Tuesday, September 29, 2020

If the House of Representatives selects the president, Trump Wins. But others questions remain. It could get real ugly.

by Rod Williams - I have never before been as concerned that an election for president may be messy and complicated as I am this election.   My worst-case scenario fear is that on inauguration day we have both Donald Trump and Joe Biden claiming to be the president.  I don't think we are, but I fear we may be on the brink of a civil war. I hope that is not the case but believe it is within the realm of possibility. 

Stepping back from the worst-case scenario, however, and consider something less drastic. What would happen in the event of a tie in the Electoral College.  Dr Larry J. Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia lays out a scenario in which there could be such a tie (link). 

The Constitution provides that in the event of a tie in the Electoral College, that the House of Representatives selects the President. This is what Amendment 12 says, which amended Article 2, Section 1: 

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; -- The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; -- The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.-- [These dates were changed by the 20th Amendment.] The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

As you can see from above that despite Democrats controlling the House, each state gets only one vote. Democrats currently hold 233 seats to the Republicans’ 196.  However, that does not matter.  Each state gets one vote. Wyoming has 1 representative and California 57, but each gets only one vote. Currently there are 26 states with Republican majority delegations and 22 with Democrat majority delegations and 2 with split delegations. The delegations are unlikely to change significantly following the 2020 election.  In that case, unless something very unlikely has happened, the House will choose Donald Trump to be the next president. 

This addresses what would happen in a tie. But assume it is not a tie.  I have questions, but not answers.

Assume that in a certain state refuses to certify an election. In my wild imagination, it could happen like this. A battleground state used mail-in ballots.  By the deadline for accepting ballots, the Democrat governor or election commission or legislature says the deadline is extended for accepting of mail-in ballots. They justify this based on an allegations that the President used the U. S. Post Office to  cause a delay in delivery of the mail. The Republicans appeal to the court and the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Republicans. Democrats are outraged and simply refuse to certify the election results. What then?

Does the Electoral College meet without the votes from that state counted?  I doubt that would be the case. Does the Supreme Court compel the Secretary of State to certify the results and if he still refuses, order him jailed and declare the election results certified? That seems more likely but I don't know. 

What if anticipating the presidency will be decided in the House, the speaker persuades the house to refuse to seat the delegation from a couple Republican states.  That seems possible. The Constitution Article 1, Sec. 5 has this to say: "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members." So could Nancy Pelosi refuse to seat the delegates of a couple states?  The Constitution is pretty clear. I see no remedy to stop this from happening.  If there is a constitutional expert or lawyer who knows how this action could be stopped, please share. I want to know. 

I am fully expecting Democrats to try to steal this election and if they are not successful at that, I expect them to be convinced that Trump stole the election. Many already believe that the 2000 election was stolen and that the Supreme Court unfairly handed the election victory to George W.  Bush, and they believe that the Russians engineered Trumps 2016 win. Many simple reject the system under which we operate and believe than anytime a president is elected who won the electoral vote but not the popular vote, then that win is illegitimate. 

We already have BLM and Antifa rioting across America, pulling innocent people out of cars and beating them, burning down businesses, assassinating police officers and intimidating people who are simply trying to enjoy a meal at an outdoor cafe.  Cancel culture rules and people who are not sufficiently "woke," are subject to being ostracized and may often lose their job.  It is dangerous to express one's support for president Trump in many places.  Never before has it been risky to put a candidates yard sign in your yard or a bumper sticker on your car.  With the anticipated Senate approval of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, we will see a deeper level of liberal anger and intolerance for the Democratic process.  We have the perfect ingredients for turmoil. I fear many liberals will simply refuse to accept the results of the election should Trump win.  If in some Democrat states, state governors refuse to accept the results and declare Joe Biden the president, or the Democrats in the Congress do so, or units of the armed forces recognize Joe Biden as Commander-in-Chief, this could get ugly.  If someone tells them Trump tried to steal the election and his claim to the office is illegitimate, and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president, half the country will accept that. Many will act on that conviction. 

I am not a constitutional scholar and I have more questions than answers.  I would rather have knowledge than rely on feelings and I am looking for answers that will put my mind at ease, but I have a very bad feeling about this election. 

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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Senator Lamar Alexander: The Message is Clear – Children Need to Be in School

Comments from the Senate floor by Senator Lamar Alexander: Data from Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education projects a dramatic decrease in proficiency— 65 percent in math, 50 percent in reading— among third-graders as a result of COVID-19 school closures in March through this summer. The message is clear: children need to be in school. 

The good news is that, according to the governor, 1,800 schools in Tennessee are open, in person, and as of today only seven of those schools have any sort of closure incident. So this problem hopefully won't be as pronounced this semester in Tennessee, because—except in Memphis and Nashville—almost all of our schools are open in-person to some degree.

To view the Facebook video, follow this link

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fifty-four years later, Metro is closing the Bordeaux nursing home.

by Rod Williams - After serving in the council and also just observing government for a long time,  I have learned a few things. One is that government is slow to change. Part of that is structural.  Because  new budgets are build upon last years budgets, it is easier to look at new needs and ask for more money than it is to reorganize or eliminate a division. Growing departments can provide more opportunity for promotions and employees are happy and the bigger a budget one commands, the more respect.  So, positions or agencies that have outlived their usefulness continue to exist. Bloated departments get more bloated. 

Another factor is that elected officials do not want to reduce the number of government employees.  They do not want anyone to lose their government job, ever.  Thankfully the State of Tennessee is not afflicted by this but it seems Metro and most governments are. Maybe it is because government employees are also voters.  Employees and their families make up a big part of the electorate. However, I think it has more to do with a mind set that government should set an example and that public service is somehow more noble than just working for money and that public servants should be immune to the laws of economics. Let me give you a couple examples:

When I first got elected to the Council in the 80's we still had elevator operators in the courthouse. There was a basement were there were a couple public offices and a snack bar, the ground floor where the mayors office is located, the second floor or mezzanine level where the Council meets, a third floor operated by the Sheriff's department.  There may have been a fourth floor but it was not open to the public and I don't recall what was there or even if there was a fourth floor.  Only rarely did someone go to the third floor. So basically the elevator served the basement, the first floor and the second floor.

Now, at that time, Metro courthouse was the only building in Nashville that still had elevator operators. I remember as a young boy growing up near Knoxville, I would go to town with my parents and there were department stores that had elevator operators but not many.  By the 1980's elevators were self-service. In the Metro Courthouse, the city had already modernized the elevators.  They no longer required manually closing the elevator gate and door and driving the elevator to the requested floor and properly aligning the elevator and building floors. By the time I was elected to the Council, elevators look much like they do now, yet there was an operator who sit a stool inside the elevator door and asked you which floor and pushed "B," "1," or "2," and rarely "3." Soon after I was elected in one of the first budgets, those positions of elevator operator were eliminated, but not without some regret and grumbling. 

Also, when I was elected, the city still had an ordinance that required all movie theaters to have a licensed projectionist.  At one time, so I understand, operation a movie projector was a skilled job and movie projectors were a potential fire hazard if not operated properly.  By the 80's technology had changed and any high school kid could load a cassette into the projector, yet Metro still required the job to be performed by a licensed projectionist. The law was essentially ignored but on occasion enforced. A bill was introduced in the Council to repeal the law.  It was resisted by the labor unions and many councilmembers voted against changing the law. It was changed but not without resistance. 

When I was first elected, Metro still provided twice-a-week, back-door garbage collection with everyone providing their own garbage cans.  This was costly as an operating budget item but also, disability claims and disability retirement by garbage men was an enormous cost. It seems as if it was almost expected that garbage men retired early with disability.  I don't doubt that the disabilities were real. Emptying garbage cans all day is bound to eventually cause a back injury. 

