Friday, January 24, 2020

Activate and reclaim 2020 Conference, Jan. 25th

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bill proposes statewide cap limiting Nashville's ability to raise funds from property taxes

If the bill becomes law, cities and counties would be limited to a 5% annual tax rate increase, without the need for voter approval. (read more)

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What happened at the Jan. 21 Council meeting: Gay interest trumps religious freedom, Idling ban gutted and deferred, Parental leave benefit advocated, Scooter changes deferred.



If you are going to watch the meeting, follow this link to access the agenda, agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda. You will get a lot more out of the meeting if you know what's going on.
Following Pat Nolan's introductory comments, the prayer and pledge of allegiance, the Council votes on confirmation of appointees to boards and commissions. Next is the public comment period and only one person speaks.  There are no surprises or drama.  The Council takes up consideration of resolutions at timestamp 23:53. Below is a summary of the legislation I found most interesting.

Resolutions:

Resolution RS2020-149 is withdrawn.  It would have appropriated $587,900 to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office so the sheriff's office could have the capacity to house federal prisoners. This would have earned the city about a half million dollars. Some members of the Council initially opposed this, thinking this would lead to the detaining of prisoners for violating national immigration laws but it has been clarified that that will not be the case.  I thought this solved the problem but apparently not.  No explanation is offered as to why this was withdrawn. This proposal was part of the deal with the Comptroller to approve Nashville's financial plan.
Resolution RS2020-172 passes on a recorded vote.  It commends "Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for Executive Order 11 regarding paid family leave, and calling for all areas of Metro Nashville government to implement paid family leave policies equal to or greater than the paid family leave outlined in the aforementioned executive order." If I  had a vote, I would oppose this. I would not support this without a provision that such paid family leave not cost the city any money. Governor Lee has not satisfactorily explained how the State will pay for this expanded employee benefit at the State level. Steve Glover was the only "no" vote and their were a couple of abstentions.
A Late Resolution that urges Governor Lee to not sign a bill which could allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn down adoptions by LGBTQ people based on their religious beliefs passes without discussion and no one voting against it. I am disappointed that none of the conservatives on the Council voted against this.

Second Reading:
Bill BL2019-109 makes changes in the city policy toward scooters or what is termed "shared urban mobility devices (SUMDs)." It is deferred two meetings. 
Bill BL2020-114 would limit the amount of time a vehicle could sit still with the engine idling. Currently the only restriction is a prohibition of a running motor vehicle from being left unattended unless the vehicle is on private residential property and is equipped with a remote start device that prohibits operation of the vehicle while unattended. This bill in its original form would prohibit a stopped or parked motor vehicle from idling for more than three minutes, or for longer than one minute if the vehicle is within a school zone. There are a few exceptions in the bill.  The bill is substituted.  The substitute pretty much guts the bill.  It becomes an education effort of the health department rather than a law enforced by the police.  The fine is removed also. The substitute is deferred two meetings.
Bill BL2020-115 requires a security plan prior to obtaining a building permit for a parking structure constructed near a stadium, arena, or racetrack. This is relevant to the proposed soccer stadium. As I understand it, this would be another obstacle that may help stop or delay the soccer stadium construction. It is deferred one meeting. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Can a Republican beat Jim Cooper?

by Rod Williams - On the wish list of every local Republican I know, is that Jim Cooper be voted out of office and be replaced by a Republican.  What are the changes of that happening? In thinking about the prospects of beating Jim Cooper, one place to start is looking at how Republicans have done in the past

Previous Challengers of Jim Cooper have not done well.
Note that the 5th Congressional District includes portions of Cheatham and Dickson Counties and Republican candidates do better in those counties than Davidson County.

In the 2018 election, the Republican got 32% of the vote. If you look at Davidson County only, he only got 29% of the vote. 



2018


In 2016, the Republican got 37% of the vote and in Davidson County only 34% of the vote.
2016


In 2014, the Republican got 36% of the vote, but in Davidson County only, only got 33% of the vote.
2014

In 2012 the Republican got 33% of the vote but in Davidson County 32%.

2012
.

