Saturday, February 28, 2015

420 at CPAC and the debate about pot prohibition.

I attended CPAC the last two years and enjoyed it immensely but was unable to attend this year. CPAC opened in D.C this year on the same day D. C. legalized marijuana. Actually CPAC is not in D.C but across the river in National Harbor, Maryland, but that's close enough. To recognize the event of marijuana being legalized in our nations capitol, CPAC featured a panel discussion at 4:20 PM to discuss marijuana legalization.

CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, is the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation and nothing else comes close. It is to political conservative activist what the CMA convention is to hard core country music fans. All the contenders for the Republican Party's nomination for president appear and then there are other luminaries of the conservative movement such as popular governors, talk show host and authors. There are panel discussion on various topics.  There are academic-type presentations on theoretical philosophical concepts and there is the exhibition hall where about two hundred organizations promote their product or cause. There are movies with conservative themes, and music. Several things are going on at any given time. And, there is the opportunity to talk and socialize with like-minded people from across the nation.

I watched several of the CPAC speeches on CSPAN and while I am almost sure that a candidate's position on marijuana legalization will not be a deal-breaker for most conservatives, I was pleased to see it was an issue that was addressed. Senator Ted Cruz said, “I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called 'the laboratories of democracy'.  If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.” (link) Other candidates took a similar position. I have heard of no prominent Republican elected official taking a hard line anti-marijuana position.

Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and former Libertarian candidate for president took the strongest pro-pot position of anyone speaking at CPAC.  Sitting on a panel discussion, when an anti-pot speaker said marijuana could cause heart attacks, Governor Johnson fell out of his chair and faked a heart attack. It is fun. Watch the video.

“It seems as though we all joke about the fact that ‘I did it,’” Johnson countered. “And the fact is that half of everybody you associate with—friends, family, coworkers—have done marijuana at one point or another…Do you want to lock up your parents? Do you want to lock up your kids? Do you want to lock up your coworkers and your friends?” 
In response to an argument about the negative health effects of marijuana  Johnson said, "I don’t eat any trans fats, it’s not a good idea. Stop eating doughnuts. I have celiac disease, stop eating wheat, it is poison. It is! But should it be against the law?”
He also referenced the growing popularity of marijuana legalization among young people and said, “What is the future of politics if not the young? I just think this is going to happen…I genuinely believe this does make the world a better place.”  (link)

Other reports from CPAC indicate that the proponents of legalization exhibited more enthusiasm than the proponents of the status quo. Also there were several exhibitors in the exhibition hall promoting drug sentencing reform, medical marijuana reform, and marijuana legalization.

I am pleased to see the conservative movement come around. In 1971 when Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs it set us on the wrong path, in may view. It is time to admit the war on drugs has been a failure and the war has been lost. I am not one who advocates the immediate legalization of all drugs. I am pragmatic enough to say legalize marijuana first and  then consider other drug policy latter.

Pot prohibition has ruined the lives of many people and wasted millions in resources. Pot prohibition has been as much of a failure as alcohol prohibition. The prohibition has disproportionately harmed the Black community where getting arrested for possession of a little pot can destroy one's chances of ever doing anything with their lives. When one is born with the disadvantages of being Black anyway, one arrest for pot possession can condemn one to a life of hopelessness. We have destroyed lives and wasted millions, for what?  For letting people use a substance that makes them happy and is relatively harmless.

I do not think advocating legalization of pot will kill anyone's political career at this point.  As Governor Johnson said, most people do not want their parents or children to go to jail for smoking pot. I have been a proponent of marijuana reform all of my adult life, but I also have been a conservative participant in the political process all my life. Over the years, I have met many other conservative political activist who have admitting to smoking pot. I assume liberals use marijuana to a greater extend than conservative, but I doubt by very much.  As conservatives, we believe  government should stay out of our lives and we believe in combating government waste and we believe in federalism.  Conservatives should support an end to pot prohibition.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Important joint Education Committee meeting and B&F committee meeting on March 2nd

On Monday March 2nd there will be an important joint meeting of the Budget and Finance and the Eduction Committee of the Metro Council.  I hope the Council members on these committees are well versed on the Metro Schools budget and have studied the audit of Metro Schools. I hope they have done their homework and are prepared to ask some hard questions of the School Board members.

Cost continue to rise in providing Metro services and the largest chunk of the Metro budget is for Schools. I hope Council members  are not going to be pressured into continuously increasing the Schools budget. There is very little correlation between expenditure per child and the quality of the education a child receives. Also, some who oppose education reform try to blame the school board's financial problems on charter schools. To find out why that is a bogus argument follow this link:Things to learn from the Audit of Metro Schools.

While the above meeting will most likely be replayed on cable Channel 3, I think councilmen, whether on the Budget and Finance Committee or Education Committee or not, should attend and participate in this meeting. Candidates for council and advocates of education reform should attend this meeting also.  While no one but Council members will be able to participate, there is something about having live informed people in the audience that changes the dynamic of a meeting.

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Melissa Smithson for Metro Council Campaign Kick-off and Petition Signing Event:

Melissa Smithson
Statement from Melissa Smithson: I am running for Metro Council to represent District 28 because I am passionate about our area and want to have an active role in representing the residents of my District and in shaping Antioch’s future. As we move forward, it will be critical to ensure the decisions made today are proactive and help create the conditions needed to strengthen the area for continued prosperity while preserving the unique character that is Antioch. I believe I have the dedication, commitment and motivation to get us there.

As a first time candidate, my decision to run is heartfelt and important to me. I was born in Antioch, moved away as a young child to South Nashville and returned after graduating and getting married. I have been a resident of District 28 for 23 years. I always knew this is where I wanted to return to. Nashville is an extraordinary city to live and work and I appreciate our wonderful neighborhoods, schools, parks, downtown, and above all, the welcoming community that embodies the “Nashville” way of life.

For years I have been active in advocating for the city and our District, working with people to solve problems and to make our neighborhood a better place in which to live. I worked closely with citizens and groups in saving the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, as well as working to voice concerns about the Hickory Hollow redevelopment, public transportation and the project known as the AMP.

I have worked for small businesses and large corporations over the past 30 years’ with strong skills in operations, marketing and sales. I have served on several boards, been an activist for our community and many causes which are detrimental to our city and its future. I believe with this experience I will be a strong voice and acquire what is needed for our District.

 I hope you will support and vote for me to be your representative in District 28!

