Saturday, May 18, 2024

Middle School Girls engage in a Food Fight. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) got locked in a heated back-and-forth during a House Oversight Committee hearing.


By Rod Williams, May 18,2024- What!!?  "Is she a porn star?" "I think your fake eyelashes are messing up ..." "Oh, Baby Girl." "I have no idea what you just said." "Look, calm down, calm down." "If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebodies' beliefs, blond, bad built, butch body
that would not be engaging in personalities. Correct? What now?"

I must admit this made me laugh, but it is disgusting. This is so juvenile. I am almost embarrassed that I found it funny. This is what debate in the House has become? God help us. 

The Spat That Made Congress Even Worse - The Atlantic: Three high-profile women in Congress got into it last night during a meeting of the House Oversight Committee, in what some outlets have described as a “heated exchange.” But that label feels too dignified. Instead, the whole scene played out like a Saturday Night Live sketch: a cringeworthy five-minute commentary on the miserable state of American politics.

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Households Earning $300k+ a Year Are Biggest Beneficiaries of Biden's New Student Debt ‘Cancellation’ Plan

By Jon Miltimore, Washington Examiner, April 26, 2024- President Joe Biden introduced new provisions to his student debt relief plan earlier this month, and the primary beneficiaries are high-income earners, according to a new analysis released by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

While Biden’s 2023 SAVE Plan already put taxpayers on the hook for $475 billion, the new plans add another $84 billion to the tally — largely by “canceling” the student debt of some 750,000 households making more than $312,000 a year on average. ... the public treasury is being used to pay off the student loans of families who represent the top 5% of earners in the United States. (link)

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Friday, May 17, 2024

The Rogues Gallery Making the Pilgrimage to Kiss Trump's a… ring


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The Metro Council at the Budget Hearings ask, is air quality worst since removing auto emission testing, and do dating apps lead to STD?

 Read all about it at the Pamphleteer

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61st Annual State of Metro Address, Full Text. The Mayor is Reasonable; sets the Right Tone.

Delivered on May 14, 2024 by Mayor Freddie O'Connell

Good morning, everyone.

Vice Mayor Henderson, Pro Tem Suara, Budget and Finance Chair Porterfield, members of this historic Metro Council, honored guests, and my fellow Nashvillians... I'm honored to present the 61st annual State of Metro address on behalf of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

I want to thank our hosts here at The Fairgrounds Nashville as well as our sign language, and Spanish and Arabic language interpreters who are helping us reach more of our community. This is the first time a State of Metro address has been offered in multiple languages. Fifteen years after the successful Nashville for All of Us campaign, we're continuing to take steps to be a welcoming city.

I want to thank the diverse and talented people who make up my team and the Metro government workforce.

I want to thank all of our event participants who have helped us with this special meeting of the Metro Council.

And I want to recognize and thank my family, without whose support I couldn't do this work.

Today I can—and will—tell you a lot of things about Metro, but as I do, I remember a thing a wise man once noted—Nashville is bigger than Metro.

So in talking about what we've achieved, what our priorities are, what I think is going well, what our challenges are—we know that local government isn't the only part of your life.

But I also know that when it is part of your life, we have to be operating at our best.

We got started right out of the gates with three resident-led transition committees focused on How Nashville Moves, How Nashville Works, and How Nashville Grows. Their work has informed our work for the past 7 months, including how we built our team.

Today we'll be talking about a lot of numbers, and they matter. But I know it matters more when we pave the pothole you encounter every day than that we've filled 20,000 potholes this year alone.

I'd like to start by talking about where we are. As in, where we physically are today. Spoiler alert: I have no big announcements for you today about the Fairgrounds, but there are some things worth sharing about this place's past and what we know about its present.

When I was a kid, we used to come to Fair Park. By the time I was enjoying the rides, the old wooden roller coaster was already decommissioned. It was like a fossil. A decaying monument to a bygone age. What an early indicator that things change and leave the bittersweetness not just of memory but even the fear of missing out in their wake.

Now that coaster skeleton and all of Fair Park is gone, along with Opryland. Those of us who've lived here for a while have lost a lot of beloved places. And there's a shared grief every time we lose a Rotier's or a KnockOut Wings.

But that same childhood also didn't have the current downtown library, an actual zoo, or a Frist Art Museum.

