Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Word on the street about the new Omni hotel at the convention center

I'm hearing from an informed source that the new hotel, due to the architecture, is not going to be as energy efficient as assumed. I will be interested to see how they market it as such.

The Music City Convention Center itself was slated to have a predominantly green roof in the planning stages, which was consistent with what Nashvillians said they expected during community meetings on the proposed facility. But it is news when developers follow through with the concept promised without pressure, and Karl Dean gave signals early on that there would probably be cuts to the green roof.

Sure enough, the developers cut the green section of the roof from 70-something-percent to 20-something-percent, so it sounds like more of a green hip or drip edge than it does a "green roof". Undeterred by the underwhelming shrinkage of green, Hizzoner is now promoting solar panels for the roof (paying an energy company $125 per hour to install) and calling it "a roof is unlike any other roof that has ever been built in Nashville".

Can't wait to see how the Courthouse spins the efficiency of the Omni.

My promotion of commercialism is okay. Yours is not.

Do you catch the irony in this recent neighborhood elist exchange about Fairgrounds Speedway? [Names have been changed to protect the innocent]

John Q.: DON'T FORGET TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO BUY SEASON GRANDSTAND PASSES & SEASON PIT PASSES!!!! They will officially go off sale at 5 pm today!

Jane Q.: I thought this site was not to be used to promote any commercial entity...
[Signed] Jane Q.
T-Mobile. America’s First Nationwide 4G Network.

How many handheld device comments would we have to prohibit if we pushed rules against commercialism too far?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Preservationist responds to my frustrations with Metro Action Commission's opposition to protecting Fehr School

David Price with Historic Nashville, Inc. comments on a previous post:

Hi Mike, thanks for your attention to the Fehr School. As a board member of Historic Nashville (and chair of our Nashville 9 committee), I can tell you our organization fully supports the landmarking of the school and your efforts to draw attention to it. I spoke with Tim Walker of the Metro Historical Commission and wanted to share some information that I hope you will find reassuring.

Cynthia Croom may be opposed to the proposed landmark ordinance so she can be free to make changes to the building, but the MAC is almost entirely Federally funded. That means that if it were to use Federal money for renovations or additions it would be subject to a review process under Section 106 of the NHPA ( This process aims to find ways for Federal undertakings to avoid adverse effects on historic properties. In plain words, it would not allow the MAC to just go and make any changes it wants to whenever it wants to. Read more at the link above.

On top of this, if I am not mistaken the MAC is planning to relocate at some point in the near future. When that happens, the councilperson and the MHC will likely be able to landmark the property without opposition.

Lastly, it is also my understanding that the surrounding neighborhood is pursuing a conservation zoning overlay, which would include the school building (and regulate exterior changes) despite the MAC's opposition.

HNI is happy that Salemtown and the Fehr school have you watching out for their best interests, and hope that this info helps.

The most most hopeful news is that there is a federal review process in place to protect historic properties like Fehr School. However, what is unclear: what triggers it. Not many people remember the background of Fehr and it has no plaque or nationally recognized designation. I intend to follow up at the federal level and see if the federal government would allow changes without red flags going off.

On a second note, MAC has already relocated. North Nashville Head Start is the sole occupant of Fehr School, and as far as I know there are no announced plans to relocate it. So, to the best of my understanding, MAC will be in control of the building indefinitely.

Finally, I do not believe that conservation zoning necessarily applies to entire neighborhoods, given the somewhat complex consent process. I attended an informational meeting on conservation zoning Monday night in Salemtown. I directly asked the Metro planner speaking at the meeting, yes or no: can a Metro agency occupying a historic building automatically opt out of conservation zoning for their building even if the neighborhood supports it? She really did not answer my question, but said that Metro agencies generally are agreeable to conservation initiatives. In fact, she had already told us that blocks and streets could be cut out of conservation rezoning to facilitate passage of the rezoning legislation. It seems to me that if a Metro agency caused enough of a ruckus it could leverage an opt-out, especially Metro Action, which has intervened to stop Salemtown improvement projects having little to do with the Fehr building in the past. I think it is noteworthy that the planner did not come right out and say, "No. They cannot opt out".

MAC Director Cynthia Croom has expressed opposition to conserving the Fehr building. She has stopped other local improvement projects dead in their tracks without warning. She would not even compromise on Fehr preservation with the district council member. So, why would she not avail herself of future opportunities to exclude Fehr from conservation zoning?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Privatized neighborhood a factor in the murder of Trayvon Martin

Ariella Cohen insists that the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman blows apart the myth that gated communities are safe. On the contrary, the gated community may have been a cause of Martin's murder:

Though the setting of this tragedy may not have much bearing on the criminal investigation, the issue of place is something that should not evade public scrutiny. Martin was deemed “suspicious” while walking in a gated community.

While the logic Zimmerman used to arrive at this conclusion cannot be rationalized or even understood, I would argue that the privatized nature of his neighborhood partially enabled his skewed sense of authority. As anthropologist Setha Low wrote in a 2007 essay published in Next American City, gated residential communities “intensify social segregation, racism, and exclusionary land use practices, and raise a number of conflicting values” ....

Low, author of Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America, argues that there is no evidence that gated communities are any safer than any other neighborhood. Furthermore, she points out that while a security gate “can provide a refuge from people who are deviant or unusual… the vigilance necessary to patrol these borders actually heightens residents’ anxiety and sense of isolation, rather than making them feel safer.”

Reading these words in light of the Trayvon’s killing, I can’t help but wonder if his walk to 7-Eleven would have ended differently if he had been on an open street instead of in a gated community.

I agree that privatized neighborhoods do foster an atmosphere of fear, but there are also larger factors in ungated communities like the ones the editorial voice of the Christian Science Monitor lists:

Many cities have learned that the best way to fight crime is to bring people together, starting with things as simple as block parties, more sports and summer jobs for teens, or a healthy voter turnout for local elections. Mutual respect and even affection in the public sphere can reduce fear.

Examples of this approach are growing. Boston pioneered a technique in the 1990s by bringing church ministers and police together to persuade young people to avoid gun violence. Chicago helps ex-offenders meet up with neighborhood residents to restore their community bonds. Britain has begun to adopt some of these American methods after recent urban gang riots.

Yet tough economic times make it difficult for working people to be neighborly, go to community meetings, or engage with police and other officials. More residents are renters and thus not putting down roots. A neighborhood’s shift in ethnic or racial makeup can reduce trust and a sense of shared civic values.

Shared civic values are beset on one side by pressures to privatize and on the other by diminishing government commitments to infrastructure and programs and willingness to bow to the fickle vagaries of the housing market. These larger structural obstacles to community aggravate ethnic/racial tensions that make violence probable.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nashville enjoys "livability" ranking based on a narrow definition of "livability"

You see it everywhere. The increasing divide between matters of sustainability and environmentalism on the one hand and wealth/poverty polarization on the other. Both sides concern questions of what make communities livable, but the divide seems to grow, especially as those progressives concerned with the environment start from class-specific points on livability without considering economic disparity as a brake on livability.

The world's largest car sharing club recently commissioned a study of 36 cities and ranked them for the urban policies that contribute to livability based on the criteria of innovation, sustainability, vibrancy, safety, efficiency, and optimism. Take lists with a grain of salt to begin with, because they generally suit our proclivities to order and list more than they reveal immutable truths about things, but Nashville came out with a relatively high overall ranking of 16.

