Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Metro government policy to destroy more affordable housing

by Rod Williams, 6/20/2019- Almost ever politician running for office or holding office list "affordable housing" as a major issue facing our city.  The media and non-profit organization and opinion leaders do also.  As Nashville has grown, property values have increased. When more people making the big bucks move to the city, they are going to drive up housing cost. It is inevitable. Some at the lower end of the economic scale are hurt as the city becomes more prosperous and they can not find housing they can afford.  Renters find their home sold off to developers who build larger more expensive housing. Government wants to spend million and millions to build and subsidize affordable housing and if not prohibited from doing so by the state, would have forced private developers to build affordable housing with a policy called "inclusionary zoning."

So while government and civic leaders bemoan the loss of affordable housing, there is a certain hypocrisy going on.  While, no doubt, most of the property value increases are driven simply by demand, much of the fault for loss of affordable housing, is directly due to government policy.

To add to the loss of affordable housing that has already occurred, Metro is getting ready to destroy some of the last remaining affordable housing in Nashville.  There is an article in today's Tennessean, East Nashville's longtime red-light district readies for transformation, that explains this.

The Dickerson Road area has long been one of the cheapest parts of the city to live.  In addition to affordable apartment buildings along Dickerson, the neighborhoods adjacent to the thoroughfare have lots of modest affordable homes.  On Dickerson Road there are several old-fashion junky trailer parks.  On Dickerson Road itself there are businesses that serve the people who live in the vicinity. There are businesses such as laundromats, payday lenders, convenience stores, and discount tobacco stores, and used car lots.  Dickerson Road has always had a problem with hookers walking the street and the area has a lot of drug dealers.

Metro has a plan to improve this bad part of town. The plan envisions a dense collection of modern offices, shops and multifamily housing, widened streets and added transit hubs, greenways, crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes.  The city is going to beautify and upgrade one of the worst parts of the city.  The Tennessean says, "But the increased investment is expected to send property values soaring in one of the few areas where relatively affordable housing can still be found near downtown."  I am pleased to see this recognition of the effect of improving parts of the city.

We are talking about hundreds of units of housing are going to be lost.  Thousands of people will no longer be able to afford to live there.  Some of the people living in trailer parks rent by the week. Where are they going to go?   No one likes to have a seedy part of town, but when you beautify and upgrade a seedy part of town you are destroying the only place poor people can afford to live.  Every community can't look like Brentwood and still have affordable housing.

Less ambitious than a master plan such as is planned for Dickerson Road are city policies that little by little destroy affordable communities and thereby affordable housing.  These are policies that make busy corridors look nice. These are rules which say used car lots must have an attractive decorative fence in front of them, that say one can not have in close proximity businesses of the same or similar type such as used tire stores and auto repair businesses, and rules that say all dumpsters must be placed on a reinforced concrete pad behind the building, and rules that require a certain distance between pay day lenders.  These rules drive out the kind of business that serve low-income people.  They make unattractive parts of town more attractive and change the character of the community and make it attractive for people who make more money.  They turn low-income parts of town into middle-income parts of town.

Another way in which Nashville destroys affordable housing is by the policy of making large parts of the county single-family only.  Almost every Council meeting, there is a bill to down-zone a neighborhood from a zoning which allows duplexes to a zoning which does not.  Such legislation may change a zoning from R20 to RS20. I understand people wanting to preserve the character of their neighborhood.  I understand people wanting things to stay the same. However, this has an impact on future home prices.  This makes future affordable housing less likely and it encourages urban sprawl.  With higher density, there are fewer places to build houses and this causes the available places to be more expensive.  Also, with less available building spaces close in, it causes people to move further out.

Another way the city causes a loss of affordable housing is by driving up the cost of development and stifling the development of more affordable housing. Take the policy that requires a sidewalk in front of every house.  Sidewalks can add thousands of dollars to a the price of a house. This means developers will build more expensive homes rather than less expensive homes to absorb in the home price the cost of the sidewalks.  Also, I have talked to developers who say they have tried to build communities of affordable housing and instead of getting assistance from planning, they got obstacle after obstacle thrown in their way.  It is simply easier to build pricey homes rather than affordable homes.

