Monday, March 31, 2008

Council to defer Predators vote

By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 31, 2008 The Metro Council will defer the final vote on a new arena lease for the Nashville Predators after its budget committee decided today that it needed more time to consider the issue. The committee voted to defer the vote by one meeting. By rule, the full council will do the same when it meets Tuesday night, pushing the vote back to April 15. The Budget and Finance Committee will hold a called meeting April 8 at 4:30 p.m. so members can ask questions about the deal, which the Predators' new owners have said they need to have a chance to succeed financially. The meeting will be open to the public. Mayor Karl Dean's administration negotiated the new lease proposal for the city. The Metro Sports Authority approved it March 18.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dozens protest ex-con campus

Would-be neighbors fear for kids' safety By NATALIA MIELCZAREK • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 30, 2008 A proposal to build a 30-house campus near Long Hunter State Park for recently released convicts drew so much opposition Saturday that its authors delivered two information sessions instead of one. At least 250 residents from Davidson, Wilson and Rutherford counties — some visibly angry — packed an office building at the state park Saturday morning to hear from a local Christian ministry about its $10.5 million program to reintegrate men with felony convictions into society. Those who came expressed deep concerns for their safety and plummeting property values with such a facility nearby. Many questioned its security and asked Men of Valor, the prison ministry, what benefit it would bring to their area. "There is no benefit," said Mike Marietta, who lives with his wife and a 2-year-old child less than a mile from the proposed development. "I moved out of the city to get away from the drug users and pushers, and now they're bringing them here. They'll be released to our community, and if they decide they want to participate in the program, everything is great, but what about the ones that don't?" The nonprofit Men of Valor wants to build a campus with homes, a softball field, a multi-purpose building and a church-like structure on 53 acres off Couchville Pike near the Davidson-Rutherford county line. The compound would serve as a place for convicts to live and receive spiritual guidance. No sex offenders would be accepted, and all residents would have jobs. The group also said it would let the community use the softball field and called the project a "partnership" with the neighbors. The plan would roll out in three phases, starting with 10 houses for 40 men, eventually topping at 30 homes with 120 residents. Two ministry employees would live on the premises and 10 staff members would be on site during regular business hours. The group has invested $40,000 toward buying the property. "If I'm not going to put a man in my backyard with my 6-year-old daughter and my wife, I'm not going to put them in your backyard," Curt Campbell, programs manager with Men of Valor, told the residents Saturday morning. Volunteer urges support After the meeting, he said he understood why people had concerns about his group's plan but said he was hopeful for a positive resolution. He said the next step is for the ministry officials to get together and decide on course of action in light of Saturday's events. "This is step one in a long educational process," Campbell said. "Trust takes time. I really believe they'll be able to partner with us to do this." The property is now zoned residential, for one- and two-family dwellings, so the group may not need to rezone it, depending on the final development plan it presents. Metro Councilman Robert Duvall, who organized the meeting, asked his constituents at the Saturday meeting to cast informal ballots in support of or opposition to the project. He said he would go with the will of the people. Most said no — except Karla McDonald. McDonald, who lives in Antioch, said she's volunteered with Men of Valor for four years. "I've had these men in my house for dinner, and they've worked for me," she said referring to the released convicts. "The program works. They deserve a chance. To me, it's like with race prejudice: You can either be afraid of them or meet them."

Rich areas yield most of mayor's appointees

Council wants to boost Metro boards' diversity By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 30, 2008 No one from East Nashville sits on Metro government's Board of Zoning Appeals, which often hears cases from that part of town. But Belle Meade, a satellite city that isn't governed by the zoning laws the appeals board enforces, might be represented on the board soon. Mayor Karl Dean has appointed attorney Chris Whitson, a former Metro Council member who donated the maximum amount of money to Dean's campaign last year, pending council confirmation Tuesday. Councilwoman Megan Barry said Whitson's appointment is part of a larger problem: The residents appointed by the mayor to the city's 56 boards and commissions aren't diverse enough. Many of them come from Nashville's most affluent neighborhoods, while some other ZIP codes have very few representatives. Barry and other members of the council committee that review mayoral appointments have asked Dean's office to give them advance notice when positions are about to come open. "You go with who you know," said Barry, who represents the entire county as an at-large council member. "That's why the mayor needs to rely more on the council, so we can help him go with who we know." Dean declined to be interviewed, but he said in a written statement: "I have met with each of the council members a couple of times since taking office and expressed during those meetings that I'm always willing to hear their suggestions. … (M)y door is open. In terms of the process for appointing members of boards and commissions, we will follow the Charter." Pattern is familiar The issue is not new with Dean, who took office in September and has appointed 70 people, including nine the council will consider Tuesday. Of about 420 Metro board and commission members overall — some of whom are elected by the council or serve by virtue of holding elected offices or other positions — about 30 percent are from just two ZIP codes: 37205 (Belle Meade) and 37215 (Green Hills/Forest Hills). As of Feb. 29, there were 64 appointees from each of those areas, according to a breakdown by Metro Clerk Marilyn Swing's office. No other ZIP code has half as many board and commission members as the top two. The No. 3 area, with 26 appointees, is 37212, the Hillsboro Village, Belmont and Vanderbilt area. At the other end of the spectrum, there are three appointees each from Joelton and Whites Creek and four from the Fesslers Lane area. Dean's first six months of appointments have followed a similar pattern. The mayor has appointed 14 people from Belle Meade, including four who were originally appointed by former Mayor Bill Purcell, and nine from Green Hills/Forest Hills, according to data Swing compiled for The Tennessean. Next on Dean's list, with eight appointees, is 37209, which includes Sylvan Park, a West Nashville neighborhood. Councilman Rip Ryman, who leads the council's Rules, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee, said he'd like to see more diversity. "It's geared toward Green Hills and the Belle Meade area," said Ryman, who represents Goodlettsville. "We'd like to see them tell us what vacancies are coming up and give us some opportunities in other parts of town to fill those vacancies," Ryman said. "It's a concern of everybody on the committee." But Ryman, who worked for former Mayor Richard Fulton more than 20 years ago, said the problem existed back then, too. "I just don't think it's changed," he said. While the rules committee has typically rubber-stamped the mayor's nominations, it "needs to take a stronger role" when the mix isn't diverse, Barry said. Choice is controversial It's unclear if these tensions will lead the council to reject Dean's appointment of Whitson, a former colleague of some council members. Barry said the choice should have been "more well-thought-out." "I would want somebody who is actually governed by the laws they would oversee," she said. "It's like appointing someone from another county to sit on one of our boards." But Whitson, who resigned from the council in 2005 to avoid the appearance of impropriety from his legal work for the Nashville Predators, said he thought he was well-qualified for the seven-member zoning appeals board, even if he lives in a satellite city. "I find that suggestion a little unusual," he said. "The BZA is a quasi-judicial tribunal charged with following Metro and state laws. As an attorney with some experience in land-use planning, I probably have more experience than some potential nominees." Whitson, who resigned two years into his first council term, said he's eager to serve Metro again, and he knows many other satellite city residents who feel the same way. "If you foreclose people in Belle Meade, Forest Hills and Oak Hill, that's a substantial number of citizens," he said. Whitson donated $1,000 to Dean's general election campaign and another $1,000 to his run-off campaign. Dean nominated Whitson after hiring Charlie Williams to be assistant director of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development. Williams, who lives in East Nashville, had to step down from the Board of Zoning Appeals to work for the city.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Has NCLB helped your child?

If you're a parent of a child with special needs who attends a public school, do you think the No Child Left Behind law has helped your child achieve more in school? Do you think students in special education programs should be held to the same academic standards as their counterparts in regular classrooms? Has No Child Left Behind done more good than hard in special education? Share your thoughts with education reporter Natalia Mielczarek by calling her at 259-8079 or sending e0mail to nmielczarek@tennessean.com. Please include day and evening phone numbers.

Council begins review of Preds lease Monday

By Nate Rau, nrau@nashvillecitypaper.com Metro Council next week will begin reviewing the Sommet Center lease amendment agreement reached by the new Nashville Predators and Mayor Karl Dean. The Budget and Finance Committee will hold a meeting on Monday at 4 p.m. at the Metro Courthouse to review the lease amendments. The lease amendments are on the Council agenda for Tuesday night, as well. The new Predators owners said they needed more favorable lease guidelines in order to keep the team in Nashville. The Metro Sports Authority voted to approve the lease amendments earlier this month with a 7-1 vote.

Ordinance Aims To Help Minority Businesses

Mayor Admits Current Situation Is Problem Reported By Marc Stewart POSTED: 10:35 am CDT March 28, 2008 UPDATED: 10:53 am CDT March 28, 2008 NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Two studies reveal that Nashville's own government has been overlooking minorities when it comes to bidding on city contracts. No one is denying the problem, including Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. The surveys showed it's been happening for years and millions of dollars are at stake. When Metro Government wants to do a project like a sidewalk, it's supposed to get bids from a variety of contractors. However, the government admits that wasn't always happening, and in many cases women and blacks were left out of the process. "Everyone that lives in Metro Government is a representation of our tax dollars. You want to show that representation through the business we provide, and the opportunities we provide, to anybody that wants to do business with Metro Government," said Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite. The Metro Council is expected to pass what's known as the nondiscrimination ordinance, which will set up a new Metro office and reach out to minority businesses to help them participate in the bidding process. Council members said the entire city would benefit. "I hope everybody will be on board in terms of fair practices and looking at the bigger picture of what we can for the economy as a whole. It will improve the economy. There's no way it can hurt. If businesses are allowed in different parts of the neighborhood, those areas that are suppressed, they can employ more people, so it actually spreads and helps crime and things of that nature," said Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore. This ordinance also provides a tracking system, so if there are problems, it's immediately addressed. The measure has passed its first two readings and is expected to be voted into law in the weeks ahead. http://www.wsmv.com/video/15731322/ Copyright 2008 by WSMV.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Big Thank You To All of You For Your Help



"Baby", the Beagle has been found and is safe and comfortable on her bed. I would just like to thank everyone for their kind emails, calls, and suggestions. This was a hard time and everyone with their help has brought this situation to a great ending.

