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 Peoples’ 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 »





CO-OPPING NASHVILLE

13 12 2015

As many of you probably know, I ran for Metro Council last summer.  My candidacy was pretty minimal–I made no attempt to recruit volunteers or raise money, and spent none of my own.  I created a blog and a Facebook page to lay out my platform, attended several candidate forums, posted ideas and answers on several internet voter education sites, and was interviewed by the Nashville Scene, which, as it did when Howard Switzer ran for Governor, trivialized my campaign and ignored my issues because they’re Democrats and we’re Greens, and they don’t care for competition on the left. (I was hoping to provide a link to the job the Scene did on my friend Howard, but they have apparently opted to chuck that article down the ol’ memory hole. Probably a good call on their part.)

There were three key pillars in my platform.  One was re-localizing Nashville, economically, socially, and politically–creating neighborhoods in which people could attend school, shop, work, and go out and socialize without needing to use an automobile–thus simplifying the city’s traffic problems–and granting these neighborhoods a fair amount of control over their zoning, codes enforcement, new construction, schools, and policing.  Another pillar was to identify and foster industries that would serve local needs that are currently being met by goods imported from across the continent or across the ocean.  The third pillar was to foster co-operatives as a form of small-d democratic community organization–not just food co-ops and other retail establishments, but worker-owned service and manufacturing co-ops, and housing co-ops, as well.  These worker-owned co-ops would include the local-needs industries, and the housing co-ops would be part of a larger context of urban land trusts. All these would serve to increase opportunities and living standards for lower-income Nashvillians, stabilize their neighborhoods, and empower them with an ownership stake in the places where they work, shop, and live. My proposals were largely modelled on the ones that made Bernie Sanders’ reputation as Mayor of Burlington–they were radical and populist but pragmatic and very “doable.” They are also infectious, in the sense that people hear them, like them, and make them their own.  Their emphasis on citizen, not government, ownership appeals to people all over the political spectrum.2015_1206co_2

That was my basic message.  About 2,300 Nashville voters heard it and signalled their approval by voting for me.  That earned me second-to-last standing in the election, but, for me, the important part of my campaign was that, in the course of attending the candidate forums, I got to speak repeatedly to the candidates who did win the election.  Hey, at several of these, there were more candidates on the stage than voters in the audience! Besides, candidates are also voters, and we each had four votes in the election besides the one each of us was likely to cast for ourselves.

And so, I planted my seeds, with no idea which ones would sprout or where, and, once the election was over, happily returned to my wooded hollow and my usual pursuits.  Imagine my surprise early last week when I glanced through my email inbox and discovered that the Tennessee Alliance for Progress (TAP), in partnership with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, (which springs from the venerable Highlander Folk Center) was sponsoring an all-day workshop on….creating co-operatives in Nashville.  How could I not go?

Read the rest of this entry »








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