However, before we go patting ourselves on the back for a score, we should consider the factors that the data published failed to include in the study. Any ranking of cities based on the question of livability policy matters cannot be reliable if they do not factor in delivery of social services, levels of diversity, and opportunities for livable wages. Zipcar's data is limited and biased from that side. So, would Nashville's high ranking stand up to broader studies that crossed the class-based divide between progressives' views on livability?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sign the petition against the asphalt plant

Nashvillians Against the Asphalt Plant

To be delivered to: Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson County Council
We, the petitioners want to ask the Council Members to vote No on BL2012-103 to allow an Asphalt Plant on Franklin Limestone Rd. Numerous issues which include traffic, health and environmental make this a danger to our community. There are other, better places to locate this type of business that don't put families in danger. Also, it would sit next to Mill Creek which is home to an endangered species.
We are trying to prevent the addition of a new Asphalt Plant in our backyards within a few hundred feet of homes with children and adults with breathing and health issues. The street where the Plant is proposed is already dangerous and a lot of slow moving Dump Trucks will make it even worse. Homeowners in this area have suffered enough with falling property values. When an Asphalt Plant moves in, property can fall as much as 45% an amount that would be devastating to homeowners in this area.

Jump to the petition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ethics vs public relations: tweets Registered

A series of reporters' tweets from earlier this afternoon that makes me wonder what the Metro Nashville Public Schools Director prefers in leadership. He is more of an ad man or an ethics man?

How much the Convention Center Authority values hard work: not much

From Crane Watchdog:

Nashville's Convention Center Authority, which oversees both the current Convention Center and its replacement, the Music City Center, has engaged Cushion Employer Services to conduct a compensation study. Cushion will make recommendations on staffing, pay, benefits and other issues for the Music City Center.

Based on a job posting for a position at the Convention Center, we can see why the Authority might need a consultant's help. The job calls for a janitor, operating engineer and manager all in one, has lousy hours and pays only $10.93 per hour:

Immediate Opening. Responsibilities include: set-up/dismantling of convention space; general maintenance labor in connection to building maintenance, including sweeping, mopping, washing walls and windows, cleaning restrooms, emptying trash containers, etc. Assist in direction of temporary labor. Knowledge of the techniques and procedures used in setting public events; ability to operate motorized equipment, such as a forklift; and ability to analyze set-up plans and make modifications. Salary: $10.93/hour. Excellent Benefits included.

If you go take a look at the rest of the skinny from the folks at CW, you will learn that the owners of the employer services company selected are very special friends of Karl Dean, you will see how close these new jobs are to the poverty line for laborers who have to support a family, and you will read how Cushion Employee Services and other donors to the Mayor connected to this selection have been in hot water themselves in hypocritical ways. Jump!

Metro Council rubber stamps another Karl Dean property tax giveaway to a big corporation

Remember this when the Mayor proposes a property tax increase on regular Nashvillians the next time his budget comes before Metro Council for approval; the next time he defends that tax increase by saying, "We have no other choice if we want to fund Metro services":

Hospital Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private health care provider, is close to landing a $3 million property tax break from Metro for building a new $200 million data center in Antioch.

The Metro Council, after no deliberation, gave preliminary approval Tuesday to hand HCA a 60 percent property tax abatement on real and personal property taxes over seven years to accommodate a new Antioch data center at The Crossings on Old Franklin Road. The incentive, which Mayor Karl Dean’s administration engineered, is set for final approval in April.

We had a choice; that is to say, the Mayor had a choice. It was the same choice he had when he raised stormwater fees to pay for improvements a few years ago. At that time he raised residential water rates at a higher rate than he did business water rates, even though the latter generate huge amounts of stormwater run-off with paved parking lots and expansive roofs. At that time a few council progressives shouted protests loud and long about favoritism and dirty dealmaking with the rich.

He's passing out tax breaks now and sending us the bill for them later. Yet, some of the same progressive council members who fought the good fight last time are sitting out this one in silence. In sum, Karl Dean and the Metro Council are choosing to subsidize wealthy business on the backs of smaller property owners instead of requiring them to pay their fair share just like you and I will be expected to when the tax hammer falls.

Tax breaks for the wealthy and influential are just another form of class warfare, and the Mayor and Metro Council are choosing up sides against the middle class. But when the budget discussions start percolating in a little while not a word will be said about Metro's preferential option for the rich.

Instead, it will be about collecting the money for our public school kids, for police protection of our neighborhoods, and for job growth in the private sector. Opponents of unbalanced tax increases will be scapegoated for opposing full funding for Metro services.

These tax breaks will be forgotten or ignored.

Shame on council progressives for not lifting a single voice to oppose. Shame on council conservatives who will likely howl loud and long against a property tax increase but did not bat an eye at the subsidies flying out the courthouse door to big business (you will be the ones who deserve all of the scorn and backlash for abandoning Metro services with any budget cuts). A pox on both of your houses.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Because sometimes pro sport teams are not enough

A law firm moves to Nashville, but the vast majority of the employees are not impressed enough to relocate with the firm? We aren't attractive enough?

The firm settled on Nashville because of its relatively high level of education, proximity to universities, professional sports teams, cultural attractions and overall quality of life. It is also, Whelan said, a “long-term labor play.”

"If you look at the salary cost differential between the various markets ... you’ll see the Nashville market is 4 to 6 percent below the national average but the places we have [offices with professional services staff] are 30 percent above the national average"

Translation: Nashville businesses value their professional service employees 6% below the national average compared to other cities that value their professional service employees 30% above the national average. Wages are not just a row in the budget spreadsheet; they are an expression of appreciation (or lack thereof).

UPDATE: Nashville hit list of most stressful cities. No surprise that we are stressful, since the "salary costs", what our companies pay our labor force, is less stressful on the few and more stressful on the many.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fehr School: Nashville's civil rights history vs. the Metro Action Commission

Last week I spoke with my council member about progress to a rezoning measure that would preserve the historic facade of Salemtown's Fehr school. Erica Gilmore met with a Historical Commission representative, Cynthia Croom from the Metro Action Commission and lawyers representing each of the parties. Metro Action controls the Fehr property, which currently houses North Nashville Head Start. Apparently Ms. Croom dug in her heels and refused to lend MAC support for a historic overlay for the former public school building saying that her department needs to be free to make any changes to the exterior that the federal government requires of them.

So, the side backing down was the CM and the Historical Commission, which support an overlay for the endangered building. A council lawyer is supposed to be working on an ordinance. CM Gilmore told me that the proposed ordinance would protect the historic facade in the case Metro Action ever relinquishes control of the school building.

However and in the mean time, Metro Action would be allowed to make any alteration to the building's exterior that strikes them as necessary. If they want to re-orient the front of the building away from 5th to 4th and brick up the current entrance they can. If they want to punch a hole in the brick wall to add a utility room, HVAC handling room, or a dining hall they would not be restricted by ordinance. If they want to build a new facade over the old one to front the sidewalk they could. They can do whatever they want to the old building.

In my one-on-one discussions with Cynthia Croom in the past she reacted with what seemed to me to be profound allergies to the idea of rezoning to protect the historical qualities of the building from the unforgiving and arbitrary designs of the federal government. She did not express any openness to working toward a win-win with those of us in Nashville trying to protect this important landmark. Instead, she made it clear that she was unwilling to bend to any possibilities other than those decorating her own turf.

So, I was not surprised to learn from Erica Gilmore that Ms. Croom is still unwaveringly opposed to protecting the building from radical alteration. My support of preserving history has nothing to do with not wanting a federal program like Head Start in my neighborhood. I think it is wonderful that kids from families of modest means are continuing to use a living museum. However, I don't believe that Metro Action should be allowed to do whatever it wants to the front of the building to justify the drive for more federal revenues.

