Friday, December 25, 2020

The Beacon Center's 12 days of pork, #12: Chattanooga spending needs a red light.

The Beacon Center -In an interesting “whodunit” in Chattanooga this year, city auditors discovered that, well, city officials might need to keep closer tabs on the gadgets that they’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars to have. 

Way back in 2013, the city purchased over $6 million worth of new street lights from Global Green Lighting (GGL), but according to City Auditor Stan Sewell in an interview with the Chattanoogan, “The lighting project…was never fully implemented and the city no longer has possession of the light fixtures.” 

That’s right: when auditors in 2018 went to the warehouse that was supposedly storing these lights to get an inventory, they were nowhere to be found. Where did they go? After consulting another employee in the warehouse building, it was discovered that $5.59 million worth of lights were picked up from the warehouse by the CEO of the company who sold the lights to them in the first place. After a city employee unlocked the warehouse for the team from GGL to enter, they left, leaving non-government employees alone to reclaim government-paid-for lights. The Washington Post says “Democracy dies in darkness.” So too does our trust in our elected officials and bureaucrats. 

Solution: Increase detailed—and public—budget reporting in cities so taxpayers know how their dollars are being used…or not used. 

 on the twelfth day of Christmas, the government gave to me… some lightbulbs used by nobody

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The Beacon Center's 12 days of pork, #11: The Hyenas may be laughing but the taxpayers sure aren't.

 The Beacon Center - The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a similar cycle: Government officials issue a lockdown, unintended consequences ensue, governments have to spend money to make up for their mistakes, and taxpayers suffer. 

Despite giving $1.4 million to Zoo Knoxville in the Knoxville city budget, city and county officials are having to pony up more money to keep the zoo afloat. When 75% of its revenue comes from ticket sales, a safer at home order makes it difficult for one of the area’s largest tourist attractions to keep the money flowing. As a result, the city is giving an extra $700,000 in taxpayer dollars to the zoo. Meanwhile, the county is giving an additional $500,000, but at least as a loan. This is what happens when governments start getting involved in non-core services. Costs can rise, and the old saying “in for a penny, in for a pound” ends up being true. City and county officials could look to other business models like Chicago’s famous Lincoln Park Zoo, which operates without government assistance by relying on donations.

Solution: Focus on core government services, privatize existing city-owned enterprises, and utilize loans instead of grants for nonprofits, if absolutely necessary. 

 on the eleventh day of Christmas, the government gave to me… a handout that is beastly

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The Beacon Center's 12 days of pork, #10: Eastround and Down.

The Beacon CenterThe Johnson City Commission recently decided to round up their property tax rate to the nearest penny after the recent property reappraisal. City staff claimed that had they rounded down instead, the city would have lost over $143,000. 

What did the city do with that retained money? They gave nearly $150,000 of taxpayer money for a new piece of public art completed by two California artists. So instead of giving taxpayers a small cut on their property taxes, they are turning around and giving that money to out-of-state artists in order to create an unnecessary piece of public art. We have our issues with tax dollars going to public art in the first place, but it is even more frustrating that a government would choose two California artists over a tax cut for their own constituents. 

Solution: The government should not use tax dollars to fund public art. There are plenty of foundations and individual benefactors who have funded and continue to fund public art across the country. 

 on the tenth day of Christmas, the government gave to me… a local government spending spree

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Beacon Center's 12 days of pork, #9: Clarksville on thin ice with taxpayers.

The Beacon Center- Where are you going to hold your next ice skating party? 

Apparently the Montgomery County Commission  thinks it’s Clarksville. The commission approved construction of a multi-purpose event center with two ice rinks and a $130 million dollar plan to borrow the money to pay for it. Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett led the push for the 250,000 square foot compound in the middle of downtown Clarksville. While the massive complex is impressive, we doubt the bill taxpayers eventually receive will go over so well. 

