Friday, June 29, 2018

Randy Boyd's attack ad calls Diane Black weak on immigration.

Randy Boyd has put out a hard-hitting  "attack ad" against Diane Black.  I guess when one is attacked in a political ad, one has to attack back but I am disappointed. In this recent ad, Boyd criticizes Diane Black for saying "you can't build a wall;  that won't work." The statement was made in a 2016 interview. Since then Diane Black has become an advocate of building the wall and states that position on her website. She also has sponsored legislation that would raise funds for the wall along the southern border using crowdfunding.

My own view of building the wall is that it is a dumb idea and "you can't build a wall; that won't work."  There may be places where expanding the wall makes sense but to build a wall the full length of the border would accomplish nothing. For one thing, it would take a generation to obtain the right- of-ways necessary to do it. Property cannot be taken without due process and that can be a lengthy process. The cost would be enormous and there is no way to make Mexico pay for it.  Even if built, unless it is manned it would be useless. Walls can be climbed over, cut through and tunneled under and torn down. There are much wiser uses of funds to secure the border rather than building a $15 billion wall.

In frustration over the recent failure of "zero tolerance" I recently blogged that I was warming to the idea of building the wall. "Zero tolerance" means prosecuting those who cross the border illegally. The problem with that policy is that children can not be held in confinement with their parents for more than twenty days, and separating parents from their children is unacceptable and there is no way to prosecute an offender within twenty days.  So, for any person who crosses the border with a child, we are back to catch and release which means we release offenders from detention while they await immigration hearings with an order to appear for a hearing at some future date. Most never honor the order.

Frustration over the inability to implement zero tolerance does not however, mean building the wall the full length of the border is good idea. Some select corridors could probably benefit from an extended wall, but things like e-verity, improved visa control and changing the law to expedite the process of deportation makes more sense. I would be more pleased with Diane Black if she would have kept to her first position that "you can't build a wall; that won't work." 

The other example that Randy Boyd uses against Black in alleging she is weak on immigration is that she once supported giving drivers license to illegal immigrants. This occurred in May 2001when Diane Black was serving in the State legislature. Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed the policy that would allow people without Social Security numbers to obtain driver's licenses. The argument at the time was that they were driving anyway and with drivers license they would at least have to know the rules of the road and if stopped for a traffic violation the traffic law enforcement officer would know who they were. I thought that made sense at the time as did most of those serving in the State legislature.  Following the September 2001 terrorist attack on this country, security concerns led to that law being repealed.

I am not going to hold it against Diane Black that in May 2001 she voted to implement what most thought was a good policy at the time.  I know that in a thirty second TV ad one cannot really explain policy differences. All you can do is offer quick bummer sticker sound bites.  It is easy to simplify and distort an opponents record.  Anyone who has served in office any length of time or written things, anyone with a record, can have that record distorted. 

I hope Diane Black shows the good graces and dignity not to even hit lower than Randy Boyd.  I don't want our Republican nominee to be the person who can play the dirtiest. The contest should not be a contest to see who can win at best besmirching the reputation of their opponents.

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Marsha Blackburn breaks with President Trump over tariffs.

Marsha Blackburn
by Rod Williams - Representative Marsha Blackburn has been one of Trumps staunches supporters. She often appears on national TV defending the President's policies.  I was pleased to see her break with Trump over the issue of tariffs.

Yesterday she said President Donald Trump's administration should reconsider broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences on Tennessee's economy and workers. In a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross she said Tennesseans stand to suffer disproportionate and negative consequences under broad tariffs. She said Tennessee industries, including automotive, agriculture and distilled spirits could be hurt by retaliatory tariffs.  The letter was also signed by Republican Reps. Phil Roe, Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleischmann.

Senators Bob Corker and Lama Alexander have been outspoken in opposition to Trump's start of a trade way.  I am pleased to see Republicans take a stand for common sense. Trump's trade war could have disastrous consequences and lead to a world-wide economic depression. Even if the trade war does not escalate into a world-wide trade war it could still reverse the recent economic gains resulting from the recently passed tax cuts and cause Republicans to be badly beaten in the mid-term elections.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Davidson County GOP picnic July 14th

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Senator Bob Corker Discussing Trade and Immigration Policy on Face the Nation

 Click here  to watch the senator's interview.

