Friday, February 29, 2008

While Obama and Clinton Pose as Opponents of "Free (for a few) Trade"

On the matter of "free trade" (which is an Orwellian oxymoron), both Democratic presidential candidates need to win in Ohio, so they are grabbing proverbial pitchforks and acting the angry populists, even though both of them support NAFTA entirely hook, line, and sinker.

Those of us who criticized NAFTA (not because we want to hoard money and jobs at home but because it has become a vehicle of international oppression by allowing salaries about the value of dirt and by promoting long work days in sweatshops) risk being mislabeled by both callous bloggers and the comfortable mainstream media as "protectionist." Both groups generally ignore the horrible working conditions that NAFTA promotes. And if not talked about, it doesn't exist.

However, we continue to demand ideas from the presidential candidates rather than putting up with the rubber stamp of a flawed economic policy. A new populist blog, taking up the mantle of the John Edwards campaign, frames the issue perfectly:

we have an entirely inadequate system in this country just to watch over safety and health in the workplace, funded at a miniscule level of several hundred million dollars-and, yet, we even more ludicrously proposed to oversee labor rights enforcement over three countries (the U.S., Mexico and Canada) at a laughingly pathetic and criminal level of a couple of million bucks?

Senators [Obama and Clinton], how do you propose to change that scheme? By raising the budget for enforcement 10 times to say $20 million per year? Or go wild and hike it 50 times to $100 million per year--still a pittance compared to our own failed system here in the U.S. Pick a number.

The fact is enforcement is a farce. It was a farce created [by Bill Clinton] to buy a few votes to jam NAFTA through a Democratic Congress. It was a farce accepted by the labor movement, which, weak as it was (and continues to be) felt that it was the best deal it could get in the face of a Democratic president (and his Labor secretary) who was a full-throated champion of so-called "free trade."

Enforcement is a farce and both Dems have been disappointments in the answers on protecting workers. Not only do we lack a true alternative on NAFTA, but the Dems fail to offer anything different than warmed-over GOP trickle-down.

Davidson's Mortgage Lending Doldrums

From NashPo:
Mortgage lending in Davidson County continued its free fall this month, sliding for the fourth straight month and outdoing a dismal January, when the number of loans made fell 31 percent from last year.

Problem Market Subject of Fox Interview with Salemtown Association President

In an e-mail to Salemtown Neighbors, Freddie O'Connell announces that the local Fox News affiliate will be interviewing him tomorrow for a story on the K & M Market, which was recently the crime scene of a shooting and which sits on property owned by former Juvenile Court Clerk Kenny Norman.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Accuracy Added to AT&T Advertising

A billboard liberated in San Francisco:

Pitiful TNGOP Makes Keith Olbermann

For yesterday's ploy and prejudice against Barack Obama, the Tennessee Republican Party was splashed across Countdown tonight in a less than flattering way:

Morgan Park Playground to Be Installed by Summer

Freddie O'Connell attended last night's Metro Parks Master Plan and he found out some important information about Morgan Park's playground, ballfield, and greenway spur, all of which have been incomplete for some time:
I specifically asked about Morgan Park and the attached community center. Some good news and bad news:
  • a playground is on order and should be fully installed by summer of 2008
  • continued incremental improvements are scheduled throughout the year, including planned gardens and continued renovation of the community center
  • no word on the status of the field
  • the greenway spur cannot be completed until Metro Water Services completes construction at its facility, so it is not currently scheduled
Curt Garrigan, the assistant director of Metro Parks, gave an overview of the Master Plan prior to these community meetings. It's an impressive plan, and his command of the knowledge was similarly impressive.

I think we'll see progress affecting our only neighborhood park, but we need to ensure that Metro Parks does not suffer a 15% budget cut this year. Times are going to be tight for Metro during 2008, so I encourage each of you to think about what your budget priorities are and to stay in touch with Councilwoman Gilmore about them. Based on the mayor's campaign agenda, I suspect that MNPS and MNPD will have their requests met or nearly met. Every other department and agency is going to be in serious competition for Metro dollars, and it is our input that will inform which ones have priority. The mayor's budget hearings started this week, and his budget will go before council in the spring.
It is bad enough that Morgan Park is among those parks having faced cuts and closures in the past. So, Freddie is right. We need to stay on top of Metro's plans and work to make sure that it does not get short shrift again.

Creator of Modern American Suburb Goes Bankrupt

Developer Levitt and Sons--credited with pioneering the prototypical mass-produced suburbs called "Levittowns" in the 1950s--has filed bankrupcy in the wake of the housing market crisis. Has the American dream of an ever-expanding middle class--so wrapped up in surburban growth--also gone bankrupt?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Salemtown Neighbors Approves Petition on Bicentennial Mall Security

Salemtown Neighborhoods unanimously have approved a petition this week requesting Tennessee officials to secure Bicentennial Mall State Park overnight. The text of the petition draft as approved reads thusly:

We are a group of Nashville residents living near the Bicentennial Mall. We are writing now in the face of a series of unsatisfactory responses to individuals who have spoken up about the lack of attention to public safety in this state park after a terrible rape occurred there in late 2007. Months have gone by, and our impression is that our elected and appointed officials think that this crime and the community response to it have passed and no longer need attention.

The issue of public safety at the Bicentennial Mall is a matter of concern to all Nashvillians. This is a uniquely urban park. As true neighbors, however, these issues are of special concern to us.

We strongly encourage you to consider adopting one of the following solutions or proposing something creative and ambitious that is not listed here to improve public safety in and around this unique public space:

  • overnight state park patrols
  • shared jurisdiction that would partner state and municipal resources for patrolling the park
  • strategically placed emergency kiosks

At the very least, the signage for the park should be corrected to reflect accurate information.

None of our suggestions require extravagant outlays of public funds, and each would improve the quality of life for Nashville’s urban residents.

Our signatures represent the voices of a group that will continue to express concern about this issue until it is adequately addressed.

Thank you for your public service. We look forward to a response.

Besides the rape of a Germantown resident in September 2007, a Salemtown resident reports being the victim of indecent exposure just this week. The association also intends to get the support of other North Nashville neighborhood associations on this petition.

Is Nashville's Revenue Stream Diverse Enough to Ride out the Housing Slump?

While Metro's FY2008 budget reports that Nashville has the lowest property tax rate of Tennessee's four major cities, it also indicates to me that the local government relies too exclusively on property taxes compared to other major cities. The Finance Department's report says that the "largest single source of operating revenue is the property tax." According to the report's summary (A-3), almost 50% of total revenues were from property taxes.

Compare that number to variations elsewhere:
although all cities are impacted by housing price declines, each city varies in the amount of money it generates from property taxes. Dallas, for example, gets 42% of its municipal revenue from property taxes; Philadelphia, just 6%. Moreover, cities in California may not be hurt as much as one would think because increases in home appraisals have been limited under the state’s famous Proposition 13.
So, Nashville seems relatively overreliant on property taxes compared to other cities that fund their services from other sources.

Asinine Official GOP Comment of the Day

You can call his momma and daddy on that one.

- - Robin Smith, TNGOP Chair, defending her organization's tactical overemphasis on Barack Obama's middle name, which is "Hussein" (as common a given name in the Muslim world as "Peter" or "Paul" are in Christian culture). Senator Obama's parents are deceased. Smith had Hussein references removed from the offending TNGOP website today at the behest of Senator Lamar Alexander and after Senator John McCain criticized TNGOP.

UPDATE: Progressive Nashville spanks TNGOP:

Yes, it is the man's name -- a derivation of the name of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson. But Tennessee's GOP is hoping the name will inspire fear in the uninformed and subtly raise questions about the candidate ....

This decision by Tennessee's Republican Party shows that its leaders have such a low regard for the American system that they believe cheap stunts like this are acceptable behavior when asking voters for the privilege of running their government.