Solution: Montgomery County leaders should focus on core government activities, not leisure activities. The private sector is there to meet these needs and taxpayers should not be forced to shoulder years of debt for “build it and they will come” plans. 

 on the ninth day of Christmas, the government gave to me… a skating rink with a hefty taxpayer fee

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Reposted from Facebook

Event by Mark Smith
Jan 5, 2021 at 9 PM CST – Jan 7, 2021 at 4:30 AM CST 
Price: Free · 
Duration: 1 day 
Public · Anyone on or off Facebook 
Have you had enough yet? Feeling like you want to be part of something that makes the difference in your country as it is being taken over by leftists and Marxists? Tired of doing all the driving? Have I got a bus ride for you!! There is a Chartered bus leaving out from Nashville Tennessee. (EXACT LOCATION WILL BE GIVEN AT REGISTRATION) and we are riding up to Washington DC because our President is calling us to come and protest along side him as he pursues the legal options to regain his rightful place as the President of the United States of America. There is surely more to say about all that at some point. The bus holds 56 folks. We are going to fill it and when we do, we will start working on filling another. THIS IS TRICKY. The cost is $120.00 per seat if we sell all 56 seats. So we really need everyone to push this out. I don't want to be telling anyone that the bus is not able to leave the station. HELP ME SHARE THIS EVENT PLEASE. BELOW IS THE SCHEDULE: JAN 5th -leave Nashville at 9:30 PM get to DC at 9:30 AM -JAN 6th Get back on the bus at 6:30 PM after an awesome day with fellow patriots and will arrive back in Nashville at 4:30 AM on JAN 7th. TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW - SHARE IN EVERY GROUP YOU CAN. We have to fill this bus full of patriots! Who's in? If you click on the INTERESTED button you will receive a FB message to establish contact and answer any questions that you may have. God Bless your journey! #TRUMPWINS CONTACT: Lee Miller - 931-305-0626 NOTE: The bus trip is not Chase Matheson's bus trip. But his is going to awesome too! 

As the author of A Disgruntled Republican I often post items which I think may be of interest to the conservative, Republican, libertarian or the greater community. Posting of a press release or an announcement of an event does not necessarily indicate an endorsement. Rod

Rod's Comment
I will not be taking part. I will not be taking the bus trip to Washington.  I also do not support the effort to have Congress refuse to accept the results of the electoral college vote.  I believe that fraud occurred in this election but the Trump campaign could not make their case in court.  Also, I am not sure the fraud rose to the level to change the outcome of the election. I think it best to let this play out in the courts and congress without public pressure.  I support a peaceful transfer of power.

While the Trump team is floating ideas of a declaration of marital law and suspending the constitution, I do not want to associated with a massive protest that would seem to support the Trump effort to keep fighting to hold onto power.  

Many of my friends are still supporting Trump's attempt to hold onto power by any means.  I know some of you are signing up for this protest bus trip. I wish you a safe trip. I hope we remain friends but I cannot endorse this effort to continue fighting to hold on to power. Some of my friends are even ready to support a military coup or secession.  Not me.  I am not manning any barricades or taking up arms. 

I think it is time, past time, to admit Trump lost the election and he has failed to make the case the election was stolen.  I favor a smooth transition to the next administration, continuing to be the loyal opposition, winning the Senate seats in Georgia so we can blunt the worst of the next administration's policies, and then retake the House in 2022 and the White House in 2024.  Even if we suspect the election is stolen, I do not want to become a banana republic where a military coup is a common occurrence.  We should exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy and then accept the results. 

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Can the people who build homes in Nashville afford to buy them?

by Rod Williams - Most could not. The income of the average carpenter household would support purchase of only 39.9% of the Nashville homes considered starter home. This standard for determining  affordability is based on something developed by American Enterprise Institute called "the carpenter index." Here the index is explained: 
The Carpenter Index starts with average carpenter wages at the metro level, which is around $48,000. It then assumes a household income that totals 150% of the carpenter’s wage, which is roughly the national average. This yields a typical total carpenter household income of $72,000. A common rule of thumb is that, to be considered affordable, a household should purchase a house no more than three times household income. The typical carpenter household could then afford a home of up to $216,000.  To complete the index, it is determined what percentage of starter homes would $216,000 purchase.
If you plug in the average carpenter wage for the Metro Nashville area and the range of prices of a starter home in Nashville area and do the calculation you come up with the carpenter index for Nashville which is currently 39.9%

Starter homes may be a new homes or an existing home. It is considered a starter home if it would typically be the first home one buys. This excludes those homes generally sold to people who are selling an existing home and taking the equity to purchase a more expensive home. A Carpenter Index of 50% or greater is considered affordable since the average carpenter household is able to purchase the median entry-level home. The lower the index is, the more unaffordable a metro area becomes. 

