Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Your Own Personal Darwin

For a long time I have believed that this contrast in Darwinisms is one of the prominent political distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Reich sums up the problem on the conservative side well:
If mankind did not evolve according to Darwinist logic, but began instead with Adam and Eve, then it seems unlikely societies evolve according to the survival-of-the-fittest logic of Social Darwinism [as articulated by modern conservativism]. By the same token, if you believe one’s economic status is the consequence of an automatic process of natural selection, then, presumably, you’d believe that human beings represent the culmination of a similar process, over the ages.
By way of analogy, conservatives are prone to a contrived and self-contradictory dualism that argues that the flow of financial capital is at once "natural" (and thus, "amoral," by which I think they mean "unrelated to ethical considerations" rather than "lacking moral standards") and "virtuous" (and thus, worth moral celebration). A primary cause for the self-contradiction is that in the virtue tradition of moral philosophy, being virtuous itself is considered the natural end of human behavior. Since the free (assuming that it actually is free) market is nothing more than one more form of human interaction, then it is not amoral. Since the natural end of human behavior is the virtuous life, then all aspects of human behavior, including the free market, are related to ethical considerations.

But one need not advance ideals of "virtue" in order to argue that the flow of money is primarily natural and "amoral." All one needs is some ethical naturalism with a pinch of sociological naturalism topped off with a dose of realpolitik. Appeals to virtue in such an argument come across as either over-the-top or snake-oil. But if one is going to argue that a free market is "amoral" along these lines, then one cannot ignore money's political corollary, power. Economics and politics are two sides of the same "amoral" coin. If the free market is "amoral," then political governance in itself is also "amoral."

If we're all going to be naturalists about human relations, let's try to be consistent in our Darwinisms, shall we?

Five Of Nine School Board Members Show Up To Meet With Jones Paideia PTO On Planned School Closing

Jones Paideia PTO President, Helen Koudelkova, told me that they met with five of the nine School Board members last night to discuss their "interest and concerns" about plans to close the school. Ms. Koudelkova characterized the meeting as "productive."

She also fowarded me the final petition against closing the Jones School, which is being sent to Dr. Pedro Garcia. It included 378 signatures. After reading the final draft, I have to admit that I am even more confused as to the reasoning behind the closing plans.

Here are a few details that might daze and discombobulate you as well:
  • Dr. Garcia's rationale for closing specific schools is that they are small; however, Jones is not small by the district's own standards. According to the petition:
    • Jones Paideia is neither a “small” nor undercapacity school by any of the definitions so far set out by the School Board .... the district was asked to look at schools under 300 for possible closure. Our current enrollment of 326 not only puts us above that mark but makes us larger than at least 20 other elementary schools in the district. It is also important to note that this year we were relocated out of the center of town to the Brick Church campus in northwestern Davidson County in order for our building to be renovated. This move resulted in the loss of a number of previous and prospective students, particularly from the south side of town, due to the significant increase in distance and travel time for many of them.
  • Dr. Garcia's rationale on closings is to save money without sacrificing quality; yet, the logic on Jones seems to be to try to fix something that ain't broke. According to the petition:
    • Jones Paideia is a highly successful program—we consistently have some of the best performance scores in the district and have met or exceeded every benchmark. For example, our 2005 TCAP scores showed 93.5% proficiency in Reading/Language and 89.4% in Math. We have a well-established program that is achieving excellent results and our kids are happy and thriving. In fact, our school was recently invited by the National Paideia Center to become a “demonstration school” for people around the country to come and see how we do things. However, the proposed merger with John Early [Middle Paideia] would, in effect, involve a complete restructuring of our program.
  • Dr. Garcia's rationale includes the motivation to do what is in the best interests of our children's development; yet, merging Jones and Early stand to undermine student development. According to the petition:
    • "Researchers have found that large schools have a more negative impact on minority and low-[socio-economic-status] students than on students in general,” making school size an equity issue. (It is also worth noting in this regard that, in its previously referenced report on K-8 school configuration, the Peoria, IL School Board cites exactly these considerations in recommending the design of K-8 schools of no more than 500 students.) [Jones Paideia] is currently more than 90% African American and 50% free and reduced lunch, and John Early is, according to the Tennessee Dept. of Education 2005 Report Card, more than 95% African American and nearly 70% economically disadvantaged. That is, the populations our two schools serve are precisely those which would be most adversely affected by merging the two programs to create a large school of more than 600 students.
  • Dr. Garcia rationalizes closings to save money; yet, closing Jones seems to represent either a net loss or the bad management of a good investment. According to the petition:
    • Per Metro Schools Planning and Construction, significant capital expenditures of nearly $500,000 have gone into necessary upgrades and improvements to the Jones building in just the last several years, including $418,663 for an ADA compliance project completed in August of 2003, $7,156 for asbestos abatement, and $62,946 to replace the roof this past summer of 2005. In addition, well over $200,000 more has been spent within the past year in connection with the planned renovation of our building: $138,217 for architect design fees, $19,951 for bidding expenditures, and $64,000 to move portables from the property in order for renovations to begin. And this figure does not include the cost of moving the contents of the school to Brick Church, the stipends paid to teachers for the additional work of first dismantling and then setting up their classrooms, or contractor fees for mobilization and work done in the Jones building so far. All told, nearly $1 million dollars has been invested in the Jones building over the last three years.
    • The Executive Director of Facilities & Operations [acknowledges] that some modifications to the John Early building would be necessary in order to move our elementary program there. If these modifications are to be extensive enough to make the space genuinely adequate for our needs, they will require a substantial capital investment .... [W]e ... question the wisdom of investing large sums of money to, in effect, renovate a building that is only a few years old versus going ahead with the renovations to our existing building, which have already been started and would result in our having more appropriate facilities designed to elementary specifications.
If you can defy perplexity and discern the merits of our school district's rationale for closing Jones Paideia, well, by all means, explain it to those of us for whom the logic fails. Otherwise, we might be prone to see the plans as a component of Dr. Garcia's rumored running feud with Mayor Purcell, whose daughter reportedly attended Jones Paideia at one time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Salemtown Neighbors Contests The School Board's Plans To Torpedo Jones School

Salemtown Neighbors unanimously voted Monday night to oppose the Metro School Board and Pedro Garcia's plans to eighty-six Jones Paideia School. That opposition will be expressed in the form of a letter to the School Board and to other elected officials. Salemtown Neighbors joined Historic Germantown Nashville Inc. in calling for renovations on the historic Jones School building to commence once again in the name of North End quality-of-life.

Jones PTO President, Helen Koudelkova, addressed the Salemtown association's membership, and she got more signatures afterwards for the petition she started in order to save Jones Paideia. She currently has almost 300 signatures.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Historic Germantown Nashville Inc. Declares Concern About The Possible Jones School Closing To Metro Council Members

President LaDonna Bowers of the Historic Germantown neighborhood association expressed the group's concern at the possible closing of Jones Paideia in a letter to council members earlier today. She also asked for their support to keep the school open and to move the previously launched renovations toward completion.

Salemtown Neighbors considers the matter at their November business meeting tonight at 6:30 at Morgan Park Community Center.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Will Metro Nashville Become Just Another "Lousy Absentee Landlord" In The North End?

Kay Brooks suggests that the prospects of the conditions of Jones School and the surrounding neighborhoods may look ominous and bleak if Metro's appalling track record after the closure of Inglewood's Litton High School is any indication.

The frightening and ironic prospect of empty, unused public buildings and land allowed to rot in an otherwise vital neighborhood ought to startle even the most complacent or apathetic neighbor to some sort of response to school administrators. If nothing else it ought to prick the instinct to protect their quality of life. Sitting on one's hands is destructive.

