Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Salemtown Neighbors steps up game, CM Gilmore asks MDHA for streetscape report by the end of the week

At last night's monthly business meeting I reported on MDHA's progress (and lack thereof) on the overextended Salemtown streetscape project (funded by a federal community block grant) from my vantage as a CAC rep over the life of the project. Salemtown Neighbors resolved to send MDHA a letter asking them to finish all of the elements that CAC reps had identified as broken or incomplete even though MDHA declared the project complete and many of the conditions addressed.

Also, CM Erica Gilmore followed up this morning on community criticism of MDHA by asking their project manager for a report with details of all of the completed items by Friday.

In related news, MDHA finally repaired the damaged traffic calming bulb this week. That curb bump out was perhaps oldest and most reported problem-in-need-of-a-solution.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chappy finds inspiration in community service beyond Nashville

Transplanted Gulf Coast chef John Chapman seems to defy the conventional wisdom in Nashville since the May floods that no one responds to volunteer in crises like Nashvillians:
CHAPMAN: ...With Gustav last year, Hurricane Gustav, and everybody was having to evacuate, and here I was up here, nothing. I called every one of my friends, offered to put them up, I’ll put you up, so forth like that.”

After surviving some 60 hurricanes over his lifetime, Chapman says it was odd not being there to help his neighbors.

CHAPMAN: “You help them board up and they come by your house and board up and maybe you go get a bite to eat together. It’s just such a different environment here, completely.”

Preliminary Draft of the Agreement with Metro for the Omni Hotel at Music City Center Now Available

I received a copy of the draft for the new Omni hotel agreement with Mayor Karl Dean, which was sent out from the Council Office today. I've uploaded it to Google docs and made it public in the spirit of crowdsourcing. I welcome any feedback interested citizens might have on it in the comments section below. I will update this post as needed. Take a look after the jump.

Salemtown meeting tonight to discuss attracting and retaining families in the neighborhood

From Freddie O'Connell via the Salemtown e-list:
We'll be returning to Morgan Park Community Center for this evenings Salemtown Neighbors meeting, which will start at 6pm.

Tonight, the Executive Board will propose an important series of discussions likely to take several months but critical to how our association considers and hopes to have an impact on our neighborhood. We'll be exploring ways to ensure that families of all types can feel comfortable living in Salemtown without feeling pressured to leave because of the neighborhood lacking an important resource. For families with children, these typically include safety, schools, and social outlets. For families without children, it might be as simple as ensuring that SNNA remains affirming of a diverse community, from twentysomethings to retirees. I don't think anyone on our board has expressed a desire to be exclusive, but I and others have heard concerns expressed about motivating factors for neighbors to leave Salemtown, and we'd like to begin to address these actively to the best of our ability. We hope you'll come participate in a discussion about whether this is a discussion and whether there are actions that it is appropriate for our association to become more deeply involved in.

We'll also get an update from our CAC about the community development block grant, and the Social Committee will make a recommendation about our participation in the Germantown Street Festival, among other items.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

MDHA fails to finish Salemtown streetscape project as promised

If there is any Metro government agency that validates every conservative critic of bumbling big government, it has to be the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

In what seems to be a never-ending, half-decade, grit-ground crawl to the end, MDHA steadfastly refuses to bring effective closure to the Salemtown streetscape project. The project was supposed to be done 3 years ago. After helping MDHA formulate the concept for the project, which was federally funded by a community block grant, citizen advisors like myself documented and reported conditions needing MDHA attention over the past couple of years. Some of the conditions were addressed, especially when they had the potential to blow up into embarrassing dramas for the housing authority. However, MDHA left many other reported problems of the construction phase broken. These are all conditions that MDHA has promised from the beginning to fix because they happened during the construction phase.

As an elected streetscape advisor to MDHA myself, I reported a damaged traffic bulb at 5th Avenue North and Hume at a dozen meetings at least. The bulb had been damaged when first installed by a driver who likely was not accustomed to it. No problem, said our MDHA project leader. On numerous occasions she told me it would be repaired. I have yet to see it repaired, although she sent me an e-mail this asserting that private contractor, Sessions Paving, did repair it. Considering I pass by the damage several times a week, it appears to me to be a phantom patch.

Other conditions that I have been reporting for months (if not years) include elements like lampposts and signs that were built right into overhanging tree branches, some of which are not small, without any pruning being done. In my opinion the lamppost installers treated their craft with hasty heedlessness that suggested a blatant disregard for our neighborhood, transitional though it might be.

When I asked MDHA to follow once again to have the contractor trim the tree branches back to prevent damage, the project director told me that the final inspection had been done, the limbs were now considered "ongoing maintenance," and thus not MDHA's responsibility. She said an inspector had already been with a "punch list" and certified that all of the conditions (including the damaged traffic bulb!) had been met satisfactorily.

I found this response unacceptable, given that at our last meeting MDHA promised to communicate with us about solutions and we were left with the impression that inspectors would be coming around with CAC members to verify that things had been fixed. So this is where things stand now: MDHA is washing its hands of the laundry list of items that they asked Salemtown to generate for them before the end of the project. We have no paper work from them that authenticates claims that inspectors when through and made legitimate reports addressing each of the conditions they asked us to identify. Their project director is assuming the bureaucratic posture that the conditions are someone else's problem.

So, I feel it my obligation to bring someone else into it to try and persuade MDHA to live up to their responsibility to Salemtown. The day before yesterday I e-mailed CM Erica Gilmore thusly:

CM Gilmore:

MDHA is claiming that they have done a final inspection of the Salemtown streetscape project and are closing it. As an elected Citizen Advisory Committee member I did not find out about this from MDHA project manager Linda Howard until I e-mailed her directly this week letting her know that some problems that I and other CAC members had identified for months still had not received a solution. Linda responded that the project was over and the solutions had already been provided. It was our understanding that MDHA would make an effort to have CAC members at the final inspection. That did not happen. We were also told there would be a final ceremony at Morgan Park. That did not happen.

