Friday, October 30, 2009

One simple question for Metro Council Member at-Large Ronnie Steine

A simple yes-or-no query I e-mailed CM Steine Thursday morning:
Do [you] intend to push the matter of overspending in the Parks budget through until neighborhood community and nature centers suffer further cuts in open hours and staffing?

I haven't yet heard back from him and I doubt I ever will, even though I am a constituent. I grow more persuaded that electing at-Large council members is a bad idea. They effectively become tools of industry and finance, exclusive representatives of moneyed interests.

Other cuts to Metro Parks made earlier this month include Riverfront development manager

Besides the $463,000 cuts proposed this week by Director Roy Wilson, the Parks Board already cut $386,000 in service earlier this month. According to Board Member Karen Y. Johnson, those cuts include:
  • Eliminate the riverfront development manager
  • Eliminate the program coordinator from East Community Center
  • Eliminate the sports supervisor
  • Close Shelby and Warner golf courses during the winter
  • Close the Cleveland pool, summer 2010

The latest round of cuts is tentatively planned to hit Fort Negley & Centennial Park:
  • Eliminate museum specialists at Fort Negley
  • Transfer museum manager from the Parthenon to Fort Negley
  • Remaining Parthenon staff take up slack in manager's absence
  • Hours at both Fort Negley and the Parthenon cut back
  • Eliminate Centennial Arts Center instructor; CAC manager would coordinate guest instructors and completely fee-based programs (there had been free programming for youth & seniors)

Again, I don't see this can be seen as anything but bleak for those Nashvillians who use parks.

The most pressing question arising from these cuts is: will the Mayor's office use the elimination of the riverfront development manager as a pretext once again to shift the focus of that project away from the East Bank and toward Downtown? And what happens to the adventure play park plans that were so central to the public vision for riverfront development?

Federal grant to spur renovations to Jeff Street corridor

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Morgan Park CC among others may close another day per week under Park Director's cuts

Thanks to Karen Y. Johnson, School Board appointee to the Parks Board, for filling me in on the real ramifications of budget cuts to Metro Parks currently proposed by embattled Director Roy Wilson. The neighborhoods around Morgan Park in the North End will be most immediately affected in that the community center could close one more day per week if the Parks Board approves the $463,000 in cuts. Currently the MPCC is open Monday through Friday, having had its Saturday hours slashed several years ago.

In the past, other centers, like Looby in MetroCenter stayed open longer hours and weekends to try and provide for North End kids who lost programming at Morgan Park. But Looby had already cut back its hours before the latest news of shortfalls. The only other option for North End kids has been to go to the regional community center at Hadley Park near TSU, which was open on Saturdays and provided extended programming. However, in the latest proposal (which Mr. Wilson has pitched to try and make up for overages on public golf courses), Hadley Park will be closing on Saturday, reducing its open hours, and eliminating its program coordinator. The Hadley Park facilities manager would assume all supervision and non-supervisory staff would provide programming.

Also, the Watkins Park center on 17th Avenue near Marathon Village and Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School is scheduled to be closed completely. Other neighborhood centers outside of north-by-northwest Nashville scheduled for closure are: Cleveland, Kirkpatrick, McCabe, and West.

According to Ms. Johnson, nature center staff will be reduced, but they will revolve between Beaman, Bells Bend, and Shelby Bottoms alternate days and weeks. Details on specific hours are not yet available.

These plans look dismal to me as a patron of Nashville parks and as a parent. In the case of Morgan Park, we are probably losing one more day of operation at the community center as well as losing the option of alternative programming and services at the Hadley Park regional center, which must be getting crowded with all of the other community center cutbacks. I don't see how community centers can stay open 4 days during the work week with minimal programming and be effective. It feels like the dark ages with no renaissance in sight in parks and recreation.

Convention Center booster all but says that we shouldn't be honest with Nashvillians about financing the project because honesty scares people

There were a lot of significant moments in yesterday's Tennessean-sponsored debate between Music City Center Coalition chair Ron Samuels and CM Emily Evans that have not occurred with MCCC's dominance of the convention center debate. However, I found the most telling moment to be the one where CM Evans went toe-to-toe with Samuels and challenged him to be real about how Metro funds will be used to service any budget shortfalls after construction starts. Buyer beware:

Samuels: If in fact there was a shortfall, there's a vehicle in most of these (financing deals) where you've got a debt service reserve in the package that would probably pay at least one year. You also would have at least a 10 percent coverage (guarantee above needed revenues) before they would issue those bonds. And throwing the fear out there like that is not appropriate at this time. Let's see what the package is.
Evans: I think it's clear from the administration that the taxpayers will have to co-sign the loan.
Samuels: The idea that we think we're going to go to the taxpayer right from the get-go on this is just not right. And it's just a fear kind of tactic.
Evans: Where are you going to go if there are shortfalls?
Samuels: The city can loan from the general fund, if it's available, money to the authority.
Evans: And where are we going to get that money?
Samuels: From the general fund.
Evans: OK, and where do we get the money (to put back) in the general fund?
Samuels: I agree that's the downside of this. But it's not the thing you go out there and tell people.
This is why we don't get a total picture from convention center proponents: because they believe that a bold and unflinching survey of the risks as well as the rewards will cause Nashvillians to balk at the possible loss of future revenues and and the threat of buyer's remorse.

