Saturday, November 14, 2015

What's on the Council agenda for 11-17-2015: Spending a lot of money, stopping the Old Hickory Dam quarry, and opposing the TransPacific Partnership

The Metro Council will meet in regular session at 6:30 pm on Tuesday November 17. This is a relatively short agenda and not much of controversy on the agenda so this should be a short meeting. Council meetings are much more interesting if you know what the Council is voting on. To get your own copy of the agenda and Council staff analysis, follow the highlighted links.

Please be advised that I only call attention to those items that I find of interest and I might miss something someone else would think is important, so you may want to read the agenda for yourself. Also, I do not even attempt to keep up with zoning issues.  A zoning bill may be very important to nearby neighbors but of little interest to anyone else. 

Confirmations of appointees to boards and Commission: There are five mayoral appointees up for confirmation. I am aware of no controversy involving any of the appointees. I hope the council is carefully scrutinizing appointees. The role of confirming mayoral appointees should be taken seriously by the Council as it is an opportunity to influence policy and assure a diversity of views on boards and commissions.

There is one resolution on public hearing and it is one of those routine resolutions to exempt an establishments that already has a liquor license from the distance requirements from churches, daycare centers, homes, and parks, of establishments seeking a beer license. In my view, the law should be changed to automatically exempt establishment that have a liquor license from those requirements. What logic is there in allowing an establishment to have a liquor license then refusing to issue them a beer license?

Resolutions: There are twelve resolutions, all on the consent agenda at this time. I resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is assumed noncontroversial and it stays on consent if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously.  However, any member of the Council may have a bill moved off of the consent agenda and any member of the Council may ask to be recorded as voting "no" or abstaining. All bills on consent are lumped together and pass by a single vote of the council. These are the resolutions of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-51 appropriates $5,476,000.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments. That is the purpose of the 4% fund, however this is a lot of money.  I hope Budget and Finance carefully scrutinizes these request. This request includes $400,000 for General Hospital. If we are going to keep operating a charity hospital then we have to keep it up, but in my view we should get out of the hospital business, just as we finally got out of the nursing home business a couple years ago. Metro employees get an incentive to use General and all Metro prisoners are sent to General, yet General still cannot fill its beds. When General was first established there was a need for a city to operate a charity hospital, but since we have medicaid and low-income people can go to the hospital of their choice, there is no need to the city to continue in the hospital business. Another $463,000 is for Municipal Auditorium. This is another expense the city does not need to incur.  If Municipal cannot break even, we should sell that valuable property. 
There are seven bills on First Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass with one vote. Normally bills are not discussed until second reading and First Reading is formality that allows a bill to be considered. I do not read bills until after First Reading.

There are ten bills on Second Reading. Most of them are zoning bills and none of them are of much interest.

There are 22 bills on Third Reading. These are the only bills of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2015-13  and  BILL NO. BL2015-14  are bills designed to stop the development of a rock quarry in the vicinity of Old Hickory Dam. Rock quarries are never popular but there is fear that this quarry and the blasting that goes on at a quarry could weaken Old Hickory Dam and if the dam should be weakened and fail, it could cause massive flooding of Nashville. If these pass, it is uncertain they would stop the proposed rock quarry since the owner may already have "vested" property rights in the proposed quarry. For more on this issue see this link for the discussion that occurred when these bills were on public hearing and read the staff analysis.    
There is one memorializing resolution on the agenda, and it is a resolution by Council members Bedne and Rosenberg urging the President and Congress to oppose the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). I am unsure how I feel about the TPP. I generally support efforts to advance free trade, but many conservative organization are opposing this bill claiming that it puts the U. S. at a disadvantage and that it transferred American sovereignty to a third party. Labor Unions and some on the left oppose this bill because they like protectionism. This is a bill that has been months if not years in the making and has involved negotiations with numerous countries, is hundred of pages long, and has been the subject of much analysis and congressional hearings.  This is complex and yet our Council is being asked to take a position on the bill. I do not think the Council should be weighing in on matters of this nature. Council members who want to vote on complex trade deals should be serving in the U. S. Congress and not the Metro Council. Unless someone objects, this will be included with resolutions on the Consent Agenda. Memorializing resolutions have no legal impact and are most often resolutions honoring someone upon their retirement or honoring a sports team for a victory. Memorializing resolutions, do however, express the will of the Council. If I were in the Council, I would object to this and vote against, not because I necessarily approve of the TPP but I do not think the Council should be taking a position on complex national issues of this type.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Southeast Nashville Conservatives' Breakfast November 21, 2015 Guest Speaker Ralph Bristol

What: Southeast Nashville Conservatives' Breakfast
Who: Guest Speaker Ralph Bristol Conservative Talk Show Host WTN 99.7 FM
Where: Shoney's (Antioch) corner Bell Rd & Cane Ridge Road (I-24E, Bell Road Exit)
When:  November 21, 2015. Dutch treat breakfast/social 8:30 - 9:00 am; Program 9:00 - 10:00 am

Reminder: Don't forget your donation for Toys for Children of Tennessee Soldiers (coordinated by Nashville Republican Women) Special Notice Please bring at least an extra dollar with you. SE Breakfast would like to surprise our South Precinct Police Officers with a "Thank You" of assorted pastries/snacks. We will "pass the hat" for donations. I will have a card for everyone to sign.

Hosted by Robert Duval; and Pat Carl. 

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Caffeinated Conservatives meets Nov. 21st in Old HIckory

From Stephen Clements:

Hi everybody, This Saturday November 21st from 12 PM - 2 PM at Uncommon Grounds (1053 Donelson Ave, Old Hickory Village), come tell us who YOU like for president. We are knee-deep in presidential nomination campaigns, and on the GOP side, there is a plentiful embarrassment of candidates!

