Friday, July 13, 2018

We deserve to know how much corporate welfare was handed out to AllianceBernstein

The secrecy surrounding the corporate welfare deal that brought AllianceBernstein to Nashville is an outrage. The state and city of Nashville both bribed Alliance with tax dollars to get them to relocate here, yet we have no idea how much since the government is keeping that information a secret. 

It is a big deal that AllianceBernstein is moving to Nashville. The company is a major financial firm, will be bringing 1,050 jobs to Nashville, and invest $70 million. If you want Nashville to be an even bigger city then this relocation to Nashville should be a cause for celebration. 

I really do not want to see Nashville grow anymore. I think we have passed the optimum size. I would prefer we remain a mid-size city with our own identity rather than a super metropolis .  As far as I am concerned we should have pulled up the draw bridge about three to five years ago. Growth does not pay for itself.  One of the reasons our city finds itself in financial difficulty now, is that we have paid so much out in incentives that the growth is not swelling the city coffers. 

Seth Bernstein, president and CEO of AllianceBernstein, said Nashville was chosen among 30 cities due to its cost of living, affordability, and quality of life. Those are all things that will diminish with growth. The more we grow the more we will be taxed, the more housing will cost, the worst traffic will get, and the more crime we will have. Growth will not make our schools any better. Quality of life will decline.  

The way I see it, a city has to be of a certain size to have certain amenities. Dining, cultural, entertainment and shopping opportunities come with growth, but beyond that certain size, the cost of growth is not a plus but has diminishing returns and then negative returns. I know that this is a minority position. City leaders want to grow, grow, grow.  

Even if you want Nashville to become the Wall Street of the South, or the Hollywood of the South - even it you want us to be the next Los Angeles or Chicago or Atlanta, should we the taxpayers not be entitled to know how much we are paying for companies to locate here?  How can one judge that the growth is worth it, if we do not know how much we are paying for it? We are footing the bill, we should have the right to know.

How many incentives will AllianceBernstein receive? The state won't tell

 By Adam Sichko, Nashville Business Journal - There's no telling how much in incentives AllianceBernstein will receive from Tennessee taxpayers for moving its global headquarters from Wall Street to downtown Nashville.

What the state has disclosed is a $17.5 million jobs grant tied to the money manager's decision to uproot its executive team and an estimated 1,050 back-office and wealth management jobs from New York City and move to Music City. State officials won't say anything about another vital piece of the pie: tax credits that AllianceBernstein (NYSE: AB) expects to tap once it begins filling those forthcoming jobs. ... AllianceBernstein is poised to receive at least four types of tax credits. (Link)

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Should the father of the Waffle House shooter be liable? Lawsuit filed.

by Rod Williams, July 12, 2018 - Shaundelle Brooks, the mother of one of the victims of the Waffle House shooting filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit yesterday against the shooter, Travis Reinking, and his father, Jeffrey Reinking.

On April 22 at 3:24 in the morning Jeffrey Reinking pulled up to the Antioch Waffle House in his pickup truck and fatally shot two people outside the restaurant with an AR-15 type rifle, then entered the restaurant and  gunned down other patrons, killing at least one person. One patron who was wounded in the shooting  later died at the hospital.

Twenty-nine year-old James Shaw Jr. was dining at the Waffle House at the time and when he saw Reinking struggling with the rifle at one point, Shaw rushed Reinking and wrestled the weapon away him and tossed it over the restaurant’s counter, no doubt saving many lives. James Shaw was a hero.

Reinking was wearing a green jacket and was otherwise naked at the time of the shooting.  He fled the scene on foot naked, dropping the green coat he was wearing. A manhunt ensued and Reinking was captured the next day.

Reinking who was from Illinois and had recently moved to Nashville. In Illinois, to own a firearm, one must have a firearm owners identification card. which at one time he did.  However, in 2017 he had  his weapons removed from his possession, including the weapon used in the Waffle House shooting, following an arrest by the U.S. Secret Service for being in a "restricted area" near the White House. He told the Secret Service he wanted to set up a meeting with the president. 