In the end, if the MAC Executive Director wants to ignore the sacred civil rights history of Fehr School and demo the entire facade she can do so. She can prepare budget proposals that could bury the memorial to the brave Salemtown children who desegregated the school in the name of caring for Head Start kids now. I tend to be a pragmatist about Metro ordinances. However, protecting the Fehr School building beginning at some indefinite future date when Metro Action moves Head Start to another place seems to me like legislation without any teeth since any alteration is permitted to MAC, including the more extreme forms that would render the ordinance silly once it becomes enforceable because of the lack of any history to protect.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

With all of the backbone necessary to write a letter to the editor

This is priceless. The Metro Schools Director shows just how thin-skinned he is with a critical piece about his ethics from the same newspaper that is usually giving his policies free PR. But instead of facing reporters head on, Jesse Register sent his response in a letter to the editor. Hence, he controls the message hiding behind the gravitas of his title. Sufficiently impressed, John & Jane Q. Public?

Gail Kerr’s March 14 column states Mayor Karl Dean and I disagree about whether Metro Schools’ executive team should file disclosure forms. In fact, we agree. The Mayor wants Metro Schools executives to make financial disclosures, and the district is working on that now.

The existing MNPS ethics policy is modeled after the mayor’s ethics proclamation. The policy does not presently include a disclosure form, but we are working on one now that will do so and will be modeled after Metro’s. The district has sound financial procedures in place, and the disclosures will be an additional measure to promote accountability and transparency. The district’s financial disclosure requirement will be part of a Metro Schools policy and will include a list of positions included.

The implications are clear here: Metro government leaders render local news media their tools; report anything critical on his majesty Register and you won't see any future interview time for follow-up questions. Kudos to the Tennessean for fighting the good fight on this one, because Nashville's "alternative" press, SouthComm (Nashville Scene, Nashville City Paper, etc.) seems to be shying away from investigating the window-dressed Camelot of Metro government.

Left out of Register's spin: the fact that he hired his former employer, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and paid them $700,000 for consulting work, after which they wrote a glowing report on his professional performance.

Maybe the director intends for us to forget that one. Or maybe he is saving his comments for a future letter to the editor.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cohousing project planned for Germantown

In the past few weeks, details have been finalized for a cohousing community in North End's Germantown neighborhood at the corner of 5th Av N and Taylor St. According to the New American Village Facebook page, approximately 20 homes and a "common house" (for social gatherings, meals, etc) will be built, and there were 32 people on the "interested list" a little over 2 weeks ago. According to the Nashville Cohousing website, the homes will be priced on the lower end of the "going rate" for Germantown: $150,000 - $300,000, depending on the size of the units. describes cohousing thusly:

Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.

Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.

It appears to me that one of the reasons the Germantown site was chosen was that it is a walkable community proximate to coffee shops, restaurants, farmer's market, a public park, and a greenway. This is validation that the more Metro government funds and maintains infrastructure to support sustainable balance, the closer attractive, community-orient development follows.

Before we spend public money on stadiums and convention centers we should obligate revenues to supportive infrastructure in walkable neighborhoods to spur this kind of smart growth. Metro government could be the trendsetter instead of forever following behind developers.

A friend who attended one of the organizing meetings for the Germantown site told me that she was extremely impressed with the potential of the development. I cannot help but believe that this will be a net positive for our small part of Nashville.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From tonight's community meeting: developers present elevation sketches for 6th and Garfield

Mountains? The north face of the development seen from the northwest

It was a sparsely attended meeting this evening at Morgan Park Community Center due to the rain, Vanderbilt basketball on TV, and limited communication, but a handful of Salemtown Neighbors looked at developer drawings and discussed questions they had about a proposed 6th and Garfield row house development. Topics covered included the garbage truck access/location of trash carts, the placement of garages, and the installation of pervious concrete to meet stormwater standards in the parking areas. Developers noted that they made an effort to include brick and masonry in the facade after receiving a request at our previous community meeting. Those in attendance were generally fine with the plan as presented.

The style is not my cup of tea, but given where we are as a neighborhood and the general design of row houses, I'm realistic in my expectations. I also believe that the density is consistent with the North Nashville Community Plan. The proposal now goes to Metro Council for approval, including a public hearing, which it should sail through without comment.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

MNPS Director failed to follow ethics policy, did not report gifts and favors and hired his own former employer as a consultant

Nate Rau reports that Metro Schools Director Jesse Register went 2 years without filing required disclosure forms:

After The Tennessean inquired about Register’s failure to file the forms, a spokeswoman for MNPS initially indicated he was not covered by the city’s ethics law or Dean’s executive order creating the disclosure requirements. However, Register’s employment contract contains a provision requiring him to comply with the city’s ethics law and Dean’s executive order.

Although his disclosure statements for the two missed years are now on file with the Metro Clerk, taxpayers remain in the dark about what gifts, travel, meals and tickets to events Register has received since he was hired by the district. Citing advice from the Metro Legal Department, Register left that section of the disclosure statements blank ....

Once the provision in his contract was discovered, Register filed the form for 2011 on Feb. 21 and the form for 2010 on Feb. 23.

On all three of his forms to date, Register has elected not to disclose trips, gifts, meals and other benefits provided to him because of his role as the director of schools.

This apparently looks infectious to Mayor Karl Dean, up until now Register's partner in education reform crime, because the Mayor's media herald, Gail Kerr, followed the story with an editorial distancing Dean from Register (Kerr even goes so far as to spin Dean as a reluctant Register supporter, much like he was once spun as a hesitant candidate for the Mayor's Office).

Just as troubling as the information about which Mr. Register is not being transparent in 2010 and 2011, is 2009 report that he hired former employer Annenberg Institute for School Reform and paid them $700,000 for consulting work. In 2011 the Annenberg Institute issued a report about MNPS that gushed in its evaluations of Jesse Register, according to the Tennessean. Register had recommended Annenberg to the school board to conduct the evaluations.

These events smell rank to me. The news is rife with conflicts of interests, and until we see the full ethics report, the conflicts could be judged as unethical. If Metro Nashville Public Schools is going to wipe away conventional education and implement "reform" (an ironic word when fraught with these ethical dilemmas), they better make sure that all of the analysis performed and the data collected is not tainted by favoritism and cronyism.

Music City Center financier facing a "public relations disaster"

Photo credit: The Petrelis Files
Goldman Sachs is getting hit again with a round of charges about its treatment of customers, only this time the criticism is coming from a Goldman insider, and devastatingly so. Greg Smith, a primary recruiter and intern manager who was with Goldman for the past 12 years quits the "bulge bracket" investment bank and explains why:

I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money ....

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival ....

Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail ....

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

This alleged lapse of moral integrity is being spun as a "public relations" disaster in the media, but it is more than a failure of protecting the brand. If Goldman really is acting like a predator, this is a profound moral failure underneath the fickle veneer of flackery.

Or "Muppet City Center"?

Mayor Karl Dean selected Goldman Sachs to be the primary financier of construction of the new Music City Convention Center, set to open in 2013. Metro Nashville is effectively a Goldman Sachs customer. Might Nashvillians also be among the "muppets" getting eyeballs "ripped out" by Government Goldman?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

State venture capitalists who subsidize pro teams usually derive more benefits from those teams than constituents do

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein observes that in the wake of disaster profiteering developed over the last 50 years, government has shifted from the role of an administrator managing contractors to "a deep pocketed venture capitalist" that provides seed money and becomes a customer.

