Saturday, December 06, 2014

Devaney defeats Joe Carr to remain TN GOP leader

Chris Devaney
Meeting in Nashville today, the State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party reelected Chris Devaney as  chair of the Party for another two years. Devaney was challenged by Senator Joe Carr who sought the post.  The vote was 47 for Devaney to 17 for Carr.  Karen Bennett of Nashville who had previously campaigned for the position of chair withdrew  from the race.

Carr who had challenged Senator Lamar Alexander for the party's Senate nomination lost to Alexander in the August primary election and then failed to endorse Alexander following the primary.  Carr campaigned for the Chair position saying he would  bridge a growing divide in the Party and bring the party back together. Failing to endorse an incumbent Republican seeking reelection, it is hard to see how that contributes to bringing the Party back together. Carr was supported by what many consider the more extreme of the tea party faction. Carr was nominated by Robert Duvall.  Duvall is chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party and a member of the State Executive Committee. Duvall is also a metro councilman.

Other offices elected were elected by acclamation and are as follows:
  • Betty Cannon, of Nashville, as Vice Chair
  • Frank Colvett, Treasurer
  • Beth Scott Clayton Amos as Vice Treasurer
  • Christi Cross as Secretary.
These are the people selected to chair the standing committees:
  • Ken Gross, Rules and bylaws
  • Beth Campbell, of Nashville, Candidate recruitment and Campaigns
  • Kurt Holbert, Finance
  • Hobart Rice, Issues

The State Executive Committee is composed of a male and female from each of the States 33 senatorial districts and they are elected in the party primary to serve a four year term.

Chris Devaney who has chaired the Party since 2009 began his career as a journalist for NBC Radio News in Washington, D.C. and later worked in media relations for the Republican Conference of the United States Senate. He then worked as a senior staff member for Phil Gramm, Senator from Texas from 1985 to 2002. In 1994, he moved to Tennessee to work on Fred Thompson's campaign for the U.S. Senate. He later became Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party. He worked on Bob Corker's 2006 senatorial campaign, and became his State Director shortly after his election. He has served as Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party since 2009, and was re-elected in 2010 and in 2012.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Caffinated Conservatives presents Mayoral candidate Kenneth Eaton and Council-at-large candidate Eugene Batsuk, Sat. Dec. 13th

From Stephen Clements:

Hi everybody,

Saturday December 13th from noon to 2 PM at Bagelface Bakery (700 Main Street), join us! 2015 will decide the new leadership of Nashville's Metro government, and we have two candidates that want to get the basics right: tackle our enormous debt and deliver the services promised to the people that live here. Mayoral candidate Kenneth Eaton and Metro Council At-Large candidate Eugene Batsuk will be there to tell you their vision for Nashville and answer all your questions. Bring your appetite for great coffee, delicious bagels, and good conversation!

Stephen Clements and Terry Torre
Caffeinated Conservatives

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Hold off on raising the gas tax.

Sometime I change my mind. I don't think I change my principles but sometimes situations change or I get more information about something and reach a different conclusion.

Yesterday I opined that it may be time to raise the gas tax. I said things we want cost money and the gas tax has not been increased in 25 years.  I was persuaded by the argument that the gas tax was not keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges and that improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are hurting gas tax collection.

I did point out that I thought the state had wasted lots of money over the years on its program of  having a four lane highway connect each of Tennessee's 95 counties to an interstate but I said that was water under the bridge and now we had to have the money we need to maintain a good highway system.

Today, I was going through an old stack of accumulated mail and things I was going to read but had put aside and came across the Beacon Center's 2014 Pork Report. In it was this item:

How would you like to walk into your airport terminal and find "fireplaces, wood
Cleveland Regional JetPort
furniture and even a water feature,” along with restaurants, recliners and "quite rooms for a ‘siesta’?” Perhaps you should become a corporate millionaire, buy a jet, and plan a layover in Cleveland Regional Jetport. While you’re there, make sure to thank Tennessee taxpayers, who shelled out $42.2 million in funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to the City of  Cleveland. Apparently, Cleveland officials felt our well-to-do comrades should not be relegated to commuting with the common folk from the Chattanooga airport, just 30 miles away.
If the Department of Transportation can spend over $42 million on building a luxury jet port for the city of Cleveland, maybe the gas tax is sufficient to fund the roads and bridges we need.

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Govenor Dunn endorces reelection of Chris Devaney for TN GOP Chair

Governor Winfield Dunn has endorsed the reelection of Chiarman Chris Devaney in an email letter to members of the Republican State Executive Committee. Chris Devaney is being challenged by Joe Carr. Joe Carr ran in the Republican primary against Senator Lamar Alexander seeking the Party's nomination for the Senate and then after the primary he never did endorse Alexander. In addition to Devaney and Carr, Karen Bennett is seeking the post of chair. The election will be tomorrow.

Below is the email from Governor Dunn to members of the State Executive Committee.

