By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
December 20, 2019
HOUSE APPROVES TRUMP IMPEACHMENT; HOW WILL IT PLAY BACK IN TENNESSEE?; INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE VANDERBILT POLL; THE FORREST BUST; THE NUMBER ONE SPORTS CITY IN THE U.S.A.; PLANNING FOR NASHVILLE’S TRANSIT FUTURE AGAIN; BARNES FUND IMPOUNDMENT AND OTHER COOPER BUDGET MOVES ARE STILL CREATING ISSUES; MAYOR’S IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE REPORTS; WEARING THE MONEY; GOVERNOR LEE SAYS TENNESSEE WILL CONTINUE TO ACCEPT REFUGEES; BLOOMBERG VISIT SHOWS MORE SUPER TUESDAY ACTIVITY IN TENNESSEE; CARRIE GENTRY; ANOTHER CHANCE; MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!
HOUSE APPROVES TRUMP IMPEACHMENT
For only the third time in U.S. history, a President has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. The move against President Donald Trump is based on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. It come after months of behind closed- door depositions and public testimony by witnesses during hearings held by two different congressional committees. It also came after day- long final debates in both the Judiciary Committee and on the full House floor.
The final votes on the two different impeachment charges went largely along party lines in the Democratically controlled House.
HOW WILL IT PLAY BACK IN TENNESSEE?
As the focus of impeachment now turns toward a January trial in the Republican controlled Senate, the fate of the Trump presidency rests on the votes of 100 U.S. Senators. If two thirds of them vote to convict the President on either of the articles of impeachment (which isn’t expect bed to happen), he would be ousted from office. While two previous Presidents (Andrew Johnson & Bill Clinton) have been impeached, neither was removed from office. A fourth President, Richard Nixon, resigned before he was set to be impeached by the House.
There does remain a growing controversy over the rules that will govern the Senate trial. It is unclear if the disagreement will impact the January trial in the Senate which will presided over by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. It is also a bone of contention whether the President is impeached if the House’s action isn’t reported and sent to the Senate.
Where do Tennessee’s two senators stand? It is abundantly clear Marsha Blackburn is ready to vote to dismiss the charges against Mr. Trump. It is believed retiring Senator Lamar Alexander will do the same, although unlike some of his colleagues such as Blackburn, South Carolina Lindsey Graham and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he is much more circumspect in his comments.
What do the people of Tennessee think about impeachment and removal of President Trump? A Vanderbilt University poll released Tuesday, finds respondents are surprisingly split over the issue. Surprising because Tennessee has become such a deep red, conservative state. But the poll claims the President’s overall support numbers in the state have declined slightly, especially in suburban parts of Tennessee.
As a part of 600 demonstrations held nationwide a crowd of protestors urging President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office gathered at Nashville’s federal courthouse late Tuesday afternoon.
The Vanderbilt poll also gave readings on voter support for both Tennessee Senators (below 50% for both) as well as more positive support numbers for Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly. It also gives some insights into Tennesseans’ views on many of the state’s thorniest political issues, and, say the poll organizers, finds some low hanging fruit to seek solutions.
I doubt this is directly connected, but back in Washington, while the Capitol is preparing for perhaps the most polarizing and partisan fight ever over impeachment, these last two weeks have actually seen lawmakers of both parties and the White House find common ground and move ahead on some difficult issues.
For example, a massive spending bill passing through both Houses and which will be signed by President Trump, allocates $25 million for gun research, a topic that Congress has refused to touch at since the 1990s. There is also federal legislation poised for approval that would raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, another topic that has previously gone nowhere on the Hill.
The agreements between House Democrats and the President over the new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is another sign of cooperation in Washington as is the legislative agreement to extend three weeks of paid leave to federal workers to deal with family issues, a move that could nudge the private sector to move in a similar direction. The family leave provision was part of a trade with Democrats who agreed to support President Trump’s effort to create a Space Force.
Is all this a Christmas miracle? No, probably not, and I wouldn’t expect it to last into the New Year. Congress always has a burst of activity to get things done late in the year so it can go home for the holidays. That may have been accelerated and expanded this year because lawmakers, facing re-election in 2020, need to have something to show voters they’ve gotten things done besides squabbling over impeachment and all the other issues that polarize and divide us. Expect those issues to remain and return with the impeachment to further delay and bedevil much chance of any more bi-partisan efforts once the new year of 2020 arrives.