The county sheriff of the county in which Reinking resided took the guns from Travis and gave them to Reinking's father who had a valid firearm owners identification card. Travis Reinking's firearm identification card was revoked. The father was advised that he needed to keep the weapons secure and away from his son. Unfortunately, Reinking's father soon returned the weapons to Reinking. Doing so, may have violated federal law but he has not been charged with a crime.

In addition to the arrest by the Secret Service, there were other indications that Jeffrey Reinking was a nut-case. He had previously been arrested for showing up at a public swimming pool in a pink dress and exposing himself.  Another bizarre behavior was that he had told people that he was being stalked by Taylor Swift.  He once was arrested for threatening someone with a weapon. He was fired from his job in Nashville after telling co-workers that people in the company were out to get him and exhibiting what his boss called paranoid behavior. 

Daniel Horwitz
The attorney representing Ms Brooks in the case is Daniel Horwitz. "Let this lawsuit serve as a stark warning: If you entrust someone that you know to be both dangerous and mentally unstable with one of the most efficient purveyors of death in modern society, you will be held personally accountable for the consequences," Horwitz said in a statement.

I know that some supporters of gun rights will no doubt be rooting for Mr. Jeffrey Reinking in this case. Not me. I support the Second Amendment, but at a minimum, I agree that if you give someone who is dangerous and mentally unstable a weapon and they kill people with it, you should be held personally liable.

How far we should go in this direction, I am not sure. If a parent leaves a gun unsecured and his teenage child takes the weapon and shoots up a school killing classmates, should the parent be liable? I don't know but I am open to listening to the arguments and thinking about it. 

Given the number of mass shooting in the last few years, I think something needs to change. I oppose gun registration or banning guns. I do not want to repeal the Second Amendment or ignore it.  I also do not want to trample the rights of someone who may be accused of being mentally ill.  If one is too mentally ill to own a gun, they are too mentally ill to vote or drive a car.  Those accused of being mentally ill should not be deprived of their rights without due process. However,  Jeffrey Reinking should not have been able to possess a weapon and his father should pay a price for giving his obviously troubled son the weapon he used to commit this mass murder.

For the Tennessean.s report on this development, follow this link

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Early Voting Schedule and sample ballots and my endorcements - State Primary and County General election.

Early voting for the August 2nd election begins begins Friday, July 13 and ends Saturday, July 28. Davidson County voters have 14 days - including three Saturdays - to cast their ballots early in the State Primary, County General and Oak Hill Municipal Elections. There will be both a Democrat and Republican primary. The most important item will be for the respective parties to pick their nominee for Governor.

I am not yet ready to vote because I am still undecided for whom I will vote for governor. I may be ready by the last day of early voting or may wait until August 2nd. I will of course be voting in the Republican primary. From the first I have been leaning toward Diane Black but one or another of the other top contenders have looked good from time to time. Recently I have been looking favorably at Randy Boyd.  I think all of the top four contenders are qualified and would make a good candidate and a good governor. The differences between the candidates appears minor and none of them have anything in their background or have taken any positions that would stop me from voting for them. One thing that could make me turn against a candidate is if he engages in mudslinging and smears his opponent. ("He," of course,  is the singular pronoun and means a person which could also be a female. That should not be necessary to explain but some people may not know that.) One of the candidates has lost some favor with me due to negative campaigning. I am fine with a candidate drawing distinctions between himself and his opponent, but the tone of the campaign should remain respectful and criticism should be truthful and there is no need to demonize the other person.

In other races I am supporting Marsha Blackburn for the U. S. Senate, Jody Ball for State Rep in District 5, and Brent Moody in District 56. For State Executive Committeeman in District 20, I am supporting Robert Swope. In District 20 there is a tough choice for State Executive Committeewomen between two real party work horses, Martha Brown and Connie Hunter. Both are qualified and I like both of them.  I am not making a recommendation and since that is not my district, I do not have to chose between them.

