Monday, April 30, 2018

Opinion | Not all Nashville transit plan opponents are from 'far right'

Mr. James H. Pratt who is a former reporter and editor for The Tennessean and served as press secretary to former U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser writes in a Tennessean opinion piece that Not all Nashville transit plan opponents are from 'far right.' He lays out his own liberal credentials and says he opposes the plan. He says proponents of the plan have largely taken the tactic of attacking the opponents as engaging in "Trump-style lies" and being funded by the Koch Brothers and attacking the credentials of highly respected and honored Vanderbilt economist Dr. Malcom Getz. I have noticed the same thing.  Instead of responding to the criticism of the opponents or making a good case for the plan, the proponents have engaged in attacks on the opponents.  I am pleased to see an honest liberal point that out.  Read the piece at this link.

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Vote Against the Transit Plan on May 1

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Tomorrow the transit referendum is on the ballot. Please vote NO!

Tomorrow the transit referendum is on the ballot.

 Please vote NO! 

We must vote AGAINST this boondoggle. If this plan passes, it will make Nashville one of the highest taxed cities in America and it does not solve congestion. By gobbling up roadway capacity it may make congestion worse. Fixed rail is an antiquated system and mass transit ridership is declining all over America. The cost of the system is $9billion assuming no cost overruns and most projects of this nature have huge cost overruns.


Click HERE to find your polling location.

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Police union (FOP) not endorcing anyone for mayor

The Metro police union has made no endorsement in the Mayor's race which will be decided in a special election on May 24th.  In FOP balloting to select the union's choice for mayor, 425 votes were cast.  Mayor Briley got more votes than any other candidate but failed to garner 50% of the votes which is necessary to secure the FOP endorsement. No doubt, a large number of members voted for Briley simply because they want continuity in the office of mayor for a while. Continuity is office is the primary reason I hear people giving for supporting David Briley.

In the 2015 mayoral election, the FOP endorsed David Fox.  In this years balloting, former Vanderbilt University professor, author, and  conservative commentator Carol Swain came in second, gaining 23.3% of the vote.  That is significant. It raises her profile and may make her the leading alternative to Briley. Erica Gilmore, who is perceived as a leading candidate did not seek the FOP endorsement and got no votes. Here is how the FOP voted:


David Briley, Mayor: 41.7%
Carol Swain, former Vanderbilt political science professor, conservative commentator: 23.3%
Ralph Bristol, former radio conservative talk show host: 17%
Harold Love, State Rep. (D-Nashville): 3%
Jeff Napier: 1%
Julia Clark-Johnson: 14%.

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

What's on the 5-1-18 agenda: Keeping Auto Emission testing, trying to move the Soccer stadium, taking property along the river. attempt to regulate Airbnb type websites, pet stores could only sell pound pups.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, May1, 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.

The order of business is the call to order, prayer and pledge. The next order of business on this agenda is a proposed amendment to Rule 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the Metropolitan Council. Rule three concerns the standing committees of the Council.  I do not know what is proposed. The agenda does not say. It is probably nothing very important.  The next order of business is consideration of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. There are nine mayoral appointments to boards and commissions on this agenda for Council confirmations. These are all reappointments. The council normally rubber stamps whomever the mayor appoints. 

Public Hearing
There is one resolution and 14 Bills on Public Hearing. I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. At public hearings almost all opposition come down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood. You will hear the same arguments over and over. I only call attention to bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or are bills disapproved by the Planning Commission or  for some other reason are of interest. Here is the only one of interest.

Bill BL2018-1157  establishes a 50 foot floodway buffer along the Cumberland River and
A House on a cliff on the Tennessee River
prohibits variances.
The floodway is the river channel and adjacent low lying areas that would be underwater in a 100 year flood. No new construction could occur in this area and no existing building could be expanded. My initial reactions is opposition. Suppose within the fifty foot buffer, the property sit on a high cliff a hundred foot drop to the river. Should that property not be allowed to be developed?  That property could have less impact on the river than a property miles away.  Also, building in the area adjacent to a 100 year floodway does not add to the potential for flooding if displacement is applied. Displacement means that if any capacity for the land to hold water is decreased on one part of a parcel, then more capacity must be added elsewhere. As an example, if a home is build and near the front of the property, the lot is build up by adding so many cubic yards of dirt to a low area, then the same amount of earth would have to be removed elsewhere.
This would also appear to be a  "taking" property. If someone has a right to develop their property and that right is taken from them,  that is a "taking" even if the owner retains legal title. If property is taken the owner should be compensated and it should only be taken for a public purpose. The public purpose may be to reduce flood risk. That may be a valid public purpose, but the owner should be compensated if his land is now worth less because it cannot be developed. Also, there is a proposed development of a boat-oriented development along the Cumberland with canals and boat docks. This type of development could not occur if this rule was in place and if there were no variances permitted. 
There are 26 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 is 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. Here are the resolutions of interest: 
Resolution RS2018-1158  is and an attempt to decouple the development of a soccer stadium from the location of the Fairgrounds. This resolution authorizes the city to issue bonds for construction of the major league soccer stadium but does not specify the location. There is an effort which I approve of to have the soccer stadium build in Metro Center instead of the Fairgrounds.  The staff analysis says there are several things wrong with this resolution.  If you want to know what they are click here. I would assume this resolution will have to be substituted or deferred to correct the deficiencies, but don't know that.  The owners of the soccer franchise say that building the stadium anywhere other than the fairgrounds would jeopardize the soccer deal. 

Resolution RS2018-1165   is even more money for the Metro General Hospital money pit. It is half a million from the 4% fund for equipment and building repairs. A half million here and a half million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money. 

Resolution RS2018-1171  would continue the auto emissions testing program in Nashville even though the State says we may discontinue it. This needs to be defeated.

Resolution RS2018-1180  proposes three amendments to the Metro Charter, all related to the procedure for succession when a mayor leaves office prior to the end of his term. I think what occurred when Mayor Barry was forced to resign worked pretty smoothly and do not see the need for revising the charter, however it is no big deal. It will take 27 votes of the Council for this to pass and then the proposed changes would be decided in a referendum. If I had a vote I would vote "no" but might be persuadable.

