Even ink-stained wretches need vacations, so this week we offer some editorial highlights (lowlights?) from the year we’re about to leave behind. Behold…again:
• Bredesen’s failure to preserve TennCare in something close to its current form is probably the disappointment of his career. But the pervasive point of view—“oooohhhhh, he’s so smart, if he can’t do it, no one can”—has been a consistent annoyance for those of us who consider Bredesen a living, breathing mortal with shortcomings just like anyone else.
• After a review committee recommended for the second time that it approve a science and engineering charter school in North Nashville, where several public schools are on the state’s failing list, the school board (also for the second time) contrived some handy bureaucratic excuses to keep students and parents from having this choice. The effect, of course, was to deny students in underperforming schools the chance to get a better education.
• You’d think that the notorious John Ford’s crooked antics would inspire righteous indignation from more than a single government watchdog. Barry Schmittou is the only person in Tennessee to step up and file the onerous paperwork and make a sworn statement against this public official, who has defied disclosure laws and, worse, used his Senate position to benefit himself personally. Everyone in the state should be grateful for the fact that Schmittou took the time to call it like pretty much all of us see it.
• Gov. Bredesen has, time and time again, invoked his “deep personal and religious values.” Yet he’s unwilling to stand up for the notion that some 10,000 children living in often-volatile foster situations and group homes across Tennessee have a right to be happy with loving parents of any sexual orientation.
• We wouldn’t lose sleep at night if the three men who in 1998 dragged James Byrd to his death behind a pickup truck in Texas no longer shared this earth with us. And it didn’t raise our emotional hackles when, in 2000, Robert Glenn Coe was the first Tennessee death row inmate to be executed here in 40 years. He sodomized, brutalized and killed a little girl, and there was no question about his guilt. All of this is anathema to you candlelight vigilantes who view yourselves as enlightened and progressive. But—and this is where you liberals can get your jaws up off the floor—ultimately, our view merges with yours. The concept of the death penalty isn’t the problem; the application and determination of it is.
• We hate to say it, but state Sen. Jeff Miller got his. Were he not one of the Senate’s most intrusive moralizers—a man who wants the government to decide who can marry, who wants to legislate the “sanctity of marriage,” and who makes no bones about finding gays unfit to wed (even though his brother is a heathen homo)—his own divorce and alleged cheating wouldn’t have been a news story all across the state. But he is—and it was.
• Sen. Bill Frist’s participation in the “Justice Sunday” freak show organized by right-wing nut jobs like Albert Mohler Jr.—a Shiite Baptist type who calls the Catholic Church “a false church” that “teaches a false gospel” and who says the “Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office”—represents the worst kind of religious exploitation. What’s more, Frist’s servility has done nothing to help reach compromise or resolution on the judicial nominations issue and served only to let evangelicals know that Frist is willing to pimp out Jesus to get conservative activist judges approved.
• Nothing against the development of the Franklin Pike property strip that used to be home to Melrose Lanes, but we will miss the popular bowling joint’s vaguely roller-rink smell and its smoky, poorly lit atmosphere. This place was second only to Greer Stadium for the inevitable coexistence of preppies and white trash alike.
• As is now transparently clear, Sen. Frist spent the entire year careening downhill, looking foolish over everything from his refusal—on TV, no less—to say that HIV cannot be spread through tears and sweat, to his getting a flu shot that should have been reserved for the aging and ill, to his threatened “nuclear” option that was ultimately averted only because some more reasonable members of his party found middle ground, and, finally, to the Terri Schiavo fiasco.
• During months of public debate, court hearings and negotiations over TennCare, advocates, lawyers, enrollees, even editorial writers failed to sway Gov. Bredesen and the other folks in power who pull the levers. But that’s exactly what makes this democracy in action—and those keeping vigil at the governor’s office—so admirable.
• A bunch of spoiled Nashville consumers—about 8,000 of them—who can’t fit a week’s worth of trash into their 96-gallon containers (!) are complaining and asking for more of the giant, tan-colored bins. Solid Waste director Anderson responded to this astonishing insight into just how much crap people generate, then throw away, by advising that these residents stomp on their trash and—shocking, we know—perhaps even consume less and recycle more. Seems logical to us.
• Unlike big-time hockey or football in this town, whose enormous civic homes/monuments were financed and continue to be maintained by taxpayers, a new Sounds ballpark would be essentially independently financed; local taxpayers would be sort of like the sweet great-uncle co-signing on the loan. Not a totally risk-free proposition, but pretty damn close, especially relative to the sweet deals the NHL Predators and NFL Titans have gotten in Nashville.
• Unfortunately for many of our city’s hardworking public school teachers, the organization representing them is—and has been for years—an impotent civic annoyance plagued by a single-minded mission to promote higher salaries above all else and at any cost. It is at various times impolitic, oblivious to the art of diplomacy, counterproductive and, most damning, utterly uninterested in promoting ideas. It is to city discourse what intelligent design is to science.
• Bill Purcell, a man we have spent the last six years picking on—running his home phone number in a headline may have been our tackiest moment, though it was a good get—truly did set out to accomplish what he said he would, namely making neighborhoods and schools his priorities.
Just as we’d ceased wondering how WSMV general manager Elden Hale manages to walk upright, what with the missing backbone that led him to cave to irrational ravings and pull The Book of Daniel in Nashville, NBC up and announced Tuesday that it was canning the controversial drama altogether, citing a ratings disaster.
Imagine the Nashville Symphony without its string section, the Titans without their offensive line, the city’s meat-and-threes without the meat. The visual arts landscape of Nashville is facing a parallel prospect.
There are 70,000 students in our public schools, and most of us have been talking about director Pedro Garcia’s poor bedside manner or his elected board’s proclivity for divisiveness and concern with style over substance.