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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

Yesterday, Bob attended a zoning board meeting.

Over the years, I’ve attended my fair share of borough council, school board, and zoning meetings as a reporter, taking copious notes and trying hard not to fall asleep on a hard wooden bench, the kind most civil servants prefer. So I opted out of going with Bob and our neighbor Berdelle, even though this was a mid-afternoon meeting and chances were good I’d be wide awake.

It seems yet another company would like a variance in the number of parking spots required for a bar.

We live in a mixed-use, historic neighborhood in Downtown Nashville. Monstrous building cranes do battle every day (not the bird-variety), and explosions pierce the landscape rippling through limestone bedrock. We are about to get thousands of new jobs downtown thanks to the Amazon Empire. Being a most popular city is a blessing and a curse. Small shacks are selling for half a million dollars, only to be demolished and replaced by two “tall skinny” houses on one lot. Tall apartment buildings are rising quickly along, dwarfing smaller homes like ours,  and real estate prices are still climbing.

So it’s no wonder that regular people cannot afford to live here. The large, stately, historic Victorian brick homes sell for more than a million dollars and are being snatched up by LLCs – lawyers, dentists, shops and restaurants mingle closely with residential properties. Pretty soon our riverfront is going to be developed, and traffic lights just might find their way onto our streets, instead of the comforting four-way-stop sign.

But back to yesterday. According to our metro government zoning code, bars must have one parking spot per 75 sq ft! This particular big, brick building was 3657 sq ft last year, but the proposed bar reduced it to a smaller size requiring 36 parking spaces! Out in the back is a tiny residential slab for parking maybe 3 cars!

The lawyer for the bar thinks that street parking, and a paid parking lot a block away will magically make up for their lack of spots. The zoning board tabled their request thanks to Bob and our neighbors showing up.

Another local bugaboo has been tabled recently; Mayor Briley’s idea to install a bunch of parking meters downtown. This was the Tennessean’s take on the matter:

“Nashville is in a rush to secure a deal to outsource its public parking.The solicitation for proposals from private companies to take over its on-street parking operations asks for $30 million up front to take over the city’s work.

The winning bidder — which would also pay the city its current net revenue parking of $1.5 million — would manage the city’s parking spaces, issue tickets, collect fines and issue permits for valet parking, loading zones and street parking permits in residential areas. It would be a 30-year deal.”

I wonder where Bob and I will park ourselves in the next 30 years? After all, Great Grandma Ada is turning 95 next week and she’ll be the first to tell you she never saw herself living in TN! Will we eventually find a beach house? Stay tuned to our adventure in aging and fighting for residential parking permits! Here I am in front of the old slaughterhouse by the river which will soon become condos.

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This was not your burn-your-bra-along-with-your-draft-card kind of weekend, then head for Canada. No.

This was the biggest single thing to hit Nashville since the advent of Country Music Awards. The NFL Draft on Broadway not only sacrificed some of our cherry trees, it drew overall 600,000 football fans across three days to the Honky Tonks, who spent well over $100M on merch, booze and housing. That’s a lot of cowboy boots!

And to round off the festivities, the Rock and Roll Marathon saw 30,000 runners sprinting up Rosa Parks Blvd, followed by Parrot Heads that evening at the Bridgestone Arena. It was a perfect storm sort of Spring awakening for this city and I was glad the Bride only worked the first night; with rain dampening the Draft, her ER shift went smoothly – one scooter injury here, one drinking injury there…

Then she and her family did what most natives and transplants alike did, they flew the coop. It was the first camping experience for the Grands and they loved it, scary stories and all.  A great way to dodge the Draft!

It wasn’t quite that simple for us because I got a severe case of the stomach flu. My daughter tells me it’s going around, which doesn’t help much. It knocked me out for 3 full days and nights, just when we were going to tackle all the boxes we’d shoved into all our closets so we could hold a Seder like Alice’s Restaurant; you know Arlo’s song, where you could get anything you want, except bread of course, there were no baguettes to be found, only matzoh.

