Neighbors, Neighbors, Neighborhoods, and Neighbors’s Hood

So Mary added an item about the recent Diane Neighbors car wash kerfuffle (hat tip: Enclave) to our agenda for this past Monday’s show. I moved to have the item stricken from the record because I did not want to become a part of the echo chamber about what could likely become a non-issue. I didn’t feel comfortable being a repeater for something that might not be news. Discussing an issue that others are discussing merely because others are discussing it is one of the most pernicious forms of lazy journalism in today’s professionalized world of mainstream media (see Suskind for potential pitfalls).

My position is this: we have enough corrupt, incompetent white male elected officials that, if we were investigative journalists (which we’re not… yet!), I’d rather spend my time revealing true corruption and removing stupid white men from office (regardless of partisan affiliation) than contributing to the taking down a peg of someone who has (thus far) struck me as a competent non-male figure in local politics merely by commenting on what might be little more than nasty rumors created by special interests who disagree with her. Note that I’m not anti-neighborhood (in fact, I’m generally pro-neighborhood and pro-neighborhood-association), nor do I have any truck with the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance, nor am I pro-car-wash. In fact, I plead significant ignorance on this particular issue, and that’s part of my point. I’ve been getting my information from the same blogs and news sources that everyone who’s discussing this issue has, and I haven’t spoken to anyone from NNA or Councilperson Neighbors or S-Town Mike or any journalists who’ve written about the story. I haven’t even taken the time yet to read the resolution. So I don’t feel appropriately equipped to comment decisively.

Right now, what I see are some allegations and some defense against the allegations. I am not in a position to pass judgment on whether the allegations have merit or whether Ms. Neighbors might have erred in her responsibilities as a representative. I try to reserve my judgment for when there is damning evidence or when someone says something egregious, which might be patently offensive. Thus far, I don’t have the evidence.

However, I have a tip for Ms. Neighbors: be as transparent as possible throughout this process. Do not get mired in bureacratic, procedural justifications for any of your actions to date. In a letter to the council, you state, “As you know, I have not contacted any of you in support of the bill or against it. My true feeling is that it should stand or fall on its own merits. More importantly, ample time for public input has been given.” and “Lastly, since I inherited this bill, I have the luxury of a perspective that points to some larger issues that are very important to me.” If these things are true, would you mind sharing with us, your constituents, what you see as the merits (or demerits) of the resolution? Also, share with us your luxurious perspective, and let us know what’s important to you and why regarding this issue.

Since my own run for public office in 2002, I have said that representation is about balancing opportunities for listening with opportunities for leadership. I think it is occasionally appropriate for elected officials to take leadership on unpopular issues of which they have special understanding that might not (sometimes because it cannot) be shared with their constituents. Generally, though, I think public policy should be in the public interest in a way that is visible to the public and often that represents public opinion. One of the pitfalls of democracy, however, is that the public might not always collectively understand what is in its best interest, particularly on actuarial budget details or tax policy. But in this very local circumstance, I think Ms. Neighbors would do better by her constituents as well as by herself by making a substantive public statement (not based on procedural rhetoric) explaining her position and her decisions.

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4 Responses to “Neighbors, Neighbors, Neighborhoods, and Neighbors’s Hood”

  1. Freddie says:

    I feel like people are reading more into this than is there regarding my feelings on affirmative action. My point was that when Mary added this item to our agenda for Monday’s show, I was unequipped to comment. I’m still not positive I have a coherent picture of the timeline and who did what for whom. When I saw the agenda item, I had a favorable opinion of Diane Neighbors, and I didn’t want to participate in the creation of a negative zeitgeist surrounding her just because the local blogosphere had begun to agitate, especially when there are other things going on that I consider more clear cut for discussion, like the recent defeat of John Wilder, whose long tenure as Lieutenant Governor should have, in my opinion, been seriously questioned by more Democrats and Tennesseans based on his several years’ worth of puzzling statements and actions in that leadership role.

  2. S-townMike says:

    Freddie said:
    “My position is this: we have enough corrupt, incompetent white male elected officials that, if we were investigative journalists (which we’re not… yet!), I’d rather spend my time revealing true corruption and removing stupid white men from office (regardless of partisan affiliation) than contributing to the taking down a peg of someone who has (thus far) struck me as a competent non-male figure in local politics merely by commenting on what might be little more than nasty rumors created by special interests who disagree with her.”

    I’m a feminist just like the next sensitive new-age guy, but not so ideological about it to believe that gender is more influential in this situation than the fact that Metro has a system more open to special business interests than to grassroots organizations and that Council Members at Large are perhaps the most susceptible to those interests. Diane Neighbors has done nothing to address the charge that she told neighborhood leaders (many, if not most, of whom where competent women in charge) one thing and then did another. That doesn’t make her guilty, but it does look more suspicious and cavalierly excusing herself with, “The public has had ample time.”

    Two or three or more white men want to build car washes despite 9-month-old rules that say they need to work with those neighborhood leaders (many of whom, I repeat, are competent women). Diane Neighbors has made the decision to accommodate the car washers but then act like she is distant from that process, as if she doesn’t have a stake in the race for Vice Mayor. I don’t understand the “cut-the-woman-some-slack-because-she’s-not-a-man” argument. Ms. Neighbors is electively engaged in a knockabout game of politics. So, why should she not be held accountable as an elected representative of the people (it’s part of the job description to face and to handle criticism, both fair and unfair).

    BTW, were we supposed to cut Kay Brooks some slack because she’s a woman, too?

  3. Freddie says:

    You caught me! I was so totally working on a secret liberal conspiracy to diversify the population of corrupt, incompetent elected officials! Nice job! I guess I’ll just have to go back to boring old communism…

  4. You said,

    “…we have enough corrupt, incompetent white male elected officials…”

    “…stupid white men from…”

    What about?

    Harold Ford Sr.

    Ophelia Ford

    Cynthia McKenney

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