Saturday, December 08, 2018

Open primaries have been good for the TN GOP. Why change what works?

Last week the Republican Party state executive committee passed a resolution calling for a change in the law to close party primaries.  As it stand now, when you go to vote you can, at the moment you walk into the voting location, decide if you want to vote in the Republican primary or the Democrat primary. In Tennessee there is no such thing as a "registered Republican" or a  "registered Democrat."

Currently there are 23 states with "open primaries" such as Tennessee has and the others are "closed." The closed primary states vary in how difficult and how soon before an election you may change your party affiliation.

The argument Republicans make for closing the primaries is that Democrats should not be allowed to help pick the Republican nominee. Some argue that Democrats vote in Republican primaries and vote for the weakest Republican so the Democrat can run against a weak Republican. Others, don't make that argument but say that when the Democrat Party has no candidate of stature running or no serious challenger to an incumbent and the enthusiasm is in the Republican Party, Democrats will vote in the Republican Party and vote for the candidate they like best.  However, this, critics claim, results in the Republican candidate being more moderate than he would be if only Republicans voted in the Republican primary. This gives us candidates who are Republican in name only- the dreaded "RINO."

I am not in favor of closing primaries in Tennessee. Tennessee has done extremely well with open primaries. We have a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and seven of our nine U. S congressmen are Republicans and we have a super majority in the State legislature in the House and the Senate. You can't do much better than that. I don't see why we would want to change a system that is working to our benefit.

Over the years, more and more Tennesseans have identified as Republican and have voted for Republican candidates. Would this have happened without open primaries? I doubt it.  I don't think many people change party affiliation all at once. If Independents or even Democrats vote in Republican primaries a few times, then I suspect, after a while, they will began thinking of themselves as Republicans. Why would we want to freeze them out from making that transition.

Also, I think our system has produced good rational, sensible people such as Corker, Alexander, and Haslam, and Fred Thompson. These people are considered too moderate by some Republicans, however,  and they want to nominate "more conservative" candidates. If we nominate people too far to the right, or nut-job Republicans like Joe Carr, I fear we are likely to lose our political dominance.

Here is an argument made made in a Facebook post by former State House Representative Debra Maggart.

Debra Maggart: Now that we have a super majority, why do we want to put a roadblock in front of Independents (who we desperately need ) and other Converts to our way of thinking?
I carried this bill long ago and I can debate it both ways. But I thought it was a good idea when we were in the minority. However, I don’t  think this anymore because we have a very different landscape now.
The Democrats have never organized their people to vote in our primaries - that’s never been proved - heck, they can’t even organize themselves to vote for their own, much less our people. That’s an old wives tale- if they voted in droves in our primaries you could look it up - but they don’t. You couldn’t get me to vote in their primary for a million bucks. So, who are these mysterious Democrats voting in our primaries??
If they tried to organize, we would know it. We’d get their mailers or phone bank calls, GOTV texts, emails, etc.
The better play is to get more Republicans and R-leaning Independents who only vote in November to also vote in August and grow the party that way. Our focus and funds should be on that idea.
I think we are limiting our numbers of voters by closing the primaries.
Having open primaries has worked pretty good so far- why change now?
We already know our numbers of voters who actually vote is shrinking anyway.
I’m sure I’ll be called a RINO for asking these questions, but I’ve served on both the SEC, the TGA, and I can’t count the campaign’s I’ve been involved in. I was the Whip when we picked up the 14-seat Majority in charge of protecting our incumbents and Caucus Chair when we expanded our numbers further.
I really want to understand why a party purity test is a good idea when we should be in the business of changing hearts and minds over to our side.
I think she is exactly right. It is a myth that Democrats organize to vote in Republican primaries. The lone Democrat may do so, but there is no evidence that it happens in large number or that there is an organized effort to do so. Instead of freezing people out, we should be enticing them to join us
Here is a Facebook comment from by friend Tim Skow , organizer of the First Tuesday group and a political activist.
Tim Skow: To our ''Closed primary supporter friends'' -- Lets ask you HONESTLY to evaluate this -- '' Had ALL states primaries been ''Closed'' in 2016 ... Can we AGREE... that 1] Donald Trump [supported significantly in primaries by Independents, first time voters and even some supposed ''Dems'' mad a Obama''] would NOT have won the Republican Primary for President without them? 2] ThatTed Cruz likely would have been nominated? AND... 3] that Hillary would be President today after beating Cruz LIKE A DRUM?!!!! .... IF...Anyone cannot honestly recognize this ... are a blind novice, political fraud ... or simply BSC !
Think about it. Tim is right. Donald Trump got the nomination because he was able to attract people who do not normally vote in Republican primaries to do so. Well, I am not going to think about that too hard because I did not want Trump to be the party's nominee. However, the process resulted in a Republican win which if Democrats and Independents had not been able to vote in Republican primaries, we would most likely would not have had and we would now have Hillary Clinton as president.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Friday, December 07, 2018

