Best of Nashville 2011: Media & Politics Writers' Choice 

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BEST FOOD-BLOG TRAILBLAZER: LANNAE'S FOOD AND TRAVEL
At a restaurant nowadays, it's not unusual to see someone lean back from a plate of food, arrange it just so, and snap a picture with their cell phone — in preparation for the food blog waiting at home. But when Lannae Long started Lannae's Food and Travel in 2005, Nashville food blogs were as scarce as iPhones. Hers may have been the very first — and even if it wasn't, it's still the oldest continuous (and continuing) food blog in the city: a patchwork journal of travels, biographical details and what-I-did-today updates, all linked by the common threads of dining and cooking.

"It's more of a 'my life and food' blog," says Long, an engineer by trade who grew up with California's Cantonese and Mexican cooking before moving to Boston. "It's mostly what I'm thinking when I'm eating somewhere."

That could be an ode to arepas, the cheese-stuffed corncake staple of Colombian street food; a post asking for help identifying an oddly shaped pepper in her garden; or a review of a Cantonese meal at the Atlanta-area restaurant Bobo Garden. But Nashvillians scour her blog for tips on unusual local eateries — whether she's recommending the bacon cheddar-stuffed burger at Hoss' Loaded Burger food truck or the Balkan pljeskavica (spiced beef and lamb patty) at the Euro Grill on Antioch Pike.

Other blogs feature more elegant writing or serve more as first responders on the local food scene: Long herself professes admiration for blogs such as Nashville Restaurants, Love and Olive Oil, and Pickled and Fried. But Lannae's scope — from backyard to overseas, from burgers and barbecue to kalbi with kimchi — embodies the culinary curiosity that is bringing the city's food scene to life. Put another way: You can eat local and still dream global — as Long does when she remembers the best dish she ever ate in Nashville, lobster ravioli in saffron sauce at F. Scott's.

"I can even picture it," Long says dreamily. "It had a square plate." Much as she loves restaurants like F. Scott's and her favorite, City House, she says Nashville's "really growing" food scene could stand some upgrades — starting with that wish-list reliable, a first-rate Cantonese or Shanghai-style restaurant. Oh, and some arepas, please. JIM RIDLEY


BEST TALK-RADIO CONSERVATIVE: PHIL VALENTINE, WTN-99.7 FM
Those of us with an appetite for political talk can't escape the reality that choices on the Nashville radio dial run an ideological gamut from awfully conservative to unhinged right-wing madness. Phil Valentine on 99.7 stands out as one who bloviates more with wit and humor than rancor or sanctimony, and seems less inclined than most of his brethren to mount arguments by just making shit up. He's the son of a former Democratic congressman (the enchantingly named Itimous Thaddeus Valentine Jr.), so maybe there's some progressive DNA lurking beneath Valentine's diverting on-air bluster. BRUCE BARRY

BEST NEWS RADIO: WPLN-90.3 FM
If WPLN's purchase of the WRVU broadcast license turned your stomach a bit, you're not alone. But give our local NPR affiliate their due for taking the airtime afforded by a new all-classical station and stocking it with even more news coverage, from an expanded All Things Considered (giving a bigger role to appealing local host Nina Cardona) to BBC's The World. And kudos to reporter Blake Farmer, whose segments have begun turning up regularly in the national broadcasts. Now if they could just find a spot for Nashville Jumps somewhere on their roster. STEVE HARUCH

BEST SPORTS TALK RADIO: "WAKE UP ZONE," 104.5 THE ZONE
Even chardonnay-sipping NPR listeners need to shift gears every so often, and when that radio-dial wanderlust beckons sportsward, the ticket is 104.5's morning "Wake Up Zone" with Kevin Ingram, Mark Howard and Frank Wycheck. These guys obviously love what they do, and they do it with intelligence and wit, without taking themselves or the stuff they cover too seriously. Wycheck's credibility on all things NFL is unimpeachable. Regular co-conspirator Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com lends a know-it-all wiseguy vibe that makes you wonder if Ed Koch might have launched a second career in sports journalism. BRUCE BARRY

