Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fifty-four years later, Metro is closing the Bordeaux nursing home.

by Rod Williams - After serving in the council and also just observing government for a long time,  I have learned a few things. One is that government is slow to change. Part of that is structural.  Because  new budgets are build upon last years budgets, it is easier to look at new needs and ask for more money than it is to reorganize or eliminate a division. Growing departments can provide more opportunity for promotions and employees are happy and the bigger a budget one commands, the more respect.  So, positions or agencies that have outlived their usefulness continue to exist. Bloated departments get more bloated. 

Another factor is that elected officials do not want to reduce the number of government employees.  They do not want anyone to lose their government job, ever.  Thankfully the State of Tennessee is not afflicted by this but it seems Metro and most governments are. Maybe it is because government employees are also voters.  Employees and their families make up a big part of the electorate. However, I think it has more to do with a mind set that government should set an example and that public service is somehow more noble than just working for money and that public servants should be immune to the laws of economics. Let me give you a couple examples:

When I first got elected to the Council in the 80's we still had elevator operators in the courthouse. There was a basement were there were a couple public offices and a snack bar, the ground floor where the mayors office is located, the second floor or mezzanine level where the Council meets, a third floor operated by the Sheriff's department.  There may have been a fourth floor but it was not open to the public and I don't recall what was there or even if there was a fourth floor.  Only rarely did someone go to the third floor. So basically the elevator served the basement, the first floor and the second floor.

Now, at that time, Metro courthouse was the only building in Nashville that still had elevator operators. I remember as a young boy growing up near Knoxville, I would go to town with my parents and there were department stores that had elevator operators but not many.  By the 1980's elevators were self-service. In the Metro Courthouse, the city had already modernized the elevators.  They no longer required manually closing the elevator gate and door and driving the elevator to the requested floor and properly aligning the elevator and building floors. By the time I was elected to the Council, elevators look much like they do now, yet there was an operator who sit a stool inside the elevator door and asked you which floor and pushed "B," "1," or "2," and rarely "3." Soon after I was elected in one of the first budgets, those positions of elevator operator were eliminated, but not without some regret and grumbling. 

Also, when I was elected, the city still had an ordinance that required all movie theaters to have a licensed projectionist.  At one time, so I understand, operation a movie projector was a skilled job and movie projectors were a potential fire hazard if not operated properly.  By the 80's technology had changed and any high school kid could load a cassette into the projector, yet Metro still required the job to be performed by a licensed projectionist. The law was essentially ignored but on occasion enforced. A bill was introduced in the Council to repeal the law.  It was resisted by the labor unions and many councilmembers voted against changing the law. It was changed but not without resistance. 

When I was first elected, Metro still provided twice-a-week, back-door garbage collection with everyone providing their own garbage cans.  This was costly as an operating budget item but also, disability claims and disability retirement by garbage men was an enormous cost. It seems as if it was almost expected that garbage men retired early with disability.  I don't doubt that the disabilities were real. Emptying garbage cans all day is bound to eventually cause a back injury. 

We did go to once-a-week, street or alley,  automated lift, collection as we see today but not without a fight.  Many wanted to keep the collection the way it was. People liked collection from their back door and did not want to haul their garbage cans to the street or the alley.  Secondly, many on the council saw the position of garbage man as a valuable employment opportunity we were providing to the least employable citizens.  High school drop outs who were not too bright could collect garbage and they didn't feel we should eliminate those jobs.  This change in the way we collect garbage took months to achieve and was hard fought. 

Medicaid was passed into law in 1965. By that act, the poor were no longer dependent on charity.  The poor were given choices.  At that time, Metro operated a charity hospital and charity nursing homes. We still do.  It was just recently announced that we are finally closing the Bordeaux nursing home. 

Signature HealthCARE has been the operator of the Bordeaux nursing home for the last six years and their contract is expiring in January. Prior to 2014, Metro actually operated the facility and the staff were metro employees. In 2014 we privatized the operation of the facility and it is now operated by Signature. Metro sent out an RFP for an operator and neither Signature nor anyone else submitted a proposal. Bordeaux has been unable to fill its beds and is operating at only one-third of its licensed capacity. Bordeaux is rated 1-out-of-5-stars by CMS. So, finally Metro is closing the Boudreaux nursing home and the site will be redeveloped. It is not anticipated there will be difficulty in finding beds for the patients in Bordeaux as there is adequate capacity at nearby facilities. 

Finally, we are getting out of a business we should have gotten out of over fifty years ago. It is now time to  also close General Hospital. We need to change the mindset that because government once did something, it should do it forever. We need to recognize that change happens. We need to embrace technology and innovation. Transportation is a good example. We still move people along fixed routes in big conveyance vehicles while in the private sector, on-demand and flexibility and options are the norm.  We need to stop thinking that it is governments job to give people a government job with a guarantee they will never lose that job. 

For more on the closing of Boudreaux, follow this link and this link

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Mayor Cooper committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement- signs Climate Mayors Letter.

Metro Nashville press release - Mayor John Cooper signed on to a Climate Mayors letter sent to U.S. Congressional leaders this week, urging bold action on environmental sustainability while also building a more just economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A network of 461 mayors committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement, the Climate Mayors are calling on Congress to invest in economic recovery strategies that embed resilience, equity, and sustainability in America’s cities. 

 “As mayor, I see first-hand the urgent issues facing our communities today: the ever-present threat of climate change, the challenges to public health and prosperity caused by COVID-19, and racial and economic disparities,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper. “Cities across America are demonstrating that growth and environmental stewardship go hand in hand – and now, our federal government can show the world that investment in a zero-carbon economy has multiple co-benefits for healthcare, housing, jobs, the economy, and the resilience of our infrastructure.” 

 With a focus on recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic, Climate Mayors are advocating a nationwide transition to a zero-carbon economy – a step many American cities are already pursuing as a means to create good-paying green jobs, clean the air and lower carbon emissions, improve public health and resilience to climate change, and lift up the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. 

The coronavirus pandemic has hit communities of color and low-income households particularly hard -- the same individuals and families in neighborhoods that suffer most from the harsh impacts of a changing climate: toxic pollution, skyrocketing temperatures, drought and wildfires, and extreme weather events like floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Climate Mayors are determined to build a strong, green economy that ensures all Americans are prepared for future health, economic, and environmental shocks. 

Recognizing the need to work together at every level of government to move beyond this devastating pandemic, Mayor Cooper and other Climate Mayors are urging Congress to work with state and city leadership to build new policies and amplify existing programs that have already proven effective. They list several goals for Congress to prioritize with any economic recovery package, including: 
  • Build for a Better Future: Returning to the status quo is insufficient to meet the challenges of climate change and economic disparities in our communities. We must increase resolve and ambition to reinvest in municipalities. 
  • Lead with Equity: Federal investment should include some level of priority for communities that have been historically underserved, including those disproportionately impacted by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Prioritize Multiple Benefits: The best investments will also have benefits for job creation, neighborhood resilience, and better public health outcomes in cities. 
Attached to the letter is an appendix with sample policies and programs to advance a just, resilient recovery that puts Americans back to work while creating cleaner, healthier, more livable communities. These recommendations are accompanied by success stories from Climate Mayors’ member cities where similar policies and programs have led to community benefit. Locally, Mayor Cooper’s Sustainability Advisory Committee is working with his administration to produce recommended strategies for climate mitigation and adaptation that similarly infuse resilience, equity, and other benefits such as public health and neighborhood livability into Metro Nashville’s sustainability related policies and programs.

Rod's Comment: I am so disappointed in Mayor Cooper for signing on to this irrational, ideologically-driven letter.  If we wait for a zero-carbon economy we will never have a recovery. 

"Good paying green jobs" are a myth. Cooper probably knows that. The good paying green jobs only last as long as they are subsidized, unless you count jobs in nuclear energy and fracking for natural gas. Environmentalist hate both nuclear energy and fracking which accounts for a large part of the green house emissions reductions we have experienced.  Actually, nuclear energy is also subsidized and expansion has mostly been blocked by environmentalist, so about the only real good paying green jobs are in natural gas fracking which environmentalist hate.

As almost everyone knows who wants to know, The Paris Climate Agreement was not much more than a feel-good measure and would have done little to cut green house emissions.  Each country set their own plan to mitigate global warming and reported on their progress. It had no teeth. There was no mechanism that forced a country to set a specific emissions target by a specific date. Lesser developed countries were to be permitted to pollute more than developed counties however, so they could play economic catch-up.  In that sense it was an international wealth redistribution agreement. 

