Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fran Bush under attack for her criticism of Dr Shawn Joseph

Fran Bush
by Rod Williams, 2/20/2019 - The herd mentality of the African-American community is on display here in Nashville in an effort to oust School Board member Fran Bush. Ms Bush who is African-American is one of three vocal critics of Dr. Shawn Joseph on the nine-member elected school board. The other leading vocal critics are Jill Speering and Amy Frogge who are Caucasian.

We know how any politically conservative Black person is treated by the larger African-American community.  A Black person finds it difficult to deviate from Black group-think without being ostracized and denounced. Black conservatives are often denounced as "Uncle Tom."  Even in non-political matters the denunciation of "acting white" is used to criticize Blacks who speak proper English or strive to join the middle-class.  This effort to enforce a sameness and solidarity on the part of Blacks extends to cultural things such as music, fashion, or food.  A Black may jokingly tell another Black person that they will have their "Black card" revoked if they deviate from accepted Black norms. Blacks often rally behind other Blacks even when the person they are rallying behind is a crook or incompetent or an attention seeking loud mouth.  This factor has been on display in the case of Dr. Shawn Joseph.

Dr. Joseph is incompetent and rules the Metro Public Schools like an autocratic old-style boss.  It is reported that he bullies teachers and intimidates critics. He also displays his privileged position by having a chauffeur to drive him where he needs to go in his School Board provided $55,000 Tahoe.  He is the first School Board superintendent to have a luxury car and a chauffeur.  Under his leadership, complaints against employees for misconduct are often not handled in the prescribed manner.  Contracts have been let without bids. He has often misled School Board members about what is going on in the administration of the schools.  For a small sample of some of what the media has reported about Dr. Joseph's questionable conduct and practices follow these links: link, link, link, link, link.

In addition to cronyism, creating a toxic work environment, carelessness or misuse of school funds, and failure to follow State procedures when confronted with misconduct of school personnel, Metro School are failing.  Last year there was a substantial spike in the number of Metro Schools on the Tennessee Department of Education's list of the lowest performing schools.  Also, despite Metro Nashville's population rising, the number of children enrolled in Metro Schools is declining. Many people with children moving to the Nashville area move to a surrounding county where the schools are much better or they send their children to private schools.

In response to criticism of his failure to improve schools and his questionable management practices, Dr. Joseph has played the race card and claimed that the criticism of his administration of Metro Schools was the same product of the factors that led to the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the treatment of other African-American men. Many Black leaders have circled the wagons around Joseph and defended him.  I can see no other reason for protecting him other than the fact he is Black.  Also, many white leaders have been hesitant to criticize Joseph.  There is a tendency on the part of White liberals to bend over backwards to excuse and ignore incompetence  or corruption on the part of Black leaders.  I don't know if it a merely a knee-jerk political calculation or genuine response conditioned by White guilt, but behavior or practices that would be denounced if a White person did it are often overlooked on the part of Blacks.

Fran Bush who is Black has shown courage in standing up to Dr. Joseph and being critical of his administration.  Now, there is an  effort to make her pay for it.  There is an online petition at Change.org calling for her ouster. As of 1:30pm today the petition had 232 signature. That is not a huge number but this movement to punish Bush needs to be watched. We do not have a recall provision in the Metro Charter so signed petitions cannot remove an elected official. However, such organized criticism may cause a person to modify their behavior and weaken their resolve to stand by their convictions.  If a person so criticized is concerned about serving more than one term, they may try to make nice with their critics. Also, such an effort may be a warning shot to others they they better not step out of line.  

I have posted a word of encouragement on Fran Bush's Facebook page. You may want to take a moment to encourage her and let her know that she is doing the right thing and you support her. You can find her Facebook page at the highlighted link or email her at franbush5@gmail.com.

 

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Is recycling just so much garbage?

by Rod Williams, 2-18-2019 - There have been a couple stories in the press recently about recycling. "Nashville answers call for more recycling with expansion of curbside collection," in the Tennessean says that with the help of a $2 million state grant and a match from the city, Metro will increase the frequency of its curbside recycling collection from once a month to every other week starting next year. This is welcome news, assuming separated recyclables actually get recycled and saves the city money and helps the environment.  I still have boxes of cardboard stored in my basement.  There is just Louella and myself in our household yet we create a lot of waste paper.  I still get the print edition of the newspaper and that generates a lot of waste and I order wine online and it is carefully packed and generates a lot of waste and in December my daughter sent me some gifts via Amazon which produced a lot of cardboard.

