Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bring back the families, bring back the neighborhood

I have preached over and over that if urban neighborhoods are going to be viable for quality growth and development, a concerted effort has to be made to attract families with children. Ask East Nashville, which was recently named one of the "South's Best Comeback Neighborhoods":
After 10-plus years of a slow and steady rise, the neighborhood has managed to keep its eclectic, artsy vibe while welcoming a diverse mix of newcomers. “Of all the great things happening here, when I see young moms pushing strollers down the sidewalks, I know this place is back,” says local shop owner Debbie Goodwyn.
The driving forces of development in North End neighborhoods seem to lock on attracting lifestyle hipsters without intentions to keep the families they have or pulling in more families. Problem is we will never come back without the generational diversity that families bring, as uncool as that may sound to empty-nesters.

A greenway, a whiteway

Got to watch the banks just like you would any other con artist

Ted Van Dyk over a Crosscut explains how a bank tried to plunder him:
[P]opulist unrest is building — and not just in the Tea Party movement. Standing in a bookstore line, over the weekend, a half-dozen waiting customers passed the time by swapping stories of first-hand abuses which all recently had suffered at the hands of big banks. My own story: Receipt of two CitiCard invoices over the past two months which contained several-hundred-dollar "finance charges" even though all invoices are paid in full on a current basis. A call to CitiCard, after the first invoice, resulted in a customer-service agent saying the finance charges were "a bank error" which promptly would be erased. When it happened a second time, it was necessary to fight through three layers of CitiCard executives before getting the undefined several-hundred-dollar finance charge again erased.

I found myself in full populist indignation when a CitiCard manager said the finance charges appeared on the invoice "because the card had been used during the month," even though full balances had been paid ahead of the due date. "You people are outrageous," I told him. "Citi blew our money and is now trying to take it however it can. I caught you doing what you did. What about those who do not review their invoices carefully? What about those on a direct-pay system where the money is directly extracted from their bank accounts? You must be getting millions from customers who do not see what you are doing" ....

Public anger is entirely in order. It cannot be allowed to subside. May it continue, full blown, until Congress and White House pass real systemic reform later this year.

Blogger delves into MCC contractor's history and asks questions the Tennessean will not

Genma Holmes suggests that we may need to take a second look at one of the contractors hired for construction of the Music City Center because Metro seems to be overlooking some real problems:
Clark Construction Group (CCG) will be the general contractor for the MCC project. CCG ... won a contract in a city that has general contractors galore. Interesting .... It’s hard to understand why our city leaders decided that an outside company was the way to create jobs in our city with so many general contractors starving for work. I looked into the Orlando City Convention Center (OCCC) project that was built by CCG who formed partnerships with local companies in Orlando as well ....

I learned several of those partnerships ended in disaster for the smaller companies who eventually sued Clark who was dba as Hunt/Clark/Construct Two and have been in litigation for six years after the construction of the OCCC. In October ’09, US Bankruptcy Judge Michael Williamson issued a 6.3 million dollar judgment against [CCG] ....
In a 163-page order in a case that has dragged on since 2003, Judge Michael Williamson said the joint venture hired by Orange County to oversee the center's construction was responsible for "an inefficient mess" and "an uncoordinated nightmare" that was completed "in the most unproductive way possible."

"Somehow, in what appears to this court to be a state of chaos, a convention center was built," Williamson wrote. [Source]
Who interviewed these folks at Clark Construction Group? Did CCG reveal the problems that were STILL in the news during their interviews? How could multiple lawsuits for not paying subcontractors been over looked or explained away? Seriously, this is scary.
Another scary item to note is that the same Metro agency that hired CCG for MCC construction is MDHA, which hired McNeeley, Pigott, & Fox who overbilled Metro government $400,000 on a $75,000 contract for its PR work. Inefficiency and the lack of coordination in construction could mean our future with Clark Construction Group may get bleaker than our past.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There's your trouble: Tennessean reporter maintains that newspapers don't employ fact-checkers

How often do we hear criticism of amateur bloggers for crowdsourcing, that is, for relying on readers to supplement their observations with information that gives a broader, more comprehensive picture of events? How often do we hear journos arguing that their professional status and training gives them a credibility that readers can trust even though the amateurs bring to attention matters that often get ignored in the media? How often do we hear arguments that pro reporters are more exhaustive than bloggers who have the luxury of sitting around in pajamas and letting others do the hard work of fact-checking?

And then there are media actions that tear at that journalistic pretension. Like today when Tennessean political reporter Chas Sisk responded to reader criticism of inaccuracies in one of his reports by insisting that there is no mechanism down on Broadway for insuring accuracy. So, like some blogger he is supposed to rise above, Sisk appealed to crowdsourcing as his mechanism:
the Tennessean doesn’t employ fact-checkers. No newspaper does. Fact checkers are generally used only by magazines and other publications that publish no more than once a week. Readers are our fact checkers.
One item I specifically remember from a basic journalism class in college is that reporters are considered the fact-checkers at newspapers. The editorial staff are also responsible for insuring factuality. It's been a while since I took that class, but I am surprised to learn that expectations have changed at newspapers. But if the job description of journos no longer includes fact-checking, if there is little difference now between reporters and bloggers when it comes to verification of facts, then bloggers are becoming as legitimate in sourcing news as are the professionals.

UPDATE: Chas Sisk or someone else scrubbed the original Tennessean post of the claim that he uses readers as fact checkers since I posted this last Wednesday. No correction. Just scrubbed off.

Sponsors defer LED sign measures to have "courtesy meeting"

Burkley Allen reports the latest news about tomorrow's Planning Commission agenda changes to the Nashville Neighborhoods e-list:
Sponsors of both LED bills on the planning agenda have asked for a deferral for both bills so that the two groups can have a courtesy meeting. This means that both bills will be deferred for at least one meeting. The only public comment tomorrow will be on the request to defer the bills, not on the merit of the bills themselves.

Hopefully the outcome of the courtesy meeting will be a single bill that does not allow LED signs in residential or agricultural districts. I think this has the potential to have a positive outcome and is definitely a result of the strong input from the public. Everyone's letters have made a difference.
Neighborhood leaders had been making plans to show up tomorrow and the e-mails on LED bills were running heavily against placing LEDs in residential neighborhoods.

Mayor Dean flirts with the privatization trap

There is beaucoup information on the pitfalls of privatization (click on the "Privatization" link below to read more) of public toll roads, utilities, etc. Generally, when private companies take over public services prices go up and quality (and sometimes delivery) of service degrades. Giving services to private companies moves accountability steps away, since the companies do not directly answer to the public.

Nonetheless, Mayor Karl Dean is considering privatizing parking meters in Nashville:

NewsChannel 5 Investigates team obtained an internal document that lays out a controversial proposal to privatize the city's parking.

