Friday, June 14, 2019

Dem forum for the non-partisan mayoral race excludes the Black female candidate

Image may contain: 1 person, indoorby Rod Williams, 6/14/2019 - Three of the four leading candidates for the non-partisan office of mayor of  Nashville, took the stage at the Belcourt theater last night to participate in the Davidson County Democratic Party mayoral forum. The three participants allowed to participate were all white men; the other major candidate who is a Black Women was excluded.  I spoke to the person in charge of the event who clarified that Carol Swain did not simply not participate, but was excluded.

About 500 people attended the event. The Belcourt has a seating capacity of 700 and not all seats were taken.  The free event was listed as "sold out."  Apparently a lot of people signed up for the event but did not attend.  Often at events like this, those who attend are turned out and not people who just spontaneously attend.  Clemmons had the most visible and loudest supporters at the event.

As events like these go, it was good.  It was well-organized and there were no glitches. The format was that each candidate got three minutes to make opening statements and at the end, each candidate got three minutes to make a closing statement. A series of six questions were asked of the candidates and candidates were given three minutes to answer each questions.  Three minutes allowed the candidate to give more detailed answers.

The questions were selected by a process of the question being submitted by the participating public to the Davidson County Democratic Party Facebook page, then a poll was created and the participating public voted on the questions to ask.  The six questions getting the most votes was the questions included.  There was no off-the-wall questions about the Green New Deal, how are you going to resist Trump, or how will you turn Nashville into a sanctuary city. The first five questions were questions that would have likely been asked even if Republican would have participated in drafting the questions. Only, the last question, about how will you make Nashville a greener city was one that I would categorize as not a mainstream concern. The other questions were about affordable housing, traffic, Nashville's debt, and funding for public education.

The full video of the forum is available at this link, so I am not going to attempt to summarize who said what. I encourage readers to watch the video. Of the three participants, I was least impressed with Ray Clemmons.  He did not have detailed answers and seemed to display what I thought of as phony passion.  Maybe it is just me, but he seemed to be posturing and pontificating.  I also think he was trying to position himself to the left of David Briley, which is hard to do.

On the question of affordable housing, Clemmons was critical of the efforts being made and said it was not near enough and we need to put $50 million a year into the Barmes Fund and he said no neighborhood should be off limits to anyone. That may appeal to liberal sensibilities but it is illogical. If you build affordable housing in the most expensive parts of town, the cost of land is going to mean you don't build very many units.

David Briley scored a point with me when answering the affordable housing question.  Part of the question asked what you would do to keep the elderly from being forced out of their homes by rising housing cost.  Briley said that increased property tax was a factor in housing affordability and that was a reason to hold the line on taxes.  Often it seems politician ignore this fact. Briley scored another point responding to the traffic question when he pointed out that some of the bus riders are being subsidized up to $40 per trip.  He said having buses cover more territory with more bus routes was not a solution.  Of course, I wish candidates would embrace markets, technology and innovation but an admission that subsidizing bus rides up to $40 per trip is not wise policy is a start toward rethinking transportation.  For those who attended First Tuesday last week and saw Mayor Briley speak, he gave no different answers to a room full of Democrats than he did to a room full of Republicans.

On the environmental question about a greener Nashville, candidates covered a lot a ground. Candidates said due to global warming, we can expect more frequent flooding.  I found it interesting that not a one of the candidates mentioned building the flood wall that was once a city priority.  I guess that idea is finally dead. I am pleased it is but kind of surprised that it is not being advocated by a candidate trying to tap into environmental angst and passions.

John Cooper came across as informed and gave good answers. On the question of the city's debt, Cooper said that the city has a debt of $6,000 per man, women, and child in Davidson County. On this question, I think he showed the greater mastery of the issue.  If I knew nothing about the candidates other than what I observed at this forum, I would have to give Briley a slight edge and Cooper a close second and Clemmons a distant third.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Steve Glover proposes a 11.5 cent property tax hike.

Rod Williams, 6-12-19  - I have seldom seen a tax hike that I liked. I am predisposed to oppose a tax increase and I don't think Nashvillians are under-taxed. I don't think Nashville has a revenue problem but a spending and management problem.  However, I am ready to bite the bullet and support a modest tax increase. If we do not have a modest tax increase, then we might end up with a much larger increase. Also, I think that we have to face the facts that Nashville is in financial trouble. I talk to people who are informed and involved and they all say that things are really bad in Nashville. I know we have a problem with retention of teachers and policemen and we are understaffed in the fire department. Our public schools system keeps getting worse with an increasing number of failing schools.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a former police officer who still has a lot of friends on the force.  She said a lot of policemen are applying for and some getting hired by surrounding cities such as Clarksville where they make more money in a less stressful environment. This former officer said many policemen are simply getting out of law enforcement and others, when they near retirement eligibility, are taking their accumulated vacation and sick days and retiring at the earliest possible date. Normally policeman might work several years after the date at which they could retire.  We know morale is low among Metro employees who have not had a raise in several years.

Mayor Briley has not proposed a tax increase. He is a progressive and I assume he has no great desire to reform metro and cut nonessential services and institute fiscal reforms. He wants a more activist government, not a more restrained government. He wants to do more, to help the homeless, the housing cost-stressed, the LGBT community and immigrants. He is not called for cutting services.  I think he simply thinks it would be political suicide to raise taxes a month before the election.

Mayor Briley, however, is a weak mayor.  He became mayor by accident and he has not done much to inspire confidence.  He supported the proposed transit boondoggle which failed to pass public referendum and he opposed the referendum on the police oversight board, which did pass. He looks weak. He seems to flounder from one mishap to the next without a plan. The Cherry trees episode is an example  He does not appear in control and he does not appear to lead.

Much of the situation Briley faces is not his fault. Megan Barry left Nashville in this mess.  She did not raise taxes when she had a prime opportunity. The most opportune time to raise taxes is early in a term, so voters have time to get over it, and during a massive  reappraisal since most people will blame their tax increase on the reappraisal and not the mayor and council. I am pleased she did not raise taxes.  However, if you are not going to raise taxes, you need to cut non-essentials and increase efficiency.  Barry was not on a campaign to do that, but maybe she would have done some of that had she not gotten distracted. To her credit, she did propose closing Metro General Hospital which is not required, is wasteful, and is unnecessary. She proposed it but did not make the effort to make it happen. She didn't sell it. She did not expend political capital to make it happen.  So, Barry was not successful at cutting government and she did not raise taxes. At the time, Barry was pushing the transit referendum and maybe she thought raising property taxes would hurt the referendum. As it turns out, she was forced out of office before the transit campaign got underway and it failed.

While, I do not believe, the council has ever passed a tax increase not propose by a mayor, it could happen this year.  In fact I think it is likely to happen.  For the second year in a row, Councilman Robert Mendes has proposed to raise property taxes. This year he's submitted a substitute budget that would increase the  property tax rate 52.5 cents or 16.6%.  Under this proposal the Urban services tax rate would go from $3.155 per $100 of assessment to $3.68.

Councilman Steve Glover has proposed a budget that would raise the property tax rate by only 3.6%. It would increase the property tax rate by 11.5 cents.  The Urban Services District property tax rate would increase from $3.155 to $3.27 per $100 of assessed value and in the General Services District the rate would go from $2.755 to $2.87.  This would give would give all Metro employees, including teachers, a 6% raise. 

In putting forth his budget proposal, Glover is quoted as telling the Tennessean, "I'm not ready to gamble on a property tax increase for 16%."  While I would prefer cutting government to raising taxes, I think Glover is right. The choice before the Council is to follow Briley and not raise taxes, vote for Mendes's 16% increase or Glover's 3.6%.  I favor voting for Glover's 3.6%.

If I was convinced that the council would get serious about cutting unnecessary government and fiscal reform, then I would favor no tax increase, but I do not see that happening. It is ironic that Steve Glover who is one of the most conservative voices in the Council was one of the leading voices that helped kill Mayor Barry's plan to cut General Hospital. Glover's proposal will raise $35.65 million in revenue.  The Council subsidizes General Hospital $46 million.

I am only in favor of Glover's plan because I prefer a 3.6% increase rather than a 16% increase. It is a pragmatic consideration.  If the choice is only between the mayor's plan and the Medes plan, I fear the Mendes plan will pass.  Unfortunately, those calling for cutting waste and fiscal reform are a voice crying in the wilderness.

Rather than raise taxes, what I think should happen is we should take a top to bottom, line item by line item examination of the budget and cut out waste, corruption, mismanagement and unnecessary spending. I would close General Hospital which serves no purpose other than to boost the ego of the Black community.  I would ban police overtime except in a declared emergency and make sponsors of events pay for their own security, I would stop the outlandish over payment of fees to the managers of Metro's pension fund, I would tell the school board to slash overhead and to rapidly consolidate schools to reflect the reduced enrollment, and I would find out why it takes $6 million dollars to build 3 miles of sidewalk.  I would fire a bunch of department heads such as those who allow it to take $6 million to build three miles of sidewalks. I would discontinue corporate welfare. I would change Metro's pension system from a guaranteed benefit to a guaranteed contribution system.

Unfortunately, when even the conservatives on Council won't vote for smaller government and work to make it happen but instead work to stop cuts when they are proposed, then we are left with the choice of raising tax a little or raising taxes a lot.

References: here and here and here.

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John Cooper's TV ad, "For all of us."

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Nashville mayoral candiates on immigrantion policy, sanctuary city status, and more.

Last night a candidates' forum sponsored by The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Muslim Advisory Council, Conexion Americas and sixteen other organizations was held at Plaza Mariachi. I did not get to attend the event but it was covered by local media. The program was interpreted live in Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, and Spanish.  Mayor David Briley, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Councilman John Cooper, and Julia Clark-Johnson took part in the forum but Carol Swain did not. 

According to the media, all took a position opposing the government's immigration policy.  Briley went total partisan and said."the number one priority is to beat Donald Trump." 

Below is media coverage:

The Tennessean, by Yihyan Jeong - From deportation to police body cameras, four mayoral candidates discussed how they would lead Nashville on immigration issues Monday, at a time when the country remains divided.
It was standing room only at Plaza Mariachi where more than 700 people attended the evening forum

Metro Nashville Candidates Say ‘Yes’ to Sanctuary Cities and ‘No’ to ICE
The Tennessee Star, NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Metro Nashville Council At-Large candidate Gicola Lane told a crowd of more than 1,000 people Monday she wants city officials to stop working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Later in the evening, Nashville mayoral candidate Julia Clark-Johnson said she wants to turn Nashville into a sanctuary city. ...

Mayor’s Race 2019: Candidates, Some More Than Others, Talk Immigration 
Nashville Public Radio, By Meribah Knight- .... Mayor David Briley addressed the topic directly, advocating for a combination of change at the federal level and policies at the local level.

“We’re supposed to be non-partisan, but I am going to say, the No. 1 priority is to beat Donald Trump,” Briley said.

Priority No. 2 was directed at a specific Metro department.
“Our police are directed not to ask about immigration status,”

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Tennessee immigrant rights group to host mayoral, at-large council forum

The forum will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Plaza Mariachi. I assume this is next Monday, June 17. The announcement is not clear. I will post an update when I have more information. See this link.

This occurred Monday 6-10-2019.

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Alveda King to visit Nashville to support Carol Swain for mayor.

Alveda King is a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. She is an author, and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. If you would like to attend you may donate online at, or RSVP to

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Senator Marsha Blackburn: MY VISIT TO THE BORDER

The following is from Senator Marsha Blackburn:  

ImageOn Friday, I visited the El Paso Sector Customs and Border Patrol/Department of Homeland Security migrant processing center in West Texas, where overcrowded facilities can barely contain the illegal immigrants apprehended each day. My visit came just one week after 1,036 people - the largest group to cross the border from Mexico - arrived there on May 29th.

Within thirty minutes, I watched twelve people in three groups try to enter our country illegally. One man who was trying to enter illegally told me he had been following media reports and believed that he could stay once he had crossed. Based on media reports, migrants are aware that pregnant women and families are able to enter the United States more easily and they are using these loopholes to their advantage.  
On Friday alone, five kilograms of fentanyl was seized - that is enough to kill nearly 2 million Americans. Opioid addiction is ravaging the United States. We cannot address this public health crisis if we do not cut off the major influx of these deadly drugs at the southern border. 
The border patrol agents are crystal clear about the need for more resources, including and especially additional agents. While technology is helpful, it cannot replace the physical human ability to monitor, respond, and catch immigrants. Drug cartels use Facebook ads to smuggle migrants and bring drugs across ports of entry. CBP does not currently have enough agents to staff the various checkpoints and catch the criminal activity.
CBP also needs more equipment and transportation capabilities, as well as additional space to house illegal immigrants once they are in custody. This time last year, the El Paso Sector had 4,733 family units in custody. Now, they have a shocking 104,131 - up 2,100% in just one year. On top of that growth, the facility is only capable of housing 125 people but is forced to hold nearly 1,000 migrants in detention facilities. 
The system has cracked. We have a full-blown humanitarian crisis on our hands. Congress has to act, and we need to address all aspects of the crisis.
In the past couple of months, I have sponsored two pieces of legislation that I hope will target important aspects of the border problem. The Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act will ensure that sentencing penalties for trafficking fentanyl reflect the deadliness of the drug. It's time the punishment fit the crime for drug traffickers. 

The Accountability of Care of Unaccompanied Alien Children Act will protect children from trafficking and further exploitation of the horrific situation at the southern border.
I will continue supporting legislation that addresses all aspects of this complex immigration crisis. We cannot have national security without border security. Until our border is secure, every state is a border state and every town is a border town. 

As a reminder, you can reach any of my six offices in Tennessee to share a concern or request assistance with a federal agency.  The phone number for my Washington D.C. office is 202-224-3344 , the same number previously used by Senators Bob Corker and Bill Frist. 

Be sure to follow my work on behalf of Tennesseans on social media: 

Twitter: @MarshaBlackburn
Instagram: @MarshaBlackburn

My Best, 

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

District 18 Candidates' Forum

Attachment with no description

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1ST TUESDAYguest is Mayor Briley

From Tim Skow: 

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends 

Image result for Mayor David Briley
Mayor David Briley
It's been the mission and tradition of 1ST TUESDAY to bring our Members and friends face-to-face with those in public life who impact your lives the most

Over the past decade, many of you have asked insightful, direct and important questions to a slew of Federal, State and Local office holders, leading candidates, movement leaders and more. The next opportunity for such an important dialogue comes on Tuesday, June 11th when Nashville Mayor David Briley makes his way to the podium at 1ST TUESDAY.   

Mayor Briley has proposed a budget for next year exceeding $2,200,000,000
Critical concerns for Nashville's future include, but are not limited to:
** Transit 
** Taxes
** Development not only in the downtown sector, but across the 35 Districts.
** Sectors of Nashville that are clearly in need of attention from City Hall.
** Crime, safety concerns and the continuing struggle to staff and build Nashville's Police Department
** What important topics will be the Mayor focus on most should he win this fall. 

Mayor Briley is certainly a leading contender in the election August 1st.  
And NO DOUBT .... a lock to be in a September runoff should one be necessary. 

Needless to say, this will be a 1ST TUESDAY full of meaning. are a stake holder in Nashville's will want to be there on June 11th at 1ST TUESDAY.

As usual, our event is $20 for Members and $25 for Guests. Secure seating at our website and click on EVENTS.

Remind your guests that doors at Waller Law open at 11:00. Lunch starts at 11:25 with program at Noon. 
Expect a very zesty Q&A session that will conclude at 1:00pm shape!

Please pass the word and invite those you know who care about Nashville. 
The next couple of months promise to dramatically impact the city and its future !

Tim Skow
Host of 1ST TUESDAY  

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Could smart technology solve city's parking problems?

by Rod Williams - I was not as opposed to the proposal to privatize metro's parking as many other people I ran into who had an opinion on the topic.  I did, however, conclude that the proposal in front of us was rushed and lacked transparency.  I am pleased that it has been deferred.  That is not to conclude, however, that we do not need to do something about parking and that the stutus quo is simply  good enough.

Writing in today's Tennessean, technology writer J. J. Rosen says that with the parking privatization plan  sidelined, that what is being considered now is a public-private partnership where Metro would still be in charge but we would get the benefits of smart meters.  Metro would still determine where meters would go and still set the rates.  A company would pay the upfront cost of smart meters and get a share of the revenue. Parking rates would only go up by about 25¢ an hour, but revenue would increase by 7 and half times.

The reason we need to partner with a private company to do this instead of doing it on our on is that the city is broke. We do not have the debt capacity to sell the bonds to make the upfront investment. I am still not sure that it would not be wise to do a more far-reaching proposal and fully privatize parking, but at a minimum, it seems doing a limited public-private partnership as described above makes sense.

One of the advantages of smart meters is that they can be fed by a phone app or credit card.  Just like you use Uber or Grubhub, the meter cost could be charged to your selected payment method.  I never carry change.  A lot of people don't.  For those who are not comfortable with technology and do carry change, they could still plug the meters with quarters.

Perhaps the main advantage is that smart meters can tell you where an available parking spot is located. Rather than circling block after block looking, you can be directed to a parking space that is open.  Another advantage is that you can re-feed your meter without going to the car.  While, parking tickets would go up under this proposal, fewer parking tickets would be issued because the ease of adding time to the meter would be mean fewer people would overstay the time on the meter.

I know that there is a knee-jerk reaction opposing doing things differently. We must do things differently, however, to improve.  I am convinced that to solve Nashville's traffic and parking issues, we need to embrace technology, innovation and market forces.  Nashville is now a big city and we are continuing to grow.  We could be the model city that does it right.  Instead of being mired in old way of thinking such as fixed routes and mostly empty big buses we could embrace paratransit and technology.  Instead of wanting everything to fit neatly in a box so it can be regulated, we could think outside the box. I know some people know of a cheep or free parking space and they don't won't the world to know about it. That is not reason enough to not try to solve Nashville's parking problems.

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