Sunday, July 31, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Will Participate In Nashville's Night Out Against Crime On Tuesday

Salemtown Neighbors will be joining other north-by-northwest Nashville neighborhood associations to observe the Night Out Against Crime on Tuesday, August 2. Events will include a walk around the neighborhood to publicize our efforts to help police fight crime in Salemtown.

Walkers will meet at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday at the corner of 4th Ave., North and Coffee Street. The walk route will head south on 4th Ave. to Hume St.; west on Hume to 6th Ave., North; north on 6th Ave., to Coffee St.; east on Coffee to 5th Ave., North; south on 5th Ave. and ending at Hume. Walkers will carry signs and balloons and they will pass out fliers to neighbors. Metro Police are expected to join the walk, and organizers have requested Metro's horse-mounted patrols to accompany walkers.

Pictures from the event to follow.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Urban Planet Dot Org

For those interested in urbanism and urbanicity, I am adding a link in my "Links That I Plug" box to, which hosts urbanist message boards with areas for general and regional discussions.

You might want to eavesdrop on a recent discussion there about Morgan Park Place and the North End just to see what urbanists are saying about the neighborhood.

Morning In Pictures: Ground Broken Today For Morgan Park Place

The builders of Morgan Park Place, Lawrence Bros. LLC (who will construct the section between 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave.) and New Urban Construction LLC (who will construct the section between 4th Ave. and 5th Ave.), held their ceremonial ground breaking this morning at 11:30. Government officials, private financiers, and other interested parties were in attendance.

Skip Lawrence (co-owner of Lawrence Brothers, speaking into the microphone in the picture below and to the left) welcomed the audience and went through a list of individuals present from Metro government, the Germantown Association, NES, Nashville Gas, Bell South, and other private companies who have contributed to the project. He also announced to the crowd that all of the poles suspending power and phone lines around the property--except for one--would disappear, because the lines were to be buried beneath the ground during construction, a point that received a hearty ovation. Mr. Lawrence also reported that Metro's Water Runoff Department had asked if they could use the project as a model for landscaping for the best water runoff. He said that Morgan Park Place is the culmination of 25 years of hard work by residents of the North End and builders, some of whom like himself lived within blocks of the construction site.

Mr. Lawrence invited Rick Bernhardt, Executive Director of the Metro Planning Department, to say a few words. Mr. Bernhardt (speaking into the microphone in the picture below and to the right) iterated that Morgan Park Place was both progress for the neighborhood and the culmination of community development extended even farther back in time that the 25 years that Germantown residents have been organizing to develop the North End. Remarkably, Mr. Bernhardt told the group that Morgan Park place was significant for both Germantown and Salemtown. I almost gave a hearty ovation to that statement, but instead I kept my hands at my sides self-consciously, not wanting to come across as partial and gauche.

After the ceremony, I went up to Mr. Bernhardt and thanked him for at least mentioning Salemtown to the gatherers. I told him that some of us in Salemtown sometimes feel like step-children in the North End. He told me that he understands and that he still has Metro Council members ask him, "Where's Salemtown?" I nodded without a vocal reply, but I imagined myself saying, "Well, you just keep telling Ludye Wallace that we're right here in his district and that one of these days he's going to have to remember us."

Updates To and Limitations Of Mora's Sex Offender Map

I recently promoted John Mora's TBI Sex Offender Registry Google Map. John has since then adapted the map to allow the searcher to identify the location of offenders by zip code, which is cooler than the other side of the pillow, but in using it to search the 37208 zip, I found that the map did not locate 2 sex offenders who live on the 1400 block of 4th Ave., North in Germantown. Enclave reported the presence of those offenders in June.

While John says that some of the information on the offenders is either missing or unusable, the information on the two offenders in Germantown seems to be neither as far as I can tell. John cites an example of misinformation in a link to a Memphis news channel that mentions one west Tennessee offender who could not be found because his information was updated on the TBI database the day before Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation requiring sex offenders to register (passed on August 1, 2004).

However, both Germantown offenders registered and had their information updated by TBI after August 1, 2004. Strangely enough, a registered child rapist appears on Mora's map on the 2200 block of 14th Ave., North, but his information was updated July 31, 2004 (day before legislation) and his registration information is unavailable. It doesn't make sense that he would appear on John's map in light of his missing and unusable information, but the two Germantown offenders with updated information would not.

I'll reiterate that John's map is helpful for seeing how sex offenders are inordinately clustered in urban areas and it does locate many of those who live near the North End. However, residents should also keep tabs on the TBI registry to see all of the registered sex offenders in the TBI's database.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Three In Nashville: A SPLC Map Of Hate Groups In Tennessee

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were three active hate groups working in Nashville last year:
  1. Council of Conservative Citizens: "a reincarnation of the White Citizens Councils that sprang up in the South in the 1950s and 1960s to oppose school desegregation. Like the League of the South, a neo-confederate group to which it has many links, the 15,000-member Council has tried without success to mask its white supremacist ideology to better promote a right-wing political agenda."
  2. Nation of Islam: "typically opposes integration and racial intermarriage, and they want separate institutions -- or even a separate nation -- for blacks .... strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic, and ... asserts that blacks -- not Jews -- are the Biblical 'chosen people' of God."
  3. National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan: "with its mystique and its long history of violence, is the most infamous -- and oldest -- of American hate groups. Although blacks have typically been the Klan's primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, homosexuals and, until recently, Catholics. Over the years since it was formed in December 1865, the Klan has typically seen itself as a Christian organization, although in modern times Klan groups are motivated by a variety of theological and political ideologies."
The SPLC has a map of hate groups in Tennessee. Plus it links to a list of hate incidents in the state. Worth a look.

More New Urbanism, This Time In The Nashville Scene

In keeping with the current theme of New Urbanism, let me refer you to two articles in this week's Nashville Scene (out yesterday). One is the Helter Shelter column by Walter Jowers entitled, "Bugged by the 'Burbs." The other is urban design critic Christine Kreyling's First Person "confession" about leaving her East Nashville neighborhood for a few months to live in the suburbs; it's entitled "Confessions of an Urbanist."

Jowers's article yields what I consider to be the New Urbanism quote of the week:
[I]t's not the house [that's extra-special], it's the neighborhood. I like a settled kind of place, where the trees are taller than the houses. I like a place where the porches are bigger than the garages. I like a place with sidewalks, and people on the sidewalks. I like to smell the neighbors' dinner cooking at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The only place I can get all this is in an old neighborhood, full of old houses. I'd just as soon live under a bridge as live in a place where the houses are taller than the trees and all have two- or three-car garages, but no front porches. Call me crazy, but I think the garage-to-porch ratio is a strong indicator of the health of society in general. In a neighborhood with big porches, there will always be some folks sitting outside, exchanging pleasantries with the neighbors and generally keeping an eye on things. That's good. Regular human contact keeps things civilized. In a neighborhood with big garages, cars are the predominant life form, and the people are strangers.
Now that's a formidable description of the real differences between city living and suburban subsistence.

Metro Finance Director Averts Deletion of Library Reading Programs for Children

The Tennessean reports today that staff shifts and cuts in internal technological support services will allow Metro to keep reading programs and current library hours.

It's a relief to see that the cuts will not harm those services. $5.3 million is still a huge revenue cut that will have an impact somewhere, though. We'll just have to remain attentive to any developing holes in Metro services.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Has Done Its Part For "New Urbanism"

Reporter Bill Harless wrote an article, published in Monday's Nashville City Paper, on the increasing purchase that the philosophy of "New Urbanism" has with the Metro Planning Department and with Metro Council's recent legislation. New Urbanism is a late 20th century reaction to suburban sprawl, strip mall-dominated automobile culture, and the disappearance of pedestrian neighborhoods. Harless's article cites examples of New Urbanism in Nashville, including the Gateway Boulevard Urban Design Overlay near Rolling Mill Hill.

My first encounter with the New Urbanism of city planners here was at a Salemtown Neighbors meeting last spring during a discussion of Salemtown boundaries. There was some confusion about some of the neighborhood boundaries in the North End. One of the questions asked of the planner at the meeting was a query about what the historical boundaries of the neighborhood were. The planner responded that the boundaries that neighborhood associations make in the present are more important than historical boundaries of the past. That fits with one of the tenets of New Urbanism: formal associations govern and decide such matters. We came to a decision about boundaries and Planning accepted them.