In 2010 Republicans were really fired up.  That was the time of the tea party movement and there was a lot of energy among conservative.  There had been a spirited primary with a bunch of good Republican candidates. David Hall worked as hard as I think any candidate could work.  The Republican candidate got 42% of the vote and Jim Cooper got 56% of the vote.

However, one factor in Republicans doing better in 2010 than in years since is that the District 5 boundaries were more hospitable to Republicans. Wilson County made up a significant portion of the district.  Between 2010 and 2012 there was a new census and lines were redrawn to make the 5th even more favorable to Democrats.

2010
If one looks at the returns one would have to conclude that the chances of a Republican beating Jim Cooper are pretty slim.  However, lets look at other factors before reaching that conclusion.

Other Republicans have not done will in Davidson County.
In the 2010 governor's race, Bill Haslam did not carry the County but came close. He got 75,381 votes compared to 76,427 for Mike McWherter.
In the 2012 presidential election Romney got 39.7% of the vote and Obama got 58.2% of the vote.
In the 2016 presidential  race Donald Trump only got 34% of the vote and Hillary Clinton got 60% of the vote.
In the 2018 governor's race, Republican Bill Lee got only 34% of the vote and former mayor Karl Dean got 66%.

However, sometimes Republicans do win in Davidson County but not often. 
In the 2014 Governors Race, Bill Haslam running for reelection got 71,661 votes compared to Democrat challenger Charlie Brown's 47,438. Brown did not present much of a challenge, however. I think that Nashville has changed so much since 2010 that is not helpful to look at races earlier than that year.

There are a lot of "yellow dog Democrats" in Nashville.

One reason it is difficult for Republicans to compete in Davidson County is that there are a lot of people who will vote Democrat no matter what. "Yellow Dog Democrats" was a political term applied to voters in the South in the past who voted only for candidates who represented the Democratic Party.  That was all these voters needed to know about a candidate, that he was a Democrat. These voters would "vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican."  Well, there are still a lot of "yellow dog Democrats in Nashville. Consider the Senate election of 2012 when the candidates were Republican Bob Corker running for reelection and Democrat challenger M. E. Clayton.



Of the votes cast in this contest 48% voted for Bob Corker and 45% voted for Clayton. A few votes went to other candidates.  Corker won Davidson County but not by much. M. E. Clayton had no qualifications for office, raised no money and did not campaign. He was associated with a group that some called a hate group, Public Advocate of the United States. The Democratic Party disavowed his candidacy and urged candidates to write in a candidate of their choice. State wide Corker got more than twice as many votes as Clayton but not in Nashville.  If Nashville Democrats will vote for M. E. Clayton, they will vote for any Democrat. That is a build in advantage.

There are a lot of new progressive Democrats in Nashville.
I don't have stats to back this up but observing local politics convinces me this is so. These are the mostly younger voters, many who may identify as socialist.  In the last election for Council several local affiliates of national organizations such as Code Blue, Democracy Now, National Justice League, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Women for Tennessee's Future, and Laborers’ International Union of North America were active in our election. These young progressives bring energy and manpower to an election and that does not bode well for a Republican candidate.

In conclusion, it will be very difficult to beat Jim Cooper.
As the district line are currently drawn, a Republican simply cannot beat Jim Cooper today. Republicans can get about 34% of the vote and that is it.  However, if certain thinks happen, Jim Cooper could be beatable.

What could make Jim Cooper beatable?


