Friday, November 30, 2007

Handicapping the 'Ville

Nashville is listed in a real estate brokerage firm's list of "2008's Top 10 Industrial Markets to Watch." The list focuses on future trends rather than on current data, so this is more like a "his-mudder-was-a-mudder" prognostication. Let's also be post-Newtonian about the physics of picking certain "economic factors" over others (observing "tax incentives, low labor costs, and low utility costs" is not objective; it is biased and it effects the field observed).

On an unrelated but not unimplicated note: The salad tax-free days in Spring Hill are over and its future is cloudy. Says the Tennessean:
A nationwide housing slowdown is taking a financial toll on cities across Middle Tennessee, including this town that once thrived off money from development but now has to sell off investments to make ends meet.

Aldermen voted this week to cash out almost $900,000 in certificates of deposit to help pay the bills, and state auditors are reviewing Spring Hill's financial books looking for places to save money.
The days when "growth fees" could fund services are over with the housing slump.

Nashville has got its own problems (like the looming $1 billion price tag attached to the mortgage slump) that should factor in to whether it will actually emerge as a top 10 market beyond "tax incentive offers." However, might Nashville's brighter future have to do partially with the fact that it depends on a diverse set of revenues streams beyond growth fees? Not in places where horn-honkers are rallied to oppose any and all tax increases.

Hot Stove Stoked Next Week in Nashville

Fantasy sports leagues can be traced back to the founding of the original baseball rotisserie league in 1980, which grew out of the propensity of baseball aficionados to study and to debate statistics. Statistics repartee grew out of a cultural ritual called the "Hot Stove League," the heart of which are the events of Baseball Winter Meetings, which this year will be held here in Nashville.

Next week Nashville will be exposed to a hard fact that many other cities realized a long time ago: every other professional sport takes a backseat to baseball during the Winter Meetings, because of the drama of trades and signings that have such an impact on the 2008 season and beyond to our competitive rituals of debating players' stats.

Local sports writers and reporters have a golden opportunity to correspond first-hand with our national pastime at perhaps its most significant annual event rather than rely on dispatches from USA Today and other news outlets. We'll see whether they seize that chance.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

One for the "English First" Drones

Some new Pew Studies:
show that fewer than one-in-four (23%) Latino immigrants report being able to speak English very well. However, fully 88% of their U.S.-born adult children report that they speak English very well. Among later generations of Hispanic adults, the figure rises to 94%.
The surveys also indicate that Latinos are motivated by the belief that deficiency in language skills is the cause of discrimination against them.

Further Affirmation of My Nonvote for Ford

LiberFreddio refers us to Harold Ford's op-ed piece in the Moonie tract, otherwise known as the Washington Times. That Mr. Ford feels the need to suck up to conservatives now as much as he did when he prayed ran against Bob Corker for U.S. Senate justifies my decision not to vote for him in 2006.

I look forward to the day, which may never come, when I regret not voting for Harold Ford, Jr. But for now, I'm glad he lost, because if he's pushing cutting corporate tax rates to the Moonies and the Neo-Cons without defending a Senate seat, imagine what kind of conservative tear he would be on if had won in 2006.

Another Reason to Hold Comcast in Contempt

[I]t looks as if big money wins out again against the little folks.

- - Cowboys' fan married to a Packers' fan faced with the possiblity of paying extra to see the biggest contest of the regular NFL season tonight

Comcast is only broadcasting what is arguably the biggest football game*--tonight's contest between the Green Bay Packers (10-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (10-1)--of the regular NFL season on pay-per-view. The NFL and Comcast are in a "political" battle over providing more football games as part of the basic cable package to customers, and as usual, the customers--at least the average ones--are the losers.

*If the New England Patriots were not completely in another universe far from everyone else, then the previous New England-Indianapolis contest would have been the bigger game.

Not Good

The Nashville Predators have only hit the paid attendence that they are supposed to be averaging (14,000--in order to keep their lease with Nashville in tact) once this season. That's not exactly a ground swell of support after the Mayor bowed to the "Keep Them at Any Cost" Crowd and pulled the Preds' hindquarters out of the fire.

All I can say is there should be some sustained debate in Metro Council over approving the Mayor's deal with the new ownership team. Attendance is not just lagging, it is limping. And instead of blowing the roof off the arena in the wake of the deal, all those Preds supporters got quiet, almost as if they were breathing a collective sign of relief rather than walking the walk. They are a man up and still can't muster a power play.

The lack of any groundswell of support for the hockey club should give the Council pause about this deal. And this thing should not sail through our legislative body easily. Finally, those who argue with no qualification that we have no choice but to do what the team demands of us--when the lackluster attendence clearly suggests that we can do otherwise--deserve a strong round of boos.

When They Told Giuliani to Get a Room, He Did So on the Public Dole and He Didn't Exactly Slum It

How's this for cynical? As Mayor of New York, Republican Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani used public funds to finance extramarital rendezvous with his mistress in the Hamptons and charged them to city agencies. He even charged agencies that aid the disabled and provide lawyers for indigent defendants, according to Politico. Still waiting for the cynical part? At the time the Mayor's Office was asked to explain the expenses to auditors, Giuliani refused to divulge the information citing "security" reasons.

Why isn't the mainstream media grilling the Republican like they did Bill Clinton over the Jennifer Flowers affair? Using 9/11 fears to hide public funding of sex romps in the playground of the rich seems a lot worse to me than anything Bill Clinton ever did.

UPDATE: If you haven't noticed yet, TPM is using the term "shag" now in as many different ways possible to refer to the allegations that former Mayor Giuliani was exercising his extramarital preogatives with government funds. If the term "shag" (as in "he shagged his mistress") eventually sticks, then will we see folks waving squares of shag carpeting at Giuliani campaign events the way the Republicans waved flip-flops at John Kerry events?

Here is footage from last night's Republican debate that includes questions regarding "shagginggate":

UPDATE: Giuliani gave his mistress her own NYPD security detail while he was still married to his previous wife! Mistress used them as her own personal taxi service! Can this get any uglier for Rudy?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

3-Year Immigration Backlash Sampling Includes 3 Tennessee Communities

The Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center lists a number of the "more egregious examples of physical and psychological violence" against Latinos in various communities around the United States.

Tennessee has the dubious distinction of having 3 listed:
MAY 7, 2005
Maryville, Tenn.
A Mexican grocery store is vandalized by five white men who shatter windows, damage a refrigerator and spray-paint neo-Nazi symbols, causing over $17,000 in damage. Two men — Thomas Lovett and Jacob Reynolds — eventually plead guilty and are each sentenced to six months in prison.
JULY 20, 2006
Dayton, Tenn.
Gilberto Mejía, owner of the Mexican grocery store Carnicería Los Primos, is verbally assaulted by anti-immigration activist June Griffin, who barges into the store and tears down a Mexican flag. Griffin then allegedly harasses Mejía and leaves threatening phone messages, which Mejia saves for police.

"It was an act of war," says Griffin, who has unsuccessfully run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican. Charged with civil rights intimidation, phone harassment, theft and vandalism, Griffin is released after witnesses fail to turn up at a court hearing.

"I'm not ashamed of anything I did," Griffin tells The Herald-News.
MAY 10, 2007
Dunlap, Tenn.
Frankie Bowman, who in 2005 launched an unsuccessful petition drive to prevent a Mexican nightclub from moving into his neighborhood, is arrested for offering an undercover Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent $2,500 to burn down Mexico de Noche. Bowan, 52, allegedly told the agent he didn't care whether the building was empty or occupied when the fire was set. He faces trial on charges of solicitation to commit aggravated arson.

Mountain Minuteman founder Robert Crooks E-mails a video to several prominent anti-immigration activists that appears to shows a Minuteman tracking a group of Mexicans through a gun's night vision scope. In the video, an unidentified man can be heard calling the Mexicans "cockroaches" and then firing off a shotgun. "This video shows how to keep a Home Depot parking lot empty," Crooks writes in his cover E-mail, snidely suggesting that recipients know how to "Talk the Talk" but not "Walk the Walk" of effectively fighting illegal immigration. A few days later, a very similar night-vision video surfaces, this one purporting to show a Minuteman hitting a lone Mexican with a sniper shot. Crooks, who initially denies making the videos but then admits it, later says the second video was faked. Although state and federal law enforcement officials look into the incident, no victims are found.