From: Winfield Dunn
Subject: A Note from Governor Winfield Dunn
Date: December 4, 2014 at 10:51:16 AM CST
Reply-To: Winfield Dunn

Dear Republican State Executive Committee Members:

Now that the dust has settled and the political atmosphere in our state and across the country is fairly clear, I am even prouder than ever before to be a Republican!

The results of November 4th nationally restore my hope that we can bring common sense and logic back to the governing process as they were used originally to frame our nation.

Here at home, I find myself prouder than ever to have been a part of your early efforts to lead our state Republican Party. Having been associated with the Party for so long now, I feel I have been a part of setting Tennessee on a better course.

I must say that Chairman Devaney’s vision, courage, and devotion to the TNGOP have been unparalleled contributions.

I am extremely pleased that he has chosen to seek another term as our Chairman. The degree of progress we have made across the board in state government is phenomenal and he is due a huge amount of the credit for our success.

His strong leadership, and the leadership of the SEC, will surely help us continue to serve the people with honesty and common sense. Count on me to be with Chairman Devaney. I trust you will, as well.


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Is gentrification threatening Nashville's soul. I don't think so.

In an article which appeared on the Op-ed page of the New York Times, the author says gentrification is threatening Nashville's soul. I don't know that I agree with this. I think the high rises and the honky tonks can co-exist. There are still lots of dive bars with character and the mass influx of tourist create an audience for Nashville's musicians. There are still many good meat-and-threes where you can get real food at a reasonable price. New music venues are springing up which add to Nashville's status as "music city." We have protections in place to protect the character of lower Broad.  Studio A was threatened but it was saved.

I don't see the replacement of small homes with large homes as necessarily a bad thing. At the same time that that is happening, many older home are being restored to their former glory.  Increased property values may cause some modest income people locating to Nashville to move to Antioch, Mt. Juliet or Lavern rather than close in to downtown, but more affluent people moving to Nashville may live close in to Nashville rather than Brentwood or Franklin. Having higher property values means more tax revenue without raising taxes.

A lot of the new development that is taking place downtown, such as the SoBro area, is replacing ugly concrete block one-story buildings, over grown lots and parking lots. I am not one for preserving parking lots. While I wish there was less urban sprawl, since I don't commute, it doesn't really effect me. The infill development in Nashville is combating additional urban sprawl.  Increased density along our major corridors will make mass transit more likely and affordable.

As we move forward I hope we can maintain the character of our city. I don't want us to become "another Atlanta" but I think so far we have grown in a responsible way.  Having been in Nashville and closely observed Nashville growth for a long time and being one who participates in the things our city has to offer, I don't think "the good ole days" were better. This may be the golden era of our city. I am just pleased that we are important enough to merit a lengthy op-ed piece in the New York Times. Read the piece at this link: High Rises vs. Honky Tonks.

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The NEA and others shows up at Neely's Bend Middle to protest proposed charter conversion.

Below are reports of what happened at the meetings at Neely's Bend Middle School and Madison Middle last night. Both are failing schools and plans are to turn one into a Lead Charter School which has had remarkable success in turning around failing schools. Many parents, the teachers union, and School Board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering and several Council members object to the plan.

Teachers lined the walkway to Neely's Bend Middle
Prep in protest against the Achievement School District.
(The teachers were in town for an unrelated National Education Association conference.)

At ASD meetings in Nashville, more emotion than specifics

Parents express concern about state takeover of their low-performing schools

by Grace Tatter, Chalk Beat, December 5, 2014- Meetings held by the Achievement School District at two middle schools in Madison Thursday evening  were supposed to be a forum for parents to tell district officials what they wanted to see in a middle school, and for the ASD to explain what kind of changes a state takeover of one of the struggling schools would bring.

Instead, the meetings were high on emotion and low on specifics, leaving parents, elected officials, teachers, and ASD officials alike frustrated.

Parents and teachers in the northeastern Nashville community learned in late November that one of its two middle schools, Madison Middle Prep or Neely’s Bend Middle Prep, both of which received the state’s lowest rating for student growth last year, would be taken over by the ASD effective next school year. The ASD has the legal authority to take over any Tennessee school in the bottom 5 percent as measured by performance.

According to the state report card, Neely’s Bend and Madison had the lowest possible rating for overall growth last year, a one, while Brick Church College Prep had the highest, a five.(read more)

Parents Shout Down Charter School Reps In Dueling Meetings

 By Todd Walker. News Channel 5,  Dec 4, 2014 - Hundreds of parents turned out for dueling meetings about the future of their children's schools Thursday night.

One of two middle schools in the Madison area will become a charter school in the fall.
The uncertainty of which school will be chosen, either Neelys Bend or Madison Middle, brought out a lot of passion. Both schools are in the bottom five percent for performance, statewide.

At times, both sides looked more like a political campaign. Those for the change wore green t-shirts saying they supported LEAD Public Schools. LEAD will be the operator of whichever school is chosen to become a charter school.

