Monday, August 31, 2009

Guns In Parks Law Takes Effect At Midnight

Channel 4 News Nashville Opts Out Of Law POSTED: 8:23 am CDT August 31, 2009 UPDATED: 8:33 am CDT August 31, 2009 NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Change is coming for many state and local parks all over Tennessee. At midnight on Sept. 1, the new law that allows carry permit holders to take their weapons into parks will take effect. Several communities in Middle Tennessee, including Nashville, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Brentwood and Franklin, chose to opt out of that law. Columbia, Mount Juliet and White House voted not to opt out of the law, effectively allowing guns in parks

Lincoln Exhibit Begins In Nashville Tuesday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An Abraham Lincoln exhibit goes on display beginning Tuesday at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. "Abraham Lincoln: Beyond the Penny" showcases portraits of Lincoln and discusses the continued use of the penny to commemorate his centennial, sesquicentennial and bicentennial anniversaries. Archive sponsors said there is one photo of Lincoln without a beard. The library and archives building is across from the state Capitol in downtown Nashville. The exhibit is free and runs through Oct. 29. (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Seniors' credit card debt grows fastest in recession

By Nancy Trejos • THE WASHINGTON POST • August 31, 2009 WASHINGTON — Alice Smith thought she would live comfortably and quietly in her Hyattsville, Md., retirement community. Instead she is fretfully dodging calls from her creditors. She owes more than $10,000 to four credit card companies and more than $7,000 to a credit union — in part, she said, because of spending to help her family. She doesn't give exact figures because she is unsure of them: With late fees and higher interest rates, the amount she owes has grown. Her income has not. Through a pension and Social Security from her former job at a National Institutes of Health laboratory, she receives about $2,000 a month. Her rent is $955. She doesn't know how she can ever pay down her debts. So she thinks she just might not. "I am 80 years old," she said, "and I don't need this headache at my age." Older Americans are among the most vulnerable in this recession. They are carrying debt loads they can barely handle with their fixed incomes, dwindling retirement savings and, in many cases, devalued homes. Average credit card debt among low- and middle-income Americans 65 and older carrying a balance for more than three months reached $10,235, up 26 percent from 2005, according to a recently released study by the public policy group Demos. It was the fastest increase of any age group. Soon-to-be retirees also are struggling with debt. All generations struggle It's a surprising reversal of fortune for a generation that had been considered more financially responsible than younger generations. Frequent or frivolous use of credit cards had not been a common trait of older Americans, particularly those 65 and older, because credit was not as easily available in their formative years. Now, even they are finding they have little choice but to borrow money. "What's changed in this challenging economy is that no generation is immune from tough times. And it means that many older adults find they need to use credit cards as a means to stretch a fixed income, meet rising costs, pay for unexpected medical or household expenses, or to even help adult children," said Angela Rabatin, an adjunct professor of finance and contract law at University of Maryland University College and Prince George's Community College in Maryland. In 2007, the most recent figure available, the percentage of 55-to-64-year-olds who had to use more than 40 percent of their income toward paying down debt was 12.5 percent, higher than any other age group, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which studies pensions and benefits. Those who were 65 to 74 did not trail far behind, with 11.2 percent contributing that big a chunk of their income toward their debt. "Even going into the downturn of the economy, a significant percentage of people were at that threshold considered dangerous for debt," said Craig Copeland, a senior research associate at the institute. Rising medical costs and less-generous health insurance plans, in particular, are burdening retirees and soon-to-be retirees. As the battle over health-care reform rages on, many are turning to borrowed money to pay for prescriptions and doctor visits.

Nashville council buys into convention center deal bit by bit

$80 million has been spent so far on project that hasn't been approved By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • August 31, 2009 In the past 18 months, the council has overwhelmingly approved the spending of nearly $80 million on architectural designs, consulting, public relations work and land acquisition. It has also agreed to create a separate authority to oversee the project. But the do-or-die vote on actually paying for and building the $635 million convention center hasn't come yet. In fact, it still might be more than three months away. To Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, a real estate agent, it's a familiar game plan: a seller getting a buyer to invest in a deal, bit by crucial bit. "That's a sales strategy on their part," said Craddock, who is undecided about the project. "A lot of times, people will say, 'Well, this is a lot to think about.' My response is always, 'Let's take this one step at a time.' "It's a sales pitch to acclimate you to the final yes vote." Dean's top advisers insist that's not the idea. And some council members say they're pleased to take the project in small, digestible bites. "From what I hear, this is a much longer time frame and has provisions for more council input than previous transactions that were on a large scale," said Erik Cole, incoming chairman of the Convention, Tourism and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee. Since February 2008, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency has used more than $16 million generated by a series of tourist-targeted taxes and fees to pay for "predevelopment activities." Most of the money has paid for designs. MDHA also has borrowed $62 million to buy land south of Sommet Center and First Baptist Church, though no purchases have been announced. To some, that's a backward approach. Councilwoman Emily Evans said it would have made more sense for the city to decide whether to build the 1.2-million-square-foot convention center before starting talks to buy the land for it. And announcing the amount of money available to buy 15.87 acres signaled to property owners what price they could demand, hurting Metro's leverage, she said. "We've given away a major negotiating tactic, which is (property owners wondering), 'How much do you have to spend on land?' " Evans said. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said land costs have been included in project documents for at least a year. He said he expects property owners to try to make as much profit as they can, but the city will take them to court if it can't negotiate terms. "Our leverage is going to be that we can only pay what an appraisal shows," Riebeling said. MDHA started making offers to property owners about four weeks ago. Joe Cain, the agency's development director, said Friday that no sales have been closed yet. Contracts spark debate Money spent on the project, which had been moving along quietly, burst into public view with this month's revelation that McNeely Pigott & Fox had billed the city more than $458,000 for public relations work. MDHA's board had voted last fall to lift an initial $75,000 cap on the firm's contract. A review of contract documents shows MDHA also raised the payment limits on several other contracts. And McNeely Pigott & Fox was not the only firm charging the city well over $200 an hour at its top billing rate, a practice that critics say gives firms an incentive to pile up hours. Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc., for example, has two contracts with MDHA. One, for financial advice on a convention center business plan, was negotiated last year to pay a maximum of $165,000. But MDHA added more work and raised the cap to $250,000 on Aug. 7. The firm's other contract was for advice on the feasibility of a convention center hotel. That agreement had a cap of $93,500 when signed in June 2008. MDHA raised the limit to $500,000 three weeks ago. Each deal calls for the company's president, Charlie Johnson, to be paid $340 an hour. Evans said the rising costs make no sense. She said the city's general financial adviser, Dallas-based First Southwest Co., has worked on convention center hotel deals and could have given guidance on what Johnson's work would cost. Mark Sturtevant, MDHA's project manager, said it was Johnson who proposed the initial price of $93,500. Once the work began, the agency kept Johnson on for advice on selecting the hotel's developer and operator. Sturtevant said Johnson's work was "invaluable," helping bring in proposals from 10 developers and seven hotel companies. He said the consultant's hourly charge is justified. "He's well-known in the industry," Sturtevant said. Riebeling said he didn't remember anyone asking First Southwest for its opinion on the cost of hiring Johnson, saying the consultant "came with some good credentials." MDHA also raised the payment limit for Conventional Wisdom, a facility-programming firm that essentially wrote a guidebook for architects to follow on using the space inside the convention center. Ocoee, Fla.-based Conventional Wisdom's billing cap grew from $250,000 to $303,424.52 after "all kinds of value judgments" about the building's design came up, Sturtevant said. Craddock said the changes in costs raise more questions about MDHA's management. "What good is a contract if you're not going to abide by it?" he said. Sturtevant said MDHA can spend what's necessary for predevelopment activities as long as the visitor tax and fee revenues cover the costs. MDHA is not required to get council approval to amend contract spending caps. Approach is different Riebeling said he plans to present a construction financing package for the convention center and hotel to the Metro Council by the end of the year. Only one vote will be needed to approve or reject the plan. Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Dean's approach is practical. The mayor wants to open the convention center in time for meetings the bureau has booked for the spring of 2013. "The choices were the whole enchilada with little facts, or some smaller pieces to keep it moving," he said. "If we missed deadlines, we'd start to miss bookings." (Ellen Leifeld, president and publisher of The Tennessean, serves as chairman of the bureau's board of directors.) Dean's parceling of the project goes against the grain of some previous Nashville initiatives, and Evans, a retired municipal bond underwriter, said it's extremely unusual, compared with other cities' approaches. In October 1995, Mayor Phil Bredesen proposed a $292 million package to build a football stadium for the team that became the Tennessee Titans. At the same time, Bredesen asked the council to authorize architectural designs; marketing and sales of personal seat licenses; creation of a sports authority; and a lease with milestones for the NFL franchise to meet. The council ultimately approved the deal five months later, though voters got the final say in a referendum because Bredesen wanted to use $4 million a year in water and sewer funds to help pay off the debt. The city had spent about $2.5 million in an effort to get the team by that point. Dean has promised not to use property or sales tax revenues to pay for the convention center, meaning a referendum wouldn't be possible as long as those funds were not being tapped. Approval of the existing downtown convention center in the 1980s also came together in a rapid succession of votes, said Pat Nolan, a local political analyst who covered Mayor Richard Fulton's proposal as a reporter at the time. But Nolan, who later worked as an aide to Fulton, said there's nothing wrong with Dean's approach. "My impression has been that, in part, they were trying to continue to move forward on the project despite all the problems in the financial markets," he said. "There's no one way to skin the political cat here." Councilman Mike Jameson, whose district includes the convention center site, said giving council members a stake in the project is the driving force in Dean's strategy. "It paints the council into a corner where, inevitably, we're almost forced to vote for the convention center, because goodness, if we vote it down now, we've wasted $75 million," he said. But Riebeling and Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote said they couldn't imagine doing it any other way. They said the council and public have had plenty of opportunities to ask questions. "It's common sense," Riebeling said. "This is obviously a very complicated project that has a lot of different parts. To think it could be done in one vote and at one time is just naive. It just can't be done. "I'm tired of being told we're not doing it the right way. If people have a better way, they can run for mayor."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sen. Ted Kennedy Dies At 77

