THE SHUTDOWN IS ENDING
For most of this week, there appeared to be little to indicate the partial federal government shutdown (Day 35) was anywhere close to being resolved. But watching more closely, it did appear, late in the week, that both sides were coming closer to really negotiating, not just reciting the same old talking points to please their political bases. Read on.
Unfortunately, 800,000 federal workers remained political hostages, many were required to go to work without being paid, all of them have now missed two full paychecks. The total unfairness of this situation was creating increasing anger, frustration and a growing anxiety that the shutdown was impacting aviation safety, food inspections and a myriad of other government services that don’t seem as non-essential now as they did when this foolishness started. The hope was some disaster was not looming in the future.
The State of the Union speech foolishness has been settled, postponed it appears until after the shutdown is over. President Donald Trump huffed and puffed before finally conceding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the final say over having the annual address in the House chambers. The President finally realized holding the speech elsewhere (such as at one of his campaign rallies) would be a joke.
Of course, none of this back and forth over the State of the Union did anything to end the shutdown. That inaction has been hurting both parties and all our government officials in Washington. It’s our local businesses, non-profit groups and government leaders who have made us proud in reaching out to help the federal government workers suffering because of this silly shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did come out of hiding this week to schedule votes on two bills to resolve the matter. One was President Trump’s “compromise” which would have temporarily re-opened the government and given him $5.6 million to build the Mexican border wall (and fund other immigration changes). That would have been in exchange for a temporary reprieve from deportation for some DACA immigrants. That’s a program the President Trump himself tried to end, and it started a court fight that so far Mr. Trump is losing.
No deal said Democrats. They offered Senate legislation (already passed by the House) which would have reopened the government for up to three weeks while both sides continued to negotiate on the Wall.
Both bills failed in the Senate, although the Democrats got closer to the 60 votes needed to open debate on the issue. With Republicans seeing more defections on their side than the Democrats, maybe that is
why President Trump, for the first time started saying he’d settle for a “down payment” on the Wall in order to end the shutdown.
But Democrats still didn’t buy it. They want the government open first, then negotiate on the Wall. The polls show Democrats are winning in the court of public opinion. That puts further heat on Republicans and the President to make some deal or see their support in the Senate possibly further erode.
The President did still have one last ace up his sleeve by declaring a national emergency, opening the government, while re-purposing money already approved by Congress to build the Wall. But that will create a major legal fight and not even some of the President’s advisors are confident he can prevail in the courts.
So with Trump indicating he’d now accept a “down payment” on the Wall and Democrats saying they are willing to spend more money on ‘border protection” (but not a Wall), were we finally inching towards an agreement? Maybe or maybe not?
It all came to a climax Friday afternoon about 1:00 p.m. (Nashville time), THE WASHINGTON POST first reported a deal had been reached and it appears to favor what the Democrat want: re-open the government, then negotiate on the Wall. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-announces-deal-to-reopen-government/ar-BBSJ8Xe?ocid=spartandhp
This Wall fight has never been about spending more money or good public policy. It’s been about politics and playing to your base. Now it may come down to more semantics and positioning, with both sides now looking to save face, cut their losses and cover their backsides. Will this “deal” become a reality? In today’s Washington and with today’s President, who knows? To quote that famous baseball player, and humorist, Yogi Berra, who would have made a great political analyst:
“It ain’t over, till it’s over.”
Indeed, except for ending the shutdown, it’s not over. But for now, that may be enough. Thank God.
This Wall fight has never been about spending more money or good public policy. It’s been about politics and playing to your base. Now it may come down to semantics and positioning, with both sides now looking to save face, cut their losses and cover their backsides. Will this “deal” become a reality? In today’s Washington and with today’s President, who knows? To quote that famous baseball player, and humorist, Yogi Berra, who would have made a great political analyst.
“It ain’t over, till it’s over.”
GOVERNOR LEE MOVES INTO ACTION
After being sworn into office last weekend, Governor Bill Lee is hitting the ground running. He is following up on a couple of the key messages he delivered during his inaugural address. That includes this portion of his remarks:
“It’s true that we have good jobs and great prosperity here (in Tennessee). We have record low unemployment and taxes. Companies are moving here, and small businesses are starting here.
And yet, we also have 15 counties in poverty, all rural, all Tennesseans.
We have some of the most economically distressed zip codes in America — right in the heart of our greatest cities.
When we consider our state, we see how fortunate we are, and yet, we also see how much we have to do.”
To follow up on that, Wednesday the Governor issued his first executive order asking state agencies to explore ways of improving services to those 15 economically distressed counties.
