Monday, January 21, 2019

Mayor Briley Announces Education "Kitchen Cabinet" To Address MNPS Priority Schools

Press release- Mayor David Briley today announced that he is convening an education “Kitchen Cabinet” to help address the needs of MNPS’ 21 Priority schools.
The Kitchen Cabinet is made up of a diverse set of educators, parents, nonprofit leaders and community advocates from across the city. It will meet three times in early 2019 and make recommendations to Mayor Briley on how the city can better support our lowest-performing schools.
The Kitchen Cabinet’s goals are as follows:

  • Analyze data on Metro Nashville’s Priority schools, including academic performance and strategies to support these schools.
  • Identify promising best practices that support school improvement, including those from other urban districts
  • Gather community input on how to support the district’s Priority schools and how to best leverage the role of the Mayor’s Office
“As mayor, I have a responsibility to ensure our students receive the best possible education,” said Mayor Briley. “My education Kitchen Cabinet will take a collaborative approach to addressing the systemic challenges faced by our Priority schools. At my direction, the group will act with urgency, as we know many students in these schools need and deserve better educational outcomes immediately. I look forward to seeing the group’s recommendations.”
The members of the Kitchen Cabinet:
  • Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS Superintendent
  • Dr. Sharon Gentry, MNPS School Board Chair
  • Harry Allen, Chief Relationship Officer, Studio Bank, MNPS graduate and 2018 NPEF Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
  • Dr. Jarred Amato, Teacher, Maplewood High School
  • Katie Cour, President and CEO, Nashville Public Education Foundation
  • Ericka Myles Dixie, Librarian, Alex Green Elementary School
  • Dr. Vince Durnan, Director, University School of Nashville
  • Chris Echegaray, Community Achieves Site Manager, Whitsitt Elementary School
  • Nancy Eisenbrandt, COO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Bob Kucher, VP of Programs & Partnerships, PENCIL
  • Dr. Watechia Lawless, Principal, Napier Enhanced Option Elementary School
  • Tameka Marshall, Teacher, Norman Binkley Elementary School
  • Erin O’Hara, Executive Director, Tennessee Education Research Alliance
  • Robert Taylor, Director- Men’s Initiative, Tennessee State University
  • Dwayne Tucker, CEO, LEAD Public Schools
  • Derrick Williams, COO, Communities in Schools
  • Tomás Yan, Teacher, Antioch Middle School
  • Maria Paula Zapata, Family Engagement Manager, Conexión Américas
The group’s three meetings will focus on the following: learning about state and district strategies to support Priority schools and identifying promising practices from other districts and across the country to support school improvement. The group will also be tasked with outside data review and reading to prep for each session. The work of the group will inform practices at all MNPS schools, where applicable.

In September 2018, the Tennessee Department of Education released the State’s list of the bottom five percent of schools based on test scores or graduation rates, also known as Priority schools. The list is generated every three years. The following 21 MNPS schools were identified as Priority schools:
  • Alex Green Elementary
  • Amqui Elementary
  • Antioch Middle
  • Bellshire Elementary
  • Caldwell Elementary
  • Cumberland Elementary
  • Gra-Mar Middle
  • Haynes Middle
  • Jere Baxter Middle
  • Joelton Middle
  • Madison Middle
  • Maplewood High
  • McMurray Middle
  • Moses McKissack Middle
  • Robert E. Lilliard Elementary
  • Rosebank Elementary
  • The Cohn Learning Center
  • Tom Joy Elementary
  • Warner Elementary
  • Whites Creek High
  • Wright Middle

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Davidson County Republican Party Reorganization Dates Set!

From The Davidson County Republican Party:
Now that the 2018 elections are over, we must think about the direction of our Party and who will lead us during the next two years.

Pursuant to the Tennessee Republican Party by-laws, every odd numbered year each county party must hold a reorganization to elect its new leaders for the upcoming two year term.

In counties with a population of over 100,000, TNGOP by-laws state that the county must hold precinct caucuses to elect delegates and then hold a convention of those delegates. The delegates will then vote on the members of the County Executive Committee that will serve over the next two years.

Precinct Caucus
to elect District officers and convention delegates
Saturday, February 9, 2019
Nashville Tomorrow Building, 1230 West Trinity Lane, Nashville
Doors open at 9:00 AM and are closed at 10:30 AM

(no one will be allowed to enter building after 10:30 AM)
Caucus to end around 11:30 - 12:00 PM

To attend the CAUCUS, you MUST pre-register by February 2, 2019. Click HERE to register. When registering, you can note if you are interested in running for one of the DCRP executive committee positions, and we will send you additional information.  

To participate, you must meet the two following requirements: 1) Have a valid picture ID (Federal or state issue) with your current address; and 2) Have evidence of voting in two Republican primaries since May 2014. (If you have voted in Davidson County, we will have your data already. If you have not voted in Davidson County since May 2014, you can request your previous election commission to send to you your voting data. You must bring it with you and it must be certified from the County/State that you voted.)

to elect Davidson County Republican Party officers
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Nashville Tomorrow Building, 1230 West Trinity Lane, Nashville
Doors open at 9:00 AM and are closed at 10:30 AM

(no one will be allowed to enter building after 10:30 AM)
Convention to end around 11:30 - 12:00 PM

To attend the CONVENTION, you MUST pre-register by February 9, 2019.  Click HERE to register.  When registering, you can note if you are interested in running for one of the DCRP executive committee positions, and we will send you additional information.  