Channel 5 News BOSTON (AP) - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate and haunted bearer of the Camelot torch after two of his brothers fell to assassins' bullets, died Tuesday. He was 77. He died at his home in Hyannis Port after battling a brain tumor, his family said in a statement. He died just weeks after his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver's death on Aug. 11. For nearly a half-century in the Senate, Kennedy was a steadfast champion of the working class and the poor, a powerful voice on health care, civil rights, and war and peace. To the American public, though, he was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, the eulogist of a clan shattered by tragedy. Kennedy was elected to the Senate in 1962, when his brother John was president, and served longer than all but two senators in history. Over the decades, he put his imprint on every major piece of social legislation to clear the Congress. His own hopes of reaching the White House were damaged - perhaps doomed - in 1969 by the scandal that came to be known as Chappaquiddick, an auto accident that left a young woman dead. Kennedy - known to family, friends and foes simply as Ted - ended his quest for the presidency in 1980 with a stirring valedictory that echoed across the decades: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." The third-longest-serving senator in U.S. history, Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in May 2008 and underwent surgery and a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.

Swine flu could infect up to half of the U.S.

Epidemic could kill 30,000 to 90,000 By Steve Sternberg • USA TODAY • August 25, 2009 The global flu pandemic expected to return to the United States this fall is likely to infect as much as half of the population, flooding hospitals with nearly 2 million patients and causing 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, according to the first official prediction of the scope of the coming epidemic. The report, released Monday by the White House, was prepared by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology beginning in late June at President Barack Obama's request. It concludes that the expected resurgence of the new form of H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, "poses a serious health threat to the United States." While this is not the 1918 flu pandemic, it infects younger people more and serious complications do occur," says the panel's co-chairman Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, warning that infants and children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses are at special risk of serious complications. As of Aug. 15, swine flu has caused 7,983 hospitalizations and 522 deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But flu experts worry that the number of cases is likely to mount as more children and young people return to school and as colder weather drives more people to congregate indoors. We think it's very likely cases will increase," says David Marens, a flu expert at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Unlike previous analyses, the White House science advisors drew from experience with past pandemics to attempt to forecast the impact of the 2009-2010 H1N1 flu and use the information to guide the nation's response to the epidemic. The report concludes that the coming flu season will more likely resemble the flu pandemic of 1957, which killed 70,000 people in the USA, or 1968, when 34,000 died. It is unlikely to have the tidal impact of the 1918 flu, which killed more than 500,000 people in the USA and more than 50 million people worldwide. About 36,000 people die annually in the U.S. from seasonal flu strains. Marens says some features of the flu pandemic may help to blunt its impact, especially the fact that it appears to spare the elderly who usually die in the greatest numbers during flu pandemics. Timing may help too, he says. "It came at a time of the year when influenza viruses have trouble getting traction. That bought us a lot of time to figure this out and make a vaccine. And as the virus has spread this summer it hasn't been so bad. These are good things. It doesn't necessarily mean we're out of the woods, but at least they're not bad news." Public health experts have faced the dual challenge of preparing for two parallel flu epidemics ever since swine flu emerged in Mexico in April. The world's five vaccine makers rushed to finish the vaccine for seasonal flu, which is now being distributed, and to begin formulating a pandemic flu vaccine. The federal government has ordered 190 million doses; about 40 million are expected to be available by mid-October. White House science advisors express concerns that, without significantly accelerating flu vaccine production, the first doses of vaccine may become available after the swine flu season peaks in October. They also assert that the influx of patients may tie up hospital emergency rooms and intensive-care units (ICUs). "It's possible that at a time of peak demand from 50 to 100 percent of ICU beds in an area might be used for influenza cases. They're often close to capacity without influenza," Lander says.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Deadly drivers threaten walkers in Nashville

Nashville among least safe cities for pedestrians By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • August 24, 2009 Pedestrian accidents are on the rise in Metro Nashville, where hundreds are hit, hurt or killed by vehicles each year. The number of pedestrian accidents has gone up nearly every year since 2004 — a grim statistic in a city already known as one of the least-pedestrian-friendly places in the country. Seventy-three people died trying to cross or walk along Nashville streets from January 2004 to August 2009, according to Metro police records. More than 1,600 pedestrians have been hit. Not only are Nashville pedestrians getting hit, they're getting hit in the same intersections, neighborhoods and along the same main traffic corridors over and over again. They're also getting hit for the same reasons, over and over again. Some get hit while jaywalking. Others are hit because reckless drivers don't know, or don't care, that the law requires them to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Some get hit because they go walking in dark clothes on a dark night. "The bottom line is, if more pedestrians and drivers would follow the rules, many of these (accidents) could have been avoided," said Metro Public Works spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock, whose department is responsible for pedestrian crossings around the city. But there are things other cities have done to cut down on their pedestrian accident and death rates — things like stepped-up enforcement at pedestrian crossings, more visible crosswalks, bans on right turns at red lights, and remaking entire streets to calm traffic and protect pedestrians. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has appointed a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in an effort to create a more "walkable" city, and Metro's Planning and Public Works departments have scrutinized dangerous crossings. But the city has yet to come up with a comprehensive safety plan that targets dangerous crossings. "We're looking into how to address this, but for now it's a little premature to say," said Metro Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Toks Omishakin. "More detailed analysis needs to be done." But even a cursory look at pedestrian accident data highlights the streets around town that are accidents waiting to happen. 7 hit on BroadwayThere's Broadway, where pedestrians have been hit in almost every intersection in the dozen blocks between the river and the highway overpass over the past five years — 14 pedestrians hit at Broadway and Third Avenue, 11 more at the Fifth Avenue crossing. This year alone, there have been seven pedestrians hit between First and 12th avenues. Then there's the Main Street/Gallatin Road/Gallatin Pike corridor, site of three of the seven pedestrian deaths the city has seen this year. The first traffic death of the year was a pedestrian, 44-year-old Allen Young, killed while trying to cross Main Street by a driver who never saw him until it was too late to stop. The driver wasn't cited and the final police report on the incident concluded: "It appears Young's failure to yield to traffic while crossing the roadway was the contributing factor to this fatal accident." But several months later, several miles up the road, Nashville grandfather James Hamsley was waiting quietly at a bus stop along Gallatin Pike when he was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver and killed. What Nashville needs, Omishakin said, is a change in the culture and mindset of drivers and pedestrians alike. "There is a lot of education that needs to happen," said Omishakin, whose office is also leading a push for more bike paths and pedestrian corridors in a city that the National Surface Transportation Policy Project once ranked as the 10th-most-dangerous place for pedestrians in the nation. A look around any busy intersection in town offers a vivid glimpse of just how far Nashville has to go in its pedestrian safety education. It was the noon lunch rush at the intersection of Fifth and Charlotte avenues, and Billy Harris had his eye on the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, not the glowing red "don't walk" signal overhead. Harris bounded into the street, ignoring the red minivan bearing down on him. Brakes squealed as the vehicle slowed, then swerved around him and continued through the intersection. Safely on the other side, Harris, a day laborer, seemed amused by the suggestion that it might have been safer to wait for a walk signal. Or at least look both ways before he crossed. "I knew I could make it," he said with a laugh. Not long afterward, Barbara Williams, 77, waited at the same corner for the walk signal and started across, hobbled slightly by recent foot surgery that had her stepping slowly and gingerly down Charlotte. Halfway across, she cringed as a dark sedan whipped a right turn on red, just missing her. "People drive like idiots in this town," said Williams, whose failing eyesight forces her to walk everywhere or take the bus around town. "There are drivers who will speed up when they see you in a crosswalk, like they think it's funny to scare the daylights out of you." In 2004, there were 278 pedestrian accidents in the Metro area. By 2008, the number had risen to 302. The death rate has ranged from 11 in 2004 to 17 in 2006 and 13 deaths last year. By contrast, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has charted a steady decline in pedestrian deaths nationwide over the years. Circumstances varyThere's no one reason people keep getting hit on Nashville streets. A look at the 1,600 pedestrian accidents turns up odd tidbits: More accidents happened during daylight hours than nighttime; more pedestrians were hit in intersections than in the middle of roads; and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were the most dangerous days of the week. The pedestrians are all ages, races and genders: 4-year-old Ronald Easeley III, hit and critically injured while trying to cross Nolensville Pike at Old Hickory with his parents last month; James Veach, 39, sideswiped and killed while steering his electric wheelchair along Dupont Avenue by a driver who police said was under the influence of drugs; even an old friend of Elvis, Marvin "GeeGee" Gambill Jr., 61, hit by a car on Antioch Pike while walking to work. Gambill was Elvis Presley's longtime driver. "It's a bad situation for everyone. For the driver, not being able to do anything, not having time to react before they hit someone, it's really hard on them," said Officer Greg Davis, crash investigator for the Metro Police. "And in general, for the pedestrians getting hit, even if they don't die, they're going to have injuries that are potentially life-changing." For Davis, the worst part of any pedestrian accident scene is knowing that it could have been prevented. "We have good crossing areas in this city, but from what we see, people just aren't using them. … It goes the other way, too. Motorists have to exercise due caution, pay attention," Davis said. Seven pedestrians have died on the streets of Nashville this year. If recent patterns hold true, another seven or so are likely to die before 2010. Davis, for one, would be happy if that doesn't happen, and had a few words of advice for pedestrians: "If there's crosswalks available, use 'em. Treat 'walk' and 'don't walk' signs seriously. The city doesn't put them up for entertainment. They're there to keep people safe," he said.