If neighborhoods are going to sustain their long-term viability, they require generational diversity; that is, they require families with children. And families with children are attracted to neighborhoods with operational public services and strong public institutions such as schools. That is simply the natural order of neighborhoods. If the North End loses the fight to keep Jones School open it will sacrifice part of its long-term viability as a place to live.

While selling Jones School to a private developer may be preferable to letting it decay away to a shell and become a convention of unsavory elements, it is not the best option. Private buyers desire some decay in order to drive the asking price down; so, they would not have the common good of the neighborhood at heart. But allowing a sale also lets Metro government off the hook. That is unacceptable. In our democracy, government usually fails to serve when its constituents fail to demand quality without ceasing. Failing is not an option.

The only viable option is keep Metro from becoming an absentee landlord by demanding that Jones School remain an open neighborhood center. God knows, we already have enough pockets of blight where "lousy absentee landlords" do not hold up their end of the common-good bargain. If the battle to keep Jones Paideia is lost, then our neighborhoods need to hold the School Board's feet to the fire to develop neighborhood-friendly, family-focused plans for the building.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day Of The Lemming

If yesterday was "Turkey Day" today is most definitely "Lemming Day"; that is, the "biggest shopping day of the year," when shoppers submissively line up before dawn, assertively stalk parking spaces the rest of the day, and aggressively race each other to be first to throw their hard-earned money at those who ride herd in what has become the true meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

The mainstream media, in the spirit of the season, also conformed. Just about every story I watched this evening up until the weather segments covered shoppers huddled in the cold at store portals chomping their collective bit and showed crowds tearing through stores and crushing one another at cash registers. The dash of the lemmings has grown fairly predictable and mundane after so many years, so I'm still not sure how the mainstream coverage rose to the level of "man bites dog." Even scenes of people shoving and mowing over individuals in front of them at Wal-mart have lost their shock-value given the perennial commercio-darwinian flocking behavior of post-Thanksgiving shoppers. Greed stimulates the seasonal status quo; and that blunts its atrocity.

However, this year I re-discovered shock-value in atrocity from an unexpected source: those who claim to be the opponents of rampant consumer culture. I received an e-mail from Sojourners (who are also linked in the "Links That I Plug" box in the righthand column). That e-mail eschewed the "competing messages that bombard you with great sales and must-buys." It also claimed that Sojourners supports Adbuster's "Buy Nothing Day" as "a way to reflect on our participation in consumer culture." It encouraged me to buy nothing today, which I have not.

But here's the part that seriously sent my steam-engine chugging:
But you think of friends and family this season, send a great gift (at a modest price) that makes a statement! When you choose a gift from Sojourners, every purchase helps sustain our growing mission.
Then they proceeded to offer me posters of "Gandhi's 7 Deadly Social Sins" for $9.95 and a "Swords Into Plowshares" CD for $15.00.

I am completely aghast and saddened that a group that is supposed to represent an alternative to consumer culture is rooting around at the same hog trough as the crowd. Despite my admiration for Jim Wallis, I am so disappointed in Sojourners' opportunistic pander to the mainline and leftwing Christian market niche--on a day that should have been more of a Sabbath--that I have half-a-mind to take their link down.

To cover their marketing ploy with a nod to "Buy Nothing Day" is treachery (not that I was a zealot of "Buy Nothing Day." I just was not motivated to get out and swim through everyone else just to save a few bucks when I could stay home with my family). What the hell happened to the need to "reflect on our consumer culture"? Say it ain't so-journers!

Possible Jones Closing At Last Hits The Mainstream Media

Tennessean reporter Nancy Deville published a story today on the growing controversy over the possible Jones Paideia School closing. She also plans on doing a follow-up story later on the community response to the closing.

The timeline to save Jones Paideia is tight: Jones PTO President, Helen Koudelkova, told me that the School Board expects to have school closing decisions made by December 15. However, since Magnet School applications for next year have to be turned in by December 9, the public perception that the Jones closing will be inevitable may cause prospective parents to pursue other possibilities. A downturn in applications would sustain the School Board's inclination to close Jones, which has already been reamed of some facilities.

In related news, President Koudelkova also told me that most of the Jones PTO leaders and parents could not attend the last special School Board public-feedback meeting on November 17 at Pearl-Cohn because the district administration required the magnet schools to host a "Family Night" on the 17th. "Family Night" was originally scheduled for November 15th, but administrators mandated that it be bumped two days. The President cited this as an example of how the MNPS district's policies work at cross purposes.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

FEMA Switches Itself from Naughty To Nice

Taking a break from our pre-Thanksgiving cook-a-thon, while smelling of smoked bird and orange zest.

Via Josh Marshall: Talk about padding your resume; FEMA is claiming their Katrina response as one of their successes of 2005. They would have been better served by not mentioning Katrina at all, ever again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Rural" Is A Slippery Category. (So Is "Urban").

When I fly home to visit my parents, who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and my dad picks me up at the airport, he often tells me of the roundabout way he chose to drive to avoid the major traffic snarls. He calls it "driving through the country," although the urbanized and suburbanized communities, edge cities, and satellite towns he passes hardly fit notions of pastoral farmland or rugged back country.

What is rural? It seems to be whatever we define as or mean by "rural." It seems more symbol than space. And likewise with "urban." Even the new logistical terms like "micropolitan" tend to get fuzzy, thin, and imprecise as they come up against local meanings.

Monday, November 21, 2005

W(h)ither Spring Hill?

The regional job market receives a blow to the mid-section from General Motors today. Let's cut through the initial best-face spin: if 1,500 of the 5,700 jobs at the Spring Hill plant are going to end, how many of the 5,700 are going to relocate from Spring Hill with the Saturn Ion move? With rising gas prices and lower consumer demand for SUVs, can the remaining Saturn Vue workers have any sense of job security or will they be waiting for other shoes to drop in future quarters? Most importantly, what will be the impact of the declining tax resource base in the wake of GM pull-out on the recent decision by town administrators to cut property taxes to zero?

Stay tuned to this story; it looks huge to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Opposing Pedro: Jones Paideia PTO President Takes Her Mission To Save The Historic North End School From "Dereliction" To Neighborhood Leaders

You may have read my previous ode to preserving historic neighborhood schools like Jones Paideia, rather than shoving them beneath the wheels of the budget-crunch freight train. As I told you, the destruction done by closing these schools also rips like shrapnel across the fabric of urban neighborhoods. The closure of neighborhood schools represents the closure of neighborhood centers and the closure of the familial dimensions of those neighborhoods.

Then again, that was a long post and you may not have read it. However, the Jones Paideia PTO President, Helen Koudelkova, did read it and contacted me to say that she is spear-heading a group of concerned citizens and neighborhood leaders from the North End in order to "fight this closure with everything we've got."

Ms. Koudelkova also tells Enclave that the contractors working to renovate the school building for next fall were a-week-and-a-half into the renovations when they got the order to stop on November 9th. She reports:
In that time, they removed the steam heat system and all the A/C units. What this means is that, in its current condition, the building could not be reused for any other purpose without the school district making a substantial capital investment to replace those systems (approximately $400,000 according to a mechanical engineer I consulted), which - in the current fiscal climate - is highly unlikely. My fear is that if the renovations do not go forward the building will sit abandoned and quickly become derelict.
That's exactly my fear, too. It's right there in your Newtonian laws: bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. If they close the Jones School building to education, chances are good that it will never open again to education, or if it does, it will be used as just another urban container for social service projects that should be farmed out to suburban communities. Bodies in motion tend to stay in that motion: once they start tearing out its facilities, momentum to tear the whole thing down is a breeze.