Despite MDHA's unannounced closure of the project, I believe that as a CAC member I have an obligation to look at all final reports including the punch list that Linda Howard used herself to certify that all the problems had received solutions. Please intercede with MDHA and ask them for copies of all documented conditions and proper documentation of contractor solutions to those conditions, including Linda Howard's punch list.

CM Gilmore responded that she has followed up with MDHA and that she will get back to me.

As their elected representative to this MDHA committee, I ask my fellow Salemtowners to back me up by contacting CM Gilmore (erica.gilmore@nashville.gov) and asking her to intervene and help bring MDHA back to finish the project that they have poorly managed. MDHA is dumping loads of their disposable income into the huge new Downtown convention center hotel project. With all of that money floating around it seems like they could come up with the pittance to solve the Salemtown problems they said they would address and finally close this project to everyone's satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karl Dean's Omni-potent hotel plan

Mayor Karl Dean has unveiled his new proposal for a hotel to go with the Music City Center and it includes our Metro government paying half the cost of the hotel while the Omni Hotel chain will be the sole owner. Sounds like a sweet take for Omni, including deferred property taxes. Heck, such largess has even got the adjacent Country Music Hall of Fame clamoring for some Metro hand outs to retire its debt. Mayor Dean seems to be putting our government in the business of corporate welfare à la Bredesen.

And the news about where revenues are going to come from looks even more interesting:
Metro will pay $25 million next year to cover the cost of the land....That money will come from the coffers of the Metro Development and Housing Agency, where city Finance Director Rich Riebeling says it’s been waiting for a project.

Metro will also pay another $103 million over the next 20 years. Riebeling says that money will come largely from tax revenue the project itself generates.
That is, if the project indeed generates that much money for the next 20 years. This Metro Finance Director is averse to "ifs" on capital projects. However, if it does not generate $103 million, then the General Fund used to pave roads, maintain libraries, and keep community center programming afloat will be raided to prop up the monument to the tourism industry. The Metro Council made sure that those revenues will be committed by approving the Mayor's plan without protecting the General Fund. And note that some General Funds will be obligated even with the $103 million, since the money will come "largely [but not only!]" from project revenue.

The other interesting Riebeling comment regards the $25 million that is just laying around over at MDHA waiting for a project. At a time when Metro departments are tightening their belts and cutting their budgets, at a time when we are losing services, MDHA has a pile of money laying around that was just waiting for a project like Omni? You remember MDHA from last August: they unapologetically, even arrogantly, overspent their public relations/media budget by $400,000. And now they have $25 million just laying around unused to hand out to corporate patrons of Metro government. Seems fairly convenient. I would like to know where those revenues came from. MDHA has a reputation for overcharging residents, hoarding from Uncle Sam, and underspending on housing maintenance. Their habits only seem to grow lavish when wealthy suitors come a'knockin. I would also like to know how those revenues might have been spent had the convention center proposal failed.

All in all, the Mayor's Omni Hotel plan looks up on economic development and down on community development. Sustainability and community are more like fractions than integers in this equation.

In defense of the national news media on the Nashville flood: they effectively triaged the tragedies

Based on a recent Pew study, it looks like a lot of local frustration with the national news media over the low-level coverage of the May 2 & 3 Nashville flood was misplaced given that news consumer demand was almost exclusively trained on British Petroleum's deep water oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:
public interest in the Gulf saga may have even exceeded the level of mainstream media coverage. According to surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, often between 50% and 60% of Americans said they were following the story "very closely" during these 100 days. That surpassed the level of public interest during the most critical moments of the health care reform debate.
The Nashville flood occurred less than 2 weeks into the greatest environmental disaster in history. The oil spill story dominated the news for 100 days because the public interest in it was insatiable. The flood came, receded, and recovery happened for much of Nashville. The spill just kept going for weeks and weeks into an uncertain future.

Unless we are going to be cynical and call Nashville's criticism of the national media an attempt to outflank the more important Gulf story then the criticism of diverted media focus in May was uninformed or insensitive. If we were to put ourselves in the news media position back in May and triage the tragedies, we can only conclude that national demand for Nashville news was much lower than that for word on impending disasters along the coastal communities of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Texas and within the environment itself.

As it was, star-studded Nashville ended up getting more than its share of national media attention--once CNN's Anderson Cooper felt guilty--given the relative magnitudes of the disasters.

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors' campaign contributors list

Mike Peden forwarded me the following list, which is relevant to reflection on the Vice Mayor's committee appointments, assuming that candidates for office have commitments to big money that they don't have to regular constituents:
  • William Hostetler – Real Estate Developer
  • Ronald Samuels – CEO, Avenue Bank
  • Maeve McConville – Accountant
  • John Dean – no address, employer, or occupation listed on disclosure, but he gave $1000
  • Nathan Ridley – Attorney – Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings LLP
  • Van Pond Jr – Architect
  • George Anderson – CEO, Synaxis
  • Kenneth Blackburn II – ATT
  • Robert Joslin – Owner, Joslin Sign Company
  • James Earle III – President, PC Telecom
  • Peter Heidenreich – Lobbyist, Hall Strategies
  • David Cooley – Lobbyist, Cooley Public Strategies
  • Byron Trauger – Attorney
  • Betty Anderson – Attorney, Betty Anderson Consulting
  • Jeffrey Lynch – Financial Advisor
  • M.D. Goetz Jr – Commissioner Department of Finance and Administration
  • David Fox Jr – Consultant, McNeely Piggot Fox
  • David Miles – Consultant, McNeely Piggot Fox
  • John Rayburn – CPA, Rayburn, Bates, Fitzgerald
  • Jane Alvis – Consultant, Alvis Company
  • Ronald Gobbell – Owner, Gobbell Hayes Partners
  • Lee Barfield II – Attorney, Bass Berry Simms
  • Beth Fortune – Lobbyist, Vanderbilt University
There are some major stakeholders and players in Music City Center construction on that list. I see two sign industry big wigs, Bobby Joslin and Jane Alvis, both of whom stand to profit from contracts related to Music City Center construction.

