Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lopsided Council vote on West Precinct MNPD station belied community opposition and the appearance of unethical patronage

For the last couple of weeks the Nashville neighborhoods e-list was lit up with a discussion by West Nashville leaders opposed to the ramrod style that Police Chief Ronal Serpas and Finance Director Rich Riebeling have pushed through the purchase of an old auto dealership for assignment as the new West Nashville police precinct.

Despite the fact that two community meetings were held with courthouse leaders to address concerns, several questions remained unanswered as council resolution RS2009-979 went to vote last Tuesday. Here is a list of unanswered questions that was sent to council members before the vote from one concerned leader:
  • Is the former car dealer lot the best location for much needed West Precinct expansion and DNA Lab?
  • Was comprehensive study and planning done to conclude the final location?
  • How conclusive is the overall plan?
  • Can the project on that location be done under $14 million as it has been said?
  • How much will the budget increase once construction advances as it is currently estimated $14,918,316.75?
  • What kind of environmental measures are considered? Are they just ideas or achievable?
No media cameras captured community meetings attended by Chief Serpas and Mr. Riebeling, but I've received e-mail correspondence written by attendees who reported that both Metro officials came across as arrogant, paternalistic, and close-minded to concerns; and reportedly, Chief Serpas appeared to attempt to physically intimidate CM Bo Mitchell, who questioned the purchase decision. Serpas accused leaders who questioned the quick purchase as having an "emotional attachment" and failing to comprehend the decision.

So, I was surprised at the lopsided council vote last Tuesday, given how badly the community meetings sounded. Here's a breakdown of the votes for and against RS2009-979 to purchase the property for $4.2 million without any pre-purchase planning (private appraiser valued it at $4 million):
"Ayes" -- Tim Garrett, Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Lonell Matthews, Frank Harrison, Walter Hunt, Jamie Hollin, Mike Jameson, Erik Cole, Karen Bennett, Jim Forkum, Rip Ryman, Darren Jernigan, Jim Gotto, Carl Burch, Bruce Stanley, Phil Claiborne, Anna Page, Sandra Moore, Krisine LaLonde, Erica Gilmore, Buddy Baker, Edith Langster, Jason Holleman, Sean McGuire, Greg Adkins, Randy Foster, Duane Dominy, Vivian Wilhoite, Jim Hodge, Park Toler, Sam Coleman, Carter Todd (34)

"Noes" -- Charlie Tygard, Eric Crafton, Emily Evans, Robert Duvall, Bo Mitchell (5)

"Abstaining" -- Mike Craddock (1)
The seller of the property is the trust of Bob Frensley, who according to the Tennessean, "significantly" patronized local politicians "for many years." Also, WSMV reported on Friday that an ethics violation complaint has been filed against council members Ronnie Steine and Buddy Baker for concealing information that a trustee for Bob Frensley is Metro police Captain Mickey Miller, former commander of the West Precinct.

With all of this coming down, I'm disappointed that 34 council members went along with the Mayor's Office and Chief Serpas without asking more questions about it.


  1. Having attended the second of the meetings on this topic, I can report that Chief Serpas' point was only that the police desperately need a new precinct, and that he had no thoughts on where it should be, reasoning that the response time of 9 minutes by police to any incident in Davidson County was due to the fact that very few police respond from the precinct buildings. He made a valid point which was largely ignored by Bo Mitchell.

  2. A small number of council members are hell-bent on (a) opposing and insulting Reibling at every chance they get; and (b) supporting a site that is no longer available, that would have cost more, that was less well suited than the current site, but that is closer to their districts. In furtherance of their interests, they have vigorously floated a bunch of misinformation and innuendos about the site that an overwhelming majority (34-5) of the Council approved.

  3. So it didn't bother you, Anonymous #1, when our Chief of Police, Ronal Serpas, charged out of his seat up to the microphone, with a room full of witnesses, came within a couple of inches of chest-bumping CM Mitchell in response to a perfectly valid point CM Mitchell made about a constituent's concern regarding slow response time. Did it not bother you that the Chief of Police, with a gun on his hip, showed such poor anger control?

  4. understandably concernedMon Nov 23, 07:31:00 PM CST

    The residents of west Nashville merely want FACTS. None have yet to be forthcoming. These are: what sites were considered? What is the actual cost comparison of each site? Due to noted traffic concerns at the intersection at WBR and Charlotte have traffic studies been done? We are asking questions. NONE has been answered. Mr.Riebeling has made the decision and announced at the meeting that the Frensley site is "where it would be" and "it would come in at budget" How does he have any idea about that? No site drawings have been done, no detailed drawings have been done. It is a sad day for this city when merely asking basic questions about taxpayers monies and how they are being spent reveals that appointed members of this administration not only cannot answer the questions but cover that fact with their anger and bluster.