Resolution RS2018-1182  honors "James Shaw, Jr. whose heroism, prompt action, and selfless disregard for his own safety spared numerous lives" in the Antioch Waffle House shooting.
Bills on First reading: There are 13 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. They are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare circumstances. This is one of those rare occasions which if I had a vote I would vote against a bill on First Reading. The bill is Bill BL2018-1173  by Councilman Davette Blalock which would ban the sue of plastic grocery bags.

Bills on Second Reading: There are eleven. Here are the ones of interest:  
Bill BL2018-1056 would regulate the on-line market for Short term rentals, that is it
would regulate websites such as Airbnb.   It would require these sites to  require a Metro permit number for each STRP application prior to placing the property on the online marketplace site. It would also require the sites to provide a detailed quarterly reports to Metro. I would oppose this if I served in the Council. The development of the quarterly report could require new computer programs or lots of man-hours for the sites. While the staff analysis does not address the issue, I would like to know by what authority Metro had to require this of a company that is not physically located in Nashville and is simply a go between facilitating the interaction of people who want to provide a place to stay and people seeking a place to stay.  What if Metro required Airbnb to have agents who were locally licensed real estate agent? Could Metro do that?  If Airbnb simply ignores this law, what can the city do about it? How would they enforce it? The Internet does not stop at the county line. Could Metro ban gambling sites or porn sites from doing business in Nashville?  Could they ban advertising of wine for sale online?  Also, as noted in the staff analysis, Tennessee General Assembly has very recently enacted legislation that impacts the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rental properties. I don't know if that would apply since this is an attempt to regulate the websites not the properties, but it might. This bill needs to be defeated. 

Bill BL2018-1159 would prohibit pet stores form selling any cats or dogs except those obtained from the pound or other such animal rescue organizations. What! Have we gone nuts! Not everyone wants a pound pup. Some people want pure bred dogs. Bad bill. 
Bills on Third Reading: There are six. None of them are of much interest. Bill BL2018-1111 (as amended)  would put under the purview of the Board of Ethical Conduct and the Standards of Conduct those who violate executive orders regarding rules of conduct. This was controversial when introduced but as amended, according to the staff analysis, this really doesn't do much. 

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

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Councilman Davette Blalock proposes banning plastic bags.

Councilmen Davette Blalock and Mike Freeman want to ban plastic bags. I am very disappointed in

Davette Blalock
Proposes banning plastic bags
 Republican Davette Blalock for sponsoring this legislation. I have supported her candidacy for Metro Council and state representative when she ran for office. This is a bad bill and needs to be defeated.

Bill BL2018-1173  will be on first reading on May 1. The bill provides that, "Beginning January 1, 2019, no retail establishment may provide single-use plastic carryout bags to its customers or to any person." The bill provides a $10 fine for the first time a store gives a customer a plastic bag, $25 fine the second time and a $50 fine for the third time and thereafter.

First reading is a formality and only rarely is a bill discussed or voted against on first reading.  A bill is not assigned to a committee until after first reading. Normally, if I were serving in the Council I  would honor the council tradition of voting for all bills on first reading, but this is one I would vote against on first reading.

If this should pass, maybe the state legislature needs to take away from local governments the power to ban plastic bags. I don't want a nanny-state that bans plastic bags, plastic straws, cigarettes, or sugary soft drinks or does a whole lot of other things to micromanage and inconvenient my life.  I like the convenience of plastic bags and don't want to be forced to carry my own totes or use paper bags.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tennessee Passes Bill to Allow In-Home Beauty Services

Press Release, Nashville, Tenn., April  25, 2018 —Late yesterday afternoon, the Tennessee a bill to allow in-home beauty services across Tennessee.  State Senator Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, State Representative Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, and State Representative Jason Powell, D-Nashville, were the primary sponsors of the bill.  Once signed by Governor Haslam, the reform will allow Tennesseans to purchase beauty services in the privacy of their own homes and businesses.
General Assembly completed the final step in passing

The bill follows The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners’s 2016 decision to issue a cease-and-desist letter and file a formal complaint against Belle—a popular Nashville-based technology company that provides on-demand health and beauty services—for bringing “highly disturbing” competition into Tennessee’s beauty industry.  The Board initially alleged that Belle was violating the state’s cosmetology laws, but withdrew its complaint after Belle formally contested the Board’s allegations.  The Board’s decision to withdraw its complaint was covered widely in local, state, and national media, including ForbesYahooReason, the Nashville Business Journal, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and the Daily Signal, among others.

“With the passing of this bill, Tennesseans will now have the right to enjoy concierge cosmetology services just like many other Americans,” said Armand Lauzon, CEO of Belle.  “Beyond that, it grants tens of thousands of cosmetologists access to the American dream by legalizing entrepreneurship in the industry. The General Assembly should be very proud of this needed reform.”
“Passage of this bill represents another step in our state to remove barriers that interfere with Tennesseans achieving the American Dream,” added Senator Dickerson.

The reform passed unanimously in the Tennessee State Senate, and it succeeded by a margin of 81-6 in the Tennessee House. Along with the bill’s sponsors, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, was instrumental in its passage.  “I was proud to support this legislation repealing a burdensome regulation. Entrepreneurs across the state will now be able to provide convenient services to Tennesseans, and create prosperity for themselves and their families,” said Speaker Harwell.

“In 2016, the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology unlawfully attempted to shut down one of Nashville’s most exciting new tech companies for the sole purpose of protecting an outdated industry competitor from competition,” said Daniel Horwitz, Belle’s attorney and lobbyist.  “This important reform ensures that the Board of Cosmetology will be prevented from engaging in such lawless behavior ever again.”

Rod Williams' comment: Congratulation to Daniel Horwitz, Belle, and all those involved in this fight. It is worth keeping in mind that often the biggest enemy of free enterprise are not socialist but those engaged in commerce who want to use the power of government to protect themselves from competition. The way the Belle service works is like this. If, for example, a women is preparing for a wedding or some special occasion and wants a make-up artist to come to her home and make her beautiful, she could use the Belle app to connect to a make-up artist. Much the way Airbnb or Uber works, Belle simply connects the person wanting the service with those wanting to provide the service. Licensed cosmetologist complained and the Board of Cosmetology tried to put Belle out of business.

