Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Putting Political Patronage Right Back on Council's Steam Tray

I cannot believe this is coming up again, but Metro Council will be seriously entertaining the idea of outside groups feeding them free meals (not to exceed $100) on meeting nights. If bill co-sponsors like Erik Cole and Rip Ryman do not now see the problem of letting patronage stick its nose back under the Council tent and if they are truly blind to the possible appearance of conflicts of interest, then they may never get it. They have been feeding each other since 2005; they should just keep doing that.

Now Is Not the Time for Real Estate Investors to be Hostile Anyway

Says CNN: January's pace in the south off nearly 10% from December's to compliment the national glut.

Curb Your Hostility

Dear Hostile Real Estate Investor,

You publicly embarrassed yourself after last night's Salemtown Neighbors meeting by flying off the handle at our president for merely disagreeing with you. There was no need to get out of your seat and stand up over him slurring his good name and cussing him out when all he did was attempt to tell you how he believed that you should be treating the people who actually live in this neighborhood; this neighborhood, which you merely visit once and a while to see how your latest construction project is progressing. There was no need to threaten him with a physical assault when he merely suggested that you retake your seat and show him the same respect that he was showing you.

That's an interesting way of doing business: hearing something you don't like and trying to intimidate association members as if getting support for real estate development is nothing but a brawl that you can win by force and intimidation. As if public relations can be grabbed by the collar and held up at the end of a clinched fist. I've got news for you. That's not how our association operates. You can't push your way around and think that people are going to roll over and submit to you if you get up in their faces and yell loud enough.

You, Mister Investor, gave Salemtown residents every reason not to believe you care about their concerns last night, even as you supposedly showed up (unannounced and uninvited) to address their concerns. You already had a PR problem; one that should have been dealt with from the beginning. You failed to spend enough time going over the details of your build with neighbors and getting their feedback. You wanted to do things strictly your way; now you don't like it that some here are not on your page. You've got no one but yourself to blame.

Part of your steam-rolling performance included screaming that you've put a lot of money into your Salemtown properties. But which of us who live here has not put a lot of money into our properties? And which of us has failed to put more than just our money, but our lives and the lives of our children into this community? On that latter score, you haven't invested a damned thing. You don't live here. You're an absentee landlord who invests nothing in the neighborhood that doesn't personally benefit you. The fact that last night you lost all sense of restraint and good judgment, and that you lashed out violently at the public face and the elected head of Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, merely confirms my worst fears about your intentions.

In all seriousness,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Scalp from Right-to-Left

Unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action. They call it "scalping" -- they pick a target and harass that person and his or her employer until the person either jumps or is pushed out of the public eye.

Green Neuhoff

East Germantown's Neuhoff re-development does not only include its focus for the arts (via Nashville Jazz Workshop and Actor's Bridge) and future residential development. It also includes a "Green Roof Prototype" on top of one of its buildings, featuring cedar glade species. Details of Neuhoff's Green Roof Development in 2002-2003 can be found after the jump. Practices that have not been applied elsewhere characterize Neuhoff's pilot project, including development of a 6,000-square foot Green Roof Park adjacent to the Green Roof and porous pavers in a new parking lot. The Cumberland River Greenway extension cutting through will include bio-retention and carbon sequestration elements.

Nashville Ranked 7th Best Metro Area for Artists

Jump to BusinessWeek's rankings. Nashville is #7 based on art establishments, population age, arts & culture index, diversity index, and cost of living. Los Angeles is #1.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Latest Census Analysis Sustains Reality of a Yawning Income Gap

[T]he share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

- - Last Thursday's McClatchy Newspapers

Before the typical accusations of "class war" start, just keep this in mind: this conflict is about a difference in vision of what rationally constitutes a good society; hence, this is virtual shot in the culture wars, and it has nothing to do with class war. Some of us are of a culture that holds we cannot call ours a good society when it permits weaker links to slip through safety nets while subsidizing the strong in other ways. So, before you accuse me, use the correct labels.

Program to Help Immigrants Learn English to Be Cut

After listening to last week's NPR story on the Bush Administration plans to kill the Even Start Program, which provides intensive family literacy services at local public schools to immigrant families, I wondered how such programs in Tennessee would fare, especially given the recent push at the local and state levels for English Only restrictions on government employees.

From what I've heard so far, this English literacy program has suffered because of Bush Administration attempts to kill it over the past several years. One Even Start official here told me that the past three years have been particularly difficult and that a group adversely affected by the loss of Even Start would be the teenage parents that the program serves. A former Even Start official told me that she watched past federal cuts drastically reduce program personnel. I tried to contact the State Even Start Director Tabatha Siddiqi for her response, but she did not return my e-mail.

With the growing backlash against immigrant families in Tennessee, it would be a travesty to lose a literacy program that does the very thing that English Only proponents claim to desire.

Salemtown Block Grant Progress Update

The Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee (to MDHA) met two weeks ago to continue discussing options for projects on which to spend a federal block grant that will probably end up amounting to around $575,000-$589,000. I believe that the group has moved towards consensus on several possibilities.
  1. We seem to agree that the inexpensive-but-big-bang-for-the-buck projects like stamped and painted crosswalks, traffic bulbs at curbside, and distinctive street signs are worthy of our support.
  2. We seem to agree that we do not need to pursue the projects of seed money for elderly programs/day care, roadway speed bumps, and intersection roundabouts; hence, those projects were dropped from our list.
  3. We seem to agree that decorative street lights are one of the more attractive options, but because their expense would eat up a larger portion of the grant, we set that project aside for future discussion.
  4. We seem to agree that there is disagreement in the group on the feasibility of two possible projects: trash receptacles on streets and distinctive entry way signs. Those disagreements can be resolved in the future, and they will not affect the projects we can choose sooner in #1.
The next Salemtown CAC meeting will be on Tuesday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m. and it is open to all Salemtowners. As a CAC member, I welcome any questions or comments other Salemtowners might have here in the comment section or via e-mail if not in person.

Enclave to Donate $100 to Nashville Jazz Workshop

Last Fall I donated my first $100 earned from ads displayed on Enclave to the Friends of Bicentennial Mall State Park. I am just a few bucks away from earning my second $100 after a shorter time span, and I have decided to contribute it to another non-profit institution here in the North End: the Nashville Jazz Workshop. The Workshop, located in East Germantown's Neuhoff Complex, promotes jazz in Nashville through providing unique educational and community opportunities for jazz professionals, students, and enthusiasts. I believe that it represents an important cultural and artistic presence in the North End community, too. The donation I will be sending the Workshop is my small way of helping it continue to do that. I hope that you will consider making a donation yourself to this worthy cause.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last Night's Stormwater Run-off Mires Intersection with Schöne Ansicht's Mud

While the intersection of 5th Avenue and Hume Street has had its share of ponding problems after storms, now it has the extra problem of silt run-off from the Schoene Ansicht project. Only 10 short days ago I warned that UP, LLC investors, Steve Yokley and Taurus McCain failed to respond to neighbors' requests to put up a silt fence or some barrier to keep debris on the construction site. Now the fall-out--after what was an unremarkable rain event in Nashville--is a muckety mess for neighbors to walk and wheel across. And once it dries, it will be a dust bowl blowing up in our faces.

The curb cuts--designed for wheelchair access--at both west corners of the intersection were choked this morning with an inch of mud and water. We have had Salemtown residents in the past who were wheelchair-dependent. Today they would not be able to cross the street at this intersection without a winch system to pull them out of the mess.