A young couple found "Baby" and took her into their house. They tried to feed her and even made a special bed for her. A reward was was offered and they refused to accept it. They would not even let us pay for the food they bought for her...

Thank you all once again for your help and kind thoughts.


Hope you all have a great weekend!

M.Schwartz

Una Park Update Meeting

Una Park Update Meeting, 6:30 pm, Monday, March 31, 2008 Una Church of Christ, 1917 Old Murfreesboro Road In September 2004, I acquired for District 29, 1.15 million dollars to be used for park facilities. Una Recreational Park was donated to Metro Parks and the 1.15 million was used to improve the donated park. Please attend the Una Park Update meeting to learn about the plan developed that resulted from your community input provided in previous community meetings. Gratefully, Vivian Wilhoite Metro Councilmember, District 29 589-2003 www.vivian-29.blogspot.com

Metro's deadline for alarm permits is Tuesday

Davidson County Nashville residents have until Tuesday to renew annual permits for home burglar and fire alarm systems. About 40,000 people in the city use such systems; Metro requires they all be registered whether they are self-installed, monitored by an alarm company or directly connected to the police department. Exemptions include car alarms, smoke detectors and medical alarm systems. The cost of a permit went up for the first time in 17 years, doubling to $20 for home security systems. Permits for businesses and non-residential properties are $50. Anyone operating a system with an expired permit can be fined, with court costs, up to $104.50. Metro began registering alarm systems to get a better handle on alarm calls and to cut down on repeated false calls. Applications are online at www.nashville.gov/mc. — CHARLES BOOTH cbooth@tennessean.com

Metro may raise rates on water, sewer use

Hikes could be double-digit; stormwater fees possible, tooBy MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 28, 2008 Many Metro water and sewer users could confront double-digit rate increases and new stormwater fees in the next year as the city tries to catch up on years of building and drainage projects. But Mayor Karl Dean's administration isn't ready to sign off on anything yet. The administration considers the issue "a high priority" but doesn't believe new rates or fees must be in place when the next fiscal year starts July 1, Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said Thursday. The city is being pressed on several fronts to generate new revenue for its water and sewer program, which is required to pay for itself. Capital projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars need to get done. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about water quality. And a national firm recently reduced Metro's bond rating for outstanding debt on water and sewer projects and said several years of "double-digit annual rate hikes" might be necessary. "If we don't do a rate increase, there's no money for capital," Councilwoman Emily Evans said. The city hasn't changed the water rate for a typical residential meter since 1999, when the rate went down 25 percent. Sewer rates haven't changed since 1995. To make up some ground, Evans said, water and sewer rate hikes of 18 percent to 20 percent would be in order in 2008-09. She cautioned, however, that such an increase wouldn't necessarily apply to all of Metro's 170,000 residential, commercial and industrial water and sewer customers. Evans, who represents Belle Meade and West Meade, said Metro Water Services needs to complete $500 million in capital projects, including water main upgrades and new water tanks across the county, in the next five years. That total doesn't account for stormwater control, which a consultant recently calculated to cost $200 million over eight years. The consultant recommended that the city charge property owners a monthly user fee to generate that money; for most single-family homes, it would be $4.98 a month. Councilman Mike Jameson, who represents parts of downtown and East Nashville, said he is eager to get a stormwater program on the books so developers will have an incentive to use building materials that absorb rain, reducing runoff. No conclusions yet Riebeling and Evans said the city would need to deal with the water and sewer rates and the stormwater fee at the same time, creating a comprehensive approach to Metro Water's revenue needs. "You can't piecemeal it," Riebeling said. But Riebeling said the Dean administration still needs to "do our homework" to fully understand Metro Water's financial condition and building needs. He said there was nothing "magic" about implementing the new revenue streams by July 1. "I don't think we've reached any conclusions yet," he said. Metro Water Services Director Scott Potter "wants to immediately move forward with a plan to the council. I don't think we're quite ready to do that. "We're going to ultimately propose a program we think is necessary for the city and Metro Water to go forward." Potter's spokeswoman, Sonia Harvat, did not return a phone call seeking comment but wrote in an e-mail, "A discussion will need to take place at some point in the near future to ensure that Metro Water is adequately funded to meet regulations and provide vital services to our community. In the mean time, we share Mayor Dean's commitment to living within our means and will be identifying areas of cost savings and increased efficiency, as every department has been asked to do." Evans said some council members feel "a mild sense of urgency that motivates us to get things done sooner rather than later" because they've been hearing from some of their constituents about targeted fees. Customers who pay their water bills late now must pay a penalty of $10 or 5 percent, whichever is higher. The late fee used to be 5 percent, which generated little revenue from a $10 water bill. Meanwhile, new restaurant owners have complained about "capacity fees" of tens of thousands of dollars to connect their businesses to the city's water supply. "We've done all these revenue enhancements," said Councilman Parker Toler, who represents south Davidson County and is a former Metro Water official. "It's gotten out of proportion. That's not the way the utility was intended to operate." Toler said stormwater is becoming a critical concern for Nashville, and many parts of the water and sewer system need upgrades or replacement parts. "We are a big, growing city," Toler said. "And at some point these things must be done."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pet Alert----Vivian would like you to help find a Beagle



12 YEAR OLD BEAGLE MISSING FROM THE NASHBORO VILLAGE AREA

LAST SEEN IN THE NASHBORO VILLAGE AREA ON 3/26/08.

SHE ANSWERS TO THE NAME OF “BABY”. SHE IS APPROX. 45 POUNDS, TRI-COLORED (BLACK, WHITE, TAN) AND IS WEARING A PURPLE CLOTH CHOKE COLLAR WITH A CURRENT RABIES TAG.

CASH REWARD

IF YOU FIND HER, PLEASE CALL: (615) 414-3217,
(615) 330-1305, OR PETMED (615) 731-8074


PLEASE HELP FIND HER, SHE NEEDS HER MEDICATION !!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Having a Camera on your phone comes in handy



Councillady Vivian Wilhoite tested out her camera phone for a chance to get a picture of a rare bunny, Bumguard Bunny of News Channel 2 at Senator's Harper's 25 Annual Easter Egg hunt.

Fun was being had by all that attended and it was well attended. But when she saw Bunny Mayor Karl Dean dressed up, she wonder would there be carrots in the budget. Humm! No really, everyone had a great time and enjoyed both Bumguard Bunny and Dean Bunny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New money for police, schools top budget

Cuts elsewhere will cost 200 Metro jobs By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 25, 2008 Metro Nashville schools would be fully funded and the police force fully staffed, but most departments would lose money and about 200 city employees would be laid off under Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.576 billion budget proposal. Dean’s plan for 2008-09, unveiled late Tuesday afternoon, would fund Metro government at a slightly higher level than the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The budget would not require a property tax increase. But most areas, from libraries and parks to courts and social services, actually would receive less money. Dean and his top aides said, however, that they looked to cut and streamline administrative functions before reducing services to residents. If two departments have been processing the same invoices, just one should do the job, Dean said. “There are a number of things I wish I could stand up here and include among these points,” the mayor said after mentioning several initiatives in a speech to the Metro Council. “But I can’t. It’s a tight year.” The council now will review and probably tweak Dean’s plan, with departmental budget hearings starting next week. Council members generally praised Dean and Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling for their first budget since Dean took office in September. Councilman Ronnie Steine said it was “amazing” that the administration found money for three new ambulances and a truancy center in a difficult year. But Councilman Jerry Maynard struck a sadder note. “I can’t celebrate as loudly, knowing 200 families will be impacted,” Maynard said. Someone in the audience of Metro officials and residents could be heard murmuring, “That’s right.” Maynard and some other council members also said they were concerned about Dean’s plan to cut the Metro Hospital Authority’s subsidy by 5 percent, or nearly $2.5 million. The authority runs Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, which primarily serves the city’s poor and indigent population and consistently loses money. Riebeling said after the presentation that hospital officials are working on increasing revenues and that they can “live with” the funding cut. “They’re being treated like the rest of government,” he said. Schools a priority The news was much better for Metro schools, whose budget would climb from $598 million to $627 million, a 4.8 percent increase covering everything the school district asked for. Dean said consistently in his campaign for the mayor’s office that public education, public safety and economic development would be his top priorities, and he said the budget plan reflects that order. “We are at a critical point in our city’s history when it comes to schools,” he said. “There are improvements we have to make in accordance with federal and state requirements, and the Board of Education and I have been working together to make these improvements happen.” Dean said his administration would hold the school board accountable for using its funds “to the utmost benefit of our students.” Marc Hill, chief education officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said $13 million of the additional money would be for “targeted interventions” aiming to raise student achievement. “Particularly at a time when schools are facing a challenge, the additional investment, coupled with accountability, is right on target,” Hill said. More police officers The police and fire departments actually would lose about $1.2 million combined. But the administration highlighted what the departments would have in 2008-09: three new ambulances and a full complement of 1,312 sworn police officers for the first time in several years. A recent audit said that while the fire department’s response times to emergency medical calls remain good, they’ve been going up. It recommended that the city add 2.5 ambulances a year for five years. The ambulances — and 31 new employees to staff them — would cost more than $2.3 million. With that much money going to emergency medical services, the fire department’s traditional role of firefighting would have less funding. But Dean said the balance has been shifting from firefighting to emergency medical work. He said he is comfortable that Metro residents will be just as safe from fires with the shift in funds. Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, for his part, said full staffing would allow the police department to start planning more. “This is a good time,” Serpas said, adding that the $500,000 budget reduction would be “really small.” Truancy center Bridging the gap between public education and public safety is a proposed $500,000 truancy center, which would be run by Davidson County Juvenile Court. The center would take teenagers who routinely skip school and work to get them off city streets and back on track educationally. “This will be a safe place where students and their families can come, separate from the court, to address the reasons why they are missing school,” Dean said. The goal would be to have the center open in an existing facility by the start of the next school year. Dean officials said no parks, public golf courses or libraries would be eliminated. But the library system’s Bookmobile would ride off into the sunset; three branch libraries would lose some hours — bringing them down to the hours offered by the other branches — and the Centennial Sportsplex and Wave Country would be closed Mondays. “You can see who the winners and losers are,” said Steve Reiter, a community activist who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat last year. “It’s a tough budget, no question about that.” Metro Public Works would lose about 8 percent of its funding, and Riebeling said every major area of the department could be hit. A contract with a company that picks up brush from neighborhoods several times a year could be eliminated, with Public Works teaming with Davidson County Sheriff’s Office work crews to do the job instead. “We’re looking at every option,” Public Works Director Billy Lynch said. “I know we can make it work.”