We did go to once-a-week, street or alley,  automated lift, collection as we see today but not without a fight.  Many wanted to keep the collection the way it was. People liked collection from their back door and did not want to haul their garbage cans to the street or the alley.  Secondly, many on the council saw the position of garbage man as a valuable employment opportunity we were providing to the least employable citizens.  High school drop outs who were not too bright could collect garbage and they didn't feel we should eliminate those jobs.  This change in the way we collect garbage took months to achieve and was hard fought. 

Medicaid was passed into law in 1965. By that act, the poor were no longer dependent on charity.  The poor were given choices.  At that time, Metro operated a charity hospital and charity nursing homes. We still do.  It was just recently announced that we are finally closing the Bordeaux nursing home. 

Signature HealthCARE has been the operator of the Bordeaux nursing home for the last six years and their contract is expiring in January. Prior to 2014, Metro actually operated the facility and the staff were metro employees. In 2014 we privatized the operation of the facility and it is now operated by Signature. Metro sent out an RFP for an operator and neither Signature nor anyone else submitted a proposal. Bordeaux has been unable to fill its beds and is operating at only one-third of its licensed capacity. Bordeaux is rated 1-out-of-5-stars by CMS. So, finally Metro is closing the Boudreaux nursing home and the site will be redeveloped. It is not anticipated there will be difficulty in finding beds for the patients in Bordeaux as there is adequate capacity at nearby facilities. 

Finally, we are getting out of a business we should have gotten out of over fifty years ago. It is now time to  also close General Hospital. We need to change the mindset that because government once did something, it should do it forever. We need to recognize that change happens. We need to embrace technology and innovation. Transportation is a good example. We still move people along fixed routes in big conveyance vehicles while in the private sector, on-demand and flexibility and options are the norm.  We need to stop thinking that it is governments job to give people a government job with a guarantee they will never lose that job. 

For more on the closing of Boudreaux, follow this link and this link

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Mayor Cooper committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement- signs Climate Mayors Letter.

Metro Nashville press release - Mayor John Cooper signed on to a Climate Mayors letter sent to U.S. Congressional leaders this week, urging bold action on environmental sustainability while also building a more just economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A network of 461 mayors committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement, the Climate Mayors are calling on Congress to invest in economic recovery strategies that embed resilience, equity, and sustainability in America’s cities. 


 “As mayor, I see first-hand the urgent issues facing our communities today: the ever-present threat of climate change, the challenges to public health and prosperity caused by COVID-19, and racial and economic disparities,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper. “Cities across America are demonstrating that growth and environmental stewardship go hand in hand – and now, our federal government can show the world that investment in a zero-carbon economy has multiple co-benefits for healthcare, housing, jobs, the economy, and the resilience of our infrastructure.” 

 With a focus on recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic, Climate Mayors are advocating a nationwide transition to a zero-carbon economy – a step many American cities are already pursuing as a means to create good-paying green jobs, clean the air and lower carbon emissions, improve public health and resilience to climate change, and lift up the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. 

The coronavirus pandemic has hit communities of color and low-income households particularly hard -- the same individuals and families in neighborhoods that suffer most from the harsh impacts of a changing climate: toxic pollution, skyrocketing temperatures, drought and wildfires, and extreme weather events like floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Climate Mayors are determined to build a strong, green economy that ensures all Americans are prepared for future health, economic, and environmental shocks. 

Recognizing the need to work together at every level of government to move beyond this devastating pandemic, Mayor Cooper and other Climate Mayors are urging Congress to work with state and city leadership to build new policies and amplify existing programs that have already proven effective. They list several goals for Congress to prioritize with any economic recovery package, including: 
  • Build for a Better Future: Returning to the status quo is insufficient to meet the challenges of climate change and economic disparities in our communities. We must increase resolve and ambition to reinvest in municipalities. 
  • Lead with Equity: Federal investment should include some level of priority for communities that have been historically underserved, including those disproportionately impacted by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Prioritize Multiple Benefits: The best investments will also have benefits for job creation, neighborhood resilience, and better public health outcomes in cities. 
Attached to the letter is an appendix with sample policies and programs to advance a just, resilient recovery that puts Americans back to work while creating cleaner, healthier, more livable communities. These recommendations are accompanied by success stories from Climate Mayors’ member cities where similar policies and programs have led to community benefit. Locally, Mayor Cooper’s Sustainability Advisory Committee is working with his administration to produce recommended strategies for climate mitigation and adaptation that similarly infuse resilience, equity, and other benefits such as public health and neighborhood livability into Metro Nashville’s sustainability related policies and programs.

Rod's Comment: I am so disappointed in Mayor Cooper for signing on to this irrational, ideologically-driven letter.  If we wait for a zero-carbon economy we will never have a recovery. 

"Good paying green jobs" are a myth. Cooper probably knows that. The good paying green jobs only last as long as they are subsidized, unless you count jobs in nuclear energy and fracking for natural gas. Environmentalist hate both nuclear energy and fracking which accounts for a large part of the green house emissions reductions we have experienced.  Actually, nuclear energy is also subsidized and expansion has mostly been blocked by environmentalist, so about the only real good paying green jobs are in natural gas fracking which environmentalist hate.

As almost everyone knows who wants to know, The Paris Climate Agreement was not much more than a feel-good measure and would have done little to cut green house emissions.  Each country set their own plan to mitigate global warming and reported on their progress. It had no teeth. There was no mechanism that forced a country to set a specific emissions target by a specific date. Lesser developed countries were to be permitted to pollute more than developed counties however, so they could play economic catch-up.  In that sense it was an international wealth redistribution agreement. 

I am pleased President Trump got out of the agreement, but it was so insignificant, he could have just stayed in and just ignored it. The result would have been about the same. After observing the thinking of environmentalist for some time,  I am convinced that they are more about feel-good measures and symbolism than accomplishing anything and they are irrational. That is a shame, because I believe the theory of climate change is valid and steps should be taken to address it.  Getting back in to the Paris Climate Agreement will accomplish nothing except virtue signal, however. 

To read the letter of the Climate Mayors and learn more about the organization visit their website at this link


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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Nashville Metro Council refuses to make sacrifices that they are asking their own constituents to make

Justin Owen
by Justin Owen, President and CEO The Beacon Center, Sept. 14, 2020 -
These two st
aggering statistics offer important context for this post: 
 1) If you serve two terms on the Nashville City Council, you get lifetime health insurance. 
 2) The city of Nashville has more than twice the debt held by the entire state of Tennessee. 

 

Let those sink in for a moment before moving on. These graphics show the full picture of the city’s debt situation: Given the first stat, it’s no wonder the second is true. 

As Beacon pointed out in a recent policy report, lifetime Council benefits are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city’s fiscal woes. But they are a tip that must be lopped off if the city is going to seriously pursue reforms to restore some fiscal sanity. Despite his earlier failure to u
se his historically high property tax increase to drive meaningful fiscal change elsewhere—such as our debt, pension system, and other liabilities—Mayor John Cooper is at least now discussing the issue. And some Council members are joining the call. Sadly, nearly half still refuse to make sacrifices that they are asking their own constituents to make. The push to merely review lifetime health benefits for Council members recently squeaked by on a 20-18 vote.

We have found no other city in America that lavishes such rewards for public service. Sure we should provide reasonable compensation and benefits to elected officials, especially so that those at all socioeconomic levels can participate, as some defenders of lifetime benefits suggest. But should we offer the most handsome benefits package there is? No. Especially not when our mayor and the Council demand that we pay 34% more in taxes, all while still to this day forcing some businesses to remain closed or at limited customer capacity. 

