Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Life on the north end became vile yesterday and today as an increasingly foul smell from the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant on 2nd Ave. blanketed the area. There were moments standing outside when the odor was so thick that my eyes started to water.

Reportedly, over two years ago Metro Water Services started a focus group here designed to solve the spread of the stench of water treatment. Their intention was to spare residents of Germantown, East Germantown, and Salemtown the nausea. The past two days indicate that they were not too successful. We have had smelly days before now, but yesterday and today eclipsed all of the rest.

We even took a walk down to Germantown to be outside and away from the stink, but there were strong pockets of it settling there, too. Metro Water has got some 'splainin' to do if the vile aroma continues tomorrow.

*I've wanted to use Ed Cone's misspelling of "Nashville" since his presentation at "BlogNashvile," but I've been waiting for just the right moment. Thanks to Metro Water Services, it has arrived.

06/01/2005 2:00 p.m. Update: Smelly again today. Tried to access the Nashville.gov site to send a complaint e-mail, but site seems to be down.
06/02/2005 7:00 a.m. Update: I finally got through to the Central Water Treatment Plant yesterday to complain about the smell. I spoke with a supervisor there who told me that the reason for the increased odor was the Memorial Day holiday. He said that they ship the odor causing wastes out by truck on a daily basis, but on holidays the truck company contracted by Metro does not make any runs (so to speak), which in turn increases the odor in the area. The supervisor said that starting this summer and this fall, more aggressive odor controlling processes--which are the result of the earlier-mentioned focus group's work--are scheduled to be initiated. One process involves sealing tanks, skimming the odor-laden air off, and scrubbing the air with biological agents that remove the odor before releasing it. Making the structural changes for that will take about a year. The other process involves treating the odor directly with biological agents that consume noxious smells themselves. He said that, once operational, both of these processes will catch Metro water treatment up to where other communities are; apparently, we are technologically behind in our treatment of waste water.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Slow, Speed Racer, slow!

Looking south down 5th Ave., North from Salemtown to Downtown. Photograph by S-townMike Posted by Hello
It's not formula car racing, but automobile traffic flies up and down the Salemtown stretch of 5th Ave., North; many times well over the speed limit.

I do not know what the traffic flow experts around town are saying about near north Nashville traffic patterns, but I have come to my own conclusions. Traffic passing Jefferson St. while heading away from Downtown gets bottle-necked in south Germantown at the Germantown Cafe. The bottle neck is caused by a narrowed street and curbside parking by residents and Cafe patrons. There is just about enough room in the actual traffic lanes for two compact cars to drive comfortably past each other. SUVs and luxury sedans have to slow down to a crawl to make sure that they don't sideswipe. Other factors are the patrons of the Cafe slowing to either find a place to park or to drop off for valet. Finally, people also slow down to rubberneck because the row houses along between Madison and Monroe are attractive.

I think that is a solid first component of my theory, which I base on experience. All in all, I would say that I average about 15-20 mph every time I enter the Germantown bottleneck on 5th. I'm not sure whether dampening effects were planned for the neighborhood, but they are working out well for pedestrians.

Once they hit Monroe, drivers must experience a veritable sense of freedom. Why? They make their last mandatory traffic stop (stop sign) for about 5 blocks. "The South Germantown Crawl" or "The 5th Avenue Squeeze Out" lies behind them. The road immediately expands to a width that would allow 4 Chevy Suburbans to drive side-by-side without fetters or caution. Welcome to the North End Drag Strip.
Even as the road widens north of Monroe, it also stretches out straight away in the field of vision as a tempting asphalt ribbon, the end of which beckons lead-footed drivers without any visible obstruction. "Adventure's waiting just ahead." No stop signs or traffic lights or narrows or curves. Just a fat "double yellow" between point A (Monroe) and point B (Garfield). And one can see all the way down the pike.
Even though Salemtown residents' cars line the street along the last block before point B is reached, many drivers are already traveling so fast by the time they hit Salemtown, that slowing up takes virtually the entire last block. That's too fast in a neighborhood crowded with kids playing football in their front yards, riding their bikes in the street, and goofing around the Morgan Park Community Center. It's too fast in a neighborhood where parents are unloading kids from their parked cars on the street. Drivers heading south to Germantown do not drive much slower, knowing that their next stop is at Monroe, which is blocks away. North end traffic flow gives the impression that it was made for people passing through, while the houses and park say otherwise.
That's my quick and dirty theory on the reasons why traffic flies along at the north end. I have a few ideas for fixing the problem of speed out-of-place. Options include more stop signs or traffic signals at either Taylor and 5th, Van Buren and 5th, or Hume and 5th. The Hume and 5th option seems the most remote, since 18 wheelers turning on to 5th require two traffic lanes to make the turn in order to reach the Werthan Packing Plant loading docks. Traffic sitting at a stop light or sign would block one of those lanes. The Taylor and Van Buren intersections with 5th seem more feasible candidates for signs or signals. Other dampening options north of Hume--including extending the northern corner curbs at 5th and Hume, installing speed bumps, or adding bike lanes--also seem to be viable options.
Something needs to be done to slow speeders down before some serious accident, especially to a child, results from inattention. If traffic officials do not like my bright ideas, then perhaps they might try something to take the edge off some very fast traffic.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Jeff Street Might Just Jump Again

Here's a Tennessean article from last week on plans for the development of Jefferson Street up from 12th Avenue.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Latest Werthan Lofts Addition

Crane and new building frame added to the Werthan Lofts near the corner of Hume and 7th Ave., North. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005

Meanwhile, Just A Few Blocks Down The Hill ...

I have tried to avoid joining the mob of local bloggers trying to scoop and to relay and to spin news on yesterday's admittedly controversial arrests and indictments of state legislators. "Group think" is a potentially harmful phenomenon among a group of bloggers as it is among a group of anybody else; so, I try to steer clear of the fray and to keep individual insight ahead of the emotions of mob mentality.

And it's not that I was not interested, but neighborhood business goes on as does my check list of chores that need to be done. But given that we live in the shadow of Capitol Hill, someone taking people away in handcuffs in the neighborhood is news.

You can click on the link for info if you have not yet heard the news, so I'm going to give you my take on the matter.
  • No need for melodrama; it was not the saddest or the happiest day in Tennessee. Do not heed those who sadistically call this political root canal "fun"; and look behind the Governor's words when he waxes melancholic. The feelings of a thoughtful and well-intentioned soul run somewhere down the middle rather than over-the-top. It was wrenching, but we can hope that it indicates that our justice system works to bring down the mighty who abuse their might; but let's not get ahead of ourselves, since Tom Delay still sits on his particular throne in DC, which leads me to my second point ...
  • There are legislators just up the Hill as unethical and criminal as Tom Delay is in DC. And that's saying a good bit. While he gets to have his day in court like everyone else, Senator John Ford has always struck me as a dubious character. The only feeling I have now is that he is getting his deserved comeuppance. Now, when are we going to start working on the ethical morass--or on any ass for that matter--in the US Congress?
  • Lobbyist groups and unethical legislators will fill the vacuum left by the indicted. Do not buy a pig in a poke. Do not buy the usually partisan arguments you hear that we can start over now and make things right. Let's be real. The State of Tennessee is the most powerful political structure ... well ... in the State of Tennessee. It didn't get made overnight and it won't get remade because of something called "Operation Tennessee Waltz." Those that tell you otherwise are just putting up a smokescreen so that their brand of lobbyist and their brand of legislator can step into the breach and pick up where the last racket left off. The FBI better start a new phoney website; in fact, it better start a few hundred and have them on standby for future stings.
  • Feeding frenzy blogs will burn bandwidth on this until all of the fuel is exhausted. There's blood in the water and they attack until there's no more blood. Many of these bloggers are insiders who merely write like outsiders. They are the blogging elites--former political staffers, advisors, campaign workers, and press agents--who feed off controversy, and use it to demonstrate the flaws, not in the system in need of correction, but in their political opponents, whether those opponents be people or services. I call them "hammerhead bloggers"; sharks are predators, and hammerheads are the only sharks that school. In much the same way, the hammerhead bloggers show predatory instincts at moments of other people's weakness and they tend to swim in league with each other.
  • If you actually keep up with the hoo-hah on this controversy over the long run, you will see that many of the hammer-head bloggers are inconsistent in plying their sense of justice. The same people who will talk about how great our justice system is because yesterday it took down powerful leaders they dislike will turn around next week and point to exposed cases of fraudulent use of TennCare, not as an indicator of what's right with our justice system, but what's wrong with TennCare services. That ought to show you that the simian chest-beating ritual for justice by the blogging elites is good theatre, but not entirely genuine.
There. I've said my piece on yesterday's regrettable news. Life goes on up on the hill as it does just a few blocks down the hill. Today, I've got a front lawn to work on.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Gets A Helping Hand From Watkins College; Resolves Placement Of First Neighborhood Watch Sign; Sets Neighborhood BBQ For July 30