What happened at the 12/4/18 Council meeting: bill holding Amazon bribe hostage deferred, anguish over gentrification, bad kennel bill deferred.

Above  is the video of the Council meeting of Tuesday, November 4, 2018. It is three hours and 13 minutes long. If you are going to watch it, it will make a lot more sense if you can follow along with an agenda. To access a copy of the agenda, the agenda summary and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link. I did not carefully watch the full meeting and skipped portion of it looking for the good parts. I rushed through the public hearing portion watching that in double speed. If you think I may have missed something important, or important to you, you may want to watch the video for yourself.

Only one council member, Erica Gilmore, was absent from this meeting.

Vice Mayor Jim Shulman begins the meeting with a brief eulogy of President George H. W Bush and former mayor and congressman Richard Fulton. Following the prayer and pledge, Mayor Briley addresses the Council. This is extremely rare that a mayor appears in person before the Council. He paid tribute to former Mayor Richard Fulton.

The Vice Mayor asked for committee reports on matters other than legislation: This is not a normal feature of council meetings but the city is facing several issues that the council feels deserve special attention and the vice mayor has tasked committees to look into these issue. These various committees are charged with studying the issues of budget,  contract procurement, innovation and school safety. None of the committees had anything very important to report but they are working on the issues.

The Vice Mayor announced that a joint Budget Committee and Affordable Housing Committee will be holding hearing on concerns that have been expressed in the media about how MDHA operates. The Tennessean recently published an article pointing out that MDHA spends lots of money and funds lots of downtown development with almost no oversight from the administration or the council. The mayor appoints members to the MDHA board and the council confirms them and beyond that they operate independently, with no oversight and little transparency. To read The Tennessean's report see this link.

The vice mayor reminds the council that all nomination to serve on the new police oversight board must be turned in by 4:30 pm on Tuesday Dec.18th. If any readers of this blog would like to try to serve on this board, go for it! One of the ways you can be nominated is to be nominated by a community organization, but the term is undefined. The selection of members of the board is a complex process to say the least and there is a lot of confusion. To see the announcement and an explanation of the nominating process, see timestamp 21:33- 30:40 in the video.

Bills on Public Hearing: There are 18 bills on Public Hearing. Bills on public hearing are usually to rezone a particular piece of property or to change the text of zoning code.   I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. These are the one I found of interest.

Bill BL2018-1288 (as amended) is intended to stop the owner of a commercial establishment from giving away or leasing their parking spaces.  One of the causes, perhaps the major cause, of sparse development along major corridors and for urban sprawl is the requirement that owners provide parking for their customers. The codes require so many parking spaces per so many seats in a restaurant and so many parking spaces per so many square feet of different types of retail. Some developers of  commercial property have met the requirement and then turned around and leased out their parking spaces, defeating the purpose of the requirement. This is an attempts to stop that. My view is that we should give up on this attempt to cater to the old model of car-oriented development and let the market work it out. If someones wants to open a restaurant with 2O tables and only supply five parking spaces, let them.  No one spoke on the bill and it passed by a voice vote of the Council.

