Saturday, February 13, 2016

What is on the Council agenda for 2-15-15? Not much. A reallly boring agenda.

Council meetings are a whole lot more interesting (well not a "whole lot;" they are still boring but they are less boring), it you know what it is that is under discussion. To get your own copy of the Metro Council agenda and the staff analysis of the agenda follow the highlighted links. I must warn you this will be a more boring than normal council meeting even with an agenda and a staff analysis. There is just not that much on the agenda of interest.

Below is my agenda summary and commentary.

Boards and Commission: There are two mayoral appointments to Boards and Commissions on the agenda, including one appointment to the Human Relations Commission. If I were on the Council I would ask the appointee if she supported Metro's sponsorship of the youth pavilion at the Gay Pride festival, if she did I would vote against her confirmation even if I was the lone vote.

There is one resolution on public hearing and it is to allow an establishment that already has a liquor-by-the-drink license to have a license to serve beer despite not meeting the distance requirements from a certain entity. Beer license are a Metro license and a liquor license is a State license. To serve beer you must be a certain distance from daycare centers, parks, homes, and churches. The same distance requirement do not exist for liquor, so some establishments end up without a beer license but they do have a liquor license. If those cases, the council after holding a public hearing can authorize them to get a beer license. I think this should be changed so it is automatic and does not require a public hearing or council action.

Also, this is not anything the Council can do, but I think State law should be changed so that wine is treated like beer rather than like liquor. In many states wine is in the same category as beer instead of liquor. 

There are 16 resolutions on the consent agenda at this time. Resolutions on "consent" are all lumped together and are passed by a single vote of  the Council.  A resolution is taken off of consent if it fails to gain unanimous approval from the committee to which it was assigned.  Also, any council member may, from the floor, object to a resolution being on consent or may ask to have his dissenting vote or abstention recorded.  None of the resolutions on this agenda appear controversial or are of much interest.

There are 10 bills on First Reading. I have not read them. First Reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are passed all lumped together by a single vote. Bills do not go to committee until after they pass First reading.

There are ten bills on Second Reading and these are the only ones I find of interest.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-99 would strengthen the Human Relations Commission by removing the term limits for members of the Commission. In my view this useless agency should be abolished instead of strengthened. They serve to indoctrinate people in  political correctness. Any thing of value they do could easily be done by other agencies.  One of the offensive things they do is sponsor the Youth Pavilion at the Gay Pride Festival. This bill should be defeated. It was on the agenda on Second Reading last meeting and was deferred one meeting. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-123  would give the Council more information on the status of Tax Increment Financing of projects in the Rutledge Hill Redevelopment Plan district. For details, see the staff analysis. This appears to be positive development. I think the use of TIF has been abused and too little tax money on new developments in these redevelopment districts flows to the General Fund. This doesn't do much but is a small positive step. 
There are 22 bills on Third Reading and this is the only one of interest. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-117 would impose a proximity distant requirement on alternative financial service establishments. This refers to those business such as pawn shops, title loan companies, payday lenders and check cashing places. It would require them to be 1320 feet apart. I am no fan of these business that are often referred to as "predatory lenders." If you don't know about them, this is how pay day lenders work.  Assume you get paid every two weeks and take home $300 a week and to avoid having your electricity cut off you go to a payday lender and borrow $250 with the understanding that on pay day you will pay back the $250 and $50 in fees. If a person paid it back on payday, then that would be less costly and less inconvenient than having ones electricity cut off.  However, many people do not pay it back and roll it over again and again. On an annual basis the interest rate comes to 500% or more for these type loans.  I think it is shameful that people are so stupid that they use these services and that these businesses thrive taking advantage of stupid people. I doubt that by imposing a distance requirement there will be fewer people using these services. The total number of such establishments may not increase with an increase in population but each such establishment will probably just serve more people and the people who use them will be inconvenienced but this will not lessen the demand for these services. The reason these places of business are in low income and minority neighborhoods is because that is where their customers are.  As far as being unattractive, often they more attractive than the other business that line the street on which they are located. I oppose this bill just as I would oppose a bill that tried to require fast food establishments be 1320 feet apart.