However, the most significant action Salemtown Neighbors took to promote New Urbanism was to speak in favor of more restrictive zoning of the property in the picture below.

Regular readers might recognize the property as one of the most photographed on Enclave. It is the now vacant lot at the corner of 5th Ave. and Garfield where a convenience store used to sit.The new owner bought it a few months ago and plans to build something like the Germantown Building at 1200 5th Ave. where the Germantown Cafe is located.

As I tell it elsewhere, members of Salemtown Neighbors attended the Planning Committee meeting where the new owner was requesting a less restrictive zoning change; those members spoke in favor of the Planning Department's recommendation for a change to "MUN" zoning, which requires more restrictive "mainstreet" characteristics for new buildings, like bringing the building front up to the sidewalk, stressing vertical lines in urban architecture, and placing property parking behind buildings. It sounded exactly like what the owner was intending, so he did not dissent.

Whether or not we've known it at the time, Salemtown Neighbors has done its part to promote New Urbanism in the North End.

Liberadio Rolls Enclave

Thanks to Mary Mancini & Freddy O'Connell for adding Enclave to the Liberadio blogroll.

While I added them to my "Links That I Plug" box last week, I wanted to call my audience's attention to Liberadio. Tune them in or load them down to hear local progressive broadcasts and podcasts.

It's a good day to check out their blog, too. They posted on NY Times information about the Bush administration's change in marketing strategy in the attempt to sell more effectively their foreign policy, especially in Iraq. A Bush national security advisor called the name change--from "global war on terror" to "a global struggle against violent extremism"--necessary to offer a positive alternative. I guess those negative poll numbers are starting to bother White House staffers.

Check Liberadio out.

Tennessean Finally Discovers Salemtown Neighbors

Reporter Nancy Deville has a piece showcasing Salemtown's first neighborhood association in today's edition. While the story does not directly correct misperceptions that Deville's reporting might have previously generated about organizing in Salemtown, it does at least mention that Salemtown Neighbors has been working on a bevy of neighborhood problems for months.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Morgan Park Place Begins As More Place Than Park

Pictures below are of heavy equipment knocking down some old growth trees on the property where Morgan Park Place will be.

In an e-mail sent out last week from Mark Deutschmann at Village Real Estate, Morgan Park Place (linked in the right-hand column of Enclave) is called an "environmentally-friendly project." I do not intend with these pictures to question whether Morgan Park Place will be "environmentally-friendly," or to question the need to take down some trees in order to build "environmentally-friendly" housing. Maybe the trees were diseased and probably needed to come down. And both Deutschmann's company and Lawrence Bros. LLC seem to be some of the more progressively minded companies in Nashville.

However, as a recipient of the e-mail and a resident in the vicinity, I do wonder why the folks behind Morgan Park Place would publicize the project as "environmentally-friendly" just before they take down some old, large trees. The timing of the terminology does not seem good from this layperson's perspective. Nonetheless, I am not an extremist tree-hugger and I am suspending judgment until I see the finished project.

I'm interested to read what others might think about this. Progress? Regress? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

The Long North End Nightmare Is Just About Over

A coffee place located centrally within a walkable distance from anywhere in the North End is set to go in the new Morgan Park Place. I don't want to sound ungracious in a neighborhood without such an establishment, but we have yet to find out who will be running the joint. Hopefully, it's going to be a locally-owned java hut. But if we have to settle for Starbucks, it's better than nothing. At least it will mean that I'm not forced to drive to other neighborhoods everytime I require a latte.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Deciphering The Cryptic Meanings Behind Wynonna's Veiled Threats

So, I was watching this news clip the other night on the WKRN News called, Wynonna and other bikers go "hog wild" in support of troops. It was on motorcyclists raising money for soldiers, an idea that I think is great as long it is for personal items and not for military armor or kevlar vests or anything else that the Pentagon should be paying for themselves. While I began to see the Iraq invasion as misguided in the late summer of 2003 and while I now believe that we should get out sooner rather than later, I'm in total support of any effort to raise private money to support soldiers in Iraq beyond the basic military needs that should be supplied by our tax dollars.

To tell you the truth, I might have been a willing contributor to the motorcyclists had I known about it ... that is, I might have been willing until I heard Wynonna Judd unload some kind of chip off her shoulder during the News 2 interview. From what I could hear, this is what she said from her position inside a camouflage jacket:
It's just like ... and anybody ... I have a ... the army guys at Fort Campbell gave me a jacket and I wear it through the airport and, if one person says one word, it's all I can do ... I'm gonna get arrested. I'm tellin' you.
Now, getting arrested is not exactly something that Wynonna is unaccustomed to, but I take it that she is threatening somebody with some sort of law-breaking activity, since that is the act most logically and most likely to get her arrested.

An arrestable threat in this context has either got to do with assaulting someone or committing a felony. It's hard to figure out whom she is threatening with what, and News 2 didn't clue me in, but here is a list of possible candidates whom Wynonna might be targeting:
  1. Those huge numbers of war protesters who hang out in airports and harass travelers for no good reason at all. I can hardly wade through their neverending sit-ins in order to stand in long lines at the security check points. All those war protesters just waiting to give Wynonna a dressing down over a camouflage jacket. They're why I can never find a parking space at the airport.
  2. Security officials whom she assumes will overzealously force her to relinquish the jacket because she thinks that they think it might inspire acts of terrorism. So, she's willing to have a flight delayed basically to make a point to airport security officers, whom we expect to guard us rather than be Patriot Wynonna's personal foil.
  3. Anybody with the slightest fashion sense who might criticize Wynonna for dressing more like a M*A*S*H nurse than a matron of the music industry. Everyone knows the terminals are teaming with traitorous fashion consultants looking for Wynonna to blip on their radar screens.
  4. Any airport bartender who cuts her off the tap after she climbs on the bar and yells, "I'm a paratrooper! I'm a paratrooper on my first solo exit! 'Chute deployed!"
In the end, I'm not exactly sure whom Wynonna is threatening. Maybe the WKRN reporter on the scene could shed some light on this because her comments were vague, disconnected, and a bit garbled.
But whomever may be the object of her empty threats, it's good to see that Wynonna is going to the greatest possible lengths of personal sacrifice by scheduling fun road trips in support of the war effort. Sprees that include riding hogs in the Tennessee heat no doubt prepare her for the supreme sacrifice of going to jail on behalf of a jacket should any war protester, security guard, fashion consultant, or airport bartender stand in her way.

Porn Sunday, Revisited

Over the last weekend, two "sisters in Christ" expressed some of the same concerns I aired back in June about "Porn Sunday," which had been held at a local suburban church. But the sisters expressed their concerns for reasons diametrically opposite mine. It is an interesting phenomenon to find conservative evangelicals sharing my concerns about other conservative evangelicals who use sex for shock value in the name of conversion.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the two sisters linking and quoting me, and I am happy to return the favor. Besides, I found out from their website that the "XXX Church" is going to have a "National Porn Sunday," on October 9, 2005. They don't have any Nashville churches signed up, yet, like they did last time. The closest participating churches are in Knoxville and Lexington, KY.

Just please don't let "Porn Sunday" anywhere near Palm Sunday; we've got to protect the sanctity of Palm Sunday.

More Signs of Progress

I was out watering the flower beds early this morning, and a Public Works truck pulled up to our house. I recognized the sign guy from last week's installation of the watch signs around Salemtown.

He told me that he had finished replacing or repairing every vandalized traffic sign remaining in the neighborhood. He also encouraged me to tell everyone else in the neighborhood to call Public Works any time a traffic sign is vandalized. He said that someone should be able to come out and repair it the next day.

Children's Reading Programs May Be Casuality of Metro Budget Cuts

Natalia Mielczarek reports in today's edition of the Tennessean that "story-telling hour" and the after-school and summer reading programs for children may disappear, thanks to the Metro Council's recently passed "substitute budget." Their only hope rests on Metro Finance Director David Manning's decisions about specific reductions to particular departments.

The termination of reading programs for children may be one of the crueler legacies that this Council "substitutes" for effective community support for our children and families. End reading programs, which educate and instill a love of books, and kids may stop coming to libraries. They may instead take their socialization from the streets. And reading aptitude doesn't matter so much in the streets.

