Saturday, May 29, 2010

Senator Mark Norris, My Hero of the Day

On Thursday night the State Senate Finance Committee voted to restore funding for conservation. Below is how the event was reported by Forever Green Tennessee:

Last night, Senate Finance Committee members voted FOR the environment! When Finance Chairman Randy McNally, (R) Oak Ridge, proposed the permanent elimination of all “dedicated” conservation funds, Senator Kyle (Democratic Leader) asked for a vote to restore the real estate transfer funds. It was seconded by Senator Norris (Republican Leader) and then received favorable 9:2 vote.
Senator Norris is to be commended for his bold action. If he had not seconded the motion to restore the conservation funds, there is little doubt that the Republicans on the Committee would have voted with Republican McNally and against Democrat Kyle. The funding would have been lost.

I realize this has probably been one the most difficult state budgets ever to pass. Due to the state of the economy, revenue projections are down. Gov. Bredesen proposed a series of tax increases as a way to balance the budget, Republicans from the Tennessee Senate favored more spending cuts and House members from both parties in the House wanted to dip into the state's reserve fund. None of the options were attractive. Raising taxes will likely kill jobs and hamper recovery although some tax loopholes could no doubt have been closed without serious pain to the consumer or negatively impacting job creation. There is not a lot of fat left in the Tennessee budget and any cuts are now painful. To dip deeper into reserves may negatively impact Tennessee's bond rating and the state may need the reserves even more next year. There were no easy choices.

One of the things under consideration to balance the budget was to take funds dedicated to conservation and put them in the general fund as has been done for the last seven years. The conservation funds comes from a tax on real estate transfers that specifically dedicates the revenue to conservation. The tax is estimated to produce about $9.5 million dollars this year. The fund is used to save critical habitats, beautiful vistas, and natural treasures such as waterfalls. It is saving for public enjoyment some of the most beautiful spots in Tennessee.

Senator Norris and the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee did the right thing for three reasons: (1)The fund is important. It is saving beautiful natural treasures for future generations. (2) It is immoral to pass a tax for one purpose and spend it for something else. We see this done all the time. A blatant and notorious example occurred in Nashville some years ago when a water bill rate increase went to fund the bonds to build the Titans football stadium. Often taxes are raised to support education and then diverted to other purposes. (3) Republicans should not be the party always opposed to conservation and environmental protection. Hunters and fishermen and hikers and birdwatcher and people who enjoy the great outdoors and people who want clean air and clean water are not all Democrats. The Republican Party should not cede this constituency to Democrats. To be perceived as the party opposed to the environment does not help Republicans. Conservation and environmental protections should be non-partisan issues.

The final budget has not yet passed and something could yet happen that endangered the conservation fund, but it appears the fund will be in the final budget. Probably without Senator Norris' second of Senator Kyle's amendment, that would not have happened. That is why Senator Norris is my Hero of the Day.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Early Voting to be Restored!

While it is not a done deal until the Metro Council passes the budget, it looks like early voting is to be restored in Davidson County.

At the Budget and Finance Committee meeting of the Metro Council on Tuesday evening, the Election Committee requested $52,000 to fund five additional early voting sites for a period of six days for the August election. The budget and Finance Committee voted to add the funds to the “wish list.” No one on the committee opposed the move. Also, Budget and Finance Chairman Ronnie Stein said that the request had overwhelming support in the council. There is every reason to believe the funds will be in the final budget document. After the council has completed all of the budget hearings, the council will then develop a substitute budget which will replace the Mayors budget and then the council will vote on the substitute budget. The Council must pass the budget by June 30th or the Mayor’s budget becomes law.

With the addition of the five new early voting sites Metro will still have fewer sites than normal and will have far fewer sites than the 21 early voting sites that comparably sized Shelby County will have and fewer than the nine sites that smaller Knox county will have but it is a great improvement over the one site the Election Commission had planned for August.