A stroll from 5th up Hume past the Schoene Ansicht construction site allows one to see a foot-wide channel adjacent to the street gutter where stormwater run-off picked up the silt and small gravel, carried it down hill and deposited it at 5th Avenue. Before the storm, freshly dug piles of dirt extended uneroded to the edge of the street. Now the run-off channel is clearly visible, as is the lost opportunity to save Salemtown the headache of a debris-clogged thoroughfare by putting up a simple, inexpensive, properly installed silt fence, which "can detain hundreds of pounds of sediment and water--even a concentrated flow" [source].

Indeed, there are other North End investors and developers who take their responsibility to the community seriously, even while they still intend to make money. A property at the corner of 5th and Monroe in Germantown has had silt fences up for weeks even with minimal construction. Moreover, the block on which the Germantown site sits seems flat. The potential for stormwater run-off damage to surrounding properties appears slight compared to that of Schoene Ansicht in Salemtown. Even so, Monroe developers installed it, and they communicated their intentions truthfully to the neighbors affected, which is a courtesy that Salemtown does not get from UP, LLC.

I do not know if the mud-caked curb cuts affect Metro's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and I do not know whether UP, LLC is required by Metro Codes to clean up their 5th Avenue run-off silt drop. But I do know that the investors' failures to prevent easily preventable problems is just another black eye for them, and it is further indication to me that, relative to other property developers, they have little regard for the neighborhood outside of the money that they intend to make from it.

UPDATE: pictured on the right is a construction site on 6th Avenue North near the Buchanan Street intersection in Salemtown. Its developers have put up a silt fence to catch stormwater and debris from running off the property. At least they are making an effort.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Ole Bureaucratic Bolero

Metro is misdirecting Salemtown residents who may be affected by the Schoene Ansicht stormwater run-off system, which empties into the alley between 5th and 6th Avenues at Hume Street. This morning I spoke with a neighbor on the adjoining property who told me that she contacted the Metro Sewer Department. Metro Stormwater Engineer Steve Mishu had left her with the impression that they were her next stop after he washed his hands of the problem. Metro Sewer officials told her that they rarely act on problems like this without first getting a recommendation from a stormwater engineer (you know, like Steve Mishu).

Do you get the feeling that bureaucrats just bounce you back and forth in order to tire you and drive you away?

Yeah, and Correctly Pronouncing the Name of My Home Security System is the First Step to Deterring Burglary

Republican State Senator Bill Ketron is under the delusion that his proposed English Only Driver's License Tests are "the first step in protecting the sovereignty of our country." As if professional terrorist cells preparing domestic attacks wouldn't learn English to begin with.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Provides Well for Some; Many More Left Behind

Whenever I read conservative bloggers dismissing the obscene income gap in this manner:
No economy in the world provides as well for it's citizens as the free market economy here in the United States
I am reminded of a famous Margaret Bourke-White photo:

Other Hume Street Development Will Connect Stormwater Run-off Underground

The developers of the property at 8th Avenue North and Hume Street say that their stormwater run-off system includes treatment and purification and that it will connect underground directly to the sewer system. The 8th and Hume development is scheduled for Metro Council Public Hearing in March.

In the wake of the controversy over the Schoene Ansicht development two blocks away from 8th and Hume, I contacted Core Development and asked them if there had been any changes made to their plans presented to Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association in January 2006. I also asked them how they were going to handle stormwater run-off.

According to Metro contour elevation maps, Hume Street drops 36 feet from the top of the hill at 8th and Hume to the corner of 5th and Hume, which is the site of regular ponding during storms. The problem with the Schoene Ansicht development is that directing run-off on the surface instead underground would not seem to alleviate the problems at 5th and Hume. Likewise, if the 8th and Hume development did not direct their run-off underground, it would create more problems for residents living at the bottom of the hill. Fortunately, the Water and Sewerage Department has communicated that 8th and Hume will be allowed to hook-up directly to the sewers. And Core's Aaron White confirmed that no changes had been made to the original plans (which received positive feedback at last year's Salemtown Neighbors meeting).

What is not clear yet, according to Core, is whether or not they will hook-up to the 8th Avenue sewers or to the Hume Street sewers. If the latter, I am left to wonder: if 8th and Hume can go underground, then why can't Schoene Ansicht do likewise? However, at the very least, less stormwater run-off will be flowing down Hume once the 8th and Hume project is completed because they will be channeling it underground directly to sewers. That's good news for neighbors down hill of the development.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Lesson from Predatory Lenders: The Market Does Not Regulate Itself

Before the national change of mind and the ensuing congressional turn-over last year, "Payday Loan Operations" acted as loan sharks with impunity, taking advantage of people's hard luck and charging them 400% interest on short-term loans. NPR reports that now that legislators are moving to regulate the industry, these predators have gone 180°, offering their clients 2 to 4 month grace periods to pay off their loans at no interest. Not only does that demonstrate that market was not designed to regulate itself, but it shows that the external pressure of consumer protection regulations have a reforming effect on the market.

53 Million

That's the number of dollars that the head of Goldman Sachs was paid at the end of last year as a bonus; and he had only held the position for 6 months [Source: Jim Hightower].

Will Campbell, reflecting on the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s, once wrote that mostly working-class whites and blacks clashed over sitting down to have a hamburger and a coke, but they never thought to question who was eating steak and drinking champagne and pulling strings at their expense. It seems like so many current contests--from English Only to tax "reform"--pit people of modest means against their fellows. It is the ultimate politics of division. Very few bother to question the obscene incomes that occur at the top of the economic food chain that eat into base incomes below. Incomes down below get pitted against even more subterranean incomes. Hispanics get accused of taking "American" jobs. And yet, nobody bothers to question economic powers that pull the real strings in this nation.

Let's call a $53,000,000 bonus for 6 months what it is: obscene. ComPare incomes below the upper middle class level off each other; but let's be clear about the real income obscenities. Then we can talk about who is really losing ground to whom.

UPDATE: Here's a helpful NPR report after the jump out today on the "income gap" and the differences between Republicans and Democrats on the dealing with it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ding! Dong! The English Only Referendum Is Dead for 2007!

Expecting Council Members to actually know the Metro Charter beforehand is probably asking too much.

UPDATE: Thursday's City Paper says, "[Eric] Crafton said his own legal advisor had told him the charter is unclear and does not specify the boundaries of the two-year periods." He has his own legal advisor?!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tonight's Metro Council Notes

I watched the whole thing tonight to bring the important stuff to attention. Besides if it doesn't bleed or involve an illegal immigrant, you won't see it in tomorrow's mainstream media. Here are the highlights:

