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Capitol View commentary: Friday, August 16, 2019

Posted: 12:22 PM, Aug 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-16 13:22:47-04
Capitol View

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Capitol View
By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
August 16, 2019

MAYORAL CANDIDATE & AT LARGE METRO COUNCILMAN JOHN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; COOPER BACK ON THE AIR WHILE BRILEY FACES KEY DEFECTIONS; METRO BUDGET AND DEBT ISSUES ARE NOW GRABBING THE STATE’S ATTENTION; THE 2020 TENNESSEE U.S. SENATE RACE; THE ABORTION BATTLE HEATS UP AGAIN; DON’T BET ON IT JUST YET; GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN OR PAID UP; GOVERNOR BILL LEE DOING HIS HEALTH CARE POLICY PLANNING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS; CAROL SWAIN STILL INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY AND MAKING WAVES; MAYBE NOT ON EACH OTHER’S CHRISTMAS CARD LIST; THE NASHVILLE ORIOLES?;

MAYORAL CANDIDATE & AT LARGE METRO COUNCILMAN JOHN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS we continue our conversations with the candidates in the runoff election for Nashville mayor. Election Day is Thursday, September 12.

Last week we spoke with incumbent Mayor David Briley.

This week our guest is Metro Councilman at Large John Cooper.

With Early Voting underway on Friday, August 23, we want to give our viewers (and readers of this column) the chance to see and hear from the candidates one more time before the final choice is made by voters.

In addition to appearing several times on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS over the weekend, both our mayoral interviews will air on NEWSCHANNEL5’s main channel each Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. following NEWSCHANNEL5 at 6.

Our INSIDE POLITICS 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.

Finally, Rhori Johnston mentioned this during our election coverage August 1st. To provide yet another opportunity for Nashville voters to see and hear the mayoral runoff candidates, NEWSCHANNEL5, THE TENNESSEAN and Belmont University are joining to host a televised debate on August 26.

COOPER BACK ON THE AIR WHILE BRILEY FACES KEY DEFECTIONS

There is nothing like the excitement of a winning campaign headquarters on election night.

That’s the energy mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman at Large John Cooper tries to capture in his first TV and on-line ad of the runoff campaign.

It begins with the statement that 75% of voters in the August election voted for change. The math backs that up. But the math also shows almost two-thirds of the general voters cast their ballots for someone else besides John Cooper.

But hey, every candidate gets the chance to put the best spin possible on his campaign.

But while Cooper is back on the air, the campaign of Mayor David Briley is MIA. In fact, he faces some key financial backers jumping ship to endorse and raise money for Cooper. That includes businessman and media mogul Bill Freeman and Gaylord Opryland CEO Colin Reed among others.

Maybe these defections are part of the back story for why Briley’s runoff campaign has, so far been so weak. A week after pledging he would “fight like hell” in the runoff election and “leave it all on the field,” there are no new TV ads up for Briley. Maybe he doesn’t have the money anymore?

What is the mayor’s campaign strategy? He called “B.S.” on his opponent (saying the full words I won’t use in this column). Yet so far there is no follow up, only a news release along with video of a campaign speech laced with more profanities. While I have never seen such language being used publicly by a Nashville mayoral candidate, I can understand the need for a runoff underdog to go outside the box to attract attention and have voters give him another look.

But what now? What’s next? Going after Councilman Cooper for being a phony on supporting neighborhoods raises some interesting questions. The lawmaker says he voted no on $600 million in neighborhood improvements because he wanted more information that he never received. But what more information was necessary regarding building the new Criminal Justice Center? A new library for Donelson? Funding police body cameras (although they still have not been put into service)? What other information is needed to fund bi-weekly recycling pickups increased from once a month, an enhanced service which is scheduled to begin next year? Were these bad ideas for Metro?

But it takes an effort by an incumbent mayor to turn these questions into a campaign issue. So far it is hard to see that effort from Campaign Briley and time is quickly running out. Along an implosion among key supporters, I also saw an embarrassing typo sent out to Briley supporters. The e-mail read John Cooper “voted against two capital spending projects that totaled $600 in neighborhood investments.”

