Thursday, February 23, 2017

Comptroller: Funds for hungry Tennessee kids spent on hotels, Xbox

by Anita Wadhwani , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee - A report by the Tennessee Comptroller detailed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending for food programs intended to feed low-income children under the oversight of the Department of Human Services. (Read more)

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What happened at the Feb 21st meeting? Protestors take over the meeting and call Councilman Hastings a "House Nigger." The city approves $13.7 benefit deal for Opryland Hotel.



The big news from this council meeting is that protestors disrupt the meeting protesting the police shooting of an armed convicted criminal almost two weeks ago.  The victim was Black and the Police Officer was White. The city has appropriately responded to the shooting and the Attorney General invited the FBI to conduct the  investigation into the shooting.

The Council disturbance starts at about timestamp 10:00 in the video. The camera stays focused on the front of the chamber and the sound is off so you really can't tell much about what transpired from the video. At timestamp 21:00 Vice Mayor Briley takes control and calls the meeting back to order and recognizes Councilman Karen Johnson who moves to allow a twenty minute comment period by the protestors at the conclusion of regular business.

The protestors who commandeered the meeting are given the podium at timestamp 1:28:35. The worst comment of the evening was when a speaker wearing a clerical collar called Councilman  Hastings a "house nigger" and an "uncle Tom." I am pleased to see Vice Mayor Briley come to the defense of Councilman Hastings and say that those comments were inappropriate.

The "Reverend" calls Councilman Hastings

a "House Nigger."

Some may have felt that Vice Mayor Briley should have taken a much stronger stand and had the protestors physically removed from the chamber. I do not join those in that criticism.  I think it was better to deescalate the tension and let the protestors have a forum rather than the alternative. I think this was handled in about the best way possible. There are legitimate questions as to what transpired and I tend to think it better to listen to people and let people vent rather than use force to restore order, within reason. Several of the speakers sound somewhat reasonable. Others however are very radical.

There is not a lot of legislation of interest or controversy on the agenda. This is a meeting where you don't really need an agenda or agenda analysis to watch the meeting but if you want to read the agenda and analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link. Appointees are confirmed unanimously as is the norm and all bills on First Reading are approved as is the norm. The only Resolution not on the Consent agenda is RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-566  by Scott Davis which expresses support for the Medical Cannabis Access Act currently pending before the Tennessee General Assembly. It is deferred one meeting. To see the sponsors comment on the resolutions see timestamp 30:53.

In what appears to be a subtle slam at President Trump for his temporary ban on immigrants from dysfunctional countries that produce lots of terrorist and for his resuming enforcement of our nations immigration laws, the Council passes  RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-568, recognizing February 19, 2017 as a Day of Remembrance, commemorating the historical significance of Executive Order 9066.  That was the Executive Order signed by Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt that imprisoned Japanese immigrants and Americans of Japaneses decent following the outbreak of World War II. I support the resolution condemning that shameful chapter in American history.  I fully expected this resolution to pass and I would have obviously voted for it, if I served in the Council. I expected it to pass on Consent without ceremony or grandstanding as do other resolutions on Consent, however. It's passage draws audience applause. To see the Council floor action on this resolution see timestamp 32:45-36:30. 
Ryman renderings of major water park at Opryland

Bills on Second Reading
BILL NO. BL2017-589  is the bill that would grant a $13.7 million incentive package for Opryland Hotel to build a water park. This water park would be for the use of hotel guest only and not the general public. The argument for this type of crony capitalism is that it has an economic impact, including increased sales tax revenue and employment. Councilmen John Cooper, Colby Sledge and Jim Shulman were the only votes in opposition. To see the discussion see timestamp 44:12-104:48.  To see The Tennessean coverage of this issue follow this link.


Bills on Third Reading
BLL NO. BL2016-492  clarifies and modifies Short-term rental (STRP) rules. This passes on a voice vote without discussion. For a lot of background and links to other stories on this topic follow this link.  This bill is really pretty simple and just tweaks what already exist. It does not include a moratorium or ban on Short Term Property Rentals.

