Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blogging to Write Requires "Time to Think"

Giving myself "time to think" is the biggest challenge in blogging.  There is a recurring tension between constant speed and critical reflection.  My most satisfying writing occurs when I put it down, walk away, and come back to edit before publishing.  Stream of consciousness writing does not suit me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Border Patrol Tears Down Village Footbridges between Lifelong Neighbors

I spent over 70 years on this border and they never terrorized me.
- - Texas teacher on US Border Agents' claim that her Mexican neighbors were terrorists

Homeland Security is not just building a wall on the border (except across wealthy people's land and resorts); they are also tearing down small village footbridges, which represent decades of cooperation and sharing resources between Texans and their Mexican neighbors. One south Texas blogger has news and pictures of a 50-year-old Candelaria, TX footbridge that was demolished in June.

These tiny border villages (Candelaria's pop. is around 50) have survived on a mutual cross-border economy that was around long before "free trade" ever popped into the enlightened heads of politicos.  While Homeland Security is erasing these neighborly links under the auspices of "protecting us from terrorists," it smells like an attempt to clear out hyper-local, village economies in order to fry bigger fish.

Here's video of what the bridge did for both sides of the river before the federales demolished it:

By taking that bridge out, Homeland Security erected barriers to educating children and to accessing emergency health care, and they obstructed good will that two villages spent half of last century building.


Fight over Non-Profit Grant Money?

The Metro Council's Budget & Finance Committee is currently debating the non-profit grant award process in which panel reviews dictate which organizations are going to get Metro tax revenues. Given contrasting comments by Charlie Tygard and Jerry Maynard, it sounds like there is some bellyaching e-mails coming from some losing non-profits and their supporters over not having enough information about the award process and about possibly being overlooked even though their scores were higher. Metro Council will consider the awards at their next meeting.

With budget shortfalls in public services gallore, watching non-profits fight over what Mayor Dean throws them feels like slow death by a thousand tiny cuts.

UPDATE:  Buttorff follows up:
“It seemed to us that it became a process where [a nonprofit group] knew the Mayor or they knew the Council or they knew somebody,” said Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling. “We felt there needed to be a process created that gave everybody equal footing and that’s what we think we’ve done with this.”

Tygard said that all three panels should use the same process. The Metro Council has to approve the grant awards as recommended by the Mayor’s Office.

Yesterday, Tygard said he’s going to file an amendment to alter the funding awards before the Council votes on the issue next week.
Jerry Maynard also made some reference to e-mails he is getting from a non-profits about this issue. It seems like the patronizing relationship between some non-profits and Council Members is still in place. I wonder how much lobbying is going on, and despite the Grant Coordination Director's claim that they are "building the airplane while flying it," some of the conflict of interest issues seem obvious.

Planning Sets Date for Decisions on Scottsboro/Bells Bend Neighborhood Plan and MTC Alternative Proposal

Planning's announcement:
The Scottsboro/Bells Bend Detailed Design Plan is the first item for discussion on the Commission's August 14 agenda following adoption of the agenda, comments from Council members, and consideration of the deferred and consent agenda. There will not be any further public hearing on this item. Seating will be first come, first served - doors will open at 3:30 pm, and the meeting will begin at 4.

The first row of seats will be reserved for Metro Council members, and the next eight rows will be reserved for persons who have other items on the agenda and are not involved in the Scottsboro/Bells Bend plan. Some of those seats may come open once the consent agenda is heard. Overflow seating will be available in the vending area.
No indication that Planning will have an independent impact study done between now and Aug. 14. Looks like the commission is going to make a decision on the basis the Department's recommendation, on public feedback and on Tony Giarratana's contracted studies.

They Went Back to Ohio (for Tax Breaks)

Richard Lawson is using Bridgestone's choice of Akron, OH instead of Murfreesboro for its technology center as more fodder to keep Tony Giarratana's May Town Center project on the City Paper readership radar.

However, Lawson leaves out some significant details.  According to a dispatch from Ohio it looks like Bridgestone is moving not simply because someone built them a "campus" or a "second satellite" of Akron, but because they are going to receive free money from the local government:
A state agency gave the green light Monday for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC to receive an $18 million tax break if it keeps its technical center in Akron.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority's five-member panel unanimously approved the deal, which would allow Bridgestone Firestone to pay just 25 percent of its state commercial activity tax bills for 15 years. In exchange, the company would be required to retain operations in Akron for at least 18 years.

The offer is part of an estimated $68 million economic-development package being pulled together by the state, Summit County and the city to keep the tire company's technical center in Akron.
Why would Southcomm journalist Rickard Lawson leave this not-so-minor detail out?  Perhaps because it undermines one of the cornerstone justifications Tony G.'s  minions are using:  that MTC would generate an avalanche of tax revenues to pay for public services and education without having to raise property taxes.  Acknowledgement that Tennessee and Davidson County may have to give tax revenues to corporations to relocate to Bells Bend rather than spend them on Metro schools is not exactly good brochure material.  It's more along the lines of "sex to save the friendship."

From what I can tell, a campus is not going to be the catalyst in the Bridgestone deal, because the Murfreesboro site included plans for a 125-acre mixed-use development.  MTC is planned as a 50-acre mixed-use development, and Tony Giarratana has insisted that corporations (like Bridgestone) require a minimum of 50-acre campuses (the next logical question being, why should we assume that only 50-acres of MTC is going to be enough, when suburban areas can offer two- and three- times that space?).

Of course, Richard Lawson chooses not to give a lot of information regarding Murfreesboro or why they didn't get the Bridgestone center, probably because more information doesn't serve his primary mission to carry Tony G.'s water.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Was MetroCenter Also Once Proposed as the "Biggest Opportunity" in Nashville's History?

In a blog post related to McNeely Pigott & Fox public relations firm, Tennessean reporter Michael Cass seems to repeat the local media mantra concerning the "opportunity" of torpedoing the Scottsboro/Bells Bend neighborhood plan in favor of handing land over to a speculator name Tony Giarratana to build a "second downtown" called "May Town Center."

No word from Cass on the risk that present opportunities to ignore conservation on parts of Bells Bend might constitute a slippery slope down to future opportunities to ignore conservation on other parts of Bells Bend that the MTC team arbitrarily promises will be protected according to the alternate concept of the moment.  There is only opportunity, which is pretty much Tony G.'s script.  Oh, journalistic objectivity, thou art fleeting and rare.

Metro Planning Has Updated Salemtown's Neighborhood Profile

Planning updated S-town's profile at the end of last month, and it includes some noteworthy numbers.  Numbers that stand out to me:  in 2007 "persons per household" average is 2.24, which sustains the question of whether this is a kid-friendly neighborhood.

Another troubling stat is that more than half of all residential lots are held by absentee owners.  Even though absentee owners exercise influence over the planning process, they tend to be less involved in the everyday life of the neighborhood.  Our absentee owner rate is over twice the rate of properties in some east and west Nashville neighborhoods, although it is consistent with other mostly African American north Nashville neighbors like Fisk and Hadley Park.  It would be hard to judge whether or not there is a subtle form of racism in the higher absentee owner rate without knowing what the ethnic breakdown of the absentee owners is.

The annual increase in sale prices for single family homes is over 35%, which is good for our family's pocketbook.  However, it may not be great for affordable housing:  when we moved to Salemtown the average sale price was $114,000.  This year it is $203,625, which is a chunk of change more than we paid for our home.

You Better Think about the Judgment Day

A pastor from Bells Bend asks to get a witness against the May Town Center team and the Planning staff in Sunday's Tennessean:
Jack May was able to hijack the whole community plan process," said Joe Ingle, a United Church of Christ minister who has lived in Bells Bend since 1978. "One wealthy landowner, a multimillionaire, overtook and thwarted the community's wishes, aided and abetted by the (Metro) Planning Commission staff.

"Here we were, on the verge of having a distinct, creative plan … and he was able to come in and essentially co-opt the process."
In his public hearing comments last Thursday, Rev. Ingle also confronted the Metro Planning Department staff for refusing to refer to call Scottsboro/Bells Bend residents what they call themselves: neighbors. Planners bring their own jargon to neighborhoods calling self-described neighbors "stake-holders" who get academically "mapped" relative to the May Town Center project that Planning is recommending in place of the neighborhood sub-area plan. The business-biased assumptions of a "stake-holder" model of reducing the complexity of a local community to economic categories could not be more clear even if more "mappable."

