Sunday, May 31, 2009

Music City Center: The Billion Dollar Debate Today

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2009 at 5:11 AM

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Some say it's the greatest idea since hockey and ice cream. Some believe it''ll be the biggest boondoggle since the Iraq War, Part II. But wherever you fall, today's the day you can get the details unfiltered in a debate over the Music City convention center.

Speaking on behalf of the project -- which is expected to cost more than $1 billion when a publicly-built hotel is included -- will be Butch Spyridon, chief of the Nashville's tourism bureau. Playing devil's advocate will be Heywood Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and arguably America's smartest guy when it comes to the convention industry.

The event will take place from 2-4 p.m., at Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, 2400 Blakemore Avenue. Complimentary parking is available in the South Garage, which is located at the intersection of 24th Avenue South and Children's Way. Please enter the garage at the Children's Way entrance and park on the fourth level or higher.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The TVA Disaster and the Clean Coal Myth, By....Um, GQ

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 3:58 PM

In between writing about what kind of styling paste this guy uses in his hair, GQ covers complex environmental issues.
  • In between writing about what kind of styling paste this guy uses in his hair, GQ covers complex environmental issues.
So, finally, a national, well-known and branded publication decides to take a hard look at one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the history of the United States. It's GQ, but I mean, seriously, because it happened in Appalachia it's like the national press deigned it too out of the way to cover in any comprehensive, investigative fashion.

The story's well-written, well-researched and well-sourced, in fact, with many of the same aggrieved Roane County folks the Scene spoke with in early January. If you've been following this story closely, you probably won't learn anything new. But it's certainly the best effort so far by any magazine or newspaper with a national readership to tell this story.

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Convention Center: The Skeptical Study No One Ever Talks About

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 3:25 PM

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The road to convention center skepticism tends to run through the office of Heywood Sanders, the urban development academic at the University of Texas at San Antonio who writes extensively about convention center economics, and who is coming to Nashville this weekend to participate in a public forum on the proposed Music City Center. (Sanders did an interview on Liberadio(!) earlier this week.)

But for all of the public conversation about a new convention center over the last couple of years, a skeptical analysis by one of the state's top economists has gone virtually unnoticed. Bill Fox at the University of Tennessee, who comments frequently on regional economics and public finance, published (with two UT colleagues) a piece two years ago in that coffee table staple State Tax Notes on the issue of whether new and expanded convention centers are a good idea from economic and finance perspectives.

We can't share a link to the article, which seems not to be publicly available online (it's "deep web," as the librarians say), but we'll offer up several excerpts after the jump.

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Calvin Hullett: YouTube Video Proves Cops, Kids and Bottle Rockets Don't Mix

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 1:03 PM

This week's cover story, "Officer Down," traces the rise and fall of Calvin Hullett, a former Metro PD lieutenant and head of the local police union now serving a 10-month prison term for embezzlement. At the center of the case against Hullett are two surveillance cameras installed at the Andrew Jackson Police Youth Camp, footage of which can be found in the video above. Andrew Jackson is run by members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Metro PD's representative union. The FOP brings in 50 inner-city kids every week for six weeks during the summer. According to Hullett, who, as president, went to the camp every summer for a number of years, the officers acting as counselors would occasionally get drunk at night and hit and/or intimidate the kids. Around midnight on June 9th, 2007, in an effort to embarrass the union, Hullett and three accomplices entered the camp, convinced an inmate working off his sentence as a helper that they were from internal affairs and wired the lipstick-sized cameras underneath the shingles of a deserted bunk house. For the short few weeks during which they were taping, the most damning evidence Hullett's cameras were able to record was a night in which officers woke up the kids and chased them around the camp grounds, firing bottle rockets. (To see this, jump ahead to the 6:45 mark.) There were a number of factors working against Hullett's surveillance. For one, Andrew Jackson sprawls over 30 acres. Recording only the area outside of a bunk house made meant he was only seeing a tiny portion of what was going on at the camp. For another, the man Hullett hired to do the surveillance, Shelby County sheriff's deputy Joe Everson, skimped on his services. Paid $5,000 to install four cameras, he instead only put in two. It's debatable whether or not Hullett's "evidence" constitutes the abuse he says he sought to stop. With no sound and no context, it's hard to say exactly what was going on. But taken as a whole, along with recorded phone calls from his inmate informant about officers getting drunk while around the kids, it certainly speaks to the kind of behavior you wouldn't want from on-duty police being paid by the city. Plus, there is the simple fact that shooting bottle rockets at kids, along with being kind of a dick move, is never really acceptable.

