Sunday, January 31, 2021

Linda Josephine Simmons Upchurch, 1948 - 2021, Rest in Peace.

Linda Upchurch
by Rod Williams - My aunt, Linda Upchurch, passed away on January 28th.  Although she was my aunt, she was a year younger than me. We were always close.

When we very young, maybe three and four, my family lived with Granny and Linda and her older siblings, Sonny and Aunt Lila, for a few months.  I have one memory of that period.  Momma told me I was too young to remember it, but I do.  Mom had a beautiful blue flowing dress that had applied polka dots. Linda and I would get in the closet and if you bent the applied dots, they would break and you could peal them off.  We did.  I must of got a spanking for that because it sticks out as one of my earliest memories. 

As children, Linda and I usually saw each other a few days in the summer and a couple days around Christmas.  We lived in Seymour, Tennessee and they lived in Sparta Tennessee and that was as about as often as we could visit.  Despite the distance and infrequency of our visits, Linda and I remained close and getting to visit was an exciting time and something I always looked forward to.  

When I reached my preteen years I started almost annual summer stays with Granny and Linda of a week at a time.  We had so much fun.  Seymour was a rural community, a suburb of Knoxville.  Sparta was a small town.  Even as pre teens we could walk the few blocks to town by ourselves. I remember going to the drug store and getting ice cream floats.  

My life at home was more restrictive than when I visited Granny. My family was of modest income and frugal.  We were also very religious and did not believe in dancing or going to movies and certainly did not have trashy magazines.  

Granny and Linda lived just a couple doors down and across the street from a little neighborhood store.  While at home, soda was a treat, but when visiting with Linda we would frequently, daily as I recall, go the store and get a Dr. Pepper and a candy bar and just put it on Granny's account. We also went to movies which was the only time I ever got to see a movie, and Linda had trashy magazines like Redbook and True Romance and Movie magazine.  It was so much fun visiting Linda.

As we entered our older teen years, Linda would come visit me and stay with us also.  I had free use of my mothers car and we run all over Seymour and Sevier County and had fun as teens and double dated some. 

As a young adult Linda moved to Nashville and a few years later after, I got out of the service, I moved to Nashville also. I frequently ate at her house and we went places together, including going out to listen to music.  She was the only family I had in Nashville and we enjoyed doing things together and sharing what was going on in our lives and confiding in each other.  

My daughter, Rachel, was born in October 1982 and Linda's only child, Thomas, was born six months later.  With children only six months apart, we often did things together focused on children, and Rachel and Thomas were close. Linda lived in a big house on Richland Avenue with her husband Richard and Thomas.  Richland Avenue makes a big deal out of Halloween with lots of homes going to great lengths to decorate and the people of Richland Avenue hand out good candy.  Several Halloweens Rachel and Thomas went trick 'er treating together and I spend Halloweens with Richard and Linda. 

We went camping together some and  visited extended family together and I joined them for the Whitland Avenue 4th of July events most years and spend New Years Eve with them at a big party my sister Becky and her husband Dale threw each year.  Other than my immediate family, Linda was the person I was closest too in the whole world.  When I went though a messy divorce and then child visitation issues, Linda was always supportive and a sympathetic ear. I miss her. 

Below is her obituary.

Linda Josephine Simmons Upchurch, 1948 - 2021

Linda Josephine Simmons Upchurch of Nashville, TN, passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family on January 28, 2021. She was 72 years old.

Linda was born on May 15, 1948 in Anderson Co., TN, to Martha Lena Carter and Willis Simmons. Linda was a 1966 graduate of White County High School and attended college at Tennessee Technological University. Linda worked as a gifted administrative assistant for many years at the Kennedy Center at Peabody (now Vanderbilt). Her true passion, though, was children; she was a foster parent for several children, and after becoming a mother herself, cared for a total of 15 children over the years in her home.

Linda was a true southern lady with fiery red hair, a sharp wit, and a mischievous sense of humor. She was the consummate hostess and her home was the epicenter of family life. From wedding and baby showers to eating beans and greens on New Year's Day, no event was too small to be celebrated with gusto and the perfect appetizer.

Linda was preceded in death by her mother and father; sisters Ouida Faye Williams and Lila Jane McCalman; brother Basil Carroll Welch, II; and infant daughter Martha Leah Upchurch.

She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Richard Leon Upchurch; her beloved son, Thomas Carter Upchurch and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Janette Upchurch of Memphis; grandchildren Asher Andrew, Annelise Leah, and Eleanor Nicole Upchurch; a host of nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews; as well as many devoted friends and family.

The family would like to thank all of the friends and family who reached out during Linda's final days to express their love. Due to COVID-19, a memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Susan Gray School, Peabody College, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville TN 37203.

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Rutherford County considers policy change to end ban on employees carrying concealed firearms

Story highlights: 

  • Six member ad hoc committee studying the issue. 
  • Commissioner Craig Harris opposes most county employees carrying guns at work due to liability. Commissioner Pettus Read says only trained law enforcement officers should carry guns while working.
  • Rutherford County has 1,332 employees, including 253 law enforcement officers. Only that 253 may carry guns.
  • Mt. Juliet allows city workers to carry guns to work.
  • In 2020 the Rutherford County Commission declared its jurisdiction a Second Amendment Sanctuary County

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

What Does the New Minimum Wage Research Say about Minimum Wages and Job Loss in the United States?

by Rod Williams - One can find people who adamantly claim increasing the minimum wage causes unemployment and job loss but one can also find those who adamantly claim it does not.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is an American private nonprofit research organization "committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community." The NBER is well known for providing start and end dates for recessions in the United States.  There is no source more respected and which speaks with greater authority than the NBER.

The NBER examined the issue and published a working paper this month titled, Myth or Measurement: What Does the New Minimum Wage Research Say about Minimum Wages and Job Loss in the United States?

These are the conclusions:

(i) there is a clear preponderance of negative estimates in the literature; (ii) this evidence is stronger for teens and young adults as well as the less-educated; (iii) the evidence from studies of directly-affected workers points even more strongly to negative employment effects; and (iv) the evidence from studies of low-wage industries is less one-sided. First, there is a clear preponderance of negative estimates in the literature.
Also, it should be pointed out that the evidence is overwhelming and significant. 
In our data, 79.3% of the estimated employment elasticities are negative, 55.4% are negative and significant at the 10% level or better, and 47.9% are negative and significant at the 5% level or better.
To read the full 49-page report follow this link

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Friday, January 29, 2021

Bellevue Breakfast Club to resume in-person meetings Feb. 6th. Councilman Steve Glover guest speaker.

From Lonnie Spivak: 


Greetings Breakfast Club, 

I wanted to remind everyone we are meeting for the first time since the COVID on February 6, at River Art Studio. The address for our temporary meeting location is, 8329 Sayer Brown Rd, in River Plantation, next to Plantation Pub. 

Staci does have her students in and out of her studio, so we will need to follow the counties COVID guidelines. I have hand sanitizer and some extra face shields if needed. I know I said this was just going to be a social event, but Steve Glover has some information regarding taxes in Davison County he would like to share with the group. He has been a great friend us, so I hope you can make the meeting. 

Also, there will not be refreshments at this months meeting, so plan accordingly. Hopefully we can get back to a more normal meeting in the coming months as the county continues to open. I look forward to seeing you. 

Best Regards, 

Lonnie

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Metro Nashville Public Schools director to announce school reopening plan by Monday

The Tennessean, 1/29/21: Metro Nashville Public Schools director to announce school reopening plan by Monday.

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End asset forfeiture in Tennessee

Daniel Smith
By Daniel Smith, Tennessee Lookout - You are more likely to have your property taken from you by sworn law enforcement officers than burglars. In fact, in the past 10 years, police in Tennessee have taken $146.9 million in property and cash from citizens not even accused of a crime via civil asset forfeiture.

These assets are typically used to bolster police budgets for equipment and vehicle upgrades. The intended purpose of asset forfeiture was to allow police to seize items used in crimes to offset the cost of crime-fighting. It was extended over time to allow police to grab property and cash they had reason to suspect were used or would be used to commit a crime. The burden of proof falls on the individual losing their property to prove that they did not commit a crime or even intend to commit a crime. 

Civil asset forfeiture is now abused to such a large degree that even carrying a few hundred dollars with you can be construed as sufficient evidence for “intent” to commit a crime. With your property or cash considered guilty until proven innocent, it is notoriously difficult and expensive for citizens to retrieve it. 

Just think, it is nearly impossible to prove that you weren’t going to buy drugs with the $500 in your glove box, even when you have good, documented reasons for carrying the cash. (continue reading)

Daniel Smith, Ph.D. is the director of the Political Economy Research Center at MTSU.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Metro school board fears a State takeover of Nashville's dysfunctional failing school system.

Tennessee Lookout: Analysis: Education stakeholders fear Gov. Lee will push for takeover of Nashville schools

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New federal fraud, money laundering charges against Tennessee state senator Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis

Sen. Katrina Robinson
By Vivian Jones | The Center Square​ - The U.S. Department of Justice announced two new federal charges Tuesday against Tennessee state Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis. 

Separate from her indictment last July, Robinson, along with two co-defendants, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Robinson, 40, is accused of working with Katie Ayers, 59, and Brooke Boudreaux, 32, to steal $14,470 from a victim identified as “R.S.” ... The DOJ released records of text messages sent between Robinson and Ayers from late 2017. “How much money do you need to get out of this transaction?” (continue reading)

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Tennessee to Metro Nashville Schools: Immediately account for $110M in federal grants or risk future aid

The Tennessean- ... "I cannot underscore enough the seriousness of the current financial management of federal funds and compliance issues in MNPS," Schwinn wrote Monday. "It is imperative that these issues be resolved quickly, accurately, and comprehensively, so as to provide students with the resources that they need and to move the district to a space of compliance with federal and state law." ... Arnold said Lee and his office "expect no further delay" from Nashville public schools in putting the grant funding to use to help students. ... "Unless we have accountability from these school districts, we can't keep throwing money at them if we don’t see improvement," said Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chairman of the House Education Administration Committee. (link)

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Monday, January 25, 2021

it’s time to repeal certificate of need laws

Commentary: Pandemic shows it’s time to repeal certificate of need laws 
Justine Owen
By Justin Owen, Tennessee Lookout
- Asher Gross is one of the happiest little girls you will ever meet, despite the daily struggles she faces. A hypoxic brain injury has left her with developmental disabilities, and she suffers from congestive heart failure and a cleft palate. She cannot speak, she has to be fed through a tube, and she has limited motor skills. 

As you can imagine, she requires intensive hands-on care around the clock. When her mom Michelle felt like her home health provider wasn’t cutting it, she was told bluntly, “Good luck finding another provider. We’re the only one.” 

Michelle soon discovered that she was in fact unable to find another provider in her small rural town. No other provider was approved to serve Michelle’s community. How could this possibly be the case? The main culprit is the existence of certificate of need laws requiring government permission to add new healthcare services. (Continue reading

Justin Owen is the President and CEO of the Beacon Center. 

Why is it time to reform CON laws?

 
Ron Shultis
by BY RON SHULTIS, The Beacon Center - With the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, fears of overwhelming our healthcare system’s capacity have understandably resurfaced. In fact, current hospitalization rates are higher now than in the spring during the first surge of the virus. Preserving the healthcare system’s capacity, namely hospital beds, was one of the original justifications for government lockdowns in order to “flatten the curve.” 

However, this debate about whether we are adequately ensuring we have the ability to manage the growing cases and hospitalizations misses an important point: some of these worries about capacity are our own doing. Think about hospital beds as a market, with a “supply” and “demand.” Lockdowns and other restrictions are essentially designed to reduce “demand” for the hospital beds. Meanwhile, another option to policymakers is to simply increase supply in order to ensure people who need these services can get them. But how can policymakers increase the supply of hospital beds? Simple: repeal certificate of need (CON) laws. ” 

As a recap, CON laws require providers to prove there is an unmet need in a community before they can expand or add new healthcare services in a specific geographic area. Imagine if Chick-fil-a had to prove to a government bureaucracy that a certain area had a shortage of chicken sandwich providers in order to open a restaurant in a new town, all while McDonald’s and Popeyes object to the agency saying they can more than adequately meet demand. ” 

Here at Beacon, we have repeatedly called for repealing and reforming our state’s remaining CON laws. Currently, twenty different services and providers require a CON in Tennessee including hospital beds. These CONs increase costs to consumers and restrict access. This is so well known that in order to better fight the pandemic, Gov. Bill Lee temporarily suspended the need for a CON for hospital beds by executive order. If we have to suspend regulations in healthcare in order to fight a pandemic, what is the justification for them in the first place? 

Tennessee lawmakers should repeal all CONs, or at the least, reform the process for those that are not repealed. Just think, had the government not been involved in rationing and approving hospital beds for the past few decades, chances are we wouldn’t be worried about healthcare capacity in the first place.

Ron Shultis is Director of Policy and Research at the Beacon Center.

The Heartland Institute: POLICY TIP SHEET: TENNESSEE SHOULD REPEAL OR REFORM DISRUPTIVE CERTIFICATE OF NEED LAWS

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Federal judge blocks release of Nashville Capitol riot suspect Eric Munchel

"Prosecutors say Munchel was the man photographed in the U.S. Senate gallery wearing camouflage, carrying several sets of flex-tie handcuffs with a stun gun on his right hip. ... 'It is difficult to fathom a more serious danger to the community—to the District of Columbia, to the country, or to the fabric of American Democracy—than the one posed by armed insurrectionists, including the defendant, who joined in the occupation of the United States Capitol,' prosecutors wrote in their motion." (link)

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GOP leaders push to defund school districts that refuse to offer in-person learning. This would include Nashville.

The Center Square – Top Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have filed a bill that would allow the state to withhold funding from school districts that refuse to provide an in-person learning option for students.


The bill, SB7024/HB7021, is sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. If passed, it would give the Tennessee Education Commissioner authority to withhold all or a part of state funding from school districts if they fail to provide a minimum of 70 days of in-person learning this school year and the full 180 days of in-person learning next school year for all kindergarten through eighth-grade students. (continue reading)

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Metro Leadership Believes Everything They Do Is Essential

BY JASON EDMONDS, The Beacon Center - As Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council continue to enforce restrictions on the citizens and businesses in Nashville, they, unfortunately, don’t seem to have any restrictions on their use of tax dollars. 
The COVID-related restrictions, from the Mayor, put many Nashvillians out of work and businesses have been forced to limit operations or, even worse, shut down completely. On top of that, when faced with a self-imposed budget crisis, Nashville’s leadership decided it wasn’t the time to try and cut some spending but pass a 34% property tax increase on the workers and businesses already struggling. Nashville’s mayor claimed that without the tax increase, essential government functions would be cut.  

Well, it seems “essential government functions” is a pretty broad category to Mayor Cooper. Last month alone, Cooper and the council approved millions in projects and created a “wishlist” for others. The projects include: 
  1. $13.8 million for riverfront improvements 
  2. Potential upgrades to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway 
  3. Discussing upgrades and creating a new neighborhood around Nissan Stadium 
  4. Approving a $1.6 billion transit plan 
While Metro will claim only some businesses are essential, it seems they think everything they do is essential. The biggest expense of them all – the $1.6 billion transit plan – was passed by the council without a clear timeline or financial backing. Several council members lamented the lack of details surrounding the plan, with one calling the proposed funding nothing but “smoke and mirrors.” With most of the plan’s funding reliant upon massive grants from the federal and state government without any current commitment of funds, the plan resembles something straight out of the Obamacare playbook—except this time we have to pass the plan in order to find a way to fund the plan.  

It is hard enough for citizens of Nashville to be slapped with a 34% tax increase while so many are struggling to make ends meet. It’s a slap in the face to Nashville taxpayers to have Metro leadership going on a spending spree and planning out even bigger purchases while saying the tax increase was needed for essential government services. If NASCAR and the NFL are considered essential government services, the Metro Government should hit the brakes on their spending habits instead of throwing Hail Marys for federal dollars.  

Heading into 2021, let’s hope Metro leadership can make a New Year’s resolution to respect the Nashville taxpayer and see that every Nashvillian is essential.

Jason Edmonds is a research assistant with The Beacon Center.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

I was wrong and the never-Trumpers were right.

by Rod Williams - I never was quite a never-Trumper but was never a Trump enthusiast either.

In 2016, my Republican Party primary choice was Marco Rubio. I described Trump as a carnival barker and thought his candidacy a joke. When Rubio's campaign fizzled out, I supported Ted Cruze.  When Trump became the Party's nominee, I did not vote for him, instead voting for the third party candidate Evan McCullin. My reasoning at the time was that since Tennessee's eleven electoral votes were never at risk and I had the luxury of casting a protest vote, I would. I said, at the time, that if I lived in a battleground state, however, I would have cast my vote for Trump. 

In 2020, I did vote for Trump. I liked most of his policies and accomplishments and detested the policies of the Democrat Party.  Prior to the pandemic, the economy was roaring, Black unemployment was the lowest in history and shrinking and the income gap was narrowing.  We were at peace and for the first time since the Carter administration there had been progress in mid-East peace, we had confronted and calmed North Korea, destroyed Isis, were standing up to China, and our NATO allies were paying more for their own defense.   We had reduced illegal immigration. We had achieved energy independence for the first time in seventy years.  We had drastically cut red tape and rolled back regulations. Most importantly, we had put three originalist  jurist on the Supreme Court. 

I disagreed with some of Trump's policies such as some of his curtailment of legal immigration and his trade policy such as banning steel imports from Canada, and was concerned about the growing deficit, but on balance, I was pleased with the Trump accomplishments.

As much as I was pleased with Trump's accomplishments, I detested Democrat policy proposals.  The Green New Deal,  Medicare for all, defunding the police, statehood for D. C. and Puerto Rico, and packing the Supreme Court would destroy our country.  

I overlooked Trump's personality, style and character. He often made me cringe by things he would say and he often seemed not to have a clear understanding of the constitution and was too friendly with dictatorial regimes, and insufficiently concerned with human rights.  I hated his constant tweets and picking unnecessary fights and his thin skin and vast ego and lack of empathy.  I chose to overlook these things, however. I reasoned that supporting a flawed candidate who was a jerk and bully was more important than handing the country over to Democrats. By this time, I could not understand the never-Trumpers and thought they were somewhat elitist who were too fastidious about manners and decorum.  Too much was at stake to let Trump's personality cause one to let the Democrats win, I reasoned.  I could not understand how conservative thinkers like George Will, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks could not reach the same conclusion.  These were people whose books I had read and whose opinions I valued. That had advocated tirelessly for conservative policies for years.  I was mystified that they could turn their back on all they had believed. 

As it turns out, I was wrong and the never-Trumpers were right.  Knowing what I know now, I would not have voted for Trump in 2020.  Since the events of January 6th, I have thought that if I would have known what was going to happen, I simply would have abstained from voting in 2020.  Giving it more thought, however, I think I would have had to vote for Joe Biden.  With a Democrat victory we still have a chance to win the next election and change course.  Trump committed, what in my view, was an act of treason.  There is no overlooking it.

Trump instigated  insurrection, unleashed violence that resulted in the death of five people and a mob that would have killed the Vice President because the Vice President would not trample the Constitution.  Some are making the argument that a close reading of Trumps words of January 6, show he said to peaceable march to the capitol.  I am not absolving Trump of responsibility.  His purpose in calling the mass of people to Washington was to stop Congress from accepting the results of the election and carrying out their constitutional duty.  He riled up a mob and then threw gasoline on a smoldering fire. If I was to be generous, I might be persuaded that Trump did not want the actual attack on the capitol to occur and did not realized how volatile the situation was. That would take some persuading.  He had encouraged the crazies from day one.  He set the stage.  When offered opportunities to denounce groups like Q-anon he did not do so. 

Some will excuse Trumps failure to condemn the crazies on the right and the riot by pointing out that Democrats supported the violence of BLM and Antifa.  Even if that is true, we should condemn that tolerance for violence instead of justifying more violence. 

Should Trump run again and be the Parties nominee in 2024, no matter how far to the left the Democrats have become, I will not vote for Trump.  The never-Trumpers were right I was wrong. 

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

General Assembly takes bold action to transform educational outcomes for Tennessee students and offset any learning losses from Covid-19 lockdowns.

The below post is a repost from the Tennessee Eagle Forum newsletter.  Tennessee Eagle Forum is an organization I support and their newsletter is a valuable source of information. Follow the link to subscribe. 

FROM THE TENNESEAN: 
In whirlwind special session, Tennessee lawmakers approve $160M package of education bills aimed at learning loss, literacy. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly closed a historic special session to address learning loss and the negative effects on student proficiency in reading and math marked by time away from the classroom due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has severely disrupted education in Tennessee. Our decisive action to intervene on behalf of Tennessee students will equip them for success, educating our kids better in the future than before the pandemic,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the General Assembly for their swift passage of legislation that will benefit our students.”
In addition to interventions for Tennessee students, the passed legislation increases the salary component of the education funding formula by 4%.

“I am grateful for a productive and efficient conclusion to a legislative session focused on helping children, parents and teachers,” said Lt. Gov. McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “Tennessee has made tremendous improvements in education over the last decade. The coronavirus public health crisis began to put all of that at risk. The steps we took this week will reverse the learning loss that has taken place and prevent any further erosion of our progress. I appreciate Governor Lee calling this special session to draw our attention to the pressing needs of education in this state. The House and the Senate came together to ensure our progress continues. I appreciate the efforts of each and every one of my colleagues for their efforts this week on behalf of our students, teachers and parents.”
Gov. Lee’s slate of education priorities included learning loss, phonics-based reading instruction and accountability measures to inform student progress.

“This is a momentous day for Tennessee, for our students, and for our parents because our General Assembly has drawn a line in the sand, and we have said we can no longer accept that only one third of our students are proficient in reading and in math,” said Tennessee House Speaker Sexton (R-Crossville). “We want to be number one in education; I appreciate Gov. Lee for his vision, as well as Lt. Gov McNally, and the House and Senate for their partnership as we all have worked together this week to transform educational outcomes for Tennessee students.”
Accountability to InformSB 7001/HB 7003 Extends hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so that students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments Provides parents and educators with assessment data including TCAP testing to provide an accurate picture of where Tennessee students are and what supports are needed to offset any learning losses Passed the Senate 23-5; passed the House 71-17.

Intervening to Stop Learning LossSB 7002/HB 7004 Requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps, beginning summer 2021 Program prioritizes students who score below proficient in both reading (ELA) and math subjects Creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students throughout the entire school year Strengthens laws around a third grade reading gate so we no longer advance students who are not prepared Passed the Senate 23-4; passed the House 70-21.

Building Better Readers with PhonicsSB 7003/HB 7002 Ensures local education agencies (LEAs) use a phonics-based approach for kindergarten through third grade reading instruction Establishes a reading screener for parents and teachers to identify when students need help, well before third grade Provides training and support for educators to teach phonics-based reading instruction Passed the Senate 25-3; passed the House 84-5.

Increased Funding for Teachers, Schools - SB 7009/HB 7020 Appropriates the funding for these initiatives, adding over $100 million to Tennessee’s public education system. $535,200 in state dollars is set aside to administer the literacy program. $81 million is appropriated to establish and support the learning loss remediation and student acceleration programs. In addition to these funds, $42.9 million is allocated to LEAs to be used to increase teacher salaries from January 2021 through June 2021. Passed the Senate 23-5; passed the House 91-0-1.

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Senator Bob Corker feels vindicated, as he should.

by Rod Williams - Senator Bob Corker supported the Republican ticket in 2016 but was an early critic of President Trump beginning  in 2017.  I am sure many other Republican leaders felt the same way, but fearful of being primaried or attacked as "establishment" or "RINO," if they expressed their concerns, they kept quit. Bob Corker did not. Of course, in 2018 Corker did not seek a third term.

At one point Corker described the White House as an "adult day care."  And, he once said Trump's cabinet would “help separate our country from chaos.” This is recalled in an article published Jan. 10th in Politico, and excerpted in the January 19th Tennessee Star.   

After Trump incited the deadly attack on the Capitol, Corker says he has been vindicated in his criticism of Trump. “Nobody's perfect.' he told Politico. "You don't ever have all of the information. But I think I’ve been validated.  My observations about his character and his conduct certainly have been validated, unfortunately, with people's lives being lost. And our country appearing to be run by a tin pot dictator to people around the world.” 