BEST NOSTALGIA TRIP: "RETRO LIGHTNING," WRLT-100.1 FM
With Vanderbilt Student Communications doing its damnedest to make the online husk of WRVU irrelevant to campus and community alike, quality programming on other stations gleams all the more. Case in point: Fred Buc's immensely enjoyable Saturday morning show on Lightning 100, devoted each week to a different year and stuffed with three hours of hits, deep album cuts, TV themes, then-and-now artist spotlights and pop-culture trivia. And Buc's segment on vintage local releases turns up obscure gems most every week from the likes of Area Code 615, the White Animals, Mac Gayden and Barefoot Jerry. Buc's wayback machine runs 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday on WRLT-FM 100.1. JIM RIDLEY

BEST URBAN STATION: WQQK-92.1 FM
Things changed forever for lovers of soul, R&B and funk when the term "black" began disappearing from radio lexicon. As stations became "urban," such staples as colorful on-air personalities, public affairs programs and other features that emphasized the special relationship between DJ and fan began vanishing. But one place where those who love vintage radio can co-exist with 21st century listeners is 92Q, a station that successfully balances uniqueness and mass appeal. A regular contender for the top spot locally with country and talk juggernauts, "The Big Station" nicely alternates a national focus and a local perspective. They have the urban sphere's most popular weekday syndicated talk shows with Tom Joyner (5-9 a.m.) and Michael Baisden (2-7 p.m.), while mid-mornings and early afternoons belong to the man who holds everything down on and off the air, Kenny Smoov (9 a.m.-2 p.m.) — who is both an award-winning DJ and honored military veteran. Similarly, the Sunday lineup also mixes national programs (Walt "Baby" Love and Bebe Winans) with Connie Dennell's Nashville institution Gospel Inspirations (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) and veteran newsman Ernie Allen and Rev. Harold Love's news and information program Let's Talk (8-9 a.m.). Fiona, Monique, Majic Jackson, Tyson Smith, Carmen Jaye and Jene India are among the other jocks who keep WQQK relevant and entertaining. RON WYNN

BEST URBAN DJ: A.G. GRANDERSON, 101.1 THE BEAT JAMZ
The average guy would find being the co-owner of a premier nightspot more than enough to occupy his time. But A.G. Granderson not only spends most of his nights keeping things going smoothly at Jazz & Jokes, in the former Caffe Milano space downtown, he holds court six days a week on one of the city's best radio shows — a combination of humor, hipness and musical adventure. Granderson's on the airwaves at 101.1 The Beat (weekdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.), the younger-skewing perennial challenger to 92Q for urban/R&B supremacy. But while Granderson's sounds adhere to the demographic that's made worldwide personalities of T.I. and Lil Wayne (in spite of their troubles), his style and approach also contain a veteran's flair and flavor. He may not have adopted the patter and rhetoric of old-school jocks, but he has their ability to grab and hold an audience. Granderson's program comes as close possible on broadcast radio to equaling satellite radio's irreverence and unpredictability, despite not getting their freedom to air uncensored material (although at times he tiptoes right up to the line). Still, A.G. keeps listeners guessing what he'll say next and what song is coming up — and that isn't something you get from many jocks on commercial radio these days. RON WYNN

BEST COUNTRY DJ: EDDIE STUBBS, WSM-650 AM
We've given him the honor before, but this may have been his biggest year yet. In June, Stubbs celebrated his 15th year on the night shift at WSM-AM — the longest anyone's held that slot in the 85-year history of Nashville's country-radio jewel. To hear him is to be reminded of radio's power not just to reach people, but to connect them. His shows are winding, free-form affairs, never more so than when the Grand Ole Opry announcer digs into his own seemingly bottomless trove of vintage 45s, LPs and 78s and says the words his listeners long to hear: "deep catalog." And with the music comes conversational commentary from a guy who's been poring over discographical details since he was just a kid. If you've never understood why people make such a fuss about country music, drive around on a weeknight between the hours of seven and midnight, with Stubbs' river-bottom baritone, impeccable honky-tonk taste and encyclopedic knowledge as your companion. And if that doesn't do the trick, feel free to swerve into the Cumberland. JEWLY HIGHT & JIM RIDLEY

