Monday, February 26, 2018

Gun control, the 2nd Amendment and how to prevent the next mass shooting

by Rod Williams - After a former student went on a shooting rampage at a Parkland Florida high school leaving 17 dead, there has been a lot of attention brought to bear on how this could have happened and what to do to prevent it happening in the future. Students, politicians, pundits, celebrities and many everyday people are demanding the government “do something.” There have been renewed calls for gun control and attention given to the problem of mental illness. Unfortunately, “do something” leaves unanswered the question, “do what?” What should be done? There are things that may make people feel better, but will they really make any difference?

I would like to know what readers of this blog think about gun control and the second amendment and what if anything should be done to prevent the next mass shooting. I would welcome thoughtful comments, not just sloganeering. Please be respectful of opposing points of view.  Please leave your comment. If one would like to submit their comments for consideration as a stand alone essay, please email me the essay at Rodwilliams47@yahoo.com along with a two-sentence bio and a head shot. I would especially welcome comments or essays that address the points I raise below.  Opposing view points are welcome.

Below are some questions I have and some thoughts.
(1) Almost everyone wants to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness. I do. A crazy person should not be allowed to have a gun but there are degrees of mentally ill. What is the standard now for being banned from getting a weapon due to being mentally ill? Does anyone know? I don’t. I am concerned about due process and stigmatizing people. If one once had a prescription for valium or xanax, should he be on the list of those prohibited from purchasing guns? Should one have to be informed he is on the do-not-sell list? Should one have the right to appeal being placed on the list? Should the list be subject to open-records? If once on the list and you get well, should you be able to get your name taken off the list. Should every ex-serviceman diagnosed with PTSD be prohibited from purchasing a weapon? Should the mentally ill be allowed to vote? Should the mentally ill be allowed to drive a car? What should be the level of being mentally ill before you lose the right to vote or the right to own a weapon?

(2) Some second amendment rights advocates take an absolutist position about any effort to control access to guns or where guns may be carried and point out the right to bear arms shall “not be infringed.” However, all rights must be interpreted and have common sense application. The first amendment is not absolute: prohibition against crying fire in a crowded theater, revealing classified information, slander laws, and copy write laws all are restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We already have restrictions on the right to bear arms. You cannot buy a sawed off shotgun or possess a machine gun. Technically these weapons are not banned; they are taxed to the point that they are prohibitively expensive and the ownership of them must be registered. To me that appears to be a distinction without a difference. Armor piercing bullets are banned and one cannot own nuclear arms or conventional bombs or hand grenades. Since the purpose of the second amendment is to make it possible for people to stand up to a tyrannical government, should not the people have the same weapons as the government? I don’t think anyone makes that argument. I don’t see anyone trying to overturn the ban on armor piercing bullets or machine guns and I don’t see anyone advocating for the right to own nuclear weapons. If you have accepted the right of the government to effectively ban sawed off shot guns and machine guns, have you not already accepted “infringement?” Is banning bump stocks or high-capacity magazines any different from the types of bans already in place?

(3) Should you have to be age 21 to buy a weapon? Some are proposing this. You have to be age 21 to buy alcoholic beverages or cigarettes. However you can enter into a contract, such as that to take on debt and buy a car, at age 18. A college does not share an 18-year-old’s school records with the parent who is paying the bill. An 18-year-old can have an abortion or get married without their parents consent. At age 18 one can join the military. A 16-year-old can get a license to drive a car. The government allows some private sector age discrimination up until age 25. I would favor raising the voting age to 21, but the age at which one can have all of the privileges and responsibilities seems to be to be an open question open to debate. I do not see any principle involved, only a preference which society may decide.
AR-15

(4) Why ban the AR-15? The AR-15 is the preferred weapon of choice of mass shooters. I am not an
expert on firearms, but as I understand it, there are other weapons even more lethal than or as lethal as the AR-15. Some use the same caliber bullet and they are also semi-automatic. Instead of the same bullet, some use a more powerful bullet. Instead of black and plastic, however. they are wood and metal-tone. Instead of looking like a military weapon, they look like hunting rifles. Does anyone really believe that banning one nomenclature of weapon will accomplish anything? If the AR-15 is banned, the AK-47 may become the mass killers weapon of choice, or the SIG 556R. Does anyone really think banning the AR-15 will accomplish anything?

(5) Many people want to not just ban the AR-15 but ban all "assault weapons."  What is an assault weapon? There is nothing that officially makes a weapon an “assault weapon.” “Assault weapon” generally defines some types of firearms that is a black plastic semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip. It is only appearance that makes an assault weapon an assault weapon. If we made the AK-47 plastic Barbie Pink instead of black would it still be an assault weapon? If we remove the pistol grip is it still an assault weapon? What problem would banning “assault weapons” solve?

(6) Should we close the “gun-show-loop-hole?” The gun show loop hole means someone who is not a licensed gun dealers sells a gun to someone without doing a background check. To require every gun sell be accompanied by a background check would mean you could not sale a gun to your brother without doing so. Should all gun sales require a background check?

(7) Would even banning the manufacture and commercial sale of weapons make a difference? Probably some difference overtime, but I doubt it would make a lot. Three out of ten Americans own guns, but some people own a lot of guns. They have an arsenal or a gun collection depending on how
you look at it. There are more than 300 million guns in private hands in America. After each mass shooting, probably motivated by fear the government will ban guns, there has been a spike in gun sales. If new gun manufacture is banned, the guns in one’s collection will increase in value. Private gun sales will soar. Instead of walking into a gun store to buy a gun, guns will be purchased in parking lots out of a trunk. The only way that I believe a significant impact could be made on the availability of guns is to ban private ownership and confiscate weapons of those who will not voluntarily surrender them.

(8) Why not repeal the second amendment? While tweaking some of the rules about who may own a weapon and defining what weapons may be banned may withstand a constitutional challenge, to make any real impact on the deadly nature of American society would require a weapons ban. To be effective a weapons ban would not only require banning the manufacture and sale of future weapons but the confiscation of weapons currently in circulation. That can only be accomplished by amending the constitution. If you support a ban on weapons, why not work to amend the constitution?

I saw a meme posted on Facebook recently that was apparently meant to be a response to those who point out the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. The meme said, the right to own other people was once a constitutional right. First of all, that meme is incorrect. The constitution never made owning slaves a right but it did indirectly acknowledge the existence of slavery. Slavery was abolished however by the 13th amendment to the Constituting. The point is, the Constitution can be changed. Amending the Constitution is difficult but it can be done. If what you really want to do is confiscate and ban guns, then why not start the process of amending the constitution?

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Mayor Megan Barry Statement on Affidavits Released to the Media

Press release, February 22, 2018- Mayor Megan Barry released the following statement regarding affidavits released to the media today in relation to the TBI investigation into the Mayor’s admitted affair.

“The allegations of photos taken of myself are very troubling and infuriating if true. While I have not seen the photos in question, if they were of me, they were taken without my knowledge or permission and a complete invasion of my privacy.

“Nothing in the affidavits released today, which should have been sealed until the conclusion of this investigation, indicates that I have committed any actions that violate the law. If any violations of the law occurred, they were in violating my personal rights.

