Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Separates Democrats from Bankers

Not much beyond misfortune, according to the Monkey Cage:
The more reliant a senator on contributions from the financial sector, the greater the likelihood that s/he voted against cramdown; facing the electorate in 2010 also seemed to drive senators into the arms of the ABA—likely fearing opponents’ charge that cramdown would increase interest rates. And did the severity of the foreclosure crisis matter to senators? Not so much. Once the bankers get their arms around a senator, it’s hard to pry him loose—no matter the demand for mortgage relief at home. If we look only at Democrats, the story is slightly different. True, reliance on contributions from the financial sector is a strong predictor of Democrats’ cramdown votes, but so too is the state of the housing sector. Democratic senators from the hardest hit states (think Nevada, California, Florida) flocked to cramdown; Democrats from states less hard hit (think the Dakotas and Montana) resisted.

MDHA Commissioners Finally Approve Contractor's Bid for Salemtown Streetscape Project

After almost a year of delays in plans to begin construction of Salemtown's Streetscape Plan funded by a $589,000 community development block grant, MDHA Commissioners approved a contract with Sessions Paving to do the job for $499,532. In order to get this amount, the Board had to take out some crosswalk and parking markings, trees, and trash recepticles in the original concept. The original range of bids was $556,042 to $648,691. Because of the delays a state grant that would have planted more trees around the neighborhoods expired. Also, changes in ADA and NES requirements forced the Board to reserve more money for millling streets and for electric wire drilling. In its letter to neighborhood committee members, MDHA says that construction is scheduled to start in the next month.

Irresponsible College Athletics

In these times of cutbacks, belts-tightening, and downsizing, the mutant growth of college sports is inexcusable.

Long Distance Relationships Never Work

Which Metro Council member practically lives and holds office hours in Detroit?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summoned to Green Hills

Attending the Tax Assessor's community meeting held in Green Hills last night for four south-by-southwest councilmanic districts was a novelty in and of itself. When I attend North Nashville community meetings most of the other white folk present are younger than me; out at Julia Green Elementary, most of the folk looked older than me and all of them were white.

Most of those who spoke during the session with Metro's George Rooker seemed frustrated with the perception that the Assessors office used McMansions in surrounding areas built on "scraped-off" properties (as in "scraped of older homes") to compare to their more modest homes (defined as having the original sinks and fixtures and modest flora relative to the new megadwellings around them).

There were a couple of anti-revenue types in the crowd who were the most vocal in their unhappiness of paying any tax to speak of, and their regular interruptions tended to produce eye rolls and at least two audience admonitions to quiet down. But the general trepidation about the reappraisal among these Nashvillians was with the increase in percentages of real property values and the methods by which the Tax Assessor compared properties.

For his part, Mr. Rooker insisted that the reappraisal process does not focus on percentage increases but on market values based on comps with similar homes. He conceded that assessors could be mistaken in their comps, given that they do not always have the full details of various properties. He also acknowledged that assessors base their estimates only on an exterior analysis of the house, even though a lack of interior upgrades might affect real property values. Mr. Rooker went back to the position over and over that the purpose of the assessment was not to get money but to make sure that the tax burden was distributed equally across Davidson County based on what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on January 1, 2009.

There was also lavish encouragement for taxpayers concerned about this appraisal to consult the Appraisers office and appeal. Mr. Rooker encouraged those appealing to bring Realtors' assessments, engineers' and contractors' documents, descriptions of the interiors, and private appraisals of real property. I told him after the meeting was over that I would like to believe that we could sell our home for Metro's price, but that I was more inclined to go with the lower numbers of a private appraiser we hired a few weeks ago. Not only did our contractor go through our interior, but he marked off value for the lack of appointments like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances so ubiquitous in Germantown-area infills. So, going with comparable sales in our area without looking at the interior may skew our appraisal higher for tax purposes.