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Maybe the "Blue wave" will be more like a Blue ripple.

The closely watched Arizona congressional special election where Republican Debbie Lesko was running for a vacant seat against Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni was won by Lesko. The vote was 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent for Lesko, a 5 point margin.  Lesko was expected to win the seat in a heavily Republican district that Trump won by a 21 point margin. Pundits had said that is Lesko did not win by double digits then Republicans were in trouble for the fall election. She did not win by the margin Republicans hoped for but I am pleased she didn't lose.  While five points is not the 21 point margin Trump won by it is not a close election.  I think this signals that the "blue wave" may not be a tsunami after all but a blue ripple. If Democrats take the House, of course, they still pick the speaker, chair all the committees, can start the impeachment of Trump, and hold up the Republican agenda.  A less strong win, however, will not carry all the way to governor offices and city council races across the nation the way a massive Democrat win would do.

If Tipirneni had won that would have created euphoria and contagious enthusiasm among Democrats. Tipirneni outspend Lesko in Arizona.  A Tipirneni win would caused Democrats to pour even more money and volunteers into races across the country and Republican money and enthusiasm would have been suppressed.

Closer to home, Marsha Blackburn has gained 7 points on Phil Bredesen in the past week. And, this is after Bredesen spend a ton of money. Bredesen has been presenting himself as a moderate and touting his record as mayor of Nashville and Governor of Tennessee.  While Bredesen is not Mr. Personality and is not very good at glad-handing and back-slapping and kissing babies, he is an attractive candidate and was a good governor and mayor. He is probably the best candidate the Democrats could possibly find.  According to a recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling, 46 percent of voters support the Democrat Bredesen, while 43 percent support Marsha Blackburn.

I don't know the number of undecided in the recent poll, but I would assume this early it must be high.  This early, a 4% margin is not significant. If you are reading this blog, you probably care a lot about politics; most people don't.  Most people don't even think about who the candidates are or who they will vote for this far out. A lot of people don't start thinking about how they will vote until about 30 days before the election.

It is a long time until November and a lot can change.  More dirt could emerge on Trump, he could do something really stupid, and his trade war could materialize and cause the economy to tank. On the other hand, it could look like we have finally reigned in North Korea, nothing of significance has still not been proven on Trump or maybe the investigation has come to a close without any evidence of Trump- Russian collusion, and people may be enjoying their fatter paychecks.

I still expect Democrats to gain in the fall and Republican to lose. We may lose the House, but the Blue wave may be a Blue ripple.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bob Corker's endorcement of Marsha Blackburn


by Rod Williams - Admittedly, Bob Corker's endorsement of  Marsha Blackburn was lukewarm. I would have have liked to have seen him exhibit a little more enthusiasm and at least use her name rather than refer to her simply as "the nominee." However, I am not jumping on the hate-Bob-Corker bandwagon.  Phil Bredesen was a good mayor and a good governor as Corker has said. Bredesen's  biggest accomplishment was ended the out of control TNCare program created by a Republican governor. Corker was a fellow mayor of a major Tennessee city at the same time as Bredesen. They had a cordial working relationship. Maybe they became good friends. Both are honorable men. With the partisan divisions so strong, many think we have to hate the other side. Maybe it is because I have siblings and a mother who are Democrats that I realize that Democrats are just mistaken; not evil.

I would not vote for Bredesen, simply because he is a Democrat and will vote like a Democrat including electing the next speaker. That does not make him a bad person. I just prefer Republican policies over Democrat policies and that is why I prefer Blackburn over Bredesen. In an interview, that is essentially why Corker said he preferred Blackburn.  I respect Bob Corker for not demonizing Bredesen. While I wish Corker would campaign for Blackburn, I respect his decision not to do so.

Corker, in my view, has occasionally rightly criticized Donald Trump's intemperate and crude behavior and White House disorganization, but has praised Tump when appropriate.  Marsha Blackburn has been an uncritical Trump cheerleader.  I have always liked Marsha Blackburn but would have liked her to be a less enthusiastic Trump loyalist.  The difference between Corker and Blackburn has been obvious. The press wanted to magnify that difference and create a division between the two. Corker was goaded by the press to say something. He was pushed into making a statement. There are those who love to see  and create division. Democrats are looking to exploit any divisions within Republican ranks and right wing talk show pundits with hours of broadcast time to fill each day, thrive on creating controversy. If not for the mainstream press allied with Democrats looking to exploit Republican divisions, and conservative pundits concerned with ratings urging  people to fight each other and magnifying every slight difference, this would not be news. 
 
Corker has long been a target of the extreme right. I think it is less for what he does than that he has a thoughtful calm demeanor.  Some on the right are looking for bomb throwers, not calm thoughtful statesmen.  Corker has said he is voting for Marsha Blackburn and he contributed the maximum allowed contribution to her campaign. That is good enough for me.

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Republican post Cinco de Mayo Social Tuesday, May 8th 5-7


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Auto Emmissions testing is coming to an end!

My comment: Good work. It is about time!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Metro spends over $1million a year to lobby the State and Federal for more money. Should they?

by Rod Williams - According to an article in The Tennessean on March 2, Nashville increases lobbying contract by 58 percent to more than $1 million, it was reported that on Feb. 8th the Barry administration approved a $409,000 increase to the large multi-state law firm of Adams and Reese. This firm lobbies the state and federal government on behalf of the city. That increased the annual payout to the firm to $1.1 million.  Part of the justification for increasing the lobbying expenses is that the firm will be working to secure federal funding for the mayor's $9 billion transit proposal.