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Republican Foot-Stomping: A National Concern

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 11:08 AM

(Photoshop H/T: D. Ricky Rodriguez)
  • (Photoshop H/T: D. Ricky Rodriguez)
Gawping at the national infighting going on within the GOP has led to many emotions: embarrassment (on their behalf), engagement, and good old-fashioned schadenfreude are but a few. The bare bones issue is this: social conservatives and small-government conservatives really have no business belonging to the same party. The basic ethos of one is pretty much the opposite of the other, and it works both ways. They've done a pretty good job of denying this contradiction for quite a number of years, but as we all know, a compromise leaves everyone unhappy! The narrative for the past few months has been Teabaggers vs. Jesus Freaks vs. Everyone Else, with Rush playing the role of self-appointed referee. I both pity and condemn the sane, silent majority (heh) of the Republicans for letting those teeth-gnashers turn their beloved Party of Lincoln into little more than a flailing, incompetent joke. I have a solution! Leave the party. A bombastic split between the fiscal, social, and moderate conservatives would be patriotic; in fact, splits and offshoots are a forgotten American Tradition. They wouldn't even have to make up new parties! I've done some cursory digging and found a few third and dead parties that should soon see their numbers swell. Let's get reductive!

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Morning Roundup: Unemployment Down, Hate Crime Up

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 7:19 AM

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Police Chief Serpas defends fingerprinting people for traffic tickets: "What this technology does for law enforcement agencies is simply streamline the officer's workload." ... The unemployment rate eases across Tennessee for the first time since the recession began. ... Hate crimes increase in the state, and more disabled people are victimized. "When people are feeling desperate and pressured in times like these ... you're going to try to find the most vulnerable person to victimize," disabled advocate Carol Westlake says. ... Republicans win fight over election commission. ... Rep. Joe McCord thinks the Senate will accept the House version of the judicial selection plan. ... Ramsey campaigns in Johnson City. ... The Jackson Sun opposes legislative ethics rollback. ... The Tennessean and the Commercial Appeal praise the governor's veto of the guns-in-bars bill:
Bredesen's veto sends a vital message to legislators who surely have spent too much time in Nashville bars during the current legislative session: Perhaps it is time to consider some sobering facts before setting in motion a set of new laws that will increase the risk of serious bodily harm or death to innocent bystanders in Tennessee.

Loews Pulls Plug on Islamophobe Symposium

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 6:26 AM

Shouldn't we strive to get along, like the folks above? According to New English Review, the answer is a resounding "No."
  • Shouldn't we strive to get along, like the folks above? According to New English Review, the answer is a resounding "No."
Judging from the reader comments, the folks at New English Review and their sympathizers were none too thrilled with our preview of their symposium "Understanding the Jihad in Israel, Europe and America," which was scheduled to be held at Nashville's Loews Vanderbilt this weekend. (Epithets such as "multicultural fool," "f&cking hypocrite," "uneducated arrogant pompous fool," "jackshit suckass" and "Mr. Silverdouche" come to mind.) Now it seems that Loews Vanderbilt has pulled the plug on the symposium, whose lineup includes a variety of speakers who all share the view that Islam is inherently evil and is the root of all our problems. (Apparently it hasn't occurred to these folks that by making such absurd generalizations--in essence, suggesting that all Muslims are radical extremists or terrorists who want you dead--they're playing right into the extremists' hands, providing them with more fodder for recruitment, and alienating moderate Muslims with whom we should be seeking to improve relations.) From a blog post at New English Review titled "Loews Bows to Intimidation":
The hotel that was hosting our symposium has bowed to intimidation. They cancelled our plans due to concerns for the "health, safety and welfare of their employees and other guests."
According to the New English Review's symposium schedule, the event "will be held at an [sic] secure, undisclosed location." When called by the Scene, Loews Vanderbilt had no comment, which leaves the cause for the cancellation open to speculation. Did Loews get threatening emails or calls? Did they figure out what the symposium was about, and fear alienating guests and employees who may be Muslim? Or did they just decide they didn't want to have anything to do with these agents of intolerance? It's anyone's guess. In related news, the Scene was thrilled to learn we were featured on the blog Bare Naked Islam, whose slogan is, "It isn't Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you." Another feather in our cap.

