Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They Hold These Decibels to Be Self-Evident

That all acoustic thresholds are created equal and endowed by their amplifier with certain unalienable heights ...

Aunt B:

Now I can respect that you do not see yourself as a libertarian, and I should have distinguished between you and P.J. Tobia, who was clearly embracing libertarianism to impugn a proposed ordinance that would be more liberal than some cities and consistent with music-oriented Austin. But even if I was directing my final comments to Tobia, you have to admit that your reply to his post would fit right in with many civil libertarians (with whom I myself identify). Other than that I'm not even sure what you mean by "real libertarian." Are there any left post-Bush's economic crash?

Who demanded your sympathy on this noise issue? I certainly did not. I also did not demand your sympathy when I moved into a high crime neighborhood and chose to help start a crime watch rather than roll over and enjoy the violation. It's a rather peculiar end to which your logic leads: if one moves some place one must be willing to accept rather than change the impositions. If I move into the city I should be prepared to accept litter. Playing the victim rather than changing the system is the city dweller's lot as goes the logic; so then, she should commit say an act of larceny herself to get into the spirit? If a drunk vomits on her stoop, she can just go vomit on her neighbor's. Stop trying to transform bad urban schools, simply dumb down a kid you know. But otherwise none of us should protest. If we don't choose a hyper-real urban adventure like every other wine-tasting suburban wayfarer or bar-hopping weekend warrior, then we should sit down and shut up.

It's ironic that these Downtowners you asperse would have to hear the loudest music of any American city absent this ordinance, but proponents of becoming the loudest American city don't expect to have to listen to "urban pioneers'" criticism of extreme noise. By the way, maybe you didn't get the memo: many of us who live in the city are critical of the term "urban pioneer." I find it offensive, like you probably find certain labels directed at you or your pit bull objectionable, so please don't throw the term at me. But if it helps you actually address my real world point that each major entertainmentopolis in America has noise ordinances either more conservative than or the same as Nashville's proposed ordinance, then by all means pretend with your mind's eye that I am an "urban pioneer." Just don't call me one.

And, finally, I say fine to your point that we're not talking about the art of seduction but about entertainment commerce. I never meant for this to be about lap dances. You're the one trying to link stripping and loud music for the purposes of sneaking in charges of "Victorianism" and heaping them on proponents of a reasonable and conventional noise ordinance. And, while I am tempted to wax Foucaultian about the production of sexuality in Victorian strictures, instead I would merely suggest that if you don't want to be charged with projection (which can be connected to repression) then don't charge balance-seekers with Victorianism and repression based on no evidence other than your contrived stripper/higher-decibel linkage.

Oh, and about Aristotle: all I did was indicate that one may appeal to balance from a tradition outside of Victorianism. I didn't argue that we should exclude women as Aristotle believed (just like voting for Democrats now is not an endorsement of the Democratic Party's historic opposition to desegregation). I merely linked to his position that we should find a mean between extremes (for boys and girls equally!) rather than moving to extremes just because we can. But if you don't like any Aristotle because of some of his views then take his teacher Plato (who acknowledged women as philosophers): his view of justice as people relating to one another rather than acting strictly as individuals is just as relevant and non-Victorian. The point is not whether you choose one over the other. The point is that I am not being Victorian or repressed because I support a noise ordinance.


P.S. You would probably lose the donut bet that this bill has anything to do with the Adelicia or any other place in Midtown. On the one hand, the old law that governed the noise violations in Midtown (which is not Downtown, although it may seem that way to some surburbanites) restricted amplified music to 50 decibels (unless otherwise zoned). On the other hand, a new law was passed a few weeks ago that now covers neighborhoods like Midtown; that ordinance maintains that any noise that is "plainly audible" from the adjoining property line is prohibited. Sound meters are no longer needed outside of Downtown proper. So, Downtown's proposed ordinance is exponentially more liberal (as I expect it should be) than Midtown's and has absolutely nothing to do with the drama over at South Street.

LATER UPDATE: Here is part of the council lawyer's analysis of the proposed bill to limit decibel levels Downtown:
The noise ordinance was amended by Ordinance No. BL2008-259 in September 2008 to add a “plainly audible” standard for determining violations and adding certain restrictions pertaining to motor vehicle noise. However, Ordinance No. BL2008-259 retained the exemption for the downtown area from the noise ordinance restrictions.

This ordinance [NO. BL2008-306] would basically set a maximum decibel of 85 Db(A) for downtown properties, with certain exceptions. For condominium and apartment units, the decibel measurement would be taken from the interior of another residential unit in the same complex (if the sound is coming from a residential unit), or from the boundary line of the nearest residentially-occupied property at street level (for noise from bars, nightclubs, etc.). The ordinance would not apply to special events in the downtown area for which a permit has been issued, or to any outdoor entertainment facilities owned by Metro (LP Field and Riverfront Park). The ordinance would also prohibit amplified sound from businesses to attract customers greater than 85 Db(A) from any point within the boundary line of the nearest residentially-occupied property.

This ordinance is the result of a task force made up of downtown residents that began looking at this issue in September 2006. The task force toured downtown at night and took noise measurements at various locations. The 85 decibel limitation is greater than the noise ordinance in Las Vegas and New York City, and is in line with the noise ordinance in Austin, Texas, which is comparable to downtown Nashville as it pertains to the mixture of live music venues and residential living.
It is clear from this analysis that a group of Downtown residents started exploring this problem 2 years ago before ground was ever broken for the Adelicia. I can find no evidence to support Aunt B.'s speculation that the Adelicia residents prompted this bill. And if that were true, why wouldn't those residents go to their own council member, Erica Gilmore, for bill sponsorship? Mike Jameson and Robert Duvall are sponsoring the 85 decibel bill.

In fact, one Downtown member of the Nashville Charrette describes her participation with Mike Jameson in the information gathering process (which sounds anything but unreasonable):
I actually walked around the District with Councilman Jameson and a group of merchants and residents last year on a weekend night. We carried some noise meters and found that most of the clubs on 2nd Ave and Broadway do a good job of keeping the sound within acceptable levels. There are just a few clubs that are creating problems. They are mainly the karaoke bars with outdoor speakers. They even kept blasting during Battle of the Bands on 2nd Avenue over New Years. It is too bad that a few create problems for all, but that is usually the case ....

Currently, there are no noise ordinance rules on the books for Jameson's district. Jameson asked for more time for the residents and the merchants to come to an agreement and we just about have, however, the Convention and Visitors Bureau strongly resists any restrictions of any kind.
There is acknowledgement that most clubs are doing fine and wouldn't have to worry about the new ordinance, which like most Metro Codes are intended to reign in the few who would otherwise act the total asshole. There also seems to have been a deliberative, inclusive discussion involving the impact on the Downtown neighborhoods behind this bill ignored by P.J. Tobia. Aunt B. may not believe excessive noise to be a problem Downtown, but a number do and nobody is threatening anyone's basic rights in asking that some limits be placed around certain behavior consistent with entertainment districts elsewhere.

And let's not be naive in thinking that Nashville ever acts without comparing itself to peers. To suggest that the city should go its own way on music when it compares other codes it applies to any other human behavior is just silly. There's nothing that should make amplified music more exceptional than blinking, animated LED billboards, for example. It is pretty obvious from the council lawyer's analysis of the bill that comparing Nashville to places like New York, Las Vegas, and Austin matters or it wouldn't merit discussion. Peer comparisons are as legitimate as any other data influencing this decision.

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