With Morgan Park Community Center changing to its summer hours and closing earlier, Salemtown Neighbors found itself in a quite a bind. We were really having trouble finding a meeting place to accommodate us, until Watkins College of Art and Design, on MetroCenter Blvd., came to our aid and offered us a classroom (Room 501) gratis for our remaining summer meetings (June 9, June 23, July 7, July 21; time: 6 p.m.-7 p.m.). You've got to appreciate Watkins's community-mindedness and gracious kindness.

At tonight's meeting, the association resolved to place Salemtown's first neighborhood watch sign at the corner of 7th Ave., North and Garfield, an intersection that is one of the gateways into our community. Other sites will be decided upon at the June 23 meeting.

Salemtown Neighbors has also set Saturday, July 30 as the date for a neighborhood-wide cookout. That cookout will coincide with the National Night Out Celebration on Tuesday, August 2.

Sounds' Dreamed Grounds Going Down?

According to today's Nashville City Paper, we probably will not be getting the Nashville Sounds as Downtown neighbors.

I'm sad to see this die, but the Mayor is taking a commendable stance on this. We do not need to be financially saddled with a third sports facility boondoggle Downtown, even if the baseball junkie in me is as forlorn as a lead-off hitter in lead-lined leggings.

Fix This Watering Hole

There seem to be several water run-off problems around Salemtown, including the one out in front of my house that generates little sandbars on the road, but I know of none worse than the corner of Coffee and 4th, where water seems to pool and sit for a couple of days after a rain.

Negative water run-off or, in layperson's terms, "a puddle," at the southwest corner of Coffee St. and 4th Ave., North. Photograph taken on 03/02/2005 by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
At least the sidewalk is wheelchair accessible, that is, if the person in the wheelchair is willing to ford standing water and get a bit wet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Jazz Festival On Bicentennial Mall

From the Nashville Downtown Partnership's "Downtown Details":
DB3 Management and ElegantSoulz will host “Jazz at the Mall” in the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park amphitheater on Sunday, May 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The event is free, open to the public, and will feature some of Nashville’s best jazz artists.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mayor Proposes Tax Increases In Exclusive Speech To Chamber of Commerce & Metro Council Free Riders

As a property owner, I'm not opposed in principle to a property tax increase to help fund schools. Our public schools require funding, and how else can we assure our children a quality education?

But two things about the "State of Metro" speech miff me:
  1. The Mayor proposed a sales tax increase on top of the high sales taxes we already pay. Sales taxes are the most regressive taxes; they disproportionately take from the poor and give to the rich. It's Robin Hood, Ass Backwards.
  2. I'm still fuming that Mayor Purcell chose to give this speech not to the bulk of citizens who will be paying most of the taxes, but to the exclusive Chamber of Commerce, which charged people 85 bucks a head to hear it. If he's going to ask us for more taxes, he should have given us the speech free and clear of all special interests. Metro Council members still would have received free admittance, and they could have at least looked as if they were above the impropriety of accepting favors from the Chamber.

05/25/2005, 3:20 p.m. Update: The editors of the Nashville Scene make a much more elegant argument than I have against the Mayor's proposal in this week's edition (out today). Notice their case against the sales tax hike:
It's not that we don't respect and treasure our elder Nashvillians; we're just opposed to subsidizing a tax on wealth for people who've had their entire lives to build wealth--and for people who've used public services all their lives and long since put their kids through public schools. Who funded schools and other public services when our now-elderly fellow citizens were young parents? Everybody--even old folks.
That is a much more cogent point, which nonetheless supports my position. The Mayor's proposed sales tax hike is a bad idea.

My guess is that the Mayor knows that this is going to fail at the ballot box. I do not see either conservatives or progressives organizing to vote for the sales tax. My guess is that he does not see that either. But at the very least, he can say that he proposed the revenues to support his plan while allowing Nashvillians to reject it come election time.

Oh, and how I am itching to e-mail council members and ask them whether they paid for their admission to the "State of Metro" or they ate off the Chamber's largess. But I'll restrain myself.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Coffee News: Portland Brews Back To Sylvan Park From 12 South Exile; Bongo Bob Coming North?

  • Not that it was exactly torturous to move to 12 South, but Portland Brews is now branching back to Sylvan Park. I started patronizing Portland back when they were at the big road bend near McCabe Park because their Toasted Pecan brew hit my palate in just about all the right ways. It's the only place where I have regularly gone back the days that I knew that a particular blend was the grind of the day. I always thought that their former digs in Sylvan Park did not live up to the quality of their coffee and their breakfast. It always looked like a Starbucksanized Diary Queen to me. But then they moved over to the small strip mall-like building (a.k.a., "Industrial"?) in 12 South, and I thought things went from bad to worse, until they reworked the interior and added a patio (which made up for the lack of windows). I'll be interested to see how the new place measures up.

  • Last week I was in Bongo Java East (the Roasting Co. at Five Points) and Bob Bernstein and I crossed paths and had a chat. It had been several years since I spoke with Bob, but he no doubt remembers that he saw me writing most of my dissertation at Fido back in the 1990s (along with being a regular patron of Bongo Java West). I reminded him that as long as he's owned coffee places, I have lived within walking distance: Bongo West-Belmont; Fido-Hillsboro Village; Bongo East-Edgefield. So, I said to him, "You know, Bob, we recently moved to the Germantown area and we are in dire need of a local coffee house, so ..." And he finished the thought, "...why don't we move with you?" It seems only fair. Long story short, he told me that he had been looking at places over on the north end. He had even talked to the Werthan folks about putting a shop in the old factory. I told him that there were some old houses along Hume that had some of the best views of downtown. He told me he was really looking for a warehouse type of set-up to accommodate the roasting company, and that he needs to drive through the neighborhood again and look at what's available. I suggested that he drive through East Germantown near Neuhoff and check out the warehouses there. What will it take, Bob, to put you into this neighborhood?

