By Liz Murray Garrigan
For a while there, even the Metro Police Department’s mounted patrol didn’t know which way they could clippity-clop down Second Avenue. That was thanks to one well-meaning, annoyingly eager, and now- dethroned Paul Durham, who spent several years presiding over a little fiefdom called the Traffic and Parking Commission. As chairman of the Metro board that deals with the minutiae of the city’s traffic and signaling patterns, Durham took his task very seriously. Perhaps too seriously.
While he developed a loyal following, Durhamwhose day job is pastoring his Radnor Baptist Church parishionerswas pretty much single-handedly responsible for the ever-changing directional chaos on Second Avenue. Catering to the whims of merchants while also trying to satisfy patrons of the tourist strip, Durham supervised meetings that, at least to him, seemed to have the import of congressional hearings. He tried to be all things to all people. But not even a teetotaling man of God can pull that off.
Now the poor man may need a drink. Blindsided this week by a masterstroke of Mayor Bill Purcell, Durham was forced to give up his seat of lane-widening, red-light-placing, four-way-stopping, direction-changing power. Purcell and his staff made a series of calls to commission members to ensure that Durham’s chairmanship would not be extended once again. So, during Monday’s regular meeting of the commission, even Police Chief Emmett Turnerwho is technically a board member but almost never shows upappeared at the Howard School Building to cast his vote for a new chairman. Durham, however, is still a member of the commissionat least until his term expires in 2003.
“Second Avenue has gotten a lot of attention, but there are traffic and parking needs all across the community,” Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips says, not so subtly criticizing Durham’s intense focus on downtown’s traffic patterns. “It’s obviously an important commission and plays a major role in both the business and entertainment sides of the community.”
Only one lone loyalist, Council member Vic Lineweaver, voted this week to keep Durham as chairman. (As one of two nominees for chairman, Durham himself was not allowed to take part in the commission’s vote.) Meanwhile, the other five voting members anointed the other nominee, former Metro Planning Commission staffer Ed Owens, who works these days for Gresham Smith & Partners.
The blow to Durhamand the positive outlook the move provides for the rest of the commission, and even Nashvillianscarries more implications than just who will lead the group deciding whether a certain neighborhood will get a certain crosswalk. Durham, after all, always viewed his leadership on the commission as a vaulting point for a local political office. Last summer, after months of prattling about a possible run for mayor, then wallowing in political indecision, he decided he wouldn’t seek the office. But he didn’t rule out a future bid for vice mayor or the Metro Council.
It bears noting too that Durham ultimately endorsed not Purcell but former Mayor Richard Fulton in last year’s mayoral race, saying at the time, “When I look at all the candidates and the experience that is there, Richard Fulton has had 12 years as Nashville mayor and can probably hit the ground running faster than anyone else, including myself.”
For Durham detractors, his currency has long been devalued. Back in 1998, then-Mayor Phil Bredesenunder pressure from his staffdecided not to reappoint Durham to the commission; he even made a quasi-public statement to that effect at a meeting of Metro department heads. After a while, though, Bredesen caved to the fervent pleadings of Durham supporters and reappointed him. But the next time Durham did something annoying, Bredesen apologized to staffers, saying they’d been right all along.
Driven to distraction
Speaking of traffic and parking, Mayor Bill Purcell will be parking himself in traffic school in December after a recentand minorfender bender in his mayoral Saturn. The scrape with another car, in which both drivers were trying to turn left, was no big deal, but the mayor nonetheless has found himself scheduled for an evening with other traffic offenders.
The long view
Another Metro Council member is floating his name for Congress, a full two years in advance of Congressman Bob Clement’s expected run for governor. At-large Council member Chris Ferrell has already been very public about the fact that he will run for Clement’s seat, should the congressman abandon it.
Now at-large Metro Council member David Briley is also considering the race. He says he wanted to go ahead and tell friends and potential supporters so he could gauge his chances. “I can’t just sit on my hands because it’s still too early or because I’m too short or whatever,” Briley says.
To reach Liz, call 244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail email@example.com.
I voted for Dean and Pinkston....because they are goal orienated and not particular good Politicans…
Having a grandchild who attends Pre-K, and being the one who picks her up everyday…
He is so Cute......Thanks for the reading material....
The only "experts" on suicide are dead- of suicide. Therefore, it is imperative to differentiate…
Bubba, you are projecting your own attitudes and emotions onto me. I'm speaking up here…