Friday, January 19, 2018

President Donald J. Trump: Year One

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How will the media respond if the Democrats shut down the government?

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, is prepared to lead a filibuster against a temporary spending measure to keep the federal government funded for four more weeks. During past years when a Democrat president could not agree with Republican spending priorities and the result was a government shut down, the mainstream press almost universally described it as "the Republicans shut down the government." Now that the exact same circumstances exist but the shoe is on the other foot, will the main stream press described a government shutdown as, "the Democrats shut down the government."  If so, then they have at least a little journalistic integrity. If not, then they can forever fairly be referred to as "the drive-by media," "fake news media," and "the liberal media."

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ex-mayoral candidate David Fox joins the fight to stop Mayor Barry's mass transit plan

Ex-mayoral candidate David Fox lends hand to PAC fighting Mayor Barry's transit referendum

by Joey Garrison, USA Today Network, Tennessee - Former Nashville mayoral candidate David Fox is lending his support to a new political action committee that has organized to defeat Mayor Megan Barry's transit referendum proposal. 

The new group, called the NoTax4Tracks PAC, was announced Tuesday to oppose over the coming months what its leaders call "an ill-conceived plan" that would make Nashville's sales tax the highest in the nation while not fixing the city's traffic congestion. Barry wants a referendum on her transit plan put on the May 1 ballot. 

....Fox, who has broken what had been more than two years of public silence on city matters... "It's just an enormous outlay of capital," Fox said. "If you look at just the capital costs, it's eight times the size of the Music City Center. And it's going to be more than that because this assumes federal grant money, which the feds have indicated is not going to happen."

Fox said other cities with similar densities have been unsuccessful in building riderships to justify light-rail projects like the one put forward by Barry. He also said the proposal to increase sales tax by a half cent, and later by 1 cent, would be "brutal to the middle class and brutal to the lower-income residents.

"I think the plan is like a tribute to urban transit plans of decades ago. It's like something out of the 1980s to me. It's like, well, we missed our turn 25 years ago when this was the vogue thing to be doing, and now we're adopting a plan that's I think a backward-looking, extraordinarily expensive change that's not going to materially improve transportation here," Fox said. (link)

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Join the "No TAX 4 TRACKS" movement.

http://www.notax4tracks.com/join
I have joined. This is serious organized opposition to the mayor's backward-looking $9 billion mass transit plan that would make Nashville one of the cities with the highest sales tax rates in the nation and would do nothing to relieve traffic congestion. Join the effort. Follow this link.

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Council meeting postponed to Jan. 23th.

January 16, 2018. Press release -Due to inclement weather, Vice Mayor David Briley has postponed the January 16, 2018 Council meeting until next Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 6:30 pm in the interests of public safety. Associated committee meetings will be conducted on Monday, January 22, 2018.
“We have Council members who have indicated that they cannot attend this evening’s meeting due to the weather. Since there are important votes on the agenda, I do not want to deprive any Council member of the chance to vote on these items.”
Special meetings of the Metro Council can be convened pursuant to Section 3.04 of the Charter of the Metropolitan Government.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Celebrating President Trump's 8 Biggest Accomplishments





I did not support Trump in the Republican primaries. When he first announced, I thought it was a publicity stunt. When it became clear he was serious, I compared him to a carnival barker with an inflated ego and was sure his candidacy would not last.  After he got the nomination, I still could not bring myself to support him.  I was a "never Trumper."

I did not vote for him in the General Election, casting my vote for instead for Evan McMullin. Being certain that Trump would get all eleven of Tennessee's votes I had the luxury of not voting for "the lesser of two evils." If the popular vote mattered or if Tennessee would have been a toss-up state, I would have voted for what I perceived as the lesser of two evils and would have voted Trump, but I would have had to hold my nose to do so.  I was resigned to enduring a Hillary presidency.