The reason Metro was going to only have one early voting site is because that is all the Election Commission requested. When the mayor develops his budget to present to the council, the mayor first ask each department to present a budget to the mayors office and then the mayor holds hearings on the budget of each department. The Election commission only asked for funding for the one early voting site in their request to the Mayor. Instead of requesting funding for the early voting sites, the Election Commission asked for a pay raise for poll workers.

While it would be nice to increase the pay for poll workers, what Nashville currently pays their poll workers is pretty much in line with what other cities in Tennessee pay them. Many people work the polls out of civic duty and while the modest increase in pay would be nice, it is doubtful that that would have done much to increase the number of people willing to serve as poll officials. Since no one in Metro got a raise this year and it was known no one would be getting a raise, it did not seem wise to request an increase in poll workers pay this year. The mayor did not approve the pay increase and as a result, neither poll workers raises nor early voting was funded.

It only became public knowledge about six weeks ago that only one early voting site was scheduled for August. Many of us have been working since then to change that decision. The Election Commission was lobbied to change their position and urged to request early voting. The chairman of the Election Commission initially resisted changing his position and defended having only one early voting site. Unfortunately the Election Commission which has a Republican Chairman and a 3 to 2 majority on the Election Commission did not seem to appreciate the need for early voting and was not responsive to the Republican request for early voting.

This year in Davidson County is the first time since reconstruction that there is a chance for Republicans to take offices in Nashville. There is a lot of excitement on the Republican side. There are ten active candidates seeking the nomination to oppose Congressman Jim Cooper. Also, all of the interest in the Governors race is on the Republicans side where three major candidates are seeking the nomination while on the Democratic side there is only one lackluster candidate. If there is ever going to be a Republican year in Davidson County, this is it.

Republicans take advantage of early voting more than do Democrats, so there is a Republican advantage to having early voting. It is disappointing that the leadership of the Election Commission resisted supporting early voting. We should have early voting simply because people have become accustomed to it and to take it away will suppress voter turn out. We should have it because it is the right thing to do. Also however, Republicans should support it because it would benefit Republicans. I am not sure there is any advantage of having a Republican majority on the Election Commission if they do not represent the interest of the voters and consider the interest of the Party. I think maybe a Democratic dominated Election Commission would have been easier to persuade.

Following it becoming known that there would be only one early voting site, activist sprang into action. At most of the nine Republican breakfast groups, I spoke on the issue and urged people to lobby their councilmen. I personally emailed or called the Vice Mayor and the five at-large Council members and my district councilman and spoke to other council members I know personally. The leaders of the various Republican Breakfast groups lobbied the council and worked to motivate the members of their breakfast groups to do so. Other activist also joined the fight including the 9-12 groups and others.

While the effort to restore early voting was led by conservative activist, the push to fund early voting was non partisan. Kathleen Starnes, Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party spoke to her counterpart in the Democratic Party and he also publicly advocated a restoration of early voting. Many of the non-partisan groups such as neighborhood groups helped spread the word. Council members heard from their constituents. If there had not been an effort to lobby the Election Commission and the Metro Council, early voting would not have been restored.

While many good people, both Republican and Democrat, worked to restore early voting there were some disappointments. Along with the Republicans on the Election Commission who disappointed me I am also disappointed in the League of Women Voters who refused a request to join the fight and advocate for early voting and I am disappointed in the Tennessean which completely ignored this issue.

I would like to thank all of those Councilmember who responded to the desire of the people to have early voting. All of the members I spoke to were concerned and supportive and they thanked me for bringing this issue to their attention. Moving money around in the budget is a difficult task. To fund one thing means money has to be taken from somewhere else. It is easier to just accept what the mayor proposes rather than make too many changes and I realize that this is a tight budget year. I commend the councilmember’s who advocated for early voting and who are doing the hard work of developing an alternative budget.

