Saturday, February 08, 2014

Mayor Dean does not support Tygard’s proposals to raise taxes to pay for mass transit

The Nashville Scene reports, "Dean Administration Not Interested in Tygard's Dedicated Funding Talk on The Amp."

One of Tygard's favorite talking points of late points to the increasing Metro subsidy of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. In 2008, Tygard says, the general government subsidy to the MTA was $17 million. But 6 years later it's up to $33 million. All of this, he notes, as Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling has asked Metro departments to prepare a 3 percent budget cut scenario going into this year's budget process.

Tygard says he's not eager to raise taxes, but insists that The Amp has gotten too far down the tracks without a real discussion about how it will be paid for in the long term. If the answer is simply that the funds will continue to come out of the Metro budget, that is likely to be a problem for some on the council.
Apparently the Mayor would rather build it and then worry about how we will pay for it latter.

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National Journal says Scott DesJarlais 4th most conservative member of congress. Diane Black # 15

The National Journal recently released a list of the 15 most conservative members of Congress.  Unfortunately, most of them I am not familiar with. Two of them however I am familiar with.  They are Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais who comes in at number four and Diane Black who comes in at number fifteen. Congratulation! Despite Desjlais position at number four, I cannot support his reelection. I think a person's personal character matters.  It is unfortunate that DesJarlais has a history of urging wives and girl friends to have abortions.

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Metro's debt load is bigger than ever. It is time to stop borrowing money. Just say NO!

Councilman Charlie Tygerd has warned about it in very specific terms and a handful of councilmen such as Josh Stites and Emily Evans have expressed concern from time to time, but Metro's debt continues to rise.

A few months ago the Council defeated an effort to finance part of Metro's employee pension liability but last council meeting, the council voted to authorize borrowing to purchase lap top computers. With the $623 million Music City Center, the $17 million east bank Riverfront Park development,$65 million Sulphur Dell ball park, the $32 million ice hockey facility in Antioch and other projects, Metro has taken on an unprecedented level of debt. With proposals to build a new $40 million Riverfront Park expansion and amphitheater, a $15 million pedestrian bridge across the Gulch, a $175 million-plus AMP bus rapid transit line, there appears to be no end in sight.

I am not opposed to all of the above mentioned projects. Any of the above already build or funded or any of the proposed projects may have merit individually.  I am not one who opposes everything. During my service in the Council in the 80's, I voted for the Convention Center and River Front Park. As a citizen of Nashville, I supported Music City Center. I believe Nashville has more going for it than most cities and I believe the Center will pay for itself.  I initially did not oppose the Sulphur Dell deal and believed the financial package looked like it would not cost the city. It appeared the new revenue would pay for the bonds.  It was not until the developer refused to guarantee he would follow through on his commitment, that I turned against the project.

The cumulative impact of the above projects are troubling. When we issue general obligation bonds, we are pledging the full faith and credit of the city.  Our property tax rate must be sufficient to cover our debts. If debt service takes more and more of the city revenue, that leaves less and less for police and fire and education and maintenance. Unfortunately, I have little confidence in our Council to slow the rate of debt accumulation.  One of the least meritorious projects recently funded, in my view, was the $32 million Antioch ice hockey facility, yet all of the Council, including the handful of conservatives, people like Robert Duvall, Duane Dominy, Josh Stites, Charlie Tygerd and any one else you can name- all of them, voted for it.  Other than refusing to borrow to finance city pension, I do not know of a single time the current or immediate previous Council said no to borrowing money.

It is time to say no. We are already in danger of having our bond rating downgraded.  If there is another downturn in the economy or if the convention business falls off or if we loose our minor league baseball franchise, we could be in serious trouble. In my view the city needs to put  all proposed new capital spending projects on hold. Wait a while and see how the revenue is flowing. Try to pay off some debt before we take on new debt.  I would immediately  pull the plug on the Amp, and defer the riverfront amphitheater and the pedestrian bridge.

I fear that if the next Mayor we elect is someone like Megan Berry, we will continue the policy of greater and greater debt and I do not think that policy is sustainable. There will be a day or reckoning if we continue down this path.  I don't know what it would take to get a Council that would say "no" to new spending.  The "conservatives" on the Council, for the most part, vote just like the progressives. We need to elect a mayor who will be fiscally responsible. 

Below is a recent Nashville Scene article that addressed this issue:  Metro's debt load is bigger than ever before — something critics say can't be sustained. 

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Corker: CBO Report “Sobering.”