BEST LOCAL MEDIA PERSONALITY TO GO NATIONAL: ELIZABETH COOK, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN
In a just world, Cook the artist would be tearing up the country radio charts right alongside the Pistol Annies, whom she more than matches in sass, smarts and songwriting chops (not to mention bombshell looks, just to make the injustice all the greater). But in the world we've got, the East Nashvillian did something just as cool: She became a radio personality herself with a frank, knowing, funny and unapologetically downhome weekday show, Elizabeth Cook's Apron Strings, on Sirius/XM's excellent Outlaw Country station. In its early days, she encountered listeners who'd pictured her as the gray-headed homemaker type, an image that's miles from reality. But the way her profile's risen — due not just to radio, but also her standout album, Welder — you'd have to guess that kind of thing doesn't happen much anymore. Especially after she caught the attention of Letterman, a fan, who had her on his Aug. 22 show for a 10-minute segment. It ran just long enough for Cook to thoroughly disarm the smitten host and audience with hilariously candid tales about her daddy's moonshine career and prison band, and how she rebelled — by going to college. She'll be back. In the meantime, she's performing at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at Cheekwood. JEWLY HIGHT & jIM RIDLEY

BEST LOCAL MEDIA SCANDAL TO GO NATIONAL: TRACY MORGAN
Of all the places to launch into a homophobic bit that came across more ignorant and half-baked than ballsy or timely, actor-comedian Tracy Morgan picked The Ryman. His return trip to Nashville and subsequent apologetic press conference at the Nashville Convention Center certainly seemed genuine enough. It's just that ... well, it also seemed like a 30 Rock scene from which all the jokes had been surgically extracted. As Tina Fey's Tracy Jordan, Tracy's gaffes are innocuous and hilarious. As real-life Tracy Morgan, let's just say that — at least in this case — no one was laughing. D. PATRICK RODGERS

BEST USE OF MEDIA CLOUT: MIKE CURB
When Belmont women's soccer coach Lisa Howe left her post after her same-sex partner became pregnant, a nationwide furor erupted: Was Belmont practicing discrimination against gays — and at Christmastime, of all ironies? Would the entertainment industry break its ties with the university if that were the case? Could the university survive without that support? When Curb Event Center and Curb College namesake Mike Curb told the press, "I promise you if the matter is not resolved, I will continue speaking out about this the rest of my life," it signaled to Belmont that it needed to find a way to repair the damage, or risk antagonizing one of its largest benefactors. Just as importantly, it signaled to a lot of music-industry people on the verge of withdrawing their support that Belmont was not a lost cause if Curb believed in it enough to take the battle public. Curb's public pressure, though surely painful, kept the university intact. BETSY PHILLIPS

BEST MEDIA PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE: BELMONT VISION
It may seem self-apparent that the best coverage of a university event might come from student media. But that would be selling the Belmont Vision's coverage of the Lisa Howe uproar short. They broke the story, they had quotes no one else could get (including The New York Times and Washington Post reporters down the hall), they had updates every day, and regular video coverage. Belmont Vision staffers (kudos in particular to Pierce Greenberg) were tweeting events as they happened and doing in-depth analysis. The best coverage of the story — better than ours, better than The Tennessean's — was done by those students, all of whom at the time didn't know whether they'd be shut down or expelled for covering the controversy. Talk about working under fire. BETSY PHILLIPS

