Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year From Black Santa!

Kickin' it, Santa-style.

Enclave's Official 2005 Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods

I spent a great deal of time in 2005 corresponding with various Metro departments on various neighborhood problems. I gleaned a wealth of experience and knowledge that became the grist for reflecting and writing volumes to Enclave on the quality of services that those departments provided. So without further adieu, I give you:

Enclave's Official 2005 Best and Worst Rankings of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods


1. Metro Police -- They have been generally responsive to calls and requests to increase patrols. Cops have attended almost all of the Salemtown Neighbors association meetings, giving crime reports and answering lots of member questions. Their leadership also assigned the ever-popular horse patrols to escort Salemtown Neighbors during our Night Out Against Crime walk in August.

2. Sign Department -- Sign Department employees not only put up neighborhood watch signs around Salemtown where they were requested in July, but they also repaired or replaced every vandalized traffic sign in the neighborhood in the process. They encouraged neighbors to call Public Works anytime a sign is vandalized and that they would be there the next day. A couple of weeks ago I reported that one of the neighborhood watch signs had been knocked down; sure enough it was back up the next day. Great service.

3. Parks Department -- These folks keep Morgan Park looking outstanding, given the transitional neighborhood in which it sits. When the MP Community Center was hit with graffiti last winter, I called to report it to Parks. Within 24 hours Parks employees came out with sand blasters and paint. They removed the graffiti and touched up. I am convinced that the quick repair is the reason why we have not seen more incidents since.

4. Public Works -- They clean up other people's messes without the bureaucratic runaround. They cleaned up illegally dumped tires when the Health Department wasn't responding. They cleaned up the mess created when the Recycling Program's pick-up employees dumped unrecyclables out of S-town recycling carts and into the alleys. They have been one of the more reliable government services. One exception was a streetlight repair inspector who gave me some grief.

5. Neighborhood Watch Program -- It helped us publicize that we were keeping an eye on the neighborhood and coordinating calls to the police. Thanks to budget cuts, the same opportunity no longer exists for other neighborhoods.

6. Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods -- They provided support and advice for getting our neighborhood association up and running. They generally provided important contacts and coordination whenever getting a response from departments was otherwise difficult. Their staff makes special efforts to assist at any turn. Their one significant mistake was contributing to the creation of two associations in Salemtown by telling one resident that he was the association president before any neighborhood association was ever formed.


Metro Water Services -- They stunk up the place in 2005. But they are working on what seems to be a good alternative with a greenway. The word on the street is that Sewer Repair workers may not be trustworthy.

Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency -- They completely cleaned up a dumpy MDHA rental property immediately after we complained, but they tend to wait for complaints before cleaning up. They are coordinating a Salemtown community block grant that should enhance the quality of life here. However, they could be turning a blind eye to illegal behavior in their Section 8 properties.


6. Health Department -- Despite all of the communications and warnings to Nashvillians about West Nile Virus spreading when water collected in old tires, Health Department officials seemed basically unconcerned about illegally dumped tires reported to them early in May. After initial responses from the Health Department they stopped responding altogether. The tires only got picked up after News 2 ran 2 stories on them. The second story included a Neil Orne phone call to the Mayor's office. Thanks to the mainstream news publicity, Metro picked up the tires at the end of May. It wasn't the Health Department that took responsibility for the clean-up as far as I know.

5. Recycling Program -- Curby dropped trashy, used recycling carts with no educational materials into Salemtown last winter. Curby promised a neighborhood-wide, door-to-door educational program on recycling a few days later when I complained. Curby never followed though on that promise. Curby pick-up employees didn't pick up, but threw some unrecyclables into the alleys right in front of me. Curby hasn't picked up a couple of recyclable plastic bottles in my cart. Curby plainly does not work.

4. Metro Codes -- They gave me the bureaucratic runaround after I reported furniture dumped. I was told that an inspector had surveyed the site after a previous complaint and declared the "case closed." When I suggested that this could be a regular dumping ground and that the latest furniture was dumped after the inspector's visit, the Codes official referred me to the Health Department, since the dumped items might actually be in the alley, and not on the property (as if she could tell). I e-mailed her pictures of the furniture, which seemed to prompt her to send out the inspector again. That was March 23, 2005. Two months later, I sat down to write the story on Enclave. The furniture was still there and joined by a bunch of other dumped junk, which can all be seen in pictures with that story. Codes never responded to my complaints.

3. Metro Action Commission -- They had to give the State of Tennessee back $98,000 in federal aid designated for payment of utility bills of the needy because they failed to meet a June deadline. Their unwillingness to keep a database or list of people needing help seems to lead to long lines down the sidewalk, which occurred in the cold this week as 100 people were waiting--some for hours--for MAC to open at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday. To add insult to injury, MAC closed the line at 8:30 a.m. and turned people away telling them to call back at 2:00 p.m. Perhaps if Executive Director Cynthia Croom had to stand out in the cold a little while before getting in at 8:00, she might find a better way.

2. Customer Care -- Outside of quick calls confirming receipt of e-mails, I have received very little help from Metro's Customer Care when I identified problems in the neighborhood. I usually have to go straight to a department to get things accomplished. I have no idea what good they serve beyond front-line screening of calls to give Metro officials a heads up. "Customer Care" seems to be a misnomer. Example: I contacted Customer Care last winter about stray dogs in Salemtown. After weeks of not getting any response from Animal Control, I contacted Animal Control myself and wondered why Customer Care even exists.

1. Animal Control--The runaway winner for service unbecoming to service providers. I'm exempting the animal control officers, because they have been very helpful once I could get someone to send them out. The name of the game with Animal Control is "waiting." I waited a week after I initially contacted them about strays in January before going straight to the Director of Health Services to complain, which got some response. Then, in February, an AC dispatcher put me on hold for 45 minutes. In August, an AC dispatcher basically told me that she did not know when she could send an officer out since none of the strays I was reporting to her had bitten anyone. In December, I waited 5 minutes for an AC dispatcher to pick up in order to put me on hold, and then I waited 15 more minutes on hold before some passer-by picked up the phone and told me that there were no dispatchers in the room. I've met no stray dog as vicious as the waiting game that Animal Control plays.

There you have it: from the thoroughbreds to the dogs. Metro government has given me a lot to praise and a lot to criticize in 2005. Let's see what they have in store for us in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Metro Action Commission's Black Eye

This picture of Nashvillians-in-need standing in line in Salemtown on Wednesday for assistance to pay their utility bills is a sad symbol and indictment of the inadequate facilities at MAC and some questionable administrative practices. The Tennessean story that accompanies the picture is even more disturbing. People were told to get in line at 7:30 a.m. and many were turned away by 8:30 a.m. Perhaps MAC is going to need to be re-tooled at the administrative level and/or perhaps the federal and state governments are going to have to do more from their end. But, at the very least, the old Fehr School Building at the corner of Garfield and 5th Avenue is obviously not a suitable facility for addressing the needs of the growing ranks of impoverished Nashvillians. It's time for MAC to quit Salemtown for a location where people can be sheltered from the elements while they wait. It's time for MAC's administration to do something different so that they are not sending people away just after they open and so they are not sending tens of thousands of federal dollars back to the state for redistribution to other areas.

