Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fran Bush under attack for her criticism of Dr Shawn Joseph

Fran Bush
by Rod Williams, 2/20/2019 - The herd mentality of the African-American community is on display here in Nashville in an effort to oust School Board member Fran Bush. Ms Bush who is African-American is one of three vocal critics of Dr. Shawn Joseph on the nine-member elected school board. The other leading vocal critics are Jill Speering and Amy Frogge who are Caucasian.

We know how any politically conservative Black person is treated by the larger African-American community.  A Black person finds it difficult to deviate from Black group-think without being ostracized and denounced. Black conservatives are often denounced as "Uncle Tom."  Even in non-political matters the denunciation of "acting white" is used to criticize Blacks who speak proper English or strive to join the middle-class.  This effort to enforce a sameness and solidarity on the part of Blacks extends to cultural things such as music, fashion, or food.  A Black may jokingly tell another Black person that they will have their "Black card" revoked if they deviate from accepted Black norms. Blacks often rally behind other Blacks even when the person they are rallying behind is a crook or incompetent or an attention seeking loud mouth.  This factor has been on display in the case of Dr. Shawn Joseph.

Dr. Joseph is incompetent and rules the Metro Public Schools like an autocratic old-style boss.  It is reported that he bullies teachers and intimidates critics. He also displays his privileged position by having a chauffeur to drive him where he needs to go in his School Board provided $55,000 Tahoe.  He is the first School Board superintendent to have a luxury car and a chauffeur.  Under his leadership, complaints against employees for misconduct are often not handled in the prescribed manner.  Contracts have been let without bids. He has often misled School Board members about what is going on in the administration of the schools.  For a small sample of some of what the media has reported about Dr. Joseph's questionable conduct and practices follow these links: link, link, link, link, link.

In addition to cronyism, creating a toxic work environment, carelessness or misuse of school funds, and failure to follow State procedures when confronted with misconduct of school personnel, Metro School are failing.  Last year there was a substantial spike in the number of Metro Schools on the Tennessee Department of Education's list of the lowest performing schools.  Also, despite Metro Nashville's population rising, the number of children enrolled in Metro Schools is declining. Many people with children moving to the Nashville area move to a surrounding county where the schools are much better or they send their children to private schools.

In response to criticism of his failure to improve schools and his questionable management practices, Dr. Joseph has played the race card and claimed that the criticism of his administration of Metro Schools was the same product of the factors that led to the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the treatment of other African-American men. Many Black leaders have circled the wagons around Joseph and defended him.  I can see no other reason for protecting him other than the fact he is Black.  Also, many white leaders have been hesitant to criticize Joseph.  There is a tendency on the part of White liberals to bend over backwards to excuse and ignore incompetence  or corruption on the part of Black leaders.  I don't know if it a merely a knee-jerk political calculation or genuine response conditioned by White guilt, but behavior or practices that would be denounced if a White person did it are often overlooked on the part of Blacks.

Fran Bush who is Black has shown courage in standing up to Dr. Joseph and being critical of his administration.  Now, there is an  effort to make her pay for it.  There is an online petition at calling for her ouster. As of 1:30pm today the petition had 232 signature. That is not a huge number but this movement to punish Bush needs to be watched. We do not have a recall provision in the Metro Charter so signed petitions cannot remove an elected official. However, such organized criticism may cause a person to modify their behavior and weaken their resolve to stand by their convictions.  If a person so criticized is concerned about serving more than one term, they may try to make nice with their critics. Also, such an effort may be a warning shot to others they they better not step out of line.  

I have posted a word of encouragement on Fran Bush's Facebook page. You may want to take a moment to encourage her and let her know that she is doing the right thing and you support her. You can find her Facebook page at the highlighted link or email her at


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Monday, February 18, 2019

Is recycling just so much garbage?

by Rod Williams, 2-18-2019 - There have been a couple stories in the press recently about recycling. "Nashville answers call for more recycling with expansion of curbside collection," in the Tennessean says that with the help of a $2 million state grant and a match from the city, Metro will increase the frequency of its curbside recycling collection from once a month to every other week starting next year. This is welcome news, assuming separated recyclables actually get recycled and saves the city money and helps the environment.  I still have boxes of cardboard stored in my basement.  There is just Louella and myself in our household yet we create a lot of waste paper.  I still get the print edition of the newspaper and that generates a lot of waste and I order wine online and it is carefully packed and generates a lot of waste and in December my daughter sent me some gifts via Amazon which produced a lot of cardboard.

The other news item was a Tennessean article by Ms Cheap, "Plastic bags, pizza boxes and other ways you may be messing up your recycling." This provided good information about how contaminating recyclables by things like greasy pizza boxes and plastic bags sabotages the recycling effort and how the city is going to step up its education program to let people know what can and cannot be recycled. I would think this is a wise move, if I believed it mattered. What the article did not address and what I don't know is this: Does it all end up in the landfill anyway?

In the last year, I have seen several news reports and read several articles that said that China had drastically reduced the amount of waste paper they were accepting from the U.S.  Some of the stories said the U.S. was finding other markets in India and a few other third world countries.  Then I started seeing stories that China and India had also stopped accepting plastic. One article said that Thailand was still accepting plastic but had such a large inventory, they were contemplating ending the practice. Reports also said that several cities have ended up unable to sell their recylables and ended up simply land-filling them.

Markets are broad-based. If any single city is having a problem disposing of their recyclables then, the problem must be effecting all cities.  Maybe, a city can benefit from having long-term contracts but eventually if Sacramento County, California is having problems disposing of their recyclables, Nashville will have the same problem. 

To find out the status of Metro's recycling program, in November of 2018, I wrote the following letter to the chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee and a similar letter to my own councilman:
Dear Councilman _____,  

I am seeking some information that I hope you have or can get for me.  As chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee I thought you may be the person best informed on this topic.  I am wanting to know the current status of Metro's waste recycling program. There was a USA Today article in today's Tennessean that addressed the problems facing recycling. If you didn't see it you can find it at this link:Will those holiday gift boxes actually get recycled? Um, maybe.  In our newspaper it was headlined, "Changing times create big trouble for recycling," but it is the same article.

According to this article, in Sacramento County, California a year ago the city was getting paid up to $95 a ton for mixed paper and now it is getting as low at $6.50. Whereas the county was getting paid $45 a ton for plastics, now they have to pay $35 a ton to get a recycler to take it away. Other things I have read say that some firms are getting much more picky about the recycling material they will accept.  Also the future looks gloomy for recycling, since China takes most of America's recyclables and the trade conflict with China may impact China's willingness to keep purchasing it. 