Later, as a teenager, working at my first job at The Great Escape on Broadway, we used to head to a warehouse in what is now The Gulch and sling boxes of surplus inventory onto a truck and head to the flea market, where we'd sell comic books for a quarter and other stuff you might find at the register at the main store.

I loved working the flea market even after Fair Park was gone. We're about to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the flea market at this very spot — May 24 through 26 — and I guarantee you: you'll find a good deal on something.

Now at that first job, I was working for the minimum wage. $4.25 an hour back then. I got a raise. Then the federal minimum wage went up, and it was higher than my raise.

The federal minimum wage—now at $7.25/hour—hasn't changed in 15 years... But we know the cost of living in Nashville has. And we're trying to make sure that we're making progress toward paying everyone in Metro a living wage. With this year's budget recommendation, we're increasing the lowest hourly rate for full-time government employees in the city to $20/hour.

More recently, we've taken our family to the Nashville Fair, an ongoing testament to the fact that this is a fairgrounds.

And this past weekend, our family took the trusty 52A Nolensville for free to the Nashville SC game and back.

A fair, a vibrant expo center, a soccer-specific stadium, affordable housing soon enough, and, yes, racing, for 120 years.

Here's what I can tell you—people want to be at this site. And that's why it's so important that we've improved transit access, added sidewalks, and made it ever so slightly easier to ride your bike to a game.

But it's taken us years just to make incremental improvements, and we'd like to move faster. We're going to need your help.

I'm going to tell you another story about why this matters.

My parents always stressed the value of education to me and my brother, so I worked hard to get the best education I thought I could. And when I was 18, I thought it was worth it to pick up some student debt to study computer science.

I came back to Nashville, degree in hand ... along with tens of thousands of dollars of loans. And I aggressively started paying down that debt. Within a few years, I was debt-free.

As a reward, the car I was driving broke down, and I faced a choice—go back into debt almost immediately or figure out something else. I bought a bike and figured out our transit system and learned how much money it's possible to save when you don't have a car note, car insurance, maintenance, fuel and parking costs. For me, it was enough for a down payment on our house in Salemtown.

More people deserve the opportunity I had for a pathway to financial empowerment. More people deserve to have an option to get home on the bus when their late shift ends sometime after midnight.

More people deserve to come to the Fairgrounds without fighting traffic just to fight for a parking space.

More people deserve to walk to the schools and small businesses around the corner without being in a ditch or on a shoulder.

And more people deserve to catch green lights more often when there's no traffic coming the other way.

More people, like Mary Roskilly's daughter, Rory Miller, can ride the 17 bus directly from her 12 South home to Hillsboro High without going downtown.

More people like Prince's Hot Chicken General Manager Tamara Kelly can find more employees to work at Tanger Outlet, which will have new bus service.

More people like Joy Andal, a power wheelchair user, can have more options with WeGo and their Access services to be able to check in on friends and maintain independence.

And more people like Nashville State students can get to class and pursue their dreams.

It's possible to do this. Most other American cities our size have figured it out.

Now we've got our chance. We took a decade of plans and tens of thousands of pieces of input that you've shared during that time and built a transportation improvement program. It's called Choose How You Move, and it's focused on sidewalks, signals, service, and safety. You can learn more about it at

Here's a summary of what's inside:

  • 86 miles of sidewalk improvements. When combined with annual capital spending, this will let us complete the entire WalkNBike Nashville priority sidewalk network.
  • 54 miles of upgraded corridors to provide faster, more reliable transit options, better sidewalks, and improved safety on our busiest roads.
  • A transit system that runs 24/7/365 because Nashvillians don't just work from 9-to-5. We're doubling the frequent service and adding nearly double the number of crosstown routes.
  • 12 community transit centers that connect to each other, so riders don't have to go downtown just to get to some other part of the city. You'll see a preview when the new Dr. Ernest Rip Patton, Jr., North Nashville Transit Center opens on June 18.
  • 17 new park and ride facilities.
  • 35 miles of upgraded and new bicycle facilities.
  • And the thing that might help us all the most: upgrades to almost 600 traffic signals – two of every three traffic lights in Nashville – to make sure we all hit fewer red lights after Nashville SC games or in our daily commutes. This will help people moving around the city whether they're walking, biking, taking transit, or driving.

These are the things Nashville residents have been asking for. They're the things we know we need.

So here's what happens next. Under the terms of the state law that lets us pursue dedicated funding for transportation and infrastructure, we're waiting on an independent audit. Once we've got that back, if it's good, then we'll ask our Metro Council to put this program on the ballot.

