Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tennessean Tips Hand and I Win Bet

Fat lot of good asking the Tennessean again to stop delivering the Wednesday "free" edition of the newspaper to my address did last week. The sidewalk in front of my house was littered once more today with the Gannett Corporation product in spite of several attempts in the past year to stop the nonsense.

For the second time in a week I returned the litter to the paper's Broadway headquarters, and the receptionist asked for my address yet again. In response to my reiteration that my street has Tennessean litter all over it this morning, she retorted that "free speech" allows the newspaper such delivery. My response: "McDonald's would not be allowed to toss free Big Macs on a lawn and call it free speech."

It seems that the Tennessean is coaching their receptionists to take the line that I sensed publishers would take when push comes to shove: the commercial marketing of their product and throwing "free" litter on private yards and public sidewalks is warped into a constitutional freedom of expression. But how far could I push the First Amendment to cover whatever I wanted it to mean?

This morning if I walked up to the Tennessean's front door and, instead of addressing the receptionist, merely threw down the paper they first threw at my yard, wouldn't that 6-foot-tall burly security guard in the parking lot compel me to pick it up? Or what if I chose to stay in the lobby and exercise my freedom of speech in listing the ways that throwing paper on my yard for months is a violation of my rights? Wouldn't that same security guard eventually make me leave the premises, thus expressing the paper's property rights? How is it that the Tennessean has the right to exercise it's free speech at my property when I wouldn't enjoy the right to such expression at its property? And how does ending the uninvited trashing of a neighborhood at cost to diminishing timber resources ever impinge upon someone else's First Amendment rights?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wasn't It Great When Eagle Forum Actually Pissed off Progressives?

Mayor Karl Dean has gathered his kudos from various local liberals first for supporting the opposition to January's English Only and second for embracing the Metro Council's nondiscrimination bill for GLBT Metro employees. And that seems to be enough to placate Nashville progressives given that scant liberal hackles were raised with news that someone in the Mayor's office has been courting arch-conservative Eagle Forum with the intention of finding a challenger to beat progressive CM Emily Evans.

What was Evan's mortal sin that would cause the Mayor to approach a group that was not only opposed to his nondiscrimination ordinance, but has been fighting protection of gays and lesbians "since 1972"? Asking some critical questions about his convention center. Questioning the Mayor's capital budget policies (you know: what the Metro Charter authorizes council members to do in representing their districts).

Well the GLBT activists are now Mayor Dean's social capital for the cashing at next election, so they aren't complaining, regardless of the Mayor's politics making for strange bedfellows. And liberals of all orientations seem content to let the Mayor be as economically regressive as he can get as long as he embraces predefined social issues.

In the meantime, leave it to neighborhood leaders to bang the drum and rally the troops on behalf of Emily Evans. The Nashville Neighborhoods Google group is abuzz about the indecent proposal by a Dean liaison to Eagle Forum. A letter written to the chicken-shit anonymous author of the disclosing City Paper column, "Rex in the City," by West Meade Park Neighborhood Association President Kip Kirby provides a sample of that buzz. An exerpt:
As president of West Meade Park Neighborhood Association, I worked closely with Harding Academy [Editor's note: "Rex" erroneously called the school "Davidson Academy," which is near Madison] when they purchased the old Eatherly Property at the corner of Highway 70South and Brookmont Terrace. Harding met with our task force numerous times for months to work out a Memorandum of Understanding with our Neighborhood Association – something the school did not have to do. And Emily Evans was involved with that negotiation, despite the documented “bad blood” from previous issues in the Belle Meade/Links area. All of us involved with that situation and its positive outcome will tell you that Emily was above pettiness and backbiting. Her style is to get the job done calmly and professionally and keep disagreements impersonal by choosing the high road whenever possible. She is able to laugh off criticism and concentrate on solving issues and bettering the neighborhoods she represents.

You should also know that Emily Evans may be one of the most respected, well-liked and effective Metro Council representatives any district has ever had. Her influence and popularity spread far beyond the reach of the 23rd District, and her support among her constituents should not be underestimated. Through her intelligent and thoughtful leadership, Emily has won the loyalty of many in Davidson County, in and out of her own district.

Rarely have I seen an elected representative in any field of government – local or national – better qualified to hold office than Emily Evans. All she would have to do is put out the word, and she’d see a massive rally of enthusiastic and organized support that might surprise even her.
Indeed. Emily Evans, one of the most progressive CMs we have, is probably going to enjoy a lot of public support regardless of whom the Dean Administration beds down with to beat her.

The GLBT activists may be placing false hopes in the nondiscrimination ordinance, given that Mayor Dean could choose lay offs over salary cuts next summer while trying to make room for the Music City Center, which will be the largest single capital budget project in Metro history. What good is a nondiscrimination ordinance if you're not around to enjoy the benefit?

But the most disappointing aspect is that local liberals haven't bothered to rally around Evans themselves. Staying unquestioningly on the Dean bandwagon--which one day may include an Eagle Forum arch-conservative for council from West Nashville--merely multiplies the strange bedfellows.

Bells Bend Archaeology Program October 9

From Metro Parks:
Project Archaeology
Bells Bend Park

Friday, October 9th at the Outdoor Center
4187 Old Hickory Boulevard
8:30 A.M.-3:00 P.M.

This workshop introduces the participants to the world of archaeology by providing instruction on Tennessee’s first inhabitants and great activities for the classroom. Participants receive the Intrigue of the Past teacher activity guide. Leaders: LinnAnn Welch, Judy Jones, and guest archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf from Tennessee Division of Archaeology

Please call (615) 862-4187 to register.

Bet on It

If any attempt were made in Metro Council to check and regulate the unsolicited distribution of "free" Tennessean newspapers on people's lawns and public sidewalks, publishers like Ellen Leifeld and Chris Ferrell (SouthComm) with PR firm McNeely, Pigott, and Fox in tow would lobby Metro Council in the same style as the newsrack issue and spin the commercial marketing of their product into a constitutional freedom of the press issue. Book it.

Mayor's Finance Director: The Convention Center Ends Justify Any Means Necessary

Wouldn't it be great if the Mayor's Office expressed this kind of urgency about keeping park community centers open on weekends or fully funding Public Works maintenance projects in the neighborhoods? I guess expanding library hours is just not as sexy as subsidizing a hotel in a depressed hotel market:
"I don't have a preconceived notion or desire one way or the other how this gets done. But it's got to be done the right way," Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said last week. "The hotel is critical. We're going to come up with the best plan we can."

Are You Ready for Some Election Season Politics? For Some It's the Only Game in Town

It's that season once again where party-oriented wonks are chattering up strictly election politics, whether you are ready or not, and just like last season Sean Braisted is hawking youth and form a little more strongly than substance:
The Democratic party needs young progressive representation in the legislature if we are going to fight an ever more radical GOP. Their Senate Caucus is on track to get younger and more rightwing with the possible inclusion of Stacey Campfield and Brian Kelsey, and we need voices in the legislature who will take them on, without having to fear voter backlash. That is why in our urban areas especially, we need fresh voices who are up to the challenge, whether it be in District 58 where Steve Turner is challenging Rep. Mary Pruitt, or now Sen. District 21 where Jeff [Yarbro] is taking on Sen. [Doug] Henry.
Meanwhile, one of Nashville's only blogging council members cautions voters not to forget about wisdom, gravitas, and substance over the fresh horses and sweet new darlings of the Democratic chatter class:
I learned today that Senator Henry has a challenger in the next election. I rarely get into partisan politics and elections other than my own. But, before all the "he's old and needs to be retired" talk starts, I would like to weigh in and tell you a few things about my experience working with him ....

