Deputy Mayor Phillips' innocent bewilderment ("Jailhouse Brawl," May 27) recalls my small son's claim that he didn't know why his sister was screaming, while omitting mention that he left her tied up in the doghouse. Sheriff Daron Hall isn't as gullible as my 3-year-old, and the Purcell administration's efforts to leave him tied up in the doghouse regarding jail expansion cost overruns are as transparently self-serving and disingenuous as the denials of a guilty child.
Hall's hands were tied by a multimillion-dollar consulting contract awarded to an out-of-state, unlicensed prison "expert." The mayor's office would now have Hall sit passively in the doghouse and swallow responsibility for a process from which he was excludedthe design of his own jails. Being an expert, New York consultant Don Stoughton found no need to confer with Hall about Nashville's jails. He simply dusted off an old prison blueprint, relabeled it "Metro Jail" and headed South, blissfully ignorant of significant differences between jails and prisons.
Oops. Stoughton was also ignorant of Tennessee law, which requires jails to meet Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) standards. According to Phillips, "We used a set of standards [Hall] didn't accept, so we said OK and granted his request [that TCI standards be met]." Talk about delusions of grandeurthe mayor's office granted the sheriff's request to abide by the law? That's a little creepy.
If Hall is Metro's "corrections guy," as Phillips characterizes him, it's too bad his advice wasn't sought before the consultant sold his bill of not-so-goods and sailed back to New York on his (very plush) magic consultant's carpet. A former law professor used to say, "The expert is always the man from out of town."
428 Carl Miller Dr., Antioch
Not our week
Loved the piece written by David Maddox about the show my colleague and I are in at the Fugitive Art Center, but he's gotten the two of us mixed up ("Scraps, May 27). He describes Aaron's work, but attributes it to me and vice versa. I'm Tim Dooley, and I did "Mixed Product," Aaron did "Parlor." Thanks for caring enough to write about art at all.
Phil loves trees
After reading your editorial ("Hey Bredesen: It's the Land Stupid," May 20), I wanted to offer Scene readers a more complete picture of our administration's current conservation strategy. As you noted, Tennessee parks are absolute gems. Tennessee's 54 state parks have the third-highest number of parkland acres in the Southeastjust behind Florida and West Virginia. Even more important, the quality of our parks and the attending staff is the reason Tennessee has one of the highest visitation rates of any park system in the southeastern U.S.
While your land figures did reference 180,000 acres of state parks and natural areas, you did not mention the 162,000 acres managed by Tennessee's Division of Forestry, nor did you count the 404,000 acres of state wildlife areas and refuges managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Coupled with nearly 2 million federal acres, the math indicates almost 10 percent of Tennessee is owned or managed through public hands.
You are correct that Tennessee's growth and dynamic economy put certain stresses on our land. That's why the governor has asked me to work with other state agencies to produce a consolidated state lands inventory and assessment. As the state translates its formal conservation commitment into public investments, the governor has directed us to develop objectives, priorities and expected rates of return as we move forward. Effective July 1, the state's budget reflects our priorities of partnership, preservation and targeted investment in the future of Tennessee. The state land acquisition fund is essentially restored to its previous $17 million per year funding, plus an added $3 million, which has been set aside to purchase 8,000 acres in Franklin County through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy. This particular piece of the South Cumberland range, known as the Bedsole tract, is widely regarded as one of the most important biological systems in the country and is imminently conservable.
Also, working with the Friends of South Cumberland State Recreation Area and The Conservation Fund, the state is currently poised to add nearly 7,000 acres from Fiery Gizzard Trail to the South Cumberland Recreation Area. Our shared goal is for these lands to be used for recreation, biodiversity and economic benefit of the local communities.
But even beyond all of this, I can tell you from personal experience that Phil Bredesen is a man who will deliver on land conservation. Metro Parks increased its acreage by about 40 percent during his tenure as mayor. From Shelby Bottoms to Beaman Park, then-Mayor Bredesen made Nashville and all of Middle Tennessee richer in public spaces. He will do the same as governor. Your closing line was right on target: "The time is right, and he's the right guy to do it."
Jim Fyke, deputy commissioner
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
401 Church St., Nashville
In last week's issue of the Scene (City Limits), you incorrectly characterized the following quote, which was taken from the article I wrote for The Vanderbilt Register on the protests surrounding Condoleezza Rice's speech during Vanderbilt's commencement week: "I don't think they should use our graduation as a political platform," said graduating senior Chris Ochsner. "This is my moment, not theirs." I think it's important to note that he was speaking about the protesters, not Vanderbilt's administration.
Joan Brasher, Assistant Editor
The Vanderbilt Register
When Nashville-Post.com reported last month that President Bush would participate in a "faith-based event" during his campaign stop in Nashville, no one knew it would be at Vanderbilt. But that's exactly what last Thursday's "Conversation on Healthcare Information Technology" felt like: a Karl Rove-brand pep rally for Tennessee Republicans who have faith that Dubya is God's right hand and health care IT will distract the masses from Iraq. Meanwhile, about 200 protesters greeted the presidential motorcade en route to a fundraiser in Forest Hills, where a surprising number of SUVs honked to oppose Bush. Despite the protesters' efforts and a fake terrorist threat at the airport, the Republican National Committee made a tidy $1.7 million at the event.
Less crime, more time
Tennessee's prison population grew by 4.7 percent last year, making this state's incarcerated population the fourth-fastest growing in the country despite declining national and local crime rates. Experts point to cheap voter ploys like mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and "three strikes you're out" laws as reasons for the increase. Meanwhile, the prison-industrial complex continues to build facilities in rural Tennessee under the guidance of a Department of Correction that currently claims to be refocusing itself on rehabilitation. New employees Gayle Ray and Jim Cosby have their work cut out for them.
The Apprentice (x 40)
How's this for a reality show: Take 40 grandstanding politicians with 40 chips on their respective shoulders, have a micromanaging mayor send them a lean Metro budget, and then get the pols to agree on some cuts. That's this month's fun in the Metro Council, where everyone's pet project will be too sacred to touch. Watch the sparks fly on Channel 3. Better yet, don't.
Rite of spring
Nashvillians dove for the basement late Sunday night as a line of strong storms swept through the midstate. While Davidson County saw fireworks, wind and rain, areas south of Nashville bore the brunt of Mother Nature's fury. A 7-year-old Giles County girl was killed, and injuries and property damage were reported across the state.
Other plague news
Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr courageously broke the silence on Sunday, pointing out that the 17-year cicadas have stood us up. That's right: Brood X isn't noisily mating all over the place. If you happen to spot a lonely chirper in need of companionship, call the UT Agricultural Extension office at 832-6802.
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"Some people don't understand blog versus hard news."
Projection at its finest!