Friday, April 21, 2017

The vitriolic rhetoric being used to denounce those who voted for the gas tax.

I did not support the recently passed gas tax, officially called the Improve Act. I do not necessarily think that only gas taxes should fund roads.  My view is that when an agency has their own source of funding, there is less scrutiny and oversight to insure the agency is not wasting money. I tend to think all funding should be decided by the legislative body and every government function should compete with every other government function.  I would be pleased if there were no dedicated funding.

I was not persuaded by the argument that the gas tax is a user fee. In theory I like the idea of "user fees" for government services, but in reality there are few true user fees.  If you had to pay admission to use a park, that would be user fee.  If you had to buy a membership to use the public library, that would be a user fee. A toll road is a user fee. A tax on tennis shoes to fund sidewalks or a gas tax to fund roads is really not a user fee.

I was also reluctant to favor the gas tax, because in the past TDOT has wasted a lot of money.  Untold million were spend over the last forty of so years connecting every county seat to an interstate by a four-lane road.  I have driven on some of these roads to nowhere and often been the only car on the road for miles. For more on why I think this was a wasteful and ill-advised policy see this link where I expound on it.

Also, TDOT wasting of money is not a thing of the past. In 2013 over $42 million of the gas tax went to building a luxury jet port for the city of Cleveland. I don't know how many bridges could have been repaired for $42 million but with crumbling bridges it seems to spend $42 on a luxury jet port looks like an unwise use of money.

On the other hand, now that I have told you why I did not support the gas tax, let me say that I could not build up much passion about the issue.  In fact, on several occasions I was almost persuaded to favor it. This was not something I was going to man the barricades over or even march against.  There were good arguments in favor.  Things we want cost money and the gas tax has not been increased in 25 years.  I believe the argument that the gas tax has not been keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges and that improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are hurting gas tax collection. Also, we have capacity to raise the gas tax since we were one of the states with a lower gas tax. There is a big backlog of projects that need funding and we need the revenue.

Also, the increase in the gas tax is being offset by cuts in other taxes. It is basically revenue neutral.  The bill reduces the 5-percent Hall income tax by 1 percent each year until the tax is eliminated. It reduces the state sales tax rate for food from 5 percent to 4 percent and it makes some cuts to other taxes paid by manufacturers. I liked the tax cuts that were in the bill. For a summary of what the bill actually does see the legislative summary or read the bill at this link

Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), who has campaigned for lower taxes for decades declared his support for the IMPROVE Act. Norquist is the originator of the "tax pledge" in which candidates for office sign a pledge saying they will not vote for any tax increase.  Norquist said the bill was revenue-neutral.

I am disappointment at the vitriolic rhetoric being used to denounce those who voted for the bill.  To me, this is an issue about which reasonable and good people could disagree. I an disappointed in those who condemn those who voted for the tax as evil. I don't know how either side could be so dogmatic as to be assured that their position is 100% right and the other side totally wrong. 

John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Associations has been in rant mode for days now. In a Facebook post  he said, "Hard working Tennesseans are getting really tired of the ongoing lies and corporate welfare from the Establishment Republicans in Tennessee. We have to have the help of the conservative caucus to expose these traitors so that they can be prosecuted where possible and defeated in all other instances." He is not calling them traitors to their country but as he uses the term in another post, he is calling them traitors to conservative principals. 

Harris has been especially critical of Representative Susan Lynn and has called for her defeat when she is up for reelection.  Harris is only one of the people expressing anger at those who voted for the bill. Many other conservative activist are also denouncing those who voted for the bill and calling them names and calling for their defeat.

I think a lot of the outrage is faux outrage and motivated by something other than the issue at hand.  Advocacy organizations have to keep their supporters riled up to remain influential. Getting people mad at other people is good for fund-raising.  Some people with political ambitions need to distinguish themselves from the incumbent office holders and issues like this create an impression on the part of some of the electorate that the incumbent is not conservative enough or is a RINO or is part of the political establishment. It gives the challenger an excuse to enter a primary.  Pundits and commentators do not build an audience by being reasonable and thoughtful.  You will not hear Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin or Rachel Maddow or Michael Moore say "on the other hand." Pundits and advocates always have to be adamant and indignant. Its good for ratings and business.

