Saturday, November 04, 2017

1st Tuesday featuring Republican Party State Chairman Scott Golden

Monday, Nov. 13th at Waller Law, 511 Union Street, Nashville
Doors open at 11am, Lunch begins at 11:30. Program starts at Noon sharp with Q&A session ending promptly at 1pm. Chairman Golden will give behind the scenes insights into the upcoming elections. 
$20 for 2017 Members and $25 for Guests.  More info and register here.
[Remember: parking under building at 511 Union St is only $7 for 2 hours if you tell them you've been to 1ST TUESDAY!]

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Soccer stadium deal tweaked, still has problems

Image result for Nashville MLS Soccer Stadium ConceptYesterday, Mayor Barry made some last minute tweaks to the $275 million soccer stadium project but they still do not satisfy two major concerns. One remaining concern with the project is that the guarantee that the owners of the soccer team would be responsible for the lease payments which in turn pay the bonds which finance the stadium.  Ultimately revenue bonds are a responsibility of the government and if revenue is insufficient to pay the bonds then the local government must make up the difference. As if often the case in deals like this however, the team owners are on the hook to guarantee the payments will be made to the city even if the revenue is low and the team loses money or, in the worst case, the owners lose their franchise. The bonds are for 30 years and the team agrees to sign a 30 year lease. The resolution says the team owners would guarantee the lease payments.  That is a problem. No individual team owners are named. "Team owners" is most likely a legal entity that could bankrupt if they lost their franchise.  If individuals team owners are not on the hook for the commitment to the city, then the commitment is not worth much.

Another problem with the deal is that it gives 10 acres of fairground property to the team owners for private development. This is in addition to the eight acres for the stadium. The owners say they must have this to financially make the deal work. I was initially concerned about the lost of property that shrinks the fairgrounds.  However, I have given more thought to that and am less concerned.  The State Fair will probably never be in a class with other state fairs.  Now, the State Fair is less prestigious and less well attended than many county fairs. While the loss of parking is a concern, the site is sufficient to maintain current uses at the fairgrounds.  Unless we are going to embark on a plan to expand the fairgrounds to have a truly impressive state fair, then there is not much lost by shrinking the fairground site. I still have a concern about just giving away ten valuable acres, but that is a different concern than shrinking the fairground footprint.

Other tweaks to the deal did address some concerns. One issue that may have been resolved in the revision is a change that says before any bond debt is actually issued for the project the council would have to approve by resolution the demolition of certain buildings at the fairgrounds. Bonds are authorized by resolution but then a separate resolution is required to actually issues the debt. The soccer deal includes demolishing and replacing several of the old buildings at the fairgrounds. Prior to these changes, the bond deal would be finalized and then at a later time the mayor would submit a demolition plan.  A Charter provision requires that no building on the fairground property may be demolished without a two-thirds approval vote of the Council.  What could have happened under that scenario is that the Council could have approved the bond sale and then if they could not get the 27 votes to demolish certain buildings at the fairgrounds then the stadium would have been build but the fairground improvements would not have happened.   Under this new version, the council can approve the $275 million resolution, then approve the demolition and reconstruction plan before actually issuing the debt. This is an improvement.

The deal is also strengthened by new guaranty language that says the team owners would be responsible for the pledged lease payments, team capital contributions and cost overruns.  If the team ownership changes, the new owners inherit these commitments.

Taking a lead in opposing the deal is Councilman-at-large Bob Mendez and Councilman Jeremy Elrod who are still not satisfied.  Councilman John Cooper has been a critic but his primary concern was about the possibility the stadium could be build but then the fairground building demolition may never occur.  That concern seems to be alleviated by the change mentioned above.

The soccer stadium deal appears in some regards to be a better deal than some other similar type deals in which the city has engaged.  I am especially pleased to see the team responsible for cost overruns, not the city. I also however, share the concerns about giving away ten acres of the fairgrounds for private development and am especially concerned about the weakness of the owner guarantees. This resolution will be on the agenda Tuesday night.  If it does not pass, then Nashville will not be in the running for a team franchise.  As of now however, I continue to have reservations about this deal and do not think it should be approved. If the grantee could be strengthened then I most likely would be in support of this proposal.

