exemption dust-up, but now I am dead set on not voting for her for (which happens to be the missing preposition) Vice Mayor in the fall.

And I don't care how many times she tries to spin her surname into a neighborhoods talking point this time. I fell for that and voted for her last time. But actions speak louder than words. And her constant repetition of faulty justifications for an anti-democratic initiative regardless of the flack she catches from constituents is approaching Bushian proportions. The parroted rationalizations are looking more like mantras of expedience every day.

The more she pitches her campaign as "Neighbors and Friends," the more I am reminded that it should be called "Neighbors and Special Business Interests." And while she may deny now that the car wash developer's previous campaign contribution had an effect on her support for the bill, we need to remember that there are seven months between February 6 (when the Council will most likely pass the car wash exemption) and election day. That leaves plenty of time for the lobbyists--fresh with disposable car wash income--to reward her campaign later for shepherding the exemption into law now. We need to remember that she has not pledged not to accept their campaign contributions in the future.

So, unlike other local progressives (who might hold their noses and vote for her just to oppose a social conservative) I do not agree that putting Diane Neighbors on the fast track to local political stardom is our best option. Whether it throws a wrench into the fine tuning or not, I must say that conscience will not let me trust a local politician who styles herself progressive and democratic but then does her actual business with business. I trust that candidate less than I do a somewhat mediocre social conservative who stands less of a chance being fast-tracked in a Democratic stronghold. I won't vote for the latter, but I would also caution others to the real hazards of voting for the former.

Until someone else with character and competence emerges, I say, "Write-ins for Vice Mayor, anyone?"

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Salemtown Passed the Major Water Run-off Test That I Witnessed

Just Say "Alley Ansicht," Which Roughly Translates to "Pipe Outlet Drains Through Alley to Lower Ground"

I've been thinking a lot over the weekend about the last time one of the Schoene Ansicht co-owners attended a Salemtown Neighbors meeting. He attended that meeting in the fall to ask our help in getting Metro approval to install more impermeable pavement at their future Salem Gardens development, which is to be a block down from Schoene Ansicht on Garfield St.

Enough of us were cautious in our response to him, some saying that we would want to hear Metro's reasons for not approving their plans before we could support his request. Given the latest controversy swirling around the corner of 6th and Hume, it looks like our group was very wise to go slow and cautious and be circumspect before giving support to more impermeable surfaces paving over Salemtown greenspaces. Given the buzz I've been hearing on our sidewalks this weekend, I'm not sure that the Salem Gardens ownership team could get much support for any easements or exceptions without making some iron-clad guarantees that they are looking out for their neighbors.

But think about it: at the same time that Schoene Ansicht owners knew that they were going to install a drainage pipe into the alley, quite possibly affecting the drainage across adjoining properties, they were asking their neighbors for more support to convince Metro to exempt them from tighter run-off regulations for another development in Salemtown. And we don't know many of details on Salem Gardens, except that co-owner Steve Yokley has said that its run-off will hook-up to the sewers; which leads to the inevitable question: why did they need our support to put in more impermeable surfaces if the water is going directly to the storm sewers instead of across hard surfaces?

Neighbors vs. Neighborhoods: Diane Neighbors Sends Letter to Supporters

I received a copy of a letter Diane Neighbors sent out on Friday to her supporters defending her conduct during her sponsorship of bill BL2006-1178, which would exempt car washes from neighborhood and Council consideration. In it she provides a timeline and she finally concedes that she did in fact state that "indefinite deferral would be the best course to take" shortly after assuming responsibility for it in summer 2006. But she repeats a point she made lately that "ample time" has been given for public input.

While Ms. Neighbors challenges questions about financing she has received from car wash interests, she continues to refuse to address neighborhood leaders' charges that their chance to give input was short-circuited by the perception that she was going to defer the bill indefinitely. The timeline provided in her letter says nothing about any public statement from her that she had changed her mind about deferring indefinitely or that leaders she had promised were told differently, even though the former were still under the impression that she was promising indefinite deferral in the fall. Seeming to channel former Senator Bill Frist, she continues to argue that Council is entitled to an "up-or-down" vote on this bill, as if indefinite deferral constituted some kind of filibuster (which it does not).

She also defends her stewardship of the bill by saying rather opaquely that the "issue of jurisdiction over the location of the car washes had not been part of the original discussion." That one is confusing to me. We cannot consider jurisdiction just because some Council Members lacked the foresight to bring it up? The Council had a huge debate in the last meeting over a bill that would declare wheel chairs "pedestrians" with opponents calling for the need for Council to anticipate the unexpected when they pass legislation. But now, Diane Neighbors is precluding any debate about unexpected issues like control over location simply because they weren't a part of the original discussion? And even though they were brought up in the Public Hearing? Isn't that what Public Hearings are for? To consider matters that the Council might miss?

Finally, Ms. Neighbors once again leans on a rather disingenuous claim: "the record will clearly show that I have not worked in favor of or against" the bill in question. She has not abstained from any vote on this bill. She voted in favor of it twice and is the primary co-sponsor, and her letter suggests that she will see it through third reading on February 6. If she is as neutral on it as she claims to be, why is she not abstaining on the votes or turning the bill over to another co-sponsor in the interests of avoiding the appearance of bias?

I do not know how much traction the critics of the car wash exemption bill have been getting, but Diane Neighbors seems to perceive the need to shore up her support with this letter.

Metro Legal Responds to Questions About Metro Funding of Inner City Ministry

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The Metro Legal Department, after a couple of e-mails, finally responded to my query regarding the change in their concerns about Ronnie Greer's resolution requesting $5,000 for the Churches of Christ's Nashville Inner City Ministry:

The Metropolitan Department of Law reviews all legislation before the Metropolitan Council to identify issues of legal concern to the Metropolitan Government. The Department of Law raised the concern that there could be religious entanglement problems with the funding request. The Department of Law stated in a memorandum that “a court could find that providing government funding to the Nashville Inner City Ministry, Inc., for transportation to life skills classes, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution.” (emphasis added)

Before the January 16, 2007, Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting began, the Inner City Ministry provided a supplemental letter to Council staff that stated unequivocally that the Life Skills classes would not involve Biblical teaching. The letter stated: “Life Skills classes are not Biblically-based and none of the funds will be used to promote religious beliefs.” Council staff informed the Council members of this new information at the Budget and Finance meeting, and later at the full Council meeting. The Council passed the resolution on January 16, 2007, and the Mayor approved it on January 17, 2007.