Another way government destroys affordable housing, is my stringent codes enforcement.  I own a little rental house in Woodbine.  I only own one rental property.  It is the house I lived in  myself until I moved to my current home.  It is a two-bedroom one-bath house.  Recently I got a codes complaint and I had to deal with it. It is not the first time.  It was a headache and an annoyance.  I have a tenant who has different taste than I do and likes "yard art."  He also keeps a lot of stuff that he might can sell to make a little money.  The stuff was stored neatly in covered storage.  He also was parking a car on an unpaved or graveled area. 

I only charge the tenant a modest price for rent.  I could put central heat and air in the house and dress it up just a little and rent it for about half again what I am getting, or I could sell the house.  I get about two postcards a week from someone wanting to buy that house. If I sold it they would tear it down, and build an expensive house on the lot. 

Quite frankly, I don't need the money I could get from selling the house or from upgrading and raising the rent.  My tenant is a Cuban refugee who really did come to America by a raft made of intertubes.  He has been here about twenty years or so but has a heavy accent and little education. He makes a living by selling scrap metal.  He would have a difficult time paying more rent.  I rent to him at a modest rent more out of a sense of doing a good deed than anything else.  When I get a codes letter, however, I am tempted by the postcard offers to buy my house.  I have talked to other landlords who get harassed by codes.  I know we have to have codes enforcement, but there is an effect.  When codes officials harass property owners they destroy affordable housing.

The other way Metro government contributes to the loss of affordable housing is by refusing to zone property for greater density if what is planned to be build on the property is affordable housing.  Worse yet, is the taking away of ones property rights in order to stop them from building affordable housing. This was attempted in Antioch. Ultimately, the person's property rights were not taken but the threat hung over the owners head for two years and the affordable property was never build.

The loss and increasing lack of affordable housing is of concern, but much of the blame can be laid at the doorstep of the same people who bemoan the fact that we are losing affordable housing.  You can't have affordable housing if you don't want affordable neighborhoods.  You can't have affordable housing and have every neighborhood look like Brentwood. You can't have affordable housing, if you are going to ban greater density or fight having affordable housing in your neighborhood.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

This is who is running in the 13th District: Dan Meridith, Russ Bradford, and Andrew Dixon

The Tennessean analyzed the Council race for the 13th District and you can read their story at this link.

Dan Meridth
The 13th District is the Antioch-Percy Priest area currently represented by Holly Huezo. Three candidates are seeking that seat. They are Dan Meridith, Russ Bradford, and Andrew Dixon.  Here is a little about the three and links for more information.

Dan Meridith:  He is a registered nurse and has worked for 32 years in that profession.  He is an evangelical Christian who readily shares his faith.  He is a conservative and one of his top issues is reining in out of control spending. "I don't think we need to be spending money on nonessentials," he says. Nashville's enormous debt and crime are other issue of concern to Dan.
Dan is plain spoken freely expresses himself and is not politically correct and this has gotten him in trouble at times. His critics have called him racist, homophobic and misogynist. Some of these charges are explored in the Tennessean article. While I would not express things in exactly the same way Merideth does, I do not believe him to be guilty as characterized.  Often these label are attached to people to simply keep others from expressing a view contrary to liberal orthodoxy and to stifle debate.  I believe him to be a good man. He is the candidate I am supporting in this district. For more information visit his campaign website.

Russ Bradford
Russ Bradford: He a quality assurance specialist for a healthcare IT and consulting firm. Russ Bradford is openly gay. He has the endorsement of the Victory Fund.  "LGBTQ Victory Fund works to change the face and voice of America’s politics and achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ officials at all levels of government." He also has the endorsement of the Nashville SEIU.
Andrew Dixon

 When asked why he is running, he says, "Our district has not had a voice and we're fed up with not being heard.."   That seems to be a slap at Councilmember Huezo. He talks about "investing" in teachers, police, our fire fighters, and not in downtown businesses. For more information, visit his campaign website.

Andrew Dixon: He currently works in finance, but his website does not say who is his employer. He has worked Department of Treasury as a Bank Examiner. The Tennessean says he declined a telephone interview for their article on the 13th District.  That is not normally the actions of a serious candidate. This is the link to  his campaign website.

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No TAX Hike! Metro Council fails to pass substitute budget with a property tax hike

I am surprised. I was almost certain one of the three proposed tax increase budgets would pass. I was favoring the Glover substitute, because it raised taxes the least. My support was simply a pragmatic calculating. I prefer a no tax increase budget but did not think one could pass. Looking at the make up of the Council, knowing of Metro's dire financial situation, perceiving the mayor to be weak, and looking at the number of Council members in either safe seats or not seeking reelection, I thought  the Council was almost certain to pass a tax increase of some amount. That shows you how much I know. I miscalculated. I was wrong, but I am not disappointed. I am pleased the no tax increase budget passed.