On the Democrat side, eh, well, there's an old socialist, a crony-socialist, and a governor whose state burst into flames when he left office. Come tell us who you want and try to win us over! All campaigns are invited to present the case for their candidate, so come with your thoughts and opinions about who/what you want to win the White House!
See you then!
Stephen Clements & Terry Torre Caffeinated Conservatives

PS - regular Caffeinator Rick Williams told me that the next Davidson County Donald Trump Campaign meeting will be Wednesday the 18th at 6:30 PM in the back room of the Piccadilly Cafeteria (874 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville TN 37217). Dinner is Dutch treat. Get out there and make it happen!

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HUMAN TRANSIT: A Societal Change in How We Address Mass Transit

Robert Swope
By Councilman Robert Swope - The exploding growth and increasing population density in cities across America has created a problem unlike anything in the previous annuls of recorded history: modern mass transit.

I write to you with the hope that an alternative solution might be considered into the conversation to address this issue in middle Tennessee.

Defining the Problem
Solutions proposed over the past 150 years are now as inadequate as our definition of the problem is outdated. Webster defines mass as “to form or collect into a large group,” and transit as “the conveyance of persons from one place to another.” This definition of mass transit, as simply gathering persons together in one location and moving them (en masse) to another locale, describes how transit has evolved in the last century from moving a handful of people (horse & buggies, taxies, street cars and trollies) to moving many people (trains, trams, subways, buses and monorails). This mass transit concept, however, poorly expresses the capabilities of our modern age, in which technology has reshaped our lives in ways even our parents could not have imagined. Mass transit continues to use outdated technology and infrastructure, suffers from lack of resources and planning, and has created gridlock in most of our cities.

Atlanta is a prime example. City leaders realized too late in 1990 that the city needed light rail and expanded bus service to alleviate the gridlock of its exploding population. It took another 15 years to outline the solution, pass legislation to raise the capital funding, complete the financing structure, and finally, begin construction. In that time, Atlanta more than doubled in size and population, rendering the original mass transit plans not nearly capable of handling the city’s needs. And Atlanta now finds itself in the same situation, quite possibly worse, than it found itself in 1990.

If Nashville were to plan, fund and construct a light rail system in the Middle Tennessee region, our city’s debt would increase by 2 to 3 billion dollars or more. A mass transit system that extends north, south, east and west from the city’s core for perhaps 40 miles would deposit the masses in the city’s center and thereby create the need for an additional inner city system (monorail) which would add an additional billion or so dollars to the investment. Anyone living between the compass points would still have to commute to the train station via car, bike or foot.

Traditional parking lots at each station would need to be constructed, thereby reducing available land for use as public space or residential/commercial development. Additionally, for every mile of light rail track constructed, land would need to be purchased and incorporated into the new system, eliminating those lands from being part of any walk, hike, bike space, green space, or new opportunities for affordable housing space.

Cost aside, the system will be completely outdated from the moment it begins operation, following the 10-15 years or more such an undertaking would require. By the time studies are done, legislation is passed, funding is secured, land is purchased and a light rail system is built, Nashville will have doubled in size and population and our communities will have lost thousands of useful acres of land to an outdated mass transit solution.

The mass transit systems already utilized in high density urban cities across America will likely remain an efficient means of transit in the midterm future. But in regions like Nashville; Austin, TX; Charlotte, NC; and the Tampa Bay, FL area, the massive undertaking of light rail or subway/monorail construction is either too cost prohibitive or geographically impossible. And putting more buses on the grid will only cause further gridlock.

Identifying a Solution
First, I propose a paradigm shift in our terminology from mass transit to human transit—a minor change in terminology with major implications. Think in terms of moving a human, not a mass of humans. I propose that we, collectively and individually, begin to re-think what mass transit really means.

Second, I propose leveraging efficient transit technology, namely the autonomous vehicle (AV) to 1) realize huge governmental cost savings through public-private partnerships, 2) increase traffic efficiency, and 3) create freedom of movement not dependent upon any socioeconomic status.

Third, I propose proactive planning, rather than reactive devising, which is generally the delayed response of city planners who implement a mass transit option that is already obsolete.

I respectfully submit to you that in 2015 Nashville, the “IT” city in America, faces the same situation as Atlanta faced in 1990. We expect our geographical size and population density to double within the next 10 to 15 years. If we instigate traditional outdated mass transit options such as light rail, dedicated bus lanes, or monorail, by the time Metro Council requests the requisite studies done, passes appropriate legislation, acquires the financing/bond structure, purchases the land and necessary right of ways, and actually constructs the transit option, we will have spent billions of taxpayer dollars for a mass transit solution that will already be outdated by the time anyone could actually use it.

To avoid this quandary, we must think not towards the future, but in the future. We must implement strategies that change things now, not in 10 years. We must think in terms of shared human transit, in lieu of mass congestion-causing transit. We must begin to procure and embrace technologies that even as little as 10 years ago would have been scoffed at as science fiction. Much like our current smart phones. As little as 20 years ago, a cell phone barely fit into a briefcase, and now you wear it on your wrist. It talks to you, instructs you how to get to your destination, monitors your heart rate, and suggests your evening dining experience on demand.

I propose that AV technology, while perhaps not currently as advanced as our smart phones, is a mere 2 to 5 years away from being on your wrist, and a viable solution to dealing with the age-old problems of mass transit. Moving many humans in and along one fixed route can shift, through technology innovations, towards moving one, from door to door, effectively, efficiently and with equal social access.