“We will continue to cooperate with the ongoing TBI investigation, but the release of this affidavit to the media in an attempt to politically damage or embarrass me is an example of why I will continue to protect my personal rights in this process.”

Background
On February 15, the TBI called Mayor Barry’s attorney Jerry Martin in the evening and asked if he and the Mayor would agree to a search of her personal cell phone. He asked if they would agree to limited parameters so that they would not invade attorney-client privilege. Additionally, because it was her personal phone, he asked that they agree to a protocol to limit the search so as not to encroach on items irrelevant to the investigation such as communications with personal friends and family. The agent relayed that they would look at their protocols and respond back to Mr. Martin.

On February 16, without notice to Mr. Martin, a warrant was served to retrieve Mayor Barry’s personal cell phone instead of agreeing to cooperate with Mayor Barry and Mr. Martin. It is unclear who made the decision to pursue this course of action, though General Funk is the person directing the investigation.

On February 20, the TBI called Mr. Martin and asked for Mayor Barry’s personal passcode to her personal phone. He requested to see the affidavit upon which the search warrant was based in order to better understand the basis for the search warrant. He was informed this wasn’t something they would usually do but the decision was up to Mr. Funk. On the advice of counsel, Mayor Barry declined to provide the code to the TBI.

On February 22, the affidavits were released to the media.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Security Video Shows Mayor, Bodyguard During Early-Morning Cemetery Visits


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mayor Megan Barry found time alone with her police bodyguard during early morning visits to the Nashville City Cemetery, security video uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates shows. And in every case, taxpayers were paying Sgt. Rob Forrest to be there, payroll records show.

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My endorsements in the May 1 Nashville election

The most important issue by far on the May 1st ballot is the "tax for tracks: referendum which I will be voting against and which is the only reason I am going to the polls. There are various other races however and these involve candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for various offices. There are no Republicans seeking office. Since Davidson County is an overwhelmingly Democratic county and since the winner of the May 1st primary will not face Republican opposition, whoever wins the Democratic primary has essentially won the office.

Since I am going to the polls to vote against the tax for transit referendum,  I may vote in the Democratic primary to vote for the least offensive Democrat. Since we do not have party registration in Tennessee I am permitted to vote in the Democrat if I so chose. to do so.  If I vote in the Democratic primary, this is for whom I will vote:

Nashville public defender: Rod Williams. I will write in my own name since Martesha Johnson is the only name on the ballot for this position.

Register of deeds: Karen Johnson. The candidates are Richard Exton, Pam Murray, and

Karen Johnson
Councilwoman Karen Johnson. I certainly don't want Pam Murray to get it. She has a checkered past and does not deserve to be elected to any office. I don't know anything about Richard Exton.

Readers of this blog might be surprised that I would vote for Karen Johnson, since I have been so highly critical of her for her attempt to trample property rights and kill an affordable housing project in her district. The reason I am voting for Karen Johnson some might consider "sexist."  I am voting for her, if I vote in the Democratic primary,  because she is so damn pretty!. She should win a beauty contest. She also has a charming personality to match her good looks. Also, while I abhor her stand on property rights, she strikes me as a good and capable person.

Juvenile Court clerk: Undecided, but not Sherry Jones. I am waiting to learn more about the candidates. The candidates are Jeff Crum, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Michael Joyner, Rep. Sherry Jones, Metro school board member Tyese Hunter. At this point, I would probably vote for Matthews simply because he has the most name recognition other than Sherry Jones, and I do not want her to get it.

Sheriff: Daron Hall. I really like Daron Hall and think he is an excellent sheriff. I wish he were a Republican. Even if there was a Republican contender, I would most likely vote for Daron Hall anyway. He deserves to be reelected.

County clerk: Brenda Wynn, probably or not vote.  Wynn has served in this office since 2012 and is running unopposed. She is a likable persona and there have been no scandals in the office, so I will probably vote for her or just skip voting in this race.

Criminal Court clerk: Howard Gentry, I have no complaints against him and he seems like a nice guy. His opponent is not impressive.

Trustee: Charlie Cardwell. He is running unopposed. He has held this office since 1993. He is capable and a very nice person. He was serving in some capacity, Director of Finance I believe it was, back when I served in the Metro Council in the 80"s. I always thought he was a person of integrity and he is likeable. I would support him even if a Republican was running.

Circuit Court clerk: Richard Brooker or not vote in this race or maybe write in my own name. Brooker has served in this office since 1993 and I do not personally know him and have no complaint against him.

Chancery Court judge, Part 2: Undecided. The candidates are  Anne Martin, Joy Sims, Scott Tift. At this point, I don't have an opinion.

Criminal Court judge, Division 2: Angelita Dalton. The candidates are Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton and Joy Smith Kimbrough. At this point in time I would vote for Dalton simply because she was appointed to the position by Bill Haslam and although she is running as a Democrat, I think maybe she is a secret Republican since she was appointed to the beech by a Republican governor. I am open to having my mind changed if I learn more about the candidates.

Anna Escobar
General Sessions judge, Division 3:  Ana Escobar.  I do not support official affirmative action polices but when a candidate is a minority and at least as qualified as the other candidates then I think we should give a slight preference to the minority. Except for one council members, I do not believe there are any Hispanics serving in Metro government.

In  this case, Escabar may not only be as qualified as the other contenders, but it appears she may be better qualified. The last two times the Council had the opportunity to fill a judgeship vacancy, they passed over Escobar and gave the position to one of their own. The incumbents is Judge Nick Leonardo and I have nothing negative to say about him, I just think Escobar deserves the seat.

When the Council was elected a person to fill the court vacancy, the name of Ana Escobar was placed in nomination by Councilman Robert Swope. This division of the Court, hears most of the domestic violence cases in Nashville.  When the Council considered who to appoint to the position, Pat Shea, former president and CEO of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, was among those who urged the council to support Ms Escobar. Ms  Escobar has worked both as a prosecutor of domestic violence cases and as a defender of those accused of the crime. She is an expert and deserves to be elected.

General Sessions, Division 10: Sam Coleman. He is the incumbent and I slightly know him and don't know the others. The candidates are Judge Sam Coleman, Frank Mondelli Sr., Joyce Grimes Safley, and Tillman Payne. Also Sam, Coleman showed up at the Davidson County Republican Party Christmas Party which either shows some nerve or a desire to get himself known among Republicans.

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In desperation move, Barry ask D A Glenn Funk to recuse himself from further involvement in the criminal investigation

Report and video

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

What happened at the Council meeting of 2/20/2018: Not much, General Hospital protected from reform.




At only an hour and five minuets long this is a short meeting and is almost as exciting as watching paint dry. You can skip it. I watch the council meetings so you don't have to and yet you can still be an informed citizen. If you want to watch it, you can access the agenda and agenda analysis at this link.

Following the pledge and prayer the first order of business is a couple of ceremonial presentations. The legislative business of the Council does not get started until timestamp 13:04. There are no mayoral appointments to boards and commission on this agenda and there are no public hearings. Below are the items of some interest:

Bill BL2018-1054  on second reading says that when metro enters into a lease. leasing to another entity a piece of metro property, that that lease must go before the Metro Council for approval and if the lease is for more than fifty years, it must first be declared surplus.This is a good bill. It passes.