  • The resolution authorizing the $1.3 million federal "pass-through" grant to extend the Cumberland River Greenway from Metro Center through the North End passed easily. Looks like planned Riverfront Re-development begins with us. Now it's time for Metro Water to convert their front fence-line on 3rd Avenue to walled greenspace. That ought to be our next lobbying effort here.
  • Almost all of the infrastructure funding of non-profits passed without any discussion whatsoever. A late addition was Charlie Tygard's Bellevue Exchange Club Foundation Funding that that the Finance Department held up after December passage because of Tygard's position as Treasurer of the club. Eric Crafton agreed to sponsor the bill on Mr. Tygard's behalf and shepherded it through tonight. The real fun started when Ludye Wallace rose after passage and commended Tygard (for basically doing the right thing, which should not be commended) and Crafton. Ludye also criticized some unnamed Metro employees whom he called "mean-spirited" in their attempts to stifle Mr. Tygard. While I assumed that he was referring to Finance Director David Manning (who also did the right thing and who should not be commended for doing what is right), I was struck by the fact that Ludye compared a mean-spirit to the "good intentions" of Tygard, who once referred to the new Public Square as a "monument to government," and to those of Crafton, who called all Metro attempts--including those involving health and safety--to help non-English speakers "a crutch." There's probably enough mean-spirit to go around.
  • The BILL THAT WOULD NOT DIE OR PASS was deferred yet again. While the current form of the bill was introduced last May, I first blogged on an earlier form two years ago, at which time it was up for the second of three readings! One council member admitted that he had just got around to looking the planning map of affected streets in his district and had just decided to oppose it. Will this never end?
  • Ludye Wallace tried to introduce a memorializing (non-binding) resolution supporting Governor Bredesen's proposal for raising cigarette taxes. Several of Ludye's fellows opposed it. Eric Crafton's opposition was perhaps the most salient: the cigarette tax would go for education, even though the state's public school funding formula short-changes Metro schools. The grandstanding opposition awards go to Jim Gotto and newly elected member, Robert Duvall. Mr. Gotto, who once signed the Tennessee Tax Revolt's no-new-tax pledge and later voted to increase Metro taxes, said that many of his constituents oppose any tax increases. I was thrown by why he felt the need to go on record against Ludye's memorializing resolution when he argued back on January 16 that memorializing resolutions don't do anything and "weren't worth the paper they are written on." So why waste time opposing that which is worthless? I do not know whether Mr. Duvall ever signed a TTR no-new-tax pledge, but he all but embraced one, by telling the Council in no uncertain terms that he would never, ever vote for any kind of tax increase. We'll see how that grandstand holds up come summer budget time. Ludye's motion died a quick death, garnering only 3 votes.

UPDATE: I did miss this thoroughly symbolic one, which the Tennessean caught (see? You cannot sneak immigrants past journalists). I guess it got by me when I was putting the little one to bed. I'll be interested to see what the roll call vote results are.

Oh, and Mayor Purcell Did Sign the Metro Council Resolution Declaring English Metro's Official Language

See for yourself after the jump.

State Looks to Acquire and Re-Develop Land Near Jefferson Street and 5th Avenue North

A Nashville Charrette member clarifies details behind a City Paper story on the State's intentions to purchase land for a new State Library and Archives and a new state Museum in the vicinity of Bicentennial Mall:
I believe the State has used the acquisition money to purchase the parcels on the west side of 5th Avenue just south of Jefferson Street (the Hester Batteries block). They are also in negotiations to acquire the block to the east, from 4th to 5th Avenues just south of Jefferson Street.
Please, Tennessee, be kind to the North End in your designs for these buildings.

"Somebody's got to pay the price for war, and more often than not, it's the poor folk."

Today's honest coverage of the human costs of the Iraq War at home and across the nation. And lest you think the White House's treatment of the destitute were not sardonic enough: President Bush proposed to slash medical care to the poor to pay for a war fought by the poor.

Taxi-onomy: Is Anyone Beyond the Licensing Board Watching the Company Store?

The public face of Nashville's United Cab Co. and a public relations nightmare in this morning's Tennessean:

United Cab office manager Cherrie Machado said [Cab Triver Ibrahim] Ahmed had worked at that company only "two or three days" before Sunday's incident [allegedly attempting to run over customers] and that company officials did not know of his prior offenses [high speed chase with police and driving under a suspended license]. It was not immediately clear what company he worked for previously.

"Evidently we need to work on our policy," she said. "We've not had a situation like this before. We want to keep our drivers safe and our passengers safe — that's our policy.

"We may just need to do some further screening on our own instead of depending on the licensing board."
Ms. Machado is stating the obvious on the score of needing to do some further screening and more work on their policy in general. What I want to know is this: how can she be sure that her company has never had a situation of hiring drivers with police records if they don't do any screening or checking beyond the application? If United Cab does not screen for potentially unsafe drivers, how can they claim that customer safety is their policy? I detect bad faith.

Also, take note of her finessed passing of the buck to the licensing board, as if companies require regulation to do the right thing. But hold on; don't market enthusiasts preach that companies will naturally do the things to protect their customers without the external motivation provided by regulations? Nashville cab companies will obviously do the bare minimum required of them, at least until a customer is almost killed. Then they have to think about all of those legal liability costs eating into their profit margins.

He Thinks a Lot of Himself

I'm going to let Mayor Purcell have his way for a short time.

- - Lord Eric, King of the Council, Master of his Domain, quoted in the Tennessean on the prospects that he will override the Mayor's override with an English-In-Your-Face petition drive

Monday, February 19, 2007

Werthan Lofts Has Moved to Trendy West End! North End in Tears

Tennessean reporter Lea Ann Overstreet (desperately seeking North End news that seems to be all around us) penned a little promotional piece on Werthan Lofts; and what's not to be promoted about Werthan Lofts? However, her piece appears in today's West End/Vandy Section rather than the "North Nashville" Section.

If the injury of Werthan being torn from the North End community and being lumped in with the trendsetters to our west weren't enough, the Tennessean adds insult to the mix: it resolutely refuses to give the North Nashville pages the same color-drenched, RBG-mixed makeover that it gives to the coutured set around Vanderbilt.

Compare and contrast:

Council Returns to Privatizing Public Funds Tomorrow

After a brief interruption (the last two council meetings included approved resolutions for spending on real public infrastructure), Metro Council returns to patronizing local non-profits with property tax proceeds. Here is the latest in my recurring shake run down of where the members intend to send your money in lieu of spending it on public services during Tuesday night's council meeting:
  • $4,000 to the Nashville Film Festival to pay a Community Outreach Coordinator to market this non-profit's festival around Davidson County (Jim Shulman)
  • $5,000 to the Salvation Army to purchase and install an electronic access control system for the Command and Social Services Center on Dickerson Road (Rip Ryman)
  • $6,240 to the Nashville Child Advocacy Center to pay for the cost of therapy for two children for six months (Ryman, Charlie Tygard, Parker Toler)
  • $8,000 to the Nashville Academy Theatre and Nashville Children's Theatre Association to offer affordable tickets to all public schools and free tickets to students from the most disadvantaged public schools in Metro Nashville (Shulman, Toler)
  • $10,000 to the Friends of Radnor Lake to provide three months of park support, publication of the spring newsletter, production of educational panels on information kiosks, and the completion of a water quality study (Lynn Williams)
  • $30,000 to the Oasis Center, Inc to provide intensive training through the Nashville Youth Leadership initiative to 35 high school sophomores as well as youth leadership and civic action training to at least 200 high school students from across the city (Shulman, Eric Cole, Ryman)
  • $41,750 to the Nashville Alliance for Public Education to purchase library books, supplies, furniture, and shelving to further the purposes of the Alliance's mission (Randy Foster, Emily Evans; this allotment comes the closest to funding infrastructure of any of these seven resolutions)

Square Snow

Cavalcade of Capitalists: NY Suburban Entrepreneur Contributes $15,000 to Republican Campaigns, $150,000 to Afghani Terrorist Campaigns

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari was arrested on Thursday for terrorist donations allegedly sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Will the Republican campaigns he also donated to return the thousands he sent to them? Will the mainstream news media be able to dislodge this bias-busting irritant from their conventional mainframes?