Klein's point is particularly salient with regard to Metro Nashville's relationship to the corporate entertainment industry. The Tennessee Titans agreement organized by Phil Bredesen includes kickbacks to the team from Metro Water Services revenues and the Nashville Predators get to keep sales tax revenues from non-hockey events at Bridgestone. Metro Nashville does not treat these arrangements so much with an air of administrative oversight, but it projects itself an equal partner in the "private-public partnership," insisting that the hard-to-demonstrate economic impact is huge.

Sacramento, California is in the process of reviewing its relationship to the NBA's Sacramento Kings franchise with some of the same themes heard in Nashville. One observer notes the difference in findings on economic impact from different sets of researchers:

When the study is completed by paid consultants prior to the public money being spent, the benefits from sports are numerous are large. However, when independent researchers – who are not paid by professional sports teams or leagues – look for these benefits after the fact, evidence of more jobs and economic growth are hard to find.

Baade and Matheson offer three reasons the impact suggested by proponents of sports fail to appear:

  • The Substitution Effect: Sports are just one form of entertainment. If the Kings didn’t play in Sacramento, the people in Sacramento would simply spend the portion of their entertainment budget currently dedicated to the Kings on something else (i.e. dining out, movies, etc…).
  • The Crowding-Out Effect: Sporting events attract crowds. When people know those crowds are going to appears, those who are not attending the sporting event tend to avoid the general area. For example, Baade and Matheson note that the 2008 Olympics in Beijing failed to increase the number of tourists in Beijing in August of 2008 relative to what the same city saw in August of 2007.
  • Leakages: The Kings do employ very high-priced labor. But many of those players probably don’t live in Sacramento. This means that the income earned by these players doesn’t stay in the Sacramento economy.

Given these three effects, the empirical evidence suggests quite strongly that sports do not create many jobs or generate much economic growth. And such evidence has proven to be quite persuasive. In fact, a survey of economists by Gregory Mankiw noted that 85% of economists agree that local and state governments should not subsidize professional sports. Mankiw also notes that only five issues have more agreement among economists.

I would imagine that elected officials who provide venture capital for pro teams are the ultimate winners for the influence created in attracting pro sports to cities. However, it really is a matter of devoting everyone's money to businesses that benefit a relatively small number of people.

Awaited community meeting with 6th & Garfield developers announced

Well, the details came in 3 separate association emails with some confusion about time and day, but Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association announced a community meeting with the development team of 6th and Garfield to finally introduce detailed sketches of their planned townhouses. While the developers expressed uncertainty about the design of the project at the first meeting, they pledged that they would have more community meetings to listen to feedback.

The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30, Thursday, March 15 at the Morgan Park Community Center. You can read more background on the 6th and Garfield rezoning request and previous community meeting here and here and here.

Association news about the actual details on this development have been plagued by misinformation. Your may remember that an original SNNA email characterized the 6th and Garfield development as "Baltimore Brownstones". On follow-up the developer denied in a first community meeting that he ever so characterized the build. So, I was not surprised that today's SNNA announcement was also fumbled.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Metro Water's enigmatic accounting

Follow the money if you can:

  • Metro Water Services sent us a February bill
  • We paid the February water bill on time for the exact amount
  • Our March water bill arrived with current charges plus February charges MWS says are past due plus a late fee
  • I checked our checking account and confirmed that our payment was sent to MWS on time
  • I meet with customer service rep this morning and produce our last checking account statement that shows payment to MWS in February
  • MWS rep tells me that MWS changed customer account numbers and they have since had problems like this
  • MWS rep says that they cannot credit account for February payment until MWS accountants "research" where the money is
  • I ask where the money could be if it was received from a checking account 1) under the same names and 2) in the same amount on the water bill (and even the MWS account number we designated payment to had the same numerals in the same order as the old number absent a dash and a dot MWS removed)
  • MWS rep tells me that only the accountants know where the money is
  • I wonder what I did to deserve losing about an hour of my life responding to MWS's accounting problem
  • I continue to wait for MWS to tell me where they put our money

By the way, I took time to pay our March bill while I was at Metro Water Services, though I may not be able to confirm whether they actually applied the payment to our bill until the April bill arrives.

How professional sports teams conduct business like strippers

A sobering lesson for each of us who confuse fidelity to our sports teams with a two-way street or a tango:

Today, the Chargers are threatening to move to another city if they don't get a new stadium. Fans in San Diego are calling radio shows and writing angry blog posts, saying that if the Chargers left they'd feel devastated and betrayed. And that behavior is no different than that of most sports fans around the country. Every time our favorite team does something selfish, for purely business reasons, we take it personally. Because we want to believe that they love us as much as we love them. But they don't. They just rub up against whoever has the most money.

Go read the rest because it is worth your while.

Will Bar Louie bring Velocity homeowners the noise?

Will "sound clouds" quiet the revels of zombies?
Comments on the Velocity Homeowners elist indicate that the Bar Louie restaurant chain is not exactly endearing itself to its new neighbors with construction noise or the potential for music reverberations to pulsate up the building once it eventually does arrive in The Gulch. Residents above the planned restaurant are awakened at 7:30 each morning lately to the sounds of pounding and sawing construction down below.

Originally, construction crews told concerned residents that soundproofing inside walls and ceilings was not in the plans. A former Bar Louie employee told them that the company's brand includes mounting speakers inside the restaurant's ceilings and cranking up music with "thumping bass" until 2:00am. That conflicts with what BL owner Anthony Marougi told a Velocity homeowner who called their Michigan corporate office. According to Mr. Marougi, the company plans to put in "a layer of spray foam soundproofing on the ceiling" and hang "sound clouds" from the ceiling to absorb noise.

Bar Louie ownership has promised Velocity leaders that they will be coming to Nashville soon and they pledged to meet with leadership. We shall see whether the owners are good neighbors or homeowners might awaken at some future time to the noise of early morning "Kegs & Eggs Parties".

Sunday, March 11, 2012

AutoZone Park: are ballparks sustainable?

The city of Memphis is exploring the possibility of buying their Minor League venue, AutoZone Park, which has not been the financial boon to the Memphis Redbirds baseball club that was promised. And, of course, the primary responsibility of cities nowadays is to bail out struggling sports franchises and not struggling families:

Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb, who handles most major city redevelopment efforts, described the home of the Memphis Redbirds as a "key asset" and said his main goal is to make sure the proposal is a "good value proposition" for taxpayers ....

Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation treasurer John Pontius and chairman Ray Pohlman didn't return messages Thursday. The foundation owns the team.

In December, Pontius said he had been in discussion with Fundamental Advisors, the New York firm that owns the bonds used to finance the stadium's construction, to set a sale price for potential buyers.

A message left with Fundamental Advisors was not returned Thursday night.

Lipscomb declined to go into detail about how much it would cost the city to acquire the stadium or how long he has been studying the plan ....

City Council budget committee chairman Jim Strickland said he's open to a proposal but he wants to make sure any possible deal protects the city's financial position.

"Number one, the Redbirds and AutoZone Park are very important to the city," Strickland said. "Number two, the city doesn't have any extra money. It will be really important for me to review the details to be sure the lease payments cover the debt service and that the city is not obligated for the operating expenses. I'm skeptical because, are the debt service payments guaranteed by someone? I would assume this is a multi-million dollar deal. That's an awful lot of lease payments."

These are problems to consider as Nashville is discussing building a ballpark for the Nashville Sounds baseball club. Having a ballpark is not all opportunity. The "opportunity" also sets severe limits on what is possible. Memphis looks to be caught between between a rock and a hard place. Their obligation to their community dictates that they cannot commit to a blind bail out in lean times, but their commitment to the business of baseball won't let them let the Redbirds die. When does their situation turn unenviable?