People opposed to the change wore red and had printed signs and flyers. Those who hadn't already made up their mind found it difficult to get their questions answered.

Both meetings were wrought with outbursts and shouting matches. (Read more and watch a video of the meetings)

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Councilmembers Anthony Davis, Karen Bennett and Bill Pridemore say no to Charter replacements for two failing schools

After so many years of being a failing school, the State of Tennessee can take over a failing school and administer it. These lowest performing schools subject to takeover by the State are schools performing in the bottom of the 5% of schools in the state. They become part of a state-wide school district called the Achievement School District. The ambitions objective of the ASD is to move the bottom 5% of schools in Tennessee to the top 25% by 2018.  After being taken over by the State, the schools are given to charter operators to operate and manage.

In this letter that Council members Anthony Davis, Karen Bennett and Bill Pridemore sent to the State superintendent of the Achievement School District asking that the state not take over the subject schools, they state that a Lead Charter School has been placed on a Metro Schools "watch list"  and that the schools not be taken over by the ASD and not turned over to Lead.

The Nashville Scene reports that they asked Dr. Cloverstone to explain and verify that a Lead Academy school was on a Metro "watch list" and they got this reply:

The standards for charter schools are quite a bit higher than those the state applies through its Priority Schools status.

We automatically notify any charter schools that fall below satisfactory even for one year so that we are on record with concerns should a downward trend develop, but you are correct: the school’s 3-year status is still Satisfactory, and until that falls below Satisfactory, we will not take any further corrective action.
So much for the "watch list" complaint.  I know change is always difficult, even when it is change for the best, but it appears to me that what is best for these failing schools is to turn them over to Lead or some other charter and watch them improve.

This spring Lead Academy graduated its first High School class and every student was accepted to a four-year college. This are students who most likely would have been pregnant or dropouts or in reform school had they not been in Lead Academy. Few of those who did graduate would have been accepted to a four-year university.  Lead creates an expectation of excellence and expects their students to work hard. They create a different school culture. I know some parents do not want to do the hard work associated with having a child in a demanding environment. Some parents think mediocre is good enough. Somebody has to be in the bottom 5%, I assume they reason. Community leaders should not pander to those who think a bad school is good enough for their child.

Below is the letter:

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Update on the The Bridgestone-Bribe, protecting-pedal-pubs-from-competition and praise-for-Obama's-EPA Council meeting of Dec.2.

Council meetings are not quite as boring if you know what the Council is voting on. To get your on copy of the agenda, the staff analysis and my commentary, follow this link.

This meeting is conducted by Lonnell Matthews Jr. who is President Pro Tem of the Council and whose duty it is to conduct the meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor.

The first 24 minutes of this meeting is public hearings and this has got to be one of the least contentious public hearings on record. There was one resolution and 15 bills on public hearing and there almost no opposition to any of the bills and only a couple members of the public spoke.  

Most of the resolution pass as part of the Consent agenda. RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289  which is part of the Bridgestone Bribe is deferred to track with BILL NO. BL2014-953 which is part of the same deal.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1302  is a routine acquisition of property by the city. Charlie Tygerd takes to the floor and ask why we are paying $485,000 for a piece of property on the tax roll with an appraisal of $151,400. Rich Riebling, Director of Finance, explains the city had an outside appraiser appraise the property and that is its value and that Metro only reassesses property every four year for tax purposes and he suspects property values have increased. Tygerd ask for a explanation from the appraiser and the Tax Assessor's office to explain the discrepancy. The resolution is passed.  I wish Tygard would have asked to have the resolution deferred until after he gets his explanation but at least Tygard is asking the right questions. Maybe new safeguards need to be put in place so that if a property is appraised X% above the values on the tax rolls, that there are three independent appraisals instead of one. To see this segment see time stamp starting at 32:35.

Tygard also ask several other questions about other resolutions. These are normally the type of questions that would have been asked in Budget and Finance committee but you may recall that Tygard was not reappointed to the Budget and Finance Committee after many years of service on that committee and he said he would ask the questions he wanted to have answered from the floor. He looks like he is doing it. Good for him. This is Charlie Tygard's last term in office and he will be missed. He seems to be pay closer attention to the cities finances and  spending than anyone in the Council.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300, Councilman Peter Westerholm's memorializing resolution endorsing President Obama's plan to force coal-fired power plants to close, passes by a vote of 24 in favor, 12 opposed and 2 abstentions. While it passed, this is still a victory.  For the first time in the many years that I can recall, a resolution putting the council on record as supporting some liberal position gets push back. Normally a resolution like this, no matter how liberal, passes unanimously with no discussion. I am immensely pleased with Councilman Duane Dominy who asked good questions about the bill and made the case for voting against it.  Also, councilman Duvall, Claiborne and Tenpenny took to the floor against the resolution. A special recognition is due to Councilman Josh Stites who was the lone vote against it in the rules committee. I believe a vote against a resolution in the rules committee makes the bill require a machine vote. I know a vote against a resolution in committee keeps it off of the consent agenda.  I hope the "good" councilmen keep it up.  Every time there is some resolution like this on the agenda, it should be opposed. 

