Wednesday, March 07, 2018

What happened at the 3/6/18 Council meeting: Rosenberg kills Charlie Tygert's appointment to Sports Authority, not much else of importance.

If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you really need a playbook. To access the council agenda, the staff agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link

Newly sworn in Vice Mayor Sheri Weiner presides over the meeting.

Rosenberg kills Charlie Tygert's appointment to Sports Authority

Charlie Tygert
At the request of the administration, all nominees to Boards and Commission, all of which were made by former Mayor Megan Barry, are deferred until March 20th. The nomination of Charlie Tygert to the Sports Authority however is deferred indefinitely.

The appointment of someone to the Sports Authority is one of the appointments that require the approval by Council resolution.  Resolution RS2018-1076 is the resolution approving Charlie Tygert's appointment . An indefinite deferral kills a resolution. The committee vote was five in favor of the indefinite deferral, one abstention, and one voting "no."  Council member Sharon Hurt who was one of the sponsors of the resolution approving Tygert's appointment asked why the committee voted for the indefinite deferral. The Rules Committee chairman, council member Haywood, deferred to Councilman  Rosenberg. Instead of answering the question, Rosenberg said the deferral was "by rule" and there should be no discussion of the matter.

When the Rules Committee make a deferral recommendation then that item is automatically deferred. If instead of recommending an indefinite deferral, the committee would have voted against the confirmation, then it would have been open for discussion and a vote. This action tells me that Rosenberg is responsibility for denying Tygert the appointment. Why he would do that I don't know. Charlie Tygert is a former long-serving former councilman, first representing Bellevue and then serving as a Councilman-at-large. In my view, he is one of the best councilmen to ever serve the city of Nashville. He is smart, works hard and knows Metro government inside and out. Why Rosenberg would want to deny the city the free services of someone of Tygert's caliber is beyond me. I can only assume it is petty politics. If anyone has any insight as to what is going on, please post a comment. If anyone would like to tell me what is going on privately, please contact me.

Bills on Public Hearing
There  are 21  bills on Public hearing. Items on public hearings are all rezoning bills or related to planning and zoning policy. Most of the time, the only people who care about zoning bills are those who live near the proposed rezoning or those somehow involved. Rezoning hearings bore me and I don't even try to form an opinion on the merits each rezoning bill before the Council and skip though this part of the council meeting at double speed. I call attention to those that were disapproved by the Planning Commission or prove controversial or for some other reason I find of interest. 
Bill BL2017-938  by Councilman Stever Glover would exempt religious institutions from current sidewalk requirements, provided the religious institution is within the General Services District and does not abut an existing or planned sidewalk. It is deferred indefinitely by the sponsor saying he is working on other sidewalk bills that will address this issue in another manner.  In my view we need to do something like this not only for churches but other properties. At the rate we are building sidewalls it will be about 600 years or so before we build sidewalks in some areas of the county.  In the middle of nowhere, were there are no sidewalks, why should sidewalks be required in front of a church or any one single house.  It serves no purpose to have little isolated, unconnected, random sidewalks to nowhere. 

Bill BL2018-1096 by Councilman Scott Davis is a bill that would change the zoning on some property on Lischey Avenue and permit up to 13 multi-family dwelling units. It is an approved bill. It generates some public opposition. It passes.

Bill BL2018-1099   by Councilman Scott Davis is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. It would change from RS5 to SP zoning on property located at 207 Myrtle Street,  to permit up to four multi-family residential units. Several people speak against it. The bill is passed on Second Reading and sent back to the Planning Commission at the request of the sponsor. The sponsor says he will work to get the bill modified, by reducing the unit count. If the bill does not get a Planning Commission approval it will require 27 votes to pass on third reading. 