Outside of confirming a process that was already clear to observers like me, this response lent very little insight into their change of attitude.

Questions remain. Will there be any follow-up or monitoring the classes to verify that they will not be Biblically-based? What is the process of holding the non-profit accountable? Are we supposed to seriously accept that Churches of Christ teachers will not use the Bible or their religious beliefs in conducting these classes?

I Can Never Tell Whom They Come to Praise and Whom They Come to Bury

This morning I sat at my last brunch at East Nashville's Red Wagon, noshing on Migas, and feeling a sense of irony as I read the January 25th Nashville Scene.

To what do I attribute the irony? To the fact that once again I was reading a glowing blurb in another edition of the Scene highlighting Jefferson Street's Kijiji Coffee House & Deli (this time in the Dining Guide; p. 44 in hard copy), despite the fact that Kijiji has been closed for months. It opens, "Kijiji ... One of the first new businesses to open in years ...." Here's a quiz for these wiz kids: what years would those be?

The Scene writers and editors had the excuse of the preceding holidays when they promoted defunct Kijiji in their "Annual Manual" a few weeks ago. But what's their excuse now? That they are too tired to fact check? Or is this an expression of "Factcheck This"?

What I'm perplexed by is that Scene editor Liz Garrigan "cringed" that the Annual Manual reported an open Kijiji; but just a short time later, no effort was made to edit out the mistake in the weekly Dining Guide? Are not entertainment and dining this tabloid's stack pole, and thus, checked and guarded regularly?

But back to my irony. Even more vexing than the editorial oversight is the fact the Nashville Scene was all set to close down the Red Wagon prematurely a few months ago via an opportunistic Kay West piece, but they just don't seem willing to close down Kijiji months after its owners have.

Just as it was time to be firm about the Red Wagon in September, so now it is time to let go of Kijiji. It is gone, Scenesters. I'll never eat at Red Wagon again; nor will you or any of your readers ever have Kijiji coffee on Jeff Street again (assuming you ever actually visit any place on Jeff Street).

Capitol Relief

Taxing By Other Means?

Does the new state law prohibiting growing counties from raising development fees and forcing borrowing or property tax increases keep them more honest when marketing their lifestyles? If fees are taxation by other means, it seems so. The line of the day (naturally, from a builder):
There's no such thing as a good tax .... However, a bad tax is a large tax on a small group of people. A better tax is something broad-based.
And there's no such thing as a good builder's cut or a good realtor's reumuneration or a good sub-contractor's percentage or a good owner's profit-margin, but those have to be paid, too.

UPDATE: Actually, a line from a commenter to the online edition of this story trumps the line of the day above:
Think outside the box. Send 1500 children a year to private schools and pay for it. Then you will not have to build any additional schools .... Churches already have buildings and they teach Sunday School. They can teach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday School also. The Children will be safer ... and taxes would not have to be raised.
This person apparently missed the memo about how unsafe churches actually are. What makes them doubly dangerous is the whole attitude that they were safer in the first place. We let down our guards.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It Takes a Lot of Balls to Attempt to Market a Development on the Very Enclave Post Criticizing that Development

The co-owners of Schoene Ansicht have given a whole new meaning to cliche, "There is no such thing as bad publicity." In the comments section of my last post--which details attempts by those co-owners and by Dale and Associates developers to install a drainage pipe that would funnel run-off downhill into neighbors' properties--one of the co-owners posted the contact information of the real estate agent for potential buyers. As if it were not adding insult to injury. As if any indifferent business could spam Enclave without me removing it. As if it wouldn't have gotten the response: they won't be getting any free advertising or support from me until they find a more constructive purpose for the drain pipe.

You know who is untouched in all of this? Dale and Associates, that's who. These guys and girls are basically beholden to the co-owners. They can plead to Metro that they had no other option but to design the pipe as it is, whine about having to go back to the Planning Commission with details that they should have resolved the first time around, but then make no effort to be responsible to Salemtown. And then they can walk away without fear of any financial repercussions. Neighbors cannot boycott their business, because we're not the ones doing business with them. We cannot lobby against them, because the land owners choose them. They come in and survey and design and then leave with their money in hand; beholden to no one who lives here.

Maybe someone more knowledgeable over at Belmont's Center for Entrepreneurship can explain the merits of that catbird seat to me. I tell you what, though: no matter how much smarter they are, that someone could never justify spamming a blog to capitalize on the very criticism one chooses to ignore while expecting that spam to stay.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Beautiful View" Is Not Looking So Beautiful to Some in Salemtown

A low visibility conflict has been brewing lately among some property owners in Salemtown over a large drainage pipe installed at a new townhouse development at 6th Avenue & Hume Street called Schoene Ansicht (German for "Beautiful View"). The drain pipe would funnel rainwater run-off into the alley between 5th and 6th Avenues and possibly onto the low-lying property of neighbors who reside across the alley from the development.

According to e-mail correspondence between a Metro Storm Water Engineer and a representative of Dale and Associates, the SP zoning of the site did not deal with stormwater run-off at all. However, the property itself has been converted from one that held a small duplex hugging the corner surrounded by mostly permeable greenspace to a high density footprint covering the entire property and offering paved parking. Nearly all of the prior greenspace is gone. So, water from the re-developed property is to drain into retention tanks and overflow though a single pipeline into the alley.

This presents a problem for next-door neighbors whose property sits several feet lower than the alley. I stood in the neighbors' yard to take a picture and from where I stood the pipe seemed to hit me at eye level. In his e-mail the Metro Engineer who also visited the site told Dale and Associates that he is concerned for the adjacent property and thinks that even when the alley is paved, the pavement "inversion" will not be enough to divert the run-off to the street.

Dale and Associates told the Engineer that Public Works would not allow them to run the pipe to the street because of a sidewalk, and so they maintain that they had no other choice. They are advocating a high crown in the alley to divert water to Hume Street. But that would present another problem for the adjacent property. The corner of 5th and Hume is where the water would run. 5th and Hume is one of those water run-off problem areas that Metro Water promised to solve a long time ago, but has not done so. So, even if the run-off from 6th and Hume is diverted down the alley to Hume, it will eventually add to the post-storm ponding in the adjacent neighbors' front yard instead of their back yard.