Monday, August 17, 2009

PR Firm Resigns from Metro Convention Center Contract

Channel 5 Investigation: Aug 17, 2009 1:13 PM CDT The public relations firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox, abruptly resigned today from work on Nashville's proposed convention center, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned. It comes after a NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed costs associated with a communications contract grew to nearly half million dollars -- six times the original amount of the contract. In a letter sent to the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency's executive director Phil Ryan, the firm's partner David Fox said, "The progress of this important project has been sidetracked in recent days by a flurry of allegations concerning the communications efforts by McNeely, Pigott & Fox on behalf of he center." He called claims against the firm "misleading" and said they have "been very hurtful to us and our 65 very fine employees." The letter goes on to state, "Therefore, it with great regret that we are voluntarily stepping down as the public relations firm of record for the Music City Center project." After our initial story two weeks ago detailed spending under the contract, Mayor Karl Dean temporarily suspended the contract and ordered Metro's Finance Director to review the firms bills to MDHA. The resignation came just hours before the firm is scheduled to answer questions from Metro Council members at a special meeting. A representative from McNeely Pigott & Fox is scheduled to join the head of MDHA at tonight's meeting.

Little things make a difference in today's job market

Commentary by Schatzie Brunner • August 17, 2009 If you aren't looking for a job at the moment, you may be concerned about needing to look for one in the near future. We've had some good economic news in the past two weeks, but none of us is being deceived into thinking that the unemployment rate can be fixed overnight. Instead, it may continue to climb a bit higher before retreating. New statewide numbers for Tennessee will be released on Thursday. If you are among the job seekers, it's worth knowing a few tricks that could nudge you ahead of the competition at interview time. With so much competition for so few jobs, company executives screening applicants are putting a higher premium on the little things, not just looking for talent. For instance, some executives will ask to ride in your car on the way to lunch. They want to see if your car is neat and clean and if it is in good running order. Some see the state of your car as an indication of your values and organizational skills. A month's worth of coffee cups strewn about the back seat will not impress. Another tip is when preparing or psyching up for an interview as you sit in the company parking lot in your car, don't decide to use the rear view mirror to check your teeth for evidence of last night's meal. Do that before you get to the interview session. You never know who is looking out the window to watch as you prepare to enter an office. Remember, as a job applicant, you are on stage from the moment you approach the front door. Once you are in the waiting room, hand your business card to the receptionist and say your name and the name of the person with whom you have an appointment. Then, smile as if the receptionist is the most important person in your life and sit down. Playing the waiting game Once you're seated in the reception area, read that day's edition of The Tennessean or The Wall Street Journal if it is within reach. Or check your calendar. Do anything except look bored or fidget; this isn't the time to sit and stare at the wall. Nor is it the best time to check in at home and discuss what you're planning for dinner. You'd be surprised how many recruiters call the receptionist back and ask what the job seeker was doing while waiting for show time. Finally, if you meet several people in the interviewing process, and someone makes a comment about one of the other people with whom you've interviewed, don't get pulled into agreeing or defending the person being talked about. Some recruiters see that as the sign of a poor team player and a sure-fire path to the exit. Schatzie Brunner worked at Turner Broadcasting as talent coordinator for Larry King Live and as a CNN news anchor. She now runs a consulting business, holding workshops on how to communicate clearly. She also is a keynote speaker. Visit her Web site at

Nashville convention center project may divert school cash

New board could let Metro dilute pledged sales tax revenue By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • August 17, 2009 Some Metro Council and school board members are voicing concerns that a proposed convention center oversight board would be able to tap a pool of sales tax revenue that's meant to be used for schools if other funds didn't cover the $635 million facility's expenses. The Metro Charter requires that two-thirds of local-option sales tax revenue go to schools. But a new state law authorizing the city to create a convention center authority says Metro can help the authority with revenue from any source, regardless of other laws. "Anything that dilutes the commitment for two-thirds of sales tax proceeds to go to schools concerns me," school board Chairman David Fox said Thursday. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said Fox doesn't need to worry. "There will be no sales tax pledge toward this project," Riebeling said. "The statute says there will be no property tax used, but I will say to you and to the council and to Mr. Fox that no sales tax will be used, either." The council is expected to vote Tuesday on legislation to create a nine-member convention center authority, which would oversee the facility's staff and issue bonds to pay for construction. The mayor would appoint the authority's unpaid members. Enabling legislation approved by the General Assembly this year says the authority could tap any Metro funds if it needed them to fill gaps in paying debts or operating expenses. Fox said he worries that "financial distress" for the proposed new downtown convention center could put a portion of Metro schools' sales tax revenues in play. (Fox is not related to the man of the same name whose public relations firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox, has come under fire for its promotion of the convention center project.) The school district expects to receive $179.4 million from sales tax revenue this year, making up almost 29 percent of its $620.7 million budget. Tourists would pay Mayor Karl Dean and other convention center boosters have always said they plan to use revenue from a series of taxes and fees targeted primarily at tourists to pay for the facility. But critics of the project have pointed to the economic recession and numerous cities' difficulties drawing visitors to their convention halls. Asked if he was sure a new convention center wouldn't need a bailout from sales tax funds at any point, Riebeling replied, "I do not envision any scenario under which sales tax would be pledged in any form." The convention center also would receive some sales tax revenue from the creation of a nearly three-square-mile "tourism development zone" around the center, which is scheduled to be built just south of Sommet Center. The council voted in January to approve a plan that would allow the city to use the difference between existing sales tax revenue in the zone and the amount generated after the center opens to pay off construction debt. The idea is that the convention center would be able to use the extra sales tax revenue that it helps bring into downtown Nashville. Schools exempted Schools would not get their normal two-thirds share from that pool of new sales tax dollars — or any share, for that matter — though their existing collections from the area would not be affected. Councilman Jason Holleman said the center's advocates have argued that the additional revenue would not be available were it not for the convention center itself. But with the tourism development zone stretching as far as Jefferson Street, the facility's impact on business growth throughout the area would be debatable, Holleman said. "Did those additional dollars happen because of the convention center or because the city is growing?" he said. The state has not approved the boundaries of the tourism development zone, spokeswoman Lola Potter said. But Riebeling said he expects approval "in due course.

