Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tres Wittum elected Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party

This is a text message and unofficial but comes from a trusted source:

Tres Wittum's eligibility to serve will likely be challenged.  If the state party rules he is ineligible to serve, then I would assume Melissa Smithson would become Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party.

 The Davidson County Republican Party Executive Committee (the party of old white men)

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The Davidson County Republican Party caucuses and convention goat rodeo

I don't guess I had ever heard the term "goat rodeo" before, but today at the Davidson County Republican Party caucuses and convention, while a lengthy floor debate was going on with lots of points of order being made, someone said to me, "This is a real 'goat rodeo."' "Goat rodeo" is a term meaning a chaotic, unmanageable situation. That about describes the DCRP convention today.

The caucuses and convention took place today at the Maxwell House Hotel.  In previous years the Party would have the caucuses on one Saturday and then the next Saturday, have the convention. This year, they had both on the same day. That, I think, was an improvement. Not many people want to give up two Saturdays in a row for the Party.

The caucuses are actually 35 separate meeting, one for each council district.  At the district caucus meetings any bonafied Republican may attend and elect delegates to the convention. There is almost always more slots available than people attending so almost always anyone who attends can be elected as a delegate.  I live n District 17 and we were authorized six delegates and there were only two people from District 17 who attended the caucus. All totaled there was only about 200 people who attended.

The caucuses convened at 9AM this morning and that went relatively smoothy. I assume most attendees had preregistered, so there were no long lines to check credentials.  The caucus meetings were over by about 10AM.  The convention did not convene until 12:30PM however so we had to kill two and half hours.  I went off my diet for the big breakfast buffet and had a most enjoyable breakfast with three other people who were attending. We had meaningful discussions of weighty political issues.

When the convention convened, that is when the goat rodeo started. First of all, outgoing Chair Bob Ries made a speech, which I thought was alright but he took some people by surprise as that was not listed on the agenda.  He laid out a list of proposed reforms for the Party and expressed his frustration with his tenure as chairman.

The next order of business was the calling of the roll to determine that a quorum existed to conduct business.  Thirty percent of the districts have to be present to have a quorum.  Always in the past, it was "districts" that had to be represented, but outgoing Chairman Bob Ries said it had to be precincts.  He quoted from the state party bylaws and insisted that we had to call the roll of precincts.  That would have taken a while and would have been chaotic. While there are 35 districts there is something like 168 or so precincts. I know in which district I live and where I vote, but not the precinct number.  I am sure most people who attended have their voter id card with them, but calling the roll of precincts would have taken time. After some back and forth, Bob Ries relented and districts rolls were called instead of precincts. I could not hear the discussion of those without a microphone so I don't know what facts were presented to resolve this issue but it was resolved and we moved on. I think calling the roll of precincts would have been fine, but one would think everyone would be on the same page, and this would not be a last minute surprise.

After the roll call, the next item was to elect a county Party chair. There were three candidates whose names were placed in nomination: Jim Garrett, Connie Hunter and Tres Wittum. There were short nominating and campaign speeches by the three candidates and then the real chaos started.

There was a floor challenge to the candidacy of Tres Wittum.  However, there was parliamentary maneuvering first as to how to make the challenge. Then, there was debate about how to deal with the challenge once the proper language was used to make the challenge.  The credentials committee met outside the big room, in the hall, to deliberate. It took a while.  The rules committee came back with a three-to-two vote for a ruling that said, his candidacy would be permitted but he did not meet the qualifications.  WHAT?  A lot of discussion ensued with points of order and raised voices.

There were conflicting information about why the committee ruled in this fashion and I am not convinced the committee ruled the right way.  There was a motion made to stay the election until a determination by the State Party could be made that the committee had made a proper ruling.  That motion was ruled out of order because, as it was explained, the State Party will rule the County Party acted improperly, if  the county did act improperly, but only on an appeal, after the fact.  The State Party will not rule prior to the County Party's action. Other motions and discussion occurred then the actions of the credentials committee was determined to be final and not subject to acceptance or rejection by the convention.

After that was settled then came the election of chairman. Jim Garrett got the most votes followed by Tres Wittum, but neither got a majority, so there had to be a run off election between these two candidates. While they were still counting ballots for the run off contest, I had to leave.  My wife is an invalid and I can not go anywhere without a sitter for her.  I had arranged through an agency to have a sitter until 2:30PM. I thought that would be plenty sufficient. It wasn't.  I still do not know who was elected to leadership positions in the Party. I will update when that information is known.