Bill BL2018-1100   by Councilman Swope is another disapproved bill.  It would change from R15 to SP zoning for properties located at 401 Kinhawk Drive and Nolensville Pike to permit all uses permitted by MUL zoning except Alternative Financial Services, Bar or nightclub, flea market, hotel/motel, mobile storage units and automobile parking. The sponsor asks for the bill to be passed on Second reading and he says he will continue to work with the developer to modify the bill to address the concerns of the residents. It passes.
Resolutions}There are 27 resolution on the agenda and most are lumped together and pass on the consent agenda. Most of them are routine things. These are the ones of interest.
Resolution RS2018-1054 would reduce the jailers’ fees authorized under state law that are assessed against misdemeanant prisoners incarcerated in Davidson County jails. We charge people for staying in jail even if they are jailed for a minor traffic violation. Until this issue arose, I did not know one had to pay for staying in jail. Often the fee is waived but it does not have to be and often it is not. According to the resolution, "although jailers’ fees are only assessed against persons actually convicted of criminal offenses, such fees may be assessed not only against persons serving misdemeanor sentences in county jails, but also against persons being held prior to trial on misdemeanor charges."  This resolution reduces the fee to $0. This is a good bill. It passes.

Resolution RS2018-1055 is "a resolution aimed at addressing and ending homelessness among students that attend Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools." The agenda does not link to the resolution and the staff analysis does not describe it but it seems pretty insignificant to me. Basically, it calls for several agencies to study the issue. Several council members speak on it. Some concern is expressed that this is already being studied and this is unnecessary. It passes.
Bills on First reading: There are 10 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading. All of them are lumped together and they pass by a single vote as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading: There are 10 of them and none of them are of much interest.

Bills on Third Reading:  There are 15 of them. These are the ones of interest. 
Bill BL2017-1026 is a disapproved rezoning bill in Councilman Scott Davis district. I have no opinion on the merits of the bill but am pointing it out simply because it is disapproved and requires 27 votes to pass. This was on Third Reading last time and deferred to this meeting. Many of the applicants neighbors signed petitions supporting the rezoning. After considerable discussion the bill passes by a vote 31 in favor, 2 against of 4 abstentions.

Bill BL2018-1054  says that when metro enters into a lease. leasing to another entity a piece of metro property, that that lease must go before the Metro Council for approval and if the lease is for more than fifty years, it must first be declared surplus.This is a good bill. It passes on a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1063 as amended,  is a bill to "require the Procurement Division to collect comprehensive data regarding the participation of subcontractors in the procurement process."  Currently, the Minority and Women Business Assistance Office (BAO) is authorized to collect information to monitor the Procurement Nondiscrimination Program. The information “may” include information regarding business ownership, supplier information, and subcontractor information. This changes the "may" to "shall."  In the past and probably still, I know this program was often abused. Sometimes a White contractor and a Black subcontractor may switch rolls to get an advantage as a minority-owned firm. The White guy may agree to be the subcontractor to the Black guy. Also, I have known of instances years ago, where a man would make his wife the owner of their family-owned construction company in order to gain an advantage as a women-owned business. I don't know if this would reveal those manipulations or not, but it may. I support this. It passes.

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The Swearing-In ceremony for Mayor David Briley and Vice Mayor Sheri Weiner.

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Brad Schmitt: Megan Barry used us, Nashville — and it really hurts

by Rod Williams - As one who never supported Megan Barry, I do not feel the same sense of betrayal that those who were enthusiastic fans of the mayor feel. I feel bad for any person who lets their greed or lust or their own selfish interest lead them astray and they end up humiliated. I don't feel bad for someone who is brought to justice who I thought was a con artist or a fraud from the very beginning is exposed but when a person who is probably a good person falls from grace and allows themselves to do immoral and illegal acts and ends up humiliated it is a sad occasion.

Megan Barry was a rising star in the progressive movement. Progressive women celebrated one of their own becoming the first women mayor of the city. She performed the first lesbian wedding in Tennessee, was an advocate of abortion rights, and was an advocate of all progressive causes. People saw her as a potential future senator or governor or maybe president. She was progressive but did not appear angry or scary. She was likeable. A lot of Nashvillians and progressives beyond Nashville were invested in her political career. She was a rising star on the left.

It hurts much more when one of your own is proven to be a fraud or flawed or corrupt than it does when it is someone you do not particularly like anyway. Today, progressives are hurting.  Be nice to a progressive today. Don't gloat. Don't appear happy. Let them mourn and heal. Give them space.

Brad Schmitt writing in The Tennessean expresses the hurt of a Barry fan. Below are excepts. To read the full piece follow this link.