To those who opposed the gas tax bill, do you really think that people like Senator Jack Johnson and Representative Susan Lynn are big-government, tax-and-spend liberals who are traitors to conservative principals who need to be defeated?

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How they voted on the Gas Tax (IMPROVE Act)

On Wednesday afternoon, April 19th,  the Tennessee House and Senate approved the IMPROVE Act also called the gas tax. The House vote was 61-35 in favor and the Senate vote was 25-6. Below is a list of how they voted. This is from the Tennessee General Assembly website

Senate

          Ayes...............................................25
          Noes................................................6

          Senators voting aye were: Bailey, Mike Bell, Briggs, Crowe, Steve Dickerson, Gardenhire, Ferrel Haile, Thelma Harper, Harris, Jackson, Jack Johnson, Kelsey, Bill Ketron, Sara Kyle, Lundberg, Massey, Mark Norris, Doug Overbey, Stevens, Tate, Jim Tracy, Bo Watson, Ken Yager, Jeff Yarbro, Mr. Speaker McNally -- 25.


          Senators voting no were: Mae Beavers, Janice Bowling, Dolores Gresham, Joey Hensley, Frank S. Niceley, Kerry Roberts -- 6.


House

HB0534 by Casada - FLOOR VOTE: AS AMENDED PASSAGE ON THIRD CONSIDERATION 4/19/2017
Passed
          Ayes...............................................60
          Noes...............................................37

          Representatives voting aye were: Akbari, Alexander, Bill Beck, Harry Brooks., Keven Brook., Camper, Carr, Carter, Clemmons, Coley, Cooper, Curcio, Daniel, DeBerry, Doss, Dunn, Eldridge, Farmer, Favors, Craig Fitzhugh, Forgety, Brenda Gilmore, Gravitt, Halford, Hazlewood, Hicks, Holsclaw, Howell, Darren Jernigan, Johnson, Sherry Jones, Keisling, Harold M. Love, Jr., Susan Lynn, Marsh, McCormick, McDaniel, Miller, Mitchell, Parkinson, Pitts, Jason Powell, Ragan, Ramsey, Sanderson, Charles Sargent, Shaw, Smith, Staples, Mike Stewart, Swann, Thompson, Tillis, Towns, Travis, Turner, White M., Whitson, Wirgau, Madam Speaker Harwell -- 60.


          Representatives voting no were: Sheila Butt, Byrd, Calfee, Crawford, Jeremy Faison, Gant, Goins, Hardaway, Hawk, Hill M., Hill T., Andy H. Holt, Hulsey, Kane, Kumar, Lamberth, Mary Littleton, Lollar, Judd Matheny, Matlock, Moody, Mark Pody, Powers, Reedy, Courtney Rogers, Rudd, Sexton C., Sexton J., Sherrell, Sparks, Terry, Van Huss, Terri Lynn Weaver, Dawn White , Williams, Windle, Zachary -- 37.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

What happened at the 4-18-17 Council meeting: Dr. Walker honored, landfill bill advances, new sidewalk policy adopted, standards for corporate welfare established.



If you are going to watch the meeting, you really need a copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. To access those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

As always mayoral appointments to boards and commissions are approved without dissent and all bills on First Reading are approved by a single vote.  At the start of the meeting there is a presentation honoring the non-profit organization Family and Children's Services. Consideration of legislation does not get underway until timestamp 14:50 in the video.

