Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nashville Students Prove That Poverty Doesn’t Dictate Academic Outcomes



The data is clear on low-income students.  According to Pew Center research[i], low-income students lag far behind their more affluent peers by significant margins. And this is just enrolling in college. Far fewer low-income students actually finish with a degree. Over the last decade, however, we have seen the emergence of “beat the odds schools”- high poverty schools that are getting incredible academic results from their students.

In pursuit of ever-stronger public schools, some cities and states have begun formally identifying “beat the odds schools” to focus attention on what these schools are doing differently and to facilitate the sharing of these practices across schools.  The Tennessee Charter School Center proposes a “Beat the Odds” measure for Tennessee- schools that have more than 75% Economically Disadvantaged and had more than 50% of their students score Proficient or Advanced on the 2013-14 TCAP achievement exam.

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is a district of 84,000 students with a diverse student body and spread out over a large geography. Almost three quarters of the student population is Economically Disadvantaged; nearly 60,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Not surprisingly, Metro Nashville Public Schools has a number of good public schools, both traditional and charter, that are “beating the odds,” serving a high poverty student population and ensuring high levels of academic achievement.  We’re proud to recognize those schools and their results from the 2013-14 year here.

TCAP Math, Grades 3-8

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterNashville Prep78.10%82.70%
CharterKIPP Academy Nashville91.30%77.90%
CharterLiberty Collegiate86.00%76.00%
CharterSTEM Prep Academy84.30%74.00%
CharterNew Vision Academy82.00%62.80%
CharterKIPP College Prep84.40%62.20%
DistrictOld Center Elementary85.80%57.50%
CharterKnowledge Academy82.40%54.20%
DistrictChadwell Elementary93.20%54.00%
DistrictDonelson MS76.00%53.30%
CharterCameron College Prep96.40%52.00%
DistrictCole Elementary90.90%50.90%
CharterIntrepid College Prep81.00%50.60%
DistrictCameron MS91.90%50.00%

TCAP RLA, Grades 3-8

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterLiberty Collegiate86.00%65.70%
CharterIntrepid College Prep81.00%62.60%
CharterNashville Prep78.10%60.40%
CharterSTEM Prep Academy84.30%59.10%
CharterKIPP Academy Nashville91.30%56.60%
DistrictOld Center Elementary85.80%52.80%
CharterNew Vision Academy82.00%50.60%
CharterKnowledge Academy82.40%50.50%

TCAP Science, Grades 3-8

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterLiberty Collegiate86.00%90.70%
CharterSTEM Prep Academy84.30%89.40%
CharterNashville Prep78.10%87.50%
CharterLEAD Prep Southeast87.30%83.60%
CharterKIPP Academy Nashville91.30%78.20%
CharterNew Vision Academy82.00%76.70%
CharterKnowledge Academy82.40%75.00%
DistrictOld Center Elementary85.80%71.70%
CharterKIPP College Prep84.40%66.70%
CharterIntrepid College Prep81.00%62.60%
DistrictRosebank Elementary87.60%62.30%
CharterCameron College Prep96.40%53.30%
DistrictCharlotte Park Elementary86.10%51.10%
DistrictChadwell Elementary93.20%50.80%

TCAP Algebra 1 EOC

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterLEAD Academy High School89.00%80.40%
DistrictAntioch High School75.00%58.80%
DistrictMaplewood87.60%53.90%
DistrictGlencliff82.50%52.80%

TCAP English 2 EOC

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterLEAD Academy High School89.00%74.00%
DistrictAntioch High School75.00%55.20%

TCAP Biology 1 EOC

Type
School
% Econ Disadvantaged
% P/A
CharterLEAD Academy High School89.00%83.30%

We need to study these schools more, their practices and habits, and the specific things they are doing to ensure success among high poverty populations. Collaboration must be a top priority in order to explore these schools and their success. It is important for charter schools and traditional schools alike to look at the best practices that can be shared across classrooms, schools and the district. We propose a working group, comprised of educators and leaders from both charter and traditional schools, tasked with producing a report on those practices that could be replicated in other schools. This work should begin as soon as possible, because these students cannot afford to wait.


