A DEEP GREEN LOOK AT “THE NASHVILLE TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT”

11 04 2021

updated May 7, 2021

Last month I wrote/talked about the similarities, and differences, that can be found in a broad spectrum of social movements, from Antifa and Black Lives Matter to working-class Trump supporters and Boogaloo Boiz. This month, to illustrate what I mean, I’m going to examine the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, an initiative supported by  a civic group here in town that calls itself..well, it doesn’t seem to call itself anything other than “The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act,” or maybe its web addy, which is  https://4goodgovernment.com/ .  This somewhat anonymous group–not only does it apparently not have a formal name, but there is nobody named anywhere on the website, although Nashville attorney  James Roberts, who has, shall we say, a checkered ethics record, seems to be its primary spokesperson. Roberts and his supporters, including, he alleges, 40 individuals he identifies only as “downtown business interests,” want to limit Metro’s ability to raise property taxes more than 3% per year without a referendum. This was sparked by Metro’s recent 37% property tax hike, which, understandably, upset a lot of people in the year of The Great Covid Economic Collapse.

Small-d democratizing approval for tax hikes is certainly an idea that a left-wing populist would support just as much as a right-wing one would. Another measure “4goodgovernment” is advancing would make it easier to recall elected officials. (Note: I have learned since writing this that I didn’t fully understand this proposal. Apparently, while it makes it easier to successfully petition for a recall election, also forbids the recalled official from running in that election–in other words, 10% of the voters could, merely by signing a petition, effectively remove an officeholder. That strikes me as, to use a technical political science term, “dirty pool.” I emphatically do not support such a measure.) Other broad-spectrum populist proposals would forbid the city from amending referendum-approved charter amendments, except by another referendum. Others call for referenda on the sale or lease of Metro properties valued at over five million dollars, and for Metro to be able to take back any land that was given to a sports team that is no longer functioning. The one measure that a left populist would not support is the one that mandates that “No elected official shall receive any benefits at taxpayer expense without a voter referendum.” Although its wording is vague enough to be legally questionable, it is aimed at denying Metro Council members one of the perks of the job–Metro-covered health insurance for them and their families for the rest of their lives. Perhaps in response to this, Metro recently voted to shift much more of the expense onto the former council members. While those who win Metro Council elections tend to come from the portion of the population that can best afford to pay for their own health insurance, this stricture seems rather gratuitous, since paying for the health insurance of current and former council members takes up 0.034% of Metro’s budget. Yeah, that’s right. Thirty-four thousandths of Metro’s budget.

So these proposals, to be voted on separately, are what this referendum drive is about. We will be examining how, and why, we finance local government , as well as looking at what makes this proposal right-wing populism rather than left-wing populism, and, to take things into the “deep green” realm, considering the how and why of the “value” of the land and buildings that are the basis of that financing. But I am going to start at “the surface,” by looking at what The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act proposes, the political and economic philosophy of those who are proposing it, and, of course, why Metro Nashville’s government is utterly horrified by it. Read the rest of this entry »





THE EDGEHILL RAID

13 09 2020

After Nashville police pulled a battering ram and rifles raid on the wrong house, allegedly to serve a warrant on a sixteen-year-old for truancy, I sent this letter to all members of the Nashville Metro Council:

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you to encourage you to keep considering the proposals in “The Nashville People’s Budget.” To my great disappointment, I only heard back from two of you. My own district council member, Jonathan Hall, was among those who did not respond.

Now we have the example of the botched raid at Edgehill Apartments, where three male police officers,armed with rifles, knocked down the door of an apartment the person they were searching for hadn’t lived in for about a year. They found the apartment’s current resident lying nude on her couch, and refused to allow her to even so much as put a robe on while they figured out that they had screwed up really badly. We are all very lucky that Ms. Hines didn’t have a hair dryer, TV remote, cell phone, or anything else the officers might have mistaken for a weapon, or we would have a Breonna Taylor-level tragedy on our hands instead of this farce.

What makes it all the more farcical is that they were conducting this raid to serve….a truancy warrant. Three police officers, rifles in hand, first thing in the morning for a TRUANCY WARRANT?? This sounds like something written by Monty Python or Saturday Night Live.