Bishop Joseph W. Walker III
honored
BILL NO. BL2017-656 is taken out of order and is considered first to accommodate a large number of people are in the audience on this bill.  This is the bill to name the bridge over I-40 / I-65 between 11th Avenue North & 12th Avenue North along the 1100 block of Jefferson Street in honor of Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III. Last Council meeting this proved contentious and  there was a 21 minute discussion on the issue and it required a roll call vote. Several of the Black council members take to the floor to praise Dr. Walker.
The issue is raised as to whether or not Metro has the authority to name the bridge.  The bridge is over an interstate and the state owns the land.  It is unclear who owns the bridge. This bill passes on Third reading on a roll call vote of 30 in favor, 8 abstentions and none opposed. To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 15 - 25:40. 
To read The Tennessean report on the issue follow this link.


Resolutions of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, to inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  At the request of the sponsor, this is deferred two meetings.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover would adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of funds budgeted to service debt. At the request of the sponsor, it is deferred two meetings.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  proposes several amendments to the Metro Charter.  This is deferred indefinitely at the request of the sponsor.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-646 and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-647 declare some Metro owned parcels of property "surplus" and transfers them to the Barnes Fund and names and appropriates money to selected non-profits to develop affordable housing on those parcels. The non-profit agencies receiving grants are New Level Community Development Corporation, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, Woodbine Community Organization, and Rebuilding Together Nashville. These passes on  a voice vote.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-648 selects of the Neighborhoods Resource Center to operate the Codes Offender School.  The Codes Offender School will be much like the DUI School, and the Animal Offender School already in existence. An offender can pay a fee of $90 to attend the indoctrination session rather than face legal consequences. The Neighborhood Resource Center is a liberal advocacy organization. This passes on the consent agenda.
Bills on Second Reading of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro more control over the approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner.  This is essentially replacing Metro's current procedure with a State approved plan known as the "Jackson law."  While this bill, on the one hand, gives Metro more control it also in some ways takes away some Metro authority. It increases the notification requirements, requires a bill with three reading rather than approving a landfill by resolution which is only one reading and it does some other good things. On the other hand, Metro would lose some authority in that an unhappy applicant for a landfill could appeal to Chancery Court. On balance, I think this is a good bill, but it is not simply.  The bill is passed on Second Reading and re-referred to Public Works Committee. It passes by a vote of 28 to 8 with 3 abstentions. To see the  discussion see timestamp 47:30 - 1:17:52
BILL NO. BL2017-645   would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or Styrofoam cup. This is deferred indefinitely.
BILL NO. BL2017-646   would prohibit a company from installing surveillance equipment, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology that captured activity on a public sidewalk or street without prior Council approval.  This is deferred two meetings at the request of the sponsor.
Bills on Third Reading of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-219 is a bill to take away an owners property rights and kill a proposed affordable housing development. It was deferred indefinitely following the public hearing on July 6, 2016. This bill would take away an owner's property rights by denying the property owner the right to  develop the  property as he currently has a right to do.  This development was all set to go mid last year and Karen Johnson, the district council member, had this bill on the agenda. The bill was deferred indefinitively at that time. This bill is deferred to the second meeting in December. The property owner could have exercised his rights to develop this property at any time. Why he has not moved forward with the development I don't know.
SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. This makes it more difficult for a developer to pay money into a fund rather than build sidewalks. Developers have criticized the bill as forcing them to build sidewalks to no where The Council has worked on this a long time. The Chamber initially had reservations about this bill but ended up supporting the final bill. The Homebuilders Association opposed the bill. In the discussion of the bill, the sponsor said, "Every person is a pedestrian, and the ability to walk where you need to go is a fundamental civic right." That has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard a council member say.  Unfortunately however, the term "rights" is now used to define anything you would like and feel entitled to. A "right" can even be a claim against the wealth or liberty of another.  "Rights" used to  mean liberties. "Rights" were freedoms that no one could justifiable deny one.  I like sidewalks, but they are not a "right." It is fuzzy thinking like this that endanger our liberties. This bill passes on a voice vote. To see the discussion see, timestamp
1:31:36 -1:35:33. To read The Tennessean story on topic, follow this link.
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. I am only calling attention to them because they are disapproved. To pass a disapproved bill requires 27 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. Sometimes it can prove difficult to get a disapproved bill passed by the Council. The first one cancels a PUD on a property and second rezones the property for a self-storage facility. It appears the developer has done his homework and accommodated neighbors concerns, including setting aside part of the property as green space. The bills have the support of the Planning Committee of the Council. Both bills pass. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:47:26 - 1:52:18.
BILL NO. BL2017-643 by Councilman Cooper sets a standard for awarding economic incentive grants. It says, "the amount of the economic and community development incentive grant during any year will be determined by multiplying the average number of new full time equivalent employees of the qualified company within the boundaries of the metropolitan government during the preceding year by an amount up to five hundred dollars."   This is a good bill. While in a perfect world I would oppose any economic incentive grants, if other cities provide them and Nashville does not, we lose.  This at least establishes some standards for when they should be awarded. It passes. To see the floor action see timestamp 1:52:20 - 1:54:29.