Reposted from the Inside Charters website. Rod 

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Diana Cuellar Addresses Crowd At 9/11 Town Hall

Published on Sep 21, 2014
Tennessee State Senate District 21 candidate Diana Cuellar speaks to a crowd consisting of Nashvillians from more than a dozen countries at a 9/11 memorial town hall.
VoteDianaCuellar.com

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Beacon Center of Tennessee supports Amendment 2. Good enough for Jefferson, good enough for me

Good enough for Jefferson, good enough for me

Justin Owen
By: Justin Owen, CEO The Beacon Center - I’m proud to be part of the effort to fix the constitutional quagmire over how we select appellate and Supreme Court judges in Tennessee.

Through the years, Tennessee’s judicial selection process added a nominating panel, predominantly composed of lawyers and insiders. This panel would nominate three candidates to send to the governor, who then selected one of the three to serve on the bench. All this despite our Constitution stating that “judges should be elected by the qualified voters.”

While the Beacon Center of Tennessee and others have taken this matter to court in the past, judges have consistently upheld this so-called Tennessee Plan as constitutional, ignoring the plain language of the Constitution.

So we can either defer to those incorrect rulings, or we can improve the system by taking it to the voters themselves with a constitutional amendment. Amendment 2, which will be on the ballot in November, rightly puts the issue in the hands of voters.

With Amendment 2, Tennessee voters can adopt a method almost identical to that crafted by our founders for selecting federal judges. Like the federal model, the governor we elect will nominate the most qualified people as judges, and then our elected legislature will vote to confirm or reject their appointment. Unlike the federal system, there will be no lifetime tenure for judges under Amendment 2.

This approach strikes a great balance between making sure we have judicial independence to uphold the rule of law, while holding judges accountable to the people and our elected representatives.

The great Thomas Jefferson, who helped craft the federal system for selecting judges, had but one criticism of it: lifetime tenure. “If a member of the Executive or Legislature does wrong, the day is never far distant when the people will remove him. They will see then and amend the error in our Constitution which makes any branch independent of the nation,” Jefferson said of lifetime appointments for judges.

In a tip of the hat to Jefferson, Amendment 2 will not only preserve the balance between judicial independence and accountability, it will also offer voters a chance to remove judges at the polls. If voters dislike a judge’s rulings, they can vote against their governor, senator and representative who put the judge there. And ultimately, and most importantly, Amendment 2 protects the right of Tennesseans to keep or fire the judges at the end of their terms at the ballot box.

I’ll be voting “Yes on 2” in November because it is the best approach to choosing competent, fair and impartial judges, while holding them accountable to the people of our state.

If it was good enough for Jefferson, it’s good enough for me.

This op-ed appeared in The Tennessean on Sept. 2, 2014. I am reposting this from the Beacon Center website. Vote Yes on Amendment 2. Rod

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Tennessee Voices for Victims Endorses Amendment 2

Press release, Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Voices for Victims, a leading advocate for victims of crime , announced today their strong support and endorsement for Amendment 2.

Tennessee Voices for Victims joins a growing and impressive list of organizations from across the state encouraging their members and supporters to Vote YES on 2.

“In 1991, my sister -­‐ in -­‐ law was sexually assaulted and murdered . Through that experience and by working with hundreds of other crime victims , I have seen firsthand just how essential fair and impartial judges are to securing justice and keeping our communities safe,” said Verna Wyatt, Executive Director of Tennessee Voices for Victims.

“I’m voting yes on Amendment 2 to ensure that the men and women selected as appellate court judges and Supreme Court justices in Tennessee are the best qualified to serve our state.”

“If we fail to pass Amendment 2, we will open up those positions to professional politicians who can raise the most money from special -­‐ interest groups ,” Wyatt continued. “That is simply unacceptable to the victims of crime , and all Tennesseans , who deserve to be heard equally and fairly by our high court judges.”

Tennessee Voices for Victims joins numerous other respected organizations across the state that are encouraging voters to support Amendment 2 -­‐-­‐ including the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Tennessee Bar Association, Tennessee Business Roundtable, NAACP of Tennessee, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Fraternal Order of Police of Tennessee, League of Women Voters of Tennessee, Tennessee Hospital Association, Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, Tennessee Business Partnership, Beacon Center of Tennessee, Tennessee Lawyers Association f or Women, Tennessee Bankers Association, Women’s Political Collaborative of Tennessee, and many others.

For more information about Amendment 2, please visit VoteYES2.org. Early voting is now underway and continues through October 30. Election D ay is November 4.

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STOP AMP ALERT: CALL TO ACTION! - Tuesday, Oct. 28th Noon! Please attend!


