Monday, November 20, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for 11/21/2017: A bond issue for $133 million and not much else of interest.

I do not see anything on this agenda that is likely to generate controversy. There is no public hearing, so this should be a relatively short meeting.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

There are nine mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation and as always they will be affirmed. There are no resolutions or bills on Public hearing. 

There are 14 resolutions all of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes unanimously the committees to which has been assigned. Since the committees have not met yet, some resolutions which are listed as on the consent agenda may not be on the consent agenda when the council meets. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Resolutions on the consent agenda are lumped together and passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. Any member of the body however, may have a resolution pulled off of the consent agenda or have their "no" vote or abstention recorded. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. Below are the resolutions of interest.

RESOLUTION RS2017-963  approve the issuance of up to $133.2 million in  general obligation bonds to provide funding for various projects contained in the Mayor’s mid-year Capital Spending Plan. That is a lot of money. However, this is nothing to be alarmed about. This planned spending is for projects known about and approved. It includes additional funding for a planned community ice center in Bellevue operated by the Nashville Predators, additional funding for the ongoing renovation of Hillsboro High School, construction of a new Metro police headquarters on Murfeesboro Pike, and reconstruction of the Criminal Justice Center, which houses the downtown jail. All of these projects are already under way. I expect this to be approved without controversy. For more on this, read the bill or the Council staff analysis. To read The Tennessean report on this bill follow this link.
RESOLUTION RS2017-965  declares certain properties as surplus and gives the property to selected nonprofit organizations, and authorizes grants of up to $4.5 million from the Barnes Fund for affordable housing to the selected nonprofit organizations for the purpose of constructing and rehabilitating affordable or "workforce" housing. This is fulfillment of what is already a policy. To see the address of the properties and a list of the non-profits and how much each receive, read the bill. The Woodbine Community Organization gets $1.2 million which is the largest grant.

RESOLUTION RS2017-966  authorizes the Mayor to employ the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann &Bernstein, LLP, as special counsel to pursue claims against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids that have "wrongfully caused drug addiction in Davidson County."
 Bills on First reading: There are 21 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading. I do not read them until they get to second reading. Bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in extremely rare cases.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 13 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
BILL BL2017-949 codifies what is already a policy of metro and establishes a debt management policy for the city.  Metro would be prohibited from issuing or incurring any debt in violation of this debt management policy unless approved in advance by Council resolution. To understand the policy, see the bill and the staff analysis. This is a good bill.

BILL BL2017-952 says that private consultants and contractors who offer services assessing the initial cost, feasibility or adoption of a public project would be prohibited from subsequently bidding on the actual project. This seems like a reasonable policy.  

BILL BL2017-953  restrict door-to-door commercial solicitation to daylight hours. As one who once sold cable TV door-to-door when Viacon was new to Nashville, this seems overly restrictive, especially in the winter when it is dark at 5:30. When I was selling cable, I often worked till 8PM. 
Bills on Third Reading. There are 27 bills on third reading. Most are zoning bills that have been approved by the Planning Commission or are approved subject to modification as recommended by the Planning Commission. Below are the ones of interest.
BILL BL2017-939 would add additional obstacles to adopting the mayor's proposed transit plan. The state enabling legislation allowing for transit improvement known as the IMPROVE Act, provides that a  transit improvement program be adopted by ordinance or resolution by majority vote of the local government’s legislative body. This bills specifies that such a plan must must be approved by ordinance rather than a resolution. A resolution only requires one vote of the Council; a ordinance requires three votes. This is a good bill. It passed Second Reading on a voice vote.

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 and you can watch it live on Roku. 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 on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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Something to be thankful for: the cost of a 2017 Thanksgiving dinner is lower than last year and 23% lower than 1986

A lot of people really believe a lot of false stuff and it is hard to talk them out of if.  One false thing people believe is that violent crime is worse than in the past.  News of mass shootings and knowledge of rampant Black on Black gang related crime in a few cities can lead one to think that crime is worse, but overall  your chance of being a victim of crime is much less than in the past forty of so years.  I am not going to dig out the data to document this point but it is true.  If you doubt me, do the research.