In the General Election most of the offices only have one candidate running and that is the Democrat nominee. Republicans did not field candidates. For Vice Mayor I am supporting Sheri Weiner. There are school board elections in districts 2, 4, 6, and 8, but I have not studied those races and am not making any recommendations.

For a schedule and map of the early voting locations, follow this link.
For a sample Republican ballot, follow this link.
For a sample Democrat ballot, follow this link.
For a General Election sample ballot follow this link.

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Five Strange Features of the Trump Trade War.

by Rod Williams - In Five Strange Features of this Trade Warby

policies when the economy is in decline. That is not our situation.

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The effort to stop the fairgrounds giveaway is not over. The fairgrounds giveaway is not a "done deal."

At the last Metro Council meeting there was a bill on the agenda that would ban the sale, lease, transfer or conveyance of property adjacent to the proposed Major League Soccer stadium to any third party for purposes of private development. That bill was deferred indefinitely but that does not mean the effort to stop the giveaway of ten acres of fairground land to the developers of the soccer stadium is over.

I had a conversation yesterday with a member of the Council who is close to the issue who opposes the giveaway who told me the issue is far from over. He said the decision to indefinitely defer Bill BL2018-1205  was a smart move and there were other ways to achieve the same objective.  According to this council member,  there are four more bills that must be passed before the fairgrounds  land giveaway is a done deal. There are two bills that must be passed before the bond sale is complete. One issues the bonds, and the other does something else, but I am not exactly sure what. Then a bill to rezone the ten acres would have to be passed. The other bill is to authorize the demolition of existing buildings at the fairgrounds.

If any of these fail, the giveaway cannot go forward.  The best chance to stop the giveaway is the bill authorizing demolition of existing buildings. That bill will take 27 votes to pass the Council.  It does not look like that at this time, there are 27 votes to do that if the result would be the ten acre fairground giveaway.

The developers have long claimed that without the ten acres of fairground property the soccer deal will not work.  I doubt that is true.  There are probably other ways to sweeten the deal without giving away the fairground property. More than likely, the soccer stadium will be built at the fairgrounds, but the ten acre giveaway can be stopped it those who support the fairgrounds do not give up and stay engaged. The fight is not over.

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Monday, July 09, 2018


Initiated by Ben Cunningham with the Nashville Tea Party, working with other conservative groups across the city, there is an effort being made to amend the Metro Charter to limit Metro's debt.  I support this effort. Metro's current debt service obligation is slightly greater than 13% of the operating budget. One important thing this amendment would do is require the city to count its Metro pension obligations as a debt and set aside funds to service that obligation. Frankly, I am more concerned about Metro's pension obligations than I am our other debt obligations.  If this amendment passes, then Metro may get serious about switching from a guaranteed benefit system to a guaranteed contribution system.  Most pensioners do better with the later system but unions oppose it.

The Nashville Debt Limit Charter Amendment is a proposed amendment to the Nashville-Davidson County Charter which is designed to stop the growth of debt before it becomes dangerously high and burdensome. The amendment prohibits the issuance of new long term bonds when total debt service exceeds 15% of the operating budget of Metro Nashville. For more information, see

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Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday July 19th at 6PM at Smokin Thighs,

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Sunday, July 08, 2018

Time's Up For Farmers As Trump Trade War Begin

News Channel 5 - Farmers across the State of Tennessee woke up to a new economic reality on Friday morning, multi-billion dollar Chinese tariffs that will likely cripple farmers already on the brink of collapse.  ... For Will Hutchinson, a lifelong farmer in Rutherford County, the tariffs couldn’t have come at a less opportune time. His 70 acres of soybeans are already in the ground.
He estimates the impact of the $34 billion tariff on imported U.S. goods to China, including soybeans, will cost him more than $20,000 this growing season. (For the News Channel 5 video or the text of this story, follow this link.)

Rod's Comment: The Trump Trade War is going to bankrupt farmers as the above story illustrates. It will also add up to $5000 to the cost of new cars and pickup trucks, and increase the price of many things we buy. Even the craft beer brewing industry will be hurt, Craft brewers have to have steel kegs and aluminum cans and with the ban on imported steel and aluminum. steel kegs and aluminum cans will cost more. Small emerging craft brewers operate on a small margin and cannot compete with established firms with these higher prices. Jack Daniel and Harley-Davidson will see a decrease in exports.