Melissa Smithson for Metro Council Campaign Kick-off  and Petition Signing Event:

When: Thursday, March 12th 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Luxury Palace Event Center 1185 Antioch Pike Suggested Contribution: $25 Appetizers & Drinks

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Why close all the Davidson County schools for a few icy roads in the very northern edge of the county?

School Board member Will Pinkston posted this to his Facebook page today:

To all you parents who are feeling frustrated by this week's Metro Nashville Public Schools closures … As an MNPS parent, I feel your pain. This week is the second time since I joined the Nashville School Board that icy road conditions in isolated parts of Davidson County have caused a shutdown of the entire school system. I understand — and I think other board members do, too — that unnecessary school closures interfere with teaching and learning, complicate parent work schedules and child care, and in some cases even lead to hunger for kids who rely on our schools for free breakfast and lunch. During this week's school board meeting, I suggested that the MNPS Central Office needs to consider a different approach to weather-related school closings in the future. In a school district encompassing more than 500 square miles, we've got to do a better job differentiating between icy roads in the rural hills of northern Davidson County and clear roads in the urban flats of south Nashville. A report in today's Greeneville (S.C.) News offers some of the best reporting I've seen on how geographically expansive and diverse school systems might rethink school-closure policies by "creating a system of sub-districts or school zones to address varying weather impact." Let me know what you think about this idea, and I'll work with other school board members to advance the conversation as we look ahead to new leadership in MNPS this summer.
Why doesn't Greenville County split schools into zones for weather?
Other school districts have succeeded in creating zones for weather issues. Why doeesn't Greenville ...

I agree.  This makes so much sense. The highlighting is mine.

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Poll Shows Tennesseans Overwhelmingly Support School Choice

 Momentum clearly grows for opportunity scholarships in the Tennessee State Legislature 

Press Release, NASHVILLE, TENN. (Feb. 25, 2015) – The Tennessee Federation for Children today released the results of a poll commissioned with OnMessage, Inc. to investigate voter perceptions about education issues in Tennessee. The polling memo from OnMessage, Inc. can be found here:

“This survey overwhelmingly shows that voters want to give parents the power and opportunity to choose to send their children to a school where they will receive a high-quality education,” said Tony Niknejad of the Tennessee Federation for Children. “The data shows that Tennesseans of every political stripe increasingly support this over the years. And the majority of Tennessee voters think that teacher’s unions care more about their own interests than about actually focusing on a quality education. The time has come for our children to realize their educational dreams and for parents to be in charge.”

I. When asked about specific opportunity scholarship legislation that is presently before the state legislature that “would allow parents to use the money the state has set aside for their education to send their children to a public, private, or religious school of their choice rather than the local public school they are assigned,”

•    59% of all TN voters support the specific legislation. This is an 8% increase from 2013.

•    69% of GOP primary voters support the specific legislation. This is an 8% increase from 2013

•    67% of voters in the Memphis Media Market support the specific legislation

•    65% of voters with children in the household support the specific legislation

•    68% of self-identified Republicans, 61% of Independents, and 49% of Democrats support the specific legislation

II. Voters also were asked to grade Tennessee public schools, and the average GPA was 2.20. When asked about schools in “your home county” the results were slightly more favorable with an average GPA of 2.42.

III. Tennessee voters have a consensus on their opinions about teachers' unions. When asked if they believe teachers' unions “care more about money and their own benefits instead of focusing on a quality education for our kids,”

•    52% of all TN voters believe teachers unions care more about money.

•    61% of Independents believe teachers unions care more about money.

•    65% of Republicans believe teachers unions care more about money.

The poll was conducted from February 2-4, 2015 with 600 likely voters and a 200 person oversample of likely GOP primary voters, with a margin of error of four percent. The polling memo from OnMessage, Inc. can be found here:

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Jeremy Elrod Announces Candidacy for Metro Council District 26

Jeremy Elrod
Jeremy Elrod formally announces his candidacy for Metro Council District 26. 

“A city like Nashville can be great only if there is an emphasis on supporting neighborhoods and the people that live and work in them,” said Elrod. “I am running for city council because I want to help the neighborhoods, residents and businesses in District 26 get their needs met – such as better roads and traffic, improving public safety, and ensuring growth is done wisely.”

Elrod, 34, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin in political science and a juris doctor from the Nashville School of Law.   A licensed attorney and former staff member at the Tennessee General Assembly for ten years, Elrod is deeply committed to public service and is currently employed at the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association.

Currently living in Crieve Hall, Elrod and his wife Rachael Anne have made the neighborhoods of District 26 home for over ten years.  They look forward to raising their seven month old twin boys there for many more years to come. 

“The neighborhoods of District 26 are great places to raise a family, and I will work them even better,” said Elrod.  “With a commitment to always listen to my neighbors and their concerns, I would be honored and humbled to serve the community I’m proud to call home.”

Metro Council District 26 is comprised of the Crieve Hall, Caldwell Hall and Paragon Mills communities.  It is home to the Nashville Zoo, Ellington Agricultural Center, Historic Traveler’s Rest, and Paragon Mills Park.  The District 26 seat is currently held by Chris Harmon who has announced he will not run for reelection. 

Carol Roberts, a fellow Crieve Hall resident, will serve as campaign treasurer.  Elrod is expected to kick off his campaign soon. 

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The March 3rd Metro Council agenda is now available.

The March 3rd Metro Council agenda is now available. If you will wait I will read if for you and tell you if anything important is on the agenda, but if you can't stand the suspense, help yourself at this link.

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Governor Bobby Jindal Coming to the Mid-South

Louisiana Gov., potential 2016 presidential candidate headlines TNGOP Memphis Event; Details at

Press release, NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Our nation faces big problems and it is going to take someone with big ideas to fix them. In 2016, Republicans will nominate a leader who fits that mold. In an effort to showcase one of those potential candidates, the Tennessee Republican Party today announced Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will keynote the TNGOP Leadership Series event to be held in Memphis on March 20th. Jindal is consistently mentioned as a top-tier potential candidate in the 2016 GOP field and his accomplishments as Louisiana’s chief executive show why he’s an exciting figure for the Republican electorate. Since taking office in 2008, Gov. Jindal has:

  • Drastically reduced the size of government – reducing Louisiana’s budget by 26% and reducing the number of government employees by 34%; 
  • Cut taxes dozens of times, causing the Louisiana private sector to flourish – Louisiana now has more people living and working, with higher incomes, than ever before. 
  • Signed into law some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation; 
  • Led Louisiana to top ten rankings of national business climate rankings; 
  • Expanded school choice and implemented other landmark education reforms to ensure every child has access to a quality education in the Pelican State; 
  • Served as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which is currently led by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. 
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney remarked, “Gov. Jindal is an exciting leader in our Party and we’re proud to welcome him to Memphis. A number of leading Tennessee Republicans call Shelby County home and they are eager to hear about Louisiana’s success under Gov. Jindal’s leadership and what his priorities are for our nation.”