Senator Henry and I had a number of conversations about how the lax borrowing practices of local government were affecting Nashville as well as other city and counties across the state. What I learned from those conversations is this:

1. Senator Henry is old and I doubt he will dispute that.
2. Senator Henry has a keen grasp of government finance and debt practices.
3. Senator Henry has forgotten what most people will ever know about Tennessee's budget and finance.

Naturally, I am biased in favor my constituents - of which Senator Henry is one. But before we starting talking about how old he is let's also find some time to talk about what he knows and how he serves the people of Tennessee.

Ready for the election year bombardments to distract you from the broader, day-to-day dimensions of politics that directly affect your lives? An election is kind of like happy hour: you patronize someone else for an interesting way to distract from the routine and requirements of your actual life as long as it doesn't become your actual life and consume everything else.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inflicting the media's memetic mythology on neighborhoods

In its latest installment of the longest-running media formula pitting neighborhoods against Nashville's political and economic elite, the City Paper (CP) accuses neighborhood leaders of relying on community plans as holy writ somehow inflexible to winds of change. I must say, I've been writing for 5 years across these economic sea changes, and I've yet to see the CP deviate from a prescribed formula of information culled from interviews with developers and courthouse insiders and of conclusions drawn about neighborhoods and constituents based on those interviews. And yet, ordinary people are accused of wearing the blinders.

If reporters are going to accuse those of us in the trenches of relying on holy writ, might we accuse them of relying on a holy see? The courthouse elite is a magisterial group to which the local mainstream media genuflects, and the City Paper has been the most zealous at bowing to the influence of power and money. (Don't expect that to change with former Council Member Chris Ferrell as the paper's captain; the melding of government and media at SouthComm is breathtaking beyond words).

CP reporter Kyle Swensen expresses his own uncritical assumptions about neighborhoods. Take his line about leaders being savvy in playing the planning game. What Swensen fails to acknowledge is that they've had to become astute because unlike developers, they are not lawyered-up and lobbied-out. In the absence of economic capital they have social capital and networks that act as mobile academy, early-warning system, and back-up generator. But because they don't have the finances to buy their way into the council committee rooms of the courthouse or into lunches with the Mayor's players they have been stigmatized by the media incongruously as less-than-legitimate rabble and latte-sipping idealists.

The latest City Paper offering perpetuates that double standard: leaders have savvy to work the planning system, but inexplicably they lack the savvy to understand economic hardship or the recession we're in. And Swensen insinuates that neighborhood leaders are short-sighted protectionists who cannot see beyond their own backyards to citywide issues. That's some selective savvy consistent with past stigma.

In reality, if reporter had bothered to actually interview various neighborhood leaders he would have found that many are fully aware of the shifting economic realities and the need to be flexible. Second, he would have realized as I have in the past 5 years that neighborhood leaders do reach out to others to work on citywide and regionwide issues like proper zoning for LED billboards and conservation of green space in Bells Bend.

Third, he would have discovered that neighborhood leaders are pragmatic. What has not changed in these changing times is the propensity of many developers to eschew any plans, to skirt any requirements in order to maximize financial benefits, or to lobby political leaders to ease their pain. For all of his generalizing about neighborhood leaders Swensen failed to point out that the basic goal of development is to wring as much economic value at the least expense from real estate. Community values and character often do not figure into that quantitative equation. The development goal did not change during the housing bubble and it hasn't changed since the bubble burst.

In that passage of time neighborhoods have had to use whatever means was at their disposal to keep growth from overrunning quality of life. Neighborhood plans were simply tools for doing that. Those plans were promoted enthusiastically by planners in some cases, like in Salemtown, even before a neighborhood association existed. The subarea plan involving Salemtown was adopted in 2002. Salemtown did not have a neighborhood association until 2005. Courthouse leaders brought Salemtown residents together to formulate the subarea plan, which recommended a "full-range of residential housing types."

Does being flexible in today's changing climate mean that the Salemtown association should reject the notion of a community with a "full-range" of options in favor of say a community devoted exclusively to apartments? That would be impractical, but if not that, exactly what would the developers and their media apologists have us do to meet their ideal of "flexibility"? Swensen goes question begging by not articulating how we might be flexible. And what guarantees do we have that once we achieve the lofty heights of flexibility that they still won't run roughshod over our community character in the name of making a few more bucks than if they didn't?

Finally, Swensen's statement about the Planning Department's endorsement of a Green Hills development might mislead us to believe that Metro Planners always deserve the same benefit of the doubt a reporter grants. However, planners are not perfect, they may be biased in favor of development, and their passion for new urbanism's higher density may cause them to ignore practical questions, like:
  • Where to put actual urban families?
  • How to design amenities for a generationally diverse community?
  • Might we incorporate good public education as a catalyst?
In 2007 the Planning Department recommended to the Planning Commission that a high-density plan be approved in Salemtown in the name of new urbanism without regard to questions like building for balance and diversity. Planners were shortsighted in siding with developers, and after public hearing the Commissioners sided with Salemtown Neighbors against planners. They recommended rezoning for greater balance and diversity to Metro Council against the request of the sponsoring council member. Would Swensen call the Planning Commissioners inflexible for recommending a full-range of housing options in a diverse neighborhood?

In the end, what looks on first glance to be the City Paper's balanced treatment of common people who make uncommon efforts to protect their communities is--once critically considered--just another courthouse-circulated myth. It contains half-truths that could have been unpacked with some professional legwork outside of Downtown political circles. The Swensen story does not break any new ground or bring any new understanding to the plural motivations of neighborhood associations, and it is not entirely distinct from any past CP hit piece on community-based organizing. Consume it with a grain of salt and write the editors to ask for more balance and facts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Privatization Ain't Panacea

According to the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress, government privatizations schemes are increasingly met with disfavor:
Michael Likosky of New York University, an expert on privatization who has studied it across the country and overseas, believes taxpayers and policymakers are becoming wary of outsourcing. He said they generally consider privatization—Likosky calls it “government by contract”—effective in managing public assets, such as harbors and highways, but are leery of its usefulness in supplying services.

That apparently is grounded in widely reported delays, disruptions and disappointments in privatized services, such as Virginia’s troubled experience with a Northrop Grumman-run information-technology network under a 10-year, $2.3 billion contract.

Obama's Recovery Act Awards $1.3 Million in Block Grants to Nashville

Part of the $620 million being given to 500 American communities and part of the $13.2 million given to Tennessee under the American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009 will be coming to Nashville. The Obama Administration has awarded a total of $1 billion in block grants to rejuvenate neighborhoods around the nation.

Obama Slow Walking Transportation Dollars to Cities?

Will transit reform--with federal dollars bypassing statehouse brokers and going directly to cities--have to wait 3 months or the President's preferred 18 months?

The School Board's Great White Hope

Try as he must, school board chairman David Fox cannot change the real subject of the debate about the school rezoning plan: West Nashville cluster is getting whiter and North Nashville cluster is not. From this morning's Tennessean:
the rezoning plan was specifically developed to stop the busing of black students to the affluent Hillwood area in West Nashville, said Larry Woods, attorney for parents who are suing over the rezoning. The new enrollment figures show the percentage of white students increased at Hillwood High School and almost every elementary and middle school that feeds into it.