What I would like to know is what change has there been in what we are paid for a ton of materials  (paper, tin, aluminum, plastic) in the past as compared to now.  I know recycling saves landfill disposal cost and that is a benefit. Have we gone from recycling being a net financial benefit to the city to it being a net liability?

Any light you could shed on this topic, would be appreciated.

Rod Williams
 My letter was referred to Public Works and got the following correspondence:
Mr. Williams,
Recent changes in how China accepts the importing of recyclable material has impacted cities and counties across America.  While Nashville’s recyclables do not tend to go overseas, the local US markets have been flooded with material no longer accepted in China which has made those local US markets more competitive.  The biggest impact we have seen in Nashville is issues regarding contamination.  Metro has to be much more vigilant in educating residents about contamination in our recycling.  A recent audit of our curbside recycling showed that a lot of residents are putting plastic bags and plastic bags full of recyclables in curbside recycling carts.  This has become concern as the bags (and their contents) can get stuck in sorting equipment, damage the equipment and ultimately end up in the trash.  Highly contaminated loads of recyclables may have to be run through the sorting equipment more than once and this does increase processing costs.  Public Works has started auditing routes, placing tags on carts with plastic bags and bagged recyclables, posting information on social media and providing information to our elected officials and neighborhoods on the problems with contamination.  At this point, Metro has had no change in processing costs but we are having conversations with our contractor and our costs may increase in the future.    
Please feel free to call or email with any other questions.
Sharon Smith, Assistant Director
While this was helpful it did not exactly address what I asked, so I followed up with a more specific request for information.
I recently spoke to someone who appears knowledgeable who told me that in actuality Nashville curbside recyclables end up in the landfill.  I understand that due to contamination, some recyclable may be unmarketable and that some may have to be disposed of by landfilling.  However, this person seemed to say that land filling of recyclables was routine and not isolated or not just a minor component. Could you please answer for me the following questions:

1. What approximate percentage of material collected by the curbside recycling program ends up in the landfill?

2. Are we paying to have someone take recyclables off our hand or are we getting paid for recyclable material?

3. If we are getting paid, what is the unit price being paid for various types of material, such as paper, aluminum, tin, plastic?

4. When is the last time a cost-benefit analysis has been done of our curbside recycling program?

5. Compared to household solid waste disposal, is the curbside recycling program a net cost or a net gain for the city.

Thank you, I look forward to your response.
Rod Williams
After another vague response, I again asked for specifics:
Dear Ms Smith,

Thank you for that information.  If you could answer for me the following I would appreciate it. How has the more stringent standards on contamination affected the bottom line on the economic effectiveness of metro's recycling program. Are the processors of Metro's recyclable products rejecting just a little more than before or a lot? Are the rejecting 10% of our recyclables or more like 90%?  How big is the problem?

Also, is Metro's recycling programs a net financial benefit or a net financial loss? Do we have to pay to have recyclables taken away or to we get paid for them?

If we are paid, what is the price for various types of recyclable material?

If there is a study or documents that summarizes the status of metro's recycling program, I would welcome receiving a copy of it. 

I never did get specific answers to my questions. If I was a paid journalist with an assignment, I would be more pushy or if I was a Metro Council member asking these questions I would demand answers.  I let it drop. I suspect if the news was good, Public Works would have been forthcoming with an answer.  Based on what I read about the status of recycling nationwide, the non-answers to my questions, and what I have been told by someone who may know, I suspect that when you carefully separate your garbage from your recyclables that it then all ends up in the landfill anyway. I don't know that for an absolute fact, but suspect it is so. If you faithfully recycle, I am not suggesting you stop doing it but don't feel so vitreous. It is probably a wasted effort. It probably ends up in the same place.

If there is a council member or a member of the press who is curious about answers to the questions I have asked, I would encourage you to seek those answers.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Nashville is 14th most dangerous city in America

by Rod Williams, Feb. 17, 2019 - If you have an impression that crime is getting really bad in Nashville, it is not an illusion.  Often in can be. Media focuses on crime and a few bad episodes, such as the horrific murder of a 24-year old musician by five teens last week, can cause one to think crime is worse than it really is.  However, it really is bad. 

According the travel site EscapeHere, Nashville is the fourteenth most dangerous city in America.  According to the report: "In the year 2017 there were 110 homicides in the Nashville metropolitan area. Also, the crime rate was 1,138 per 100,000 residents and the poverty rate sat at about 18-percent. The murder rate in this city is so bad that the Oasis Center of Nashville which works to help at risk youth in the area called it an epidemic, according to 24/7 Wall St."

Cities with a worse crime rate than Nashville include Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois;  Baltimore, Maryland and the most dangerous city in America, St Louis, Missouri.  Also, surprising to me, two other cities with worse crime than Nashville and among the most dangerous cities in America are Memphis as the second most dangerous city in America and Chattanooga at number 7.  For three Tennessee cities to be among the nations top 14 most dangerous does not speak good for our state. Crime however is a local problem and the state government can not do much to combat it.

Among cities that one may think of as dangerous cities but actually rank as less dangerous than Nashville, is Newark, New Jersey at number 22.  I have a daughter who lives in New Orleans and I have visited the city several times. I love New Orleans.  In many ways it resembles a third world country and it has long had a reputation of a dangerous crime-ridden city. New Orleans is not near as dangerous as Nashville however. It ranks as the 24th most dangerous and it has a violent crime rate of 1,121 per 100,000 residents and 157 homicides. The poverty rate of the city was 26.2-percent. 

None of the cities with which we are often compared such as Austin, Texas or Charlotte, North Carolina  or Raleigh-Durham are on the list.  Neither is Atlanta on the list. Note that the study is called 25 Most Dangerous Cities In The US In 2019, but the data being analyzed is 2017 statistics.  My impression is that crime is considerable worse in Nashville now than two years ago.  It may be an impression that is false but it sure seems to me that things are getting worse.  I also have the impression that whereas in the past, a lot of the crime was Black on Black crime, now it is more general throughout the community. Also, I have had an impression that in the past most crime was either related to interaction between people who knew each other, such as domestic violence crime, or due to things like drug deals gone bad.  Now, there seems to be many more random acts of violence and targeted crime. A front page article in today's Tennessean report that gun thefts from cars was up 85 percent in two years.