07/25/2005 1:00 p.m. Update: In a passionate and reflective post to WYSIWYG Blogin, Moo_Cow links to this post and offers his views of the benefits of reading and the necessity of having libraries and schools to motivate children to reading comprehension in the absence of commitment on the part of many parents in our country. Moo_Cow does not let those parents off of the hook. He accuses them of "laying around on their fat asses."

I say, "Amen," and while many conservatives have been arguing and pushing public policy at every government level--for nearly 30 years, since the "Reagan Revolution"--to try and motivate parents rather than government to socialize their children appropriately, their efforts are failing. Some parents will not be motivated to save their children. Others, because of work and economic demands, may not have time to stimulate the motivation that an after-school or summer reading program might.

All children are entitled to opportunities to learn how to read and write, regardless of whether school is in or not, precisely because they cannot do for themselves. They depend on others for help in becoming productive citizens. And it serves the good of our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our nation when our children become productive citizens. When parents either cannot or will not support their children by providing basic reading opportunities, they are doing service neither to their children nor to our communities. That is exactly a gap that our library reading programs can fill. Metro government ought to have more of an interest in insuring that such a gap is filled.

However, the Metro Council's "substitute budget" cuts in the end might do more harm to our children and our communities--especially as they bear the strange fruit of withered public services--all in the name of lower taxes and for the sake of lobbyist groups (like Tennessee Tax Revolt) that benefit from lower taxes.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Updated Details On Community Development Block Grant Funding For Salemtown

As I wrote here a couple of months ago, Metro Nashville has been awarded Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG) by the Federal Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) for the "Salemtown Neighborhood Strategic Area." MDHA (Metro Development & Housing Agency) will administer the CDBG.

I previously gave some examples of how that money might be spent, but the Tennessean also published an article this past Friday on suggestions for Block Grant projects given by residents and business owners around Murfreesboro Pike for community improvements in South Nashville. Consult that article for various CDBG ideas.

The next step for Salemtown is for MDHA to send out fliers to every resident and business in the neighborhood announcing a Kick-Off Meeting on Tuesday, August 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Randee Rogers Training Center (1419 8th Ave., North--across the street from Werthan Lofts). At that meeting, 7 community members and 2 alternates will be elected by the neighborhood to a "Citizen Advisory Committee," which will meet monthly to advise MDHA.

Qualifications for Citizen Advisory Committee membership include:
  • Own property in the Salemtown NSA
  • Live in the Salemtown NSA and/or
  • Own a business or run an organization in the Salemtown NSA
At the monthly committee meetings, MDHA will provide planning exercises, leading to the listing and prioritizing of potential projects. Committee Meetings are open to all Salemtown community members, whether they serve on the committee or not. Eventually, the committee will vote on the potential projects and MDHA will implement the projects and make regular reports to the committee on progress.

Total funding for the three-year CDBG is $589,914. Here is the total funding for the three years of Salemtown's CDBG:

Year 1 (2005-06) -- $189,914
Year 2 (2006-07) -- $200,000
Year 3 (2007-08) -- $200,000

According to MDHA Community Planner, Linda Howard, Year 1 was originally projected at $200,000, but HUD cut funds. Year 2 and Year 3 are projected totals. Reportedly, cuts to projected funds are not unusual. So, Salemtown community members should not necessarily have faith in the Year 2 and Year 3 numbers.

Friday, July 22, 2005

North End Developments

I was talking to one of the builders in my neighborhood, a guy that who has acquired and sold a lot of property and built some attractive residences. When I told him that the police had finally convinced Kenny Norman, owner of Norman's Market, to sign a trespass waiver, he told me that he himself owned a couple of properties near the market on 7th Ave., and that he was going to continue to build the same sightly houses that he has in the past. He said that he intends to add such infill to as much property as he can acquire on Garfield from 5th Ave. to 8th Ave. He told me that developing the property around Norman's Market would drive away much of criminal element that loiters around the Market property.

He also told me that he believes that thinking that the owners of nearby Garfield Place are going to be able to sell their modern townhouses in a neighborhood where period-style houses are in high demand is misguided. He doesn't believe they will be able to sell them for as high as the mid-300s as they intend, especially for something that "looks like it should be Downtown." I didn't tell him that I find the $500,000 price tag of the new, modern Monroe townhouses only a few blocks down the road even more curious (1 of the 8 Monroe townhouses has been sold and the builder, Germantown Partners LLC, is waiting for two more to sell before breaking ground on the luxury complex).

We also discussed the clearing of the property across Garfield St. from Garfield Place. He told me that he was concerned that one of the local Salemtown builders, who generally says that he "is going to build what he wants and doesn't give a crap" about what buyers want, may own the property. He told me that the other local builder constructs ugly looking houses like the one in the picture to the right, which sits on Buchanan St. That admittedly unimpressive house has been on the market for months, and the owner has had to lower his asking price for lack of interest.

During our conversation about the cleared Garfield property, I mentioned that I had seen the Metro records and I discovered that Moss owns it. That seemed to give the both of us a little more relief from the prospect that more ugly housing would be built in Salemtown. But we'll wait and see. It was heartening enough for me to find out that he plans to extend his own attractive and high-demand developments down Garfield to 8th Ave., one of the central Salemtown arteries.

Why Isn't Eric Rudolph Labeled A "Christian Terrorist"?

Juan Cole has asked entirely fair questions about the mainstream media's double standard when covering domestic terrorist bombers like Eric Rudolph, one of our own good ole southern boys who just happens to propound the hateful ideas of the Christian Identity movement.

Thanks to extremists in our midst, those of us who are Christians (and especially we southern, bible-belt Christians) are going to have to face the same tough questions that we ask of Islam (or of any other point-of-view): what is it about Christianity that allows hatred to take root and to flower as belligerence and violence?

By the way, just to demonstrate that southern Christianity is not all hatred and violence, I have added two links to my "Links That I Plug" box. Both the Highlander Research and Education Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center indicate more redeemable qualities about southerners and about southern Christians than Christian Terrorist Eric Rudolph displays to the world.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More Pictures Of Watch Signs Going Up This Morning

Maybe The Most Effective Means Of Eliminating Graffiti Is To Eliminate The Target

I've referred several times since February to this market, on the corner of Garfield and 5th Ave., North, which is a perennial target for graffiti-spraying vandals, as you can see by the two pictures I took earlier this week.
While I was merely hoping that the new owners would spray paint over the graffiti before the week was out, little did I know that they had much more impressive designs for ridding the neighborhood of the inviting "Luv 'Ya Blue!" building (you have to remember the Houston Oilers manifestation of the Titans to understand "Luv 'Ya Blue!"), which was always just too tempting for the rascally lads toting red spray paint.

Here, now unveiled, is their block-buster new design:

By the way, notice the back of the Stop sign in the picture above. Gangs had even sprayed it with red paint. While the sign guy was here this morning putting up our neighborhood watch signs, he also went around and covered up the gang graffiti on the traffic signs. Thanks, sign guy.
Looks like the lunch counter is closed. No soup for you. Next!

Breaking News: Possible Stabbing On Hume At 4th Ave., North Changed To Fist Fight/No Prosecution

I was driving down Hume St. about 20 minutes ago and came across a man with a bloodied face lying in the middle of the street near 4th. The alleged victim got up as I arrived and staggered north down 4th headed toward Garfield. Three black males in a grey-green Dodge Neon (License #SUR 886 or 887) were leaving the scene quickly headed west past me down Hume St. The parking lot of the Shiloh Apartments (Hume and 4th) was filled with onlookers and there were children and staff members from the Morgan Park Community Center (Hume and 4th) watching the events. I returned home quickly and called the police 911 dispatch who told me that police units had been dispatched for a possible stabbing in that vacinity.

07/21/2005 12:30 p.m. Update: The Central Precinct is now reporting that the incident involved a fist fight, not a stabbing, and the victim has refused to prosecute at this time.

Salemtown Neighborhood Watch Signs Go Up Even As I Blog

A Metro employee puts the first Salemtown neighborhood watch sign up at the corner of 7th Ave., North and Garfield St. at 8:30 this morning.

