Thursday, June 18, 2020

Radicals lose fight to defund police, instead Council increases police funding by $2.6 million.

Ginny Welch.
Attempt to slash police budget.
by 42% failed.
Russ Pulley.
Successfully added $2.6 million
 to fund additional police.
by Rod Williams, June 18, 2020 - While I would have preferred a no-tax-increase budget, our pubic safety functions are in need of additional funding. If I were creating the budget I would have tried to modestly increase funding for these services. The police, the 911 call center, ETMs and fire fighters are all understaffed. I would have defunded, reduced or suspended funds for General Hospital, the Human Relations Commission, the Barnes Fund, non-profits, the arts, parks, MTA. the Chamber, the bike lane program, recycling, and the sidewalk program. I would have dropped the idea that no metro employee should ever lose their job. Byond these cuts, I would have cut library branches, hours or days until the budget balanced. Leadership could have sold such a budget to the public. People can understand that when you lose income, you have to cut expenses.

General Hospital can't fill its beds and poor people have other options ever since Medicaid. Not every city has a charity hospital; it is not required. Even our former progressive mayor Megan Barry proposed closing General. Most recyclables goes to the land fill anyway and the price tag of the program went up $1.5 million this year. It should be suspended until we determine the future of recycling. No one uses the bike lanes, or almost no one. We can halt expansion and no one would notice. We spend millions on sidewalks and don't get new ones. We mostly replace barely deteriorated sidewalks with new clean sidewalks. We should suspend the program until we find out why. In a time of crisis, until revenue returns we can temporarily reduce library service. We could have balanced the budget. If we had leadership who made the case, people would have accepted less services durning a time of crisis.

To his credit, Mayor Cooper in his budget at least recognized the importance of funding the police. His budget proposal included a $2.6 million increase for police. That increase in funding would fund 46 new position. As the budget process advanced, what emerged as the most likely budget to pass was the Mendes substitute budget. His budget proposal cut the $2.6 million for police and put that money into funding step increases for Metro employees. His proposal kept the police funding flat at $209 million.

Meanwhile the radial left composed of Black Lives Matter, Our Revolution, Gideon's Army and a bunch of other organizations united behind this idea of defunding the police. Now, defunding the police does not mean exactly the same thing everywhere it is proposed across the country. Some want to simply reduce police funding and put the money into social services while some want to completely abolish police departments. Nashville's radical community operating under an umbrella group called Nashville People's Budget Coalition proposed slashing the police budget by 42%. Ginny Welch carried the water for the radicals.

Ginny Welch is probably the most radical member of the Council. She is an activist who has supported all kinds of leftist causes over the years. Contributors to her Council campaign included LIUNA (Laborers’ International Union of North America) among other radical groups. She received the endorsement of The Nashville Justice League and Our Revolution. Welch was a founder of the low-power, left-wing radio station, Radio Free Nashville.

Tuesday night, Welch sponsored Amendment 26 to the Mendes budget. It cut the Police by $107,670,143 and the Sheriff by $3,473,855. It got only three votes in favor, a couple abstentions and everyone else voted in opposition. Nashville has a very progressive Council, but they are not totally, completely nuts. We are not yet Seattle or San Franciso. Thank God.

The council then came to Amendment D by Councilman Russ Pulley. Pulley is Chairman of the Council's Public Safety Committee, has worked as a firefighter, paramedic, police officer and state trooper, as well as an FBI agent. He moved to amend the Mendes budget to add back the $2.6 million that had been in the mayor's budget. A lot of people abstained and the amendment got 21 votes, the minimum necessary to pass.

While I am disappointed the Council approved a huge tax increase, I am glad that we did not slash funding for public safety and that we recognized the need to increase funding for our undermanned police department. I commend Councilman Pulley for his leadership. Once the minutes of the meeting are posted, I will report on who voted to fund the police and who voted against public safety funding.

For more on this see this link and this link.

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How members voted on the budget (with commentary)

by Rod Williams - On Tuesday night the Council voted on the budget. The Mendes substitute as amended, which increased property taxes by 34%, passed the Council Tuesday night and became the city's 2021 Metro budget.  The mayor had presented to the Council a budget that raised taxes 32%. Here is how members voted.

Yes: Bob Mendes, Sharon Hurt, Burkley Allen, Zulfat Suara, Kyonzt√© Toombs, Jennifer Gamble, Sean Parker, Brett Withers, Emily Benedict, Nancy VanReece, Tonya Hancock, Zach Young, Emily Evans, Brad Bradford, Jeff Syracuse, Ginny Welsch, Colby Sledge, Tom Cash, Freddie O’Connell, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Brandon Taylor, Gloria Hauser, Kathleen Murphy, Robert Nash, Tanaka Vercher, Delishia Porterfield, Sandra Sepulveda, John Rutherford, Joy Styles, Antoinette Lee, Angie Henderson.