And there are no "if's" about general fund money being available for construction phases of the most expensive capital project in Nashville history. Remember the arguments for supporting Mayor Dean's new lease for the Nashville Predators that included extra millions for the pros to stay in Nashville? People argued that Nashville had to make that deal because we were already in up to our necks with an arena, which could not sit empty if the dissatisfied team left.

The same logic will apply to a partially built convention center: of course the Mayor will have to throw good money after bad and pull funds out of other services to pay for construction shortfalls. We'll be up to our necks in the risk of seeing the project through. Right now, we're not up to our necks. But obviously the boosters of the Mayor's plan would have us believe that we shouldn't face the prospect until we are already sinking, at which point, our options will be few and far between.

And worse, they have the gall to advocate glossing, nay, hiding the financial risks in the middle of a recession, when many here already keenly feel the steely pricks of risk and loss.

Aside from the dishonesty going on in the marketing of MCCC, the possibility of raiding general funds is itself an objectionable idea. Giving the industry backers of the convention center an unfettered financial package with no assurances for obligated taxpayers is much like giving listing corporations stimulus funds from tax revenues to pay executive bonuses. The general fund serves the general public of Nashville and it should not be redirected to help promote the elite interests of courthouse and commerce at the expense of the public good.

Parks to cut neighborhood community center budgets: I told you so, campers

If Parks Director Wilson's latest round of cuts to community & nature centers is adopted expect the parking lots at scenic Beaman Nature Center to remain empty more days of the week, more hours each day. We will just have to be satisfied with the splendor of an occasionally-used convention center.

Now that CM Ronnie Steine and the Mayor's office are turning the screws on Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson for running into a cash-flow bunker on the links, Mr. Wilson has responded by staying on his past script of planning community and nature center cuts when under budget duress:
Wilson submitted a plan to trim $463,000 from the Metro Parks & Recreation Department's budget ....

Under Wilson's proposal, operating hours at Davidson County's neighborhood community centers and nature centers would be trimmed, and seven recreation staff employees would be laid off as a result of the cuts.

Wilson's plan comes in addition to steps the board already took earlier this month to trim $386,000 from its budget.

As usual, neighborhood issues are taking a back seat to other budgetary needs. Do you think that there will be this much angst when proposed convention center construction runs over budget? Or might the pressure being brought to bear on Parks be another way of freeing up cash to soften the blow when the Mayor has to raid the General Fund to pay for shortfalls in building the $1 billion big box in downtown Nashville to suit the industry special interests?

If the Parks Board accepts these latest budget attacks on neighborhood services, watch for them to become permanent as pressure to build the convention center continues unabated in the Metro Council.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make a newspaper realize its value to a community

Poynter Online describes how New Orleans' major newspaper used its website,, to help its readers through Hurricane Katrina and to foster a sense of daily reliability that expanded its readership:
The site also has one of the highest market penetrations of any local news Web site in the country. Two recent studies show that reached 85.8 percent of the metropolitan area in 2009 and 87.3 percent in 2007. The Times-Picayune's print weekday circulation, meanwhile, has dropped 9.04 percent in the past year. Sunday sales have dropped 8.54 percent.

The market penetration and print circulation figures make sense when you consider the Times-Picayune's online audience and how it grew as a result of a hurricane that flooded more than 80 percent of the city.

The Times-Picayune's coverage of this disaster helped it develop a heightened sense of connectedness with New Orleanians. "I think that the storm was transformative for the Web site and its relevance to readers," said [the paper's content director]. "Certainly during Katrina we were moment by moment and learned the power of a constantly updated, dynamically updated Web site throughout the day."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New hyper-local blog launched to publish neighbors stories that mainstream media ignores

An anonymous blogger has started Districtfive Blog to publicize the stories of CM Pam Murray's constituents that professional journalists will not. The author contends that there are more reasons for CM Murray's recall than just zone changes and her trips to work in Detroit.

The first installment alleges that CM Murray has attempted to rescue merchants suspected of selling "crack pipe craft kits" from beer board judgments to suspend their beer licenses. CM Murray is also accused of blaming neighbors who attempted to stop the drug trade in District 5 for driving out businesses. The allegations also include the insinuation that CM Murray has accepted at least one campaign contribution from a drug paraphernalia merchant without reporting it to the Election Commission.