UPDATE: TNGOP went where even Sith Lords fear to tread. Says Carpetbagger, "my hunch is Robin Smith’s petty nonsense comes across more as the sad rantings of a desperate hack than an effective political strategy."

UPDATE: TennViews uncovers common screed-sourcing between TNGOP and the Tennessee Chapter of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens.

UPDATE: National political blogger Josh Marshall sees McCain's criticism of TNGOP as not nearly dramatic enough to suggest that TNGOP's sleaze is not part of McCain's campaign strategy:

Hopefully, everyone can now see the McCain strategy for running against Barack Obama ....

The core is to drill a handful of key adjectives into the public mind about Barack Obama: Muslim, anti-American,BLACK, terrorist, Arab. Maybe a little hustler and shifty thrown in, but we'll have to see. The details and specific arguments are sort of beside the point ....

Don't insult your intelligence or mine by pretending that John McCain's plan for this race doesn't rely on ... all the GOP third party groups, to be peddling this stuff nonstop for the next eight months because it's the only way John McCain have a real shot at contesting this race.

If McCain really wants to repudiate this stuff, he can start with the Tennessee Republican party which dished all the slurs and smears about Obama being a Nation of Islam-loving anti-Semite, just today.

UPDATE: TPM conveys via Politico that the Republican National Committee has "warned" TNGOP about using Barack Obama's middle name. David Kurtz is not impressed:

you can associate Obama with Louis Farrakhan and anti-semitism, you can repeat garbage from Farrakhan and make it look like Obama approves of it, and you can cast all sorts of other aspersions about Obama, but use "Hussein" and you've crossed some invisible line drawn by the RNC (which it will enforce with anonymous hand-wringing and ineffectual warnings).

Sure enough, the press release is still up, stripped of the Hussein reference (we captured a portion of the earlier version, with Hussein intact). The author of the press release was state communications director Bill Hobbs. Ironically, Hobbs apparently missed the sarcasm in Josh's satirical post below about these attempts to smear Obama, and late today he was approvingly citing it in a post on his own blog.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign says their candidate condemned the press release and apologized to Obama, Smith reports. But, really, what's the McCain camp to do?

What Is It About Those Juvenile Court Clerks?

The man who replaced Kenny Norman (who owns crime-ridden property in Salemtown) as Juvenile Court Clerk, Vic Lineweaver, heard Mayor Dean's directive for cuts, but proposed none and requests a car. It's not like Mr. Lineweaver has given so much in public service that Metro taxpayers should say, "You know what? It's a small price to pay to give him whatever he wants." Here is his rather lame track record since his 2006 re-election:
he has been audited, arrested on contempt of court charges for failing to produce documents and recently was filmed by a local news station in his bathrobe outside his home when he should have been at work.
And now he wants a car? He's lucky he still has a salary.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Meanwhile, AT&T's Evil Twin Skippy ...

Via Josh Marshall, Comcast admits to paying otherwise disinterested Cambridge passers-by to fill seats so that advocates of net neutrality could not attend an FCC hearing on the subject at Harvard. You have to see the photo of the Comcastic mercenaries sleeping through the hearing. It's democracy at work, with the cable giant wasting your tax dollars in order to render a government hearing moot.

In other telecom news, the Christian Coalition (of all groups!) is stepping up to push for net neutrality:
The monopolistic phone and cable companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner have been lobbying to kill Net Neutrality. When Congressman Pickering's and Congressman Markey's bill is passed and signed into law, these companies will be forbidden to discriminate against Web sites such as Christian Coalition of America or indeed any grassroots organizations or services based on their source, ownership or destination. The Markey/Pickering bill will write Net Neutrality protections into the Communications Act to preserve an open and non-discriminatory Internet.
It is probably the only time I've ever agreed with CC on anything.

Republicans Studying How to Play Race/Gender Cards Quietly in the Fall Elections

Wonkette tells us that Republican strategists are lab testing focus groups to find effective code to scare voters away from an African American or a woman candidate. They have surveys, but they are trying to avoid alienating urban America.

Are we surprised? I think not.

Enclave to Donate $190 to Fisk Challenge Grant

Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore has declared March 19 "Fisk Day," and she is encouraging everyone in District 19 to make a donation of some variation of "19" ($.19, $19, $190, $1,900, etc.) to Fisk University's Mellon Foundation Challenge Grant in order to raise matching funds for the struggling northwest Nashville institution. I have decided to contribute all of the proceeds from Enclave's ad sales since my last community donation to the Challenge Grant drive. Google Ads owes me about $140 (for Enclave ads clicked since their last check), and my family will contribute $50 more to get to $190 in celebration of Fisk Day.

Fisk University is a northwest Nashville jewel, and I fully support its mission to provide "ethical leadership and engagement in our local and global communities." Because it is smaller than the other private universities in Nashville, even modest donations can make a difference. I hope that Enclave readers will join me by making their own "19" donations to fund Fisk, so that we can all continue to benefit from her continuing legacy. How to do so after the jump.

Monday, February 25, 2008

CRIME ALERT: Indecent Exposure Today at Bicentennial Mall

A resident of Salemtown who uses the Bicentennial Mall State Park regularly during "open hours" was the victim of indecent exposure near the carillon by a man who she said exposed himself to her and started masturbating. The incident happened at around 3:30, and it ended when the suspect saw a Metro Police car coming toward the carillon down Jefferson Street. He ran into the Farmers' Market and disappeared. The victim reported that no State Park Rangers were around at the time.

So much for the theory that Bicentennial Mall is safe from sex-related crimes during the day. Do you think that if there had been a call box near the victim, then she might have been able to rustle up a Ranger to apprehend the perp? Or what about a security camera? Might he be in custody right now if his face had been caught on video?

Salemtown Neighbors Votes to Support Erica Gilmore's Bill to Prohibit the Sale of Single-Serve 40s

On the same day that the K & M Market at the corner of 7th and Garfield (where the store owner was shot 8 days ago by a suspect still on the lam) reopened to peddle its primary product of single serve beers, Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to support Council Member Erica Gilmore's bill to prohibit the sale of single-serve 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor. That bill was deferred by CM Gilmore indefinitely in November, although she spoke of plans to bring a revised version back up for consideration.

The K & M Market's primary product ain't Chicklets. It seems to be single-serve beer, which some here in the neighborhood believe is being sold to underaged drinkers. At the very least, the Market has become a place where thugs loiter and harass pedestrians and where some other illegal activity has been witnessed.

I did some searching around the Metro Planning website tonight, and I found out some rather interesting details about the three properties at 7th and Garfield across which the market sits. While the current use of the land is for a convenience store, all three properties are zoned "R6," which entails "medium density residential, requiring a minimum 6,000 square foot lot and intended for single and two-family dwellings." Yet, there are no occupied residential dwellings that I can see around the K & M Market.

Another interesting detail is that all three properties are owned by Kenny Norman, who was once the Juvenile Court Clerk described by the Nashville Scene as having "a reputation—deserved, by most accounts—for being an inaccessible, politically driven and incompetent administrator." But Mr. Norman--whose mailing address is in Goodlettsville--looks locked into a slew of very influential power brokers. His sister is Circuit Trial Judge Barbara Haynes, whose husband is State Senator Joe Haynes from Goodlettsville. Their son, Scott Haynes, is an attorney with Boult Cummings, served as co-chair of Kenny Norman's campaign, and has connections with former mayoral candidate and Congressman Bob Clement.

Some here in Salemtown have expressed the wish to see the Market either stop selling 40s or be closed down as it has been more of a nuisance and danger to the neighborhood, but I have to wonder if that could ever happen with the current owner of the properties.

