Monday, March 31, 2008

Pro-LED, Conservative NBC PAC Lobbies Metro Council for BZA Appointment on Law Firm Letterhead

In an email sent to Metro Council earlier today the Chairman of the conservative business PAC, Nashville Business Coalition, encouraged council members to vote for the PAC's candidate to join the Board of Zoning Appeals. Chair Dan Haskell wrote the following memo to council members using the letterhead of his employer, the Law Offices of Gullett, Sanford, Robinson, & Martin, PLLC:

Click image to enlarge.

The Board of Zoning Appeals has responsibility for approving and disapproving LED signs among other variances and exceptions to codes, so placing someone beholden to the NBC PAC on the BZA looks like a strike against community quality of life, which NBC has shown a willingness to sacrifice in the name of the growth that they assume occurs with light emitting diodes.

In the meantime, consider Chairman Haskell's employer's self-description:
Members of the firm routinely engage in matters involving litigation, business and commercial transactions, issues involving employers and employees, insolvency proceedings, wills and estates, real property transactions, and government relations, among other matters.
Does it seem inappropriate that the NBC Chair is using official firm stationary to lobby for an appointment that may benefit the firm in future government proceedings (as well as NBC) should Metro Council approve?


UPDATE: NBC's endorsed candidate, Chris Whitson, is also a lawyer with a concentration in corporate representation. He is with the firm of Sherrard & Roe, a self-described "full-service business law practice." That's not exactly inspiring for neighborhoods concerned about corporate growth overrunning local communities.

Salemtown Neighbors Meets Tonight; CM Emily Evans to Join Us

Here is tonight's agenda:
  1. Welcome, Introduction, and Recognitions (5 min.)
  2. Approval of Minutes (5 min.)
  3. Treasurer's Report (5 min.)
  4. Central Precinct Update (10 min.)
  5. Metro Water Services update from Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans (15 min.)
  6. Social Committee Update (5 min.)
  7. CAC Update (5 min.)
  8. LED ordinance discussion (10 min.)
  9. Duplex ordinance discussion (10 min.)
  10. Soundproofing barrier discussion (10 min.)
  11. Metro Planning discussion for zoning, development (10 min.)

"Expected Local Economic Impact" is Not a Good Justification for Predators' Lease

As the Metro Council is poised to approve the Nashville Predators' new lease tomorrow night, a Vanderbilt economist tells the Tennessean:
In general, sports teams do not generate much, if any, local economic impact .... The reason is simple. Sports teams, and especially those in leagues that play weekday evening games, attract insufficient "new money" into an area to overcome the large leakages created by players and owners who live outside the local area during the off-season and spend a large portion of their income elsewhere .... If there is a reasonable justification for public subsidies to privately owned sports entertainment businesses, it must derive from something other than their expected local economic impact.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Southeast Davidson Exurbs Predictably Oppose Christian Halfway House

The community meeting was besieged on Saturday by residents who were NIMBY about a proposal by Men of Valor to rezone their property to build what they call "a seminary" for ex-cons. While not unsympathetic to the neighborhoods' cause, I also figured that in their zeal to oppose this proposal, neighbors would resort to distorted and pejorative stereotypes about what happens in cities vs. donut communities that ring cities, and they did:

"There is no benefit," said Mike Marietta, who lives with his wife and a 2-year-old child less than a mile from the proposed development.

"I moved out of the city to get away from the drug users and pushers, and now they're bringing them here. They'll be released to our community, and if they decide they want to participate in the program, everything is great, but what about the ones that don't?"

Drug use and pushing happens in many different places in metropolitan areas outside of the city (although, I would grant that some rural and suburban dwellers drive into the city to get drugs, thus making our urban neighborhoods more dangerous). These kinds of poor arguments tend to reinforce the stupid notion that halfway houses should be relegated to urban neighborhoods, where most if not all crime is claimed to reside already.

Metro School Board Member and nearby resident Karen Y. Johnson has a much stronger proposal today about what the Men of Valor can do with their halfway house:
One question that was brought to our attention [at the community meeting] was that why since they had a large fundraiser at the Woodmont Hills church off Franklin Pike could they not build in this area? If you look at their distributed information, the majority of their supporters are from churches in the Brentwood, Franklin area, so why is it that this type complex is not being proposed off Franklin Pike? Why is it that Antioch has to continually be the area to help but no other area of the city is being asked to do the same?
I think that her suggestion gets to the heart of this problem, which is class. Upperwardly mobile (usually white) churches that flee to mostly upper-middle class and wealthy suburbs don't want mostly lower class ex-cons rehabilitating in their cushy communities. These faith-based ministries use more modest neighborhoods as vessels to motivate wealthier Christians to back them, which effectively keeps the ex-cons out of places like Brentwood, Franklin, and Cool Springs. But in fairness, them that finance the halfway house should be willing to live with it in their midst.

This controversy is not about living in the city or the suburbs. It's about class, pure and simple. And it's part of a class war that wealthier neighborhoods fight with money as their weapon and churches as their camouflage.

Central Precinct Detectives Seize Drugs in Undercover Round-up

According to Metro Police (via the District 17 e-mail list):
Central Precinct detectives charged 17 persons as the result of investigations on 6th Avenue South at Lafayette Street, North 1st Street at Oldham Street, 11th Avenue North, and Jefferson Street. Seized were 73 grams of marijuana and 14 grams of cocaine. The Central Precinct's continuing steroid investigation has, since last month, resulted in the seizure of more than 317,000 dosage units of anabolic steroids worth more than $3 million dollars.
The 11th Av. and Jeff St. location has been an ongoing trouble spot for drug deals, and Hope Gardens residents have been working for some time with police to drive the dealers out.

Presidential Boos

Watching baseball's stateside opening game between Washington and Atlanta on ESPN, and I can't remember hearing as many boos of a president throwing out the first pitch as I heard tonight directed at George W. Bush. I honestly heard more booing than cheers during the ovation. It was remarkable.

Salemtown's Newest Realtor-Concocted Marketing Label: "Nashville's most exciting new townhome neighborhood"

Looks like the latest owners of the property at the corner of 6th Avenue and Garfield Street have a new concept called "Concept G". Here is how that concept looks:


I'm no architect or urban planner, but the descriptions that come to my mind are "neo-modern" and "a return to asymmetric, symmetric, geometric forms and a turn away from style." Any of you more qualified designing types care to weigh with an evaluation?

Marketing the G-spot
The sales pitch in the flyer produced by Double A Development and Village Real Estate rubs me the wrong way:
Concept G has everything you desire. Nashville’s most exciting new townhome neighborhood is located close to all the Germantown hot spots you crave like Monell’s, Germantown Café, and Mad Platter. Keep your life and diet fresh with a weekend morning at the Farmers’ Market or opt to stay in and you’ll enjoy spacious floorplans with tactile finishes that will entice and engage your senses. Find your spot at Concept G.
This is how Realtors see Salemtown; not as it is, not as the residents collectively defined a vision a few years ago in the sub-area plan, but as the homogeneous lifestyle location that they believe beautiful people--as asymmetrical symmetrical as their concept--will pay for. They see our hamlet as an open container into which they can pour their concepts, and then glue on new labels.

Frankly, a Concept S would hit my spot.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Maybe Phil Bredesen Should Hop a Flight South and Offer to Solve This Problem, Too

Lone Star Democrats convening to nominate their presidential hopeful today find themselves in the middle of a Texas-sized mess:

The convention — the second in a three-step process to select the remaining 67 delegates in the Democratic Party presidential primary-caucus hybrid — was supposed to begin at 9:30 this morning. As of 1:30, the actual convention still hadn’t started, and frustrated delegates were wedged into a narrow hallway still trying to sign in.

The breakdowns are almost too numerous to list. The first major issue was limited parking. The Will Rogers complex is also hosting a horse show and a gun show today. So Democratic delegates in Volvos with Hillary and Obama bumper stickers had to compete for parking spaces with heavy duty pickups with gun racks.

Once inside, delegates waited all morning listening to time-killing speeches while the credentials committee tried to sort through the various logistical messes and some of the delegate challenges ....

In the arena’s front hallway, delegates crowded together, waiting to sign in at make-shift tables. No one seemed to know what was going on ....

some tables had started signing in delegates from certain precincts prematurely (and without convention credentials to hand out) and wouldn’t stop when asked ....