I Guess He's Willing to Demand that People Sacrifice Property Rights for A Border Fence

Local blogging Republican Candidate for Some-Office-in-the-Future, Bob Krumm, wants a border fence along the Mexican border (and none for Canada?) based on a piece in Reverend Sun Myung Moon's conservative newspaper, the Washington Times, which reported a plan to smuggle Afghan and Iraqi terrorists through tunnels used by Mexican gangs to smuggle drugs into the US.

Leaving aside the argument that tunnels go underground (thus rendering surface-obstructing fences moot), I would have to say that Bob Krumm's wish for a 6,500 mile fence is impractical and even dangerous to Americans on the border if you consider the complexities and legal implications (let alone the cost, which Republicans are generally unwilling to pay unless they can borrow the money) of actually building a border fence.

Quoting a report on one such plan for the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the Texas Observer opines:

[T]he tactical infrastructure within several of the 21 sections [from Rio Grande City, TX to Brownsville, TX] would also encroach on multiple privately-owned land parcels. Some proposed fence sections could also encroach upon portions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Texas State Parks in the Valley.

....In addition to the possibility of legal entanglements from eminent domain proceedings, the Department of Homeland Security must also leap over environmental laws, and if it wants to use the levees, it probably needs Mexico’s assent as well. Then, of course, there is the widespread opposition from residents and elected officials from the Rio Grande Valley.

Brave New Blogosphere

Some in the land of the giants, Web 2.0, cannot wait until the more independent, less "amassed" of us die off:

All in all, the modern blog has progressed. Greatly. From a simple beginning, it’s managed to carry itself up the proverbial ladder in a few years’ time, and now stands tall amid big-money media houses. Yes, even the giants have joined in on the fun, creating their own blogs to gain new followings of their own.

What does this mean for the future of blogging? Does it portend a consolidation in the total number, with a decrease in amateur blogs, and disproportional fame given to the topmost percentile?

In short, yes, it does. But that’s always been expected. Such a trend occurred in the old media landscape. New media will experience a similar transformation. Which is fine by us.

Well, as long as we’re still alive and kickin’ with this here publication when all’s said and done.
And will Web 3.0 actually downsize or merely isolate and provide cover for targeted market penetration by the "amassed"?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Speaking of Empty-Nest Hipsterdom: Two Things Surprise Me about This DA|AD Ad

  1. That they refer to the advertised development as "6th & Hume" (which is in Salemtown) rather than as Schoene Ansicht, which is its actual name. You'll remember that I posted a picture for your impressions just a few days ago on a Baskin Company development across the street from Schoene Ansicht called, "6th & Hume." DAAD is also designing it.
  2. That they call these units "multi-family." I don't take issue with the "multi" part. That's obvious. But "family"? C'mon! I visited an acquaintance who owns one, and I concluded there is no way your average American family fits into that space. Maybe if the family is a single parent and a single child. I did ask my acquaintance last night whether he thought his townhouse could hold a family and he told me that if the laundry room was converted to a bathroom and the garage was converted to a bedroom, then yes they could. So, a family buying any of these spaces would basically have to park on the street and take their laundry to a laundrymat in order to fit in to a space that is obviously designed for either single or coupled empty-nesters. So, why mislead with terms like "family"?

However, New Urbanism May Already Be Stale and Wasting Away

NPR is reporting that the urban hip lifestyle market has hit a wall and that once available city homes are no longer attainable, especially when the empty nesters cannot afford a downpayment. That has slowed housing sales and urban "revitalization." All of that unfettered growth without any attention to diversity or deliberative planning appears to be experiencing karmic blowback. Look for more and more of these duplexes and condos sprouting up everywhere to be rented rather than sold to the hipsters. Or developers might actually consider a more stable market niche: attracting families with children and leveraging good schools and safe parks around the neighborhoods. Stability is in.

Developers, Planners, and Politicians Alike Should Heed These Words Lest New Urbanism Become Stale and Waste Away

As I continue to bang the drum for family-friendly city neighborhoods I feel like I'm beating my head against the wall of empty-nest hipsterdom.

Then along comes today's Wall Street Journal op-ed (of all things) and puts wind in my sails:

Married people with children tend to be both successful and motivated, precisely the people who make economies go. They are twice as likely to be in the top 20% of income earners, according to the Census, and their incomes have been rising considerably faster than the national average.

Indeed, if you talk with recruiters and developers in the nation's fastest growing regions, you find that the critical ability to lure skilled workers, long term, lies not with bright lights and nightclubs, but with ample economic opportunities, affordable housing and family friendly communities not too distant from work ....

The evidence thus suggests that the obsession with luring singles to cities is misplaced. Instead, suggests Paul Levy, president of Philadelphia's Center City district association, the emphasis should be on retaining young people as they grow up, marry, start families and continue to raise them.
The question is: will that wind drive me where I am or pull me out of the city? I will not wait forever for Nashville to catch up.

"Park Closed" Signs = "Closed to All But Criminals"

Both the Tennessean and NewsChannel5 carry stories this morning that State Officials are going to put "closed-at-night" signs up in Bicentennial Mall and that they are "studying" whether to put emergency call boxes in the Downtown park. Catherine MacTamaney and her blog are mentioned prominently in the Tennessean piece. On the air this morning a NewsChannel5 reporter said that area residents actually start walking around the park for exercise as early as 4:30 a.m. The state admits that it does nothing to secure the park from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

If this is the extent of the changes promised by Senator Thelma Harper in a phone call to me before Thanksgiving, I've got to say that I am very disappointed. About all posting signs do is cover the state's legal butt if someone else gets assaulted in the park. It does not increase overnight security. A sign is of little solace to someone who finds themselves stranded alone in the area without a phone through no fault of their own. It is also a cue to predators, muggers, and thugs that the park is unpatrolled and is low priority on high visibility.

As for "studying" call boxes, I remain unconvinced that such studies have not been conducted by paper-pushing bureaucrats in the past. I think that the announcement to study the possibility is a stall tactic, based on Park Commissioner Jim Fyke's total allergic and stonewalling response to me. They announce a study now, taking the edge off the controversy and, when attention turns to other matters, then the study goes away. Then we still don't have security on Bicentennial Mall, and early morning walkers or stranded motorists are left with the cold solace of "closed signs." How do signs secure an accessible park?

Side note: the Nashville City Paper is curiously silent on the state's about face as they have been on Mall security in general, despite their interest in becoming more net-focused. My guess is that since this crime doesn't involve illegal immigrants or bloggers uncritical of their publication, then they are not interested.

UPDATE: CatMac weighs in on state-significant signage:

The new signs are not news. The new signs will be pointed to after the next attack, no doubt, as a good faith effort by the Commission to intervene. But, really, guys, signs? .... [T]his is really not an issue of signage. It's one of economic development, revitalized urban centers and an antiquated model for patrolling in state-run parks. The bad guys are not going to care that the signs are there, and unless the city opts for that oh-so-much-more-efficient monorail from downtown to the residential neighborhoods nearby, people are still going to walk in the park. Indeed, that's what it's designed for. Our downtown development, essential to avoiding Nashville becoming the dreaded "Next Atlanta" (cue frontpage story on the Tennessean) depends on a thoughtful, common sense approach to making downtown livable again. A 17 acre greenspace is a beautiful thing in an urban center. The way it is managed should be a tribute, and not an obstacle, to a thriving downtown.

UPDATE: Et tu, Aunt B:
I’m sure [closed-at-night signs] will deter those law-abiding rapists. And, really, if they don’t put cops in the park, how will they enforce the “closed at night” rule?

Gore Blog Hacked

Online pharmaceutical hawker-hackers hit the blog set up to promote "An Inconvenient Truth."

Monday, November 26, 2007

When Lighting One Candle Blinds Our Gaze to the Darkness

I won't question the ostensible nobility of providing a Gulf Coast families here and there with homes and getting them out of FEMA trailers (even if it merely amounts to tax breaks for big box corporations).