For more on this issue, see the Tennessean story and the Bob Mendez blog at the highlighted links.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

At-large Councilman John Cooper seeks to trigger tougher vote threshold for MLS stadium

On Tuesday of next week the Council is set to vote on the $225 million bond resolution to fund the soccer stadium at the fairgrounds.  This will be a resolution and only requires a majority of those present to pass. Part of the deal to build the stadium is a replacement of the exhibition building at the fairgrounds, however to demolish a building at the fairground requires a bill to be passed that must win approval of 27 members of the council.  Should the resolution pass but not the bill authorizing demolition, then we could see a situation in which the soccer stadium gets build but not the rebuilding of existing buildings. The mayor office confirmed this is true in a statement issued by her office. The mayor says she planned on bringing the demolition bill to the council in December after it was determined if Nashville was one of the cities awarded an MLS franchise.

Councilman Cooper has filed a bill to approve the demolition which will be on first reading on Tuesday night. Almost all bills pass on first reading which is really a formality and simply gets a bill on the agenda.  If Cooper's bill should pass first reading on Tuesday but never be finally adopted and the resolution approving the bond sale should pass, we would still be in a situation were we get the soccer stadium but not the replacement of old building on the fairground. Nevertheless, this at least gets the bill in the pipeline. The mayor's office is opposing Cooper's bill.  I would advocate waiting until the demolition bill passes before passing the bond resolution. The problem with thus is that the city must have a commitment to building a soccer stadium in order to have a chance at being awarded a soccer franchise.

If the Council passes the bond resolution without first passing the bill approving demolition then the council is simply trusting the mayor. The Council is in a tough spot. To read The Tennessean's report on this development, follow this link.

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Bellevue Republican Breakfast Club, Nov. 4th guest Marsha Blackburn

From Betty Hood:

Dear BRBC Friends,

The breakfast club will meet at 8 am on Saturday, Nov.4 at the River Art Studio, 8327 Sawyer Brown Rd, two doors down from the Plantation Pub.  This will be my 19th anniversary of serving as the coordinator for this breakfast club

Our guest will be House Speaker Beth Harwell, gubernatorial candidate for next year's November election.  Join us and bring others to hear the Speaker's ideas for the future.  We plan to have time for Q & A.

Coffee and pastries will be served.

Hope to see you soon!

PS Be sure to join our new Facebook page

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The UT budget should be cut $6.8 million

The University of Tennessee announced they would not be participating in the proposed outsourcing of campus maintenance jobs. The plan pushed by Governor Haslam is estimated to have saved the University of Tennessee $6.8 million dollars.  Apparently, UT does not need the money.  The State legislature should cut UT's budget, alumni should withhold funds and the governor should work to replace existing UT trustees with those with a concern for the taxpayers.

UT had already alienated many supporters by pushing a ridiculous diversity program that attempted to institute new made up pronouns to replace "him" and "her" and to make sure that "holiday" parties were not really disguised Christmas parties.  After push back from State legislators, UT returned to a semblance of sanity. 

While I did not expect support for wise use of tax dollars from Democrats, I am disappointed in Republicans who have fought against saving taxpayer's dollars. Sen. Richard Briggs, Republican of Knoxville said,"I'm delighted by the decision. I think it was the right decision for two reasons — it will continue to provide jobs for our state employees without any anxiety over their future, and it was the correct financial decision. The proposal promises to save money, but that's only if everything goes perfectly. If things didn't work out perfectly, it could turn out worse — it's not worth the financial risk." 

The purpose of the university, nor the state of Tennessee, is  to provide government jobs.  Maybe Randy Briggs needs a primary opponent who puts the taxpayers first. To read more n this story follow this link.

Under Haslam's administration, the state has reduced state payroll by 6000 jobs while improving the state's performance in education and industrial recruitment and reducing the unemployment rate to the point that for the first time in State history, all counties have an unemployment rate of less than 5%.  In deciding who I will support for governor, I am seeking someone who will continue the path we are on.  The next governor needs to be one who will persuade UT that they must participate in an effort to make government more lean and efficient.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nashville has allocated $60 million for sidewalks. Only 3.5 miles of new sidewalks!!