 Megan Barry used us, Nashville — and it really hurts

Brad Schmitt, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee- We have been subjected to a stream of scandalous revelations since Mayor Megan Barry admitted she had an affair with the chief of her security.

Overseas trips.

Tens of thousands of dollars of questionable overtime pay.

Subpoenas and investigations.

Refusal to provide a cell phone pass code.

Naked pictures.

But she promised to be completely transparent with investigators, reporters and anyone else who wanted to see records or ask questions.

Promise broken.

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In Nashville owners of median-priced homes will lose their home tax deduction but end up with a lower overall tax bill.

Excerpted from Apartment List Rentonomics:
  • The recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 makes significant changes to longstanding tax benefits for homeowners: (1) the cap on the mortgage interest deduction has been reduced from $1 million to $750,000; (2) deductions for state and local taxes, including property taxes, have been capped at $10,000; and (3) standard deductions have been doubled, such that fewer homeowners will itemize their tax filings.
  • The new legislation hits homeowners hardest in the expensive coastal markets across California and throughout the Northeast. A homeowner with a median-priced home in the San Francisco metro will receive approximately $4,500 dollars less annually in housing tax deductions under the new plan; in the Boston metro, the median homeowner will receive $1,700 less. For Bay Area homeowners of median-priced homes, the lost deductions could total more than $100,00 over the course of a 30-year mortgage.
  • The impact of the changes is felt disproportionately in left-leaning parts of the country. There are 15 states in which the median homeowner will receive at least $100 less in housing tax deductions under the new plan — President Trump carried none of these states in the 2016 election.
  • With the increased standard deduction, many households who lose housing tax deductions may still end up with a lower overall tax bill, though the loss of housing deductions still amounts to a shifting of incentives that make homeownership less attractive. That said, the decision to purchase a home is affected by numerous factors; changes to the tax code will likely have limited impact on that decision in most parts of the country, but could be more impactful in the nation’s most expensive markets.
For a detailed report on the recently passed Tax Cut and Jobs Act and the impact on housing deductions and an interactive map showing the impact on each county in the United States, follow this link.

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Ex-Mayor Barry is now a convicted felon. The plea deal.

In all of the news about mayor Barry's resignation you may have missed the fact that ex-mayor Megan Barry is now a convicted felon.  As part of a plea deal she plead guilty to theft of property of over $10,000 which is a Class C felony.  The deal was that she resign as mayor, pay $11,000 in restitution and serve three years unsupervised probation.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

David Briley sworn in as Metro Nashville's eighth mayor

The Tennessean - David Briley, Nashville's vice mayor for the past two and a half years, was sworn in as Metro government's eighth mayor Tuesday evening, replacing Megan Barry who resigned in disgrace earlier in the day. (Read more.)

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NBC: Nashville Mayor Resigns After Affair, Pleads Guilty to Theft

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Mayor Barry's resignation speech. My thoughts.

While I am pleased to see Mayor Barry do the right thing and resign, I take no joy in her humiliation. What she did was wrong and she should have known better. Anyone in today's environment knows it is inappropriate for a person in a supervisory position to have a sexual relationship with someone of lower rank. Also, the having of an affair at taxpayer's expense is inexcusable. As a former ethics consultant to companies, of all people, she should have know better. The investigations should continue to determine the extend of misappropriated funds and to determine if criminal charges are warranted.  Wanting the truth to prevail and justice served however is different than gloating. While I disagree with her politics I don't doubt she loves our city. Despite bringing this on herself she still deserves compassion. There are a lot of people who would yield to temptation or abuse their position if put in a position where it was easy to do so.  She is human.  I am not sure she is much worse than many of us. The loss of her son last year and now being forced from office calls for compassion.  Watching Megan Barry resign, I feel much the way I felt watching televangelist Jimmy Swaggert  fall from grace many years ago, or  the same way I felt when I watched President Richard Nixon resign in disgrace.  It is not an occasion for celebration but an occasion for sadness.

