Saturday, June 26, 2021

More drama at the Tennessee Republican Asssembly. Losing faction ask the National organization to intervene and reverse the election results.

by Rod Williams - The drama continues at the Tennesee Republican Assembly.  Recently there was an election of officers of the organization and Michelle Foreman was elected Chairman beating Dan Meridith who had the support of long-time chairman Sharon Ford.

Prior to the election, there were charges and counter charges between the two factions and allegations of malfeasance and all kinds of shenanigans.  I am not going to repeat it all again but if anyone wants to see an airing of the dirty laundry and get some background information, follow this link, this link, and this link. While I am not a member of the organization and don't have a dog in this fight, I favored Michelle Foreman and believed her side of the story.

I am still mystified at the passion displayed by both factions. Michelle Foreman has a lot going for her and potential for a bright political future.  I don't see that being Chairman of TRA enhances her prospects. Also, Michelle has a lot on her plate.  She just graduated law school and is studying for the bar, she is a nurse, wife and mother, and a member of the Tennesee Republican Party State Executive Committee. I would think she has better things to do.  If it were me, I would say just elect Sharon Ford chairman for life; I am out of here. 

Now, that the election is over, the faction that lost is claiming the election was stolen. That sounds familiar. 

If 50 people care enough to sign a letter asking the board of the parent organization to intervene in the affairs of a local organization, that is a lot of people who care.  That many activists could have a lot of impact on the local and state Republican Party.  It would seem to me they would direct that passion to something that matters. 

For those not familiar with TRA, the motto of the organization is, "The Republican wing of the Republican Party."  They think they are the only real Republicans and everyone else is a RINO or some other kind of apostate. Organizations that think they are the only ones right, can ofter fight their fellow ideologues with more passion than they fight members of the opposite camp. 

Here is a communication from the dissident faction of the organization that lost the recent election addressed to the parent organization asking for redress of grievances. 

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Nashville Better Angels Alliance Onground Kickoff, Sunday June 27th.


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Chattanooga ranked as the fourth-worst run large city in the country. All Tennessee big cities rank poorly in analysis of best-run cities.

by Jon Styf, The Center Square- A new report from WalletHub ranks Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the fourth-worst run large city in the country, behind Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York. Not far behind, at No. 133, was Memphis while Knoxville was 113th and Nashville ranked 111th. 

The rankings of the top 150 cities in population in the country were calculated using financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution as the basis. WalletHub used 38 different metrics to score the cities in those areas, including a total budget per capita figure. Some of the statistics included are the rankings of K-12 schools, crime rate and transit scores. 

“We can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget,” study author and financial writer Adam McCann wrote.

One area that hurt Chattanooga the most in the rankings was its budget per capita, which ranked 146th. Memphis was hurt most in the rankings by its lack of quality city services and both health and safety, where it ranked 149th out of 150. Memphis also had one of the highest infant mortality rates. 

None of the Tennessee cities ranked in the top five in any of the breakout categories in the study, but Nashville was tied for the worst in long-term outstanding debt per capita. Chattanooga has been ranked in the top 10 worst-run cities by WalletHub each of the past five years. Knoxville ranked 18th in infrastructure and pollution while it was just outside the top 20 in education and financial stability.
 Nashville was ranked ninth in economy. 

Two Idaho cities, Nampa and Boise, were atop the rankings while Lexington-Fairfield, Kentucky, ranked fifth.

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Nashville Judge Orders Property Tax Relief Referendum Cancelled

(The Center Square) – A Davidson County judge has ruled that a July 27 referendum election on six

proposed changes to Nashville’s Metro Charter – including one that would reduce property taxes – will not happen. 

The Tuesday ruling, which stated that four of the amendments are “defective in form,” is still subject to appeal. The referendum, called the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, is the second version of a similar referendum proposed by a group called 4 Good Government, led by attorney Jim Roberts. 

“As I am attorney, I am limited as to what I can say about the Court’s opinion,” Roberts posted on Wednesday. “[I] sincerely hope it will be promptly appealed and reversed. No doubt the Mayor and his pro-tax allies are rejoicing today that 430,000 citizens were DENIED the right to vote. It saves him the effort of ordering police dogs and firehoses to the polls on Election Day to intimidate voters. 

“We will not give up trying to save Nashville from this fiscally irresponsible government. … The fight is not over. Save Nashville While You Can…” 

The referendum proposed to cap property tax rates and increases, change the recall procedures for public officials, end lifetime benefits for public officials and make them subject to referendum, require Nashville to go to referendum to transfer public property and make professional sports teams forfeit property if they choose to leave the city. 