We know that cities can be safe and big at the same time. We should not just accept that Nashville has a high crime rate.  Something shoud be done. We know that our police department is undermanned.  I hear complaints when talking to members of the community who are in a position to know, such as councilmen and lawyers, that for non-emergency interactions with the police such as reporting minor crimes, that there are long waits.  Also, the growth in the police department has not kept pace with the growth in tourism and population. 

To address our rising crime, we need new leadership in Nashville, including a new mayor and new council members who will prioritize essential services. Also, while I think Chief Anderson is a good man, it may be time for him to retire. We may need new leadership at the police department.  Since the Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the mayor, a police chief can only be so vocal in calling attention to the needs of his department, but Chief Anderson could do more to highlight the growing problem of crime in Nashville. Crime is becoming a major problem in Nashville and we need to treat it as such.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

The "Green New Deal" is a Green Disaster

Rep. Phil Roe
by Phil Roe - Elections have consequences. Under the House Republican majority in the previous Congress, we focused on creating jobs, growing the economy, improving our security, taking care of our veterans, and making America energy independent.  Now that House Democrats have the majority, they have replaced our agenda with an agenda much more closely aligned with socialist principles and government control over all aspects of life. As President Trump pointed out in his State of the Union speech, history is littered with examples of the destruction caused by socialism, with Venezuela being the most recent. No document better lays out Democrats’ embrace of socialism than their recently-introduced “Green New Deal.”

The resolution, H.Res. 109, has the support of 68 House Democrats and 12 Democrats in the Senate on their version. Senate Democrats supporting this resolution include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), among others. The resolution puts forth a goal for the United States to meet 100 percent of the U.S. power demand using zero-emission energy sources. This would require stopping the production of oil, natural gas, and coal – three of our most abundant energy sources and the energy sources that power 80% of our economy. The resolution also calls for updating or replacing ALL U.S. buildings, and calls for “guaranteeing a job . .  for all people of the United States.”

Some of their proposals are far too extreme and unrealistic to achieve in their 10-year goal. For instance, the resolution calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions” and “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), put out a FAQ along with the resolution to illustrate some of the policies the resolution calls for. The FAQ states they “aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast,” - you can’t make this stuff up! Why on earth would anyone want to eliminate air travel or livestock from our agricultural system?

Here’s the most troubling part of the Green New Deal: it’s not about climate change, it’s about centralizing control of our economy with the government. Within the FAQ, the bill’s sponsors indicate the goals of the new deal include: providing “economic security for all who are…unwilling to work;” to “create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs;” “guaranteeing…higher education;” and to “ensure a just transition for all communities and workers…that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries.”

Their plan to pay for this legislation is through credit extended by the Federal Reserve or by new public banks, or a carbon tax. California’s failed plan to build a high-speed rail is a prime example of how this “deal” would bring devastation to our country. The rail was estimated to exceed $77 billion in costs by the time of completion, and since abandoning the project, California has to return $3.5 billion to the federal government. The Democratic resolution isn’t a “green dream”, as Nancy Pelosi called it – it’s a green nightmare and a socialist fantasy.

If we are interested in reducing emissions, local communities are already leading the way with commonsense changes that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are good for the economy and taxpayers at the same time. While I served on the Johnson City Commission, including my time as Mayor, we worked to cap the gas coming out of our landfill – which is made up of methane – and used it to heat and cool the Mountain Home VA Medical Center instead of burning the methane off into the atmosphere. For that, we received a national award from the EPA. We also audited all our public buildings for energy efficiency and established a ‘Green Team’ that could work with entities to find ways to help them be more environmentally friendly. Johnson City was the first municipality in Tennessee to offer curbside recycling, and we replaced stoplight and streetlight bulbs with energy efficient bulbs that save energy and taxpayer dollars.

I’m all for solutions that will leave our children and grandchildren a healthier planet, but the extreme Green New Deal is not the answer.

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

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Democratic lawmakers propose reforming Tennessee Democratic Party structure

Democrats in the State legislature have filed a bill to change the structure of the State Democratic Party.  Currently, the Party's State Executive Committee is composed of committee members from each State senatorial district with each district having the same number of people on the Executive Committee. The bill's lead sponsor in the Senate is Jason Powell.

The bill does not mandate how the Committee should be restructured but calls for the Party to have a state-wide convention to do so.  The argument for doing this is that the current structure gives Democrats in overwhelmingly Republicans Senatorial Districts the same number of votes in determining Democrat policies as do Democrats in heavily Democratic Senatorial districts. That is not considered fair.

I am totally in favor of the proposed change. It is fair.  And, it will tilt the party even further to the left with intercity Blacks, progressives, socialist, and younger people having a stronger voice in the party. This will quicken the pace at which sensible old style "conservative" Democrats realize they are no longer at home in the Democratic Party.  They will realize that the new socialist Democratic Party is not their daddy's Democratic Party and it is time to migrate to the Republican Party.

For more on this, follow this link.

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Senator Lamar Alexander: Trump's declaratiion of National Emergency is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution

Lamar Alexander
Senator Lamar Alexander - The president has made a strong case for increased border security, but declaring a national emergency is unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It is unnecessary because significant additional money already has been approved by Congress that he could spend on border security without declaring a national emergency. In fact, the president announced today that he would spend $3 billion of this additional funding to fund construction of the border wall. This $3 billion is in addition to the $22 billion Congress appropriated on Thursday for detention beds, technology, border patrol agents, ports of entry, replacing existing wall and 55 miles of new wall.

It is unwise because if this president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next president can declare a national emergency to tear it down; or declare a climate change emergency to close coal plants and build wind turbines; or a health care emergency and force into Medicare the 180 million Americans with health insurance on the job.

It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution because, after the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

A $23 million hole in the Metro budget as land sales fail

by Mike Reicher, The Tennessean - Nashville Mayor David Briley’s attempt to plug a $23 million budget shortfall by selling publicly-owned real estate isn’t going so well. 

One sale was scrapped by community opposition. Another parcel attracted just a single bidder and sold well under the appraised value. A third received no bids at all. .... Briley hasn’t said how he will cover the year’s operating expenses without the proceeds,... At-large councilman John Cooper criticized how the city sold the parcels through its online auction platform. That system is typically used to dispose of unused office furniture, school buses and other surplus city property. 

Rod's Comment: To summarized the rest of the article, one reason we could not sale the property in addition to trying to sell it on a webpage normally used to sell surplus office furniture, is that the city required the sale to close within 30 days. Usually a lot of due-diligence goes into such a sale on the part of the buyer and such a sale would take six months to close. Also, Metro requires ten percent down which is about double what would be required in a normal sale.