 
The other news item was a Tennessean article by Ms Cheap, "Plastic bags, pizza boxes and other ways you may be messing up your recycling." This provided good information about how contaminating recyclables by things like greasy pizza boxes and plastic bags sabotages the recycling effort and how the city is going to step up its education program to let people know what can and cannot be recycled. I would think this is a wise move, if I believed it mattered. What the article did not address and what I don't know is this: Does it all end up in the landfill anyway?

In the last year, I have seen several news reports and read several articles that said that China had drastically reduced the amount of waste paper they were accepting from the U.S.  Some of the stories said the U.S. was finding other markets in India and a few other third world countries.  Then I started seeing stories that China and India had also stopped accepting plastic. One article said that Thailand was still accepting plastic but had such a large inventory, they were contemplating ending the practice. Reports also said that several cities have ended up unable to sell their recylables and ended up simply land-filling them.

Markets are broad-based. If any single city is having a problem disposing of their recyclables then, the problem must be effecting all cities.  Maybe, a city can benefit from having long-term contracts but eventually if Sacramento County, California is having problems disposing of their recyclables, Nashville will have the same problem. 

To find out the status of Metro's recycling program, in November of 2018, I wrote the following letter to the chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee and a similar letter to my own councilman:
Dear Councilman _____,  

I am seeking some information that I hope you have or can get for me.  As chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee I thought you may be the person best informed on this topic.  I am wanting to know the current status of Metro's waste recycling program. There was a USA Today article in today's Tennessean that addressed the problems facing recycling. If you didn't see it you can find it at this link:Will those holiday gift boxes actually get recycled? Um, maybe.  In our newspaper it was headlined, "Changing times create big trouble for recycling," but it is the same article.

According to this article, in Sacramento County, California a year ago the city was getting paid up to $95 a ton for mixed paper and now it is getting as low at $6.50. Whereas the county was getting paid $45 a ton for plastics, now they have to pay $35 a ton to get a recycler to take it away. Other things I have read say that some firms are getting much more picky about the recycling material they will accept.  Also the future looks gloomy for recycling, since China takes most of America's recyclables and the trade conflict with China may impact China's willingness to keep purchasing it. 

What I would like to know is what change has there been in what we are paid for a ton of materials  (paper, tin, aluminum, plastic) in the past as compared to now.  I know recycling saves landfill disposal cost and that is a benefit. Have we gone from recycling being a net financial benefit to the city to it being a net liability?


Any light you could shed on this topic, would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
Rod Williams
 My letter was referred to Public Works and got the following correspondence:
Mr. Williams,
 
Recent changes in how China accepts the importing of recyclable material has impacted cities and counties across America.  While Nashville’s recyclables do not tend to go overseas, the local US markets have been flooded with material no longer accepted in China which has made those local US markets more competitive.  The biggest impact we have seen in Nashville is issues regarding contamination.  Metro has to be much more vigilant in educating residents about contamination in our recycling.  A recent audit of our curbside recycling showed that a lot of residents are putting plastic bags and plastic bags full of recyclables in curbside recycling carts.  This has become concern as the bags (and their contents) can get stuck in sorting equipment, damage the equipment and ultimately end up in the trash.  Highly contaminated loads of recyclables may have to be run through the sorting equipment more than once and this does increase processing costs.  Public Works has started auditing routes, placing tags on carts with plastic bags and bagged recyclables, posting information on social media and providing information to our elected officials and neighborhoods on the problems with contamination.  At this point, Metro has had no change in processing costs but we are having conversations with our contractor and our costs may increase in the future.    
 
Please feel free to call or email with any other questions.
 