Important announcement regarding short term rental. There are three new bills addressing Short Term Rental Property that have been filed scheduled for public hearing on March 7th. The three bills will be delayed for public hearing until April 4th. One of these bills would ban all new non-owner-occupied STRP, one would impose a 36-month moratorium on them and one would impose a 12-month moratorium. To hear the announcements see time stamp 1:25:33. Those who care about this issue may want to listen to the announcement. Be aware that between now and then their will be Planning Commission consideration of these bills also. If you care about this issue then you may want to get involved.

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Latinos for Tennessee Supports President Trump's Immigration Plan

Press release, Nashville, Tennessee - Latinos for Tennessee, a non-partisan organization committed to protecting and promoting faith, family, freedom and fiscal responsibility issued a statement in support of President Trump's latest immigration announcement that includes enforcing existing immigration laws while accommodating young adults that were brought to this country illegally, at no fault of their own, in a federal program commonly known as DACA.

"President Trump demonstrated good judgment and compassion in his most recent immigration order while also following through on his promise to enforce existing immigration laws. The reality is that if we are to remain free and prosperous, no one can be above the law. What's more, to rebuild trust with the American people to push for a permanent immigration solution, our government needs to immediately expel those that have come here to our country to commit crime and be a burden on society," said Lopez.

Lopez continued, "It is also important to note that President Trump is simply doing what prior administrations have previously done by enforcing existing immigration laws, including former President Barack Obama, who was described by National Council of La Raza's Executive Director, Janet MurguĂ­a, as the 'Deporter in Chief' after deporting millions during his administration."

The Executive Director of Latinos for Tennessee concluded: "Latinos for Tennessee has always been, and remains, supportive of immigrants, and of our immigrant community here in the great state of Tennessee and around our country. But to do this, we must discourage continued illegal immigration and work to improve the legal avenues for legal immigration. We are confident that President Trump understands this and we support him and his administration for doing what is necessary to ensure that we remain a country of laws, and also a country of immigrants."

Latinos for Tennessee has a presence in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga and is the only ideologically conservative Latino organization in the state of Tennessee.
For more information, visit http://latinosfortn.com.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Time to push back against the left and make our voices heard!

RAIN OR SHINE

Time to push back against the left and make our voices heard!

We strongly support President Trump in his effort to put America First and we are holding rallies to show support for President Trump’s policies

There was a spontaneous uprising of grassroots activists that voted for President Trump to find a way to let people know that we support his agenda. Unlike those protesting against President Trump’s vision, we are a diverse coalition that are the heart and soul of America that wants our nation to fulfill our potential, as the greatest nation on God’s green earth!

The rallies will be positive, patriotic, uplifting, and open to anyone that supports an America First agenda.

Bring your umbrella and chair if warranted!


Facebook link.

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Protestors disrupt Metro Council Meeting

A couple dozen protestors interrupted the Council meeting Tuesday night shortly after the meeting started. The were protesting the shooting of armed convicted criminal  Jocques Clemmons by police officer Joshua Lippert. After about a twenty-minute interruption the council agreed to give the protestors time at the end of the meeting to address the council and present their demands.  For more on this follow this link, this link, and this one.

As soon as the video of the meeting is available, I will post it. About the only item of any controversy or interest on the agenda was that the Council voted 33-3 on Second Reading to advance a $13.7 million incentive package for Opryland Hotel to build a water park (link.).

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

There is massive opportunity for voter fraud to occur and go undetected.

Former Davidson County Administrator of Elections Albert Tieche says that while we do not have proof that massive voter fraud exist, there is massive opportunity for it to occur.  To read his insightful and well-documented essay on the topic follow this link.

