Saturday, May 02, 2020

Metro Council Member at-Large Steve Glover Weighs in on Mayor Cooper’s Plan to Raise Davidson County Property Taxes By 32 Percent

by Rod Williams - This is an interview of Councilman Steve Glover by Michael Patrick Leahy, broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC on Wednesday morning of this week. Glover says he disagrees with the mayor's position that no Metro employees should be laid off as a result of the budget shortfall resulting from the Corona virus crisis.  He points out that many people in the private sector have been laid off and more will lose their jobs as a result of the downturn in the economy and that Metro employees should not be exempt from facing lay offs also.  He says taking lay offs, off the table is the wrong approach. I certainly agree with him.

Glover explains the difficulty of passing an alternative budget. Unless the Council can come up with an alternative budget that can get the support of 21 Council members, the mayor's budget becomes the city budget by default.  To see the transcript of the interview or listen to the interview follow this link.

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The budget cuts necessary to avoid a tax increase will not be easy cuts.

by Rod Williams - Sometimes when people are complaining about the size of the federal budget or the deficit or the national debt, they will say things like, "We ought to stop giving all this money to foreign counties."  Maybe we do give away too much, maybe sometimes the countries we give to do not appreciate it and fail to support us when we need their support.  However, often it does pay off.  Often our aid does create friendships and allies in the world.  In any event foreign aid only comes to 1% of the federal budget.  Including military assistance, foreign aid only accounts for 1.4% of the federal budget. We cannot balance the budget by cutting foreign aid.

Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and Obamacare account for 70% of all federal spending. Almost no one advocates cuts to these programs.  Military spending makes up 16% of the budget.  At a time when China is annexing the South China Sea and exerting influence in much of the undeveloped world and Russian is threatening Europe, I do not see how any rational person thinks it is wise to cut our military.

Interest on the national debt is about 8%, of the budget and it simply can't be cut. We are fortunate that interest rates are low and our country has been able to borrow at low rates.   This is not to suggest that I do not think we should seriously address our national debt and that I do not want a balance budget. It is to suggest that it is not easy to do so.  You can't balance the budget by cutting foreign aid.

Locally, we are facing a serious budget shortfall and the mayor has proposed a 32% property tax increase.  Just as some people think we can balance the federal budget by cutting foreign aid, I have heard some people say things like, "We ought to stop spending all of this money on things like art projects like those big pool cues at the roundabout."  Or, they will say things like, "We ought to quit paying companies to move here."  That is as about as ridiculous as saying we can balance the federal budget by cutting foreign aid. The funding for Arts is an insignificant amount. That is not to say that if should not be cut but it won't balance the budget. Money foregone to lure companies to Nashville, in many cases, may have been a mistake but that is water under the bridge and going forward we are doing much less of that. That will not solve our current budget problems.

I oppose a tax increase and hope there is massive opposition to raising taxes. However, one should not kid themselves into thinking there is an easy way to solve the budget problem.  If the mayor and the council had the will there are some programs that are wasteful and could generate real savings, the most obvious being closing General Hospital. Even if we were not having a budget crisis, we should get out of the hospital business.  And, we should get out of the nursing home business.  Other cuts however would be much more difficult.  Unless you are ready to see less road maintenance and have your local branch library closed or the number of days it is open reduced, then I don't think you are seriously ready to avoid a tax increase.

For a better understanding of the budgetary challenges facing the city, where the money comes from and how the money is spent, this is a good resource: Citizens guide to Metro Budget

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Council Member Courtney Johnston: Our Current Financial Crisis, Budget Process, and Next Steps

From the newsletter of Council member Courtney Johnston, Council District 26, April 30, 2020 - Since being elected, Mayor Cooper and his administration have worked hard to search for additional savings or new revenue and stabilize Metro’s finances. In August, the State Comptroller formally instructed Metro to balance its budget, build up cash reserves, and institute a cash management policy. The Mayor’s Office, to date, has found roughly $64 million in new revenue, including a $35 million MOU from the Convention Center Authority (Music City Center), $12.6 million annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from the Music City Center, $10 million PILOT from the water department, and several million in fee increases from Codes, Parks, etc. We WERE on the right track before the tornado and the Covid-19 pandemic. However, gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars and decades of poor decisions have left us without a life raft. With no rainy-day fund or cash reserves to speak of, these disasters have wiped us out.