Only authorized Delegates (to be elected at the Caucus) will be allowed on the floor of the Convention.  

For more information about the County Party Reorganization, please visit our website

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Music City Repubican Women meet Tuesday Jan. 22.

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Despite the rain a bunch of people took part in the anti-Semitic affiliated liberal women's march yesterday here in Nashville

The Tennessean said nearly a thousand rallied in the anti-Semitic affiliated liberal women's march yesterday here in Nashville.  I don't know how many showed up. When a liberal news organ says a thousand attended a liberal cause I normally take 75% of that number as the number who really attended.  When a liberal news outlet says a thousand attended a conservative rally I normally take 125% as the number who really attended.  That is just my rule of thumb. 

Some reporters may be objective and give accurate estimates but I just assume they do not, not that I think they are necessarily intentionally misrepresenting the numbers but their basis cause them to see the crowds differently. I have been to gatherings where I did a systematic estimate and then read the newspapers estimates the next day and have seen they were way off. 

When the press says "nearly" a thousand attended the march,  I have to adjust my rule of thumb by taking about 90% or 75%.  Anyway, that is still a bunch of people for a rainy day.  It is far fewer than the thousands who flocked to march immediately following the President's election in 2016.  That first march was cathartic for those liberals who were in shock that Hillary didn't get elected.  I guess the shock has worn off and people feel less need to vent. Not that they have warmed to Trump but many have simply accepted the reality that his election really did happen.

Also, the failure to purge anti-Semites from the march has caused some to distance themselves from it.  Female liberal leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz has bolted the March over its ties to antisemitism. I assume her stance and the general distaste for antisemitism kept some people away from the march. Still, I assume the crowd would have been much larger if not for the rain.  At the same time as the liberal women's march was going on the inauguration of Bill Lee was occurring on the other end of Commerce Street. The ceremony was supposed to be outdoors on the Legislative Plaza but had to be moved indoors to the Memorial Auditorium. When I attended an afternoon reception for Governor Lee I talked to several people who planned to attend the inauguration but were unable to do so. The War memorial auditorium filled quickly and many who tried to attend could not. I hate that if rained on the inauguration but pleased in rained on the liberal women's march.  The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. 

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President Trump has offered a reasonable compromise to end this partial government shutdown

Sen. Lamar Alexander
by Lamar Alexander - A government shutdown is always the wrong idea. It is the wrong idea under President Trump, just as it was the wrong idea under President Obama. Members of Congress should first remember that when a president who has been duly elected by the people of the United States -- whatever you may think of him or her -- has a legitimate objective, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to accommodate that objective, if we want a result. 

This week, the President proposed a sensible compromise, including relief for “dreamers,” to end this inexcusable government shutdown. It is time for Democrats to respect the president’s reasonable requests for border security including 234 new miles of physical barrier. Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton and George H.W. Bush, with bi-partisan congressional support, built 654 miles of physical barriers along our 1,954 mile southern border. Why is President Trump the only president not allowed to build more wall?

I’m hopeful Congress will pass the President’s proposal and reopen the government. In the meantime, it’s wrong for federal employees to work and not get a paycheck. That’s why I cosponsored the Pay Excepted Personnel Act -- legislation to ensure the over 400,000 federal employees who are required to work during the shutdown can receive their paycheck.

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It was a pleasure to attend a reception for Governor Bill Lee

Governor Bill Lee and Rick Williams  Rick has been an active volunteer in Lee's
campaign and was one of the host of the event and introduced the Governor.
It was a pleasure to attend a reception for Governor Bill Lee this afternoon held at the home of Dr. Ron McDow. Ron McDow is the District 20 Republican State Executive Committeeman. District 20 is all in Davidson County.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the inauguration, the ball or other related events due to the difficulty in arranging a sitter for my wife Louella, but I did have a sitter for part of the day today.

It was nice to see so many friends and meet new people at the event. Some people I see quite often at Republican functions but I got to chat with some people I only occasionally get to see. It was nice to see our new governor speak in an intimate sitting and to meet him. 

Below is the Facebook posting of David Hairston on the event. David is active in conservative causes and is Chairman of Safe Access Tennessee which advocates for medical marijuana.

Thank you, Ron McDow, for opening your home to over 150 conservative Republicans from across Tennessee to celebrate the inauguration of our new Governor Bill Lee. We were blessed to have our new Governor stop by and visit. Great job Rick Williams and Melissa Lening Smithson for helping Ron organize the event. As usual, Joni Schmidt Hargrove and Joni Bryan were there in support and volunteering at the event. I was excited to visit with so many friends from across the State, including but not limited to Suzanne Schoolfield Sapp (Bledsoe County Chairman, Rod Williams (the Disgruntled Republican), Judd Cowan, Mark Pody, Grace King (Red Nation Rising Tennessee) , Aaron Shane, Scott Golden, Julie Hannah, Beth Campbell, Chris Chumley's sweet bride Rachel, Robert Duvall, Jim Jim Roberts, John Wang,  and Connie Allison.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Farewell and Thank You from Govenor Bill Haslam

January 18, 2019

Dear Fellow Tennesseans,
This morning, I walked up the stairs to the State Capitol for the last time as governor, and I can honestly say I felt the same sense of excitement as I did on January 15, 2011.

Every time I climbed those stairs over the past eight years, I’ve looked forward to the work - doing what we could to help improve the lives of Tennesseans.

My hope is that we’ve made an impact.