Last Sunday, Senator Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, discussed trade and immigration policy in an interview on Face the Nation. Excerpts of the senator's interview follow.

On the need for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority on trade policy by passing bipartisan legislation to require congressional approval of tariffs designated under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962:  

The president broadly has used Section 232 of the [Trade Expansion Act of 1962], which is [intended for] national security. It’s absolutely an abuse of his authorities. It’s being used against our European allies, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries… It has successfully united the world against us. There’s not a person at the White House that can articulate why they are doing this other than to create leverage on NAFTA [negotiations]. And I don’t know of a senator that isn’t concerned about the broad use of this. So, the amendment, Margaret, is just to say that if he’s going to use 232, which has never, ever been used in this way, it’s absolutely an abuse of authority, if he’s going to use it, once he completes negotiations on tariffs, he should bring it to Congress. It’s our responsibility, by the way, Margaret. You know, a tariff is a tax on Americans.
On the likelihood of congressional action on trade policy:
I think there’s a jailbreak brewing. I really do. I think people, especially as these tariffs are being put in place against us, these countermeasures, and as people realize that 22,000 companies, 22,000 companies, have asked for exemptions. The White House is only – or the Commerce Department – has only dealt with 98 of those. There’s no basis to deal with them. It’s not unlike what happened on the immigration issue where there was no preparation… So, we’re getting ready to have a similar situation to what happened on the immigration policy, and I’m hoping there will be a jailbreak and that we will move towards passing this legislation.
On family separations at the southern border:  
It is not something that appreciates these young children and certainly was done in a ready, fire, aim way, obviously. There was no preparation for it. I can’t imagine any American’s heart not going out to these families, knowing these children are being separated… so I am glad the administration took the steps they took. That’s led to another crisis, if you will, because of the 20-day rule that exists, and so, you know, the administration obviously made a large mistake. I know that some in the White House want to use the immigration issue as a force to activate the base for elections, but obviously the president realized that was a mistake, and now it’s up to us in Congress to work with them to come up with a longer-term solution.

On the likelihood of a legislative solution in Congress to families being separated at the southern border:  
I hope that will be the case. I think that the Cruz-Feinstein bill, while I’m not sure every detail has been laid out in it yet, but the fact that you’ve got two people with such ideological differences coming together on this issue does bode for some hope in the Senate.
On the latest CBS News poll finding that 73% of Republicans say those who enter the U.S. should be punished as an example of toughness, while 27% of Republicans say they should be treated well as an example of kindness: 
We do need to be a nation of laws. And we need to get this right. And we need to cause legal immigration to be easier than it is… I’ve just never been a part of a group that hated someone for wishing something better for their life. Maybe they have a little different color of their skin and they speak differently. I just have never hated someone who traveled through tough conditions to try to come to a place where they could realize their dreams… We need to enforce our laws, and when people break them, obviously, especially over and over again, there needs to be punishment. But look, again, we’ve got to realize that these people are wanting to live in a place like we live. We’re the most fortunate people on Earth to live in this country.
Rod's Comment: I am in total agreement with Senator Corker on both of these issues and agree with what he said and the tone in which he said it.  I think the Trump trade war may be a disaster for our country and undo the Trump recovery. While I do think there is a lot of opportunistic selective outrage on the part of Democrats on the child separation issue, I think the policy implementation that led to children being separated from their parents who crossed the border illegally was a colossal blunder.

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Bill Lee talks about some his most important beliefs in his latest ad.

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District 1 Special Runoff Election Will Determine Council Representative

Election Commission press release - Candidates Judy Cummings and Jonathan Hall will vie in a Special Runoff Election for District 1, following the Special Election in May for the vacancy on the Metropolitan Council. Election Day is Thursday, June 28, 2018.

A Special Election was held for District 1 after former Council member Nick Leonardo was selected by his colleagues to fill the General Sessions judge position, previously held by Angie Blackshear Dalton. Special Election candidates included Sylvester Armor, Ruby Baker, Gwen Brown-Felder, Judy Cummings and Jonathan Hall.

