Friday, February 22, 2019

Briley moves to spend half of the city's affordable housing budget for an historical preservation property.

Morris Memorial Building
Mayor David Briley moves to buy historic building with affordable housing funds

Rod's Comment: I question if this is the best use of limited affordable housing funds. $12.8 million dollars would go a lot further somewhere else.  This makes me question if the concern about affordable housing is real or if it is an excuse to have a slush fund.  This is prime downtown property at the corner of 4th Ave North and James Robertson Parkway. It does not make a lot of sense to develop affordable housing in some of the most expensive property one could possibly find. This will have to go before the Council.  This deal should be rejected. If affordable housing advocate really care about affordable housing they will oppose this.

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Nashville schools board will delay Shawn Joseph contract talks with one member absent

Nashville schools board will delay Shawn Joseph contract talks with one member absent

The Tennessean - The delay comes at a tumultuous time for the Metro Nashville Public Schools superintendent, after a scathing human resources audit commissioned by the board found numerous issues. And a Metro Auditor review of district spending has left some board members with more questions
As well, an evaluation of Joseph's work by board members is pending.

Three board members — Fran Bush, Jill Speering and Amy Frogge — have called for the ouster of Joseph.

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Dems introduce bills to counter ban on Sanctuary cities

Democrats, immigrant rights group push bills to protect Tennessee cities against sanctuary city ban

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Bill to close Tennessee primaries and require party registration advances.

by Rod Williams, 2/22/2019 -In December the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee voted to support "closed primaries" and party registration in Tennessee. Legislation to accomplish that has not been introduced.

In Tennessee there has never been such a thing as a "registered Republican" or "registered Democrat" but that is common in much of the country. In Tennessee as it stand now, when you go to vote, you check a box on your request for a ballot form, indicating in which primary you would like to vote. The next time you go to vote you could vote in the primary of the other party if you wanted.

A bill has been introduced in the State House called the "Political Party Registration Act," that would require one to register as a Republican, a Democrat or unaffiliated or a specific other party identity. At election time only a registered Republican could vote in a Republican primary and only a registered Democrat could vote in a Democrat primary. People who registered as a member of the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or unaffiliated with a party would not be able to vote in a primary.

One could change their party affiliation but to do so and then vote in that party's primary one would have to change their registration before the end of the registration period of the primary election in which they wished to vote. I am not sure how far in advance of the election that is but it is several weeks, if not months. It would also require submitting a new voter registration form, so it is not something one would do often.

The argument in favor of doing this is that only true Republican ought to vote in Republican primaries and the same for Democrats. It is hard to argue with that logic. Some Republicans I have talked to believe that Democrats often vote in Republican primaries to vote for the worst Republican in order for the Democrat to run against a weak candidate. I don't see any evidence of this. I doubt it happens.

The other argument is that since there may not be a serious contest in the Democrat Party, that Democrats will vote in the Republican Primary and vote for the Republican they like the best or the Republican they dislike the least. This is probably so. I sometimes vote in the Democrat primary in Davidson County elections and vote for whom I perceive to be the best Democrat or at least the least objectionable candidate.  In Davidson County, the Democrat primary is the election, since Republicans do not run candidates.

Some people who think of themselves as independent voters or who say they vote for the person, not the party, argue they should have to right to vote in any primary based on who they want to vote for at the time of the primary election. They see party registration as an infringement on their right to vote. I see no logic to that argument. A primary election is to nominate the party's candidates. Why should people who are not Republican chose the Republican candidate?

The argument made by many Republicans pushing the closed primary is that the party would nominate more ideologically conservative candidates if only registered Republicans could vote to nominate Republican candidates. Many of these feel that people like Bill Haslam, Lamar Alexander, and Bob Corker are "RINO" or are too liberal. It may be true that a more conservative candidate would have an edge if only people who are registered to vote as Republican chose Republican candidates. In my view however, Tennessee has chosen good Republicans. In temperament they may not be bomb-throwers but we have elected thoughtful, problem-solving, pragmatic, conservative people to office. If you think about our candidates since Republican resurgence in Tennessee, I think Winfield Dunn, Bill Brock, Fred Thomson, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Marsha Blackburn have been good candidates and the people we needed at the time. I don't think a closed primary would have produced better candidates.