Sharon Smith, Assistant Director
While this was helpful it did not exactly address what I asked, so I followed up with a more specific request for information.
I recently spoke to someone who appears knowledgeable who told me that in actuality Nashville curbside recyclables end up in the landfill.  I understand that due to contamination, some recyclable may be unmarketable and that some may have to be disposed of by landfilling.  However, this person seemed to say that land filling of recyclables was routine and not isolated or not just a minor component. Could you please answer for me the following questions:

1. What approximate percentage of material collected by the curbside recycling program ends up in the landfill?

2. Are we paying to have someone take recyclables off our hand or are we getting paid for recyclable material?

3. If we are getting paid, what is the unit price being paid for various types of material, such as paper, aluminum, tin, plastic?

4. When is the last time a cost-benefit analysis has been done of our curbside recycling program?

5. Compared to household solid waste disposal, is the curbside recycling program a net cost or a net gain for the city.

Thank you, I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,
Rod Williams
After another vague response, I again asked for specifics:
Dear Ms Smith,

Thank you for that information.  If you could answer for me the following I would appreciate it. How has the more stringent standards on contamination affected the bottom line on the economic effectiveness of metro's recycling program. Are the processors of Metro's recyclable products rejecting just a little more than before or a lot? Are the rejecting 10% of our recyclables or more like 90%?  How big is the problem?

Also, is Metro's recycling programs a net financial benefit or a net financial loss? Do we have to pay to have recyclables taken away or to we get paid for them?

If we are paid, what is the price for various types of recyclable material?

If there is a study or documents that summarizes the status of metro's recycling program, I would welcome receiving a copy of it. 

Sincerely,
I never did get specific answers to my questions. If I was a paid journalist with an assignment, I would be more pushy or if I was a Metro Council member asking these questions I would demand answers.  I let it drop. I suspect if the news was good, Public Works would have been forthcoming with an answer.  Based on what I read about the status of recycling nationwide, the non-answers to my questions, and what I have been told by someone who may know, I suspect that when you carefully separate your garbage from your recyclables that it then all ends up in the landfill anyway. I don't know that for an absolute fact, but suspect it is so. If you faithfully recycle, I am not suggesting you stop doing it but don't feel so vitreous. It is probably a wasted effort. It probably ends up in the same place.

If there is a council member or a member of the press who is curious about answers to the questions I have asked, I would encourage you to seek those answers.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Nashville is 14th most dangerous city in America

by Rod Williams, Feb. 17, 2019 - If you have an impression that crime is getting really bad in Nashville, it is not an illusion.  Often in can be. Media focuses on crime and a few bad episodes, such as the horrific murder of a 24-year old musician by five teens last week, can cause one to think crime is worse than it really is.  However, it really is bad. 

According the travel site EscapeHere, Nashville is the fourteenth most dangerous city in America.  According to the report: "In the year 2017 there were 110 homicides in the Nashville metropolitan area. Also, the crime rate was 1,138 per 100,000 residents and the poverty rate sat at about 18-percent. The murder rate in this city is so bad that the Oasis Center of Nashville which works to help at risk youth in the area called it an epidemic, according to 24/7 Wall St."

Cities with a worse crime rate than Nashville include Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois;  Baltimore, Maryland and the most dangerous city in America, St Louis, Missouri.  Also, surprising to me, two other cities with worse crime than Nashville and among the most dangerous cities in America are Memphis as the second most dangerous city in America and Chattanooga at number 7.  For three Tennessee cities to be among the nations top 14 most dangerous does not speak good for our state. Crime however is a local problem and the state government can not do much to combat it.

Among cities that one may think of as dangerous cities but actually rank as less dangerous than Nashville, is Newark, New Jersey at number 22.  I have a daughter who lives in New Orleans and I have visited the city several times. I love New Orleans.  In many ways it resembles a third world country and it has long had a reputation of a dangerous crime-ridden city. New Orleans is not near as dangerous as Nashville however. It ranks as the 24th most dangerous and it has a violent crime rate of 1,121 per 100,000 residents and 157 homicides. The poverty rate of the city was 26.2-percent. 