1. If Cooper is beat or weakened by a progressive candidate in the Democratic primary, a Republican would have a chance. Jim Cooper has picked up three challengers in the Democratic primary, all to his left, the most formidable of these is 24-year-old Vanderbilt divinity student and activist Justin Jones.  He is the person who threw coffee on Glen Casada at the State capitol building and was arrested. He is the person who at a Marsha Blackburn event, during a moment of silence to honor fallen victims of a mass shooting, yelled out "racist" and had to be physically removed from the building.  He was also arrested for that event. He has gained a following.  Many progressives in Nashville think it is time to beat Jim Cooper.  In addition to progressives who want to beat Cooper, many more mainstream Democrats are not really fond of him.  He is not a warm person.  Many consider him aloof and arrogant. By all accounts he does not have much of a grassroots organization.
 In normal times one would think a person like Jones would not stand a chance but if a bartender named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can be elected to Congress, anything is possible.  If Jones got the nomination, I believe a Republican  could beat Jones.  If Jones does not win the nomination but comes close in a bitter campaign, then progressives may choose to not vote for Cooper in November.  They, of course, will not vote for a Republican but may sit out the election. 
2. If Jim Cooper's leftward move is exploited he could be beatable. I have never thought of Jim Cooper as a conservative but he at one time at least talked about the dangers of the national debt.  Recently he endorsed the Green New Deal. I suspect many voters have heard of the Green New Deal but are not really aware of what it calls for. I suspect many who are concerned about global warming, think the Green New Deal is a positive thing.  Once they learn what radical changes it calls for and the price tag, they will turn against politicians who endorse it. 
3. If the above two things happen, the right Republican could stand a chance of winning. Despite the case I build above that it will be difficult for a Republican to win a seat in Davidson County without redrawing the district, I do not think it hopeless. Here are some reasons why.  1.)Nashville is not as liberal as it first may appear.  John Cooper ran for mayor on a platform of fiscal responsibility and defeated an incumbent mayor who wore a pussy hat to protest Trump's election and advocated that Nashville be a Sanctuary city.  2.) The voters voted against a new tax to fund mass transit.  3.) The voters elected  Steve Glover, an avowed conservative and Republican to one of the five at-large Council seats.  These were all non-partisan votes but it does indicated that Nashville is not hopelessly liberal.
If Jim Cooper had been weakened or beaten in a primary the right Republican could stand a chance. It would still be an uphill battle but the district could be competitive.  The candidates who have challenged Jim Cooper are all good people and I would be pleased if any of them were serving in Congress but they were not well know prior to running and they were not adequately funded. A Republican can not unseat Jim Cooper without a lot of money. I don't know how much but just a guess is about $1.5 million. In Megan Barry's successful race for mayor, she raised $1.1 million. The right Republican candidate needs to be someone who has previous success in their career and is known in the community already and someone who is moderate in rhetoric and demeanor. 
4. By far the most important thing that would help a Republican win Jim Cooper's seat if the district was redrawn to make it competitive for a Republican. Every ten years the State has to redraw district lines so that each district represents about the same number of people. The State legislature will redistrict this year. There is no reason Davidson County could not be split. The 5th Congressional District is surrounded by solidly Republican districts that Republicans win by big margins. District could be redrawn so that a Republican could have a chance in Davidson County. In 2020 there will be a new census and district lines will have to be redrawn with new district boundaries in effect in 2022. Republicans in the house could split the Davidson County vote among two or three districts. This could be done in such a way that Republicans now in office would not in danger of losing an existing seat but that a Republican would have a chance in Davidson County. 
I know there are some smart people with political insight reading this blog.  If you have insight on this topic, I would appreciate hearing from you.

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What's on the Council Agenda for 1/21/2020: Banning idleing cars, paid family leave, changes to scooter rules.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, January 21st at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis. For those who want to watch the Council meeting, the meeting are more interesting if you know what is going on. They are still not very interesting, but more interesting. You don't have to watch the Council meetings and yet you can still be informed, because I will watch it for you and then a couple days later post a summary of the most important Council actions and I will post a video of the meeting and highlight the most interesting parts. Below is a summary of the agenda, highlighting what I deem to be the most important items.

Following the opening prayer and the pledge the Council votes to confirm or elect members to boards and commissions. Election to the Community Oversight Board is to be delayed to Feb. 4th, is my understanding.  However, the agenda shows two nominees for confirmation to this board.  These two may be the nominees of the mayor.  Two members of this board are appointed by the mayor (I think) but most are nominees from the community.  For anyone interested in the process of how vacancies will be filled to this board, see timestamp 10:35 of the last Council meeting at this link.

The next item of business is the public comment period. So far, I am pleasantly surprised that this opportunity has not been abused by grandstanding activist. I keep expecting that to happen.

Resolutions:

Resolution RS2020-149 appropriates $587,900 to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office so the sheriff's office can have the capacity to house federal prisoners.  This will earn the city about a half million dollars. Some members of the Council initially opposed this, thinking this would lead to the detaining of prisoners for violating national immigration laws but it has been clarified that that will not be the case, so there should not be opposition to this because of that concern. This proposal was part of the deal with the Comptroller to approve Nashville's financial plan.
Resolution RS2020-172 commends "Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for Executive Order 11 regarding paid family leave, and calling for all areas of Metro Nashville government to implement paid family leave policies equal to or greater than the paid family leave outlined in the aforementioned executive order." I would not support this without a provision that such paid family leave not cost the city any money.  Governor Lee has not satisfactorily explained how the State will pay for this expanded employee benefit.
Bills on Second Reading
Bill BL2019-109 makes changes in the city policy toward scooters or what is termed 

"shared urban mobility devices (SUMDs)." Back in July 2019 the Council passed a bill cancelling all scooter permits and allowing existing scooter companies to operate with half the number of scooters they currently had on the streets while the Traffic and Parking came up with a RFP (request for proposal) system to replace the current system. This bill extends the time the Traffic and Parking Commission has to develop its RFP system and changes the guidelines for what would be in the RFP.  Some of the guidelines are more specific and this also authorizes the Traffic and Parking Commission to set fees to charge to the scooter companies to carry out the enforcement of the agreements. The Commission would not have to come back before the Council to have their fee amount approved. This is better than the previous bill in my view in that it does not limit the number of providers of scooters to only three, however it restrict each provider to only 500 scooters.  I don't support that restriction because there may be some economy of scale. This requires the RFP to have a commitment to safety including helmets.  I don't like requiring helmets.  There is a lot in this I don't like, but I fear if this does not pass a complete ban may pass and I do not want to see scooters banned.  So if I had a vote, I would reluctantly voted for this bill. 
Bill BL2020-114 would limit the amount of time a vehicle could sit still with the engine idling. Currently the only restriction is a prohibition of a running motor vehicle from being left unattended unless the vehicle is on private residential property and is equipped with a remote start device that prohibits operation of the vehicle while unattended. This resolution would prohibit a stopped or parked motor vehicle from idling for more than three minutes, or for longer than one minute if the vehicle is within a school zone. There are a few exceptions in the bill.  I oppose this. 
None of the bills on thrid reading are of interest. 

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Eliminating Terrorist Soleimani was Acting in America's Best Interest

Rep. Phil Roe
by Congressman Phil Roe - The relationship between the United States and Iran was not always fraught with tension; but since the 1979 Revolution, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini made it clear Iran would no longer be a friend to the U.S. From the hostage crisis in November 1979 to present day with Iran shooting down an American drone in June 2019, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been escalating for 40 years. These tensions reached a breaking point on December 31, 2019 when Iranian-backed militia groups chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel” while storming the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, setting fire to buildings.

This incident was the latest in a string of destabilizing attacks by Iranian-backed forces that escalated as they faced little consequence for their attacks. Thankfully, the president took decisive action and eliminated one of the world’s top terrorist - designated as a terrorist under the Obama administration- who is most directly responsible for those attacks, Qasem Soleimani.

As leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) – a group President Trump rightly designated as a terrorist organization, General Soleimani planned and carried out numerous terror attacks resulting in the deaths of over 600 Americans. Under Soleimani’s direction, the IRGC-QF engaged in numerous terrorist activities: in May 2019, they reportedly attacked and seized commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman; attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in September 2019 attempting to destabilize the world oil market; and fired rockets into the K1 military base in Iraq, resulting in the death of a U.S. civilian contractor and four U.S. servicemembers.

The recent escalation by Iran led President Trump to act against Soleimani on January 3, 2020. President Trump ordered the elimination of General Soleimani by airstrike, thereby holding Iran accountable for their actions and no longer allowing Iran and the IRGC-QF to operate with impunity in the region and around the world. I support the president’s action and think the world is a safer place because of it.

Unlike the Obama administration that did nothing but appease the leaders of Iran, President Trump continues to promote accountability and “maximum pressure” on Iran through monetary sanctions and military action when necessary. President Trump rightfully pulled the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – more commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal. That disastrous “deal” lifted many of the economic sanctions that were in place, provided access to over $1.5 billion in cash and allowed Iran to maintain portions of its nuclear program. The U.S. should never have entered this deal that provided sanction relief to Tehran, and we should have continued economic pressure until Iran not only ceased its nuclear program but also its support for, and funding of, global terrorism.

President Trump showed great restraint throughout all the escalation by Iran, even stating the U.S. was willing to “embrace peace” after Iran fired missiles at the Ayn al-Asad airbase in Iraq on January 8, 2020, a strategic location where the U.S. maintains a military presence. Thankfully, no U.S. or Iraqi servicemembers were harmed in that missile attack. He said to the people and leaders of Iran, “We want you to have a future and a great future – one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” I could not agree more. No one wants war, and we are ready to encourage peace throughout the region.

Despite Iran’s continued escalation and the decisive military action taken by President Trump, many of my Democrat colleagues claimed the attack on Soleimani was unjustified and escalated tensions. I disagree. Instead of supporting the president’s act of strength, House Democrats passed a misguided resolution that undermines President Trump’s anti-terror efforts, rebuking his actions to eliminate this threat. Soleimani repeatedly advocated for, and implemented, attacks that cost Americans their lives. By removing him, Iran is truly deterred from continuing to fund attacks that destabilize the Middle East. In the future, hopefully Iran will come to the table for real negotiations. President Trump’s actions and attitude toward Iran and its constant aggression and escalation has been tough but fair. He took decisive military action after Iran repeatedly acted against the U.S., our allies and assets across the Middle East. The president’s decision to remove a top international terrorist is the response I hope to see our president make and the kind that is in America’s best interest.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Watch out Nashville.The Left steps up their game in Nashville.

by Rod Williams - Nashville is not the "San Francisco of the South," thanks to already existing State law which limits Nashville's flexibility and the State response to Metro initiatives. The State has stopped Metro from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than protections laid out by the state, it prohibited Nashville from becoming a sanctuary city, it prohibited Nashville from banning Short term rentals and prohibited Nashville from mandating that builders build affordable housing. Nashville would be a much more "progressive" city if not for the State.

My perception is that in about the last five or so years there has been a sharp move to the left. The more radical or "progressive" sector of the electorate has grown in influence. While Nashville has always been a Democrat town, my perception is that the electorate is much further to the left than in the past. There has never been much of an organized conservative presence in the city and the organized liberal forces were old-line mainstream liberals, consisting of civil-rights-type organizations and labor unions. Most pressure groups were neighborhood groups resisting change or advocates of increased spending for education or some other government service. They could be called "liberal," but were not terribly ideological.

In the last Council election we saw in Nashville something not seen before. We saw nationally affiliated organizations such as Act Blue and Democracy Now and various other outside groups supporting candidates in our non-partisan Council election. They donated money to these candidates and went door-to-door on their behalf. Many of those candidates won.

Now the left has stepped up their game. One of the new progressive organizations making their presence felt in the city is Stand Up Nashville. It was formed as coalition of groups of the left in 2016. Now the organization has hired an Executive Director. With a year-round presence and staff an organization can have much more influence than an organization ran by volunteers active only at election time.

Stand Up Nashville is a partnership of nine organizations, including the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee; the AFL-CIO; Nashville Organized for Action and Hope; the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition; Democracy Nashville; Ironworkers International Union; LiUNA Southeast Laborers District Council; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; The Equity Alliance; and the Service Employees International Union Local 205, which represents Metro government employees. There first executive director is Odessa Kelly, a founding member of the organization.

Thanks to the State, there are limits to how much influence the left can exert but this is not a good sign. In her initial email to SUN supporters, Odesa Kelly wrote, "SUN’s work is a testament to will and power of the people and our collective movement to shape Nashville in our image. Every move we make is a step toward racial and social equality." Watch out Nashville.

For more on this topic see link, link and link.

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