Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If the Pastor and the City Paper Want a Compromise, Then Bo Knows Compromise

I was able to meet and to chat with Council Member Bo Mitchell (Dist. 35, which is Charlie Tygard's old district and the location of the church that motivated the LED bill) at Monday night's LED meeting. As representative of the pastor who wants the LED and of neighborhoods who oppose LEDs in general, Mr. Mitchell is in a bit of a pinch. But he seems to be a pragmatist about it and he expressed a desire to me to produce a win-win compromise for both sides.

He spoke of a bill that he intends to introduce in Metro Council that would cut back the number of streets on which LEDs would be eligible from 7,600 eligible properties to 28, and he advocates working with neighborhoods to shrink the number lower if necessary. He was kind enough to give me a not-yet-ready-for-prime-time copy and permission to post here:

Click to enlarge.

Mr. Mitchell's bill would limit LED allowance to sprawl-like properties on state arterial highways. It is much less of a blanket approach than CM Tygard's. It's more like a place mat approach.

I have my disagreements with it: high-density Rosa Parks Boulevard is included in the list of highways where properties would be allowed to have LEDs, but at least CM Mitchell is open to paring the list down if neighborhoods objected. I have more affinities for at-Large Council Member Megan Barry's argument that we should move toward solving the exemption problem first and only then work toward a more comprehensive and lengthy reformulation of the sign code on what should be allowed and prohibited in general. We still need a protracted and formal debate on whether LEDs are good for Nashville in general, but at least the District 35 Council Member is attempting to find a middle way between the two sides with an expressed openness to criticism and revision. I'm enough of a pragmatist to recognize compromise when I see it.

If the pastor wants to compromise, he should look to his own council representative for the answer. And rather than looking to Mr. Tygard for their compromise meme, the City Paper might want to talk with Mr. Mitchell.

UPDATE & CORRECTION: CM Mitchell wrote me this afternoon to say that he was mistaken in the stipulation of 4-lane highways, since the church in his district sits on a 2-laner. Doh! His bill as it was written would not have been a win for the church, and it would have still opened up 28 arterial residential streets properties to LED. He removed that stipulation from his latest draft, but does that open up more arterial streets to LED? If so, then I can see little advantage for neighborhoods who oppose LED. The resulting confusion and possible erosion of middle ground makes CM Mitchell's bill impractical. It may now help the church, but I'm not convinced that it is good for neighborhoods. The church should look into rezoning their property rather than expecting Nashville's neighborhoods to conform to their desires.

CLARIFICATION: Bo Mitchell writes:
I am trying to clear up some confusion that you and I seem to be having with that "draft legislation" I gave you. I had legal draw up my legislation Monday afternoon before that meeting and the words four lane was mistakenly inserted, but I gave you a list of streets and properties that could be effected. The bill states that only church properties that are 6.5 acres or more on a state highway arterial would be eligible for a LED sign. That would only be 28-30 properties (signs) countywide.
Here is the list of streets on which eligible properties would fall:

Click to enlarge.

Close to Compromise? Say What?

NCP reporter Nate Rau has a piece this morning that sketchily summarizes the LED controversy that you've been reading about here on Enclave. But he writes that the opposing sides may be "close to a compromise." I'm not sure where he's getting that impression, because I don't see it (and I was at Monday night's meeting and I have been consistently writing about this story since I broke the news of the LED bill ahead of the mainstream media). Charlie Tygard is still acting like this is a legitimately appointed "task force" and that he has special powers above and beyond his responsibilities as a council member. There's still hard feelings about how neighborhood representatives were selected. As I wrote last night, the only surprise from Monday's meeting is that sign maker Bobby Joslin conceded that the residential piece should probably come out of Tygard's bill. Compromise? I think not, at least not yet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Election Commission Laptops Weren't the Only Things Stolen on Wackenhut's Watch

According to Channel 4:
Under their watch of Metro buildings, six laptops have been stolen along with 20 packs containing emergency equipment, an AC unit, two cameras and 20 CD ROMs.
Running government like a business is good, huh? Metro Government should get its house in order, fire Wackenhut, and hire its own security force so that voters have control over changing things when security generates insecurity.

About Last Night's Controversial LED "Task Force" Meeting

I watched for media coverage today of last night's meeting called by Charlie Tygard under the auspices of a "task force" which he has charged with the goal of recommending changes to his bill that would permit several kinds of non-profit groups in residential areas to have commercial-type LED signs. I wasn't expecting much, because I saw no media types that I recognized in the committee room last night. And the only mention I could find today is what looks like uncited second-hand information at a Tennessean blog.

So, it looks like you are stuck with my interpretation of last night's meeting. Here are my impressions:
  • The meeting was well-attended. It looked like all of the committee was there and then there were also a couple of other council members in attendance to go with the 15-20 neighborhood reps who lined the walls of the average-sized Planning Commission committee room. I would call it a good-sized, but not large turn-out, and I think it is probably more than an unofficial and unsanctioned "task force" deserved, given that it cost some tax dollars to convene.
  • Both "neighborhood representatives" effectively communicated the opposition that they heard coming from their hyper-local communities. Both iterated that they knew of no one who came forward to support LED or who considered the prospect of placing them in neighborhoods a good thing. Anna Shepherd did well on her own, and while I am still concerned about the motives of CMs Tygard and Gotto in appointing her to this group, she did not disappoint me in conveying the general ambivalence of the neighborhood associations. But the focus seemed largely on suburban, low-density neighborhoods. The group has no representative from urban neighborhoods where people live in close quarters.
  • Right after Charlie Tygard launched the meeting and asked the Board of Zoning Appeals rep to address their concerns to the group, Megan Barry stepped up and redirected the focus by underscoring that the task force had not been officially appointed and approved. Rather than defining the mission of the group as recommending action to the council, she argued that the group had much less formal purposes: to share information and to generate options from the public who were in attendance. Once the group had achieved its informal goals, then she maintained that it should go back to the council and get approval for the Vice Mayor to appoint a formalized task force. I thought CM Barry's redirection and redefinition was a pivotal moment that needed to happen early in the course of the meeting. At that point the proverbial elephant in the room was acknowledged.
  • CM Barry redirected at another significant point when CM Tygard spoke of his intention of giving the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) direction so that schools and churches could obtain LED. Ms. Barry countered that she thought the intention in the discussion was to help BZA step back and consider what might qualify as exceptions to zoning in certain areas. She argued that a specific discussion of schools, churches, etc. was one "further down in the weeds," which I took to mean a discussion that could not be pursued until BZA had a better idea of what institutions could be exceptions to the current sign code. Again, this looked like a significant moment where an LED critic was trying to slow the process down so that in appropriately helping BZA, neighborhoods were not being hurt.
  • The appointed church representative of the group again emphasized that he did not think that churches should have to pursue exceptions on a case-by-case basis and have to "relive this over and over again." He seeks a blanket, one-size-fits-all-neighborhoods approach. It seems to me that unless neighborhoods have some kind of overlay, they have to fight battles over and over again, so why should churches be exempt from the same battle? Near the end he also said that he was willing to negotiate and find a third option, but I got the impression that he was suggesting that neighborhood associations were not willing. If that assumption is correct, then his suggestion is not entirely true. I've heard neighborhood leaders who have expressed support for his church getting an exception if its community does not object. That is a third option, which he is not willing to consider himself. So, who is failing to negotiate to a win-win at that point? I also agreed with the Donelson-Hermitage President who pointed out to him that the 7-day-week functions of churches now effectively make them commercial institutions with a non-profit status. Churches may not want to pay the high fees to pursue rezoning as individual institutions, but they save a lot of money by not paying taxes even as they provide services that compete with institutions that have to pay taxes. It seems to me that they are asking to double dip by skipping the rezoning fees that could allow them the LED signs that they want.
  • Group members moved several times to open the discussion to non-group audience, which again reinforced CM Barry's that the purpose ought to be to get options based on public feedback. Critics in the audience latched on to the unrepresentative nature of the group and on to Charlie Tygard's claim that neighborhoods constituted "special interest" groups in the same way that sign-makers did. One LED critic pointed out that her church has a very small non-LED sign and yet it is filled everyday by people attending various activities because they found out about them without benefit of LED.
  • I was surprised that Bobby Joslin argued that the "residential part" of the LED bill has to "disappear." He also acknowledged that he would not want a flashing LED sign on the street where he lives. Is he starting to believe that the firestorm that this bill brought on in the neighborhoods is actually hurting his cause? Not only are neighborhood critics opposing LEDs on their own streets, but this controversy is giving them a chance to talk about other cities that outlaw all LEDs (and in some cases all billboards), and talking about that prospect makes it more plausible. He may find himself quickly in a tight spot if he cannot find a way to compromise.
The discussion lasted an hour-an-a-half before lights in the complex were turned off as if on cue, effectively ending the meeting. Again, that was a chunk of official Metro time and probably more than an unofficial group deserved.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Because the Scare Tactics about Property Taxes are So One-Dimensional

A Council Member encourages us to chill on the lightning-rod subject of property taxes. They rarely keep up with the rising costs of delivering services that we demand.