The March 3 tornado is estimated to have cost the city $40 million. After our insurance policy benefit ($20 million) and FEMA/TEMA assistance ($15 million), that actual cost is reduced to $5 million. Keep in mind, it takes years to collect money from FEMA/TEMA. It took 8 years to fully collect for the 2010 flood, for example, so the tornado is still affecting us from a cash flow perspective.

Covid-19 is a whole other animal. Just for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year that ends June 30th, this virus is projected to cost the city $192 million. Over a 16 month period, a shortage of $470 million has been estimated by Metro Finance.

Metro has an opportunity to receive up to $122 million in CARES Act State and Local funding. However, the biggest blow for Metro has been the loss of sales tax revenue, which accounts for about a THIRD of our city’s revenue. The CARES Act specifically excludes revenue replacement or compensation and benefits of employees working on our COVID-19 response that were already accounted for in the FY2020 budget. Well thanks a lot! While we have had expenses directly related to Covid-19, the biggest hit has been our inability to collect sales tax revenue. Long story short, we can’t just plug $120 million into the budget.

On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, Mayor Cooper presented his budget proposal for FY2021. Click HERE to view his presentation and HERE for the accompanying slideshow. His proposed operating budget totals $2,447,489,500. It includes over $234 million in savings, reductions, or spending deferrals. His proposed $1 property tax increase (from $3.155 per $100 assessed in the USD to $4.155) will restore $100 million in fund balances, make up for $216 million in net revenue losses, and fund $16 million in net operating needs for a “continuation of effort” budget. In addition to other new revenue generated by Mayor Cooper’s office and with the help of departmental savings, Metro services would continue without interruption. Additionally, according to his budget, Metro employees will forgo pay raises or cost of living adjustments, but this budget avoids the layoffs and pay cuts set to occur in hundreds of other cities nationwide.

This is just the beginning of the Council budget process. Now that the Mayor has released his proposal, the Council will receive a hard copy the week of May 4. I, along with most likely every other councilmember, will be going through this 600-page document line item by line item. TO BE CLEAR – We do NOT vote for or against Mayor Cooper’s budget. We have until June 30th to approve, make amendments, or create and pass a substitute budget (which requires 21 out of 40 votes) or the Mayor’s budget goes into effect automatically, regardless of its support level.

I deeply appreciate the Mayor’s efforts - during absolutely the MOST challenging time our city has ever faced - to lead our city during these tragedies but also to put together a budget that maintains continuity of service, keeps us safe, and attempts to put us back on the right track. However, I am working hard to find ways to minimize the burden put on our taxpayers.

As I’ve said before, the taxpayers didn’t cause this problem and the burden of solving it shouldn’t be with their hard-earned money.

So, how do we balance the budget? The answer is: decrease expenses, increase revenue, issue debt, or a combination of those three things. Issuing more debt is NOT an option due to the enormous amount of debt we have already accrued over the years. ($4.5 billion - yes, a B - to give you an idea compared to the entire State of TN at $1.7 billion). Our annual debt service payments (principal and interest) are hundreds of millions of dollars.

Will there be a tax rate increase of some sort? Almost positively. I know no one wants to hear that but I’m always going to tell you the truth. I do not believe we can make enough cuts to eliminate the need for an increase, but I’m working to make sure it’s the smallest increase possible. We HAVE to pass a balanced budget by June 30, or we risk the State taking us over. That’s effectively a government shutdown which no one wants. We have to make the math work. Revenue has to equal expenses. Will there be programs that will be cut? Yes

Will there be layoffs or positions eliminated? Maybe, although that’s something the Mayor wanted to avoid.

Can we increase the sales tax rate? Any increase in the sales tax rate has to go before the voters. There’s no way to get that done in time to affect the FY2021 budget.

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People need to get back to work. Tennessee unemployment fund could run dry in four months, analysis shows.

Tennessee unemployment fund could run dry in four months, analysis shows.