Bill BL2018-1063  on second reading is a bill to "require the Procurement Division to collect comprehensive data regarding the participation of subcontractors in the procurement process."  Currently, the Minority and Women Business Assistance Office (BAO) is authorized to collect information to monitor the Procurement Nondiscrimination Program. The information “may” include information regarding business ownership, supplier information, and subcontractor information. This changes the "may" to "shall."  In the past and probably still, I know this program was often abused. Sometimes a White contractor and a Black subcontractor may switch rolls to get an advantage as a minority-owned firm. The White guy may agree to be the subcontractor to the Black guy. Also, I have known of instances years ago, where a man would make his wife the owner of their family-owned construction company in order to gain an advantage as a women-owned business. I don't know if this would reveal those manipulations or not, but it may. This passes.

Bill BL2017-1026  on third reading is a zoning bill sponsored by Scott Davis, disapproved by the Planning Commission. I know nothing about the merits of this rezoning and am only calling attention to this bill because it is a disapproved bill and will require 27 votes to pass. It is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2018-1055 on third reading would protect General Hospital from being downgraded to an out patient facility only and would provide that  until June 30, 2019 the mayor may not terminate any agreement between Metro and the Metro Hospital Authority without prior approval of the Metro Council by resolution.This is very disappointing. Metro General is a money pit that cannot fill its beds and serves no purpose that could not be served at a much lower cost and is only kept open because it is source of pride in the Black community. Earlier this year, Mayor Barry had a proposal to close General and convert it into an outpatient clinic but got push back and buckled to pressure and dropped the proposal. This bill passes on a voice vote without discussion.

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Taxville

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TBI: Nude cellphone photos, deleted chats may show evidence of crime in Mayor Megan Barry affair

TBI: Nude cellphone photos, deleted chats may show evidence of crime in Mayor Megan Barry affair

The Tennessean- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says it has obtained nude photos of a woman taken on the phone of former Sgt. Rob Forrest, evidence that investigators believe shows Nashville Mayor Megan Barry engaged in an affair with her former bodyguard while he was on duty. ...investigators have uncovered 260 deleted chats between that device and Barry's phone number as well as 35 deleted call logs, the affidavit states.

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The plot thickens: Search warrants for Mayor Barry's and Sgt. Rob Forrest's phones issued.

WSMV 4:  Court records: Mayor refuses to provide passcode for phone.

Rod Williams' comment: I wonder if she is just embarrassed about the discovery of romantic love talk, or did she send nude pics, or did they discuss how to get another third rate romance, high-rent
rendezvous at the tax payers expense. They had already had a Paris and Greece getaway. Were they trying to figure out how to justify a Tahiti weekend?  Or, maybe there was discussion of how to justify more overtime pay for Forrest, or maybe what strings she would have to pull to get Forrest daughter a good-paying job.  We don't know, but I think we are going to find out. For the good of the city and her own dignity, Mayor Barry should resign now.

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I-440 construction meeting hosted by State Rep John Ray Clemmons, tonight at 6:30pm at Christ the King.

State Representative John Ray Clemmons will be hosting a community meeting tonight, 2/22/2018 at 6:30pm at Christ the King on Belmont Blvd to discuss the impact of the planned  I-440 expansion. If you live near I-440, you may want to attend this meeting. I have a relative who lives about a block away from I-440 but on a rise higher than the interstate. The noise is so loud that one cannot enjoy sitting on her nice front porch. There is a constant roar.  Now, there is a proposal to build two new lanes of traffic, which will increase the roadway capacity by fifth percent. . This will only add to the noise. In addition to the noise concern, it is unhealthy to live near an interstate and the more traffic it carries the worse it is.  When I-440 was build it was supposed to be a "parkway," and trucks were supposed to be prohibited. Of course, that did not last long. Now, I-440 traffic is going to get heavier and louder.  If people act now, they may be able to stop this expansion and they may be able to get enhanced noise control.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Rick Williams featured on Channel 5 news calling for Megan Barry's resignation

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‘Resign Now! Megan Barry’ Rally Set for Tomorrow at Metro Nashville Courthouse


A rally calling on Mayor Megan Barry to resign “effective immediately” will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, February 20, at 5 p.m., on the south side steps of the Metro Nashville Davidson Courthouse.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

The best defense of the second amendment and agruement agaisnt gun control I have ever heard.




Rod Williams's Comment: I agree with the statement of Richard Upchurch above. This is one of the clearest arguments I have ever heard explaining why we must protect the right to bear arms. I also think he frames the argument well in replying to those who want to impose gun control. Why do they never propose repealing the Second Amendment? Why? Why do those who want to impose gun control  not come out and clearly say it is time to repeal the Second Amendment?

What they want to do is ignore it; not repeal it. If that can happen then none of our liberties are secure. If we can take away the right to bear arms by ignoring the Second Amendment, we can take away freedom of the press little by little, not by repealing the First Amendment but by ignoring it and rationalizing that it is antiquated and that "hate speech" must be prohibited. After all, when the First Amendment was written there were no blogs or Facebook or TV or radio.  If the Second Amendment can be ignored due to public opinion and public opinion turns against the right to bear arms, then all of our liberties can depend on the public opinion of the moment.

For those who might be wondering, this speech is not really delivered before Congress but is a segment of Bill Whittle's Virtual State of the Union address.

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What's on the Council agenda for 2/20/18: Not much, nothing likely to generate controversy and nothing of much importance.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links. If you normally watch the Council meeting but want to skip a meeting, this is a meeting to skip.  I see nothing on the agenda likely to generate controversy and nothing of very much importance. 

 There are 15 resolution on the agenda and all are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes  unanimously the committees to which it was assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. None of the resolutions on this agenda are of significant interest.

I do not read bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. Except on very rare occasions, all bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.

There are 21 bills on second reading most of which are "acquisition of certain right-of-way easements, drainage easements, temporary construction easements and property rights by negotiation or condemnation for use in public projects of the Metropolitan Government." This is for sidewalk construction.

Below are other items of interest:

Bill BL2018-1063  on second reading is a bill to "require the Procurement Division to collect comprehensive data regarding the participation of subcontractors in the procurement process."  Currently, the Minority and Women Business Assistance Office (BAO) is authorized to collect information to monitor the Procurement Nondiscrimination Program. The information “may” include information regarding business ownership, supplier information, and subcontractor information. This changes the "may" to "shall."  In the past and probably still, I know this program is often abused. Sometimes a White contractor and a Black subcontractor may switch rolls to get an advantage as a minority-owned firm. The White guy may agree to be the subcontractor to the Black guy. Also, I have known of instances years ago, where a man would make his wife the owner of their family-owned construction company in order to gain and advantage as a women-owned business. I don't know if this would reveal those manipulations are not, but it may.

Bill BL2018-1055 on third reading would protect General Hospital from being downgraded to an out patient facility only and would provide that  until June 30, 2019 the mayor may not terminate any agreement between Metro and the Metro Hospital Authority without prior approval of the Metro Council by resolution.This is very disappointing. I am very disappointing to see that Councilman Steve Glover is one of the sponsors of this bill.  Metro General is a money pit that cannot fill its beds and serves no purpose that could not be served at a much lower cost and is only kept open because it is source of pride in the Black community. Earlier this year, Mayor Barry had a proposal to close General and convert it into an outpatient clinic but got push back and buckled to pressure and dropped the proposal.