By changing the culture of expectations around dinner tables, making college free to all Tennesseans and providing opportunities that will change the trajectory of their lives.

By strengthening the K-12 education we offer our children, watching Tennessee students become the fastest improving students in the country because of their hard work and the hard work of their teachers.

By fostering the best possible environment for job creation so businesses can thrive and grow, creating more than 450,000 jobs and maintaining a record low unemployment rate.

By coming out of years and years of federal oversight of the services we provide to children, families and the developmentally disabled.

By changing the way we hire and reward state employees. By being good stewards of taxpayers’ money, tripling the state’s rainy day fund, proposing and signing balanced budgets, including two that had no new debt, and earning the highest rating possible by all three bond agencies.

By putting money back into the pocketbooks of Tennesseans and the private sector, cutting $800 million in taxes.

We’ve faced challenges too, and I always came away newly reminded of and inspired by your resolve and how you come together, Tennesseans helping Tennesseans, to get through the toughest of times.

I leave the State Capitol today with a heart overflowing with gratitude, incredibly thankful for this opportunity that, for some reason, was bestowed upon me.

Lamar Alexander told me shortly after I was first elected, “Being governor of your state is a great job, unless your home state is Tennessee, and then it’s the best job in the whole world.” And he is absolutely right.

Crissy and I are grateful for you calling on us to serve, for giving us the greatest jobs we could ever imagine.


Rod's Comment:

I am immensely pleased with the record of Governor Bill Haslam. Before Bill Haslam's tenure as Governor, anytime there was a ranking of states on almost any metric about all one could say about Tennessee's ranking is, "Thank God for Mississippi." Tennessee usually ranked in the bottom two or three states. Governor Haslam has made me prouder to be from Tennessee than ever before.  We still have a ways to go in some areas but we have made tremendous progress.
I think Governor Haslam is too modest in touting his accomplishments. In some rankings, Tennessee ranks near the top. Tennessee is the state with the least public debt per person in the country. At the same time Governor Haslum cut taxes he reduced the number of state employees by hundreds and instituted reforms that reward employees for performance rather than simple longevity.  Our pension plan is recognized as one of the top 6 strongest pension funds in the United States. 

Governor Haslam may not be the ideologue that some conservative activist would like but he has shown that applying common sense conservative principles to government operations really works. We are fortunate to have had him as governor. I hope that Governor Bill Lee will continue the progress Tennessee has made. 

I thank Governor Haslam for his service to our state and wish him the best in his future endeavors.  and hope he does not retire from public service.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Tennessee: Open for Business, but Open to the Public?

From The Beacon Center - Today, the Beacon Center of Tennessee released a new report on the state of Tennessee’s economic incentive programs and exposed major issues with many of the subsidies.
Below are some of the findings discovered by the Beacon Center:
  • Many companies that receive taxpayer money are not required to hire the number of workers promised. In fact, all 25 FastTrack agreements reviewed in detail by the Beacon Center only required companies to hire 80% of the promised jobs.
  • Companies that received FastTrack Economic and Community Development Grants often did not submit the required documentation on time. In fact, only 51% of the mandated reports detailing the number of new jobs were filed on time. 
  • More than $218 million of tax credits were claimed in 2017 alone, and an even bigger issue is that the state is on the hook for nearly $900 million of tax money for unclaimed credits that will likely be collected at some point. 
  • The city of Memphis and Shelby County are losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been used to improve the city. Beacon researched the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) agency’s Payments in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreements. Beacon found that using only new jobs and investment, EDGE PILOTS overestimated projected tax receipts by a staggering $451 million for Memphis and Shelby County. 
This report actually leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. There are so many incentive deals that are completely confidential and taxpayers have no idea how much of their money is being given to private companies or the return on investment of these handouts. To make matters worse, even when companies are required to disclose the number of jobs created as part of their agreement, some haven’t submitted reports in years. No matter where you stand on economic incentives, everyone should be for transparency when it comes to how our tax dollars are being spent, and our economic development programs fail that basic test.

Below are two solutions from the Beacon Center to improve transparency: 
  • The General Assembly should make all FastTrack agreements subject to accountability agreements with mandatory clawback provisions if companies fail to meet their commitments or fail to comply with simple reporting requirements. 
  • The General Assembly should assess if there are other agencies more suited to enforce these various programs than ECD. This would remove the perverse incentive where the “cheerleader” is also the “referee,” which can lead to inflated expectations and loss of taxpayer money as showcased with EDGE’s PILOT programs.
You can read the full report here.

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There ought to be a win-win to solve the border wall impasse.

Local conservative radio talk show host Ralph Bristol posted an essay on Facebook yesterday that I think is worth reporting here. He writes:

The game of chicken between President Trump and Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer raises the political “chicken” bar to heights never experimented with before in U.S. politics -- for one reason, and one reason only.
When the game is over, either President Trump or team Pelosi/Schumer will be able to raise billions of dollars for the next election cycle by claiming victory over the wall.
As a solution to the problems associated with illegal immigration, the wall is fairly inconsequential. As a capital expense (about 10 times what President Trump is asking for this year), it’s barely noticeable.
But, as a political dividing point, it may turn out to be unparalleled in modern history.
Either President Trump will raise billions telling his big rally audiences “I told you I would build a wall. We’re building a wall, and if you give me four more years, we’ll complete it.”
Or, Nancy and Chuck will tell their audiences and donors, “We told you if you returned us to power in Congress, we would stop that wall and everything it stands for -- and we did.”
One of them will have to admit defeat, and neither they nor their bases are prepared to do that – at least not yet. Political donors and the two party bases love victories and hate defeats, no matter how shallow or deceptive the victory and the methods to achieve it.
This game could last a long time.
I agree with Bristol.  A recent article by Jonah Goldberg in National Review says much the same thing and says the current  government-funding impasse is what happens when all involved treat politics like a movie. Goldberg  said the wall is a "MacGuffin" which was a new term to me but which Goldberg explains is a term of art in screenwriting. "It’s the thing the hero wants but the bad guys are trying to get, and therefore it drives the action of the story. In John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, the Maltese Falcon is the MacGuffin. In Raiders of the Lost Ark it’s the Ark. In Dude, Where’s My Car? it’s the car."

