Capitol View Commentary: Feb. 19, 2010 - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Feb. 19, 2010



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

February 19, 2010


It seems pretty clear from its most recent meeting that our Metro Council is struggling with technology.

I happen to agree that our city leaders ought to cut out doing live Twitter and Facebook updates during their deliberative sessions the first and third Tuesday of every month. But I don't think they should quit because doing so is somehow a violation of the Sunshine Law.

That's one of the most ridiculous pieces of legal "advice" I have ever heard.

The next thing you know they will be saying that Council members can't go out in the hall and consult with each other, talk with constituents and reporters, or even (gasp!) speak with a lobbyist because not everyone is privy to those conversations. Pure baloney

No, here's the best advice to our council members: turn off your cell phone, shut down your Twitter service and Facebook page, then pay FULL attention to what is going during your council meeting. It's like driving while texting or driving while talking on a cell phone, you can't do it and keep your full attention on the business at hand (driving a car or running a city). You were elected by the voters to represent them in the Council, not to provide short, pithy statements or a running play-by-play of the council meeting. Your critiques of what happens on the Council floor can wait until the meeting is over…and/or the Council can hire its own Twitter or Facebook person to keep people up to date on the debate and the outcome.

The Council meetings have been televised since the mid-1970s. I know I anchored the TV coverage back then and did so for many years.. It's too bad the meetings are no longer available on over-the-air TV, (only on the government-access channel) but it's not like you can't follow the Council meetings without coming to the Courthouse in person.

So turn those Blackberries off, put them back on your hip or lay them down easily on your council desks, then slowly back away so you can pay full attention to what's going on during the meetings. That's what you are elected to do, not to blog or twitter or send out friends requests on Facebook.

Technology has created another issue for the council when it comes to how to deal with motorists who want to warm up their cars in absentia on these cold winter mornings. Some folks have been doing that while leaving their car doors unlocked and keys in the ignition (with the motor running, of course). That encourages car theft, so Metro police have been enforcing a local law and giving motorists a citation.  

That's makes some sense, especially since Metro also has an ongoing problem with people leaving their keys in the car (and the motor running) when they just run into the local quick-stop to get a drink or something…and their cars get stolen. But now comes new technology. A growing number of cars have keyless entry and can be started and can run without keys in an ignition and the doors locked. Some council members want to exempt drivers with this technology from the current law, and the full council approved such a measure the other night.

But in doing so they seemed to have created two classes of citizen/motorists, those who have the means to buy new technology so they can be exempted from the law and everybody else who sits and shivers in their car every winter day waiting for it to warm up and thaw out the windows so you can see to drive. And what about those of us who have two sets of car keys? Can we be exempt too? Now drivers who are thoughtless enough to leave their cars running with the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked, deserve a ticket. But creating a "digital divide" in law enforcement based strictly on new (and somewhat expensive) technology may be creating a precedent that the council doesn't really want to do.


I guess our state legislators just don't have enough to do.

Forget that the state budget is a $100 million in the red. Forget that hundreds of state workers may be laid off and state services, particularly health care, cut back…again.

No, our lawmakers in the State Senate have to go jousting at political windmills and take on the federal government over health care overhaul legislation that may or may not ever pass in Congress. By a vote of 26 to 1 lawmakers (Democrats and Republicans) said any federal legislation that requires Tennesseans to buy health insurance is void here and the State Attorney General would be authorized to defend any citizen penalized as a result of such a law.

This is part of a national effort by a conservative group to stir up opposition to health care change. It is of questionable constitutionality (federal law usually trumps local or state laws). It would surely be tested in court for years (maybe all the way to the Supreme Court) before the AG or anybody else files any briefs or pays any fines for not having health insurance.

Mandatory health care is a provision in the health care bill passed in both the House and Senate. It used to be something that Republicans and Democrats supported. Now it is considered an infringement on an individual's rights, even though if those without insurance pretty quickly become dependent on taxpayer support if they suffer a medical emergency or an ongoing medical crisis.

This clearly has been the best thing to happen to the gubernatorial campaign of GOP Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, who strongly supported the "not in Tennessee" mandatory medical insuuance legislation and quickly called a news conference to help take credit.      



Mayor Karl Dean is our guest this weekend on INSIDE POLITICS.

The Mayor always has so much going on, I wonder if we will find time to work in all the questions I have about what's next on the convention center, the hotel, the Metro budget, the Fairgrounds, Metro Schools, May Town, and the list goes on and on.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend, including Sunday morning (February 21) at 5:00 AM on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NewsChannel5.

