Thursday, February 29, 2024

About Biden's War on Energy

by Rod Williams, Feb. 29, 2024- The Republican talking point is that there is a Biden war on energy. The Democrat talking point is that under President Biden the United States is producing more power from renewables than ever before.

The Democrat talking point is true, but it is also true that under Biden the US is producing more oil and natural gas than ever before.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to advertise the fact that under President Biden there is an increased production of oil and natural gas.  Wind and solar and oil and gas have boomed under President Biden. The data shows energy independence has strengthened under Biden.

Under President Trump, the US set a record for oil and natural gas production. Fracking was responsible for much of that increased natural gas production. Well, guess what? Biden has broken the Trump record. Under Biden the country has set records for natural gas output. In the first half of 2023, the United States was the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

If one reads the news for facts rather than just listening to pundits, the facts are there. 
Read this article from The New York Times, A Muffled Boom.
See this from CNN Business: US becomes world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas.

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What is NEST? Nashville's Essential Structures for Togetherness. What does it do?


 
by Rod Williams, Feb. 29, 2024- Change is difficult and I understand the desire of people to preserve the character of their community. However, our zoning codes have contributed to urban sprawl, crowded highways, limited housing choice, and a shortage of work force housing.  Many of our health care providers, teachers, policemen, firemen, musicians, and service industry workers have to live in places like Bethpage or Watertown because they cannot afford to live in Nashville. Young people find it difficult to buy that first "starter" home in Nashville and the elderly who may want to downsize can hardly find a smaller, more affordable home. We need to make changes to our zoning codes that will make it feasible to develop a broader range of housing types.  

To learn more about the proposed zoning changes before the Council, follow this link

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Things are still, still a mess at the Metro Arts Commission. Mismanagement could Imperil Metro Arts Budget. Race-based funding could be Unconstitutional.

by Rod Williams, Feb. 28, 2024- Will things ever settle down at the Metro Arts Commission? It is embarrassing that such dysfunction can exist in an agency of Metro Government. If the agency does not get its act together what meager funding they do get is in jeopardy. 

The mess at the Arts Commission has been going on since at least 2016. Back in 2016 the agency underwent a change to promote equity and to engage in more "micro-funding opportunities, education programs and neighborhood-specific initiatives." Prior the agency had focused on funding a handful of high profile established organization such as Children's Theater, Frist, the symphony, ballet and a few others. These were too white for modern liberal sensibilities. Turmoil followed the change in focus.  Conflicts between funding large organizations versus small independent artists continues at the commission. 

There have been scandals, lawsuits, charges of racism and sexism, resignations, oustings, and changes in leadership at the Commission. Commission employees have described the agency’s leadership style as “rely[ing] heavily on intimidation, fear and punishment” and fostering a “culture of individualism, competition and secrecy." Outside organizations have been hired to help the Commission "overcome their racist past and transition to an anti-racist future." Still yet, things do not seem to improve.

This brings us up to now and things are not getting better and the funding for Metro Arts is now in jeopardy. Metro does not spend a lot on the arts. At last year's budget hearings, Metro Arts Commission Chair Matia Powell said peer cities like Austin, Dallas and San Francisco fund their arts communities at around 1% of their overall budget, while Nashville devotes about 0.017% of its budget to Metro Arts (2). 

I am not sure that Metro should spend more on arts. I think arts funding should primarily rely on art patrons. Of course, I feel the same about sports and think sports stadiums should be funded by sports fans. I also am not a big fan of public golf courses. However, we do not spend a lot of public money on arts. If the Arts Commission does not get their act together, they cannot expect more money; they may get less. Here is the latest. 

New Mismanagement Claims Imperil Metro Arts Budget

By Connor Daryani, Nashville Banner, February 27, 2024 - As artists and art organizations continue to plead for an increase to funding for the arts in Nashville, alleged overspending and financial malpractice at Metro Arts could put the meager financial support the arts do get at risk. 

Metro Finance Director Kevin Crumbo revealed on Monday that $2 million earmarked for Nashville arts organizations are in jeopardy due to the mismanagement of the department budget.

“The simple truth is the commission will not be in a position to make additional grant awards if its financial position is already headed to a deficit,” Crumbo at a meeting of the newly formed Arts Commission Oversight Committee said. “Surplus monies may be needed as part of a corrective action plan to avoid a deficit, and if so, less money will be available for grants.”

... “One of the root causes of the Internal Audit review, the Law Department investigation and the additional oversight of our Finance Department are the reports of multiple [Metro Arts] employees who have alleged excess spending over budget, possible violations of procurement and other established financial processes and behaviors at the highest level of management that may violate Metro’s policies governing workplace conduct,” said Crumbo. ... unclear if consultants and contractors were paid in a way that adheres to Metro’s rules ... Not only is the second half of operational grant funding at risk, Crumbo also indicated that the future of Metro Arts funding could be in trouble should the issues not get resolved. 

.... “My understanding of what happened is that at the July meeting, there were some decisions made where race was taken as an express factor, which we believed is unconstitutional,” Metro Legal Director Wally Dietz said at the Monday night Metro Council arts committee meeting. (read much more about this here)

Also see: Things are still a mess at the Metro Arts Commission. Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples'


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Monday, February 26, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly Week 5 Recap

Rep. Susan Lynn
From Rep. Susan Lynn, Jan. 23,2023-

House Approves "Duty to Warn Act" to enhance Public Safety

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved Republican legislation to increase protections for those targeted by threats of violence. House Bill 1625, also known as the Duty to Warn Act, requires mental health professionals and behavior analysts in Tennessee to inform local law enforcement if a patient makes an imminent threat to harm a specific individual or clearly identified group. Threats that are more general in nature must be reported to either the 988 Lifeline or a local crisis response service.

“This will strengthen duty to warn, provide some clarity and ensure that mental health practitioners do not have to call law enforcement when a patient makes a threat to them,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville.

The legislation includes protections from civil, criminal and disciplinary penalties for mental health professionals and behavior analysts who make reasonable attempts to comply with the law. The companion version of House Bill 1625 is still advancing through the Senate.