"What they've fought hard to conceal is that this is not a rezoning plan for the city, it's a plan to end busing by taking African-American students out of the Hillwood cluster and transferring them to the Pearl-Cohn cluster" in North Nashville, Woods said ....

A closer look at schools at the center of the rezoning controversy shows that the racial makeup of schools in the Hillwood cluster changed with the loss of some of its black population, making schools "more white," as the lawsuit claims.

But rezoning those black students to the Pearl-Cohn zone did not significantly change the racial makeup there. Most schools in that cluster were already black majority.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photos of Tennessean's "Free" Litter on My Street Alone

Below are photos I took today of copies of the "free" Wednesday edition Tennessean that is delivered everywhere regardless of whether neighbors subscribe or approve. I only walked down one block of my street taking these photos. How many more streets on other blocks look just like this? How much uninvited litter does the Tennessean drop every Wednesday in the North End? The red wrappers were the papers delivered September 23. The brown-to-black mildewed copies were delivered on Wednesdays before that.

I picked up my Tennessean litter on Wednesday and returned it to their Broadway offices. I still receive the product even though I asked the Tennessean to stop delivering it last spring. How much longer is this company going to package their product and throw it on our streets and lawns early on Wednesday mornings without our consent?

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander at the Center of the Hypocrisy on ACORN

25 Republicans who voted to defund government contractor ACORN opposed contractor reform in 2006 when Democrats attempted simply to eliminate fraud and to open up the contractor selection process to companies beyond the defrauding hooligans at Halliburton. One of those GOP Senators is Lamar Alexander. An accomplice in 2006, Tennessee's senior Senator is obviously 2008's high horse; although given the relatively minuscule cost of the ACORN contract, the horse is an easy ride. The shallow GOP base are suckers for cheap righteousness.

Defunding Double Standards

Jeremy Scahill on ACORN, Blackwater, and Barack Obama:
Perhaps one of the most jarring comparisons here is the fact that ACORN is now being attacked while the Obama administration continues to contract with Blackwater, the favorite mercenary company of the Bush administration, which is headed by Erik Prince, who was a major donor to Republican causes and campaigns, including those of some of the Defund ACORN bill’s sponsors, including Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the key figures in hunting down Van Jones.

Those vacation benefits in Metro Planning must be sweet

Back in mid-July I failed to get a response from Planning Direct Rick Bernhardt to an e-mailed request for elaboration on exactly what merits he saw in developer Tony Giarratana's hustled reconsideration of the May Town Center proposal after it's defeat. So, I blogged about Planning's failure to respond. Almost immediately, Planning spokesperson and former TV journalist Craig Owensby responded that Mr. Bernhardt could not reply because he was on vacation. I dutifully updated that info in fairness to the Planning Director.

However, no good deed goes unpunished. Nearly two months later I have yet to hear back from Rick Bernhardt on what kind of merits and precedents are driving the reconsideration of May Town Center, which is now scheduled for an October meeting. I don't know whether to chalk up the lack of follow through to Planning's ineffectiveness or to Mr. Bernhardt's intention to bring back May Town Center from the dead without any justification whatsoever. But this failure in transparency, this lack of accountability to concerned taxpayers is inexcusable.

UPDATE: In going back over the e-mails between me and Planning's Craig Owensby, I discovered that Craig himself failed to reply to a request for information I made at the same time he was correcting me for expecting a response from the vacationing Rick Bernhardt. Answering information I received that the West Nashville Community Plan was kept off the consent agenda (which the Commission passed without consideration or debate) in order to ease passage of May Town Center, Owensby retorted that the plan was never on the consent agenda. I came back with a follow up:
Thanks, Craig. Blog updated.

At least one Hillwood leader insists that they were told in discussions with Planning that their plan would be put on the consent agenda ... Any idea how planners would have left such an impression during their west Nashville discussions?
Mr. Owensby has yet to respond to my July query. Maybe he went on extended vacation, too.

No Contingencies at MDHA

The recession made it tough on everyone. However, Nashville's only government real estate developer, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, is using the recession as an excuse to minimize its own failure to plan for rainy days at Rolling Mill Hill. The Sounds anteing up to a new baseball field might have helped RMH. Perhaps the Mayor's Office should have listened to suggestions made that a convention center in place of the scrap metal yard dominating the view might make RMH more attractive. But in the end, RMH failed because MDHA acted more like a wheeling, private real estate company and less like a lumbering, conservative government bureaucracy that could see trouble on the horizon and batten down hatches.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Deep Thought

Journalism is no longer an unbeholden profession, but basic training and field testing for politics or marketing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Other Local Voices on the Tennessean Littering Our Yards and Neighborhoods with their Uninvited Paper Products

In response to my trek to the Tennessean's Broadway offices this morning to return newspapers from the last two Wednesdays, I received this from a Salemtown neighbor via e-mail:
I picked up two newspapers in front of my house and in front my neighbor’s this morning because I knew the renters would let it sit there and rot. I should have gone with you this morning on that run. I have also visited the Tennessean office a couple of years ago when two week’s worth of newspapers were delivered during a vacation stop request. They were delivering papers even on days when I don’t normally get the newspaper. I demanded to speak to someone in a management position, and they sent a V.P. out to me. I did have a few more issues with them after that and threatened to cancel the paper. I think there is finally a competent delivery person assigned to this neighborhood now because I haven’t had any problems in about a year. I wasted too much time talking to at least three people in management to resolve the vacation stop issues.

It baffles me that they pay someone to deliver this weekly “local” edition to people who don’t want them, and they are trashing our sidewalks. This certainly isn’t very economical or environmentally friendly.
Christian Grantham offers this response to those who defend the Tennessean's financially irresponsible and anti-environmental waste of resources [my editorial comment removed from this clause at the request of a reader]:
When those advertisers are told their ad was delivered to a qualified subscriber and circulation auditors are told the same thing, advertisers and investors are defrauded.

People whose lawns are littered by unwanted Gannett newspapers are not looking at these ads, and Gannett seems to be the only company engaging in this poor business practice.

Personally, I’d encourage people to skip calling the Tennessean and wasting time with them if they are receiving papers they never asked for. I’ve done several times with no results. I finally filed 2 complaints with the Better Business Bureau and then got personal phone calls from the Tennessean.

Luckily for them, it’s never happened again for me OR my entire neighborhood. I feel sorry for them if it happens again, because it could very well be the start of the end of Gannett because I’ll spend every hour of free time making sure defrauded advertisers and investors get the message and maybe even some court ordered class action remedy for massive fraud.
There are also supportive comments added to my original post on the Tennessean's raggedy, litterbugging ways.

Volunteer Opportunity to Help Second Harvest Program in Salemtown

During a walk tonight, I spoke with Rev. John Swyers at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (corner of Garfield and Rosa Parks) about his congregation's work with Second Harvest providing food for needy folks around the North End. He told me that on Tuesday mornings he is in short supply of volunteers who could make a run to Publix to pick up bread for his community service. If you are available or know someone who might be available on Tuesday mornings to pick up surplus bread to help hungry people, please e-mail me and I'll pass your contact info along to Rev. Swyers. There is also contact info on the program's website.

Signs & Lights

Here are some of the sign and lighting elements installed as part of the Salemtown streetscape funded by a federal block grant with input from neighborhood leaders:

I Returned the Tennessean's Litter to Them

This morning as I took my daughter to school she expressed sadness about litter at the foot of our front yard and she called attention particularly to the "free" Wednesday Tennessean that continues to be delivered to my house in spite of requests that I made last spring that they stop. As of this morning the Gannett Corporation continues to litter my street with free copies that no one I know has subscribed to receive. There are still week-old mildewing copies from last Wednesday on sidewalks, too.

