Friday, February 01, 2013

The TLC should do more: lift the industry's artificial permit cap

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, Jan 31, 2013 - ...A Metro commission that regulates the city’s cab industry voted to increase Nashville’s taxi fleet by 17 percent Thursday after authorizing the formation of three new taxi companies, including one launched by Somali-American immigrants, which will become Nashville’s second driver-owned taxi business.
TENN-CAB will join Volunteer Taxi, an Ethiopian-led company — approved in August — as Nashville’s lone driver-owned companies. The commission Thursday agreed to allow Volunteer Taxi to operate 15 more vehicles on top of the 30 it has today. It denied additional permits ..... (Read more)

Commentary by Daniel Horwitz

The TLC should lift the industry's artificial permit cap
Daniel Horwitz

I've attended almost every single TLC hearing since November of 2010, and today was the first time that I can recall the Commissioners contemplating what I consider to be the proper result on this matter: granting all qualified taxi companies whatever number of permits they request, and then letting the market work itself out to determine who wins and who loses.  

If you take them at their word, the TLC Commissioners have thus far been unwilling to lift the artificial cap on taxi permits because they fear that doing so will effectively dilute the profits of Nashville's existing taxicab drivers.  Since our city's cab drivers are among the lowest paid workers in the entire United States, the thinking goes, reducing their income even further would be extremely undesirable.  
What the Commission has consistently failed to understand, of course, is the fact that opening up the market and maximizing competition in the taxi industry would actually increase drivers' profits dramatically, since doing so would force companies to compete with one another on the price of "licks" and driver benefits.  (Licks, for those who aren't familiar with the quirks of the industry, are the weekly lease payments that taxi drivers have to pay their parent companies in exchange for access to a taxi permit.)  Since licks represent drivers' single largest business expense by far, the effect that a free market would have on the average cab driver's bottom line would be extraordinary.  

Due to the absence of free competition in the taxi industry, Taxi USA owner Michael Solomon, for example, is able to force his drivers to pay him $225 per week (almost $12,000/year) for the mere privilege of being able to drive a taxi in Nashville.  In exchange for this borderline usurious fee, however, the drivers themselves get almost nothing, as they still have to pick up the full costs of car ownership, car maintenance, gasoline and other expenses themselves.  In contrast, Volunteer Taxi -- the new driver-owned taxi coop approved last August -- is currently able to charge its members just $130 per week in lick fees despite the huge upfront costs that the company has incurred as a result of having to hire new management staff, set up a dispatch service, and repaint and reequip its cars.  Notably, Volunteer Taxi's lick price also comes with an employee benefits package, which unscrupulous companies like Taxi USA would never offer their drivers under any circumstances.  

To be clear, the one and only reason why Volunteer Taxi's drivers are comparatively well-off today is that they own their own taxi permits.  As noted above, however, the total number of taxi permits allowed in Nashville has been and continues to be artificially restricted by the Transportation Licensing Commission, so most drivers aren't so lucky.  If this artificial permit cap were set aside, however, the benefit of a greatly reduced lick price would immediately accrue to all of Nashville's taxi drivers, with some estimating that the average lick price would fall between 50% and 80% industry-wide overnight.  Though opposed by some due to the moderate increase in competition for customers that would also result from opening the industry, this is probably the single best thing that could happen to Nashville's cab drivers other than seeing the IRS and Department of Labor crack down on companies like Taxi USA for improperly designating its employees as independent contractors in an effort to avoid paying FICA taxes and provide health insurance, minimum wage and overtime benefits.  

Finally, left completely out of the discussion so far (and appropriately so, since the TLC never appears to care about us) is the effect that an open taxi industry would have on consumers, who would immediately be able to enjoy more cabs on the streets, improved competition with respect to quality of service, and potentially even reduced prices.  Indeed, this alone is all the justification that the TLC should need to lift the industry's artificial permit cap forever (something which, as I've argued repeatedly, is actually constitutionally compelled by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution of Tennessee pursuant to cases like this one).  A recent $172,810 study commissioned by Mayor Dean that concluded that taxi service in Nashville was God-awful obviously wasn't considered compelling enough, but perhaps if Nashville had a DUI problem, somebody in the Metro Council or the Mayor's Office might be motivated to care about the fact that it's legitimately impossible to hail a cab downtown every Saturday night.  I won't hold my breath, though, and expect that I'll have to express my frustration at the ballot box instead.  

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sen. Nicely proposes change in selecting US Senate nominees.