The Edgehill Raid has revealed a lot of embarrassing facets of the Nashville Police Department, but there’s one I want to focus on: It’s an excellent example of what I, and all the others in the “defund the police” movement have been saying–that a great deal of what police officers do would be more appropriately handled by a social worker. A kid who is not showing up for school does not need to be arrested. S/he needs a concerned friend to find out what the problem is, and help fix it to whatever extent it can be fixed. There are a great many reasons why a young person today might feel discouraged about continuing their education. Some of those reasons are structural–there are a lot of Americans alive right now for whom our society doesn’t seem to have much use, and many of them are ill-equipped to find a purpose of their own. However, there are problems that can be fixed, including giving kids a way to deal with societal rejection of “underprivileged” young African-Americans.

Giving somebody an arrest record for not showing up for school is not that kind of help. It pulls young people in the wrong direction by sucking them into the prison system and getting them even more out of synch with society.

I have personal experience with this. When one of my sons, as a teenager in the 80’s, refused to go to school, we were able to hook him up with friends in the construction trades who took him on as an apprentice. He showed talent for the work, and soon became a skilled and sought-after carpenter. My high school dropout son is now worth more than his college graduate father. Would that have happened if he had, instead, been jailed for truancy? I very much doubt it.

So, I hope you will take the lessons of “The Edgehill Raid” into account as you consider how to spend our tax money to insure public safety and social cohesion in the coming years.

Thank you for your service,

Well, this time I got only one response, from Ginny Welsch, the council member who introduced “The Peoples’ Budget” at a Metro Council meeting, where it was voted down. Perhaps there’s a  technical reason or two. When I initially read about this, I was quite sure that “truancy” was listed as the reason for the raid. Truancy, in Tennessee, is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $50/day fine levied on the child’s parents. Nobody goes to jail for truancy–well, a kid might end up in “juvie,” AKA “jail for high school kids,” if s/he’s really persistent about being truant. More inaccurately, when I went back to write this story, the Nashville Scene article I recalled as having used the word “truancy” instead read, “a nonviolent crime,” and other news stories claimed the 16-year old was wanted for a series of car break-ins, caught on surveillance cameras, and that in some of the footage he was carrying what may have been a gun. I asked The Scene’s editor about this, and he said they had never written anything but “a nonviolent crime.” So, maybe a lot of Metro Council members just thought I was flaky and didn’t bother responding. I believe in admitting my errors, so I wrote another letter to Metro Council and said: Read the rest of this entry »





KEEPING THE CONVERSATION GOING

9 08 2020

millionaday

I have a confession to make. When the energy was up to get Nashville’s Metro Council to adopt at least some of the proposals put forth in the “People’s Budget,” I was not among those demonstrating. I did not take part in the phone-in session that kept Metro Council up all night, only to see them not budge an inch on the police budget. I didn’t even write my Metro Council member.

Honestly, I’m not sure why, but once I noticed my failure to participate in the mass movement, it occurred to me that perhaps a letter to Metro Council coming at a time when defunding the police was not a “hot issue” would be at least as effective, letting them know that this is not just an issue that people contacted them about because an activist motivated them, but something that at least some of us have on our minds day in and day out.

So, here’s what I wrote: Read the rest of this entry »





A LAST-MINUTE EFFORT, A GOOD HEAD START, AND A COLLISION OF CULTURES

12 07 2020

The national uprising over police violence, and the consequent calls to “defund the police,” aka shifting the money spent on police into programs that don’t require a heavily armed person with a heavily armed vehicle to carry them out, programs that address difficult situations and individuals in a community before those situations and individuals get to the point where it seems as if a heavily armed person, in a heavily armed vehicle, is the best way to deal with whatever, or whoever, is the source of the disrupted civic peace.

I think this is a much more reasonable approach to public safety than the armed alternative. As Abraham Maslow said,  “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” If  your primary, tool is a firearm, then you end up, um, “nailing” people a lot more often that is really necessary. After all, the anti-police uprising was about the fact that the vast majority of African-Americans killed by police officers were unarmed, and otherwise posed no serious threat to the officer who murdered them.

I think an urban legend of yore will serve us well here. When I was a kid, there was a kind of meme around about calling the fire department to get your cat out of a tree. You don’t really need the fire department for that, especially if they sometimes take out their high-pressure hoses and blow the cat out of the tree so he falls to his death, and then use the stream from the hoses to break out a few neighborhood windows  and soak down the inside of some people’s houses just for good measure, instead of just climbing up a ladder to rescue the cat.