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Fresh Faces Emerge as County Republicans Elect New Leaders for 2018

New Chairman Tres Wittum elected with Young Republicans Participating at Historic Levels

Press release, Nashville – This Saturday at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, the Davidson County Republican Party held its biennial county convention and caucus to elect a County Chairman and Executive Board. 

Over 200 local Republicans attended to participate in the election of the seven-member board, who will serve through the 2018 election cycle. Outgoing Chairman Bob Ries selected local Republican activist Mark Rogers to Chair the convention, assisted by A.E. Graham who served as Parliamentarian for the proceedings. 

In the first and longest election of the day, Tres Wittum was elected Chairman after a runoff election. Mr. Wittum is an analyst with the Finance, Ways and Means Committee of the Tennessee State Senate, and served as President of the Tennessee College Republicans from 2009-2011. 

"I'm honored to have the confidence of my friends and colleagues, and I am absolutely thrilled with the team they have put together. Nashville is a growing and diverse city, and our board reflects that. We are strongly positioned to spread the conservative message of limited government and personal freedom as we grow the party in 2018 and beyond."

Mr. Wittum will be taking the helm along with Melissa Smithson, who was elected to 1st Vice-Chairman. Ms. Smithson has been a fixture in local Republican politics, most recently as a candidate for Council District 28. Prior to that, she was a strong voice in the effort to save the State Fairgrounds and defeat the AMP proposal.

Heather Sczepczenski, currently on staff with State Treasurer David Lillard, was elected to 2nd Vice Chairman. Ms. Sczepczenski formerly served as Chairman of the Davidson County Young Republicans.

Others elected to the executive board include:

Communications Secretary: Erin Rogus (policy assistant to Senator Bill Frist)
Treasurer: Nashville City Councilman Steve Glover
Assistant Treasurer: Aaron Snodderly (former staffer for Ted Cruz for President, and past Chairman of the Tennessee Young Republicans)
Recording Secretary: Evann Freeman (field representative for Senator Lamar Alexander)

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Monday, February 20, 2017

April 5th is deadline for property tax relief.

Nashville has experienced steady growth for a number of years but rapid growth in the last three years that continues.  Something like 30,000 people a year move to Nashville.  This is pushing up property values.  One may drive down a street that one haven't been on in a while and hardly recognize it.  As a home goes on the market, it is purchased, the existing house torn down and a larger very expensive home goes up in its place. I am shocked at some of the places they are building homes and the prices the sellers are getting.

Nashville is currently undergoing a reappraisal. Property is reappraised not to bring in more tax revenue but to equalize taxes so that those with more expensive property pay more taxes than those in more modest homes. Some people will get a shock when they discover what their property is worth.  Mayor Barry, to her credit, has said she will not raise taxes this year.  By law, a reappraisal can not increase revenue to the government. Following the reappraisal, the local government must approve a new lower certified tax rate that raises no more money than the old tax rate.  Often however, politicians see this as an opportunity to slip in a tax increase, and immediately after adopting the new certified tax rate, they adopt a tax increase tax rate.  Citizens often do not understand what has happened and blame the increase in property taxes on the reappraisal.

So, who will see a tax increase due to the property mass reappraisal?  If you live in an area that has had property values increase greater than the average increase in values, you can expect a property tax increase.  If property values increased at rate less that the average, you should expect a decrease in property taxes.  The already highly desirable areas to live saw increases but more modest increases in value than in the newly "gentrifying" neighborhoods, like The Nations, Woodbine, Englewood, and parts of East Nashville. If you live in a modest neighborhood but every time a house goes on the market it is torn down and replaced by a much larger expensive home, you are likely to have big tax increase.