Wilhoite sets Identity Theft Meeting - Important

Reminder! This announcement was published in our local Herald Beacon on Thursday, March 13, 2008. Please attend. According to national data, identity theft has increased more than 600% since the year 2000. Concerns about your personal data and access to it by people you do not know is on the rise. Quoting from national data, Council Lady Vivian Wilhoite says, "As the fastest growing form of consumer fraud, personal credit ratings are at risk to identity fraud. Your reputation and credit are on the line, as are the security of your family members and business associates." She states that one of the most eye opening experiences was the December 2007 break-in at the Election Commission resulting in stolen laptop computers that stored voters' information. The best course is proactive prevention. At 6:30 pm on Thursday March 27, 2008, at the Hamilton United Methodist Church, 3105 Hamilton Church Road, Nashville, Tennessee, Mike Hassell, Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, will provide a presentation on "How to Not Be a Victim of Identity Theft." Mr. Hassell will provide a wealth of information on ways to protect yourself; sharing with us the most simplest tips to providing tips on nationally known programs. Please attend this extremely informative presentation given by Mike Hassell, who is not only an identity theft expert but is also a District 29 neighbor and an excellent watch association volunteer. There will be an opportunity to sign-up for the Tennessee Do Not Call List. Please join us! For more information, please contact Vivian Wilhoite at www.vivian-29.blogspot.com or 589-2003.

More school funding, more police -- but maybe fewer Metro workers -- under Dean budget

By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 25, 2008 Mayor Karl Dean proposed a $1.6 billion budget for Nashville government that would fully fund Metro schools and fully staff the city’s police force. But some 200 employees would likely be laid off, and most Metro departments would suffer budget cuts under Dean’s proposal, which the Metro Council must now consider. Dean said his administration focused on streamlining government functions instead of eliminating direct services to citizens. More information will be supplied as the news comes in.

27 Men Charged in South Nashville Prostitution Sting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 25, 2008 South Precinct detectives charged 27 persons with patronizing prostitution late Friday night and early Saturday during a sting on Murfreesboro Pike near Plus Park Boulevard. The men were issued state misdemeanor citations alleging they agreed to pay a female police operative for sex. Those charged are: · Alf Paul Aruna, 42, of Nashville · Sarwat Esknder, 30, of Antioch · James Anderson, 40, of Nashville · Martin Saucedo, 45, of Nashville · Saul Castro, 26, of Nashville · Mena Boutrous, 22, of Antioch · Leonides Hernandez, 25, of Nashville · Nicnor Bartolon, 26, of Nashville · Modffer Qtaitat, 18, of Nashville · Abdirisak Ahmed, 25, of Nashville · Hussein Yusuf, 21, of Shelbyville · Miguel Herrera, 21, of Nashville · Jon Henderson, 22, of Nashville · Jalil Alshimary, 44, of Nashville · Nicholas Poe, 28, of Cross Plains · Bernardo Reyes Madrigal, 21, of Nashville · Webster Young, 49, of Memphis · Devon Cornelius, 36, of Columbia · Ruperto Cruz, 29, of Nashville · Francisco Garcia Espinoza, 42, of Nashville · Moses Cruz, 26, of Nashville · Demetrio Garrido, 18, of Antioch · Carlos Flores, 37, of Nashville · Nelson Bolton, 39, of Lavergne · Luis Miguel Saldierma, 24, of Antioch · Ahmed Gelle, 27, of Antioch · Ahmed Ismail, 34, of Nashville Photographs of the defendants are included in the patronizing prostitution section of the police department’s Internet site.