UPDATE: A second Terrorism/Republican fundraiser has emerged in California.

UPDATE AGAIN: According to the National Republican congressional Committee, Alishtari "long supported Republican ideals," and he was appointed to their Business Advisory Council.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Council Resolution To Extend Greenway through North End from Metro Center to Jefferson Street

Resolution RS2007-1770, which is up for a single vote on Tuesday, would approve a $1.3 million federal "pass-through" grant from TDOT to Metro Parks for extending the Cumberland River Greenway through the North End. The grant would pay for a 1.5 mile paved path from the Metro Center trailhead on the north (I-65) to the Downtown Greenway Plaza south of Jeff Street on the south. The project includes trailhead signage, landscaping, and greenway amenities. It requires a local match of a little over $325,000 through bond funds allocated for the construction of Greenways. This is one of those rare instances when I can say that I whole-heartedly and enthusiastically support a Ludye Wallace-co-sponsored bill. He's actually doing something beneficial for us this time.

English Already First in Immigrant Families, But to the Detriment of Bilingual Skills

The other day I quoted Pew 2005 stats that showed that Hispanic immigrant families learned English at such a quick pace that, by the 2nd generation in immigrant families, Spanish dominance had dropped to a mere fraction of what it was in the 1st (72% to 7%). By the 2nd generation in immigrant families, a whopping 93% were either bilingual or English dominant. 3rd generation numbers indicate a complete conversion to the English language.

According to various studies, immigrant families promote English internally, believing that it will create more opportunities for future generations. However, the 1st generation does not merely drag the 2nd and 3rd generations kicking and screaming to learn English. According to a 1998 study of 8th and 9th grade students in San Diego and Miami-Fort Lauderdale (cited by Lucy Tse in Why Don't They Learn English?, p. 31), two-thirds of 2nd generation immigrants favored using English over their parents' language. The causes of that preference include the powerful cultural and popular pulls of English, limited exposure to and less opportunities to learn the language of family heritage, parental and school misconceptions based on fear, and peer pressure.

So, without any government coercion, immigrant families push themselves to learn English. But there are also casualties that may be further harmed by local government mandating English. One of those casualties is bilingualism or the ability of 2nd and 3rd generations in immigrant families to utilize two languages at once. In the study of 8th and 9th graders, while researchers found that the students knew English well, they were progressively losing their bilingual skills. Among the Spanish-speaking students, fewer than half were fluent bilinguals.

The destruction of a bilingual skill set in the children of immigrants is a strike against their future professional and economic opportunities. In today's world, bilingualism is an asset that can translate to future success. Yet, there is no effort here in Nashville to encourage immigrant children to develop their bilingualism to open more doors for them in life.

In fact, Metro Council's English Only/First response signals knee jerk opposition to any Metro official who assists immigrants using both English and the language of heritage. Government mandates of English Only like Eric Crafton's are overkill: not only would they artificially force the language assimilation process that is already happening naturally in immigrant families, but they would further wreck the future opportunities for progress by the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants that bilingualism creates.

New Neuhoff Plan Renderings

Intown Will has more details on and a SHoP rendering of East Germantown's Neuhoff Development Plans. He seems particularly awed by comparing Neuhoff's planned quantity to the entire Gulch buildout projections.

Below are a couple of the exterior renderings that Will didn't include with the interior drawing that he posted:

North End Flurries

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Crafton Says He Will Not Try to Override Mayor's Veto or Pursue a Charter Amendment Through the Council; Doesn't Rule Out Petitions

NewsChannel5's Pat Nolen has the scoop:
[Council Member Eric] Crafton announces on my show that he will not seek to get the Council to override the Mayor's veto [of English Only/First] nor will he bring a charter amendment there. He says he just doesn't want "to put the Council through that" (OK, but what about the rest of us, Councilman? What makes you think we want to revisit all this again?)
By all means, save this Council's remaining threads of credibility before giving a second thought to the community's welfare. Brothers (and a few sisters) in arms, after all.

The actual translation: Eric "My Marching Orders Come From Voters" Crafton cannot get enough Council Member votes (which, incidently, come indirectly from Nashville voters) beyond the "English Only 23" to override or pass a charter amendment referendum. He'll probably be launching a petition drive in Davidson County instead. Says Nolan:
Crafton does seem poised to move full speed ahead with the petition campaign and Mayor Purcell wonders if another council sponsor might still try an override. But sometimes when a mayor vetoes a controversial matter like this, the sponsors get fewer votes on an override than they got when the bill was originally approved. If that happens, it wouldn't be a great start for the petition drive now would it?
Very rarely do petition drives of referendums designed to take something away from somebody else fail to include a lot of demagoguery, sophistry, and hyperbole. Get ready for Mr. Crafton to ply his partisan trade to try to get a critical mass of a segment of the Nashville community whipped up into the seething ire and hostility that he tends to channel in Council Meetings.

Hail the coming march of the hotheads, because their herald is already here.

First Base Has Nothing to Do with Kissing

Despite the snow and ice, today is the first fit of summer for me, as Major League Spring Training starts in Florida and Arizona with pitchers and catchers reporting for duty.

The player pictured is Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie, one of the greatest second basemen ever to play the game. Even more than 100 years after setting it, he still holds the American League single-season batting average record (.426 in 1901). He was so good that the Cleveland club was named for him. They were the "Naps" during the 12 years he played there and they only became the "Indians" after he left.

Baseball is our pastime, a definition of which is that diversion that occupies our thoughts. So, occupy your thoughts with this warming reflection:
The lure of baseball is in its subtleties: situational defense, pitch location, pitch sequence, statistics, ball parks, history, and player personalities. It's been noted that the game itself has no time limit, and its playing surface, rather than rigidly rectangular and standardized, extends theoretically to eternity from a single point (home plate) to beyond its own fences. For the avid fan, the game—even during its slowest points—is never boring because of these nuances. Therefore, a full appreciation of baseball naturally requires some knowledge of the rules; it also requires deep observation of those endearing and enduring qualities that give baseball its unique style [Source Jump].


Friday, February 16, 2007

Nashville Climbs in "25 Best Cities For Jobs" Rankings lists Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro as #18 this year in their rankings; up from #24. Looks like mainly service sector jobs fueling the rise.

The report was published at 6:00 this morning and as far as I can tell, it is still completely off the mainstream news media's radar.

Tennessean Blog Picked Up the 6th and Hume Water Run-off Controversy

Sorry I missed this, but the Tennessean's North Nashville blog posted on and linked my original story on the 6th and Hume Stormwater run-off controversy over two weeks ago. Today was the first time I checked out Reporter Lea Ann Overstreet's blog, so only now do I refer you to it. Hutchmo left a comment there (sorry, John, I should have linked it a long time ago).

Public Hearing on 8th and Hume Development Rescheduled for March

For reasons unknown to me the Metro Council Public Hearing for the zone change request involving the development at 8th Avenue and Hume Street (across from Werthan) was rescheduled from January 2 to March 6.

UPDATE: I seem to be getting a parcel of traffic lately from Urban Planet, where there is a discussion involving details about this development. Welcome to those who make their way over from that exchange, and if you seek more details about the development, check out this link after the jump regarding info presented to a Salemtown Association meeting last year.

Compare and Contrast: Funding Nashville Inner City Ministry

Before the January 16, 2007, Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting began, the Inner City Ministry provided a supplemental letter to Council staff that stated unequivocally that the Life Skills classes would not involve Biblical teaching. The letter stated: “Life Skills classes are not Biblically-based and none of the funds will be used to promote religious beliefs.”