Unfortunately for defunding advocates here in Nashville, defunding became a national issue just as Nashville’s new budget, a year in the making, was coming up for final approval, a point at which it’s kind of late for radical changes in it. Despite heroic efforts by organizers and several council members, The Nashville People’s Budget Coalition‘s demands were not met, not in the slightest. The police will be adding 38 officers to the, as they say, “force,” as well as getting two new helicopters and some kind of armored vehicle. Thirty-eight entry-level police salaries of $46K/ year comes to about $1.75M.  Those new officers will probably need a nearly equivalent number of new police cars, at about $100K each–that’s $1.2 M a dozen. Nashville will be spending $12M on new police helicopters, which cost $400/hr or more to fly, and an “armored vehicle”? $200K or more, depending on how fancy you want to get.

The mayor’s budget passed.

The Nashville People’s Budget Coalition points out that

The two new MNPD helicopters approved in the Capital Spending Plan will ultimately cost the city $12 million, which taxpayers will help pay over time through debt service expenditures. With only $10 million, the Barnes Affordable Housing Trust Fund could leverage funds to provide affordable housing for more than 750 Nashvillians. Access to affordable housing is a foundation of healthy and safe communities. Helicopters are not.

Meanwhile, Gideon’s Army, which is already running a highly successful violence reduction program here in Nashville with volunteers and private money, failed to get one penny of the $2.6M that Council member Ginny Welsch (who, in full disclosure, is the manager of WRFN, but does not know I am writing this) proposed The Nashville Peoples’ Budget movement‘s budget as an amendment that would have cut $111M from the police and court budget and redirected it to a wide variety of underfunded public services. Here’s the list: Read the rest of this entry »





POLICE AND THIEVES

14 06 2020

A couple of months ago, I was talking about “black swans” coming in for a landing here in America, and, since then, lo and behold, one I didn’t mention has come in for a very splashy landing, as the police murder of George Floyd, an unarmed, co-operative, African-American suspect in a misdemeanor case proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and unleashed a flood of anti-police, anti-racism protests around the country and around the world, protests that frequently turned violent, resulting in major damage to several US cities.

floydmurder

Is this the way to treat somebody over $20? That’s the police in the street, but George Floyd was not a thief.

The violence, as it turns out, was mostly initiated by police and police-supplied provocateurs, as well as by right-wing armed resistance groups who decided that the police riots at demonstrations against police oppression of African-Americans was a good cover under which to step in and institute their own brand of anti-state violence, in hopes of sparking a widespread armed uprising. An article on Bellingcat noted:

On the Facebook page, Big Igloo Bois, which at the time of writing had 30,637 followers (when I checked, it was up to 32,000+), an administrator wrote of the protests, “If there was ever a time for bois to stand in solidarity with ALL free men and women in this country, it is now”.

They added, “This is not a race issue. For far too long we have allowed them to murder us in our homes, and in the streets. We need to stand with the people of Minneapolis. We need to support them in this protest against a system that allows police brutality to go unchecked.”

One commenter added, “I’m looking for fellow Minneapolis residents to join me in forming a private, Constitutionally-authorized militia to protect people from the MPD, which has killed too many people within the last two years.”

These exchanges offer a window into an extremely online update of the militia movement, which is gearing up for the northern summer. The “Boogaloo Bois” expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States.

I think that “the Boogaloo Bois” are missing an important point. The main thrust of the demonstrations  is not about fighting the police, it’s about the much more radical demand that American cities end policing as we know it, so there’s nobody to fight. More on that a little later.

Screenshot_2020-06-13 Convulsing in protest, US cities brace for more unrest following George Floyd death

Police defending their right to murder as they see fit. Note heavily armed protestor. Another thoroughly appropriate response from our law enforcement officers. Police in the streets, alright, but the young man with the flowers is not one of the thieves, who appear in our next illustration, but rarely in the streets…

As the protests grew and spread, things reached such a pitch that Our Dear Leader threatened to declare martial law, although everybody was careful not to call it that. In yet another surprising development, so many of our country’s top military officers publicly disagreed with that call so that the Trumpster had to walk it back. A near-coup?

