Monday, August 25, 2014

Developer seeks community support for Specific Plan on historic structure in Salemtown

The "no dogs house" (1604 6th Ave N) is a well-known structure in Salemtown and over years there has been a regular buzz over what was going to happen to it once someone bought it for redevelopment. It is one of the oldest remaining homes in the neighborhood, but it fell into disrepair over the past few decades.

The following Metro Planning post card grabbed our attention over the weekend:

I was interested in learning more about what was going to happen to the old house, so I followed up with the planners, who replied that the developer plans to renovate (as in, "not demolish") the structure and build new additions to it. They sent me the preliminary specific plan:

Salemtown Neighbors neighborhood association has a business meeting tonight at 6:00 at the Morgan Park Community Center. Their agenda includes a discussion of the rezoning plan with the developer. Any time a "Specific Plan" is proposed by developers, they are required to get community feedback and incorporate it into the plan. The feedback can involve anything about the plan: density, size, design, infrastructure, stormwater impact, continuity, etc. The community meeting process with developers for SP is critical, so I expect meetings like the one tonight to be very important to those of us concerned about our quality of life.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Recap of last night's North Nashville town hall meeting on concerns about police after Ferguson

Last night I left my daughter's school orientation events early to attend the "town hall" meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church on Jeff St. I arrived 30 minutes before it was supposed to start. That was a good thing because the pews of the sanctuary were nearly full by 7:15. They had an overflow crowd in their fellowship hall in the basement to watch a video feed.

There was a panel of African American community leaders and Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson. Those are the folks who did most of the speaking. Police commanders and other cops filled the choir loft while the candidates for mayor and other elected officials not on the program sat in audience at the front.

Meeting organizer, Bishop Joseph Walker, told the audience that the Mt. Zion meeting is the first time in the US that the protests over Michael Brown's death have moved out of the street and into a building for discussion with police and other leaders.

I sat next to a woman from South Nashville who told me that the event had been announced in church at Mt. Zion last Sunday. As far as I know, the mainstream news media did not announce it until Wednesday. What kind of crowds would have shown up if the announcement had gone out across the city over the weekend?

The predominantly white mainstream print and broadcast media looked like it was in full force, so you can probably read or listen to major details and talking points any place today. I'll stick with my own impressions here.

The first thing I have to say about the meeting was that it was a bona fide town hall complete with comments and questions from the audience. It was not a faux community meeting along the lines of the Mayor's bus rapid transit plan or a planning meeting where the only way you can have your questions answered is if you write them down on a permission slip. It was not a NashvilleNext "lounge" designed to lure hipsters and Millennials. It was unadorned, free-style, old-school town hall, which was fine with me. Democracy is messy business.

Beyond meeting logistics the takeaway for me is that Chief Steve Anderson was the main focus of the meeting. I was there until about 8:45 and Chief Anderson took the brunt of questions from the panelists and from the audience on what Metro cops would do if faced with the same events as they unfolded in Ferguson and on how Metro Police are working internally and with the community to prevent racism and brutality.

His department received praise, criticism, questions and notes of caution.

He handled himself serviceably. And I got the impression from audience and panelist responses that people were satisfied with his answers. Chief Anderson opened his comments with a list of mistakes he thought Ferguson police made, the most important one: failing to diffuse the situation two weeks ago when Mike Brown was shot dead (to be specific, he was shot six times, twice to the head) by a cop and kept in the street for hours afterward. The chief also said that not releasing shooting officer Darren Wilson's name immediately was a lapse. "Within the hour there should have been a statement," he told the audience. He described the way that the police handled the aftermath as appearing to be a conspiracy. He argued that they should have been more transparent from the beginning.

However, his ostensible list of mistakes did not include any mention of use of military equipment by police in protest situations. I was troubled by that.

