Capitol View Commentary: Friday, November 16, 2018

Posted at 1:23 PM, Nov 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-16 14:23:48-05

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Seigenthaler, a Finn Partners Company
November 16, 2018



We are pleased to have Mayor David Briley with us on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend.

He joins us at the end of what has been, some say, an historic, even transformational week for Nashville in terms of its history of business development and jobs.

There were announcements (within an hour on the same day) by Amazon, and EY (Ernst & Young) to bring over 5,600 jobs to the city (not counting any economic multiplier effect that will create other spin-off jobs).

The jobs creation by Amazon alone (5,000) is the largest in the state’s and city’s history and the two firms’ overall investments here will top $250 million.

Actually, it was a trifecta for Nashville with the announcement (also on Tuesday) that the annual Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament will continue to be held here every March except one (2023) through the year 2035. That move will strengthen Nashville’s vibrant tourism and sports events industry in a sustaining fashion.

Of course, there are some who say the incentives the state and Metro have to provide to make these deals happen are bad for taxpayers and we will discuss that with Mayor Briley as well, along with some other on-going city-related issues.

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Mayor Briley has also scheduled the first major fundraiser for his re-election effort. That vote will be before Nashville voters next August. The event is set for December 12 and is being co-hosted by former Metro Finance Director and COO Rich Riebeling, his son Russell, along with their spouses.

The cost is $1,500 per person or $3,000 a couple. It is unclear who will be the major opposition for the mayor and/or how many opponents he will face. The field will likely be well less than the 12 candidates who ran against him in the special mayoral election last May.

Regardless, with the major dollars this first fundraising event will likely generate, the message from the Mayor is clear. If you want to run for mayor next year, bring a big wallet. Mayor Briley plans to have one, with this first fundraiser being the initial marker for that.


Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee is already working on put together his new administration to take office in mid-January.

That includes his top nine priorities.

  • Creating Jobs/ Growing the Economy
  • Education
  • Safe Neighborhoods for Every County/ Reforming the Criminal Justice System
  • A Healthy Tennessee
  • Supporting our Rural Communities
  • Growing the Agriculture Economy
  • Stopping the Opioids Epidemic
  • Transportation & Infrastructure
  • An Open & Responsive Government

You can read more about what he has in mind by clicking on this link to the Governor-elect’s transition website.

In working to identify his cabinet members, Governor-elect Lee will need a new Education Commissioner. Candice McQueen is leaving state service in January to become the CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), a non-profit organization that helps states, districts, and schools attract, develop, and retain high-quality educators.

In a news release, outgoing-Governor Bill Haslam praised his commissioner.

“While serving as commissioner, the state has experienced record high graduation rates of 89.1 percent and the best overall statewide ACT average and best overall ACT participation rate in the state’s history at 20.2 and 97 percent respectively. McQueen introduced a new strategic plan and vision for schools called Tennessee Succeeds, which has focused on increasing postsecondary and career readiness for all of Tennessee’s 1 million students. She has continued the state’s trajectory as one of the fastest improving states in the country in K-12 education, while adding historic gains in science, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

But Commissioner McQueen was also in charge while the state’s TN READY testing program to measure the progress of the state’s K-12 students and teachers remained mired in numerous administrative and technical problems to just deliver the test. That required the General Assembly to intervene twice to basically nullify the impact of the test scores. It also made the future of the TN READY program a subject for questions and debate in the governor’s race.

And then there’s this TENNESSEAN story concerning some eyebrow raising candidates who reportedly want to be in the Lee cabinet.

The Governor-elect is also getting advice from former State Senator David Fowler, now head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. Fowler sent out an open letter to the Governor-elect and to hs members on Friday. It gives his thoughts on about how the incoming Governor should listen to his advisors.


I mentioned last week that with Nashville businessman Bob Freeman winning the 56th state legislative district in the November 6th election, Davidson County will have no Republican representative in its House delegation.

That is except for Williamson County lawmaker Glen Casada, a top contender to be the next House Speaker. One again, he and perhaps other Super Majority Republican lawmakers on the Hill don’t like something that has been approved in Nashville and they want to use the state’s sovereign powers to nullify or repeal what’s been approved in our city. In the past that has included (according to THE

TENNESSEAN) “issues such as marijuana decriminalization, short-term rentals, affordable housing, charter schools, nondiscrimination employment protections for gay people and a local-hire policy for Metro government.”

In the past these nullification efforts have been aimed at laws approved by the 40-member Metro Council. This time Representative Casada is going after what Nashville voters approved overwhelmingly on November 6: the creation of an 11-member police review board.

Casada tells the newspaper:

"We as conservatives and Republicans are concerned that maybe they wrote it poorly," Casada told The Tennessean, "and what I mean is that in such a way that it would hurt police protection."

"Specifically, what will the actions be next year? I don't know. That's why we're going to sit down next year and study it first."

