Monday, September 14, 2009

About those media theories of a more "progressive" Metro Council

I rarely take issue with Michael Cass, who I find to be one of the more reliable Metro government beat reporters, but I thoroughly disagree with his conclusion last week that Council progressives are a "solid core" with significant wins on "major initiatives."

Surely the vote on the non-discrimination ordinance does reflect a significant win, but that is only one since 2007. That ordinance does not reflect most of the projects or priorities Metro Council considers with regard to shepherding planning and zoning initiatives as well as tweaking the Mayor's budget proposals in various directions. The non-discrimination ordinance counts as progress, but it is only one ripple in an ocean of council initiatives (although it looks now to be the raison d'etre of Megan Barry's bid for council-at-large, since she seems largely absent from other progressive intiatives) where progressive leadership either looks fractured or absent.

I also do not buy Cass's interpretation of "several measures" supported by progressives that look like a trend of their empowerment. First of all, Cass counts a memorializing resolution encouraging voters to reject English-only as progress. However, the previous more conservative council also approved a non-binding alternative to Eric Crafton's English Only bill. And I am not certain that we should count non-binding "memorializing" resolutions as remarkable indicators of progress since they have no coercive teeth.

Second, Cass lumps in the vote to ban guns in parks even though it is not a real assertion of gun control in the classic sense of regulating the market. Supporting local autonomy in issues of public safety is a conservative idea, and there doesn't seem to me to be anything classically liberal in the idea of banning guns in public parks. Municipalities all over red-state Tennessee opted out of permitting guns in parks. Cass would be hard-pressed to explain those votes as leftward-leaning.

Finally, most of the council progressives have failed to support their fellows at crunch time, especially if it meant taking on the Mayor's office. CMs Emily Evans and Mike Jameson virtually stood alone on challenging the speed with which the convention center proposal moved even after word came out that green elements in the plan were negotiable and costs could hurt other Metro programs. CM Jameson carried the torch for popular East Bank Riverfront development against Mayor Karl Dean's commercial-driven equivocation all by himself.

Most troublesome is the fact that outside of a couple of exceptions, council progressives rolled over and approved the Mayor's regressive stormwater fee plan. And then Megan Barry blamed her support for the regressive fees on another progressive who vigorously opposed it.

The council libs are not moving like a coordinated machine. On the school rezoning issue some say the liberals haven't been progressive at all. If anything several who styled themselves as populists in 2007 have aligned with the Mayor's office to become big business libs who either waffle or shy away from popular issues. It comes across as profiles in phony. Both CMs Jerry Maynard and Ronnie Steine are in hock to influential campaign donors. Preacher Maynard seemed to be inclined to quid pro quo by supporting LED billboards for churches in residential areas (a clear conflict of interest and a naked pander) and by attempting to sire the "beer cabaret bill" in order to "protect women."

I just hope that Michael Cass is not really buying the Orwellian newspeak of council progressives. It seems to me that they promoted non-discrimination and eschewed English Only not because of social justice or other democratic principles, but because of a perceived threat to big business and unchecked growth. Such motivation is consistent with every other action they've taken and true to every failure of will to act in the name of progress.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting comment and I couldn't agree more. I remember thinking the same thing when I read the piece in the Tennessean online. It seems to me that I've seen articles lately in other media outlets about the strength of progressives in Metro government. I wonder who's pushing that idea? I wish it were true, but I just don't see it.