Selling property to fund operating budgets is a bad idea. Using one-time money for reoccurring expenses is just not wise. We have been terribly mismanaged and continue to be. We are having massive cost overruns on projects, we are paying consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars on days they spend socializing with Metro officials, we let contracts without taking bids, we spend $60 million dollars to build three and half miles of sidewalk, and we give million of dollars in "incentives" to one of the richest companies in the world. At the same time all of this is happening, we are understaffed in police protection, our roads are falling apart, we have not added new fire halls to reflect the city's growth, Metro employees could not get a promised cost of living raise, and our schools are failing.

It is time for a change in leadership and new mechanisms need to be put in place so it is less easy to hide mismanagement and corruption.

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A President Trump Happy Valentine's Day

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When Cities Go To War: Why Tax Incentives Are 'Terrible' | Think | NBC News

This short video from NBC news, obviously not a hotbed of libertarian dogma, explains that you cannot create wealth by purchasing jobs and that the hype of the benefits of attracting the new company rarely lives up to the expectation.  The basic unfairness of taxing existing local business to subsidized new arriving wealthy companies is stated.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

MNPS faces morale crisis, confidential report warns

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Metro School Board Members Call For Outside Investigation, As Questions Surround Director

WPLN - During Tuesday night's school board meeting, several members said there ought to be an extensive independent investigation into whether the Metro Nashville Public Schools Director, Shawn Joseph, violated purchasing rules in his business contracts with vendors.

This discussion comes after the Metro Audit Committee voted to rejected an audit that had been favorable toward the director. ... Mark Swann, Metro's chief audit executive, agrees his team's review was limited in scope. .... (link)

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Robert Nash Will be a Candidate for the Metropolitan Council District 27

Robert Nash
From Robert Nash - Nashville has been a wonderful place to live and work. My family has loved our McMurray Hills neighborhood. Barbara and I were very blessed to raise our three children here since our move in 1978. We have seen much growth and many changes in that time, but the warmth, friendship and support of our neighbors have been constant.

I had a great career at the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department where I served for 33 years and retired as Commander of the East Precinct. I am eternally grateful to the citizens of Nashville for that opportunity.

Public safety will certainly always be a priority interest for me. However, our city faces many issues that need the urgent attention of the Metropolitan Council – responsibly managing our growth, creating first class schools, easing traffic congestion, building affordable housing, being fiscally responsible, and maintaining and expanding our aging infrastructure.

My promise to the residents of District 27, if elected, is to do all that I can to keep our neighborhoods welcoming places in which to live, work and play. It would be an honor for me to give back to the community that has given so much to me and my family.

A more formal announcement will be issued when the campaign is officially launched.

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Dr. Joseph plays the race card in response to criticism over no bid handouts to cronies

by Rod Williams - At Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Dr. Shawn Joseph played the race card and said criticism of his administration of Metro Schools was the same product of the factors that led to the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the treatment of other African-American men.  "What we know is fear is a mind killer," said Dr. Joseph as pictures of Martin and others were shown on monitors around the board room.

At the heart of the recent controversy was recently uncovered evidence by NewsChannel 5 Investigates about companies that got no-bid contracts under Joseph's administration and how his administration misled the board about key details. His primary critic was School Board member Amy Frogge. School Board Chair Sharon Gentry defended Joseph.

For an understanding of the mood at the School Board, here is a description of what happened as reported on the blog Dad Gone Wild:

After the board opened the floor for comments on the recently completed audit/investigation by the Metro Government audit department, board member Amy Frogge read in a dispassionate voice a long list on transgressions that included several instances of laws being broken and board policy not adhered to. All of the charges included extensive supporting documentation.

At the end of her speech, comments from fellow board members focused not on fixing the problems of financial fidelity, but rather how the board could avoid continuing to be viewed as dysfunctional. There was little concern expressed about addressing an apparent inability to follow procedure and protecting taxpayer investment. Instead, the impetus was clearly on cleaning up the board’s image so that they could procure more of that taxpayer money.
I have been  impressed by School Board member Amy Frogge  in  her effort to expose corruption and mismanagement at Metro Schools.  Ms Frogge has not been one of my favorite school board members.  I am in favor of charter schools and Ms Frogge has been a consistent critic. However, Ms Frogge has risen in my esteem due to her persistence in opposing cronyism and mismanagement on the part of the current school administration. 

For more on this story see the followng from News Channel 5: Contract questions continue to haunt Metro School Board, Analysis: MNPS audit leaves unanswered questions,
 and MNPS official failed to disclose consulting fees from vendor group. For anyone who wishes to stay informed about Metro School issues, I would recommend following the blog Dad Gone Wild. It is a consistent good source of information and analysis.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Briley dips into reserve funds for over-budget fairgrounds buildings

A project has a cost overrun!

 When will we every learn that almost ever government construction project has a cost overrun. A good rule of thumb is to assume the true cost of a project is one and half times the official original estimate.  Some government projects are multiple times the original estimate.  A cynic may be inclined to believe that projects are purposely low-balled in order to get legislative approval and public acceptance knowing the real cost will be much higher.

This latest Metro cost overrun of a project is for  the new Expo Center buildings at the Nashville Fairgrounds. It was initially supposed to cost $25 million and that is the amount the Council approved. Now, the projected cost of the Expo Center project is estimated to be $37.6 million. Mayor David Briley is dipping into a contingency fund for $5 million more than what was appropriated by the Metro Council for the project.  While this is an expenditure for replacing some of the old buildings at the Fairgrounds, which need upgrading, this was part of the soccer stadium deal and most likely it would have been less costly to upgrade the fairground building if not for the soccer stadium. If I were a cynical person I would suspect that cost were manipulated to make the soccer stadium deal look less bad for the city.

For more details, follow this link.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

If you contract with a disabled, Black, lesbian owned firm, do you get to check four boxes?

If you are a procurement officer with Metro government and you contract with a small business that is owned by a disabled, Black, lesbian, do you get to check four boxes?

Nashville is the first city in the South to recognize LGBT-owned businesses in contracting.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Gays to also get affirmative action in Metro contracting

Mayor  Briley Signs Historic Executive Order For LGBT-Owned Businesses, Affirms Inclusion As Recognized Category For Metro Procurement

Metro press release, 2-11-2019 - Mayor David Briley today signed an historic executive order for LGBT-owned businesses, affirming their inclusion as a recognized category for Metro Procurement. By signing the executive order, Mayor Briley makes Nashville the first city in the South to recognize LGBT-owned businesses.  

