Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 1, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - CAPITOL VIEW

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

September 1, 2017

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN; REMOVING FORREST IS A BUST AGAIN; NASHVILLE TRANSIT TO GO UNDERGROUND?; A MILE MARKER TOWARDS A QUALITY EDUCATION REGARDLESS OF ZIP CODE; AN INSIDE POLITICS DOUBLEHEADER

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN

You couldn’t watch TV or go on line this week without seeing the massive news coverage of Hurricane Harvey as the storm brought havoc, destruction and tragic loss of life while dumping an unprecedented 50 inches plus of rain on Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city.

In watching and listening to the coverage it looked so déjà vu familiar with what happened 12 years ago in New Orleans with Katrina and what happened with the May 2010 floods here in Nashville.

The final gasps of Harvey came in Tennessee with the now tropical depression still packing a punch to drop anywhere from 2 to 9 inches or more in the area, causing flash flooding, some voluntary home evacuations, even school closings.

Again throughout the week, we saw desperate circumstances bring out the very best in our first responders, national guardsmen, and from average citizens. Many of them risked thei lives to rescue those in peril and provide food, shelter, clothing and comfort to those without.

Unfortunately, we also saw a few incidents of reprehensible behavior in incidents of price gouging and looting.

Nevertheless, it was truly uplifting, in a time when our country is so politically polarized, to see those reaching out to help those impacted by the storm to do so regardless of party affiliation or race or social status. Maybe that spirit will grow and not just disappear when the flood waters subsidize.

But of course, there are those on social media who never take any time off from finding ways to bash those who look, think, believe or act differently from them or support different political parties or candidates than they do.

All this behavior seemed particularly tired and petty in this week of tragedy and peril for so many in our country.

Of course, what’s happened this week will also reignite the debate and controversy over the reality and impact of global climate change. It will also raise further questions about what steps should be taken to lessen the damage and loss of life from future storms, especially in our costal states where such storms seem more likely to strike.

But even in an inland city such as Nashville, the flooding in Houston from Harvey could well jump start, one more time the debate over a downtown flood wall. Such a proposal has been sidetracked by two

separate city councils under two different mayors in just the last 2-plus years, with the delay coming mainly over concerns of what to do with other parts of the city that also have flooded.

Déjà vu indeed.

REMOVING FORREST IS A BUST AGAIN

Despite the strong support of Governor Bill Haslam and his administration, efforts to move the bust of controversial Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest have failed again. The effort to remove the Forrest likeness from the second floor of the State Capitol (near the State House & Senate chambers) to the State Museum came before the state Capitol Commission Friday morning but fell short of the votes needed to pass. This is the second time in recent years a push was made to remove the 1970s era likeness of Forrest from the Hill.

Even if the matter had passed the Capitol Commission it would have still required a two-thirds vote of the state Historical Commission to move the bust. Based on today’s debate that appears about as likely as the Republican Super Majority in the General Assembly changing the law it put on the books last year to set up this lengthy and politically difficult process to move historic artifacts on public property in the state.

I also doubt this is the end of protests about the Forrest bust and other such Confederate symbols as we seem to never stop fighting the Civil War in Tennessee even today more than a century and a half after hostilities ended.

NASHVILLE TRANSIT TO GO UNDERGROUND?

When Mayor Megan Barry was my guest on INSIDE POLITICS a few weeks back, I asked her several questions to get her to reveal the details of the mass transit proposal and tax referendum she plans to present to the Metro Council later this fall.

But she declined to reveal much, even as news stories using unidentified sources continue to pop up about what kind of transit system the Barry administration is envisioning for voter approval and funding in next May’s election.

First, it was privatizing the Airport with the lease proceeds going to fund mass transit. That seem to elicit little support (especially from the current Airport Authority that operates the airport). So that plan seems to have been put on the back burner for now, if it ever was a serious proposal except in the minds of some out of town developers.

Now comes an even more eyebrow raising idea: Placing a light rail system underground in the downtown area. Say what?!?

In case you are new to town, you don’t have to dig very far below the surface here in Nashville to hit solid rock, bed rock. Removing that by blasting would be enormously expensive. Just look back on how long it took and how expensive it’s been for the city to expand its water and sewer system throughout

the county over the past 50-plus years…and that’s just to put pipes underground. A light rail system of any length underground in the downtown area would require increased blasting to accommodate the large removal of dirt and rock and therefore increased construction costs.