Nashville restaurateur seeks quick ruling on guns lawsuit

DAVIDSON COUNTY A Nashville restaurant owner plans to ask today for a quick decision in his lawsuit challenging the new state law that allows guns in restaurants and bars. Randy Rayburn, who owns Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe and Cabana, and his fellow plaintiffs will file a motion in Davidson County Chancery Court seeking summary judgment in the case, attorney David Randolph Smith said Friday. Smith said the law, which took effect last month, creates unsafe workplaces, violating federal occupational safety and health laws. "We're moving for summary judgment on the idea that state law is pre-empted by OSHA," he said. The plaintiffs also are arguing that the law is unconstitutionally vague, creating confusion for police officers, restaurant owners and gun owners, and that it illegally delegates police powers to restaurant owners, who have to post signs if they want to ban guns on their premises. Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman denied the plaintiffs' request last month for an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect. But Bonnyman said she saw potential in some of their legal claims and ordered that the case be heard by mid-October. Smith said the state would have at least 30 days to respond to the summary judgment motion before Bonnyman would hold a hearing on it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Metro Students Back To School Friday

Channel 5 News NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Friday is the first day back for Metro School students, and there are several big events going on to celebrate! At 6:30 a.m. there will be a rally at McGavock High School. Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register along with dozens of others from the community will be there to welcome the students back. Register will then visit several other schools throughout the day. Then later at 2 p.m., Register will hold a roundtable discussion called "It's a New Day" at the school. Friday is a half day for students, and the first full day back is Monday.

White Powder Found, Hazmat Called To Downtown Building

Channel 5 News August 14 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hazmat was called to the Criminal Justice Center after an uncontained, unidentified substance was found at the building. The only information being released about the substance is that it involves a white powder. It is also unknown if the building has been evacuated.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Homework Hotline needs donations

DAVIDSON COUNTY Money, volunteer tutors and pencils are still on Homework Hotline's wish list just days before resuming operation for the new school year on Monday. The agency, which serves children in Middle Tennessee, is short on its annual budget, director Wendy Kurland said. As a result, it cannot expand beyond its current 16 phone lines, pay additional teachers to answer calls and offer help in more foreign languages. "We're already turning away half of the callers," Kurland said. "We're filled to capacity almost every night of the year now. What we need to do is add more phone lines and teachers, and we don't have the money to do that now. That really worries me, because now the (academic) standards have changed." Homework Hotline's annual budget is $185,000, Kurland said, and the group is about three-quarters there. Its funding comes from various sources, including corporate sponsors, school districts, grants and donations. To donate money or volunteer to tutor, call 298-6636, visit www.homeworkhotline. info or e-mail For homework help, call 298-6636 or toll-free 888-868-5777 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Free legal clinic to be held at Matthew Walker center

DAVIDSON COUNTY Free legal help will be offered 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Healthcare Center, 1035 14th Ave. N. Those attending may learn about family law, criminal law, legal aid services, juvenile law, landlord tenant law, bankruptcy and other legal issues that affect the minority and immigrant communities. A light breakfast will be served. The clinic is open to the public. Attendees are asked to arrive early. The event is being hosted by the Nashville branch of the NAACP along with the Jones Law Group PLLC. Conexion Americas will be on site to help translate. For more information, call Lynda F. Jones, The Jones Law Group, at 615-983-4500.

Advocates train at VU to help families with special-needs children

Volunteers support parents trying to choose best education strategies By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • August 13, 2009 A project started by a Vanderbilt student is training volunteers to advocate for children with special needs when problems with the children's education get to be more than their parents can handle. Strategies and goals for students with special needs are laid out through a formal Individualized Education Plan, commonly known by parents and educators as an IEP. Intelligence testing, services provided by schools and the amount of interaction with peers are all issues that can be contentious in the IEP process. "It's such an overwhelming process and, as a parent, sometimes you feel like you are the only one at your side of the table,'' said Murfreesboro's Jennifer Maynard, a parent of a child with special needs. "The law is very specific and ever changing.'' Maynard is one of about 30 people who have been trained through The Volunteer Advocacy Project, started in 2008 by Vanderbilt doctoral student Meghan M. Burke and Erin Richardson of The Arc of Davidson County, a group that supports and provides services to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Burke, 25, still directs the project; Richardson has moved to Serbia. Maynard's training wasn't just to make her better equipped to help her own child, but to make her an advocate for other families with children who have special needs. Those trained through The Volunteer Advocacy Project are being linked to The Arc of Davidson County as advocates for families who have children with special needs and who have a particular issue with the IEP process. What advocates learn Training extensively covers special education law and advocacy strategies. "We try and take some of the burden away from families,'' said Amy Biggs, volunteer advocacy coordinator for The Arc of Davidson County. A second training session was held last spring that included a video conference to trainees in Memphis. The next session is scheduled for five Fridays and Saturdays in September and October at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. A video simulcast is planned again for Memphis and for Johnson City and possibly Knoxville and Jackson. Burke began working with The Arc of Davidson County when she came to Nashville, helping with Richardson's project to better train attorneys on special education law. "It seemed we were missing the middle step in having an advocate work with the family,'' said Burke, who remembered issues her Chicago family had concerning a brother with Down syndrome. About 12 percent of families nationwide with school-age children have Individualized Education Plans, Burke said. "The purpose of an advocate is not to be adversarial, it's to receive appropriate services,'' Burke said. "It's not for the parent to ... win.'' Nevertheless, Burke and Biggs believe there are many more children who need an advocate than there are trained advocates available. When it comes to resolving such issues, volunteers trained through the advocacy project have a good batting average, Biggs said. The Arc of Davidson County has received more than 70 calls for an advocate since the program began, Biggs said. Most wanted questions answered or more information. A trained advocate has been brought in to work on a particular IEP issue 29 times, Biggs said. Twenty-six of those times the advocate helped the family resolve the issue, she said. Three times the family ended up using an attorney after advocate intervention. Parents of children with special needs who want to learn more but aren't interested in being an advocate may go through free training offered by the statewide organization STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents), Burke said.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nashville parking meter rates go up

Tennessesan It will take more coins to park in downtown Nashville. The hourly charge on a parking meter is being raised to $1.50 from $1 in the central business district, from First to 12th streets. The charge will go to $1 from 75 cents in the outer area, between 12th and 31st streets. The Traffic & Parking Commission approved the rate increase Monday with one dissenting vote from Kathy Austin. The rate increase becomes legal within a week, but it will take months to adjust and put new signs on each of the city's 1,864 parking meters, said Metro Public Works staff. The changeover will begin in the outer areas and move in to the core. The new rates won't apply at a meter until it has been adjusted and marked with the new prices. The parking charge is being increased to encourage people not to park at meters for hours or all day. Metro has increased meter rates by only a quarter in the past 20 years. "It's a lot cheaper to park at a meter than a surface lot," Public Works traffic staffer Chip Knauf told parking commission members. Surface lots downtown charge between $2 and $9 an hour. That means that 90 percent of parking meters are occupied at any time, which leads to frustration and fuel use as motorists circle and circle looking for a space. Meters may go green More change is likely ahead for parking meters. Rather than one meter per parking spot, the city could embrace technology that would place one meter per block. Motorists would pay at the central meter for the numbered space they occupy. The meters would accept credit and debit cards as well as coins and bills. The LUKE meter is solar-powered and uses a recyclable battery that is changed every three years. A single meter has a battery that must be trashed after six months. LUKE's installation costs are about twice what a single-meter system would be per parking space, but it pays that back in lower operating and maintenance costs, Public Works staff said Monday. The LUKE system is used in cities such as Chicago and Seattle. A similar "pay for space" system is in use in Nashville's private lots. The first street location for LUKE will be on Deaderick Street between the courthouse and Legislative Plaza.

Police Search For Missing Mother Of Newborn

Channel 5 News Posted: Aug 11, 2009 12:28 PM CDT NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro police asked the public to be on the lookout for a missing person. Her name is Veda McCalpin. She's 39-years-old and was reported missing on Aug. 5, 2009 . Metro Police said McCalpin suffers from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. She hasn't been seen since DCS took custody of her newborn child. Investigators believe McCalpin may now be living on the streets. Anyone seeing her is urged to contact the police department's missing person coordinator at 880-2928.