Says a news release from the Governor’s office:
“There are 22 executive departments that will engage in this review and recommendation process. Distressed counties rank among the 10 percent most economically distressed counties in the nation. Each year, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) prepares an index of county economic status for every county in the United States.
The 15 distressed counties in Tennessee include: Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Van Buren, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock and Cocke.
Each executive department must a statement of rural impact explaining how the department serves rural Tennesseans no later than May 31, 2019 and recommendations for improving that service by June 30, 2019.”
But before you think Governor Lee is looking to create some kind of Tennessee “War on Poverty, “he also made it clear in his first speech: “Government is not the answer to our greatest challenges.
Government’s role is to protect our rights and our liberty and our freedom.
I believe in a limited government, that provides unlimited opportunity for we the people to address the greatest challenges of our day.
The truth is that most of the things that have created the greatness of Tennessee don’t have very much to do with government at all.
Our strength has always come from our people, people like those First Tennesseans, who came here with hope, who worked together to create this great state.”
Mr. Lee also told his Cabinet, in his first meeting with them on Tuesday, to prepare budgets that could be cut by up to 2%. That might seem strange with the state enjoying record tax revenues and a well-stocked “Rainy Day “fund to cushion any downswings in the economy. Frankly, I doubt you will see such budget cuts.
What the new Governor seems to be telling his team is to run their departments as efficiently as possible. The 2% cut is likely just an exercise (but perhaps an important one) to test them to see what they think are their most important services and what is of lesser value.
In his speech last Saturday, Governor Lee also mentioned education, economic development and criminal justice reform as other top priorities.
The Lee Administration is already looking ahead to the Governor’s first budget and State of State speech (now set for March 4). There is already talk of what the budget priorities will be. Most of those we have already discussed. In other areas (including K-12 and higher education), there are already questions arising on where things stand in the new administration’s pecking order. Read more in this TENNESSEAN article. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/24/tennessee-gov-bill-lee-first-budget-proposal-k-12-criminal-justice-mental-health-health-care-rural/2666657002/
Finally, as the partial shutdown of the federal government continues with no end in sight, Governor Lee is asking state departments to stay alert about the impact the shutdown could have on Tennesseans and the services they receive from state government (in some cases through federal funding allocated to the states). https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2019/jan/22/tennessee-gov-lee-keeping-close-eye-impact-pa/487216/
THREE OTHER EXECUTIVE ORDERS FROM THE NEW GOVERNOR
Continuing his effort for a quick start in office, Governor Lee on Thursday issued three more executive orders impacting the critical areas of ethics, transparency and non-discrimination practices.
Quoting from the Governor’s new release:
“Executive Order 2 fortifies the ethics policy applied to the governor, members of the governor’s staff, members of the governor’s cabinet and other executive branch employees. It expands the scope of employees required to file ethical disclosures and is designed to ensure that senior members of all departments and all employees regularly interacting with the General Assembly must file such disclosures.
Executive Order 3 mandates openness, transparency and accountability within the executive branch. Employees will be required to attend training within the next 120 days to ensure legal requirements relating to the following are met: open meetings, open records, and applicable ethics and disclosure rules. This order requires that training to happen on a specific timetable (within 120 days), while also mandating additional, recurring training.
Executive Order 4 directs the Commissioner of Human Resources to review all hiring and employment practices to ensure there is no discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, or any other category protected by state and federal law. The Department of Human Resources, in conjunction with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, is directed to conduct training within 120 days to ensure the executive branch complies with this policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity in hiring, firing, promoting and other management practices.”
GOVERNOR HASLAM’S FUTURE
In his farewell remarks last Saturday, former Governor Bill Haslam said his first action after leaving office was driving home to Knoxville with his wife, Crissy. Mr. Haslam gave that almost as a warning (and I am sure as a joke), adding he had not driven a car in eight years, so he was giving everyone going the same direction, the opportunity to get a head start on I-40.
The former Governor and his family are taking an overseas trip soon and won’t back until the end of February. At that time, he will have contemplated his next potential political race, to replace the retiring Lamar Alexander as one of Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators. Haslam told THE TENNESSEAN:
"I'm thinking about the Senate seat but I really have not made up my mind.” The former governor said he's been advised by others to take a step back and consider his options before deciding on the race. He plans on going on vacation, which he said was scheduled to last through late February.
"It'll probably be a little after that. Probably sometime in March," Haslam said regarding the timing of announcing his decision on the Senate race. “
Haslam is already heading to Washington later this year for a fellowship at American University. He will serve as a member of the school’s inaugural class of Fellows and Distinguished Lecturers. These experts will lead discussions and study sessions with students, as well as convene and participate in campus-wide events throughout the year. https://www.american.edu/sine-institute/2019-fellows.cfm
METRO’S BUDGET OUTLOOK
Metro government normally kicks off its budget preparations in late January for the next fiscal year (beginning July 1).