Too Little Too Late

This bill will be about as significant as those handful of City Paper editorials against English Only. We've got too many paper tigers and too few teeth.

GOP's Perception Problem

Six-in-ten Americans say the GOP favors the rich. What do they know? They're obviously just trying to start class warfare. (Unless Republicans really are lame at governing on behalf of more than a small minority).

Charrette's Cliff Challenges Chatterbox's Census Comprehension

In his continuing mission to help Tony Giarratana pry a long-term neighborhood plan for Scottsboro/Bells Bend out of the neighbors' hands, Southcomm journalist Richard Lawson (now in the name of good schools) argues that Metro's population growth is "flat" rather than "clearly positive."

Downtown Cliff counters that the "flat growth" hypothesis is fabrication:
Lawson perpetuates the myth that population growth is flat in Nashville. Actually, the county grew 8% from 2000 to 2007 and Nashville (minus the non-metro cities) grew 9%. Davidson County accounted for nearly 10% of the state's total population growth for the period.
Besides questioning Lawson's loose interepretation of statistics, we are also bound to ask why he should assume that garage-studded suburbia represent "close-knit communities." In fact, a previous study I've read on motivations for moving to the suburbs indicated that communitas was not part of the common expectation. The suburb merely represents a cultureless provisional weigh station that affords educational opportunities and safer neighborhoods until the kids get grown.  I can see no real basis for what Lawson describes other than his own unquestioned premises about neighborhoods in which he may or may not live.

UPDATE:  Cliff continues to rock assumptions about growth:
Nashville-Davidson grew by 49,276 new residents from 2000 to 2007, 2nd highest in the state. That was 11,000 more than Williamson County. Only Rutherford, at 57,892, had more new residents.

Nashville-Davidson grew by 49,000 despite our failing schools. Turn the schools around and watch what happens.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ending Restrictive Racial Covenants: Extent vs. Exactitude

There is merit in obliterating restrictive racial covenants from Southern California housing market, where developers and neighborhoods widely used them in the last century to get around legal prohibitions against racist zoning.

But there is also merit when ethnic minorities inhabit homes in areas where those restrictive covenants once kept them out.  What a powerful testament to their children:  to learn of such prejudice and hatred and then to witness their parents overcome it and live wherever they desire.  And what a powerful privilege it would be to join their parents at the local register of deeds headquarters or the county clerks office as all references to racial covenants are eradicated from the records of their land.

If a California Assemblyman accomplishes his goal to remove archaic and irrelevant racist covenants from properties, he will no doubt spare future generations from the ugly legacy of suburban prejudice.  However, he will also take away profound opportunities many self-empowered parents have to teach their children that they can stand up and overcome the racism on their own.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that what is gained in extent is lost in exactitude.  I admire anyone who feels strongly about sweeping clean the racism of the past across abstractly large populations, but there is solid power in a family's ritual transcendence and purging of racism of the past, too.  And sometimes when one strives for a blanket opportunity, one forfeits other meaningful possibilities.

SNNA to Ask When the Plastic Comes off

Tonight's Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association was puncuated by some sense of accomplishment with word that the Bredesen Administration had reversed course and apparently decided to put in emergency speaker boxes at Bicentennial Mall State Park in the wake of last September's sexual assault.  However, the membership also expressed concerns about how the state handled requests for changes and about how constituents were treated.  It authorized its leadership to write follow-up letters to the Parks Commissioner, State Senator Thelma Harper, and State Representative Mary Pruitt to try to find out when and whether the boxes will come on line and to continue to express its concerns to government leaders.

"Bitter" Brentwood Don Gets Lobbyied Up and Looks to Council for Traction

The Scene's Matt Pulle on Tony Giarantana's provocative presentation on May Town Center to the Planning Commission:
I can’t tell you how badly you came off [Thursday night]: Bitter, petulant, arrogant, and snobby. Like Donald Trump after a bad day on the golf course. Did you really imply that a neighbor’s stance matters more if they own a lot of land? Even when the Founding Fathers decried that only property owners could vote, they didn’t give the wealthiest more ballots. My God, Tony. Is that how they think out there in Brentwood?

You were so dismissive of the people of Scottsboro, who would have to live with the consequences of more than 40,000 new office workers in their pleasant rural community. You need to be assuring them -- not making them out to be whiners. And your claim that Vanderbilt is closer to May Town than some of its opponents is true — but only if you’re a crow or a triathlete. Even if you build a bridge over the Cumberland — and pay for it yourself — it would still take twice as long to drive to West End than the most remote corner of Scottsboro ....

Did you know you were yelling [Thursday] night? We all kind of felt a little uncomfortable. You sounded like Will Ferrell in that “I drive a Dodge Stratus” Saturday Night Live skit. You were furious, though I suppose if I was the lead man in a $4 billion project that was going down the tubes, I’d be a little irritated myself.But I’m an amateur, Tony. I get frustrated when my date doesn’t return a text message. You’re the pro. So at least try to be charming. Because when you shout refrains like, "The economic impact of May Town Center can not be questioned!," you make even your supporters in those corporate green t-shirts cringe.

By the way, did you see how David Briley came off [Thursday] night? The former council member spoke out against your proposal on behalf of the neighbors. Notice how friendly and approachable he seemed? Sure, he obliterated your argument within a minute of taking the podium, but he did it like a southern Gentleman. It's all in the charm and subtlety. That guy should run for mayor one day.

Tony, didn’t you hire lobbyists to help you make your case?
As if on cue, the City Paper, which has already sucked up pretty hard to Tony G., is saying that he is bulking up on lobbyists for a Council fight. He also plans to saturate the airwaves with his sales pitch (which won't sell in Bells Bend) to the rest of Nashville.

Contact your Council Member now before the lobbyists get too burrowed too far in the Metro Council and Bells Bend is lost to a satellite city, a developer's wet dream.

Big Clarksville Developer Does His Part to Exacerbate the Housing Crisis

Bill Mace stands accused of taking part in a scheme in which checks homeowners wrote intending to pay off Mace's construction loans were instead used to fund his other developments. His alleged fraud means bank liens for his customers.

Now explain to me again how this is all going to wash out in an unregulated market.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When Your Internet Provider Becomes a Tubes Monitor

Be careful what you write on line Nashville. Big Brother Comcast might be monitoring it. Seems to me that they should be working on their low customer satisfaction ratings on the delivery end rather than probing blogs on the back end.

More Banks Fail

And there's more to come.

Net Neutrality Favored by All "Major" Senate Challengers

Open Left reports that all of the candidates challenging incumbents and having more than $500,000 on hand (hence, the handle "major") report that they favor net neutrality (initiative to keep a robust internet available to all rather than only making it available for a few who will pay more), even though some have accepted hefty campaign contributions from Big Telecom.

In a previous post, OL had reported that Tennessee challenger to Alexander's seat, Democrat Bob Tuke, is uncommitted on the issue of net neutrality, and he has received no money from Big Telecom as of July 16. What would it take Mr. Tuke to oppose the idea of a tiered public internet that gives the wealthy better service and limits the accessibility of everyone else based on what they can pay?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What I Was Told Couldn't Happen May Be Happening

Nearly a year after a Germantown woman was sexually assaulted at Bicentennial Mall State Park, the Parks Commission seems to be finally taking measures to help prevent future crimes from happening. And it looks like the changes include at least one that the Parks Commissioner Jim Fyke told me last fall was impossible when I mentioned it to him.

This morning I snapped a picture of what appears to be an emergency call box and a blue strobe light newly affixed to a park lamp post (HT to Joel B. for the tip after his original sighting while jogging the park). At least three lamp posts that I spotted across the park have these boxes (which are currently covered in plastic garbage bags).

Thanks to the Parks Commission for relenting on this issue and taking some action to make the North End a safer place to live and to traverse. Kudos to the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, which took the lead and expressed their concerns to both the Commission and our elected officials. A special thanks to all of those Nashvillians who sent e-mails and other correspondence to help leverage needed changes at the state park. Thanks to the television media (particularly WSMV and NewsChannel5) who publicized our safety concerns and (in Channel 4's case) followed up with State Senators. Speaking of State Senators, I do not know whether we should thank Thelma Harper because she never responded to any of my correspondence after we talked on the phone last November. I have no idea what if any role she played on this change of course. I am thankful I don't have to write her any more letters on this issue.

If there is anyone else whom I missed who deserves thanks for their efforts, please type them into the comments, and I'll lift them up here.

Looks Like Developer Intends to Blow Through and Run Over Anyone Who Gets in His Way

Tony G. responds to last night's Planning Commission spectacle by pushing past the commissioners to rush MTC to the Metro Council with as little public deliberation as possible. I saw him and Eric Crafton sharing a mouth-to-ear moment off to the side during a break at Thursday night's meeting, so I would bet that the arm-twisting and deal-making has started.

Meanwhile, Southcomm journalist Richard Lawson seems to be running ideological interference for Tony G. over at Urban Planet.

It is not too early to contact your Council Member and encourage them to support the Scottsboro/Bells Bend Neighborhood Design Plan against the alternative May Town Center proposal. For those of us here in the North End (and the rest of District 19), Erica Gilmore's contact info is: You can also contact the council members with a Metro website form. Don't forget the 5 at-Large members. Megan Barry has already said that she opposes MTC, so thank her for supporting the neighborhood of Bells Bend.

Friday, July 25, 2008

CM Evans Corrects the MTC Team Misconceptions & Offers Ideas for Competing with Cool Springs

My summary of Metro Council feedback on the Bells Bend Plan did not accurately portray the bang-up job that CM Emily Evans did last night addressing the median income differences between the Scottsboro/Bells Bend Community and Cool Springs (as well as similar development in Reston, VA, which Tony G. cites as a model for MTC).  She made some irrefutable points about the absence of a median income base on which to build MTC.

Today she is blogging her reservations about MTC (though not with the idea), and she is correcting wrong information that the MTC team put out.  First she challenges the dubious claim that there is no parcel of undeveloped land comparable to the Bells Bend acres:
Contrary to the testimony last night, there are a good number of parcels that exceed 50 acres in Davidson County. Fifty acres is the amount of land necessary, supposedly, for a "corporate campus." My search turned up about 710 properties. Some of those are occupied but quite a number are classified as vacant or rural. Interestingly, there appear to be a few on this side of the river, not terribly far from the "executive housing" that apparently is another way to say the 23rd District.
In well-reasoned style, CM Evans challenges Tony Giarratana's claims that Williamson County is wealthier than us thanks to developers building Cool Springs.  She points out that the WillCo machine is better greased than ours and they were coordinating development long before Cool Springs was built.

Finally, she offers a solution that would involve the Mayor's Office taking a more pivotal role through the General Plan and its Office of Economic Development than it has in the past.  The OED would work closely with Council Members to coordinate a county-wide economic strategy.

There you go, mainstream media.  Rather than hitching your wagon to a greenspace-gobbling land speculator (who came off last night as self-important and not above using growth as a bludgeon) while you christen it the only viable option, why not hitch it to a smart rising star like Emily Evans?

Southcomm's Grand Idea for Nashville's Future: Surrender It to Land Speculators

The kids at the City Paper have boxed themselves into such an editorial corner that they can only see one solution to meeting Nashville's infrastructure needs: trading a part of Nashville's common wealth to a land speculator and a property owner who will stand to make the kind of returns that George W. Bush did when he sold the Texas Rangers after supplying a minuscule initial investment and everybody else's money. And what is Nashville getting back? Pie-in-the-sky promises that if we build it corporations will automatically descend.  But we also face the very real prospect of paying indefinitely and exponentially for construction and maintenance of public infrastructure to support a campus to compete with Cool Springs without the benefit of the lower suburban prices in Cool Springs and without the certainty that a "campus" is the real difference. 

In contrast, the majority of the Scottsboro/Bells Bend community is not demanding at all: they don't want changes to the septic systems or widening roads and maintaining new bridges. All they are asking is that New Urbanism and real estate hucksters leave them alone. And the rest of us should heed their request. It's in our best interest, because the minute we open the door to the latest grand idea to be the kind of surrender monkeys that we've been to football stadiums and hockey arenas, then we'll find ourselves saying the kind of things that we do now to rationalize Metro's financing of inequitable commitments to private entities.

Metro Water funds continue to be diverted from sewer upgrades in order to finance the football stadium (whatever it's called this year). The Mayor's Office just committed more precious resources to keep the fan-challenged Predators playing in their rink so that we don't have to scramble to find other uses for it. And if we follow the City Paper kids down the merry way of sprawl by giving Bells Bend to a speculator who introduced this concept a few months ago, then I have no doubt we're going to wake up to editorials in a few years that repeat, "Yeah, this has not gone the way we predicted, but what are our options? We're in too far over our heads on MTC."

The people who live in the Bend have been working on a sub-area plan for decades, and yet, developers can swoop in and wave money in the face of a few mainstream media types and a savior for Nashville--made in the image of Cool Springs--is born in the press.  The solution to all our revenue and economic development challenges is Tony G.  And all he wants is to use a tiny part of the last major pristine parcel of city farmland to woo corporations.

Allow me to let the air out of this balloon that the developer-friendly media is inflating:  if May Town Center prompts us to abandon any firm line around urban-suburban sprawl with which we say, "No, there should be at least one major tract of land in Davidson County that is not open to the highest bidder," then there is nothing stopping us from abandoning any line arbitrarily drawn around MTC in the future.  On the contrary, there will be the same cascading effect on every other "conservation area" in the Bend.  We've seen it before. For every present guarantee there is a future backpedal with a lawyer to defend it.  The daisy chain of development doesn't stop until it exhausts all resources for itself and its supporters.  Bridges lead to wider roads.  Wider roads lead to more feeder streets and more homes.  More homes and streets lead to other business.  It's a war of attrition that ends with everyone trying to figure out what went wrong and why Bells Bend shrunk to nothing but an archaic name. 

Well, this is where it goes wrong.  Cheerleaders and drum majors in the mainstream media are falling in line with Tony G. and trying to drown out the voices in the neighborhood immediately impacted.  The City Paper expresses little interest in the sub-area plans or in the welfare of neighborhoods.  To them Bells Bend is a ledger and right now its natural resources sit on the liability side.  I am amazed in an age where sustainability is so significant that a news corporation can characterize the most important large urban greenspace in our country a liability, advance the idea of sprawl, and accuse critics of the May Town Center plan of being the ones to sacrifice Nashville's future.  You have got to hand it to the Southcomm set for at least having the nerve.  But you don't have to hand them the benefit of the doubt when they are wrong.  And there is nothing that demands that MTC critics meet any of City Paper's terms just because they don't like you pointing out how wrong they are.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

If you're going to build a strip mall in a forest it doesn't help us that you're going to use compact fluorescent blubs.
- - Council Member Mike Jameson in response to the claim that May Town Center will be environmentally friendly

They May Now Talk May

Developer Tony Giarratana  is first up and he has 14 minutes.  He says that he is supportive of the deferral but he wants that deferral to be limited to the time it takes to answer the question.  He claims that the bridge will not be paid for publicly but he and the May Family will pay for it.  Promises not to accept either state or federal money for the development.

UPDATE:  Tony G. is claiming that the majority of people in Bells Bend support MTC.  He wants to know why people who live around places Dickerson Road and Jefferson Street oppose this.  He says that he has support of the 19 members of Charlotte Park Neighborhood Association.

UPDATE:  Tony G. says that no public money will be spent on a school, a police department or a fire department in Bells Bend.  His company is going to donate the land for each and then pay private dollars for building the schools.  The logical next question:  what kind of private strings are going to be tied to privately constructed and financed public schools?  Is it in the public interest to have schools built with private money?

UPDATE:  Tony G. is done and promised to pay for a lot of different things.  Bordeaux business leader speaking in support of Tony G.

UPDATE:  I missed the traffic study official that spoke in Tony G.'s favor, but bporemski expresses perspective on that in the comments below.

UPDATE:  David Briley is now up speaking in rebuttal of Tony G.  Refers to the speculative nature of the MTC proposal.  There is no guarantee that business will come if MTC gets built, and Briley is unconvinced that Cool Springs itself attracts businesses.  Criticizing Tony G. for acting like everything good will happen if MTC is built.  Refers to Tony G. as a speculator who parachuted in not in 2000 or 2001, but in 2007 and asked for the neighborhood plan to be totally changed.  Briley ended by asking the Commission to approve the neighborhood plan and to reject the MTC alternative plan.

UPDATE:  MTC opponent has the money quote:  "The greatness of cities is not determined by what we develop, but by what we do not destroy."

UPDATE:  Specialist in sustainable development now speaking.  He is arguing that the Planning Department's alternative design plan relies on too many contingencies and it will continue sprawl and the "Cool Springization" of Nashville.  Paraphrasing him:  you can get LEED points for doing good things, but you can also do a lot of bad things in the name of LEED.

UPDATE:  Fellow representing the Firestone Corporation says that he resents Tony G. calling his company a "missed opportunity," given that they chose Davidson County for their headquarters.

UPDATE:  Village Real Estate's Mark Deutschmann calls MTC "a diversion" from Downtown development.  He's arguing that we can't have a great bifucated city.

UPDATE:  Joe Engle, a minister, contrasts the vision between Nashvillians who have developed a community over 30 years against that of a land speculator.  He dressed down the Planning Department staff for calling Bells Benders "stake-holders," instead of what they called themselves:  "neighbors."  He read a 2003 newspaper quote of Mr. May that he didn't believe in variances because they represented tax money for developers; now that Mr. May stands to make hundreds of millions off of his $25 million investment, he's singing a different tune.

UPDATE:  Tony G. gets his rebuttal time.  He's going after David Briley.

UPDATE:  Tony G. is saying that "he signs the note" in Downtown and nobody cares about protecting Downtown more than he does.  Says that Williamson County has great schools because of corporate relocation.  Chamber of Commerce would love that one.  He's applying a total business model to government:  he's saying that Metro's reliance on donations and contributions (18%) is precarious and no business would operate like that.  No kidding.  Government and business are supposed to be in different sectors.  Governments have libraries and schools and symphony halls and other institutions that have a pool of people that they draw donations from.  Businesses are expected to go it alone; they aren't public.

UPDATE:  Geez.  I'm sorry I've never heard this guy talk in a public setting like this.  He's a preacher, a salesman, a P.T. Barnum.

UPDATE (coming up on 7 hours of Planning Commission, 5 hours of Bells Bend tonight):  Rebuttal from MTC opponents.  Schools, crime, and number of McMansions probably had more to do with the companies not choosing Nashville than a 50-acre campus.  Dealing some reality:  "you cannot hold a hard-line boundary on this development."  Do we want to be more like sprawling Atlanta or more like Portland, OR, which drew a line around the city and refused to sprawl?

UPDATE:  And it's over.  The Planning Commission adjourned to meet at a forum to discuss the proposals at an as-yet-to-be-determined time in the future.

Summers Says Planning Staff's Plan Should Not Even Be Before the Commission

Neighborhoods Defense Fund leader and former CM John Summers told the Planning Commission tonight that with 92% opposition to the Planning Department's alternative plan for Bells Bend, it was a mistake to bring it to the Commission.  He pointed out rightly that the sub-area planning process was designed so that plans violently opposed in neighborhoods are never supposed to be brought up.

Double Standard?

The Commissioners have been stopping opponents of May Town Place from addressing that development in their comments in support of the Bells Bend Design Plan.  The first MTP proponent in a green "May Town Place" shirt just got up and spoke in favor of the development design and was allowed by the chair to complete her comments.

UPDATE:  Second green shirted MTC supporter was gavelled down when he started talking appealing to the development.  I don't see how the MTC supporters can even speak in the hearing without making appeals to MTC.

BTW, I think it says volumes that the supporters of the Bells Bend Neighborhood Design Plan (opponent of MTC) are wearing Bells Bend t-shirts vs the MTC proponents MTC/Balance shirts.  It's kind of an ironic twist that the larger vision is Bells Bend, not the special interest of MTC.

Friends of Nashville Farmers' Market President Speaks in Favor of Bells Bend Design Plan

FNFM President Jennifer Hagan-Dier spoke on behalf of the Bells Bend residents who want an alternative to the May Town Place.  She mentioned the need to bring in local produce rather than shipping it thousands of miles.

Correcting the "Property Rights" Record

One of opponents of May Town Center opponent argued at tonight's public hearing that the case that Scottsboro residents generally defend their right to rezone not with the idea of building apartments or office campuses, but in order to build a place for their elderly mothers or for small bed and breakfasts.  That's a whole different scale than the urban density the Planning Department is proposing to assist May Town Place.

Council Members Come Before Planning Commission on Bells Bend

Lonell Matthews (whom the City Paper called a "flip-flopper" on this issue) up first.  Mentions that 92% of people in area are opposed to May Town Center proposal.  Says he thought city planners offered a plan that would provide balance and lead nationally.  Says more questions need to be answered before plan can be approved:
  • location of bridge
  • infrastructure cost
Says that he is here not to express his personal support, but to represent his District 1 constituents.  But, ouch, he's comparing his constituents to children who don't like vegetables.  Mentioned the "flip-flopping" charges leveled at him earlier today.  Encouraged Commission to explore Bells Bend's neighborhood "3rd vision" for the Bend against the May Town Center alternative.

Emily Evans is up next.  Median income of Distict 1 is $18,000, much less than other major sections of Davidson County.  Developer missing the fact that builds like this elsewhere have a common denominator:  people with high median incomes (in Virginia and in Cool Springs).  Cockrill Bend bridge decision is a "purely political" decision.  Evans would prefer that bridge come through "the front door."  Approval of Scottsboro plan without May Town Center, send the developers back to the drawing board.

Mike Jameson next.  Supports Lonell Matthews and opposes May Town Center.  Vacancy rate Downtown is currently 10.7%.  Could be as high as 20% once underconstruction projects are finished.  He asks why we need this component when we have a satisfactory vacancy rate?  CBD leaders need guarantees that MTC would not detract from the central core.  He argues that MTC would also detract from the development of blighted urban areas like the East Bank, which already has 3 bridges.  Money quote:  "If you're going to build a strip mall in forest it doesn't help us that you're going to use compact flourescent blubs."

Jason Holleman follows Jameson (tough act to follow).  Appeals to commission on behalf of his constituents "across the river" from Bells Bend.  Concerned about the "flow through" and the lack of sub-area plans in his district.  Drove through the area, and he applauded the Benders who took charge of their destiny and proposed a detailed plan as an alternative to the alternative.

Buddy Baker simply asked for a deferral.

Eric "English Only" Crafton up next.  Says government should have a "laisssez-faire" attitude toward developers.  (I need someone to translate French for me while Metro employees can still do so before the English First referendum is passed).  No surprise he would be on the side of unfettered development; his occupation is "Home Builder."  He believes that May Town Center would compete.  He doesn't want the "whole county held hostage" so that the CBD can get more money.  Says that Bells Benders should be heard (gee, thanks!).  Wants to look at Nashville as "one component, not we vs. they."  Took some time to kiss up to "this mayor" in his expanding, rambling speech.  (I wish Vice Mayors Howard Gentry or Diane Neighbors were available to reign Mr. Crafton in as they did so effectively in council meetings).  Ends with a wish for a unified Nashville.  The ironic, comic relief portion is now over; let's hope so.

Michael Craddock says that he is here to learn about growth and about both sides of the issue.  He says he has not formed an opinion.  Mentions the property tax referendum and says that we are at a crossroads.  Wants the city to be selective and lood for "good, quality development that increases the tax base."   Uh-oh.  Sounds like he has developed an opinion.  Calls for a deferral and a "full vetting" of the information.

That's it for the Council Members present to speak.

It's Going to Be a Long, Bumpy Ride Tonight with a Longer Horizon for a Decision

The Bells Bend discussion tonight is divided into two sections:  the Bells Bend design plan and the May rezoning request, which is at the heart of Planning Department's alternative to the plan.  The Public Hearing is on the plan and 55 people have signed up to speak for or against it.  That's a possible two hours of public hearing without either consideration of the rezoning request or Commission debate.  The Commission decided to have their discussion at a special session on another day.  It's essentially a deferral after the public hearing.

UPDATE:  In their recommendation, Planning says 77% of land taken for parks or conservation.  Options for commercial uses include one Village Center along Hides Ferry Road, which bisects the center of the Scottsboro area west to east.  The "Alternative Development Area" proposal would make up 4% of the Scottsboro area.  Natural conservation policy would not be interrupted by alternative plan.  My question is:  what's to keep that policy from being nibbled to death by variances, exceptions, and rezoning efforts in the future?  It's like letting the camel nose under the tent:  once the nose comes in, there's nothing to keep the whole camel from following.

UPDATE:  Planning official did not really answer a commissioner's question about May Town Place detracting from other Davidson Co. office offerings as they would theoretically from Cool Springs.  She just provided from statistics of the areas with the lowest office availability.  What kind of answer is that?

John McCain May as Well Embrace English Only Now

According to Pew, two-thirds of all registered Latino voters support Barack Obama for President.

Planning Commission Considers 12South Neighborhood Design Plan

The Planning Commission is looking at the 12South Neighborhood Design Plan as I type. Here are the primary neighborhood concerns expressed to Metro Planning that gave rise to the plan:
  1. Limit building heights so that they don't tunnel over 12th Av S
  2. Parking around commercial businesses encroach on residential
  3. Need guidance for architectural standards
  4. Careful planning for housing types beyond single-family homes "creeping in"

UPDATE: Planning staff points out that #1 & #2 are interrelated, given that the taller buildings rise, the greater the limits on parking grow, since more people are going to require more parking.

UPDATE: Ken Winter has some personal reflections on his participation in formulating this Design Plan in this month's 12South newsletter.

UPDATE:  Some in 12South expressed the wish that the old Waverly-Belmont school building revert to educational and community uses.  Planning official said that proposal was not included because Metro Schools have already committed to using the building for their IT department.

UPDATE:  Planning Commission unanimously approved the 12South NDP.  Commissioner LeQuire expressed the wish that affordable housing could also be accounted for in the plan.  The proposal now moves to Metro Council only needing a simple majority for approval.  (NOTE:  an anonymous commenter unceremoniously informed me below that I'm wrong about design plans having to go before the Metro Council for approval).

Now If He Would Just Cancel His Offshore Drilling Plan, Too

Knoxviews reports that McCain cancels his campaign appearance in New Orleans to promote offshore drilling.  It wouldn't be the best time, given that the Mississippi is saturated in an OIL SPILL.

Planning Commission Poised to Make Fateful Bells Bend Decision Today with No Neutral Impact Study

One of the few voices of sanity on the May Town Center development is long-time Scene fixture Christine Kreyling, who points to the alarming ignorance with which the Planning Commissioners are set to decide the fate of Bells Bend this afternoon:
Unfortunately, the commissioners are scheduled to make one of the most important decision of their careers without the necessary facts. The whole premise for the land use change is economic impact. But to determine the degree to which the proposed project will boost the tax rolls, the commissioners must rely on statistics produced by the developers who want to build that shadow downtown.

"We don't have the resources to do our own economic study," explains the Metro Planning Department's Jennifer Carlat.
Holy rush-to-judgment, Batman! It really is the developers in charge of the hen house if the government officials whom we expect to be neutral fail to commission their own independent impact study in the name of defending the public interest. It's further evidence that the system is stacked against those of us who are not developers uploading slickly-produced digital presentations. How bought with developer money will the Planning Commission look if they pass this today?

"Southcomm Set" Should Be in Self-Promotional Overdrive on This One

Reporters (Analysts? Gentlemen Bloggers?) Lawson/Rau call Bells Bend council member a flip-flopper on May Town Center tug-o-war while Tony G. talks to them like he is choreographing CM's actions.  Oh, and the Mayor suddenly goes bold on the bridge and finds a backbone to stiffen on untrammeled development.

The Question May Town Place Proponents are Afraid To Answer

Assuming we permit a "second Downtown" to sprawl across Bells Bend in order to compete with Williamson County, what's to stop WillCo from upping the ante in the competition to attract relocating corporations by packaging a campus that is even more attractive than May Town Center?  Do proponents really think that our largely Republican neighbors to the south will sit by while it is being built and not find new ways to beat their Davidson County competition?

Forget the Baby Penguins. Yesterday's New Orleans Oil Spill Ought to Close Down McCain's Offshore Drilling Plan

So, if this is what can happen with a moratorium on off-shore drilling, just imagine what might happen should John McCain become President, end the moratorium, and loose the hounds on the Gulf of Mexico in the name of keeping the money flowing into oil company coffers.

Amateur video of the spill at Jackson Square:

AP/Coast Guard video of the spill from a helicopter:

The river is closed, which means that the largest US port is no longer shipping goods to the the nation's interior. Hence, the oil spill threatens not just the environment, but the national and the global economy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NYC Just Shoved Nashville Farther into the Bigoted Backwater

Unafraid of a cutting edge, Mayor Bloomberg ordered New York City's 100 agencies to provide services in SIX different languages (even French Creole!).  By contrast, the cosmopolitan metropolis Nashville--with expanding Kurdish and Hispanic populations--is on the verge of forcing all of its city employees to speak only English even if responding in another language might be easy or it might prevent an emergency situation.

Thanks to Eric "English Only" Crafton and his minions, we'll never have to worry about being labeled "Little Gotham" or being confused with a "welcoming city."

HT:  bporemski

Concept G(rass) Cut

But no sign of a harvest festival on the once bushy Concept G property.

Grantham Is Talking against Local Liberal Bloggers

Nashville is Talking's Christian Grantham says that it would be "nice to see some liberal bloggers stand up to elected officials who work with private developers to seize people's personal property."  I agree.  It would be nice to see liberal bloggers stand up to elected officials who work with private developers under many different conditions; that possibility is one of the reasons why I write Enclave, including posting on eminent domain issues.  Local liberal bloggers seem generally uninterested in development issues.

But I also feel ambivalent about the degree to which conservatives leap to fight eminent domain on an overblown and sweeping premise of property rights.  Besides the fact that I have a whole bunch of items I feel the need to write about, I have been less motivated to jump on this story because of the speed to which conservative bloggers he mentioned jumped to it in the name of overwrought property rights (which I believe should be balanced by a host of other human rights).

I believe that if developers or other corporate entities--instead of governments--were the primary agents involved in taking a person's land, conservative outrage would evaporate because their axes are generally not ground against taking people's land, but against anything that the government does beyond maintaining a military, leveraging tax money for private interests, or appointing conservative ideologues to government positions.  Christian seems a bit naive in assuming that conservative bloggers are fighting private interests rather than taking up their usual crusade against government.

Maybe if there had been less shoot-from-the-right-hip zeal about this problem, I would have felt a sense of urgency to write against it (rather than writing on the subjects I have.  And I naturally gravitate to underreported stories to begin with).  But no one can accuse me of falling absolutely the other way:  I am just as hard on government abuses as anyone else, but I don't give strong-arming businesses a free pass as others do.

As long as Christian is insinuating hypocrisy on the part of liberal bloggers, I have my own questions.  One of those:  if conservative bloggers are so committed to law-and-order and crime-fighting why haven't any of them joined me in calling upon the State of Tennessee to provide overnight security measures for public properties widely used like Bicentennial Mall State Park?  And another:  why hasn't Nashville is Talking encouraged them to do so?

Inventor of the Save Dies

Dean Holtzman is gone:
In 1959, [Jerome] Holtzman, then covering the Chicago Cubs, invented the statistic known as the save, which helps measure the effectiveness of relief pitchers. Mr. Holtzman’s notion was that if a pitcher entered a game with a lead and had to face the potential tying run, and he then held the lead and finished the game, he should be credited with a save.

Mr. Holtzman introduced the save in The Sporting News; in 1969, it became the first new official statistic acknowledged by Major League Baseball since the run batted in, in 1920.

Towner Goes Back-to-Back on Quote of the Days

Here's a window-rattler on North End builds:
[T]he industrial complex of Werthan Mills has excellent window-proportioning, classical brick pilasters, story articulation, and many other traditional design characteristics that manage to humanize the place. If a traditional single-family house and a pre-war purse factory can deploy the same essential elements to achieve comely neighborliness, why aren't these new developers and designers paying attention to any of these elements as they design and build new townhouses? The fact that many Nashvillians would prefer to live in an old rehabbed factory rather than a new house should tell us something about our current ability to design houses. The fact is, Werthan Mills is actually more lovely and residential in character (!!) than Concept G, which looks like a dentist's office carved out of a 1970s Raleigh-Durham housing project.