Part 2

Item # 2 Project No. Zone Change 2008Z-023T Name Digital and LED Signs Council Bill BL2007-152 Council District Countywide School District N/A Requested by Councilmember Charlie Tygard Staff Reviewer Regen Staff Recommendation Disapprove. APPLICANT REQUEST A request to amend the Metro Zoning Code, Section 17.32.050.G and H to allow digital and LED (i.e. electronic) signs in certain areas of Davidson County. History At the March 13, 2008, meeting the Planning Commission approved a motion to reconsider this item with a Public Hearing at the March 27, 2008, meeting. ANALYSIS Existing Law Section 17.32.050.G and H of the Zoning Code regulate signs with graphics, messages, and motion. The two sections contain provisions that appear contradictory and are difficult for the Codes Department to enforce. Currently, scrolling, flashing, and changeable copy signs are generally prohibited in all zoning districts except CS and CL, with one exception. Time/date/ temperature signs are permitted in all non-residential zoning districts provided they remain fixed, static, motionless, and non-flashing for a period of two seconds or more. Proposed Bill The proposed bill would provide that electronic signs are permitted in all zoning districts, including residentially zoned properties located along a collector or arterial street, as shown on the adopted Major Street Plan. Since the Planning Commission last reviewed this bill on February 28, 2008, the Metro Council adopted an amendment to it on March 4, 2008. The amendment restricts electronic signs in residential districts to religious institutions, community education facilities, cultural centers, and recreation centers. As written, the bill adds provisions to subsection G to require the display of an electronic sign to remain static for eight seconds and requires a transition between displays of less than two seconds. The bill would also add a prohibition for digital billboards that are less than 2,000 feet apart from one another. Because of the conflicting language in subsections G and H of the current Code, it is unclear whether digital billboards currently are permitted. Under this ordinance, they would be permitted so long as they comply with the amended provisions of subsection G. Current subsection H is deleted from the Code and replaced with a new section H that would: 1) clarify that video and other animated signs are prohibited in all districts except for the CA zoning district; and 2) permit LED message boards on collector and arterial streets in all residential zone districts. The term “electronic sign” embraces a couple different technologies seen in Metro that have been recently installed, including digital signs and LED signs. Digital signs have color and animation with a TV picture quality such as the one on West End Avenue at 30th Avenue, North, or the Nova Copy sign along I-40 in downtown Nashville. Unlike digital signs, LED signs are not multi-color. LED signs have red or amber-colored lights and lettering on message boards such as those at a drugstore or businesses which display date, time, and temperature. Proposed Text This council bill proposes to amend Section 17.32.050.G and H. of the Zoning Code (Prohibited Signs) as follows: G. Signs with any copy, graphics, or digital displays that change messages by electronic or mechanical means, when where the copy, graphics, or digital display does not remain fixed, static, motionless, and nonflashing for a period of two (2) seconds or more eight (8) seconds, provided that this provision shall not be applicable to any sign located within the CA district with a change time of less than two (2) seconds. Digital display billboards less than two thousand (2,000) feet apart, and digital billboards that are not in compliance with the provisions of section 17.32.150, are also prohibited. H. billboards in permitted districts, or signs located in ON, OL, OG, OR20, OR40, ORI, MUN, MUL, MUG, SCN, SCC, CN and CL districts with lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker or vary in intensity or color except for time/temperature/date signs. This provision shall also apply to all signs located within one hundred feet of property classified within a residential district. H.1. Video, continuous scrolling messages, and animation signs, except in the commercial attraction (CA) district. H.2. LED message boards in residential zoning districts. Notwithstanding the foregoing, LED message boards shall be allowed for community education facilities, cultural centers, recreation centers, and religious institutions located on collector or arterial streets in residential zoning districts Analysis In the past few years, there have been three council bills to permit electronic signs; two failed to receive Council support and one was adopted (see table below). All three bills were recommended for disapproval by the Metro Planning Commission. While this latest bill does create more restrictive display periods for electronic signs, it still does not provide adequate protection for residential areas in which these signs may be located. SIGN BILLS Bill # Sponsor Council Action MPC Action Description BL2005-648 Dozier Failed 3rd reading 1/17/06 Disapproved 12/8/05 Permit signs with graphics or electronic displays oriented to a four-lane or controlled access highway maintained by the State of Tennessee and located within the urban services district (USD), with a speed limit of forty miles per hour (40 m.p.h.) or less. BL2006-974 Dozier, Wallace Withdrawn 7/18/06 Disapproved 2/23/06 Permit signs with graphics or electronic displays oriented to a four-lane or controlled access highway maintained by the State of Tennessee and located within the urban services district (USD), with a speed limit of forty miles per hour (40 m.p.h.) or less. BL2007-1366 Brown Approved Disapproved 2/22/07 To allow signs with lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker or vary in intensity or color within the CL zoning district. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, signs with lights or illuminations that display non-scrolling and non-flashing electronic text shall be permitted within the CL district, provided the text remains static for at least three seconds and the sign is not located within four hundred feet of any residential property with frontage on the same street. As written, the current bill would allow electronic signs on collector and arterial streets in residential zoning districts. Such electronic signs would be permitted up to eight (8) feet tall, up to 192 square feet of total sign area, up to three (3) electronic signs depending on a property’s street frontage, and with no restriction on the amount of sign area devoted to the changeable copy. Further, the bill provides no standards for illumination, hours of operation, distance from a residential use, and variation in colors and hues. The Zoning Administrator has indicated that the Codes Department considers electronic signs and billboards to be illegal under the current Metro Code sign provisions because, in application, most such signs violate the provisions of subsection H in the current law, which prohibits signs with “lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker or vary in intensity or color.” This bill proposes to permit digital signs and digital billboards like those recently erected along I-65 near 100 Oaks Mall, I-24 westbound in Hermitage, and elsewhere in Metro. According to the Zoning Administrator, all of these digital signs and billboards are on private property, except Metro’s convention center sign which is on public property. Those signs erected with a valid Metro permit were approved with the explicit statement that such signs were not to be digital. The proposed bill would clarify that digital billboards are allowed so long as the display message remains static or fixed for 8 seconds or more, the transition time between messages is two seconds or less, and digital billboards are spaced a minimum of 2,000 feet apart. STAFF RECOMMENDATION Staff recommends disapproval of the bill as drafted because electronic signs would be permitted without adequately safeguarding Nashville’s neighborhoods. When the Zoning Code’s sign provisions were adopted by the Metro Council in the early 1990’s, electronic signs did not exist. That said, the Planning Department does not believe the Zoning Code was intended to be interpreted to permit such signs now or in the future. The provisions of Section 17.32.050.G and H are broad enough to encompass this latest sign technology, and they expressly prohibit it. This is a complex and difficult issue. A draft alternate ordinance is appended to this staff report, below. The draft alternate ordinance also is not recommended for approval by staff, but is presented for the Planning Commission’s consideration. The draft alternate ordinance would amend the Zoning Code to allow electronic signs in residential districts subject to a special exception use, electronic signs by right in various commercial districts, and electronic billboards by right in certain districts. If the commission recommends the draft alternate ordinance for approval, staff suggests that the recommendation should include a recommendation that two separate council bills be drafted to enable Metro Council to consider the signs in their appropriate zoning context. 1) electronic signs in residential areas; and 2) electronic signs for commercial areas and billboards. The Planning Commission may also want to look at the proximity of billboards to residential uses. Lastly, staff recommends that if the Metro Council amends the Zoning Code to permit these signs, the current council bill, or any new bill introduced, should include a provision expressly stating that none of these existing electronic and digital signs and billboards, including existing signs and billboards which may be converted to electronic in the future are grandfathered in, and that they must all comply with the applicable provisions of the adopted council bill within thirty (30) days after the bill’s passage. Draft Alternate Ordinance 1. Modify Section 17.04.060 “Definitions of General Terms” by inserting the following new definition in alphabetical order: “Community Facility” means a community education, cultural center, recreation center, or religious institution. 2. Modify Section 17.04.060 “Definitions of General Terms” by inserting the following new definitions in alphabetical order under the word “Sign” and after the phrase “These terms regarding signs are referenced”, renumbering the existing terms accordingly. “Electronic Changeable Copy Sign” means a sign that displays electronic, non-pictorial text information in which each character, graphic, or symbol (“display”) can be changed without altering the face or surface of the sign using an electronic means such as light emitting diode (LED) display, plasma screen, liquid crystal display (LCD), fiber optic or other electronic media or technology. All copy shall be displayed in one color with no hues, and remain fixed or static for at least eight (8) seconds before changing. All copy changes must be accomplished instantaneously without any special effects. At no time shall any sign display area have varying light illumination and/or intensity, blinking, bursting, dissolving, distorting, fading, flashing, oscillating, rotating, shimmering, scrolling, sparkling, streaming, traveling, tracing, twinkling, simulated movement, or convey the illusion of movement. “Electronic Graphic Display Sign” means the same as “Electronic Changeable Copy Sign” except static images, graphics and/or pictures may be displayed in one or more colors and hues. “Electronic Video Display Sign” means a sign that changes copy or background using varying light illumination, intensity, or a progression of pictorial or graphic frames in either a continuous or animated presentation to display motion, action, special effects, or pictorial imagery in one or more colors and hues. “Manual Changeable Copy Sign” means a sign whose copy is or can be changed manually or mechanically in the field by the use of detachable letters, numbers, or symbols. “Sign Copy” means any words, letters, numbers, figures, characters, symbols, logos, emblem, flag, background, or insignia that are used on a sign display surface area. 3. Modify Section 17.32.090.A by renaming it and amending the language, inserting a new subsection B, and renumbering existing subsection B as C (Signs: On-Premise Signs for Non-Residential Uses in Agricultural and Residential Districts) as follows: A. Signs. All on-premise signs located in a residential district shall conform to the sign provisions applicable to the ON district, except as provided below in Section 17.32.090.B for a community facility use desiring an electronic changeable copy sign. Ground signs shall be monument signs with a maximum height of eight (8) feet at grade-level measured at the location where the sign will be erected. The minimum street setback shall be fifteen feet; the sign shall not encroach into required side setbacks of the district; and only one such ground sign shall be permitted per street frontage. B. Electronic Changeable Copy Signs. Following approval of a special exception by the Board of Zoning Appeals community facilities located in residential districts shall be permitted only one ground monument electronic changeable copy sign for the entire facility, regardless of the number and location of principle or accessory uses, parcels, lots, street frontages, abutting or adjacent properties that comprise the overall facility The sign shall not exceed eight (8) feet in height at grade-level measured at the location where the sign will be erected on the property, 48 square feet in total allowable sign area with the changeable copy not exceeding a maximum of twenty-five percent (25%) of that allowable sign area. Wall-mounted electronic changeable copy signs are not permitted. Prior to approval of a special exception, the Board of Zoning Appeals shall ensure the following criteria are met. i. An applicant has provided sufficient evidence to the board that the proposed changeable copy sign (electronic), meets the following criteria a. Located on an arterial street as designated on the adopted Major Street Plan and having a minimum of four (4) existing travel lanes at the location of the proposed sign. b. Located in an area that is predominately non-residential in character. c. Located no closer than 500 feet from any existing residential use. ii. The board shall also consider the following in determining the appropriateness of granting a special exception. a. A recommendation from the Historic Zoning Commission, if the property is located within an historic overlay district. b. A recommendation from Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, if the property is located within a redevelopment district. c. A recommendation from the planning commission as provided in Section 17.40.300. The planning commission shall recommend on the proposed sign’s consistency with the goals, objectives, and standards of the general plan, including any community, neighborhood, or other design plan. d. The proposed sign’s size, height, location, configuration, materials, structure, illumination, and hours of operation, including proximity to another electronic changeable copy sign(s). e. Whether the sign will detract from the existing neighborhood character, including the street and pedestrian environment. iii. Once a special exception is granted the sign shall meet the following conditions: a. Be illuminated no earlier than 6:00 a.m. on any day and no later than 9:00 p.m. on any day. b. Once fully illuminated, the sign shall not produce any direct, indirect, or reflected light or glare impacts on adjoining properties, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorists. iv. The board may place conditions on a proposed sign needed to ensure the sign does not detract from the existing or planned neighborhood character, including the street and pedestrian environment. 4. Modify Section 17.32.050.G (Prohibited Signs) by deleting the existing text and inserting the following in its place: G. Electronic video display signs in all zoning districts except the CA district. 5. Modify Section 17.32.050.H (Prohibited Signs) by deleting the existing text and inserting the following in its place: H. Electronic signs, either changeable copy or graphic display, are prohibited except as follows: 1) Billboards may be electronic, either changeable copy or graphic display signs, provided there is a minimum separation distance of 2,000 feet between the proposed billboard and another electronic billboard (either changeable copy or graphic display signs) subject to districts identified in Section 17.32.150 and the provisions of this title. 2) Signs located on properties in the office, mixed-use, commercial, shopping center, and industrial zoning districts may be electronic, either changeable copy or graphic display, subject to the sign regulations contained in Chapter 17.32 of this title. 3) Community facility uses located in residential zoning districts as provided in Section 17.32.090.