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Debate Watch Party Feb. 13th


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A Primer on the 2016 Tennessee Republican National Convention Delegate Selection process

If you are voting in the upcoming Republican primary, when you go to the polls you will not only see the names of the various candidates running for the Republican Party presidential nomination, but you will also see the names of dozens of people seeking to be selected as delegates in order to attend the Republican National  Convention.  Next to their name it will state to which candidate the person is committed.

Below is primer on understanding the Tennessee Republican convention delegate selection process. State law, the national Republican Party rules, and the State Republican Party rules determine how delegates are selected and how they must vote once they are selected.  I used the term "selected" intentionally, because not all delegates are elected. Very few people, including some of the people running as delegates, really understand the process. Read the below primer and the process will make more sense. If you read it slowly and think about it, it is understandable, but it is not simple.

This primer was prepared by two knowledgeable local Republican activist who have both previously been to conventions and who are again running as delegates to attend this year's convention.  One is pledged to Trump and the other is pledged to Rubio and I will be voting for both of of these delegate candidates. The following is their work. Where I have interjected remarks, I have set those remarks in parenthesis in dark red typeface and italics.  At the end of this essay, I have placed a "#" mark to indicate the end of the essay. Following the "#" is a resumption of my remarks.
 Primer on 2016 Tennessee Republican National Convention Delegate Selection
(Note: Delegate allocation and selection varies considerably by state and territory.  The information below pertains only to Tennessee.)

Tennessee is allocated 58 delegates per the Republican National Committee rules
  • 3 are the State Party Chairman, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman,
  •  14 at large delegates elected on the primary ballot (These candidates will have beside their name, the name of candidate for president they are supporting.  When voting, you can select some delegates committed to candidate X and some committed to candidate Y and others committed to candidate Z, and mix them up any way you want.)
  •  3 (total 27) delegates elected on the primary ballot in each Congressional District (When you vote you will  only see candidates for you congressional district, so for most people who live in Nashville, you will see the names of delegates who are running as a delegate from the 5th Congressional District.)
  • 14 at large delegates appointed by the state party with the advice of Presidential candidates (These names are not on the ballot. These are usually high dignitaries. The Governor will go and maybe some super big contributors and some other elected officials and maybe former elected officials.)
At Large Delegate Allocation
  • A Presidential candidate must receive at least 20% of the vote to win any delegate (unless no candidates have 20%)
  • If no Presidential candidate receives 20%, the delegates are proportionally allocated among all Presidential candidates according to their vote
  •  If only one  Presidential candidate receives 20% of the vote, that Presidential candidate receives all 28 at large delegates
  • If a Presidential candidate receives 2/3 of the vote, that Presidential candidate receives all 28 at large delegates
  • If more than one Presidential candidate receives 20% of the vote, those Presidential candidates receive delegates proportionally distributed 
Congressional District Allocation
  • If 1 Presidential candidate receives 2/3 or only one Presidential candidate gets 20% of the District vote, that candidate gets all 3 delegates 
  •  If 2 or more Presidential candidates get 20%, the highest vote getter receives 2 delegates and the next highest gets 1
  •  Otherwise, the top 3 Presidential candidates get 1 delegate each
Names of Presidential Candidates are listed alphabetically followed by “Uncommitted” designation
Names of Presidential Candidates (alphabetical) with names of delegate candidates (alphabetical) are then listed. (To see a sample ballot follow this link)

Voters may vote for: 
  • 1 candidate for President
  • 14 at large delegate candidates mix or match anywhere on the 
  •  3 Congressional District delegate candidates
  • Delegate candidate votes do not have to correspond to the Presidential candidate vote cast
Republican National Committee (2012).  The Rules of the Republican Party as adopted by the 2012 Republican National Convention, Tampa, Fl.  August 27, 2012.  Amended by the Republican National Committee on April 12, 2013, January 24, 2014, May 9, 2014, and August 8, 2014.
Tennessee Republican Party Bylaws

Prepared by: Martha Ruth Brown, Trump Delegate Candidate at large
Beth Campbell, SEC District 20, Rubio Delegate Candidate at large
Note that those running at-large are running state-wide and those running as congressional delegates are not effected by the allocation of at-large delegates. So, if candidate X wins the state by over 2/3rds of the votes cast he gets all 14 delegates, but in the 5th Congressional District if candidate Y wins 2/3rds of the vote, he gets the 3 delegates running in the 5th Congressional District who were pledged to candidate Y.

