Friday, March 20, 2020

All dine-in service at all restaurants throughout Davidson County banned. All gyms closed.

Dr. Michael Caldwell, Metro’s Chief Medical Director, is enhancing COVID-19 public health protocols restricting dine-in service at all restaurants throughout Nashville and Davidson County. Take-out orders, drive-thru service, curbside pickup, and delivery service are permitted, as long as restaurant patrons do leave the premise with the food and do not stay to dine in the restaurant.” In addition to this, Dr. Caldwell is restricting gyms from being open at this time.
Dr. Caldwell also will be issuing a public health advisory for churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship in Davidson County, urging all faith organizations to refrain from physically meeting to adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines.
Mayor John Cooper will meet with faith leaders at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020 to discuss the public health advisory and organize a weekend of prayer across Nashville’s faith communities.
Prior to this announcement, bars were already closed and restaurants were restricted to 50% of their seating capacity.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine

Update:  I posted the below blog post a few days ago on this site and on my Facebook page.  I got a response from Council member Cortney Johnson that provided a link  and an excerpt from an article on the Tennessee Bar Association webpage.  That article explained that the power of a local government to order the closing of businesses or quarantine or other extraordinary measures is derived from the authority of the State Commissioner of Health. County health directors are appointed by the Commissioner of Health with the concurrence of the county mayor. The local Health Director has broad powers to take action to control an epidemic. To read the article which reference the laws giving local governments this authority see: Tennessee Law in the Time of Pandemic Disease.

In another Facebook post, I asked by what authority the President could exercise extraordinary authority for public health such as ordering closings or restricing internal travel.  Apparently the President has such broad authority. 

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution  list the enumerated powers granted to Congress. Number 3 is "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Congress under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264), granted the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states. The authority for carrying out these functions on a daily basis has been delegated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). See : Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine

Does the Metro Board of Health have the authority to close every bar in the county?

by Rod Williams - I am not an attorney and I don't know the answer to a question I have, but I question the authority of the Mayor or the Health Department to close bars on Lower Broadway or  take any other extraordinary action to contain an epidemic. The following is from the Tennessee Code Annotated and it certainly looks like the State could do so.  The highlighting is mine.

It is clear the State commissioner of health has broad powers.

A review of the Metro Charter and the Metro Code says the Metropolitan government has the power "To make regulations to secure the general health of the inhabitants and to prevent, abate and remove nuisances."  And it says, "The board of health, through its chief medical director, shall exercise all the administrative functions of the metropolitan government pertaining to: … The investigation and control of communicable diseases."

That is all kind of general. Is that so open-ended that the Board of Health can close all bars in the County or is the authority to exercise such power found elsewhere in State law or Metro Charter?

Mayor Cooper has said, "The Metro Public Health Department possesses the authority to take extraordinary actions to protect public health."  Maybe he is right, but I wish he would elaborate and tell us the source of that authority.

If the Board of Health has that authority, do they have the authority to close churches?  Do they have the authority to prohibit the Council from meeting?  To cancel an election? To quarantine? To prohibit meetings of more than three people?  What is the punishment for ignoring a Board of Health order?  What is source of the Board's authority and the limit on that authority? I don't know. I think we are owed an explanation.

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What happened at the 3/17/2020 Council meeting. Briefings about Coronavirus, Capital Spending amount increased, only essential legislation considered.

This Council meeting is an hour and half long.  To access the agenda and the agenda staff analysis, follow this link. The Vice mayor explains that the council is meeting under unusual circumstances and with special precautions. Only essential agenda items are considered and Council members are physically spread out to conform to recommended "social distancing,"  about half are in their seats and the others are spread out in the audience seating area.  Members of the public are not admitted and staff is reduced.

At timestamp 8 - 32:32 the Council hears from various health officials and United Way about the city's response to the Coronavirus.  It is presented by live feed and watched on monitors. The presentations about the virus are well done but you do not hear anything that you have not probably already heard a dozen times on one of the 24-hour news channels.

Most items on the agenda are deferred one meeting. Most that are considered pass with little discussion and are routine matters. This is one of interest.

Resolution RS2020-213 authorizes the issuance of up to $154,000,000 in general obligation bonds to provide funding for various projects contained in the Mayor proposed capital spending plan. It is substituted, changing the about to $180 million. The increases are resulting from the needs related to the tornado damages. Some efforts are made to add projects but they fail. The resolution passes.