None of the cities with which we are often compared such as Austin, Texas or Charlotte, North Carolina  or Raleigh-Durham are on the list.  Neither is Atlanta on the list. Note that the study is called 25 Most Dangerous Cities In The US In 2019, but the data being analyzed is 2017 statistics.  My impression is that crime is considerable worse in Nashville now than two years ago.  It may be an impression that is false but it sure seems to me that things are getting worse.  I also have the impression that whereas in the past, a lot of the crime was Black on Black crime, now it is more general throughout the community. Also, I have had an impression that in the past most crime was either related to interaction between people who knew each other, such as domestic violence crime, or due to things like drug deals gone bad.  Now, there seems to be many more random acts of violence and targeted crime. A front page article in today's Tennessean report that gun thefts from cars was up 85 percent in two years.

We know that cities can be safe and big at the same time. We should not just accept that Nashville has a high crime rate.  Something shoud be done. We know that our police department is undermanned.  I hear complaints when talking to members of the community who are in a position to know, such as councilmen and lawyers, that for non-emergency interactions with the police such as reporting minor crimes, that there are long waits.  Also, the growth in the police department has not kept pace with the growth in tourism and population. 

To address our rising crime, we need new leadership in Nashville, including a new mayor and new council members who will prioritize essential services. Also, while I think Chief Anderson is a good man, it may be time for him to retire. We may need new leadership at the police department.  Since the Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the mayor, a police chief can only be so vocal in calling attention to the needs of his department, but Chief Anderson could do more to highlight the growing problem of crime in Nashville. Crime is becoming a major problem in Nashville and we need to treat it as such.


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Saturday, February 16, 2019

The "Green New Deal" is a Green Disaster

Rep. Phil Roe
by Phil Roe - Elections have consequences. Under the House Republican majority in the previous Congress, we focused on creating jobs, growing the economy, improving our security, taking care of our veterans, and making America energy independent.  Now that House Democrats have the majority, they have replaced our agenda with an agenda much more closely aligned with socialist principles and government control over all aspects of life. As President Trump pointed out in his State of the Union speech, history is littered with examples of the destruction caused by socialism, with Venezuela being the most recent. No document better lays out Democrats’ embrace of socialism than their recently-introduced “Green New Deal.”

The resolution, H.Res. 109, has the support of 68 House Democrats and 12 Democrats in the Senate on their version. Senate Democrats supporting this resolution include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), among others. The resolution puts forth a goal for the United States to meet 100 percent of the U.S. power demand using zero-emission energy sources. This would require stopping the production of oil, natural gas, and coal – three of our most abundant energy sources and the energy sources that power 80% of our economy. The resolution also calls for updating or replacing ALL U.S. buildings, and calls for “guaranteeing a job . .  for all people of the United States.”

Some of their proposals are far too extreme and unrealistic to achieve in their 10-year goal. For instance, the resolution calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions” and “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), put out a FAQ along with the resolution to illustrate some of the policies the resolution calls for. The FAQ states they “aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast,” - you can’t make this stuff up! Why on earth would anyone want to eliminate air travel or livestock from our agricultural system?

Here’s the most troubling part of the Green New Deal: it’s not about climate change, it’s about centralizing control of our economy with the government. Within the FAQ, the bill’s sponsors indicate the goals of the new deal include: providing “economic security for all who are…unwilling to work;” to “create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs;” “guaranteeing…higher education;” and to “ensure a just transition for all communities and workers…that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries.”

Their plan to pay for this legislation is through credit extended by the Federal Reserve or by new public banks, or a carbon tax. California’s failed plan to build a high-speed rail is a prime example of how this “deal” would bring devastation to our country. The rail was estimated to exceed $77 billion in costs by the time of completion, and since abandoning the project, California has to return $3.5 billion to the federal government. The Democratic resolution isn’t a “green dream”, as Nancy Pelosi called it – it’s a green nightmare and a socialist fantasy.

If we are interested in reducing emissions, local communities are already leading the way with commonsense changes that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are good for the economy and taxpayers at the same time. While I served on the Johnson City Commission, including my time as Mayor, we worked to cap the gas coming out of our landfill – which is made up of methane – and used it to heat and cool the Mountain Home VA Medical Center instead of burning the methane off into the atmosphere. For that, we received a national award from the EPA. We also audited all our public buildings for energy efficiency and established a ‘Green Team’ that could work with entities to find ways to help them be more environmentally friendly. Johnson City was the first municipality in Tennessee to offer curbside recycling, and we replaced stoplight and streetlight bulbs with energy efficient bulbs that save energy and taxpayer dollars.

