In the Hopper 

A judgeship, a baseball stadium and financial disclosures

A judgeship, a baseball stadium and financial disclosures

Right now, the cast of Davidson County General Sessions Court judges is about as diverse as a Rush Limbaugh mixer or, for that matter, a Howard Dean rally. In fact, of the current 10 jurists who preside over misdemeanor and small claims cases, none is black. But in November, the Metro Council will vote to fill a vacancy, and one of the favorites is Andrei Lee, an African American juvenile court referee.

“We don’t have a single racial minority on the bench,” says at-large member David Briley. “In my opinion as a lawyer, it threatens the integrity of the court system for it to be so lacking in diversity, especially when you have a high percentage of African Americans going through general sessions court.”

Lee and attorneys Dianne Turner, Rosemary Sexton, Richard Tennent and Ana Escobar are expected to be among the favorites vying for the open seat, which became vacant when Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed Mark Fishburn to one of the two newly created criminal court judgeships. Observers say all are qualified, but Lee might have an edge if the Metro Council is looking to add an African American to the bench. Council members are expected to select a candidate at the beginning of November.

Interestingly, former council member Lawrence Hart, who got some experience as a defendant when he was arrested for shoplifting in his first term, seems to think that his experience with the criminal justice system taught him something. He has contacted council members about the position.

Unlike the last Metro Council, which didn’t deal with many contentious issues until its final year, the newly elected local lawmakers (whose first meeting was Tuesday of this week) will grapple with at least one formidable project right off the bat. The Nashville Sounds are expected to introduce a proposal to build a new ballpark downtown with city-backed bonds.

During last summer’s Metro elections, many district and at-large candidates worked themselves into a lather about how important it was not to raise property taxes. Some of them even signed a pledge saying they wouldn’t agree to one under any circumstances. But many of them felt differently about the Sounds project, which, in theory at least, won’t cost tax dollars if the park is a sufficient hit with the fans. In any case, the mayor’s office has been surprisingly receptive to the idea of a ballpark downtown and, with their blessing, the proposal will likely glide through council.

Another issue the council might tackle is good government legislation. Right now, accessing campaign finance disclosures in Metro is difficult—and purposely so. As it stands now, if you want to see how much money Gaylord gave to your district candidate, you have to trek downtown and sign a release, which, low and behold, gets mailed to your district council member. Now that your council member knows that you’ve been snooping, so much for getting that pothole filled.

But newly elected council member Mike Jameson, who inherits the liberal and pesky District 6 in East Nashville, says that all campaign finance disclosures should be online, where everybody can access them. It’s one of those commonsense ideas that the Metro Council loves to reject. “It’s a no-brainer,” Jameson says of the need to put such information online. “What we have now is the byproduct of the good ol’ boy system from years ago that intimidates people from seeking those disclosures.”

The Metro Council is also expected to vote to select its representative to the Metro Planning Commission as early as this week. Of the two candidates running for the job, one, J.B. Loring, is as pro-development as they come, frequently voting to override the Metro Planning Commission on zoning bills. Tellingly, he is supported by real estate lawyer and lobbyist Tom White, who is to local developers what Fleetwood is to Mac. The other candidate, Hillsboro Village Council member Ginger Hausser, has retained the support of various neighborhood leaders and has never been associated with the developer clique.


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