Saturday, September 28, 2019

The challenges Cooper faces as he takes office.

by Rod Williams - Today's Tennessean featured an article, Cooper's challenge begins in Nashville, in which the issues facing the new mayor are examined. The article is well worth reading.

The article examines the budget and Cooper's pledge to redirect more tourism dollars from the control of the convention center to the General Fund.  The article points out that this will not be easy to achieve and will probably require new State legislation.  The article does not mention that bond holders may also have to be placated.  People who purchased the bonds to build Music City Center had those bonds supported by revenue from the tourism development zone. I don't know for sure, but would assume bond holders would have to agree to any change in that arrangement that would make  their bonds less secure. 

The Tennessean article does not say this but it may be that Cooper cannot officially reroute tourism dollars but may be able to achieve the same objective by persuading the Convention Center Authority to pay more for the city services that serve the downtown area. I do not know when the term of the current board members expire but they serve a term of four years and are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Council. The mayor has the ability to influence the Authority. I fully support Cooper's objective of redirecting revenue from tourism but it may not be easy to make that happen and it won't be immediate.

One of the first issues facing the mayor is responding to the Comptroller of the Treasury's letter of early August in which the Comptroller pointed out that Metro's budget did not balance and required Metro to respond by September 20th with an explanation of how the city would balance the budget. The reason the budget did not balance was that it relied on money from the sale of city assets including Metro's parking meter system.  That proposed sale ran into widespread opposition and Mayor Briley announced the plan was being put on hold.  That left a major hole in the budget.  Briley did respond on September 20th saying he would look for other revenue and cut expenses but that the fate of Nashville's private parking deal and sale of its downtown energy system to balance the city's budget lies with incoming Mayor-elect John Cooper.  This is an issue that has to be resolved soon.

The article points out that Cooper plans to halt Briley's Under One Roof affordable housing plan and more importantly, in my view, reverse Briley's recent executive order calling on the State to repeal its anti-sanctuary cities law.  That executive order also, while not quite making Nashville a sanctuary city, came very close to doing so.  I am immensely please to see Cooper make this pledge. Repealing the Briley pro sanctuary city executive order is not only the right thing to do but will improve relations with the State.  Briley has already began the process of improving those relations. Right after being elected, he met with Governor Lee.  There are several issues in which Metro needs to cooperate with the State and Metro has been poking the State in the eye repeatedly. A more harmonious relationship with the State will benefit Nashville. Some of the new progressives will want to advance policies opposed by the State, however. After a short honeymoon, I suspect Cooper will clash with the new progressives. Thankfully, the mayor has the upper hand.

Other issues Cooper will have on his plate is the future of the Morris Memorial Building and the Church Street Park.

In discussing the financial issues facing the city, the article points out that in the current budget the school district requested $76.7 million in additional funding and received a $28.2 million increase.  Several members who were elected recently ran on a pledge to "fully fund" the Metro School budget.  That is giving the School Board a blank check to get whatever they request. While there may be a need for some additional funding for Metro Schools, to pledge to fully fund the school board request is irresponsible.  With the group of new progressives in the Council and the fact that the old Council came within one vote of voting to raise taxes, Cooper will have a lot of pressure placed on him to solve our city's financial problems before the Council votes on a new budget in July 2021.

The challenges are huge.  I wish Cooper good fortune, courage, and wisdom as he works to fulfill his promise of getting Metro's financial house in order.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Senator Marsha Blackburn Addresses Impeachment Inquiry

This week House Democrats gathered to announce their intention to begin formal impeachment inquiries against President Donald Trump. The announcement was the culmination of a three-year witch hunt that started with a grudge they’ve held against the president since their chosen candidate failed to win the 2016 election.

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Speculating who may be the mayoral candidates in 2023

by Rod Williams - With Cooper not even sworn in yet, it seems a little early to be speculating who may be the mayoral candidates in 2023 but Nashville Post did so. They admit it is early and write: "Tomorrow, John Cooper will be sworn in as Metro Nashville’s ninth mayor. Today, we will wildly — and perhaps irresponsibly — speculate about who may be the 10th."