Research Participants Begin H1N1 Clinical Trial At Vanderbilt

News Channel 5 Posted: Aug 11, 2009 6:40 AM CDT Research Participants Begin H1N1 Clinical Trial At Vanderbilt2:22 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Clinical trials are underway in the mid-state to get an H1N1 vaccination to the public as quickly as possible. Vanderbilt University Hospital was one of a handful of medical institutions testing the shot. Many people worry about being the first to test new medicines and vaccines. The participants said they were actually excited to take part in something that could really help the health of our country. "It's interesting plus it helps people. I'm not doing it for the money, but I found out they pay you anyway. I didn't realize that until I signed up," said research participant Don Brownlee. Hundreds of adults and children will participate in Vanderbilt's research. If the trial goes well and is approved by the FDA, the vaccine could hit the public just in time for flu season. The vaccine would require two doses given one month apart. "We really feel that what we're doing is very important for the nation. We feel it's very important for us to know how well the vaccines work," said Dr. Kathryn Edwards, Vanderbilt University Hospital. After more than 200 people go through the trial, Vanderbilt will begin another round focusing on children. Several special studies could follow that focus on specialized groups like pregnant women and people suffering from AIDS. The studies will test the safety and effectiveness of vaccines developed by drug makers. If all goes well, health officials expect to have about 160 million doses available for fall. For more information on the H1N1 Clinical Trials at Vanderbilt CLICK HERE. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Researchers at Vanderbilt's Vaccine Research Program are looking for healthy volunteers age 65 years and older for a research study involving the H1N1 flu vaccine. The participation requirement for this study is approximately 7 to 8 months. Participants will be compenstaed a total of $260 for their time and travel. For more information or to see if you qualify, please email: or call (615) 322-2730.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wooded Rapist Heads Back To Court

Channel 5 News FRANKLIN, Tenn. - The man known as the "Wooded Rapist" goes on trial Monday in Williamson County. Jason Burdick was convicted earlier in 2009 for raping a Nashville woman, and was sentenced to more than three decades in prison. Prosecutors said Burdick raped at least 13 women in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson Counties. Burdick's next trial in Davidson County is scheduled for October.

Collins Delivers Quickly as Titans Top Bills in Hall of Fame Game

Channel 5 News CANTON, Ohio -- Kerry Collins was sharp and Vince Young tentative for the Tennessee Titans in overshadowing Terrell Owens' debut for the Buffalo Bills. With a little trickery and a solid performance by the Collins-led starting offense, Tennessee opened the preseason with a 21-18 win in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday night. If this was the NFL's throwback weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League, then this also resembled the Titans' quarterback situation at the beginning of last year. That's when Young got off to a terrible start and lost his starting job to Collins by Week 2. Collins, already selected the starter, quickly began delivering on the faith the Titans put in him after being signed to a two-year $15 million contract this offseason. He went 7-of-10 for 82 yards in producing two touchdown drives, one capped by reserve punter A.J. Trapasso's 40-yard run on a perfectly executed fake punt on the opening possession. Collins was especially efficient in going 3 for 4 for 49 yards on third down. "I thought we got off to a good start," Collins said. "We executed our offense and played fast out there." The same couldn't be said for Young, who took over at the start of the second quarter. In his first three series, Young was 1-of-5 for 13 yards and an interception, nearly dropped a shotgun snap and looked hesitant running the ball when he was easily caught from behind by rookie linebacker Nic Harris. Young finally warmed up, and showed great touch in hitting Paul Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass to convert third-and-2 to put the Titans up 21-3 late in the second quarter. The No. 3 selection in the 2006 draft still has a long way to go to regain his once-dominating form. In five series, Young went 5-of-10 for 39 yards, and a 1-yard run. The Bills were sluggish and looked nothing like the better-prepared team, considering Buffalo opened training camp two weeks ago -- a week ahead of the Titans. The only offensive highlights were provided by Owens, who signed a one-year $6.5 million contract with Buffalo in early March, days after being released by Dallas. On the field for only one series, Owens had two catches for 27 yards, including a 16-yarder on the second play from scrimmage. Trent Edwards hit Owens in perfect stride on a slant, and the receiver had the opportunity to score if not for a perfect tackle by cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The drive, however, ended when Edwards floated a pass intended for Lee Evans at the Titans' 7 and was easily intercepted by Cortland Finnegan. "It's good to get the cobwebs out," Edwards said. "(The rhythm) is just what we are trying to find right now. ... We just can't turn the ball over." Owens was greeted by chants of "T.O.! T.O.!" by the partisan Buffalo crowd that stayed an extra day after Bills defensive end Bruce Smith and team owner Ralph Wilson were among six inducted into the Hall. Bills cornerback Reggie Corner scored on a 26-yard interception return off fourth-stringer Alex Mortensen, while kicker Ryan Lindell hit all three field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. LenDale White scored on a 3-yard run on the Titans first-stringers' only other series, capping an 11-play, 73-yard drive. In honor of the AFL, the Titans, who relocated from Houston, wore Oilers' throwback uniforms. The Bills wore their throwback uniforms, which feature the red standing buffalo logo on their helmets. And even the officials dressed for the occasion, wearing throwback AFL red-and-white striped shirts. Tennessee players also wore No. 9 decals on the backs of their helmets in honor of former quarterback Steve McNair, who was shot to death in a Nashville condominium by his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then killed herself on July 4. The Titans will wear the decal for the rest of the season. The teams will meet again in the regular season, at Tennessee on Nov. 15.

23,000 turn out for Nashville mayor's back-to-school freebies

By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • August 10, 2009 Clutching his brand-new backpack, 5-year-old Aidan Adkins approached the mayor of Nashville. "Why did you give us these backpacks?" he wanted to know. The answer, of course, was that Sunday was the 10th annual Mayor's First Day Festival, and every child who came through the doors at Sommet Center came out staggering under the weight of brand-new backpacks loaded with school supplies and other freebies donated by area businesses, charities and Metro agencies. "It's a way to start the school year off right," said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, standing in the middle of an exhibit hall crowded with booths and families. Private donations covered the cost of backpacks for every child who attended, as well as the cost of the festival. This year's event included a game area with inflatables, a Guitar Hero tournament and live musical entertainment. Some 23,000 people attended the festival this year — the largest crowd yet, according to organizers.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nashville airport upgrades move out into the open

By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • August 9, 2009 Temporary walls hid much of the renovations at Nashville International Airport over the past two years as crews built new stores and local restaurant outposts, including Noshville and Swett’s. But as the airport enters the next phase of renovations to add restrooms, replace carpets and update the terminal’s appearance, the work will be visible and sometimes inconvenient to airport patrons. Work is expected to begin Aug. 17, starting in the A-B concourse to add a new restroom area. “The first phase was our most expensive, but this phase will be our most visible to passengers,” said Christine Vitt, director of construction for the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. “We have four phases planned, and it’s about two years per phase.” The multi-phase and multimillion-dollar project is designed to refurbish the airport terminals and concourses that were last renovated 22 years ago. The first phase, at $35 million, included adding 30 new food and retail vendors, a new security checkpoint, concourse skylights and flight information displays. During Phase II, new carpeting will be added throughout the 9,000-square-foot airport terminal. Seating areas at the gates will get new chairs and a fresh look. The baggage claim area will be updated as well. In addition, the airport’s eight restroom areas will be renovated with environmentally friendly amenities. Some restrooms will be closed while they receive a face lift. “There may be some inconveniences with this phase,” said Emily Richard, airport spokeswoman. Airport patrons such as Dan Vogler, of Kansas City, welcome the changes and look forward to other additions. Vogler and his family appreciated the new amenities during his two-hour layover in Nashville on Friday. He watched his 2-year-old granddaughter, Ella, run around in the airport’s new children’s play area, hoping she burned some energy before they boarded the plane. He flies through Nashville at least twice a year on business trips. “As many things as have been lost in-flight, you gain in the terminal,” Vogler said. “The investment in the upgrades is obvious, and it is welcomed.” Updates are posted Phase II will cost $18 million and will be completed in the late summer of 2010. About 95 percent of the funding comes from passenger facilities charges, which are added to the purchase price of airline tickets. The remaining 5 percent will be paid for with airport revenues. Updates about construction will be available online at the airport’s Web site, and people can sign up to receive e-mail updates from the airport. Richard said work is almost finished on the $15 million road project around the airport terminal. The new roads and bridge will be open to the public at the end of August, and construction will begin on the final phase of the project. Construction is expected to end in late October.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crash slows traffic on I-24 at Haywood Lane

WKRN Channel 2 News NASHVILLE, Tenn. A crash on Interstate 24 at Haywood Lane is slowing westbound traffic traveling into Nashville late Friday morning. The crash at mile marker 57 was reported at 11:20 a.m. The Tennessee Department of Investigation estimates the crash to be cleared by about 1:30 a.m. Westbound traffic is affected with the roadway partially blocked. Drivers are urged to seek an alternate route