In addition to everything said above, there are also alternates selected and allocated in the same manner. So, if one candidate gets all 14 at-large delegates, another 14 delegates get to go to the convention pledged to that candidate, but they do not get to cast a vote.  They only would get to vote if the elected delegate, for some reason, does not attend the convention or is disqualified. Alternates still go to the parties and cheer from the floor for the convention TV show, they just don't get to vote.

This is confusing, right? Don't worry too much about it. If you just want to vote for your candidate for president and skip voting for any delegates, then do that. Your vote will still count.

One might think that if you are supporting candidate X then you would want to vote only for delegates committed to candidate X, however that is not necessarily so. It is not quite that simple to wisely select who you want to send to the convention as a delegate.  Even if you are supporting candidate X, you may want to vote for some delegates pledged to candidate Y and Z.  Unless candidate X gets all of the delegates, then some who are pledged to other candidates are going to the convention anyway, so if you cast all of your votes for delegate candidates pledged to candidate  X, then you have wasted some of your votes. Even if a particular delegate pledged to X gets more votes than a delegate pledged to Y, that does not mean that that particular candidate pledged to X gets to go to the convention.  Think of it like this: delegates pledged to candidate X or running against other delegate candidates pledged to candidate X; they are not running against delegate candidates pledged to candidate Y and Z.

Also, delegates do more than just vote for the Presidential nominee.  They vote on the party platform and on rules that determine how the convention operates in the next election and they may vote on resolutions stating policy positions of the party.  Also, there might be some good Republicans who have worked long and hard to serve the Party and you may just feel they deserve the opportunity to attend a convention.

Also, If you are voting for candidate X, you may not know 14 of the delegates pledged to that candidate. If you are like me, you may only know a few of them.  However, you may know someone pledged to a different candidate and know the person to be competent and good Republicans.  So, if their candidate gets any delegates you might prefer that it be the person you know going to the convention rather than someone you do not know.

Just because you can vote for 14 at-large delegates, keep in mind that does not mean you have to do so and if you vote for fewer candidates then the votes you do cast have more weight. If candidate X wins 2/3 of he vote then he gets all 14 delegates. The first 14 who got the most votes would become candidate X's delegates.  So, as a voter, if instead of voting for 14, you only vote for one, your vote is worth 14 times the weight of someone who cast 14 votes. By voting for fewer people your vote is less deluded.

When delegates get to the convention, what happens?  For the first two ballots, Tennessee delegates are required to vote for the candidate for whom they are pledged. So what could happen between first and second ballot?  Tennessee requires delegates to vote for the candidate to which they are pledged for the first two ballots, most states however require a delegate to only vote the way he is pledged for only the first ballot only. So, the roll call of the delegates could be different in other states and that could produce a different outcome.  So what happens if we still have not selected our nominee after the second ballot? Then, Tennessee delegates may vote however they want. What would probably happens is that if candidate Z is still in the running but he knows he cannot win, he would withdraw and throw his support behind candidate X or Y.  Those delegates pledged to candidate Z are not required to vote for the candidate that Z endorses however, but most probably would do so.  There are even other things that could happen that could make it more murky but the above is the essentials of how delegates are selected and how they exercise their vote.

If a candidate does not win on the first ballot and certainly if he does not win on the second ballot, then that is where the deal making happens in the proverbial "smoke filled rooms," however  these days the rooms are not really "smoke filled."  If a candidate does not win on the first ballot then that is what is called a "brokered convention."  Such has not happened in a long time but it is a real possibility this year. Deals may be made and votes cast based on the selection of the Vice Presidential nominee or pledges of future support or helping pay off campaign debt of a candidate or appointing of ambassadorships or pledging to support certain policy positions or any number of other considerations.