In that regard, the city’s Finance Department has sent out a memo to Metro departments giving some general budget preparation advice: Don’t ask for any new monies.
That would indicate another lean year ahead despite the city’s economy which continues to boom.
Mayor David Briley has been non-committal about the prospects of re-instating a 3% cost of living pay raise for city workers which was axed last year. This Finance Department memo also does not look promising in that regard.
Here’s the story from WPLN Nashville Public Radio and a link to the Finance Department memo. https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/metro-finance-director-warns-another-lean-budget-year https://www.nashville.gov/Portals/0/SiteContent/Finance/docs/Finance%20Director/FY2020%20Budget%20Message%20to%20Department%20Heads%20and%20Elected%20Officials.pdf
THE COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT BOARD IS IN PLACE
Metro voters made it clear in November.
By a wide margin, they changed the Metro Charter to create a Community Oversight Board to investigate allegations of Metro Police misconduct.
Voters also said they wanted the board selected by the end of January.
That’s warp speed in Metro government time.
But with Mayor David Briley now fully supporting the creation of the Board, and under the leadership of Vice Mayor Jim Schulman and the members of the Metro Council, who worked in several meetings throughout this month, the 11-member volunteer group has been chosen.
It’s was a difficult task with up to 180-plus persons expressing interest or having their name mentioned to serve. The result seems to be an historic one with this new group clearly being the most diverse ever to serve on a Metro-appointed board. Reports THE TENNESSEAN:
“The board has three former Nashville cops — including a former police chief. There's an ex-judge and onetime Tennessee attorney general. There's also a policy director at a Latino advocacy group.
Seven are African-American, three are white and one is Hispanic. Six are men, five are women and two are openly gay.
At a long and tedious meeting Tuesday night, the Metro Council elected a diverse group of individuals who will make up a new, closely watched, citizen-led board that will review the actions of Nashville police. “
Nashville Public Radio offers more details about those selected:
“Nashville’s oversight board will be composed of:
Bob Cooper, a former Tennessee Attorney General and adjunct law professor
Phyllis Hildreth, a vice president at American Baptist College who held high-ranking criminal justice jobs in Maryland
Ashlee Davis, who works in diversity and inclusion for Cargill Inc.
Jamel Campbell-Gooch, an activist who works with Gideon’s Army
Andrés Martinez, policy director at Conexión Américas
Brenda Ross, a neighborhood activist and property manager
Emmett Turner, former Nashville police chief from 1996 to 2003
Adele Lewis, a medical examiner who frequently provides expert testimony in criminal trials
Danita Marsh, a former police officer who now works as a mediator
Matthew Sweeney, an attorney at Baker Donelson and former judge
Walter Holloway, a retired Metro police officer
They live across the city, including representatives from North Nashville, East Nashville, West Nashville, Hermitage and West Meade, according to nominee applications.”
The new board must now take a course in police training. That includes learning the policies and procedures police follow in doing their jobs. The new board must also hire its director and a staff to be in place by the end of March.
The new Community Review Board is being created at the same time Nashville continues to deal with the second of two white police officer related shootings of black men in recent months. Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke has been indicted on a charge of first- degree murder. Delke, 25, is accused of killing 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick last July in North Nashville.
Delke is the first Metro police officer to face a felony murder charge for actions in the line of duty. While he will be arraigned later this month (and will plead not guilty), it will be likely some weeks, if not up to a year, before the case comes to trial. Tensions in the community remain not far below the surface and we will likely to see continued news stories about the case if talk arises of a possible plea bargain or a change of venue for the trial (moving the trial outside Nashville or bringing in an outside jury).
INSIDE POLITICS FOCUSES ON NASHVILLE AND THE 1960s CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Having just celebrated the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday and looking forward to February as Black History Month, INSIDE POLITICS this week focuses on Nashville’s role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Our guests are two distinguished Nashville historians, David Ewing and Dr. Reavis Mitchell, History Professor from Fisk University.
Our discussion will focus on the national leadership role our city played close to 6 decades ago in desegregating lunch counters. We will also look at Nashville’s role in the Freedom Riders movement. The Freedom Riders were beaten and jailed for their efforts throughout the South. It was however their efforts and leadership that made integrated interstate bus travel a reality even before the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In terms of what happened here, the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library downtown is a priceless resource. It’s where our visitors, newcomers, even native Nashvillians can learn more about this significant period in our city’s and nation’s history.
Watch our show, then visit the Civil Rights Room yourself!
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