UPDATE: Contrast the Planning Department's online information that the owner of the land on which the three properties sit is Kenny Norman with this 2005 Enclave post reporting that the Nashville City Paper listed the old building as a "New Business" owned by Abdoalfath Alkaifi. In that same post, I also linked a 2004 Tennessean story that the building was raided for illegal gambling and I referred to neighborhood sources who told me that alcohol was being sold in back of the "New Business" before a beer permit had been approved.

Tonight's Salemtown Neighbors Meeting Agenda

Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association meets tonight at 6:00 at the Morgan Park Community Center. Here is the agenda:
  • Oktoberfest? Call for nominations for Oktoberfest Committee Chair
  • Bicentennial Mall safety
  • CAC update, including discussion of Metro Council approval
  • Salemtown: a Neighborhood Agenda
  • Morgan Park greenway, playground
  • Membership Committee
  • Single-serve beer ordinance discussion
  • K+M Market discussion
  • SNNA participation in Fisk Day (March 19th)
  • Announcements

Laissez-faire is All Fine and Good Until the Big Boys Who Matter Get Hurt

Mortgage loan corporations, who once invited the government to stay out of their business, are now lobbying for government money. Taxation without regulation is a bad mistake. I'm not arguing that the government doesn't need to assist victims of predatory lending and dubious market practices out, but banks and financial institutions have the multi-billion dollar means to make it on their own. Many borrowers do not.

I Feel Much Better about His Relationship with Her Now

Is this supposed to be reassuring? And what of the lobbyist on his bus?

Quot(a)ing Tygard

Charlie Tygard makes a statement about diversifying the market of public contracts that Metro draws from:

"It's an issue that merits discussion," said at-large Councilman Charlie Tygard. "But with the financial condition of this city, I am not willing to pay any premium for goods and services or adhere to any type of quota. … And what I will really be looking at is the cost."
Allow me to serve as your unofficial online patronage translator. Here's what I interpret him to be saying: "If they ain't members of my set of big-money, white-bread campaign contributors, then it would be too costly to future election chances to give them a fair shot."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water Rate Increases: Before You Go Off the Deep End, Read This

Metro Council member and local infrastructure wonk, Emily Evans let's us take a peek at her response to a constituent over water rate increases that loom on the horizon. She surveys various aspects of the problem including the inevitable chickens now coming home to roost as the result "payments in lieu of taxes" ex-Mayor Phil Bredesen charged to water services to service the debt on the Titans' football stadium. That's about $4 million a year that we don't have any choice but to pay from water until 2026. (Thanks, NFL, Yes! and the 59% majority of Davidson County Voters who authorized funding in 1996! I wonder whether Williamson County benefits more from that arrangement than Davidson County?)

However, the most salient comment CM Evans makes has to do with the true causes of the coming rate increases

Now, all that money is gone and there is little hope of additional funds from the general fund.
The fact that there is little money left usually moves people to scream about mismanagement. That is not the case here. The depletion of fund balances at Metro Water is a result of increased costs (Electricity up 34%, Treatment Chemicals up 151%, Plant and Building Security up 199%) and flat revenues. Average Operation and Maintenance expense for Water and Sewer (ex stormwater) has been 3.13% per year for 9 years. We have few, if any, other departments that can compare. That performance is due to aggressive cost cutting mostly in the form of reduced personnel. Basically, MWS did what most people want done - it cut costs before it asked for more money.
So, MWS has already cut back services to the bone.

There won't be any money to spare anywhere else thanks to the anti-revenue mob at Tennessee Tax Revolt and three-quarters of voters who approved the property tax referendum in 2006. Look for the anti-revenue mob to be in out in force opposing water rate increases and stirring the pot this time around too, but be sure you check all of their "facts" with infrastructure wonks like CM Evans before you assume that they are true.

I want to pay higher rates about as little as the next average Nashvillian, but if we want a safe water system and effective stormwater run-off, who else is going to pay for it?

Your Sunday Morning Weekend Round-up of Tennessee's Liberal Bloggers

Thanks to the hard work of R. Neal and TennViews:
The Sunday "clash of the Titans and we're not talking just politics" edition of the TennViews weekly blog roundup showcasing the best and brightest bloggers in Tennessee and what they are talking about...

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: McCain: the Aftermath: The straight talk express hits a speed bump. Plus, the buzz on the Wisconsin and Hawaii primaries.

• 55-40 Memphis: Clinton supporters are "the Rottweilers of politics." Plus: MO-bama!

• Ablogination: Hang it up, Hillary: Why Clinton should exit gracefully.

• Andy Axel (at KnoxViews): Home-Grown Terrorists Face Federal Charges: Charges pending in mosque firebombing, and how you donate to help rebuild it. Plus: McCain feels for the family.

• Aunt B.: Is helping take care of her dad and reminiscing.

• BlountViews: Liveblogging the TDOT Pellissippi Parkway Extension hearing, and commentary. Also, The Blount County Children's Home is at risk because of politics and development, and new immigration laws are working to create an invisible fence.

• Carole Borges (a new addition to the blogroll and roundup): According to the League of Conservation Voters John McCain has earned himself a big fat zero. Also, the "poverty draft."

• The Crone Speaks: Slave Labor: Moving Down the Economic Ladder: Growing poverty is creating a "slave labor" class. Plus: Some compelling reasons to vote for Hillary, and Bush's support of Musharraf.

• Cup of Joe Powell: Are Connected Tennessee backers a front for AT&T? Plus, the immigration situation in Hamblen County prompts. Rep. David Davis (R, TN-1) to call for Homeland Security intervention. Also, check out this week's Oscar edition of Joe Powell's weekly Camera Obscura series on films and film making.

• Don Williams: An open letter to Hillary’s most ardent Obama bashers: Obama supporters have the high moral ground.

• The Donkey's Mouth: Conservation Voters give high marks to Tennessee Congressional Dems, plus TNGOP's Bill Hobbs says one thing on blogs and another in official press releases. Plus: The nominee must answer to TNGOP Chairwoman Robin Smith.

• Enclave: Questioning Bill O'Reilly's lynching remarks, the Darwinian tone of reporting on Nashville's homeless, and an unnoticed story about the Texas debate.

• Fletch: Gullscapes, Storms on the Horizon, A Dream and the Wind.

• KnoxViews: Campfield reports House wasting valuable time!, lively Texas debate discussion, and a convenience voting project in East Tennessee.

• Lean Left: Kevin: Mixing the Races is a Communist Plot!, KTK: Feeling Michele Obama's frustration, and Tgirsch: Chris Matthew's job is not journalism, it's to stir up...

• Left of the Dial: "I’m glad Bruce Pearl isn’t a cult leader because otherwise I might be selling all my worldly possessions right now."

• Left Wing Cracker: LWC goes to 11 in naming his ten favorite blogs and why.

• Liberadio: Bold general election predictions, Obama robbed in New York, and the year of the underdog in which Democrats growl.

• Loose TN Canon: Wisconsin primary says GAME OVER for Republicans.

• NewsComa: It's not about the sex, it's about the political favors. Plus, blogs are changing the rules.

• Pesky Fly: Nikki Tinker surrogate attacks against Cohen are the moral equivalent of receiving stolen goods, and more on the "are bloggers journalists" question. Plus: How to protest.

• Progressive Nashville: Life after Castro won't begin just yet, psychology of the candidates, and NYT dropped the ball.

• Resonance: Revealing campaign website traffic. Plus, an Obama/Bloomberg insurgency?

• RoaneViews: Thoughts on The Game. Plus: Eclipse of Sanity?

• Russ McBee: Serbian punk nationalists on the rampage, plus some interesting numbers.

• Sean Braisted: It doesn't look like Clinton intends to salvage her dignity. Plus: [R.] Neal over at Knox Views seems perplexed as to why Hillary couldn't "bring on the wonk to expose Obama's lack of depth on policy." This is a fascinating quote to me, because I think it sums up the arrogance of the Clinton camp really well. [..] Hillary is banking on the uneducated white vote to boost her campaign.