Forklift operator killed in south Nashville

WKRN Channel @ NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A 24-year-old man was killed Friday morning after he accidentally hit some electrical wires with the forklift he was operating. The incident occurred at about 11 a.m. at Green Enterprises, located 607 Bass Street near Greer Stadium in south Nashville. Fire officials said the victim, whose name wasn't immediately released, was moving a large tarp when the electrical wires were hit. "He was pulling up a tarp, and a fairly large tarp, into the dumpster and he hit the power line," said Tom Shadwick, Acting District Chief for the Nashville Fire Department. Officials said he was electrocuted after jumping to the ground from the seat of the forklift. "Apparently he had hit a power line and it was live, and when he got on the ground, made complete contact and [that] resulted in his death," Shadwick said. "There was a fire extinguisher lying on the ground beside him and we speculate that the tires were on fire and he tried to put that out and touched the ground in the process." The incident knocked out power to area homes and businesses. The Nashville Electric Service has since restored service. Green Enterprises is a private company that provides movie props and assists in movie set production. It is not known if the victim was an employee of the company.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Briefs: Soles4Souls to host shoe drive in August

Tennessean Soles4Souls is collecting new shoes from shoppers at Opry Mills shopping mall during August. Shoes will be donated to the community. Shoppers who donate new shoes will receive an Opry Mills coupon book. Shoes can be brought to the mall's guest services area. Ten shoes autographed by celebrities shoes will be displayed during the month at OFF 5th Saks 5th Avenue and will be up for bid on eBay from noon Aug. 21 until noon Aug. 31. On Saturday, Aug. 8, Soles4Souls will celebrate its Guinness world record that was set when the local shoe charity broke the mark for longest chain of shoes, made with nearly 20,000 pairs. Soles4Souls made the chain from its collection of new and gently used shoes last holiday season. Activities scheduled include: • 1-3 p.m. — Radio remote from Mix 92.9 FM • 1-2 p.m. — The Fish, 94 FM, will present an artist on stage. • 2:15 p.m. — Wayne Elsey, Soles4Souls CEO, will speak and be presented with the Guinness world record certificate. • 2:30 p.m. — Tiffany Johnson performs ACT Prep Class planned for two test dates The Hermitage Enrichment and Learning Program is holding an ACT Prep Class for two upcoming test dates for the college entrance exam. The center is at 627 Shute Lane in Old Hickory. Cost is $195. For the test date of Saturday, Sept. 12, the schedule is: Session 1: General Test Taking Strategies — 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, or 5-7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10. Session 2: English and Reading — 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 15, or 5-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17. Session 3: Math and Science — 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Aug 22, or 5-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24. Session 4: Review and Practice Test 2 — 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, or 4-8:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31. For the test date of Saturday, Oct. 24, the schedule is: Session 1: General Test Taking Strategies — 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, or 5-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28. Session 2: English and Reading — 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Oct. 3, or 5-8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5. Session 3: Math and Science — 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Oct. 10, or 5-8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. Session 4: Review and Practice Test 2 — 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, or 4-8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19. Classes are limited to 10 students. A practice test will be given to all students before the beginning of the first study session. Call 883-5437. Golf tournament benefits Breast Cancer Coalition The Thirteenth Annual Lowe's Celebration of Life TBCC Classic, presented by Kroger, will be held Friday, Aug. 7, at Hermitage Golf Course to benefit the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition. More than 450 golfers participated last year. The fee is $250 for individuals and $1,000 for a four-person team. Play will be on the President's Reserve and General's Retreat courses at Hermitage Golf Course, 3939 Old Hickory Boulevard in Old Hickory. The format is a four-person scramble, with shotgun starts at 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on both courses. For morning players, breakfast and lunch will be provided. For afternoon players, a lunch and dinner will be provided. Prizes will be awarded in three flights. A silent and live auction and party are scheduled 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6. For more information call 377-8777. Swimming lesson scholarship fund celebrated The Christian Joelle Gordon Swim Lessons Scholarship Fund was dedicated at a celebration in July at the Donelson-Hermitage Family YMCA, 3001 Lebanon Pike. Christian Gordon drowned last summer, and nearly 100 members of his family attended the YMCA for the event, A Sweet Spirit Celebration. The scholarship fund is expected to provide scholarships for 125 children annually. Ralph Brewer named Lions Club District governor Donelson resident Ralph Brewer was recently installed as District Governor of the Lions Clubs International District 12-I. Brewer, a retired superintendent of the Tennessee School for the Blind, was installed at the 92nd Lions Clubs International Convention in Minneapolis, Minn. For one year Brewer will oversee 44 Lions Clubs in 16 counties in Middle Tennessee. Lions Clubs International engages in numerous service projects such as disaster relief, teaching life skills to school children, building playgrounds, supporting the elderly and assisting the blind and visually impaired by providing preventative screenings, eye glasses and eye surgery. Tennessee State University alumna headlines show Xernona Clayton, a Tennessee State University alumna and founder of The Trumpet Awards, will headline her one-woman show at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, at TSU's Performing Arts Center's Cox-Lewis Theater. "An Evening with Xernona" will feature Clayton telling stories from her experiences starting with the Civil Rights movement to network television. TSU's Vintagers Club, The Trumpet Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are all participating in the event. There is no cost to attend. An opportunity to help in the fight against breast cancer by becoming a Circle of Promise Ambassador will be extended. Clayton is a Circle of Promise Ambassador. Call 963-5831.

What's new at Nashville schools?

By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • August 5, 2009 Does your school have a new principal, new technology in the classroom or a change to standard school attire? Here's a back-to-school update on some schools in the area. MCGAVOCK HIGH SCHOOL Address: 3150 McGavock Pike Phone: 885-8850 Principal: Robbin Wall Web site: What's new for 2009-10: • School begins with a half-day Friday, Aug. 14. • Wall comes in from Texas following a national search. He replaces Karl Lang, who was brought in the second semester last school year after Mildred Saffell-Smith resigned. Lang was assigned to Whites Creek. • Enrollment projections are 2,600-3,000 students, Wall said. • McGavock's Freshman Academy will have 150-175 students split into four teams, with six to eight teachers. The smaller learning academy concept is designed to create smaller, more personalized learning environments and ease the transition into high school. • Students in grades 10-12 can join one of five Career Academies focusing on various careers. • McGavock cut 40 teachers who weren't fully certified. Of those positions, 28 aren't being replaced because of budget cutbacks. The other 12 are being replaced with certified teachers. Mascot: Raiders School colors: Red, blue, white Standard school attire uniform: McGavock will adhere to Metro standards with the allowance of any solid color polo shirts with a collar. Slacks, skirts and shorts can be navy, black and khaki. WHITES CREEK HIGH SCHOOL Address: 7277 Old Hickory Blvd. Phone: 876-5132 Principal: Karl Lang Web site: What's new for 2009-10: • School begins with a half-day Friday, Aug. 14. • Whites Creek has been designated a "fresh start'' school, which is a designation that includes rehiring leadership and staff. • Lang was named new principal. He comes in after finishing the 2008-09 year as interim principal for most of the second semester at McGavock High. Lang was appointed to McGavock from the Central office when Mildred Saffell-Smith resigned. Lang has also been an interim assistant principal at Stratford, principal at Baxter Alternative, assistant principal at Hillsboro High, principal at Cameron Middle and principal at Hillwood High. • Whites Creek is tentatively projected for about 1,000 students. • All teachers and staff at Whites Creek last school-year had to reapply. Lang estimated 35 percent of teachers and staff from last year are returning. • An emphasis on increasing the incorporation of technology and developing more interaction with parents and the community are among areas Lang wants to emphasize, he said. • About $6,500 worth of new weight equipment is expected through a grant, football coach Anthony Law said. Mascot: Cobras School colors: Red, white and blue Standard school attire uniform: Collared shirts of any color will be allowed. Shirts will be sized appropriately and tucked in. Sweaters without hoods will be allowed. Pants, shorts, skirts and skorts can be navy, black or khaki. Pants cannot be fleece, denim or see through material. Logos cannot exceed two inches. School authorized Whites Creek spirit wear will be allowed. MAPLEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL Address: 401 Walton Lane Phone: 262-6770 Principal: Julie Williams Web site: What's new for 2009-10: • School begins with a half-day Friday, Aug. 14. • Several renovation projects are ongoing at Maplewood. They include a new gymnasium, and it is expected to be completed by the winter break. Six new classrooms; a new office suite; new band, art and choral rooms; renovations to the library; and a breezeway to connect buildings are among other aspects of the renovation work. Much of the work is hoped to be finished by the time school starts. • A peer mediation program is being launched to enable students who are trained to help them counsel other students. triggerAd(3,PaginationPage,25); • About 1,000 students are projected, about normal for Maplewood. • The school made adequate yearly progress for the second straight year to put Maplewood in good standing. • Two new assistant principals. Eugene Sewell comes from from Whites Creek and Stephanie Adams from Hunters Lane. Sewell will serve as the new athletic principal. Mascot: Panthers School colors: Gray, maroon and white Standard school attire uniform: Metro dress requirements will be adhered to, with the modification of students being allowed to wear any solid color shirt with a collar. Slacks, skirts and shorts can be navy, black and khaki. GOODPASTURE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL Address: 619 Due West Ave. Phone: 868-3700 Web site: President: Ricky Perry What's new for 2009-10: • Classes start Aug. 12. • Students can earn up to 42 hours of college credit before graduation with several new dual credit and AP courses. • An increase in the number of Smartboard computers, ceiling mounted projectors and student remote systems. Those are now in 43 classrooms. • A gymnasium project began last year with new paint and new eco-friendly lighting. This school year, upgrades included re-mounting the basketball goals and redoing the gym floor with varying shades of stain. • The Little Red School House that is home to Goodpasture's kindergarten program has been renovated with a repainted exterior and renovations to the interior carpet, ceiling tile and floor tile. • Renovations of ceiling tile and restrooms in the foyer of the school's 1,100 seat auditorium. • Approval was granted to put in a new digital school sign on Due West in August. The new sign is a memorial for Gilbert Drake, Goodpasture School's former president. • A new Spring Sports Facility that will be used is a 1,600-square-foot as a multi-sport complex that will include dressing areas for girls softball and girls soccer with public restrooms, a concession area and spring sports storage. • Expecting approximately 950 students, including an estimated 112 new students. Mascot: Cougars Colors: Royal Blue and Gold Tuition: K-12 $6,996 (plus $195 supply fee)