However, I am bound to ask whether heart-warming one-cottage-at-a-time stories unwittingly become a distraction to the largely ignored story that speculators are grabbing many more families' holdings and that Mississippi casinos are raiding government funds designated for rebuilds for homes with the help of Republican Governor Haley Barbour (who is mentioned as Vice Presidential material).

LiberFreddio Elected President of Salemtown Neighbors

Liberadio's Freddie O'Connell is the President Elect of Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association and will serve his term in 2008. He ran unopposed and the rules were suspended tonight to elect him by acclamation. Freddie was definitely the strongest of all possible candidates in my book and I'm hopeful about his leadership of SNNA.

Recovering Neighborhoods in NOLA

The Times-Picayune has a series of great video-essays on several New Orleans' neighborhoods attempting to bounce back after Katrina. In some areas, like Broadmoor, community organizations have tenaciously held the line to spur recovery in places that others were content on writing off as unrecoverable.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mainstream Media to Return to Bicentennial Mall Security Issue

Word on the street is that tomorrow's Tennessean will carry a story on the controversy over the lack of overnight security in the Bicentennial Mall State Park.

Science Has Its Own Spaghetti Monsters

We don't have to be holy-rollers to be intellectually honest about metaphysical assumptions in every discipline. Yesterday's NY Times op-ed page pulled back the curtain that hides the gods that science makes in some of its unassailable assumptions

The piece demonstrates once again why philosophy is helpful for both religion and science:
[B]oth religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.
I do not think that the suggestion here is that science and religion operate in the same field or have the same goals. I do think that it is arguing that holding certain unquestioned metaphysical assumptions is common to all human behavior even as it is the basis of religion. But I would also argue that doubt, self-interrogation, and agnosticism are also integral to religion, just as they are to science.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How's that Red-State Sexual Abstinence Emphasis Working for Tennessee?

Carole Borges discloses a rather dubious distinction for a Bible Belt state.

With just a little more ignorance and distortion, we'll get that prize.

North End Development Watch

Here is the sketch of new condos going up at the corner of 6th Av N and Hume St:

Impressions? (If you have direct financial ties to this project and want to comment, please disclose that in your response).

Journalist Would Have Been Happy with Hitler Offing Bloggers

In defending his defense of National League Baseball's 2007 MVP (Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins), Philadephia Daily News Sports Reporter Bill Conlin responded thusly to a blogging Philly fan who questioned his defense:
The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites.
Is Conlin merely expressing out loud what many other journalists quietly desire?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thus Averting the Plan to Build Red Square on Top of Plymouth Rock

Doctor, question that's always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia - a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.
- - Buck Laughlin, Best in Show

Music City Bloggers Blogger Glen Dean would probably be more at home during the Red Scare period of American history, and he demonstrates that by channelling Mark Rose, who does his own impression of Buck Laughlin with a wish bone lodged in his gullet, spinning the original Mayflower landing into a socialist plot.

Both Dean and Rose got a little history lesson from a commenter named bridgett, who seems to have a less partisan grasp of the facts.

Foreign Workers

It's the great Dominican pass time and "their field of dreams is the United States." Notice that the goal is that of many other immigrants: to help their families.

The Right Musters Its Academic Shock Troops Against the Foe-Du-Jour

While R. Neal is pointing to a report attacking social work in universities by the right-wing National Association of Scholars as both alarming and hypocritical, I would like to suggest that this is simply the opening salvo by the neo-cons to move their minions to elect a candidate of their own liking to the White House in 2008.

The right-wing always needs to find demons in the academic community to match the ones it says are prancing around society at large in order to maintain control of government. It is part of their fear-agenda to create unease among the voters about what is going on in colleges and universities. So, the NAS is doing what groups like it always does in the run-up to elections.

Their Board of Advisers is organizationally incestuous, relying almost exclusively on the neo-con American Enterprise Institute (which brought you the occupation of Iraq and which might bring you soon the occupation of Iran). All of the politically correct names are there: Kristol, Himmelfarb, Sommers, etc. This time they target social workers. Next election it will be some other academicians.

Social work is larger than what NAS makes of it. It is checkered with diverse ideological persuasions and inner tensions, as Robert Fisher points out, between social welfare, service delivery, and questioning the structural causes that necessitate welfare and service delivery. The scholars of the right-wing would be more comfortable with social workers limiting themselves to welfare and not questioning (how "rational" is that?), but this skirmish has nothing to do with what the scholars might actually want. It has to do with electing a President and a Congress and solidifying the Supreme Court's hard right trajectory.

Free-thought opponent David Horowitz's recent campaign on university campuses failed miserably, so the NAS is merely stepping into the breach in order to demonize a discipline and mobilize its troops.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pro Forma Senate

U.S. Senate Democrats find a way to stop George W. Bush's constitution-skirting recess appointments during the holiday break. They just have to keep having sessions at least every 4 days.

12South's Stamped Asphalt Jungle

12South residents seem to have had enough with thefts even at the point of a gun. From their neighborhood watch regarding an 11/19 incident near Sevier Park:
Four black teenagers surprised victim unloading groceries from car on the street and demanded money and car. One assailant held gun in victim's face. Victim refused, fought off two, and robbers escaped northward with few groceries. Hour later police captured all four with "evidence" at Wedgewood and 8th, where victim then identified them (and again at yesterday's arraignment). Police said they were from Edgehill area north of Wedgewood and at least one is a multiple offender.

Metro Council Roll Call Vote to Support U.S. Senate Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act

Here is the Metro Clerk's record of Tuesday night's vote to pass the memorializing resolution:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Professionals Win Again

Everywhere we turn, mainstream journalists are pouring into the blogosphere like Sooners across a prairie. Some of them are even receiving "training in social media and blogging," so that they can do what many other bloggers cannot: get paid for blogging at work.

For me blogging started as a way to bring to public light conditions and problems largely ignored by the offline media. It was a helpful alternative that sometimes forced traditional media to pay attention (if we were lucky).

Now the mainstreamers are flooding the zone online, ignoring just as much as they did before, but getting paid for what the rest of us do with our spare time. It seems to me that the blogosphere is beginning to reify and harden into a crusty realm of paid specialists, and thus the free exchange of ideas is beginning to shrivel like Apache Plume in a bone-dry Pecos arroyo.

And, given the mainstream media's will-to-merge, it likely won't be long before non-mainstream writers and bloggers are being slowed, side-tracked, and blocked by AT&T and Comcast, who will partner with the corporations that pay the mainstream media bloggers to flood the zone. One sees a whole new level of dystopia on the horizon.

Forget what they say about journalism disappearing before social media; it is already latching on to social media like a parasite invades a host.

Cavalcade of Capitalists: A Portion of those Phone and Cable Bill Payments Go To Political Influence

So, why don't they have a line item that says "service charge for lobbyists to pull in government favors"? Appalling to know:

Disclosures show that both sides [of the cable and telecommunications industry] and their allies collectively spent between $10.7 million and $11.2 million on lobbying and related activity for the year ended Sept. 30, 2007. The figures are contained in reports covering the periods from Oct. 1, 2006, to March 31, 2007, and from April 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2007. The latter report was due last week.

AT&T lobbyist disclosures show AT&T spent $600,000 to $700,000 to hire 26 lobbyists to represent the company on the legislation. AT&T reported spending an estimated $2.85 million on lobbying-related expenses.
And they feed us lines about how the large sums we pay each month are plowed right back into research and implementation of technology that make our service more efficient. Hiding the ugly details is called "effective marketing."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Resolution Supporting Greater Freedom for Labor Passes

26 Council Members voted tonight to support the memorializing resolution (someone requested a roll call vote, which is rare for virtually powerless memorializing resolutions) encouraging Tennessee's U.S. Senate delegation to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. Only two of the at-Large Members voted favorably: Megan Barry and Jerry Maynard. Charlie Tygard, of course, voted against it. Tim Garrett and Ronnie Stein took the safe route and abstained (is it a more progressive group than the last one or not?). I'll try to post the entire vote tally tomorrow. I think it is remarkable that a pro-labor statement was supported by 65% of the Metro Council.