• Sharon Cobb: Karl Rove trolling in Alabama, Obama wins the debate, and Clinton and McCain are trying to "boil the hope" out of you.

• Silence Isn't Golden: Some working people are more important to Clinton than others. memo to Hobbs: Better Uses For $8 Million , On O'Reilly's racist remarks silence is complicity, plus Act Now To Save RIF!. Oh, I almost forgot. GoldnI exclusive: Tuke in!

• Southern Beale: It seems John McCain’s "straight talk" is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Plus, a bright future for solar energy.

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Clinton: Shame on you Barack Obama, Hillary's accomplishments, and Women Have Seen this Movie, We Know the Drill

• TennViews: Pam Strickland is looking for leads for a project on how "health care and legal issues contribute to the cumulative problems of poor children, particularly children of color." Plus: Student voter registration: Yes you can, and, Clinton at the State of the Black Union, and Brian's Memphis showdown preview, with a rundown of what Tennessee had to do, which they did.

• Vibinc: Crunches the delegate numbers and comes to some interesting conclusions.

• Whites Creek Journal: Whites Creek Steve's impressive Great Backyard Bird Count list, plus more commentary on the bill to require DNA testing of fathers listed on Tennessee birth certificates.

• Women's Health News: Rachel critiques CNN's Tips for Savvy Medical Web Surfing with some valuable tips of her own, plus more on DNA testing for birth certificates.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Germantown Working toward a Compromise and a New Target Date for Overlay

From Stacy Mosley, President of Historic Germantown, Inc.:
The hearing at the Planning Commission has been deferred until April. We have been working diligently to close the gap between the opponents and proponents and by doing so, have had to make changes to our Overlay document which take some time. We are happy with the progress and are hopeful that our review in April will come with little opposition. It’s been a collaborative effort and both sides have been working hard for this compromise which we believe has been reached. It's been a long process but we are really happy with the outcome.

Planning will have the 2-28 meeting information removed from the signs shortly and have put an announcement on their web page ( and their public information officer sent the info to several media outlets.
Looks like the best possible scenario, even though later than expected for G-town leaders.

Misdirected Immigration Control: The Views of Texans Who Would Have to Live with a Border Fence

While many Americans don't have to deal with the direct consequences of the logistical nightmares of erecting a border fence to keep undocumented Mexican workers out, many Texans do, and they are not happy about it.

While a border fence is mostly about empty symbolism, wasted tax money, and a slew of logistical problems, the Mexican crime syndicate obviously does not require impoverished illegal immigrants to extend their violent reach into American cities. They have youth gangs with American citizens as members to take care of their business. And all the noise and attention on poor Mexicans who swim across the Rio Grande without a visa to be with their families or to earn more money has got to be a distraction from the more tragic and destructive crimes spawned by the Mexican Mafia for half a decade.

Caught on Video: American Citizens Obviously in League with the Terrorists

Via People for the American Way:

Follow the PFAW link to sign the petition to members of Congress expressing your opposition to big telecom companies like AT&T getting preferential treatment and special consideration from our justice system. They should be playing on the same level field with the rest of us under the same rule of law.

When Telecoms Lose, the Terrorists Win?

Via TPM:

Indeed, we must make the world safer for telecommunications technology and rule without law.

Channel 4 Finally Gets an Answer from Senator Thelma Harper on Park Security

If you watched Channel 4 news at 10:00 on Friday night you were able to catch their lead story on Bicentennial Mall safety and the lack of state action in securing it overnight. I was one of the folks they interviewed and I was able to point out how adding one little bullet to an old sign saying the park is closed after 10 pm (or is it 11 pm?) did not seem much of a deterent to criminals to me.

Overall it was a good report, with interviews and shots of people using the park for a stroll, punctuated with lots of questions about their safety and the state's responsibility to secure public property at night. Reporter Catharyn Campbell live-broadcasted from the Mall and demonstrated how poorly lit and obscured by trees and shrubs certain parts of the Mall are at night. There was only one error: Channel 4 reported that I knew last September's rape victim, which I do not. I told them that she lived in our community, so I guess they heard me saying I knew her.

But the best part of the story was a comment from State Senator Thelma Harper, who finally gave someone an answer on the progress (and lack thereof) in park security. I understand that Ms. Campbell was having her own challenges getting a comment from Sen. Harper, but she finally tracked her down at some theatrical event. Sen. Harper said that changes were planned for the Spring. Why she hasn't bother to pass that on to some of her concerned constituents, I guess I'll never know. Why she told me that they were coming soon last November, is beyond me.

Thanks to Channel 4 for keeping this problem in the glare of public attention, even when state officials act like they just as soon it disappear into one of those dimly lit corners of Bicentennial Mall.

Friday, February 22, 2008

MEDIA ALERT: Channel 4 to Air Story on Bicentennial Mall Security Tonight at 10:00

WSMV was going to try to hunt down State Senator Thelma Harper for comment on the lack of overnight park security late this afternoon. I left a message a week ago with Senator Harper to contact me about the last two letters that I sent her office, and they are still ignoring me.

Origin of the Species

There are two different articles on Downtown in the Scene piece by Jeff Woods this week. The first and most important is the one that takes a hard look at Metro government's failure to deal with chronic homelessness on Nashville streets. That makes the story worthy.

The unworthy part is the ridiculous reduction of the problems that ripple out from chronic homelessness to a Darwinian fight between wealthy Downtown residents and poor homeless people. His riff also causes him to oversimplify problems associated not just with homelessness but with crime. Here's a "for instance":
Next on the council’s action agenda is ... a citywide ban on selling one beer at a time, an attempt to prevent drunks from buying 40s of malt liquor and littering downtown with bottles. The likely unintended consequence: Homeless alcoholics will buy mouthwash and drink it instead. Scope is already increasingly popular on the street.
Actually, this is only a half-truth. In Salemtown we have a market that only seems to exist to sell 40s. And those 40s attract their share of litter, of course, but they also attract devoted criminals who look for drug transactions in front of the market and who yell at and intimidate pedestrians, especially female pedestrians.

On Sunday, the market owner was shot in his own parking lot. How is that any less the result of selling single-serve malt liquor exclusively? It's not just the homeless who are attracted to 40s. And here's something interesting: the market has been closed every day since the shooting, and I've seen no suspicious, shady people hanging around outside. Wouldn't that suggest that stopping the sale of those big singles prevents some neighborhood crime from happening?

"The Galapagos Islands of a Darwinian drama"?

The Nashville Scene decked itself out as the Beagle to Downtown's homeless quandaries, sailing in, gathering some specimens, and sailing out. Natural selection has chosen Downtown Cliff to protest Jeff Woods' piece in an as yet unpublished letter to the editor:
The article by Mr. Jeff Woods (Outlawing the Poor) is an insult to so many people. It insults the poor and the homeless by equating all of them with aggressive panhandlers. It insults the reader by over-simplifying a complex issue. It insults the Nashville Downtown Partnership, which provides valued services such as the lunch shuttle, parking shuttles, and the downtown ambassadors, who provide assistance to tourists. Most directly, Mr. Woods’ screed insults me and other downtown residents. His characterization of downtown residents is as disrespectful to me as it would be for me to assert that all homeless people are criminals.

In its bias, the story makes no mention of legitimate public safety concerns. How would the downtown resident who was recently raped by a homeless man feel about Mr. Woods’ dismissal of downtown residents’ safety concerns as complaints “about nettlesome bums lurking in the park, doing drugs and acting scary?”
Why does the Nashville Scene reporter ignore the alleged rape of a pedestrian at Bicentennial Mall by Ricky Lee Morgan, who has been identified as a homeless person, so as not to undermine his Galápagos angle? Nothing to see here among the marine iguanas and tortoises?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Important Story from Texas Tonight was Not What Happened at the Democratic Debate

It's what has not happened in most Democratic debates of late; nonetheless, they'll tell you what's really going on outside the halls of the Obama-Clinton sparring match in Austin:

The KatrinaRitaVille Express may sound like the latest funky South Austin happy hour hangout—and most of those are on wheels, too—but this old FEMA trailer from Mississippi isn’t here for the party. Derrick Evans has been touring his trailer around the country to raise awareness for the slew of problems facing victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the stagnation that’s taken hold in recovery efforts.