Local newspaper aspires to RealTracs instead of journalism

Tennessean reporter Getahn Ward promotes the earning potential of a set of Midtown properties without ever doing some investigative journalism into suspected arson on two occasions. Not even a mention of the suspicious Mario's fires in light of the earning potential of the Midtown location? Why have in-house journalists? Wouldn't an outside PR consultant be more cost-efficient?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Germantown take down plays out on Facebook

According to WSMV, an owner of Germantown's historic Onyx house at the corner of 7th and Jefferson Street took down a Karen Y. Johnson campaign sign on her property. Ms. Johnson filed a criminal theft report. Dennis Ferrier reported that Ms. Johnson did not respond to the TV station's calls for her comments.

However, Karen Johnson did respond to the TV story on Facebook within the past hour:
The signage which I placed on the property of the Onyx Room located at address 624 Jefferson Street was permitted by Julius Herbst, the property manager and a supporter of my campaign. I was never contacted by Ms. Kathleen Wilkinson until after a report with authorities was filed because she was identified as the person who vandalized and stole my property and currently has a trespassing waiver issued against her from the co-owners of the property. After Ms. Wilkinson was contacted by the authorities who were attempting to recover the sign, she then called me. Her tone was very rude, brash and nasty, therefore, I saw no reason to continue the conversation. My focus is to run a campaign in an honorable, lawful and respectful way as I will continue to do until the election.
Should we read anything into Ms. Johnson's choice of social media over mainstream media to get her side of the story out?

UPDATE: Karen Y. Johnson also just posted the same response to the WSMV report on her blog.

LATER UPDATE: A mass e-mail from Karen Johnson was sent to the Historic Germantown membership about this incident last week.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Karen Johnson responds to criticism about G-town mailing.

MUCH LATER UPDATE: HGN forwarded Karen Johnson's Oct. 20 message, which was posted, like other neighborhood crime reports, to the mailing list:
This is Juvenile Court Clerk candidate Karen Johnson. I had permission to place a campaign sign on the property where GermanTown Cleaners and the Onyx Room sits. CC who is painting a vacated room in the building was painting inside on Friday evening. A short dark skinned black woman with short hair knocked on the door and claimed she talked to the owners and was told she could take my sign down.

Everyone on the property was aware that I had permission to place the sign. Please be on the lookout for anyone removing my signs. Please call me directly should someone tamper or try to remove my signs.

Karen Y. Johnson

Let's see Karen Hoff market this concept

At last night's Salemtown Neighbors meeting, Metro Police reported a shooting last weekend that broke out in a known "craps house" during a dice game. The craps house is located in a shot-gun cluster of tiny efficiency apartments at 1701 3rd Avenue, North. According to police the intended victim evaded the gun-shots, but a bystander was hit in the eye and the bullet lodged in the back of his skull.

Over 2 years ago I viewed the fresh coat of paint and the $725K price tag marketed by East Nashville Realtor Karen Hoff with some cynicism given the size and blight in the area. The place was marketed as multi-family, which was a sad joke given the cramped, cell-like conditions of the units. The existence of a running dice game at the place makes the notion of families living there even more of a farce.

The only place in the world where executives can underperform and still expect $20 million annual salaries

A Wall Street Journal writer challenges the unquestioned logic of corporate America:
David Yermack, a professor at NYU's Stern School of Business and an expert in executive compensation and performance, says there's little evidence that higher compensation leads to higher performance, and consequently better returns for investors. Mr. Yermack calls the compensation-performance link the "holy grail" of academic research in this area, but says it's "an important result that has never actually been found" ....

Think of the big banks, at least through 2007. Kingly pay packages for executives hardly benefited stockholders, and encouraged managers to take short-term risks.

Anyone who fears these new rules [to limit executive pay at large firms] might turn our economy into somewhere like social democratic Denmark or Sweden, where executives typically earn modest salaries, ought to have a look at those markets sometime. As executive pay in America has soared to unparalleled heights in the last decade, US investors lost about 2% a year, according to MSCI Barra. Investors in the Swedish stock market over the same period made about 4% a year in dollar terms (NB: Some of those gains can be partly attributed to currency swings). And investors in Denmark: nearly 9% a year.

Americans may not realize it, but ours is the only country in the world where executives routinely expect $20 million a year in salary. And our markets have under-performed most of the rest of the world for years.

The arrival

Memphis Flyer senior editor puts the chest-pounding histrionics of a Memphis council member toward a local blogger in proper perspective:
I have from time to time over the years tipped my hat to the independent blogging community. Though most blogs are oriented to point of view rather than to objective journalism per se, the best bloggers have made enormous contributions to news coverage and thoughtful consideration of the public weal. Everybody else — the [Commercial Appeal], the Flyer, the TV and radio stations — have had to take note. Increasingly, blogs break important news, and no self-regarding “traditional” journalist can risk not having several blogger URLs on their computer bookmark lists.

No one has been more worthy of note in this regard than Steve Ross, whose voluminous “Vibinc” postings in the last year or two have covered public issues in impressive depth and illuminating detail. For [council member] Shea Flinn to have nominated Ross to the Metro Commission was essentially a matter of paying attention to real-world developments and giving credit where credit was due.

