Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On being reported to Adult Protective Services

I have been reported to Adult Protective Services. I was reported by the same social worker who wanted me to leave the hospital with Louella under the care of hospice. The same social worker who said, I ought to “let her go.”

I have hesitated to write this post. For one thing I have been so angry that I could not write about it without using profanity and I try not to use profanity, especially in my blog. I have felt indignant and and outraged. I have just now calmed down enough to where I can write and report about what happened.

The other reason I have hesitated is because some people close to me advised me against writing about it saying some people would believe the charge simply because it was made and it would harm my reputation. After considering that I thought, “What the heck.” I don’t have a career to worry about. I am not climbing the latter of success; I am coasting toward retirement. I don’t hold public office and have no plans to seek public office. I blog but don’t get paid for it, so I won’t lose any money. I don’t believe people who know me personally would believe it anyway and for those who want to believe the worst, let them. I have nothing to lose and I don’t care. As Kris Kristofferson said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I am free to speak my mind.

The only people I would rather not know about this revelation are Louella’s children but I don’t really care that much about that either. In any event, they have most likely already been notified. Her children have not even contacted her or inquired about their mother in over five years, ever since I caught them “gifting” themselves her wealth and robbing her blind and I had to sue them. If they want to cause me some grief; bring it on. Not caring enough to call or send a Mother’s Day card or birthday card or Christmas greeting in five years, I don’t think they want custody of their mother and I don’t think they are in any position to cause me grief. If Louella had of been under her children’s care for the last five years, she would have been abandoned in a nursing home and be dead by now.

I decided to write this post; one to vent, two in hopes that it will help someone else avoid what has happened to me, and three to make the point that being accused of something does not mean you are guilty of it.

It is hard not to personalize my ordeal and blame the social worker who caused it. When I have not been referring to the social worker who caused me this grief with impolite profanities and vulgar pejoratives, I have been referring to her as “Nurse Ratched.” She is not really a nurse however; she is a social worker working in the Behavioral Health unit of St. Thomas Hospital. When I don’t think of her as “Nurse Ratched,” I think of her as the “Gestapo Social Worker.” No doubt that is unfair. She is just a cog in the wheel of a dysfunctional health care system. She is just one of those people who justify the evil they do as, “just doing my job.” I don’t know, but I would bet, that if she does not turn in a certain number of people a week, she will be considered to be under performing. It must have just been my unlucky week.

The last six weeks has felt like I have been a character in a Kafka novel. In addition to the difficulty of getting Louella the health care she needed and being forced to take her to the emergency room when that was not what she really needed, and being told by the Gestapo Social Worker that I should just “let her go,” and being turned into Adult Protective Services, there have been various other minor bureaucratic annoyances that tend to add up.

While Louella was in the hospital, every Tuesday morning there was a meeting with me and her health care team which included the doctor, the head nurse, the Gestapo Social Worker, recreation director and another person or two. We would set around the table and they would talk about our objectives and Louella’s treatment plan. During one of these meetings, they say that I said something to the effect that when Louella was raging and not sleeping that I did whatever I had to do to calm her down. I don’t even recall saying that. They took it to mean I gave her excess doses of medicine or that I gave her medicine that was not prescribed. I have never given Louella medicine for which she did not have a prescription and I have never given her more than the prescribed dosage.

During Louella’s first full week in the hospital, following the first Tuesday morning health team meeting, the Gestapo Social Worker came to Louella’s room to talk to me. We must have talked for over an hour. I did not know it was a fishing expedition. I did not know it was an interrogation. I thought it was just a friendly chat and she was a sympathetic person and she was trying to help figure out Louella’s needs.

After I learned I was being reported to Adult Protective Services, I reflected back on my conversation with Nurse Ratched and I should have picked up that she was probing. I have been told by knowledgeable people that in situations like this that the social worker probably has notified Louella’s children that I have been reported to APS. During our long “conversation,” she asked me the names of Louella’s children, their ages, where they worked and where they lived. It did not dawn on me she was compiling data with a purpose in mind. I was naïve and blindsided.

During the full second week of Louella’s hospital stay, Sue, Louella’s care giver for over the last five and half years, returned from a vacation on a Tuesday. The Gestapo Social Worker and another person pulled Sue aside and started questioning her. At first Sue did not think much about it and then Sue became uncomfortable and realized she was being grilled. Sue was upset and said it seemed they were trying to get her to say that I was somehow abusive to Louella. When Sue realized what was going on, she terminated the meeting.

On the Thursday of Louella’s second full week in the hospital, the Gestapo Social Worker took me to a private office to go over several things related to Louella’s discharge. The first item of discussion was the arrangement that had been made for Louella to get under the care of a Psychiatrist when she left the hospital. The second was arrangements for home health care to serve Louella. The third item was the suggestion that I put Louella under the care of hospice and “let her go.” That is when it got tense and I told that that was not going to happened. I said, “Under hospice she could die from something as simple as a urinary tract infection. I am not going to let that happen.” She said, “Well you know she is dying, don't you?”

After that tense moment, she said, “The next thing is awkward to talk about, but I have referred Louella’s case to APS.” I did not know what APS was and asked what that was and she told me it was Adult Protective Services. I asked why, and she explained the suspicion that I was over sedating Louella and she said she had to report me to APS out of concern for Louella’s safety. Nurse Ratched apparently did not see the irony of point three being that it was time to “let her go,” and her trying to persuade me to do just let Louella die, and point four being that I had to be turned into Adult Protective Services because I may be endangering Louella’s safety.

APS has paid a surprise visit to my home. I let the young lady in and answered all her questions. She was respectful and pleasant. If however there is a follow up, I am not talking to anyone without my lawyer present. I have talked to my lawyer and he is standing by.

If you are ever in a group meeting of the kind I described or have a one-on-one conversation with a social worker, think about every single word you say before you say it. They can wait while you gather your thoughts. Think about how what you say could be misinterpreted and used against you. Choose your words carefully. If you must meet one-on-one with a social worker, keep in mind that it is not just a friendly chat to figure out how to best care for your loved one. The social worker is out to gather evidence to turn you in, in order to justify her job. The social worker is not your friend. The social worker is the enemy interrogator.

I have always had Louella’s best interest at heart. I would never do anything to harm her. If not for the care Sue and I have given her, she would have died on several occasions. I know her mind is mostly gone, but she is still “Louella,” an individual deserving of dignity and respect. She gets the best care possible and she is loved. It is the healthcare system that has failed Louella; not me.

I know that when one hears someone has been turned into Adult Protective Services or Child Protective Services or a woman has gotten an order of protection against her husband that many people assume the person reported must have something wrong. Many people think the person would not be accused if they had not. Often they have done nothing wrong. Being investigated or even being charged does not mean one is guilty of anything. Anyone can be investigated for or charged with anything.

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The Tennessean's Frank Daniels hits the nail on the head with, "it pays to be poor."