So, this morning, my kindergartener's sadness motivated me to scoop up both copies of the Tennessean thrown on the ground at my house and return them to the newspaper's Broadway offices. I arrived at the Tennessean's front desk and told the unamused receptionists that I was returning the corporation's litter and that if their circulation department continued to throw its trash at my yard I would be filing a report with the police next time, since littering is a violation of Metro ordinances.

To her credit one of the receptionists took my complaint and recorded it for circulation. However, the foundering print media is not garnering any empathy or support in these quarters by continuing to trash my neighborhood and eventually cram landfills with uninvited newspapers so that it can pay its staff salaries. If others are tired of the Tennessean's unwelcome intrusions in our community, perhaps we can work together to leverage changes to the newspaper's wasteful circulation practices.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Candlelight Vigil with Gang Colors Startles Neighbors of Morgan Park

At 6:00 this evening I observed about a half-a-dozen older teens wearing bright red "Salemtown Bloods" colors hanging out in front of the Morgan Park Community Center with younger teens. Some of the older ones were driving cars. It's been a long time since I've seen that many teens in gang colors at Morgan Park. Uniformed police officers eventually showed up and the older teens almost immediately disbanded and either left in cars or looked inconspicuous.

The Salemtown Neighors e-list reported that after police left the gang-colored teens seemed to recongregate. The police came back and have been in and around for the last 2 hours. I asked one of them what was going on and he told me that teenagers were holding a candlelight vigil for teenager Demetrice Jones, who was shot by another teenager, Jacdouglas Deon Buford last Saturday night in the Osage-North Fisk Neighborhood. Police have obtained a criminal homicide warrant for Buford from the Juvenile Court.

Anyone who spots Buford (photo at right) should contact police at 862-8600. There is no known motive for the shooting, but with the amount of bright red I'm seeing young teenage males wear tonight at Morgan Park, I'm concerned that the shooting might have been gang related and we may see a cycle of gang tagging start up again in Salemtown. With respect to gang activity it's been quiet around this neighborhood for some time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unchecked Exxon

What am I missing here? According to the New York Times, the Exxon Mobile Pipeline Company in the far west MetroCenter area "has not been out of compliance" in the past 3 years, but their last inspection was over 4 1/2 years ago. How do we know that Exxon hasn't been polluting the Cumberland or the local stormwater run-off if the last time they were inspected was nearly a half a decade ago?

HT: Freddie O'Connell

A Couple of Bells Bend Programs This Week That Would Be Hard to Hold near a Bustling Town Center

Some unique opportunities are afoot nearby this week thanks to Metro Parks.

First for star gazers:
Join members of Nashville’s “Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society” and “Middle Tennessee Space Society” including a high-tech mobile observatory called “The Astronomy Channel” at Bell’s Bend Nature Center on Friday evening September 25th, from 8:00-10:00pm for a FREE night under the stars.

Weather permitting, a short program update on NASA’s current missions to the Moon will be provided leading up to full darkness when several telescopes will be present to view objects in the night sky including our Moon, Jupiter, Gaseous Nebulae & Star Clusters in our own Milky Way, and possibly even other galaxies. The Moon and Jupiter will especially be highlighted on this night where Jupiter's Great Red Spot will be visible about 9pm and onward and Hadley Rille next to the Apollo 15 landing site on our own Moon may also be visible.

The program is a learning experience geared for ages 8 and up, but younger children will also enjoy viewing through the telescopes. The mobile observatory is designed to aid those who have trouble using telescope eyepieces or have impaired vision and is also handicap accessible. If you can watch TV, you can observe with this telescope!

Questions will be answered by the astronomy and space enthusiasts present. Come discover your universe with us!

Rain will definitely cancel the program.

Second, you can get your Audubon on to help Parks document the various species of birds that call the Bend home:
Please join us at Bells Bend Outdoor Center to observe the fall migratory birds and year-round residents. Observations will be recorded to help us monitor the species living at the park, particularly the rarer field species. All hikes begin at the outdoor center at 7:30 A.M. Dates are as follows:

Thursday, September 24 Leader: Metro Park staff and volunteers

Friday, September 25 Leader: Kevin Bowden

Friday, October 2 Leader: Chris Sloan

Please call (615) 862-4187 to register

You Make the Call

Retrospective state-of-the-Mayor's-Office articles this morning by Metro beat reporters Michael Cass and Nate Rau. One is cheerleading and the other is pro journalism. The differences couldn't be starker.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Society of Self-Indulging Slugs

In his review of David Owen's "Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability" Jonathan Yardley explains why the Greatest Generation is in no danger of being supplanted by any of us who came afterward:
on both sides of the political aisle there is virtually nothing except pandering to our love of cars and placating the various industries and special interests that profit from them, which means just about every industry and special interest in the country. Six decades ago, as the United States headed into World War II, Americans had been steeled by the Depression and were prepared for the sacrifices the war demanded. Now, by contrast, they have been made complacent and selfish by a half century of self-indulgence at an unprecedented level of extravagance. There is no reason to believe they are ready to change the way they live, even as the world grows ever closer to the day when the oil binge ends.

North End School Surpasses Volunteer Capacity for Hands On Nashville Project

Hands on Nashville Day is next Saturday for Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the project set for Jones Paideia Magnet Elementary has surpassed its size limit for volunteers:
Jones Paideia Magnet Elementary HON Day 2009

Agency: Metro Nashville Public Schools

Description: Landscaping:
- trim, weed, and mulch 2nd floor courtyard

- grout mosaic tile in hallways
- cleaning
- painting over graffiti

Impact Areas: Children & Youth, Children & Youth: Elementary school, Children & Youth

Interests: The interests recommended for this project are:
Children and Youth

Skills: The skills helpful for participation in this project are:
Building/Construction/Home Improvement, Gardening/Landscaping Skills

Saturday, September 26, 2009
8:00AM - 12:00PM
Project Coordinator(s): Cindy Heath
Size Limit: 24
Volunteers Signed Up: 25
Location: Nashville, TN 37208 (North Nashville)
The full project address and directions will be sent to you by e-mail after you sign up.
This project has reached its maximum capacity. Click here to search for other projects.
As a member of Jones Paideia Magnet PTO, I would like to express my gratitude to the volunteers for giving up a Saturday morning to make this important neighborhood center a better place for our children.

Could Pro Football Even Exist without Car Culture and Sprawl Growth?

A NY Times reporter is not so marveled by the architecture of the new home of the Dallas Cowboys:
Cowboys Stadium suffers from its own form of nostalgia: its enormous retractable roof, acres of parking and cavernous interiors are straight out of Eisenhower’s America, with its embrace of car culture and a grandiose, bigger-is-better mentality. The result is a somewhat crude reworking of old ideas, one that looks especially unoriginal when compared with the sophisticated and often dazzling stadiums that have been built in Europe and the Far East over the last few years. Worse for fans, its lounges and concourses are so sprawling that I suspect more than a few spectators will get lost and miss the second-half kickoff.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How to Fund Big Capital Projects in Nashville: Commit First and Worry about Funding Later

It has become a formula for big ticket Mayors in Nashville: only worry about how to fund inevitable budget shortfalls and increasing costs after you are neck deep in construction or married to large-box builds. By that time Metro taxpayers are left to ask, "What are we going to do with it if we don't raise property or sales taxes?" Mayor Karl Dean is on his way to breaking it so that the rest of us will have to buy it:

We should take CM Jim Gotto's wish that local taxpayers not be on the hook for MCC with a grain of salt. Mr. Gotto once signed Tennessee Tax Revolt's pledge not to raise taxes and afterwards voted for a budget that did so.