Bill BL2018-1357 cancels a Planned Unit Development Overlay District on property located at 3419 Murphy Road and Bill BL2018-1358 changes from ORI-A to SP the zoning on that property to permit a mixed-use development. I happened to be visiting a relative on Richland Avenue recently and in about a three block section, about half the houses had signs opposing this development. Council Member Kindall moved to defer both bills to the January 3, 2019 public hearing, which passed.

Bill BL2018-1371 regards dog kennels and and stables. There are several things
wrong with this bill. I am not sure what the bill would do.  It defines kennels as only kennels that breed dogs. It requires kennels be located on ten acres. Where does that leave dog boarding facilities?  Could they continue to operated in the city? Ten acres seems like an awfully high threshold for having a kennel. If you live in the city and own a dog and are going out of town for the weekend and want to board your dog, would you have to go to Watertown or Dickson to board your dog? This was on the agenda on November 6th and deferred.  When on the agenda of November 6, I spoke to the sponsor and he essentially said this was a work in progress and he welcomed feedback and input.  To offer your input on this bill, the sponsor welcomes your comments and you may contact him at  Council Member Bedne moved to defer the bill indefinitely, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council. Councilman Bedne says the bill is still a work in progress and will be brought back up but in a different form.
Bill BL2018-1393  is a rezoning bill in the vicinity of 27th Ave. North and Clifton Ave changing from RS5 to MUL-A zoning. Among those speaking in favor is Pastor Enoch Fuzz. of Corinthian Baptist church. Several people speak in opposition. The opposition is that it furthers gentrifies the area and replaces affordable housing with more expensive housing and will displace residents. It passes the Council on a voice vote.
Bill BL2018-1395 is much like the last one. It rezones property in the vicinity of 26th Avenue North and Clifton Avenue. The bill would rezone some property from RS5 and IR to MUL-A and RM20-A. The opposition is the same as the previous bill, that it further gentrifies the area and replaces affordable housing with more expensive housing and will displace residents. Following the public hearing several council members speak on the bill. It is an approved bill and passes on a voice vote.
The problem of disappearing affordable housing and changing communities is real. What can be done about it, I don't know. I don't think anything significant can be done. The amount of affordable housing than the city can build or entice to be build is not a drop in the bucket to what is being lost. I think it is a simple fact that when property becomes more valuable because Nashville is becoming more prosperous, then some people will no longer be able to afford to live where they did live. I can understand the anguish of  those who see their community change.  Part of what is happening is that communities that are close to downtown or gentrifying and many low income people who did live close to downtown will relocate. Part of Antioch is becoming the new low income areas. No doubt many low income people will leave Nashville. While I have compassion for those who are upset by the change, I don't think we can freeze low income communities and mandate that they stay low income. The best solution is to let the market work. To see the discussion on these two bills see timestamp 44:28 to 1:29:18.
Bill BL2018-1399  changes from AR2a to CS zoning on property located at 1488 and 1492 Bell Road. I know nothing about the merits of this request but am simply calling attention to it because it is bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. No one spoke on the bill and it passed on Second reading by voice vote.
Resolutions. There are 18 resolutions most of which are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is on the consent agenda if it passed the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. Any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. Below are the resolutions of interest.
Resolution RS2018-1507 requests that Metro refrain from providing economic incentives to Amazon unless and until employees of the Metropolitan Government receive cost of living adjustments. This is co-sponsored by the most conservative members of the Council such as Steve Glover and Robert Swope and the most liberal members of the Council such as Freddie O'Connel and Brenda Haywood.  The administration and the Chamber of Commerce oppose this.  This is substituted and then deferred indefinitely. Councilman Glover makes clear this effort is not being abandoned but simply deferred.

Resolution RS2018-1508 would encourages a change in the NES policy of collecting contribution to its weatherization program for low income property owners from an opt-in policy to an opt-out policy. Currently if your electric bill is so many dollars and so many cents, you may select to have your bill rounded up to the next dollar and that odd cents amount goes to a fund to pay the cost of low income property owners to have work done on their home such as insulation to improve energy efficiency. This would change that policy so that your bill was automatically rounded up unless you opted out of that process. I adamantly oppose this.  I contribute routinely to causes and charities I support, but I don't want someone automatically rounding up my bill without my specific informed consent. This is memorializing.  It "encourages" NES to adopt this policy; it would not have to do so. It is deferred one meeting.