"The border wall isn’t nothing," writes Goldberg, "but in the context of the partisan fight over the shutdown, it might as well be. For those who see Donald Trump as the hero of the story, what really matters is that he triumphs. For those who see him as the villain, what really matters is that he be defeated."

I agree with the point made by both Goldberg and Bristol.  The wall is being blown all out of proportion to the good it will do or, from a liberal point of view, to the damage it will do.  It is just not that significant.  In a follow up comment to his original post, Bristol explains what he meant when he said, “As a solution to the problems associated with illegal immigration, the wall is fairly inconsequential.” Here is what he wrote:
a. It won’t do much to stop illegal trafficking of drugs, since 90 percent of that comes through the ports of entry, hidden in cars and trucks. More is flown into the country in private planes than comes across the open border.

b. It won’t reduce the number of illegal immigrants already here. In fact, if the Democrats ever do agree to a wall, it will include a deal that legalizes at least all of the Dreamers, and probably their family members.

c. It won’t stop the black market in human smuggling, but it will make it more difficult, and therefore more expensive for their customers, and likely even more dangerous and violent.

d. It should reduce the number of people who cross the border illegally, but it’s unclear whether that will have a significant effect on crime. Illegal immigrants commit crimes at about the same rate as the population as a whole. Interestingly, legal immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than the population as a whole.

The most significant impact it will have is to the availability of illegal labor in the future. Those who actually do come here illegally to seek productive minimal employment may be less inclined to take the heightened risk of paying human smugglers. Those who come here for criminal purposes will have to invent new ways to avoid the wall, or make better use of the ways that about 50% of today’s illegal population – by abusing their visas, hiding out and waiting for the next amnesty,

I stand by my argument that the political consequences of who wins the wall fight are much bigger than are the limited strategic consequences.
Again, I think he is right. On his point A, we know very few drugs are carried across the border. They come concealed in vehicles at points of entry, in private planes, private boats, or through tunnels underneath the border.  Supporters of the wall ought to stop using the drug dealer argument.  This is just a fact. The amount of drugs entering the country by people walking across the border is insignificant. If you doubt it, do some research. The facts ought to matter.

Regarding Bristol's point about crime.  I know that when an illegal alien kills someone that is someone who would not have been killed if the illegal alien had been deported or denied illegal entry. I get it.  It is also true, however, that illegal aliens commit crime at about the same rate as American citizens. Some studies show they commit fewer crimes and thus lower the crime rate. Some illegal aliens kill some Americans, but most are not murders. Reducing illegal immigration will have an insignificant impact on the crime rate. We ought to stop "waving the bloody shirt."

I believe we needs some improved or additional border barriers but am not sure that a border wall is the best use of limited resources.  No doubt in some places a border wall would be helpful,  but even Trump has backed down from his campaign promise of building a big beautiful concrete wall from sea to shining sea.  A wall that is not manned will slow down illegal immigrant crossings but will not stop it.

The need for other immigration control and border security measures should be evaluated against border barrier enhancements.  We need more people guarding the border. We need e-verify. If illegal aliens could not find a job when they get here, fewer would make the arduous dangerous journey. We need to prosecute employers who hire illegals. We need more immigration judges so we can quickly adjudicate asylum claims and end search and release. We need to invest in more personnel and technology at points of entry to detect drug shipments. Currently we just do a random sampling searches and most drugs, and some people, enter concealed in vehicles that legally cross the border. We also need to be able to track people who simply overstay a visa.

We also need to recognize that we need some immigration. For one thing, America's fertility rate has been declining for several years. We are not replacing ourselves. Legal immigration can help supply the workers we need to pay into social security and meet the future labor needs of our country.  We also need agricultural workers.  Americans are not going to pick tomatoes in the hot Florida sun for minimum wage.  We need a very liberal guest worker program that does not provide a path to citizenship but allows immigrants to work here.  Many immigrants are not seeking American citizenship they just want a job. We need the labor and immigrants want to supply it.

It seems to me that this current impasse should be solvable. Trump's request is for only $5.7 billion which would only cover about 230 miles of steel fencing. Most people want to legalize the status of the dreamers. A compromise could include amnesty for the dreamers, e-verify and some other immigration controls and maybe half of the amount Trump is asking for a border barrier. Building 115 miles of fencing is half of what Trump is currently asking. Surely there is a need for some additional barrier. Unless Democrats advocate tearing down the hundred of miles of border barrier already in place, they should get off this posturing that walls are immoral.

