Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sheriff Daron Hall asked to find $636,300 in "targeted savings." Hall says, "absolutely not."

Sheriff Daron Hall
by Rod Williams - When the Mayor asked Sheriff Daron Hall to find $636,300 in "targeted savings," and Hall was asked by the media if he could meet that request and he said, "absolutely not."

Earlier this month the Tennessee Comptroller sent the Mayor and Metro Council Members a letter expressing concern about Metro's finances. The two areas of concern were we had insufficient reserves and the budget did not balance.

The mayor had counted as revenue, the anticipated up front payment from a plan to privatize Metro's parking meter operations.  When that plan ran into wide-spread opposition, Briley pulled the plug on the plan. That left a $30 million hole in the budget. Briley did not raise the $30 million elsewhere, nor did he cut expenses by $30 million. The letter from the Comptroller not only raised concern, it said that Metro had until Sept. 20th  to fix the problems or Metro would not be permitted to sale Tax Anticipation Notes.  Cities routinely engage in tax anticipation borrowing, because some bills come due before the revenue come in.

To fix this problem, Briely has told departments to find "savings" in their budget and has given each department a target of savings to find. Not all departments of local government work for the mayor.  The County Clerk is an elected official; the Metro Clerk is a Department head.  The Sheriff is an elected official; the Chief of Police is a department head. All of their budgets however are part of the Metro Budget.

When the mayor tells a subordinate department head to find savings, they are likely to do so.  With time, some Department heads do become somewhat independent and powerful, nevertheless, they work for the mayor.  Elected officials do not work for the mayor.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall is obviously frustrated with Metro's financial state of affairs. "I've been here all my life, living in Nashville," he told a local reporter. "It's the biggest boom we've ever had, but we don't have any money."

"If the Mayor's Office wants to cut people's budgets they should do that in a public way so the Council could ask 'What does that mean to you?' Don't do it a week after the budget is approved, telling me what the planned savings are," said Hall.

If Metro does not balance its budget and the Comptroller does not allow Metro to sell Tax Anticipation notes, then Metro could run out of money to pay its bills and would be facing decisions such as defaulting on its bonds or not meeting payroll.  We are no where near that yet, but this has to be resolved are we could be.  Eventually, the Comptroller could step in and talk over Metro's finances and order cuts or even raise taxes. This is serious. 

Serious through it is, I do not fault Hall for not playing ball. There is a process for passing a budget. Briley blew it. Let him negotiate with the Comptroller and go back and pass a budget that respects process and transparency.  Unless Briley resolves this, Bill Boner will lose his title as Nashville's worst mayor.

For source material see this link.

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6 Nashville council members, 2 school board members endorse David Briley for mayor

The Tennessean - Metro Council members Freddie O'Connell, Colby Sledge, Nancy VanReece, Anthony Davis, Brett Withers and Bill Pridemore announced they are backing Briley along with school board members Christiane Buggs and Gini Pupo-Walker.

Rod's comment: Not impressed.

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The John Ingram - Amazon Metro Courthouse

Metro is required to have a balanced budget and we do not.  We must find $30 million more in
revenue or cut $30 million in expenses.  I have an idea for how to fill that hole in the budget: Sell naming right to the Metro Courthouse.  We have the Bridgestone Arena and the Nissan Stadium, why not sell naming rights to the Metro Courthouse?

Since Amazon has teamed up with John Ingram and created A Better Nashville PAC, which has made major contributions to candidates for Metro Council (link), and since both Ingram and Amazon and their associates have given donations to many candidates for Council independent of the PAC, they may be interested in putting their name on the Courthouse of the city they are buying.  I don't know if it should be "The Amazon-Ingram Courthouse" or "The Ingram-Amazon Courthouse."

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Mayor David Briley tells Metro departments to find "savings" in their already tight budgets to fill the $30M budget gap.

by Rod Williams - Mayor David Briley  has directed Metro Departments to find "savings" in their already tight budgets. Normally, I would be one to think that bloated government could be cut without harming public safety and that cuts could be made without much harm, but not this time. While the local media has not chosen to treat it as a crisis, we have one.

Our police department is understaffed by 180 officers.  If one has a non-emergency need to report a crime, it may be days before one can get a response. Firetrucks are running with less than the  optimum number of fire fighters and as the population of Nashville has grown, we have only built one new fire hall in twenty years. We have a terrible problem recruiting and retaining teachers and our schools are failing. Codes inspections take days. Our infrastructure is crumbling.