Another thing to keep in mind when you look at this list is that Diane Neighbors has been brought up on ethics complaints by community leaders because of an unethical head fake or two in service to business and developer interests.

Any other thoughts on this list?

Is that a Metro budget committee or a "Friends of Karl Dean" committee?

Yesterday Diane Neighbors announced council committee appointments for the coming year. Consistent with her appointments of committee chairpeople, none of the seats on the highly coveted and most influential budget and finance committee went to any outspoken critics of Karl Dean's elephantine and titanic Music City Center construction project. The new members are a mayoral soft touch:

Barry, Megan, Chair
Baker, Buddy
Bennett, Karen
Cole, Erik
Craddock, Michael
Forkum, Jim
Garrett, Tim
Hodge, Jim
Langster, Edith Taylor
Maynard, Jerry
Moore, Sandra
Page, Anna
Ryman, Rip
Steine, Ronnie
Tygard, Charlie

Save one, all of these CMs expressed unqualified support for Mayor Dean's plan to obligate the General Fund (thus risking money to pay for anything from sidewalk repair to police protection) to subsidize convention center construction for the tourism special interests. While CM Craddock eventually voted against the plan, he has this project both ways: he joined 6 others appointed to this committee to block MCC critic and Downtown CM Mike Jameson from slowing down the convention center approval process in the wake of Mayor's McNeely Pigott & Fox/news-media-spin fiasco.

Given that this slate looks remarkably like a "Friends of Karl Dean" committee, I would say that Diane Neighbors has guaranteed the Mayor a smooth ride to re-election. It should be an elegant machine. Local wonks in the news media can no longer compare Metro Council to a cat herd. Neither can they compare it to a deliberative body that considers dissent of the minority.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nashville Flood: The Sequel

After as much as 10 inches of rain overnight in some areas of Middle Tennessee, the Cumberland River is expected to crest near 40' (flood level) by midnight tonight. For those of living blocks away from the Cumberland, this is a cause for concern given that the some of the industrial areas that stand between us and the river will flood tonight.

Metro's private contractor, Hands on Nashville, is organizing volunteers to sandbag.

UPDATE: Art Rogue lives in one of the flood-prone industrial areas around the Cumberland, and he reports on the rising river below in the comments section of this post. He also links to a video made during the May flood from his home. We welcome further updates from Art Rogue.

If anyone else reading Enclave lives close to the river, please update us in the comments section below or send me an e-mail and I'll post it here.

UPDATE: CM J.R. Hollin posted the following video of the rising Cumberland taken earlier today from shore:

UPDATE: Art Rogue has posted his own YouTube video of rising Cumberland:

UPDATE: Here's video I took a couple of hours ago of the Cumberland rising up to the trail along our hyper-local greenway:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors hands almost all of this year's Metro Council committee chairs to convention center kowtows

Diane Neighbors, Karl Dean's Metro Council hammer, sent the list of her Metro Council committee chair appointments to the local news media today. Here is the list of non-boat-rockers:
Budget and Finance -- Megan Barry
Charter Revision -- Randy Foster
Codes, Fair, and Farmers Market -- Vivian Wilhoite
Convention and Tourism -- Rip Ryman
Education -- Erica Gilmore
Federal Grants Review -- Frank Harrison
Health, Hospitals and Social Services -- Jim Forkum
Parks, Library, and Recreation and Public Entertainment Facility -- Jerry Maynard
Personnel-Public Information-Human Relations-Housing -- Parker Toler
Public Safety-Beer and Regulated Beverages -- Edith Taylor Langster
Public Works -- Jim Hodge
Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections -- Greg Adkins
Transportation and Aviation -- Anna Page
All but one of these committee chairs voted yes to Mayor Karl Dean's convention center project. Looking at this list could make one wonder whether the Vice Mayor believes administration critics have the ability to lead Metro Council. Particularly noteworthy is CM Barry's appointment to the Mayor's little resolution compressor, the Council Budget and Finance Committee.

It is not just that Ms. Barry uncritically supported the Music City Center. There has been very little coming from the Mayor's Office that Megan Barry has not promoted. Along with CM Ronnie Steine, she represents the path of least resistance to Karl Dean.

Whether the foolhardy, imminently floodable placement of the West Police Precinct or the Mayor's inequitable levy of new stormwater fees favoring those who generate the most runoff or the laughable, symbolic "living wage" initiative that helped fourteen out of thousands of Metro employees, Megan Barry has uncritically carried Karl Dean's water. Now she's reaping the benefit of controlling council's most powerful committee on the Mayor's behalf.

With this bunch of kowtow committee chairs, expect more of the same inconsequential deference from Metro Council that we've grown used to for the last 3 years. Few rivals, challengers, or interrogators in the bunch. No room for independent or unflinching honesty since they will be too busy grooming their political fortunes while riding Karl Dean's coattails.

UPDATE: local Democratic Party booster Sean Braisted suggests I'm seeing black helicopters or a shooter on the grassy knoll rather than being a chastened realist about how local government works or how Megan Barry's actual service has not matched her campaign posture of being an independent voice on Metro Council. Sean's already got personal investment in fighting for certain partisans, so much of what he blogs about local Metro watchdogs like me who value independence have to be read through a Davidson-Democrat-oriented lens.