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A humor break: Where Are Trumps Tax Returns?

During a recent Trump stop, a heckler from the audience hollered, "Hey Trump, where are you hiding your tax returns?

President Trump politely responded, "I've found a very secure place that I'm certain they won't be found."

The insistent heckler, then shouted, "And just where is that, dummy"?

President Trump smiled and said, "They are underneath Obama's college records, his passport application, his immigration status as a student, his funding sources to pay for college, his college records, and his Selective Service registration. What's your next question?"

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Documents Reveal Real Source of Homesharing Opposition

BY JUSTIN OWEN, The Beacon Center, April 19, 2017 - The hotel industry has teamed up with affordable housing advocates, unions, and “other progressive entities” (their words, not mine) to shut down its competition.

For the past two years, we have heard the steady drumbeat of NIMBYism (not in my back yard) by those who oppose homesharing. People have showed up at local council meetings in cities across the state telling the horror stories of the Airbnb next door. Drunken bachelor parties, nudity, debauchery, the anecdotes abound. According to them, homesharing should be severely restricted or even banned outright. But is homesharing really such a pariah, and is the opposition to it really driven by concerned neighbors?

When you peel back the layers of the onion, the real answer begins to stink. First off is this recent report in the Tennessean, which shows that actual complaints against homesharing do not match the rhetoric. Since April 2015, there have been 975 complaints against short-term rentals in Nashville. That may sound like a high number, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the 457,000 total complaints against homeowners citywide during that time period. So bad homesharing actors represent a mere two-tenths of one percent of all complaints. 

If there really are so few actual complaints against homesharing, then where does all of this opposition originate? Well Washington, D.C., of course, the source of most manufactured crises.

Documents obtained by Reason.com show that the American Hotel and Lodging Association has launched a concerted campaign against homesharing to cut out its competition. According to the leaked documents, the hotel industry has teamed up with affordable housing advocates, unions, and “other progressive entities” (their words, not mine) to shut down its competition and create a negative national narrative to rein in homesharing.

The association boasts about its ability to get New York to ban almost all homesharing and securing stringent regulations on homesharing elsewhere. The documents even reference success in Tennessee, where the hotel industry and taxpayer-funded city lobbyists have tried to kill legislation to protect homeowners’ ability to rent out their homes short-term.

Isn’t it ironic that powerful hotel industry lobbyists in D.C. are waging a local war against Nashville homeowners by attacking so-called out-of-state special interests? They should remember that anytime you point your finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you. More importantly, state legislators should remember that the “protect our neighborhoods” and “preserve local control” crowds are taking their marching orders from those same high-powered, out of touch D.C. lobbyists.

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Mason Weaver guest speaker at Republican Women of Williamson County event.