CM Erica Gilmore Defers "Single-Serve Beer" Bill Indefinitely

Ms. Gilmore said more research needed to be done before bill is brought back.

Council Member Ryman Withdraws Challenged Ordinance

Two weeks ago during Public Hearing, one of Rip Ryman's constituents challenged him to withdraw a zoning change bill that would have allowed an assisted living facility in her neighborhood based on her claim that he told her he would if even one person opposed it. Tonight CM Ryman withdrew the bill on third reading.

The Hobbsian Quotient

According to a local mainstream daily for whom State Republican Communications Director Bill Hobbs has reportedly done some work in the past on web redesign (which, by the way, leaves a lot to be desired):
When asked how he can maintain the separation in the public’s eye between being the state GOP’s top party spokesman and having a blog that mainly opines on Tennessee politics, Hobbs gave a simple response: “When I’m working, I’m working and when I’m not, I’m not.”
Let's slow this spin down. Bill Hobbs is employed by the Republicans, which means that when he communicates for them he works. Bill Hobbs blogs on behalf of conservative causes on his personal blog as a source of income, which means that when he communicates for himself he works.

So when is he not working when he blogs?

Tonight's Another Tuesday Night Metro Council Night

The "Cat Herd" meets tonight: head 'em up and move 'em out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Neighborhood Kids Forced to Crawl Under Trains to Catch the School Bus

If you have not done so yet, you should read P. J. Tobia's piece in last week's Nashville Scene on a South Nashville neighborhood association's fight for accountability from the CSX Corporation, which parks its trains across the one road leading in and out of the community. CSX has caused some fairly deadly problems, according to Tobia's report.

21 Council Members Co-Sponsor Request for Senate to Pass Pro-Union Legislation

The Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow employees to form a union based on a majority of signed cards rather than an employer-favored secret ballot, has passed the U.S. House (Tennessee's Democratic delegation voted for it; the Republicans all voted against it), but it is hung up in the U.S. Senate, where it will probably die for lack of votes to end debate. The White House has already said that it will veto the bill should the Senate pass it.

Nonetheless, Metro Council is sending a request to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to vote for the Employee Fee Choice Act, which would also stiffen penalties for violating worker freedoms.

Here are the co-sponsors:

Rip Ryman
Lonnell Matthews
Vivian Wilhoite
Edith Taylor Langster
Darren Jernigan
Jerry Maynard
Walter Hunt
Bo Mitchell
Mike Jameson
Greg Adkins
Buddy Baker
Sean McGuire
Sam Coleman
Jason Holleman
Lonnell Matthews
Sandra Moore
Erik Cole
Frank Harrison
Megan Barry
Parker Toler
Erica Gilmore

While tomorrow night's resolution is memorializing and without the teeth to force Congress to do anything, it is a noble gesture in light of the alarming stories like this one:

The Resolutions Most Likely to Evoke a Sermon on Sexual Abstinence from Eric Crafton at Tomorrow Night's Council Meeting

Will Mr. Crafton shoot for the hat-trick by promoting sexual abstinence on this bill tomorrow night following his pattern on two other occasions in 2007 in response to Council votes on AIDS/STD programs? I'll wager that he goes 3-for-3 and that he wastes more Council time on chasing culture-war rabbits.

UPDATE: And then, there were 4.

Freddie Fails to Fulfill the Fantasies

TPM has the stark comparison between wishful thinking and harsh reality about Freddie Thompson in the mainstream television media:

Was taking credit for the Homeland Security bill like saying he invented the internet?

Perhaps Showing that the Preds Deal Is an Inordinate Risk Favored at the Extremes?

Now they are scolding the business community itself:
One would think pushing for hockey ticket sales might also see this group and other downtown advocates talking about the upside to seeing a pro sports team in town with local ownership.
I will leave aside the irony of an anonymous column that bemoans the high number of anonymous sources to the story.

CP Analysis Offers Mayor Incentive to Offer Incentives

City Paper Reporter Richard Lawson seems to be quarter-horsing the publication's coverage of city politics through the livery; only he's narrowly focused on the pro-no-holds-barred-growth chute.

Last week we he was cheerleading untrammelled pursuit of the Nashville Predators without respect to the impact on Metro services. This week he's tying an albatross around the highly successful, yet balanced Purcell administration and he's greasing up the Dean Administration machinery for hands-off development to match the Preds deal.

Lawson quotes the mainstream media's analogue to the blogosphere's anonymous commenters--unnamed "observers," "real estate circles," and "former officials"--to suggest that, despite finishing in the top tier of economically advantaged cities, former Mayor Purcell was a closet failure at growth. In sum, Mayor Purcell's economic success had nothing to do with his economic policies. And yet, he makes observations that contradict everything else he writes this morning.

First, he writes:
The headquarters [of several corporations] came to Nashville without incentives, in a sense proving they aren't always necessary to attract companies.
So, what's the problem? That not all corporations chose Nashville? Is it realistic to expect that all corporations will come to Nashville? And is it wise to give the ones who want more incentives than naturally provided just to have them here creating black holes that suck the resources out of our communities?

Second, Lawson goes on to say that other corporations went to Williamson county because they wanted the suburbs, and still others went for totally unexplained reasons. I don't understand. How are these proof of some Purcell "slow walk," which seems to be the reporter's main allegation?

And this seeming anti-infrastructure analysis is once again plagued with the kind of obfuscation that hung over last week's Preds analysis. Please parse this multi-double-negative gem for me:
There's no telling how many prospects never showed because of the lack of incentives from the city. Nashville's economic developers may not know what lists they didn't appear on as consultants compiled information on cities.
Why does the pro-growth side always intimidate by throwing the unknown in people's faces or otherwise confusing them? Oooo, the no-telling-never. We may not know how many lists we did not appear on? Well, we also do not know whether they were not compiled or not uncompiled. But then again we do not know whether Nashville would have ranked so high had Bill Purcell not governed as he did. Double negatives cut both ways (nor neither way).

In the final analysis, CP analysis is increasingly showing itself to be unabashedly pro-development to the detriment of pro-infrastructure and balanced growth. It seems that Master Lawson would have Metro open the spigots and offer all relocating corporations the kind of sweetheart deals he favored for the Predators; even at times where we do not need them. Honestly, if we finished numero uno in multiple economic development rankings under a Mayor who constrained himself in order to pay for more unsexy, but necessary projects around the city, how much higher can we rise? Number 1+++? And can we ever be at least number 1 with crumbling sidewalks?

What may look good from the business end of the economic revolver is not always the best way to run a city of neighborhoods.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sending a Frist Hack(er) to Teach Democracy in Iraq

I wonder if the local mainstream-media political bloggers are going to pay attention to this one: an adviser to former Senator Bill Frist who was fired for hacking into Democrats' computers has been sent to Baghdad to teach democracy to the Iraqi legislature.

UPDATE: Only one M-squared poli-blogger has paid attention to the hacker-in-Iraq story so far.

Not a Hard Choice Between Old School or Sanitized Sesame Street

The NY Times heralds the release of the "Sesame Street: Old School" DVD, but laments the loss of its grit:
People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading. Don’t tell the kids.
To expose my kid to mind-numbing "Tickle Me Elmo" or to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition"? I would be Superstitious every time:

And I wouldn't mind her watching Oscar the Grouch say "Right on!" and "Far out!" to Johnny Cash Trash singing "Nasty Dan." But then again, I am of the generation warped by the earlier versions of Sesame Street.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Media Wimps Out on Analysis of Preds Deal

From the Tennessean's breathless waste of time--in the form of the Preds countdown to (a false) deadline--to the City Paper's community-scolding, obfuscating "analysis" on why spending exponentially more on professional sport is just as good as building greenways, the local media has not taken the gloves off and pinned the details of the new Predator's deal against the glass.

We know why the CP won't do it: because their ownership is enmeshed with Predators' ownership. But this morning's Tennessean editorial is a fluffy ode to achieving the ends of keeping the Preds without any hard look at the costs of the means to get there. It's all good to the Tennessean editors, who could plausibly be angling for increased access to luxury suite space.