One result of such widespread police violence against people who were peacefully protesting police violence is that the United States no longer has any moral authority whatsoever to criticize other countries over their handling of anti-government protests.

Read the rest of this entry »





WHEN THE BLACK SWANS COME HOME TO ROOST

12 04 2020

Here in Nashville, our county-wide governance body has district representatives, whose main job is to be the intermediary between the citizens of their district and the city, and “At-Large” council members, whose serve more of an oversight function, kind of like deputy mayors. In 2015, I ran for  that office, largely on a platform that the city was acting like the good times were just going to keep on rolling, but that was not really the case, and we had better do everything we could to prepare for the collapse that was coming. Two of my suggestions were  that we ought to foster local food production and create co-operatively run local industries that would produce a great many of the essentials of life that now come from far away, like shoes, clothing, and tools. I’ll talk about the relevance of those planks of my platform a little later.

I confess that I didn’t campaign very hard. I showed up at the candidate forums, figuring that I was unlikely to win, but it was important for the winning candidates to hear what I had to say, and figured I would get my message out to the general public in an interview with The Nashville Scene. The Scene, unfortunately, chose to belittle my candidacy and mostly dwelt on what a peculiar guy I am, rather than on what I had to say.

I chose not to run in the most recent Metro Council election. I had thought about this a good deal in the years since the previous election, and realized that, given the genuine technical legal complexities of writing legislation, if I were going to run again, part of my platform ought to be that I would spend much of my salary to hire a lawyer to assist me in framing my proposals appropriately. But I don’t know any such lawyer, and, even if I did, it seemed to make more sense to cut out the middle man–me–and just help the lawyer run for office. So, I contented myself with expressing my concerns to all the candidates, and got fairly sympathetic responses back from several of them, as I detailed at the time. I figured it was preferable to have council members in office who are at least aware of our long-term possibilities, and was gratified that most of those who won the multi-seat election were candidates who had responded somewhat sympathetically to my concerns.

Let’s fast-forward to our current situation. Although I have mostly been staying home (which is what I usually do anyway), last Monday afternoon at around five o’clock I found myself driving on some of Nashville’s major commuting routes, which are usually jam-packed with cars at that time of day. There was hardly anybody on the road. I stopped by “The Produce Place,” a locally-owned store that specializes in selling local produce. It was closed, because the store has cut the hours it’s open due to the pandemic. I picked up a very skinny copy of “The Nashville Scene,” no longer fat from entertainment and restaurant ads, and read that the free paper is on the ropes financially and was hoping its readers would form a financial support group so it could stay in business. The Scene, which once prided itself on tweaking the sensibilities of “the bizpigs,” as the editors called the city’s elite, is now owned by one of the wealthiest people in town, and caters to “the bizpigs,” a phrase that has not appeared in The Scene since long before they dissed my Metro Council run. I’m not sure whether I should be sympathetic to their plight or not.

But, I digress….From our home, we can often hear the roar of rush hour traffic on another major thoroughfare. Not lately. We live a couple of miles from the private-plane airport in Davidson County, and are used to having frequent low-flying small planes in our soundscape. They have grown rare. Of course, another factor there is that a tornado blew through the airport a few weeks ago and did millions of dollars worth of damage, destroying hangars and the airplanes parked in them. The upshot is, private air travel, like automobile travel, is way down. I’m glad. I’ve often wondered why it’s OK for one person in a private airplane to destroy the peace and quiet of the thousands of people who have no choice but to hear the noise.

I certainly didn’t foresee that the economic shutdown of Nashville would be due to a pandemic, but here we are, right where I ‘ve been saying we’re going. Such an unforeseeable, catastrophic event, is called “a black swan.” One definition of “black swan” that I read says that “they are obvious in hindsight.” It’s true that worldwide flu epidemics have become an accepted part of modern life, although they have never been this severe before, so yes, we should have seen this coming. In fact, disaster planners in our government did see it coming, but were ignored for the same reason the concerns I raised in my Metro Council candidacy were brushed aside:  anybody who suggests that there’s anything dangerous in our future, whether it’s a pandemic, an economic collapse (which might be set off by a pandemic),nuclear war, or climate disaster, gets short shrift from those who run our society, who are engrossed with making money and exercising power nowWe are a species that is wired to deal with immediate threats and gratification, not the long-term results of our short-sighted actions. We are going to have to change that to survive as a species. In the interest of raising human consciousness, this post is going to examine the effects of this particular “black swan,” and also note a couple more that seem to be circling and getting ready to come home to roost. Read the rest of this entry »