In his comments on how the police would handle protests after police shootings, Chief Anderson told the audience that his department would meet with community leaders before the protests in order to cover organizing and coordination. He said something about "wanting to be with" peaceful protesters. He said that he would allow protesters to break "some of the law" by marching in the streets as long as community leaders understood that the police would maintain order at the end of the day.

Again he had the opportunity to address the use of military weapons on innocent protesters, but did not.

Finally, after a representative from Pacify Nashville read off a list of military weapons that Metro Police could use on the community, Chief Anderson spoke to the problem; but only after he read a list of the ways that military equipment had been used in the 2010 flood and in other emergency situations to help people in distress. It came across to me as dancing around the problem. The real issue here is that the weapons are designed for the battlefield. The possibility of using them against strikes and marches flips social protest to war. They were not designed for less grisly pursuits.

The police chief said that he would not use military equipment in the community "unless absolutely necessary." He only elaborated by saying that police would use it to protect property and life. Then again, the St. Louis County cops would probably argue that they only used it because it was absolutely necessary to protect Ferguson property and life last week as they were gassing residential areas from armored vehicles. The Pacify Nashville rep asked him point blank and the police chief seemed to be reserving the right to use them. Can you imagine a natural disaster where sound cannons like the ones used to drive away Ferguson protesters would be needed by the Metro Police? I cannot.

You can jump to a list, culled by the New York Times a few months ago, of the $4 million in military toys Metro Police has to play with. It is one thing to have an armored truck for use in authentic hostage situations; it is quite another to own a $600,000 "mine-resistant vehicle" and to reserve the right to use it to protect property during social protests. When was the last time Metro Police had to deal with mines?

In the end, I was left with the impression that we are just supposed to trust that the police won't viciously use the military weapons according to the purpose for which they were made. Is trusting the police good enough for the North Nashville community?

UPDATE: Pacify Nashville posted a video of the question they posed to Steve Anderson as well as his response. You will see that as Pacify Nashville read the list of military weapons in the question, gasps and shouts from the audience became louder. After Pacify Nashville asked Chief Anderson to define "strikes and riots" as situations that allow military weapons to be used, the audience applauded in response before the Chief's reply.

Clearly there is great concern in the community about weapons that allow police to scale up police brutality with military weapons. Military weapons do nothing to promote community policing and civil contact with neighborhoods. If there is a committee formed between the police and local citizens in the aftermath of Ferguson, it needs to come up with proper guidelines on the acquisition and use of military weapons by police departments. At some level, Metro Police will have to demilitarize if they want to earn the trust of the community.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Megan Barry should explain her claim that a consolidated government helps Metro Nashville avoid a Ferguson-like tragedy

In the only statement I have seen from mayoral candidate Megan Barry on the implications of the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO and the resulting protests and police crackdowns in St. Louis County, she tweeted the following with a link to an Atlantic article on city-county consolidation:

Good piece @CityLab on city/county gov't. Nashville isn't perfect - but consolidated gov't helps.

Helps what? Helps make sure that African-Americans in Nashville get more equitable opportunities? Helps make Nashville less racist? Helps to keep police from turning their powerful military-style weapons against nonviolent protesters and innocent neighborhoods?

Reading the Atlantic piece sheds little or no light on what Ms. Barry is driving at. It claims that consolidated government would "knock down some of the structural barriers that prevent black residents in St. Louis County from succeeding." How has the consolidation of Nashville and Davidson County knocked down structural barriers? Before April 1, 1963 (when Nashville's consolidation became official) one of the most dramatic revolutions in Nashville history occurred when Nashville desegregated. It was in no way facilitated by consolidated government.

Instead, the Nashville sit-ins emerged, lead by young African-Americans--trained in non-violent tactics--who challenged segregated lunch counters by sitting in "Whites Only" areas. They were beat up by violent white mobs and then arrested by the Nashville police. They resisted without returning the violence. They tactically refused bail. As more waves of demonstrators filled up the jails, other African-Americans engaged in a crippling boycott of Downtown businesses.