This is an interesting read, just to know who these people are and to see who informed observes think has mayoral potential. Those on the Nashville Post list are Bob Mendes, Matt Wiltshire, Carol Swain, John Ray Clemmons, Ashford Hughes, Renata Soto, Charles Robert Bone, Freddie O’Connell, Tanaka Vercher, Jeff Yarbro, Lonnell Matthews, Bob Freeman, Harold Love, Christiane Buggs, and Megan Barry. Follow this link to see what Nashville Post had to say about each of them.

Since we are engaging in wild speculation, I would add these to the list: Councilman Steve Glover, Sheriff Daron Hall, County Clerk Brenda Wynn, District Attorney Glenn Funk, and Register of Deeds Karen Johnson. Just as the Nashville Post does, this list assumes either Cooper does not run again or for some reason disappoints and is vulnerable by 2023.

Councilman Steve Glover is on the list because he won an at-large seat and has the support of Nashville's conservative voters. He has already won a county-wide race, so has county-wide name recognition. He has experience having served as a member of the School Board and two terms as a district council member in addition to the experience he will have as a Councilman at-large.  Carol Swain, should she run, would compete for some of the same votes as Glover. Swain came close to making the runoff for mayor in the recent General Election, but I doubt she would attempt a third run for mayor. I sort of doubt Swan would still be interested in four years. I would not be surprised if Carol Swain did not become a pundit on Fox News are get some other high profile position with a think tank or national conservative advocacy organization.  If Swain does run, she has a disadvantage in that she is a published pundit and scholar who has expressed very conservative views on national and philosophical issue that would alienate many moderates. Glover is conservative but has not taken strong ideological positions on issues that would alienate moderates.

Sheriff Daron Hall does a good job as Sheriff, is likeable and did not buckle to pressure to adopt sanctuary city policies.  He would have broad appeal except among the most progressive elements who want Nashville to become a sanctuary city.

District Attorney Glenn Funk keeps his name in the news and has done some grandstanding critical of the police department and that would help him with progressives, except he once had his picture made with the Confederate flag. Also, it was he who asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Mayor Megan Barry’s affair. I think that would be a plus, even with progressives, if it matters at all by that time.

County Clerk Brenda Wynn.  She has served in her current position since 2012 and was the first African-American woman to win election to a constitutional office in Davidson County.  She is likeable, qualified and her office has been scandal-free. She has no strident political positions that would turn people off. She is Black and Nashville's population is 28% Black. I do not know what percentage of those who vote are Black but suspect it is greater than their percentage of the population.  My perception is that Blacks are more civically involved at the local level than the average person. My perception is that many new-comers to Nashville, who are mostly White, do not care much about local elections. I am sure many Blacks think it is time Nashville had a Black mayor. Among those on the Nashville Post list, at least four of them are Black, if they do not all run, then that leaves another opening for a Black candidate.

Karen Johnson, Register of Deeds, like Brenda Wynn and several others on the Nashville Post list is Black, which I think will be an advantage for a candidate. Karen Johnson is a former district Council member and having been elected Register of Deeds has county-wide name recognition.  Karen Johnson is charming and personable and very attractive. Those are positive attributes for a candidate.

Other potential candidates may be Bill Freeman again, Stuart McWhorterLinda Rebrovick, or Howard Gentry again, or other Constitutional office holders. I don't know if any of the people I have named or any named by the Nashville Post have an interest in higher office or not. There are probably other potential candidates whose name I have not mentioned. If anyone has a name to add to the list please do.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Jim Cooper jumps on the Impeach Trump bandwagon.

by Rod Williams - I was not surprised to see Jim Cooper jump on the impeach Trump bandwagon. Cooper said: “It’s time for the House of Representatives to begin the impeachment process against President Trump. The President’s invitation to yet another foreign power—this time Ukraine—to undermine U.S. elections requires that Congress begin the process in our Constitution to levy formal charges against him. This is a very serious step, but the President’s continuing misconduct requires that Congress uphold our Constitution and the laws of the land. No one, not even the President, is above the law.”

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The Trump Impeachment Inquiry and summary of Ukraine phone call controversy.

By now probably everyone knows that Nancy Pelosi has called for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump and of the furor raised by a phone call Trump made to the president of the Ukraine.  If you got the news in bits and pieces or laced with lots of emotional partisan rhetoric, below is a good dispassionate summary of events from The New York Times.

