Thursday, August 31, 2006

Neighbors Gather at Summit to Chart Their Future

An estimated 250 neighborhood leaders from all across Davidson County gathered at the Adventure Science Center tonight to begin to chart a course for Nashville's neighborhoods before next year's local elections. Meeting organizers initially only expected 100 leaders to respond to their invitation to tonight's first in a series of strategy sessions, but they received 200 positive RSVPs. The crowd that gathered was standing room only and it spilled out into the Science Center's main lobby. Conspicuously absent was the mainstream TV media.

After listening to a brief presentation on the reasons for the gathering, leaders "broke out" into 16 small group "visioning sessions" to discuss what they liked about their neighborhoods and Nashville, what they would like to see improve the community, and what recommendations they had to make the community the best that it could be. Since groups came from all parts of the county, both urban and suburban priorities informed the visioning.

The turn-out was impressive, and I felt that this was a positive first step to bring the neighborhoods together to agree on a common strategy that can be used to hold candidates accountable next fall. The meeting itself could have been improved by finding space more conducive to small group acoustics. Several groups meeting in the main hall made listening to each other the challenge of the evening. I thought it was great when the experienced leaders and older neighborhood associations were mentioned for their proud legacies. However, it would have added a nice touch had summit organizers mentioned new neighborhood associations and the potential for growth immediately thereafter.

State Senator Doug Henry was recognized for his attendance and he was thanked for helping to pass the state bill that made recalling local Council members possible. I did not see his Republican opponent in the November election, Bob Krumm, in attendance. Perhaps neighborhood issues are not Bob's cup of tea, unless illegal immigration is involved.

If you did not attend tonight, then you--like Candidate Bob and the MSM--missed out on a significant community meeting that could help chart the course of Nashville's future.

09/01/2006, 12:50 p.m. Update: The local mainstream print media also failed this morning to cover this meeting, with the exception of the Nashville Post's online edition, which linked Enclave's coverage. Both the Tennessean and the Nashville City Paper get bad marks for coverage of significant neighborhood issues.

Ludye Wallace Loses His Bid for Council Pro Tem

Final tally from Tuesday night's Council meeting:

Erik Cole -- 14
Ludye Wallace -- 13

I know that this is a largely ceremonial, relatively insignicant internal appointment, but the last thing Ludye Wallace needed was more encouragement from the Metro Council in any form. Those of us in his district still have to live with him at the end of the day; when he is around, that is.

A Christian Rebuke: Speaking Truth to Power

When people speak of loving their country, they mean ... its spirit, its essense, what it stands for, its image in their minds and before the world. Naming this the angel makes it possible to distinguish the soul of the nation from the actions of any given administration, or leaders, or dominant class, race, or group. This distinction is crucial. It means we can censure, criticize, and oppose unjust policies without having to dissociate ourselves from our love and concern for the land, its history, traditions, and contributions to humanity. The angel makes it possible to relativize the psychic authority with which our leaders tend to become invested, and to recall people to the transcendent, spiritual vocation to which they are ordained and by which they--and their leaders--are judged.

- - Unmasking the Powers

These words were written over 20 years ago by Walter Wink, a Christian scholar, who illuminates what science, capitalism, and socialism ignore: the "intangible interiority" of nature and societies (archaically symbolized in the form of angels). His ideas are no less relevant now for speaking truth to the Bush Administration and its minions who have confused the larger soul of our nation with their own self-serving interests.

The Only Moral Confusion is on the Right

Keith Olbermann handed Donald Rumsfeld his hat last night by under-scoring the irony of invoking Neville Chamberlain when it was in fact Chamberlain who marginalized, ostrasized, and demonized critics of England's foreign policy (namely, Winston Churchill) just as Rumsfeld and the Republicans are striving to do now. There is some confusion going on and it has more to do with the hypocritical doublespeak of the Bush Administration, which confounds right and wrong to justify whatever it wants to do by any means necessary.

Listen to Olbermann's commentary and let the word go out that the font of immorality in America is not in the streets or on the internet; it is in the White House and in the halls of Congress. The November elections stand as our opportunity to shut that tap down.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Nominations for Names of the North End's First True Coffee House

Not that there are any plans for a North End coffee house (and I mean a literal "house") any time soon, but I was just dreaming over my triple breve this morning at Portland Brews:
  1. Butchertown Brews (a hat-tip to one of the North End's old names)
  2. Wariotto Coffee Mill (a hat-tip to one of the old Werthan Cotton Mill's older names)

The Good, the Bad, and the Nashville Scene

Apparently, the Nashville Scene commentators consider the highest forms of goodness ("clean as a whistle") as merely not getting busted for illegal behavior. By that criterion of squeaky cleanness, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper is indeed "The Good" to State Senator Jerry Cooper's "The Bad."

But "clean as a whistle" is fawning overstatement if you shift the question to supporting the Bush administration's agenda and accepting corporate PAC money. Yesterday, "The Whistle's" Independent opponent in November, Ginny Welsch, sent me a very interesting comparison of herself and Jim Cooper, which included the following point:
The Nation magazine says, "Whether the issue is peace or prosperity… [The Good] Cooper takes the side of a White House that has consistently been at odds with both those goals." That’s no surprise: 83% of Jim Cooper’s contributors are pro-corporate PACs.
Like I said, he is not doing anything illegal all cozied up to George Bush and pro-corporate culture, but calling him "clean" makes "clean" look ugly for those of us with standards that rise above the difference between legal and illegal.

Friends of Bicentennial Mall Membership Form is Now Online

You can download it via the Historic Germantown blog.

Historic Germantown Has a Blog

It has passed under my radar for months. I would have been pleased as punch to promote it sooner if Germantowners--what with their light under a bushel, and all-- would give a guy a head's up.

Maybe We Should Amend the Charter to Let Voters Handle This One, Too

We see yet another ineffective and unenforceable way of dealing with rising utility costs by the Metro Council. If stormwater projects do not get funded this year we can trace the cause back to the end of June, when Council members Jim Shulman and Ginger Hauser placed an amendment on the budget delaying for one year the Mayor's termination of discounts for big companies using multiple meter fees. The Council approved that amendment even though it was the least evil of the four options before them in the past two months (the others included: raising water fees in general, cutting the sprinkler/pool discount, and now this "memorializing" resolution merely requesting a new storm water funding method).

But an obvious lack of foresight is their own fault. They took the power out of their own hands in June; they are forced to hand it over to Metro Water in August. And while Shulman was passionate in his midsummer pleas that the big companies be given more time to plan their budgets for the discount cut, do they really need a whole year to do that? Have Vanderbilt and Belmont become so cumbersome and inflexible that they cannot compensate for the needed changes in 3 to 6 months without going into bankruptcy? Where do I go to request a year's delay to prepare before utility companies raise fees on my household?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bush Budget Bungling Burdens Nashville Neighborhoods

Get ready for public housing properties in or near your neighborhood to start looking more run down and to harbor more criminal behavior. BudgetBlog warns us that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a $600 million shortfall in money it needs to fund public housing nationwide. Besides the MDHA staff cuts already locally publicized, cuts to security, maintenance, and repairs are expected. On top of that, the Bush Administration is going to control federal spending by delaying federal payments until October, when they will count toward a different fiscal year. Will that kind of financial irresponsibility lead to even larger HUD shortfalls and bigger neighborhood problems next year?

Quote of the Day on Popular Referendums

We understand that some people [who signed Tennessee Tax Revolt's petition on property taxes] are sincerely frustrated, as are we, with some poor choices made by elected officials, but the biggest poor choice in the city in the last 20 years was the stadium [now LP Field], and that was a referendum .... We had a referendum, and every year we pay more for the stadium.

- - Don Driscoll, SEIU President, to the NCP

Ahh, karma. It usually comes back to haunt us, even when we think we're voting for something entirely different.