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Senator Bill Frist to Chair Mayor’s Covid-19 Response Fund

United Way of Greater Nashville to serve as nonprofit partner

Bill Frist
Metro Nashville Press Release, 3/17/2020 - In response to the public health emergency declared by the Metropolitan Board of Health on March 15, 2020, Mayor John Cooper, together with philanthropic, corporate, and government partners, has created the COVID-19 Response Fund at United Way of Greater Nashville. The Fund’s advisory committee will be chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, individuals and families throughout our community will be impacted. As bars and restaurants close or reduce their capacities, schools and childcare centers are unable to open, and businesses see diminished revenues, the economic effects will be immense, particularly for those living paycheck to paycheck. Many families still struggling to recover from the recent tornadoes will find their path to stable housing and financial stability even more challenging.

“We are deeply grateful to United Way and to our corporate and philanthropic partners for stepping up yet again to assist our neighbors who are hurting from the ripple effects of the current public health emergency,” Mayor John Cooper stated. “We urge everyone to assist each other while remaining vigilant to the limitations imposed by social distancing. One easy way to help those directly affected by the economic restrictions caused by the coronavirus is to provide monetary support to the COVID-19 Response Fund. For Nashville to rebound as quickly as possible, we need to be sure that all our local employees, particularly those in our entertainment and hospitality industry, have our support. This Fund has been created to help with that effort.”

The COVID-19 Response Fund was established to quickly and effectively address both the health and economic challenges of this virus. Chaired by former Senator Dr. Bill Frist, the Fund will rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations, getting dollars to where they are needed most. The Fund will focus its initial allocations on helping our neighbors who are experiencing lost wages or who become ill from the virus receive the assistance they need to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The Fund will launch with more than $1 million, and any administrative overhead will be covered by generous philanthropic partners, thereby allowing 100% of the money raised for the Fund to directly benefit those in need. The first donation of $500,000 was made by the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., whose hospitality industry partners are among the most impacted due to mandatory closures and other restrictions.

“I want to thank the Mayor for taking the lead on setting up this fund. Beyond everyone’s health, there is not a more pressing need in our community,” said Butch Spyridon, President and CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “It was an easy decision to step up and support efforts to bring relief to those who make our hospitality industry ‘work’ and the many others in need.”

Funds will be released on a rolling basis as fundraising continues throughout the outbreak and recovery phases of the crisis, making it possible to move resources rapidly and to adapt to evolving needs in subsequent funding phases. The advisory committee will work to get these dollars into the community quickly, funding nonprofit partners, community-based organizations and service providers working directly with those disproportionally impacted by this challenging landscape.

“This is new territory for the greater Nashville region and for the country. People are really going to be struggling to make ends meet and we want to do everything we can to show them that we are here to help. This is an opportunity for our community to come together and demonstrate that we believe in supporting each other in times of need. Nashville did just that in the days following the tornadoes and we can do it again as we face this new crisis,” said Brian Hassett, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Nashville.

Members of the advisory committee will work with the Mayor’s Office and United Way to quickly assess the needs and make rapid funding decisions to ensure a thorough and efficient process. The committee members will include:

  • Angie Adams: President and CEO, PENCIL
  • Katina Beard, MSPH: CEO Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center
  • Maneet Chauhan and Vivek Deora: Founders and Partners of Morph Hospitality
  • Robert Dittus, MD., MPH: Director of Institute for Medicine and Public Health
  • Mary Falls: Senior Advisor, Office of Mayor John Cooper
  • Sen. Bill Frist, MD (Chair)
  • Joe Galante: Chair CMA Foundation Board, former CEO and chair of Sony Music Nashville Pastor Robert Gardenhire, Minister Schrader Lane Church of Christ
  • Wanda Lyle: Managing Director - General Manager UBS Business Solutions Center Nashville
  • Rob Mortenson: President/CEO TN Hospitality Association
  • Juliana Ospina Cano: Executive Director, Conexion Americas
  • Brad Rayson: President SEIU Local 205
  • Butch Spyridon: President and CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation
  • Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI: VP for Health Equity, Vanderbilt University, Executive Director Meharry Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

For more information about the COVID-19 Response Fund, or to make a donation, visit

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Mayor John Cooper Declares State of Emergency Throughout Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County

Metro Press release, 3/18/2020, NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Mayor John Cooper signed Executive Order #6, which declares an immediate state of emergency throughout Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County and enhances Metro Government’s ability to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as provided under Tennessee state law and Metro code.

The Mayor’s Office, Metro Public Health Department, and the Metro Coronavirus Task Force continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), and area healthcare providers to closely monitor and respond to the virus.

“A coordinated response is the most effective response, and a declaration of emergency provides Metro Government and all our local partners with responsible but rapid resourcing and decision-making capabilities to overcome the challenge of the coronavirus,” said Mayor Cooper. “Our number one priority is to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Just as the federal government, governor’s office, and local health department have declared states of emergency to prevent the spread of this virus and help those who have been afflicted, Nashville must use this declaration as a valuable tool to protect all our residents.”