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., released the following statement after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced today that the U.S. will add over $9 trillion in new debt and nearly double Medicare and Social Security spending over the next ten years. The report also finds that the health care law will continue to negatively impact economic growth and result in 2.5 million fewer Americans working in the next decade.

“Today’s CBO report gives a sobering outlook on our economy.  It confirms what we’ve known all along: The health care law is having a tremendously negative impact on economic growth, while entitlement spending continues to drive our nation’s debt to historic levels. Reforming Medicare and Social Security so they are strong and solvent is the only way to put our country on a sound fiscal path that will allow for continued growth and prosperity,” said Corker.

Last year, Corker and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced the Fiscal Sustainability Act, S. 11, to reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in the next decade in order to improve the programs’ solvency. The bill incorporates many of the recommendations made by President Obama’s Debt Commission (Simpson-Bowles) as well as by former Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, budget director for former President Clinton.

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Nashville Tea Party meets Feb. 18. Joe Carr to speak.

From Nashville Tea Party:
The Next Meeting of the Nashville Tea Party will be at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel
in their Conference Center. Tuesday, Feb 18 at 7PM,  2025 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN. US Senate Candidate Joe Carr, who is challenging Lamar Alexander will speak. We will have Federal and State Legislative updates. Updates from other groups such as "2 Million Bikers to DC" and "Overpasses for America" and MUCH MORE. Please Join us!" (link to Meetup page)

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Friday, February 07, 2014

2014 Women of Distinction Luncheon to feature Michelle Malkin

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Free-market Republicans are voting to set prices with new wine in grocery store bill.

In my view the new wine in grocery is a terribly flawed  bill. I have supported wine in grocery stores for so long that if I were serving in the state Senate, I would have probably voted for the bill anyway, if I thought that was all we could get. In casting any vote, one cannot look at only the merits of the bill in a vacuum but must ask, does this bill move in the right direction; is it better than what we have now?  And, is the the best we can get? I think this bill does move in the right direction. I think it is an improvement over the status quo. Is it the best we can get?

I am terrible disappointment that in our state legislature where Republicans have an overwhelming majority that this is as good of a bill as we could get.  Republicans claim to believe in a market economy, but in practice often do not vote any more pro free-market than Democrats.  I think we would eventually have wine in grocery stores, even if Democrats had the majority, and I cannot imagine that a bill passed by a Democrat majority would have been any worse.

I am pleased to see the Knoxville's Metro Pulse explain how bad the wine-in-grocery-stores bill really is for consumers and point out the hypocrisy of free-market Republicans voting for price controls. The worse part of the bill is the price fixing that requires a 20 percent markup over the wholesale price. Other bad provisions include a provision that gives nearby liquor stores a veto over a grocer selling wine until 2017 and the provision that allows liquor stores to start selling other products immediately but requires a two-years wait before consumers can get wine in grocery stores. 

If this is the absolute best we can get then the House should go ahead and pass it.  However, ithere is a chance of getting a better bill next year, I say put it off another year.

Below is the link to the Metro Pulse story: 
What About Consumers? You Can't Blame Liquor Lobbyists for Writing a Favorable Bill, but Legislators Need to Proof It

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

An AMP debate, Feb. 12th

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Alexander blast Reid for prevented Republican amendment to Unemployment Extendtion Bill. GOP blocks bill by one vote.

Senate Republicans were successful today in blocking a bill to extend unemployment benefits for three months.   Fifty-nine senators, including four Republicans, voted to advance the legislation, falling one vote short of the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster effort. Republicans want any such extension to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere but Harry Reid would not allow any amendment to the bill.

Faulting Reid for bypassing committees to bring the unemployment bill straight to the Senate floor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.) the top Republican on the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Reid “prevented many good ideas for helping unemployed Americans find a job from ever reaching the Senate floor.” (link)

The four Republicans who broke rank and voted with the Democrats are Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. 

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Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat, says Rep. Sargent supported Obamacare

Press Release, BRENTWOOD, TN – Today, Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat is asking President Obama to learn from Tennessee’s economic successes when he visits here later this week.

“I’m pleased the President has chosen to come to Tennessee,” said Gawrys. “I’m more hopeful that he will learn something from what he finds here about Tennessee’s continuing economic success.”

Recently, Tennessee was named “State of the Year” by Business Facilities Magazine for its growing diverse economic base. Steve Gawrys is part of that business success as an entrepreneur and job creator in Williamson County. “The President has never taken a risk and hired an employee, so he has a lot to learn about growing an economy from Tennesseans,” said Gawrys.