Vice Mayor Responds to LED Drama

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors' response in an e-mail to Metro Council:
I have been asked for clarification on the forming of the task force since it was not formed by resolution nor did the vice mayor appointment the members. Considering the nature of this legislation it may serve us well to file a resolution and begin this process anew.

If there is no interest in this approach, I would suggest that an email be sent to the entire council and members of the task force clarifying the role of the task force and the expectations. In light of how the task force was formed, will their recommendations have standing or not?
They most definitely should not have standing! Get the word to your council member.

Council "Task Force" Member Calls on Charlie Tygard to Disband His "Task Force"

At-Large Council Member Megan Barry sent the following letter to the rest of the Metro Council late this afternoon:

-----Original Message-----
From: Barry, Megan (Council Member)
Sent: Mon 4/28/2008 4:08 PM
To: Council Members
Subject: FW: task force

Dear Fellow Councilmembers - Thanks to all of you and your constituents that have taken the time to contact me regarding concerns surrounding the formation of the sign group. While I appreciate Councilman Tygard's willingness to take the lead on this, it has come to my attention that there it a formal process by which the Council appoints an official taskforce. This is most often done by Council resolution and then the appointees are determined by the Vice Mayor. I believe it is in the best interest of the Council to follow this process for the sign group as it will remove any perception that the appointees are stacked one way or the other, and I think, in the end, get to what we all desire - a frank and reasonable
discussion regarding the sign ordinance.

I don't think it will be a good use of time for the group as formed to meet because the recommendations that come from this group will not be taken seriously. My hope is that Councilman Tygard will move this process along by announcing at the meeting tonight that the group assembled will disband and that the process proposed resolution, task force appointed by the Vice-Mayor,) will be undertaken. The citizens want a fair and transparent process and I think we can achieve that by following our standard procedures. Without this, we do a disservice to the taxpayers by requiring government employees to work on something that won't have legitimacy.

Thanks again for letting me know your thoughts.

Kind regards,

Megan Barry
Council At-Large
It is time for Vice Mayor Neighbors to step up and take control of this before it spirals into a much larger controversy. CM Barry has opened the door for her to act if Mr. Tygard refuses to comply with council procedure.

Tygard's LED Press Release Misled About Neighborhood Rep

An Enclave commenter posted a series of weekend e-mails that indicate that Anna Shepherd (who was listed in the "task force" press release as a Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association representative) was hand-picked to represent "the community" rather than the neighborhood association, which has been one of the more vocal opponents of the Tygard's LED bill.

In the series, it looks like Tygard and CM Jim Gotto thumb their noses at the Donelson-Hermitage governing board by encouraging Ms. Shepherd to stay on above the protests of the Donelson-Hermitage president, who penned the following e-mail to Mr. Tygard and the entire Metro Council yesterday:
[UPDATE: Letter removed at request of author.]
As I wrote yesterday, Ms. Shepherd can also be considered an advocate for churches. She works for the Catholic Archdiocese. Effectively 2 of the 4 community members of Tygard's group are church reps from Donelson-Hermitage. Throw in sign-maker Bobby Joslin, and that leaves the neighborhoods facing stiff odds with only 1 advocate to defend their interests.

Commuter Sports

If the move by the Dodgers to Chavez Ravine 50 years ago heralded the dramatic shift of baseball away from subway sports in neighborhoods (Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn) to attracting suburban fans to commute (Los Angeles is the hub of freeway culture), then the proposed $500 million looks like the self-conscious celebration of the auto-commuter lifestyle:

Though the stadium sits near the geographical center of the city, its spirit is wholly suburban. Even more than at other ballparks from the same era, Praeger's design makes it possible for fans to drive right up to the stadium edge, leave their cars and walk directly to their seats.

There is no main entrance -- that would require fans to use their legs more than strictly necessary. You simply slip through one entry portal or another and -- wham -- there is the green field in front of you, with the hillsides beyond. At the end of the game -- or in the seventh inning, depending on the score and the state of traffic on the freeways down below -- you leave your section and hop back into your car.

Tygard's Criticism of Page Generates District 16 Listserv Reaction over the Weekend

Here are some District 16 listserv comments from Anna Page's constituents in response to Charlie Tygard's criticism of her:


Our Council Lady, Ms. Page gives us a voice!!! It's not about "ONE" sign. It's about the spread of such throughout our neighborhoods that we are against.

How dare you, Mr. Tygard, attack my council person, for doing her job, representing the majority of her district on an issue that is clearly, divisive, between neighborhood and business. She has chosen to vote for the very raucous neighborhood crowd over the paid for business group.Hmmmm. Who has a hand in your pocket? OOOPS my bad, I didn't mean to insinuate that some SIGN COMPANY owner may have more influence with you than your constituents.

Mr. Charlie Tygard,Words cannot express how disappointed I am over your email to our Council Lady of the 16th District, Anna Page. Insults and personal attacks to another, especially within the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County/Metro Council, are nothing short of being disrespectful and immature. (possibly characteristics you identify with).

You totally strayed from the core of your legislative responsibilties, (issues and concerns), into an area of lost emotions, and improper expression. When you insult our Council Lady, you in turn insult all of us in her District. You are an embarrassment to Metro Council. You owe apologies to Council Lady Page, Metro Council and the entire 16th District for such an unnecessary personal attack regarding a legislative concern via e-mail.

Please request a Sabbatical for yourself, and then return Refreshed.

HT: Carol McCullough

Charlie's War: Tygard Accuses Fellow Council Member of Inciting the Public, Disrespecting Him, and Lacking Maturity

It appears that tempers hit their boiling point over the weekend as council members and constituents staged e-mail offensives in the wake of last week's announcement of Charlie Tygard's LED task force interest group.

Here is CM Tygard's salvo from last Friday at Anna Page for expressing disapproval of his LED bill on the District 16 listserv:
-----Original Message-----
From: Charlie Tygard []
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 2:20 PM
Cc:; Neighbors, Diane (Vice Mayor)
Subject: Disappointment over your Email
Council Lady Page:
Words cannot express my disappointment over your email and comments made about the sign legislation pending before the Council and me personally. And to think you would distribute these comments throughout your District makes them even more disturbing.
It was never my intent to sponsor any legislation that would be harmful to Nashville. I was simply responding to a request from the BZA for guidance on a church issue in Bellevue. I asked Sonny West, Rick Bernhardt and Jon Cooper to collaborate on a bill to address this issue. Obviously, the 1st pass opened up a can of worms and required more deliberation and input, which is the process I thought we were going thru at this point.
Inciting the public before the process even begins shows your lack of understanding of the process and your disrespect for a fellow Councilmember. Things certainly have changed since my first term in Council in 1989 when colleagues could disagree with each other but not disrespect and disparage them in the community. Back then, maturity and respect were cornerstones of the Council. Apparently these values don't exist among our entire membership anymore.
At any rate, I look forward to Monday night when rational citizens with varying perspectives can convene around the table - identify issues, concerns and common points of agreement - and begin a process to forge a compromise bill, if possible, that addresses all viewpoints. I am sorry that you don't feel that rational discussion is the way to go.
Charlie Tygard
The listserv comments to which CM Tygard seemed to be referring were posted last Thursday:
Heads up neighbors... Councilman Tygard still thinks LED signs are the progressive way to go for our city. I hope many neighbors will be in attendance [at Monday night's meeting] to express how we feel about our streets being lit up like Vegas! .... we should try to be there to keep the "sign man" [Bobby Joslin(?)] and a couple of others in check.
Anna Page
After receiving Mr. Tygard's e-mail, CM Page sent her own missive back at him on Saturday:
-----Original Message-----
From: Anna Page []
Sent: Sat 4/26/2008 12:11 PM
To: Tygard, Charlie (Council At Large)
Cc: Council Members; Neighbors, Diane (Vice Mayor); Metro Nashville, 16th District
Subject: RE: Disappointment over your Email
Dear Councilman Tygard,
Please find attached the email from me on the District 16 listserv which discusses the current LED sign legislation and your sponsorship of that legislation. I do hope that you will please tell me what contained in it drew the need for a personal attack from you that questions my intelligence, my ability and my values in an email to the entire Metro Council.
I have always been civil and rational in my actions as a Councilmember as well as diligent in my representation of the District 16 constituents. There are a rainbow of reasons the constituents in District 16 are not on board with the current LED sign legislation.
Anna Page
Seeing this exchange reminded me of Liz Garrigan's 2004 observation about Charlie Tygard taking down other people's stature in order to advance his own.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's Merely Charlie Tygard's "Task Force": Has He Usurped the Vice Mayor?