Sen. Frank Niceley has introduced legislation that would change the way U.S. Senate candidates are nominated. Instead of party primaries, each of the party's legislative caucuses would nominate a candidate to run for Senate in an open meeting. Under his bill (SB471), the House and Senate Republican joint caucus would choose the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and the House and Senate Democratic joint caucus would choose the Democratic nominee.

This would be constitutional. The Constitution does not require party primaries and  the Courts have given the states a wide latitude in how candidates are nominated.

I like this proposal. I for one do not think that greater direct democracy makes for a better republic. Should the State legislature pick the nominee for Senate, then once elected the Senator would likely be more inclined to consider the impact on his State before voting for unfunded mandates and other legislation that burdens the state. He would be more likely to seek the advice of members of his party who are serving in the State legislature. Who gets elected to the State legislature would become more important to voters. While subtle, this would be a slight strengthening of State influence. It would also save a lot of money.

Last election, the Democrats nominated Mark Clayton, a fringe right-wing candidate who had no credentials or experience. He beat Bob Corker in Memphis and came close in Nashville. It was an embarrassment for the Democrats. Not that I mind Democrats being embarrassed, but it was also an embarrassment for the people of Tennessee. I think it would be better for the democratic process to have a qualified mainstream candidate who is representative of his party present a challenge to our nominee than to give our nominee a free ride. Democracy is strengthened when people have real choices. Mark Clayton would not have happened if the House and Senate Democratic Caucus was picking the nominee.

Actually, I would like to see the 17th Amendment abolished and have the State Legislature select our Senators as was the case from our founding until 1913. The 17th Amendment was a shift in the balance of power between the State and the Federal government and resulted in the diminished importance of the States. Since I doubt the 17th Amendment will be repealed anytime soon, then a bill like Senator Niceley's is the next best thing we can hope for.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Metro Council Agenda for Feb. 5th is now available.

The Metro Council Agenda for Feb. 5th is now available. To see it, go to this link. If you will wait, I will read it for you and tell you what is important. If you can't wait, have at it.

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The MNPS workshop on Charter Schools

This is good. I have watched only about half of it, accidentally coming across it on TV while flipping channels. I plan to watch it all. I am impressed by how knowledgeable and   what a good presentation is given by Mr. Coverstone. Anyone interested in the topic of Charter Schools or the quality of education in Nashville should watch this.

If anyone would like to write for this blog reporting on education issues, email me at

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I am sick at the thought of John Kerry being Secretary of State.

I am just sick at the thought of John Kerry being Secretary of State.  I know Republicans can not oppose all of the Presidents nominees. They must pick their battles. Also, there is some validity to the argument that the person who won the office of President should have the right to pick the advisers of his choosing.

Still, I can not help but feel that it is wrong that a man like John Kerry will now be the chief diplomat for our Country. I feel like the enemies of our country are now in the seat of power. Those who betrayed us and stabbed us in the back are now in control. The enemy won.

I have felt that way since the election of Barack Obama. He himself was not one who stabbed us in the back; he was too young. He was, however, friends with SDS terrorist Bernadette Dorn and Viet Cong supporter and Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers who launched Obama's political career and groomed him. The WU had extensive ties with Communist leaders in Cuba, Vietnam and Russia. Their stated goal was to establish world communism and overthrow capitalism in America. They were involved in the Chicago riots, had ties to the PLO, Quebec Liberation Front, Black Liberation Front and numerous other communist and left wing movements. They bombed police stations and campus offices and now the person they groomed for office is President and one of the anti-war radicals of that era is now Secretary of State.

I almost, but not quite, felt the same way when draft dodger Bill Clinton was elected President. For the first time, I felt we were electing someone who essentially was not a patriot. I felt we were not only electing someone who did not share my political views, but someone who had a basic different view of America. Bill Clinton's saving grace, as I saw it, was that he did not believe in much of anything. He was a fun-loving opportunist. He was not a committed enemy of America but a product of his time without any deep convictions.

I did not feel the same about Jimmy Carter as I felt about Bill Clinton and the way I feel about Barack Obama. I felt Carter was incompetent and misguided and wrong, but I did not feel he was a bad person. I believe he loved this Country and I believe he was a good person. I felt Bill Clinton was of the "other side" but without deep convictions.  I feel Barack Obama is of the enemy camp.

And now, we have a Secretary of State who was part of the movement that engineered our defeat in Vietnam and wanted to radically transform this country. I am still convinced that we did not lose the war in Vietnam, but we lost it on the streets and college campuses of America by traitors like Jane Fonda and John Kerry. For a while, I felt our nation teetered on the edge and our founding was not secure. With the election of Ronald Reagan, we pulled back from the edge and were again secure and have been for a while.  Now however, with the election of Barack Obama to a second term and his putting in positions of power people like John Kerry, I again feel we are teetering on the edge and we are leaning toward the abyss. God help us.