The speed at which Autonomous Vehicles have developed is quite remarkable. According to Jeff Miller, an associate professor at the University of Southern California who works on autonomous driving, “The speed at which the technology has reached this point is stunning. Today, most of the world’s major automakers are working on autonomous technology, with Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo leading the pack. Google may be more advanced than anyone: The tech giant says its self-driving cars are so far along, they can recognize and respond to hand signals from a cop directing traffic.”

Delphi, a 100 year old automotive supplier company, just drove (rode in) its new autonomously equipped Audi, an incredible 3,400 miles from San Francisco to New York City. The vehicle did 99% of the driving completely on its own. Google recently stated that it has logged over 2 million miles in the testing and development of its own AVs. In a press release this past Friday, auto giant Toyota announced it was investing 1 billion dollars in AV technology in the next five years. These achievements and commitments to the future are happening now, not 20 years from now.

Likewise, our commitment to Nashville’s human transit future must be implemented now, beginning with understanding the technical elements, safety concerns, political and legislative roadblocks, economic impacts and environmental issues that the paradigm shift from mass transit to human transit encompasses.

Understanding the Technology
A Level 5 Autonomous Vehicle (one that will drive itself with no outside intervention), is technically closer to a computer on wheels than a traditional car with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and automated car-parking capabilities. Today’s companies are essentially developing ultra-safe “pods” loaded with technologies originally designed for military fighter jet use. No gauges, no steering wheel, no console, no shifter, no accelerator or brake pedals, and, perhaps, no windshield or side glass.

Software giants and global automotive manufacturers have incorporated RADAR (which uses sound waves), LIDAR (which uses light waves or lasers), 3D cameras, ultrasonic sensors and very sophisticated GPS to accurately determine not only where the vehicle is at any given nanosecond, but far more importantly, to “see” everything around it at all times. In some cases, current AVs contain 9 or more of these systems, all working in tandem, providing far more information than a human driver could ever expect to interpret and at far greater speeds (10 times per second).

The real advantage behind AVs transitioning mass transit into human transit is not the technology associated with any single AV on the road, but rather Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication among thousands of vehicles. Collision Avoidance Software (CAS), which is available in quite a few traditional vehicles today, is far more advanced in AVs. Most CAS today can recognize any number of potential safety issues (bridges, tunnels, railroad crossings, a child running into street) and calculate complex decisions that until now were thought to only be achieved with the human brain. Combined with Vehicle-To-Vehicle communication applications, AVs throughout a city can actually talk to one another, share real-time traffic information, congestion data, and flow patterns much like a hive of bees interacts. What one knows, all know. In this manner, a fleet of AVs can navigate a city or suburb far more efficiently than a human driver receiving traffic tips from the radio or a smartphone app. With the addition of street mapping, which Goggle is currently implementing in most American cities, this same fleet of AVs can interpret the quickest, most efficient route between any two points at any time. If traffic light synchronization were incorporated into the information stream shared with AVs, or (perhaps eventually) allow AVs to automatically control certain intersection lighting, AV efficiency increases even more.

Enhancing Public Safety
One of the largest concerns of AVs, both perceptually and practically, is safety, which is hugely alleviated in removing steering wheels, floor pedals, consoles, glass and the like from AVs. These innovations, along with carbon fiber and other high tech composites, create a far safer transit environment. Lighter, stronger, and far safer than steel or aluminum, these “pods” surround a passenger in a much more protective enclosure than a typical automobile and create a more protective environment outside the enclosure for pedestrians.

Aside from technology innovations that increase safety standards, the real safety feature of AVs is the removal of the human driver, who is susceptible to fatigue, boredom, stress, distraction, and impairment behind the wheel. Issues that have no effect on an autonomous vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 32,000 traffic fatalities occur every year in America, with 1.2 million deaths worldwide. It is estimated that 90% of those fatalities are due to human error. While replacing every vehicle with AVs will not necessarily save 28,800 lives in the US each year, a sophisticated AV system will drastically decrease annual vehicle fatalities.

The amount of data a typical human driver experiences in a daily commute to and from work each day is staggering. With the advanced AI software currently in development, an AV will be able to process in real time even more data input than the human brain is capable of processing, and do so without the distractions of spilled coffee, ringing cell phones, persons in the backseat and the like, further reducing countless gridlock-inducing non-life-threatening accidents and saving considerable time in each of our average daily commutes.

Maximizing our Resource Usage
Instead of waking each morning, walking/biking/driving to the train/bus stop, boarding this traditional means of mass transit, arriving at a common departure point and walking to our workplace, we can simply engage an app on our smartphone and minutes later be picked up at our front door. During our commute, we can read the morning paper, talk on the phone, watch TV, or simply nap. Upon arrival, we can enjoy curbside delivery, forgoing the search for parking while the AV goes on to pick up its next on-call customer.

The inherently shared nature of AVs means that they do not sit in a parking lot or garage 90% of the time. Rather, they are utilized 90% of each and every day by multiple citizens. This revolutionizes the way in which all of us will commute and live. Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes, in discussing the GreenLight Pinellas project in St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay area, puts it this way: “Technology is going to transform mass transit in a way that very few people can see. AVs will reduce congestion, lower parking demands, increase rider safety by reducing wait times, and in the case of public systems, provide universal access.” (link)

In a recent interview, retired long time New Jersey Transit planner Jerome Lutin put it simply: “The transit industry needs to promote shared-use autonomous cars as a replacement for transit on many bus routes and for services to persons with disabilities. ... If you can’t get 10 people on a bus, or 5 people on a bus, then why bother running it? We’re wasting diesel fuel!”  While buses and AVs can exist in harmony, with buses handling the transit needs of extremely high density corridors, AVs will win out over other forms of public mass transit in multitude of other ways.