The tone-deafness of Council members who defend such preposterous benefits is trumped up by the union bosses who adamantly refuse to acknowledge that benefits hardly any other American receives should be reconsidered. At a time when every Nashvillian has been forced to sacrifice more for the city, so too should those who work for us. That’s especially true for those we elected to serve us, not plunder our pockets for life after just eight years of service.




This is reposted from The Beacon Center website. To learn more about the Beacon Center or to subscribe to their email updates, follow this link

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Proposed Charter Amendment Would Be Self-Inflicted Disaster For Nashville, say an official Metro Nashville press release.

Would cause massive cuts to city services including layoffs to first responders 


Metro Nashville press release -  An array of Nashville leaders stands united to oppose Nashville from being gutted by an upcoming charter amendment proposed by an entity calling itself “4GoodGovernment.” The amendment would create a $332 million deficit for this fiscal year, threaten Metro’s credit rating, constrain the city’s ability to set property taxes to pay for services, and result in a suspension of capital projects. The proposed amendment would result in dramatic cuts to essential services such as emergency response, schools, trash collection, and road repair throughout Nashville.

Retroactive application will eliminate city services, reduce property values, and render schools “unrecognizable” 


If passed, midway through the fiscal year, the amendment would retroactively reverse the property tax increase passed by 32 of 40 Council Members. The FY21 budget provided for a continuity of city services during the pandemic and began to restore Metro’s dangerously thin cash reserves. 

This proposed charter amendment comes at a time when Nashville’s financial position was already destabilized by a $216 million decline in sales tax and other activity taxes this fiscal year, in line with state forecasts. With this amendment, Nashville would be left unable to make up for the lost revenue. The proposed amendment would immediately move the budget out of balance and create a $332 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. As a result, Metro would be compelled to take immediate corrective actions to comply with state law and the Metro Charter’s balanced budget requirement. Few parts of Metro Government, including emergency services and schools, could be spared significant reductions or eliminations, and nearly all capital projects would be required to be halted. 

The proposal would immediately and directly hurt Nashville residents. “It will negatively impact property values and drastically reduce city services for all Nashvillians,” said Kristy Hairston, Board of Directors President for the Greater Nashville Realtors. 

Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of MNPS, is also alarmed by the proposal and said the resulting cuts would “render the school district unrecognizable to students and families.” 

Neighborhood infrastructure and Nashville’s credit rating will be devastated 

In addition to requiring a referendum for raising property taxes beyond two percent, the proposed amendment would also require a referendum for the issuance of bonds for projects exceeding $15 million, with vague exceptions for construction of “educational classrooms”, public libraries, public healthcare buildings, police and fire stations, and “Charter-protected facilities.” 

This aspect of the Charter amendment would cripple Nashville’s ability to make neighborhood infrastructure investments, such as building community centers, repairing roads, adding affordable housing, building new schools, and improving our park system, without a costly referendum. 

Financial rating agencies would likely downgrade Metro’s financial outlook and outstanding bonds if the charter amendment is even placed on the ballot. This may result in increased borrowing costs and limit Metro’s ability to complete significant transactions and refinancing. A credit rating downgrade would make every city project more expensive for taxpayers. 

Special election will cost $800,000, prompted by a tax levy that restores Nashville’s traditional low rates 


The Davidson County Election Commission has verified that a sufficient number of signatures were collected to place the amendment on a special election ballot on December 5, 2020. According to the Election Commission, the special election will cost Nashville taxpayers approximately $800,000. 

Even with this year’s increase, Nashville still has a lower property tax rate than Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga and other peer cities. Nashville’s current rate is in line with historic traditional levels; the tax rate of $4.22 remains below Nashville’s 25-year average of $4.30. Nevertheless, the proposed Charter amendment would require county-wide voter referendums for any property tax increase over two percent – a limitation that would prevent keeping pace with inflation and result in violations of state law during appraisal years. 

Passage of the Charter amendment would result in massive cuts to city services 

At mid-year, a $332 million spending reduction could affect 35-58% of the six-month remaining Metro Government operating budget. If a potential 35% cut were spread evenly across Metro operations, the following impacts could occur: 
  • Public Works Trash collection service reduced to twice monthly, with complete elimination of recycling collections. 
  • Fire 35% cuts to the NFD Operating Budget, resulting in cuts of approximately 557 positions, including 12 ambulances, 31 fire companies, and 17 fire inspectors. Dramatic increases in response time delays.
  • Police Reductions in force of one-third of MNPD officers (450-480 officers) through layoffs and a hiring freeze; Closure of four of MNPD’s eight precincts due to officer shortages; Dramatic increases in response time delays. 
Other Departments 
  • Partial to complete closure of parks, recreation centers, and libraries. 
  • Severe reductions in services for the Hospital Authority, Metro Transit Authority, and the Sports Authority. 
  • Significant delays and bottlenecks for permits, licenses, and inspections. (Metro Government is undertaking further work to review potential impacts) 
Effect on Metro Nashville Public Schools 
  • At mid-year, a $332 million spending reduction could impact up to 25% or more of the six-month remaining MNPS operating budget. 
  • Budget cuts to every single school in the district would be required. 
  • MNPS would likely be compelled to significantly reduce education resources, including: 
  • Increased class sizes; 
  • Transportation service adjustments resulting in longer bus ride times; 
  • Reductions in social work, counseling, community connections, and other services for families in need; 
  • Reductions of supplemental services for students in robotics, career connections, college preparation, and other advanced academics; 
  • Elimination of Social and Emotional learning (SEL) initiatives; 
  • Reduced technical assistance and professional development for teachers and schools; and 
  • Elimination of stipends for extra duties such as coaching and other extracurricular activities.

Reactions to proposed charter amendment 

“This would cripple our city and gut essential city services. After two natural disasters this year, we don’t need a self-inflicted one. This would severely weaken Nashville at a time when we need to build Nashville stronger.”— Mayor John Cooper 

“Cutting 25% of the MNPS budget would, unfortunately, render the school district unrecognizable to students and families. We owe our students an exemplary education, and it takes resources to hire the teachers and staff needed to serve students academically and socially emotionally.” — Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools 

“Greater Nashville Realtors remains committed to a vibrant and financially strong Nashville. Based on our independent study of Metro’s finances earlier this year, the city must make changes to become more financially stable, but this proposal is not the answer. This change would only harm the well-being of this city and its residents. It will negatively impact property values and drastically reduce city services for all Nashvillians.” — Kristy Hairston, Board of Directors President, Greater Nashville Realtors 

“At first glance, the implications for the people of Nashville and Metro’s fiscal stability are significant and will alter the current positive trajectory of our city.” — Ralph Schulz, President and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 

“The aftermath of the Nashville tornado and ensuing pandemic has created a time for our city to come together not pull apart. A property tax cap would be another disaster especially in the African-American community, but this time it would be self-inflicted. Nashville already has the lowest property tax of any other large city in our state so let us all pull together and give our city and ourselves the funding we desperately need to survive and thrive.” — Pastor Chris Jackson, President, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship 

“No council member was excited about raising property taxes, but the new tax rate is still below the 25-year average and below the rate in FY2017. 32 council members, including me, recognized the need to vote for an increase because we understood that the stability of Nashville depends on being able to pay our bills, so that we can continue to provide needed services to residents.” — Councilwoman Kyonzte Toombs, Budget and Finance Chair, District 2 