Legislation would Expand Newborn Safe Haven Program

A proposal to expand the availability of Safe Haven Baby Boxes for newborns in Tennessee advanced this week in the House. House Bill 2067, introduced by State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman, would require the Department of Children’s Services to issue grants to counties for the installation of newborn safety devices while House Bill 1922 would add assisted living facilities, nursing homes and emergency communications centers to the list of approved locations for the devices.

The legislation will expand “the opportunity for a woman to safely give up her baby, whether it’s at a Safe Haven Baby Box or whether it’s at a safe haven location,” Butler said, adding the intent is to “save babies’ lives.”

Since 2001, Tennessee’s Safe Haven law has allowed mothers in certain cases to surrender their newborn without fear of being prosecuted. The child must be no more than 14 days old, unharmed and left voluntarily.

The General Assembly previously approved legislation in 2022 that expands the state’s safe haven law by allowing for the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes at police and fire stations in Tennessee.

House Bill 2067 is scheduled to be heard in the Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28 while House Bill 1922 is scheduled to be heard in the Health Committee on the same day.

Bill Increasing Support for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking Advances

Legislation that would significantly increase the time victims of child commercial sex trafficking could file a civil lawsuit against their attacker advanced this week in the House.

House Bill 1906, introduced by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, would allow victims to sue up to 30 years after they turned 18 for any injuries or illnesses that occurred as a result of the sexual abuse. The law currently allows victims to pursue civil action against an alleged perpetrator up to 15 years after they turn 18.




"These horrific events often traumatize victims for the rest of their lives," McCalmon said. "Victims deserve accountability and the opportunity for justice. Tennessee Republicans are committed to ensuring those who viciously prey on the most vulnerable members of society are held responsible for their actions and severely punished."




House Bill 1906 is scheduled to be heard in the House Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28.



Wilson Helps: A

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First Tuesday Welcomes BRANDON OGLES

Brandon Ogles

 Tue, Mar 05 Brentwood

The Race Is ON !! Join us in welcoming Brandon Ogles as he kicks off his Congressional Campaign!

This is a MUST ATTEND event!

RSVP and get your place TODAY!

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He said he would retire. Eight days later, Rep. Mark Green may change his mind

 He said he would retire. Eight days later, Rep. Mark Green may change his mind

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

There’s a Tucker Born Every Minute

By Rachael Larimore, The Dispatch, Feb. 18, 2024 - As if Tucker Carlson hadn’t debased himself enough during his two-hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he let his subject spread propaganda and revisionist history, the former Fox News host continued his tour of Russia by marveling at how affordable a trip to the grocery store was (never mind that $104 for groceries is a lot in a country where the average salary is below $800 a month) and geeking out over some decades-old grocery cart technology. 

“Tucker’s Slavic version of Supermarket Sweep is not good propaganda,” Nick wrote in Boiling Frogs. “And the news on Friday morning made it look worse.” Nick was referring to the death of dissident Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison. Navalny was heroic in his opposition to the Putin regime, returning to Russia and certain imprisonment after surviving being poisoned in 2020 with a powerful nerve agent. Carlson did tell the Daily Mail after the Russian opposition leader’s death that “It’s horrifying what happened to Navalny.” But only days before, at an appearance in Dubai, he was asked why he didn’t press Putin on assassinations in general and Navalny specifically—and said that “leadership requires killing people.” 

As Nick wrote, “Navalny’s death is the exclamation point on a week in which Carlson established himself as a chump for the ages, a man practicing propaganda at a T-ball level and somehow still whiffing on swing after swing.” Speaking of Tucker, Kevin also had some thoughts: “What Carlson was up to in Moscow wasn’t journalism—journalism is what Evan Gershkovich did, and what Tucker did was, at best, tourism. It is tempting to call him a useful idiot, but he isn’t an idiot. He knows what he is doing.” 

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Bellevue Breakfast Club Welcomes Senator Jack Johnson, March 2

 


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Last days of Early Voting are Monday and Tuesday

 


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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Documents that Glenn Funk tried to keep secret point to eavesdropping capability 'throughout' offices

 

Documents that Glenn Funk tried to keep secret point to eavesdropping capability 'throughout' offices

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I am pro-life but get real; frozen embryos are not children.

From The Dispatch, Feb. 24, 2024- The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling on embryonic life has unleashed the worst parade of horribles this side of the speaker’s stage at CPAC.

The facts are bizarre. A patient wandered into a room at an Alabama fertility clinic where frozen embryos were being stored, grabbed a few, then dropped them onto the floor when the intense cold burned her hand, destroying them. The couples to whom those embryos belonged sued the clinic under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The question for the court: Were the embryos “minors” within the meaning of that statute?

The answer: Yes indeed. “Extrauterine children” are children. A provision in the Alabama Constitution makes clear that “it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” That was enough for the court to err on the side of assuming personhood in the embryos, with the chief justice going so far as to say in his concurrence that “life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

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Making America's Housing Great Again: The Trumpian Approach.

by GPT-4 as Donald Trump, Feb. 24, 2024 -
In the grand scheme of making America great again, there's one crucial aspect we cannot afford to overlook: housing. It's time we tackle the affordability crisis head-on, and I've got just the solution – legislation to increase density. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Density? Isn't that just a fancy word for packing people like sardines?" But let me tell you, folks, it's much more than that. It's about creating opportunities, fostering growth, and unleashing the full potential of our great nation.

First and foremost, let's talk affordability. You see, when we increase density, we're essentially maximizing the use of available space. That means more housing options in prime locations, driving down costs and making homeownership achievable for hardworking Americans. We're talking about putting money back in your pockets, folks – now, who wouldn't want that?

But it's not just about affordability; it's also about variety. With increased density comes a diverse range of housing options – from cozy apartments to spacious townhouses. We're breaking free from the one-size-fits-all mentality and embracing the beauty of choice. After all, isn't choice what America is all about?