More Council Budget Chickens Home To Roost; Cuts To Metro Police Probable, Says Nashville City Paper

The Nashville City Paper reports that Metro Finance Director David Manning is finding that the substitute budget cuts passed by Metro Council "don't work." They "don't work" to the tune of $5 million. Consequently, Metro Departments are being asked to slash their budgets to offset the gap.

One of those Departments upon which neighborhoods rely for safety and security, the Metro Police, will reportedly cut 18 full-time employees, which will decrease the time that police officers spend on front line patrol since officers would be expected to assume more clerical and administrative functions at the stations. According to both Manning and Police Chief Ronal Serpas, those cuts will create "public safety problem." The only real improvements budgeted by the Council will be upgrades to the Department's information system.

These cuts in police service to our community join a growing list of other Metro services documented here on Enclave. I will be following up with the Central Precinct to see if their patrols and response time will be adversely affected. With the recent spike in crime because of the closing of John Henry Hale homes and the otherwise rapid transition of the area, these cuts are bad news for us.

Perhaps when Metro Council members called the budget they recently passed a "substitute" budget, they meant that urban residents should substitute prayers for safety in place of police presence. If we're going to lose patrols, we might not have a prayer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Conservative Calls Progressive Christians "Blind" And "Hardly Christian"

I always have my suspicions--cynical though they may be--that neo-conservatives only defend theo-conservatives in order to keep them voting Republican. Some criticism I received recently from a conservative blogger did nothing to belay my suspicions:
Insulting conservative Christians is not a rare occurrence on liberal blogs, even though it seems like a bad strategy for winning elections in the red states.
I doubt that blogger will speak up for progressive Christians when some in his camp hurl their own insults, so I'll seize the opportunity myself.

In a July 8 e-mail to his followers, obtained by the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP), Jerry Falwell wrote that Christians who associate with CAP only "label themselves Christian" and that they distort the Bible. According to Falwell, the name "Christian" only applies to those groups like his own who define Christianity by what happens to the soul after death and by their devotion to a narrow number of scriptures emphasized at the expense of others. The rest of the millions of us Christians worldwide are simply "blind" and not "spiritually minded."

I don't even care if insulting their more liberal fellows is a good or a bad electoral strategy for conservatives. I just wish their own propensity to insult others would keep conservatives off of their haughty high horse when they get some criticism from our side.

Spring Hill Revisited: No Quarrels About Calling Taxes "Fees" This Time

In my last post on the utopian Spring Hill community beatifically rising in the minds of TTR minions on the right, I referred to some regulatory fees exacted on developers and private businesses that were expected to make up the shortfall when property taxes are cut to zero.

The whole issue of "fees" vs. "taxes" stirred up the partisan dust in a recent debate over the Council's wheel tax measure. Regular readers of Pith in the Wind (the Nashville Scene's blog) might remember that, after writer Bruce Barry recently articulated the difference between taxes and fees, his clarification of the "wheel tax" was excoriated by rightwing bloggers with comments like this:
The average Joe understands that this is a "wheel tax," and once they are told that state law says wheel taxes must be passed by a 2/3rds majority, are right to wonder why this one is considered "passed" even though it didn't get a 2/3rds vote. Then they are told that it's because it's a "fee" not a tax - and what they realize is that their government, which is supposed to work for the people, is using euphemisms to get around following what seems to be a pretty clear law. It may be in the end that Metro legally passed this "fee" increase based on various legal precedents, but it still stinks and ruins the credibility of the Council.
Even the regular Tennessee Tax Revolt talking head weighed in:
Over and above the wheel tax issue, this whole discussion highlights what I believe to be a major problem with government in general: mind bending and obfuscating complexity.
It seems no less "mind bending and obfuscating" on TTR's part to make it seem like no taxes are levied in Spring Hill, even though state revenues and locally levied fees instead of property taxes will be funding services there. Ignoring Spring Hill's fees is a form of treating those fees euphemistically, according to the "wheel tax" critics' own definitions of "euphemistic."

Above all, the fact that TTR is now playing Spring Hill up as an idyllic, tax-free success story is disingenuous after their supporters have challenged distinctions between taxes and fees. To paraphrase their own political parlance: their omission "stinks and ruins their own credibility."

Spring Hill Has Become Utopia (At Least Until It Becomes A Mirage)

Tennessee Tax Revolt (TTR) sent out an e-mailer yesterday trumpeting the Spring Hill, Tennessee Mayor’s decision to cut property taxes to zero. Rather than being satisfied with just celebrating that good news, they also used that information to connect, once again and erroneously, low property taxes in general to population growth and a town’s popularity.

I have cited evidence over and over and over and over again to argue that people are not primarily attracted to a community strictly because of low property taxes. Some people are. But lots of factors go into various decisions to locate inside and outside cities. I have certainly maintained with good reason that the high demand to live near Downtown Nashville, in spite of its property tax rate relative to outlying areas, shows that there is no necessary or general connection between property taxes and migration into or away from cities.

My guess is that, despite its growth, Spring Hill would not have the capacity to hold the sheer numbers of demands for places to live within the I-440 loop of Metro Nashville alone. If those demands dried up here and shifted to Spring Hill, that municipality might be overrun and services taxed to the point that avoiding tax increases would no longer be an option.

But how is it an option now for the Spring Hill exurb? Well, the TTR PR material is not entirely honest about the Spring Hill zero tax rate. Because of their growth (which may or may not have to do with property tax rate), Spring Hill qualifies for over $356,000 in state-shared revenues. “State-shared” means that the state is going to share Tennessee revenues collected from taxpayers statewide to further fund Spring Hill’s growth. Taxes are still going to bankroll services in Spring Hill; they just won’t fall exclusively on the backs of property owners there. Those revenues make up quite a chunk of $545,000 lost with the proposed property tax cut. The other portion of that lost sum is said to be made up by “fees” paid by developers and by private enterprise. Somebody in Spring Hill is going to pay.

Don’t pack up the wife and the kids to take that long, long drive to Spring Hill, yet. The jury’s out on how long it will be able to go without property taxes. Time and the shrinking state budget will tell whether the Spring Hill Mayor is using a little hocus pocus and smoke and mirrors or whether the utopian vision of a land without taxes can ever exist on this side of glory, let alone on the far side of Williamson County.

Monday, July 18, 2005

One Badly Bruised Baseball

Last night we left the Sounds game early, after the first hitter in the bottom of the ninth was put out and the Sounds were five or six runs down. The inevitable was settling in, and I just wanted to beat the remaining crowds to the parking lot.

As I got in my Jeep I heard the announcer tell the faithful that Prince Fielder was coming up to bat. For those who don't know: Prince is the bulky Sounds first baseman and son of Detroit Tiger slugger Cecil Fielder. Prince is renowned for hitting a homerun at old Tiger Stadium at the age of 12 with a wooden bat, and from my seat behind home plate, I've seen him drive the ball not just over Greer Stadium's right field fence but completely out of ballpark and on to Chestnut Street a number of times this year.

So, as I turned out of the parking lot and headed down Chestnut Street behind right field, I slowed and pulled to the curb. I got this feeling that if there was any chance that I would see a homerun hit the street at the point of impact, Prince was my best chance. His big flies are mammoths. Woolly mammoths.

Sure enough, I saw the pitch delivered and I watched Prince pivot on his huge frame as the white streak left his bat. I lost sight of the ball's flight to the night, but I could tell the drive was way-back just by the awed sound of the cheering crowd. I saw kids inside the right field deck fence scrambling back in a futile attempt to get the ball if the yard held it. And then I waited for what seemed to be too many seconds for the ball to hit the car or fly in my window and hit me.

The ball left the yard alright. And I was right to be concerned for my own welfare. It hit Chestnut Street near the lane divider, hard enough to leave asphalt gouges in its hide. The ball bounced a few feet away from the Jeep and bounded past it into the Vanderbilt Press parking lot. I looked for anybody else around running for it, but I was the only person outside the stadium within two blocks of the impact crater. I jogged over (I could have walked had it not been for the adrenaline rush), picked up the ball, and congratulated myself for deciding to be in the right place at the right time.

I have seen the mighty Prince hit several from his launching pad. Now I can say that I know what his tattooed balls look like when they finally come down out of orbit and impact just a few feet away from me. Prince's big fly was my big thrill.