I do not have the stats, but if I headed a media outlet with staff, I would investigate and  find out what is the fire department response time compared to a best practices and previous periods. If I were a Metro Councilman, I would ask the question. I also would want to know what happens when a fireman calls in sick. Is the public at risk? I would want to know average police response time to non-emergency crime reports. I would want statistics on teacher recruitment and retention. I know things are bad, but I wish had had a measure of just how bad.

What prompted this most recent call for departments to "find savings," is the letter from the Comptroller of the Treasury putting Nashville on notice that our budget did not meet acceptable standards. Basically it did not balance and our reserve funds are too low. Cities are required to pass a balanced budget; Nashville did not. Mayor Briley counted as revenue $30 million to be received from the sale of Metro's parking meter operation. When the plan to privatize parking met wide spread opposition, Briley pulled the plug on the plan but did not change his budget revenue projections.

It is my view that Metro is not underfunded. We have a spending problem; not a revenue problem. The current budget is $2,331,618,000, which is a 4.55% increase over the last years budget. We are spending $101,517,400 more than the previous year.  Metro is just inefficient.  I suspect we are bloated with unnecessary layers of consulting engineers in public works and that many department have too many administrative levels. Also, we spend a lot on non-essentials. 

This is the second year in a row, that Mayor Briley has called upon department to "find savings." The difference is that last year, he called on them to find savings before the budget was adopted, not afterwords. There are saving to be found. We could close General Hospital and save almost $50 million a year. It is not required by State law or Metro Charter, poor people have other options, and the hospital cannot fill its beds. Former Mayor Megan Barry proposed closing it but did not put much effort into the proposal.  She seems to have been distracted by the sordid affair she was having with her body guard and did not do her homework  or put  political capital on the line, the Council balked and the closing did not happen.

We could abolish the Human Relations Commission and save half-a-million dollars. This agency does almost nothing of value. The few things they do of value could easily be done by other agencies. This agency's primary function seems to be to promote political correctness. 

Rather than cuts to police and fire, we could close the libraries one day a week. I don't know how much that would save but it would be substantial.  The problem with this is that then the people would notice. You can hide cuts to the fire department and no one notices but if you close libraries one day a week people will notice. We could make judicious cuts without harming public safety but it is easier to make across the board cuts.

I do not know if what Briley is proposing to do is legal. It certainly does not seem proper.  Budgets are adopted after a process that involves administrative budget "discussions," (formerly called budget hearing), Council budget hearings, a public hearing, and legislative debate and then adoption.  It certainly does not seem proper to change the budget without the public transparency and input and the legislative process.  

If the city passes a budget and then we have a disaster that increases cost or if we have an economic downturn that results in less revenue, then a mayor does have the authority to shift funding.  This is not that situation however.  The mayor proposed a budget that he knew was $30 short of revenue.
The Council should have balked at passing it, but our system of government provides for a very weak council. There was not much the Council could do. They cannot change the revenue projections they are given. Under our charter, if the Council does not pass the mayor's budget and does not pass a  substitute budget, the budget of the mayor becomes the city's budget automatically.  While the Council could have made noise they did not have the power to make the mayor pass a balanced budget. This unbalance budget adopted by the city is clearly the fault of the mayor.  

Stay tuned to see what happens next.  If the Mayor cuts $30 million from the budget he may satisfy the Comptroller, but there may be law suits to challenge his authority to arbitrarily change a budget once it is passed.  While department heads work for the mayor and are likely to comply with his request for cuts, the Police and Fireman's unions will likely balk. Those constitutional officers such as County Court Clerk and Trustee and Sheriff are elected by they people and do not work for the mayor. They may not accept the directive to "find savings."  Also, we are in the midst of a mayoral elections. If Cooper will exploit it, and I think he should, he can show what an incompetent is David Bailey.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Have coffee with Thom Druffel, Saturday,


Meet Thom Druffel 

This campaign has been a great way to meet new people in District 23. Our campaign has knocked on thousands of doors, called thousands of people, and sent out thousands of mailers to local voters to inform them about the reasons District 23 needs new leadership.

Now we have a great opportunity for you to meet Thom Druffel in a more personal setting. 

This Saturday 8-9 AM, and every Saturday 8-9 AM until the election, Mr. Druffel will be at Bruegger's Bagels. 5311 Harding Pike, Nashville, TN 37205.

He will be there to sit down, have coffee, and hear how you want the future of District 23 to unfold.

Get to know him one-on-one.

Thom Druffel is an experienced leader who has held the reigns for many years in the hospitality industry. He will take the leadership expertise that he has acquired from his many years of experience balancing budgets, efficiently studying business plans, and making productive deals, and apply it to the council.