Would that Ross, who was graciousness itself about the withdrawal of his name, had been allowed to serve. And I would console Ross and the rest of the blogging community with this thought: Councilman [Joe] Brown's reaction was less simple scorn than it was latter-day media-bashing. Consider it as a sign that you've fully arrived.

Tennessean's e-mail box for convention center debate reportedly full

According to the Nashville neighborhoods e-list:
People are having problems getting through to the e-mail address listed in the [Tennessean] article [on the convention center debate it is itself sponsoring] .... this person's mailbox is full at this point, so please send your comments or questions to this address [to]:

A whole 'nuther shade of red-state

According to ProPublica, red-state Tennessee so inadequately funds its unemployment system that it may have to borrow money soon to keep up benefits for its jobless citizens. It also looks like Tennessee intends to give Mississippi and Alabama a run for their money in the contest to pay the lowest average benefit amount.

We're racing to the bottom, ya'll, and if you're jobless and qualify for unemployment, Tennessee is not a hospitable place to live.

Council Member To Be in Online Convention Center Debate Tomorrow

CM Emily Evans tells of her participation in the Tennessean's online debate Wednesday:
Our neighborhoods struggle everyday to get the services from the government they need - whether it is social services or fixing potholes. And if you were to call me or any other CM and ask us to spend $1 billion dollars in one year on any of those things, we would probably laugh. Yet, the Mayor and to a lesser extent, the Council, appears poised to spend that on a new convention center and a government owned hotel.

Is this a priority for your neighborhood and your community? Will it yield positive results that will bring meaningful improvements to our city or will it just be another pet project into which we pour money?

The Tennessean is having an online debate tomorrow at noon featuring, embarrassingly enough, me and Ron Samuels from the Music City Center Coalition. The Tennessean is to be commended for bringing more information and discussion about this project forward. I encourage you to support their effort by submitting questions to The forum will be structured with a set amount of questions, pro and con, and time limits on answers, so the planted question routine we often see should not be a factor.

I would also like to encourage each of you to sign up at Nashville's Priorities. This organization is encouraging debate and discussion using credible data so that Nashvillians and their elected officials will make an informed choice. As you will see from the facebook page, people from all over Nashville are concerned. Please sign up and get engaged. We need our neighborhood voice now more than ever.

UPDATE: For those of you having trouble getting your questions through to the Tennessean, new information on the problem and the solution after the jump.

Metro Water Rep Tells Salemtown Neighbors Non-Chlorine Treatment Switch Years Away

Metro Water Services communications rep Sonia Harvat spoke to our neighborhood association last night about odor control, stormwater run-off fees and several other issues of interest to the community in which her employer sits. Perhaps the most animated exchange occurred on the issue of MWS's use of chlorine in water treatment, its connections to iodine depletion and health problems including cancer and thyroid disorders, and the vulnerability to the exposed chlorine tankers near the Cumberland River greenway and the I-65 bridge at MetroCenter.

Ms. Harvat told the group that she is concerned about reports that some of us have had tests conducted that show high levels of chlorine, but she also maintained that our close proximity to the treatment plant should not result in higher chlorine exposure than someone who lived in Brentwood. She said that she would ask a water services technician to test the chlorine level of tap water in Salemtown and make adjustments if there was an imbalance. While she did acknowledge that MWS wanted to switch to safer non-chlorine methods of water treatment, the expense of making that change puts that prospect in the distant future.

MWS should be monitoring the levels of chlorine in the neighborhoods around the plant while moving with all due diligence to a less toxic method for treating water. In the mean time, residents should have their water independently tested. Harvat maintained that the chlorine level of tap water should not go above 3.5. When we had ours tested recently with a simple pool kit, it was at 5. Someone with Metro should also be monitoring the number reported thyroid disorder cases in communities around chlorine-treatment plants to determine whether there is a higher public safety risk.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Doing My Part to Support a Worthy North End Business

I won't be able to go to this Halloween Party because we'll be trick-or-treating-focused, but this sounds like a great time for those of you looking for something to do on Saturday night.

(click to enlarge)

Why Gail Kerr keeps her job: politics

Look, don't hear me as defending Metro Parks boss, Roy Wilson, because frankly, our community has had bad experiences with broken promises from his office and the recent budget overage on golf is just plain wrong for no other reason than because it was for golf.

However, Gail Kerr has mounted up in the shot gun slot once again to support CM Ronnie Steine (and the Mayor's Office?) who is grousing about the relatively small overage when he should be mad the money was overspent on an elite game when community centers in average neighborhoods close on weekends. She also ran media interference for Steine a couple of months ago by touting his bill to redirect nonprofit funds away from an offending program to other nonprofits rather than putting it into Metro programs (like maybe Parks?). And let's not forget that Kerr once consented to being coached by professional ad men in order to write favorable copy for the Mayor's convention center proposal, which CM Steine is shepherding through council without raising any critical questions on behalf of his constituents.