I am pleased President Trump got out of the agreement, but it was so insignificant, he could have just stayed in and just ignored it. The result would have been about the same. After observing the thinking of environmentalist for some time,  I am convinced that they are more about feel-good measures and symbolism than accomplishing anything and they are irrational. That is a shame, because I believe the theory of climate change is valid and steps should be taken to address it.  Getting back in to the Paris Climate Agreement will accomplish nothing except virtue signal, however. 

To read the letter of the Climate Mayors and learn more about the organization visit their website at this link

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Nashville Metro Council refuses to make sacrifices that they are asking their own constituents to make

Justin Owen
by Justin Owen, President and CEO The Beacon Center, Sept. 14, 2020 -
These two st
aggering statistics offer important context for this post: 
 1) If you serve two terms on the Nashville City Council, you get lifetime health insurance. 
 2) The city of Nashville has more than twice the debt held by the entire state of Tennessee. 


Let those sink in for a moment before moving on. These graphics show the full picture of the city’s debt situation: Given the first stat, it’s no wonder the second is true. 

As Beacon pointed out in a recent policy report, lifetime Council benefits are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city’s fiscal woes. But they are a tip that must be lopped off if the city is going to seriously pursue reforms to restore some fiscal sanity. Despite his earlier failure to u
se his historically high property tax increase to drive meaningful fiscal change elsewhere—such as our debt, pension system, and other liabilities—Mayor John Cooper is at least now discussing the issue. And some Council members are joining the call. Sadly, nearly half still refuse to make sacrifices that they are asking their own constituents to make. The push to merely review lifetime health benefits for Council members recently squeaked by on a 20-18 vote.

We have found no other city in America that lavishes such rewards for public service. Sure we should provide reasonable compensation and benefits to elected officials, especially so that those at all socioeconomic levels can participate, as some defenders of lifetime benefits suggest. But should we offer the most handsome benefits package there is? No. Especially not when our mayor and the Council demand that we pay 34% more in taxes, all while still to this day forcing some businesses to remain closed or at limited customer capacity. 

The tone-deafness of Council members who defend such preposterous benefits is trumped up by the union bosses who adamantly refuse to acknowledge that benefits hardly any other American receives should be reconsidered. At a time when every Nashvillian has been forced to sacrifice more for the city, so too should those who work for us. That’s especially true for those we elected to serve us, not plunder our pockets for life after just eight years of service.

This is reposted from The Beacon Center website. To learn more about the Beacon Center or to subscribe to their email updates, follow this link

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Proposed Charter Amendment Would Be Self-Inflicted Disaster For Nashville, say an official Metro Nashville press release.

Would cause massive cuts to city services including layoffs to first responders 

Metro Nashville press release -  An array of Nashville leaders stands united to oppose Nashville from being gutted by an upcoming charter amendment proposed by an entity calling itself “4GoodGovernment.” The amendment would create a $332 million deficit for this fiscal year, threaten Metro’s credit rating, constrain the city’s ability to set property taxes to pay for services, and result in a suspension of capital projects. The proposed amendment would result in dramatic cuts to essential services such as emergency response, schools, trash collection, and road repair throughout Nashville.

Retroactive application will eliminate city services, reduce property values, and render schools “unrecognizable” 

If passed, midway through the fiscal year, the amendment would retroactively reverse the property tax increase passed by 32 of 40 Council Members. The FY21 budget provided for a continuity of city services during the pandemic and began to restore Metro’s dangerously thin cash reserves. 

This proposed charter amendment comes at a time when Nashville’s financial position was already destabilized by a $216 million decline in sales tax and other activity taxes this fiscal year, in line with state forecasts. With this amendment, Nashville would be left unable to make up for the lost revenue. The proposed amendment would immediately move the budget out of balance and create a $332 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. As a result, Metro would be compelled to take immediate corrective actions to comply with state law and the Metro Charter’s balanced budget requirement. Few parts of Metro Government, including emergency services and schools, could be spared significant reductions or eliminations, and nearly all capital projects would be required to be halted. 

The proposal would immediately and directly hurt Nashville residents. “It will negatively impact property values and drastically reduce city services for all Nashvillians,” said Kristy Hairston, Board of Directors President for the Greater Nashville Realtors. 

Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of MNPS, is also alarmed by the proposal and said the resulting cuts would “render the school district unrecognizable to students and families.” 

Neighborhood infrastructure and Nashville’s credit rating will be devastated 

In addition to requiring a referendum for raising property taxes beyond two percent, the proposed amendment would also require a referendum for the issuance of bonds for projects exceeding $15 million, with vague exceptions for construction of “educational classrooms”, public libraries, public healthcare buildings, police and fire stations, and “Charter-protected facilities.” 

This aspect of the Charter amendment would cripple Nashville’s ability to make neighborhood infrastructure investments, such as building community centers, repairing roads, adding affordable housing, building new schools, and improving our park system, without a costly referendum. 

Financial rating agencies would likely downgrade Metro’s financial outlook and outstanding bonds if the charter amendment is even placed on the ballot. This may result in increased borrowing costs and limit Metro’s ability to complete significant transactions and refinancing. A credit rating downgrade would make every city project more expensive for taxpayers. 

Special election will cost $800,000, prompted by a tax levy that restores Nashville’s traditional low rates 

The Davidson County Election Commission has verified that a sufficient number of signatures were collected to place the amendment on a special election ballot on December 5, 2020. According to the Election Commission, the special election will cost Nashville taxpayers approximately $800,000. 

Even with this year’s increase, Nashville still has a lower property tax rate than Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga and other peer cities. Nashville’s current rate is in line with historic traditional levels; the tax rate of $4.22 remains below Nashville’s 25-year average of $4.30. Nevertheless, the proposed Charter amendment would require county-wide voter referendums for any property tax increase over two percent – a limitation that would prevent keeping pace with inflation and result in violations of state law during appraisal years. 

Passage of the Charter amendment would result in massive cuts to city services 

At mid-year, a $332 million spending reduction could affect 35-58% of the six-month remaining Metro Government operating budget. If a potential 35% cut were spread evenly across Metro operations, the following impacts could occur: 
  • Public Works Trash collection service reduced to twice monthly, with complete elimination of recycling collections. 
  • Fire 35% cuts to the NFD Operating Budget, resulting in cuts of approximately 557 positions, including 12 ambulances, 31 fire companies, and 17 fire inspectors. Dramatic increases in response time delays.
  • Police Reductions in force of one-third of MNPD officers (450-480 officers) through layoffs and a hiring freeze; Closure of four of MNPD’s eight precincts due to officer shortages; Dramatic increases in response time delays. 
Other Departments 
  • Partial to complete closure of parks, recreation centers, and libraries. 
  • Severe reductions in services for the Hospital Authority, Metro Transit Authority, and the Sports Authority. 
  • Significant delays and bottlenecks for permits, licenses, and inspections. (Metro Government is undertaking further work to review potential impacts) 
Effect on Metro Nashville Public Schools 
  • At mid-year, a $332 million spending reduction could impact up to 25% or more of the six-month remaining MNPS operating budget. 
  • Budget cuts to every single school in the district would be required. 
  • MNPS would likely be compelled to significantly reduce education resources, including: 
  • Increased class sizes; 
  • Transportation service adjustments resulting in longer bus ride times; 
  • Reductions in social work, counseling, community connections, and other services for families in need; 
  • Reductions of supplemental services for students in robotics, career connections, college preparation, and other advanced academics; 
  • Elimination of Social and Emotional learning (SEL) initiatives; 
  • Reduced technical assistance and professional development for teachers and schools; and 
  • Elimination of stipends for extra duties such as coaching and other extracurricular activities.

Reactions to proposed charter amendment 

“This would cripple our city and gut essential city services. After two natural disasters this year, we don’t need a self-inflicted one. This would severely weaken Nashville at a time when we need to build Nashville stronger.”— Mayor John Cooper 

“Cutting 25% of the MNPS budget would, unfortunately, render the school district unrecognizable to students and families. We owe our students an exemplary education, and it takes resources to hire the teachers and staff needed to serve students academically and socially emotionally.” — Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools 

“Greater Nashville Realtors remains committed to a vibrant and financially strong Nashville. Based on our independent study of Metro’s finances earlier this year, the city must make changes to become more financially stable, but this proposal is not the answer. This change would only harm the well-being of this city and its residents. It will negatively impact property values and drastically reduce city services for all Nashvillians.” — Kristy Hairston, Board of Directors President, Greater Nashville Realtors 