The Davidson County Republican Party does not run like a "fine-tuned machine."

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Is there voter fraud in our elections.

by Albert Tieche - Is there voter fraud in our elections? If you ask anyone who has been deeply involved in putting on elections, they will tell you there’s always a few ‘bad’ votes in any election.That’s why election officials prefer landslide elections because you know the will of the people was done in spite of any background level of bad votes.

However, a few bad votes are NOT what President Trump is talking about. Trump is talking about large numbers of fraudulent votes –enough to change the outcome of an election. Is that actually happening? The answer is “We don’t know”, because nobody wants to look. Democrat leadership keeps saying there is no evidence of voter fraud. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority leader says he doesn’t want to spend any federal dollars to look into possible voter fraud.

Here in Tennessee Republican state election officials have been reluctant to look into the possibility of non-citizens being registered to vote. But refusing to look makes people more suspicious. This idea that the public can be assured that all is well even though no investigations have been done is ridiculous, but that is what we have been told for quite a while. There are a lot of different loopholes in the system where fraud can occur and little holes can sink big ships.

There is certainly a known history of voter fraud in Tennessee. Much of it is from the era when Tennessee was a one-party state and Democrat factions fought against each other at the county level. The Democrat leaders at the state level turned a blind eye to it, back then, viewing it as a family squabble. The book “Secrets of the Hopewell Box” by James D. Squires tells the story of under-the-table voter fraud that used to take place in Davidson County in the 1950s. The movie “The Battle of Athens” tells the true story of overtly corrupt county politicians in McMinn county in 1946, who were rigging elections. In the pivotal scene from that movie, (it’s on YouTube) the sheriff brazenly steals the ballot boxes on election day and lock themselves in the jailhouse to “count the ballots”. Armed WWII vets who have had enough corruption besiege the local jail. A serious exchange of gun fire occurs. The corrupt politicians surrender the ballot boxes only after the vets blow open the heavy, locked, jail house door with dynamite. The vets were never prosecuted because the fraud was so obvious.

I have personally heard stories about corrupt local political operatives, some of whom are still alive, who allegedly stole local elections as recently as the 1980s, and were never prosecuted. So, there is a history of voter fraud in Tennessee. The question remains, is there a significant level of voter fraud occurring today in the US? Again, the answer is “We don’t know and no one wants to look.”

In the last 5 years, Republican state legislatures in the US have been pushing for and passing Photo ID which is a reasonable measure to prevent people from voting under a false identity. Democrats have opposed that and labeled it as “racist” and “voter suppression” to justify their opposition. That does not comport with logic. A photo ID is required in almost all instances when we interface with a government agency or a business that is regulated by a government agency like banking or airline travel. No one ever labels those photo ID requirements as “racist” or “banking suppression.”

According to an August 2016 Gallup poll, 95% of Republicans support photo ID, and 63% of Democrats do, too. That is about 80% of the population. When Democrat politicians oppose Photo ID in spite of overwhelming public support,it makes Republicans wonder if the Democrat politicians know that there is fraud going on in their favor. Again, we don’t know the truth. And nobody has really looked.

State Election Laws and Federal Election Laws
Each state has its own set of election laws and they vary. Some leave more loopholes for fraud than others. The federal government has passed several laws since 1993 regarding voting, but the federal government has not forced states to close opportunities for fraud. The federal government gets very involved in bringing lawsuits when states themselves try to close opportunities for fraud with state legislation such as Photo ID. That creates a situation where people perceive the federal government to be going against the will of 80% of the population. It angers conservatives and makes them suspicious of the federal government’s motives.

The loopholes in the various state laws and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 can be divided into two basic categories:
1.       Fraudulent Registration
2.       Fraudulent Voting

Fraudulent Registration
The NVRA of 1993 (Motor Voter) got its name because it required state driver’s license agencies in 44 states to become voter registration offices. (Six states were exempt because they had no registration requirements or they allowed people to register and vote on the same day. More on that later.) NVRA mandates that any one getting or renewing a driver’s license must be provided an opportunity to register to vote.  Motor Voter was supposed to increase voter participation. The politicians believed low participation occurred because it was too difficult for people to go to the local election office and register to vote. In this writer’s opinion, there were two factors involved that many politicians chose to ignore. First, the politicians of both parties, nationwide, are usually so careful and boring that they cannot inspire large turnouts. Second, any person who was motivated to take part in the process in 1993 did not find it difficult to register and vote.