Bill BL2017-1026  on third reading is a zoning bill sponsored by Scott Davis, disapproved by the Planning Commission. I know nothing about the merits of this rezoning and am only calling attention to this bill because it is a disapproved bill and will require 27 votes to pass.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dave Chappelle understands trade better than Donald Trump



In a recent comedy routine, Dave Chappelle summarized President Trump’s position on trade relations with China by saying, “I’m gonna go to China, and I’m gonna get these jobs from China and bring ‘em back to America.” Chappelle then replied, “For what, so iPhones can be $9,000? Leave that job in China where it belongs … I wanna wear Nikes, I don’t wanna make those things. Stop trying to give us Chinese jobs.” Dave Chappelle gets it.

While initially being a "never Trumper," I have warmed to Trump. His appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and his appointees of other conservatives to the judiciary, the passage of pro-growth tax cuts, the defeat of ISIS, and his slashing of Obama era regulations are the accomplishments which are at the forefront of my reason for warming to Trump. I still have reservations about Trump, however. His demeanor and his lack of ideological commitment to conservative orthodoxy concerns me. While I am beginning to think that Trump's anti-trade rhetoric may be more posturing than real and while I am pleased that he has not started an international trade war, it is dangerous however to spread ignorance about the benefits of trade.

While I am supportive of combating currency manipulators and theft of intellectual property, the benefits of trade should not be ignored and trade should not be demonized. I do not want to grow my own food, and make my own shoes, and build my own house, and make my own car. Trade increases one's standard of living. The same principle that applies to trade in general, also, applies to international trade. If we are better at marketing a product, financing a product, delivering a product and retailing a product than making the product, let people in some other country make it and we will do the rest. To require than products be American-made may cost more jobs than it saves. As an example, if we say all steel used in construction of an American oil pipeline must be made in America, we may be able to build fewer pipelines due to the higher cost of American steel than we could if we imported steel. The few jobs saved by insisted on "American-made" may be fewer than the jobs lost due to the higher construction cost.

A bad thing that has resulted from Trump's anti-trade rhetoric is that many people who think of themselves as conservatives now process an anti-trade mentality.  On the other hand, a good thing resulting from Trump's anti-trade rhetoric is that Democrats, who were the party captured by unionist who always take a  knee-jerk anti-trade position, are so anti-Trump that they now are pro-free trade. Maybe, on balance, the cause of free-trade comes out ahead. In any event it is reassuring to hear a popular figure like Dave Chappelle explain the benefits of free-trade. 

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Fincher drops out of Senate race

The Tennessean: Stephen Fincher halts U.S. Senate bid, encourages Corker to seek re-election.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Mayor Barry's lover earned $173,843.13 in overtime

The Tennessean: Mayor Megan Barry's ex-bodyguard received thousands more in overtime pay than other security.

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"Megan, a mistake is having a one-night sexual encounter for which you then feel guilty the next day. A two-year affair is not a mistake."

"Megan, a mistake is having a one-night sexual encounter for which you then feel guilty the next day. A two-year affair is not a mistake."

Patricia Dillon, Nashville Tn, The Tennessean, Letters to the Editor

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

1st Tuesday featuring former TN Congressman Stephen Fincher, Candidate for US Senate

Tuesday, March 6th at Waller Law, 511 Union Street, Nashville

Stephen Fincher, former TN Congressman from the 8th District who hails from Frog Jump, TN and has ''hopped in'' to the primary the Senate primary to replace the retiring Senator Bob Corker will be our Guest ! Since entering the race, Stephen has been proven he can marshal the significant funds needed to compete in a statewide primary.

Doors open at 11am, Lunch begins at 11:30. Program starts at Noon sharp with Q&A session ending promptly at 1pm. Chairman Golden will give behind the scenes insights into the upcoming elections.

$20 for 2017 Members and $25 for Guests. More info and register here. [Remember: parking under building at 511 Union St is only $7 for 2 hours if you tell them you've been to 1ST TUESDAY!]

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Nashville Young Republicans meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 27th.


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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mayor Barry warns of 'fiscal challenges' for next city budget. Does this sound like a good time to increase Nashville's sales tax to the highest in the nation?

These are the "challenges:"

  • Fund balances for each of the six tax funds are at or are projected to be below policy targets at the end of fiscal year 2017-2018 and those fund balance reserves must be increased; 
  • Escalating health care costs combined with the Tennessee General Assembly not acting to expand Medicaid; 
  • Property tax appeals following last year’s reappraisal far exceeded the level of appeals after the last two reappraisals, and the full impact to revenues will not be known until the end of this fiscal year;
  • There will be further reductions in revenue from the state Hall tax on certain investment income, which the state legislature has voted phase out; 
  • After a couple of years of acceleration, revenue growth in the six tax funds is returning to normal levels; Increased debt service requirements
Does this sound like a good time to increase Nashville's sales tax to the highest in the nation?  Does this seem like a good time to take on $8.9 Billion in debt? While Nashville is a hot convention destination, once conventions visit Nashville once, they may visit Nashville less in future years as an increase in the Sales Tax, the Hotel-Motel Tax and the car rental tax makes Nashville an expensive convention city. Las Vegas might look more attractive.

This year, I am not going to be surprised at all if Mayor Barry proposes a property tax increase. If so it needs to be resisted and instead the city needs to cut waste including closing General Hospital.

The next time the city goes after bringing a business like Amazon to town and wants to "incentivize" them for coming hear, ask "why?' I for one, don't want more growth. I do not understand the fetish for getting bigger and bigger. Growth does not pay for itself. Bigger cities are more expensive cities with higher tax burdens, and less affordable housing and more traffic congestion.  I am please that we have grown over the years, but there is an optimal size and I think we passed it about three years ago. 



So, reject the tax for tracks plan, stop corporate welfare to attract new companies coming to town, close General Hospital, actually build some sidewalks but stop wasting millions on thinking about it, tighten our belts, restore the reserve funds, put up the not welcome sign and pull up the draw bridge. 

To read The Tennessean story, follow this link.

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Who voted for transparency and who voted to conceal the $8.9 price tag of the tax for tracks plan

On February 6,  the Metro Council voted to approve Mayor Barry's transit improvement program (Bill BL2017-1031 (as amended)), or as it is better known, "tax for tracks"  Included in the bill was a request for the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum regarding the increase in taxes to fund the plan.

In debating the bill some members made the argument that they were simply passing the bill to let the public decide the issue.  That is not the way it works. That is a weak rationalization for not having the guts to vote against it. That is like a member of the Senate voting for a bill and claiming he is voting to let the House of Representatives decide. Or, it is like a councilman voting to pass a bill in the Council and saying he is voting for it and the mayor can decide to sign it or not. As the minutes describe the bill it is , "An ordinance adopting a transit improvement program for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, approving a surcharge for the program, and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018, regarding the levying of the surcharge on certain taxes to fund the program." For more proof, read the bill. This was a vote by the Council to approve the plan and to approve the tax increase.

