Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Anti-tax Mayor

OK, I have looked at the U-tube piece that the Clement campaign is now asking everyone to watch. It is a series of clips from the debates, somewhat cleverly edited, but not all that cleverly. The piece runs pretty well as I remember the exchanges with a few exceptions, but the campaign-added narration really seems to force an argument that the clips don't support too well.

In the end, you will see what you want to see in this ink-blot, but it does show conclusively that Bob Clement wants to win the Mayor's office in the way that is the most limiting to the power of the person to lead. This montage seems to confirm that.

So, will it work? It is clearly a strategy that has worked in other elections. Is it one that is likely to produce good leadership? I don't happen to think so, but I am sure many disagree with me. Will the number who disagree be large enough to elect Clements?

We'll see.

Karl Dean Sounds Like a Great Mayor

The best I've heard him, and I have paid pretty close attention. If you missed the Liberadio interview Monday, you missed Karl Dean at his best. His apparent grasp of leadership issues is strong, and his focus on the issues shows itself to have some specific, tangible direction.

I recommend this interview strongly for anyone concerned about making a good choice in the mayor's race.

Way to go, Mary and Freddie!

Good work, Karl!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Who won?

Always a tricky question since the debate faces so many diverse audience. Who won for me? Karl Dean...Hands down. He continued to miss numerous opportunities to show some of Clement's positions for the ridiculous and substance-free political plays they are, but he finally reversed the tax pledge question a bit. I am continuing to be curious about how all of those much more political positions that Clement is advancing will play against the more genuine positions that Dean puts forward. Dean could use better coaching, and he could be genuine will also being more political, but from the standpoint of this blog asking, What's the Matter with Tennessee, this election is a useful experiment. Here you have 2 democrats running fro an allegedly apolitical office. Clement is clearly assuming the traditional low tax, government bad positions that have worked so well in Kansas (see What's the Matter with Kansas) and other areas across the south and midwest. Dean is adopting the pragmatic managerial poasition that Bredesen, Purcell, and Clinton were able to make work in this area, but he has not scored the same kind of anti-Clement position that Purcell did with Fulton, or Clinton with Bush (I).

So, this election will let us see what's tha matter with Nashville? Will we as a city vote more for Clement and low tax pledges..Dean is right, these are gimmicks, but they are gimmicks that have worked repeatedly, OR will the city vote for the manager who will not play into gimmicks? Will the city trust a government official or vote for Clement because officials cannot really be trusted?

BTW - Isn't it ironic that Clement's arguments add up to an outsider, low tax, government bad campaign even as he claims 15 years in Congress?

This debate left me thinking that Bob Clement feels like his superior (read national/federal) experience will enable him to stoop down here and help the little people in Nashville deal with our situation. I don't agree. After this debate, I lean more toward Dean than ever.


Closing statements

Clement says city is diverse and international. I was 15 years in Congress. I am focused on the future. I have too many ideas to sit on the sidelines. I know I can make a difference. I can win. I am always up fornt. I will listen to the people to solve problems. Breaking through bureaucracy is what I want to do.

Dean ssya hard work, keeping word, and living within a budget. I am very proud of this city. I will bring passion to mayor. I love this city, and I will focus on clear prioriites. Now there are 3 agian. Education, Safety, and development. The first 2 contribute to the other 2. I lnow how the city runs. I want this job. It is not a consolation prize.

Channel 5 debate part 3

Kids access to computers in classes first. (Dean)

Education question - mayoral takeovers:
Clement says school board is elected by the people and selects the Director of schools. I want that to work. A mayor is a CEO planner organizer chief architecht of the coty. Cannot sit on the sidelines. I want public school choice. Reform and accountability.

Dean will consider anything to improve schools. I think the board, business community, and diorector want to improve schools. We have some schools with 50% dropout rates. Unacceptable. Crime, economy, and morality undermined. As mayor, I will bring nonprofits and businesses together to solve the issue. Good list of ideas. Judge me on reduction of dropout rate. School board will help.

Clement wants career and technical education. Need it back. College degree is not key to second class citizens.

Showing clearly how little Bob actually knows about education on the ground today. My opinion. My experience. The ed is good, but Bob's response is overly simplistic and VERY dated.

Dean says affordable housing is crucial. Need to work with non profits. Office of affordable housing in Dean mayor's office. Our habitat has built neighborhoods.

Clement says low income affordable housing. Average price is over 190 thousand dollars for a home in Nashville now. Many great ideas. Need to take those good ideas and run with them. I like to take ideas and put them into action.

Channel 5 part 2

Clement says he will not raise taxes for 4 years. 50 % increease over last 5 years. You need a break. Karl won't pledge.

Rich question: rehabilitation through worker training program?

Dean says the state should release innmates trained for jobs and educated. Substance abuse issues addresed. No revolving door. State is responsible. A pledge is a gimmick. I will not raise taxes. What does Bob mean? Will he veto a Concil tax increase?

Celement says Dean said via legal opinion that the people did not have a voice in raising taxes. What is your personal opinion?

Dean answers, Clement began assault on election night. Tennessean noted your poiunt was a stretch. As a lawyer, best legal advice. Referendum is the law. I will follow the law. Only the voters will increase taxes.

FINALLY....A turn to the silly question that Clement has been pushing.

Clement a lawyer is not a leader. Applause, but that is pretty silly.

Dean I will lead, and I will not raise taxes. PERIOD.

Nunez question about panhandling and homelessness:

Clement says aggressive panhandlers bother him greatly. Most are not, but those concern us. Where are the homeless facilities. Build a park.


Cleemt says we need affordable housing. We can do better.

Dean will support discouraging panhandling downtown. Pandhandling and homelessness are not the same. On homeless issue, I went and did the plunge. Substance abuse, mental illness, down on their luck causes need to be addressed. We need to treat it with housing units available.

CLement says homeless character changed (not all thagt recent a change, Bob). Bob expects the homelss to work. Need to do more for themselves.

Is Bob the most conservative Democrat in the state?

Wireless question:
Dean says that budget and revenue will prevent that commitment. I will look to private sectro to do it for profit. Stay focused on priorities.

Clement says that Karl is right. It is a major expenditure. Need a balanced budget; need to focus on priorities. Need accountability. Need an audit of each department. I am looking for efficiency. Management and publiuc finance are my background.

Channel 5 Mayoral Debate

About to begin. I will run a live blog of the debate here. Feel free to chime in with comments.


Dean says education is first. Should exceed the quality of surrounding counties. That's the usual intro for him, and I am glad to see it.

Clement says: I have new ideas - education and public safety are 2 top priorities. We are improving too slow [sic]. We are not getting our money's worth. Need more acocuntability and reform. Money will not improve it. No blank check

REALLY, a blank check was what he led me to believe he would give. I worry here.

Barker question:
Corporate relocation high but we are losing to Williamson County.

Clement says you have to talk to companies. As Conbgressman I brought jobs to area. Schools were the Williamson County edge, and that's bad.