Controversy was generated relating to the law firm when a partner in the law firm wrote a letter asking District Attorney Glenn Funk to recuse himself from the criminal investigating into Barry's affair. That is highly inappropriate. A legal firm hired to represent the city should not be coming to the assistance of the mayor facing criminal charges. Thanks to Councilman John Cooper for raising a stink about it. By the way, I want to say that I think John Cooper is one of the best three or four members of the Metro Council. I did not vote for his election, but if he runs again I will. I watch every Council meeting and often watch meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee as well and Councilman Cooper often ask probing questions and looks out for the interest of the taxpayers. When he talks he knows what he is talking about. To stay as informed and on top of it as John Cooper one has to be doing a lot of homework. Now, back to the topic at hand.

The inappropriateness of the firm advocating on behalf of Mayor Barry aside, should the city hire lobbyist? I think not. We have state representatives and state senators to represent the interest of the citizens of the city at the state level, and U. S. representatives and senators to represent the interest of the citizens at the federal level.  A mayor can pick up the phone and call any of them and I am sure they will take his call. A mayor can write a letter explaining his logic of why the basic education funding formula should be changed to benefit the city or why the city needs a federal grant to fund a transit program. And, the mayor has staff to help compose the letters.  The Metro Council can pass memorializing resolution asking for funding or policies that benefit the city. Citizens have the right to partition their government, but it seems inappropriate for one unit of government to lobby for increased funding from another unit of government. In effect, Metro lobbying the state or federal government is Metro lobbying for greater state and federal taxation of the citizens.

Also, I think it would be inappropriate for a school board to hire lobbyist to lobby a mayor and a council for more funding.  I think it would be inappropriate for The University of Tennessee to have a lobbyist to lobby the state legislature or the governor. Not only is in inappropriate, I think it should be illegal. Since it is not illegal, as the Metro Council considers the budget I think they should take a long hard look at the amount of money the city pays for lobbyist and make sure it is appropriate and justified.  A million dollars paid to a lobbyist if instead was added to the school budget, could go a long way in restoring the social worker positions cut from the school budget.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Tennessean endorsements for May 1 Nashville election

The most important item on the ballot of May 1st is the referendum on a $9billlion transit plan. The Tennessean favors it.  I urge you to vote against it. It will make Nashville have the highest sales tax rate in the nation, relies on antiquated fix rail and will do little to relieve traffic congestion. By reducing roadway capacity it may make traffic congestion worse. It will not make trips faster than by car.  At a time when technology is making other options available and when nationwide mass transit ridership is on the decline we do not need to be building a massively expensive system more suited for the 19the century than the future.

In addition to the transit referendum, this election is a primary election. There is both a Democrat and a Republican primary but there are no Republicans candidates running in the Republican primary. One may vote just for the referendum question and skip the primary or vote in the Republican primary with no candidates or vote in the Democrat primary. Just because you may self identify as a Republican does not mean you cannot vote in the Democrat primary. We do not have party registration in Tennessee. In Tennessee there is no such thing as a "registered Republican" or "registered Democrat." 

To vote for any of the candidates seeking office you will have to vote as a Democrat, which is probably what I am going to do. I may however, vote in the Republican primary and write my own name in each slot. I am unsure at this point. The winners of the May 1st election will have their name appear on the August 2nd ballot but will most likely run unopposed.  If you ever intent to run for office as a Republican or as an officer in the Davidson County Republican Party you may not want to vote in the Democrat primary. I don't, so I probably will vote in the Democrat primary.

Today, Sunday April 22, The Tennessean made their endorsements for the May 1st election.  Here is whom The Tennessean is recommending:

  • Circuit Court Clerk: Richard Rooker
  • Davidson County clerk: Brenda Wynn
  • Trustee: Charlie Cardwell
  • Public Defender: Martesha Johnson
  • Chancery Court Part II: Anne Martin
  • Criminal Court Division II:  Angie Blackshear Dalton
  • General Sessions Court, Division III: Ana Escobar 
  • General Sessions Court, Division X: Joyce Grimes Safle
  • Criminal clerk of court: Howard Gentry
  • Juvenile clerk of court: Lonnell Matthews Jr.
  • Register of deeds: Karen Johnson
  • Sheriff:  Daron Hall
The first four candidates are running unopposed. For a sample ballot on the referendum question follow this link, for the empty Republican primary ballot follow this link, for the Democrat primary ballot follow this linkThe Tennessean article explains the function of each office and why they endorsed the candidates they endorsed. To read The Tennessean article follow this link. My recommendations do not differ much from those of The Tennessean, to read my commentary on the candidates and see my recommendations follow this link.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earth Day Art Break: A polar bear adjusts to global warming...

A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on - by Rod Williams

Artist Statement

My art is not so much a single act of purposeful creation as an evolution that emerges from subconscious unarticulated values, believes, desires, and life experiences. My medium is causally accumulated discardable household objects. That a piece has a theme often does not emerge until after layer upon layer there is a recognition that the various elements in the construction have a commonality or relatedness that creates the whole.

About A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on

My Earth Day art contributions, A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted owl and two mutated chickens look on, began as just an old painted clay pot in which I had put a cutting of Aloe Vera and placed in a kitchen window seal. I have always kept Aloe Vera in my kitchen. It is a miracle cure for burns. Just break a piece and rub the sap on a burn and it immediately stops the pain and prevents blisters. The pot sat on my window seal and the cutting grew for some years.

The next addition was the polar bear which I purchased at Dollar Tree to amuse a loved one who is mentally disabled and at the time found a child-like delight in the simplest of things.  After my loved one had enjoyed the polar bear, I simply placed it in the Aloe Vera pot without a motivation. However, I was struck by the combination and juxtaposition of the succulent plant species which  grows wild in tropical climates and the figurine of an arctic polar bear. Still, the piece was not recognized as a unitary composition. 

The next addition was the owl which came in a gift of arranged flowers. Being one who hates to throw out usable things even when I no longer need them, I simply causally stuck it in the Aloe Vera plant pot. It seemed to fit. It was then that I recalled the notoriety of the "spotted" owl popularized by former senator and environmentalist Al Gore. I then began thinking of the owl as a "spotted owl" and the piece as a unitary composition. The "mutated chickens" had been sitting on top of a kitchen cabinet. Originally purchased as a gift that was never given, some of the set had been broken. Rather than throw them out, I incorporated them into the piece. They seemed to fit.