So, please excuse me while I question Kerr's motives in writing this particular diatribe essentially planting the seed for Mr. Wilson's ouster. She admits herself that the Mayor cannot fire the civil servant in charge of Parks, but then she has the audacity to report that he's receiving protection against Dean by a major campaign supporter of Dean? That sounds rather bogus to me. Rather, she seems to be rationalizing the pressure of unseen forces behind the bureaucratic curtain while, as usual, mapping a high road for Mayor Dean to take away from the political arm-twisting.

Kerr also seems to be priming the pump for CM Steine, especially when she drops the name Jim Fyke (a Bredesenite who would fit right in under the Bredesenesque Dean administration). In 2008, when introducing a resolution to honor State Parks Commissioner Fyke, Ronnie Steine waxed about Fyke's days heading Metro Parks and gushed that Fyke belonged in a Metro employees "Hall of Fame." For what it's worth, some of us have had our own run-ins with Jim Fyke that seemed more infamous than famous. If Roy Wilson gets kudos from Kerr for improving services to lower-rung communities, I've experienced Jim Fyke's commitments as the opposite of such improvement. And Fyke's Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation doesn't exactly strike me as on the ball regarding regulating unsafe conditions for east Tennessee neighborhoods in light of the TVA coal ash spill.

So, Gail Kerr doesn't seem to be doing us any favors by insinuating this leadership change at Metro Parks. I believe she is merely continuing to shill for the ruling class in Nashville.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More "Memphis Macho" from CM Joe Brown

That Memphis city council member, TSU alumnus, and CEO of a janitorial service is one salty character, refusing to settle his differences with a fellow council member with a simple handshake. Bloggers must unnerve him to show that much anger. Here's more coverage of CM Brown, who brought his manhood into a debate about whether a blogger should serve on a government commission:

UPDATE: Apparently, Joe Brown does not reserve his macho race-baiting only for those he dislikes. In a strange display of affection for a downtown Memphis developer a couple of weeks ago, Brown referred to his "testicles and balls" as well as his race:
Councilman Joe Brown praised Jeff Sanford of the Center City Commission for "guts, testicles, and balls" in a recent speech about the state of downtown ....

The mood of good will expanded to the pending makeovers of Shelby Farms, Graceland, and the Fairgrounds. That prompted Brown to speak about the importance of innovation to insuring the future greatness of Memphis and to make his weird praise of Sanford, made even more weird by his alluding to the fact that Sanford is white. Veteran council observers — that means me — could not recall the word "testicles" being used previously in a council meeting.

Hope Gardens association to close out 2009 upbeat

According to the Hope Gardens neighborhood association social networking site, members will meet for the last time this year on Saturday morning at 10:00 to discuss the group's accomplishments and to honor outstanding neighbors. Light breakfast foods and coffee will be served in the neighborhood community center at Jackson St. and 10th Av. N.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not all Parks budget overages are the same; but spending more money on winter golf is pure uncivic elitism

Do I have a problem with Metro Parks going over budget? It depends. There may be good reasons for going over budget.

In this morning's Tennessean, CM Michael Craddock, who treats all budget overages on a knee-jerk flat, is only half right. There are no excuses for going over budget. But there are good reasons.

For instance, if Metro Parks goes over budget because it reopens and expands community center hours on weekends, that overage serves the broadest number of people and neighborhoods at the base of the pecking order.

More money devoted to Parks spending also serves other Metro departments by saving them money. How, you might ask? Well, if Morgan Park Community Center provided a robust program for teenagers seven days a week instead of closing on weekends and early evenings, Salemtown might have fewer problems with vandalism of public property by bored teens. Less vandalism means fewer calls to Public Works to use Metro funds to fix breakage. Unengaged youth are also more likely to participate in criminal activity like burglaries and drug sales. Providing more sports, crafts and social programming can engage teens. Less criminal activity means fewer neighbor calls to police, who have to use Metro funds to respond, to report, to investigate and to arrest.

So, there are good reasons why Metro Parks should overspend its budget.

That said, keeping golf courses open is a terrible reason. What makes Metro Parks' current overage inappropriate is not the overage itself, but the minimal, narrow bang for the buck occurring in the golf-course overage. I would like to see Parks Director Roy Wilson demonstrate that there is a greater demand to keep golf courses open than there is to keep community centers open.

Bored middle-class, middle-aged men deprived of the links are not likely to tag signs or break street lights or commit thefts. Opening golf courses in the winter serves a relatively elite group who have the luxury of other benign pursuits if golf isn't available. And it does not serve any other Metro department unless said department has worked out a deal with Parks for free winter golf for its employees (council members stopping getting to play free golf in 2006).

Parks' irresponsible spending habits are likely to evoke a vindictive slashing mood next year on the part of self-proclaimed budget hawks on the council. Slashes in their budget are most likely to hurt neighborhoods than they are Metro Parks, and if Director Wilson is of a mind to extend golf course hours again next year, I believe he'll do so by cutting vital community services that will hurt those of us who don't choose to play golf. Mr. Wilson is under little community pressure to keep centers open; the council members who may decide to cut his budget will be.