INSIDE POLITICS TAKES A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE VANDERBILT POLL
To take a deeper dive into the results of the Vanderbilt Poll, Dr. John Greer, the director of that university program and the Dean of Arts & Science at the school, will join us as our guest on INSIDE POLITICS. He will be joined by his colleague Dr. Josh Clinton who was a co-leader with Geer on the survey.
What do the poll results mean in terms of Tennessee and national politics? How accurate is any polling these days given the problems encountered with the 2016 elections and the recent balloting in the U.K?
We will also discuss a number of other fascinating findings in the Vanderbilt Poll. That includes how registered voters in Tennessee look at the economy and several other major national and state issues.
Our INSIDE POLITICS broadcast schedule on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS includes:
7:00 p.m. Friday;
5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday;
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 POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.
Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.
THE FORREST BUST
The effort to remove from the Tennessee State Capitol the bust of Confederate General and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, continues to gain support. The overwhelmingly bi-partisan support (76%) to move the bust was by far the most surprisingly outcome from the Vanderbilt poll.
There was also a petition with more than 40,000 signatures delivered to the Hill this week. It calls for the the Forrest bust to go, although one group that needs to act to make that happen, at first did not plan to even take up the issue when it met on Wednesday.
But given all the recent developments, including two leading Republican lawmakers calling for the Forrest bust to go, and new African American members being added to the Capitol Commission, the issue will now be taken up by the end of February.
There was also a major development this week regarding the Confederate statues in Memphis.
THE NUMBER ONE SPORTS CITY IN THE U.S.A.
Growing up in Nashville, I never thought of my hometown as a hotbed for sports, and certainly nowhere close to being tops in the nation on such a list. But obviously things change, especially after the city’s widely successful hosting of the NFL Draft last April as well as the NASCAR Awards ceremonies last week. We also have two successful professional franchises (The Titans and the Predators), and we are poised to add an MLS team and perhaps one day in the future, an MLB franchise. Plus the college sports scene is very healthy with the annual Music City Bowl and Bridgestone Arena’s near-annual hosting of the SEC basketball tournament.
Playing off this heightened profile, the highly respected STREET & SMITH SPORT BUSINESS JOURNAL now says our IT City is the Number One sports town in the nation for a variety of reasons.
Of course, while being Number One is a great honor, staying there can be challenging. While THE TENNESSEE TITANS recently broke ground to expand its training and other facilities in Nashville, its home playing field, NISSAN Stadium is 20 years old this year. It seems to be in pretty good repair, but a two decades old stadium is a rarity among NFL teams. Is a major renovation, upgrade or even a new stadium somewhere on the horizon for taxpayers? Or would Titans help pay some of the costs?
PLANNING FOR NASHVILLE’S TRANSIT FUTURE AGAIN
In the wake of the overwhelming rejection by Metro voters in May, 2018 of a multi-million, multi-decade transit plan, Mayor John Cooper is beginning a new public process in the new year of 2020.
He will be holding a series of public listening session seeking community input on what Nashville should do. It seems he wants to focus first on improving current transit services before looking further at adding light rail lines or a downtown underground transit tunnel, features the rejected plan spotlighted.
A schedule of the public listening sessions with locations follows:
Antioch/ Hickory Hollow
Southeast Community Center
Thursday, January 9, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Donelson/ Music City Star
Fifty Forward Donelson State
Thursday, January 16, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Bordeaux/ Clarksville Pike
Thursday, January 23, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Lee Chapel AME
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Joelton First Baptist Church
Thursday, January 30, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
West Police Precinct Community Room
Thursday, February 6, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Bellevue Public Library
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Downtown Public Library
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Green Hills/ Hillsboro Pike
Church of Christ - Green Hills
Thursday, February 20, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Nolensville/ South Nashville
Monday, February 24, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
East Nashville/ Madison
Thursday, February 27, 2020
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
“The first step in the planning process is determining our transportation priorities,” said Faye DiMassimo, Mayor Cooper’s Senior Adviser for Transportation and Infrastructure. “We will start by focusing on everyday transportation issues such as managing traffic and improving our bus system. Safety and efficiency improvements will allow residents to get around the city faster and more reliably. After identifying our most critical needs, the planning process will turn to larger and more ambitious public transportation and mass transit projects.”