HT: James

Dean's deal for Dolly joins list of corporate welfare arrangements

Last year Mayor Karl Dean announced a sweetheart giveaway for the LifePoint company: zero property taxes the first 4 years, markedly less than half of property taxes the 7 year after that, and only 75% of property taxes until year 15 of their lease. Last week Hizzoner announced another round of tax breaks for Dolly Parton's corporation and Gaylord Entertainment, that leaves me wondering how Nashville is going to fund our services with the tax dollars going out to big business:

When Dolly Parton builds her new water and snow park in Nashville, she's set to receive a pretty big thank-you gift in return ....

Friday, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean filed legislation [at the Metro Council] that would give Parton's company and Gaylord a 60 percent break on their property taxes for up to 12 years.

Nashville wants to offer that kind of deal because number released Friday show the park is expected to generate more than 1,900 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and 1,800 once the park is open. It's also expected to host 500,000 visitors a year.

It will generate $1.6 million in annual sales tax revenue for Nashville and the state.

And I'm sure that, once the park is finished, the State of Tennessee under the influence of entertainment industry lobbyists will break the promise of the millions coming back to Nashville by funneling those revenues back to entertainment industry interests on the hush-hush like they did with the Nashville Predators. However, right now the Mayor wants to sell this project for public support, so I'm sure he swears on all that is holy that Nashville is not going to lose any trickle-down sales tax revenue on this one.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Council members who voted for the kids and those who voted against them

There are several ways to look at Tuesday's council vote (the 2nd of 3) to advance Duane Dominy's plan to rezone a South Nashville community to accommodate a new asphalt plant. One is the view that we need to give the council a chance to hunker down in their committees and study this before they vote for it on third reading. That is the standard saw on controversial issues.

Another way to look at Tuesday's vote is from a community-based health perspective, particularly with regard to children's greater susceptibility to health risks given the poisons emitted from the asphalt production process:  hydrogen sulfide, benzene, chromium, formaldehyde, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic. So, how did council members vote on the matter of public health, community safety and prevention of habitat poisoning?

Support exposing local kids to asphalt toxins

Duane Dominy (bill sponsor)
Robert Duvall (bill sponsor)
Tim Garrett
Charlie Tygard
Brady Banks (former director of the Office of Neighborhoods!)
Scott Davis
Karen Bennett
Bill Pridemore
Doug Pardue
Darren Jernigan
Steve Glover
Josh Stites
Bruce Stanley
Phil Claiborne (already voted on Planning Commission to recommend)
Tony Tenpenny
Buddy Baker
Sheri Weiner
Emily Evans
Jason Holleman
Sean McGuire
Chris Harmon
Carter Todd

Oppose exposing local kids to asphalt toxins

Ronnie Steine
Jerry Maynard (spoke out forcefully against 3rd asphalt plant)
Lonnell Matthews
Frank Harrison
Walter Hunt
Peter Westerholm
Anthony Davis (spoke out forcefully against 3rd asphalt plant)
Sandra Moore
Burkley Allen
Erica Gilmore
Davette Blalock
Jason Potts
Fabian Bedne
Jacobia Dowell
Bo Mitchell (asked council to hold a 2nd public hearing)

Wishy-washy about exposing local kids to asphalt toxins

Karen Johnson (abstained from vote)

If you see your CM on the "support" list, you may want to contact them and ask them if they would want their own children or grandchildren exposed to chromium or arsenic or why working class neighborhoods shoulder the burden of Nashville's toxic industries while wealthier communities enjoy a bye from participating in chemical roulette.

UPDATE: A commenter refers us to a Facebook page started by the opponents of Duane Dominy's rezoning bill. Jump.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

CM Duane Dominy invites a hail of popular opposition with proposal to rezone for new asphalt plant

Around two dozen people showed up at Tueday night's Metro Council public hearing to fight a bill sponsored by their conservative council member Duane Dominy--and recommended unanimously by the Metro Planning Commission--to allow a third asphalt plant built adjacent to their neighborhoods on Franklin Limestone Road. Here are some of their comments:

We're just a working class neighborhood .... We have two asphalt plants, a dump, an airport, and rock quarry. That's enough. Let's put this one somewhere else.

-- A worker living next door to current rock quarry

When I bought my house my Realtor® took me around by Murfreesboro Road so that I wouldn't see the industry .... Now I'm a single parent. I am in foreclosure. I've had difficulty working with the challenges of this economy and the banking crisis. There aren't many interior design demands today. With the existing quarry I'm in trouble. If we have more industry, I really need to move but I can't afford to.

-- Interior designer living nearby

In the beginning [at the first community meeting] we started with 35 dump trucks coming in to Franklin Limestone. The second meeting we went from 35 to 75. I heard him say tonight that there was probably 90 movements.
-- Business owner adjacent near asphalt plant

I wasn't notified. My Treasurer went to the last meeting and he asked Duane Dominy if he notified me. He didn't. Or our association. He notified a couple within the 200' or whatever the minimum is, and he asked him to do it, and he said he would: he would notify all of the residents in the Piccadilly Square Homeowners Association. He never did that.
-- President of the Piccadilly Square HOA

I've taken care of children who deal with asthma, and it really boggled my mind .... I called the councilman and said, "This is a bad idea. How could you put an asphalt plant in a residential neighborhood?" When we talk to parents of kids with asthma we tell them, "Avoid smoking. Avoid irritants." Some of you have children ... grandchildren and elderly neighbors. Would you put your child near an asphalt plant? It doesn't make sense. These kids would continue to have wheezing.
-- Pediatrician who lives in near the quarry

I voted for Duane Dominy to stand up for this community in times like this and to represent us for our best good .... I think he's a great guy ... but we feel like we've been abandoned on this project .... You can bring the big boys in and they can represent the different aspects of it but none of that has been proven .... We haven't received any factual evidence of any of these things that have been said for it.
-- Treasurer of the Piccadilly Square HOA

I like to go outside and play, and I use Franklin Limestone Road every day when I go to school ... and I like to have my window down because I like to the feel the air and I don't want to have to breath all those toxic fumes and get risk of cancer or any type of disease.
-- A little girl who lives and attends elementary school near the plants

If we lived in a world where everything was equal, CM Dominy's rezoning request would be on life support after that beating. Association officers, business owners, the working class, victims of the housing crisis, a mobilized kid; even a pediatrician took on Dominy for possibly exposing kids to high toxicity levels. Unfortunately, the council is not a world where everything is equal, and this bill now passes into the Vice Mayor's committee chamber of horrors to give it the air of legitimacy sans developers before it heads for third reading and likely final passage. But it seems to me that Duane Dominy is now willing to squander any working class cred he built during the fracas over the Fairgrounds on the fat cats of asphalt production.

Oh, and there should be a special place in hell for anyone who promotes projects that expose children to toxic chemicals to which they would not expose their own children.

UPDATE: CM Dominy won't move his rezoning request to third reading until he has visited an operational facility to see "what those pollutions are"; except that he has already visited an operational facility in Shelbyville.

So, he can move his bill to third reading while promising he won't based on a technicality. Savvy?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wake up and smell the coffee

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Annie Dillard, once described "high church" folk like herself as prone to "saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten the danger." Her point: folk falsely rely on an unwarranted, even false sense of security and unawareness that their comfortable assumptions could turn against them and devour them at any moment.