I appreciate the opportunity to come to Tennessee, meet with some great conservatives in the Mid-South, and talk about conservative solutions for our nation after years of reckless policies from the Obama White House ,” said Jindal.

The TNGOP announced the Shelby County Republican Party will be co-hosting the reception and dinner. “We appreciate the opportunity to team up with the Shelby County Republican Party. A strong SCRP ensures a stronger TNGOP,” added Devaney.

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2015 Women of Distinction Luncheon Keynote speaker is Laura Ingraham

To RSVP, follow this link.

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School Choice Legislation Nets 20 House Co-Sponsors as Momentum Continues to Build

Press Release, NASHVILLE, TN- In a display of overwhelming legislative support, StudentsFirst Tennessee proudly welcomed the backing of twenty House lawmakers who have signed on to HB 1049, the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act, as co-sponsors. The news follows on the heels of a petition delivered this morning by pastors and faith leaders containing over 25,000 signatures in favor of Opportunity Scholarships, as well as yesterday's poll showing that nearly 60% of registered Tennessee voters support a state school choice law.

Applauding the news, StudentsFirst Tennessee State Director Brent Easley made the following remarks:

Across the state and at the Capitol, it is becoming increasingly clear to both citizens and policymakers alike that more needs to be done to help families trapped in underperforming schools. For too long, status quo restrictions have confined thousands of educationally at-risk students to schools that may not meet their needs and relegated parents to the sidelines when critical decisions are made about their own children's education. News of yesterday's poll assessing voter support for parental choice at nearly 60%, combined with this morning's 25,000-signature petition, provides tangible proof that clear majorities of Tennesseans agree. Now, as twenty leading members of the Tennessee House of Representatives lend their names in sponsorship of the Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act, it is clear that a growing number of legislators stand ready to move this needed policy forward.

HB 1049 has been placed on notice for a vote in the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee on March 3rd, 2015. The Senate companion bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee the following day.
To read a summary of the bill, the text of the bill and a complete list of House and Senate sponsors follow this link.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Council Meeting of Feb. 24th, 2015: The Dog-chain meeting.

At only 50 minutes long this is a short meeting. This meeting was originally scheduled for February 17th but was delayed until last night due to the bad weather.

To get your own copy of my commentary, the staff analysis and the agenda, follow this link.

There are six appointments to Boards and Commissions on the agenda for Council confirmation and they all pass with no dissenting votes.

This is a short agenda with not much on the agenda of a controversial nature. There are seven resolutions on the agenda and all end up on the consent agenda except RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1389. Those still on consent all pass without any being pulled. Bills on consent are passed by one single vote rather than each resolution being considered individually.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1389 is interesting. It involves the settlement of a lawsuit brought  by an employee who sued the city when fired. It is somewhat complex.  The fired former employee was a Metro Parks Police officer with the Parks Department who is a lesbian and one of the first females hired by the Parks Department for a Parks police position with the department. The department fired her for inefficient performance of duties, insubordination toward a supervisor, violation of written rules and dishonesty. She claims she was discriminated against. This resolution would settle the suit for $295,000. I understand those who may not want to settle this suit, but my view is that the Council should settle lawsuits when defending them would be more costly than settling and when there is serious doubt if we would win  if it went to trial. I tend to trust the legal department when they propose settling a suit. This resolution is deferred one meeting. Why, I don't know.

All bills on Second Reading pass.

Bills on Third Reading:

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951  regulate peer-to-peer vacation rentals such as AIRBnB. These bills which haves been worked on for months and both  pass by a vote of 30 in favor, 2 against, and no abstentions. The "no" votes were Jason Holleman and Robert Duvall. I would have supported this bill, if I were in the Council. The regulations are not onerous. There is one provision I do not like but that would not have kept me from supporting the bills.  There is some talk of dedicating part of the tax revenue that taxing these facilities will generate to the Barnes Fund, which is a fund sit up to develop affordable housing, but that was not part of this bill.

BILL NO. BL2014-948  amends the Five Points redevelopment plan, changing some permitted uses and it would provide and additional $670,000 in Tax Increment Financing. TIF lets the taxes from a project first go to pay for improvements in the area of the project before any tax from the project goes to the general fund of the city. I am not opposed to TIF but think it must be used cautiously . If TIF causes a project to be built that most likely would not be built then it makes sense. If however, it is just a giveaway in a popular area where development would occur anyway then it is a misguided policy in my view. I would like to know how much money has been diverted from the general fund over the past few years due to TIF and if this development tool is being overused. This bill is deferred one meeting at the request of the sponsor.

 BILL NO. BL2015-1002 rezones 361 acres to a use that prohibits duplexes from a current use that permits them.  I personally do not like this type downzoning and think it unwise to downzone property for less density. To make mass transit more viable and to combat urban sprawl we do not need to be codifying lesser density. It passes on a voice vote.

BILL NO. BL2015-1008 regulates how one could tether their dog such as how long the cable must be and how heavy and also prohibits keeping a dog tethered when it is too hot or too cold and prohibits tethering a dog with a chain. If the dog has water and shade I do not see that a heat index of 90 is excessive. Also some dogs, such as Alaskan Huskies, can tolerate being outside in a well-strawed dog house at 20° below for up to 8 hours (link). Some dogs are bred for cold weather. This bill treats all dogs the same, and they simply are not. I do not want to see any dog mistreated but I am not sure why a light-weight chain is banned. What is wrong with a chain?

Councilman Karen Bennett, the lead sponsor of the bill ,makes a pitch for her bill. Councilman  Duane Dominy gets recognized and ask for a suspension of the rules in order to offer an amendment of the bill. On third reading council rules prohibit amendments to bills, but the council may suspend the rules in order to entertain a proposed amendment. There was an objection and Duane was unable to offer an amendment.  He then spoke on the bills itself. Councilman Dominy says his 40 pound dog Lucy has chewed through four cables, one rated for a 250 pound dog. Dominy has the chains and holds them up and shows them. He says as currently drafted the bill endangers animals. Dominy asks for the bill to be deferred but does not make that in the form of a motion.  In a wise, seldom used  parliamentary move, Dominy voted in favor of the bill, then moved to reconsider. He got five people who supported him in that request, so the bill will be back on third reading next Tuesday.  To see the floor action on this bill see time tamp 36:48 - 45:56.

