Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The costs of Gov. Bill Lee's family leave policy could exceed $5 million. Probably closer to $25 million.

by Rod Williams - The Tennessean reports that taxpayers would have paid more than $5 million to cover the costs of thousands of state employees who were on leave last year if Gov. Bill Lee’s latest proposal had been enacted. This number was calculated based on the amount of unpaid leave that employees took last year plus the cost of overtime to cover for absent employees.  The amount of unpaid leave came to $4.2 million. 

If $4.2 million is the monetary value of the unpaid leave employees took, then $5 million has got to be a very conservative unrealistic estimate of what paid family leave would cost.  I am sure there are lots of employees who took only a few days of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or the death of a parent but who would have taken much more if it was paid leave.  A lot of people simply cannot afford to miss many paychecks. I bet lots of fathers who may have taken a week off for the birth of a child, would have taken the full twelve weeks off, if the State was going to pay them for twelve weeks off.

I am not opposed to the policy proposal.  However, if has to be paid for. Perhaps it could be paid for by making the payment a lien against retirement benefits or adjusting the pay increase schedules, but to pretend there is not a cost is ridiculous. A fiscal note has not yet been developed for the proposal. To read The Tennessean story, follow this link.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

"Marijuana Law Reform: It's About Freedom, Not Drugs" with Paul Kuhn. Wed Feb 26th 6:00pm - 7:30pm.

Wed Feb 26th 6:00pm - 7:30pm (CST)
 ADS Security, Suite 100, 3001 Armory Dr #100, Nashville, TN 37204,

AIER's Bastiat Society of Nashville invites you to our next event on February 26, with Paul Kuhn, entitled "Marijuana Law Reform: It's About Freedom, Not Drugs".

Legalization of marijuana is sweeping across the country, regarding medical use and recreational use. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) reports that one in five Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute, and the majority of citizens reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized.

Support for marijuana policy reform is clearly building. What are the pros and cons of this issue? Please join us for this important discussion.

This event is co-sponsored by The Beacon Center of Tennessee & The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) (affiliated with Middle Tennessee State University).

Registration is required: Register Here.

6:00 - 6:30PM: Networking
6:30 - 7:15PM: Presentation
7:15 - 7:30PM: Q&A

Light snacks and refreshments will be served.

More about the speaker:

Paul Kuhn has had a lengthy career as a principal in multiple Investment firms, most recently as Co-Founder and Principal, Woodmont Investment Counsel, LLC. Paul has also served in the US Navy. He became involved in marijuana reform in the 1970s and has held multiple positions with NORML, including as a board member of the NORML Foundation, a position he still holds. Marijuana legalization became a personal issue for him when his late wife, battling cancer, found that legal drugs totally failed, and cannabis worked perfectly.

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Consider attending a Community Budget Meeting!

The idea behind these meetings is to give the public an opportunity to see and hear the budget information that the Council has seen and heard over the last 90 days. During that time, the Council heard from the Comptroller for the State of Tennessee and Metro Finance Director Kevin Crumbo about the size and scope of the city’s budget problems and the types of solutions that are available.

City officials to make sure the public has this same information and an opportunity to talk about it before Mayor Cooper presents his budget on March 31, 2020. Meetings will be facilitated by Councilmember At-Large Bob Mendes and District 2 Councilmember Kyonzté Toombs.


  • February 25, 6:00 to 7:30 PM: Northwest Family YMCA 3700 Ashland City Highway, Nashville, TN 37218 
  • February 26, 6:30 to 8:00 PM: Smith Springs Community Center 2801 Smith Springs Road, Nashville, TN 37217 
  • March 4, 6:00 to 7:30 PM: Studio 615 272 Broadmoor Drive, Nashville, TN 37207 
  • March 9, 6:00 to 7:30 PM: Church of Christ in Green Hills 3805 Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN 37204 
  • March 10, 6:00 to 7:30 PM: Nashville Public Library Bellevue Branch 720 Baugh Road, Nashville, TN 37221 
  • March 12, 6:00 to 7:30 PM: Nashville Public Library Hermitage Branch 3700 James Kay Lane, Hermitage, TN 37076
One can be sure that the advocates of higher taxes will be attending these meetings.  For those who oppose higher taxes, to be effective they need to be informed.   I have observed over the years that conservatives only show up at the last minuet to oppose a tax increase while liberals fight day in and day out for bigger government. Advocates of bigger government are generally better informed and better equipped to argue their case. The new energized progressive are organizing for a tax increase and they are tuning out people to attend these meetings.