BEST RETIRING COLUMNIST: DWIGHT LEWIS
As a 19-year-old from East Tennessee with journalistic aspirations, I didn't see a surplus of blacks at major (or minor) newspapers in the early '70s serving as role models. But one day while I was home visiting from college, my mother pointed with pride to a byline from someone she recognized. He had gone to the same high school where my father had been a vocational teacher for many years. It was Dwight Lewis in the Tennessee State University newspaper The Meter. While I secretly planned to stay on the East Coast after graduation, I filed away that name — and for more than 40 years I've followed it. Fortunately, I've also gotten to know Dwight some, though nowhere near as well as I would have liked. But he's been a busy man, a top journalist and editor as well as a distinguished member of the national coalition of black columnists the Trotter Group. Dwight Lewis concludes a distinguished career this year, one that's seen him interview the likes of Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama. He's also held down the fort at The Tennessean as someone unafraid to address thorny issues of race and class (sometimes angering as many blacks as whites). His byline will be missed, but perhaps now he can do more things he enjoys. One other thing we share besides East Tennessee roots: I also wanted to be a baseball player, but couldn't hit a curve ball. Don't know if that was Dwight's problem. RON WYNN

BEST PODCAST WE DON'T HOST: THEATRE INTANGIBLE
Tony Youngblood's Theatre Intangible has the dubious honor of being the target of VSC's first shot across WRVU's bow. Thanks to an allegedly indecent show featuring Dave Cloud, the experimental noise program was dropped from the airwaves and its hosts banned from the station. Since then, Theater Intangible has found new life online with episodes featuring live local experimental artists like Hobbledeions and, in their very special 50th episode, a "hostage situation" inside WRVU itself. LANCE CONZETT

BEST CANDIDATE FOR ADULT SWIM: MIKE SALVA
Squat blue dog to skinny yellow dog, behind bars: "I am cold. You're lookin' at six hard nipples right here." So begins the trailer for "Pound Dogs," a proposed animated series directed by Nashville animator Salva and starring local comics Ryan Williams and Sean Parrott, along with locals such as musician/filmmaker Steve Taylor and former Jem voice talent Samantha Newark. It killed 'em at the recent New York Television Festival, a "development incubator" designed to foster original programming, where MTV awarded it two $5,000 development deals for writing and animation. On top of that, Salva, who's lived and worked in Nashville for 15 years, and voice director Tom Snyder won a $25,000 development deal sponsored by Microsoft search engine Bing for their entry "Death Row Diet," in which Jonathan Katz (from the Comedy Central cult favorite Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist) and Seinfeld scribe Tom Leopold lend voice to an animated slice of life on ... well, check the title. Good stuff — and so firmly within the Adult Swim sardonic-stoner sensibility it might have been pitched by a talking meatball and a flying shake. JIM RIDLEY

BEST SATIRICAL WEBSITE: DoTNRepublicansHaveAJobsPlan.com
Sometimes it's OK to be a one-trick donkey. Soon after the state GOP took control of the legislature some 264 days ago on a we're-gonna-create-us-some-jobs message, the Davidson County Young Democrats set up a bare-bones website. Smack in the middle, in huge type, is the one-word answer to a simple question: "Do Tennessee Republicans Have a Jobs Plan?" The answer, you may have guessed, is still "No." The more things change, etc. STEVE HARUCH

BEST LOCAL WEBSITE FOR LIVING ON THE CHEAP: DIXIE DOWNTURN
Their tagline is "You're broke. We're broke. Let's party." They have guides for places to eat and drink under $10. They do art reviews of local graffiti. What's not to love about Dixie Downturn? Sure, the economy is in the crapper and we're never going to be able to retire, but thanks to the folks at Dixie Downturn — including Scene contributor Lance Conzett — we have a local survival guide for the Great Recession. Find some free wi-fi and read it at dixiedownturn.com. BETSY PHILLIPS

BEST LOCAL NEWS TWITTER FEED: (TIE) MICHAEL CASS /JOEY GARRISON
Ever wanted to live the life of a political beat writer, dashing around the city to attend commission meetings, public hearings and press conferences? Of course not. But if you follow The City Paper's Joey Garrison (@joeygarrison) or The Tennessean's Michael Cass (@tnmetro) on Twitter, you get something better: a real-time readout on some of the machinations that make our city go, without having to find parking. STEVE HARUCH