“I voted against the property tax rate increase, but mandating a 2% cap is just as fiscally irresponsible as the rampant spending and poor fiscal policy that got us to this point in the first place. The city wouldn’t be able to provide basic services; essential services like public safety and schools would suffer. It would essentially cause a government shutdown which, believe me, no one wants. In the long term, a 2% cap wouldn’t even allow us to keep up with inflation. We absolutely need fiscal responsibility, but a 2% cap is just not practical or sustainable.” — Courtney Johnston, Metro Councilwoman, District 26 

“Gutting city services, slashing schools and eliminating first responders during a pandemic is a terrible idea and would hurt working families in Nashville.” — Vonda McDaniel, President, Central Labor Council 

“This proposal is just another dangerous far-right attempt to destroy the progress that we’ve made in Nashville. It would prevent Nashville from being able to pay our bills, invest in our schools, and maintain neighborhood infrastructure.” — Anthony Davis, former Councilman and owner of East Nashville Beer Works

Rod's Comment: 

We need a realistic rebuttal telling us just how painful the cuts will be. 


by Rod Williams- Keep in mind that the above is not a balanced argument from some neutral party but is the response of the Mayor's office. I expect a certain amount of alarmism and awfulizing.  The threat to cut essential services is always made anytime an effort is made to deny government a tax increase or cut a tax. Like Chicken Little hollering, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," or a global warming prophet making apocalyptic claims that we only have x number of years to save the planet, I have become somewhat  immune to these claims of how terrible it will be if we don't raise taxes. 

One thing that needs to be rejected in the above press release is that we are undertaxed.  A lower tax rate than some other cities does not mean we pay lower taxes.  I had an occasion to go house shopping with a young couple recently.  In the greater Woodbine area there are lots of two-bed-room, one-bath, 758 sq. ft. houses fetching $300,000.  If in Chattanooga or Knoxville, the same home in a similar neighborhood might sale for half that. The tax rate is only one factor in the formula that determines how much property tax one pays. I reject that we are undertaxed.

Also, if a tax rollback would cause severe pain, the fault lies with the mayor.  The tax cut would be much less severe if we had started the year off with the lower rate.  If the mayor really believes the tax rollback will cause the dire outcomes he cites, then he should immediately make cuts so that they will not need to be as drastic as he outlines. He could get a three months jump if he did the cuts now instead of waiting until December. It he starts cutting now the cuts would be 25% less severe. If he doesn't start making drastic cuts, then I don't believe he believes what he is saying. 

With the above said however, one should not think that the cuts will not be painful.  We were already in dire straights with low reserves, and an underfunded fire department, and a budget that did not balance when Mayor Cooper took office. If this passes, we will feel the cuts.  

Some of the cuts should have been made years ago, anyway.  General Hospital should have been closed shortly after the passage of Medicaid  It is a disaster and closing General would save $50 million a year.  

We should stop running empty buses while we work on breaking the mold of yesterday's system of mass transit and develop a pubic transit system that focuses on on-demand paratransit. In the meantime, we should ask United Way to step up to the plate and develop a charity program of assistance for those dependent on mass transit.  

We should suspend the recycling program. It cost $1.5 million more than last year and a large part of what is collected goes to the landfill anyway. What percentage, I don't know because public works will never answer that question. 

We should suspend the program that develops bike lanes and suspend the building of sidewalks.  We need to do both anyway. The bike lanes reduce roadway capacity and contribute to traffic gridlock and congestion and I almost never see them being used.  We need to stop building sidewalks until we can figure out why we build so few new sidewalks but tear up and repour perfectly serviceable sidewalks at an enormous cost. 

Cutting the school budget could provide an opportunity to improve education.  We could embrace charter schools and make the schools that are not charter, more like charter schools by giving school principles more authority, responsibility, and autonomy.  This would allow for the slashing of overhead and central office.  We could reimagine public education. 

Doing the above will not balance the budget, however and to do some of this would take time.  Not all saving would be immediate. I don't doubt that the tax rollback would require closing some parks and some libraries- maybe most of them for a while.  How far we would have to cut, I don't know.  I hope that the parties responsible for getting the proposed referendum on the ballot will develop a rebuttal to the mayor's sky-is-falling alarmism and give a realistic picture of what cuts would be required. I helped gather signatures to help get the proposed referendum on the ballot. I plan to vote for it but I am ready to accept some painful cuts. We need a realistic rebuttal however, telling us just how painful the cuts will be, so voters can make an informed decision. 


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Assumed Senator-elect Bill Hagerty's statement on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Bill Hagerty
Nashville, TN — Bill Hagerty, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, released the following statement following the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. 

 “My family and I join Americans across the country in praying for Justice Ginsburg’s family during this difficult time,” said Bill Hagerty. “For more than two decades, Justice Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court, and she blazed trails for women and believed deeply in public service. 

President Donald Trump can – and should – nominate a constitutionalist to fill this Supreme Court vacancy; the future of our nation for generations to come depends on it.”

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Tony Tenpenny, Rest in Peace.


Condolences to the family and friends of Tony Tenpenny.  He was a good man and a good public servant. He passed  away as a result of complications from the Coronavirus. 

Here is a Facebook eulogy from Melissa Lening Smithson: 
Just heartbroken of hearing the news about our dear friend and fellow Woodbine brother Tony Tenpenny. What a giving soul, a fighter, a true spirit of being a blessing to others. We will deeply miss you here on Earth, but know you are with our Lord Jesus Christ and Almighty, visiting those that went before you and watching over us. You will always be with us, thinking of you when we are fighting the good fight, and your legacy will live on in your son and beloved wife. Rest in Peace brother! We WILL see you again.
Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Luke 20:36: For they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

 The Tennessean: Former Nashville councilman Tony Tenpenny dies from COVID-19 complications

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Senator Alexander's statement on Trump's intent to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

 From Facebook:


Rod's Comment: I am pleased but not surprised. To all of those who say Republicans are hypocritical because they opposed the Merit Garland nomination, Alexander responds to that.  If Republicans are hypocritical for opposing a  nominee to the Supreme by a Democrat in an election year but now support a Republican nominee in an election year, are not Democrats equally hypocritical for advocating the appointment during an election year and now opposing it when Trump tries to do it?  That argument is obviously phony.  If Democrats had the votes, they would block an appointment. 

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9-17 Society event was the motivating boost and shot of enthusiasm I needed.

by Rod Williams - I have been a little down recently.  Much of it is personal which I won't go into in detail but I am not getting to see my wife or touch and hold her due to her being isolated in a nursing home during this pandemic and she no longer knows who I am.  That hurts. I also miss my daughter and my young grandson and hated to see them go after a short visit, and I have family members with health problems and  some other personal things going on that bring me down.  Also, however, in addition to the personal, I have been feeling really down about the direction of our country and feeling anxiety over the upcoming election.  I have never let political circumstances affect me so. 

As I witness riots that have been going on for all across America for over 100 days, I at times feel like the America I knew is being lost before my very eyes.  We, "are going down hill like a snowball headed for hell, ..." Cities burn, innocent people are pulled from their car and beaten, police officers are assassinated, statues of our founders are pulled down, innocent people simply trying to enjoy a meal out  at an outdoor café are harassed, and senseless violence and harassments and destruction abounds and it appears people who identify as Democrats condone it or at least refused to condemn it. 

On top of that our youth embrace socialism and crazy unrealistic proposals such as defunding the police and the Green New Deal.  I don't think they know of the 100 million victims of Communism that was socialism in action.  I am appalled they they can argue real socialism has never been tried and think they are smart enough to get it right when we have the examples of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro  and countless others tyrants who resulted from others who experimented with socialism. They would willingly, joyously march themselves and us into the Gulag and the cattle cars. "We are going down hill like a snowball heading for hell." 