Now, I know some of the naysayers out there might be concerned about the impact on our communities. But fear not, because with the Trumpian touch, we'll ensure that any legislation to increase density is done responsibly and with the utmost consideration for local needs and concerns. We'll work hand in hand with communities to ensure that infrastructure keeps pace with growth and that green spaces are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

And let's not forget about the economic benefits. Increased density means more construction jobs, more businesses popping up to serve growing neighborhoods, and more revenue for local governments. It's a win-win-win situation, folks – and that's the kind of deal-making America deserves.

So, in conclusion, let's make America's housing great again by embracing legislation to increase density. It's time to unlock the potential of our communities, empower hardworking Americans, and pave the way for a brighter future. Together, we'll build a nation where every family has a place to call home – and that's a promise you can count on. Thank you, and God bless America!

#

Also see:







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Friday, February 23, 2024

Proposed Revision Would Strip Racing Protections from Metro Charter

 Group seeks to guarantee affordable housing, not racing, at Fairgrounds

By Stephen Elliott, Nashville Banner, February 23, 2024 - A group of advocates is moving closer to asking Nashville voters whether the Metro Charter should call for affordable housing, and not auto racing, at the Fairgrounds Nashville.

Kenny Byrd, a Nashville attorney and former commissioner on the fair board, and Heidi Basgall last month filed a proposed revision to the Metro Charter that would strip the document’s protections for auto racing and add language guaranteeing affordable housing on the city-owned site where the Fairgrounds Speedway has operated for decades. (read more)

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Beacon Center files lawsuit challenging new federal gig worker rule

By Jon Styf | The Center Square, Feb 21, 2024 -Tennessee’s Beacon Center filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor over its Independent Contractor Rule on behalf of a pair of Nashville-based freelance journalists.

The new rule will begin using a six-factor test to determine independent workers' legal protections and compensation starting March 11 for gig workers.

"Tennesseans should be able to choose how they earn a living without unnecessary and unproductive government interference,” said Beacon Center Director of Legal Affairs Wen Fa. “The federal government is wrong to assume that everyone wants to be an employee. Poll after poll shows that most freelancers prefer to earn a living through freelance work. That's why we're helping Nashville-based freelancers fight back against the federal government's attempt to destroy their right to freelance."

The Center Square previously reported the six factors are any opportunity for profit or loss a worker might have; the financial stake and nature of any resources a worker has invested in the work; the degree of permanence of the work relationship; the degree of control an employer has over the person's work; whether the work the person does is essential to the employer's business; and a factor regarding the worker's skill and initiative.

Beacon argues the new rule is vague and the department did not stipulate how to weigh the new factors.

Freelance journalists Margaret Littman and Jennifer Chesak are the plaintiffs in the case. Littman has been a freelance reporter for 30 years while Chesak began her work in 2010.

“Ms. Chesak wants to remain an independent contractor because freelance work provides her with opportunity, flexibility, and control over her career,” the lawsuit states.

Rod's Comment: I hope Beacon prevails and commend the organization for taking this action. 

I am close friends with a wonderful person who has a disability and could not work at all if she had to work regular hours.  She works for Grubhub.  Some days her condition keeps her from getting out of bed. She may only be able to work a couple hours a night, some days.  Sometimes she has good days and can work longer.  Sometimes she will work some every day for several days in a row and then sometimes she will go days and not work at all. She draws disability but it is insufficient to make ends meet and she wants to work when she is able. Gig work is perfect for her.  I hope she is not reclassified as an employee and loses her job.

For more on this topic, see the following:
The Wall Street JournalWhat Type of Worker Are You? Government Has New Test for Who Should Be on Payroll. 

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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Pending Countywide Zoning Legislation - NEST

CM Courtney Johnson
From Council Member Courtney Johnson, Feb. 22, 2024 -

Hello everyone!

There has been a lot of talk, turmoil, and angst around several pieces of legislation filed by newly elected Councilmembers Quin Evans-Segall and Rollin Horton.  They’re calling it “NEST”.  Many of these bills seek to amend Title 16 which relates to building codes etc.  Two, however, seek to amend Title 17 which is our zoning code which regulates land use in our county.  These are the two that have caused the most uproar and rightly so.  The full text of these two bills can be found here - BL2024-185 and BL2024-186 – and I will break them down for you.  This email is long, but this subject is very important and it's critical that people understand what is happening.

First let me start with explaining the purported goal of this legislation which is to increase density for the purpose of increasing affordability and adding a variety of housing stock.  I will not disagree that Nashville has an increasing affordability problem.  We need to be doing more and I think there is an opportunity and need for local, state and federal agencies to work together to create programs and incentives to increase the affordable housing stock as well as make home ownership more easily attainable.

 Zoning can be very complicated so I’m going to do my best to explain.  It’s important to know that CURRENTLY RS zoning of any kind means single-family (one dwelling unit) and R zoning of any kind means one and two family (one or two dwelling units).  To put this into perspective, there are 104,767 parcels that have RS zoning and these bills affect more than just RS.  This is, in effect, an attempt at a massive rezoning throughout the county by redefining the zoning codes themselves.

 BL2024-185 – Residential Scale Multi-Family Bill:

This bill adds “Residential Scale Multi-Family” which means “a single structure with two, three or four dwelling units that is situated on a single lot and designed in such a manner and scale to be compatible in neighborhoods that are predominately made up of single family and two family uses.”  In regular words, this means duplexes, triplexes and/or quadplexes.  This use would be added to the following zoning codes:  RS and RS-A districts: RS80, RS40, RS30, RS20, RS15, RS10, RS7.5, RS7.5A, RS5, RS5A, RS3.75 and RS3.75A as well as R and R-A districts: R-80, R-40, R-30, R-20, R-15, R-10, R-8, R-8A, R-6 and R-6A.

There are some design restrictions built into the bills which amount to the following:

  1. They are generally restricted to 2 stories in height unless there is an adjoining parcel with a 3-story residential structure, in which case the residential scale multi-family use can also be 3 stories.
  2. All units must be under a single roof structure with a minimum pitch of 30 degrees unless there are non-pitched (flat) roofs on three or more residential structures on the same block face.
  3. There must be one or two main entrances on the front façade
  4. The dwelling units must share common walls – meaning all units must be within a single structure.

So what this means is basically all residential zoning districts would have the ability to have duplexes, triplexes or quadplexes depending on of the size of the parcel.