Donate school supplies to help PENCIL

Tennessean August 5, 2009 Several PENCIL Partners will hold school supply drives for either their partner school or for LP PENCIL Box. In addition, these businesses will have drop-off boxes available so that the community can take part: • The Rainforest Café is collecting pencils, crayons and rulers on its school supply drive from now through Aug. 31. For each donation, the giver will have the opportunity to enter to win one of three prize packages, which will include a $50 dollar gift certificate to the Rainforest Café and tickets to a local attraction. • Davidson Country area Starbucks locations are collecting pencils, markers, crayons, and colored pencils through Aug. 9.

Woman who cared for disabled adults is charged with stealing from them

By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • August 5, 2009 A Nashville woman has been indicted on charges of stealing from three mentally disabled adults in her care, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. In December 2007, Zanira A. Dudley, 37, stole from a mentally disabled resident she managed personal funds and cared for while working at Friendship Home Solutions on Plus Park Boulevard, the TBI says. Dudley is also accused of creating fraudulent and forged receipts and falsely claiming they were patient expenses to get reimbursed out of the accounts of two other mentally disabled people in 2008. She was then working as a program coordinator for New Horizons on Harding Place. Dudley stole $3,100 from the three people, according to the TBI. She was arrested while working at Volunteers of America in Nashville and apparently was changing jobs every several years, the TBI said. Dudley was indicted on one count of theft, one count of forgery, three counts of criminal simulation and four counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult. The case has been under investigation by the TBI's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit since October 2008.

Crews extinguish fire at south Nashville apt.complex

WKRN NEWS Channel 2 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish a fire Wednesday morning at an apartment complex off Nolensville Road in south Nashville. Crews were called to the Pagoda Apartments on Welch Road shortly before 9:30 a.m. No one was seriously injured although a firefighter accidentally hit a button signaling he was in danger. It was a false alarm. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No further information is available at this time.

Gas Leak Within Feet Of Hospital - Special Report

Channel 5 News HERMITAGE, Tenn. - An Hermitage apartment complex has been evacuated due to a gas leak at Dodson Chapel Road and Central Pike. Summit Medical Center is located just minutes from the gas leak, but there has been no word on if Summit will be evacuated. No other information is available at this time

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tax-free weekend approaches

WKRN Channel 2 News NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The tax-free holiday in Tennessee is nearly upon us. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday through Sunday night, Tennesseans can shop tax-free for clothing, school supplies and computers. Clothing less than $100 per item, school supplies less than $100 per item and computers less than $1,500 are tax-free. The basics like shirts, dresses and pants are included, as well as coats, gloves and mittens, hats, hosiery, neckties, scarves, belts, shoes and sneakers. Items like binders, notebooks, paper, rulers, pens, pencils and scissors are included, in addition to clay and glazes, oil paints and watercolors and sketch and drawing pads. With no tax, shoppers in Davidson County will see savings of nearly 10%. "When you think it's almost 10% of what you're paying, you know, it does add up," shopper Katrina Brown told News 2. "Obviously the economy needs some help and if it's motivation for people to go out and shop, it helps retailers and if people have to get the items anyway then they can save some money," added shopper Rob Stigall. In the past, shoppers have saved anywhere from $8 million to $15 million. The savings, however, come at a cost to the state. For the month of June, sales tax collections were $68 million less than estimated and for 16 of the last 18 months, sales tax collections have experienced negative growth. In addition, not only does the state not collect taxes during the shopping period, the state is also responsible for repaying the municipalities the taxes they don't charge. The state cancelled a planned sales tax holiday in April because it simply couldn't afford it. Sophie Moery with the Tennessee Department of Revenue told News 2, "The state is obviously suffering the effects of the national economic downturn and we have had negative growth in sales tax for at least the past year." The sales tax holiday began in 2006 in Tennessee. The August tax-free event is always the first Friday of every month. This weekend's sales tax holiday ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.Visit for complete details and a complete list of tax-free items.

New Metro parents sign up students for school year

WKRN Channel 2 News NASHVILLE, Tenn. - With just two weeks to go before the start of the school year, new student registration is underway Monday at schools across Davidson County. A.Z. Kelley Elementary School in Antioch saw a steady stream of parents like Shellie Jones signing up their children. "I'm off during the week and I just thought I would beat the rush, rather than coming at the end of the week," Jones told News 2. Marsha Dunn is the school's principal and said they've had more kindergarteners, third graders and fourth graders sign up than expected. Entering its fourth year, A.Z. Kelley is one of Metro's newest schools and is already over capacity. "Probably at this point we're going to have to add two more [portable] classrooms, maybe three, and the neat trick is going to be finding a place to put them," Dunn said. While A.Z. Kelley is located in an area of Davidson County that continues to grow in population, Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register believes the entire district may see some growth because of the economy. "I think a number of people who are facing economic challenges as so many people are, with our unemployment rate getting close to 10% in this state now, we think there are a number of people who will be looking back to public education for their choices," he said. Over the last two years, Dunn said she has seen some students come to A.Z. Kelley from private schools and says the growth could be due, in part, to A.Z. Kelley's good reputation. "Why pay for an education when you can have one for free?" she asked. New student registration will continue at every Metro school through the end of the week. Metro teachers officially report on August 10 although many are already in their classrooms getting ready. The first day of school is August 14. Wilson County and Lebanon students reported for their first full day Monday.

Nashville has top Chamber of Commerce in U.S.

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce won the American Chamber of Commerce Executives' Chamber of the Year award, making it the top chamber of commerce in the nation. The award recognizes the top chambers in the nation for organizational excellence including financial, member services and connections, engagement of volunteers and leading communities by making an impact on key priorities. The business group's overall organizational performance qualified the organization to apply for the award in the largest chamber category. A "Nashville for All of Us" community coalition and the development of "A Leading Edge," a suite of programs designed to help members manage through the recession, were among programs highlighted in the Chamber's award application. Other finalists included the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Greater Louisville Inc., of Louisville, Ky. The award was presented last week.