Having received some pushback from Metro Council members for not briefing or consulting with them in advance about the plan, now approved by state officials, to balance Metro’s operating budget, the mayoral news release took some pains to point out that won’t happen on transit.
“Listening sessions with members of Metro Council began in November of 2019. Meetings with other community leaders and stakeholders will take place from January through March of 2020. The Mayor’s Office will issue initial recommendations in late spring of 2020 and release a full transportation plan by the end of September 2020, in keeping with Mayor Cooper’s pledge to have a new plan by the end of his first year in office.”
““The right transportation system is critical for our community,” said Mayor John Cooper. “It will get you to school, to work, to your doctor’s office, and back home. With Nashville’s recent growth, we’re facing new transportation challenges that we must address with intention, transparency, and full participation from residents throughout Davidson County. From covered bus stops and timely traffic signals to safer intersections and more sidewalks, creating an effective transportation plan begins with the opportunity for everyone who touches our transportation system to provide valuable input.”
Meanwhile transit was one of 40 issues that a local entrepreneur group told Mayor Cooper Nashville needs to do more to address.
In the area of education, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its report card on schools calling for a process to determine how to provide “full funding for schools” (whatever that means).
A new support group for local education, Nashville Now is also emerging, although it appears to be creating some division and controversy with other school supporters over issues such as charter schools and vouchers.
BARNES FUND IMPOUNDMENT AND OTHER COOPER BUDGET MOVES ARE STILL CREATING ISSUES
Mayor Cooper’s state- approved plan to balance the city’s $40+ million deficit in the city’s operating budget is continuing to catch flack. The NOAH group turned out hundreds to the Metro Courthouse in freezing weather Tuesday, demanding that the $5 million dollar impoundment of affordable housing grant monies under the Barnes Fund be rescinded.
Several Councilmembers spoke in support saying they would have found another way to deal with the deficit and avoided what amounts to a 50% cut in Metro’s affordable housing efforts. But the Council has no authority to undo the impoundment of city funds. Only the Mayor and Metro Finance Director can do that, which is why NOAH claims Mayor Cooper is reneging on a major campaign promise.
The protest got enough of a profile that the Mayor’s office issued a statement defending and seeking to justify the budget decision.
“Mayor Cooper is working to balance this year’s budget with the goal of avoiding employee layoffs and interruptions to vital city services. The delay in part of the Barnes Fund grant round was a difficult decision made in order to plug the city’s $42 million budget gap and preventing state supervision of the city’s finances. The Mayor understands how deeply frustrating it is for both affordable housing developers and advocates. Simply put, we can’t write a check for money we currently don’t have. The city is working constantly to identify revenue sources to make sure we fund the delayed Barnes grants as soon as possible. Mayor Cooper is fully committed to making the Barnes Fund whole.”
There is also growing concern that several parts of Mayor Cooper’s budget balancing plan depend on one-time revenue. Some say that is a funding source that helped get Metro in the budget mess it is already in.
There is another part of the Mayor’s budget bailout plan that is raising concerns. The Sherriff’s office is seeking to increase its revenue by housing 100 more inmates per day from the U.S. Marshal Service, as well as receiving at a higher daily rate to host these prisoners. But a significant percentage of the Marshal Service’s inmates (up to 40%) are ICE detainees facing criminal charges. ICE is a federal agency Sheriff Daron Hall had said recently he didn’t want to do business with, while the Metro government has been struggling with an overall policy about what relationship to have, if any, with the federal agency and immigration officials.
MAYOR’S IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE REPORTS
As Mayor Cooper took office back in September, question about Metro’s relationship with ICE was on the front burner. Former Mayor David Briley had issued an executive order requesting all city agencies to report any ICE contacts to the Mayor’s office and refrain from assisting ICE unless mandated by state or federal law.