I understand wanting your team to win, but sometimes we ought to look for a win-win, instead of an I-win-you-lose. Surely, we can find a win-win.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Elect Nick LaMattina Councilman District 29

If you live in District 29, I urge you to vote for Nick LaMattina for Metro Council in the February 12th election. This is a special election to fill the vacancy created when former council member Karen Johnson was elected to the Register of Deeds position.

I have met Nick and believe he is the best candidate running for this office. He is fiscally responsible and is the kind of person we need to help Nashville navigate the city's financial crisis. He will work to support responsible development and will be a strong advocate for his district.

About Nick

Nicola “Nick” La Mattina was born 36 years ago in Brooklyn, New York, to parents who were both immigrants from Italy. They moved to the Antioch area in 1982. He and his wife Marcella have two children, Angelo and Stella.

Nick was raised in Antioch, Tennessee and attended local schools growing up. He received his Associates Degree in Police Science from Nashville State University where he also minored in Administration. Since then, Nick has been a fervent believer in the idea that “education is everything” and he has been a strong supporter of our school system and its PTOs. Nick is also active in his support of Civil Service Employees and their dedication to the district and to their official responsibilities and he has participated in countless youth programs sponsored by the MNPD, Davidson County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments. He has given a great deal of his free time volunteering and demonstrating his martial arts skills to many local charitable events as he has earned several black belts and is a highly disciplined martial arts practitioner.

Nick owns and operates a long established neighborhood pizzeria that has been feeding the area delicious Italian fare for over 40 years. His wife and business partner, Marcella, is also a local business owner who provides Food Service to the private sector.

The La Mattina family is strong believers in Christianity and has been members of the St. Ignatius Church in Antioch for over three decades. Nick has worked with many local churches, no matter the denomination, on numerous fundraisers and charity events.

Nick La Mattina and his family have been active members of the Antioch community for a long, long time. He has given his backing and involvement to our past leadership and he understands where we have been and more importantly, where we are going. Nick has the knowledge and experience to make the right choices for the betterment of all the citizens of this great district.
Early Voting for the February 12 Special Election for Council District 29 begins Wednesday, January 23, and runs through Thursday, February 7. Davidson County registered voters residing in District 29 are eligible to vote in this election.

Early Voting will be available at the Main Office of the Davidson County Election Commission, located at 1417 Murfreesboro Pike, including Tuesday and Thursday evenings and two Saturday mornings. On Election Day, Tuesday, February 12, residents must vote at their designated polling location, listed on their voter registration card or identified at

“Should there be inclement weather during the Early Voting period, we will follow the same schedule as Metropolitan Davidson County Government,” said Jeff Roberts, administrator of elections. “If Metro Government offices close, Early Voting will close.”  

Early Voting Schedule

To visit Nick's Facebook page follow this link. To visit his campaign website follow this

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Metro debt highest in a decade and heading higher.

The Tennessean reports today that Nashville's debt hits levels not seen in a decade. Our debt has grown to the highest point in a decade but this year budget will be the highest debt level since 1992. Nashville made $251.8 million worth of debt payments last fiscal year, up 44 percent from a decade ago. In the same period, property tax revenues climbed 32 percent. With Nashville in a boom time, how can this be?

For one thing, economic growth almost never pays for itself.  With growth, the cost of providing services including new demands on infrastructure increases.  Another factor is that much of the growth does not contribute taxes to the general fund because it was financed by Tax Increment Financing.

Metro has $3.6 billion of outstanding general obligation debt. As the name implies, this debt is a general obligation of the city.  The city has many other debt obligations which are to be paid off by a dedicated stream of revenue, such as water and sewer debt is paid by water and sewer fees.  Metro parking garages are build by borrowing money that is paid off by the revenue generated from parking fees.  The debt for the new planned soccer stadium and the Sounds baseball stadium is paid for by revenue generated by ticket sales. Music City Center debt is paid by a portion of the Hotel-Motel tax.  General Obligation bonds are paid for out of tax revenue dedicated in the annual budget for debt service. Ultimately, however, should a revenue stream not generate sufficient revenue to pay the debt, the city is liable for that debt also.

The Tennessean article explains how we got to this point. In 2010 the city refinanced about $190 million in debt to help get through the Great Recession. This allowed the city to save $77.2 million over the next year and $141 million over three years. The city made interest-only payments for two years. This freed up money that would have gone to debt service and allowed the money to be spend elsewhere and avoid a tax increase. It allowed us to live beyond our means. This is analogous to a household that refinances credit card debt on a new credit card that offers a better deal for a short time.

The city has a Blue Ribbon Commission to look at resolving the budget crisis.  My fear is that the solution proposed will be large tax increase.  Some level of a tax increase may be unavoidable.  Metro employees did not get a promised pay increase this year and there will not be sufficient revenue to give employees a pay increase, pay our debt service and adequately pay for essential services such as police, fire and education unless we engage in some stringent belt tightening or raise taxes. I do not think our liberal council will cut services. 

There are services such as funding for General Hospital that could be cut.  General serves no purpose. Poor people can go to the hospital of their choice and General is not mandated by the Charter or State law, yet there is little appetite to close the facility.  At one time Metro General paid for itself but it cannot fill its beds and is heavily subsidized. Former  Mayor Megan Barry proposed closing General but run into massive opposition and backed down.  Of course, Mayor Barry was distracted by her tax-payer funded affair and her attempt to close General was inept. 

There are other things that could easily be cut, but I don't see the will to do it.  Metro gives millions to private charities each year.  This is not a contract for services and such Metro funding is not mandated, but yet the city does it.  We cannot continue business as usual and pay our debt service, give employees a raise, and adequately fund essential services.  Something has to give. 

