Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why Wasn't Pilcher-Hamilton House Saved?

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Editor's note: The following is a guest post.

Imagine my surprise as I drove up to the Roundabout on Music Row about midnight, returning from an out-of-town trip, and as I approached the lovely and familiar Pilcher-Hamilton House, I saw a chain link fence. I thought, “I wonder what they are doing to Jim’s house.”

As my vision cleared, I realized there was no house … just a pile of bricks.

I yelled into the silence, “That’s horrible.” I had to talk to someone, so I called my daughter Anne in L.A., which being two hours earlier than Nashville, I figured she would be up. After patiently listening to my tale of woe, Anne said, “Now, mother, don’t go climbing over that fence to see if you can rescue some architectural detail or steal an old brick.” She knows me.

When I reached my own 1927 house just a few blocks away, I poured myself a shot of bourbon and tried to think it out.

The last time I had a conversation about the house, it was in response to a call from the Metro Historic Commission looking for a way to contact one of the Hamilton children to discuss putting the house on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, that did not happen, primarily due to extensive changes inside the house.

I thought to myself, “How in the world could I have missed the public discussion of the demolition of the house?” I talked to a couple of people who share my view of preserving historic structures. They had no idea either. I had not missed the news. That discussion had just not happened … at least not in the public eye.

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Mailbag: Dobie is Wrong, Again and Again

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

We got a number of letters from readers about Bruce Dobie's column last week on education in Nashville. Due to the limitations of space in the print edition this week — you can blame the legislature — we've moved the Love/Hate mail about the piece over here. Enjoy.


The tediously ill-informed Bruce Dobie strikes again. In his latest missive to assist national charter zealots in their efforts to dismantle our school system ("Has Karl Dean missed his chance to shape Nashville public education?," April 17), Dobie lays out a series of arguments that are purposefully dishonest or just flat-out ignorant of what's actually happening in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Rather than rebut every inaccuracy or half-truth, I'll focus on Dobie's dumbest error: His claim that MNPS is not moving toward a financial model that "pushes decision-making down to individual schools while dramatically reducing overhead." As it turns out, MNPS is working with Education Resource Strategies, a nationally known group that helps urban school systems better organize resources, to pilot a school- and student-based budgeting model that is extending more autonomy to principals in our school buildings and better targeting supports where they're most needed. Right now, 15 schools are participating in the pilot and this model will scale across the entire school system by the 2015-16 school year.

Bottom line: Does MNPS face significant fiscal pressures and academic problems? Of course. So does every urban school system in America. But things are headed in the right direction if you believe student-growth data showing that we're now in the top third of school districts in Tennessee — which happens to be the fastest-improving state in the history of the Nation's Report Card. Regardless, no one is content with the current pace of change and the Nashville School Board is demanding a greater sense of urgency from management and staff.

What would be helpful is a little support. Instead of scheming at Belle Meade Country Club over how to facilitate the demise of our greatest institution — public education — Dobie instead might consider pushing Governor Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell to fully fund the state's Basic Education Program, whose inadequacies have led to MNPS being ranked 54th among 67 of the nation's largest urban school districts when it comes to per-pupil funding. If nothing else, at least quit screwing up the facts. Bruce, buddy: You know where to reach me. Dust off your old reporter's credential and call anytime if you ever want to understand what's actually happening in the school system.

Will Pinkston
Chair, Budget & Finance Committee
Nashville School Board

More letters after the jump ...

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Ralph Schulz: Legislative Fight Wasn't A Blow To The Amp

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM

My piece in this week's print issue is on the just-concluded state legislative fight over The Amp — a fight I say Mayor Karl Dean's administration and others on the side of the project ultimately lost.

I shared that analysis with Ralph Schulz, the president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce who one of the project's visible spokesmen on the hill over the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, he sees the outcome differently. So here's the other side:

"I don't see it as a blow," Schulz says. "I think it would have been better if the discussion about this project evolved next year, rather than this year. Because next year, you would have had final design plans, you would have had the community meetings, comments would have been done, discussion at the Metro Council, etc. I think this discussion in this legislature was premature. And so the fact I think that we were able to clear this legislature with a legitimate review process intact was good."

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Emails Show DA's Office Working Hard for Rob McGuire

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Would it shock you to know that most of the assistant district attorneys in the Nashville office are supporting former ADA Rob McGuire? Probably not. Some have even been using Channel 4's Dennis Ferrier to plug their friend.