12/30/2005, 2:00 p.m. Update: In the next couple of days I'm going to write and post something on the circumspection I feel whenever I publish criticism that is easily turned inside-out by those whose best and only idea of social services is probably to lay out cots for Room-in-the-Inn one-night-a-week at some suburban mega-church. Bill Hobbs responds to my MAC post by accusing me of not wanting poor people in my neighborhood. My guess is that he has confused his own "not-in-my-backyard" feelings with mine. If this is an example of the "journalistic integrity" that gets attributed to him, one wonders about the health of "journalistic integrity." If he means that I would like to see poor people in my neighborhood make their way out of poverty and realize the American Dream so that no one in my neighborhood is poor, then he is correct. I doubt his meaning is that charitable.

I posted the following comments to his weblog several hours ago, but they have yet to make it through the Hobbsian filter and into the light of day:

I've lived in neighborhoods for years with people in need lined up at local service providers (both private and public) for assistance. I would prefer that those people not have to stand in line in the cold and other harmful elements only to be told to come back later. You obviously have no knowledge of Fehr School's small facilities (or you don't care). But the small building is the reason people were lined up outside.

I also believe that urban neighborhoods unfairly bear most of the burden for social services. It's time for surburban neighborhoods like yours to share some of the social responsibility for safety nets that cities have been shouldering for too long now. I can live with social services. My guess is that surburbanites like yourself could not. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ethics Town Hall Meeting Postmortem: TTR Grabs The Spotlight Once Again

It has been nearly 8 weeks since the Tennessee Alliance for Progress's Ethics Town Hall Meeting. For all the righteous indignation by conservative commenters on Enclave on November 8 and the days following--because I merely questioned why certain individuals were put on the panel to the exclusion of Barry Schmittou--I have yet to see any blogger of any stripe comment on the Town Hall Meeting's contributions.

The only hard news reportage I could find on it was that of Nashville Public Radio. And even so-called "liberal" public radio mentioned Ben Cunningham (of Tennessee Tax Revolt) alongside powerful legislators Diane Black and Frank Buck while the rest of the panel members were reduced to the nondescript "several others" category. So, I am left with the impression that the event made no splash, even if it perhaps made the slightest ripple as another publicity opportunity for TTR to keep its name in front of an audience until tax-time rolls around again.

But about 10 days ago I did receive an e-mail from Mr. Schmittou, which sheds more light on Nell Levin's November comments to me that he had been "invited to attend and to address the panel during Q&A." What Ms. Levin originally said to me was confirmed to me by Mr. Schmittou, but she also left other important details out of her e-mail to me. According to Mr. Schmittou, Ms. Levin did not send an unsolicited invitation to him. After he read of the event in TAP's publicity a week before, he sent her an e-mail request to attend and to ask a question of the panel. She replied to him by inviting him to attend at that point, just as everyone else in the public had been invited to attend. In fact, when I e-mailed her a couple of days before to ask about Mr. Schmittou's exclusion, she also invited me to attend and to ask a question of the panel. But in her e-mail to Mr. Schmittou she also asked him to make his "question as succinct as possible so that others have the time to ask theirs."

Regardless, Mr. Schmittou seems a lot more qualified than either I am or anyone at Tennessee Tax Revolt is to engage state legislators on ethics issues, and Ms. Levin's invitation to him was not all that extraordinary given Mr. Schmittou's focus on ethics during this sorry legislative episode. That invitation was definitely not worthy of remark in her e-mail to me. She should have just explained why Ben Cunningham was more qualified than Barry Schmittou to be on the panel. That does not seem too much to ask.

In a comment on Enclave in November, conservative blogger Bill Hobbs said that TTR has a right to be involved in the ethics debate. Without question, TTR had the same right as anyone else did to join in the Q&A portion of the Ethics Town Hall Meeting if they so chose (just as long as they make their "question as succinct as possible so that others have the time to ask theirs"). This isn't a matter of rights, but of qualifications. As far as I can tell, Barry Schmittou was more qualified than anyone invited to ask questions and was more qualified than Mr. Cunningham to serve on the panel, and the Tennessee Alliance for Progress was guilty of oversight in not placing him there. How is that progress?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Pimping Katrina

A few months ago, I posted on a couple of enterprising entrepreneurs who fired their employees for responding to help family members hurt by Hurricane Katrina in order to teach them a lesson on the costs of care and compassion. Today's Cavalcade includes Gray Line Tours, which intends to make big bucks off the cataclysm by offering tours of hurricane-ravaged areas of New Orleans.

Gray Line bills it, "HURRICANE KATRINA - AMERICA 'S WORST CATASTROPHE!" Their website says that a whole $3.00 of the $35.00 (adult) or $28.00 (children) tour fee will be donated to a non-profit organization directly affected by Katrina and Rita. Even bad taste makes a smidge of room for charity. Heart-warming.


Block-Granting Does Not Help Rural Bell Buckle With Its Service Demands

Yesterday I wrote of the negative aspects of "block-granting" by the Bush Administration as a way to help neighborhoods fund development. In some places, block-granting is the way that rural municipalities compete with other communities to fund basic services. Block grants were originally intended to help economic development in blighted areas; now the Bush Administration seems to be using them as a means of selectively funding basic infrastructure needs, while committing as little federal money as possible to local communities.

The small town of Bell Buckle is an example of that. Bell Buckle needs $500,000 to $600,000 to make needed repairs to their sewage system. The state has ordered those repairs because of "61 instances of bypass overflow with the waste water system which allowed an estimated 1.6 million gallons of partially treated wastewater to enter Bell Buckle Creek." The town either does not have the tax base to support those repairs or it does not have the political will to raise taxes to pay for those repairs, so it pursued a block grant. After being turned down in October, town leaders reapplied in December and they are crossing their fingers, hoping to get some grant money.

When so used, "block-granting" becomes a tool of Social Darwinism. While Bell Buckle should have to compete with other communities for block grants for less basic economic development (home repair for people on fixed incomes, for instance), they should not have to rely on block grants for funding basic needs like sewage treatment, especially when state officials require them to upgrade their system to avoid environmental damage. As it stands, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They may not "make any further connections, line extensions or allow increased flows to the waste water collection system" until they fix their sewer problem. That means that they cannot pursue new housing starts until the problem is solved, which means that they cannot create positive growth that would attract more "state-shared" revenues (which other communities, like Spring Hill, score) that might help them pay for their waste water system.

Smaller communities like Bell Buckle should fund their basic services from local taxation as far as possible, even if it means higher taxes. Whatever they cannot meet should be shared with the state and federal governments, not by means of block grants, but by longer-term programs funded by progressive taxation. State and federal officials could provide incentives in these programs, including withholding future funds or imposing fines if necessary repairs and upkeep do not occur to satisfy environmental regulation.

If Bell Buckle does not get a block grant, their future may become more tenuous. If they do get a block grant, that means that some other community that may need funds just as badly will not get help with their basic service problems. That's no kind of state to live in.

The Real Culprits Whom Culture Warriors Should Blame For Taking "Christ" Out of "Christmas"

Here are the unusual suspects:
  • White Christmas
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • The Christmas Song ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ...")
  • Let It Snow!
According to Harold Meyerson, these humongously popular Christmas songs reflected a trend among songwriters in the 1940s to assert common national holidays stripped of sectarian content. In particular, Irving Berlin, a Jew married to an Irish Catholic raising nominally Protestant children, started the cultural shift away from Christian-only Christmas to a "cosmopolitan, American" Christmas with his composition of White Christmas. Meyerson argues that the more inclusive Christmas has predominated for 60 years, until Fox News started its crusade to dismantle that sense of Christmas.

Almost all of these songs explicitly wish us "Merry Christmas" without reference to "Happy Holidays," yet they all embody the anti-sectarian thrust of choosing the word "holiday" over "Christmas," which local yokels like Eric Crafton and Steve Gill so hate. Another stark contrast: while contemporary demagogues suggest that American Christians are somehow persecuted because of the naming of a tree, Irving Berlin actually experienced real persecution in Czarist Russia, thanks to brutal pogroms generated by Christians. His response? To write Christmas songs that people of all faiths and of no faith could join together to sing.

12/28/2005, 5:00 p.m. Update: As you can surmise from the links section, Nathan Moore--who has always struck me in his blogging as more devoted to the almighty dollar than to almighty divinity (what with his making nonmoral capital a virtue and all)--thinks he has taken me to task for merely pointing out that the defenders of Christmas (God help us if those are the best defenders we Christians have) have mistargeted. He calls it "writhing three days after Christmas" and he insists that my "liberal" logic fails to see the "Christ" in these "Christmas" songs. Given that neither Jesus Christ nor his adoration is ever mentioned in these obviously secular songs or in the songwriters' original intents, his point breaks apart on its own. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is no more about Jesus Christ than Hecht's "After Christmas White Sale" is. All Nathan had to do was recite Berlin's lyrics in his head to see the common sense of that. And I proceeded to question the purity of Nathan's conservativism in his comments section if he does not understand that, according to the ages-old Christian calendar, Christmas does not end until "Twelfth Night," which is January 5 (hence, the "Twelve Days of Christmas"). Is it me or is it actually Nathan who fails to see the Christ in Christmas? After all, he thinks that the holy season of remembrance of Jesus's birth is over just because he has unwrapped the last gift and eaten the last sausage ball. But above all one wonders: if this is such a "non-war on Christmas" as Nathan argues, then why is he still attempting to join the fray?

The Red Cross Also Deserves The Shape Of An "L" On Its Forehead For 2005

The largest private charity involved in aid for Katrina survivors also deserves mention as one of the biggest losers in 2005 for their failure to prevent and to stop their own sub-contractors from giving friends and family members access to contributed funds earmarked for displaced New Orleaneans. According to MSNBC, fake claims drained at least $200,000 from the fund, with an average payout of about $1,000. Jiminy Christmas! Charities seem to do as good of a job harboring graft and corruption as any government agency might.

Noteworthy 2005 Winner And Loser According To

WINNER: The Survival Blog of New Orleans
Operating from the offices of Web host DirectNIC in downtown New Orleans, the Interdictor blog kept posting during the worst of Hurricane Katrina, powered by a 750-kilowatt diesel generator and a fiber-optic hookup. Blogger Michael Barnett and his colleagues slept in the air-conditioned room where they kept the servers, and blogged throughout the crisis. The Interdictor's live Webcam offered some of the first images of the city following the disaster, and the blog has continued to cover the region's recovery and rebuilding.

LOSER: The FEMA Web site
Though it hardly counts as the worst of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's transgressions during Katrina, the FEMA site where displaced people could apply for federal aid worked only with Internet Explorer and JavaScript. Relief workers using donated computers were forced to use the notoriously insecure browser to enter hurricane victims' personal information. Seems like everybody at FEMA was doing one heckava job.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nun Bun Hits Ebay ... Well, Sort Of

All he wants is a pound of coffee.

Made For Passing Through

The newly named "Chestnut Hill"--formerly "Cameron Trimble"--neighborhood lying south of Downtown outside the I-40 loop is due for some dramatic changes if Nashville Civic Design Center plans are realized. The more realistic parts of those plans include making the neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly by converting 2nd and 4th Avenues to two-way streets. I drive through this neighborhood on a regular basis, either to Home Depot and 100 Oaks to shop or to Greer for Sounds' games or to Siam Cafe to dine. As it stands this traffic corridor is made for drivers passing through, and traffic moves fast up and down the wide straight shot. I can understand the community need to orient toward pedestrians.

However, being ambitious, the NCDC plans foresee expensive changes: including replacing public housing with single-family homes. Metro was well on the way to converting its "super-block" housing elsewhere into more comely single-family homes, with the help of federal Hope VI funding. Take the case of Sam Levy Homes in East Nashville: Metro raised $12 million for the project in 2003 and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Hope VI program matched those funds with $20 million of its own.

But the Bush Administration has slashed Hope VI to the bone with the consent of Congress to the point that no more funds for razing traditional public housing will be available for the foreseeable future; and Metro has suspended its plans to convert other complexes like those in Chestnut Hill. Hope VI is not a liberal creation; it was the brain-child of Republican HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. Yet, with George W. Bush and this Republican Congress at the reins, Chestnut Hill ironically has no hope of ever razing public housing:
The best explanation ... is sheer political expediency. Eager to show he could be tough on domestic spending, Bush decided to pick on politically weak programs that have only the poor as their constituency. (If public housing somehow subsidized the pharmaceutical industry, then, surely, funding would be less scarce.) Once upon a time, Republicans like Jack Kemp showed that compassionate conservatism isn't always a cynical ploy. Today, President Bush shows that, oftentimes, it still is [Source].
Improvements to existing Chestnut Hill housing have already come in the form of a block grant. But "block-granting" has now become synonymous with cutting Section 8 funds like Hope VI, as it allows the Bush Administration to cap funds not adjusted to current costs and to place the responsibility for picking up the slack left by federal inaction on local housing authorities like MDHA. Block grants may be positive things, but neighborhoods that shoulder public housing need more multi-layered and profound federal investment than the simplier funds coming from block grants. And those neighborhoods sure as hell do not need George Bush rolling over Hope VI funds into the block grant program.

Relatively cheap, low-yield block grants and tax cuts for the area's elderly are going to do little to actually help Chestnut Hill realize the visionary redevelopment laid out by the NCDC. NCDC's pipe-dreams are free-of-charge; only government seed money can bring them down to earth. Changing the traffic patterns without mustering the resources for redevelopment may stop people from passing through, but it just might discourage the rest of us from ever coming through at all.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Nun Bun Undone! Updated!