A LOOK AT THE GREEN PARTY’S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

9 02 2020

There are seven people seeking the Green Party Presidential nomination in 2020. Their names are Sedinam Moyowasiza-Curry, Howie Hawkins, Dario Hunter, Dennis Lambert, David Rolde, Ian Schlakman and Chad Wilson. Sorry, Hillary, neither Jill Stein nor Tulsi Gabbard is among them, and, obviously, neither is Jesse Ventura. Not only that, none of these “big name” candidates could join the race at this point, because the nominating process has a long timeline, and the deadline for seeking the nomination has passed.

The links on the names I just mentioned lead to the candidates’ web pages. All but one of them has also responded to a questionnaire from the national Green Party, and the information I’m presenting you will be drawn from those sources. I’m going to go through the list alphabetically.

We’ll start with Ms. Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza- Curry, who is the only woman in the running. She doesn’t say much about herself on the questionnaire, but in a video interview mentions that she was born and raised in “South-Central,” the Los Angeles ghetto, and is the sixteenth of her father’s twenty children. She has been “a card-carrying member of The Green Party for eighteen years.” She, like many of the other candidates, is an embodiment of the party’s grass-roots organizing efforts.

Howie Hawkins‘ questionnaire bio states:

I became active in “The Movement” for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s as a teenager in the San Francisco Bay Area. Repelled by the racism and warmongering of both major parties, I committed to independent working-class politics for a democratic, socialist, and ecological society. Outside of electoral politics, I have been a constant organizer in peace, justice, union, and environmental campaigns. When my draft number was called in 1972, I enlisted in the Marine Corps while continuing to organize against the Vietnam War. After studying at Dartmouth College, I worked in construction in New England in the 1970s and 1980s. I was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976, active in the anti-apartheid movement, and helped develop worker and consumer cooperatives. I have continued organizing in Syracuse since 1991, where I worked as a Teamster unloading trucks at UPS until retiring in2018.

That’s quite an impressive history. One qualm I have about Hawkins is that, in some ways, he seems to buy in to the Russiagate fraud, as revealed in this video interview, in which he says he generally doesn’t trust the Russians and thinks the notorious Stein-Putin dinner table photo was a setup. Shortly after that interview, however, he clarified his position in an essay that begins: Read the rest of this entry »





NASHVILLE ELECTION REFLECTIONS

11 10 2019

Twenty-one percent of Nashville’s voters turned out on September 12th, meaning that John Cooper’s “landslide victory” over David Briley boils down to 15% of our adult citizens choosing Cooper, while only six percent of the city’s voters preferred Briley. The initial round of voting produced a 24% turnout rate, enough of a decline to demonstrate the advantage of ranked-choice voting, but still such a light turnout that, if all of those who didn’t vote could have weighed in as  “abstaining,” or voted for “neither of the above,” the election could have been declared null and void. But the threshold for election is not 50% of all potential voters, it’s a majority of the actual voters, and so John Cooper, “the choice of 15% of Nashville,” is now our mayor. I’ll have more to say about him a little later.

Why is there such a marked lack of interest in local government? Is it because most people presume that, no matter who is officially in charge, things will remain about the same? That’s a dangerous presumption to make as climate chaos increases and resource depletion and economic collapse loom on the horizon. I once approached an intelligent, innovative, outspoken member of Metro Council, and told her I’d like to see her run for mayor. Her response was, “Got a million dollars? Cos’ that’s what it takes to run for mayor in this town.” She is no longer involved in Metro politics. This election certainly proved her point. Both Briley and Cooper are members of the millionaires’ club. “Who wants to be ruled by a millionaire?” You could call that the “reality show” we’re involved in, like it or not .The drawback to this arrangement is that millionaires, almost no matter how hard they try, are going to have difficulty relating to the kind of problems the rest of us face, and consequently will have difficulty coming up with ideas that speak to the needs of the rest of us.