Cummings and Hall – with 27 percent and 34 percent of votes cast, respectively – bested other candidates in the Special Election, but neither received a majority of the votes cast. As a result, the Metropolitan Charter calls for a Runoff Election.
“Voting is an important means for residents to shape their communities,” said Jeff Roberts, Davidson County administrator of elections. “We encourage all registered District 1 voters to participate and cast their ballots for the District 1 Council seat.”

On Election Day, June 28, residents must vote at their assigned polling location, printed on their voter registration card or found via the Polling Place Finder at  Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Polling Locations
Precinct Name Address
1-1 Joelton First Baptist Church 7140 Whites Creek Pike
1-2 Dentons Chapel United Methodist Church 4550 Dry Fork Road
1-3 Cathedral of Praise Church 4300 Clarksville Pike
1-4 Scottsboro Community Center 5102 Old Hydes Ferry Pike
1-5 Bordeaux Library 4000 Clarksville Pike
All voters must present a Federal or Tennessee state government-issued photo ID, unless an exception applies. Student IDs are not acceptable.

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Williamson Business PAC endorses Mark Green for Congress

Mark Green
Press release, FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Williamson Business PAC announced its support of Dr. Mark Green for Congress today. Founded in 2016, the PAC conducted interviews with all the candidates running for the vacant 7th district seat, and its board concluded that Dr. Green is the best candidate to be our next congressman.

“Representing the Williamson Business community, our board members endorse Mark due to his strength, fortitude, integrity and compassion. These are all needed qualities in a statesman and well exemplified by Senator Mark Green,” commented Cherie Hammond, chairman of the PAC.

Having run a business based in Brentwood, Dr. Green also based his congressional campaign headquarters in Cool Springs. His campaign is supported by many of the county’s leaders, including Senator Jack Johnson, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, Fairview Mayor Patti Carroll, Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham, and Nolensville Mayor Jimmy Alexander.

"I’m honored to receive the Business PAC’s endorsement,” noted Green. “Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. As I travel the 7th district, I’ve heard from countless business owners that burdensome federal regulations are stifling their growth. Having built a company myself, I will fight every day to get the government out of the way."

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Nashville Federalist Society: Regulatory Reform Down on the Farm (and Beyond)

Join the Nashville Federalist Society Chapter on Friday, June 29 at 11:45AM for a luncheon at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP featuring Stephen Vaden, nominated by President Trump to become General Counsel of the Department of Agriculture. Mr. Vaden will discuss the hows, whys, and whens of the Trump Administration's deregulation effort.  

For more information follow this link.

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Diane Black ad attacks Bill Lee and Randy Boyd as "too moderate."

Above is another ad from Diane Black that attacks both Bill Lee and Randy Boyd as "too moderate."

I would be more favorably inclined to support Bill Lee if he had not donated money to Megan Barry's campaign for mayor.  I think it is fair game to point that out.  However, before disqualifying Lee due to this contribution, I think one should ask themselves if they applied the same standard to Donald Trump.  Before becoming the Republican nominee for president, Trump had made political campaign contributions to the Obama campaign and to Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Edward Kenndy and other Democrats (link).

While I think the criticism of Lee for making a contribution to Megan Barry is fair, I am not impressed by the overall tone of this ad.  This does not cross the line but is getting close to mud slinging.

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TN governor race 2018: Diane Black TV ad critical of Randy Boyd

I "cut the cord" about a year ago so I never watch regular over-the-air TV or even cable.  I stay informed by watching the local TV stations news on my computer. I don't care for car wrecks, sports news, happy chat, or in depth meteorologist weather reports so I only watch or read the important news from the local TV stations. For entertainment and national news I watch TV on Roku.  What I do miss is all of the political ads.  I don't miss being bombarded by ad after ad, but I often feel I am less informed by not having TV because I do not know what is influencing other people and I miss out on the nuanced flavor of the campaigns.

I have been leaning toward Diane Black since the start of the race but have not been fired up. I have been persuadable from the first to support one of the other candidates. For one thing, I like all of the candidates.  I think we have four excellent candidates for governor and would enthusiastically support whoever of the field wins the nomination. As the race has progressed, Beth Harwell has some what receded in my estimation, not for any position she has taken but she just has simply not generated any enthusiasm on my part. However, that could change between now and the election.