The palpable excitement among delegates this morning at the sight of such a large gathering of Democrats — perhaps the biggest in Tarrant County in decades — was soon replaced by growing anger and frustration.

I'm not concerned about the messiness of the mobilized electorate, although many party standard bearers would be. But it does suggest that maybe the Democratic Party was totally unprepared to help channel the popular backlash against the Republicans. It appears to me that Dems have been so accommodational to Republicans that they could not prepare and pivot to channel the national angst into a coherent alternative.

The voters are leaving party leaders in the dust today, in the rodeo dust of a Ft. Worth Coliseum.


UPDATE: Sheriff's deputies called in to keep angry delegates away from Party credentials officials.

Torn on This One

On the one hand, I believe that the local community should have influence over whether halfway houses go in neighborhoods. On the other hand, as an urban resident whose community has been overloaded with halfway houses for years, I believe that suburban neighborhoods like those around Percy Priest Lake should be less NIMBY and should shoulder some of the rehabilitation burden.

And here's a rather interesting question: would CM Robert Duvall--one of the co-sponsors of Prodding People to Pray resolution--even consider a community meeting for the group seeking to build the halfway house if it were not committed to "winning men in prison to Jesus"?

Have a Strategy Like "those Chinese coolies who built the railroad" Did

Our Guv is in serious jockey mode right now and the strategy he seems focused on is one that puts him in position to show as the horse race enters the stretch run. It's one thing to express an opinion as a superdelegate, but quite another to stalk the talk show circuit and have the hometown press sex it up as hot commodity.

The other strategy--avoiding a convention fight by picking someone sooner rather than later--is bogus, given that it was the same excuse used for quickly coronating John Kerry in 2004. It's more conjecture than strategy. Where is the Governor's evidence from recent presidential elections that fighting through the convention is worse than christening someone early? Democrats have proved that they are no less inclined to screw it up later than they are sooner.

And what's all this about being "a problem solver"? How about being more of a "a problem shifter," moving problems out of certain areas and imposing on others (remember how Mayor Bredesen helped pay for the new stadium with Metro Water millions that are still going to it)? There are still a number of states that have to hold primaries, so why not let the process run its course rather than jumping their claim to attention?

The Democratic Party boss would have none of the Guv's white-horsemanship:
[Howard] Dean is personally engaged in this process, he's had numerous conversations with over 60 leaders inside and outside of the Democratic Party, to hear their thoughts, get their input and encourage them to help reinforce the importance of keeping the party united behind our nominee in November.... He does not want to discuss those conversations publicly because in Washington, you can work behind the scenes and not worry about getting credit and actually get something done —or you can talk about it in the press and not get anything done.

Let the Mainstream Media Re-Rack This Black Preacher's Jeremiad Over and Again

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have ... major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision .... I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent. Been a lot of applauding over the last few years. They applauded our total movement; they’ve applauded me. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can’t do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement–we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, Be non-violent toward Bull Connor .... There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward [southern segregationists], but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children." There’s something wrong with that press!
In the next week, we're going to hear the media wax on about the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination as they sanitize King as a symbol of idealism rather than portray him as a the social critic that he was in a manner not too much different than another black preacher whose You Tube clips they have been negatively consumed with in this campaign season. There is definitely something wrong with the press!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kind of Cryptic

The first I've heard of this meeting a week from tomorrow was in reading the following snail-mail notice arriving today:



I'm thankful that at least CM Gilmore is making the effort to have community meetings about developments, which is more than we got from the previous CM, but so many questions come to mind:
  • Why was this meeting not held closer to or in Salemtown (like at the Morgan Park Community Center or at the Randee Rogers Training Center)?
  • Why hasn't the neighborhood association been brought on board ahead of time regarding the subject matter?
  • Who are the developers proposing a project "for the residents of Salemtown?" We've had several developers in the past say they were building for the good of the community, when they did not end up doing so.
  • Will two hours be enough time on April 5 to get feedback from Salemtown residents on the development?
  • Is the subject the block grant streetscape plan? If so, why is the committee elected from the neighborhood to work on that plan not being brought on board ahead of time?

In the Darkest Night Burning Bright

Thanks to Keith Newcomb (also mentioned in today's City Paper follow-up), who sent me this picture (of the YMCA near the church prompting Charlie Tygard for the same kind of sign in a residential area) among several that he showed the Planning Commission yesterday before it voted to recommend disapproval of the Council's LED bill:



Keith took the picture at around midnight. Would you want that kind of animated glare on your block?

Coming Out of Their Prayer Closets

More government intrusion into people's personal spiritual lives. And I don't mean intrusion into non-believers' lives. They're pandering to a set of people who stand on street corners and use prayer for self-interest. The resolution would bleed devotional quality from faith-based acts.

Don't they have enough on their plates to keep them busy with the Mayor's budget coming?

Why do they have to insert themselves into religion, too? If they celebrate "religious freedom" so much, why are they passing a resolution prompting people to "give thanks for the rich blessing of our City, our State and our Nation"? This resolution is a swipe at the rights of religions to be free from government intrusion, and the First Amendment doesn't just "guarantee" those inalienable rights; it acknowledges them for all human beings.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Paying Back an Election? Yet Another LED Bill Coming Down the Pike

Planning Commission members divulged at their meeting tonight that another LED bill had been filed this week by at-Large council member Ronnie Steine. The focus of that bill is said to be specifically on billboards.

I confess that I have difficulty not feeling jaded even before reading this bill, since CM Steine received $7,500 in campaign contributions from the pro-LED Nashville Business Coalition PAC during his campaign last year.


UPDATE: We have a number and a summary with no details, yet:
BILL NO. BL2008-201 (Steine)
An ordinance amending Title 17 of the Metropolitan Code, Zoning Regulations, by amending Section 17.32.050 to add new regulations for digital billboards and to prohibit LED message boards in residential zoning districts, all of which is more particularly described herein (Proposal No. 2008Z-006T).
The devil will be in the details.

Planning Commission Votes to Disapprove LED Bill as Amended; Council Must Have 2/3rds to Approve

Once again in a public meeting opponents of Charlie Tygard's LED bill outnumbered proponents, although at today's Planning Commission meeting two churches (rather than just one) brought supporters of the bill. CM Tygard kicked off the meeting by telling Commissioners that they were going to hear a lot of criticism about "Vegas-style" billboards even though the signs he was advocating were not "Vegas-style." He also told the group that he would be willing to defer the bill until a compromise was worked out. He even mentioned the possibility of forming a sign task force that would be broadly representative of the Nashville community. That sounds like a great idea to me, but it should have come before he ever introduced the LED bill.

The Planning Department had a great presentation explaining why they recommended disapproval. They even produced a couple of short videos of many of the LED signs and billboards that currently exist in Nashville to show what is currently possible given the lack of guidelines and enforcement. When Jim Gotto, the Council representative on the Commission, criticized the first video for not reflecting the "Wal-Greens-style" sign that CM Tygard had in mind in his bill, Rick Bernhardt replied that the "Wal-Greens-style" had the same capacity to do what the bigger streaming Opryland-style boards did, and that compliance was being left up to the sign-owners and enforcement was practically non-existent. Right on. If we currently have nothing in place to enforce restrictions on LED signs in Nashville, why should neighborhoods have faith that churches, schools, and cultural institutions are going to restrain themselves on these signs? And it's already tough enough to get Codes to respond to other property violations. Digital signs just add one more potential problem to neglect.

At one point someone at the microphone told a story about how enforcement officials in another community had to tell one sign operator to dull the brightness of their red LED sign, which could be seen across a river a quarter of a mile away by some who were calling in alarms after they confused the red glow with a fire. And one opponent, Keith Newcomb, brought large nighttime pictures that he took of the YMCA with the LED next to Harpeth Heights Baptist Church (the congregation asking CM Tygard for help). The glare from the red Y sign dominates the shots and it competes with the neon lights of commercial enterprises in the distance. Sign-sellers hawk LEDs as an effective replacement to neon signs.

Most of the Commissioners expressed reluctance to support the LED bill. CM Gotto seized the opportunity to scold opponents who he said intended to prohibit LEDs altogether, which seemed to be a straw man argument to me, since most of the opponents I've heard or read advocate prohibiting such signs strictly in largely residential areas. They expressed the hope that differences could be worked out and they voted to recommend disapproval to the Council. Metro Council is not required to disapprove the bill now, but the Commission action does require them to pass it with a super majority (2/3's) rather than with a simple majority. It also means that council members will have to go on record with their votes, and hence, be more accountable than they were the first two votes.