Apparently, some disgrunted Mother Teresa devotee, grim relic hunter, or grinchy iconoclast broke into Bongo Java this morning and absconded with one of the items that made Bob Bernstein's local coffee empire world famous. According to Bob, "They went right for the bun."

12/26/2005, 10:00 a.m. Update: According to this morning's Tennessean:
Metro’s police report on the theft estimated the bun’s value at $25. It said the "Mother Theresa Cinnamon Bun” was the only item taken. As stolen goods, the bun was classified in property category No. 77, for “other.”

Gesù Bambino, Venite Adoremus

The angels sang, the shepherds sang,
The grateful earth rejoiced,
And at his blessed birth the stars
Their exultation voiced.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ave Maria!

Maiden mild!
O listen to a maiden’s prayer!
For thou canst hear though from the wild
Tis thou, tis thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Tho’ banish’d, outcast, and reviled;
O maiden! see a maiden’s sorrow -
O mother, hear a suppliant child!

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.

Merry Christmas, Baby!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Leave It To S-townWife To Cut Right Through The Nonsense

After watching Channel 4's very gullible 10:00 report of this morning's Steve Gill/Metro Council Caroling Stunt at Riverfront, S-townWife turned to me and asked, "If they are so pro-Christmas, how come they needed sheet music and can't sing Christmas carols by heart?" Priceless.

Christmas Could Not Buy This Kind Of Publicity

As part of their ongoing service of sticking a finger in Mayor Bill Purcell's eye, Metro Council members gathered at Riverfront Park this morning fresh from Tuesday night's "Saving Christmas" resolution victory in order to have their own alternative tree ceremony.

It's always good to see carolers at Christmas. This morning at about 10:10, Metro Council members positioned the mainstream TV news media and gathered to sing Christmas carols in front of the Holiday Christmas tree at Riverfront Park.

You can see how much media was there to cover a group of carolers downtown. They seemed to outnumber "the public," which today's Nashville City Paper reported would be there, too. I was a little surprised to see a lot of back-slapping and banter between the TV media, Council members, and conservative radio celebrity Steve Gill, who was one of the organizers of the little fleece party (Steve is in the red fleece).

There seemed more Council members present than any other interest group. Here you see a few. My Council member, Ludye Wallace, is even there in the black hat. It's nice to see that Ludye has time to join his buddies for this Christmas variety show. He doesn't seem to be able to find time to attend neighborhood meetings of his own constituents or to answer the letters I send him regularly on various issues affecting the neighborhood. Is that Adam Dread with the burberry scarf? I wonder if he'll be attending church service on Christmas morning; I believe that all of the golf courses will be closed.

Steve Gill in his element: at the center of full, transfixed mainstream media attention. He usually ends up at the business end of a camera.

The group opened up with the song, "O Christmas Tree," which is more an homage to evergreens than a song about Jesus Christ. That does not seem to fit the whole "reason for the season" mantra.

One of "the public" being interviewed. And I heard him exclaim as I strode out of sight, "I heard this promoted on Steve Gill's Show, so I knew it'd be right."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Coincidence or Design?

Josh Marshall notes that America has not had a terror alert since election day in November 2004, even though the alerts were a regular occurrence before the presidential contest. Things that make you go, "Hmmm."

Will What We Become Even Be Worth Protecting Anymore?

Even police may be involved in infilitration and surveillance of American groups who question Bush Administration policies. What will we have gained if we protect every American life from terrorist threats but lose the very First Amendment rights that terrorists hate us for exercising in the first place?

Garfield Place Units In First Phase Now Under Contract

The developer of Garfield Place (corner of 6th Ave., North and Garfield) told me today that all four units of the first phase of the development have been sold. Looks like construction will start in the not-to-distant future.

Metro Council "Christmas" Party To Fall in January

I just finished reading John Spragens's piece in this week's Nashville Scene on the Council's gyrations and jeremiads on Christmas against a background of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s (who was Jewish) version of The Christmas Song, which ends with the line,
Although it's been said many times, many ways, "Merry Christmas to you. Happy holidays, everyone."
Aside from savoring the irony of my background music, I gather that Spragens is trying to show the confusion that has resulted from the various names picked for the party Metro Council holds each year around about this time to celebrate the season:
When Jewish Vice Mayor Ronnie Steine was hosting, it was a holiday party. Then, the ever-inoffensive [current Vice Mayor, Howard] Gentry took over, and things got innovative. Two years ago, the event was billed, awkwardly enough, as a “Holiday Council Christmas Party.” The next year, it was a “holiday party” at the Adventure Science Center. This year, it was to be the Council Christmas Party. Unfortunately, it’s been postponed until January 2006. Does New Year’s offend anyone?
Ostensibly, Spragens may be right to put the derangement of having a "Council Christmas Party" after New Years.

But hold on a minute. Those Christians with a profound sense of tradition already know of the 12 days of Christmas. One or two local bloggers understand it. According to the Christian Liturgical Year, there are 12 days of Christian peace and good will that extend to January 5, which is traditionally a day of feasting. That's the day all decorations come down at my house. If the "Council Christmas Party" is held on or before January 5, there is no contradiction in having a Christmas Party in January. If it is held after Epiphany, however, it would be in bad taste, and not in keeping with Council member Eric Crafton's wish to keep Christmas pure from any taint.

There is always a slim chance that the Council members understand the 12 days of Christmas. But my guess is that the 22 co-sponsors of the resolution that saved Christmas on Tuesday night wouldn't know a liturgical year from the hole in the ground at Riverfront Park that will be left when the Holiday Christmas Tree is uprooted and pulverized to make mulch for the trails at Radnor Lake.

Beth Harwell Spins Her Ethics Problems Into Culture War Code

According to this morning's Nashville City Paper:
King Pharmaceuticals recently settled a case with the Department of Justice by agreeing to pay more than $124 million for allegedly overcharging both federal and state governments for its drugs from 1994 to 2002 when [John] Gregory was chief executive officer.

Gregory is an East Tennessee businessman and a large contributer to the state Republican Party as well as Republican candidates .... Harwell [who was Republican Party chair] defended her party's decision to accept [2001 and 2002 campaign finance] contributions exceeding campaign finance limits] from Gregory and other close associates of King [who were illegal sources].

"These are fine Christian men that choose to participate in the political process," Harwell said. "People have a right to do that. We welcome their contribution."

According to my Culture War Code Key,
These are fine Christian men that choose to participate in the political process.
translates to
This is not a question of my ethics. It's just another example of how Christians are persecuted and intimidated when they exercise their rights. I intend to raise the red herring of Christianity to draw attention away from my character and to whip up my evangelical base to my defense.
John Gregory and associates may be Christian men, but they seem to be Christian men without scruples; Christian men willing to defraud, cheat, and swindle taxpayers in order to line their own pockets; Christian men who took advantage of the sick and indigent for their own gain; Christian men who rolled ill-gained profits into illegal campaign contributions.