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Metro council member Steve Glover facing criticism for social media post on Boy Scouts

Steve Glover posted the below Facebook post which resulted in criticism from Councilman Bob Mendes and others. I am proud of Steve Glover for sharing his views on this topic.  We conservatives for too long have allowed liberals to dominate the popular culture.  We have allowed political correctness to dominate and have been cowered. It is past time to speak up and fight back.  To read the Channel 5 coverage of this story, follow this link.

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Five things you missed at Metro Council (and what to keep watching)

For the summary by the Business Journal of what happened at the most recent Council meeting, follow this link

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Mayor Cooper Submits Much Reduced First Capital Spending Plan

Metro Press release, 2/21/2020 -Today, Mayor John Cooper submitted his administration’s first Capital Spending Plan, and the first CSP since the newly-passed legislation that requires full itemization of funding for public projects before construction begins. The Capital Spending Plan contains the Mayor's recommendations of capital project requests from the capital improvements budget that the Administration would like to see approved and financed.

Because of the significant fiscal constraints facing Metro currently, the FY2020 Capital Spending Plan is much smaller than in previous years, focusing on emergency needs such as repairs, replacement and maintenance. The average Capital Spending Plan over the past four fiscal years was $441.8 million. This year’s CSP is $154 million, equally split between General Government and Metro Nashville Public Schools. The $72 million of Metro Schools projects (not including $10 million for contingencies) is a $12 million increase, or 20% over what MNPS received in last fiscal year’s Capital Spending Plan.

“As we navigate difficult financial times, the city faces urgent needs that must be met in order to maintain basic services and public safety,” said Mayor Cooper. “This is a fiscally responsible spending plan, and I’m proud we can make these much-needed investments, including half to our public schools.”

General Government project highlights include:

  • $4.6 million of matching funds to leverage Federal and State grant funding for Metro Transit Authority 
  • $12.2 million for paving, sidewalks, and roadways 
  • $17.2 million to complete the construction of the Sherriff’s headquarters. The FY2017 CSP appropriated $21 million, which was insufficient to complete construction. 
  • Funding for planning to replace two fire stations and the Health Department’s Woodbine Clinic; and funding to create a new mounted patrol barn facility. (Currently, these facilities are in a deteriorated and unsafe condition.) 
  • $12.0 million for two new police helicopters to phase out an aging fleet with safety concerns. Four of MNPD’s six helicopters are from 1970-1972.
Metro Schools’ project highlights include:
  • $22.9 million for Goodlettsville Elementary School replacement 
  • $4.8 million for bus and fleet vehicle replacements to meet state replacement schedules 
  • $1.0 million in roof repair 
  • $6.9 million in technology needs, comprised of student and staff computers and software 
  • $7.4 million in electrical upgrades across the district 
  • $20.7 million in HVAC upgrades across the district 
“It is wonderful to have a mayor who understands the importance of great facilities to providing a high-quality, equitable education to every child,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, interim director of schools. “The investments proposed by Mayor Cooper in the areas identified by our staff and School Board are critical to maintaining great educational and working environments for our students and staff.”

These projects represent the city’s most urgent needs. For FY2021, Mayor Cooper’s administration will be in communication with departments and plans to address additional needs later this calendar year.

Rod's Comment:  This plan is only about 35% of the amount budgeted in the past few Capital Spending Plans.  I commend Mayor Cooper for showing fiscal responsibility while addressing critical needs. He is governing as he said he would.

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Bridge at the fairgrounds takes council members by surprise

Members of the Metro Council were surprised to learn that the plans for fairground improvements to accommodate a new soccer stadium includes a bridge over Brown's Creek. Council members are learning about this for the first time and want to know who pays for it and how much will it cost. For more on this, follow this link.

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Gov. Lee's proposed generous paid family leave policy to be presented as a legislative proposal instead of an Executive Order.

by Rod Williams - A couple months ago Governor Bill Lee announced that he was issuing an executive order to grant 38,000 State employees with up to twelve weeks of paid family leave.  I may be mistaken but I believe the first public announcement of this was at a First Tuesday meeting where he spoke, where I was in attendance.  If that was not the first announcement of the policy it was news to those in attendance.  At that meeting, I recall him saying something to the effect that this would be accomplished by shifting money from various funds and would not require additional funding.

I remember thinking at the time, that it is not possible to institute such a generous employee  benefit without there being a fiscal impact.  Yes, it may be possible to trim a little here and there to get money to spend money elsewhere one time, but that is not therefore free money.  A benefit of this magnitude has a cost.