No: Steve Glover, Jonathan Hall, Robert Swope, Larry Hagar, Kevin Rhoten, Thom Druffle, Russ Pulley, Courtney Johnston.


I am proud of those who voted "no." Almost everyone voted how I would have predicted they would have voted, except one of the no's I would not have predicted he would have been a "no." 

Two of the "yes" votes are disappointments.  I would have predicted Robert Nash and Angie Henderson would have been "no's."  If either of those two council members would like to explain their reason for voting the way they did, I would be glad to post their explanation. There may very well be a logical defensible reason for voting the way they did. I doubt it would persuade me they voted the right way but there may be a rational reason. Budgets are complicated. The Mendes substitute as amended may have had some changes that in the mind of the Coucil members who voted for it, was worth accepting a two percent higher tax.

I would have voted "no" if I had a vote.  However, if the "no's"would have won or if by a combination the no's and abstentions, the Mendes budget would have failed, the mayors budget would have become the budget by default.  As a practical matter, this was a vote for a 34% tax increase (the Mendes budget) or a 32% increase (the Mayor's budget).  This is what the Charter says:

Section 6.06: The council shall finally adopt an operating budget for the ensuing fiscal year not later than the thirtieth day of June, and it shall be effective for the fiscal year beginning on the following July 1st. Such adoption shall take the form of an ordinance setting out the estimated revenues in detail by source and making appropriations according to fund and by organizational unit, purpose or activity as set out in the budget document. If the council shall fail to adopt a budget prior to the beginning of any fiscal year, it shall be conclusively presumed to have adopted the budget as submitted by the mayor.
The mayor's budget would have not become the budget until July 1, however, so if the Mendez budget would have failed there may have been time (probably not, but maybe) for the Council to scramble and develop an another alternative, but a no-tax budget never had a chance. One cannot say with absolute certainty that if the Mendes budget would have failed the Mayor's budget would have become the budget by default, but that is the most likely outcome.

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Groups start recall efforts after Metro Council approves property tax increase

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The council passes the Mendes substitute budget as amended, by a vote of 32 to 8.

June 17, 2020 1:30pm.- The council passes the Mendes substitute budget as amended, by a vote of 32 to 8.  That is now the Metro budget.  It increases taxes more than what was proposed by Mayor Cooper. 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Council member Angie Henderson's Report on the Metro budget

Angie Henderson
From Council member Angie Henderson's newsletter, 6/16/2020 - The third and final reading of Metro's annual budget is on Tuesday, June 16, unless the Council defers the budget to another meeting for additional discussion. By Charter, we must pass a budget by June 30.

Monday evening I participated in the six-hour Budget & Finance Committee meeting to advocate for my amendments to the budget, one of which eliminates all economic incentives for corporations, and was narrowly recommended for approval by the committee. The other two packages of amendments were my best effort to comb the budget and get the rate as far under the proposed $1 and $1.06 rate increases that I could in a combination that the majority of the body will support.

My impression from the budget works sessions and response to my amendments in last nights meeting is the majority of the Council does not have the willingness to make significant cuts or introduce even the most modest of wheel taxes (I've proposed $12 more per car).

The Citizens' Guide to the Metro Budget provides key reference materials. You can see the various substitute budgets and amendments at the second link. My amendments are numbered 22, 23, & 24 in the analysis.

This budget season has been the most difficult of my service on Council, which is saying something after the David Briley budget of last year with a $40 million hole in it. Link to my blog from last year & another one here. Our budget process remains broken. Given the constraints placed upon the Council about discussing pending legislation, we all work in isolation to make proposed cuts around the margins when we should be working together towards certain core principles and targets so the public can see clearly the validity, or not, and impact of our various budgeting assumptions and assertions. 

The only mercy in these recent budget difficulties is that I still believe we have elected a mayor, who despite his proposed tax increase this year, truly wants and has laid the ground work in his administration to address the long-compouding structural and ethical issues, the gaming of revenues and the deferral of debt of past mayoral administrations that have converged with the reduced revenues of this Covid-19 moment.

 New yesterday, reported Metro sales tax revenue for March was only off 10% from 2019. The Safer at Home order went into effect late that month though, and we will not see April revenue till July 15 and May revenue till August 15. As such, Councilman Mendes has indicated via his substitute budget that with new reporting from Metro Finance on August 15, if the department's anticipated revenue estimate was too conservative, we will have an opportunity to amend the tax levy for a lower rate before property tax bills are mailed this fall.

