Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friends Fortify Ford

It was an honor and a privilege to attend the press conference yesterday at Country International Records and stand with so many of Joy Ford's friends as she moves into the next phase of protecting her property rights and ours. It was obvious that she was a bit overwhelmed by the the number of friends and strangers who came to encourage and fortify her for further battle.

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Miss Joy and exchanging hugs and thanks. She thanked me for blog posts which were encouraging. I thanked her for standing strong and taking on this battle.

Miss Joy's plight strikes a chord in me that is some 30 years old. Many years ago I would walk the mile and a half to my junior high school each day. A significant part of that walk was across a viaduct over a very large railroad yard that served to move grain and iron ore from the upper midwest to the rest of the nation. That viaduct wasn't built for the heavy traffic that eventually began to use it. It was a bit disconcerting to have my cadance thrown off because the walkway had moved with the weight of the heavy truck passing by (I wasn't watching traffic, I was reading). No one disagreed that the bridge needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the home of a widow woman of advanced age, who was well liked in the neighborhood and kept chickens would have to go. It seemed a pity that she couldn't spend her last few years in the home she had shared with her husband and in which she had raised her children, but it was clear, a new bridge was necessary. The rail yard completely separated our neighborhood from the city and emergency services. No one liked taking her home but we knew we had to have a new bridge.

After being discharged from the Army I returned to my hometown to find a glorious new bridge spanning the tracks. However, it was upsetting to discover that the widow's home wasn't really needed and the state had sold the property to a man who replaced that home with a tavern. Taking her home for the bridge was one thing---but for a tavern---well, that was just too much. It was at the public hearing about a zoning variance that I spoke for the first time before a political body. I can't help but think of my elderly hometown neighbor when I see Miss Joy's property being snatched by the city.

Conversation with Miss Joy's friends yesterday revealed that pretty much since her husband died in 1999 she's had real estate vultures circling overhead waiting for the opportunity to pick up her property. She told us that it got so bad she stopped answering the phone or door and even worked at night--which is probably why Lionstone Group was asserting she was never there--as if being there or not gave her more or less property rights. I was listening to Phil Valentine's radio program yesterday afternoon and he stated that after the press conference a survey crew was on the property (Phil's studio is just across the street). Miss Joy explained that they have done that before and the Institute for Justice folks told her it was a common intimidation tactic. That explained the marker I found just outside her fence back a couple of weeks ago on July 7.

If only Lionstone Group sent a landscaping crew over as often as surveyors and real estate agents. Pictures from yesterday clearly show that despite being in clear violation of Metro codes Lionstone Group has yet to clean up their property. It's haying time, gentlemen.

The press conference was to announce that the Institute for Justice had filed an answer to the city's condemnation of 23 Music Circle East and further had filed interrogatories of their own for MDHA and Lionstone Group to answer. You can read the IJ press release here and everyone should take the time to read their background document here. Highlights from that backgrounder:

  • MDHA has declared the area surrounding Miss Joy's property as blighted---but not her property. In fact the survey done way back when 'consists of vague, confusing and arbitrarily assigned categorical distinctions and an unclear methodology'. Not one of the properties surveyed at that time met the necessary designation of 'extreme deterioration and decay due to lack of repairs and care of the area'.
  • MDHA's blight designation is based on a 1999 information and the state legislature made some significant changes in 2006 to Tennessee's eminent domain law after the astonishing US Supreme Court's Kelo decision. MDHA hasn't caught up with the current law. I guess they were hoping no one would notice.
  • Lionstone Group has previously stated they don't actually need Miss Joy's property.
  • MDHA has the burden of proof here. The Tennessee law says blighted areas are 'detrimental to the safety, health, morals, welfare of the community'. It's going to be impossible to prove that Miss Joy's property meets any of those requirements---though Lionstone Group's property is getting closer to being detrimental to the safety and health of the area every day.

One of my children just returned from Mexico where they rebuilt an old woman's gate and walkway. They were told that because she didn't have any family in the area and was a widow she was often abused and taken advantage of by others in the town. She was thrilled with the improvements to her yard but much more thrilled to have her neighbors see that she was no longer alone and that she had strong friends that would help protect her. Miss Joy has strong friends also. Pictured here are essential members of her team from left to right: James W. Fisher, a Nashville attorney with the firm Lassiter Tidwell Davis Keller & Hogan, Joy Ford, Carroll Ford, and Scott Bullock, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice.

Other coverage of yesterday's press conference:

An Ol' Broad's Ramblings Here's Kate standing next to Phil Valentine. She doesn't look like an Ol' Broad at all to me. She's got photos and her own observations on her site.

Blue Collar Muse: "Reviewing my server logs showed that Nashville PR firm, McNeely, Pigott & Fox, stopped by. This is significant as their homepage lists both the Lionstone Group and MDHA as clients they are proud to work with. The people of Nashville may want to make note of that. McNeely, Pigott & Fox are proud to represent the bad guys in the fight to force Joy Ford from her property. (snip) [Earl Swennsen Associates] is also one of the few publicly identified anchor tenants of Lionstone’s development which will oust Miss Joy. Surprise of surprises, they are designing the complex as well!

Nashville City Paper: It's Music CIRCLE East, guys. Not Music CENTER. They got the headline right and the copy wrong. The City Paper reports that local CM Michael Craddock has some legislation ready if things don't go Miss Joy's (our) way.

Tennessean: "Ford's building and Lionstone's land are separated by an alley, which Lionstone has asked the city to close to give construction equipment room to maneuver on the building site, Warren said. Ford has sued to stop that plan, saying she needs the alley to reach the rear of her property."

Give me a break. This would leave only a narrow side entrance that obviously won't accommodate a bus or trailer both of which are so much a part of ordinary business for Miss Joy and her clients. This shouldn't be allowed either. Lionstone Group's got nearly three acres and they need the little bit of right away that Miss Joy has? If Lionstone Group can't find a crew that can maneuver around three acres without closing the alley they're not the expert developers they think they are.


Buckley said...

(I wasn't watching traffic, I was reading)

Love of reading before personal safety! That's an English teacher's dream- they must have loved you. :)

It's reassuring to see that the wagons are circling on this matter. There's certainly a huge difference between what the government needs for infrastructure and what interests want for profit in the name of "community interest." The Court sure got it wrong on Kelo. It's good to see folks aren't giving up the fight!

Unknown said...

Wow, that building and surrounding property is even more blighted than I originially suspected. In my opinion, the addition of the Lionstone building will do wonders to improve that Demonbreun stretch near Music Row. It will really complete the revitalization of that once tarnished part of town.

What Mrs. Ford needs to remember is that, regardless of whether she sells her property or not, Linostone will still be building their new structure. This is her turn to really cash in on that property.