I remember after the First Tuesday meeting was over, standing near the elevator with other attendees discussing the announcement. The question everyone wondered about was how was he going to pay for this and some were perplexed that he could dismiss the cost of the policy as not an important factor. Well, legislators have had the same concerns.

Gov. Lee has now announced that he is reversing course and seeking legislation to implement the policy rather than doing so by executive order.  That is the right thing to do.  There will be a fiscal note. There will be a cost to the policy.

I am not necessarily opposed to the policy.  I am a new grandfather to a one-year old grandson and am pleased by daughter got to spend some weeks of paid leave with her new baby.  I think it is sad that a mother gives birth and has to immediately return to work.  I wish all mothers could stay home with their baby until the child started kindergarten but I do not expect the tax payers to fund such a policy.

It may be that when presented as a legislative proposal, the proposal may call for the employee benefit package to be adjusted to provide for this benefit and employee cost cut elsewhere.  Retirement dates could be extended or step increase periods be extended to pay for it or perhaps it can simply be budgeted as an additional expense. However it is proposed to be paid for, recognizing that it does cost something and is a decision for the legislature to make is the correct course of action.

For more on this, follow this link.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Nashville's population explosion has abruptly slowed, as newcomers settle elsewhere in the region

The growth in the 14-County Greater Nashville Metropolitan Area has slowed form 100 a day to 83 a day.  More of the growth within the greater metropolitan area is going to surrounding counties rather than to Davidson County.  Davidson County is growing at the rate of about 16 people a day,, down from about 25 a day.  Read more.

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Chairman Smithson Steps Down from DCRP

Press release - After over seven years of service to the Davidson County Republican Party, Chairman Melissa Smithson announced her resignation effective February 15, 2020.

"After considerable thought, it is with great sadness that I resign as Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party. Standing up for conservative causes in our city will always be my priority, but family circumstances at this time require my full attention," said Ms. Smithson. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and am proud of the work we have accomplished to grow the Nashville Republican Party. I know the members of the DCRP will continue to push the conservative agenda and vision forward. I hope in the future to be actively involved again and be an advocate for local issues."

Ms. Smithson has been a long-time activist in local Republican politics, including serving as the 2016 Trump Campaign County Co-Chair, and as a candidate for Council District 28. Ms. Smithson was part of the grassroots organization Save Our Fairgrounds and with StopAmp, serving as communication and social media director, and helped lead the NoTax4Tracks movement.

Rod's Comment: Melissa had done a great job leading the Davidson County Republican Party.  It has to be a frustrating job leading the Republican effort in a heavily Democratic county like this one. I wish Melissa well as she cares for her aging father and in all her endevors.

Melissa, Best wishes and may God bless you.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What happened at the 2/18/20 Council meeting: I-440 held up, poor people's access to credit curtailed, new scooter regs deferred, ban on contracting for detention services deferred, vaping ban advances, Short-term rental restrictions pass.

by Rod Williams - This meeting is two hours and 17 min. long. To access the agenda, agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link.

Following Pat Nolan's introductory comments, prayer, pledge, confirmation of appointments, and the comments from the public period in which two people spoke, the Council begins consideration of resolutions at timestamp 21:45.

Resolutions. Resolutions are passed by a single vote of the Council. Most are routine matters such as accepting grants and approving contracts and approving settling of law suits and approving signs overhanging sidewalks. Most are lumped together and passed as a group by the Council by a single vote.  These are the ones of interest.
Resolution RS2020-202 is "A resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement by and between the State of Tennessee, Department of Transportation, and The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, acting by and through the Metropolitan Department of Public Works, for signal maintenance for I-440 Traffic Operational Deployment of Blue Toad Spectra Power over Ethernet (PoE) Data Collection Devices, State No. 99111-4604-04; PIN 125652.00 (Proposal No. 2020M-004AG-001)." This would normally pass without controversy, however there is an issue that I thought may make this controversial.  Many neighbors of the expanded I--440 corridor have complained of lighting pollution.  Some have said that prior to the expansion that they were not bothered by the I-440 lighting but now it shines in their house like a spotlight. Normally the Council would have little leverage to influence the State to address these concerns. If I were serving in the Council I would hold up passage of this resolution until the concerns of constituents were addressed. This is deferred one meeting but no explanation is offered.  I do not know if it was deferred for the reason I suggested or some other reason. 

Resolution RS2020-208 by Steve Glover. A resolution expressing the Metropolitan Council’s intention to support Mayor Cooper’s commitment to protect taxpayer dollars and focus the use of government resources on public safety and improvements to our school system. I supported this.  It is deferred indefinitely at the request of the sponsor. 