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A letter from the owner of Peg Leg Porker to the Mayor and Metro Council.

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The Economist: Why voting online is not the way to hold an election in a pandemic

It is still too vulnerable to cyber-attacks and security breaches

As the coronavirus crisis continues, there will be increased calls for on-line voting.  We must reject such suggestions. On-line voting is an invitation to voter fraud.  Please read the following article from The Economist.  Here is an excerpt:

The consensus among experts is that the technology remains vulnerable to security breaches and cyber-attacks. Malware can tamper with votes before they reach government servers. Hackers can create mirror versions of an election portal, steal voter credentials, or attack computers that count and store online ballots. A recent paper by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a non-profit group, concludes that countries without experience of online voting should not contemplate rolling it out in response to the covid-19 crisis. The cure would be worse than the disease.
Even if online voting were foolproof voters might not embrace it for years, if ever. Data security and encryption are complex. Conventional voting methods are also subject to fraud and error, but falsifying millions of paper ballots is a weighty undertaking. In contrast, electronic data are weightless, and a single flaw can in theory be exploited at large scale by anyone who finds it.
(Read more)

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Vice Mayor Announces Plan For May 5 Council Virtual Public Hearing

Metro press release - Vice Mayor Jim Shulman has announced a plan for holding a virtual public hearing for the May 5, 2020, Metro Council Meeting. Details of the plan and participation instructions can be found on the Metro Council Virtual Council Meetings page.

The plan will allow members of the public to provide public comment during the meeting using their telephones from the comfort of their own homes. Members of the public wishing to speak on matters posted for public hearing may call 629-255-1931 toll free to provide live input when the agenda item is called up during the course of the meeting.

Download Virtual Participation in Council Meeting Guide

“Although we are meeting remotely, the business of the Council must continue, and that includes the consideration of zoning legislation,” Shulman said. “I’d like to thank Metro ITS Director Keith Durbin and the Metro Information Technology Services team for all of their hard work in helping us put this plan together. I am confident that the plan and process in place will provide ample opportunity for the public to make their voices heard.”

The May 5, 2020 Council meeting agenda has 46 zoning bills that were advertised for public hearing. However, the Council Office has been polling the sponsors of the legislation and it is anticipated that the following matters will be deferred prior to holding the public hearing: 

Hall: BL2020-132,  BL2020-133,  BL2020-139,  BL2020-140,  BL2020-257
Toombs: BL2019-69, BL2020-212, BL2020-215,  BL2020-218
Swope: BL2020-264
Rhoten: BL2020-261
Welsch: BL2020-211, BL2020-265
Taylor: BL2020-210, BL2020-269
Vercher: Sub BL2020-197
Sepulveda: BL2020-195
Henderson: BL2020-188
Rosenberg: Second Sub BL2019-48
Sledge: BL2020-213, BL2020-262

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Sethi Campaign Releases dishonest attack ad against Haggerty. He should pull that ad.

by Rod Williams - The Sethi campaign has released an ad criticizing Bill Hagerty for getting a $2.5 million loan for his campaign. Here is an excerpt from the ad:

"Millions of American small business people have been praying for their small business loans to be funded, to save their companies, save jobs. But most banks just said 'big companies came first.' By the time we got to you, the money was gone.
So, how, on March 27, did Bill Hagerty get a loan for $2,500,000 to fund his Senate campaign? How did Hagerty prance right up to the front of the line, and get millions?
Well, you see. William Francis Hagerty IV is not a regular guy. He’s entitled, self-dealing. His friends in the ruling class aren’t like you or me. So when Hagerty needed millions, they made sure he got it, ahead of you and me. So, imagine Hagerty’s take if he was a Senator."
This is dishonest non-sense. Bill Hagerty's campaign loan was not competing for the same pool of money as a Care Act small business loan. That Hagerty got a loan for his campaign did not deny a nickel to any small business person who did not get a Cares Act loan.  This is no different than saying someone who got a car loan or a home loan got ahead of you for a Cares Act loan.  This populist appeal is the same kind of little guy vs big guy demagoguery that Democrats engage in all of the time.  It appeals to the worse instincts of people.