To further heighten tensions in the neighborhood, co-owners of the development seemed to send mixed messages to concerned neighbors about the project. One co-owner told neighbors that the pipe would empty right into the alley where it currently comes out. Recently, I sent an e-mail to another co-owner with the text:
I noticed that on your 6th and Hume development you are running what looks like a drainage pipe along the property line to the alley. Will that carry water run-off into the alley or are you planning to connect the pipe to the street run-off?
I received this response:
It'll be connected underground. This was a requirement by Metro Water's Storm Water division. All of that special stuff for that underground water retension system cost $117k installed. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to custom make pieces to fit our small project.
That response does not indicate that the water would run into the alley, even though it is very clear from other sources that the water will not connect to the street run-off or underground to the storm sewers. That mixed message generated confusion--with some charging Schoene Ansicht co-owners with deception--at our last Salemtown Neighbors meeting when we discussed the pipe. The co-owners used to attend those meetings, but have stopped doing so.

Salemtown Neighbors has been very supportive of this development from the beginning. We gave approval to this and other projects so that they could get Metro Council authorization to build. I even wrote a letter on their behalf to the Planning Commission supporting their plans. However, there are increasing concerns among some members, especially affected residents, that co-owners and developers of Schoene Ansicht are not doing what they should to mitigate water run-off problems that could adversely affect some of those who have supported them in the past.

UPDATE: Schoene Ansicht Co-owner Steve Yokley responds in the comments section of this post that he mistakenly assumed that the drainage plans on this development and another they are going to start in the future were the same when he replied to me in the e-mail I quote above:
The Salem Garden project at the corner of 6th and Garfield, was slated to discharge underground. I assumed that this project would be done the same way.

Outlying Growth Spells Doom for "Lower Taxes" Claims

Pick your cliché: double-edged sword, handwriting-on-the-wall, catch-22, chickens-coming-home-to-roost, goes-around-comes-around. You name it, and it will fit: anti-taxation advocates argue that lower suburban taxes spur greater outlying growth compared to urban areas. But those advocates rarely mention the factual flip-side: growth and resulting strain create greater demand for services, which paradoxically necessitates higher revenues. Mythic suburban opportunism contains the seeds of its own undoing.

Volunteer firefighters are a quaint idea. But as time goes by and as growth continues, will increasing numbers of Wilson County residents demand more sophisticated levels of profe$$ionalism from their first responders for the safety of their families?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Southern Baptist Affiliate Seminary Cans Female Professor Because She Is Female

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Despite the fact that her husband has chronic illnesses that require her to generate the primary income for their family, Hebrew Professor Sheri Klouda was dismissed from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas because she is a woman and despite her academic accolades.  Fundamentalist Seminary President Paige Patterson has maintained that scripture requires submission and silence from women in church and that men are more qualified than women to train men to be pastors at the Seminary, which has direct administrative and financial ties to the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention.  Charges of gender discrimination are flying around the faith-based blogosphere, according to Associated Baptist Press.

Southern Baptist Convention Blacklisted

Originally published at Free Tennessee:, an Indian website seeking to educate about alleged Christian "atrocities that conversions bring," has put the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention on its blacklist of Christian groups that aggressively pursue converts in India.  While the website acknowledges that the mainstream media is recently revealing the sexual exploitation of children in U.S. churches by ministers, sexual crimes by foreign missionaries and Christian ministers in other countries remain largely ignored (WARNING:  website displays some disturbing and graphic images of allegedly abused victims that readers may find objectionable).

Metro Council Member Emily Evans Put Her Discretionary Funds Up for Neighborhood Group Consideration

This morning I received copies of list serv correspondence between District 23 member Emily Evans and her Hillwood neighborhood constituents regarding the expenditure of the Council's discretionary "infrastructure/non-profit" funds. The discussion included Hillwood constituent support for Council Member Mike Jameson's handling of District 6's discretionary funds as reported in Enclave yesterday. Also, Hillwood constituents criticized District 17 Council Member Ronnie Greer's unopposed "giveaways" to the religious-based programs of the Nashville Inner City Ministries (as reported on Free Tennessee) and Aphesis House.

For her part, Council Member Evans mentions to her Hillwood constituents that she sent out a request to neighborhood groups in her district via their list serv asking for ideas on how to spend the funds. Ms. Evans's list based on that feedback includes both private non-profit and public projects:

  • $10,000 to Senior Citizens, Inc. for programming services; Ms. Evans says that this non-profit serves "quite a number" of West Meade residents
  • $10,750 to the Alliance for Public Education to purchase books for the Hillwood High School Library; she maintains that rules dictate that money earmarked for schools have to be sent through non-profits rather than directly to the School District
  • $5,000 to replace a foot bridge in Percy Warner Park and to purchase a new bench
  • $10,000 to fund a Dry Stone Conservancy Workshop at Traveler's Rest to teach members of the West Meade Conservancy and Metro employees how to build and restore the dry stack stone walls around the 23rd District; she told leaders that she could not use funds for the Belle Meade Plantation because she serves on their board (a refreshing change of pace from many of her peers on the Council)
  • An amount to be designated in the future to fund a survey of all of the dry stack stone walls in the 23rd District; she hopes that the survey will make possible a protection ordinance for the historic walls
Emily Evans should be applauded for involving the neighborhood groups in her district in the decision on how to spend her discretionary funds. While a significant amount is still going to non-profits, at least residents were openly invited to define the earmarks and some infrastructure that serves the broader public is going to be served, too.

In fact--outside of Mike Jameson's impressive prospective expenditures--more public infrastructure will be funded by Ms. Evans's resolution than by all of the other members' requests put together so far. She also avoided the unethical appearance that she was bringing in booty for personally favored private organizations with which she is connected.

Worse than Rathergate

Obama dresses down Faux News for their habitual perpetuation of unsubstantiated rumors and damned lies.

Big Deal. What's So "Bold" About That?