You can also watch the show several times on NewsChannel5 Plus, Comcast and Charter Channel 250 (also seen on NewsChannel5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

Fridays (February 19)………..7:00 PM

Saturdays (February 20)……..5:00 AM

Saturdays (February 20)………5:30 PM

Sundays (February 21)………..5:00 AM

Sundays (February 21)…………12:30 PM

Excerpts of previous INSIDE POLITICS show are also available here on the NewsChannel5 website.


Most voters are probably only vaguely aware that Davidson County has an elected Juvenile Court Clerk. When the position was first created by the state, Metro Council tried to fill it without a public vote, but the courts said no way.

Given the overall poor record of that office, maybe the courts were wrong.

Nevertheless there are 11…that's right count them, 11 people who want the job, including incumbent Vic Lineweaver. Lineweaver has attracted this crowd to the election field because of his antics in office. Those include losing court records and spending a brief time in jail for contempt when he and his staff couldn't produce them. He also got in trouble when he was photographed a by a local TV news crew in  his bath robe fetching the paper in his front yard, while telling the reporter via cell phone that he couldn't talk now because he was tied up "in a meeting."

But Vic Lineweaver will not be easy to defeat at the polls. He is a great campaigner and politician, and with 7 opponents in the primary (splitting the anti-Lineweaver vote), he stands a pretty good chance to be re-nominated on May 4. Most political observers at the Metro Courthouse, believe long-time court officer David Smith is the only challenger who might have a chance to get more votes than Lineweaver.

Normally in Davidson County, winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to being re-election. The Republicans almost never mount a challenge. But this time, that's not true. The County GOP is holding a rare primary with 3 candidates of its own trying to unseat Linewweaver.

The most likely candidate to win that primary race is Metro Councilman Eric Crafton of Bellevue, which, ironically, is also where Lineweaver's political base comes from historically. Crafton has his own set of political baggage, most especially his outspoken sponsorship of the English Only effort defeated by the voters last year.

So it could be Lineweaver versus Crafton on the general election ballot in August. It's a political pairing that would likely have many voters forced to hold their noises to make a choice, all the while wishing there was a "none of the above" button to push on the ballot.


With Congress out of town on recess, the story of yet another retirement of a moderate politician in the U.S. Senate (Senate Evan Bayh) got a lot more ink and air time than normal. But only the names are changed here. This is the same story we have seen developing in both the House and the Senate throughout this election cycle so far.

Moderate politicians in both parties are becoming extinct. The zealots are in control. So moderates (those most likely to see bi-partisan compromise on issues) can't get support, they can't raise money as easily, so they can't be effective. So they leave, likely to be replaced by more zealots from either the same or (more likely) the other party.

It makes me wonder: When the new Congress comes to D.C. in January, 2011, which will there be more of in Washington, snowstorms or incumbents, especially moderate incumbents?

(By the way, it is not just Washington politicians who are leaving office. After just over a quarter-century of service, Nashville State Representative Ben West, Jr. has announced he is retiring and will not be seeking re-election later this year.  Metro Councilman Jim Gotto, a Republican, already planned to run against West, son of the former mayor Ben West. Now, you can be sure plenty of others, especially Democrats, will be looking at making the race, even though there is not much time to prepare. Former Metro Councilman Tommy Bradley has already taken out qualifying papers along with Larry Crim, according to THE TENNESSEAN (2/19). 

I do see that President Barack Obama is trying to reach out to Republicans to find some areas for bi-partisan agreement, beginning with the issue of energy. Specifically, the President seems ready to move ahead on helping to build and license some new nuclear power plants, something which hasn't been done in this country for many years. Interestingly, that is a pet issue of Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander who has been championing the nuclear power plant cause for some time now. Lamar and Barack: Building a better relationship over nukes.  I didn't see that one coming.

We've just passed the one-year anniversary of the federal stimulus package being signed into law. Once again, the Obama administration is trying to show voters that what has been done under that program has worked. Nice try, but Mr. President, you lost this PR battle many months ago. The word "stimulus" has become the longest four-letter word in politics, and a punch-line for late-night comedians.

It started downhill for the Administration when it promised the stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8%. Now it's been above 10% and most economic experts believe it will stay up near that level until at least the elections this November (which is a very bad omen for Democrats). 

At best, the stimulus kept things from getting worse for our economy last year (and things could have gotten a whole lot worse). But proving a negative is the hardest job in politics, which is why a new stimulus plan, like a national health care plan, is DOA in Congress and the country right now.    

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