Dean says we have brought alot of Nashville business. We have been #1 for 3 years to relocate. In region, in last 4 years, 45% of jobs in Davidson County the rest spread among other 9 counties. Nashville needs to be a families live city - Great schools. Number one thing I'm devoted to doing.

Bob says we';re not doing well. Many jobs not in Nashville. Must strengthen Davidson core to keep taxes low - will not raise taxes in next 4 years.

Powell question:
Challenge to get young issues addressed. How will young professionals get involved?
Organizations great. Dean administration new finance, law directors and new deputy mayor. Spent life working for the city of Nashville. I will encourage young to be invovled.

Clement says young people's paradise. Need to expand on Music City brand. Can move from good to great. I will recruit all over the world. I have management experience. I am a consensus builder.

Dean says we need to keep taxes low. I do not intend to increase taxes. Clement has voted for taxes. I have told you what I am going to do.

Rand Question:
Infrastructure budget?

Clement says it is his bread and butter to build Nashville. Need safety. Inspect, check, and get state, federal, and local dollars. Public and mass transit. I voted for some taxes and tax cuts. I left Congress with a balanced budget.

Dean says infrastructure involves many issues. Water concern too. Aging pipes. Public transportation proposal for traffic problems most well addressed by rapid bus technology. TO encourage people to use masss transit. Now. 8 buses can be paid for right away.

Clement says I have secured funds for mass transit, rail, and bike paths.

Segovia question:
About 287 program - even as immigrants net positive in revenue to middle Tennessee.

Dean supports 287 (g) program and went down there last week. Once arrested it is a criminal justice issue. need all of that information. If here in violation of the law it is appropriate to notify. I am against illegal immigration. We need to be a welcoming city, though.

Clement says we need an effort at the local level, and we have that. I support Hall. It is a model prgram. I will work closely with Hall to get federal funds.

Dean illegal immigration issue is a federal failure. Clement voted against border patrols and cooperation with federal government. We welcome although against illegal.

Dorn question:
Special education shortage areas, but his wife got job offers from Williamson. Improve recruitment efforts.

Clemet sas should not have happened. We have to improve our system. We are among the highest on a per pupil basis in expenditures, but we could be taken over by the state.

FACT CHECK: This is a terrible misuse of information by \Clement. Why won't Dean call him on it???

Dean says we need strong education. It comes down to what we put into it. We ought to do best in recruitment.

BOY does this miss the point! HOW WILL WE DO IT??? I am almost 100% ready to vote against Clement for manipulating the "data" on per pupil expenditures (with no consideration of the needs of our children) and the NCLB numbers which MNPS is ahead in because it started a year ahead of other counties. But Karl doesn't call him out on it, and his answer plays into Bob's hands by acknowledging we should do better without saying how!

Do you like the Art?
Dean likes it. Is it a proper expenditure? Dean thinks yes. Good progran to buy art.

I agree, Karl. Way to stand up on an issue!

Clement makes fun of Ghost Ballet. What a good ol' boy answer. Is he for it or not? I appreciate music and art. Symphony Hall is great.

BOB YOU ARE NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION. It is the oldest trick in the book to mock the art and then support legislation for the art.

Dean goes on about art. All correct, but very disappointing that he refuses to call out Clement even when Clement refuses to address the question directly. Dean needs better debate coaching.

Public trqansit alternative fuels question:

Clement is for clean air and water. Wow. Al Gore's movie ought to wake us up. Warming is real. I will work with state and feds.

My blog. That was another weak answer.

Dean says we need to get state and local involved - I support following protocoals. We need alt fuels and buildings that are efficient. We need Greenways.

I agree, Karl. Good answer here.

Clement says he was the key to natrional greenways. We are 5th from the bottom with unhealthy kids in America.

I agree Bob.

Bartholomew Question: Name a good non-profit.

United Cerebal Palsy (Dean). I met people with Cerebal Palsy. They do a wonderful job. Reconciliation ministries works with families of innmates. I want to reduce recidivism. One way is to intervene to help kids at home.

Clement Boy Scounts, Girl Scouts, Oasis Center, Habitat for Humanity. Bob CLement House still standing built in 4 hours plus 39 minutes and some record. Still stanidng. I will have an office of volunteerism in the mayor's office. We need to match the needs with the service. Some don't deserve help. I want to make a difference in people's lives.

I am sure that Bob Hall will interpret this answer, but it is hard to follow live.

Dean likes Oasis Center too. Would rely on non-profit sector.

Bowland question: How to pay for public-private coop.

Clement says we need a new convention center built on tourist taxes not property taxes. Baseball needs to be looked at in the thermal plant site.

Dean says I have no plans to raise taxes. Other revenue including state revenue. Governor understands our needs. Need more sales tax. Covention center helps. Much going on downtown. We need to build on it. They will pay taxes here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thoughts on the Channel 4 Debate

Thanks to Music City Bloggers for tipping me to the on-line video of the debate. I have just had time to watch it, and (as usual, I am less cynical than you ;))I do recommend sections of it as pretty useful (

Fast forward through the early sections where the candidates simply repeat the canned answers that have become so familiar, and ultimately unhelpful.

I thought the section with the video taped debates showed Karl Dean to be much better on education than I have seen him yet in the campaign. He made the clearest statement I have heard him make yet regarding what might happen in a situation where tax revenue runs short and his education priority is put to the test. If I hear him correctly, he is actually providing somewhat of an answer to the questions I asked after the JCC forum. It sounds like he really will fund education first in order to maintain a firm and consistent commitment to reforms and programs that take many years to see through to completion. Comment if I am wrong, but that is pretty close to what I have been waiting to hear. The need for stable and predictable funding was studied under the last mayor (and found to be important, but ultimately unattainable). If Karl Dean is truly committed to that, it could go a long way toward restoring confidence in the system for those families who currently choose Williamson County or private education when choosing where to live.

Bob Clement stresses public school choice here. OK, as far as that goes, but how will you get it done in cooperation with the school board and Director of schools remains an unanswered question.

There is still time to push this question further so that we get some real commitments about education instead of endorsement battles.

Is Karl Dean in Trouble?

Hard to say, I suppose, since early voting is just underway, but it seems like the gaffe's just keep on coming. I am frustrated by Dean's apparent inability to engage Clement seriously on the PR side of things. He seems under prepared to meet a challenger who, at this point, has successfully captured the invincibly popular (although realistically at odds) positions of no new taxes combined with promises for everyone. Maybe a television-saturation campaign will ultimately work, but I don't watch much TV, so I'm not sure why the ads seem to work so well. While Clement's overall position lacks credibility, Dean seems unable to score any significant blows against it.

That bothers me because the choice for mayor now seems more difficult than ever. Do I vote for the man who promises everything I hope to see the city do, but whose no new tax pledge will require him to pass the bill to future generations through creative financing strategies (at best) or simply go back on his promises (at worst), OR do I vote for the man who seems unable to expose the flaws in that campaign by educating people about specific policy solutions that could serve to show him to be more realistic and capable?