We need radical change, because it’s well documented by now that “business as usual” is going to get us all killed. On the other hand, it’s difficult for the elite of Nashville, or the elite anywhere, to conceive of anything but the “business as usual” that has made them wealthy and keeps them wealthy. Beyond our ruling class’s limited vision, adherence to “business as usual” here in Tennessee is enforced by our micromanaging state legislature, which seems determined to smother any rising progressive tendencies anywhere in the state.  I should mention that our state government, like our mayor and metro council, are elected by a minority of the state’s voters. In other words, Tennessee is a “red state” not not because a majority of its citizens vote Republican, but because the Democrats are so uninspiring, and the two corporate parties have such a lock on ballot access, and media access, that trying to get a third party going in this state is a truly Sisyphean task. As I’ve chronicled here, we Greens have tried,failed,  and, frankly, all but worn ourselves out in the process. I think we might properly refer to the phase our country is in these days as “the twilight of democracy.” Some people would disagree with me, I’m sure, saying that the sun set long ago on American democracy. I think they have a point. Not just in Tennessee, but nationally, the two corporate-friendly political parties  have, um, “colluded” with our corporate owned and consequently corporate-friendly media to exclude everyone but themselves from the levers of power, even as their support dwindles. Need I remind you that, nationwide, turnout in the 2016 election was 55-60%, depending on how you count it, and around 50% in 2018?  It was less than that here in Tennessee. That means that, in 2016, about 40% of the adult public didn’t care whether Trump or Clinton became President, and then, in 2018, after two years of Trump showing how dangerous he is and the Democrats showing how ineffectual they are at opposing him, even fewer voters thought the Democrats were an alternative worth voting for. When half the adult population sits out the election, the problem we have is not about how easy, or difficult, it is to vote. The problem is that neither party inspires the voting public. Sure, the Republicans were running on a program of brute corporate domination, but all the Democrats had to offer was kinder, gentler corporate domination. Apparently, about half of our voting population is savvy enough to say, “Neither of the above, thank you!”

If only we could get them to vote Green…..

I think that what I just laid out also also explains why, over the last seventy years, political power has pretty reliably flipped from one party to the other every eight years, as well as why Nashvillians, to the extent that we cared at all, dumped Briley and elected Cooper. Read the rest of this entry »





HEADING FOR THE LAST RUNOFF?

11 08 2019

We’ve had an election in Nashville since the last time I talked to you, but the results are….well, uncertain. The mayoral race is headed for a runoff between incumbent David Briley and Bob Cooper. As a side note, John Ray Clemmons, who was endorsed by “Our Revolution,” the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, came in a distant fourth. In the Metro Council at-large race, only Bob Mendes secured a seat by passing the 10% threshold. Eight candidates, Zulfat Suara, incumbent Sharon Hurt, Sheri and Weiner, Burkley Allen, Fabian Bedne, Howard Jones, Steve Glover and Gary Moore, will be facing each other in a runoff election on September 12. There will also be some runoffs for district seats. One of these runoffs involves a woman named Ginny Welsch, who just might have something to do with WRFN. I’m being vague because I’m not sure what details of election law might be applicable if she is associated with the station, knowhatImean?

I haven’ t been able to locate turnout figures for this year’s election, but, if the last couple of Metro elections are any guide, it was about 30%. Surprisingly, turnout for runoff elections doesn’t seem to drop off, which I suspected might be the case, but it costs the city the same amount for a citywide runoff as it does for the initial election. about three-quarters of a million dollars, which is not chump change, especially in a budget-strapped, infrastructure-challenged town like this.

The city had considered adopting ranked-choice voting, but some council members expressed concern that it would confuse voters, or couldn’t quite grasp how it would work themselves. When I looked into it, I found that the process is mostly simple enough to be explained in very short videos. The one thing that hung me up at first was expanding the concept to our somewhat unusual council-at-large situation, where voters select not one, but five candidates. I contacted Ranked Choice Tennessee, the statewide advocacy organization for ranked-choice voting and proportional representation, and it only took one sentence from them to make it clear to me. So, what I’m going to do, after I talk about the candidates who made it into the runoff, is show how ranked choice voting would work in the at-large council election we just had, by imagining who might have been voters’ second choices and running the numbers.

First, however, I want to give a shoutout to Aaron Fowles, one of those people I talked about earlier who get involved with The Green Party and then go on to other social change modes.  Aaron was our state Green Party chair for a while, but is now spending his activist time with Ranked Choice Tennessee. That seems to me like a logical progression.

