Sunday, December 31, 2006

Enclave's 2006 Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods

Just as I had in 2005, I spent some quality time this year dealing with local government operators and otherwise observing them in action. Based on my experience here you go:

Enclave's Official 2006 Best and Worst Rankings of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods


1. The Mayor's Office -- Ever reliable, Mayor Bill Purcell's administration continued its winning ways and made its long-term commitments to the general community over the special interests visible. Nashville has a new public square, which represents the largest downtown green gathering space, thanks to his leadership. He changed bad practices and proved himself to be the Mayor of all Nashville. The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods continues to be one of the vital places for neighborhood leaders to go for help. Thank you for your service, Mayor.

2. Metro Police -- Cops have a long established record of strong service to the North End. There is no other department that has been as available when called upon in the last two years as has been Metro Police. They continue to attend our neighborhood meetings faithfully and to update us on criminal behavior. Their forte is community policing: stopping to chat with us on porches and supporting our events with the ever popular horse-mounted patrol units. In May, the Police Department started a gang unit, not because they themselves perceived an uptick in gang behavior, but because neighborhood associations were reporting increased gang activities.

3. Metro Legal Department -- it is the lawyers who actually keep Metro Council idiocy from running amuck and getting Nashville into ethical quagmires and constitutional violations. Metro Legal opened the door in February for other Metro Departments to stop dispensing perks like free golf and free parking to Metro Council Members. The lawyers advised the Council Office that they would not allow Metro Council authorization to send $5,000 to an inner city ministry that clearly has a proselytizing mission.


Public Works -- 2006 began with much hope as Metro Public Works swiftly responded to replace signs that had been tagged with gang-related graffiti in Salemtown. And our neighborhood leaders were promised that a couple of remaining unpaved alleys would be paved before year's end. As 2006 ends, we still have unpaved alleys that are now dirt/mud roads with lots of potholes and more promises for 2007 remedies. Then there was the issue of traffic and parking. In August, when I contacted Public Works about some unfinished road maintenance and the safety of one of our intersections, a PW inspector gave me every reason against installing traffic control elements before he ever bothered to inspect the problem. Eventually Public Works came around with a courteous phone call from the inspector's supervisor, who met with me at the intersection to inspect the problems himself. PW eventually finished the road maintenance and put other traffic calming elements in place.

Parks Department -- The Morgan Park Community Center continues to provide important services including daily programs, holiday festivities (like a Halloween Party for the kids) and a place for the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association to meet free of charge. Parks officials did their usual bang-up job last spring of removing gang-related graffiti from Morgan Park buildings in less than 24 hours after the tagging. Unfortunately, the quality of the facilities at Morgan Park do not match the quality of the staff's everyday performance. Likewise, the 2005 plans for 2006 upgrades did not come through as promised within "a few months." We do have promises on the table for upgrades in 2007 by the end of the summer. We'll see whether they materialize.


3. Metro Water Services -- Metro Water's 2005 bubble popped in 2006, due to broken promises and to the fact that it is endangering the North End by openly storing hazardous chemicals without second thoughts. Metro Water officials promised to find remedies for water run-off problems over a year ago. Those problems languished through 2006 without any MWS attention beyond sending inspectors to look at them. The funky water treatment smell that seemed to abate in early 2006--as promised in 2005--returned with a vengeance as 2006 wore on. At first Water Services refused to address the real causes of the heightened funk, which was worse and more constant than it has ever been since we moved in in 2004. So, the Tennessean addressed the real causes: BFI shirking its contract, which had nothing to do with the "environmental conditions" that Metro Water kept giving us. After the Tennessean story was published, the funk seemed to abate again. Go figure.

Last but not least, we found out that MWS is storing WMD-grade chlorine gas, which it uses for water treatment, out in the open near a public road in 4 tankers protected only by a chain link fence and a single security guard. In a terrorist attack or an accident, the gas would kill most if not all of us living in the immediate vicinity of the plant. MWS does not have to use the hazardous gas for purification purposes. There are other less dangerous options used by other cities.