(Here I could digress about how we used to attend Torah study in the Berkshires with Arlo Guthrie, but I won’t 🙂

My brother, Dr Jim, tells me that the Draft used to be a bunch of old, white guys sitting behind a big white curtain that would open to reveal all the new college picks in about an hour in each NFL city. Open and shut. That was back in the roaring 80s, when my brother Mike was President and General Manager of the MN Vikings. Today, from what I could gather between bouts of nausea, the Draft looks like Hasty Pudding skits put on by grown men. Guys dressed like Cardinals, or gunslingers, parading through the streets re-enacting some arcane tribal ritual. I didn’t get it.

But the team owners still charged fans 20 bucks back home, just to sit in their stadiums and watch the Nashville Draft on a jumbotron. So, you could dress up like a Patriot and stay in Foxboro, MA. Maybe I do get it.

As Passover was ending, another mass shooting was happening at a Chabad in Southern California. A research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say:

“ ‘We’ve started referring to them as the apocalyptic community, these online groupings that are marked by a sense of urgency’ about the perceived threat to white dominance.”

Lori Gilbert Kaye is the name of the woman who was shot protecting her rabbi from a nineteen year old with a gun. The rabbi insists it was a miracle that the terrorist’s gun jammed, preventing more from being slaughtered.  A border patrol agent who had recently discovered he wasn’t really Italian (a family joke) gave chase. The young killer surrendered to the police, wonder of wonder.

We can only imagine what would have happened to him if he was Black.

We can talk as much as we want about apocalyptic hate groups being radicalized online, but you cannot ignore the facts – New Zealand just banned assault rifles after 50 people were murdered in a mosque.

It’s time we Americans stopped dodging the truth. Stopped re-enacting Gunsmoke while our sons and daughters are actually martyred in places of worship, schools, theaters and malls. Our landscape has become a battlefield and our elected officials have no moral courage.

This was our Seder table, where we opened our door for Elijah.

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Today is #EqualPayDay across the globe, meaning any woman who thinks she isn’t a feminist isn’t paying attention. For every single dollar, or euro, a man makes, a woman will collect only 80 cents. Think about it, we make almost one quarter less than what men make for doing the same work! Maybe back in the day, where MAGA-hat-wearing people long to live, men went out to work and plunder leaving their mates at home, barefoot and pregnant. But today, we ladies are half of the workforce, maybe the “better half?”

Last week, the D Majority House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why should that matter? Certainly some industries are fair when it comes to the payroll – historically women-centered careers like healthcare and teaching have been gender-neutral for the most part. But now the Paycheck Fairness Act will help to close the 20% wage gap in a broader way by banning employers from asking about former salaries. And maybe most importantly, prohibit companies from firing or retaliating at workers who share their wage information!

So step over to the next cubicle and talk about money people!

I remember my first real job. Before my days of teaching at a Head Start in Jersey City, I was hired to interview temp workers for a large American firm. This entry HR job meant I had to administer typing tests and ask the kinds of questions above and beyond what your last salary looked like – “Are you married?” “Do you want to have children?” Those were the good ole days, when it was more of what your body actually “looked like;” the days when my older sister Kay had to keep her child a secret if she wanted to continue to work as a stewardess in the airline industry.

And she had to starve herself too, in order to stay at a certain weight. We women of a certain age have these memories floating around in our hippocampus, judging ourselves in the mirror every day.

And being a card-carrying feminist means one should fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, or anyplace really. But listen up, I may offend some of you here, maybe we’ve gone a step too far? I mean, I LOVE ex-Veep Joe Biden! He hails from my hometown, and has the most authentic, warmest smile. His son died of the same kind of brain tumor that killed my biological father. He reminds me of my foster father, Daddy Jim; I’d share a cup of tea with him anytime! And guess what…

If he kissed the back of my head, or leaned in for some Eskimo kisses or even butterfly kisses… why, I’d hug him right back! There, I said it. Most women can differentiate between a lecherous old guy who is too handy and goes for your lips, and a Mensch. The first kind of man makes you instantly turn your face away, he hugs too hard and too long, we can see it in their hungry eyes. Great Grandma Ada had a friend like that, even into his 90s he’d put the moves on you.

But Uncle Joe just doesn’t strike me that way, you know, the way Mr T strikes me.