I have not made up my mind who I am supporting yet.  I have heard Sethi speak, I have met him and his family and he seems likeable and passionate about pubic service, and I have good friends who are enthusiastic about his campaign, and I like a lot that he has to say, especially on the issue of health care.  However, ads like this are a mark against him. He should stick to issues.  I do think it is fair game to point out a persons corruption or lack of integrity but this ad does not do that, it simply stokes resentment.

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Nashville won't move forward with full police body camera program due to budget woes

Nashville won't move forward with full police body camera program due to budget woes

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What's in Nashville Mayor John Cooper's budget proposal?

The Tennessean - … But Cooper's budget makes the scale of the crisis clear, even if the particulars aren't. Cooper proposed a 32% property tax hike to bring in $332 million to help cover:

  • $216 million in lost net revenue; 
  • $100 million in funds to rebuild Nashville's savings; 
  • and $16 million in needed spending increases. 
The total was even more, with $57 million for operational needs and $6 million in required debt payments, but the city offset that with $48 million in reductions.

 … Things could get worse... Slower recovery could cost up to $40 million more. If a secondary spike of the virus in the fall, around flu season, requires more stay-at-home orders, it could cost the city more than $110 million. (link)

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Nashville extends coronavirus safer at home order until at least May 8

The Tennessean - The decision broadens a divide between Davidson County and surrounding counties, where Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee permitted restaurants, stores and gyms to re-open this week. … Nashville coronavirus cases have spiked over the past week, and the outbreak is still trending upwards in the city...(link)

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What happened at the April 21st Council meeting: 90-day notice to raise rent passes, recycling contract advances, Waffle House shooting law suit settled, new scooter regs pass.

This meeting is over three and half hours long conducted remotely electronically with less than ten people actually in the chamber. To access the agenda and staff agenda analysis, follow the links. Here are the highlights.

Selection of the Metro Auditor: This proved contentious but I do not know one candidate from the other so don't know why or who was supporting whom. Three candidates are recommended by the Audi Committee ranked in order of preference. The three candidates are Lauren Riley, Paul Morris, and John Valtierra. There is a failed attempt to defer the appointment. The Council confirms Lauren Riley by a vote of 37 in favor and 3 abstentions.  To view the deliberation see timestamp 28:30 - 1:13:02.

Resolution RS2020-286 is a non-binding resolution requesting flexibility in rent and mortgage collection in the city of Nashville and supporting the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to provide housing security in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. This passes on consent so it is passed without opposition. These type resolutions carry no weight and accomplish nothing.

Resolution RS2020-287 is a non-binding resolution requesting the Mayor’s Office and the Metropolitan Department of Public Health partner with Meharry Medical College to seek grant funding to track, study, and report on the impact of COVID-19 on minority and rural communities. When directed to the administration or an agency of government this type memorializing resolution is taken more seriously than when directed to the State or the Federal government or society. Entities dependent on Metro financing listen when the Council speaks. This passes on consent.

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 is deferred again. This is they type thing that normally would pass easily, however there is an issue that I suspect, but don 't know, that  may have made 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. Over 500 neighbors of I-440 have signed a petition complaining about the lighting. Normally the Council would have little leverage to influence the State to address these concerns. This may have been held up to exert influence on the State.  This is just speculation. I don't know if neighbors bothered by the I-440 lights have had any relief or not.
Apparently this data collection system works anonymously collecting Bluetooth signals from paired vehicles and it seems their are some concerns about privacy. That may be the concern and may have nothing to do with trying to exert leverage to solve the unrelated lighting complaint. In any event it is still deferred.

Resolution RS2020-276 settles the claim of Shaundelle Brooks, the next of kin to Akilah DaSilva, who died in the Waffle House shooting last year.  The basis of the suit was that an ambulance was dispatched to the wrong Waffle House when the shooting occurred.  There were other ambulances at the scene however.  This is settled for a sum of $35,000 paid out of the Self-Insured Liability Fund. This is the way things are supposed to work.  After the parties negotiate Metro legal either recommends settling or fights the suit in court.  Last October, the Council attempted to undermine Legal and just give away money.  A resolution to settle the suit, before the Council received a recommendation from Legal, was introduced last October and 25 members voted for it.  Luckily that effort failed. If anyone is interested in seeing how members voted at that time, follow this link.  This resolution passes 40-0.