I am feeling a lot of anxiety about the upcoming election.  I plan to lay out a more detailed explanation of my hypotheses of what could go wrong and share the mechanics of what could happen, but in a nutshell, I see Trump apparently wining the electoral vote, Biden the popular vote and various complications resulting from mail-in ballots and other nefarious things that result in a contested election with the side that loses not accepting the outcome of the election and, perhaps, by inauguration day us still not knowing who won the election. In my worst-case scenario we descend into either a civil war or at least a period of intense uncertainty with a major increase in violence. On top of this, we could have another uptick in Cova-19 cases, a new lockdown,  and an economic collapse. 

On Thursday night September 17th my sprits were lifted.  I attended a celebration of the 9-17 Society.  It was good to see old friends and socialize but the program was inspirational and lifted my spirits. The mission of the 9-17 Society is to, "to empower every 8th grader with the knowledge of their individual freedoms and provide them with their very own lasting copy of the U.S. Constitution as a "rite of passage" into American Citizenship and celebrate Constitution Day each September 17th."'

The pocket constitutions are handed out and signed and dated and includes the citizenship pledge that immigrants take when becoming citizens.  Reports are that 8th graders take this very seriously and see it as a big event.  Remembering when my own child was an 8th grader, I think that is the perfect age to do this.  They are smart enough to grasp complicated concepts but have not yet become know-it-all resentful teenagers.

The 917 Society is the brain child of Joni Bryant.  She has a bubbly personality and her passion for what she is doing is contagious.  It is hard to be around Joni and not feel better.  She started the project just a few years ago with nothing but a conviction that is something she ought to do.  She started small with boxes of the constitution in her car and went county by county, school by school distributing copies of the constitution.  It has taken off and now has covered Tennessee and expanded to several neighboring states.  Her dream has grown and now she has a vision of spreading the project to encompass all 50 states. 

At Thursday night's event the program was exciting and motivational.  We heard from several luminaries.  Dr. Ming Wang told of his escape from China with $50 in his pocket and how he barely avoided being sent to the countryside for a life of poverty and hard labor during the cultural revolution. He has risen to being the premier Lasik ophthalmologist in America, maybe the world. He spoke of his love for this country and what America means to him. 

We heard from Carol Swain. She rose from being one of twelve children raised in a two room shack without running water by poorly educated parents to become a graduate of Yale Law School and went on to be a professor at Vanderbilt, an esteemed scholar whose work has been quoted in Supreme Court cases, an author and a political commentator. She spoke of the greatness of American that made such a transition possible. 

The highlight of the evening for me, was the speech by Rep. John DeBerry.  He is an orator! He has served in the House of Representatives since 1995 as a Democrat representing a district in Memphis.  This year, too late to qualify as either a Republican or an independent, the State Democratic Party stripped him of his status as Democrat candidate. He would have been unable to run, had not the House stepped in and changed the rules. He is now on the ballot as an independent.  The State Democrat Party kicked him out of the party because he has voted for pro-life policies and policies that favor school choice.

He gave a humble but motivational speech that left me standing and cheering when it was over.  He spoke about the how he was taught to love this country and the wisdom found in the Constitution. He warned of how America has turned its back the values that made up great. He spoke of the character of America and the courteous fights to overcome injustices and the struggle and challenges that brought up thus far. He left me with a message of hope that all is not lost.  America is still the beacon of liberty in the world. 

My view of the potential for a struggle over the outcome of the upcoming election and the potential for a disastrous outcome has not changed.  I still view the embrace of socialism by many in this county as troubling.  The future is in the balance and it could go either way. History is not laid out.  The outcome of history is up to those who push it one direction or the other.  We could be like Venezuela in a short period of time.  The threat is real and the future hangs in the balance. 

I left the meeting, not feeling like the challenges we face are less than I did when I went into the meeting, but with a new determination to face the challenges.  I felt hope.  I felt revived. 

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Art Break: A new portrait mural being painted on the side of Zanies at Douglas and 8th Ave South.

September 2020

 

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Governor says "no" to Metro's request for additional COVID-19 relief funds. Politely blast Metro's strategy for economic recovery and the massive tax increase.

 


 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday he would not be giving additional COVID-19 recovery funds to Nashville after Mayor John Cooper's request last week. He says to give money to Nashville is to take away funding from 94 other counties. He says he disagrees with Metro's approach to the crisis, that he thinks we should be cutting budgets; not raising taxes. He says Metro Nashville is the least rapidly recovering Metro economy in the United States. In my view, says the Governor, Metro Nashville's strategy for dealing with the economic impact of Cova-19 is not an effective one.

I agree with the Governor. Metro has not been a good steward of the money it has received and does not deserve a bail out. 

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Certain virtues must prevail to avoid great and lasting damage to our republic.

by Richard Upchruch- I agree with many these days who are seriously worried about the unusually high levels of hostility and mutual recrimination that have become a part of the current contest for the presidency. 

A famous quotation from one of our country's founders, James Madison, reminds us that the written constitution we cherish is only a part----although a precious and essential part--- of what really constitutes us as a nation. I think he is telling us that we cannot survive as a free people unless we as individual citizens have attained certain attributes of maturity, and that these attributes have got to be somehow effectively passed from one generation to the next. These observations seem always relevant but especially so now. 

I believe that certain virtues enjoined by traditions both religious and secular, if better followed, might help us to a place where we might still have the necessary robust public discussion of policy issues these times call for, but with less chance that chaotic behavior might prevail and do great and lasting damage to our republic. I believe that chief among these virtues is a kind of civic humility, a tough belief that one's opponent may not be entirely evil or deranged, but rather that he may indeed be advocating for the good as he sees it.

Translated into terms more obviously relevant in this election cycle, perhaps this would mean that those on the Republican side need to admit that their candidate has chosen a rather extreme form of polarizing rhetoric to keep his supporters excited and committed, that his manner seems deliberately brusque and provocative; and, on the other hand, that the left has indeed rushed to adopt radical techniques of advocating change, redefinition of marriage, calling into question the most essential aspects of human personal identity, at the very foundation of human society, in addition to advocating for more mundane economic and social policy---changes that many consider deeply harmful and destructive to both society and government.

Each faction needs to listen and try to understand the point of view of the other. The question cannot be, "are these two sides irreconcilable?" It must be, rather, can these conflicting visions, and these contending energies, be contained and expressed within our constitution and used to guide us into a future that as always requires both preservation and adaptation. We all need to obtain news and comment from a variety of points of view. And also, very importantly, from friends and acquaintances of various beliefs and affiliations. 

Benjamin Franklin, another of our brilliant founders, famously answered an inquiry by saying that "we have a republic, sir, if we can keep it." Without more and better listening to one another than we have now, we just may not be able to keep it. 

Richard Upchurch is a scholar and philosopher who lives in Nashville.

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13 Titans players take a knee during national anthem ahead of opener vs. Broncos

The Tennesseean- ...Thirteen members of the Titans took a knee during the national anthem ahead of their season-opening game against the Broncos on Monday. ...Titans coach Mike Vrabel said ahead of his team's season opener that if his players wanted to protest peacefully, they would have the organization's full support. (link)


Rod's Comment: Disgusting! Shame, shame, shame. 

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Covid-19 cases inflated by 13,800 by State health officials. Cases listed as "active," even after patients recovered.

The Tennessean: Coronavirus: 13,800+ Tennessee infections left as 'active' long after they weren't.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Leaked email shows there was no justification for closing bars and restaurants in Nashville.