While there will be some winners, such as steel workers who may be put back to work, there promises to be many more losers. Losers will include consumers who will pay more for numerous goods. Also, however, will be American workers who will be thrown out of work. Farmers who can't sell their soybeans will be forced into bankruptcy.  With increased prices, some consumer will simply delay or forgo a purchase and those who work in the auto sector, for instance, may face layoffs. For those consumers who don't let the $5000 higher price of a new car deter them, then they will  have $5000 less to spend elsewhere or to save. Money not spend elsewhere means that other producers and sellers of goods are hurt. Money not saved makes borrowing more costly and dries up money available for investment.

It is time for Republicans to stand up to Trump and resist this ill-advised trade war. A tariff is a tax paid not by foreigners who export goods to America, but by the American consumer. The Trump Trade War is likely to undo the good done by the recent tax cut and Trump's regulatory reform. It is time to end this trade war now before it does serious harm.

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What happened at the July 3rd Council meeting: Effort to stop fairground giveaway fails, Scooter regs, new floodway buffer, new dog regs advance.

Here is the video of the Council meeting of July 3rd.. I almost always watch the Council meetings but did not watch this one. The actions reported below are what is reported in the Council minutes of the meeting.

To see my commentary on the agenda and a link to the agenda and the Council staff analysis follow this link.

Absent members: Any member may have an occasional reason to miss a council meeting, but this meeting had six absent members.That is a lot. I guess the day before July 4th is not a good day to have a meeting. The absent members were Absent: Hastings, Scott Davis, Anthony Davis, Pardue, Roberts and Henderson.

All appointees to Boards and Commission were approved.

Bills on Public Hearing:

Bill BL2018-1182 is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. It would rezone from R10 to OL property located at 355 Bell Road. R-10 is a residential zoning; OL is a office zoning intended for moderate intensity office uses. This looks like a spot zoning. This passed on Second Reading by a voice vote.

 Bill BL2018-1197  approves a waste processing facility at 4648 Ashland City Highway. All landfills or waste processing facilities have to be approved by the Council and they often generate neighborhood hostility. This facility would be an  anaerobic digestion facility which processes food waste. This passed on Second Reading by a voice vote.
Resolution RS2018-1244  would require the city to fly the Metropolitan Government flags at half-staff for a period of one year in honor and memory of students killed as a result of gun violence and as a reminder of the urgency of gun violence solutions. This would not be one year from the date of any future shootings, but one year from the effective date of the passage of the ordinance. I don't like this resolution.  The flag should not be flying at half-staff all the time.  What if we had a local occurrence of something, such as death of a local dignitary that warranted a show of respect and honor?  If the flags were already at half staff, we could not use the flag to honor that person. This was deferred indefinitely. It could be brought back up but usually that means the resolution is dead.

Resolution RS2018-1253 would extend the maturity date a bill that is coming due.
It extends the duration of the water and sewer extendable commercial paper program. This would result in more fees and a higher interest rate. This seems like poor money management to me. It looks like Metro has been so mismanaged that we are like a family that is juggling bills and flipping credit card debts from one card to another to weather a crisis.  Maybe this is a wise thing to do at this time, I don't know, but it appears we keep kicking the debt down the road.  This was approved on the consent agenda.
Bills on Second Reading: Below are the ones of interest.

Substitute Bill BL2018-1157  establishes a 50 foot floodway buffer along the Cumberland River and prohibits variances. The floodway is the river channel and adjacent low lying areas that would be underwater in a 100 year flood. This bill would establish that no new construction could occur within an area that is within 50 feet of the floodway and in this buffer no existing building could be expanded.  
If a building site was on a 50 foot tall bluff but within 50 feet of the floodway, as I read this bill, one could not build on top of that bluff. Also as I read this bill, this would not allow "displacement" to justify a variance. 