 

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Simplifying Our Tax System

by U.S. Representative Phil Roe, M. D., 1st District of Tennessee - Every April, instead of enjoying springtime, Americans will spend countless hours on long tax forms and working through confusing tax rules. This year, Tax Day falls on April 18th with Easter and Emancipation Day affecting the federal holiday schedule. In their 2015 annual report to Congress, the Taxpayer Advocate Service found that, in fiscal year 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collected over $2.8 trillion dollars. In the IRS’s 2016 annual report to Congress, it is reported that taxpayers and businesses spend around six billion total hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements. There’s no question our tax code is too complicated, and taxes for hardworking families are too high.
President Donald Trump promised to reform our bloated, overly complicated tax code, and I strongly support him in this effort. Tax reform won’t just help families keep more of their hard-earned pay, but it will make them more financially secure during a time when our economy is still recovering from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. If done correctly, tax reform can also help keep and bring jobs back to the United States. We are going to work to replace our complicated and confusing tax code with a leaner, simplified and more competitive plan than ever before. House Republicans are proposing a plan so simple that, if adopted, taxpayers will be able to file their income taxes on a post card, rather than spend much of their time and money trying to follow our complicated tax laws.
In House Republicans’ Better Way agenda, an effort to address our nation’s most pressing issues led by Speaker Paul Ryan which can be reviewed at better.gop, we lay out a three-pronged approach to tackling our burdensome tax code. First, we prioritize making the tax code simpler and fairer. Our plan consolidates the seven existing tax brackets into three. We also would create a larger standard deduction and more generous child tax credit, so hard-working families will be able to bring home more of their hard-earned pay checks. By streamlining and realigning the IRS system, we can overhaul our business tax system so that it is built for growth. I’m confident we can develop commonsense proposals to simplify our current tax system and lower taxes.
The second important prong of comprehensive tax reform is to utilize our tax code to promote jobs and economic growth. Right now, our tax code is so complicated and poorly written that it often times incentivizes businesses to move their operations overseas. Right now, America is following – not leading – the world in tax rates; in fact, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate out of developed countries in the world. An astounding 160 countries worldwide have consumption-based tax systems, meaning they do not tax their exports but do tax imports. Our system, however, taxes domestic manufacturers, meaning they have to pay taxes both here and in the country in which they sell their goods. Lowering the corporate tax rate and adopting a tax code that doesn’t discourage companies from making goods domestically would incentivize businesses to bring and keep more jobs in the United States and out of foreign countries.
Under the final prong, we reform the IRS. If we create a simpler, fairer tax code, we can also create an IRS focused on putting taxpayers first. After years of politically-motivated scandals out of the IRS, it’s clear Americans deserve a fair arbiter of any disputes that arise.
With the leadership of President Trump and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, who has clearly expressed his sense of urgency for pursuing comprehensive tax reform, I am confident that we can accomplish a simplified and streamlined tax code. I look forward to fixing our broken and outdated tax system to put taxpayers first.

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Muslims and Homosexual activist to fight Mark Green's nomination as Army Secretary

Muslims, LGBT advocates prepare to fight Mark Green's nomination as Army secretary

Mark Green
WASHINGTON — State Sen. Mark Green is facing more opposition over his nomination to become Army secretary.

A Muslim advocacy group announced last week it will oppose Green’s nomination because of past statements he made that the organization considers derogatory toward the Islamic faith and its followers.

“His Islamophobic, anti-Muslim comments demonstrate he is not able to lead a diverse, modern Army that includes Muslim soldiers, as well as maintain good relations with allied Muslim countries fighting the war on terrorism,” said Robert McCaw, government affairs director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. (link)

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Ben Cunningham is launching a referendum effort aimed at capping Metro's debt at its current level

Ben Cunningham is launching a referendum effort aimed at capping Metro's debt at its current level. Details to follow as they become available.

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Brenda Gilmore announces run for Thelma Harper's Nashville Senate seat

Brenda Gilmore announces run for Thelma Harper's Nashville Senate seat

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What is on the Council agenda for April 18th: Taking of property rights, curtailing surveillance, getting a handle on city debt, and establishing standards for corporate welfare.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to and yet can still be a well-informed citizen of our city.  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.