This is a big deal and making national news.  The number of cases of coronavirus transmitted through bars and restaurant contact was so low, the mayor and health officials tried to keep the numbers a secret.  This has been picked up by national media outlets and even Donald Trump Jr. has weighted in tweeting, "The Dem Mayor of Nashville KNOWINGLY LIED ABOUT COVID DATA to justify shutting down bars & restaurants, killing countless jobs & small businesses in the process. Everyone involved should face jail time."  


For more on this story see link, Link, link,

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I will not attend the "A Rally for American Patriots" event and here is why.

 


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2020 AT 5 PM – 7 PM A RALLY FOR AMERICAN PATRIOTS: A call to preserve our Constitutional Republic! Franklin Tn Downtown Square.

by Rod Williams - This event was originally scheduled for September 17th and delayed until September 23 due to the threat of bad weather.  I will not be attending this event. While I would like to be part of such an event, I am not comfortable with the host.  If Ms Laurie Cordoza-Moore was just one member of a host committee putting on this event, I might attend.  But, I am not quit comfortable being part of a crowd that is her event.  

If you recall when a Muslim congregation was attempting and eventually was successfully in building a mosque in Murfreesboro, Laurie Cardoza-Moore was a leading opponent trying to stop that from happening.  The argument against it was that Islam is not really a religion and that Muslims were going to be building a terrorist training center in Murfreesboro.  While I hope the government is keeping close taps on what is going on in the Muslim community and while there have been radicalized American Muslims who have committed acts of terrorism, I am not comfortable with someone who claims the world's largest religion is not really a religion and who wants to deny First Amendment protection to other Americans. The First Amendment also applies to Muslims

The host of this event also once charged the Williamson County School Board with promoting anti-Semitism due to an objectionable portion of a text, taken out of context, in a social studies text book (link).  I doubt the Williamson County School Board is anti-Semitic.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Ms Cordoza-Moore's organization, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a hate group.  Now, I do not put much stock in what the SPLC says.  They have called a lot of good conservative groups, especially Christian groups, hate groups.  Any group that does not fall in line with the politically correct, woke, permissive, mainstream culture is considered a hate group.  If you are pro traditional marriage, believe boys should use the boys bathroom, or are pro life, you might be a hater. So while I don't put much stock in SPLC,  I do think it is worth noting.  Being listed by SPLC as a hate group may not make them what I think of when I think of a hate group, but it is an indication that they are outside the mainstream. It raises a red flag.  It tells me they deserve  a closer look before joining their cause.  

My concern in attended a rally for an event sponsored by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations is that I will become part of a cheering crowd that is a prop for some anti-Muslim rant or some weird conspiracy theory.  I don't really fault anyone else for attending.  It is not as if you are attending a Klan rally or anything, but for me, I am uncomfortable being part of a PJTN rally.  I am really not trying to convince anyone else not to attend, I am just explaining why I won't attend and hoping people will look closely at this event and the decide if it is for them. 


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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Trump Administration Is Supporting the People of Tennessee

From Alexander Willette, Special Assistant to the President, Updated September 14, 2020:

 
Overview: Response and recovery efforts are locally executed, State managed, and Federally supported. Successful emergency management requires nationwide cooperation and unity of effort, combining the strength and ingenuity of our citizens and private sector with a sweeping, all-inclusive, and whole-of-government response. The below is a partial overview of Federal assistance provided to the State of Tennessee and the people of Tennessee to combat the Coronavirus. The information is bolstered by hundreds of additional actions by the Federal government to help the people of Tennessee. President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have appreciated the strong State-Federal partnership with State and local leaders in Tennessee. 
  • The President quickly approved Tennessee’s major disaster declaration on April 2, 2020 and National Guard funding requests on and National Guard funding requests on April 2, 2020 providing additional Federal resources to supplement State response efforts. 
  • This year, over 5.7 M N-95 masks, 118 M surgical & procedural masks, 818 K eye and face shields, 7.8 M isolation & surgical gowns, and 592.5 M medical gloves have been shipped to Tennessee through private sector, State, and Federal collaboration. 
  • The Federal government has directly supported10 community based testing sites in Tennessee and will be providing 200,000 swabs and 200,000 media to support state testing needs in the month of September. To date, the federal government has provided over 1 M swabs and 100,000 media. 
  • The Federal government has and continues to coordinate the surge of resources to Tennessee Medicare & Medicaid certified nursing homes. And to supplement private sector supplies, the federal government is coordinating the provision of point-of-care COVID-19 testing to 267 of Tennessee’s Medicare & Medicaid certified nursing homes. 
  • Deployed a Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System to Tennessee that can decontaminate up to 80,000 N-95 masks daily. 
  • Coordinated donation of 205 cases (40 vials per case) of Remdesivir, and 630 cases of commercially available Remdesivir, to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Tennessee.  
  • Medical facilities and providers in the State of Tennessee have received over $3 B in COVID-19 related allocations from HHS. This includes more than $2.6 B from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 and ensures uninsured Americans can get testing and treatment for COVID-19. 
  • The State of Tennessee and eligible local governments received over $2.6 B from the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to help address unforeseen financial needs and risks created by the COVID19 public health emergency. 
  • The Small Business Administration has issued over $8.9 B in loans to 99,579 Tennessee small businesses. 
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury has made 3.4 M Economic Impact Payments totaling more than $5.8 B to hardworking taxpayers of Tennessee. 
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has made over $414.9 M in COVID-19 funding available to Tennessee grantees to help America’s low-income families and most vulnerable citizens via CARES Act authorizations. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided Tennessee agriculture producers with $124.2 M in financial assistance for price declines and additional marketing costs due toCOVID-19. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education provided $237.2 M to support postsecondary education students and institutions of higher education in Tennessee, authorized $63.6 M for the State from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and $279.9 M to ensure learning continues for all elementary and secondary students. 
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation allocated more than $229.7 M to help the Tennessee public transportation systems and $124 M to help Tennessee airports.

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Council considered and then deferred on second reading, until March 2021, the bill to end life-time health care benefits for metro Council.

by Rod Williams - On Tuesday night the council considered  and then deferred on second reading the bill to end life-time health care benefits for metro Council.  This was after earlier in the month getting the bill put back on the agenda after it was taken off of the agenda over the objection of the sponsor (link).  The bill was deferred until March 2021! I am usually OK with a deferral of one meeting or maybe two meetings of anything that is controversial.  People may need more information or they may just need to think about their vote before casting it.  However a six and a half month delay is an outrage.  The deferral vote passed 20-18. Check back. I will be posting the names of those who voted for this unheard of lengthy delay. 

The Council amended the bill so as to exempt from the impact of the bill anyone currently serving.  Those currently serving if reelected and serve a total of eight years would get the current deal.  That current deal is that when they leave office, former council members continue to get the Metro employee health insurance for themselves and family as if they were an employee.  That is, they pay a quarter of the premium and the city pays the rest.  This amendment probably enhances the chance that the bill will pass. 

An amendment by Freddie O'Conner is pending that would not end  the benefit for future Council members but would reduce the benefit to instead of the city paying 75% of the premium and the former Council member paying 25%, the former member would pay 75% of the premium and the city would pay 25%.  While I think the benefit should be abolished outright, if I were serving in the Council and thought that a straight repeal would fail, I would vote for this amendment.  A half loaf is better than none. 

See this link for more on this story, and this link, this link 

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Results of 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of the Homeless

Press release, July 9, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities across the country to conduct an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of persons experiencing homelessness who are unsheltered, sleeping in an emergency shelter or transitional housing. The PIT Count is conducted on a single night during the last ten days of January and is led by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) in collaboration with the Metropolitan Homeless Impact Division and the Homelessness Planning Council. 


