Thursday, August 05, 2010

If you like the local Democratic Party, you'll love today's primary in Tennessee House District 58

Nothing either Mary Pruitt or Steven Turner has done or said in the past 3 weeks since I declined to participate in today's Democratic Party primary circle jerk has made me rethink my stance.

Mary Pruitt will still do nothing for 58 or anyone else. Steven Turner may have all the energy in the world, but if it exclusively helps wealthy donors and developers who finance the county party, what good is that, broadly considered, for local communities? Some local Democrats would have you believe bread crumb economics is good for all of us. I say better to have done nothing at all.

Both Pruitt and Turner spoke to the last Salemtown Neighbors business meeting. Neither one said anything to make me think either would be in tune with neighborhood issues and balanced growth. Mr. Turner continued to court the geeks by emphasizing broadband and internet access (without regard to campaign donors who would profit from virtual expansion), and the rest of his talk was straight out off website memes on economic development. Ms. Pruitt failed to answer a simple question on how she would act as an advocate for neighborhood concerns about an expanding state highway bordering Salemtown, dodging by saying in effect that she would listen to any concerns we had.

My only litmus test in the 58 primary has been that either candidate show me how they stand for neighborhoods in their district over self-interest and moneyed influence. Both have failed.

There is no amount of fear-mongering or fabricating oversimplified choices between "the good" and "the ideal" that convinces me that there is an authentically redemptive choice here.

Mary Pruitt does nothing. That's clear. It's not clear to me that what Steven Turner might do would be good, at least not a common good. My guess at this point is that Mr. Turner has enough momentum in a rapidly changing district to win today. If so, I hope my neighbors who value balanced growth, sustainable development, and consistent progressive governance are not disappointed one day if Mr. Turner helps leverage community choking growth legislation that serves special interests and his wealthy campaign donors. I hope I'm wrong. I hope one day I don't have to say I told you so. I hope we all don't have to look back one day and say, "Nothing would have been better than the something they plan for us" (don't find that logic persuasive? Apply it to Bells Bend and state-sponsored sprawl).

Davidson County Democrats do not seem to be interested in balanced growth and sustainability issues unless you can add value on them, so they don't care either. Democrats here are basically useless on matters of economic sustainability, democratic input at the legislative level, and substantive community development.

I would not discourage anyone in this House district from going to the polls today if they see it their civic or patriotic duty. I would encourage them not to delude themselves into thinking that things could get better just because anyone is better than Mary Pruitt.

Today's election is not about District 58 or you or your family or our neighborhoods or anything else they want you to believe. It is about rival younger and older factions in the local Democratic Party, pure and simple. There is no good, there is no perfect. It's party-style snake oil. If you're into partisan politics, by all means, go vote for Pruitt or Turner, but do not try and convince me that the choice of a winner has not already been made: it's the local party apparatus, the sluice of campaign finance. The rest of us have already lost.

However, I still might have to go vote against Eric Crafton in the Juvenile Court race.

UPDATE: The unofficial results tonight with 172 of 173 of precincts reporting are:
  • Mary Pruitt -- 1,308
  • Steven Turner -- 1,158
Compare the nearly 2,500 votes cast today to how most of the 3,660+ votes were cast 4 years ago:
  • Mary Pruitt -- 2,012
  • Jason Powell -- 1,414
A lighter turn-out seemed to make little difference this year in the ultimate goal of beating Mary Pruitt. Even though Jason Powell got more votes in 2006 than Steven Turner did today, the latter lost by less of a margin than the former. If Mr. Turner had energized a couple hundred of perhaps more liberal voters or community activists to the polls, instead of appealing to business interests and the Democratic Party faithful, he just might have done what Mr. Powell couldn't do with more votes.


  1. "Mr. Turner helps leverage community choking growth legislation that serves special interests and his wealthy campaign donors."

    That is absolutely LUDICROUS -- I find it hard to believe that you truly think Steve Turner is somehow controlled by moneyed or special interests somewhere. Have you ever actually talked to him?

    Honestly, to me it looks like some need to be a hyper-local authority has prompted you to post a pretty baseless rant just because Mary Pruitt more or less wastes her time in the legislature and, Steve, her excellent alternative, doesn't bow to your omniscience and vow to support your pet projects for the neighborhood.

    I'm afraid you're deluding yourself a bit here. Hopefully, though, it's not going to matter anyway and Steve will come out with a win today.

  2. As usual this post is just one guy's opinion on his blog. The charge that I'm trying to claim any kind of authority beyond that is baseless.

    I did speak with Mr. Turner about my general concerns at the 09 Hot Chicken Fest when he first introduced himself to me. I have also listened to his comments at several community meetings and events, and I have read his website agenda closely. You may not see the basis of my opinions, but I have some experience with Mr. Turner's ideas. Those ideas seem thoroughly pro-growth, which remains consistent with the local Democratic leadership's values.