2. Animal Control -- Animal Control is the undisputed, perennial favorite to scape the bottom of the barrel of services rendered to neighborhoods. They got an early start on 2006 efforts to be the worst department: I never received a follow-up to a late December 2005 report I made about being consigned to phone on-hold hell. Despite the fact that I only spoke with AC officials who sounded like women during that hellacious waiting game, Health Department official Brent Hager told me that a man named "Kenny Mann" was the only AC official who took responsibility for speaking with me. Hager assured me that the Mann Man would call me. After one year, nobody from AC has called me. No woman. No Mann. No Hager.

In December 2006 I called AC to report two strays that belonged to an owner who lived on the next street over. The dispatcher told me that before he could send a truck out to pick up the mutts, I would have to give him the owner's address. About a week later I called with the owner's address; this time the dispatcher told me that she did not need the owner's address, but just a description of the dogs, which I gave. The dogs continue to run loose around the neighborhood daily. I have not seen a single Animal Control truck on patrol here.

1. Metro Council -- With a couple of notable exceptions, the Council has been a malfeasance machine, running away from the pack of dogs that race to the cellar of bad Metro services. There are so many bad things they've done that no survey of their misbehavior could do them justice. But let's look at the low lights:

  • The Absence of Ethics -- They macked for movie passes. They sought to isolate themselves from the public. They shirked their council responsibilities to watch the Predators' play-off run. They traded votes for special considerations. They ignored legitimate constituents for illicit ones. They got caught in lies. They exaggerated for the purposes of effect. They ignored oversight of ethics problems in utilities by switching the subject to privatizing utilities, despite the fact that private companies were already involved in the misuse of funds in question.
  • Budget Brawls -- There were several victims due to fights against the Mayor's budget this year. Storm-water run off suffered in order to protect big vendors like Vandy, who get multi-meter discounts. Average rate payers suffered likewise later. The arts suffered when Charlie Tygard didn't get the budget cuts he wanted and when he did want $50,000 to sponsor a council bonding activity. Historical Commission Director Anne Roberts suffered a Tygard Tyrade because Charlie misplaced his anger at Parks and the Public Square on her and the City Cemetery. The truth suffered Charlie's attacks on "monuments to government."
  • Ignoring Open Meeting Laws -- John Summers disappeared during introduction of his own important Sylvan Park Historic Zoning Bill. We found out later he was allegedly in a back room bartering his support of Buck Dozier's Electronic Billboard Bill in exchange for support of the zoning bill. Ludye Wallace confirms charges of back room politicking over appointing Kay Brooks as temporary seat-filler on the Metro School Board, as he admits that Michael Craddock approached him early about supporting Brooks, which leads naturally to:
  • The Kay Brooks Fiasco -- in a nutshell: a select group of council members met outside of the public eye and with the help of the local Republican Party selected an inexperienced, ideological replacement for the Metro School Board who faced significant public opposition (later proved by her significant loss in the August elections). Kay Brooks was council-coached, and council resources were used to stage her specially appointed swearing-in ceremony outside of the regular school board process. Kay Brooks's flawed service and questionable leadership made both the Council and the Metro School Board look bad.
  • English Only -- The main player is Eric Crafton who over the span of the four final months of 2006 found himself diluting his English Only bill in the face of mounting and withering opposition. He finally deferred to 2007 to see if he could muster enough votes to pass. Secondary players include Jim Gotto, who sought to use his position to influence the Tennessee Legislature to change its immigration laws and J.B. Loring, whose enlightened gnomes on race will go down in the annuls of council lore.
  • Tax Money Subsidies for Private Groups -- council members have earmarked hundreds of thousands of "infrastructure" funds for private non-profit groups. Nothing was spent on actual infrastructure. It smacks of special treatment and political cronyism.
In sum, the irony of the 2006 rankings is that the best of Metro Nashville is also the farthest away from the people: the executive. The worst of all services is the Metro Council who are in theory supposed to be the advocates closest to neighborhoods. Here's hoping that council members will strive to be more like Mayor Purcell and less like themselves in 2007.

1 comment:

  1. I would love it if term limits for the council were back on the table.

    I think the citizenry of Metro have seen what a folly such things are, particularly when as poorly implemented as this was.

    Happy New Year, from the North Side's biggest fan in Southy!