Later in the same article it was reported concerning Casada: “He wants to look at constitutional questions he's heard about and whether the new board would "greatly hamper police protection of the citizens of Davidson County." He declined to say who urged him to review Amendment 1, only that they were active in trying to defeat the measure. He said it was not the Nashville FOP…Casada said he's heard questions about "non-citizens" being able to serve on the board — an argument pushed by some conservatives before the vote.”

Community supporters of the review board say the approved Metro Charter amendment is legal and that other cities in Tennessee (Knoxville and Memphis) have similar police oversight boards.

Regardless, due to the provisions approved by voters, Metro is required to get the board selected, confirmed, staff hired and budget in place by the end of January. It does not appear likely Casada and his Republican supporters can act quickly enough to stop the review board from getting underway.

But the potential effort in the Legislature to stop it along with the still on appeal lawsuit by the Fraternal Order of Police, claiming the charter amendment was wrongly paced on the ballot, leave plenty of controversy still swirling around this soon to be appointed and funded new city agency.


Tennessee is mourning the loss of a very significant adoptive son.

Longtime Williamson County state representative Charles Sargent, who was retiring from the General Assembly this year, lost a longtime battle with cancer on Tuesday. He was 73. Sargent was born in New York City and came to Tennessee as an adult to build his career as an insurance executive.

Soon Sargent was active in his neighborhood and then county government. That led to a seat in the Legislature, where he rose over the past 20 -plus years, from being a little- known Republican back-bencher to becoming the Chair of the powerful House Finance Ways & Means Committee. Sargent was so well thought of by his own constituents, he frequently ran for re-election without any opposition.

For the past 10 years he has been the number one person to consult on budget matters in the Tennessee House. As House Finance Chair, he helped focus state spending. He also earned the trust and 

respect of his colleagues, even those on the other side of the aisle. Wrote outgoing Democratic House Majority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in a Twitter post this week.

Rep. Craig Fitzhugh 

Long time lawmakers such as Sargent and Fitzhugh (and House Speaker Beth Harwell who also left her post to unsuccessfully run for governor) are getting increasingly hard to find on Capitol Hill. The loss of institutional memory as well as longstanding friendships ended through these departures will be on the display when the new General Assembly convenes for the first time in January. We will have the largest rookie class in the House since the Civil War along with significant changes in the Senate, and several new faces in leadership in both chambers.

Combine this with a new governor and his cabinet, orientation may take a bit longer than usual in 2019. You would be well advised to take a legislative and state government roster with you to the Hill. That’s so you can identify all the new people.

Rest in peace, Charles Sargent and to longtime former Republican Senate Minority Leader Ben Atchley of Knoxville. He passed away this week at the age of 88. Atchley served the people of Tennessee in both the House and Senate for 32 years from 1972 to 2004. He was nicknamed “Gentle Ben.” He often sought to find ways to work out legislative disagreements rather than move into political confrontation and gridlock.


The future role in the community for former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry continues to be the subject of media debate (and I suspect in several water cooler conversations as well).

The ex-mayor stepped down last March after pleading guilty to felony theft charges arising out of an extra-marital affair which she had with her security chief.

Here’s the latest media contribution to this ongoing community debate from NASHVILLE SCENE Associate Editor Amanda Haggard.

It is interesting to note that as I speak to civic groups around town about politics (as I did this week), Mayor Barry’s name and her political future continues to come in questions from the audience.


Even though November 6th is now over 10 days in the past, several elections remain undecided across the country. That includes a U.S. Senate race in Mississippi which is headed to a runoff vote in December.

The Democratic candidate Mike Espy has a connection to Nashville. The former Commerce Secretary under President Barack Obama is the brother of Nashville non-profit executive, Joyce Searcy and brother in law to noted attorney and activist Walter Searcy.

Espy would be the first African American elected to the Senate from Mississippi since Reconstruction times. In a deep red voting state, Espy is considered an underdog in the race although some recent, most unfortunate comments by Espy’s Republican opponent is creating quite a stir.


No column next week!

That means there’s more room for leftover turkey and more time for your holiday nap next Friday! 😊

The next Capitol View will be out on Friday, November 30.

Next weekend on INSIDE POLITICS, we will air an encore presentation of our interview with author and TENNESSEAN columnist, Keel Hunt. We discuss his new book: CROSSING THE AISLE: HOW BI-PARTISANSHIP BROUGHT TENNESSEE INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AND COULD SAVE AMERICA.

It’s an excellent history of how working together over the last four decades, Tennessee’s leaders from both parties, have moved our state ahead and avoided the partisanship and political gridiron we see elsewhere, especially in Washington.

I highly recommend you purchase and read Keel’s book. It will give you food for thought as you prepare for those holiday gatherings where you know family political discussions will also be on the menu.