  • All this coffee talk reminds me of the day Sam and Zoe's (Berry Hill) fell a couple of notches on my coffee house barometer. The last time I was there was long ago for a very good reason. They posted signs that said they would be charging patrons for the use of check cards because they were being charged by the credit card companies for the transactions. I was a little irritated by this, not because I need the 2 or 3 extra dimes in my account, but because the tone came across as condescension for the convenience of using a check card. I was a little insulted. I guess I figure that they should just go ahead and quietly pass on the expense to me and let me figure out why the coffee there is a few dimes more than coffee elsewhere. When I vented my irritation at the person at the register, she attempted to stifle me by saying that their coffee was so reasonably priced relative to others, that I would probably not notice any difference. I noticed that I paid about a quarter more for their coffee than I do at the Bongo Java Empire. That satisfied my sense of irony and I have had no cravings for Sam And Zoe's since that time.

  • On a final note: I refuse to get involved with the light-dark dualism that gets foisted when the talk heats up about local coffee places vs. Starbucks. I support local places about 95%-5% over Starbucks when I get coffee. I even like the local coffee better. But Starbucks is not the worst corporation in the world; that distinction goes to Walmart. To see the rancor over Starbucks, you would think that they were Sith Lords and that the local places were the selfless Jedi Masters. Bongo-Bob Kenobi? I don't think so.
  • Sunday, May 22, 2005

    Driving the Trace

    One of the falls at Fall Hollow along the Natchez Trace (between mi. 400 and mi. 390). Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
    The Natchez Trace Parkway is finally finished after nearly 70 years of work.

    We love to drive the Trace for day trips, stopping at Loveless for breakfast before we go (which is about the only time we go to Loveless--there are stronger breakfast options in town, in my opinion). A pretty reasonable day trip is one to Meriwether Lewis and back. That gives you many chances to get out of your car to see the sights. Pack a lunch and eat at one of the many scenic picnic areas.
    We also have taken the Trace as a less traveled route to somewhere else. Last summer we drove to Texas to see my folks and, rather than taking the fast way through Arkansas, we took the Trace's leisurely scenic route, eventually departing Jackson, Mississippi to go due west. We look forward to finally making the trip all the way to Natchez sometime in the near future.

    The Natchez Trace is one of those local/regional treasures that should not be missed by Nashvillians. It's so close, so there can be no excuses.

    Another Fall Hollow water fall. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Nashville Mayor Hocks "State Of Metro" To Highest Bidders

    I have rarely had a discouraging word to say about Mayor Bill Purcell. During his tenure, I believe he has shown a lot of support for neighborhoods, through the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods, by committing to build the new Hadley Park Community Center, by holding the line on the possibility of building a new baseball stadium downtown when Metro does not have the money to fund it, etc.

    I voted for the man twice because I really believed that he wants to be "the neighborhoods Mayor."

    How troubling it is to know that "the neighborhoods Mayor" is pawning his "State of Metro" not to neighbors at a reasonable price ("free" sounds pretty reasonable to me), but to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.
    • $85.00 charged to any neighbor not a member of the Chamber.
    • $35.00 charged to Chamber members, who can probably afford $85.00.
    • Worst of all, free to Metro Council members! I assume this is to remove any disincentive to our Council members, whom the Chamber probably intends to lobby; free breakfast and access to the "State of Metro" ... sounds like the political favors have already started, Ethics Committee be damned.
    A Purcell spokesperson told the Tennessean that the rest of us can just all go home and watch the speech on TV, far away from the face-to-face interaction with the Mayor, the networking over breakfast, and the bought-and-paid-for lobbying of Metro Council members.

    This affair has got me wondering just how much neighborhoods actually matter in the current pecking order of the "State of Metro."

    Another Reason To Avoid The Silly Tomfoolery That Is Suburban Living

    There is another Germantown in Tennessee besides the small neighborhood here in the north end of Nashville.

    It is half a state away from Nashville. It is half a world away from the sanity of urban life.

    Look at the restrictions planned for residents of Germantown, Tennessee concerning garages and driveways. In urban enclaves we form social and communal bonds called "neighborhood watches" to keep out the "riff-raff." In suburban Germantown, city commissioners send out garage door monitors to find and to punish residents for being the potential victims of crime.

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Channel 2 Returns To The Scene Of The Crime

    Wednesday's Tire Dump update prompted WKRN Morning Anchor Neil Orne to come back to Salemtown to follow-up on Channel 2's previous coverage, which lately seems to be more follow-up than we got from various Metro Government departments on this problem. Incidently, the story is scheduled to run during tonight's 4:30 segment of News 2.

    Michael, the photo-journalist, shot more pictures, including mosquitoes buzzing the water inside the tires. Neil told me that he was unable to get the owner's information because the Metro property website was a slow loader for him. During the photo-shoot, he called Crye-Leike, the realty company that is marketing the property, and he found out the name of the owner and where they might be able to locate him. Neil also spoke with Michelle Steele in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods.

    According to an e-mail I just got from Neil, the owner of the property in question is being sent an invitation to "enviro court" today (the court date is June 22). The Health Department originally reported a court citation date of May 12 and a citation to the wrong property owner on the tires. Since Brent Hager in the Health Department never replied to my e-mailed warning about the mix-up, I am left to assume that no action has been taken to fix this problem in almost three weeks. I also should mention that I was disappointed with the Planning Department's failure to clarify that 1618 and 1618 1 were two different properties. Don't even get me started again on my gripes about Codes.

    Now, Neil tells me that he got the impression, I suppose from Michelle Steele, that Public Works would be out to clean up the tires sometime in the near future. What would have happened if News 2 had not have followed up on this problem? I am grateful to Neil and Michael and Ken for coming out to cover this, but why is Metro Government (namely, Codes, Health, and Planning) so unresponsive that it requires the prospect of a public-relations-black-eye via news media attention to get them to react quickly to such an obvious health threat?

    6:00 p.m. Update: Story probably rained out by line of thunderstorms moving through Nashville at 4:30.

    05/23/2005, 8:45 a.m. Update: Story ran on Friday during the early morning and the News 2 at 5 broadcasts. I only caught the end of the story, so I cannot say much about it, other than I heard the Mayor's Office comments that property owners should be given enough time to comply. Of course, compliance was not my only issue; the appearance of no coordination at Codes and the total lack of follow up by Metro with residents were also problems.

    Tires were removed by Metro Public Works on Friday morning before 10:00 a.m. I am told that they will charge Metro Health, who in turn will charge the property owner for clean up.

    Marathon Is An Anchor For The Northwest Crescent

    Image pre-dates January 1, 1923 and under U.S. copyright law is in the public domain.
    Posted by Hello
    Yesterday's Nashville City Paper reported promising news on Marathon Village (on the way from the Hope Gardens neighborhood to Midtown and the West End). Reportedly, WRLT-FM 100.1, Lightning 100, will join designers, photographers, and a microbrewery, all of whom are already tenants of long-time Marathon Village owner Barry Walker.

    I heard word on the street just a couple of days ago that the gravel parking lot at Marathon is going to get paved, and that there are discussions between Family Wash (East Nashville) co-owner Julia Helton and Linus Hall of Yazoo Brewing Co. on starting a restaurant at Marathon. One of the linchpins expected to provide impetus to growth around Marathon Village is the anticipated replacement of Andrew Jackson Courts (public housing) with single family dwellings like those currently being built on the Sam Levy public housing site in East Nashville.

    I have this vision of the historic north-by-northwest neighborhoods forming a culture-rich crescent around Capitol Hill/Downtown. That crescent would run from the Neuhoff Building in East Germantown, arc at 8th near Jeff Street, and culminate at Marathon. And a great series of neighborhoods already lays along that crescent. 5th Ave., the "Avenue of the Arts," already intersects it. In my dreams, it would be the North End's version of the East End's "Five Points," but with more of a classically urban, rather than street-car-suburban, flair.