I commented a response on Sean's blog, but the reply-to-end-all-replies to Sean and other Barry boosters is, "Let's see if CM Barry finally finds her own voice as chair of the Budget and Finance committee or whether she will be as CM Steine was: an intercom for the Mayor's Office. Let's see see if she can bring herself to critique Dean policies publicly that are actually somewhat less than progressive. Or let's just see if she continues to advocate the Dean Machine line even when it is not progressive and even as she ducks accountability for her regressive votes."

Middle Tennessee radar images of storms preceding & occurring during May 2010 floods

As we face a flash flood warning until morning with a chance of 8" of rain here in Davidson County, I went back to get the radar images of the thunderstorms that created the 500 year flood here in early May.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hope Gardens announces Greyhound terminal open house for concerned Downtown-North End residents

Hope Gardens association president Jason Powell announced the following today on the community e-list:
The Greyhound Bus company will be holding an open house for Hope Gardens and the other surrounding neighborhoods. Following our public forum and demands about the operation of the temporary bus terminal, Greyhound agreed to an open house where neighbors could see the new location and address any concerns. Please plan on stopping by the open house.
According to the announcement the open house is scheduled for August 24, 2010 from 5pm to 6:30pm at north Downtown's interim Greyhound bus terminal.

A notice from Jason also went out to the Historic Germantown, Historic Buena Vista, and Salemtown associations.

Upcoming opportunities to enjoy and to support fine arts in North Nashville

An announcement from Chris Clarke at the Tennessee Women's Theater Project regarding cultural events here in the North Nashville community (the first three are at the Z. Alexander Looby Theater, 2301 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, Nashville 37228):
Tennessee Women’s Theater Project Announces 2010-2011 Season
Tennessee Women’s Theater Project has scheduled its 2010-2011 season of professional theater, presenting two plays new to Middle Tennessee audiences, and the return of the company’s annual Women’s Work showcase of performing and visual arts.
  • October 1 through 17, 2010 - Unravelling The Ribbon. This is the US professional premiere of an acclaimed Irish play about the effects of breast cancer on three women. 7:30 pm – October 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16. 2:30 pm – October 3, 10 & 17.
  • February 25 through March 13, 2011 - Impressionism. This gentle romantic comedy, set in a small art gallery, shows how love can heal broken lives. 7:30 pm – February 25, 26, March 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 & 12. 2:30 pm – February 27, March 6 & 13.
  • May 6 through 23, 2011 - Women’s Work 2011. Our fifth annual showcase and celebration of performing and visual arts created by women. Presenting artists to be announced. 7:30 pm – May 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 & 21
    2:30 pm – May 8, 15 & 22.
  • Warriors Don’t Cry on tour 2010-11 – we’re taking our celebrated one-woman show, based on the memoir of Little Rock Nine member Melba Pattillo Beals, on tour to schools and other organizations, including some two dozen free performances in Metro Nashville high schools.
According to Chris, tickets for the Looby Theatre shows are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $10 for Thursday shows. For more information and reservations call 615-681-7220 or jump to www.twtp.org.

UPDATE: Hands on Nashville changes name of "fees" for Metro Schools work day to "donations"

See update on the September 25th event at mikebyrd.net.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The ongoing problem of the Morgan Park water feature going featureless

City Parks blog has a prescription for successful parks that applies to a relatively news feature at Morgan Park:
For city parks to be successful, they need great water features. Yet it takes money to maintain them, and neglecting such facilities can make a real negative impression on visitors and residents.
A fountain installed last year at Morgan Park--later than originally planned--worked well for the October 2009 opening ceremony, attended by council members, Vice Mayor, and German dignitaries. It functioned normally for a few weeks after that.

Then as time passed the water flowed or it didn't. If Metro kept the level high enough, the street-side spigots would issue water. When they didn't water failed to issue forth. After a while the water level would drop more and water would stop flowing down the channel adjoining the park trail. Periodically someone would increase the water level and every part of the thing flowed. But more times it didn't.

The feature has been working less and less lately. I cannot remember the last time water dropped out of the street-side spigots.

I'm not going to call the Morgan Park fountain great. So, maybe it wouldn't have left a positive impression on park visitors and residents even if it had operated well. However, it is not clear that Metro ever gave it a fighting chance. Many times it limps along with slapdash that makes a negative impression on this resident. I would consider Metro's upkeep and maintenance of the feature to border on neglect. Metro put the feature in on its own initiative and it should take more initiative in keeping the water flowing.

Lately, a homeless man has taken up residence on the benches at the bottom basin. The trash can overflows with meal rubbish, including single serving cereal boxes, yogurt cups, and coke cans. Parks should increase its trash pick-up with the new resident so that the overflowing garbage does not match the negativity of a poorly functioning fountain.

We're #13!

I'm not really sure why our state didn't finish higher in the latest Gallup poll measuring strongly self-identifying conservatives by state, given the quality of red-state politics in Tennessee. But Tennesseans apparently can't stand even appearing to be more liberal than states like Texas.

Some are a lot better than I am at finding a silver lining here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hands on Nashville charges volunteers fees to work at Metro Schools?

Check out the latest at our sister blog.

Enclave to donate Google ad revenues to North Nashville Flood Relief Group

I recently received revenues of around $150 from Google for the ads that Enclave readers click when they visit this blog. I have a long-standing tradition here of donating almost all of what I receive from Google to non-profits working to make the community in and around the North End a better place to live, to work, and to play.

This time I have chosen the North Nashville Flood Relief Group as the recipient of the revenue. NNFRG is a grassroots organization of residents, churches, and politicians dedicated to restoring our community in the wake of the May 2010 floods. They have dispatched over 2,500 volunteers and assisted over 400 flood victims.