- - E-Mail from Metro Legal Regarding Council January 2007 Approval of $5,000 to Nashville Inner City Ministry

Nashville Inner City Ministry began in 1979 as an outreach to the young people living in the public housing projects of Nashville's inner city. Beginning with a single bus and a handful of young people, the ministry has grown into a fleet of more than 90 vehicles and over 1,500 young people being reached each week .... these young people are transported to over 50 learning centers where some 600 volunteers give their time teaching them basic life skills based on Biblical principles.

- - Nashville Inner City Ministry Mission currently catalogued at

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Great Campaign Kick-off Speech

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken shares the very personal ways domestic programs gave him and his family opportunities that they otherwise would not have had during challenging times:

CRIME ALERT: Update on Wanted Rapist

From Metro Police:

Brian Bernard Hunter, a self-proclaimed youth minister and convicted rapist who is under investigation by Metro Police for the reported sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy, is now in custody in Atlanta.

Hunter, 31, was picked up over the weekend on a probation violation warrant out of Memphis, where he was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old boy.

The investigation of Hunter by the Metro Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit is continuing.

Generations of Hispanic Immigrant Families Are Learning English, Says Pew Research Center

Here's something you won't hear mentioned in Metro Council's English Only deliberations. A Pew Center research study found:

Spanish is the dominant language of the Hispanic adult population because of the presence of immigrants. Even so, more than a quarter of the foreign-born population speaks some English. The language profile is very different among native-born Latinos. Nearly half of the second generation only speaks English and the other half is almost all bilingual, meaning they can speak and read both languages. Virtually all Latinos whose parents were born in the United States speak English and none are Spanish dominant.
Here are Pew's crunched numbers:

Spanish Dominant


English Dominant

1st Generation




2nd Generation




3rd Generation




That 0% Spanish dominant fluency by the 3rd generation is titanic and impressive. If government services in Spanish were the crutch that Council Member and new Fox Noise darling Eric Crafton claims, then Spanish dominance would stretch out for generations. It does not and the theory of immigrant crutches is bunk. English dominance starts to take over in the 2nd generation, and the 3rd generation of immigrant families truly are "English First" without their big brother in government pushing them into the deep end with no water wings.

HT: Gregg Ramos

ADL: Anti-Immigration Among the Exploiters Causing Klan Resurgence in 2006

According to an Anti-Defamation League report, there are real causes of the troubling resurgence of the Klan:

The Ku Klux Klan, which just a few years ago seemed static or even moribund compared to other white supremacist movements such as neo-Nazis, has experienced a surprising and troubling resurgence due to the successful exploitation of hot-button issues including immigration, gay marriage and urban crime. Klan groups have witnessed a surprising and troubling resurgence by exploiting fears of an immigration explosion, and the debate over immigration has in turned helped to fuel an increase in Klan activity, with new groups sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity.

Schöne Ansicht Owners, Despite Invitations to Neighbors, Have Been Unresponsive on Trash Problem

It is one thing to post your phone number over and over in the comments section of Enclave for Salemtown residents to call with questions or issues. Actual follow-up is another matter. Some neighbors of the Schoene Ansicht townhouse project tell me that they have been complaining about blowing trash from the site since construction started months ago, yet co-owners of UP, LLC have yet to respond with a silt fence or staying barrier to protect the rest of the neighborhood.

Only within the past two weeks, after controversy involving a drainage pipe boiled over, did hay bales appear across the driveway onto the property. Those bales looked like they were meant to keep debris on the property. However, the bales were often stacked to the side to let trucks in and out and not put back out after everyone had left. And now they have disappeared altogether.

So, once again and with several units yet to start construction, trash is free to blow around the vicinity of Hume and 6th and 5th and Garfield. A few weeks ago I saw one of my neighbors with a leaf-blower walking down the alley and moving all of the Styrofoam, dry wall shrapnel, and workers lunch sacks that had blown out from Schoene Ansicht back up on to the construction site. However, cleaning up after bad neighbors should not be the work of the rest of us. If UP, LLC is really invested in the development of the neighborhood and not solely in squeezing as many bucks as they can as quickly as possible, then why aren't they policing their own sub-contractors?

UP, LLC co-owner Steve Yokley countered S-townWife in the comments section of one of my posts when she complained about construction workers from his site dumping cut-down trees in back of our property:
This is the first time that I've heard about this. If you want to contact the builder directly, call me and I'll put you in contact with him. There are a lot of sub contractors that come and go in a project, and if I don't know about an issue it can't be addressed.
There is absolutely no reason why S-townWife should have to take responsibility for Steve Yokley's problems by dealing with the builder herself. And there are no guarantees according to their track record with containing their trash that any of the Schoene Ansicht owners were going to follow-up even if she had called them rather than hauling it back over herself.

So, neighbors: call UP, LLC at the phone numbers they list on Enclave every time I post information that they do not care for readers to see. But do not be under the illusion that whatever issue you have will get follow-up.

UPDATE: Bales are now back.

Sprouted from Bad Seed: The National Race-Based Roots of English Only

Long before English Only arrived in Nashville, its advance was generated by a single individual and supported by a host of connections to racist and supremacist hate groups. According to research of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

In 1982, [John H.] Tanton created U.S. Inc. to raise and channel funds to his anti-immigration network. The following year, he created his second major vehicle, U.S. English, which made a cultural argument — that the English language was in mortal danger of being made irrelevant.
All contemporary organized anti-immigration and pro-English groups have spun off from Mr. Tanton's work. Yet, Mr. Tanton has a legacy, according to SPLC, of collaborating with anti-Hispanic and anti-Black groups like the Council of Concerned Citizens (itself the outgrowth of the segregationist and anti-Semitic White Citizens Councils of the 1950s).

After early successes (helping pass English Only statutes in 30 states), Tanton's racist predisposition became public knowledge. News came that one of his organizations accepted $1.2 million from a "Neo-Nazi organization, tied to the Nazi eugenics program of the 1930s" and committed to "racial inferiority and superiority."

During a 1988 Arizona English Only referendum some of Tanton's personal memos became public. According to SPLC:

The memos were replete with derogatory references to Latinos, reflecting a kind of entrenched bigotry that had only been suspected before. They complained mightily of the high Hispanic birth rate suggesting that Latin American immigrants would bring political corruption to the United States.

The memos included a demographic punchline that depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders and revolted many readers:
"[P]erhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down."
Recently these anti-immigration and pro-English groups are tied to conspiracy theories of Mexican plots to re-conquer the southwest, pseudo-scientific publications devoted to the idea that African Americans are less intelligent, Holocaust-denying organizations, and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. You should go read the whole thing for the sobering details. Not to be missed are the derogatory "racial mixing" comments from a retired Vanderbilt professor who served on one of Mr. Tanton's boards.

I ask the moderates and African Americans on the Metro Council who signed on to Eric Crafton's English Only bill and any Nashvillian who would sign an English Only petition: is this the kind of hate-ridden legacy that you prefer to embrace?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Who Said Metro Council's "English First" Has Nothing to Do With Immigration?

These people see English First as making Tennessee "less illegal alien friendly." After reading some of their material, I'm wondering whether Eric Crafton pulled some of his council speeches straight from the site.