Democracy can be a messy thing.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

State Legislative update: Tuitiion Stability Act, Automated Cars, Repealing the Hall Income Tax ...

Below are excerpts from the newsletters of several local legislators reporting on the status of noteworthy legislation making its way though the legislature. The highlighting is mine. 

Senate Education Committee approves Tennessee Tuition Stability Act 
The Senate Education Committee, approved major legislation this week to control the exponential growth in tuition at Tennessee’s state colleges and universities.  Tuition Stability Act limits tuition growth to increases in the consumer price index (CPI) and locks-in The Tennessee tuition for entering freshmen for four years. Despite being increased three times by the General Assembly since its enactment, Tennessee’s HOPE scholarship now covers only 50 percent of tuition and fees at most four-year universities in the state, except UT Knoxville where it covers only 32 percent. Over the past 20 years, in-state tuition and required fees have increased 456 percent at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville from $2,236 in 1996 to $12,436 in 2016. Under Senate Bill 2306, the Tennessee Board of Regents or the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees would be prohibited from increasing in-state undergraduate tuition or fees at a four-year institution above the increase in the CPI without a vote of the full board. If a proposed increase is less than the most recent annual percentage change in the CPI plus two percent, it would require a supermajority of the board voting in favor. An increase greater than two percent of CPI would require a unanimous vote. The bill aims to incentivize students through the tuition freeze program to finish college in a four-year time period. At the same time, it incentivizes higher education to become as efficient as possible.

Senate Transportation Committee hears testimony from Audi regarding new automated vehicles
Members of the Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony this week from Brad Stertz, Director of Audi’s Government Affairs, regarding the company’s efforts to put automated cars on the road.   As the technology for autonomous vehicles continues to develop, states have found it may be necessary for state and municipal governments to address the potential impacts of these vehicles on the road.  Three bills have been filed on the subject in the Tennessee General Assembly this year.

Audi also offered automated rides to legislators, allowing them to experience this new technology in a freeway setting.  Stertz told members of the committee that it is important Audi work with the state legislatures across the country to develop a consistent regulatory framework for automated vehicles.

Automated vehicles are those in which at least some aspects of a safety-critical control function (e.g., steering, throttle, or braking) occur without direct driver input. Complete automation, where one can drive from his or her home to the office while reading a book in the backseat is about 20 years away, Stertz said, but right now the Audi Q7 has semi-autonomous driving.  This is where one can take his or her hands off the wheel for a few seconds at a time.  In a few years, according to Mr. Stertz, they are coming out with a system that will allow driving hands-free up to 35 miles per hour in highway traffic jam conditions.

The car has 24 sensors connected to a central computer which uses redundant systems for increased safety. Mr. Stertz said, “The main element of automated driving is safety.  Ninety to 93 percent of accidents according to the federal government have some element of human error.”

The director assured that turning the automated feature off is not that much more difficult than turning off today’s cruise control, “We think that, ultimately at the time being, it is really the human driver who is in charge,” he said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, sixteen states introduced legislation related to autonomous vehicles in 2015, up from 12 states in 2014, nine states and D.C. in 2013, and six states in 2012.
Repealing the Hall Tax
Legislation advanced through the Senate Finance Committee this week that would begin the process of repealing the Hall Income Tax in Tennessee. The Hall Income Tax levies six percent on earnings from stocks and bonds, with 3/8 of the revenue going to cities and counties. Since enactment of the tax in 1929, the use of investment savings has grown as a primary source of retirement income. Senate Bill 47 makes a single cut of one percent to the state’s portion of the Hall Income Tax when a two-year average of three percent growth occurs. When the last cut of the state portion reaches .75 percent, the legislation provides that a phase out of the local portion would begin unless communities decide in a referendum to continue collecting the local portion of the tax. In other news on the Hall Tax, it was announced that the Revenue Subcommittee will consider several more bills on this subject next week.