Another thing people believe that is false is that groceries cost more than in the past. I had an elderly relative recently lament the cost of groceries and she told me that every time she went to the grocery store it seems like it cost more. She said the cost of groceries just keep going up.  That is not my experience. It seems like every time I go grocery shopping I see more little Kroger tags below items that say, "new lower price."  I have seen the data, groceries are consistently getting less costly.

Part of the reason people may think that groceries are more expensive is because they buy more expensive items and additional items. Twenty years ago bottled water was not a common grocery store purchase, now many people think they must buy water at the store rather than drink tap water.  Also, shoppers may buy the more expensive but convenient salad in a bag rather than a head of lettuce and other produce to make their own salad.  If, however, you are buying comparable quality of groceries, prices have dropped significantly. They have dropped in inflation adjusted dollars and in percent of income allocated to groceries.

I don't know why people want to believe bad news even when it is false. After all, there is really enough bad news to be depressed about. One reason I think ready to believe bad thing that are not true is because people just like to complain.  Bad news is more enjoyable to talk about than good news. The price of gas fluctuates. When a gallon of gas goes from $1.98 to $2.49 people will share their pain at the pump. Few share their celebration when gas drops from $2.49 to $1.98. People tell each other when they pay more at the pump, they don't tell each other when they pay less.

American Enterprise Institute recently examined the change in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner and found that the cost of a 2017 Thanksgiving dinner is lower than last year and 23% lower than 1986. Believe it and be thankful.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Gov. Bill Haslam elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association for the second time in three years

Gov. Scott Walker, who is this year's RGA chairman, praised Haslam. “The achievements Governor Haslam has made in Tennessee are enormously impressive, and his experience providing common sense, pro-growth policies will be vital to ensuring our governors have the resources they need to compete and win in 36 gubernatorial elections scheduled to occur over the next year." (link)

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Battle Heats Up Over Some Short Term Rentals In Nashville

WTVF, NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The battle has heated up over regulations for short term rentals like Airbnb in Nashville.

Two Metro Council Members are proposing an amendment that would temporarily stop the issuing of new city permits for non-owner occupied short term rental properties. ....Burkley Allen....

.... However, the Beacon Center of Tennessee is calling for the state legislature to get involved in the regulations.  President Justin Owen said the issue comes down to property rights for Nashvillians, and Metro leaders are taking the wrong approach.

“Instead of trying to clarify the law and focus on the real problem, here they are trying to tell even more people not to rent out their homes,” said Owen.  “They are trampling on the property rights of even more people.”

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Andy Ogles Withdraws from U.S. Senate Race

Republican Andy Ogles quits U.S. Senate race: 'I do not see a path'
Andy Ogles
Andy Ogles, a grass roots political activist and the former head of the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity, withdrew from the campaign for U.S. Senate. He listed the difficulty in raising money as the reason for withdrawing saying, “With two Republican candidates for the nomination, who have millions of dollars in their Congressional accounts or personal wealth at their disposal, I do not see a path to raise the millions of dollars needed to run a successful race this election cycle."

Ogles announced his candidacy in September, before Corker announced he would not be seeking reelection. Other candidates did not announce until after Corker said he would not be seeking reelection. With Ogles out of the race that leaves Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) and former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN-08) as candidates. Larry Crim who is always running for something and who is not a serious candidate is also running as a Republican. Blackburn is considered the front runner.

The only Democrat seeking the seat so far is Nashville attorney James Mackler, who has no statewide name recognition. There is a national effort underway to encourage former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen to seek the office. The primaries for this seat will be in August 2018 and the general election will be November 2018. For news reports on the story see these links: link, link.

