Thursday, March 06, 2008

Zoning's Sonny West Promises a "Light Emitting" Tygard Win on Controversial Bill

According to an Enclave commenter, Sonny West--a zoning administrator who some argue should have lost his job a few years ago for "malevolence" and "malefeasance" in allowing the destruction of the oldest historic building in Nashville--told the Board of Zoning appeals today of his confidence that Charlie Tygard's bill to allow churches and other such organizations to have LED signs in residential areas will pass without opposition:

The Board of Zoning Appeals this afternoon expressed a joyous sigh of relief when Sonny West informed them that they would not have to hear any more digital or LED sign appeals (it was they who turned down Tygard's Baptist Church out in Bellevue after granting variances to YMCAs and some other churches).

Sonny West made little reference to "opposition" and seemed confident that it will pass, although he did state that Tygard was holding a public meeting Tuesday night, 3/11/08, and that the bill will probably be split-- one for the digital signs making Metro's Code consistent with State Code, and the second being for LED signs with their red or amber scrolling messages being allowed in residential zoning districts for properties (schools, cultural centers, recreational centers, and religious institutions) located on collector or arterial streets (the full list of which is 290 pages long).

If this is true, it confirms my perception that I communicated to District 19 Council Member Erica Gilmore today in an email reply to her observation that Mr. Tygard was going to hold a public meeting on Tuesday:

Mr. Tygard has called this meeting "a workshop," not "a hearing," and it sounds like it is designed to manage public perceptions rather than to listen to them. He also told the Council on Tuesday night that he has asked representatives from the sign industry to show that LED signs are environmentally friendly. That is a clear conflict of interest in my opinion because companies like Joslin are the very parties who would benefit from passage of this sign bill. Again, it sounds like Mr. Tygard is lining up speakers to counter public opinion rather than listening to public opinion, and it is sounds like a poor substitute for what should have been held in the first place: a legitimate Planning Commission public hearing. A better option would be to refer this bill back to the Planning Commission for a public hearing.
I also asked Ms. Gilmore to vote against this bill on any future reading unless the three eligible streets that run through Salemtown (Garfield, Buchanan, and Rosa Parks) are removed from the list of approved streets. Finally, I asked her to request a roll call vote on any future reading so that Nashvillians could see whether their elected representatives supported this initiative or not. The fact that this passed on first reading with no roll call is bothersome, but understandable. The fact that this passed without a roll call on second reading--after about a dozen people and several neighborhood associations spoke against it--is an abject failure of accountability in government.

If the good-ole-boy patrons (Sonny West has worked for Metro for something like a half century) are working together to ignore clear public criticism of the LED bill and the way it was rammed through the Planning Commission and Metro Council, then we have to worry for the influence of neighborhoods in what is supposed to be a democratic process. Handling of this bill has been shoddy so far, and Metro Council--which is supposed to be the people's arm of government--is getting started early on another year of being one of our worst Metro services.


  1. After being criticized for a "lapse in judgment" for carfting the LED sign bill(by a citizen speaking in opposition at the council meeting), Charlie Tygard stood up on the council floor and stated that Sonny West and Rick Bernhardt were the actual authors of the bill. If this is true and they are so knowledgable, why did the bill need an amendment? Who requested that they craft this bill? Do these two have the power to just craft a bill on their own?
    Did I miss an elction somewhere?

    Look closely-the amendment really changed nothing. In fact the wording is phrased just a little more positively, but the content seems the same. The Planning Staff disappoved the bill originally, so Tygard (or his ghostwriters) submitted an amendment to give the illusion that the bill had changed so that Planning would have to review it again. Wonder who reviewed it the second time? All of a sudden the same exact bill is approved and hidden on consent agenda. What was the reason the bill is now approved? Once hidden, no citizen was allowed to speak and Tygard takes an approved bill to council needing much fewer votes to pass. Are there enough good ole boys to pass this one? What deals have been cut? How much arm twisting is going on? Just which members of council received money from Bobby Joslin? How many threats to cut the Planning Department budget were made by certain members of council? And the biggest question of all-WHY HAS THERE BEEN NO PRESS? This has the potential to destroy every neighborhood in this city.

  2. I have a friend who worked for Codes for many years. My friend says that they will not get rid of Sonny West because not only does he know where all of the skeletons are in the closet, he knows where all of the skeletons are buried. This type of "grease my palm" politics politics has gone on long enough. It is time for the TBI and the FBI to come to the city to do a little investigating.

  3. Sonny West and Bobby Joslin have covered for each other before. How can we forget Evergreen? Remember who came to the rescue of Sonny West complete with Save Our Sonny signs? That's right -Bobby Joslin.