“I’m grateful to Mayor Cooper, our first responders, and all Metro employees who have been working round-the-clock for weeks,” said Director Chief William Swann of the Office of Emergency Management and Nashville Fire Department. “We are now in the final stages of adding Metro’s COVID-19 response activation at the Emergency Operations Center, which has been fully activated since 2:00 AM on March 3rd as part of Metro’s tornado response and recovery strategy, to augment the resources already available to Nashville residents through local clinics and hospitals.”

The Mayor’s executive order also directs all Metro departments, agencies, boards, and commissions to assist the Board of Health and the Chief Medical Director in enforcing their public health emergency declaration and orders. The Metro Coronavirus Task Force is working with area healthcare providers to set up an assessment hotline that residents should call if they are feeling ill. A healthcare professional will answer residents’ calls and ask a series of questions. If the resident is exhibiting symptoms, they will be directed to visit a Community Assessment Center or contact their personal healthcare provider.

In partnership with the five health systems and two medical schools in Nashville, the Coronavirus Task Force is working to set up between six to nine Community Assessment Centers across the county that will be staffed by personnel from local hospitals and medical schools. At these centers, residents will be assessed further and, if determined necessary, be tested for COVID-19. Details on the locations of Community Assessment Centers and the Assessment Hotline will be announced soon.

Dr. Alex Jahangir, Chair of the Metro Board of Health and Metro Coronavirus Task Force, is devoting his full time in the Mayor’s Office, where he is working closely with public health officials and area hospitals to support the administration’s citywide COVID-19 monitoring and response strategy until further notice.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What's on the Council Agenda for March 17th? Only priority financial agenda items to be considered.

by Rod Williams - According to a Channel 4 news report, Vice Mayor Jim Shulman has canceled committee meetings prior to Tuesday’s meeting and he expects the Council will only consider priority financial agenda items. Public health officials will be providing an update about the city's response to the Coronavirus for the Council prior to the beginning of the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the General Services will disinfect the Council chambers.  Access to the committee rooms and hallways and the Council floor will be restricted but apparently the public may attend the meeting.

To view the Council agenda and staff agenda analysis follow the highlighted links.

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Mayor Cooper joins Dr. Alex Jahangir, Dr. Michael Caldwell to announce new steps in COVID-19 response

Metro press release, 3/16/2020 - Mayor John Cooper Monday joined Dr. Alex Jahangir, Director of the Coronavirus Response Taskforce, Dr. Michael Caldwell, Director of Health, Collin Reed, Chairman and CEO, Ryman Hospitality Partners, and representatives from Nashville’s leading hospitals to provide an update on COVID-19 in Nashville. The update follows the Board of Health’s public health emergency declaration from Sunday, which calls for new measures from Nashville’s restaurants and bars to protect the community from the growing threat of coronavirus.
Mayor Cooper thanked the Nashville businesses that are voluntarily following the guidelines for social distancing outlined in the public health emergency declaration.
“A coordinated response is the only appropriate response, to get us back to normal sooner,” Mayor Cooper said. “We are making public health decisions with the safety and well-being of every member of the community in mind – from cooks to customers alike.”
Dr. Jahangir announced plans for an information hotline for citizens to access more information about COVID-19, as well as plans for opening assessment centers in the community. According to Dr. Jahangir, the assessment centers will not replace the role of our community’s physicians and hospitals but will supplement their services. The hotline and the assessment centers will be activated in the coming days.
“The collective actions of setting up assessment centers and a community hotline are efforts to limit the spread and impact of the virus and flatten the curve of growth of the virus in Nashville,” Dr. Jahangir said. “Assessment is vital, and it is important to get that message out.”
Dr. Caldwell gave an update on the COVID-19 cases in Nashville and provided an overview of the public health emergency declaration.
According to Dr. Caldwell, there are a total number of 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in Nashville/Davidson County, including eight confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. The age range for all confirmed cases remains from 11-73 years old. One person with a confirmed case remains hospitalized. All others are self-isolating at home with mild and manageable symptoms.
“Yesterday the Board of Health took a major step in our community’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak by passing an emergency declaration that enables our department to help reduce the impact of the virus by limiting people’s exposure,” Dr. Caldwell said. “The declaration is in line with guidance from CDC, and mirrors the decisive action taken by other cities and states.”
For more information about COVID-19 visit the Metro Public Health Department’s website,, the Tennessee Department of Health at CDC has updated information and guidance available online at

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A cause worth supporting: Help pro-life cursader David Daleiden defend criminal charges against him and stand for pro-life free speech.

by Rod Williams - If you are like me, you are constantly getting  bombarded with request to support causes and candidates for office. Once you are on a list your name must be sold numerous times.  I get so many request it is annoying.  One has to be selective about which causes you support. I can't support every cause but this is a cause I think is worth supporting. Those who take bold actions to save lives or stand for liberty need the support of the conservative community.