The two council members who spoke in support the LED bill earlier today seem to want to save it because "so much work has already gone into it." I'm not sure that bill sponsors pursued the hard work that matters most: working with local communities to come up with sign guidelines that are negotiated and that suit both the churches and the neighborhoods affected. Part of the cost of that may be that the work put in before now was wasted. If Mr. Tygard is serious about letting a task force decide this issue, then that group may undo all of the work put into getting this bill through several readings and committee meetings. That's the consequence of neglecting one's obligations to constituents on the front end.

When Tennessee Corkmasters Finally Rule the World: "Vertical tastings, guest speakers and a trip to Portugal, where the finest corks come from!"

Flummoxed at not being able to tell a Tennessee wine from any other region's.

Save Today!

The Planning Commission's public hearing for a council bill that would allow commercial-style digital LED signs on 7,600 neighborhood streets (including Garfield, Buchanan, and Rosa Parks in Salemtown) will be held TODAY at 4:00 at

Metro Southeast at Genesco Park
1417 Murfreesboro Road

The Planning Department is recommending disapproval to the Commission, saying that the bill fails to "adequately safeguard neighborhoods" against the commercial, big-box-style signs that have previously been prohibited in neighborhoods.

Please keep in mind that if you want to speak on this bill in public hearing, you should plan on showing up before the meeting starts and putting your name on a card to turn in to the Commission, which will recognize you during the hearing of the bill. It's a different process than Metro Council's public hearings.

Late Dusk Light on Early Cherry Blossoms



Our cherry tree is engulfed in these blossoms. We're hoping the hard freezes are done for the season, which would be better than the prospects this time last year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Not Another Place Like It

Today's City Paper finally gives Bells Bend community supporters fair treatment compared with the free PR it's been fronting for developers and bridge contractors who would like to see urbanization and more vehicle traffic in and out of that community.

One thing that struck me in reading the piece is the supporters' emphasis on the idea that the Bend is incomparable relative to every other cookie-cutter, formulaic parcel of the Metro area. Proponents of untrammeled growth emphasize making it more like Cool Springs and other donut suburbs.

Couldn't Nashville benefit from having one place that's not like anywhere else in the area? And I thought one of the strategies of strong growth is diversification of assets. Wouldn't replacing Bells Bend distinctiveness with one more predictable cliché of a development actually hurt us economically?

Enclave Readers Deserve Credit for the Donation, Too

I received this very nice note today from a Fisk University officer thanking me for our contribution of $190 to Fisk's challenge grant fundraising effort.

(Click to enlarge)


Our contribution was largely based on proceeds earned from Enclave readers clicking on the Google Ads displayed here over the past few months. So, thanks to those readers for being the true catalysts of Enclave's "Fisk Day in the 19th District" donation.

Your patronage has a positive, proactive influence on our local community. And if Fisk meets its goal, you can take credit for playing a part in that effort.

Contacting Planning

The Woodlawn Association President leaves the following comment on the previous LED post:
To e-mail all the MPC at once:

planningstaff@nashville.gov

Must have your comments no later than noon tomorrow.
If you have not contacted Planning and opposed neighborhood LED signs, please do so by tomorrow morning. This is obviously coming down to a fight between a few Council Members who would impose upon a majority of Nashville voters in order to satisfy a couple of their campaign donors.

Metro Responds to Traffic Complaints, Prohibits Big Trucks from Using Busy Salemtown Street

Yesterday Metro Public Works put up signs on 5th Avenue North prohibiting trucks weighing over 5,000 pounds from using the street. That action comes after months of complaints by Salemtown residents about the hazards of some large 18-wheelers coming and going from the Werthan Packing Plant, but cutting through a neighborhood (via 5th and Garfield) with a high number of children at play rather than taking Hume Street to Rosa Parks in order to reach I-65 (which is a wider, more navigable route). Public Works officials told the Salemtown block grant advisory committee last month that they would look for solutions to calm the traffic and redirect dangerous trucks around the neighborhood, and it looks like they have made some progress on follow-through.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Association President Questions the Lack of Democracy Behind the Commission's Handling of the LED Bill, Encourages Contact with Planning

This excerpt from a letter written by Susan Floyd, President of the Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association, to her neighbors points to problems perceived in the mishandling of the controversy surrounding Charlie Tygard's LED bill:

the Planning Commission's agenda [for Thursday, March 27] that is normally posted on the web at least by Friday before the following Thursday meeting is not posted at this time (Saturday, 11 am) .... How can democracy take place when the stakeholders are unaware of the details of the proceedings? First the original bill is placed on the consent agenda [of the last Planning Commission meeting] and the public is not allowed to give input, now the agenda will be released late with little time to notify citizens. Is this the best job our city can do to practice democracy?

It is important that neighbors become aware of this new bill and attend this meeting. It is equally important that we insist that the leaders of our city always make the best possible effort to allow our citizens the opportunity to take part in democracy. Allowing our citizens appropriate time for notification in order to have their voices heard would be a good start.

Neighbors are urged to send a letter to the commissioners as well as attend the meeting Thursday, March 27th at 4pm in order to make an impact to their decision. A vote of disapproval from the Planning Commissioners will require more votes from the Metro Council in order to approve the bill.

Please send your letters to the commissioners (as attachments) and emails stating that you will be in attendance to speak regarding the bill to Jennifer.Regen@nashville.gov. She is the Planning Department's staff reviewer of the bill. She will make sure that every commissioner has a copy. The staff's recommendation is to disapprove.

The Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association will be sponsoring a "community meeting" regarding LED and Digital signs in Monday, March 31st at 7pm at the Hermitage Police Precinct on James Kay Lane in Hermitage.

Community Climate Only as Good as Its Metro Council Member?

Progressive Nashville notices the bungled demo that disemboweled a bungalow and pays respect where it is due:
So, did the building get knocked down because [Council Member Mike] Jameson went on vacation? Nope. But the immediate response of the builder, who proactively contacted the neighborhood by posting an apology and explanation within hours to the neighborhood listserv, reflects the climate of a community, unique in this era, which has come to trust its representatives and to expect timely and reliable information. Although things may not always go as planned, even the unplanned demolitions developments will be reasonable and transparent. That is very much Jameson's doing.
As it should be the doing of every CM.

It's Made with Bits of Real Panther

This should be quite pungent. PJ gon make it rain.

Light-Emitting Diode Debate Simmers in Communities outside Tennessee

Recent stories on battles between neighborhoods, sign sellers, and politicians come from:
Nashville is not alone in what looks like a nationwide fight to save local communities from emulating Blade Runner.

Marathon Dreaming

The Country Music Marathon (which annually comes through the North End before and after making its Metro Center turn) is just about a month away and it's got me thinking how fitting it would be if one leg of it could be run through Marathon Village just west of Hope Gardens. I can imagine it would be a logistical nightmare, but it would still be cool (as long as Salemtown does not loose its connection to it on its western border at Rosa Parks).

Getting up early to watch the runners from the Rosa Parks (8th Av) median has become an annual ritual for us. We're looking forward to it again this year.

Demolition Contractor Mistakenly Guts 1940s House

Tennessean gets the story from the East Nashville list serv: contractor was supposed to knock down the ugly concrete-block apartment next the more historic bungalow.

Planning Commissioner Criticizes Commission's Handling of LED Bill

While one Planning official said several weeks ago that proper procedure was followed in the Planning Commission's original public hearing on Charlie Tygard's LED bill, the Commission member who asked for a second public hearing to be held the day after tomorrow suggests to the City Paper that the spirit of the procedure was not followed:

The first time the bill went through the Planning Commission last month, it passed on consent without any public comments.

Planning Commission member Stewart Clifton said that was a mistake.

“We didn’t ask enough questions,” said Clifton, who requested the issue be addressed again at Thursday’s meeting. “To be honest we dropped the ball. It’s nobody’s fault but the Commission’s. We had letters and comments from those in the community.”


The Planning Commission's public hearing for a council bill that would allow commercial-style digital LED signs on neighborhood streets (including Garfield, Buchanan, and Rosa Parks in Salemtown) will be held this Thursday (03/27) at 4:00 at

Metro Southeast at Genesco Park
1417 Murfreesboro Road


The Planning Department is recommending disapproval to the Commission, saying that the bill fails to "adequately safeguard neighborhoods" against the commercial, big-box-style signs that have previously been prohibited in neighborhoods.

