I'm glad to see Phil Williams of WTVF shed some light on the fact that CM Pam Murray (District 5-East Nashville) is not really a resident of her district. You can view his video report here.
Metro Code Sec. 3.02. Terms; compensation; age and residence qualification.
Members of the council shall serve for a term of four (4) years and until their successors are elected and qualified; and shall be compensated at the rate of three hundred ($300) dollars per month. No person shall be eligible to serve as councilman-at-large or district councilman unless he shall have attained the age of twenty-five (25) at the beginning of his term and unless he shall have been a resident of the area of the metropolitan government for a period of one (1) year and shall continue to reside therein during his period of service. No person shall be eligible to serve as district councilman unless he shall have been a resident of the district for which elected for a period of six (6) months and shall continue to reside therein during his period of service. Members of the council shall hold no other elective or appointive office in the metropolitan government or employment by said government, except as expressly provided in this Charter.Folks in that desperate corner of our city have been hampered in their efforts to improve for a long time. CM Murray has become an impediment to their efforts. She has a reputation for not being reachable and little wonder when she has a second job '539 miles away' in Detroit. She needs to resign from the Metro Council. It's obvious that her heart, as the Channel 5 anchor says, isn't in Nashville, let alone District 5.
Unfortunately for Murray who may have expected an easy second term paycheck, the neighborhood is changing. All those house flippers in East East Nashville have run out of homes to rehab and have moved across Gallatin Road to see if there is money to be made in Cleveland Park, Greenwood, and Maxwell Heights. Well, it turns out, there are still some urban pioneers left and they're buying up those homes and they are also expecting constituent services like Murray is unaccustomed to providing.
You'll remember my post two weeks ago where a newcomer to our city took the drastic measure of putting a sign-sheet on the roof to get Metro's attention. She tried contacting CM Murray but it didn't take long for Murray to figure out that the Gracia's weren't from around here and so could be blown off in a rather rude fashion.
Just half a block away from that home is what used to be a small old warehouse at 837 Cleveland Street. That warehouse was purchased about 9 years ago by Mr. Charles R. (Friday) Blackwood and his wife. Without pulling a permit or amending the zoning the new landlord chopped the place up and made four efficiency fire traps out of it.
What does CM Murray do to protect those citizens in her district? Well, she sponsors a zoning bill that would make those fire traps legal. Never mind the neighbors don't want it, that it doesn't fit the zoning and the landlord has confessed before the Planning Commission that he knew he had violated the law. Never mind that the Fire Department and Codes agree that the property is out of compliance and worse. The important point here is, apparently, that the landlord expects a return for his campaign contributions and CM Murray is bound and determined to accommodate him. Murray's financial disclosure for the quarter of her last election shows that the only people donating to her election were her boss Dr. Sai Wenton of Detroit, MI in the amount of $700
and Charles R. (Friday) Blackwood of Madison who gave $400. Mr. Blackwood owns more than a dozen pieces of property in this neighborhood to include 837 Cleveland Street. If he's getting the same special treatment from Zoning and Codes for all his properties he's paying bargain basement prices for constituent services and
gets Murray's daughter, Paige Merriweather, to testify for him to boot!
Frankly, considering his actions with this piece of property I think the city instead of accommodating his retroactive rezoning need should deny it out of hand until all 17 pieces of property owned by Mr. Blackwood are in compliance. Yes, I realize that means that the current residents may be evicted but I believe it's better than allowing them to remain in a dangerous place. Blackwood confessed to violating the law on this Cleveland Street piece of property. We're supposed to trust that he didn't do it elsewhere? How the Planning Commission can hear Blackwood's own confession of non-compliance and entertain this retroactive rezoning for a moment is beyond me. It should have been immediately thrown out into the street.
What's the city's liability since they know, have known for some time, that this property is hazardous? My biggest concern is for the folks actually living in those tiny efficiency fire traps. IF something happens and, truly and sincerely God forbid, someone dies---Metro cannot say they were not negligent. They had plenty of warning. And not only will a family suffer a tragic and avoidable death but taxpayers will also have a huge settlement to pay. Murray was a no show at the neighborhood meeting on Monday night where it was clear no one was in favor of this zoning change, or the one to allow street vending. She did attend her own hearing last night (Tuesday, April 28) at the East Branch Library but was accompanied by some less than neighborly associates. Further, she prevented the small group from having a meaningful exchange when folks were required to submit their questions to her before hand. If Murray doesn't resign on her own and no one steps up to initiate a recall, it's going to be a long couple more years for the folks in District 5.
On Tuesday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m. the Metro Council will have its public hearing on this retroactive spot zoning bill of Murray's and also another that astonishingly enables 'mobile vending' on collector streets. As if we didn't have enough ad hoc peddlers littering the streets with dubious merchandise as it is. Obviously, if Murray is living in Detroit she won't be suffering the consequences of her bad legislation. If the Metro Council approves 2009-429 it will set a precedent that will enable every non-compliant property owner to demand that their property, that they've illegally modified, be retroactively zoned to fit whatever they've created. This should not happen. One of the government's main purposes is to ensure the safety of its citizens. Metro has so completely fallen down in this case it's hard to believe.
Here's the Council's feedback form. If you can't make it to the Council's public hearing next week on Tuesday, May 5, at least take a few minutes to contact the Council and let them know that what Murray's doing in District 5 is wrong and will negatively impact the entire city. They should extend no councilmatic courtesy to these outrageous pieces of legislation and should make it clear by a near unanimous no vote that this is enough. While she may not be living in Nashville, we are and do care about the welfare of our citizens and the future wellbeing of our city.