One does not even have to disagree with the merits of the resolution to have a reason to oppose it. One could take the position that the Council has enough to do to dealing with local issue. One could argue that the Council should let Congress deal with national issues. If members of the Council want to opine on national issues, then there is no end to issues the Council could opine about: immigration, the war in Iraq, quantitative easing, President Obama's lawlessness and trampling of the Constitution, and on and on. I expected this resolution to pass, but I am very pleased that 12 Councilman took a stand against it. It looks like all of the "good" Council members voted against it. I will publish who voted which way in a future post.

Bills on First Reading pass as a group as is the norm. Here are the bills of interest on Second Reading: 

BILL NO. BL2014-909  which is one of the two bills that would regulate short-term rentals is substituted, and deferred for two meetings. BILL NO. BL2014-951, the other bills that regulates short-term rentals is also deferred two meetings.

BILL NO. BL2014-925 which would regulate pedicabs and pedal pubs is amended and it passes. It is clarified that the bill would still require a certificate of necessity to enter the market to compete against existing pedal pubs. I find that kind of economic protection from competition reprehensible and I would have opposed this bill for that reason. It passes on a voice vote. I wish a principled opponent of restriction on entry into the marketplace would have voiced opposition to the bill and recorded his "no" vote. Why should existing pedal pubs be protected from competition? They should be protected against completion no more than restaurants should be protected from the competiton of new restaurants.

BILL NO. BL2014-952 which regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft is amended and passes. The amendment was not explained. One thing I do not like about this bill is that it authorizes Council to set a minimum fare. There should never be a reason for a mandated minimum fare and I oppose that provision of the bill. A minimum fare does nothing except protect current providers of a service from price competition. I wish we had a core of people in the Council who strongly believe in a free market and economic liberty and would oppose on principle such things as setting fares and requiring a certificates of necessity before one could enter a market. Unfortunately we do not. Other than the allowing for a future minimum fares, this seems to be a pretty reasonable bill and if this was as good of a bill as could be passed and the industry was accepting of it, I think I would have voted for the bill anyway, if I was in the Council. In reality the Council could set a minimum fare later anyway even without the authorization spelled out in this bill, so I would not let that one provision stop me from voting for the bill. With this bill now in place it will most likely be that services like Uber and Lyft are here to stay. Also, the public can be assured that providers of this service have adequate insurance and some safety regulations. I have used Uber and it is a great service. Councilman Scott Davis says that he supports the bills but thinks taxi cabs should be granted some relieve from the restrictions imposed on them to allow them to better compete with Uber and Lyft. I agree. Robert Duval and some other council members make comments agreeing with Councilman Davis. This is encouraging. To see the discussion, see time stamp 1:01:07-1:13:14

BILL NO. BL2014-953 is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement. The bill is amended but no one explains what the amendment does. To understand the controversy about whether this helps our schools or robs our schools see the news coverage in the articles at the end of this report. I see this as corporate welfare and do not like it, but we do not operate in a vacuum. If we do not bribe Bridgestone to stay, other cities will bribe them to relocate, so while I don't like it, if I were in the council I would reluctantly vote for this bill. It passes by a vote of 37 to 1. To see the discussion see time stamp 1:13:15- 1:37:38.

There are 8 bills on third Reading, most of them are zoning bills which would interest no one but the near by neighbors and none of them are of much interest and they all pass.

Below is press coverage of the meeting:

Bridgestone Tower Deal Advances To Final Vote Despite Education Funding Concerns

by Bobby Allyn, Nashville Public Radio, December 3, 2014 -Nashville moved one step closer with an overwhelming vote last night to giving Bridgestone Americas a tax incentive package to build its headquarters in downtown, with 38 voting for the deal and one opposing.

The nearly unanimous vote came despite letters from mayoral candidate Jeremy Kane and three school board members (Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Jill Speering) raising concerns about how the deal, which includes a two-decade property tax break, could hurt public schools.

Councilman Steve Glover, who is a former school board member, said that’s not exactly true. (link)

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President Obama will be in Nashville next week to promote his unlawful amnesty program

In case you missed it:

President Obama to give immigration speech in Nashville

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, Dec. 4, 2014- President Barack Obama is visiting Nashville next week to discuss his recent executive actions on immigration in a stop that will shine a spotlight on one of the nation's fastest growing immigrant populations.

The president, who will make his second trip to Davidson County in less than a year, will deliver his remarks Dec. 9 at Casa Azafran, an immigrant community center on Nolensville Pike that opened two years ago. (link)

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Tre Hargett guest speaker at Bellevue Breakfast Club, Sat. Dec. 6th

Dear BRBC Friends,

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving like the one I had.  The food was delicious and the fellowship was priceless.