David Daleiden  went undercover for three years and exposed Planned Parenthood's practice of selling baby parts.  Via undercover video and thousands of pages of primary source documents, he documented Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal tissue.  California's Kamela Harris led the fight to punish Daleiden for his effort, he was fined and California's ninth circuit upheld the fine.  Worse than the fine, are ten felony charges pending against him which could lead to up to ten years in prison. Also he has been prohibited from releasing any more of the information he has exposing Planned Parenthood.

The Thomas More Society is defending Daleiden.  Thomas More is a respected public interest non-profit law firm. They have a silver certificate of transparency from Guidestar and a 77 out of 100 rating from Charity Navigator.  Another way to support Daleiden is to contribute through his Go Fund Me page. Below is the fundraising  solicitation. Please join me in supporting this hero of the pro-life movement.

Dear Friend,

Without your immediate action, the State of California could permanently silence one of the most influential pro-life advocates in America… and millions of preborn and newborn babies will be torn apart limb by limb and left to die.
You see, journalist David Daleiden – who famously exposed Planned Parenthood selling baby body parts to the highest bidder – has been arraigned on 10 felony charges stemming from his undercover investigation.

Not only does David face a decade in a state penitentiary if a San Francisco jury convicts him.  But he’s prohibited from releasing the rest of his incriminating evidence against Planned Parenthood due to “gag order” injunctions in place from two separate civil lawsuits.

Never before has an undercover journalist been silenced like this.

Then again, never before has one person held the key to rocking the abortion industry’s world.

Will you stand with us today to defend David Daleiden and pro-life speech in America?

My name is Tom Brejcha. I'm the President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society – a not-for-profit law firm underwriting and helping to spearhead David Daleiden's civil and criminal defense.

The Thomas More Society is proud to defend many of the most renowned leaders in America's pro-life movement – because when dark forces like Planned Parenthood unleash their full might to legally, financially and personally destroy our clients – we fight back.

But in this case, we’re in real danger of jurors delivering Solomonic-type justice – a “split verdict” – that would result in David spending time in a prison cell.

All because this young man had the courage to lead an undercover investigation that captured video evidence of the abortion goliath conspiring to illegally harvest and sell aborted baby body parts.

Now we’re going to need to put on an over-the-top defense to make sure jurors are not pressured to “compromise” and convict David of even one of the charges.

So if you agree it’s absolutely outrageous that David is the one facing criminal charges and hard time in a state penitentiary – rather than Planned Parenthood’s executives…

…then I pray you’ll make an emergency donation to help us defend David and other pro-life heroes today.

You see, altogether David has been sued or prosecuted six times!

We already defeated a two-count felony and misdemeanor criminal case in Houston and another nasty civil case brought by a baby body parts broker, Stem Express, in Los Angeles was dismissed.

And right now we’re defending David in three other active cases:
  • A civil lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation in federal court in San Francisco.  (A preliminary “gag order” injunction prohibits David from releasing more of his videos exposing Planned Parenthood.)
  • A separate civil lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood in federal court in San Francisco.  (Late last year a jury found David liable and awarded the abortion giant $1.4 million in damages on racketeering charges and $870,000 in punitive damages.  We are appealing this verdict!)
  • A civil lawsuit filed by anonymous Planned Parenthood personnel in federal court in Seattle, Washington.  (We won our first appeal and now our second appeal in that case remains pending and undecided.)
But despite all that David is facing, his spirits remain high.

In fact, I know he sees this criminal case as yet another opportunity to drag more of Planned Parenthood's dark criminality into the spotlight.

My friend, that's what David set out to do – and that's what you and I can make sure he continues doing by winning this legal battle.

Now I'll get right down to it... We anticipate David's legal defense will cost us more than $5,000,000. That's right, FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

That’s why I’m asking you to prayerfully consider a generous, tax-deductible gift of $30, $50, $100 or more today.

Planned Parenthood has millions of dollars to spend on lawyers and lobbyists – and they'll stop at nothing to silence David and prevent the truth from coming out.

So no matter how large or small your donation today, it will be put to immediate use as we go head-to-head with the biggest players in the abortion industry in the courtroom.