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November 9th marked the end of an era. It should be world-wide day of celebration.

Yesterday came and went with almost no mention that that day was the 28th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It is a shame. November 9th should be a National holiday. Or better yet, it should be a worldwide holiday. It should rival a combination of New Years’ Eve and the 4th of July. There should be concerts, dancing in the street, Champagne toast, ringing of church bells, and fire works.

On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the world changed forever. As the world watched, we did not know if Russia would send in troops to put down the rebellion or not. We did not know if East German guards would fire on their fellow citizens. In 1958 an uprising in Hungary was crushed. In 1968 the Czech rebellion was likewise suppressed. As we watched in 1989 it was hard to believe that the East German rebellion would end differently, but there was reason to hope.

There was reason to believe that there were few true believers in Communism left behind the Iron curtain. Gorbachev, to save Communism, had launched Perestroika and Glasnost, which had not saved Communism but sealed its fate. The Soviets had been forced to realize that they could not outspend the west in the arms race. The Solidarity union movement had sprung up in Poland and not been crushed and Catholicism had a Polish pope who was encouraging the Catholics behind the Iron Curtain to keep the faith, and America had a president who said his goal was not to co-exist with Communism but to defeat it. The West was more confident and the East seemed exhausted.

With modern communications and contact between the captive peoples of the East and the free people of the West, Communist governments could no longer convince their people that Communism was a superior way to organize society. And, for the first time, attempts to spread Communism had failed. From the tiny island of Granada, to Nicaragua, to Afghanistan, attempts at expansion had met with failure. When the demonstrators in East Germany began chipping away at the wall, the guards did not fire, the Soviets did not send in tanks and the walls came tumbling down.

It would still be a couple more years before the other Communist dominoes fell, but one by one they did, except for the two dysfunctional teetering states of North Korea and Cuba. China did not fall, but morphed into a state that Marx or Mao would not recognize. It is only nominally communist. China became a mixed economy with an repressive authoritarian one-party government that daily continues to change.

From the time of the establishment of the first Communist state in Russia in 1917, Communism had steadily grown taking country by county until by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall 34% of the worlds populations lived under Communist domination. And by peaceful means, Communism was gaining ground in much of the west with “Euro-communism” gaining acceptance and becoming parties in coalition governments. For more than seventy years, freedom had been on the defensive and Communism had been ascending.

During that time, approximately 100 million people were killed with a brutal efficiency. Approximately 65 million were killed in China under Mao Zedong, 25 million in Leninist and Stalinist Russia, 2 million in Cambodia, and millions more in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. This was accomplished by mass murders, planned famines, working people to death in labor camps, and other ruthless methods. From the thousands of Cossacks slaughtered on the orders of Lenin to the victims of Mao’s “land reform” the totals mounted. In addition to the millions of deaths, many more millions spend part of their lives in prison in the Gulag of Russia and the reeducation camps of Vietnam and China. Those who never spend part of their life in real prisons, lived in societies with secret police, enforced conformity, thought control, fear, scarcity, and everyone spying on everyone else.

While the world looked with horror on the approximate 11 million victims of Hitler’s Europe, for some reason less attentions was paid to the 100 million victims of Communist tyranny. While the Nazi era lasted for only 11 years, the Communist terror began in 1917 and continues to this day. The story would be complete if the last Communist regime fell, but the fall of the Berlin Wall is a landmark event. By the fall of the wall, it was clear that Communism was not the wave of the future and that freedom would survive in the world.

Not only would freedom survive in the world, but the world itself would survive. It is easy to forget what a dangerous place the world was on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The world's nuclear stockpiles had grown to 70,000 warheads, with an average destructive power about 20 times that of the weapons that were dropped on Japan. One deranged colonel, one failure of a radar system, or one misreading of intentions could have led to events that destroyed the world. We were one blink away from destruction of life on earth. If there is any event in the history of world worthy of celebrating, it should be the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Remember Dan Rather and the fake news hit job on George W. Bush? Rather visits Nashville.