Private economic development is exploding around the North End now, and we need our public centers, like schools, libraries, and parks to balance development and keep it in check. The local neighborhoods like Salemtown, Jones-Buena Vista, Germantown, and Hope Gardens need a functioning, operational, and thriving Jones Paideia to stay right where it is as an anchor holding us steady even as the uncertain currents of development attempt to toss us here and there.

Helen Koudelkova will be speaking about saving Jones Paideia from its own School Board at the Salemtown Neighbors neighborhood association meeting on Monday, November 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Morgan Park Community Center (Hume St. and 5th Ave., North).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: "Gangs, Guns, And Drugs" Involved In Salemtown Traffic Stop And Arrest This Evening

News you probably won't see on any of the mainstream news stations tonight at 10:00, because I saw no other reporters around: just before 6:00 this evening I happened upon the scene you see in the picture above: six or seven police cars, lights flashing, blocking the intersection of 6th Avenue North and Garfield Street. As I reported on Enclave last Tuesday, this was an intersection where police helicopters buzzed after a report of a shooting was called in (which later proved to be false).

I asked a patrol officer standing at some distance what was up. He told me, "Gangs, guns, and drugs." When I asked more details, he told me that occupants of the silver compact car (at the right side of the picture, surrounded by police officers) were arrested during a traffic stop (traffic stop opponents take note) after the car was found to be loaded with "gang members in from the east visiting their peeps." He didn't specify whether "east" meant Cayce Homes or New York City. Officers also reportedly found unspecified drugs and "big guns" in the car.

The officer asked me how it was that I lived in the neighborhood and didn't know about the gangs. I told him that I knew about the gangs, but that we had been assured by a police intelligence officer (at a recent Salemtown Neighbors meeting) that they had no connections to national gangs outside of Salemtown. He gave me a look that I can only describe as "like I was speaking in tongues and pig latin simultaneously."

Trivializing Ethics In The U.S. House Of Representatives

A day after he publicly and at times tearfully stated that he believed it was time to start the process of bringing troops home and only hours after being called a "coward" by a barely-elected freshman Republican congresswoman from Ohio in her comments on the floor of the House, Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha--ex-Marine, decorated Vietnam Veteran, long-time supporter of the Pentagon's military objectives, and conservative Democrat--has become a target of the Republican members of the House Ethics Committee, who are testing the idea of investigating Murtha.

Murtha may or may not be guilty of ethics violations, but the timing of the announcement of consideration of an investigation stinks. It does not stink because I believe that Murtha has not done anything worthy of investigation; I do not know enough about the details of his dealings yet to judge either way. It stinks because the timing of the investigation is clearly a show of naked power and bald-faced retribution by Republican leaders miffed that one of their supporters has left the fold. It stinks because it shows that ethics for political enemies is a buzz saw, that ethics for political friends is a feather duster.

Serious advocates of ethics reform should be wary of ethics investigations that are used to punish former Bush administration supporters who have a change of heart on the Iraq War. When ethics becomes a Taser against wayward partisans, it is trivialized and shrunk in the minds of its supposed practicioners and in the public mind.

Using ethics as a political weapon--the extension of campaign tactics by other means--reduces it to moral insignificance. It confirms the public perception that those who are supposed to govern actually operate according to rules that have very little to do with assuring appropriate behavior. It undermines discipline and corrupts duty. Ethics becomes the moral equivalent of political cronyism that only extends as far as one's last submissive act, which gets confused with true loyalty. And the results are morally disastrous: marshalling an ethics investigation as one might mount a political campaign requires nothing but the total surrender of honesty and integrity.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sounds Good. New Logo Bad.

According to the Downtown Nashville News and Information Service, The "Nashville Sounds Good" campaign to bring a ballpark downtown will kickoff at Jack's BBQ on Broadway, Monday, November 21 at 5:00 p.m. I wonder if this means that Jack's has the edge over Judge Beans in the race to be the official BBQ vendor of Nashville Sounds Baseball?

The campaign's logo is a retread of the regular team logo with the word "Good" merely pasted for effect. It seems to me that the Marketing Department could have come up with something a little more imaginative and a little less pedestrian than "Sounds Good." Even "Sounds Great!" would have exhibited a smidge more warmth and life. The goal is to generate excitement at the prospect of a championship-caliber team playing in the midst of Nashville's hustle and bustle. "Sounds Good" seems to lack the luster to muster the slightest eagerness. It's like the answer you give a friend who just made a suggestion that you go to lunch at Jack's because you can't think of any place better: "Sounds good," as in, "Sounds just as good as any other." It's a shoulder-shrug logo.

Despite the logo, if the business community falls in line behind this proposal, Metro Council--the only large hurdle left--will have a hard time bucking the idea.

In related news, the old Central Police Precinct station at the corner of 1st Avenue and the Gateway Bridge was demolished a few days ago.

11/18/2005, 9:20 a.m. Update: The Tennessean reports this morning that the Chamber of Commerce is endorsing the new ballpark plan. Hear the dominoes dropping in the Council, yet?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Things Seemed To Turn Nasty All The Way Around Sylvan Park

William Dean Hinton's story in this week's Nashville Scene on the controversy around zoning protection in Sylvan Park paints a fairly unattractive picture of the embroiled principals.

On the one hand, Council member John Summers (who supports the zoning overlay along with at least 116 voting members of the association) is portrayed as a bully who used neighborhood association by-laws to defeat opponents. On the other hand, zoning overlay opponents apparently started attending neighborhood association meetings merely to disrupt the process and then 116 opponents became new dues-paying members just before Monday night's vote.

Lost in the haze between Summer's cheeky disrespect and his opponents' cynical, single-issue obsession is the pressing matter of what would be best for the Sylvan Park neighborhood. And I would sure as hell not want to be a member of that association right now; they have got one big royal mess beyond the zoning issue to purge. In the wake of the seemingly noxious discontent, they have to find some trust and common purpose.

The Sound Of One Mike Clapping

This is my favorite time of the year because of the return of the cold snap and the chance to bundle up against it.

But I undeniably hate the way the starlings start gathering in cliques and then in groups and then in flocks and then in huge protoplasm-like masses filling the sky progressively as the daylight gives way to dusk. There is one place in every neighborhood where I have lived in which they start gathering and joining up with other groups, and circling and landing in every available tree. After a few hours they finally flock off to their enormous swarm; the biggest horde that I have seen fills the skies and the trees and the electric lines over in South Nashville near the Fairgrounds where Craighead meets Nolensville Pike. It is quite a show if you ever drive through there at dusk and it is possibly one of the most disgusting daily sights in Nashville.

But before they all join up in that final meeting place, groups of between 50 and 100 always manage to cluster together somewhere around my house showering everything below the now deleafed treeline with little packages from their bowels, usually made up of reconstituted hack berries. They hit everything; the house, the cars, the yard, the dog. They make it unsafe to be out.

So if you are ever strolling through Salemtown and hear some nut in his back yard clapping loudly, you can assume it's me, because starlings hate loud noises and I hate how starlings afflict my favorite time of the year.

Dimensions Reconsidered

Earlier I described the ways that Enclave fills two roles introduced by Josh Marshall. Upon further reflection, I feel the need to add two more that Marshall did not consider.

In the first place, my hyperlocal efforts are intended to play a supportive role for my neighborhood association, for Salemtown, and for broader North-By-Northwest Nashville. One of my designs is to have Enclave promote urban living in the North End as a means to enhance the quality of life for all residents and for my family in particular. If neighbors do not assertively promote and defend their neighborhood, no one else will. I intend for Enclave to play an important communication and coordination role for my neighbors who share my commitments.