The signing is part of Mayor Briley’s mission to have Metro Government reflect the diversity of Nashville in its hiring practices, contracting and economic development opportunities, and through the delivery of equitable programs, services, and policies.
“It’s my job as Mayor to make sure that everyone in our city, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has equal access to economic opportunities,” said Mayor Briley. “Today, we’ve taken an important step towards better equity for LGBT-owned businesses in Nashville. I am proud to sign this executive order and look forward to seeing these Nashville businesses flourish.”

The executive order charges the Metro Purchasing Agent with the following:

  1. Modifying the business registration documents related to procurement to allow for self-identification as an LGBT-owned business.
  2. Developing a process to acknowledge LGBT certification and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as the certifying entity, in collaboration with the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce as their local affiliate.
  3. Monitor and track usage of LGBT-owned businesses in the procurement of goods and services for the Metropolitan Government.
  4. To the fullest extent permitted by Tennessee law and the Metropolitan Code, provide LGBT-owned businesses with similar programs and services as those offered to Minority, Service Disabled, Small, and Women-owned businesses in Davidson County to ensure such businesses are familiar with how to do business with the Metropolitan Government and are informed about procurement opportunities.
The executive order will result in consistent provision of critical capacity-building services for all vendors as well as Metro’s better understanding of the firms with which it does and could do business. By tracking LGBT-owned and certified businesses – and the contracts they bid for – Metro will be able to better understand the availability of LGBT firms and assess if it is contracting with them equitably. This change also sets the foundation for LGBT firms to be included in future official disparity studies.

“We are thrilled that Mayor Briley signed this much-needed executive order today,” said Joe Woolley, CEO, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “This has been at the top of our advocacy list for quite some time. Mayor Briley embraced the idea and even put in a $25,000 grant to the Chamber so we could grow LGBT-certified businesses that were ready to do business with Metro. We are proud to see Nashville become the first city in the South to recognize LGBT-certified businesses.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Briley and of our local affiliate chamber, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, LGBT entrepreneurs in the Nashville region will now have the opportunity to create jobs and develop innovations that benefit all who live there,” said NGLCC Senior Vice President Jonathan Lovitz. “We are excited to see LGBTBEs from all different fields help grow the economy of Nashville and beyond.” 

“This is a special day not just for my business and my employees but for me personally,” said Jack Davis, Founder of Good Neighbor Festivals. “My company prides itself on creating meaningful experiences, building communities, and bringing people together around shared interests. By signing this executive order, Mayor Briley has lifted Nashville up to a higher standard, deciding that in order for our city to truly succeed, we must build a more inclusive and loving community. Today marks a special moment in Nashville’s history, and one I won’t soon forget.” 

Today’s executive order is Mayor Briley’s latest step to spread economic opportunity and prosperity in Nashville to all people. The Mayor’s leadership in creating the Minority Business Advisory Council, the Equal Business Opportunity ordinance and Nashville GRAD are earlier testaments of his commitment to ensuring our city’s growth doesn’t leave anyone behind. 

Councilmembers Voice Support For Mayor Briley's Executive Order

Councilmember Nancy VanReece: When I moved to Nashville in 1986, I came as a small business owner and in my first decade here launched six additional successful startups. In 1998, I was one of the original members of what is now known as the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Gay-owned small businesses like mine were not counted in disparity studies or offered assistance from organizations like the NGLCC. That stops now. As the first out woman elected to a legislative body in the State of Tennessee, I couldn’t be more proud of Nashville today, and I thank Mayor Briley for his leadership.

Councilmember Tanaka Vercher: As a city government, we must always strive to make sure we are representing everyone in our community. The executive order Mayor Briley signed today will allow LGBT-owned businesses in our city to have a fairer shake when it comes to doing business with Metro. It’s an honor to be here today as we continue to make Nashville a more diverse and equitable place for all who live here.

Councilmember Brett Withers: LGBT entrepreneurs and business owners played a pivotal role in revitalizing the historic neighborhoods in District 6 and greater East Nashville. Many were also pioneers in establishing the nascent Five Points Business district that today sustains residents and attracts visitors from around the world. As one of two out LGBT Councilmembers, I introduced pro-business legislation that changed Metro’s Codes to expand access to unisex bathroom facilities in Davidson County. I am proud of our city’s history of promoting inclusivity and appreciate Mayor Briley’s bold action to recognize the importance of our LGBT business owners.

Rod's Comment: We know how programs like this really work.  Agencies of Metro will be judged on how "inclusive" and "diverse" they are in their contracting programs and agencies will have to do periodic reports showing what percentage of their contracts were awarded to the preferred minority class.  This system ends up discriminating against one who is not in the preferred class.  If you are a person responsible for awarding contracts, you do not want to be identified as one who is hiring minority contractors at a rate lower than their representation in the community, so if you have two equally qualified and competitive companies submitting bids and you are low on contracts awarded to women or Blacks, you will be tempted to award the contract to the minority-owned firm.  This encourages quotas and reverse discrimination.

I do not know how this would work in treating LGBTQ people as a preferred class.  Not all gay people fly the gay flag.  It might be that they are gay or bisexual but it is not something that dominates their identity.  There sexual preferences may be a strictly private affair that they keep to themselves.  One can't tell a person's sexual orientation by looking at them. If one, a long time ago, had a single homosexual encounter, can he claim bisexual status?  What if one never had a homosexual encounter but briefly thought about it? Just as Elizabeth Warren identified as American Indian to advance her career interest, it may be beneficial for contractors seeking Metro contracts to identify as bisexual.  That is not something anyone could ever disprove.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Report from the Davidson County Republican Party Convention.

Davidson County Republican Party Executive Committee, left to right: Tim Herndon, Assistant Treasurer; 1st Vice-Chair Jim Garrett; 2nd Vice-Chair Chase Montgomery; Chairwomen Mellisa Smithson;  Erin Rogus, Communications Secretary; John Shorter, Treasurer; and Mark Woodward, Recording Secretary.

by Rod Williams - Over 100 Nashville Republicans came together to elect the next Davidson County county leadership team yesterday, Saturday Feb. 9th.  They are pictured above.  To all of those elected, "Congratulations," and thank you for your willingness to serve.

The event was held at 1230 West Trinity Lane, a spacious meeting venue which was previously a church. Attendees had to preregister and the party reviewed the application to ensure they were really Republicans.  When attendees arrived they had to show their identification and then were issue credentials.  Doors opened at 9:30 and the meeting started at 10:30.  I arrived about 9:50 and check-in was quick and easy so I had time to enjoy coffee and donuts and socialize.

