Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is how SouthComm steamrolls

Last week Southcomm Publisher Chris Ferrell took time away from the task of purchasing the Nashville Scene to tweet a reply to my post defending CM Mike Jameson's attempt to delay the Mayor's proposal to create a convention center authority. Ferrell compared Jameson's use of council rules to the actions of my former District 19 council member, Ludye Wallace:
on the council rules post - that's an old Ludye Wallace trick and not what the rule was intended for
What bothers me most about Ferrell's response are the insinuations in the word "trick" about motivations and intentions. Tricks are acts meant to deceive people, and I learned fairly quickly while being Ludye's constituent that there usually seemed to be some hidden vice in his council actions. I found Ludye's deceit to be about talking as if he were representing the community while merely serving himself.

For all of his talk about listening to constituents, he never responded to e-mails or attended neighborhood meetings. The one discussion I had with him face-to-face about one of his bills, he argued incessantly with me and seemed to close his mind to my perspective. He promised to have community meetings on development issues and did not.

Ludye earmarked thousands of dollars for private non-profits likely to return favors later and ignored Metro Park pleas to use council discretionary funds to provide summer youth programming as community centers reduced hours in tight budget times. He attempted to redirect funds that would have helped struggling families pay their utility bills to a non-profit tennis program. He went to bat for a growth-focused university against the Rose Park neighborhood and its sense of character. Speaking of character, Ludye has not exactly been a model. He grew grass on his properties that was code-violating tall and he was indicted for his patronage of gambling houses.

And he only did that just while I was paying attention to him.

Ferrell may have served on council with both Ludye and Jameson, but his attempt to criticize squeaky clean MJ with a comparison to Ludye is patently absurd. Mike Jameson's tenure on Metro Council is broadly characterized as above reproach. Jameson listened to his constituents. He expressed hesitance at the one request I made of him when I lived in his East Nashville district, but he said he would raise the issue in council if I were set on it. He held community meetings. He recommended discretionary funds not for patronizing non-profits but for public infrastructure. His opponents may not like his stance on the issues, but they can hardly pin anything on him with regard to ulterior motives.

Jameson's attempts to slow down the Mayor's rush-to-convention-center have been telegraphed and broadcast. His use of the rules to guarantee that questions bubbling up from the public get answered were fairly predictable. Where's the sleight of hand? More importantly, where is the arrogant selfishness that marked the tricks of Ludye Wallace? How does it serve Mike Jameson to plant himself in front of Karl Dean's steamroller or to risk his political career by taking on McNeely, Pigott, and Fox (who besides Dean counts Phil Bredesen and scores of other Tennessee big shots as close friends)?

The reality of the situation is that Ludye Wallace never would have attempted to stop the Mayor's convention center proposal, because the Mayor would have already thrown Ludye whatever bone he asked for. Ludye never would have taken the risk to oppose on principle. Standing up for the right thing "tho the heavens fall" is not Ludye's style. Being a Salty Papa is.

The irony here is that Ludye is now a paid lobbyist for the Mayor's convention center plan. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau is paying him $1,500 to be a "minority representative" with council relationships and knowledge of council procedure. Too bad that amount won't cover the $2,000 he lost on June 2, 2006 visiting "constituents" in a gambling house a few blocks west of the street where I live. I don't hear any trepidation from Chris Ferrell about Ludye's influential new position.

In lumping Ludye and MJ, either Ferrell is riding the Dean steamroller himself or he knows something about a dark side to Jameson that none of the rest of us do. Having watched both CMs, I consider Ferrell's short burst at Jameson serious, and I would like to know more about what sort of Ludye-like deceit he believes that Jameson was intending. I've asked him to clarify, but he has not responded. That's the mark of tactical attempts to undermine credibility rather than exhibition of authentic attempts to join the debate and to answer all questions.

I have yet to understand why advocates of the Music City Center might be more offended that Jameson is demanding answers from the Mayor before moving ahead than they should be at the pummelling Mayor's managers have given the Metro budget.

In the end, though, Ferrell has to concede that if Mike Jameson attempted to trick people by derailing the Dean express, then Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and 15 other council members exercised their own form of deceit in arranging, staging, and executing last Friday's defeat of Jameson's actions. They did not exactly take the high road. One could interpret their actions as a use of the Charter against the intentions and spirit of the Charter.

If the Southcomm publisher truly believes that Jameson was morally wrong for exercising a privilege that the Charter gives him to delay the process in order to have the Mayor's office answer a few questions, then he cannot without self-contradiction excuse convention center proponents for using the rules against Jameson deceitfully. Two wrongs don't make a right, unless you're riding the Karl Dean steamroller.

1 comment:

  1. Did CM Jameson recieve any answers to the questions he submitted to the Finance Director? My understanding was that he would respond before the special meeting last week. I haven't seen anything about it.