I don't have much sympathy for those who recently purchased a $275,000 house in Woodbine; they can afford the taxes.  For those who paid $36,000 for their Woodbine home in 1990, they may have a whopper of an increase. I have sympathy for those whose income did not increase as property values were increasing. I especially have sympathy for those on a fixed income.  There is however relief for many of these people. Here are three programs that may help many of those people:

  • Tax freezeA tax "freeze" means the homeowner would continue to pay the same taxes they are paying now even if the reappraisal determines they should pay more. Any homeowner who is 65 or older and earns less than $41,660 may be eligible for a tax freeze. 
  • Tax relief: Tax"relief" is reimbursement from the state for some or all of the property taxes a homeowner paid in a given year. Metro may match the state relief. Homeowners who are 65 and older or disabled and earn less than $29,180 a year may be eligible for tax relief. 
  • Tax deferral: Homeowners may be able to defer payment on their taxes until they die or they sell their property. To be eligible, homeowners must be 65 or older or disabled and have a combined income of less than $25,000. 
The deadline for applying for these programs is April 5th. Apply in person at the office of the Metro Trustee, Charlie Caldwell. The office is located at 700 Second Avenue South, Suite 220,
Nashville, the old Howard School location.  Applications must be filed by April 5th each year. New applicants must go in person to the Trustees office  but no appointment is required. There are certain documents one must bring with them. Go the the website of  Office of the Trustee or call that office at (615) 862-6330 to know what to bring. The office is open from 8AM to 4:30PM but applicants need to arrive at the Trustee's office by 3:00PM. Charlie Cardwell is nice man and runs a good office and people in his office are very nice and helpful.

If you think you may be eligible, don't hesitate to apply.  If you have employees or friends or relatives who may be eligible, tell them about these programs.

In my other existence, when I am not a political blogger, I am a housing counselor with a non-profit, HUD-approved housing counseling agency.  If you are making house payments and worried you may not be able to afford your home and need advice about what to do, give me a call.  There are often solutions to avoiding foreclosure and sometimes there is a possibility of getting mortgage payments reduced to  lower payments. Call me for a phone consultation or an appointment. There is no cost to the client for the service I provide. Call Rod Williams 615-850-3453.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for 2/21/17? Not much really. Very little of controversy.

he Metro Council will meet Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you can be a well-informed citizen of our city and still not have to watch them. If, however, you are going to watch the council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis, otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis. This ought to be a short meeting.  There is almost nothing of controversy on the agenda.

There are twelve appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. There is one resolution on public hearing to grant an exemption to the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit. These are usually routinely approved. There are no bills on public hearing this meeting.

There are 17 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded.  None of these appear particularly controversial. Here are the resolutions of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-517  request Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency to revise its official Tax Increment Financing development priorities for the Downtown Core to prioritize green space and public space and deprioritize parking space. I agree with this. Market forces will optimize the correct number of parking spaces and the city also builds public parking garages, the bonds paid for with parking fees.  With parking off Broadway running $20 I seldom drive downtown. I can take Uber to and from Broadway for less than $12. We need more green space instead of more parking downtown.
 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-555  accepts an Enhancing Savings Outcomes for Financial Counseling Grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment. This would be a grant to help fund the city's Empowerment Center to specifically teach saving skills and train counselors in how to teach these skills. Ideally this would not be necessary. These would be skills that people learn from their parents and that just come naturally, but so many people live in a world of "I deserve it" and "I want it now," that saving and planning ahead is a foreign concept. I know that behavior can be changed and learning self discipline can change a persons life. I am critical of most anti-poverty programs, but those aimed at teaching people to change their behaviors and values that cause them to be poor, I support.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-566  by Scott Davis expresses support for the Medical Cannabis Access Act currently pending before the Tennessee General Assembly. I strongly support this memorializing resolutions.
There are only five  bills on First Reading.  First Reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not discussed by committee until after First Reading.  Almost always, bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.  I do usually not examine bills on First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 14  bills on Second Reading and none of them are of particular interest and I do not expect any of them to be controversial. Some existing programs are extended or tweaked and there are a couple of minor animal protection bills, but nothing that should cause controversy.