Since the election, I have continued to be embarrassed by Trump and scared that he was going to really do something stupid.  I still think he is a person who is crude, rude, undisciplined and a person without a well-founded ideology. Nevertheless, I find myself warming to Trump. I am still embarrassed from time to time and some of the things he says makes me cringe. but I am pleased with his accomplishments.  Not mentioned in the above eight, I am also pleased that he is taking the threat of North Korea seriously.  It is almost too late. Obama had eight years to curtail North Korea and failed. Not mentioned above, I am pleased that illegal immigration has taken a nose dive.  I still have reservations about building a wall the length of the southern border and I have reservations about a budget-busting infrastructure program.  I still fear Trump may disrupt world commerce and weaken the US due to his isolationist and protectionist tendencies, but more and more I am thinking those are simply posturing positions to use in negotiations. So far, he has not damaged international trade.

While I am not yet a Trump enthusiast, I am pleased with his accomplishments. While I often wish he would be more circumspect and diplomatic in what he says, on the other hand, I sometimes find it refreshing that he does not equivocate and use typical political weasel words to express himself. When he says something, you usually know what he has said. Since he has parted ways with Steve Bannon, I am even more hopeful that Tump will really govern.  I know, as of today, 2018 does not look good for Republicans and the House looks like it may be in danger of being lost, but with Bannon gone, there is time for Trump to grow his popularity and rally the nation to his side. With Bannon gone, there is less likelihood, Republicans will nominate nutjobs for candidates who just hand seats to Democrats. If Trump would only moderate his tone a little and if the economy continues to boom, all may not be lost.

In any event, win or lose in 2018, there is much to celebrate about Trump's first year in office.

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What's on the 1-16-18 Council agenda: The mayor's $9 billion transit plan, trampling property rights and stopping affordable housing, new Airbnb rules, and creating a Police Community Oversight Board

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. The hot topics are the mayor's transit program, a bill to create a police citizen's review committee, the bill that would trample a person's property rights and kill an affordable housing development, and bills that would change the rules on Short Term Rentals such as Airbnb. If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

Mayor's mass transit plan.
Bill BL2017-1031  is the bill to adopt  the Mayor's transit improvement program and approving  the program, and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018 to approve the tax increases to support the program.  While this should be controversial, expect it to pass overwhelmingly. At a three and a half hour public hearing on January 9th the proponents vastly outweighed the opponents, supporters have been organizing for months, the proposal has the support of Chamber and other movers and shakers in town and the Council meeting as a special council committee composed of the entire body voted 29 to 1 to recommend it. A group called Transit for Nashville Coalition has gathered over 30,000 signatures in favor of a mass transit program for Nashville but the signatures were supporting mass transit not a specific amount of taxes to support mass transit.


Despite the vote in favor of approved this is already determined, I expect a few speeches in favor and look to Councilman Robert Swope and Councilman Jon Cooper to possibly speak against it.  While the bill says the price tag for the plan is $5.4 billion, when all cost are included the price tag is closer to $9 billion.  This assumes no cost overruns. With cost overruns typical of similar projects the real cost is more likely to be between $15 billion and $22 billion. While the vote on Tuesday night well be overwhelmingly in favor of the plan, I am not assuming it will be approved in a public referendum especially if organized resistance emerges.  Some Council members will justify their vote in favor by saying they are simply letting the public decide the issue. That is not what the bill does. It puts the Council on record endorsing the plan. To fully understand the issue see page 6-14 of the staff analysis.

Police Community Oversight Board
Bill BL2017-951  on Second Reading would establish a Community Oversight Board to conduct investigations and provide citizen oversight of officers of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.  It would provide for an eleven member board, seven nominated by citizens groups or by petition confirmed by the Council, two appointed by the Council and two appointed by the mayor subject to Council confirmation. The Board would have the authority to investigate allegations that MNDP officers have committed misconduct in violation of policy or criminal misconduct.The Board would hold regular meetings and have a staff of researchers and lawyers. This would cost about $386,000 a year. A previous Council staff analysis said there are due process concerns with the way the board would operate. In my view this bill needs to be defeated. This bill will probably not be voted on due to procedural issues regarding council rules. More than likely the sponsor will have to start over with a new bill.  Nevertheless, depending on how lenient the vice mayor is, expect some passionate speeches in favor.