It comes as Metro leaders prepare for what may be a tough budget battle ahead.

Last week, as Metro Council debated whether to build a new convention center, some members predicted huge budget shortfalls. "I think we are going to have a train wreck of monumental proportions come May," said Michael Craddock.

That's where the city's parking meters and parking lots might become valuable, as Finance Director Rich Riebeling emailed the mayor back in November. (Read the email.)

"We might be able to essentially privatize our parking operations and generate significant upfront cash," Riebeling wrote. "If want to possibly get done for upcoming budget, need to move ASAP."

Dean's response: "Let's talk today."

On Monday, Dean told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "This is just something that we are just thinking about. We have taken no steps to implement it. No steps to move forward on it."

But in a proposal -- marked "Preliminary & Confidential" -- financial giant Morgan Stanley lays out a plan in which private companies might bid for the city's 2,000 parking meters and another 2,000 parking garage spaces -- paying the city now and keeping income from those spaces for years to come.

Yeah, well, the ad men simply can't spin an aggressive program for the homeless into something as sexy as the Music City Center

What kind of alternative universe would it be if $1,000,000 was spent on marketing the idea of addressing Nashville's chronic homeless issue instead of on hawking the goal of making a niche industry wealthier than the rest? Jeff Woods suggests the Mayor's Office has misplaced priorities:
First, Dean rams through the new convention center for downtown businesses, then he asks people to toss some spare change at this little homelessness problem we seem to have developed. Dean's got it backwards. First, he should have rolled out a bold program to create housing, offer services and improve the lives of our burgeoning homeless population. Then maybe we could have tried this Adopt-A-Meter campaign to raise money for a new convention center.
You know that those paid political consultants would be moving to greener pastures since they can't haul in obscene amounts of money on homeless issues.

Council member moves to trot out May Town Center dog once again

CM Lonell Matthews seems bound and determined to resurrect May Town Center in spite of his inability to get enough votes from Planning Commissioners to lead to planning approval. When we last left the proposal to sprawl a second Downtown across agricultural greenfields, it was in disarray and recommended for disapproval to the Metro Council. The Planning Commission's breathtaking action forced a super majority rather than a simple majority of council members to approve MTC.

Nonetheless, CM Matthews intends to move the proposal to council public hearing in March, where it will likely incur the unrelenting backlash of large numbers of civic leaders who consistently turn out whenever it appears on an agenda. Even a local blogger supportive of untrammeled growth questions the wisdom of Matthews' move:
The timing is curious, the subject is still slightly toxic and if the Councilman and May family are not careful, the backlash could be significant. Why? Simple, the Metro Council has just approved the financing package to build a brand new downtown convention center at a cost of $650 million and quite a few citizens are still mystified by this expenditure. Many still believe that taxpayers will be left ultimately holding the bag for a significant portion of the project’s construction and operating costs. Skepticism runs rampant and to be honest, the project’s organizers did not help themselves by allowing several publically embarrassing mistakes to be made during the planning process.
We do not know what cards CM Matthews has up his sleeve. However, if things remain as they were 8 months ago, I don't see how the MTC proposal can come out of a public hearing unscathed enough to give it a realistic shot. However, I don't put anything past this council.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Better to light 585 candles

Participate in the plan, but don't be a patsy

Tonight's the night for the "visioning" meeting for the brand-spanking-new North Nashville Community Plan (formerly the "Subarea 8 Plan") where we are being encouraged by Metro Planning and Metro Council to share ideas for "growth and development" in the north-by-northwest passage between Downtown and the Cumberland River. The mainstream media is joining Metro to gin up these meetings now as visioning opportunities; but during the harsh reality of the development process the press caricatured neighborhood leaders' reliance on the plans as an "inflexible" faith in "holy writ" by groups that have too much power over development.

Such hypocrisy is a reason why some neighborhood leaders are circumspect, even ambivalent about enthusiastic invitations from Metro and its twisted sister, the mainstream media (run by corporations that have their own economic stakes in certain kinds of growth over others). Two weeks ago I attended Planning's informational meeting for about 20 or so North Nashville neighborhood leaders. After some sharing exercises and Planning's remedial spiel about their role in the process, leaders were allowed a Q&A time.

Several folks, especially those from the Hadley Park area, expressed their concerns that few of the changes from the last "visioning" plan ten years ago had been realized. One leader asked for assurances that, if she went out again and tried to convince the same neighbors who were suspicious a decade ago whether they really could make a difference, Metro would actually follow through with community-designed plans this time. It is difficult to look back without wondering whether 2010 meetings are not going to be a waste of our busy lives, given the influence that plan-apathetic developers have on the planning process after the visioning ends. It is difficult to take Janus-faced Metro seriously when they ask us to dream.

The criticisms I heard back in early January resonate with my own experience of living in Salemtown. The 2002 Subarea 8 Plan, which arose from community meetings like the one tonight, remains largely unrealized at the Salemtown end. Metro met a couple of objectives: building the wastewater treatment biosolids facility to abate odor problems and completing a greenway spur through Morgan Park (neither upgrade is in Salemtown proper).

Most of the other visions are illusions that were never given a chance but for exceptional situations over which locals had some control. While Metro and media may not have been holding up their end to promote and fight for the plans, some of us seized on the opportunity starting in 2005 to incorporate Salemtown wishes into the Salemtown community development block grant, which was provided by the federal government and managed by MDHA. Fortunately, a critical mass of Salemtown leaders followed through with the plans.

The 2002 plan called for "extensive streetscape treatment" along the civic connectors, Garfield Street and 5th Avenue, North. Thanks to the project, improvements--including traffic-calming curb bump-outs with foliage and pedestrian-scale lampposts--were made. All of Salemtown's street ID and traffic signs have been replaced with decorative signage. MDHA contractors also installed neighborhood ID signs that were selected by the community with designs based on community input. The 2002 plan called for planting more trees in Salemtown. We were able to get a tree grant from the State of Tennessee to do just that, but Metro destroyed those plans by losing our streetscape application, delaying the project past the state's deadline.

But federal block grants are rare and only go so far. The rest of the 2002 plan is largely unrealized because council members and planners fritter away objectives by bowing to developers' will-to-ignore community plans. The plan's map for Salemtown shows it shaded mostly a light yellow designating detached single family homes, even though our neighborhood is zoned almost totally for duplexes. And predictably, Salemtown is saturated with duplexes, triplexes, multiplexes in 2010. The 2002 plan called for a full range of types of housing with a lower intensity residential character. The neighborhood association has had to fight in planning and at council to leverage zoning consistent with the 2002 plans at those rare moments that provide a chance for Metro Planning to live up to the vision.