Writing in The Tennessean today, reporter Mike Reicher reports the city allocated $30 million a year for each of the last two years for sidewalks and the city build only 3.5 miles of new sidewalks. You can read the story here.

"At that clip," says the writer, "it would take more than a millennium to line all of Nashville’s streets." The amount of new sidewalks built in the last two years it only slightly more than build in previous years at a lot less money. The article gives the city's officials and apologist an opportunity to explain the failure to build sidewalks but there is no good way to sugarcoat such a disastrous failure.

I knew we were spending a lot on sidewalks and I knew we weren't getting much for it but I had no idea we were doing such a poor job building new sidewalks.  I have seen perfectly serviceable sidewalks with only hairline cracks, sidewalks I walk on, on a regular basis, get ripped out and replaced.  I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea it was this bad.  

It seems impossible to waste that much money.  It seems like to waste that much money one would have to do it on purpose. This should be criminal. Mayor Barry should be impeached.  There should be a through investigation. If money was misappropriated someone should go to jail. The council should hold hearings and the public should be outraged.

Thanks to the Tennessean for exposing this waste. Now, what if anything will be done about it?

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Unemployment Rate Continues to Drop in Tennessee

From Governor Bills Haslam - Tennessee’s unemployment rate is continuing to break records. For the fourth consecutive month, we saw a historic low in the unemployment rate with 3.0 percent for September­­­. Even more remarkable: the unemployment rates in all 95 counties dipped below 5 percent for the first time ever. We’re proud of these numbers for Tennessee, but even more proud for what these numbers mean for the hard-working people of our state.

When the unemployment rate is low and job growth is high, it means that
Tennesseans like Ricky, who works for Smith &Nephew in Memphis, can have high-quality jobs and better plan for the future. The story of Tennessee’s low unemployment rate is really the story of Tennesseans who are part of our state’s workforce.

An International Spotlight on Tennessee
October saw thousands of new jobs come to Tennessee from companies across the world, solidifying the Volunteer State’s place as one of the top destinations in the United States for direct foreign investment.

Earlier this month,
I traveled to Japan and South Korea with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe to meet with leaders of companies looking to invest business in the Southeast. When we pitch the benefits of locating operations in Tennessee, it’s clear that our state has become a leader in the Southeast for attracting foreign companies to invest in our workforce. While in Tokyo, Commissioner Rolfe and I visited with an old friend who certainly knows what Tennessee has to offer: U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who led the Department of Economic and Community Development during my first term.

The trip also gave us a chance to meet with and thank the companies that are already investing in Tennessee.
We toured the DENSO headquarters in Kariya, Japan only a few days after announcing that the company would be investing $1 billion and 1,000 jobs in Blount County. Maryville will now be home to DENSO’s primary manufacturing center in North America. We also visited with leaders from Hankook Tire Co. in Seoul, South Korea. The following week, we welcomed Hankook executives in Clarksville to celebrate the grand opening of the company’s manufacturing facility, which is bringing 1,800 new jobs to Middle Tennessee.

On October 5th, we announced that
German manufacturer Hörmann would be bringing 200 jobs and a $64 million investment the Sparta area. Announcements like this demonstrate that Tennessee is making the case to bring new business here, and as companies invest in Tennessee, our state is seeing a return on those investments.

Other highlights from October:

--Last week, Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker joined me at the Economic and Community Development Governor’s Conference in Gatlinburg. They both have a long history of helping to transform our state and making Tennessee the economic leader that it is today.

--A week ago, I met some of the inspirational graduates of the Dobyns-Bennett High School Transition School to Work program, which connects students with disabilities to jobs in the local area. I toured Food City in Kingsport where Caleb Peters, a graduate of the program who works at the grocery store, presented me with the Employment First Task Force report. The task force is focused on removing barriers to employment for those with disabilities and ensuring that any Tennessean who wants to be part of our state’s workforce has that opportunity.

--Crissy and I joined Commissioner John Dreyzehner in Jackson earlier this month for the fall tradition of flu shots. As I do every year, I encourage all Tennesseans to head into the annual influenza season with the protection of a flu shot.