To see the Tennessean's report on this meeting, follow this link: Council OKs dog-chaining ban then decides to reconsider it

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Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice to Hold Press Conference Supporting Parental Choice

Coalition will present collected petitions supporting educational choice to the governor and legislature

Press Release, NASHVILLE, TENN. (Feb. 19, 2015) - The Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice will host a press conference at the State Capitol in Nashville on Thursday, February 26 to present the governor and legislature collected petitions from Tennesseans that support educational choice. Pastors in the Memphis Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference initiated the petition drive in November 2014 to give families more power and options when it comes to their children’s education.

What: Tennessee Clergy Press Conference Supporting Parental School Choice
Where: State Capitol, Room LP30
When: Thursday, February 26, 8:00 AM
Who: The Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice, a coalition of 29 clergy members who support empowering parents through educational choice and represent approximately 50,000 congregants. The coalition strongly supports the passage of educational choice legislation that puts children first and foremost like the Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act.
Pastor Dwight Montgomery of the Memphis Chapter of the SCLC wrote an educational choice petition letter which can be found here:

Members of the Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice:

Rev. Dr. James Adams,  TN Regular Baptist Convention, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. J.C. Bacchus,  St. Mark Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Brain Bartlett, Lake Grove Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Bassil Brooks, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church,  (Shelby County)
Bishop E. Lynn Brown, Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association CME, New Mt. Zion Church,(Shelby County)
Rev. Wendell Coward, Greater Mt Zion Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Coleman Crawford, Grace Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Dr. Jacqueline Crockett, Word of Deliverance Faith Ministries, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Leonard Dawson, Cane Creek Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. James Delaney, St. John Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Maurice Dickerson, Chairman of Education Committee Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. C.S. Greer, Vice-President, Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, Hopewell Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Frank Harris, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. R. B. Holmes, Jr., Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, (National)
Rev. Dr. Roosevelt T. Joyner, Koinonia Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Elder JE Lewis, Pastor, Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, (Shelby County)
Rev. H. K. Matthews, Civil Rights Pioneer, (National)
Rev. Dr. Marvin Mercer, President, TN Baptist Missionary Edu. Convention, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Dwight Montgomery, Annesdale Cherokee Missionary Baptist Church, Pres., Memphis Chapter SCLC
(Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. J. L. Payne, Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Stacy Spencer, New Direction Christian Church, (Shelby County)
Bishop Ed Stephens, Jr., Golden Gate Cathedral, (Shelby County)
Rev. Nelson B Stokes, Breath of Life SDA Church,  (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. C.W. Tutton, Ellis Grove Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Dr. Eunice Warfield Superintendent (SDA), South Central Conference,  (Davidson County)
Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum, Jr.,The New Olivet Baptist Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Luther Williams, President, Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association New Mt. Zion Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. John Wilkins,  Hunters Chapel Church, (Shelby County)
Rev. Dr. Walter Womack, Faithful Baptist Church, (Shelby County)

My Comment: It is worth noting that The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is an African-American civil right organization and the church leaders who are part of Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice are Black ministers. School choice is an issue that has been championed most ofter by conservatives and generally opposed by teachers unions and other liberals.  Many liberals would prefer to see Blacks remain in failing schools rather than let Black parents have choice to send their child to a better school. I do not expect this crack in the liberal coalition to lead to a political realignment immediately, but it is encouraging. School choice is the civil right battle of our time. A welfare check traps a person in poverty, but giving a child a good education liberates a person from poverty. Time and time again charter schools have shown that Black children from low-income homes can excel if given the right educational environment where expectations are high.

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Bill Freeman: I intend to fight for Davidson County when it comes to jobs and development.

Candidate for Mayor Bill Freeman spoke to a group in Belle Meade today and explained his disagreements with the Chamber of Commerce. I was not at the event but got an advance copy of the speech he delivered. 

I am very impressed. For a very long time, I have had the same opinion he articulated today. Our taxes are higher than the surrounding counties and yet we provide the amenities that make Nashville a great place to live and yet much of the new development and property taxes and sales tax goes to the surrounding counties. I think Bill Freeman hit the nail on the head with this speech. As I score the candidates and decide who I will support for Mayor, Bill Freeman just gained a few points. 

I commend him for issuing a specific policy paper, laying out a well-crafted and documented argument. I want more than sound bites and platitudes and applause lines from a candidate. I hope other candidates will follow suit with detailed position papers on the issues facing our city. 

I am posting his speech in full. The highlighting is mine and I have injected a couple comments in parenthesis. Rod

Remarks of William H. Freeman delivered at E-Spaces Event on Feb. 25, 2015

Bill Freeman
Thank you so much for having me here today. Today, I want to talk about my vision for the future of Nashville and the role each of you can play in that vision. But, first, I want to take you back some 30 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday.

My business partner, Jimmy Webb, and I had just gone to the bank and borrowed $15,000. We had one employee, one building and a big dream. Thanks to this great community … our dream became a reality.

We’ve built an award-winning company with almost 500 employees that has earned national recognition for environmental sustainability and has been named three times as one of the best places to work in Nashville. We had a dream … just like so many of you in this room have a dream.

You all want what everyone in Nashville wants. A strong community where you can live and work and play. A growing community. A place of opportunity. But a dream without work … is just a dream.

Those of you who are gathered here today are the backbone of our future … the doers … the risk takers … and you get up on mornings like this, you come to work and you make your dreams come true … one long hard day at a time.

The next Mayor of Nashville must be prepared to make the important decisions about the kind of city we are going to be in 10 years or 20 years. The next mayor must be the kind of person who gets up on mornings like this, goes to the courthouse, and fights for the future … just like you do. I want to be that next Mayor.

I think our leaders in Nashville … in business, government and education … need to have our eyes firmly on the future. But, we need to understand and remember what made Nashville great. Our great communities, great schools, great people … music, business and education. We also need to innovate and meet the challenges of today and the future with creativity and determination.

Nashville needs dreamers and doers. Dreamers to challenge us and make us better. Doers to make the art and music … to build the buildings and houses … to teach our children. I think we should have a city government that aspires to greatness … that’s the kind of leadership I will offer as mayor.

I have to tell you, one of the real eye openers for me since I got in this race is how much alike the candidates sound. Now, there are eight candidates including me … and you would think there would be big differences between them. But you wouldn’t really know that from listening to them at these mayoral forums. It seems as if the candidates are being so cautious that they have just decided not to take a position on anything. (Rod's Comment: This is so true. You can't tell one from the other.)