The BRBC will meet Saturday, December 6 at the Shoney's on Hwy 70.  Our guest speaker will be Secretary of State Tre Hargett who will tell us more about Election 2014.  Due to another commitment, we will need to begin the meeting at 8:20 AM, so there will be time for Q & A.

Plan on coming and bringing a friend or two with you. The Secretary is an informative speaker who has shared with us while we were at Tee's place.

Hope to see you there!

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A Gas Tax Hike In Tennessee? Eventually, Says The Governor

Nashville Public Radio, Dec. 3, 2014 - Governor Bill Haslam says there’s no way around hiking the state’s gas tax some time in the future. The tax, which hasn’t increased since 1989, is not keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges.

Improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are a boon to the environment, but the governor says they hurt gas taxes. What’s more, Haslam says federal transportation funding is always uncertain, noting that Congress’ temporary fixes on the federal highway fund make it tricky to plan long-term projects.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer echoed the worry over the unpredictability of federal support, calling the situation “disconcerting” during TDOT’s budget meeting on Wednesday.

Coupled with less-than-stellar state gas tax revenue, Schroer says TDOT is focusing almost exclusively on maintenance, instead of expanding the state’s road infrastructure. (link)

My Comment: I know the default position of many Republicans and especially those who identify as tea party is to always oppose any increase in tax or any new tax.  Most of the time, I am with you.  I know there is a lot of government waste and inefficiency especially in Federal and local government. However, my perception is that the State of Tennessee is pretty lean. Sure, there is still some pork and examples of waste, but the state has cut the sales tax and the Hall income tax and cut personnel and cut agencies. Things we want do cost money.  The gas tax has not increased in 25 years.  If we want to continue to have one of the best interstate systems in the country, we need to spend money.  There are bottlenecks where there needs to be road improvements and there are places were we need new interchanges.

Now, I think in the past TDOT did waste a lot of money.  Some years ago the State adopted a policy that every county would be connected to the interstate by a four-lane highway.  I have been on some of this rural highways and they are almost empty. The thought behind this was that we need highways to each county so companies will consider bringing industry to these rural counties. Frankly, I think we should have left the rural counties rural and concentrated on a few urban centers but no county, I suppose, wants to be told they are going to be left behind.  In any event what is done is done and the money spend on building all of these rural highways is money down the drain.  The question facing us now is, do we want to let our highway system deteriorate and not have highway improvements or do we want to fund a good highways system?

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Gun Nuts are supporting Rick Womick

In case you missed it:

Tenn. Firearms Association backs Womick in speakers race

by Dave Boucher, The Tennessean, Dec. 1, 2014- The Tennessee Firearms Association is endorsing a Tea Party-aligned candidate's bid to oust Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.

In a statement, association Executive Director John Harris said the "core legislative principals" of Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, show he is a better choice for speaker than Harwell. Harris says: (link)
 I don't use the term "gun nuts" loosely.  I support the Second Amendment.  I do not consider the NRA "gun nuts" but the Tennessee Firearms Association, I do.  They are the group that successfully defeated House Republican leader Debra Maggart in her bid for reelection although she was a strong supporter of the second amendment. The TFA believes that gun rights go way beyond the right affirmed in the Second Amendment.  They believe  you should have the right to carry a gun onto the property of one who does not want guns on his property. They believe gun rights trump property rights. They also support a law that would require the local police to arrest federal agents who enforce federal gun laws in Tennessee.

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Womick says Haslam is behind attacks on Harwell to make people think Womick is behind the attacks on Harwell.

In case you missed it:

 Womick says GOP behind attacks on Harwell

The Tennessean, Dec. 2, 2014-The Tea Party candidate for Tennessee House speaker says establishment Republicans, including key advisers to Gov. Bill Haslam, created robocalls and emails attacking House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, in an attempt to undermine his candidacy for speaker.
Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, said neither he nor his supporters created robocalls that are going out to members of the General Assembly. The calls attack Harwell personally, Womick said. He said he’s spoken with other GOP members who received the calls, but Womick said he’s never heard the call. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said his office is receiving “a lot” of the calls.
Womick is quoted in the Nashville Scene accusing Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate and Haslam political adviser Tom Ingram of orchestrating the robocalls.
Wow, that would be pretty Machiavellian. So, Womick is saying the robo calls attacking Harwell are being put out by Haslam's people, who support Harwell, so people will think they are being put out by Womick or his people, to make Womick look bad. Maybe, Womick really put out the robo calls so people would think they were put out by the Haslam's  people in an attempt to make people think they were put out by Womick or his people to make Womick look bad, which if people thought that then people would think bad of Haslam's people which would help Womick. Or, maybe they really were put out by Haslam's people to make people think Womick put them out to make people think .........

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Support The Beacon Center and help fight big government and make Tennessee the freest, most prosperous state in the nation.

The Beacon Center is one of the organizations I support.  They educate our legislators and the public about government waste and they provide research and in-depth analysis of public policy issue designed to improve our economy and advance economic liberty. Please join me in supporting this great organization. Rod
Dear Rodney,
What's all this talk about "Giving Tuesday" you're hearing today? Well, today is the day that we come together to celebrate the good work of groups like Beacon by giving generously. When you give to Beacon today, you'll help to fight big government and make Tennessee the freest, most prosperous state in the nation. 
On Giving Tuesday, we will also be giving back to you for each donation you make to Beacon.
  • With a $10 donation, we'll send you a copy of the 2014 Pork Report, our most famous publication.
  • With a $30 donation, you'll receive a Beacon Center mug.
  • With a $50 donation, you'll receive a book from authors/politicians such as Mitch Daniels and Ken Cuccinelli. (We will be giving away a different book every 2 hours from 9AM-9PM. Each book will be posted on our Facebook page.)
  • With a $100 donation,we'll send you all 3 things listed above: a Pork Report, Beacon mug, and book.
  • With a $500 donation, you will receive everything listed above, plus a personal phone call from Beacon CEO Justin Owen to discuss policy, and a one year subscription to our monthly Beacon Letter.

To donate on Giving Tuesday, please click here. Thank you for helping us empower Tennesseans to reclaim control of their lives. We couldn't do it without you.

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Make a Contribution to Black Alliance for Educational Options

It is heartening to see more and more African-Americans wander off the Liberal Plantation and embrace what they know to be in their best interest rather than being cannon fodder in the war to advance the Liberal Leviathan State. Not all advocates of education excellence and school choice are conservative, but the view that competition and innovation and breaking free of the bonds of bureaucratic uniformity and doing what is best for your child in contrast to best for the total community, are conservative ideas. It is heartening to see Black Americans willing to show independence from the teacher unions which is one of the most powerful factions in the Democrat coalition. It is heartening to see them reject the idea that mediocrity and low performance is the norm for the Black community. It is heartening to see them take control of their own children's education rather than just accepting the liberal establishment status quq.

The programs of affirmative action and greater and greater welfare dependency and promotion of racial division and entitlement and resentment have wrecked havoc on the Black community resulting in destruction of the fabric of that society.  I believe education is the way to break the bonds of poverty that hold back the Black community. Real earned achievement raises one's self-respect and self respecting people do not engage in behavior that is self-destructive. An educated people are not trapped in poverty.

 I am pleased to support BAEO.  I ask you to join me in making a contribution to this worthwhile organization. Rod

My name is Stephanie Holmes.
Our neighborhood school was not serving my son’s needs well. He was performing below grade level, struggling to maintain appropriate behavior and was written up by staff and administrators seemingly everyday.
As a BAEO Member and Parent Advocate Leader, I've come to learn about charter schools in Memphis, Tennessee. I decided I would move him to a nearby charter school to see if his educational needs would be better met there.
I’m pleased to say they were. My son now sees himself as a scholar rather than a distraction. He now performs on grade level and loves to go to school.
But not every parent has the ability to seek out alternative educational options like I did. That is why the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) is working in a number of states to ensure parents, like myself, have the ability to play a role in how their children are educated.  
However, BAEO’s work can’t continue without the support of concerned parents, advocates and community members like you.
Your donation will support our efforts to ensure that all children have access to a high-quality education that leads to a brighter future.
Make your donation today:
We thank you for your continued support.
Stephanie Holmes
Memphis, Tennessee Parent & BAEO Member

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The Bridgestone Bribe advances, passes Budget and Finance, Nashville TEA party opposes, Jeremy Kane sort-of opposes.

Nashville Tea Party decries 'corporate welfare' for Bridgestone

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, December 2, 2014- The Nashville Tea Party has weighed in on Mayor Karl Dean's incentive proposal for Bridgestone Americas in a stinging statement calling the tax breaks "corporate welfare" negotiated behind closed doors. "If Bridgestone wants the money of Davidson County citizens, they should offer them a quality product instead of negotiating in total secrecy with our elected officials for taxpayer funded handouts and corporate welfare," Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham said Tuesday. (link)

Nashville mayoral candidate Jeremy Kane says Metro should rework its tax incentive package for Bridgestone Americas in order to save revenue that would be going to public schools.
In a letter sent to the Metro Council, Kane says that he believes in the “power and potential of economic incentives” but they should honor the city’s core values and “invest in our teachers, families, and students first.” (link)

Metro, Bridgestone defend incentives ahead of key vote ...
by Eric Snyder, Nashville Business Journal, Dec. 2, 2014 - 
Metro Council members were told Monday Bridgestone would likely be leaving ... be leaving 
Nashville if not for the incentives, according to The Tennessean.

The Tennessean
 Bridgestone Americas would relocate its headquarters out of Nashville if not for a ... Metro Council to weigh in on Bridgestone incentives.

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From Uber:

Hey Rod,

We need your support. This week the Nashville Metro Council is discussing sensible ridesharing regulations that would preserve your access to the Uber you know and love, and give uberX a permanent home in the Music City.
Your Metro Council members need to hear from you today! Tell them what having access to uberX means to you. Urge them to support:
  • Additional ways to affordably move around town without unnecessary minimum fare requirements or other restrictions
  • Safe and reliable rides that help protect our communities by reducing drunk driving
  • More transparency, driver quality, and accountability in clean, safe vehicles that arrive within minutes
  • Entrepreneurial driver partners and small business owners who rely on Uber to make a living 
Reasonable legislation passed by Nashville’s Metro Council will ensure your continued access to the safest and most affordable rides on the road, whenever and wherever you need them. Email your Metro Council members today and tell them Nashville Loves Uber!
Spread the word!

After emailing your legislators, forward this email to friends and click the Twitter and Facebook buttons above to let your friends know that #NashvilleLovesUber! Let’s make sure all voices are heard.
Uber on!
Team Uber Nashville

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Update, What is on the Council Agenda for December 2nd: Bribing Bridestone to stay, praise for Obama's EPA regulations, and lots of new local regulations.

Council meeting are really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on, with an agenda  and council staff analysis the meetings are still boring but not quite as boring. Follow the highlighted links for you own copy. At this time the staff analysis is not available so look for an update. This post is now updated with insight gleamed from the staff analysis.

The big item on this agenda is a move by Westerholm to put the Metro Council on record endorsing President Obama's controversial job-killing EPA Carbon Emission Rules which will raise electricity rates, $50 million is subsidy to Bridestone to stay in Nashville and expand, and new regulation of Pedal pubs and Pedicabs and regulation of livery service such as Uber and Lyft and regulation of vacation rentals. Here is the agenda summary.

There are no appointments to Boards and Commission on this agenda.

There is resolutions  and 15 bills on public hearing. The resolution is for restaurants that already has a liquor license but not a beer license that is within the Metro beer code prohibited distance limit of a home or other type facility such as park, school or church.  It seems silly to me that one can sell tequila  but not beer in a restaurant.  I think the metro code should be changed so that any restaurant that has a liquor permit, automatically has the beer code distance requirements waived but that is not the case. The bills on public hearing are all rezoning bills except for one. I don't follow closely all  the rezoning bills but do not see any that would be of a general interest. Usually zoning bills are all only of interest to neighbors near the proposed rezoning. The other bill on public hearing is ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-947 which clarifies procedures related to fees, in-lieu contributions and other assessments.  What this does is clarify that those fees are not frozen at the time first assessed but can be updated from time to time. There is a technical necessity for this and it is no big deal.

There are 12 resolutions on the agenda, all on the consent agenda at this time.  A bill is placed on consent if it is assumed to be non-controversial and stays on consent it passes the committee to which it was assigned unanimously. However, on the floor, any Councilman may ask to have a bill moved off of consent and considered separately or may ask to have himself recorded as abstaining or voting "no."  I see only one resolution of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289  is the bill to offer incentives to Bridgestone to get them to stay in Nashville.  Actually, if I were in the Council, I would vote for this but I don't like it.  I wish that was not the way business was done, but if we don't bribe them to stay, some other city will pay them to relocate so we have to play the game. They will bring 1700 jobs to downtown and build a new 30-story tower in SoBro. They already have about 1100 employees in Nashville but the lease on their location near the airport is expiring and they were looking at relocating.  The metro incentive is about $50 million, mostly in a exemption on paying taxes for some years on the new building they will build downtown. In addition to the Metro incentive the State is also offering an incentive. You can read The Tennessean's story about this deal at this link and this link.
There are 27 bills on First Reading but I usually don't pay much attention to them until Second Reading. First Reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered and it is bad manners to vote against a bill of First reading unless it is really atrocious.

There  are 15 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones one of interest:

BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951 both pertain to regulating short-term vacation rentals and requiring the providers of short-term vacation rentals to collect taxes and get an annual permit and sets numerous conditions and rules. The short-term vacation rentals refers to rooms that one rents in their home.  This has become a big segment of the vacation rental market with phone apps that match those wanting to rent a room with those offering a room to rent. They have been unregulated. These two bills seem to cover the same issues but one relates to zoning and the other the business operation of these facilities.  While most of the regulations seem reasonable, one of the regulations says that no more than 3% of the single-family or detached two-family residential units within each census tract shall be permitted as non-owner-occupied short-term rental use as determined by the Zoning Administrator. That does not seem reasonable. After a certain number of permits are issued, new applicants cannot even apply under this provision. This will create an increase in property values for those who get the permits first. I would hope the Council would defer this bill for more study and reconsider that provision.  There also may be other provision that are overkill, but I have not studied the bills in depth. I am pleased that Metro is not trying to prohibit this type innovation but think we may be overregulating them.

