Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bless You're Heart

I have been unduly unkind to Nashville in this blog and as I begin the third year of residence I have to explain that there are many many reasons why I find this place so utterly disappointing and frustrating but the two reasons are:  The lack of education and the emphasis on what defines education here.  The other: Religion.

This city is not liberal it is a moderate type of liberalism that comes from being around the entertainment industry.   I cannot stress that most of the entertainers are in fact conservative but in that ordinary quasi libertarian manner that is neither liberal nor conservative but no less strident in their views.    This masks the real leadership that defines the region - the Church.  I cannot stress enough that the order of import here in Middle Tennessee is as follows:

1:  Money
2:  Church (what faith you belong matters as well)
3:  History (tribalism, whose people did you belong)
4:  Gender (the concept of Southern women from Belle to Battleax)
5:  Race (then in turn the divisions among those)
6:  Children
7:  Education

I cannot stress enough that the role of religion is this double edged sword, one that provides cohesion and the other its divisiveness.  The role of faith has enabled the South to be the hypocrites you see in the stereotype of religious fundamentalism. They are sure they are right and that they have God and more importantly Jesus (he is actually mentioned more often than God in prayer, thought and action) as their agent of support.   Since you do not "belong" you are inherently wrong and therefore dismissed.  It enables the Southerner to talk smack about you the minute you leave the room, although frankly in the "New" South they don't wait that long.

And yes I am generalizing and of course judging in the same way they do here.  And the point is what? Well these are my observations and experiences and when I hear the repeated "I've never heard that before?" I go: "Well now you have."  That too is another example of the way communication goes here.  Offend then defend.  It is exhausting.

This truly came to me after numerous discussions specifically about the schools here that stopped dead in its tracks when the local asked:  "Why did you come here?"  Not, "What brought you here?" "How did you come to find/to relocate to Nashville?"  No, WHY.  Just that alone is a defensive posture as if you are some Carpetbagger here to take something from them.   And that is the historical concept that dominates the third rule of law here - Nativism/Tribalism.  Where you are from originally and who your people were are essential to gain a sense of belonging.   There is the rule of threes:  Be from the actual city itself where you live.  Be from the region and that too is divided and broken down by actual location in the state - East, West or Middle Tennessee, then that again is divided by which county and then in turn city where one came from.  It is so hierarchical and overly complex it is absurd.  I have never heard in my years growing up on the West Coast such obsessive bullshit in my life.  I would never say I am a "Washingtonian, born and raised in King County and Seattle."  True in my neck of the woods where you went to school in the State defined you and that too seemed to be the massive tool of judgment as there Education is number two on the scale.  Money  is always number one in the cities where wealth is measured and in turn lauded.  That is one thing where America is always united.

And as I have not lived anywhere else in the South I can only go with what I read or see or hear in my travels through the region. I think this essay in Harper's by Imani Perry demonstrates the confusion and contradictions that mark the South with regards to race and politics in the present day. And note that it is poverty that marks black communities and in tune how they are so linked to race but it is women who dominate that culture yet men receive all the recognition for change.  Yet time and time again we see Black Women at the forefront not the background, it was for them that elected Doug Jones. Go figure. This is the South and the Black Community mirrors the white one, again showing the odd co-dependence or perhaps the true character of the region, a type of sexism combined with ageism and racism.  It all sort of coalesces into this odd hybrid while behind closed doors White men rule with their bourbon and cigar yet they never could have without their army - be that women or slaves.    Again money, women, then race. See the Gospel According to Andre to understand how this brilliant eccentric character of the South found his way and it was through women in his life who even in their death he lives in their shadow. His color and sexuality are long behind the list of import.

The South's pull on people is such a double edged sword and here in Nashville the city decimated by a flood only eight years earlier is much like a Phoenix rising above the ashes. For a long time Atlanta or "Hotlanta" was the attention getter, New Orleans was always a city that found itself flooded in ways that Katrina destroyed and in turn allowed the city to simply just be there even today. So why did it not do the same? Politics and Money and Race played into that. Again read the book Katrina, After the Flood by Gary Rivlin to understand that dynamics.

But Nashville surged like flood waters under the helm of a Democratic Mayor, Dean (who is running for Governor) and the truck stop moron Haslam who is sure that there is not a deal he does not like. Funny the same legislation that has a love/hate relationship with Nashville doesn't feel the same about Memphis.  Memphis was always the big tourist draw and in turn rich with a history of music and culture that is less country and more blue as in black and blue.  But today Nashville is pulling a great deal of that business and again cares deeply about that industry at the expense of all others.  

