Capitol View Commentary: Oct. 31, 2008 - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Capitol View Commentary: Oct. 31, 2008

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CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations

October 31, 2008

A "TRICK OR TREAT" FINAL WEEKEND FOR CAMPAIGN '08, WHAT TO WATCH FOR TUESDAY NIGHT, BASEBALL STAYS IN NASHVILLE, AND RECYCLING HURTS FUTURE TAX BASE?

So here it is, Halloween.

As we enter the final weekend of the Race for the White House, are there tricks or treats awaiting the candidates in the final few days? An "October Surprise" even when the calendar says November?

For Democrat Barack Obama, almost all the polling nationwide and state-by-state (especially in the battleground states) looks very promising for a win (maybe even by margins approaching a landslide victory) come Tuesday, November 4.

But will this looming treat turn out to be a trick? Will Obama's voters (especially young people and other new voters) turn out to cast their ballots and make the difference? Or are they already celebrating, figuring all the treats are in the Halloween bag, and so,, once again, they will bag going to vote and stay home? And if the Democrats and Obama lose this election, with all the tangible and intangibles elements so heavily in their favor this election cycle, can they ever hope to win a nationwide election again? 

As for John McCain and the Republicans, Election Day looks scary indeed. It is a given that Democrats will make major gains in both houses of the Congress. It may not result in filibuster and veto-proof Democratic majorities, but it will be a lot closer to that than it ever been for either party in recent years.

As for John McCain, he is trying to pull off a near miracle-sweep of the remaining battleground states, while also taking Pennsylvania back from the Democrats. Right now there are few indications in the polls that the Keystone State is turning his way, and while all the remaining toss-up states are ones that have voted Republican in recent years, many of them are showing slight, but persistent margins in favor of Obama in recent voter surveys. It seems even if the race tightens, and presidential races always do in the final days, it still may not be enough to allow McCain to pull off one more surprise comeback.

So it all means there is still likely to be some mystery when you join us for Channel 5 and NewsChannel5 Plus' election coverage. We start with CBS on the main channel at 6:30 PM with an hour-long broadcast of local and state results beginning at 7:00 PM on the Plus. We will continue our reports throughout the evening with local cut-ins twice an hour as a part of CBS News continuing coverage of the national races. 

Here's something watch for early. If you see some of the states in the Eastern Time zone close their polls, with network projections quickly following that they are going to be carried by Obama, watch out, we could have an early winner, even before the polls out west close.

But if the results coming in from states like North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Florida even Pennsylvania are found to be too close to call early on, then we could be up as late as 11:00 PM or later (our time) before we know who the next President will be.  11:00 PM Central Time is when the polls out west, especially in California close, and of all the states along the Pacific Coast are expected to be in Obama's column as well as New Mexico, Colorado and perhaps Nevada. Obama is even making a late effort to compete in McCain's home state of Arizona as polls there have gotten closer in recent days. 

So pop up the popcorn and keep a little left-over Halloween candy on hand, we could be a few hours figuring it all out before we know a winner. But I don't think this will be anything like 2000 or even 2004, where it all came down to a jump ball in one state, and nobody knew for sure who had come out victorious until the next day (or in 2000, until the middle of December).

Speaking of Halloween candy: What about the VP candidates? What should they be wearing on the campaign trail? What about Joe Biden dressing up as the candidate who scares Democrats the most, because they never know what he might say next on the campaign trail?  Sarah Palin? It was clear early in the campaign she would be dressed as a maverick, but now we hear other nicknames reportedly being used by McCain staffers to describe her (and not in a nice way): How about "Diva" or Wack Job or Rogue."

Normally when an election is going badly, the knives come out inside the losing campaign. But that's usually done internally until after Election Day. Now it seems the McCain campaign is bringing out the long knives well before the voting is final, and even as Palin is encouraging talk that she will continue to be active on the national political scene, even looking at running for President 2012. 2012? Does that mean she already knows John McCain will only serve one term if elected (McCain sure won't commit to that)? Or does it mean she already knows she and McCain can't win now, so she trying to position herself to run on her own in 4 years?  