Please keep in mind that if you want to speak on this bill in public hearing, you should plan on showing up before the meeting starts and putting your name on a card to turn in to the Commission, which will recognize you during the hearing of the bill. It's a different process than Metro Council's public hearings.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Planning Staff: Codes "Expressly Prohibit" Digital Signs in Nashville. Period. End of Sentence.

Where the hell is the mainstream news media on this? An Enclave reader dishes the news on Metro Planning's questioning of the legality of digital signs, both proposed and already existing (emphasis mine):


"The Zoning Administrator has indicated that the Codes Department considers electronic signs and billboards to be illegal under the current Metro Code sign provisions because, in application, most such signs violate the provisions of subsection H in the current law, which prohibits signs with 'lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker or vary in intensity or color.' This bill proposes to permit digital signs and digital billboards like those recently erected along I-65 near 100 Oaks Mall, I-24 westbound in Hermitage, and elsewhere in Metro. According to the Zoning Administrator, all of these digital signs and billboards are on private property, except Metro's convention center sign which is on public property. Those signs erected with a valid Metro permit were approved with the explicit statement that such signs were not to be digital. The proposed bill would clarify that digital billboards are allowed so long as the display message remains static or fixed for 8 seconds or more, the transition time between messages is two seconds or less, and digital billboards are spaced a minimum of 2,000 feet apart.

STAFF RECOMMENDATION Staff recommends disapproval of the bill as drafted because electronic signs would be permitted without adequately safeguarding Nashville's neighborhoods. When the Zoning Code's sign provisions were adopted by the Metro Council in the early 1990's, electronic signs did not exist. That said, the Planning Department does not believe the Zoning Code was intended to be interpreted to permit such signs now or in the future. The provisions of Section 17.32.050.G and H are broad enough to encompass this latest sign technology, and they expressly prohibit it."

As the Planning Staff notes reveal, we have electronic digital billboards in Nashville that are illegal. Who has issued permits for these signs? Why were they allowed if illegal? Is this another Codes Administrator giving himself the ultimate power and a supporting councilman changing the laws to cover his tracks? Where does Bobby Joslin stand in all of this?

Wasn't it Joslin who came to the rescue when a certain Codes Administrator was about to lose his job for issuing a permit to tear down the historic home in Madison for a Home Depot? Isn't it Joslin who gave money to so many council campaigns? Isn't it Joslin who stands to rake up the cash on these deals?

I would add that there are four at-large Metro Council Members who stand to rake in more influence on the LED bill, and two of them, Jerry Maynard and Ronnie Steine, are progressive favorites.

Never mind the mainstream media. Where are is the progressive outcry against CM Maynard and CM Steine in bed with some of the more unscrupulous characters involved in what looks like an illegitimate attempt to cover a signmaker's influence?

The Only News Here Is That Eric Crafton May Be Continuing an Unbroken String of Memorializing Resolutions Since He First Attempted to Limit Them

Maybe that string is why members were seen rolling their eyes at the end of the last council meeting.

NCP reporter Amy Griffith should have mentioned in her piece that CM Crafton's school board term-limit "bill" would be a Memorializing Resolution that communicates the preference of the council (if passed) instead of commanding compliance (the council does not have term-limiting power over the school board). Compare the conclusion in this piece that an MR "could lead to limited terms" to the suggestion in a past CP story that an English-official MR passed overwhelmingly by the council did not have a "hard effect."

Also, take note of who votes for this bill, since some council members have argued in the past that MRs "don't do anything."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Better Bells Bend Plan Has Already Been Offered

The editorial in Friday's City Paper issues a lame challenge to those of us who oppose the latest fashionable plan to "develop" Bells Bend. They admonish us to share a better idea, even though the resisting Bells Bend community has been working on a sub-area plan that looks like a better idea.

That sub-area plan looks focused on fighting sprawl as it strives to retain the Bend's rural, dispersed, and greened character. Did the editors just not bother to read the plan or listen to residents? Or have they already made up their minds and their challenge is empty and disingenuous?

They sure as hell didn't seem to be listening to feedback like that of Lane Easterly who writes in the Tennessean:

For anyone attending the planning meeting two weeks ago in the Bells Bend-Scottsboro community, it was very clear that there is little, if any, support for the recently proposed May Town Center ....

By trying to appeal to the broader Nashville community, it appears the developers hope to circumvent not only the wishes of the community residents, but also the Sub-area Plan.

Their argument is Nashville will be a better place to live with one more regional development area — like Cool Springs, Hickory Hollow, Rivergate, or Green Hills. And they promise millions of new tax dollars.

Ignore the fact one regional mall not far away in Bellevue is close to closing; the economy is either in or on the verge of recession; the project requires millions of tax dollars to be spent on a new bridge; or that the developers will be asking for tax dollars to finance the project.

Ignore that the proposal directly conflicts with the Sub-area Plan; much less the wishes of the residents, as to how they believe their community should develop or not develop.

In recent years, every Nashville neighborhood has had to fight ill-conceived, incompatible development. The May Town Center is different only in the magnitude of its incompatibility.

In writing pro-developer screeds like the one they published on Friday, the City Paper editors show their own bias and their unwillingness to consider plans that don't pump as many dollars (including tax dollars, should a new bridge over the Cumberland be built) out of potential Bells Bend sprawl as possible.

So, the better idea is being offered, but the City Paper is showing that it is not interested in any ideas except those of developers who could care less about infrastructure (that doesn't serve them directly) or community (which resists commodification). And the editors are willing to go so far as to retread reporter Richard Lawson's flawed, self-contradictory, and innuendo-laden analysis of Bill Purcell's administration from last fall--though shorn of the self-contradiction--in order to do so. Hence, their editorial is too mired in flaws to address what they lecture are "true needs."

Rank Remiss: Another Abominable Product of Privatizing Prisons

Just days after a report that Nashville-based CCA intends to expand facilities in San Diego, a Tennessean article reports that a prisoner at Nashville's CCA facility was allowed to stay in his cell for 9 months (not even leaving to take a shower). No mental health evaluation was ordered until the Metro Health Department received a complaint about the prisoner's unhygienic condition. CCA may be expanding its San Diego facility to deter higher numbers of illegal immigrants. Can you imagine how much worse immigrant detainees would be treated by the for-profit corporation?

A corollary to this story is the finger pointing that Sheriff Daron Hall--the golden boy of the Metro Council, seeming to get gold from and to spread gold to council members--is doing at the Health Department and at CCA. Doesn't privatization of public institutions just create an outside object of blame? And aren't the private subcontractors a layer removed from the control of voters? It's not like average citizens can boycott CCA if we don't like their product, because their clientèle is the government. But regardless of the bureaucratic torture of logic in the Sheriff not accepting responsibility, doesn't mere common sense direct that ultimately the person with the title of "Sheriff" generally oversees an institution called a "jail"?

Socialized Rescues of Corporations

Socialism is alive and well in America, but not at the bottom of the market, where conservatives claim it is. Government bailouts of corporations amount to socialism for the very rich, and the same social Darwinism used as a weapon against the lower and middle classes is not brandished on the wealthy.

In the case of Bear-Stearns: insurance companies appear to be the "welfare queens" (absent food stamps) in the Federal Reserve's hands-on salvation of Bear-Sterns. Does anybody blame those queens? Not without risk of being ironically labeled as socialists who oppose "free" markets. But we know for whom American socialism truly works.

Mortgage Crunch Blows Back on Qualified Borrowers as Banks Torque Lending Criteria

Have once loose and promiscuous mortgage lenders become overreaching prudes who are more interested in tightening up their financial portfolios than in loaning to people who legitimately qualify?

The Foolhardy Express

LA Times points out that John McCain's support of the surge belies other problems he has on Iraq, including:
Before the war, McCain predicted a quick and easy victory, not a vicious insurgency. He issued dire warnings about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction but didn't read the full 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that showed gaps in the intelligence.
So, he was among the chocolates-and-flowers-for-the-liberators crowd that lacked intelligent foresight in the run-up to war. Four years of McCain is just four more of Bush.

Permit Issued for "phase three rehab work at Bicentennial Mall" This Week

I don't have any details on the exact nature of the construction, but it has a price tag of $703,000. Anyone know what it's for?