I favor keeping the system of open primaries we have now, simply because it has served us well. Republicans hold the governor's office, seven of nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 73 of 99 seats in the State House and 28 of the 33 seats in the State Senate. We have also increased the number of county mayors and courthouse offices held by Republicans across the state. Except for the islands of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee is Republican. I think one reason this has happened is because of open primaries. In the 1970's Tennessee was a predominantly Democrat state. Tennessee gradually became Republican. I don't think people who are Democrat have an epiphany and wake up one day and realize they are really Republican. Instead, overtime, they gradually start voting for candidates they like who happen to be Republican and gradually come to realize they are Republican. Open primaries allow that process to take place. Maybe that is why Republicans, who in the 1970's opposed close primaries, now favor them; they don't want Republicans to migrate toward becoming Democrats.

If I had my preference, I would stay with open primaries and leave things the way they are for the reasons I have stated. However, this is one of those issues, about which I don't feel that passionate. Some Republicans get mad at other Republicans over this issue. I don't.  I have my preference but I just can't get that adamant about it. It is not that I don't understand the arguments. If the change occurs, I think in reality, it will have minimal impact one way or the other.  

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Push for more regulation of scooters dies

Push to impose fines for illegally parking electric scooters in Nashville dies in Metro Council — for now

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Council defers action on $3.6M corporate welfare for AllianceBernstein

Nashville council defers approval for $3.6M incentive to AllianceBernstein

by Yihyun Jeong, The Tennessean, 2/21/2019 - The Metro Council deferred approval Tuesday of a nearly $3.68 million incentive package to lure the investment firm AllianceBernstein from New York to Nashville. move its headquarters and bring 1,050 financial jobs to Nashville. ....a $500-per-job incentive — up to $525,000 every year  — for seven years. ....deferred Tuesday with no discussion at the Metro Council meeting.....  ....Metro's general fund will receive reduced property taxes at the Fifth + Broadway project for a number of years as the result of a $25 million tax increment financing payment that has been awarded to the developer. 

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fran Bush under attack for her criticism of Dr Shawn Joseph

Fran Bush
by Rod Williams, 2/20/2019 - The herd mentality of the African-American community is on display here in Nashville in an effort to oust School Board member Fran Bush. Ms Bush who is African-American is one of three vocal critics of Dr. Shawn Joseph on the nine-member elected school board. The other leading vocal critics are Jill Speering and Amy Frogge who are Caucasian.

We know how any politically conservative Black person is treated by the larger African-American community.  A Black person finds it difficult to deviate from Black group-think without being ostracized and denounced. Black conservatives are often denounced as "Uncle Tom."  Even in non-political matters the denunciation of "acting white" is used to criticize Blacks who speak proper English or strive to join the middle-class.  This effort to enforce a sameness and solidarity on the part of Blacks extends to cultural things such as music, fashion, or food.  A Black may jokingly tell another Black person that they will have their "Black card" revoked if they deviate from accepted Black norms. Blacks often rally behind other Blacks even when the person they are rallying behind is a crook or incompetent or an attention seeking loud mouth.  This factor has been on display in the case of Dr. Shawn Joseph.

Dr. Joseph is incompetent and rules the Metro Public Schools like an autocratic old-style boss.  It is reported that he bullies teachers and intimidates critics. He also displays his privileged position by having a chauffeur to drive him where he needs to go in his School Board provided $55,000 Tahoe.  He is the first School Board superintendent to have a luxury car and a chauffeur.  Under his leadership, complaints against employees for misconduct are often not handled in the prescribed manner.  Contracts have been let without bids. He has often misled School Board members about what is going on in the administration of the schools.  For a small sample of some of what the media has reported about Dr. Joseph's questionable conduct and practices follow these links: link, link, link, link, link.