BILL NO. BL2014-925 would regulate pedicabs and pedal pubs. Pedicabs are the three wheeled non-motorized vehicles that travel in the 2nd Ave and lower Broad area. Pedal pubs are those traveling taverns powered by the customers, about eight on each side. These regulations would require a certain amount of insurance and certain safety requirements. I am OK with that. What I don't like is that Metro would allow them only after they prove a necessity for the vehicles.  Metro can say "we have enough" and not allow new providers to get in the market. I don't think any business should have to show a need to enter the market.  Requiring a certificate of necessity for new entrants into the market simply protects those already operating.  Let whoever wants to try to make a go at it, have a shot. No one should be protected from failure or competition.  What if one had to show a need before one could open a new restaurant? We would not have the great restaurant we have today, but we would have some really mediocre restaurants. There is no need to improve your service if you are protected from competition. There is probably never a "need" for a pedal pub.  One pedal pub may succeed because of the type of beer they sale or the price of the beer or the bartender tells good jokes or the barmaid is cute and shows cleavage. Let them compete and let the market determine which ones survive. Also, the drivers of these vehicles must wear a uniform? Why?   If I were in the Council, I would vote against this bill.  I have been told that the requirement for a certificate of necessity will be withdrawn form the bill but it is still in there at this time.

BILL NO. BL2014-952 regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft.  I have used Uber and love it. It is fast, cheap, convenient, easy to use, the vehicles are clean and of all the times I have used it, the drivers I have had speak English. Someone in the industry tells me these regulations are reasonable. There has not been push-back from the industry against the proposed regulations so I assume it is something they can live with. The proposed regulation require certain levels of insurance and require the drivers to get an annual permit. I think minimum insurance requirements probably are reasonable and maybe some of the other proposed regulations.  Nashville, however, has had a ugly past in trying to stamp out competition to established taxi and  limousine services so I simply don't trust the cities bureaucrats or our Metro Council.  I hope someone is paying close attention to what the city is proposing. This bill is 34 pages long and I have not studied it carefully.  I wish there was someone in the Council whom I had confidence in that I knew was committed to free enterprise and economic liberty who I knew would study the bill and who I knew would object to it if the regulations are too onerous. Unfortunately, I do not have that level of confidence in anyone on our Council. Some who call themselves conservative have voted for price-fixing. Last year when the Council removed the $45 minimum for a limo ride they set it at three times the flag drop for a taxi ride which would come to about $9.  Last weekend I took a Uber ride from my home to downtown and it was only $4.20. This bill modifies that $9 minimum to a minimum to be determined by the Council.  I oppose any minimum.  The Council should not be setting minimum prices for any service. A minimum fare does not protect consumers, but protects providers from competition and it stifles innovation. At the time of the introduction of the automobile, I think our Council would have banned them on city streets in order to protect buggy whip makers, or that might have required all cars to be equipped with buggy whips.

BILL NO. BL2014-953 is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement.

There are 8 bills on third Reading, most of them are zoning bills which would interest no one but the near by neighbors and none of them are of much interest.

There is one Memorizing Resolutions on the agenda. A memorializing resolution is an expression of the will of the council and has no legal impact but they can have an impact in influencing Congress when they are part of a campaign and many cities across America pass the same bill. I don't know if this bill is part of an organized campaign or not, but the last time the Council passed a bill praising a policy of the EPA it was part of a national campaign. If no one objects a memorializing resolution can slip through on the consent agenda. Our Council has allowed some atrocious bills advocating liberal polices to pass and even the so-called conservatives on the Council have not voted against them. This bill was deferred last time, because the sponsor did not appear before the Rules Committee to speak on behalf of his bill so it was deferred "by rule."   This is the resolution:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300 expresses support for President Obama’s "Clean Power Plan" to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. I do not think the Council should be opining on matters like this.  The Council has enough to do to solve local issue. Let Congress deal with nations issues. If members of the Council want to opine on national issues, let them blog.  If we are going to consider matters like this, then I think the handful of Republicans on the Council should sponsor a memorizing resolution urging the president do follow the constitution and a resolution urging the President to not use an executive order to grant amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. Each council meeting could be devoted to memorialize the Congress on national issues. 

The new Congress plans to go after these new rules and overturn them. It is a certainty that the new rules will cause higher electric bills and they will most likely slow the recovery.  This is not a simple matter where all of the positives are on one side. The Council should vote against this.  There are about eight members of the Council who are identified as Republicans. They should vote against this. If they cannot be counted on to vote against measures like this then we might as well elect liberal council members. Council members who would argue against this resolution don't have to argue that global warming is not real or argue in favor of dirty air, they just need to say that this is not an issue the Council should be debating. To read more about this issue follow this link and A Dangerous Plan - EPA Proposal Perilous for State  and a story form the Tallahassee Democrat Mike Murtha: EPA’s Clean Power Plan would hurt Florida.  

Please call your council member and ask them to vote against Resolution RS2014-1300

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