Charlie Tygard's newest version of the LED and Digital Sign bill will be heard before the Metro Planning Commission on Thursday, March 27th at 4:00 pm

Charlie Tygard's newest version of the LED and Digital Sign bill will be heard before the Metro Planning Commission on Thursday, March 27th at 4:00 pm. The bill has some minor changes, but will still greatly impact residential areas. The bill does more than that, this bill seems to allow digital billboards where they were not allowed before even though they presently exist there seemingly contrary to the present code. It is important to note that the language of this bill supports a statement made by a high level member of the Metro Planning Department to a council member to whom I was speaking after the Metro Council's Planning Committee meeting on Monday, March 17th at the courthouse. The statement made was that in all likelihood that some of these type signs already in existence were probably illegal under the present code. Language supporting this statement is found in the Planning Staff's report of this bill and reads as follows.... As written, the bill adds provisions to subsection G to require the display of an electronic sign to remain static for eight seconds and requires a transition between displays of less than two seconds. The bill would also add a prohibition for digital billboards that are less than 2,000 feet apart from one another. Because of the conflicting language in subsections G and H of the current Code, it is unclear whether digital billboards currently are permitted. Under this ordinance, they would be permitted so long as they comply with the amended provisions of subsection G. The notes continue... The Zoning Administrator has indicated that the Codes Department considers electronic signs and billboards to be illegal under the current Metro Code sign provisions because, in application, most such signs violate the provisions of subsection H in the current law, which prohibits signs with “lights or illuminations that flash, move, rotate, scintillate, blink, flicker or vary in intensity or color.” This bill proposes to permit digital signs and digital billboards like those recently erected along I-65 near 100 Oaks Mall, I-24 westbound in Hermitage, and elsewhere in Metro. According to the Zoning Administrator, all of these digital signs and billboards are on private property, excep t Metro’s convention center sign which is on public property. Those signs erected with a valid Metro permit were approved with the explicit statement that such signs were not to be digital. The proposed bill would clarify that digital billboards are allowed so long as the display message remains static or fixed for 8 seconds or more, the transition time between messages is two seconds or less, and digital billboards are spaced a minimum of 2,000 feet apart. The revision of this bill seems to create a law that would allow signs to be legal that may presently be illegal. The question is, if this bill is defeated will existing signs be allowed to stay in place in violation of the law? Why were these sign allowed to be put up if the present zoning code did not allow them? Whose job was it to approve or disapprove these signs that seem to be illegal? Ironically (or not), the Planning Commission's agenda that is normally posted on the web at least by Friday before the following Thursday meeting is not posted at this time (Saturday, 11 am). A copy provide to me by Metro Planning is attached. Will other neighbors will be kept in the dark until sometime Monday? How can democracy take place when the stakeholders are unaware of the details of the proceedings? First the original bill is placed on the consent agenda and the public is not allowed to give input, now the agenda will be released late with little time to notify citizens. Is this the best job our city can do to practice democracy? It is important that neighbors become aware of this new bill and attend this meeting. It is equally important that we insist that the leaders of our city always make the best possible effort to allow our citizens the opportunity to take part in democracy. Allowing our citizens appropriate time for notification in order to have their voices heard would be a good start. Neighbors are urged to send a letter to the commissioners as well as attend the meeting Thursday, March 27th at 4pm in order to make an impact to their decision. A vote of disapproval from the Planning Commissioners will require more votes from the Metro Council in order to approve the bill. Please send your letters to the commissioners (as attachments) and emails stating that you will be in attendance to speak regarding the bill to Jennifer.Regen@nashville.gov. She is the Planning Department's staff reviewer of the bill. She will make sure that every commissioner has a copy. The staff's recommendation is to disapprove. The Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association will be sponsoring a community meeting regarding LED and Digital signs in Monday, March 31st at 7pm at the Hermitage Police Precinct on James Kay Lane in Hermitage. Please join us. Apathy in our society is our own worst enemy. If we are to support and protect democracy, we must be willing to take part in the process. Please take the time to pass this forward to all neighbors that you know and ask them to make their voices heard. Susan Floyd President Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association DHNApresident@yahoo.com

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reading program attracts special guests at Lakeview, Una schools



Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite and Nashville Sounds Mascot “Ozzie” read to students at Lakeview and Una elementary schools.
COURTESY OF MINDY SCHWARTZ

By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD • Staff Writer • March 24, 2008

Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite and Nashville Sounds Mascot "Ozzie" were recently spotted at Lakeview and Una elementary schools.

They were there to read to students and to emphasize the importance of reading.

"I was amazed (at) the joy and happiness it brought to the students' faces," said Mindy Schwartz, who helps Wilhoite with her blog, www.vivian-29.blogspot.com, and was there for the occasion.

"The Sounds offer a great opportunity to go to the schools to read to the students, and it seems most people are not aware of this program," she said. "This experience captured me to the point that I will be going to volunteer … to take part in … programs for these children."

Contact Suzanne Normand Blackwood by telephone at 259-8268 or by e-mail at sblackwood@tennessean.com.

Police arrest 85 in weekend operation

By CHARLES BOOTH (Tennessean) • March 24, 2008 Metro Police officers made 85 arrests over the weekend as part of the Operation Safer Street gang enforcement initiative. The arrests included 85 misdemeanors, 24 felonies and nine outstanding warrants. The operation also led to the seizure of 38 grams of marijuana, 10.6 grams of cocaine and 120 various pills. The initiative took place throughout the city, with patrol officers, Specialized Investigations Division detectives and canine units.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dropouts would be ineligible for driver license until 21

ASSOCIATED PRESS • March 19, 2008 NASHVILLE — People who don't have high school diplomas or GEDs wouldn't be able to get driver licenses until the age of 21 under a proposal advancing in the Legislature. The measure sponsored by Rep. Joe Towns Jr., a Memphis Democrat, passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Present law requires suspension of a driver license for any student under age 18 who quits school. The suspension holds until the individual turns 18. Towns' bill would extend the suspension to age 21.

Mother discovers line of toys helps with autistic kids

Antioch resident now sells Discovery Toys after learning about benefits for her sons at Bill Wilkerson Center By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 19, 2008 ANTIOCH — Antioch resident Andrea Adams had a feeling something was not normal with her older son, Sean, long before he was diagnosed with autism. "I had seen some signs," she said. But she said her son's pediatrician kept saying that he would "grow out of it." Adams, a local consultant for Discovery Toys, finally took Sean to a different pediatrician, who suggested she have him screened for autism. Sean, 10, was diagnosed with autism at age 4; most children are diagnosed before age 3. As a result of Sean's diagnosis, Adams was well aware of the signs of autism when her younger son, Jared, began showing them. Although a May 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine discredited any link between autism and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and other thimerosol-containing vaccines, Jared's parents believe his autism is related to a vaccination he received when he was 18 months old. Adams said he had good eye contact, verbal skills and play skills until receiving the shot. Both Sean and Jared, 8, receive speech therapy at the Bill Wilkerson Center at Vanderbilt. They also receive speech therapy and occupational therapy at school. Also, some schools provide ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, if needed in cases more severe than Sean's and Jared's. But Adams said the waiting period to see an autism specialist is very long. Many parents may be at a loss as to what they can do for their autistic children while they wait besides changing their diets. This is where Discovery Toys can be helpful, she said. "It's frustrating; you just feel helpless," she said about the feeling she had when she first found out. "It's like having a 2-year-old forever, but a 2-year-old who thinks they can do everything." And, said Adams, "there's no known cause; there's no known cure." Adams said she first saw Discovery Toys at the Bill Wilkerson Center. But she was officially introduced to them when she met a consultant who had a booth with a sign that said, "Discovery Toys Works with Autism Speaks." It was then she discovered there was a whole market out there. Firm also works to create toys to help with autism Discovery Toys are designed to be educational and safe. The company promises that all of its products meet or exceed standards set by the U.S. and Canadian governments regarding safety. All toys are tested for flammability, hazardous materials and toxic elements, including lead, by an independent laboratory prior to shipment from domestic and foreign manufacturers. The company also regularly monitors the labor practices, raw materials and manufacturing processes used by its vendors as an extra measure for quality and safety. Adams said Discovery Toys has collaborated with the Princeton Child Development Institute to offer a line of toys specifically designed for children with autism. The toys are designed to develop independent play; promote sustained engagement; build skills for cooperative play; create opportunities for children to talk about their play experiences; reward accomplishment with completion activities; and encourage pretend play. Mary Shelton, a professor of psychology at Tennessee State University, said some of the toys' features would likely offer specific benefits for children with autism. For example, "to promote cooperative play would be addressing one of the weaknesses involved in autism." Also, "impaired ability to engage in imaginative play is one of the diagnostic symptoms of autism," she said. However, Shelton added, other features may not yield any more benefits for children with autism than they would other children. Already, she said, children with autism tend to be "overly engaged in solitary play or objects." Shelton said "kids with autism cover a wide range." "Autistic spectrum disorders can range from really smart, focused, well-liked kids who have social difficulties to kids who are severely impaired." So generalizing about what toys would work well for children with autism is like saying, "Would this toy appeal to a boy?" Adams said she encourages parents to find the toys that fit their child's circumstances, regardless of age. With children who have autism, their "developmental age" doesn't necessarily correspond to their "chronological age," she said. She spreads autism awareness while selling toys A couple of toys Adams said her boys like are the Castle Marbleworks and the Magic Talkin' Kitchen Crew. Castle Marbleworks allows the child to place a ball at the top of a ramp so that it travels down the winding ramp. "He likes this one," said Adams, as Jared experimented with the Magic Talkin' Kitchen. "It talks, which helps with his speech." Adams, also a part-time preschool teacher at Hamilton United Methodist, uses some of the toys there. She has booths at conferences, church festivals and other special events. Products may be ordered during home parties or by appointment. "I can help families and spread autism awareness all at the same time," she said. Contact Suzanne Normand Blackwood by telephone at 259-8268 or by e-mail at sblackwood@tennessean.com.