Tennessee has high rate of repeat DUI arrests

Debate swirls around drunken driving laws By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • August 4, 2009 Betty Campbell was tired of the cycle: arrested for drunken driving, incarcerated and released, only to do it again. She was arrested 13 times before she began to receive treatment through a court program, she said. "I just wanted to experience life sober," she said during a break from her job tagging clothes at a Goodwill center in Nashville. "I don't want to go back to that. I would tell people to get help." Campbell's battle with alcoholism, and specifically drunken driving, is emblematic of the recidivism rate for DUI offenders. A five-year Tennessee Bureau of Investigation study released Monday shows that 21 percent of people — nearly 30,000 — charged with DUI were arrested again on the same charge. That's the highest rate of repeat arrests found in the TBI report, which compared recidivism for DUI, robbery and rape. There were 137,183 people arrested and charged with DUI statewide between 2002-07. There were 11,549 arrests for robberies during that same period, and a 16 percent rate of recidivism. Rape had the lowest recidivism rate in the study at 6 percent, among 3,483 arrests. The report was funded by a federal grant, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said. Part of the reason for the high rate of repeat DUIs is that jail sentences for convictions tend to be less severe than for the other crimes. "Remember, robbery and rape usually receive longer sentences upon conviction," Helm said. The problem with drunken driving stems from lack of treatment and enforcement, said Dr. Paul Juarez, vice-chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Meharry Medical College. "We are short on both," Juarez said. "There has to be a balance. You have alcoholics and binge drinkers. A binge drinker may or may not be an alcoholic. I am not surprised at the (recidivism) rate. Drunk driving has been tolerated for a long time." 80% aren't re-arrested Some criminologists look at the DUI data from a different point of view. Because most people who are charged with DUI are not re-arrested, law enforcement has been successful, said Gary Jensen, a criminologist at Vanderbilt University. "Twenty-one percent of people who are arrested for DUI are re-arrested," Jensen wrote in an e-mail. "However, said another way, nearly eighty percent of people arrested for DUI are not arrested again…this statistic may indicate that arrest is effective." But advocates for stricter DUI penalties say the report shows the law does not work. The advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants a mandatory device that's installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle and requires those who have been convicted of a single DUI to pass a Breathalyzer test before being able to drive. "Our biggest push is to eliminate drunk driving," said Laura Dial, Tennessee's executive director for MADD. "The campaign is really hinged on one issue: People drive drunk because they can. The laws are not effective with habitual offenders." In Tennessee, drunken driving convictions for a first offense carry jail sentences between 24 hours to 11 months, and fines of $350 to $1,500. By the fourth offense, the charge carries a one-year jail term, fines ranging $3,000-$15,000, and requires offenders to install an interlock device at their own expense. Long battle with alcoholCampbell, who has battled alcoholism since she was a child, said she agrees that DUI laws don't prevent inebriated people from driving. The last time Campbell was arrested was for having an open container in the car she was driving with a canceled license in 2005. Her first DUI was in 1990 stemming from an alcohol problem that spiraled out of control. She had smoked marijuana at 6 and later started drinking. Campbell said she bottomed out when she was left homeless, sleeping under bridges or, if she was lucky, on a friend's couch. She was able to turn her life around through a drug court program and at Goodwill Industries, a nonprofit organization that helps the disadvantaged with training, education, and career services. "This gave me structure," she said. "It gave me a will to stay sober." To get her license re-instated, it will cost Campbell $4,000, she said. "It's going to be a while," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I love the bus."

Monday, August 3, 2009


Extra jobless funds actually hurt some

$100 more a month from stimulus goes to unemployed woman on food stamps but wipes out $175 in aid By Bonna Johnson • THE TENNESSEAN • August 3, 2009 TRACKING THE STIMULUS: Increase in unemployment benefits ends food stamps In these tough economic times, who wouldn't want an extra $25 every week? Nashvillian C.J. Evans would rather just have her government food stamps. The jobless 52-year-old lost access to food stamps after the federal economic stimulus boosted her unemployment check by $25 a week — and bumped her above food stamp eligibility limits. The bottom line for Evans is that she's getting $75 less a month in government aid because of the very program that was supposed to help out-of-work people like her. "It really made me angry," said Evans, recalling the phone call she got in mid-July from a government worker letting her know she no longer qualified for food stamps. The $25 weekly increase in unemployment pay is one element of the federal stimulus package to directly help millions of people feeling the harshest effects of the recession. At the same time, income limits to qualify for food stamps did not increase, so the extra money pushed Evans and others like her over the cap. "I have an MBA. I'm not a deadbeat," the divorced Evans said. "I've worked my entire life, and the one time I need food stamps desperately, I can't take them." Evans can't find a steady job doing financial analysis and accounting work and has been employed here and there on short contract jobs since last year. When not working, she draws $275 a week in unemployment. She started getting $175 in monthly food stamps in March. In July, she learned she no longer qualified for food stamps because her unemployment benefits went up to $300 a week, or $100 more a month, because of the stimulus. "I would gladly give up $100 per month in exchange for $175 a month," said Evans, who has no health insurance, can't afford to fix her car and is trying to sell her house in a neighborhood dotted with foreclosed homes as a "short sale" because she no longer can afford the payments. State officials don't know how many Tennesseans are in a similar situation but don't expect the number to be high. "There's nothing the state can do about that," said Richard Dobbs, Tennessee food stamp policy director. "The income guideline is set at the federal level." Few in same situation One estimate puts the number of people in the same predicament at about 14,000 nationwide, just one-third of 1 percent of the 5.3 million people claiming unemployment benefits, according to Stacy Dean, director of food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "This person is a rare example," Dean said. Very few people participate in both unemployment benefits and the food stamp program in the first place. Of those getting unemployment checks, just 8 percent also were participating in food stamps in 2007, the latest available data, Dean said. Those caught in this fluke in the law were already close to the income limit for food stamps. Because Evans is the only person in her household, her income limit is much lower than the limit for a larger family. States do have the flexibility to increase the income cutoff in their food stamp programs to help more people qualify, including people like Evans. In the past 10 years, at least 17 states, including South Carolina and Texas, have done so, and three others plan to implement changes shortly, Dean said. Tennessee has no plans to change eligibility requirements, Dobbs said. Woman plans to appeal In most cases, families on both programs won't see their food stamps decrease as a result of the increase in jobless benefits, Dean said. Indeed, nearly all households participating in food stamps and unemployment benefits got an increase in both programs through the stimulus program. "Normally, when a household's income goes up, their food stamps are adjusted downward to reflect that they have more ability to purchase food," Dean said. "But the economic recovery legislation also included a significant bump-up in food stamp benefits of about $20 per person." That's little comfort to Evans, who has been depending on the goodness of friends to get by. One has loaned her a car and another is giving her a place to stay so that she can keep utility bills low in her own home. She's tending a garden at a friend's home, freezing for later what she can't eat now and donating the rest to the Second Harvest Food Bank. "It's a way to give back," said Evans, who for the first time is taking charity from food banks and churches. She job hunts about six hours a day and plans to sell her washer and dryer to help pay a $1,000 car repair bill. She's thinking of pawning her mother's wedding ring, or selling it to someone in the family, to pay bills. "I'm waiting for a letter telling me how I can appeal," Evans said about trying to get back on the food stamp program. "I'm not sure on what grounds, but it's the principle of the thing."

Nashville block parties gear up for bigger Night Out Against Crime

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • August 3, 2009 Tuesday will be a good night to get together with the neighbors, maybe cook out, talk about what's going on around the neighborhood and, oh yeah, fight crime. For 14 years, Nashville has had a strong turnout for its National Night Out Against Crime — and more events than ever are planned for this Tuesday. Organizers say when you get to know your neighbors and the police officers who work in your neighborhood, crime goes down. This year, community groups and neighborhood watches will pull out all the stops to increase turnout, said Scott Wallace, community relations coordinator for the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods. Fifty-five block parties are planned this year. In 2008, Nashville was home to 45 such parties. More people get involved each year as word spreads, Wallace said. Usually, there are three or four new parties a year. "I think more people are aware of the event than ever before," he said. "And, I think they want to get more involved and help with the prevention of crime. "With this type of event, anything goes really. You can have a small, intimate gathering or a huge party." There are some new twists on the old block party. In Antioch, a new event sponsored by a coalition of neighborhood groups called Antioch Together will be held at Hickory Hollow Mall. Event staples such as music, speakers, a play area for kids and exhibits from local businesses and community groups will be on hand. Extras include the Metro Police Department's SWAT helicopter and a hazardous device — read "bomb" — disposal unit that has a robot to do the dirty work. For the Rev. Jay Voorhees, director of community relations for Antioch Together, the event isn't meant to replace others planned in neighborhoods within Antioch, but rather to reflect the entire area. "Antioch is often misperceived as a high crime area," Voorhees said. "And we hope that folks will come together at the mall to say clearly that we all stand together against crime in this area." In East Nashville at the Lockeland Springs Neighborhood Association's event, there'll be live music with a twist. Instead of just one band, organizer Mike Loyco has arranged for three. And, in North Nashville, four neighborhood associations — Buena Vista, Hope Gardens, Salemtown and Germantown — have joined to coordinate a walk to the Bicentennial Mall. Each group will leave its neighborhood at 6 p.m. and gather for a party at the future home of the Museum of African American Music, Art and Culture. Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said the department is planning to have representatives at all of the Nashville block parties. "These events illustrate that the Police Department can't fight crime alone," Mumford said. "We encourage every citizen to participate in these events.