Ladies and gentlemen … Nashville was not built by cautious people. I’m different. I don’t have a cautious vision for Nashville’s future… I have a bold, aggressive vision for the future and over the coming weeks and months I’m going to make clear to you and to the people of this city why I should be mayor.

To be sure, there are beliefs that all the candidates share. We all support better schools, mass transit, safe communities. But just saying that doesn’t make it a reality. Our next mayor must be willing to dream big dreams … and then get up in the morning and do the work.

I realize that schools and transportation are the top issues that most people care most about. But making our schools better and solving our transportation problems are exactly why we need to recruit jobs here because that grows the tax base which supports our schools and allows us the freedom to improve our transportation infrastructure.

And speaking of jobs, I’d like to talk about something that is very important to me in this Mayor’s race. Much has been made, in some circles, about my comments so far in this race about the city’s relationship with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

I want to expand on that a bit today … since you are generously giving me more than one minute to answer a question. First, I want you to understand, I am a product of the Chamber of Commerce. My business partner and I met in the Junior Chamber. Our first banker and lawyer came from the chamber. We found the printer to print our letterhead through the Chamber.

I also believe the Chamber of Commerce does great work in this community. I am a big fan of the Chamber. I’m a big fan of Ralph Schultz, the leader of the Chamber. But there is one area where we differ.

As mayor, I will be a jealous advocate for Davidson County when it comes to job creation IN DAVIDSON COUNTY. Not Wilson County. Not Rutherford County. Not Williamson, Cheatham, Robertson or Sumner. I am not running for Mayor of Middle Tennessee. I want to be Mayor of Nashville. And you can count on me to fight for jobs in Davidson County.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I think that’s what the people of Davidson County have a right to expect from their mayor. With commercial businesses paying a property tax rate of 40 percent, it is clear why the recruitment of new businesses is a top priority of every county in our region. (Rod's Comment: This is true. It cost about $6000 a year just to educate a child. Homeowner's property is assessed at only 25% of value while commercial is assessed at 40% of value. A city can not provide even the most basic of services if all they have is residential property. The two major sources of tax revenue is the property tax and sales tax. The average homeowner does not pay for the services they receive.)

While we are excited for our neighbors and enjoy seeing our entire region thrive, Nashville is left “carrying the water” and footing the bill to a large degree for the entire Middle Tennessee region’s growth and prosperity. When businesses and corporations move their operations to an area just outside of Davidson County, it is not the people of Nashville that are seeing the benefits of additional tax revenues, it is our neighbors.

Let’s just take a moment and put this in context with some charts that I got from the Nashville Chamber (Chart showing Business Establishments) In 1990 Davidson Count drove the region in business establishments. Today, over 20 years later that has completely reversed. Our neighbors are getting a great deal and they know it. That was made clear when the mayor of a city in one of the counties bordering Nashville recently said that, as long as Nashville will allow this to happen, they would be grateful to be a bedroom community and will continue maximizing all the advantages that come with that.

Let’s take a look at employment growth differences. (Chart of Employment Growth Differences) It does not get more obvious than this. The surrounding counties enjoyed growth of almost 100,000 new jobs while Davidson County barely added 20,000. This is an alarming trend. As our neighboring communities take advantage of all that Nashville offers, it is still the citizens of Nashville that are paying for, building and maintaining these world-class venues that first attracted these new businesses to the region. The people of Nashville are the ones paying for the increased demands for infrastructure. In 2014 alone, Davidson County’s estimated cost for highway projects is $1.13 billion. It is the emergency rooms at Nashville’s hospitals that care for the sickest of the sick and the Nashville health facilities and clinics that are caring for the 19 percent of the population that is uninsured.

And when you look at (Chart of Poverty Population) where poverty is concentrated in the region, Nashville has a larger concentration of poverty—0ver 120,000—than the other 4 counties combined—90,000. The people of Nashville are the ones paying for a police force to protect our city, keep our roadways safe and keep the venues that are so popular to out of town visitors a safe place to visit and have a good time. To tie it all together, it can be pointed out that by those businesses locating just outside of Nashville puts additional strain on Nashville’s essential services and other major issues of the campaign, like education.

Let me tell you a brief story here: A while back I met with the Mayor of a city in Williamson County. I asked him, “How many languages are spoken in your schools?” He looked at me with a funny look and said, “Well just 2. Mostly English and some Spanish.”

I had a meeting with Dr. Register and he told me that over 140 languages are spoken in Davidson County schools. This what makes Nashville great—our cultural diversity. But it also shows the real challenges of educating these students with English may be a 2nd or 3rd language. A tough burden on the system.

 As people move to the edges of Davidson County to live, but drive to their work place outside of the county, Nashville is getting used, especially as more residents rent instead of buying and therefor pay property taxes. We pay for the roads, health care facilities, education, etc…. and our neighbors collect the taxes. As this chart so dramatically shows (Chart of Outflow of Earnings from Nashville to MSA) just look at the “outflow of earnings” from Davidson County to the surrounding MSA since 1990.

And what concerns me most is the trend (Chart of NES Active Residential Meters—Flat-line Growth) seen in this chart of how we are moving towards “flat-line” growth in Nashville. While Nashville still feels like the “It City” and that nothing can stop us or slow us down, there are the beginnings of alarming trends that if they continue and accelerate could well see the “bloom off the rose” in Nashville’s future.

And finally, this chart (Chart of Davidson’s Share of Region’s Population) shows dramatically how Nashville’s share of the region’s population since 1950 has dropped dramatically. And these are 2010 numbers. What is it today? 35% of less? I realize that schools and transportation are the top issues that most people care most about. But making our schools better and solving our transportation problems are exactly why we need to recruit jobs here because that grows the tax base which supports our schools, allows us the freedom to improve our transportation infrastructure and provides the funds we need to protect and improve the quality of life in every neighborhood of Davidson County.

I’ve been somewhat amused by the response to my comments. I’ve been called an isolationist by some. Not true. There are certain areas where the region should cooperate. Mass transit is the biggest and most obvious place where we should cooperate. If we want Nashville … and the region … to grow and prosper we must have a meaningful, long-term plan for mass transit. But when it comes to jobs … we are competitors. The point of competition is to win.

I intend to fight for Davidson County when it comes to jobs and development. I intend to win those fights. If we occasionally lose one of those battles … I will tip my cap to the winner … and get back out on the field more determined to win next time. That doesn’t mean I’m picking a fight with the Chamber of Commerce. As I said earlier, I am a fan and admirer of the Chamber and its leadership. I just think this is one area where the responsibilities of the Mayor of Nashville and the Chamber will from time to time diverge.

Frankly, I would like very much to have the support of the Chamber … but I’m not willing to bend on this issue to get their support. I suspect some of the other candidates are willing to tell the chamber … at least privately … just help me get in there and then it will be business as usual. I won’t do that. As we move forward in this campaign I’m going to continue to point out where there are differences between me and the other candidates. I know them all. I like them all. They are good people. I just think I will be a better mayor. I will be ready on day one. Ready to fight for Nashville. Ready to make our schools better. Ready to tackle the tough jobs like mass transit. Ready to listen. Ready to lead.

As I close here and we get to some questions, I want to tell you a story.

I’m just a guy from Donelson who has lived the Nashville version of the American Dream. Grew up in Donelson. I walked to school. Walked to Church. Walked to go fishing in the Stones River. Went to public schools until high school. Graduated from USN. Then came home from college to work in our family business for a time. Left and worked for a time with MDHA and then Jimmy Webb and I started Freeman Webb 36 years ago with one apartment building, one employee and a big dream. I’m proud of that … but I’m still just a guy from Donelson who worked hard and lived the American Dream – and I’d like to be your mayor.

Thank you.

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The Beacon Center Awards Inaugural "Beacon Opportunity Scholarship"

NASHVILLE – Today, the Beacon Center of Tennessee awarded the first ever Beacon Opportunity
Scholarship to 8th grader Madison Ott of Knoxville. Madison was awarded the scholarship based on her essay explaining how school choice would help her realize her dreams by providing her with a quality education. The scholarship will provide Madison with a four-year education at a private high school of her family's choice.
By offering this opportunity scholarship, Beacon has decided to lead by example in the fight for educational choice. Unfortunately, Beacon can only help one student while the Tennessee legislature has the opportunity to help thousands of children.
Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen explains, "Just like we’ve helped Madison obtain the education she deserves, I want to once again call on our state lawmakers to do the same for thousands of children across our state who are in need of a quality education. By passing the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act, we can begin to fund children, not systems, and ensure that no Tennessee child falls through the cracks."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Davidson County Election Commission to Conduct Educational Session for Candidates on Feb. 27

Press release, NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Feb. 24, 2015 -- The Davidson County Election Commission will conduct a Candidate Forum on Friday, Feb. 27, to educate and inform all those seeking office during the 2015 Elections.

All candidates are invited to attend the educational session from 9 a.m. – noon, in the Green Hills Auditorium at the Davidson County Election Commission, 1417 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville 37217.

Representatives from the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance and the Davidson County Election Commission will discuss campaign finance, nominating petitions, posting and removal of campaign signs, deadlines and other information.

The Metro General Election is August 6, with Early Voting scheduled July 17-August 1. The last day to register to vote in the election is July 7.

The Davidson County Election Commission is responsible for providing free and fair elections to every eligible citizen. The Election Commission is regulated by State of Tennessee law and funded by Metro Nashville government. For more information, visit

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Freeman will outline his priorities on jobs for Nashville

What: Breakfast with Bill Freeman
Date: Wednesday February 25th
Time: Breakfast and Networking from 7:30-8 a.m. with the Program beginning at 8 a.m.
Where: Belle Meade E-Spaces 4322 Harding Pike, Suite 417

In this speech, Bill will further explain why he believes in fighting for jobs in Nashville instead of jobs in surrounding counties. 

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Hope for improving teacher prep in TN (a la Deans for Impact)

From TN Edu-Independent - For me, one of the most hopeful initiatives to come along in a while is Deans for Impact, a new organization committed to improving teacher prep programs.  I'm really excited by who comprises the group (a group of Higher Ed teacher prep Deans) and what they hope to do.

This isn't some external force motivated to have an impact on K-12 education. It's insiders. Deans of College of Education departments that want to improve the teaching profession.  To many critics, they are sharing such far flung notions as "Teacher prep programs need to be accountable, too" (written by Robert Pianta, Dean of UVA's College of Education, one of the top Ed Colleges in the nation).

What a crazy notion that we'd hold teacher prep programs accountable for the quality of teacher they produce.  It's certainly fair to debate and develop appropriate measures to measure "quality" but we can't delay that ad nauseam to where we debate it forever, and thus never come up with accountability measure(s).

I have believed for a long time that if we're really going to have a significant impact in American public education on a noticeable scale level, our greatest bang for the buck very well may be putting time and energy into improving teacher education and how teachers are trained.

Sure, we have some great traditional teacher prep programs already, and also some very strong and innovative programs such as TFA, Relay Graduate School of Education, the Aspire Teacher Residency program, Memphis Teacher Residency, and other national and local/regional teacher prep programs.

The fact is, however, that these innovative and non-traditional teacher prep programs still prepare a very small portion of the overall number of teachers being trained each year (or cumulatively) in America. 

We need to improve teacher education in this country on a larger scale. And faster. It's unjust for kids to continue to be taught by underprepared or unqualified teachers.  Tennessee, and the nation has many great and dedicated teachers, but even many of these teachers would have liked to have had better training during their teacher training experience.

Tennessee has started publishing an annual report card on teacher prep programs, and it's a good start to have some annual data on this topic, yet the results are depressing.

The report's Executive Summary finds:

Analysis of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Report Card effect scores indicates that several programs have consistently produced teachers that are outperforming or underperforming other teachers in the state...The following programs have completers that have consistently outperformed other teachers in the state: Lipscomb University, Memphis Teacher Residency, Teach for America Memphis, Teach for America Nashville, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The report brings up a number of questions, such as how is it that TFA Memphis and TFA Nashville, who are heavily criticized for "only" training their teachers during a summer institute prior to entering the classroom, produce some of the states most effective teachers?  What does that say about the other teacher prep programs in Tennessee?

Collectively, these top 5 teacher prep programs produced 697 completers in 2012-13 or just 14.5% of all teacher prep program completers (697/4,784).

Programs that have consistently underperformed? They include Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech, Lincoln Memorial University, MTSU, Trevecca Nazarene, and the University of Memphis.

Their collective total of completers from the 2012-13 cohort?  1,862.  38.9% of all completers (1,862/4,784)

Some of these underperformers are the largest producing teacher institutions in Tennessee:

There are numerous challenges to reforming teacher education programs in the USA and in Tennessee.  There really is a disincentive for teacher prep programs to change the status quo. Teacher prep programs tend to be significant revenue streams of colleges and universities.  Additionally, teacher unions tend to dislike any sort of accountability for teachers (and the TEA is a powerful political force in this state).