Yeah, I know. I got the same press release from Ben Hall that you did touting Bob Clement's "bold new initiative" to create an "Office of Volunteerism" in the Mayor's Office. But I don't see why it is such a bold initiative to be a conduit between volunteers and non-profits or schools. The Mayor's Office already does some of the connecting in places. But more importantly, I would like to know why Mr. Clement needs to be a Mayor in order to take initiative on promoting voluntarism and networking volunteers? He could do that just as easily outside of government on name recognition alone. I want to know how Mr. Clement is going to make local governance itself better. The Mayor should be a leader in government first and in the non-profit sector second.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Salemtown Association Votes to Oppose Car Wash Exemption Resolution

Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association voted unanimously tonight to authorize their Executive Board to send a letter to Metro Council Members and the Mayor opposing the Car Wash Exemption Bill, which has already caused an ethics controversy for Council Member Diane Neighbors and has spurred outcries among other neighborhood groups. SNNA joins several other associations and the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance in opposing special exemptions for select businesses. Once the letter is written, signed, and sent I will post it to Enclave.

Candidate Announces Run for the 19th District Council Seat

Blogger Sean Braisted is reporting that Janice Davis announced her intention tonight to run for the District 19 Council Seat, which will be vacated by term-limited Ludye Wallace at the end of the year. If it is the same Janice Davis who appeared in a January 18 News 2 report on her opposition in the Edgehill Neighborhood of a Belmont University plan to expand sports facilities into public Rose Park, then the ostensible impression she left with me is not bad. She tells Metro officials introducing the plan:
This is our lives, our houses, our homes, and I think you all have to remember that you are our employees.
Ms. Davis does live in the district she would represent.

Metro Police Considering "Quality of Life" Unit to Enforce Codes

At tonight's Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association meeting, we found out from our community police officers that Chief Ronal Serpas is considering the idea of forming "Quality of Life" Units. Accordingly, at least one officer in each precinct would be trained and certified in codes enforcement, and those officers would be able to cite codes violators, even if present to address other violations.

Given the plodding, bureaucratic process resulting from reporting codes violations to Metro Codes, I think that Serpas's idea is an outstanding one. Anything that the police can do to help maintain our codes standards against violators (overwhelming vegetation, vehicles in yards, excessive trash, etc.) should make our neighborhoods better. The plans are only preliminary at this point, so please consider contacting Chief Serpas (jump to the on-line police form) and encouraging him to follow through on those plans, and please contact your council members (including the at-Large ones) and ask to support this idea.

Take Note, Metro Council: This is the Way That Discretionary Funds, Being Tax Dollars, Are Supposed to Be Spent

Once again Mike Jameson shows the way to his fellows on Metro Council, and we finally have infrastructure funds being recommended for actual infrastructure. In an unprecedented move for this gaggle of self-serving and unaccountable elected officials, Mr. Jameson offered up his discretionary funds to a vote among the neighborhoods in his district, according to the Tennessean.

Here are the results (pending Council approval) for East Nashville:
  • An electronic informational sign for Cayce Homes on 7th Street ($7,000)
  • 55 ornamental trees for each of the 10 neighborhoods in the district ($12,850)
  • 4 bus shelters with an artistic component ($20,000)
Up to this point the cat herd Metro Council had spent over $400,000 in discretionary funds only on private non-profit groups (including narrowly religious ones) and none on actual Metro services or infrastructure. Jameson's option is an example of taking collected property taxes and plowing them back into the neighborhoods to increase quality of life and, in turn, property values.

North Georgia Today; Tennessee Tomorrow?

The situation for Hispanic jornaleros in North Georgia--a hotbed of white supremicist and Southern "heritage" activist movements--currently looks bleak as they are becoming increasingly the victims of hate crimes. It seems that some local whites are posing as construction contractors, promising the day laborers an attractive hourly pay, and taking them out to remote areas and assaulting them.

Compare and Contrast

[Local Christian] Pastor Charles Cowan believes if someone is going to serve the United States of America, they should make their promise the way it's always been done on the United States of America .... "America being founded on the Christian principles, I believe that we should continue to put our hand on the Bible [when swearing an oath]."

- - News 2 Reporter Jamey Tucker's report on one conservative evangelical's response to a Muslim Congressman taking the oath on the Qu'ran

Swear not at all; neither by heaven ... nor by earth .... But let your "yea" be "yea," and let your "nay" be "nay."

- - Jesus in that Christian Bible that conservative Christians want elected officials to swear on

With such hypocrisy in the recent oath-taking tempest, it is no wonder that evangelicals are buckling under a bad name. They've earned it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mayor Authorizes $5,000 Payment to Nashville Inner City Ministry, Inc.

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

A day after the Metro Council adopted a request for $5,000 for the Churches of Christ's Nashville Inner City Ministry, Inc., Mayor Bill Purcell signed the resolution. I assume that the Mayor's January 17 approval means that Metro Legal has dropped its Establishment Clause concerns, but I am waiting for a response from them after I inquired about the matter.

Shots Fired in Salemtown

The sounds of two or three rounds of semi-automatic gunfire peppered 4th Avenue in Salemtown last night just before 10:00. We heard the shots from our house, and like several others we immediately called the police, who showed up in several crusiers in a matter of minutes.

Neighbors who witnessed the shooting told police that a late 80s/early 90s dark colored Honda sedan (4 door) fired shots at a mid-90s Thunderbird in the parking lot of an apartment complex (pictured above) at 1609 4th Av., N. Reportedly, the shooters sent a couple of volleys into the complex from the alley between 4th and 5th and then drove around to 4th and shot into the complex's front-side driveway from the street. Witnesses say that a number of cars were hit by bullets. No person was hit. Police say this morning that they have no suspects in the shooting.

The apartment complex, which is near Morgan Park, already has a rough reputation for being a rumored center for drug sales. Also, the apartment building stays covered with the graffiti of the predominately Mexican "Brown Pride" gang. The complex, which according to Metro records is owned by Iunian and Doina Gherghescu of Old Hickory, TN, has been allowed to fall into a shabby, almost blighted appearance to match the criminal activity that goes on there. Along with the Shiloh Apartments just a few feet away, this complex is a liability to our neighborhood, and it is now attracting criminal activities that endanger its neighbors.

UPDATE: Police report that ballistics identified the weapon fired as either a .380 caliber or a 9 mm semi-automatic. A total of 4 cars were hit. Still no suspects.

Car Wash Exemption Bill Continues to Lack Planning Department's Revisions, Despite Co-sponsors' Claims

After the Public Hearing on Metro Council's Car Wash Exemption Bill, co-sponsor Charlie Tygard claimed responsibility in his remarks in chambers for not communicating to neighborhood residents all of the design conditions that new car washes would have to meet. Many of those residents oppose this bill. He also litanized some of what he called "upscale" conditions: monument-type brick signs, short knee-walls, and landscaping.