    Moreover, I have expressed myself online time and again on Mr. Turner's candidacy. There have been beau coup opportunities to counter me and demonstrate how he really does value community-informed and balanced growth, but no Turner supporter has made the case. Like you, they always return to Mary Pruitt. At some point, Mr. Turner's ideas should be evaluated without respect to Ms. Pruitt, IMO.

    The insinuation that I have some kind of laundry list of pet projects that I expect him to bow to is unfounded. I've already conceded that I did not expect him to oppose the convention center to get my vote. But I do take issue with the enthusiasm with which he embraced it in community meetings while appearing callous to the declining budget priorities of parks, infrastructure and police forces. No amount of one-to-one assurances will change my concerns about his presentation to larger audiences.

    Finally, I don't agree with you that we should take him on his word about ways he will not be beholden to special interests. There are records of campaign donors. You don't feel the need to look at those before you pull that lever?

  3. Whatever Mike...Steve's personally contacted you to try and address your concerns, but ultimately you are right, Steven Turner is "pro-growth" and would like to see jobs for the people in his district, obviously you have other concerns that apparently conflict with this goal.

    Yes, he's raised money from business interests, I suppose he could've taken a stand and not raised a dime and had no potential conflicts of interest in your which case he would've lost, but maybe earned your vote in the process. The reason people in the business and legal community are donating to his campaign is because he has a chance to win and they know he'd be a better representative for the district.

    Either way, I'm glad you've rethought and reconfirmed your decision not to make a decision. Luckily there are many others in the Salemtown community who have the ability to work well with others. I look forward to your future posts picking apart every vote and decision Turner makes.

  4. Wow. I lack the ability to work with others? I have some need to be a "hyper-local authority"? The personal attacks are flying in from the Turner cheerleaders today.

    Is the campaign so desperate that they can't debate the merits of Mr. Turner's ideas but rather have to attack someone for simply questioning the merits?

    Sean: I e-mailed Mr. Turner last week with days & times I could meet after he spoke with me at the S-town meeting and I didn't hear back, which is totally understandable given campaign demands. However, I did make an effort to respond.

    Also, Sean, get real. I never called upon any candidate to refuse funds from wealthy individuals. I simply expect to see signals that they would fight for growth that is balanced between acquisition and the common good. Money has given him a chance to win, and I'm sure you and local Dems celebrate that influx and influence. Those of us outside the party machine, however, are losers in that cost-benefit gambit.

    You still haven't addressed any of my concerns as a District 58 voter. I've given up on them being addressed, so I won't vote for either candidate.

  5. Mike,

    I can't address your concerns because ultimately you want Steven Turner to sound exactly like you. What, specifically, are you unsure of? That he won't support "balanced growth"? What specifically would you like him to say that would assuage your fears? That he'd oppose May Town, The Convention Center, and anything other than a single-story 1000 sq foot or less business?

    Either way, I think a better argument than "he's sounds like a local Democrat" would be for you to explain why Jason Powell was awesome and totally vote worthy but Steve Turner is completely unworthy of your vote. I know the two aren't the same, but beyond the superficially obvious, why is one really good and the other the anti-thesis of all that is good, holy, and Enclave-worthy?

  6. Sean: Actually, I've never been ambitious enough to expect a candidate to be exactly like me. However, Turner failed to address many of the imbalances that develop in the community when hard-charging toward growth. He hasn't even thrown guys like me a bone by suggesting that he would seek some kind of anti-lock braking measures in legislation to protect local communities. He just preached the myth of unbounded expansion that would help everyone eventually. I cannot fathom how any politician can advocate unfettered economies that ascend while leaving so many behind in the wake of this past recession.

    Instead Mr. Turner should be promoting smart, sustainable growth at every scale with real investments in job creation. Compromising is win-win, not win-and-lighten-a-little-around-the-margins.

    I don't really remember my motivations for voting for Jason Powell off the top of my head outside of those that I had when voting for everyone from Freda Player to Barack Obama. The positives outweighed the negatives. Perhaps Steven Turner just caught me at a bad time. I'm fed up with Davidson Co's bread-crumb Democrats and I've decided to draw a line this time (although I also refused to cast a vote in the last Vice Mayoral race). So, I might have just gone along and voted for Mr. Turner on the basis of broadband alone last time around. Now it's not enough.

  7. Well see, fair enough. I think Megan Barry's failure to live up to your expectations did a number on you.

    Instead Mr. Turner should be promoting smart, sustainable growth at every scale with real investments in job creation.

    I know he's talked quite a bit about helping small and minority businesses open up businesses to revitalize depressed areas. Not sure if this is the type of "smart" growth you speak of.