Monday, March 10, 2008

LED the Way: 4 At-Large Council Members in Tight with Conservative, Anti-Neighborhood PAC

Because of its wealth and political influence, the Nashville Business Coalition PAC flexes quite a bit of muscle on the Metro Council, and if there is any one body that can leverage a vote for the sign industry to start making more money by authorizing schools, churches, and recreation centers in neighborhoods to have their own Vegas-like LED signs radiating in your picture window, that PAC is it. Local sign chieftain, Bobby Joslin not only belongs to the the NBC PAC, but he was one of the primary conductors of PAC interviews with candidates running for Metro Council last year. And pro-LED sign questions were reportedly asked at those interviews.

NBC PAC seems to represent a more conservative spin-off of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. They formed with the express purpose of defeating labor's attempts to organize on behalf of employee's rights. They joined checkered alliances with right-wing groups like Tennessee Right to Life and Tennessee Taxpayers Revolt as well as with the surreptitious Davidson County GOP, which tried to sneak a rabid home schooler into a Metro Nashville School Board seat through Metro Council in 2006 against the wishes of the voters. So, NBC PAC is inclined to make bedfellows with politically strident, out-of-the-mainstream groups and to support untrammeled business growth even if it overruns community and the quality of life in neighborhoods.

And this is the same PAC that gave thousands of dollars last year in campaign contributions to 3 at-large council members, who are supposed to be beholden to all of us, rather than exclusively to business special interests. I did a little digging at the Metro Election Commission last week and this is what I found on the huge amounts received by 3 at-Larges (the first two ran for office as more "progressive" candidates):
  • Jerry Maynard collected $7,500 from the NBC PAC. CM Maynard has already gone on record as speaking in favor of Charlie Tygard's sign ordinance, even though he has acknowledged that there may be a conflict of interest given that the bill would permit churches to have LED signs and he is a pastor.
  • Ronnie Steine netted $7,500 from the NBC PAC. I have not heard any comment from CM Steine about how he will vote on the LED sign bill, but a quid pro quo looks inevitable.
  • Tim Garrett looks like he came out the best buy for NBC PAC, only costing them $2,500, but the grapevine tells me that he is firmly in their corner on the LED bill. They maximized their investment in him.
So, it looks like--thanks to NBC PAC being the highest bidder in the race to buy votes--Charlie Tygard has 3 other at-large votes in his pocket to service the local sign industry and to stick it to neighborhoods.

The final at-large member, Megan Barry, told me recently that she opposes the LED bill because of its negative effects on neighborhoods. And guess what? She received neither campaign contributions nor a campaign endorsement from NBC PAC (yet, she still finished first among the four run-off candidates last November). Are we surprised that the Nashville Business Coalition would shun moderation in council members? We shouldn't be surprised that they may have bought enough votes to have every neighborhood covered in the glare of light-emitting diodes.

No comments:

Post a Comment