I have been favorably impressed by Bill Lee and Randy Boyd. I am conflicted about an outsider taking the govenor's chair, however.  On the one hand, an outsider may shake things up in a positive direction but on the other hand I am not sure we want someone without government experience in the office.  Tennessee has been managed so well and making such progress that I guess what I am looking for is a Haslam third term; continuity and continuing the progress we are making.  I am not sure this is the time for an outsider.  I am pleased with Bill Lee's commitment to criminal justice reform and his character but question if he is the right person to continue the state's projection.

One of the reasons I am occasionally tempted to favor Randy Boyd is because my brother Tim Williams of Knoxville is enthusiastically supporting him. Tim is a successful business man in Knoxville and personally acquainted with Randy Boyd. He is convinced Boyd would make a great governor. I value my brother's opinion.

Below is an ad from Diane Black critical of Randy Boyd.  This is what some would call an "attack" ad. I hope the race does not turn dirty. While I generally oppose tax increases, sometimes they are necessary.  In 2012, I don't know if Knoxville needed to raise taxes or not. This does not influence me to oppose Randy Boyd. Civic discourse is so uncivil at this time, that vicious attack ads against a candidate might turn me against the attacker rather than the attacked.  I hope the campaigns stay positive. This is getting close to being an ad that would make me think less of Diane Black. Here is the ad.

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SEIU makes endorsements in School Board races.

by Rod Williams - The local chapter of SEIU has released their endorsements for the school board races for the August 2nd school board elections.  While I would not vote against a candidate solely because they got the SEIU endorsement, if I didn't have sufficient information to otherwise make an informed decision, I would tend to vote against a candidate with that endorsement. An SEIU endorsement is a reason not to support a particular candidate.  SEIU will always support the candidate that favors more taxes and more government. Below is the SEIU press release.

SEIU Press Release, June 27, 2018 - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 205, the labor organization representing support employees working in the Metro Nashville Public Schools, announced the names of candidates the organization will be supporting in the School Board elections to be held on August 2, 2018.

In the race for school board District 2, SEIU Local 205 endorsed Jesse Gentry, a lawyer and advocate for children. “It was clear that Jesse will always put the interests of the children ahead of anything else, and that is what we need in a board member,” said James Brown, a computer network engineer for the district and the union’s chief steward.

In District 6, the union is supporting Tyese Hunter who is running for re-election. “Tyese has been a vocal advocate of greater funding for the school system,” said Recco Seay Sr., an restorative justice assistant and SEIU member. “Mrs. Hunter worked hard to make sure that support staff are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and we know she will continue to do that.”

In District 8, SEIU Local 205 endorsed Gini Pupo-Walker, a community organizer and former educator. “Gini has extensive experience in the school system and outside of it and will bring great leadership and professionalism to the board,” said SEIU member Lilldeus Russell, a paraprofessional in MNPS. “She has consistently been an advocate for equity in our schools and we need more voices like that on the board.”

Election Day for the school board races will be on Thursday, August 2. Complete information on early voting dates and voting locations is available from the Davidson County Election Commission at 615-862-8800.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rich Riebeling is leaving in Nashville mayor's office

The Tennessean, June 26, 2018 -  Two top Briley aides, including Rich Riebeling, leaving in Nashville mayor's office overhaul; new chief of staff named.

Rod's Comment: It is about time. Drain the swamp!

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018

These council members voted NOT to raise your taxes.

Below are the council members who voted against raising your taxes.  They voted against the Mendez substitute budget which would have increased the property tax rate by 50 cents or 16%.

A tax increase would have not only been paid by homeowners but renters would have likely been impacted to a greater extend since multi-family properties are assessed at a higher rate and higher taxes on these properties would have been passed on to renters in the form of higher rents.

You may want to thank your councilman for his vote.  You may contact any of these members by clicking on their name and it will take you to a page with a link to their email address and other contact information.

If you are unsure who your council member is follow this link and to the right of the page see, "Council District Lookup."





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These Council members voted to raise your taxes.

Below are the council members who voted in favor of raising your taxes.  They supported the Mendez substitute budget which would have increased the property tax rate by 50 cents or 16%.