And if they do, then this November, we can finally get moving. Let's go.

I can't tell you enough about how much I love working with our team in the mayor's office, the larger team of Metro, and the people just outside who give so much of their time and energy to making what we do go.

Today's a good day to take stock of what we've already accomplished, what's happened along the way, and the work we know lies ahead.

In addition to getting that transportation improvement program done, in 7 short months, we prepared a Capital Spending Plan—our buy stuff budget—that pulled together a lot of community priorities, a lot of departmental priorities, and a lot of Metro Council priorities. These are shared priorities, and the Metro Council unanimously approved our approach.

In 7 short months, we sprinted from a procurement process that recommended we work with The Fallon Company to develop the East Bank, and we did, from day one. Our Chief Development Officer Bob Mendes worked diligently with multiple people from our Metro team and other partners to create a deal that does some important things.

Last year, we talked about a Nashville for Nashvillians, and Bob worked on this principle intently. Thinking about the things that made the neighborhood and community experiences he's known throughout his life great, and he tweaked the dials to make sure that things like churches and childcare, local businesses and jobs, sidewalks and transit. These things connect people no matter what they earn. Bob and a great team worked hard to set us up to build—from scratch—a real neighborhood where real Nashvillians live.

45 percent of the homes in the first phase of development — 695 out of 1550 — will be affordable.

We spent a lot of time negotiating for a cluster of new neighborhoods that will offer homes for people of all walks of life, and we want more of our neighborhoods to feel this way.

And, again, this Metro Council approved the deal unanimously.

These are moments when the State of Metro is strong.

We did all this while we suffered conspiracy theorists reopening the wounds of the Covenant School shooting, while we grieved with Chief Drake over the loss of his only son under extremely trying circumstances, while we weathered deadly and devastating tornadoes, while we endured winter weather that only comes along once every quarter century, while we responded to plane crashes and disappearances.

That's the part where the State of Metro is exhausted. Research shows we gravitate toward bad news and negativity.

So it's important to reflect on the progress we're making, even when we endure so much. Maybe especially because we endure so much.

So here are a few key bright spots:

The police department's Partners in Care partnership with the Metro Public Health Department and Mental Health Cooperative is now operating countywide – in every precinct – as of May 1st. These co-responder units, where officers are paired with mental health clinicians, have responded to more than 27,000 service calls since launch. That's our first and second responders working together. I'm proud to have supported the program as a Council member and continue to do so as mayor.

We've revised our overall approach to public safety, adding community-based safety programs and refining traditional policing programs, and it's working. Through the end of April, homicide in our city is down 25.6 percent when compared with the first four months of 2023. January through April, violent crime is down 5.4 percent, with drops in commercial robberies and aggravated assault. Gun thefts from vehicles are down 35 percent year-over-year. Since February 1st, MNPD's special initiative to combat car theft and related crimes has resulted in 401 arrests and the recoveries of 229 stolen vehicles and 92 guns.

There have been 127 new hires at our Department of Emergency Communications in the last 15 months, and the DEC is now in compliance with national call answering standards for emergency and non-emergency calls for the first time in department history. With 92 percent of 9-1-1 calls answered within 15 seconds. And that's on top of a 66 percent improvement in non-emergency calls answered within 20 seconds.

Since September, we've also welcomed 68 new recruits into the Nashville Fire Department. We've increased staffing in both fire operations and EMS. And we're on pace – for the first time in years—to have the police department fully staffed by the end of this year. We're adding new heroes by the day.

I want to also recognize another group of heroes. This has been a great year for Metro Nashville Public Schools. It's one thing to be recognized by your community. It's another to be upheld as a national model.

Our Metro Schools recently received national recognition in the Education Recovery Scorecard as one of just two large urban districts in the top 10 for both reading growth and math growth.

And we've expanded our University MNPS partnerships, which create full-ride scholarship opportunities at local colleges and universities. That includes the new Nashville Vanderbilt Scholars Program, announced two weeks ago. I just spoke at the Nashville State commencement, where 34 Early College scholars graduated as part of the remarkable partnership between Metro Schools and Nashville State.

Since the start of the school year in the fall, we've opened a rebuilt Goodlettsville Elementary and brand-new James Lawson High School. And we've started construction on three completely reinvented elementary schools, with groundbreaking ceremonies for Lakeview, Paragon Mills, and Percy Priest.