My view of events so far, is that the Presidents actions are troubling, but not as troubling as was the Hillary Clinton shake down of foreign governments when she served as Secretary of State and no more troubling than Biden's successful effort to get a Ukaine investigator fired who was investigating his son. In other words, Trump is kind of par for the course.  Trump's actions should be exposed and disapproval expressed but his actions do not warrant impeachment.

My view of the political impact of these developments, is that it helps Trump.  It shines light on the corruption of Joe Biden and his son, which harms Biden's chances of getting the Democrat nomination for president and I think Biden would have been the strongest challenger to Trump. Also, I think people will see the impeachment attempt as wasting time and a petty vindictive effort to overturn the results of an election. It will backfire.  Rod

The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: What We Learned So Far Today

By The New York Times
Hello, and welcome to a special edition of the Morning Briefing.
President Trump today.Doug Mills/The New York Times
Less than a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, there are several big developments:
  • A call log released by the White House shows Mr. Trump pushing the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to consider investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • A Justice Department official told The Times that after a whistle-blower raised concerns, two top intelligence officials referred the complaint for a possible criminal investigation into the president’s actions. The Justice Department concluded that there was no basis for a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s behavior.
  • In the call, Mr. Trump alluded to American aid, while not explicitly linking his request to unfreezing it, the document shows: “I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time.”
Click here for the reconstructed transcript. The five-page document distributed by the White House includes a cautionary note indicating that it was “not a verbatim transcript” but instead was based on “notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers” and national security staff. Senior administration officials said voice recognition software was also used.

The scandal so far

  • Mr. Trump urged Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his younger son, Hunter — both directly and through Rudolph Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers. Mr. Biden is a leading candidate to be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee.
  • As vice president, Mr. Biden pushed the Ukrainian government in 2015 to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom the U.S. and other Western nations saw as an obstacle to reform because he failed to bring corruption cases. At the time, Mr. Biden’s son sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings.
  • Mr. Trump and his allies have insinuated, without evidence, that Mr. Biden was trying to protect the company from prosecution. An investigation into him, even if it were unfounded and turned up no evidence of a crime, could damage his campaign prospects by suggesting wrongdoing.
  • The White House froze more than $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine this summer; it had been intended to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian territorial aggression. Mr. Trump has given conflicting explanations for the freeze.
  • An intelligence official filed a whistle-blower complaint last month about the president’s actions. The inspector general for the intelligence community deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent” and forwarded it to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, under a law that says such complaints must be shown to Congress within a week.
  • Mr. Maguire refused to share the complaint with Congress, saying the Justice Department disagreed with the inspector general’s conclusion that its subject matter was covered under the law that requires disclosing such complaints to Congress.
  • The complaint’s full details remain a mystery, as does the whistle-blower’s identity.

What’s next?

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement on Tuesday that the House was beginning an impeachment inquiry was momentous, but practically, it didn’t change very much. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee had already opened a related inquiry in July.
  • Six House committees are pursuing investigations of political malfeasance. They will bring that evidence to the Judiciary Committee, which could then recommended articles of impeachment to the full House.
  • There’s a distinct possibility that the House, now controlled by Democrats, will vote to impeach President Trump.
  • But when the case goes to the Senate, the president has an advantage. With the chamber under Republican control, and a two-thirds vote needed to remove him from office, that seems unlikely to happen, at least for the moment.

What are the Republicans saying?

Republican lawmakers and the president stuck to their position that Mr. Trump didn’t offer Mr. Zelensky any inducements or threaten him. “From a quid pro quo aspect, there’s nothing there,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Some Republican leaders tried to shift attention to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of “trying to weaken the president.”

What are your questions?

Our top editors and reporters are ready to answer your questions about the road ahead. Ask here.

Impeachment 101

Impeachment does not remove a president from office; it’s more akin to an indictment on charges of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Here’s the process:
  • House committees that are investigating the president on impeachable offenses will send their strongest cases to the Judiciary Committee.
  • If the evidence is deemed sufficient, the House holds a floor vote on one or more articles of impeachment.
  • If a majority of House members vote to impeach, the case moves to the Senate, which holds a trial and then votes on whether to convict the president. A two-thirds majority is required to remove the president from office.