Bills on Third Reading: These are the only ones of interest.
BLL NO. BL2016-492  clarifies and modifies Short-term rental (STRP) rules.  In October of 2016, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Metro's existing Short Term Rental Property rules were unconstitutionally vague. This bill attempts to correct that defect and defines terms. It really doesn't do anything new. It clarifies and it incorporates recent changes passed by the Council to the STRP regulations.
The bill identifies three different type of STRP: Type 1, owner-occupied; Type 2,  not owner-occupied; and Type 3, not owner-occupied multifamily. The bill sets limitation on the number of the different types allowed per census tract and it sets occupancy limits. It sits the minimum and maximum length of stay for an STRP.  Why if someone wanted to rent a STRP for more than thirty days, they are not permitted to do so, I don't know. This bill requires that the owners contact information be posted within the property and the owner be available 24/7 to answer calls from renters. It spells out how complaints are handled and says that if a permit is revoked a new permit cannot be issued for that property for one year. It established a fine of $50 a day for operating a STRP without a permit. It also does a lot of other things.
The rules appears overly restrictive and I do not like this bill and would like to see less regulation. Much of what people complain about such as noise and parking is already covered by other code previsions. Also, as some of the thousands of planned hotels and motels rooms get build, I suspect the demand for Airbnb lodging to level off.
Since any change to this bill is likely to impose more regulations rather than less, if I were in the Council I would vote for this. Sometimes as legislator one is faced with the choice of voting for something he does not like in order to stop something from passing that he would like even less.
On the street on which I live there is a STRP diagonally across the street and another two doors down from me.  I never have had a problem with them. The owner of the properties has came by to visit with me and gave me her phone number and told me to call her I ever have reason to complain. I don't mind seeing the young girls in town for bachelorette parties come and go and families playing touch football in the front yard.  Some people are just not happy if other people are having fun.
This was on Public Hearing two meeting ago and there were a lot of people speaking in favor and a whole lot more in opposition. Those in support were mostly short-term rental hosts saying they support the revised ordinance. Those in opposition said the bill does not go far enough. Some argue that STRP drive up local rental rates by taking what would be rental units off the market. Others complain of living next door to these units where people make excessive noise and party all night. One speaker talks of orgies taking place.  I would have to see that to believe it, but that is what is was said. Many of the speakers want type three STRP amended out of the bill and prohibited. Some want type two and three taken out and a few want all STRP banned. A lot of the opposition is organized. Among those in opposition were neighborhood activist John Summers and John Stern. Councilman sledge made arguments against the bill as did Councilman Weiner, Elrod and Glover.  I expected amendments to be offered to prohibit type two and type three STRP but that has not happen.  Those are coming however in separate bills not as amendments to this bill. To see the discussion at the public hearing see timestamp 38:14- 2:50:52 at this link. To see media coverage of this issue follow these links: WSMV,  Nashville Airbnb fans, foes collide at Metro Council ...  and The Tennessean, Nashville Airbnb fans, foes collide at Metro Council.

Since this does not include the bans or moratorium, I would support this bill. For much more on the issue see these links:
In 2015, short-term rentals boosted Nashville's economy by $477.2 million.
Metro's Airbnb law unconstitutional!
(update) What's on the Council Agenda for Feb. 7th: New AirBnb rules, $16M more for General Hospital, $ to build affordable housing,
Does racism drive Nashville's crackdown on Airbnb's?
Nashville’s Airbnbs get taxed, but swank hotels get the benefits
Why The Anderson's are suing Metro Government
Metro's Airbnb law unconstitutional!
Critics want to ban all new Airbnb rentals
Nashville Metro Council collaborates with hotels to curb Airbnb’s
BILL NO. BL2016-496 would prohibit vehicles from parking in electric charging station spaces.  I have been tempted to park in those spaces myself but have not done so.  I am curious how much revenue the city is losing by having these reserved spaces. I have never seen a car charging at them. I wonder how often they are used. Instead of making it a penalty to park in these spaces, I would think the charging station spaces should be turned back into parking spaces.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel.   If can stand the suspense and just wait I will post the video here and provide commentary.

 

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