A tax increase would have not only been paid by homeowners but renters would have likely been impacted to a greater extend since multi-family properties are assessed at a higher rate and higher taxes on these properties would have been passed on to renters in the form of higher rents.

To contact any of these members you can click on their name and it will take you to a page with a link to their email address and other contact information.

If you are unsure who your council member is follow this link and to the right of the page see, "Council District Lookup."

Erica Gilmore


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What happended at the Council meeting of 6/19/18: No tax hike budget passes, most other important bills deferred. (final update)

By now everyone who cares knows the council passed a budget that does not raise taxes. This meeting however is worth watching because it is one of the best meeting I have ever seen.  I thought the arguments were well made even when I didn't agree with the position of the speakers. Also, the Council was attempting to do something never done before and that is to raise taxes when the mayor's office did not propose raising taxes, so that made it interesting.

 If you are actually going to watch the whole meeting, you better get a drink and a snack and be prepared to take a bathroom break.  At six and half hours long, this is one of the longest meeting I ever remember. I watched part of it in real time as it occurred and then watched most of the video. I skipped ahead in the parts where I knew nothing important was happening and watched parts of it in double speed. Most of the meeting is devoted to the budget. Below is a summary of the meeting.
To access the agenda, the Council staff agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link and this link.

Following the prayer and pledge is a ceremonial presentation honoring Franklin Road Academy's wrestling program coach. The Council gets down to business at timestamp 16 in the video. The first item is election of a person to the Industrial Development Board.  There are two candidates and a nominating speech for each and then the council votes, electing Quin E. Segall. I don't know anything about either candidate and had no preference. 

Following that election, the Council votes to confirm mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. There is no discussion or surprises. This is concluded at timestamp 32. The next item is public hearings  on three resolutions all asking for an exemption from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit. No one speaks on any of them and they pass.

Resolutions of interest

Resolution RS2018-1253  extends the duration of the water and sewer extendable commercial paper program. I do not know if this is prudent or not but it sounds suspect. It is deferred one meeting.

Resolution RS2018-1262  appropriates $3.5 million from the undesignated fund balances of the MNPS General Purpose Fund to Metro Schools. This was necessary to
finish the current budget year, which ends on June 30. It is unusual. It means the School system spend more money than was appropriated. Director of Schools Shawn Joseph explained this was due to unexpected administrative expenses. To read The Tennessean's coverage of this issue, follow this link. This resolution passes on a voice vote.

Resolution RS2018-1263 is a resolution requesting the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and enact legislation to allow for online publication, instead of newspaper publication, when public notices are required. Now, these public notices are published in publications that no one reads, that is just full of notices. The committee voted against it 8 to zero and the sponsor deferred it indefinitely. I do not know the argument against it as I did not watch the committee meeting but on its face this seemed like a good idea. 
All bills on first reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote without discussion as is the norm. 

Bills on Second Reading.
Bill BL2018-1189  would require Metro to make an even greater effort to make sure some Metro business goes to minority contractors when Metro has projects to put out for bid. The staff analysis says Metro legal has expressed concern that the bill may contain unconstitutional race and gender based preferences and is inconsistent with the current framework of the Procurement Non-Discrimination Program. It is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2018-1200 would require that if a  hotels or roominghouses accept cash payment, they must also accept at least one other form of payment such as check or credit cards. I seldom carry cash and would find it inconvenient if I tried to do business with an entity that was cash-only, but why not let the market work this out?  Why must the government try to micromanage every aspect of commerce and our lives? It is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2018-1201  would tighten animal control regulations. Now, you are not supposed to leave your pooch out if the heat index will be above 95. This lowers it to 85. Animal Control says to enforce this will take more people, space, and equipment and cost $472,617. This is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2018-1202 are proposed new rules for scooter prompted by the arrival of

Bird Scooter here in Nashville. It would require new fees including a fee of $40 per scooter. This is deferred one meeting.

