Capitol View Commentary: Friday, February 10, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company

February 10. 2017

WHAT’S BREWING ON CAPITOL HILL ON INSIDE POLITICS; FROM IT CITY TO MYTHOLOGICAL STATUS; AND THEN THERE’s GREENHOUSE GASES AND THE TRASH; THIS WEEK IN TRUMP; WE’VE LOST TWO OF OUR BEST

WHAT’S BREWING ON CAPITOL HILL ON INSIDE POLITICS

We are two weeks into the 110th General Assembly here in Nashville.

Already there are some interesting story lines developing.

To fill us in on what’s going on and why, we have as our guests on INSIDE POLITICS this week: Joel Ebert of THE TENNESSEAN and Cari Wade Gervin of the NASHVILLE SCENE.

Our topics include the gas tax debate; mass transit; medical marijuana, and all the hot-button social issues plus the Urban vs. Rural fights on the Hill. Even though he’s gone from office, we also discuss the latest on the investigations involving former state representative Jeremy Durham.

Watch us!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include 7:00 p.m. Friday; 5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday; along with 1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR if those live times don't work for your schedule.

The shows are also later posted for viewing on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website under NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS’ Inside Politics link.

FROM IT CITY TO MYTHOLOGICAL STATUS

It was interesting this week to find a discussion about Nashville’s future in the Opinion Section of the WASHINGTON POST.

The article includes interviews with Mayor Megan Barry and Congressman Jim Cooper. It was even written by NASHVILLE SCENE (PITH IN THE WIND), blogger Betsy Phillips.

Having grown up here over the last six-plus decades, I’ve never thought of this town as being a mythical place. But then I never thought I’d see my hometown’s future be the subject of interest in one of the nation’s and the world’s major daily newspapers. And it’s been happening on a pretty regular basis in several national media outlets the last few years.

I guess after our stint as the IT CITY (a nickname given to us by the NEW YORK TIMES a couple of years ago), maybe we need a new catchword moniker, and the POST article does raise some interesting issues to ponder.

And there’s more!

U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT lists Nashville as one of the best cities in the nation to live in 2017. We are up 9 places in the rankings from 2016. The Nashville mythology grows? Maybe so. Here’s an article from the NASHVILLE PATCH written by J.R. Lind, who’s also written for THE SCENE.

One other new thing that makes Nashville even more special this week is the announcement by Mayor Barry and iFund Women that they are partnering “to launch a groundbreaking partnership to create the first regional crowdfunding platform to support the projects and creative ideas of women. Nashville is the first city in the nation to have a dedicated crowdfunding hub to help city residents invest in local women entrepreneurs trying to grow their emerging businesses. “ iFundWomen Nashville will be accepting applications starting February 8 until February 28, for acceptance onto the platform, which officially launches in late March. All women-led startups and small businesses in the Nashville area are encouraged to apply.

But of course, there are always ways to poke holes in some of the seemingly great things being claimed about Nashville. Some in the local media are already questioning whether you can even find apartments for rent in Nashville at the low prices claimed in the U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT rankings.

AND THEN THERE’S GREENHOUSE GASES AND THE TRASH

I guess even would-be mythological cities have to deal with climate change and disposing of municipal waste. Sustainability is the buzz word. It’s an issue that Mayor Karl Dean first began to address a few years ago. Last May Mayor Barry appointed her own citizen’s panel to come up with a plan along with goals and objectives for the years to come.

The Livable Nashville Committee released a draft report and preliminary recommendations this week. Based on a news release from the Mayor’s office here are the five areas targeted for improvement:

  • Climate and Energy: Reducing reliance on oil and coal to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy resilience;
  • Green Buildings: Ensure buildings are resource-efficient to improve occupants’ health and productivity;
  • Natural Resources: Provide for clean air, clean water, and conserved open space;
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling: Divert waste from landfills and keep our city clean;
  • Mobility: Provide more transportation options for cleaner air, healthier commutes, and increased access to jobs and opportunities.

Here are the major strategies recommend to deal with each area:

  • Reducing Metro Government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050;
  • Increasing energy used from renewable resources 30 percent by 2030;
  • Reducing the amount of resources Metro buildings are using by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050;
  • Cutting commercial buildings’ energy consumption 5 percent in the next three years;
  • Planting a half-million trees countywide by 2050 to achieve a 50 percent countywide canopy cover;
  • Eliminating hazardous air-quality days by 2020;
  • Achieving a ‘zero waste’ landfill-diversion goal by 2050;
  • Reducing food waste 10 percent in the next three years;
  • Transitioning 50 percent of Metro’s vehicle fleet to electric engines or alternative fuels by 2025.