The Briley order also angered state officials because it called for repeal of Tennessee’s Sanctuary Cities law. In response, they threatened to cut off at least $1.1 million in state dollars earmarked for Nashville. Mayor Cooper upon taking office rescinded the Briley/ ICE executive order because of a “lack of sufficient clarity for either immigrant families or Metro Government employees as noted by many community stakeholders, including immigration advocacy groups.”
The Mayor appointed Immigration Task Force to conduct an analysis of current Metro department practices and procedures related to requests from federal immigration authorities and recommendations for policy decisions moving forward.
The Task Force issued its findings last Friday. They include:
• A limited number of Metro Departments/Offices have received requests from federal immigration authorities.
• A limited number of Metro Departments/Offices have policies or practices governing their responses to requests from federal immigration authorities.
• Metro Departments/Offices do not have policies related to reporting to the Mayor’s Office about communications with federal immigration authorities.
The Task Force recommends a policy of city departments and related agencies report any ICE contacts to the Mayor’s office, but the report is silent on any suggestions about what the agencies and the Mayor should do in responding or dealing with immigration officials
Says Mayor Cooper: “Our city agencies cannot be expected to use its limited resources to do the work of the federal government, and it is my administration’s goal to help build a Nashville that works for everyone. This includes the valued members of our many immigrant communities. My administration will carefully review the task force’s report as we consider policy decisions related to federal immigration enforcement actions moving forward.”
How the Mayor’s statement will mesh with a policy of how the city will deal with future requests from immigration officials remains to be seen. Says Fabian Bedne, the Mayor’s Office liaison to the Immigration Task Force and a former Metro Councilman. “Metro Government clearly has work to do in creating and implementing a uniform reporting and response policy around requests from federal immigration officials.”
The Mayor’s Task Force made no mention of the Briley’s executive order call to repeal Tennessee’s Sanctuary City law. That means Republican legislative leaders, who passed the measure, are likely to keep their political powder dry until Mayor Cooper more fully defines how Metro will deal with requests for information or assistance from ICE and other federal immigration officials in the future.
WEARING THE MONEY
State Comptroller Justin Wilson has been the driving force to get Metro to start dealing with its money and budget problems.
This week, attending a State House budget hearing on the Hill here in Nashville, Wilson wore money as a part of his wardrobe.
GOVERNOR LEE SAYS TENNESSEE WILL CONTINUE TO ACCEPT REFUGEES
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says the state will continue to accept refugees, turning down an offer from President Donald Trump to opt out of accepting any more such immigrants.
The decision is controversial.
It comes just days before a Christmas holiday deadline to act. State legislative leaders expressed disappointment about the matter saying they wished the Governor had pushed “the pause button” instead on accepting more refugees.
How will the refugee decision impact the Republican Governor’s relationship with the GOP Super Majority in the General Assembly?
As for the lawmakers, for the past few years, the Tennessee Legislature has pushed (so far unsuccessfully) a federal lawsuit seeking to stop more refugees from coming to Tennessee. Tennessee will now be one of the few politically red states deciding to continue to accept refugees. This news about Tennessee continuing to accept refugees is being picked up nationwide.
In another potentially controversial legislative topic, a task force appointed by Governor Lee is recommending a rewrite of the state’s criminal justice sentencing laws.
BLOOMBERG VISIT SHOWS MORE SUPER TUESDAY ACTIVITY IN TENNESSEE
Over the years there hasn’t been much super about Tennessee’s presidential preference primary held in March every four years as a part of the national parties’ nominating process.
It remains unclear if the Volunteer State will mean much in 2020 either when voters go to the polls on March 3. If anything happens the action will come in the Democrats race. The survivors of the early caucuses and primaries may possibly come here and spend some time and money. A couple of them already have in a limited way. Now billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg has visited (Thursday) both Memphis and Nashville (where he opened a campaign office and had coffee with Mayor Cooper). Bloomberg has also put together an impressive staff to go along with his massive national and local TV ad blitz, which has already reportedly spent $100,000 in Nashville alone on media.
Mayor Bloomberg got in the presidential race late and is focusing his efforts on the multiple Super Tuesday contests set for March 3. It remains to be seen how a former Big Apple mayor (Yankee) will play in the IT City and Memphis, the two Democratic strongholds in the state, much less in the rest of Tennessee. But he seems to be giving it a try.
