Saturday, May 31, 2008

G-town's Kate & Karsten Win Historical Commission's Architectural Award

Given how much work our Germantown neighbors have put into their craftsman-looking historic home, I was not surprised to read that it is now considered an award-winning masterpiece. Kudos to Kate and Karsten! They make the North End a better place to live.

Century-Old Germantown House Makes Historic "Endangered List"

There's a 1900-era house still standing in Nashville, which means that it's a matter of time before Metro Codes (via Sonny West) and the pro-developer, pro-big-box segment of the Metro Council call for its demolition. While the building is considered a part of the Germantown neighborhood, it actually sits across Jefferson Street in the Sulphur Dell/Bicentennial Mall section of Downtown, and the recently passed Germantown Historic Overlay does not appear to extend to the Geist property, which means that its facade is not protected should the owners sell to someone who wants to demo the structure.

Given Nashville's tear-down and pave-over culture, don't be surprised if the Geist property moves from being endangered to extinct. And it looks like there is nothing those of us with an appreciation of history, but without any power can do about it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Congressional Dems Poised to Give Bush What He Wants: Access to Your Privacy

In spite of progressive attempts to stop the government from spying on innocent people, Democrats are all oiled up and panting to give big telecom special immunity from prosecution when they turn over your records to George W. Bush.

We need to keep an eye on Blue Dog Representative Jim Cooper as this thing unfolds. Blue Dogs would just as soon sell you out in the name of national security as they would represent you. And AT&T is one of Mr. Cooper's most powerful constituents.

North End/Downtown Summit Not So Hot

According to the Salemtown e-mail list, the meeting between the presidents of Historic Germantown, Inc., Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association, Hope Gardens Neighborhood Association, and the Urban Residents Association could have gone better.

The focus was on the impact of the re-districting proposal currently before Metro Nashville Public Schools. Here is the position of SNNA President, Freddie O'Connell on the re-districting proposal:
the best solution in the long run is to couple open enrollment (thereby dismantling the magnet schools but preserving specialized curricula) with community schools (thereby preserving a mechanism for strong neighborhoods to secure schools within walking/biking distance). People can then live wherever they like while having no shortage of choice. This would rely, of course, on a mayor who recognizes that "it's all connected" ensuring that transportation was available to support the choices of parents and students.If this is a NIMBY issue where West Nashville (which elected our sitting mayor) is flexing its muscle to get the poor black kids out of Hillsboro and Hillwood, I find it highly problematic. If, however, it's a community issue where a number of residents on the North End are clamoring for neighborhood schools, then I think there's room at the table for productive discussion, even if the outcome is cynically beneficial to West Nashvillians.
Sounds like Salemtown was strongly represented. I happen to believe that Metro ought to earmark the most money for existing schools and new neighborhood schools (including greater teacher incentives) within those areas that are the most integrated economically and ethnically. So, I cannot find fault with much of what Freddie argues.

This Ain't Going to Fill More Seats During Hockey Season

The owner of the Nashville Predators is under federal investigation.

Farmered Up

From Friends of Farmers Market:

we now have several new local farmers selling in the farmsheds on Saturday mornings including Barbour and Jewell Farms from Kentucky and Rainbow Hill Farm who has made the leap to sell in both Nashville and Franklin on Saturdays ....

Barbour and Jewell farms will bring The NFM Valued customers the following quality products to the market location this weekend:

-Farm Fresh Asparagus
-Farm Fresh/Pastured Eggs (Partnered Farm)
-Farm Fresh Squash (Partnered Farm)
-Farm Fresh bunch onions
-Antibiotic-Free/Hormone-Free/Preservative-Free Pork Meats
-Florida tomatoes

More Jameson on Developers

The City Paper has more coverage this morning regarding Mike Jameson's bead on developers and their power plays on the planning process:
I find myself being invited to meet with a developer. And when I walk into the room, it’s the developer, his assistants and his legal team and his [public relations] team and his architect and his engineer .... And I feel like I’m walking into the Treaty at Appomattox. I’m out there alone and I don’t have the slightest information to respond to their specific desires ....
The best we can do is to ask one of your staff members to attend. And I will tell you in five years, the absolute … the best guy to have in the trenches there with you to debate, and yes, sometimes argue, is David [Kleinfelter].
In the same article reporter Nate Rau fails to report that the developer at the center of this controversy is Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors' husband.

He also quotes one of the more pro-development Council Members, Jim Gotto, as saying that raising these issues is inappropriate in a budget hearing. That's the same Jim Gotto who once shirked his obligations to the citizens of Nashville in order to try to influence, by his own admission, the state of Tennessee's immigration policy. The critic whom the City Paper picked has no latitude to lecture about the out-of-place or the misdirected.

Mike Jameson Becomes the First Council Member to Buck Karl Dean in Defense of Neighborhoods

Mayor Karl Dean continues what looks like an administration against neighborhoods, and CM Mike Jameson seems to have had enough of that. Jeff Woods relates what happened yesterday during a Planning Department budget hearing:
Jameson then launched into an attack on the Dean administration, suggesting the new mayor is tilting unfairly toward developers. Dean has appointed a new planning commissioner who is seen by some as too cozy with developers.
To look at the “seas of asphalt and pavement” across Nashville, Jameson said, and “to suggest that the neighborhoods are somehow winning these wars” and then “to take from us one of the few advocates [Planning staffer David Kleinfelter] we have on the planning staff to help us win reasonable negotiated compromises is a real, real setback.”
Go, Mike, go. All of our worrying may be wasted on Charlie Tygard if the real threat to neighborhoods is the Mayor's Office. My vote for Dean may not have mattered any more than a vote for Bob Clement would have in the end.

Oh, and by the way, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors looks to be knee deep in this mess, too, given her position on Council and her marriage to one of the developers that Kleinfelter tangled with and lost to over providing a neighborhood with a sidewalk. Can we hope that she will be embody leadership for the Council that is fair and balanced with respect to neighborhoods when her family profits from pro-development, pro-growth initiatives?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Downtown/North End Leadership Summit on the Morrow

According to the Salemtown list serv, Historic Germantown, Inc. president Stacy Moseley has asked for a meeting tomorrow morning with the association presidents from Salemtown, Hope Gardens, and the Urban Residents Association. No word yet on what it is about. However, this meeting comes on the heels of recent news reports on crime that quoted all of the presidents except for Stacy on the spiking crime rate in Downtown and in the North End. My bet is that the subjects will include crime, which would give HGI a great chance to stop the foot dragging and to announce that its executive committee is finally willing to support Salemtown's petition to request that the state bolster overnight security at Bicentennial Mall, which is the urban hub from which each of the neighborhoods radiate.

UPDATE: SNNA Prez says I would have lost that bet; the meeting is about school redistricting.

Judge Denies Special Privileges for Praying Parents

A strike in favor of the constitution. No one is stopping conservative Christians in Wilson County from praying if they want to, but they shouldn't be guaranteed special favors that no other groups have in a public school.

Ballsy Last Night, Emasculated Today

CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin, who candidly confessed that she had been forced by "corporate executives" to write propaganda for the Bush war effort last night, backtracked this afternoon saying that "senior corporate leadership never asked" her to take out a line or re-write an intro. I'd guess someone spooked Jess into submission.

Nashville Not the Only Site of Memorial Day Gunplay

Tennessean updates the news on the northwest Nashville shooting I posted last night, and they put it in context of a violent weekend. Salemtown even had someone firing guns from a passing ice cream truck on Sunday.

Harlem (NYC) had its own problems with Memorial Day gunplay. Was this an unusually violent weekend nationwide? Anyone else read any other stories from cities with shootings on or around Memorial Day?

Portland Gentrification Spurs Community Discussions

This article on the racial and socio-economic dimensions of gentrification in Portland (OR) is worth your time. One person's frontier is indeed another person's front porch. I've always been uneasy with terms like "urban pioneers."

Local Artist and Kids Help with Community Mural in Wedgewood Houston Neighborhood

Local artist Margaret Elliott recently enlisted the help of children with the Harvest Hands After School Program to help her with a neighborhood-upgrading mural on a blank concrete retaining wall. She has posted pictures of the effort on her blog. The entire project has also been spearheaded by Wedgewood Urban Gardens.