“At first glance, the implications for the people of Nashville and Metro’s fiscal stability are significant and will alter the current positive trajectory of our city.” — Ralph Schulz, President and CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 

“The aftermath of the Nashville tornado and ensuing pandemic has created a time for our city to come together not pull apart. A property tax cap would be another disaster especially in the African-American community, but this time it would be self-inflicted. Nashville already has the lowest property tax of any other large city in our state so let us all pull together and give our city and ourselves the funding we desperately need to survive and thrive.” — Pastor Chris Jackson, President, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship 

“No council member was excited about raising property taxes, but the new tax rate is still below the 25-year average and below the rate in FY2017. 32 council members, including me, recognized the need to vote for an increase because we understood that the stability of Nashville depends on being able to pay our bills, so that we can continue to provide needed services to residents.” — Councilwoman Kyonzte Toombs, Budget and Finance Chair, District 2 

“I voted against the property tax rate increase, but mandating a 2% cap is just as fiscally irresponsible as the rampant spending and poor fiscal policy that got us to this point in the first place. The city wouldn’t be able to provide basic services; essential services like public safety and schools would suffer. It would essentially cause a government shutdown which, believe me, no one wants. In the long term, a 2% cap wouldn’t even allow us to keep up with inflation. We absolutely need fiscal responsibility, but a 2% cap is just not practical or sustainable.” — Courtney Johnston, Metro Councilwoman, District 26 

“Gutting city services, slashing schools and eliminating first responders during a pandemic is a terrible idea and would hurt working families in Nashville.” — Vonda McDaniel, President, Central Labor Council 

“This proposal is just another dangerous far-right attempt to destroy the progress that we’ve made in Nashville. It would prevent Nashville from being able to pay our bills, invest in our schools, and maintain neighborhood infrastructure.” — Anthony Davis, former Councilman and owner of East Nashville Beer Works

Rod's Comment: 

We need a realistic rebuttal telling us just how painful the cuts will be. 

by Rod Williams- Keep in mind that the above is not a balanced argument from some neutral party but is the response of the Mayor's office. I expect a certain amount of alarmism and awfulizing.  The threat to cut essential services is always made anytime an effort is made to deny government a tax increase or cut a tax. Like Chicken Little hollering, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," or a global warming prophet making apocalyptic claims that we only have x number of years to save the planet, I have become somewhat  immune to these claims of how terrible it will be if we don't raise taxes. 

One thing that needs to be rejected in the above press release is that we are undertaxed.  A lower tax rate than some other cities does not mean we pay lower taxes.  I had an occasion to go house shopping with a young couple recently.  In the greater Woodbine area there are lots of two-bed-room, one-bath, 758 sq. ft. houses fetching $300,000.  If in Chattanooga or Knoxville, the same home in a similar neighborhood might sale for half that. The tax rate is only one factor in the formula that determines how much property tax one pays. I reject that we are undertaxed.

Also, if a tax rollback would cause severe pain, the fault lies with the mayor.  The tax cut would be much less severe if we had started the year off with the lower rate.  If the mayor really believes the tax rollback will cause the dire outcomes he cites, then he should immediately make cuts so that they will not need to be as drastic as he outlines. He could get a three months jump if he did the cuts now instead of waiting until December. It he starts cutting now the cuts would be 25% less severe. If he doesn't start making drastic cuts, then I don't believe he believes what he is saying. 

With the above said however, one should not think that the cuts will not be painful.  We were already in dire straights with low reserves, and an underfunded fire department, and a budget that did not balance when Mayor Cooper took office. If this passes, we will feel the cuts.  

Some of the cuts should have been made years ago, anyway.  General Hospital should have been closed shortly after the passage of Medicaid  It is a disaster and closing General would save $50 million a year.  

We should stop running empty buses while we work on breaking the mold of yesterday's system of mass transit and develop a pubic transit system that focuses on on-demand paratransit. In the meantime, we should ask United Way to step up to the plate and develop a charity program of assistance for those dependent on mass transit.  

We should suspend the recycling program. It cost $1.5 million more than last year and a large part of what is collected goes to the landfill anyway. What percentage, I don't know because public works will never answer that question. 