Another Victory for the Shrill and the Honkers Among Us

At a past Metro Council meeting, Buck Dozier compared the current ponderous Metro Charter budget to the relatively short originally adopted one. He spoke of the need to streamline so that we can have a Charter budget that is as unencumbered as the original. It sounds romantic, but in reality, Charters budgets get more complex over time to address changing conditions and new problems. It is the same kind of romance to wish that we could so uncomplicate our automobiles that we could once again simply pop the hood and fix them when we need to rather than taking them in for "21-point" inspections by skilled technicians from the Auto Diesel College (who would never be confused with the quaint old grease monkeys of yore).

But we cannot do that now; average drivers have neither the high-tech training nor the time to maintain these computers with wheels in which we ride. Nor do we want to do that. Our cars have to conform to certain safety and environmental standards; and we demand those computers to keep the cars running, not to mention our GPS, satellite radios, and climate-controlled lumbar supports. It's the same thing with the Metro Charter; Nashvillians do not demand simplicity. They demand what they want and that creates more not less complexity.

And now a group of horn-honking Nashvillians intends to add even more bulk to the Charter budget by having voters approve an amendment that would subject property taxes to popular vote. My first response is, "Well why don't Ben Cunningham and his 6,000-some-odd petition signers just have us vote to vote on every single line item in every single year that they come up and effectively just dissolve Metro governance?" We like our complexity and all, but we don't need that much complexity. We elect people and we pay them to take the time that we do not have and to become the experts on governing that we cannot. And we also ask leaders, because they are leaders, to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions because we know that mobs may rule when cooler headed leaders do not prevail. A majority of Americans was opposed to desegregation when Brown v. Board of Education was passed down; thank God for the cooler and smarter heads on the Supreme Court.

Is the Tennessee Tax Revolt (TTR) really committed to putting the power on property taxes in the hands of voters or is this special interest group just more interested in having more power to influence mobs whenever the issue of raising taxes comes up in the future? We saw their mob-like MO a few years back during the Gen-Ass's consideration of an income tax. They generally created public disturbances rather than being civil. Stuff even got broken. Order did not seem to be the order of the day. And they habitually confuse mobilizing the shrillest voices among us with "democracy," as if simple majoritarian vote (which is a misnomer, since only a small percentage of potential voters actually vote in these elections) constitutes a democratic republic such as ours (did TTR-wingman, Bill Hobbs threaten more disorder in Nashville at the end of a post today if Metro challenges the constitutionality of this referendum?).

Whether or not their amendment to the Charter passes, this is no vision of democracy. It is an appeal to the lowest common denominator: our misgivings about paying any money to anybody at all. Make no mistake about that. Ben Cunningham's best ideas about tax reform have nothing to do with making our system fairer or more efficient while still generating revenue for in-demand and worthwhile programs. His best ideas are to whip up popular ambivalence about taxes into full-blown antisocial abhorrence in order to cut as many revenues as possible, regardless of the prospect of losing services. So, his best ideas are no help at all. In fact, I would argue that they will insure that our tax system stays regressive. Might he just be guaranteeing that our most vulnerable populations never get free of high sales taxes? I think he just might be.

Neighborhoods Summit Coming Up on Thursday

We are going to attend "The Future of Neighborhoods Summit," sponsored by the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance, Inc. & the Neighborhoods Resource Center, on Thursday, August 31 at 6:00. The location is the Adventure Science Center and dinner will be served (RSVP required by today!). This is the first of three meetings designed to identify common concerns among the dozens of neighborhood groups represented and to strategize about the future. Other meetings will involve identifying those characteristics in candidates running for office next year that fit with the neighborhoods' strategy and developing a timetable for action.

This is a potentially significant event, and what hooked me was the plan "to work together to ensure that the next administration provides a high level of support and concern for neighborhoods."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Noseworthy Might Be Snotworthy

A little character assassination in the mainstream media goes a long way. The Nashville City Paper, this time in the form of pseudonymous rumor monger "Rex Noseworthy," zeros in today on Planning Department Director Rick Bernhardt based on innumendo absent any details. "Detractors," says Rex, allege that Rick is "allowing his personal tastes regarding design and planning aesthetics [of the SoBro neighborhood] to stifle free-market development [of the Westin Hotel]."

And I allege that the self-proclaimed "right-leaning" NCP is attempting to bias readers in favor of the personal interests of developers. Rex makes the goals of developers sound nobler than those of "personal tastes." But few things are more subjective than financial self-interest (at best); and nothing is less noble than greed for money (at worst). Yet, Rex won't probe into the personal tastes of Bernhardt's unnamed detractors who represent the 7 board members who approved building the Westin and deviating from the SoBro neighborhood plan. (Is that because questioning their motives could endanger future advertising revenues?) Rex simply assumes that their commitment to "free-market development" (is it indeed "free"?) is so much more than a single man's personal tastes.

But I am bound to ask: why would we hire a point man for Planning merely for him to impose his personal tastes? Was Rick Bernhardt not hired for the Planning Department in order to coordinate neighborhood planning? Was he not hired because of his credentials and experience in formulating coherent and historically contextual neighborhood plans? Is he just expected to rubber stamp whatever in the hell developers want to do regardless of the neighborhood where they want to do it?

Before any NCP defender rushes in to remind us of how NCP "supports neighborhoods," just keep in mind that the Planning Department has to be involved in the neighborhoods and often acts as an advocate for neighborhood interests when developers and investors merely see neighborhoods as nothing more than an investment opportunity. Some of us actually see the Planning Department as more vital to neighborhood welfare than the entire NCP crew (we are such blasphemers!)

I had a chance to meet Bernhardt briefly on one occasion, and found him to be very much invested and involved in neighborhood welfare. I know that my anecdote probably carries no more weight than Rex Noseworthy's, but one thing we keep learning is that having something written in the NCP about you does not make it accurate. It just means that they have more money to publish their anecdotes in hard copy and to distribute to a large readership. And, in cases such as this, that is money spent on influencing attitudes to lean toward developers.

But before you lean too far in swallowing what Rex is feeding you today, keep in mind that Rex's "free-market development" sounds more like "free-for-all development," which allows rich developers to do anything without any brakes beyond what their personal tastes and personal bank accounts dictate. They are powerful enough to tear down the county's oldest building (1790) on the historical registry to make way for just another Home Depot. Anybody with that much power should not be allowed to build over the SoBro neighborhood without any resistance whatsoever.

So, if Rick is a little cranky in defense of neighborhood planning, it is no skin off my nose. Rex, sit!

What Makes a Gated Community "Gated"?

Does a new development that fronts the street, but that also gates its back parking lot qualify as a "gated community"? Gated communities are controversial in urban neighborhoods, because they tend to close off and turn away from surrounding communities and streets. But does fenced parking behind multi-family dwellings constitute a gated community?

One Metro Council bill, which is up for public hearing at the Council meeting tomorrow night, seeks a zoning change for a new 1.6-acre, mixed-use Germantown development at 4th and Monroe. That development was the source of some questioning by commenters here on Enclave back in April after rumors spread that it would be a gated community. I spoke with Planning Department officials this morning who told me that the new development is not a gated community in the sense of being closed off from the street. It will, to be precise, front the street. However, the residential parking lot behind the building fronts will be gated for security reasons.

It seems to me that opposing this bill on gated-community charges is difficult for two reasons. First, while it will close the parking lot off from the street (the buildings will do that already anyway), the development itself fronts and opens to the street. And that is what New Urbanism dictates. I did not see the Planning Commission's deliberations on this bill, but they voted 9-0 in favor of it, so chances are it will not be too out-of-character for Germantown. Second, a precedent has already been set for this kind of development on the North End: Row 8.9 row houses in Hope Gardens front 8th and 9th, with a gated parking lot in between (Werthan Lofts, at the far north corner of Germantown, has impressively gated parking lots; its overall structure is the closest thing the North End has to a gated community, in my opinion).