Here's how much Nashville tax revenue goes to developers instead of schools
Mike Reicher, Nashville Tennessean Published 7:55 p.m. CT June 19, 2018 | Updated 9:13 p.m. CT June 19, 2018

Tennessee taxpayers forgo $1.2 million each year to subsidize a single job through the state's largest business tax break program. 

As Nashville prepares to raid its reserves to pay for unexpected school costs, some of the shortfall can be traced to tax breaks awarded to developers.

The city diverted $9.3 million of property taxes from schools to pay off redevelopment loans — for downtown hotels, luxury condos and other projects.

Such diversions have occurred for decades, but in the past two years they've grown quickly. This fiscal year's amount was about $1 million more than expected.

Metro Nashville Public Schools may cut 30 central office positions and pause new programs to make up for a $17 million hole in its budget next fiscal year. The city's financial woes have drawn new scrutiny to economic development subsidies, and caused many to ask fundamental questions about Nashville's perceived prosperity.

More: Amid budget shortfall, are Nashville's financial incentives still worth the cost?

How, they wonder, can a city with gleaming hotel towers, record-low unemployment, and years of real estate market growth, not afford to pay for its children's education? Who, exactly, has benefited from the development boom?

The scrutiny was heightened this week after Director of Schools Shawn Joseph made an unusual supplemental request seeking $3.5 million to plug budget holes related to health insurance, enrollment and redevelopment. About $1 million of that represented the difference between the budgeted and actual tax dollars diverted to pay off the economic development incentives.

“It makes no sense for the City of Nashville to rob the reserves of the schools to do redevelopment,” said Erick Huth, president of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association​, the local teachers union.
In December, Bridgestone Americas opened its new, $200 million Bridgestone Tower, employing 1,700 people, and it receives a 100 percent abatement on property for 20 years.

So far this fiscal year Metro has redirected $29.8 million of property taxes to the redevelopment loans. Just like a homeowner's taxes, a portion of the collections would have gone to Nashville schools. In fiscal 2017, Metro sent $24.8 million to MDHA.

Nashville's redevelopment program uses "tax-increment financing" as its primary tool. The Metropolitan Development Housing Authority backs loans to developers for land acquisition, demolition, and off-site infrastructure such as utilities and sidewalks. Any future increases in property taxes at those sites are directed to repay the loans. Once the loans are repaid, the full property tax bill is available for schools and city services.

These sorts of subsidies were originally designed to spur development in "blighted" parts of cities. They were used to lure companies to the Gulch, for example, in the early 2000s, when parts of the downtown district were industrial and barren. Today, the area is teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, tourists and condos.

The Westin hotel, for instance, was awarded $15 million in economic development subsidies in 2014. The city collected nearly $200,000 in property tax on the property in the year ending September 30, 2017, but that was redirected to pay off a redevelopment loan.
Critics argue Nashville no longer needs to offer these incentives because developers are already eager to build here. Also, the city has not kept records needed to evaluate the effectiveness of its redevelopment financing, according to a city audit released in March.

“It’s impossible to track the benefits to the community from the loans," At-large Councilman John Cooper said. “We don’t even have the records to show where it went and what we got for it.”

Each year, the Metro Finance Department estimates the amount of redevelopment collections, but for the past two fiscal years at least, it has under-forecast the amounts. Metro forecast that $8.3 million of tax funds meant for schools would be diverted in fiscal year 2018. It ended up at $9.3 million. The school district built its budget using the smaller amount, thus the $1 million supplemental request.

Deputy Finance Director Kim McDoniel said more tax revenue was collected from the redevelopment parcels because their values climbed during the 2017 reappraisal, and some of the parcels were developed during the fiscal year.

"The growth was greater than we expected,” McDoniel said. “The difficulty is we’re putting a budget together before the prior’s years numbers are finalized.”
I want to point out that the schools under the current Director, Sean Joseph, is facing its own audit over odd contracts, salaries and other expenses that include attempting to repair the lead in the drinking water that the district lied about, its massive sexual assault problem and other issues that have contributed to that budget shortfall.   Blogger and School Board Candidate, TC Weber on his blog, Dad Gone Wild, does an excellent job breaking down the never ending issues surrounding the dumpsters, whoops I mean schools, here in Nashville.