Preventing Local Governments from Prohibiting Employers from asking Applicants About their Criminal Record
Legislation was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week that prevents a local government from imposing a requirement on private companies regarding what an employer cannot ask an applicant for employment. The bill comes amid a movement to prohibit employers from doing business with local governments if they ask if an applicant for employment has a criminal record. Senate Bill 2103 says that local governments shall not prohibit a private employer from requesting any type of information during the hiring process as a condition of procuring a contract with the governmental entity or doing business within their jurisdiction. It does not prevent the local government from prohibiting the question for purposes of their own employment practices.

The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act
The “Cancer Treatment Fairness Act” was discussed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week. Traditional treatments, usually given through an IV or injection, are covered under a patient’s medical benefits resulting in a small co-pay or no cost at all. Oral treatments are usually part of the health plan’s pharmacy benefit and can result in higher out-of-pocket costs for patients. Senate Bill 2091 directs health plans that currently cover cancer treatments to apply the same patient cost-sharing for therapies taken by mouth as those that are administered by IV or injection. Action on the bill was deferred for two weeks.

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Re-elect George Rooker as Nashville property assessor

Since I will be voting in the Republican primary, I will not be able to vote to reelect George Rooker for Assessor of Property, but if I were voting in the Democrat primary, I would be voting for George Rooker. Below is a link to a Tennessean editorial endorsing Mr. Rooker and some excerpts from that editorial. If you are voting in the Democrat primary I encourage you to support Mr. Rooker.

..The most significant race on the ballot, as it concerns local residents’ quality of life and personal finances, will be that of Nashville-Davidson County property assessor. ...the assessor’s office will manage next year’s quadrennial mass reappraisal of properties in Nashville, which will determine the county tax rate and could have the effect of considerably increasing many property owners’ tax bills. ....Rooker, who is in his second four-year term in office, has worked in the property assessor’s office for more than 30 years, ...has worked to increase the number of top-certified appraisers in his award-winning office from 11 to 40 and improved the office’s professionalism, diversity and customer service. ....the assessor’s race will be tied to the politics of affordable housing, but the job is not a political one. It is about delivering a fair assessment. ...the reappraisal process is a complex one that will require in-house expertise to conduct it effectively and manage the thousands of appeals that will likely come as a result of people contesting the market assessment. (link)
For the reasons explained in the Tennessean article excerpted below, Ms Willhoit actually has a good shot at defeating the much more qualified George Rooker.
Wilhoite’s chances to win would likely benefit from a high turnout in Nashville’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, where her name recognition is strongest. She could also get a boost if some conservative voters who back Rooker decide to vote in the Republican primary because of its more competitive presidential race in Tennessee. (link)
To view the Tennessean interview with the two candidates follow these links: George Rooker, Vivian Wilhoite

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is one of only three GOP senators who voted against the ban on taxes on the Internet

 (CNN)The Senate voted Thursday to bar permanently state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet, something Congress has prevented repeatedly before but only on a temporary basis....Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is one of three GOP senators who voted against the bill.(link)

My Comment: For more on this and why an internet tax ban is appropriate, follow this link. I am very disappointing in Alexander and hope he does not seek reelection. If Lamar does run and a sensible, viable Republican runs against him, for the first time ever, I will have to support Lamar's opponent. I am no longer an Alexander loyalist.

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Congratulations Tommy Vallejos

Tommy Vallejos
Nashville, Tennessee, Press Release - Today, the Tennessee House honored Clarksville, TN County Commissioner Tommy Vallejos, a gang-member turned U.S. Army Gulf War Veteran and now Pastor, for his contributions to the local community, including his leadership as the Chairman of Latinos for Tennessee, a local non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting faith, family, freedom and fiscal responsibility to the Latino community in Tennessee.

The House Joint resolution was approved unanimously and sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada (R-Nashville), Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Nashville) and Rep. Bryan Terry (R-Nashville).

Upon news of County Commissioner Tommy Vallejos' recognition in the Tennessee House of Representatives, Raul Lopez, Executive Director of Latinos for Tennessee issued the following statement:

"Tommy's recognition by the Tennessee House was years in the making. His selfless devotion to the principles that have made this country strong is an example to us all. Tommy's story is also one of second chances. After living a life of crime in his native New Mexico, Tommy went on to serve our country honorably, risking his life to protect our liberties." Lopez went on to add: "Today, Latinos for Tennessee is blessed to call him a fellow board member and fortunate to have him join our group in taking the message of freedom to the growing Latino population in Tennessee."

