Monday, April 23, 2018

Metro spends over $1million a year to lobby the State and Federal for more money. Should they?

by Rod Williams - According to an article in The Tennessean on March 2, Nashville increases lobbying contract by 58 percent to more than $1 million, it was reported that on Feb. 8th the Barry administration approved a $409,000 increase to the large multi-state law firm of Adams and Reese. This firm lobbies the state and federal government on behalf of the city. That increased the annual payout to the firm to $1.1 million.  Part of the justification for increasing the lobbying expenses is that the firm will be working to secure federal funding for the mayor's $9 billion transit proposal.

Controversy was generated relating to the law firm when a partner in the law firm wrote a letter asking District Attorney Glenn Funk to recuse himself from the criminal investigating into Barry's affair. That is highly inappropriate. A legal firm hired to represent the city should not be coming to the assistance of the mayor facing criminal charges. Thanks to Councilman John Cooper for raising a stink about it. By the way, I want to say that I think John Cooper is one of the best three or four members of the Metro Council. I did not vote for his election, but if he runs again I will. I watch every Council meeting and often watch meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee as well and Councilman Cooper often ask probing questions and looks out for the interest of the taxpayers. When he talks he knows what he is talking about. To stay as informed and on top of it as John Cooper one has to be doing a lot of homework. Now, back to the topic at hand.

The inappropriateness of the firm advocating on behalf of Mayor Barry aside, should the city hire lobbyist? I think not. We have state representatives and state senators to represent the interest of the citizens of the city at the state level, and U. S. representatives and senators to represent the interest of the citizens at the federal level.  A mayor can pick up the phone and call any of them and I am sure they will take his call. A mayor can write a letter explaining his logic of why the basic education funding formula should be changed to benefit the city or why the city needs a federal grant to fund a transit program. And, the mayor has staff to help compose the letters.  The Metro Council can pass memorializing resolution asking for funding or policies that benefit the city. Citizens have the right to partition their government, but it seems inappropriate for one unit of government to lobby for increased funding from another unit of government. In effect, Metro lobbying the state or federal government is Metro lobbying for greater state and federal taxation of the citizens.

Also, I think it would be inappropriate for a school board to hire lobbyist to lobby a mayor and a council for more funding.  I think it would be inappropriate for The University of Tennessee to have a lobbyist to lobby the state legislature or the governor. Not only is in inappropriate, I think it should be illegal. Since it is not illegal, as the Metro Council considers the budget I think they should take a long hard look at the amount of money the city pays for lobbyist and make sure it is appropriate and justified.  A million dollars paid to a lobbyist if instead was added to the school budget, could go a long way in restoring the social worker positions cut from the school budget.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Tennessean endorsements for May 1 Nashville election

The most important item on the ballot of May 1st is the referendum on a $9billlion transit plan. The Tennessean favors it.  I urge you to vote against it. It will make Nashville have the highest sales tax rate in the nation, relies on antiquated fix rail and will do little to relieve traffic congestion. By reducing roadway capacity it may make traffic congestion worse. It will not make trips faster than by car.  At a time when technology is making other options available and when nationwide mass transit ridership is on the decline we do not need to be building a massively expensive system more suited for the 19the century than the future.

In addition to the transit referendum, this election is a primary election. There is both a Democrat and a Republican primary but there are no Republicans candidates running in the Republican primary. One may vote just for the referendum question and skip the primary or vote in the Republican primary with no candidates or vote in the Democrat primary. Just because you may self identify as a Republican does not mean you cannot vote in the Democrat primary. We do not have party registration in Tennessee. In Tennessee there is no such thing as a "registered Republican" or "registered Democrat." 

To vote for any of the candidates seeking office you will have to vote as a Democrat, which is probably what I am going to do. I may however, vote in the Republican primary and write my own name in each slot. I am unsure at this point. The winners of the May 1st election will have their name appear on the August 2nd ballot but will most likely run unopposed.  If you ever intent to run for office as a Republican or as an officer in the Davidson County Republican Party you may not want to vote in the Democrat primary. I don't, so I probably will vote in the Democrat primary.

Today, Sunday April 22, The Tennessean made their endorsements for the May 1st election.  Here is whom The Tennessean is recommending:

  • Circuit Court Clerk: Richard Rooker
  • Davidson County clerk: Brenda Wynn
  • Trustee: Charlie Cardwell
  • Public Defender: Martesha Johnson
  • Chancery Court Part II: Anne Martin
  • Criminal Court Division II:  Angie Blackshear Dalton
  • General Sessions Court, Division III: Ana Escobar 
  • General Sessions Court, Division X: Joyce Grimes Safle
  • Criminal clerk of court: Howard Gentry
  • Juvenile clerk of court: Lonnell Matthews Jr.
  • Register of deeds: Karen Johnson
  • Sheriff:  Daron Hall
The first four candidates are running unopposed. For a sample ballot on the referendum question follow this link, for the empty Republican primary ballot follow this link, for the Democrat primary ballot follow this linkThe Tennessean article explains the function of each office and why they endorsed the candidates they endorsed. To read The Tennessean article follow this link. My recommendations do not differ much from those of The Tennessean, to read my commentary on the candidates and see my recommendations follow this link.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earth Day Art Break: A polar bear adjusts to global warming...

A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on - by Rod Williams

Artist Statement

My art is not so much a single act of purposeful creation as an evolution that emerges from subconscious unarticulated values, believes, desires, and life experiences. My medium is causally accumulated discardable household objects. That a piece has a theme often does not emerge until after layer upon layer there is a recognition that the various elements in the construction have a commonality or relatedness that creates the whole.

About A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on

My Earth Day art contributions, A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on, began as just an old painted clay pot in which I had put a cutting of Aloe Vera and placed in a kitchen window seal. I have always kept Aloe Vera in my kitchen. It is a miracle cure for burns. Just break a piece and rub the sap on a burn and it immediately stops the pain and prevents blisters. The pot sat on my window seal and the cutting grew for some years.

The next addition was the polar bear which I purchased at Dollar Tree to amuse a loved one who is mentally disabled and at the time found a child-like delight in the simplest of things.  After my loved one had enjoyed the polar bear, I simply placed it in the Aloe Vera pot without a motivation. However, I was struck by the combination and juxtaposition of the succulent plant species which  grows wild in tropical climates and the figurine of an arctic polar bear. Still, the piece was not recognized as a unitary composition. 

The next addition was the owl which came in a gift of arranged flowers. Being one who hates to throw out usable things even when I no longer need them, I simply causally stuck it in the Aloe Vera plant pot. It seemed to fit. It was then that I recalled the notoriety of the "spotted" owl popularized by former senator and environmentalist Al Gore. I then began thinking of the owl as a "spotted owl" and the piece as a unitary composition. The "mutated chickens" had been sitting on top of a kitchen cabinet. Originally purchased as a gift that was never given, some of the set had been broken. Rather than throw them out, I incorporated them into the piece. They seemed to fit.

A problem with creating art in this fashion is deciding when a piece is complete. Traditional artist using more conventional mediums however, and others engaged in creative arts such a literary writers sometimes have the same problem and will continue to cut and add and repaint or rewrite until at some point they must decide a work is complete. This piece also had another element which I have since deleted. Also, for a while, I thought the piece said more without the mutated chickens. I debated removing the chickens and simply calling the piece, A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted own looks on, but eventually decided to keep the chicken component.

While the piece is obviously a reflection on global warming, I leave it up to the viewer to interpret the message of the composition for himself.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Mayor David Briley wants to regulate gun ownwership

Last night at Maplewood High School at the first of Mayor David Briley's series of town hall meetings, he said if he had the power he would regulate gun ownership. He also said he will ask gun shop owners to stop selling "things we don't need in our town."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What happened at the 4/17/18 Council Meeting: nothing exciting, Committee investigating Mayor Barry dissolved, South Nashville Central Business Improvement District approved.




This meeting is only a little over an hour and half long. Nothing very important happens and their is little of controversy. At the start of the meeting, after the prayer and pledge, the Council takes a recess to have a group picture taken in Predator's jerseys. After that, there are a couple of presentations, one is honoring former vice mayor Jay West. Following that, then candidates for office are permitted to come to the lectern and introduce themselves. The Council does not start consideration of the agenda until 25 minutes into the meeting. To access the Council agenda, the Council staff analysis and my commentary on  the meeting, follow this link.

All appointees to Boards and Commission are confirmed by voice vote. At timestamp 32 the public hearings began. Below are highlights of the meeting.

Public Hearing. There are only two bills on public hearing.

Bill BL2018-1139  approving the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan is substituted and deferred until May 15th.

Bill BL2018-1140  on Third Reading creates a South Nashville Central Business Improvement District. A district such as this creates a governing body which may impose additional taxes on businesses within the district for project within the district. This is a big deal. No one speaks in opposition and only one in favor. Because no one speaks on a bill does not indicate lack of interest. Often council members hold numerous meeting on a bill in their district before it ever reaches the Council and resolve any issues at that level. 
Resolutions of interest:

Resolution RS2018-1138  approves an amendment to a grant from the State of Tennessee to work with Hispanic victims of crime and their families who find the criminal justice system disorienting due to language limitations and cultural understanding.  The State grant would be increased to $969,421.00 and Metro's match wold be $123,618.00. This passes on the consent agenda.
Resolution RS2018-1149 is a resolution approving an application for a grant from the Greater Nashville Regional Council to The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, "to design, construct, and evaluate a spine of three major separated bikeways and one minor separated bikeway in East Nashville to connect communities, encourage active transportation, and decrease automobile dependence." Apparently, there had been quite a bit of interest in this issue and council members had gotten letters in favor and in opposition. The grant request would be for $1.29 million and the local match would be $287,000. To see the discussion see timestamp 50:28- 54:15. It passes on a voice vote with no audible "no's."
Resolution RS2018-1154 dissolves the Special Committee set up to investigate the wrong doings of Mayor Barry. This passes on the consent agenda.
Bills on Second Reading: There are six. Here are the ones of interest:
Bill BL2018-1111 would put under the purview of the Board of Ethical Conduct and the Standards of Conduct those who violate executive orders regarding rules of conduct. Currently this board only has authority to act on those who violate a section of the Metro code concerning standards of conduct. This passes on a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1142  would require that 4% fund request resolutions affecting only a single Council district must be preceded by written notice to the Council member representing that district at least one week before the resolution is filed with the Metropolitan Clerk.This is deferred to the first meeting in August.
Bills on Third Reading
Bill BL2018-1122  reinstates a policy that requires the location of waste transfer stations be approved by the council by resolution prior to the applicant appealing the siting of the facility to the Board of Zoning appeal. This was the policy for twenty years, then in August 2017, Metro adopted a law that applied to how other certain sensitive uses are approved and inadvertently changed the policy for the approval of waste transfer station. This simply changes the law back to the way it was before and corrects a mistake. The bill has been misunderstood and created some confusion and concern. After some explanation, the bill passes on a voice vote.


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