CALL TO ACTION!
 Tuesday, October 28, 2014; NOON

Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting
Sonny West Conference Room, Howard School Building, 700 2nd Avenue South, Nashville, TN


This committee has met once a month since its inception in an effort to keep the AMP project alive. We feel it is time for the citizens to tell this committee that the AMP bus rapid transit project needs to be stopped!

Plain to arrive early and seek the opportunity to talk with members of this Committee to express your views of this ill-planned transportation project that will only serve a small portion of Nashville. If you have any questions or comments, please put those in writing so our supporters on the committee can ask that citizen’s comments be added to the permanent record of the committee meeting.

Mayor Karl Dean is schedule to be in attendance and speak. We need a big presence at this meeting and we hope you will attend! If you have not reached out to your Metro Council member yet, please do so and let them know your opposition to them approving the AMP funding.

You can find this information on our website www.stopAMP.org. See you there!

 StopAmp.Org Board of Directors

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

See the Future at upcoming NashvilleNext meetings.


I have kind of lost interest in NashvilleNext.  When the process first started a couple years ago, I attended several of the meeting and heard experts speak on a wide range of issue involving land use, planning, and mass transit and changing demographics.  I have always been somewhat interested in these topics and do think that one of the reasons some cities are much more desirable places to live than other cities is because of wise planning.  I found the sessions interesting and thought-provoking.  I also took part in the on-line surveys and some of the discussion session.  In the work sessions I put my opinions on little post-em notes and I put my allocated little post-em dots on the choices offered. 

Recently however, I have felt like this is all one big "dog and pony show" and the results have already been determined and the public participation is just for show. Also, some of the choices come down to something like, "do you like good, or do you like bad?" I feel like we are being led to a pre determiend conclusion. 

I was disappointing that there has not been much diversity of opinion at these meetings. This process started about the same time as the craziness about Agenda 21 was at its peak, when the John Birch Society was training Agenda 21 experts to resist any aspect of Agenda 21.  People were being warned that there was a major conspiracy afoot to force us to give up our cars and golf courses and suburban lifestyle and all live in small apartments in the city. The Anti-Agenda 21 people were alerting us that you could id advocates of Agenda 21 if they used words like "sustainability," "communities," "affordable housing," and "justice". Everything from green ways to wide shady sidewalks to bike share programs to traffic calming was said to be part of the plot. Surprisingly, none of the anti-agenda 21 people showed up at NashvilleNext. They could have had field day!  I guess I am glad they didn't show up but it would have at least presented some diversity of opinion. It would have made the meetings more interesting.

The value for planners of this NashvilleNext process is that after the plan is adopted they can say, this plan was developed by the people of Nashville in a long involved process and it really is the "people's plan," that it represents community consensus and that x number of people attended x number of meetings an x number of people participated on line. I don't know how much this process is going to cost us by the time we are finished.  I tried to find that answer on line but couldn't. I think we would be about as well off it we would have let the planning department and their consultants draw up the plan, present it to the planning commission, then the Metro Council, had a public hearing, and then the Council adopt it. I don't think the NashvilleNext process makes the final product any more valid than if we would have followed the legislative process I outlined above and it would have cost a lot less.

While I have lost interest in the process, I still may attend one of the meetings to "see the possible future that Nashvillians picked." If one cares about the future of Nashville and wants to be informed, I think one should attend.  I would suggest anyone who is thinking about running for Council attend and learn what is in the plan. Also, I hope that some people will dig deep into the final documents to see what it is we are exactly getting when the final plan is adopted. The process by which this plan was developed should not make members of the Council any less diligent in examining it before they adopt it.

Below is the announcement from Cumberland Region Tomorrow:

NashvilleNext: “Preferred Future” workshops announced. Make plans to attend!


Make plans to attend one of five upcoming NashvilleNext community gatherings in October and November to see the possible future that Nashvillians picked and discuss what’s next for Nashville!

During the meeting, Metro Planning will present a “preferred future”– a direction our city and county could possibly take over the next 25 years. This “preferred future” is based on thousands of comments by and conversations with community members over the past year and a half.

Public input on this “preferred future” will help shape a draft General Plan which will guide Nashville community’s growth, progress, and preservation through 2040.
CRT’s role with NashvilleNext is to engage our ten county region’s leaders in the development of a unified vision and plan for Nashville’s future growth and development. Please take the time to attend and provide your input at one of these important community meetings:

Thursday, October 30th at 5 pm–Rocketown (601 Fourth Avenue South)
Monday, November 3rd at 6pm–Whites Creek High School
Thursday, November 6th at 6pm–Hillwood High School
Monday, November 10th at 6pm–McGavock High School
Thursday, November 20th at 6 pm –Southeast Library Complex (at the Global Mall)


For additional information, visit the NashvilleNext website.