There are a host of other plans for Salemtown from 2002 that remain unrealized in 2010:
  • Dense landscaping and tall trees along 3rd Avenue, North as a visual shield between the wastewater utility and Salemtown
  • Noise walls and heavy landscaping along Salemtown's interface with I-65
  • Streetscape improvements for 5th Avenue, North all of the way to I-65
  • Small pocket parks at the terminus of streets like 4th & 5th at I-65
  • Reclaiming school buildings for schools
  • Landscaping along the median of Rosa Parks Boulevard between Hume Street and I-65
  • Reconnecting Buchanan Street across Rosa Parks
  • Reconnecting Hume through Metro Water
  • Traffic calming on 4th Avenue, North at Morgan Park
  • Art mosaics along 5th by students

I look at this list of unrealized visions people had 10 years ago and it makes me wonder how much influence we can have tonight or any other night in 2010 when developers and their media megaphones will impugn the plans as impractical and "inflexible" in 2011. And I'm with the Hadley Park leader who is hesitant to stake her standing with her neighbors on Planning's promises that things will somehow be different this time.

Don't get me wrong. I plan to participate. But I don't plan to be a patsy in this process.

Monday, January 25, 2010

All the king's horses, all the king's men

Yeah, take note of restaurateur Mike Kelly on one end and a big shot from the local franchise of a national temp labor corporation on the far side. More importantly notice the joy expressed by the men situated closest to Mayor Karl Dean: sign monger, Bobby Joslin, who would like nothing better than to install a bright LED or two in your neighborhood and Democratic Party insider and lobbyist Dave Cooley, who takes money to win political projects by trashing other people's good names. Just off frame and out of sight are the anonymous trolls Cooley uses to prowl the internet and win by any means necessary.

This is the image that I will carry into the voting booth with me in the next mayoral election. It's burned into my memory.

Photo credit: Holly Spann via Dru's Views

Neighborhood leaders organized to fight LEDs in residential areas on Thursday

An invitation sent out to the Nashville Neighborhoods Google group:
Nashville’s neighborhoods said "No" to [attempts to allow LED signs in neighborhoods] in June. Over 200 letters and email messages were sent to the Planning Commissioners and 30 people spoke at a public hearing against a bill that would have allowed LED signs in residential neighborhoods. The loud public outcry was heard. The original bill was disapproved.

Now a new bill allowing LED signs to shine in our residential neighborhood is on the table. This is named ESOD Version 1 (One). An alternate bill by the Planning Department bans LED signs from residential neighborhoods. This favored bill is named ESOD Version 2 (Two).

How can we protect our neighborhoods from commercial-type LED signs?
  1. Send email to Planning Commissioners: ( and say you Oppose ESOD Version 1 (One) but Support ESOD Version 2 (Two).
  2. Come to the Public Hearing on Thursday, January 28th at 4 pm and say a few words or sit with the opponents. The hearing will be near the airport in the “Metro Southeast” meeting room. This is near the corner of Murfreesboro and McGavock Pikes (officially at 1417 Murfreesboro Pike) but down between the Genesco building and the Johnston & Murphy (shoe) Store.

Why do we want to support ESOD Version 2 (Two)?
Because it is a fair, sound proposal that will protect the quality of life and property values in residential areas and limit electronic (LED) commercial-type signs to commercial and mixed-use areas.

Neighborhoods volunteers have been working with the Planning Department and Council members since October on the "No LED Signs in Residential Areas" bill. The planning staff listened to the neighborhood concerns and will recommend disapproval of ESOD Version 1 (One) and approval of ESOD Version 2 (Two).

Version 1 will allow LED signs in residential neighborhoods. Disapprove.
Version 2 will allow LED signs only in commercial and industrial areas. Approve.

Only 5 days left to protect our neighborhoods. Send your email now.

Who needs political consultants when journalists can do the dirty work for free?

Jay Voorhees parries columnist Gail Kerr's recent swipe at Metro's services to the poor as well as her play of the race card when class was the suit laid:
It’s the last sentence that really bothered me, the one about the hospital being “money losing” and implying that the only support for the institution in by the Black Caucus. Yes, the hospital is running at a deficit this year, but it is a deficit that Rich Riebeling approved. The hospital has worked hard during the past four years to become as efficient as possible. When they mayor demanded a 10% cut in the hospital subsidy last year, the hospital informed the mayor’s office that they could not meet that target without cutting services, such as the outpatient cancer chemo clinic, which is the last line of treatment for the poor who have cancer. The mayor’s office did not want to be accused of harming poor people, so the hospital was told to leave the $1.5 million dollar deficit in the budget, and that they would deal with the shortfall later in the year through other means. This year, the hospital is in better financial shape than it’s been in for many years, however their budgeting was on the money and they are still projected to have a $1.5 million deficit, mainly because we as a city would not adequately fund the health care needs of the poor. The big problem facing the hospital, a problem that you have never addressed, is the $10 million dollars in TennCare cuts facing Metro General and the $25 million in TennCare reserves due to the hospital that are not being shared by the governor. Yeah, Metro General has huge problems ahead, but they aren’t of their own making.

As for the support for Metro General, I think the 70 plus pastors, imams, and rabbis from throughout Nashville who signed a letter of support for the hospital would be surprised to learn that the black caucus was the only supporting agency. I think the 200 folks who gathered on the steps of the Metro Courthouse would likewise be surprised, as would the members of SEIU who have a personal interest in the well being of the hospital.

Gail, Gail, Gail… it’s hard to understand why you seem to want to come after the hospital. Could it be that poor folks don’t buy your paper? Or maybe there are folks in the administration that have an ax to grind with certain community leaders who have pushed hard against the administrations ambivalence toward the need for a city supported (not run) safety net hospital, and have sold you a bill of goods.
The timing of Ms. Kerr's comment relative to upcoming budget discussions is suspicious given that a couple of months ago she bayed about former Parks Director Roy Wilson while the Mayor's Office started turning the screws leading to Mr. Wilson's December 31 exit. One wonders what Rich Riebeling has in store for this North Nashville Metro health service.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vultures circling "opportunities" in wake of Haiti quake

Jeremy Scahill surveys the mercenaries who bear down on Haiti looking to score some bling:
What is unfolding in Haiti seems to be part of what Naomi Klein has labeled the "Shock Doctrine." Indeed, on the Heritage Foundation blog, opportunity was being found in the crisis with a post titled: "Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S." "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region," wrote Heritage fellow Jim Roberts in a post that was subsequently altered to tone down the shock-doctrine language. The title was later changed to: "Things to Remember While Helping Haiti" and the wording changed to "In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti should address long-held concerns over the fragile political environment that exists in the region."