American self-governance is built on the basis of an informed and involved electorate. In our age, there are plenty of people who have no desire to be informed or involved in the process for a variety of reasons.  That is a choice people are free to make. But the politicians wanted to boost turnout, so Motor Voter was born. It resulted in an influx of new registrations from government offices other than the county election offices. But there was an increase in poorly completed applications, applications from those already registered, and ineligible voters attempting to register. The voter rolls got bigger and had more inaccuracies.

Motor Voter also requires every state office that provides public assistance (welfare) of any kind to become a voter registration office and to register welfare recipients to vote, as well as update their registration any time they move. From the Department of Justice website regarding NVRA 1993, here is a description of the agencies, that became voter registration offices -
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food-Stamp Program), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (formerly the Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC program), the Medicaid program, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This also includes state public assistance programs.
Fraudulent Registration - Are Non-Citizens Registered to Vote in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, neither the state employees working at the driver’s license offices nor the government employees working at the welfare offices were trained in election law or voter registration procedures. They are trained to ask the person they are assisting if they want to register to vote. If they say ‘yes’ they hand the person a form. The people are told to fill out the form and told to check a box to confirm that they are US Citizens. No proof of citizenship is required. Just their word. In the election business, this is known as “self-attestation”. That means we trust that people are being truthful and we do not verify.  (Try that next time you get “carded” for a beer.) If the people have actual questions, about the voter registration form, they are told to “contact their local election office”. The NVRA contains no provisions requiring proof of citizenship. None. That job is left up to the states but as you will read, not much is being done.

You cannot really fault the people working at the driver’s license or welfare offices. They did not hire on to be election officials. But, to comply with the law, they do make sure everyone gets an application to register to vote, because they know they can run afoul of federal law (NVRA) if they fail to provide one. So, that is what they do, to citizen and non-citizen alike. Steve Abernathy, who at the time was a Davidson County Election Commissioner with extensive election experience, spent 4 hours observing the process at a drivers’ license office in 2012. He noted that US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) were both offered the opportunity to register to vote even though LPRs are not citizens. The staff did not advise the LPRs that it is a felony for non-citizens to register to vote. Do a lot of non-citizens actually register? We’re not sure.

You may be thinking, “But wait. In Tennessee, you have to put down a social security number on the registration, right? If those SS numbers are fraudulent, the registration gets kicked out, right?” Not necessarily. In Davidson County, if the SS number on a new application to vote is a duplicate of an SS number of a voter that is already on the roll, the system flags the new registration as a duplicate and does not accept the registration. That process is repeated across county lines when all registrations are uploaded to the state. This is a good thing but, neither the counties nor the state of Tennessee checks the SS numbers against the Social Security Administration’s data base to see if the numbers are indeed valid numbers issued by the SS Administration and that the names on both the SS Administration rolls and the voter rolls match. That could and should be done and it would greatly reduce the opportunities for fraudulent registrations.  But that loophole is still open in Tennessee and elsewhere.

Fraudulent Registration - Multi-State Cooperatives and SS Number Verifications
The Interstate Crosscheck Program (ICP) and the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) are voluntary cooperatives that state election officials, usually the Secretary of State or a designee, can join. The member states crosscheck their voter lists annually to prevent duplicate registrations and double votes. ICP has 30 member states and ERIC has 21 plus Washington DC. Tennessee participates in the ICP.  A total of 11 states belong to both organizations, but 14 states belong to neither organization. Crosschecking is a good idea but it is a fragmented situation at present. It is not clear why there are two separate voluntary groups performing very similar functions. Some states require legislation before they can join. The only way to get a thorough check is for all 50 states to crosscheck each other annually.  That is not happening so the loophole for double registration and double voting is still open.