A problem with creating art in this fashion is deciding when a piece is complete. Traditional artist using more conventional mediums however, and others engaged in creative arts such a literary writers sometimes have the same problem and will continue to cut and add and repaint or rewrite until at some point they must decide a work is complete. This piece also had another element which I have since deleted. Also, for a while, I thought the piece said more without the mutated chickens. I debated removing the chickens and simply calling the piece, A polar bear adjust to global warming as a spotted own looks on, but eventually decided to keep the chicken component.

While the piece is obviously a reflection on global warming, I leave it up to the viewer to interpret the message of the composition for himself.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Mayor David Briley wants to regulate gun ownwership

Last night at Maplewood High School at the first of Mayor David Briley's series of town hall meetings, he said if he had the power he would regulate gun ownership. He also said he will ask gun shop owners to stop selling "things we don't need in our town."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What happened at the 4/17/18 Council Meeting: nothing exciting, Committee investigating Mayor Barry dissolved, South Nashville Central Business Improvement District approved.




This meeting is only a little over an hour and half long. Nothing very important happens and their is little of controversy. At the start of the meeting, after the prayer and pledge, the Council takes a recess to have a group picture taken in Predator's jerseys. After that, there are a couple of presentations, one is honoring former vice mayor Jay West. Following that, then candidates for office are permitted to come to the lectern and introduce themselves. The Council does not start consideration of the agenda until 25 minutes into the meeting. To access the Council agenda, the Council staff analysis and my commentary on  the meeting, follow this link.

All appointees to Boards and Commission are confirmed by voice vote. At timestamp 32 the public hearings began. Below are highlights of the meeting.

Public Hearing. There are only two bills on public hearing.

Bill BL2018-1139  approving the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan is substituted and deferred until May 15th.

Bill BL2018-1140  on Third Reading creates a South Nashville Central Business Improvement District. A district such as this creates a governing body which may impose additional taxes on businesses within the district for project within the district. This is a big deal. No one speaks in opposition and only one in favor. Because no one speaks on a bill does not indicate lack of interest. Often council members hold numerous meeting on a bill in their district before it ever reaches the Council and resolve any issues at that level. 
Resolutions of interest:

Resolution RS2018-1138  approves an amendment to a grant from the State of Tennessee to work with Hispanic victims of crime and their families who find the criminal justice system disorienting due to language limitations and cultural understanding.  The State grant would be increased to $969,421.00 and Metro's match wold be $123,618.00. This passes on the consent agenda.
Resolution RS2018-1149 is a resolution approving an application for a grant from the Greater Nashville Regional Council to The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, "to design, construct, and evaluate a spine of three major separated bikeways and one minor separated bikeway in East Nashville to connect communities, encourage active transportation, and decrease automobile dependence." Apparently, there had been quite a bit of interest in this issue and council members had gotten letters in favor and in opposition. The grant request would be for $1.29 million and the local match would be $287,000. To see the discussion see timestamp 50:28- 54:15. It passes on a voice vote with no audible "no's."
Resolution RS2018-1154 dissolves the Special Committee set up to investigate the wrong doings of Mayor Barry. This passes on the consent agenda.
Bills on Second Reading: There are six. Here are the ones of interest:
Bill BL2018-1111 would put under the purview of the Board of Ethical Conduct and the Standards of Conduct those who violate executive orders regarding rules of conduct. Currently this board only has authority to act on those who violate a section of the Metro code concerning standards of conduct. This passes on a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1142  would require that 4% fund request resolutions affecting only a single Council district must be preceded by written notice to the Council member representing that district at least one week before the resolution is filed with the Metropolitan Clerk.This is deferred to the first meeting in August.
Bills on Third Reading
Bill BL2018-1122  reinstates a policy that requires the location of waste transfer stations be approved by the council by resolution prior to the applicant appealing the siting of the facility to the Board of Zoning appeal. This was the policy for twenty years, then in August 2017, Metro adopted a law that applied to how other certain sensitive uses are approved and inadvertently changed the policy for the approval of waste transfer station. This simply changes the law back to the way it was before and corrects a mistake. The bill has been misunderstood and created some confusion and concern. After some explanation, the bill passes on a voice vote.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What's on the Council Agenda for 4-17-2018: Public hearings on the Donelson Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan and the South Nashville Central Business Improvement District.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, April 17, 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.

Boards and Commissions
The first order of business is the call to order, prayer and pledge, followed by consideration of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. There are eight mayoral appointments to boards and commissions on this agenda for Council confirmations. The council normally rubber stamps whomever the mayor nominates. 


I wish someone on the Council would exercise some legislative mussel when it comes to these appointments. Most of the time, I would not oppose an appointee and believe the mayor should generally have the prerogative to appoint whom he wishes to these position. However, there is one position being filled on this agenda and I think anyone appointed to this particular board needs close scrutiny.

If I served on the Council I would question the appointee to the Board of Fair Commissioners to ensure he is someone who supports continuation of the fairgrounds.  It appears the writing is on the wall, and Nashville will lose the State Fair.  We have done nothing to make it a great state fair.  Even if we lose the State Fair however, we should still maintain the fair grounds for its current uses.  The charter requires that, but if the city insiders were committed to supporting the fairgrounds they would never have placed the soccer stadium at that site. I have the feeling that the city elites are embarrassed by gun shows, stock car racing, fairs, and flea markets, the same way a previous generation of elites were embarrassed by country music. If I served in the Council I would want to know that appointees to the Fair Board were committed to keeping the State Fair at the fairgrounds, to keeping current uses, and was open to moving the soccer stadium to the propose Metro Center location.


Public Hearing: There are two bills on public hearing. 

Bill BL2018-1139  on Second Reading  approving the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan. There is a new authority given to cities to plan, facilitate and guide develop around transit stops to encourage a certain kind of development around those stops and to give cities the authority to issue Tax Increment Financing bonds for improvements in the designated area. This would be the first time this authority has been used. This designation would apply to the Donelson stop on The Nashville Star line. There is a lot of detail in the staff analysis for those who want to know more. I have no problem with this concept.  My primary concern is that this not confer the power of eminent domain to MDHA for use in this area.  I do not know if it does or not. I would only support this if eminent domain condemnation had to go back to the Council in each instance where it was used. If the public has concern with this it will probably be due to the affordable housing component. The TIF funding can finance affordable housing construction. Many people oppose the development of affordable housing in their community.