Enclave is but one among many different ways that I support my own. However, even as the focus is on North End living, other people from other neighborhoods in other areas of Nashville contact me on a regular basis to say that my support for my neighborhood has helped them as they seek to support their own. So, a focus on a particular hyperlocality may have very significant affects outside that hyperlocality.

Secondly, I hope that Enclave has significant research potential and historical value. I blog each day with the desire that the document I leave behind provides present and future readers with a montage of scenes from the North End at a particular time in history. On so many occasions I have wished that people would have had the means over the last 150 years to do something like blog their experiences in the area on a daily basis and I have wished that those means would be as easily researched in seconds as Googling "North Nashville." Local history is a fascinating read for me, but so many times I have to use my imagination to fill in the blanks between the few monographs and piecemeal newspaper reports on North Nashville. Enclave addresses my wishes while saving the reader's imagination for other important projects.

Enclave has been used by parties to find out what is going on here for the now tens of thousands of reasons that they are interested. I hope that, even after I stop writing Enclave, it will continue to be of service to those who are so interested. It is my contribution to my community.


Last week, Joshua Micah Marshall left us a very good piece on blogging, explaining his philosophy of what political blogs do. Marshall says that they are 1) "distillers of information" and 2) sources for "original reporting." In the first place, blogs fill a niche that allows them to follow the progress of news stories in ways that the mainstream media (MSM) cannot. Secondly, a fewer number of blogs give pursuit to the "time-consuming and expensive" task of writing news either missed or not broken by the MSM.

I believe that Enclave has been both a distiller of information and a source of original reporting. Distillation has definitely been the easier task. I get up early mornings before my toddler does and wade through various news sources to find the items that I believe are or should be of concern to my hyperlocal readership (some of which extends outside of the North End!). And there is a lot of information to pull and to distill. However, since Enclave is hyperlocal--in its focus on the North End--it is relatively less time-consuming and expensive to break news as it happens in the neighborhoods here. It is much more challenging for political blogs with a larger reach to scoop original news before professional reporters get it. I have not done a count of how many of my posts are distillation and how many are original reporting, but I would guess it would be a split somewhere in the neighborhood of 60%-40%.

However, hyperlocal blogging is not without its challenges. If I were strictly a blogger (and I don't really call myself a "blogger") and I were not involved as a community leader, finding leads and breaking the hyperlocal news would have been much more of a challenge. Most of my original reporting is the result of networking, which I highly recommend. At the same time, if hyperlocals are to stay interesting and keep an audience, they should try to be more than simply electronic bulletin boards telling people when and where the next meeting is. I don't always feel safe carrying my camera and taking pictures of problems, but readers do like to see pictures and I think that they make Enclave look better, so I post them. Also, I catch heat for being a wiseguy with a particular political point of view, but I try to keep things interesting, even for those who don't agree with me. And by all means, I would welcome writers of any partisan bias to join me in team blogging at Enclave if they are interested in the mission.

I heartily recommend hyperlocal blogging as a means both to distill news and to break original stories that otherwise would not emerge. There's so much opportunity, and yet, so few people are doing it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Now For A Wet Blanket On The Nissan Deal, Updated Again

In an unprecedented move, the State of Tennessee is using tax dollars to reimburse Nissan (or is that "Ni$$an"?) for its relocation costs, up to $50,000 per position. That welfare program, reports the Tennessean, would give Nissan up to $63.75 million. The Governor's office defends the hand-out by saying that it's the only way Tennessee, a sales-tax state, can compete with states that have income taxes and income tax breaks.

Insult to injury: when Tennessee gives public money to private corporations to relocate, that money is regressively and disproportionately taken (via sales tax) from Tennesseans who can least afford to pay, since we don't have tax reform and a progressive means of generating the revenue to pay for what we want.

Here's an idea: let's compete with the income-tax states by slashing sales-tax rates by more than half, repealing outlawing all sales taxes on food, and coming up with a competitive and pragmatic income tax idea. I keep hearing the state-income-tax opponents tell us that having no income tax in Tennessee sells itself. If it sells Tennessee itself, then why do we need to give $63.75 million to Nissan to relocate? If we have to use incentives other than having no income tax to lure corporations away from income-tax competitors, why do we have to continue to rely on regressive sales taxes to punish the more common Tennesseans who are already here?

11/16/2005, 3:40 p.m. Update: Further comments and debate posted on

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stay Vigilant, Updated

Last night a police helicopter circled over Salemtown, shining its spot light around houses up and down the street. We called the police to ask for details; we wanted to find out whether we should be concerned and on guard. We got a mixed message. Dispatch told us that they were looking for a person of interest, but that the call they received on him did not seem serious. However, dispatch did also encourage us to keep our doors locked as a precaution.

In East Nashville, Council Member Mike Jamison called a community meeting last night with the Chapel Avenue area residents and police to discuss crime and the recent murder of Eric Mansfield. That murder is currently getting considerable publicity since Mr. Mansfield was a Music Row Executive. Jamison told a News 2 reporter last night that the neighborhood association in the Chapel Avenue area had fallen into some disuse and that neighbors were not a vigilant in the neighborhood as they once were when the association was functioning well.

The neighborhood around Chapel Avenue has exploded with development over the past couple of years. When I lived in East Nashville, the area looked more overtly transitional; but even with the development and its popularity, the area is still transitional and needs to be treated by the neighbors as such. Development should never spawn complacency or a false sense of security. If the neighborhood watch had still been aggressively functioning last Friday night, perhaps a neighbor might have spotted the murder suspect beforehand and perhaps a call to police and a patrol response might have saved Mr. Mansfield's life.

While crimes in neighborhoods are not the fault of victims, the functioning presence of neighborhood associations and watches does prevent crime. Both last night's North End copter search and East Nashville's spike in crimes demonstrate the need for neighbors to stay vigilant and to watch their streets like stalking hawks. Police also need to find better ways to pass on information about suspect searches in neighborhoods as they are unfolding. The mixed message police gave us last night in the North End was not helpful.

11/16/2005, 5:35 p.m. Update: The Central Precinct reported to me that police officers--including those in the helicopters--responded to a call of a possible shooting at 6th Ave., North and Garfield St on Nov. 14. After searching the area and talking with numerous neighbors around the area, it was determined to be a false call.

Monday, November 14, 2005

NYC: The Meat Loaf Principle

Ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a cracker jack box.

--Meat Loaf, Two Out Three Ain't Bad

So, conservative country music is attempting this week to take liberal New York City, one of the few U.S. major metropolitan cities without a local country music radio station. And it's all going to be broadcast on satellite radio. Even the local alternative paper, Nashville Scene, is not-so-alternatively getting into the act, running a cover story last week that was more about Brooks & Dunn than about the industry's prospects in Manhattan. Nonetheless, the Scene's cover is splashed with a drawing of giant Brooks & Dunn stomping through NYC like countrified Stay Puff Marshmallow men and one of the drawings with the story has the music duo prying the crown off of the Statue of Liberty and replacing it with a cowboy hat. Robert Altman couldn't have started with a better premise in a sequel to Nashville.

C'mon. This is NYC; it's their world. The rest of us are just visiting. Country music has tried to extend itself to NYC in the past without any luck, because the logic is turned around. NYC cannot be an extension of us; we are extensions of it.

Sure, country music looks good to itself in Carnegie Hall, staring like Narcissus into a pop culture pool and enchanting itself, but that doesn't mean that it's going to make it there. It may just be another 40 years before Country Music returns like a bunch of conventioneers to the Big Apple.

Package country all pretty and it likely still won't impress New York, which is already looking at the next trinket scheduled to dangle after country goes back to the country. And that's why we love (and hate) NYC. It's an island of Coupe de Ville's in a sea of Cracker Jack prizes.