--We made a push earlier this month to recruit volunteers to serve as Tennessee Promise mentors. Working with a Tennessee Promise student as he or she begins her first year of college is a rewarding experience and one that doesn’t require a major time commitment. I hope you’ll join the thousands of mentors who have already volunteered and sign up to be a part of Tennessee Promise.

Thank you for your interest in our work. If you have any feedback or just want to be in touch, email me at


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Diane Black attacks Randy Boyd with cheap shots.

In a recent statement, Representative Diane Black, candidate for governor,  criticized candidate for governor Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd for his failure to support Donald Trump before he became the Republican presidential nominee, for a $250,000 donation to Conexion Americas, for his past support of Common Core, and for a campaign contribution to a Democrat  member of the state Supreme Court running in a nonpartisan race. She also made a snide remark criticizing Boyd for short running shorts. As part of his campaign strategy Randy Boyd is running across the state. Read more about this at this link: Black launches latest broadside in Tennessee governor's race. 

It is too early for me to make up my mind about who I will support for governor, but Diane Black was my preferred candidate at this time by a slim margin. This was a cheap shot in my opinion however, and she dropped a little in my estimation.

I am also critical of Randy Boyd's support of Conexcion Americas.  Actually, I think the organization does a great deal of good work, but they did favor Nashville becoming a sanctuary city.  If Randy Boyd had only contributed $25,000 I would overlook it but a quarter of million dollars is lot of money. Before making that kind of contribution he should have properly vetted the organzation.

The fact that he did not support Trump until after he got the nomination, in my mind is a plus not a negative. Many Republicans were early supporters of Common Core. It started as a state initiative and it was only after the Obama administration began an attempt to mandate it, that a lot of people turned against it. The short running shorts remarks is just silly and a cheap shot.

I want the candidates to try to convince me that they are the best candidate to continue the progress of the last eight years.  I want them to tell me how they will govern the state. I do not want to see negative attacks against other candidates, at least not this early in the game.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Mayor’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee Releases Recommendations.

Nashville Financial Empowerment Center and US Community Credit Union Will Partner on New Loan Option

Metro Nashville Press release, October 27, 2017 - Mayor Megan Barry’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee today unveiled its report containing recommendations to build a more financially inclusive city by increasing financial literacy, empowerment and capability. Mayor Barry was joined at the announcement by committee co-chairs Eddie George, managing partner of Edward George Wealth Management Group, and Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, as well as Paul Johnson, President and CEO of US Community Credit Union, which announced an innovative new small-dollar loan for working Nashvillians who can’t qualify for traditional loans.

Since Mayor Barry launched the committee in September 2016, its members have worked in subcommittees to produce a report with short-, medium- and long-term actions. Mayor Barry charged the committee with developing a “Nashville Vision” that provides a comprehensive approach to empowering low-income and moderate-income Nashvillians toward financial inclusion.

“Nashville has been experiencing terrific economic growth, but that prosperity has not been shared by all. I asked this committee to come up with ways to improve the financial well-being of all Nashvillians. The recommendations in this report will help guide those efforts,” Mayor Barry said. “I’ve instructed my staff to move these ideas to action and complete implementation plans for each of them.”

Each subcommittee created a set of actionable strategies to (1) increase financial literacy, (2) empower residents in their financial decision-making and (3) increase access to financial capability. Their recommendations fall under three target areas for improvement:

  • Financial Literacy: Every student graduating from Metro Nashville Public Schools should be financially literate and understand basic financial concepts.
  • Financial Empowerment: Nashville needs to expand, grow and professionalize financial empowerment tools to empower its residents.
  • Financial Capability: The city needs to increase access to the financial mainstream, meaning safe and affordable financial services, for all Nashvillians, regardless of cultural, societal or legal barriers.
In its report, the committee recommended opportunities for Metro and its educational, non-profit, financial, and legal institutions to prioritize financial inclusion to improve residents’ quality of life. Some key recommendations include:
  • Clearly defining a consistent personal finance curriculum across the school system;
  • Developing criteria and a process for re-credentialing of MNPS personal finance teachers;
  • Forming a private-public partnership that reduces barriers to access workforce or post-secondary attainment; 
  • Finding new innovations that support access to small-dollar loan alternatives;
  • Commissioning an impact analysis of proposed and existing court fines, fees and taxes and the collateral consequences affecting financial security and capability;
  • Deploying pretrial pilot projects that substantially reduce incarceration rates, the associated costs and failures to appear;
  • Protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices by developing a consumer protection program
Discussions have already begun between the Mayor’s Office and several criminal justice agencies about how to implement financial justice strategies, including the use of text-message reminder systems to help ensure that additional debts are not created by a missed court date.