Bill BL2018-1140  on Third Reading will create a South Nashville Central Business Improvement District. A district such as this creates a governing body which may impose additional taxes on businesses within the district for project within the district.  Such project may include building parking facilities, promoting the district, beautification and improvement projects in the district and more. The initial additional tax levy will be 55 cents per $100 of assessed value of real property and estimated initial projects will cost approximately $10.948 million. This district would consist of approximately 266 acres, whose boundaries are approximately Cane Ridge Road to the West, I-24 to the East, Target Drive to the North, and Old Franklin Road to the South. There are other such districts like this, including the central business district. 
There are 19 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 is 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. Here are the ones of interest:
Resolution RS2018-1138  approves an amendment to a grant from the State of Tennessee to work with Hispanic victims of crime and their families who find the criminal justice system disorienting due to language limitations and cultural understanding.  This is no doubt needed if we are going to have large numbers of people in our midst who do not speak English. I do not oppose this, but don't let anyone tell you there is not a cost to having large numbers of people in our midst who do not speak the language. The State grant would be increased to $969,421.00 and Metro's match wold be $123,618.00.

Resolution RS2018-1154 dissolves the Special Committee set up to investigate the wrong doings of Mayor Barry. I approve. No use beating a dead horse and others entities are looking into this and I doubt there is not much more to learn. 
Bills on Second Reading: There are six. Here are the ones of interest:
Bill BL2018-1111 would put under the purview of the Board of Ethical Conduct and the Standards of Conduct those who violate executive orders regarding rules of conduct. Currently this board only has authority to act on those who violate a section of the Metro code concerning standards of conduct. There is some concern that this would put too heavy of a burden on employees to defend themselves against complaints filed with the board. At the March 20th council meeting it was discussed and then deferred one meeting and then last meeting it was deferred again to this meeting. To understand the arguments on both sides of this issue you may want to watch the video of the March 20th meeting at timestamp 1:29:18-1:51:15.  

Bill BL2018-1142  would require that 4% fund request resolutions affecting only a single Council district must be preceded by written notice to the Council member representing that district at least one week before the resolution is filed with the Metropolitan Clerk.That sounds reasonable.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 27 and none of them are of much interest.

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




 

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But were they Black?

by Rod Williams - There was an article in today's Tennessean, Nashville police: 6 people shot in separate altercations Saturday. The article reports that a total of six people were shot, but none killed, Saturday night in three separate incidents. One of the incidents occured at a Wafffle House on Lebanon pike when people sitting in a black Mercedes van were fired upon by people in a black sedan. No other details are given. In the other two incidents a bag of marijuana was found at the site of one of the incidents and the other is described as "a botched marijuana deal."  The streets where the later two incidents occurred are Hermosa Street and Claiborn Street.

Nowhere in the news article is the race or ethnicity of the victims listed. The addresses of the later two incidents are in predominantly Black neighborhoods. I am going to assume all of the perpetrators and victims of the three incidents were Black. Is it racist to make such an assumption?  Or, based on known data is that a reasonable assumption? 

I think the term "fake news" is overused but I do think there is valid reason not to trust the mainstream press. One has to read between the lines and make assumptions when reading the newspaper. It seems the press is as interested in concealing facts as revealing facts. The press goes out of its way to hide facts if those facts do not fit a political correctness agenda.  In this story, the reporter told me the color of the vehicles but not the people. Why? 

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TRANSIT PLAN COSTS $568,000 PER CURRENT BUS RIDER

TRANSIT PLAN COSTS $568,000 PER CURRENT BUS RIDER IN 2035, 
LIGHT RAIL PLAN WILL COST $386,300 PER PUBLIC TRANSIT RIDER IN 2070, 
IF LIGHT RAIL STILL EXISTS, PLAN WILL COST $455,800 PER RIDER IN 2070

NEW: COST OF THE TRANSIT PLAN PER CURRENT NASHVILLE BUS RIDER: $568,000 per rider. The facts: all data is public information, easily found at the website apta.com. We welcome the pro side or anyone to refute these stats. apta.com. Current DAILY MTA TRIPS: 31,300 (2017). Total DAILY RIDERS: 15,650. Cost: $8.9B divided by 15,650 = $568,690 per rider.
At apta.com, the url sequence is: resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2017-q3-ridership-APTA.pdf

In 2035: total riders will be 23,038. Cost of $8.9 billion divided by 23,038 = $386,318 per rider in 2035. See charts below. 
In 2070, if light rail still exists, total riders will be 48,265. Total costs 52 years from now: $22 billion. Cost of $22B divided by 48,265 = $455,816 per rider in 2070. See charts below. 

Summary: 14 cities have light rail (LRT) which Nashville is voting on. The ridership data and numbers from LRT systems with decades of data, create realistic, accurate projections of ridership for Nashville in the future. If Nashville builds out the $8.9 billion plan, public transit ridership is projected to increase from current 15,650 riders to 23,038 riders in 2035. The total cost of $8.9 billion divided by 23,038 equals $386,000 per public transit rider in 2035, including the five light rail lines with 31.3 miles of LRT, the tunnel build out, and the bus system (actual total: $386,318). NOTE: we are only against light rail & the tunnel, which is 70% of the plan; we are FOR a strong bus system, BRT, technology & more. Because this plan is 70% LRT & tunnel, we are against it.
In 2070, 52 years from now, with LRT & Bus, projected riders will be a generous total of 48,265. Totals costs, see chart below: $22 billion. Therefore, $22 billion divided by 48,265 equals $455,816 per rider in 2070.
In 2070, Nashville’s CSA population will be 5.39 million people (2% growth rate, double the national average; current CSA pop.: 1.8 million). The riders figure of 48,265 is actually very generous. Remember, public transit is declining at 3.5% annually. In 52 years, as experts confirm, public transit as we know today will not exist. Tech and other factors are rapidly changing how we commute, travel, get goods & live. In 2070, transit riders will be about 2.5% of commuters/drivers (48,265 people). Megan Barry’s $8.9 billion transit plan combined with the extreme operating losses of the LRT-heavy transit system (losses from 2018-2070) will result in a costs of at least $22 billion, a low estimate. The majority of the losses will be due to having expensive, costly light rail and tunnel. Bus systems are more cost-effective and a more effective transit solution than light rail, with operating losses dramatically less than light rail operating losses.