New House? You Got To Winterize!

I got out this weekend to seal all of the seams between the clapboards on our new house (built in 2004). Over the seasons, profes-sionals tell me, the original caulk weathers and falls out and it needs to be replaced in order to maintain energy efficiency in the times of high heating bills. I had quite a lot of seams to reseal, but I found other problems.

For instance, the exterior wooden window frame in these pictures is cracking at the base most likely because of water penetration during our wet winter last year. My layperson's guess is that the water penetrated at a joint near the screen channel behind the board (see bottom picture) that wasn't adequately caulked by the builder. As you can see, the wood cracked underneath the latex acrylic paint, which would have otherwise water-proofed the wood.

The lesson: the damage from one exposed seam can spread and grow quickly. I hope that I caught this before more damage beyond buckled and cracked wood resulted. I sealed both the crack and the seams around with caulk. And I will spot repaint. We'll see if that nips the problem. If not, then I may have to replace the entire board itself.

Even if you own a new house, you should check all wooden seams to be sure that moisture cannot find an opening to work its way in and do some damage. Even the most honest builders overlook such details in their effort to finish on time. Winterize now or regret not doing so later!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Size Matters

My perspective on the Mayor's proposals for a Charter overhaul is beginning to take shape after some reflection. I generally support the idea of term limits for the Mayor. I more strongly support the idea of an independent auditor in the budget process. But on the issue of cutting the council's numbers from their current 38 to somewhere around half, my views are more slowly emergent.

On the one hand and from a strictly administrative viewpoint, things might run more smoothly with a smaller council. On the other hand, democracy is messy and rugged; it's a road filled with moguls (that is, mounds, not magnates) and potholes. I appreciate Council member Mike Jameson's somewhat detractive tone as he describes Council as "a herd of cats," apparently underscoring the inevitable futility that results when independent and aloof creatures attempt to cluster and act in concert against their natures.

The seeming impossibility and real disarray are the very bases of rule by the people. They create the possibility that if we don't like what we see, we can still claim some power to wipe the slate and start over, unchecked by efficient administrators, who are prone to use individuals as means to corporate ends, rather than treating people as ends in themselves. Besides, Metro's current herd of cats keeps giving me the very material I use to gig them. The circus can be entertaining and I would have much less to write if the Council is trimmed and streamlined to administrative sharpness and efficiency.

Aside from their service to my selfish purposes on Enclave, a larger Council undeniably allows many different types of Nashvillians to be represented and have a voice (assuming their Council member is actually responsive ... a huge assumption). The current Council is fairly diverse, and cutting their numbers could actually erode that diversity. The more the public debate expands to include various and sundry Nashvillians, the more ideally democratic and broadly responsive our local government becomes, even if it tends to have to play catch-up to administrative leadership.

So, I lean with the 2:1 majority in the Metro Council and against the Mayor in opposing cutting the Council back to half of what it is. But not, as Council member Ronnie Greer told the Tennessean, because it is "perfect." Put that kind of overstatement aside; the current quantity is acceptable at best until someone can make the case for effective democratic alternatives, which Mayor Purcell has not. And I certainly do not align myself with opponents like Council member Michael Kerstetter, who reversed the proper purpose of public service in his comments to the Tennessean:
"[The Mayor's proposal to cut the size of the Metro Council] probably is dead on arrival, anyway. Who would support it? Would you vote for it if it was going to eliminate your job?"
If I were Kerstetter and service to my Antioch constituents meant eliminating my leadership position on their behalf in an attempt to empower them rather than myself, then you're damned right I would vote for it. The Mayor's proposal is not the one to vote for; but there may be one for which to vote someday. However, if Kerstetter confuses public service with his job, then chances are he will not vote for any motion, good or bad, that requires self-sacrifice.

First Hockey Match

Saturday, November 12, 2005

All Quiet To Those Who Choose To Spin Raw Data Rather Than Consider The Truth About Neighborhood Crime Rates

Chris Wage gives those suburbanites prone to blow too hard on politicized stereotypes of urban crime rates exactly what they have coming: crimes-per-capita of various Nashville zips.

You need to see Chris's cool "Crimes-Per-Capita-Per-Zip-Code" table, but here is his main conclusion:
The wealthier suburbs are relatively crime-free, and the downtown area is prone to crime even in areas where there really aren’t any residents [the East Bank near the Coliseum, for example]. But it is interesting to note that by these numbers, East Nashville is only marginally less safe than, say, Green Hills.
And the North End is only marginally less safe than East Nashville (<.02). It would be interesting to see the per capita per neighborhood watch group, too. That way you could break down the numbers within the zips in even more revealing ways.

Friday, November 11, 2005

There's Nothing Free About This Enterprise

Even in the wake of obscene profits and sky-high gas prices, oil executives called to testify before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees were given a pass by Republican Senator Ted Stevens on swearing the same oath to tell the truth that any average person would be required to swear if they had to testify. Are U.S. Senators so cozy with the overpaid oil industry execs that they can't even force an indignity like raising your right hand and swearing to tell the whole truth? It's bad enough that Big Oil does not make the sacrifices the rest of us have in this time of crisis, but now they won't even be required to sacrifice some face and swear to tell the truth?

Tennessee Congressman Shells Out $623 For Popcorn Popper

That's one expensive kernal combustor, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN).

More Signs O'The Times

Nissan is coming and I believe that I am seeing some results of that on Enclave, where over a third of my hits today have been on past North End real estate development postings, and a significant number of those have come from visitors from California.

Since they will be initially headquartered in the Batman building, the North End might present a close, attractive option, even if temporary, for Nissan executives.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Slashers In Retreat In D.C.

Conservative Republican plans to gut domestic programs by slashing $50 billion from the budget has been called off thanks to moderate Republicans and unified Democrats.

One Of Our Neighborhood Schools A Target For Closure, Updated

Unlike suburban public schools, schools close to the center city often act as one of a few anchors for the walkable neighborhood. When they are good, they are one of the few institutions that actually attract families, rather than upwardly mobile singles or older adults, back to urban neighborhoods, because families with kids require good schools. That is why predominantly suburban resistance to raising taxes for funding schools among other urban services is a direct attack not only on education, but it is also an assault through neglect on the fabric of urban neighborhoods, which lose their centers and which have a harder time attracting the families that would diversify their populations.

While I did not support the last sales tax referendum to fund education, I do believe in both the need for progressive revenue-raising for city schools and reform of the system to stop waste and create cost-effective educational measures. When educational reform gets overemphasized to the exclusion of the need for more money to pay for rising costs, increasing student populations, technology upgrades, and court-mandated revenue sharing with rural schools, I interpret mutual exclusion as a war declared on urbanism as a way of life. I interpret it as animosity toward a walkable and diverse neighborhood where gasoline expenses are minimal. I consider it protection of the monopoly that suburban areas have over attracting families.

I wondered this past weekend whether one of the casualties of the Metro School Board's tough decisions would be a North End institution: Buena Vista School. Reading the cut list, I was relieved to see that Buena Vista seems to have survived so far. However, I was horrified to see that another historic North End institution, Jones Paideia Magnet School, is slated to be closed and their students moved several blocks deeper into Metro Center to the John Early Paideia School. While only a few blocks over, Jones Paideia is changing neighborhoods: from Jones-Buena Vista to Historic Buena Vista. So, one of the centers of the Jones-Buena Vista neighborhood, currently closed for renovation, is a casualty to the lack of political will to pay for services; if Pedro Garcia has his way, it will not re-open next fall.

I know we don't live in a perfect world and Garcia and the School Board are left with tough decisions, mainly due to the Metro Council and the Mayor's gamble on a sales tax increase. But I hope that North End residents fight to keep Jones Paideia open or at least to get promises that it will open again some day when our budget is more progressive.