Exemption Bummers

Here are my greatest disappointments regarding actions involving the Car Wash Exemption Bill:
  • There's been next to no discernible--as in publicized--actions since the bill was deferred over a week ago. I was hoping the neighborhood groups and Nashville Neighborhood Alliance would have jumped on the opportunity to drum up support to try and kill the bill before it is brought back up. If anything is moving on this, then it is happening behind closed doors. Please tell me that neighborhood leaders are not sitting on their hands on the exemption issue like they were a couple of months ago.
  • This issue has not come up for discussion on my favorite "urban design issues" on-line discussion, Nashville Charrette. The Charrette has so many positives to it, but one of its limitations is that it tends toward sophisticated design theory and high-minded aesthetics and it seems to shy away from nuts and bolts issues that affect neighborhoods at at the community level. The whole exemption controversy seems a tailor-made crossroads for a Charrette discussion about participatory urban forms, but there has not been a single mention of it.
  • No moderate-to-progressive council member has aggressively and outspokenly opposed the exemption bill, thus leading to my greatest disappointment ...
  • Council Member John Summers is the only vociferous opponent of the exemption bill. Summers' credibility was all shot full of holes during the Sylvan Park Overlay Catastrophe last year. And yet, he even found a way to sink even lower into the swamp of low regard by voting for English Only. I can only wonder how he is personally benefiting from his opposition, because I'm not convinced that he is digging in his heels on principle.
All things considered, I am concerned that the exemption bill stands a good chance of passage without much resistance.

Candidate Briley to Announce "Major Policy Initiative"

No clue what it is. Just got an advisory saying he will announce it tomorrow morning at 10:30.

Atlanta Editor Cites Mayor Purcell as a Model for Georgia Political Leaders to Follow

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor, Cynthia Tucker, writes today that Mayor Purcell defied "the xenophobes, know-nothings, and nativists" by vetoing the Council's English Only bill and she contrasts his boldness to the "short-sighted, narrow-minded" Georgia politicians who have dismissed language education.

She also provides an interesting nugget of information that was never mentioned in Council deliberations on English Only:
Despite all the caterwauling to the contrary, [the children of immigrants are] not out there refusing to speak the official vernacular oftheir adopted land. According to a study published last year in Population and Development Review, Latinos are assimilating just as other immigrants did. By the second generation, the study said, English is the language most often used at home. By the third generation, only 17 percent of Mexicans still speak Spanish well; by the fourth generation, only 5 percent do.
I'm still waiting for one of the 23 English Forever proponents to provide any evidence that non-English speakers are failing to learn English in the absence of their ordinance.

HT: Tom

Black Eye for Candidate Clement

Sean has done some impressive digging into Metro Mayoral Candidate Bob Clement's Congressional voting history on the issue of English First/Immigration. The informed voter should read the whole thing; it is vital information for the August ballot.

The deepest strike that I would notch against Clement on Sean's scorecard is this business of voting for a Republican measure to punish the children of illegal immigrants for their parents' choices. I'm not sure where we ever got the notion that it is perfectly fine to reward the children of the rich (through cuts in estate taxes, for instance) and to punish the children of the poor & working classes (by denying them an education) as if children actually controlled the families into which they were born. That is brutality masquerading as civility, plain and simple.

What gives, Mr. Clement (through your spokesman, Ben Hall)?

UPDATE: Is it just me or does Clement's congressional scorecard compliment the mission of this right-wing nativist organization?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Metro Council Member In His Element on Faux News

Council Member Eric Crafton is now Foxworthy. And there was no yelling. If that doesn't impress you, what will?

Where Was the Push for "English Only" Amongst the Praise for Purple Fingers?

Above: Sample ballot used in Iraqi National Election held in Nashville (which has one of the largest Kurdish populations in the US) in January 2005. Clearly not printed in English for foreigners who should learn our language if they are going to live here, it must have been generated and distributed by politically-correct, liberal elites at English-tongued taxpayer expense. Or perhaps Kurds are simply not as threatening to monolinguistic proponents as are Mexicans.

A Liability for the Less Extreme Voter of an August Referendum on "English Only"

Reading this got me to thinking: an August monolinguistic referendum would definitely maximize rightwing mobilization of voters. The collateral damage would likely be the election of a whole new class of social conservatives to join the ones who will stay on the Metro Council. That probably whets the appetite of the Davidson County Republican Party, whose only chance in Metro politics is to script a critical mass of their more rabid supporters. If you thought this Council was combative, fanatical, and unrepresentative, just imagine the new one put in place by record numbers of intemperate voters outside of the broad middle, whipped up into an anti-foreigner froth, many of whom might not have voted the last time around or ever. An English Only referendum--and make no mistake, as Sean Braisted has already alluded, there will be no English First on the ballot--would be a single-issue lightning rod directing an ugly charge right through the city of Nashville. It's almost a doomsday scenario for any semblance of moderation in Metro politics.

City Paper Editors Remind Council Members of their Fiscal and Legal Responsibilities on Crafton's Planned Override/Referendum

The City Paper editors warn two dozen or so Council Members who might follow Eric Crafton like lemmings over the edge to a costly and disastrous future for Nashville:
Metro Council members need to measure their support of the English First ordinance based not on this kind of emotionally charged climate but on the merits of the legislation itself. Metro Council members on the fence or voting for this ordinance for purely political reasons should consider their Legal Department’s notice of potential litigation to be a de facto fiscal note for the English First bill.

Put simply it could cost taxpayers a great deal more than the aggravation of pushing “1” for English.
Isn't it a twist that social conservatives (who preach tort reform and warn against frivolous litigation and and out-of-control lawyers fees) may be about to launch Nashville in a direction that has dockets waiting and lawyers drooling?

And it would only take some independent, level-headed moderates on the Council who have supported English First to turn around and to stop them before they ruin us. It really is up to the more moderate, mainstream council members to take a stand, which requires putting their self-interests aside for the sake of our city.

Add this Factoid to the Taxing Logic

According to today's top story at
Legislators in Alabama, New Hampshire and Texas are paid the same today as when Gerald Ford was president in 1975.

Before you judge that as "just about right," look at the yearly legislator incomes:

  • Alabama -- $1,050
  • New Hampshire -- $100
  • Texas -- $7,200
I'm not advocating paying legislators exorbitant incomes, but my gosh, those levels won't exactly attract the cream of the crop, will they? No cost of living increase since the mid-70s?