Thanks to Enclave readers for making this donation possible by visiting the advertisers who display on my website. I hope this donation will also inspire others to give directly to the NNFRG in order to make North Nashville a better place to live, work, and play.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

News 2's report on North Nashville flood relief

North Nashville neighborhoods were overlooked by local volunteer groups early after the May floods while most of the focus went to West Nashville neighborhoods, Downtown, and the Opryland Hotel. The group North Nashville Flood Relief organized to fill the gaps that other Nashville volunteer groups were leaving in service to disaster relief in our part of town.

A proposal was made recently to Salemtown Neighbors neighborhood association to get more involved with North Nashville Flood Relief either through donations or volunteer aid, but I've not seen any response from the association to the recommendation.

It is heartening to know that the good work of restoring our community goes on regardless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Former council member sues CM Jamie Hollin and others in part over hyper-local blogging

If you thought that Pam Murray would go quietly after not demanding a recount in her East Nashville recall election last year, think again:
In a suit filed late yesterday in Davidson County Circuit Court, Pamela Murray, who represented District 5 from 2003 to 2009, accuses current Councilman Jamie Hollin of making false statements on a website and in various media about where she lived and worked in an effort to unseat her. The suit also names 11 other members she says were part of Hollin’s “We the People of District 5” group
For his part CM Hollin expressed sadness to the news media that Murray would sue her constituents after an election. On his district blog he expresses his gratitude that the lawsuit is not affecting the co-defendants' participation in community meetings:
I am especially proud of the attendance by those individuals recently named as defendants in a lawsuit recently filed by my predecessor. It is indeed gratifying to know that such a frivolous act had NO impact on their participation in the political process, their service to community and the City of Nashville. Clearly, one can inference to be drawn from the lawsuit was that it seeks to prevent citizen participation in the democratic process. That goal failed miserably, which makes me very happy. My hat is off to you!
It is not clear to this layperson that Ms. Murray has a case given her previous status as a public figure and the inherent nature of hyper-local blogs as expressions of opinion, and thus, expressions of free speech. If she had been a private individual about whom someone was maliciously fabricating myths divorced from facts, then it seems to me she would have an argument.

Besides, how does Ms. Murray have any credibility to bring a defamation lawsuit when she accused CM Hollin of drug use and stalking when he was a lot less public than she was?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rule change takes Metro Council a step away from the community rabble, social protest, and democratic process

After a Tennessean local beat writer announced via Twitter that rules were being considered to muffle the people's mezzanine area outside of Metro Council chambers on council meeting nights, I e-mailed the Metro Clerk with the following questions:
I am curious as to what past events precipitated the change in council rules to limit citizen events in the Courthouse and to disallow broadcasts from those events? Could you please e-mail me the minutes from the executive committee meeting where these rule changes are being considered? Who is sponsoring this rules change? Am I correct in concluding that the media will no longer be allowed to broadcast citizen views of pending council action from inside the Courthouse if these rules are approved? Is it fair to say that the media would be limited to live broadcasting only council member opinions on council meeting nights given that the mezzanine would be off limits?

The Metro Clerk responded thusly:
No Council rules have been amended to disallow broadcasts or limit citizen events on Council meeting nights. The discussion that occurred was focused on activities on the 2nd floor mezzanine of the Courthouse, which is the space between the Metropolitan Clerk's Office/Council Chamber on the east end of the Historic Courthouse and the Council Office on the west end of the floor on the second floor .... The purpose of the discussion was to address safety, security, and disruption factors in that second floor area.

Inasmuch as the acoustics in that space are improved only minimally with amplification and loud amplification (such as used for tax sales) can be very distracting, it was recommended that no amplification be allowed at any time in the mezzanine area. Further, on Council meeting nights, because the Council convenes 30 minutes in advance of its start time for Councilmember announcements , it was recommended that all such events on the mezzanine conclude at least 30 minutes prior to the Council meeting start time.

There was no suggestion that interviews, either with the public or Councilmembers, could not occur in the Metropolitan Courthouse. Whether or not it would be beneficial to have a convenient, designated area for interviews was mentioned, but more thought will be given to this idea before any recommendation is considered.

Live broadcast of radio or television programs from within the Courthouse, during the progress of a Council meeting was discussed. Again, this was not referring to interviews, but to live broadcasts of programs. The Sheriff, who now oversees Courthouse security, will be drafting a policy regarding this, from the standpoint of safety and security issues, as there has been concern about the crowded area on the east end of the mezzanine, including the space at the top of a long flight of marble stairs where traffic backs up , both before and during Council meetings. To my knowledge, no policy has yet been issued.

The group that assembled for this discussion was persons involved with the Council and with Courthouse safety and security. Among those present were Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, Council attorney Jon Cooper, Sheriff Daron Hall, Metropolitan Clerk Marilyn Swing, representatives of Metro3, and support staff. The meeting was convened at this time because of the concerns stated and so that policies could be considered and, if necessary, put in place before any specific requests for future event scheduling are received.
In an interview with the Tennessean this morning Vice Mayor Neighbors, who I suspected of being the force behind these control measures the minute I learned of the news, indicated that the rest of us need to be "more respectful of the meetings in progress." As if the meetings have nothing to do with the rest of us.

Live broadcasting or organized efforts to influence council action in public space outside of the narrow lens of Metro 3 and the compulsory strictures of council hearing podiums do not impinge upon any civic process outside of Ms. Neighbors own draconian control issues. There are plenty of measures for safety and security in the mezzanine stairwell to consider without empowering Sheriff Daron Hall to cordon off "free speech" zones far away from the Metro machine.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Salemtown frustrations with neighborhood-based social services continue to be misplaced on Metro Action

There can be no doubt that with increases in federal aid for utilities and rent to help more people who have lost jobs in this recession, tensions between neighbors and Metro Action (corner of 5th Av N and Garfield in Salemtown) are on the rise. Salemtown residents are frustrated with large numbers of outsiders driving in from as far away as the suburbs, lining up as early as 3:00a, playing loud music, leaving trash, and sometimes even urinating in yards.