However, many of those "upscale" conditions--as recommended by the Planning Department--are not in the bill which is slated for third and final reading February 6. Compare the current Council resolution to the Planning Department's version (after the jump scroll to Item #13 on p. 76). Notice that Planning's recommendations are in bold in their document and notice that they are totally invisible in the Council version. As such, if it had not been for co-sponsor Diane Neighbors's medical procedure delaying its third and final reading on January 16, the bill that Council passed would have lacked a number of the very conditions Mr. Tygard cited to try and soften the blow to neighborhoods of exempting car washes from getting their consent.

As long as Mr. Tygard is taking responsibility, he needs to be accountable for misleading his audience into believing that the exemption bill says more than it actually does. If this bill passes in February without the Planning conditions, then bill co-sponsors' misrepresentation of the conditions will be codified and imposed upon the affected neighborhoods. That will merely be adding insult to injury.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gang News Buzzing in Each Tennessee Metropolitan Area in January

Many Nashvillians are aware of local news involving the indictment of local gang members. But the other city dailies have been buzzing this new year with various gang stories.
  • The Chattanooga Times Free Press has a story on a north Georgia exurb's police efforts against teenage gangs. Vandalism through gang-graffiti-tagging is the primary crime.
  • The Knoxville News Sentinel has a piece on a gang member at the center of a landmark court ruling on classifying violent acts committed by criminals too young to vote.
  • The Memphis Commercial Appeal has an article on changes in the ways local police handled violent robberies, which lead to the conviction of members of a notorious gang that was active in murder, bank robberies, and petty thefts.
It is obvious that gang-related activities are not just a local problem, but represent a statewide and regional challenge.

Duke Scientists Find "Charity Spot" in Human Brain

But before assuming that scientific reductionism and determinism win, keep in mind (so to speak) that the experiment merely indicates activity in one spot among "altruistic types." Science has its own internal philosophical tensions indicated themselves by this statement:
Science has grappled with why people will put the welfare of others ahead of their own, even at personal cost. From an evolutionary viewpoint it makes little sense because it does not increase the chances of someone passing on their genes.
Such is indication that science should not swallow certain assumptions about human behavior uncritically, but draw on different possibilities than a limited set of explanations. When pure species self-interest drives an anthropology of human nature in the sciences before experiments begin, then there is bound to be conflict when data do not correspond with hard hypotheses.

There are just as many problems with "rational choice" theory in sociology, which has a hard time explaining altruistic behavior without reference to risk and benefit, even though there are altruists who do not factor risks and benefits as strictly as rational choice suggests.

12South to Start Neighborhood Watch

In the wake of a number of reported break-ins in November and December and after reports of a teenage group (4-8 kids) attacking and otherwise intimidating neighborhood locals since the New Year, the 12South Neighborhood Association President announced a meeting to launch the area's first neighborhood crime watch. The watch will be formed with the help of Metro Police at a Monday, January 22 meeting at Sevier Park Community Center.

What surprises me about this announcement--made to the 12South list serv--is that the neighborhood did not already have an operating crime watch. The list serv seems to have been functioning in that fashion and I just assumed that they had an organized watch, given the regular reports of burglaries, thefts, and break-ins that I've seen posted. Hopefully, greater organization will translate to more crime deterrence for the 12Southies.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Fat Cats' Bill Has Come Due in Congress

While the bloated oil tycoons may still be free to jack up their prices and scoop up windfall profits to pay for corporate jets, palacial homes, and personal tax advisors showing how to make even more obscene amounts of money off international oil dependence, they will no longer be doing so free from giving back something to their homeland. Congress rescinds the Bush oil tax breaks and adds the royalties that should be charged for taking oil on public property. Now when they charge us more at the pump, we know that at least some of it will be going to help Americans in general rather than the just the children, grandchildren, and personal caddies of Exxon CEOs.

A Blues Singer's Comparison of the Two Capital "T" State Capitols

I found this gem in a 5-year-old Austin newspaper article:

"In Nashville, everybody hates everybody; it's not loving like it is here. Clifford Antone was, 'Come in to the Home of the Blues.' Just welcomed me. And thank God for [Continental Club owner] Steve Wertheimer. He's there all the way, so hands-on. That's why the club is jumping all the time. I love this town. I kiss it.

The first time I won Best Female Vocalist, I thought, 'What?!' And Lou Ann [Barton] says to me, 'Well, honey, you deserve it.' That's how Austin is, open arms. In Nashville everyone's like, 'Oh, you're trying to get my piece of cheese!' But here, we've got plenty of cheese for everyone.'"
- - Toni Price, former Nashvillian, long-time host of Tuesday Night "Hippie Hour" at Austin's Continental Club

Thursday, January 18, 2007

East G-town Rendered

Thanks, Congressional Republicans, for Nothing

Wa-Po reports that U.S. Senate Republicans killed congressional ethics reform.

Update: Republicans reverse their PR blunder.

Walking a Thin Line; Tottering a Bit

A Nashville City Paper editorial tip-toes its way through the car wash exemption controversy today, bracketing the question of ethics but underscoring the importance of questioning campaign financing in Metro Council politics. Except for a couple of missteps, it is worth the read. There has been no response whatsoever (outside of Diane Neighbors's response) from the council members supporting this bill as to their relationship with the car wash special interests. It is important especially for members like Buck Dozier, who is running for Mayor, to be explicit about those ties.

The problems that I see in the NCP editorial concern its characterization of the sides in this debate. It erroneously suggests that the pro-neighborhood side is not pro-development. I don't know any neighborhood advocates who see development of city neighborhoods as at odds with their goals. Development, if responsibly pursued, supports the interests of neighborhood residents and leaders. The law requiring neighborhood and council member consent on development stipulated that developers and neighbors should work together for the overall good. Absentee developers should be responsible to the folk who actually live near the development. That is pro-development; just not pro-any-kind-of-development-whatsoever.

Likewise, editors should not pit communities against "the progress of development," precisely because not all development is progressive in nature. For instance, does clogging neighborhood streets with 200 to 300 cars resulting from new car washes really count as progress? Would that count as progress in your neighborhood? It is progress for the individual who owns the wash and his bank account; but does it really count as overall community progress? Moreover, introducing the labels "liberal" and "conservative" into the mix strains analogy, since the political spectrum spans both sides of the car wash issue.