I’m all for solutions that will leave our children and grandchildren a healthier planet, but the extreme Green New Deal is not the answer.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.  

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Democratic lawmakers propose reforming Tennessee Democratic Party structure

Democrats in the State legislature have filed a bill to change the structure of the State Democratic Party.  Currently, the Party's State Executive Committee is composed of committee members from each State senatorial district with each district having the same number of people on the Executive Committee. The bill's lead sponsor in the Senate is Jason Powell.

The bill does not mandate how the Committee should be restructured but calls for the Party to have a state-wide convention to do so.  The argument for doing this is that the current structure gives Democrats in overwhelmingly Republicans Senatorial Districts the same number of votes in determining Democrat policies as do Democrats in heavily Democratic Senatorial districts. That is not considered fair.

I am totally in favor of the proposed change. It is fair.  And, it will tilt the party even further to the left with intercity Blacks, progressives, socialist, and younger people having a stronger voice in the party. This will quicken the pace at which sensible old style "conservative" Democrats realize they are no longer at home in the Democratic Party.  They will realize that the new socialist Democratic Party is not their daddy's Democratic Party and it is time to migrate to the Republican Party.

For more on this, follow this link.

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Senator Lamar Alexander: Trump's declaratiion of National Emergency is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution

Lamar Alexander
Senator Lamar Alexander - The president has made a strong case for increased border security, but declaring a national emergency is unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It is unnecessary because significant additional money already has been approved by Congress that he could spend on border security without declaring a national emergency. In fact, the president announced today that he would spend $3 billion of this additional funding to fund construction of the border wall. This $3 billion is in addition to the $22 billion Congress appropriated on Thursday for detention beds, technology, border patrol agents, ports of entry, replacing existing wall and 55 miles of new wall.

It is unwise because if this president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next president can declare a national emergency to tear it down; or declare a climate change emergency to close coal plants and build wind turbines; or a health care emergency and force into Medicare the 180 million Americans with health insurance on the job.

It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution because, after the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

A $23 million hole in the Metro budget as land sales fail

by Mike Reicher, The Tennessean - Nashville Mayor David Briley’s attempt to plug a $23 million budget shortfall by selling publicly-owned real estate isn’t going so well. 

One sale was scrapped by community opposition. Another parcel attracted just a single bidder and sold well under the appraised value. A third received no bids at all. .... Briley hasn’t said how he will cover the year’s operating expenses without the proceeds,... At-large councilman John Cooper criticized how the city sold the parcels through its online auction platform. That system is typically used to dispose of unused office furniture, school buses and other surplus city property. 

Rod's Comment: To summarized the rest of the article, one reason we could not sale the property in addition to trying to sell it on a webpage normally used to sell surplus office furniture, is that the city required the sale to close within 30 days. Usually a lot of due-diligence goes into such a sale on the part of the buyer and such a sale would take six months to close. Also, Metro requires ten percent down which is about double what would be required in a normal sale.

Selling property to fund operating budgets is a bad idea. Using one-time money for reoccurring expenses is just not wise. We have been terribly mismanaged and continue to be. We are having massive cost overruns on projects, we are paying consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars on days they spend socializing with Metro officials, we let contracts without taking bids, we spend $60 million dollars to build three and half miles of sidewalk, and we give million of dollars in "incentives" to one of the richest companies in the world. At the same time all of this is happening, we are understaffed in police protection, our roads are falling apart, we have not added new fire halls to reflect the city's growth, Metro employees could not get a promised cost of living raise, and our schools are failing.

It is time for a change in leadership and new mechanisms need to be put in place so it is less easy to hide mismanagement and corruption.

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A President Trump Happy Valentine's Day














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When Cities Go To War: Why Tax Incentives Are 'Terrible' | Think | NBC News




This short video from NBC news, obviously not a hotbed of libertarian dogma, explains that you cannot create wealth by purchasing jobs and that the hype of the benefits of attracting the new company rarely lives up to the expectation.  The basic unfairness of taxing existing local business to subsidized new arriving wealthy companies is stated.

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