The climax of the sit-ins occurred after the home of African-American Alexander Looby, who lived in North Nashville, was dynamite-bombed. The next day a large number of Nashvillians marched to the courthouse, where they were greeted by Mayor Ben West, a moderate who had before that day had left questions of segregated lunch counters to storeowners. In a dramatic moment sit-in leader Diane Nash asked Mayor West if he thought segregation was wrong. Mayor West responded: " I appeal to all citizens to end discrimination, to have no bigotry, no bias, no hatred." Taylor Branch tells the rest:

"Do you mean that to include lunch counters?" asked Nash, pressing the issue. She was standing face to face with the mayor. Her bravado hushed the crowd into silence.

"Little lady," West replied trying to be genial, "I stopped segregation seven years ago at the airport when I first took office, and there has been no trouble since."

Nash bored in relentlessly, "Then, Mayor, do you recommend that lunch counters be desegregated?"

West, a moderate white politician skewered in public before an emotional crowd answered the crucial question with a single word, "Yes." This drew cheers.

A short time thereafter Nashville businesses began to desegregate.

Consolidation was still 3 years away. What helped Nashville in 1960 was not unifying city and county governments. What helped Nashville was a disciplined protest movement with a clear strategy, practiced tactics and a willingness to suffer for their cause. What helped Nashville was an economic boycott that brought business leaders to their knees and forced them to see change as progress. What helped Nashville was a mayor who when cornered saw the wisdom of embracing the people's cause, which was also the just cause (even if he continued later to equivocate as moderates do). What would a Mayor Barry be willing to do to help take such a step?

What also helped Nashville was a national context: a movement that would leverage federal laws making segregation illegal. But before Nashville became the first US city to consolidate, it became the first southern city to desegregate. The disciplined non-violent action against segregation at lunch counters and movie theaters continued up through the year of consolidation until the next year with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (making desegregation the law of the land). So, how can Ms. Barry claim, without explanation, that "consolidated gov't helps" keep us from becoming St. Louis County, where racism still seems to have a free hand?

Frankly, the Atlantic piece she calls "good" seems to be using the publicity of the Michael Brown slaying and the situation in Ferguson to draw the frenetic traffic of the last 10 days to arguments that the author deeply holds without real connections to breaking news. As a result I do not find the article compelling. It provides practically no comparative evidence for judging whether events in Ferguson are more likely to happen because of unconsolidated St. Louis instead of consolidated Indianapolis. It makes the bizarre claim that poor people in Ferguson are more prone to predatory lending. As if they are not in cities with consolidated government, like Nashville?

The number of payday lenders has exploded in Nashville as have the campaign donations those lenders give to council members, mayoral candidates, and people running for the General Assembly. If our consolidated government "helps," as Megan Barry claims, how do so many predatory lending outlets charge poor Nashvillians such sky-high interest rates while lining the pockets of powerful politicians? Davidson County no more makes consumer protection from predatory lending a priority than St. Louis County seems to. Is Ms. Barry indicating that she might use consolidated government to regulate the lenders? That would be a breath of fresh air after Karl Dean, who once crowed: "The less regulation of business we do, the better."

I do not have any objections to the concept of consolidated government. It does a lot of good things for Nashvillians. I would not want the separation that plagues St. Louis.

By the same token, I believe that candidates for the Mayor's Office should formulate clear ideas on how they would govern in a crisis like the one in Missouri without reaching for rationalizations just to make us feel better that we are not like them. Ferguson is preying on the minds of many Nashville voters. We should expect clear answers from candidates; not convoluted references to consolidation designed to make our city seem sheltered against prejudice and military-like crackdowns.

Consolidation did not save Nashville from segregation. Why would it shelter us from resegregation?