When Your Fannie Spanks Back

The Mac-Daddies-No-More are killing the mortgage market:
bond investors, worried that the companies may not be as big a support to the market as they have been, are driving up interest rates on securities backed by home loans. That added cost is being passed on to consumers through the mortgage markets. For a $400,000 loan, the increase in 30-year rates in the last few days would add $71 to a monthly bill, or $852 a year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Strike Against Offshore Drilling

From the AP:
Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro's tropical beaches .... Niteroi, the state's biggest zoo, already has already received about 100 penguins for treatment this year and many are drenched in petroleum, Muniz said. The Campos oil field that supplies most of Brazil's oil lies offshore.
John McCain becomes president and ends the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder what they'll find washing up on the Redneck Riviera in 2009?

When They Discover There's No Water, They'll Drink the Sand

University professors let go of education of the whole person a long time ago, and now some of them are bitching about the "misguided functionaries" in Student Life who have rushed in to fill the void they left.

Maybe the faculty should buck up and start participating more in the everyday residence life of students. The scholars issuing the complaint choose the cheap and easy solution: prodding administrators to maintain "fundamental ideals." Maybe they should choose a harder path of getting involved and modeling those ideals outside the classroom themselves.

Quote of the Day on North End Developers

The only thing that I would add to New Towner's Charrette comment is that the design amateurs in S-town promote the degradation of the community before they conduct their experiments:
One day people are going to look back at Salemtown and bits of Germantown and say "this is where up-and-coming 30-something Nashvillians disembarked from the declining suburbs in the early 21st-century, and found a neighborhood that was perfect for conducting 'urban living' amateur design experiments upon. It had empty lots, a number of ugly houses worth tearing down, an uneducated and unmobilized minority population, and--most importantly--a large cast of beautiful historic properties and delightfully scaled streets that would make a marvelous setting for an amateur repertoire production of Sex in the City. They seemed to think that the 'creative act' was virtuous in and of itself, and gave no pause to consider what exactly it was that they were creating, and what they were choosing to destroy in the process. They were, in short, dishonest about the fact that one act of creation bears with it, by logical necessity, and infinite number of destructions. Using national design magazines and other pop-culture output for 'inspiration,' they cooked up little follies of so-called 'progressive,' hideously composed architecture in the effort to flesh out their abstract, self-imposed 'urbanity,' and they destroyed the existing sense of decorum and real place that had existed in these neighborhoods, in varying states of health, for the previous 130 years. As usual, black people were the first and the hardest hit. As usual, 'progressive' white people made a mess of things with their little design experiments and then leveraged their economic superiority to go elsewhere"....

Germantown and Salemtown have magnificent design traditions that are literally being destroyed. When you destroy a tradition, it is always possible to bring it back again, even if it is in a state altered by time and memory--ironically, however, the "Moderns" who are conducting their trial-and-error designs on these neighborhoods are also exactly the same people who argue that revivals of traditional architecture are neither honest nor practically possible.

English First or Else

A sign of our hate-filled times.

"Not by recession, but by stupidity"

In San Diego a disproportionate share of subprime loans were doled out two and three years ago to minorities and immigrants in the same zip codes with predatory arrogance and wishful thinking. Now bank-owned, ghost-town neighborhoods languish and drag down property values across other San Diego neighborhoods.

If Wishes Were Horses, Then Beggars Would Ride

Christine Buttorff gives City Paper readers a break from Richard Lawson's pandering to the May Town Center development team by reporting the findings of a study commissioned by those trying to save Bells Bend as the last rural area close to Downtown (Buttorff inaccurately refers to it as the last "undeveloped" area around Downtown; there are parcels of undeveloped properties various places closer to Downtown).

Buttorff's summary of the report:
“The point of our study is not to say one way or another that May Town Center is a good development or a bad development, but it’s important as policymakers look at some of the land use issues,” said [Community Research Center’s] President David Eichenthal, “that they deal with an understanding what the reality is in terms of the potential economic impact” ....

The CRC report’s authors question whether the real estate market will support the proposed 5 million to 10 million square feet of office space the May Town Center is expected to have upon completion in 2026.

“Generally, you don’t have 15 years of sustained and consistent growth in any area like Nashville,” explained Eichenthal. He said the May Town Center’s analysis is not based in the historical trends of the city.

“In 2007, there was more than 4.2 million square feet of office space available in the Nashville market — with nearly one-third in the Central Business District [downtown Nashville]. During the course of the year, 1.4 million square feet of new office space was absorbed.” Eichenthal said the May Town Center would have to sell office space at roughly the equivalent of filling downtown’s 500,000 square foot Pinnacle at Symphony Place building every year.
Those are long odds based on thin certainties.  Proponents of May Town Center assume the premise that if they build on Bells Bend, then someone like Nissan will automatically come.  It's their field of dreams.  They don't have anything in writing and they offer no iron-clad guarantees, but the mainstream media and Metro Planning seem to have joined them in this sheer whimsy that shares little with the aspirations of the larger Bells Bend community.

Oh, and the Mays are asking taxpayers to help finance their slickly-produced fantasy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Of All Things, a Liquor Store: A True Man-Bites-Dog Story

A neighborhood liquor store in Chicago becomes the local community center for positive change, including rescuing teen gang members and getting guns off the streets.  I cannot imagine any liquor store in Nashville stepping up to approach that kind of community improvement.

Beyond Blue Öyster Cult's Bell

Trying to recall all the songs beyond BÖC's (Don't Fear) the Reaper that have prominent cow bells.  Off the top of my head, I can recall these by LTD, Barry White, and Nazareth:

Letters Supporting Bells Bend Needed for Planning Commission Now!

Take note:
Dear Friend of Bells Bend,

We need your help one more time before the July 24th Planning Commission Meeting.

The planning commissioners have not heard from many Bells Bend supporters. It is CRITICAL that they hear from us over the next 3 days.

Please email all of the planning commissioners ... even if you have already written the planning department and your councilman. This communication can be brief, 1-2 paragraphs, expressing 2-3 of the most important reasons why you are AGAINST the May Town Development and FOR an outdoor recreational, agricultural and rural residential conservation district in the Beaman Park to Bells Bend Corridor.

Below are a few points of communication for your letter - if you need them, but it is most effective if your letter is in your own words.
  • Every federal, state and metro dollar spent on the bridge and the development is a dollar taken away from the other 34 council districts and their neglected and aging infrastructure - infrastructure already in existence, overdue for repair, and lacking in funding.
  • There are hidden costs in the May Town Development. The developer has said this will be built at no cost to Metro – so, who will pay for the construction and maintenance of new roads, schools, water/sewer/electric infrastructure, general services, a firehall, a police station…the expenses go on and on… these costs will be paid for by you, the taxpayer, and will reduce any projected revenue generated by MTC.
  • May Town Development will become a second “downtown” – it will compete with our existing urban core for funds, crippling 20 years of successful investment in Downtown Nashville's revitalization. It will take years for Downtown Nashville to recover from a set-back.
  • May Town Development will spur the Atlantification of Nashville – Progressive, successful cities like Chattanooga, Portland, Seattle and Charlotte are wisely saying NO TO SPRAWL by developing existing urban brown fields and infill sites, while proactively planning for conservation of open space. And they are still thriving economically!! May Town Development will redirect the energy and resources for similar mixed-use projects in communites desperately needing the economic boost, will move jobs further away from population centers needing the jobs, and will undermine the making of a truly livable city.
  • 100 years from now, what will define a truly authentic, livable city that's held up as a model of A Great American City? One with six lane bridges to “Anywhere, USA” with corporate/retail theme parks (that have long since been abandoned) OR one that was forward-thinking and established a model conservation district with unique land uses on one of the last of the precious open spaces left in this country.
  • We have a bigger and better vision, The Third Vision - that this area should become Davidson County’s backyard - an outdoor recreational, agricultural and rural residential conservation district – a place where Nashvillians and tourists play, hike, bike, grow and pick local food, fish, retreat to a Musician's Retreat Center, or just look at the stars – a unique asset for Nashvillians to take refuge from the noise, lights, and man-built environment of the city. This was done in Adirondack Park by people with great vision and could be done here.
  • A City of the Future plans for conservation in the same way they plan for development. It should be extremely desirable for Nashville, with all its other amenities, to also have a model conservation district that serves as a county, state and regional planning model for open space preservation. A model conservation district could help retain the heart of Nashville’s character, distinguishing us from other cities, rather than creating another bridge to “Anywhere USA”.
Please email the planning commissioners listed at the link [] ... and please cc: me a copy of the letter - we will be distributing hard copies to the planning commission office on Monday morning and want your letter in that stack !!