Special recognition needs to go to Kathleen Starnes, chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, who worked behind the scene and publicly to persuade the Elections Commission to reverse its stand and support early voting. I would like to commend the Republican breakfast group leaders who motivated people in their groups to contact their councilmember. If it had not been for the grassroots effort early voting would not have been restored.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


As you probably know, during the May primary there was only one early voting site and that was Howard School. Now, I learn that there is only one early voting site scheduled for August!

This is an outrage! In the August primary in Memphis, Shelby County will have 21 early voting sites. Why, at this time of a conservative resurgence, did the powers that be decide this was the time to do away with early voting? In previous years there have been eight to ten early voting sites.

Over the years, more and more people have stated voting early. For people in the outlying parts of the county, a round trip to Howard School is a fifty mile round trip. A lot of people will never go downtown. Many elderly will simply not vote rather than drive to Howard School. Families with only one car or no car can't get downtown.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Everyone who believes in the right to vote should get involved and demand that early voting be restored. The key to getting early voting reinstated is to put pressure on the Metro Council. The council can put the funding back in the budget of the election commission. We need an outpouring of calls to council members complaining about this. Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. the Election commission will have their budget hearing before the metro council. The Council needs to hear from the public before that date! If they hear from enough people they will restore the funding for early voting. Time is short, please act now! Please contact your councilmember today.

Please contact the Vice Mayor, the five at-large members and your own council member and urge them to restore early voting. What is happening is blatant voter suppression. Please call them or email them. Please use your own words, but this is what I wrote my council member:

Sample letter:

Dear ______,
I am your constituent and my wife and I live at __________. I have not yet voted in the May 4th election but I plan to. I would have voted early but the only early voting site was Howard School. Usually there are several sites.
I now learn that the only voting site for the August election is also going to be Howard School. What is going on? This is an outrage! I know money is tight, but the right to vote is sacred. Too many people fought for the right to vote to allow such blatant voter suppression.
I urge you to not allow this travesty to occur and to restore early voting.
Thank you.

Nashville should have had multiple early voting sites even before the flood, but now there is more reason to have early voting sites that ever before. During the flood, many people lost their cars and getting to a polling place will be more difficult for many people. And, people are busy dealing with the flood aftermath and they need flexibility for when they vote. We should not be making it more difficult to vote than in any previous years since the start of early voting. Giving the problems caused by the flood, we should be making it more convenient to vote.

Here is a link were you can find the council roster along with phone numbers and email addresses. Also, if you do not know who your councilman is, there is a map where you can find out which district you are in.

Please spread the word on networking sites and get your friend to write their councilman.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bob Ries, Republican seeking the 5th Congressional District seat.

Bob RiesThe following questionnaire has been submitted to each candidate running in the Republican primary seeking the nomination for Republican candidate for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District. This seat is now held by Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper. Whoever wins the primary on August 5 will most likely face Cooper in November.


Tell me about yourself. Where are you from, what to you do for a living, what is your educational background, your political experience?

Why are you running for this office?

What do you see as the primary issue is this race?

If you are successful in wining the Republican nomination and you are successful in defeating Jim Cooper, when serving in the US Congress what issue will be your primary focus? What will be your priorities?

When I make my decision who I will vote for for this office, not only do I want to vote for someone who has solid conservative values and who I think would make a good Congressman, but I want to vote for someone who I think can beat Jim Cooper. Best person and electability may not necessarily be the same thing. I have heard that it will take anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million dollars to mount a successful campaign. Do you have the support, the time and resources to conduct a wining campaign?

If one wants to know more about your campaign or contact you how to they do that?

Below is the response from Mr. Bob Ries:

My name is Bob Ries. I am the only Senior Citizen, Military Veteran, Small Business Owner with a Degree in Business & Economics Seeking this office. My resume is on my Website: I own The French Confection Bakery and Southern Hoosier Publishing, listed with ASCAP. I have never held an elected political office, but was Chairman of The Board of Zoning Appeals in Hendersonville.