Four years ago, the Scene's Liz Garrigan wrote of an effort by CM Charlie Tygard to run an end around on former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry by having a fellow member introduce a resolution naming him the chair of a task force after VM Gentry did not select him for a previous task force. Liz called CM Tygard to the mat:
So, instead of just handling the business of their neighborhoods and government, they look around to their council time as an opportunity to advance their own stature and--when they really want to feel strong--weaken someone else's.
In 2008 with his selection of the LED task force, CM Tygard is not even bothering to pursue the council's resolution process in his attempt to claim for himself committee assignment powers that belong to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors. If only VM Neighbors has the power to appoint an LED task force (and I have heard that she has not approved it, yet), then can we really call CM Tygard's group "the LED task force"? It seems to be more accurate to describe it as Charlie Tygard's personal or political interest group.

And if this is more of a special interest group that is convening tomorrow night, then should CM Tygard be wasting Metro taxpayer dollars by holding the meeting at no expense to himself in a Metro facility, quite possibly requiring preparation of the meeting space and materials by Metro employees, and most surely resulting in clean-up and maintenance by service staff after the meeting is over? It is one thing to challenge the legitimacy of the Vice Mayor's power, but quite another to misuse public revenues for a group that has not been legitimately appointed by the person in charge of the Metro Council.

Charlie Tygard seems to exhibit a pattern of overreaching beyond the protocols of Metro governance. If he wants to appoint task forces, then perhaps he should have run against Diane Neighbors last year, instead of running against her now as a renegade off the reservation. Otherwise, I want to know whether his LED task force special interest group has any authority (as in, "given by the Metro Charter") whatsoever? Under the current Council rules can the Vice Mayor allow any recommendations from Mr. Tygard's group to be introduced in the future? And if Ms. Neighbors rubber stamps the group after the fact instead of calling Mr. Tygard to order, will she have compromised the power of her office and lose the respect of the council?

Backing up on My Claim That Both Chosen LED Task Force Neighborhood Reps Will Be Critics of Tygard's Bill

Perhaps I was too hasty on Friday when I claimed that one of the neighborhood reps selected for CM Charlie Tygard's LED task force would be a critic of LED. I was basing that assumption on the Donelson-Hermitage neighborhood leaders whom I've heard criticize the bill.

However, I have been told that the person selected from Donelson-Hermitage is not coming based on any recommendations by the neighborhood association. Instead, Anna Shepherd is coming on the recommendation of CM Jim Gotto, who has helped shepherd LED both in Council and from his seat on the Planning Commission. In fact, at the Planning Commission he all but promised to rescue Tygard's LED bill from oblivion or defeat. It was obvious to me that Jim Gotto is not neutral and that he is already bill advocate, and I believe that his support colors his selection of Anna Shepherd.

Now, I don't know Ms. Shepherd. She might be the most neutral person selected, but the fact that Mr. Tygard turned to Mr. Gotto for her referral is suspicious. Also troubling is the fact that she works for the Catholic Archdiocese of Nashville. Together with CM Tygard's appointment of River of Life Church minister, Barry Smith, the task force will have two church representatives from suburban Donelson-Hermitage. The bill would permit churches to have LED signs in non-commercial areas. Those two facts profoundly change the dynamics of this group and draw its legitimacy into question.

Restriction to East-West, Lower Density Axis May Prejudice Tygard's LED Force

The "LED task force," which has been put together exclusively by at-Large Council Member Charlie Tygard would only include representatives from lower density neighborhoods in east and west Nashville. That fact puts north and south Nashville residents and higher density urban residents at a distinct disadvantage in the debate over placing light-emitting diode signs in mostly-residential areas.

CM Tygard has already conceded that he only sought referrals from fellow members who represent the Hillsboro-West End (HWEN) and Donelson-Hermitage areas of town in building his task force. The Hillsboro-West End area includes the old street-car suburbs around Hillsboro Village as well as the classic lower-density suburbs around the southwest I-440 loop. While not as sprawling as Bellevue or Madison, HWEN residents are not generally packed in or on top of each other with a lot of mixed-use. Donelson-Hermitage is a newer generation of commuter suburb, sprawling down the I-40 corridor past Percy Priest Lake and the western border of Davidson County. It represents what was once one of Nashville's "bedroom communities." It is among the lowest density neighborhood areas.

These would be representative appointments if Nashville was entirely suburban. In reality they do not represent the actual diversity of Nashville's neighborhoods, nor can they speak for those who live in the close quarters of urban neighborhoods, where more people would be living next to super-saturated luminosity of flashing LED signs, which currently are not legal or regulated. Woodlawn President Bell Lowe Newton said it best in an e-mail to CM Tygard over the weekend:

One suggestion I have is for there to be a representative from a higher density urban neighborhood, i.e., East End or the Gulch. An LED sign in an urban area like these could be a very dramatic imposition. Also, what about our neighbors to the north and south? As an at large member of the Metro Council, you might want to consider having neighborhood representation from these areas so that all points of the community compass are represented.
The fact that north and south council members were not consulted for task force recommendations is inexcusable. Nashville's east-west axis is more affluent and more white than points north and south, and to limit representative influence over recommendations under the pretense of community input is underhanded and appears to be prejudiced.

CM Tygard has defended his choices for task force appointments by saying that they are "experienced in various types of zoning issues." Without questioning that experience, I would argue that the only way that this task force could pay attention to the closer scale of urban neighborhoods is to include at least one representative from an urban neighborhood. I can think of several folks who have lived in the North End for decades who could speak to the higher density impact of LED outside of a spread-out suburban scale. CM Tygard should consult north-south council members like Erica Gilmore and Sandra Moore before starting his meeting tomorrow.

Urban neighbors will be more greatly burdened by the same LED signs that many sign-owners wouldn't allow in their own neighborhoods. Urban neighbors should be included on any LED task force. Appointing task force members from north and south could fill that vacuum.

Reinvigorated Chicago Gang Wars Cause Spike in the Deaths of Public School Children in their Neighborhoods

The toddling town has had trouble protecting its own school children:

Since the beginning of the school year, 24 public school students here have been murdered, most by gunfire. None was killed on school grounds but most lost their lives in their neighborhoods, sometimes on the way to class or the trip home. The youngest victim was a 7-year-old girl, waiting for an afternoon snack at a fast food drive-through with her father.

A reinvigorated gang war over territory south and west of downtown is at least partly to blame for the rising mayhem that is ensnarling ever-younger schoolchildren on neighborhood battlefields. An overwhelming majority of Chicago’s public school students — some 85 percent, according to federal statistics — live in poverty. Some find respite only at school.

Police are escorting kids to schools, where inside "violent incidents are down, and college admissions are up."

Relative to Who You Are and What You Need

[I]f they were paying $100 an hour in Canada, there are a lot of Americans who might [illegally immigrate], too.

- - Mario Ramos, Nashville immigration lawyer (Tennessean)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Judge Orders Bush White House to Answer Question of Missing E-mails

This is one of the reasons Bushies hate the judiciary: an inconvenient district court judge's order to resolve, by May 5, the mystery of not knowing whether there were e-mails (re: the start of the Iraq War and re: Valerie Plame) that were deleted from White House hard drives during an 8-month period during 2003.