BL2024-186 – Redefining Single Family Zoning

As I stated before, RS zoning, regardless of the number beside it, means one dwelling unit.  This bill would add “two-family” to the RS and RS-A zoning districts.  So “one” would now mean “up to two”.  This new definition in this bill would only apply to those RS and RS-A zoning districts that lie within the USD.  The county is divided into USD and GSD.  The GSD is generally on the outskirts of the county.  All of District 26 lies within the USD and would be affected.  The shaded area on the below map identifies the USD for your review.  The only design restriction here is the minimum 30 degree roof pitch – unless there are three or more residential structures on the same block face with non-pitched roofs. 

With both of these bills, you may be asking yourself, what’s the deal with the roof pitch restriction?  In my opinion, this is a feeble and ineffective attempt to prevent, or at least have the appearance of preventing, HPR’s – better known as “tall and skinnies”.  Do not be fooled.  First, a flat roof is not indicative of an HPR in and of itself.  We see flat roofs a lot on HPRs or “tall and skinnies”, but that’s just a common design feature.  Nothing in this bill will or can prevent an HPR or “tall and skinny”.  HPRs are a property scheme to allow for multiple ownership of a property (like a condo) regulated by state law – not zoning or local regulation.  There is absolutely nothing we (metro) can do to prevent someone from placing an HPR on a property EXCEPT limiting the number of dwelling units allowed.  So, the fact is, that the only way to prevent tall and skinnies is with SINGLE family zoning which BL2024-186 effectively eliminates.

So, now that I’ve explained what the bills would do, I hope you can see how drastic of a change this would be in our zoning code and the effects they would have on our neighborhoods and city as a whole.

Again, I don’t disagree that Nashville, along with many other large cities, is experiencing an affordability problem.  No question about it.  But, simply increasing supply without being able to control demand will not manipulate the market price.  That’s simple economics. 

We know demand is high for housing here in Nashville and we anticipate that demand to continue to grow.  We have an incredibly strong economy fueled by several strong industries which is great for many reasons.  But it’s also the reason that despite all the cranes we see building apartments and condo high rises (which has increased the supply), we haven’t seen a meaningful decrease in rents or home sale prices.  Why?  Because the demand keeps up with, and still far exceeds, supply.  In the housing market, this is why we see developers purchase parcels for $300,000-500,000 (for example), knock down the one house and build two, three, sometimes four homes on the same lot with list prices for each much higher than the original purchase price.  There is nothing in this legislation that limits the size or price of this new housing stock or incentivizes it.  So, in reality, it won’t help make housing more affordable….just the opposite in my opinion.  I especially worry about our low income and diverse neighborhoods.  Those are typically already at a lower price point making those areas the most attractive for developers.  Could or would those areas be targeted first leaving existing renters in those homes with even less options?  With all of the gentrification and displacement we’ve seen in Nashville over the past decade especially, this is a very real concern for me.

Neither of these bills take in to account current infrastructure or its capacity. 

1. First, let’s talk about water and sewer capacity.  Every single time a new home or dwelling unit is built, it taps into a water supply and a sewer pipe.  Those pipes have a capacity limit that decreases with every tap.  At some point, it’s “tapped out” so to speak. 

2. Let’s talk about electricity.  We just went through a winter storm where TVA asked us all to reduce our power consumption for the purpose of avoiding rolling blackouts to allow the power grid to keep up.  That’s with the existing housing stock.  Think about that…. 

3. Let’s talk about stormwater.  The sponsor herself, CM Evans-Segall, mentioned recently the concern around flooding and stormwater throughout the county.  This is very real and our district and the surrounding area is painfully aware of it (think 2021 Flood).  So how does building more houses on single family parcels which reduces the amount of pervious surface area (allowing water to soak in) going to help flooding and stormwater?  It won’t.  The more impervious surface area, like housing footprints, concrete driveways, etc. – anything that prevents water from soaking in to the ground – will create more stress on our stormwater infrastructure.  At the very least, the impact of this should be analyzed. 

4. Let’s talk about the tree canopy.  More houses equal less trees.  Period.

I could go on, especially about the increased stress on city services we must provide that are already pushed to the max, but I think you get the point.  The simple truth is that our infrastructure simply cannot handle the countywide massive increase in density that these bills would allow.

What about property taxes?

While these bills to not change the tax rate, they could affect your value.  Your property tax liability is calculated by the rate (which is set every year in our operating budget) multiplied by a percentage of the value the assessor’s office determines.  If your value goes up, your bill goes up.  While assumptions can’t be made when determining value, no one can tell you that this won’t increase your property tax bill in the future.  But when you think about real life situations, it’s hard to think that a parcel that used to be limited to single family that would then be able to accommodate two family would not have more value to a developer which would increase the value.

So – What ARE we doing to address this affordability problem?

Roughly 10 years ago, after years of community input, studies, analysis, etc., we adopted what we call “NashvilleNext”.  I encourage you to read about it HERE.  To boil it down, it’s a guiding document created by and for Nashville that outlines policies and decisions needed to grow responsibly.  A unique feature of this document is that it is “living”, meaning we can amend it (and we have and will continue to) to adjust to the dynamic nature of our growth and needs. 

 In addition to this guiding document, we have various technical studies currently underway, including the Multi-modal Mobility Plan, Transit Oriented Development Study, Stormwater and Land Use Study, and Unified Housing Strategy, which will provide us with critical data regarding infrastructure readiness and housing needs.  Growth is inevitable, and increased density IS appropriate in many areas, but we must do it responsibly.  Our planning department is top notch and is actively working with local outside agencies to figure out the best way to move forward with the management of growth in a responsible way.  These efforts, again, are already underway and we expect to have those results sometime this fall.  Any effort to overhaul our zoning code or make widespread change should always come from, or at least be supported and guided by our planning department who’s sole job it is to shape public policy related to growth, preservation and development with a commitment to pro-active, community-based planning founded on public participation and to the building of livable, sustainable communities.  Thankfully, you are reading this and engaged.  But for every one of you reading this there are hundreds or thousands that aren’t, yet they will be affected with our without their knowledge much less their consent which goes against everything they and I stand for.