After the group gathered more than 12,000 signatures to petition for the referendum, the Davidson County election commissioners voted 3-2 to put the referendum up for election in July. But that vote was immediately challenged in court by both Davidson County and Nashville. 

The referendum was in response to a 34% property tax increase in 2020. Both referendums proposed to roll back that increase. The most recent version would prevent the city from increasing taxes more than 3% without a voter referendum. The first 4 Good Government referendum attempt last fall was rejected by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle and ruled unconstitutional for promoting “an impermissible form of government in Tennessee.” 

This referendum, a revised version of the 2020 attempt, now has been shut down by Chancellor Russel. T. Perkins. 

“We are building a great city, and we’re grateful for a ruling that prevents a small group from hijacking Nashville’s future with an unconstitutional California-style referendum,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in response to the court’s ruling. 

“Our next budget makes historic investments in our students, our transportation infrastructure, and affordable housing as we maintain a tax rate 24 percent lower than our average rate over the past quarter century – the third lowest property tax rate in Metro history. We will continue to fix problems and find solutions to build a stronger, more equitable city for everyone.” 

The Save Nashville Now coalition, created to oppose the referendum, announced Wednesday that it would be suspending its campaign on June 30 after Perkins’ ruling. 

“If Chancellor Perkin’s ruling is appealed and there is a change in the status of the campaign, Save Nashville Now will be prepared to restart our efforts to explain to Nashville voters how this referendum will hurt Nashville’s future and severely cut Metro budgets, adversely affecting families, teachers, students, first responders and emergency responders citywide,” the group posted. 

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

How to interact with those of a different opinion in our highly polorized world.

Richard Upchurch
by Richard Upchurch - Walking our pup Howard this morning, I met a lady walking hers and wearing a shirt with the interesting motto, "Get Off The Fence." 

She was proceeding down the sidewalk quite briskly, chatting merrily with a friend also with a dog on a leash. Slowing our pace slightly, we exchanged brief greetings of the type reserved for such cursory encounters, as did the pups in their own way, but after thinking about the motto I wished I'd asked her about it. 

Perhaps enjoining people to get off the fence was meant to encourage stronger opinions, or maybe stronger opinions of a certain ilk, and standing up more steadfastly for them?

Well, maybe so. But, far as I can tell, we have no shortage these days of folks with strong opinions, especially on public and political issues, and no shortage of people well off the fence and fully engaged in the strong partisan contentions of our time, which very often, both in Washington and sometimes much closer to home, sometimes even in households, are resulting, more every day it seems, in strained and broken relationships and friendships. 

Many members of families and groups have figured out that if they want to stay friends with each other, they need to avoid bringing up the social issues proceeding from very rapid changes in fundamental human institutions and relationships, and the politics of our time so strongly polarized by these very factors.

Certainly that seems a sensible solution in many cases, and a good choice for groups and families wishing and hoping to avoid ill feeling and possible break-ups. Yet there remains the problem in families, social groups and organizations that a part of what connects us and makes us members of families, groups, citizens, and participants in our society, has thereby been subtracted, and the larger problem that we do not know how to bring it back. 

We are in many situations sweeping something under the rug, and that is the deep fractures that have appeared among us, in family, community, state and country, and the extent and nature of these fractures may portend something very grave for us as a society. But no matter what these differences, these highly polarized views held by very large number of us, perhaps spawned and cultivated to a large extent by media outlets, may or may not portend, we need all to remember that we are a nation, a "res publica," worth nurturing, preserving and celebrating----or at least have been such. 

As a counter to the forces dividing us----deep disagreement about the traditional norms of family and personal identity, and media who have discovered they can enhance their market shares by promoting even further polarization in these and other current clashes of opinion and value----there are some things we can do as individuals, that might pull us back a bit from intense and growing threat of fanaticism in our discourse about public issues. 

We might all try to diversify the sources of news, information and commentary we use, by patronizing a variety of publications and outlets, rather than entirely those that seem to confirm us in our already existing points of view and commitments. And in conversation we can adopt a fairly simple technique of listening and attempting to imagine ourselves having the point of view of our friend, family member or acquaintance that we may find less than congenial. 

One specific technique may help considerably, and that is the technique of summarizing what the other member of the conversation, dialogue, debate or argument has just said, doing so throughout the conversation, keeping in mind that in doing this kind of re-stating, the important thing is to reflect what he or she has thought, felt and expressed to the extent possible, and to do so by putting one's self, insofar and possible, in his or her place.