The meeting featured several speeches including comments from the head of the Election Commission who explained the structure of the Commission and who made a plea for Republicans to work as poll workers.  We heard a passionate speech from Councilman Steve Glover urging Republicans to run for council and urging Republicans to support and help elect Republicans seeking those seats. Melissa Smithson spoke about the activities and successes of the Party in the last two years. Unfortunately I had to leave early shortly after the voting for Chair ended.  I had a sitter for my wife Louella, who is an invalid, and I had not anticipated the meeting would last as long as it did and my sitter could not work past 12:30.  I did not miss much however, but would have enjoyed some additional socializing after the meeting.

I had anticipated that yesterday was the caucus and next weekend was the convention.  That is the way it has worked in the past and I was unaware of  changes that had been made that now made the convention a one-shot deal.  The caucus is done away with. I approve of the changes. 

Under the old system, the county was divided into 35 separate groups corresponding to Council Districts. Each group was allotted a certain number of delegates based on a formula that gave more seats to those districts which voted more Republican.  The problem with this is that in some districts people who wanted to participate in the convention were not permitted to.  If a district was assigned ten seats and twelve people showed up to participate from that district, two could not. They could be alternates but could not vote at the convention.  More often than too many people attending for the number of allotted seats, some districts did not have enough people attend to fill the number of seats the district was allotted. Another problem with the old system is that many people cannot give two Saturdays in a row to the Party.  That was difficult for me due to my situations getting a caregiver for Louella.  This new system is much better and simpler. If so many people wanted to participate that it was unmanageable, then the district caucus system would make sense, but that has ever been a problem. 

While Davidson County is predominantly Democratic, it is not a lost cause. We do have a Republican State senator and several representative districts in Nashville are competitive. It is important to hold the elective seats we have and to compete for those that are winnable.  The Party also works on issues, such as saving the Fairground, opposing the Police Community Oversight Board, and opposing the transit referendum.  The party also provides lots of workers for phone banks in national and state elections and helps Republicans running in other counties. And, the party works to identify and help Republicans seeking election to the non-partisan Metro Council.  I wish the Party would find serious qualified candidates to run for some of he various court house offices and judgeships.  Unfortunately, in Davidson County, the Democratic primary determines the outcome of the election  of all courthouse offices and judicial seats.  I don't know what it would take to change that and maybe it can't be changed anytime soon.  Republicans are the minority in Nashville but we still need a strong party and need to keep fighting. To those willing to lead the Davidson County Republican Party, "Thank you."

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

I am the proud grandfather of a baby boy.

On a personal note:

I am the proud grandfather of a baby boy!

On Tuesday February 5th, my daughter Rachel Anne Williams Bennett gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  His name is Cova New Bennett and he weighted 8lb and 1 oz and was 20 inches in length.  He is the prettiest baby you have ever seen!

Rachel is married to Joshua Bennett and they live in New Orleans and have lived there about five years, moving to New Orleans shortly after they got married. Cova was born at 10AM on Tuesday.  I flew down and was there by about 5PM and got to hold my new grandson.  I spend the night and visited the hospital again the next day and flew back to Nashville Wednesday evening. Due to my wife being an invalid and needing constant and total care, it can be difficult to get away.  I appreciate Louella's care giver, Sue Deuss, for working around the clock so I could make the trip. I am so glad I did not miss this glorious event. I hope I get to return often to see him as he grows, even if my stays are short.

Rachel is my only child and I was beginning to think I was not going to be a grandfather. I am so happy!

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Metro council decides not to censure former Mayor Megan Barry.

Megan Barry
Feb. 9, 2019 - Last Council meeting there was a resolution before the Council to censure former Mayor Megan Barry. The Metro Board of Ethical Conduct in December recommend the Council do so. However, the Rules and Confirmation Committee of the Council voted 6 to 1 to recommend that the Council defer indefinitely that proposal. That is the normal process for killing a resolution. Seldom is something killed outright but instead is differed indefinitely.  On the floor of the Council, the sponsor of the resolution, Councilwomen Antoinette Lee,  moved to withdraw the resolution and that was accomplished with only At-large Councilman Bob Mendes against withdrawal.

As all who follow Metro politics at all now know, Mayor Barry engaged a two year affair with her police bodyguard, both of whom were married at the time.  They went on official city trips together to exotic locations based on the flimsiest of logic that the trips were related to Metro business.  Also, the officer with whom she was having the affair charged the city overtime while dallying with the Mayor.  This not only bumped up his current paychecks but greatly increased his pension benefit. The affair all came to light and Mayor Barry resigned on March 6, 2017 as part of a plea deal, pleading guilt to felony theft.

There was some legal question as to if the Council could censor a former official.  Given that Barry has already resigned and plead guilty to a crime, I think passing a censor resolution was "beating a dead horse." If I had served in the Council I would have voted with the majority for withdrawal of the resolution.  For more on the issue as reported by The Tennessean, follow this link.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

I am curtailing my coverage of the council. How to stay informed about what happens in the Metro Council.

For the last three years I have been covering the meetings of the Metro Council in detail.  I have covered what happened in the Metro Council for much longer than that but in the last three years I have methodically covered the council.  I have read every agenda and every agenda analysis, read a lot of the bills, and posted a blog post on the topic of "what's on the agenda." I would point out what I perceived to be the most important items, summarize the legislation and provide commentary. I would then watch the meeting, post a video of it and provide time-stamp notation to the best parts where one could go to that point in the video and see a good debate or speech or explanation from a member of the body.

I am curtailing my coverage of the council.  Covering the council in such detail had become more like a job and an obligation rather than a pleasurable activity.  I was not having fun. The Council meets twice a month and those meeting seem to be coming faster and faster.  Also, the Council has had some six hour meetings in the last year. I have leaned to watch meeting at double speed but still to watch in sufficient detail to properly notate and report on what occurred has proved very time consuming. I admit that knowing I was the best informed person in Nashville about what went on in the Metro Council gave me a certain amount of ego satisfaction but one never knows if anyone else appreciates what you do or even notices.

I will continue to stay informed and report on the most important stuff before the Council but I am not going to meticulously study every Council agenda and then watch every meeting.  For those who do care deeply about what happens in the city let me give you some tips and links for watching the Metro Council and being well informed.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person. I see very little reason to do that. If it is an issue you care deeply about and you know some council members, your presence in the audience could impact a vote but probably not.  You can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site, or if you have Roku there is a Metro Nashville channel that carries the program.