Originally the bill required language in the referendum to state that the cost of the program would be $5.3 billion. On the night of final passage, the bill was amended to reflect the true cost of $8.5 billion. This of course assumes no cost overruns and historically projects of this nature rarely come in on budgets. Cost overruns of 50% to 200% are not uncommon for projects like this. Following the amendment adoption, the following language is what will be in the referendum:

This transit program’s capital cost is estimated to have a present day value of $5,354,000,000 and the program is estimated to require $8,951,062,000 in revenue through 2032. Once construction is complete, the estimated present day value of recurring annual operating and maintenance costs is approximately $99,500,000.
The amendment to include the transparent language that reveals the $8.9 Billion price tag was hotly debated. It passed by a vote of YES: 21, NO: 16, ABSTAIN: 1 and NOT VOTING: 1

A "yes" vote on Amendment 2 was a vote for transparency. It was a vote to include the $8. 95 million plan price tag.


Here is a list of those who voted for the transparency amendment.
John Cooper, At-large           Erica Gilmore, At-large               Bob Mendes, At-Large
Sharon Hurt, At-large            Jim Shulman, At-large                DeCosta Hastings, District 2  
Brenda Haywood, District 3   Robert Swope, District 4            Doug Pardue, District 10    
Larry Hagar,  District 11         Steve Glover, District 12           Holly Huezo, District 13           
Keven Rhoten, District 14      Freddie O'Connell, District 19   Mary Carolyn Roberts, District 20
Sheri Weiner, District 22         Mina Johnson, District 26          Tanaka Vercher, District 29      
Jacobia Dowell, District 33     Angie Henderson, District 34     Dave Rosenberg District 35  

Here  is a list of those who voted against transparency, voting to hide the $8.9 Million price tag.

Scott Davis District 5,                    Bret Witters, District 6        Anthony Davis, District 7
Nancy VanReece, District 8           Bill Pridemore District 9      Jeff Syracuse, District 15


Mike Freeman, District 16              Colby Sledge, District 17     Burkley Allen, District 18
Kathleen Murphy, District 24          Russ Pulley. District 25       Jeremy Elrod, District 26
Karen Johnson, District 29            Jason Potts, District 30       Fabain Bedne, District 32
Antoinette Lee, District 33

Abstaining was Davette Blalock, District 27 and not voting was Ed Kindall, District 2

How they voted on the final bill
After the bill was amended to make it more transparent, it was then voted upon. In the final vote every member of the Council voted for it except for Robert Swope and Holly Huezo who voted "No" and Angie Henderson and Dave Rosenberg who abstained.

If you are unsure who your councilman is, you can use the look-up tool at this link.  Also, if you would like to put a face with the name, you can see what your councilman looks at at that link and you can contact them from that page should you wish to communicate with your council member.

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SURVEY: Record number of small business owners say 'now is a good time to expand'

Press release, NASHVILLE, Feb. 13, 2018–The Small Business Optimism Index jumped two points to 106.9 in January and set a record with the number of small business owners saying Now Is a Good Time to Expand, according to NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends Survey, released today.

“Main Street is roaring,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “Small business owners are not only reporting better profits, but they’re also ready to grow and expand. The record level of enthusiasm for expansion follows a year of record-breaking optimism among small businesses.”

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Jim Brown said the national trends are reflected here.

On the survey, "Now Is a Good Time to Expand" registered at 32 percent, the highest level in the history of the NFIB survey, which began in 1973. "Actual Earnings" climbed up 11 points from December, the highest level reported since 1988. "Plans to make Capital Outlays" jumped up two points, and "Plans to Increase Inventories" gained four points.

“The historically high index readings over the last year tell us small business owners have never been more positive about the economy,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “This is in large response to the new management in Washington tackling the biggest concerns of small business owners – high taxes and regulations.”

As small business owners struggle to find qualified workers for open positions, reports of higher worker compensation rose four percentage points to a net 31 percent, the highest reading since 2000 and among the highest in the 45 years of NFIB’s survey. Plans to raise compensation also rose one point to a net 24 percent, the highest reading since 1989.  

“Finding qualified workers now exceeds taxes and regulations as the top concern for small businesses,” said Duggan.

Click here to view the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Survey For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Vice mayor appoints members of special committee to investigate Mayor Barry

Erica Gillmore
At-large
Bob Mendes
At-large

The Vice Mayor has named council members to the committee tasked with investigating Mayor Megan Barry. The committee will consist of at-large council members  Erica Gilmore and Bob Mendes and district
council members Brenda Haywood, Burkley Allen, Mina Johnson, Russ Pulley and Robert Swope.

Brenda Haywood
District 3
Robert Swope
District 4
;

Russ Pulley
District 25
The Council voted on Feb. 6th to investigate the Mayor Barry scandal involving misuse of public funds to facilitate a sexual relationship with a subordinate. The vote was  30 "yes," 7 "no", and no abstentions and none not voting (link).  Of those appointed to the committee, Russ Pulley and Burkley Allen are two of the seven who voted against the investigation. The others voted in favor of the investigation.

To read The Tennessean's report on this development, follow this link.
WSMV coverage is at this link.
Mina Johnson
District 23

Burkley Allen
District 18



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Vote now in WKRN news 2 poll. Should Mayor Barry resign?

News 2 wants to know… Is resigning the right thing for Mayor Barry to do?  Vote in our poll below or click here to vote from the News 2 app. Be sure to click ‘Continue Reading’ to cast your vote.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Black pastors join the opposition to Mayor Barry's tax for tracks plan

Nashville Business Journal- Nashville's transit opposition has some new backers.

Rev. Enoch Fuzz, of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, and Rev. Herbert Lester, of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church, have come out in support of NoTax4Tracks, the high-powered opposition to Mayor Megan Barry's multibillion-dollar mass-transit overhaul. (link)

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Which Council members voted for and which voted against investigating Mayor Barry

On February 6th the Council passes Resolution RS2018-1039, a resolution to establish a Special Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding  Mayor Barry's sexual affair with a subordinate and to look into travel and other expenses, including overtime expenses to determine if there was an improper use of public money.

Council Member Vercher requested a suspension of the rules to allow the resolution to be heard and no objections were made. After some discussion the resolution passed. The vote was 30 "yes," 7 "no", and no abstentions and none not voting.


Here are the Council members who voted in favor of an investigation
John Cooper, At-large           Eric Gilmore, At-Large Mendes                   Sharon Hurt, At-Large
Jim Shulman, At-large            DeCosta Hastings, District 1                        Brenda Haywood, District 2
Robert Swope, District 4        Scott Davis, District 5                                   Doug Pardue, District 10
Larry Hagar, District 11          Steve Glover, District 12                              Holly Huezo, District 13
Keven Rhoten, District 14       Jeff Syracuse, District 15                             Mike Freeman, District 16
Colby Sledge, District 17        Freedie O'Connell, District 19           Mary Carolyn Roberts, District 20
Sheri Weiner, District 22         Mina Johnson, District 23                         Kathleen Murphy, District 24
Jeremy Elrod, District 26         Davette Blalock, District 27                     Tanaka Vercher, District 28
Karen Johnson, District 29      Jason Potts, District 30                              Jacobia Dowell, District 32
Angie Henderson, District 34   Dave Rosenberg, District 35

These are the Council members who voted against an investigation
Bret Withers, District 6            Anthony Davis, District 7                          Nancy VanReece, District 8
Bill Pridemore, District 9         Burkely Allen, District 18                          Russ Pulley, District 25                                      Fabian Bedne, District 31

If you are unsure who is your council member, you can use this look-up tool at this link. In looking for factions or voting patterns, one should use caution in reading too much into the way members vote on an issue especially when the vote is so lopsided. However, I observe that all of the Black members of the Council voted for the investigation, the four identified Republican members of the Council voted for the investigation. The two openly homosexual members of the Council voted against  the investigation. There was no pattern to the way female councilmen voted, some voted for the investigation and some against.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

How to impeach the mayor

by Rod Williams - The Metro Charter does not use the term "impeach" but it provides for removal from office by "ouster" or "recall."