Bills on second reading

BILL NO. BL2020-223 would permit a waiver from distancing requirements for liquor stores and their proximity to places of worship, residences and libraries.  The waiver would have to be granted by resolution following a public hearing, the same way distance requirement waivers are approved for beer permits. This passes second reading by a voice vote.

Bill BL2020-224 would require landlords to provide notice to tenants prior to a sale of the property.  It is deferred to the May 19, 2020 meeting.

Bill BL2020-237 extends the city's recycling contract with Waste Management.  It passes second reading, however, if may very well be killed on third reading.  With budget restraints and the change in the market resulting in recycling costing the city much more money, this may be one service that has to be eliminated. Recycling is very popular however, and the Council may not be willing to bite the bullet. Several members voice support for recycling. To view the discussion see time stamp 2:35:08- 310:27. For more on this issue see this link. The minutes say it passed on a voice vote, but the vote was clearly recorded. Listen to the video. It passes on a vote of 27 to 12 to one abstention on second reading.

Bills on Third Reading.

Bill BL2019-109 (as amended) makes changes in the city policy toward scooters or what is termed "shared urban mobility devices."  This has been worked on for over a year.  A pervious version was on the agenda at one time and then removed because it exceeded the number of times it could be deferred.  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 and restrict each company to only 500 vehicles.  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. There is no discussion. It passes 40 to 0.

Bill BL2020-149 (as amended) requires a landlord to provide a 90-day notice prior to an increase in rent unless the landlord has a contract with a tenant providing a 60-day notice. This is likely to accelerate the loss of affordable housing in Nashville. I own a little rental house which is where I lived until I moved to my current house.  Being a landlord can be a pain. There is not  a week goes by that I do not get several contacts from an investor wanting to by my house.  I get card, emails and text and calls.  They would tear it down and build a tall-skinny. There are a lot of people like me.  The more bureaucratic hassle it is be a landlord the more attractive those offers from investors appear.  If one gets a tenant who won't pay their rent and you must evict them, that process can already take months, this would add months to an already lengthy process. This will be one more thing to destroy affordable rentals. There is already a State law known as the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) which requires a 30-day notice.  In my view Nashville should not have a more restrictive rule than other places in Tennessee.  Also, properties subsidized by the Federal, State or local government would not be subject to the law. To see the discussion see timestamp 3:18:46 - 3:37:30. This passes by a vote of 29 to 7 with 4 abstentions.  Here is how members voted:

Yes: (29) Mendes, Hurt, Allen, Suara, Toombs, Gamble, Swope, Parker, Withers, Benedict, VanReece, Evans, Bradford, Syracuse, Welsch, Sledge, Cash, O'Connell, Taylor, Hausser, Druffel, Pulley, Vercher, Porterfield, Sepulveda, Rutherford, Styles, Lee, and Henderson
No: (7) Glover, Hancock, Young, Roberts, Murphy, Johnston, and Rosenberg; 
Abstain(4): Hall, Hagar, Rhoten, and Nash.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ouida (Welch) Williams 1/21/31 – 4/26/2020, Rest in Peace

by Don Williams, April 29, 2020 -Listen. The spirit of a larger than life East Tennessee personality now sings among the trees and
flowers and in the hearts and minds of her many friends, admirers, and relations. Ouida Faye Welch Williams--who was known to burst into song from time to time--died quietly in her sleep April 26 in Knoxville. She was 89. Among her last words were, "I'm not afraid, and I'm not worried. I'll be okay. I've lived a wonderful life. I have the best family in the world."

Her first name, Ouida, was pronounced WE-da, and a pet peeve was when people turned that O into a Q in print. When we did it as a joke, she usually detected the prank and laughed along. Known for her humor, artistry, courage, resilience, and boundless love of nature, she had a deep and abiding faith. She shared her love of nature and her love of God with everyone she knew, instilling a love of our sometimes crazy world in her accomplished children and grandchildren.