In part, the resolution reads:

WHEREAS, honoring his commitment to stopping gang violence, Mr. Vallejos travels around the country teaching gang awareness classes to schools, communities, and churches; he also counsels and mentors former gang members to help them become productive members of society. He preaches the Gospel to prison inmates, providing hope and restoration where there is little.
The complete text of the resolution can be found here:

For more information about Latinos for Tennessee, please visit our site:

My Comment: Congratulations Mr. Tommy Vallejos. I am pleased that no Democrats objected to this resolution and tried to kill it. They could not have killed it, since there are so few Democrats in the State legislature they can caucus in a VW van and they can't stop anything, but they could have kept it from passing unanimously. Democrats could have objected because while Latinos for Tennessee is non-partisan, they are aligned with Republican values of limited government, free enterprise, pro-life, educational reform, and respect for faith and family values. Democrats would have had as much cause to oppose honoring Tommy Vallejos as Republicans did to oppose Renato Soto. Did Democrats show more class? (For more see this link.)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

02/06/16 Mayor Barry Youth Violence Summit

No speaker participating in this summit explicitly identifies the youth violence problem as a Black problem, but the youth panel is all Black young people and Howard Gentry calls attention to the lyrics of rap music and how it encourages violence.  Listening to the members of the youth panel is insightful in understanding how they justify or explain youth violence.

After meeting in small group break-out sessions, the participants come back with their evaluation of the problem and suggestions.  The suggestions are for more recreational opportunities, more ways to get money or earn money, mental health care and health care, more job opportunities for youth and their parents, more involvement by young people in development of programs to serve young people, and a greater effort to connect young people to available services.

I hope these youth summits produce some good results, but I think a good starting point would be a recognition that the Black community is dysfunctional and that the youth violence problem is primarily a Black problem and that the welfare state has created a culture that destroyed the Black family and created an environment of hopelessness and dependency on government. I believe that the product of youth violence is a function of out-of-wedlock births and welfare dependency more than any other cause. Of course, changing course would require a change in national policy and a recognition that single parenthood is a cause of the problem.  Even if there was a recognition of the problem it would take a decade to see changes and as a community we need to take actions that can have some immediate impacts. 

Sometimes, I think we as a community make the problem worse when we create a victim mentality among Black citizens.  When we imply that the reason more Black students get in-school suspension is because of discrimination rather than acknowledge that Black children engage in activity to deserve in school suspension at a higher rate, we create people who walk around with a chip on their shoulder and feel like victims.  When we lament the high unemployment rate among Blacks without acknowledging the lack of skills among many Blacks that make them unemployable, we are not doing them a favor. A good place to start in dealing with the youth violence problem or other Black problems would be by telling the truth. Telling the truth will not get anyone any votes however.

Here is an excerpt from a Tennessean article that describes the youth violence problem in Nashville:

Of the 75 criminal homicides last year, 20 of the victims were teenagers or younger — the highest number of youth deaths to hit Nashville in the past decade. Three of them were infants who died as the result of abuse.
Of the slain teens, 15 were male. All but four were African-American. The youngest was a 14-year-old girl.
I hope community leaders, especially Black middle class people, Black businessmen, and Black clergy will take part in these summits and engage in trying to reduce youth violence. We know that charter schools have produced whole classes of students where the teen girls do not become pregnant and the boys do not go to reform school. We should try to determine why that is the case and see what lessons can be learned from the charter school experiences. Maybe if young fatherless Black men had strong mentors, they would be less likely to become killers. I hope something good can come out of these summits and the attention being giving to the problem of youth violence.

