Saturday, April 18, 2020

President Trump's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.

President Donald Trump on April 16th revealed his guidelines for reopening the country. It is a phased approach with three phases. The country will not reopen all at once and will not reopen everywhere at the same pace.  The guidelines are implementable on a state-wide or county by county basis at governors' discretion. The guidelines call for certain criteria to be met before each phase is enacted.

To see the guidelines see, Guidelines, Opening Up  America Again.

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Governor Lee Establishes Economic Recovery Group to Reboot Tennessee Economy

Tennessee Government press release, April 16, 2020 - Today, Governor Bill Lee established the Economic Recovery Group, a joint effort between state departments, members of the legislature and leaders from the private sector to build guidance to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy.

 “COVID-19 has not only created a public health crisis, it has hurt thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of hardworking Tennesseans,” said Gov. Lee. “As we work to safely open Tennessee’s economy, this group will provide guidance to industries across the state on the best ways to get Tennesseans back to work.”

The group is led by Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell. “This public-private partnership will prioritize connection, collaboration, and communication across industries, the medical community and state government” said Ezell. “We’re grateful to these leaders for serving at a critical time in our state’s history.”

Sammie Arnold will serve as the chief of staff for the Economic Recovery Group. Arnold currently serves as the Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Members of the Economic Recovery Group include:
Lee Administration Representatives: 

  • Mark Ezell, Director 
  • Sammie Arnold, Chief of Staff 
  • House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R – Portland) 
  • Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R – Franklin) 
  • Brandon Gibson, Senior Advisor to Governor Lee 
  • Bob Rolfe, Department of Economic and Community Development 
  • Greg Gonzales, Department of Financial Institutions 
  • David Gerregano, Department of Revenue 
  • Dr. Charles Hatcher, Department of Agriculture 
  • Dr. Jeff McCord, Department of Labor and Workforce Development 
  • Hodgen Mainda, Department of Commerce and Insurance 
  • Tony Niknejad, Governor’s Office 
  • Brig. Gen. Scott Brower, COVID-19 Unified Command 
  • Dr. Morgan McDonald, TN Dept. of Health, Deputy Commissioner 
  • Butch Eley, Department of Finance & Administration 
Industry Representatives:
  • Jim Brown, National Federation of Independent Business 
  • Bradley Jackson, TN Chamber of Commerce 
  • Beverly Robertson, President & CEO of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce 
  • Rob Ikard, TN Grocers & Convenience Store Association 
  • Rob Mortensen, TN Hospitality & Tourism Association 
  • Colin Barrett, TN Bankers Association 
  • Fred Robinson, TN Credit Union League 
  • Dave Huneryager, TN Trucking Association 
  • Will Cromer, TN Hospital Association 
  • Mayor Kevin Davis, President of TN County Services Association 
  • Mayor Jill Holland, President of TN Municipal League 
  • Jeff Aiken, TN Farm Bureau 
  • Tari Hughes, Center for Non-Profit Management 
  • Roland Myers, TN Retail Association 
  • Clay Crownover, President & CEO of Associated Builders & Contractors of Tennessee

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Bill Hagerty's service on the task force to reopen the economy inspires confidence.

by Rod Williams - Bill Hagerty, former Director of Tennessee's Department of Economic and Community Development and former Ambassador to Japan, has been appointed by President Trump to serve on the task force charged with ending the lock down and getting America back to work.  In this interview, he says it is time, that we cannot have an extended period of a shutdown of the American economy. He says the president is keeping our health and safety at the forefront but is laying out a "measured path" to reopen the economy.

The Paycheck Protection Program makes loans to small business impacted by this crisis to keep them afloat. It quickly ran out of the $350 billion allocated for the program.  Hagerty says we need to immediately approve more funding for the program. He says, "We need it and we need it now."  He says Leader McConnell put forth a clean bill days ago to simply add more dollars to the program but Democrats are "holding the economy hostage" to pad the program with pet projects the same way they did when the original bill was passed.

Bill Hagerty speaks with passion but presents a calm rational advocacy for opening the economy and getting it right. His service on this task force inspires confidence.

