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 »





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 »








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