Sounds like an exemplary partnership between an artist who volunteers her professional skills and local community-based organizations on behalf of the neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Karma, Thy Name is McClellan

Amidst all of the knot-tying that the mainstream media is doing to itself over former Bush mouthpiece Scott McClellan laying responsibility for failing to discourage the march to war at its feet, one finger-pointing, blame-shifting moment was also most significant: CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin told Anderson Cooper tonight that during the run-up to the Iraq War, she was forced by "corporation executives" when she was at "another network" to write only positive stories about the Bush Administration and its justifications for invading Iraq. Just as we suspected for some time.

100 People Show Up for Community Meeting on Fairgrounds Fate

Regardless of what happens to the fair itself, I agree with those who say it would be nuts for Metro to sell so much public greenspace to developers instead of making it something valuable to the entire city as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

The least inspiring comment on the fate of the fairgrounds came from former council member Ronnie Greer who told a TV reporter that the fair needs to stay so that kids who would otherwise never see a cow can see a cow.

The real question is whether any good can come from pro-growth former council member Buck Dozier being in charge of the stewards of this public property.

Northwest Nashville Teen in Critical Condition After Vehicle Hit with Gunfire

Metro Police report that an SUV borrowed by a mother on Monday to transport her children and brother was fired upon, leaving her injured and her 14-year-old son in critical condition. The SUV is owned by a known gang member currently serving time for drug and weapons charges. The neighborhood associations in the vicinity of the shooting near Meharry Medical College include Morena Street, Hadley-Washington, and Neighbors Reaching Out.

Metro Public Works Liaison to Speak to Glencliff Association on Neighborhood Beautification

I received the following announcement today from the Glencliff Neighborhood Association:
Lawrence Jackson to address the
Glencliff Neighborhood Association

Lawrence Jackson, the neighborhood liaison, with Metro Public Work’s Beautification and Environment Commission will be discussing neighborhood issues at the Glencliff Neighborhood Association meeting on Tuesday, June 10th at 7:00pm. The monthly meetings are held at Glencliff High School located on 160 Antioch Pike in the library.
Mr. Jackson will outline ways to beautify our community, plan neighborhood cleanups, report and deal with illegal graffiti, dump sites, littering and neglected vacant lots.
The Metro Beautification and Environment Commission works to make Nashville clean, safe, and attractive. The commission coordinates the efforts of volunteers, business and community groups, to provide beautification projects, as well as training and educational opportunities for the residents of Nashville.
For addition information, please contact:
Rhonda Fergus @459-2146 or

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Cheesecake Factory Serves Highly Contagious Infections with Dessert

From DMI's panel discussion on paid sick leave:

I'm all ready to go to Green Hills for some factory cheesecake now.

Party Foul: Increasingly Clear that They Don't Need Anybody Else

Previously on Battlestar Galactica, we learned that the Executive Committee of Historic Germantown, Inc. balked at passing a Salemtown Neighbors petition among their membership; that petition would encourage the state to implement overnight security measures at Bicentennial Mall. If that didn't suck enough, SNNA just found out that HGI's participation in last year's "1st Annual Salemtown-Germantown Block Party" was also their last participation because they have their own parties to throw in 2008. According to the SNNA Social Committee, HGI is instead having a picnic at Morgan Park, but they will select certain Salemtown residents along 5th Avenue, North who are already their "friends" to picnic with them. How magnanimous. Apparently, the HGI Executive Committee planned all of their parties back in January, and they didn't see the need to communicate with SNNA leadership about their intentions, in spite of the feedback I heard from a number of G-towners last June that the block party event needed to happen regularly.

Of course, it is HGI's prerogative to hold their own parties and invite whomever they please, but they seem to have a long way to go to grasp the concept of unsnobbish support for sister organizations in the community. Fine. Don't party with us, but at least lift a finger to back us up when we are trying to leverage positive public safety changes from the state in the North End. Otherwise, the block party snub is just insult to injury.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

False Dichotomy Quote of the Week

[M]ost neighborhoods want to partner with developers, whether of residential or commercial space. In many cases I’m personally familiar with, neighborhoods just want the opportunity to be treated as a stakeholder at the table in order to provide input about what works best for the neighborhood. Too often (again in my personal experience), the developer just wants the shortest, fastest path to buildout, ignoring context and concerns. There’s nothing about neighborhoods that is inherently anti-business, nor does there have to be about a neighborhood-friendly mayor.

- - Freddie O'Connell debunking the assumption that being pro-neighborhood is being anti-business

Metro's First Responder Budgets

Emily Evans blogs her latest update on the budgets proposed for police, 911 dispatch, and fire fighters. Interestingly enough, while the budget proposed for Metro Police is more than they spent last year, it is actually less than was budgeted because they spent less than was budgeted.

She relates a perspective of Police Chief Ronal Serpas that characterizes the lack of ambivalent feelings toward him in city neighborhoods:
Mike [Jameson] once declared that Serpas is so popular with the 6th District that the Chief could bite the head off a kitten and everyone would still think he was great.

Green Drinks on New Organic Market

Further advancing the perception that East Nashville has everything.

Crime Article Includes Comments from Hope Gardens, Salemtown Association Leaders

Christine Buttorff reports that "raw numbers" of violent and property violations from Metro Council Districts 6 (Jameson) and 19 (Gilmore) show highest crime in the city.

Corruption Spreads Through Border Patrol as It Grows

From the Office of Unintended, but Not Unforeseen Consequences: the smuggling market in illegal immigration grows with the expansion of Homeland Security and the multiplication of border guards. Trying to stem the tide kicks the flood gates open wider. Then you have to find more tax money to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate the people hired to guard the borders. It's one more federal hole to throw money down, and the people getting rich are the higher demand smugglers.

Worst Bust Since WWII and Getting Worse

It cannot be fun being a Realtor right now. 46 of 50 states watched housing sales decline in the first quarter of 2008, and construction is dropping to its slowest pace since the 1940s. Economists are prognosticating that hitting bottom is months away. I am seeing less and less of the local silver-lining defense (that Nashville is an exception and is more robust than the other markets) floated out there, so it must be bad all over.

List of Eliminated MTA Routes for 08-09

Cuts in the proposed Metro budget are causing Metro Transit Authority to eliminate the following bus routes:
  • 1 Vine Hill
  • 31X Harpeth Valley Express
  • 13 Sylvan Park
  • 37X Tusculum/McMurray Express
  • 16 Madison/Old Hickory
  • 45X Oak Hill Express 30 McFerrin
  • Night Owl service

Monday, May 26, 2008


Facing South has the up-to-date Iraq War casualties:


ALABAMA / 514 / 67 / 581
ARKANSAS / 448 / 59 / 507
FLORIDA / 1384 / 177 / 1561
GEORGIA / 856 / 124 / 980
KENTUCKY / 464 / 63 / 527
LOUISIANA / 582 / 79 / 661
MISSISSIPPI / 276 / 49 / 325
NORTH CAROLINA / 819 / 97 / 916
SOUTH CAROLINA / 384 / 49 / 433
TENNESSEE / 574 / 84 / 658
TEXAS / 2891 / 386 / 3277
VIRGINIA / 706 / 117 / 823
WEST VIRGINIA / 214 / 22 / 236

Suburban Counties Resist Participation in Deportation Program

The suburbs around Houston are not rushing to sign up with Homeland Security's "Hold for ICE" program to report inmates' immigration status and to turn illegal immigrants over for deportation.

I Scream. You Scream. Don't Scream at the Bad Humor Man

I've never trusted those gaudy, sticker-covered ice cream vans that drive around our neighborhood (maybe you have them, too). Deep down inside I've always worried that they were fronts for drug sales or for pedophiles to prey on children. Yesterday evening I found out that they at the very least pack heat along with the will to bring it.

One of our neighborhood teens (whom I've never had the slightest cross feeling toward) got into an argument last night with a passing ice cream truck driver. As the ugly white van with faded multi-colored decals drove off around a corner someone stuck a handgun out of the vehicle's window and fired shots into the air, sending kids running. As far as we know, no one was injured.