Harwell should stop throwing red meat to her political base and stand up to scrutiny and be accountable to the public for her past mistakes.

Would A New Southeast Police Station Result In Cuts In Other Precincts?

One of the resolutions passed by Metro Council on Tuesday night requests that Police Chief Ronal Serpas respond within 60 days to the question of the feasibility of building a new precinct station in southeast Davidson County.

When the resolution's sponsors rose to speak in favor of their resolution during pre-vote discussion, they acknowledged that the southeast portion is not particularly problematic or crime-ridden, but that they were attempting to be proactive and have police presence in place if and when crime did go up with the increase in population they appear to be experiencing. Co-sponsor Tommy Bradley mentioned Chief Serpas's current policy of focusing patrols to those neighborhoods with the most phone calls to police. Bradley also said that he hoped that that policy might be reconsidered in the future for the sake of providing southeast Davidson County with more regular patrols based in a local station.

Our neighborhood watch in Salemtown has adjusted to the current policy of focusing attention on those neighborhoods with the most calls, and many of us call whenever something suspicious seems to be happening on our streets. We generally get good response times from police and more patrols have tended to follow for stints afterwards. It remains to be seen whether we might have to readjust if the Police Chief reconsiders along Bradley's wishes.

However, it sounds like the need for a southeast police station is not a matter of policy but one of money. I would say that the southeast Council members (Bradley, Vivian Wilhoite, and Sam Coleman) should organize initiatives with their peers to raise revenues to hire more cops and to start a capital project rather than encouraging changes that might siphon off police response and patrols from other areas. The last thing any of us need with the recent spike in Nashville's violent crime rate is a force spread too thin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bicentennial Mall Area Development Delayed And Reconsidered

According to this morning's Nashville City Paper, Harrison Lofts, which was to be built on the site where the old Sulphur Dell ballpark used to sit, will not emerge as planned. The developer reports that he had no problem stirring up potential buyers to live in the Lofts (50% had been reserved). Instead, the rising costs of concrete and steel seem to have made him skittish about the original plans. He looks now to either sell or scale back the development.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dreaming Of A Pure Christmas

Black Santa and Mrs. Claus want to pass along their gratitude to the Metro Council members who overwhelmingly voice-voted to save Christmas in Nashville tonight because, as resolution co-sponsor Eric Crafton put it in his 9:45 speech in Council Chambers, "We aren't going to take it anymore." They nodded with approval when Crafton said, "I am tired .... of being held hostage to political correctness," and they didn't think that his comment was at all exaggeration, because they trust that Mr. Crafton has some firsthand knowledge of what literally being held hostage is like. They hissed and booed Vice Mayor Howard Gentry when he gaveled the Council to order after the other 21 resolution co-sponsors spontaneously gave Mr. Crafton an ovation after reading his prepared manuscript.

The couple's hearts are warmed that the Metro Council has secured traditional cultural purity in Nashville from the mongrelizing of Christmas by the rest of those uppity holidays. They won't tell anybody that the Council's resolution is non-binding; so, at least the perception that Christmas is saved still holds.

Tennessean 2006 Look Ahead To Include A Look At Salemtown

I had a nice chat this afternoon with Megan Moriarty, free-lance writer with the Tennessean. She called me with news that an upcoming issue of the Tennessean is going to have a special edition on expectations for 2006, and she told me that wanted to write something on Salemtown for the edition. She was particularly interested in my perspective on new developments and the growth of our neighborhood association in Salemtown. I also referred her to a couple of developers in the area. Megan seems to have a detailed understanding of the North End (going back to her days covering happenings in Salemtown 3 or 4 years ago for the Nashville City Paper) so I look forward to reading the special edition.

The Baby Jesus's Own Representatives On The Metro Council

Here are the Council members sponsoring the resolution to "affirm" Merry Christmas against all of those liberal attacks. Will we see these faces in our houses of worship on Christmas Day in the morning and into Epiphany?

Cue The Hallelujah Chorus: Metro Council Ready To Be The Savior Of Christmas

Bruce Barry over at PiTW provides the text of the "Saving Christmas" resolution to be introduced at tonight's Metro Council meeting:
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ is an actual man who was born over 2,000 years ago, as recorded by history;
WHEREAS, Jesus' life and teachings were and are so extraordinary that they have profoundly impacted the entire world, especially the United States of America; and.... WHEREAS, ninety percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, according to a recently completed national survey; and
WHEREAS, the modern world's calendar is categorized into two major sections: B.C. - before Christ's birth, and A.D. - after Christ's birth; and
WHEREAS, the vast majority of Americans are not offended by use of the words Christmas and Merry Christmas, but rather give and receive love, hope, comfort and joy to and from one another by using those words....
Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as affirming and supporting the use of the words Christmas or Merry Christmas, instead of non-descript, generic terms such as Happy Holidays, Winter Festival, and the like, when referring to Metro Government events or activities traditionally associated with Christmas.
Why stop there? I have a suggestion for a second resolution that would compliment the first one very nicely:

WHEREAS, "Fa-la-la-la-laaaah, La-la la la" was actually written in and recorded by history as part of the Christmas carol, "Deck the Halls," and
WHEREAS, the Metro Council is now the official sponsor of Christmas, and the Metro Council Chambers has some halls, and Council members are not afraid to "don their gay apparel" on Tuesday nights, regardless of the proximity of any lesser holiday
Section 1-&-1/2. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as supporting the change of its own name to "Fa-la-la-la-laaaah, La-la la la," instead of non-descript, generic terms such as "Metropolitan County Council," "Metro Council," and the like when referring to that representative body who this Christmas exhibits a messiah complex.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Demand For City Living Has Never Been Higher

I've never met Ben Cunningham face-to-face, and I'm sure he's personally a nice enough guy. But if you've read Enclave long enough, you know that I sometimes take issue with his public comments on behalf of Tennessee Tax Revolt. I also have an issue with him: he has an annoying propensity in the mainstream media to make [up] unsupportable claims about Nashville allegedly losing residents to surrounding counties as if Nashville were suffering a net loss. I have an issue with that fabrication, because he's talking trash that ain't true just to make a case against taxes.

He was at it again tonight on Channel 4's 10:00 newscast with regard to the Council's consideration of a new baseball park Downtown. If he wants to oppose the ballpark, that's fine. I would take issue with that opposition, but I would not have an issue with it. However, he should stop reciting the urban myth that the City of Nashville is hemorrhaging residents to surrounding suburban counties, which insinuates that demand to live in the city is shrinking. That's patently false and it is not substantiated by any hard statistics. Nashville is growing and demand to live here has never been higher.


Look, I know that 9/11 changed everything, but I didn't know that it meant turning back the clock on civil rights to the 1950s and 60s in the Department of Homeland Security. It looks like you cannot even do a little honest study of history or do a little globetrotting without being monitored by G-men and harassed by goons in the name of avoiding another 9/11. In case you ever wondered about whether government investigations really have a chilling effect, just check out how the student responded to this investigation.