There are six appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. There are no public hearings this council meeting.  There are 18 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I usually do not read bills until they get to Second Reading.


There are 23 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. All resolution are initially on "consent," however, 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.  Most of the resolutions are routine things like accepting grants. Here are the resolutions of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, to inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  This seems like a wise move.  The Council needs to be involved early in the process of exerting control over the city's debt. 

 RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of debt service funds appropriated to service bonds. When the city borrows money, the amount of money it takes to pay the bonds which finance the borrowed money is a part of the annual operating budget and is called "debt service." The city has never had a policy establishing a limit on debt service. My inclination is to support this effort but I have some questions. If the city should have a reduction in revenue, then a debt service that may have been less than 10% could then be more than 10%.  How would that be resolved? Also, how would this effect our bond rating?  Also, the Council cannot restrict a future council's spending.  I support the effort to get control of Metro's spending.  In addition to debt service, Metro pension and health insurance liabilities are areas of concern and should be addressed.  I think the city should go from a defined pension benefit system to a defined pension contribution system, but no one has proposed such.  The city is awash in money now, but someday there is bound to be a slow down.  While cutting budgets are painful, if parts of the budget are beyond the council's control such as debt service and pension obligations, then budget reductions become much more difficult. For those who want a better understanding of this issue, you may want to watch the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday April 17th. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  proposes several amendments to the Metro Charter.  If approved by the Council, the proposed charter amendments would go on the ballot to be voted on by the public in August 2019.  This would do nothing substantial. Anywhere were the term “tax assessor” is used in the Charter it would change it to “assessor of property.” This is to conform to a State change. This was deferred last Council meeting. The staff analysis says it should be deferred indefinitely.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-646 and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-647 declare some Metro owned parcels of property "surplus" and transfers them to the Barnes Fund and names and appropriates money to selected non-profits to develop affordable housing on those parcels. The non-profit agencies receiving grants are New Level Community Development Corporation, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, Woodbine Community Organization, and Rebuilding Together Nashville.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-648 selects of the Neighborhoods Resource Center to operate the Codes Offender School. This is disappointing and if I were serving in the Metro Council I would vote against it. The Codes Offender School will be much like the DUI School, and the Animal Offender School already in existence. An offender can pay a fee of $90 to attend the indoctrination session rather than face legal consequences. The Neighborhood Resource Center is a liberal advocacy organization. 
Bills on Second Reading. There are 16 bills on Second Reading. Most of them are abandoning unneeded sewer easements and water easements and other routine business. These are the bill of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner. I support this. This is more complex than it appears, however. To learn more, please read the staff analysis.
BILL NO. BL2017-645   would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or Styrofoam cup. This sounds reasonable to me. This was on Second Reading last Council meeting and deferred to this meeting. At that time the brand name "Styrofoam" was replaced by "foam cup."
BILL NO. BL2017-646   would prohibit a company from installing surveillance equipment, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology that captured activity on a public sidewalk or street without prior Council approval.  I understand the civil
liberties implication of constant surveillance.  On the other hand, a lot of crimes have been solved by private cameras that have captured illegal activity.  I do not see much difference between what a camera may capture and what a security guard may witness. However, this has been amended with exemptions and clarifications and I think I would support this.  This was on Second Reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: These are 31 bills on Third Reading and not much that is of interest. Most are rezoning bill and they have all been approved by the Planning Commission. Here is this one of interest. 
BILL NO. BL2016-219 is a bill to take away an owners property right and kill a proposed affordable housing development. It was deferred indefinitely following the public hearing on July 6, 2016. This bill would take away an owner's property rights by denying the property owner the right to  develop the  property as he currently as a right to do.  This development was all set to go mid last year and Karen Johnson, the district council member, had this bill on the agenda. Why the owner has not already started development, I do not know.