A lesson that popular backlash at late night TV holds for Obama

NY Times' columnist Frank Rich encourages the President to look to the dysfunction of the Tonight Show to get past petty populist symbolism:
There’s a reason why the otherwise antithetical Leno and Conan camps are united in their derision of NBC’s titans. A TV network has become a handy proxy for every mismanaged, greedy, disloyal and unaccountable corporation in our dysfunctional economy. It’s a business culture where the rich and well-connected get richer while the employees, shareholders and customers get the shaft. And the conviction that the game is fixed is nonpartisan. If the tea party right and populist left agree on anything, it’s that big bailed-out banks have and will get away with murder while we pay the bill on credit cards — with ever-rising fees ....

On the economic front, Obama needs both stylistic and substantive makeovers. He has stepped up the populist rhetoric lately — and markedly after political disaster struck last week — but few find this serene Harvard-trained lawyer credible when slinging populist rhetoric at “fat-cat” bankers ....

When it comes to economic substance, small symbolic gestures (the proposed new bank “fee”) won’t cut it. Nor will ineffectual presidential sound bites railing against Wall Street bonuses beyond the federal government’s purview. There’s no chance of a second stimulus. The White House will have to jawbone banks on foreclosures, credit card racketeering and the loosening of credit to small businesses. This means taking on bankers who were among the Obama campaign’s biggest backers and whose lobbyists have castrated regulatory reform by buying off congressmen of both parties. It means pressing for all constitutional remedies that might counter last week’s 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision allowing corporate campaign contributions to buy off even more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why is the Mayor's cruise director fielding media queries for the District 17 council member?

I've not taken a position on the rising controversy over the State Fairgrounds but something ain't right when a council member schedules a community meeting in direct conflict with a previously scheduled community meeting. And what does the Mayor's office have to do with event coordination in District 17?

The City Paper's JR Lind reports:
While [a preservation] group will be fighting to maintain the status quo — a half-hour earlier on the other side of the fairgrounds, another meeting about the fairgrounds’ future will take place.

Council member Sandra Moore — whose district includes the fairgrounds — is hosting a public meeting at 6 p.m. in Wilson Hall to “discuss the process going forward for redevelopment plans,” according to Dean’s spokesperson Janel Lacy.

Moore did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Watson said he is “aware” of the other public meeting.

“She ought to be [at the preservation meeting]. It sits in the middle of her district. We are going to have people handing out handbills in front of Wilson Hall inviting them to our meeting,” he said.

The preservation meeting will be hosted by former council member Ronnie Greer and Watson said a number of current council members said they will attend.

Coal lumps don't compliment pearls

While there may be a lot of venture capital to collect, is there really a net environmental gain in Phil Bredesen's "string of solar pearls" when coal-burning TVA, which is behind the curve on solar financing and leasing, provides power to these green industry producers?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

East Nashville leader defends Jamie Hollin's record against the "Chatter Class[less]"

In response to yesterday's SouthComm blog post highlighting the baseless pseudo-journo theories of corporate shill Richard Lawson, Carol McCullough inventories CM Jamie Hollin's contributions in his short time at the helm of District 5:
Jamie has done a tremendous job of doing outreach to neighborhood groups, business groups, churches, non-profits, schools and other organizations in District 5.

1) He held a meeting with neighborhood group leaders and got commitments from neighborhood groups to adopt an elementary school and help meet their needs (particularly mentoring and tutoring needs). This has already resulted in an increase in tutors in our elementary schools.

2) He held a meeting with the faith community in District 5 and got commitments from them to get engaged with the institutions that serve children in our community (including our schools but also early education providers like McNeilly and mentoring organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters)

3) He has met with every elementary school principal (save one that has been difficult to pin down) to learn more about their needs and their schools 4) He held a District 5 meeting on the convention center as well as collaborated with other Council members on an additional meeting. He actually listened to what his constituents had to say and is voting with the majority of those that shared their opinion. You would be surprised how few Council members are approaching the issue that way. He has also been working hard to get the departments that serve Metro to focus on our area.

In particular, he has made great use of the Sheriff's Department to clean up our alleys and streets. He is helping our neighborhood deal with the bureaucratic red tape that is holding the repair of a CSX bridge (promised to us last year by Public Works).

Frankly, the fact that he will answer his phone is already a dramatic improvement over his predecessor. If there is something that you think needs to happen in your corner of the neighborhood, I strongly suggest you contact him. You will see results ....

Richard Lawson is just looking for some controversy to drive hits to his fairly useless, always biased column. Don't feed the troll.

A west Tennessee journalist disgusted by bizpig journalism calls out the Tennessean

Newscoma considers journalism's gilded age of greed, comparing Memphis and Nashville:
Here is what eats at my soul this week about the [Memphis] Commercial Appeal. The [Memphis] Flyer believes they aren’t losing as much money as you might think:
Apparently not everybody at The Commercial Appeal has been forced to cinch up their belts. Last March, after the newspaper’s largest round of layoffs, CA publisher Joe Pepe purchased a second home on Excitement Drive in Celebration, Florida. Documents (available here) show that Pepe made a down payment of $100,000, and took out a $279,500 mortgage through Countrywide Bank. The three bedroom, 2.5 bath home was built in 2005 and originally listed for $424,900. It’s Pepe’s second Florida property. He purchased an undeveloped parcel of land in Osceola County in 2005 for $305,000.
And this is where we are going in this post. Bruce Vanwyngarden is showing you about how news has become entertainment. News isn’t supposed to be bright and shiny all the time. Sometimes it just plum sucks, but if you have anchors that have moved into celebrity categories taking on the roll of messenger, then we are getting into some tricky ground ....
And as for the Tennessean, what can one say about this story [involving $15,000 in political donations to lobbyists] ....
What would Edward R. Murrow say? I think he’d be pretty damned ticked off right now that the news he loved, and fought for,which has been compromised by greed, corporate indulgence and the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar over substance. And good for the Flyer and other media outlets for calling BS.
Newspapers, and news as a whole, are supposed to stand up for the average citizen, not be part of the problem. They at least used to supply some solutions.

A staggering number

Almost $1,000,000 has been spent to bankroll lobbyists and consultants to sell Nashville the concept of the Music City Center. That total includes the $450,000 McNeely, Pigott, and Fox billed Metro government and the $533,000 that corporations privately donated to the Music City Center coalition.

Construction has not even started because leaders had to spend $1,000,000 to convince Nashville of MCC merits. But the council votes have never been close. MCC boosters have never been down.