Gawrys continued, “The first thing President Obama needs to learn is that his failed health insurance bill is destroying small businesses across America. One of the reasons I am in this State House race is that my opponent, Charles Sargent, sponsored the bill to establish the ObamaCare State Exchanges in Tennessee.” Gawrys is referring to HB2839 in which his opponent offered the legislation to support ObamaCare in Tennessee.

“Tennessee rejected Obama in the 2012 elections and they overwhelmingly reject his failed health insurance plan. We shouldn’t have Republicans in Tennessee supporting failed policies. I think the voters of District 61 deserve an explanation.”

In the last legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly rejected the establishment of a State-sponsored health exchange. “I would have joined the majority and voted against such a federal overreach,” said Gawrys.

District 61 includes Brentwood, and parts of Cool Springs, Franklin, and unincorporated Williamson County.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What happened at the Council meeting of 2/4/2013: Borrowing money to buy laptops.

At 2 1/2 hours this is a long meeting. I am not going to give a play by play description. I am only hitting a few highlights. To follow the meeting in the agenda and the analysis follow this link. To see how the Budget and Finance voted on the most important issues, follow this link.

The public hearing portion of the bills takes up the first one hour and 48 minutes of the meeting.

The bill that would put new restrictions on outdoor music events is differed until the first meeting in March.

The two resolutions that are not one the consent agenda are below. Discussion of the two resolutions not on consent start at time stamp 1:55:24.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriates $13,100,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing, and an incentive program for teacher retirement. This is the bill by Bo Mitchell. It is deferred one meeting, which, I believe makes the second time it has been deferred. The bill was deferred "by rule" because Mitchell did not show up at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting or communicate what he wanted the committee to do with the bill. This bill will eventually be withdrawn or defeated.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 authorizes the issuance of $21 million in general obligation bonds! This is for the purchase of heavy equipment for various departments and $6 million for laptop computers to implement common core testing. The Metro charter calls for sitting aside 4% of the metro budget for the purchase of equipment and make repairs. This would be the first time the city, instead of using the that fund to purchase equipment or make repairs or other such things, will instead borrow the money to do so.  Discussion starts at 1:56:30

Josh Stites
For a better understanding of this bill see the B&F Committee meeting and read the staff analysis. In my view, this is a risky way to do business. The city should buy equipment as we go. The city has borrow a lot of money under Dean's administration and now we are borrowing for to finance living expenses. It is one thing to borrow to purchase a home, it is something else entirely to borrow to buy groceries and that is the equivalent of what the city is doing.

 Charlie Tygerd speaks against it but does not vote against it. Councilman Josh Stites take to the floor speaks with passion and clarity against the bill. Stites says, "This is a symptom of a much Larger problem...We are leveraging entirely too much. ....Someday the music will stop." (see 1:59:45). Congratulation Josh Stites!
Only Councilman Stites and Councilman Standley end up voting against the bill. I am disappointed in several of the Councilmen who call themselves conservative and who did not vote against this bill. This was an opportunity to take a stand against irresponsible spending. I expected a few others to oppose this bill.

The memorializing resolution which calls for adding five additional early voting sites for the May election passes.

Here is the Tennessean's report on the Council Meeting: Council approves plan to borrow $6M for equipment for Common Core testing.

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GOPAC endorces Jim Tracy.

State Senator Jim Tracy who is running against incumbent U. S. Representative Scott DesJarlais for the the Republican nomination for that seat, today received the endorsement of GOPAC.  He is only one of four House candidates to receive the organization's endorcement.

GOPAC has been around since 1978. It was founded by founded by Delaware Governor Pierre S. du Pont, IV. Former Chairmen have included Michael Steele, J.C. Watts, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. GOPAC's mission statement says, " we realize Republicans must champion the ideas that unite voters around a vision of creating jobs, getting government spending under control, making government more effective, and keeping America safe. This is why Republicans turn to GOPAC for coaching and best practices on effective ways to communicate conservative ideas and solutions." Along with GOPAC's enforcement will come financial contributions up to the maximum allowed by Federal law.

Most conservatives do not find fault with  with Scott DesJarlais voting record but cannot stomach the pro-life doctor's habit of talking wives and girlfriends into getting abortions. That is why I am supporting Jim Tracy.  Also, I think Jim Tracy will make an excellent U. S. Representative. Congratulations Jim Tracy on getting the GOPAC endorsement.

To visit Jim Tracy's website and make a contribution, follow this link.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The AMP just got worse. More expensive. Property condemnation will be required!