Standing-Room-Only "Tuba Christmas" With The Girls, Egyptian Revival Style

The Metro Council Christmas Pageant

A large number of Metro Council members intend to drag personal faith into the slop trough of partisan politics at their Tuesday night meeting in the name of "defending" Christmas against imagined attacks. If they are going to breach the boundary between the personal and the partisan, then turnabout is fair play. In the name of full disclosure, these self-appointed sectaries should also lay bare their own personal faith practices and expose them to public scrutiny.

Hence, as a Holiday Christmas Ethics Task Force Of One, allow me to make a couple of recommendations:
  1. Every Metro Council member who votes on Tuesday in favor of changing "Holiday" to "Christmas" should give full disclosure of their church attendance at Mass or worship (Mass is preferable, since it is "Christmas") on Sunday, December 25. (Using the excuse, "My church was closed on Christmas Sunday," would be bad form).

  2. All 22 sponsors of the "Christmas" bill should fully disclose records on how often they attend a Christian church, including Sunday School, and what percentage of their income they actually tithe to the church of their choosing.
I have no doubt that all of self-styled defenders of Christmas on the Council will reject these simple recommendations, saying that they should not be required to disclose the private matters of their personal faith to the public, and they will likely argue that to require them to do so would cause "many good people not to run for Council."

Well, passing Council resolutions in the name of saving Christmas is an unnecessary breach of my own personal Christian faith, which I do not want trotted around exposed to partisan shenanigans and gimmicks. Such ploys will cause this good person not to take this Council too seriously.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tsunami Anniversary

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since the "worst natural disaster in recorded history" devastated the landfalls of the Indian Ocean. I sat down with my family tonight and watched the Discovery Channel's special on the December 26, 2004 tsunami that struck places like Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia, killing over 225,000 souls and causing 50,000 to go missing. One of the most amazing stories I heard tonight was that whole aboriginal tribes on some remote islands survived the tsunami because of their local knowledge inherited from their ancestral traditions, which many of us moderns might call "superstition." One tribe believes that the earth and ocean are suspended and balanced in the branches of a tree. They think that disasters are imbalances caused by spirits swaying the branches. When they saw the tide mysteriously disappear minutes in front of the tsunami, they believed that evil spirits had pulled the ocean out of balance, and that the ocean would respond in anger by flooding the land. Whereas foreign tourists in all of their modern sensibility stood on resort sea shores in Thailand gawking at the disappearing tide, the aboriginals immediately fled to the highlands of their islands to escape what their ancestors warned them would come: giant, angry waves. We think we know so much.

I remember that one of my reasons for wanting to start my own weblog resulted from the frustration I felt with the lack of local television news coverage of the Indian Ocean disaster in the first few days following the event. Instead, during the first days afterwards, stations generally focused primary attention on the death of football player Reggie White and on a meeting of evangelical college students in Nashville, burying the story later in the newscast, even though stories covered at the international level had tens of thousands of people dead immediately. The local news editors did not seem as impressed as I was by early information that parts of Sumatra had disappeared into the Indian Ocean or that the earth's rotation was altered so that a day was shortened.

The tsunami underscored for me that the local mainstream media's priorities were out of wack. NewsChannel 5 was just about the worst. After dragging their feet to put the tragedy at the beginning of their newscasts, it took them longer to focus exclusively on what was happening in the Indian Ocean. Instead they ran with sideshow stories: one on Bill Frist, another on a local doctor's battle with "red tape" in attempting to go to the region to lend aid, and several on a local Baptist church collecting used shoes to dump on Indonesians. The first story was not much more than a briefing acting as a prelude to a possible presidential run with Frist showing up wherever attention was focused. No reporter bothered to ask whether the trip might be a media circus and distraction from actually addressing the needs of the tsunami victims. The real opportunity of the trip emerged in the Associated Press:
"Just before his helicopter lifted off [in post-tsunami Sri Lanka], Frist and aides took snapshots of each other near a pile of tsunami debris. 'Get some devastation in the back,' Frist told a photographer."
The second story on red-tape seemed to be sheer pandering to the anti-government crowd, because it seemed to suggest that a Nashville doctor had more problems with government red tape than tsunami victims do with tsunamis. Finally, while some may see merit in collecting other people's worn out shoes to send to destitute tsunami victims, I see it as another way of discarding our garbage and feeling better about ourselves at the same time. But the stories on the local Baptist church treated it as a noble effort, ignoring warnings from national news sources not to send used shoes, since southeast Asia is the center of international shoe production, and donations from shoe producers might render used shoe ministries moot.

Being a year removed from the tense days following the tsunami allows me to see that Enclave got off the ground in February partly because of what had occurred in December. I am still hearing tsunami stories that no one in the local press tells. If I could not rely on the local news media to feed me earth-shattering news from half-way around the world, then I suppose that I cannot count on them to report neighborhood-shaking news from right around the corner.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Orleans Neighborhood Group Buys Spread In "Roll Call" Begging The US Congress For Help Getting Back Their Homes

New Orleanian residents from the Lakeview neighborhood took out a full-color, full-page advertisement in the widely-read and influential Capitol Hill publication, Roll Call. According to one New Orleans news source:
The ad, called "A message from homeless New Orleanians," contains a 570-word message saying they "have lived like refugees in our own country" and are still waiting for members of Congress "to spearhead the rebuilding of our flood protection, and reclaim one of the nation's most important cities from ruin."
The residents, located in other states, organized this effort to leverage help from the U.S. Congress by means of an online message board and by raising $10,000 to cover the high costs of advertising (their original plan involved publication in the Washington Post, which was even more expensive). Where they could meet face-to-face, they held neighborhood meetings in other people's neighborhoods.

This is further proof of the potential of online organizing as a tool for surviving, for communicating, and for broadcasting neighborhood resolutions to the most remote and removed halls of governance.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tennessean Weighs In On the Yuletide Culture War (Is It Okay To Say "Yuletide"?)

Christmas should be in churches, in the hearts and souls of men.
Christmas is with Easter, one of the two most precious and sacred days of Christians, Catholics and Protestants. It is a day that has special meaning to me, where I attend Mass and spend time with my family.

And I don‘t think we need to defend it. What, I think, we need to do is to practice it.

--U.S. Representative John Dingell (D), Michigan, last night on MSNBC


The writers and editors at Tennessean obviously failed to catch Rep. Dingell's comments on Christmas or to pay attention to his riff on 'Twas the Night Before Christmas yesterday from the well of the House (after some anti-Holy Day Republicans in the House introduced a bill to promote Christmas instead of holidays). If they had paid some attention, they could have avoided their bi-polar (and I mean that in every sense of the term) distortion of the views of those who even care to consider the question:
The debate is dividing ... communities. One camp says political correctness has already gone too far, making a religious holiday secular. Others say using a neutral phrase such as "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is better because it includes non-Christians.
Yeah, right. Two diametrically opposite sides locked in mortal combat over God's rested, merry gentlemen. Everything can be cut to fit simple black and white distinctions. Nobody nuances his or her views. There is no third or fourth position. Yeah, right. Anything for paper sales and higher ratings.

This is further indication that what drives this controversy is not a lunatic fringe of conservativism (which nonetheless is the spark) but the mainstream media itself simply itching to report an assault that does not even exist beyond the minds of a few cultural cleansers who always convince themselves that they are attacked. Is it too much to ask that the Tennessean give equal time to those of us who are conscientious objectors to this fake war? I know it can be difficult when you've got Metro Council members making self-serving, self-aggrandizing comments like,
It's the birth of Christ .... Christmas is the name of the season. I don't want to offend any other group or any other religion … but I celebrate Christmas. I think council members felt like we were getting away from (things like) the Christmas tree. For me, it was an important aspect of growing up.
Hence, celebrating Jamie Isabel's childhood development joins Jesus's birth as the "reason for the season." As if there were no pressing civic matters to consider on Tuesday nights in Council chambers.

But to Mr. Isabel, the Tennessean editors, and all those who would save the Christ in "Christmas" (does that not sound sacrilege to anybody else?) without saving the "Mass," too, I would recite part of Mr. Dingell's own riff:

We will pretend Christmas is under attack. Hold a vote to save it and pat ourselves on the back. “Silent Night,” the “First Noel,” “Away in the Manger.” Wake up, Congress, they‘re in no danger. This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go, from churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.

What we have is an attempt to define and destroy. When this is the season to unite us with joy. At Christmas time we‘re taught to unite. We don‘t need a made-up reason to fight. So on O‘Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, on those right-wing blogs. You should sit back and relax. Have a few eggnogs.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

And Happy Tuba Holidays To You

See you at the "Merry Tuba Christmas" affair on Monday, December 19 at Downtown Presbyterian Church? It's at noon. It's free. It's a 45-minute presentation that features carols played by a mass choir of 100 tubas. Now if I can only find some parking, I'll be set.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stephen King's Top Music 5 Of '05

I have a lot more respect for the horror author for putting Ray Wylie at the top of his list. McMurtry (the son of another fiction writer, James McMurtry) is a good choice, too. I know this post is digression. I guess I have just been listening to too much "X Country" ("the 'other row' in Nashville") on XM lately to pass up passing on this list to you:
Delirium Tremolos, by Ray Wylie Hubbard. "Alt-country with its slow groove on."
Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, by Jackson Browne. "Doctor, I think the fever has broken."
Kicking Television, by Wilco. "This live set is just about right, swinging between tender and angry."
All Jacked Up, by Gretchen Wilson. "Best country album of the year, hands down."
Childish Things, by James McMurtry. "Like Dylan's early tales, McMurtry's songs bear repeated listenings."
If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry, by Marah. "Probably the best rock band in America that nobody knows."

The Genealogical Branch Line Between Segregationists, Suburbia, and Strategies of the GOP

Let me refer you to Clay Risen's Book Review of Kevin Kruse's book, "White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservativism," in this week's Nashville Scene. According to Risen on Kruse, rather than surrendering to integration, whites in Atlanta merely "retreated" and re-grouped in the 'burbs, "where they could re-create their racial idyll without at the same time suffering the ignominy of being cast as racists." Likewise, the Georgia GOP, with many of the same segregationists at the helm, "pushed for an explicitly suburban strategy that would take advantage of lingering white frustration with the civil rights era."

Hence, terms like "small government," "property rights," and "quality of life" were used as code to cover the previous segregationist commitments. Many of us who have moved back to the cities from the suburbs remix and deploy some of the terms to mean something diametrically different; for instance, "quality of life" has to do with funding adequate urban services without government waste and, at a social level, living in a balanced and diverse community. And while we are redefining these terms, modern conservativism is morphing new terms to justify what Republicans and the mainstream media call the "Southern Strategy." For example, "libertarianism" is the mantra du jour of en vogue conservativism.

On the one hand, Risen's review has definitely motivated me to read his fellow MBA alum's book on Atlanta, because it seems to demonstrate connections many of us suspect in our gut between sprawling suburbia, white flight, and the Republican Party's agile strategy for playing on race fears across the "Sunbelt" without casting themselves as the party of racists. On the other hand, Risen seems to worry that Kruse's book will be seen as "another anti-South diatribe." But I have yet to see legitimate commentators on suburban politics and race archaically reduce the problem to a uniquely southern problem. Accounts of the racist genesis of suburban neighborhood associations in Los Angeles, of violence directed toward Martin Luther King, Jr. when he took his movement to Chicago, and of the social strife in Boston over busing are well-known and acknowledged examples of segregationist angst nationwide during the last century. So, Risen's concern is misplaced, in my opinion; it did not deserve mention.

Salemtown Citizen Action Committee Discusses Possible Grant Projects

Last night at the Randee Rogers Center on 8th Ave., members of the Salemtown CAC and other interested parties finally started identifying possible projects on which to spend federal block grant monies over the next three years.

Possible projects identified included:
  • Decorative stone Salemtown signs
  • Traffic calming elements like extended curbs (a.k.a, "bulbs"), speed bumps, and decorative crosswalks
  • Small public neighborhood parks
  • Public art as connection to 5th Avenue of the Arts
  • Day care or elderly home
  • Burying electric lines
  • Decorative street lights/more street & alley lighting
  • Fixing line of sight problems at intersections along 3rd Ave.
  • Beautifying spots along 8th Ave.
  • Alley maintenance and enhancement
  • Buy blighted lots or property and have nonprofit organization develop it
  • Trash recepticles
  • Tennis courts for Morgan Park
The group will meet again on January 10 to continue the discussion of these topics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

School Board Votes 7-2 Tonight To Resume Jones School Renovations As Planned

Jones School should reopen for classes in their renovated building at 9th Ave. and Garfield by January 2007.

Kudos to Channel 2 News for covering this story prominently in both their 6:00 and 10:00 time slots. Shame on the other two local stations for focusing on what is happening in Iraqi voting to the exclusion of this School Board vote and its significance for our Nashville community.

If You Think You Can Depend On Metro Animal Control, You Think Wrong

Got potentially dangerous strays in your neighborhood? Metro Animal Control may not be there for you. Seven control officers are available to patrol and to catch strays across the entire Metro Nashville region. Even fewer operators are standing by to take your calls. I can testify to the latter fact based on my own frustrating experiences with them.

Flash back with me to February 2005 (I have not posted this on Enclave until now): I called Animal Control. When an operator answered she asked if I could hold. My mistake was saying, "Yes." She put me on hold. And I held. Boy, did I hold. I held for a solid 45 minutes before she came back on and said, "Animal Control, may I help you?" (in a halting manner that indicated to me she was surprised to find someone on hold). I told her that I wanted to speak to a supervisor about being put on hold for 45 minutes. She told me that she would have to put me on hold to find one. I interrupted her and got her to promise that she would only put me on hold long enough to find a supervisor. She promised and she came back on in a couple of minutes and told me that she could not find a supervisor. Long story short: on my own, I eventually found a supervisor in the Health Department to deal with the problem.