Metro Action is shoehorned into an 86-year-old elementary school building with Head Start, an education and nutrition program for low-income children and their parents. It has no parking for its clients and sits on residential-scale streets that cannot accommodate its high-volume service. The building deserves to be both the school it was meant to be and a museum to the local Civil Rights Movement. But providing assistance for thousands of clients from all over Davidson County outstrips smaller scale good that it could be doing (a stand alone Head Start for starters).

Metro Action had been slated to move to larger, more accessible facility for the past seven years. However, Mayor Karl Dean first strung along MA leaders by setting a moving date, and then a few months later he reversed course completely and moved someone else into Howard School Building offices that the MA leaders had even advised on design. So, as frustrated as we in Salemtown are with the collateral indignities of constricted government service, we are wrong to blame Metro Action. If we are honest about solving the problem, then the Mayor's Office is the responsible party for these unacceptable conditions.

I emphasized this to my neighbors at our last association meeting as some were once again venting at Metro Action officials who attend our meetings. The association moved to form a committee to explore ways to help Metro Action achieve their goal to get a proper facility. As I told the group, I believe a committee is a waste of time. Metro Action would not be in Salemtown if the Mayor did not want it here. We do not need a committee that Metro can use to continue to stall. We need direct action on the Mayor's Office that demands accountability and makes breaking of past promises uncomfortable for the Mayor.

There is one reason why Metro Action keeps getting stiffed and ignored by Mayor Karl Dean: it serves poor and working class people. If Metro Action were the Convention Center Authority, it would get everything it requires by hook or by crook. The same year Mayor Dean was requiring Metro departments to cut their budgets 10%, he rationalized spending millions per year building the new convention center calling it "our own economic stimulus." If Metro Action were dedicated to benefiting the wealthier business community, Mayor Dean would give it exactly the facility it needs.

Despite the clarity about exactly where the buck stops, some continue to aim at the easy target, Metro Action. In interviews with the Tennessean after the Salemtown Neighbors' gripe session, none of the Metro Action critics mentioned the fact that the Mayor is the final arbiter of what happens with Metro Action's facility. Likewise, no one--not Metro Action staff, their clients or the neighbors who live around the facility--is going get any relief until scrutiny and the pointed comments are brought to bear on Mayor Karl Dean.

The Metro business owner who wants Metro property in order to stop dumping continues to permit dumping himself

CM Buddy Baker has been trying to convince constituents in The Nations community for some time that he intends to hand campaign donor Ron Hunter a Metro alley in order to stop dumping. Mr Hunter's lawyer and Board of Zoning Appeals member David Ewing has joined Mr. Baker, insisting that Metro's "failure" to stop dumping and not Mr. Hunter's plan to rezone residential properties he owns across the alley is the real reason for the alley grab.

But what if Ron Hunter himself allows dumping on his property? Mike Peden sent an e-mail to Metro Council over the weekend with photographic recon that probably makes both Mr. Hunter's lawyer and his council member wince:
----- Original Message -----
From: Mike Peden
To: councilmembers@nashville.gov
Sent: Saturday, August 07, 2010 6:43 PM
Subject: Emailing: P1017960

CM Baker - can you please advise your friend Mr. Hunter that his property is not zoned as an open dump site.

I have attached a photo of his property taken this morning.

The new no dumping signs have been installed in the alley, and the rules apply to Mr. Hunter as well.

Also, the grass needs cutting on his vacant lots. I have notified Codes and Public Works.

I am sure you are as interested as I am in keeping the neigborhood clean and free of illegal dumping.

Thank you
Mike Peden
During a recent community meeting over this controversial alley closure CM Baker replied smugly to a local who told him that The Nations had formed a dump watch, "Well, 'bout time y'all done something!" Given this embarrassing turn of events, perhaps the council member was wishing the neighborhood had not started monitoring and reporting dumping.

Alley closure opponents have insisted that the alley gets trashed in part because Mr. Hunter allows dumping and blight around his business. It appears that the business owner cannot straighten up and fly right long enough for CM Baker to slip the closure proposal, which is currently indefinitely deferred, under the community radar.

Many believe that closing the alley is merely the antecedent to commercial expansion in The Nations community. But let's play the fools that lawyer and council member take the neighborhood for and play along with the charade: now how would handing the alley in question to Mr. Hunter discourage dumping when Mr. Hunter seems to permit dumping himself?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Berry Hill cop testified his dashboard camera wasn't working during arrest of pregnant Mexican woman, but it was

The Tennessean obtained the dashboard cam that taped the stop and arrest of a Mexican woman in Berry Hill July 2008 in a Freedom of Information request. Part of the audio also appears to have been tampered with, according to the report.

This case gained notoriety when the woman went into labor while shackled in jail. I wonder if the missing audio would have included mention of the shackles? Immigration laws are out of control.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Loose leaves from yesterday's local election