When I hear otherwise reasonable people get appalled at Rick Santorum winning the Tennessee GOP primary yesterday or responding with consternation to news that some GOP legislators, including former CM Jim Gotto, see a UN conspiracy to take over Tennessee cities through community planning, I ask myself, "How can someone stick their head in the sand to the point that they fail to predict the dangers inherent to a red state?"

I mean, come on. Santorum (if not Newt Gingrich) is the perfect magnet for conservative Tennessee voters, and they are legion. It is an undeniable fact, nearly self-evident, that Tennessee is conservative red-meat for Republicans. Surely, the small enclaves of progressives, who clutch together like refugees on rafts, see that. There is always the possibility of collective self-denial.

Moreover, anyone in Middle Tennessee who has watched Jim Gotto on council knows him as a partisan right-winger and Church of Christer: a volatile mix that makes one prone to see the world as black-and-white, as us-against-anyone-who-may-disagree, as take-no-prisoners. Mr. Gotto has been one of the most uncompromising and ruthless politicians I have ever seen. So, his recent flirtation with rolling back local autonomy over planning fits his MO. It also benefits a lot of potential wealthy donors; that point was made when the Nashville Chamber of Commerce supported Gotto's bill before furiously back-pedaling away from that support yesterday.

Maybe someone like Karl Dean or Diane Neighbors should have done more to upbraid him when he was spouting off in his tenure as council representative on the Planning Commission. And "progressive" Metro Council members should be grilled on how they let Gotto get away with running unopposed for the powerful position of Planning Chair in the first place. (Perhaps because he busted his butt for the same developers and developers' lawyers and developers' lobbyists that "progressives" rubbed elbows with?)

So, I'll not feign righteous indignation at yesterday's GOP primary results or at the antics of our red-state General Assembly. The worst mistake we can make is responding as if these are people who will listen to reason spoken down to them from atop pedestals of forgetfulness and false security. We live in a dangerous state. It is a Machiavellian state, a Hobbesian state-of-nature where battles for supremacy knock down the scaffolding pretension constructs.

The second worst mistake we can make is the favored strategy of the Democratic Party, which seeks compromise with partisans who are not interested in compromise and who do not have to compromise since the voters here have given them absolute control of the state and significant control of cities like Nashville. Taking the middle road and becoming half-way conservative will not satisfy right-wingers. They'll just shift the goal posts to prompt liberals to shift half-way again. Giving them too much credit is fatal. They swarm like a plague of locusts, and with indifference they will destroy everything around them in the name of redeeming it for a divine kingdom on earth.

I do not want to seem to too hard on progressive rationalists. In fairness, I'm a recovering Southern Baptist who watched the plagues of fundamentalists swoop in and mow down green fields of moderates' lives, leaving little but stubble and despair, even for those who hadn't a liberal bone in their body. I see the same pattern manifesting with wave after wave of Church of Christ CMs who come through the the Metro Council bent on making Nashville a cultural battleground safe for their constricted litmus of Christianity and for their tight band of politics.

But if some want to believe that moderation can happen here or that they can work with the current leadership to produce progressive results, I wish them luck. They're going to need it.

UPDATE: Jamie Hollin notes the hole the Nashville Chamber of Commerce dug for itself:

We should all take some measure of comfort in the fact the Chamber is incapable of getting bills through ....

equally beneficial to citizens, they left the sponsor, Rep. Jim Gotto and by extension–Red Tape Brigade–Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, high and dry. Leaving sponsors out to dry is a no-no in politics. I suspect they will be suffering from retribution or it will at least cost them in other ways.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Evangelical media source: more accusers coming forward against Bishop Walker

The Christian Post (a self-described "pan-denominational" Christian news source) has more ill news of Mt. Zion Baptist Church's Bishop Joseph Walker III:

Connie Allison, Batson's attorney, suggested Monday to The Christian Post that "more and more [women] are emerging" with similar accusations.

While refusing to reveal any information about the identities of the women listed as "Jane Does," Allison emphasized that the women are scared of possible retaliation should their identities become known. Allison referred to Batson as "the bravest human I've ever met." Allison, who is herself Catholic, said her client has unbelievable "spiritual inner strength" that is "breathtaking." The three women who provided supporting testimonies for Bates' lawsuit are Episcopalian Christians, Allison revealed.

One of the women is a single mother in her 30s, a court employee in Davidson County told CP last week. Another one is a married woman, also in her 30s.

So, this is election day

I plan to do my usual duty today and vote, but the older I get the more I realize that voting is to politics what picking a boat ramp is to a fishing trip. What matters most is what happens on the lake, and too many people get way to excited about boat ramps. In the end it really does not matter which ramp you take as long as you have a boat to steer.

I wish I could get as excited as some and encourage friends to go vote while extolling the virtues of the ballot. But I cannot. The choices seem slimmer than ever and the process seems devoid of enchantment. While winning candidates may not always be preselected and assured, the agenda and the policies are already won, and most of the time they are not predisposed to favor the common good.

Lord knows it's not that I do not appreciate the idea of free elections, but our elections seem to recede from the concept of freedom every year the cash cows of campaign finance get fatter. George Carlin judged our elections about as significant as choosing paper or plastic, and I don't believe his judgment was too harsh.

Elections can either be stolen rapid-fire by dictators, seized by shock-and-awe juntas, or they can be slowly tortured toward death by 1,000 slices. The US system seems to tilt toward the latter. Candidates are dragged down to the bottom by campaign finance and masses seem more attuned to voting for American Idol than for an American future.

So, perhaps we get the candidates we deserve, and I should not be so harsh on the candidates fielded. All I know is that I identify more with the large majority who do not go to the polls on days like this, and primarily I see through the eyes of those who conclude that their votes do not make a difference. Let the cheerleaders pronounce the slim margins in election results as evidence that elections do matter. As if your single vote for paper, sending plastic packing tilts the scales towards a balance of power.

The real question is not the margin of victory but whether there was a real difference in the governing philosophies of the candidates at all. Allow me case in point or two: the very slim margin between the due process/torture/detention policies of George W. Bush and those of Barack Obama; or how about a Metro Nashville School Board that seems to have become more conservative even after Republican home-schooling ideologue Kay Brooks was voted off (Brooks would have voted to privatize service jobs and she favors charter schools).

The real action of politics happens not on election day but out on the lake: it happens every other day between now and next election day. That's where we can make more of a difference as long as we stay politically attuned, active, and engaged. If you believe you should go vote, then vote, but I will not try to convince any wavering souls that there is come-to-Jesus power in the ballot.

Obviously, I am not a devout believer. If you are looking for motivation for today, sorry, but you will not find the daily devotional here. I simply go to vote like I mow my yard: because I should.

UPDATE: blogging former CM Jamie Hollin has a more nuanced take than mine on whether voting matters this Super Tuesday. Voting for president: doesn't matter. Voting locally: not a game changer; his one caveat: voting for judges today does matter as "the last remaining direct influence one can have in local matters of autonomy".

I have to acknowledge that Jamie Hollin's 2-vote win over Pam Murray for the District 5 council in 2009 may have been one of the few elections that I can remember where local voting made a difference in governance. Compare Hollin's council record to Murray's: the differences are stark, and we were all better off with Hollin than with Murray.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Sex abuse allegations against pastor of North Nashville church prompt scrutiny of other problems

Bishop Joseph Walker III's current situation appears to be getting uglier:

after two decades of unmitigated success, Walker is facing controversy on two fronts.

Four former parishioners have filed suit, claiming Walker and other church leaders sexually abused them.

Walker’s nonprofit organization, J. W. Walker Ministries Inc., lost its federal tax exemption last month for failing to file tax returns for three years.

