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Capitol View Commentary: Fri., May 31, 2019

Posted: 4:28 PM, May 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-31 21:29:00Z
Capitol View

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — METRO PROPERTY TAX HIKE 2.0

For the second year in a row, the Metro Council considers a potential property tax increase not proposed or supported by Mayor David Briley. The 52.5 cent or 16% increase in the tax rate is being sponsored (as it was last year) by At-Large Councilman Bob Mendes. He is joined as a co-sponsor by district Councilmember Anthony Davis. Both say the city needs the money now for schools, to pay off debt and for larger employee raises among other things. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/29/nashville-metro-council-budget-property-tax-increase-bob-medes/1263039001/ https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2019/05/28/councilmembers-seek-property-tax-hike.html https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21070706/council-will-again-consider-property-tax-increase

Approval of a tax increase without the support of the mayor has never occurred in Metro’s 56-year history. Last year’s effort failed narrowly, falling 3 votes short of the necessary 21-vote majority for approval on third and final reading.

The Mendes-Davis tax proposal also allows the Council to avoid controversial budget recommendations by Mayor Briley to privatize the city’s on-street parking system and to sell its downtown energy system which heats and cools many buildings including the Metro Courthouse.

The vote on whether to raise property taxes will occur less than 6 weeks before voters go to the poll to elect a new Metro Council. By my calculations, there are two-thirds of the Council (27 of the current 39 incumbents) on the August ballot.

7 incumbents are unopposed

16 incumbents face opposition (2 at-large and 14 district members).

4 district members are running for the 5 At-Large posts.

Add those numbers to include the incumbents who are term limited or not seeking re-election. Will it add up overall to the 21-votes needed to pass a tax increase that would be unprecedented in Metro history? Stay tuned.

The month of June will be a very interesting one at the Metro Courthouse.

During budget hearings this week, council members spoke in favor of more funding for schools. But rather than approving a tax hike, the conversation seemed more about making cuts in other parts of the city’s budget including schools. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2019/05/29/nashville-schools-teacher-pay-stagnant-metro-council-considering-mnps-raises/1263588001/

ON STREET PARKING PRIVATIZATION PLAN PARKED FOR NOW

All week, the Mayor’s on street parking privatization proposal continued to stir controversy as reflected in this NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES story. It profiles the large number of lobbyists working the issue to get votes in the Council as well as comparisons saying the privatization deal is like a pay day loan. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/expert-compares-nashvilles-private-parking-deal-to-a-payday-loan

It appears even 10 lobbyists are not enough. On Friday morning Mayor Briley announced he is hitting the pause button on his plan until after the budget process. He says he is making the move to better educate the public and counteract misinformation he says is being spread by opponents of the plan. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/mayor-hitting-the-pause-button-on-nashville-parking-modernization-proposal https://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/metro-government/article/21071074/metro-delaying-parking-privatization-deal

Questions that arise from the Mayor’s decision:

Did he delay because he didn’t have the votes to pass the present plan either through the Council or the city’s Traffic & Parking Commission?

Was the controversial parking plan staying in the budget making it more likely a move to raise property taxes might be approved by the Council over the Mayor’s objections?

How will the Briley’s administration fill the potential $30 million revenue hole left in the budget by deferring the parking plan?

What changes in the on street public privatization plan will the Mayor make to build Council and public support for the proposal?

Will delaying the parking plan help defuse the issue both in the Council and in the mayoral race?

Stay tuned.

MAYORAL CANDIDATE EXPRESSES REGRET ANOTHER GETS LABOR ENDORSEMENTS

In the past, mayoral candidate and retired Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain has been quite outspoken in her criticisms about those of the Muslim faith. Now she says her past comments were twisted out of context and she is reaching out to the Islamic community, visiting the Islamic Center this past holiday weekend.

The response has been mixed at best. Even some of her supporters are now denouncing her actions. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21070425/carol-swain-visited-a-mosque-and-her-fans-are-pissed https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/28/carol-swain-regrets-anti-muslim-islam-rhetoric/1262155001/

One other update on the Swain campaign. Sources tell me she has reserved time to air TV ads on at least one local network TV station (not Channel 5). If so, she may be the first candidate for mayor to go on the air.

Another mayoral candidate State Representative John Clemmons has received some significant labor endorsements. All the city unions still unhappy with incumbent Mayor David Briley over his rescission of a 3% cost of living pay raise last year. While the Mayor is offering 3% this year, that’s not nearly enough say Metro labor leaders. Their fellow labor organizations are in solidarity and seem to be uniting behind Clemmons to support in the August 1st election. It began last Friday the Central Labor Council. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/05/24/nashville-mayor-race-central-labor-council-endorses-rep-john-ray-clemmons/1223837001/

In addition, this week the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Building Trades Unions and Communications Workers of America Local 3808 formally endorse Clemmons. The Nashville and Middle Tennessee Building Trades Unions consist of 17 organizations and hundreds of working families across the region. The Communications Workers of America Local 3808 represents 1100 members.