Meandering personal reflections on the Pruitt-Turner results (see post update below) that, thanks to today being Friday, I have failed to put into a smooth narrative. I'm treating this stream of bullets as open, so I may add more as the day goes along:
  • State House District 58 Rep Mary Pruitt can and probably will be beat the next election (assuming she runs). While Steven Turner did not get nearly as many votes as Pruitt's previous challenger, Jason Powell, he did eat into her win margin. Pruitt's base is shrinking and she has no one but herself to blame.
  • Steven Turner was no stronger than Jason Powell as a challenger. There is no evidence that I can see that Turner's GOTV was stronger than Powell's. 2006 and 2010 races were Pruitt's to lose.
  • Turner's enthusiastic support of the Music City Center may not have hurt him, but it sure didn't help him in a district that expressed ambivalence about MCC. In this case, what didn't help him get around 200 votes hurt him.
  • Turner should have been as mum on the MCC lightning rod as he was on May Town Center. Or at least he should have muted the zeal, given North Nashville's concerns about MCC.
  • Future challengers have got to develop the same GOTV machine that Pruitt has built. A little more diversity might help: incorporate the interests of poor and working class people beyond the paternalistic mantra "jobs, jobs, jobs," maybe? Diversity is not merely a matter of ethnicity.
  • Future challengers should increase their reach beyond the factions of Democratic Party regulars who (con)descend to act as if they understand everything about local politics.
  • Blaming voters is not the best way to defeat Mary Pruitt in the future.
  • Future challengers should stop running on what Mary Pruitt doesn't do for the district. Go negative when you have to, but don't make it central to the campaign.
  • Beating or leveraging Mary Pruitt starts today, not at the beginning of the next election cycle. Resign yourself to neglect until the next election, and Pruitt will definitely neglect us.
  • Morning 100-degree heat and severe afternoon lightning storms may have kept many typical voters at home. However, Turner's more energetic base could be expected to go to the polls regardless of conditions. Would Pruitt's win have been bigger but for the elements?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Flood victims revictimized: another Metro identity breach of citizen personal information

A couple of days ago local tweets started crossing my feed that some flood victims' personal information, including bank account numbers had been posted on the Metro Tax Assessor's WebPro government site. Here is the Tennessean's follow up on the story:
Three property owners had private information exposed on the county web site, according to the Assessor's office. Rooker said he was first made aware of the information being posted by the Metro Legal Department this morning. As originally reported Dozens of flood victims seeking property tax relief may have had personal documents like checks [to pay for repairs] posted for public view on the Davidson County Assessor’s web site.
This is at least the 5th data breach of Davidson County citizen information since 2007, when laptops containing personal voter information where stolen from the Metro Election Commission. A Metro computer security laptop was stolen from a car shortly after that. Another incident involving exposure of 18,000 Metro Public School students' and 6,000 parents' personal information on Google occurred last year. Earlier this year an employee with Policy Studies, Inc. was given access to private Metro child support records with information like Social Security numbers, which he promptly attempted to sell.

Government just keeps privatizing more and more of its functions involving sensitive personal information without any accountability. Worse, yet, the information keeps getting breached. This running government like a business project does not seem to be working too well, especially for average Nashvillians. In the latest case, those who have already been victimized by May flood waters were revictimized by exposure of their identities.

If you like the local Democratic Party, you'll love today's primary in Tennessee House District 58

Nothing either Mary Pruitt or Steven Turner has done or said in the past 3 weeks since I declined to participate in today's Democratic Party primary circle jerk has made me rethink my stance.

Mary Pruitt will still do nothing for 58 or anyone else. Steven Turner may have all the energy in the world, but if it exclusively helps wealthy donors and developers who finance the county party, what good is that, broadly considered, for local communities? Some local Democrats would have you believe bread crumb economics is good for all of us. I say better to have done nothing at all.

Both Pruitt and Turner spoke to the last Salemtown Neighbors business meeting. Neither one said anything to make me think either would be in tune with neighborhood issues and balanced growth. Mr. Turner continued to court the geeks by emphasizing broadband and internet access (without regard to campaign donors who would profit from virtual expansion), and the rest of his talk was straight out off website memes on economic development. Ms. Pruitt failed to answer a simple question on how she would act as an advocate for neighborhood concerns about an expanding state highway bordering Salemtown, dodging by saying in effect that she would listen to any concerns we had.

My only litmus test in the 58 primary has been that either candidate show me how they stand for neighborhoods in their district over self-interest and moneyed influence. Both have failed.

There is no amount of fear-mongering or fabricating oversimplified choices between "the good" and "the ideal" that convinces me that there is an authentically redemptive choice here.

Mary Pruitt does nothing. That's clear. It's not clear to me that what Steven Turner might do would be good, at least not a common good. My guess at this point is that Mr. Turner has enough momentum in a rapidly changing district to win today. If so, I hope my neighbors who value balanced growth, sustainable development, and consistent progressive governance are not disappointed one day if Mr. Turner helps leverage community choking growth legislation that serves special interests and his wealthy campaign donors. I hope I'm wrong. I hope one day I don't have to say I told you so. I hope we all don't have to look back one day and say, "Nothing would have been better than the something they plan for us" (don't find that logic persuasive? Apply it to Bells Bend and state-sponsored sprawl).

Davidson County Democrats do not seem to be interested in balanced growth and sustainability issues unless you can add value on them, so they don't care either. Democrats here are basically useless on matters of economic sustainability, democratic input at the legislative level, and substantive community development.

I would not discourage anyone in this House district from going to the polls today if they see it their civic or patriotic duty. I would encourage them not to delude themselves into thinking that things could get better just because anyone is better than Mary Pruitt.

Today's election is not about District 58 or you or your family or our neighborhoods or anything else they want you to believe. It is about rival younger and older factions in the local Democratic Party, pure and simple. There is no good, there is no perfect. It's party-style snake oil. If you're into partisan politics, by all means, go vote for Pruitt or Turner, but do not try and convince me that the choice of a winner has not already been made: it's the local party apparatus, the sluice of campaign finance. The rest of us have already lost.

However, I still might have to go vote against Eric Crafton in the Juvenile Court race.