Flash to the present: on Sunday I called the Metro Police Nonemergency line to report a stray pit bull at my backyard fence menacing my dog; I asked dispatch to page one of the Animal Control officers because of his aggressiveness. Dispatch offered to send a police officer saying, usually Animal Control will not respond unless someone has been attacked by a dog. I told dispatch not to bother to send a police officer, since there was very little he or she could do without dog-catching equipment. However, I asked, "Are you saying that the only way that Animal Control will respond is if a pit bull bites me or my wife or one of my children?" After a few seconds of silence, the dispatcher said to me, "I'll try and page someone from Animal Control to see if they can respond today. But please call Animal Control on Monday to report the stray to them directly."

The only problem with that referral is that one cannot call Animal Control on Monday. They are closed on Mondays. All aggressive stray dog behavior is suspended on Mondays, I guess.

I saw the pit at the fence again this morning, so, I called Animal Control at 11:10. Their line rang; and then it rang and it rang; and then it rang and rang with no answer. It occurred to me that I had been through something like this with them before, so I let the phone ring and ring and ring and ring.

Their line rang for 5 minutes before someone finally picked up. They asked me if they could put me on hold without any other word. I obviously do not learn from past mistakes very well, because I responded, "Yes." Twice fooled, shame on me. So, I held. Boy, did I hold. I held until nearly 11:30 before someone else picked up and said "Animal Control, May I help you?" My first response was to ask why I had been put on hold for 15 minutes after waiting 5 minutes for an answer. She said, "Is there something I can help you with?" I replied, "Yes, but I think I deserve an answer as to why I have been waiting 20 minutes to report a stray animal to Animal Control." She responded that she had no idea why I had waited so long. She told me that she had just walked by the room and noticed telephones were ringing and no one else was around to pick them up, so she did. I thought, "Lucky her."

Allow me to sum the problem up: "No one was around to pick up telephone calls at Animal Control for long periods of time during their operating hours." Do you sense the gravity of this lapse? Thank God I did not call in order to report a dog attack because, between the February and December calls, a total of almost 70 minutes were wasted on me sitting and waiting for an operator. (Although I hasten to add that I did learn something from past mistakes, because the second time around I called on a cell phone, which allowed me to do some Christmas shopping while I waited on hold). How many other unanswered phone rings were from someone reporting a dog attack? How many more called in but gave up because of long waits with no answer or because of long waits on hold?

If you need help from Animal Control, you're not likely to get it. At least, not unless you are willing to patiently wait for operators who are not standing by.

Hopewell Baptist Church (Old Third Baptist Church) On 9th And Monroe


Monday, December 12, 2005

How A Server Can Make A 50% Tip Off Me The Easy Way

Today I took a break from my Christmas shopping to stop at a local establishment for lunch. The server was good enough to get the 20% gratuity I usually leave when I receive the check (I only tip 15% when the service is not good; anything less is rude, mean-spirited, and heartless). However, one comment she made to me as she left the check caused me to reconsider and to boost the gratuity to 30%: she wished me "Happy Holidays."

I throw around "Merry Christmas" perhaps more than "Happy Holidays." But I cannot stand the attempts by the pompous asses in our society to try to intimidate others because they are under the delusion that their Christian faith--which they seem to equate with buying material goods--is under some sort of attack because somebody wishes them well using innocent words like "Holiday." So, every time a server wishes me "Happy Holidays" I'm bumping up their tips 10%. It's not a matter of my faith for me. It's simply a matter of stirring the pots of the pompous.

Oh, and any server who, between now and Christmas Day, wishes me "Happy Holidays" immediately after I wish them "Merry Christmas" will get a 50% tip. 'Tis the season of giving!


The last post was Enclave's 500th post. That's 500 in a short life of 10 months.

My pageload count is right at 25,000, and my unique visitors count is just under 14,000. Not bad for a little "hyper-local."

Thanks to those thousands of visitors. And thanks for humoring my self-indulgence for a couple of seconds.

Jones School May Be Right Back On The Chopping Block

Just as we were about to stop pinching ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming that Jones School had actually been spared School Board closure, so comes news that suggests that maybe it was too good to be true.

I received an e-mail a few hours ago from the Jones Paideia PTO President, Helen Koudelkova, saying that, while Dr. Pedro Garcia and the school district were going to go ahead with renovations (already under contract), Board Members Kathy Nevill, Marsha Warden, and Pam Garrett disagreed, saying that the renovation money should go to other district projects. The question of whether to continue to spend money on renovations has been scheduled to come before the School Board on Tuesday, December 13.

According to Helen, some Board members believe it could take as much as a year to decide what to do with renovation funds. In the meantime, she tells me, Jones School would not be ready for the 2006 year and Jones Paideia would be left "homeless." She called Tuesday's meeting "D-day" for Jones and said that a Board vote against renovation would be a de facto decision to close or merge Jones Paideia, which the School Board voted just last week not to do.

Or did they? Cue Yogi Berra: "It's déjà vu all over again."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Nothing Wrong With Charging More For Suburban Double-Dipping

There is nothing wrong with people who move out of Nashville in order to avoid paying more for urban services. There is something wrong when they expect to utilize our Parks services at the same rate as the Nashvillians whom they do not care to be. That's called "double-dipping" in my book: avoiding their responsibility for paying what Nashvillians do for services, but driving back in to take advantage of paying the same fees that Nashvillians do to play golf or to use the Sportsplex.

The Tennessean has an article today on the Parks Board's hikes in fees for out-of-towners. Reportedly many of the fees for those who live in Metro will not change. There's no outrage or controversy at all in that distinction. Since I pay more than John Q. Smyrna for the services I enjoy as a Nashvillian, I don't think that Mr. Smyrna should visit here expecting that our access to Nashville's services should be equal. Let outsiders pay more than Nashvillians for services. That's the way it should have been all along. And it's not like the demand to ice skate is going to dry up because a few more Kentuckians may not be able to afford to drive here. If they still want to ice skate without coming all the way to Nashville, let them raise their own taxes and build a skating complex in their locality. Otherwise, I don't have much sympathy.

Now, Metro Council members being allowed to play golf for free on Metro courses in order to "understand the ins and outs" of the facilities is patently paper-thin logic. Council members should be charged as much as every other Nashvillian is charged, although non-Nashvillians should still be charged more, much more.

Perhaps The Biggest Winner Of All Competitors In Last Night's "Dirty Santa" Contest

John H. and his prized "Black Santa." We are all hoping to see a lot of Black Santa over at John's beloved weblog, Salem's Lots.

Before embarking with John H., Black Santa was wished a fond "Bon Voyage" from his friend, "Rosie-Jowled Bell Ringer." "Hippie Johnny Angel," under the direction of "Disembodied Divine Hand," emerged from the Christmas tree to bless the proceedings.

Scenes From Last Night's Salemtown Christmas Party And "Dirty Santa" Gift Exchange