Crack House Discovered Right Under His Nose

A good piece from a New Yorker. It highlights the struggles one neighbor has with contacting the police to finger a drug house across the street. He raises the issue of race, too, although I have to say, that when I see white people selling or buying drugs in the North End, their ethnicity does not even cross my mind when I call the police on them. Race loyalty is moot for me.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Crosshatch Sunset

Dialogue Hits Middle Age

A classic 1972 promo for Chicago's Dialogue in an age when dissent and counterculture were part of music's accepted repertoire (WARNING: Some adult images not for the faint of heart. You and the kids have been warned.):

I Bet That They Don't Read These Verses at the Brentwood Baptist CEO Rationalization Fellowship

Got to love it when "Christian" businessmen (and it's usually mostly men doing this) ignore the weightier matters of the law. Cue Jesus:
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
For the biblical literalists out there: would it be easier for a rich woman to get into Heaven? Did Jesus literally just mean to exclude men from wealth? (I digress, but I cannot miss the chance to throw a jab at the fundamentalists among us).

I bet that the Brentwood boys club also ignored this little gem in the survey of the Hebrew scriptures:
If you lend money to any of my people, even to the poor, you should not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you lay upon him interest.
Christians have been practicing usury and rationalizing it against their own teachings since Henry VIII, so why stop now when there is so much more money to be made and God to be used as justification for wealth?

It would have been nice if the Tennessean had reported the whole story that these men "apply" some Christian principles to the workplace, while ignoring others.

Happy 75th Anniversary, New Deal

The Nation magazine has an informative podcast/interview with various folks evaluating the New Deal and its legacy. Discussions noteworthy for me were mainly those of Howard Zinn about the presidential how candidates advocating New Deal-like initiatives for full employment and comprehensive health care coverage--Edwards and Kucinich--were shunted asided by the Party establishment. Also, Zinn's remarked that the New Deal did not depend on FDR as much as it did a broad social movement that spurred FDR toward his reforms in federal policy. He suggested that Barack Obama's supporters could likewise leverage him away from the more conventional and cautious policies that he is espousing. I think that it is interesting that the Democratic campaigns employ language connecting their campaigns with social movements against party establishment even while they fight over superdelegates. I would bet that the larger progressive social movement would be much more committed to New Deal reforms that the Party is rejecting right now (the establishment seems more committed to ideas like that of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s that the "era of big government is over").

Friday, March 21, 2008

Entire Germantown Overlay Guidelines On-Line

42 pages of text, photos and drawings.

Wall Street Journal Wisdom on the Bipartisan Failures to Regulate the Mortgage Market

Dems and Republicans share responsibility equally in the failures:

in hindsight, the failure stretches across government and across party lines. At bottom are two strong currents. From the Republican president to urban Democratic congressmen, homeownership was pushed as an overriding and unquestioned goal. And many significant attempts at regulation were obstructed by the prevailing belief that the economy did best when financial markets operated as freely as possible.

The Bush administration coupled cheerleading for homeownership with pressure on government-sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide funding for riskier mortgages. Both Democrats and Republicans stood by as Fannie and Freddie invested heavily in securities backed by subprime loans. Democratic congressmen pushed a federal law to restrain lending practices later discredited, but Republicans with some Democratic allies blocked or countered with weaker versions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Post Facto Editing: The Difference in Writing Standards between Blogging and Journalism

On the differences between editing in blogging and journalism see Jon Garfunkel's short essay on "crowdsourcing" and post facto editing, which involves publishing first, filtering later. Garfunkel points out that bloggers use post facto editing out of circumstance and necessity, while journalists (who operate according to professional standards), use it out of laziness.

Garfunkel lists 5 conditions that distinguish post facto editing:
  1. The writer is not harming anybody by posting incomplete information.
  2. The writer acknowledges the incomplete areas in the original post, and actually does update it.
  3. The writer is initially writing for a close community of peers.
  4. The writer has a (different) day job, and can't easily contact sources.
  5. The writer does not have the stature to reach all necessary sources; posting first lets the sources know what/where the story will be.
Blogging assumes inquiries that utilize social networks for filtering information as it comes in but not because the writer is not beholden to find the truth when post facto editing.

Garfunkel leaves us a lot to chew on, and I think that his observations are a good start for distinguishing between blogging and professional journalism.

Nashville-Based Clink Merchant Looks to Profit from Immigration Drama in Southern California

CCA is looking to expand its San Diego detention center into a "mega-prison," amidst ACLU law suits and questionable incarceration practices:

Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America has applied for a permit to build a “secure detention facility” in two phases on a parcel of about 40 acres ....

It would hold more than four times the number of people that the immigration agency now holds in San Diego. The agency, known as ICE, contracts with Corrections Corporation of America to house up to 700 detainees – individuals awaiting deportation or a decision in immigration cases – at the company's private San Diego Correctional Facility, which sits on land leased from the county.

Read the whole article to get a feel for CCA's checkered history and the lack of ICE certainty about how a huge new facility would be used as well as local neighborhood concerns about expansion. CCA billed the federal government for millions per month in order to incarcerate innocent children in Texas.

Might Every LED Sign Violate the Metro Code Already?

An Enclave commenter writes:
If you check the present Metro Code carefully, one might have a strong argument that every LED sign already in Nashville is illegal. A neighbor who attended this meeting told me they overheard the director of the Planning Department make that exact statement after this meeting.
Hmm. I don't have time at the moment to read the entire text of the Metro Sign Regulations, but if the comment is true, then this is something to consider. If anyone else knows those regs well or if anyone has a chance to read them before I do, please add your interpretation to the comments section of this post.

If Planning Director Rick Bernhardt did in fact make that statement, then that would seem to belie everything CM Charlie Tygard has insinuated about him being one of the "authors" of the LED bill.

If You're Going to San Francisco, Summertime Will Be a "Free Speech Zone" There

"Free Speech Zones" are just about a perfect match for "Free Trade," and today's San Francisco looks more like a redneck mother and less like some cradle of hippie love:

The city known worldwide for its spirit of protest and dissent has denied permits for demonstrators and plans to restrict them to "free-speech zones." People critical of China's human-rights record and spurred by the recent uprising and subsequent crackdown in Tibet are organizing alternative torch run events and rallies and, despite the restrictions, plan to line the route ....

city officials coordinating the main torch relay event plan to designate areas for people to protest the Chinese government or other issues. The designated "free-speech zones" have been used at large events in other cities but have not had a significant presence in San Francisco.

There's just something fundamentally wrong about San Francisco putting barricades around social protest.

Correcting the Record on Davidson County Growth

The Tennessean's report on suburban growth mentions Davidson Co. in comparison:
Davidson County saw a less than 1 percent increase in its population growth from 2006-07, ranking No. 44 on the list. Even that would be considered steady growth compared with other parts of the country
Prompting calls for correction at the Nashville Charrette:
As usual, The Tennessean bungles the story by focusing only on % growth and completely missing the Davidson correction [made late in the Census]. The 2007 population for Davidson County is 619,626 and the corrected 2006 figure is 613,856. Davidson had a nominal growth of 5,770 from 06 to 07, the fifth highest nominal gain in the state, and nominal growth of 49,276 from 2000 to 2007, the second highest in the state. Only Rutherford County gained more people from 2000 to 2007.
Expect the Tennessean piece to generate the usual round of mantras about how suburbs are so much less taxing than cities and that stupendous growth reflects an exclusively anti-revenue mood, but let's make sure that the census details are not ignored in the beginning just to score group-think points.

It's the First Day of Spring, and What Does that Mean?

It means that Senator Thelma Harper has another promise to keep. Last November she told me that she was working on a solution that we would hear about within a week. We did not hear about it. It took Channel 4 News pinning her down in February to get a statement from her that we would hear something in this spring. Well, spring is here and Ms. Harper has until Midsummer's Day to keep her latest promise to come up with a solution on Bicentennial Mall security. Or we'll be left with another broken promise punctuated by a bunch of silence.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Even While the Easiest Solution is Raising Teacher Pay

Big Easy business leaders create a non-profit land trust in New Tammany Parish to attract teachers and other workers who have been priced out of the post-Katrina mortgage and escalating rent markets. Essentially the business non-profit would own the land and the residents would own the houses on the land, which sounds more medieval than modern to me. Affordability is a two-way street: raising incomes creates affordable homes more simply than setting up a non-profit and creating a control mechanism that looks analogous to sharecropping.