I walked away from last night's meeting feeling charitable in my criticism of the Metro Tax Assessor's office, because I am merely seeking some sort of balance between Metro's higher appraisal and my contractor's lower appraisal. The folks I heard from districts that include Sylvan Park, Belle Meade, and Green Hills seemed more out of sorts over their appraisals. Moreover, I did not hear much understanding for the mandate of equitable distribution of taxes. And no one bothered to chime in any concerns about scenarios where winning appeals might cause other homeowners' appraisals to skew higher.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Deep Thought

You are so Nashville if ...

You retweet the teabaggers' Tea Party because everyone loves to partay.

AT&T Told Me They Could Have Fixed Our Service on Their Own, But Were Waiting for Me to Call

I just got off my cell phone with AT&T about our land line being dysfunctional since last Friday (this is the third or fourth outage occasion in the last 6 months). I was told that the line would be fixed by Thursday. When I hunted down a live sales rep to address the matter of crediting our account, he told me that it would not be problem because the disrupted time would be filed when their tech fixed the line.

I told him, "Well don't you need to know how long the line has been out for us?"

He said, "Sir, we will because we can look in our system and see when the service was disrupted."

I replied, "So, are you saying that AT&T could have found the problem and fixed it on Friday?"

He said, "Yes, sir, but we wait for customers to call before responding to the problem."

That gives a whole new meaning to "customer service." AT&T: being proactive is just not a part of the equation.

Disclaimer: The exchange is paraphrased from my own memory, rather than being a verbatim transcipt. I'm sure AT&T has the conversation actually recorded for "quality assurance purposes" and plausible deniability.

Detainees Start Hunger Strike to Draw Attention to ICE Mistreatment

50-100 detainees held for months and years by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) start a hunger strike at the ICE center near Brownsville, Texas. They intend to leverage a meeting with Homeland Security officials to discuss charges of lengthy detentions without any judicial review.

I wonder how many immigrants Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall processed for removal to ICE detention centers vs. to deportation to their country of origin? As best I can tell, the Sheriff keeps tabs on how many leave and come back, but the reports I've read do not indicate where processed immigrants land after they leave Nashville. If they are being held at detention centers, then the self-congratulation the Sheriff is giving his program is premature. Detained immigrants are in limbo without the freedom to stay or return.

The Proverbial Head against the Mainstream Media Brick Wall

Award-winning Liberadio's co-host Mary Mancini shares her frustrating experiences with local mainstream radio in buying broadcast time. Even "adult-alternative" (which is just another name for "'alternative'-is-our-veneer") Lightning 100 refused to return their phone calls. When corporate radio co-opts concepts like "independent" to describe their mainstream format without offering independent broadcasters an opportunity at air time, local culture is diminished.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Logical Extension of Teabaggery

Threats to be taken seriously from the GOP's Tea Party Movement via Texas Observer:
Just how crazy is the tea party movement? Crazy enough that elected GOP officials are now openly calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government because they don’t like Obama’s policies. Here’s an excerpt of a commentary by Daryl Fowler, the chairman of the DeWitt County (Texas) Republican Party. The commentary is currently posted on the main page of the DeWitt GOP website:
His [Obama’s] reign ends in less than four years, but the party could be over before then. If enough Americans stand up and reassert their God-given rights to institute governments and overturn those that are unjust. The movement in Texas and several other state legislatures regarding the 10th Amendment rights of the States is welcome on this page.

Metro Parks Director Says Morgan Park Upgrades Will Start before Mid-Summer

Given CM Erica Gilmore's promise relayed from Mayor Karl Dean last December that Morgan Park would be getting its overdue playground this fiscal year, given that no ground had yet been broken, and given that the end of the fiscal year is rapidly-approaching June 30, I contacted Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson last week to ask for an update.