Rod's comment: The above highlighting is mine.

In my view Angie Henderson is one of a handful of good council members.  She is thoughtful, smart, rational and works hard. I am pleased to see her address the difficulty caused by Sunshine legislation.  It is almost impossible to negotiate compromises and count votes if Council members can not speak to each other.  This puts at a disadvantage those who wish to develop an alternative budget that raises taxes less.  This has not often been addressed by anyone. I would not want to go back to the era of smoke-filled rooms when a handful of the most powerful met in secret and drew up a budget, which is what happened when I served in the Council in the 80's, but it appears we have gone overboard and the current rules make it hard for the Council to function.

I am very disappointed in Mayor Coopers performance as mayor.  I which he would have taken the position that now is not the time to raise taxes and would have taken the position that Metro employee lay-offs are necessary and would have called for cuts in services and suspension of some service until revenues improve.  However, I think Henderson has a point. in saying that Cooper is committed to structural changes to get our financial house in order.  I think he is also. I just wish he opposed raising taxes as much as I do.  

Angie is to be commended for offering amendments that would provide for a lesser tax increase.  I do not take much comfort in the point she makes that Councilman Mendes has indicated that if revenues are better than expected that the tax levy could be amended to lower the rate.  It is rare that government rolls back a tax increase. I'll only believe it if I see it.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

A one week deferral on the budget vote is crucial says Steve Glover. Please call or email your council member.



To watch the video, follow this link

by Rod Williams - In this Sunday morning Facebook post, Councilman Steve Glover says he needs a one-week deferral of the budget vote in order to be able to have his budget proposal presented to the Council as an alternative.  The budget must be approved by June 30th or the mayor's budget becomes the budget by default. The budget is on the agenda for tomorrow night June 16th.  There is no reason for the Council could not defer action for one week.

The reason it is difficult to develop an alternative budget is because all assumptions in savings or changes in revenue have to be verified by the Finance Director.  If an administration is so inclined they can slow-walk their responses and run out the clock.  In this Facebook post Glover says that he is exploring every options that can be explored but at every turn he gets told he cannot do something when he thinks law says we can.  It is time consuming process trying to get information from the Finance department and trying to get them to change an assumption or agree to your assumption. 

Glover does not say this in this Facebook post but another difficulty in developing an alternative budget is that the alternative must be able to get twenty-one votes or it is a wasted effort.  The sunshine law prohibits council members from negotiating legislation except in a public forum.  This makes it difficult to ask a colleague directly, "What would it take for you to support a budget that raises taxes less than the mayors?" There is some wiggle room and some of what is prohibited under the sunshine law is open to interpretation but it is a hindrance to developing an alternative budget and counting votes. 

I am unsure at this point how much Glover's alternative would raise taxes. I don't think he knows because it can not be determined without the input of the Fiance department and to garner support of colleagues he may have to keep adding funding for this or that to hit the magic number of twenty-one votes. Steve's proposal includes raising the wheel tax.  Steve says he is not happy with the amount by which his proposal would raise taxes but it is the best he can do and it is considerably less  than the mayor's 32% hike or Mendes's 34% hike. 

Unfortunately we are going to have a tax increase.  The question is how much.  Glover says a week's deferral could make a huge difference.  He says "it is getting warm in the kitchen."  He urges people to call or write their council member and ask for a one week deferral. 

To find your council member's phone number and email address follow this link. 


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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Pressure mounts to force Chief Anderson out.

The Tennessean, June 14, 2020 - A groundswell of opposition from activists and Nashville council members has put Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson on the defensive amid national calls for police reform.

While allies describe Anderson as a consummate professional and a capable leader who has served the department faithfully for decades, critics say his resistance to address concerns of racial bias leave him ill equipped to lead a pivotal transformation in criminal justice.  At least 15 council members signed a resolution this month asking Mayor John Cooper to push Anderson out. A coalition led by black church leaders has done the same.

Cooper responded to those calls by promising a “360-degree evaluation of policing and public safety policies and practices.” He praised the “professionalism” of the department, but he did not directly answer a question about if he supports Anderson. ..Council member Freddie O’Connell, who is circulating the resolution calling for Anderson’s resignation,..a pattern of communication from the department that is perceived as harmful in Nashville’s communities of color.” ...Calls to oust Anderson would have seemed impossible a few years ago, when Anderson was cheered as a vanguard for his handling of protests and racial tension. (read more)

Rod's Comment:  Criticism of Anderson is based on his issuing a warrant for two of the ringleaders of the May 30th riot.  Other criticism is that when the group Gideon's Army issued a report in 2016 concluding that the police department disproportionately targeted black drivers for traffic stops, Anderson disagreed with the findings. He said the report created a "false narrative of racial profiling.” He is also criticized for his slow response in implementing use of body cams and for his alleged failure to adequately cooperate with the police civilian review board.