We're proposing to invest $18m in textbooks in this year's budget, while also ensuring that we continue an expansion of Community Achieves, nurses in every school, high-impact tutoring, summer learning camps, Saturday instruction, and mentorship, among other key investments.

A few months ago, we had an exciting announcement at the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Healthcare Center, where a partnership with Nashville Health and others will be working to address high blood pressure and hypertension in the 37208 ZIP code. I was there to announce Metro committing $1 million to support the project.

And as our standalone Office of Homeless Services, about to celebrate its one-year anniversary, continues its work supporting our most vulnerable residents, we'll be opening the city's first public permanent supportive housing center in a few weeks, named after the late Father Charles Strobel.

Many years, the State of Metro address includes new initiatives announced in the budget.

This year, though, the big things we're doing are happening outside our traditional operating budget process.

With this year's operating budget—our do stuff budget—given those big things, we wanted to keep moving ahead in a year where we saw revenue growth returning to earth and where we knew we wanted to continue some pilot programs set up with one-time federal funding because they were working. So we're keeping the lights on, have a strong pay plan, are deeply investing in our public schools and affordable housing, and otherwise living within our means with this year's operating budget.

And we're still investing all over the county — a new park at Mariposa, expanding the park at Mill Ridge, finishing those three new elementary schools, two new fire stations, planning a new library at Hadley — with our buy stuff budget.

We're building Nashville's next great neighborhoods on the East Bank while investing deeply in the neighborhoods we already have, and we're trying to serve you better through tools like hubNashville while we're at it.

But I also told you last year that I want you to stay.

And before I end today, I want to share with you a few things that I hope will make it just a little easier to stay or give you something to share with someone else that makes it easier for them.

Sometimes when I speak with community groups, there's a chorus of, "I didn't know that" at the end. This is probably the biggest community group I've ever spoken to, so I don't want you to leave empty handed.

For starters, Rep. Harold Love did something big last year, increasing the income thresholds for people who are eligible to participate in our property tax freeze and relief program, administered here in Nashville by Trustee Erica Gilmore. I want more people to sign up for this program than ever before. It's great when property values go up, but when you're on a fixed income, it's not great when your property taxes go up if you're trying to stay in your home.

Next, I want to let you know about the Financial Empowerment Center. This is an absolutely free financial consulting service supported by Metro that has helped Nashvillians eliminate millions of dollars of bad debt and increase savings by millions of dollars over the past decade. If you're experiencing any financial stress whatsoever, make an appointment today. This is available to everyone.

This is probably the most important year yet for TennCare re-enrollment since COVID. If you're not sure about your status, please check it. And if you need any help, get in touch with Get Covered Tenn.

NES, our local utility, participates in TVA's Home Uplift program, which can result in free upgrades to your home that save you money on your utility bill.

We've also funded eviction right to counsel through the Legal Aid Society. If you're facing eviction and need help, reach out to Legal Aid.

I didn't want to just give you a list of URLs, but trust me that these are all easy to find online. We'll keep trying to make it easier to find resources like this. Basically, if something's hard, please get in touch with us. Whether it's hubNashville or the front door of the actual mayor's office.

We're trying to have no wrong door if you need help. We don't have a program for everything, but we have a lot of people in this city who care about each other.

There are so many things smart, committed people have been working on to make our lives just a little easier—sometimes for a while now—and I want people to know about them.

So there you have it. We've done four big things in these past few months—the East Bank, a transportation improvement program, a buy stuff budget, and a do stuff budget.

Three transition committees helped us get there, focused on how the city moves, works, and grows.

We're focused on cost of living and quality of life.

And I hope you walk away with something that made your life easier or will help someone you know.

We have a great opportunity to restore your faith in local government as a resource, a partner, a listener, and a responder.

We have a great opportunity to reach for the future instead of only lamenting the past.

We have a great opportunity to preserve so much of what we love about Nashville and make it better.

And I think all of this is evident here at the Fairgrounds. Things many of us grew experiencing still happen here, even though the place continues to change. And new experiences are possible here, too.

People still want to be here.

And we want to make it easier to get here. Just like all the other places people want to be or need to be in this city.

Thanks for taking a stroll down memory lane with me today. Let's give ourselves some more choices about how we move into our future together.

Thanks, Nashville.