The 2020 PIT Count for Nashville-Davidson County was conducted on the evening of Jan. 23 and in the early morning hours of Jan. 24. More than 100 volunteers from 27 different agencies and universities took part in this year’s Count. Room In The Inn and Nashville Rescue Mission operated their shelter programs and counted people staying with them during that night. No Metro overflow shelters were opened on the night of the count, and the community’s cold weather plan was not activated.

The 2020 PIT Count found a total of 2,016 individuals experiencing homelessness – 1,432 (71.0%) people living sheltered and 584 (28.9%) people living unsheltered – in Nashville-Davidson County. These results reflect a 15.0% total decrease in overall homelessness since 2016 and a 1.5% increase in the number of people experiencing literal homelessness since 2019 (30 people).

“Nashville’s Point-in-Time Count is a vital resource that helps Metro serve our unsheltered and unhoused neighbors,” said Mayor John Cooper. “Our office will continue to work closely with MDHA and our community partners to serve Nashvillians experiencing homelessness as part of Metro’s ongoing commitment to one of our most vulnerable communities and throughout our city’s coordinated COVID-19 response.” Additional key findings from the 2020 Homeless Count include: 
  • 73% of the adult population experiencing homelessness on the night of the Count were men, compared to 48% of Nashville’s population. 
  • 45% of the adult population experiencing homelessness on the night of the Count were Black or African American, compared to 28% of Nashville’s population. 
  • 82% of unsheltered individuals said that lack of income was their primary barrier to finding housing. Other reasons included health problems, past evictions and legal issues. There was no increase in Veterans identified from 2019 to 2020. 
  • There was a 14% increase in people experiencing chronic homelessness identified from 2019 to 2020.
  • There was a 7% decrease in families with minor children identified from 2019 to 2020. 
  • There was an 11% decrease in unaccompanied youth ages 18-24 identified from 2019-2020. 
  • 41% of unsheltered individuals and 31% of sheltered individuals reported problems with substance abuse. 
  • 38% of unsheltered individuals and 25% of sheltered individuals reported mental health problems. 
  • 22% of unsheltered individuals and 14% of sheltered individuals reported being survivors of domestic violence.
“The annual PIT Count is a reminder of why we do the work we do, and the information we are able to gather allows us to better direct our efforts to reduce homelessness in our city,” said MDHA Executive Director Jim Harbison.

“I’m extremely grateful to MDHA staff for their continued work on these efforts, the Metropolitan Homeless Impact Division and the Homelessness Planning Council for their partnership and the volunteers who participate each year.” 



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Nashville gets $10 million in CARES dollars funding to address COVID-19, designated to address homelessness.

Metro press release - Nashville has received a total of $10 million in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding as part of its CARES dollars to address COVID-19. These funds are designated to addressing homelessness. They are one-time funds and are exponentially higher than the usual annual ESG allocations, which was $450,000 for 2020. 


In addition to the $10 million, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided Nashville with free technical assistance and has assigned Heather Dillashaw of ICF (icf.com) as our local consultant to use the COVID-19 allocations to improve our Housing Crisis Resolution System. The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) is receiving and managing the grants. 

The first allocations totaling just under $1.5 million were awarded to 14 nonprofit organizations. During the first round of applications, agencies will receive funding for prevention, street outreach and Rapid-Re-Housing programs. The deadline to submit applications for the remaining grant dollars is Friday, September 18. 

The current Request for Applications (RFA) will focus on street outreach and Rapid Re-Housing services. Housing Surge In order to support the efforts to house approximately 400 individuals and families with the Emergency Solutions Grant funds, the community will work collaboratively to increase the available housing inventory through a housing surge. Under the leadership of the Mayor's Office, our community is currently looking for funding that would allow the Atlanta-based nonprofit Open Doors branch out into Nashville. Open Doors has created a centralized landlord engagement and recruitment model that will pair well with the great efforts already in the works in Nashville through countless efforts as well as our Coordinated Entry process. Local nonprofits have voiced their strong support in bringing Open Doors to Nashville to leverage their housing efforts.

Rod's Comment: After spending a career in the field of housing counseling and serving at one time in the Council as co-chair of a committee on homelessness, I continue to have an interest in this area.  I know that if one goes downtown and sees the number of homeless, one may think we have a terrible homeless problem.  Actually,  our problem is not nearly as bad as in many other cities. While homelessness in America has been increasing, homelessness in Nashville has remained flat or slightly decreased

Homelessness is a problem in all cities, but I commend Nashville for the way we have handled this difficult problem. I think we have struck the right balance between humanely caring for the homeless and discouraging homelessness camps and panhandling.  After Nashville elected the self-styled progressive Megan Barry, I feared our period of pragmatically addressing the issue would take a turn toward indulging and tolerating. I was pleasantly surprised when Mayor Barry cleared the homeless camp that had taken over Fort Negly. Mayor Cooper continues the same balanced approach, 

I also think we have struck the right balance between immediate help for the homeless and striving for longer term solutions to the problem of homelessness.  While we need to help people get the long-term care they need and get disability care to which they be entitled and find housing solutions for those who want it, we cannot do all of that at the expense of letting people freeze to death on a cold night. We have to look for long-term solutions and provide immediate help when needed. 

I am kind of stingy with my praise, but I think government entities and non-profits like MDHA, Nashville Rescue Mission, Room in the Inn, Urban Housing Solutions and various others, have done a good job of serving the least among us.  I hope Nashville uses this $10 million dollars wisely, but we have done a lot with a little in the past and I suspect we will with this money also. 

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Monday, September 14, 2020

How Council members voted on life-time health care benefits. They cast a final vote Tuesday, September 15th.

by Rod Williams - Former members of the Metro Council get a benefit that would be the envy of almost every person in America. They get a benefit more lavish than that provided by the State, the Federal government or the largest corporations in America. After serving only eight years in the Council, they get for themselves and their family, Metro-provided health care as long as they live.  They pay the same premium as active employees which is about one-quarter of the premium.  This is "Cadillac" insurance which includes dental care. 

At one time, before term limits, there were not that many ex-council members and this was not that costly of a benefit.  Council members tended to be older when first elected, almost always were reelected and served a very long time.  Now, there is turn over of the full body every eight years. The cost of this benefit for current and former Council members comes to over $800,000 a year and will rise to $1.2 million by 2024.

On August 4th, a bill which would end life-time health care benefits for ex-council members passed first reading. On August 18th the bill was deferred indefinitely at the recommendation of the Personnel, Public Information, and Human Relations Committee over the objection of the sponsor. 

The rules of the Council provide that when this happens that  "the sponsor may submit a written request to the Clerk that the matter be reinstated onto the agenda for the next regular meeting for purposes of requesting override of the indefinite deferral. The matter shall appear on the agenda as the last item prior to adjournment." 

That is what happened. At the September 1st meeting, the Council voted on "Rule 8 Reinstatement Bill BL2020-3872."  It passed by a vote of 20 in favor and 18 opposed.  A vote in favor was a vote to put the bill back on the agenda.  A "no" vote was a vote to kill the bill and keep it off of the agenda.  In other words, those who want to keep this lavish benefit for ex-councilmembers voted "no."  Those who want to end this benefit voted "yes." I have highlighted the names of those in whom I am very disappointed. 

Voting "yes." This is a vote to put the bill back on the agenda, indicating support for ending this benefit. 

Bob Mendes, Burkley Allen, Steve Glover, Zulfat Suara, Kyonzte Tombs, Tonya Hancock, Zach Young, Erin Evans, Bradford, Jeff Syracuse, Jinny Welsch, Tom Cash, Freddie O'Connell, Brandon Taylor, Tom Druffel, Russ Pulley, Courtney Johnston, Robert Nash, John Rutherford, and Angie Henderson. 