Follow-Up To "Picture This: Why Suburbanites Rarely Have To Deal With Sex Offenders"

Last Thursday I wrote of the clusters of sex offenders in and around the Downtown area and the lack of sex offenders situated in suburban areas (at least the lack of convicted sex offenders in the 'burbs).

Today's Tennessean published a front-page article by reporter Ian Demsky on five of the most populous counties in Middle Tennessee, including Davidson. Demsky found that more than 100 public schools, private schools and day-care centers probably have a convicted sex offender registered at an address within 1,000 feet of them. One of the neighborhoods where Demsky found a sex offender living in close proximity to children is Buena Vista in near northwest Nashville, especially the area between 9th Ave., North and Delta Ave., near Buena Vista Elementary School and just outside the inner I-65 loop.

This is some frightening stuff for families in north-by-northwest Nashville. Watch your kids and keep yourself informed on who lives in your neighborhood and where they live.

The Unremitting Neighborhood Melodrama

  1. The most grimaceworthy, unfortunate moment at our last Salemtown Neighbors meeting: one of the police officers from the Central Precinct who attends the meetings of both Salemtown associations referred to T.R.U.E. (the newer association) as the "First Neighborhood Association." Ouch. That one stung, even if the sting was unintentional. Isn't there an old saw about a lie traveling half-way around the 'hood before truth wakes up?
  2. I got tired of waiting for Tennessean reporter Nancy Deville to get back to me on her promised profile of Salemtown Neighbors. I have waited a week for her to respond to my e-mail. So, today I went to the next level: I left a message for the Davidson A.M. editor, Cindy Smith, to respond to my concerns or to convince Ms. Deville to do so. I'll keep you posted.
  3. Rumor has it that North End residents outside of Salemtown are openly wondering why Salemtown has two neighborhood associations. Enclave tells at least one side of the story. All those folks have to do for some perspective is check my archives. For the other side, just read the Tennessean.

Graffiti We Don't Like To See

Juvenile gangs hit a couple of their favorite targets with graffiti over the past week-to-ten days. Both are businesses. Neither have removed the graffiti quickly in the past, which is probably what makes them favorites for gang vandalism.

The business above is a plumbing company on 5th Ave. It was hit with graffiti last winter, but the owners left it up for months before taking it down late in the spring. The wall was clean for no more than a few weeks before it was hit again recently.

The business below is a corner market on 5th that was sold and will be razed eventually to build new retail/residential space. The current owners are quicker than the plumbers at getting the graffiti off, but this building continues to be a vandalism magnet probably because it is highly visible and the graffiti tends to stay up for weeks.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Development In The North End Makes Jump To Light Speed

Salemtown is moving and shaking. Property is selling and reselling. New real estate sale signs appear daily. Houses are getting built and renovated in weeks time. Each day brings new surprises and changes to the neighborhood.

The picture above is a lot being cleared of trees and brush at the corner of 6th Ave., North and Garfield. I don't know what's going on there and no one with whom I've spoken knows either. The owner is an entity called Moss Investment Partners who, according to the Planning Department's MetroMap site, bought the land back in 1987 for $10,000. The land is coded "Vacant Residential" and it is zoned "R6," which means that is meant for single or two family dwellings.

Let's hope that what Moss is planning to put there is consistent with either the clapboard character or the evolving modern townhouse aesthetic of current North End development. Garfield Place (pictured right) will sit right across the street from the Moss lot and it is an example of the modern aesthetic. The Garfield Place lot is zoned with the more restrictive "MUN" zoning, which is intended to "promote the preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings that contribute to the historical or architectural character of an area."

If infill on the Moss lot turns out to be more generic low-rent, low-quality institutional housing like the houses that sit on the properties immediately to its west (pictured left), we will be taking steps back from quality development. Once Garfield Place materializes, the property values of the houses that sit on the block between it and Werthan Lofts to the south should take off. If Moss has residential space of high quality built that is also attractive to buyers, it can ride the continuing wave of development.

Friday, July 15, 2005

What Is It About Nashville That Makes Those Theo-Conservatives So Relentless?

First, it was the Southern Baptists and their door-to-door solicitation, offset by their closed-door policies at their Downtown Convention.

Now it's the Family Research Council coming to the Fundamentalist Two Rivers Baptist Church in far east Nashville for another round of "Justice Sunday," as if Senator Bill Frist hadn't got bogged down in enough stink over "Justice Sunday I" and his participation therein. The Family Research Council must have it out for Senator Frist, inviting him into the breach the first time, and now adding the final coffin nail to his presidential aspirations by holding their next Supreme Court nomination pep rally in the heart of Frist country, Donelson.

Here's an exerpt from the Associated Baptist Press report on "Justice Sunday II":
The Family Research Council announced it will broadcast "Justice Sunday II" from Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, a large Southern Baptist congregation, Aug. 14. The telecast is a follow-up to a controversial "Justice Sunday" telecast from a Southern Baptist church in Louisville, Ky., in April.
The event takes its subtitle, "God save the United States and this honorable court," from an invocation the Supreme Court's marshal pronounces every time the court sits. It is designed to highlight the issues important to social conservatives and the opportunity they have to shift the court to a solid 5-4 majority in favor of many of their positions.
The telecast will feature FRC President Tony Perkins along with a host of religious conservative leaders, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, and Zell Miller of Georgia, a former Democratic senator turned conservative activist.

Graffiti We Like To See

A Metro Sign Shop employee spray paints the spot on the sidewalk this morning where one of Salemtown's first Watch signs will be installed. This particular spot lies near one of the gateways in and out of the North End: the corner of 3rd Ave., North and Coffee Street. Salemtown Neighbors selected six other spots around the neighborhood where Metro will install the signs. Metro reports that the signs will be installed by Thursday, July 21.

Council's Budget Fowl Coming Home To Roost In Mayor's Cuts

According to a Tennessean piece this week, we are now starting to see the cuts to services resulting from the Metro Council's stripped down version of the budget, which was passed at the end of June. You'll remember that Council member and Budget and Finance Chair Diane Neighbors responded to my request for the low down on effects for neighborhoods by writing, "In terms of the reductions, I believe only requests for new services were reduced or deleted."

Here are some of the actual reductions to services--currently under review in the Mayor's Office--as cited in the Tennessean:
  • Postponement in opening new community centers
  • Cuts in Bridges to Care pharmacy and flu vaccine clinic hours
  • Hiring delay in libraries; Looby Library in North Nashville will close on Sundays; items patrons may check out cut from 50 to 25
  • Restrictions on leave for fire fighters and possibly cutting the number of on-call fire fighters
Lord knows whether the chicken coop is full yet. I'll keep my eyes and ears open for any more cut back in neighborhood services. If anyone hears anything let me know.

Salemtown Neighbors Hear From Police That Crime Has Recently Spiked

At last night's Salemtown Neighbors meeting, the Community Affairs Officer with the Central Police Precinct reported that crime, especially burglaries and car break-ins, is lately up in the North End. Over a week ago, I reported here that I have seen an increased police presence in Salemtown. Others mentioned at last night's meeting that they have noticed an increase in criminal activity in the neighborhood.

The officer attending last night's meeting offered an explanation why crime is up: with Metro tearing down the John Henry Hale Homes (located at 16th Ave. and Charlotte Pk. near Marathon Village) to build new single family homes and moving residents elsewhere, many displaced gang members and young men looking for trouble have been making their way into the surrounding neighborhoods, including Salemtown. (Incidentally, news reports yesterday tell us that a police officer was shot by a young man hiding in a closet during police sweeps of John Henry Hale Homes). Accordingly, proactive police patrols in the North End have been increased, including patrols by K-9 units to discourage illicit drug sales. A K-9 unit was on proactive patrol on 6th Ave. this past Sunday afternoon.

I asked a follow-up question concerning the Crime Scene Unit that I saw last Saturday on 5th Ave., which was originally reported by police as a response to a shooting. The officer corrected the original information that police gave me: the unit was not responding to a shooting on 5th. He said that there had been a shooting in the neighborhood that was currently under investigation, but it was not on 5th, and it was not a present threat to anyone else's security. He did not comment on why the unit was on 5th Saturday morning.