Richard Upchurch is a wise old man who lives in Nashville.

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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Mayor Cooper Releases Affordable Housing Report. The metro press release and my comment.

Metro Press release, 6/8/2021-  Mayor John Cooper today issued a key report detailing steps Nashville can take in the next three years to address its pressing affordable housing needs. In the report, the mayor’s 22-expert Affordable Housing Task Force provides nine priority recommendations for making significant progress between now and 2024. 

“Nashville must be a city that works for everyone,” Mayor Cooper said. “And – in a city that works for everyone – everyone who works here should be able to live here. That includes our teachers, first responders, and food service workers – the essential workers who got us through this past year.” 

Mayor Cooper acted early on five of the group’s ideas, proposing immediate steps during his April 29 State of Metro address – including a plan to triple the number of dollars allocated to affordable housing in Nashville for the coming year. 

“The scale and urgency of Nashville’s housing crisis is significant, and I am thankful for and impressed with the speed at which Mayor Cooper has taken action,” said Edward Henley, the task force’s co-chair.

What Is Affordable Housing?  An economically secure resident will spend no more than 30 percent of their annual income on rent or a mortgage, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

In Nashville, an estimated 65,000 households – just less than half of Davidson County’s renters – exceeded that threshold, pre-pandemic. Meanwhile – though the inventory is more difficult to track– the options for affordable homeownership are even fewer. That leaves families of four that earn $0 to $67,450 – including Nashville’s teachers and first responders – struggling to find housing they can afford in the city they serve. And the problem has only worsened in the last 18 months, with pandemic-related relocations bringing more people to Nashville and supply-chain bottlenecks choking off building material supplies and driving up construction costs. 

The Forecast for 2030 Nashville’s public and private housing providers create and preserve access to an estimated 1,350 affordable housing units a year. To avoid a potential 50,000-unit shortage by 2030, annual production should increase by as much as fourfold, to 5,250 units. Multiple factors – like wages and building costs – will affect housing affordability at any given time, but there is a constant: Building a city’s affordable housing ecosystem requires funding and policy action at the municipal, state and federal levels. 

Already In Motion In his State of Metro address, Mayor Cooper included the following proposed actions: 
  • $22.5 million for the city’s Barnes Fund, which includes both recurring city and one-time federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars 
  • $3 million to encourage private-sector participation in affordable housing development with a payment in lieu of taxes program 
  • $10 million (ARP dollars) to create a Catalyst Fund so Nashville can quickly preserve at-risk units and proactively create affordable housing near proposed public projects (bus stops, parks, community centers and libraries) 
  • A plan to partner with a private or nonprofit developer to build affordable housing on nearly three acres of Metro-owned property at 2119 24th Ave. N. 
  • $500,000 to create a long-term Metro Nashville housing plan 
  • Resources to bring two full-time housing experts to Metro Planning 
Additionally, Mayor Cooper included $2 million in his February 2021 capital spending plan to leverage participation agreements with developers to preserve and create more affordable housing. 

Metro Council in March approved the mayor’s capital spending plan and is set to vote on his proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2022 by the end of June.

Rod's Comment:  Since the date of the above press release, the Metro Council has passed a budget that even included more funding for affordable housing than the mayor requested. 

I am not opposed to modest programs that help low-income people get into their first home.  I support charities like Habitat for Humanity and programs like that of the non-profit Urban Housing Solutions.  I am not opposed to the use of tax credits to help developers build affordable housing.  I support programs such as THDA's program that subsidizes interest rates or helps qualified first-time low-income borrowers with the downpayment.  I am an enthusiastic supporter of programs that teach people to improve their credit scores and teach them to better manage their finances so they can qualify to become homeowners. I support concepts such as shared-equity programs. 

However, the most important thing we could do to advance affordable housing is get government out of the way and stop policies that destroy affordable housing and policies that make it difficult for developers to build affordable housing.  A government concerned with affordable housing would hold the line on property taxes.  It would also stop rezoning big swaths of the county from areas that allow two units per lot to only one unit per lot.

For more of my thoughts on the issue of affordable housing see, My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force
For more on how government policy is the cause of the lack of affordable housing see, US Housing Market Needs 5.5 Million More Units. Guess What Stands in the Way?

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US Housing Market Needs 5.5 Million More Units. Guess What Stands in the Way?

Hannah Cox
Affordable housing plans will never make housing cheaper, they’ll just leave us with the bill for the mess government created. 

by Hannah Cox, Foundation for Economic Education, Friday, June 18, 2021 -  Earlier this year, a house made headlines in DC when it sold for $1 million over its asking price—a representation of just how crazy things have gotten in the US housing market. 