In case you require a refresher on the question of what the Bush Administration says convolutedly that it does not know regarding alleged deletion of its own e-mails with potentially damaging information:

Cool Marathon Runnings

A McCain Solution to Which Krumm Would Cotton

Local Republican leader Bob Krumm, who once asked whether hurricane-ravaged New Orleans should be rebuilt at all, has got to be liking Senator John McCain's possible guillotine of the Lower 9th Ward:

earlier this week, when asked whether he thought the Lower 9th Ward should be rebuilt, [McCain] reportedly said: "I really don't know. That's why I am going ... We need to go back to have a conversation about what to do: rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is."

Local leaders of ACORN, a group representing low- to moderate-income families, said they were stunned by the report of McCain's comments by CBS News. Those comments also were reported on Newsweek's Web site.

The community activists said the remarks could erode political support for rebuilding work.

"People own their own homes, they've been fighting all sorts of roadblocks to get back here," said Vanessa Gueringer, chairwoman of ACORN's Lower 9th Ward chapter. "It's like a stab to my heart."
The mainstream media is trying to sex up McCain's visit to the Big Easy as a brave campaign tour through the heart of Dem strongholds.

However, NOLA points out that Katrina not only cut New Orlean's political influence in the 2007 elections, but the resulting diaspora increased the number of Republicans after the hemorrhage of displaced Democratic voters. His trip is much less bold that it could have one time been.

Maybe John McCain is just going where his base is growing through attrition of opponents, which is also perhaps why he would just as soon eradicate the Lower 9th Ward as rebuild it.

Country Music Marathon Leaders Passing Through the North End

I showed up at the marathon race course this morning about 7:45 and was able to get some photos of the leaders of the pack passing through the North End. While I missed the men's leaders heading out of Downtown and up Rosa Parks, I did catch them on the leg down Rosa Parks from MetroCenter to Bicentennial Mall.

Leaders of the field on the North End leg are Ketema Nigusse (14), Sylvester Chebii (17), Meshack Kosgei (1220), and Christopher Torotich (7). All are Africans, except for Kosgei, who is a resident of Marietta, Georgia.

According to the Country Music Marathon website, their order of finish was Kosgei (2:14:54), Torotich (2:15:17), Chebii (2:16:05), Nigusse (2:17:54). However, the Tennessean is reporting that the Marathon on the men's side was won by Kenyan Amos Matui with in unofficial time of 2:14:25. The marathon website shows no split or finish times for Matui, so I don't know if the Tennessean is wrong or I'm just not reading the live updates correctly.

The women's leaders (bib numbers F7 and F10) headed up Rosa Parks toward MetroCenter. I was not able to match the bib numbers with names on the Country Music Marathon live updates, but both the Tennessean and the website are reporting that Russian Svetlana Pomoarenko won the women's race with a time of 2:32:14.

UPDATE: The Tennessean originally ran an article reporting that Amos Matui won the race (click on inset screen shot to enlarge) next to their photo of Sylvester Chebii (the runner in red and blue in my photos above) breaking the finish line tape. Doh! The Tennessean just corrected their online article to report that Chebii did in fact win the marathon.

UPDATE: Now to my reading of the marathon website's live updates. The order of finish does not seem to sync with the finishing times listed on the website (click on inset screenshot to enlarge). The Tennessean's photo makes it obvious that Chebii won the marathon, but the live updates on the marathon website don't seem to be reporting his correct time. Am I misreading something? Are the live update times unofficial times?

UPDATE: LiveResults Board now has the corrected finished times up.

UPDATE: More of my 2008 County Music Marathon pictures here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The LED Task Force Debate Has Started Online, away from the Mainstream Media

E-mails are being volleyed back and forth today between neighborhood leaders and Metro Council Members over the LED task force. The debate on LEDs themselves hasn't started yet, but there are questions leveled concerning the make-up and membership of the task force. Charlie Tygard has responded that he asked east and west Nashville council members to recommend the neighborhood leaders who are the members of the group and that a task force larger than 10 members is too big.

More later.

Will the Task Force Be Taxing?

Alright. Here is my quick and dirty first read on the make-up of the task force to look at Charlie Tygard's LED proposal for various noncommercial organizations.

First, there are two significant omissions on this committee, one good, one bad. On the one hand, it is a very good thing that at-Large Council Member Jerry Maynard is not on this task force. Maynard is a pastor who would personally benefit from the permission of church LED signs, yet he said that he would need to check with his lawyer brother to determine whether there was a conflict of interest. Doh! If that possible conflict were not bad enough, Mr. Maynard accepted a large campaign donation from pro-LED lobbyists. In his expression of support for LEDs, he exaggerated the actual advertised cost of LEDs for purposes of effect.

On the other hand, it is a bad thing that no higher density urban neighborhoods are represented on the task force. An LED sign in the East End or in Hope Gardens or in the Gulch is a more dramatic imposition than one placed in suburbia. Most of the debates I've listen to focus on the sign impact on a suburban scale. Bill sponsor Charlie Tygard seems loath to consider affects on neighborhoods outside of Bellevue, and yet, his responsibility as an at-large member is to all neighborhoods.

That said, here's my read on the make-up of the committee. The pro-LED side has the larger number. I count Mr. Tygard, Codes rep., Joslin Signs owner, and the suburban pastor as firmly pro-LED. My reason for jumping to the conclusion about the suburban pastor is that some council members tried to make this a neighborhood against church battle in the past to try to win and my hunch is that the pastor selected for this committee believes (as the Baptist pastor who motivated the LED bill does) that all churches should have the right to erect LEDs. We will see if my hunch holds when the task force starts meeting. I would count the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) rep. as in Tygard's camp because it has been argued at previous meetings that while BZA "had" to decline church LED requests, they really wanted to approve. If there is a wild card, it might be BZA.

I see the more neutral elements on the committee as the Planning Commissioner and the Planning staffer. The Commission will eventually have to reconsider an amended bill, so they are going to be the most open to hearing both sides. Given the Planning staff's recommendation of disapproval and their contention that all LEDs in Nashville are currently illegal, the staffer probably leans against LEDs. I was left with that impression during the Planning Meeting discussion.

The clear LED critics are at-Large Council Member Megan Barry and the two neighborhood association reps. Critics are at an obvious numbers disadvantage on this committee, but CM Barry's suggestion in one meeting that the Council reject the bill in favor of working on a separate bill to give the BZA revised guidelines to help them make better decisions in the future should logically appeal to the BZA. The question is, is BZA already so locked in with the Tygard/Joslin Signs faction that they will not be convinced?

I would be surprised if this task force produces anything but a revised LED bill less friendly to neighborhoods than one that could have come out were the committee more balanced. LED opponents need to keep a close eye on the proceedings and correct any misinformation that issues forth, and we should redirect any perceptions that its recommendations could be none other than sufficiently representative of the whole community. If a pro-neighborhood minority report comes out of it, it could still represent the majority of communities that the Metro Council otherwise claims to represent.

Any other impressions out there?

HBO's John Adams

Last night we watched the final episode in HBO's mini-series adaptation of David McCullough's book on John Adams. From beginning to end it really was a remarkable production (by Tom Hanks) that showed the human dimensions of the American Revolution stripped of all of the high-minded pretension that goes with so much of the history that gets passed down as neatly as the posed lines of all-present signers in a John Trumbull painting. The subject was both a deeply flawed but remarkably courageous human being. If you have a chance to see John Adams, I highly recommend the whole thing. Our entire family was just mesmerized by it. The cinematography alone is sweeping, detailed, and breathtaking. If you can see it in HD, then by all means do so.

Here's a clip:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

But Wait. Beth Harwell Told Us That When Tennessee Regulates International Commerce, It Usurps Federal Authority

According to Stateline, Tennessee is in a list of 20 states that has jumped ahead of the federal government by banning one or more toxins in toys that are sold in the state. A Tennessee Republican has already equated toy regulation not with states' rights, but with usurpation. The logic is flawed in that deferring to a government run by Bush Republicans and tail-between-the-legs Democrats means that toxic toys would never be regulated at any level.

LED Task Force Announced

After sending some e-mails early this morning to a number Metro Council members about the status and make-up of the proposed LED task force, neighborhood leader Bell Newton was able to scare up a press release a little after noon that the mainstream media has published, too.