This budget crisis is a reason why we need to elect fiscally responsible people to the next Council.  We need council members who are dedicated to holding the line on tax increases, willing to engage in stringent belt tightening, and who will make the long-term changes we need, such as reforming TIF, so we do not have this continuing problem.  We also need to pray for continued prosperity and good fortune for Nashville.  Should we have another crisis such as the great flood or 2010, or the great recession of 2007, or lose a sports franchise we would be screwed.  The city would have no choice except to adopt a massive tax increase.

For those who want a much more thorough understanding of Metro's finances see this report: Comprehensive Financial Report for the year ending 2018.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Beacon Center Pork of the Year award “winner” was former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

In mid-December the Beacon Center released their 13th annual Tennessee Pork Report revealing millions of dollars in government waste, fraud, and abuse ranging from a new taxpayer-funded MLS soccer stadium in Nashville to a Memphis company that was given $5 million just to move across town.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to vote on their choice for the Pork of the Year award, and the “winner” was former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. Mayor Barry wasted over $174,000 in taxpayer money on her extramarital affair, which included paying her bodyguard overtime so that he could take trips with her to places like France and Greece. To make matters worse, she consistently lied to both the press and the public until finally pleading guilty to felony theft.

Other finalists for Pork of the Year included: 
  • $5.5 million of state taxpayer money so that the company ServiceMaster could move from the outskirts of Memphis to downtown Memphis while not creating a single new job.
  • At least $17.5 million for the Wall Street Firm AllianceBernstein to move from New York City to the taxpayer-funded 5th and Broadway Building in downtown Nashville. We say “at least” because we have no idea how much the state and city actually gave AllianceBernstein since the number was blacked out for “privacy” concerns.
  • Tens of millions of dollars in buyouts by the University in Tennessee to pay for their hiring mistakes, including former Chancellor Beverly Davenport, former football coach Butch Jones, and former athletic director John Currie, just to name a few.
The 2018 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars. An electronic version of the report can be found here. Pork Report® is a registered trademark of Citizens Against Government Waste and is used with their permission.

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Metro bureaucratic SNAFU cost short-term rental owners dearly

Metro officials mistakenly issued more than 100 short-term rental permits recently and now will be sending notices cancelling those permits.  I have one relative who operates a short-term rental and another who did so for a short time. To manage a short-term rental is a lot of work and expense. A new lawsuit against Metro Nashville government seeks to block the cancellation.

Barbara Culligan, one of the short-term rental permit holders effected by the mix up and an AirBnB "Superhost," argues that the revocation of her permit "will cause irreparable harm, damage to goodwill, and harm for which money damage cannot fully and adequately compensate," according to the legal complaint filed on Monday in the Chancery Court of Davidson County.  A "Superhost" is someone whose home rental is highly rated by guests. Culligan already has reservations in place through next year.

In my view, Metro should be prohibited from rescinding the permits  but if permitted to rescind they should have to pay hefty damages to everyone affected.

 For more on this story follow these links: link, link.

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Tennessee Democrats vote overwhelmingly to keep Mary Mancini party chair. Congratulations Mary Mancini!

Mary Mancini
Good news for Mary Mancini and Tennessee Republicans. Yesterday the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee overwhelmingly voted to keep Mary Mancini as the Democratic Party chair. For more, follow this link.

She was my choice. Congratulations Mary Mancini!

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Final Update: Report on the Council meeting of 1/3/19: recommends Clemency for Cyntoia Brown, NES bill round-up deferred, ban on street vendors fails, Kid Rock sign approved. affirmative action plan passed.

Above is the video of the Jan. 3rd Council meeting. I usually watch each meeting and provide timestamp notations of the good parts.  I have not watched this meeting. Other political events and life intervened. This was probably a good meeting to watch since several controversial topics were on the agenda. For those who follow the Council closely, you may want to watch this meeting. The below summary is gleamed from news reports and reading of the minutes of the meeting.  To access the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Council members absent from this meeting were Bill Pridemore and Jeff Syracuse.

The Vice Mayor called a special Council meeting to be held on January 22, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. to elect the inaugural members of the Community Oversight Board.

Bills on Public Hearing

Bill BL2018-1357 and Bill BL2018-1358.  Bill BL2018-1357 cancels a Planned Unit Development Overlay District on property located at 3419 Murphy Road and Bill BL2018-1358 changes from ORI-A to SP the zoning on that property to permit a mixed-use development. I happened to be visiting a relative on Richland Avenue back in November and in about a three block section, about half the houses had signs opposing this development. These bills were scheduled for public hearing on Dec. 4, 2018 and Council Member Kindall moved to defer both bills to this the January 3, 2019 public hearing. Bill 1357 is approved and Bill 1358 is deferred again, deferred to the Feb. 5th meeting.. To read The Tennessean's coverage of this issue follow this link.

