Friday, March 11, 2011

Mayor Karl Dean left for Japan today. What part of that trip is essential given earthquakes and tsunamis?

Visiting Japan after an earthquake is essential. Visiting Antioch after February tornado, not so much.

Common sense dictates that, after the 5th largest earthquake in international history hits Japan producing destructive tsnamis and causing the declaration of emergency at 5 different nuclear reactors, travel to Japan at this time might not be the wise choice. But you do not even have to have common sense. The US State Department advised American citizens to avoid "non-essential travel" to Japan today.

After I learned that Mayor Karl Dean left on an economic development mission trip to Japan this afternoon, my first question was: what makes a Nashville Mayor so important to Japan that he can do what so many people around the world with more stakes in the game than Karl Dean cannot do, get a flight to Japan? My second question was: is pursuing economic development for Nashville in Japan too much too soon given that we do not even have a handle yet on the magnitude of the disaster or on the demands of relief?

Since the travel advisory was issued, my question is: is Karl Dean's trip to Japan essential? Would the Mayor's Office have lost anything by just waiting and flying there after Japan is back on its feet?

UPDATE: Tennessean reporter Michael Cass erroneously tweets that the US State Department's travel advisory was issued Sunday, March 13 even though the screen shot above shows that it was issued the day the Mayor flew out of Nashville.

ABCNews reported that the State Department issued the advisory on March 11. An Enclave reader also sent March 11 links from the US Embassy in Japan and to a US State Department briefing showing the same.

The maddening aspect here is that the local press asked no questions about the timing of the trip beginning on Friday, given the well-publicized travel advisories. They seem to be just repeating whatever the Mayor's Office feeds them with no follow-ups. Then a reporter unabashedly misreports the date the travel advisory was issued, which has the effect of rewriting history given the extensive reach of corporate journalism. This is either lazy or beholden or co-opted journalism.

UPDATE: After getting a tip that Mayor Dean had taken his family to Japan, a fact that I had not seen reported over the weekend by any local news source, I tweeted a request for confirmation earlier today. Shortly afterword, Tennessean Nate Rau reported on Twitter that Dean spokesperson Janel Lacy confirmed that the Mayor's wife and two daughters accompanied him to Tokyo. Since Japanese officials are paying for Karl Dean's family members to come with him, the issue here is not the cost of taking his family.

There is an issue however with the fact that, while Americans abroad are feeling encouraged to leave Japan (and many are landing in Hawaii), the State Department's travel advisory against non-essential trips is disregarded by this Mayor's Office. Even if Dean supporters can make a case for the Mayor's trip being essential (still a debateable claim), in no wise can they make a case that his wife's and children's presence in Tokyo are essential to the economic development mission.

It appears that companies the Mayor will visit have their own disaster distractions to deal with. I still do not understand why this trip could not have waited.


  1. Is that his mug-shot?

  2. I would have to agree. Dean pushing forward with this trip is of poor judgement, poor timing, and would appear disrespectful in many eyes.

    Karl proves again that he really isn't about the people.
    His moral compass is in need of calibration.

  3. Since he managed the flood here so well, maybe he figured that he could go over there and give them advice on how to manage the crisis. Maybe Jimmy Buffett is having an aid concert there, too.

  4. Forthcoming Nashville Initiatvies From Dean's Japan Trip:

    More sushi, less meat and less three

    A bullet train from Belle Meade to downtown

    An all Japanese minor league baseball team to replace The Sounds

    Modernize our karoke clubs

    Make sake Nashville's official drink

    Relocate Sony world headquarters to Sulpher Dell

    Ban all negative programming on whale hunting from local television

    Chopsticks instead of forks and knives for all Metro public school lunch rooms

    Live Sumo Wrestling every Saturday at the Ryman

  5. This is the most immature childish blog. Grow up Mr. Byrd. Although the timing for this trip is not ideal it was planned in advanced. Since you and people like Mr. Barner are not originally from Tennessee maybe you need to research to see that this is the 200th year anniversary of the the New Madrid Fault earthquake of 1811-1812. Reelfoot Lake in Lake County Tennessee was created by this earth quake which was the biggest earthquake in the history of the Eastern part of the US. Hopefully Mayor Dean will bring back some tools on how to deal with an earthquake disaster since we are due for a large earthquake.