In Tennessee, of the 268,867 people who enrolled in plans for 2016, 85 percent received a tax credit. Per HHS data, the average monthly premium for people receiving tax credits increased $2, from $102 to $104 per month, in 2016.
So, in a perverse way, it pays to be poor, at least to access health insurance.
If you are one of the 15 percent who do not qualify for a tax credit, TDCI said the average “silver level” premium for a 35-year-old living in the greater Nashville area will be $518.34 per month; the average premium for a 45-year-old will be $612.50. (link)
Tennessean's Frank Daniels  acknowledges a modern truth with his recognition, "that it pays to be poor."  We have already seen the truth of this with low income people who are better off trapped in poverty than losing public housing, food stamps, medicaid, AFDC, and myriad other entitlements; now we will see this for those who get subsidized healthcare who have incomes above the medicaid level. It is bad social policy to incentivize people to be poor but that is what the Affordable Care Act does.

If you subsidize something you get more of it. When we subsidize poverty we should expect more poverty. A side effect of  Obamacare is less upward mobility and more people trapped in poverty. There is also an incentive for employers to not grow their company beyond 50 employees and to keep the number of hours some employees can work below 30 hours a week. The law also provides a motivation for a couple with children to avoid marriage and unstable families is known to be a contributor to poverty.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

RIP Betty Nixon

Betty Nixon
I served in the Metro Council with Betty Nixon in the decade of the eighties.  While she was a progressive Democrat and I a Republican, I had a great deal of respect for Betty Nixon. The Metro Council is a non-partisan body and most issues are  non-ideological so political ideology is only rarely a factor in determining who one aligns with.  Betty had been a leader of a neighborhood organization before serving in the Council and so had I, so we had that in common. We had both fought against the building of I-440.

I think Betty Nixon was one of the better Council member with whom I served.  She was smart, understood the complex issues, did her homework, had integrity, and she loved this city.  Betty Nixon was a good person and good public servant. RIP

To read the Tennessean article regarding Betty Nixon's passing, follow this link.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

A St. Thomas Social Worker wants to kill Louella

“Kill” may be a little strong. The St. Thomas social worker did not say “kill;” she said “let her go.”

Sue and Louella on May 6, 2016
They share the same birthday of May 6th

People don’t like to use harsh words. In polite company one certainly does not say a woman killed her unborn baby; one does not even say, “she had an abortion.” People are most likely to say “she terminated the pregnancy,” or “took care of the problem.” In war we do not like to say a lot of civilians got killed, we say “there was collateral damage.” We even say we put the family dog to sleep. It is so much easier to put harsh reality into pleasant terms, but we all know what we really mean.

 Louella is my wife and has been suffering from dementia since at least 2004 when she was mistakenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but has probably had dementia since 2001. Louella went into St. Thomas hospital recently on a Thursday. The only reason we put her in the hospital is that her new primary care doctor said he did not prescribe psychotropic drugs and we needed to have Louella seen by a doctor who could. I don’t know if  her doctor could not prescribe the drugs she needed or was not comfortable doing so, but in any event, he would not.

Louella had been experiencing periods of absolute rage. She would fuss at the top of her voice for up to two hours at a time, with her face red. There was no placating her, no comforting her, or calming her. Finally exhausted, she would calm down. When not in the full-on rage mode, she was agitated and unhappy most of the time. She had also had some sleepless and restless nights. This had been going on for about six weeks.

After our GP told us he would not renew her medicine, which had been prescribed by another doctor, we began trying to get her an appointment with a psychiatrist. (The “us” and “we” are Sue, her caregiver for the last five and half years, and me.) We tried without success to get her an appointment. Some psychiatrists were cash-only, some did not accept Medicare, and some would see her but an appointment was six weeks to two months away. Her medicine was about to run out. The office of her doctor suggested we take her to Parthenon Pavilion but that is where we took her in August of 2014 where, when she was supposed to be on one-on-one supervision, they allowed her to fall and break her ankle in four places and she never walked again. I was not comfortable taking her back to Parthenon.

We were running out of options when her doctor’s office called and said St. Thomas had a Psyche unit and they had an opening and his office told us we needed to take her to the St. Thomas emergency room. We did and they discovered Louella had a severe urinary tract infection and she was hospitalized for that and by the time she was mostly cured of the UTI, the bed in “Behavioral Health” was taken so we had to wait another day or two before a bed in Behavioral Health opened up.

We took Louella to the emergency on a Thursday and sometime early the next week she was moved to Behavioral Health. During the end of the week in which she went to the hospital and all of the following week, Sue stayed with her during the day and I would come in the evening after work and stay with her. Sue was gone on a well-deserved vacation the second week of Louella’s stay and the weekends that bracket that week and the following Monday of the next week.

On Tuesday of Louella’s second full week in the hospital, Sue returned to work. On that Tuesday the social worker at St. Thomas pulled Sue aside and started asking her questions about Louella’s care. She then asked Sue, “Why does he not just let her go?” Sue, at first did not fully understand the question and said, “What do you mean?” And the social workers said, “Well, she has no quality of life and she is dying. Why don’t he just let her go?”

On Thursday of that week, the social worker pulled me into an office and went over several issues related to Louella’s release and future plans for Louella’s care. One of her items of discussion was what would I think, or would I agree to putting Louella back under hospice care. I said, “No, I would not.” She said, “Well, you know she is dying.”  I said, “She is not dying right now and while I know she could die at any time; she could have a stroke or a seizure that killed her, it is not like she has a terminal illness with only days to live.” I said, “Under hospice care, she could die from a urinary tract infection. I don’t want that.” Then she said, “She has no quality of life.” I didn’t say anything else and we moved on to the next topic on her list.

I know it is true that Louella is dying, just as we are all dying from the moment we are born. Louella could die tonight from a stroke or a seizure but I could die from a heart attack or an auto accident. While she cannot get well, she does not have a killer disease with only days or weeks to live. Her dementia could reach the point to where she cannot swallow or there could be other symptoms that end her life, but we are not experiencing those symptoms now. If “no quality of life” is the standard, well we should kill all babies who are colicky or are cutting teeth. We should kill all children born with severe mental disability. We should kill all prisoners. We should kill people who just went through a divorce, lost custody of their child, and lost their job and have a car that constantly break down.

Anyway, it is not true that Louella has “no quality of life.” For about the six weeks prior to going to the emergency room during her awake hours she was agitated a lot and had those periods of real rage. That extreme rage may have been due to having a urinary tract infection. She cannot tell you what is wrong. She may have been in pain.

For about a month prior to the period of the extreme agitation, Louella was a delight and joy. Louella is “total care,” and cannot talk, but during the month period prior to the weeks of agitation she was engaged. She laughed, she smiled and she was sweet. She noticed things and made eye contact. Her mumbling of nonsense syllables had words mixed in and she was not just chanting syllable; if you did not know, you would have thought she was speaking a foreign language. She spoke with inflection and punctuation, and she said some complete sentences and phrases. She enjoyed “talking” to people. She was happy. She had “quality of life.” I hope those times can return.