In addition to cronyism, creating a toxic work environment, carelessness or misuse of school funds, and failure to follow State procedures when confronted with misconduct of school personnel, Metro School are failing.  Last year there was a substantial spike in the number of Metro Schools on the Tennessee Department of Education's list of the lowest performing schools.  Also, despite Metro Nashville's population rising, the number of children enrolled in Metro Schools is declining. Many people with children moving to the Nashville area move to a surrounding county where the schools are much better or they send their children to private schools.

In response to criticism of his failure to improve schools and his questionable management practices, Dr. Joseph has played the race card and claimed that the criticism of his administration of Metro Schools was the same product of the factors that led to the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the treatment of other African-American men. Many Black leaders have circled the wagons around Joseph and defended him.  I can see no other reason for protecting him other than the fact he is Black.  Also, many white leaders have been hesitant to criticize Joseph.  There is a tendency on the part of White liberals to bend over backwards to excuse and ignore incompetence  or corruption on the part of Black leaders.  I don't know if it a merely a knee-jerk political calculation or genuine response conditioned by White guilt, but behavior or practices that would be denounced if a White person did it are often overlooked on the part of Blacks.

Fran Bush who is Black has shown courage in standing up to Dr. Joseph and being critical of his administration.  Now, there is an  effort to make her pay for it.  There is an online petition at calling for her ouster. As of 1:30pm today the petition had 232 signature. That is not a huge number but this movement to punish Bush needs to be watched.  It is not easy to recall an elected official. A recall petition for the offices of School Board member or district councilmember must contain the signatures and addresses of 15 percent of the registered qualified voters in the district from which the officer was elected. That takes a lot of effort. Also, a notice of the intention to obtain signatures for a recall petition, together with the form of the recall petition, must be filed with the metropolitan clerk.  The petition does not appear to constitute a recall petition.  However, such organized criticism may cause a person to fear they may be subject to a recall petition or it may cause them to modify their behavior and weaken their resolve to stand by their convictions.  If a person so criticized is concerned about serving more than one term, they may try to make nice with their critics. Also, such an effort may be a warning shot to others they they better not step out of line.  

I have posted a word of encouragement on Fran Bush's Facebook page. You may want to take a moment to encourage her and let her know that she is doing the right thing and you support her. You can find her Facebook page at the highlighted link or email her at

Update 2/21/2019: The above has been updated to reflect corrected information about the process of executing a recall petition for school board members and district council members.  For anyone seeking a more in depth information follow this link and see

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Is recycling just so much garbage?

by Rod Williams, 2-18-2019 - There have been a couple stories in the press recently about recycling. "Nashville answers call for more recycling with expansion of curbside collection," in the Tennessean says that with the help of a $2 million state grant and a match from the city, Metro will increase the frequency of its curbside recycling collection from once a month to every other week starting next year. This is welcome news, assuming separated recyclables actually get recycled and saves the city money and helps the environment.  I still have boxes of cardboard stored in my basement.  There is just Louella and myself in our household yet we create a lot of waste paper.  I still get the print edition of the newspaper and that generates a lot of waste and I order wine online and it is carefully packed and generates a lot of waste and in December my daughter sent me some gifts via Amazon which produced a lot of cardboard.

The other news item was a Tennessean article by Ms Cheap, "Plastic bags, pizza boxes and other ways you may be messing up your recycling." This provided good information about how contaminating recyclables by things like greasy pizza boxes and plastic bags sabotages the recycling effort and how the city is going to step up its education program to let people know what can and cannot be recycled. I would think this is a wise move, if I believed it mattered. What the article did not address and what I don't know is this: Does it all end up in the landfill anyway?

In the last year, I have seen several news reports and read several articles that said that China had drastically reduced the amount of waste paper they were accepting from the U.S.  Some of the stories said the U.S. was finding other markets in India and a few other third world countries.  Then I started seeing stories that China and India had also stopped accepting plastic. One article said that Thailand was still accepting plastic but had such a large inventory, they were contemplating ending the practice. Reports also said that several cities have ended up unable to sell their recylables and ended up simply land-filling them.

Markets are broad-based. If any single city is having a problem disposing of their recyclables then, the problem must be effecting all cities.  Maybe, a city can benefit from having long-term contracts but eventually if Sacramento County, California is having problems disposing of their recyclables, Nashville will have the same problem. 