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Bobbie Patray of Tennessee Eagle Forum explains Amendment 2

While I am in favor of amendment number two, I realized that many conservative activist are opposed. I am not going to have a falling out with anyone over this issue.  It is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. In this Facebook post from May 10 Bobby Patray explains why politics is often the art of the possible and Amendment 2 is all we can hope for and is better than what we have now. Rod
Bobbie Patray May 10 · Nashville, TN
There seems to be a lot of confusion about Amendment 2. I would like to bring some clarity to the discussion.

Let me start by saying -- unlike some of the posts I am reading, if amendment 2 is defeated, we WILL NOT HAVE DIRECT ELECTION OF JUDGES! We will go back to only the 'retention' elections like we have now for Supreme Court justices and appellate judges.


The debate about this issue was hot and heavy. As the debate unfolded in the General Assembly, there were three schools of thought: 1. Maintain retention (what we have now); 2. return to direct elections as the Constitution requires (which, for many reasons, does give me a bit of heartburn) or; 3. the compromise which is on the ballot.

It was only the compromise that could get enough votes to get through the long amending process and to get on the ballot. And while it certainly isn't perfect, I think it is much better than going back to the flawed present 'retention' process. And who knows how much longer it would be before we could get another amendment on the ballot. So there you have it.....one more case of "Politics being the art of the possible."

What was finally decided was to do something similar the the federal requirement for justices.
What the amendment will do is give Tennesseans three votes in the selection of our appellate judges:
• By voting for the governor, who will make the appointments.
• By voting for our state senators and representatives, who will confirm or reject the appointments.
• By voting to keep or fire the judges at the end of their respective terms.

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GOV. WINFIELD DUNN THROWS SUPPORT BEHIND DIANA CUELLAR IN STATE SENATE RACE

Gov. Winfield Dunn and Diana Cuellar
Press release, Nashville, TN – Governor Winfield Dunn threw his support behind Diana Cuellar, Republican nominee for State Senate in District 21 this week.

“I am honored to have received the support of Governor Winfield Dunn. He is a wonderful man who has been a huge asset to our state throughout the years. I am equally humbled by the kind words he recently had to say,” said Cuellar.

Governor Dunn released the following statement regarding Diana Cuellar: “I am so proud to support Diana because she is a fine example of one who wishes to serve,” said Governor Dunn.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Don’t Know Bo. The Bo Mitchell link to Barry Stokes, mastermind behind most destructive Ponzi scheme in Tennessee history.

TNGOP releases documents, unveils YouDontKnowBo.com revealing a disturbing link between Bo Mitchell and one of the most destructive Ponzi schemes in Tennessee history

Press release, NASHVILLE, Tenn.- When $19 million dollars goes missing, people ask questions. When an elected official has a connection to the company that lost it, voters get mad.

Metro Councilman and State Rep.
Bo Mitchell

The Tennessee Republican Party today made public a series of court documents and personal correspondence, as well as various media reports, that reveal a disturbing link between current State Representative Bo Mitchell (D—Nashville) and Barry Stokes, a shadowy figure behind one of the most destructive Ponzi schemes in Tennessee history.

Stokes was the mastermind who, as CEO and sole owner of 1 Point Solutions, LLC, a Dickson, Tennessee-based company, “engaged in the business of third party administration for various types of employee benefit plans such as 401(k) retirement plans, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)” for numerous companies and government entities. A U.S. Department of Justice press release reveals Stokes was charged with 78 counts of embezzlement, wire fraud, money laundering, and mail fraud. He embezzled “over $19 million from thousands of victims’” accounts. Stokes pled guilty to the charges.

A deeper look through court filings and rulings reveal a familiar name was connected to Stokes: Bo Mitchell. In a personal memo, Mitchell admitted to being “hired (to 1 Point Solutions, LLC) by Stokes…to establish a market share of sales within the public sector.“ In other words, Bo Mitchell was hired to target taxpayer-funded government entities. Later in the memo, Mitchell takes credit for securing “over 17,000 participants and…billing in excess of $60,000 per month.” In April of 2006, both the Stokes Ponzi scheme and the fact that 1 Point Solutions was a front company for the scheme were uncovered. Soon thereafter, Stokes and 1 Point Solutions, LLC, filed for bankruptcy. With the scheme’s house of cards caving in, Mitchell parted ways with the company and appears to have pursued a career in political consulting.  Ironically, 2006 was also the year Stokes made his largest single contribution to the Tennessee Democratic Party to the tune of $20,000. Bo Mitchell—Stokes’ just-departed employee—worked as a consultant for the TNDP. Mitchell collected almost the same dollar amount Stokes contributed to the TNDP as detailed in 3rd quarter, pre-general election, and 4th quarter financial disclosures.

Barry Stokes, the politically
ambitious con man died
in prison in 2010
In 2007, Mitchell was elected to the Nashville Metro Council.

In 2008—two years after the shocking revelation of the Ponzi scheme and the sudden downfall of both Stokes and 1 Point Solutions, a Nashville City Paper profile of Mitchell confirms he “had the unfortunate distinction of working for 1 Point Solutions” and being connected to Stokes. In fact, it states Bo Mitchell was introduced to political insiders by Stokes. From the article, “more than one councilman said their initial introduction to Mitchell came through Stokes.”
 
Then in 2009, two years after he was elected to Metro Council and a year after Stokes pled guilty to the charges, Bo Mitchell filed two separate claims. One showed he cashed out his entire 401(k) Account in 2006—just prior to 1 Point Solutions filing for bankruptcy—taking the employer contribution to the account with him.

The second claim was for $40,000—money Mitchell claimed was owed to him by the bankrupt Ponzi scheme company for signing up 17,000 people. He asserted this was post-employment commission money that he should be paid. Keep in mind, this was well after it was made public the company was a front organization for a Ponzi scheme and after Mitchell should have learned he brought people into it. The second claim was rejected by the court for “insufficient documentation.” A review of the filings show Mitchell took credit for signing up Nashville Metro schools, Metro government, Hamilton County schools, and several other school systems, government entities, and companies. All told, Mitchell's clients’ losses accounted for nearly one million dollars of the $19 million lost in the Ponzi scheme, a substantial portion of which was taxpayer money.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney stated, “These documents reveal an alarming connection between Barry Stokes, the Bernie Madoff of Tennessee, and Bo Mitchell. Representative Mitchell’s actions raise serious questions about his judgment and integrity as an elected official in charge of taxpayer dollars. How does one learn that he’s responsible for signing 17,000 participants into a Ponzi scheme and then, in good conscience, attempt to go back and get more money that was obtained in such a destructive way? The voters of Nashville should be very concerned.”

To provide documentation relating to the case, the TNGOP has posted the documents and a timeline at: www.YouDontKnowBo.com.

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What happened at the Council Meeting of 10-21-14: The Gulch-Pedestrian-Bridge-is-approved meeting.


To find a copy of the staff analysis, council agenda and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

This council meeting is conducted by Lonnell Matthews, Jr., President pro tem of the Council whose duty it is to conduct the meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor.

There are 14 appointments of boards and commissions rapidly confirmed as always is the case. The Council nominates two people for election to the Health and Education Facilities Board which will occur at the November 4th meeting.  I am not that knowledgeable about what this board does and do not know the nominees.

All resolutions on the Consent Agenda pass and one resolution is withdrawn at the request of the administration. Included in those that pass are these resolutions of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1253 which is part of the deal to build a new $35.5 million parking garage downtown. This resolution ups the price of the project to $42 million while reducing the number of parking spaces from 1183 to 1000. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1254 which appropriates $250,000 through a grant contract with Oasis Center to provide support for the Mayor’s Scholars Academy.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1265 which approves an agreement between the state department of transportation (TDOT) and the Metro Arts Commission for the installation of the sculpture called ''Stixs" at the new Korean Veterans roundabout. 
All bills on first reading pass without discussion as is customary. All Bills on Second Reading pass without discussion and none of them are of much interest.

Bills on Third Reading: 
BILL NO. BL2014-670 is the Gulch pedestrian bridge bill which authorizes the acquisition of easements and right of ways to build the bridge.  The bridge is already in the capital improvement budget and funding is authorized, so if the Council had wanted to delay or kill the $18 million bridge this was the opportunity to do it.  Back a few months ago, the Council was presented with this proposal and they defeated it. At that time, it was to be funded by bonds paid for out of general revenues, and the Mayor came back with this revised proposal to fund it by Tax Increment Financing. To see my commentary on why I think the financing method is nothing more than a shell game and why I opposed moving forward with this project at this time, see this. Last Council meeting, the Council passed this on a voice vote.  I am pleased to see there was a recorded vote on this.