I have been married for 46 years to my wife Dianne and we have one daughter, Stacy, who is a graduate of Belmont University. My wife is a First Cousin to Davy Crockett (8 times removed) and a member of The First Families of Tennessee. I was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana (blame my parents), but was smart enough to choose Tennessee as my home over 30 years ago and married into Tennessee Royalty. We belong to Church of the Assumption Catholic Church in Germantown, but since our long time Priest retired, we have recently started attending St. Edwards Catholic Church on Thompson Lane.

Every Candidate should be asked their motivation for seeking office, so I am offering mine: I AM SELFISH. I am the only Senior Citizen, Military Veteran, Small Business Owner with a Degree in Business and Economics running for this office, and I want to protect my own self-interests.

However it is important to note, that if I am elected to Congress and am successful in selfishly protecting my Social Security & Medicare, my Veteran Benefits and my rights as a business owner, then between 70 and 80% of every other American citizen will benefit also, because I am one of them.

I have been paying into Social Security for about 50 years, and Medicare since it’s inception. In 1965 the Democratic Congress raided our Social Security Fund, and recently took ½ trillion dollars out of Medicare. Congress has ruined these programs to the point that both will soon be bankrupt, unless we make some changes. I want to be elected to Congress to not only protect my own Social Security and Medicare best interests, but also to institute a program that will be in the best interests of our younger citizens.

I am also a disabled American Veteran receiving Veteran benefits, and being cared for by the VA hospital. I want to protect my Veteran’s Benefits and provide for the benefits of those currently serving our Country, especially the children of those who have died for all of us.

I own a small business and am very aware of the sacrifices my family made working 14 to 15 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week until we finally started making a profit, only to have the Government start taking part of our money. The Government tells businesses who to hire, under what basis they can be fired, how much to pay them and now they are dictating the services we must offer.

In addition to wanting to protect my personal interests, and thereby my constituent’s interests, I want to identify three problems for which I offer solutions (more solutions for other concerns are offered on my website).

1. THE ECONOMY: I have a Degree in Business & Economics, and have previously taught Economics and Money & Banking, so I should have some credibility in this area. State and Municipal Governments have been offering tax incentives to private industry for years to entice them to locate in their respective areas in order to benefit their economies. I have a Position Paper for The Federal Government to offer such a plan on my website.

2. CONGRESSIONAL WASTE & EARMARKS: I have a Position Paper on my website to control Government waste, have Congress operate more efficiently and eliminate Earmarks (pork).

3. CREDIT BUREAUS: Credit Bureaus have been unfairly harming innocent citizens for years and apparently are answerable to nobody. I have a Position Paper on my website to offer suggestions for reining them in to protect me (remember my selfishness), as well as 70 to 80% of all other citizens.

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Concerned Citizens Announce Fund-Raising Event for Tim Lee for State House District 55

Tim LeeProminent Lawmakers Set to Attend

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (May 24, 2010) - A group of concerned citizens are organizing a fundraiser on behalf of the grassroots effort to elect Tim Lee to serve the 55th district in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Tim Lee is running a strong campaign as a Republican, seeking to solve our state's economic crisis with small government, common-sense solutions.

The committee of concerned citizens planning the event include hard-working, local activists like Beth Campbell, John Ambrose, Chip Saltsman, E.V. King, Tim Skow, Juan Borges, political blogger Ken Marrero, and political strategist Ward Baker. The event will occur from 5 to 7 PM CST on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010, at the home of owners of The Comfort Group, Mr. Steve and Mrs. Shana Alford. Their home is located at 6432 Currywood Dr. Nashville, TN, 37205.

Since the purpose of the event is to raise the necessary funds for a successful political campaign, attendees are asked to bring $100 to contribute to the initiative to elect Tim Lee. For those interested in attending, please RSVP at 615-828-5533 by May 28th.

As Tim Lee is rapidly gaining in popularity among those concerned citizens of the 55th District, prominent lawmakers have committed to attend this important fundraiser. Those attending include such luminaries as Senator Jack Johnson, Representative Jason Mumpower, Representative Glen Casada, Representative Debra Maggart, Representative Pat Marsh and Representative Tony Shipley.

We have attached the invitation and RSVP form for your records.

For further information, media inquiry, or other requests, please contact:

Matt Nemeth
Campaign Manager, Committee to Elect Timothy Lee
(248) 252 1600

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Rand Paul Ready for Prime Time?

Rand Paul needs to go to campaign school. He needs some coaching. If any of you can get to Rand Paul, here are a couple of free tips to pass on. I learned the first one when I first ran for council many years ago. A kind political operative took me aside and gave me some hints. I learned tip number two over time with practice but mostly by observing other politicians.

Tip number one: When someone ask you a hard question, think before you open your mouth. If it is a tough question ask yourself, "What question do I wish they had asked me on this topic?" Then, answer that question. So, don't answer what was asked but what you wish would have been asked.

Tip number two is closely related but not exactly the same: Equivocate. Seldom answer a question with a "yes" or "no." Dance around the question so that by the time you finish answering they will forget what they asked you. Include some parenthetical phrases and some, "I understand how one might come to think that, however if ....." and some, "on the other hand.."
Most questioners will let you get by with that. If they push too hard, they come off looking like a bully. Mr. Paul, watch some interview shows and see how the pros do it.

Being straightforward and honest will make you popular with the Tea Party people and the Libertarians, but it won't get you elected. You must appeal to the broad middle of nonideological voters. You must win over those people who only pay attention to the election shortly before the election, those people who can go either way. Learn to speak in code. Your supporters and your opponents will know what you really mean, but the uninformed casual observer will not be scared off. Now, is not the time to educate the electorate; now is the time to win votes.

Mr. Paul, I want you to get elected but I am not sure you are ready. Please take a weekend off and go on a retreat with the toughest seasoned political operatives you can find and let them pepper you with tough questions and critique your answers. Let them whip you into shape. You need campaign school boot camp.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul: Giving Libertarianism a Bad Name

Rand PaulBy Kirk Petersen, May 22, 2010, All that is Necesssary... Reposted with permission.

Taranto aptly called it “a rookie mistake” when newly nominated Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul told an interviewer that he was troubled by the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which Paul otherwise supported – crossed the line of regulating behavior by private businesses. However intellectually coherent Paul’s position might be in a narrow, libertarian-absolutist, freshman-dorm-room kind of way, politically and realistically it’s nuts.

Or as Taranto says:

In this matter, Paul seems to us to be overly ideological and insufficiently mindful of the contingencies of history. Although we are in accord with his general view that government involvement in private business should be kept to a minimum, in our view the Civil Rights Act’s restrictions on private discrimination were necessary in order to break down a culture of inequality that was only partly a matter of oppressive state laws.

If he’s going to play in the big leagues, Paul needs to stop making rookie mistakes. In discussing the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Paul apparently felt a need to stick up for the spiller:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’” said Paul who overwhelmingly won Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary in Kentucky and is a favorite of Tea Party activists. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticisms of businesses.”

“I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill,” Paul continued. “I think it’s part of this blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault, instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

I’m a big fan of capitalism myself, but geez. There will be other, better opportunities to criticize Obama and the Democrats for excessive corporate-bashing. For now, Paul would be wise to simply refrain from joining the dogpile on top of the oil industry.

If I were to describe my political philosophy in one word, that word would be “libertarian.” My libertarian slogan of choice is “free people and free markets, under the rule of law.” The “rule of law” part is a recognition that if you go too far down the spectrum toward small government, you wind up with anarchy. To become a Senator, Rand Paul needs to stop following his father that far down the libertarian trail.

Comment: This is an excellent post from one of my favorite bloggers. Since I can't say it better, I am reposting in full with the authors permission. The only area in which I differ from the author is that I would not call my self a libertarian.

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