One problem seems to be that Dean seems to be running an incredibly insider-driven campaign. The campaign seems confident that it is smarter and better than Clement. Despite a clearly broader-based, more visible, and more popular public campaign by Clement, the Dean camp seems to believe that being smarter will be enough to win.

I love smarter. I want competent, realistic leaders, but anyone who has followed my opinions for very long knows that I sincerely believe that genuine and effective leadership requires more than just smarts and competence. Leadership ALSO requires the ability to convince people to follow you in the smarter course of action. It is true that the smarter course is not always more popular, and I agree with the historical reality that no new tax pledges almost ALWAYS force unnecessary choices between courses of action that are truly better for the community and those we can actually afford. But, effective leadership means being able to convince the people in the community who are asked to sacrifice for the community's greater good to understand and accept (even if grudgingly) the need for that sacrifice. This is the most important leadership quality that a strong mayor must have, and neither of these two has convinced me he has that quality yet.

Lining up endorsements is just a dressed up public opinion poll. (And BTW - The latest apparent SNAFU from the Dean camp regarding endorsements calls into question the general competence of the campaign if nothing else). I still haven't made up my mind. Let's hear some specifics. Mr. Dean: Find a clear way to call Clement out on the basic credibility gap that most already suspect; Mr. Clement: describe specific courses of action that you will take which Dean will not. September 11th is approaching, and many of us still need help to make up our minds....At least I do.

Monday, August 20, 2007


The City Paper is reporting that a blogger has filed a complaint over Fred Thompson's testing the waters campaign with the FEC (

I will be attending a Magnet Cluster Parents' Group meeting tonight, and I will be unable to watch the televised mayoral deabte live. I hope some of you will post your reactions to that debate here. I will try to get a look at it on tape when I get home.

I hope the format will yield some deeper exploration of the policies these men will pursue in office.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Impressed with Ben Wright

I had the privilege to listen to Ben Wright detail some of his vision for the MNPS schools last night, and I have to say that I was impressed. He voiced a much more student-achievement focused philosophy than the previous Chief Academic Officer did. Dr. Wright's predecessor worked aggressively to articulate standards and focus on the curriculum, but that focus had become myopic by the time she left.

Dr. Wright's focus is more educationally sound, and his strategies (more later) for achieving his goals seem good. Of course, successful implementation will be determined by a host of variables that philosophy and goals cannot fully control, but at least he seems to be on the right track (no pun intended).

Mine is just an initial observation, and much remains to be seen about implementation and buy-in from the stakeholders in the system, but I was invigorated that a cooperative approach linking the Mayor, City Council, and school board with this new focus could, over time, really go a long way in changing the perceptions and realities in our schools. Now is the time for political leaders to call for that cooperative approach.

Missing in action on this are any serious journalistic efforts by print or television news in town to detail the educational philosophy Dr. Wright brings and any serious investigation or comment by either mayoral candidate. I am ready to be corrected if this statement is in error, but I do know that no press was present at the Parent's Advisory Council meeting last night where I was able to hear Dr. Wright detail his goals. That's unfortunate because he was talking about what we need to DO about the NCLB realities. We should have a thriving discussion and debate about action steps to follow moving forward in place of continual hand-wringing about the shape we're in.

By the way, in case you missed it, please help me get attention from the mayoral candidates for my questions about their intentions in the area of education funding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maybe Jerry Maynard Should be Mayor

At the JCC Forum the other night, I was most impressed with Jerry Maynard. Megan Barry continued to stake out a strong position in support of the real choices that we must make if if our public schools are really the priority almost all of the candidates seemed to say there were, but Jerry Maynard did two things that moved me incredibly:

First, he put forward a specific, simply, affordable, and workable plan to improve educational outcomes. His individual strategic plan, signed by parents, and supported by a mentor scholarship program is the kind of idea that only someone with real experience working with at-risk youth could possibly advance. His grasp of the situation is solid, and his clear ideas show that he will be a Council member (would that he could be Mayor) whom we can count on to solve problems rather than passing the blame for them.

Second, and more significantly, Maynard was the only candidate that I heard to say that the City Council can do more than pay the bills for the schools. He said the Council should lead....LEAD. I have been writing here for quite awhile begging candidates who want to occupy city office to shoulder the genuine responsibility for leadership on the education issue.

What we mostly get is lip service..."I am the education candidate; education is my top priority," without a genuine and inspiring willingness to say, "I want the job because I want to be held accountable for the success of our public schools." That's powerful, and the city will get behind that kind of approach.

Many of the other candidates for the at-large seats literally said they would like to help schools, but all they can do is pass the budget. That's pretty hard to turn into an inspiring position supporting a property tax referendum if that were to be necessary. In fact, it is the same old conservative position that protects an individuals political stature at the expense of our city's children. When the Council members say, "We just pass the budget," it is a short leap in logic to the conclusion that they want people to believe the school board and district are solely responsible if schools fail. Mayor's by the way, can easily play this same game by implicitly allowing blame to fall on the school board, thereby justifying further (and more popular) tax reductions at the expense of kids.

Passing blame is only useful for protecting the political fortunes of individual politicians. Passing good public policy requires leadership, sacrifice, and risk-taking. That's why Jerry Maynard is the best mayoral candidate I have seen since the end of the first round. I guess, Mayoral stature on the City Council won't be all bad.

How does a write-in campaign go?

When will we hear answers?

It is like clockwork. I don't see many responses here when I am not stirring up controversy. I don't really want controversy at all. I want to build contacts and committed people who can act together to hold political officials accountable. Unfortunately, the campaigns appear to feel no urgency in addressing the questions I posted two days ago. Is that because they do not see any particular interest among the readers of this blog here? Is it because the group of people who might read this are seen as irrelevant to the ultimate outcome of the election? I don't know.

I do know the questions are fair and evenhanded. They react specifically to nothing but the candidates' own words, the historical experience of the city budget, and a genuine concern for strong public schools.

Can each person who reads this post and wants to see an answer to the education funding questions in the previous post please leave the short comment, "Please answer the questions," in the comments section of this post? This is just an experiment in keeping with my curiosity about this forum and its potential to help regular citizens organize and hold people accountable. Remember, we are the human resource department here. Log on, leave the request, and let's see what happens. Let's see if we can get enough attention to elicit a response.

If nothing else, maybe one of the news organizations can make the candidates address these questions.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Follow Up Questions I did not get to ask

Thanks to Avi Poster and the Nashville Jewish Community Relations Committee and the Jewish Federation of Nashville for sponsoring an interesting forum last night. Let me index my undigested thoughts on the event.

I arrived at 6:45 and was greeted by a row of Clement signs lining each side of the entry way. I walked in behind Mr. Clement who spent the 15 minutes prior to the event working the crowd. I did not see a single Dean sign when I walked in.

I don't know when Mr. Dean arrived, but I did not see him until just before 7:00 when the candidates assumed their positions on the front row of the room. The event followed a simple format that Mr. Poster remembered from his youth in Chicago. Each at-large council candidate was allowed 3 minutes to make the best case he or she could for our votes including in Mr. Poster's words, "the most specific actions they can take for the good of our community." Following the at-large candidates, the mayoral candidates were allotted 5 minutes to do the same.