It will take a substantial effort to implement these strategies. Just look at what the Mayor’s office reports about greenhouse gases alone:

“Metro… recently completed two Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories as a result of Mayor Barry’s having signed on to the Global Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest cooperative effort among mayors to track and report on their cities’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The community inventory, which looked at the entire city’s greenhouse gas emissions, found them slightly lower than they were in 2005 and 2011. But average emissions per person were still above the national average.

The Metro inventory, which looked at government buildings, vehicles and other greenhouse gas producers, found a 45 percent increase since 2005, largely due to buildings and facilities. The Livable Nashville report recommends reducing energy usage in Metro facilities and increasing the government’s renewable energy portfolio.”

I wonder about some other challenges that lie ahead. With the Trump administration openly skeptical about even the existence of climate change, and with the new President committed to reducing and relaxing environmental regulations and standards across the board, what kind of political and social headwinds will that create in Nashville moving ahead on these strategies and goals?

And then there’s achieving more recycling and a “zero waste” landfill diversion by 2050. It’s been many years (the early 1990s) since the city has had to debate our solid waste future.

Our trash has gone to Rutherford County without too much further thought. But that facility will be full and beyond expansion in the next decade or less. Will the specter and potential political blood bath of having to locate our own landfill in Davidson County force Nashville to get serious about solid waste

diversion and recycling? The community can’t afford to relive what Nashville experienced in the late 80s when the old Bordeaux landfill closed, and the search for a new in-county facility was an on-going disaster. Now the issue, and the size of the problem our solid waste presents, means we won’t get even close to becoming a sustainable city if we go back there again.

THIS WEEK IN TRUMP

Week three of the Donald Trump era saw a focus on the courts with the administration stumbling in its rollout and legal defense of the President’s Executive Order Travel Ban. The order sought to delay and/or ban visitors and refugees coming here from seven largely Muslim-populated countries.

Multiple legal challenges saw the Mr. Trump prevail in federal court in Boston but lose out west in the 9th Circuit with a nationwide stay being placed on the travel ban. The administration also lost unanimously in the Appellate Court (3-0) leaving the President with several less than great options (appeal to the full 9 members Appellate Court, although they don’t have to take the appeal; appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also doesn’t have to take the case and might deadlock 4-4 still having only 8 members).

Team Trump can also go back to the district court and try and win the case on the merits there. Or, and some say the best option for the President: Withdraw the Travel Ban executive order, rework it getting help from many of the experts in D.C. who were ignored or blindsided when the order was issued in the first place. But that would mean admitting you were wrong or “lost” and I don’t see President Trump doing that…maybe ever.

One other suggestion to the President: Keep a respectful tongue in your head and cool it on Twitter. Calling judges who rule against you: “so called judges” or implying they don’t have the sense of a seven year old, or that their ruling is a “disgraceful decision”, is not likely to make prevailing in your case any easier including with the judges who might take up the case on appeal. Even your Supreme Court nominee has expressed dismay at your comments. Remember his judicial future could lie in the balance too.

This was also the week when the President and his aides raised new questions about ethics. I can understand the President wanting to defend and protect his daughter when department store chains decide to drop her fashion line. President Harry Truman once publicly threatened to punch out a newspaper reporter for a less than flattering review of his daughter’s singing at a Washington concert. But making direct public statements and posting Twitter remarks criticizing the stores is probably not in keeping with the demeanor of being President. Then when presidential aides go out and endorse the clothing line and urge people to buy it that is pretty clearly in violation of federal ethics standards.

Taking it back home to Nashville and Tennessee: In the wake of the travel ban, there’s another recent presidential executive order that would cut off federal aid to cities that are “sanctuary cities” for illegals. While it’s unclear what the exact definition of a sanctuary city is and which municipalities might fall into that category, Nashville keeps showing up on such lists in the media. The presidential executive orders may have also led Clarksville State Senator Mark Green to reintroduce legislation to cut off state aid to such sanctuaries. It’s an action gaining traction in other states, and Senator Green, a 2018 GOP candidate for Governor of Tennessee, is getting some ink out of it.