At tonight's AMP meeting at  Cohn Adult Learning Center it was announced that TDOT has refused to grant Metro's request to allow traffic lanes along the AMP route to be reduced from 11 feet to 9 feet.  Still Metro is planning to move ahead! 

This means the price tag will be considerably greater than the current $174 million price tag. The current AMP design of a center loading platform and dedicated lanes in both directions cannot fit in the existing roadway. To build the AMP as planned, the roadbed will have to be widened. This will require property condemnation and rebuilding of sidewalks. An estimate of how much more the project will cost than the current estimate of $174 million was not available. In addition to an increase in cost and a destruction of the esthetic appeal of one of the most beautiful streets in Nashville, this will mean it will take more time to build the project and a longer period of disruption of traffic and a longer period of restricted access to businesses along the route.

With this latest bit of  news it is time for Metro to admit that what was already a poorly conceived and planned project, just got worse.

It is time to pull the plug on the AMP and go back to the drawing board. 

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Budget and Finance Committee meeting of Feb 3. Should we borrow money to buy laptops? How many early voting sites?


 Bo Mitchell's bill, RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriating $13.1 million from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing, and an incentive program for teacher retirement is deferred "by rule." The sponsor was not present and did not communicate with the Chair as to what he wanted to happen to the bill.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 which authorizes the issuance of $21 million in general obligation bonds for the purchase of heavy equipment for various departments and $6 million for laptop computers to implement common core testing .  Rich Reibling, Director of Finance explains the financing mechanism but I am still not persuaded this is a wise move. To learn more see the video see time stamp .27- 16:24 . Charlie Tygerd ask some good questions but he ends up voting for it and the bill passes committee unanimously. I am disappointed.

Charlie Tygerd's memorializing resolution asking the Nashville delegation to the State legislature to authorize a dedicated source of funding for mass transit in Nashville is deferred one meeting to track with bills on First reading that address the same topic. Good move.
A late, as yet unnumbered, resolution  asking the Election Commission to provide five additional early voting sites for the May primary passes. The Election Commission has been planning only one site for early voting. For the discussion see time stamp 36:48-48:22

For more info and links to the agenda and analysis, follow this link.

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What's on the Council Agenda for Feb. 4th with analysis and summary

If you don't know what the Council is voting on, Council meetings are really boring. With an agenda and an analysis they are just boring. To follow along, you can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. To get your copy of the Council staff analysis download it at this link: Council Staff analysis. There are a lot of zoning bills on public hearing, so if a few of them are controversial, this could be a long meeting.

There are 5 Confirmation of Appointments on this agenda. None of them are to the more troubled or controversial Boards or Commissions but it wouldn't matter anyway as the Council always rubber stamps whoever the Mayor appoints.

Public Hearing:
There are 24 bills on public hearing. All of them are zoning bills and should be of interest to only nearby neighbors. The only exception is the following resolution.

BILL NO. BL2014-651 would establish new stringent regulations of temporary music event on commercial property. I hope some members of the music community or present to oppose this bill. I do not know why we are trying to kill the music in Music City. If there is a particular problem, I would assume the current noise ordinance and other laws would be sufficient to address it. In my view those who want to live adjacent to or in commercial areas should tolerate a little music and noise. I will be interested in hearing both sides of this issue.

Consent Agenda:
There are 13 resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. Below is the only resolutions, that I think may be controversial: 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriating $13,100,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing, and an incentive program for teacher retirement.

    The Director of Finance has refused to sign the resolution as to the availability of funds, saying it would be fiscally irresponsible to spend a significant amount from the schools fund balance giving the funding deficit projected by the schools going into the coming fiscal year. This resolution was on the agenda for the last two meeting and was deferred both times. I am certain it will not be on the consent agenda Tuesday night.

    The bill is sponsored by Councilman Bo Mitchell. Given that the school board lost millions of dollars of State funding by unnecessarily picking fight with the State and defying the State by refusing to approve Great Hearts charter school and given the school board's continued blaming of their budget woes on charter schools, and given the hefty increase in funding they got last budget year, I think this resolution should be defeated. Since the Mayor's Director of Finance will not sign off on the resolution, I would assume that this resolution is doomed. I suspect this be withdrawn or defeated this time.