And this is good business? $1,000,000 to lobby and influence public opinion when council support was certain? Why do people with this much money to throw at advertising need our general funds as a safety net on their capital debt obligations?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tennessean helped finance convention center lobby group with $15,000 donation

The Tennessean released the list of donors who gave half-a-million dollars to the lobbying effort to build the Music City Convention Center and the Tennessean is itself on the list. Usually reliable Tennessean reporter Michael Cass didn't mention that last detail. The Tennessean's competition did not fail to mention it.

It seems as obscene as Jeff Woods characterizes it:

Remember when McNeely Pigott & Fox was under attack for blowing a half-million dollars of taxpayer money to flack for the Music City Center? Among the other ridiculous expenses, reporters noted the galling tidbit that it cost all of us $2,500 for MP&F to coach Gail Kerr on how to write a puff piece for the new convention center, which she dutifully did.

At the time, Tennessean editor Mark Silverman was outraged that any other media outlet would question the heretofore unsullied integrity of Nashville's mighty Gannett product .... Silverman tossed out a slew of defenses. Among them: The paper's newsroom staff signs ethics agreements pledging not to favor one side or take gifts from anyone.

So what are we to think now that the Music City Center Coalition has made public its list of donors? You guessed it--that little mom 'n' pop outfit known as The Tennessean is on the list for giving $5,000 $15,000. The ban on gifts must apply only to largesse coming in to the newsroom grunts.

Bruce Barry also weighs in against the Tennessean's defense that its contributions were made by a hived off business arm of the Gannett Corporation:

It is not business as usual for media operations whose main focus is news to donate to partisan political causes lobbying on controversial political issues that the news side is covering. We're not talking here about some far-flung conglomerate that happens to include a newsroom among vast holdings; this is a political contribution by the goddamn newspaper ....

The problem is that the appearance of such a naked conflict of interest compromises any claim to newsroom neutrality or impartiality. You manage a conflict of interest by eliminating the conflict, not by asserting afterwards that it had no effect on the purity of your motives or actions.

The negligent attitudes toward ethics at the Tennessean continue to grow in the wake of the Music City Center debate. It's difficult to look at a $15,000 donation and wonder whether their commitment to MCC made them late to news of unthinkable costs overruns months ago in the campaign to woo Nashvillians to the project. It's also hard to consider that sum of money and not think that the more recent op-ed exaggerations about MCC critics were not accidents.

The Tennessean has been giving MCC free publicity for more than a year, and now we learn the troubling news that the paper paid handsomely to bankroll the MCC campaign. They have risked their credibility as neutral journalists.

UPDATE: In his latest writing, the Tennessean's Michael Cass acknowledges the $15,000 donation, but excuses the editorial staff for not knowing. He also minimizes the half-a-million total corporate donations that drove the lobbying effort by suggesting that it was the Mayor who was the strongest impetus. And the $450,000 Metro budget oversight that involved attempts to influence public opinion on the Music City Center is treated like petty resistance to mayoral resolve.

I would respond to Mr. Cass that such reporting does not alleviate concerns based on perceptions that the Tennessean is predisposed to support the Mayor's financing plan for a new convention center. The Gannett Corporation is not going to invest $15,000 without insuring a yield with positive press.

Metro Council passes convention center plan; general fund on the hook

A metaphor for the council's approval of the most expensive capital project in Nashville's history, backed up with a pledge in a pinch of general funds that currently pay for Metro services you use everyday:

The Parable of the Music City Monorail

Occasional Muse broke a six month silence this evening by honoring the Music City Center with none other than the Simpsons:

More fallout from the Tennessean's publication of misinformation

CMs Michael Craddock and Jamie Hollin respond to a previous Tennessean op-ed written by CM Greg Adkins and MCC booster Tom Lee in which convention center critics were labeled and libeled by Tennessean editors as "hiding in anonymity":
Recently, an article entitled "Many debating convention center hide in anonymity," Jan. 14, written by council member Greg Adkins and Tom Lee, an attorney, derided the opponents of the convention center proposal as "Internet mud-peddlers … (who) have slandered the character of their opponents."

This piece presumes only the opponents of the convention center are hiding. This is a fatal flaw in our opinion.

We wonder where these fellow members of the bar have been when it comes to standing up for a professional colleague, Kevin Sharp. He is far from anonymous on this issue and has been very professional and civil.

Yet, he has suffered disgusting and personal attacks by the very proponents Adkins and Lee compare to Theodore Roosevelt ....

One claim the proponents have made repeatedly is that the General Fund is in no danger.

However, Goldman Sachs just informed the council that if the projections of HVS are off 25 percent between adoption of the proposal and 2017, then the debt service reserve fund will be depleted and it will require a General Fund contribution of $5.29 million in 2017 alone.

Kick in another $30.54 million over the following six years. Any surplus revenues collected would go to replenish the debt service reserve fund before any money went back into the General Fund. This danger is very real.
One thing to note is that today's opinion page response was the perfect chance for the Tennessean to be accountable and to note that their choice of a headline could have been the primary reason for the false information that MCC critics hide in anonymity. However, they failed to take responsibility for their part in the misunderstanding. As far as I know they've made no effort to publish a correction in hard copy. It is worth noting that the paper's editors also have endorsed the Music City Center, so they have a vested interest in spreading trollish aspersions about MCC opponents.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The world, or at least the local tubes, would be something much less without an Aunt B

The following is a must-read exchange from the comment board at the Nashville Scene website:
Aunt B. says:

So, who composes this editorial voice [at the City Paper], exactly, do you know?

I have no doubt that the convention center is going to happen. I just think it's hilarious that, at a moment in the city when kids can't get school books until they're almost a month into classes, when parts of downtown had to be shut down all last week to deal with our hundred year old infrastructure, when we face an enormous budget shortfall, when people who work for the city are losing their jobs, the paper says, basically, "Well, if we have no bread, let us eat cake."

Posted On: Monday, Jan. 18 2010 @ 3:32PM
[Anonymous Booster Troll] says:

Aunt B,

Tax revenue that will go to pay for the MCC cannot be used for a single purpose that you list.

First, state law designates ... [blah, blah, blah; you know the eye-glazing jargon or you can go read it yourself if you are into such rationalization; blebbeh, blah, blah] ... a tactic that the MCC opponents have shown no shame in using. [so, bleh!]

Posted On: Monday, Jan. 18 2010 @ 3:41PM
Aunt B. says:

Kevin, yes, I know that and you know that. But imagine, for a moment, how that's going to play out to struggling voters.

"Why did you vote to spend my tax money on a convention center when my kid didn't have school books for a month and my husband got laid off?"

"Well, ma'am, it's very complex. Money for the convention center could only go to the convention center..."


"It's a state law."

"Really? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of."

I mean, please, most voters are not going to want to hear that crap.

I'm not opposed to the center. I'm not for it. I thought it was a done deal the minute they decided on it unless Gaylord could come up with something big enough to derail it, which they obviously have not.

But for proponents to act like people who haven't been paying attention to the intricacies of this whole thing are going to be okay with this is just a little hilarious.

It's fine with me. Like I said, I don't really care one way or another.

But I'm a little baffled and amused that the pro-convention center people having considered how this is going to play out public-relations wise.

I hope for y'all's sake that there are a lot of jobs created very quickly.

Posted On: Monday, Jan. 18 2010 @ 4:01PM
Behaving out-of-touch with regular people is not a good way to market a controversial concept.

Council member explains vote to constituents given risk-reward analysis of "the last wave of municipal monument building"

Blogging CM Emily Evans (Dist. 23) explains to her constituents why she will be voting against this finance plan for the Music City Center tomorrow night:
Since my primary job is to represent you, I have to use my best judgement and assess this project in terms of its impact on your life and the future of this city. When I apply the most basic risk-reward analysis, the Convention Center proposal does not measure up ....
Without a significant improvement in our tax base, borrowing $650 million will "crowd-out" borrowing for other things. In order to keep debt ratios at the necessary levels and avoid rating downgrades, we will borrow less for other things. Alternatively, we will ignore debt ratios, continue to borrow for those other things, watch our bond rating drop, pay higher interest rates which in turn means we will borrow less. When we borrow less, the basic infrastructure of our city suffers.
That last concern should be familiar to many public school parents. After the last wave of municipal monument building - the Titan's Stadium and Nashville Arena (both of which as a percentage of debt outstanding were much smaller projects than what we are talking about here) - we borrowed less for schools and they fell apart.

The operation of government is about the allocation of scarce resources. If you do one thing that is one other thing that cannot get done.

A news editor's formula for shilling the largest capital project in the city's history

The Nashville City Paper's anonymous "editorial voice" lays it out in its endorsement of Music City Center:

Step 1. Conceding the risk:
To state the obvious, there is risk in any major civic project, especially one where the taxpayers are the stopgap
Step 2. Resorting to cliches:
If we’re shy here and there, chances are we’ll bounce back in due course.
Step 3. Punting down denial:
[M]ost of the arguments we’ve seen against the convention center have been reductive and fear-based, which is no way to advance a world-class city.
Convention center boosters have been lapsing into denial since their spokesperson first declared that our leaders shouldn't share the downside of capital concepts with the voters. The CP editors are just warming over that argument by accusing critics of fear-mongering without any basis in reality. Anyone who has looked at the budget cuts over the last few years and watched the quality of Metro services shrivel knows that concerns about the risks are in fact reality-based. On the one hand, the Mayor's Office treats parks, libraries, and schools as if they can live with much less. On the other hand, the administration has thrown obscene amounts of money at the Music City Project even without the financing plan approved.

But the editors did not care to address the budget blunders the Dean administration has already brooked on its watch (overspending nearly $400,000 on MCC public relations in a recession). Yet another omission is more telling. Editors could freeze many wagging critical tongues by demonstrating how recent projects like the stadium and the arena are bankrolling schools and paying public services. Yet, they mention nary a word. And I suspect that they can't for the broken promises of Utopian amounts of revenues flowing in. The stadium agreement is in fact leeching Metro revenues from water services and will do so for the next 16 years. Like most MCC boosters, the editors are so infatuated with the idea they fail to focus on budget realities.

They prefer to imagine a convention center as if we all actually have equal shares in it. They would rather drink the Kool-Aid than rouse to smell the coffee. Dream on, editors, dream on.

Martin Luther King, Jr. discusses love, conscience, and guilt

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A 122-character commentary tweeted after a council member voted with the herd instead of being a maverick

Banking crisis and convention center interface: a link many voters probably make

Infrequently mentioned in the convention center debate is the prospect of Metro government throwing public money after private enterprise in the context of popular anger at special treatment the wealthy got in the wake of the banking scandal. Genma Holmes gets it:
I want oversight, transparency, and no fuzzy math. The financing sounds iffy in a down economy to me. Watching how our federal government threw away taxpayer dollars to bail out the banks has me leary. The banks continued with their business as usual attitude and actions which makes me think long and hard of any government entity which says "we will work the details out later but we need this right now or else".
This process has been most disconcerting in that the Mayor and council have rammed the plan through. People are alarmed about it even though few elected leaders and government bureaucrats heed calls for caution. Tuesday night's council meeting is a you-break-it-Nashvillians-bought-it moment for Metro Council. At this point we pray against the odds they'll do the right thing.

Nothing screams "What's wrong with Tennessee Democrats?" like Blue-Dog-when-convenient Harold Ford, Jr. running in a blue state

I tried to tell folks in 2006 that Harold Ford, Jr. was not worth wasting a vote on. The wisdom of that decision has been confirmed over and over again, no less by recent news that Ford is shedding his red-state image to run for a U.S. Senate seat in New York.

Harold Ford, Jr. is one of the most unprincipled, cynical politicians in a landscape packed with unscrupulous people. However, mimicking Republicans in the name of winning elections is many times considered a virtue in red-state Tennessee.

The Mayor's Office will eventually have to look reality square in the face

Jay Voorhees on the potential strain that the new convention center could put on Metro budget and on the Mayor's re-election prospects:

Of course, based on the feedback from the mayor’s office and MCC proponents, the conventional wisdom suggests that he will sail through fine because the previous election was a referendum on the MCC. However, polls taken at that time showed that a majority of Nashvillians didn’t want the project, and the latest WSMV poll suggests that those numbers haven’t moved. While the “inside Briley Parkway” crowd seems to believe that the poll was an anomaly, the fact is that there are many folks in the hinterlands that are disillusioned with what feels like a project shoved down their throats by a few powerful people.
That in itself probably wouldn’t mean anything, but here’s the interesting part. My council person friend (who is leans to the right as a whole) stated that there was no way that the mayor could get together a budget without raising taxes this year. Certainly we will be facing additional financial burdens in the coming year, from Metro General’s likely $10 million dollar shortfall due to state cutbacks to trying to integrate $14 million dollars of expenses back into the regular budget. Given the challenges ahead, this council person said what all knows is true — that we are going to have to increase income, not in 2017 when the MCC will supposedly be making money, but right now. And there is no way that the average Joe Taxpayer isn’t going to connect in his or her mind the approval of the MCC with a tax increase. And who was the leading light on the project? Karl, the poster child for all things MCC.
Yes, he’s going to have some money for the Chamber and the Randy Rayburns won’t leave him by the wayside for his support. But dollars are only so helpful when you are facing an angry electorate that blames you personally for a tax increase.