According to Paul Godsmark, contrary to the common perception that AV usage will put more vehicles on the road, “A review of research shows that one car-share vehicle can be seen to remove between nine and thirteen other vehicles from the roads.” Countless studies shows that with if AVs were to be utilized in a mass transit environment, they would be functionally used 80- 90% of the time — far greater than a private vehicle, utilized on average a mere 10% of the time.

With everything being automated, an AV will never need rest, other than to re-charge, will never need to find a parking space in a crowded urban space, and will never simply sit in a garage not being utilized. This shift in the inherent nature of transit changes the way in which all of us will commute, and live in the future.

Preparing for the Political and Legislative Implications
With vehicle automation, we are now, as Executive Director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford Sven Beiker, says, “at the point where personal mobility and public transportation come together.” And it is at this point in history that we must prepare for the ensuing political and legislative implications. Removing human drivers from the human transit equation will require new legislation, on the Federal, State and local levels.

Industry Changes
As AVs are predominantly electric, considerable pushback will occur from a host of industries including petroleum, taxi unions, railroads, bus companies, Uber/Lyft, ride sharing companies, auto retailers and manufacturers, insurance companies, and a host of other auto industry and transportation related groups. In the same manner that horse drawn carriage makers were up in arms when the first cars were introduced in the early 1900’s, so will an uprising begin as the AV system draws closer to today’s reality rather than tomorrow’s fantasy.

Socioeconomic Changes
Another political concern of existing mass transit systems is equality. Robin Chase, co-founder of ZipCar recently posed this question: “Would you prefer what we have today, where only poor people use most transit systems, ... or would you rather the poor people use the exact same thing that everyone else is using?”7 While this statement is rather blunt, I agree with the socio- economic point she is making. AVs offer the same benefit and opportunity to every human regardless of their socioeconomic status. With the cost of AV transit being very close to (or less than) current mass transit options, existing users of MTA will most likely utilize the same autonomous services as the middle and upper classes, thereby promoting equality in a manner never before conceived. What is good for one, will be good for many.

Investment Changes
As opposed to the massive financial and time investments of completing a traditional mass transit system, implementing an Autonomous Vehicle system simply requires our existing infrastructure to continue operating. No additional land purchases. No tracks laid. No parking lots paved. No increased fuel emissions. No billion dollar bond-funded indebtedness or taxpayer funding. AVs operate on the same roads we currently utilize, drive their occupants according to the same traffic regulations that we currently follow, and, because they are lighter than a traditional vehicle, cause far less damage to our current roadway infrastructure.
Responding Responsibly
The mounting evidence demonstrates that AVs are far more economical, efficient, and environmentally friendly than any traditional mass transit solution. The evidence demands that we, as fiscally responsible representatives of the constituents we serve, take a serious look into leveraging technological innovation to increase our city’s financial gains, improve its quality of life, and enhance its citizens’ disposable income.

To Increase Financial Gains
Though several billion dollars would need to be raised and spent on a mass transit system before the first rider steps on board, with an AV human transit system, we can literally have several thousand AVs operating within a 100 mile radius around the city core for less than $50 million — or for little to no cost to taxpayers if Nashville entertained a public-private partnership. In a real- world Metro Budget example, rather than spending over $54 Million on our Metro Transit Authority in 2015 ($70 million in total expense less $16 million in charges and commissions), Nashville could create a new revenue income stream from the utilization of AVs through a negotiated fee structure with the private entity operating such a system in cooperation with MTA. This is an opportunity that taxpayers in Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford, Cheatham, Wilson and other surrounding counties would likely more than welcome. Providing a socioeconomically equal transit solution for their communities while generating new revenues for their county and/or city at the same time, all while increasing available land for affordable housing appears to be a win-win-win scenario.

To Improve Quality of Life
Nashville area’s taxpayers would also enjoy an additional financial windfall and increased quality of life from the raw land resources that an AV human transit system would make available for new development and/or public green space usage. Over one quarter of the land in every city in the US is currently utilized for parking lots, acreage that could be sold for residential and commercial development, repurposed into public space, or utilized for affordable housing with an AV human transit system. Further, AVs are capable of driving on narrower lanes as they “see” the road much more effectively than human drivers. Where we have 2 lanes of traffic currently, we could have three lanes with narrower AVs and more efficient driving, further increasing the usefulness of our finite supply of useable land globally.

To Enhance Nashvillians’ Disposable Income
Aside from the financial and environmental gains in the repurposing of land currently utilized for parking, the single largest savings to our constituents is a huge reduction in labor. An average taxi rider pays approximately 57% of the fare to the driver. Private ride sharing companies like Uber or Lyft compensate their labor forces with up to half of the fare. AVs have none of these expenses. This cost is directly passed on to each and every user of the human transit solution, adding disposable income to each and every family’s bottom line. While a concern that drivers will be left looking for alternative means of income will emerge, our communities, and these drivers, will be far better off in the bigger picture that is our future.

I believe that the time has come for a change. The elements of mass transit that we, as a society, have been utilizing for decades are outdated. Society has outgrown the technologies of history. The use of Autonomous Vehicles in a Human Transit solution offers massive economic and environmental advantages, but will require concessions on a number of issues.

I call upon the legislators throughout our government, from the Federal level down to Nashville’s Metro Council, of which I am a proud member, to recognize that:
(1) change is inevitable, and
(2) redefining our future in a fiscally responsible and environmentally cognizant manner will have a far greater positive impact than maintaining the current status quo.

We as legislatures must be on the front end of this paradigm shift in the societal understanding of transit, so that when that change is understood and accepted, Nashville can take full advantage of the revolution that AV technology promises. Let us refocus our collective minds on moving one, independently and equally, rather than forcing the many to live and move en masse.

I humbly request your consideration in implementing AVs into the conversation when discussing mass transit solutions in the Middle Tennessee region. I realize there are a multitude of choices in this conversation, but ask that you consider HUMAN TRANSIT within these proposed solutions carefully before committing our city’s (and State’s) resources to what will be a defining decision in Nashville’s history.

Robert Swope is one of the new council members elected in the most recent election and represents the fourth district in the Metro Council. I commend him for this thoughtful essay which he sent as a letter to all of his colleagues on the Council and other interested parties. We need more of this type of "thinking outside the box," rather than simply doing things the same old way we have always done them and simply throwing money at a problem. I hope the administration and his colleagues and planners involved in transit planning receive this with an open mind. The highlighting in the above essay is mine. Rod

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A Guide to Planning and Zoning in each council district.

Planning and Zoning can be really boring stuff and something you don't think about until you learn a rock quarry is going to be build near your home or a high rise is going to go up across the street from you and block your sunlight and view and pour hundreds of new commuters onto your quite residential street.

Thankfully, almost every neighborhood has someone who stays abreast of zoning and planning issues. If you do not have a neighborhood organization in your community I would suggest starting one, and appoint someone to be responsible for monitoring the agenda of the Planning Commission on a regular basis and staying abreast of zoning and planning issues.

The Planning Commission has updated their web page with a lot of new and improved information. It includes information about the Planning Department and Planning Commission, the planning and zoning process, zoning categories, development regulation, development-related boards, commissions, and agencies, and land use and zoning in each of the 35 Council districts. There is a guide for each council district called  A Guide to Planning and Zoning in District (each council district.)  Follow this link for all of the guide and to see your district click Communities and Council Districts, then click on your council district.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Colleges (Including Vanderbilt) Are Reaping What They’ve Sown

by David Fowler, Reposted from FACT - What transpired at the University of Missouri earlier this week and what is now taking place at Vanderbilt University is a classic case of reaping what one has sown. Higher education has descended to a depth from which it cannot escape, because it has destroyed the very intellectual tools by which it could do so.

The first situation to which I referred is the utter breakdown in communication between competing factions at the University of Missouri—minority students and a university leadership those students deemed insufficiently responsive to their concerns. The breakdown led to those minority students dictating to those ostensibly in positions of authority over the administration of the university what employment decisions needed to be made.

The second situation is a petition circulating at Vanderbilt by which students are calling for the ouster of Dr. Carol Swain because she has espoused viewpoints that the students don’t like, that they deem intolerant, bigoted, and unwelcoming.

The response of Vanderbilt’s Chancellor Zeppos is reflective of the problem:

“Speech whose sole purpose or effect is to discriminate, stigmatize, retaliate, offend, foment hatred or violence, or cause harm has no place in this university.”
Nobody likes speech “whose sole purpose is to foment hatred, violence or harm,” but what is this “effect” test to which Zeppos refers? It is a test of “truth” that lets the hearer decide the outcome. In this case, it will prove to be students who have been steeped in relativism and subjectivism and the belief that feelings are the ultimate arbiter of “truth.”

Relativism, by definition, must question anything that purports to be authoritative, and, of course, nothing can be authoritative if there is no source of authority. Consequently, today’s public universities and “elite” private colleges must therefore implicitly, if not explicitly, call into question all sources of authority.

Thus, university leaders like those at Missouri and Zeppos at Vanderbilt can scarcely assert any legitimate authority over the administration of their universities, for they unwittingly disavow the very notion of authority—or at least when they do assert their authority over a situation, the authority they assert must be grounded only in power and will, not in any reasoned, rational, or philosophical or theological grounds.

But if power is the basis for authority, then who is to say that the students at Missouri were wrong to exert their own power, their own force, their own will? Who is to say that the Vanderbilt students should not start petitions and demand the ouster of Dr. Swain or any professor (or administrator) whose views offend them? When will the Vanderbilt students “wise up” and find a way to attack the true authoritative god at Vanderbilt?

And who might that god be? It’s money. Money has become the one true source of authority on university campuses—their god—which is why the students at the University of Missouri were ultimately effective. They were poised to affect the university’s financial bottom line, which meant that those “ostensibly” in authority, the president and system president, had to go. Having seen that power can win, those who think they are in power, university administrators, will eventually begin to lose their power.

College campuses are in intellectual and moral chaos, and they don’t even realize it. If they do, they don’t seem to know why. They are so awash in moral relativism and its implications that they can’t think straight anymore; they think in circles. Having taught tolerance as the one “true” value, they have raised a generation of the intolerant who turn upon their teachers and leaders.

There is no end in sight for this madness unless our universities recover that which the word “university” implies—the existence of universal truths. The one tool they need to dig out of their mess is the one tool they have destroyed.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.

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Liberals out to get Carol Swain fired from Vandy

Carol Swain
The liberal movement to suppress speech and silence conservatives on college campuses has hit Vanderbilt University with a campaign by students to get Professor of Law and Political Science Carol Swain fired from her job.  Even one conservative is one too many for liberals who favor all kinds of  diversity except diversity of thought.

 I am posting the full petition below.  The charges are lame and weak. The best they can come of with to support the charge that she engages in name-calling is that on her Facebook page she said, "Only an idiot would think a 61-year-old black woman who has spent much of her life in academia would benefit from sensitivity training." That is it? Come on; they have no case.

They want to force her to attend diversity training and those signing the petition can say that with a straight face, they don't even see the irony.  Never mind that Dr. Swain is African-American and it is the petitioners who are petitioning against diversity of opinion; the little politically correct liberal Brown Shirts don't want their sensibilities offended by being exposed to ideas to which they do not already subscribe. The same attitude of group-think that once dominated China during the cultural revolution is alive and well on American college campuses.

The underlining in the below petition is mine. Look at what they claim: she has a Facebook page that identifies herself as a professor at Vanderbilt University, she is unkind to students who disagree with her and calls them names, and she is unfair in her grading of  queer students and non-Christians. Swan denies the allegations. Follow the links and you will see their own case is very weak.

Suspend Professor Carol Swain

We are petitioning that Carol Swain be temporarily suspended from her position as professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University pending an investigation into student allegations of unprofessional intimidation on social media, discriminatory practices in the classroom, and unclear representation as a Public Figure with invocations of the Vanderbilt name on her Facebook page.
Over the past few years, Professor Carol Swain has become synonymous with bigotry, intolerance, and unprofessionalism. While Swain first and foremost has a right to her personal beliefs and the right to freedom of speech within and outside of the classroom, it recently came to the attention of the Vanderbilt community that Carol Swain has let her hate-filled prejudices negatively impact her work, our student body, and Vanderbilt’s reputation. Since the initial release of this petition, we have gathered significant feedback from the community, and have decided to limit our grievances to the following three issues.
  • Firstly, Professor Carol Swain has failed to clearly separate her role on her Facebook page as a “Public Figure” from the Vanderbilt name, creating a situation in which the public may misconstrue her as speaking on behalf of the University. We want to make it clear that Carol Swain in no way represents our alma mater, regardless of the fact that she teaches here.
  • Secondly, there have been several instances in which students have contacted Professor Swain to hold an intellectual debate with her, and in return, she has resorted to name-calling and posting their personal contact information on her public page. In many cases, students claimed this led to public shaming, intimidation, and/or harassment by her followers.
  • Additionally, several students who claim to have taken Professor Swain’s class(es) have expressed concerns that minority students enrolled in her class(es) – especially those who are LGBTQIA+ and/or non-Christians – expose themselves to unfair assessment in-class and may receive lower grades than their peers simply because of their identities. At a University that prides itself on fairness, diversity and inclusion, these allegations are entirely unacceptable if true.
In light of these grievances, we are petitioning the Vanderbilt Administration that Carol Swain be temporarily suspended from her tenured position as professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University pending the following resolutions:
  • That Vanderbilt administrators will confer with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) to create and mandate a diversity training program for all Vanderbilt faculty – including Professor Carol Swain – to increase their cultural awareness, foster inclusion of various identity groups, prevent discrimination in the classroom, and to protect the University against inadvertent civil rights violations

  • That Vanderbilt conduct an investigation of student allegations that Prof. Swain has shared individual students’ personal information or private profiles on her public media page(s) in attempts to potentially shame, defame, and/or intimidate them – and to report their findings to the student body in a public statement after proper resolution.

  • And that Vanderbilt will conduct a review of Professor Carol Swain’s public Facebook page to confirm that she is not violating Vanderbilt's Acceptable Use Policy by misrepresenting herself as a Public Figure of (and/or speaker for) Vanderbilt University, but instead, is representing herself clearly as a Public Figure in a space unaffiliated with the University. This is to ensure that the public does not misconstrue Professor Swain’s statements outside the classroom as being endorsed by the University.
Until these resolutions have been satisfied, we do not feel that Carol Swain’s allowance to teach here is consistent with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policies or the Community Creed, and we will continue to push for administrative action. We appreciate Vanderbilt’s initial acknowledgement of our petition, but we are certainly hoping that their response will ultimately amount to more than what we have seen in the past. Historically, the Vanderbilt community has been entirely unserved by the administration's inability to educate, counsel, and/or suspend Professor Swain.  However, we remain hopeful that things will change. We are calling on the administration to please hear our voices and take action before Carol Swain causes more harm to herself, our community, and Vanderbilt's reputation.
For those who are unfamiliar with Carol Swain, the articles linked below are a brief sample of her work. (As a reminder though, the focus of this petition is on the allegations made against Prof. Swain.  It is not an attack on her beliefs or freedom of speech/press)
Carol Swain’s Op-Ed in The Tennessean: Charlie Hebdo Attacks Prove Critics Were Right About Islam
“Islam is a dangerous set of beliefs totally incompatible with Western beliefs concerning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.”
Be The People TV: C.S. Lewis on Biblical Marriage and Swain Reflections on Gay Marriage
“If we must live side-by-side with gay couples in a culture with a strong crusading homosexual agenda, our only hope is to strengthen ourselves spiritually and intellectually for the battle that awaits us”
I am unsure how of those in the community can come to the aid of Dr. Swain. Perhaps it would be helpful if Vandy alumni let the Vanderbilt administration know they support Dr. Swain. I have already "liked" Dr. Swain on Facebook. If you have not done so, give her a Facebook "like" and let her know you are pulling for her and admire her courage.

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Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday, November 19th, 5:30 PM.

LOTR - be thankful and come to a safe space to share cheer and beer

Thursday, November 19 at 5:30pm
MAFIAoZA'S 12South in Nashville, Tennessee

This is a fun event! There is no opening prayer, no pledge, no treasurer's report, no reading of the minutes of the last meeting, no guest speaker. There is no program and no agenda, no officers and no one in charge. This is just a bunch of right-of-center, liberty-loving people getting together to drink and socialize. Attendance is anywhere from ten to thirty. The group ranges in age from those in their early 20's to those in their late 60's, and with everyone from students to laborers to attorneys. The larger group usually ends up breaking into four or so smaller groups with people floating between the groups. Right of center is still a pretty broad spectrum and interesting discussion and respectful but animated debate is the norm. The predominate point of view is libertarian but there are enough of us mainstream conservatives to offer a little balance. If you are tired of hanging out with your liberal co-workers or family or people who never talk about anything of substance, come hang out with some smart like-minded people.

It is on the patio at Mafiaoza's in the 12th Avenue South neighborhood. The first hour is happy hour with two-for-one drinks.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

School board stalemate means state will authorize KIPP

The Tennessean, .... The board voted 4-4 three times to either defer, deny or approve KIPP's elementary school. It then voted 4-4 again on whether to approve KIPP's middle school.
With no clear majority and no action taken on the two charters, the state will take control of the schools and be able to issue the charter after Nov. 23. The district had 30 days to make a decision on the schools.

Board Chair Sharon Gentry, Amy Frogge, Will Pinkston and Jill Speering voted in favor of taking no action. (link)

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Rep. Black Praises Appeals Court Ruling on President Obama’s Unconstitutional Immigration Overreach

Press Release, Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), issued the following statement following the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to continue an injunction against the President’s 2014 amnesty plan, which would prevent the deportation of an estimated five million illegal immigrants:

“The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has dealt an important victory for law abiding immigrants and taught President Obama a much-needed civics lesson. This President is many things, but a king isn’t one of them. We are a nation of laws and, as this rebuke from the court affirms, he cannot rewrite those laws on a whim to fit his liberal agenda,” said Congressman Diane Black. “We know that immigration reform is needed, but real reform starts with securing our border, not granting backdoor amnesty to some five million people – an action that will only encourage greater illegal immigration. Throughout this process, the President’s motivations were completely transparent. This was not about achieving true reform, this was about scoring political points, as evidenced by his decision to announce his amnesty plan last year, rather than when he had unified Democratic control. With this ruling, the courts have, once again, embarrassed this Administration and rightly called out its lawlessness. Now, we must ensure this decision remains intact so that the rule of law is protected.”

Congressman Black’s home state of Tennessee is among the 26 states challenging the President’s immigration action. Black signed an amicus brief led by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) in support of these states’ lawsuit. Black is also a co-author of the Separation of Powers Act, legislation that would prohibit the use of funds to grant deferred action or other immigration relief to individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

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Thank God for our Veterans

 by Ken Jakes, 

There are many men and women whose name I may not know.
But I want to proudly honor them and let their heroic record show.

That when asked to defend their Country, they each gave their all.
They gave their life and paid such a price, so freedom wouldn't fall.

To the family of each Veteran who laid down their life, may God heal.
The aching in your heart for the loss that I am sure you all must feel.

Though I may not know the name, of the loved one you have lost.
I know they preserved our freedom, and I know with a great cost.

May these words comfort you, and our Nation owes each so much.
For Veterans who would not stand down, even when times got tough.

America will always be the Land of the free, may its Flag forever wave.
Our Veterans have fought with honor,  this is the home for the Brave

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Brandon Hunt-Clark Wanted for Shooting Metro Councilman Loniel Greene

Brandon Hunt-Clark
Metro Nashville press release - West Precinct detectives a short time ago swore out an arrest warrant charging Brandon Hunt-Clark with felony aggravated assault for last Wednesday night’s shooting of Metro Councilman Loniel Greene near the intersection of Burgess & Oceola Avenues.
Shortly before 10 p.m. last Wednesday night, Hunt-Clark and another man were walking away from the Marathon gas station/market, 301 White Bridge Road, when Greene encountered them as he prepared to pull into the market.  Greene parked his SUV beside a gas pump and then followed Hunt-Clark and his associate as they walked up Burgess Avenue and turned onto Oceola Avenue.  Multiple shots were fired at Greene.  He was hit three times and walked back to his vehicle from where help was called.  Greene was discharged Monday night from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  He has told detectives that he followed Hunt-Clark and the second individual because he thought he recognized one of them as a relative.
Hunt-Clark was convicted of felony car burglary last May and received a one-year sentence.  He was also convicted in January of misdemeanor drug possession.

Hunt-Clark, 19, is presumed to be armed and presently hiding in the Nashville area.  Anyone seeing him or knowing his whereabouts is urged to immediately contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or the Emergency Communications Center at 615-862-8600.  Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and qualify for a cash reward.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Public hearing on Inclusionary zoning, Wed. Nov. 11, 5:30PM

  • Wed, Nov 11, 5:30 PM
  • Sonny West Conference Center, Howard Office Building, 700 Second Avenue South
  • Public meeting on inclusionary housing - more on that issue on the Planning Dept's Inclusionary Housing Feasibility and Policy Study page at
Please show up at this meeting and express your opposition to this proposed policy of price-fixing and taking of private property.  Developers, home builders, and advocates of private property rights need to be heard from at this meeting. One can be sure that the enemies of liberty, those ignorant of economics and "housing advocates" will be out in force.

The State very well may prohibit the enactment of a local inclusionary zoning policy or nullify any local inclusionary ordinance that does get passed, but we cannot count on that. A show of opposition from local people may encourage the committee charged with developing an inclusionary zoning policy to propose something less draconian that what they might otherwise propose.  Members of the State legislature may be more inclined to protect us from this misguided policy if there is a vocal local opposition.

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AEI event; putting faith to work: Lessons from faith-based organizations that help Americans get jobs.

While the workshops and seminars of American Enterprise Institute may not be of interest to the average casual observer of the news, for those who are policy wonks, legislators, academics, advocates, or work in a particular field, American Enterprise Institute is a great resource.

