Friday, April 29, 2011

The neighborhoods Mayor

For 4 years now the Mayor's Office has been running a bait-and-switch against neighborhood organizations. In 2007 Karl Dean held a single "connecting communities" meeting, generally ignored neighborhood leaders' concerns and questions, and redirected attention to the mantra of education and schools. In 2008, the Mayor's Office in an newspaper article on neighborhood issues insisted that education and public safety were "the" neighborhood issues without reference to any other priorities. In 2009, the "Mayor's Night Out" meeting dedicated to neighborhoods was poorly communicated, and conditions that community leaders expressed as needing attention were not followed-up on. In 2010, Mayor Dean totally undermined an Antioch community task force's recommendations in order to attempt to dump Fairgrounds vendors into Hickory Hollow mall, insisting that he was helping Antioch and South Nashville neighborhoods and not the wealthy development interests behind the deal.

So, you will excuse my jadedness about the spate of "neighborhood gatherings" the Mayor has suddenly scheduled in 2011 to boost his re-election campaign and to gloss the thin veneer of grassroots. The first one was held in March in Madison under the auspices of a "food drive." Here is the Twitter exchange between me and one of the Tennessean reporters' feeds on the subject:

Michael Cass: Dean planning "neighborhood gathering" in Madison this weekend, asking supporters to bring food to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank
Me: Isn't that "neighborhood gathering" actually a fundraiser for the Dean campaign?
Cass: The announcement I saw only mentioned bringing food for Second Harvest, but I'll check.
Cass: Campaign says it's not a fundraiser; people can give if they want but aren't expected to.

In the "neighborhood gatherings" since March, the food drive angle has increasingly receded from purpose to afterthought of the campaign effort. Mayor Dean is playing up neighborhood "steering committees" not to help out charities (which often serve as the emperor's new clothes), but to help him fund-raise and get out the vote. The latest press release:

Click on caption to enlarge

There is some poetic justice here: the community that the Mayor's Office nearly screwed over the Fairgrounds plan serves as a prop in the "neighborhood gathering" parody, which never really had anything to do with neighborhoods outside of a means to re-election. And the bait-and-switch food drives will continue to recede to the back as we draw closer to the elections. Once the Mayor has been re-elected neighborhoods will once again be on their own to fend for themselves and the emperor will move on in his new clothes.

1 comment:

  1. Dean's tenure has basically been a series of PR stepping stones. He's careful to only lay them in shallow water -- anything deeper would require real muscle and backbone.

    It's all about treading lightly until he gets to the other side of the stream and makes a run for gov.

    (And keeping his over-sized, Lands End loafers dry).