UPDATE: The unofficial results tonight with 172 of 173 of precincts reporting are:
  • Mary Pruitt -- 1,308
  • Steven Turner -- 1,158
Compare the nearly 2,500 votes cast today to how most of the 3,660+ votes were cast 4 years ago:
  • Mary Pruitt -- 2,012
  • Jason Powell -- 1,414
A lighter turn-out seemed to make little difference this year in the ultimate goal of beating Mary Pruitt. Even though Jason Powell got more votes in 2006 than Steven Turner did today, the latter lost by less of a margin than the former. If Mr. Turner had energized a couple hundred of perhaps more liberal voters or community activists to the polls, instead of appealing to business interests and the Democratic Party faithful, he just might have done what Mr. Powell couldn't do with more votes.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Proactive Salemtown a reason for the drop in Central Precinct crime

Four North End/Downtown neighborhoods gathered at Bicentennial Mall last night to present a plaque expressing appreciation to Metro Police's Central Precinct for recent low crime rates. James Nix at the City Paper has the details:
Janeen Griffin, of Fourth Avenue North in Salemtown, said the night was about “rallying around the community and really creating a safer community where we are truly connected … where we look out for one another, keep each other informed and really try to tackle any bad elements that may arise.”

Griffin said the drop in the Central Precinct’s overall crime is a reflection of the neighborhoods’ being proactive in reaching for the phones when they suspect criminal activity.

[Cmdr. Damien] Huggins told The City Paper the National Night Out was more than anything about promoting interaction and communication among the different neighborhood and public safety groups.

Looking at the crowd — about 30 or so neighbors most of them in their mid-30s, several with children — gathered for the evening, Huggins said when that many extra people are dedicated to watching over their community and don’t hesitate to call police over any suspicion it’s like adding so many sets of eyes and ears to the police force.

Blog overhaul

In the last 5 1/2 years I have made one other major redesign of the Enclave layout, and that was probably about 4 years ago. I liked the previous design, but it was just becoming too hard to maintain in the previous Jurassic Blogger format. Google changed the blogger format 2 or 3 years ago, and it was just too difficult to stay where I was. So, I'm bidding a fond adieu to the previous design with appreciation for an attractive medium.

Hopefully, readers will like the design changes I made (and will make in coming weeks).

In the meantime, good-bye old design, I will miss you:

Witness alleges that slain teen and suspect were members of rival youth gangs

A court witness describes Donquise Alexander, the 14-year-old charged in the shooting death of 14-year-old Vincent Lewis, as a gang member and runaway. According to the witness, Lewis was a rival gang member and drug peddler, which is not the picture previously painted as a kid working honest jobs for relatives to save up for a car.
Details emerged during a Wednesday hearing for the teenage boy arrested in the July 8 slaying of Vincent Lewis Jr.

A 13-year-old witness testified in Juvenile Court that the teen was a member of the Crips gang, had run away from home and planned to rob Lewis, a member of the Bloods, who sold marijuana.

As a group of boys smoked marijuana, the 14-year-old pulled a 22-caliber rifle on Lewis, told him "come out of your pockets" and hit him over the head with the gun, the witness said.

The witness, also a member of the Bloods, said that although they all were members of different gangs, they were friends, and the suspect did not intend to kill Lewis.

Metro Police Detective Deniz Ismailovic said Lewis was shot 10 times in the leg, stomach, hand and head. Police found the gun nearby, wrapped in a Titans blanket, beneath cinder blocks.
Up until this shooting, the teen gang problems of Salemtown's past has been receding over time. It is worth noting that the suspected perp is a runaway and the victim lived in East Nashville. The crime in this case came in from outside.

Monday, August 02, 2010

North End Neighborhoods Partner in Night Out Against Crime

A release from Salemtown Neighbors President Freddie O'Connell:
Four North End neighborhoods will come together again in 2010 to participate in the National Night Out Against Crime.

Nashville, Tenn. August 2nd, 2010 -- Renewing a commitment to continuing the favorable trends in crime reduction in Nashville's North End, four urban neighborhoods are joining together in celebrating the 2010 Night Out Against Crime.

Neighborhood organizations representing residents in Germantown, Hope Gardens, Salemtown, and Historic Buena Vista are gathering together to stand firm against tolerance of crime in their communities.

"We're especially proud of the strong partnership we've forged with the Metro Nashville Police Department under the leadership of Commander Damian Huggins," said Jason Powell, President of the Hope Gardens Neighborhood Association. "We'll be making a presentation to Cmdr. Huggins and Central Precinct in recognition of their effective work and their recognition as Precinct of the Year for 2009."

"We've dealt with a shocking shooting death in Salemtown this summer," said Freddie O'Connell, President of Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association. "The response from MNPD was rapid and thorough. There's a suspect in custody, but our work as neighbors is to stand together to ensure that we don't tolerate crime or criminal behavior in our homes or in our neighborhoods. We have a lot of work to do with each other, and we want to continue and extend the great partnership with MNPD and with each other as neighborhoods."

Neighbors from all four neighborhoods will be marching separately from their respective neighborhoods and then joining together for music, refreshments, and brief remarks at the Southeast corner of Rosa L. Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street just North of the Nashville Farmers Market from 6-8pm on Tuesday, August 3rd. Remarks will be offered at 6:30pm.


Freddie O'Connell
President, Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Nashville celebrity draws international attention to continuing Haitian plight, but she can't generate local interest

Nashvillian film star Nicole Kidman was in Haiti this week as a UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador trying to draw attention to the plight of Haitian women and children in shelters since last January's earthquake. However, you would not know it from any the local media, who have remained mum on the goodwill effort. Despite her best attempts to bring attention to the forgotten tragedy, Nashville is not paying attention as far as I know.

We are Nashville. We are provincial.

UPDATE: Still no local reportage on Kidman's Haiti effort, but last night USA Today put up a story on it:
Kidman, who won an Oscar for 2002's The Hours, says philanthropy is a big part of her life. "I'm just constantly trying to give a voice to the women around the world, women everywhere, who are in need of help. If there's anything to be had from having worked for 23 to 25 years of my life, I'm so glad to now be able to do this. I don't mind being used like that," she says.

Town hall meeting erupts: "When the oil's comin' around ... y'all send the plane, and y'all are fuckin' sinkin' it"

Important civics lessons can be learned locally by watching someone else's community meeting with power brokers. Video after the jump to my tumblr page.