Mr. Wilson's preliminary answer to me was that capital dollars and all projects had been frozen due to the budget crunch. However, on further follow-up the Director found out that the construction plans for Morgan Park were in fact moving forward toward Americans with Disabilities Act approval and then the bidding process. The new timeline for construction of the playground to begin is 10 weeks from now. That looks like it will put completion of the playground in the next fiscal year rather than this one.

I also asked Director Wilson about some demolition of a sidewalk and earthmoving that occurred recently on the southwest corner of the park at Morgan Park Place on the greenway spur. He went out and inspected the site and got back to me with the news that Parks is going to install a new fountain. The contractor has 70 days to complete the fountain and landscape the greenway in that section of the park.

Chavez Has Kind Words for NashFreep

Center-to-right columnist and blogger Tim Chavez recommends The Nashville Free Press as a "new and needed" progressive voice. I've been writing a regular column for NashFreep called "Local Knowledge" since the paper's inception.

Professional Denial: Dropping Hammer on Journalists

Glenn Greenwald on the double-talk the journalism at Politico is reduced to:
George Orwell mistakenly assumed that obfuscating language designed to glorify criminal acts would be invented and normalized by government. At least in the U.S., that function is outsourced to government's most loyal and eager servants: establishment journalists. A principal reason why the government has been able to engage with impunity in the extremism and lawlessness of the last decade is because most journalists refuse even to describe it as what it is.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Photos of the Country Music Marathon: 1/2 Marathoners

All of these photos were taken this morning just after the 1/2 Marathoners split at Bicentennial Mall State Park:

Photos of Ruth Collins Performing at Country Music Marathon

Battle of the Sexes Women Marathoners Hit North End First This Morning, Leave with Men Right Behind

I was surprised to see this group of women coming up Rosa Parks ahead of everyone except for a couple of wheel chair athletes. I was less surprised that elite women might be leading the elite men than I was that they did not have the typical entourage of police and cameras on motorcycles that leaders usually get.

Then I found out that they were in the lead of the "Battle of the Sexes," after an 18-minute head start on the elite men, who ended up winning the battle at the end.

But the men's elite leader was already hot on the womens' heels after arriving at Bicentennial Mall after MetroCenter:

The eventual winner, Amos Matui, was not too far behind either. Five men eventually came across the finish line before the first woman marathoner. So much for the Battle of the Sexes.

Your North End leader from earlier this morning, and why I have no idea who he is

Runner #8 was in the lead of the Country Music Marathon on both North End legs (to and from MetroCenter). Amos Matui eventually won the whole shooting match.

I cannot give you the name of #8 because the marathon's live update page (which promised never to fail to bring us up-to-date results) has been failing to bring us live reports all morning. Google Chrome says the link to is broken. Mozilla Firefox just balks at trying to locate it.

Hope Gardens the Only North End Neighborhood to Have Presence at Country Music Marathon

Hope Gardens demonstrates once again why it is one of the more organized neighborhood associations in North Nashville by displaying its brand prominently along the marathon course.

I've given up trying to convince Salemtown Neighbors to do this sort of thing two blocks down, since there are only a couple of us who seem to believe this sort of presence helps the association.

Amos Again? Did the Tennessean Get the Finish Correctly This Year?

Last year showed that we cannot take the Tennessean's declaration of a marathon winner for granted; this is the second time in two years that Amos Matui has been declared the winner. However, he did not actually win the 2008 race, and the Tennessean had to correct their report that he did. Let's hope they are more on top of it this year.

Amos Matui Wins Country Music Marathon

The Tennessean reports that Amos Matui won the mens portion of the Country Music Marathon.

The three photos following show Matui's running in the pack vying for second behind the leader who was at the time way out in front. Matui is #3 on the right side of the photos:

The final photo shows Matui (again to the right) running down Bicentennial Mall around the 19 mile mark toward Downtown and East Nashville in a smaller pack still fighting for second after completing the MetroCenter leg of the CMM:

The Tennessean reports that Matui caught the leader about 6 miles later near the end of the race.