Even when having periods of agitation, she enjoys eating. She will stop fussing to eat. Since she has difficulty swallowing, we have to feed her very slowly and it takes about and hour to feed her. She is happy when she eats. At night before bedtime, I always feed her ice cream and she loves ice cream and makes appreciative “uhumm” sounds as she eats. She at times enjoys watching the squirrels and birds at the bird feeder outside our front window. She loves Sue’s little dog, Beauty. She notices the dog. Louella can propel herself in her wheelchair, and she will try to go to the dog and will say, “Come her, you.” When she came home from the hospital, she was happy to see Beauty. Sue held Beauty up to Louella and Louella kissed her.

Louella's mind may be gone for the most part, but she still has worth and she still has personality. Even when she is mad, she is sometimes cute.  She will fuss in non-sense syllables and and then emphatically say, "And, I don't like it!"  She also has a since of humor.  She will rapidly babble a series of syllables, "bing, bing, bing, bing, binb, bing, bing, bing, bing, kaboom!" She will then rare back proudly and then have a mischievous smile on her face and then laugh and we laugh with her.  She has a couple variation on this. The social worker only saw her in the hospital when she was sick. How dare her suggest Louella's life is not worth living!

We had a really good night recently since she has been out of the hospital. She smiled a lot and leaned toward me and put her head on my shoulders and nuzzled me and kept given me kisses. She was happy.  It was sweet and romantic.  She has  “quality of life.”

Louella was under hospice care from March 13th 2015 until December 5th 2015. She was put on hospice because while in the hospital with pneumonia she failed three swallow tests on three consecutive days. A palliative counselor told me, Sue, and my sister Kathleen, that the choice was to put a feeding tube down her throat or send her home with hospice care to die. I opted for hospice care. They said she had days or weeks to live and that she would die of starvation if something else did not kill her first. At first we gave her just thickened liquid like water or juice but we then started giving Ensure and chicken broth and other liquids with nutrition and she got stronger. After a couple weeks we started giving soups and pureed food such as mashed potatoes or pureed veggies and she kept getting stronger, then we moved to soft but solid foods such as hamburger or shredded chicken and then to regular solid foods. On December 15th 2015 she was dismissed from hospice care.

I know hospice care has been a blessing and comfort to many people. My father who died about 26 years ago was under hospice care for a few days before he died. I am not against hospice care, but the goal of hospice is to keep the patient comfortable as they die, not to help them get well. While Louella was under hospice care, they did not even take her temperature telling me they just did not do that, that a fever was just part of the process of dying and could be a comfort to a dying person.

If a person was caring for a loved one on their own and was just worn out, or if they stood to inherit some money and needed it, it would be so easy to put their loved one under hospice care and just let her die from some mild aliment that could otherwise be treated, when hospice care was suggested by a social worker. One could just assume the social worker knows best. Social workers who suggest that someone like Louella be put under hospice care should be ashamed, should lose their job, and maybe go to prison where they would have no “quality of life.”

My anger has been directed at the particular social worker who tried to talk me into putting Louella under hospice care and "letting her go," but after reflection, she is probably just a cog in the wheel. The problem is most likely systemic and part of a societal disregard for human life, a disrespect for the elderly, and a dysfunctional healthcare system in which the patient does not come first.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mayor Barry proposes expansion of the Urban Services District

While Nashville-Davidson County has a metropolitan form of government, we still have two taxing districts. Most of the counties population lives in the Urban Services District (USD) where they have a tax rate of $4.516 per $100 of assessed value.  In the more rural areas and some suburbs, people live in the General Services District (GSD) and have a tax rate of  $3.924 per $100 of assessed value. The only thing the people in the USD get that people in the GSD do not get is garbage pick-up and street lights. They still get the same library services, police services and fire services and of course we only have one school system for the county.  Mayor Barry is attempting to annex into the USD some of the developed suburbs.

While I generally oppose tax increases, I do not oppose this effort to bring into the USD those highly developed suburban areas.  I think it makes sense.  I see it as an equity issue. It appears the GSD area gets services they do not pay for subsidized by the USD ratepayers.  I would like this proposal better if it was revenue neutral and if tax rates were rolled back so that after paying for expanding street lighting and trash pick up in the annexed areas there was no net increase in revenue to Metro government.

For many living in the suburban communities to be annexed, the increase in taxes will be less than the cost they currently pay for private trash collection. To learn more about this issue see this link and this link to Tennessean stories.  For those who want to delve deep into the issue, here is a link to a Metro Planning Commission staff report beginning on page 156.
Below is the mayor's letter to the Planning Commission requesting the annexation be deferred to the first meeting in October.


Below is the map showing the proposed expansion of the USD. The light brown areas are the areas of the proposed expansion.

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Ketron: Voter fraud compromises the electoral process

Sen. Bill Ketron
by Tenn. Sen. Bill Ketron, The Tennessean Op-ed, Aug. 23, 2016 - In 2005, I sat in a Memphis courtroom with many of my Senate colleagues to hear a case of voter fraud regarding the election of Ophelia Ford to the 29th senatorial district of Tennessee.  .... The returns indicated that Ford won the election by only 13 votes over opponent Terry Roland out of the 8,653 cast for the Democrat and Republican candidates. ...investigation that showed voting by felons and nonresidents of the district, as well as ballots cast by dead voters. ... I was astounded that this kind of fraud existed and took action to put measures into place to protect the integrity of Tennessee’s elections by introducing and passing a voter ID (identification) law. ....

Voting, however, should be conducted according to our laws and our Constitution so that is not compromised by those who would cheat and suppress the vote of another. (link)

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Shelby County Democratic Party "decertified"

Memphis Flyer - ...the Shelby County Democratic Party has ceased to exist, having been formally decertified last Friday by state Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini of Nashville. .... one of the known factors in forcing Mancini's hand, and likely the precipitating one, has been the Shelby County party's months-long impasse over what to do about the case of former local party chair Bryan Carson, who resigned last year after an audit turned up evidence of unexplained shortages in the party treasury. (link)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tim Kaine’s ObamaCare is Collapsing in Tennessee

Press release, NASHVILLE, Tenn.-August 23, 2016--Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine comes to Tennessee this evening where the latest damaging development about ObamaCare is reverberating throughout Tennessee. This is the the law Kaine has called a "great achievement."

Tennessee's Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak has said the ObamaCare exchange is 'very near collapse', as reported by the Nashville Tennessean. On a related note, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports ObamaCare rates are set to skyrocket by the "biggest amount since the program began three years ago." U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander told the newspaper these rate hikes are "only the most recent proof that Obamacare is spiraling out of control."

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes discussed the Virginia Senator's woefully-timed fundraising visit to the Volunteer State. "While the Democrat Vice Presidential nominee is here to prospect for checks, Tennesseans are dealing with headlines that ObamaCare's exchange in Tennessee is near total collapse. This isn't a 'great achievement'--it's a failure. Democrats passed this law based on false promises and now it's hurting our citizens who deserve better than government mandates and higher taxes. Yet, as part of the Clinton campaign, Tim Kaine wants to double down on this disaster. That can't happen," stated Haynes. "Republicans are ready with an alternative that allows for higher quality care, more choices, and lower costs. It's time to put patients back in charge of healthcare, not the government."