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Metro Nashville press release - Nashville and Davidson County Mayor John Cooper, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke today announced the formation of the Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force to plan and coordinate the restoration of business activity currently suspended due to COVID-19.

The Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force is composed of business leaders and health care professionals appointed jointly by each metro area’s city and county mayors. Task Force appointees were vetted with and agreed to by the County Mayors in each metropolitan area — Mayors Lee Harris (Shelby County), Glenn Jacobs (Knox County), and Jim Coppinger (Hamilton County.) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has begun a process for planning the reopening of Tennessee’s economy, and this Task Force intends to further link communities together in a coordinated response.

Over the last month, the mayors of Tennessee’s “Big Four” cities and counties have signed multiple executive orders to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. These orders have placed their cities under states of civil emergency, asked the public to observe strict social distancing measures, and required the closure of non-essential businesses and public gatherings. Governor Lee has maintained regular contact with Big 4 mayors to discuss protocols for eventually lifting these restrictions. The Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force is an organized way of collecting input and collaborating with the state government about how to handle this process safely.

The Task Force will listen to medical experts and evaluate economic conditions to develop recommendations and public health protocols for reopening. These recommendations will focus on the factors that indicate when businesses are safe to reopen; how businesses should be smoothly phased in; and the specific requirements for safe business operations.

Mayor John Cooper: “As employment centers and healthcare providers for their regions, the four metro areas must coordinate and help inform the statewide approach. Our challenge is restarting our economy with protocols to protect public health. This Task Force is the city’s part of a statewide solution to safely reopening our economy, and I believe will be a valuable partner to the Governor’s office and the Commissioner Ezell’s Economic Recovery Group.”

Mayor Jim Strickland: “We will get through this crisis by working as a team. It will take that same teamwork to revive our economy and get Memphians back into the workforce and to see our city thriving once again. I look forward to partnering with the Governor and the other major cities.”

Mayor Indya Kincannon: “Thanks to the cooperation of our residents, we have seen success in ‘flattening the curve’ in our communities, but we know that our economies cannot remain closed indefinitely. The members of this Task Force will help us implement responsible, data-driven strategies to protect the public and ensure that our partners in the business community can operate safely.”

Mayor Andy Berke: “From the beginning of this crisis, Tennessee’s major metro areas have been aligned on how to respond to this crisis. We’re going to stay aligned as we plan for a prosperous and healthy future.”

The Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force will be staffed by the Chiefs of Staff and/or Deputy Mayors of each mayor. It will begin meeting next week and will make public disclosures of their initial discussions, findings, and action steps next week.

Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force Members 

  • Alan Crone, Crone Law Firm 
  • Charles Ewing, Ewing Moving and Storage 
  • Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease specialist 
  • Kevin Kane, Memphis Tourism 
  • Beverly Robertson, Greater Memphis Chamber 
  • Dr. James Hildreth, Meharry Medical College 
  • Laura Hollingsworth, Ryman Hospitality 
  • Dr. Alex Jahangir, Head of Metro Coronavirus Task Force 
  • Rob McCabe, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 
  • Kathy Brown, University of Tennessee at Knoxville 
  • Dave Miller, First Horizon Bank 
  • Mike Odom, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce 
  • Ryan Steffy, SoKno Taco Restaurant 
  • Philip Byrum, Monen Family Restaurant Group 
  • Wade Hinton, Unum 
  • Dr. Kathleen Hunt, Children’s Hospital at Erlanger 
  • Mitch Patel, Vision Hospitality Group

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gov. Lee tells police, use common sense in enforcing stay home order. People do not have to show papers. OK to take a walk, take a drive.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Nashville looks to freeze employee pay plan, eliminate cost-of-living adjustment — again

by Yihyun Jeong, The Tennessean, April 14, 2020 - Economic boom or economic downturn, Nashville city employees have heard the same tune: They will take the brunt of a tighter budget.

Metro Human Resources presented a proposal Tuesday to the Metro Civil Services Commission to freeze all compensation, including step increases and cost-of-living adjustments for employees in a nearly $26 million "cost avoidance" measure as the city faces a steep revenue shortfall from COVID-19. The savings accounts for just more than 1% of the more than $2 billion city budget.