    Some of what this resolution would fund, the teacher retirement incentive, has already been funded. There is another resolution on the agenda, RS201-963. that would fund the laptop computers. Not mentioned in the staff analysis and something I have heard no one say, but something I think should be a consideration, is that Common Core is not a sure thing. There are several bills in the State Legislature that would curtail or have the state back out of common core. Before Metro spends money on Common Core, we ought to wait and see what the State is going to do.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 authorizes the issuance of $21 million in general obligation bonds! This is for the purchase of heavy equipment for various departments and $6 million for laptop computers to implement common core testing. The charter calls for sitting aside 4% of the metro budget for the purchase of equipment. This would be the first time the city, instead of using the fund to purchase equipment or make repairs or other such things, will instead use the 4% fund to pay bonds. For more on this proposal, see the staff analysis. This appears risky to me. I wonder if it is even legal to use the 4% fund for this purpose. In my view we should only issue bonds for long-term projects. The 4% fund should not be used to pay debt service. I am looking to Council members Tim Garrett, Charlie Tygerd, or Emily Evans to take to the floor to oppose this. If it is not opposed, then I hope someone will explain why this departure from normal process is a good idea. Unless persuaded otherwise, if I was serving on the Council, I would oppose this bill. 

Bills on First reading almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. I have not carefully reviewed the bills on first reading, but will before second reading. There are 21 bills on first reading. Several of them concern funding for mass transit.

Bills on Second Reading:
It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are seven bills on second reading. The following items are interesting:
  • BILL NO. BL2013-569 would change the regulations of car lots. There is a lot of opposition to used car lots in some parts of town. It seems any vacant building or piece of land can be opened as a car lot for very little investment. This bill would remove the distinction between used car lots and new car lots and impose new restrictions. This bill was on first reading on public hearing on October 1 and to my surprise no one spoke on it on either side. From that meeting it was deferred and then deferred again to this meeting. For a better understanding of why this is on the agenda, see the staff analysis. This bill was disapproved by the planning commission.

Bills on Third Reading:
Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. There are seven bills on third reading. None of them have unresolved issues or of much importance.

Memorializing Resolutions: There are three memorizing resolutions on this agenda. Unless someone objects they will be added to the consent agenda and passed as group with other resolutions. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law and simply express the will of the council. Most often memorializing resolutions simply honor someone on their retirement or recognized a sports team for a victory but on occasion they are used to express the will of the Council advocating a policy position on a State or National issue. Here are two worth noting:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-984 requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to provide a dedicated funding source for local mass transit. While I have reservations about the AMP and oppose its current route and configuration, I believe that it is time for Nashville to begin to develop an improved system of mass transit. The fare box cannot pay the cost of mass transit. I am not ready to endorse any increased tax to support mass transit, but may reach that point. I could support this resolution which would permit Nashville to establish a dedicated source of funding. We could have the argument about the size and what the source of funding is at a later date. Since several bills addressing mass transit are on First Reading, I wish this would be put off to track the other bills on this topic, but would not oppose it.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-985 honors Senator Douglas Henry on the occasion of his retirement as a Tennessee State Senator. I suspect this will be moved to the front of the agenda and Henry will be honored with a large scroll and a standing ovation. Senator Henry is the last of his kind and one of my very favorite Democrats. He deserves to be honored.

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David Keene, former NRA Chair & ACU founder says Lamar has never wavered in upholding fundamental conservative beliefs

From David Keene:

February 4, 2014
Dear Rod,
As the former Chairman of the American Conservative Union and the past President of the National Rifle Association I have had the great fortune to work with leaders across our nation committed to defending our conservative values.
Each year it seems like everyone in Washington creates a scorecard picking a few votes to illustrate and judge the records of our elected officials. If I were making a scorecard for Lamar Alexander, I would start with his 'A' rating from the NRA, his 100 percent rating with National Right to Life, and his 100 percent rating with the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Review his record here - you'll see that Lamar has never wavered in upholding the fundamental conservative belief that a limited government closest to the people is the most effective form of government.
Many so-called conservatives come to Washington D.C. and forget that. They start to think that decisions are best made from the seat where they are sitting. Lamar's time as Governor gives him a conservative and results-oriented perspective most lack in Washington. He applies his conservative principles to not just make a speech - but to actually get a result. This is what makes him one of the most effective legislators in the U.S. Senate.
I hope you'll take a minute to read more about his record here and decide for yourself the real scorecard for Lamar Alexander.

David Keene
American Conservative Union, Founder &  Former Chairman
National Rifle Association, Chairman Emeritus

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Haslam Unveils Visionary 'Tennessee Promise'

NASHVILLE, Press Release  – During his fourth annual State of the State address before the General Assembly, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tonight introduced the “Tennessee Promise.”

The historic proposal commits to providing on a continuing basis two years of community college or a college of applied technology (TCAT) absolutely free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors.

“Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state,” Haslam said.  “We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.”

After graduating from a community college, if students choose to attend a four-year school, the state’s transfer pathways program makes it possible for those students to start as a junior.  By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree would be cut in half.

“This is a bold promise,” Haslam continued. “It is a promise that will speak volumes to current and prospective employers.  It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans, and it is a promise that we have the ability to make.  Net cost to the state, zero.  Net impact on our future, priceless.”

To make the Tennessee Promise sustainable over time, the governor proposed transferring lottery reserve funds to create an endowment, with the goal of strategically redirecting existing resources.  He recommended leaving $110 million in the lottery reserve fund to ensure there is a healthy balance moving forward.

The Tennessee Promise is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school.  In 11 years, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree to get a job, but today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify.

Other Drive to 55 efforts this year include:

• Statewide expansion of the Seamless Alignment of Integrated Learning (SAILS) program to eliminate the need for remedial math courses for students entering college with $2.6 million in the proposed budget.  Currently, 70 percent of high school graduates need remedial classes before they are able to take a college level course.
• Offering one dual enrollment course to high school students at no cost with discounted courses available after that.  Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college credit courses, and there is a 94 percent probability that those students will go on to college.
• Expansion of the Degree Compass program that predicts the subjects and majors in which students will be most successful with $300,000 in the proposed budget.  The program was pioneered at Austin Peay University and is modeled after companies like Netflix, Amazon and Pandora that tailor their recommendations to what their customers are looking for.
• Creation of an Adult Student Data System to help state colleges and universities – both public and private – do a better job of identifying and recruiting adults that are most likely to return to college and complete their degree with $300,000 in the proposed budget.  There are nearly one million Tennesseans that have some college credit but haven’t earned a certificate or degree.
• Appointment of a new Director of Workforce Alignment that will work with state departments and local officials.
• Workforce alignment grants to local communities that have strategic plans in place to connect education institutions with employers with a focus on closing the skills gaps in their area with $10 million in the proposed budget.
• Changing the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship allotment to incentivize completion by raising the scholarship for two-year schools from $2,000 to $3,000 and shifting the scholarship for four-year schools from $4,000 to $3,000 the first two years and $5,000 the last two years.

As part of the address, the governor also discussed his budget proposal for FY 2014-2015.  “This year’s budget is a conservative one,” Haslam said.  “Revenue collections over the past several months have not met projections, and our budget reflects that reality…In Tennessee, education is a top priority, and this budget reflects that.”

Highlights of capital investments to support higher education include:

• $13 million to fund the Complete College Outcomes Formula;
• $63 million to fund capital maintenance projects at institutions across the state;
• $36.7 million to fund a new Williamson County campus for Columbia State Community College;
• $28.7 million to fund a new classroom building at Volunteer State Community College.

Notable K-12 investments include:

• $63 million to increase teacher salaries as part of the governor’s ongoing effort to make Tennessee the fastest improving state in terms of paying teachers more;
• $48.6 million dollars to fully fund the BEP formula.

Other budget highlights include:

• $1.7 million to fund a new statewide residential drug court in Middle Tennessee;
• $6.4 million to fund new child protective services and case manager positions as well as other critical children’s services including foster care and adoption assistance;
• $7 million increase for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens;
• A one percent pay raise for state employees;
• $40.3 million to the Rainy Day Fund bringing it to $496 million on June 30, 2015;
• $61 million in Fast Track Infrastructure and Job Training assistance;
• $6 million for a statewide tourism fund to support the work of the tourism commission.
The complete text of the governor’s speech and an archived video of his speech will be available at

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Tracy out raises DesJarlais by more than 8 to 1

Tennessee GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais only brought in $18,000, a small fraction of the $146,000 his primary challenger Jim Tracy raised. (link)

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State SenatorJim Tracy and State Rep. Mike Sparks awarded ACU 'Defender of Liberty' award

Rep. Mike Sparks & Sen. Jim Tracy
February 3, 2014, WGNS Radio - The American Conservative Union (ACU), the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization, this week announced State Representative Mike Sparks (R–Smyrna) and State Senator Jim Tracy (R–Shelbyville) have been awarded the A-C-U ‘Defender of Liberty’ award. Both legislators represent a portion of Rutherford County in the Tennessee General Assembly. (link)

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Beacon Center Calls for End to Hall Income Tax in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today released "Our State, Our Future," a publication in the Faces of Freedom series that focuses on the harmful impact Tennessee's investment income tax has on the lives of Tennesseans. The Hall Income Tax empowers the Tennessee General Assembly to "levy a tax on incomes derived from stocks and bonds." For Tennessee residents, this is a punitive tax that penalizes sound financial planning, subjects individuals to double taxation, hamstrings retirees, and is a blight upon a state that's built a reputation as an income tax-free haven.