To find out the status of Metro's recycling program, in November of 2018, I wrote the following letter to the chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee and a similar letter to my own councilman:
Dear Councilman _____,  

I am seeking some information that I hope you have or can get for me.  As chairman of the Council's Public Works Committee I thought you may be the person best informed on this topic.  I am wanting to know the current status of Metro's waste recycling program. There was a USA Today article in today's Tennessean that addressed the problems facing recycling. If you didn't see it you can find it at this link:Will those holiday gift boxes actually get recycled? Um, maybe.  In our newspaper it was headlined, "Changing times create big trouble for recycling," but it is the same article.

According to this article, in Sacramento County, California a year ago the city was getting paid up to $95 a ton for mixed paper and now it is getting as low at $6.50. Whereas the county was getting paid $45 a ton for plastics, now they have to pay $35 a ton to get a recycler to take it away. Other things I have read say that some firms are getting much more picky about the recycling material they will accept.  Also the future looks gloomy for recycling, since China takes most of America's recyclables and the trade conflict with China may impact China's willingness to keep purchasing it. 

What I would like to know is what change has there been in what we are paid for a ton of materials  (paper, tin, aluminum, plastic) in the past as compared to now.  I know recycling saves landfill disposal cost and that is a benefit. Have we gone from recycling being a net financial benefit to the city to it being a net liability?

Any light you could shed on this topic, would be appreciated.

Rod Williams
 My letter was referred to Public Works and got the following correspondence:
Mr. Williams,
Recent changes in how China accepts the importing of recyclable material has impacted cities and counties across America.  While Nashville’s recyclables do not tend to go overseas, the local US markets have been flooded with material no longer accepted in China which has made those local US markets more competitive.  The biggest impact we have seen in Nashville is issues regarding contamination.  Metro has to be much more vigilant in educating residents about contamination in our recycling.  A recent audit of our curbside recycling showed that a lot of residents are putting plastic bags and plastic bags full of recyclables in curbside recycling carts.  This has become concern as the bags (and their contents) can get stuck in sorting equipment, damage the equipment and ultimately end up in the trash.  Highly contaminated loads of recyclables may have to be run through the sorting equipment more than once and this does increase processing costs.  Public Works has started auditing routes, placing tags on carts with plastic bags and bagged recyclables, posting information on social media and providing information to our elected officials and neighborhoods on the problems with contamination.  At this point, Metro has had no change in processing costs but we are having conversations with our contractor and our costs may increase in the future.    
Please feel free to call or email with any other questions.
Sharon Smith, Assistant Director
While this was helpful it did not exactly address what I asked, so I followed up with a more specific request for information.
I recently spoke to someone who appears knowledgeable who told me that in actuality Nashville curbside recyclables end up in the landfill.  I understand that due to contamination, some recyclable may be unmarketable and that some may have to be disposed of by landfilling.  However, this person seemed to say that land filling of recyclables was routine and not isolated or not just a minor component. Could you please answer for me the following questions:

1. What approximate percentage of material collected by the curbside recycling program ends up in the landfill?

2. Are we paying to have someone take recyclables off our hand or are we getting paid for recyclable material?

3. If we are getting paid, what is the unit price being paid for various types of material, such as paper, aluminum, tin, plastic?

4. When is the last time a cost-benefit analysis has been done of our curbside recycling program?

5. Compared to household solid waste disposal, is the curbside recycling program a net cost or a net gain for the city.

Thank you, I look forward to your response.
Rod Williams
After another vague response, I again asked for specifics:
Dear Ms Smith,

Thank you for that information.  If you could answer for me the following I would appreciate it. How has the more stringent standards on contamination affected the bottom line on the economic effectiveness of metro's recycling program. Are the processors of Metro's recyclable products rejecting just a little more than before or a lot? Are the rejecting 10% of our recyclables or more like 90%?  How big is the problem?

Also, is Metro's recycling programs a net financial benefit or a net financial loss? Do we have to pay to have recyclables taken away or to we get paid for them?

If we are paid, what is the price for various types of recyclable material?

If there is a study or documents that summarizes the status of metro's recycling program, I would welcome receiving a copy of it. 

I never did get specific answers to my questions. If I was a paid journalist with an assignment, I would be more pushy or if I was a Metro Council member asking these questions I would demand answers.  I let it drop. I suspect if the news was good, Public Works would have been forthcoming with an answer.  Based on what I read about the status of recycling nationwide, the non-answers to my questions, and what I have been told by someone who may know, I suspect that when you carefully separate your garbage from your recyclables that it then all ends up in the landfill anyway. I don't know that for an absolute fact, but suspect it is so. If you faithfully recycle, I am not suggesting you stop doing it but don't feel so vitreous. It is probably a wasted effort. It probably ends up in the same place.

If there is a council member or a member of the press who is curious about answers to the questions I have asked, I would encourage you to seek those answers.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Nashville is 14th most dangerous city in America

by Rod Williams, Feb. 17, 2019 - If you have an impression that crime is getting really bad in Nashville, it is not an illusion.  Often in can be. Media focuses on crime and a few bad episodes, such as the horrific murder of a 24-year old musician by five teens last week, can cause one to think crime is worse than it really is.  However, it really is bad. 

According the travel site EscapeHere, Nashville is the fourteenth most dangerous city in America.  According to the report: "In the year 2017 there were 110 homicides in the Nashville metropolitan area. Also, the crime rate was 1,138 per 100,000 residents and the poverty rate sat at about 18-percent. The murder rate in this city is so bad that the Oasis Center of Nashville which works to help at risk youth in the area called it an epidemic, according to 24/7 Wall St."

Cities with a worse crime rate than Nashville include Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois;  Baltimore, Maryland and the most dangerous city in America, St Louis, Missouri.  Also, surprising to me, two other cities with worse crime than Nashville and among the most dangerous cities in America are Memphis as the second most dangerous city in America and Chattanooga at number 7.  For three Tennessee cities to be among the nations top 14 most dangerous does not speak good for our state. Crime however is a local problem and the state government can not do much to combat it.

Among cities that one may think of as dangerous cities but actually rank as less dangerous than Nashville, is Newark, New Jersey at number 22.  I have a daughter who lives in New Orleans and I have visited the city several times. I love New Orleans.  In many ways it resembles a third world country and it has long had a reputation of a dangerous crime-ridden city. New Orleans is not near as dangerous as Nashville however. It ranks as the 24th most dangerous and it has a violent crime rate of 1,121 per 100,000 residents and 157 homicides. The poverty rate of the city was 26.2-percent. 

None of the cities with which we are often compared such as Austin, Texas or Charlotte, North Carolina  or Raleigh-Durham are on the list.  Neither is Atlanta on the list. Note that the study is called 25 Most Dangerous Cities In The US In 2019, but the data being analyzed is 2017 statistics.  My impression is that crime is considerable worse in Nashville now than two years ago.  It may be an impression that is false but it sure seems to me that things are getting worse.  I also have the impression that whereas in the past, a lot of the crime was Black on Black crime, now it is more general throughout the community. Also, I have had an impression that in the past most crime was either related to interaction between people who knew each other, such as domestic violence crime, or due to things like drug deals gone bad.  Now, there seems to be many more random acts of violence and targeted crime. A front page article in today's Tennessean report that gun thefts from cars was up 85 percent in two years.

We know that cities can be safe and big at the same time. We should not just accept that Nashville has a high crime rate.  Something shoud be done. We know that our police department is undermanned.  I hear complaints when talking to members of the community who are in a position to know, such as councilmen and lawyers, that for non-emergency interactions with the police such as reporting minor crimes, that there are long waits.  Also, the growth in the police department has not kept pace with the growth in tourism and population. 

To address our rising crime, we need new leadership in Nashville, including a new mayor and new council members who will prioritize essential services. Also, while I think Chief Anderson is a good man, it may be time for him to retire. We may need new leadership at the police department.  Since the Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the mayor, a police chief can only be so vocal in calling attention to the needs of his department, but Chief Anderson could do more to highlight the growing problem of crime in Nashville. Crime is becoming a major problem in Nashville and we need to treat it as such.

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