Salemtown Neighbors Donates $267 to Fisk University Today

SNNA President Freddie O'Connell announced that he would be attending Council Member Erica Gilmore's "Fisk Day in District 19" fundraiser today with a good-sized donation (for a small neighborhood association in a modest neighborhood) in tow. We are proud to show our support of Fisk University as it attempts to raise money before the end of June for millions in matching Mellon Grant funds.

Security Chief Can Put Fence Wherever He Wants and a Tennessee Dem's Vote Helped Give Him That Power

In 2005 the U.S. Congress gave Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the absolute power to determine where any fence needs to be built without regard to laws, courts, constitutional rights, or environmental hazards. Now comes word that the Sierra Club has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Chertoff's despotic waiver privilege. He has built controversial fencing in California and Arizona, and now he is aiming at Texas.

Bills abdicating check-and-balancing responsibilities to Chertoff were passed by the House of Representatives on two occasions: one as the Real ID act, which did not make it to the Senate, and the other as a rider on a military spending bill, which was passed into law by all 100 Senators. U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) voted for both the act and the rider.

Stateline: The Eve of Recession Leaving State Budgets in Tatters

A conservative nirvana of social Darwinism is descending on state budgets and odds are that weakest links are going to be the first big group of losers:

the current billion-dollar holes in budgets are real, and filling the gaps could mean painful cuts to programs, not just this year, but for several more .... some 7,000 mentally ill and elderly in Maine could be dropped from Medicaid, the state-federal health program that serves 59 million needy, while Medicaid recipients in Vermont may face a higher co-pay.

Arizona is considering eliminating child-care subsidies for 3,200 children in low-income families, and college students in Iowa and Pennsylvania will have to find student loans through private banks as the credit crunch led those two states’ lending agencies to suspend programs ....

Florida is ... slashing more than $1.5 billion in the last five months, including $512 million in March from public schools and juvenile justice programs. And the cutting isn’t over. The Sunshine State finds itself facing a $3.7 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Only a few states that rely on oil, natural gas, ethanol, and coal don't face this apocalyptic scenario. But what happens when those from the revenue-strapped states start flocking to the oil rich states to take advantage of their services? Budgetary evaporation and mutually-assured calamity (unless Wyoming constructs a wall to keep people out).

Chinese Pig Guts with That Blood Thinner: Further Evidence that "Free" Trade Means "Hazarardous" Trade

The Chicago Tribune reports today that allergic reactions and deaths from those taking a prescribed blood thinner may be due to possible tampering with the drug in the unregulated supply chain in China.

That's the catch-22 with "free" trade. It primarily means "free" from regulations designed to protect the general welfare.

Training Programs and Advisory Boards?

I'm all for tightening security protocols at Metro, but last Christmas' security breach seemed to be the result of a security company with a lax track record, the failure to turn on a security camera switch, the absence of an alarm system, and a nonchalant atmosphere about computer passwords at the Election Commission. All of those things could still exist with training programs and advisory boards. Where is the negative reinforcement for the lack of oversight?

"Free Trade" Becomes the New "Slave Trade" in the "New South"

Bizgrrl makes the catch.

Some progressives will suggest you shouldn't muckrake free trade, lest you set your own locks on liberalism. Their Orwellian argument: free trade is progress. I'm sure that some early 19th century liberals argued the same thing about chattel slavery. Just ignore what's happening down in Mississippi in 2008. It bears no resemblance to anything that has ever happened in history. Everything is different now. I'm sure Upton Sinclair would agree.


UPDATE: C-squared has his own observations, drawing parallels with black market sexploitation. It should make the "free" traders spit the bit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Portent and Bluster

Wind is howling outside. Dismantled the deck umbrella, but got sheared down and nearly scooped up, Poppins-like.

Just hoping I did not jinx us for tonight by scheduling the arborist to come to remove some weaker trees near the house next Monday. The gusts up against the side of the house are ominous. And I don't care for their insinuations.

I wish I'd brought the cutters in yesterday.

Duplex Bill Deferred and Redirected to Committee

CM Charlie Tygard adds an amendment to his two-family, detached duplex bill in order to exempt most of the urban core (the old Nashville city boundaries) and historic overlays. Unamended bill had been rejected by the planning and zoning committee (3-7). CM Mike Jameson said it looks good to him (which is good enough for me). The amendment was adopted by council and the bill was deferred in order to go back to the committee.

I would say that CM Tygard's LED bill ought to move in the same direction: if it is to pass, then it needs so many exceptions to the 7,600 streets currently listed as eligible for LEDs that the list would shrink to a tiny fraction of what it is. Or better yet, follow CM Megan Barry's advice to come up with directives for Zoning Appeals to help individual churches get sign approval with local community support and without imposing on other neighborhoods.

Metro Council Clears Way for Salemtown Streetscape Improvements to Begin

Erica Gilmore's bill to appropriate $570,000 in federal block grant funds for improvement to our streetscape was just approved by Metro Council. Let the improvements begin!

Rather Dubious Company

Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper finds himself in league with Marsha Blackburn and Bob Corker. Republicans are singing his praises. And how should Democrats respond? Will we ever see federal money come to local infrastructure again?

Tygard Tells Tennessean He Will Push Past Widespread Neighborhood Concerns to Pass a Bill that Would Benefit a Handful of Churches

The Tennessean reports today that emails against Charlie Tygard's LED sign are pouring in:
Councilwoman Emily Evans, who represents Belle Meade and West Meade, said she's received more constituent e-mails about the proposal than she's received about almost any other issue this year. She said she wouldn't be surprised if the bill were amended before it comes back up for a vote.
The pro-sign/NBC PAC bloc of the council still appears to feel the need to hammer through some form of ordinance to allow a minority of churches and other non-profits to compete outside of commercial districts with for-profit businesses, which have to pay sales taxes on their signs.

Large numbers of neighborhoods are opposed, and yet, Metro Council seems unwilling to take LEDs-for-churches off the table.

The Flip-Flopping School Board Candidate

Will Eric Crafton again turn Marsha Warden's past thank-you notes into de facto endorsements even though in the next election he is running against her; even though before his last run for office Crafton postured himself the culture warrior against public education? Will we see the pro-school board Crafton or the anti-school board Crafton?

Tonight's Another Tuesday Night Metro Council Night

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

Today's Cascading Economic Crisis

It is hard not to look at the horrible economic events upon us and wonder whether someone in al-Qaeda is watching and proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished." Forget analogies to Waterloo. Will the Iraq War be to American global power what the 1980s Afghanistan War was to Soviet global power?

It's Not a Question of Losing, Because This Is What We've Already Lost

From Democracy Arsenal:
Almost 4,000 American troops have died, approximately 30,000 have been wounded, we've appropriated more than $500 billion with the costs to the actual economy estimated to be well over $1 trillion and possibly heading towards $3 trillion. For all of this we have gotten a more powerful Al Qaeda, a more powerful Iran, a more unstable Middle East, and an overstretched military.
And we have the neglect of domestic policies and the emboldening of elected representatives who choose not to fight for any more federal money to be spent at home as the mortgage crisis is bringing our national house down.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nashville One of the LEAST Walkable Cities in Tennessee

At least we finished ahead (barely) of those car havens of Hendersonville and Clarksville. Nashville is seventh with this judgment by prevention.com:
While it has the 2nd-highest percentage of walking professionals, it also has the 2nd-highest crime rating in the state and the fewest fitness walkers.
Memphis finished #1--because of its wide sidewalks set back from traffic--and #73 in the US. Chattanooga, which has the highest percentage of people who use mass transit and the 2nd-lowest number of cars per household in Tennessee, was #2.


Tent Cities of Former Homeowners

Just outside of Los Angeles tent cities of those who lost their homes in the current mortgage crisis are springing up:

Sign of the Times

The litany of investigations, indictments, and sentencings of flippers, mortgage brokers, and real estate agents continues. They are piling up.

What Happens When Flippers and Investors Abandon a Housing Market

What happens when high finance abandons a seasonal housing economy at the beach? People who have investments deeper than their pockets and broader than their pocketbooks have room and opportunity otherwise remote:

Housing values [around Cape Cod, Mass.] aren't expected to reverse their slide for another year, based on the latest economists' data. This means that Cape buyers today aren't flippers, investors, or speculators. Today's house hunters are buying because they love the Cape, not because they want to make a quick buck. They'll make money eventually, when things turn around, but this market offers something far more precious: a chance to fulfill a dream that had previously been far from reach - a vacation home on the Cape.