He’s here tonight with more than 40 people affected by the storms. They came by bus to draw attention to the storm recovery. So far candidates have said little about Hurricane Katrina in debates, and Evans says neither Clinton nor Obama have inspired much hope for his cause. “I wouldn’t say that any of them have sufficiently demonstrated a grasp of the depth of this regional crisis,” Evans says.

Neither Obama nor Clinton can afford to grasp any crisis outside of the crisis of superdelegates. It's why the struggle for justice and defending the welfare of ordinary Americans goes on with or without the Democrats.

Thinktrain is the New Metroblogging Nashville

If not in name, then in deed. This is a shell of what it once was. Writing items like this fits the concept of Metroblogging even if not branded as such.

Expect Water Rate Increases

Cuts to services (like the Saturday closings of many Metro park community centers), promises of more cuts, and campaign pledges not to raise taxes have done nothing to rescue Metro's sinking credit rating. And Council Member Emily Evans warns us in the morning paper to prepare for water service rate hikes accordingly.

Metro's hands on raising revenues are bound by the Tennessee Tax Revolt-sponsored 2006 voter referendum to put all tax increases on the ballot, leading one council member to opine to the Nashville Scene some time back:
“I’ve got an awful lot of bright people in my district,” says one council member, “but none of them reads the budget proposal because it’s the size of a phone book. As council members, we go through three months of hearings with 55 departments and make some tough calls. But voters are going to show up at the polls and push ‘no’ [to a tax increase] and not have the slightest idea what that means. Fifteen years from now, we’ll be living in a city with no police protection, no fire protection, crumbled sidewalks and a school system that’s 10 times worse than it already is, and people are going to be wondering what went wrong.”
And campaign pledges ring hollow in light of our capsizing credit rating:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Let's Be Clear

It is and always will be an "estate tax" or an "inheritance tax," because death has no monetary value in and of itself and thus it cannot be taxed (unless one believes that money is more important than life itself). It is erroneous and a partisan distraction to call it a "death tax" when it is clearly a tax on wealth to be disposed at death.

So, please stop scaring average people into thinking that their deaths are going to be taxed. Death cannot be taxed. Although, I admit that it can be taxing.

Fox News Host Does Not Want to Lynch an African American; at Least Not Yet

On his syndicated Fox News radio show, Bill O'Reilly allowed one of his anonymous callers to be aired saying that she has second-hand evidence that Michelle Obama is an angry woman, but then he took a rather crooked high road and replied, "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels."

Massa Bill's comment about Ms. Obama is much worse than Golf Channel Announcer Kelly Tilghman's about Tiger Woods:

What is it with these white people? Can they not get their minds around the concept of bad taste?

John McCain's Appearance of Impropriety

NY Times on the Republican Senator's own overconfidence that leads him to what a close friend calls "imprudent" ties to lobbyists. You might call at least one of those ties May-December.

CRIME ALERT: Overnight Shooting in Downtown

Tennessean has the details.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Major Texas Print Media Unanimous for Obama

Surging on Texas's first day of early voting while Clinton seems to be foundering. Worse, she's now sharing a trailer with Kinky Friedman in South Austin.

States in Budget Trouble Could be Hurt More by Budget Cuts than Tax Increases

Progressive States explains how cuts come out of the economy. If taxes are to be cut they should be cut for working families and be offset by higher taxes on wealth, including closing corporate loopholes in order to save vital social services.

CRIME ALERT: Update on 7th & Garfield Market Shooting

Metro Police finally got back to the Salemtown neighborhood association this afternoon about the shooting of the owner of the L & M Market in Salemtown the night before last:
The victim was going to his car when he was approached by a subject described as a male/black, approx 25 years old, 6'1" 180lbs wearing a black hoodie that had gold writing on it. He had a shotgun in his hand and surprised the victim. No words were exchanged, but the victim struggled with the gunman. The shotgun went off and the victim was shot in the leg. The suspect ran on foot and was seen leaving in a dark colored SUV. The victim was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. It appears this may have been a robbery attempt.

Rosa L. Parks Boulevard/Avenue Bill Passes Second Reading

At tonight's Council Meeting Erica Gilmore's bill to change the name of 8th Avenue running from Church Street to Charlotte Avenue to "Rosa L. Parks Boulevard" passed with an amendment changing the new proposed name to "Rosa L. Parks Avenue" so that two parallel streets with the same name would not confuse first responders. Charlie Tygard rose to request a letter from the American Legion on 8th Avenue, North complaining that a name change would cause them to have to re-stock all of their recently-received stationary with the new address.

I've said before that re-naming a street in honor of a civil rights hero is laudable; not preparing property owners along the street well-ahead of time in order to minimize the logistical setbacks is not.

My Favorite Progressive Films

I am accepting Progressive Nashville's challenge to answer the Center for American Progress's top 25 progressive films. I came up with 25, some of which are listed in CAP's list, some of which are not. My list bears toward the populist end of progressive films.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Norma Rae (1979)
  • Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • Gandhi (1982)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • American Madness (1932)
  • Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
  • Cry Freedom (1987)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  • High Noon (1952)
  • Intolerance (1916)
  • Schindler's List (1993)
  • Brazil (1985)
  • Sounder (1972)
  • The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  • All the President's Men (1976)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  • Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • All the King's Men (1949)
  • Network (1976)
  • Reds (1981)
Two of these movies score high on my list--High Noon and All the King's Men--for the primary reason that John Wayne declared them "un-American" and "un-patriotic." Wayne turned down the the lead role in King's Men and then lost the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in the Sands of Iwo Jima to the actor who took his place, Broderick Crawford. I imagine that was sweet for the makers of King's Men.

UPDATE: While my list fans out chronologically, there are some more recent honorable mentions that could have easily made the list.
  • Dances with Wolves (1991)
  • A League of Their Own (1992)
  • Glory (1989)
  • Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
  • Thelma & Louise (1991)

Tonight's Another Tuesday Night Metro Council Night

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

Bells Benders or Bells Bandits? Let's Play the Feud!

On second thought I have another bone to pick with Richard Lawson.

I'll gnaw back on what's gnawing on me:
this pits what's good for the city’s welfare as a whole against the concerns of opponents in neighborhoods who may be a vocal minority claiming to represent a majority. It could be a majority. It’s difficult to determine sometimes when a few are so vocal.
Mr. Lawson is rather cock sure that the developers he comes down with have the purer motives. Or so it seems in his unmitigated conclusion that they are watching the welfare of the whole. (And frankly, developers don't need bigger vocal cords. They have bigger pocketbooks and influence to pay for effective media exposure).

But he rides a slanted trail by appealing to the city's welfare. Developers have one primary interest, much like neighborhoods do, and it tends to have less to do with the whole and more to do with themselves. And I am not sure how the reporter got to the simple conclusion that this is good for the city's welfare given the costly infrastructure overhaul that might have to occur with the building of May Town Center. And how is a bridge that will probably bisect another neighborhood like Charlotte Park in order to get from West Nashville to Bells Bend a better thing for anyone beyond the commuters who live elsewhere?

This debate on Mr. Lawson's pro-growth side is starting to take the inevitable turn of misrepresenting proponents of balance and community and overestimating the benefits of development (which is just another term for "marketing" or "public relations").