It's a grave injustice that David is the one being hit with felony charges while Planned Parenthood (so far, at least) has gone unprosecuted and unpunished.

But by clearing David of these charges... you and I can allow him to continue with his incredibly important life-saving work.

So please follow this link to make your emergency contribution of $30 or more today.

I know David will be deeply touched and encouraged by your generous support.

May God bless you,

Tom Brejcha

Tom Brejcha
President & Chief Counsel
P.S. This truly is a "David versus Goliath" type of battle.  Planned Parenthood and their allies want to destroy our “David.” They'd love to see him rotting away in prison rather than exposing their criminal, ghoulish activities. You and I cannot let that happen.  Please follow this link to make your best contribution of $30 or more to stop this attempt to crush David Daleiden and pro-life speech in America.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Mayor John Cooper Issues Statement Regarding Emergency Meeting of Metro Board of Health, Coronavirus Response Measures

Metro Press release, 3-15-20 - Today, Mayor John Cooper released the following statement regarding today’s emergency meeting of the Metro Board of Health scheduled for 5:00 p.m.:

“At my request, the Metro Nashville Board of Health will hold a special emergency meeting today at 5 p.m. to take action on a declaration of a public health emergency to address COVID-19. The Metro Public Health Department possesses the authority to take extraordinary actions to protect public health. The department and Coronavirus Task Force will communicate specific policy requirements that mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19.

“In advance of that meeting, I am asking for specific, short-term action to be taken effective immediately:

  1. Bars on Lower Broadway and throughout Davidson County to close their businesses until further notice;
  2. Restaurants (public facilities where the sale of food comprises more than 50 percent of revenue) to limit their regular maximum seating to under 50 percent of capacity, capped at no more than 100 individuals allowed.
  3. Bar service at restaurants should be limited to 50 percent of capacity with no standing allowed.

“We also are asking restaurants to take social distancing precautions, including the spacing out of tables for customers. We are encouraging restaurants to remain open as both a measure of social wellbeing and because of their important role in helping to feed our community. We appreciate the businesses, churches, schools, sporting event organizers, and all other organizations that have closed or taken actions on social distancing. These actions are consistent with other best practices being rolled out in Chicago, Washington, DC, New Orleans, and other major cities nationwide. Nashville is a leading destination in both global tourism and healthcare, and it is our responsibility to set an example in keeping our community safe.

“We are asking for these short-term actions based on recommendations of public health officials and health professionals and to protect the health of every person in our county and every visitor to our city. As a community we must come together and take care of one another, and that includes practicing social distancing that inhibits the spread of the virus. If we take these steps in the short-term, we will be able to return more quickly to normal operations.

“We understand these changes create a hardship, especially for businesses and their employees, and we hope it will be short lived. As a priority, Metro Government will be focused on how to provide relief for local workers and address the inevitable hardship that these social distancing measures will have on local businesses. We are gathering information from state and federal officials on aid for businesses and workers. We will continue to communicate regularly and follow the recommendations of the Board of Health as this emergency evolves.”

Residents can stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 updates from the Mayor’s Office and MPHD at and by following Mayor Cooper’s social media channels below:

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Board of Health Approves Declaration of a Public Health Emergency for Nashville/Davidson County In Response to COVID-19

Metro press release, 3/15/2020 - The Metropolitan Board of Health of Nashville and Davidson County held a specially called meeting Sunday at 5 p.m., at the request of Mayor John Cooper, where

members voted to approve a Declaration of a Public Health Emergency for Nashville and Davidson County.

The declaration guides Metro Public Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell in the public health response to the presence of coronavirus COVID-19 in the community.

As of today, there are 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county. Health officials expect the number of confirmed cases to continue to increase. The Declaration of a Public Health Emergency takes effect immediately.

The declaration contains a reiteration of Mayor John Cooper’s announcement earlier in the day that bars on Lower Broadway and throughout Davidson County close until further notice, and that restaurants (defined as public facilities where the sale of food comprises more than 50 percent of revenue) limit their regular maximum seating to under 50 percent of capacity, capped at no more than 100 individuals allowed. Further, bar service at restaurants should be limited to 50 percent of capacity with no standing allowed.

“We understand these changes create a hardship, especially for businesses and their employees, and we hope it will be short lived,’’ Cooper said. ``As a priority, Metro Government will be focused on how to provide relief for local workers and address the inevitable hardship that these social distancing measures will have on local businesses. We are gathering information from state and federal officials on aid for businesses and workers. We will continue to communicate regularly and follow the recommendations of the Board of Health as this emergency evolves.”