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Trump's trade war job losses already starting

If This Is ‘Winning’ — Then No More Winning Please

After announcing in January a $250 million plant expansion in Springfield, Sweden’s Electrolux reported Friday that its plans are now on hold.
Reuters first reported that the company, Europe’s largest home appliance manufacturer, was delaying its Tennessee investment after President Donald Trump announced Thursday new tariffs on imported aluminum and steel.
Electrolux’s investment plans included modernizing and adding 400,000 square feet to the Springfield plant, construction on which was slated to begin later this year.
American solar company SunPower will lay off about 3 percent of its workforce in March, a decision that comes after President Trump began imposing new tariffs on imported solar materials earlier this year.
SunPower has already started the process of laying off between 150 and 250 workers, largely from its research and development and marketing positions, CEO Tom Werner told The Hill. The cuts will amount to about a 10 decrease in operational expenses.
The cuts made by the publicly traded company, which is based in San Jose, Calif., are largely an effort to stop the bleeding from the new costs associated with the 30 percent tariffs, Werner said.

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Mayor Megan Barry has resigned!

Mayor Megan Barry has resigned. The following email communication was received at 10:56 AM today, March 6th. 
Dear Rod,

While my time as your mayor concludes today, my unwavering love and sincere affection for this wonderful city and its great people shall never come to an end.

No one is as excited about this city, and its bright and limitless future, than I am.

Nashville, with its boundless energy, its infectious optimism, its never- encountered-an-obstacle-it-couldn’t-overcome attitude, will, in the years ahead, continue its steady march toward the very top of the list of great American cities.

It’s a continued climb that I will watch, but I will watch as a private citizen, and I will be tremendously proud nonetheless.

While today is primarily about the smooth transition from my administration to that of Vice Mayor Briley, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and thank the thousands and thousands of people who have reached out to me, written me, encouraged me, comforted me, worried endlessly about me, and most importantly prayed for me during these many difficult and trying months.

In two and a half short years, we have made great strides and progress on affordable housing, transit, public education, youth opportunity, quality of life, and our economy.

None of this would have been possible without my incredible staff, our talented department heads, and all of the dedicated men and women of the Metropolitan Government who have worked hard to make the lives of Nashvillians a little better each day. 

They got up yesterday, they got up today, and they will get up again tomorrow devoted to making sure our city sings.

And I sincerely hope and believe that my own actions will not tarnish or otherwise detract from all of their great work.

It has been the honor and it has been the privilege of my entire professional life to have had the blessing of this opportunity to be your mayor.

Thank you in advance for the support that I am sure you will give to Mayor Briley in the days and weeks ahead. 

God bless this wonderful city.

I love you, Nashville.

Mayor Megan Barry Signature

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Tariffs Are Taxes

By Larry Kudlow , Arthur B. Laffer & Stephen Moor, National Review - One of the ironies of trade protectionism is that tariffs and import quotas are what we do to ourselves in times of peace and what foreign nations do to u‎s with blockades to keep imports from entering our country in times of war.

Or consider that we impose sanctions on U.S. enemies such as North Korea, Russia, and Iran because we want them to feel the economic pain of being deprived of imports.

But now we are imposing sanctions on our own country, putting up tariffs supposedly to make Americans more prosperous.  If ever there were a crisis of logic, this is it.

Tariffs are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff on these commodities may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low-income families.

Meanwhile, up to 5 million jobs will be put in harm’s way. And if U.S. steel-and-aluminum-using industries sell less to foreigners, the trade deficit goes up, not down. (keep reading)

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Trump must be stopped from starting a trade war!

My worst fears about Trump appear to about to be realized. It looks like he is serious about starting a trade way.  Once started it may take on a life of its own and spin out of control  Once unleashed we not be able to put it back in the bottle.

I had almost relaxed and thought my concerns about a Trump presidency were unfounded. I still questioned his temperament and thought he may lack clear governing principles but after a year in office, I was warming to the guy. He appointed Neal Corsach to the Supreme Court and lots of conservative lower court judges, he had gotten a tax cut passed, he had slashed thousands of regulation and he was advancing an immigration policy that, except for his insistence on building the wall, I essentially agreed with. Our military had defeated ISIS, we were taking the threat of North Korea seriously and turning attention toward the threat of a nuclear armed Iran. We were talking about rebuilding the military. He had gotten us out of the useless Paris Accord on climate change and had stored up relations with Saudi Arabia, and he had moved our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He had only talked tough on trade, he had not done anything dangerous.  He did get us out of TPP but I was not too concerned about that. He was renegotiating NAFTA but it appeared to be fine tuning; It did not appear he was going to rip it up.

