Saturday, August 23, 2014

Council meeting of 8/19/14: Ken Jakes honored, President Pro Tem elected, Honky Tonk protection bill dies and more (updated report)

This is one of the more interesting council meetings with several continuous issues and several roll call votes.

This first order of business is the election of President Pro Tem. This is a position of prestige. The duty of this office is to conduct the Council meetings in the absence of the chair. Councilman Davis nominates Lonnell Matthews, Jr. and Council member Karen Bennett nominates Councilman Phil Claiborne. Matthews is a liberal member of the Council and Claiborne is a conservative. While election of pro tem may indicate ideological divisions within the Council, there may be other consideration as important as ideology, so not too much should be read into who lines up behind which candidate In this vote, all of the council members who one may consider as conservatives or who are Republican vote for Claiborne but he also picks up a few other votes. The vote is very close and on a machine vote, Matthews wins 19 to 18. Here is the vote:

For Matthews: Barry, Steine, Maynard, Matthews, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Evans, Holleman, Harmon, Johnson, Potts, Dowell, Mitchell (19).
For  Claiborne: Garrett, Tygard, Harrison, Bennett, Pridemore, Pardue, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Baker, Langster, Weiner, Blalock, Dominy, Duvall, Todd (18).
There is one resolution on public hearing concerning the distance requirement for a beer permit and no one speaks and the resolution passes. This is a location that already has a liquor-by-the-drink permit. This seems like such a waste of time. If a place can already serve liquor, why does the council not go ahead and change the law and say the beer permit distance requirements are automatically waived?

All of the resolutions on the Consent Agenda pass and a couple non controversial bills that are not on consent pass. Below are other resolution.

 RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1156   is withdrawn. It is another one of those distance requirements for a beer permit resolutions for an establishment that already has a liquor-by-the-drink permit. It is withdrawn because the patrons of the establishment seeking the beer permit are taking neighborhood parking places. I don't blame the council member for using whatever tool is available to respond to his constituents, but there ought to be a better way to deal with parking controversies than to deny an establishment that already has liquor-by-the-drink permit a beer permit. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1186  by Council members Tygard and Dominy recognizes Mr. Ken
Ken Jakes
Jakes for his service to our community. It is a memorializing Resolutions. Memorializing resolutions do not  carry the force of law but they express the will of the council. They are usually    lumped with resolutions on the consent agenda.  This Council will pass almost any memorializing resolution.  Surprisingly this resolution proves controversial. It passes, but just barely.

This is a well deserved honor for Mr. Jakes. He is a very giving person and supports all kinds of charitable causes especially giving fruit and vegetables to food banks and other events. Watch the speech by Charlie Tygard to learn more about what kind of person Ken Jakes is. I am proud to call Ken Jakes my friend. The world would be a better place if we had more people like Ken Jakes.

Ken Jakes does much more than just charitable work.  He is a citizen activist who has exposed corruption and waste in Metro Government time and time again, including exposures of the mismanagement at Farmers Market and corruption at NES. Apparently he has stepped on too many toes. I am proud of Councilmen Karen Johnson, and Robert Duvall and Charlie Tygard and Councilman Tony Tennpenny for taking to the floor and speaking on behalf of Ken Jakes and for all of those who voted in favor of this resolution. None of those who voted against Jakes or abstained had the guts to voice their opposition and explain their vote.

The Rules-Confirmations-Public Elections Committee made no recommendation. Here is how the council voted:
“Ayes”: Garrett, Tygard, Bennett, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Weiner, Evans, Holleman, Blalock, Dominy, Johnson, Potts, Dowell, Duvall, Todd (18).
“Noes”: Steine, Pridemore, Pardue, Mitchell (4).
“Abstaining”:  Barry, Maynard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Langster (14).

(See time stamp 19:55- 27:35 to watch the discussion.)

BILL NO. BL2014-841 on Second Reading establishes a formula for how big an outdoor residential dog pen must be. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2014-847  on Second Reading passes.  It requires contracts for the companies that lobby the State on behalf of Metro government  and it requires that reports be submitted to the Metropolitan Council detailing what the Metro lobbyist is lobbying for and what the goals of the lobbying effort is and what the impact would be of the outcome the lobbyist is seeking. This is a good bill but I wish it was even stronger. I think Metro's lobbyist should only lobby for or against a bill if specifically authorized to do so by the Council.