The most glaring error in the NCP editorial was the mention that the letter was from a handful of neighborhood groups. The letter came from the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance, which represents more than a "handful" of associations. Granted the number of the most vocal neighborhood groups who take issue with the car washes are the few currently facing car washes in their neighborhoods. But notice: the NCP editors failed to point out that the special business interests involved on the "development" side constitute something closer to a "handful": three individual car wash entrepreneurs. Throw council members behind them and that is a handful.

East Germantown Warehouse Sold for Over $3M

According to a regular at the Nashville Charrette, the giant green and white warehouse in East Germantown has been sold to an out-of-state buyer, who is said to be "interested in the long term growth of the neighborhood," although "it will continue to be a big green and white box until it makes sense to do something else with it." The property sold for $3,150,000.

Last year I tried to coax Bob Bernstein to expand Bongo Nation to the North End by mentioning this available property to him. He told me he was looking for a warehouse. We needed a Bongo Java. This property is nestled right next to Neuhoff, a short jog from Germantown. It seemed like the perfect fit to me. For him, I guess, not so much. Let's hope the promising overtures made by the new owner on behalf of the neighborhood become real.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Confusing Words on "English Official" at the NCP

The City Paper Metro beat writer's explanation of the differences between "English Official" and "English Only" bills confuses rather than clarifies the differences. He writes:
The Metro Council last night voted to make English the official language of Davidson County. The Metro Council at its next meeting, in February, will again vote whether to make English the official language of Davidson County. The English resolution approved Tuesday was a peace-making attempt that newly-elected Councilman Jim Hodge introduced intending to put an end to tensions created by an English ordinance sponsored by Councilman Eric Crafton that also would make English the city’s official language but that could possibly, as opposed to Hodge’s resolution, have some hard effect on Metro.
It is not exactly true that both measures would "make" English the official language. Last night's resolution, a "memorializing" resolution, declares the position and intent of the council without the coercion or limits of imposing a law. By voting for last night's resolution, the Council was voting essentially to recognize and to promote English as Metro's official language.

Eric Crafton's English Only bill would force Metro employees to limit their interaction with the public to one uniform way. Using vague terms like "hard effect" or cynical insider descriptions like "peace-making attempt" lends nothing to understanding that difference. I do not know how much the City Paper's standing as a "center-right" publication affects their reportage, but they need to tighten up the clarity of their reports so as not to confuse the subjects.

Council Approves Money for Ministry; Will Metro?

Details here.

Metro Council Approves $5,000 to Proselytizing Ministry; Not Clear Whether Metro Legal Will Allow It

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Metro Council Member Ronnie Greer re-introduced his resolution earmarking $5,000 for the Churches of Christ's Nashville Inner City Ministry after the ministry submitted a statement a few hours before last night's council meeting saying that their "Lifeskills" classes are not based on biblical principles. Mr. Greer argued on behalf of the resolution saying that the classes, which would directly benefit from the public funds, are based on broader moral and character-based issues and that resubmitting the resolution was "just the right thing to do."

A council office official told members that it still is not clear whether Metro Legal will allow the funds to be sent to NICM, since they had not had time to look over the submitted statement. He also told them that the council office itself would like to see more language in the Lifeskills statement. Council Member Randy Foster, a Churches of Christ member, stood in support of the bill and said he wanted the message sent to Metro Legal that no organization should have to set aside Judeo-Christian values for the sake of broader moral principles. The council approved Greer's request.

I'll continue to follow this matter to see if public funds get sent to this Ministry. If the funds do get dispersed, I would want to know what kind of oversight Metro is going to exercise to make sure that the Establishment Clause is not being violated.

Social Conservative Superfluous Soap Box of the Night

The social conservatives on the Metro Council say so many interesting things in the course of a typical council meeting that they could be cited every other Wednesday for their comments the night before.

Last night's superfluous soap box citation goes to Eric Crafton who on a housekeeping resolution--the sole purpose of which was to bring a contract that Metro has had since 2004 with STD Free, Inc. (for educational services) into compliance with new state laws on lobbying and conflicts of interest--asked this question:
So, do they teach that abstinence is the one 100% way you won't get a sexually transmitted disease?
What was he going to do if the co-sponsor said, "no"? Encourage other members to lawlessness by voting against bringing a Metro contract into compliance with state law?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Council English Declaration Passes

[I]t's ludicrous to think that laws need to be created to help protect the language of Shakespeare.

- - Joey, West Wing

The memorializing resolution declaring English to be the "official language of the Metropolitan Government" passed overwhelming tonight. The difference between this resolution (co-sponsored by Jim Hodge and Randy Foster) and Eric Crafton's English Only bill (to be debated on third reading in February) is that the former does not codify English as the only or first language that Metro employees are permitted to use. It affirms English as the common language while still allowing latitiude to Metro employees to be flexible in offering services.

If you missed tonight's debate on it you missed Eric Crafton blowing a gasket and lashing out verbally at Vice Mayor Howard Gentry when Mr. Gentry prompted him to stay off discussions about his English Only bill in an effort to sink Hodge's bill. It was quite a yelling spectacle on Crafton's part. Mr. Gentry did exactly what he was supposed to do as Chair of the meeting, including keeping his cool when Mr. Crafton lost his. Ludye Wallace made perhaps the most intelligent point in the debate later when he said that the declaration of English as the official language was something members on all sides of Mr. Crafton's bill could agree on and Mr. Wallace added that it is contradictory to support any more coercive bill on the matter and vote against this bill. Nonetheless, 7 members showed how uncompromising they could be by voting against it.

It is said that being bilingual staves off the onset of dementia. Being bilingual surely did not stave off a temper tantrum by the sponsor of English Only tonight in Council Chambers.

Car Wash Exemption Resolution Deferred

Council voted tonight to defer bill BL2006-1178 to the next meeting.

Planning Commission Conditions Are NOT Included in Current Car Wash Exemption Bill

Car wash exemption advocates (including Diane Neighbors as late as today in the City Paper) keep invoking the Planning Commission's approval of the exemption bill, but Planning Department conditions continue to be left out of latest version of BL2006-1178. I just got off the phone with a Planning Department official who told me that bill co-sponsors have not included Planning conditions in the bill, which is up for third and final reading tonight. If Planning's approval is significant enough to invoke for this bill's fortunes, why aren't their recommendations worthy to be incorporated into this bill?