    Marathon Village is an important component to the revitalization of north-by-northwest neighborhoods. They, like the Farmers Market and Werthan Lofts, are an anchor for redevelopment spreading throughout our communities.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    A Spin Off

    It seems that a renegade tire broke from the herd at the 6th Ave. Tire Dump. I have watched its progress for the past few days. I have never seen the source of its mobility, so I'll leave that for the reader to surmise.

    However, each time I have seen this lone roller, it's been at progressively farther distances from the pack than the previous sighting. First, I saw it at various places in the alley, getting closer and closer to the thoroughfare. Then one day, I saw it laying on the Werthan Packing Plant property. Yesterday, I saw it on the edge of Morgan Park laying on 4th Ave, so I took a picture of it.

    The little used tire that could. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
    If I would have known that this would have turned into an odyssey, I would have taken pictures daily to map its escape. If the saga continues and the tire appears in any spot farther than 4th Ave., I'll snap another shot and update all of those who are no doubt sitting on the edges of their seats and straining to see how this ends.

    Mosquitoes Arrive While Tires Abide

    The Tire Dump on 6th Ave., North, living in infamy on Enclave and attaining fame on News Channel 2. Still standing as of yesterday evening, when this picture was taken. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Has it already an entire month since those tires were dumped on the 6th Ave., North property, with promises they would be gone in two days? Yup. According to my calendar it's been a month and about a half a week. I guess time flies when nothing gets done.

    Well, neighbors here have pursued various avenues trying to get this problem resolved. Several contacted Codes without getting help. One of the Police Officers in the Central Precinct personally sent a picture and a request for help to a Codes Inspector he knows. That did not get a response. A week after his attempt (April 29), I sent an e-mail to the same Inspector and CC'ed to the Mayor's Office. I also sent an e-mail to the Codes' Property Standards Chief, Bill Penn, but did not get the courtesy of a referral to someone else or even a brush off. I basically got to eat Codes's static, to consume their silence on this issue.

    According to e-mails forwarded to me, Michelle Steele in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods forwarded my complaint to Brent Hager in the Metro Health Department on May 2. Mr. Hager immediately ordered an investigation. One of his staff members reported the same day that a "10 ten notice" was issued to the owner of the 1618 property on April 27, 2005 to cut excessive vegetation and to remove all tires that was dumped at the rear of property. That employee reported that a follow up would be made on or around May 12th. Mr. Hager wrote me that if the problem was not resolved by May 12, then a "court citation" would be issued.

    I wrote Mr. Hager back and explained to him that, according to the Planning Department's map site, the tires did not sit on 1618, but on 1618 1. I suggested that they might be citing the wrong person. I copied that e-mail to Planning and asked for a confirmation or a correction to my interpretation of their maps. (Incidently, 1618 has been mowed since the April 27 notice; 1618 1 has tires and tall grass).

    I never heard back from the Planning Department. I never heard back from Mr. Hager in Health. We are now six days out from the deadline after which a court citation was to be issued (quite possibly to the wrong property owner). Nobody has said a word; at least, not to me. And the tires are still there, providing a ready-made habitat for swarms of mosquitoes, which the Metro Health Department claims to want to target in order to avoid an outbreak of West Nile Disease.

    Somebody in Metro better keep their eye on the ball. I'm already hearing from a couple of neighbors that the swarms of mosquitoes seem especially large and unbearable for us to be this early in the season.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    Metro Council School Visits: More A Matter Of Journalistic Sloth At The Tennessean

    After reading Tennessean Staff Writer Diane Long's piece last week on 17 Metro Council members whom she reports did not respond to the Parents Advisory Council's invitations to visit school in their districts, I was troubled to see that three of my Council members--Ludye Wallace, Adam Dread, and Diane Neighbors--were on Long's list.

    Why was I so troubled? Well, it seems to me that missing an event for honest reasons is one thing. But totally failing to respond to an event planned by parents, students, and school officials might indicate that one does not care enough to listen to grassroots advocacy for public education. More to the point, it might suggest that Metro Council members might not care about the students in their communities who put forth a coordinated effort to show them how important their schools are to them.

    So, I set out writing my three representatives, two of whom I voted for in the last election. Both Mr. Dread and Ms. Neighbors responded almost immediately. I have not yet heard from Mr. Wallace, which is pretty much par for the course here in District 19.

    Mr. Dread insisted that he "always RSVP to invitations," and that he believes that he did not receive one. He also wrote that Council has "zero jurisdiction" over the education budget, since the school board makes those decisions. I understood the spirit of his budget argument, although I thought the adjective "zero" was disingenuous, since the Council ultimately votes up or down on the Mayor's budget, which includes the education budget. That is some measure of jurisdiction. I pointed that out to him, but it yielded no response.

    Ms. Neighbors assured me that she had responded. She forwarded an e-mail from Sara Martin-Michels, Hillwood PTSO VP, saying that the Tennessean article was wrong. Martin-Michels wrote that Ms. Neighbors had responded to her request and that Ms. Neighbors had in fact told her about a budget town hall meeting.

    Well, I found it just as disconcerting that I might have chastised my representatives unnecessarily because of some inaccuracies in the Tennessean. So, I followed up with Diane Long. I gave her all of the information that both Mr. Dread and Ms. Neighbors gave me. I asked if the Tennessean might make a correction to its report on at least those two. Ms. Long declined, saying,
    The Tennessean always promptly replies to any situation that may need clarification or correction, but that request needs to come directly from the person involved. I have not been contacted by either Mr. Dread or Ms. Neighbors. As Council members, I'm sure they are aware of newspaper's policies and I believe both of them know that I, personally, am quick to respond to any concerns they have.
    Ms. Long's last response insinuates to me that all reports are accurate, unless and until those who are the objects of the reports say otherwise. However, as a member of Ms. Long's audience (does heeding one's audience matter anymore?), I am inclined to see her report now as flawed and to chalk up her inaccuracies to lazy journalism rather than to dishonesty or lying on Mr. Dread's or Ms. Neighbor's parts. The next time Ms. Long reports something about my representatives, I'll try to double check the verity of her report before taking her at her word.

    2:00 p.m. Update: The Tennessean link for Ms. Long's May 11 story is no longer active, which suggests to me that it has been moved to the archives. That means to view it, you'll have to pay the Tennessean since they charge for archived stories.

    10:30 p.m. Update: Kudos to Kevin Newman, who is more adept at "googling" than I am. He has provided the link to the google cache in the comments. Click on comments and then click on Kevin's link to read Ms. Long's Tennessean article free of charge. Thanks a million, Kevin.

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    "Move 'em on, Head 'em up. Rawhide!"

    The Metro Council recently approved a nonbinding resolution to discourage raising absolutely any revenues whatsoever. So, if it comes down to raising absolutely any revenues whatsoever to accomplish the Plexiglas option, what will they do?

    I like the chicken wire option. They could change the name, "Council Chambers," to "Bob's Country Bunker."

    "Ride 'em in.
    He-ahh! [whip crack]!"

    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Our Utilities Try Their Hand At Beautifying Salemtown

    First, another NES hatchet job on what were once stately old trees:

    Trees cut to pieces along Clay St. at the northern edge of Salemtown. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
    Not very many people live along Clay, so the Electric Service pruners knocked themselves out.

    Second, Metro Water Services did make some effort to beautify the chain link fence that fronts the northeast border of Salemtown with roses:

    Roses bushes planted at the Metro Water Services treatment plant. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Looking north along the Metro Water Services fence line. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
    Metro Water Services gets a higher grade than NES for effort, since growing something takes a lot more effort than tearing something else down. A few rose bushes are pleasing to the eye.