Below is an announcement of the upcoming third summit to occur in the Antioch community.  Follow the link to RSVP.
2/20/2016 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM 
Youth Violence Summit - Reclaiming Young Adults
Details: Community leaders and experts will gather to identify barriers that may be limiting the success of youth ages 19 to 25 who have either experienced violence or are ex-offenders attempting to start a new path in life. Experts will include law enforcement, mentors, educators at the high school and post-secondary level, career development agencies, parents and individuals in this age range who can discuss the challenges they face.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Republicans pick Jesse Neil for election commission spot

Republicans pick Jesse Neil for election commission spot
The Tennessean,- .... Neil, vice president and associate general counsel at Franklin-based Community Health Systems Professional Services, was nominated for the appointment in a letter sent Tuesday to the state election commission by Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell; District 20 state Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville; and District 18 state Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin.

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Monday, February 08, 2016

You can only vote in the primary of one party.

Early voting will start this Wednesday here in Nashville.  There will be both the Republican and Democrat Presidential preference primaries and the County Democrat Primary. Tennessee does not have Party registration, so if you have never voted in a party primary before, you can choose which primary you want to vote in when you go to the polls.  If you have voted in primary elections before but in the last primary election you voted in the Democrat primary, nothing stops you from voting in the Republican primary this election. 

I keep hoping the Republican Party will run candidates for courthouse offices and in the last few elections there have been some candidates run for offices such as Judge, Juvenile Court Clerk, and County Court Clerk, but this year no Republicans are seeking any of the County elected positions. That is a shame.  To build the Party we need to field candidates. In the past, some of the races for judge were fairly close but generally Republicans have not fared well in seeking courthouse offices and the elections have not been very close. We had some very good candidates run for the various judgeships, but in all honesty, some of our candidates for some of the other offices have been token candidates and their credentials were no match for the incumbent Democrats. Even when Republicans have the more qualified candidate, it is still very difficult to defeat the entrenched courthouse crowd machine that has developed over decades.

George Rooker, the current Assessor of Property, is being challenged in the upcoming Democrat primary by Vivian Wilhoite for the position of the Democrat Party's nominee for Assessor of Property. Rooker has been an able administrator of the Assessors office and has been recognized for doing an outstanding job. He has earned the IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) Distinguished Assessment Jurisdiction Award, the highest honor bestowed on any assessment jurisdiction in the nation.  He has also received various other awards of distinction. Since he has been the Assessor of Property, he has greatly increased the professionalism of the staff, having increased the number of certified property appraisers from 11 to 40.  His challenger has no credential in the field of appraisal and not much else to recommend her. Since there is not going to be a Republican on the ballot seeking that office, whoever wins the Democrat primary election in March has, in effect, won election to that office.

I would like to vote for George Rooker for Appraiser of Property, but I can't because I will be voting in the Republican Primary for my preferred choice for the Republican nominee for President.   If one wants to vote in the Republican Presidential primary, one may not also vote in the Democrat County primary.  You can only vote in the primary of one party. When it comes to the County offices, I hope my Democrat friends vote for George Rooker. 

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Senate fails to adopt Renata Soto resolution

Senate fails to adopt Renata Soto resolution

Here is a link to my recent commentary on the topic: Congratulations Renato Soto.

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Why the 20-Year Mortgage Is the Answer to Housing Finance Mess

By Edward J. Pinto, February 5, 2016, - A recent Associated Press poll found more than six in 10 respondents expressed only slight confidence — or none at all — in the ability of the federal government to make progress on important issues facing the country.

The public's skepticism is well founded, especially when it comes to federal housing policy. Notwithstanding an alphabet soup of government agencies and federally backed companies — Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac, Federal Housing Finance Agency, etc. — and trillions spent on government-mandated "affordable housing" initiatives, our homeownership rate today is no higher than it was in the mid-1960s. What is best described as a nationalized housing finance system has failed to achieve its two primary goals: broadening homeownership and achieving wealth accumulation for low- and middle-income homeowners.
The U.S. homeownership rate as of the fourth quarter of 2015 is 63.8%, the same as in the fourth quarter of 1966, and only marginally higher than the rate in 1956. More troubling, our housing policy has been unsuccessful at building wealth — the antidote to poverty. Between 1989 and 2013, median total accumulated wealth for households in the 40th to 60th percentiles has decreased from $76,100to $61,800, while median wealth for households in the 20th to 40th percentile has decreased by more than 50%, from $44,800 to $21,500. It was precisely these groups that were targeted to be helped by affordable housing policies.