But at least the deal is done and we don't have to listen to any more hysterics or limp fawning beyond that which the local sports media typically gives the Preds (or the Titans, for that matter). And now the Predators can continue to fail to fill their stands in peace. The Mayor was the major hurdle. The rest of the process is window dressing.

But I am left with a question: have you bought your Predator's season tickets yet? If you support this deal in talk, Davidson County hockey fan (or are they indeed pretty much all from Williamson County?), then it's time to walk that walk.

We're stuck with the bills now, and those of us who opposed giving in and giving more than before are looking to you fan(anatic)s to pull your optimistic share of this load by buying tickets; lots and lots of tickets. And please don't stop until the Predators' lawyers start pushing in a couple of years to get the team out of this contract. Only at that point where they once again try to stampede their herd fan base by threatening to pack their pucks and leave should you stop buying tickets as fast as they can print them.

Germantown Breakfast

This morning Historic Germantown was kind enough to include me in one of their breakfast meetings to honor its volunteers and to discuss their streetscape plans. Here are several things I learned:
  • The historic fire station on 4th Avenue in Germantown has been bought by the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance, and it will be their new home. Germantown's association had hoped to purchase the station for its own meeting space, but they ended up referring NNA.
  • The November 13 Community Meeting hosted by Erica Gilmore to discuss Germantown's Historic Overlay was standing room only. While there were a few opponents of the overlay there, the overwhelming majority supported the proposal. Major opponents, developers Andre LeQuire (Germantown Partners) and Skip Lawrence (Lawrence Brothers) were out of town. I listened to concerns expressed that Council Member Gilmore should have deferred the overlay proposal for a definite number of meetings rather than indefinitely, which can often signify a death sentence for bills. Besides last Tuesday's meeting, Ms. Gilmore had attended 3 of 5 community meetings in the past year. The relatively uncontroversial bill looks headed for the Planning Commission next.
  • Historic Germantown is working with Friends of the Nashville Farmers Market to co-ordinate future events at the Market.
  • Germantown is working with Metro School Board Member George Thompson on consolidating their neighborhood into one cluster. Currently, families south of Monroe St. send their children to Eakin Elementary (Hillsboro cluster) and families north of Monroe St. send their children to Brookmeade (Hillwood cluster).
  • Some Germantown Streetscape plans have met with resistance in Metro Public Works. Historic Germantown wants to replace street surface at the curbs where people park with a pervious surface for improved water run-off and soil saturation. Public Works reportedly wants them to heat stamp the existing impervious surface with decorative features rather than replacing parking surfaces altogether. A major element in the street scape plans includes planting new indigenous and heat-resistant trees along all of their thoroughfares. They also seem to be getting some foot-dragging from TDOT with plans to line the median on Rosa Parks Boulevard (formerly 8th Avenue) with trees.
  • That there is an interest in coordinating work with Hope Gardens and Salemtown neighborhood associations on projects of mutual interest.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Call from Senator Harper

State Senator Thelma Harper and I finally spoke by phone this morning about my concerns about overnight security at Bicentennial Mall. She told me that they were valid concerns and that no one, including women, should have to fear walking on state property at any time of the day or night. She told me that she was working with State Representative Mary Pruitt, the Parks Commission, and Metro Police on a solution and that we should expect to hear about it this week.

She mentioned the specific possibility that Metro might increase overnight police patrols on the streets around the Mall. I expressed the concern that the police patrols in the neighborhoods not suffer because of being stretched to include the Mall. She said that she did not believe that they would.

She added the incidental that my phone debate with Commissioner Jim Fyke left him "very agitated" and that he found me to be "antagonistic." I indicated politely to her that there were at least two sides to every story, but I kept my interpretation that I was merely being assertive with Commissioner Fyke to myself. I thanked her for her support and I came away from the phone chat feeling better about her commitment to preventing crime here than I had before. I look forward to seeing the details of the new solution.

Other Preliminary Projects in the Block Grant

While the project with the most immediate design impact involves the ID and street signs that I posted on yesterday, another project that we discussed Tuesday night that is at an even more preliminary stage is the installment of traffic calming measures, including traffic bulbs at corners, road-narrowing striping on 7th and on 4th, and cross-walk nodes with stamped, decorative elements. The designs are at a highly conceptual stage and they still have yet to be broached with Public Works, who have absolute rule over them. At issue are both slowing speeding traffic down and encouraging bypass routes of large commercial and construction trucks to Werthan and to East Germantown's cement plant around rather than through Salemtown.

Last in sequence and yet to come (because of the higher expense) is consideration of new street lighting elements at a few places around Salemtown.

Coming to Their Senses?

According to this morning's LA Times, the base is slipping:
One-third of evangelicals under 30 ... [told an evangelical research firm] that they were embarrassed to call themselves believers."

They're tired of the hard-edged politics that the Christian right has practiced in the last couple of generations," said John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "They see all this division, all this anger, without a lot to show for it."
I love the smell of moderation in the morning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cooper Votes Against Linking War Funding to Withdrawal Timetable

Tennessee Blue Dog Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper joined 14 other House Democrats in voting against legislation linking $50 billion in funding for Iraq and Afghanistan wars to requirements that President Bush start bringing troops home within 30 days and complete troop withdrawal a little over a year from now.

What is wrong with declaring victory in Iraq and setting a timetable to bring the troops home so that the Iraqis will assume responsibility for their own mess? Our soldiers need to stop being played by this administration as stooges for private contractors and security companies like Blackwater.


UPDATE: Look! Roadside bomb incidents are down. So, why can't we tug on those congressional purse strings to motivate the President to declare victory and to start bringing troops out of Iraq?

The Mayor's Offer to the Predators in a Nutshell

From NashPo:
The Mayor is willing to support a proposal which provides $3,000,000 in new resources [to the Nashville Predators] for a total of over $6,700,000 per year for five years for the operation of the arena, plus incentive payments [50% of Metro revenues] for improved performance through the efforts of the local ownership group. In exchange, we have merely requested that the local owners commit to playing hockey in Nashville for at least three years and, should their efforts be unsuccessful, reimburse the Metropolitan Government for the additional funding it provided.
It wasn't too long ago that Metro Council was full of sound and fury over funding the construction of the Symphony Hall to the tune of $5 million over 4 years (Council Member Charlie Tygard even wanted to earmark some of that money for his covetous dream of a new Bellevue Library). If this hockey agreement takes wing, I'll be curious to see how much drama we will see in Metro Council over the considerably higher cost of just convincing a hockey club to stay vs. building new public libraries (I cannot say I've ever heard of a local symphony orchestra threatening to move to another city if they do not get management fees, rent reductions, and performance incentives).

What does the Nashville Symphony have to do with the Nashville Predators? Not much, except that the pro-owners-group City Paper drew an analogy a couple of days ago between public money spent on hockey and that spent on building the Symphony Hall. But it really is an apples and oranges comparison in that the arena was funded many years ago and the Metro spending that we talk about now is extra revenues and modifications to existing contracts for the Predators. All the Symphony was getting was money to build a hall for crying out loud; it was a step-child deal compared to this fight to woo the Predators back into the bed we've made for them over and over again.

How would Nashville respond if the Symphony came back asking for re-negotiations and more money with the threat of leaving? With demands that they commit to stay 3 more years? I seriously doubt it.

Public School Opponent Addresses Cussing with Forked Tongue

First watch this video:

Outspoken public education opponent Kay Brooks defends the questioner:
Apparently, this crossed the line for some. Because McCain responded that it was an excellent question it proves that he hates women. Please. The question is valid. It could have been worded more elegantly but this is politics.
But earlier this year, Ms. Brooks took pains to warn her readers about "a profanity" in a Scene article:
The Nashville Scene is an adult publication. If you click on the link above there is no telling what sort of advertisement you'll get to see. Also there is one profanity in the piece.
Cussing is just "politics" in Clinton-hating circles, but if it comes from the Scene, it warrants a warning? The f-bomb is practically buried in the text of the Scene's long article, but almost immediately after the reader clicks on Kay Brooks' link to the YouTube video, "bitch" hits you in the face in bold letters followed a few seconds later by its clearly audible articulation.

And in fairness to the subject of the Scene article, the context of the "one profanity" is the politics between the school superintendent and an opponent. What entitles the earlier set of politics to excuse and what relegates the latter to disclaimer?