Click here to watch to watch NewsChannel 5’s recent story on TSU's push for college students to take advantage of Nashville's huge tourism boom. You might see someone you know!

We hope to meet you there!

Early voting starts on August 23 at the Howard Office Building and here in District 23 on August 30 - ending September 7. Election Day is on September 12.

 Kind regards,
Thom Druffel for Metro Council Team

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Is President Trump responsible for the eco terrorist shooting in El Paso and the socialist terrorist shooting in Dayton?

by Rod Williams - Following the tragedy of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, there has been a mainstream media narrative focusing  on the white nationalist connections of mass shooters and an attempt to blame the shootings on a political climate created by President Trump. Most of the media, except for a handful of conservative outlets, have been beating this drum day after day.  MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show has gone as far as to suggest that when following the shootings, Trump ordered the flag over the Capitol to be flown at half staff until August 8th, he was sending a  secret message to white supremacist  letting them know he was one of them. You see, "H" is the eights letter of the alphabet and so 8-8 is a code for H-H, which stands for Heil Hitler. These people are nuts!

Most media did not get off into la-la land like MSNBC, but yet they made the claim or implied that the mass shootings are a result of white nationalism and Trump is responsible.

First of all, no one is responsible for the actions of another unless they were a co-conspirator or ordered the hit. No person not directly involved in the shooting is responsible for the actions of a shooter. If some nut kills a public figure I criticized in this blog, I am not going to feel any guilt.  When a mentally unstable person commits a crime, one could always look to influences and find a message or ideology or public figure that influenced the killer and is thereby responsible for the actions of the killer.

In 1969 when Charles Manson ordered the brutal grizzly murders at the Sharon Tate  home which resulted in the death of Tate  and four others, Charles Manson thought he was following directives contained in the lyrics of the Beatles' White Album. He thought “Helter Skelter,” foretold a bloody, apocalyptic race war. The murders were designed, in Manson's mind, to ignite that race war. I do not think the Beatles deserve any of the responsibility for the murders committed by the Manson family.

Another thing wrong with this view is that the facts are packaged to fit the narrative and facts that don't fit the narrative or ignored. No doubt about it,  anti-illegal immigrant views motivated the killer in El Paso. Before he went on this shooting rampage he issue a manifesto that called the massive influx of illegals an "invasion" and he said, "Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs. They will turn Texas into an instrument of a political coup which will hasten the destruction of our country."

That is not all he railed against however. He also expressed anger about "the takeover of the United States government by unchecked corporations." He sounds like a liberal.

Much of his manifesto is that of an angry environmentalist:

The American lifestyle affords our citizens an incredible quality of life. However, our lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country. The decimation of the environment is creating a massive burden for future generations. Corporations are heading the destruction of our environment by shamelessly overharvesting resources. This has been a problem for decades. For example, this phenomenon is brilliantly portrayed in the decades old classic “The Lorax”. Water sheds around the country, especially in agricultural areas, are being depleted. Fresh water is being polluted from farming and oil drilling operations.
Consumer culture is creating thousands of tons of unnecessary plastic waste and electronic waste, and recycling to help slow this down is almost non-existent. Urban sprawl creates inefficient cities which unnecessarily destroys millions of acres of land. We even use god knows how many trees worth of paper towels just wipe water off our hands. Everything I have seen and heard in my short life has led me to believe that the average American isn’t willing to change their lifestyle, even if the changes only cause a slight inconvenience. The government is unwilling to tackle these issues beyond empty promises since they are owned by corporations. Corporations that also like immigration because more people means a bigger market for their products. I just want to say that I love the people of this country, but god damn most of y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle.
This part of his manifesto is hardly mentioned by the mainstream media. It doesn't fit the narrative. Was the shooter influenced by Al Gore?  You could just as easily call the shooter a eco terrorist as a white nationalist terrorist. The Dayton shooter was a supporter of socialism and favored Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and was against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (link) That has not been widely reported.

I don't know the political leanings of all of the domestic terrorist of the last dozen years or so.  Some were Islamist, some didn't seem to have an identifiable ideology, some where anti Jewish, one was anti Sikh or maybe was anti Muslim and was confused and thought Sikhs were Muslims, one was a Muslim who was anti gay, and several seem to be just mixed up sick kids. 

The media is painting the picture that most domestic terrorist are white supremacist triggered and inspired by Donald Trump. I think it is an intentional strategy to cause critics of open borders to shut up. Their narrative does not hold water. One could just as easily call the El Paso shooter an "eco terrorist" and the Dayton shooter a "socialist terrorist."