There is a system called E-Verify that employers use to check the validity of SS numbers to make sure they are not employing illegal aliens. There is a similar system called Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) that verifies eligibility for welfare benefits for non-citizens. Some citizen groups are now advocating to extend the practice of verifying an individual’s citizenship status to voter registration rolls. That makes sense. However, 43 of the 50 states do not require a full SS number when registering to vote. That means going to SS number verification nationwide would require all the voters in those 43 states to submit their SS number to their county or state election officials. That would be a difficult but not impossible task. Looking at the history, it is possible that the DoJ and the federal judiciary would strike down such an attempt to verify citizenship for voting by using SS numbers. The DoJ and the judiciary do have a history of stopping state’s attempts to prevent voter fraud.
Fraudulent Registration - Local and State Checks for Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls in Tennessee
In 2012 and 2013, Commissioner Abernathy, with the support of his fellow Republican Commissioners attempted to determine how many non-citizens were registered to vote in Davidson County. Residents were expressing concerns about the possibility of non-citizens being registered to vote. In addition to concerns about the existing loopholes in the registration process, many were pointing to the period between 2001 and 2003 as another reason for concern: Tennessee had dropped the requirement for a person to supply a Social Security number to acquire a driver’s license in 2001.

Dropping that requirement led to a surge of non-citizens acquiring a Tennessee driver’s license because a valid driver’s license serves as an acceptable ID for so many things in life. The practice of issuing full-fledged driver’s licenses to non-citizens was stopped in 2003. But for 2 years, between 2001 and 2003, Tennessee driver’s license offices made no distinction between citizens and non-citizens when issuing driver’s licenses. Motor Voter was already the law so the state employees at the driver’s license offices were required to offer voter registration applications to all who registered. It seems reasonable to conclude that during that time period the potential for non-citizens to register to vote was high.

The Partnership for a New American Economy estimated that 45,750 non-citizens were living in Davidson County between 2010 and 2012. That population number, combined with the two years of full driver’s licenses being issued to non-citizens, and the fact that SS numbers on voter registrations are not verified with the Social Security Administration, suggested that it would be prudent to check the voter rolls for non-citizens. Tennessee law makers actually passed a law, TCA 2-2-141, requiring that the voter rolls be checked for non-citizens after Jan. 1 of 2012.

Abernathy tried to get the Tennessee Department of Safety to provide a list of Davidson County residents who had acquired the “Certificate for Driving”. That is what non-citizens in Tennessee now get when they pass the driving test. That list could then be compared against the Davidson County Voter database to see if there were matches. It was going to be a test only, with no purges resulting from the search. (Purging voters from the roll requires a specific process.)  The Republican election officials at the state level opposed Abernathy’s test and the Tennessee Department of Safety refused to supply the list.

On Jan 1 of 2012, TCA 2-2-141 went into effect. It required the State Coordinator of Elections to perform a statewide comparison similar to the one Commissioner Abernathy had been attempting at the county level. The new law set no timetable for this action to occur nor did it specify how to do the comparison. Many people involved in elections thought the comparison should be done before the 2012 election. It was not. When the comparison finally was done, after the 2012 election, the State Election Coordinator announced that Davidson County had 14 non-citizens registered. The Coordinator did not explain how the comparison was done. The state elections officials’ opposition to Abernathy’s effort caused some to wonder just how rigorous the statewide comparison was or was not.  And because the law did not specify that the comparison would be repeated, it is not clear whether it has or will be repeated.

In one Q & A at a meeting of county election officials, the State Election Coordinator was asked about the comparison he was required to run but had not yet done. He advised those gathered that Tennessee officials were concerned that if the Tennessee comparison produced false positives, the national media would attack the Tennessee state officials who made the comparison, like they had done to Florida officials when Florida generated false positives doing a similar comparison. That expressed fear seemed to indicate that the desire to avoid false positives was strong, and that could lead to a less than rigorous search for non-citizens on the voter rolls.

It is important to remember that the Republican state election officials in Tennessee had just successfully implemented Photo ID. Nationally, there were attempts to strike down Photo ID in other states. Tennessee’s success had the Democrats in the state determined to find an aggrieved party to be a plaintiff in a suit to overturn Tennessee’s Photo ID law. After several attempts, the Democrats were unable to find anyone who had been harmed by the law, so Tennessee’s law withstood the challenges.  We now know that the Obama Administration had moved beyond biased or politicized and into the realm of “weaponized” against conservatives. The IRS in particular was harassing legitimate conservative groups including True the Vote, a group that was starting to point out that the national voting system had loopholes that could allow fraudulent registrations and fraudulent voting.