He still made be cringe from time to time. His insulting school yard juvenile bully usage of "whittle" for people not as tall as he, told me he may have grown tall but never grew up. He appeared petty, thin-skinned and had an inflated ego. I found him crude and rude. However, I could overlook most of that stuff. It was personality that concerned me about Trump, not policy.

Now, however he has fired the first shot in a trade war that could bring down the whole economic structure of the world. This is serious and dangerous stuff.  He may be laying the ground work for the Second Great Depression. On Thursday he announced he would impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum; 25% on steel and 15% on aluminum. This will make manufactured products more expensive for all Americans and  could lead to big job losses. When things cost more, people buy less of it and jobs disappear.  While imposing tariffs on steel may save steel manufacturing jobs, it will likely cost many more jobs in the various industries that use steel in the production of their product. Also, when foreign countries retaliate, American exports will decline resulting in more job losses. Unless we also impose a tariff on foreign cars, cars made in America with American steel will be at a disadvantage compared to imported cars.

If China responds to American tariffs by imposing a tariff on soy beans, the American agricultural sector will suffer. If European nations impose a tariff on American whiskey, Tennessee Jack Daniels and Kentucky Bourbon producers will suffer. If we impose a tariff on steel, offended countries may impose a tariff on Bowing Air, one of our most successful exports. There are competitors to Bowing. A 25% tariff on steel will not go unanswered and when foreign countries impose tariffs on American products then we will likely reply again with more tariffs. This could spin out of control very fast and millions of Americans could be standing in breadlines, and to deal with the depression, the money supply would likely be inflated and  the wealth in one's IRA could disappear.

It appears that Trump decided this policy in a fit of anger having more to do with Kushner not getting a security clearance, the Russian probe, and other pressures of the day than it did trade policy.  He did not warn our allies or even give the State Department a head's up.  This policy, however,  is consistent  with Trumps longstanding position on trade.

To impose these tariffs does not take Congressional action. According to the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 if the Commerce Department finds that the importation of steel has a negative impact on National Security then the President has the authority to impose tariffs. "National Security" is defined not as one may think but is defined as "general security and welfare of certain industries (link)."

A lesson should be learned from this. For generations congress has given away authority and presidents have taken power. Often, Congress gave the executive branch powers they didn't even ask for. Congress has given non elected  agencies power to make their own rules, and act as the judicial authority to determine the justice of the application of their rules.  It is time for Congress to retake power from the executive branch.

President Trump has changed his mind before on issues, maybe he can be persuaded to change his mind on this. Neither Republican or Democrats want a trade war. One would be hard pressed to find any economist who thinks this is a wise move on Trump's part. Historically, the Republican Party has been the party of free trade, at least since the Civil War. The Democrat Party at times has sounded protectionist to pander to their labor union base but in action both parties advanced tariff reductions and increased trade. What populist would call the "elites" of both parties, are greater advocates of free trade than are the rank and file of either party. One reason Trump won the presidencty is that he was able to appeal to union workers who were tired of being taken for granted by the Democrat Party. He told them what he would do and now he is doing it, but he must be stopped.

If Congress has the will they can stop Trump's trade way. The act that gave the president power to impose tariffs can be amended. If there are legitimate national security reasons for giving the president power to set tariff, then he could be given that power subject to congressional approval.  The President could have the power to impose the tariffs for 72 hours after which the Senate must approve the decision by a two-thirds vote. There may be other ways to address this but it can be stopped.

This is not the time for Republicans to be loyalist and support a policy they do not believe in.  It is not a time for Democrats to get timid fearing they will lose union support. Now is the time to put a stop to an impending disaster.

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Paul Ryan urges Trump to drop tariffs

GOPUSA, Associated Press - House Speaker Paul Ryan is raising concerns that President Donald Trump’s plan to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports could start a trade war. The speaker is “extremely worried about the consequences” and is urging the White House “to not advance with this plan,” according to a statement issued by his office. ...

Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee are circulating a letter opposing President Donald Trump’s announcement ... (link)

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Spring Break: Flowering Quince and Daffodils

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