Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 10 - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, July 10



By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

July 10, 2009


I've never seen anything quite like it.

The city of Nashville, and much of the surrounding area, has been shocked, saddened and in some ways shaken to its core by the events surrounding the July 4 murder/suicide of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair and his 20-year old mistress.

The tragedy has provoked a wave of ongoing emotion and soul-searching that I believe may be unique in our local history. In a year when this community has suffered the loss of way too many of its outstanding civic leaders and public figures, the murder of Steve McNair at the relatively young age of 36 is clearly unlike the rest.

 But why is that so?

Why did thousands of citizens attend visitations, candlelight vigils and memorial services held all over the city for nearly a week, from LP Field to McNair's new restaurant on Jefferson Street, from a local funeral home to a mega-church in Whites Creek? Was it because he was great athlete who seemed indestructible on the field as he led his team to many come-from-behind, last second victories? Was it because he was actively involved in so many endeavors to give back to the community, acting as a wonderful role model, particularly to children? Clearly all that is true. But then what about the rather sordid circumstances that were revealed through his death about Steve McNair, his personal life and his loyalty to his marriage vows?

We know this. But we always seem to forget that even the most successful and admirable of our role models can make mistakes, even big ones, because, like us, they are human. That is not to excuse, inexcusable behavior, but it is to try and explain why Steve McNair still obviously holds such a special place in the hearts of many Nashvillians.

Steve McNair (along with his teammate Eddie George) were the first superstars to emerge from the Oilers/Titans NFL football franchise when it came our city in the 1990s. Nashville had never had such figures in its past. Previous local pro and amateur sport franchises did not evoke the passions and loyalties of football in these parts, and collegiate stars usually had their support and community passion divided by team loyalties between Vanderbilt, UT or other schools.

But Steve McNair and the Titans represented all of Nashville. He and the team were something we could and did unite behind as a city, especially after the team changed its name from Oilers to Titans and moved into its new stadium on the banks of the Cumberland River. When that season culminated with a playoff run and a Super Bowl berth that wound up just one yard short of a World Championship, it was clear that McNair, as the star quarterback would forever be legendary in these parts.

He and the team now belonged to Nashville, and like a first love, it was never to be forgotten. His performances over the next few seasons including a co-NFL MVP Award, only solidified his unforgettable place in Nashville's heart, especially through his leadership, his on-field grit and will-to-win, despite playing with injuries that even sometimes precluded practice during the week.

I think there is one other important thing to note. Steve McNair was a black man, who rose to fame and fortune in a southern town. It speaks volumes about today's Nashville that his passing, despite all the surrounding controversy, is being mourned by people of all races here. It was not that many years ago that would have been almost unimaginable.


It may be the middle of summer and schools are closed, but the politics and controversies surrounding Metro Public Schools knows no vacation time.

This weekend (July 10-12) on INSIDE POLITICS we bring back a panel of local journalists who really know the public education beat. Jamie Sarrio of THE TENNESSEAN, Amy Griffith Graydon of THE NASHVILLE CITY PAPER and Rodney Dunigan of the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network give us their insights on what is happening and what's ahead for Metro Schools.

This is a particularly interesting time to do this program, since as early as this coming week (week of July 13) the state may be announcing the latest results of the No Child Left Behind testing. If Metro fails again, it could open the door for the Metro School Board and new Director of Schools Jesse Register to be removed and perhaps Mayor Karl Dean to take over.

But it's not that simple. A takeover likely requires a new state law. Will the Governor seek that through a special session of the General Assembly as some rumors have it? Will Metro lawmakers support such a move? Or will the state give the School Board and Dr. Register, who has been a friend and mentor to many state education leaders, another chance to get things turned around?

And what about the vacancy on the School Board created by Alan Coverstone, who left to take a position with the school system to oversee Charter Schools? There's the new redistricting plan that takes effect next month? Will it work, or bring the system back into a federal court with a new desegregation lawsuit?

It is a fascinating and somewhat scary time for our community and its public education system. Our guests are the folks who have the information about what is happening and could happen going forward.  So I urge you to tune in.

You can watch INSIDE POLITICS several times this weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

Fridays (July 10)...............7:00 PM..........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS COMCAST CHANNEL 50

Saturdays (July 11)..........5:00 AM..........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Saturdays (July 11)...........5:30 PM..........NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Sundays (July 12).........5:00 AM...............WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5

Sundays (July 12).........5:00 AM................NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Sundays (July 12).........12:30 PM.............NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS

Don't forget, if you live outside the Channel 5 viewing area or you don't have Comcast, you can see excerpts of previous INSIDE POLITICS shows here at and you can sign up for a weekly RSS feed of this column here on this website as well.


Maybe I've missed it.

While all the major Republican candidates for the 2010 Governor's race have released information about fundraising (as of June 30), as I write this column, so far I haven't heard a peep from any of the Democrats.

Now the deadline for submitting reports to the state is not until July 15, but why are the Democrats so slow? Could it be their $$ numbers just won't look as good as their GOP rivals?     