Don't patronize those ice cream vans, unless you want bullets over Breyers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eating their Young

From this morning's NY Times:

The earthquake’s destruction of Xinjian Primary School was swift and complete. Hundreds of children were crushed as the floors collapsed in a deluge of falling bricks and concrete .... another local primary school, Beijie, catering to children of the elite, was in such good condition that local officials were using it as a refugee center.

"This is not a natural disaster," said Ren Yongchang, whose 9-year-old son died inside the destroyed school. His hands were covered in plaster dust as he stood beside the rubble, shouting and weeping as he grabbed the exposed steel rebar of a broken concrete column. "This is not good steel. It doesn’t meet standards. They stole our children."

They export toxic toys to the children of the world for profit. Why should we be surprised to find out that they largely fail to protect the least of their own against natural disasters?

Tragically, sometimes it takes a disaster to melt hard hearts and mobilize people to regulate business as usual. That doesn't justify the death of even one innocent child, but it is brutal reality.

And it sounds like China has its own version of the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind:
Xinjian was poorly built when it opened its doors in 1992 ... and never got its share of government funds for reconstruction because of its low ranking in the local education bureaucracy and the low social status of its students.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coolest Coffee Bar Design

It has to be Crema's use of solid-wood antique doors laid end-to-end as the side-paneling for their bar. What makes this bar-skin the coolest is that the skirt boards are notched to accommodate the weathered iron door knobs, which sit suspended an inch or two off the floor. After closing, when the skirt boards become mop boards, it probably doesn't make swabbing the floors easier, but it is definitely a subtly charming appointment during open hours.

CRIME ALERT: 12South Shooting at End of School Party; Suspect Named

Metro Police say that they have identified a suspect whom they believe shot into a crowd of teenagers having a house party in 12South to celebrate the end of the school year the day before yesterday. Allegedly, Anton Rucker walked up to the party on Acklen Avenue, started arguing with one of the adult women in the group, and critically wounded a 16-year-old girl who was not involved in the argument.

According to the 12South list serv, one of the other teens attending the party told the Tennessean:
He called his wife [on his cell phone], and she pulled up in front of the house and gave him a big silver gun .... He just opened fire on all of us, and we scattered.
Police ask anyone seeing Anton Rucker or knowing his whereabouts to contact them at 862-8600 or Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Zackies Hot Dogs Owners Soon to be Living in Salemtown

According to the Salemtown e-mail list, the owners of Mike's famous hot dog establishment, Zackies, bought a Salemtown house and will soon be moving in. Welcome to S-town, Brandi and Mike!

Now, the rest of ya'll go buy some dogs underneath the Summer Street Lofts! They have a mortgage to meet.

Morgan Park Place Featured on Last Night's TV News

Mixed-use development at Morgan Park highlighted for its energy-efficient build.

Spring is Mostly Gone and Still No Word on Bicentennial Mall Security Improvements

We are less than a month away from the summer solstice, and there has been no news on any state plan to provide new security measures for Bicentennial Mall in the wake of a rape there last fall. So, I penned another letter this morning to State Senator Thelma Harper, who originally assured me that changes were coming last November and who told WSMV that changes were coming this Spring.

The following letter joins the half dozen I've already sent her in the past 9 months (click on image to enlarge):

Germantown officers have been told that changes are coming next fall, but I have not been able to get Senator Harper's office to confirm that, and I have not a clue as to why the G-town leadership should take that information on its face given that no commitment made so far has been honored by the state.

Block Party Shooting

This shooting on 16th Avenue, North (in the vacinity of the Osage and new Buena Vista neighborhoods) is noteworthy because Salemtown was recently having a trouble with late-night block parties around 6th Avenue where teenagers were walking around wearing gang colors.

Man Bites Dog

Paper writes Dean-critical article.

I've already dealt with the Mayor's tame, no-brainer defense that schools and crime are neighborhood issues. That's self-evident. I don't see any boldness in the Dean Administration for balancing development and community. For every action the Mayor's Office takes to make schools better and to prevent crime, untrammeled development growth threatens to undermine those priorities.

I do acknowledge that one of the brighter spots has been MOON Director Brady Banks, whom I've seen at a number of community meetings. We still need to see a more comprehensive policy on balancing growth and infrastructure rather than Karl Dean's practice of dealing with development on a case-by-case basis, which is exactly the way the developers whom I talk to want it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Global Government Sell-off: Privatizing Everything

The number of deals that governments globally are working with private companies to take control of and profits from public infrastructure has tripled from last year to this year. The latest tax money grab by corporations is the megalomaniacal proposal by Citigroup and Spanish investors to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 75 years. The investment group intends to make around 10 times their original investment in tolls, which the group would hike 25%.

Are we seeing TDOT's future in present Pennsylvania?

Cases Where Fences Don't Make Good Neighbors

More than dividing Mexico from the U.S. the new border fence plan is dividing Brownsville, Texas neighbors from one another. And border Mayors are working on a lawsuit against the Bush Administration.

Meanwhile, Native Americans maintain that, by cutting across their sacred sites, the border wall is a violation of their rights under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

$1.5 Million Wasted on Profiling and Mostly Trumped Up Republican Charges of Voter Fraud

Texas Republicans won a sizable federal grant with claims that they would root out widespread practices of voter fraud. In two years they've found 8 genuine cases of fraud (costing the federal government $187,500 per root-out; not exactly cost effective). And those investigations have almost exclusively targeted Democrats, the elderly, and African Americans.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Use 30-Year-Old Defunct Models and You Get the Same Problems 30 Years Later

According to NOLA, the sum of all of those millions in tax dollars already spent on fixing New Orleans' levees looks to be wasted: they are leaking and storm-prone again.

They Rattled Our S-town Windows, Too

Wage is not happy with the unheralded private party fireworks over Riverfront Park that woke him from his Downtown bed earlier tonight (it's a weeknight, right?).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CM Jameson's Green Permit Ordinance Passes Second Reading

It looks like Nashville will soon offer "Green Permits" for builders committed to "sustainable design development."

Capital Improvement Bill Passes First Reading

Here are some of the highlights of last year's capital improvement budget. Significant infrastructure.

Edwards' Endorsement Proved to Be as Huge as Its First Blush

Pew demonstrates just how indebted Barack Obama is to John Edwards, who was vindicated for his long wait to endorse by becoming an impressive media magnet:

After backing his former rival for the Democratic nomination, by week's end Edwards was a dominant or significant figure in 10% of the campaign coverage, according to PEJ's Campaign Coverage Index for May 12-18. That is more coverage than the former senator managed to attract in three of the four weeks in January when he was still a candidate -- and more than he got the week he dropped out.

And in embracing Obama less than 24 hours after Clinton's big win in West Virginia, Edwards diverted media attention away from a discussion of renewed Clinton momentum and helped refocused the narrative on Obama's apparent inevitability.

In doing so, Edwards also helped Obama win the race for exposure last week. Overall, Obama was a significant or dominant newsmaker in 68% of the campaign coverage, well ahead of Clinton, who finished at 53%. And their coverage was very different. Despite her 41-point win in West Virginia, her narrative included considerable speculation about how long she would stay in the race and whether she might end up as Obama's vice president.

Council Asks Vice Mayor to Appoint a Broader, More Representative LED Task Force

LED Task Force resolution passed tonight. The ball is in Diane Nieghbors' court.

From Council Member Gilmore

District 19 CM Erica Gilmore announces:
Police Chief Ronal Serpas will be the guest speaker at the NAACP General Membership meeting Thursday, May 22th, 6pm Hadley Park Community Center. He will discuss the war on crime in the Nashville Metropolitan Community. Seating is limited. RSVP 329-0999 or RSVP The NAACP along with Council member Erica Gilmore would like for you to join us this Thursday.

Congratulations, Freddie!

Metro Council tonight confirmed Salemtown Neighbors President Freddie O'Connell to a 5-year term on the Metro Transit Authority tonight. It's great to have a progressive voice on one of Metro's boards.