You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel  or you can watch a video of the meeting on the News and Media web page. If you are going to watch the video it is worth learning to watch it in double speed because much of it is real boring and you can listen faster than councilmen can talk. If you open the video and click on the little gear symbol on the bottom of the video screen you can change the speed. If you are not offered that option, there is a setting adjustment you can make. It is different for different web browsers. Just search "How to watch a video in double speed," and you will lean how.

You need an agenda and a staff agenda analysis to really understand what is going on. If you just watch the meeting without these tools it will be hard to understand what is under discussion. To access the agenda go to this link, and you will find the most recent agenda.  For the staff analysis, follow this link.

To access the minutes of the meeting follow this link. The minutes will give you the official version of what happened and give the results of roll call vote and the text of amendments and substitute ordinances which you may not other wise have from just watching the meeting.  The minutes, however, are usually not posted until the Friday following a Tuesday meeting.

It is easier than ever to keep informed about what is happening, but even with all of the available technology it still takes some effort.  To be really informed about Council activity one needs to watch committee meetings. I only watched committee meetings occasionally.  Most real discussion and explanations of  issues takes place in committee meetings.  If you are going to watch any committee meeting, the most important committee is Budget and Finance.

I may resume my methodical coverage of the Council after a period of taking a break, especially if I get any encouragement. In any event, I am going to stay informed and will try to report on the most important legislative activities.

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Council votes $15.2 million corporate welfare for Amazon

At Tuesday's February 5th  council meeting the Council voted to approve spending $15.2 million for road, sewer and other work around Nashville Yards which is a new development being build on the site of the old Southern Baptist downtown headquarters. This development will be home to the Amazon hub planned for Nashville.  Amazon, as almost everyone knows, is one of the wealthiest companies in the world.

Usually when a developer builds a piece of property they are responsible for infrastructure improvements. Weather a residential subdivision or an office park, normally the developer must build the roads and sewers and when the construction is complete, give the the infrastructure to the city.  This $15.2 million giveaway is the kind of corporate welfare to which I object.  This type giveaway is why the city of Nashville is in a financial crisis despite experiencing massive growth.

The measure passed by a  vote of 28-3.  The three "no" votes were At-large Councilman John Cooper, Councilman Steve Glover, and Councilwomen Angie Henderson.

Cooper said of the proposal,  "Once again, we are using taxpayer money to subsidize the wealthiest, and once again we don't need to. We are handing subsidies out due to habit." Angie Dickerson was also vocally critical of the deal and called it ""cronyism" and denounced "special deals" for favored developers.

To read The Tennessean's coverage of the issue follow this link.

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John Cooper will not run for mayor.

John Cooper
by Rod Williams - John Cooper has announced he will not run for mayor and has announced also that he will  not seek reelection to the Metro Council.  This is disappointing.  It was widely anticipated that Cooper would run for mayor. Cooper has been one of the best members of the Council when it comes to fiscal matters.  He has been critical of the mayor's budget priorities, critical of tax giveaways to developers, he opposed the soccer stadium deal, and last year when the Council voted against raising taxes in a close 20-19 vote, Cooper voted against the tax increase.  As one who watches the Council closely, I have been very impressed by John Cooper.  John Cooper is a Democrat and the younger brother of Senator Jim Cooper, but he may be the last sane Democrat in America.  He is by far my favorite  Nashville Democrat. I would have supported him had he ran for mayor.

In a Tennessean article today, Cooper is quoted as saying he plans to remain involved in political affairs.  He says rather than a change in the mayor's office that what's most needed is to educate people about Metro's finances and he says he will be doing that. I agree that, that is important, but how Cooper plans to have any impact once out of office, I don't know.  Even if he gets a gig as a commentator on a TV program, his influence will be minimal. I respect his decision but am disappointed.

With Cooper out of the picture, that leaves incumbent Mayor David Briley and State Representative John Ray Clemmons as the announced candidates.  Both would be bad.  Another likely candidate is Bill Freeman.  In the 2015 election which resulted in a runoff between David Fox and Megan Barry, Freeman came in, in third place. It is widely expected that Freeman will run.  Freeman is a major fundraiser for the national Democrat Party and liberal candidates and another liberal. However, he may be more fiscally responsible than the other two candidates. I don't know that but have that impression.  If the choices boil down to Briley, Clemmons and Freeman, I will most likely hold my nose and vote for Freeman. I perceive that he may be the least bad of three bad choices but I hope someone else gets in the race, but at this point I don't know of any potential candidate that would not be flaming liberal.

My perception is that Nashville is even more liberal now than in 2015 when we elected Megan Barry.  As the demographics shift to younger people and more Northeastern and California immigrants, the chance for a conservative candidate to be elected mayor dims.  Many of these newer immigrants to our city may not care a lot about the details of local governance and particular policy positions but they will vote for the candidate that they perceive as the most liberal. Issues like being pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, favoring removing confederate names and monument (not that we have many) and racial "social justice" are going to be more important than the city's debt, tax rates and an adequately funded pension plans. I hate to be so pessimistic but I do not see an opportunity for a path to victory for a conservative.  About the best we can hope for is a social liberal who is fiscally responsible. You sometime do, but rarely, find that combination.

I would like to see a mayor who would cut the number of metro employees, cut taxes, give employees their promised pay raise, put our pension plan on a sound sustainable footing, address crime, and reform our failing school system.  Since the school system is governed by an elected school board, it is difficult for the mayor to make an immediate and huge impact but the mayor can use the bully pulpit and advocate and influence. If we had the right leader who would tackle the issue, I believe the right leader could make an impact on our education system but it would not be easy.   I would also like to see a mayor who had a vision for improving transportation that relied of new technologies and markets rather than the standard nineteenth century model of fixed rail. I don't expect to find the idea candidate.