The declaration approved by the Board of Health calls for assistance from the governor and the state Department of Health; advises citizens who have traveled to high-risk areas as defined by the CDC and who develop symptoms of illness to contact their health-care provider immediately; reminds physicians and other health care practitioners that any case of COVID-19 is required by law to be reported to the Department of Health; and further directs Dr. Caldwell to ``act as necessary’’ to maintain and protect the public health, prevent the spread of disease, and provide for the safety of the Metropolitan Government and its residents.

Rod's Commend:  I would assume there must be some authority given to the Health Department to take such action but I would like to know chapter and section that gives a local Health Department that authority. Surely there are limits to the Health Department's authority.  What may the Health Department do and what may it not do? Could it prohibit the Metro Council from meeting? Could the Health Department mandate a quarantine? Can the Health Department violate due process to enforce a decision? I don't know but local authorities should explain the source of their authority.

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Tootsies owner to fight mayor's mandate to close Lower Broadway bars

News Channel 5, Mar 15, 2020 - At least one of the owners of several downtown bars plans to fight the approved recommendation to close bars throughout Davidson County, including Lower Broadway, amid COVID-19 concerns.

The attorney for Steve Smith, the owner of Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Honky Tonk Central and other bars, says he will work to request a temporary order that would restrain the enforcement of the declaration made by the Metro Board of Health. He believes there are constitutional implications when selectively picking out certain businesses.

Rod's Comment: I question the authority of the mayor to close bars.  This needs to be explained and maybe adjudicated.  Closing bars but not restaurants may make sense but it seems arbitrary.  If the mayor does have the authority to do this, I want that explained. What provision of the Charter gives the mayor this authority? I doubt the Metro Council could order bars closed or could give the mayor the authority to close bars. I doubt the mayor even has authority to close schools.  I would assume that is a decision to be made by the school board.

At all levels of government, no executive or legislative body should be allowed to exercise authority not authorized.

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Did your employer say you could work from home due to the Coronavirus scare? You need a permit for that!

by Rod Williams - Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many employers have closed the office and told employees to work from home. I have a couple members of my family working from home.  It you work with your hands or work in retail, working from home may not be an option, but almost all "desk jockey" jobs could be done from home.  With a phone and computer there are not many desk jobs that would actually require going to an office. It may require a change in mindset before that becomes a reality for most people doing office work, but there is little reason to go to an office. Even meeting can be conducted with teleconferencing.

Currently if you want to work from home and the work falls within certain guidelines, you can do so. The guidelines include that no more than one other employee who is not living in the dwelling can work out of that location, that the amount of the dwelling devoted to the home occupation is no more than 20% of the dwellings floor space, that you see no clients or customers at the dwelling and some other things.  This is all spelled out in section 17.16.250(D) of the Metropolitan Code of Nashville.

So, there is no problem working from home doing normal type office work, except you have to get a permit to do it.  See this:

So, pay $50 and jump through the hoops and you can legally work from home.

If I were you I wouldn't worry about it.  Ignore it. The only way the city would ever catch you is if a neighbor complained. There are thousands and thousands of people working from home without permits.  Anyway, I think a little breaking of the rules is good thing.  I want real crime controlled but resistance to irritating bureaucratic nanny state micromanaging of peoples lives is a healthy thing in my view. Anyway if everyone violating the rules did apply the system would be overwhelmed.

If you called to ask about a permit, they may tell you it wasn't intended for people like you but don't expect them to put that in writing. They may say they will have to call you back and never do.

There is a bill pending in the Metro Council that would change the rule so that people who meet the below requirements could legally work from home without a permit. It says the following:
a. Home occupations that meet both of the following conditions are not required to acquire a permit for activity under this section:
i. The home occupation does not serve customers on the property; and 
ii. The home occupation does not employ anyone who does not live within the dwelling.
In addition, another part of the  bill would legalize some home occupations that now are illegal and for which a person cannot even apply for a permit.   The neighborhood lady giving piano lessons in her home, or the lady with a one-chair beauty salon who sees no more than six customers a day, the accountant next door who does income taxes from home or the person with a home recording studio could operate legally if they met some pretty restrictive requirements and applied for a permit. To read the proposed bill, follow this link.

There are some people who could not afford to stay in their home if not for the income from their home occupation.  Working from home also reduces congestion and allows parents to spend more time with their children.  It also fills a need. Some people could not afford to go to a  commerical beauty shop or pay for piano lessons for their child or pay for a commercial tax preparer to do their taxes but they can afford the person down the street. Music City would not be Music City if not for all of the artist who got their start out of home recording studios. This is a good bill and deserves to pass.

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What happened at the March 5th Council meeting: Mayor Cooper addresses the Council regarding the tornado, ...