Bill BL2018-1203  also deals with scooters, in-line skates, and roller skates by removing the requirement for wrist guards, elbow pads, and kneepads and updating audio device references.. This is deferred one meeting.
Bill BL2018-1207 would direct the Purchasing Agent to terminate Contract Purchase Agreement 338266, a project management services agreement between Commonwealth Development Group, Inc. and the Metropolitan Government. Commonwealth Development is the company that did work on the MLS stadium without a contract to do that work and without money appropriated to do that work. The work was authorized by Metro Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling. Commonwealth was paid out of a Bridgestone Arena fund. The Metro Sports Authority, which operates the arena, was unaware of the spending.  This  incident let to a deeper look the work of Commonwealth and some in the Council became dissatisfied.  The owner of Commonwealth and Rich Riebelng are close friends and questions were raised about that cozy relationship and how Commonwealth got Metro business and how much they are paid and the provision of free office space to the company. There is less than a year left on the current contract and this bill was withdrawn. Steve Glover says the trust factor has been eroded.
Bills on Third Reading:
Substitute BL2018-1139 (as amended)   approves the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan. This is deferred two meetings.
The Operating Budget, Bill BL2018-1184 and related items. 
The lengthy deliberations on the operating budget starts at timestamp 1:22:17.  Speaker Pro Tem lays out the process and possible outcomes at the start of the discussion.

There were three possible budgets that could have passed; the mayor's budget, the Vercher substitute or the Mendes substitute. The mayor's budget did not raise taxes and did not fund the promised employee cost of living pay raise or give the schools their budget request. The Vercher substitute did not hike taxes but shifted money, giving $2 million more to schools. The Mendes substitute increased the tax rate 50 cents or 16%, would have generated $150 million, fully funded the COLA for metro employees and fully funded the schools request.

One should realized the budget process to know the limitations of what the Council could do.  We have a strong mayor form of local government. The deck is stacked against the Council. When it comes to the budget, if the Counciil fails to pass a budget the mayor's budget becomes law without council action. It takes 21 votes to pass a budget. If the mayor should veto the budget presented by the Council, then it takes 27 votes to override a veto. So, the Mendes budget had an uphill clime to be passed. Should the Mendes budget have passed, then been vetoed by the mayor, which we can assume he would do, and then the Council failed to override, then the mayor budget would have been the official budget.  There would not have been an opportunity to go back and pass the Vercher budget.

For those who won't to get in the tall weeds of the budget, see Citizens' Guide to the Metro Budget. If watching this lengthy budget debate does not satisfy your desire to understand the budget issues, you may want to watch the Budget and Finance Committee deliberations on the budget which you can watch at this link

Vercher is called on first. As chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee she is the sponsor of the mayor's budget. As chairman, she oversaw the work of the committee that created the substitute and the substitute that was the result of committee work becomes her bill and she moves to substitute the mayor's budget. The Vercher budget is substituted for the mayor's budget by a vote of 34 to 4. 

Next, various amendments are voted upon. Most of the amendments shifted some money from one department to another. All failed but three. One of the amendments shifted a little money.  Another, which I am pleased to see, created a Blue Ribbon Commission, "to identify government inefficiencies, practices, transfer payments, third party payments and subsidies with the targeted goal of achieving budgetary cost savings of $20 million in annual savings." I hope this is successful and am optimistic that some saving will be realized by this commission.

Another, was an amendment to substitute one piece of property for another as one of the properties that will be sold to generate money as part of the city's revenue to fund this budget.  A piece of property on Woodycrest used to park school buses was substituted for the Edgehill Community Memorial Park that was listed as a piece of property to be sold.  I am pleased by this amendment. We should not be selling off city parks. 

Next, Councilman Mendes was recognized and he moved to substitute the Vercher substitute with his substitute which raised taxes. After considerable debate his budget was rejected by a vote of 19 in favor to 20 opposed. The vote was 19 to 19 before the tie was broken by the Speaker Pro Tem Councilman Sheri Weiner. Back on the budget ordinance which is the Vercher substitute, that bill is adopted. There is some very good debate.

After the budget, Bill BL2018-1185 which is the tax levy which did not increase taxes is passed. Following that the Council acts on three resolutions that address the pay plan. If the pay plan had not been adjusted, then to fund the employees pay increases approved in a pay plan last year, a lot of other employees would have lost their job.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Technology, not more traffic lanes is answer to traffic woes says Bill Lee and Randy Boyd

by Rod Williams - Diane Black's proposed solution for Nashville area traffic woes is to double-stack the three interstates in Nashville and complete he Interstate 840 north loop. Her three opponents in the race for governor take a different approach. Bill Lee and Randy Boyd have said technology is the answer and Beth Harwell has said solving Nashville's traffic problem is basically a local issue.