Resolution RS2018-1509  calls upon the Davidson County Election Commission to ensure that the voting machines it purchases in the future provide a voter-verifiable paper audit trail and that such functionality is implemented. This is memorializing and the Election Commission would not have to do it. This is substituted, then passes.
Bills on Second Reading:  There are 11. This is the only one of interest.
Bill BL2018-1404 removes certain storage and impound fees for recovered stolen vehicles. Storage fees for tow-in lots under the jurisdiction of the MNPD are currently waived for owners of stolen vehicles. However, fees are currently charged for vehicles at private towing and impound lots. This ordinance would waive fees at both Metro Government lots and private lots. While I feel sorry for the individual who must pay a fee to recover his stolen vehicle, we cannot expect private companies to just adsorb the cost of towing and storing the vehicles. If the owner of the vehicle does not pay the fee, then the city should pay the fee for the victim of auto theft if that is a cost we want to absorb.  This is deferred to the January 15 meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 13. This is the only one I find of interest.
Bill BL2018-1283 (as amended)  says that Metro cannot use the proceeds from sale of surplus property to fund operating cost.  While it seems to make sense that one should not use one-time money to fund on-going cost, as we did this year, I am not sure that this flexibility should be taken away. There may be times when the city needs to do that. This passed by a machine vote with no opposition.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

I give the new TN education report card a grade of "D+."

The Tennessee Department of Education has revealed a new online education report card this week and I would give it a "D" or maybe be generous and give it a "D+."

I would like to be able to see a list a Davidson Counties schools and be able to filter then from worst to best and be able to post a list of the ten worse and ten best. I would like to be able to compare schools across the county and the state. I just can't do that with this new system.  I can look up information for a specific school but it is very difficult to compare one school to another.

Another fault with this new state report card is that one cannot get a composite score for a school. Instead of one score, the school is rated in six categories:

  • Academic achievement which measures whether students are performing on grade level on TNready
  • Student Academic growth which measures if from year to year students are improving
  • Chronically out of school which measures the level of truancy
  • Progress on English language proficiency
  • Ready to graduate which is the percentage of students who score at least a 21 on the ACT test
  • Graduation rates.
It would be nice if the various factors were combined into one score, although I am sure there would be disagreement about the weight given to the various components. Given that there is not a composite score, the information would still be more useful if it was more user friendly.  The data has to be available to filter and rank or the department could not provide what information they do provide.  Why will they not make that data readily available?

The gradng scale is 0 to 4 with use of decimals.  "O" is the worst and 4 is the best. Here is a comparison of four high schools in Nashville with information gleamed from the new report card:

The quality of public schools varies greatly in Davidson County. Some of our schools are absolutely terrible and a few are excellent. Even within a school that is ranked bad there may still be an opportunity for a student to get a good education if he is motivated. Some schools that do not rank that high still have advanced placement courses and programs like International Baccalaureate. We all know the role of peer pressure and environment is student success however.  Students in good schools are generally better students.

Luckily, I do not have school age children.  If I did, I would sacrifice to put them in a private school, leave Davidson County for a county with better schools, or proactively aggressively push to get them in a good school.  No longer does one have to move to a neighborhood with good schools to get your child in a good school or lie about your address. For parents who are willing to work at it, you can get your child in a better school.  You may have to provide the transportation to get them to a school other than their district school, but that seems a small price to pay for a better education. The Metro School Choice Festival was last month, but if I were a parent with few other option for my child's education and had missed the event I would not let that stop me from exercising school choice.

I am disappointed that the new report card is not more user friendly, still it is better than what we have had before and can provide helpful information about schools in Tennessee.

To read the Tennessee Education Department's press release on the new report card follow this link.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories