Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Kumbaya moment at Edwin Warner Park on Sunday


by Rod Williams - On Sunday, June 27th, I attended a picnic at Edwin Warner Park hosted by Braver Angels and Common Ground.  Both of these organizations are dedicated to bringing together liberals and conservatives to have civil dialogue and foster understanding. 

While I am secure in what I believe and don't think anyone can convert me to become a liberal and I doubt I will convert a committed liberal to my point of view, I think that this kind of interaction can be beneficial. 

In my view, we are too polarized in America.  Many have retreated to their corner and only interact with their own tribe. We too often live in an echo chamber and do not really know what people on the other side of the political divide think.  We only know what the partisans on our side tell us they think. We listen to only our news and get our own opinions reinforced. It is common to have the other side demonized and their view distorted or mischaracterized. 

When you actually talk to someone of the other political persuasion, you may find that there is common ground on some issues. You may discover that the other side has some valid arguments and concerns and everything is not as black and white as you may have believed.  Talking to someone of the other political persuasion may make you think.  If not, you may at least discover that people on the other side are not evil.  They may be uninformed or wrong; but not evil.  Even if you do not find common ground you may realize at least that you are adversaries, but not enemies.  

We enjoyed barbeque and lots of good side dishes and pleasant conversations and exchange of ideas.  We did not really sing Kumbaya.  I don't know most of these people in the photograph, but here are some that readers of this blog may know: A. Richard Upchruch; B. Don Moradian, a decent liberal and my brother-in-law; C. Gene Wisdom; D. Rod Williams (me); and E. Dr. Ming Wang. Also in attendance but arriving late and not pictured was Lydia Hubbel. 

Braver Angels conducts workshops designed to foster understanding between people of different political points of view and Common Ground holds monthly meetings to discuss current political issues.  Watch this blog for future announcements of events. 

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Tennessee's state pension system among the nation's most sound

By Jon Styf | The Center Square  - Tennessee has the healthiest state public pension system in the country based on the amount of unfunded liability per capita, according to a new report from the American Legislative Executive Council. 

Tennessee taxpayers owe $6,345.77 per capita as opposed to the state with the highest per capita pension liability, Alaska, at nearly $43,000 per capita. Tennessee's total unfunded pension liability was $43.3 billion, the 15th-lowest in the country. 

The report found that $5.82 trillion, or $17,748 per person, is owed by “every man, woman and child in the United States.” The report found the 10 states with the largest liabilities are growing quickly and make up 58% of the total liability in the country. 

“In Tennessee, we have worked hard to maintain one of the nation’s best-funded pension systems,” Tennessee state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, said. “Our efforts on behalf of taxpayers will continue, and we are proud to be recognized in the latest edition of ALEC’s report for our commitment to sound pension policies.” 

Tennessee lawmakers voted to allocate $250 million to the state’s pension system in the next fiscal year budget, which starts Thursday, and made several cuts to Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget to make that happen. 

Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, said during budget discussions the state had a lot to be proud of in its handling of its pension system. “We are going to make good on our promises,” he said about the $250 million investment. 

Pensions throughout the U.S. were hurt over the past two years. Investments of those funds fell short of expectation with a 6.5% return during fiscal year 2019 instead of the assumed 7.2% return, the report said. 

Tennessee ranked fifth in the report's funding ratio rankings, which examined the health of a pension plan by looking at the ratio between assets and liabilities, expressed as a percentage. Wisconsin led the way with a 64.27% funding ratio while Tennessee was at 47.86%. Connecticut ranked last at 23.87%.

“Unfunded public pension liabilities represent a massive risk for state taxpayers, as well as state workers and retirees,” ALEC Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy Jonathan Williams said. “Fortunately, states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee and Oklahoma have all enacted pension reforms in recent years that will ensure promises to workers and retirees are honored, provide flexibility for young workers and protect hardworking taxpayers.” 

Tennessee also ranked at the top in the unfunded liabilities as a percentage of gross state product at 11.4%, ahead of Indiana (14.03%) and Nebraska (15.03%), which also finished second and third, respectively, behind Tennessee in lowest per capita pension liability. 

South Dakota ($10.2 billion), Vermont ($10.2 billion) and North Dakota ($12 billion) had the lowest unfunded pension liabilities in the U.S. 

California ($894.7 billion), Illinois ($405.2 billion) and Texas ($401.5 billion) had the highest unfunded pension liabilities in the country.

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Tennessee receives grade of A- in both history and civics

by David Plazas, The Tennessean, June, 27, 2021- The Thomas B. Fordham Institute assessed K-12 civics and history standards. Four states and District of Columbia ranked exemplary, including Tennessee. 

Tennessee has made dramatic progress in explaining what students should learn in civics and history classes and how soon they should learn it. 

A decade ago, Tennessee received a “C” in its K-12 public school history standards from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which minced no words in its 2011 report: “The standards constitute an organizational quicksand, from which the reader is lucky to escape with any content or comprehension intact.” 

Ten years later, it’s a different story. Tennessee now is among four states, along with Alabama, California and Massachusetts plus the District of Columbia, to receive an “exemplary” ranking with a grade of A- in both history and civics standards. That’s according to the institute’s 2021 report released Wednesday, which deems most other states’ standards as inadequate or mediocre. 

This time, Fordham — an Ohio and Washington, D.C.,-based conservative think tank focused on educational excellence — updated its impression of the Volunteer State: ....

Tennessee received high marks because its Social Studies Standards, which were last updated in 2017, offer specific, rigorous and organized content that does not shy away from challenging topics, unlike some other states. (link)

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Monday, June 28, 2021

ACLU challenges Tennessee’s new law requiring transgender bathroom signs and my thoughts on the topic.

Yue Stella Yu, USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE -Tennessee’s first-ofits- kind lawrequiring businesses to post signs about transgenderfriendly bathrooms is expected to take effect July 1. Now, that law is being challenged in federal court. The American Civil Liberties Union and its Tennessee chapter filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two business owners on Friday. 

The new law, the complaint argued, is “unconstitutional” and violates businesses’ First Amendment right “against compelled speech.” “Forcing businesses to display a stigmatizing message for political expedience is unconstitutional,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU-Tennessee, said in a statement. “Furthermore, by targeting the transgender community, these government- mandated signs marginalize and endanger transgender individuals. Tennessee should be embracing and protecting all Tennesseans, not passing unconstitutional discriminatory laws.” (Read more)

Rod's Comment: I am not going to jump to a conclusion that the ACLU is wrong on this. Let the courts figure it out.  I do hate to see the state micromanage businesses by imposing additional unnecessary mandates. The ACLU has a point, but it may be a weak one.

I always thought this was an unnecessary law.  There are a lot more trans women (biological men who identify as women) than trans men so I doubt I have ever been in a men's bathroom with a person who was a biological female who appeared male.  My wife or sisters or mother or daughter however may have been in a bathroom with a person who was a biological male who appeared as a female.  If so, I can not work up much outrage about it.  If so, they probably had no clue it happened.  If a biological male dressed as a female, whether a crossdresser or a transsexual, were in the women's bathroom it was not to molest women.  They were responding to the call of nature.  They probably did not let their sex be known, if it did happen.  

This law appears to be an unnecessary salvo in the culture wars.  Now, I don't like having trans policies crammed down my throat.  I do not think biological males should be allowed to compete in women's sports as if they were female.  I don't think one should be forced to pretend men are women.  I adamantly oppose the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatment of minor children.  And, I will not use terms like "birthing person," to replace the term "mother."  

However, this law always seemed to me like an unnecessary case of in-your-face defiance of liberal culture and a case of virtue signaling on the part of the state legislature. This seemed like a solution in search of a problem. 

Here is what the law says
(a) A public or private entity or business that operates a building or facility open to the general public and that, as a matter of formal or informal policy, allows a member of either biological sex to use any public restroom within the building or facility shall post notice of the policy at the entrance of each public restroom and at each entrance of the building accessible by the general public.

That is kind of vague. I suspect that most businesses have no such formal or informal policy on the topic.   Unless forced to establish a formal or informal policy because of complaints, they most likely have never considered it an issue about which to have a policy.  And since I doubt the transexuals announced their biological sex, when they entered a bathroom that conformed to their outward appearance, I doubt no one knew when a transsexual was in the bathroom. Since no one knew, there would be no complaints so management would not have to establish a policy.  The way it is written, if the business has no policy, they do not have to post the signs.

Since I doubt very few businesses are going to post such a sign, unless maybe to please a gay clientele in a gay bar, this law will have little impact and will not result in much of a burden to businesses.  The law does not require businesses to have a policy.  Since a business without a policy does not have to post the sign, this seems like a weak case of "compelled speech," but I am not an attorney and do not know the case law on the topic. So, I will accept as resonable and correct whatever the court rules. 

I don't see much point to this law but neither do I see much point in having it overturned. I actually think it was petty of the legislature to pass this unnecessary law but think it is hardly worth fighting over. But maybe, we ought to only fight battles that matter.  Mutilating children matters.  I am not sure forcing a business that has established a policy on who can use which restroom, to post signage making people aware of that policy really matters all that much. 

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Davidson County Election Commission appeals court decision striking down anti-tax referendum

by Yue Stella Yu,  The Tennessean, June 25,2021- Metro's legal fight with the Davidson County Election Commission over the anti-tax hike referendum is anything but over. 

Commissioners on Friday voted 3-2 along party lines to appeal a judge's decision this week striking down the referendum asking voters to roll back last year's property tax increase. 

Judge Russell Perkins on Tuesday ruled the 4 Good Government-backed initiatives defective and unconstitutional and ordered the commission to cancel the election. In addition to the appeal, commissioners voted to reschedule the July 27 referendum for September 21, contingent upon approval from the appellate court. (link)

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Conspiracy nut-Job Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to keynote Republican fundraiser in Tennessee

by Natalie Allison, The Tennessean -   The Wilson County Republican Party has selected a keynote speaker for this year's annual Trump Day Dinner: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial member of Congress stripped this year of her House committee assignments. 

Greene, a North Georgia Republican whose district borders the Chattanooga area, will speak at the county party's fundraising dinner Oct. 7, Wilson County GOP chairman Brad Lytle confirmed. 

"We just contacted her office and told her we're interested," Lytle said Thursday. "We thought she best represented the cancel culture for conservatives since she's been effectively canceled by the House and Nancy Pelosi." 

Greene has stirred controversy on Capitol Hill over her tolerance of conspiracy theories, including questioning whether the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened; stalking and taunting a teen survivor of a deadly high school shooting in Florida; and suggesting that space lasers were causing fatal wildfires in California.

Rod's Comment: I am disgusted with the Wilson County Republican Party and disappointed in many other Republicans who do not denounce radicals and crazies like Green.  


by Rod Williams - This is unbelievable.  If I were a Republican in Wilson County, I would not be attending this event.  I would not contribute to the local party or attend any functions of the party.  The leadership of the party would have successfully driven me out.  I might protest the appearance of Green outside the venue.

She is a nut-job!  She is a Q-anon supporter.  She was a regular contributor to a conspiracy web site. She has supported almost every right-wing conspiracy theory circulating. She touts the Pizzagate theory, the Clinton Kill-list, mass shootings as a false flag theory, and 9-11 as an inside job theory.  She has advocated executing Democrat politicians.  She has equated the Democrat Party with Nazies. She continues to claim Trump won the election in a landslide and that the election was stolen.  Her Covid-19 theory is that Dr. Fauci is criminally liable for helping create the virus as a bio-weapon.

It is hard to think of a person more committed to crazy conspiracy theories than Marjorie Taylor Green.  I think Congress was right to deny her any committee assignments.  I think the Republican Party should have denied her the right to caucus as a Republican. She should be condemned and shunned; not honored. 

Is this what has happened to the Republican Party, that the honored guest speaker at an annual Republican banquet is someone like this?  Also, I am dismayed that what used to be called Lincoln Day Dinners and then Reagan Day Dinners are now called "Trump Day Dinners."  Even if the speaker was someone I respected and admired, I would not attend a "Trump Day Dinner."  Trump should be disgraced; not honored.  I wonder how many other annual Republican banquets are now called "Trump Day Dinners."  I hope not many.

I believe that the policies of the Democrat party will destroy our country.  Massive deficit spending is the biggest threat to our future.  That and policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicaid for all, open borders, imposed "equity" policies, defund the police, and others will cause a decline in America's standard of living and ability to be a world leader.  We will see greater unemployment as a permanent feature of our economy, inflation, less productivity, and a decline in upward mobility.  A continuation of cancel culture and an emphasis and race-based "equity" will lead to less freedom. With America in decline, there will be no other country able to step up to the plate and lead the world and democratic countries will decline and have to kowtow to China.  China, Russia, and Islamism will ascend as the US declines. I do not see the US having an apocalyptic event, but a steady decline in the standard of living, productivity, economic vitality, and the ability to lead the world.  In a few more years we may more closely resemble Portugal or Greece or some Eastern European country than the country we currently know.

So, I cannot become a Democrat and believe the Democrat Party must be defeated.  However, I do not want to be part of a party that hosts Marjorie Taylor Green as an honored speaker. I must feel the same as one felt on the eve of the Spanish Civil War.  Should one support the Communist-supported Republic or the Nazi-supported Fascist, or stay on the sidelines and let others decide the fate of one's country?

I still believe the Republican Party will come to its senses and again become the party of responsible conservatism.  If it does not, however, I cannot feel at home in a Donald Trump- Marjorie Taylor Green Party. 

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

The dream of homeownership is becoming more elusive by the day.

Rod Williams- I think the term "crisis' is overused so I am not going to call what is happening in housing affordability a crisis.  However, a concerning trend is taking place before our eyes.  The dream of homeownership is getting further and further out of reach for many Americans. While I would not call what is happening a crisis, it is a serious concern.  This trend can have profound consequences for the stability of the middle class, can lead to greater wealth inequality, and can have social and political consequences. 

When one spoke of the issue of "affordable housing" in the past one was often thinking of low-income people and their inability to buy a home. Homeownership was out of reach of the working poor unless they got some sort of assistance or subsidy. Over time, there was a realization that it was not only the poor for whom housing was out of reach but also those who one would not consider poor but simply of modest income.  Housing became hard to afford for teachers and firemen and people in the hospitality industry.  "Workforce housing" became a term to refer to the housing needed by this segment of our society. And, it was in short supply.

Home prices have gone through the roof.  It is happening here in Nashville but this is not just a Nashville problem. (Look at chart #1 below.) 

Why is the happening?  There are several reasons.  One, the Federal Reserve has kept home mortgage rates extremely low. It has increased its purchase of mortgage-backed securities, which drives interest rates lower and frees up more money for mortgage lending. With low rates, the same amount of monthly payment will purchase more house and prices rise. 

When prices rise, if you were a couple that could afford a $500,000 and prices increase 12% you may not be able to afford a $560,000 house and may have to settle for a $500,000 that last year was only a $446,000 house. If, however, you are a couple that can afford only a $250,000 house, good luck; there are almost none.  But there are a few, however.  If that $250,000 house goes up to $280,000, you may not qualify for that price home and there are no cheaper price houses to fall back to.  You are out of luck. 

This is one reason why home price appreciation hurts the person of modest means more than the person of better means. Another reason is that lower price homes experience greater HPA than higher-priced homes. (See chart 3 below.)

When we say that Home Price Appreciation was 6.6% over last year that may not sound like a lot, but it is cumulative.  If the appreciation was a steady 6% the price of a home would double in twelve years.

This chart from the most recent Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Price Index report shows the cumulative housing appreciation in the Nashville MSA.

Since the 3rd quarter of 2013, homes in Nashville have increased 93.6%.  If one compares Nashville's cumulative price appreciation since 2007 we have had considerably higher price appreciation than the nation, represented by the gray line above.  

So what does this mean for the future? I hate to be so pessimistic but I believe the dream of homeownership will remain a dream for more and more people.  Homeownership which has been a source of middle-class security and stability and the greatest source of wealth creation for the majority of people will be less and less obtainable for more and more people. Are the good times really over for good? Maybe. I do not see this situation getting better anytime soon.  Government at the federal, state, and local levels continue to make the problem worse.  

One thing that I think should happen is that the Federal Reserve should allow mortgage rates to rise. This would, unfortunately, in the short term, put homeownership out of reach for some low and moderate-income people.  Some people who can afford to buy a home today at current rates could not afford to buy a home with higher rates. However, it would slow home price appreciation and in the longer term help more people of modest means. To have any chance of reversing this trend and saving the dream of owner ownership, we must slow HPA.

In addition to the Federal Reserve causing home price inflation, there is a slew of other things that cities and states are doing across the country to destroy affordable housing and inhibit the development of affordable housing. At the end of this article are some links that explore some of these issues.

Unfortunately, Nashville like many other big cities will continue to make the problem worse. Taxes will continue to rise, redevelopment plans will promote gentrification of what is the remaining affordable parts of town, the city will continue to discourage manufactured housing, restrictive zoning and downzoning will restrict the supply, and government imposed overhead cost and the obstacles government puts in the way of developers will continue to inhibit the construction of homes at a more modest price-point. 

In addition to the wrong government policies, the market is going to drive up prices in Nashville. Oracle will bring over 8500 jobs to Nashville over the next decade with an average salary of over $110,000.  There will certainly be a plus to this kind of economic growth, but it also means there will be 8500 people who can afford to pay more for housing than what the average Nashvillian can pay. That will cause even greater HPA. 

So, while I have lots of advice to government for making housing more affordable, I also have advice for the young couple of modest means dreaming of homeownership. Don't delay!  Every day one delays makes the dream of homeownership more elusive.   Homes only stay on the market for a few days.  Make looking for a home like a job.  Be aggressive.  Get a good realtor to help you find a home.  By the time a home gets listed on Zillow, it is probably already sold.  Get pre-approved by a mortgage company. Get something, even if is not your dream home, and start building equity and benefiting from that home price appreciation. If you think there is not much in your price range, next year there may be nothing. 

For more on this topic see the following:
Forbes: Fed Policy Has Kept Mortgage Rates Low. It’s Also Driving Up Home Prices

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

More drama at the Tennessee Republican Asssembly. Losing faction ask the National organization to intervene and reverse the election results.

by Rod Williams - The drama continues at the Tennesee Republican Assembly.  Recently there was an election of officers of the organization and Michelle Foreman was elected Chairman beating Dan Meridith who had the support of long-time chairman Sharon Ford.

Prior to the election, there were charges and counter charges between the two factions and allegations of malfeasance and all kinds of shenanigans.  I am not going to repeat it all again but if anyone wants to see an airing of the dirty laundry and get some background information, follow this link, this link, and this link. While I am not a member of the organization and don't have a dog in this fight, I favored Michelle Foreman and believed her side of the story.

I am still mystified at the passion displayed by both factions. Michelle Foreman has a lot going for her and potential for a bright political future.  I don't see that being Chairman of TRA enhances her prospects. Also, Michelle has a lot on her plate.  She just graduated law school and is studying for the bar, she is a nurse, wife and mother, and a member of the Tennesee Republican Party State Executive Committee. I would think she has better things to do.  If it were me, I would say just elect Sharon Ford chairman for life; I am out of here. 

Now, that the election is over, the faction that lost is claiming the election was stolen. That sounds familiar. 

If 50 people care enough to sign a letter asking the board of the parent organization to intervene in the affairs of a local organization, that is a lot of people who care.  That many activists could have a lot of impact on the local and state Republican Party.  It would seem to me they would direct that passion to something that matters. 

For those not familiar with TRA, the motto of the organization is, "The Republican wing of the Republican Party."  They think they are the only real Republicans and everyone else is a RINO or some other kind of apostate. Organizations that think they are the only ones right, can ofter fight their fellow ideologues with more passion than they fight members of the opposite camp. 

Here is a communication from the dissident faction of the organization that lost the recent election addressed to the parent organization asking for redress of grievances. 

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Nashville Better Angels Alliance Onground Kickoff, Sunday June 27th.


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Chattanooga ranked as the fourth-worst run large city in the country. All Tennessee big cities rank poorly in analysis of best-run cities.

by Jon Styf, The Center Square- A new report from WalletHub ranks Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the fourth-worst run large city in the country, behind Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York. Not far behind, at No. 133, was Memphis while Knoxville was 113th and Nashville ranked 111th. 

The rankings of the top 150 cities in population in the country were calculated using financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution as the basis. WalletHub used 38 different metrics to score the cities in those areas, including a total budget per capita figure. Some of the statistics included are the rankings of K-12 schools, crime rate and transit scores. 

“We can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget,” study author and financial writer Adam McCann wrote.

One area that hurt Chattanooga the most in the rankings was its budget per capita, which ranked 146th. Memphis was hurt most in the rankings by its lack of quality city services and both health and safety, where it ranked 149th out of 150. Memphis also had one of the highest infant mortality rates. 

None of the Tennessee cities ranked in the top five in any of the breakout categories in the study, but Nashville was tied for the worst in long-term outstanding debt per capita. Chattanooga has been ranked in the top 10 worst-run cities by WalletHub each of the past five years. Knoxville ranked 18th in infrastructure and pollution while it was just outside the top 20 in education and financial stability.
 Nashville was ranked ninth in economy. 

Two Idaho cities, Nampa and Boise, were atop the rankings while Lexington-Fairfield, Kentucky, ranked fifth.

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Nashville Judge Orders Property Tax Relief Referendum Cancelled

(The Center Square) – A Davidson County judge has ruled that a July 27 referendum election on six

proposed changes to Nashville’s Metro Charter – including one that would reduce property taxes – will not happen. 

The Tuesday ruling, which stated that four of the amendments are “defective in form,” is still subject to appeal. The referendum, called the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, is the second version of a similar referendum proposed by a group called 4 Good Government, led by attorney Jim Roberts. 

“As I am attorney, I am limited as to what I can say about the Court’s opinion,” Roberts posted on Wednesday. “[I] sincerely hope it will be promptly appealed and reversed. No doubt the Mayor and his pro-tax allies are rejoicing today that 430,000 citizens were DENIED the right to vote. It saves him the effort of ordering police dogs and firehoses to the polls on Election Day to intimidate voters. 

“We will not give up trying to save Nashville from this fiscally irresponsible government. … The fight is not over. Save Nashville While You Can…” 

The referendum proposed to cap property tax rates and increases, change the recall procedures for public officials, end lifetime benefits for public officials and make them subject to referendum, require Nashville to go to referendum to transfer public property and make professional sports teams forfeit property if they choose to leave the city. 

After the group gathered more than 12,000 signatures to petition for the referendum, the Davidson County election commissioners voted 3-2 to put the referendum up for election in July. But that vote was immediately challenged in court by both Davidson County and Nashville. 

The referendum was in response to a 34% property tax increase in 2020. Both referendums proposed to roll back that increase. The most recent version would prevent the city from increasing taxes more than 3% without a voter referendum. The first 4 Good Government referendum attempt last fall was rejected by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle and ruled unconstitutional for promoting “an impermissible form of government in Tennessee.” 

This referendum, a revised version of the 2020 attempt, now has been shut down by Chancellor Russel. T. Perkins. 

“We are building a great city, and we’re grateful for a ruling that prevents a small group from hijacking Nashville’s future with an unconstitutional California-style referendum,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in response to the court’s ruling. 

“Our next budget makes historic investments in our students, our transportation infrastructure, and affordable housing as we maintain a tax rate 24 percent lower than our average rate over the past quarter century – the third lowest property tax rate in Metro history. We will continue to fix problems and find solutions to build a stronger, more equitable city for everyone.” 

The Save Nashville Now coalition, created to oppose the referendum, announced Wednesday that it would be suspending its campaign on June 30 after Perkins’ ruling. 

“If Chancellor Perkin’s ruling is appealed and there is a change in the status of the campaign, Save Nashville Now will be prepared to restart our efforts to explain to Nashville voters how this referendum will hurt Nashville’s future and severely cut Metro budgets, adversely affecting families, teachers, students, first responders and emergency responders citywide,” the group posted. 

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

How to interact with those of a different opinion in our highly polorized world.

Richard Upchurch
by Richard Upchurch - Walking our pup Howard this morning, I met a lady walking hers and wearing a shirt with the interesting motto, "Get Off The Fence." 

She was proceeding down the sidewalk quite briskly, chatting merrily with a friend also with a dog on a leash. Slowing our pace slightly, we exchanged brief greetings of the type reserved for such cursory encounters, as did the pups in their own way, but after thinking about the motto I wished I'd asked her about it. 

Perhaps enjoining people to get off the fence was meant to encourage stronger opinions, or maybe stronger opinions of a certain ilk, and standing up more steadfastly for them?

Well, maybe so. But, far as I can tell, we have no shortage these days of folks with strong opinions, especially on public and political issues, and no shortage of people well off the fence and fully engaged in the strong partisan contentions of our time, which very often, both in Washington and sometimes much closer to home, sometimes even in households, are resulting, more every day it seems, in strained and broken relationships and friendships. 

Many members of families and groups have figured out that if they want to stay friends with each other, they need to avoid bringing up the social issues proceeding from very rapid changes in fundamental human institutions and relationships, and the politics of our time so strongly polarized by these very factors.

Certainly that seems a sensible solution in many cases, and a good choice for groups and families wishing and hoping to avoid ill feeling and possible break-ups. Yet there remains the problem in families, social groups and organizations that a part of what connects us and makes us members of families, groups, citizens, and participants in our society, has thereby been subtracted, and the larger problem that we do not know how to bring it back. 

We are in many situations sweeping something under the rug, and that is the deep fractures that have appeared among us, in family, community, state and country, and the extent and nature of these fractures may portend something very grave for us as a society. But no matter what these differences, these highly polarized views held by very large number of us, perhaps spawned and cultivated to a large extent by media outlets, may or may not portend, we need all to remember that we are a nation, a "res publica," worth nurturing, preserving and celebrating----or at least have been such. 

As a counter to the forces dividing us----deep disagreement about the traditional norms of family and personal identity, and media who have discovered they can enhance their market shares by promoting even further polarization in these and other current clashes of opinion and value----there are some things we can do as individuals, that might pull us back a bit from intense and growing threat of fanaticism in our discourse about public issues. 

We might all try to diversify the sources of news, information and commentary we use, by patronizing a variety of publications and outlets, rather than entirely those that seem to confirm us in our already existing points of view and commitments. And in conversation we can adopt a fairly simple technique of listening and attempting to imagine ourselves having the point of view of our friend, family member or acquaintance that we may find less than congenial. 

One specific technique may help considerably, and that is the technique of summarizing what the other member of the conversation, dialogue, debate or argument has just said, doing so throughout the conversation, keeping in mind that in doing this kind of re-stating, the important thing is to reflect what he or she has thought, felt and expressed to the extent possible, and to do so by putting one's self, insofar and possible, in his or her place.

Richard Upchurch is a wise old man who lives in Nashville.

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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mayor Cooper Releases Affordable Housing Report. The metro press release and my comment.

Metro Press release, 6/8/2021-  Mayor John Cooper today issued a key report detailing steps Nashville can take in the next three years to address its pressing affordable housing needs. In the report, the mayor’s 22-expert Affordable Housing Task Force provides nine priority recommendations for making significant progress between now and 2024. 

“Nashville must be a city that works for everyone,” Mayor Cooper said. “And – in a city that works for everyone – everyone who works here should be able to live here. That includes our teachers, first responders, and food service workers – the essential workers who got us through this past year.” 

Mayor Cooper acted early on five of the group’s ideas, proposing immediate steps during his April 29 State of Metro address – including a plan to triple the number of dollars allocated to affordable housing in Nashville for the coming year. 

“The scale and urgency of Nashville’s housing crisis is significant, and I am thankful for and impressed with the speed at which Mayor Cooper has taken action,” said Edward Henley, the task force’s co-chair.

What Is Affordable Housing?  An economically secure resident will spend no more than 30 percent of their annual income on rent or a mortgage, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

In Nashville, an estimated 65,000 households – just less than half of Davidson County’s renters – exceeded that threshold, pre-pandemic. Meanwhile – though the inventory is more difficult to track– the options for affordable homeownership are even fewer. That leaves families of four that earn $0 to $67,450 – including Nashville’s teachers and first responders – struggling to find housing they can afford in the city they serve. And the problem has only worsened in the last 18 months, with pandemic-related relocations bringing more people to Nashville and supply-chain bottlenecks choking off building material supplies and driving up construction costs. 

The Forecast for 2030 Nashville’s public and private housing providers create and preserve access to an estimated 1,350 affordable housing units a year. To avoid a potential 50,000-unit shortage by 2030, annual production should increase by as much as fourfold, to 5,250 units. Multiple factors – like wages and building costs – will affect housing affordability at any given time, but there is a constant: Building a city’s affordable housing ecosystem requires funding and policy action at the municipal, state and federal levels. 

Already In Motion In his State of Metro address, Mayor Cooper included the following proposed actions: 
  • $22.5 million for the city’s Barnes Fund, which includes both recurring city and one-time federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars 
  • $3 million to encourage private-sector participation in affordable housing development with a payment in lieu of taxes program 
  • $10 million (ARP dollars) to create a Catalyst Fund so Nashville can quickly preserve at-risk units and proactively create affordable housing near proposed public projects (bus stops, parks, community centers and libraries) 
  • A plan to partner with a private or nonprofit developer to build affordable housing on nearly three acres of Metro-owned property at 2119 24th Ave. N. 
  • $500,000 to create a long-term Metro Nashville housing plan 
  • Resources to bring two full-time housing experts to Metro Planning 
Additionally, Mayor Cooper included $2 million in his February 2021 capital spending plan to leverage participation agreements with developers to preserve and create more affordable housing. 

Metro Council in March approved the mayor’s capital spending plan and is set to vote on his proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2022 by the end of June.

Rod's Comment:  Since the date of the above press release, the Metro Council has passed a budget that even included more funding for affordable housing than the mayor requested. 

I am not opposed to modest programs that help low-income people get into their first home.  I support charities like Habitat for Humanity and programs like that of the non-profit Urban Housing Solutions.  I am not opposed to the use of tax credits to help developers build affordable housing.  I support programs such as THDA's program that subsidizes interest rates or helps qualified first-time low-income borrowers with the downpayment.  I am an enthusiastic supporter of programs that teach people to improve their credit scores and teach them to better manage their finances so they can qualify to become homeowners. I support concepts such as shared-equity programs. 

However, the most important thing we could do to advance affordable housing is get government out of the way and stop policies that destroy affordable housing and policies that make it difficult for developers to build affordable housing.  A government concerned with affordable housing would hold the line on property taxes.  It would also stop rezoning big swaths of the county from areas that allow two units per lot to only one unit per lot.

For more of my thoughts on the issue of affordable housing see, My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force
For more on how government policy is the cause of the lack of affordable housing see, US Housing Market Needs 5.5 Million More Units. Guess What Stands in the Way?

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US Housing Market Needs 5.5 Million More Units. Guess What Stands in the Way?

Hannah Cox
Affordable housing plans will never make housing cheaper, they’ll just leave us with the bill for the mess government created. 

by Hannah Cox, Foundation for Economic Education, Friday, June 18, 2021 -  Earlier this year, a house made headlines in DC when it sold for $1 million over its asking price—a representation of just how crazy things have gotten in the US housing market. 

Now, a new report confirms what anyone who has spent even a day house-hunting in 2021 could have told us: there’s a massive housing shortage. 

The findings, which come from the National Association of Realtors, indicate construction of new housing fell 5.5 million units short of long-term historical levels. Additionally, it says that from 2010 to 2020, new home construction fell 6.8 million units short of what was needed to meet household-formation growth and replace units that were aging or destroyed by weather events. 

The National Association of Realtors is an industry lobbying group who say they hope their work persuades lawmakers to include housing investments in any infrastructure package. 

“The scale of the problem is so large,” said David Bank, senior vice president of Rosen Consulting Group and one of the report’s authors. “We need affordable [housing], we need market-rate, we need single-family, we need multifamily.” 

What kind of policies does the group specifically have in mind? Expanding the tax credit program for low-income rental housing, encouraging renovation of distressed properties, offering incentives to cities and states to reduce regulatory limits on housing density, and converting commercial buildings for residential use—to name a few. 

For the Biden Administration’s part, their solutions tend to revolve around similar, government-funded approaches. Biden has suggested giving first time homebuyers a $15,000 tax credit and injecting $213 billion into developing, maintaining, and retrofitting affordable units over the next eight years. Amid all these reports and plans, there seems to be a common ground: everyone agrees the shortage in supply is leading to the boom in housing prices. 

For reasons we’ll touch on below, the shortage became even worse over the past year, and as a result builders slowed construction in some regions and delayed land purchases. At the same time, low mortgage rates and an increase in remote work inflated the demand for housing. Why Isn’t the Market Responding? 

To be clear, the market is trying to respond to all this. Housing starts—a measure of home-building activity—rose last year to 1.38 million units, the highest since 2006. But shortages in labor, land, and materials persist and have limited the pace of construction growth. And those shortages, it must be emphasized, are not naturally occurring. Rather they almost always trace their origins back to bad government policies and intervention into the free market. 

Many cities and states employ zealous zoning regulations that severely limit the available land for building. Others have regulatory limits on housing density, or rules limiting the height of construction that might affect the landscape or skyline. Progressive cities, which fare worst of all when it comes to affordable housing and homelessness, frequently have measures like rent control and historic overlays on the books that impede new construction. 

On top of these factors are government policies—like supply-chain-disrupting lockdowns, trade wars, and immigration controls—that create worker and material shortages. And even in the best of cases, the obstacle course of red tape that builders must run—government regulations, codes, and inspection processes—prolong the time it takes to build new homes and greatly increase the costs. 

As a result, many builders have turned their attention to larger, more expensive projects as these are the ones more likely to make all the expense and effort worth their investment—meaning they have less incentive to build smaller, more affordable homes when they do build and compounding the affordable housing problem for low- to middle-income Americans. 

Affordable Housing Initiatives Ignore the Root of the Problem 
The affordable housing issue in the US is a case study in basic economics. The laws of supply and demand show that when there is a surplus of availability, prices come down. But the government has placed barriers that restrict supply on the housing market for decades, and as a result, the cost of housing (both purchase prices and rent) continue to skyrocket. FEE economist Peter Jacobsen explains it this way: 
When there are more houses and apartments available than there are people looking for housing, owners and landlords need to entice more people to become house-hunters in order to fill their vacancies. They do this by lowering the rents or selling prices they’re asking for. Buyers benefit from lower prices, and sellers benefit from filling empty housing. However, if the government is constantly restricting the amount of housing with cumbersome regulations, this process never occurs. Increasing demand meets with stagnant supply, and prices rise.
As famed economist Thomas Sowell points out, “Study after study, not only here but in other countries, show that the most affordable housing is where there has been the least government interference with the market – contrary to rhetoric.” 

Most “affordable housing” initiatives seek to throw taxpayer dollars at the problem while allowing the thicket of government regulations that create shortages in the first place to remain on the books. Such big-government responses will never make housing cheaper—they’ll just leave taxpayers with the bill for the mess government created. 

Hannah Cox is the Content Manager and Brand Ambassador for the Foundation for Economic Education. Formerly she resided in Nashville where she was Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Rod's Comment: Hannah Cox hits the nail on the head.  The solution to the problem the government created is to get government out of the way.  For more of my views on the problem of the lack of affordable housing and specifically how that applies to Nashville see, My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

How an increase in the minimum wage can mean a pay-cut for employees

by Rod Williams- Evidence suggests that raising the minimum wage has negative consequences.  One is, that it is inflationary. When the minimum wage requires that a company began paying the lowest-paid employee $15 an hour and that employee had been earning $10 an hour, that employee not only gets a boost in pay but so does the employee who supervises that employee.  If the supervisor had been earning $15 and now the people he supervises make $15, he must be given a raise, also. And so on up the line.

In some instances, the extra cost of production can be absorbed by the company, or partially absorbed, but in most cases, and especially in the case of businesses with low-profit margins such as fast food, the cost of the good or service must be increased. Increased wages and the increased cost of goods and services is inflationary. 

Another result of increases in the minimum wage is an increase in unemployment.  In a time when employers are having a hard time finding employees, this may not be noticeable, but when the economy shifts and work is again harder to find, the unemployed will have a harder time finding a job.  

One way companies respond to minimum wage laws is by increasing automation.  Automation occurs anyway, but some automation that may never have occurred, or may have occurred much slower will accelerate with an increase in the minimum wage.  Some entry-level jobs will simply disappear.

We know that minimum wage laws make it harder for people to climb out of poverty.  Working in fast food or many other minimum wage jobs may not be a desirable career, but it is those entry-level jobs that teach one how to work, assume responsibility, and gain skills for the next, hopefully, better-paying job.  Minimum wage laws have the effect of cutting the bottom rung off of the latter. 

Now, researchers from the Harvard Business School have found that the minimum wage, in some instances, maybe many instances, may not even actually increase an employee's total compensation.  The below article explains how this is so. 

Research: When a Higher Minimum Wage Leads to Lower Compensation 

by Qiuping Yu, Shawn Mankad, and Masha Shunko, Harvard Business Review, June 10, 2021-
... Part of what makes it so tricky to quantify the impact of minimum wage policies is that they can influence firms’ behavior in a variety of complex, interrelated ways. In addition to changing employment rates, studies suggest that firms may strategically respond to minimum wage increases by changing their approaches in other areas, ... 

Based on this analysis, we found that increasing the minimum wage had no statistically significant impact on the total number of labor hours employed at a given store. In other words, stores hired workers to work for the same overall number of hours regardless of whether minimum wage increased.

However, our data suggests that the way in which those hours were allocated among workers did change. For every $1 increase in the minimum wage, we found that the total number of workers scheduled to work each week increased by 27.7%, while the average number of hours each worker worked per week decrease by 20.8%. For an average store in California, these changes translated into four extra workers per week and five fewer hours per worker per week — which meant that the total wage compensation of an average minimum wage worker in a California store actually fell by 13.6%.

This decrease in the average number of hours worked not only reduced total wages, but also impacted eligibility for benefits.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Why, if you are not worried about inflation, you are not paying attention. Selected reading.

Kevin D. Williamson , National Review-  The short-term reason to worry about inflation is the obvious one: higher prices. We are in a very risky spot for higher prices right now, because of three mutually reinforcing factors: monetary stimulus (“quantitative easing”), fiscal stimulus (trillions in spending prompted by the coronavirus emergency), and — sometimes overlooked in the policy debate — the interruption of the actual production of goods and services during the epidemic, exacerbated by supply-chain disruptions and higher costs for some raw materials resulting in part from Donald Trump’s misguided trade war with the nefarious, scheming Canadians (among others). 

... the long-term reason to worry about inflation. When the Fed drives up interest rates to slow down inflation, it generally raises borrowing costs throughout the credit markets — including, ultimately, the cost of financing our national debt. Debt service will cost the U.S. government about $380 billion this year, accounting for 8 percent of all federal spending. For perspective, that is about what is spent on undergraduate instruction at all of the nation’s public colleges and universities combined. It’s a big chunk of change — and it’s big with interest rates that are very, very low by historical standards. If the cost of financing the debt goes up, it could easily blow a Pentagon-sized hole in the federal budget. Money that gets spent on debt service is money that isn’t available for other things, whether that’s the ordinary heavy expenditure for Social Security and Medicare or emergency measures in the face of some unknown future crisis. The more you owe, the fewer options you have.
.... a big chunk of our national debt has to be refinanced on a relatively short timeline — months and years, not decades.

Biden and the Fed Are Creating an Inflation Crisis

by BOB LUDDY, The American Spectator - ...Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asserts that inflation is transitory and shortages are temporary. More than 300 American manufacturers have asked the Biden administration to end disruptive tariffs to ease shortages and reduce costs. Galvanized steel has doubled in price and is only sold on allocation, resulting in severe shortages. Steel in the EU is 40 percent lower in cost, which provides a huge advantage to our EU competitors. The HVAC industry is experiencing the worst inflation since the mid-1970s. Housing is experiencing shortages and inflation. ... gas prices have increased 50 percent in just a few months...
 Powell’s Fed initially contracted the Fed balance sheet but reversed course and began to buy government and other securities at the rate of $150 billion per month. The balance sheet has expanded from $4 to $7.4 trillion. The impact of these purchases is to destroy market pricing of interest rates. Short-term interest rates are near zero, which denies savers any return and forces speculative investments, undermining orderly, rational markets. The worst Fed policy is their promotion of 2 percent inflation, which undermines the buying power of the lowest-income workers. This policy is cruel and stupid. Once inflation begins, it’s difficult to arrest. Paul Volcker tamed inflation in the ’80s, but very high interest rates crushed economic growth.

Brace yourself, here’s why inflation could create a ‘giant wealth transfer’ from lenders to borrowers

By Jillian Berman, Market Watch- Higher prices for rental cars, airplane tickets and uncooked beef roasts have economists and consumers wondering whether we’re living through the start of an inflationary period. 

 It remains to be seen whether these price hikes are just a temporary blip resulting from a pandemic-era mismatch of supply and demand or an indication of inflation, an uptick in prices that continues month after month across a broad array of goods and services. If the latter holds true, at least one demographic could benefit from the trend: anyone, including consumers and governments, that holds fixed-rate debt.

“Inflation could be this giant wealth transfer,” from lenders to borrowers, said Kent Smetters, the faculty director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model, which analyzes public policy proposals’ impact on the budget and economy. “A lot of the lenders are people with wealth and a lot of the borrowers are people without wealth. It’s the lenders who are going to take a bit of a bath, and the borrowers are going to get a discount on what they have to repay.” 

Here’s how that might work: Analysis: 

June 17 (Reuters) - Some economists are warning that surging money supply may exacerbate a rise in U.S. inflation, which is already accelerating at its fastest rate in more than a decade. 

Money supply - which measures outstanding currency and liquid assets - rose 12% year-over-year in April, according to The Center for Financial Stability's Divisia M4 index including Treasuries. The measure has been running between 22% and 31% each month since April 2020, fueled by unprecedented economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve and U.S. government. 

That compares with annual growth of around 3-7% that was common from 2015 to early 2020. “This money supply growth is just so much faster than anything we’ve seen,” ....

No inflation worries at the Fed 

The Wall Street Journal, By The Editorial Board - Let’s try one of those multiple choice questions we all hated on SAT tests. Question: Which of the following doesn’t fit with the others? ...  If you answered D), you aren’t a member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which on Wednesday reaffirmed its pedal-to-the-metal monetary policy despite a booming economy and rising inflation that even the Fed anticipates will be 3% this year. … The one hint of change is that seven of the Fed forecasters predicted a rate increase in 2022. But that is only up to 0.25% (two members) or 0.5% (five). The median estimate is still no rate hikes through 2022 and only up to 0.6% in 2023.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021


"Confusing what you think immediately, politically desirable with the Will of History, Evolution, or God is almost certainly an excuse to stop thinking altogether. That doesn’t mean what you want is always wrong. It does mean that it is not necessarily right." From Anthony Sacramone of ISI Books and Modern Age. To read the essay follow this link

To be told you are "on the wrong side of history" is just a tactic by a bully to shut you up.  I don't think there is a "side" of history nor a guaranteed outcome. 

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Metro Council increases mayor's request and passes $2.6 billion budget

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville City Council members voted to pass a $2.6 billion budget Tuesday night. What was ultimately passed was a substitute budget by Council member Kyonzté Toombs. It includes much of Mayor Cooper's initial budget proposal as well as multiple additions. 

It includes a nearly $81 million increase in funding for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which would go toward teacher pay raises. The budget will also add more than 100 police officers to the Metro Nashville Police Department, and millions for transportation, affordable housing and neighborhood funding. (link)

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AIER's Bastiat Society of Nashville presents, "Is Inflation Coming?"

Dear Rod, 
AIER's Bastiat Society of Nashville invites you to join us on June 23rd at 6:00pm for an in-person event with Thomas Hogan, Senior Research Fellow at AIER. Since the start of 2020, the Federal Reserve has increased the money supply by more than 30%. In April, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by an annualized rate of 4.2%. 

Is this a sign of major inflation to come? How will recent changes in Fed policy affect the economy? 

Join us as Thomas Hogan discusses the Fed's recent actions and what they could mean for inflation and the economy. 

The Bastiat Society of Nashville's speaker series is co-sponsored by The Beacon Center of Tennessee & The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) (affiliated with Middle Tennessee State University). This co-sponsorship does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the speakers' positions on the issues discussed. 

Ticket Prices: $0 for Founding Members, $10 for Annual Members, $20 for Non-Members, $0 for Actively enrolled university students who register with a .edu email address. Those who register with a non- .edu email address will be unregistered and asked to purchase tickets at full price. 

Registration Required. Let us know if you're coming.

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Comment from Mayor John Cooper on Passage of FY2021-22 Metro Budget by Council

Metro Press release, 6/16/2021 - “After a year of crisis, Nashville is finally entering an era of

investment,” said Mayor John Cooper. “And with this budget, we’re laying the foundation to build a city that truly works for everyone with historic investments in our schools, transportation, community safety, and affordable housing.

 “We’re making these essential investments with a tax rate that is more than a dollar less than our average rate over the past quarter century – the third lowest in Metro history. I’m grateful to the Metro Council for working with us to fix and protect our finances, which has made this year’s investment budget possible. Today, there’s no city in America better positioned for the years ahead than Nashville.”

Rod's Comment: Mayor Cooper continues to use the argument that our taxes are low because we have a modest tax rated.  Looking at the tax rate is only half of an equation.  One can have high taxes and a low tax rate. Home prices have soared in Nashville. 

For details on the current Metro budget see this link: Citizens' Guide to the Metro Budget

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Michelle Foreman, President of TRA, sets the record straight regarding trumoil at TRA. Says if Sharon Ford persist in defamation, slander or libel, legal action will follow.

To: Fellow TRA members 
From: Michelle Foreman, TRA President 
Date: June 14, 2021 
Re: Corrections to misinformation 

Michelle Foreman
Various friends have informed me that there are Facebook pages from which I have been blocked, as well as emails and text messages, that are posting incorrect and slanderous information about me and my leadership with the TRA. These friends have encouraged me to address this and provide the correct information because the incorrect information is being perceived as fact. 

People’s emotional responses are understandable. If I myself were to read the communications, and the subsequent comments, in all likelihood I too would be concerned on behalf of Sharon Ford. I have learned that being offended is a choice. With this understanding, I choose not to be offended. However, after the correct information is provided, along with the documentation, please understand that if such slanderous comment continues to be made, proper steps must be taken to protect myself and my reputation. 

George Washington said, “Truth will ultimately prevail where there are pains taken to bring it to light”. In the spirit of this statement, I offer the following information. 

During the past several years, the TRA had been “on the ropes” per se, and membership had dwindled to the point that the NFRA (the parent organization) was poised to revoke the TRA Charter due to the lack of membership. Attendance at TRA meetings, at times, was less than 5 people and membership had plummeted to less than 40 members. Former TRA members willingly stated why they did not renew their membership and allowed their membership to elapse, and the common denominator seemed to point back to the leadership of then-President Sharon Ford. These members expressed they had been disrespected by Ms. Ford in the way she interacted with them on several occasions, and they had no confidence in her leadership (see below for a letter from a former TRA member expressing such sentiment). 

Before I assumed the position of President, TRA had lost virtually all of its membership. There was no money to donate to worthy candidates. Sadly, the TRA had lost credibility and influence within Middle Tennessee. Ms. Ford was unable to effectively serve in the capacity of President due to personal and financial reasons, and to her credit, she recognized the TRA’s and her dire situation. 

Ms. Ford came to me personally and asked me if I was willing to step into the role of President of the TRA because she believed in my leadership. She sent out a letter to TRA supporters and Board members, that she resigned. In this letter she stated: 
This serves as my official resignation effective January 31, 2020”. “Two months ago, I asked Michelle Foreman to join the TRA Board and she agreed. Michelle demonstrated her willingness and capabilities to the cause in her past two campaigns and will be a good fit. Robert Qualls and Charlene Damron have been board members for over a decade, so I leave the TRA in good hands with these three patriots.
Prior to this letter, on January 4, 2020, I was elected to serve as First Vice-President of the TRA. Subsequent to Ms. Ford’s resignation effective January 31, 2020, and per TRA bylaws, ARTICLE X, SECTION 10.01, which states “in the event of a vacancy in the office of President occurring between annual Conventions, the First Vice President shall become President for the remainder of his predecessor’s term”, I became TRA President. This was also reiterated in an email from Ms. Ford to Robert Qualls, Charlene Damron, and me, in which she stated, “as First VP you [Michelle] automatically become president and we won’t have to wait until next year’s election”. 

Under the 2019 updated TRA Chapter Bylaws by then-President Sharon Ford, I assumed the position of President of the TRA Chapter. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as president of the TRA. I was convinced then, and even more so today, that there is a core loyal membership along with those who are joining us, who will help restore the TRA to its purpose and full potential. 

However, I must confess that there were those who expressed concern that once the TRA membership was rebuilt, the bank account replenished, and the website updated, that Ms. Ford would attempt to take back control of TRA, at any cost, based on their experiences with Ms. Ford. My response was that I did not think that would happen, and I defended those assertions against Ms. Ford. Sadly, I was far from correct. 

As I stepped into my new role with the TRA, with the help of some good and dedicated people, I developed a game plan to help move the TRA forward. 

The following was a perplexing surprise of the events that followed after I assumed the position: 
1. Ms. Ford would not give me or Stacy Ries Snyder, our fellow TRA member and website volunteer, access to the then-existing TRA website (tennesseerepublicanassembly.org). We were quite surprised to learn that the TRA domain had been purchased by a private individual, and Ms. Ford refused to share the passwords to access the website’s administration panel. The access information that she did send to us did not work. Ms. Ford would not turn over access to the payment processing system PIRYX, therefore preventing an accounting as to who, and who was not, a TRA member. Further, Ms. Ford pointed out, the website was outdated with no one to maintain it, and it desperately needed a refresh. 

2. As a result, our volunteer Ms. Snyder, had to develop a completely new website which became the Tennesseerepublicanassembly.com. The Board knew about the undertaking and the issues that surrounded the need for a new website. Ms. Snyder donated her time and talent to build this new website, which is now the property of TRA. Ms. Snyder did not charge for her services, and my husband and I were able to offset the cost with a $285.00 donation of our own, so the initial cost of $434.81 for the website was reduced to $149.81. This new site includes a payment processing system (it was a separate charge associated with the old TRA website). With the new payment processing system, we have a full accounting and history of who pays membership dues. 

3. Numerous requests have been sent to Ms. Ford to please “park” the old website, as she had previously agreed to do, in writing. Ms. Ford’s lack of cooperation has caused and continues to cause, confusion and frustration. The old website has not been maintained since 2018, no longer accepts membership payments, and has caused many individuals to reach out and complain about the perceived lack of organization and professionalism. 

4. Membership has been difficult to adequately determine, as Ms. Ford has withheld access to the payment processing system. Withholding this access from the new president, and then the new treasurer, played a significant role in forcing the creation of TRA’s new website. Thankfully, as stated prior, this new site is equipped with a proper accounting system built in so that we can make sure members who have paid are properly accounted for. 

5.  Ms. Ford withheld access to the updated TRA bylaws until the election convention was called earlier this year. We learned the bylaws had been updated several times while Ms. Ford was president of TRA. The last revision was made in 2019 by the previous Board led by then-President Sharon Ford. There have been no further revisions made since 2019. Any and all allegations that I have made changes to the bylaws are totally incorrect. There have been no changes to the bylaws since I, Michelle Foreman, have been president of the TRA. The updated version had not been published to the old site and remained outdated for approximately three years. Upon receiving the updated bylaws, it was determined that the election convention was to be held during the months of June-August, and so the date was reset. As a result, this created unnecessary confusion as to when the convention was to be held. Please note, the updated bylaws have been published on the new website. Again, false allegations and accusations that have been made about me personally overstepping my power to change the bylaws to my favor to win an election at any cost are simply incorrect. 
At our last Board meeting, information was disclosed before the Board regarding highly improper actions and serious breaches by Ms. Ford. One of our Board members, who is an attorney, stated that we have the fiduciary responsibility to address these issues. It is my hope and the hope of several Board members that Ms. Ford, and her associates who take part with her in inappropriate conduct, will choose to resign from the TRA membership and agree to cease and desist from disparaging the organization or its members and desist from propagating false and defamatory allegations. 

This entire ordeal has truly saddened me. I expected the transition of leadership to be smooth and without complications, as Ms. Ford indicated it would be in her communication with me and the TRA membership in her letter. It is particularly sad because these issues have been completely avoidable and unnecessary. I take no pleasure in taking the pains to bring the truth to light, but under the circumstances and misinformation circulating on social media, I have no other alternative and use this platform to defend myself and my character. This is only a partial rendering of truthful information, and it is substantiated by documentation. 

I will follow Candace Owens’ example, and defend myself against any future defamation, including slander or libel. Let us move forward with the hope that the handling of matters is with pure and proper motives, always. 

Michelle Foreman, TRA President 

Below is a letter from a former TRA member.

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Senator Mark Green's 3rd Annual Red, White & Blues

For Tickets, follow this link.

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Tennessee ranked 10th best on taxpayers’ return on investment

The Center Square- Tennessee finished 10th in a new study by the WalletHub website on whether residents of the 50 states are getting the most bang for the buck for their tax dollars. 

The analysis, which noted that the taxpayer return on investment (ROI) is not uniform across the country, assigned each state a rank for total taxes paid per capita and an overall government services rank. From that information, WalletHub ranked each state on how efficient it was in spending state taxpayer revenue.

Tennessee was ranked fourth on taxes paid per capita and 41st on the quality of its government services. The government services rank was based on efficiency of public services provided in the areas of health, education, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution, according to WalletHub. 

Though federal income taxes are consistent nationwide, some states receive more federal funds than others, and COVID-19 financial relief varies sharply among the states, the study concluded.

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Tennessee drops from top 10 in Rich States, Poor States economic outlook

By Jason Schaumburg | The Center Square May 12, 2021-  Tennessee's economic outlook ranks 12th in the U.S. in the American Legislative Exchange Council Center for State Fiscal Reform's 2021 Rich States, Poor States competitive index

The report uses 15 equally weighted policy variables to rank the economic competitiveness of states, including various tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies. The index also ranks each state in economic performance by examining data over the past 10 years in cumulative GDP growth, cumulative domestic migration and nonfarm employment growth. 

Tennessee's 12th-place ranking in economic outlook for 2021 was four spots below its ranking in 2020. In the 15 policy variables used to determine economic outlook, Tennessee ranked in the top 10 for top marginal personal tax rate (first), personal income tax progressivity (second), property tax burden (third), no estate/inheritance tax levied (first), minimum wage (first at $7.25 an hour), average workers' compensation costs (10th), being a right-to-work state and tax expenditure limits (second). The state ranked 13th in economic performance, finishing 16th in cumulative GDP growth, eighth in cumulative domestic migration and 12th in nonfarm employment growth. 

The American Legislative Exchange Council is the largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators in the United States. It is governed by state legislators who comprise the Board of Directors and is advised by the Private Enterprise Advisory Council, a group of private, foundation and think tank members.

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Congratulations Michelle Foreman on being elected Chairman of the TRA. Drama continues as losers allege a stolen election and theft of funds.

... allegation of a "stolen election?" (surprise, surprise).

The 2021 officers of the Tennessee Republican Assembly

by Rod Williams, 6/13/2021 - Republicans love circular firing squads. Sometimes it seems Republicans like fighting each other more than they like fighting Democrats.  It is not too surprising that an organization that thinks they are the only ones right would have dissension in their rank.  It seems the more certain a movement is that they have a monopoly on the truth, the more bitter the internal division.  The communist movement was young when they split between Leninist and Trotskyites. Fundamentalist churches often split or expel apostates. 

Michel Foreman was elected Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Assembly yesterday. That same day a Facebook page went up calling itself "TRA 2021 Leftists Coup." I am posting excerpts from that Facebook page below. This unbelievably nasty.  There are allegations of a stolen election, theft of funds, and other shenanigans.

Is it not interesting that the elected leaders of a group that prides itself on being to the right of the Republican Party are now being called "leftist?" Michelle Foreman, a leftist? I had no idea.  I got over being called "RINO," "liberal," and "neo-con" a long time ago.  I have been called "traitor," but I don't think I have earned the label "leftist."  Well, not yet.  Some of this is not only nasty but just juvenile. 

This makes me glad I was expelled from the organization years ago.  When recently I was invited to again become a member, I am glad I did not pursue it.  This is not the kind of organization with which I want to be associated. I wish Michelle the best but I don't know why she is taking on this fight.  If it were me, I would not bother. I would let TRA remain Sharon Ford's playpen and put my energies elsewhere. 

For more of this diatribe, follow this link. For more on this sordid affair, see my post, Drama at the Tennessee Republican Assembly. Michelle Foreman vs Dan Meredith for Chairman. To see reports from the official TRA Facebook page follow this link

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