As reported in The Tennessean, Bill Lee says, "I’m a businessman. I run a corporation. We look to technology to solve some of the greatest challenges in our society, and five years ago we never would have imagined you would push an app on your phone and get in the car with a perfect stranger and drive away, but technology changes the future."

Lee said the state should focus on smart traffic lights, private-sector ride-share programs and technology to further utilize the state's roadways, such as rarely enforced HOV lanes.

Randy Boyd said, "When we look at the solution, it needs to be a regional solution, but also I think the thing we are not looking at enough is technology. There’s some new technology investments that I believe are gonna help relieve a lot of the problems that we have. It’s not just about spending our way out."

I agree more with Lee and Boyd than I do Diane Black on this issue, with the exception of building the northern part of the I-840 loop. Building the I-840 loop would divert a certain amount of traffic from the north that is headed either west or east at Nashville. I do not know if that is a significant amount of traffic or not, but if traffic studies show it is, then that northern loop should be build. I am not sold on the idea of double decking the interstates. I do not think it necessary and it is quality of life issue.  Wider interstates or double decked interstates create a more stressful environment and are ugly.

I am convinced that para-transit, express bus service and technology can solve our traffic problems. We do not need rail or interstate expansion except in certain locations to correct bottlenecks. For more on my thoughts on traffic see this link. For the Tennessean's story on the position of candidates for governor on this issue of transportation, follow this link.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

NO TAX INCREASE! Tax hike budget fails in a very close vote.

by Rod Williams, June 20, 1918 - After a lengthy discussion in which numerous Council members spoke for or against the Mendes amendment to the Vercher sponsored substitute budget, the Mendes amendment failed. That amendment would have hiked the tax rate by 5O cents or 16%. It would have generated $150 million which would have funded a cost-of-living pay increase for Metro employees and it would have fully funded the school board's funding request. The vote was taken at 12:33 AM. The vote was 19 to 19. President por tem Sheri Weiner who only votes in the event of a tie voted "no," killing the Mendes tax hike budget proposal making the final vote 19 in favor and 20 opposed

Back on the Vercher no tax hike substitute bill, the Council voted in favor 34 to 4.

For more details, and a list of how council members voted, see a future blog post.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Here's how much Nashville tax revenue goes to developers instead of schools

The Tennessean, July 19, 2018 - The city diverted $9.3 million of property taxes from schools to pay off redevelopment loans — for downtown hotels, luxury condos and other projects. Such diversions have occurred for decades, but in the past two years they've grown quickly. This fiscal year's amount was about $1 million more than expected. (link)

Rod Williams comments: To be fair, some of the development would probably not have occurred  without incentives but one cannot say how much. Still, way to much money is going to developers rather than the city's needs.

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Budget and Finance Committee recommends tax hike budget by 7 to 6 vote. However ...

In a surprise move the Budget and Finance Committee of the Metro Council voted to recommend a tax hike budget. The budget that was expected to be the Council budget that had been developed earlier by the committee shifted some funding but did not raise taxes. That no tax hike budget was sponsored by the Committee chairman Tanaka Vercher.   

The tax hike budget was sponsored by At-large Councilman Bob Mendes and barely won approval by the Committee by a vote of 7 to 6. Under the Mendes budget the tax rate for most property owners would increase by 50 cents which amounts to a 16% property tax hike. That tax hike would generate $150 million which would fund a cost-of-living pay increase for Metro employees and it would fully fund the school board's funding request.

Confusingly, the Council also recommended the no tax hike Vercher budget by a recommendation of 9 to 3.  So, the Committee is recommending both budgets which means the Committee is not making a clear recommendation. With no clear recommendation from the committee, we probably will see a floor fight on Tuesday night. For more details, see The Tennessean's coverage of this development at this link.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Metro's financial woes just got $23 milliion worse.

by Rod Williams - By the way city officials calculate the budget, there is a budget shortage of $34 million. That is to say the city will realize $34 million less in revenue than the city initially thought they would have. $26 million of that is due to successful challenges, mostly by large commercial interest, to the city's recent property appraisals. Another $8 million is due to the city getting less funding from the State for schools due to declining school enrollment.