The charity’s records also show Walker donating funds from the sale of tapes of his sermons to the charity, which then paid a private production company he owns without disclosing his involvement.

The church denies any wrongdoing on Walker’s part. Church spokesman John Van Mol said that not filing tax returns was a mistake the charity is trying to rectify ....

Exodus Productions, a private company run by Walker, also has had financial issues. Records show state and federal tax liens have been filed against that company. While a $28,728 federal tax lien from 2006 was paid off in 2008, two additional federal tax liens totaling $13,678 were filed in 2009 and are still outstanding, as is a state tax lien for an unspecified amount.

Van Mol said that Exodus was shut down within the past two years and that the church assumed the company’s assets and liabilities.

Tsk. Tsk.

J.W. Walker Ministries "declined to update" its audit record at Middle Tennessee's non-profit database of accountability. Refusing to be transparent suggests to me that the ministry has no sense of accountability toward donors or clients.

His primary accuser's scruples do not seem problem-free. She was censored by the Tennessee Bar Association for divulging sensitive client information. She lost a lawsuit filed by an employee whom she owed wages and bonus, and she has a big IRS tax lien. Nevertheless, she is not a prominent, powerful North Nashville leader. I've attended a number of community meetings and encountered Mount Zion leaders. They are instrumental in the life of our community. With that kind of influence comes great responsibility, in this case being publicly accountable about the ministry's sketchy financials.

Education reformer continues to speak of Nashville charter school progress in vague generalities

A post at Memphis's Achievement School District blog quotes Nashville's LEAD Academy CEO, Jeremy Kane. In the quote, Kane makes the same unsupported claims that the Nashville news media made about LEAD's Cameron College Prep last week while announcing LEAD's take over of other school.

Kane insists that LEAD is producing results without citing the same test data that Metro Nashville used to rationalized the privatization of Cameron as a charter school in the first place:

I’m proud to be leading a growing constituency focused on the most important work in Nashville: delivering great results for kids. We should all be of the leadership of Dr. Jesse Register at Metro Nashville Public Schools and his board’s continued pursuit of a great education for all of Nashville’s students. I am also proud to be working with Chris Barbic and his team at the Achievement School District.

We have done some great things at Cameron College Prep. One of the main reasons we chose to apply to work with MNPS two years ago was Cameron’s historic place in Nashville. We’re honored by the support and friendships we have made in the South Nashville community, the Cameron Alumni, and Councilwoman Moore and the other elected officials who are working with us to restore Cameron to its rightful place as one of Nashville’s premier schools.

What we have at Cameron is two organizations and one School: We should all be proud that both Cameron Middle and Cameron College Prep are showing signs of strong student achievement. If you haven’t visited us at Cameron yet, please make it a priority. It will make you proud.

One of the promises of public charters in Tennessee is that they can serve as laboratories of learning and innovation; collaboration is happening side-by-side in the Cameron building. Collectively, we are breaking down barriers between organizations in the best interests of kids. We are providing innovative professional development and support for teachers in both organizations with our partnership with Lipscomb University, one of the top teacher prep programs in the state. Cameron is proving that the school name is less important than how well we’re serving our students and families.

The overall lesson we’ve learned from the early results at Cameron reminds me of a Henry Ford quote: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."
Working together? Ford's cops prepare to assault
union organizers passing out leaflets, May 1937.

I suppose it is appropriate that Kane appeals to Henry Ford, since one of the characteristics that contemporary education reformers share with the industrial era automobile scion is aversion to trade unions and union organizing. It is understandable that Kane would also be proud of MNPS Director Jesse Register who has had his own problems with unions in the Nashville education system.

But again the script followed about charter schools, fostered by the LEAD founder is that they are hugely successful at catalyzing student achievement without the bar being set at the same level as it is for bona fide public schools. Instead, the script speaks in vague generalities and squishy categories that ask us to have faith in them without recourse to test results and harder measurements of performance.

One of the other claims that Kane tweeted last week during news coverage of his enterprise is that LEAD teachers are paid more than public school teachers. After trying unsuccessfully to hunt the exact salary numbers down, I tweeted Kane, who was once a John Kerry campaign speechwriter, and I asked him how much LEAD teachers make. He never replied and I cannot find his original tweet now. Does anyone reading this know where I might track down the salary numbers of LEAD teachers? Or is that information not public since charter schools are not by definition public?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

In his first media interview CM Brady Banks should have apologized to North Nashville for bringing crime here

CM Brady Banks finally speaks to reporter Joey Garrison. He is mostly apologetic toward his wife, family, friends, and constituents. He indicates that he has no intention of resigning from Metro Council. But he has no apologies for North Nashville neighborhoods:

I have been dealing with what is most important — my wife and my family — and trying to get all the help I need to start rebuilding trust and healing my relationships. I plan to work as hard as I can to regain the respect and trust of the people I was elected to serve ....

I want to continue to work hard, do a good job and continue to listen to my neighbors and try to do what they elected me to do on the council. I have always wanted to serve people, and I want to continue to serve ....

[Responding to why he came late and left early from the last council meeting] I was elected to do a job for the people of District 4. Part of that job is to represent them at council meetings. I take that very seriously. With regard to leaving before the end of the meeting, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to participate in the end of the agenda given my situation.

Brady Banks's actions affect more people than just his family or his constituents. They also touch on the lives of people in North Nashville. If he ever runs for a position larger than District 4's he should have to answer for his failure to acknowledge the effects of his attempted sex trafficking on those outside his district.

I didn't see CM Banks represent District 4 at all during the council meeting he attended. He came late. He sat quietly watching everyone else. He left early. His explanation in the interview does not clarify anything. And it has been his supporters who insisted he needed to be away from public scrutiny to spend time on his family. In that light, attending the council meeting was nothing more than empty symbolism. That vacuous image will stick with me whenever his name comes up again in future.


Unlike CM Peter Westerholm, I do not feel very charitable when giving credit for government stupidity where it is due.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation did not approach Salemtown for feedback before their recent I-65 highway repairs, and we could have used some noise mitigating elements. They even cut down trees that provided some buffer against the noise of large loud trucks.

So, I'm not surprised to read that TDOT--in the noble name of having a place to park some trucks--tore down $10,000 worth of trees in East Nashville that community groups had raised the money to install 3 years ago. I'm not surprised that they did not bother to pay attention to their own history of approving the trees in the first place or at least consulting the local community about the impact of construction:

Rediscover East! paid $10,000 to plant trees on the state’s right-of-way property on Woodland Street near the onramp to Interstates 24 and 65. The state granted them permission.

But last Friday, bulldozers showed up to raze the grassy area, and workers tore down the trees –– all 60 of them in the quadrant ....

TDOT officials say workers were using the space to store equipment for ongoing repairs on the interstate’s bridge.

“The state-owned space where the trees stood was needed to stage large construction equipment for the upcoming repair project to replace two bridge decks on I-24 over Main Street and over Woodland Street,” TDOT spokeswoman Deanna Lambert said in a statement.

“Anytime TDOT allows such plantings on our right of way, it comes with the understanding that we may need the space for a highway project,” she added.

TDOT officials say they intend to pay for the replanting of new trees.

“We definitely plan to replace these trees after construction later this summer,” said Toks Omishakin, TDOT’s assistant commissioner and chief bureau of environment and planning. “We will replace the trees with what the community wants and that also meets TDOT standards.”