Now, Glenn Funk's staff is likely voting for him, and Diane Lance probably has a sizable portion of the mayor's office behind her. These are not surprising things.

The difference, however, is that ADAs are not supposed to be campaigning on company (read: taxpayer) time. It's in the Little Hatch Act, and even in the district attorney's office's internal rules.

Sources tell Pith that there has been a fair amount of campaigning within the DA's office by McGuire supporters, even drawing reminders from the office that campaigning during office hours and using office resources is not permitted.

Emails given to Pith (reproduced below) show ADAs reminding colleagues of phone banks, poll watching and even asking them to donate. Since there are prohibitions on sending political email from government accounts, the notes were all sent from personal Gmail and MSN accounts. But the targets of the emails were all government employees, and the authors used government email address books (kept on either on servers or locally on their computers) in order to reach them, in this case a list titled "DA_Everyone."

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Who Among Us Has Not Kept A Quarter of a Million Dollars and Thirty-Eight Pit Bulls in Our Back Yards?

Posted by on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 5:30 AM

Sometimes a news story comes along and answers questions you didn't even know you had. For the past six to eight months, there have been noticeably more pit bulls running around loose between the Bordeaux Kroger and the ridge. I had just assumed people were abandoning their dogs out in the "country" as seems to be the local custom, but a more likely culprit would seem to be that local alleged dog-fighting alleged jerkface Michael Davis who seems to have kept three dozen dogs in his and his neighbor's back yards.

I know we've seen that white dog with the brown ear around. And there's occasionally a black female dog that hangs near the Quik Sak and sometimes gets down to the Kroger. I couldn't tell if that was the same dog WSMV has a picture of or not.

What I find interesting is that pit bulls are supposed to be so tough and scary — hence the need to keep them on thick chains and use special equipment for their breeding (the "rape" benches, like you see next to the treadmill). But these dogs are all obviously scared and in pain and relieved to have human beings near, even if the cringing they do suggests they've been hit. Anyone who knows anything about dogs and watches the videos of the removal is going to see a bunch of dogs who don't project confident badass in the least.

If you want people to think you're tough and scary, owning a bunch of timid, starving dogs is probably not the best way to accomplish that.

But this is my favorite part of the story, from The Tennessean:

Further searching today at Davis' home and at his neighbor James Jones' home uncovered the dogs' exercise logs, a jumper cable and $234,950 in cash that had been shrink wrapped and buried outside. Jones, 35, said he didn't know anything about the cash, which police said was on his property.

That, to me, says everything you need to know about pit bulls. Some dogs you could count on to actually guard your money. Thirty-eight Rottweilers in a back yard might make stumbling across someone's quarter-million rather difficult. The pit bulls? Not so much.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Haslam Weighs Executions at Christian Conference

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 12:30 PM

At an event that the governor’s office said yesterday would be held out of public view, Gov. Bill Haslam discussed his faith, how he balances his feelings about state executions and the role blue cities play in red states.

Haslam and Metro Nashville Mayor Karl Dean took questions before about 1,000 attendees at the Q Ideas conference, an event by the Christian group Q to explore faith and the individual and corporate roles shaping culture. The two were asked about politics and their professional relationships before moderator Gabe Lyons, the Q founder, asked the governor how, as a Christian, he feels about the death penalty and his option to pardon people set for execution.

“The most honest answer is I don’t know because they’re working their way to me, but one hasn’t actually hit with, ‘This is a real date that’s set and you have a decision to make,’” the governor said. “I can’t honestly answer when it comes down to 11 o’clock at night the night before, exactly what that will feel like and look like.”

The state expects to execute at least 10 death row inmates over the next two years. Two executions have been delayed since December, which included pushing back one originally scheduled to take place yesterday, April 22.

Haslam said he’s assembling a team of mental health providers, law enforcement and district attorneys to help him wade through each case as it comes up.

“I feel like my responsibility is to literally dive into each individual situation, talk to as many smart people about that situation as I can, pray about it then make that decision at that point in time. Again, that literally hasn’t happened yet but there are quite a few coming,” he said.

Haslam’s comments were originally planned to be out of the public eye. His communications officer Dave Smith put reporters on notice Tuesday the governor would be speaking at the Q event but said the group would require reporters pay a $775 registration fee to attend.