Online: ObamaCare will be known as a ‘Great Achievement’: During an interview with CNN's State of the Union, Sen. Kaine remarked about ObamaCare: "I think health care reform is going to go down in history as one of the great achievements of this president." (1/2/11)

On Health Care, Kaine said when the American people “Immediately see the benefits,” then Health Care would be “a great thing politically for the Dems.” AMANPOUR: “You mentioned health care. I want to say something that you, yourself, said about this issue when it comes to elections.” KAINE: “OK, great.” KAINE: “When make this happen, and people immediately see the benefits that are going to come their way, I think this is going to be a great thing politically for the Dems. And we’re trying to show members that they’ve got their constituents behind them if they vote with the president.” (ABC’s “This Week,” 10/24/10)

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Monday, August 22, 2016

U. S. District Judge temporarily blocks Obama's transgender bathroom policy

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of  Texas has temporarily blocked President Obama’s directive that boys who think they are really girls be allowed to use girls restrooms in public schools across the country. Texas and 12 other states including Tennessee had challenged the Obama administration’s unilateral move, calling it unconstitutional. Here is how it was reported in Politico:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, immediately cheered the decision.
“This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threating to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform,” Paxton said. “That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect states and school districts.”
The federal government told U.S. public schools in May that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. That announcement came days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a state law that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, which U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had likened to policies of racial segregation. Republicans have argued such laws are commonsense privacy safeguards.
Schools were not explicitly told to comply or lose federal funds. But the Obama administration also didn’t rule out that possibility in court documents filed in July, saying recipients of federal education dollars “are clearly on notice” that antidiscrimination polices must be followed. Texas alone gets roughly $10 billion in federal education funds.
Read the judge's order.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Humor break: Donald & Hilary joke

Donald and Hillary go into a bakery, while on the campaign trail. As soon as they enter the bakery, Hillary steals three pastries and puts them in her pocket. She whispers to Donald, "See how clever I am?" The owner didn't see anything and I don't even need to lie." Then she says "I will definitely win the election."

The Donald says to Hillary, "That's the typical dishonesty you have displayed throughout your entire life, theft, trickery and deceit. I am going to show you an honest way to get the same result."

Donald goes to the owner of the bakery and says, "Give me a pastry and I will show you a magic trick." Intrigued, the owner accepts and gives him a pastry. Trump swallows it and asks for another one. The owner gives him another one. Then Donald asks for a third pastry and eats that, too. The owner is starting to wonder where the magic trick is and asks, "What did you do with the pastries?" Trump replies, "Look in Hillary's pocket."

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An Alternative plan for Transit

Nashville now has a proposal for a plan for mass transit. The nMotion plan has been in the works for a long time and is now in. It is a $6 Billion Plan (that's billion with a "b", $6,000,000,000 or 6 thousand million). It will build the transit system of the past for the Nashville of the future. For more on the plan read The Tennessean's The $6B plan

An Alternative plan for Transit
I have an alternative view of transit. I want to see Nashville develop a system of mass transit that uses the private sector to the largest extend possible.  I would like to see us transition from a public mass transit system to a private mass transit system.  I would like to see us do things never done before. We should break new ground. We should be known as the city with a great transportation system primarily dependent on the private sector to provide the service.  We should privatize mass transit. 
By “privatized” I mean both fully privatized non-governmental transit, and public-private-partnership and out-sourcing, private companies hired by government to provide transit services.  As an example, Uber is a fully private operation with no government subsidy and minimal regulation.  Airport-hotel express bus service is private form of mass transit. A private-public partnership may be that a company builds a light rail line and operates it, say from the airport to downtown, and we lease the rail line for 75 years.  Some turnpikes are built like this.  Hiring a private firm to provide a service is the way the state often houses prisoners and the way we pick up most of the city’s garbage and the way we provide janitorial and grounds services for our schools.
Seek a unique solution:  If I were mayor I would seek out consultants who have experience in successful cost effective mass transit relying on private providers.  If we cannot find a consultant with a track record of doing this, we could do it ourselves.   I would call Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Grayline, Megabus, and others to the table and ask for RFP’s for moving masses of people efficiently.  These app-dispatched type companies like Uber and Lyft are relatively new.  They have made lots of money and have lots of money to invest and they may be looking for opportunities to grow.  Brainstorm with them. Invite them to help us solve our transit problem.
Look at Megabus: For $10 one can go from Nashville to Atlanta on a Megabus.  Would Megabus want to take over a Nashville Express bus services?  Or, maybe Grayline?
Remove prohibition against private companies competing with the MTA. At this time probably no company would want to provide a purely private bus service but we should remove the impediment if one did want to.  We should change the environment to one that welcomes private solutions, competition and innovation instead of a climate that penalizes private solutions. 
Remove the requirement for a 'certificate of necessity' before one can operate more cabs or start new cab companies.  The only logic for restricting supply of taxis is to protect those already in business from competition. Taxis are not mass transit, but they complement mass transit.  For one thing, they get people out of their private car and once one has become accustomed to not driving their private car, then other forms of transportation may also become more attractive.  Also, if one takes a bus from Murfreesboro to downtown, often one must still get somewhere else.  Taxis can take you the few blocks or miles from the end of the bus line to where you need to be.  Also, taxis do not need to park downtown for 8 hours at a stretch and if we had more taxis in use there would be less demand for more parking. 
Look at how we pick up garbage:  I was in the Metro Council when we changed the way we pick up garbage. The city picked all up of it, it was a more labor intensive process and garbage cans were manually lifted instead of mechanically lifted and service was twice a week instead of once a week. We transitioned to a once-a-week, mechanical-lift, uniform-garbage-can system.  Metro still designs the routes and supervises quality but most garbage is now picked up by private companies.  This has saved metro a lot of money.  Garbage workers were some of the lowest paid employees in the city but disability claims and retirement was very expensive. Metro employees and the public resisted the transition to private companies collecting the garbage but the transition to the current system happened and it has worked well.  During the transition, Metro public works “competed” with private companies. The cost of metro picking up garbage was established counting all cost in order to measure and compare the deal we were getting from private firms.  If Metro could “bid” lower on a route than a private company, Metro continued the route.  Eventfully, private companies took over most to the routes. The city simply could not pick up garbage as cheap as a private company. 
My Thai observation #1: It doesn’t matter the color of the bus.  I did not know what I was observing at the time but as a young man I spent 15 months in Thailand. I was in the Air Force and I lived off base and enjoyed my experience.  I learned how to take the local buses and get around.  I noticed that on a bus route that I used, I sometimes caught a brown bus and sometimes a green bus, but the bus followed the same route and regular schedule regardless of the color of the bus.  It was only years later when doing some research on transportation that I realized that the local government set the routes and allowed private companies to bid on the routes.  On the same route,  one time the bus may be one owned by one company but the next bus may be a bus owned by another company.
My Thai observation #2:  It is not a taxi and it is not a bus. Often instead of catching a bus, I would catch another type service.  In Thailand, they were often mini- pickup trucks that had a top but open sides with benches facing each other on each side of the truck bed.  Later I realized this type service is called a “jitney” and operates in many countries, but we do not have it in America.  It is a service that operates on a relatively fixed route but can deviate a block or two off the route to drop someone off at their home or place of work.  With modern phone apps and almost everyone having a smart phone, I think an Americanized version of jitney service could work in Nashville.  Obviously, Instead of pick-up trucks however I would envision vans or very small busses. 
The Nashville Star has been a failure and not a model to follow. This 30-mile line starting in Lebanon was projected to move 750 per day but on average it only moves 550 people a day.  The fare box only covers only 15% of the cost of a trip on the train.  With an operating budget of $5.1 million, that is not a sustainable model.  Also it gets very few cars off the road.  If  550 people a day are taking the train, some of those would be riding with a spouse, or car pooling or riding a bus or not working downtown. So if we consider 75% of those riding the train would be driving a car that is only 413 cars taken off the road in that 30 mile stretch of I-40 or Lebanon Pike.  That is an insignificant number.
We do not need to widen roads. There may be bottle necks that could be improved, but widening roads is like solving a weight problem by buying a bigger belt.  Sitting in traffic is one of the “cost” that will result in people being willing to use mass transit and also influence people’s decision about where they live and work.
Not everyone minds their long commute. People like to talk about their horrible commute, but some people are accustomed to it and value the independence of their car and do not want to ride mass transit.  I think I would hate it myself, but some people have told me the ride home gives them time to unwind. They do not find it nerve wracking. They want to listen to their music or choice of talk show or sports and do not want to share that choice and they want to stop off at the grocery store on the way home.  Don’t assume people want to give up their car.  We are not now maximizing the use of vanpools and car pools and the express bus services. If we are not now maximizing alternative options, they why should we assume other options would get people to give up their car? There may not be as much demand for mass transit as some assume. Equal to the challenge of how we move people is selling people on the idea of using mass transit.  Don’t assume that if we build it, they will use it. 
Not every bus has to be the same.  Some millennial and young professionals may want luxury seats and Wi-Fi and a smooth ride. Recent immigrants living out Nolensville Rd may be happy with a school-type bus and lower priced service and greater frequency of service may be more important than a luxury ride. Let entrepreneurs have a chance to provide different models and see what works. What works on one route may not be the same as what works on another route.