Schöne Ansicht Developers Go Back on Their Word to Light Alley

When Schöne Ansicht developers Taurus McCain and Steve Yokley were promoting the build of their townhouse development at 6th and Hume a couple of years ago to Salemtown's neighborhood association, Mr. McCain promised neighbors who lived around it that they were going to put up a street light in the dark alley between 5th and 6th Avenues. McCain even went so far as discouraging neighbors from putting up lights themselves because the developers were "going to take care of it." Last year they followed through on the promise by finally putting in a light.

This morning NES crews dismantled the short-lived street light, and they told me that the developers had requested it.

What are we to make of this? Either that Taurus McCain and Steve Yokley are not developers of their word or that the party house at Schöne Ansicht needs more cover of darkness to piss and to brawl in. Schöne Ansicht residents are now stuck with a naked, lightless pole that sits in the middle of the culvert where stormwater run-off is supposed to flow.

UPDATE: Developer Steve Yokley says that I jumped to a premature conclusion in the comments below. I talked with Mr. Yokley in person this evening about the same issues, which confirms that the comment below is his.

TNGOP: The Choice of Strip Club Owners Everywhere

The NashPo blog points to this Chattimes article that divulges that the recent TNGOP smear campaign against Michelle Obama featured a former owner of Nashville's "Bob's Gold Club" topless dance bar. Is Adam Dread getting a piece of that action? The TNGOP point man responded as follows:
“I’d have to know more details about the story,” Mr. Hobbs said of whether he would have used Mr. Pope in the video had he known of the connection.
Translation: "I'd have to know more details about the story so that I can contain the damage I caused to TNGOP with more spin."

Street Robberies Up, Burglaries Down in Nashville's Central Precinct

According to Christine Buttorff:
While overall crime in Nashville dropped for the fourth year in a row last year, statistics show robberies increased 3.3 percent. And in the Central Precinct, which encompasses most of the area within the Interstate 40 loop, street robbery has jumped 45.8 percent from last year. Aggravated assaults and burglaries are both down year-to-date.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Have Car, Will Vote

With gas prices increasing demand for more mass transit, Miami (FL) is looking to raise its mass transit fares 33% in order to qualify for federal matching grants that would help expand its rail system north to include mostly working and black neighborhoods that have been waiting for rail since it was promised in the 1970s fuel crisis.

But the high demand for mass transit also includes some of the haute couture crowd to the south:

Even the beautiful people of South Beach aren't immune: models Carmen Cordoba and Andree Baeza said they ride the bus about five times a day to reach shoots. An increase of $12.50 a week, they said, would hit them hard.

Baeza said transit riders were easy targets for politicians.

"The ones who vote," he said, "are the ones with cars."

Midnight at the Oasis: More Fallout from the Spring Hill Mirage

The Metro Council Member most qualified to evaluate proposals for Metro Water Service fee hikes did as I expected she would and came out against any proposed fee increases that don't go directly back into MWS programs. In fact, she argues that many such fee increases are illegal.

She also replied at Progressive Nashville to their proposal for funding mass transit (for more context and PN perspective see Jim Grinstead's comment below), and she divulged a piece of information that I think is much more interesting in further demythologizing the "tax-free" nirvana that the anti-tax mob sees in Spring Hill, TN. She writes:
using water and sewer rates to pay for [general fund services] is a violation of state law and possibly the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Spring Hill TN has been directed by state auditors to return $3 million from the water and sewer fund to the general fund.
We know all about those high-minded claims of "no property taxes in growing Spring Hill!" And it was plain to some that past the pep rally, Spring Hill was using fees and state grants to create the illusion that public services were free. Now it is clear that city fathers (and mothers if there are any) weren't above doing some illegal things in the name of avoiding raising property taxes.

I don't see how the Tennessee Tax Revolt can keep promoting this fallen suburban poster child in their war against urbanism and the delivery of public services. They're going to have to look somewhere else for heaven.

UPDATE: As if on cue, the Tuesday morning Tennessean has more on Spring Hill's imploding budget. Looks like no room to cut services:

Spring Hill officials will have to make a decision soon on the property tax. They have been putting together budgets that include and leave out that tax, said Mayor Danny Leverette.

"My personal take is that the with the economic situation the way it is, the sales tax is not going to be enough as far as everyday operating expenses," he said.

Leverette does not want to resort to layoffs, the avenue some governments have traveled. Metro Nashville, for instance, will lay off 200 city employees.

"We could have to cut back our services, which are bare-bones right now," he said. "We are also looking at increasing water and sewer rates, other permits and regulatory fees."

Clinton Blew a Huge Opportunity When Bush Attacked Obama

When George Bush went to Israel last week to label Barack Obama as a disloyal appeaser, Hillary Clinton should have suspended her campaign and asked her supporters to unite around Senator Obama for president as a show of solidarity and common cause against Republican demagoguery of those who dare to defy them.

It seems to me that, by doing so, she would have would have accomplished two things: she would have jumped Obama's claim to be the party uniter and she would have endeared herself to voters for a 2012 run by choosing the nobler course. The media would have been flabbergasted and they would have talked about it for weeks. It also would have broken the conventional wisdom that Dems don't value loyalty.

It would have been the perfect climax to the campaign season. I don't think she can come out any better by continuing her campaign. She blew her golden opportunity.

Smoke on the Water When Progressive Priorities Clash

While I appreciate good intentions of Progressive Nashville's call for a water rate increase to fund Metro Transit, I suspect that the people who know our water system inside and out will tell you that any coming raise needs to be ploughed back into our the water system itself to pay for stormwater run-off infrastructure upgrades. Those upgrades are at least as, if not more, important than mass transit, because effective stormwater run-off if the first step in the process of water treatment that eventually puts cleaner water back into the environment. I would be interested in seeing a comparison of the carbon emissions of effective stormwater run-off versus those of expanding bus lines.

Beside those reasons, Metro Water fees are already funding other people's priorities, like Phil Bredesen's commitment to service the debt of Bud Adams' pro football stadium. That's one league that Metro Transit does not need to join for the sake of their own reputation. Add to that the fact that Metro Council is probably going to pass a bill that spreads high business connection fees out over a 36-month interest free payment period (which decreases short-term revenue) to give small business owners relief, and there is not much room to help Metro Transit without extending the decade of Metro Water's hurt.

The reality of the situation is that Metro Water revenues have remained flat for years while they cut their budgets, and neighborhoods are seeing the results in MWS's inability to solve stormwater run-off problems quickly. And as water revenues continue to go elsewhere the backlog of crumbling infrastructure will mount as it gets older and buying power shrinks. So, Metro Transit should not look to MWS funds, and we should persuade Mayor Dean to take the 2006 property tax referendum to trial and get it overturned by a more enlightened court of law. We should be paying Metro Transit through higher taxes or bus fare increases (not excepting fare relief for poorer riders), rather than through Metro Water fees.

Laugh just a little too loud. Stand just a little too close. Stare just a little too long.

If the innuendo is true, then the Mayor's office is choosing sides and slinking toward one or the worst Metro services in 2008. They'll give us something to blog about.

Crema Coffee Naming Contest

Crema owner Rachel Lehman is issuing a challenge to all java lovers, and she is offering what looks like a very fine award: free coffee for a week.

Here's my idea: Joe Talk Thai

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fool me twice, Schöne Ansicht, can't get fooled again

Remember that nice apology note I got from the Schöne Ansicht townhouse owner, Joel Ridley, about a recent late-night brawling and pissing party? Well, I found out yesterday that, while Mr. Ridley lives in another neighborhood, he uses his townhouse as a "party house" on some weekends (last weekend was not the first party he's had, but merely the first one to impose on a wider audience of homes). That sounds like a pretty sweet deal for him (what with saving his neighborhood from being trashed and annoyed), but it was totally bad form, if not bad faith, not to claim that in his correspondence with me. I think a property owner whose parties become increasingly intrusive and destructive to surrounding property owners have some obligation to be honest and accountable.