Going into tonight meeting there was three proposed substitute budget proposals, so the council had four options to consider, the three substitute options each of which raised taxes and then the mayors budget which did not. The process involved considering the budget presented by Council member Vercher. Her budget proposal was the recommendation of the Budget and Finance Committee and would have raised taxes the most. After her budget was introduced, then there were attempts to amend her proposal with first one and then the other alternatives. Both attempts failed, so then the Council was faced choosing Vercher's bill, which would raise taxes more than the two rejected alternatives, or the mayor's no-tax-increase budget. Vercher's proposal failed by only one vote.

Metro's new budget is $2.33 billion with revenue increases of $101 million but about $44 million will go to rising debt obligations. Debt obligations have to be paid. Not paying our debts in not an option. It provides a $28.2 million increase for Metro Schools and a 3% pay increase for school employees.

I am posting this with some still unanswered questions.  Budget's are required to balance; revenues have to equal expenditure.  Briley calculated  income from the proposed parking privatization deal as the source of  $17 million for this year's budget. With the parking deal put on hold, I do not know how they filled that hole. Most likely reserves were permitted to dip, but I don't know that.

For more on Metro's budget here are some resources.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

At-large candidate Matthew DelRossi arrested for violating an order of protection and vandalized his sister's home. Embarrassing video.

Below is a video of at-large candidate Matthew DelRossi ranting about a camera mounted on the house next door pointing into his yard. Be aware that this video is laced with profanity.

He was arrested on June 10th for violating an order of protection and vandalized his sister's home. He threw shovels, a fishing pole, a stick and a pickax at the security camera mounted on his sister's house.  This is not DelRossi's first brush with the law.

Last year, he ran for the office of Vice mayor and got 12.5 percent of the vote, which was enough to keep either of the two other candidates from winning a majority and forced a runoff. To see the Tennessean's report on this incident follow this link

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Two Candidate forums Tuesday, June 18th. District 7 and District 18.

There are a bunch of Candidates running in District 7. Below are their names and links to their webpage, Facebook page or any other information I could find and something about them, if I know anything.

Clint Camp: He supports the Robert Mendez's proposed 16% tax hike. link. link.
Stephen Downs:He has the screwy idea the companies have to get city permission before they are allowed to move here.  link,
Daniel Fitzpatrick: No info found.
Jacob Green: No info found.
Stephanie Johnson: No info found.

Randy Reed: He is a retired police officer. He unsuccessfully ran for this office in 2015. See Is a dirty cop the kind of person who should serve in the Metro Council.  
District 7 is the District in East Nashville currently represented by Anthony Davis.  For District information, follow this link.

Attachment with no description
Two candidates running in the 18th District.
Tom Cash: Endorsed by the local chapter of SEIU.Endorsed by the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee   Facebook pageWeb page.
John Green: Facebook, web page.
District 18 is the district currently represented by Burkley Allen. It is in the Hillsboro Village, West End part of town.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The 'it city' struggles to fund the basics

The Tennessean: The 'it city' struggles to fund the basics.

This article does a fairly good job of laying out the process by which this thriving, growing city finds itself broke.  The article does not, however, expose the effects of  our financial woes, such as teacher and police retention problems, understaffed fire services, traffic lights not synchronized, and sidewalks that are not build and roads not paved. The article does not expose the wasteful spending, the mismanagement, and corruption, and cronyism that contributes to Nashville's financial woes.

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Robert Swope's tribute to his father

My father believed that there are only three things a man needs to do in life to succeed: Don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t steal. He instilled in me if I did my homework, worked harder than those around me, and believed in myself, anything in the world was possible. He also taught me how to build a car.

When my dad turned 60, my family decided that he deserved a present he would never forget. My mother’s eyes teared up talking about his first car, the 1950 Chevy Fleetline that he cherished. He bought it worn out, rebuilt it, painted it his high school colors, courted and married my mother in it.
I found an unrestored, low-mileage, rust-free ‘50 Chevy in New Mexico and drove it back to Nashville. After hundreds of long hours on my part, the car was now completely restored, identical to my father’s original love. When I pulled into my parents’ driveway that August afternoon, surrounded by 200 people there to celebrate my father, he stopped in his tracks and almost fell over.
When I handed him the keys, he cried, I cried, my mother cried, everybody cried! It was one of those moments in life when I could say a real, tangible thanks to the man who raised me to believe that anything in the world was possible.