It would be totally wrong to either tear the school down or to sell it to private developers or to put more public assistance offices or Head Start facilities in it to go with those already disproportionately occupying so many of our city neighborhoods.

Jones School is one of the architectural jewels of the North End. The Paideia program, based on teaching children classic Socratic critical thinking, provides an great alternative to traditional public school methods. But most importantly, this is one of our centers that gives neighbors, black and white together, a sense of place, turning them toward their own neighborhood.

11/10/2005, 10:30 p.m. Update: The 10:00 p.m. news programs on each of the local stations reported tonight about "frustrated" parents speaking out at tonight's School Board Public Meeting at Maplewood High School. Channel 4 News reported that one of the most controversial proposed closings was Jones Paideia. They reported that part of the problem was the perception that there were discipline problems at John Early Paideia that would be amplified by increasing the school's population. News 2 presented comments against closing by a Rose Park Student. NewsChannel 5 said very little in detail about the meeting, and merely quoted a principal who supported the closings (typical!).

But I Haven't Even Made $20.00 Off Of Google Adsense, Yet ....

According to this guy's Technorati computations, Enclave is worth a cool $20,323.44. I'm feeling a sudden surge of writers' block. Any interested buyers out there?

HT: Paul Chenoweth

Promiscuous Rocks and Violating The Sabbath In The "Good Old Days" On The North End: It Was Hardly Sunday Soccer Games In White House

Here's a very interesting story on the North End from the Monday, September 5, 1881 edition of the Nashville Banner:

Disgraceful Scenes In And Around the City Yesterday.

No Sabbath for the past several months has been attended with more disgraceful scenes than yesterday, in this city. It seems that crime is on the increase.
One of the worst rows that ever occurred, and one which came near being a riot, took place in the Ninth Ward [now the North End], at the "Old Government Building," corner of Summer [now 5th Ave., North] and Monroe streets, between several negro men and women. The difficulty first originated between some of the parties beyond Laitenberger's Garden [now Morgan Park]. Afterwards it resumed at the point above named .... The row occurred all about a game of "craps" .... Rocks were flying in every direction for a time; knives and guns were used and sticks were too numerous to mention .... Rocks were thrown promiscuously during the time, and several persons passing the street received licks. Four of the parties were caught [by police] ... and at the trial this morning a fine of fifty dollars each was assessed against them.
Can you imagine those White House, Tennessee Aldermen who recently had their prayer panties in a wad reading this and saying, "See where game-playing on Sundays could lead? Thank goodness we nipped family soccer outings in the bud."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Metro Water's Patchworks

Metro Water Services has been tearing up streets around the North End during the past month, replacing 100 year old pipe and individual water mains. When they do that they have to lay PVC pipes in the storm gutters to bypass water from the hydrants to each individual house, while they dig up the street. When they laid pipe in front of my house a little over two weeks ago, one section had a hole in it that they patched with Homeland Security's favorite remedy, duct tape.

For two weeks clean, drinkable Metro water spurted out from under the duct tape and down the street into the storm sewer. But this is where two problems converge. Metro Water is aware of a runoff problem in front of our house due to a previously poorly leveled asphalt patch that causes the storm gutter water to back up; they have promised me that they will "mill" the patch to encourage water run-off. Having not milled it yet, water stood in front of our house for two post-duct-tape weeks.

I wish I could say that one positive that resulted from the total waste of resources from treated water piped literally into the sewers was a cleaner Cumberland River (since our storm sewers flow there). But the ponding in front of our house caught all manner of garbage thrown from passing cars or construction workers, and it became a bird bath that starlings relished and defecated in each morning. Mosquitoes may have bred there for all I know. So by the time the water eventually made its way past the asphalt patch, it probably carried all kinds of interesting micro-organisms with it to the river.

And there is still the problem of watching Metro dollars wash down the gutter and into our sewers that bugs me. It wasn't like the problem was out-of-sight, out-of-mind, either. I saw all stripe of Metro Water employee walk or drive by the duct tape job at various times during the two week period.

So, a week ago I started working on this post and I took the pictures of the duct tape and the asphalt patch you see above. I then got in my car and ran some errands. I got back and I found that the duct taped pipe had finally been replaced and the water had stopped spurting, gurgling, and flowing. The ponding had dried up by the weekend.

Now, I'm not saying that the Metro Water workers on the street saw me squatted down over their jerryrigged pipes taking pictures and that they felt compelled to finally stop the total waste of resources. And I'm not saying that they might have felt concern when I took a picture of the trashy pond at the curb. I'm just saying, ya'll ...

Last Night's Block Grant CAC Meeting

I went into last night's meeting with such high hopes that we would start to make some headway in our discussions about possible neighborhood projects. I wish I could report that those hopes were met, but I don't believe that we made much progress (other folks who attended might, of course, disagree).

I believe that two sort of secondary issues sucked attention away from our purpose. One was a basic misunderstanding of the Civic Design Center's recommendations for Salemtown, based on the very short window of time that committee members and alternates were given to read the 23-page CDC report. The report was given to us at the beginning of last night's meeting, rather than assigned at last month's. As a result, committee members did not only not have time to ask substantial questions about the report, but there was remarkable confusion as to its status as a simple presentation of ideas; some were got the mistaken impression that Metro was going to make the recommended changes. Also, it didn't help that none of the original authors of the report were present; the young CDC representatives did the best they could with information to which they admittedly had little connection.

The second distraction was the shift in the discussion away from CDC recommendations and possible ideas for projects for Salemtown to complaints about our Council member, Metro alley maintenance, and other matters that could have more properly been addressed in a neighborhood association meeting. Our facilitator did not really keep us on task, I believe, and the turnout was again sparse, with very few who attended October's meeting present. I'm not saying that the issues raised were unimportant, but the CAC purposes don't necessarily allow it to address complaints beyond referring members to their neighborhood association.

I was prepared to discuss various ideas and to present those of neighbors who have either commented on Enclave or sent me e-mail, so you can see how disappointed I was that my hopes "died a committee death." They deserved a better fate. Let's hope for a better fate at the next CAC meeting: Tuesday, Dec. 13. Let's hope that MDHA is much more deliberate in the future at planning the meetings and coordinating the dissemination of important information. Let's hope that attendance goes up.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tonight's Ethics Town Hall Meeting

Perhaps some of you will be attending the Tennessee Alliance for Progress's Town Hall Meeting on Ethics tonight at St. Ann's Episcopal in East Nashville. I will not be able to because of my long-standing commitment to my neighbors to serve on the Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee, which meets tonight at the very same time.

That does not mean that I won't be interested in hearing some impressions about it or at least seeing somebody blog about it. But I am particularly interested that Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt is slated to serve on the panel of speakers. I am so interested that I e-mailed TAP and asked them why Mr. Cunningham was put on the panel when he seems to me to be more of a leader of the anti-tax lobby than an ethics wonk. I also asked why Barry Schmittou, who figured so prominently in getting the question of ethics raised in the legislature was not on the panel.

I got a reply back from the TAP Coordinator, Nell Levin, saying that Mr. Cunningham, though primarily known for "his opposition to tax reform," has also been "involved in ethics reform." She also added that TAP wanted to have a balanced panel, since it sees ethics reform as nonpartisan. With regard to Schmittou, she wrote that he was invited to attend and to address the panel during Q&A.

These are all ostensibly valid reasons. But hold on a minute. Progressives need to take a step back and think very critically about the linkage between ethics reform and Tennessee Tax Revolt that Mr. Cunningham's participation engenders. I know that Mr. Cunningham has taken a personal interest in ethics reform enough to do his own research and make specific proposals via TTR's website. And I respect anyone with renaissance interests and the energy to pursue them.