BEST WEATHER UPDATES: NASHVILLE SEVERE WEATHER
A thunderstorm or tornado warning is nerve-fraying enough without having to watch TV meteorologists zooming in and out with their storm tracker software and cycling through dozens of towns. The Twitter feed @NashSevereWx not only tracks and analyzes storms in real time, but will also respond to specific questions. If information — like what time it's going to start raining in Bell Buckle — isn't relevant, you can scroll right past. And he's almost always right about when and how the sky's about to get serious. STEVE HARUCH

BEST SPORTS BLOG: ON THE FORECHECK
Dirk Hoag's Predators-centric blog OnTheForecheck.com is the crème de la crème of a boom crop of local sports blogs. Aided ably by a handful of merry prankster assistant editors, Hoag does yeoman's work at OTF: twice-daily news dumps, statistical analysis, game recaps. But as always, a blog is only as good as its readers, and the comment threads are strong distillations of the best (and sometimes, worst) of fandom: rollicking non sequitur discussions, cheers, jeers and in-jokes. OTF is a family — with all the baggage that carries — and it's at its best when Poppa Dirk lets the kids get away with a little mischief. J.R. LIND

BEST STYLE BLOGGER: ZARNA SURTI
You can choose to hate those girls who look impeccably sharp every day, or you can choose to learn from them. Local style goddess Zarna Surti is here to help you, and to push you past your comfort zone without the risk of looking like a total fashion don't. On ZarnasRunway.blogspot.com, Ms. Surti shows you how to rock trends that you may have shied away from, explaining how to wear and where to buy everything from high-waisted flares to sheer lace skirts. ABBY WHITE PLACHY

BEST ELECTRONIC MUSIC BLOG: NASHVILLE NIGHTS
Sometimes a blog should just be a blog. Yes, there's something to be said for making altruistic overtures and putting on dance nights and showcasing the city's social scene. But frankly, most of the time when we're cruising the 'Net we're just on the hunt for some damn good tunes. Which is why we keep coming back to nashvillenightsblog.com — they're one of the city's most reliable sources for hot new national and international dance music. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST HIP-HOP BLOG: BREAK ON A CLOUD
The crew at breakonacloud.com would be the first to tell you that they cover more than just hip-hop — you can find indie rock, electronic and pop in their feed. But it's their constant coverage of the local hip-hop landscape that made us stand up and take notice. In the nine months since they first hit the scene, BOAC has thoroughly documented the sights and sounds of the burgeoning hip-hop underground. SEAN L. MALONEY

BEST STREET FASHION BLOG: UNDER THE GUISE
When she's not traipsing around London for Elle magazine or snapping photos for the street fashion section of their website, Heidi Jewell steals around Nashville capturing some of our most strikingly dressed denizens. Peruse her blog, undertheguise.com, and Nashville is instantly transformed into a colorful tableau of preternaturally stylish people, crisscrossing the city and pausing for a moment in alleys, behind shops and outside basement rock shows for Jewell's watchful lens. STEVE HARUCH

BEST CONSERVATIVE: BOB CORKER
If Bredesen were to run for the U.S. Senate, he would post up against Republican incumbent Bob Corker in 2012 — which is unlikely. They love one another. As to Corker, you can't help but like him unless you're a right-wing head case who feels he's not "conservative" enough (or a left-winger who resents his popularity). Relentlessly upbeat, Corker exudes a natural optimism that makes you think Can-Do American Attitude, and he has made his greatest impact by taking on vastly complicated issues. When Washington bailed out Detroit, Corker read the fine print. Ditto financial and banking regulation. Word is that when Corker arrived in Washington, he floundered until he realized that if he did a little homework — and nobody else did theirs, as is typical — he would do just fine. If Corker ever gets his public speaking down, I'm thinking we're looking at a nice presidential package. BRUCE DOBIE