…. a Short-term rental bills deferred and another advances, allowing home occupations deferred, bill to void some minimum parking requirements advances, bill requiring more notice for landlords to raise rent advance,  vaping ban passes. 

This is a six hour meeting! This may be a record.  To see the agenda, the agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link.

The first hour of the meeting is devoted to the recent tornado. The mayor addresses the council starting at timestamp 13:00 and concludes his remarks at timestamp 18:52. The city's response is addressed and how to volunteer or contribute is shared, and members of the Council ask questions.  Following the mayor's remarks the council hears from the Fire Chief, a representative of Hands On Nashville, someone from The Community Resource Center, and some others. This portion of the meeting ends at timestamp 57:40.

Bills on Public Hearing.

Bill BL2019-7 would liberalized the policy regarding Short-term rentals.  Currently if there are two family dwellings on a lot, only one STRP permit can be issued for the lot. This would allow two separate STRP permits to be issued, one for each dwelling, when the units are owned by different persons and each unit is the primary residence of the corresponding owner. No more than two permits could be issued per lot, and only one permit could be issued per dwelling unit. That sounds reasonable to me but I would expect some opposition. It is deferred to the public hearing of April 1.  

Bill BL2019-8 concerns the sidewalk fund. Currently, money collected from the payment in lieu of sidewalks is collected into a pedestrian benefit fund. The funds are required to stay in the pedestrian benefit zone from where the payment was made. This ordinance would remove the pedestrian benefit zones and instead require funds to stay within the Council district of the new development. I don't have a strong opinion about this and don't think it really matters. It is deferred to the first meeting in April
Substitute BL2019-48  would liberalized the policy regarding home occupation.
Currently if no customers are served on the property and if no more than one employee  not living at the home is employed by the business, and a few other requirements are met, one may get a permit to have a home business.  This bill  would remove the prohibition on serving clients on the premises and would instead limit the number served and hours customers could be served.   Permits would not  be required for home occupations when no customers are served on the property. I strongly support this.
There are lot of people writing songs and recording demos in their home now, but they are required to have a permit and do not.  There are one-chair beauty shops and piano teachers giving neighborhood kids piano lessons and accountants doing taxes. These activities should be legalized. People speak both in favor and opposition. Proponents give good examples of Grammy winning artist who had award-winning albums cut in small home recording studios and technological breakthroughs that were developed in home workshops. One artist sings his comments with a song written for the occasion, "We need to work from home."  My friend, Rae Keohane who is on the other side of this issue and opposes the bill is the first person to speak in opposition.  The last person speaking in opposition is former Council member and neighborhood activist John Summers.  Opponents argue "it would do away with residential zoning."
There is a motion to substitute the bill and hold a second public hearing on the bill and to make the bill amendable on third reading. The substitute narrows the scope of the bill by listing certain occupations that would not be covered by the bill.  The primary reason for the second hearing is that due to the tornado, some people who were interested in the bill were unable to attend the public hearing. That passes. There is then a motion to defer second reading action until the second public hearing and that passes. To see the discussion and council action on the bill see timestamp 1:05:50 - 2:34:00
Bill BL2019-78 (SLEDGE) – This ordinance requires a minimum distance for any new Short Term Rental Property that are Not Owner-Occupied, from churches, schools, daycares, and parks. No new STRP permit could be located less than 100 feet from a religious institution, a school or its playground, a park, or a licensed day care center or its playground, unless, after a public hearing, a resolution receiving 21 affirmative votes is adopted by the Council. In my view this is uncalled for. I oppose this bill. I live on a street with several short-term rentals and have never had a problem.  I have one diagonally across the street from me.  Maybe some people do have a problem but that indicates a need for more enforcement not making it more difficult to have short-term rental.  There are hotels and restaurants within 100 feet of some of the same class of  entities identified in this bill. This would place greater restriction on homes rented short-term than we place on businesses.  There is a greater likelihood of complaints against owner-occupied housing and long-term rental housing that there is from short-term rental.  To me this looks like just another unjustified piece of legislation to attack short-term rentals. To see the discussion see timestamp 2:38:00 -  3:33:29.  There are speakers in favor and opposition. The bill is substituted making an insignificant change.  It then passes on second reading on a recorded vote of 20 in favor, 8 opposed, 4 abstain, and 8 not voting.