Following the statements, the candidates took up positions around the room and addressed individual questions.

While Mr. Dean did not seem to have the visible support organization that Mr. Clement did, it was Mr. Dean who had the larger crowd around him to talk and ask questions after the event. I tried to get the questions I have been asking here to each man, and while I did get a minute or two with Mr. Clement, I was unable to make the front of the line with Mr. Dean until he was being whisked away for a television interview.

I want to be clear that I draw no conclusions from these details. I am reporting them just as they appeared to me. I appreciate, as always, the time these candidates give to make themselves known to voters, and I do not expect that I should have any more access to them than any other citizen. I was able to learn a great deal from the event, even without being able to address my more difficult questions.

That said, I would like to ask the following questions of each candidate, and I welcome anyone from either campaign who would like to post answers on this site to do so.

Mr. Dean:
You said that education is and will be your number 1 priority. I am interested in what that will mean in the actual events we are likely to encounter in the years ahead. As we have in the past, we are likely to face some serious budget constraints and the added challenge of limited ability to raise property taxes. First of all, do you agree that a tight budget is likely? Second, whether or not you agree, in the hypothetical circumstance that the mayor's office must limit overall spending considerably, how will you allocated resources between schools and other city priorities like public safety? In other words, what will it mean for schools to be the "number 1 priority?" Will you fund education first? Upon whom will you rely to give you an honest evaluation of the schools' needs? Will the school board, as the elected body accountable for school policy form the basis of your assessment? Will the Bransford Avenue administration be the final arbiter? Or will someone in your office make the decisions about which parts of the school budget are necessary and which parts are not?

Mr. Clement:
You were gracious enough to address one of my questions last night, and I think your answer leads to some other important questions like those posed to Mr. Dean above. I asked, specifically about your promise to reintroduce speech and debate teams in every high school. You know I am a supporter of debate, and I believe in competitive debating as a powerful force for education as well as school discipline and civic training, so when I asked how a mayor could get that done, you were direct and forceful in arguing that you would testify to the school board and generally be visible in promoting and even demanding that programs be reinstated. On follow up, I asked if that meant that you would put a red line around the debate team component of the school budget and refuse to allow a budget that cut it, and you said forcefully, yes. While I appreciate that commitment, and I support your willingness to be an active and involved mayor when it comes to education policy, your answer rightly raises questions about which items you will place under that kind of mayoral protection. Will you manage the decisions of the school board and district administration to the point that your management resembles a mayoral takeover of the schools? Are there other specific items that will be must do's for the school district? And if the cost of those items forces cuts in other parts of the school budget, how will you direct those cuts to fall?

Thanks to all for participating last night. These questions may seem tough, but they are the very questions that you will be made to answer if you become mayor, and I have been through too many uncertain budget years to make a decision with my vote if I don't have some idea about the thought process you will employ in tight times.

As Avi Poster said last night (I'm paraphrasing)...We are hiring you, and we owe it to everyone to have a thorough job interview. Thanks for answering.

Thoughts on a big day

Well, it's the first day of school for Metro Nashville students. the first day of Standard School Attire and the first day as a District in NCLB trouble.

None of the larger issues matter to my kids. They are just excited to be getting back to see their teachers and friends. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank all of the teachers and administrators who make the school experience so wonderful for so many in our city.

I spent yesterday at the Mayor's First Day celebration. I saw Karl Dean, but somehow I missed Bob Clement. I am sure he was there. Can anyone verify that? My gut impression on the scene was that Clement had more supporters with signs, but I was pretty secluded from my post at the Parent's Advisory Council table.

The District's Strategic Plan and virtually all of the articles on NCLB stress the importance of parental involvement. I think that parental support and involvement is indeed one of the most significant variables in determining the success of a school. Words in a newspaper or on a blog site pale in comparison to the daily involvement of thousands of parents and teachers in the daily work that our schools do. We all need to find ways to pitch in and support our students and our schools if they are going to be successful in their mission.

The Tennesseean's coverage today is pretty good. The opinion page covers NCLB questions pretty well, and Marc Hill's editorial on the continuing improvement of the schools delivers the kind of balanced optimism that we need in our community.

The Tennessean has also taken the time to detail the people behind the Mayoral candidates, giving an interesting and broader glimpse into the kinds of administrations each man may lead.

Finally, the GJCC is sponsoring what Avi Poster calls a, "Chicago-style" candidate debate tonight. That should be interesting, and if I understand the format correctly, audience participation will be encouraged.

I can't wait to see how that goes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What is a blog?

As I was under attack by two of the city's mainstream news editors last week, I took some blows in the interest of our common futures that I really should not have abided. I was accused of taking words out of context, which I did not do. I responded only to the claim that I was a nattering nabob, and defended the only claim I made which was that horse race journalism does not improve our political situation (never answered by Mr. Brewer), and suggested that my voice (unfortunately calling myself a blogger, rather than the citizen of Nashville that I am) was relevant in helping the mainstream press to ask good questions on our behalf. Everything else I was accused of by Mr. Brewer was hyperbole and distortion, and I will leave it to those who read my posts to confirm that. Because I believe so strongly in the power of reasoned discourse, I resisted the urge to engage in a shouting match when I was falsely accused of misrepresenting a post by Clint Brewer, and I let that accusation go for awhile, rather than to deny it outright.

As I have reflected on the experience and the exchange, I have increasingly felt that my responsibility to the people and the future of this city and my responsibility to my own family demands that I lay out my concerns clearly. With two recent and intervening days of posts about mayoral candidates who are in no political or rhetorical position to debate the real needs of this city that have received virtually no response, it occurred to me that I had let the citizens of Nashville down. While I originally entered the discussion with Mr. Brewer in the hope that we were basically seeking the same accountability from our politicians, his response convinced me that little could be further from the truth.

I speak now to point out that blog, blogosphere, and blogger are terms that are being used to silence citizens with opinions. Much like Reagan used liberal to silence any reasoned disagreement with his policies, many now use the label blogger to imply that the author of a blog is a wacko, siting around writing in his underwear. That impression is offensive and wrong, and while I have come to expect that kind of heavy-handed silencing rhetoric from politicians who don't want to address the specifics of their education plans, I was surprised to hear it from the editors of our papers. I understood journalism to be a noble craft and journalists to assume the weighty responsibility of making our officials answer to the concerns of real citizens. Just because I do not edit a paper does not mean that I do not take my words seriously or that I am somehow less entitled to speak my mind on the future of the city in which I have chosen to raise my family. Many bloggers have credentials that rival or exceed those of the journalists who lodged the attacks I endured last week, and while my initial impression was to play nice and try to convince Mr. Brewer and Ms. Garrigan of my basic humanity, all I got from them was scorn.

With all due respect to Sean, I am not eager to be fast-tracked into journalism, especially if it means that I must start disparaging legitimate opinions and questions from citizens in order to uphold "journalistic standards." Ms. Garrigan is right that I would not last an hour in journalism because I could not stand silent while I simply printed the press releases of the candidates and call that news. I could not take a victory lap for a poll that "nailed it" when all that was accomplished was fortune telling or prognostication. I would expect that I could only look the citizens of the city in the eye and say I "nailed it" when I managed to point out the superficial responses and manipulation of the process that the candidates so easily undertake. I am a citizen. I live here. I love this city. And just because all CNN and FOX News give us on the national level is prognostication, that does not mean I have to be grateful when I get it on the local level.

As a citizen, I need good journalists. That's why I tried to be so indirect and humorous in my criticism, but the subsequent attack was not funny. Not because I can't take criticism...I can, I do, and I expect it; but because I need so much better from the mainstream press. Mr. Brewer and Ms. Garrigan hold positions that privilege them to ask the questions that we citizens cannot ask. With that power comes responsibility, and I understand it is hard to bear, but turning on citizen voices, credentialed, experienced, compassionate, and well-meaning voices, undermines the very hope I have and abdicates that important responsibility, letting candidates off the hook.

Likewise, I believed that responsible journalists would want nothing more than engaged readers. These are the people that make it possible for them to ask the tough questions and print evaluations of the campaign press releases instead of simply being manipulated into printing whatever the campaigns want them to print. For the record, I offered critical evaluations of the coverage of all three papers, even though the Tennessean did not take me on. That is not to privilege the Tennessean, because citizens of Nashville deserve better coverage than our papers are giving us.

Horse race coverage means that the best the papers can do is accurately predict a winner before an election. I have pointed out the counterproductive side of that (with NO RESPONSE AT ALL FROM MY CRITICS), but even without the counterproductive side, what does that give us? In what way is that a public service worthy of celebration? That coverage might be useful if you were in Vegas gambling on the outcome of the contest rather than living in Nshville gambling you future on the policy decisions of the eventual winner during the next 4-8 years. Let's move to celebration of a press that makes the mayoral candidates tell us what they will do in the real budget crunch that we all know is coming.

Mr. Brewer gloated that he was 48 hours ahead of me on NCLB...WRONG! People who have been active in supporting public schools (including specifically me) have known that result was coming for some time (I mean years). Reactive journalism and reactive politics are supportive of each other. Anyone who asks the tough questions in advance is labelled a cynic or a doomsayer, and yet, invariably the events unfold, and all of a sudent, they are reported as news. We are not drawing this information from our overly-active imaginations; we draw it from careful, consistent, and reasonable assessment of the data.

This is not a personality contest, and it is time the so-called war between "bloggers" and journalists be called what it really is: a serious appeal by real, involved, active, experienced, and qualified citizens for a press that will ask the tough questions for us. We need you, Mr. Brewer and Ms. Garrigan. We cannot do it without you. Our voice is limited, but it is not illegitimate. Every time you label well-meaning citizen voices as radicals, liberal, or bloggers, you attempt to silence the people and play into the hands of the campaigns that manipulate your coverage.

This is not a personal attack, although I know I will be accused of that. I will not answer nitpicking manipulations and get into a further struggle. You say your door is always open, although you have no desire to have lunch with a real person. You would rather ridicule and attack me with false accusations than deal with my legitimate concerns.


I have a family, and we love Nashville. I care about the education this city provides, and I know first-hand how crucial the complete support of the mayor is to achieving the education for Nashville's kids that they all deserve. I don't know the family status of either of my detractors, but I suspect we share in common a desire that this city will grown and prosper, and everyone pays at least lip service to the notion that universal education is a key component of that growth and prosperity whether we are parents of public school students or not. I know I believe it, and

I will not be intimidated by labels and attacks from journalists who act as if they have my best interests at heart when they successfully tell me who will win an election before it actually happens. When journalists tell me that candidate A will deal with the impending school budget crunch this way and candidate B will deal with it another way, then I will congratulate and thank them for their work. It is hard work, but it is essential work if our city is to move forward.

Until then, please do not label me a blogger. I am a citizen. You say your door is always open? Well, the only thing the new technology has done is to make THIS your front door. If you do not deal with these challenges on their merits here, and if you do not demand that the campaigns answer tough questions rather than expecting their press releases to be printed every day without evaluation, you can expect to see me at this door. I invited you to lunch, and you treated me like a misguided child. I am at your front door right now asking for more challenging coverage.

You and I would both be better off if our candidates were held to higher standards. You have the power and time to make it happen for both of us and all of the other citizens of Nashville. I am simply here as a citizen and reader to encourage you to do that.

We can't do it without you; andwe certainly can't do it if you treat us like an enemy.

Does Disagreeing with 77% Make you wrong?

Where to begin? Bob Clement is hitching his wagon to the anti-tax movement. Pressing Karl Dean to express his opinion on last year's property tax referendum, Bob Clement is pressing the implicit assumption that the referendum is good policy. Karl Dean seems understandably reluctant to point out the potential damage this legislation will do to the City's budgeting process because if he does, he will immediately be labeled a tax and spend liberal who is out of touch with Nashville.

Kudos to Clement for painting Dean into a rhetorical corner, but shame on him for so completely sidestepping the real issues raised by that referendum. When voters have incomplete and biased information, leadership demands moving in another direction. Don't get me wrong, leaders should step out of line from public opinion only carefully, cautiously, and making every effort to help people understand and support the move. The blunt instrument that Clement is waving right now discourages any attempt to try to educate the people of Nashville about the quite reasonable disagreement that exits on this tax referendum issue.

Unfortunately, when the fiscal crunch hits, and we have not grown our way out of the problem (see More Statements on Education), severe budget cuts in education or a property tax increase will be our only choices. How will these two behave under those circumstances?

We know a property tax increase will be unpopular and presumed to lose in referendum. Only a full court press by the mayor has the chance to educate people to what will be lost and gained by such an increase. The mayor needs credibility on the issue, and unfortunately, neither man is showing the capability or credibility to argue for tough choices now.

Clement is sounding very much like a man who never met a tax he liked while also proposing a raft of new "ideas." One can easily wonder where the money for those will come from and what will remain when the crunch hits.

Dean, on the other hand looks almost incapable of making an aggressive argument for the money our schools will need. I understand the political game that Clement is playing, and right now, I blame him more, but I am discouraged by how completely that game (which will not go away) seems to paralyze Dean, whom I predict will gravitate toward more narrowly unpopular cuts rather than making the important case for a broad civic support and sacrifice on behalf of public education.