However, we must not forget the functional service that marrying an unqualified taxation opposition to ethics reform activism provides for Mr. Cunningham's lobby group: it keeps public attention on TTR before, during, and after tax debates; it might even keep the resource pipeline from sympathetic donors and volunteers flowing after tax tempers stop unfraying. Ethics is a perennial hot-button issue; public attention to TTR arises during debates on tax referendums or legislation. Hence, linking ethics and taxaphobia reminds the public of TTR's presence. Otherwise, there is no necessary connection between TTR and ethics reform. Linking the two is a bold strategic move to drive TTR's momentum.

The machinations of Metro Council already show us that ethics is both significant enough to consider and trivial enough to render moot the recommendations of independent, nonpartisan ethicists. To a certain extent, ethics at every level of government seems to be a partisan football that becomes the possession of whoever catches it next. So, TAP is sort of caught flat-footed themselves; their interest in having a representative panel leads to inviting a TTR spokesperson, which reinforces the unfortunate link between anti-revenuism and ethics reform. Upon Googling, I found that several mainstream media sources have christened TTR as the source for conservative activism on ethics, which evinces TTR's effectiveness and flexibility. Mr. Cunningham was astute enough to come down with possession of the football during the legislative tip drills of the past season. So, he's the one on the TAP panel now. Progressives and other tax reformers should not delude themselves into thinking otherwise.

A typo appeared in a Tennessean article on Ben Cunningham last spring. That typo came across more as a fortuitous Freudian slip to me: "Dressed in jeans, tennis shoes, a shirt and jacket during the interview, Cunning volunteers for Tennessee Tax Revolt several hours a day." Cunning, indeed. Let's just hope that folks who listen to TTR on ethics are as cunning.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"Unconscionable" Is The Best Term

Congress is positioning itself to slash federal heating assistance to low income families while their cronies in the energy industries are raising prices to protect their profit margins. The poor souls likely caught in the middle will be those of the poorer classes. Praying for a mild winter might be their best hope with the powers that presently be.

Father-Daughter Night At A Football Game

The Altar Of Integration

Word comes from today's Nashville City Paper that First Baptist Church, Downtown (on Broadway) may be an unwilling candidate for relocation. The city has designs on expanding the convention center (an issue I don't have enough investment to take a stand on) and the 120-year-old church may stand in the way.

I've never attended FBC Downtown but, as long as I've known of it, it has been symbolic for me of the Civil Rights Movement. And its symbolic freight is not very positive. You see, author Will Campbell tells the story of Kelly Miller Smith, the renowned late Pastor of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill (on James Robertson Parkway), who was one of the first black Nashvillians to send his six-year-old daughter to the "altar of integration," that is, to go with the first group of black children facing the angry white mobs in order to enroll in public school (but that's another story).

Pastor Smith, who basically hosted the Nashville arm of the Civil Rights Movement out of FBC, Capitol Hill, approached the Pastor of FBC, Downtown in the 1960s about bringing the two congregations together permanently under one church roof as a single, integrated, multi-racial congregation ministering to Nashville. He was politely but firmly rebuffed and told that it was better that the two churches fulfilled their two missions separately.

So, I don't have much sympathy for FBC, Downtown--which pictures on their website show to be still exclusively lilly-white--because it stands a symbol to me of segregation and racial tension in the Civil Rights Era.

That may or may not be a fair treatment of today's FBC, Downtown, but I have a suggestion for the church leaders to overcome such negative stereotypes. Think of a possible relocation because of convention center expansion as a second chance to seize missed opportunities at racial reconciliation in the Downtown area. Have your Pastor contact the current Pastor of FBC, Capitol Hill and see if there is a chance to re-start talks that Kelly Miller Smith initiated toward the two congregations joining 40 years ago. If you have to relocate, why not look into available properties on James Robertson Parkway at or near FBC, Capitol Hill? If there aren't any currently available, go into re-location talks with Metro asking if real estate opportunities to join with FBC, Capitol Hill might be opened up from Metro's end.

Above all embrace re-location as a means of bringing together in faith what hatred had put asunder. That would go a long way to rescuing the reputations of southern white Baptists who choose to worship separately from the black fellowship. Kelly Miller Smith showed us that faith requires altar sacrifices; are white Baptists willing to sacrifice their pride of place on the altar of integration?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Question Of Closing Smaller Schools

I am not sure what has happened to the Metro School Board's inclinations to close smaller schools in the wake of the defeat of the sales tax referendum back in September. I have not heard a word on the matter since the Tennessean published a piece that included a list of smallest schools that might be closed and students moved elsewhere.

That article also reported that one tax opponent charged that the Board was "trying to punish" those who voted against the Mayor's sales tax. I'm not claiming to speak for the Board, but to argue that closing smaller public schools is punishment of sales tax opponents (of which I am one) is wild and unsubstantiated and a bit conspiratorial.

The schools most likely to be closed come from every part of Davidson county, including some in lower income and city neighborhoods where majorities voted to support the sales tax referendum. The urban neighborhoods in East Nashville seem to have the lion's share of small schools that might be closed under this proposal. Given that suburban neighborhoods presented the greatest opposition to the referendum, if there were some sort of conspiracy afoot, then they would have the lion's share of possible closures.

Buena Vista School here in the North End is on the closing list, but I cannot imagine that any of our cluster schools would be targeted for punishment if there really were a conspiracy against opposition voters. Conspiracy or no, to lose Buena Vista would be a damned shame. I hope that the lack of information on the original proposal to close smaller schools signals the death of the proposal.

I don't envy the hard decisions that the Board has to make now, and it's a truly thankless job when your more strident opponents would rather cavalierly hit the golf links after the election instead of sticking around to help you gut out some workable solutions to answer the challenges of teaching our children with less money. I just hope that those solutions don't include closing treasured and historic institutions like Buena Vista, a link to our neighborhood's past.

That Entity Which Wal-Mart Most Fears

Imagine being able, while on a shopping excursion, to use a cell phone to scan a store's particular product barcode into a Google database and find out whether the product is sold more cheaply either at another store or online. That possibility, according to the NY Times, has got Wal-mart and other mega-billion-dollar corporations intimidated by Google's potential, for fear that it will translate to "relentless competition that threatens to break up existing businesses." Google is knocking the "new money" corporations down notches to the petrified status of "old money" with express dispatch.

Google has already unflinchingly lobbed a shot across the bow of corporate publishers with its new Google Print database, which is to some extent a private-public partnership with libraries. Now if Google could find a way to break the monopolistic stranglehold on fuel sources and price controls exercised by Exxon, BP, etc. they would be in a rarefied pantheon worthy of adoration.

We may sing Google's praises all we want now as they "fight the powers that be," just as long as they stay on their progressive mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." But we also should be vigilant that they don't become the next corporate oligarchy ensconced in Washington, more interested in lining their pockets rather than providing us a service.

New Townhouses With Downtown Views Planned For Salemtown Near Werthan Lofts

Developers of Salemtown Gardens (to be located at the corner of 6th Ave. and Garfield St.) tell me of plans to continue the re-development of 6th Ave., North in Salemtown. They intend to build 6 townhouses on the property at the corner of Hume St. and 6th Ave., North near Morgan Park and Werthan Lofts. A dated duplex rental structure currently sits on the property. The plans that they showed me call for the 6 townhouses to be clus-tered into 3 groups of 2; 1 group will face 6th Ave., North toward Werthan Lofts and the other 2 will face Downtown on Hume St.