"We made sure to save throughout our careers...we were never so 'well-to-do' that we didn't have to be concerned about our future, or our children's futures," explains Jon and Linda Freeman—a retiree couple from Coldwater featured in "Our State, Our Future." Jon and Linda made responsible choices with their finances in the hopes of securing a sustainable retirement, but were unaware of the Hall Income Tax when they made the decision to relocate to Tennessee from Alabama. Now, the couple struggles with the six percent tax on their total fixed yearly income since the Hall Income Tax is not marginal—meaning that earning just one dollar above the $59,000 exemption level means their entire income is subjected to the hefty tax.

Nicholas Holland, also featured in "Our State, Our Future", is a young entrepreneur from Nashville who also faces the harsh reality of Tennessee's income tax secret. Nicholas is now reluctant to draw income from his investments that would allow him to grow and expand his business. "The Hall Income Tax income tax of the worst kind: it punitively punishes a segment of our population, namely the elderly, who have taken risks...and hope to see their risks pay off," Holland asserts.

The Beacon Center believes that the time has come to end this antiquated tax law and invite more people like Nicholas and the Freemans to make Tennessee their home. "Eliminating the Hall Income Tax would mean a sacrifice of less than two percent of Tennessee's total annual revenue, but would have a significant impact on the lives of Tennesseans who depend upon their frugal investments to sustain them in the years ahead," suggests Lindsay Boyd, Policy Director at the Beacon Center and author of the new report. "By taking this simple step, our legislators can encourage entrepreneurial and economic growth by attracting more small businessmen and families to the state, effectively cementing Tennessee's claim as one of the tax-friendliest states in the nation."

See the full Faces of Freedom publication, "Our State, Our Future" here.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee's mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. The Center is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan research and public policy organization dedicated to providing timely solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Faces of Freedom is a Beacon Center series to educate Tennesseans about the barriers to prosperity brought about by poor public policy. By providing real-life stories of real-life citizens, Tennesseans can better understand the impact public policy has on their lives.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

Gov. Haslam's State of the State Address. Free Tuition for any graduating Senior

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has vowed to make education a priority in Tennessee and he backed that up with a pledge Monday to allow any graduating high school senior to attend a two-year higher learning institution for free. (link)

He lays out details of his $32.6 billion proposal budget and lays out his top legislative priorities for the year.  He proposes to  add $47 million into the state’s Basic Education Program formula funding.

Excerpts from the speech:
Working with the General Assembly, we have kept taxes low. We have the lowest debt in the country. We’ve done that while at the same time nearly doubling the state’s savings account.
Since we took office, we are one of only six states in the country that has consistently increased state spending on K-12 education as a percentage of our total budget. Since 2011, we’ve had the fourth largest increase in education spending compared to the rest of the country. 
Tennessee is ranked the third best managed state in the nation.

We’re the first state in the nation to make support services available to 100 percent of our former foster youth as they transition to adulthood.

We lead the Southeast in manufacturing.
To read the full text of the Governor's address, follow this link.
To view the video, follow this link

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Sumner United for Responsible Government to screen "Agenda."

Sumner United for Responsible Government will feature a screening of "AGENDA: Grinding America Down" a their Thursday, Feb.6th meeting. For 2014 Sumner United will meet the First Thursday of each month, 6:30pm, at the Hendersonville VFW on Old Shackle Island Rd. For more information, follow this link.

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Women do not make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns

It’s the bogus statistic that won’t die—and president deployed it during the State of the Union—but women do not make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns.
President Obama repeated the spurious gender wage gap statistic in his State of the Union address. “Today,” he said, “women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. (link)

My Comment: Please read the above article. This claim that women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes is repeated so often that most people probably believe it, yet as this article documents, if all other factors that are readily measurable are held constant the difference is only 5 cents. The other 5 cents is probably not due to discrimination but to factors that are not readily measurable.

Certainly there are women who are as devoted to their careers as men and work just as hard as men and are just as aggressive and competitive as men, but many women live a more balanced life than men and do not make their career the most important thing in their life.  When it comes to volunteering to work late, I would bet men do it more than women.  Men are more aggressive in seeking opportunities to advance their career. Men are generally greater risk takers and more competitive than women.