In speaking about the future of the Republican Party, Corker said, "Republicans are going to have to have a real debate about who they are going to be. The Republican Party has been a party of adults, and people who make tough decisions. Obviously, that hasn't been the case in recent times."

Corker says the recent attack on the Capitol has diminished Trump and lessened his political influence.  I hope Corker is right and think he is, but I am not sure to what degree.  Trump still has a large devoted, almost cult-like following and he has a huge war chest raised under the false pretenses of using the money to fight the alleged voter fraud that he claimed cost him the election.  My fear is that in a crowded field, Trump could again win the Party's nomination, unless he is barred from seeking reelection or dies between now and 2024,  If nominated, he would lose badly in a general election as the party's nominee and Joe Biden or Kamala Harris would be virtually assured of being reelected.

In any event, Bob Corker is justified in feeling vindicated for being a critic of Donald Trump.

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

"Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Jones testified that he buried $100,000 cash in his backyard .....

Judge Kelvin Jones

 .... to hide it from the state and from his creditors. .... Jones, who was elected to the bench in 2014, made the admissions during a sworn deposition that he gave last July in his divorce case. "  This is unreal. He admits to various other illegal activities. What a scumbag! 

See, Nashville judge's own sworn admissions in divorce case spark ethics complaint

 Also, from May of 2020 see, Judge Kelvin Jones’ divorce raises questions of invasion of privacy, mysterious deposits.

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Mayor Cooper endorses President Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement.

 


Climate Mayors Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order to Rejoin Paris Agreement 

JANUARY 20, 2021 — Today, Climate Mayors, a bipartisan network of over 470 U.S. mayors working to combat climate change through meaningful actions in their communities, issued the following statement regarding President Biden’s Executive Order to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement: 
Since 2017, when the previous administration announced its intention to leave the Paris Agreement, Climate Mayors served as a bulwark against climate complacency. Our 474 member cities have remained committed to upholding the Paris Agreement, and have taken strong actions to reduce carbon emissions and keep the United States on a path of climate progress.
This past year, our cities were ground zero for the fourfold crisis the Biden administration intends to prioritize: the COVID-19 pandemic, a profound economic downturn, extreme climate impacts and a national reckoning with racial inequity. We are at an inflection point and, for cities, the stakes could not be higher. 
Against this urgent backdrop, Climate Mayors applaud and endorse President Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement. With the stakes so high, we are eager to collaborate with a federal administration committed to urgent, bold climate action at the national and international levels. As leaders on the ground, we keenly understand that climate action will not only protect human civilization and prevent irreparable climate disruption, but will also make American cities cleaner, healthier and more equitable.
This announcement is only the beginning; there is still a lot of work to do. It is essential that the transition to a green energy economy is front and center in any comprehensive economic stimulus package. Climate Mayors are ready to partner immediately on accelerated climate solutions here in the U.S. and abroad. The future of our economy, our public health, and our world depend on it.

Rod's Comment: Getting the US back in the Paris Agreement was to be expected.  Anything done by executive order can be undone by executive order.  Don't get too worked up over this.  The Paris Agreement is not a treaty.  We do not surrender any sovereignty with this accord.  It is simply a statement of good intentions.  An executive order can not bind the United States to a course of action.  It is symbolic.  

My view is that President Trump should have never gotten us out of it but simply should have ignored it. That is a case where he unnecessarily alienated people and tarnished the image of the US in the eyes of the world for no good reason.  If the Paris Agreement actually did anything, then I would have supported Trumps decision to get us out of it, but saw no need to take a stand on something that didn't matter anyway. 

The US leads the world in reducing greenhouse gases.  This was primarily accomplished by switching from burning coal to using natural gas made abundant by fracking. Another factor was the downturn in economic activity caused by the Covid-19 crisis.  

President Biden has pledged to ban fracking on federal lands and new regulations will probably make fracking more difficult everywhere. As the economy picks back up and the fracking ban takes hold, I expect the US will reduce greenhouse gases less under Biden than we did under Trump. At the same time we will probably lose our energy independence achieved under Trump.

As one who accepts the theory of global warming, I do think we should attempt to reduce greenhouse gases, but not at the cost of destroying the economy.  I believe the solution lies in embracing new technologies, market forces, fracking and the new generation of nuclear power plants. The environmentalist community unfortunately, opposes both fracking and nuclear power and seems to not believe in the science of economics.  

The Green New Deal would destroy our economy.  I don't think it will pass.  If we could have held the Senate, it would have been dead on arrival.  However, even with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, I don't think it will pass.  When individual legislators look at the cost to their district or state and the economy, many will abandon it.  If is easier to say you support something when campaigning than to actually vote for it. The Congress may pass a watered down mild version and call it the Green New Deal but the radical version envisioned by some, I don't think will be passed. 

As for the nations mayors taking bold action on climate change, it is mostly posturing and smoke and mirrors.  Recently, Mayor Cooper claimed to have taken action "that moves Nashville a decade ahead in sustainability," when all he had really done was sign an ordinance passed by the Council that was a mandated update to the housing and fire code. For more on this see Mayor Cooper Celebrates Passage of Green Legislation. Hyping a routine overdue required update.  


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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Trump farewell address: It is a shame we did not see more of this Trump.

by Rod Williams - Below is President Trump's farewell address. If you have not already watched it, please do. President Trump had some remarkable achievements and he was capable of being a great leader. If we would have seen more of this Trump on the campaign trail I truly believe it would be Trump being being sworn in for a second term on January 20th rather than Joe Biden being sworn in. This is a speech, much like his Mt. Rushmore July 4th address and the Trump acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, that can make people feel good about the country and  the Trump presidency. 


Instead of this Trump, unfortunately we more often saw a angry man who was crude and rude and self absorbed. Instead of uniting people around a shared vision for the future, he drove wedges between people. Instead of appealing to the best in people, he appealed to the worst. Instead of attracting people to the cause, he unnecessarily alienated people. It is a shame.  He leaves the country in the hands of Democrats with a radical agenda. 

Even after losing the election, if President Trump would have made the Georgia senate races about stopping the Democrat agenda rather than about Donald Trump, he could have at least left the country with a divided government. Unfortunately, President Trump too often put Donald Trump ahead of the good of the county.  He lost the White House and the Senate and left the Republican Party weak and divided.  What a shame. He could have been a great President. 

 

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Louella T Ballenger Williams, A remembrance of the woman I loved and of our life together.

Louella Ballenger
by Rod Williams - My dear wife, Louella passed away on December 21st.  She passed peacefully as I held her hand. She was in Brighton Garden's nursing home and due to lockdowns and quarantine I had last seen her on December 4th.   Fortunately, I did get to be with her when she passed. Her eyes were open most of the time and I got one faint smile.  I had about three hours with her.  I told her everything I wanted to say and held and kissed her and petted her and then told her that if she was ready to go, she could go at any time. About 20 minutes later at 12:40PM she took her last breath.

Louella is survived by me, Rod Williams her husband; two brothers, Ben Dillingham and Bruce Dillingham; a sister, Linda Eppard; and her two children, Lee and Dana. 

For those who only knew Louella after she was sick, I wish you would have known the Louella I knew. She was smart, well educated, cultured, adventurous, kind and had a easy smile and boundless curiosity.  She had formal education but never stopped learning and knew so much about so many things. She knew philosophy and art and history and was a ferocious reader.  She could name by the pattern numerous oriental rugs and loved fabrics and tapestries and especially oriental rugs.  She knew classical music.  She broadened my knowledge and we explored and learned things together. 

Louella was born at home in Barnardsville, North Carolina on May 5, 1941.  I have visited the community.  It is an unincorporated community isolated in the mountains.  Louella lived there until she was twelve years old. Part of that time she and her family lived with her grandparents on a farm and Louella shared fond memories of that period.  She told me of them keeping a goat and how when you got too close it, it would butt you.  She told me of playing in the attic and hiding and making scary noises and scaring her younger siblings, and the one time she left a gate open and the cows got out and how she got a real scolding from her granddaddy. 

When she was twelve her family moved to Engleside, Virginia where her father went to work with his brother at a market he owned.  Shortly after that move, her father died in a tragic accident. Sometime after that her mother remarried and they  moved to Alexandria where Louella graduated from high school.

Upon graduation from high school, Louella's aunt, Aunt T, encouraged Louella to go to college and invited her to come live with her and so she could, and Louella did.  Louella often told me how much she loved her Aunt T, and if not for her she would not have gotten to go to college and her life might have turned out much differently.  She lived with Aunt T in Winston-Salem and attended Wake Forrest where she graduated with a degree in Economics.

After college she move back to Northern Virginia, worked for a while then got married and had two children. She stayed home until her children were in their early teens and then worked part time for the Federal Government, working as a field representative, compiling data for the Consumer Price Index.  

Knowing she wanted to work full time as her children got older, she said she knew she needed more education to get the good Federal jobs. She enrolled in George Mason University and got a masters in Economics.  She said one of the high points of this college experience was sitting in a class taught by Walter Williams. She also studied Spanish and went on a several week study-vacation to Spain. 

Upon graduation, and after her children were grown, she went to work full time and then sometime after that her marriage ended in divorce.  During her career she worked for the IRS, some other agency a short while, and the CIA, but most of the time she worked for the Department of Labor.  She returned to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statics, working again on the Consumer Price Index but in a full-time higher paying position. She told me that to advance with the Federal government one had to be willing to move within the government as job openings became available. After landing the job with the CPI, she said she reached a point where she did not care to advance higher, and stopped seeking advancement. She was content and enjoyed her job.

Fascinated that she had worked for the CIA, I asked her one time what she did.  She looked at me without cracking a smile and sweetly said, "I could tell you, but I would have to kill you."  She then told me she was an analysist in the Mexico division but it did not involve cloak and dagger. Actually she did not like working for the CIA. A funny thing I recall is that she told me she failed her lie detector test for getting the position.  Even failing when they asked her, her name.  She over analyzed each question. She said she thought about her name and asked herself if her real name was her married name or her maiden name and did the initial constitute her middle name, or is her full middle name called for to be considered her name.  After being coached to just answer honestly and not think about it too much, she passed and got the job.  She did not like the CIA however.  She would go to training session and was not even to tell anyone where she was, and she said you were not to discuss normal chit-chat stuff about your job with family or friends. 

I met Louella in May 1992. I was underemployed at the time doing whatever I could to earn a living.  I got a part-time job with the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, working as a field rep on the Consumer Price Index.  I had to go to a several-day training session in Annapolis, Virginia and it is there that I met Louella. She was one of the trainers. We connected due to an ice breaker game that this type training sessions often start with.  This one involved naming one's favorite broadcaster, beverage, and book.  We both named Atlas Shrugged. At break, I sought her out. I did not expect to find a fan of Ayn Rand at a federal government training session and I wanted to meet this person. As it turns out, neither of us were libertarians and were both pretty much mainstream pragmatic conservative Republicans but like a lot of people, Ayn Rand was somewhat of an introduction to purist thoughts on the nature of individualism, liberty and free markets.  

That brief introduction at break led to going with a group of about eight or so to a popular sea food restaurant where we got to know each other better.  Then the next night she and I met for drinks in the hotel lounge after the day's training. The drinks turned into a meal and we stayed late into the evening.  I had never talked with anyone so easily and had so much to talk about.  She was passionate about ideas, especially economics and political philosophy.  We knew so much on the same topics and had read so many of the same books.  Besides political conversation and current events however, we shared our life stories, and talked about family and she told me of her trip to Spain.  We got to know each other and immediately liked each other and had a lot in common. 

I was smitten. She was pretty, smart, curious and a good person and shared my views and values and was passionate about ideas.  When I talked about something, she knew what I was talking about. We kept in contact by letters, and email, and phone conversations, after that week.  A few weeks later I went for another, more advanced training session, this time in Baltimore, and we picked up where we left off and began a romantic relationship. 

We had a long-distance relationship that lasted until she moved to Nashville in 2001.  Long distance relationships seldom work out but ours did.  We saw each other frequently. The airline schedule worked to our advantage.  Louella's office was right next to the Union Station, across from a side street.  She had flex time and would leave work a little early on Friday, walk across the street, catch a train to the airport, and get a direct flight to Nashville, and I would pick her up at the airport at the curb and we would be home having dinner by 7PM, while some of her co-workers were still heading home on the interstate.  On Monday morning, I dropped her off at the airport about 7AM for a flight to Washington where she would again catch the train to Union Station and be at her desk by about 9:30.  On three-day weekends I went to visit her.  We saw each other at least twice a month.  

We enjoyed life.  We took up serious Asian cooking and would learn new recipes and shop for ingredients and cook together.  We had both been casual occasional wine drinkers; we became knowledgeable wine drinkers and went to wine tastings and read about wines, enjoyed shopping for wine and discovering new taste. 

Louella taught me to dance. I had been limited to swaying to a slow song, Louella taught me dance steps and to hear the beat of the music and we took a few formal dance lessons.  We went to the summer Big Band Dances in the Park and we often went out dancing to country music.  We loved going to the Broken Spoke, a bar on Trinity Lane that had a big dance floor.  I never became a great dancer but enjoyed it immensely. 

We loved art openings and the monthly art crawl.  We enjoyed annual events like Wine on the River, the Belmont Christmas program at Belmont Mansion, The Whitland Ave 4th of July, Festival of Nation, the Southern Festival of Books and others.  We went to lectures, writer's nights, free concerts at the Blair School of Music, honky-tonking on Lower Broadway, and we took hikes and long walks and enjoyed yard sales and dining out.  We were always on the go and having a good time. 

On three-day weekends, I would go to Washington and visit her where we enjoyed all there is to do in Washington.  We went to free cultural events hosted by embassies, we saw most of the Smithsonian Museums taking it in, in small doses at a time and we enjoyed eating out and exploring the city. Between visits, we talked on the phone, often for hours at a time.  

Each year we took a foreign vacation.  Travel had appealed to me but for some reason I thought it was too expensive and too daunting.  Louella convinced me it wasn't.  Our first trip was to Spain and it was wonderful.  Subsequent trips included Italy, France, Portugal, Mexico twice, Turkey, Czech Republic, and Hungary. We traveled light, without reservations.  With two good guide books we figured it out as we went. We stayed at ma and pa pensions mostly.  If we loved a place we would stay an extra day, if we had seen enough we moved on.   We had an itinerary but not a schedule. We took local trains and buses and subways. We visited the great museums of the world and explored and had adventure.  Prior to our trips, we spend a lot of time deciding where we would go and for months in advance we read about the country we would visit and its history and culture and art and what we wanted to see. We were knowledgeable travelers.  Louella was a great travel companion and we had magical moments and romance and adventure. 

The terrorist attack of 9-11 was a wake-up call for us.  We realized life is uncertain and short and if we were going to be together we ought to do it.  We bought a house together and Louella retired and moved to Nashville on Thanksgiving weekend, 2001.

Unfortunately, something was not right. Louella who had been full of life and had varied interests suddenly did not care what we did and had little enthusiasm.  We didn't fight much, but were just not happy.  In addition to quitting her job and moving away from her children, her mother died that year.  I thought Louella was experiencing depression but thought maybe also she was having regrets about our relationship and her move.  It wasn't constant, however.  We still enjoyed some things and there would be times when the dark cloud  would lift and things would seem as they were before, but something was not right. Then one day something happened that caused me to realize that there was definitely something going on beyond depression.  It took a while to get a firm diagnosis but by March 2005 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  As it turned out it was not Alzheimer's but Hydrocephalus, which is treatable and if she had been correctly diagnosed and treated early she would have gotten well, but by the time she was correctly diagnosed the brain damage had already occurred.

After being diagnosed, and getting on medication we had the sadness of the realization of her condition, but the undefined dark cloud lifted. We enjoyed life again.  In the early stages Louella still had her knowledge and still appreciated the same things she had appreciated, she just could not do things that required reasoning.  We had one more adventurous vacation, this one to Greece. Louella could not make change or read a map, but otherwise not much was different. We had a wonderful romantic time. We decided to not stop having fun and living life until we absolutely had to.  We enjoyed our family, and still went out to dine, and to events and enjoyed the political social life. On December 4, 2005, we were married in a beautiful ceremony at our home.  

Over the following years Louella's health declined.  We still had some good times, however.  But as the years rolled by she became less and less able to do the things we had done.  I was fortunate to find a good caregiver for Louella who worked for us forty hours a week.  The rest of the time, I was her full-time caregiver.  There were trying times when Louella experienced periods of agitation, and periods of insomnia, and there were scares where she almost died.  She declined and the last five years or so of her life she was "total care."  She had to be fed and changed and was in a wheel chair.  She totally lost the ability to talk.  It was sad watching her decline.  It was trying but I loved her and was glad I could take care of her.  Despite her inability to talk, Louella still had lots of personality and would say syllables in conversational tones and would smile and laugh and love attention. Despite her condition she was jealous of my attention.  If we had a guest and I was engrossed in conversation and ignoring her, she would act out.  In many ways she was child-like.

In February of 2020 there were some changes in circumstances and I realized I could just not take care of her at home anymore.  I found a place for her and put her in Brighton Gardens of Bentwood.  There are bad nursing homes and good ones and this was a good one.  They really cared about her and treated her with dignity.  The food was good and Louella was engaged and talked to. I visited with her for hours on end almost everyday, enjoying our time together in this new setting.  Unfortunately, the next month after putting her in the nursing home, the Covid-19 virus crisis erupted and my visits were restricted and there were periods of no visits at all.  She continued her decline and passed away on December 21. 2020.

I am glad I had Louella in my life.  I wish you would have know the woman I loved. I miss her. 

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Armed soldiers to protect the inauguration are justified

Ralph Bristol
by Ralph Bristol, 1/18/21, reposted from Facebook - I’ve seen two separate posts (so far) that have said “If you need…Armed Soldiers to protect your inauguration from The People, then you probably weren’t elected by The People.” 

The 25,000 federal troops plus 10,000 police and other law enforcement are guarding the Capitol, along with a 12’ fence topped with razor wire BECAUSE hundreds of most fanatical wing of pro-Trump protesters easily overran the Capitol police force on 1/6/21 and launched a deadly attack with the stated (during the attack) intent of capturing and/or killing both the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

They did so immediately after the President, his son and his lawyer held pep rallies for them and urged them to march to the Capitol, “fight like hell” and conduct “trial by combat.” The most fringe element took them literally and attempted exactly that. Most people know not to take Trump literally, but we’re not talking about the hottest French fries in the Happy Meal here. 

Within days, that same element encouraged what they called “armed protests” at the U.S Capitol and state Capitols on or before inauguration day. Given those facts, the troops guarding the incoming administration are justified, and the threat is not coming from “the people.” 

The people who conducted a deadly attack on the Capitol on 1/6/21 and have announced plans for “armed protests” on or before Inauguration Day represent the darkest side of the angriest half of the losing side of the election. That’s not “the people.” Their numbers are large enough to represent a clear and present danger that warrants extraordinary security measures, but they are a very small fraction of one percent of “the people.” Just so the math is clear.

Ralph Bristol is a former popular local conservative radio talk show host with Super Talk 99.7 (WTN 99.7) where he worked for 11 years. He is now semi-retired.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Democrats elect Remus new party chair

Hendrell Remus
Nashville Post - Members of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s executive committee on Saturday elected Hendrell Remus as the new party chair.

Remus, an assistant emergency operations officer at Tennessee State University, is said to be the first Black leader of the state party organization. He has previously run, unsuccessfully, for local and state offices in Memphis. Remus is vice chair of the Tennessee Young Democrats and in that role has served as an ex-officio member of the TNDP Executive Committee. 

Remus takes over the party from three-term chair Mary Mancini at a low point for Tennessee Democrats, who have not won a statewide election since 2006 and whose House and Senate caucuses have dwindled to super-minorities. 

The House and Senate caucuses supported Wade Munday for the chairmanship.(read more)

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Please, No Capitol protest says local pro-Trump leader

by Rod Williams - Rick Williams, a friend of mine and well-know conservative political leader and the organizer of many Trump rallies in the middle Tennessee area, is urging his followers to abstain from any protest for the next seven days.  Without mentioning the capitol protest by name, it is assumed than any pro-Trump protest on inauguration day would take place at the capitol building.  The legislative plaza in front of the Tennessee capitol has been the scene of several pro-Trump rallies since the election. Nationwide, numerous protest are reportedly planned at state capitol buildings. I am pleased to see responsible statement from Rick.  Below is a Facebook posting from Rick Williams.

The Metro Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have  urged "Nashvillians to enjoy the upcoming weekend and inauguration week as normal, while being mindful of the POTENTIAL for demonstrations in the area of the State Capitol Sunday thru inauguration day." Here is a message from Chief Drake and Col Matt Perry.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Metro Budget 101 Series

Metro Nashville press release - Councilmembers Kyonztè Toombs (Chair) and Delishia Porterfield (Vice-Chair) of the Metro Budget and Finance Committee, will be hosting a virtual Metro Budget 101 Series over the next few months. The sessions, beginning at 6 p.m., will provide transparency and education for the general public concerning Metro Nashville Davidson County's revenues, finances, and the budget process. Questions from the public may be submitted to kyonzte.toombs@nashville.gov by 5 p.m. on the day before the session. All questions must be on-topic. 


How the City Gets Money 
  • November 19, 2020 - Property Taxes: Assessor of Property Vivian Wilhoite, Trustee Erica Gilmore (Join November 19 meeting) 
  • December 3, 2020 - Sales Taxes: What about Downtown Revenue? Councilmember At-Large Bob Mendes (Join December 3 meeting) 
  • December 17, 2020 - City/State Revenue: Finance Director Kevin Crumbo and State Rep. Harold Love (Join December 17 meeting) 
How the City Spends Money 
  • January 7, 2021 - Metro Nashville Public Schools (Join January 7 meeting) School Board Member Freda Player-Peters Chief Operating and Financial Officer Chris Henson 
  • January 14, 2021 - Metro Public Works and Metro Parks Departments (Join January 14 meeting) Public Works Interim Director Shanna Whitelaw Metro Parks Director Monique Odom 
  • January 21, 2021 - Nashville General Hospital (Join January 21 meeting) 
  • January 28, 2021 - Public Safety (Metro Nashville Police Department, Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office) (Join January 28 meeting) Community Panel Discussions 
  • February 4, 2021 - Community Panel Discussion (Join February 4 meeting) 
  • February 11, 2021 - Expert Panel Discussion (Join February 11 meeting) 
  • February 18, 2021 - How the Budget Process works (Join February 18 meeting) 
  • February 25, 2021 - Participatory Budget (Join February 25 meeting) Councilmember At-Large Zulfat Suara
This series of sessions will provide helpful information, and I hope you will participate as we work through this upcoming 2021 budget year. The schedule will be updated as speakers are confirmed. Members of the public may watch the following meetings live online at stream.nashville.gov, and Metro Nashville and Davidson County residents can view Metro Nashville Network on Comcast channel 3, AT&T U-verse channel 99, Google Fiber channel 3, and streaming on the Metro Nashville Network Roku channel.

Rod's Comment: This should be informative for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of metro's finances.  It appears to me the groundwork is being laid for another tax hike on top of last year's massive tax hike.  For anyone who wants to be able to talk intelligently about the budget, I would recommend these sessions. 

The above press release had dead-end links for joining the specific meeting.  I would assume the links will be activated closer to the dates of the meeting.  To view the press release with the links for joining the individual sessions, follow this link

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lawmakers reelect Tennessee secretary of state Tre Hargett despite objection from some Democrats

 link

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My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force

by Rod Williams - Mayor Cooper has appointed a new affordable housing task force to make recommendation to the mayor for the 2022 fiscal year budget.  I don't think one would be stepping out on a limb to bet that they will recommend a considerable increase in spending on affordable housing.  Unfortunately, it appears to me, the ground work is being laid for an additional tax increase on top of this year's 32% tax hike. 


From years of working in the affordable housing field, I know some of the people on the task force such as Kay Bowers, Eddie Latimer and Lethia Mann.  They are good people and have valuable insight into the difficulties faced in developing affordable housing.  Most of the task force I do not know but know of them. 

I would like to take this opportunity to offer some advice to the task force.

Realize that as a Metropolitan area is more than Davidson County. The metro area is a 13-county area. To find affordable housing one may need to go to Burns or Watertown or Bethpage.  And, that is OK. This is normal.  Nashville is a hot market with more people moving here by the day.  When the city offers incentives to entice businesses to move here or if businesses move here without incentives because we are a desirable place to be, that drives up prices.  That especially drives up prices when the businesses we entice to move hear provide good paying jobs.  People who make more money are going to pay more for housing and lower valued housing will be replaced by more expensive housing. The areas closer to the city center are going to be more valuable, so people who cannot afford the higher prices may need to move further out. Actually some people prefer the suburbs and do not mind the commute. Look at affordability of greater Nashville, not just Davidson County.

Realize that the greatest cause of the loss of affordable housing is simply supply and demand. While the city could set aside money to build some affordable housing, it will be a drop in the bucket as far as making any significant difference. What is happening in Nashville is a natural process.  When there is more demand for something the price goes up.

Acknowledge that single-family-only zoning restricts supply and drives up prices while also contributing to urban sprawl. At one time Nashville's zoning code allowed duplexes in every residential neighborhood.  At some point a new classification was created that allowed neighborhoods to be zoned to prohibit duplexes.  Almost every months, big swaths of  the county are zoned to prohibit duplexes.  Decreasing housing density decreases supply and causes increased housing prices.  New rezoning to single-family-only should end. 

Stand up to those who stop the development of affordable housing.  There is a lot of pious hypocrisy on the part of councilmembers who claim to favor affordable housing but don't want it in their district and also on the part of affordable housing advocates who won 't advocate.  Look no further than the long drawn out fight to stop an affordable housing apartment development called The Ridge at Antioch.  The property was already zoned to allow this development, but the Council person from the district and an adjoining district tried to down zone the property. Down zoning is a taking of property. Property rights are more than holding title. If the government takes away the right to develop the property that you already possess, that is a taking of your property. Eventually, the attempt was unsuccessful. The builder could not develop the property with this hanging over his head however, so for two years the project was delayed. I don't think the property was ever developed. The Council members fighting to stop this development argued they did not oppose housing development on the property but argued their part of town already had too much affordable housing. Also, neighbors filed a law suit to stop the development but were unsuccessful. This was not "the projects," it was a "tax credit" development. It was an apartment complex that no one would have known was subsidized housing. This "not in my back yard" attitude and willingness to trample property rights is one of the reasons for a shortage of affordable housing. 

Recognize that raising property taxes makes housing less affordable.  This is a simple fact.  

Look at how our sidewalk policy inhibits development of affordable housing.  If one builds a home or substantially improves a home in Davidson County one has to build a sidewalk in front of the house, even if there are no other sidewalks on the street,  or pay a fee into the sidewalk fund.  Sidewalks are extremely expensive to build in Davidson County and this policy can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a property.

We should allow mobile homes and modular homes.  It is almost impossible to build a mobile home park in Davidson County and mobile homes can greatly increase the supply of affordable housing. 

Be aware that beautifying low income neighborhoods destroys affordable housing.  The city  drives up housing prices by policies that beautify low income neighborhoods. I wish everyone could live on a beautiful street with a park-like setting, but neighborhoods with low income housing are going to look different than neighborhoods with expensive housing. Rules that restrict the type of commercial services that can be on a thoroughfare such as restricting the number of used car lots and used tire stores and requiring nice screening and disallowing payday lenders, changes the character of a neighborhood. It makes the thoroughfare more attractive to higher income people and the affordable housing gets replaced by more expensive housing.  The city has a plan to change the character of Dickerson Pike.  When that happens the mobile home parks and cheap rental housing will disappear.  Thousands of units of affordable housing will disappear. 

Below is the press release announcing the creation of the housing task force. 

Mayor John Cooper Launches Affordable Housing Task Force

Group Will Focus on Policy, Access, Financing, Land Use

Metro press release, 1/12/2021 - Mayor John Cooper today announced he’ll engage 21 housing experts in his mission to create better and more affordable housing for Nashville.

The group will meet on Thursday, January 21. Their recommendations will inform the 2022 fiscal year budget plan that Mayor John Cooper will make later this year to Metro Council.

“Nashville’s housing needs are urgent,” Mayor John Cooper said. “By working together and listening to one another, we can find solutions that work best for Nashville’s neighborhoods.”

The Task Ahead

Mayor John Cooper’s team, as well as the Metro Planning Department, the Metro Development and Housing Authority (MDHA) and other city agencies will support the task force as they focus on:

Policy

  • How can Nashville preserve and create affordable housing that benefits all residents at different income levels?
  • How can the city tie affordable housing to other community investments, such as transportation, libraries and schools?
  • How can nonprofit organizations better align their efforts and develop stronger relationships with for-profit builders?

Access

  • How can Metro make it easier for Nashvillians who need affordable housing to get it?

Financing

  • What tools are missing from Nashville’s affordable housing “tool box?”
  • What requests should Nashville make to state and federal partners? What has worked in other cities?

Land Use

  • What policies can help residents remain in their neighborhoods, even as those neighborhoods change?

“With their extensive experience and deep expertise, this group will identify creative, cost-effective financing options and policies to help Nashville meet its growing housing needs,” Mayor John Cooper said.

Doing the Work, Transparently and Inclusively

The task force will meet virtually at 5 p.m. on January 21. Recordings of all task force meetings will be posted to nashville.gov.

Mayor John Cooper has asked the group to make recommendations on how to track the creation of affordable housing units, in keeping with his commitment to transparency.

“This task force represents an important step toward meeting Nashville’s pressing housing needs,” Metro Council Member Burkley Allen said. Allen and Metro Council Member Zulfat Suara will serve on the task force.

“I look forward to working with my colleague, Council Member Suara, and with the other members of this task force to make recommendations to Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council,” Allen said.

As they hear from counterparts in peer cities, task force members will also work with residents who have lived experiences to share about what it’s like to need, seek and find affordable housing in Nashville.

“Nashvillians need help,” Kay Bowers, an MDHA board member, said. Bowers will serve on the task force.

“I’m pleased to be part of a diverse group with the skills, knowledge, and, most of all, commitment to find real solutions to our urgent housing affordability problems,” Bowers said. “I could not be more pleased that Mayor Cooper has recognized that now is the time for Nashville to act.”  

Meet Mayor John Cooper’s Affordable Housing Task Force

Mick Nelson, founder and CEO of Nelson Community Partners, and Edward Henley, III, principal and project executive at Pillars Development, LLC, will co-chair the task force.

“Nashville’s housing needs are critical. Mayor Cooper has assembled a group with the experience and the expertise to identify meaningful solutions to those challenges,” Henley said. “I am eager to get to work and excited by the impact we will make.”

Edward Henley, III
  • Founding Principal, Pillars Development
  • Board Chair, Rebuilding Together
  • Task Force Co-Chair

Mr. Henley is the Founding Principal of Pillars Development, a Nashville- based real estate planning, development, and management firm. His passion is development that brings housing and commercial uses to fruition that better serve communities. His areas of focus currently are in furthering civic and cultural projects, increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate development, and creating resources of information, networking and capital for new and nontraditional investors and developers.

Mick Nelson
  • Founder and CEO, Nelson Community Partners
  • Task Force Co-Chair

Dr. Nelson is founder of Nelson Community Partners, a firm that develops, preserves, and manages affordable housing throughout the southeast. He earned his doctorate from Vanderbilt University, where he focused on affordable housing policy, real estate analysis, and urban development patterns. Mick has been an integral member of the Nashville housing community for more than 15 years, assisting in establishing the Barnes Fund and working at the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency in research, strategy, and asset management. 

Edubina Arce

Agent, Realty of America

Ms. Arce has a long history of an involvement in real estate and civic engagement with the Latinx community. A trained attorney with a Master in Conflict Management, Ms. Arce has worked as a realtor for the past 18 years. From 2010 to 2016, she served as the Bilingual Mediation Program Director for the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, where among other responsibilities she managed the group´s relationship with Catholic Charities and the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. She holds degrees from the Catholic University of Bogotá, Colombia, Externado University in Bogotá, and Lipscomb University. 

Burkley Allen

At-Large Member and Former Affordable Housing Committee Chair, Metro Council

Ms. Allen is a senior mechanical engineer at IC Thomasson Associates, where she assists with the design of LEED-certified buildings and infrastructure planning. A nine-year veteran of Metro government, Ms. Allen has sponsored legislation to improve stormwater regulations in neighborhoods, protect sidewalk and bikeway access in construction zones, and provide solutions to our housing affordability challenges.

Emel Alexander

Director of Community Development, MDHA

Mr. Alexander is the Director of Community Development at the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. In this role, Mr. Alexander is responsible for overseeing HUD federal funding appropriated to alleviate homelessness, revitalize neighborhoods and develop high-quality, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families living in Nashville-Davidson County. Mr. Alexander oversees the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME Investment Partnerships program, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). Additionally, Mr. Alexander oversees CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding and HUD funding allocated through the CARES Act legislation to respond to the COVID-dway19 pandemic. Before joining MDHA, Mr. Alexander was the President and CEO of an awarded housing and community development agency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he led the production of new affordable housing, community development programming, and vital public and private partnerships. Mr. Alexander has 20 years of additional professional experience working within government and nonprofit sectors.

Dwayne Barrett

Managing Member, Reno & Cavanaugh, PLLC

Mr. Barrett is the Managing Member of Reno & Cavanaugh. In his role as Managing Member, Dwayne leads the firm's management committee in strategic planning, firm administration, and practice development. Dwayne has a broad range of transactional experience on issues relating to affordable housing and federal and state tax issues, including: low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) developments, TN community investment tax credits (CITC), tax-exempt bond financing, tax increment financing, Affordable Housing Program (AHP) Funds, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, HOME funds, and mixed-finance transactions. His experience also includes drafting state legislation, structuring numerous joint ventures, and appeals of property tax matters.

Kay Bowers
  • Former Director at New Level CDC
  • Board Member, MDHA

Ms. Bowers has more than 25 years of executive experience with affordable housing organizations. She previously served as the executive director of New Level Community Development Corp., an affordable housing organization affiliated with Mount Zion Baptist Church that builds, sells, and rents affordable homes, as well as providing comprehensive housing services.  

Greg Claxton

Metro Planning Department

Mr. Claxton joined the Planning Department in 2012 as a Community Planner working on NashvilleNext. In 2016, he began leading the department’s Capital Planning and Grants team, focusing on aligning Nashville’s capital improvements and implementation efforts with the General Plan. In addition to serving as a Commission member, Claxton will help support the task force’s data needs.

Dr. Paulette Coleman
  • Board Member, MDHA
  • Member, NOAH

Dr. Coleman is one of Nashville’s leading social justice activists, a certified mediator, and an experienced urban planner. From 2014 to 2019, she chaired the Affordable Housing Task Force of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, a multi-racial, interdenominational, and faith-based coalition that works for solutions to Nashville’s growing affordable housing crisis.

Marshall Crawford

President and CEO, The Housing Fund

Mr. Crawford is an experienced nonprofit executive and shares THF’s commitment to help individuals and communities create and maintain affordable and healthy places to live and work. As the President and CEO, his responsibilities include organization leadership and management, strategic planning, resource development, management of loan portfolio and lending operations and community external relations. Prior to The Housing Fund, Crawford served as the president of the housing and multifamily development division of  Community Ventures Corp. in Lexington, Kentucky.

John Deane

Entrepreneur

Mr. Deane is a healthcare-entrepreneur-turned-resort/marina owner. In 1998, he established Southwind Health Partners, a health consulting firm, out of his home in Nashville. Over the course of the following 20 years, it grew into one of the country’s foremost health consulting companies. Today, John divides his time between managing Wildwood Resort & Marina in Granville, Tenn., and being active in a number of civic and social justice organizations, including Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH).  

Gina Emmanuel
  • Principal, Centric Architecture
  • Chair, Housing Trust Fund Commission

Ms. Emmanuel is a principal at Centric Architecture, one of the oldest architecture firms in Middle Tennessee. She serves on the NAIOP and Catholic Charities boards and chairs the Housing Trust Fund Commission. An (almost) lifelong Nashvillian (she moved here at an early age from South Africa), Ms. Emmanuel is involved in affordable housing design and advocacy, as well as neighborhood investment.

Jeremy Heidt

Director of Industry and Governmental Affairs, THDA

Mr. Heidt serves as the primary point of contact between the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the Tennessee Legislature, the state’s nine U.S. representatives, and Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators. He also works with public housing entities, private developers and financing entities involved in Housing Tax Credit developments. In 2020, he worked with the state legislature to raise the THDA’s debt limit to $4 billion.

Angela Hubbard

Director of Economic and Community Development, Greater Nashville Regional Council

Ms. Hubbard joined the Greater Nashville Regional Council in 2018 and oversees the economic development sector of northern Middle Tennessee. Hubbard has more than 20 years’ experience working with state and local government, previously working at MDHA, serving as the director of community development, and working for the State of Tennessee as a Legislative Performance Auditor. She serves as the lead coordinator for the 13-county Greater National region as it develops a  regional housing assessment.

Kia Jarmon

Founder and CEO, MEPR Agency

Ms. Jarmon is the Agency Director for MEPR Agency, a communications and community engagement firm that specializes in guiding high-capacity leaders, organizations, and systems through the process of designing more resilient programs, processes, and policies. Ms. Jarmon serves on the Metropolitan Beer Permit board, Neighbor to Neighbor board, is a Pathways to Inclusion fellow with the Urban Land Institute Nashville and is co-chair for Give Black, Give Back with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. She is also a consultant with the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Eddie Latimer

CEO, Affordable Housing Resources

A 30-year veteran of the nonprofit housing development industry, Mr. Latimer oversees the development of AHR’s single-family homeownership programs, construction, lending, education and foreclosure. He represents AHR and the need for affordable housing to political organizations and to trade and government affiliates at the local, state and national levels.

Lethia Mann

Vice President and Community Development Manager for Middle and East Tennessee and North Carolina, Regions Bank

Ms. Mann brings more than 18 years of banking, community development, and nonprofit management experience to the task force. Prior to joining Regions, Mann was Vice President and Community Development Manager with First Tennessee Bank. She also served as Vice President with the Nashville Minority Loan Fund for 12 years. A native of Nashville, Mann earned a bachelor of arts degree in Economics from Vanderbilt University. She is a graduate of Whites Creek High School. She is actively engaged in the community, currently serving as board chair of Residential Resources, Inc., and as a board member with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville. Mann is also a commissioner for Metropolitan Nashville and part of the Davidson County Human Relations Commission, as well as an advisory board member of Dismas, Inc., and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Hunter Nelson

Partner, Elmington Capital Group

Mr. Nelson leads the affordable housing portfolio at Elmington Capital, which focuses on creating affordable and workforce housing opportunities to provide much-needed housing in emerging urban neighborhoods. With an expertise in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) development, Hunter oversees Elmington’s 4% bond financed and 9% competitive tax credit development portfolio, as well as day-to-day operations, including sourcing new construction and rehabilitation deals, project management, financial analysis, government relations, syndication, and due diligence activities. 

Kelsey Oesmann

Design Initiatives Manager, Urban Housing Solutions

Ms. Oesmann is a licensed architect and the Design Initiatives Manager for Urban Housing Solutions, a leading nonprofit provider of affordable housing. She is the author of the Civic Design Center’s Affordable Housing 101 Toolkit and creator of The Game of Rent.

Zulfat Suara

At-Large Member and Affordable Housing Committee Chair, Metro Council

Ms. Suara has been active in community service and leadership since the late 1990s, even as she continued to work full-time as a certified public accountant. The accounting firm founded by Ms. Suara has worked with county governments in Hardeman, Haywood, Lake, and McNairy counties. She is currently the Executive Director of Grants and Contracts at Meharry Medical College.

Emily Thaden
  • Director of National Policy + Sector Strategy, Grounded Solutions Network
  • Vice Chair for Housing, MDHA

Dr. Thaden is a national affordable housing expert who works in communities across the United States to advance equitable land use and permanently affordable housing solutions. Locally, she has been deeply involved in setting up the Community Land Trust and serving on the MDHA board. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for Shelterforce Media and serves on the Public Policy Taskforce for Habitat for Humanity International’s Cost of Home campaign. She advocates on the federal level for affordable housing programs and financing.

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