Displacement means that if any capacity for the land to hold water is decreased on one part of a parcel, then more capacity must be added elsewhere. As an example, if a home is build on a lot and near the front of the property the lot is build up by adding so many cubic yards of dirt, then the same amount of earth would have to be removed elsewhere from that parcel. This neutralizes any impact the development would have on flooding. 

I understand what the sponsor is trying to do, but rather than a buffer 50 feet from the floodway, it appears a better approach would be elevation above the floodway.  In reality, a house within in a 50 foot floodway buffer but on a bluff may have less impact on the potential to contribute to flooding than a house ten miles away that is only a little higher in elevation than the floodway. Addressing elevation above the floodway seems to be a more rational approach than measuring distance from the flood way.  

Also, for years there has been talk and proposals of building a river-oriented development in Nashville with homes on canals with homesites having private boat docs.  I am sure such could be done without contributing to flooding but this bill would  preclude that possibility.

This bill is trying to address a real need.  The Storm Water Management Committee has been granting variances to build in flood prone areas simply based on hardship (link).  That needs to stop, but I think this is the wrong approach. This passed on second reading on a voice vote.
Bill BL2018-1189  would require Metro to make an even greater effort to make sure some Metro business goes to minority contractors when Metro has projects to put out for bid. The staff analysis says Metro legal has expressed concern that the bill may contain unconstitutional race and gender based preferences and is inconsistent with the current framework of the Procurement Non-Discrimination Program. Last meeting this was on Second Reading and deferred to this meeting. This was deferred indefinitely.
Bill BL2018-1190   would give free parking at public parking meters in Davidson County for environmentally friendly vehicles and for vehicle owners that purchase carbon offsets. I oppose this. If we are going to give anyone free parking, I would prefer to give it to low-income people who were forced to spend money bringing their car into auto emission standards compliance rather than wealthier people who can afford an environmentally friendly car. Also, carbon offsets are a often a scam. This passed on a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1200 would require that if hotels or roominghouses accept cash payment, they must also accept at least one other form of payment such as check or credit cards. I seldom carry cash and would find it inconvenient if I tried to do business with an entity that was cash-only, but why not let the market work this out?  Why must the government try to micromanage every aspect of commerce and our lives? This was on second last time and deferred to this meeting. This passed on a voice vote.
Bill BL2018-1201  would tighten animal control regulations. Now, you are not supposed to leave your pooch out if the heat index will be above 95 degree. This lowers it to 85. Animal Control says to enforce this will take more people, space, and equipment and cost $472,617. $472,617 hear and $472,617 there and soon you are talking about real money. This was on the agenda last time and deferred to this meeting. This passed on a voice vote.

Substitute Bill BL2018-1202 proposed new rules for scooter prompted by the
arrival of Bird Scooter here in Nashville. It would require new fees including a fee of $35 per scooter.  This does a lot, but if Bird can live with it and is not fighting it, then I would assume it is an OK bill. Bird and similar scooter companies are in lots of other cities. I hope we are not over regulating them. Something like Bird can be an important part of making our city more mobile and can take cars off the road. Some cities have welcomed scooters and merchants have  installed scooter racks. This passed on a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1203  also deals with scooters, in-line skates, and roller skates by removing the requirement for wrist guards, elbow pads, and kneepads and updating audio device references. It redefines the word "scooter" to mean non-motorized scooters, so this section would not apply to the electric Bird scooters.They would be regulated by the regulations contained in 1202 above. This was amended and deferred one meeting by a voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1205 is an effort to stop the fairgrounds giveaway.  It wold ban the sale, lease, transfer or conveyance of property adjacent to the proposed Major League Soccer stadium to any third party for purposes of private development. I support this. We should not be giving away land to private developers and we ought to save the fairgrounds for an improved fairground facility not shrinking the site. This was deferred indefinitely which usually means it is dead.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 21 bills on third and final reading. None are very important or of interest. Most are zoning bills approved by the Planning Commission. 
Bill BL2018-1099  is a disapproved zoning bill in Scot Davis' district. This bill was deferred "by rule."

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