CatMac Swipes Back at Mall Manager's Lukewarm Response

The author of A Little Simplification received the same stodgy e-mail today from Bicentennial Mall Manager Mike Cole that LiberFreddio did.

She replied (and how!):

While I appreciate the effort to say SOMETHING, to provide SOME response to the many emails i know your offices have received about the reckless lack of overnight security in Bicentennial Park, the "official" response below is, indeed, no response at all. Respectfully, a regurgitation of irrelevant policy is neither helpful nor reassuring. Indeed, the only "misunderstanding" it has clarified is my apparently naive hope that the Commissioner's office would stop ignoring this issue.

Point by point, the response below indicates a resistance to assume responsibility for OVERNIGHT security in the park. No one is arguing that there is insufficient security there during the day. But the two-hour long, unobserved rape of a local resident did not occur during the day. It didn't occur during an educational program for children. It didn't occur on a well-lit path. It occurred OVERNIGHT in a part of the park that could not be seen by drive-by officers. None of the clarifications offered in the response address that.

I am grateful that the agency is "exploring possibilities" and willing to "entertain the idea" of citizen-run security. I hope any of the agencies involved in protecting Nashville's citizens will offer more specifics and a precise timeframe for when the response will include some action. Back to basics: Who will do what when to make sure that the park is safe overnight?
That is the way to hold bureaucrats responsible: demand specifics and a timeframe for securing the park. And it sure as hell didn't hurt to point to the idiocy of appealing to children's programming by day when the place is open to crimes by night.

LiberFreddio Gets Gubernatorial Responses on Mall Security; Although They are Lukewarm

Liberadio's and Salemtown's Freddie O'Connell got two responses from a previous letter requesting that State Government increase security at Bicentennial Mall. One was the standard bureaucratic two-step from Governor Phil Bredesen's office:

Date: November 14, 2007 9:11:46 AM CST
Subject: Responding to your message
Dear Thomas,
Thank you for writing and sharing your concerns. Your comments were greatly appreciated, and I will be sure to forward your message to the Department of Environment and Conservation for review and response.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I hope to hear from you again on other matters of importance to you.
Warmest regards,
Phil Bredesen
The other was the smallest of stodgy steps forward from the Bicentennial Mall Manager:
From: Ask TNStateParks <>
Date: November 14, 2007 9:17:36 AM CST
To: "Thomas F. O'Connell" <>
Subject: Re: Public Safety in the Bicentennial Mall

We appreciate the interest in security at the Bicentennial Mall State
Park and would like to take this opportunity to provide some facts
regarding the security and operation of the park. We hope this
information will help clear up any misunderstandings that exist relative to the amount of security provided routinely by our staff at
Bicentennial Mall State Park.

1) Our staff of six, including the manager, provides security solely
at this park from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week (the staff also provides historic and educational programming for groups, including school children and the general public).
2) Bicentennial Mall, Long Hunter and Radnor State Parks are the only parks in Nashville that have commissioned officers assigned solely to a specific park site.
3) Significant dollars have been spent recently to upgrade and assure excellent lighting in Bicentennial Mall, especially on the sidewalks inside and immediately adjacent to the park on 6th and 7th Avenues.
4) We will explore the possibility of placing emergency security *call boxes* at the park in the near future. (However, it should be noted that up until about three years ago, a public telephone was located at the site, but removed due to the extreme numbers of false alarm 911 calls received by Metro Emergency Communication Center operators. These 911 calls were *free* to the user).
5) We will also provide improved signage at the park relative to closing hours, safety reminders, etc.
6) We certainly would entertain the idea of starting a Park Watch Organization if so desired by the immediate neighbors.

In closing, we are further committed to improving the communication between our Park Ranger staff and the Metro Police Precinct responsible for this area of the city. We would hope to create a move cohesive working relationship for the betterment of all concerned.

Mike Cole, Bicentennial Mall Park Manager, may be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 741-5280.
Wait a minute. Back up to #2. Only 3 parks in Nashville have commissioned officers? What about Park Commissioner Jim Fyke's argument to me almost two weeks ago that if we put certain security devices in some parks, we have to put them in all?! By the Commissioner's own expressed logic, Bicentennial Mall should not have any commissioned officers at all unless all of the other parks can have them, too! Or was I just being strung along two weeks ago? Hmm.

Next, let's be real clear about what Mr. Cole is promising; he is not promising more security measures like "call boxes." He is promising to study them. Why do I hear "death by committee" in that commitment? Probably because I would assume that someone somewhere in state government has probably already done some studying of security issues in state parks, including the viability of "call boxes." Isn't such a thing what we pay them for?

Finally, notice that he puts the onus for Park security right back on the neighborhoods, despite the fact that no houses that I know of actually touch the Park's edges. What is he suggesting that we do? Form patrol units to walk around Bicentennial Mall at 2:00 in the morning blocks from our homes? And who is going to walk around Bicentennial Mall at 2:00 a.m. with so many people telling us that people in the park at that time deserved to be raped or assaulted? Which of us is going to leave the relative safety of our homes to walk around a park with new signs warning people that the park is closed overnight effectively making it open to criminals overnight with no more security than a bunch of us walking through it? This guy can't be serious.

Thelma and Me

State Senator Thelma Harper continues to totally ignore my letter and follow-up phone calls to her office regarding overnight security at Bicentennial Mall. So I just sent her the following e-mail (along with a voice mail via phone):

Dear Senator Harper,

I sent the attached letter to you concerning Bicentennial Mall Safety over a month ago, and your staff has not replied. I also have called your office to follow-up on three different days since I wrote the letter. The first time time I called was Monday, October 22, and I was promised that a staff member would return my call that same day. My call was not returned. On Monday, October 29, I called a second time and I was told that the staff member who was to follow up with me had been out of the office but that person would eventually get back to me. Your office assistant did not take my phone number during that call, saying that "it was already on file." I have waited two more weeks with no response before making two phone calls to your office today. One at around 9:30 a.m. and just now at 4:30 p.m. At both times an actual person did not pick up the phone. Instead, I got a recording and the option to leave a message, which I did at 4:30 p.m.

It appears to me that your office does not care to reply to my feedback on crime on state property in your district. It appears to me that your office does not care to acknowledge one of your own constituents. I consider this issue valid enough for a proper response and I am having a hard time understanding why I cannot even seem to reach an actual staff person during normal working hours today. Please reply to this e-mail. If I don't hear something from you soon, then I intend to take a day off of work to come sit in your office until someone speaks to me about this issue.

Mike Byrd
Senator Harper is about to dethrone former Metro Council Member Ludye Wallace as the most unresponsive elected official with whom I have dealt.

Architect Shows Salemtown Concepts for Streetscape Signs

The Salemtown residents advising MDHA on a $580,000 block grant for the neighborhood finally got to see a glimpse of what their future street scape might look like last night. Designers and engineers on the streetscape team introduced their first concepts to the group, which has been meeting for over two years to formulate the ideas feeding those concepts.

Traffic calming elements for various streets and intersections were considered, but perhaps the most dramatic improvements discussed were various concepts for neighborhood identity Signs and new period-looking street signs. Below I posted pictures of each concept. In each sketch, the ID sign concept appears on the left with the complimentary street name sign on the right. The ID signs would be placed at various well-trafficked nodes around the neighborhood.

In my opinion this is the best design; its stipped-down, industrial look (square post, 10' tall, 4" wide, rust-colored) has a distinctly urban feel and its vertical orientation with the chunk-iron letters jutting laterally from the post have a unique look that captures the industrial past of our neighborhood. I asked the architect whether she knew of any other neighborhoods with signs like this in Nashville. She told us that she did not, which I think is a plus. I used to think that the East End wrought iron signs were the most attractive and unique neighborhood ID signs. After seeing this design, I think the East End would be unseated if we went in this direction. There is a great picture in the sketches of what the sign could look like at 5th and Hume. I could not reproduce it clearly, but it is attractive. More practically, of all of the designs we were shown last night this stands the least chance of being tagged with graffiti.

The virtue of this design is that it captures the vertical orientation in a neighborhood that does not spread out. The blue color is striking and the arched top is classy. The architect included a 3-dimensional cotton boll design at the top, harkening to Salemtown's past history history as a neighborhood of Warioto and Werthan Cotton Mill workers. That's a cool feature. What makes this design less attractive to me is that it seems to have a rather conventional, nearly suburban design. I've seen signs like it in lots of places (including shopping centers), and it doesn't have that industrial feel of the first one. Also, this sign is much more prone to getting tagged and vandalized than a more minimalist design. We asked the architect to bring back a variation of this that was more scaled back. The group also asked her to transpose the cotton boll on to the rust-color pole in the design above.

This design with a wrap-around name plate is shorter than the first two and it is obviously more horizontally and less vertically oriented. While it is more unconventional than my #2, its lack of that industrial, urban feel is its primary drawback in my mind. The cotton boll is present, but the scrolling effect doesn't really fit the feel of this downtown-proximate neighborhood, in my opinion. I like the design, just not enough in the context that it is intended to supplant either my #1 or my #2. I also have concerns that the sheet metal name plate would be readily vandalized.

This is another great design that I just don't see working in Salemtown. The banner look is classic. The banner-sign would be sheet metal and it would depict a old picture of Werthan above the Salemtown name. My only real objection to it is that it would be one of the more damaged of all the signs in a short period of time. I watch the teens around the neighborhood pass by traffic signs and jump up and slap them or bounce balls off of them as they walk by. The banner-sign looks too much like a hoops backboard for the kids to resist the temptation. It just doesn't fit practically, in my opinion. It also lacks that industrial feel.

The advisory group asked the architect to to come back with variations of the first two concepts for consideration at our December meeting.

Any thoughts on these sign concepts?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veto Override Helped New Orleans Masses with Their Stormwater Control Issues

The barely impugned congressional override of President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Redevelopment Act will help Gulf Coast residents reclaim and protect their communities from stormwater issues. According to Facing South:
The first congressional veto override in President Bush's seven-year term is especially welcome news in Louisiana, which is set to receive almost 30 percent of the $23 billion allotted by the Water Resources Development Act.

According to an analysis published in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune, the legislation gives the state $6.9 billion -- including $1.9 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration projects and $986 million for hurricane protection work. The measure also includes money for closing the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and for creating a Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Protection and Restoration Task Force, among other things.
But maybe the New Orleans masses are not demanding floodwater control. Maybe they believe like the Tennessee Republican Party's Communications Director that stormwater can resolve itself. And maybe untoppable levees will someday simply spring from the arses of Army Corps engineers.

"Lazy" Freddie Down on Light Trading

WaPo's Politics blog handicaps Fred Thompson's bid for the White House this morning:
[T]he overall trajectory of Thompson's campaign -- as judged via polling -- is downward. It's clear the initial fervor and excitement over the TV-star-turned politician has worn off and voters have not flocked to Thompson as many people expected.

The problem for Thompson is that there isn't an obvious way to turn this narrative around. He is not a flashy campaigner and his fundamental message -- competent conservatism -- isn't the sort of thing that builds a grassroots movement.
I guess last weekend's CMA appearance wasn't the ballast Mr. Thompson had hoped.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Water Has This Republican's Head Spinning

A day after arguing for limited government on stormwater run-off, Tennessee's Republican Mouthpiece, Bill Hobbs argued that Governor Phil Bredesen should expand government to help small communities with their water systems.

If Mr. Hobbs had bothered to attend the same Metro Water meeting that I did perhaps he would have learned that stormwater run-off is the first step in the water treatment process in many Tennessee communities. He also might have seen that how it gets controlled affects both the collection and the cleanliness of a community's water supply. Therefore, calling for upgrades to many Tennessee water systems includes controlling run-off.

But controlling stormwater does not neatly fit his party's storyline against Gov. Bredesen like upgrading some water systems does. Or perhaps this Republican only advocates government expansion that puts his party in the best tactical position to attack Democrats in office.

The real problem with the Governor's response is its condescending tone:

I’ve got to ask people in these communities, you kind of got to step up and do what you’re suppose to do in the Tennessee system of government here, and not just wait until everything falls apart and come saying you’ve got to fix it for me.
It seems to me that--in a situation that calls for responses akin to, "We're all Tennesseans, and we're all in this together"--the Governor talks about the communities that he is governing as if they are aliens or outlanders.

UPDATE: There is one more reply that Bill Hobbs made to my post on stormwater run-off that I will not let slide by. He commented to VV:
As far as I can recall, the masses were not demanding that stormwater be controlled.
He must not be able to recall very far:
The marked disparity in public services and infrastructure was a continual complaint in the barrios of San Antonio. Colonia residents suffered due to inadequate storm drains, flooded streets, and, in the worst cases, the loss of property. Residents became landlocked during major storms, unable to travel to work and school or to access emergency services. [Industrial Areas Foundation] ... worked in community whose indigenous leadership increasingly demanded that city government address the crisis of inadequate infrastructure .... IAF activities coalesced on the key issue of annual flooding and the lack of a stormwater drainage system. The convergence of IAF organizing efforts and a nonexistent storm system led to the creation of a new social movement, Community Organized for Political Service (COPS).
I bet that San Antonio is not the only place where the masses identify stormwater run-off issues and perhaps not the only place where masses mobilize their anger about it into social movements.

Two Faces on One Paper

So which is it?

Do they loath high culture? ("Let them eat Brie")

Or do they long for high culture? ("...the clichéd faux neo-Georgian center design..." and "...taupey brown brick....should yield an elegant yet modern structure")

Looks like both.

A Neighborhood Web Forum: Nice in Theory, but Impractical and Perhaps Counterproductive in S-town

While it has only been 6 months since the Salemtown web forum got up and running, my belief is that it is an ineffective tool for communicating between neighbors. The web forum--in which registered members post comments, questions, and responses on various subjects based on increasing levels of security--was a great idea in principle, and it started off strong. But over time it fell into disuse.

And for me that disuse became a self-perpetuating cycle of waning interest that fed further disuse. Just browsing the various topics in the web forum index today indicates to me that the web forum is dying. The bulk of the postings occur in May and June right after the web forum stared. The posts begin dropping drastically in July and tail off farther in August. There are only two September posts and the last one occurred on September 9. So, we've gone two months now without a single post to Salemtown web forum. It seems to be a shell of what it was intended.

Here are the reasons for the forum's fade in my mind:
  1. Besides those with computer savvy, people are more reliant on e-mail than on web forums for on-line communications. Web forums are an extra step for which busy people do not feel a need.
  2. There are only 25 members; the critical mass of techno-geeks and organizing types needed to make a community web forum operate daily is even smaller. Hence, less of a chance for success.
  3. On-line forums amplify the cascading effect of noncommunication: when people stop posting I stop reading and the chances I might post in the future decrease. That's one less poster for others to read; then others stop reading and visiting to find out if there is anything to read. Thus, the web forum drops off the radar as an important source of information.
  4. General apathy for communication and work with neighbors (true of every medium).
  5. Web forums are rationalized and become a crutch for face-to-face meetings. Then they become a gateway (or backdoor?) toward absence from community.
Number 5 is the counterproductive effect of web forums. I want to expound on that one.

It really does become too easy to be captivated by the technology and to convince ourselves that the on-line community is no different than gathering in the same room (or on the same lawn) face-to-face. And the rationale of convenience kicks in, because why should we ever leave our homes when we can meet on-line?

But so much is lost in interpersonal and nonverbal communications by relying merely on web forums (and on e-mail). There is so much more to see and to hear and to interpret in gatherings intended to define a common purpose that on-line communications are mere shadows of effective conversation, dialogue, and even debate. Those unwritten and unposted dynamics are the lifeblood of groups and organizations. Overused emoticons are a pale and sterile imitation of the bonding and purpose forged in human interaction.

So, my short experience with the Salemtown web forum is that it has not lived up to its promise and I actually judge it to be an obstacle to rather than a tool for facilitating greater community. Perhaps if we had a stronger sense of community and purpose first, then it could have been a significant tool rather than the empty shell it has become.

East Tennessee "Lifestyles"

The famous liberal R. Neal picks up a salacious story from a Texas paper of an East Tennessee defense contractor's employee literally sleeping with an Army Captain and Contracting Officer who allegedly told him, "Give me the money from that contract or don't touch me." Sounds like no bid with lots of bed.

Speaking of lifestyle, developers to our east are bidding to bring Orlando to the Great Smokies by building a 4,500 "lifestyle resort" (and the 1 million square feet of retail space that goes with) next to it. No word if anyone had sex with anyone else to bring this deal about, but I would bet that the developers are jockeying for "incentives" from local, state, and federal governments.

Recommendation to Hope Gardens Association to Leverage Overnight Security in Park

A friend in Hope Gardens tells me that he has recommended to his neighborhood association's Executive Board that they work with other North End groups to encourage the state to do more to secure Bicentennial Mall overnight.

Straw Man Makes CP Analysis a Straw Dog

This is a total exaggeration of the opposition to further subsidizing the most subsidized hockey club in the NHL even as that club cannot turn out enough fans to sell out its matches. Some do oppose subsidizing pro sports altogether; others oppose the degree to which we subsidize pro sports. I am an ardent opponent of the latest attempt to throw money at the Predators, yet I don't oppose financial incentives altogether (as Lawson's hyperbole suggests), and I have supported subsidizing deals with pro teams in the past (case in point: the Nashville Sounds).

This "analysis" makes it sound like the opponents are monolithic high-brow hypocrites who generally hate sports. It amounts to nothing more than the typical bombastic CP editorializing that attempts to oversimplify and to drive wedges. But the CP has a financial interest, given that the publishers are minority Predators owners who stand to gain by such an analysis. That's a detail that Lawson leaves out of his bum rush. You never really expected them to oppose throwing more Metro money at hockey did you?

After the free-love fest for sports teams of the Bredesen years, let's just call Bill Purcell's mayoral terms a market correction that kept more money in the public sector repairing sidewalks and streets. It need not be as irrational as Lawson implies. And if the local hockey club cannot make good on the sweetheart deal it has already been given and cannot even fill up its stands with all of those supporters of sweetheart deals for pro teams, then let them go.

And I would expect no less of the Nashville Symphony. If they don't like their subsidies, then they can move to Kansas City, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Conservative Election Pundits Jump the Shark

Or perhaps it could be characterized as grasping at straws.

"Patriotism" of Buying is Waning in Real Estate

On getting your own home:
Nobody knows where we are on the curve .... It could be a little bit cheaper now or it could be getting cheaper for the next five or six years. You really don't know.

Must Adapt to Service the Culture

Assimilated. Resistance proved to be futile. Independence is irrelevant to adaptation to the hive mind.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In the Gutters

It's fall, which means that it is officially gutter cleaning time, which means I have to get out my 30-foot ladder to propel my body up to a high pitched roof in order to protect my home and foundation from damaging rainwater overspills, which means I have to risk falling, being crushed by the ladder, and related major injuries.

Or I'm thinking this year that I should call one of those bonded and insured window-washing outfits that also cleans out gutters.

Or maybe I should just wash the windows myself and get one of these for the gutters. I wonder if they work as well as iRobot claims.

Feedback (other than, "Real men risk a body cast in order slay leaf clogs.") if you please.

"Mr. Mom Duty" is So 1980s

I would never buck against the sheer force of the mommy-blogging phenomenon, but the Tennessean's Official Mommy Blogger is not giving 21st Century Daddy's their due in referring to the "Mr. Mom" stereotype to describe her husband. While it may be exceptional for Mr. Emily Hartley to do some chores that bring up baby, some men-folk have been doing those things consistently for a number of years. Some of us are even stay-at-home-dads who do the primary child-raising, as unsexy as that may seem.

"Mr. Mom" is a quaint, period-piece movie, but it is about as relevant today as Betamax or Gary Collins' unease.

UPDATE: A couple of days ago a Wall Street Journal reporter showed herself to be less regressive in writing about nurturing dads than the Tennessean Mommy Blogger above:
For years, the stay-at-home dad has been treated as a cultural oddity, an ill-at-ease comic hero who can't wait to don pinstripes again and get back to the office.

Interviews with men who stayed home with their children for several years, and are now looking back on it, paint a different picture. While much attention has been paid to at-home mothers who opt out of the corporate rat race for good, many at-home dads are quietly doing the same thing -- finding flexible alternative work. And while the adjustment can be rough, some of these men discover at-home parenting marks a permanent turning point toward better life balance.
And it's not all sexiness:
At-home dads often pay an even higher career price than moms. After dropping out in 2001 for what he thought would be 18 months caring for his son, Eric Sonntag, a former magazine-circulation director, found returning to work so difficult that he had to job-hunt for two years, then take a 20% pay cut. Staying home "set my career back half a decade," says the Forest Hills, N.Y., father. He was "looked at askance" by many hiring managers, he says. When he explained what he had been doing, some asked disdainfully, "What else did you do?"

One reason men get Daddy-tracked, of course, is prejudice. In a 2003 study at Wake Forest University, 242 college students were shown mock personnel files of mothers and fathers who had taken leave for family reasons, plus others who hadn't. Asked how likely each employee was to be a good team player, such as helping co-workers with tasks, the students rated men who had taken leave lower than other employees. Male raters were especially biased, scoring leave-taking dads lower on the likelihood of being punctual and available to work overtime. Taking leave made no difference in how female employees were rated.

Something I've Never Experienced in Salemtown

In over 3 years of living in the North End I've seen quite a bit, but I've never had the pleasure of actually seeing a community meeting with our Metro Council Member. Apparently that is about to change. Recently elected District 19 Council Member Erica Gilmore told me yesterday morning when we passed at Fido that she will be meeting with Salemtown soon to talk about our issues and concerns in District 19. That is a strong-from-the-gate start.

LiberFreddio Writes to State and Local Officials on Behalf of Bicentennial Mall Security

Liberadio's Freddie O'Connell, who is also one of my neighbors, writes his own letter asking that State Parks do more to provide overnight security at Bicentennial Mall. Here is Freddie in his own effective words:

As a new resident and homeowner in Salemtown, with a view almost in site of our state capitol, I'm alarmed at a recent crime (a terrible rape) that occurred in the Bicentennial Mall, and I'm even more alarmed at the response, which seems to be, collectively: too bad.

I'm aware that I moved into the Nashville council district that has the highest rate of violent crime (including rape), and I'm aware that the Bicentennial Mall is also located in this area. I've been delighted to begin participating in the Salemtown Neighbors neighborhood association and have already benefitted from the increased awareness of safety efforts in our area with the help of Metro police who authorize the attendance of a Community Affairs Officer to our meetings. I know our community finds the crime rate unacceptable and continues to look to partner with each other, as well as state and local officials to work to bring the crime rate down.

I also live and share a life with a young woman who attends Meharry Medical College, the principle reason we began looking into residences in the North End. The Bicentennial Mall lies squarely between us and downtown Nashville. It's distressing to think that it could become an after-hours haven for predators who could easily prey on passers-by the urban park in the night. My concern for my girlfriend's safety (and my own) was already somewhat high when we made our decision to move to Salemtown because neither of us own or have regular access to a car. We rely on mass transit and our own bike/ped solutions to get around the city. If we have no safe routes to the heart of our city after sunset, that's a problem.

I never would've guessed that the state response to concerned citizens would involve all sorts of hemming, hawing, and stonewalling when the truth of the matter seems to be: we don't have the resources. Worse, part of the response seems to have been couched in terms of not getting enough complaints. Isn't a single life-shattering crime a complaint implicitly vigorous enough to merit some repsonse?

If, in fact, we don't have the resources, then that should be a straightforward response, even if not a satisfactory one. If, in fact, we don't have the resources to provide any solutions (even emergency kiosks) to the issue of an urban state park not ability to guarantee the safety even of its borders to the metropolitan residents who surround it, then a new question arises: how do we get the resources?

I am sending this to a number of state and city officials in consideration of the unusual nature of this park, which is distinctly urban and open. I gladly await an answer to my question and look forward to participating in a productive discussion about how I can be helpful in working toward an effective answer.

Thanks to all for your time and service.