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The Race is on to Build a Medical Mart in Nashville

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:59 AM

Nashville's advantage: Less corruption, land and labor costs
  • Nashville's advantage: Less corruption, land and labor costs
According to Tradeshow Week, a Dallas company is well on its way to creating the nation's premier medical mart, or what's essentially a mall for medical products and services. Market Center Management is currently eyeing three downtown Nashville buildings in hopes of having the 1.5 million square foot facility operative within a year.

Any new business that size would be a huge bonanza for our fair city. The problem is that both Cleveland and New York are already years into planning their own facilities. And as Market Center CEO Bill Winsor says, "There is only room for one of these medical marts, and it's going to be ours." Which presents a small situation for Nashville's bid.

First is that Nashville, despite its booming medical industry, is arguably the lesser market for customers. New York is, well, New York, and Cleveland hosts the Cleveland Clinic, generally considered among the nation's top three hospitals (after the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins).

Moreover, Cleveland is throwing a billion dollars in welfare to a private company to create its mart. Nashville's would be self-financed by Market Center. Or so it claims. If this turns out to be true, Cleveland would have the monster advantage of government subsidies, meaning it could dramatically undercut Nashville's leases...

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Recommended TV Viewing for Eric Crafton: NPT's Hablamos Español

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:56 AM

The days leading up to the English-Only referendum were heady times in the Pith Photoshop department
  • The days leading up to the English-Only referendum were heady times in the Pith Photoshop department
Dear Eric Crafton: I'm sure that even just the title of Nashville Public Television's Hablamos Español, which airs tonight at 7 p.m. on Channel 8, will have you and your English-Only ilk cringing with horror. But we implore you to tune in to the latest installment of NPT's excellent Next Door Neighbors series, which explores the cultural roots of Nashville's increasingly diverse population. (Previous installments have focused on our city's Somali and Kurdish communities.) Who knows, you might even aprendes a thing or dos.

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Nashville's Teachers Union Must Blow Off its Obstructionist Role

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:55 AM

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Pity the public school teacher. Over the decades their general reputation has gone from valiant servant to ingrate on the public dole. Though they've picked up the added duties of social worker and de facto parent, their schools continue to fail. Someone must take the blame. Dump it on the teachers.

So you approach with a certain empathy when Nashville union chief Erick Huth argues against merit pay. The acknowledged proof of skill -- scores on proficiency tests -- is so ridden with variables as to render it damn near meaningless. Which means it would be an unfair basis from which to render raises and bonuses. Which means we best not do it.

But take a closer look at his argument, and you see the words of Old Labor concerned less with public betterment, and more with smoothening internal union pettiness. He uses phrases like "destroy the collaborative spirit" and "resent the compensation provided to colleagues." In fact, he doesn't even like the words "merit pay, since it promotes "unnecessary negative reactions."

He may be right, but much of his argument skews toward avoiding hurt feelings. It's part of the one-for-all theology native to unions. Yet it doesn't address one pressing reality: Anyone who's gone to school knows there are teachers who inspire and invigorate, and their are those who drone from the chalkboard with cut-and-paste lessons from five years ago. And they probably come in equal proportion.

Instead of taking a page from the Republican Party and merely being the Union of No, Nashville's teachers will soon be forced to acknowledge that their ranks are unequal. As Huth concedes, that's the way the wind blows. Some will be deemed our best and brightest. Some will be regarded as the educational equivalent of the DMV.

The former should be paid more for carrying the greater load. It's up to the union to negotiate the best deal possible. And if that hurts the latter's feelings, well...

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