Mass transit and planning for development should coincide.  I have traveled quite a bit in Europe and in some other countries. A visitor to Europe may think the walled cities with big cathedrals and cobble stone streets are quaint and that everyone lives like that. If you take a train from one city to another in many of these countries, however, you will find that much of the population live clustered around railway stops at different points along the route.  One may pass through miles of sparse development or pasture and farmland and then come to a railway stop and there will be a population center with multi story apartment buildings around the train stop.  Should we build a light rail line or develop a Bus Rapid Transit route down Nolensville Road or some other major corridor, then land use planning should allow high rise, high density development of apartments clustered around the transit stop. 
We need greater density to make mass transit successful.  We should discourage rezoning of neighborhoods to single-family-only, should encourage zoning that allows auxiliary living units on residential properties (mother-in-law apartments) and increase density along major corridors, at mass transit hubs, or major transit stops.  This would also increase the supply of affordable housing. 
Express bus service is a “public good. “ It is a given that getting more people to take buses from Murfreesboro to Nashville, or Gallatin or Clarksville to Nashville is a public good.  When someone takes the bus it makes the road less congested for the rest of us.  It reduces the demand for widening roads, reduces commute times for other drivers and cuts pollution by reducing idling cars.  It reduces poverty by making it possible for low-skilled workers to get to jobs, it increases disposable income and spurs economic growth by allowing people to spend more of their money on other goods rather than transportation.  Yet ridership is low. (I do not know the number, but know it is low. We need the numbers in order to say:  “X number of people commute from Murfressboro to Nashville everyday, yet only X percent takes the express bus service.”)  
Regional transportation is also a State public good. Metro should not pay the lion’s share for regional transportation. The more people who take the Murfreesboro to Nashville bus, the more it helps the State, since it reduces traffic on the interstate highway. We need regional support and state financial support for efforts to increase mass transit.  Our Nashville legislative delegation should advocate for regional transit to get TDOT support for every vehicle that is taken off a state road due to someone using mass transit.
Express Bus service is a bargain.  One can take a bus from Murfreesboro t o Nashville for $4 for one trip or 20 trips for $70. That is only $7.50 a day!  To park at the 701 Church Street garage is $5 for one hour, $8 two hours, and a $13 daily maximum if one can find a place to park.  So to take the bus for a month is $7.50 x 20 days= $150 a month; to take a car is $150 parking (assume one leases a space by the month), gas $200 (assume a tank a week at $50 x4= 200) maintenance and oil changes assume $50 a month, and assume the wearing out of a car used mostly for work $400 a month. (Assume a $20,000 car for 5 years plus interest). So the cost of taking the bus is $150 a month and the cost of driving is $800.
So, how do we get more people to take the bus? Assuming it is a pubic good and we want more people to take the bus, and it is a bargain, why won’t people take the bus? It could be that it is inconvenient to be at the bus stop on time, one may want to stay in town to have dinner, one may have to pick up the kids or stop at the grocery store and the bus does not take you to the door of your business.  Other people may not take the bus because they just love their car, and you would have to pay them to take the bus.  However, many people do not know of the option of express bus service or have never even considered it.  One thing government does not do well is advertise its services and most of the time with good reason.  Most government services do not have to be advertised because people have to have them, want them or not.  Other services are government monopoly and people have no choice of provider. For other services, if more people use the service such as libraries or parks we will have to build more libraries or parks. However, getting people out of their cars can save money and solve a problem. We need to “sell” people on using the bus.  We need billboards and ads touting the benefit of taking an express bus service. Any RFP for a private company to take over an express line should include a proposal for advertising and increasing ridership and perhaps provide an incentive for increasing ridership.  Even if we do not privatize the line, we still need to advertise.  
Use Technology, synchronize lights, and build roundabouts and pedestrian passageways: My favorite bad example of uselessly sitting at a traffic light is Craighead and Bransford.  The light takes forever to change with traffic going neither direction.  Often I have been tempted to run the red light. This would be a great place to build a roundabout or turn the light to flashing red and flashing yellow after 8PM unless there is a function at the Fairgrounds.  I am sure this is only one of a thousand examples in town. I have traveled in Europe and I know roundabouts take some getting used to but they are safe and keep traffic moving. Also, by reducing idle time, they improve air quality and reduce air pollution.  All lights should be automated to be timed to move traffic most efficiently.  On super busy roadways with pedestrian traffic, we should construct pedestrian bridges or tunnels.  This will increase safety of pedestrians and reduce the light timing necessary for pedestrians to cross the road.  This would not be something for downtown where we want to encourage pedestrian traffic and slow traffic, but I am sure there are some areas where this would be beneficial, such in Greenhills. I have seen these used European cities. It works.
Make the city more walkable by stopping building sidewalks stupidly. Stop tearing up an replacing very serviceable sidewalks and instead build new sidewalks. Require new developments to have a “pedestrian plan,” just as they must now have a traffic plan, a lighting plan and a storm water plan. I have examples of poor planning and building sidewalks stupidly that I could show you.  It seems as if some streets were designed to ensure people never walk. 
Most people do not work downtown.  A lot of people do, but I have never worked downtown.  If we moved masses of people from Murfreesboro to downtown, then how we would they get them to their jobs which are scattered throughout the city and the region?  Before we focus on a massive investment of a Murfreesboro to Nashville route or similar routes we need to figure out how to get people where they want to go once they get downtown.  Private paratransit could help accomplish this. 
We must realize that it is difficult to retrofit a city build mostly after the advent of the car to accommodate mass transit.  Cities with really good mass transit are cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.  These are all cities that had large populations and were built prior to the advent of the automobile.  We should not over promise on mass transit. Atlanta has a large rail system but its job centers are not clustered, making that rail system less useful.  
Realize the future may be here before you know it and needs may change. It was not that many years ago that everyone did not have a smart cell phone. That technology has changed much of how we live from how we find places, connect with people, and decide the routes we take.  The demand on our roads and use of one’s own car may decrease. More people may work from home. UPS, Federal Express, pizza delivery and running to another office to deliver a set of document may be done mostly by drones in five to ten years.  To go somewhere, you may click an app on your phone (or key bob type device or whatever) and a driverless pod rushes to your house and takes you where you want to go. We will still need roadways but some problems may take care of themselves and it is difficult to plan for a future 75 years down the road when technology we have not even dreamed of yet, may appear at any time.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What happened at the 8-15-16 Council meetng: Pot bill survives rare First Reading challenge, Affordable Housing bill advances, Google Fiber bill deferred.