Image result for dan rather
Dan Rather
The Tennessean reports that Veteran Journalist Rather Visits Nashville During Book Tour, never, of course, mentioning the thing for which I most remember Dan Rather. I am not surprised. The mainstream media has a obvious liberal bias.  It is not very often one finds actual instances of fake news but the bias is revealed by what is not reported, by how much emphasis is given to a story and what is buried and what is conveniently forgotten.

In September 2004, two months before the presidential election, Dan Rather did a story alleging that George W. Bush shirked his duties when he was in the Texas Air National Guard. As it turns out the story was based on forged documents that CBS never verified. When presented with the facts, Dan Rather defended his reporting and CBS for two weeks. He only relented when the evidence became overwhelming. To read accounts of the story follow this link and this link.

Rather than an objective reporter, Dan Rather was a partisan hack with an axe to grind. The George W. Bush hit piece was not the only incident of Dan Rather's advocacy journalism. Now, Dan Rather is being presented as the distinguished elder statesman of journalism and a person to be admired and one whose opinions matter.  Oh, well, what do you expect? I will not be buying his book. 

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The Lie That Will Not Die

Gene Wisdom
by Gene Wisdom - Like a bad horror movie the twentieth century gave birth to a monster. We are told it came to us suddenly in the form of a Revolution in Russia. But no, the beast gestated for decades in the minds of those thinkers who also gave us modern liberalism. The evil twin carried the same genes of a focus on economic equality, on the ability to create a utopia here on earth, and more fundamentally in the view that man’s nature is malleable; no, even more—perfectible. In the even earlier—by millenia—promise made to Adam by one who said he had Adam’s best interest at heart. Satan. “I’m from hell, I’m here to help.”

The promise? You shall be as Gods. If possible that would indeed be quite an improvement on man’s nature which eons of evolution have yet to dent.

Jean Jacques Rousseau tickled man’s ears telling him that he was born a noble savage, that the society into which he was born corrupted his soul. If man would but subsume his will to the General Will embodied in the State and eliminate those intermediate associations and influences and obligations he could live the tranquil life. Karl Marx simply gave a different cast to the baleful society; for him, the evil was in the economic arrangements, in exploitation by a powerful class. Still, the evil was not within man’s heart but again “out there” in the world. The goal was the same. General Will became the State, centralized and all powerful.

Lenin went on to weaponize these perversions, the ancient promise. Class warfare became coup d’etat, a sudden taking of power. But to effect the promise, to seal the lie, required a revolution in society, in government. Once power was taken, the real revolution began of overturning society. The intermediate associations were abolished as Rousseau required. Private organizations were eliminated, churches closed, priests imprisoned as in the first Rousseauan experiment, the French Revolution, opponents tortured and eliminated. Individual farms had to be abolished in the government’s absorption of individuals and the economy. Millions died in the ensuing orchestrated famine. To remake man, millions had to die. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, Lenin said. Millions.

And the millions multiplied. By the count of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, that number is over 100 million. The bodies piled up. In the USSR, where this nightmare first took form, the number was over 30 million, according to the late scholar Robert Conquest. In China, 65 million. Eastern Europe, Angola, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua. And in North Korea, Cuba, and China, the bodies continue to pile up. For those who doubt China’s place in Communism’s ongoing horrors, you need but read human rights activist Harry Wu’s report on the Chinese laogai prison system.

And these numbers are but the bodies, the lives taken. Communism’s toll, its lie, also counted in the souls and minds destroyed. The horrors of the Soviet Gulag, the ongoing hideousness of the North Korean concentration camps in which over 200,000 are currently imprisoned, Cuba’s political prisons, and the systemic campaign of rapes of German women by the Red Army at the end of World War II are the short list.