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Follow the PAC: Ingram money in the mayor's race

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Following the money in the mayor’s race? It’s complicated. A company owned by one of incumbent Mayor David Briley’s staunchest supporters, John Ingram, gave $20,000 to a political action committee he created; that PAC then gave $20,000 to another political action committee, which made the maximum contribution allowed by law to David Briley. 

Ingram has a lot at stake in the mayoral election. He owns a majority stake in the company bringing major league soccer to Nashville. MLS passed metro council but is facing a lawsuit by a group that doesn’t want the stadium at the fairgrounds.(link)

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Monday, August 12, 2019

State of Tennessee’s Comptroller has questions about Metro’s budget. This is serious stuff!!

by Rod Williams - The Comptroller of the Treasury has written Metro a letter expressing, "fiscal concerns that need to be clarified or addressed." This is serious stuff.  When a city as large as Metro cannot pass a budget that conforms with the law, it is embarrassing. It tells me we need a new leadership team that can propose a balanced, fiscally sound, lawful budget. 

As metro was passing a budget this year, I saw issues that I thought were a problem. Apparently, The Comptroller thinks they are a problem also. In a July 1 post, I wrote, "Metro's reserve fund balances are being permitted to drop below recommended levels." I wrote that, Metro’s established policy is to maintain a fund balance equal to or greater than 5% for each of the six primary budgetary funds and pointed out that several of the funds would not meet that threshold under the mayor's proposed budget. I thought that was a problem.

The Comptroller tells Metro, "We request that Metro Council provide our office with a cash management policy. When adopting such policy, we encourage the Council to consider establishing minimum cash balances needed for Metro’s operating and debt service funds that are sufficient to meet unplanned fluctuations in revenue and expenditures."

More important than letting reserve funds fall below policy levels was my concern that the budget did not balance. The comptroller sees that as a problem. By law the projected expenditures cannot be greater than the projected revenues. When Mayor Briley proposed his budget he included on the revenue side, $34 million to be realized in upfront income from the privatization of Metro's parking meters. Facing widespread opposition to the proposal, Briley pulled the plug on the plan. In my June 4th post, "Parking meter privatization plan not dead! Not withdrawn- just "deferred,"' I wrote, "Since the upfront $34 million from the parking privatization deal was used to make up the revenue side of the current proposed budget, and since the mayor has stated he will not seek a tax increase, $34 million must be found somewhere or that much expenditure must be cut." Well, the revenue was not made up elsewhere nor were expenses cut.

In the letter from The Comptroller, he writes that he wants, "A summary that explains the impact of the sale of assets including property and parking rights on the fiscal year 2020 budget in addition to the actual status of these sales."

He tells the Metro Mayor and Council Members, "A balanced budget shall be maintained with no cash deficits and sufficient to pay operating and debt service costs"

The comptroller's letter has teeth. Each year Metro government must borrow money for operating expenses in anticipation of  revenue. This is normal. It is the way all local governments operate. This year Metro has requested to issue Tax Anticipation Notes in the amount of $220 million. The Comptroller must approve such request. It does approve the request, upon the comptroller's office receiving the information it request, which I have explained above.  The Comptroller gives Metro until September 20th to comply.

This most likely means the Council must amend the budget to address the two issues of the inadequate fund balances and the use of phantom revenue from the privatization of parking.  To do this, the city could raise taxes or make budget cuts. Although passed, the budget can be amended. It takes three readings to pass anything and September 20th is not far away. This is a crisis. If the Council does not act, It cannot sell TAN and will run out of money to operate.

For more on this issue, see link, link, link, and link.

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Thom Druffel: The Runoff Begins

As of today, there is only a month until Election Day! After a long campaign, District 23 will finally get to decide who its next Council person is.

September 12 is coming up fast and we still have lots of doors to knock, and people to meet!

This weekend, we had a huge turnout of friends and supporters on Saturday at our rally. We had over forty people come out to officially kickoff our runoff campaign!

With energy and active supporters like this, we are speeding toward changing our district for the better. I'm thankful for the show of support and the involvement of our community in such an important race. If you'd like to help out, please signup here!

 Hearing your questions and concerns are important to me. That's one reason I'm running - to be a more accessible and engaging Councilperson that is transparent with you. Please always feel free to contact me and let me know about issues that are on your mind. I will always be responsive.

Early voting starts on August 23 at the Howard Office Building and begins here in District 23 on August 30 - ending September 7. Election Day is on September 12. I hope that I can earn your vote!

Kind regards,
Thom Druffel

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