Now, a new report confirms what anyone who has spent even a day house-hunting in 2021 could have told us: there’s a massive housing shortage. 

The findings, which come from the National Association of Realtors, indicate construction of new housing fell 5.5 million units short of long-term historical levels. Additionally, it says that from 2010 to 2020, new home construction fell 6.8 million units short of what was needed to meet household-formation growth and replace units that were aging or destroyed by weather events. 

The National Association of Realtors is an industry lobbying group who say they hope their work persuades lawmakers to include housing investments in any infrastructure package. 

“The scale of the problem is so large,” said David Bank, senior vice president of Rosen Consulting Group and one of the report’s authors. “We need affordable [housing], we need market-rate, we need single-family, we need multifamily.” 

What kind of policies does the group specifically have in mind? Expanding the tax credit program for low-income rental housing, encouraging renovation of distressed properties, offering incentives to cities and states to reduce regulatory limits on housing density, and converting commercial buildings for residential use—to name a few. 

For the Biden Administration’s part, their solutions tend to revolve around similar, government-funded approaches. Biden has suggested giving first time homebuyers a $15,000 tax credit and injecting $213 billion into developing, maintaining, and retrofitting affordable units over the next eight years. Amid all these reports and plans, there seems to be a common ground: everyone agrees the shortage in supply is leading to the boom in housing prices. 

For reasons we’ll touch on below, the shortage became even worse over the past year, and as a result builders slowed construction in some regions and delayed land purchases. At the same time, low mortgage rates and an increase in remote work inflated the demand for housing. Why Isn’t the Market Responding? 

To be clear, the market is trying to respond to all this. Housing starts—a measure of home-building activity—rose last year to 1.38 million units, the highest since 2006. But shortages in labor, land, and materials persist and have limited the pace of construction growth. And those shortages, it must be emphasized, are not naturally occurring. Rather they almost always trace their origins back to bad government policies and intervention into the free market. 

Many cities and states employ zealous zoning regulations that severely limit the available land for building. Others have regulatory limits on housing density, or rules limiting the height of construction that might affect the landscape or skyline. Progressive cities, which fare worst of all when it comes to affordable housing and homelessness, frequently have measures like rent control and historic overlays on the books that impede new construction. 

On top of these factors are government policies—like supply-chain-disrupting lockdowns, trade wars, and immigration controls—that create worker and material shortages. And even in the best of cases, the obstacle course of red tape that builders must run—government regulations, codes, and inspection processes—prolong the time it takes to build new homes and greatly increase the costs. 

As a result, many builders have turned their attention to larger, more expensive projects as these are the ones more likely to make all the expense and effort worth their investment—meaning they have less incentive to build smaller, more affordable homes when they do build and compounding the affordable housing problem for low- to middle-income Americans. 

Affordable Housing Initiatives Ignore the Root of the Problem 
The affordable housing issue in the US is a case study in basic economics. The laws of supply and demand show that when there is a surplus of availability, prices come down. But the government has placed barriers that restrict supply on the housing market for decades, and as a result, the cost of housing (both purchase prices and rent) continue to skyrocket. FEE economist Peter Jacobsen explains it this way: 
When there are more houses and apartments available than there are people looking for housing, owners and landlords need to entice more people to become house-hunters in order to fill their vacancies. They do this by lowering the rents or selling prices they’re asking for. Buyers benefit from lower prices, and sellers benefit from filling empty housing. However, if the government is constantly restricting the amount of housing with cumbersome regulations, this process never occurs. Increasing demand meets with stagnant supply, and prices rise.
As famed economist Thomas Sowell points out, “Study after study, not only here but in other countries, show that the most affordable housing is where there has been the least government interference with the market – contrary to rhetoric.” 

Most “affordable housing” initiatives seek to throw taxpayer dollars at the problem while allowing the thicket of government regulations that create shortages in the first place to remain on the books. Such big-government responses will never make housing cheaper—they’ll just leave taxpayers with the bill for the mess government created. 

Hannah Cox is the Content Manager and Brand Ambassador for the Foundation for Economic Education. Formerly she resided in Nashville where she was Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Rod's Comment: Hannah Cox hits the nail on the head.  The solution to the problem the government created is to get government out of the way.  For more of my views on the problem of the lack of affordable housing and specifically how that applies to Nashville see, My advice to the new Mayor Cooper appointed Affordable Housing Task Force.

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