Here is the text of the release that Bell graciously forwarded to me:
For more information contact:
Councilman At-Large Charlie Tygard, 243-3295

LED Task Force Committee Convenes Initial Meeting The Metro Council task force to study light emitting diode (LED) message boards for schools and churches will have its’ initial meeting on Monday, April 28, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at the Metro Planning Commission Offices – Fulton Complex on Second Avenue South, in the Davidson Meeting Room on the second floor. The task force was recommended by the Metro Council as a result of pending legislation to amend the Metro Code provisions pertaining to digital and LED display signs. Metro’s current sign ordinance was approved in 1992 and has not been significantly modified since its adoption. The sign industry has evolved in recent years to include more and more electronic and digital technology, and Metro’s sign ordinance does not adequately address some of this technology. Task Force Committee Members include Councilmembers At-Large Charlie Tygard (bill sponsor) and Megan Barry; Jane Cleveland, Chair of the Metro Board of Zoning Appeals; Anna Shepherd, Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association; Burkley Allen, West End-Hillsboro Neighborhood Association; Phil Ponder, Vice Chair of Metro Planning Commission; Ann Hammond, Metro Planning Department Staff; Sonny West, Metro Codes Department Zoning Administrator; Bobby Joslin, Joslin Signs; and Barry Smith, Pastor of the River of Life Church. The public and interested parties are invited to attend the meeting.
I do have an opinion about this news, but I wanted to post it as soon as I got home from work for the edification of readers. I don't know whether Bell was the primary catalyst for finally receiving news about the task force, but she obviously deserves at least some credit for her tenacity at staying on this point as well as my thanks for including me in her communication loop.

Beth Harwell, Ever the Consumer Advocate

With her toy company's recall history and toxic toy connections to China, State Representative Beth Harwell has decided that she has no interest in protecting Tennessee families from dangerous toys:

Harwell, who cleverly filed her own toy disclosure bill to try to fend off [a defeated opponent's bill directed at her company] now says she won’t try to pass her legislation. Turns out, she says, it’s unnecessary.

“It’s very difficult for the state to regulate international commerce, as you might imagine,” she says with a straight face. “We also run into the problem of usurping federal authority. We can’t do it.”

Rest assured, Tennessee parents, that Rep. Harwell will keep those toxic Chinese toys flowing into the state; that increases the bottom line of her family toy business, even if it may put your kids at higher risk.

What Is Easy is Taking Money from Industry Lobbyists

This is wicked scary information:
Metro Nashville lobbyists representing some of the city's most powerful companies and institutions gave more than $50,000 in campaign contributions to candidates for the mayor's office and Metro Council seats in 2007.
Seeing some of who those industries are is even scarier given junk like the LED bill.

It's Not Like It Would Take a Techno-Geek to Find It

Progressive Nashville points out that Metro doesn't need to spend any tax money on software that would rout public transit data so that people could Google their bus routes and other MTA information. That's right. That technology if currently free for Metro's taking, but they have yet to take.

While PN is encouraging folks to call and send e-mails to MTA and to Mayor Karl Dean, I have to question why, if our transit authority is committed to effective communication and our Mayor is committed to providing the best services he can get for the limited bucks, have they not discovered and embraced this possibility on their own initiative? It's not like Google's hack is top secret or preliminary. Other cities around the country are using it, for heavens sake. Do they explore best practices in other cities? That would seem to be part of their job description, would it not?

You may remember that we found out after the Metro Election Commission break-in that their office windows were not alarmed, making access to sensitive voter information a snap. Why is it that relatively easy and attainable measures seem so inscrutable and remote for our local government?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Since I Can't Wish for World Peace on My Birthday

Click on to enlarge.

I Am Jack's Complete Lack of Surprise

The Scene reports that we may see at-Large Council Member Jerry Maynard's "beer cabaret" bill again thanks to the efforts of former at-LCM Adam Dread, who is now a lobbyist for the "Pure Gold" chain of strip clubs (God, why did I ever vote for Adam Dread that one time?).

Sounding either paternalistic or feminist at a twisted Orwellian angle, CM Maynard explained that his bill (which was withdrawn at the last council meeting) is designed to "protect" women.

But the biggest insult to voters was Mr. Maynard's claim that he had no self-interest in this. That's true only if you parse "campaign contributions from strip club chains, Adam Dread, and beer companies" out of the "self-interest" equation. To talk as if he can't benefit from a strip-club ordinance is misleading and a poor show of character. To use his title of "preacher" as his rationale--effectively shielding the financial interests behind this bill--is repugnant.

This bill may fall to some other sponsor when reintroduced, but to me it will always be Jerry Maynard's beer cabaret bill. He's already done his part to make the lobbyists happy, and he cannot shake off the label just like that.

Global Food Shortage Now Affecting Big-Box Retailers in U.S.

The food crisis that has been causing civil unrest around the world is reverberating here at home as Sam's Club and Costco ration rice to deal with small business hoarding.

If Gangs are Strictly an Urban Problem, then Franklin Must Now Be Strictly Urban

Suburbia not such a crime-free paradise after all.

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Fat Oil Cats Insure that the White House Will Keep Changing Their Litter Box

Big Oil is pouring big money into the coffers of the remaining presidential contenders:

Republican candidate Senator John McCain is in the lead with $291,685, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is close behind with $289,950 in contributions.

Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama trails the two with $163,840 in oil and gas contributions ....

Oil giant Exxon Mobil is not taking any chances in its lobbying and has given contributions to all three candidates. Long a target for environmentalists, Exxon has given the most, $23,550, to Senator Obama and the least to Senator McCain with just $7,950. Senator Clinton received $15,700.

The one mission that George W. Bush did accomplish with the Iraq War was to drive gas prices up to the four-dollar-a-barrelgallon range. It looks like the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will be beholden to big oil to keep it up. What's the difference between these candidates again?

UPDATE: Perhaps Big Oil is also paying back the three U.S. Senators for the Senate's restoration of $21 billion in tax breaks last Christmas. What a viciously circular relationship. All of this crap just makes me yearn to write in "Al Gore" in November; an inconvenient truth, I know.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Statement that is No Longer Just a Bumper Sticker

George W. Bush is officially the worst president ever and new record holder of the highest disapproval ratings (69%) in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll. Harry S. Truman (67%) fans have their consolation. Our troops in Iraq and jobless Americans at home: not so much.

Adelicia Residents and Bound'ry Owner Reportedly Resolve Dispute

A source tells me that a meeting yesterday between Adelicia Condominium residents upset about recent Bound'ry noise violations and Bound'ry owner Jay Pennington went better than expected. Reportedly, Mr. Pennington has agreed to turn amplifiers back in toward the restaurant rather than face them out toward the Midtown neighborhood. Perhaps Metro Police won't have to be tested in the future on the enforcement of amplification codes. Let's hope the mutual understanding holds.

Dallas After Midnight

If developers have the absolute right to do whatever they want with their own property, then why demo "one of Dallas' hailed pieces of 1950s architecture" under cover of an early Sunday morning while all the neighbors--who were fighting a high-rise condo development--slept? Why not flaunt your absolute right in front of everyone in the light of day? Perhaps because developers' rights are not so absolute and neighborhoods and preservations have some rights themselves to determine the direction of the local community in which they also have stakes?

A Dallas Morning News writer responds and articulates the tension between development and preservation in that demo's wake:

The absentee owner — a Canada-based developer — surely recognized that quick demolition is the surest way to head off a protracted preservation battle.

Why jeopardize their investment when it’s so easy to circumvent the plodding pace of landmark studies and zoning boards? Bulldoze it fast, fade a little bad publicity, and people forget ....

I understand that property owners have rights, and that if we’re going to get the kind of urban redevelopment that cities crave, we’ve got to be willing to make concessions.

But it hurts to see another generation of architecture threatened, just because someone, somewhere, might be willing to pay a few dollars more for something else.

I hate to think of Dallas’ laid-back midcentury neighborhoods ravaged to make way for faux-Gothic monstrosities with four-car garages, or super-cool “mixed use” apartment blocks with an art-house cinema and a Starbucks on the ground floor.

And, boy, I hate to think of the day when “historic,” for Dallas, will refer to its unfortunately ample stock of ugly, inhospitable 1970s public buildings and vinyl-floored Nixon-era tract houses.

“Preservation” should mean more than maintaining a handful of museum pieces. It should, and can, mean placing a priority on combining history, utility and livability.