In his book on the effect of development in the Carolina Blue Ridge, anthropologist Stephen William Foster describes how outsiders linked underdeveloped rural communities with preconceived notions of incomplete people who needed economic development to help them shed their local ways. In The Past is Another Country Foster writes:
[I]n American society land has increasingly been treated as a commodity, its value measured by a price tag rather than by its association with persons, family, and the continuity of social life. This shift in the meaning of land was in the interest of outsiders desirous of appropriating ... acreage, since reducing land to an object that can be bought and sold undermines the relation of land to culture and continuity that ... residents assumed and experienced.
I can't say whether the people who live in Bells Bend feel a continuity between their land and their culture, but it is pretty clear to me that the outsiders who desire their underdeveloped acreage (and the journalists whose bias is with them) are starting to represent those folk as flawed without development and as stumbling blocks to the rest of us who live in the more urbanized parts of Nashville.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama Supporter Suspicious of Obama-Supporting Tennessean Jim Cooper

This first-hand account confirms all of my red flags about about the location of Congressman Jim Cooper's loyalties in the health care debate and it justifies my concerns about the influence Mr. Cooper will have over health care policy in an Obama administration given his prominent place in the latter's campaign:

I have been beating up on the Clinton campaign pretty hard lately because I haven't been crazy about the kind of campaign they have been running. And I will admit that my heart has been won by the enthusiasm of all those young and passionate Obama supporters.

But there are still certain things that make me really, really nervous about Obama. At the top of that list is the health care debate, where I think he's just wrong about the importance of universality, and where he's employed Harry and Louise-style tactics to argue against Clinton's plan. My concerns shifted into overdrive, though, when I noticed that the Obama campaign is now using Rep. Jim Cooper as a spokesperson/surrogate on health care. I was part of the Clinton White House team on the health care reform issue in 1993/94, and no Democrat did more to destroy our chances in that fight than Jim Cooper ....

Cooper, a leader of conservative Dems on the health care issue, instead of working with us, came out early and said universality was unimportant, and came out with a bill that did almost nothing in terms of covering the uninsured. He quickly became the leading spokesman on the Dem side for the insurance industry position, and undercut us at every possible opportunity, basically ending any hopes we had for a unified Democratic Party position ....

It is such a huge mistake for Obama to use a guy like this to defend their position on health care. The signal it sends to reporters, organizations, and activists like myself who know something about the old health care battles is that Obama truly doesn't care about comprehensive health care reform or universal coverage.

In the last couple of elections Hospitals/health care and insurance have ranked among the top industries donating to Mr. Cooper. His biggest individual contributors have been organizations like Vanderbilt and HCA. I believe that he serves those special interests and if he plays any role beyond a ceremonial one for the Obama campaign on health care, then working families are going to be in trouble in what could be a limousine-liberal administration.


Watch Your LEED, Austin

Westin is building an 18-story hotel in Austin, Texas, seeks green build certification, and intends the design to be "uniquely Austin." Nashville has been through this song-and-dance with a proposed 20-story Westin down on Lower Broad; first Westin agreed to LEED standards, and then they complained about green standards and stalled, and then they started the whole painful planning process over again by eliminating planned condos. Maybe Austin will have better luck with them than we had.

You Want to Get the Edwards' Vote? Here's How You Get the Edwards' Vote.

With John Edwards attracting a lot of attention from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the American Prospect explains in great detail either would need to do to attract Edwards' backers:

The central plank of the Edwards' campaign was restoring a prosperous and secure middle class, which requires ending wage stagnation and having wages again grow with productivity. This must be the central economic-policy goal of any candidate wanting the Edwards vote ....

John Edwards' campaign recognized the imminent challenge of recession and advocated fiscal stimulus. Both the Obama and Clinton campaigns have done likewise. However, it is not enough to just change the economic-policy dial settings. The Edwards campaign also spoke to the need to change the long-term direction of the economy by restoring full employment, leveling the playing field between workers and corporations, and fixing unfair competition unleashed by globalization. That's the message that will win the Edwards vote.

Be sure to read the entire Prospect article. It's rich in detail.

Except for that Part about Neighborhoods Pitching "Status Quo"

Richard Lawson has a survey of the sides in the fight between urbanism and rurbanism in Bells Bend.

It seems even-handed, except that Lawson at one point seems to ignore a broader idea of progress on the ground in many neighborhoods: leaders embrace a more wholestic, more communitarian idea of development not constricted by the absentee priorities of developers who reduce the idea of progress to building something more expensive where something cheaper once stood (without reference to a range of other development concerns that affect quality of life). That is the difference between ideas of progress, not a false choice between progress and status quo.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Holleman Scene

Nashville Scene reporter P.J. Tobia asks if CM Jason Holleman can have it both ways.

UPDATE: CM Holleman answers at VV.

Metro Council to Vote to Accept State Grant for Farmers' Market

The Tennessee Department of Ag. has awarded a grant not to exceed $93,808 to the Farmers' Market in the North End for ceiling fans and lighting in the outdoor shed, and the Metro Council will be voting to appropriate it next Tuesday night. According to Council Analysis:
The funds will be used to purchase and install six new ten-foot fans at a cost of $36,020. These grant funds will also be used to purchase and install new lighting at a cost of $57,788. The term of the grant is from January 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

Tennessee's Turn to Be Let Down by the Bush Administration

George W. Bush's version of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now disappointing tornado-ravaged Tennesseans like it did New Orleaneans after Katrina. Macon County's homeless tornado survivors are being told that they will have to wait at least a month, probably two, for trailers while FEMA tests them for formaldehyde levels, after dangerously high levels were found in Katrina victims' trailers. FEMA's circus of errors in New Orleans since 2005 has a big tent containing many well-documented fiascos. So, Tennesseans shouldn't be surprised when President Bush pays his little visit here and leaves clumsy emergency management in his wake. But product safety doesn't mean too much in the Bush Administration, else why would they not have tested these trailers rigorously before buying them?

Want to Help Update Metro's Parks Master Plan?

The Metro Parks Department has scheduled 5 community meetings to give area residents an opportunity to help update the city’s Master Plan for Parks and Greenways. The meeting for the area of Nashville that includes the North End is:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 6:00 p.m.
at Z. Alexander Looby Center, 2301 Rosa Parks Blvd. (Metro Center)

I've been disappointed in how slow the renovations to the Morgan Park playground, athletic field, and greenway spur have grown lately. I am attending this meeting to communicate my thoughts on that subject.

BREAKING CRIME ALERT: Shooting at 7th and Garfield Market

A local pastor in Salemtown called me tonight to say that the owner of a small single-serve beer market at the corner of 7th Avenue, North and Garfield Street was shot at the store tonight. He told me that victim was in bad shape. Initial reports indicate that it happened between 6:30 and 7:20. No word on whether a suspect is in custody. I'll post more details as they come in.

This is a store that gets mentioned regularly at our neighborhood association meetings as place where crime is more likely to occur in Salemtown. For those of you who remember the Nile Market (torn down now) over by the old John Henry Hale projects and MLK Academic Magnet High School, this market was in my mind becoming a comparable crime magnet.

UPDATE: Freddie O'Connell confirmed with Metro Police that a suspect was not yet in custody, although they did tell him that they have a description of the suspect and the suspect's vehicle.

Crowdsourcing Superdelegates and Blogging Drama

A Wired blogger wrote what I think is some good analysis of crowdsourcing websites designed to watchdog (and/or influence?) how the superdelegates break in the process to select a party nominee. One of her subjects objected by singling out her nationality, as if it mattered. The Wired blogger punched back, but above the belt.

I believe that superdelegate watchdogging sites provide us an outstanding service. It's too bad they have not been around before and probably will not outlast this close election. Voters should stay informed and seek to influence the political process. But there is no reason to attack bloggers personally who turn a fair, but critical eye on the watchdogs. And if is indeed joining forces with these crowdsourcing sites, that's important information that helps us judge whether the watchdogs are neutral, independent and committed to larger democratic (with a "little d") concerns.