We are apparently facing more transition than usual in the North End, and our Neighborhood Watches will need to be even more vigilant than ever to prevent crimes. Neighbors should be reporting any suspicious or unusual activities to the police at 862-8600 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Salemtown's First Ever Neighborhood Watch Signs Will Go Up Beginning Tomorrow Morning

Metro signage workers are scheduled to start installing seven Neighborhood Watch signs around the Salemtown neighborhood Wednesday morning at 9:00. Enclave will be on the spot recording the moment in pictures for publication afterwards.

Salemtown Neighbors is responsible for securing those signs after months of study, discussion, and deliberation.

07/13/2005 10:40 A.M. Update: Metro cancelled the planned installation of the signs this morning due to rain. They said that they needed to be able to spray paint on the spots where the signs would go up in order to check for gas or sewer lines beforehand. They said that they were also very busy. They told me they are planning for installation on Friday if the weather permits.

07/14/2005 3:00 P.M. Update: I just called Metro's Sign Dept. Manager, who apologized for not following up with me today about putting the signs up. He assured me that, unless it is raining, he will be here tomorrow morning at 10:00 to start installing the signs. In a related note: the day before yesterday, I emailed Tennessean reporter, Nancy Deville, who told me that she would do a profile on Salemtown Neighbors. I have yet to hear back from her. The installation of these signs would make a great lead-in to that profile, but once again there doesn't seem to be timely get-back with Ms. Deville.

Alleged Thief Nabbed In Germantown Today

Metro Police Central Precinct reports at 2:00 p.m. today that their officers apprehended a suspect (male black on a blue bike) at 4th and Taylor. Suspect was carrying several items, including a radio, some jewelry, and scotch whisky. Apprehending officers believe that the suspect broke into someone's house.

Police ask residents of the North End to spread the word and contact them (862-8600 or 862-7611) ASAP if anyone has leads on this case.

Picture This: Why Suburbanites Rarely Have To Deal With Sex Offenders

Cliche time: a picture paints a thousand words.

And a map that John Mora has produced on Google Maps paints a picture of hundreds of sex offenders inordinately clustered in and around the Downtown area of Metro Nashville. If John's map is accurate, the sex offenders seem to be clustered particularly within the inner interstate loop around Downtown. However, they also cluster around the I-40 westbound and I-65 north- and southbound arteries to I-440. Other clusters fan out across the East End and across North-By-Northwest. There is some spread beyond I-440 southeast to Antioch.

But otherwise, the map indicates that there are no large clusters of sex offenders living in suburban Metro Nashville. John's map shows a swath from Green Hills through Belle Meade and out to Bellevue that is practically cluster-free. Except for the Stewart's Ferry area near Percy Priest Lake, far East Nashville, including conservative-leaning Donelson and the upscale lake-front suburban neighborhoods do not harbor convicted sex offenders. Far north Nashville, including Madison and Hendersonville also do not seem to bear the burden of sex offenders living in their neighborhoods.

If it is indeed the case that urban neighborhoods are bearing disproportionately the lion's share of efforts to reintegrate convicted sex offenders into society, then this factor needs to be taken into account when suburban critics of city living talk about flight to the suburbs, and either erroneously or misleadingly blame it on higher urban taxes.

Promoting the location of halfway houses in cities rather than suburbs contributes to families moving out of the city rather than into it. Concentrating rehabilitation housing for sex offenders in cities also increases demand for more services (including more police force to prevent future sex crimes), which in turn increases taxes. Suburbanites don't see the need for those taxes, because they never have to see convicted sex offenders roaming their streets.

The consequences for urban Nashville are unfair all the way around: the city gets linked to higher taxes to pay for services suburbs don't need, and the city gets connected to criminality and depravity because suburbs won't brook halfway houses and they resist their obligations to assume some of the share for rehabilitating convicted sex offenders. That in itself is quite a racket.

Insider Blogball: Godwin's Adage Gets No Rest

Godwin's Law states:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (i.e. certainty).
There's a garden-variety conservative-liberal debate going on at Nashville Is Talking, which has inevitably lead to said analogies, but I do want to highlight one of the more creative instances of Godwin's rule in effect that I have seen. It was posted by Alan at No Rest:
We are all different people with different opinions and I refused to be buried in a dark hole because of mine. This is America, not a chapter from Mein Kampf.
The judges award that manuever a 9.5 for original use of the analogy that doesn't insult the intelligence of the audience. It may signal the end of the debate, but Alan finishes strong.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Late Night Loitering at Norman's Market Soon To Be A Thing Of The Past

Concerns were expressed at a recent Salemtown Neighbors meeting about people who hang out on the parking lot of Norman's Market and Bar B-Q at the corner of 7th and Garfield, late into the night and long after the market closes. Metro Police told the neighborhood residents who live around that intersection that officers were not authorized to stop late-night revellers from gathering at the market until the owner signed a "trespass waiver," which would give officers permission to come on to the property and to keep random people from trespassing and loitering.

The police told me today that the market owner finally came to the Central Precinct after several weeks and some follow up visits in order to fill out the trespass waiver. The police also gave the owner "No Trespassing" signs to post.

Over the next week or so, according to the police, officers will warn after-hours trespassers about the trespass waiver and tell them that it will be enforced soon, meaning that anyone hanging out after hours can be arrested for trespassing without the owner being present.

Tardy Movie Reviews By A Toddler's Daddy: Batman Begins

NOTE: If you plan to see this movie but have not, you probably should wait to read this review.

This past weekend I finally saw Batman Begins. I agree with many who say that it was the best of the Batman motion pictures so far. I am perhaps not as enthralled with it as some, but not because of the character development and plot. It is admirably and infinitely more character driven than any in the series and Christian Bale portrays a superhero whose struggle with his flaws and doubts is wrenching, but whose will is as steely as his challenges are enormous.

Unfortunately, the culture in which this movie appears, rather than the film itself, represents its primary pitfall. We live in such a reality-based entertainment culture now; it's a culture in which a superhero who struggles with very human flaws seems more mundane than extraordinary; and the more mundane the better for the audience, because American culture is desensitized to the chasm between super powers and human flaws that ruptures the life of a superhero. So, when a superhero shows shortcomings, rather than being awed by the heroic struggle, our culture finds satisfaction in self-identification with or separation from flaws we either have or see in those around us. Accordingly, Batman Begins begins our therapy, rather than instigating our transformation.

The failure to transform is not the movie's fault. The film is neither an ode to capitalism nor a liberal imprecatory psalm as some of the various online prisms try to filter it. On the contrary, it actually concerns the perennial problem of the perseverance of the heroic human will. More exactly it came across to me as a morality play about striking a balance between the collective will of the herd (characterized as the suffering masses of Gotham), the blatant will-to-power of criminal masterminds who prey on the herd mentality (and who are a personal obsession of Bruce Wayne, given his family tragedy) and the subtle and stealthy will-to-power of the League of Shadows, which apparently disposes of the criminal predators along with the herds upon which they prey.

Bruce/Batman finds that balance in the compassionate teachings of his father kept alive after the latter's death through the mentoring of the family butler, Alfred (played remarkably well by Michael Caine), who is the only one who never gives up on Bruce. My impression was that Bruce/Batman would have self-destructed in the pinch between Gotham, crime, and the League had it not been for Alfred. The triumph of the heroic human will is not simply a matter of the rugged individual; it happens through trust in, reliance upon, and care received from others. If Alfred is not Bruce's conscience, at the very least he is the very condition of Bruce's will-to-justice; that is, the will to instill the same fear in those wills-driven-to-power that they drive into the heart of the herd, but without falling into the Shadow.

The reviews I've read and heard seem to miss the priority Batman Begins gives to the will in favor of playing up either Batman's humanity in terms of his flaws or certain tones to make a political point (and I'm not saying Batman Begins is apolitical; social responsibility for instance is a political point). Both of these lines of logic are more cathartic than transformative for the audience. As a cathartic tool, Batman Begins is not particularly outstanding. Relative to popular culture, I would not consider it nearly as significant as Batman (1989), which seemed to me to introduce long-lost gothic, perhaps even film noir, qualities into a mainstream superhero film. After so many white-washed Superman episodes before the original Batman, Michael Keaton's "Caped Crusader" was a breath of dark air.

However, when I get beyond cathartic expectations, I believe that Christian Bale's Batman is vastly better than the original. As a statement about the heroic will, it is transformative for those who have eyes to see the potential transformation, for those who have eyes to see in the dark.