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Sen. Lamar Alexander often votes with Obama, study shows

The Tennessean, Jan 28,2011 - Sen. Lamar Alexander supported President Barack Obama’s positions on Senate bills in 2012 more frequently than any other Republican senator from the South, an independent voting analysis shows.(link)

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Alexander Campaign to Raise $3 Million at Four Tennessee Events Bringing Total to $4 Million

“As senator and governor, Lamar Alexander has been standing up for Tennessee and we are ready to stand up for him.”
-- Steve Smith, Alexander for Senate Finance Chairman
Press Release, Nashville, January 29—Senator Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign today announced four Tennessee events that state finance chairman Steve Smith predicted will raise more than $3 million.   

“As governor and as senator, Lamar Alexander has been standing up for Tennessee and we are ready to stand up for him,” Smith said.  “The $3 million we expect to raise when added to our $1 million on hand will give the senator $4 million to start his campaign. We then will raise whatever we need to raise to make sure Lamar is able to communicate his message and continue to represent Tennesseans.”

This follows Alexander’s announcement on December 1 that Congressman Jimmy Duncan will be his campaign chairman and that his campaign co-chairmen will be Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher and Fleischmann.

The first finance event will be in Chattanooga in April at the home of Senator Corker.   Also that month, Alexander will hold an event in Nashville that will be a “A Salute to Ted Welch,” the former Republican National Finance Committee chairman who will serve as Alexander’s Honorary Finance Chairman.  Other events will take place during May in Knoxville and Memphis.

In a recent letter to contributors, Alexander said that Smith and Knoxville businessman Jim Haslam have recruited ten Tennesseans to join “The Welch Team” and raise $100,000 each in support of the campaign.  His letter said the campaign is recruiting 25 other Tennesseans who will each agree to raise $50,000.

In addition to Jim Haslam and Steve Smith, other co-chairs of Alexander’s statewide finance committee at this time include: Darrell Akins, Jeb Beasley, Randy Boyd, Lew Conner, Joe Davenport, James Gregory, John Gregory, Jimmy Haslam, Pitt Hyde, Orrin Ingram, Jerry Mansfield, Bill Rhodes, Susan Simons, Fred Smith, Steve West and Susan Williams.

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This ain't your Daddy's Fairground

This is the consultant's concept of what the fairground could look like after development:

Report: Fairgrounds redevelopment gives bigger jolt for Nashville

Jan. 23, 2013, Joey Garrison, The Tennessean - Supporting a new mixed-use development on Metro Nashville’s 117-acre fairgrounds would provide an economic jolt far greater than renovating what’s there now, city consultants contend in a new report released Monday.(link)

The consultant's presentation will be available at this link later today:

This pie-in-the-sky proposal has been expected. The skids have been being greased for some time to destroy the fairgrounds. Despite 70% of those who voted in a public referendum voting for the fairgrounds, those who want to destroy it are not giving up.  The vote by the public, did not protect the fairgrounds, it only made it a little more difficult to destroy it.

There is a proposal afloat to turn the fairgrounds over to a private concern, with a long-term lease, who
would operate it in the public interest preserving the current functions and making major improvements to the site. There may be more than one entity with such proposals. The Fair Board should forget about selling the site to private developers and destroying the fairgrounds and instead listen to the people who clearly wish to keep the fairgrounds. They should put out a Request for Proposals and see what private investors will offer.

Those interested in Saving the Fairgrounds must stay involved. Those wishing to destroy the fairgrounds are not giving up.

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Haslam highlights state’s successes, lays out strategies to address challenges in 2013 address


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam last night delivered his 2013 State of the State
address before a joint session of the General Assembly, contrasting Tennessee with Washington,
D.C. and other states across the country that have struggled to keep their fiscal houses in order.
“Unlike the news coming out of our nation’s capital and so many other states around the country,
good things are happening in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “We have a long history of fiscal
restraint that crosses party lines. We have been deliberate about not spending money we don’t
have and in making a concerted effort to save for the future…And now we are well-positioned to
continue to invest in a thoughtful, strategic manner.”

The governor reiterated his priorities and progress in the areas of attracting and growing
Tennessee jobs, the importance of a customer-focused, efficient and effective state government,
improving public safety, and making significant progress in education.

“We had the second largest increase in state K-12 expenditures of all 50 states in fiscal year
2012,” Haslam said. “The average increase was nearly 3 percent. Ours grew almost 12 percent
in state education funding. Education is another example of how in Tennessee we’re
distinguishing ourselves as different from the rest of the country.