Last month I attended the Governors Housing Conference, an annual event for those working in the field of affordable housing in Tennessee and the opening plenary luncheon featured Ed Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute. He spoke about proposed comprehensive mortgage finance reform and Sen. Bob Corker’s bi-partisan legislation to reform the funding of mortgages.  He also highlighted a 15-year Wealth Builder mortgage product designed to promote sustainable homeownership by directing more of the monthly payment toward principal, arguing the traditional 30-year mortgage was not the best way to promote homeowership or build wealth.

It is by introducing people to another point of view, that eventual change occurs.  The seeds have to be planted and cultivated. American Enterprise Institute is a respected think tank that leans conservative. They have associates

of the highest caliber, accomplishment, and scholarship.  One often gets the impression that the only people who are engaged in solving problems and care about the less fortunate are liberals. In practice, liberals have the same solution for all problems and that is to spend more money, build a bigger bureaucracy, increase government dependency and redistribute wealth. Often their solutions make the problem worse. The most obvious example is the war on poverty and the plight of African Americans.

AEI specializes in getting people to consider alternative ways of thinking about issues and to consider alternative solutions. In a city like Nashville, where the political power structure is overwhelming liberal, conservatives must be armed with lots of facts to be able to introduce alternative ways of thinking about things and advance ideas. From the way we pick up garbage, to school choice, to welfare reform, to acceptance of peer-to-peer ride-sharing services, what was first an idea of conservative think tanks and scholars is now mainstream.

Whereas in the past one would have had to fly to Washington to attend seminars of the American Enterprise Institute, now their seminars are often live online. While their field of policy studies is broad based and includes everything from defense spending to cultural issues, AEI would be a great resource for those locally wanting to bolster their arguments or gain access to ideas that are "outside the box."  For members of the Metro Council, students in the field of pubic policy or those working to solve the problems of poverty, homelessness, and housing, I highly recommend you get to know AEI.

Here is an announcement of an upcoming online seminar.
Putting faith to work: Lessons from faith-based organizations that help Americans get jobs.

Monday, November 16, 2015 | 12:00 – 1:30 PM (that would be 11Am - 12:30 PM Nashville Time).

Private, faith-based organizations are doing important and innovative work to help connect Americans with jobs and make the labor market work for all Americans.

Description: Many faith-based organizations are doing important and innovative work to connect struggling Americans with jobs, which has potential implications for public policy and charitable communities. Join AEI for a discussion on the efforts of faith-based organizations to connect Americans with jobs and the role that faith and religious communities play in these efforts. A panel with the principals of several faith-based organizations will describe their work and discuss what lessons these efforts may hold for the faith and philanthropic communities, as well as for public policy.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

Robert Doar, AEI
Jo Kwong, Philanthropy Roundtable
Heather Reynolds, Catholic Charities Fort Worth
Shawna Smith, Hope Builders
David Spickard, Jobs for Life
Michael R. Strain, AEI

To watch live online, click here on November 16 at 12:00 PM ET. Registration is not required. Contacts:  For more information, please contact Brad Wassink at, 202.862.7197.

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Monday, November 09, 2015

New conservative group formed in Tennessee.

I guess the more the merrier when it comes to having people spreading the message of conservatism but with a statewide Americans for Prosperity organization, various tea party groups, local Republican parties and all of the subsets of the party such as Republican women groups and young Republicans, and interest groups concerned with specific issues such as the Second Amendment or right-to-life or the concerns of independent business people, and every stripe of conservative group from social conservative to libertarians and even some wing nut wacko groups, I am not sure where this new group fits in. I think the right-of-center spectrum is pretty well covered in Tennessee.

Anyway, as recently reported by Post Politics, Tennesseans for Conservative Action is being formed by three people who head lobbying or campaign consulting firms: Robin Smith, Gregory Gleaves, and Mark Braden.

Robin Smith is a former head of the Tennessee Republican Party who has since joined forces with  liberal Albert Waterhouse to form the firm of SmithWaterhouse. Gregory Gleaves previously served as Chief of Staff for the Tennessee House of Representatives under Speaker Beth Harwell. He is now with the lobbying firm of Hall Strategies. Mark Braden is VP of Mercury, a bi-partisan high-stakes public strategy firm. It will be interesting to see where this new organization finds its niche. I, for one, would be hesitant to support a group heading by conservatives for hire.

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Councilman Greene Interviewed by Detectives; New Photos Released of Person Wanted for Questioning

Metro Government Press Release, Nov. 5 -West Precinct detectives late this afternoon interviewed
Greene told detectives that he followed the two men as they walked away from the Marathon market because he thought he recognized one of them as a relative.  Greene said one of the two shot at him, but did not know why.

One of the persons Greene followed from the market is believed to have been inside the store on Tuesday morning of this week wearing a blue jacket.  Two photos of that person are attached. He is wanted for questioning.  Anyone recognizing the individual is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or West Precinct Investigations at 615-862-7385.

Councilman Loniel Greene at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he is in stable condition recovering from Wednesday night’s gunshot wounds.

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Army Corps takes Old Hickory dam safety seriously

by Stephen F. Murphy, The Tennessean - The Nashville District is analyzing the possible effects that the proposed quarry’s blasting could have on the lock and dam facilities and operations.

So far, our preliminary information leads us to believe that the resulting vibration levels are within an acceptable range of what the dam is designed to withstand, but we are continuing to look into this issue. The Nashville District also is reviewing whether we have any impacts to aquatic resources associated with the construction of the rock quarry.

We will do our part, along with the other involved agencies, local citizens and representatives, to ensure the safety of the public and to maintain the proven integrity and performance of Old Hickory Lock and Dam. (link)

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Donald Trump on SNL

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