    However, the Water Treatment folks are going to have to plant hundreds, perhaps thousands of bushes if they expect the roses' sweet scent to stanch the foul stench that residents in northeast Salemtown complain of some days.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Why The Wright Amendment Fight Matters To Neighborhood Organizers

    A storm has been brewing for months over the Wright Amendment, a law that Congress passed in 1979 that restricts airlines serving Love Field in Dallas, Texas to routes within Texas and adjacent states.

    Bush Benard, Staff Writer for the Tennessean, has written two articles that I am aware of on the fight over the Wright Amendment. Benard’s primary thrust in one article was toward the affects of the amendment on Nashville travelers, namely those in the music industry. The tack he took in his most recent article directed attention toward internet publicity campaigns. Neither one mentioned any possible connection between the Wright Amendment and neighborhoods.

    At first glance, a connection between the “Wright Fight” and neighborhood organizing may not be immediately forthcoming. The fight is generally about corporate giants (Southwest Airlines vs. American Airlines), opportunist business interests (like Nashville Chamber of Commerce and Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport), and political heavyweights (from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn to U.S. Sen. John McCain) fighting for power and influence in the “friendly skies.”

    But Mr. Benard took a couple of glances good enough to lead him to the professional musician’s angle and to the website angle. One more glance might have led him to neighborhood angle (I suggested as much in an e-mail I wrote him back in January after his somewhat sympathetic treatment of flying musicians, who chose to fly Southwest, and who were thusly inconvenienced by flights from Nashville that stopped in Austin or Houston first in order to connect to Dallas).

    But that angle fell to Dallas Morning News Reporter Emily Ramshaw, who reported in today’s edition that the neighborhood association of residents around Love Field is now mobilized to fight the repeal of the Wright Amendment. They have joined the fray not because they have a corporate or partisan dog in this clash of the titans. They oppose repeal because they believe that Southwest is betraying a trust just because Southwest has the clout to do so. Those Texans do not seem as concerned with charges of “protectionism” that one group of huge corporate firms is throwing at another group of huge corporate firms. They are concerned with being treated as equal partners with their neighbor, Southwest Airlines.

    The Wright Amendment may have been passed for the wrong reasons; but at least one group of neighbors seems to have some pretty good reasons for defending it: they believe it shields their neighborhood from untrammeled growth and from unbearable airline traffic. They also see it as vital to holding Southwest accountable for keeping their word to their neighbors.

    As a neighbor, I don’t blame them. As a traveler, I don’t mind hitting Austin or Houston on the way to Dallas. And I don’t see why such a minor inconvenience—which happened to be the trade-off for low prices in the first place—should worry any other Nashville traveler.

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Do Tell, Pray Tell, What Exactly Is The Purpose Of The Metro Codes Department?

    Before my report to the Dept. of Codes on March 22: Two abandoned couches. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    After my report to the Dept. of Codes: in fact, much after. This May 11 photo shows the two same abandoned couches joined by a host of other pieces of abandoned furniture. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello
    I had heard the horror stories from builders, neighbors, and others about Metro Codes and their seeming unresponsiveness. After recent experiences trying to get responses from the Dept. of Codes, I realize that I should have believed them.

    Take the case of the abandoned couches. Nearly two months ago, I reported to Codes that a couple of couches had been abandoned on a nearby property.

    Let me back up and provide more background. Two weeks before these abandoned couches appeared on the property, I noticed that other furniture had been dumped there. So, I went to the Codes website to report the other furniture. A few days after I filed the report, the previous furniture disappeared. I thought, "Man. Codes is on the ball." A customer service rep. in the department's "Property Standards Division" even sent me an e-mail response, saying that their inspector was on the case.

    However, trouble started when I happened to drive by the property again on Friday, March 18 and saw that the stylish off-white couch and love seat in the pictures above and below had been dumped in place of the previous furniture (if you look at the pictures of the couch and love seat, you'll notice a large, bare spot on the ground around them, which pretty much distinguishes the foot print of the previous furniture dump).

    So, I replied to the Codes rep. that, while the previous furniture had been removed, an off-white couch and an off-white love seat had appeared. I suggested to the rep. in my e-mail that perhaps this is a site that dumpers consider a regular dumping ground. It seemed logical to me that perhaps inspectors should make a note of this site as a chronic problem.

    The response I got back from her was pure bureaucratic jargon and it was unsettling to me. She wrote that the inspector had closed the case saying, "no violation found." If the inspector had not found a violation, I surmised, then Codes was not so much on the ball as I originally thought. Someone else was responsible for clearing the pre-off-white-couches dump. The codes rep. suggested that the "couch" (her spelling; she obviously did not pay attention or did not have a clue about them) might be in the alley, in which case I should contact the Health Department. I felt that I was getting the brush-off; the bureaucratic side-step.

    Now, I'm not a professional surveyor. But I do have a notion that side fence lines generally stop on at or near a property line, and they tend not to go into the alley. That would be a code violation! So, I went back out and I used the end of the side fence as a gauge for judging for myself whether the couch was in the alley. I'm just a concerned layperson who does not want to see the neighborhood become a dump. And while I was there, I took pictures.

    When I got home, I wrote a response to the Codes rep. I acknowledged again that the previous furniture had been removed, and I suggested to her that the inspector might have seen the property after it had been removed, in which case, there was no violation. I reiterated that as of Friday someone had dumped again. I told her that it seemed to me (using the fence line as a guide) that the couch was clearly on the property and that the love seat was at least halfway on the property. I asked her why it was up to me to follow up with the Health Dept. about the love seat, which may or may not have been on the property from a layperson's point of view. I asked her why she couldn't coordinate the efforts herself, since my only duty was to report offences. Besides, what if the couch is halfway on and off the property, by bureaucratic, pass-the-buck logic, somebody needed to saw the love seat in half. Codes would deal with one half; the Health Department with the other. Finally, I attached the pictures I took just in case she questioned my veracity.

    My e-mail seemed to make some kind of impression. The Codes rep. responded quickly that she forwarded the photographs to the inspector, and he had assured her that he would follow up and let her know the results. That was the last time I heard from Codes. It was March 23. She didn't tell me that I was the one who should be back in contact with her. I simply assumed from her response that once she got the results she would get back to me. Or maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should have put all of my other priorities aside and become consumed with two stylish abandoned couches, until the problem was resolved. Maybe. But good manners dictate that they could have at least warned me that I would need to be preoccupied with Codes violations before reporting any violation.

    As I said, it's been nearly two months and she has not gotten back to me with the results. Maybe she's still waiting for the inspector to complete the report. I do not know. But in the meantime, the stylish white couches have been joined by a regular cornucopia of abandoned furniture. If Codes ever goes on a quest for the dumper's horn of plenty all they need to do is drive up the alley between 4th and 5th Avenues. While they are there, maybe they could see about having those two couches I originally reported removed. But they are going to have to solve the dilemma of whose half of the love seat is whose first.

    Before. Abandoned couches on a vacant lot. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    After. Abandoned couches with more abandoned crap on a developing lot. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Salemtown Neighbors Meet With MDHA About Federal Block Grant

    Paul Johnson (behind and to the left of the support beam) of MDHA announces the designation of a grant for Salemtown during tonight's Salemtown Neighbors meeting. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Earlier this evening, Paul Johnson, Assistant Director of Community Development for MDHA, introduced himself to a group of 20 Salemtown Neighbors and other interested individuals. He spoke about the Community Block Grant designated for S-town beginning next August and running for three years.