Anti-NAFTA Themes

Chris Kromm encourages us to call NAFTA what it is: "global investment deals" (rather than "free trade") that cost Tennessee 25,588 jobs from 1993 to 2005. He also has a great breakdown on where Obama and Clinton stand on NAFTA, including the embracing of John Edwards' anti-NAFTA themes by the candidates since he dropped out of the running.

If the political currents are running against these global investment deals, I don't see where a pro-NAFTA Democrat like Governor Phil Bredesen (who is touted as a VP candidate) fits into any future Democratic administration. Bredesen is one of those who impugns any economic development critic for being "idealist," while scolding that "these deals have to be made."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

CM at-Large Charlie Tygard Finished Post-Election Quarter with $6,140 on-Hand

Of of the 5 at-Large Members of the Metro Council, CM Tygard finishes with the biggest chunk of change to spend on-hand with no outstanding loans that went to pay for his campaign. Maybe it's time to get back down to the Metro Election Commission and find out who some of his bigger post-election patrons from October until January were.

Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

In tomorrow morning's WaPo, columnist David Ignatius, who has been laudatory of Barack Obama, answers a challenge to take a more critical look than he previously has of the Democratic frontrunner:

What Obama would actually do as president remains a mystery in too many areas. Before he completes what increasingly looks like a march to the Democratic nomination, Obama needs to clarify more clearly what lies behind the beguiling banner marked "change" ....

Like all the major candidates, he has a Web site brimming with plans and proposals. But it has been hard to tell how these different strands come together ....

I'm still puzzled about where to locate Obama on this policy map. Until the past few weeks, I would have put him somewhere between "New Democrat" and "technocrat." But as he reaches for votes in big industrial states, Obama has been sounding more like [John] Edwards.

Ignatius spends time going over the Edwardsian domestic programs that Senator Obama has started proposing without lining out how they could be afforded. He also takes up the question of whether Senator Obama is creating unrealistic expectations on a withdrawal from Iraq.

This is really worth a read with Barack Obama's momentum, and it is good to see someone who is high on him also do some candidate-critical soul-searching. The Democratic primary season should not be a coronation. It should be a tool for finding chinks in the candidates' armor that need to be more tightly closed before the general election gets here.

Anecdotally, Anything is Possible

But what are the statistical odds that his story would be anyone's story? I'll wager that the chances decrease the more people try it.

Lost in Translation?

Barack Obama's greatest strength as a candidate is his ability to emotionally connect with and motivate people from the stump. Does translating his campaign talking points into Spanish for 1st generation Hispanics who speak less English neutralize his strong personal charisma?

In the meantime, the Texas Observer's Melissa Del Bosque reports that Clinton campaign strategists seem to acknowledge a simple fact that many in the English Only/anti-immigration crowd do not:

Rodriguez Ciampoli says the Clinton Campaign will start their radio ads sometime next week. She also hinted that the campaign has something new in store. The campaign will start airing English-language ads for a Hispanic audience. The intent is to reach 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics in Texas who don’t speak Spanish.
Studies indicate that Hispanics willingly shed native Spanish quickly after the 1st generation of speakers, so that by the 3rd generation none are fluent in Spanish.

It Ain't Rite

Charlotte Avenue blogger Chris relates the story of the Rite Aid pharmacy company's less than neighborhood-friendly proposal to replace a historic church building with one of their generic set-back stores that attract more vehicular than pedestrian traffic. He ponders:
[W]hy not make it the "perfect" first step Rite Aid? We are in the middle of planning for progress on Charlotte that hopes to achieve just such a walkable community. Why would you design a building that deters that lifestyle and only encourages more automobile focused development?
Despite the rhetorical nature of Chris's question, I'm going to add a guess that box stores don't work with neighborhoods because greater wealth often engenders less willingness to risk being sensitive to local communities. If Rite Aid officials lived in the neighborhood, they would be more sensitive to their neighbors' concerns. Also, Rite Aid is so corporate and detached that they do not have to work with the local neighborhood. For them it is just a matter of lobbying a critical number of Council Members who are prone toward high-growth development.

Chris encourages local consumers who want Rite Aid to do the right thing to contact their Board of Directors: Making this a pocketbook issue for the company could save Sylvan Park residents a grueling fight in Metro Council in the future.

UPDATE: Rite Aid blinks first and bails.

Oh No You Di-in't!

Another hole in Metro's security alert system uncovered by the Tennessean in the wake of the stolen Election Commission laptops:

Employees of the election commission and Metro Information Technology Services had learned on Dec. 26 that a computer router stolen along with the laptops had been unplugged at 9:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve ....

But police didn't learn until Jan. 2, the day officers told the public, that the router had been unplugged at 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 24, police spokesman Don Aaron said this week.

Metro election and IT employees amazingly allowed an entire week to lapse between their discovery of the loss of delicate voter information and their first call to police.

And as far as I know nobody but the security guard who was playing Christmas music when the break-in occurred has been disciplined or has lost their government job on this security failure.

Friday, February 15, 2008

May Town Center and the Bells Bend Community: We Need a Little Controversy

When something regarding new Nashville development comes out in the media, the Nashville Charrette buzz usually heats up about it. I've been lurking there the past few days to watch the tenor of the discussion about this new Bells Bend sprawl that some developers are proposing and some "rurban" neighbors are fighting.

Frankly, after a couple of days I was starting to worry that dreamy urbanism and growth boosterism were controlling what was turning out to be a pep rally for developer "Tony G" and the May Town Center planners. And it is hard not to be seduced by MTC's online, helicopter-shot, airbrushed panorama of Bells Bend in which the high-density, mixed-use concept serendipitously materializes into the picture as if Scotty had beamed it down unobtrusively, gently from a geosynchronous orbit, subsidized bridge and all.

What it looks like to me is a grinding footprint of Phase I of the eventual total urbanization spreading to every other corner of Nashville's largest remaining rural enclave. However, I was not reading any Charrette commentary but that which would attempt to disabuse me of my prophesy.

But then, and mercifully, one new Charrette member dropped a stink bomb into what had become an urbanist pep squad's echo chamber in thrall to sprawl PR:
While it is all dressed up real purty to appease the New Urbanists and the Chamber of Commerce, the May Town Center proposal is nothing but sprawl. Period. Bells Bend is the last remaining rural and agricultural landscape left in Davidson Co. with a rich cultural history. It is bounded by two huge parks on the north and south, and has tremendous opportunities to become a breadbasket and rural backyard for all of Nashville. We need to preserve this space and steer the developers to create class A office space on brownfields, not greenfields.

This is not to mention the HUGE public subsidies that will be needed to make this happen, i.e. a bridge, interstate interchange, sewers (there are none in the Bend despite the presence of the Harpeth treatment plant), schools, etc.

The local community is already well on its way to creating a new Subarea Plan that preserves the area's rural character (which doesn't include 5,000 new condos, natch). The planning dept. leadership is behind them (though the rank and file staff has a lot to learn).

If you thought the battle over the Bells Bend landfill was heated, this will be a s#!t storm.
Bravo! This is where the real discussion begins. Instead of dreaming pipe dreams outside of the plans the Bells Bend neighbors have for their community, I think the Charrette should be an actual charrette and dialogue directly with them as part of their discussion of the merits of May Town Center.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

First Day Celebration

Baseball ... serves the same purpose as a revolution in Central America or a thunderstorm on a hot day ... A tonic, an exercise, baseball is second only to Death as a leveler. So long as it remains our national game, America will abide no monarchy, and anarchy will be too slow.

- - Alan Sangree

The greatest rite of passage in American sport started today as pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training. Pictured above is New York Giant pitcher Christy Mathewson, who shut out the Philadelphia Athletics in 3 different games spanning six days in the 1905 World Series with his team wearing classy all-black uniforms. It had to be one of the greatest pitching performances in any World Series ever. He was inducted posthumously into the original Baseball Hall of Fame class in 1936.