She daily pointed out to us nature's wonders, from technicolor sunsets to slippery salamanders. Such wonders were reflected in the landscapes and portraits she began painting about middle age, and which often won ribbons at fairs. It was also reflected in several poems that saw publication.

An avid reader, she was an accomplished student growing up in Sparta and Caryville, Tennessee, where she skipped two complete grades before her junior year. She recited poems, read the entire set of an encyclopedia and knew most of the Bible by heart.

She often spoke fondly of her childhood, and especially loved living among wooded hills overlooking Caryville, where she was often assigned to draw water from a spring for her mother and two siblings. She loved following deer trails into the woods to make moss-lined castles out of stumps, where she chased blue-tailed lizards and squirrels and birds that sang among the trees and rock formations.

In 1946 she met the love of her life, Ladonuel "Don" Williams, a handsome man who'd just returned from Europe after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. A Gospel singer who could whistle like a bird--literally, with chirps and trills unlike any whistler you ever heard--he embarked upon a singing ministry in the 1950s with a guitar player named Earl Mays. Soon the music of "Don and Earl" could be heard on radios all over the United States and in several foreign countries.

Ouida and Don
Rather than pursuing her ambitions, Ouida followed Don with her growing family, in service to his ministry. They lived in South Carolina and Texas among other places before settling in East Tennessee. In 1957 they moved to a stone house in Seymour, TN.

There the couple raised five children among hills, woodlands, creeks and caves that spelled adventure and magic. She encouraged her children to take long hikes and bike rides, and sometimes led them to a new spring where she showed them minnows and craw-daddies, ferns and flowers and other wonders like those she'd loved growing up. She and Don grew giant gardens and harvested as many as 100 quarts of tomatoes or blackberries some summers.

She fed her spiritual needs at Bells Chapel Baptist Church, where she sang and taught Sunday School and directed a youth choir, and later at Valley Grove, where her membership remained until her death. Sometimes it seemed she had nine lives, overcoming car wrecks, broken bones, a cancer scare, burst appendix, diabetes, a pancreas operation and much else. Perhaps her greatest challenge, however, was when her husband died of cancer in March, 1985.

After her husband’s death, Ouida swam away her sorrow and then sought work in stores and shops and took temporary assignments--such as U.S. Census work--before settling into a clerical job at the Sevier County Health Department. Although a widow for 35 years, she remained true to her lamented first love, and even published a poem about his good looks, "The Man Who Loved Mirrors."

She watched with pride as her children grew into accomplished grownups. Her son Rod, an Air Force veteran, served ten years as a Nashville Metro Councilman and now runs one of Nashville's most successful blogs. Her daughter Rebecca's floral creations from her own cut flower farm, Sycamore Creek, have graced numerous weddings and funerals. Her middle child, also named Don Williams, became a prizewinning writer, columnist and publisher. Tim is co-founder and CEO of 21st Mortgage, one Knoxville's largest employers. Kathleen was so inspired by her experiences among woods and trees that she founded the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, now known as TennGreen, that has saved untold natural wonders from reckless development.

Along the way her children introduced their children and grandchildren to Nana or Granny Ouida, as she's often called. Without exception they adore her and not so long ago looked forward to seeing Nana, for stories or songs or exploring with her or swimming in wild rivers or the ocean. This grand and gracious woman's spirit now rolls down the ages and sings among the trees. Listen. Maybe now she knows how much she's loved.

She is preceded in death by her late husband Ladonuel "Don" Williams; her mother Lena (Carter) Welch Simmons Fowler and father Basil Welch; her sister and brother-in-law Lila Jane McCalman and Pete McCalman, and her brother Basil Welch. She is survived by two daughters, Rebecca Mandel (Dale) and Kathleen Williams-Mooradian (Don); three sons Rod Williams (Louella) Don Williams (Jeanne) and Tim Williams (Amy); grandchildren Wayne Williams (Misty), Jenny Cook (Brian), Rachel Bennett (Joshua), Alexis Williams (Brent), Travis Williams (Carrie), Justin Williams (Magye); Rebecca Moody (Jonathan) and Joey Mooradian; sister and brother-in-law Linda Upchurch and Richard Upchurch; sister-in-law Shirley Welch; eleven great-grandchildren and numerous beloved nieces and nephews. Special thanks to her recent companion Cheri Spivey and her friends Marty, Anna and the Seymour Library Book Club and her little dog Oreo too.