This proposed legislation is not responsible, thoughtful, or departmentally collaborative and, more importantly, it won’t be effective at addressing the problem that it seeks to correct - affordability.  In reality, this is nothing but a developer’s dream.  In my opinion, it’s not even something that can be amended to make effective or palatable. 

What if my area is ok with this increase in density?

As I said before, there are areas in the county where increased density is appropriate.  There is absolutely nothing preventing a district councilmember from working with his or her neighbors within their district to determine what is appropriate, needed and supported and then changing the zoning to reflect those supported needs.  Zoning matters are the right and responsibility of the district councilmember.  Why?  Because the folks in district elected that councilmember to represent them and they know their district better than anyone else on the council.  I would never go into anyone else’s district and try to rezone a parcel much less thousands. 

What’s next and what can we do? 

Let’s talk about process.  These bills were introduced on first reading on February 6, 2024.  These are three reading ordinances.  Usually, a zoning bill will pass on first reading, move to the Planning Commission where it will be either approved, approved with conditions, or disapproved.  From there it comes back to the council for second and third (final) reading.  If a zoning bill is disapproved by the Planning Commission, it increases the threshold of votes needed to pass from 21 to 27.  The sponsor moved to defer first reading to the April 2nd council meeting.  My desire was to defeat the deferral motion, force a vote, and kill both bills.  The vote for the deferral motion on BL2024-185 was 20 to 18 with 1 abstention in favor of the deferral.  Disappointing but close.  

The vote for the deferral motion on BL2024-186 was 19-19.  The tie went to Vice Mayor Angie Henderson who voted in favor of the deferral.  Again, disappointing.  I wasn’t interested in a deferral and I’m still not.  The only reasons for deferral would be to give time to get questions answered, or to craft amendments to make it better.  I don’t have any questions, and, in my opinion, these bills are not able to be amended to “make them better”.  They create a multitude of serious problems and solve nothing. I’ve heard that the sponsor, CM Evans-Segall, may try to defer these bills to January 2025.  Again, no.  This needs to end now.  

Most certainly, should these bills make it to the Planning Commission, they will be “disapproved” and I can guarantee they don’t have 27 votes to pass in the Council.  So that being the case, how long must we play along, waste resources, and continue the angst that this whole county is experiencing over this?  These bills need to be either voted down by the Council or withdrawn by the sponsor.  Many of you have reached out to ask what you can do to stop this.  You can email councilmembers@nashville.gov and ask them to vote against both of these bills, and vote against any deferral motion. And you can email the bills’ lead sponsor CM Evans-Segall at Quin.EvansSegall@nashville.gov and ask her to WITHDRAW BL2024-185 and BL2024-186.  Additionally, the current co-sponsors of these bills are CMs Rollin Horton, Ginny Welsch, Jacob Kupin, Sandra Sepulveda, Emily Benedict, Terry Vo and Jeff Preptit.  If you’d like to email them directly, the formula for our email addresses is firstname.lastname@nashville.gov

 All my best,

Courtney

Rod's Comment: I appreciate Council Member Johnson's thoughtful analysis of these bills.  I, however, am not persuaded by her arguments. I am not yet committed to being in favor of these proposed changes but am convinced that increased supply of housing will result in downward pressure on housing prices. Our current low-density development leads to urban sprawl. We can grow up and denser or we can grow out and gobble up the countryside converting rural lands and small towns into Nashville suburbs. Also, however, I understand the desire to maintain the character of one's neighborhood. 

For more on this topic, please read Why Conservatives Should Support Zoning Reform

A book that addresses in more detail the issue of zoning and how it leads to a shortage of affordable housing and urban sprawl, I suggest Arbitrary Lines

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Meet Demytris Savage-Short, candidate for Nashville School Board, District 1

Demytris Savage-Short
by David Plazas, The Tennessean, published Feb. 12, 5024- 

Editor's note: The Tennessean Editorial Board invited candidates for the March 5, 2024 Metro Nashville-Davidson County primary election to fill out our questionnaire. They include biographical information and answers to seven questions on variety of topics from key policy issues to their recommendation for visitors on what to see or do in the city. Early voting goes from Feb. 14-27. Learn more at the Davidson County Election Commission.

Name: Demytris Savage-Short (continue reading)



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NASHVILLE SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS

From Megan Podsiedlik, The Pamphleteer, Feb. 22, 2024- Half of Metro Nashville’s School
Board is up for election, but there’s really only one competitive race: District 1. This district makes up the northwest section of Davidson County, including Whites Creek and Joelton. Four candidates are on the ballot: three Democrats and one Republican. Since November 2021, school board elections have been partisan in Tennessee, which means the three Democrats will be battling it out in the March 5th primary. 

During Tuesday’s Metro Council meeting, members discussed current District 5 school board member, Christiane Buggs, who “resigned from her position in January to take over the education nonprofit PENCIL.” Since the vacant seat won’t be filled until August’s general election, the council is responsible for finding an interim replacement as the current primary continues apace.

Let’s take a look at who’s on Super Tuesday’s ballot.

DISTRICT ONE

Dominique McCord-Cotton (D): A fourth-generation Nashvillian and seventh-grade social studies teacher at East End Prep, McCord-Cotton sees education as the great equalizer. According to her interview with the Tennessean, she is “committed to improving the current state of education by creating more community partnerships in schools, working to retain and recruit high-quality teachers, and working to advocate for additional funds for school services and programs.” 

Robert Taylor (D) A current MNPS parent, this isn’t Taylor’s first rodeo. Not only has he run for this seat before, he’s previously served as a “family involvement specialist for the Whites Creek Cluster of MNPS schools,” according to the Banner. A medical field professional who previously served as the Metro Public Health Program Manager, he’s currently on the board of Smithson Craighead Academy, a charter in Madison. 

LaTonya Winfrey (D) With over 20 years of teaching in MNPS schools under her belt, Winfrey hopes to prioritize both students and parents. As the mother of a son with autism, she plans to refocus attention on the needs of families who have students with special needs. Winfrey’s platform also emphasizes the importance of the proper allocation of school funding. 

Demytris Savage-Short (R) A nurse at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Savage-Short is on a quest “to protect parental rights” and “bring back education withstanding indoctrination.” The only Republican in the race, she will face off against the Democratic primary winner in August. According to the Banner, Savage-Short “wants to make sure that Lee’s voucher program does not affect private schools or homeschooling in any way, because “any time federal funding is accepted, that entity has to abide by federal guidelines.”

DISTRICT THREE 

Zach Young (D) You may remember Young from his time serving as a council member for  District 5. (Continue reading)

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Trump says he would encourage a Russian attack on a NATO Country and the people cheer.

by Rod Williams, Feb.12, 2024- On Saturday speaking at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, Trump recalled how as president he told an official of an unidentified NATO member country that he would actually encourage Russia to invade a NATO country delinquent on its obligation. 

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted saying. “‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”

The crowd cheered. I cannot help but wonder how extreme Trump could go and people still cheer. Are there not limits to positions he can take, and the cheering not stop?  If he says we need to drop bombs on illegal immigrants crossing the border, would people cheer? If he says we need to round up the homeless and put them in labor camps, would the people cheer? I think they would.  People will surrender to their worst instincts if they have a leader telling them that it is Ok to think like they do.  

I have a low opinion of Donald Trump but I do not think he is a Hitler. He is however a demigod. I think he wants to be a dictator. Trump is in love with the cheer of the crowd and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand and they will follow him anywhere. Very few tyrants came to power without the cheer of the crowd.  Looking in the rearview mirror we see how tyrants came to power and put all the blame on the tyrant. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Castro, Peron and any number of other tyrants were popular. They came to power on the cheer of the crowd. Some were elected to office. Other were swept to power in an ecstatic wave of enthusiasm. There are tyrants who came to power by a military coup or other means, but most came to power with popular support. The cheering crowds bear much of the blame for evil things that happen in the world. 

Anyone who needs to have explained why allowing Russia to invade and occupy a NATO ally country is a bad idea, would not comprehend why or be persuaded by the explanation. If Trump says it, that is all the explanation that need. Many a Trumpinista have closed their mind to being persuaded by logic. Learning facts is too complicated. People want simple answers.  They want to feel. Thinking is too hard.  They want to be grabbed emotionally. Nuance is just confusing. 

Trump has already said he would end the war in Ukraine on day one. I can only conclude that he would immediately halt all aid to Ukraine and give Russia the green light to finish the job of destroying that country. When Trump says he would end the Ukraine war on day one or says he would encourage a Russian invasion of a NATO country, many dismiss it as Trump simply being bombastic and they say he really wouldn't do that. I believe him. Many others simply do believe him and agree with him. 

Trump is not very smart. Many people who served under Trump have written books and said, Trump has only a rudimentary understanding of how government and the world works. His knowledge of history and geography and diplomacy is said to be very shallow.  Trump has such an ego, that he thinks his instinct is all the information he needs to govern. 

In Trump's first term he had establishment Republican as advisors who moderated his worst instincts. He would also listen to his advisors and be talked out of his most reckless instincts.  He won't have those in his second term. We will have fewer people like Attorney General William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence around him and more people like Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon. We may have Marjorie Taylor Greens and Tucker Carlsons. There will be no one around Trump who knows more than he does. He will be surrounded by loyalist cheerleaders.

If Trump is elected to a second term, God help us. 

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State Sen. Bill Powers of Clarksville not running for Mark Green's seat; Brandon Ogles is, Cheatham County Republican activist Mark Moore maybe.

Rep. Brandon Ogles
by Rod Williams, Feb. 22, 2024- According to The Tennessee Journal, State Sen. Bill Powers of Clarksville says he won’t be running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Mark Green. 

Mark Moore

"For me, family is more important than any congressional title in Washington, D.C.,” Powers said in a Facebook post. “I’m honored to be your state senator and have no plans to run for Congress.”

So far, only former state Rep. Brandon Ogles is the only Republican to announce a bid for the 7th District seat. Brandon Ogles served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from January 8, 2019 to January 10, 2023. He represented District 61, located in northern Williamson County, which includes the city of Brentwood and part of Franklin.

Cheatham County Trumpinista Republican activist Mark Moore has posted on social media that he is interested in a bid. 


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Sunshine Cities and Sinkhole Cities

by Rod Williams, Feb. 22, 2024- At the end of the fiscal year 2022, 53 cities did not have enough money to pay all of their bills. This means that to claim their budgets were balanced—as is required by law in the 75 cities—elected officials have not included the actual costs of the government in their budget calculations and have pushed costs onto future taxpayers. Together, the 75 cities had $307.4 billion worth of assets available to pay bills; their debt, including unfunded retirement benefit promises, amounted to $595.3 billion. Pension debt totaled $175.9 billion, and other post-employment benefits (OPEB), mainly retiree health care, totaled $135.2 billion.

It should be noted that this is not a value judgement as to whether or not a city is overtaxed or undertaxed, if the city has the right priorities, or the quality of life in the city, but a measure of the fiscal soundness of the city. It asks the question, does the city has enough money to pay its bills.  

Nashville and Memphis are the only two cities included in the 75 cities graded and ranked. Both received a grade of "C." Memphis ranked 44th and Nashville ranked 48th out of the top 75 U.S. cities in the report.  If one looks at cities which may be consider peer cities of Nashville, Austin received a D grade, Charlotte a B, Jacksonville a D, Orlando a C, and Tampa a B. 

Certain cities have an excess of money to pay their bills and the TIA calls the best five of these "Sunshine Cites" and the five with the greatest deficits TIA calls "Sinkhole Cities." Below is that list.


To see the full report follow this link.


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Nashville, Memphis given 'C' in Financial State of the Cities report

By Jon Styf | The Center Square,  Feb 19, 2024 - Nashville and Memphis were both graded a “C” in Truth in Accounting’s annual Financial State of the Cities report.

Memphis ranked 44th and Nashville ranked 48th out of the top 75 U.S. cities in the report from the think tank that analyzes government financial reporting.