BILL NO. BL2014-770  was back on the agenda on third reading and was again deferred.  It
A tall skinny Nashville Duplex
would change the definition of duplex so one could have two units on a piece of property and they would not have to be artificially joined the way they are now, where two protruding utility rooms are the only thing joining the homes. It would also impose heights restrictions. If the units are built to be joined, then a greater portion of the building would have to share a common wall. The tall skinny Nashville duplex would be a thing of the past if this had passed.

BILL NO. BL2014-771 which would create a new code provision for a “contextual overlay district” which could be applied to a neighborhood to ensure that infill development is compatible with surrounding properties, passes 29-8 with two abstention. The bill is substituted to allow the Board of Zoning Appeal to grant variance. I think that is an improvement but still think this is a bad bill.

This bill  does such things as restrict the height to no more than 125% of nearby homes. Already the same thing can be accomplished with an Urban Design Overlay, but this bill makes it easier. I had mixed views of this, but if I was in the Council, I would have to vote against it. There are some neighborhoods that have been transformed from neighborhoods with homes in the $75,000 to $100,000 range to neighborhoods where the homes are worth up to $650,000. If this had been in place those transformation would not have occurred. These transformations do destroy “affordable” housing but they also respond to market demand for more expensive home in Nashville, which results in a higher tax base. Do we want upper middle class people to all move to Williamson County or do we want to let market forces make room for them to live in Davidson County? The bill was approved by the Planning Commission and Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee. After some parliamentary maneuvering the bill passed by the following vote:
“Ayes": Barry, Steine, Garrett, Maynard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Bennett, Pridemore, Pardue, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Langster, Weiner, Evans, Holleman, Harmon, Blalock, Johnson, Potts, Dowell, Todd (29).
"No": Tygard, Glover, Stites, Dominy, Duvall, Mitchell (6); “
"Abstaining”:  Banks, Baker (2).
To watch the discussion see time stamp 46:09- 58:35.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-776  is the 'Music City Cultural Heritage Overlay' district idea that would have restricted businesses on lower Broadway, 2nd Ave and Printers Alley to live music venues and tacky tea shirt shops and boot stores. In a wise move, the Council killed it.

BILL NO. BL2014-840  which prohibit beer permits from being issued for establishments located within a shopping mall containing a community center and/or public library passes. In my view this is ridiculous. So there is a library at the other end of mall, what is it going to hurt to allow someone to have a beer with their meal or pick up a six-pack to go at the drug store? Here is the vote:
“Ayes”: Maynard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Pardue, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Langster, Holleman, Harmon, Blalock, Dowell, Duvall, Todd (24).
“Noes”:  Garrett, Tygard, Glover, Weiner, Evans, Dominy, Mitchell (7)
“Abstaining”: Barry, Steine, Bennett, Johnson, Potts (5).

Below is the Tennessean coverage of the meeting:

by Michael Cass, The Tennessean, Aug. 19, 2014 - A controversial plan that could have made it tougher for chain restaurants and stores to open in parts of downtown Nashville was deferred indefinitely Tuesday by the Metro Council. ......
But critics have said that the measure initially targeted a Walgreens once planned for Lower Broadway — the deal has since fallen through — and that it would have unfairly kept out other chain stores and restaurants, too.

Below is the Nashville Public Radio coverage of the meeting:

New Nashville Law Gives Neighbors A Regulation Tool

Nashville communities now have another tool to help regulate development. On Tuesday, Metro Council passed a new law adopting the so-called contextual overlay district, and supporters say it’ll combat new buildings that chafe against neighborhood fabric. (link)

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School Board approves Charter School for Donelson-Hermitage area in contentious meeting. (Updated Report)

Last night was a victory for school choice! This one-hour-and-twenty-minute meeting is devoted solely to consideration of the approval of a charter for STRIVE Collegiate Academy. This is one of the most interesting Metro School Board meetings I have ever watched. Ellissa Kim shines in this meeting and Will Pinkston looks like an ass.