    When asked about how much money had been given for projects in S-town, Mr. Johnson played his hand close to the vest, which is pretty much what I expected. No need to divulge that info until community leaders are organized into a committee that can be educated and organized to define the needs of the community.

    Mr. Johnson did say that the types of expenditures that can be considered are infrastructure developments, including new sidewalks, new structures to fix storm drainage problems, and park improvements. The things that cannot be funded include building new housing or paying city workers' salaries. The committee's decision has to be approved by Metro Council.

    When Mr. Johnson heard from members that Salemtown now has two associations, he expressed the hope that the two would find away to come together before the block grant decision-making process begins in a few months.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    One Of The Lucky Ones

    Living around downtown means that that is 37 hours I'm doing something else.

    Who's Your Buddy?

    I spent the better part of this balmy afternoon pounding the pavement around S-town to pass out flyers advertising tomorrow night's meeting with MDHA and to press the flesh to get to know more of my neighbors.

    One of those neighbors gave me a flyer generated by the fellow who quit our neighborhood association recently after he ran for president and lost. For the sake of unencumbered brevity, let’s call him “Bud.” Not only does Bud now have his own association, but he also has a personal axe to grind. You see, at the top of that flyer for his first meeting he typed, "Announcing The First 'True' Salemtown Neighborhood Association Meeting."

    Remember: Bud is the guy who wrote me that he was leaving the southern half of S-town to Salemtown Neighbors to organize, while he was arbitrarily claiming the northern half for his own association. Despite his announcement in the latest flyer that he is holding the "First 'True'" neighborhood meeting, he writes at the bottom "If ... you live between Garfield and I-65, on 3rd Ave. through 8th Ave. [basically, the north half of S-town], then plan on attending this very important meeting."

    So, I am left to surmise that either he only sees the northern half of S-town as the "true" S-town or he is not truly interested in organizing a meeting for the entire neighborhood. Either way, he makes it clear in his invitation that only those who live within the arbitrary boundaries he has drawn are invited to attend. If I did not already have to go to the Salemtown Neighbors meeting, I would attend his meeting anyway, if for no other reason than to contest--silently and by my very attendance--his claims.

    Contrast Bud's flyer to the Salemtown Neighbors flyer, which I distributed this afternoon: it basically passed on information about meeting agenda, speaker, time, place, and location. It was essentially the same info that I posted here yesterday. No veiled attacks on Bud's group. No grudges borne against someone.

    And I refuse to limit the target audience to Bud's prescribed southern S-town boundaries. I distributed flyers across S-town, north and south. I even left a flyer at Bud's house. I talked to his wife. I spoke with one of Bud's neighbors, who gave me a confused look and said that he had planned on attending Bud’s meeting on Thursday night at 6:30. Rather than saying bad things about Bud behind his back or talking him out of Bud's meeting, I suggested to Bud's neighbor that he could attend the first 30 minutes of Salemtown Neighbors and then leave in time for the start of Bud's meeting. I told him that MDHA would be discussing federal grant monies at the beginning that might directly affect him. I appealed to his self-interest without putting Bud down. I kept the moral high ground.

    I wish Bud had given Salemtown Neighbors the same consideration.

    Pastor Hits the Skids: An Update

    I have been wringing my hands lately about the sorry state of "faith-based" institutions. One upbeat note of karma: the pastor who kicked several members (at least one had been a member for 43 years!) out of his NC Baptist church for voting Democrat in the last election has resigned. This coming just a few days after the pastor went into hiding and then had his lawyer tell the media that he never had anyone kicked out of the church.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Salemtown Neighborhood To Receive A Federal Community Block Grant

    Salemtown has been designated for a Community Block Grant, which the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) will oversee. That oversight involves putting a committee of community leaders together to determine how those funds can best be spent in the neighborhood. The decision-making process, according to MDHA, will begin on August 1, 2005.

    Salemtown Neighbors (the Salemtown Neighborhood Association) has invited Paul Johnson, MDHA Assistant Director for Community Development, to its next meeting to discuss and to answer questions about Salemtown's block grant. That meeting will be this coming Thursday, May 12 at 6:00 p.m. in the Morgan Park Community Center (MPCC) at the corner of Hume and 5th Ave., North. Snacks will be served.

    On a related note, Salemtown Neighbors has set its regular meeting schedule as the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the MPCC.

    05/11/2005, 4:00 PM Update: I just found out that the MPCC will be changing its hours of operation beginning the day after school is out. So, Salemtown Neighbors will either not be meeting at MPCC once summer break starts or will have to meet earlier at MPCC once summer break starts. Will update once a decision is made. The May 12 meeting plans remain unchanged.

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    BlogNashville Is History and Other Thoughts From the Weekend

    It was nice to have "blogging" in the foreground for a couple of days. Now it's nice to have the whole idea recede to the background again. Blogging isn't an end for me, but a means to an end. Being self-referential for more than a weekend gets boring. We celebrated it for a weekend, but it's time to get back to the world-at-hand.

    My most interesting perception from BlogNashville is that the "blogosphere" is an institution no different than most others. It was cutting edge and vogue for a while. But the vanguard seems to be giving way to the specialization and professionalization that sociologists and anthropologists tell us all institutions eventually undergo. Bloggers, like most writers, researchers, and cataloguers, are an elite (in the nonpejorative sense of "elite") group of people organized by their community into a more complex division of labor as time goes by and as online publishing grows. That is both a blessing and a curse. For local bloggers like myself, I see it as more curse than blessing.

    The truth about blogging lies somewhere between the romantic myth that blogs have revolutionized politics and journalism and the realistic cynicism that blogs are irrelevant to most people's everyday lives. I did not find exactly where that truth lay at BlogNashville, but I did not expect to either. I assumed, as I do now, that bloggers may be too close to their own activities to see exactly where they stand. That's why their work will be fodder for future elites to evaluate.

    Now on to other thoughts on weekend happenings (and speaking of being self-referential; but without taking myself seriously) ...

    During Friday night's story about Enclave on WKRN's News 2 at 5, I believe that I received just as much face time on the newscast as did country music star Mindy McCready (who was arrested again); at least as much face time if you also count the "back-of-my-head time" as the camera shot me scrolling through my blog and taking pictures. If you put the story and the teasers about the story together, I got well more than the Warholian 15 seconds of fame that anyone should have, and I probably got more airtime than I deserved.