Of course, we are left with the question of whether gated parking lots do more harm than good for their patrons. Those of us who attended July's Salemtown Neighbors meeting found out that Row 8.9's fence seemed to create a false sense of security, as police reported that someone scaled the fence and pilfered unlocked automobiles. Apparently, security gates may ironically cause urban residents to let their guards down.

08/28/2006, 1:10 p.m. Update: See comment from Row 8.9 resident below.

Uncork Those Returns

There are just some things that one should always do even when the law does not require it. Releasing one's full tax returns while running for office is one of those things. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker may not have anything in his tax returns to hide, but his refusal to release them suggests that he might. And creating the slightest doubt among voters about Corker's character may sink him in this close race with Democratic U.S. Congressman Harold Ford. What does the Corker Campaign not want the public to see?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is There a Wrong Way to Open a Cabinet?

We watched one of those "house flipping" shows on TLC last night, and we were surprised to learn a little rule-of-thumb regarding kitchen cabinets. The flipping advisor told one of the flippers not to construct "wrong-way cabinets" in the kitchen, that is, not to mount the cabinet doors so that they opened from right-to-left rather than from left-to-right. She said that buyers are turned off by "wrong-way cabinets." I never even heard of "wrong-way cabinets" until last night, and it certainly does not matter to me which way they open. To tell you the truth, this sounds like one of those archaic biases against left-handers (I am not a south-paw myself). When we were looking to buy houses, I never even thought to see which way the kitchen cabinets opened. But at least one potential buyer on last night's show did.

Vote what you think:

Can We Trust TVA in a Deregulated Age?

It is bad enough that the Tennessee Valley Authority can pretty much lay claim to however much utility money it wants from Tennesseans at any time. Now we're supposed to trust that radioactive tritium that they dumped into the environment that we share with them is safe for the public. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to protect us from nuclear waste, says that the rivers, if contaminated by the tritium, would dilute the material "until its concentration would not be a health and safety issue for the public." Until?! Does that not indicate that TVA dumped dangerous levels already? And why is it okay to use our rivers to dilute radioactive wastes? I am sure that we can now depend on the NRC to fail to monitor radioactive levels and possible leaks of the tritium, or any changes in the health of humans and animals downstream of the dump. The last thing "the nation's largest power company" needs is to be named the defendant in a class action lawsuit, which is a possibility monitoring might bring about.

A big thanks to all those deregulators out there for this undue health risk. Ya'll and your unapologetic faith in the marketplace to protect us make our state a safer place to live. And let's not forget those tort reformers, who are probably even now working to make sure that omnipotent power companies cannot be sued for endangering us and screwing around with our environment.

Here's What Raised My Eye Brows the Highest at Last Thursday's Riverfront Redevelopment Forum

The Design Team Leader--on the subject of East Germantown and the infamous smell periodically emanating from the Central Wastewater Treatment facility--told us that Metro told him that as of that very day odor control measures were finally operating. He told us that the odor problems are gone for good. Wanna bet on it?

The Sky is Still Crying

Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of SRV. John Lee Hooker called him one of the greatest. It's a day for listening to a lot of the Texas blues guitar in remembrance.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

NCDC: Eminent Domain Will Not Be Used for River Redevelopment

This morning's Tennessean has responses from Riverfront businesses, which all seem valid. The only one I want to take a swipe at is saving the East Bank for acres of surface parking lots--which sit unused for a major chunk of each year--in the name of guarding the sanctity of the Titans "tailgating experience." I have been all over the Downtown area on game days, and I have watched Titans fans create pleasant tailgating experiences wherever they park. The tailgating experience is not restricted to the East Bank, and redevelopment will not kill that experience. The businesses that could locate in the proposed mixed-use areas would obviously attract a number of game-day fans with lots of cash to spend. The money spent around LP would just flow in different ways. And you cannot convince me that Titans' executives have not thought about the possibilities of promoting block parties in the proposed neighborhoods that would sit around LP Field. The proposed mass transit loop would take care of getting remote tailgaters in more efficiently than the current bus arrangement. The "tailgating experience" is not sacred and it would simply adapt accordingly. What makes the tailgating experience is the party, not the proximity.

It should be a positive signal to businesses from the Nashville Civic Design Center Director that eminent domain will not be used to force property sales for redevelopment.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Connecting to the River

At last night's forum, Riverfront Redevelopment Designers said that the primary obstacle to "reconnecting" Nashville's neighborhoods with the river is the sharp drop of the banks from ground level to the shore. I was surprised to find out last night that there are currently only 4 places along the redevelopment area where Nashvillians can literally walk down a bank and touch the river. They are: the Shelby Park boat ramp, Riverfront Park (if you are daring), the East Bank Greenway, and the East Bank near the I-65 Bridge. If people are to feel a connection with the Cumberland, according to the Design Team, more access points must be created.

Both plans would create multiple marinas and landings for that connection, including an East Germantown landing in the North End. The "Island Plan" (cutting the arterial channel east of LP), would create a recreational waterway and marina off the main shipping channel and landings for Cayce (south), Edgefield, and Ellington (north). In the process of digging the channels, crews would be creating more flood space for waters that would otherwise inundate East Nashville, as they do every 100 years (by the way, Nashville is due for one of those 100 year floods, say the Design Team).


[The] experience of having two (or more) things happen coincidentally in a manner that is meaningful to the person or persons experiencing them, where that meaning suggests an underlying pattern. [Source]
This morning I was driving past Marathon Village listening to Lightning 100. Down the road, about two blocks in front of me, I noticed a truck that looked either jack-knifed or stalled as it was making a turn out of my lane on to a side street. I also saw that cars were beginning to back up behind and in front of it. At that point I was faced with a decision to either 1) keep going and wait or possibly go around it (which others were doing) or 2) pull a u-turn and circle the block. I made the choice against the u-turn and drove foward as a Shawn Mullins tune cranked up on the "Adult Alternative." I pulled up over the curb into a vacant lot past other cars waiting behind the truck. As I passed the trailer to turn right and continue on a side street, Shawn was breaking into his lines:
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve given up on you
But you make such a beautiful wreck you do
I glanced back past the trailer and I saw that a glossy, clean, black, V-Series Cadillac had smashed its front corner up underneath the passenger-side bumper of the truck. It didn't look like anyone was hurt, but it did look like a beautiful wreck.

Metro Traffic and Parking Looks into 5th Avenue Traffic Calming Possibilities

Today I met with a Metro Traffic and Parking official who was following up on the unfortunate phone call I had the other day concerning unsafe traffic conditions for pedestrians around 5th Av. and Hume St. in Salemtown. We met at the intersection.

He told me that after completing some study of the intersection, a crosswalk is probably out of the question, but he did encourage me to request a four-way stop. I told him I had pursued it in the past without any luck. I also do not think it will fly because two more stop signs at the intersection would make it harder for the 18-wheelers coming and going from the Werthan Packing Plant to negotiate the turn with cars waiting to go through. He acknowledged that he had to move his parked car at one point to allow a truck to go through the intersection.

He promised to look into other traffic calming possibilities. One possibility he mentioned for the stretch of 5th between Van Buren and Hume was putting down white lines on the right-hand side of each lane, which might narrow driver perceptions about the width of the lanes. He said he would follow up as soon as found something out. I'll keep you posted.

Another City's Plan to Expand a River and Create Islands

Fort Worth, Texas is currently making waterfront plans similar to those introduced for Nashville last night. Trinity Uptown is an effort to expand the Trinity River and increase flood protection, urban revitalization, environmental improvements, and recreation (which were the same themes in the Design Team's Cumberland River Redevelopment Plan). Canals, islands, and an "urban lake" characterize the development. Their project costs $435 million and is funded as a partnership between the federal government (Congress authorized $110 million) and a number of local sponsors.