Read the rest of this entry »





ASKING INCONVENIENT QUESTIONS

14 07 2019

As long-time readers of this blog know, I ran for an at-large seat on the Metro Nashville Council in 2015, mostly in an effort to publicize the long-term concerns I express. I received a couple of thousand votes and came in second to last. I said I’d be back, but when this election cycle came around, I didn’t file papers to run, for several reasons. First, somebody asked me to run last time, and nobody asked this time. Second, as I ran last time and got a better understanding of what was involved, it seemed that, if I ran again, I would have to run with the pledge that I would hire somebody as a legal consultant to help me translate my somewhat radical proposals into Legalese, the language in which our governments do business. From there, I concluded that it would be more efficient, and more credible to the voting public, if I, or the “we” that constitutes the local Green Party, simply found a lawyer who shared my/our values, and offered to help her or his campaign. And that’s as far as that got.

A few weeks ago, after attending a Mayoral candidates’ forum in which my concerns for Nashville’s long-term stability were not addressed, I wrote the following letter to all four major Mayoral candidates, and to the ten at-large council candidates I think have the best chance of winning. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Candidate:

I ran for at-large Metro Council in the last election. For a variety of reasons, I’m not in the race this time, but I still have the concerns I ran on four years ago, and I am still writing my blog and doing my radio show, and that is why I am writing you now. I would like to hear from you about “my issues,” and I would like to share your response (and comment on it) as my next radio show/blog post, which will air/be published in mid-July, so I am also asking your permission to publish your response. If I need to do any editing/condensing, I will share my proposed edit with you, to make sure that I have preserved your intentions. Here’s what I’m asking:

The way I see it, Nashville is currently enjoying an extraordinarily prosperous period, especially compared to a great many other cities in this country, and regions of the world. However, the same crises that have overtaken them loom over us—a runaway climate crisis, an increasingly fragile national economy, and the rapidly approaching exhaustion of many of the material resources our civilization depends on, from fossil fuels to rare earth metals to fish, forests, fertile soil, and clean water. To what extent do these factors inform your political agenda?

To what extent do you share my concerns? What do you think the city should, could, or is likely to do in response to them?

Thank you for your time and attention.

No mayoral candidate wrote me back, although Facebook Messenger informed me that John Ray Clemmons opened my letter–at 7:30 in the morning. I hope that some day we will find out that it served as a wake up call for him.

I did better with the council races, with six responses to ten letters sent. Three of the candidates who didn’t respond are the ones who are generally identified as Republicans, although technically Metro Council races are non-partisan. The fourth non-responder was Gicola Lane, one of the organizers behind the initiative that established a Police Review Board here in Nashville.

I can understand why a political candidate would be inclined to handle my questions very gingerly. Al Gore nailed it when he called climate change “an inconvenient truth.” It’s easy to see human history as an increasingly rapid spiral into greater wealth and technological complexity. By and large, people don’t want to imagine that things might move some other way– a spiral of decreasing resources, complexity, and expectations. As Bill Clinton is rumoured to have said, “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less.” When Winston Churchill told the British people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil, and tears,” he wasn’t running for office, he had just been elected, and the Germans were taking over Europe and saturation-bombing Britain as a prelude to invasion.

It’s difficult to get people to see that we are in a “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” situation with climate change. Instead of an invading army, we are threatened by the way our own actions are skewing the planet’s climate into a “normal” that is far less human-friendly than the climate in which we have evolved as a species. So far, for most Americans, that change is nibbling at daily life, rather than devouring it wholesale, and so, for most of us in America, and especially here in Nashville, it is possible to live as if nothing has changed or is going to change. City election issues can be restricted to budgets and taxes,  infrastructure, zoning, education, policing, and similar daily life issues. These mundane issues offer almost infinite details to keep us occupied and keep us from looking at the longer-term questions I have been asking. When our community governments do address these questions, they will tend to do so in the context of the short-term, daily-life issues they are used to dealing with. With that in mind, let’s go through the responses I received, with some commentary from me, and then I will suggest a few things the city could do that would tend to steer the city, just as it is, into an entity that is better prepared to deal with the financial and material shortages and extreme weather events that we are likely to see in the mid-term future. Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: