Saturday, March 30, 2019

Tim Garrett is running for Metro Council in District 10.

Tim Garrett
by Rod Williams- Tim Garrett is running for Metro Council in District 10.  The incumbent is term-limited and illegible for reelection. Tim is a former at-large member of the Nashville Metro Council from 2007 to 2015. He previously served as the District 10 representative on the metro council from 1983 to 1999 and as the District 50 representative in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1984 to 2004.

Garrett's professional experience includes working as a partner of the Anderson & Garrett Funeral Home and president of Cole & Garrett Funeral Homes, Inc. He owned the Frost Insurance Agency and served on the advisory board at Regions Bank of Goodlettsville.

When I served in the Council in the 80's I served with Tim. I agreed with him more often than not on controversial issues facing the city.  Tim is a problem solver and consensus builder. He is thoughtful and detailed in is approach to issues and he does his homework.  He will bring institutional knowledge, a strong work ethic, and a believe in fiscal responsibility to the Metro Council. I wish Tim well in his campaign.

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Save the Cherry Trees! Sign the Petition.

NFL to pay Metro $10K to cut down 21 cherry blossom trees for NFL Draft, says tree group

Metro is going to cut down 21 Cherry trees to accommodate the NFL for a one-half day event.
Sign the petition at this link

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Senate voted on the Green New Deal : 0 Yeas, 57 Nays, and 43 Present.

by Rod Williams - When the Green New Deal was announced, I thought this is the craziest thing I have ever heard of.  It proposes a ban on air travel and automobiles and all fossil fuels to be achieved within ten years and a ban on nuclear power also, and a boat load of social welfare programs. It would add about $96 trillion dollars to the already $20 trillion national debt.  Proponents talked with a straight face about all of the good paying jobs it would create in Green energy and construction.  The construction jobs would be created by weatherproofing every building that could be adequately weather-proofed and and tearing down and rebuilding all the others. The proponents live in la-la land, I thought. It is a preposterous proposal. Yet, The Green New Deal polled well, especially among the younger generation. Some people were taking this seriously.

I did not think it possible that people really believed this was a real possibility.  I thought this is so far out there, that if Democrats take both houses and the presidency, they would still not do this.  Any fool could see this would lead to a total crippling of our economy, massive inflation and massive starvation.  We would roll back the clock to the dark ages. This is a proposal in the same vein as Mao's Great Leap Forward or when the Khmer Rouge took Cambodia and emptied all the cities.  This is just nuts! Yet, Democrats were saying they supported it, saying so with a straight face. Some, cleverly minced their words and said they favored "a" green new deal.

This week the Senate took a vote on The Green New Deal and the vote was 0 to 57.  All Republicans except for Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted in opposition, joined by Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Angus King (I-Maine). The remaining Democrats and Susan Collins voted "present." Not a single Senator voted in favor.  The Democrats are not ready to vote for lunacy, but they won't vote against it either.

Read more at the Washington Examiner and The Hill.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Briley proposes massive additional debt for Nashville in order to build affordable housing.

Nashville's Mayor David Briley has proposed a plan that commits $500 million in public funds toward an affordable housing push over the next 10 years. As proposed, the money would come through general obligation bonds and would be spread out over the next decade. That is a lot of money.  Already Nashville is one of the most debt-ridden cities in America.  Forbes magazine says that when one includes unfunded metro retiree's health benefits, Nashville is the second most debt-ridden city in America. 

The  organization Truth in Accounting, says that of the largest 75 cities in America, ranked from least debt to most debt, Nashville ranks 62nd.  Among the 75 largest cities, there are only 13 cities where the citizens are burdened with more debt.

Briley's proposal would  provide $350 million to MDHA to help pay for 5,000 low and middle income homes, primarily through the redevelopment of Nashville's public housing. It is unclear if this is net new homes or replacing existing public housing.  Metro would also allocate $150 million to the Barnes Fund during the 10 years, which is a 50 percent increase over the current funding levels.

Currently MDHA is in the midst of redeveloping the Casey Homes project in East Nashville, but development is going slow.  Since 2014, when MDHA began the project, only 70 units have been constructed and MDHA has had to dip into reserve funding to finance the project. To read The Tennesseans article, follow this link.

No one can deny that housing is getting more expensive in Nashville and that many people could not afford the home they now own if they were trying to purchase it. New construction in Nashville tends to be high-end homes.  This is driven by market forces. When the city attracts lots of high paying jobs, that creates a demand for high priced homes.  This means that, that is what builders build and all homes appreciate in value and a lot of less expensive homes are purchased by developers and torn down and replaced by more expensive homes. Anyone who drives around Nashville can see it.  With more expensive housing and growing demand for housing, this means many of the people who work in Nashville can not afford to live here. The loss of affordable housing however, is not all the result of market forces.  Metro government deserves much of the blame. 

Three years ago now a developer tried to build an affordable housing development in Antioch, called
The Ridge at Antioch. The property was already zoned to allow this development, but the Council person from the district and an adjoining district tried to down zone the property. Down zoning is a taking of property. Property rights are more than holding title. If the government takes away the right to develop the property that you already possess, that is a taking of your property.  Eventually, the attempt was unsuccessful. The builder could not develop the property with this hanging over his head however, so for two years the project was delayed.  I don't think the property was ever developed.  The Council members fighting to stop this development argued they did not oppose housing development on the property but argued their part of town already had too much affordable housing.  Also, neighbors filed a law suit to stop the development but were unsuccessful. This was not "the projects."  It was an apartment complex that no one would have known was subsidized housing.  This "not in my back yard" attitude and willingness to trample property rights is one of the reasons for a shortage of affordable housing.
The Ridge at Antioch

That is the kind of thing one faces when the property is already zoned to permit development.  It is much worse when one needs a zone change to develop.  Often, developers need a rezoning to develop and not just a base zoning change but need a Planned Unit Development.  Most of the time when seeking to build an affordable development and seeking a zone change or PUD approval to do so, developers know not to even try to build affordable housing. The developer will approach a council man and be told up front, that there is no use pursuing the proposal. There is a lot of lip service paid to the need for affordable housing but no one wants it in their neighborhood.

I had a casual conversation with a large developer I met at a function recently. I asked him his take on the problem of affordable housing in Nashville. He told me that he had tried to build affordable housing but the city would not cooperate. He was going to build a condo development very near downtown where the units would be priced between $150,000 and $230,000.  He said the development would have open space, tennis courts and playgrounds and other amenities. He said rather than the city helping make it happen, the city threw up ever possible obstacle to making it possible.  He said with what one must go through to develop a property, it just makes more sense to build high priced home rather than affordable homes.

Another actions the city takes that drives up housing prices is the down zoning of whole neighborhoods from a zoning that permits two units per lot, such as R-20, to a zoning that permits only one unit per lot, such as RS-20. This happens almost every council meeting. If you lower the potential for greater density, you drive up housing prices. Less available building sights equals higher priced land.

The city also drives up housing prices by policies that beautify low income neighborhoods. I wish everyone could live on a beautiful street with a park-like setting, but neighborhoods with low income housing are going to look different than neighborhoods with expensive housing.  Rules that restrict the type of commercial services that can be on a thoroughfare such as restricting the number of  used car lots and used tire stores and requiring nice screening and disallowing payday lenders, changes the character of a neighborhood.  It makes the thoroughfare more attractive to higher income people and the affordable housing gets replaced by more expensive housing. 

The sidewalk policy also drives up housing prices. If someone builds a house on a street without sidewalks, they must build a sidewalk in front of their property even if it is a sidewalk that goes nowhere and is the only house on the block with a sidewalk. This drives up prices.

I am not opposed to the city promoting affordable housing, but the first thing the city needs to do is get out of the way and let people build it.  There needs to be a realization that developers are more likely to build affordable housing where the land is more affordable. Also, we need to recognize that neighborhood with affordable housing are going to look like affordable neighborhoods.

While affordable housing may be a lofty goal, Nashville is debt-ridden. We do not need to take on more debt. Now is the time to focus on paying down the debt, not taking on more.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

State education officials recommend 1-year license suspension against Nashville schools chief Shawn Joseph

The Tennessean - .... The recommendation to suspend Joseph's Tennessee teacher license comes in the wake of a review that found the superintendent failed to report 12 teacher misconduct cases to the state within 30 days, as required by state rules. (link)

Rod's Comment: I guess this is just another example racism.

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How Nashville will pick the replacement for Will Pinkston

The Tennessean - ... Pinkston said in his letter to board chairwoman Sharon Gentry that his resignation is effective April 12. That sets in motion a process where Vice Mayor Jim Shulman would announce the vacancy and ask the council for nominations at the next council meeting on April 16.

Under that timeline, the council rules committee would vet nominees before a full council vote on May 21.

Because filling school board seats happens infrequently, the predicted timeline is fluid.

A special election would take place in August. The next regular election for the District 7 board seat is in August 2020.(link)

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Shawn Joseph on his way out! Will Pinkston resigns from School Board.

Shawn Joseph
by Rod Williams - With support fading at the school board and one of his stanchest defenders resigning from the board, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools director Shawn Joseph announced he would not seek contract renewal which expires June 20, 2020.  If he waits until June 2020  to depart that means more than a year of mismanagement and additional damage to Metro Schools to go. We may not have to wait. On Monday, School Board member Anna Shephard who had been a supporter of Joseph filed a resolution to fire him "with cause." That resolutions will be taken up by the Board at the April 9th School Board meeting.

Yesterday, Pinkston announced his resignation from the Board effective April 12. In his resignation letter, Pinkson blamed the dysfunctional board for his resignation, especially the division over the performance of Director Shawn Joseph and over pay raises for teachers. He said that the treatment of Joseph was racially motivated and the treatment of Joseph was "dishonest and unfair." The Metro Council will fill the vacancy created by Pinkston's resignation.

For months, School Board members Amy Frogge, Jill Speering and Fran Bush have been calling for Joseph's firing.  With Anna Shephard now on board, that makes four of the nine-member-board, favoring firing of Joseph.  With Pinkston out,  that makes the board equally divided. Pinkston's replacement will be appointed by the Council. If Pinkston's replacement joins those favoring Joseph's ouster, he could be fired.

If the board were to fire Shawn Joseph without cause, they would have to pay him for 12 months salary which is $285,000. If they fire him "with cause" he would not be due any extra compensations. Also, if they just let him leave at the end of his term, he would not be due any extra compensation.

Joseph has said he will not resign early, but that he realizes he can not be successful as Schools director and will not seek contract renewal.  “I do not know if we can be successful with the current governance structure and the current minority of board members that makes it impossible to make any decisions with kids as a focus,” he said.

Shawn Joseph has been a failed Schools leader from the start. He has been arrogant, wasteful, disrespectful toward teachers, mismanaged administrative functions, and failed audits. His administration has been characterized by 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.  Under his leadership, Metro Schools have gotten worse. Joseph has pulled programs from schools which made Metro School attractive to middle-class parents who want their child to have a good education.  Under his leadership the number of failing schools, classified by the State as "priority schools," has increased.

Also, the total number of students enrolled in Metro Schools has declined. Metro School enrollment has declined at the same time that the population of the Nashville MSA and the population of Davidson County has been increasing.  I have seen no study on the demographics of those moving to the Nashville area and where they are moving, but they can't all be childless young people.  School systems around Davidson County are increasing in student enrollment.  I suspect that two things are going on. People with children moving to the Nashville area are choosing to move to surrounding counties where schools are better.  The other thing, is that those who can afford to do so are sending their children to private schools. I have no data on this, but would bet that, that is the case. Something is going on when you have increased population and reduced school enrollment.

From the very beginning  Shawn Joseph has had a troubled time at Metro Schools.  He brought several people with him from his old job as Director of Prince George’s County (Maryland) Public Schools.  These people where brought in at high salaries. This ruffled feathers. 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 director to have a luxury car and a chauffeur.  Other School Board leaders drove themselves in a motor pool vehicle are drove their private car. Joseph's driver is a senior mechanic from the school bus garage who makes $46,000 a year. Also some of Joseph's lieutenants got School Board provided expensive cars that they can drive home every night. That is a nice perk.

Under his leadership, complaints against employees for misconduct are often not handled in the prescribed manner.  Some employees investigating other employees had no training as investigators.  Contracts have been let without bids. He has often misled School Board members about what is going on in the administration of the 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 Blacks have rallied around Joseph.

It time for Shawn Joseph to go and the sooner the  better. 

For source material and to dig deeper into the issues around Shawn Joseph, see the following sources:

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Nashville Republican Women Ladies' Day on the Hill

Monday, April 1st 

The theme for this year's event is "Celebrating Tennessee Victories." The registration and lunch fee is $40.00. Please make your check payable to NRW and send to NRW Treasurer, P.O. Box 58882, Nashville, TN 37205. 

The deadline for reservations is March 13th!  Please note: If you will need to ride the shuttle between the Capitol and the DoubleTree Hotel (314 4th Avenue N) OR if you have special dietary needs, be sure to include this information with your check.
                       9:00 - 10:00 AM - Registration, coffee and breakfast snacks,
Second Floor Lobby of the Capitol Building
10:00 AM - Program in the House Chamber
11:00 AM - Photos on Historic Staircase
11:45 AM - Lunch at the DoubleTree Hotel

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Monday, March 25, 2019

The Mueller Completed his Report and Trump was Exonerated Comic Book

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Mark Green in WSJ: Democrats, Join Trump Against Russian Aggression

Mark Green
By Congressman Mark Green - Democrats talk tough about getting to the bottom of election meddling and standing up to Russia, but their actions reveal they’re interested only in “getting” Donald Trump. Republicans have long seen Russia as a threat, and we—including the president—have acted to counter its aggression.

We learned Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation concluded that neither Mr. Trump nor any member of his campaign conspired or colluded with Russia to influence the results of the 2016 election. That’s great news for Mr. Trump and his team—and for all Americans. Our leader was not installed by Vladimir Putin.

Democrats and some media figures aren’t satisfied. They want to continue probing and keep this conspiracy theory alive. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has floated the idea of subpoenaing Mr. Mueller and investigating his investigation. ABC News’s Matthew Dowd likened Mr. Mueller to “Johnny Appleseed,” planting trees that will one day bear “fruit.” I’m new to Congress, but to me this seems partisan.

Mr. Mueller did indict 13 Russian nationals for offenses related to election meddling. We know Moscow spent money on Facebook ads designed to exploit America’s divisions, targeting voters on both sides of the aisle. And Mr. Trump and the Republicans have responded. Under legislation enacted by a Republican Congress, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and intelligence agencies.
Beyond the meddling, Mr. Trump has slammed Russia with bold moves designed to weaken Mr. Putin on the world’s stage. This administration imposed sanctions on Russia for violating nonproliferation laws by supporting weapons programs in Iran, Syria and North Korea. The Trump administration also issued more sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its continuing occupation of Crimea. In 2017, the administration expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers and ordered multiple Russian consulates to close after Russia used a military-grade chemical weapon in the U.K. Mr. Trump even blocked Mr. Putin’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Russia if it goes ahead.

These tough actions have had an effect. Between January and July 2018, the Russian ruble declined 9% against the U.S. dollar. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry expects its economy to grow only 1.3% in 2019. The U.S. economy grew 2.9% in 2018 and is headed for another strong year.
In 2017, Mr. Trump supplied Ukraine with weapons so it could defend itself against Russian attacks. Remember, it was President Obama who stood idly as Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has also engaged in hard-fought battles with Russian mercenaries in Syria.

In a sense, Russia succeeded in its mission to stoke division and fear within America. Some top Democrats have played right into Moscow’s hands by pursuing endless partisan investigations. If Democrats care about thwarting Russian meddling and aggression, they will disavow their conspiracy theory that our president is Mr. Putin’s puppet, and stop wasting taxpayer money peddling disproved collusion narratives. Instead, they can support this administration’s efforts to stand tall against the consistent threat Russia poses to America’s national security.

The above op-ed appeared in the March 25th edition of the Wall Street Journal. I am re-posting it from Congressman Mark Green's website.  I agree with Mark Green's opinion. It appears to me, Democrats are much more concerned about getting Trump than American security and standing firm against Russian aggression.  Rod Williams

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