This is akin to the time in construction when a Schöne Ansicht developer wrote me an e-mail assuring me that stormwater run-off on the development would be channeled to the storm sewer. Consequently, I spoke up for the developer in a Salemtown Neighbors meeting when the issue came up only to be rebuffed by neighbors who told me that the developer was lying. Later, of course, I found out that indeed what he wrote me was not true and that he was channelling water via the surface to a tank and to the alley. Is the place just cursed with people who make bad decisions and won't own up to them?

Well, I bought Mr. Ridley's apology without question only to find out that he was not being entirely above board on the issue of his late-night party habits. And I wrote a good will post only to have it come back up and bite me now. So, I'm back to a deeper shade of jade about Schöne Ansicht, and the latest word on the street is that the developers have shown no support for a community meeting with the other members of the Schöne Ansicht homeowners association on the subject of late-night parties. No surprise there. They've never bothered to listen to anyone remotely connected to an association.

Just Get the Money They Owe Us and End It

Why even give Wackenhut a second chance to justify their contract with Metro? I see the Wackenhut SUV driving around streets in Salemtown on a daily basis, and I always wonder what it is about our neighborhood that draws the security guards away from their Metro Water Services post on 3rd Avenue, North.

A Stronger Antidote than Tort Reform

Tennessee's medical doctors are faced with a clear choice; join in the lemming lock step to tort-reform Texas or try something different and more ethical:

with providers choking on malpractice costs and consumers demanding action against medical errors, a handful of prominent academic medical centers, like Johns Hopkins and Stanford, are trying a disarming approach.

By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation, they hope to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.

Malpractice lawyers say that what often transforms a reasonable patient into an indignant plaintiff is less an error than its concealment, and the victim’s concern that it will happen again.

Despite some projections that disclosure would prompt a flood of lawsuits, hospitals are reporting decreases in their caseloads and savings in legal costs.

So go to Texas for the wrong reasons or stay in Tennessee for the right ones. It's the practitioner's choice.

One of the More Important Tuesday Night Stipulations

The memorializing resolution requesting that the Vice Mayor appoint a legitimate LED task force is as expected on Tuesday night's council agenda. That resolution stipulates:
The membership of such task force should be representative of the community as a whole, including the following: Neighborhood representatives from various areas of Nashville and Davidson County, both urban and suburban
That's the way it should have been from the beginning.

Council Member Reports Elimination of Program that Tied Department Budgets to their Customer Service

CM Emily Evans' latest dispatch from the council budget hearings divulges that the Dean Administration is eliminating Metro's internal service fees. I pointed out during his campaign for Mayor last year that his proposal to cut building space contingency would not work based on those fees. I'm not sure whether he is following through with plans to cut space contingency and I don't know if moving away from internal fees makes a difference with space contingency now. It seems to me that someone still has to pay for Metro's empty office spaces to be maintained.

The more troubling news on Ms. Evans' blog is the elimination of a performance management program that tied department budget allocations to how well they served their customers. So, what exactly will budgets be tied to in the future? And how are department heads going to be held accountable? For instance, if the Parks Department fails to fulfill their promise to have Morgan Park's full playground installed by this summer, then how does the community hold them accountable without some customer service criteria? What may sound like a good idea from a bureaucratic perspective does not seem to bode well for neighborhoods.

"Neverland Chamberel was an appeaser, all right?"

At a time when their presidential nominee is scratching and clawing to get away from his embrace of a 100-year war in Iraq and when their spin machine is making scurrilous charges about the loyalty of Barack Obama based on a thorough ignorance of history, TNGOP is back on its heels with the national attention turned to its smear campaign of Michelle Obama.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sure. Pay me to blog so that I can cover your print as you see fit.

I guess the city’s progressive bloggers are taking the afternoon off.

- - Nashville City Paper editor Clint Brewer speculating on why local bloggers ignored his publication's story on Metro Schools blending education and religion

Yes, I was taking the afternoon off WORKING MY FRACKIN' JOB (which has nothing to do with blogging) so that I could pay the bills.

This jab at bloggers looks like the flip side of the mainstream media's presumptive disdain for people whom they think sit around in their pajamas all day and try to copy what they do themselves. So, if they're not writing about the City Paper's stories, then bloggers must be taking the day off because God knows, we're not doing anything else. It's another example of how the press doesn't get it.

But it's really not that hard to comprehend: you, Mr. Editor, get paid to blog and to write and I don't. I fulfill the aphorism of someone who would write even if not paid for it because I enjoy it so much. It's cheap bombast when journalists say that they love their jobs so much they would report without pay because, well, they are getting paid when they say it. But I write literally without pay, and when Google Adsense does send me a check every 4 to 6 months, I turn around and give it away to local non-profits. Each workday morning I wake up early before my children rouse and I do some research and writing, and then I try to do some more writing in the interstices of my domesticated evening life while more than a few reporters are putting night caps on their happy hours du jour.

So, I'm sorry that I missed your story that was right up most progressive alleys, but I've been forced to live with the mainstream media's abject neglect of many newsworthy stories written by unpaid writers that I thought should have reached a wide audience. So, just suck it up and deal with the lack of attention (or better yet, work on having better relations with bloggers and a user-friendly website).

In the meantime, I'll tell you what: I'll trade your blending-school-and-religion story for my blending-Council-discretionary-funds-with-religion analysis (which you ignored at the time). My article on religion was just as significant as yours. What were you doing when it was published? Taking the afternoon off?

A Cabaret Lobbyist, Old Chum (Wherein "Chum" Is Just Another Word for Shark Bait)

The NashPo blog discovers that the same cabaret lobby that had Pastor Jerry Maynard introducing a Metro Council strip-club bill in order "to protect women" is holding receptions for state legislators at local strip clubs (no doubt "to protect women"). We don't dare question or criticize such pound-of-flesh lobbying lest we be accused of being uptight prudes just jealous of those who get to smoke cigars with former-Council-Members-turned-sex-industry-lobbyists (never mind the Freudian imagery).

Why Didn't TNGOP Just Photoshop a Burqa and Niqab on Her, Too?

While major Republicans are lynching Barark Obama on one side of the Middle East, bit player Bill "Mohammed Blows" Hobbs is back at his cartoon and character assassination desk--this time for his employers, the Tennessee Republican Party--attacking a woman who is not that far away from being First Lady. Michelle Obama's greatest crime was a feisty tempered bad choice of words, which should be balanced by the point that if she hates America so much, why should she stay married to an American statesman? But we learned a long time ago that TNGOP would rather bludgeon than balance.

If Laura Bush were currently in Michelle Obama's place, I have no doubt that TNGOP would pull a press release out of its sphincter that accused the former librarian of giving kids pornography and of teaching domestic terrorists how to build bombs to blow those kids up. And Bill Hobbs would be encouraging Tennesseans to burn books to observe her visit.

That's TNGOP for you. They hate us for our freedom.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

When Right-Wing Talk-Show Hosts Get Their Intellectual Teeth Kicked In

Somebody needs to scrape this pathetic conservative talk-show host off the pavement after showing that he has no idea who Neville Chamberlain was even as he tries to tie him to Barack Obama:

It's further evidence that listening to right-wing radio only dumbs down your intelligence. The blowhard bases his history on "Pathway to 9/11," which producers conceded was a fictionalized account (you had to know that the vast right-wing media machine was going to spin it into truth).

Compare right-wing talk radio ignorance to a progressive grasp (in 2006) of Neville Chamberlain, who looks more like he would have been right at home in the Bush Administration:

Yep, Bush looks a lot like Chamberlain for demonizing Barack Obama in the same way that Chamberlain attacked Winston Churchill as an internal enemy for criticizing British foreign policy.

And yet, how much more audacious is it for George Bush to stand on foreign soil, link a loyal American and honorable Senator to Nazi appeasers, and then take cover behind the right-wing media machine which would not know the history of war from a hole in the head? Joe Biden had the spot-on analysis of the backstabbing tactic: "That is bullshit."

Your Gut Check Is in the Woods

Lately, the only local presser that I know of with any fortitude in challenging Karl Dean's administration is the Scene's Jeff Woods. And I quote:

Just about everyone familiar with the city's finances figures a tax hike will be needed next year to avoid some serious slashing of spending ....

Dean did say during last year's election campaign that he wouldn't raise taxes as mayor. But breaking that promise is inevitable. With the kinds of comments he's making, he'll eventually damage his credibility with voters, and he's going to need it. When the time for the tax increase arrives, he'll have to mount a big campaign to persuade the public that the city needs more money. Then, how's he going to explain away all those times he said the government could manage its way out of trouble?

In this week's hard copy, Woods eloborates in exhaustive detail what Dean's only real options are (I'll take what's behind door #2, Monte, and let the Tennessee Tax Revolt go to hell both for the saddle they strapped on Nashville in 2006 and for their damned silence now on adequate solutions to our pending budget crisis). His conclusion is ominous:

Dean’s first budget cuts haven’t caused much anguish. Likely few, if any, of the workers targeted for layoffs will wind up on the street; almost all of them will fill vacant positions elsewhere in the government. The transit authority is probably going to cut bus routes and raise fares, and public works won’t make quite as many trips into your neighborhood to chop up your fallen tree limbs. Otherwise, the public won’t much notice.

But the mayor is fooling himself—and the public—if he thinks this budget year is as hard as it’s going to get. This is the easy part.

Bush Takes a Mulligan on His Ultimate Sacrifice in the War Effort

He gave up golf for the troops before he played golf again. Hitting the links in flip-flops really hurts your game.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Local Government Viewed More Favorably than Federal

Pew is out with a study that shows the federal government's favorability rating in free fall at the same time that the favorability rating of local government has remained consistantly high. Worst of all for Democrats, who have exercised some control over the federal government for the last two years, their favorability rating is even lower: 31%. Guess they need to find a way to start acting like Dems again rather than as GOP-lite. Either that or run on local government's coattails.

The same study found lower numbers on media favorability (40%) and on business corporation favorability (47%). Local government seems to be the most highly regarded hall of power around the country. Most everyone else is sucking in the approval department.

Those Three-Year-Olds Likely Hate Us for Our Freedom

More illegal immigrants seized in LA; certain to drive up prices in the human smuggling market even more.

Philly's City Wi-Fi Still Limping Along

Philadelphia's experiment to provide free citywide wi-fi is not dead yet, but it is short a private partner after losing Earthlink, which failed to achieve 100,000 paying customers as an incentive. The new Mayor--a Democrat who was dubbed "the Seabiscuit of urban politics"--has no interest in it, so the prognosis does not look good, especially with real-world infrastructure in shambles.

Council Votes to Expand Demo Ordinance from Derelict to Vacant Properties

Dallas (TX) City Council votes to allow City Hall to demolish any vacant, unsecured property determined unsafe and open to vagrants and children.

Again, A Thank-You Would Be Nice

When I voted for Barack Obama during the Tennessee primary (even though I was an Edwards-leaning voter), all I asked from the hard-core Obama supporters was to stop crowing long enough to say, "Thanks."

Now they owe John Edwards himself thanks for taking any populist steam left from yesterday's Clinton victory out of her wide West Virginia margin. Not only will Edwards' delegates now likely all vote for Obama, but the only true populist who ran for President this year endorses Barack Obama tonight. That's a timely boost.

What started in Indiana as a shift away from Clinton is now momentum chugging fully toward Obama, who will clearly be the next Democratic nominee for President, soon and well before the convention.

Newspaper Finally Acknowledges Mayor's Office and Metro Legal in AG Zoning Controversy

Nashville City Paper reporter Nate Rau does finally get around to mentioning just barely two significant facts regarding approval of the AG zoning change bill that I've pointed out should have been placed alongside the Council's responsibility from the beginning:

Dean mayoral spokesperson Janel Lacy said Tuesday Dean never rendered a legal opinion on the rezoning measure during its first two readings while Dean was still law director ....

In addition, former Mayor Bill Purcell did not veto the bill, but he did return it to the Metro Clerk unsigned.

Okay, so Karl Dean never rendered a legal decision during the two-to-three month period that this bill was bouncing between Metro Council and the Planning Commission, but why not if it could have potentially lead to where we are now: a DOJ investigation? Buzzers and red lights didn't start going off in Metro Legal at November 2006 first reading? It is common knowledge that bills that get to third reading generally pass, so why would Metro lawyers wait until February 2007's third reading to speak up when they could have started in November 2006? Why was Karl Dean MIA on this bill?

And why does Mr. Rau seem to suggest that returning the bill back to the Metro Clerk unsigned represented anything but abdication to flawed logic? Returning it unsigned does not let the Mayor's Office off the hook, because a refusal to sign insured that the bill would become law without Bill Purcell's signature. That is not absolution. You can bet that if Mayor Purcell had simply returned the Council's news rack regulation bill with no signature rather than vetoing it later in 2007, then the Nashville City Paper would have explicitly pointed out the Mayor's failure at the time.

If the City Paper wants credit for some amazing investigative journalism on the DOJ investigation (beyond the lame claim that they were the "first" to the story), they are going to have to do more than the Mayor's Office's bidding.

I mean, get serious. Watchdogging Metro Council is not that hard. Watchdogging a popular Mayor in a strong executive government is.

A Mormon, Tom Cruise, and a Chinese Communist Walk into a Bar

The LDS Church has filed a copyright infringement claim against a charity dedicated to developing free, open content based on publication of a secret LDS bishops handbook on indoctrination, excommunication, and tithing. The Mormons join some dubious company:
Wikileaks has received copyright infringement claims from organizations including the Church of Scientology's Religious Technology Center ... and the Chinese government attempts to censor every website with the word "wikileaks" in the web page address.
The Mormons are free to keep all the secrets they want, but their lack of transparency about indoctrination makes them look cultish (in the bad sense) rather than mainstream.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Woods on the Small Sum of Mayoral Ambitions

Jeff Woods adroitly dissects the Mayor's State of Metro speech:

Dean congratulated Maplewood High, arguably Tennessee's worst school academically, for losing the state championship football game. (The Panthers "outplayed all but one other class 4A football team in the state last year," Dean gushed.) And he recognized a couple of cops for fixing a family's flat tire last Thanksgiving. We're not making this up.

There was nothing in the speech about the central issue confronting Dean's administration: how hard it will be for Metro to raise enough revenue to provide the same level of services in the future because of the 2006 charter amendment that requires public approval of property tax rate increases. In fact, Dean pretended it'll only take "smart fiscal management" to overcome these little pesky money problems we're facing now.

"Although times are tight," the mayor said, "we know that will not always be the case." That's reassuring.

So, what? We wait for the winds to change rather than locating a star to steer by?

UPDATE: Compare to the Nashville City Paper's pander piece on the speech. It reads like it was written by Janel Lacy.

John McCain's High Priest

This ought to do wonders for American foreign policy under a McCain presidency:

I think that he's saying that God hates us for our freedom; or maybe that God just hates the illegal immigrants.

Battlestar Galactica: On "Faith"

The spiritual dimensions of BG zoomed past cliche to profoundly theological last weekend in the episode called "Faith," which has Starbuck's rendezvous with the Cylons and President Laura Roslin's gripping confrontation with mortality via the speeches of Gaius Baltar.

The religious imagery was much more rich than typically portrayed on TV. The mix of machine and living tissue on the ships of the Cylon battle fleet conveys incarnation in its most ambiguous sense. The scene where one of the dying Cylon "Sixes" "Eights"--shot by a centurion while trying to disconnect a "hybrid" from the basestar--bleeds into the hybrid's immersion tank seemingly making the latter give a profound revelation to Starbuck ("the missing Three will give you the Five who come from the home of the Thirteenth") reminds me of baptism and blood atonement. It also reminds me of the end of Pan's Labyrinth where a dying Ofelia bleeds onto the cave altar, which opens up either a portal to the underworld and her reunion with her family or her fantasy that she has done so.

That BG writers called this episode "Faith" fits. Faith isn't an unadulterated certainty, but incarnated, which means that it is both the windshield and the bug: it is often crushed but unbowed, and it beyond on the petty, arbitrary fickleness of the everyday to matters of life and death. Faith, both the episode and the existence, is finally about life and death. And according to the hybrid, Starbuck is the "harbinger of death." When we find out what that means I doubt it will be either absolutely bad or absolutely good, because faith inevitably comes mingled in both.