UPDATE: The Mt. Zion Baptist Church Facebook page announces:

a town hall meeting to discuss the recent Ferguson, Missouri, riots and launch Nashville Unites, an initiative with the following objectives: 1) foster dialogue between police and citizens; 2) propose a community liaison program between precincts and their communities; 3) develop youth leadership; 4) highlight Mt. Zion’s mentoring program for adult men; and 5) commit to follow-through on all initiatives so as to build trust and ensure a more peaceful city that is a national model for collaboration

I am hearing that Megan Barry as well as other candidates for office have signed on to participate. I appreciate that they have put their "ice bucket challenges" on hold long enough to respond to pressing matters that concern the actual responsibilities of a mayor. Maybe we will get some substantive answers from her on what if anything consolidation has to do with stopping police brutality in underrepresented communities. The mayoral candidates are coming to North Nashville.

UPDATE: According to a commenter below, Ben West's historic encounter with Diane Nash happened somewhat differently than the way Taylor Branch reported. The Nashville Mayor was said to be speaking out of school on his role in integrating the airport:

On the steps of the courthouse with Diane Nash and Mayor West that day was Rev. C.T. Vivian. When West proclaimed to have integrated the lunch counters at the airport, it was Rev. Vivian who reminded the mayor that it was President Kennedy who had integrated the airport as this was federal property. West tried to take credit for something that he had not done as to appear that he had been supportive of the cause. After Vivian called him on it, and Nash put the question to him again, the mayor searched his heart and agreed with Miss Nash. (Heard Rev. Vivian tell this account himself).

Go to the comment section to read the rest of her or his thoughts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Metro Nashville Police and their military-style hardware

I have been closely following the fallout of police officer Darren Wilson's shooting of teenager Mike Brown and the resulting protests in Ferguson, MO for the past week or so. I have many impressions I could share, but for now I want to focus on the use of military-style armored vehicles in residential neighborhoods to control violent "agitators". Many of you, like me, have seen Metro Nashville Police display their armored vehicles at community events, and I have to say that I will never look at any of MNPD's military-style weaponry the same way again.

Why not? Because I have seen them deployed against peaceful protesters as well as the "agitators" in Ferguson. I've seen, via Vine videos, innocent kids tear-gassed. I've seen pictures of people gassed in their own yards away from the main sites of protests. I've read accounts of armored vehicles rolling through neighborhoods shooting rubber bullets, pepper-spray-filled paintballs and unleashing enough toxic particulates that--even in closed homes--can endanger the lives of asthmatic children. I've read of a teenager begging a reporter not to leave her neighborhood because she was certain that the only thing between her and a round from a police assault rifle was the watchful presence of journalists.

So, I cannot look at these death-dealing armored vehicles the same way anymore. Even when they are proudly displayed at community events. (And why did we never stop to question how much these rolling behemoths cost taxpayers? Why give the authorities the benefit of the doubt in the first place?) I fail to see any justification for using military-style weaponry in largely pacified residential neighborhoods. It seems like overkill when the biggest threat coming from the handful of "agitators" is something like a couple of handguns and a single Molotov cocktail.

This is what Nashville police used to consider armor:

This is what Nashville police now consider armor:

The changes reflect the political climate post-9/11, but they also reflect a futile "war on drugs," which has been conducted since the 1980s. They also reflect a military-industrial complex, a defense industry that has been allowed to market their wares unchecked by government regulations and encouraged by elected officials who strive to bring home more pork. What they do not reflect is any change in the racial climate since the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. Police are simply more efficient at dealing out pain and death disproportionately to people of color and to working-class people with military-style plating and and assault weapons (by the way, tear gas is banned from battlefields by international treaties).

Ferguson shows that the most modern armor is overkill outside the battlefield. Police are not just "taking out bad guys" (as they like to say), they are endangering innocent lives and unleashing unnecessary collateral damage. They are laying waste to neighborhoods and people's lives.