Twenty years later, my mother and father still regularly drive the Chevy. I love them both. Happy Father’s Day, Pop!
This is part of a long article appearing in today's Tennessean in which sports figures, country music artist, business leaders and other celebrities pay tribute to their father on this Father's Day. Read the full article at this link.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Dem forum for the non-partisan mayoral race excludes the Black female candidate

Image may contain: 1 person, indoorby Rod Williams, 6/14/2019 - Three of the four leading candidates for the non-partisan office of mayor of  Nashville, took the stage at the Belcourt theater last night to participate in the Davidson County Democratic Party mayoral forum. The three participants allowed to participate were all white men; the other major candidate who is a Black Women was excluded.  I spoke to the person in charge of the event who clarified that Carol Swain did not simply not participate, but was excluded.

About 500 people attended the event. The Belcourt has a seating capacity of 700 and not all seats were taken.  The free event was listed as "sold out."  Apparently a lot of people signed up for the event but did not attend.  Often at events like this, those who attend are turned out and not people who just spontaneously attend.  Clemmons had the most visible and loudest supporters at the event.

As events like these go, it was good.  It was well-organized and there were no glitches. The format was that each candidate got three minutes to make opening statements and at the end, each candidate got three minutes to make a closing statement. A series of six questions were asked of the candidates and candidates were given three minutes to answer each questions.  Three minutes allowed the candidate to give more detailed answers.

The questions were selected by a process of the question being submitted by the participating public to the Davidson County Democratic Party Facebook page, then a poll was created and the participating public voted on the questions to ask.  The six questions getting the most votes was the questions included.  There was no off-the-wall questions about the Green New Deal, how are you going to resist Trump, or how will you turn Nashville into a sanctuary city. The first five questions were questions that would have likely been asked even if Republican would have participated in drafting the questions. Only, the last question, about how will you make Nashville a greener city was one that I would categorize as not a mainstream concern. The other questions were about affordable housing, traffic, Nashville's debt, and funding for public education.

The full video of the forum is available at this link, so I am not going to attempt to summarize who said what. I encourage readers to watch the video. Of the three participants, I was least impressed with Ray Clemmons.  He did not have detailed answers and seemed to display what I thought of as phony passion.  Maybe it is just me, but he seemed to be posturing and pontificating.  I also think he was trying to position himself to the left of David Briley, which is hard to do.

On the question of affordable housing, Clemmons was critical of the efforts being made and said it was not near enough and we need to put $50 million a year into the Barmes Fund and he said no neighborhood should be off limits to anyone. That may appeal to liberal sensibilities but it is illogical. If you build affordable housing in the most expensive parts of town, the cost of land is going to mean you don't build very many units.

David Briley scored a point with me when answering the affordable housing question.  Part of the question asked what you would do to keep the elderly from being forced out of their homes by rising housing cost.  Briley said that increased property tax was a factor in housing affordability and that was a reason to hold the line on taxes.  Often it seems politician ignore this fact. Briley scored another point responding to the traffic question when he pointed out that some of the bus riders are being subsidized up to $40 per trip.  He said having buses cover more territory with more bus routes was not a solution.  Of course, I wish candidates would embrace markets, technology and innovation but an admission that subsidizing bus rides up to $40 per trip is not wise policy is a start toward rethinking transportation.  For those who attended First Tuesday last week and saw Mayor Briley speak, he gave no different answers to a room full of Democrats than he did to a room full of Republicans.

On the environmental question about a greener Nashville, candidates covered a lot a ground. Candidates said due to global warming, we can expect more frequent flooding.  I found it interesting that not a one of the candidates mentioned building the flood wall that was once a city priority.  I guess that idea is finally dead. I am pleased it is but kind of surprised that it is not being advocated by a candidate trying to tap into environmental angst and passions.

John Cooper came across as informed and gave good answers. On the question of the city's debt, Cooper said that the city has a debt of $6,000 per man, women, and child in Davidson County. On this question, I think he showed the greater mastery of the issue.  If I knew nothing about the candidates other than what I observed at this forum, I would have to give Briley a slight edge and Cooper a close second and Clemmons a distant third.

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