Voluntary Self-Regulation: More on Why Obama's Economic Policy May Be the Second Coming of Dubya's

The American Prospect on why "No Drama" Obama's failure to channel public outrage at the financial sector may cost all of us:
The administration's critics are right about one thing: Obama can't afford to play it cool any longer. And he can't follow the same playbook with the banks he has used with the health-care reform, pragmatically allying himself with industry stakeholders .... Harnessing public anger at the banks isn't just one of many options. It's the only way he can pass his reforms.

[In a recent speech, Obama] ... excoriated bankers, fought for consumer protections, and explained how strong rules make for strong capitalism. But he also urged the bankers to voluntarily take civic interests to heart and "embrace serious financial reform, not fight it." He fails to understand that the financial sector is an even more obstreperous partner than congressional Republicans, who oppose the administration from both self-interest and principle.

The banks have no principles behind their opposition, just the profit motive, and the American economy depends on reducing profits in the financial sector. There's no deal to be made. If Obama wants to make the financial sector work for the economy and not against it -- and reap the political benefits of doing so -- it's time to fight.

Federal Action Prompting Metro Action on "Livability"?

Might the Mayor's Office be seeing what's happening in the Obama administration and appointing a local livability task force to be in position for federal money if the national task force makes it available?
As the White House plots a long-term sustainability and resource-management course, with a "livable communities" initiative among top presidential priorities in the 2010 FY budget, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will work through a joint task force to involve the public in planning, expand transportation alternatives and transit-oriented development, and provide less costly housing near jobs, while coordinated federal investments in livability will encourage urban regions to create and follow integrated housing, land-use and transportation plans.

"Livability incorporates the concept of collaborative decision-making," said Secretary LaHood in testimony before the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, noting that the new congressional transportation funding act also opens up an opportunity to recast the federal transportation policy and address housing and land-use concerns.

Secretary Donovan, observes E & E Daily reporter Josh Voorhees, said the combined DOT-HUD task force will work out federal housing-affordability measures that will include transportation, energy and other costs, to inform consumers and enable the market to price housing accordingly
We should keep an eye on how pie-in-the-sky intentions about livability start to unfold in real local communities. A little vigilance over whether the local Livability Task Force really listens to neighborhoods or is merely an exercise in pumping federal money into developers' pockets wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Neighbors vs Neighbors vs Seniors?

So, Nina Cardona writes about this new Livability Task Force chaired by Diane Neighbors, who will be recommending zoning changes to make neighborhoods more livable for seniors, but not without some controversy:
The task force is recommending measures to make it easier for seniors to either remain in their homes or downsize without leaving their current communities. It set a goal of implementing zoning changes to allow a mixed-use developments and infill in a variety of housing sizes. Several parts of the city have a history of neighbors organizing to fight attempts to allow more dense housing developments of the sort proposed by the task force.

Sounds like Cardona is reporting on a noble effort except for what she leaves out. Generational diversity in neighborhoods is a good thing, but she neglects to acknowledge that organized neighbors are not some monolith preparing knee-jerk opposition to higher density. Neighborhoods face a planning and rezoning environment that tends to look like a free-for-all where developers enjoy a distinct advantage. Developers enter looking for exceptions and special conditions that will allow them the highest density possible because highest density equals most profits, and serving seniors matters little in the equation. They also demand the least resistance, and that generally means ignoring neighborhood feedback.

And speaking of developers, Cardona also fails to mention that Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors is married to a developer who stands to gain from more mixed-use, high-density developments. How is the task force prepared to protect balance between recreation/lifestyle consumers of all ages and older residents on fixed incomes in higher-density developments? Is the task force prepared to insure that developers won't use their recommendation as a way to drain communities of their character while they suck profits out? Did Cardona interview any neighborhood leaders the same way she interviewed Diane Neighbors (setting the Vice Mayor up in an adversarial role with neighbors while posing her the advocate for seniors)?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Evans Vouches for Wilhoite's Absence

From CM Emily Evans regarding CM Vivian Wilhoite:
Vivian's absence during the non-discrimination vote is partly my fault. We failed to communicate properly about another bill that took her away from the room. She intended on voting for 502, she told me that several times. She was understandably very upset that she had missed an important vote. I communicated what happened to Chris Sanders et al and they were very understanding. If you would correct the record, I would appreciate it.
Here is the record to be corrected.

Thus averting chances he might come to be known as The Council Chickenhawk

Wish She Believed that Lower Rung Stormwater Rate Payers Needed Her Protection Too

We've given Megan Barry a few hours to enjoy the high point of her council tenure:
Councilwoman Megan Barry, the bill's main sponsor, said the fight was worth the effort.

"I believe that all employees deserve protection, and it's my responsibility as a council member to make sure that happens," she said.
Now that the point is past could she condescend perchance to be just as vigorous a voice for a few other progressives beyond the Tennessee Equality Project?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Lesson in Mounting a Metro-wide Campaign: Know Thy Audience

Council member and declared candidate for Juvenile Court Clerk Vivian Wilhoite is underestimating the political acumen of organized GLBT voters if she believes that showing up to their victory party at the Loews Lyric Room to celebrate passage of the non-discrimination ordinance vote will be enough to assure their support in the next election even as she left council chambers without recording a vote on the NDO. Gladhanding tends to need an assist from some pluck, but pluck among council progressives is in short supply.

UPDATE: Emily Evans corrects the record on Vivian Wilhoite's absence during the NDO.

Another Salemtown Streetscape Manager Laid Off

According to a co-chair of MDHA's Citizen Advisory Committee for the Salemtown Streetscape Project, the second project manager has been laid off by the landscape-engineering firm selected in 2007 to oversee design and construction of the federally funded project. The last time the firm, Ragan Smith, laid off a previous manager, delays and crucial mistakes occurred in the aftermath. The Salemtown project is scheduled to be finished in October, which will be over a year late. MDHA failed to communicate the new layoff to neighborhood leaders either at last week's CAC meeting or since.

Metro Council Cock Fight

With CM Carl Burch's animal farm bill coming up for third reading tonight, Nashville Urban Harvest's leader Sarah Bello sent us a head's up about sponsor deception:
Last month, the planning commission unanimously voted to allow reasonable restrictions on the keeping of urban chickens by passing the Holleman Bill. Then, CM Burch went against the word he gave at the Planning Commission meeting (to agree to a compromise bill with CM Holleman) to vote against the Holleman Bill at the last council meeting. Councilman Burch's anti chicken bill is really overly restrictive, it states you must have 5 acres or more to keep even 2 chickens! Both the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission have effectively stated it is time to review our antiquated chicken laws. Our community should have the opportunity to address the needs of both sides of the debate and come up with some reasonable guidelines based on best practices, like cities across the country have done.
Sarah also encourages everyone to check out the Nashville Urban Chickens on Facebook.