We should suspend the program that develops bike lanes and suspend the building of sidewalks.  We need to do both anyway. The bike lanes reduce roadway capacity and contribute to traffic gridlock and congestion and I almost never see them being used.  We need to stop building sidewalks until we can figure out why we build so few new sidewalks but tear up and repour perfectly serviceable sidewalks at an enormous cost. 

Cutting the school budget could provide an opportunity to improve education.  We could embrace charter schools and make the schools that are not charter, more like charter schools by giving school principles more authority, responsibility, and autonomy.  This would allow for the slashing of overhead and central office.  We could reimagine public education. 

Doing the above will not balance the budget, however and to do some of this would take time.  Not all saving would be immediate. I don't doubt that the tax rollback would require closing some parks and some libraries- maybe most of them for a while.  How far we would have to cut, I don't know.  I hope that the parties responsible for getting the proposed referendum on the ballot will develop a rebuttal to the mayor's sky-is-falling alarmism and give a realistic picture of what cuts would be required. I helped gather signatures to help get the proposed referendum on the ballot. I plan to vote for it but I am ready to accept some painful cuts. We need a realistic rebuttal however, telling us just how painful the cuts will be, so voters can make an informed decision. 

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Assumed Senator-elect Bill Hagerty's statement on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Bill Hagerty
Nashville, TN — Bill Hagerty, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, released the following statement following the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. 

 “My family and I join Americans across the country in praying for Justice Ginsburg’s family during this difficult time,” said Bill Hagerty. “For more than two decades, Justice Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court, and she blazed trails for women and believed deeply in public service. 

President Donald Trump can – and should – nominate a constitutionalist to fill this Supreme Court vacancy; the future of our nation for generations to come depends on it.”

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Tony Tenpenny, Rest in Peace.

Condolences to the family and friends of Tony Tenpenny.  He was a good man and a good public servant. He passed  away as a result of complications from the Coronavirus. 

Here is a Facebook eulogy from Melissa Lening Smithson: 
Just heartbroken of hearing the news about our dear friend and fellow Woodbine brother Tony Tenpenny. What a giving soul, a fighter, a true spirit of being a blessing to others. We will deeply miss you here on Earth, but know you are with our Lord Jesus Christ and Almighty, visiting those that went before you and watching over us. You will always be with us, thinking of you when we are fighting the good fight, and your legacy will live on in your son and beloved wife. Rest in Peace brother! We WILL see you again.
Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Luke 20:36: For they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

 The Tennessean: Former Nashville councilman Tony Tenpenny dies from COVID-19 complications

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Senator Alexander's statement on Trump's intent to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

 From Facebook:

Rod's Comment: I am pleased but not surprised. To all of those who say Republicans are hypocritical because they opposed the Merit Garland nomination, Alexander responds to that.  If Republicans are hypocritical for opposing a  nominee to the Supreme by a Democrat in an election year but now support a Republican nominee in an election year, are not Democrats equally hypocritical for advocating the appointment during an election year and now opposing it when Trump tries to do it?  That argument is obviously phony.  If Democrats had the votes, they would block an appointment. 

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9-17 Society event was the motivating boost and shot of enthusiasm I needed.

by Rod Williams - I have been a little down recently.  Much of it is personal which I won't go into in detail but I am not getting to see my wife or touch and hold her due to her being isolated in a nursing home during this pandemic and she no longer knows who I am.  That hurts. I also miss my daughter and my young grandson and hated to see them go after a short visit, and I have family members with health problems and  some other personal things going on that bring me down.  Also, however, in addition to the personal, I have been feeling really down about the direction of our country and feeling anxiety over the upcoming election.  I have never let political circumstances affect me so. 

As I witness riots that have been going on for all across America for over 100 days, I at times feel like the America I knew is being lost before my very eyes.  We, "are going down hill like a snowball headed for hell, ..." Cities burn, innocent people are pulled from their car and beaten, police officers are assassinated, statues of our founders are pulled down, innocent people simply trying to enjoy a meal out  at an outdoor cafĂ© are harassed, and senseless violence and harassments and destruction abounds and it appears people who identify as Democrats condone it or at least refused to condemn it. 