While the current ground-level southern orientation of the property has a somewhat obstructed view of Downtown over the commercially operating Werthan Packing Plant and the Germantown neighborhood (picture below and to the right), developers plan to build 3 stories to each 1,200 foot townhouse, so that residents will have unobstructed views of Downtown from their second-floor and third-floor windows. Each townhouse will have a one-car garage at the back, off of the alley, consistent with the urban char-acter of the neigh-borhood.

Developers are currently in dis-cussions with con-sultants about a name for the new build. Construction of the town-houses, planned to begin and end in 2006, is pending Planning Commission and Metro Council approval.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

One of The Best Jobs Of Guest Hosting At NiT By Far

Nashville Is Talking, News 2's blog of local blogs, is aptly run by Brittney Gilbert. But each weekend Brittney takes a break and asks a local blogger to run the show until Monday. This weekend fellow Salemtown blogger and good neighbor John H. of Salem's Lots is spinning the syntax.

I've kept up with the NiT guest bloggers over the months and I can think of only one or two that have thrown themselves into the effort with as much energy as John H. has so far this weekend. John's post count so far is over 35, which is twice as many as some NiT guest bloggers post in an entire weekend; if he were to stop now, he would have more than earned the $100 News 2 pays weekend bloggers.

But the quality of John's posts is just as impressive as the quantity of them. Some NiT guest bloggers do little more than bore their audience with the self-referential details of their weekend social calendar and football recaps; John H. is consistently writing on the interesting details of area blogs other than his own or prominent news stories, and he's making a yeoman's effort to make the uninteresting interesting. In the end, that fits the definition of journalism, even if it's mere "citizen journalism."

Check John's work out this weekend if the opportunity affords.

Way Too Little, Much Too Late

It seems that the Bush White House is requiring its staff only now to attend classes on ethics, developed by Harriet Miers. It is entirely reasonable at this point to ask why, at the beginning of his second year in his second term, is George Bush only now requiring a class on ethics.

However, I think it's fair to raise an even deeper question: if character is developed through years of habits and education on virtue, isn't it much too late to save those who are of low moral caliber in the West Wing? Classically understood, virtue is inculcated by means of generational habituation and the passage of time. Proponents of character development must judge this as either a cynical attempt to stanch the president's disapproval ratings or a naive attempt to convince some court (judicial or that of popular opinion) that the White House is attempting to fly right without having to fire any blindly loyal staffers. If the Bush administration is serious about having an ethical staff, then one class is not the answer; firing those who lack virtue is the answer.

According to last week's CBS poll, the president's approval rating reached an all time low for him of 35%, which is only 10 points above Nixon's all-time-record disapproval rating; and the criminal behavior in Bush's case does not even extend to the president himself. Heaven knows how low it would go if he were the target of the Special Prosecutor. But the problem with offering an ethics class now is that it is much too late to offer so little when criminal charges against his staff are bringing into question the very claims that Bush ran on in 2000, contrasting himself to Bill Clinton: that he would bring integrity back to the White House, and that he surrounds himself with good people.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Sign O'The Times

Today my "Visitor Path" hits included a visitor from Nissan North America in Los Angeles. That visitor checked out some of my real estate posts, including stuff on 5th Avenue Brownstones. Do I get a percentage if the relocating Nissan employee buys in the North End? Seems fair.

Bloggie, You're Doing A Heckuva Job

For a week now, I have tried to publish a picture of our adorable toddler in her halloween ladybug outfit, only to be outdone by some trick-or-treat glitch in the blogspot machinery. It's usually feast or famine at when things go right they are oh-so-good, but when they go bad ... well, just look at the results. I upload her picture and Blogger belches. The tyke gets shoved aside to a corner thumbnail so that the self-described "fashion god" can torment my audience with a larger image, warped to match Bush administration's inept emergency response x3.

I've written several as yet unanswered e-mails to the wizards at "Blogger Support," but I'm beginning to think there's a better chance of getting Michael Brown off the Bush administration's payroll than there is getting an immediate response. The chances are not good.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Biosolids Groundbreaking This Morning

Mayor Bill Purcell, Council member Ludye Wallace, long-time Germantown resident Berdell Campbell and some Metro Water muckety-mucks broke ground this morning at the new site of the biosolids treatment center near the Cement Plant on 2nd Ave., North. Since cement production occurs so close by, the place was practically a dust bowl, with dust devils blowing in the audience's faces as the proceedings went on. Most in attendance were "Suits," which will make for substantial dry-cleaning bills during the next week.

The Mayor gave a short speech surveying the progress Metro has made on solid waste treatment since he first took office. He referred to Germantown and the smells neighbors there have put up with over the years due to archaic and ineffective treatment of solid waste.

I guess I should have let the Mayor's office know that at least a couple of us from outside Germantown would be in attendance, too, so that he could have mentioned the smell folks in Salemtown and Buena Vista have put up with as well. The S-town residents living on 3rd and 4th have it worse than anybody. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nashville Civic Design Center To Present At The Next Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting

The next meeting of the Salemtown CAC concerning potential projects for the federal block grant is Tuesday, November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Randee Rogers Training Center on 8th Ave., North.

The guest presenter will be Gary Gaston of the Nashville Civic Design Center (NCDC). Mr. Gaston will present on the 2002 study of Salemtown, which was part of "Findings and Recommendations" that the NCDC had for several North End neighborhoods. Gaston is not listed in the study among the original NCDC staff who met with North End residents, business owners, and property owners.

Enclave has the 2002 NCDC study linked in the right-hand column "Other People's Plans For Our Neighborhoods" box. It is worth a read and it has some interesting proposals for each of the neighborhoods. Also, take a look at the aerial map of the North End on page 3 of the study and notice that the 2002 border between Salemtown and Germantown is farther south at Van Buren, rather than at Hume.

The CAC meeting will also include small group discussions of potential projects for S-town. Looks like we're getting serious this time around.

Baptist Church To Provide North End Service For The Elderly

At our last CAC block grant meeting, someone mentioned the lack of services for the elderly as one of Salemtown's weaknesses. Here is one North End institution that is trying to answer that need just blocks away from Salemtown.

Democrats Locate Their Kahunas

A lesson that the minority party can play by the rules, focus liberal anger into effective strategic action, and put national attention back where it should have been. Just when you think the Democrats are incapable of deeds to save their own life, they turn around and surprise you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Salemtown Is Become Morgan Park, And Thus, Playground For Morgan Park Place

Below is the point-of-reference map from the Morgan Park Place website. Looks attractive, but look closer. Morgan Park Place not only occupies the slice of land fronting Van Buren to the south, but it has swallowed up the entire block including the very public Morgan Park. Does anybody in Metro Parks know about the takeover?

Perhaps they do and they've decided to convert the Salemtown neighborhood into one giant park, because the map designates the blocks north of Hume as Morgan Park, instead of Salemtown. I can't decide whether living in a public park is good or bad for our real estate value. Also, notice that Germantown has completely subsumed East Germantown past 3rd Avenue all the way to the river. (At least they did spell "Neuhoff" correctly, which is more than I can say for the Salemtown Neighbors brochure map, which re-christened the complex "Heuhoff.")

I'm not sure exactly whose map-maker is responsible. It has to be either Village Real Estate or Lawrence Brothers or New Urban Construction or DAAD. While seemingly incorrect, it seems a stroke of marketing genius: Germantown looks bigger than real life, Morgan Park Place stamps an impressive footprint, rivaling Werthan Lofts, and Morgan Park looks more like Central Park than Morgan Park. Who wouldn't want to live in the midst of all of that?

And what's up with Morgan Park Place's website promotion for the planned "Markets at Morgan Park"? The contest for el dinero (as in "el dinero todo lo puede") and the lack of vendor promotion is rather odd.