A few months ago the school board adopted a policy that said new charter schools would only be approved if they were taking over failing schools or it they relieved overcrowding.  A couple months ago a new school applied for a charter from the School Board to open a school in the Donelson-Hermitage area and it did not meet one of those criteria. The School Board turned them down. They reapplied and last night were approved. Had they been turned down, they would have been the first charter to appeal and apply for approval under a new state authorizer provision.

Mr. Alan Coverstone, the Executive Director of the Office of Innovation, tells the board that a decision to deny would most likely be overturned on appeal (See time stamp 8:56). School Board member Jill Speering argues to reject the application (10:26), her main point being that in conformity with Roberts Rules of Order, the board should follow an established police. Speering is followed by Elissa Kim who makes a passionate argument (15:06 -22:54). She says she is not an expert on Roberts Rules but when only 30% of third graders can read on grade level that "overwhelms everything" including the finer points of Robert's rules. She says, "I'm excited by this application." She points out that of 18 schools in Metro cited by the state as being superior schools, seven of them were charter schools. That is 39% of the best schools are charter schools, yet charter schools only make up 12% of the schools. 

Will Pinkston appears obviously angry at Coverstone and Register. He puts Dr. Register on the spot and makes his state his position on the application.  Previously Register had not stated a position but he says he recommends approval. Pinkston  attacks Coverstone and Register for recommending approval saying the Board policy was developed with their input and something happened to change their mind. He says he is thinks he knows what it was but is not going to cast aspersions today, he will wait for another day. (see 1:11:00) I don't know what he means by that and wish he would have explaining himself. When one says they are not going to cast aspersions, they are casting aspersions.

Anti-school choice zealot Amy Frogge makes essentially the same argument as Jill Speering but with more hostility. "This entire process has seemed very dishonest to me. I've lost trust in our administrators," she says.

Departing Board Member Michael Hayes speaks in favor of approval saying, "charters have elevated our scores as a district" and, "this is an opportunity to bring in an incredibly high performing school."

The final vote is 5-3 for approval with Elissa Kim, Michael Hayes, Jo Ann Brannon, Anna Shepherd and  Cheryl Mayes voted in favor and Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge and Jill Speering voted against it.

Below is the Tennessean's report on the meeting:

Metro school board OK’s charter for Donelson-Hermitage

by Joey Garrison, August 21, 2014 - STRIVE Collegiate Academy received the go-ahead Thursday to open in Nashville after the Metro school board decided a new school option in Donelson-Hermitage outweighed the board’s stated priorities on where new charter schools should locate.

The board, after spirited debate, voted 5-3 to approve STRIVE’s revised charter on appeal, just two months after it had unanimously rejected the school’s initial proposal.(link)

Here is the Nashville Scene's report on the meeting: School Board Approves STRIVE Charter On Appeal


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Friday, August 22, 2014

Karl Dean is the first Tennessee mayor to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.”

 Welcome to Nashville: The San Francisco of the South. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Office of the Mayor Press Release – Mayor Karl Dean today joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, a bipartisan group of mayors who support marriage equality at all levels of government. In joining them, he signed the group’s Freedom to Marry statement and released this statement:
“I believe that all people should be treated fairly and equally and that their individual dignity should be respected. Embracing and celebrating our growing diversity makes our city stronger. Nashville needs to continue in that direction, and it’s my hope that joining this effort will help us do that.”
Nashville's Mayor Karl Dean has become the first mayor in Tennessee to take the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry”  pledge. Below is the statement he endorsed by joining "Mayors for Freedom to Marry."
As mayors of great American cities, we proudly stand together in support of the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. We personally know many gay and lesbian people living in our cities who are in committed, loving relationships, who are active participants in the civic life of our communities, and who deserve to be able to marry the person with whom they share their life.    
We are proud that at its 2009 annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution stating that: “The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, and the recognition and extension of full equal rights to such unions, including family and medical leave, tax equity, and insurance and retirement benefits, and opposes the enshrinement of discrimination in the federal or state constitutions.”    
Our cities derive great strength from their diversity, and gay and lesbian families are a crucial part. Studies have shown what we know through our hands-on experience—that cities that celebrate and cultivate diversity are the places where creativity and ideas thrive. They are the places where today’s entrepreneurs are most likely to choose to build the businesses of tomorrow. Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry enhances our ability to build this kind of environment, which is good for all of us.       
We stand for the freedom to marry because it enhances the economic competitiveness of our communities, improves the lives of families that call our cities home, and is simply the right thing to do.  We look forward to working to build an America where all people can share in the love and commitment of marriage with the person with whom they share their life.
Recently Nashville provided Metro employee benefits to same-sex couples.  For several years Nashville has actively promoted the normalization of homosexuality among young people by sponsoring the Youth Pavilion at the Gay Pride Festival and now the Mayor takes a stand in favor of  gay marriage. Welcome to Nashville: The San Francisco of the South.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Metro Nashville's low-rated schools more than double while education ranking state-wide improves.