Despite the city's population growth, there are fewer children being enrolled in Metro Schools. either because there is demographic shift and there are fewer school age children or because more parents are sending their kids to private schools or homeschooling.  It is probably some of both. One would think with fewer children to educate that would be a budget plus. One would think with fewer students to educate, that would save the city money.  The State does not cover the full cost of educating children so it is hard to understand why having fewer students is a hardship  rather than a benefit. If you think like that then you are thinking like a business man or someone who manages a household budget.  That is not the way bureaucrats or the school board or Mayor Bailey thinks about it.

In any event, these two factors constitute a $34 million shortage. In developing the budget, the
anticipated revenues and anticipated expenses have to match.  Most of the revenue comes from property tax and sales tax but there are also many other fees that contribute to the revenue side. Everything from parking tickets to fees for rezoning property and city auto stickers and dozens of other fees contribute to the city's revenue.  In the Mayor's $2.23 billion budget $23 million in revenue is anticipated to come from the sale of three city properties that have been declared surplus. This is one-time money and it is not wise to depend on one-time money for continuing expenses, but that is what the city is doing. This same revenue is also counted in the Council's substitute budget proposed by the Budget and Finance committee.

It is by no means a certainty that these property sales will take place. The three properties are in Edgehill, Green Hills and Charlotte Avenue near Sylvan Park. There are any number of things that could stop these sales. While I do not know the specifics of these three parcels, rezoning could be an obstacle. Often for a prime piece of property to get top dollar it must be rezoned. Often the completion of the sale is contingent upon the rezoning taking place. Rezoning is never a certainty.

There is already serious opposition to the sale of the Edgehill property. This property is a park that adjoins the Edgehill Apartments public housing project. It is the former site of the home of African-American folk artist William Edmondson. He was the son of slaves who became a self-taught artist and was the first African-American artist to be given his own show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His art has been featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Edgehill community has a long history of activism. The Rev. Bill Barnes who was an organizing force in the community pastured the Edgehill Methodist Church from 1966 until his retirement in 1996. He was liberal advocate for affordable housing and other issues affecting the Edgehill community.  The Edgehill community is accustomed to fighting city hall. A few years ago when the city entered into an agreement with Belmont University to share Rose Park with Belmont University in exchange for Belmont's investment in the park, the community unsuccessfully fought the deal. It did happen but it took a while and there were lots of protest and a lawsuit before Belmont won that battle. 

In the last year, the Edgehill community became a leading voice opposing the redevelopment of property that adjoins Fort Negley that was the former home of the Nashville Sounds' Greer Stadium. Fort Negley is near the Edgehill Community. Fort Negley was build by freed slaves forced into labor by the occupying Union army.  Many Blacks endured terrible hardship building the fort and many died. Many in the Black community found it offensive that this site of significance to African-Americans was to be redeveloped rather than incorporated into the Fort Negley Park. When Mayor Briley became mayor, the plan to redevelop the Greer stadium site was abandoned.

The point of the above discussion of the Edgehill community is to say that if the community wants to keep the city from selling off the  Edgehill Memorial Gardens Park, the community will fight. They will not just roll over and play dead. The community has already had at least one community meeting to organize for the purpose of saving the park (link). While I think Nashville does too many things, I like our park system. As Nashville grows, we need more green space not less.

In addition to the political activist of Edgehill, I am sure there are many people like me who will side with those who think selling off park property to balance the budget is not a good idea. I signed petitions and advocated saving Fort Negley and reincorporating the Greer site back into Fort Negley Park and I feel sure I will support saving Edgehill Memorial Gardens. Councilman Colby Sledge who represents the Edgehill area has already come out in opposition to selling off the park.

In stead of making the budget balance by counting one-time money from the sale of pubic lands when that sale looks very doubtful, the city should cut the budget. There is plenty of waste, corruption, and unnecessary spending to cut to make it balance. Also, using one-time money to balance the budget just sets us up for a certain tax increase next year. It is time to get serious about cutting expenses.

For additional source material for this story see the following links: here, here, here, here.

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