Back in July, the hearing on the bill had both proponents and opponents with neighbors arguing it would "ghettoize" their community and several speakers arguing in favor of property rights. Apparently many Council members had concern about the bill. Unless circumstances have changed and the owner's financing fell through or something,  mostly likely the owner could win a law suit suing the city for taking his property should he bring suit. To take away a permitted use is a "taking."  Property rights are more than just holding legal title.  When property is taken it should only be for a public purpose and owners should be compensated for their loss.  I know we now have a very liberal Metro Council, but I suspect even many liberals are not comfortable trampling property rights.  If they are unconcerned about trampling property rights, they are probably concerned about exposing the city to a law suit the city is most likely going to lose and the loss of future State assistance in the form of tax credits the state has threatened to withhold  should this  bill pass.

At the time this bill was deferred indefinably, an article appeared in the Tennessean, in which Johnson said while her proposed ordinance is considered still active the indefinite deferral will prevent the developer from getting permits needed to begin construction on the project. I did not see the logic of her reasoning since the owner already had all of the rights he needed to proceed.  Metro Planning Director Doug Sloan apparently also did not see Johnson's logic either and told The Tennessean that because the owner's  rights are vested, the developer should be able to move forward with getting permits approved. Why the owner has not moved forward, I do not know.

To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 16:47- 1:00:45 in the video at this link.  Here is the Tennessean report on what transpired:

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, July 6, 2016 - In a surprise move Tuesday, Councilwoman Karen Johnson led the indefinite deferral of her legislation that would down-zone property in order to block a project for low-income residents called The Ridge at Antioch, a 96-unit apartment complex that Arkansas-based RichSmith Development has planned for Forest View Drive near Murfreesboro Pike. .... “I’m not giving up on it, but there are a lot of questions because it’s a complex issue,” Johnson said. “Many council members have not had low-income tax credit properties in their districts. .... Johnson said she plans to bring the bill back up to be placed on the council's Oct. 18 agenda. (link)
There is a certain amount of hypocrisy at play in this issue.  The leading proponent of killing this proposal to build affordable housing are some of the leading proponents of affordable housing in the Council. 

SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. This makes it more difficult for a developer to pay money into a fund rather than build sidewalks.  This requires a developer to build a a sidewalk even when there are no other sidewalks on the street. One opponent of this bill points out that streets will have pieces of sidewalks to nowhere.  That is my understanding of what this bill would accomplish. It is also pointed out that due to grading slopes and drainage issues, that it is difficult to build sidewalks 50 feet at a time, that in the end all the pieces may not fit and that sidewalks need to be engineered corner to corner. This has been worked on for a long time and deferred about three times before on Second reading. This bill I assume is another revision. When on Second Readng several people spoke on the bill. It passes by voice vote and made amendable on Third Reading. To view the discussion when on Second  see timestamp 52:36-1:21:12 in the video at this link.
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. I have no opinion on the merits of the bills but am only calling attention to them because they are disapproved. To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. The first one cancels a PUD on a property and second rezones the property for a self-storage facility. It appears the developer has done his homework and accommodated neighbors concerns, including setting aside part of the property as green space.
BILL NO. BL2017-643 by Councilman Cooper would set a standard for awarding economic incentive grants. It says, "the amount of the economic and community development incentive grant during any year will be determined by multiplying the average number of new full time equivalent employees of the qualified company within the boundaries of the metropolitan government during the preceding year by an amount up to five hundred dollars."   This is a good bill. While in a perfect world I would oppose any economic incentive grants, if other cities provide them and Nashville does not, we lose.  This at least establishes some standards for when they should be awarded. It passed on a voice vote on Second Reading. 
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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Monday, April 17, 2017

A report from Caffeinated Conservatives meeting of April 15.

Hi All, 

This is a follow-up to our Caffeinated Conservatives meeting of April 15 with Bobbie Patray of the Tennessee Eagle Forum as our featured speaker.  It was a great meeting, and well attended considering it's the Easter weekend.