MDHA Selects South Downtown's Rolling Mill Hill Developers

According to this morning's Tennessean, 2 companies get the $100 million project to build more than 1,100 homes and 230,000 feet of retail space on the bluffs over the Cumberland River. One of those companies is also the Baltimore developer picked to build the new minor league ballpark Downtown, which is said to also include 600 more residential units.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Minor League Proposals and Biblical Bobbleheads

Now that we have reached the mid-point of the baseball season, I would like to make an observation as a first-time Sounds season ticket holder: I am shocked at how many men choose a Sounds baseball game to propose to their girlfriends and choose the Sounds public address announcer to make that pitch for them. I have not kept count and I have not been to every game, but I can remember a goodly number of marriage proposals announced over the Greer Stadium P.A. Heck, I can remember three in the last homestand, and I didn't even attend every game of the four-game series.

I don't care how big a Sounds fan your girlfriend is; any man proposing marriage "'til death do you part" at a minor league baseball game is nothing but a Bush Leaguer, pure and simple. Proposing at a sports venue is high risk, to begin with. But if you're going to propose to a woman at a ballpark, at least pick one of our national treasures, a cathedral to the game. And for goodness sakes, don't let an anonymous P.A. announcer do your work for you; at least find an acquaintance if you don't want to put the work in yourself. All kidding aside, you have got to show your future mate that she deserves something more elite and major-league than a slow ride up the Greer Stadium elevator for dinner at Sluggers Sports Bar and free fireworks after the game.

Conservative Christians can complain all they want about the "threat to the institution of marriage" if gay and lesbian partnerships receive the same legal status as heterosexual marriage. Their complaints mean very little to me when I am forced to watch the persistent debasing of the institution at Greer Stadium by straight, yet stuporous men.

So, I have a wish. It concerns what Sounds management calls "Faith Night," which is essentially a marketing scheme designed to tap into all of that extra money that conservative Christians seem to have after boycotting iniquitous dens like Disney World, which dared to extend benefits to gay and lesbian partnerships. (It's seriously sad that religion has now been reduced to a leveraging mechanism to move money from one vendor to another more in line with a rigid set of beliefs, but that is exactly what the public expression of conservative Christianity seems to have become. It has lost its soul).

I wish, just once on a Friday night "Faith Night," that I could hear the announcer say, "I have a special message for Eve: Ada would like to ask, 'Will you marry me?'" or that I might hear him say over the P.A.: "I have a special message for Steve: Adam would like to ask, 'Will you marry me?'" I am not suggesting to my gay and lesbian friends who are committed to monogamy that they lower themselves to the same triple-A level of the straight-yet-stuporous.

It's just this selfish wish I have kept to myself up until now that a hole might be poked through the Bible-belt pretense of the Greer Stadium customer-service approach that places marriage proposals, religious faith, and family life on Friday nights on the same debit side of the business ledger as beer and souvenir sales on every other night of the week. A gay or lesbian proposal on Faith Night is my own selfish wish to test that customer-service approach and to scare the straight proposers from their Bush League stupor. I don't really expect it to happen because I expect something more from marriage. But as wild as it sounds, even an androgynous proposal--"I have a special message for Chris: Pat would like to ask ..."--might leave fans scratching their heads trying to figure out if the proposal is straight or not. It would at least leave a smile on my face.

Faith Nights include a giveaway called "Biblical Bobblehead Doll Night," and if the particular Bobblehead to be given away the night of a gay, lesbian, or androgynous proposal included "Lot's Wife, the Pillar of Salt Bobblehead," it would only boost the irony (see Genesis 19 in the Christian Old Testament for the story; but see conservative Christian intrepretations like this for an example of popularizing a connection of Genesis 19 to prohibitions against homosexuality, rather than to prohibitions against rape). By the way, S-townwife tells me she already sees irony in the look of the Biblical Bobbleheads given away to this point: she says they resemble the Village People.

A final word for those who might accuse me of denigrating faith: I am not attacking religious faith. I'm trying to defend it against commercialism, minimization, and stranglingly narrow interpretations of what counts as religious. Don't be mislead into thinking that "Faith Nights" are marketed toward any other people of faith outside of conservative Christianity. Jews (no Rabbi Akiva Bobblehead), Muslims (no Muhammed Bobblehead), and mainline and progressive Christians do not seem to be included in the Sounds' target audience. This year the Sounds also have a promotion offering free tickets for Vacation Bible School attendance sponsored by David Lipscomb University, a conservative institution of the exclusive Church of Christ. If the Sounds ever host a promotion sponsored by Vanderbilt Divinity School, then I'll believe that they are serious about appealing to people of faith across the spectrum.

Happy All Star Game night to all! Go, Sounds!

Crime Scene Unit in Salemtown During the Weekend To Investigate Shooting

On Saturday morning (July 9), I noticed a Metro Police Crime Scene Unit van parked on 5th Ave., North halfway between Hume and Garfield along with a couple of cruisers.

I have since found out that there was a shooting "in the area" of one "adult victim" by an "adult suspect." The Police know who the suspect is and they report that the investigation is continuing. Those are the only details I have right now.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Before the Glow of July 4th Fades

It's been a week since I sat down to write this dispatch; but there were so many other items about which to write last week, that it is now just a belated Independence Day reflection.

We attended our neighbors' July 4th celebration, which included a cookout and gathering on the second story of their deck to watch the pyrotechnics from the North End. I was not expecting much, since we seemed pretty far away from the East Bank; and I remember the tall bluff--across which the Downtown Connector Greenway is saddled--that seems to obstruct sight of anything to the southeast above the river except for the highest flying objects.

But once the skyrockets started going off, the show provided a much different and no less impressive perspective as any I have seen in the past.

Here's a retrospective of places where I have viewed Nashville's fireworks in the past (in no particular order):
  • Downtown --the only time I was actually at Riverfront Park for the show was a couple of years ago, and while it was one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen, I enjoyed the legendary Al Green's set during the concert portion much more than the fireworks themselves. To get a good spot to enjoy this venue, you have to show up early; for me to show up in the wilting daytime July 4 heat, there better be somebody more worthy than Diamond Rio performing. Al Green is past worthy; he's holy ground; we arrived mid-morning to await that show (S-townwife and I appeared for a few seconds on the nationwide broadcast as we danced to Rev. Al's "Let's Stay Together").
  • Love Circle--I made the mistake of going several times during the 1990s. It was usually crowded and I was never that impressed with the show. I'm not even sure you can go up there after sundown on July 4 now.
  • Rolling Mill Hill/SoBro--one year I sat in a lawn chair in the bed of my pickup truck, which was parked near the old Solo Mio building. Great view of Downtown and not a bad fireworks venue.
  • East Bank/Coliseum--our last year in Historic Edgefield, we packed up the kids just before the fireworks started, joined the traffic flow on the east side of the Coliseum, and pulled up on a sidewalk just as the first explosions were going off. Every other motorist in the area apparently had the same idea, and the police seemed to stop trying to keep the traffic moving, at least until the show was over. Great view except that the Coliseum blocked the view of low flying explosions.
While I have seen Nashville's fireworks from closer vantage points in the past (Riverfront and Rolling Mill Hill/SoBro were the best for close range), I am glad that we watched them from Salemtown this year. Not only did we spend quality time with several of our neighbors, but the venue was relaxed and comfortable. And the view was unique. Being able to take in skyscrapers alongside the pyrotechnics yields a very different and interesting scale to the show that I am glad I did not miss.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

And Now, A Bug-Referential Moment

I took this picture last week in the Butterfly Room at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Please Allow Me A Self-Referential Moment

... as if weblogs were not already self-referential by definition, right?

Anyhow, I'm sharing a picture from yesterday's Channel 2 session for area bloggers on effectively shooting video to tell a story. Since my primary audience is not bloggers, I will not bore you all with the details.

The back of me practicing effective videography (I hope). WKRN/NashvilleIsTalking still photo.
Met some other bloggers, but my video shooting teammate was Jon of Jonnypantz, which I am adding to my "Blogs Getting Nods" box, because Jon showed a lot of guts scaling a ladder on the back of that van to get a shot when all other videographers would not.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Council Member Who Complains About Metro Having "A Big Pile of Cash" Has No Complaints When Metro Gives Him Big Piles of Cash

And while I'm on the subject of unethical Council members, I give you Matte Pulle's article in the Nashville Scene on "Crafty" Eric Crafton's conflict of interest in accepting $300,000 in MDHA loans (at 3% interest over 10 years!) while he "deliberates over proceedings that could affect his real estate ventures."