Erik Cole hard-pressed to live this one down

During a December interview CM Erik Cole bit on a leading and frankly ridiculous question posed by WPLN reporter Daniel Potter regarding council members listening to constituents. Rather than answering diplomatically, CM Cole responded like a bush leaguer would comparing the convention center vote to decisions to go into World War II and desegregating Nashville's lunch counters.

CM Jamie Hollin brought up this foolish comparison in a letter expressing his intention to vote against the convention center financing plan to his constituents:
This is not comparable to the Civil Rights Act as others have indicated in the media--far from it in fact. This example has been given as justification for voting against the will of the constituents. Most notable in this comparison is that passage of the Civil Rights Act was long overdue, while this project can arguably wait.
I might be able to let CM Cole's boner go if he expressed any remorse about the comparison. Instead, his only response in the media has been regret that he expressed his thoughts to us lunkheads who fail to grasp his "caveats." Well, CM Hollin is pretty clear about a significant difference between a convention vote and the monumental, historical decisions facing a nation in crisis. I only wish a number of CMs would stand up to Mr. Cole and respond to his strained analogies as CM Hollin did.

The unrealized promise of Obama's urban policy

While progress has been made in Washington, the President's urban policy has far to go:
The most obvious disappointment is that, probably by design, the Office of Urban Affairs has taken a low-profile. Whereas other White House "czars" have led congressional negotiations about, for instance, health care, Adolfo Carrion has led a listening tour around the country while Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, with a much more specific portfolio (that is, transportation) has been the most obvious proponent of strengthening urban infrastructure. The stimulus bill, as well, prejudiced city governments and, as the Congressional Black Caucus has recently pointed out, did not focus as much on creating jobs in disadvantaged communities as it could, and should, have.

As good a definition of progressivism as any

I'm currently reading Robert Fisher's edited volume of essays, "The People Shall Rule: ACORN, Community Organizing, and the Struggle for Economic Justice" (Vanderbilt University Press). In one essay professor Peter Dreier provides a strong notion of progressivism which can serve as stack pole to structure action on the left:
The purpose of progressive politics and movements is to reduce the level of class, racial, and gender inequality in the nation, shrink the number of people living in poverty, promote sustainable growth, and promote peace and human rights at home and overseas.
I get wrongly accused by another blogger in particular for arbitrarily defining what liberalism should mean. Dreier's explanation captures most of the moral principles I have in mind when I argue that certain actions are progressive and others are not.

Metro Council's newest member bucks Nashville's power brokers to represent his constituents

No one would have blamed CM Jamie Hollin if he had gone slow and went along with the crowd in Metro Council on contentious issues after ousting Pam Murray and taking the reigns of District 5 two months ago. But, low and behold, in advance of the council's probable approval of the Music City Center on Tuesday, CM Hollin told constituents he will not conform to this rubber-stamp council:
It is abundantly clear the overwhelming majority of you are opposed to the project. Most of you have expressed your desire to vote on this matter in a referendum, if available. If not, you asked me to follow your wishes and vote against the proposal.

Others from outside the district stated to me privately I am in the best position to understand the overall impact on Nashville and how it may improve the chances of employment opportunities for the district’s residents in spite of your opposition. I have shared this information with you and you’ve responded the jobs are too speculative in light of the extraordinary costs. I trust your intellect and judgment. Your opposition is clear. No harm in waiting you’ve said, at least until we have a hotel financing package.

My view of the job you’ve given me is to inform you of the facts, ascertain your will, and then advocate on your behalf—even if it contradicts with my own personal opinion. For me, this is the fundamental principle underlying public service. I take this to heart. Upon request, I provided you with the documents at my disposal. We may need a new convention center and hotel you’ve said, but not in the current economic recession we find ourselves. And, we shouldn’t consider them separately. I don’t disagree ....

In light of our last year, I am keenly aware of failing to represent the wishes of the constituents. It is inexcusable. My first obligation is to you ....

This puts me in a position adverse to the administration, the Chamber of Commerce, some of my friends and campaign supporters. I don’t expect all of them to understand, yet I hope they will. However, I do expect them to respect the decision. Reasonable minds often differ indeed. I work for you and will be voting against the proposal, which conforms to my personal opinion. I hope the experts and the supporters are right—the consequences are grave if they’re wrong.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Charlie Tygard and Megan Barry end up on the same side of a significant Metro vote again

Last night the council committee clockwork went in motion to approve the Mayor's plan for a new convention center. Only one CM on two committees voted against the largest capital finance plan in Nashville history and it wasn't a progressive CM. It was conservative Michael Craddock expressing popular mood:
This train has left the station. It’s got a full head of steam because the haves in this city want this to happen.
As much as it troubles me to land on the same side of an issue with a conservative CM, even more troubling is the fact that once again on an issue that affects neighborhoods and community quality of life, CM Megan Barry voted with CM Charlie Tygard.

You'll remember that Charlie Tygard once referred to the Courthouse Public Square, built by the previous Mayor, as "a monument to government." Mr. Tygard seems to have a second face when it comes to the Music City Center:
I truly believe that if we don’t build this center, two, three, four, five six years from now, our citizens will be worse off.
CM Tygard hypocrisy has been well-documented here at Enclave and it truly knows no bounds.

However, we've tried to expect more from Megan Barry, who just keeps disappointing us on issue after issue. Her feeble defense of the Mayor's financing plan last night was chocked with mind-numbing jargon:
Is there a risk? Of course....But in my analysis, I conclude that the risk is manageable — not trivial, not minimal, but manageable. I see that as a risk worth taking in order to achieve the economic development outcomes that are realistically in the cards.
Barry claimed to seek a "robust" debate on the matter of Music City Center, but she seems loath to muster a stout argument on the matter herself. It comes across to me as if she's playing it safe by having it both ways.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Metro on Negative Rating Watch reflecting "fiscal strains" of Music City Center

From Business Wire:
Fitch Ratings takes the following action on the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (Metro) as part of its continuous surveillance effort:

--approximately $1.6 billion general obligation (GO) bonds, rated 'AA', placed on Rating Watch Negative;

--approximately $71 million district energy system bonds rated 'AA-', placed on Rating Watch Negative.


--The Negative Rating Watch reflects the potential additional fiscal strains of a planned $638 million debt-financed convention center upon an already pressured general fund beset by slim reserve levels, significant long-term liabilities and constrained revenue-raising ability.

--Long-term financial pressures include a voter-approved charter amendment that limits Metro's ability to increase its millage as well as sizable pension and OPEB liabilities in comparison to its operating profile.

--Metro's diverse, stable, economic base, anchored by health care, professional and business services, and tourism, has solidified its position as a vital regional center.

--Debt levels, including the upcoming convention center financing, are above average, while amortization is below average.