On top of that our youth embrace socialism and crazy unrealistic proposals such as defunding the police and the Green New Deal.  I don't think they know of the 100 million victims of Communism that was socialism in action.  I am appalled they they can argue real socialism has never been tried and think they are smart enough to get it right when we have the examples of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro  and countless others tyrants who resulted from others who experimented with socialism. They would willingly, joyously march themselves and us into the Gulag and the cattle cars. "We are going down hill like a snowball heading for hell." 

I am feeling a lot of anxiety about the upcoming election.  I plan to lay out a more detailed explanation of my hypotheses of what could go wrong and share the mechanics of what could happen, but in a nutshell, I see Trump apparently wining the electoral vote, Biden the popular vote and various complications resulting from mail-in ballots and other nefarious things that result in a contested election with the side that loses not accepting the outcome of the election and, perhaps, by inauguration day us still not knowing who won the election. In my worst-case scenario we descend into either a civil war or at least a period of intense uncertainty with a major increase in violence. On top of this, we could have another uptick in Cova-19 cases, a new lockdown,  and an economic collapse. 

On Thursday night September 17th my sprits were lifted.  I attended a celebration of the 9-17 Society.  It was good to see old friends and socialize but the program was inspirational and lifted my spirits. The mission of the 9-17 Society is to, "to empower every 8th grader with the knowledge of their individual freedoms and provide them with their very own lasting copy of the U.S. Constitution as a "rite of passage" into American Citizenship and celebrate Constitution Day each September 17th."'

The pocket constitutions are handed out and signed and dated and includes the citizenship pledge that immigrants take when becoming citizens.  Reports are that 8th graders take this very seriously and see it as a big event.  Remembering when my own child was an 8th grader, I think that is the perfect age to do this.  They are smart enough to grasp complicated concepts but have not yet become know-it-all resentful teenagers.

The 917 Society is the brain child of Joni Bryant.  She has a bubbly personality and her passion for what she is doing is contagious.  It is hard to be around Joni and not feel better.  She started the project just a few years ago with nothing but a conviction that is something she ought to do.  She started small with boxes of the constitution in her car and went county by county, school by school distributing copies of the constitution.  It has taken off and now has covered Tennessee and expanded to several neighboring states.  Her dream has grown and now she has a vision of spreading the project to encompass all 50 states. 

At Thursday night's event the program was exciting and motivational.  We heard from several luminaries.  Dr. Ming Wang told of his escape from China with $50 in his pocket and how he barely avoided being sent to the countryside for a life of poverty and hard labor during the cultural revolution. He has risen to being the premier Lasik ophthalmologist in America, maybe the world. He spoke of his love for this country and what America means to him. 

We heard from Carol Swain. She rose from being one of twelve children raised in a two room shack without running water by poorly educated parents to become a graduate of Yale Law School and went on to be a professor at Vanderbilt, an esteemed scholar whose work has been quoted in Supreme Court cases, an author and a political commentator. She spoke of the greatness of American that made such a transition possible. 

The highlight of the evening for me, was the speech by Rep. John DeBerry.  He is an orator! He has served in the House of Representatives since 1995 as a Democrat representing a district in Memphis.  This year, too late to qualify as either a Republican or an independent, the State Democratic Party stripped him of his status as Democrat candidate. He would have been unable to run, had not the House stepped in and changed the rules. He is now on the ballot as an independent.  The State Democrat Party kicked him out of the party because he has voted for pro-life policies and policies that favor school choice.

He gave a humble but motivational speech that left me standing and cheering when it was over.  He spoke about the how he was taught to love this country and the wisdom found in the Constitution. He warned of how America has turned its back the values that made up great. He spoke of the character of America and the courteous fights to overcome injustices and the struggle and challenges that brought up thus far. He left me with a message of hope that all is not lost.  America is still the beacon of liberty in the world. 

My view of the potential for a struggle over the outcome of the upcoming election and the potential for a disastrous outcome has not changed.  I still view the embrace of socialism by many in this county as troubling.  The future is in the balance and it could go either way. History is not laid out.  The outcome of history is up to those who push it one direction or the other.  We could be like Venezuela in a short period of time.  The threat is real and the future hangs in the balance. 

I left the meeting, not feeling like the challenges we face are less than I did when I went into the meeting, but with a new determination to face the challenges.  I felt hope.  I felt revived. 

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