The council votes 30-7 to approve this bill without discussion. Those voting "no" are council members Charlie Tygard, Steve Glover, Emily Evans, Larry Hagar, Bruce Stanley, Robert Duvall. and Carter Todd.


BILL NO. BL2014-838 is the bill that would remove historical overlay protection for part of lower Broadway.  This is a complex issue and the Council engages in some adept and rare parliamentary procedures. To understand the issue and the maneuvers on the bill you must watch the video carefully. To see the discussion see time stamp 27:02- 50:30. Below is how the Tennessean described this issue:
In other business Tuesday, historic preservationists scored a victory, with the council voting down a plan that could have led to a makeover of the historic Trail West store building on Lower Broadway.
At issue is a block of property at Broadway and Third Avenue South still unprotected by the rest of the area’s historic overlay, as a way to accommodate a Westin Hotel proposed in 2007 but never built.
Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, who represents downtown, had proposed an ordinance to extend the historic overlay to include this block, but at the last minute had sought to exclude the Trail West property at 217-219 Broadway. There, broker Marshall Karr, who recently purchased the property, is eyeing a three-story, open-air structure anchored by a steakhouse.
Gilmore’s amendment to exclude the Trail West building from the overlay, however, failed by a 14-20 vote. Later, Gilmore’s motion to withdraw the legislation, which could have enabled the demolition of the building, failed as well by a 12-21 vote.
“Historic preservation is what makes downtown Nashville great,” said Councilwoman Emily Evans, who sought to protect the Trail West building. “It is the golden goose. Let’s not kill it.”
There are two memorializing resolutions on the agenda.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1252  request President Obama and Congress "to select public infrastructure improvements as the priority activity of the United States to upgrade the current substandard infrastructure of the nation, strengthen the national economy, and support healthy and vibrant communities in the United States."  It is deferred again having also been deferred last meeting. I do not think the Council should be weighing in on national policy issues such as this and I hope the sponsor will withdraw this resolution or it is voted down when it comes back up.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1268  sponsored by Charlie Tygard is a resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Council to make Metropolitan Government General Sessions Court judicial elections nonpartisan. The resolution had failed in the committee to which it was assigned and fails in the Council 10-13-7. Most of the "good" council members voted for it. (To see the discussion see 1:03:01- 1:07:37.)
To see the Tennessean's report on the Council meeting, follow this link: Gulch-SoBro pedestrian bridge cleared for construction.
 


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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More on the Metro Council Agenda tonight: the historic integrity of Broadway threatened.

I missed the importance of this bill when reviewing the agenda. This was posted to Facebook by Council member Emily Evans.
 
Friends of historic preservation, please be aware of a little bait and switch going on at Council tomorrow night. The bill intended to replace the 2006 SP (sponsored by Mike Jameson) that protected the historic integrity of Broadway between 2nd and 3rd will (if the sponsor gets her way) be substituted by an unpublished bill which will carve out 2 properties allegedly controlled by Steve Smith giving him more latitude to develop these parcels than anyone else in the historic district downtown. You may be familiar with Mr. Smith's approach to land use rules: http://www.jrn.com/newschannel5/news/Proposed-Downtown-Diner-Has-Critics-May-Not-Happen-270410741.html. Most folks downtown are.
This carve out is not fair to other property owners and defeats the original intent of the 2006 zoning initiatives to save the Trail West Building. Please write Council at Councilmembers@nashville.gov and ask them to defer BL 2014-838 for further discussion and debate on the impact to the historic integrity of the area.

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What is on the Council agenda for Oct. 21? Stix and a Bridge.

Council meeting can be really, really boring if you don't know what the council is voting on. If you have your own copy of the Metro Council agenda and the staff analysis the meetings are still boring, just not really, really boring.

There are 14 appointments of boards and commissions to be confirmed. Since the Council never rejects or questions anyone, all will be rapidly confirmed.