A brief history

This is only the fourth time an American president has been the subject of an impeachment inquiry. And though two presidents have been impeached, neither was removed from office by the Senate.
  • Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached, in 1868, over his attempt to fire Edwin Stanton, his secretary of war, who favored a tougher approach toward the post-Civil War South. He was acquitted by the Senate.
  • Richard Nixon faced impeachment in 1974, on charges relating to Watergate, a scandal that connected him to a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the subsequent cover-up. He resigned as it became clear that he was about to be impeached.
  • Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, after it was discovered that he had lied while testifying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He was acquitted by the Senate.
Morning Briefing
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Energy Independence for a Strong Nation

Rep. Phil Roe
by Congressman Phil Roe - Last December, the United States became a net exporter of oil – breaking an almost continuous 75-year streak of dependence on foreign oil and is now the world’s 8th largest oil exporter. This was not always the case. I remember serving at the DMZ in Korea, where we only had heat 3 hours a day because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries barred oil exports to the U.S. for our support of Israel – also known as the Oil Embargo of 1973. Today, we are no longer forced to rely on regimes that do not always have America’s interest as their foremost concern.

Iran is believed to be responsible for attacking a Saudi Arabian oil refinery last week, with drone and missile strikes that severely damaged the world’s oil largest supplier. The good news is our energy independence reduced the impact that these attacks could have had. If that attack had taken place in the 1970s, the price of oil would have skyrocketed. Even still, these attacks left the international benchmark for oil prices up nearly 15 percent on Monday, the largest single-day jump in nearly 30 years. These attacks reminded us of the importance of energy independence and not depending on the Middle East to power our nation.

It’s difficult to understand why we would want to reverse this remarkable revolution, but last week, House Democrats took their best shot with legislation aimed at blocking American oil and gas development. Three separate bills would have collectively blocked oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The land Democrats targeted in ANWR is only 1/10,000th of the total acreage, but could result in 10.4 billion barrels of oil, lowering energy costs and promoting economic growth across the country. The prohibition on the sale of oil and gas leases on the OCS and the Gulf of Mexico would block billions of dollars in revenue for the Treasury. Lease sales are also the primary funding source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is vital to funding projects that preserve our natural resources and promote outdoor recreation.

Affordable energy is essential for economic growth and Americans’ well-being. To help make energy more affordable – and create more jobs – Congress should enact a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy policy that includes oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear and hydro energy. When we use our natural resources, we should be innovative in order to be environmentally-responsible. We can achieve that goal without losing our energy independence and American jobs. Instead of looking for real solutions, we are spending time discussing the “Green New Deal,” a resolution whose authors described the plan as a complete overhaul of the U.S. economy and an embrace of socialist principles. A plan that achieves “net-zero” emissions in 10 years would require the U.S. to stop producing oil, natural gas and coal – the fuel for 80 percent of our economy that provides jobs to thousands of Americans. This would devastate our economy.

As an avid outdoorsman, I love East Tennessee’s natural beauty. It is our duty to protect our natural resources, like the Appalachian Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains. Energy exploration can be complementary to protecting these resources, and it’s critical to our nation’s energy independence and to our national security. Rather than implementing more burdensome regulations that drive up costs and destroy jobs, I believe there are several realistic, commonsense changes we can and should pursue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save taxpayers money and promote job-creation.

When I served on Johnson City’s City Commission, and then as Mayor, we worked to cap the gas coming out of our landfill – mostly methane, a significant greenhouse gas – and used it heat and cool the Mountain Home VA Medical Center, instead of burning it off into the atmosphere. We also audited all public buildings for energy efficiency and established a “Green Team” to work with entities on ways to be more environmentally friendly. Johnson City was also the first municipality in Tennessee to offer curbside recycling and we replaced stoplight and streetlight bulbs with energy efficient bulbs that save energy and taxpayer money. There are commonsense measures that could reduce emissions without sacrificing what is the strongest economy in the world. It's clear energy independence is critical to our economy, our national security and American families. Given the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia, I hope my Democrat colleagues will soon join us in working towards energy independence.

Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.  

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