Regarding these endorsements, Rep. Clemmons, the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Building Trades Unions and the Communications Workers of America Local 3808 released the following statements:

“I am immensely grateful to the members of the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Building Trades Unions and the Communications Workers of America Local 3808 for their endorsement and support,” said Clemmons. “For too long, our Metro government has ignored the needs of working families. As mayor, I will fight to improve the quality of life of all residents by fully-funding our public schools, getting to work on much-needed transportation and water infrastructure projects, and addressing the affordability challenges facing families.”

“Rep. Clemmons has fought for working families his entire career, and we know that he is the right person to lead Nashville into the future,” said Anthony Nicholson, President of the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Building Trades Unions. “His campaign's focus on improving affordability and quality of life is exactly what our county needs. If Nashvillians want a mayor who will actually listen and stand up to corporate interests, John Ray Clemmons is the clear choice for mayor.”

“It's our pleasure to endorse a candidate for mayor who understands the daily struggle that working families face,” said Debbie Sisco, President of the Communications Workers of America Local 3808. “Rep. Clemmons is the grandson of a lifelong CWA member, and we're excited to be a part of a campaign that is giving a voice to residents from across Nashville. John Ray Clemmons has the energy necessary to bring a new kind of leadership to Metro government.”

But what kind of voter power does Organized Labor hold in Nashville? These non-governmental labor endorsements are certainly helpful for Clemmons, perhaps the most significant endorsements his campaign has received. But with the government labor groups, so many Metro employees live outside Davidson County. Therefore, they can’t vote for mayor or anyone in a Metro election, which weakens those unions power and influence in local politics.

Meanwhile as the number of mayoral forums continues to grow, some in the media say this race is off to a sleepy start compared to mayoral races past. https://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/metro-government/article/21070940/sleepy-mayoral-race-kicks-off-with-a-whimper

CASADA SCANDAL GOES QUIET OR MAYBE NOT

With the soon to be ex-Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada on his European vacation this week, the scandal surrounding his appropriate text messages and other activities seemed to take a bit of a hiatus.

But maybe not.

The negative national publicity surrounding this scandal done continues. That includes this article from GQ. https://www.gq.com/story/tennessee-speaker-scandals

Speculation also continues about whether Casada will actually resign after he returns to his state offices on Monday, June 3. Governor Bill Lee has said he will call a special session of the General Assembly if the Speaker doesn’t step down by the end of June.

But as for calling a special session to remove Casada completely from both his Speaker chair and his elected position to represent a portion of Williamson County in the House, the Governor seems likely to leave that up Casada’s colleagues do that on their own. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/governor-lee-not-committing-to-special-session-to-remove-casada

NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES’ Phil Williams did come up with an update about Speaker Casada’s phantom employee, a political advisor who got paid but never had to come to work. Does he owe taxpayers money? Is it even going to be investigated? And is local D.A. Glen Funk being consistent given past investigations, including one involving himself? https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/casada-aide-may-be-forced-to-repay-state-for-no-show-days

Then there was this follow up story specifically about as request for the D.A.’s office to investigate. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/capitol-hill/davidson-county-lawmakers-ask-funk-to-investigate-casadas-spending

There are also growing complaints about the special prosecutor the local D.A. has appointed to look into allegations there was an effort out of the Speaker’s office to frame a local civil rights activist who had been at odds with Casada. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2019/05/28/justin-jones-prosecutor-craig-northcott-cair-complaint/1262837001/

Near the end of the week, there are reports of yet another Casada aide departing state government in the wake of the scandal. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2019/05/29/tennessee-house-hall-monitors-speaker-glen-casada/1276708001/

So maybe it wasn’t a very quiet scandal week on the Hill after all.

THE FISH STORY THAT WON’T DIE

When he was running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate last year, Democrat Phil Bredesen’s efforts to stop the invasion of the Asian carp into Tennessee rivers and streams got drowned out by outcries over invading caravans and the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination.

Now based on this NASHVILLE SCENE article, it appears the staff of Marsha Blackburn, the winning Senate candidate, may still not understand the issue. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21070715/blackburn-bonks-asian-carp-question-but-the-trash-fish-is-a-real-problem

UPDATES

Back in the early 2000s when Metro Government received the donation of the Musica statuary to adorn the Music Row Roundabout, the full plans included a large fountain to complement the artwork.