Had Tennessee made an attempted to identify and purge non-citizens from their voter rolls, the Obama DoJ may well have brought suit against Tennessee with all the attendant media coverage and the typical labeling of the Republican officials as “racists” and “xenophobes”. And the gubernatorial aspirations of more than one Republican could have been seriously damaged. That may have been more risk than they cared to tolerate. So, we still do not know if the Tennessee comparison was rigorous or not.

Fraudulent Voting
One of the problems this writer experienced firsthand as an Administrator of Elections, was that the District Attorney had very little interest in prosecuting voter fraud when it occurred. Between 2008 and 2013 the Davidson County Election Commission (Nashville) took approximately 60 cases of voter fraud to the DA’s office. The DA prosecuted 5 cases. Understand that the documentation of fraud has to be solid before the Election Commission will even take a case to the DA. Of those cases that were prosecuted, the punishment was typically minimal. One unprosecuted case was started by a very attentive Officer of Elections who is one of the best and most conscientious Officers in the county. He spent his own time to acquire documentation showing that a voter had knowingly committed voter fraud in that Officer’s polling place. The election commission took that documentation to the DA’s office, but they declined to prosecute. That was demoralizing to the dedicated Officer and others who knew about the case.

In a meeting with the DA where the Commission Chairman and I were encouraging him to prosecute voter fraud cases, he told us that he thought it was too difficult for people to register and vote.  I was surprised that a DA had accepted claims that are provably false. It has never been easier to register and vote than it is now. Voters can register by mail, they can register at the driver’s license office or any office that provides public assistance (welfare). Tennessee counties hold voter registration drives annually inside the High Schools for seniors who are 18 or will be 18 when the next election arrives. Registration applications can be printed from the internet and voter registration applications in large quantities are available for anyone who wants to go out and register people.

When a state or federal election arrives, Davidson County has approximately 14 days of early voting at 12 locations throughout the county that are open all day, 6 days a week. During Early Voting, any voter who is registered in Davidson county can walk in and vote at any of the 12 he chooses. On election day, voters who chose not to vote during the two weeks of early voting must vote in their assigned polling place. There are 170 polling places for election day voting in the county. That means your precinct is not far from your residence. Voting has never been easier. But people pushing a partisan agenda or seeking to raise money for political purposes have said on TV and in the newspapers, that it is too hard to register and vote. The media never fact-checks the claim, so a lot of people believe it in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary.

Fraudulent Voting - ID Requirements for Voting Vary by State
According to the Ballotpedia website, as of 2016, only 7 states had strict Photo ID laws. As mentioned previously, that is a common-sense step that 80% of people support.  Another 15 states require a non-photo ID of some kind. I know from years of experience running polling places in Tennessee that even before Photo ID was adopted, well over 90% of the voters were already presenting their driver’s license as their ID. That means 90+% were already showing Photo ID before the law required it. People are used to showing the driver’s license as their ID, so a non-photo ID requirement will usually result in a photo ID being shown anyway. However, 19 states require no ID at all when voting, unless it is your first time and you registered by mail. Not requiring any ID at all when voting is a clearly an opportunity for fraudulent voting. Here is the list of states that do not require any ID when voting and their electoral votes:
  • California 55
  • Illinois 20
  • Iowa 6
  •  Maine 4
  • Maryland 10
  • Massachusetts 11
  • Minnesota 10
  • Nebraska 5
  •  New Jersey 14
  •  New Mexico 5
  • New York 29
  • North Carolina 15 (ID Law struck down)
  • North Dakota3 (ID Law struck down)
  • Oregon 7 (votes by mail)
  • Pennsylvania 20
  • Washington 12
  • Vermont 3
  • West Virginia 5
  • Wyoming 3
Note that 4 of the top 6 states in electoral votes, California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, are on that list. All of the states on “No ID Required” list combined comprise 237 electoral votes which is 87% of the 270 required to win the presidency. That many states with that many electoral votes that require no ID to vote may be what got Trump’s attention. Again, that is a large loophole that is wide open for fraud.

Another opportunity for fraudulent voting is absentee ballots. It is very difficult to know if the voter or someone else actually filled out the ballot which is then mailed in. J. Christian Adams, a former US DoJ lawyer in the Civil Rights Division, authored a book entitled “Injustice” and in it he explains how the US DoJ, during the Obama administration, refused to hold accountable those committing absentee voter fraud in Mississippi.

