Monday, July 21, 2008

The Question of a Progressive Council Caucus

So, the progressives are discussing a caucus to help streamline and coordinate their initiatives so as to avoid the fracture of issues like placing LEDs in residential neighborhoods, huh?  Whose fault is that they fractured?  Was it really those progressive constituents who Nate Rau speculates "blogged" Charlie Tygard to death?

Given the rather limited influence of blogs, I doubt it.  I would venture to say that the fracturing occurred along the lines between members who received substantial donations from pro-LED interests and those who did not.  It also occurred along the lines of those who have a conflict of interest with the sign issues and those who do not.  And, quite frankly, some self-proclaimed progressive members spent way too much time representing some special business interests without reflection on the conflicted cultural implications of their actions.

It is rather rich that Nate Rau is blaming blogs for the divisions rather than underscoring their contributions to the debate.  If it hadn't been for blogs, much of the truth about the events unfolding around the LED controversy wouldn't have seen the light of day.  Enclave beat the media to this story.  We looked into the campaign financing by the Nashville Business Coalition PAC and the grilling that council candidates got last fall from that group, which included sign kingpin, Bobby Joslin.  Did the City Paper delve into those thorny issues?  It seemed busier trying to amplify Charlie Tygard's talking points and trying to spin zoning controversies into liberals vs. churches.  Did the mainstream media ever lift a finger to verify whether or not the cost of the signs reported by Joslin and Tygard were accurate?  Did reporter Nate Rau attend the one and only LED task force meeting?  I didn't see any media there.

So, if the council progressives are trying to overcome their differences then let them do so and let the media leave bloggers out of it.  But I can think of three real problems with caucusing in this context:
  1. I disagree with Ronnie Steine's insinuation that "progressive" means whatever the user wishes it to mean.  It's that kind of relativism that lead to accepting large donations with strings attached and embracing conflicts of interest.
  2. I believe that it is tactically unwise given that the ideological division in the council seems equal at this point.
  3. I hope that the caucus doesn't become a means for insulating members from constituents to make sure that they are in the same page; that will give the special interests another lever that average voters don't have.

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