Then we have the endless idiocy over testing and its never ending failures that cost the State millions and in turn contributes to the excessive costs that could actually be going to the schools.  Sure we have the Tennessee Promise and this idea of free Community College for two years but in reality we are not educating them in K-12 so start there as the attainment of degrees here is as stagnant as it has ever been.  Yesterday I used the word "fiasco" in a sentence and a grown man asked me "Where are you from is that some slang word there?"  I give up.

When you cannot have a conversation even benign as I was talking about the heat and the affects on plants that I thought no matter what I do it will be a fiasco as I am horrible at even the container garden I maintain, this is how it ends with me being Teacher again and again.  I don't mind doing it with younger people but when my entire day and week is spending time with younger people and not my peers I often play dumb, the clown or counselor,  all of which I can assure you wears thin after a while.  No one always wants to be the oldest smartest funniest person in the room.

But this is the South and the reality is I always will be as anyone intelligent leaves and the few who remain are firmly engaged and attached to their world as outsiders unless proffering a check are unwelcome.  I have never been invited to share a cup of coffee, go to a movie, have a drink or a meal.  I have, however, been invited to Church and I was so touched by the one young man's invite I took him up on it.   It is not my tribe but his faith was so genuine and moving I was glad I went.  He is a good kid and his now wife as he recently got married are two kids I wish the best for.

But that is what is the extent of Southern Hospitality and the two kids whose invite I accepted are not from here but came here in search of the elusive and that is what many come here for and that is largely work.  For those in the medical fields they are guaranteed jobs as the medical facilities are growing at a rapid clip, although again the contradiction is quite obvious as over 40% of the people are uninsured or under insured to the point that who are the patients they serve?   The public City Hospital here in Nashville is undergoing a similar crisis like the schools only with Board members exiting as quickly as possible and hands out by former politicians and others to collect checks and raises without oversight.  The former Slattern Mayor tried to close this facility as it was clear she was aware and knew of this but the current one in an attempt to reach out to the Black community and not be called a RACIST (that is all they have here and play that card daily) he immediately rescinded that order and now the ugly is exposed to all with no one playing out the hand they were dealt.

The lastly the violence and largely by teens and again those are largely faces of color.  The isolation, the lack of opportunity, years of marginalization and of course the facade of education they do provide contributes to this.  No wonder this 25 year veteran of public teaching here decided to go Breaking Bad.  The irony is that he teaches at the biggest dumpster here in Nashville which is a block from my home.  I used to sub there but then I was robbed and in turn the school sub services were turned over to an agency so now  I just wait for the bus there.  Well when they are in school when it gets out I walk down a block. Their students are largely the reason we have package theft in the area during the school year.   Charming lot.

I could go and on why I loathe Nashville.  I am bored with ever changing goal post statement: Over a 100 people a day are moving here, over  85 people a day,  to now 94.  Pick a number it is all good.  The absurdity with this is hilarious as it acts as if moving vans are lining the streets meaning that there are no places to live, no jobs or few to be filled and basically the roads packed to the gills with cars. Well one of three.  There are ample vacancies, ample jobs with record low unemployment you can job hop from one low paying job to another and yes without transit we got the packed roads. They drive like bats out of hell here and if you survive without an accident on them you must never drive during prime times.  And again blame outsiders sure but it was always known for bad driving.

And lastly the news or the daily crime, traffic and weather report. Rarely, if ever, is actual national let alone global news ever presented.  What I find fascinating is the inability of the readers or whatever you want to call them, actually read the words on the prompter correctly.  I joke here that regardless of one's accent, just pronouncing street, county or city names requires a phonetic dictionary.  Can you say Murfreesboro? How about Demonbruen?  Schemerhorn anyone?

The library is world class here and yet I know few to none who frequent it.  When I tell people you can have validated parking and amazing resources they seem incredulous as if I have found the Rosetta Stone.    At one point there was an actual Meetup group called the Library Meetup and the host had never set foot in the downtown library let alone any of the other branches which are all equally first class.  So the point was what, to learn about it. Do you really need a meetup group to do this? Apparently yes.

I have tried Meetups and tired taking classes and after awhile I admit I don't fit it, don't try all that hard and well don't care.  So the reality is I am checked out and turned off.  I laugh as the few native followers on my Twitter feed has fallen off with my increasingly derogatory comments about the area. Sorry I need to vent, just ask that therapist about that. (Look through the blogs about Suicide to understand the reference)

There is a culture of ignorance and obsession with money here that marks the area and it enables and excuses the people from caring about anything or anyone else.  There is no community when it solely focuses on Church as the reasoning for caring. Sorry but there is a world outside your doors.  Bless you're heart you are inauthentic Christians.  That defines the South. 

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