In addition to the torment behind its Iron Curtain were the efforts to subvert free countries in the Marxian mandate of the Communist Manifesto, “Workers of the world, unite!”, the infernal version of the Great Commission, except that instead of freeing individual souls, it sought to subjugate peoples behind its barbed wires and guard towers. It began with the Communist International, the Comintern, in a worldwide campaign of subversion. The discipline of world Communist parties is captured in J. Edgar Hoover’s classic, Masters of Deceit. While not remembered as a moral high point it should not be forgotten that Senator McCarthy’s campaign was a response to that effort of subversion and espionage. And in addition to this are the countless numbers who have died fighting to defend against Communism’s attacks. American lives alone in Korea and Vietnam are over one hundred thousand.

President Trump, whom I otherwise am loathe to mention in the same sentence as Ronaldus Maximus, in a very Reaganesque move declared November 7 as National Day for the Victims of Communism. But is Communism a lesson not to be repeated? On that day one hundred years ago Lenin declared war on civilization, giving pallid life to the dream of Rousseau. We’ve long heard the adage from George Santayana that “those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. Unfortunately, given modern liberalism’s spoiled fruit in the West, which is our public education system and the attack on learning and real history, has given us a generation of “millennials”, most of whom in recent polling prefer Communism to free enterprise and liberty. And so, this system that has cost the lives and souls of millions of people, this lie that has had more human cost than centuries of warfare lives in the prison countries of North Korea, Cuba, and China, and in the weakened minds of Western youth.

Gene Wisdom, a retired naval officer, is a lifelong conservative Republican.  He is a native Alabamian, and he and his wife have recently moved from Nashville, where they lived for ten years, to Knoxville. While in Nashville Gene was moderator of the Conservative Fusion Book Club.

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Rep. Black hopes senators do their job on tax reform

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mayor Barry Letter to Council Regarding Meharry Medical College and Nashville General Hopsital

Last Thursday, Mayor Barry announced plans to phase out General Hospital as a hospital and instead turn it into an ambulatory surgical care center, which would provide only outpatient services. She has been criticized for not giving the Metro Hospital Authority nor the Health and Hospitals Committee of the Council advance notice.  I can understand those in the Council or on the Hospital Authority for feeling blindsided, yet I applaud her for taking bold action.  Advance notice would have only given those who oppose this action time to rally, demonstrate and organize. There will still be plenty of time for that as this move will not take effect until sometime next fiscal year.

For a very long time, Metro General has been a money pit, that cannot fill its beds and there is no charter requirement or state law requirement requiring the city to maintain a charity hospital. This should been done a long time ago.

Below is a copy of the letter Mayor Barry sent to the Council explaning her actions. The highlighting in the letter is mine.

November 9, 2017
Dear Vice Mayor Briley and Council Members:

I want to let you know about an important change in the relationship between Nashville General Hospital and Meharry Medical College and plans for reconfiguring the hospital’s operating model to make it more financially stable.

Meharry, a historically black medical college, has trained doctors to provide care throughout our nation, including in many underserved areas, for more than 140 years. Nashville General has served as the index teaching hospital for Meharry since 1992, giving medical students invaluable experience working with patients from across our community. However, Nashville General’s current daily census is about one-third of its licensed capacity. Only about 40 of its 120 beds are being used on an average day, and 20 percent of those are part of an inmate care contract. Meharry currently has to pay to send students to other states in order to get the experience necessary to enter the medical profession. 

As a result, Meharry, which owns the building in which Nashville General operates, needs access to a local hospital serving a greater number of patients in order to make its educational program the best it can be. Today Meharry announced that it will partner with Nashville-based HCA’s TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, giving the nation’s premier hospital company access to some of the best and brightest young minds the medical community has to offer.

This is also an opportune time to revisit Nashville General’s operating model, which has proven fiscally unsustainable, and restructure it in a way that will promote better health care outcomes for residents in North Nashville and across our city. Since 2005, Metro has provided more than half a billion dollars to support the operations of Nashville General, while the number of patients being served has decreased. I believe we can invest our resources more strategically to provide for the health care needs of our city’s indigent population, while maintaining operations at Nashville General Hospital.

With the help of restructuring specialist Kevin Crumbo, who has donated hundreds of hours of his time, the Metro Hospital Authority and my administration have been exploring ways to improve Nashville General’s long-term outlook. It’s time for a new model, one that will be focused on preventing people from needing in-patient services while ensuring that the patients currently using Nashville General for their outpatient health care needs, which amounts to more than 90% of the total patient visits, will still receive the same – or better – care at this facility.

Later this year, my administration will submit to the Council a substantial request for supplemental funds to stabilize Nashville General’s fiscal situation so the hospital can continue to provide services and meet its financial obligations for the rest of this budget year. Meanwhile, we will work with stakeholders throughout the upcoming budget cycle toward a goal of refocusing Nashville General Hospital’s operations to an ambulatory care model that provides high-quality clinic and other outpatient care services.

We also will create an indigent care fund to ensure that all patients who are currently using Nashville General will still have their health care needs met either at Nashville General or at other area hospitals. This will result in better health care outcomes for the patient population being served.

As a city, we are financially committed to promoting better health results and health care operations. We can restructure that commitment in a way that results in the best health care outcomes for residents while providing a more stable funding model that won’t require Metro to sacrifice services in other areas of government, or possibly raise taxes, in order to provide that quality care.

As I’ve said many times, I am committed to safety-net care in our community. This will take all of us, working in good faith and with good intentions, to create a successful new model for Nashville General Hospital. My administration and Meharry Medical College are absolutely committed to working with community stakeholders to do just that. I know we’re up to the task, and I appreciate your partnership as we take on this important work.

Kind regards,

Megan Barry

For more on this issue and background on General Hospital see the following:

Mayor Megan Barry announces plan to end Nashville General inpatient care

Metro General Hospital is seeking an additional $10 million dollar subsidy from the city.

General Hospital request for additional subsidy jumps from $10 Million to $16 Million.

Metro General seeks $7.5M more, on top of a recent $10M more, on top of the budgeted $33.5M subsidy.

How the Mayoral candidates would address Metro General Hospital. None of them impress me. 

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cost for stadium were deceiving

Writing in today's Tennessean, reporter Mike Reicher reports that the economic impact report paid for by the team owners greatly overestimated the economic impact of the proposed MLS soccer stadium and overestimated the sales tax revenue the project will generate. The report treated all anticipated sales tax revenue generated by the development as new revenue. It completely ignored what is called the “substitution effect.” 

The substitution effect takes into account the simple commonsense fact that if money is spend for something it is not spend for something else. People who spend money going to a soccer game would have spend that money on another sporting event, or going to a movie or a concert, or would have purchased more consumer goods.  The substitution effect would only not apply to money spend by visitors who come to Nashville for a soccer game who would have not otherwise have came to Nashville, to economic activity or growth that occurs due to the soccer stadium that would not have otherwise occurred, or to money people would have otherwise saved had they not spend it on attending a soccer game. While one can't place an exact percentage on what portion of the sales tax revenue generated by the project would be due to the substitution effect and what portion would not, most would simply be substitution effect revenue.

According to the soccer deal, if Nashville is awarded a franchise, the team will pay $9 million each year toward the $13 million annual debt payment. Those attending soccer games at the stadium  will contribute through ticket tax and sales tax revenue. The deal limits public investment to $25 million for stadium infrastructure, plus any annual shortfall.

The deal fails to acknowledge that sales tax revenue redirected into the stadium financing will  be a drain on the city and state coffers. Those attending soccer games likely would have spent that money on other sales-tax-producing purchases. The author of the article points out that funds that will now pay the debt on the stadium would have been paying for police, schools and roads. To read the article, follow this link.

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