Former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist (another possible future GOP Presidential candidate) must have some similar feelings about next week's election. He's already told Ken Whitehouse at NASHVILLEPOST.com that Obama will win November 4.

And there's "Joe The Plumber." Proving the adage that "there's always a Nashville connection", Joe Wurzelbacker, the Ohio man who has become the McCain campaign's mascot and tag line in the last couple of weeks, is seeking to extend his 15 minutes of fame beyond November 4, by hiring a local publicist and an agent to help him manage all the interview and appearance requests he is receiving. According to an article in THE TENNESSEAN, (October 31) for right now that doesn't include a record deal, but a book is in the works.  

Only in Nashville

TENNESSEE

Except for the Belmont debate, Tennessee has been all but ignored by the presidential campaigns. Nevertheless, it appears voters in this state are as excited as those in most battleground states. And they are turning out in record numbers, at least in early voting.

Well over 1.5 million Tennesseans have already voted, leading to perhaps over 2.5 million voting total at the end of Election Day on November 4. Early turnout has been heaviest in the state's two largest counties, Shelby (Memphis) and Davidson (Nashville), with their combined totals equaling almost 450,000 of the total or just under 30%.

That's likely good news for Obama. And he better do well in Nashville and Memphis, because he is not expected nearly as well in the rest of the state, especially the rural counties, where my GOP sources say her trails in some counties by 30% to 40%. My Republican sources also believe John McCain will do as well as George Bush did here in 2004 (winning by 15%). They also think Obama will be a major drag on Democratic candidates, in turn helping GOP state senate and house candidates. However my Democratic friends insist Obama will do better than expected statewide and that McCain will have no coattails in state legislative contests. Will Governor Bredesen be much help to Democrats? He wasn't in 2006. And after first saying he played to campaign for a number of state Democrats across the state, he then abruptly cut back his schedule, claiming the state's budget crisis required him to stay close to the Capitol. Now it appears his schedule has loosened up some and he is spending a few more days on the trail these final few days.

While you are watching for coattails on Election Night, also let's see if Tennessee is still a bell-weather presidential state. Since 1924, Tennesseans have voted with the winning candidate for President in ever election but two. The only times we've gotten it wrong was in 1924 and 1960. It's all but conceded John McCain will carry the Volunteer State this year, so is that a signal he will pull a national upset? Or will Tennessee get it wrong this time?

Finally, don't forget to watch Lamar Alexander's U.S. Senate race. Will he get more votes than John McCain? Will he carry all 95 counties? Will he be a shining star for the GOP on a night when the party has little to cheer about, especially in the U.S. Senate? Will the results of November 4, also propel Alexander to an even larger leadership role in the Republican leadership of the upper chamber? 

  INSIDE POLITICS

Of course, this week on INSIDE POLITICS, we take a look at what's going to happen in the elections both from a party perspective and from two of the best political journalists in the state.

We'll have State Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser and Republican Communications Director Bill Hobbs to join us in one segment, then Joe White of WPLN, Nashville Public Radio and Tom Humphrey of THE KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL.

We will take a look at all the key races, especially the ones that will determine who controls the State Senate and State House, as well as the Presidential race here and our U.S. Senate contest.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network. That includes:      

Friday, October 31            7:00 PM NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, Comcast Channel 50

Saturday, November 1     5:00 AM NEWSCHANNEL5 Plus

Saturday, November 1     5:30 PM NEWSCHANNEL5 Plus

Saturday, November 1       6:30 PM WTVF-TV, Channel 5

Sunday, November 2          5:00 AM WTVF-TV, Channel 5

Sunday November 2            5:00 AM NEWSCHANNEL5 Plus

Sunday, November 2           12:30 PM NEWSCHANNEL5 Plus

We are happy to have an extra showing on the main channel this weekend (if we aren't pre-empted by the SEC football game). So join us to get one more election fix, to get you ready for Tuesday night.

LIQUOR

One other interesting thing to watch in the local returns on Election Night is the outcome of the relatively large number of liquor referendums being held. Nolensville, White House, Goodlettsville and Pleasant View are all holding votes on whether to allow liquor-by-the drink, while Smyrna voters are deciding whether to allow package liquor stores.