The whole local law enforcement handling of illegals has at times been a politically difficult one for Nashville Sherriff Daron Hall. The issue followed him to Washington when in recent days he attended a national Sherriffs’ convention. THE NASHVILLE SCENCE relates what happened:

“Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall — who oversees the jails from which detainees could be handed over to federal immigration officials and who has been criticized in the past for his participation in deportation programs — had been scheduled to meet with Trump, along with a dozen other local sheriffs, this week. His office told the Scene following the election that it was evaluating its engagement with federal immigration officials and waiting to see what would come from the Trump administration.

But when time came for the meeting Tuesday at the White House, Hall wasn’t there. He explained his decision in a statement, through a DCSO spokesman.

'After attending a briefing with the executive committee yesterday about topics and the meeting with President Trump, I became concerned the meeting was going to be supportive of issues — such as the Executive Order regarding immigration and others — and made the decision not to go.'”

Mayor Barry is somewhat on the spot too. She’s been clear Nashville and its police officers will not be “the immigration police.” She also says Nashville is not a sanctuary city. She says we are a community that should always remain a welcoming place. But there is pressure on the Mayor for Nashville to go further. To join cities such as Cincinnati and Birmingham and declare symbolically that Nashville is a sanctuary. So far Her Honor is not going there, although some in the Metro Council are making statement that are inching in that direction.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill in Washington, it was another week of the Senate slowly approving President Trump’s cabinet appointments. Several have been by close margins with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos squeaking through only because Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to confirm her. That’s the first time in our nation’s history it’s taken a vice presidential vote to settle a cabinet confirmation fight.

Both of Tennessee’s Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have gotten a lot of heat to vote against DeVos and some of the other cabinet choices. But so far they held firm and supported the President. One last cabinet battle still raging concerns the only Tennessean nominated. He is Andre Puzder, a recent Franklin resident and CEO of the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl, Jr. restaurant chain.

Puzder is tabbed to be Labor Secretary although his business record is catching flax from Democrats and labor officials. Puzder’s confirmation committee hearing has now been delayed three times. It’s been complicated as well by his admission that he failed to pay taxes on a personal employee who he later learned was an illegal. Tom Humphrey has more details through his Humphrey on the Hill blog including Senator Alexander coming to Puzder’s defense.

WE’VE LOST TWO OF OUR BEST

I am not sure Eric Mumaw and Kitty Moon Emery knew each other.

Both passed away in recent days after years of service to the community. In their different ways, they made Nashville the special kind of place it is.

Mumaw was an 18-year veteran of the Metro Police Department. He lost his life trying to save another, a selfless act to prevent someone from attempting suicide. He drown. She survived. He is a hero. He would likely say he was just doing his job.

Mumaw made a career of heroic work and supporting the community. The outpouring of grief, love and support for him and his brothers and sisters (especially from the Madison community) was as great as I have ever witnessed in this town which has seen its share of first responders taken in the line of duty.

Kitty Moon Emery was a distinguished civic leader. As a woman she was a pioneer and a trailblazer. One of the first press secretaries for a U.S. Senator in Washington; a businesswoman who built Scene Three Productions, one of the best video production company in the nation; a community volunteer who helped dozens of organizations and played a key role in bringing both the Predators and the Titans to town. She was a leader in the music industry.

I knew Kitty for many years. I may have first met her when her family ran the Moon’s Drug Store next to the Belle Meade Theater. I often went there after the Saturday matinee and got something to eat or drink at the soda fountain.

I later worked with Kitty on a number of videos for various service organizations and not for profits especially Leadership Nashville. She had the amazing talent to challenge those she worked with to do their best and be their best. In a day when this city’s business, music and tourism communities work together so well they are like a well-oiled machine building the Nashville brand, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t like that at all a few decades ago. Kitty was one of the key persons, one of the key connecting bridges to bring everyone together.

I will really miss Kitty. She and I always had these great discussions about politics. Kitty didn’t just argue or talk, she listened. She didn’t always agree, but she was willing to see the other side of things. Nashville will miss her too, but she was the kind of leader and role model that empowered others to follow along and take the lead with her.

Nashville is so blessed to have people like Kitty Moon Emery and Eric Mumaw. It’s people that make a city great, people willing to serve, to bring folks together, to give back, to even give their life for others. Some may think these are rare qualities exhibited by very few people. Maybe so. But I am sure glad Nashville has the ones we’ve had. And I suspect (and believe) there are still a lot more people like Officer Eric Mumaw and Kitty Moon Emery living among us every day here in Nashville. And we are blessed for it.

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