Bloomberg also faced some pushback from protestors here in Nashville.
On the local level, there also appears to be two contested races for Metro Trustee and Criminal Court Judge on the March 3 Democratic primary ballot.
The city of Nashville lost another of its Civil Rights and political icons this past week with the passing of Mrs. Carrie Gentry at age 95.
I first met Mrs. Gentry when her son Howard and I were involved in a Junior Knothole youth baseball team back in the early 1960s. I was more like a student manager with the team having been cut because the team could only have so many players per age group (9,10,11 & 12 year old). All the others kids my age who were trying out for the team were much better than me.
Howard Gentry, and two other members of that team, Walter Overton and Robert Cobb played a much more important and historic role on the Machinist Local 155 squad. At the urging of the team’s coach, Mr. Gino Marchetti, they integrated Nashville’s Junior Knothole baseball that year. Mr. Marchetti decided to ask the three youngsters to try out for the team after learning they were being run out of Centennial Park every day by white ruffians because they were black.
Mr. Marchetti, of course, had to get permission from the youngster’s parents, which he received. At the time I had no idea of the trailblazing role Mrs. Gentry had been playing in the local lunch counter sit in movement or in local Democratic Party politics. As I look back on it now as an adult and a parent, I realize it took a whole different kind of courage and fortitude for her to agree to put her child in such a trailblazing position. But Cary Gentry and her husband, Walter Sr had that courage and preserved even during some tense moments during that baseball season. By the way, our Machinist Local 155 Junior Knothole team was pretty good, finishing second in the city, despite the challenges the kids faced in being a first of its kind ball club in Junior Knothole baseball.
The trailblazing acorn didn’t fall from the tree for Howard Gentry, Jr either. He went on to be among the first two African Americans elected citywide to serve in the Metro Council and then the first African American Vice Mayor and now Criminal Court Clerk. Howard also ran twice for Mayor, once coming within just a few hundred votes from qualifying for the runoff election.
What I remember most about Mrs. Gentry was having her on INSIDE POLITICS along with her longtime friend and partner in local civil rights and political efforts, Inez Critchfield. Her son Carlton was also a high school classmate of mine at Father Ryan. The ladies were so excited that day. It was the summer of 2012. They had both been chosen as Tennessee delegates to the Democratic National Convention where they would cast their ballots to select Barack Obama to be the first African American to be nominated and ultimately elected President of the United States (twice).
I remember they both just glowed that day with a quiet but determined sense of the history about what they had helped to make happen, both in Nashville and nationally.
May you rest in peace, Mrs. Gentry. Well done!
Andrew Delke is the first Nashville police officer to face 1st degree murder charges as a result of an officer involved shooting in the summer of 2018.
His lawyers are convinced, due to media publicity, he can’t get a fair trial here. They asked the presiding judge to select and bring in a jury from elsewhere in Tennessee. Prosecutors disagree and Judge Monte Watkins rejected the change of venue request a few weeks ago. But now, after another hearing, the Judge he is granting Delke’s attorneys the right to appeal. The case is currently set for trial in March 2020.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This is my 48th and last Capitol View column for 2019. It’s been another wild and crazy year in Metro, state and national politics. With 2020 being an election year, and with the looming impeachment trial in Washington beginning early next year, I expect even more of the same the next 12 months. That includes here in Nashville, as Metro continues to deal with its budget and revenue issues and we have several elections on the calendar as well..
Look for my next Capitol View on Friday, January 10.
As for INSIDE POLITICS, our holiday encore show schedule includes:
The weekend of Friday December 27: Nashville baseball historian Skip Nipper
The weekend of Friday, January 3rd – MTSU Professor John Vile on his new encyclopedia outlining the amazing history of our American Flag.
Our first new INSIDE POLITICS show of 2020 will be the weekend of Friday January 10th. Lt. Governor Randy McNally is set to be our guest. The Speaker of the State Senate will join us just days before the Tennessee General Assembly returns to Nashville to begin its annual session.
Thanks for reading CV and watching IP in 2019. I hope you will do so again in the New Year!