That's unfortunate, because it is all borrow a phrase.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Education Not a Real Issue in Campaign

Several Dean voters said they were drawn to his major campaign theme, "It's All connected." In a barrage of television advertisements, candidate forums and speeches, Dean made the case that reducing Metro schools' dropout rates would get kids off the streets, cut juvenile crime and eventually propel more residents into the city's work force.
"I think Karl will be business-friendly in terms of continuing growth and getting companies to move into Nashville," said Glynn Dowdle, president of Baron + Dowdle Construction. "You have to have good schools and police to attract those companies."
David Cain, an attorney with Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, said Dean "has a better understanding of what needs to be done with education."
"The dropout rate creates problems. The more people drop out, the more people we have here that can't be productive members of society. So we have an obligation to everybody.
Karl has a real understanding of that," Cain said. (The Tennessean, August 8, 2007)
WHAT? What will he do to reduce dropout rates? What is the mayor's role? There is no argument here yet. To illustrate, let me pose this question: If dropout rates increase next year, what will you do about it as mayor? Will you fire the schools director, take over the schools, add funding to the school budget, push the school board to accept a new program or school design?
It isn't so simple when you think about it in real terms, is it?

Your turn, Bob:
Joseph Sweat, who retired as executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League, said he committed to supporting Clement early on. But he also was impressed by Clement's emphasis on vocational education for some high school students. "That's something that's not stressed very often, and it's something we need," Sweat said.(The Tennessean, August 8, 2007)

That's not all, I know. Bob Clement has hundreds of ideas on his web site. So does Karl Dean. I've read the ideas and the plans. It IS all connected, but that simply doesn't explain how we will get the education piece of it right.

I need to know, how will these ideas and plans come to pass? We know there will be a serious funding crisis in the next four years. How will these men address that? Do they have a proactive plan to manage the funding squeeze so that families who put their children in the schools will be able to feel comfortable that their education will proceed with minimal disruption, or will they each be forced to slash budgets and blame the school district for fiscal mismanagement?

Nashville is a great city. People who move here are always very impressed by how many of the aspects of big city life we have well figured out. Growth and development issues have been handled pretty well so far, and the big money in this mayor's race is primarily concerned to see that continue. But, of course, we all are. Smart growth is important. LEED standards on new construction are an important part of smart growth as is real, usable mass transit. These guys are not bad on those areas, but when the budget crunch comes, we need to know how these guys will react.

I am not confident at this point that either side has articulated a proactive plan to use the mayor's office to be sure that the school district plans and executes a solid strategy to make it through and continue to improve at the same time. I further don't believe that when the chips are down and kids are losing their teachers that either of these guys will put forward bold initiatives with a real chance to improve our schools.

And here's the punch line: I don't believe the voters are really demanding this of them. We hear all the time that education is very important to Nashville. I suppose. But are voters and government officials REALLY willing to make the sacrifices that will make our public education system strong? I want to believe, and I am looking for evidence. Many people at Bransford Avenue, on the school board, among the parents, and students of the district are working hard and making sacrifices.

What sacrifices are these mayoral candidates really willing to make for public schools that are actually strong enough to attract businesses?

More statements on education

Michael Cass has pinned the candidates down a little more on what to do about funding schools in light of the property tax referendum requirement added by voters last year. In a Metro Dispatch entry raising the challenge that the next mayor will have to choose between cutting services and cutting costs,

Clement said he would find another way: growing the Metro tax base by recruiting new businesses to town and promoting tourism.“You can grow your way out of some problems,” he said.

Dean, meanwhile, said he would work to cut administrative costs. “Obviously, my preference would be to cut overhead and give more emphasis to providing the services,” he said. “But you have to manage the resources that are available.” (Metro Dispatch, August 8, 2007)

The contours of some different approaches are evident here. Dean's response mirrors the fiscal management approach of the Purcell administration, while Clement's approach follows the growth path as the solution to funding limits. Of course, these are both good and bad responses. They probably are not exclusive of each other, and the best solution lies in the middle. Dean needs to remember his point that "it's all connected," since the city's growth potential is ultimately weakened by poor public education. Funding uncertainty and continual belt-tightening also undermine parental confidence and participation in the system, however, so those parts are connected too.

So far, from my admittedly limited observation, neither man has articulated a clear picture of the Mayor's role in all of this. We need to grow, and we need to manage our spending wisely. Given. What will you do as mayor to see to it that we do both?

Education and the Men who Would be Mayor

Today's City Paper gets the candidates on record on the question of what each would do to improve Nashville's schools in light of the NCLB sanctions. Each candidate seems to hit some of the important issues, but not surprisingly, each dodges the Mayor's role a bit, at least according to the article. Nevertheless, we are on the right track, and hopefully the next few weeks will offer opportunities for more probing follow ups to be asked.

Bob Clement:
“I will work with the school board and director of schools, but as next mayor I am not going to sit on the sidelines and say nothing,” Clement said about his efforts to move the system off the list. “I’m not going to be that kind of mayor. If it means being confrontational, if it means speaking my mind, I will do that.” (City Paper, August 8, 2007)

The City Paper had to go to Clement's web site to see what that might mean:
According to Clement’s Web site, his plan for education in the city is to oppose efforts to drain money from public education and fight to make schools stronger. (City Paper, August 8, 2007)

That sounds good, but we need to know what that means in terms of the mayor's role. Will Clement veto City Council budgets that do not include the money the School Board deems necessary to fund School Administration priorities? Will Clement fund education first and force budget battles over public safety instead? Will Clement employ staff who tell the School Administration what priorities will be acceptable? In short, to whom will he speak his mind and be confrontational?

Karl Dean:

Dean said the district’s improvements in the elementary and middle school levels are to be highlighted, but improvement was also needed in increasing parental nvolvement.

According to his detailed education plan, topping the priority list is parent involvement, increased graduation rates in high schools and support for teachers.

He suggested holding more school meetings in the neighborhoods and communities around Nashville to allow parents access to information about their child’s education.

“I do think it’s a complex problem and not unique to Nashville,” Dean said about the district’s new “corrective action” status. “I think I would look at increased parental involvement. I think you accomplish that by educating parents on how they can be involved and we should work to make it easy for them to do so.”(City Paper, August 8, 2007)

This reply also sounds good, and Mr. Dean is definitely right about the impact of parental involvement. Dr. Garcia has structures to help facilitate parental involvement in place, but broader participation is needed. So, how will Dean promote that involvement. Meetings in neighborhoods are a good start, but who will he rely on to organize and lead those meetings? Also, how will he cope with the challenges of families whose work schedules and other children do not allow participation at school? What will he do about magnet and enhanced option schools whose parents supply transportation from all parts of town and face extra hurdles in getting to the school to help? Parental participation is absolutely essential, but Mr. Dean needs to explain how he will use his power as mayor to promote it. Otherwise, parents too easily become the scapegoats for failing schools, and principals wind up spending more and more of their limited time educating parents rather than children.

Supporters of these candidates need to help me go deeper. Established news outlets cannot press and press on these questions because they don't have space, and if the candidates get tired of answering, the news outlet will simply lose access to the candidates. This space can be used to press harder because I have no access to the candidates here to lose.

I am glad we are on this track, and I commend the City Paper for asking the initial questions. I am pressing for more specifics. The NCLB news is not new. Everyone involved in education has known that these sanctions were eventually coming. Now they are here, and we need decisive action. We also need community-wide understanding of the situation and support for efforts to improve it.