Registering and Voting on the Same Day
“Same day registration” means any individual can show up on election day and if they can present evidence that they are a resident, they can register and then vote. Most states require people to register well in advance of the next election. That allows some time to process the application. In Same Day Registration states, after that person casts a vote on election day, even if their registration is later deemed improper and is purged, that vote has already been cast. It is anonymous and cannot be removed from the results. The following 14 states allow people to register and vote on the same day at the voting location according to Ballotpedia:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  •  District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio 
  •  Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

California, Ohio and Vermont have passed laws allowing Same Day Registration but did not implement it before November 2016. Same Day Registration facilitates the participation of people who were not engaged with the election process at the local, state of federal level prior the day they first presented at a polling place to vote. This allows for more people to participate. However, the framers believed that an educated and informed electorate was required for self-government, and that does not typically describe a same day registrant. But, those who believe that higher turnout should take precedent over informed voters support same day registration and are willing to leave that loophole in place.

If same day registration requirements included full SS numbers and technology allowed immediate verification of 1) Citizenship with the SS Administration, 2) Residency at the address given, and, 3) Verification that the voter was not registered in any other state, then same day registration would not present the opportunity for fraud that it now does without such verifications. But the loophole remains in place.

There are plenty of loopholes for voter fraud nationwide. And little holes sink big ships. Have large numbers of people used the loopholes to fraudulently register or fraudulently vote? We don’t know. We do know there are groups actively pushing to allow non-citizens to vote in US elections. There are entire city administrations that publicly refuse to follow federal laws on immigration. Has that refusal to follow the law extended in to the election process? The federal government has refused to enforce its own immigration laws and blocked border states’ attempts to enforce federal immigration laws. The IRS harassed conservative citizens’ groups during the Obama Administration,including those pushing for closing loopholes in the voting system, and none of the responsible people were fired. Against this backdrop, it is absolutely reasonable for concerned citizens to wonder if our registration and voting procedures have been compromised.

There may be large scale voter fraud. Some knowledgeable people believe that, including the President of the US. On the other hand, there may be nothing more than the typical “background noise”of a few bad votes here and there as others believe. But to insist there is “no problem” while refusing to even look, defies common sense. And no one at the national level has had the courage to even talk about it, until now.

Albert Tieche is a former Administrator of Elections for Davidson County, Tennessee. He began serving as an Officer of Elections in 2002. From 2003 to 2008 he designed and delivered the required training on election law and procedures to election-day poll officials. He served as Administrator from 2011 to 2013. Steve Abernathy, former Davidson County Election Commissioner, assisted with the article.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Candidates for Davidson County GOP positions.

On Saturday February 18th Davidson County Republicans will hold their caucuses and convention.  I have received very little information about it an nothing official from the Party.  Here are the candidates that I know of that are seeking leadership position. 

James B. Garrett
Connie Hunter
Tres Wittum
(Lonnie Spivak had floated his name but has reportedly decided against it.)

The 2 Vice Chairman Positions
Charles (Chase) Montgomery
Melissa Smithson

Check back an update for more information on these candidates and others who may become known.  I will provide it as it becomes available. However, with the convention this Saturday, much may not become available. If a candidate will send me their announcement I will post it.  If they want to post an essay to convince readers of this blog that they deserve your vote to lead the Party, this space is available.

Tres Wittum unsuccessfully  ran for Chairman at the Convention two years ago.  He works for
for the Chairman of the TN Senate Finance Committee.

Connie Hunter is very active in local Republican politics and has served in leadership positions.  Melissa Smithson is also active in local Republican Party politics and unsuccessfully ran for council last council elections.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Nashville Metro Council collaborates with hotels to curb Airbnb’s

by Chris Butler, Tennessee Watchdog - Nashville Metro Council members who push for new regulations on Airbnbs seem to do so at the behest of powerful hotel interests, which resent the competition and are now leaning on government for support. Many people have made the claim, and evidence exists to support it.

Nashville Metro Council member Burkley Allen has put forward new licensing requirements for anyone in the city who runs an Airbnb or a similar home-sharing program.

As reported, these home-sharing options operate much like an Uber app. Instead of people using their

Berkley Allen
cars to compete with cab drivers, they share their homes.

Burkley told Tennessee Watchdog in an email she got involved only after Airbnb’s competitors reached out to her.  “This issue was first brought to my attention by properly zoned historic bed and breakfast operators who asked that the city level the playing field between them and properties that were operating short term rentals without any regulation,” Burkley wrote.