Full analysis: Data and analysis is of light rail ridership in the eight (8) cities similar to, yet all larger (both in pop. and pop. density, PD), than Nashville’s pop & PD. Also , a comparison to the six (6) cities, much larger than Nashville, with LRT systems.
The eight (8) cities are listed below with:
CSA Population, Pop. Density, Light Rail Miles, & Avg Daily Ridership Per Mile.
The Per Mile stat is a key. Nashville is planning 31.3 miles, so we can multiply the average of these 8 cities’ average daily ridership per mile, to project what Nashville’s total light rail daily ridership will be for the entire 31.3 miles of light rail.
We are assuming that all other factors stay the way they are now – which is generous, considering that public transit ridership is declining at 3.5% nationally and locally, and tech is changing commuting dramatically. Light rail is becoming more & more obsolete annually. Local taxpayers continue to pay for the losses of the average city public transit system (Nashville’s MTA lost $77 million on a $93 million budget; most recent audit) running a bus system, though it is vital to public transit, etc, etc. But let’s assume all other factors stay the same.
Someone may say, “well, in 2035, Nashville’s population will be 2.67 million, so these bus ridership figures have to be increased.” In reality, even though population is increasing, bus ridership is declining at 3.5% annually, even though population is increasing. And this model and projection keeps bus ridership the same as it is today. Also, the total rail ridership of 1,443 riders per mile (avg of the 8 cities) is based on cities that have avg pop. of 2.86 million, more than Nashville’s projected 2035 pop. of 2.67 million.
NOTE: $6 billion of the $9 billion cost is for light rail and the tunnel. Breakdown:
Five LRT light rail lines: $3.4 billion
Tunnel: $940 million
Debt service on bonds for the light rail/tunnel: $1.16
Operating Costs for rail/tunnel: $400 million ($46m/year).
Total: $6 billion
Nashville in 2035:
Nashville, 2.67m, 1,862 PD, 31.3 miles
Avg daily ridership due to small PD (less than half of the other cities’ avg PD): 361;
361 x 31.3 miles of light rail = 11,300 daily riders on light rail
Cost Per Transit Rider in 2070, 52 Years from Now
In 2070, 52 Years from 2018, the cost of Megan Barry’s transit plan per public transit rider in 2070: $455,816.
The pro side says we need to plan for far into the future. Let’s look at realistic, generous projections of ridership in 2070.
In 2070, Nashville/Davidson Co.’s population will be 2.02 million, with population density (PD), a key determining factor regarding light rail ridership, at 4,008. Nashville’s CSA population (all 10 counties) will be 5.39 million.
In the chart below, realistic projections for Nashville’s light rail (LRT) ridership are based on the average ridership of six (6) large cities with decades of light rail results and figures. The six cities’ PD average is 5,266 people/square mile, 31% higher than Nashville’s of 4,008; PD for all cities is calculated using the city population (for us, Davidson Co.), not the CSA. A lower PD means people are spread out more, and farther away from light rail lines; another reason light rail will not work in Nashville.
Nashville’s CSA is also smaller than the six cities’ average CSA population. But we will still use the six cities’ average ridership per mile of 2,333 people.
Therefore, in 2070, Nashville’s 31.3 miles of LRT, with 1,167 riders per mile, will have a light rail average daily ridership of 36,527 commuters. Commuters: Of the 5.39 million population in 2070, approx. 69% are commuters/drivers, or 3.7 million commuters in the CSA. The total of 36,527 LRT + bus riders is about 1.3% of commuters, a figure similar to the current average percentage of transit ridership (LRT + bus) in the 14 cities with light rail.
Remember, public transit ridership is declining at 3.5% nationally & locally (MTA audits, 2016-2017), a decline that applies to both light rail and bus ridership. But we will assume, generously, that light rail ridership in 2070 is the same as it is today; though in reality, with tech changing our world, in 50 years, it is very likely that light rail will not even exist. The light rail systems are already obsolete, even more so in 50 years.
Let’s also assume that bus ridership of 11,650 stays the same for 50 years. In reality though, if the 3% declines continue, in 50 years, bus ridership likely will not exist.
Approximately 25% or more of current bus riders will switch over to light rail (probably more), so bus ridership in 2070 will actually be 23,475. Light rail lines replace bus route lines.
LRT of 36,527 plus bus riders of 11,738 (75% of 11,650) equals 48,265, or approximately 1.3% of commuters.
Therefore, 98.7% of commuters are primarily in cars, trucks, and other transport options. It seems surprising that a city government would spend $9 billion to focus on, at best, 1.3% of commuters. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend money and resources on both groups: the 98.7% of commuters and their roads, and the 1.3% of public transit riders?
Total losses from 2018-2070 are projected to be at least $22 billion, a low estimate. MTA is projected to lose $2.1 billion in the next 15 years, see chart below. Operating losses starting in 2035 will be at least $300 million, a figure used to calculate losses from 2035 to 2070, though losses will certainly be much, much greater. Light rail is exponentially more expensive than bus to build, operate, manage, maintain, repair, and more. MTA loss chart is below. MTA lost $70 million in 2017 and projected to lose $76 million in 2018. Chart below: three LRT cities’ public transit losses, on average $627 million a year.
Nashville taxpayers pay about 55% of MTA’s budget. MTA self-funds about 15%. Nashville taxpayers, the state, and the federal govt pay 85% of their budget.
Low projections are that a light rail and bus system will lose about $300 million a year starting in 2033, after the build out. If we just use the $300 million figure only for the 37 years from 2033 to 2070, though the losses will actually much, much higher, the total is $11 billion. The actual losses year-on-year would be $11.4 billion or more.
Add in MTA’s projected $2.1 billion in projected losses from 2018-2033, and the total is $13.1 billion.
$8.9 billion + $13.1 billion = $22 billion, for the 96,497 riders in 2070, or $227,986 per rider.
What are some of the operating losses of cities with large light rail systems? Three examples are: Denver, which Megan Barry’ and her team cites as a “model” for Nashville’s potential light rail, Houston, and Dallas. Their average operating loss, most recent year, was $627 million (chart below).
Why is this so high? Light rail is exponentially more expensive than bus system, and less effective as a public transit model than bus, to: build, operate, maintain, manage, repair, and more.