“We are literally putting our money where our mouth is, even when other states haven’t done so
through tough budget times,” Haslam continued. “Our administration’s three budgets have
certainly supported our commitment to public education, but I also think it is important to note
that we’re not just throwing money at it. Dollars alone don’t lead to improvement. There has to
be a plan. Along with strategic investments, we’re pursuing real reform in education that is
producing results.”

He announced a proposal that the period of time before a public school teacher could get tenure be expanded to five years. He proposed an expansion of Charter Schools, eliminating the cap on the number in Tennessee. He also proposed a voucher program which would offer scholarships to low income students in poor performing public schools and defends the proposal.

The governor also discussed a vision extending beyond high school in Tennessee.
“Over the past 30 years, Medicaid costs have continued to squeeze out other priorities, and
higher education has been an area that has suffered as a result,” Haslam said. “With repeated
tuition increases year after year, we risk pricing middle class families out of the market for a
college education. We must address cost. We have to make a college education more
accessible, and we have to make sure we have quality programs in Tennessee,” Haslam
continued. “Only 32 percent of Tennesseans have earned an associates’ degree or higher. That’s
not good enough. Our goal is to move the needle so that Tennessee is on track to raise that
number to 55 percent by 2025. Tonight we begin our ‘drive to 55’ – a strategic initiative to have
the best trained workforce in America.”

As part of the address, the governor also outlined his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013-2014
that reflects his priorities through strategic investments, targeted reductions and savings for the

Highlights of the budget include:

  • Tenncare spending will increase about $350 million.
  • Full funding of the Basic Education Program.
  • K-12 will get increases of $51 million for technology upgrades and $34 million for $34 million for Security measures.
  • The governor proposes to start a $35 million endowment program to provide scholarships to students from low-income families.
  • $307.3 million to fund capital outlay projects in higher education including:
  • More money to counties for keeping state prisoners ($21 million) and more for inmate health cost ($21 million) and a new prison ($30 million)
  • A 1.5% pay raise for state employees;
  • Upgrading nearly 200 case manager positions in the Department of Children’s Services.
  • $100 million to the Rainy Day Fund bringing it to $456 million on June 30, 2014.
  • $8 million for a statewide tourism fund to support the work of the tourism commission;
  • Cutting the sales tax on food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent;
  • Reducing the Hall Income Tax on seniors by raising the exemption level for people over 65.
  • Cutting the death tax by raising the exemption level.

The complete text of the governor’s speech and a video of his speech is  available at

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Governor Haslam Presents Spending Plan to Lawmakers

 WKRN, News 2: Governor Haslam presents $33 billion spending plan 

... $33 billion annual spending plan that includes a staffing shakeup at the troubled Department of Children's Services, a heavy investment into construction projects around the state and a large deposit into the state's cash savings fund.
WTVF, News channel 5:
Jan 28, 2013 7:27 PM CST
Gov. Bill Haslam has presented to lawmakers a nearly $33 billion annual spending plan.  Video included. 


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Gail Kerr gets it; the school board may have.

Gail Kerr: School board may have learned why charters succeed

by Gail Kerr, Jan 28, 2013, The Tennessean - Metro school board members nailed it last week with a direct question: If the district’s most successful middle school test scores are coming out of six charter schools, how can regular schools emulate that success? (read more)

(I am seeking a writer for this blog to cover education issue. If you think of yourself as right of center, believe educating children is more important than social engineering, support school choice, care about education, and can be conscientious and timely in reporting on education issues and want to write, I would like to talk to you about taking over all or some of the education reporting for this blog. Email me at Rod)

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Tonight Gov. Bill Haslam presents 2013 State of the State Address.

Tonight Gov. Bill Haslam presents 2013 State of the State Address. Watch online 6:00pM CST here: Gov. Haslam's 2013 State of the State Address

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gestapo-like paramilitary raids on small businesses

Why does the Federal government need to raid a place of business with 50 agents with guns drawn when one person with a subpoena would be sufficient?  Why does the government use Gestapo tactics when it is not a criminal raid?  You will recall that federal agents raided Gibson guitar in a similar fashion over a possible violation of the Lacey Act. Basically the origin of some wood was in question.

The response to some paperwork not being in order should not be a military-style raid, and detention without charges, and confiscation of property and treating people like terrorist.

This is an outrage! This is not supposed to happen in America. These raids are intended to intimidate. Peoples' rights are being violated! The Constitution is being trampled! It is happening more and more often. This must stop!

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