There are 14 resolution on the consent agenda. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is

Ghost Dance
deemed non-controversial and it stays on consent if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Items on the consent agenda pass by a single vote rather than being voted on one at a time. However, any member may ask to be recorded "no" or may ask for a bill to be pulled off the consent agenda. These resolutions on the consent agenda spend a lot of money and they accept a lot of grant money, but I see nothing that I think will be controversial but I am pointing out a few that I find interesting:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1253 is part of the deal to build a new $35.5 million parking garage downtown. This resolution ups the price of the project to $42 million while reducing the number of parking spaces from 1183 to 1000. Still, the pro forma shows parking revenue should be sufficient to repay the bonds.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1254 appropriates $250,000 through a grant contract with Oasis Center to provide support for the Mayor’s Scholars Academy. The Scholars Academy is a free summer enrichment program to help students succeed in high school and
    Musica
    prepare for college. In the most recent budget $650,000 was allocated for this program. In addition to the $250K, Oasis is providing another $185K in funding from other sources. I wonder if that other money is real money or in-kind services? I hope someone in Budget and Finance ask that question. I have written grants and reviewed grants. I know that some grant applications show an awfully lot of inflated "in-kind" match. Also, I wonder why this is not provided by the school system itself. Was a Request for Proposals issued or was Oasis awarded the grant without considering any other potential providers? Among the impressive members of the Board of Directors of Oasis is former Mayor Bill Purcell and Councilman Fabian Bedne.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1265 approves an agreement to between the state department of transportation (TDOT) and the Metro Arts Commission for the installation of the sculpture called ''Stixs" at the new Korean Veterans roundabout. That is the new roundabout near the Music City Center where 8th and Murfressboro Road come together. I am not opposed to public art. However, I think $750.000 is a lot of money to pay for 30 painted telephone poles. Now I know some people don't like the
    Schermerhorn fountain
    nude dancers at the Music Row roundabout. I like that one a lot. No, I don't wish they were wearing clothes. I also like that a philanthropist donated it rather than the city buying it. I also like that it is by a local artist. I think Ghost Dance across the river from the dead end of Lower Broad looks like some left over construction debris or a roller coaster under construction. I like both the fountain with the sculpture in front of the Schermerhorn and I like the one of the angle writing on a CD while looking at the Country Music Hall of Fame. I also like that they were not paid for with public money. I think we ought to rethink spending money on public art. I think some average citizens should sit on the board that makes the recommendations instead of people with an arts background, I think local artist or regional artist should be given preference and maybe from a selection of several they should be submitted to a referendum or a poll.  Assuming Stix is build we are going to put up with it forever. For $750K could we not have gotten a fountain or something better? Instead of spending public money, maybe the luxury of art in public places should be a civic project funded by donations. 
There are only three bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. They are all lumped together and passed as a group. Bills are not evaluated by the Council until second reading.

There are twelve bills on Second Reading and I don't find any of them of particular interest and don't see any of them as controversial.

There are seventeen bills on Third and final reading and only one of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-670 is the Gulch pedestrian bridge bill. It authorizes the acquisition of easements and right of ways to build the bridge.  The bridge is already in the capital improvement budget and funding is authorized, so if the Council wants to delay or kill the $16 million  bridge this is the opportunity to do it.  I am not opposed to the project. I think it would be nice addition to the growing downtown.  However, given that we have failed to build very many new sidewalks in residential neighborhoods and given the cumulative debt the city has taken on, I think this project should be put on hold maybe until after the next mayor is elected. The funding mechanism the mayor has proposed is Tax Increment Financing. TIF pays off the debt for the project with increased revenue generated by development attributable to the project.  We often finance projects like this.  In some cases the increased revenue would certainly not have occurred had not the project occurred. In the case of the pedestrian bridge that is a hard argument to make.  If financed by TIF, the debt for the project will be  paid
    The Gulch Pedestrian Bridge
    for by revenue from the area before those developments start paying money into the general fund. So, this is kind of like making a decision to pay for something out of one pocket versus a different pocket. It really doesn't make a lot of difference, it still cost the taxpayers money. When this was on second reading it passed by a voice vote and no one asked to have their vote recorded. Why, I don't know. It only takes five councilmen to ask for a roll call vote and there then must be a machine vote. Any member may ask to have their vote recorded. I will very disappointed if this is not a recorded vote. The council should not hide behind a voice vote on this issue. If a member of the Council is reading this, please call for a roll call vote. 
There are two memorializing resolutions on the agenda. A memorializing resolution simply expresses the will of the council. That however does not mean they are not important and should not be taken seriously. Sometimes there are national campaigns to get cities to all ask something of the federal government, such as last year when the Council passes a resolution asking for strict EPA enforcement of CO2 emissions.  I think the Council should refrain from expressing its will on national issues. It has enough to do managing city affairs. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1252 request President Obama and Congress "to select
    Stix
    public infrastructure improvements as the priority activity of the United States to upgrade the current substandard infrastructure of the nation, strengthen the national economy, and support healthy and vibrant communities in the United States." 
    While our nation does have infrastructure problems, I don't think the Metro Council ought to be advising Congress of what the budget priorities should be.  We have elected Senators and Congressmen to make those decisions on our behalf. So, unless the Council is going to evaluate the entire federal budget and become as knowledgeable as Congress about the choices we face, then the Council should focus on the Metro budget and let Congress focus on the federal budget. I would vote against this if I were in the Council. This was on the agenda last meeting but was deferred. I hope this is defeated or withdrawn.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1268  A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Council to make Metropolitan Government General Sessions Court judicial elections nonpartisan. I am not sure how I feel about this. I would have to think about it. Republicans did not succeed in getting any of their nominees elected last time, and I am almost certain that some of the elected judges are Democrat in name only, so this may be good idea. Also, Council and Mayor run as non-partisan candidates, so why not candidates for judge?
Maybe the Gulch Pedestrian bridge could be deferred until the next mayor comes into office and Stix also deferred. Since the pedestrian bridge is a work of art rather than just a utilitarian sidewalk, maybe we could take the money in the public art sit aside, including the $750K for Stix, and spend it on the bridge.