No individual can do it alone, but the mayor can play a large role. I am looking for the mayor that help can do that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Three Weeks is Too Long

The Election Commission gives losing candidates 3 weeks to collect their signs according to the Tennessean. I think that's too long, and I place this on the campaign supporters. I have collected all the signs I placed, but if you pitched into a campaign by placing signs, I strongly encourage you to do your part and remove what you placed. I hope that everyone will do a little with the signs that are nearby. Even if you did not place a sign, you know which ones need to go.

Elections are messy, but let's all pitch in to at least reduce the criticism that democracy is intrusive.

Enough Diverting Fun - Back to Why this Blog Exists in the First Place

I don't mind asking tough questions. If I am wrong, I am happy to be shown to be with warrants. Name calling makes me laugh, and sometimes I enjoy playing back with a name caller, but that's all in good fun.

This morning's main issue and central question should be, with Metro Schools now officially in NCLB hot water, what distinguishes how the remaining mayoral candidates will respond. It isn't as if these numbers are a surprise. Dr. Garcia has been talking about them for some time, and there are problems with NCLB.

I'd like to peel all of that away for a minute and ask supporters of each candidate to make the case for some specific actions the next mayor will take to deal with the issue.

We'll take as the null hypothesis that neither man will be any better suited to handle the situation than the other. Please tell me why the null hypothesis is wrong.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I guess I struck a nerve

Clint Brewer has really gone after me for not conforming to the standards to which the MSM must conform. Liz Garrigan agrees that I wouldn't last a minute under the conditions that she must operate. I don't disagree with either of them, and I never set out to become a journalist.

However, if I am free to speak my mind about the impact of polls on voting behavior, but the exacting standards under which the MSM must labor does not permit that, then I think we may have a bigger problem.

All I did to provoke this response was point out that calling me a "nattering nabob" was just name calling, and that the last guy to use that phrae was in the wrong.

My original posts simply tried to point out other interpretations that the polls could be given as a way of reminding people that voting, not the polls ought to determine the outcomes of elections. That point is relatively non-controversial, but it almost never finds its way into the frontline news story. The editors will blog about it, but by their own disparaging of blogs, the work they do there lacks credibility compared with the work they do in print.

I let the gloating "We Nailed It!" post stand unchallenged, but what journalistic investigation could prove the hypothesis that the poll accurately REFLECTED the electorate was more true than the hypothesis that the poll CREATED the electorate? I raise a question, because the answer to this question is not proveable. One simply decides to believe that a poll is MORE LIKELY a reflector than a shaper.

For the record, my posts have raised questions about the three major print outlets in Nashville as well as other bloggers. Here's what Clint did not quote:

I am not saying that this poll won't end up being correct, but I would hate for any survey of 564 people to be correct because it led people to vote as if the poll were an instruction sheet. Everyone needs to make his/her own decision and vote that way. That is the only way democracy really works. Polls are fun to talk about, but if the polls shape how we vote, we are giving our decisions away.

In each election, there are many polls taken. Often on a national level, one of them ends up being pretty close to the results. The problem is that you never know which one will be accurate until after the results are in.

Don't let anyone (polls, bloggers, pundits) decide who you want to be your mayor. You get to make that decision on your own. With just a little over a week remaining, you still have time to consider all of the candidates thoughtfully, and make your own decision. If you want that decision to help shape Nashville's future, just be sure to act on it.

I am concerned that implicit questions of my ethics have been tossed around in comments to the post. What did I do in the above statement that was unethical?

Print journalists have hard jobs, and I respect their efforts to do them as well as they can. Why they don't report the negative implications of polling and horse racing is because if they did, it might leave them without a story on the polls.

I don't think that would be so bad, but it is not my place to tell them which of their opinions they can write.

I'd love to see a print article about the limitations of the polls and the potential that they will shape, rather than reflect the results. Until then, I guess I will have to keep putting that stuff here, in my own diary of personal opinions.

At least now someone important is listening, and I sincerely appreciate that.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Blog Influence?

S-town Mike makes a good point about blog influence, but a useful rejoinder in the Knoxville Sentinel is worth considering as well.

Bloggers' role in Nashville's mayoral race
S-town Mike has a nice, succinct post on that issue. I think he's perhaps a bit humble on the issue, but then I'm not in Nashville and I haven't been covering the race. I will say, though, that the blogging of the mayor's race is the most I've seen in a city election, and I'm no rookie to blogging.

In his post-election post, Mike says:

Before any hyper-analysis and hyperventilating over the question of the influence of bloggers on elections starts up tomorrow, I just have to say that I do not assume that my endorsements of candidates have any more impact on people than any other voter who talks to friends and co-workers about whom they vote for. If candidates do not already have a base of people that they have organized or if they lack maximum media saturation, then the "netroots" cannot contribute much. However, in a close race, having bloggers in one's corner certainly doesn't hurt a candidate. It is one more medium among many.

He also comments:

I never had any delusions of grandeur of what I might do for the Briley Campaign, so his note of appreciation helps close tonight's results in my mind. Let's just put questions of influence to bed, which is exactly where I am now headed.

This may sound snarky but I'm serious. Don't sell blogging's impact short, Mike. After all, the bar has not been set very high:

Research suggests that newspaper endorsements have only a slight impact on election results. From 1940 to 2002, newspaper endorsements changed perhaps 1 percentage point of the vote.

(For the record, I've never liked newspaper endorsements. Their role in elections is antiquated to say the least, especially with the advent of the Internet. If I were an editor, I'd dump endorsements and use the space for something people actually care about.)

The influence cannot be zero. I met alot of new people with whom I expect to be able to continue to build a larger conversation. Even if it means no more than a face to face conversation, I at least met alot more people than I would have face to face. That's worth something.

All Right - I'll play a little...but just for fun, Clint

Clint Brewer's triumphant celebration of his polling data lacks substance and relies on an allusion to a phrase deployed by Spiro Agnew to dodge discussions of his flaws (like tax fraud). I'll have a little fun with the allusion. It doesn't help his claims. As Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, "I don't think that word means what you think it does."

The phrase, "nattering nabobs of negativism," was originated by Spiro Agnew. It is the argumentative equivalent of "you stink." As Agnew was being nailed to the wall for tax evasion and the Nixon administration's Vietnam policy was falling apart, Agnew was reduced to complaining frequently about the harsh criticism he experienced from the news media.

It's kind of ironic that the phrase would be deployed BY a member of the media against the criticism that the media has become a tool of the mainstream. Simply pointing out that polling and the "horse race" coverage of elections shifts attention from the real issues, I have become a nabob.

It was Agnew who preferred not to have to face criticism by what was then a watchdog press; holding people in power accountable.

Today, it is bloggers who try to hold the mainstream press accountable. The nattering nabobs of negativism were the good guys when they held Agnew accountable, and it seems to me that nabobs in this case may well do the same thing with a press that has lost its way a bit. The "nabobs" were right about Agnew's tax fraud. They were right about Nixon's criminal activities, and they were right about bombing Cambodia and Laos. The mainstream guys (Agnew and Nixon) didn't want to hear it, but since they were wrong, all they could do was dismiss criticism with name calling.