NCP's Grasp of Planning and Paradise

This morning's Nashville City Paper hard copy splashed a huge front page picture of "the island" along with a title that referred to plans of "an island paradise." I do not mean to split hairs and I am not by saying that there is a profound difference in meaning between a paradise and a concept. Those ideas are similar insofar as they both involve anticipation of something larger, but that is where the similarity ends. A paradise is some ideal state of beauty or delight either lost or only attainable through supernatural means. A concept is a general idea or plan that is derived from and dependent on what we already have in front of us. It is the difference between ideals and ideas. It is the difference between metaphysics and urban planning.

So, why the pitch wizards at NCP chose to headline this as a "paradise" rather than a "conceptual plan," I do not know. But, then again, I assumed that journalism was about accurately portraying someone else's ideas rather than embellishing them. Let us hope that this was just a weak NCP attempt to be cute and to turn a phrase, even if tritefully so. Let us hope that there is not another agenda at the NCP; say, for instance, an effort to jade opinions right out of the gate. A comment by one of their own this morning on the Charrette raised that unfortunate possibility. William Williams followed up his own request for feedback on the island with the personal conclusion that the idea is "a bit farfetched." Creating a paradise in the real world is called "a bit farfetched." Generating a concept from our real urban world, past and present, and then submitting that concept to real criteria is called "urban planning." I would maintain--from what I heard first-hand last night--that the prospect of this island is concept; it is most definitely not paradise.

The Bones of the Redevelopment Concepts

We're getting the predictable jaw-dropped, knee-jerk reactions in the mainstream media (MSM) this morning to last night's introduction of the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan. Lost in the MSM's sensation and preoccupation with what might be and with the cost of what might be are some very modest and practical initial stages or bones of the plan. Those bones are no less newsworthy than the fleshed out concepts. Yet, they have gone largely ignored because the media is spellbound by "the island."

The preliminary stages of redevelopment include two transportation loops connecting the East Bank and Downtown. Much of the first is already in place. That loop is a pedestrian loop constituted by the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, 1st Avenue, the Woodland Street Bridge and 2nd Street (east of LP Field). The major changes would involve creating wide pedestrian lanes on the Woodland St. Bridge (thus, cutting down on vehicular traffic).

The second loop would involve the creation of some form of mass transit line that runs along Gateway Boulevard to 3rd Avenue to the Woodland Street Bridge to 2nd Street. This line could be light rail or trolleys. Not only would this transit loop create a faster means of travel from the East Bank to Downtown, but it would utilize one of the Riverfront's primary assets: parking lot access. The design team found that most of the land around the Riverfront is devoted to parking lots. So, if some parking lots near LP Field give way to greenways or mixed-use neighborhoods, a transit line would still allow quick, convenient access to parking elsewhere.

The design team's longer-term expansion plans of the transit bones include extended transit loops to East Germantown (Neuhoff) and to Edgefield in a kind of "V" shape. The outer transit loops would be supplemented by a wedge-shaped greenway running from Neuhoff to the Cumberland River Greenway (Metro Center) and by a large Central Park running from LP Field to the Jefferson Street Bridge. Residential development would line the greenspace.

In all, I believe that these first-step concepts are significant for our development and worthy to be pursued, regardless of whether Nashville ever starts digging channels on the East Bank. The mass transit loop would be a boon to Downtown and East Nashville.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

First Look at Riverfront Redevelopment Concepts

Tonight's Riverfront Redevelopment Forum was well-attended and very informative. I'll post more details in the morning. For now, I am posting the two large-scale concept rendering options that the design came up with based on many factors, including last year's public feedback. Since they are large-scale, they do not account for redevelopment in the North End to the degree that they do on the East Bank. We were told that the North End would be more in focus at one of the future forums on small-scale redevelopment.

The first option assumes that the interstates as they currently stand will disappear or get scaled down to what The Plan of Nashville calls "urban boulevards." A good portion of the East Bank around LP Field would be devoted to green space (in green) and residential/mixed-use (in orange) with a street grid. A marina is suggested for the southern bend.

The second option assumes that the interstates stay. To create more room for marinas and landings where people can go to the water, a channel would be cut around the east side of LP Field. That would essentially create a 275-acre island in the river for green space and residential/mixed use. Future expansion also depicted would include digging more channels to create smaller islands that would not be accessible by car, but remain bird habitats and fishing spots (the channels would be stocked).

Keep in mind that these conceptual drawings depict both short-term and long-term (20 years) redevelopment. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with these plans. I think the second option is particularly intriguing.

Romanesque Obliquity

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Riverfront Redevelopment Forum Tomorrow

Nine months after large numbers of Nashvillians gave feedback at several public forums for formulation of the "Cumberland River Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan," the Civic Design Center is hosting another public forum tomorrow night to update us all and to get more public feedback on the project's progress. The forum will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Adventure Science Center (800 Fort Negley Blvd.). A Call for Design Proposals for this development went out last February. Hargreaves Associates was picked to lead the Plan and six other firms are on the redevelopment team. So, it will be interesting to see what kind of progress they have made based on last year's public feedback.

The redevelopment area includes all of the Riverfront from Shelby Bottoms Greenway on the south to the trailhead of the Cumberland River Greenway near I-65 on the north.

Liberadio Interviews Cooper

Why doesn't the federal government have to use modern accounting? Well, the answer is: they just want to hide the truth from the American people until its too late. And again, lest I sound too partisan; and I know its okay to do that on your show, Mary [Mancini] and Freddy [O'Connell], but I want to reach the Vanderbilt student whose parents are Republican.

- - U.S. Representative Jim Cooper during Monday's Liberadio Interview

Criticizing the federal government is "too partisan"?

Kudos to Liberadio for this interview and for having it linked on Wikipedia. It was a relatively easy, fight-free ride for the Congressman, so I'm not sure how the title "Fightin' 5th" applies.

State Senate Candidate Krumm Imagines Jim Cooper in a 12-Step Program and Nearly Endorses Him as "Traditionally Republican"

Conservative Candidate Krumm (R) likes U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (D)--even with the latter's "pork addiction"--because he considers him "more traditionally Republican about deficits than even many Republicans."

However, I am a bit confused as to what Bob means by these so-called traditional-Republicans-against-deficits. One on-line journal points out:
  • The twenty years of budgets prepared by Republican presidents [from Nixon to Bush I] increased the national debt by $3.8 trillion. The average yearly deficit under Republican budgets was $190 billion.
  • The twenty years of budgets prepared by Democratic presidents [from Kennedy to Clinton] increased the national debt by $719.5 billion. The average yearly deficit under Democratic budgets was $36 billion.
Michael Kinsley figures deficits starting with Kennedy and ending during the early second term of Bush II, but still with wide disparity:
Republicans have abandoned allegedly Republican values -- if in fact they ever really had such values .... Under Republican presidents since 1960, the federal deficit has averaged $131 billion a year. Under Democrats, that figure is $30 billion.
That is a grand total of zero "traditionally Republican" Republican presidents the last 40 years of the 20th Century. So, is Bob simply wishful thinking deficit-fighting-Republicans to our attention? Where are these traditionally Republican Republicans? I don't seem them.

Now, if Bob wants to call Mr. Cooper "traditionally Republican" in so far as he ends up in the pocket of corporate lobbyists, then I would agree him wholeheartedly; and I can understand in that case why Bob would favor Cooper over his Republican opponent, Tom Kovach, and why such favor would get confused with an Independent streak. Cooper seems much more plugged in to the levers of power than Kovach does; Candidate Krumm seems rather dependent compared to the truly Independent candidate challenging Cooper.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere

In his rambling speech a week ago against Parker Toler's water-rate-increase bill, Council member Charlie Tygard said:
We need to start looking toward the private utility districts who are able to provide these services at better rates, better services than what Metro is now. Now I support our employees in Metro; uhh, I was told something by Councilman [Michael] Craddock earlier this evening in the audit that came out that just leads me to believe that if you believe that the water department is running as lean and as mean as it needs to be, then we've all had the wool pulled over our eyes.
My ears immediately perked up when I heard Tygard's association of Craddock with insider information for obvious reasons (incidently, "The Insider's" blog was taken down after a Scene article connected it to Craddock, but it still lives on in cached form).