For a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.  If you are going to actually watch the meeting, you really need to follow along with the agenda.

If you are going to watch the meeting you may want to watch it in double speed. That is usually what I do with council meeting and most meetings and speeches. I can watch it in double time and not lose much content and I slow it if something is interesting. To watch it in double speed, hover your cursor over "YouTube" and click it. The video will then open in another screen. Then click "setting" which is indicated by a gear icon. When that opens change speed from normal to the desired speed.  If you are not given that option, then follow this link for instructions.

Below is a summary and the highlights of the meeting.

All of the resolutions pass except the resolution to approve purchasing land for the new Cain Ridge school and it is deferred one meeting, apparently to track with a zoning bill not because there is any opposition. To see which of the resolutions were of significance see my commentary.

Bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and usually pass by a single vote. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. It is almost considered rude to vote against a bill on First Reading. All bills on first, pass lumped together with a single vote except for one that is with drawn and the bill that would  substantially decriminalized pot possession in Davidson County.

  • The bill that is withdrawn is a bill that would have imposed a 120-day moratorium upon the issuance of building and grading permits for multi-family developments on property within Metropolitan County Council Districts 28, 29 and 32.  This was a bad bill and should have been withdrawn.  We can't function as a city if we have different rules for different council district.  There is concern that those districts are seeing so much rapid growth that infrastructure cannot keep up with it. The concern may be valid but a moratorium on new development is not the way to deal with it.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-378 is the bill that would substantially decriminalized  possession or casual exchange of small quantities of marijuana in Davidson County. I favor this bill. To see my commentary follow this link.  The motion for a roll-call vote was made by Councilman Dour Pardue. In addition to Pardue others voting against the bill were council members Steve Glover, Holly Uezo and Bill Pridemore. Council member Karen Johnson abstained. It passes First Reading by a vote of 34 to 4. To see the discussion see timestamp 21:22 - 28:21.

Bills on Second Reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing. This passes by voice vote.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. Before being amended it was to be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars. It is amended to make the cap $2.5 million. The sunset date is also extended. I do not have copies of the amendment and am not sure how long the trial period last, but it would not come up for review until the next council takes office. Both of these changes make the bill less desirable in my view.  Apparently the builders wanted the longer trail period and I can understand why they would, but it means a new council would be evaluating the bill rather then the council that passed it. While I was previously of the view that I would support this bill, if I were serving in the council, I am now less inclined to be supportive.  If this passes, however, then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan could still pass but this may lessen the likelihood of that bill passing. The only way I think I could support this bill as amended was if I believed that passing this bill would result in the inclusionary zoning bill not passing. This bill however would work with the other bill, if the other bill also should pass, so that those who are required to build affordable housing under the inclusionary zoning proposal could also get this grant and lessen the pain.
 Background and more information on this proposal is in the press release from the mayor's office which you can find at this link.  Both developers and housing advocates support this bill, for the most part, or at least they did before it was amended. The bill will still be amendable on third reading. For those who want a deeper understanding of this bill, you may want to watch the meeting of the Ad hoc Affordable Housing Committee found at this link and the Budget and Finance Committee meeting found at this link. The bill is amended as noted above and then passes by a voice vote. To view the discussion see timestamp 33:57 to 44:14.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. It is also not as simple as it sounds. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  This was announced in January 2015. What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can string cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, ATT must move their cable, or who ever is below on the pole must wait for the provider with cable above to move their cable. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole. The complexity of this is explained in  articles you can find at these links:
Google Fiber warns it could pull plug over Nashville impasse  
Council attorney raises legal issues with Google Fiber proposal  
"Google One Touch" plan: Solution in search of problem
The bill is deferred one meeting. 
 Bills on Third Reading 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I would like to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. This is deferred one meeting.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. It passes.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-319  by Councilman Davis is subject to a last minute attempt to amend that generate some discussion and controversy. It is a rezoning that attempts to change properties that now has various zonings "to  permit all uses permitted by the MUL-A district except for alternative financial services uses." I am not even going to try to explain the nuances involved, but if you want to see the discussion see timestamp 1:01:55 to 1:17:09.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  which makes 60 "housekeeping" changes to the regs governing taxi cabs passes on a voice vote without discussion. 
The council passed the resolution and the bill that was necessary to facilitate "Marine week" in Nashville without any opposition.

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Liberty on the Rocks meets Thursday, August 18, 2016 starting at 5:30 PM

Liberty on the Rocks meets Thursday, August 18, 2016 starting at  5:30 PM at Smokin Thighs, 611 Wedgewood Ave, Nashville, TN.  This is a always an enjoyable event.  While the majority political persuasion of those who attend tends to be libertarian there are always a few of we mainstream conservatives in attendance to provide some balance.  Actually, I think we are making converts.

Stop by, have a beer and enjoy some good, stimulating conversation.  There is no formal program and attendance usually runs about twenty people and the big group just naturally breaks into several smaller groups and people often float from one group to the other. It starts winding down about 8:30 but sometimes last much longer and you can come and go whenever it suites you.  You don't have to RSVP but the organizers would like for you to, but you can just show up at the last minute if you would like to stop by. By attending, you are not "joining" anything and you will not get a lot of unwanted email or solicitations for political contributions. Liberty on the Rocks is just a bunch of liberty-loving people getting together to drink, talk, argue, and explore ideas. I hope to see you Thursday.