In case you missed it:

 by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, Aug. 19, 2014- More than twice the number of Metro Nashville public schools are performing at the state's lowest academic level than was the case two years ago, setting the stage for state intervention.
The jump in "priority schools" in Nashville, from six to 15, according to an updated list of TCAP test results released Tuesday, has cracked the door open for an increased presence in Nashville by the state-run Achievement School District, which has jurisdiction over the 85 schools that fall within the bottom 5 percent of performance statewide.(link)
Here is the list of the 15 worse schools in Nashville, called "priority schools:" 

Bailey STEM Magnet Middle School
Brick Church Middle School
Buena Vista Elementary Enhanced Option School
Inglewood Elementary School
Jere Baxter Middle School
Joelton Middle School
John B. Whitsett Elementary School
Kirkpatrick Elementary Enhanced Option School
Napier Elementary Enhanced Option School
Neely's Bend Middle School
Pearl-Cohn Magnet High School
Ross Elementary School (now a prekindergarten center)
Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School
Madison Middle School
The Cohn School
Nashville is doing considerable worse than our neighbors in providing a quality education.  As an example, in Williamson County 81% of their 3-8th grade students are proficient or advanced in math, while only 45% are in Nashville. In reading, 84% of Williamson County students are proficient or advanced while only 41 are in Davidson county.  In several measured subjects, Nashville either ranks last or next to last among 13 middle Tennessee school districts.

While the test results show Nashville is failing a lot of students and has a lot of low-performing schools, overall, education is improving in Tennessee.  We should not be satisfied with this state of affairs.  Instead of defending the status quo, we need more school board members who will embrace school choice and education reform. The problem is not teacher pay or spending. We spend more than most districts and our teachers earn more than they do in most other districts.

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Stop spreading lies! Phony Islamic sign post being spread by my Facebook friends.

by Rod Williams, Aug. 21, 2014- Below is a Facebook post I seen several times in the  last couple days.  It is being shared time and time again. I have removed the name of the person who posted it because I don't want to embarrass any one person who reposted this.  The problem with this is that it is a lie.  That sign and that organization does not exist. This is the kind of lie that can lead to vigilantes killing innocent Muslim Americans. 

A mosque sign in Dearborn, Michigan
M_____ E_____ with P___________ and 19 others
A mosque sign in Dearborn, Michigan!!
Do you think they are kidding? Hard to believe that such a sign could be set up without permission!!!
Here is what Snopes says about this sign:
Origins:   This photograph of an outdoor sign has been identified in social media postings as belonging to a mosque (or some other Islam-associated administrative building) with the cumbersome title of "Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America." The sign advertises to viewers that organization's ominous threat "AMERICA WE WILL KILL YOU ALL AND NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP IT," bracketed by invocations of the exaltation "ALLAH BE PRAISED."
Neither the sign nor the organization is real, however. The photo is a fake created using the Church Sign Maker, a web site that allows users to create realistic-looking images of church signs bearing messages of their choosing:
Ever seen those signs in front of churches with the moveable letters? Ever wanted to rearrange the letters to make your own church sign? Well, now you can. Choose a design below, add your text, and a personalized church sign photo will be created for you! Save it, send it to a friend, put on your website, or use it however you like. Enjoy!
Note: these church signs aren't real, they don't exist in the real world. You'll be making a fake photo of a church sign.
In this case the "Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America" sign is clearly an altered version of the Church Sign Maker's "Classic Design #5" offering (as indicated by the identical nature of the two signs' sizes, shapes, and background objects in their photos):
With the beheading of James Foley and the brutality of ISIS and the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq, outrage against Muslim extremism is understandable. I share the outrage.  However, most of the victims of Muslim extremist are other Muslims. We should not forget that.  We should resist those who would paint all Muslims with the same brush and use lies to inspire hate. I hope the government is being vigilant in keeping us safe from terrorist attack, but spreading lie that could lead to suspicion of all Muslims and indiscriminate violence against Muslims is dangerous.