Teacher unions and "ed reform critics" tend to hold up places like Finland, Singapore, Germany and others as models of national education systems to emulate.  Yet, in holding up these national models  of education, they fail to be consistent in also advocating that America start to train teachers more like how these countries train teachers (the way America trains teachers, and the incentives and labor economics around teaching are much different).  Some of the clearest reading on this topic can be found in Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the World or even this brief, by Pasi Sahlberg "The Secret to Finland's Success: Educating Teachers."

Despite the fact that not all is well with teacher prep programs in our country, inspired by some of the work being done by Deans of Impact and others, my multi-dimensional hope for improving teacher prep in Tennessee consists of a few things:

-A group of Tennessee College of Ed deans would commit to improving teacher training and the teaching profession and create a working group network, paying attention to the Deans For Impact model.

-That the new K-12 Commissioner of Ed, Candice McQueen would lead on many of aspects of improving teacher prep in the state.  Commissioner McQueen is well respected on many sides of the "education debate," and is uniquely positioned as a former College of Ed dean of one of those top producing teacher prep institutions (Lipscomb) (*for disclosure, I have worked in the past as an Adjunct Instructor at Lipscomb University).

-That school district superintendents in Tennessee (especially of the largest 4) would have the courage to publicly announce temporary or medium term hiring freezes of teachers that graduate from underperforming teacher preparation institutions.  Kriner Cash, former superintendent of Memphis City Schools did this a few years ago (he announced he would freeze the hiring of the University of Memphis graduates due to that institution's poor teacher ed training program).

-That business associations and Chambers of Commerces in the state get involved in this issue, and put "frenemy" political pressure on postsecondary institutions to improve their teacher prep programs.  Businesses have a direct interest in improving the quality of their human capital, and improving how teachers are trained to teach in classrooms and serve students can have a direct impact on improving worker skills and abilities.

-This might be a longer shot, but that the TEA (TN teachers union) and PET (Professional Educators of Tennessee, the professional Teacher Association) would also get involved and start to put pressure on postsecondary institutions to improve their teacher prep training programs (especially those that underperform).  These groups could provide a key role to help organize teacher voices to give feedback to postsecondary institutions regarding aspects of teacher training that are critical and elements of teacher training that are notably absent or deficient from current teacher prep programs.

I'm excited for many of the efforts out there to improve teacher training and preparation.  Hopefully we can really prioritize this issue in Tennessee and see some meaningful reforms and improvements to teacher prep programs.

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First Tuesday presents Mayoral candidates Rebrovick and Freeman on March 9th

From Tim Skow:

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends, 

The race for NASHVILLE's NEXT MAYOR has begun !

AND... what an unpredictable donnybrook this race is going to be!

Several 1ST- Tier candidates have announced. Many are already well-funded and come with impressive track records. Consequently, virtually everyone is predicting a run-off will follow the August 6th vote.

Two of the most viable 1ST-Tier candidates will be our Guest Speakers on MONDAY, March 9th.

LINDA REBROVICK comes with an exceptional record in the private and non-profit sectors, a long history in Nashville and specific goals and plans for " A SMARTER NASHVILLE"

BILL FREEMAN is a major business success with a notable connections from engaging in politics. In just a short time since announcing, Mr. Freeman has made a lot of news. He's added St. Senator Thelma Harper, Councilman-At-Large Jerry Maynard to his team and has touted the Nashville Area Chamber has "lost it way".

NO DOUBT... Mrs Revbrovick and Mr. Freeman will have many interesting ideas and remarks.

NO DOUBT... This will make for a VERY exciting Q&A session !!!!

NO DOUBT... You won't want to miss this !! Visit the 1ST TUESDAY website at 1st Tuesday and click on " JOIN US" to secure seating. Pass the word to those you'd like to invite. This is going to one to remember !

As usual, we will meet at WALLER Law - 511 Union Street - 27th floor. But - the date is MONDAY, March 9th. Doors will open as usual at 11AM for Coffee and Social time. Both Linda and Bill will be there by/before 11:15AM. Lunch is $20 for Members.. $25 for Guests ... and will start at 11:30 with the program to start promptly at NOON. We will hear from Linda and Bill for up to 15 minutes EACH... followed by our noted Q&A session !! SEE YOU.... on Monday, March 9th.... if not before !! Thanks !

Tim Skow Host of 1ST TUESDAY

PS -- Lt. Gov RON RAMSEY has confirmed for April 7th version of 1ST TUESDAY !!!

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Leah P. Dupree to run for Metro Council District 21

Leah P. Dupree
Press Release- Leah P. Dupree, attorney and legislative liaison for the Tennessee Department of General Services, has formally announced her plans to run for Metro Council District 21. Dupree will seek the seat held by Councilwoman Edith Langster who is term-limited.

Born in Jackson, Tennessee, Dupree moved to Nashville fourteen years ago as a student at Tennessee State University. “Everyone has a duty to serve, to give back to the community that nurtured and prepared them to succeed; which is why it would be an honor to serve North Nashville,” Dupree said. “I believe Public Safety and Economic Growth are key issues for District 21. We need to make sure that our local businesses have sustainable support and new businesses have the confidence to not only open but thrive.”

Prior to working for the Department of General Services, Dupree worked for the Tennessee General Assembly as a Senate Aide mostly addressing constituent issues. Dupree sits on the YMCA Black Achievers Board and serves as a council member for The Tennessee Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.

Dupree recently appointed Nashville businessman, Deddrick A. Perry, Jr. as her treasurer.

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Bob Corker and the elimination of slavery around the globe.

by Josh Stites,

Dwight Eisenhower and the integration of public schools.
George W. Bush and the fight against AIDS in Africa.
Bob Corker and the elimination of slavery around the globe.

Slavery in all of its evil forms has existed for thousands of years. Although slavery is illegal in every country in the world, it is estimated that there are still more than 27 million people living in slavery around the globe. In his new role as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker has made one of his first acts the creation of a $1.5 Billion fund to fight slavery in some of the darkest countries on earth. The funds would come in large part from private donors who have a passion to see the eradication of slavery around the world and the funds would be deployed through public-private partnerships.

One of the organizations that would likely be a partner is the International Justice Mission (IJM). In 2013 the Metro Nashville Council passed a resolution declaring its support of IJM and declaring October 1, 2013 as IJM Day in Nashville. IJM is one of the premier organizations on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking. The Metro resolution can be found here.