When reporters approached the event Wednesday morning without having paid the event fee, Smith motioned for reporters to follow him into the War Memorial Auditorium where the event was held to hear the governor’s speech.

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First Tennessee Park: The Birthplace of Baseball in Nashville

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 11:38 AM


Well, it's a good deal if you can get it.

Having convinced the city of Nashville to build them a new baseball stadium, and watched the deal breeze through an abbreviated approval process, Frank Ward and the Nashville Sounds have successfully sold the name of their new digs to First Tennessee Bank.

Metro won't be making any money from the deal. Mayor Karl Dean's spokeswoman, Bonna Johnson, tells Pith that was part of the deal "just like at LP Field and Bridgestone, and it was in the agreements approved by the Council."

After the jump, three reasons this is bumming us out:

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Bang The Gavel: Valet Sues Swingers Club For Unpaid Wages

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 9:14 AM

It's hard out here for a swingers club valet, as the old song goes.

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Joshua Gulden worked for more than nine months at Menages at 701 Drexel Street. The name is a little on the nose, but just in case we needed clarification, the federal complaint informs us Menages is, in fact, a "private swingers club."

During his nine months there, Gulden claims he was never paid any wages.

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Governor's Staff: You Can Cover Haslam, But You'll Have To Pay The Fee

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam will speak on a panel at a public event at War Memorial Auditorium tomorrow, but according to his press secretary, media will have to pay $775 in order to hear what Tennessee's highest ranking elected official has to say.

From: Dave Smith
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 4:42 PM

All —

Wanted to pass along that tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. the governor is participating in a Q Ideas panel in the War Memorial Auditorium. Media members are welcome to attend but, per the hosting organization, are being asked to pay a registration fee. We won’t have an avail afterward.


David Smith
Press Secretary
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam
(o) 615.741.3763
(f) 615.741.1416
Twitter: @DSmith_BHMedia

This type of event was at the heart of a dispute between the Capitol Hill press corps which covers the governor and Haslam's staff a couple of weeks ago.

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Not the Devil, But the Rednecks Made Them Do It

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 5:30 AM

Southern Baptist pastors are in town learning about sexuality and Blake Farmer has the story over at WPLN. On the one hand, it's commendable that the Southern Baptists are trying to find ways to remain true to their own beliefs without seeming like such tremendously smug assholes to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, I was taken aback by how much blame they seemed to be placing for their attitudes and behavior on rednecks. From Farmer's story:

“I just think we have to reject redneck theology in all of its forms,” pastor Jimmy Scroggins of West Palm Beach told ministers Monday night.


“We’ve run off at the mouth, said things we shouldn’t have said. We’ve run around like a peacock all over the platform. We have said things because we were playing to the home team, and they all liked our act. On this issue, nobody likes our act, except the redneck factor.” [Greg Belser of Clinton, MS]

Wait a second. The rednecks aren't to blame for pastors getting a charge off of making spectacles of themselves denouncing homosexuality. And I find it really icky that rednecks are being scapegoated here — like, if only these poor, rural, religious white people would be kinder, then these preachers wouldn't succumb to the temptation of making Adam and Steve jokes.

It seems to me that there's two problems being conflated here — one is a theological issue. If homosexuality is theologically incompatible with being a Southern Baptist, it's theologically incompatible with being a Southern Baptist. Fine, carry on, Southern Baptists. But please don't be surprised when your message of "God hates fa... er, homosexu... well, maybe God is kind of okay with celibate gay people." isn't embraced by the wider community. But the other is just an issue of human nature and I do feel free to comment on that. Society has changed. And the things you did, even five years ago, like make your little Adam and Steve jokes, are embarrassing today.

No one wants to look back and say "Wow, I was really behaving like a top-notch cad." But it's far better to just admit that the way you marketed your message was wrong than to cast about for someone other than yourself to blame for your actions. And it's especially problematic to cast about for the people with the least power in your congregations — the rednecks — to blame when you and I and everyone reading here knows that, when you made your Adam and Steve jokes, bankers and politicians laughed along, too.

Making like this is just a problem of you succumbing to the bad attitudes of some marginal part of your church is dishonest and unfair to the people you're blaming. And it lets the people you're not blaming, yourselves included, off the hook.

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