Health insurance industry: just a bunch of other people to make wealthy on the suffering of others

The frightening story of a rape victim who was denied Magellan managed care in the name of cost containment:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Memphis council member played race card in tussle over blogger nomination

There has been a buzz today online regarding the liberal Memphis blogger, Steve Ross, whose name was nominated and then withdrawn from consideration for an opening on Memphis's Charter Commission. Usually affable blogging journalist, Trace Sharp, is livid about the disparaging way CM Joe Brown referred to Steve:
His nomination to the Charter Commission in Memphis was a great thing. A progressive blogger who doesn't go after people with pitchforks, who backs up his arguments with hard stats that he is diligent to make sure are accurate. And he can remember everything politically after many of us have gone on to something else. This is not a defeat, quite frankly, because someone with sense is going to see his value and he’s going to get a bigger and better gig in the future.

What completely infuriates me is that Joe Brown, and others, just don’t get that Steve Ross is not just a “blogger.” He’s a businessman who is participating in the state of his city. His traffic, according to him, is basically comprised a great deal of community leaders reading his research (stuff they could have done themselves quite frankly).

So when Brown decides to say the word blogger as a slur, it pisses me off.

And the progressive blogger was apparently replaced with somewhat a bit more conservative, so there is that but that’s another story for another day.

However, the story doesn't end there. CM Brown (a Tennessee State University alumnus) was spoiling for a pissing contest with a fellow CM who nominated Steve, and he brought his manhood into the debate. And the story doesn't end with the pissing challenge. CM Brown also drew attention to his own blackness and the nominating CM's whiteness on top of the gender challenge. Go to the tape via Michael Silence:

In case you missed it, CM Brown blurted out:
"I’m a real man. "I’m a real black man. I hope you are a real white man."
It's obvious to me that CM Brown started a cock fight with overtones of racism because he sees the appointment to the Commission as his own gendered and racial turf to defend. This had nothing to do with democratic process or progressive ideals. It's the twisted idea that one guy needed to defend a possession he thinks he's entitled to against another and would do so along racial lines despite the fact that race was not the issue here. Steve's nomination should rise or fall on its own merits without degenerating into such a race-baiting cock fight.

The Confederacy rises again

Red state Tennessee begins talks to "reassert state sovereignty" by "seeking to repeal" federal authority.

Which of these brave Tennessee Republicans will be the first to argue that all of that federal money rolling into Tennessee to help maintain highways, to round up illegal immigrants, and to help rebuild crumbling infrastructure should be sent back? And it should be fun watching "realistic" Tennessee Democrats of the Bredesen- and Blue-Dog-ilk rationalize how they need to adjust and adapt to the new secessionist conservative climate.

Shilling on Metro's dollar

One of the Tennessean blogs reports that Metro Codes Administrators has taken up some of the PR slack for the convention center proponents by shilling for the Convention and Visitors Bureau in their latest newsletter:
Nashville has both the need and the demand for a new convention center.

If Nashville wants to take advantage of an attractive downtown to draw visitors who bring tax revenue to our city. Nashville operates on two main sources of tax revenues property taxes and sales taxes. By growing the convention business, Nashville can expand the sales tax revenue from visitors and thus depend less on property taxes from citizens.

According to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nashville must turn away business. With the 115th largest convention center in the country, Nashville can compete for only about one-fourth of the convention market. The CVB believes that with unique Music City U.S.A. brand, Nashville should be competing for as much as three-fourths of the convention market.
Shouldn't Metro Codes be spending time and money citing codes violators rather than promoting the most expensive capital project in the history of Nashville? Or has the Mayor ordered all hands on deck to push the convention center through?

Council approves continuance of anti-family, pro-criminal, racial-profiling Sheriff's Office program

And 34 council members provide vote coverage for 3 others to symbolically oppose the resolution. I say "symbolically," because I'm pretty sure that the opponents would vote "yea" if their votes had actually been the determining ones to accept free money from the federal government to fund the Sheriff's Office.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progressive blogger nearly makes cut for Memphis Charter Commission

Several Memphis officials took the bold step of nominating Steve Ross, author of vibincblog (where he writes exhaustively on local government), to their local Charter Commission. Steve was both gracious and real about the nomination and eventual withdrawal of his name, and he even had some choice words for a Memphis council member who questioned his qualifications:
On a certain level, I’m not really that surprised by the result. I’m not particularly politically connected, and I don’t have a great resume. I’m a guy that works a “blue collar” job for a living that just happens to be really interested in politics. Am I disappointed? Sure, but in all honesty, just being nominated is an honor that I didn’t really think I would get.

I am surprised at some of the rhetoric used by City Councilman Joe Brown in reference to me. Invoking the word “blogger” as if it were a slur or a swear is something that I have heard more than once, but never in a public meeting. Councilman Brown has every right to voice his opinions, but in the end, I’m a concerned citizen that uses my blog to talk about areas of concern in my community, as well as in state and national politics. How that constitutes something negative is lost on me.