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Bill to substantially decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, in a rare move is challenged on 1st reading. Passes 32-4.

While it is rare that a bill on First Reading is discussed or voted on separately, it happened last night with the bill that would substantially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Nashville.  Usually all bills on first reading are considered together and pass by a single vote. It is almost considered bad manners to oppose a bill on First Reading.  Bills are not analyzed by staff, or discussed in committee until after First reading. First Reading is a formality that gets a bill on the agenda. The marijuana bill survived a roll-call First Reading vote in the Metro Council by a vote of  32-4, with one abstention.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Vandy pays $1.2M to rename Confederate Hall

The Daughters of the Confederacy is going to get a windfall of $1.2 million from Vanderbilt University as payment for allowing Vandy to change the name of Confederate Hall. The Daughters of the Confederacy contributed the sum of $50,0000 in 1933 to build the building and there was a stipulation that it be named "Confederate Hall" and that name is in a stone mantel over the door. The $1.2M sum is today's equivalent of the $50,000 the  Daughters of the Confederacy paid back in1933.

$1.2 million will allow the Daughters of the Confederacy to do a lot to keep alive the memory and to honor the southern civil war dead.  Instead of paying off the Daughters of the Confederacy in order to scrub history, Vanderbilt could have used the $1.2million to provide scholarships to disadvantaged African-American students. $1.2 million is a lot of money to pay so students will not be traumatized by seeing the word "confederate."

The next time alumni get a solicitation from Vanderbilt to contribute to their alma marta, maybe they should ask themselves if Vanderbilt University is a good steward of their charitable giving.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

On the Council Agenda for August 16th: Pot, Affordable Housing, welcoming the Marines, and Google Fiber.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, August 16th at 6:30 PM. To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, if you are so inclined, but unless you are trying to influence a Council member and think your presence in the audience will exert an influence, I don't know why you would want to.

Meetings are broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and are streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch them the next day on the Metro YouTube channel. If you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just that segment. Also, I will also tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to.

If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis or you won't even have a clue about what is going on. Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda.

There are three appointments to boards and commission which are never opposed and they will be approved.  There is one resolution on public hearing to allow a business that already has a license to sell hard liquor, the right to sell beer.  I don't know why the Council just does not make this an automatic right rather having to have a hearing each time one of these situations come up.

There are eleven resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded.  I don't find any of the resolutions to be controversial but these are several of interest.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-339  extends a grant to provide financial education at various
    locations throughout the city.  Most of the money for this program comes from  Bloomberg Philanthropies. This is a great program. I have spend most of my career working with low-income people or people in crisis and it is amazing how little people know about money management.  People really do stupid stuff when it come to managing money.  Some of it is a question of values like never learning delayed gratification or simply being irresponsible and having the wrong priorities, but some of it is simply not understanding simple math and interest terms.  Values can be changed once people learn they do not have to live a life of poverty and money management skills can be taught. There are lots of resources for those who want to stop being broke and poor and running from bill collectors and who want to get control of their finances.  This program is one of the best and it is available to anyone in the county.  To learn more about The Financial Empowerment Center, follow the link.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-340  moves forward with purchasing property for a Cain Ridge school.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-341is an agreement to allow the United States Marines to use metro parks for an annual community outreach and recruiting event.  I am going to take this opportunity to commend Mayor Barry.  Some cities with a mayor and council as liberal as that of Nashville, also have an anti-military attitude and have rejected welcoming Marine recruitment. An anti military positions is often part of the progressive package. It could be worse. Nashville is not Berkeley yet. Here is an excerpt and link to the story of the upcoming Marine week activities:
More than 700 Marines are set to descend on Nashville in September.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, along with Marine Corps leadership, announced the details Wednesday for the service branch's annual showcase event outside the downtown courthouse.
Marine Week, running Sept. 7-11, will showcase 80 events open to the public to get familiar with the Corps and its technology, aircraft and other vehicles. The week will conclude Sept. 11 with a 9/11 remembrance ceremony and events at that Sunday's Tennessee Titans game. (link)
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-346  settles a claim of inverse condemnation suit.  Sometimes paying to settle claims proves controversial, but in any case I have ever looked at I think the city only settles when it is in the city's best interest to settle rather than litigate. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-348  honors Jane Eskind, the only woman elected to a statewide office in Tennessee.

Bills on First Reading. There are seven bills on First Reading and I usually don't review bills on BILL NO. BL2016-378,  may prove controversial. For my commentary on this bill follow this link.
First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and usually pass by a single vote. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. I don't think anyone would vote against it on First, but the bill to substantially lower the penalty for pot possession,

There are only nine bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. It would be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars.  If this passes then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan will likely not pass. If I was in the Council, I would support this bill. Background and more information on this proposal is in the following press release from the mayor's office"

Mayor Barry Announces Affordable Housing Incentive Pilot Program

Program will focus on incentivizing developers to build or maintain affordable and workforce housing within mixed-income properties
NASHVILLE, TN, 7/12/2016 – Mayor Megan Barry is pleased to introduce a program that will incentivize developers to create more affordable and workforce housing within existing and new construction. The incentive pilot program has been developed after months of research and conversations with the stakeholders in the community by the Mayor’s Office.
“This will serve as another tool in the toolbox for the community and developers to help us achieve our shared goal of creating more high-quality affordable and workforce housing for Nashvillians,” said Mayor Barry. “We want to target this growth in urban core which has seen the greatest impact of soaring housing prices in recent years, as well as along our pikes and corridors which are targeted for mass transit options now and in the future.”
The announcement of the pilot incentive program comes on the heels of other efforts by Mayor Barry to increase Metro’s focus on affordable housing. In June, the Mayor signed into law a budget which includes an increase of $10,000,000 for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, bringing the total to $16M for FY16-17. Additionally, the Metro Council approved on second reading a private-public partnership with Elmington Capital Group to create 138 units of affordable and workforce housing on a Metro-owned lot at 12th and Wedgewood. Metro has also worked with the Barnes Commission and local non-profit developers to re-use other city-owned infill lots around Nashville and Davidson County to build affordable housing properties.
Affordable housing, as defined in the proposed ordinance, is affordable for households making 60% of Median Household Income (MHI) or less, and workforce housing is designated at 61-120% of MHI. According to the latest U.S. Census figures from 2014, the MHI for Davidson County for a family of four is $60,074.
Under the proposal, developers wishing to take advantage of the incentive program would need to provide affordable or workforce housing at a rate that is equal to or less than 30% of household income. For example, utilizing the 2014 figures, the maximum monthly rental for a family of four making 60% of MHI would be $901, or $1,802 at the 120% workforce level.
Developers who meet these terms would then be able to seek a grant, subject to staff review by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Empowerment (OEOE) and Metro Council approval, capped at 50% of the increase in value of property taxes from the new development. The grant would cover the difference between the price of market-rate housing and the price of the affordable or workforce housing units. For example, a developer who has market-rate apartments at $1,500 a month and offers comparable workforce-level affordable units for $1,200 would get a grant for the difference of $300 per unit, total not to exceed the cap of 50% of the increase in property tax value.
“There is no silver bullet to the affordable housing crisis we face in Nashville and across America,” said Mayor Barry. “But this proposal is a great step forward in creating more affordable and workforce housing options so that teachers, construction workers, service employees, artists and hundreds of thousands of other Nashvillians can afford to live, work and play right here in Davidson County.”
The program will be launched with a 24 months sunset provision and FY17-18 cap of $2,000,000 in order to collect data and give developers and rental managers time to become acclimated with the new program.
In addition to incentives for new construction of rental properties, the pilot program also has options for owner-occupied units and existing rental. The incentive grants for owner-occupied units outside of the UZO will be capped at $10,000, and they will be capped at $20,000 for properties within the UZO or along a multimodal corridor. Owners of existing rental properties can also apply for grants in the event that increases in the market will displace current residents, subject to rules and limitations.
Representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development and OEOE will be on hand at the Metro Council Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday July 13 at 5:00PM in the Jury Assembly Room of the Historic Metro Courthouse to discuss the details of the proposal and get feedback from members of the Council and the public.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can sting cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, NES must move their wires. Sometimes many other companies may also have wires hung on the same pole. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole.  If this passes, we may finally get Google Fiber.   
  • BILL NO. BL2016-344 is another piece of legislation to facilitate Marine week, allowing Navy aircraft to land and take off from The Green, the park in front of the courthouse.