To recall the mayor a petition must be signed by by 15% of the the qualified voters in Davidson County.  That would be a difficult number to achieve. There are about 420,000 registered voters in the County so a recall petition would require a petition signed by 63,000 voters. In the election of September, 2015 which elected Mayor Barry, there were 374,209 registered voters. Of that number, 110,894 voted in that election which was 29.63% of the eligible voters. Megan Barry received 60,519 votes. (I have requested the exact number of registered voters from the Election Commission and will update this post when provided with that information.)

A notice of the intention to obtain signatures for a recall petition must be filed with the metropolitan clerk prior to obtaining signatures of registered qualified voters and the required number of registered voters must be filed with the clerk no later than thirty days following the date the notice is filed. Once the petition is submitted, the Election Commission will verify the signatures. If the petition does contain a sufficient number of good names, then an election will be held to elect a successor.

The recall election would not be a yes or no vote on ousting Mayor Barry but would be an election. Mayor Barry's name would automatically be on the ballot along with others who qualify to run. Like any other election, the person getting the majority wins. If Mayor Barry should win she would continue to serve as mayor. If no one gets a majority, there would be a runoff. For more information on this, see the Metro Charter sections 15.05 thorough section 15.09.

Ouster is judicial process described in state law and is available to any municipality and the process is described in Tennessee Code Annotated, sections 8. A person may be removed from office "who shall knowingly or willfully commit misconduct in office," or who fails to perform their duties or is drunk in public or does a couple other things. 

The attorney general may initiate the ouster proceeding or may do so in response to a complaint, but it is up to the attorney general except when the governor directs the AG to start ouster proceedings. The AG may call witnesses and gather testimony and then he presents a case to a jury. If the defendant is found guilty, they are removed from office.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What happened at the Feb. 6th Council meeting: investigating the mayor, Tax 4 Tracks with $8.9B price tag, even more $ for General Hospital.

 by Rod Williams - The council meeting of February 6th had lots of interesting discussion involving several very important issues. I will summarize those first. If you are going to actually watch the full meeting you need an agenda and the council staff analysis. Without a program you really will not know what is going on. To access the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Council moves to investigate the mayor.
Resolution 1039 was a late resolution to investigate Mayor Barry and was approved by a roll call vote.
An objection from two members could have stopped the resolution from being considered. Several members speak in favor of the resolution stressing the obligation of the legislative branch of the government to protect the tax payers interest. Opponents argue that the TBI and other bodies are investigation the mayor and this investigation is unnecessary. Those arguments, I thought, were very lame and they were adequately countered. The motion required 30 votes to pass and got the sufficient number of votes. The investigation will be limited in scope and look at the issue of miss use of public funds. To watch the debate see time stamp 1:41:24 to 2:28:26. See a following post on this blog for the result of the roll call vote of 30 to 7.

Tax for Tracks passes, headed to referendum with a $8.9 Billion price tag language.

Bill BL2017-1031  passed on third and final reading to adopt  the Mayor's transit improvement program and place the plan on a May 1, 2018 ballot referendum. However, an amendment was passed that would add to the referendum verbiage that the real cost of the program was $8.952 billion. The vote on the transparency amendment was 21 in favor, 16 opposed and one abstention. I will post the result of the roll call vote in a following post on this blog.

The referendum will have voters decide on increases to not only the sales tax but three additional taxes. The four taxes to fund the project are these:
  • Increasing the sales tax rate from 9.25% to 9.75% in July 2018 and to 10.25% percent in 2023. This would be the highest sales tax rate in the nation.
  • A surcharge on the hotel-motel tax which by 2023 would be 6.375%, one of the highest in the nation.
  • A 20% surcharge added to the local car rental tax making that tax 1.2%.
  • A 20 percent increase in the city’s business and excise tax.
The bill passed by a vote of 34 in favor, 2 against and 2 abstentions. The two no votes came from council members Robert Swope and Holly Huezo. Council members Angie Henderson and Dave Rosenberg abstained from voting. The discussion is worth viewing. To view the discussion see timestamp 2:38:06 to 3:19:13 in the video. 

  
Even More money approved for General Hospital. $17,141,000.
Resolution RS2018-1032  which would appropriate an additional $13,231,000 to support General Hospital is substituted to increase the funding to $17.14 million. This is still short of the additional $19.7 million the hospital says it needs. The extra $3.9 million in the substitute is coming from the city's "undesignated fund balance," which serves as a rainy day fund for the city. Of the $13.2 million in the original resolution, $10.83 million comes from the undesignated fund balance of the General Fund and the remaining $2.4 million comes from impounded funds from six different expenditure accounts including an account for storm water management and an account to incentivize the construction of affordable housing. The total now to come out of the undesignated fund balance will reduce that fund balance to less than five percent of the city's general operating budget. This is irresponsible and will be the first time thus has happened in nearly a decade.

The substitute removes the hiring freeze called for in the original resolution and also calls for the creation of a strategic planning committee to consider the future of General Hospital. For a good understanding of this issue, you may want to watch the video and see staff attorney Jamison's explanation. For a deep understanding of this complicated issue you may want to watch the Budget and Finance Committee meeting of Monday where the Council spend three hours garbling with this issue and drafting the substitute. The Council approved the resolution as substituted by a vote of 36 in favor, none opposed and two abstentions. To view the discussion on the resolution see the video at timestamp 59.31 to 1:48:42.

Earlier this year, the mayor showed courage in proposing to change General Hospital from a hospital to an outpatient facility but then she buckled to pressure and retreated. Since that did not happen, if I were serving in the Council, I would have supported this resolution. Council has little choice but to spend this money. Until such time as we close General Hospital it will continue to be a drain on the city's resources. If kept open, it must pays its employees and pay its bills.

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

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

While this action puts a band-aid on the problem of General Hospital, the problem does not go away. This shifting of funding and dangerously dipping into the undesignated fund balance will complicate the upcoming development of a city budget. I fear the solution will be a tax increase.

There was another bill concerning General Hospital,  Bill BL2018-1055 on second reading which would protect General Hospital from being downgraded to an out patient facility only and would provide that  until June 30, 2019, the mayor may not terminate any agreement between Metro and the Metro Hospital Authority without prior approval of the Metro Council by resolution. This bill also passed, passing by a voice vote. While I would have reluctantly supported the resolution, if I had a vote, I would have opposed the bill.