Tennessean Has Latest Response from Diane Neighbors

Council Member at Large Diane Neighbors, the subject of allegations of deceiving constituents and showing favoritism to special business interests, sent out an e-mail to her fellows this morning, and she shared it with the Tennessean. She insists that "ample time" has been given to the public for what a previous bill sponsor hoped would be a "full and honest" discussion of a special exemption for car wash developers, who will no longer have to consult neighborhood associations or council members before building if the resolution passes tonight on third reading.

More Local Tax Dollars To Be Sluiced for Private Groups Tonight

A slate of new initiatives on tonight's Metro Council Agenda would continue to subsidize private non-profits with public tax dollars, even though the primary designation of those funds is "infrastructure." I've already established the question as to whether a bill that would send $14,000 of our tax dollars to an association-run baseball field in Shelby Park is more private than public. And I've already mentioned that Ronnie Greer has rolled away the stone and has resurrected his bid to send $5,000 to a Church of Christ ministry that converts the people it serves. But here is the entire list on tonight's agenda.

If you are keeping score at home, all of the non-profit requests for "infrastructure" funds made since October have been approved with no debate and little challenge (with the exception of Greer's "Ministry" request), so we can expect that all of these will breeze through easily.

I'll reiterate that I don't think that public support for private organizations is a bad thing. But why earmark all of that money to private groups when public services need it, too? Why choose a private domestic violence program when our police domestic violence task force can use the funds? Why should Metro pay the Humane Association money when Animal Control does not have enough resources to help control our stray dog problems? What are council members getting from these private groups in return for their largesse with our money?

Council Ethics Splashed in Print

The Car Wash Exemption/Campaign Ethics Boondoggle hits hard copy this morning. Nothing much new to the story. Outside of the newsprint, we're still left with the images of Ludye Wallace shaking a car wash developer's hand after the latter spoke as the sole proponent of car wash exemption and the irony of Harold White's argument that the Council should not be influenced by a few neighborhood association people (he forgot to add "unless those few people want to build some car washes"). We can add to those Diane Neighbors's rather perplexing, equivocal comment to the Tennessean that she has not worked "for" or "against" this bill, even as she has received campaign help from car wash developers. If she has not worked "for" the bill, then why did she vote "for" it twice? Wouldn't a bill sponsor not working "for" or "against" a bill abstain when it came time to vote? Or better yet, why wouldn't she just shepherd the bill to the leadership of another co-sponsor to bring through the process in order to keep her name from being tied to the fortunes of special business interests?

Monday, January 15, 2007

White Bridge President Claims that Car Wash Developer's Lawyers Agreed to Abide by Association's Opposition

According to a letter from the White Bridge Neighborhood Association President Paula Lovett, the attorneys of Tim Cameron (the developer who plans to build a car wash on White Bridge Road) told WBNA that they would abide by the association's opposition to the car wash after they met in July 2006 and the WBNA Board voted against the plans. According to Ms. Lovett, Mr. Cameron was only proposing to buy the White Bridge property when they first met, but after Resolution BL2006-1178 was introduced, Mr. Cameron purchased the property and proceeded with plans to build a car wash.

Ms. Lovett also charges that Diane Neighbors promised to defer the car wash exemption bill indefinitely at a Planning Meeting in September after all sides agreed that the earlier bill that included car washes in its restrictions had not been in existence long enough to see if it worked.

The White Bridge Association was the only group to oppose the bill in Public Hearing on January 2 (even though Glencliff and Woodbine had also organized opposition to it before the Public Hearing).

The Frustration of Missed Opportunities

The public gallery was packed on January 2 with people attending the Metro Council Meeting to speak out against the highly visible Downtown Westin Hotel Development. There was no space where there weren't neighborhood leaders. I even saw one or two from the Historic Germantown neighborhood.

Yet, not one other leader--outside of the three expressly present to oppose it--rose to speak against the attempt by Diane Neighbors et al. to let car washes get unimpeded into neighborhoods through this backdoor ordinance. That's a head-scratcher.

You cannot convince me that partially blocking the Broadway view of the Cumberland with a supersized Westin Hotel would be more diasterous to our actual quality of life than building several car washes in neighborhoods where traffic is already choked, where noise and sight pollution clog the senses. I cannot believe that those leaders in the gallery did not rise as readily to oppose car wash exemptions as they did to oppose the Westin. It's beyond me.

Telling Moments from the Car Wash Exemption Debate on January 2

You should do yourself a favor and watch the two specific video files in the council archives that show the car wash exemption bill public hearing and the ensuing council debate. You should see these highlights for yourself:

  • There was only one proponent to speak in favor of the car wash exemption during the Public Hearing. His name is Joe Meeks and he is one of the property owners intending to build a car wash. After his speaking time ended, Ludye Wallace (Dist. 19) came up to him, said something, and shook his hand. That may or may not be significant, but Ludye failed to show opponents such partiality.
  • Mayoral candidate Buck Dozier (at Large) attempted to end Council debate on the car wash exemption bill immediately after the bill's two co-sponsors, Diane Neighbors and Charlie Tygard responded to the Public Hearing feedback. Dozier called for "the previous question"--which effectively ends deliberations and prompts a vote on the bill--before any bill opponents had the chance to speak. When the council voted on Dozier's motion, there were enough "no" votes to kill it and keep deliberations going. Buck Dozier has not yet disclosed any ties to car wash developers, even though he has built a substantial campaign war chest in his run for Mayor. Given his attempt to cut off debate, I am bound to ask whether Dozier is as committed as original sponsor Amanda McClendon to a "full and honest" debate. If we ever do find out his financial ties, this vote might hang like an albatross around his mayoral hopes.
  • During council debate car wash exemption proponents kept referring to the Planning Commission's approval of their bill. However, when Ludye Wallace asked a Planning official whether he thought Tygard's defense of the bill was "true," the Planning official did not exactly leap forward with a glowing endorsement. He brushed Wallace off and he stated that the bill lacked conditions that the Planning Commission had recommended, including one "to address the needs for parking restrictions on automatic car washes." That official said he was in the middle of e-mailing Tygard about that omission when Ludye called on him. What a futile attempt to get rubber stamped that proved to be.
  • Despite the fact that during the Public Hearing opponents of the exemption bill outnumbered proponents 3-to-1, Harold White (Dist. 14) barked to his fellows, "I do not believe that one group of two people coming from White Bridge Road to be against [the exemption bill] represents all of Davidson County." And one self-interested car wash developer does represent the County, Mr. White?
  • John Summers (Dist. 24) cut to the chase in his opposing comments:
    [The car wash exemption] bill is here because there are some people that want to be able to put in a car wash where they want to put in a car wash. And rather than sitting down and working with you as the district Council Member and working with neighbors ... and working with other property owners and trying to find a compromise, they just want to be able to go down to Codes and get their permit.