There are 34 bills on Third Reading, most of them zoning bills. Be aware that I do not even attempt to form an opinion on every zoning bills. Unless you live nearby, zoning bills are pretty boring. These are the ones I am watching:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I want to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. Anytime the city messes with the sign ordinance it proves controversial but this really does not seem like that big of a deal. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  makes 60 changes to the regs governing taxi cabs. The staff analysis calls these changes "housekeeping," but anytime you make that many changes it causes concern. Last council meeting concern was expressed about this bill. 

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To stop Nashville from becoming "the San Francisco of the South," conservatives must engage and get organized.

The following is a report from an organization supporting inclusionary zoning urging their supporters to be ready to spring into action to advance the inclusionary zoning bill that is on tomorrow night's council agenda, should the bill appear to be in trouble.  I think it is worthwhile that those on the right, know what their adversaries on the left or up to, so that is why I am posting the below communications.  A VOICE is a progressive activist group and one of the leading agents responsible for Nashville's leftward tilt in the last few years.  

While the Chamber of Commerce and some others will work to oppose inclusionary zoning and while ad hoc groups spring up from time to time to do things like save the fairgrounds or stop the AMP, there is no consistent conservative activist group working day in and day out to stop the progressive agenda and advance a conservative agenda. 

When a mayor proposes a tax hike, conservatives will rally for one council meeting.  That is only about once every four or eight years. Conservatives contributed and worked for the election of David Fox, during the last mayoral election and some conservatives ran for council and worked in council campaigns, but liberals work day in and day out without ceasing, always campaigning for more government interference and more government spending. Every year at budget time, numerous advocates for greater government spending take to the podium and not a single conservative speaks for lower taxes and cutting government waste.

Notice that the communication below says "hundreds" of emails and phone calls were made to support inclusionary zoning.  That has an impact.  I doubt there were not half a dozen calls in opposition.  By our inactivity, we kind of get the type of government we deserve. 

Luckily conservatives hold the seats of power at the state legislature and some of what Metro Nashville might like to do can be thwarted at the state level.  Even if inclusionary zoning is passed locally, there is a chance it will be ruled to violate a state law.  The State can only protect Nashville from its leftward tilt so far, however.  If we really want to stop Nashville from becoming "the San Francisco of the South," conservatives must engage and get organized.

A VOICE Steering Committee …
 Sent this out tonight … hope you can do the same to your own professional/social lists … if not tonight early AM.
 A VOICE For the Reduction of Poverty
Affordable Housing Campaign Update

With so much happening on the Affordable Housing front, thought we would send this summary out just to circle the wagons a bit.  While there are several pieces of legislation A VOICE has called for and helped influence … what we are immediately concerned with is Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 (which addresses where affordable and workforce housing will be placed) and Incentives Bill 342 (which legislates incentives to builders to create housing for working people in need).   Both bills address workforce housing, are now tracking simultaneously for adoption, and if adopted represent a significant first step to addressing our housing dilemma.  Soooo … here are some bits and pieces just to keep you up-to-date:

1.    First of all … applause/applause and much appreciation goes out to you, our membership, for responding so robustly to last week’s Call to Action.  Last week we asked you to contact members of City Council in support of Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133, as well as join us at its Second Reading and Public Hearing.  You response was significant and overwhelming … a good part of the reason the bill moved forward with unanimous affirmation from the Council floor.  Council members reported that they received literally hundreds of emails and phone calls in support of this measure and were impressed that 100+ were in attendance at the Hearing in support of this bill and 40 among us spoke in favor.  Registering your voice with ours most certainly sent a strong message.  Thank you!!!

2.    Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 now heads to Council for a third and final reading on Tuesday, September 6th.  The A VOICE Steering Committee will monitor any significant changes recommended between now and this final vote.  We remain concerned that forces opposed to this bill (primarily developers and the Nashville Regional Chamber of Commerce) will continue to petition Council to water it down, something we will continue to oppose.  Should we need you to share your voice again on this bill later this month we will let you know. 

3.    Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 is now tracking on the same schedule as the Incentives Bill 342 – the incentives based bill Council asked the Mayor’s office to take a lead on.  The City Council Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee will be meeting tomorrow (Monday) to review and perhaps modify this bill before sending it to Council for a full vote on Tuesday.  If we find there are substantive changes we do not favor … we may be reaching out to you late on Monday evening to raise your voice regarding Bill 342 as you did for Bill 133.  We are hoping that doing so will be unnecessary but wanted to put you on hold “just in case” we need you again.  If we do … expect another email from us tomorrow night to immediately act on.

4.    There are a few other pieces of legislation you should be aware of that will hopefully move forward, as part of an Affordable and Workforce Housing package.  First of all, earlier this month Council passed a resolution calling for the Ad Hoc Task Force and the Mayor’s Office to prepare a Comprehensive Plan for Affordable and Workforce Housing.  A VOICE will continue to participate in this process as it unfolds.  Other legislation being considered by Council will allow for the creation of PILOT grants to encourage the development of affordable and workforce housing and modification of the rules that govern the Barnes Housing Trust Fund.

While the steps Council is considering are definitely movement in the right direction, much work lies ahead for us.  We need to continue to lobby for aggressive funding of the Barnes Trust Fund and assure that dedicated monies for affordable housing are devoted to that purpose.  We must continually keep the demand for housing for those with the least among us at the top of our city’s agenda.  We will keep you informed of these issues as well as other issues related to the reduction of poverty.  In the meantime … please be on the alert for other Calls for Action.  Please know how much we appreciate partnering with you. 

Thank you …

The A VOICE Steering Committee

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