  7. Hey Anonymous,

    I grew up in St. Louis, 150 miles north of the New Madrid Fault. I've lived in Nasville since 1981. I know ALL about it. Do you REALLY think Dean is over in Japan learning about how to prepare us for earthquakes? You are a KNUCKLEHEAD.

    Or, totally facecetious.

    Either way. I am laughing.

  8. Mr. Barner, Dean is over there to explore economic development opportunities and I'm aware of why he is there. Since he is already going to be in Japan during this natural disaster he might as well kill two birds with one stone by looking at how they are handling this situation.

  9. And don't forget that first-hand earthquake preparedness and on-site evaluation of Tennessee companies in Japan in a disaster look awesome as re-election campaign talking points. They really compliment media spin that Nashville wouldn't have survived last May's flood without this particular Mayor. Video footage from this Japan trip will be sweet in TV commercials in 2011 and for Mayor Dean's ultimate political aspirations for higher offices.

    Never mind that this trip has nothing to do with what Karl Dean would be able to do in the event of earthquakes. Red herrings are quaint though.

    The trip could have waited and I'll wager that the Japanese hosts would have been grateful for the consideration of allowing them to focus on the disaster rather than on the task of catering to a Mayor from a city that is not top-tier. He still could "brought back tools" for responding to earthquakes and actually might have learned more about disaster relief had the trip been postponed.

  10. Japanese culture is known for being extremely polite and formal. It would go against the grain of the individuals and groups hosting Dean to ask that a meeting be postponed. I'm certain that Dean knows this. I'm not only disappointed in Dean, but embarassed for our city.

  11. So, the fact that he is in Japan during spring break has nothing to do with the trip.Ok

    How about the 13th of Feb. when he was in Los Angeles attending the grammy awards. Was he there to learn better how to produce an awards show. I think not.

    Or how about the 24 th of Feb when he was in Utah skiing while we were removing trees from our homes and bailing water due to the heavy storms that hit Nashville. Was he there recruiting businesses. I think not.

    Now in case you're counting, that is three count em three trips he has taken in the last 30 days.

    Who in the hell is running the city?

  12. The Fair Board is running the city (among other boards, committees, appointees who make $60 K annually for part-time work and various public relations entities).

  13. We know all businessmen take their wife and daughters on business trips.

    The fact they are with him was convieniently left out of the few articles about the trip being made.

    I hope they screen him for radiation before re-entry into the country.....and I bet his daughters are probably asking themselves if this was really an "essential" trip with nuclear plants blowing up around them sounds like a real fun spring break.

  14. Ronnie, speaking of the media:
    If the The Nashville Scene were run by the Bruce Dobie who founded the paper, I'm sure Dean would not have such an easy time of things when it comes to the local press. That said, I give kudos to a couple of writers there who have 'stepped out' and made some gentle jabs at the Dean administration, though I wish they'd come out with a couple of the stiff upper-cuts that Dean deserves.
    Mr. Woods at The City Paper: I'd like to see you 'lace up your gloves' and go in for a round or two. You are surely capable of landing some easy punches. And I'm certain you can land some tough ones.
    I don't expect The Tennessean to do anything but bring water to the Dean corner. The Tennessean is owned by Gannett. What do you expect?
    The City Paper and Scene are owned by local investment company, Solidus LLC. As far as I know, Solidus has little ediorial influence on those papers. That said, is there an implicit directive coming down from Solidus? One that says, "Hey, don't stir things up too much?" Or perhaps the ediorial staffs of both papers have not had the encouragement to "stir it up."
    Regardless, the spirit and duty of the press is missing from all the aforementioned publications.

  15. He didn't reschedule the trip because it is spring break for his kid. No big surprise there. Doubt that they are going to stop and spend time with him to discuss handling an earthquake. As with most disasters, we probably know more here than they do in Japan.

    The Japanese are gracious people and the mayor seems to be taking advantage of their hospitality and willingness to not say no.