“Personal finance is an important component of a young person’s education,” said Dr. Joseph. “We need the right information at the right time for students to understand this importance, and our teachers need to be equipped with the right tools. Our team will be working with our local Federal Reserve to develop an enhanced training and re-credential process so our teachers are prepared.”
“In principle, personal finance is simple: maintain an active budget, spend less than you make, and save for emergencies and large purchases,” said Eddie George. “However, the process for how to do these things has become increasingly complex. We recommend expanding the capacity of our financial empowerment counseling services to meet these needs.”

“Community Development Financial Institutions across the country are working to improve the economic opportunity of low-income communities, and we are incredibly excited to continue this mission in partnership with the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center,” said Paul Johnson, President and CEO of US Community Credit Union. “We are proud to partner with the Nashville FEC to pair a quality loan product with the financial counseling needed to repair credit and gain financial acumen.”

The Opportunity Loan is designed to help consumers pay off expensive debt and will provide qualifying clients with a loan option up to $4,000. The interest rate and the amount someone can borrow will be based on income, credit score, and ability to repay. Consistent payment will be positively reported to credit reporting agencies.
Full Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee Report

My Comment: I commend Mayor Barry for this endeavor. There are several good initiates outlined in the report. For those interested in this issue, I encourage you to read the report at the link above.

For most of my career I have worked with low-income people in some capacity. For about the last 25 years I worked with a non-profit organization as a housing counselor and for many of those years I served as the director of the housing counseling programs.  I have designed programs, written grants and tracked results, counseled clients and taught classes.  I worked with both low-income people who were trying to obtain home ownership and with clients who were facing foreclosure.

One of our programs that was quite successful was "Homebuyers Club."  In this programs we worked long-term with people who were very poor, teaching them financial skills, encouraging them to save money, repair their credit and build good credit, and we helped them get grants and loans to buy a house.  For people who come from generational poverty and have spend their life in public housing, who have lived in an environment where most people were on some sort of welfare and where there were few intact two-parent households, there are tremendous obstacles to getting out of poverty.  As you teach these people how to improve their financial standing and give them skills, you must also help them change their behavior and their way of thinking. That is not easy.

The Homebuyers Clubs were a combination of financial literacy classes and something that resembled an AA meeting. It was as much about encouraging and motivating people as it was about giving them information. In the years I managed the program we had approximately 900 families achieved home ownership.  Most of these were the hard core poor, many of them residents of public housing when they came to us. For those families who succeeded, we changed their life and the lives of future generations.  I feel good about that. For those who did not achieve homeownership, they still may have benefited. I hope so.  Unfortunately, for every success we had probably 100 people who did not achieve success. Some would only come for one meeting or one one-on-one session and when they realized they were not just signing up for something that would just be handed to them, they did not come back. Others tried really hard but the obstacles were just too great and after months of trying they gave up.

I have a lot of thoughts about what needs to be done to lift people out of poverty and what causes people to become part of a class of the permanent poor that have little hope of ever improving their lives.  There are no simple answers but there are things that can help.  The problem of poverty is complex. While there are the hard core poor, there are also people who just do dumb stuff because they don't know better. These people can benefit most from financial literacy. I have seem people who were not the hardcore generational poor but who fail to get out of poverty or who fall into poverty, simply due to poor money management skills or making other poor decisions. I strongly endorse financial literacy being taught in the schools. Knowing some basic life skills like understanding interest rates and how to balance a check book are very important.  Financial skills is probably more beneficial than advanced calculus. While this endeavor of the mayor's will not solve the problem of poverty, it will help.  It is the right thing to do.

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