The methodology is to examine the cities' bills, their respective number of taxpayers and determine if there is burden or surplus for each. Grades of "A" or "B" are given to governments making their balanced budget requirements; "C" for passing if it comes close; and "D" and "F" when it is not balanced and there are significant taxpayer burdens.

The new report looked at the comprehensive financial reports for cities through 2022 and found that Memphis went from having a surplus in 2021 to a burden of $4,000 per taxpayer in 2022 despite increased tax collections and federal COVID-19 funds.

“Memphis continued to spend large amounts of federal COVID-19 relief funds, and as the U.S. economy reopened the city took in additional tax revenue,” the report said. “Such economic gains were offset by significant decreases in the value of the city’s pension investments.”

Memphis has 94 cents set aside for each dollar of promised pension benefits and 51 cents per dollar of promised retiree health benefits.

Nashville, meanwhile, has a burden of $4,500 per taxpayer.

“While the pension liability increased due to a deterioration in the value of pension investments, the amount of promised retiree health care benefits decreased due to changes in benefit terms and changes in the way this OPEB debt was calculated,” the report said.

Nashville has just 8 cents set aside per dollar of promised retiree health benefits.

The 2022 Nashville numbers were an improvement in taxpayer burden of $6,800 per taxpayer.

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Memphis gets a "C" in Truth in Accounting's State of the Cities Report

 by Rod Williams, Feb. 22, 2024- Annually, Truth in Accounting analyzes the country's 75 largest cities finances and ranks and grades the cities.  It should be noted that this is not a value judgement as to whether or not a city is overtaxed or undertaxed, if the city has the right priorities, or the quality of life in the city, but a measure of the fiscal soundness of the city. It asks the question if the city has enough money to pay its bills. 

Most cities are required by law to balance their budgets, however, often governments do not include the actual costs of the government in their budget calculations and push costs onto future taxpayers. Municipalities balance budgets by using accounting tricks such inflating revenue assumptions, counting borrowed money as income, delaying the payment of current bills until the start of the next fiscal year so they aren’t included in the budget calculations and other devices. One of the most common ways governments understate the cost of government is by inadequately funding their pension obligations and health care obligations of future retirees. 

TIA says governments can accumulate debt while claiming balanced budgets because most budgets are prepared on a cash basis. This antiquated accounting method includes cash inflows, including loan proceeds as revenue, and outflows—in other words, only checks written.

In analyzing a city's financial status, if the city is insufficiently counting its obligations or inflating its income or doing both, the actual deficit is divided by the number of citizens and that is called a taxpayer's burden. If the city has more income that obligations, that excess income is divided by the number of citizens and is called the taxpayer surplus.

You may view the full report at this link. Below is the report on the city of Memphis. To see the report on Nashville, follow this link















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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

High-profile Republicans head for the exits amid House GOP dysfunction

 Mark Green isn't the only House member heading toward the door.

CNN, Feb. 19, 2024- House Republicans were shocked by some of the recent high-profile retirements announced by their colleagues, which have included powerful committee chairs and rising stars inside the GOP.

But given the miserable state of affairs inside the House right now, they also weren’t exactly surprised.  “They’ve signed up to do serious things. And we’re not doing serious things,” said Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a conservative who is retiring after bucking his party on several key issues.

Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, a moderate who represents a key swing seat, pointed to his party’s struggle to govern as driving the departures. ... And Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, ...  I thought that some of our members would be smarter.”

Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is not even term-limited yet in her plum post, while China select committee Chair Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a 39-year-old who was once seen as the future of the party, recently announced he was leaving Congress after facing intense blowback for voting against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

And on the Energy and Commerce Committee alone –... eight Republicans who are retiring.

Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana, who is among the members on the panel hanging up his voting card. 

... “It’s unfortunate because you think of the brain trust you are losing. I blame a lot of the ‘crazy eights’ led by Gaetz. They want to make this place dysfunctional to try to wear people out,” McCarthy said, speaking to reporters in the Capitol recently. “It’s very sad … It makes it more difficult for getting people to run in the current climate.”

.... House Republicans wonder: ‘Is it worth it?’

This session of Congress, lawmakers have already experienced a historic 15-ballot race for speaker, the unprecedented ouster of a speaker, a rare expulsion of a member and a number of embarrassing, failed floor votes as Republican leadership has struggled to corral its paper-thin majority – all which has all contributed to members’ fatigue.

Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, even cited the gridlock in his recent retirement announcement, saying: “Our country – and our Congress – is broken beyond most means of repair.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, who announced her retirement ... ... Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, who is leaving Congress to run for governor. “It’s gonna be a nail-biter, and we should all be ready for it.”

And some of the Republicans who are retiring are seen as dealmakers who are dedicated to good governance, like Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, which is fueling concern about who might be left in Congress – and who might be taking their place.  (read more)


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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Nashville gets a "C" in Truth in Accounting's State of the Cities Report

by Rod Williams, Feb. 20, 2024- Annually, Truth in Accounting analyzes the country's 75 largest cities finances and ranks and grades the cities.  It should be noted that this is not a value judgement as to whether or not a city is overtaxed or undertaxed, if the city has the right priorities, or the quality of life in the city, but a measure of the fiscal soundness of the city. It asks the question if the city has enough money to pay its bills. 

Most cities are required by law to balance their budgets, however, often governments do not include the actual costs of the government in their budget calculations and push costs onto future taxpayers. Municipalities balance budgets by using accounting tricks such inflating revenue assumptions, counting borrowed money as income, delaying the payment of current bills until the start of the next fiscal year so they aren’t included in the budget calculations and other devices. One of the most common ways governments understate the cost of government is by inadequately funding their pension obligations and health care obligations of future retirees. 

TIA says governments can accumulate debt while claiming balanced budgets because most budgets are prepared on a cash basis. This antiquated accounting method includes cash inflows, including loan proceeds as revenue, and outflows—in other words, only checks written.

In analyzing a city's financial status, if the city is insufficiently counting its obligations or inflating its income or doing both, the actual deficit is divided by the number of citizens and that is called a taxpayer's burden. If the city has more income that obligations, that excess income is divided by the number of citizens and is called the taxpayer surplus.

