Thursday, December 31, 2009

Enclave's 5th Annual Best and Worst Metro Services: The Highlights and Lowlights of 2009

Another year past, another list of high achievers and low sliders:
  • January
    • Council highlight: CM Mike Jameson challenged beer industry lobbyists to provide solutions for "better" law enforcement, given that the top 10 intoxication offenders had been arrested a whopping 1,350 times. Big brewski was baffled but still brassy.
    • Council highlight: CMs acknowledged police assertions that safety issues were more important than some fabricated right of club owners to blast bad karaoke as far down Broadway as sound would travel. Drunk Barry Manilow wannabes were pissed.
    • Public Works lowlight: This one's a holdover that should have made the 2008 list of shame, except that MDHA did not divulge the bad news until January. The federally-funded Salemtown streetscape plan was already making the torturous route through MPW's approval process late last fall, when someone there lost the designs for 2 or 3 months. Doh!
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Karl Dean proposes that all Metro services be cut 10% as the discussion of a new convention center is starting to heat up.
    • Metro Legal lowlight: Courthouse lawyers bend to a former county Republican Party chair and refuse to release English Only's donor list, based on the farfetched and unfair notion that EO donors could be the subject of threats if publicized. Once we found out that EO had received 90% funding from a group in Virginia, Metro Legal was hard pressed to explain how an organization could suffer bodily harm.
  • February
    • Metro Police highlight: Chief Ronal Serpas confronts red-state Tennessee over why it lets convicted rapists go free over and over. In the meantime, officers tell Salemtown that burglaries in the area dropped from 10 in January to 0 in February.
    • Metro Sheriff lowlight: another 2008 holdover. We learn that Daron Hall met with a white supremacist group in late 2008 and we find out that he is doomed to make the mistakes of the past, given that he confused them with a Republican group.
    • Metro Council lowlight: LED signs rear their ugly mugs in almost exactly the same form as they were previously deferred and CM Michael Craddock nudges the door open for them a little by spot-zoning an LED in the name of Jesus and all that's holy.
  • March
    • Highlights? We don't need no stinkin' highlight.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Dean's goon squad twists council arms to rubber stamp his regressive stormwater fee scheme while using the recession as an excuse to cut fat cats with more black top breaks while the rest of us with permeable yardage pay more.
    • Metro Council lowlight: if dealing with the last council was like herding cats, dealing with this one is like punching kittens. CMs cave to Karl Dean. They defeat Jason Holleman's amendment that would have equitably distributed higher water fees. 14 CMs cutting against the grain is not enough as progressives like Erik Cole and Megan Barry pony up to the Mayor's pander bar. Ms. Barry rationalizes her vote afterwards by saying she was keeping a promise to the Mayor even though voters put her into office. Yeah, and let them eat cake.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: The two river banks that the Riverfront Development Plan brought together, Karl Dean put asunder. With the recession again his pretext, Karl Dean suggests that he may delay planned and public-informed East Bank development and focus instead on the Downtown side. In the wake of predictable community blowback, Dean bobs and weaves before acting like starting with the East Bank was his plan all along.
    • Metro Council lowlight: even though legal opinions indicate that spot-zoning a tiny sliver of property for a private Christian school's LED sign would open the door to spot-zoning elsewhere, CMs approve the spot-zone.
    • Planning Department lowlight: Planning ties its own hands by letting securities expire. Due to software and staff shortages as well as communications snafus, Planning renders itself powerless to force developers to finish stalled projects.
    • Metro Council lowlight: abandoning a cause she once championed, CM Megan Barry, bails on LED sign opponents and votes with CM Charlie Tygard in support of the LED sign task force's proposal to allow signs in neighborhoods.
  • April
    • Metro government highlight: a dismal March finally ends.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Karl Dean markets campaign on the expensive wavy box decorated like a cliche of the music industry even as he tells police they're in for budget cuts.
    • Metro Council lowlight: Instead, they should have just declared that God only hears the prayers of Protestant fundamentalists.
    • Metro Parks lowlight: Yeah, right, Roy Wilson. Sure they will.
  • May
    • Metro Council highlight: Jason Holleman attempts to fast track stronger regulation--any regulation--of the expanding use of LED signage.
    • Mayor's Office highlight: Karl Dean puts development of the East Bank back at the top of the priorities list in the Riverfront Development Plan, right where the public wanted it.
    • MDHA highlight: after a year's delay in construction of the Salemtown streetscape, surveyors finally arrive in the 'hood.