Whether you believe that you will ever see one of these military-style monsters roll down your street or cut through the clouds above, unleashing a firestorm of injustice, there are honest poor people, honest people of color who do believe it to be a distinct possibility. If it can happen to them those of us who question the possibility are merely the next in line.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

3rd Annual Heirloom Tomato Fest and Square Dance photos

Last night we drove out of a driving rain in the North Capitol area to the 2014 edition of the Heirloom Tomato Fest in Scottsboro / Bells Bend. While it was wet in the Bend, it only rained a couple of times in the two hours we were there. Square dancers were not deterred in the least by the wet conditions. Grilled cheese, pesto and heirloom tomato sandwiches were offered to go along with the beer enjoyed by revelers. Spirits of those who attended did not seem dampened by the wet conditions, and those who wore their rain boots seemed even happier.

photo credit: Canaan Byrd

Friday, August 08, 2014

The grand narrative of NashvilleNext does not tell the whole story

This is a textbook example of how public relations flacks, when allowed to tell stories uncontested, dominate the community's narrative.

Colby Sledge has been hired to tell the story of NashvilleNext, Metro Planning's instrument to apply a county-determined grid across neighborhoods and local communities for the purposes of promoting future development and growth. You may remember Mr. Sledge from his days as a newspaper reporter or from his days as a hired partisan with the Democrats or from his days in charge of a "neighborhood" group that advanced the Mayor's agenda, whether that agenda involved tearing down the Fairgrounds or trying to help Sarah Lodge Tally defeat Jason Holleman.

Today Mr. Sledge is leading the community outreach goals for NashvilleNext via Karl Dean's favorite PR firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox, LLC (or "MP&F"). He tells an evolutionary story, one in which visions of Robert Altman's classic film "Nashville" (1975) give way to ABC's current glitzy soap opera "Nashville". That unqualified 40-year cultural gulf is large enough, but he also misapplies it as a metaphor for what happened in Metro Planning in the early 1990s vs. what is happening in 2014:

It’s no secret that the city’s last general plan update, way back in 1992, didn’t quite hit the mark. That plan predicted unmitigated suburban boom, which was accurate … until the city started booming, too. Urban neighborhoods were mentioned, but their design and character was left to subsequent planning processes.

The plan’s development also wasn’t the most public process, resulting in something that looked a lot more like a thesis than a blueprint: plenty of theory, but not a whole lot of direction from actual Nashvillians ....

These days, Nashville looks a lot more like Hayden Panettiere’s version than Robert Altman’s ....

So amid all these challenges, city leaders tasked the Planning Department and our agency with including as many Nashvillians as possible in NashvilleNext, and to do so in a diverse, inclusive, and instructive way.

Those of you who like me have participated in the community planning process since the turn of the century may already notice a problem that goes beyond that of trying to compare 20 years of Metro policy changes with 40 years of pop culture: in his enthusiasm for mapping the next 25 years of planning, Mr. Sledge fails to account for the last decade.

He is obviously trying to get to the purpose of this self-aggrandizing piece: he still has to discuss the cute effectiveness of the little nosepickers MP&F used for the promotional ad campaign to entice people into the planning process. But Colby Sledge failed to tell our whole story. When Metro Planning Director Rick Bernhardt flipped the planning process into a community planning process years ago it was a positive move. Many of us met with our fellow neighbors and Metro planners on occasion, expectant that the emphasis on grassroots generation of community plans would help hold developers and planners accountable.

Granted, there were plenty of times developers adjusted and gamed the rezoning process, and it was a challenge to hold community plans together when the Planning Commission and Metro Council prostrated to the influence of lawyers and lobbyists for developers.

But Metro Planning under the same director has abandoned community planning in favor of first getting a county-wide, prepossessed formula for growth everywhere and predetermining the decision local communities like rural Whites Creek will make before their process gets off the ground. That is the story that hired gun Colby Sledge is not telling.