Looks Good, But That Slightly Askew Compass Heading is Asking for Trouble

It's not troubling because I'm a geographer or a stickler, but because it could invite opponents to suggest that the progressive compass has always been off. Here's the compass heading via Google Earth:

Otherwise, it sounds like a good confab. Here's the schedule of events, and for now I'll just let go of a tempting jeremiad about inviting at-Large CM Jerry Maynard to speak on a panel entitled "Government As An Agent for the Common Good." It might be worth a look-see.

Draft of Resolution to Create a Legitimate Metro Nashville Sign Task Force

The following bill will be introduced in next Tuesday's Council meeting:
RESOLUTION NO. __________________

A resolution requesting the Vice Mayor to appoint a task force to study the Metropolitan Government’s existing sign ordinance and to make recommendations to the Council regarding appropriate modifications to the sign ordinance.

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government sign ordinance, codified as Chapter 17.32 of the Metropolitan Code, has remained largely unchanged since its adoption in 1992; and

WHEREAS, technology in the sign industry has evolved in the last 15 years, specifically as it relates to electronic signs; and

WHEREAS, the existing sign ordinance contains ambiguity as to whether certain sign technology is permitted in Nashville and Davidson County; and

WHEREAS, the Council is cognizant of the fact that signs can have a serious impact on the use and enjoyment of residential property and the overall aesthetic appearance of the city; and

WHEREAS, the Council recognizes that certain modifications may need to be made to the Metro sign ordinance to reflect the technological advancements in the sign industry, but desires input from interested stakeholders as to what modifications are in the best interest of the city as a whole; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting and proper that a task force be appointed to make recommendations to the Council regarding appropriate amendments to the sign ordinance.


Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the Vice Mayor to appoint a task force to study the Metropolitan Government’s existing sign ordinance and to make recommendations to the Council regarding appropriate modifications to the sign ordinance. The membership of such task force should be representative of the community as a whole, including the following:
Neighborhood representatives from various areas of Nashville and Davidson County, both urban and suburban
Representative(s) from the business community
Representative(s) from the sign industry
Representative(s) from the Planning Department
Representative(s) from the Department of Codes Administration

The task force should make its recommendation back to the full Council upon the completion of its work.

Section 2. The Metropolitan Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Resolution to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors.

Section 3. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.


Megan Barry

Charlie Tygard
Members of Council

Metro Budget Fatigue Set in Yet?

Or have you been paying enough attention to claim fatigue? Buck up. We've only just begun the budget fun.

In her latest installment of informative posts on the mysteries of the Metro budget, District 23 CM Emily Evans breaks down the Hospital Authority and Social Services. Given the latter's long term hiatus in Salemtown's Fehr School Building and the long lines we've seen of people waiting for utility bill assistance, CM Evan's criticism is noteworthy:
In 2004 an audit was conducted that said Social Services should become a planning and coordination organization and get out of the direct services business. [Director Gerri] Robinson was hired after that audit was done presumably to implement its recommendations. Social Services did much of what was recommended and then stopped. So, while the audit recommends a head count of 35, there are still 98 employees. The balance of employees are resisting efforts to further decrease the employee count. While they would likely find jobs with outside vendors charged with providing the same services, they may not have the same salary and benefits.
To balance her budget Ms Robinson decided not to cut any positions even though she has more employees than she should and instead decided to eliminate a summer camp voucher program for needy kids. Yes, that is what I said. I thought it was a poor decision and reflected a certain like of sensitivity to other Metro employees who are experiencing demotions, lay-offs and transfers.
It is hard enough scraping up enough money to fund public services, and to have the officials who are charged with oversight systematically undermine those services as Ms. Robinson has for her own personal agenda is wrong. Her actions only hurt the Nashvillians that the beleaguered program is designed to help. If her budget gets slashed in the future it won't be the fault of callous conservatives. It will be a self-inflicted wound.

Still No Questions about the Mayor's No Veto of AG Zoning Bill

The City Paper continues to put all of the onus for the DOJ investigation on Metro Council. Again, formal Mayor Bill Purcell under the advisement of former Legal Director Karl Dean could have insured that the bill would have never seen the light of day, let alone become law. I bet the DOJ interviewed someone at the Mayor's Office. Why is the CP ignoring that angle?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Two Threads Coming Together

Knoxviews ties together the LED dramas playing out concurrently in two Tennessee cities and wonders when and if the state will get more involved.

So Far, So Good

I got a nice apology note today from Joel Ridley, owner of the rental unit at Schöne Ansicht, for the extracurricular activities that broke out in the wake of a party thrown by his renter. Mr. Ridley explained that the offending guests were not guests at all, but party crashers. He also promised that the offending behavior would not happen again as the result of a party on his property. Thanks to Mr. Ridley for stepping up to this problem.

In related news, it looks like the Schöne Ansicht homeowners association is planning a meeting to come to some understanding on party rules and on the misuse of common areas and other people's property. That's good news considering last weekend's party seemed more like a Vanderbilt frat house bender than a party for grown-ups.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gangs and Higher Taxes in the 'Burbs

Urban myths busted and homecoming roosters.

Schöne Ansicht Bad Salemtown Neighbor Once Again

Friday night/Saturday morning was a fun-filled time for Salemtown neighbors living around Schöne Ansicht who were awakened to graduation party-goers spilling out of a townhouse and into neighbors yards to take their pisses and to form drunken, juvenile-style fight clubs for two or three hours after midnight. The townhouse hosting the offending party is located at 510 Hume Street (in the infamous Schöne Ansicht complex) and it is owned by Joel Ridley and Eric Wood, Jr.

The Metro Police were called and they showed up on two occasions and basically did not seem motivated to some to discourage the extracurricular activities that basically constituted violations like trespassing and indecent exposure. Neighbors told me that one police officer excused the late night capers as a Meharry Medical graduation party, which required no police action. Sounds like those old tapes are playing again.

UPDATE: 510 Hume St. owner strives to make amends.

Greenway Connector between MetroCenter and Downtown Starting to Take Shape

Today I went out to MetroCenter to check out progress on Metro's project to connect Downtown and the Cumberland River Levee greenway. I was surprised to find that I could walk a good distance from the I-65 bridge to a point between Nashville Island and the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant on new asphalt. It's exciting to think that one day soon Nashvillians will be able to start at Downtown and walk, jog, or bike all the way to Clarksville Highway on a picturesque riverside greenway.

Mother's Day Was Once the Dream of a Congress of Mothers Protecting Their Sons Against War

Happy Mother's Day!

No wonder Republicans oppose celebrating motherhood.

Self-Storage Facilities: The Niche Poverty Pimps

Always finding new ways to make money off others' misfortune:
As they lose their homes, people are turning to these humble cinderblock and sheet-metal boxes to store their stuff. But some people cannot keep up with their storage bills any better than they could handle their mortgage payments, and storage companies are auctioning off their property for a pittance.

A cottage industry has developed to profit from these lost and abandoned items.
It's almost as if the good Samaritan found someone along the road and--instead of dressing his wounds and finding a place for him to stay--dressed his wounds and sold him into slavery while charging him interest for dressing his wounds.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Late Salemtown Questions on Germantown Overlay

The time has pretty much passed for any public feedback to Metro Council on the Germantown Overlay as proposed by Historic Germantown, Inc. and CM Erica Gilmore because the public hearing was held last week. However, the night before the public hearing at the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association meeting questions were raised about possible building height allowances of six stories in the overlay along Hume Street (which separates G-town and S-town).

Metro Planning official David Kleinfelter was at the SNNA meeting, and he later wrote Salemtown leaders the following answer to the building height question:
The issue came up at the community meeting about whether the changes to the Germantown DNDP were going to allow 6-story buildings along Hume Street. As best I can tell, that is NOT happening. Here is a link to the amendment to the DNDP, which was adopted by the Commission at its last meeting: Germantown_DNDP_Amendment_03_23_08.pdf

The end of Amendment 5, which is at the top of page 4, seems to indicate that within the "Neighborhood Urban" policy areas that aren't otherwise identified, new buildings are to be from 1-3 stories tall.
I'm sure that a number of Salemtown residents are relieved by this news. It would not have helped relations between the two associations if the height restrictions between the two neighborhoods had been relaxed, especially since Historic Germantown, Inc. leaders had assured SNNA leaders some time ago that there were no such plans in the overlay proposal.