Bellevue Resident Views Charlie Tygard's "Edible" Intentions as Suspect

CM-at-large Charlie Tygard consistently panders to the Bellevue community he once represented, and his latest pipe dream for them (the rest of constituents-at-large can go to hell) is an "edible garden" project for Bellevue Middle School. A long-time community opponent expressed her suspicion at the Bellevue Exchange Club-linking City Paper last week:
I am sure that this is just another political ploy on Tygard's part. For instance, the Bellevue reporter for the Tennessean wrote a couple articles several months ago about Tygard's desire to build a new high school in Bellevue. He stated that he wanted it built on the Hill tract of land; however, he failed to mention that The Friends of Warner Parks have been very publicly raising money to purchase this tract for years now. (This particular tract of land contains an old-growth forest with trees estimated to be 200 years old.) When the Tennessean reporter was notified of this situation, the articles on Tygard's "proposal" suddenly stopped and, as far as I can tell, Tygard has not publicly made another mention of a high school being built on this plot of land since then. It is pretty clear to me that Tygard's only goal in this situation was to build up his political "clout". He had to have known the importance of the Hill tract and been aware of the efforts of The Friends of Warner Parks to purchase it because he has lived in Bellevue for years and was one of Bellevue's Council reps for several years as well. (His most recent term ended in 2007.) So it is pretty clear to me that his sole purpose in proposing a high school on this particular plot of unavailable land was PR.

And let's not forget how Charlie got a bill passed in the Council a few years ago to have an ILLEGAL (per state law) landfill put in the old McCrory rock quarry--the same quarry that some of his developer friends/campaign contributors wanted to purchase. (He advertised the landfill as a "land reclamation project".) Once the community found out about the true purpose of the project, the outcry against the proposal was deafening. Oh yes, and he is still pushing the LED issue in the Council, against the better judgment of countless neighborhood groups and individual citizens.

About the above article, Charlie has done some "favors" for Bellevue Middle School in the past, but if he wants to be a true friend to our community, why is he not providing help to HG Hill Middle School and Hillwood High School--schools for which many of Bellevue's children are zoned? Oh yes, I forgot, Tygard's daughter doesn't work at those schools, just Bellevue Middle.

I am sick and tired of Charlie's disservice to our community and, especially, to Bellevue. When is he going to put the needs of our community above the needs of himself and his developer friends? Besides, he is supposed to represent the entire city now, not just Bellevue. There are many people here in Bellevue who would like nothing more than for him to just leave us alone. The only saving grace about him being elected to an at-large position is that now he has P.O.ed countless people across Nashville with his antics. Maybe now that he has shown his true colors to the entire city he will never be elected to any political position ever again. Here's hoping.

Tennessee's Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist Supported Insurance Industry's Definition of Domestic Violence as a Pre-existing Condition

According to the SEIU blog, not only do some states permit insurance companies to deny medical coverage to victims of domestic violence on the basis of a "pre-existing condition," but in 2006 10 U.S. Senators including both of Tennessee's voted against legislation that would have forced insurance companies to stop revictimizing domestic violence victims. I wonder if Tennessee's latest Republican senator and potential presidential candidate Bob Corker would join Lamar Alexander in denying victims of domestic violence medical coverage?

The Declining Significance of Change

What we have to show for our misplaced hope in the last presidential election:
Reform of financial practices and regulations [of Wall Street] has not taken place. Federal regulators have been feuding over turf. Big financial houses are still designing and selling risky derivatives .... only a few of the generally unregulated hedge funds have closed. Pay on Wall Street is almost back to normal. (The 30,000 Goldman Sachs employees will each earn an average $700,000 this year; senior executives will reap multi-millions again in salary and bonus.)

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, White House economic czar Larry Summers, and others have cautioned that we should not dampen the initiative (some would call them "animal spirits") of financial leaders by limiting their compensation. I have worked over the years with several of the Wall Streeters involved; mainly I see them as greedy predators unable to see beyond themselves.

There is a sense of entitlement among these highly paid Wall Streeters — one that Geithner, at the New York Fed before becoming Treasury Secretary, came to accept as normal. If you asked the Masters, they would tell you that they deserve every penny of their compensation and that the shattered lives and lost businesses, savings, and jobs of ordinary citizens have nothing to do with them.
Looks like the extension of the Bush White House by other means. No matter how much we wanted Dubya to go away, he just keeps coming back in the form of Barack Obama's Bush-lite economic policies. The big fear before the last election was that John McCain was warmed-over Dubya, and yet, are we in a vastly different spot policy-wise than we would have been had Obama lost?

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.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Planning Commissioner Tonya Jones Campaigns for Greater US Dependence on Foreign Oil, against Clean Energy Jobs

Whenever you hear commercial construction firm owner and Planning Commissioner Tonya Jones address green builds or energy efficiency in developments during planning meetings, keep in mind that recently she helped rally followers to the petroleum industry's bid to defeat the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Given her outspoken, strident role in a lobby group that seems to have no problem assuring continued consumer reliance on Middle East oil, it will be hard for me to take any expressions she might make about leading in energy efficiency and environmental design very seriously.

Jones's group, Energy Citizens, insists that creating a green economy in which American energy is produced in America would cost Tennessee jobs. That claim is at odds with studies that find not only that ACES would mean more net jobs in Tennessee, but that if that the net jobs created would surge even higher with stronger industry standards than those demanded in ACES.

Her lobby group also does not seem sensitive to the security threats of failing to make the switch to a greener economy. A Georgia veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provides the voice of reason we should use to balance the shrill hysterics of Energy Citizens, the petroleum industry, and Nashville's Planning Commissioner:
Critics of the legislation, such as the American Petroleum Institute, contend that jobs could be lost and energy costs could rise. Don't believe these self-serving arguments. Some economists believe that the next economic revolution will be based on developing green energy. There is tremendous potential for job creation if we diversify our energy sources and build the infrastructure for clean, renewable, and affordable alternatives to oil. As for energy costs, the oil companies seem to think Americans have ridiculously short memories. Just last year, oil was racing toward $200 a barrel. It was only when the wheels came off the economy that the price of oil came down. Oil prices are notoriously volatile and there are some very unsavory characters with their hands on the supply spigot. It only takes one damaging hurricane, one shut pipeline, or one angry, oil-rich dictator to drive the price of oil sky high. We have the means to fix this situation. Now is the time to get started.

Going forward, we cannot simply hope that oil prices will be affordable and stable. We cannot simply hope that there won't be a conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, a flare up in the Middle East, or a crisis in Central Asia. Right now, we need a smart, comprehensive energy plan that enhances our security by providing for renewable, affordable, and clean energy produced in the United States. That plan is ACES.
And would Commissioner Jones's plan be more like "drill, baby, drill"?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Metro Water Continues to Risk Health & Safety of Nashvillians by Storing/Using Chemicals Near Germantown and Salemtown

Three years ago, NewsChannel5 exposed the hazardous risk that Metro Water Services was posing to its neighbors by storing chlorine in tanker cars out on open ground protected by little beyond a security guard and a chain link fence. More recent Google satellite/streetview photos show that regardless of concerns about toxic and deadly chemical spills that could result from catastrophic weather, an accident, or domestic terrorism, endangering those of us who live proximate to the Central Wastewater Treatment facility, Metro government still continues the practice of using and haphazardly storing chlorine.

A few weeks ago, Greenpeace listed the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant among the chemical facilities posing higher risks to Tennesseans when safer chemicals for water treatment are available. Greenpeace environmentalists mentioned both chlorine and anhydrous sulfur dioxide as the harmful agents used by MWS. While the threats to Nashville of a catastrophic spill of these chemicals into the environment are real enough, we began to be concerned about possible connections between cancer and exposure to chlorine after my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about a year ago.