The Most Reliable Predictor of How the Dem Superdelegates Will Vote

Money changes everything:
Superdelegates have received more than $890,000 in campaign contributions from Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in the last three years, according to Capital Eye, a newsletter published by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyzes campaign finance data.

Mr. Obama’s political action committee, Hope Fund, has given more than $694,000 in contributions to superdelegates since 2005, the article said. And of the 81 elected officials who have committed their superdelegate votes to Mr. Obama, 34 received contributions from him in the past.

Mrs. Clinton’s political action committee, Hillpac, has given $195,000 to superdelegates. Of the 109 superdelegates who have promised her their support, only 13 received contributions from her.

The report found that contributions “have been a generally reliable predictor of whose side a superdelegate will take.”

Jim Cooper Votes with Dems to Approve Contempt Resolution

The House of Representatives voted to send a citation of contempt to the U.S. Attorney General against Bush Administration officials who refused to testify claiming "executive privilege" regarding the firings of U.S. Attorneys.

Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper voted with the majority to approve the citation.

Much Too Kind

Kudos to Thinktrain blogger and Enclave patron Rob Robinson for being selected as the lone blogger on a Center for Non-Profit Management media panel and thanks to him and the professional journalists on the panel for mentioning Enclave during their discussion. I sincerely appreciate both the readers and the honorable mention.

Take That, Critics of Public Education in Tennessee

From Jim G. at Progressive Nashville:

It's not often that Tennessee's schools get praise for leading the nation, but the journal Education Week has praised state schools for policies and programs aimed at improving high school graduation rates, developing quality teachers and aligning curriculum with college and work force needs.

The state was cited for its efforts to set standards for graduates and for investing in pre-school programs that help children do better in school.

High-Priced Lawyers Shield Roger Clements from the Big Bad Hearing that He Requested for Himself

The lawyers for pitcher Roger Clemens show contempt for House Rules by coming out of the gallery to shout down Chair Henry Waxman, who was properly asking why Clemens would invite a potential witness of his alleged drug use over to his home over the weekend to depose her for the committee himself:

Clemens deposing his own witnesses might make him more marketable in the future to GOP strategists.

Coffee Cold War Between East Coast and West Coast Posses

Dunkin Donuts is in the hizzay. Double D goes west to take on a shrinking Starbuckz. But with 63% beverage-booty, the Dunkin booth ain't going to be all jelly-filled like Tenn-to-the-See-Eee's Krispy Kreme. You know what I'm sayin?

Found in a Deer Blind, Wearing USA across Chest: Sounds Like Material for a Future Republican Run for Office

Baseball's Roger Clemens, accused of steroid and human growth hormone drug-use, told a congressional committee yesterday that Major League Baseball's investigative committee (chaired by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell) could have found him if they wanted to. He also made himself an attractive potential candidate for office to the NRA and car-magnet patriots everywhere:

And Yet, She Does Have Her Moments

Hillary Clinton in San Antonio last night:
Change is going to happen anyway. Change happens whether we like it or not. The question is not whether we’ll have change. The question is whether we’ll have progress that makes a difference .... we have hope. What we need is help. And help is on the way.
I didn't vote for her, but I couldn't agree with her more.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Republican Committee Members "Cast Their Lot" with Clemens

ESPN analyst Howard Bryant observed today that Republicans on the congressional committee overseeing the hearings of baseball's human growth hormone scandal showed a preference for accused Major League Pitcher Roger Clemens, who is opposed by the testimony of fellow pitcher Andy Pettitte, his wife, and former trainer Brian McNamee, whom the Republican members attacked relentlessly during the hearing.

Bryant writes:
Brian McNamee was ruined on Wednesday.

But unlike Clemens, he was human, and on one point -- the only point that matters -- still credible.

Clemens, meanwhile, revealed himself as incapable of introspection or culpability. When cornered, he attempted to bully, but Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building is not a pitcher's mound and he did not hold the gavel. Not being in control frustrated Clemens, and he did not know what to do.

He avoided accountability for his role in his own drama. At no point during the day did he take responsibility for the direction of his career or the choices he's made. As much as McNamee, by being a signature player in the steroids era, Clemens has been part of a drug culture that has diminished his standing and that of his sport, but he never once acknowledged his part in its, or his, downfall. There was always someone else who should have done something for Roger. Clemens had an answer for everything the committee asked him, and each answer, when sifted to its essence, was that nothing was his fault.

Clemens ended belligerently by interrupting Committee Chair Henry Waxman's closing remarks after getting his 4 1/2 hours of publicity (Rep. Waxman actually granted Clemens' express request to hold a public hearing):

The Republicans are hitching their wagon to the wrong horse in this case, although Clemens' chest-thumping, yankee-doodle-dandy style of bullying does fit their MO.

Assuming that Terrorists Operate by Our Logic

He's concerned about whether terrorists "trumpet" a date for our leaving Iraq as a sign of their victory.

I'm concerned that a prolonged American presence in Iraq is being used by terrorist groups as it was in Saudi Arabia before 9/11 as the most effective recruitment tool that they have to attract more angry young Muslims; that each day we spend on foreign soil is one more seed planted that will bear strange fruit in some future terrorist attack on this soil.

But my concern means in his terms that I "don't understand war." And who is being elite now?

We shouldn't assume that announcing that we may be in Iraq for another century is not sufficient motivation for terrorists to fight on. They may see it as the supreme challenge to overcome, and their eyes are already trained on the farther reach of eternity.

New Hyper-Local Blog in Sylvan Park Designed to Obtain Metro Support for Balanced Neighborhood Growth

"Charlotte Avenue is Shaping Up" is a new hyper-local blog that describes itself as "a community based, grass-roots effort for a revitalized district along Charlotte Avenue." It seems to have grown out the Metro Council debate over whether to permit the sale of the historic Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ building to the big box Rite Aid chain. Check it out after the jump.

Here's A Bright Idea for Today's Feeble Housing Market: Let's Just Sprawl Our Brains Out!

Developers and some local Chamber of Commerce types want to pave Nashville's only urban farmland and to black-top and scale-up the huge patch of green space in Bell's Bend. They've got Cool Springs and government subsidies on their mind: they want tax dollars to fund a new bridge across the Cumberland to help them increase density. A Bell's Bend resident group wants to keep their patch low-density, remote, agricultural and recreational.

Is it too much to ask that developers leave one large patch of green space in the city? With the lower demand in the Downtown condo market, should taxpayers be helping finance new dense commercial and residential development close to Downtown? And I have got to tell you: I think that with all of the crumbling bridges around and about, tax money should not be spent on new bridges until the older ones get fixed.

In Jeopardy over a Picture Book

Browsing through the news around the nation this morning I came across a heated little story on a large moderate Baptist church in Texas where I was once a member (and I even got married there on one occasion). It seems that one group of 200 inside those walls is bent on firing the pastor over the church directory. He was even offered $50,000 to just leave.

When the time rolled around to take church directory pics, some gay couples requested to have their photos published, too. Well, that led to polarization in the congregation. Some good liberal members argued that publishing pics of gay couples would go "beyond welcoming" gay people to "affirming" their "lifestyle." Other good liberal members argued that requiring gay couples to be pictured apart from each other in the directory was demeaning. The deacons (analogous to a "board of directors") attempted to resolve the matter by suggesting that the church directory have only church groups and no families. The pastor's sin: supporting the deacons.

Even moderate-to-progressive Baptists can be at once a tough crowd and an entertaining bunch of petty bickerers. It used to be the case that the church picture book was one of the few things that Baptists could agree on. In some Baptist churches you would be better off ripping the pages out of the Bible than taking pictures out of the directory. And nowadays people can even lose their jobs over it.