…..As the coronavirus has forced non-essential businesses to close, city officials are forecasting a $200 million to $300 million shortfall in expected taxes and other revenue for the current fiscal year. (link)

Rod's Comment: The employee's unions are moaning about the lack of a pay increase and this Tennessean article is sympathetic to the plight of Metro employees.  Certainty, I also regret that employees will not get an anticipated raise and sypathize with them. However, they ought to be happy that they are immune from lay off and that they still have a job.  Many in the private sector are laid off and will not have a job to go back to.  The longer this lockdown continues, the more likely that private sector employee will not have a job to return to.

My greater concern about how this budget crunch will affect Metro employees is that we will not be hiring adequate people to meet public safety needs.  The police department is short 130 officers and the fire department is short 153 positions and there is a shortage of 911 personnel.

I am still waiting for a sign that Metro is doing all it can to manage our money well.  I am not seeing it. If Metro was really serious about addressing this crisis, we would close General Hospital and save about $50 million a year.  Metro General can not fill its beds, no one wants to go there, poor people have other options and General's only reason for still existing is to boost the collective ego of the Black community.

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Monday, April 13, 2020

What happened at the April 7th Council meeting: New rules for Scooters adopted, Other contentious bills deferred.

by Rod Williams - This is an unusual meeting in that it is being conducted remotely via teleconferencing. Only the Vice Mayor, the President pro tem, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and a few staffers are in the room. Everyone else is participating by computer.  All confirmations to Boards and Commissions are deferred and all bills on public hearing are deferred and yet still the meeting is over three and half hours long. Conducting the meeting in this manner is simply a much slower process. The meeting is not gaveled to order until timestamp 11 in the video. Roll call is actually called for this meeting, instead of the usual practice of having the clerk determine who is present. As can be expected there are some technical glitches.  The roll call is not completed until timestamp 24. Some Council rules have to be amended to make this method of conducting a council meeting not conflict with the rules.

To access the agenda, the agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link. Below is the action on significant legislation.

Resolution RS2020-236 is a resolution approving an application for a Digital Curb Challenge grant from COORD. Nashville is one of only three cities to be selected for this trial program. Some of what curb management can do is manage curb loading zones rather than having permanent fixed loading zones, it can better manage ride sharing and ride hailing by sitting up zones and it can institute demand sensitive pricing for meters within a certain zone. The grant is free and the program is for a trial period. This passes on the consent agenda.

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, State No. 99111-4604-04; PIN 125652.00 (Proposal No. 2020M-004AG-001)." This would normally pass without controversy, however there is an issue that I thought 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 little leverage to influence the State to address these concerns. If I were serving in the Council I would hold up passage of this resolution until the concerns of constituents were addressed. I don't know if that is what is holding this up or not but it has been pending for months. It is deferred again.  

Resolution RS2020-209 is, "A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to support a change in state law to include stormwater utilities among the utilities covered under the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority Act."  The bill was recommended for withdrawal by the Public Works Committee. Council Member Nash withdrew the bill.

Resolution RS2020-236 is a resolution approving an application for a Digital Curb Challenge grant from COORD.  Nashville is one of only three cities to be selected for this trial program. Some of what curb management can do is manage curb loading zones rather than having permanent fixed loading zones, it can better manage ride sharing and ride hailing by sitting up zones and it can institute demand sensitive pricing for meters within a certain zone.  From what little I know about it this sounds like a good thing. Anyway, the grant is free and the program is for a trial period. This passed on the consent agenda.

Resolution RS2020-251. "A resolution recognizing the retirement of Kay Bowers and her years of service as Executive Director of New Level Community Development Corporation." This is not of general interest but I want to give a shout-out to Kay Bowers. I know her through the affordable housing community. Our work was related. She is a good person and has a heart for helping people. This passed on consent.

Resolution RS2020-257 expresses the Metropolitan Council’s support for SB2908/HB2013, currently pending before the Tennessee General Assembly, which would allow metropolitan governments to enact an impact fee or privilege tax on development. The resolution was recommended for withdrawal by the Budget and Finance Committee. Council Member Sledge moved to defer the resolution indefinitely, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council.

