If this is true, it confirms my perception that I communicated to District 19 Council Member Erica Gilmore today in an email reply to her observation that Mr. Tygard was going to hold a public meeting on Tuesday:
The Board of Zoning Appeals this afternoon expressed a joyous sigh of relief when Sonny West informed them that they would not have to hear any more digital or LED sign appeals (it was they who turned down Tygard's Baptist Church out in Bellevue after granting variances to YMCAs and some other churches).
Sonny West made little reference to "opposition" and seemed confident that it will pass, although he did state that Tygard was holding a public meeting Tuesday night, 3/11/08, and that the bill will probably be split-- one for the digital signs making Metro's Code consistent with State Code, and the second being for LED signs with their red or amber scrolling messages being allowed in residential zoning districts for properties (schools, cultural centers, recreational centers, and religious institutions) located on collector or arterial streets (the full list of which is 290 pages long).
Mr. Tygard has called this meeting "a workshop," not "a hearing," and it sounds like it is designed to manage public perceptions rather than to listen to them. He also told the Council on Tuesday night that he has asked representatives from the sign industry to show that LED signs are environmentally friendly. That is a clear conflict of interest in my opinion because companies like Joslin are the very parties who would benefit from passage of this sign bill. Again, it sounds like Mr. Tygard is lining up speakers to counter public opinion rather than listening to public opinion, and it is sounds like a poor substitute for what should have been held in the first place: a legitimate Planning Commission public hearing. A better option would be to refer this bill back to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.I also asked Ms. Gilmore to vote against this bill on any future reading unless the three eligible streets that run through Salemtown (Garfield, Buchanan, and Rosa Parks) are removed from the list of approved streets. Finally, I asked her to request a roll call vote on any future reading so that Nashvillians could see whether their elected representatives supported this initiative or not. The fact that this passed on first reading with no roll call is bothersome, but understandable. The fact that this passed without a roll call on second reading--after about a dozen people and several neighborhood associations spoke against it--is an abject failure of accountability in government.
If the good-ole-boy patrons (Sonny West has worked for Metro for something like a half century) are working together to ignore clear public criticism of the LED bill and the way it was rammed through the Planning Commission and Metro Council, then we have to worry for the influence of neighborhoods in what is supposed to be a democratic process. Handling of this bill has been shoddy so far, and Metro Council--which is supposed to be the people's arm of government--is getting started early on another year of being one of our worst Metro services.