TaxingTennessee Taxes Logic

Some details that were left out of this story:

  • Only one state listed as the destination of outbound Ohio households is among those imposing the lowest tax burden the incomes of its residents: Alaska, where less than 500 Ohioans transplanted. The other lowest tax burden states (New Hampshire, Delaware, Tennessee, and Alabama) are not among the destinations accounting for the flight. Why are the Ohio households not moving to these states--especially to Tennessee, which is practically Ohio's neighbor--in the thousands that they are to Florida and Texas? If "leaving taxes" is the primary or overwhelming reason for flight, then the two lists should mirror each other.
  • Alaska has the lowest tax burden in the country because it taxes the rest of us for oil extracted from the state. So, Alaskans don't have to pay for their services because the rest of us foot their bills for state programs every time we fill up our tanks. Unless Ohioans move to Alaska, they're still going to bankroll Alaska's state services regardless of whether they move out of Ohio. Texas, which is the 2nd favored place for Ohioans to move, also exports its severance tax burden on other Americans.
  • Alaska has one of the highest cigarette taxes. File that under "trading one tax for another."
  • Ohioans who favor Nevada trade an income tax for a sales tax that is among the highest. Sales taxes are regressive: they tax the poor and the lower middle class more than they do the upper classes. So, the rich households moving from Ohio will benefit from a move to Nevada. Anyone middle and below will still suffer tax burdens in other ways.
  • The Sunbelt Factor: the top three states favored by exiting Ohioans are Florida, Texas, and Nevada, all of which have warmer climates. Where exiting Ohioans favored Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming in hundreds, they favored the Sunbelt States in thousands, and in the case of Florida, in tens of thousands. Yet, there is no mention of the possibility from Ben Cunningham or the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the climate may be spurring people out of colder-than-Sunbelt Ohio. There is also no break down of exiting Ohioans who are entering retirement, which would be a group that traditionally looks to move to warmer environs. Also, Nevada real estate is relatively cheap.
  • The New Hampshire Factor: New Hampshire collects no sales tax whatsoever. Why isn't it higher on list of people moving out? Why? Because it's not sunny Florida, that's why. There's a whole group of New Englanders bound for Florida called "Snow Birds." If taxes were an exclusive priority, there would be no Snow Birds.

'08 Presidential Candidate Attempts to Turn Back Bush Attack on Habeas Corpus

U.S. Senator Chris Dodd is co-sponsoring a bill that would reverse the Military Commissions Act, which threatens the civil rights of all Americans. That makes me sit up and take a second look at his presidential potential. He explains the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 and he invites supporters of habeas corpus to be "citizen co-sponsors" of his bill:

UPDATE: Freddie O at Liberadio has the tally on how each of the six presidential hopefuls from the Senate voted on the Military Commissions Act. Gist: Democrats in the clear; Republicans looking quite fiendish on human rights.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Eric Crafton to Pursue Override of Mayor's Veto: More Arm Twisting and Vote Trading in Store for Council

Metro Council Member Eric Crafton tells News 2 that he will pursue an override of Mayor Purcell's veto of the English Now, English Tomorrow, English Forever Bill.

UPDATE: Michael Cass reports (via VV) that, if Eric "I'm Not Mean-Spirited" Crafton does not get the votes necessary to override the Mayor's veto, he may further waste taxpayer resources by working on a Charter Amendment and forcing a money-consuming popular referendum on the measure. Looks like more arm-twisting and government waste to me.

Crafton is going to hold the divisive immigration issue hostage until he wrings some kind of personal satisfaction out of Metro and milks conservative red meat for all its worth, and then he'll fall back on the ridiculous cover that he "always" takes his "marching orders" from voters, like he did in the Cass interview. Would "always" include the time you disregarded the popular will of 5th School District voters and followed the Republican Party's prompt to vote for Kay Brooks, Mr. Crafton? Or does "always" refer to the time, Mr. Crafton, that you passed a crutch to your own business interest by sponsoring a bill to reduce developers' sidewalk fees? Or perhaps "always" means that time that you padded your own conflict of interest by lining your pockets with $300,000 in MDHA loans, Mr. Crafton.

Shame on your shamelessness, Mr. Crafton. You hobble through Council on your own crutches and try to mislead us voters into thinking that you march stride for stride to our orders. You are out of step and out of turn.

Metro Legal Calls Metro Council's Monolingual Bill "A Surrogate for Racial Discrimination"

Bruce Barry at PiTW is first with the legal details on Metro's sentence against "English Only/First." Metro Legal believes it will violate the Equal Protection Clause; jump and read the rest. Bruce also published Mayor Purcell's entire comment on his veto. Here's one exerpt that just may hit you upside the head:
This ordinance was introduced last September and for the last six months the sponsors have been twisting arms and trading votes to get it passed. Some sponsors say it is an important law while other sponsors say it has no effect at all. The truth is that no one knows how this law may ultimately be interpreted. If this law takes effect, this city will be engaged in years of lawsuits testing the effect and constitutionality of the ordinance. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees whether we win or lose, for no good reason.
Legal fees are bad and unneeded, yes. But that trading votes charge especially rubs me the wrong way. If it is true it means that the brand of vote trading that went on during the Kay Brooks/School Board fiasco never stopped. Given that Council Member John Summers inexplicably voted for the monolingual bill, I'm left to wonder what he got in return.

Quote of the Moment

Let's face it, what [Metro Council's monolingual] bill is really about is curtailing the influx of Mexicans. We all know it. It's kind of silly to deny it. It's not written into the law, but stopping African Americans from voting was not written into the Poll Tax, the Literacy requirements, or any other Jim Crow laws. The similarities are too close for my liking.

- - Slartibartfast at Nashville is Talking

That's taking the Metro Council down a couple notches right where they deserve to be: 23 of them approved a resolution that could amount to warmed over Jim Crow. Even several African American Council Members like District 19's own Ludye Wallace and Member at-Large and Vice Mayoral Candidate Carolyn Baldwin Tucker voted for this resolution. What of the lessons of history?

Mayor Will VETO Metro Council's English Only Mistake

The Nashville Post has the details. They are reporting that Metro Legal concluded that it is unconstitutional.

Take time to celebrate after you contact your council members (don't forget the at-Larges) and discourage them from overriding this veto. Jump to the list of council members who originally voted for Eric Crafton's unconstitutional bill; they are the ones who need special attention from constituents who are opposed to English Only/First.

If there is a vote to override, Member at-Large and Mayoral Candidate David Briley gets a second chance to register his final opposition (having voted against it on the first two readings and having voting to table Eric Crafton's deferral of the bill last December absent 21 "aye" votes) to the monolingual ordinance (having been absent during the February 7 third reading for not illegitimate reasons), and to placate his critics, who charge that he was "playing it safe" on third reading.

Mayor Purcell did not take the safe road, even with the legal opinion, but he did take the right road, and he deserves our thanks for hauling Nashville out of one of its weaker moments.

UPDATE: Tennessean reports that Mayor Purcell has vetoed it:
Saying "this is not who we are," Mayor Bill Purcell today vetoed a bill that would have required English be the "first" langauge of Metro government. "We do not need a law to tell us what language we can use," Purcell said at a press conference, where he was flanked by more than 10 civic leaders and city officials.

New North End Home Owners Association

The Lofts at Werthan Mills home owners have organized.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Foundation Materials Are Another Problem for Schöne Ansicht

No brick veneer here.

Besides the controversy over the drainage system at townhouse development on Hume and 6th Av. called Schoene Ansicht, a series of February 2 e-mails between concerned association members and Metro Planning show that property owners and real estate investors at UP, LLC failed to follow the original Metro Council-approved site plan. An official with Metro Planning's Land Development and Design Division commented:
The approved site plan for the project shows a "6-foot brick veneer wall." The elevations that were approved as part of the Council ordinance only mention brick in relation to the foundation: "Brick veneer at exposed foundations."
As the picture clearly shows above, the foundation wall is made not of brick veneer, but of rusticated concrete block. I do not know if the former is more expensive than the latter, but from my lay perspective, the brick veneer would seem more labor intensive, and thus more expensive, than the blocks. However, I could be wrong.

The Planning Official goes on to say in a second e-mail sent on February 2 that UP, LLC is bound by the original elevations as approved by Metro Council, and that the Planning Department would be sending an inspector out. Anything found not to be in compliance with the approved plans will either have to be changed or UP, LLC will have to request a revision formally from Planning.