Resolution RS2020-209 is "A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to support a change in state law to include stormwater utilities among the utilities covered under the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority Act."  I do not know enough about this to have an opinion and since it is a memorializing resolution, the staff does not  explain this.  The sponsor speaks on the resolution but I am still not sure what this would accomplish.  I did not watch the committee meeting and this was probably explained at that meeting. In any event this is deferred two meetings
Resolution RS2020-211 ask the State to support legislation to limit the interest rate that can  be charged by title loan companies. I oppose this. I have no love for sleazy title loan companies. In my career, which has involved counseling low income people, I must have warned people a thousand times of the danger of using pay day lenders and title loan companies.  However, I don't want to protect people from making stupid decisions. Free people should be free to be stupid.  Also, there are times when a title loan may be the only loan a person can get and a bad loan in some cases may be better than no loan. Several people speak in favor of this. Robert Nash questions the wisdom of this action and says it is somewhat elitist to take away the only type of loan that some people can get. To see the discussion see timestamp 35:22 - 46:40. The resolution passes by a vote of 33 in favor, 6 abstaining and one voting "not voting." 
 Bills on Second Reading.

Bill BL2019-109 makes changes in the city policy toward scooter or what is termed "shared urban mobility devices.  This is deferred one meeting but since it had been previously deferred the effect is a indefinite deferral, "by rule." To be considered again, it would have to be reintroduced. The sponsor says this will be reconsidered after more work on the issue.  

Bill BL2020-115 (as amended) requires a security plan prior to obtaining a building permit for a parking structure constructed near a stadium, arena, or racetrack. Under this ordinance, no parking structure, as defined by the zoning administrator, could be constructed within 100 feet of a stadium, arena, or racetrack that accommodates or will accommodate 1,000 people or more unless a security plan prepared by a professional sports/entertainment facility security consultant is approved by the fire marshal and the department of codes administration. The security plan must, at a minimum, include mitigation mechanisms to protect spectators from attacks associated with explosives contained inside motor vehicles located on or within the parking structure. It is my understanding that this would be another obstacle in the way of the proposed MLS Fairground stadium. Also for security purposes, it does sound reasonable. I support this bill. To see the discussion see timestamp 50:00-  57:43. This fails by a vote of 16 in favor, 22 opposed, 1 voting to abstain and one voting "not voting."  

BILL NO. BL2020-148 (BENEDICT, WELSCH, & OTHERS) – This ordinance would prohibit Metro from entering into a new contract, or renewing an existing contract, with a private contractor to manage a Metro detention facility after June 30, 2022. The ordinance would also prohibit Metro from entering into or renewing a contract with the state for the detention of incarcerated persons if the contract permits a private contractor to manage the facility. "Profit" has become a dirty word for some people in recent years. For-profit prisons and schools have especially come under attack by progressives. I think government contracting for services is often, not always-but often, more cost-effective than government providing services directly, whether garbage collection, janitorial services, road construction or owning and managing prisons. I oppose this bill. Contracting for detention services should not be banned as an option. This is deferred to the first meeting in July. 

Bill BL2020-162 would prohibit vaping on hospital grounds and within the public right-of-way in the vicinity of hospital entrances. It is amended to include animal control facilities.  I oppose this bill. Vaping when using the products it was intended for is healthier than cigarettes. There is not evidence that vaping endangers any one but the person vaping. Can you imagine the person with a nicotine habit visiting a sick or dying loved one in the hospital and they need a smoke.? We may think it better if they did not have that habit, but in a time of stress is not the time to punish them for a habit of which we may not approve. Have some compassion! The Council should eject the nanny state and vote "no."  I commend Cortney Johnson and Robert Swope for speaking against the bill.  It passes by a voice vote on Second Reading.
Bills on Third Reading.
BILL NO. BL2019-111 (PARKER, TOOMBS, & SLEDGE) – This ordinance creates new “NS” (No STRP) districts for all zoning districts, except single and two family residential (R and RS), downtown code (DTC), and industrial districts (IWD, IR, and IG). These new NS zoning districts would be identical to all existing standards and all existing uses, except that owner occupied and not owner occupied uses would be prohibited in NS districts. This is another unnecessary attack on short term rentals and an attack on property rights. To see the discussion when on Second reading see timestamp 1:22:35- 2:07:22 at this link. There is no discussion on Third reading. On a roll call vote, the vote is 33 in favor, 2 "no", 4 "abstain," 1 "not voting." I could not see how everyone voted but two of my favorite councilmembers pleased me.  Steve Glover voted "no," and Courtney Johnson voted "abstain." 

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