    After dinner at Acorn Saturday evening as part of the BlogNashville "Food for Thought" dinner with a presenter, I am now prepared to present my list of best places to get Shrimp & Grits in Nashville:
    1. Red Wagon. Low Country Shrimp & Grits. Meg works wonders with a huge bowl with large shrimp (tail shells on) at the reasonable price of about $10.00. And I consider these grits and gravy "everyday" (hence, "low country") rather than the sophisticated grits (is that an oxymoron?) you get elsewhere. And I could eat them everyday.
    2. Acorn. Shrimp & Grits. This is basically "breakfast for dinner," since the shrimp (tail shells off) & grits come with fresh green beans on top. It's got a great spicy balance to it. Grits are alloyed with ingredients that make them taste expensive. Consequently, the price tops out at $24.00. There's something just plain sinful about paying that much money for grits.
    3. Germantown Cafe. Shrimp & Grits. Just a slight step down from Acorn. Grits are just as good and about the same smaller size serving as Acorn's, but you'll only pay $10.00 for them. Shrimp (tail shells on) are just a bit too salty for my tastes, but that's not a fatal shortcoming.
    05/09/2005, Noon Update: Completely forgot to mention that we got our Bob Dylan-Willie Nelson concert tix (June 28) this weekend. That's exciting enough, but more importantly, since we are Sounds season ticket holders, we will be allowed admission to choose our seats 30 minutes before gates open to the general public. That's pretty sweet, considering all seats are general admission. The deadline to order was Saturday morning at midnight. We got them just under the wire about 11:30 on Friday night. Too bad we waited so long to order the tix, because we could order up to 20, and I would have invited a few friends if I'd have had the presence of forethought.
    05/09/2005, 5:00 p.m. Update: Mike Sechrist, WKRN Station Manager and a helluva nice guy, e-mailed to let me know that he has asked that Neil's video piece on Enclave stay on the video section of the WKRN site until Wednesday. Anyone who might be interested can go to the "Recent News Headlines on WKRN" and click on the link, "Blogger uses technology to give neighborhood a voice" to watch the video. Thanks, Mike.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    A Happy Mother's Day

    A Shared Moment At Brunch On Mother's Day, 2005. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Hello

    Saturday, May 07, 2005


    I am attending the third day of BlogNashville (my first day) this morning at Belmont. But I have my laptop, so I am not deterred from writing. In fact, it's kind of fun to write from my embedded position here on the virtual front lines of online publishing.

    9:00 a.m. -- First thing this morning, I attended a session with Ed Cone on local politics. Ed said that the going thing in the blogosphere is local blogs. I do not know myself how hot that field is right now, but I do sense that there is an open niche for blogging at the neighborhood and city level. According to Ed, local politics can be much more "organic," i.e., not part of political party structure, but essentially an individual initiating political change (example: the conflict in the Iowa Caucuses between the Howard Dean bloggers and the local party chairs who identified themselves as the Dean campaign). Ed tried to stress, and I agree with him, that blogs are not the central tool, but are an important tool in social change. Blogs are means to the end of putting people on the street. The most important question that occurred to me in this session was: is local politics such an open niche because the quality of blogging about national and state politics has not "trickled down," yet or because grassroots organizing is so immense and diffuse and personal and retail that the options are plenty?

    10:15 a.m. -- I also attended a session on Citizen's Media by Dan Gilmore. Dan immediately opened up the floor to comments and questions. Discussion included freedom of speech/publication issues and where to draw the line that cannot be legally crossed in expressing opinion and criticism. For those concerned about legal issues of online publication, Dan suggested this site. There is a real question now as to whether you can cite any source without the prospect of being sued. Are bloggers obligated to provide equal time to those who take exception to their posts? According to Dan, the blogosphere is a medium that let's you mitigate damage by correcting quickly and creating good will. A representative from the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) told us that MBA provides first-line legal defense for bloggers who receive intimidating letters from businesses. They also provide training about fair use and other legal issues.

    Postscript -- Filmmakers are here at the conference shooting footage for their project, documentary:BLOG. Cyber geeks on the silver screen? That doesn't sound good.

    I won't be attending the rest of the conference this afternoon. I've got plans to go out to the arts and crafts fest in Centennial Park with my family. I'll be back for a discussion of Citizen's Media tonight over dinner. I doubt I'll be issuing dispatches from that front. A computer does not lend itself to dinner and drinks.

    Tired Beyond Belief

    If you saw the story about Enclave yesterday evening on WKRN's "News 2 at 5," you saw me taking pictures of the tires that were dumped weeks ago. As you can see those tires remain, even though the person who dumped them said he is the owner and that they would be removed in a matter of days, not weeks.

    Tires and tall grass during Channel 2's shooting of Enclave story. 

    Neighbors have been in contact with Metro Codes, with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods, and with the Health Department about these tires, which are now filled with rainwater and scattered in the alley and on adjoining properties. According to the last official word we got from the Health Dept., the person who owns the adjoining property had been cited, rather than the owner of this property; and as far as we know, nothing else is supposed to happen until May 12.

    In the meantime, the mosquito larvae that are probably breeding in these tires wait for no codes breaker or bureaucrat. The Health Dept. is ramping up their yearly mosquito control program, but it seems like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case. Why wait until you have to spray chemicals to prevent West Nile? Neighbors here have waved red flags about the tires for weeks now, as documented on Enclave. A virus outbreak here could pose an embarrassing situation for some. Of course, the prospect of a virus could be a little more grim for those of us who live here.

    Programming note: for those who did not see the News 2 story last evening about Enclave, I was told by Neil Orne that there is a chance it might replay on WKRN's Saturday morning news program.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    Religious Diversion

    I am a Baptist boy from way back. But it's been all I can do lately to endure: Senator Bill Frist's tacit endorsement of an evangelical group that considers any votes against any Bush policies as action against "people of faith"; the overt political overtones parochial vainglory in yesterday's "National Day of Prayer"; and now, a Baptist pastor who "disfellowshipped" (a.k.a., kicked out) church members who did not vote for Bush in the last election, because they did not vote for Bush in the last election.

    Land o' Goshen and sakes alive. Should I stay a Baptist, or should I go?

    Note to Jim Wallis if he be reading this: you cannot get to Nashville soon enough. You've got to remind me of the value of faith, because the meaning of it gets cheaper and cheaper the more prevailing political winds prevail. See you at the Belcourt.

    And somebody please take that NC church's tax-exempt status away from them.

    05/07/2005, 7:00 p.m. Update -- The pastor who tries to force people to vote his presidential preferences seems to have gone into hiding in order to avoid facing the inevitable scrutiny that had to result from his behavior.

    Why doesn't he just rename his congregation, "The First Baptist Church of George W. Bush"? There's already a "Church of John Coltrane." It might work.

    Belmont's Neighbors Organize to Delay Belmont's Property-Acquisition Plans

    Despite the Metro Planning Commission's recent action to clear the way for Belmont University to acquire and to amass property in its neighborhood, Councilmember Ginger Hauser indefinitely tabled the vote on Belmont's request for easement.

    Apparently, Belmont's unneighborly behavior angered many of its neighbors to the point that Ms. Hauser wants to study the matter more closely before bringing it back for a vote.

    Belmont will treat local residents as neighbors only if the neighbors keep organizing and focusing their anger to generate constructive action. Neighbors should hold both Belmont and Metro public servants accountable for treating them equitably.

    Oh, God!

    Is Councilmember Carolyn Tucker right, or does God actually have bigger fish to fry than her house or the city of Nashville?

    Despite--or perhaps because of--my own devotional life, I had a very valid and "faith-based" reason for skipping the "National Day of Prayer," which reared its ugly head in Downtown Nashville yesterday:
    "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" [Matthew 6:4-6, The Christian New Testament; emphasis: my personal red-letter edition].
    I hope I don't lose my YMCA card for this one, but I would have to say that Ms. Tucker has received her reward in full: prayer produced positive press plus publicity.

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Channel 2 Came Calling This Morning--Updated Again

    Neil and Ken from WKRN came over bright and early today to Salemtown to do a story on Enclave and neighborhood blogging. It was a positive experience for yours truly. I hope other interested parties, "citizen journalists" or not, see the story and feel encouraged to join this particular niche of the blogosphere.

    Neil tells me the story will run on the 4:00 news either today or tomorrow.

    02/06/2005, Noon Update -- Neil says in the comments that it will run today at the 4:00 news hour to tie in with this weekend's Blog Nashville.

    02/06/2005, 12:10 Update -- Neil sent an e-mail saying that the piece has been moved up to the "News 2 at 5" news hour telecast; it will run just after the weather portion. He said it might also run on the weekend morning show.