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Top Business Groups Across Tennessee Support Amendment 2

Press Release, Nashville, Tenn. – Top business organizations from across the state are urging their members and supporters to Vote YES on 2 this November.

 Amendment 2, the second of four proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this November , brings greater clarity and accountability to the way we select the state’s appellate court judges so we get the fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and need.

“Our ability to attract and keep businesses in our state relies in part on having a stable , fair and impartial judiciary,” said Clay Thompson, Chairman of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce &Industry, and President of Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services in Nashville . “Amendment 2 gives voters the chance to put an end to the legal challenges the current process has faced which threatens to destabilize our judiciary and weaken our state.”

Amendment 2 keeps the best parts of our current system by continuing to have the Governor appoint the most qualified persons as appellate judges, while adding a new layer of accountability by having our elected representatives in the legislature confirm or reject the Governor’s appointees . Most importantly, Amendment 2 protects the right of Tennesseans to vote to retain or replace the judges at the end of their respective terms.

“Tennessean’s want fair and impartial judges held accountable to the people,” said Gary Shorb, President of the Tennessee Business Roundtable, and CEO of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in Memphis. “We think Amendment 2 strikes the right balance in meeting that test. We encourage all Tennessee businesses to work in support of it.”

Some of the state’s major business organizations already working in support of Amendment 2 include:

•  Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry
• Tennessee Business Roundtable
• Tennessee Bankers Association
• Tennessee Hospital Association
• Tennessee Business Partnership
• Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
• Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
• Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce
• Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
• Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce
• Knoxville Chamber of Commerce
• Kingsport Chamber of Commerce

Amendment 2 has also been endorsed by a diverse and bipartisan group of top leaders from across the state , including Governor Bill Haslam, former Governor Phil Bredesen, former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, former Governor Winfield Dunn, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, former U . S . Attorney General Albert o Gonzales, large bipartisan majorities in the State House and Senate who voted to place the amendment on the ballot, as well as other leading organizations including the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, League of Women Voters, Fraternal Order of Police, Tennessee Bar Association, and the Women’s Political Collaborative.

Election Day is November 4, 2014, and early voting begins October 15, 2014. For more information, visit VoteYES2.org.

My Comment: I am in favor of all four proposed amendments. Some conservatives are opposed to amendment two because they are angry because they believe we are not currently following the Tennessee Constitution that says appellate judges shall be elected. Currently the governor appoints a judge from a panel of three submitted by a judicial selection committee. The judges serve a period of eight years then stand for a retention election.  The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a retention election is an election.  I think the Supreme Court is wrong. I am sure when the writers of our constitution said judges would be elected they did not intend that election to be a retention election. Some opponents of amendment two see a vote for the amendment as a capitulation. I understand that.  However, I think on its merits, the proposed amendment two is a superior method of selecting judges. It mirrors the way federal appellate judges are appointed. It improves our current system by requiring a governor's appointee be confirmed by the legislature.  If amendment two fails, we will not start having contested elections for appellate judges. If amendment two fails, nothing changes.

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