In a third February 2 e-mail, the Planning Official writes that, in the event of requests for significant revisions, property owners within 600 feet of the development must be notified. Schoene Ansicht owners would have to submit a formal application, which would be scheduled for a Planning Commission Meeting 6 weeks after the application is filed. I doubt that UP, LLC will be coming back to Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association for support should they have to apply for these changes. But I will be keeping you posted on developments, including any time and date for a Planning Commission Meeting that involves deviation from the Council-approved plans.

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Mortgage Brokers and the Broker-Friendly Economists Who Excuse Greed

Home mortgages are not what they used to be. According to an NPR report, lenders no longer assume some of the risk for borrowers thanks to volume loan sales. And there are no regulations in place to make sure that mortgage brokers act in the best interests of their clients. It is all money driven. An official with the Center of Responsible Lending addressed the "perverse incentives" of mortgage brokers:

Financial incentives are to close as many loans as possible as fast as possible regard of risk. Whether the borrower can repay the loan is really not of their financial concern.
The result is "artificially low teaser payments" that hook borrowers whose credit is rocky; after a while those payments stop teasing and realty sets in when interest rates make mortgage payments impossible for those "sub-prime" borrowers.

An economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association told NPR that regulations are not needed because mortgage defaults do not threaten the economy. He argued that investors are in the "learning phase," which should be allowed to run its course.

My question would be: what can this learning phase teach us that centuries of observation of human behavior have not taught us? There is nothing novel about the mortgage broker equation: it involves one group of people marketing their product at artificial rates in order to take advantage of weaker, at-risk groups. Taking advantage of the weaker parts of the herd has been the standard procedure for human beings from day one. Predatory lending is no different than other predatory behavior.

We do not need to let this learning phase run its course. We already know what is happening and what is going to continue to happen until a force stronger than money forces mortgage brokers to assume responsibility for the long-term well-being of borrowers. This is not a new problem; it is ages old. While the Mortgage Bankers Association may feel perfectly fine watching borrowers go over the default cliff to their ruin, the rest of us should not be, and we should demand that Congress formulate regulations to stop predatory lending and to reign in predatory entrepreneurs.

What Did the Metro Stormwater Engineer Investigating Schöne Ansicht Mean by "Concern"?

The Metro Engineer, Steve Mishu, who has been dealing with the Salemtown controversy involving stormwater drainage on the Schoene Ansicht development said by e-mail that the drain system installed to direct water to a lower adjoining property meets regulations, and thus, required no action on his division's part. However, according to the affected neighbors, when he came out to meet with them a few weeks ago after they filed a complaint, he told them that the drainage pipe was "bad" for them, and they believe that that comment was the basis for his statement of "concern" to developers in a January e-mail. Mr. Mishu's exact comment in the January 23 e-mail to Dale and Associates was:
To follow up on this. I made a site visit today and am concerned for the adjacent property owner. I understand the inverted crown alley thing but its not inverted now and it may not be inverted enough when completed to divert the runoff [when the drain system is operating].
When I asked Mr. Mishu last Friday why he would express concern in the January e-mail if the pipe met regulations from the beginning, he responded:
Although the plans met our regulations and were approved, a complaint was made. I take all complaints seriously.
When I asked whether the the regulations essentially allow this drain system to direct the flow of stormwater run-off on to lower-lying adjoining property, his response was:
[Y]es. Runoff tends to flow downhill.
I won't try to attribute an attitude to that rather curt response. Maybe Mr. Mishu is just busy and didn't have time to respond beyond stating the obvious.

There is wide discrepency in interpretations over what was was said and what was meant in the original Metro investigation of Schoene Ansicht's drain system. The affected owners are now left with the impression that Metro Sewer Department should be their next stop. The buck has been passed from Planning to Stormwater to Sewers: it really does flow downhill in local government.

Poodle Police

You can't say I haven't kept this on your radars, people. Just about everyone involved agrees: throwing more money at this problem would help solve it. But Metro Council--with over $1 million in discretionary funds at its disposal--would rather throw our money at the Humane Society.

Bunco U. Is What You Get When Wedding Market Principles to Public or Non-Profit Education

To the habitual public education criticalizers who discern an exotic brand of common sense in imposing entrepreneurial logic on public education: I give you, via the NY Times, the University of Phoenix, and its history for milling useless syllabi like masa in a taco factory. We cannot accuse them of mass producing diplomas since they have such an abysmal graduation rate. While Bunco U. is a private, for-profit institution, it shows us the logical extension of allowing market principles to rule any level of education.

The City Paper editors were exaggerating just the other day that the private sector would not permit the infrequency of performance evaluations that occur in Nashville Public Schools, as if the money incentives of the private sector force self-regulation or flying right. Yeah, and we're supposed to believe that so-called "free" markets (which is often code for shifting government subsidies to private interests) would inevitably lead to more honest evaluation. Editors: meet U. of Phoenix, where profit-margins rule education, where teachers don't teach and where enrollment counselors get paid for class-packing anyone and everyone into the pedagogical scam. Evaluate that.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Call Their Bluff

I've been supportive of the plans for a Downtown ballpark, but now watching the Sounds operate on the back end, I'm beginning to regret that support. You see, I think they are starting to play a risky game of chance with Metro. This morning's Tennessean indicates that they may be jockeying to leverage more funds from Metro because they do not have the financing on their end. Well, that's unacceptable.

The Mayor's Office is doing the right thing by calling Sounds General Manager Glenn Yaeger's bluff. The Sounds' credibility is on the line. They have lately been indicating that the increasing costs of construction materials is the culprit. That's a common crying game of builders. Yet, it's not Metro's fault that the Sounds did not include price increases into their project equation. Prices, like taxes, trend up. A loaf of bread ain't what it used to cost. If car owners who once paid a dollar a gallon for gas didn't plan for two dollars a gallon, then they may be in trouble now. And the Sounds should have planned for cost increases.

But I assume that they did. And now they appear to be shamelessly gambling that public support for or some general sense of the inevitably of their project is going to get Finance Director David Manning to hand them some more of our tax dollars. As a Sounds fan and season ticket holder, I nonetheless hope that the Mayor's Office will let the team go all in and then sit back and watch them sweat. If patience and firmness costs Nashville a Downtown ballpark, then those are the breaks. But it will cost the Nashville Sounds their good name.

Our side is the one with the prime waterfront property. We have more at stake. They are just a minor league baseball team, and they should have been worthier of Nashville's support.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Toll on Tennessee

Jennifer Peebles relays a report maintaining that the Iraq War has already cost Tennesseans $5.8 billion and cost Nashvillians $603 million. But what stood out was the future cost to community-oriented services of the proposed Bush Federal Budget:
Tennessee stands to see cuts of $15 million in Community Development Block Grants, $6 million in Head Start funding, $28.5 million in low-energy income assistance money and $13.6 million in special education money.
That news bodes ill not just for urban neighborhoods, but for the suburbs and ex-urbs, which increasingly rely on block grants and assistance for the poor in an era of decreasing revenue-driven services and increasing numbers of poor suburbanites. The Iraq War is now hazardous to our local communities, but not in a way that can be captured by a color-coded terror alert.

Metro Stormwater Engineer Responds: 6th and Hume Drainage System Meets Regulations

A Metro Engineer determined and communicated to neighbors via e-mail this afternoon that the Schoene Ansicht drain pipe not only meets regulations but decreases pre-construction amounts of run-off to the low-lying property. It looks like some of us will be learning from future experience whether he is correct. Here's to hoping he is.