For the last 60 years, U.S. housing policy has relied on looser and looser mortgage lending standards to promote broader homeownership and accomplish wealth accumulation, particularly for low- and middle-income households. Leverage first took the form of low down payments combined with the slowly amortizing 30-year term mortgage, which resulted in rapidly accelerating defaults, foreclosures and blighted neighborhoods. Since 1972, homeowners have suffered between 11 million and 12 million foreclosures. During the 1990s and early 2000s, new forms of leverage were combined with declining interest rates. With demand increasing faster than supply, the result was a price boom that made homes less, not more affordable, necessitating even more liberal credit terms. We are all familiar with the outcome—a massive housing bust and the Great Recession.
Today, in the shadow of Fannie and Freddie's continued existence, taxpayers are again driving home prices up much faster than incomes — particularly at the lower end of home prices. U.S. housing policy has become self-justifying and self-perpetuating — loved by the National Association of Realtors, many housing advocacy groups, and the government-sponsored enterprises, but dangerous to the very homebuyers it is supposed to help.

To help achieve sustainable, wealth-building homeownership opportunities for low- and middle-income Americans, our current government-backed command and control system should be replaced with market-driven antidotes. For most low- and middle-income families, the recipe for wealth-building over a lifetime contains three ingredients: buy a home with a mortgage that amortizes rapidly, thereby reliably building wealth; participate in a defined contribution retirement plan ideally with an employer match; and invest in your children's college education.

Here are three steps to make the first goal — quickly amortizing mortgages — more of a reality:
First, housing finance needs to be refocused on the twin goals of sustainable lending and wealth-building. Well-designed, shorter term loans offer a much safer and secure path to homeownership and financial security than the slowly amortizing 30-year mortgage. Combining a low- or no-down-payment loan with the faster amortization of a 15- or 20-year term provides nearly as much buying power as a 30-year FHA loan. A bank in Maine offers a 20-year term, wealth-building loan that has 97% of the purchasing power of an FHA-insured loan. By age 50 to 55, when the 30-year-term loan leaves most homeowners saddled with another decade or more of mortgage payments, the cash flow freed up from a paid-off shorter-term loan is available to fund a child's post-secondary-education needs and later turbocharge one's own retirement.

Second, low-income, first-time homebuyers should have the option to forgo the mortgage interest deduction and instead receive a one-time refundable tax credit that can be used to buy down the loan's interest rate. Borrowers who participate in a defined contribution retirement plan might receive a larger tax credit, enabling them to lower their rate even more.

The one-time tax credit would support wealth-building by being available only for loans with an Reductions in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget and other budgeted amounts supporting "affordable housing" should also be used to fund LIFT Home. Better to provide the dollars directly to prospective homeowners, than to be siphoned off to bureaucracies and advocacy groups.
initial term of 20 years or less. To avoid pyramiding subsides and reduce taxpayer exposure, only loans not guaranteed by the federal government would be eligible. This would provide a big start to weaning the housing market off of government guarantees. With the Low-income First Time Homebuyer — or LIFT Home — tax credit in place, the Fannie and Freddie affordable housing mandates could be eliminated, ending the race to the bottom among government guarantee agencies.

Third, the home mortgage interest deduction should be restructured to provide a broad, straight path to debt-free homeownership. Today's tax code promotes a lifetime of indebtedness by incenting homeowners to take out large loans for lengthy terms so as to "maximize the value" of the deduction. Current law should be changed to: limit the interest deduction for future home buyers to loans used to buy a home by excluding interest on second mortgages and cash-out refinancing; for future borrowers, cap the deduction at the amount payable on a loan with a 20-year amortization term; and provide a grandfather on the deduction cap for existing home loan borrowers with 30-year loans as long as their interest savings go toward shortening the loan's term.

A 21st-century market approach to wealth-building offers a safe and secure path to homeownership and financial security, something we haven't had for decades.

Edward J. Pinto is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and co-director of American Enterprise Institute's International Center on Housing Risk.

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