After Delay, Salemtown Streetscape Concept Likely to Materialize Midsummer

I am told by the landscape architects that Salemtown should start seeing construction of its streetscape improvements around the end of June. MDHA has not been updating us since the block grant committee met a couple of months ago.

Iconic NYC Neighborhood Market a Dying Breed

Casualties of the global food crisis at home:

A continuing decline in the number of neighborhood supermarkets has made it harder for millions of New Yorkers to find fresh and affordable food within walking distance of their homes, according to a recent city study. The dearth of nearby supermarkets is most severe in minority and poor neighborhoods already beset by obesity, diabetes and heart disease ....

In some cases, the old storefronts have been converted to drug stores that stand to make money coming and going — first selling processed foods and sodas, then selling medicines for illnesses that could have been prevented by a better diet.

I can't even imagine New York without groceries in walkable neighborhoods.

Salemtown Noise Connection to Gulch Area Shooting?

A comment from the Salemtown e-mail list yesterday:
The rumor I've heard is that the "street party" [on 6th Avenue, North] last weekend was a makeshift memorial for the guy who was shot and killed at that "Firm" night club [near the Gulch] (they say he had shot someone but that person didn't die, so him being shot was a retaliation). Allegedly he was a blood and lived on 6th. His funeral was earlier today at the funeral home at Monroe and 8th [Germantown] where it was reported that everyone there was also in red. I've heard that the police were at the funeral and I've already noticed increased patrols, myself. Sounds like they have a handle on this.

No More Germantown "Oktoberfest"

I'm hearing that Historic Germantown has severed ties this year with the two participating churches over where last year's Oktoberfest block party proceeds went. As a result their annual Oktoberfest "brand" is the casuality. There is still going to be an event the same weekend somewhere in G-town, but it sounds like they're giving up "brand" for bland by christening it the "Germantown Street Festival." Yawn.

Last year organizers saw a 50% increase in people attending Oktoberfest from the previous year (20,000 to 30,000). So, why fix a brand that ain't broken? Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?

UPDATE: I received the following e-mail from G-town's John Horton:
Please verify your information before publishing. For example, Church of the Assumption and Monroe Street United Methodist are preparing for Oktoberfest 2008 just as they did every year before HGN joined their partnership. Your statement as to why HGN withdrew from the partnership is incorrect and inflammatory. Please be more diligent and publish accurate information or clearly state the information is your opinion based upon rumor.
In my opinion, blogging is a way to verify information by publishing. If I say something at a community meeting that is not exactly correct, someone else can stand up and say, "That's not exactly correct. I have first hand information to the contrary." Writing information that I hear coming from Germantown is not that much different than speaking it. I'm communicating a perception of what is going on that exists. I'm not a journalist nor do I publish this blog under the auspices of professional (a.k.a., "salaried") news reporting. So, in essence most of what I write is interpretative and editorial (except for that publicity in the past that Oktoberfest leaders wrote and asked me to post on the blog, which I did with no fees and with no material gain for myself).

But by allowing comments and adapting my posts based on comments, Enclave is an expression of open social fact-checking, which is more than you'll get from the paid press. Writing here is not static but communicative, and hence, it is everchanging as various perceptions of the truth come in. It is intersubjective.

I was communicating my disappointment based on what I recently heard (which pretty much concedes subjectivity, which may or may not be the same as "rumor," depending on what is meant by "rumor"), open to the possibility that maybe there is a misperception out there. But now I throw it back to Germantown neighborhood and church leaders working on Oktoberfest and the Germantown Street Fest: if there are misperceptions of what is going on out there, then have you adequately communicated your products to the neighborhood?

So, now a Germantown leader gets his view published here because it serves communication. However, it is still clear to me that Oktoberfest looks divided and like a shadow of the strong thing that it was (or maybe I should write "that it seemed," since the perception of strength may have only been a rumor that I should have checked rather than communicated).

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Juicy Portion of the "Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act"

From Wikipedia:

Section (a) of RLUIPA provides:

(1) No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government can demonstrate that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution

((A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

((B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

((2) Scope of Application. This subsection applies in any case in which--

((A) the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or

((B) the substantial burden affects, or removal of that substantial burden would affect, commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, or with Indian tribes, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability; or

((C) the substantial burden is imposed in the implementation of a land use regulation or system of land use regulations, under which a government makes, or has in place formal or informal procedures or practices that permit the government to make, individualized assessments of the proposed uses for the property involved.

Currently being litigated is the conflict RLUIPA presents relating to municipalities' zoning and regulating rights. Through RLUIPA, Congress has expanded religious accommodations to a point where it appears to restrict municipalities' zoning power. Arguably, RLUIPA gives religious landowners a special right to challenge land use laws which their secular neighbors do not have. Even if a zoning law is void of discrimination Congress would have strict scrutiny apply to the city's regulation.

Might Metro Nashville have a case against the U.S. Government for coercing special rights for religious organizations that secular organizations do not enjoy?

Metro Nashville is Strong Executive and Metro Council Cannot Be the Only Responsible Party

In the current controversy over fixing a past Goodlettsville zoning bill, there are some significant issues and questions that some local media seem to be ignoring to the benefit of the Mayor's Office.

For starters, here is the time line of Rip Ryman's original ordinance:
  • The offending bill was introduced and it passed first reading in November 2006.
  • It went to Metro Planning for conideration, and the Planning Commission disapproved it in December 2006.
  • It passed second reading in January 2007, which meant it had been through some committees.
  • Karl Dean resigned as Metro Legal Director in January 2007 and started running for Mayor.
  • In Feburary 2007, the bill was approved by Metro Council on final reading, but the Mayor returned it unsigned, which meant that it would become law a few days after it crossed his desk.
It is clear to me that the Mayor's Office and Metro Legal did share some responsibility for influencing the realization of this bill. But is it so clear to the mainstream media?

Whipping up on the cat herd is easy, because they practically hand you the proverbial sticks with which to flog them. But I believe that the media should be asking harder questions of our strong executives. Questions like: in the two month period between CM Ryman's introduction and Mr. Dean's resignation, what did Metro Legal do to try and stop the bill? Why did Mayor Purcell fail to veto the bill (he vetoed English Only during the same month and newsrack regulation later in 2007) if there was the slightest chance that Metro would be accused of violating federal law? What's the justification for returning unsigned? Does Mr. Dean share any responsibility for having failed to detect and to advise on the possibility that a Justice Department investigation could have resulted? Did Mr. Dean advise Mayor Purcell to veto before he left?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Nothing's Right. I'm Torn.

As for Tuesday night's council attempt to put rehabilitation services in agricultural areas like Goodlettsville:

On the one hand, with recovery facilities, homeless shelters, and social services packed into urban neighborhoods where I have lived, it is hard for me to have sympathy for burden-free rural residents who are NIMBY about bearing some of the load for rehabilitation services. On the other hand, since when does the Bush Justice Department have any credibility on enforcing the law of the land, given that they are selective enforcers? On still another hand, a law suit involving fair housing could cost Metro a bundle and Nashville has no bundles. On the other of another hand, it was embarrassing to listen to CM Jerry Maynard on Tuesday night give a sermonette on his parochial Bible from what is supposed to be his neutral and broadly representative position on the council in order to defend Metro Legal's attempts to placate the Bush Justice Department.

Geez. I don't know which way to fall on this one. There is no good position.

City Paper Reports that Charlie Tygard and Megan Barry Now Working Together on LED

The gist:

At-large Council members Megan Barry and Charlie Tygard will propose a resolution for the May 20 Council meeting asking Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors to appoint a task force to study and modify Metro’s 16-year-old sign ordinance ....

Tygard has vowed to modify the bill to limit its scope and to work with Barry on a compromise as to when and where LED signs should be allowed. It’s all but certain LED signs won’t come into residential areas once Tygard’s bill is amended.