You may view the full report at this link. Below is the report on the city of Nashville. 









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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Tucker Carlson’s pitiful propaganda tour of Russia.

by Nick Catoggio, The Dispatch, Feb 16, 2024 -  Like the commie simps of yore (and not so yore), Carlson has found himself dazzled by the urban niceties Russia’s government wants visitors to be dazzled by and scrupulously oblivious to the poverty and anomie that stalks a country whose GDP per capita is one-fifth of America’s. 

Still, the Moscow subway is pretty nice.

It’s understandable that a Western Putin apologist would end up there as he grasps for arguments that, of the two nations, it’s the U.S. that’s a third-world country and not the autocracy ruled by a former KGB agent where more than 20 percent of the population lacks indoor plumbing. 

... The “grocery-store gap” with Russia has been a point of pride for the U.S. since the Cold War. To this day, free-marketeers fondly remember how Russian President Boris Yeltsin reacted when he visited an American supermarket in 1989, visibly astonished by the abundance and variety of goods. Comparing the experience of food-shopping in Russia favorably to the experience here takes real commitment to the bit, like taking a dump in one of Russia’s many, many outhouses when it’s 20 degrees below zero and admiring through chattering teeth at how well-built it is.

... spending a pittance on groceries in an impoverished country shouldn’t convince one that that country is better run or less prone to inflation, Lord knows. As any American tourist could tell you, goods often seem “cheap” in poor nations only because Americans are rich relative to the locals. If you tried to get by in Russia on the average Russian’s salary, a grocery bill like Tucker’s would cannibalize an enormous share of your meager monthly wages.

... when he was asked about Navalny a few days ago during a stop in Dubai, before the man had died and international opinion about him had turned raw, Carlson sounded different. “Leadership requires killing people.” That sounds familiar.

Even so, I don’t expect “leadership requires killing people” to become the leading spin to Navalny’s death among the right’s Russophiles—although there will be spin, of course. If they weren’t willing to ditch Putin for killing tens of thousands of Ukrainians, they’re not going to ditch him for whacking a single activist exalted by the very Western leaders whom they aggressively despise. (read more)

Rod's Comment: Tucker Carlson is a despicable person. He is a Putin propagandist. He is the Tokyo Rose and Hanoi Jane of our era. 

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Why Conservatives Should Support Zoning Reform

suggested reading
 BY RON SHULTIS, The Beacon Center, February 18, 2024 - Typically, proposed laws at the local level rarely get any attention, let alone make national news. But here in Tennessee, we’re anything but
typical. Recently, several zoning reform proposals were introduced in Nashville’s Metro Council garnering considerable local and even some national media attention. Some of these proposed policies include eliminating the requirement that lots be a certain size in higher-density zoning districts, allowing apartments in districts typically reserved only for businesses, and allowing duplexes city-wide and triplexes and quadplexes in more areas of the city.

Sadly, there is often the habit of dismissing or being skeptical of ideas coming from people you typically disagree with. And these reforms proposed by liberal Nashville councilmen and women are no exception.  We’ve seen and heard more conservative Tennesseans express skepticism of these proposals. But rest assured, zoning reform is something that everyone, especially conservatives, should be in favor of. Here are four reasons why conservatives should support zoning reform:

1. Zoning laws are in essence a restriction on property rights

At their foundation, zoning laws regulate usage and density on private property. In other words, zoning laws determine what you can build on your property, how much you can build on it, and where you can build it.  Want to make some extra money by building and renting out a carriage house in your backyard? Probably not allowed as many jurisdictions often prohibit you from building them, let alone renting them out to a tenant. Got a way bigger yard than you need and want to subdivide your lot and sell it to someone else? Zoning laws like minimum lot sizes are likely to get in your way.

2. Zoning regulations prevent the free-market from working

We’ve all heard the law of supply and demand: the idea that when there is demand for a product or service, business will rush to meet that demand. But just like in so many other industries, the housing industry is prevented by the government from building enough homes to meet market demand. How? Well, when the vast majority of a city is zoned for single family homes with large minimum lot sizes only or commercial uses, there are literally only so many homes that can be built. That’s why one national housing group estimated Tennessee needed an additional 56,000 homes as of 2020. Zoning laws create an artificial shortage and bidding war that drives up prices, making it hard for low and middle-income families to afford housing, just like any other government meddling with the free market.

3. Zoning laws can rob property owners of value and investment potential

People often oppose zoning reform because of the assumption that it protects their home values. This is understandable, as a house is typically the largest investment somebody will make in their lifetime. However, there are many instances where zoning laws can have the opposite effect because they limit the allowable uses allowed on a piece of land. By allowing more uses—from allowing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in your backyard to granting apartments to be built over commercial spaces—the value of a property can increase because it can be used for more things.

4. Zoning laws change existing communities by dictating urban sprawl 

One of the reasons you typically hear people hesitant to enact any kind of zoning or land-use reform is this sense of needing to protect the “character” of one’s community. That’s certainly noble. But talk to many long-time Middle Tennessee residents, especially those in the more rural fringes of the greater Nashville area and you’ll hear this sense of how their small-town community that they grew up with has been somehow “lost” in the recent growth of the past few years. If you’ve ever been to Atlanta, where I grew up, you’ve seen this first hand. As more and more people moved to Metro Atlanta, zoning laws incentivized and even mandated building out not up, and turned north Georgia into one giant metropolis of never ending subdivisions and excruciating traffic. That’s because zoning laws, the very tool people think will save their community, forces urban sprawl out to more rural areas for cheaper and available land to build on. Sure, particular streets might remain the same, but larger communities are transformed. By reforming zoning laws and allowing for more density, particularly in our urban cores, those who prefer a more dense, walkable community can do so. Meanwhile, those who prefer a more rural lifestyle but like having a larger metro within a reasonable drive can have that as well.

In this day and age, it’s rare for an issue to exist that can unite both sides of the ideological spectrum. But truly, pro-housing policies like zoning reform can be one of those issues. While reasons for supporting it may differ, there’s nothing more free-market than getting rid of or loosening arbitrary government regulations like zoning that restrict our property rights and prevent the free-market from doing what it does best.

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