Bill BL2018-1417  would extend Historic Landmark protection to public interior
Should the interior of  historical places be protected
  This is one of those issues about which I am conflicted. I am a strong advocate of private property rights but am also an advocate of historical preservation. I think a sense of place matters and historical places should not be bulldozed for parking lots. If not for the work of preservationist, Nashville would no longer have Union Station or the Ryman Auditorium. Having a designation of a Historic Landmark does not prohibit a property owner from tearing down a historic property but makes it more difficult to do so. I know some people have such strong opinions that they seldom, if ever, have a conflict. I do sometimes have competing values that come into play when evaluating a public policy matter.  Sometimes, public policy is about striking a balance between competing valid concerns.  I do not yet have an opinion on the merits of this bill, but it is not because I don't care enough to have an opinion but because I am conflicted. This bill is deferred to the Feb. 5, 2019 public hearing

Bill BL2018-1418  also concerns historic preservation. It would require Preservation Permits before any person undertaking any action for or with respect to any structure located within any of the historic overlay districts. This would apply to interior renovations, alterations, repairs, or demolition. If someone purchases a home in a historic neighborhood, they should not have to get permission before they can remodel their kitchen, in my view. This bill is deferred to the February 5, 2019 public hearing.

Bill BL2018-1438 changes from AR2a to RS10 and RM4 zoning for properties located at Bluff Road approximately 930 feet southwest of Nolensville Pike (60.19 acres). I have no opinion on the merits of the bill but am simply calling attention to it because it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. Bills disapproved by the Planning Commission require 27 votes to pass on Third Reading. At the public hearing, people did speak for and against this bill. This passes second reading on a voice vote.
Resolution RS2018-1508 which would encourages a change in the NES policy of collecting contribution to its weatherization program for low income property owners from an opt-in policy to an opt-out policy is deferred again. Currently if your electric bill is so many dollars and so many cents, you may elect to have your bill rounded up to the next dollar and that odd cents amount goes to a fund to pay the cost of low income property owners to have work done on their home such as insulation to improve energy efficiency. This resolution would recommend to NES that they change that policy so that your bill was automatically be rounded up unless you opted out of that process. I adamantly oppose this. Charity should be with informed consent. This policy change would have made it more like robbery. This was deferred to the Feb. 5th meeting.

Resolution RS2019-1541 was a resolution to approve a sign overhanging the sidewalk. Normally these are routine and the council approves several every meeting. To me this seems like something that should administratively be approved rather than every sign that overhangs a sidewalk going before the Council.  The city's concern is that the sign owner have liability insurance for the sign.  Last night the Council did approve  Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk sign but there was some discussion. Some felt the language of the sign was inappropriate. If the language of a sign is not illegal, the council should not get into the business of legislating taste. The council voted 27-3 in favor of the sign. The three members who voted "no" were Cooper, Murphy, and Lee. Voting to Abstain was Mendes, Freeman, and Elrod.

Cyntoia Brown
 Resolution RS2019-1544 requesting that Governor Bill Haslam grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown was approved by a vote of 32 in favor and two abstentions.  The case of Cyntoria Brown has been widely covered by the Nashville and the national media. Brown, as a 16-year-old prostitute,  killed a john by shooting him in the back of the head as he slept. She has been portrayed as a victim of sex trafficking and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna have advocated for clemency on her behalf. Brown has proved a model prisoner and has earned a college degree while in prison. Since this vote Gov. Haslam has granted Brown clemenacy. I opposed this resolution. I don't think the right thing to do is so clear cut in this case, that the Council should be sharing their opinion with the governor. No members voted "no" and Freeman, and Pulley abstained.
Bill defeated on First Reading
Bill BL2019-1474 by Steve Glover which would prohibit vendors from selling anything in the public right of way was defeated.  This bill, if passed, would effectively kill the program where homeless people sell the newspaper, The Contributor. This was on first reading and normally everything passes on first reading and all bills are lumped together and are passed by a single vote.  It is unusual a bill is killed on first reading. These members voted "Yes," supporting Glover on First Reading:  Hall, Swope, Glover, Huezo, and Dowell.  Voting "No," were Cooper, Gilmore, Mendes, Hurt, Hastings, Haywood, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Hagar, Sledge, Allen, O'Connell, Roberts, Mina Johnson, Murphy, Pulley, Elrod, Blalock, Vercher, Potts, Bedne, and Rosenberg. Voting to Abstain was Rhoten, Freeman, Kindall, Lee, and Henderson.
Bills on Second Reading 
Bill BL2018-1439  authorize the Metropolitan Housing Trust Fund Commission to rescind grant contracts and collect funds previously allocated to organizations that fail to execute contractual obligations in a timely manner.  I find this interesting. Apparently some non-profit that was awarded a grant failed to perform or there would be no need for this.  Having worked in the field of non-profit housing, I am curious what the story is behind this. The bill was deferred to the  February 5, 2019 meeting.

Substitute Bill BL2018-1441  After Bird scooters came to town, the Council then came up with some regulation to govern them as well as rental bicycles and other similar devices. At the time, what was passed by the Council said the number of providers of these "shared urban mobility devices, " could not be limited by Metro government. Since then Lime has come to town and a couple other companies have plans to come to Nashville. This bill would limit the number of operators of these devices to four and would require new providers to get a "certificate of necessity."  This bill needs to be defeated. It probably violates the State constitution and it is bad policy. Metro should not be in the business and curtailing technological advancement or protecting existing providers of a service from competition. Bill BL2018-1441 was substituted and several members abstained on voting to substitute and one member voted against substituting. The substitute was then deferred.  I will report on what the substitute does before it is again on the agenda.
Bills on Third Reading. 
Bill BL2018-1419 (as amended)  passed on third and final reading. There were no "no" votes or abstentions.  It passed unanimously. This bill would, in effect, cause Metro Government to give preferential treatment to minorities and women in the awarding of city contracts.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nashville Metro Councilwoman Mina Johnson won't seek re-election

Mina Johnson
District 23 Metro Councilwoman Mina Johnson has announced she will not be seeking reelection. This is good news.  Like most Metro council members Mina Johnson is a liberal. She was one of the council members who voted for a tax increase last year. She also voted for the resolution which would continue the auto emissions testing program in Nashville even though the State says we may discontinue it. 