He makes it seem like we went from Nashvillians having no influence over the planning process in 1992 to having the most influence they can have in 2014. The truth for some of us is different: we went from having no influence to what was ostensibly a significant degree of influence that we could exercise with community plans to having our influence contracted by a county-wide process that softens the impact of organized neighborhoods to protect their quality of life from unsustainable growth and avarice.

For some of us, NashvilleNext looks like a step back toward 1992, away from community-based planning to planners justifying their own decisions based on monolithic county-wide polling without regard to diversity. It is set up to support a tyranny of a majority rather than a dynamic process of consensus. That is the story that paid narrator Colby Sledge is not telling.

The example of Whites Creek is instructive: they cannot determine their own plans without regard to non-rural areas of the county, which have higher density and thus more power to determine Whites Creek's plan. The rest of Davidson County will determine what growth looks like in Whites Creek even though many in Davidson County have never set foot in Whites Creek.

That is a plot line Colby Sledge conveniently leaves out of his story. Those of us who do not have the wealth or influence of MP&F should still try to make sure it gets put back in whenever the story is told.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Press the Accelerator: is turning Metro employees into entrepreneurs a good idea?

The business of business has nothing to do with "addressing inequality". The business of business is to maximize profits, even if it means supporting or generating inequality. In the 1950s, businesses had to be forced to acknowledge the civil rights of African Americans. It was not a benevolent free market that incorporated respect for human rights. It was a combination of government coercion and popular and political movements that forced businesses to comply.

As I learn that Mayor Karl Dean through his Office of Innovation is "innovating" Metro employees to become entrepreneurial by means of a "City Accelerator", I am concerned, not excited:
Through the Entrepreneur Center, we help really smart Metro employees learn about these tools, and turn them into quasi-entrepreneurs ... inside of Metro government so that they can make their ideas real businesses and real solutions for our city .... During the accelerator two more cohorts of innovation fellows will create new innovations for Metro government

The problem with this is it sounds exactly like the Republicans' decades old saw that "government should be run like a business," which has been tried and failed so many times in recent history. Disruption and innovation are the latest fad jargon for what is going on in the tech industry, which moves like gang busters in Nashville. But when stripped of the hype, the ideas amount to warmed-over conservative shut-down of public goods guaranteed by a democratically elected government.

Innovators invariably look for a different set of rules outside of government regulations by which to be "free" and to operate on their own. Then again, so do many Republicans.

Entrepreneurs by definition are people who risk their own money in order to start a business or profit-making enterprise. (Never mind that Nashville's Entrepreneur Center is heavily subsidized). Governments in democracies focus on providing access to broadly shared goods, like clean water, public safety, preserved undeveloped green space, transportation options and right to assembly. At times those purposes are complimentary, at times they are not.

For example, privatizing public education invests venture capital dollars heavily subsidized by the Obama Administration so that investors can experience a return in the education marketplace while selecting and keeping the students the corporations want rather than providing equal education opportunities for every student (the very purpose of the idea of government-provided education). Regardless of student development and welfare the bottom line is to avoid risk and maximize financial benefits.

A problem with turning government workers into entrepreneurs is that they will logically act to maximize profit-making enterprise regardless of whether it meets the test of universal accessibility. When they come up against regulations, even ones designed to protect consumers from an indifferent and arbitrary marketplace, they might look for ways around them (as if savvy government bureaucrats have never done that before).

Worse than trying to do something more disruptive than the regs allow is insisting, as Director of Financial Empowerment Erik Cole does in the video, that innovation can work "within the context of poverty" to solve inequality. Look at companies with reputation for greatest innovation before you buy his logic. Two start-up ride-sharing companies--attempting to disrupt cab companies and the government rules that regulate them--do not seem to be doing much to end inequality in our lifetime (are they even disrupting it?)

But it can be too easy to forget that people make “instant” happen. And, generally, these people are not a traditionally stable workforce. They are instead a flexible and scalable network of workers — “fractional employees” — that tap in and tap out as needed, and as suits them.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 of these jobs have been created, especially due to the largest on-demand mobile services: The ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, whose drivers provide alternatives to taxis and other forms of transportation.