Thank you for doing this - this is absolutely critical at this time - one more push and we're almost there!

Please forward this call to others and ask them to write letters too !!

Alicia Batson
Beaman Park to Bells Bend Conservation Community

I Need Your Help with Some Junk Mail

Today's snail mail brought us our edition of the Nashville English First petition, which Eric Crafton is using as an end-around last year's mayoral veto in order to force Metro employees never to speak any other language to help people out.

I'm trying to think of some creative means (lying beyond the lip of my trash can) of doing my part to cause a little inconvenience, cost, and annoyance to this hateful movement.  Is it illegal to protest the paranoia by filling in false names on the petition and mailing it in?  Any other ideas on how I can add a little bit of drag to English First?  Something truly Alinskyite would suit me.

UPDATE:  Andy Axel got his, too.  He's shredding it.

Opposition to FISA is about Accessible Courts

Kia Franklin responds to Barack Obama's video-address to a progressive bloggers' conference in Austin, Tx, pointing to the higher stakes of FISA:
One issue that should be of top priority to progressive bloggers and blog readers is fighting for civil justice and access to the courts for ordinary Americans. Progressive bloggers felt the exhilarating rush of our potential and power to mobilize on this issue as we organized against the FISA legislation that protects telecommunications corporations that may have illegally spied on innocent Americans. The heavy blow we felt from the legislative loss on this front is by no means the end of our struggle. If anything, it demonstrates how important it is that we understand the FISA situation as it fits into a larger set of issues related to access to the courts and our civil justice system.
I've argued all along that supporters of telecom immunity are bowing to elitism and promoting a two-tiered justice system that applies a loose standard to the rich simply because they have more influence than working and poor classes. It really is a mockery of justice.

Our Long National Nightmare is Over

Court rules FCC fine against CBS for 2004 halftime wardrobe malfunction "arbitrary and capricious."

The Question of a Progressive Council Caucus

So, the progressives are discussing a caucus to help streamline and coordinate their initiatives so as to avoid the fracture of issues like placing LEDs in residential neighborhoods, huh?  Whose fault is that they fractured?  Was it really those progressive constituents who Nate Rau speculates "blogged" Charlie Tygard to death?

Given the rather limited influence of blogs, I doubt it.  I would venture to say that the fracturing occurred along the lines between members who received substantial donations from pro-LED interests and those who did not.  It also occurred along the lines of those who have a conflict of interest with the sign issues and those who do not.  And, quite frankly, some self-proclaimed progressive members spent way too much time representing some special business interests without reflection on the conflicted cultural implications of their actions.

It is rather rich that Nate Rau is blaming blogs for the divisions rather than underscoring their contributions to the debate.  If it hadn't been for blogs, much of the truth about the events unfolding around the LED controversy wouldn't have seen the light of day.  Enclave beat the media to this story.  We looked into the campaign financing by the Nashville Business Coalition PAC and the grilling that council candidates got last fall from that group, which included sign kingpin, Bobby Joslin.  Did the City Paper delve into those thorny issues?  It seemed busier trying to amplify Charlie Tygard's talking points and trying to spin zoning controversies into liberals vs. churches.  Did the mainstream media ever lift a finger to verify whether or not the cost of the signs reported by Joslin and Tygard were accurate?  Did reporter Nate Rau attend the one and only LED task force meeting?  I didn't see any media there.

So, if the council progressives are trying to overcome their differences then let them do so and let the media leave bloggers out of it.  But I can think of three real problems with caucusing in this context:
  1. I disagree with Ronnie Steine's insinuation that "progressive" means whatever the user wishes it to mean.  It's that kind of relativism that lead to accepting large donations with strings attached and embracing conflicts of interest.
  2. I believe that it is tactically unwise given that the ideological division in the council seems equal at this point.
  3. I hope that the caucus doesn't become a means for insulating members from constituents to make sure that they are in the same page; that will give the special interests another lever that average voters don't have.

TNT Jumps into School Rezoning Flap

Amy Griffith reports that Nashville's community- and faith-based IAF-affiliate, Tying Nashville Together has come out against the MNPS-adopted rezoning plan that would send north Nashville students to the Pearl-Cohn cluster.

I wrote a Vanderbilt dissertation and an article or two in my time on TNT's brand of community organizing.

2nd Annual Salemtown Block Party Another Rousing Success

Scenes from Saturday night's block party hosted by the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association:

It was even better than last year. Our friends from Lazzaroli dropped off some awesome handmade pasta to compliment the burgers, dogs, and potluck side dishes. Music and beer were flowing. SNNA raised nearly $200 by passing around a donation jar to help defray the costs. We didn't do that last year.

After doing my own part as part of the set-up, grilling, and clean-up crews, I'm exhausted and ready to consume all the beer that I bought but did not drink for lack of time.

Inside the Chamber Box

Bruce Barry has an outstanding response to the school rezoning histrionics of the past few weeks.  He underscores what I think is the primary problem of the advantage that the Chamber of Commerce enjoys over others who cannot give candidates as much money as the business community does:
[The Chamber] regards a weak school system mainly as an inconvenient obstacle to economic development and employment growth, not as a collective community enterprise that is failing to deliver on a civic obligation to create educated citizens who can fulfill personal aspirations and advance democracy.
Market assumptions have a troubling tendency to hyper-commodify every quality including broader civic values (like mutual respect and honor) and virtues of a democratic society (like fairness and justice).  Education has a larger purpose than the "bottom line," and yet because of the Chamber's influence over the school board, Nashville schools are not likely to serve any purpose higher than what business models require.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bells Bend Opposition to May Town Center to Be Subject of East Nashville Meeting

From the Friends of Farmers' Market list serv:
If you have questions about proposed development at Bells Bend and the reasons many from the Bells Bend community (and beyond) are speaking out against the project or if you just want more information about the proposed project, the area in Bells Bend and the reasons why it should be preserved, JOIN US THIS SUNDAY AT 6:00 p.m. for a presentation from Brenda Butka, an active member of the Bells Bend community.

We are hosting this informal community gathering at our home in the Historic Edgefield neighborhood of East Nashville, 602 Russell Street. Brenda will do a 20 minute presentation on the Bells Bend community and answer any questions you may have about what is there now and why there is a movement against the May Town Center project.

Everyone is welcome to join us to discuss these issues, but please let us know if you can make it asap and no later than noon on Sunday by emailing me at

Have a great day!
Jennifer Hagan-Dier

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Netroots Dispatch: Clarke Hammers away at Homeland Security Apparatchiks

Richard Clarke tells a conference of lefty bloggers that we should worry over the junta of military intelligence and private defense contractors running this country's homeland security apparatus:
[He had] sharp words for the Department of Homeland Security, which he cited as lacking transparency and oversight from Congress. “Congress has done a horrible job of overseeing Homeland Security,” he said. “And so has the media.” He touched on what he called the ‘industrial intelligence complex” — thousands of private companies that now do the work of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

“There are literally thousands of people in the for profit sector who are doing this work and we don’t know what the contracts are worth and there is no oversight — it’s totally out of control,” he said.
There seems to be rather old-style soviet quality to the growing power of the commissars at the federal level, and the lily-livered Democratic Congress seems loath to check it.  Clarke is one of the most knowledgeable and reputable figures on homeland security.  We ignore him at our own peril.

Tennessee Starbucks Closings Do Not Include Nashville Stores

Here's the list of Tennessee Starbucks closings via Consumerist:
appling & us 70 7610 us hwy 70 bartlett
hwy 58 & hwy 153 4503 hwy 58 chattanooga
nonconnah pkwy & houston levee 4630 merchant pk cir collierville
hwy 51 & lanny bridges 1625 hwy 51 s covington
i-40 & pine ridge 1796 roane state hwy harriman
highland & baltimore 112 e baltimore st jackson
strawberry plains & i-40 7228 region lane knoxville
dexter & germantown 1645 n germantown pkwy memphis
germantown & market plaza 2293 n germantown pkwy memphis
riverdale & maltan 3586 riverdale rd memphis
hwy 96 @ mall cir dr 207a stones river mall blvd murfreesboro
stones river mall kiosk 1720 old fort pkwy murfreesboro
hwy 64 & hwy 194 7275 hwy 64 oakland

Friday, July 18, 2008

Property Tax Referendum Poster Child Continues to Slide from Boom to Doom

Let's pretend for a couple of years that we really don't need property taxes to fund services for our growing community and then we'll be in the same mess that Spring Hill is.