Mina Johnson is only serving her first term and is eligible for reelection.  It is difficult to unseat an incumbent and if Johnson sought reelection, she would likely  be reelected.  Most of the time, the only chance to replace a liberal council member with a less liberal member is when the incumbent is term-limited and not eligible to seek reelection. 

District 23 includes most of the city of Belle Meade. In the recent governor's election, Dean won the district by a vote of 2172 for Dean and 1672 for Bill Lee.  Considering former mayor Karl Dean had the hometown advantage, that is not a bad showing for Lee and indicates a Republican or someone who is perceived as less liberal could compete in this district. In the House District 56 race, two Council District 23 precincts were in House District 56. In those two precincts, Republican Brent Moody garnered 491 votes and Democrat Bob Freeman got 413 votes. A good Republican candidate could be competitive in this districts.  Council races are non-partisan, of course, and there are few issues which are obviously ideological.  However, in those few occasions on which there is an ideological divide it is important to have a council member who favors fiscal responsibility, government efficiency, holding the line on tax increases, and supports private property rights.  

The next election for Council is August 1, 2019.  The earliest one can pick up a qualifying petition is March 18, 2019.  That is not that far away.  A good candidate needs to step forward and seek this open seat.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

How much did it cost to "rebrand" the MTA as WeGo.

Sometimes I have questions that I don't have the answer to but wish an elected official or the news media would ask. This is one such questions: How much did it cost to "rebrand" the MTA as  WeGo. I have emailed MTA asking this question. If I get an answer, I will share the information.

I would doubt that it cost less than a million dollars. We probably paid a consultant half a million dollars to come up with the brilliant new name. An outside marketing firm probably spend months studying the issue and held focus groups.  MTA then had to repaint all of the buses and redo the signage and website and literature.  Nothing government does comes cheap. It seems like the money would have been better spend on improving service.

Changing the name will do nothing to improve transportation or to entice people who do not now ride a bus to ride a bus.  Instead of wasting time and money on "rebranding," the MTA should be embracing markets and new technology. The future of transportation is not antiquated rail or large empty buses riding fixed routes.

Despite the rebranding, many are still not happy with the MTA. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. Group says Metro bus routes aren't making the grade.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Nashville honky-tonk owners move to flex political muscle

The Tennessean - In a local politics development that could only happen in Nashville, lower Broadway honky-tonk owners have created a political action committee with the goal of impacting this year’s Metro election. .... the massive growth has led to complications for honky-tonk owners, who have complained about policing, trash collection, historic zoning regulations and other issues. ...The Downtowners Committee for Action raised over $20,000 in 2018 and headed into the new year with $18,500. A new round of fundraising solicitations from former Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans, who is helping direct the PAC, went out in recent days. (link)

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Positive Sign for Educational Freedom in Tennessee

Press release, Tennessee Federation for Children - Today the Tennessee Legislature moved to fill several key leadership positions, including: 

  • Rep. Mark White (R-83) will be the Chairman of the House Education Committee. Rep. White has a proven record of supporting student-centered education reforms including public and private choice legislation. 
  • Rep. Debra Moody (R-81) will be the Chair of the Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation Subcommittee. Rep. Moody sponsored the pathbreaking legislation that created the Individualized Education Accounts program, Tennessee’s first education savings account designed specifically for students with exceptional needs. Joining her on the sub-committee is Rep. John DeBerry, Jr. (D-90) who has also been a consistent advocate for parents’ right to choose the best educational setting for their children.
  • Senator Dolores Gresham (R-26) will once again chair the Senate Education Committee. There is hardly a stronger champion of education in the state Senate. Her broad perspective as someone who represents voters from all walks of life is invaluable. She will be joined by a host educational choice champions including Vice Chair Kelsey and Sen. Bell, both of whom know the power of parents choosing the best fit for their children.
Along with positive movement in committee leadership, additional reason for optimism among supporters of school choice: Speaker of the House Glen Casada has been outspoken about the need for a floor vote on educational choice legislation this session. And, under the leadership of Lt. Gov. McNally, the Senate has consistently demonstrated support for school choice. 
Statement from Shaka Mitchell, Tennessee State Director for the American Federation for Children: 
As students across the state returned to school this month, the Tennessee Federation for Children is glad to welcome members of the 111th General Assembly of Tennessee. These members, in conjunction with recently elected Governor Bill Lee, have the chance to lead the nation in passing bold, comprehensive legislation that improves learning outcomes for all students. Today’s committee appointments show the Senate and House leaders’ commitment to utilizing parent choice as one of many tools to strengthen Tennessee communities.

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From Nashville Tea Party:

The ONLY way we get a wall
to secure our Southern Border is to pressure REPUBLICANS
to Stand with President Trump.

Here is the QUICK, Easy way we can help TODAY.

Call 202-224-3121

This is the US Capital Switchboard. You will be asked to press 1 for the Senate and then you will say the STATE name and be connected with one of your Senators. PLEASE call both if you have time.

When the staffer answers, simply tell them you want your Senator to support President Trump and BUILD THE WALL!


You can also EMAIL
Senator Alexander HERE.

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