Turns out that Tygard's cryptic little nugget was a reference to a Metro Water audit that found that in 2004 some of its own employees had treated (no pun intended) a private contractor to a $2,300 celebration at taxpayer expense. Craddock's info was not inside at all, and the audit has been reported to the Council's Audit Committee "for months" before Tuesday's vote on water.

But the intrigue loaded into Tygard's comments make unethical and inefficient stewardship of tax money sound like a charge of systemic malaise that nothing short of privatizing our water supply would solve. But keep in mind, a private contractor participated in the misuse of $2,300; that is as much an indictment of the private sector as it is of the public sector.

On the contrary, I fail to see any evidence suggesting that this misdeed indicates problems wider than the poor judgment and flawed personal choices of a few people. According to the audit (via the City Paper), the system worked:
  1. Metro Council commissions a Water Services audit
  2. Audit finds that $2,300 funds were misappropriated for a private party w/booze and Predators
  3. Water Service acts on audit by requiring employees and contractor to repay funds
  4. Audit reports the misappropriation and follow-up back to Metro Council
The only possible flaw that I can see in the Director's follow-up is the possibility that employees were only required to pay the money back, but did not face any other disciplinary measures. Otherwise, ethical brakes were placed on employees and the money was recovered.

So, why all Tygard's grandstanding? Simply privatizing Water Services does not guarantee that employee malfeasance would not occur. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that privatizing public services shields them from public scrutiny and control:

  • Last year a private contractor vested with the responsibility of erecting highway guard rails cut corners with our safety and our taxes by sinking posts at dangerously shallow levels.
  • Privatizing utilities and removing government oversight also carries the risk of poorer service and higher prices. Privatizing electric service failed the public in California, but profitted private companies. Privatizing electric service in Texas is failing many parts of the state as TXU Energy chooses its bottom line over public interest.
  • The largest water service privatization contract in the US was terminated by the city of Atlanta in 2003 after the contractor underestimated cost, demanded more money than stipulated in the original contract, improperly billed the city for work it did not do, neglected rehabilitation of infrastructure, and broke its promise of lower bills, which increased every year of the private contract.
If nothing else, Atlanta should serve as a lesson to Charlie Tygard and all of the other local privatizers: we do not get ethical behavior from government officials by switching systems and loosing new forms of misbehavior; we get ethical behavior by demanding it from those whom we can and then holding their feet to the fire where we must.

Just keep in mind that when Tygard or Craddock tell you that they are fighting for your interest in not paying higher water rates, they are also opening the door to private companies, who could care less about your interest and who stand to make a lot of money off commercializing our public water supply.

NCSL Post Mortem

Progressive States Network was in attendance last week at the National Conference of State Legislatures, and they passed on a WSJ report that many of the 6,000 conference-goers in Nashville were lobbyists, making the NCSL itself a "Lobbying Loophole." Lobbyist-sponsored events apparently dominated conference free time, including reserving whole restaurants, sports events, golf outings, and special tours for legislative delegations.

Lobbyists scratched legislators backs last week; we'll see how legislators return the favor later.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Intown Report Reports Schermerhorn Review

Will Sanford, who authors one of the best hyper-local blogs I've read, samples a national review of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and he too finds a lot in that lot to be desired.

More Crosswalk Contention

Thanks to HangingUpsideDown for reminding me that Germantown has a couple of crosswalks despite the fact that there are absolutely no schools in that neighborhood. The crosswalk in the picture is at the intersection of 5th Av. and Monroe St. That intersection was repaved after Germantown/Salemtown water main upgrade, and the crosswalk was replaced afterwards.

Despite the fact that Germantown can have its crosswalk put back after road construction without any semblance of a school around, I was told by a Metro Public Works official last Thursday that crosswalks are expensive and that they are generally put down only near schools. He was seemingly trying to talk me out of the idea of a crosswalk at the intersection of 5th and Hume St. at the Morgan Park Community Center.

Yet, no more than a block down 5th from Morgan Park is an institution that is closer to being a school than anything in Germantown: the Head Start Program of Nashville, which is the "largest provider of early childhood education in Davidson County." Head Start is even housed in the old "Fehr Public School" building. However, I was left with the distinct impression on Thursday that Salemtown crosswalks were out of the question even with children crossing busy roads.

I fear that Salemtown is being confined to the business end of a double standard.

Not-So-Subtle Self-Service

At the end of last Tuesday's Metro Council meeting, District 19's Ludye Wallace seemed visibly irritated at his fellows during their consideration of his bill to encourage the Metro Transit Authority to develop a plan to market its service to government employees. That bill was the last business item on the Council's agenda, and if you watch the tape (at 11:03), you'll see other members shuffling and storing their notes, rummaging under their desks, and pulling out their satchels in preparation for egress.

Ludye did not seem bent out of shape because of their rudeness in ignoring his pending bill, given any virtues to be found in conserving gas by marketing MTA. The reasons for his mood were apparently not so high-minded, given the transcript:

Chair: We have a move for approval [of the bill]. Is there a second? [Multiple audible seconds]. Discussion?

Wallace: I just want to say, I wish we wouldn't adjourn until there's an announcement made. [Cuts a look back at the Council members behind him and says something off microphone to one or more of them].

Chair: Ahh ... Councilman [Jim] Gotto?

Gotto: Thank you, Vice Mayor Gentry. Councilman Wallace promised he wouldn't speak if the hour was getting late, but I want to commend him for this [bill]. I think that this is a really good idea and I do sign on as a co-sponsor. So, thank you, Councilman.

Chair: Thank you. Any other discussion? Seeing none, we're ready for the vote. All in favor say, "Aye." [A number of "ayes" audible]. Opposed? Motion is adopted. I would like to announce that the Pro Tem elections will be our next meeting, which is the 29th of this month.
Recall that Ludye is being groomed for the pro tem position; thus, the import of getting to the announcement. He basically turned attention away from the merits of his conservation bill in order to scold restless members for wanting to leave before the pro tem announcement.

And I am still trying to fathom the intentions behind Mr. Gotto's comments on the conservation bill. They seemed more of a back-handed compliment regarding Ludye's reputation for long-windedness than they did confidence in conservation. And I could not dismiss the possibility that he was protecting the-man-who-would-be-pro-tem from himself.

How deep does Ludye's commitment to promoting fuel conservation run? Not deep enough to deter shameless self-promotion that is also ironically out-of-order. As irritable as Ludye was at the shuffling around him, chiding his fellows for not waiting for the pro tem announcement was no less distracting and discourteous, given his personal interest in that announcement.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Re-Greening Efforts in Bicentennial Mall Now Visible

Recently, I introduced you to Friends of Bicentennial Mall and their efforts along with Gardens of Babylon and the State of Tennessee to save many of the state park's trees, which have been damaged by acid rain, pollution, and a lack of "good bacteria" in the park's compacted soil. Try as I might, my camera does not really capture the scope of the affected trees' plight as does the naked eye.

The next time you visit Bicentennial Mall, take note of the blighted trees, which have the small, laminated Gardens of Babylon cards attached to their trunks. You can drop by Gardens--just a stone's throw away in the Farmers Market--to thank them both in words and in deeds of patronizing their business. (Those of you who strive to protect our environment and natural resources will be glad to know that Gardens is committed to "green," natural approaches to doing business). I hope that you will also consider joining Friends of Bicentennial Mall, which is spearheading this whole effort to save and to protect the park's flora for ourselves and our posterity.

Odds Against a Golden Ticket Under This Wrapper

This shack on Salemtown's 5th Avenue is on the market for almost $310 a square foot. That is at least twice what houses are going for here, despite the fact that it looks like the place where Charlie Bucket lived. I have yet to be persuaded that someone will slap that much down on the barrelhead for a rundown structure that will probably be leveled to build something else.