My view is that Anderson has been too accommodating of protesters.  I do not like that he allowed the May 30th riot to get out of hand resulting in violence and destruction and setting fire to the courthouse.  I think the police should have maintained law and order and protected property.  I am also critical of the police for allowing protectors to block an interstate at a protest a couple years ago and for the police stopping interstate traffic to accommodate the protesters during demonstrations.  I also do not think the police should be serving hot chocolate to protesters. 
No group nor council members are criticizing Anderson for failure to uphold law and order or for coddling protesters; all of the criticism is because he did not kowtow and pander enough.

Cooper has not taken a clear position on Anderson. He has said the recent protest were "handled well," and he has praised the "professionalism of our police department.” He has also said he will untertake a policy review of the police department that would lead to change within the department. Cooper has also noted that there is “civil service protections for department heads in Nashville.” That seems to indicate that he has a good reason should he chose to ignore any resolution callng for Anderson's ouster. I wish Cooper whould take a stand and say he has no intention to force Anderson out.  In my view Cooper should show some leadership.

With fifteen co-sponsors I think it is safe to assume the resoluton callng for Anderson's ouster will pass. I hope however that those who think it is not the right thing to do will argue their case and vote against the resolution and not just lay down roll over and play dead.

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Senator Alexander's Restore Our Parks Act heads to a vote next week. It will restore hundreds of parks, cut maintenance back log.

Lamar Alexander
by Senator Lamar Alexander - The United States Senate is considering the most important conservation legislation that we’ve had in half a century, the Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation has the strong support of President Trump, the last six Secretaries of the Interior, over 800 sportsmen and conservation groups, and 60 senators — Democrats and Republicans — who are working together in a remarkable way. It will do more for our public lands than any piece of legislation we have passed in at least 50 years.

Here is how this bill will help the Smokies: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has $224 million dollars of deferred maintenance and an annual budget of about $20 million a year. So you don't have to have gone too far in mathematics in the Maryville public school system to understand that it would probably never be able to get rid of the deferred maintenance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park without a bill like this. Now that's a massive disappointment to people who consider our national parks as our greatest treasures – who go to our parks and find a campground closed, a bathroom not working, a bridge that's closed, a road with potholes, a trail that’s worn out or a visitor center that could be dilapidated.

The Great American Outdoors Act includes legislation I introduced, the Restore Our Parks Act, which will help restore our 419 national parks – from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon to Yosemite National Park – by cutting in half that maintenance backlog over the next five years.

Another important part of the Great American Outdoors Act is that it fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently. The LWCF’s goal is to take an environmental burden – drilling on federal lands – and turn it into an environmental benefit by supporting state and federal conservation programs. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting the outdoors. In our state, the LWCF has provided about $221.4 million for conservation and outdoor recreation efforts since the 1960s. I hope we in the Senate have great success with this bill. I know that the people of Tennessee are looking forward to it.

Rod's Comment: This is a great accomplishment of Senator Alexander.  I love the great outdoors.  I want critical habitats saved and beautiful spots preserved.  I want national parks to be open and accessible and the bathrooms to work.  Protecting lands cannot be a single-minded focus. however. We can go overboard by prohibiting grazing and gas and oil exploration on pubic lands when grazing may even have a positive benefit and when the gas and oil facilities may only be a dot in a massive wilderness.  All policies are a balance with competing concerns, but I support national parks and efforts in Tennessee to save beautiful spots.  I want our national treasures to be available for the next generation.

Once a park is set aside for pubic enjoyment, it does of course result in on-going expense. From serving in local government and a long time observer of government at all levels, maintenance is easily deferred.  For one thing, a little deferred maintenance is hardly noticeable.  By deferring maintenance, you can free that money to fund new programs favored by the public or special interest.  No one notices a little deferred maintenance; the effect is little by little and cumulative until things no longer work or are in dire need of replacement.  Also, if politician fund a new public facility, a park or a building, they may get their name on a brass plaque.  No one gets a brass plaque for filling a pot hole.

Some have criticized Alexander for the slow pace at which he has moved this legislation.  Also, he is near the end of his service in the Senate and there was fear that something might derail this bill and Alexander would leave the Senate before he got this passed. He has been working on it a long time.  I am not going to second guess him on the timing.  In today's contentious partisan climate it can take time to build bipartisan support.  

This is a great legacy for Lamar Alexander and a great benefit to the people who enjoy America the beautiful.


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