The only Democrat talking money is State Senator Roy Herron, who because he is a lawmaker got a late start to his fundraising because of the ban on lawmakers collecting $$ while still in session. Nevertheless, Herron sent out a news release recently (July 7) saying his campaign has "blasted to the front" among Tennessee Democratic gubernatorial candidates in terms of on-line fundraising.

Herron says after having just $17,000 from 40 donors, in just a 48 hour period recently, he "increased his donors eight-fold to 340 and his donations almost six-fold to $92,000."

That sounds impressive although I have no way to independently confirm that information. Senator Herron also claims his recent on-line fund raising activities had him ranked fourth in the country by ActBlue (a Democratic fund raising web site) among its' "Hot Candidates and Committees."  

All well and good, and certainly as Senator Herron points out the increasing importance of  on-line fund raising in recent campaign cycles (especially for President Obama) saying: "Anyone can give as they are capable. This world has changed, and this is how a people's candidate can compete and win."

Fair enough, but GOP gubernatorial candidates are all reporting between $400,000 and $3.8 million dollars raised so far (from all sources). Looks like Senator Herron and the rest of the Democrats may need to do a lot more "blasting to front" in the months ahead to be able to compete.


2009 is a non-election year in Tennessee. But, as you can see from the campaign fund raising activity going on, it's not the off-season.

In fact, when you add in the amount of activity going on concerning election commissions and voting machines, it sometimes feels like we are in mid-campaign season. I guess that's how important the 2010 elections will be as we choose a new governor and select a new General Assembly that will redraw the state's political district on both a state and federal level.

When the Republican took numeric control of the General Assembly last year that gave them the right under state tradition (if not law) to have GOP lawmakers dictate who sits on local election commissions and therefore who is hired as election registars in each county. Democrats have controlled that process for years, so as you might expect, there have been some changes and some ousters in the county election leadership across the state.

So much so, that legal action is being taken by some of those losing their jobs, going to both the state and federal courts to say they have been wrongly dismissed. Now Tennessee is the state and our native son Andrew Jackson was the President who invented the political phrase "to the victor belongs the spoils" and for many years those "spoils" have always included control of the election machinery of the state for the dominant party in the Legislature.

But how will that stand up in courts, especially the federal courts, when questions of employee rights and due process come into play? It's always tough and unwise to predict what judges will do, so watch this matter carefully.

Then there's the growing political issue concerning what kind of voting machines Tennessee will use in the 2010 election? The law says we must move towards using paper ballots verified with an optical scan machine, but the new GOP Secretary of State says he can't find the proper equipment and wants implementation deferred until 2012. Foul say Democrats who say this is just a stalling tactic to somehow try and help Republican candidates in 2010. This sounds like a lawsuit in the making, doesn't it?

My question about all this is a simple one. We've been arguing in this country since the Florida debacle in the 2000 Presidential election about what is the best, most accurate and secure way to cast our ballots. It seems to me that's a technology issue, and shouldn't be a political one (of course, I know how naïve and simple-minded that sounds). But if there's one thing we are good at in America it is technology. So why can't we solve this problem? We've been at for almost 9 years. That's almost as much time as it took for this nation to go to the moon after the challenge to go there was made by President Kennedy back in the 1960s. On July 20, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our landing on the moon.

I just hope it's doesn't take us that long to solve our voting machine issue.


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into Bells Bend.....comes word that the May Town developers are requesting a re-hearing by the Metro Planning Commission because of the late hour and somewhat confusing procedural votes that were taken when the panel rejected the rezoning needed for the project to move ahead.

It's unclear whether such a move will be granted but I would think it's rather unlikely. Meanwhile, Mayor Karl Dean, who studiously avoided getting involved in this mega-controversy (except to say, that all things being equal, he preferred downtown in-fill development to large new projects in more undeveloped parts of town), now is teaming up with the Land Trust of Tennessee to develop an official Open Space Plan for Nashville. This was a specific recommendation of the Mayor's recent Green Ribbon Committee and the project is being funded by the Martin Foundation and should take about a year to complete.        

The study has nothing to do officially with May Town. It will look at a plan to preserve open spaces both in the inner city and in our more rural areas. But you can't help but wonder if it will somehow come into play, if May Town ever finds new life.

But will whatever comes of this study really have any more legal impact than the Sub-Area plans the Planning Commission already has in place that sets out future potential land use all over the county, as reviewed and approved every couple of years by the residents and property owners who live in that sub-area?  

 It seems to me that while this plan will surely provide a wonderful blueprint for future preservation of the rural, more undeveloped parts of Davidson County as well as the undeveloped parts of our inner core in the city, if someone owns vacant land and wants to develop it, it will still go through the process (which is often very political and controversial) of review and approval by the Planning Commission and its staff along with approval (if it requires a zoning change) by the full Metro Council, which often leans heavily on the wishes of the district councilman in that part of Nashville.

I doubt any new study, no matter how well-funded or intended, is really going to change that.

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