Monday, April 21, 2008

1996 Flare Up Between Bound'ry and Residents Resulted in Uneasy Understanding

From spring 1996 until the beginning of the fall of the same year controversy over the Bound'ry restaurant's late-night amplification of music 100 feet past its boundaries grew. Records at a residence hall across the street from the loud eatery indicate that there were complaints about loud music keeping neighbors up all night, there were neighbors moving out because of the noise, there were Bound'ry valets running across private greenspace to retrieve patrons' cars, and there was litter and trash left laying around the block that did not get picked up by Bound'ry staff. One community leader wrote former Metro Council Member Julian Sloss, saying:
we are frequently forced to clean up empty beer bottles and drink glasses from our front sidewalk and yard area, left by patrons of the restaurants [Bound'ry and South Street].
He also contrasted the Bound'ry management's unwillingness to respect residents' requests with the previous restaurateurs' willingness to accommodate their neighbors.

While neighborhood representatives and a Bound'ry manager met that year to agree on a solution, one report said that the manager made no guarantee that things would get better for the neighborhood. Accordingly, he made it "very clear that open air patios and noise are a part of their 'concept.'" Residents reportedly made it clear that they would reserve the right to call the police if initial phone calls to the Bound'ry had no effect on noise violations, but the internal reports indicate that warnings about calling the police are empty threats when the police would not properly enforce the noise and amplification codes.

Twelve years later, the Bound'ry seems to still be imposing its concept on the Midtown neighborhood to the point where newer neighbors are taking their own turns at pushing back. And the newest neighbors recently moved into the high-rise Adelicia may have more resources to bring to bear on this situation. Consequently, have the police changed their tune about enforcing the codes? First indications look promising for sleepless Midtown residents, even if the police reply was less than enthusiastic.

Dems in Tight Spot to the Right of George Will

Where's the outrage on the left? Below market interest rates for CEOs, taxpayer-funded bank insurance, immunity from market outcomes for the wealthy, and liberals allow a conservative commentator to lead the way criticizing corporate welfare. I'm embarrassed to admit that I vote Democrat. Is that awful housing-financial crisis just too large for liberals to get their minds around? Get a clue and help yourselves, Dems.

Another Heckuva-Job-Brownie Bush Appointment?

Is Bush replacing one bad seed at Housing and Urban Development with another? Facing South wonders.

"Furious Competition" for Lies

The NY Times confirms what many of us suspected about the dupes mainstream media:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance ....

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

How's that for a public-private propaganda partnership?

65%: Reason Sufficient in Itself to Require Green Skylines

From yesterday's Chicago Tribune:
Structures that are at least four stories high gobble 65 percent of the nation's electricity .... Instead of relying on piecemeal approaches such as installing a rooftop garden or solar panels here or there, California and many other states now require that all new government buildings be certified as "green," or eco-friendly. Officials also are stepping up efforts to set an example for the private sector. California is considering granting preferences to private owners of more eco-friendly buildings when renewing leases for government offices.
Mandating that organizations that accept federal funds desegregate and guarantee gender nondiscrimination has created more equitable organizations. Following suit with green building regulation is better than waiting on the "free" market to reform its generally low environmental standards.

Either Way They're Going to Get Blamed

Even when Democrats cave to Republican agendas in Washington and otherwise behave less progressively than they should, the vast GOP sludge machine tars them with blame for the bad things that happen under 8 years of George W. Bush.

So, if they're going to get stuck with the blame, why can't congressional Dems provide an authentic, straight-down-the-pike, progressive alternative to the GOP rather than trying to nibble at the edges of the plate? They've got nothing to lose and it's not like guys like Gill are going to be harder on them one way over the other.

Our Vanishing Services: Metro Public Works To Take Big Hit in Mayor's Budget

Brush collection contracts, but MPW says slack can be picked up.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bound'ry Owners' Other Watering Hole Caused Midtown Residents to Complain about Amplification in 1994

On Sunday, September 25, 1994, South Street (which is also owned by Jay Pennington and Jimmy Lewis) held a six-hour charitable street concert, which raised local ire to go along with donations because of the amplified music and the lack of crowd control. In a letter to Metro's Charitable Solicitations Board, residents of the Disciples Divinity House (20th and Adelicia) complained that the noise was unrelenting until 11:00 PM and that there were children living in the house who had to go to school the next day. Additionally, they pointed out that their access in and out of their residence was blocked, hundreds of people "overran" the DDH property, and several South Street workers were caught illegally dumping trash in the House dumpster.

In an October 31, 1994 letter to DDH, Solicitations Board Chair Marilyn Swing wrote that her office would remind the groups organizing the event that it was "their duty to comply with all local laws which would apply to any type of event held in Nashville -- including trespassing, noise levels and parking regulations." She also encouraged DDH to let her know whenever such fundraisers were scheduled in the future so that she could alert Metro Police. But given what we know about the lack of action by police officers to deal with noise complaints in Midtown over the years, how could the prospect of alerting police be of any comfort?

In a separate letter to DDH, the beneficiary of South Street's excuse to get buzzed and obnoxious charity event, Dreammakers, Inc., offered residents its "sincere apologies" for the disturbance. Dreammakers asserted that it was "unaware" that the South Street party might create problems for Midtown residents, but it assured them that if they are selected to be beneficiaries of South Street productions in the future, they would bear their "responsibility to be considerate" of the neighborhood.

Obviously, the Bound'ry's ownership team was just as willing to extend their "concept" into the street and on to adjoining properties as they were to have it blaring on their premises. Could it be that Midtown has been forced to accept whatever the Bound'ry owners impose upon it? (That's not a rhetorical question).

Fences Don't Make Good Racist, Toxic Dumpsites

Nashville's Aunt B. travels to Dickson to provide video and commentary of the neighborhoods around Eno Road being built and sold in the lap of the county landfill that contaminated the drinking water and that likely caused the various, rampant cancers plaguing long-time local families. It looks like instead of cleaning up the mess, Dickson is encouraging new housing in the area, potentially exposing others to life-threatening illness. Auntie notes the methane exhaust tubes sitting on land outside the fences of the capped dump.

HT: Newscoma for context

Time to Put that "Midtown is for Locals" Myth to Bed

According to a 2004 Nashville Business Journal:
[The Bound'ry] brings in the 30-to-55 crowd .... More than half its customers are from outside Nashville or are not native to the local area.
So much for that cliché about where locals go and where tourists go.

More Tutoring for the Metro-Budget-Challenged

Council Member Emily Evans continues to enlighten Nashville on the nuts and bolts of passing the Metro Budget. Her latest offering covers the Transit Authority, considers the hits that Public Works is going to face, and reprises her very thorough grasp of H2O rates (as she did at the Salemtown Neighbors meeting last month). Read and learn.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bound'ry Owners Turned Away Previous Openness to Turn Down Amps in Favor of Their Code Violating "Concept"

When Bound'ry owners took over a spot already notorious to some in Midtown for posing a "nuisance" to the folk who actually lived in the neighborhood, they let neighbors know with no apologies (like those of owners past) that they would guard what they called their "concept": a late-night open air atmosphere where the amps stayed turned up generating loud decibels past the 100 foot code restrictions and into the neighborhood. Moreover, the speakers would be directed outside and elevated to reach farther by means of their placement on an open-air second-story balcony.

According to documents on file at the Disciples Divinity House (across the street from the Bound'ry) lifetime restaurateur Jay Pennington and his partner Jimmy Lewis (who was once convicted for running an illegal gambling enterprise) made it clear to residents two years after the Bound'ry opened that they were not going to turn down their amps due to their "concept."

Mr. Lewis would go on 10 years later to piss off Midtown businesses at a separate location by bequeathing the gift of a strip joint called "Vivid" to the same neighborhood:

The businesses surrounding 19th Avenue and Division, a thriving urban business district, include a karaoke bar, hair salon, law association and upscale eateries. None seem pleased with the new addition to the neighborhood, but nobody is quite as close to the problem as Cassie Aitkens, operator of Hot Yoga Nashville. Vivid has opened on the first floor of the building where Aitkens runs her yoga studio, and no number of downward dog poses has given her peace about this development.

"I'm very upset about it, only because I was led to believe that a much more tasteful establishment would be going in there," she says. Aitkens says that, so far, most of her students remain committed to the yoga studio and continue to take classes. But, "Some of the more conservative population that come from Belle Meade haven't been attending as much," she says.

