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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Sunday, January 12, 2020

A clear and detailed explanation of how Mayor Cooper balanced the budget from Councilman Jeff Syracuse

Below is a clear and detailed explanation of how Mayor Cooper balanced the budget.  This is from the newsletter of Councilman Jeff Syracuse.

Mayor Cooper has made some difficult decisions as we knew he would have to in order to correct our fiscal issues and balance the budget and fill the $41.5 revenue gap. Some of the below is rather complicated. Here is how the revenue gap has been filled and was approved by the State Comptroller:

  •  An agreement with the Convention Center Authority will bring about $12.6 million annually back into the general fund from the Music City Center via a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Taxes) agreement.
  • $10 million via a PILOT with Metro Water Services. 
  • $7.2 million MDHA TIF (Tax Increment Financing) payment reduction ($10.8 million was the total, with $7.2 million to Metro and $3.6 million to Metro Schools). 
  • $3.6 million from the Convention and Visitors Corporation. Debt Service reimbursements for facilities that attract tourists are an allowable use of Tourist Promotion funds under TN Code and the CVC will adjust their spending from that fund to accommodate the $3.6 million reimbursement.
  •  $500k from program reimbursements from Sheriff’s Office / US Marshall Service. The Sheriff will be housing federal prisoners under an existing contract. It’s important to note this contract does not include ICE detainees. This is a net gain of revenue to Metro, and funds will need to be allocated to the Sheriff’s Office to budget for this new programming. 
  • $2.6 million in targeted savings, fund balances and deferrals: 
    • $600,000 of excess fund balance that has built up in the impound lot fund that will be transferred to the General Fund. 
    • $450,000 budgeted for the staffing study and public property performance audit that have not been started and cannot be completed this fiscal year. 
    • $200,000 of the amount budgeted in post audits where current projections indicate this funding will not be needed to close out the fiscal year. 
    • $100,000 of contingency that has not been used and that Finance doesn’t believe will be needed this year. 
The remaining $1.2 million is anticipated excess savings from various departments and agencies throughout Metro. Last year nearly all Metro departments and agencies exceeded their targeted savings amounts by a collective total of $8.8 million. Departments and agencies continue to be mindful of the need for savings and based on mid-year budget meetings, we believe they will again collectively exceed savings targets. 
  • Of the budgeted $10 million for the Barnes Fund that goes towards assisting affordable housing projects, only $5 million will be awarded. The Mayor has said this is a partial impoundment of this fund and will strive to ensure it is put back in future budgets. This does delay some critical affordable housing projects from moving forward. 
Another decision that was made that I fully support is $18 million that was debt already approved for the Gulch pedestrian bridge has been reallocated for other critical infrastructure projects, traffic calming, street lights and needed new trash cans around the county. In addition, the promised extra 3% pay increase last summer that teachers would get starting January 1, 2020 was kept under the new administration. So, where do we go from here? As this upcoming budget planning cycle is absolutely critical, there is agreement to start it early. Our fiscal year is July 1, but the budgeting process has already been started in the administration and the cycle will be moved up one month to June 1, so that the Comptroller has ample time to oversee and approve that we have improved cash management, redevelop adequate reserves. 

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

What happened at the 1/7/20 Council meeting: requiring a fence permit killed, raising taxes by hiding in the water bill passed, most other major stuff deferred.

This meeting is little over two hours long. 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.

Pat Nolan gives a good overview of the important items on the agenda and the Vice Mayor gavels the meeting to order at timestamp 5:00. The opening prayer is offered by an Islamic cleric, guest of Councilman Johnathan Hall. I am pointing this out simply because I know some will find it interesting, not as a criticism.  I think it is appropriate. Muslims are part of our community and it serves no one's interest to marginalize them.

There are eleven nominees for the two open position on the Community Oversight Board. That is the new agency acting as watch dog of the police department.  Also, since those vacancies were announced an additional vacancy has occurred. If anyone wants to know more about how the vacancies will be filled see timestamp 10:35.

Public Hearing: At timestamp 21:05 the Council begins consideration of items on Public Hearing. All of those that were rezoning bills were approved by the planning commission. I am not very interested in rezoning bills but did watch it to see if any had generated much public interest. Most rezoning bills are of interest only to nearby neighbors. These are the bills on interest on Public Hearing.

Bill BL2019-8 would amend a portion of the code concerning the program that, under certain circumstances, allows developers to pay money into a sidewalk fund rather than build sidewalks in front of his development. Currently, that money is to stay in the "pedestrian benefit zone" from where the payment was made. This ordinance would instead require funds to stay within the Council district of the new development. The Planning Commission recommended indefinite deferral.  The sponsor defers to the first meeting in March.
Bill BL2019-48 is substituted and the bill and the public hearing is deferred to the first meeting in March.  This a relaxation of the ban on home-based businesses.Home businesses now are allowed only if no customers are served by the business on the premises and the business employs no more than one employee who is not a resident. That neighbor who gives local kids piano lessons is operating illegally. That lady with one a one-chair beauty shop who does hair by appointment-only is illegal. This would allow home-based businesses if no more than three vehicle trips are generated each day related to the business, customer visits are by appointment-only and operating hours are between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  I support this.


Resolution RS2020-149 would appropriate more money to the Sheriff's Department so the Sheriff's department would have the capacity to contract with the Federal government to hold federal prisoners. This would make money for the city.  Some of those prisoners however would be illegal aliens and there are some who do not want the city engaged in this. This resolution was deferred one meeting. 
Resolution RS2020-154 passes. It directs the Metropolitan Department of Water and Sewerage Services to make payments in lieu of ad valorem taxes. The amount is $10 million. I don't oppose this because we are broke and need the money, but this is a con shell game and I don't like it.  The water department operates off of its own revenues but it is still a part of metro government.  This is like charging the schools a tax since they don't pay property taxes or charging the police a fee since they don't pay property tax, except the schools and police don't generate money. The money the Water Department generates is from the water bills we pay.  This is like paying taxes with money that is in your left pocket rather than paying with money in your right pocket.   If the water department did not pay an "in lieu" payment our water bills would be lower. As Council member Vercher says in her comments on the bill, "it is a way to raise taxes, without raising taxes." Councilman O'Connell proposed to increase the amount to $15 million to include $5 million for affordable housing but that does not pass. There was an attempt to defer the resolution one meeting and it failed.  There were reasons why a deferral would have been ill advised and it would not have changed anything. The resolution passed 34 in favor, 2 no's, 1 abstaining and 3 not voting. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:07:41 - 21:28:00.

Resolution RS2020-160 passed on a voice vote. It puts the Council on record asking the mayor to restore the $4.5 million he cut the Barnes Fund for affordable housing. The mayor cut that fund to balance the budget which he was required to do.  If he had not taken it from the Barnes Fund he would have had to take if from somewhere else.  He has done a remarkable job of fixing the financial mess he inherited.  I am not going to second guess him on this.  If I were serving in the Council, I would have opposed this resolution. 
All bills on First Reading passed, lumped together, by a single vote, as is the norm.  Include in these is the bill that prohibit idling a car for more than 3 minutes. I oppose that bill but if I were serving in the Council, I would have voted for it on first reading.  First reading is a formality that gets in on the agenda. It is rare that a bill is considered on its merits on first reading. I think it is unfair to criticize a council member for a vote taken on first reading.

Bills on Second Reading:
Bill BL2019-109 is deferred one meeting. It 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.  
Bills on Third Reading:
Bill BL2019-30 (as amended) passed on a voice vote without discussion. It bans barbed wire and razor wire fencing in the Urban Zoning Overlay District along arterial and collector roadways. They are already banned along sidewalks in the Urban Services District. While I sympathize with those property owners who are trying to protect their property, this type fencing creates a feeling of living in a war zone. It makes a street ugly and devalues enjoyment of public spaces. An Urban Design Overlay (UDO) is a zoning tool that requires specific design standards for development in a designated area.  This is a minor expansion of where this type fencing is banned.

Bill BL2019-31 (as amended) is deferred indefinitely which as the effect of killing the bill. To bring it back up would require starting all over. This bill would have required a permit for all new fencing except for property zoned AR, AG, R80, or RS80. I am pleased this was killed. To see the sponsor's explanation see time stamp 1:08:40 at this link where it was discussed on second reading. It passes on a roll call vote of 27 to 9 and one abstention at that meeting. 

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Mayor John Cooper Releases Commitment Tracker

Press release, 1/7/2020- Following the release of his First 100 Day Report, Mayor John Cooper today announced the publication of his administration’s Commitment Tracker, which can be accessed at the Mayor's Office home page. The Commitment Tracker lists 50 promises made by Mayor Cooper during the 2019 mayoral campaign. Following through on the 50 commitments will be Mayor Cooper’s focus over the next four years, and they are listed in the policy areas below:

  • Fiscal Stewardship 
  • Education 
  • Affordable Housing 
  • Neighborhoods 
  • Transportation 
  • Public Safety 
  • Ethics and Transparency 
“I intend for this commitment tracker to be a transparent resource for residents as well as an accountability mechanism for my team,” said Mayor Cooper. “Tracking my administration’s progress on these 50 commitments will help keep us focused on core priorities over the next four years. I campaigned with a 47-page policy platform, and I want to be clear that I intend to follow through on the commitments I made. I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made in the first 100 days, and I recognize the important work ahead to make Nashville a city that works for everyone.”

The database will be updated monthly by the Mayor’s Office staff.

Direct link to Commitment Tracker.

Below is an excerpt from the Commitment Tracker, follow this link to see more.

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Williamson GOP mix and mingle Thursday Jan. 16th

See You Next Thursday!
Republican Mix & Mingle at the Rutledge!
First Republican Mix & Mingle of 2020!

Thursday, January 16, 2019
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The Rutledge

105 International Drive
(facing Carothers just south of Bakers Bridge Road)
Franklin, TN 37067

It's a new year, and a big election year at that! Start the year off right by making plans to attend our first Republican Mix & Mingle at the Rutledge in Cool Springs.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson also plans to attend and will share his perspective on the current refugee resettlement issue.

Join us in the Sunroom for drinks, good food and great conversation with like-minded Republican friends! Let's talk about new year's resolutions, upcoming elections, the impeachment drama, our annual Reagan Day Gala, and how you can help us mobilize our voters to secure landslide victories for Republicans this year!!

Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Mayor John Cooper Announces Areas of Focus, Expedited Timeline for FY2021 Budget

Metro press release, 1/7/2020 - Today, Mayor John Cooper announced six distinct areas of focus in his budget planning process for the 2021 fiscal year. The Mayor’s Office also released an expedited timeline that permits the administration to file a budget with the Metro Council by March 31st, a month ahead of the normal budgeting schedule, and would seek for the budget to be approved by Metro Council no later than May 31, 2020 in order to allow for review by the State Comptroller of the Treasury.

Mayor Cooper’s budget priorities are as follows:

  • Education: We will begin addressing the funding needs with respect to teacher and staff compensation, as well as operational and fiscal efficiency opportunities in MNPS. 
  • Public Safety: We will engage on funding needs with respect to first responder and emergency communications recruitment and staffing, and seek to ensure adequate enforcement coverage, community engagement, overall criminal justice system effectiveness, and first responder wellness.
  • Transportation: We will make critical and needed investments to more efficiently connect our residents’ homes, schools, and workplaces. 
  • Neighborhoods: We will make investments to further livable, walkable neighborhoods; to preserve our region’s natural resources; and to ensure foundational community infrastructure such as greenspace, recreation, libraries, and public health services and the planning/zoning services that guide and design them. 
  • Affordable Housing: We will sustain and make more effective our approaches to affordable housing, supporting the building, funding, and preserving of housing options. 
  • Effective and Sustainable Government: Beginning with cash management and fiscal strengthening, we will ensure that Metro Government meets expectations to be an accountable and efficient government. 
“I am fully committed to the responsible and effective use of taxpayer dollars to deliver core municipal services,” said Mayor Cooper. “With one of the strongest growing economies in the country, we will use the next four years to deliver on our commitment to a more effective government for all of Nashville, creating a city that works for everyone.”

To improve Metro’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars and create further means for investment, the Mayor’s Office will work with all Metro departments to seek cost-containment and efficiencies throughout the budgeting process. Mayor Cooper’s Chief of Operations and Performance, Kristin Wilson, will also work with Metro department heads to incorporate actionable metrics to align public expectations of resourcing and delivery. These metrics will be presented along with the proposed FY21 budget.

For proposed budget modifications, the Mayor Cooper’s administration will seek to prioritize investment in the key areas mentioned above. While resource constraints will be a factor in next year’s budget, the Mayor’s Office has requested to hear from all Metro departments regarding their overall needs to address the increasing demand for services throughout Davidson County in effective ways. If not funded in the upcoming budget cycle, departments’ requests will provide critical information for the administration’s long-term planning efforts.

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Move afoot to make Tennessee's Right to Work law a part of the Tennessee Counstitution

Brian Kelsey
Rod –
Next week, the Tennessee legislature will meet back in Nashville to begin the 2020 legislative session. I wanted to take a moment to share with you one of my legislative priorities for this year. 
This morning, I filed a Constitutional Amendment that would add Tennessee's Right to Work law to our state constitution, guaranteeing future generations of Tennessee workers their right to work regardless of whether they choose to join a union. I am honored that Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, and twelve other legislators have already signed on to support this resolution. 
Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It states that workers cannot be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization. When introduced in 1947, supporters of the bill argued that it would “be of great advantage to the average member of organized labor.” It also protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union.
Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including our neighboring states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Alabama amendment passed most recently in 2016. Another neighbor, Virginia, is presently considering repealing its Right to Work statute. A constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for workers against such repeal efforts.
If passed by the General Assembly in 2020, SJR 648 would need to pass the by a two-thirds majority during the 2021 or 2022 legislative session in order to appear on the ballot for a statewide referendum in November 2022. The amendment would become part of the state constitution if adopted by a majority vote in the governor’s election.
There is also already strong public support for the resolution. An October 2019 Beacon Center survey reported that 68 percent of Tennesseans favor the Right to Work policy, while 13 percent oppose, and 19 percent remain undecided.
What are your legislative priorities this year? I would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 615-741-3036. It is an honor to serve as your state Senator. 
Rod's Comment: This is the first I had heard of this.  My initial reaction is that I think it is a good idea.

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Metro council considering $50 fine for idling more than 3 minutes in vehicle

This bill passed first reading Tuesday night Jan. 7th. All bills on first reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.  Bills are considered by committee after first reading and before second reading.  If there is any discussion on the floor it will most likely happen at the next Council meeting, Jan 21, when the bill will be on second reading. Below is the text of the bill. 

Bill BL2020-114

An Ordinance to amend Chapter 10.56 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws to limit the idling of motor vehicles.


Section 1. That Chapter 10.56 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws is hereby amended by creating a new section 10.56.310 as follows:

10.56.310 – Idling Motor Vehicles

A. No person shall cause or permit the engine of a motor vehicle, other than an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in Section 12.04.020, to idle for longer than three minutes while parking, standing, or stopping.

B. No person shall cause or permit the engine of a motor vehicle, other than an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in Section 12.04.020, to idle for longer than one minute if such motor vehicle is within an established school zone while parking, standing, or stopping.

C. Subsections A and B shall not apply to the following:

1. When a vehicle is stopped for an official traffic control device or signal, for traffic conditions over which the driver has no control, including but not limited to a line of traffic, railroad crossing, construction zone, or at the direction of a law enforcement officer;

2. When necessary for safety or an emergency;
3. When necessary for vehicle maintenance;
4. When necessary to accomplish work for which the vehicle was designed, except transporting passengers, or to operate equipment;
5. School buses actively engaged in the discharge or pickup of students;
6. School buses idling for a period or periods aggregating not more than 20 minutes in any 60-minute period when temperatures are less than 40 Degrees Fahrenheit or greater than 75 Degrees Fahrenheit.

D. The driver of any vehicle found in violation of this section shall be subject to a fine in the amount of fifty dollars.

Section 2. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.


Tonya Hancock

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