But curiously after the story appeared in THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL (originally behind its pay wall), the Mayor’s office did not reject the idea out of hand. A statement sent to THE NASHVILLE SCENE said:

"Metro has a team of engineers working to develop a comprehensive transit plan for Nashville. One aspect of this plan will be connecting the system downtown, and the engineers and planners are exploring the economic, engineering, and logistical feasibility of multiple ways of achieving this goal. At this point, the plan is still being drafted and final decisions have not been made."

By the way, I am not the only local observer wondering about this downtown Nashville underground transit idea. Here’s the rest of THE SCENE’s story.

I am sure the Mayor will announce her transit plans on her own timetable. Here is my uneducated guess. Maybe the underground light rail idea is an option that city planners will indeed explore but will conclude it won’t work and is way too expensive, largely because of the reasons I have outlined earlier.

Just like past mayoral administrations, there are times when important legislation starts piling up on the way to the Metro Council. So it is with the Greer Stadium Redevelopment proposal soon to be before council leaders along with the new MLS major league soccer stadium followed by the transit plan and tax referendum late in the year or in early 2018. It makes for a bit of a crowded field, and according to this SCENE article, may be leaving some of the natives in the Council getting a little restless.

Meanwhile, if you want some insights on what else is going on regarding our upcoming community mass transit debate (the pace is picking up), read these two informative pieces from THE TENNESSEAN’s Joey Garrison by clicking here and here. NEWSCHANNEL5 has also done a story on this topic. Right now, the transit issue in Nashville is like an iceberg… a lot is more going on below the surface than most folks may realize.

A MILE MARKER TOWARDS A QUALITY EDUCATION REGARDLESS OF ZIP CODE

When she was elected Mayor two years ago this month, Mayor Barry promised that all of Nashville’s children and their parents would have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of what zip code they live.

Fulfilling such a promise begins she says with a quality Pre-K program for youngsters. It would give all 4 year olds an equal chance to begin their educational journey. But not everyone is convinced. Even a study by Vanderbilt University found that any advantage those who attended Pre-K might have shown early on, faded away by 3rd Grade as compared to other students.

Some say the problem is a lack of consistent standards among Pre-K programs. So the Mayor this week endorsed a 5-year roadmap to improve Pre-K and ultimately increase Pre-K accessibility all Nashville youngsters.

According to a news release from the Mayor’s office: “For the first time, Nashville educators have developed a shared, research-based definition of quality standards for Pre-Kindergarten and outlined strategies, metrics for success, timelines, resources, and partnerships needed to implement the agreed upon standards citywide to ensure that the more than 9,300 4-year-olds in Davidson County receive an equal and high-quality early education.”

And according to the Mayor’s news release this effort is not a government-run, top-down approach:

“…the quality definition will apply to all Nashville Pre-K programs, whether run by Metro Nashville Public Schools, Head Start, or community providers. It includes a set of 10 program standards and 10 instructional standards that when implemented with fidelity prepare 4-year-olds for Kindergarten and later success.”

Nashville has received praise (from President Barack Obama) and federal funding for its past efforts in developing Pre-K resources. Perhaps this 5-year roadmap will help the city achieve still more progress. But for some reason Pre-K has also become one of those partisan red versus blue issues (even as it puts young children’s future at risk), so don’t expect this issue to be settled quickly moving forward.

AN INSIDE POLITICS DOUBLEHEADER

Maybe politics has gotten so polarized in your family or among your friends, you’ll need to watch what you say when you are attending that Labor Day weekend picnic. Never fear, INSIDE POLITICS will provide your own political confab this week with Republican Debra Maggart and Democrat Larry Woods holding forth on the state and national political topics of the day.

So watch us, we’ll provide a little relish of our own for your holiday weekend!

The following weekend (September 8-10), INSIDE POLITICS will look to foreign affairs, in particular the still simmering nuclear crisis in North Korea. Dr. Thomas Schwartz , a history and political science professor from Vanderbilt University is our guest.

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 you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITIICS interviews are also posted on NEWSCHANNEL5’s website for your viewing. These most recent shows will be added on line the following week after they air.

I will be taking some time off after Labor Day, so no Capitol View on September 8. Look for the next CV column on Friday, September 15.

One other note for the near future: Because of the upcoming Holly Bobo murder trial and NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS’ live coverage of the proceedings (juror selection is set to begin September 11), we will also likely be airing encore performances of INSIDE POLITICS foe a week or two while the trial is underway. Studio time is not available to tape a show while the live trial coverage is underway.

Print this article Back to Top