In Other Council Action
Following the prayer and pledge, the first order of business is confirmation of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. No surprises and no drama. One person withdrew his name from consideration and the others were approved. Bills on First Reading pass by a single vote without discussion as is the norm.

Public hearing on zoning and planning bills bore me, as I am sure they do most people not directly affected. I don't even try to form an opinion on each of these bills and zip though that part of the council meeting at double speed. I am calling attention to those that generated controversy or for some other reason I found of interest.
Resolution RS2018-999  is a resolution that approved a beer permit for an establishment that already has a liquor license.  This is for an establishment in Germantown. Concern is expressed that this will be a beer garden type establishment that will generate a lot of business and is out of character for the community. It is approved.
Bill BL2018-1043  is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission to rezone property at 5200 Nolensville Pike in Councilman Davette Blalock's district. On final reading a disapproved bill requires 27 votes. Only one person speaks against it. There is a roll call vote of 26 in favor, 3 opposed and 6 abstentions.
Bill BL2018-1051  removes the Adult Entertainment Overlay for a bunch of parcels in Councilman O'Connel's district. The Planning Commission has approved the bill so apparently there are no legal problems with doing this. No one speaks on it and it passes.
There are 17 resolution on the agenda and they are all routine things such as accepting grants, paying settlements and approving of signs to overhang the right of way. These are the only two of interest:
Resolution RS2018-1022  spends $15.3 million out of the General Fund Reserve Fund (4% Fund) for various purchases for 15 departments. It includes $534,000 for Municipal Auditorium. With the large number of music venue's and sports facilities in town of various sizes, I question if the city still needs to be in the auditorium business. The bill is amended to take out the project that would fund the street salt bin relocation located in west Nashville over concern about the city's plan for the future use of that property. Apparently members of the Council were not consulted about this prior to the filing of the resolution. The resolution passes.

Resolution RS2018-1038 is a memorizing resolution requesting the Tennessee Department of Transportation to consider neighbors’ concerns and prioritize certain features during the improvements scheduled along Interstate 440.  Included in this resolution is a request that more sound barriers be build along 1-440. As I understand it, I-440 is to have an additional lane added going in both directions.  When I-440 was finally approved after being delayed for years it was supposed to be a "parkway." Originally trucks were not going to be allowed to use it, but that did not last long. In my view, no changes should be allowed to be made to I-440 without mitigating the effect of those changes to the neighborhoods though which this freeway passes. A resolution of this nature has no legal impact and just expresses an opinion. It passes on the consent agenda. 
 Bill BL2017-790 on second reading would revisit the issue of insurance benefits provided to previous members of the Metro Council.This is deferred one meeting.

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The Mayor Megan Barry scandal is national news

Living in Nashville and consuming local news one may not realize that the scandal involving Mayor Barry's affair with a subordinate and misuse of public funds to facilitate the affair is national news and even international news, but it is.  There is not much insight to be gained from reading about it in other newspapers, most are apparently just a repackaging of The Tennessean's reporting, but it is interesting to see the twist other outlets put on the story.  One source said it was like an episode of Nashville, the prime time soap opera. Others point out she is Nashville's first women mayor and her progressive politics. One source describe her as "one of the Democratic Party's brightest Southern stars."

The Story has been carried by AP, AOL.com, ABC, CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, Fortune magazine,  and UK's Daily Mail. The Daily Mail story had several pictures and video clips. Here are some excerpts from other news sources carrying the story:

The New York Times: I Know That God Will Forgive Me,’ the Nashville Mayor Says. But Will the Voters?

Mayor Megan Barry, the first woman to lead this city, has been the kind of politician who seemed to effortlessly reflect the tenor of her place and time. Like others in booming Nashville, she is an ambitious transplant, socially liberal but business-friendly, a non-Southerner comfortable in a Southern context. It is a formula that has earned her poll numbers that would be the envy of any politician.

But in recent days, scandal has threatened to dim one of the Democratic Party’s brightest Southern stars.  ....

Hollywood Live: Megan Barry: 5 Things To Know About The Married Nashville Mayor Who Admitted To Having An Affair.

(more to come)

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mayor's tax 4 tracks passes Council, headed to referendum w/$8.9B language

Bill BL2017-1031   on third reading to adopt  the Mayor's transit improvement program and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018 to approve the tax increases to support the program passed by a vote of 34 in favor, 2 against and 2 abstentions. However, an amendment was passed that would add to the referendum verbiage that the real cost of the program was $8.952 billion. The vote on the transparency amendment was 21 in favor, 16 opposed and one abstention.

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Metro Council votes to investigate Mayor Barry!

Resolution 1039 to investigate Mayor Barry was approved by a roll call vote. Watching live, I failed to get the exact vote tally, but it passed. Seven members voted "no" and none abstained. The motion required 30 votes to pass and got a sufficient number of votes. The investigation will be limited in scope and look at the issue of miss use of public funds.

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Metro Council approves to give $17M to Nashville General Hospital

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What's on the Council agenda for Feb. 6, 2018: Investigating the mayor's affair, tax for tracks, more $ for General Hospital.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. The hottest topic of the meetings is a resolution to launch a council investigation of Mayor Barry related to her affair and the apparent misuse of public funds to facilitate the affair. The other hot items is the mayor's transit program. There is also a bill to spend more money on General Hospital. If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

Investigating the Mayor

Romantic Greece - three days and nothing to do.
The item to generate most interest at the Tuesday, February 6th meeting is not on the agenda but will be a  late resolution filed by Budget and Finance Committee chairman Tanaka Vercher to appoint a committee of three to seven council members to oversee the investigation of Mayor Megan Barry. The focus of the investigation would be a determination if the sexual relationship between Barry and her head of the security detail, Sgt. Foster, involved violating Metro travel policy and would include a  review of overtime pay earned by Sgt. Rob Forrest.

The resolution will call on the Vice Mayor to appoint the committee's members. The committee would have the authority to subpoena witnesses and compel them to testify under oath. This charter provision authorizing such an investigation has never been used. Since the resolution is a late resolution it will require suspension of the rules to be considered. The sponsor will get to state the reason for considering a late resolution but that motion to introduce a late resolution is not debatable. It takes only two votes to deny the resolution being considered.  If it is blocked, it will be on the agenda for the February 20th council meeting.  If considered it would require 30 votes to be adopted. I suspect at least two members will vote to block it.

The mayor's tax for tracks plan
Bill BL2017-1031   on third reading is the bill to adopt  the Mayor's transit improvement program and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018 to approve the tax increases to support the program.

As expected, this passed when on second reading. Also when on second reading it  was amended to modify the language of the referendum. The current language will make the plan more attractive by distorting the facts. It was amended to require that the language of the referendum not say that the vote is a vote increasing the sales tax to 10.25% but instead to say the vote is a vote to increase the local option sales tax to 3.25%. While that is technically correct it is deceptive. The vote by the public in referendum will be increasing only the local option, not the state sales tax. However, when the public votes on this, if they they vote for the referendum, they will be voting to raise the total sales tax to 10.25%,  making Nashville's sales tax the highest in the nation. I bet most people could not tell you which portion of the sales tax is state and which is local. The deceptive language was approved by a voice vote with some audible "no's"when on second.