Rod's Comment: The underlining above is mine to call attention to parts of the speech I find particularly interesting. That the mayor says something positive about fairgrounds racing, I find interesting. Maybe he is not on board to prevent racetrack improvements and NASCAR. I don't know. He could have praised soccer and ignored racing. That he did not, I think, is of some significance

He uses the speech to promote his transit proposal as is to be expected. I find the proposal modest and practical and am most likely on board or at least not opposed. 

He makes a big deal out of making the starting salary for Metro employees $20 an hour. I am unsure if this is such a big deal. The starting salary for McDonald's in Nashville is $12 an hour. Maybe, there are some metro positions that are only worth $12 an hour but probably not many.  I wonder how many positions will really be affected by the new policy. I doubt very many, but I don't know. 

Like all politicians, he takes credit for new schools and parks and some things that took a lot of people over a long time to bring about.  I don't fault him for that; I just know that is what politicians do. Crime is down in many places, and I am not sure how much of that has to do with policies of the mayor, but it is good news. It is appropriate to point it out. 

He does not say much that I can find that would be divisive. He does not take a victory lap over court wins that defeated State attempts to curtail Nashville governing authority. He doesn't even mention Nashville's relationship with the State, and I think that was wise.

With Nashville being such a progressive city, it would have been easy for the mayor to pander to the woke. Certainly, he would have gotten a lot of applause had he done so. He says nothing about abortion, which he should not have since it is not a local issue, but that would not have stopped a lot of politicians. Also, he says nothing about guns, which he cannot do anything about, but liberals would have liked for him to take a stand against the right to bear arms anyway. He says nothing about gay rights or trans rights.  He does celebrate our multinational character and the old battle that defeated English-only. That is a minor bone he throws to the woke crowd however, and many of us, including me, opposed the English-only proposal. That is not particularly divisive.

Overall, I like the tone of the speech and find no fault. 

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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Walk-our Denies Quorum for Dysfunctional Arts Commission Meeting

by Rod Williams, May 16, 2024- I attended the Metro Arts Commission meeting today and the big newsis that a walk-out of one of the members of the commission led to the Commission unable to conduct business. The Commission is supposed to be a 15-member body but has four vacancies. Eight members constitute a quorum and there were exactly eight members in attendance.

Durning the Commission meeting, one member was discussing Director Daniel Singh and praised him for his work on diversity but listed other areas of disappointment, saying when Singh was hired there was an understanding that he had other things he was supposed to accomplish that he had not. While that commission member was speaking, another member, I assume displeased by the criticism of Singh, got up and walked away from the table where members were seated and went and stood with the audience. Commissioners looked perplexed and the speaker stopped speaking. The member who had left the table, then left the room and then someone said we do not have a quorum. 

Discussion then ensued as to whether or not in fact the Commission did or did not have a quorum. Metro Legal made it clear that the Commission did not have a quorum. It was determined the Commision could continue discussion but could not "take action," meaning the Commission could not take any action requiring a vote. One member expressed her displeasure about what had occurred and said, she attends the meeting to work and if there was not going to be a quorum, she may not show up at the next meeting. 

Arriving late, I missed the part of the meeting where it was announced that Paulette Coleman, a former chair of the Arts Commission, agreed to accept the position of interim director and where the Commission voted to affirm giving her the position. I assume it was at today's meeting, with an interim director in place, that the Commission was going to decide what to do about Singh. At the last meeting he was placed on administrative leave. Singh has been on paid sick leave due to being a victim of racism since February 23rd. He comes off of paid administrative leave on May 30th. I am not sure where that will leave the Commision. They will have a director on sick leave and an interim director. Surely, there is a limit to how long one can get paid sick leave. I assume it is still paid sick leave, at least it was until recently. To read about the discussion about Singh's status as of last meeting and the complexity or timidity of dismissing him, follow this link

Ms Coleman spoke to the Commission about the hard work ahead and the challenges facing the Commission and urges everyone to treat each other respectfully and with kindness. She said the next big challenge is the upcoming May 23rd Metro Council departmental budget hearing. 

Either Coleman or someone else said the Commission continues to be under audit and cannot spend any money without specific authorization of the Metro Finance Director. The Commission is in a real bind. To go before the Metro Council for a budget hearing with its finances controlled by the Metro Finance Director and paying both a director and an interim director, and unable to conduct business would not inspire confidence even among the most progressive of Council members fully supportive of the Commission's diversity agenda. The Commission needs to meet again soon because they were unable to take up the agenda today due to the walkout and it would be better if something has been resolved about Singh before the Council budget hearings. They did not set that next special called meeting today. Members will be polled to see which date would work for the members. They would not want to again meet and fail to have a quorum. 

 Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with who is who on the commission and was unable to identify the commission members in the above report. If I learn their identity, I will update this post. Another development I find interesting is that the regularly scheduled Arts Commission Committee for Anti-Racism and Equity Meeting scheduled for May 17, 2024 has been cancelled. 

For a list of other post detailing the drama at the Arts Commission, follow this link

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

O’Connell Pushes Transit Improvements in State of Metro Address

 O’Connell Pushes Transit Improvements in State of Metro Address

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Metro Council Ensures the Chaos at the Arts Commision Continues.

by Rod Williams, May 13, 2024- Anyone who is paying attention knows things are a mess at Metro Arts Commission. We have a director who has been on sick leave due to being a victim of racism and has not worked in months and a Commision that won't fire him without hearing from him, but to hear from him would constitute "work" and he can't work while on sick leave. We had a respected wealthy patron of the arts and a good liberal who is a donor to the Democratic Party and Democrat candidates, who was serving on the Commission, who due to receiving death threats because he was deemed insufficiently woke, resign. We had frivolous ethics charges brought against a member of the Commission for simply doing her due diligence. There have been lawsuits and inability to finalize grants. The Commission unconstitutionally made race-based grant awards that had to be rescinded. The chaos has been going on for years and does not get better. 

What does the Council do? They endorse the chaos and ensure things will not get better. The Metro Council at its last meeting amended the purpose of the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission by adding language specifying that its purpose is to also "promote equity in the arts community." 

The purposes of the Arts Commission were the following: 

A. To promote the study, participation in and appreciation of the visual, performing and literary arts;

B. To support and participate in the presentation of displays, exhibits, recitals, concerts, lectures and symposia;

C. To cooperate with and assist public and private educational institutions, the media, and other private and governmental entities involved in artistic and cultural promotion;

D. To provide information and recommendations to the metropolitan county council and the metropolitan county mayor with respect to the architectural design and aesthetics of public places and property.

Now added to that is:

To promote equity in the arts community 

The ordinance does not define "equity," but equity usually means equal outcomes. It means there should not be a greater percentage of the Black population in prison than the White population nor a greater percentage of White homeowner than the percentage of Black homeowners. It means there should not be a greater percentage of White brain surgeons that Black brain surgeons.  It assumes than any unequal outcome is the result of racism. An equity policy works to correct the imbalance, often without regard to factors such as effort or merit or ability that may contribute to the imbalance. 

Already the Commission had an Equity Statement. Now, equity is one of the legislated official purposes of the Arts Commission. This will give more power to the disrupters who want to fund murals and progressive political art rather than the Symphony. 

The bill had twelve co-sponsors and passed the Council in an unrecorded voice vote. If I had been on the Council, I would have had myself recorded as voting "no." I am disappointed that none of the more conservative members of the body did not do so.

To read the bill and the analysis follow this link. For more on the Metro Arts Commission visit this link and link. To view arts commission funded art, follow this link. For more on the chaos and disfunction at the Metro Arts Commission, see the following:

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Wildlife officers’ warrantless searches of private property are ruled unconstitutional

 BY: ANITA WADHWANI, Tennessee Lookout, MAY 13, 2024 - State game wardens cannot enter private property in Tennessee without a warrant, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled last week.

The decision puts in check a unique power wielded for decades by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to secretly patrol and surveil Tennesseans’ privately-owned lands for potential violations of hunting, fishing and wildlife laws.

TWRA officers don’t seek permission from a judge before entering private property, need no supervisor approval, keep no records of their searches and don’t inform property owners — sometimes donning camouflage or installing cameras to secretly monitor activities based on the suspicions of an individual officer.

The blistering and unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel compared TWRA’s tactics to British customs officials who were granted unlimited “writs” by the king of England to conduct arbitrary searches in the years leading to the Revolutionary War (read more)

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FIRST TUESDAY welcomes TN State Representative GINO BULSO


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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Understanding the Budget Process of the Metro Government

by Rod Williams, May 12, 2024- For years I have heard people speak about aspects of Metro government or the Metro budget and it is clear they do not know what they are talking about. By design the Metro Council is weak and the Council is limited in what it can accomplish. 