Germantown's Oktoberfest Less Than Two Months Away!

The North End's premiere event grows nigh. The street festival falls on Saturday, October 14 this year. We should start seeing the Germantown folk begin sprucing up their digs soon. Are you getting ready for it?

I'm just now weighing the pros and cons of organizing either a pre- or a post- festival soiree. Anyone else making Friday or Saturday night plans?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Gardening Societies to Lobby Metro Council

They come from the shadows* and they are going to demand their sprinkler discount back.

What's next? Pool boys as community activists?

*With apologies to Joan Baez.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge Puts Injunction on NSA Wiretaps

Muckraker is all over today's breaking news that U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor struck down the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program as unconstitutional, including word that the Bush administration is preparing to fight Judge Taylor's injunction.

One quotable from the Judge's opinion draws a bead on President Bush's claim that he has some kind of "inherent power" to violate the laws of the land:
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent power" must derive from that Constitution.

Where the Streets Have No Lanes

We seem to have a strong nominee for Enclave's 2006 Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods. I just got the bureaucratic two-step from a Metro Public Works official.

Here's the background. At our last Salemtown Neighbors meeting, several members queried why Metro Water, after finishing their water-main upgrade and repavement of Salemtown and Germantown, didn't bother to finish the traffic markings in the road. The painters put down the double yellow through Germantown, but stopped at Salemtown, which looks odd and incomplete. So, I contacted Metro Water a couple of weeks ago, and after some delay they forwarded me to Public Works. Public Works, of course, had to do some research into how far the double yellow previously extended, even after I offered to send my own "before" pictures (you didn't think that I wouldn't have pictures of the old road, did you?).

I seized the opportunity to raise an old issue that I have about the high volume of children we have crossing at and playing around that intersection (which sits next to Morgan Park Community Center). I requested that they look into traffic calming possibilities and a crosswalk. Public Works found no records of a crosswalk before the repaving, so they wanted to send an inspector out to count children crossing. They also asked me when the highest volume of children crossed near the intersection. I told them it depended on whether school was in. During the fall and spring, naturally, after-school hours were the best time to inspect the intersection.

My answer did not seem to be good enough. Today I got a call from the dancing bureaucrat who wanted one specific hour--that's right, only one hour--that he could station his inspector. I replied that I had no idea which particular hour was best and that I could only give him a ballpark idea, which seemed to dissatify him.

He also gave a monologue of every reason why a crosswalk would not work at 5th and Hume, including:
  • crosswalks are expensive
  • he could not place a crosswalk at every intersection in town
  • crosswalks do not slow down traffic
  • crosswalks do not guarantee that people will use them
  • crosswalks are put in front of schools, not community centers
I understand the concept of managing expectations, but I was beginning to wonder why Metro put crosswalks anywhere if this guy has anything to do with it. I finally resigned myself to believing that Public Works was just going through the motions on this one and generally just wasting my time. I finally told him to send an inspector out during any in-school hour, certify that no children were crossing the intersection, and simply get the chore out of the way, because that way he could confirm all of his preconceived notions and blow me off at once.

I ended the phone call, honestly thanking him for following up, and then I sat down and penned a complaint to the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and the Director of Engineering at Public Works. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Public Works to help with traffic here, but when they electric-slide on by I hope they show me the courtesy of not stepping on my toes again.

08/24/2006, 12:45 p.m. Update: Double yellow lane dividers were extended through Salemtown this morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Don't Know What He's Yelling About

Weatherman Brick Tamland, of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy fame, liked slacks and was known to exclaim, "I don't know what we're yelling about!! Loud noises!!"

I don't know how important slacks are to Metro Council members, but there were loud noises emanating from my television set last night during televised debate on the bill to require departments to give the Council reports on how much paper they use. Most of the loud noises came from Eric Crafton, who was rather forcefully hollering that Metro government needs to start acting like a business with regard to counting paper. I concluded that he was sick of it when he roared, "I'm sick of it!!"

Without shouting myself, I would ask Mr. Crafton: so, you expect government to start acting like Home Depot, where the CEOs continue to make millions of dollars a year even when the company performs badly because of a "corrupt system of cronyism" within their board? Halliburton, Tyco, and Enron show us that businesses, especially when they buddy-up to government, are not commendable examples for reform. Table-pounding and righteous indignation won't convince me otherwise, and I don't know what all of the yelling's about.

The Westin Approval: Planning vs. Development

What makes Broadway special … is that it is not a theme park; it's a real place.
- - Metro Historical Commission Director Ann Roberts after voting against the Westin Hotel plans on Broadway

You have to admire Ms. Roberts for standing up to the misplaced rage of Council member Charlie Tygard and for weathering the development pressures of MDHA's design review committee for Lower Broadway while standing by her principles in the span of just a few days. It is not unusual in Nashville for development interests to oppose and to trump planning or historic issues, so yesterday's decision in favor of Westin's controversial development might be a practical defeat for Ms. Roberts' higher priorities, but surely it was not unanticipated.

Truth be told, we seem to be past "Broadway as a real place," with the disfiguration of historic buildings by entertainment establishments like the Wildhorse Saloon, and the now defunct Planet Hollywood and NASCAR Cafe. The market does not seem to demand the real place (and I restrain myself at this point from expounding the valid argument that the problem with the market is that it is morally relative: it can demand anything, constructive or destructive). Collectively, people seem to want a postmodern, Disneyworld-type façade that creates the mere appearance of reality. I share Ms. Roberts' commitments to historic preservation, but the reality of the situation is that people do not want reality unless it is in name only.

Nonetheless, the debate on this property has been churning for months on and on the Charrette. If you want to understand the complexities and details of the challenge, you should check out those discussions. The debate seems to cluster around tensions between scale vs. activation, between preservation vs. maximization, and finally, between planning vs. development.

As long as residents, developers, planners, architects, and businesses can strike a balance on design of these new buildings, we will be able to achieve the best form we can get. It is when any of the review boards of this project tip too strongly away from any interest group that Nashville will most likely be left with a liability on Lower Broad. But above all, any new development needs to stimulate the residential redevelopment of Downtown, which is just beginning. The last thing that we should do is that which would kill the residential reinvigoration of the Central Business District. That would be a step backwards.

08/16/2006, 5:10 p.m. Update: The Intown Report has the goods on the 30-year-old developer of the proposed Westin property on Lower Broad.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Jackson Has Me Breaking Out Pirsig

Jackson Miller is lately blogging his way through one of my all-time favorite books, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Jackson's reflections and quotes had me pulling out my old beaten-up, ear-marked, and highlighted copy and musing over my favorite quotes. Here's a good one:
Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the physic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors. It's this understanding of Quality as revealed by stuckness which so often makes self-taught mechanics so superior to institute-trained men who have learned how to handle everything except a new situation.
Thanks for reminding me, Jackson.

Metro Council Member J.B. Loring Does It Again

In referring to the number of phone calls he was getting in favor of his bill to prohibit contractors from hiring illegal aliens (which was eventually passed on second reading tonight), J. B. Loring told the Council that three-fourths of the calls were from "Caucasian people of the United States," and the remaining calls were from "people of foreign descent."

Metro Council Kills Water-Rate Increase On First Reading

Characterized by a couple of opponents as a "trap" that was "crafted" during Council member Parker Toler's meeting with "the administration," the bill to raise Metro Water fees in order to compensate for the replacement of sprinkler discounts was defeated soundly tonight. Bills on first reading are usually passed as a courtesy and in order to get them to the process of committee and general deliberation.

Money Matters at Tonight's Council Meeting

Financial quandaries face Metro Council members tonight, including whether to raise general water rates to compensate for reinstating lawn sprinkling discounts. There are also moves on the agenda designed so that the Council can monitor the exact number of copies of published materials for outside distribution and so that they can keep track on a monthly basis of the gas Metro vehicles are using.