This of course is a rough calculation but provides insight as to the affordability of Nashville area homes. This does not tell you what that home may be like. If two metro areas both had a Carpenter Index of 50, in one metro area the home could be twice the size of what is a starter home in another metro area. This only looks at affordability not how much house you can get for your money. 

Also, the metro area is usually a multi-county area so for the 13-county metro Nashville area the carpenter may have to consider a home in Burns or Watertown or Bethpage. That is not unrealistic.  Housing near the center of a popular metro area is expected to be more expensive than those in the suburbs. To expect that everyone can afford a house within the city limits or even the largest county of the area is not realistic. Many working people are willing to move to a suburb of Nashville to buy their first home and some prefer it.  Also, not all work is centered in downtown Nashville.  

Of course, the assumptions may not hold for everyone either. This assumes the carpenters income is 66% of the household income. That is based on an average but if the carpenters spouse makes more than the carpenter then that household could afford more house. Also, in a metro area like Nashville, there are a lot of service workers who often make less than the wage of a carpenter. They would have fewer options. And, this does not address the lack of affordability of housing for low-income people. Despite these caveats, I think this is a useful way to look at affordability. 

How does Nashville stack up to other cities?
In San Diego the index is only 6% meaning a carpenter household could only afford to buy 6% of the starter homes.
In Pittsburg the index is 100% meaning a carpenter household could afford to buy 100% of the starter homes.
Austin Texas, 17%
Knoxville, 75.6%
Atlanta, 80.1%

How has Nashville fared over time? We have become less affordable.  Here is the index calculations for Nashville since 2012 when the index was created:
2012, 76.5%; 20013, 72.3%; 2014, 68.6%; 2015, 68.8%; 2016, 58.8%; 2017, 50.2%; 2018, 43.7% and 2019, 39.9%.

What causes lack of affordability? The report examines the causes of the loss of affordability which is essentially supply and demand but factors that impact those factors are policies that reduce supply such as single-family zoning and other land use restrictions and easy credit which inflates prices. 

To see the full report follow this link

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Monday, December 21, 2020

What is middle class? In Tennessee $21,573- $98,679.

by Rod Williams -
How much money does it take to be considered middle class?  It depends on which definition of middle class you are using and where you live.  We are a big country and in some parts of the country people earn a lot more money than they do in other parts of the country.

24/7 Wall St did an analysis and came up with an answer for every state.  They determine that in Tennessee middle class for household was $21,573- $98,679.

The methodology of 24/7 Wall St was to look at the household income ranges divided into quintiles and take the "lower boundary of the second quintile and the upper boundary of the fourth quintile" and consider that middle class.  This represents represents about 60% of American families. That sound about right to me. Looking at all of the ranges across all states, middle class can be as low as $15,165 and as high $295,250.  

The study is presented with information for each state but does not have a spread sheet for easy comparison state to state, but here are some sample states.
  • Alabama - $17,807 – $91,778 
  • Alaska - $35,393 – $151,683 
  • California - $36,996 – $187,706 
  • Hawaii - $41,532 – $181,202  
  • Louisiana - $16,721 – $95,787 
  • Mississippi - $16,721 – $95,787 
  • New York - $30,797 – $176,842
To read the report, follow this link

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Tennessee experiences year-over-year tax revenue increase through first 3 quarters of 2020

By Vivian Jones, The Center Square, Dec 18, 2020- Despite economic turmoil caused by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee collected 2.3% more in tax revenue during the first nine months of 2020 than in the same period in 2019. (link)

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State lawmakers questions health commissioner on $26.5M no-bid contract

By Vivian Jones, The Center Square - Lawmakers on a financial oversight committee questioned Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and other officials Thursday about a $26.5 million no-bid contract for COVID-19 testing supplies that turned out to be unusable. 

The contract, signed by state officials May 1, was with Utah-based health care startup Nomi Health. The state withdrew from the contract June 12 after the coronavirus test kits did not measure up to state standards. Tennessee remained responsible for $5.9 million to pay for some personal protective equipment, technology and a management fee. (read more)

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