Trampling property rights and stopping affordable housing

The Ridge Apartments
Bill BL2016-219   is the bill that tramples a persons property rights, partially taking property without compensation, and kills an affordable housing development. This bill is on third and final reading and it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission which means it will take 28 votes of the Council to pass.  This has been in the works for a very long time. Most zone changes allow people to do something with their property they were previously not allowed to do; this bill is a "down zoning," taking away a right someone now enjoys.  The developer is already vested in the project having designed the development and arranged financing.  If this passes it is an outrage. There will likely be lawsuit which Metro will most likely lose and the state has threatened to withhold low income housing tax credits, an essential financing tool for most affordable housing developments.  For more on this issue, see Contact your Council member. Stop the trampling of property rights and the killing of an affordable housing development.

Changing the rules regarding Short Term Rental (Airbnb" or home sharing). 
Bill BL2017-608,  Substitute Bill BL2017-937Bill BL2017-981, and Bill BL2017-982   all concern short term rentals. I am supporting 937, the least offensive of the bills. The worst of the bill, which would phase out non-owner-occupied short term rentals in areas zoned residential is bill 608. Bill 937 is being supported by the the citizens groups of home sharing advocates. It was worked on for a very long time by a special Council committee and was the subject of numerous meetings. It is called the "compromise" bill but many of the more vocal neighborhood activist are not happy and want to abolish home sharing all together and favor 608 which would abolish non-owner-occupied short term rental. For a more detailed explanation of these bills follow this link, this link, or see the staff analysis starting on page 16.

    


Other agenda items:
There are seven mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation and as always they will be affirmed. There are no bills or resolutions on public hearing.  There are 10 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading.  Normally bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote. It is rare that a bill on First Reading is voted on separately. I normally do not read bills until they get to second reading.
 
There are 12 resolution on the agenda and all are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes  unanimously the committees to which it was assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. None of the resolutions on this agenda are of much interest.

There are only four  bills on Second Reading and one of them is the bill to create a Police Community Oversight Board discussed above and another is the mayor's transit plan above. The only other bill on second reading of interest is this one:

Bill BL2017-941  would establish a a Commercial Permit Parking Program. The council would have to approve the geographic areas in which this applied. In those areas commercial vehicles could only park on the street if they had a permit to do so.  As we grow, parking become more of a problem with people parking on streets taking parking places that deny those spaces to those who have businesses or residence on the street a place to park. These seems reasonable.
There are 32 bills on Third Reading. One of them is the bill to trample property rights discussed above.  Others are the bill concerning short term rental discussed above. Bill BL2017-1026 is the only other bill of interest and it is only of interest because it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission and will require 28 votes to pass.  It changes from RS5 to RM20-A zoning on property located at 1308 Montgomery Avenue.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person but I wouldn't recommend it. There will be a mob of people for this meeting. You can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site and you can watch it live on Roku. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel. If can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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Mayor Barry uses MLK day as oppornunity to stir racial annimosity and denouce Trump. Shame on Megan Barry.

Instead of using MLK day as an opportunity to promote racial healing and celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. King, Nashville's Mayor Barry used the opportunity to denounce President Trump as a racist.

I am not a fan of Mayor Barry, but there had been several times when she surprised me by her reasonableness.  There have been occasion where she could have taken a hard left position on issues and did not. Also, despite disagreeing with some of her policies I have often thought she was probably a good person.

Perhaps Barry played the stir-racial-animosity card because of her declining support in the Black community.  She has come under criticism by some in the Black community for not taking a harder line in denouncing the police following the police shooting last year of an armed Back man in a James A. Cayce Homes parking lot who resisted police following a routine traffic stop. She has also not endorsed the creation of a Police Citizens Review Board.  Many Black activist are not supportive of Barry's proposed $9 billion mass transit plan, saying it will take away from improved bus service and will promote more gentrification. Perhaps the biggest cause of Mayor Barry's loss of support among members of the Black community is that she proposed converting General Hospital from a hospital to an out-patient clinic. The expensive hospital that requires massive subsidies and cannot fill it's beds is a source of pride in the Black community.

It appears that to get back in the good graces of the Black community, she resorted to stirring  racial animosity. Shame on Megan Barry. For more on the story follow this link.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shame on President Trump for using the term "shitholes"

Shame on President Trump for using the term "shitholes" to refer to certain countries, assuming he did in fact use that term.  He should have referred to the countries in question as disease-ridden, crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, corrupt, dysfunctional, unstable, dirty, shabby, third-world countries.  You know, the kind of places we think of as "shitholes."

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Transit plan supporters outnumber critics at public hearing



I have quickly sampled this three and half hour public hearing but I have not yet watched this video but intend to do watch more of it. If any speaker says anything brilliant I will tag the timestamp. Look for "update," to see if I have posted a timeline notation or provided additional commentary.

According to news reports, proponents showed up early and took all the seats. The Tennesseean says the public hearing was very one-sided and was less a barometer of public opinion and more a sign of months of organizing by the Transit for Nashville Coalition. Here is a  link  to the Tennessean report.

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Barry buckles to pressure. Backs down on closing General

Mayor Megan Barry has buckled to pressure and delayed until the end of 2018 her decision to close General Hospital. As expected, members of the Black community had denounced and resisted her decision but in recent days one of the members of the Council who is considered a conservative came out in opposition.

General Hospital is a failure and cannot fill its beds and serves very little purpose, yet the Black community see Meharry General Hospital as a source of pride. Nashville General is the teaching hospital of Meharry Medical College. Meharry is the second largest educator of African-American medical doctors and dentists in the United States and has the highest percentage of African Americans graduating with Ph.Ds in the biomedical sciences in the country.  Should General close, the mission of Meharry Medical College would not be jeopardized. Meharry recently partnered with HCA to train at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, a hospital in HCA's TriStar Health subsidiary.

General Hospital has long been a money pit. In the last two years the Hospital has sought $26 million in emergency funding  in addition to a $35 million annual subsidy from the Metro Council.  As reported in The Tennessean recently, a recent audit found that the hospital, "failed at basic bookkeeping, unable to keep track of patient payments and major expenses."

While poor management is obviously a problem, the real problem with Nashville General is that  no one wants to go there.  Metro jail inmates without insurance needing hospitalization have no choice and are sent to General and there is a financial incentive for Metro employees to use General but it still cannot fill its beds. The facility is  licensed for 150 beds, staffed for 114 and has an average of 44 beds filled a day. Metro General should have been closed fifty years ago.  Ever since the advent of Medicaid there has been no need for a city charity hospital and the reason it has been kept open is purely political. There is no federal or state law or metro charter provision requiring the city to operate a charity hospital.

I thought it took courage for Megan Barry to propose closing General. It did, but unfortunately Barry did not have the backbone to follow through and rally support. Facing other issues, such as pushing her transit plan, I doubt the mayor will invest political capital in trying to build support for an end of year decision to close General.  We are probably stuck poring more money down this rat hole for many more years to come.

For more on General see the following:
Mayor Megan Barry delays closure of inpatient care at Nashville General Hospital
Why is Steve Glover fighting to keep General Hospital open? Very disappointing. 
The Tennessean, December 17, 2017: Future uncertain for Nashville General CEO amid mayor's plans to end inpatient care.
The Tennessean, December 15, 2017:  Hospital landscape in limbo as questions swirl over Nashville General's fate
The Tennessean, December 14, 2017: Audit: Nashville General plagued by financial mismanagement despite progress. 
For previous reporting on Metro Nashville General issues covered in this blog, follow this link.   

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