According to the EPA there is some evidence of a connection between some forms of cancer and "chlorination byproducts in drinking water." However, several of the government websites I looked at report that no study has conclusively found a connection between human cancer and chlorine. On the contrary, there is a theory proposed by experts in the food, environmental, and health sciences called the Bromide Dominance Theory that postulates a connection between bromide, which is in the same chemical family as chlorine, and thyroid cancer. According to the theory, bromide displaces iodine in the body, and the resulting iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk for thyroid cancer (among others). Likewise, if chlorine also displaces iodine, could it also increase the risk of thyroid cancer? Could Metro Water's use of chlorine in our drinking water increase chances that people with family histories of cancer will get cancer?

I'm obviously not qualified to answer those questions, but I do want to relay a sobering experience I had shortly before the Greenpeace report on our wastewater treatment neighbor came out. Our plumber came by for a regular inspection of our water heater. He also suggested a chlorine test for our tap water. He performed this test by pouring three glasses of water. Using a simple pool test kit, he put 5 drops of chlorine testing agent in the first glass and stirred it with a utensil. The water turned bright and then then deep yellow, matching the highest level of chlorine on the pool kit spectrum. Next he put the same 5 drops of agent in the second class and stirred it with his finger. The water did not change as he stirred and even after a minute was still clear. He then poured the third glass into the second and it almost immediately went yellow again. He told me that we have an extreme level of chlorine that we were exposing ourselves to daily. He also noted that if his skin soaked up chlorine from room temperature water, then our hot showers could be opening our pores to the highest levels of chlorine exposure.

I have no delusions and I know that it is in our plumbers' financial interest to show us high chlorine levels in our tap water. We are going to buy a trunk line filter to protect ourselves from Metro Water Services, but the chlorine test was merely the final straw. However, in the end, families should not have to make the choice between exposing themselves to the financial risks of retrofitting plumbing and the health risk of bathing and consuming hyper-chlorinated water.

Above all, Metro Water should not be exposing Nashville to catastrophes on a mass scale by continuing their use of these chemicals if less hazardous methods of water treatment exist. Instead of spending Metro's capital budget on new convention centers, wouldn't the money be better spent in detoxifying Metro's water treatment process? What could be saved in passed-on medical and insurance costs might pay for more than just a new convention center.

High-Price Presence of AT&T & Comcast Disqualifies Underserved Cities for Broadband Stimulus

The presence of giants usually limits the options of peasants. Despite stereotypes of accessibility, it is especially true for underserved urban areas:
the rules governing the grants are stacked against cities like San Francisco, even though urban areas are among the places least reached by broadband and most in need of efforts like the one under way.

"I don't want to be seen as criticizing the Administration's efforts on the broadband problem around the country," Vein says. "I applaud its efforts. But the rules are written in such a way that it's difficult for a city like San Francisco to meet the requirements." An Aug. 14 deadline for applicants for the first wave of funds was extended by six days after technical glitches snagged the application process.

To qualify for funding, applicants need to prove they're catering to an "underserved" area. Yet the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which is overseeing the program, defines underserved as one where at least half of all households lack broadband, or where fewer than 40% of households subscribe to broadband, or a place where no service provider advertises broadband speeds of at least 3 megabits per second. In a densely populated city like San Francisco, where telecom providers like AT&T (T) and Comcast (CMCSA) widely advertise residential broadband all over the city, it's hard to point to a place that technically meets the "underserved" definition.
According to BusinessWeek a small town near Nashville has the same problem as San Francisco:
In 2007, the local power utility, Pulaski Electric, built its own fiber-optic network to serve homes and local businesses. The service, which has about 1,500 customers, is called Energize and offers 10 megabits per second plus TV and voice calling for $99 per month. Pulaski Electric CEO Wes Kelley says he'd like to expand the service to some 2,500 households in outlying rural communities.

But Pulaski runs afoul of the same "underserved" definition as San Francisco does. A patchwork of local phone, cable, and wireless companies offer varying levels of DSL and fixed wireless services, making it difficult to argue in a grant application that these areas are "underserved," Kelly says, even though some of them have no broadband service at all. "There's a combination of hit-and-miss providers in these communities that made it too complicated, so we decided to sit out the first round and wait," Kelley says.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Planning Opposes Gilmore's Request to Rezone Residential Property to Arbitrary "SP"

On Thursday District 19 CM Erica Gilmore brings a request to the Planning Commission to rezone from One and Two-Family Residential to Specific Plan-Mixed Use zoning property located on 19th Avenue, North at Pearl Street to permit an office and one single-family dwelling unit. Metro planners are recommending disapproval:
The proposed SP is not consistent with the North Nashville Community plan's SFD (single family detached) in NU (neighborhood urban) land use policy. The policy was adopted in the Watkins Park Detailed Neighborhood Design Plan and is intended to maintain the existing single-family residential character of development within the policy boundary from further encroachment of non-residential uses ....

This policy area is eligible to become a locally-designated historic overlay district because it is identified by the Metro Historical Commission as containing a collection of single-family properties that are labeled as "Worthy of Conservation." Additionally, this policy area is located between two Metro Public Schools, Head Middle School and Martin Luther King Jr. High School and would maintain a residential presence surrounding these schools.

Salemtown's first experience with SP zoning has not been a good one. And there are indications elsewhere that what was meant to be rare and "special" is quickly becoming overused and abused:
Much of the justification for creating SP Zoning was to deal with unique problem situations such as rebuilding the Eastland area of East Nashville following the tornado, dealing with an overabundance of auto related businesses along Nolensville Rd, and creating innovative ways to deal with blighted areas in need of rehabilitation. Since its introduction, however, it appears to have become the Planning Department’s favorite tool to introduce “urban design elements” into neighborhoods ....

By its nature SP Zoning can be used to approve any project that is deemed appropriate at a single point in time.
  • It inherently lacks the ability to see what long term consequences may come from the project.
  • It also takes away set standards of what is allowed to be done with a specific parcel of land.
  • One additional aspect of SP is very clear – it is utilized as a method to significantly increase density.
  • Approving one SP Project simply opens the door to consideration of other projects of similar nature.
I'll be interested to see what kind of community support this project has in the Watkins Park area. I haven't heard of any community meetings being held for Gilmore's proposed rezoning. The troublesome part of this is not just that "Special Plan" zoning is being introduced in what has become a regular trend, but that it is being introduced to get around a residential neighborhood plan for an area that could qualify for conservation zoning. I cannot come up with a good reason to disagree with the Planning Department and support Erica Gilmore on this one.

California tumbles into the sea; that'll be the day I go back to Arlington

I am ashamed this day to admit that I am a product of this Texas public school district, given the latest from the Associated Baptist Press:
ARLINGTON, Texas (ABP) -- A prominent black Southern Baptist pastor says a Texas school district should explain why it did not allow President Obama's Sept. 8 speech on education to be shown live in classrooms, but is planning later in the month to send selected fifth graders to a similar message by former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.

The Arlington Independent School District was one of several across the United States that opted out of the live broadcast of the president's speech challenging students to take personal responsibility for their own education ....

School officials in Arlington -- a large suburb located between Dallas and Fort Worth -- said students with appropriate parental notification could take a half-day excused absence to watch the president's address at an off-campus location like a home, church or community center.

One of those sites was Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington. The 4,500-member, predominantly African-American congregation invited students from both Arlington and the neighboring Mansfield Independent School District to watch the message at the church and offered free lunches to the first 100 students requesting them ....