Bill BL2020-117 would remove the requirement for a minimum number of parking spaces for various uses for properties on multimodal corridors. There is not now a parking requirement for properties in the central business district and properties in urban overlay districts.  If you drive down a thoroughfare and see separated businesses surrounded by parking lots, that is the result of our car-oriented planning which was considered wise planning in the period following WWII.  A lot of what was considered wise planning then is now out of favor. Vibrant cities are build for people, not cars.  The car-oriented planning has led to massive urban sprawl. This bill would not prohibit one from providing parking but would not require it along multimodal corridors. I support this.  I am surprised no one spoke against it because cities without parking requirement have people competing for parking spaces. Residents have to sometimes get used to hunting for parking spaces when a certain number of on-sight parking spaces are not required. It passes with no opposition. 
Bill BL2020-127 is a proposed rezoning in Councilman Hall's district. It is controversial and several people speak on it. This concerns a rezoning on Eaton's Creek Rd.  Also there are three other bills regarding the same development.  I am simply calling attention to these but I do not try to understand and form an opinion on zoning bills that are local to one community. These are deferred. If you are interested in this, see time stamp 3:41:00
Resolution RS2020-202 is  "A resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement by and between the State of Tennessee, Department of Transportation, and The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, acting by and through the Metropolitan Department of Public Works, for signal maintenance for I-440 Traffic Operational Deployment of Blue Toad Spectra Power over Ethernet (PoE) Data Collection Devices,.." This would normally pass without controversy and would not interest me, however there is an issue that may make this controversial.  Many neighbors of the expanded I--440 corridor have complained of lighting pollution.  Some have said that prior to the expansion that they were not bothered by the I-440 lighting but now it shines in their house like a spotlight. Normally the Council would have litter leverage to influence the State to address these concerns. This may be giving the Council some leverage, but I don't know if they are using it. If I were serving in the Council I would hold up passage of this resolution until the concerns of constituents were addressed. This is deferred to the April 7th meeting. 
 Resolution RS2020-212 is complicated. Quoting from the staff analysis:
This resolution deauthorizes the issuance of $60,815,772 in general obligation bonds. The Council approved Resolution No. RS2018-1391 in September 2018 authorizing the sale of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $775,000,000 to retire outstanding commercial paper from multiple capital spending plans. Commercial paper is a form of short-term financing for capital projects until the long-term bonds are sold, typically once every several years. This enables Metro to better time the market regarding the issuance of long-term debt and to minimize issuance costs. Metro has separate commercial paper programs for the general government debt and Metro Water Services debt. 
 The 2018 bonds were sold at a $60,815,772 premium, meaning the price investors paid was higher than the par amount in order to receive a higher rate of return over the life of the bonds. This resulted in additional cash flow above the par amount of the bonds for Metro at bond closing. Consequently, Metro issued less par amount of bonds to retire the commercial paper used to fund the related capital projects. This deauthorization will have the effect of reducing the par amount of Metro’s total outstanding indebtedness by $60,815,772.
As I understand it, this is a good thing and saves the city money. It passes on a voice vote.
 Resolution RS2020-213   authorizes the issuance of up to $154,000,000 in general obligation bonds to provide funding for various projects contained in the Mayor proposed capital spending plan. It is deferred due to the tornado. The city may have to rethink some spending priorities. 
Resolution RS2020-214 authorizes the issuance of $500,000,000 in Water and Sewer bonds. It is deferred. There are a couple other similar resolutions also deferred. 
 Resolution RS2020-234 is a meaningless resolution condemning predatory practices in the wake of the devastating tornado. It is discussed and passes. 
Bills on Second Reading.
BILL NO. BL2020-149 would require landlords to provide at least 90 days’ written notice to tenants before increasing the tenant’s rent. This is likely to reduce the availability of affordable housing and raise rent prices. This type interference in the market hardly ever achieves the desired result. There is already the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) which requires a 30-day notice. Nashville should not have a more restrictive rule than other places in Tennessee. It would probably not be enforceable. This needs to be defeated. If it does pass, I hope the State invalidates it. There is some discussion and some reservation are expressed and then it passes on second reading by a voice vote. To see the discussion see timestamp 5:19:15 - 5:40:08.
Bills on Third Reading. 
Bill BL2020-162 (as amended) would prohibit vaping on hospital grounds and
within the public right-of-way in the vicinity of hospital entrances. It is amended to include animal control facilities.  I oppose this bill. Vaping when using the products it was intended for is healthier than cigarettes. There is not evidence that vaping endangers any one but the person vaping. Can you imagine the person with a nicotine habit visiting a sick or dying loved one in the hospital and they need a smoke.? We may think it better if they did not have that habit, but in a time of stress is not the time to punish them for a habit of which we may not approve. Have some compassion! The Council should eject the nanny state and vote "no." This passes on a roll call vote of 30 in favor, 2 "no's," 1 abstaining and I guess 7 people had to go to the bathroom.  Check back for a report on how members voted. 

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