Fittingly, this bold initiative was first announced in Tennessee this past weekend via the Chattanooga TimesFree Press and the Tennessean.

At a time when there’s plenty in our government to criticize, it’s always appropriate and important to praise the good. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this important initiative as Senator Corker’s office rolls out more information in the coming days. You can read a great column from David Cook here to learn more. And if you are as impressed as I have been, you should call (202-224-3344) or email Senator Corker and encourage him to keep up this worthy fight.

It is credited to Edmund Burke, who is regarded as the father of modern conservatism, as having said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” You need not look very long to see that evil is advancing in many parts of our world. Bob Corker is stepping up to the fight and if successful, history will remember him as having accomplished one of the great feats of our time.

Josh Stites is a member of the Nashville-Davidson County Metro Council representing District 13. 

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Monday, February 23, 2015

All Mayoral Candidates Pledge to Support NOAH agenda which includes housing price fixing.

I attended the NOAH sponsored mayoral "forum" yesterday at Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church. It was really not a forum. The candidates were only asked one question and that is if they would support the NOAH platform and commit to have quarterly meetings with NOAH to confer on the implementation of the platform.  The speaker, from the podium with the candidate down front not having yet taken the stage, asked the question individually of each candidates. The speaker said only those who answered in the affirmative would be permitted to speak. All eight candidates answered "yes."  The moderator did make clear that candidates where only agreeing to the goals and that how the goals may be implemented may differ. After answering "yes," the candidates were each given two minutes to elaborate. Two minutes is not much time. Candidates could not say much in two minutes.

The first hour and a half of the meeting was taken up by the presentation of the NOAH agenda.  The presentation used skits, various speakers, and graphics and charts shown on electronic screens, and video. What could have been boring, was interesting. It moved along at a fast clip and was well done. There must have been 1500 people crowded into the sanctuary of the church with extra chairs put out and people standing in the halls and in addition there was an overflow crowd in the church gym.

If there was a winner of the forum, I would have to say it was Council member Megan Barry.   I say Megan Barry "won," on the basis of applause.  She hit the right buttons during her comments, touting her sponsorship of the Metro employee living wage bill and sprinkled her comments with other specific's showcasing her progressive bonafides. She got interrupted by applause and a rousing applause at the end.

Charles Robert Bone was the first of the candidates to speak and he got warm applause, so if there was a second place favorite, it may have been Bone. He quoted scripture in his two minutes. He may have only been so well received because he was first, however; it is hard to say.  Frankly, I thought Bill Freeman gave one of the best answers of the evening, but he tried to get specific about the individual points of the three-plank platform and two minutes just did not allow time for him to develop his arguments.  In addressing the issue of affordable housing, he said he had a long career in the housing industry and knew what developers wanted and what it would take to build affordable housing.

From my perspective, I thought Kenneth Eaton did pretty well saying he would lookout for the tax payer's interest. He said too much money was being put downtown at the expense of neglect of neighborhoods, which is something this audience would agree with.

I was surprised that Howard Gentry did not get a more rousing reception.  The audience for the event was about half Black and it was held in a Black church in North Nashville. I thought Gentry, who is African-American, would have been a favorite. Gentry lost a point with me, when he said "a job is a right."  This is routine ignorance or purposeful misuse of the language on the part of progressive who use the term "right" when they mean entitlement. Rights are innate liberties. The declaration of independence says we are "endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights." Free speech and the right to self defense are rights; if you think you are entitled to food, a house and a job, or healthcare that is a claim against another to provide you with something. It is not a liberty; is a claim to an entitlement. Despite that statement from Gentry, he only got moderate applause. None of the other candidates got more than moderate applause and their answers were kind of boring. None of the others said anything with which I strongly disagreed however. None of the others hurt themselves in my way of grading the campaign.

Here is the three-point platform to which all of the candidates answered "yes," that they would support:

Affordable housing: To preserve and produce affordable housing by enhancing the city's housing trust fund, developing inclusionary zoning, and using federal, state and local resources to prevent displacement.
Criminal justice: To reduce the jail population and the General Sessions Court docket by 50 percent by using alternatives to arrest and restorative justice measures.
Economic equity and jobs: To increase transparency on public project government incentives, to hire locally first and to attach community benefit measurements to projects in high-poverty areas.
Since all of these are "goals" rather than concrete promises, I guess one could agree that these are worthy goals, knowing some of them are not achievable. So, I guess one could in good conscious answer "yes," and then conclude that the goal was simply not achievable should the candidate be elected.  The only exception to this, is the pledge to support "developing inclusionary zoning."  That is a specific means to achieving a goal of producing affordable housing.

Inclusionary zoning is a form of price fixing that says, for example, if a developer develops one hundred units of housing, maybe, 15 of them must be affordable to a certain income group, most often low or moderate income people. If Nashville had an inclusionary zoning policy that said 15% of new homes had to be set aside as "affordable" for a person making 60% of the area median income, then that would mean  a family of four who could earn $46,000 and be able to afford one of the houses. "Affordable" means the house payment does not take more than 30% of the buyers income. Doing the math, $46K/12 x 31% = a house payment of $1188 a month. If 35% of the house payment is taxes, insurance and Mortgage Insurance Premium, then that leaves $772 a month for principle and interest. So, assuming the interest rate is 4%, that would support a house priced at about $160,000.

In order to keep the home "affordable", there is usually a deed restriction that says that if the owner sales the house, they must still keep it "affordable" for so many years.  In practice this means the first buyer does not gain equity in the house. Unless area median income goes up considerably, the seller cannot raise the price of the house when he sales it.  If interest rates do go up, as they surely will,  then if the first owner wanted to sale the house after living in a few years, the house would have to sale for less than the first owner paid for it to keep it "affordable."

In a neighborhood of $550,000 homes the developer must build 15% of them for sale at $160,000 in the above example example. In a neighborhood of that price range home, the developed lot itself and infrastructure could be most of the $160,000.  So, the owner must jack up the price of other homes to subsidized the affordable homes.

I can understand a candidate not wanting to be excluded from the forum and I can understand a candidate's inclination to say they agree to the platform while in actuality having reservations.  However, if a candidate would have answered "no" and then issued a position paper explaining why he can not agree to inclusionary zoning, he would have scored a point with me. He might not have been elected mayor, but I could have voted for someone who I believed in instead of voting for the least objectionable candidate left standing.

For The Tennessean's report on the meeting last night, follow this link. For more on inclusionary zonings see this link, this link, and this.

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