When on second reading Councilman Cooper proposed an amendment that would require that the public referendum language state that the project would cost $8.952 billion. The referendum was to state that the project is a $5 billion project. The  $8.952 billion figure is a figure stated in the project plan and is the estimated cost of the plan over the 15-year construction period. The $5 billion dollar figure is some of the cost expressed in current dollars.  Cooper's amendment failed and the language of the referendum will use the deceptive lower figure of $5 billion. That is what is before the body.

Cooper's amendment would have also revealed the amount of the total sales tax if the referendum is approved instead of just the local share of the total which is 3.25%. His amendment would have had the referendum state the local option would increase to 3.25% for a total sales tax rate of 10.25%. Cooper's amendment was tabled by a vote of 21 in favor of tabling, 14 against, one abstention and three not voting. The bill was then voted on and passes by a vote of 30 to 5.

To better understand the bill, see page 13-21 of the staff analysis.  Also for more information see this link and this link.  To view the Council debate when the bill was on second reading see the video at timestamp  43:28 to 1:10:47 at this link.


While I think the odds favor this bill passing, I do not think that is assured.  One reason is that the mayor has been weakened by the recent scandal involving her sexual affair with an employee and the misuse of public funds to facilitate that affair. She has lost influence. Another reason is that President Trump has revealed more details of his proposed infrastructure plan and we can no longer assume that $1.5 billion will come from the federal government (link). That now seems highly unlikely. Also, people are just now becoming aware of the negatives regarding this plan and some of the opposition may reach council members.

In a previous post I had erroneously stated that in order to pass the bill required two-thirds vote of the body which is 27 votes. Actually, it requires only a simply majority of the votes cast.  I was relying on what I thought I knew and did not look it up.  I regret the error.

State law requires the proposed ballot language to be approved 75 to 90 days prior to a scheduled referendum election, so the February 6, 2018 Council meeting would be the latest meeting at which the ordinance could be adopted for a May 1, 2018 referendum election.  If not acted upon, then the next opportunity for a public referendum would by August which will be a more important election with greater turn out and will lessen the likelihood that the plan would be approved in referendum.
 
More money for General Hospital and protecting General
Resolution RS2018-1032  would appropriate an additional $13,231,000 from the General Fund to support General Hospital. This has to come from the General Fund not the 4% reserve fund. The 4% fund can only be used for equipment purchases and repairs. In the past the Council has been able to constantly give more and more money to our failing charity hospital without it hurting.  This time, we are out of money and in order to fund this subsidy the city has to take money from other places.  One of those places is the fund that was to incentivize private developers to build affordable housing. Instead of taking money from other places the city could draw down more money in the general fund but this would be poor money management and probably result in a lowering of the city's bond rating.

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

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

Earlier this year, the mayor showed courage in proposing to change General Hospital from a hospital to an outpatient facility but then she buckled to pressure and retreated.  Since this supplemental funding bill requires taking money from other programs, there may be push back but really the Council has little choice but to spend this money. Until such time as we close General Hospital it will continue to be a drain on the city's resources. If kept open, it must pays its employees and pay its bills.

There is another bill concerning General Hospital,  Bill BL2018-1055 on second reading which would protect General Hospital from being downgraded to an out patient facility only and would provide that  until June 30, 2019, the mayor may not terminate any agreement between Metro and the Metro Hospital Authority without prior approval of the Metro Council by resolution.This is very disappointing. This bill needs to be defeated. I am very disappointing to see that Councilman Steve Glover is one of the sponsors of this bill.

Other agenda items:

There are 17 mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation and as always they will be affirmed.

There  is one resolution and 17 bills on public hearing.  Items on public hearings are all rezoning bills or related to planning and zoning policy.  Rezoning hearings bore me and I don't even try to form an opinion on the merits each rezoning bill before the Council.  Rezoning bills usually are of interest only to people who live near the proposed rezoning. People who don't care one way or the other do not show up and with rare exceptions the only people who speak in favor of rezoning bills are those who will benefit from the rezoning such as the property owner or the developer.  Opponents always make the same argument which boils down to one of these: 1) the change will result in stressing the infrastructure such as too much traffic on the roadway or overcrowd the schools, 2) will cause flooding, and 3) will change for the worse the character of the community. If you are interested in knowing what is permitted in different zoning districts, follow this link. I call attention to only those bills on public hearing that for some reason I expect to be controversial or to bills which have been disapproved by the Planning Commission. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission requires 27 votes to be approved on third and final reading and sometimes that can be difficult to obtain.

There are 38 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading.  Normally bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote. It is rare that a bill on First Reading is voted on separately. I normally do not read bills until they get to second reading.

There are 17 resolution on the agenda and all are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes  unanimously the committees to which it was assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council.

Below are additional items of interest:
Bill BL2018-1043  on pubic hearing is disapproved bill to rezone property at 5200 Nolensville Pike in Councilman Davette Blalock's district.

Bill BL2018-1051  on public hearing would remove the Adult Entertainment Overlay for a bunch of parcels in Councilman O'Connel's district. The Planning Commission has approved the bill so apparently there are no legal problems with doing this.  No one wants a strip club in their community but while they can be regulated, they cannot be banned. The staff analysis does not review this bill and I have no specific insight on this but am simply calling attention to it. Zoning cannot be used as a means for banning an activity people do not like. Nashville has pretty much regulated strip clubs out of existence. At one time, Nashville had dozens of such establishments but now only a handful of tame clubs remain. If this bill has the effect of making it impossible for a strip club to find a location to operate, then it may result in legal challenges. I am not an attorney and there may be no problem but again there may be, I don't know.

Resolution RS2018-1022  spends $15.3 million out of the General Fund Reserve Fund (4% Fund) for various purchases for 15 departments. This is nothing out of the ordinary and I assume the Mayor's office and the Council's Budget and Finance committee do their job and all of this spending is proper.  One expenditure I hopes gets close scrutiny is $534,000 for Municipal Auditorium. With the large number of music venue's and sports facilities in town of various sizes, I question if the city still needs to be in the auditorium business.

Resolution RS2018-1038 is a memorizing resolution requesting the Tennessee Department of Education to consider neighbors’ concerns and prioritize certain features during the improvements scheduled along Interstate 440.  Included in this resolution is a request that more sound barriers be build along 1-440. As I understand it, I-440 is to have an additional lane added going in both directions.  When I-440 was finally approved after being delayed for years it was supposed to be a "parkway." Originally trucks were not going to be allowed to use it, but that did not last long. In my view, no changes should be allowed to be made to I-440 without mitigating the effect of those changes to the neighborhoods though which this freeway passes.

 Bill BL2017-790 on second reading would revisit the issue of benefits provided to previous members of the Metro Council. Former Metro Council members get a very generous benefit in the form of lifetime metro insurance at the same rate as a retired metro employee. In the interest of full disclosure, I get this benefit myself.  I do not thing we should.  At the time this was awarded, there were no term limits and usually council members served for a long time and there were few former council members and council members tended to be older when they left office. It did not cost a lot. Now, there are lots of former council members.  This was last before the Council in July 2017 and at that time was deferred indefinitely at the recommendation of the committees which considered the bill. To consider this bill the Council would have to vote to override the previous committee recommendations. That is not likely to happen in which case, the bill must permanently be removed from the agenda.

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