Hiring KBR for Wiring Proves to Be a Fools Errand

Error-prone private contractor electrocutes and injures U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq.  And they'll probably overbill the taxpayers for their faulty wiring.  All hail, privatization!

Southern California Death Watch

The LA Times blog has come up with a map of all of the Starbucks closings scheduled in the Los Angeles and San Diego Metropolitan areas, which bears no resemblance to the map of the growth of Walmart across America during my life span (HT:  Nashville Charrette).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Angry Bank Runs Have Begun as Federal Regulators Take Over

With this week's seizing of a California bank, it looks like the banking situation is becoming critical as people wait in line overnight for their money. There are also other banks around the country teetering toward take over by FDIC.

But in this footage of a bank run in California, the most absurd part is the news that President Bush, whose approval numbers lend his opinion little credence, is trying to reassure depositors.  The response of one depositor, who had been waiting in line 16 hours to withdraw his funds, to the question of what he thought of the President's advice is priceless.  He didn't seem too reassured.

FDIC is preparing for the worst by trying to lure retired employees back to deal with the growing crisis.

Which Liberal Bloggers is the Statesman Talking About?

It was inevitable with the 3,000 liberal bloggers descending on Austin, Texas for a new-media conference that editors of the local paper, the Austin American-Statesman, would weigh in and take a few conventional mainstream shots at the bloggers.  However, I cannot get my mind around the editorial's criticism that progressive bloggers have some single-minded focus on Obama's flip flop on telecom immunity to the exclusion of other interests like the economy and rising fuel prices.

The bloggers I've read who are critical of the flip flop have not stopped hammering way on the economy or fuel prices or the war or the nations infrastructure or human rights abuses caused by "free trade" or any other significant issue.  I certainly have not.  These issues are not mutually exclusive.

It is no more a waste of time to oppose telecom immunity now than it was to oppose school segregation in the 1950s when the majority of Americans were ambivalent about desegregation.  And widespread dissent doesn't just emerge out of thin air.  It starts with a few early adopters before it goes viral.  In fact, it won't go viral without early adopters.


I took the photo above standing erect on the plot where Double A Development and Village Real Estate plan to build "Concept G: Townhomes at Six Hundred Garfield" ( in Salemtown (although they prefer to call us "Germantown").  I'm around 5'10", and as you can see there is some thicket that is over my head.  It's a clear violation of the Metro grass code (grass and weeds are supposed to be no higher than 12 inches).  It's even bursting through the erosion-preventing silt fence at the sidewalk.

The Concept G team has already met with some criticism here for its somewhat institutional design and for running cheeky ads even in a community that can hardly be characterized as prudish or puritan.  But those are less important, more subjective disagreements where a difference of opinion is expected.  Violating the Metro code times 6 so that vermin, trash, and probably drug dealers can gather hidden on their overgrown lot is unacceptable and an insulting blight on our neighborhood.  I am particularly disappointed in Mark Deutschmann's Village Real Estate company, which sells itself as a community-friendly, neighborhood-supportive group.

I wish the people would treat Salemtown better by keeping their grass mowed.  Or if not mowed how about scythed once and a while?

Unfettered Competition May Just as Easily Lead to Lobbyists as It Does to Excellence

A couple of years ago the University of Chicago lost its exclusive no bid contracts for two famous national labs when the Energy Department decided to open the bidding process to private companies.  Did U. of C. find a way to strive harder to keep the contracts (which had been assured by the fiat of former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert)?  Nope.  They hired a lobbyist to leverage support in the U.S. Congress.  If you've got lobbyists, you don't need to work harder to compete and to produce excellent results.  Lobbyists are to competitive edge what tenure is to job security.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dog Days in Salemtown, Too

Last night the Salemtown e-mail list lit up with word of a BB gun fired through the window of a townhouse, a late-night disturbance involving a group of unruly teenage girls near Morgan Park, a suspicious white van containing some of those teens shouting racial insults around 6th and Buchanan, and kids throwing rocks at windows and kicking front doors on 5th.

Robbery and Vandalism in 12South Neighborhood

The following troubling report came across the 12South listserv today:
Last night (or early this morning) somebody kicked the door down of a home at near the corner of 10th/Douglas. Nothing appeared to be taken. Holes were cut in the tops of two convertible cars but nothing appeared to be taken.
Yesterday the District 17 Newsgroup posted even scarier news:
More details on the Robbery on the 1500 block of Beechwood.

The robbery happened around 1 AM on a Friday night, when our neighbor was coming home from work. She parked on the street in front of her house, went around her car to pick up her violin case, and started walking towards her front door. She was almost at the door when the perpetrator appeared and demanded she give him her purse.

The perpetrator was described as being not tall, but of muscular build. He was wearing a ski mask, a dark jacket, jeans, and black tennis shoes.

After taking her purse, the perpetrator ran down the street towards twelfth avenue south. He may have had a car waiting, because about 30 minutes later, one of the credit cards from the purse was used at the White Castle on the corner of Nolensville and Thompson Lane. The security camera at the drive up window shows a dark blue car, most likely a 98-2000 Ford escort.

Our neighbors drivers license and now canceled credit cards, were found in Hendersonville, mixed in with someone else's cards. The police have suggested that person maybe working multiple neighborhoods in Nashville, rather than concentrating just on our area.

We do not believe that our neighbor was followed home from her work, or that the person had been waiting for her specifically. It may be speculated given the time and location, that the perpetrator was heading towards Mafiozas hoping to hold up someone leaving there (especially given the recent robbery that happened there). This is purely speculation, but it does suggest taking some extra caution if walking home from one of the establishments on 12th Ave. South late at night.
Summer days are turning dog days.

Obama about as Popular as a Hang Nail in the Middle East

Will Pew Research straighten out redneck assumptions in states like Tennessee?

Can Anything Good Come from Janel Lacy's Office?

In what looks like another rather half-baked, milque-toast, lawyer-measured statement, Karl Dean supports the school board's rezoning plan:
In response to a recounting of Thompson’s remarks, Dean e-mailed a statement Tuesday afternoon through spokesperson Janel Lacy. As he has previously stated, Dean said he believes that everyone involved in the process has had “honorable intentions.”

“I know the task force worked very hard on the plan,” Dean said in the statement. “Our goal as a city should be to move forward on every aspect of improving our schools. If people feel their voices aren’t being heard that causes me concern. It’s my understanding there is agreement on the majority of the rezoning plan. People should be able to come together and calmly work through the few areas of concern.”
Mayor Dean talked a good game about being out in front on education in Nashville early on, but if he is so committed to the school board action to rezone north and west zones, why isn't he stepping up in drum major fashion on behalf of this cause?  The heat gets turned up, and an anemic statement about pavers for the road to hell is the best he can do?

City Paper Continues to Conveniently Leave Karl Dean Out of the Rehab Zoning Flap

CP reporter Nate Rau constructs the same partial time-line of the Metro Council's rejection of rehabilitation services in agricultural districts that he has in the past incessantly and without reference to the seeming failures of Karl Dean's Metro Legal Department to discourage the council in 2006-07.  If Rau had been covering the introduction and passage of bill at that time, I would accuse him now of possessing a rather selective memory.

Despite the fact that the Metro Charter establishes a strong executive, Rau reasserts his or his editor's meme that the council was solely responsible for the original passage of the bill.  Mayor Bill Purcell could have vetoed the bill, but he did not.  By failing to acknowledge that over and over, the City Paper is actually revising history rather than writing objective copy.

Again, I believe that this is a matter of the NCP sucking up to the Mayor's Office and doing what it can to stay on Karl Dean's good side rather than lashing all of the responsible parties to the whipping post.  The reporter and his editors simply refuse to see that there is enough blame to go around.  They're choosing the soft targets, and I'm sure the Mayor's communications office is thankful for that solid.