Due to a recent inheritance, my husband and I now quite unexpectedly find ourselves among this group of buyers. When the money came to us, we thought about investing it in a financial portfolio. But you can't watch the sunset from the deck of your mutual fund. You can't walk to the beach from your ETF. You can't host rockin' all-night parties in the backyard of your high-yield CD.

Sunday Front-Pager Comparing Nashville Neighborhoods

Tennessean has the tale of two neighborhoods and the crime therein.

Cooper Only Went Half the Way on Middle Class Legislation in 2007

Middleclass.org released its report cards for our federal elected representatives this week on their performance on legislation that is either for or against middle class growth. Since there is no middle ground for Republicans, I expected our Tennessee Senators to fail (and at less than 20% of pro-middle class legislation voted for so far, it looks like Bob Corker is locked in to fail again this year).

However, I would expect better from Democrats like U.S. Representative Jim Cooper. Yet, in 2007, Mr. Cooper only voted for middle class bills half the time (getting himself graded a "C"). A list of issue areas with links to bills and Mr. Cooper's voting record on middle class bills back to 2003 after the jump.


While Tennessee Sucks Up to China, Tibet Will Not

Surprise, surprise. China is having internal human rights problems:



Oooo. That's going to cost Tibet some free trade money. Wait. There are some things more important than money?

Thank Goodness and the Governor We Are Funding a State Free Trade Office with China

We bring them baseball, and they send us back virus-laced iPods. Pastimes for infected computers. Sounds like we're coming out on the up end of that trade.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Google Ads Prove that Tygard and Maynard Were Blowing Smoke on the Cost of LED Signs

One of the things that happens whenever I blog here on any topic is that my subject gets indexed in my attached Google Ads, which in turn selects ads mostly likely to fit the topic I write about in order to reach the audience most likely to click on those ads. So, with all of my writing about the Council bill to permit churches to have the same LED signs that commercial enterprises (assuming that churches have not simply become commercial themselves) have, the ads flip to those most likely to appeal to an audience interested in church LEDs.

And those ads are themselves providing some interesting information that debunks the arguments made bill sponsor Charlie Tygard, ethically challenged at-large member/pastor Jerry Maynard, and sign maker Bobby Joslin, all of whom have argued that the $20,000 price tag on LED signs present a natural prohibition on most churches getting these signs. One of the links advertised here on Enclave prices church LEDs for about $7,000. That's a far cry from $20K, and it makes the pro-LED side look dishonest and manipulative. Both Mr. Tygard and Mr. Maynard should answer for the inaccuracy in advertising that they are promoting from their influential seats on the council.

He'll Do for AT&T, But Not for the Rest of His Constituents

While our Congressman Jim Cooper is voting against legislation that is not in AT&T's interest, he is promising to forego any legislation that would bring federal dollars to any project in his district, worthy or not. How can an elected representative make blanket promises not to advocate for his all of his constituents the same way that other members of Congress do for theirs? It's a promise that makes Republican advocates of slashing domestic programs to the bone (and then pulverizing the skeleton) happy. Pandering to conservatives with unrealistic promises along with yesterday's vote against the Democratic pro-civil-liberties legislation should make progressive-leaning Nashvillians wonder how well Jim Cooper is respresenting us or the best interests of our community.

Bad for the Troops, Good for the Republicans

According to Pew, both the quantity of news coverage and the keenness of public awareness of war fatalities (let alone causalities) are sinking like stones. Bad things happen when people stop paying attention.

House Dems Locate Their Kahunas and Pass a Pro-Civil Liberties Surveillance Bill Without Jim Cooper's Help

Nashville's U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper voted against the House version of the FISA bill yesterday even though the House passed the measure as a pro-civil liberties alternative to the Senate's abdication to the Bush Administration's retroactive immunity scheme.

Why would Mr. Cooper oppose an audit of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, a shorter sunset provision, breaks on presidential circumvention, protection against "reverse targeting" of U.S. citizens, and restrictions on "basket warrants" of entire groups instead of individuals? Most of all, why does he support the idea of putting corporations above the law of the land? (Might the answer lie in the fact that AT&T has headquarters in Nashville?)

To Encourage the 2008 Presidential Candidates to Talk about Cities

Check out MayorTV. Mayors from around the country talk presidential politics and metro policy.

Still a Tale of Two Cities Instead of One Family

One score and one presidential term later, we live in the same nation referred to in one of the greatest Democratic Party Convention speeches ever:



I can remember being a very disappointed Gary Hart supporter that year, but still feeling lifted by this speech. How prescient were Cuomo's words, "The Republicans are willing to treat that division as victory. They would cut this nation in half." In the 21st Century, they have cut this nation in half.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Salemtown Association President Takes LED Opposition to at-Large Members

Freddie O' takes the pulse emitting from Salemtown and sheds some light on it in a letter to the 5 at-large council members:

Dear Councilmembers,

Several of our neighbors have been closely following the ordinance governing the use of LED signs in residential areas, and many have expressed serious concerns. Having lived personally by one of the billboards covered in the first part of the ordinance, I find that even the smaller LED signs covered in the first part of the ordinance don't have much to recommend them in Nashville's residential neighborhoods. Even with the amendment, several streets that pass through the heart of our primarily residential neighborhood have properties that would qualify for these signs. In our neighborhood, I'm currently concerned about 4th Avenue North, Garfield Street, and Buchanan Street, all of which cut through the heart of our neighborhood.

As a citizen, I hope you will all oppose this bill in the event that it comes up for 3rd reading.

As president of a neighborhood association whose neighbors have expressed opposition to this bill with its current amendment, I am presenting this to our Executive Committee with a recommendation that our association formally oppose it as well.

The benefits to schools, cultural centers, recreational centers, and religious institutions that will accrue from these signs frankly do not outweigh the reduction in quality of life that will affect residences in line of sight and residential neighborhoods as a whole.

Thanks for your time, and thanks for your service.
--
Freddie O'Connell
President, Salemtown Neighbors

Bicentennial Mall Security Petition Making Its Way Through North End Associations

According to the Salemtown e-mail list, both Historic Germantown, Inc and the Hope Gardens Neighborhood Association are planning to consider at their next meetings a petition unanimously adopted by Salemtown Neighbors in February asking government officials to provide overnight security at Bicentennial Mall State Park. The Werthan Lofts Homeowners Association has also expressed an interest in adopting the petition.

Using a Lot of Those Tubes

According to the NY Times:

Last year, by one estimate, the video site YouTube, owned by Google, consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet did in 2000.

In a widely cited report published last November, a research firm projected that user demand for the Internet could outpace network capacity by 2011.

So, all bets are off on whether I'll be blogging in three years.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Other Random Pearls of Wisdom from Yesterday's Council Workshop

Here are some other points floating around my memory that did not work their way into my foregoing narrative on last night's LED workshop:
  • One neighborhood advocate actually looked up the legal definition of "cultural centers" (listed with churches, schools, and recreation centers in the LED bill) that would be permitted under the new law to have LED signs. She maintained that it would include just about any entrepreneurial non-profit organization.
  • Another opponent pointed to the presupposition underlying Mr. Tygard's bill that churches should be able to compete with Walgreens on the sign front. He then asked, "How will Walgreens respond to outdo churches with LEDs?" My aside: Walgreens would put more money into Bobby Joslin's pockets to make even bigger signs, which the churches will then covet themselves. It really could become a cycle, most vicious for neighborhoods.
  • Another opponent pointed to the camel's nose being let under the tent with the LED bill: while sponsors argued that streaming video's would not be allowed under the ordinance, there was nothing to stop some future LED bill from allowing that, too.
  • An association president pointed out, after Bobby Joslin acknowledged that old-style internally lit church signs are all white and LEDs are red and amber, that there is a profound difference between having an unchanging white light from across the road shining in your window and a vivid red and amber sign that animates, changes, streams, and generally never recedes into the background because it lacks the old-style constancy.
  • Under this bill, the new LEDs could be no closer than 200 feet apart. In many higher density urban neighborhoods that could work out to a streaming LED every 4th or 5th property. Yikes!
  • I cannot get that comment from CM Jim Hodge (that churches have to choose between lying to the Board of Zoning Appeals and failing to get approved for LEDs) off my mind. It's nagging me. What's unsettling my waters is the question of why a church would be tempted to break one of its own prescribed commandments just for the sake of a flashier sign? I mean, I can understand struggling to decide whether to lie in order to save someone's life or to avoid hurting somebody's feelings. But, really. How strong can their commitment to obey their commandments be if they're tempted to lie merely in order to keep up with the Publix?