Women remain the primary care-giver of children, women generally care more about planning family holidays than men and women generally care more that the laundry is done and the house is clean.   When a child is sick, it is most often the mother who will take a day off from work to stay home with a sick child. If it was left up to men, we probably would have dirtier homes and lose contract with extended family. Some women will say, "well it shouldn't be that way. Men should pitch in and share the home and family responsibilities as much as women do."  Maybe they should, but I believe that women are by nature more nurturing and more relationship oriented. Mothers worry more about their sick children than men and are more sensitive to the needs of their children.  Certainly there are exceptions but I think it is undeniable that the maternal instinct is different than the paternal instinct.  Child birth and child rearing take a greater toll on the careers of women than men. If a person stays home to raise with child for the first two or three years of the child's life then they have lost those years advancing in their career.

Many women make less than men because they had different priorities and desires than men.  If they could afford it, I suspect many women would want to work even less and mother even more. Women should not feel less successful because they made different choices than their male counterparts. Raising good children is more important than making more money. Society should not feel shamed because the aggregate income of men and women are not the same. In 2014 it is not wrong and it is not an embarrassment.

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Just one Republican has filed for Davidson County judicial elections in May

Seventy qualifying petitions for judgeships and other positions have been picked up, and all but 19 have formally qualified to appear on the ballot. All but one of the candidates are Democrats. (link)

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Stop Amp. Attend the Public Meeting Monday, February 3rd .

From Stop Amp:
Attend the Public Meeting Monday,
 February 3rd — 5:30 p.m.
 Cohn Adult Learning Center (The Old Cohn High School) 
4805 Park Ave., Nashville, TN 37209

Councilwomen Emily Evans, Sheri Weiner and Burkley Allen asked the AMP Coalition for this extra meeting because of the overflow crowd at the last public meeting held at West End Middle School. This is another opportunity for you to speak your mind and oppose this project, make comments on the maps and on any paper work they provide. Tell them you will not ride it, a huge waste of taxpayer money and will make driving down West End a nightmare.

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Gibson Guitar creates new guitar line with confiscated wood called "The Government Series."

Gibson got their wood back and created a new line of guitars out of the confiscated wood, called "The Government Series." I like that. Read all about it: Gibson Guitar’s new line is a middle finger to Holder’s unjust Justice Department.

If you recall, in 2011 Federal armed swat teams descended on Gibson. That is astounding to send in armed swat teams when unarmed men in business suites could have done the same job. Many felt the raid was politically motivated due to Gibson's owner supporting conservative candidates. Martin Guitar used the same kind of wood from the same sources and was not raided. The Nashville conservative activist community rallied to the Gibson cause. To read more about it and recall the events, see my blog post on the issue at the time.

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William Guthoerl announces run to fill the 11th district council seat vacancy

William Guthoerl
Press release, OLD HICKORY, TN - William Guthoerl, a private security contractor and 2011 Metro Council candidate, has announced that he will run to fill the remaining term of resigning 11th district Councilman Darren Jernigan.

Guthoerl states that it's his intent to bring fiscally conservative representation to the council. "I want to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction financially and that taxpayer’s interests are protected long term. We have to look towards the future and how we’re going to fulfill debt service, pension obligations and operating costs and still keep Nashville an affordable place to live for future generations." He takes issue with the current administrations capital spending practices pointing out that more than $1 billion dollars has been spent on projects in Nashville’s core over the past six years.

He believes that this comes at the expense of infrastructure needs and improvements in the counties suburban areas, such as Old Hickory. "It's important economically that this district and the taxpayers are getting a return on their investment into the county. I think it's time to put the brakes on downtown capital spending and bring our suburban communities up to speed. Those investments are an essential part in making our community economically viable and encouraging business growth and job creation. I believe with the right vision, investments and proactive leadership we can continue to move this community forward."

Guthoerl also voices his disapproval of the AMP, Nashville's current $175 million mass transit project. "We have people in our community with real transportation needs such as getting to and from work, medical appointments and other daily tasks because of the very limited options of public transportation available to Old Hickory. It's disappointing that the administration feels that funding a project like this supersedes addressing the needs of our community. I’m also concerned with the amount spent this far on design and public relations. The federal and state funds proposed have yet to be awarded and I’m afraid that if this project continues to move forward Davidson County taxpayers might be stuck with the entire bill.”

Guthoerl says that he’s planning a grassroots effort so that he can get to know people in the district one on one and hear what their concerns and vision for the community are. 

My Comment: I am endorsing William Guthoerl.  We need people of this caliber in the Metro Council.

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