--Issuance of convention center debt secured by a back-up pledge of non-tax general fund revenues could result in a minor downward adjustment to the rating, assuming the constancy of other credit factors.
A negative rating means that Metro's bonds are likely to be downgraded, in this case because of the strains a debt-financed Music City Center would put on the general funds in the Metro budget. If Metro bonds are downgraded their value drops and investors demand higher yields from them.

Deep Thought

After hearing news that she voted along with courthouse culture for the umpteenth time tonight, I'm champing at the bit to see how CM Megan Barry will run her next "new-voice" election campaign.

Tennessean headline accuses MCC critics of hiding in anonymity

In a five-column headline plastered across today's op-ed section of the Tennessean, a copy editor wrote and had published the misleading view that those of us who criticize the plans for a new convention center "hide in anonymity." Here's the screen shot for this morning's online edition:

After reading the headline, which also conflicted with the points made in the opinion piece itself, I availed the Tennessean Twitter stream and expressed to the editors that I am a critic and not hiding in anonymity as the headline maintained. The unnamed Tennessean tweetmaster replied that the authors were not editors but a council member and MCC booster.

Knowing that most titles are written by editors I tweeted back, asking for clarity:
So, editors did not entitle the editorial? Adkins and Lee provided the title, "Convention center critics hide in anonymity"?

Please confirm because when I blog about this I want to attribute responsibility to the correct authors of the title itself.

Here's the reply I got back from the Tennessean:
The writers are not Tennessean employees. That is guest commentary. (confirmed)

It still did not seem right to me, so I tried one more time:
So, I will be speaking factually when I attribute authorship of the title itself to CM Greg Adkins and Tom Lee?

Time passed and I checked another website covering the opinion piece only to find out that one of the authors was contacted and he maintained that Tennessean editors had indeed come up with title. Shortly thereafter the Tennessean updated its Twitter stream to say that an editor had supplied the title and the authors were not responsible.

Someone immediately edited the online edition with a new title (the delivered hard copies, which have a larger readership, remain unchanged):

Likewise, I quickly pointed out that the new headline was not accurate since many of us who debate the issue are not hidden in anonymity. A few minutes later then headline was again altered:

We should at least acknowledge the Tennessean's intention to correct its online copy when an error is pointed out. However, that doesn't change the pejorative influence that the editors' headline created on the large numbers of those who already consumed the story online and in hard copy.

And as Bruce Barry points out, there was something a little odd about the Twitter exchange:
After an odd back and forth on Twitter with Mike Byrd in which The Tennessean inanely tweeted that the writers of the op-ed are not its employees, the paper's editors finally came to understand that they bear responsibility for the absurd headline that they (and not the piece's authors) wrote .... Nonetheless, they still make the basic online journalism error of not noting the correction in the piece itself.
There's no room for pro journos to criticize bloggers when they can't exercise their own craft with precision. Misrepresenting critics and opponents of the Music City Center when they constitute such a large number of people in Davidson County is unforgivable even with the corrections.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CM Baker tells why he won't be heeding public ambivalence/opposition to a new convention center

From CM Buddy Baker's latest newsletter to District 20 constituents:
I have been receiving a LOT of e-mails about the Convention Center. I want to tell you that after a lot of consideration and information gathering I am leaning toward voting for the Convention Center. This project was begun 10 years ago. The tourist taxes that were approved then has been collected and that is what has been paying for the projects that have been ongoing toward the building of the new center. These taxes by law can only go toward a new convention center. Because of the unemployment rate and cheaper material costs, I feel that now is the time for this center to be built. It will create 2500 - 3000 jobs while the building is going on and approximately 1500 jobs after completion. I have heard a lot about the convention business being in a downward spiral and I agree to a point. I also believe that the only way to get out of this recession that we are in is to build our way out. I have faith in our city and I know that we are in a special place for the tourist industry. People want to come here not only for the music but for the business as well. Some of the arguments that I am hearing I heard 23 years ago when we built our present convention center. It was too small then and it is still too small. There is no room to expand other than up and it would be too expensive to do that. We are better off as a city to lease that building to the Medical Mart and let them pay for the expansion. I personally believe that with the Medical Mart and the convention center there will be a hotel built by a private developer. I do not believe that the city of Nashville should be in the hotel business. Unless we can compete with other cities for the larger conventions, and they are still being held, we cannot expect to gain more tax money in the form of sales taxes. I have heard from 16 Labor Unions, 15 are for the convention center and 1 is against it. I am for putting our people back to work, i.e.: more work, more taxes paid, more money for the government to work with. As most of you know, I was a firefighter for 40 years, 2 years I worked on Rolling Mill Hill with the Public Works Dept. I know what it is like to have to work for a living and I know how hard these people work. I feel that it is my job to represent all of the 20th District when I make these decisions, some of them I don't like to have to vote for but I have to do what I feel is right. If I can help provide jobs for the unemployed that is what I will do.
Any thoughts from Baker's constituents or union members out there?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How about some hospitality for Nashville?

Jay Voorhees is perplexed with the hospitality industry's sense of entitlement. Why is it fine for them to go rogue on the convention center matter?
Isn’t the discretion to tax solely at the hands of our elected representatives who are considering the overall needs of the city rather than at the hands of a specific industry who is looking for public assistance to enhance their businesses?

Okay, I know that it’s a naive and idealistic question. Government works hand in hand with business to create opportunities for those businesses. However what I find troubling is that we have a firmly established tax that has been in place for 30 years without hindering the hospitality industry which that industry is demanding is only used for their purposes without any concern for the broader needs of the city. Nashville is much more than tourists and hotels, and it would be nice to hear the hospitality industry address how they fit into the fabric of the entire city, not simply their little fishbowl which represents a portion of our economy.

But then again, I shouldn’t be surprised, for WHEN has the hospitality industry (including, and maybe especially Gaylord) as a whole EVER done anything that considers the character of our city beyond turning into a plastic tourist trap?
Jay goes on to point out that the commercial growth that the industry brought also came at a stern price to local businesses with unique character. More after the jump.

Local media fails to deliver important news

Bruce Barry on the information blackout of the poll of Nashville voters that WSMV released in a late Friday news dump last week:
unless you watch Channel 4 (or read Pith or other blogs), you would know nothing about the poll because other news organizations in the city have ignored the WSMV-commissioned survey. Four days have gone by since the poll came out, and there has been no concrete mention of its findings in either The Tennessean or The City Paper nor on the news websites of any of the other local TV stations. Only the Nashville Business Journal picked up on the poll, six paragraphs into a story posted Monday.
It is predictable that any information that ever came out about public backlash or considerable opposition to the new convention center would be marginalized or boycotted by the mainstream media.