Unbowed by neighborhood criticism, the strip club/Bound'ry landlord suggested to the Nashville Scene in 2004 that Vivid was more wholesome than art:

Scare up some 8-foot copper thongs and banana slings, make it a lapdance and everybody's happy.

When the strip club Vivid opened directly underneath Hot Yoga this year, yoga-goers and neighborhood regulars were understandably upset about their seedy new neighbor. But Vivid's landlord, Jimmy Lewis, didn't see why they were offended. The real vulgarity, he said, was Musica—the classical sculpture in the Music Row Roundabout. According to Lewis, nude sculptures are "more offending to me than a dance club." He considered the art very sexual and inappropriate, claiming he felt more comfortable driving his grandchildren by a strip club than the statue. (Thanks, Grandpa!) His leasing agent, Jim Boyd, went even further, saying that the Venus de Milo and David shouldn't be shown to children. In conclusion: porn good, art bad. Got it.

UPDATE: Here is more neighborhood reaction to Bound'ry owner Jimmy Lewis's strip club a few years ago (via William Williams at the City Paper):
Advocates of the fast-changing commercial and residential area met Monday afternoon on the Vanderbilt University campus to discuss how they can address the overlay district that permits adult entertainment activity. "It's time to take another look at the boundaries [of the overlay district]," said Betty Nixon, VU assistant vice chancellor for community, neighborhood and government relations. "The area is undergoing growth in a very positive way. I don't see [Vivid] as damaging that growth, but I do see it as inappropriate to the development that is happening." Others share Nixon's views. They say the timing is bad, particularly given major Midtown additions such as Roundabout Plaza, Bristol on Broadway, 807 18th , and Jim Caden's Demonbreun Street strip that contains restaurants, bars and retail. Ashlyn Hines, a partner with Bristol on Broadway developer Bristol Development Inc., said she is disturbed by the thought of having an exotic dance club only one block from the residential building her company will unveil by year's end. "This is the kind of business that sets the neighborhood back," Hines said. Bill Knestrick, president and chief executive officer of Knestrick Contractors Inc., said his company has a contract to purchase area property to develop a residential project. "This will definitely make us reconsider doing that," Knestrick said. "Has anybody ever said anything positive about a strip club going into a neighborhood?" he asked.

Marathon Less Than a Week Away

Photo of last year's Country Music Marathon headed up and down Rosa Parks. The 6-10 day weather forecast looks good for the annual rite of spring that skirts Salemtown next Saturday. I'll be up bright and early for it (as a spectator). How about you?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bill Maher Needs More Guests Like Cornel West

I like watching HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, but I like the show even more when he has legitimate religious intellectuals like Cornel West to keep him honest in his "amateur atheism." West got Maher to concede tonight that rationalists can be just as dogmatic in their thought processes as religionists are in their theologies. Rationalist Maher looks a lot more reasonable when he has a loyal nemesis or two on his panels. His criticism of the papacy carries much more weight with me when he can also find a way to concede that there are progressive Catholics who work for social justice.

Beer Consumption and Gardening Tip of the Week

Budweiser Select is a better slugocide than Rolling Rock.

I found almost twice as many slugs in the pans of Bud Sel that I put in the garden last night than I did in the pans of Rolling that I put out the night before last. Moreover, snails with shells were also attracted to Bud Sel (which I picked up on a hunch from the MetroCenter Exxon last night); S-townWife's already stocked Rolling took out no shelled slimers.

These are unscientific results that may have as much to do with location and flora. Rolling was placed alongside unplanted ligularia. Bud Sel was placed in less exposed area next to established hostas.

But for now, I'll leave the Rolling Rock for the wife. Whenever I make my beer runs to drown slugs and snails (they like the yeast, but hate the lack of oxygen), it will always be Budweiser Select, Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1990 Letter from Restaurant to Residents Acknowledges and Apologizes for "Inconvenience" of Late-night Noise

While the Metro Police and others have suggested that late-night amplified music has always been an embraced norm of the neighborhood around The Bound'ry restaurant, there is even more evidence from the past that suggests otherwise.

I have obtained a copy of a letter dated May 21, 1990, in which the president of the company (Low Country Associates, Inc.) owning Third Coast Cafe, the restaurant that stood on the property on which The Bound'ry currently sits, writes to nearby residents:

We the management, staff and entertainers at Third Coast Cafe hereby commit to the following live entertainment schedule, effective immediately:

Monday thru Thursday evenings outdoor live entertainment hours will be 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday evenings outdoor live entertainment hours will be 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience which our schedule may have caused in the past, and we look forward to a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship with you in the future.

John H. Tunstall, Jr.

If late-night amplified music has always been an accepted and ordinary event in the Midtown neighborhood, then why would this restaurant CEO be publicly apologizing and restricting his commercial hours?

If you are keeping score at home, so far we have evidence of Midtown neighbors expressing opposition to amplified music in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in the 1990s, and at the present. The real question is not whether current residents should stop complaining and accept a mythic history of late-night music in Midtown. The real question is whether there has ever been a time when the neighborhood expressed actual contentment with and acceptance of a late-night commercial music venue that projected sound more than 100 feet past its boundaries. Where is the evidence that such a time ever existed? I have yet to see it.

Injunction Brought Against Restaurant's Amplified Music in 1979

Some kind of audibly imposing restaurant has existed at The Bound'ry's location for a long time, a fact which is attested to by court documents from 1979. At that time an injunction was brought by married couples and individuals of the Disciples Divinity House (which was built in the 1950s and still houses residents today) against "Daddywackers, Inc.," which owned and operated a restaurant with electronic amplification equipment occupying the space where The Bound'ry now resides.

The 1979 injunction charged that Daddywackers was operating "in such a manner as to unreasonably interfere" with "the reasonable use and enjoyment" of the residents' living quarters. The injunction--filed pending a law suit to "restrain and prohibit the Defendants"--argued that the commercial business constituted "a nuisance." The hall's lawyer argued that music was "plainly audible between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. at a distance of 100 feet," which was a violation of the existing law.

An injunction and a lawsuit 30 years ago do not sound like a legacy of neighborhood contentment and acceptance of amplified music to me. Although I concede that those bar patrons who stagger out of a pulsating establishment after midnight with a hard beer buzz on may not think that the establishment is a nuisance as they head back to their quiet homes elsewhere.

State Concludes that Historic Sylvan Park Church Can't be Sold for Commercial Purposes

The City Paper has the story on how Rite-Aid would have been wrong in the State Attorney General's book. Ostensibly looks like a loss for the church membership and a partial win for preservationists and the local neighborhood (can a church group buy the property and demo the 1921 structure and build another church?).

Nothing to Be Concerned about Here?

Police finally got back yesterday to Salemtown Neighbors on what was up with that Blues Brotheresque cop chase last week with a final destination of Salemtown:
this was a pursuit of possible robbery suspects they were chasing from South Nashville. Two people were arrested; they were taken to South Precinct for interviews and later taken to booking to be processed for the arrests.
When the dispatcher responded last week that a vast armada of police vehicles descending on Salemtown was nothing to be concerned about, perhaps she meant that they were not "armed or aggravated robbery" suspects? And the mainstream news silence on this one--given the police response--is deafening.

CORRECTION: Morgan says in the comments below that Channel 4 covered the story the next morning. I stand corrected.

Best Analysis of Council's Preds Subsidy Vote

After reminding us that this could have been much worse had Nashville's Original Sugar Daddy of Sport Phil Bredesen been conducting Metro's monetary giveaway, PiTH's Matt Pulle concludes:
the timing of the council's vote is wretched: Right when the city is preparing to can 200 Metro employees, it's electing to give super-wealthy owners of a professional sports team a multi-million dollar handout to run their money-losing business. But if we let the team go, supporters of the deal say, the arena would lose its No. 1 tenant. And don't forget that thousands of Predators fans wouldn't be coming downtown to spend their money anymore. So, yes, it's hard to dismiss those points outright, but the arena did just fine in the first two years before the Predators came to town. More importantly, no objective study has shown that the benefits of having a hockey team playing downtown outweigh the costs of propping up its existence. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true, but shouldn't our city be armed with more than a hunch before we agree to a five-year deal?
Matt also gives proper respect to CM Megan Barry, who once again proved why Nashville is not worthy of her leadership. I wouldn't blame her for moving to some other cool place that doesn't need to pay a hockey team millions to convince itself that it is cool. Austin sounds about right. Go, Ice Bats!