I don't think Carol Swain would have much of a chance of winning a race for mayor should she run again.  Her conservative view are too well known. If there was a sensible, pragmatic person running for mayor, such as John Cooper, I would not want Swain to run.  If, however, the only candidates are going to be Briley, Clemmons, Freedman and maybe Erica Gilmore, I would like to see Swain jump in the race.  I would not expect her to win, but if those were the choices, I would vote for her.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

State legislature looks to curtail power of new civilian police oversight board

The State legislature is considering action to take away the subpoena power of Nashville's newly created Community Police Oversight Board.  Good! When voters passed the charter amendment creating the Board, I predicted that either a Court or the State legislature would curtail the authority of the Board.  It was a terribly flawed law.  The legislation being considered would not invalidate the new law entirely but would neuter it. The proposed legislation would limit any citizen board's authority to compel witnesses during the review of complaints.  The proposed legislation, "limits the authority of a community oversight board to the review and consideration of matters reported to it and the issuance of advisory reports and recommendations to agencies involved in public safety and the administration of justice." This would correct the corruption of due process inherent in the new Charter amendment. Without this subpoena power the board could do little harm but also could not do much of anything.

If not compelled to testify before the Board, I am sure a police officer accused of misconduct would, on the advice of his attorney, refuse to do so.  The Board could still issue reports and recommendations but they would carry little weight.  The Charter mandates a $2 million annual budget for the new board. When Metro government cannot give employees a promised raise, when schools are failing, and Metro is cutting millions of dollars out of budgets just to stay solvent, $2 million a year is a lot of money to just give a handful of community activist an official platform for attacking the police.  I would hope that without subpoena power, the pubic would see the board is a useless waste of money and the new charter amendment would be repealed.

In addition to taking away subpoena power the pending legislation would prohibit cities from mandating the composition of the board so as to require certain demographics, economic status or employment history for Board members. Nashville's board does that. It requires so many be from economically depressed areas and prohibits policemen or family of policemen from serving on the board.

For more on this issue see the following:

The Tennessean, Tennessee Republicans file bill stripping Nashville police oversight board's subpoena powers

Metro council picks members of police oversight board 

The Tennessee General Assembly, HB0658

Vote NO on Metropolitan Charter Amendment 1

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Paycheck to paycheck

by Rod Williams, Feb. 3, 2019 - As soon as the government shut down occured, the media started running stories about how devastating the shutdown would be on government workers who are living "paycheck to paycheck."  My initial reaction was that this was so much hype to tilt public opinion against the president. After all, government workers get paid pretty darn well compared to the private sector or compared to state or local government employees doing comparable jobs.  Surely, I reasoned, they could miss a paycheck without it being a disaster.

Upon reflection however, I realized the shut down would be devastating for many who live paycheck to paycheck.  And, many do. However, living paycheck to paycheck is simply irresponsible and a reflective of stupidity. I do not think federal government employees are more irresponsible and stupid than the average person, however.  That is probably typical of many people.

I spend my career working with poor people and much of what I did was teach poor people how to become homeowners.  That most often involved teaching them how to change their habits and values. It involved teaching them to set priorities and learn delayed gratification and exercise personal discipline. I did not teach this class as one who did not know what they were talking about.  I have experienced poverty.  It was not fun but I know what it is like. I survived it without ever having my electricity cut off or without being evicted or filing bankruptcy. I managed my poverty until things improved. I could talk to poor people and knew what I was talking about

About 2006 we started seeing a new class of clientele at our agency; not poor people wanting to become homeowners but middle class people wanting to avoid losing their home.  We did some good. We helped many people get financial assistance to save their home and helped many clients get modifications or repayment plans that allowed them to keep their home.  As the housing crisis grew, my work shifted entirely to mortgage default counseling.  I am now mostly retired and don't need to work but still work part-time and see about two clients a week.  It keeps my mind sharp and it is rewarding to help someone through a crisis.

My experience working with middle class people who are about to lose their home and poor people who wanted to achieve the dream of home ownership taught me something.  The poor and the middle class are not much different; the middle class just have more money.  I know my sample may be skewered because of the middle class I saw, I only saw those who were facing a crisis.  However, giving the report of how missing one paycheck impacted federal workers, I think my observation is quite accurate.

It is sad that missing one paycheck could cause someone to be unable to pay their house payment or buy groceries.  It is sad that one lives paycheck to paycheck.  However, there is simply no excuse for living that way.  As a housing counselor I saw people lose their home because as soon as they got laid off and missed their first paycheck, they missed a house payment.  Many people who lost their home could have avoided losing their home had they had some saving.

I know people will object and say, "I don't make enough money to save."  That is simply not true. Savings is simply a matter of prioritizing. It is a question of management and exercising a little discipline and establishing some priorities. I tell clients that savings is "paying yourself first."  In examining a client's income and expense report, after I ask them in detail how much they spend on this or that, I then review their credit card statements and bank statement. Often people don't know how much money they make and they don't know how they spend it. Often they spend it foolishly.

I was working with one client who was facing foreclosure. After developing her budget sheet, I then reviewed her bank statement and saw a fee for something like $115 to a place with the name of something like "Dragon's Lair."  I asked her what that expenditure was for and she said it was for a tattoo. She went on to explain that with all she was going though she needed to do something for herself. "I felt I deserved it, " she said.  That is not an uncommon attitude. People spend money on something because they "deserve it."

I was working with one couple who had missed a house payment but had gone out and traded cars and had a large car payment of almost $500. When I asked the client why they had taken on this new debt the wife told me that she was pregnant and they already had one child and, "we had to have an SUV."  People feel entitled to things weather they can afford them or not.

I see many people who have no accumulated saving for retirement. In an article by David Moon that appeared in the Tennessean today, he says only 52% of Americans have any type of retirement savings.  In my position as a housing counselor, I have seen people who had an employer contribution retirement plan where the employer would match what the employee contributed and yet the employee did not participate.  There is a lot of free money that people are just turning down. If the employer matches the employee's contribution that is a 100% return! Putting it into such an account also makes the money not subject to taxes which makes the effective return 125% or something, and then if you assumes the money is invested and grows at 10% that makes the return 135%.  These employees by refusing to save $100 are saying, "no thank you, keep your $135."  They are leaving money lying on the table and refusing to pick it up.

I have seen people who spend enough daily on Starbucks coffee to have a week's paycheck in the bank in a few months. There are many people who could build a nice nest egg if they would exercise six months' discipline.

As a conservative, I have always believed in maximum freedom for the individual. When it comes to poor people this has caused me to advocate for food stamps as oppose to food commodities and housing vouchers as opposed to public housing and to entertain ideas such as a guaranteed minimum income to replace the bundle of current welfare programs.  I have thought that Social Security should be replaced with a retirement fund owned by the individual.  This rest on a foundation of believe in individual autonomy and personal freedom.  I hate to say I may have been wrong about a lot of things, but I am coming to the conclusion that most people are too stupid to be free.  If given choices they will make wrong choices. Unfortunately, many people need to be treated like children and need someone to take care of them.

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