Saturday's Park2Park celebration includes biodiversity, arts & crafts, food, flotilla, concert & "10,000 years of Bells Bend history"

It's the concert that starts at 4:30 on Saturday, but rest of the day is full of events that stretch from Beaman Park to Bells Bend Park to the Cumberland River:

Inventory of All Taxa: Biodiversity Study in the Park

9 am-Park Naturalist and volunteers from local universities

age level: all levels

call to register (615) 862-8580

10 am-Beaman Trail Hike-Friends of Beaman Park


5156 Ashland City Hwy

9m-4pm-book sale, crafts, yard sale and baked goods


5034 Old Hydes Ferry Pike

Fall Fest 9-4

craft sale, yard sale, food, bake sale, funnel cakes


5201 Old Hydes Ferry Pike

7:45 am Paint Out--Bring your paints and easel and plan to spend the morning painting the beautiful landscapes of the Beaman to Bells Bend Corridor.

11:00 am Meet local yokel Barry Sulkin for a hike along the Highland Rim Trail.


Information Booths

Produce, Honey for sale, Food, Baked Goods

Speakers-How to Preserve your harvest, canning, drying and fermentation, Tree Care, How can the UT Extension Service help you? and “Ask A Farmer” panel

SITE at end of Old Hickory Blvd in Bells Bend

10:00 am

TSRA Boat Float on the Cumberland

Bring your own canoe, kayak and equipment for a paddle on the Cumberland.


Hayrides-9:00, 10:15, 11:15, 1:30 and 3:15

10:00 Nature Photography Workshop-call to register

11:00 -11:30am-The Unnatural Trail-leader Chris Guerin-call to register

1:30pm-Bells Bend, Past 10,000 Years-leader LinnAnn Welch-call to register (615)862-4187

4:30 pm Free CONCERT on the Cumberland-bring your picnic, blanket and flashlight and relax in the fields as the sun sets over the Cumberland River at Bells Bend Outdoor Center.


Buffalo Rome

Post concert: join Friends of Bells Bend for s'mores at the campfire

Brooksley Born's warnings ignored by Clinton, Bush, & Obama at America's peril

Did you see Frontline tonight on the low level Washington bureaucrat who took on the White House titans to try to regulate the "dark market" derivatives of banking but lost? Her loss in 1998 became America's loss in 2007.

The entire Frontline episode can be seen after the jump.

Clock is ticking for Bicentennial Mall/Jeff Street museum

According to Michael Cass:
Organizers of planned African-American museum now have until Dec. 31, 2010, to break ground on land they're leasing from the state.

Another Study Finds Public Radio Ignores Local News

Via Radio Survivor:
local news coverage remains underfunded, understaffed, and a low priority at most public radio and television stations, whose leaders have been unable to make—or [who are] uninterested in making—the case for investment in local news to donors and Congress
They also note in this study that commercial stations aren't much better at covering local news.

More Free Trade Servitude to Wealthy American Interests

A private placement contractor, Universal Placement International, which markets itself as "zero-risk" to client firms, conned Filipino teachers to put up thousands of dollars to teach in America and coerced them into virtual isolation and servitude in Louisiana schools. UPI also used the catastrophes of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustaf to pimp their "competitive advantage" in "entrepreneurial" education.

Another international corporation that puts the "free" in "free trade."

Nothing succeeds like success (well, maybe some influence, too) in government contracts for McNeely Pigott & Fox

Fresh off their bid to overbill Metro as convention center pitch men (including $10,000 to monitor local bloggers) and to charge the airport authority $10,000 to generate a holiday e-card and set up a Twitter page, McNeely Pigott and Fox is getting an infusion of almost $2 million from the White House.

According to, the contract with the PR firm "creates/saves" zero jobs and it involves pitching a "Green Outreach initiative":
The contractor will provide support to the National Office of Job Corps and its Green Outreach initiative, which is focused on increasing green training offerings for students and to upgrade center facilities and build new centers. The contractor will support the National Office in all "ARRA/green" communications efforts, internal and external; develop and distribute "ARRA/green" marketing materials to drive program-eligible youth to contact Job Corps; provide "ARRA/green" outreach support to assist the six Regional Offices in marketing their "green" training goals; support the National and Regional Offices in all appropriate "green" conference and training efforts; and support the Job Corps office stimulus spending plan. Tools used to reach those goals may include: e-newsletter from the National Director, Web-specific content to be placed on the existing Job Corps Web site, "green" jobs toolkit for use by staff, event support for events such as Earth Day 2010, talking points and research materials. The contractor will also provide meeting and National Office support for training and information-sharing as part of this program. A final report will be compiled and created to share information regarding Job Corps' ARRA projects.
Given MP&F's overexpenditures on the Mayor's convention center project that did not come to light until NewsChannel5 exposed them, let's hope that someone is monitoring the federal contract and that they will expose any PR overages on the latest. But it seems curious that this PR firm can so milk contracts in Nashville and get a new money pump from Washington DC.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Immigrants Losing Hope in Obama?