According to the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based free-market think tank, “leveling the playing field” means hurting the competition.  “What got Councilmember Allen to begin was a disgruntled business competitor,” Beacon staff wrote in legal filings. Almost immediately, Beacon went on, the bed and breakfast operators hired lobbyists from the hotel industry and “began to coalesce around a shared political goal.”

These efforts reached a new level of urgency after the 2016 Country Music Awards Fest. Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau reports said spending at the event decreased by 1.5 percent because use of home-sharing options in the city doubled — from 4.9 percent to 9.2 percent, Beacon said.
The bed and breakfasts and members of the hotel industry, Beacon went on, called upon the American Hotel Association to step in.

Greg Adkins (photo courtesy of the
Tennessee Hospitality and
Tourism Association) 

“The AHLA is trying to spur local governments to crack down on the short-term rental threat,” the Business Insider reported. “The AHLA is circulating new ‘model legislation’ that it hopes state and city lawmakers will adapt to regulate the startups.” Those plans include home-sharing operators paying thousands of dollars in registration fees and undergoing regular health and safety inspections.

“This is all about protecting the hotel industry,” said Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham.  “If you’ll notice, many of the people encouraging these regulations are associated with the hotel industry.”

Regulations and inspections
Greg Adkins, spokesman for the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association, said his industry wants a level playing field because “hotels are more regulated than any industry that churns out pollution.”  Regulations imposed on hotels include liquor licensing, building code requirements, occupancy permits, and wage compliance rules, among many others. Thus, hotels must pass down the extra cost of doing business to their customers, Adkins said. Airbnbs, he went on, aren’t similarly regulated.

“Our interests are to not make the public sick, and that is why we feel very strongly that Airbnbs should not serve customers food because they can get sick and die potentially from a food borne illness,” Adkins said.

Shan Canfield
Shan Canfield of East Nashville said the fire marshal already inspects the Airbnb she manages.

Meanwhile, Alece Ronzino, who runs a competing Airbnb, said she doesn’t understand why Adkins worries about a customer getting food poisoning.  “If that were to happen, as awful as that would be, how would that affect him in the hotel industry? Why is that an issue to him?” Ronzino asked.

“Airbnbs are not trying to be hotels at all. People are intentionally trying to get away from the hotels’ corporate, sterile feel, yet there are plenty of people who will still prefer to stay there. The rate at which new hotels are continuously being built in Nashville shows they are not struggling.”

Ronzino said the proposed regulations, if enacted, would hurt her revenue stream.  Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Brett said in an emailed statement the proposed regulations are
Alece Ronzino
“unworkable, unenforceable and punish middle class people trying to make a little extra money.”

A recent Washington Post article quoted a New York state hotel executive, who said Airbnbs in his state would help his company raise prices on his hotel rooms. Allen said she could not comment about what goes on in New York.

According to a recent NewsChannel 5 report, council members are pushing for an amendment to temporarily stop issuing new city permits for non-owner occupied short-term rentals. It’s a move to determine how best to regulate home-sharing properties.

“The properties are operated by landlords who don’t live at the homes they’re renting and are often looking to cash in on Nashville’s popularity,” the station reported.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported, while Nashville officials seek ways to regulate Airbnbs they’re also giving millions in taxpayer dollars to high-priced hotels — which compete against Airbnbs.
Cunningham said last year some of those hotels charge as much as $400 a night.
These proposed regulations, Ronzino said, are bad for the city.

“You think about all that growth we’re having in tourists and all the write-ups about Nashville being the ‘It City,’” Ronzino said. “The more space we can offer to people in a reasonable and economical way then that is just better for our city.”

Contact Christopher Butler at 

Update by Rod Williams: The regulations under consideration passed second reading of the Metro Council on 2-7-2017. The bill will be on third and final reading on 2-21-2017.  Also on Second reading on 2-21-2017 are bills to impose a moratorium on all new Airbnb type rentals except those that are owner-occupied. For more on this topic see these post:
(update) What's on the Council Agenda for Feb. 7th: New AirBnb rules, $16M more for General Hospital, $ to build affordable housing,
Does racism drive Nashville's crackdown on Airbnb's?
Nashville’s Airbnbs get taxed, but swank hotels get the benefits
Why The Anderson's are suing Metro Government
Metro's Airbnb law unconstitutional!
Critics want to ban all new Airbnb rentals

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