Voting "No." This is a vote to keep it off of the agenda, the effect of which is that members votes to keep this benefit. 

Sharon Hurt, Johnathan Hall, Jennifer Gamble, Robert Swope, Shawn Parker, Bret Withers, Nancy VanReece, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Colby Sledge, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Kathleen Murphy, Tanaka Vercher, Delishia Porterfield, Sandra Sepulveda, Joy Styles, Antoienette Lee, and Dave Rosenberg; 

Abstain (0). To abstain is to push the "abstain" button.  
No one was absent this meeting, but these two members did not vote: Emily Benedict and Gloria Hausser. 

The bill is back on the agenda for the final vote tomorrow night, Tuesday September 15th.  If you wish to let you council member know how you feel about this matter, you can find your council members contract information at this link. 

Bill BL2020-387 
An ordinance amending Section 3.24.010 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws pertaining to health insurance benefits for Members of the Metropolitan Council after they leave office. 

WHEREAS, in 2019, Metro Council members received a $8,100 raise approved in the prior term which was recommended by the Department of Human Resources under the belief to properly compensate Metro Council would help to promote a more diverse and inclusive Council body; and 

WHEREAS, the citizens of Davidson County expect the Council to manage taxpayer money wisely, yet over $800,000 per year is spent on a benefit for Councilmembers that is not offered to other part-time Metro Government Employees; and 

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government spent $837,438 health insurance benefits for both current and former Metro Council Members in 2020. This cost is expected to increase to $1,208,134 by 2024; and 

WHEREAS, July 17, 2020 the Metropolitan Council passed a $1.066 property tax rate increase in the USD ($1.033 in the GSD), constituting the highest increase in the history of Metropolitan Nashville; and WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government is $4.5 billion in debt, with depleted reserves; and 

WHEREAS, in 2014, the Mayor’s Office contracted with an independent consulting company (Deloitte Consulting LLP) to provide data upon which Metro could make decisions about current pay levels. This study revealed that none of Metro Nashville’s peers offer retiree medical coverage to council members. To be consistent with common practice, the study recommended that Metro eliminate lifetime medical coverage for Council Members; and 

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council should remove the lifetime health insurance benefits for Council members after they leave office. 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY: 

Section 1. That Section 3.24.010 of the Metropolitan Code is hereby amended by deleting the provisions of subsection C. in their entirety and substituting with the following new provisions: 

“C. Council member participation in the comprehensive health care plan. 

1. Members of the metropolitan council, during their term of office, shall be authorized to participate in the health insurance program under the same terms and conditions as are available for regular Metropolitan Government employees. The benefits and contribution rates shall be equivalent to those benefits and rates paid by Metropolitan Government employees. Each member of council shall have the option of participating in the program by notifying the employee benefit board of their desire to participate in the program at any time during their term of office. 

2. Members of council holding office for less than eight (8) years prior to August 31, 2023 who were participants in the comprehensive health care plan during the time they held office may elect to continue the health care plan, provided they pay the full amount of the premium without any subsidy from the Metropolitan Government. 

3. Members of council satisfying one of the following criteria shall be eligible to continue participation in the comprehensive health care plan at the contribution rate equivalent to those rates paid by Metropolitan Government employees: 
a. Those members of council holding office for eight (8) years or more on or prior to August 31, 2023;
b. Those members of council serving prior to September 1, 2007, that served part of one term and a full consecutive term and were prohibited from serving a third consecutive term pursuant to Section 1.07 of the Metropolitan Charter. 

4. Those members of council serving at least eight (8) years who are not covered by subsection 3 above shall be eligible to continue participation in the comprehensive health care plan under the same terms and conditions as retired Metropolitan Government employees, and at the contribution rates based upon years of service as follows: 
a. The Metropolitan Government shall contribute twenty-five percent of the contribution rate established for medical care benefits for a former member of council that served at least eight (8) but less than fifteen (15) years; 
b. The contribution rate for members of council serving fifteen (15) or more years shall be based upon years of service as provided in Section 3.16.020c.3. of this chapter applicable to retired employees hired after January 1, 2013. 

5. Members of council serving at least (8) years who are otherwise covered by subsection 3 above shall have the option of participating in the comprehensive health care plan at the higher contribution rates set forth in subsection 4 above if they so choose. 

6. Except as provided above, no member of council serving after August 31, 2023, shall be eligible for the subsidized health care plan after leaving office.” 

Section 2. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.
Sponsor(s) Tonya Hancock, Erin Evans, Freddie O'Connell, Russ Bradford, John Rutherford, Angie Henderson

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Council to vote to accommodate sidewalk café dining. Will Metro protect the dinners?


by Rod Williams - On September 1, the Metro Council passed by voice vote on second reading Substitute Bill BL2020-403 which modified the Metropolitan Code of Laws relative to sidewalk cafes. It allows them to expand into sidewalk right of ways, allows restaurants to convert a part of their parking lot to dining areas and allows the sale of alcoholic beverages at the outside dining areas including public sidewalks.  

I support this and think it needs to pass on third reading.  We need to make reasonable accommodations to allow people to safely carry on with their lives and the economy to function.  However, across the nation sidewalk cafes have become a target of BLM aggression.  Metro needs to commit to provide law and order so customers of sidewalk cafes are not subject the the violence and disruption, seen in these two videos. 

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Lamar Alexander: Likely to be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year

 


It was good to have Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, testify at the Senate health committee hearing I chaired this week on the importance of vaccines.

by Lamar Alexander - chaired a hearing in the Senate health committee on Tuesday to explore the remarkable progression science is making toward a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to remind parents to have their children get their childhood vaccinations and encourage as many Americans as possible to get the flu vaccine this fall. I received an update on Operation Warp Speed, which is working around the clock to develop, manufacture, and distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as rapidly as possible. Some people incorrectly believe “warp speed” means cutting corners, but it refers to the extraordinary investment in research, development, and manufacturing scale-up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Perhaps most significantly, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has taken the unprecedented step to help speed up manufacturing for hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines early in the process by buying these doses in advance so they can be ready to distribute as soon as the new vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite the speed with which scientists are developing a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the FDA, said the agency is not skimping on its review of safety and efficacy: “This is going to be a science, medicine, data decision. This is not going to be a political decision,” Dr. Hahn has said.

At the hearing I addressed three questions that Americans have about vaccines: 1. Are they safe; 2. Are they effective; and 3. Is the doctor’s office safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?

1. Vaccines are reviewed and approved by the FDA. FDA can either license a vaccine or authorize a vaccine for use during a public health emergency – and the FDA’s stringent approval process is the gold standard for the rest of the world. The vaccines that are routinely given to children are specifically recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an outside group of experts that looks at all available scientific information about each vaccine. Medical associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians work with ACIP to develop these recommendations.

2. Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. Following introduction of polio vaccines, the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to a successful vaccination program, the United States has been polio-free since 1979.

3. The pandemic has made some parents leery of the doctors’ office. For parents who are worried about taking their children to the doctor during the pandemic, AAP says pediatricians are working to ensure their offices are as safe as possible for children to visit. According to the AAP’s Dr. Sean O’Leary, “Medical offices are among the safest places you can be right now given the really extensive measures they’ve taken to prevent spread of COVID-19 both to themselves and their patients. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to go to their doctor.”

Fortunately, thanks to an unprecedented effort by private sector and our government, as well as scientists around the world, there is likely to be a COVID-19 vaccine ready for the most vulnerable citizens by the end of the year and hundreds of millions of doses early in 2021. Some of the challenges apart from developing a vaccine are: how to distribute it, to whom it should go first and how to persuade Americans that it is safe to take.

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