Bobbie talked about a variety of issues being discussed in the state legislature this year.  One of her first topics was Tennessee being the first state to file a lawsuit against the federal government for violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution with regard to the federal refugee resettlement programs.  While laws and administration of immigration are set at the federal level, there are huge costs to Tennessee taxpayers who are not having a say in the matter. 

The discussion then rolled into the issue of in-state tuition for illegals, which has been proposed in two separate bills in the legislature.  One bill was killed last week in a House committee, but the second bill HB 660 / SB 635 sponsored by Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) and Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), respectively, is still in play. 

Bobbie shared a link in her newsletter to The Tennessee Star article, which she said explained the current situation very well.  You can find that story here:


Bobbie also mentioned that to get educated on the political aspects of Islam (not religious), Dr. Bill Warner is an excellent source.  Dr. Warner is a well-known researcher and authority on the topic, and speaks frequently to packed venues in Europe.  His website can be found here:


Gene Wisdom, during the announcements portion of the coffee talk, mentioned The Bastiat Society, named for Frenchman Frederic Bastiat, best known for his essay translated as "The Law."  The essay was first published in 1850 after the third French Revolution and is based in the same theory as the US Constitution - that each of us has a natural right - from GOD - to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that philanthropy is a bottomless pit that should not be taken on by government.  A quick synopsis of the book can be found on Wikipedia here:


And, if you're interested in going to a meeting of the Society, see below for information.  Thanks, Gene, for sharing.

In closing, it's worth repeating what Bobbie said about "closing the circle" of information.  When you receive the Tennessee Eagle Forum newsletter, or read or a factual story/article (hopefully that would include The Tennessee Star), please share it.  You all have been taking the time for a long time to get educated and understand the issues.  Don't let that end with you.  Doing something is a whole lot better than doing nothing.

And, please don't forget to support your legislator if they're doing the right thing.  It's a whole lot easier to do that, if it's your first foray into dealing with politicians.  Here's a link to the Tennessee General Assembly website.  If you need help with contacting your legislator or a particular piece of legislation, we encourage you to reach out to us.  We'd be more than happy to assist.


With that, Easter blessings to you all,

Laura and Kevin

PS See you on May 20th, 12 to 2 pm, Uncommon Grounds, Donelson Avenue, Old Hickory

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Bob Corker, guest of 1st Tuesday, April 24th.

From Tim Skow:

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends

 Its EXTREMELY rare to hear from and ask questions in a private setting of today's most critically important US Senators. That is exactly the opportunity before us Monday, April 24th when Tennessee Senator BOB CORKER returns to 1ST TUESDAY.

Bob Corker returns to 1st Tuesday
Most know Senator Corker was on the short list to become Trump's VP and Sec. of State. Sen. Corker
is Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The topics he deals with are stunning, challenging, difficult, complex and much more: 1] Syria 2] Putin 3] North Korea 4] ''Mother Of All Bombs'' ... US Military actions 5] China’s state visit 6] Rex Tillerson 7] The Wall 8] The Press 9] Iraq 10 ] TRUMP ! ......

This is going to be Q&A Session unlike any other !!! 

Senator Corker plans for brief comments and the rest of our hour for Q&A. Come prepared to ask questions ! This is simply a MUST SEE event.

This event will SELL OUT! 

We must start 30 minutes early to meet his flight schedule. Doors at Waller Law [511 Union Street -27th floor] open at 10:30. Lunch is $20 for Members and $25 for Guests and begins at 11:00. Senator Corker will begin shortly after 11:30. Q& A will end at 12:30 sharp with him departing.

Secure seating at www.1sttuesdaynashville.com and click on “JOIN US’’. Or make your check to 1ST TUESDAY and mail to my attention by April 17th. Email me... or call ... if you do so. You will get a confirming return email from me !!! Send to: Tim Skow Box 1233 Brentwood, TN 37024.

See you MONDAY, April 24th !
Tim Skow Host of 1ST TUESDAY

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