Those are activities and businesses that used to be available only in Davidson County (Metro approved liquor by the drink 40 years ago). And so, over the years, lots of folks have driven to Nashville to have a nice drink with their dinner or to enjoy a night out at a club or even stay at a local hotel. Now with the growth and influx of new people to these bedroom communities, they want to be able to do those things closer to home.

Of course, there's still likely to be strong church opposition to anything that makes liquor more available in their communities. But is the church vote still strong enough to defeat these proposals? And, if liquor by the drink is approved in all these communities, what does that do to Nashville's sales tax collections and tax base in the future, as new upscale restaurants, clubs and hotels locate in these out of county communities?

BASEBALL

Professional baseball ended its season a few days ago with the Philadelphia Phillies defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 4 games to 1 in the World Series.

But for Nashville, pro baseball seems to be just getting started...again.

For months the ownership of the AAA Nashville Sounds baseball team has been at loggerheads with Mayor Karl Dean and the city over a new lease for dilapidated Greer Stadium. But the impasse was much deeper and broader than that.

Nobody at the Metro Courthouse liked the current Sounds owners after they screwed up a plan to build a new downtown riverfront baseball park a couple of years ago.  Metro was providing the land for free, and while lots of council members took some heat for approving the plan, everything looked to be fine, until the Sounds had a falling out with their co-developers and the deal died.

Then came the impasse over the new lease for Greer, and for a while it appeared baseball might be leaving Nashville, at least for a season or two. But now a group of New York and Japanese investors have stepped forward to buy the team, closing the deal in cash. So it appears prospects for a new lease and new lease on life for baseball at Greer Stadium are very bright.

Ultimately look for a new downtown baseball stadium proposal to surface again. Nobody can get a deal done like that right now with the financial markets in their present conditions. But a couple of years from now, things are likely to be much more favorable.

Isn't it odd?  An out of town group comes to Nashville and saves professional baseball. This time last year, everyone in Nashville was concerned that out of town groups were angling to take away the city's NHL hockey team. Fortunately, a new, mostly-local ownership team emerged. And with a new lease, they are once again trying to make the Predators and pro hockey work in a non- traditional hockey town.

There should be no such problems with baseball. After all, many still consider it, "America's Past Time." But when it comes time for putting together the deal to build a new downtown ball park, will Metro have to contribute more than just the land this time? And given Metro's very fragile financial condition, especially for capital projects, how will that be able to be funded with all the other pressing needs of the city?

But for now, I am sure Mayor Karl Dean (who is a huge baseball fan, especially of the Boston Red Sox) is just happy the Sounds will be here come next spring, and hopefully for many springs yet to come. Having grown up in Nashville during the years when we did not have a team (1964-1978) let me add, an "Amen" and a "Play Ball."

   

TAX BASE

On the surface, the news release out of Mayor Karl Dean's office announcing that Bellevue will soon receive curbside recycling would seem to be all about improving the environment.

Clearly, Mayor Dean is intent on being Nashville's greenest Mayor ever.

But the expansion of the recycling service, previously only available in Nashville's higher property-tax paying Urban Services District, could also have an ongoing impact on the city's tax base.

When Metro first began in 1960s, Urban Service District residents received several services than those living in the General Services District in outlying areas like Bellevue, did not. But over the years, those services (sewers, fire protection, a higher level of police protection, among others) have been diluted and expanded to outlying parts of the county without those communities being annexed and paying higher property taxes.

Now providing curbside recycling to GSD residents will take away another incentive from ever annexing these parts of town. Now the only new services that anyone annexed will receive is regular trash pickup and street lights (which many residents don't really want, anyway).

So for now, the Dean administration has decided being green is preferable to the green the city's tax base would receive from annexing these communities. I wonder how that will look when the Mayor puts his next budget together, and realizes, even with a countywide property reappraisal, he still won't be able to generate enough new tax revenue without seeking a risky, public referendum to raise the property tax rate. The Metro Charter amendment adopted a few years ago has brought a new day in our city. We can no longer afford the luxury of USD residents subsidizing services to the GSD which has been going on for years. It's either start looking at ways to build and expand our tax base, or anticipate some painful budget cuts ahead.   


NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network.  Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at pat.nolan@dvl.com.  
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