Mr. Crafton once complained about "a pile of cash" Metro received from taxpayers, but now he defends his own tax-money pile by saying that he's merely interested in "helping neighborhoods." How very mercenary of him. While he spent weeks behind the Council scenes attempting to slash revenues that might help neighborhoods in general, he's now defending those public expenditures that only help those neighborhoods that line his own pockets.

If I had a little more time, I'd get a map of Crafton's East Nashville holdings and go over and see exactly how the those low-interest loans totaling $300K are helping those who live on his properties. My guess is that he cares more about the money he earns from his neighborhood investments than he does about neighborhoods themselves.

No, Really. I'm Serious. Just Drop Dread.

This week a second source confirms allegations that I relayed to you before: that Council member-at-large Adam Dread skirted open meeting laws by conducting public business in private correspondence with other Council members. John Spragens of the Nashville Scene reports from Mr. Dread's private e-mail correspondence that he lobbied members of Eric's Eleven to cut three unnamed budget items from the proposed budget.

Not only did Mr. Dread fail to make public his specific intentions, but he defended his backroom meetings with other Council members--which he personally assured me he did not have--by saying that the rooms where they met were accessible to the public. So, if you just happened to be walking by the Council Chambers one of those days (you would not know which day it was because the meetings were not publicized), and you happened to be psychic or just lucky, and you stumbled in to one of those meeting rooms, then--and only then--would you, Jane or John Q. Public, have been privy to the budget discussions. I have to wonder what the Council members responses would have been should any member of the public just happened to find their way against all odds to these discussions.

Let's get back to Mr. Dread's denial to me of private discussions. He wrote me, "When asked by another Councilmember if I could support a cost of living budget, and attend a press conference, I replied in the affirmative. Period. [Emphasis mine]." I figured that his punctuation was protesting way too much; it told me that Mr. Dread was not speaking plainly to me. Spragens's new information on Mr. Dread confirms exactly what I concluded before: the Council member is either too cocky or too afraid to publicly acknowledge that the private discussions took place. Either way, he's simply being evasive. This is one more reason why Mr. Dread needs to be dropped in the next elections.

And you simply must read Spragens's article to see Council member Charlie Tygard's cheerleading e-mails to Eric's Eleven. Remember: Mr. Tygard is the council member who moved to defer a resolution on adopting the Ethics Task Force's recommendations to September. After reading his e-mails, I have to believe that Mr. Tygard would just as soon see those recommendations deferred forever. He doesn't strike me as the ethical type.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Increased Police Presence

Something's been going down in Salemtown recently. A few days ago, police made a narcotics bust over on 6th. A couple of days ago four police cars pulled up to a duplex managed by MDHA on 5th and knocked on the door. Yesterday I saw cruisers patrolling the same alley four times in the span of two hours. This morning I have already seen one patrol. The police are on top of something here.

I read a lot of complaints in the blogosphere about the police and their aggressive policy of ticketing speeders. But I want to show some props to cops. I know that drug deals are being done in Salemtown because I've seen them. I have seen dealers standing on corners and eyeing my car to see if I'm their next buyer. I see those houses where shades are always drawn and where groups of people driving cars from various counties stream in and out in less than 5 minutes without saying anything to each other.

So, for me, increased police presence is a welcome sight. My neighborhood feels safer the more cops I see.

Nashville City Paper: Proposal To Evaluate Curby

Despite the fact that I support the idea of recycling, I have been very critical of Nashville's recycling program (a.k.a. "Curby"). As far as I can tell it has not been working well in Salemtown.

A story in yesterday's Nashville City Paper (NCP) supports my perception. Reportedly, Council member Lynn Williams is calling for Curby to be evaluated because she believes that there are parts of Nashville where the program is not operating as well as in others. I wholeheartedly support her on this one.

According to the NCP, Williams received a Public Works list of participation rates of different areas. Not surprisingly:

At the bottom of the list is North Nashville, which received 1,764 carts and has a participation rate of 21.2 percent. Bordeaux has a participation rate of 27.7 percent of 4,010 distributed carts and is listed among the 10 lowest participating neighborhoods.
Not having the list myself, I cannot tell whether Salemtown is included in "North Nashville," but my perceptions about recycling here tell me that our participation would be consistent with if not lower than 21.2%.

Of course, I would be interested to see their plan for evaluating whether or not people are using the program. My bin holds a couple of plastic bottles, which are recylable, among a couple of unrecyclable items (none of which I put in). Does Curby's weekly refusal to take the plastic bottles away constitute nonparticipation on my part?

The NCP also reports that Public Works is trying to bring back bulk item (furniture, etc.) pickup. That would make more sense in Salemtown than Curby's current program of distributing recycling carts without educating residents. Recyling advocates seem to be fighting over how to educate residents to recycle. "How" is not an issue in Salemtown. "Any" education would help if they expect us to recycle at all.

Neighbors To Neighbors

I finally heard back from Council member Diane Neighbors about the specific reductions in the budget to Parks and Recreation and to Public Works that Metro Council approved last week. Here is part of her response:
In terms of the reductions, I believe only requests for new services were reduced or deleted. We were assured by both Public Works and Parks that they would be able to continue providing services under the substitute budget. There should not be, based on the information we received, a reduction in services.
So far, so good. Community Centers and neighborhood response should continue as they have. Now let's hope that the individual departments do not feel the need to channel the money approved in ways that siphon it from supporting neighborhoods.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tennessean Is Mum On Correcting Salemtown Misleads

I called Tennessean reporter Nancy Deville 24 hours ago to try to set the record straight on organizing in Salemtown after her one-sided July 1 piece, which I shot down yesterday. The phone call was short because she told me she was headed into a meeting.

When I told her that Salemtown Neighbors had been organizing months before T.R.U.E. started and that Joe Angus was once a member of Salemtown Neighbors, she expressed surprise. She confirmed that the only source she relied on for the story was Mr. Angus, who had contacted her.

She promised me that she would call me back as soon as she had a chance, but I have not heard from her. I may follow up with the editor of Davidson A.M.

While looking at the Davidson A.M. section online, I noticed that Ms. Deville's regular beat does not even include the North End:

Nancy Deville's beat. Tennessean graphic.
Linda Bryant is the Tennessean beat reporter for North-By-Northwest Nashville:

Linda Bryant's beat. Tennessean graphic.
On a separate but related note: almost a month ago I received a call from the pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church on 8th Ave., North. He asked me for the details on why two neighborhood associations existed in Salemtown. After I gave him my interpretation of the division, he told me that he was going to contact the pastor of the Salem AME Church to see about sitting down with Joe Angus and working out the differences that caused the division in the first place. I told him that I was all for collaboration. I haven't heard a word from him since that phone call.

07/07/2005 10:30 a.m. Update: Nancy Deville replied. She apologized for not getting back with me on Tuesday. She said that she had deadlines to meet that day. She offered to do a profile on Salemtown Neighbors. I told her that a story on our association would be great if she could wait until Salemtown's first neighborhood watch signs were installed. I also recommended that she interview one of our members who has lived in Salemtown for many years for some perspective on progress in the neighborhood. It doesn't hurt that she also happens to live north of Garfield St. and several houses down from Joe Angus and the Salem AME Church.

Gang-Related Graffiti Resurfaces

Gang-related graffiti reappeared on this house in the 1700 block of 6th Ave., North over the holiday weekend. There is also graffiti painted on the sidewalk, and trash litters the street. Photograph by S-townMike. Posted by Picasa
After a relatively long hiatus, gang-related graffiti has returned to Salemtown on a much smaller scale than during last winter. Properties near the corner of 6th Ave. and Garfield have been popular targets for vandals in the past.

As I reported almost four months ago, this house has been hit and cleaned once already. Fortunately, this was the only property hit in the vicinity. Businesses and houses hit last February and March were untouched as of this afternoon.

If the property owners of the house above procrastinate on removing the graffiti, the problem will only get worse, and it will bleed over the rest of us. Leaving graffiti only emboldens the boyz.