Council Bill to Appropriate Block Grant Funds for Salemtown Up for Vote Next Tuesday

District 19 CM Erica Gilmore brings a resolution to Council next week to allocate $570,000 in federal block grant funds to improve Salemtown's streetscape. If you own property in Salemtown you might be interested in seeing some of the details of the plan that our community-elected Citizen Advisory Committee has come up with after 3 years of deliberation and hard work. There are many details to be worked out, but the Council's approval of this bill should open the door to some exciting construction in the coming summer months.

Next Week's Council Meeting Does NOT Include LED Third Reading

Next Tuesday's Metro Council agenda is out and Charlie Tygard's LEDs-for-neighborhoods bill is not in the mix (it was indefinitely deferred at the public hearing). He could still introduce the bill late by asking for a suspension of the rules, but does so at a procedural risk: it only takes one objection to suspending the rules to deny the co-sponsor the chance to bring the bill up for third reading. And I can imagine several opposing Council Members any one of whom would likely object to allowing the bill to go to a final reading as things currently stand. So, it looks like opponents have a little under 3 weeks (before LED could surface again) to continue to work on encouraging a significant number of Council Members to vote against this flawed, pro-growth, anti-neighborhood bill. If your Council Member is either wavering or planning on voting for Tygard's bill, please ask him or her to hold a community meeting for feedback and to invite the bill co-sponsors to come and answer questions, especially concerning streets in your neighborhood that would be eligible for such signage.

District 19 CM Gilmore Will Oppose LED Bill on Third Reading

Salemtown Neighbors President Freddie O'Connell just announced via e-mail that Erica Gilmore says she will oppose Charlie Tygard's bill to permit light emitting diode signs in neighborhoods. Thank you, CM Gilmore!

Why Are the Conservative Critics of Local Government the Ones Who Keep Reaching for Local Government Jobs?

Charlie Tygard, who called our public buildings "monuments to government," spits in the eye of term limits and wins an at-Large seat. Eric Crafton, who once threw a tantrum over the amount of government subsidized paper that he has to read, is probably going to run for the school board. Jim Gotto, who signed a no tax pledge and then voted to raise Metro taxes, is now looking at a run for State Senate. And this morning I read that Buck Dozier, who once criticized the Metro budget as being too big and unwieldy, has been awarded a $90,000 a year Metro job in a noncompetitive search that looks like a good-ole-boy appointment to get in good with Metro Council at budget time.

For guys who front such hatred for goverment, they seem to love staying in government. What's up with that hypocrisy?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mood Lighting: The High Point of the Night

KAFFEE: Corporal, would you turn to the page in this book that says where the enlisted men's mess hall is?

HOWARD: Lt. Kaffee, that's not in the book, sir.

KAFFEE: I don't understand, how did you know where the enlisted men's mess hall was if it's not in this book?

HOWARD: I guess I just followed the crowd at chow time, sir.

- - from Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, A Few Good Men

There was one moment at tonight's meeting when I just busted out with a spontaneous guffaw that I could not stifle. I wanted to write about it separately for the sake of emphasis.

A Richland-West End Neighborhood representative was encouraging Council Members to listen to their own constituents in neighborhoods answer the question of whether more signs should go up on their arterial streets. He asserted that the LED bill is misguided because it is going a direction opposite from that of many communities now. Even fast food restaurants in some communities have been compelled to do away with lit signage and put up decorative stone signs.

But what burst the bonds restraining my laugh was his comment that people are going to find McDonald's when they want it whether it has a stone or an LED sign. It occurred to me that the pro-LED side seems to insinuate that people are dolts who need to have events lit up and streaming across their rods and cones in order for messages to register. People don't need LED signs to attend something of benefit to them; and so, churches in neighborhoods don't require them either.

This Evening's LED Workshop: Lots of Questions and Opposition

I attended tonight's Metro Council LED sign workshop, and the first thing I have to do is credit at-large member Charlie Tygard for doing the honorable thing. He could have made the whole thing a kangaroo court by allowing only sign supporters like Sonny West and Bobby Joslin have the microphone, but he opened the floor up to anyone who wanted to speak, including opponents, who outnumbered the non-Council supporters. Mr. Tygard deserves credit for running a fair meeting. It remains to be seen whether opponents' feedback will produce a fair bill for third reading.

Sign baron Bobby Joslin and sign designer Ben Doden from White House were among the first to speak. Mr. Joslin fell back on what I consider the weak argument that he could identify only 300 properties around Nashville that could afford to buy signs he said would cost $20,000 each. He maintained that the idea that 9 out of 10 properties could not afford these signs was a natural deterrent. But market-driven rationales for changes in the law do not make for strong legal logic in my opinion, and Mr. Doden's following analogy bears that out. Doden compared the shift from internally lit signs to LEDs to the move from typewriters to computers.

Initially, computers were too expensive for many to buy, but the rise in demand and the increase in production led to the increased affordability of computers. Likewise, LED signs will become more affordable over time if the law is changed. That is not a strong argument for allowing LED signs in neighborhoods. While making a similar point later, the opposing Donelson-Hermitage Association President maintained that she was able to find LED signs on line for a quarter of what Mr. Joslin was claiming that they cost. She compared the availability of LED signs to the history of price drops in microwave ovens and VCRs. The argument that many churches won't be able to afford LEDs is just lame.

Mr. Joslin was also caught in contradiction when a Council Member (I think it was either Jason Holleman or Sean McGuire) asked him straight up if LEDs are competitive with neon signage and whether people are demanding the former over the latter. Mr. Joslin replied that LEDs do not compete with neon signs. The Council Member responded, "Why does your website say to 'Be sure to ask about the alternative to neon, LEDs light strips?'"

What could Mr. Joslin do at that point but change the topic to some study that "shows" no connection between traffic accidents and LED signage, despite what some local blogs he read were saying to the contrary? But even the change in subject to potential for causing accidents was addressed later by a Woodlawn Neighborhood Association opponent who identified herself as a gerontologist. She argued the common sense point that there is already concern about aging drivers being easily distracted, and adding more bright sign pollution to the streets would only increase the risk of accidents among the elderly.

The most telling moment for me was when the pastor of the church precipitating this bill was given the chance to speak. Rev. Ricky Lee made no bones about his wish that changes not just be made for his church but for "comprehensive" changes to be made across Nashville. That is quite a departure from his comments at the Public Hearing and from Mr. Tygard's presentation of a guy just trying to get his church a sign like the YMCA down the street has. At that point I was struck by the fact that the burden was on his side to produce all of the other church leaders that he was speaking for. Several different neighborhood associations representing hundreds of members have made efforts to get their representatives out to speak to Metro Council in opposition to this bill, and yet the Council seems to be giving one guy the benefit of the doubt on imposing his wish across almost every other neighborhood in Nashville.

Along these same lines, one of the sponsors of the LED bill, Jim Hodge, made a serious allegation: he claimed that under the current law churches were having to be put in the position of lying to Metro's Board of Zoning Appeals in order to get the zone change that would allow them to have these signs. As outlandish as it was, it was still a point that did not directly address the problem of passing a comprehensive sign bill that was said to only benefit a few organizations. And one LED opponent cut through the audacity of CM Hodge's allegation by arguing that anyone who claims that deceit was used by those who have received BZA approval owes them an apology.

It actually turned out to be a significant meeting, because opponents and proponents had to stand toe-to-toe and argue merits and sift out empty symbolism. Planning Director Rick Bernhardt told the group that he would prefer that zoning changes be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. CM Megan Barry argued that the Council needs to give BZA greater guidance and clarification for approving such zoning requests rather than forcing the LED bill on all neighborhoods across the city.

But the unknown factor is the power of the Metro Council and its votes. We do not know whether they are going to take the controversy seriously, and others who were absent will not see it. There was a noticeable number of Council Members absent, including my own representative, Erica Gilmore, and 3 at-larges, Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, and Tim Garrett. If you have not contacted your Council Member, yet, please do so and ask them to have community meetings before final reading on this bill to find out whether their neighborhoods support more signage of a light emitting nature. And ask them to bring the bill sponsors with them to answer your questions.