But Metro didn’t have the money to do that, so those plans were shelved. However, a local foundation has never given up the fountain idea. This week they presented an update on their ideas and fundraising plans in the hopes of having the fountain in place by November 2020. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2019/05/30/music-row-roundabout-fountains-new-name-update-plans-unveiled-buddy-killen-circle-musica-sculptures/1284500001/

The new name and plans for the Music Row Fountain also come amid more signs the entire famed Music Row area is endangered. In fact, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has now added the Music Row neighborhood to its ongoing list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/nashville-music-row-historic-place-endangered-842067/ https://www.nashvillescene.com/music/nashville-cream/article/21070909/music-row-listed-among-americas-most-endangered-historic-places

Speaking of difficulties, especially unexpected ones in preserving history, the new $160 million Tennessee State Museum, which just opened just a few months ago on the Bicentennial Mall, has leaks. It does not appear there have been any major problems so far. But nothing can be more damaging, and in this case, embarrassing, than leaks in a brand -new building whose mission is to preserve the state’s history and culture. https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2019/may/31/water-leaks-state-museum/495683/

MAY DEAN

She was one of the most influential persons in recent Nashville history.

But you may have never heard of her.

May Dean Eberling died this week at the age of 78 after an extended struggle with cancer.

She was the founding Director of the Metropolitan Historical Commission and she worked for over 25 years as Community Relations Director at NEWSCHANNEL5. More than anything else, May Dean was a difference maker, a southern lady who didn’t suffer fools gladly. A dear friend and a mentor to many.

If you knew anything about May Dean Eberling or followed her work on behalf of preservation in Nashville in the 1970s and 80s as the founding Director of the Historical Commission, you knew she was passionate. You knew she was a driving force in favor of preserving Nashville’s built history at a time when preservation wasn’t cool.

Think of a Nashville without the Ryman Auditorium, without Union Station, without the Customs House or the Hermitage Hotel? How about a Nashville without all the historic buildings on Second Avenue and Lower Broad?

Without May Dean Eberling, all of those buildings might well have gone the way of the wrecking ball.

She did her work largely behind the scenes, organizing, cultivating support from elected officials, speaking out when necessary, always with a goal, as long as it took, to be successful in the whatever she was trying to achieve.

She never wanted to be the story herself. Despite what some may think about preservationists, May Dean was never hysterical. She was calm and clear-eyed about the importance of our history and she acted decisively to protect it.

May Dean didn’t just push for downtown preservation. She was active in Nashville’s neighborhoods to build their latent influence and power and make them the local political force they are today. She also helped Nashville neighborhoods preserve the significant treasures in their built environment through historical and other zoning restrictions and overlays to help them flourish as the city grew.

Her work was particularly important in emerging historic neighborhoods such as Edgefield, Lockland Springs and East End in lower East Nashville as well as in Germantown in North Nashville. Those neighborhoods and many others benefited so much from May Dean’s efforts.

It’s trendy now to help preserve African American history. May Dean was about doing that over 40 years ago. She began an annual local conference on that subject each February that continues to this day.

After May Dean left the city to become NEWSCHANNEL5 ‘s Community Relations Director in 1982, her efforts and passions for our community continued. That included many public-minded television programs and campaigns she championed over the years. From its beginning, May Dean was truly one of the driving forces that shaped the NEWSCHANNEL5+ PLUS channel making it into what it is today in terms of excellent public service programming.

May Dean would be uncomfortable about all the media attention her passing is receiving. But it is well pass time that happened. She deserves every second of air- time and every column inch of recognition coming her way. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/nashville-preservationist-may-dean-eberling-dies-at-78 https://www.tennessean.com/story/life/shopping/ms-cheap/2019/05/29/nashville-preservation-may-dean-eberling-dies-78-historical-commission-ryman/1249472001/

I’d like to close with a personal note about May Dean. As she was for so many of the people around her, May Dean was such a great friend and wonderful mentor to me. I knew her first as reporter where she enlightened me on the importance of historic preservation. It began part of my Metro beat at Channel 5.

Even after she came to the station and I left to go to the mayor’s office, we stayed in touch. She and Mayor Fulton were great allies and her support and counsel remained critical.

She became even more important to me after I came back to the station as political analyst. We talked politics frequently when I would see her. She would share her thoughts and passions, especially if she thought I had missed something on a story or issue. She’d even tell me if she thought I got something right too.

I probably wouldn’t be at Channel 5 today without May Dean. I am pretty sure she played a critical role to convince the station to rehire me two decades ago in 1999 after I had been at another station. She also encouraged me to apply (and lobbied the station to hire me) to take Chris Clark’s host role on what is now my weekly INSIDE POLITICS show.

I owe her so much. But then, so many of us who knew and loved May Dean, feel that same way. She was that kind of great lady! I miss her already.

A POTPOURRI OF POLITICS ON INSIDE POLITICS THIS WEEK

As May turns to June, we have so much going on in politics these days.

We are bringing in two of our best political analysts, Larry Woods and Bill Phillips, to talk about it.

We discuss an emerging mayoral race on the local scene. As for the state, the Speaker Casada scandal will be center stage in our discussion. Nationally, Robert Mueller did his best great Greta Garbo impression this week. For the first time (and he says the only time) he TALKED, speaking briefly about his ever- controversial Russia investigation. What did he say? What does it mean? Where do we go from here?

Watch us and learn more!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

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.