In the middle ages when the Black Plague spread across Europe, rumors spread that the cause was Jews poisoning wells and many Jews were burned at the stake.  In World War II, 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage were rounded up and put in concentration camps for no other reason than that they were of Japanese heritage. I don't think we have evolved much in the last thousand years or the last sixty. I am sure there are many Americans who would be perfectly happy if all Muslims were rounded up and imprisoned. Unfortunately many of these people are conservatives who claim to love the constitution, liberty, and the rule of law.

Please think before you click "like" or "share." Please don't spread dangerous lies.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ashley Judd is staring in a "faith and family friendly film."

Ashley Judd
In case you missed it, Ashley Judd is staring in a "faith and family friendly film," titled The Identical. I guess a good actress can go from soft porn to soft religious faith and family-friendly movies with ease. 
The Identical tells the story of twin brothers unknowingly separated at birth during the Great Depression.  Ashley Judd play the wife of a preacher. The preacher and wife  adopted a son who is gifted and called by God to be a preacher but he gets sidetracked into a life of rock and roll. Follow this link to learn more about the movie.
Ashley Judd is a Democrat Party activist who at one time considered moving from Kentucky to Tennessee to run for the Senate from Tennessee.  She recently hosted a fund raiser for Democrat candidate Jeff Yarbro who is running for a State Senate seat.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Education Study Shows Vouchers Benefit Students and Public Schools

Education Study Shows Vouchers Benefit Students and Public SchoolsThe Beacon Center of Tennessee has just released the “Saving Education” study, a new study on education, which focuses on the impact of opportunity scholarships, or vouchers, on the public school system. You can download the full study here.

The results are eye-opening showing that students leaving public schools with vouchers are not the only ones who are helped; vouchers also benefit those children who stay in the public school system.

Charter schools have falsely been attacked by the proponents of the status quo claiming that they are a financial drain on the school system.  When a child goes to a charter school, the money follow the child, yet opponents of school choice claim that when a child leaves regular public school for a charter that there is not a proportional drop in overhead, claiming overhead expenses are not variable and cannot be cut. With vouchers, they cannot make that claim.  With vouchers only a portion of per pupil funding follows the child meaning there will be a substantial amount of money left over for the public school district.

The study shows that on average, school districts across the state would have an additional $612 on top of fixed costs for every student that leaves the school district with a scholarship. Additionally, if a voucher program was focused on failing school districts, such as districts here in Nashville and the other urban school districts, these districts would save an average of more than $1,000 per student who left with a voucher.

“The teachers’ union keeps repeating the myth that opportunity scholarships would take away money from our public schools, but that has been proven wrong yet again,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen.

Please read this study and arm yourself with the facts.  No parent should have their child trapped in a failing school, yet the teachers unions and other opponents of school choice fight every effort to bring choice to education. 

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Liberty on the Rocks Monthly Hang Out

A splendid mix of grass roots activism, libations, and good conversation. We are a group of citizens who endeavor to limit the reach of government into our personal lives, to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Join us for a meeting of the minds to discuss ways we can further our cause of liberty.  
Next meeting is 5:30PM Thursday, August 21st at Mafiaoza's Pizzeria on 12th Avenue South. Visit Liberty on the Rocks on Facebook. 
Tatiana Moroz joins us for August. A talented voice, she uses music to support liberty and she also promotes Bitcoin. 

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