I am curious as to why keeping track of copies and of gas has to be written into law. Can't individual Council members take it upon themselves to request these reports on a regular basis? Just sending copies of reports outside of these departments (with reports on the reports, if the copies-distribution bill passes) to every Council member does not guarantee that those members will read them, although more paper stacked up on their desks does make them look busy.

And there are other motions up for consideration that would seem to nullify efforts to save Metro money. For instance, I would like to know how much more the following measures are going to cost Metro:
  • Buck Dozier wants to let the Sheriff's auto fleet have the same flashing blue lights that Metro Police cruisers have. Is there some kind of inferiority complex tied up in non-blue lights? I guess the cost of removing the Sheriff's current flashing lights and replacing them with blue lights is moot since the Council gave the Sheriff's Office budget more money to play with this year, even though the Sheriff did not request it.
  • Jamie Isabel wants the Fire Department to staff an EMT at Council Chambers for all regular meetings in case on one of us citizens, whom he says are "very passionate and emotional," keels over during a meeting. I know I'm old-fashioned, but whatever happened to the idea of calling an ambulance or stocking a defibrillator?
  • Ludye Wallace wants to prohibit chain link fences in front yards. Have you ever noticed the high number of chain link fences in front yards around town? If so, then ponder the costs of policing all of these violators.
  • Ludye also wants the MTA to market public transportation to Metro and state employees to conserve energy. A worthy goal, but who is going to pay for the marketing campaign? Also, does this mean that Ludye will be taking the bus to Council meetings and that he will stop accepting the free parking space provided to him as a Council member?
If we've got to save money where we can, what's up blue lights, EMTs, fence prohibitions, and marketing campaigns?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Talk About My Neighborhood? Use "AIMBY," Not "NIMBY"

A nameless, faceless commenter in a previous post accused me of NIMBY for arguing that halfway houses should be spread out across the Metro area rather than concentrated only in urban areas. It is my contention that if I were NIMBY, I would not accept any social services in my neighborhood at all, when in fact I already do accept them. Within a half-a-mile radius of my house there are two halfway houses that I know of. One of them houses or housed at one time two convicted sex offenders. Right around the corner is Cheatham Place Public Housing, as is the Union Rescue Mission's Women's Home. Nearly next door is the Metropolitan Action Commission, which provides assistance for needy people.

So, get to know me better. I am not NIMBY; I am "AIMBY." Salemtown is saturated with services for people in crisis and for transitional populations. Hence, the services are "Already In My Back Yard." They are already a part of my landscape. I am not saying they shouldn't be. I am saying that they should also be a part of the suburban landscape, too. But they are not. And I am sure that there are other north-by-northwest neighborhoods that bear even more weight than we do for hosting the rehabilitation of fellow Nashvillians. Suburbanites generally refuse to brook even drug addiction halfway houses. Yet, if you really want to "mainstream" addicts, the suburbs are exactly the deepest channels where the mainstream flows. So, why can't they accept some of the burden, too?

Why can't they? Because they are much more NIMBY than anyone in the city who lives by modest means. So, get it right: guys like me are AIMBY, and there is no contradiction in living with social and rehabilitative services and demanding that others be placed in communities who refuse to bear any of the burden. Those outliers who take advantage of an urban community's good nature by expecting them to assume even more social responsibility than their density dictates--based primarily on property values, no less!--while accepting little or none themselves are about as NIMBY as NIMBY gets.

Gassed Off: Back in New Orleans

Lest we forget about the Bush administrations on-going marginal care of the Big Easy and its environs since Hurricane Katrina a year ago, now comes word that even though displaced New Orleaneans finally got the FEMA trailers, the wheeled abodes contain hazardous levels of formaldehyde gas, based on indoor tests. Because of a loophole, travel trailers are exempt from HUD regulations of formaldehyde levels in prefabricated dwellings, so FEMA did not bother to test. The chemical, which causes various respiratory ailments, is used as an adhesive for the pressed wood that is used in these travel trailers. I know that the Katrina disaster represents a financial windfall for the trailer industry, but the feds need to attend to detail, rather than just feeding the market.

Gilmore Gets It

Catagorical imperative of the day: those willing to start halfway houses for drug-recovery programs ought to be as willing to start them in their own exclusive neighborhoods. Clustering them across lower income city neighborhoods just because cheaper houses can be had there might be good for the pocketbook, but it is not the best way to mainstream recovering addicts and it remains an unfair burden on urban residents.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Give Us a Church Where Life is Densest

We worshipped this morning at Downtown Presbyterian, the 150-year-old church at the corner of 5th and Church, which is an intersection where Nashvillians have been gathering to worship for 200 years. I wanted to pass along this great quote from their bulletin:
We are a downtown church. Some regard this as a handicap. I look upon it as an asset. Give me a church where life is densest, and human need is greatest – not a church in some sequestered sylvan retreat, not a temple in some lonely solitude far removed from the walks of life and attended only by the children of privilege and leisure, but give me a church whose doorstep is on the pavement, against whose walls beat and lap the tides of labor, whose hymns mingle with the rattle of cars and the groans of traffic, whose seats are within easy reach of men falling under heavy burdens, and whose altars are hallowed by the publican’s prayer. God grant that this old church on the busiest corner of town may increasingly be this kind of church!
- -Rev. Dr. James I. Vance, on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, 1914

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tomato Fest Video: Second Line Forms at East Station

Nashville fixture Delicious Blues Stew opened the musical portion of the East End's Tomato Art Fest today with their own blend of zydeco, dixieland jazz, and blues. After leading a parade and impromptu gathering in front of the post office (which I captured on video above), they took to the stage.

TTR Makes PSN's Outrage List

Congratulations to Tennessee Tax Revolt. Its perpetuation of the taxes-lead-to-migration fiction made the Progressive States Network outrages-of-the-week list yesterday. The yarn they spun to get all those signatures is finally getting the recognition it deserves. However, I am sure there is still plenty of room for further demerit of the honkers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

NCP Left Out the Best Parts of Manning-a-Mano

As I wrote last night, Charlie Tygard was seething Tuesday during the Budget and Finance session on the Capital Budget. After the Parks Department people left, Metro's Finance Director David Manning, who had the podium during the Schermerhorn Fulton Complex discussion, effectively turned back Charlie's attacks. However, you could not tell that from a recap in this morning's Nashville City Paper:
At a meeting earlier this week, Tygard told Metro Finance Director David Manning he felt Purcell had not supported the [west Nashville] library for political reasons. Purcell allocated $700,000 for the land in his proposed capital budget this year. Manning responded to Tygard saying Purcell has spent far more dollars on community projects than any other Nashville mayor.
That's not all either Tygard or Manning said. The omitted details are telling. Tygard demanded that both Manning and Purcell explain to Bellevue residents why they would not be getting a library or more elementary schools. And then, he overplayed his hand: he accused the Mayor of spending less money on the Nashville community and more money on the courthouse and public square, which Tygard called, "monuments to government."

Manning countered with facts that we all know: this Mayor has spent more money on the neighborhoods than any other Mayor ever has or probably ever will. The Finance Director said that if previous Mayors and Councils had taken steps to maintain and repair the courthouse over the years, then Metro would not now be spending so much to do so now. He also took his own shot at the Metro Council by saying that the Mayor spends more time out in the neighborhoods than any Council members. And the congregation said, "Booya!"

But as I said, Tygard overplayed his hand by calling Nashville's courthouse and public square "monuments to government." He revealed at that moment that his anger was more political and partisan than pragmatic. He was far afield from fiscal conservativism that questions cost overruns. He was being a socially conservative Don Quixote, fighting imaginary big government foes; had he put a lid on his seething cauldron, Tygard might have seen that if we resort to calling the courthouse a "monument to government," then we are also bound to refer likewise to any libraries or public schools that the government builds in Bellevue.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright -- Updated with Ham & Biscuits

I just watched some of the replay of the Council's August 8 Budget & Finance Committee hearings involving the Parks Department and the Capital Budget. Lordy, it was quite a sight. Member Charlie Tygard had a meltdown and blew a couple of gaskets at the Historical Commission representative who was speaking on behalf of renovations to the historic City Cemetery's deteriorating stonework. He interrupted her with more shrill venom than I've ever heard in a Council proceeding, and he launched into a tirade (or is that "a tyrade"?).