Historic Germantown, Inc. Chooses Not to Circulate Petition Favoring Increased Mall Security

As I'm gearing up to write my fourth or fifth letter to State Senator Thelma Harper (in as many months with no responses) on the lack of Bicentennial Mall security, I received word Wednesday night that Historic Germantown, Inc. has chosen not to sign the petition that Freddie O'Connell wrote and Salemtown Neighbors approved in February. You can read the petition here, and see for yourself that there's little controversial, radical, or inflammatory about it, so Germantown's rebuff is a riddler.

They reportedly have inside information that hasn't been communicated to Salemtown leaders that emergency call boxes--which is one thing we have been asking for since State Parks Commissioner Jim Fyke scoffed at the suggestion when I brought it up to him by phone in November--are coming in 4 to 6 months. Should we accept this news, then we must also accept that what was the scornworthy suggestion of a lone malcontent on November 5, 2007 will be implemented by the State of Tennessee next fall; and so, Germantown seems to be declaring victory without having to commit troops.

Nonetheless, the string of unfulfilled state promises gets stretched farther:
  1. State Senator Thelma Harper phones about a brokered deal to come at the end of November.
  2. Senator Harper tells a Channel 4 reporter that we will see changes "in the spring."
  3. Germantown leaders say that changes, specifically kiosks, are coming in the fall.
Given the string of unrealized promises on top of the unwillingness of state officials to communicate with Salemtown leaders, why should we believe that next fall is going to be any different than last November or this spring? In the meantime, it looks like the North End is not going to hang together on the issue of increased park security; that makes me wonder whether we'll watch each other's back on other issues in the future.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Police Chief Wrote Reassuring Letter to Concerned Midtown Resident about the Noise

The Metro Police seemed to express a different attitude in 1999 toward a Midtown noise complaint about The Bound'ry than they did in the e-mail I posted earlier this afternoon regarding a complaint by Adelicia residents about the bar's late night sub-woofing.

I obtained this copy of a letter written by former Chief of Police Emmett H. Turner to a resident living across the street from The Bound'ry; the letter promises action on any violation of the code on amplified music or other loud noise:

(Click on to enlarge)

While in the 2008 e-mail police also say they are going to follow up to enforce noise codes, it looks more like a rather weak attitude waffling between "well, I guess we have to do this" and "we just have not received complaints from the content neighborhood." Some research into past police records would have at least turned up Chief Turner's letter, which makes it clear that there have been past complaints. I'm tending to believe that there are other police records that have not been looked at that show calls with neighborhood complaints about the noise level in Midtown.

Police E-mail Says Bound'ry Not Exempt from Noise Ordinance

E-mails passing between Metro Police and the Metro Council office in the last 24 hours indicate that the Bound'ry may have indeed violated the noise ordinance and that police have not enforced it under the mistaken belief that the restaurant was excluded.

After being contacted by Midtown residents about possible noise violations, CM Erica Gilmore asked for clarification from Metro Police on the situation. Here is the e-mail response from Metro Police to the Metro Council Office's inquiry (spelling errors left in):
For a long time now it was believed that The Boundary was within the CC and CF excluded "entertainment zone" which would make them exempt from the Noise Ordinance. I am sure that the Boundary manager would also assume that they are as they are so very very close. After taking a second look it does appear to me that the actual "exempt zone" is actually in-between Scarritt Place and Edgehill and then 21st and 16th. That would place The Boundary just barley half a block north of the "exempt zone", just technically outside the protected zone [actually, The Bound'ry is one and a half blocks from Scarritt Place]. On the other hand I would say this---- Boundary has played this music at this loud level for years and persons have always accepted it as part of the bar/entertainment district and also a part of urban living. I suggest that the midnight officers that will be checking on this be accompanied by a Sergeant as I am sure the Boundary management will be very unpleased with this enforcement action. I would suggest that the midnight supervisor take a copy of the Noise Ordinance to point out the correct geographical area. It may also be wise to issue warnings so all parties can become educated to the ordinance itself and also get used to it's enforcement.
I would question the conclusion that Midtowners have already accepted it. I've already located a 1987 note that residents did not accept it, and I bet that more evidence exists. More to come.

The Disparity Between Who's on the Hook and Who Should Really Be on the Hook

In two simple contrasting, yet unbroken observations, the City Paper accurately portrays the contradiction of the passage of Metro's deal to subsidize the Nashville Predators last night:

Because the deal will also be retroactive to last July, Metro will have to pay the new ownership group the difference between the two agreements.

The 14,000 average attendance mark comes against the backdrop of the team averaging about 13,400 fans per game this regular season.

Metro tax dollars mitigate owner risk; meanwhile, Preds fans don't live up to their end of the bargain. Davidson County loses. Williamson County wins.

Marsha's Mismanagement

How does the Tennessean get away with calling Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn "a stickler about financial matters" and reporting her 6-year-long failure to account for donations and spending of $440,000 all in the same article? Is this the paper's attempt to dumb down the label "a stickler about financial matters"?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jerry Maynard Pulls and Withdraws "Beer Cabaret" Bill

Life is apparently not a cabaret, old chum.

Jeff Street Intersection Improvement Bill Passes

More north-by-northwest details about the bill after the jump.

Mayor's Preds Subsidy Bill Passes

The final tally was something like 30-8. Besides Megan Barry's vote against it, the other at-Large Council Members (Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Charlie Tygard, and Tim Garrett) voted for the bill. Pep rally, over.

Erica Gilmore Declares that She Will Vote Against Preds Deal

CM Gilmore told Metro Council that she cannot reconcile paying millions in taxpayer money with the existence of problems in her community like constituents with no health care, no jobs, and losing their homes.

Megan Barry Declares that She Will Vote Against Preds Deal

CM Barry told Metro Council that the important question is not, "Is Nashville a better place with the Predators?" but "Is continuing to subsidize the team a wise way to spend further tax dollars?" She answered, "No."

Council Passes Re-Development Bill For Dickerson Road Area

The Skyline Redevelopment Plan moves forward.

Nashville Yesterday: Restaurant Before the Bound'ry Was also a Late-Night Imposition on Residents

Since I wrote last night's post on problems Midtown residents are having with the Bound'ry after midnight, a couple of commenters have compared Midtown to Downtown with respect to the noise level. As one friend pointed out to me today, such a comparison is one of apples and oranges. Downtown is primarily and unmistakably an entertainment district that has only recently become residential. Downtown probably has very loud decibel allowances.

Midtown was largely residential until more recently; now it is more mixed-use. One would expect a greater tolerance for sub-woofers (and jacked, wall-shaking sub-woofers are nothing like just turning the volume up on your garden variety music) in Downtown and less tolerance in a more traditional mixed-use neighborhood like Midtown.

There is a residence hall right across 20th Avenue from The Bound'ry, and that hall has been in operation since the 1950s. So, the commenters who suggest that loud venues have been around longer than residents and that new residents should realize what they are getting themselves into are not being entirely correct. The history of the place is not that restaurants got built first and complaining neighbors came later. The recent Adelicia complaint is probably one in a long line of complaints over the decades of commercial encroachment. Midtown wasn't born in the 1990s when The Bound'ry was.

In fact, I was given a note today written by a resident back in 1987 regarding the restaurant that stood where the Bound'ry does now:

Last night The Third Coast played music until 1:40 a.m .... residents confronted the manager at least five times and called the Cafe numerous times as well. Metro police visited the Cafe three separate times but to no avail.

The city ordinance states an 11:00pm silence, yet the Third Coast has not obeyed the ordinance ....

[another resident] picks up at least one large size garbage bag full of beer bottles, etc. which are thrown out by patrons of Third Coast & Marty's .... Third Coast and Marty's do nothing to help keep the neighborhood clean.

That hardly sounds like someone writing in a predominantly entertainment district like Downtown. I don't believe that it serves the communities that have called Midtown home over the decades to compare them to new urbanism's residential communities (like those springing up around Downtown). And I don't think it's too much for neighborhoods outside Downtown to ask that their noise levels be kept well below Downtown's (like at a middle range of decibels?); otherwise, Midtowners would live in Downtown.