The Nashville Post Has a Response from Diane Neighbors

E. Thomas Wood and Walker Duncan at the Post have a comment from Vice Mayoral Candidate and Council Member Diane Neighbors in the wake of the car wash exemption controversy. It seems unchanged from what she, Charlie Tygard, and other co-sponsors have argued in public council deliberations.

Ms. Neighbors still does not address the matter of whether she promised neighborhood leaders one thing and then did another in moving for approval on January 2; nor does she divulge any information regarding financial or campaign ties she may or may not have to car wash exemption proponents. Just as she did on January 2, she also ignores the primary concern driving neighborhood opposition to the bill: that neighborhood streets off of the main arterials will be flooded with traffic because of new car wash developments.

District 23 Metro Council Member Emily Evans Says She Will Not Support Car Wash Exemption on Tuesday

Metro Council Member Emily Evans (Dist. 23) sent me the following e-mail yesterday evening:

I was absent from the car wash bill vote but I do not intend to vote for it. There has been a good deal of opposition to the bill voiced by residents of my district. Many of them are avid readers of your blog so I thought I’d save them a bit of trouble and let you know where I stand.

Emily Evans
Metro Council District 23

Sylvan Park Neighborhood Association Opposed Car Wash Exemption

In an e-mail to Metro Council last Friday, Sylvan Park Neighborhood Association President Rob Robinson expressed opposition to the Car Wash Exemption Bill and he reiterated that the previous SPNA President had contacted Metro Council in December with the news that SPNA "voted unanimously after thoughtful discussion to formally oppose this bill."

Glencliff Neighborhood President Says That They Would Have Attended Public Hearing Save Council Member's Pledge to Defer

In an e-mail to Metro Council Members, Glencliff Neighborhood Association President Noel Whitley states that GNA would have attended the January 2 Public Hearing on the Car Wash Exemption Bill if they had not understood that bill co-sponsor Diane Neighbors had pledged to defer the bill beforehand. Had they attended, according to the e-mail, their intention would have been to communicate their opposition to the bill. President Whitley also asked the Council to vote "no" on the bill on third reading next Tuesday.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Question of a "Full and Honest Discussion": Compare and Contrast

Councillady [Amanda] McClendon ... stated that she never intended for car washes to be a part of [a previous bill requiring neighborhood consent], and she felt like she was deceitful when she moved it forward by not acknowledging that. I spoke to Judge McClendon this afternoon. She still feels that way. She just wants to move it forward and vote it up or down. So, with that I renew my motion for approval [of exempting car washes].
- - Council Member Diane Neighbors after the January 2 Public Hearing closed with only one neighborhood association rising to oppose the vote

Because I never mentioned to Council that car washes were included - and it was, therefore, not discussed, I felt that I had inadvertently deceived the council. I filed the bill to bring it to the council's attention, Diane Neighbors co-sponsored this bill at my request and as a courtesy to me since I had to resign. Personally, I think that they (car washes) are fine in the existing used car lot bill but the council should decide that with a full and honest discussion.
- - Former Council Member Amanda McClendon in an e-mail to a Woodbine Neighbors leader, who had encouraged members of a District 16 list serv to oppose on January 2; no Woodbine leaders spoke on January 2

Do Any of the 26 Metro Council Members Voting with Diane Neighbors in Support of Car Wash Exemption Have Conflicts of Interest?

One of the requests made by the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance is that supporters of the controversial Car Wash Exemption Bill recuse themselves from voting on Tuesday if they have ties to campaign contributors like John Hobbs and others with a vested interest in putting car washes in neighborhoods without regard to neighborhood consent. The NNA charges that Diane Neighbors has ties to campaign contributors that influence her stance on the bill.

26 other council members voted with Ms. Neighbors, but it is as yet unclear as to whether they have ties to groups lobbying on behalf of car wash interests. At least one of those voting "aye" is Buck Dozier, who is running for Mayor this year and should immediately disclose whether some of the considerable campaign funds he has received have come from these specific contributors and recuse himself from voting on Tuesday if so.

In the interest of helping constituents find out more details from council members, I have listed the names, e-mail addresses, and links to district maps of members who voted for the bill on second reading and of members who were absent that evening below:

Members Voting In Favor of Exempting Car Wash Developments

Buck Dozier ( -- at Large
Diane Neighbors ( -- at Large
Adam Dread ( -- at Large
Brenda Gilmore ( -- Dist. 1
Jamey Isabel ( -- Dist. 2
Walter Hunt ( -- Dist. 3
Michael Craddock ( -- Dist. 4
Pam Murray ( -- Dist. 5
Erik Cole ( -- Dist. 7
Jim Forkum ( -- Dist. 9
Rip Ryman ( -- Dist. 10
Feller Brown ( -- Dist. 11
Jim Gotto ( -- Dist. 12
Carl Burch ( -- Dist. 13
Harold White ( -- Dist. 14
J.B. Loring ( -- Dist. 15
Ronnie Greer ( -- Dist. 17
Ludye Wallace ( -- Dist. 19
Billy Joe Walls ( -- Dist. 20
Ed Whitmore ( -- Dist. 21
Jason Alexander ( -- Dist. 28
Jim Hodge ( -- Dist. 30
Parker Toler ( -- Dist. 31
Sam Coleman ( -- Dist. 32
Robert Duvall ( -- Dist. 33
Lynn Williams ( -- Dist. 34
Charlie Tygard ( -- Dist. 35

Members Absent on January 2

David Briley ( -- at Large (also running for Mayor)
Jason Hart ( -- Dist. 8
Eric Crafton ( -- Dist. 22
Emily Evans ( -- Dist. 23

(Carolyn Baldwin Tucker and Mike Jameson abstained from voting; Page, Hausser, Summers, Shulman, Adkins, Foster, Wilhoite were the members voting against exempting car washes).