Bills on Second Reading

Bill BL2019-109 makes changes in the city policy toward scooters or what is termed "shared
urban mobility devices." This was on the agenda some months ago and deferred an excessive number of times and taken off of the agenda "by rule." It is back. This one has some provisions I like such as requiring more speedy response by fleet owners to complaints of overturned scooters and things and new rules establishing 'no sidewalk use' zones and slow zones. I like that it eliminates the restriction on number of scooter companies that can operate in Nashville, but I do not like that it cuts in half the overall number of scooters. I think market demand should dictate that. The hatred of scooters seems to have abated somewhat or people have just leaned to live with them, but I still fear that if this does not pass something more restrictive, such as a ban, may pass. I would support this and vote for it if I had a vote. It passed with four members voting "no."

Bills on Third Reading

Bill BL2019-78 – 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. This is deferred to the May 5, 2020 meeting.

Bill BL2020-117 would remove the requirement for a minimum number of parking spaces for various uses for properties on multimodal corridors as designated in the major and collector street plan. There is not now a parking requirement for properties in the central business district and properties in urban overlay districts.  It is deterred to the May 5, 2020 meeting.

BILL NO. BL2020-149 would require landlords to provide at least 90 days’ written notice to tenants before increasing the tenant’s rent. It is deferred.

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Sunday, April 12, 2020

This virus will create winners and losers

Bill Bernstein
by Bill Bernstein - This virus is a crisis and like every crisis tests systems. World War I similarly was a system-testing crisis. In the aftermath the great empires largely failed. The Ottoman Empire, The Russian Empire, the German Empire,and the Austro Hungarian Empire all dissolved under the stress of the war. The British Empire limped out of it, probably due to stronger institutions. As such the virus will create winners and losers, some institutions failing the test. A preliminary list:

Capitalism. Companies responded quickly to the crisis, retooling production for needed items. Jean makers made masks. Auto companies made ventilators. Liquor distillers made hand sanitizer. Hundreds of thousands of companies working independently made an enormous difference.

Home schooling. When schools shut down homeschoolers continued to learn. While a lot of parents quickly decided teachers don't get paid enough, I would bet more than a few parents decided they could handle this.

Government. Government at all levels proved itself incompetent or worse. The Federal Government announced business loans with great fanfare. And then screwed up the roll out, guessing wrong on demand and having inadequate systems to deliver critically-needed money, much less any vetting system. Trump dispatched the hospital ship USNS Comfort to NYC to ease the burden. Red tape has meant the ship has 20 patients and the crew sits around idle. State and county governments made themselves dictators, defaulting to trying to control people and violating Constitutional protections with little regard. This isnt about Trump. Or Democrats. A Federal government the size of ours can never do anything quickly and inefficiently. If we';ve learned one lesson it should be never to count on government solving problems.

Public schools. Public schools operate today basically the same way they have since World War II, maybe before. As such they were totally unprepared for the crisis. They have failed to teach kids anything for weeks and the whole Spring Semester will be a waste. We should question why any institution is still working the same way it did 75 years ago and demand some answers.

Conservatives. It takes a crisis like this to determine who is really a "Constitutional Conservative" and who is merely mouthing the lines. The Constitution makes one provision for suspending a right (Habeas Corpus). The Founders' world included periodic epidemics so they were well familiar with the phenomenon and chose not to include a mechanism to suspend any rights. Seeing so-called Conservatives rewrite the Constitutions' protections to justify excessive state power indicates they really don't understand how this works.

The Democratic Party. The party that has spent three years trying to unseat Trump did not fail to muff this. Instead of putting aside differences and acting like this was a crisis they teed up yet another impeachment-oriented investigation and blocked bills, holding them hostage to their agenda. No one can take them seriously anymore and I see November's election becoming a wipe out for them.

This essay is reposted from a recent Facebook post.  Bill Bernstein, formerly of Nashville where he was owner of Eastside Gun Shop, now lives in Brunswick, Georgia. He is a scholar with a BA degree from Vanderbilt University and degrees in Classics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UNC-Chapel Hill, and University of Pennsylvania.

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