Churches, schools may be allowed to light up their signs

Proposal would ease residential zoning restrictions on electronic signs; some people are upset By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 18, 2008 A proposal to let Nashville churches and schools put up electronic signs in residential areas is upsetting some residents, who fear the steady glare of bright lights piercing their leafy streets. A Metro Council bill would allow "community education facilities, cultural centers, recreation centers and religious institutions" in residential areas to post light-emitting diode, or LED, signs on main thoroughfares and the "collector" streets that feed vehicles into those main roads. The council has indefinitely deferred its final vote on the matter, but the issue continues to create a buzz. LED signs are often seen at chain drugstores, banks and auto dealerships. They use amber or red lights to display messages, which can rotate every few seconds. Keith Newcomb, a financial planner who lives in the Hillwood area of West Nashville, said the signs would be bad for neighborhoods. "There is no place for commercial-style LED signage deep in the heart of a residential neighborhood, on any kind of street," Newcomb said. "It's a quality-of-life issue." But Councilman Charlie Tygard, who introduced the proposal, said the signs would not be intrusive. They wouldn't be allowed to use flashing lights, scrolling messages or animation. Tygard said he was inspired by the plight of Harpeth Heights Baptist Church on Highway 100. The church wants to advertise its divorce classes, Boy Scout troop meetings and other events along a Bellevue stretch dominated by large signs for grocery stores, a Walgreens and a YMCA. But Harpeth Heights' request for a zoning variance was denied by Metro's Board of Zoning Appeals because the church couldn't show a hardship necessitating the sign, the councilman said. Resident e-mails pour in The church lot is zoned residential, but "for all practical purposes, it's on a commercial piece of property," said Tygard, who represented Bellevue before he was elected countywide last year. Councilwoman Emily Evans, who represents Belle Meade and West Meade, said she's received more constituent e-mails about the proposal than she's received about almost any other issue this year. She said she wouldn't be surprised if the bill were amended before it comes back up for a vote. Streets that dump traffic onto a main road can be "bucolic" along other stretches, Evans said. She said residents who bought their houses for the peace and quiet of those areas don't want to see electronic signs amid the trees and lawns. "Those heavily trafficked streets can also be very residential," she said. The list of affected roads runs about 290 pages, council attorneys said in their bill analysis. Newcomb said about 7,600 streets are on the list. Tygard said he's working to find "common ground" with the bill's critics. Compromises could include a time of night when the LED signs would have to be shut off and a requirement that only amber lights be used, he said. Contact Michael Cass at 259-8838 or mcass@tennessean.com.

Predators owner plans to max out city funds

Proposal would cap city's liability at arena at $3.8 million By COLBY SLEDGE • Staff Writer • March 19, 2008 The Nashville Predators' new owners expect to ask the city to pay the team $3.8 million every year, even when the team doesn't lose that much money, the owners' leader said. Under the agreement, which was approved by the Metro Sports Authority on Tuesday, the Predators would cap the city's liability for operating losses at the downtown Sommet Center at about $3.8 million — the same funding provided in 2006 — plus up to 5 percent a year in adjustments. But even if those losses dip below the threshold, the owners expect to spend at least that much, said David Freeman, lead owner of the Preds group. Freeman said those funds primarily would be used to bring in big-ticket events, like the NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament, that he argued would bring in more tourism dollars for the city. "We're not worried about taking risks anymore," said Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital. "We're going to take some risks." If the arena loses less than $3.8 million, the difference could also be spent on capital expenses such as improvements to the building itself, according to Larry Thrailkill, Metro's attorney in the negotiations with the pro hockey team's owners. Freeman stopped short of saying the money would be spent solely on bringing events to the arena. "If we do something that enhances the arena and that brings in more events, then that's a terrific expenditure," Freeman said. Freeman expected to have about 150 days of events from July 2007 to the end of June this year. That would be 30 days more than the previous fiscal year, Freeman said. The sports authority approved the agreement, 7-1, after deferring the vote earlier this month, frustrating some Predators officials. After Tuesday's vote, the phrase "one down, one to go" could be heard among several members of the audience. The decision will now go to the Metro Council, which is expected to vote on the agreement April 1. "I don't totally feel we got the best deal, but we may have gotten a better deal than we had, and I think we should go ahead and work with these folks," said sports authority member Arnett Bodenhamer. The dissenting voter, Steve North, said he thought the new lease might leave the city paying for more than it expects. "Anytime you have a complex agreement, there are always unintended consequences," North said. Freeman's statements brought mixed reactions from Metro Council members, who now must look at the agreement before possibly turning it over to Mayor Karl Dean, who helped negotiate the proposal. "I think a selling point for council members was if we can figure out a way to cap the amount of losses," said Councilman Erik Cole of East Nashville, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. Councilman Michael Craddock of Madison, who is also on the committee, said he was disappointed the group had already planned to spend the funds. "I guess it is, unfortunately, to be expected," Craddock said. "You give someone a line of credit or allotment, and they're going to spend it." A simple majority of the council's 40 voting members will be required to pass the agreement, which would be made retroactive to the current budget year. The city would likely pay about $4.5 million this year in incentive fees and other changes to the lease, including rent reductions and an increased cut of advertising revenues for the Predators, Thrailkill said. The city will be able to pay for that through various funds, Metro Finance Manager Bob Lackey said, including hotel/motel tax revenues. Contact Colby Sledge at 259-8229 or ccsledge@tennessean.com.
The Tennessee Lottery made a series of missteps and oversights after a software glitch began generating faulty winning numbers last year, and players bought about $2 million worth of unwinnable tickets before the error was found, according to a state audit. The sweeping audit from state Comptroller John G. Morgan reviewed the entire episode between July 28 and Aug. 20, when a programming glitch caused no duplicate digits to appear in winning Cash 3 and Cash 4 numbers. "A combination of unexpected and unlikely events unfolded" that eventually "resulted in the integrity and competence of all parties being called into question in the ensuing publicity," according to the audit. The report found no fraud associated with the episode. It also praised the lottery for its swift response once the glitch was identified, saying that executives and staff "engaged in good-faith efforts to disclose the programming error and to exhibit complete transparency." Lottery President Rebecca Hargrove said the lottery had implemented all of the comptroller's recommendations, "and then some." "I am confident that the system that we have in place is completely random and fair," she said. But some players are still suspicious. Al Palmer, a Henry County retiree, used to play Cash 3 and Cash 4, but stopped last year when the lottery gave up using ping-pong balls to draw winning numbers and instead began using computer software — software that ultimately proved to be faulty. "There's nothing that would make me play the Tennessee lottery again," he said. If he did play again, he said he'd sooner cross into Kentucky and play its lottery. $2M in tickets unwinnable In all, players bought about $2 million in tickets that could not win because they contained duplicate digits, the comptroller said. After the programming error was found and fixed, the lottery temporarily increased Cash 3's top cash payout from $500 to $599 and Cash 4 from $5,000 to $6,000. The lottery also paid $762,507 in refunds and $549,259 in increased prizes. The episodes began as soon as the lottery switched on July 28 from the mechanical ball system to a computerized system for generating random winning numbers in the Cash 3 and Cash 4 games. The problem stemmed from a mistyped letter in the computer application for the live draw. Because coding included a "u" for "unique" — instead of "r," for "repeating" — the machine was incapable of drawing repeating digits as winning combinations, such as 9-6-9 or 2-2-0-6. The company that tested the equipment, Gaming Laboratories International, checked a test-draw mechanism before the software went live, but did not test the flawed live draw program; the company claims its contract did not require it. As a result, the problem was not found. "I think the paperwork's pretty clear," said GLI's general counsel, Kevin Mullally. "They have a certification letter that doesn't ever mention the part of the software that has the error." Smartplay, a New Jersey-based company that developed the automated draw system, had opportunities to identify the programming error the first day the computers went into use, "and they did not do so," according to the audit. In days leading up to the system going live, Smartplay officials were present to install software and observe the first day of live draws, missing a chance to catch the non-repeated numbers. It is "uncontested" that Smartplay could have identified the problem, the audit said. A man who answered the phone at Smartplay Tuesday said, "we don't make comments to the press," before hanging up. The man refused to give his name. Glitch fixed in 10 minutes Lottery officials, who received the numbers by text message, also did not notice the lack of repeat digits, according to the audit. The lottery received its first e-mail about the potential problem on Aug. 1, a second two days later, and six more in following days. Lottery executives knew about the e-mails, but continued to believe the drawings were anomalies, the audit said. After 12 days, Chief Financial Officer Andy Davis reviewed data showing 70 draws without duplicate numbers for both Cash 3 and Cash 4. Had test draws been included, it would have shown that not a single one of 232 draws contained a duplicate number. Another lottery officer agreed to contact the vendor, but thought he was supposed to contact GLI, rather than Smartplay, which the audit called a "critical misperception." After consulting with GLI, the lottery conducted draws using a test system separate from the live system. Results with duplicate digits appeared, and "the decision was made to stay the course and to continue to monitor the draws." But e-mails continued to pour in, and "deeply concerned" lottery officials decided on Aug. 19 to contact Smartplay. A lottery official talked to Tom Markert, Smartplay's executive vice president, on Aug. 20. He ran one test, which immediately revealed the problem; Markert estimated that the entire process took less than 10 minutes, according to the audit. Contact Theo Emery at 726-4889 or temery@tennessean.com.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Harding Place extension project gets under way???