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Rev. Enoch Fuzz: Vote Against the Transit Tax Plan May 1

Rev. Enoch Fuzz
by Rev. Enoch Fuzz - As we try to inform voters about how wrong this transit tax plan is for Nashville, we encounter again and again how almost impossible it is to oppose Metro and whatever Metro does.

Many people I know, including those who volunteer with our group Better Transit for Nashville, cannot exercise their freedom of speech and have to remain private and behind the scenes because of fear that ... (link)

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Clearest Sign Yet We Need a Balanced Budget Amendment

Phil Roe
by Phil Roe - Earlier this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an alarming projection about future budget deficits over the next 10 years. While CBO doesn’t always get it right, this warning cry should hit home for every American; it certainly does for me. If out-of-control spending is left unchecked, CBO predicts America’s deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020. To me, this is the clearest sign yet that we have to pass a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment, which the House considered this week.

First, let me dispel one of the biggest myths there is: that somehow last year’s tax cuts are responsible for our nation’s budget deficits. Last year, the federal government took in $3.3 trillion in revenue. That is the most revenue that has been collected – ever. In fact, since 2010, federal revenue has increased $1.1 trillion – a 53 percent increase, or just less than 8 percent annually. And we should expect revenue growth to continue because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because as our economy grows and more jobs and prosperity are created, revenue to the federal government will grow, even at lower across-the-board tax rates.

Another myth that’s been put out there is that discretionary spending is responsible for our annual budget deficits. Discretionary spending is the funding Congress votes on every year, and funds our military, education, veterans programs, environmental programs, etc. This part of the budget – because Congress reviews it annually – has been well-controlled. Over the past 14 years, since 2004, our discretionary budget has only grown 34 percent, which is just over 2.4 percent growth annually. Even with the recently-passed Omnibus, discretionary spending is still growing at a manageable pace.
So what causes our budget deficits? Primarily, the deficits are driven by our mandatory programs that are on autopilot – programs like Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security and Medicare. Over the same 14 year time period, our mandatory program spending has doubled, growing at 7.5 percent per year. This is unsustainable. This will require hard choices, but Congress will only make those hard choices if it’s forced to.

That’s why, this week, I am proud to support H.J.Res. 2, a constitutional amendment that will require a balanced budget. If ratified, a balanced budget amendment would require the federal government to balance its budget annually, just like states and families do, unless the country is at war. I am a proud cosponsor of this legislation. A Balanced Budget Amendment is the only way we will ever tackle the growing threat caused by deficit spending. By passing this amendment, we can work together to repair the damage that’s been done over the years through out-of-control spending.
Forty-eight states, including Tennessee, have balanced-budget requirements. It’s time for Washington to live by the same rules and take this critical step to get our spending under control. Our children and grandchildren’s futures and the future of our democracy depends on it.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.  

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Nashville has the lowest unemployment rate in the US

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nashville, Tennessee, had the lowest unemployment rate—2.7%—of any metropolitan area in the US with over one million people as of February 2018.

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House approves bill removing barriers to reentry for those convicted of a crime who have served their time

by Rod Williams - This week the Tennessee House of Representatives approved legislation that will remove barriers for Tennesseans who are seeking a fresh start in life.  House Bill 2248also known as the Fresh Start Act — is designed to further reduce Tennessee’s recidivism rates by providing a pathway to employment for citizens who are returning to their communities following incarceration.
 
Currently, Tennessee requires licenses for 110 different jobs; many impact those seeking manual labor or other industrial-related work. State licensing boards can deny a license for these professions to individuals with past criminal records, including lower-level forms of crime classified as misdemeanors.  It is bad enough that we license 110 occupations. While I am OK with surgeons and electricians being licensed, I would let hair braiders and those who massage horses and those engaged in many other occupations do it unlicensed. It is bad enough that so many people have to get a license to work in so many occupations, but it is unconscionable that people who have been convicted of a crime are prohibited from even getting the license. The crime maybe something as simple as a long ago DUI.

As passed, House Bill 2248 requires that denials and refusals for license renewals based on a prior criminal conviction are only allowable when the criminal offense directly relates to an individual’s ability to perform duties associated with the occupation or profession they are seeking a licensure for, excluding violent felonies.
 
Additional punishment for individuals who have paid their debt to society is wrong and this bill allows for a person to fix past mistakes and get on with their lives.  According to the Council of State Governments (CSG), nearly 10 million U.S. adults return to their communities following incarceration every year; upon their release, many face significant barriers to securing employment. CSG estimates that occupational restrictions can result in 2.85 million fewer people employed nationally and also raise consumer expenses by more than $200 billion.

Most people convicted of a crime, if sent to prison will get out. It is a fact.  It makes no sense to stack the deck against them so they cannot succeed once they have paid their debt to society. Nearly half of those leaving prison in Tennessee return within three years. This is making our communities less safe and costing taxpayers millions of dollars and it is ruining lives that could be salvaged.

Occupational licensure is only one of the barriers to success after incarceration. We should systematically be looking at those barriers to successful reentry and removing them. In today's hyper partisan environment, there are not many areas where conservatives and liberals can agree. This is one of those areas. Some of the most dedicated proponents of criminal justice reform are Republicans such as Governor Matt Bevins of Kentucky. Here in Tennessee, a group called "The Coalition for Sensible Justice" made up of The Beacon Center, the ACLU, Goodwill, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Tennessee County Services Association, is working together for criminal justice reform. It was this group which worked to pass House Bill 2248. 

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