So let’s settle down Dems, we will never win in 2020 by fighting amongst ourselves. Let’s teach our little boys about consent, without scaring them away from intimacy. Teach them how to know when to shake hands or hug hello. Here is Pop Bob (a genuine Mensch) teaching the L’il Pumpkin about tools with his very first tool box. Clap your hands if you believe in fairy houses.

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This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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In another life I used to sew. I would make tiny elephants to string across a new baby’s crib in different grey textures and patterns. You know the mom who made her kid’s Halloween costumes? That was me.

But I really loved to quilt; and not with some computer controlled techy machine. No, no it was the 80s after all. I liked to sit with fabric in hand and stitch pinwheels, Dresden plates, sunbonnet sue and double wedding ring patterns.

My friend Jean told me her favorite quilt was the log cabin. She graciously agreed to tag along with me last weekend when the rain ended to Music City Center for the Modern Quilt Guild’s Annual QUILTCON! Little did I know that this international retreat and conference of all things quilted is an epic event. There were over 500 gorgeous, contemporary juried quilts on display and dozens of vendors. It was a feast for the eyes!

We happened to meet one of the designers right in front of her quilt – a triptych of postcard-sized rectangles in white with bold black lines. Jean and I both had the same idea, “I could do this!” It’s manageable, piecework, something small you could travel with easily that finishes large. A statement. Then we turned the corner…

A huge red quilt with a barbed wire fence coursing through the lower half. Two outstretched arms, one above and one slightly smaller below, told me this was about immigration. I saw the letters instantly, red thread on red fabric: SHAME, and I knew this quilt was referencing Mr T’s family separation policy.

Art is supposed to do this to you. Hit you in the gut and open your eyes. The word “Shame” was hidden in plain sight, in fact some people didn’t see it. Some say shame is a worthless, destructive emotion. Brene Brown says that shame is all about the self, while guilt is more about our behavior; “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

I would posit that shame and guilt can occur at the same time, and in fact are necessary for a society to function. Seeing graphic images of children being separated from their parents at the border was enough to end this heinous policy. What kind of monster tells him/herself that a parent deserves to lose their child for wanting a better life?

The GOP might benefit from a collective dose of shame at the latest hijinks of their leader proclaiming a state of emergency over a border wall that nobody wants! The House will surely vote today to end this, but will the Senate have the will? Can Lindsay Graham actually feel shame? Or is it only theatrical indignation that stirs him to action over a frat boy’s beer-guzzling past.

Certainly not losing 90+ souls a day to gun violence.

Oh no, wait, at least one of Mr T’s architects certainly feels shame. Paul Manafort’s lawyer petitioned the judge today before sentencing and – “…insisted that Mr. Manafort was not only deeply remorseful, but “has suffered almost unprecedented public shame” for what they called garden-variety offenses.”

Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years for his garden variety of felonies that he pleaded guilty to, only he actually DID seem remorseful, as in he may have a conscience after all. His shame seems to have been personal, and not just public.

I found a unicorn pattern at Quiltcon for the Love Bug and a taco truck template for the L’il Pumpkin. My fingers are itchy to start stitching again!

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Last year, we traveled to Italy with a group of our old friends. I wrote about the sheep bells and the wine tasting; it was by far one of our best adventures. But you probably didn’t know that Bess, our chief archivist and amazing photographer, was the editor of our high school yearbook back in 1966. Underneath my senior school picture was a quote, “Where’s Bobby?”

It was funny at the time. Teenage Bob was a bundle of energy, always on the move. His knee like a jackhammer under my desk in French class.

This year it appears that dredging up old yearbooks is trending. I first cringed at the suggestion, in Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS hearing, that one of the girls in another Catholic prep school was an “alum” of most of the boys in his class. So we learned that he and his cohorts objectify women, and love to drink beer. It was all there in black and white, not just in his yearbook, but on every calendar he kept locked away in a drawer.

I get the embarrassment of our teenage selves. When my kids came home with their high school yearbooks I was usually not “allowed” to look at them. It wasn’t so much what was printed on those pages – the Rocker was voted “Most Changed” because he came in like a little surfer dude and left like a heavy metal rock star. Instead, it was the impromptu pen to paper musings of their friends and so-called friends, the doodles and yearnings of years of adolescent angst.

But we all went to school in NJ. Is the South still grappling with our nation’s collective scar of slavery?

VA’s Governor Ralph Northam handled his shameful, KKK and blackface medical school yearbook picture poorly. First, he sort of apologized, and then he said, “It wasn’t me.” The wistful Michael Jackson moment was tone deaf! Then yesterday, I read that VA’s Attorney General Mark Herring has said he wore “brown makeup” to a party.

What is going on in my lovely state of Virginia?

I asked the Bride if she still has her medical school yearbook. After all, she went to UVA and Duke undergrad in NC, maybe I could find a clue. Are elite Southern schools still harboring a vestige of white ‘good ole boy’ entitlement? Northam graduated from med school over thirty years ago, I was eager to compare. Unfortunately, if there was a yearbook for the Bride and Groom’s class, they never got one.

Stacey Abrams from Georgia countered Mr T’s State of the Union this week with this: “We continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is, wrong.” 

We are living in a transparent world, anything you might want to know is just a Google moment away from our fingertips. Horrible, racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic words that were once uttered behind restricted, whites-only doors, and sometimes found their way into yearbooks, are once again finding fruitful soil in our great country under the guise of “America First.”.

The image of hateful men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, holding tiki lights and shouting, “You shall not replace us,” on Thomas Jefferson’s campus has been seared into my memory. The confederate statues In Charlottesville are still standing.

For a more visceral understanding of our racial history, I’d like to recommend a book, “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. It is not an easy book to read, I finished it on vacation; it covers 300 years of the African American diaspora and follows two half-sisters, one captured and sold into slavery, another who stayed behind in Ghana. https://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480477931/homegoing-is-a-sprawling-epic-brimming-with-compassion

Until we can achieve true socio-economic justice for all our citizens, until black mothers can stop having “the talk” with their sons about racial profiling, until images of the Jim Crow South can be placed within the context of what it was, a vile chapter of our history, until every single monument to the confederacy is placed in a museum,.. only until then will we be able to reconcile our past with our present.

Dig up your old yearbooks, they are a time capsule into our souls.

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When I was a student at Sacred Heart School, I would sit with my hands folded on my desk per the nun’s orders, and stare out the window at the Cadillac dealership across the street. In between daydreams and catechism, I’d count the bricks on the wall of that monstrous building. The bricks were that siena color, formidable and cold. I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring, to rush outside and stand there on the sidewalk across from that brick wall, waiting for my school bus. For freedom.

Call it a fence, a barrier or a wall, call it whatever you like, our government has ground to a partial halt because of it.

When our children were young, my good friend’s husband returned from Germany with a piece of the Berlin Wall. His name was Gunther and he’d been born in Germany. To hear him tell it, there was a party in the street and pieces, chunks of crumbling cement were strewn all over the place. It represented so much more than an end to the Cold War.

The Wall was a metaphor for Rockwell’s four freedoms – “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.”

Taken from one of FDR’s speeches to gain public approval for our entry into WWII, Rockwell’s paintings were purely propaganda; they raised $133 Million dollars in war bonds. As I try to understand the Trumpeteers among us, the Freedom from Fear image resonates with today’s imagined crisis at our Southern border with Mexico. A white father stands in the foreground as his wife tucks their children into bed.

Fear is a totalitarian government’s bread and butter.

When Mr T tells his followers that rapists and gang members are setting up caravans to invade our country, they believe him. Today’s illustrator might paint the image of a white father in that same child’s bedroom, within a walled-off, gated community holding a rifle. After all, in the art of Mr T’s deal, it pays to keep his customers afraid.

Barriers, man-made and natural, can keep people in or out, depending on your perspective. Nomads and cowboys and cowgirls hate fences, farmers love ’em. I was surprised in Key West to see a small chicken coop behind a house in the historic district, after all, hundreds of colorful roosters and hens roam free in the Conch Republic.  Then Bob pointed out that not only was the chicken coop door wide open, so was the wall surrounding the yard.

I wondered aloud what keeps those chickens hanging around; and I wonder why all the other chickens haven’t invaded their coop?

We returned to a freezing Nashville this week where Winter Break is over and children have been heading back to school. Our grandchildren loved returning to school, where they needn’t sit still with hands clasped counting bricks. I can only hope that all those 8th Grade trips around this already great country to our nation’s Capital are NOT cancelled.

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