Proposal from decades ago will link roadway at Donelson Pike to I-40By PAM SHERBORNE | For Davidson A.M. • March 14, 2008 Neighbors being affected by a phase of the Harding Place extension project are concerned about two main issues: traffic and blasting. But concerns and questions over the entire extension project will most likely grow as the project grows. The plans to link Harding Place at Donelson Pike to I-40, east of Nashville, have been on the board for many years. It may be many more before it is completed. "I think this project was actually planned in the '70s, or maybe even earlier, in the '60s," said Metro Councilman Vivian Wilhoite, who represents District 29, where the phase is starting up. "But now there has been some movement in my area. The state has purchased some homes and torn them down." This movement is in preparation for one phase that will consist of the construction of a segment from Couchville Pike to Murfreesboro Road, closing off Old Murfreesboro Road as it runs into Murfreesboro Road. Priest Lake residents concerned about traffic According to one neighbor, Mike Hassell, who is co-president of the Priest Lake Neighborhood Watch, there is a problem with that plan. "Right now, people traveling out of Smith Springs Road toward Murfreesboro Road will first go to the intersection of Smith Springs and Old Murfreesboro Road," Hassell said. "There is a stop sign there. You can take a right onto Old Murfreesboro Road, and that takes you to Murfreesboro Road." Closing off Old Murfreesboro Road, he said, will require all the traffic to go straight at that intersection, staying on Smith Springs Road to Murfreesboro Road. "Currently, that traffic light at Murfreesboro Road is a no-turn on red," he said. "With that, we'll never get out onto Murfreesboro Road." But a Metro Public Works representative has met with some of the concerned residents during a neighborhood meeting last week. "They say they can solve that problem," Wilhoite said, "by providing a designated right lane for traffic to turn onto Murfreesboro Road. That lane won't stop at the light, but will be a flow-through lane." Although Hassell feels that could address that problem, he said, "Now, how are we going to get home? We will all be turning left onto Smith Springs." Blasting also a big issue for neighbors Neighbors are concerned about the inevitable blasting." My question is who is going to pay for the pre-blasting survey prior to the blasting and how far will this survey extend," Hassell said. "I don't expect it to just go out 10 homes or so. We are all on rock out here." A definitive answer to that question may come when part of the project is under way. According to Shannon Ashford, public information officer for the state Department of Commerce and Insurance, which oversees blasting regulations in Tennessee, a pre-blast survey is required by regulations if the blast exceeds the limits of the Standard Table of Distance and the property is within 300 feet of the blast site. "The blasting company would pay for the survey," Ashford said. "They will also need to get a permit to store the explosives from Metro and would need to have a Tennessee licensed blasting firm, handlers, and blasters." Section to Couchville Pike funded for 2008 The Harding Place extension project was developed by the Nashville-area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a federally-designated transportation planning agency responsible for identifying transportation needs and then developing them. The project is being funded by federal and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) money, with an 80/20 percent split, federal and state, respectively. The timetable for the entire project is undetermined. Julie Oaks, public information officer for TDOT, said because of TDOT's financial situation, competition for state and federal construction funding is fierce. But Michael Skipper, director of the Nashville area MPO, said funding for the segment from Murfreesboro Road to Couchville Pike is in the program for 2008. "Of course, it may not be completed in 2008, but the money is there for that segment," Skipper said. Those fees include: $370,000 for preliminary engineering, $1.2 million for relocation of utilities and $8.5 million for construction. That brings the total to slightly more than $10 million. All these fees have the 80/20 split, federal/state. Oaks said environmental and technical studies are under way. "In a few months, when TDOT has the preliminary information from these studies, we will schedule a public meeting to present the information and request public input," Oaks said. "We will be coordinating with Metro Public Works, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority and the Federal Highway Administration."

UConn finishes No. 1 in AP women's poll --Vivian Just for You!

By DOUG FEINBERG AP Sports Writer Connecticut entered the women's NCAA tournament at No. 1 on Monday - the seventh time UConn finished with the top ranking but the first time since 2003. The Huskies, which began the season at No. 2, led the final Associated Press poll with 49 of 50 first-place votes from a national media panel. North Carolina drew the other first-place vote. Connecticut was ranked first in 12 of the final 13 weeks with the only blemish coming when the Huskies lost at Rutgers. The Huskies won the Big East tournament on Tuesday knocking off No. 23 Louisville 65-59. Posted by: You know who! :)

Tennessee gets No. 1 seed in NCAA tourney

By BETH RUCKER Associated Press Writer KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- After being a top seed in the NCAA tournament 19 times, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt likes to see something new. As in new opponents, not a new seed. The third-ranked Lady Vols (30-2) drew the No. 1 seed of the Oklahoma City Regional on Monday and will face No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in West Lafayette, Ind., on Sunday. "I know nothing about Oral Roberts," Summitt said. "I guess I'll be up for a little while." The defending national champion Lady Vols continued their tradition of gathering at Summitt's house for dinner and to watch the bracket announcement together. The players clapped when Tennessee was announced, but seemed curious about their first opponent. "Where is Oral Roberts, coach?" senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle asked after seeing the regional lineup. It's in Tulsa, by the way. Many teams in the Oklahoma City Regional are new to Summitt, or at least the current roster of Lady Vols. They've never played No. 8 seed Utah, one of their potential second round matchups should they advance past their first game - which they've always done. They've faced No. 2 seed Texas A&M only once, in 1997. The Lady Vols also have a chance to face ninth-seeded Purdue, a team they haven't played in over a decade, on the Boilermakers' home court. "I was a little surprised that we're going to be in West Lafayette, but they support women's basketball in great fashion there," Summitt said. Summitt said she was also surprised Tennessee's regional didn't include Rutgers, the team the Lady Vols beat in the 2007 national championship and again this season in a game with a last-second clock controversy. Tennessee would only face Rutgers in the tournament if both teams again reach the national championship game in Tampa. Another team the Lady Vols would only face in the national championship game is Connecticut, a team Tennessee didn't face this season for the first time in 13 years. Summitt ended the series with Tennessee's biggest rival, even though the Huskies had a signed contract to keep playing through next season. She's declined to say why she made that decision. Summitt acknowledged that a potential national championship between Tennessee and Connecticut would receive a lot of hype, because every game between the two does. But it's not something she or the players are thinking about. "We're just focusing on one game at a time. That's what we've done in years previous, and I think that's helped us be successful in the NCAA tournament," All-American Candace Parker said. © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Bill puts deadline on record requests

Officials would have 4 days to respond By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer • March 16, 2008 A proposal advancing in the state legislature would make some key changes to the Tennessee Public Records Law, including a deadline of four business days for government officials to respond to records requests. There is no deadline now. Under the proposal, the government worker who is the "custodian" of the record would have to provide the records, deny the request in writing — and explain the decision or say how much time would be "reasonably necessary to produce such record or information." Failing to respond would be considered a denial, which would allow the person seeking the records to appeal the decision in court. Fewer than a dozen other states have response deadlines of four days or less, according to data compiled by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "It will compare well," said Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The bill, which is moving through the state Senate, would create an advisory committee to look at some issues the legislation doesn't get to, such as access to electronic records. The legislation also leaves open meetings to the side for now. A legislative study committee had considered a proposal that would have allowed just under a quorum of members of a public body, such as the 40-member Metro Council, to meet in private. In the Metro Council's case, that would have allowed 26 members to meet behind closed doors. "We felt the recommendations would have weakened the law," said Gibson, a former government editor at The Tennessean. As the legislation stands, "half a loaf is better than no loaf at all," Gibson said of the progress it would generate.

Tennessee Web site lets patients track doctors' dealings

By CLAUDIA PINTO • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 17, 2008 Doctors are brought before the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for abuses, such as showing up drunk on the job or botching a surgery. But there's an easy way to check up on your physician. By going to the Tennessee Department of Health's Web site, people can find out if the board has taken action against a doctor, why and what the outcome was. They also can find other practical information to help them choose a doctor, such as where they attended school, which hospitals they can practice in and whether they have a criminal record. "It gives the consumer a way to make informed decisions," said Rosemarie Otto, the executive director of the Board of Medical Examiners. Here's how to access the information: Go to http://health.state.tn.us/ click on licensing and then on licensing verification and type in the name of a physician. Shelley Walker, a spokeswoman for the state's department of health, said the link got 6.8 million hits in 2007 — making it one of the most popular in all of state government. "People are concerned about who is delivering their health care," Otto said. Of some relief: Otto said fewer than 1 percent of Tennessee doctors ever come before the board. In addition to doctors, the site has information on health professionals in nearly 70 fields, including psychologists, veterinarians, dentists and message therapists. "If people have questions about their physician, they are entitled to get as much information as they can," Otto said.

Police Search For Suspects In Two Overnight Robberies

Posted: March 17, 2008 06:47 AM CST Channel 5 News NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Two robberies happened overnight, and one victim ended up being shot. Police said two people sitting in a truck outside the Hickory Highlands apartments in Antioch where approached by two black men who demanded money. The victims, realizing the suspects were armed, tried to drive off, but the driver was shot. Police caught up with victim as he drove himself to the hospital. Investigators said they will interview the passenger for possible leads. In a separate robbery overnight a hotel clerk was robbed at gunpoint. The incident happened at the Ramada Inn in Dickson on Highway 46. Police said two gunmen walked into the lobby just before midnight. They pointed a shotgun at the desk clerk and demanded money. The men left with a disclosed amount of cash. Monday morning, police do not have any suspects.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Davidson County: Groups to advocate for funding schools

Several Nashville non-profits have formed one group to help raise awareness and encourage people to advocate for funding public education. Dubbed "Friends of Metro Schools," the umbrella organization includes Stand for Children, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship and other partners. The groups united this week to raise community awareness about funding issues using e-mail alerts about legislation that affects school funding. The hope is an educated community will take action by writing local and state lawmakers, said Marc Hill, chief education officer for the Chamber of Commerce. Hill said the group won't weigh in on policy issues, such as standard school attire or year-round school. The focus will be on getting dollars for Metro Schools, he said. For more information, parents can log on to www.stand.org/friendsofmetroschools or e-mail friends@stand.org. — JAIME SARRIO jsarrio@tennessean.com

Special-ed monitors for buses planned

Dean urges action; 2 lawsuits allege sex abuse By JAIME SARRIO • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 15, 2008 Metro school officials want to add monitors to every special-education bus after reports of sexual abuse, but they're unclear where to get $4.85 million to pay for the workers. At the mayor's urging, interim schools Director Chris Henson on Friday released a plan to improve safety on all buses. The plan includes additional training for drivers, cameras on every bus and more monitors for the district's 217 special-education buses. The district currently has 15 monitor positions. "There's not an easy answer, and it is something that every district is trying to address," Henson said. "Obviously, adding additional adults on the bus would make a difference, but we believe that better training and better communication makes a difference as well. And that's not something that has cost implications." Henson said the district has started implementing improvement plans. The call to action comes after two parents filed separate lawsuits against the district, claiming their special-needs children were sexually abused on buses. Last month, a 14-year-old Rutherford County girl alleged an 18-year-old boy raped her on a regular bus. He's charged in the crime. According to school officials, staffing bus monitors is a challenge. The position pays $24,000 annually, and monitors work a split shift. The district is trying to fill five positions. Metro runs 589 buses daily and transports 45,000 students.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Law enforcement officials unanimously reject proposal

Chris Echegaray • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 14, 2008 There's not one law enforcement official who agrees with the Sen. Doug Jackson's proposal. Tennessee’s Public Safety Coalition, consisting of police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys general from across the state, this week sent a letter to Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and members of the House of Representatives urging them to reject legislation that would allow handgun permit holders to carry firearms into bars and restaurants that sell alcohol. The letter was simple enough: guns and alcohol don’t mix, and that passage of the legislation will not be good for Tennesseans or our visitors. Signing the letter on behalf of the Public Safety Coalition were Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson, Knoxville District Attorney Randy Nichols, Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, Montgomery County Sheriff Norman Lewis, and District Attorney Mike Dunavant, who represents the 25th Judicial District. The Chiefs of Police in Knoxville and Chattanooga concur with the Public Safety Coalition’s stand.

For All the Sports Fans---No. 4 Tennessee beats South Carolina

Tennessean 12/14/2008 ATLANTA — Tennessee is still alive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It sure wasn't easy. Chris Lofton hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds remaining and the fourth-ranked Volunteers survived South Carolina's bid for a huge upset, sending Dave Odom into retirement with an 89-87 victory over the Gamecocks in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday. Tennessee (29-3) already claimed its first SEC championship in 41 years and hopes to lock up a top seed by winning the league tournament. South Carolina (14-18) made it tough in Odom's final game; he announced in January he would step down at the end of the season. Wayne Chism led the Volunteers with 23 points, helping them dominate on the inside. Lofton was held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but the senior guard came through when it counted. After Dominique Archie scored off a brilliant pass from Devan Downey, putting South Carolina ahead 87-86 with 21 seconds remaining, Tennessee hustled the ball upcourt and called timeout to set up a play. While the Volunteers had been doing most of their damage in the lane, they set up a screen for Lofton at the top of the key. His open look hit nothing but net, just his second 3-pointer in 10 attempts on the day. Downey came up short on a 3-pointer that could have won it for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks got a final chance when the rebound went out of bounds off a Tennessee player with 1.1 seconds left. Evaldas Baniulis inbounded to Archie, but the pass was low and got stuck between his legs while he was being tightly guarded by Tyler Smith. The horn sounded without Archie even getting off a shot. The 65-year-old Odom, who coached at South Carolina for seven years after a successful 12-year stint at Wake Forest, walked off the court slowly with his head down. He finished with a disappointing record of 128-104 with the Gamecocks, taking the school to only one NCAA tournament. Downey scored 26 points and Zam Fredrick had 24 for the Gamecocks, who certainly can't be accused of giving up as they were after a humiliating 89-56 loss to Tennessee in their regular-season finale last weekend. South Carolina knocked off LSU in the opening round and came within a shot of upsetting the powerful Vols. But Tennessee moves on to face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Arkansas game in Saturday's semifinals. The Vols, who spent one week at No. 1 for the first time in school history and lead the RPI standings, picked up their SEC championship trophy before the game while the school band played "Rocky Top." They certainly had no reason to fear the Gamecocks, having beaten them by nine games in the SEC East standings and winning their two regular-season meetings by an average margin of 28.5 points. It looked like another rout when Tennessee scored the first nine points and raced out to a 19-8 lead. But South Carolina wouldn't go away, chipping away at the deficit and actually pulling ahead in the final minute of the first half before Tennessee went to the locker room with a 41-40 lead. The second half was close all the way, with six ties and eight lead changes. The Gamecocks were outscored 52-38 in the lane but showed they could run with the talented Vols, especially during one up-and-down stretch where the teams combined for five baskets in 35 seconds. It could have gone either way in the final minute. Archie dunked an offensive rebound with 43 seconds left to put South Carolina up 85-84. Tennessee worked it inside to Smith, who went up strong, made the basket and was fouled by Archie with 39 seconds to go. Smith missed the free throw, South Carolina took over and worked it down for Archie's go-ahead basket. But Lofton made sure Tennessee reached the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 1991 and avoided coach Bruce Pearl's third straight one-and-done appearance.

Non-profits join to push for school funds

Davidson County Several Nashville non-profits are joining to help raise awareness and encourage people to advocate for more money for public schools. Friends of Metro Schools debuted Thursday at Dan Mills Elementary. It includes Stand for Children, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship and other partners. The groups are uniting to raise community awareness about funding issues through e-mail alerts about legislation that affects school funding. The hope is an educated community will take action by writing local and state lawmakers, said Marc Hill, chief education officer for the Chamber of Commerce. Hill said the group won't weight in on policy issues, such as standard school attire or year-round school. The focus will be getting dollars for Metro schools, he said. For more information, parents can log on to www.stand.org/friendsofmetroschools or e-mail friends@stand.org. Metro school officials are asking for $613.7 million in next year's budget to continue services to students, and an extra $13 million to add new programs and personnel to help the district meet state requirements for the first time in four years. — JAIME SARRIO jsarrio@tennessean.com

Police search for gunman

By RACHEL STULTS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 13, 2008 Police have identified and are searching for the gunman believed to have shot and killed a 21-year-old man Wednesday night. Travis Taylor, 20, of Cannon Street, faces charges of criminal homicide and attempted criminal homicide in the death of Stephen Dejuan Johnson, who was shot in the head as the car in which he was riding was fired at while traveling on University Court, police said. Hermitage Precinct detectives say that Johnson and three friends were riding through University Court when multiple shots were fired at the rear of their car. Officer Cassandra Del Bosco heard the shots and saw a car with a shattered rear window pull onto Lafayette Street from First Avenue South. Del Bosco pulled the car over and found Johnson dead in the back seat. Police are investigating whether the shooting is linked to a recent altercation at a local nightclub. Anyone who has seen Travis Taylor should contact Hermitage Precinct detectives at 862-6993 or Crime Stoppers at 742-7463. At the time of the shooting, Taylor was free on a $1,000 bond after a domestic assault arrest on Feb. 22. He also has convictions for cocaine possession, trespassing and evading arrest.

Suspect in armed robbery sought; 2 caught

Two juvenile suspects were caught and a third suspect got away after the robbery of a man and an attempted robbery of a restaurant, police said. Sgt. Chris West of the South Precinct gave this account of the events that occurred Thursday night: Shortly before midnight, three suspects who had two weapons tried unsuccessfully to rob the Wingstop restaurant in Antioch. They were not able to get inside the door. Soon after that, a couple of miles or so away on Crossings Boulevard, a man was robbed of his wallet. On Bell Road police got behind a gold car matching the description of the suspects' car in both incidents, and three men bailed out and ran away. Two of the suspects were caught. The third suspect was not apprehended in a search that involved the canine unit. The suspect was last seen at the Willow Pointe apartment complex off Bell Road. Police do not have a detailed description of him. No one was injured in the incidents. — LEIGH RAY (Tennessean)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Metro Firefighters Disciplined After Late Night Tour"

An investigation into conduct at a Metro fire station has led to discipline against five people. Captain Michael Crume will be demoted to firefighter. Also, firefighters Jeffrey Warbritton, Norman Crawford, Richard Brantley and John Carpenter will be suspended without pay for two weeks. News 2 first broke this story last month, after allegations surfaced that several women had been taken back to fire station number 2, and offered beer and shown pornography. An internal investigation did not prove either happened. Metro fire has since changed the department's tour policy, and banned premium cable channels at fire stations. ... To See Video: CLICK HERE ... Copyright 2008 by WKRN Nashville Tennessee. All Rights Reserved.

"Shooting Investigation Turns Into Homicide"

An investigation into a shooting Wednesday night near Murfreesboro Road has now turned into a homicide. Police say the victim in that shooting died at Vanderbilt Medical Center. They say the shooting happened around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at 43 University Court, which is just south of downtown. Authorities say an officer was called to University Court around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday. Shots were fired after police left the area. The officer returned to the scene and noticed a blue car driving down the road, riddled with bullets. The officer then stopped the car at 1st Avenue South and Lafayette Street. ... Police say there were several people in the car, but only one person was shot. The victim was taken to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where he later died at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. His identity has not been released. To See the video: CLICK HERE If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME. Copyright 2008 by WKRN Nashville Tennessee. All Rights Reserved.