I have often heard candidates for Metro Council say that if they would have been in the Council they would have voted against the last tax increase, or I have heard members of the Council say they did vote against a tax increase.  That is misleading. If one votes against the substitute budget before the Council, the effect of that vote is to vote for the mayor's budget. The mayor's budget and the Council substitute vary very little. Often, however, the mayor's budget has a bigger tax increase than the substitute. In that case, to vote against the substitute, which has a tax increase, is to vote for the mayor's budget, which has a bigger tax increase. If the substitute fails, the mayor's budget is the budget by default. When a council member says they voted against a tax increase, they are lying or they themselves do not understand the effect of their vote. 

The below is from an organization whose agenda I do not endorse. However, this is an excellent essay explaining how the budgeting process works. I could quibble a little over some of the tone of the piece, but overall, it is accurate and explains the process. If I were the author of the piece, I would add that advocates for more spending and higher taxes show up every budget season and are active year-round, while conservatives only show up in years of a proposed tax increase. There is waste in Metro government. There are more efficient ways of doing things. There are programs that could be discontinued. Unfortunately, there are active citizens constantly advocating for more government, but no active constituency for less government. There are "Friends of the Library," and "Friends of the Parks," but no "Friends of the Taxpayers."

The underlining below is mine and not in the original. 

 Hello Rod, 

 A charter is an official document that outlines the governing system for a city. As for the budget process, the Metro Nashville charter sets the key dates and responsibilities, including giving the most power to the mayor to drive the process. Let’s dig into this budget power! 

With the mayor initiating discussions and setting the terms, it inevitably causes the council to be reactive. Additionally, our city’s charter is guided by the concept of a "strong mayor system". It specifies that all 40+ Metro departments operate under the mayor. For example, the Finance Director is hired by and beholden to the mayor, not the Metro Council. When compared to the council’s office that has 12 staff members who work with the 40-member council to research and write legislation, there’s a vast difference in what the council is practically and legally able to do. 

The council’s power is in the form of amendments and their own budget, known as the Substitute Budget. Typically, this budget is passed to become the final budget. Although historically, it only changes less than 1% between the mayor’s recommended budget. Yes, a whopping less than 1%. 

The other 1% 
While the percentage of change is small, it holds significant weight when fulfilling the requirement of having a structurally-balanced budget. 

Think about your personal finances. In the best of circumstances, you have disposable income. Meaning, there’s more money coming in than what you need to go out for rent or mortgage, utilities, and basic necessities. This gives you the financial freedom to increase your savings and investments, plan a vacation, or buy that cool gadget you’ve been eyeing. But the city’s budget isn’t like that. 

Metro Nashville operates on a structurally-balanced budget that requires every amount that comes in as revenue to go out as an expenditure. It’s the same as if you operate your personal budget using the zero-budget method, where $5,000 monthly income minus $5,000 expenses (bills, savings, donations, etc.) equals zero. If council was to increase teacher pay, the money would have to be reallocated from somewhere else, or they would need to raise taxes in order to create a new revenue stream. As a result, council members often look to make changes to items the mayor has overstated in the recommended budget. 

Without new revenues, council has to raid various line items and funds in the mayor's budget to scrounge up a few bucks – it’s like having to look for change in the sofa cushions just to get by on your light bill. Traditionally, funds have been reallocated from the 4% fund, the Fund Balance, and various contingency funds. But in recent years, even these funds are becoming less and less available for council to reallocate. 

Despite the gravity of political decisions on how to reallocate that 1%, the bottom line is that it is not enough money and each year there is a high stakes fight for funds to ensure existing programs or worker salaries even match the pace of inflation. 

Everyone wants something 
Since the budget is a limited pot of money, some departments may get the budget increases they request, and others may lose funding. As the budget is debated in Metro Council, council members will advocate for programs they care about and projects for their districts – after all it is a part of why they were elected. Similarly, advocacy and interest groups will lobby to get their priorities funded. Some of the larger players are business groups, public employee unions, and nonprofit organizations. 