Later McKissic learned the Arlington Independent School District had accepted an invitation to take 28 fifth grade classes to a Sept. 21 media event sponsored by a committee preparing for the 2011 Super Bowl to be played at Arlington's new $1.15 billion Dallas Cowboys football stadium.

Along with the former president and first lady, the program will feature "legendary Dallas Cowboys," along with business and community leaders from across North Texas. The event, being held to announce "the largest youth-education program in Super Bowl history," will give invited students free lunches and a T-shirt. Planners were also working to "secure a performance by a well-known recording artist to cap the festivities in high style."

McKissic responded with a second press release calling it a "blatant double standard" to not permit students to hear one message while busing them to hear the other.

The Causes of Youth Gang Culture

Sarah Garland maintains that the roots of recent gang violence can be located in the income disparity and ethnic segregation of the last twenty years, not in immigration:
The immigrants were following jobs, which proliferated in the booming economy of the 1990s, and their presence helped to buoy the country's prosperity. They came to work, and the United States needed their labor. Some took jobs in manufacturing and agricultural processing in new growth centers like North Carolina and Tennessee. Others were drawn to construction work as the housing industry exploded. Many had plans to stay, and those who came legally applied to become U.S. citizens in large numbers.

Although the country was enjoying an economic boom, it was reaching levels of income inequality not seen since the first half of the 20th century. Communities and schools across the country, especially suburban ones, were becoming more racially segregated, and the opportunities the immigrants came searching for were increasingly elusive. The first generation of Hispanic immigrants on Long Island, many with battle scars from wars back home, found their presence was not just unwelcome but infuriating to many of their new neighbors -- some of whom aggressively campaigned to send them back home. Others reacted violently. Nationally, hate crimes against Hispanics rose 40 percent between 2003 and 2007. Immigrants on Long Island were victims of regular attacks that included the 2003 firebombing of a Mexican family's house and the 2008 fatal beating of an Ecuadorian man. The immigrants' children attended schools and played in streets as segregated as the Jim Crow South, and the racial achievement gap between the races, particularly for Hispanic students, was widening.

Democrats Blow Another Lead

The Democratic Party seems to be once again attempting to earn the title of "surrender monkeys." Look at what they've squandered:
Americans are extremely displeased with Congress, and there are already some signs that this could take a toll on the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. Currently, 37% express a favorable opinion of Congress, while 52% hold an unfavorable view. Positive opinions of Congress have declined by 13 points since April and now are at their lowest point in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys.

At the same time, intentions to vote Democratic in the next midterm election are markedly lower than they have been over the past four years. Voters are about evenly divided when asked how they would vote if the election for Congress were being held today: 45% say they would vote for a Democratic candidate in their district, or lean Democratic, while 44% say they would vote for a Republican or lean Republican. At about this point four years ago, Democrats led in the generic congressional ballot by 52% to 40% and went on to win a majority of the popular vote and regain control of Congress the following November.
It would be one thing to pass bold legislation that was a little daunting, and then to experience a drop in ratings. It is quite something else to conduct business as usual, make little change, and then watch favorables plummet. But Democrats have turned ineptitude into an art form.

Has Change Come to New Orleans?

Chris Kromm argues that Barack Obama's follow-through on campaign promises about New Orleans is yet to be seen:
Many in the Gulf had big hopes when President Obama came into office; as Obama said during a February 2008 campaign stop at Tulane University, "I promise you that when I'm in the White House I will commit myself every day to keeping up Washington's end of this trust [to rebuild the Gulf]. This will be a priority of my presidency." Obama's team has taken important steps, like helping create an arbitration panel to resolve legal disputes holding up projects, and most recently launching a cross-agency panel to tackle coastal land loss. But critics point to the economic stimulus bill, where -- despite well-crafted proposals for a Gulf jobs program and other initiatives -- the Louisiana Congressional district including New Orleans ended up getting the least stimulus money of any district in the country. Media accounts like this AP report -- based largely on interviews with people who either have or hope to get money from Washington -- claim Obama is getting "high praise" in the Gulf. But in an Institute survey of 50 Gulf community leaders working on the ground, Obama and Congress received no better than "D" grades for their Gulf recovery efforts.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Morgan Park Fountain Waters Flow Again after 60 Years

Diane Neighbors: Metro Council's Version of "The Hammer"

The Vice Mayor announced committee appointments last week and some unsubstantiated buzz I hear is that Diane Neighbors punished critics of the Mayor's convention center plan, like Mike Jameson and Emily Evans, by not assigning them to chair committees during the next year. Check the list of Ms. Neighbors' appointments and see if there is anyone who has dared to raise a single objection to the proposed Music City Center:
Budget & Finance Ronnie Steine
Charter Revision Darren Jernigan
Codes, Fair, & Farmers Market Rip Ryman
Convention, Tourism & Public Entertainment Facilities Erik Cole
Education Kristine LaLonde
Federal Grants Review Sandra Moore
Health, Hospitals, & Social Services Charlie Tygard
Parks, Library, & Recreation Lonnell Matthews
Personnel, Public Info-Human Relations-Housing Phil Claiborne
Public Safety-Beer & Regulated Beverages Buddy Baker
Public Works Walter Hunt
Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Anna Page
Transportation & Aviation Bo Mitchell
In fact, one of the Mayor's biggest cheerleaders, CM Steine has the plum appointment to Budget & Finance. Mayor Karl Dean should be elated by the prospect of acquiescience to his capital designs from this years Budget & Finance bunch:

  • Megan Barry
  • Erik Cole
  • Michael Craddock
  • Jim Forkum
  • Tim Garrett
  • Jason Holleman
  • Jerry Maynard
  • Sean McGuire
  • Anna Page
  • Rip Ryman
  • Parker Toler
  • Charlie Tygard

Half of that group (bolded names) signed the letter prompting the end of any further critical questioning of the PR/MDHA fiasco that temporarily slowed the roughshod momentum of the Mayor's finance team. I can barely imagine 1 or maybe 2 others daring to take any oppositional stance toward the Mayor regardless of all of the unanswered questions that remain. They collectively look whipped.

The Vice Mayor--who is married to a developer--also appointed a planning committee that seems to lean in the same pro-developer direction that the last committee did:

  • Karen Bennett
  • Sam Coleman
  • Eric Crafton
  • Duane Dominy
  • Robert Duvall
  • Jim Gotto
  • Jim Hodge
  • Darren Jernigan
  • Kristine LaLonde
  • Bo Mitchell
  • Pam Murray
  • Carter Todd
  • Vivian Wilhoite

That committee, vested with important decisions that will affect zoning and growth in our neighborhoods, seems to sway more regressive to me. I suspect it will be dominated by the conservative bloc. Maybe we will be entertained by watching Murray and Bennett continue to tear into each other at a personal level. Indeed, we may need something to laugh at to keep from crying.

Worst of all, the only member running for the Chair appointment (decided by Council) is Jim Gotto, who just completed two years in the position that included support for May Town Center sprawl in Bells Bend, for commercial LED billboards in residential neighborhoods, for developers' fee-cuts to enable unexacting changes in controversial specific plans, and for a large commercial chain development run by a law-breaking, union-harassing company to replace a church in Sylvan Park. With no progressive likely to run against him, it looks like we're stuck with at least 2 more years of fighting Metro Council and Metro Planning to protect neighborhoods against overgrowth, blight, and sprawl.

Thanks, Diane Neighbors, for nothing. A tool used to forge for a Mayor is no less a weapon for pounding those beyond his inner sanctum.