    Wednesday, May 04, 2005

    Divide and Conquer

    The first schism occurred in Salemtown Neighbors (the neighborhood association here in Salemtown) a couple of weeks ago when one person left the group. At this point the more astute readers (which are pretty much all Enclave readers as best I can tell) are saying to themselves, "S-townMike has overstated the case. One dissatisfied member leaving an organization is not the same as when an association divides into separate factions (a.k.a., schism)." By all outward appearance, you would be correct. The departure of a single member does not constitute a schism.

    From my vantage point within Salemtown Neighbors (without speaking for other members of Salemtown Neighbors), I can tell you that the departing individual's words and deeds may have more far-reaching schismatic affects in the neighborhood itself.

    He started attending the association meetings about six weeks ago. He arrived saying that his intention was to form an association and that the Mayor's Office told him that he was president of the Salemtown association. I thought it strange that the Mayor's Office would appoint a president of an association rather than relying on the democratic process to provide one, but our leadership team enthusiastically included him in the planning process, without guaranteeing that he was president, yet.

    While he only attended 2 or 3 meetings, he did single-handedly plan a meeting with the police on forming a neighborhood watch. However, he also single-handedly chose not to communicate his plans with the leadership team, which resulted in a near double-booking and a lack of coordination of the meeting agenda. He brought two or three individuals with him to that meeting, and he spoke of how he could "bring many more" with him if he were elected an officer.

    So, when Salemtown Neighbors held its first election last month, he ran for president and lost. A week later, he sent me an e-mail saying that he was leaving Salemtown Neighbors to form his own Salemtown association. One of the reasons that he gave for leaving was that our meetings were being held on Wednesday night (which conflicted with his church attendance), even though the group had resolved to change their meeting nights to Thursdays in order to accommodate church-going members. Moot point.

    His other stated reason for leaving was that Salemtown Neighbors was "only concerned with the area surrounding their homes, and not the entire neighborhood." If he had actually been involved in our organization for the few months of its existence rather than for the handful of meetings he attended, he would have seen that his judgment of us was untrue. The group had expressed commitments to and taken actions toward the whole neighborhood, but building an organization from the ground up (by all accounts, Salemtown has never had a neighborhood association) takes time. Successful growth accumulates like a snowball rather than popping up like a dandelion. We dealt with problems as members identified them, and while those problems were concentrated along a couple of blocks, I was always of a mind that problems anywhere that remained unsolved would fester and have a negative domino effect on the entire neighborhood. So, best to deal with what you can with what you have.

    But the charge that neighbors are concerned with what immediately happens around their homes is not much of an indictment. Indeed, a primary reason that people join associations is to address problems that they face around their homes. Likewise, neighborhood associations exist to deal with problems in a particular neighborhood; not one across town. That does not mean that neighbors do not care about people across town; it means that they can most effectively deal with the problems they can identify in their vicinity.

    Ironically, by leaving the group to form a second Salemtown association, the individual in question is doing exactly what he charges Salemtown Neighbors of doing: forming a group that is only concerned with what is happening on their blocks. Salemtown Neighbors resolved to accept the historical boundaries of the whole neighborhood from Morgan Park to Metro Center, on the north and south, and from 3rd Ave. to 8th Ave., on the east and west. The individual in question arbitrarily split the neighborhood in half declaring that he would organize the northern half and leave the southern half to Salemtown Neighbors. If he can really "deliver high numbers of people" as he says, we may be approaching a schism. Thus, his charge of extreme self-interest is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But in the end, he is merely extending Salemtown's history of disorganization and marginalized political power. Strong neighborhood organizations are combinations of mobilized people and concentrated money (nod to Ed Chambers and Alinskyite organizers). If Salemtown is going to overcome a legacy of marginalization it has got to find a way to consolidate its people and money the same way that other successful and effective neighborhood associations in Nashville have. If it does that, it will be one of the most culturally and economically diverse success stories in Nashville. If it does not, the people who broker power in this town will continue to pass over its plate when the prerogative pie gets cut.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    More Bone-Headed Metro Council Action Sponsored By My Councilman

    Metro Council passed a "non-binding resolution" declaring it "fitting and proper that the Mayor not include a tax increase in his proposed fiscal year 2006 operating budget."

    Ludye Wallace, the councilman from my district, sponsored the bill and spoke up for it with some pretty preposterous logic:
    We've got so much stuff ... is it dog parks or parks for children? Is it highways or bikeways? We may need the dog parks, we may need the bike lanes, but we don't have the money for everything you can think of and for every wish a department can make. [Source]
    I am coining a new term for nonsensical arguments: "ludyecrous," as in "It is 'ludyecrous' to throw out all revenue possibilities without having looked at a budget just because you falsely assume that you have to approve every single department's wish if you approve any" or "Arguing that spray-painted, gang-related graffiti might be the work of budding artists in order to stop Council efforts to prevent that graffiti is by definition 'ludyecrous.'"

    Aside from the fact that this resolution is non-binding (which makes it about as stouthearted as sitting still to play "The Quiet Game") it does not fit the way people actually live their lives. It's the equivalent of a family gathering at the kitchen table to look at their budget, but concluding beforehand that any possibilities for increasing income to pay for bills are impossible. I don't know any family that rejects future revenue sources before they even consider their budget.

    Thank goodness that I have the Councilmembers-at-Large as my representatives, too. Because one of them, David Briley, pointedly asked his fellows during the debate, "If refusing to raise revenues means giving up services in your district will you vote to cut services to your constituents?" (my paraphrase). He also spoke the other half of the truth that conservatives tend to ignore: people want their services funded fully as much as they'd like to see their taxes cut. He tried to persuade the Council to defer the bill until after they received and considered the Mayor's budget for next year.

    Finally, when it was clear that Wallace's bill was going to pass, given the expressed support for it, Briley moved that the vote on the bill be roll call instead of voice, effectively holding his peers publicly accountable. The most remarkable moment for me came when Briley said something to the effect that if they acted prematurely to reject all revenue proposals before the mayor ever proposed them, then perhaps the bad things people were saying about this Council were true.

    Ouch. The truth hurts sometimes.

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    Boom or Bust for Home Ownership?

    A new report out this month by the Center for Housing Policy indicates that the economic advantages of home ownership (part of the economic boom in housing construction that started in the 1990s and carried through the 2000s) may be better for the builders and sellers than for the millions of individuals and families buying homes.

    The Center's website provides a nifty index, where you can examine whether the various professions are able to afford a median priced home in Nashville. I'll summarize and highlight: the Center found that in 2003 the median price of a home in Nashville was $139,000, while the annual income needed to purchase that home was $43,323. Basically, people "who provide the bulk of vital services" cannot afford or compete for homes at or near the median price. Nashville's elementary school teachers, police officers, nurses (LPN), retail sales workers, machinists, electricians, administrative assistants, paralegals, plumbers, social workers, customers service reps., auto mechanics and a host of others make annual incomes well below $43,323.

    If you think it's not a problem for those moving out to the "cheaper" suburbs, guess again. The AP's Siobhan McDonough reports that, because of increased transportation costs, for every $1,000 saved in buying a surburban home, almost $800 dollars is lost to commuting costs.

    You can't really assume that because housing construction and sales continue their decade long boom that times are great for home ownership. The value of homes is on the rise and outstripping the ability of people to pay for it. Salaries simply cannot keep up with costs. Unless something is done to close the gap between income and housing prices, then more and more people will be defaulting on their home loans, fewer and fewer families will be able to afford to purchase homes, and the boom will go bust.