There is a finite amount of resources available, so not everything can be funded. Well, that’s unless groups propose to increase revenue through increased taxes or fees. In that case, groups must determine the issues that require funding, associated program costs, and what competing groups are advocating for. Separately, Metro Council’s substitute budget is required to pass with 21 out of 40 votes. Due to the number, it creates an opportunity for the mayor to secure favor and votes for the recommended budget. As a result, council makes small changes to its substitute budget to avoid it failing and the mayor’s recommended budget becoming law

Other budget barriers Fixed, or recurring, costs are expenditures that recur yearly and must be covered by revenue. Each is valuable to the city’s services, operations, and residents’ quality of life. Here are a few examples of fixed costs: 
  • The cost of living adjustment for Metro Nashville Public School staff sets a new baseline of pay that the city cannot drop below the next year. 
  • The city must service its debt, meaning both principal and interest on all bonds. In FY2024 debt service was 13% of the budget. 
  • Every department must be funded a minimum percentage to be operational. 
The tight budget timeline is a barrier because there’s more that needs to be addressed than there is time to address it all. While the mayor has a year to prepare his next budget proposal, the council has two months to review and respond. Past years have indicated that the council has only had a few days to review the mayor’s recommended budget, which is often 700+ pages. The council then requests its substitute budget be prepared, which takes two weeks. This basically guarantees that large scale changes aren’t an option. 

What are you thinking? Yikes. Wow. OMG. *shakes head*. We get it. Take a deep breath and let it out. The good news is that you’ve made it through our introduction on the budget! Thanks for being on this budget journey with us. 

Please spread the love by sharing the series with someone else via email and on social media. Remember, you have power! Now that you know how to find your council member, send them an email or call them about something you want to see more support for in the budget. 

Together in advocacy and action, Stand Up Nashville

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Intifada in the Council Chambers

Council Meeting of May 7, 2024. To see the pro-Palestine speakers start viewing at about timestamp 30.

by MEGAN PODSIEDLIK, The Pamphleteer, May 8, 2024- “You may only speak about items that appear on the agenda” said Vice Mayor Angie Henderson, facing a gallery full of pro-Palestinian protesters during last night’s Metro council meeting, “and you may only speak about the item for which you signed up.” In July of last year, a state law took effect mandating municipalities to take comments from the public at every public meeting; since then, despite Metro Council’s rule limiting the conversations to agenda items, the 20-minute comment periods have been commandeered by activists.

“Settler colonialism is a system of racist violence that seeks to deprive indigenous people of their rights, their land, labor, and resources,” said Tristan Warner from the podium. According to the sign-up sheet, Warner was there to oppose a resolution renewing Rite of Passage’s contract with the county’s only juvenile detention facility. Once he took the mic, he launched into a rant regarding settler colonialist regimes, claiming both the United States and Israel are based on the “logic of genocide” before concluding with “Free, free Palestine.”  

Next up was Diluvio Palazzolo, a “trauma and decolonization psychologist” who was there to weigh in on a resolution recognizing May as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Palazzolo told the body that they are obligated to honor the “heritage of resistance against colonization, occupation and imperialism” by standing with “Palestinian Americans who cry out for the end of genocide and occupation,” before attempting to passify the rule to stay on topic by tying his speech it back to the legislation: “Palestine is in Southwest Asia.”

The majority of those who spoke during the public comment period were there to make a statement about Palestine, and the blatant takeover was the perfect segue into the council’s next order of business: an amendment to remove Rule 28’s limitations restricting the topics allowed for discussion. “What we’ve seen is individuals coming out and being very creative in using the agenda to speak to the council,” said sponsor Delishia Porterfield. “That has put our Vice Mayor in a precarious situation of having to determine if something is on the agenda.”

Though most members supported the change, a few had concerns: Councilmember Tom Cash observed that he sees the same people signing up to speak every month. Rules Committee Chair Sandra Sepulveda iterated that, regardless of the change, those who signed up to speak on actual agenda items would be prioritized. She took care to mention that she doesn’t anticipate anyone abusing or monopolizing the process.

On the other hand, Councilmember Rollin Horton wasn’t fully convinced; he expressed concerns that the change would create “a forum for bizarre, obscene, or hateful comments,” citing his observation of the recent neo-Nazi parade downtown. Councilmember Sheri Weiner then added a bit of pragmatism to the discussion, mentioning her concerns about those who use their time to discuss broad topics — topics the council has no authority to address. 

Ultimately, the council approved the rules change, as attendees holding “WE ARE NOT THE UNITED STATES OF ISRAEL” and “FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA” signs looked on from the gallery. One month from now, the public comment period will be open to any topic under the sun. After the vote, the majority of the pro-Palestine protesters exited the council chambers—small victory in hand. 
For a list of other significant legislation before the Council and the council actions visit the Pamphleteer at this link

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