BEST LIBERAL: SOUTHERN BEALE
Take clearheaded analysis, soak it in 150-proof prose, light the wick and throw it through the window of stupidity, and you've got Southern Beale. It's one of the best-written and most engaging blogs in Nashville regardless of political slant, and Beale makes no apologies for her liberal ideals — in her posts or in her interactions with commenters, many of whom don't line up on the same side of the political gymnasium. But as her blog tagline at southernbeale.wordpress.com implies — "Mad as y'all, not taking it anymore" — she's got a sense of humor, too. Just don't forget she's one tough S.B. STEVE HARUCH

Best Metro Council Provocateur: JAMIE HOLLIN
You didn't have to support everything outgoing Jamie Hollin championed during his two years in office to appreciate the feistiness of the outgoing East Nashville councilman. Was he a council punk? Critics said so. A populist and provocateur? Absolutely. More than anything, he proved to be an officeholder who actually gave a damn, willing to (gasp!) use his seat on the 40-member council to question the wisdom of the mayor's office. In short time, Hollin racked up some impressive feats. He helped spur an important debate on gays rights by pushing through a nondiscrimination law later nullified by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican state legislature. He questioned the merits of the Gallatin Road Specific plan, pointing out the set of design-oriented zoning guidelines has perhaps thwarted development along the pawn-shop infested corridor. And most notably, Hollin emerged as the crucial behind-the-scenes vote-counter to build council support to derail Mayor Karl Dean's fairgrounds redevelopment plans. That effort evolved into a push for a public referendum to make redeveloping the fairgrounds more difficult, which passed overwhelmingly. Love him or hate him, Hollin knew how to win. After all, he was the first individual in Metro history to successfully recall an elected official via recall. That made his decision not to seek another term on the council all the more puzzling. JOEY GARRISON

BEST DEPARTING METRO MAINSTAY: MARILYN SWING
In the era of Metro Council term limits, implemented in the mid 1990s, nothing much stays the same in the city's legislative body. Council members find their voices — and quickly exit right after they grasp the ins and outs of the legislative process. Outside of council mainstays Tim Garrett, Ronnie Steine and Charlie Tygard, institutional memory is largely a thing of the past. But one constant for the past 27 years was Metro Clerk Marilyn Swing, who sat below the vice mayor during council meetings and performed the unflattering work of governmental recordkeeping and making documents accessible with grace and politeness. Always on top of her game, she was a favorite among media members and council members alike. Swing, a 35-year veteran of Metro government and the daughter of the late former Vice Mayor David Scobey, said she was ready to retire and move to a new stage in her life. Council members recognized her service with a standing ovation. Her replacement is Ana Escobar, the first Hispanic woman to lead a Metro department. JOEY GARRISON

BEST CONTENDER FOR HIGHER OFFICE: MEGAN BARRY
Unlike most politicians, At-large Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry doesn't shy away from her interest in seeking higher office. Speaking on record, Barry, a favorite among local progressives (and the wife of longtime Scene contributor Bruce Barry), won't rule out a 2015 mayoral run or campaigning for Congress whenever Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper decides to step down. (Many Nashville liberals wish she would opt to challenge Cooper — the Blue Dog of all Blue Dog Democrats — in a future primary instead.) No doubt the 47-year-old Barry has emerged as one of Nashville's key political figures to watch. In August's general election, Barry was the leading vote-getter among Metro's five at-large winners, all incumbents. But her future potential candidacies could have some challenges. You see, in Barry's world, progressive politics have somehow been possible while also maintaining strong ties with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and other traditionally conservative spheres of influence. That could be a difficult line to continue to walk. JOEY GARRISON