The Uber-style model works when a company can turn that kind of disparate workforce into a reliable branded service. It’s not quantum computing, but after you click “buy now,” it falls to someone to do the hard and sensitive work of moving physical stuff around in the real world.

Uber says it is creating 20,000 U.S. jobs per month by allowing drivers to tap into its ride-hailing service in their local cities by renting a phone from the company (it used to be free).

And so, at its core, you might think of the instant gratification economy as a story about jobs — new kinds of jobs. Here’s how it works: People like to get stuff when they want it. And, because of smartphones and smart logistics software, deliveries can happen much more cheaply and quickly, especially in cities.

So, the availability of on-demand services generates more demand. To meet it, companies bring on more workers. And ultimately, finding one of these jobs — or often, more than one of them — can create living wages for people who might otherwise be out of work.

But it’s not all shiny happy job creation. It’s not terribly uplifting to think that the future of labor is delivering stuff to rich people.

That does not sound promising at all for low wage workers and homeless people. The expectation is not that workers achieve stability in the fluid "sharing economy" (or is that "service economy"?). The inflexible mantra is "stay flexible and scalable".  The goals of democratic government and the sharing economy work at cross purposes if the goals are equality, social justice and labor stability. If a few people actually achieve a living wage, it will like charter schools offering a way out of poverty to college for a small number of high school students, while the charter school corporations get rich.

I do not have a problem with innovating in government. One of the biggest innovators in U.S. history was Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. I do have a problem with dismantling government programs and precautionary regulations under the banner of absolute freedom for private enterprise, especially the absolute freedom to evangelize government workers and turn them into drones who support business innovators more than they advocate for ordinary Nashvillians.

UPDATE: Beyond how business innovation actually changes income inequality is the specific question of Karl Dean's practices dealing with homelessness before the City Accelerator was a prospect. Last year, local pastor Jay Voorhees observed that the Mayor's Office has a poor track record on helping the homeless:

...outside of some basic lip service, Mayor Dean has not seemed particularly interested in the social safety net side of governmental services, and certainly not the challenges of the homeless community. In the days after the 2010 floods the mayor’s office was noticeably missing in trying to address the needs of the former tent city residents, leaving the question of how to deal with this population to a set of dedicated volunteers and clergy. The Metro Homelessness Commission has languished during the Dean administration, some of which can be attributed to its members, but part of which is reflective of a mayor who is more concerned with creating new business opportunities than assisting those who are down and out.

It is worth noting that Erik Cole, who appears in the video and makes comments supporting the use of business-oriented innovations to help the homeless, was appointed by Mayor Dean to chair the Metro Homelessness Commission (2008-2012). As council member, Mr. Cole always voted with the Mayor when it came down to spending that favored business interests.

Neither the Office of Innovation nor the Mr. Cole's Office of Financial Empowerment look like improvements on Karl Dean's general disinterest in policies of social uplift. It is hard for me to believe as the video claims that the Mayor has actually lost sleep over the problem of income equality given his past lip service without tangible actions. We cannot expect the City Accelerator to do anything more than help the involved business interests and the Entrepreneur Center.

UPDATE: mayoral candidate Megan Barry loves her some disruptive innovation. Her supportive comment on Nashville's bid on the city accelerator website:

Like Erik Cole, Council Member Megan Barry never bucked Karl Dean on policies that served business interests first. Her campaign for mayor seems to angle now towards a kinder and gentler mock-up of Karl Dean. She may actually lose sleep over income inequality. However, her campaign for council once promised to be a voice for everyone in Metro government and we see how that populist tone failed to materialize in real policy. I doubt a Mayor Barry would do much beyond lip service to the intention of leaving no one behind. I have never witnessed her hard-nosed enough to challenge the powers that be that leave people behind in the first place.