    • Metro Action commission lowlight: no sooner does streetscape construction start than MAC derails it with MDHA approval. MAC doesn't help its reputation with Salemtown by refusing a request by an adjacent property owner to work a parking and insurance agreement for MAC clients illegally parking on his land.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Karl Dean reneges on a longstanding plan to move Metro Action out of Salemtown's Fehr School building to a facility suited to handle its high volume clientèle.
    • MDHA lowlight: the one where I learned that MDHA operates like a local shadow government; portents of things to come at a larger scale later.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Karl Dean signs on with a parochial deity, only afterwards to pull a Daron Hall by pleading ignorance.
    • Metro Council lowlight: Pam Murray. Need I say more?
    • Metro Codes lowlight: The officials who are supposed to respond to complaints about squatters in empty building failed to respond to numerous complaints by Germantown residents about squatters in a local warehouse, which eventually caught fire and burned.
  • June
    • Metro Planning highlight: in a shocker the Planning Commission does not give the May Town Center proposal enough votes for approval, and Planning recommends disapproval to the Metro Council. They redeemed a lowlight Planning staff that had recommended inexplicably paving over Bells Bend.
    • No lowlight: the defeat of May Town Center in Planning made the rest of June all good.
  • July
    • Metro Parks lowlight: Roy Wilson breaks his word on Morgan Park, yet again.
    • Metro Parks highlight: Curt Garrigan meets with Salemtown, apologizes for unrealized promises on Morgan Park upgrades and provides a definite timeline for completion.
    • Metro Planning lowlight: planners, welcome to the doghouse again. The community-informed West Nashville Plan bumped by possible May Town do-over.
  • August
    • All of this month's lowlights are Mayor's Office lowlights with a little help from MDHA and McNeely, Pigott, and Fox: Karl Dean's convention center PR budget runs almost $400,000 over its $75,000 budget. His convention center hotel budget runs over $200,000 over budget. However, not to fear, since state law authorizes the Mayor to raid school funds to pay for expanding costs, even as his 2009 budget cuts help eradicate school music programs. And if you want to attend a Mayor's Night Out event to convey your concerns? You have to wait until after the event is held to find out where and when it is.
  • September
    • Metro Council lowlight: Vice Mayor Diane "Hammer the" Neighbors reserves leadership positions on council committees for commerce-friendly, growth-focused, developer-blinded CMs
    • Mayor's Office highlight: Karl Dean parlays political capital into win on non-discrimination ordinance for gay and lesbian Metro employees, placating progressives who favor social issues.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: Dean staffers cozy up to right-wing organization Eagle Forum in an attempt to unseat a progressive CM who simply asks too many questions.
  • October
    • Metro Council highlight: CM Megan Barry decides to rejoin the effort to defeat LED signage even though earlier in 2009 she voted with a task force to allow LEDs in neighborhoods. Since neighborhood leaders went on without her and leveraged a check on the LED bill, she's got a lot to prove. She'll have her chance in 2010.
  • November
    • Metro Police highlights: officers tell Salemtown that the Central Precinct leads others with a 16% crime reduction.
    • Metro Police lowlights: Chief Ronal Serpas gets surly with West Nashville leaders who have concerns about purchase of a former car dealership for the new precinct headquarters.
    • Public Works lowlight: One year after misplacing designs for the Salemtown streetscape, MPW once again is caught dragging its feet on the project.
    • Mayor's Office lowlight: the exit of the Office of Neighborhoods Director Brady Banks hardly makes a ripple.
    • Metro Council lowlight: CM Sam Coleman, reacting to the defeat of permitting guns in Metro Parks, moves to allow guns in rural parks and on exurban greenways, where they are probably needed even less.
  • December
    • Metro Nashville Public Schools lowlight: They need new roofs and there is no money in the Mayor's budget to pay for them. But Karl Dean's solution for education? Building new charter schools: more roofs in our future to go without repair.
    • Metro Finance lowlight: Rich Riebeling dismisses with a smile questions about which cuts are coming to Metro services in 2010 to pay for the convention center.
Based on my count the strongest performers among the Metro service providers were were Metro Police and the Metro Planning Commission (which came through on behalf of the Bells Bend/Scottsboro community in June and which seemed to take seriously neighborhood backlash against LED signage). Bringing up the rear were MDHA, Public Works, and the Mayor's Office. Perennial bottom-feeder Metro Council lagged somewhere in between in 2009.

May year 2010 be a better one for service delivery to the Nashville community. We still deserve better.


  1. I'd give Metro Action Commission a highlight for hosting the SNNA meeting in July, as well as being good faith partners of the association after the Gilmore-hosted reconciliation meeting regarding the CDBG.

  2. Late last night I had an idea. If so many of us ordinary people feel like Karl Dean is out of control, then why don't we start a movement to recall him? Perhaps fear of the working class will move this lap dog of the rich.