BEST PROTEST: METRO COUNCIL FAIRGROUNDS HEARING
It's not often Metro politics blips on the radar of The New York Times, but in the Metro Council chamber on the night of Jan. 18, 2011, a reporter from the country's most respected daily sat next to a City Paper scribe — me — and the illustrious Rudy Kalis. The Times reporter witnessed a memorable show, as thousands of red-clad fairgrounds supporters filled the courthouse from top floor to basement to deliver their plea to stop Mayor Karl Dean's fairgrounds redevelopment plans at a scheduled public hearing. Longtime Metro observers said it was the largest crowd to ever attend a council meeting. In the end, council members listened, opting to scrap a bill to demolish the fairgrounds speedway, instead establishing that a new master plan should decide the 117-acre property's fate. Critics often derided the pro-fairgrounds bunch as out-of-county residents who cared solely about the racetrack and not the financial stability of the property as whole. Fair enough. But it's hard to imagine Dean's fairgrounds initiative sinking if not for the unrelenting protest of everyday citizens. JOEY GARRISON

BEST STAND AGAINST BIGOTRY: METRO'S NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCE
There are plenty of empty gestures in politics — that's mostly what politics is — but let the record show that our Metro Council emphatically said no to discrimination based on sexual orientation or anything else. Sure, it merely strengthened and clarified the policy that was already in place. Sure, our dim-witted state legislature effectively struck it down. It was still the right thing to do. STEVE HARUCH

BEST PUBLIC ART IDEA: NASHVILLE FREEDOM RIDERS MEMORIAL
Many historians consider the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins a pivotal moment in the push against racial segregation. And when buses carrying Freedom Riders were torched, it was Nashville that supplied the next wave of reinforcements — all of whom signed their last will and testament before embarking for Alabama. Yet we are the rare Southern city with neither a street named for Martin Luther King Jr., nor a monument commemorating our role in the civil rights movement. Former councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite tried to get the ball rolling, but her term expired. Let's not forget where we came from. STEVE HARUCH

BEST LONG-TERM METRO GOAL: THE OPEN SPACE PLAN
As Davidson County's suburban areas — led by sprawling Antioch — continue to balloon with cookie-cutter subdivisions, Mayor Karl Dean has begun the implementation of a plan so obvious it may actually preserve the city's last vestiges of undeveloped land. Dean, with the help of The Land Trust of Tennessee, this spring kicked off Metro's so-called open space plan, which carries the bold goal of protecting 22,000 acres of land over the next 25 years through the government purchasing property and other means. Sure, the plan — which initiated with Metro buying the 135-acre Cornelia Fort Airpark to add to East Nashville's Shelby Park — doesn't seem entirely defined. And it will no doubt be expensive. But preservation does seem like a noble goal for a city that lost 9,000 acres of land and 45 farms during a recent five-year stretch. For a mayor who routinely trumpets the notion of Nashville becoming the "greenest city in the Southeast," the open space plan seems like a logical step. JOEY GARRISON

BEST HOPE FOR TENNESSEE DEMOCRATS: PHIL BREDESEN
Maybe "Only Hope" would be more accurate. I don't know where Tennessee Democrats go from here. The wilderness is deep and wide. The party seemed to breathe its last gasp at the recent funeral of Democratic heavyweight Ned McWherter. The rural, white, conservative wing of the party expired with him. But maybe the thoughtful Bredesen can take his eyes off making his next $100 million long enough to craft a vision and ideology that state Democrats can rally around. Bredesen for U.S. Senate? Unlikely, but you can bet he's going to get lobbied mighty hard by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in coming months. BRUCE DOBIE

BEST POTENTIAL BRAIN TRUST: JIM BRADFORD, ROBERT FISHER, BILL IVEY
Jim Bradford, dean of the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, took the helm when Owen wasn't exactly rocketing up the national rankings. He then infused it with legitimacy and prestige. Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University, has probably overseen one of the most respectable ramp-ups of any business or nonprofit in this city in the last decade (that little Lisa Howe imbroglio notwithstanding). Bill Ivey is the former longtime head of the Country Music Foundation who then went on to run the National Endowment for the Arts and then Vanderbilt's Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy. My guess is all three are nearing retirement age, and I'm reasonably certain their golf games suck. But they are all so bright and accomplished that they should be pressed to focus their combined acumen on some vexing local problem, whatever that might be. What the hell — call a fourth guy, Keel Hunt, and get him to articulate the problem. BRUCE DOBIE

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