Has change come? Not according to's immigration blog:

With President Obama breaking his promises to immigrant families and reform unlikely to come by till 2010, right now he is scores a big fat zero on the pro-migrant scale.

Due process violations, terrorizing home and workplace raids and malicious immigration enforcement programs continue under the Obama Administration. Janet Napolitano has promised better detention practices, proposing housing immigrant detainees in hotels, but reading between the lines, this is an invitation for further privatization of the detention industry, thereby increasing the archipelago of detention.

Modern-day cowboys like Sheriff Joe Arpaio should have their wings clipped but instead, the Department of Homeland Security is signing new 287(g) agreements to outsource immigration authority to local law enforcement even after detailed abuses of the program by several counties. Additionally, the White House is extending Secure Communities, which would likely ensnare immigrants on minor charges while increasing distrust in local law enforcement.

Public broadcasters ignore local and neighborhood news

Public media content at the community level simply does not happen even though public broadcasters enjoy government funding:
A new report says that public broadcasters fall short when it comes to providing their audiences with news and information about their city or neighborhood.

“With some notable exceptions, public broadcasting in America has been widely criticized as being insufficiently local or diverse,” concludes Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age. “Public stations do not have a strong record of spearheading local investigative journalism, and most public radio broadcasters have little or no local news reporting staff. Finally, again with some promising exceptions, local public stations have failed to embrace digital innovations as a way to better connect with their communities.”

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government

Not that I belong to an anarcho-syndicalist commune, but sometimes blogging makes me feel like an annoying peasant.

At-Large in Name Only

Two years after we elected them, and have the 5 at-Large CMs consistently done anything to show that they generally represent the broader interests of Metro Nashville-Davidson County taken together?
  • Charlie Tygard--I've watched him consistently advocate causes and sponsor bills for Bellevue and mostly white West Nashville.
  • Jerry Maynard--He keeps reemerging on behalf of mostly African American North Nashville. Like this morning.
  • Megan Barry--the social liberals' special interest CM. Socially liberal, economically conservative: the general profile of reporters in the mainstream media. She should go far beyond Nashville with that kind of PR interface.
  • Ronnie Steine--The Mayor's CM; as Budget Chair in the coming year, he'll be the one hammering all of the Mayor's budget recommendations through the council process. Carrying water leaves no time for the rest of us.
  • Tim Garrett--the good ol' boy who votes with the conservative, pro-growth Nashville Business Coalition and seems to be more interested in cake-baking competitions and name-dropping his connections to celebrities than he is in governing well.
Two years later and there is really no one here who pulls an intelligent and broad agenda together to balance the more focused district representatives. In the case of Tygard and Maynard, two sections of Nashville seem to have extra CMs to plead their cause. Maybe we'll get some challengers in the next council election who have more to offer. Or maybe at-Large is a beautiful theory that doesn't work in practice.

Dave Winer on the Difficulties of Blogging Hyperlocally

Dave Winer discloses the problems that have caused him to decide to shut down his 4-month-old hyperlocal project on Berkley (CA): is coming to an end .... I've also learned why sites that we're calling "hyperlocal" are difficult, and why I failed to get the site to grow the way I hoped it would.

I thought we could apply the same approach that worked in bootstrapping weblogs, RSS and podcasting for a local site. One or two people start writing about their personal experiences. A small audience develops. Debates, discussions follow. More perspectives. At every step you invite people to participate. You always ask for the people who used to be called the audience to become full participants. That's how the idea scales. As I said, it worked for blogging and related technologies.

Instead, what happened at is that the people thought we were running a news organization, and they did stories the way reporters do them. That can't possibly work, imho -- for the same reason the news industry is in crisis ....

I was sure that at some point I would be giving a talk and there would be a reporter in the crowd who would ask how news can reboot if it's dependent on scarfing copyrighted work from pros. Now if I get asked the question I can say I think it's possible, but we failed to prove it at And I'll be telling the truth.
I'm pleased to say that at Enclave, we're not focused on something as ambitious as "rebooting" the news. I'm more concerned about retrieving information that falls through the cracks or about challenging spun-news forced into the cracks.

Oregon Study Supports Some of Claims of New Urbanists

EcoHome found some empirical evidence supporting a couple of claims of New Urbanists regarding walkable neighborhoods:
[A] recent study by sociology professor Bruce Podobnik of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., suggests that new urbanists might be right in two out of the three cases.

Residents surveyed in the new urbanist community Orenco Station in Hillsboro, Ore., said their community is friendlier and offers more of a sense of community than other places they have lived, that they walk more often to the store, and occasionally use public transportation.

“Overall, this study lends support to the assertion that new urbanist communities can foster more socially cohesive and healthier lifestyles within urban environments,” Podobnik said in introducing his study, "Assessing the Social and Environmental Achievements of New Urbanism: Evidence from Portland, Ore."

However, it’s clear that even Orenco Station residents are nowhere near giving up their cars for public transit to any great degree.