To paraphrase: he is miffed that the courthouse renovations and public plaza construction are overbudget, even as he can't get drainage ditches or other flooding problems in his district taken care of or get libraries built in west Nashville. What his temper-tantrum proved I cannot tell you. He seemed like a loose cannon firing volleys at any soul remotely associated with Parks. I understand that he's pissed at Parks about the public square, but why take it out on the poor woman representing the Historical Commission? She had nothing to do with the courthouse renovations problems and, as member Ginger Hauser pointed out later, she has absolutely no control over the courthouse budget.

Rather than taking the opportunity that Hauser provided him to apologize, Tygard buzzed in again and seemed to divert by saying that many of the e-mail complaints that he gets about the Cemetery concern overgrown weeds rather than deteriorating stones. (He did concede that he had never been in the City Cemetery to do his own research). A Parks Department representative deftly handled Tygard's question by saying that maintenance crews were instructed not to use weed-eaters too close to historic, crumbling stones in the event that they would do more damage.

Apparently, Charlie is not going to let the fact that he has no first-hand knowledge of problems in the City Cemetery stop him from grinding his axe about the Capital Budget and trying to bully Department Heads whom he thinks have have failed his bidding, even if innocently so. The Chair should have thrown a bucket of water on the guy to put out his flames.

08/11/2006, 1:00 p.m. "Ham & Biscuits" Update: Just watched the tape again. I should add that the Historical Commission official, Director Ann Roberts, handled herself well in the face of the "tyrade." When Tygard started "scolding" her (in his words), she told him that she invited Council members to the City Cemetery on a number occasions without any response. She said that she even personally made ham and biscuits for them on one occasion, but it wasn't enough to get them there! After Charlie tore into her about the courthouse, she actually apologized to him for not warning him "loud enough" about cemetery problems. However, she said, the cemetery does not seem to get Council attention until things get "desparate."

North End Residents Moving to Form "Friends of Bicentennial Mall"

Out of concerns expressed for some growing problems with dying trees at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, several North End residents have started the process of forming a fund-raising and volunteer support group to make sure the park receives the attention it needs. Gardens of Babylon is already on board to save the trees.

My family just joined this important effort and I hope that Enclave readers will consider contributing their time and money to protecting the park for all who live here and for all who visit our side of town. It is truly one of Nashville's greenway jewels. Individual membership fees are $10.00 and families can join for $20.00. If you are interested in helping out, e-mail me and I'll put you in contact with the right people.

Will "The Clayton" Generate a "6th Avenue of the Arts"?

Over the weekend, I posted pictures of a couple of new developments in the North End in order to give you a peek at the exciting things happening here that might be otherwise overlooked. Yesterday the development company president for the new build going up in Salemtown, "The Clayton on 6th Avenue North," sent me a press release to provide even more information. You should read the whole release because the details look outstanding to me. Here's the release text:

August 9, 2006, Nashville, TN – Jim Creason, President of Trust Develop-ment, LLC today announced the development of "The Clayton on 6th Avenue North." Jeremy Gearheart, a business associate of Creason’s and partner of the development will oversee the day to day aspects of the project.

Creason Clayton, a well known artist and Nashville real estate developer, is the inspiration for this exciting new construction project located in the hip urban Germantown/Salemtown area. "The Clayton on 6th Ave. North" consists of three awesome, upgraded new homes designed by noted local historic replica home designer Lynn Taylor and built by Timberline Custom Homes.

In addition to being a renowned real estate developer in Nashville during the 1960’s through the 1980's, Creason Clayton was voted "Best Visual Artist" by Nashville Life in 1997 and was named among the top 100 Contemporary American artists by Art & Antique magazine. As an artist, he is best noted for his paintings of elegant, elongated women dressed in 1920s fashions and for his landscapes. Clayton was also known the world over for his attention to detail in his paintings. This attention to detail and quality will be seen in the construction and upgrades in "The Clayton on 6th Ave. North."

Jim Creason, a family member of Mr. Clayton, has named this project after Clayton who passed away in June of this year and is providing a Creason Clayton print to each home buyer. The new owners of the homes in "The Clayton on 6th Ave. North" will not only have an upscale urban living space, but will also have an outstanding piece of artwork to display in their new home. Mr. Clayton’s artwork and flair is found in finer homes and galleries all across the US and Europe and will soon be found in "The Clayton on 6th Ave. North."

Commenting on the development, Mr. Creason stated, "I am proud to be a part of the revitalization of such a historic district and think these homes will serve as a catalyst for other property owners in the area to continue what is already taking place. Our commitment to detail and quality materials coupled with the location will provide buyers tremendous investment upside."

"The Clayton on 6th Ave. North" is located at 1817, 1819 and 1821 Sixth Avenue North [the architect's sketch above is 1821], just north of the downtown Farmer’s Market. The homes range in price from $285,900 to $349,900 and include many upgrades including Hickory wood floors, granite countertops, upgraded appliance packages, extensive millwork and trim, master suites, fireplaces, private rear court yards and much more. More information.
Mr. Creason gets gold stars from me for promoting Salemtown alongside of Germantown as a "hip urban area." But more significant is Mr. Creason's commitment to building single family homes in our intergenerational neighborhood. During our chat, he told me that he passed on the chance of a zoning variance to squeeze one more home or to configure for multi-units; the purpose of this development is historic preservation. He appreciates period development, and he feels that the North End "deserves housing that is in keeping with the unique aspects and the historic elements of the area."

I could not agree more. We do not need to become a neighborhood exclusively of lofts and townhouses. We need a wide variety of offerings, including single family homes. "The Clayton" provides one more option for families looking to move to an urban neighborhood and it fills a niche outside of that of multi-unit dwellings, which make more money at sale, but which should not be permitted to oversaturate the North End, especially not Salemtown. So, I am promoting "The Clayton on 6th Avenue North" because it seems like a tremendous project by a developer who is sensitive to the character of our neighborhood. We need more developers like Mr. Creason, and I hope the he feels welcome in Salemtown.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why We Are Spurned By Our Council Member Explained

Don't Council members Ludye Wallace and Charlie Tygard make the perfect couple? I know I should be jealous that Ludye is trying to carry Charlie's water harder than he's trying to address the interests of those of us in his district, but the two were made for each other. Charlie has a reputation for resisting Council ethics reform; Ludye has a reputation for participating in immoral activities. They compliment each other. It's not like Ludye's ever around anyway. I've never seen him at a public meeting in District 19. That includes the Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee of which Ludye enjoys the title "ex-officio member." He's never attended a single meeting of this committee, which is vested with the responsibility of deciding how best to spend over $500,000 in federal block grant money. For all I know, Ludye already lives in Bellevue, which may explain why he drums up votes on behalf of Charlie's initiatives. Rumor has it Ludye doesn't even live in District 19. Now Charlie wants to pay Ludye back by making him El Capitán of the Council when Vice Mayor Howard Gentry is absent.

But despite my admiration of Ludye's yin to Charlie's yang, I must admit that hell hath no fury like a constituent scorned: rather than laying back and trying to enjoy Ludye's promotion, I'm wondering whether it would be worth the effort to recall District 19's lead slacker. Bellevue only needs one Council member. Downtown and neighborhoods north-by-northwest need a non-neglectin' someone who ain't going to be triflin' with our interests any longer. Should we just wait until Ludye's term-limited out or is his probable appointment to the Pro Tem position merely the final insult that motivates us to kick him to the curb before his term is out?