For the record, I agree completely with Clint's observations about Gentry's having run a solid campaign. My main points about polls, however, are not addressed in this triumphalist post, but you can read those elsewhere if you want to.

Here's to the nabobs. They usually force us to think.

First Blush

The next horse-race is already under way. This morning's Tennessean
handicaps it this way:

The near-six-week sprint to the Sept. 11 runoff will contrast the candidates' differing visions: Clement's idea that Nashville is "at a crossroads" that will determine whether it goes "from good to great" against Dean's assertion that the city is already great and needs to build on its momentum.

Is it really that simple? Or artificial? Or meaningless?

What if I think the city is great but can and should get better? Don't both candidate sound-bites really support that idea? To think otherwise is to assume from Dean's perspective that Clement is a doomsayer who just can't stomach a progressive Nashville, OR from Clement's perspective that Dean is satisfied with good while Clement is striving for great. These simple and simplistic assertions and their implied criticism of each other will be around alot in the next few weeks. I hope that someone is willing to point out how unhelpful they are in deciding the real issues that confront our city. Can we dispense with the idea that these guys have conflicting visions about whether Nashville is good and whether we should strive to make it better or not? Neither could possibly disagree with either, and the whole silly mess will be nothing but a battle of meaningless semantics that will quickly turn to the personal attack since "real" evidence of the unprovable assertion cannot be found.

What is the issue? What does it all mean?

The Tennessean is willing to help us out. The ISSUES?:

The issues are: How will each candidate build a majority? How will they pick up enough votes from the David Briley, Buck Dozier and Howard Gentry campaigns to win?

WHAT?!?!?! Leaving aside the poor subject-verb agreement where are is used with only one actual issue, how can the horse race BE the issue???

Maybe I don't understand the term. My impression has always been that issues involved questions like what mass transit plan is better for Nashville and why? How will the mayor reduce dropout rates and make sure that our schools are the envy of the state?

In today's Tennessean the ISSUE of this election is how each will win the election? That's so circular my head spins.

I am going to call the campaigns' arguments for what they are. When I hear arguments that address the issues, I will lay those out for us to see and discuss. When I hear arguments that are just code for something I am supposed to feel, but which would be hard to say out loud, I intend to point that out.

Let's see where that leads us.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Exit Polls

When I voted last week, I answered an exit poll outside the door. The company was Yacoubian Research, and they told me they were hired by Fox News. I am curious about that data. Where is it? Who has it? What do they think it says?

I know that the media outlets use exit polling data to improve the accuracy of their extrapolations on election night. Some returns plus the polls allow them to make very accurate calls early in the evening so that we can all go to bed knowing who won and still make it to work on time the next day...Remember 2000?

I also know that campaigns sometimes use this kind of information. I am not drawing any conclusions, but as I researched this question, I discovered that Yacoubian Research is a company from Memphis. It is named for pollster Berge Yacoubian who has advised many political candidates in his career, including Bob Clement (Memphis Flyer, February 7, 2002). I also discovered that Bob Clement's campaign has used Yacoubian in this campaign (now, I wish I could produce this evidence, but I cannot get the City Paper links to work. Google Clement and Yacoubian, and you will see the links...I just can't get them to display).

Here were the questions:

1. Whom did you vote for today?
2. For whom would you vote in a Clement-Dean run-off?

That's it. I am happy to be asked and answer these questions, and I did, but when the interview was over, I got to ask my questions. The pollster, who was very nice, by the way, said she was with Yacoubian Research and that this company was hired by Fox News.

This is not a blog about specualtion and inuendo. So, let me be clear: I could care less who really hired the group. I am willing to take them at their word, and I expect the Fox affiliate in Nashville will use the data tonight. I am interested in this poll as one who spends alot of time looking at them.

What is curious about this poll is that it only asked these two questions. The second question could easily be designed to elicit certain perceptions about the race. This practice is called push polling. I hope that the Fox affiliate will produce a story tonight in which they analyze this whole concept of defensive voting as it played out in this race. I can see a direction for interpreting the data from these two questions in order to extrapolate how much Briley and Dean affected each other and whether anti-Clement sentiment really played a role in selecting one candidate or another. We'll see. That could be interesting stuff.

I will only say this: If I were the editor in charge at Fox, I would try to use a company with a more plausibly independent face than Yacoubian which has obviously worked for one of the candidates in this election. I don't ever want this blog confused with a cynical conspiracy theory joint. All media whether institutional or blogospheric make selection decisions about what to include and what to exclude. I just want people to remember that so they will investigate further and make up their own minds. At Fox they like to say that they report, and we decide. I am just including a little more reporting that might be useful in deciding.

Leave a comment if you are polled today.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Good Discussion - Hope vs. Fear

I like and appreciate the people who differ with me about the candidate they support. Their ideas and thoughts are important because they have them, and getting to know and hear those thoughts in this forum sharpens and improves my own. David Briley has my vote because he approaches disagreement this way. He is a leader who can listen and evaluate without becoming paralyzed by inaction. Many politicians today act decisively, even ignoring opposing views in order to show their ability to lead. I say leadership lives neither in the tyranny of decisive but blind action nor in the paralysis of endless conversation. David Briley has convinced me that he best understands this razor-thin expectation we place on leaders. He has led well. He listens, he learns, and he acts wisely. He is an inspirational leader. This city is on the verge of exploding as a major city in this country, and our destiny will be best shaped by forward looking, thoughtful deliberation coupled with the courage to act wisely. The danger, as David says often, is not that the other guys will be bad, but that they will not quite expect as much.

David Briley stands for hope and courage. He stands against the efforts to create fear of the other guys. What are the reasons people list for choosing the other candidates? Many (and a generalization here is always somewhat right and somewhat wrong) try to make you afraid to vote for David. They say, "A vote for David is a vote for Buck." "David wants to take over the world." "David denies Dean his rightful momentum."

They are all wrong. There are reasons to prefer the other candidates. As I have repeatedly said, they are all good men who will serve the city well. My vote is for hope...the optimism that we can be served BETTER than well. One candidate convinces me that he can do that - David Briley.

Now, those who take issue with my claims about democracy. Specifically, those who try to say that there is a logical fallacy in saying that person-to-person persuasion can actually determine the outcomes of an election...You have to understand my frustration. When you buy into that cynicism; when you deny hope; you create the fearful, discouraging world that you say you want to avoid.

This conversation will continue after tomorrow. I hope that the seeds of those reading this blog will lead many of you to join this conversation. Hope and optimism CAN work. In the end, hope and optimism will always overcome fear and cynicism in the same way that light overcomes darkness. But, unfortunately, fear can prevent us from having hope in the first place. If we can get a big enough group to reject fear and vote with hope, we will be able to make an incredible impact on our collective future.

Tomorrow is the first round. Win or lose this time, I say that one by one we can take back the political process and be the Nashvillians we want to see.