Aw, geez. How big of TDOT. A community group beautifies an ugly stretch of highway, saving the State of Tennessee thousands of dollars; but TDOT destroys the stand but promises to pay revenue originally saved in order to replace the trees. The community attempted to exercise a little low impact environmentalism and conservation and the bureaucratic wizards and lumbering construction engineers wasted natural and financial resources.

Given the rate of inflation and cost of labor, will TDOT be able to plant as many trees in 2012 as were planted 3 years ago?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Mayor Dean says the new convention center could get Nashville a Super Bowl

Mayor Karl Dean with the head scratcher during a local radio show:

When you stop and think what we got in Nashville with the convention center, with the Omni coming on line and then you add Gaylord into that too ... we could handle almost any sort of event; and we could handle a Super Bowl .... We could easily handle the Super Bowl.

Cities that "can handle" the Super Bowl get the Super Bowl. I remember reading that Nashville might crack the top 30 of convention cities with the Music City Center (up from 33rd). How is it the deal maker beyond conventions? If such a huge wavy behemoth does not even catapult us to the upper crust of convention cities after it is built, how could it leverage a Super Bowl at LP Field?

Source: Zack Bennett

LEAD given benefit of the doubt with double standard public schools cannot overcome

MNPS Director's echo bouncing off a reporter and then off the charter CEO

Rather than asking difficult questions of Metro Nashville Public School Director Jesse Register and LEAD founder Jeremy Kane (who is also an alumnus of local elite private school, Montgomery Bell Academy), the news media is reporting plans for a new LEAD charter school at Brick Church Middle School with the typical double standards:

The conversion is already taking place at Cameron Middle School. Like Brick Church, students struggled academically. The statistics are not from a lack of trying, but Metro and State leaders stress the turnaround has to come faster.

At Cameron College Prep, the new school created as part of the conversion, every student is expected to graduate from high school and attend at a four year College or University. Located on the top floor of Cameron Middle School, for now, LEAD is taking over the fifth grade and will add an additional grade every year.

"Our fifth graders this year were the lowest performing fifth graders to come into any district school," Jeremy Kane, founder of LEAD Public [sic] Schools said.

To achieve the high expectations the fifth graders at Cameron spend an average of six more hours a week in class.

"They're really trying hard," Social Studies teacher Declan Tansey said. "They're thinking through questions. And they're showing they're committed to getting those questions correct."

The early success at Cameron and LEAD's other schools is what Dr. Register and state leaders hope to achieve at Brick Church Middle School.

The double standard is clear: judgment passed against Cameron Middle School because of low test scores, while Cameron College Prep is said to be succeeding without reference to any test scores at all. In its former generation, Cameron failed based on hard statistics that do not apply to the "converted" Cameron (quasi-evangelical language noted). The new LEAD school's "success" is based on squishy, malleable, interpretive categories like setting high expectations and graduating and on personal anecdotes like the students are "trying hard" and "showing they're committed."

If we applied the same unrealistic expectations to charter schools as we do to bona fide public schools (which are obligated to accept and to educate everyone, even those who resist education) they would probably crack under the same pressure.

But reporters do not want to ask the hard questions of the school district's PR machine, backed by beaucoup private donations and federal dollars.

Kane told another reporter that with LEAD (backed by the fiat of State of Tennessee and Mayor Karl Dean, who is a Montgomery Bell Academy parent) he has discovered "a secret sauce for a win-win" in public education with no losers. I agree that privatization is a huge win-win for corporate elites and the politicians who love them. In other words, everyone with money and power wins in the equation.

But there are losers: kids who don't get accepted to LEAD academies because those institutions can do exactly what Mr. Kane's alma mater does (pick and choose its students); students, teachers, and parents at bona fide public schools who enjoy fewer resources as government money is diverted to charters; and the bona fide public schools themselves who lose balance as their best students are skimmed off and away. It is a zero-sum game with clear-cut losses.

What brings me the most sadness is that the news media fails to cut through the PR to call this what it is: institutionalized and engineered social Darwinism that is judged by an entirely different and favorable set of rules than truly public education is.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Subject of 12South development may be raised during CM Sandra Moore's community meeting on Saturday morning

CM Sandra Moore
According to an email sent to the 12South elist, Council Member Sandra Moore is sponsoring a community meeting the day after tomorrow at the West Police Precinct to discuss crime issues, school questions, public works, parks, and planning. Reportedly, CM Moore gave no indication that the controversial development on the 2300 block of 12 Av. S. is on the agenda for discussion even though the affected neighbors were promised a  large community meeting back in January and construction is scheduled to begin next month.

Moreover, developers unexpectedly compressed the timeline for small businesses to make way for demolition and so the window of opportunity for those who have issues with the development appears to be closing.

Nonetheless, opponents of the plan who last week published a signed letter are girding their loins for CM Moore's meeting. They plan to raise questions about increased auto traffic, preserving pedestrian-friendly streets, available parking, building scaled too large for the character of the community, the re-dedication of the Waverly Belmont School, the risks to diversity posed by gentrification, and principles of conservation.

Nashville among 40 cities with highest percentage of poverty

According to data published recently in the New York Times, Nashville is listed among the 40 US cities with highest poverty. It is 33rd. Among its "peer" cities (that is those we regularly see it compared it to) also among the 40, here is how it compares:

St. Louis, MO 27.8%
Memphis, TN 26.5%
Atlanta, GA 26.1%
Denver, CO 21.6%
Indianapolis, IN 21.1%
Nashville, TN 20.8%
Austin, TX 20.8%
Kansas City, MO 20.4%
Greensboro, NC 20.1%

While Nashville is 17 percentage points lower than Detroit, the most impoverished city, it is still 5 percentage points higher than the national rate of poverty.

One of Nashville's indicators of our city's answer for lowering the poverty rate, public education, is at present driven by market models of reform. Public schools are being privatized as charter schools and being flipped to private boards of directors. Others are being reorganized into "academies" influenced by individual CEOs. The current climate does not invite discussions of the impact of poverty on school performance or Metro solutions to mitigating the impact.

Instead, under the influence of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, a special interest group that enjoys direct access to MNPS administration, the focus is on the test scores of public schools as the strict measure of performance. The Nashville Chamber is not just a lobby group, but a lobby group that has received hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to subsidize its influence.

But the Chamber is so focused on selling its product, Nashville, that considering the problem of poverty will not fit into it's latest marketing strategy "Business is good." Given the numbers on poverty, marketing strategies for fixing public education seem more like a Chamber-serving diversion, but if I were in charge of their marketing wizardry, I would tweak it a bit for the sake of realism.

Adapted for truth in advertising. Hence, not likely to be seen on billboards.

Nashville's latest showing in the poverty stats could be much worse, but it is not where it should be, either. In an era of increasing income disparity, relocating businesses or economically booming bigger than other cities will not reverse our poverty rate. It will not close up cracks that poor people slip through. Instead, the greater wealth generated will be hoarded at the top, not spread around to give more people access to opportunity.

UPDATE: The Urban Institute finds that income inequality in the States grows:

In the past several decades, income inequality in the United States has increased dramatically. Over the same period, year-to-year variation in individual incomes—or income volatility—has increased more modestly, while Americans’ economic mobility—movements up or down the economic ladder—has changed little.

Inequality and equality can take many forms: equality of opportunity is desirable, but equality of outcomes (like money income) might not be, if the inequality motivates entrepreneurial activity and hard work that benefit society as a whole. Some advocate focusing not on income inequality but on poverty.

On the other hand, the greatest increases in inequality have come at the top, with implications for policy and politics, as most of the country’s resources are concentrated in fewer hands. Tax policy, asset-building policy, and policies directly affecting low-income working families are among the most salient levers.