The family will have a private graveside service and a memorial service will be held at a later date. Condolences can be made to Gentry Griffith Funeral Home, Knoxville. The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers contributions may be made to FOSL, Seymour Branch Library, 137 W. Macon Lane, Seymour, TN 37865.

The above tribute was penned by my brother Don. Ouida was my mother.  She was someone that it was joyous to be around. Her wonder and excitement of nature and beauty and so many things was contagious. She was a wonderful mother.  I am going to miss her so much. Rod

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mayor Cooper proposes 32% property tax hike and deep cuts.

The Tennessean: Nashville would see 32% property tax hike, deep cuts under Mayor John Cooper's budget

News Channel 5: Mayor Cooper's proposed budget includes 32% property tax increase

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Recycling could disappear in Nashville

by Rod Williams, April 26, 2020 -The Tennessean reports today that recycling in Nashville could be coming to an end. According to the article, the reason is budgetary and the fact that instead of saving the city money, recycling cost the city money. At one time the income from the recycled material combined with the saving of diverting material from the landfill made money for the city.  A little over a year ago however, China which was the world's largest purchaser of recycled material, stopped accepting and the prices paid for recyclables has plummeted.

Previously, there were plans to expand recycling to twice a month instead of the current once a month. That plan had already been shelved due to budgetary restraints. With the city facing a projected $300 million revenue shortfall this year due to the Corona-19 virus, the city is taking a hard look at expenditures.

“I’m certainly not against recycling but I think we just have to make these really tough decisions on what truly is essential for Metro to continue operating,” Metro Council member Zach Young is quoted as saying during last Tuesday’s council meeting.

For more on this story, follow this link.

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Councilman Thom Druffel: It's Budget Time.

From the email newsletter of Councilman Thom Druffel, Councilman District 23, April 26, 2020 - I have been receiving questions from many of you about the Mayor's statement on raising property taxes. This is a tough time for all of us, and hearing news about a raise in property taxes is especially difficult. We are all dealing with social distancing, concerns about health, job losses and disruptions to our normal routines. I describe myself as a fiscal conservative, and generally, that means I do not look at raising taxes as a way to solve funding issues.

The situation the city is facing is certainly grave. One of the big reasons that I ran for council last year was my concern about the financial state of our city. Long before the tornado, and the effects of COVID-19, the city had not balanced its budget for the previous two years. Years of overspending created over $4B in debt. That works out to be about $6,500 per person and is one of the highest debts per capita in the country. The condition was so severe that the State required the Comptroller to step in and monitor how the former mayor and council were managing the city's finances. Decisions were made over the past several years that began a pattern of overspending on projects. Those decisions lead the city into deep debt.

On Tuesday, the Metro Council will get our first glimpse of the mayor's proposed budget. Mayor Cooper served on the Council for eight years before running for mayor, so he is very informed about the financial condition of the city. What we will see from him and his Finance Team on Tuesday is the initial Operating Budget.

After that, each Metro Department will submit its budget information to the Budget and Finance Committee on which I serve. We will have the opportunity to speak with each department head and hear their proposed budget needs. From there, we can critically evaluate department budgets and consider cost saving measures.

As of today, we don't have a lot of the detailed information we need to discuss property tax increases. We don't yet have the Mayor's proposed budget. We have not yet gotten a reliable number for lost revenue from the COVID crisis. Federal funds will be coming to the city, but that number is not yet certain.

Even with all of the uncertainties, I can tell you that I am not comfortable with the idea that taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of years of poor stewardship. If we determine that there is not an alternative to a tax increase, I want to make sure that there are safeguards to prevent overspending in the future. There are options, such as sunset provisions, that would put a time limit on property tax increases. As we go through the next several weeks of budget meetings and hearings, I will be gathering information to share with you all. As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

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