Later this correction went out from the candidate: “While I wish my opponent had said no to only $600, I meant to type $600 MILLION in funding for neighborhoods.” Whoops!

Before the news of the loss of major supporters, the Briley campaign this week (Tuesday) released an updated list of current and former public officials endorsing the Mayor. They are:

Former Mayor and Gov. Phil Bredesen
Rep. Bob Freeman
Rep. Jason Potts
Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry
County Clerk Brenda Wynn
Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell Matthews
Councilmember Brett Withers, District 6 (East Nashville)
Councilmember Anthony Davis, District 7 (Inglewood)
Councilmember Nancy VanReece, District 8 (Madison)
Councilmember Bill Pridemore, District 9 (Madison, Neely’s Bend)
Councilmember Colby Sledge, District 17 (Wedgewood-Houston)
Councilmember Freddie O’Connell, District 19 (Germantown, Gulch)
School Board Member Christiane Buggs, District 5 (East Nashville, Midtown)
School Board Member Gini Pupo-Walker, District 8 (Vanderbilt, Green Hills)

And there was this vote of confidence and a prediction:

“The next month will be a grind for both candidates, but I believe Mayor Briley can pull it off,” said Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry. “This is a chance for him to show Nashvillians that he is the right choice for Mayor right now.”

Mayor Briley did receive an endorsement in a TENNESSEAN op-ed piece. It is penned by his mom. She admits her bias but says her son is the right person to be mayor and he should be allowed to finish the job he was thrust into in March 2018.

As a part of his official duties this week, Mayor Briley announced a council of local women activists to help plan the 2020 centennial celebration of women’s right to vote and our city and state’s special role in making that happen a century ago.

The effort to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage by the Mayor was announced in the midst of renewed controversy over his first downtown redevelopment effort. Briley proposed swapping city park land, which adjoins Church Street and the former Capitol Blvd now named after local suffrage leader Ann Dallas Dudley. The property would go to a local developer so he could build a new office and residential high rise. In turn, the city would receive land and money to build and provide homeless services elsewhere downtown. The effort has created an ongoing development firestorm among several groups .

This week, the state and Metro Schools released the latest TNReady test scores. The results found both good news and not so good news for Nashville schools.

Mayor Briley released a statement, praising the hard work of teachers, students, principals as well as school administrators for the improvements. He also said:

“These results also show that while there is growth, considerable opportunity gaps persist for students of color and low-income students. In order to see improvements moving forward, I call on our State to invest more in our schools, including increasing pay for our teachers and aligning resources and supports so that every student can thrive. Talent is distributed equally to all students, opportunity is not.

I believe we will continue to make significant progress in our schools under (Acting Schools Director) Dr. Battle’s leadership. I remain confident that we can come together as a city to support all of our schools and help all of our students reach their full potential.”

Back on the campaign trail, for the Mayor’s opponent:

Continuing to gain the labor support that largely went for State Representative John Ray Clemmons in the August 1st mayoral election, the International Association of Firefighters Local 140 is endorsing John Cooper in the September 12th runoff.

Said Union President Mark Young. “John has visited with several Nashville firefighters and EMS personnel over the last few months, listening to the issues in the Fire Department. Staffing and additional fire stations are some of the concerns that John has heard from our members. John understands as this city continues to grow, so does the Emergency Services in Nashville.”

Local 140 represent not only Metro Firefighters but also the city’s EMS and rescue services personnel.

Said candidate Cooper. “Protecting our residents is the first job of local government, and their endorsement demonstrates their trust in me to lead them as mayor.”

But, wait. Some union groups, including a few which endorsed Clemmons in the Metro general election, are holding back on endorsing anybody in the mayoral runoff.

METRO BUDGET AND DEBT ISSUES ARE NOW GRABBING THE STATE’S ATTENTION

The timing could hardly have been worse for the Briley administration.

The State Comptroller’s office is asking questions about the city’s continuing budget and debt issues as well as how Metro is trying to address the problem. That includes requiring “savings” out of the current city department operating budgets. There are also questions being raised about the city completely maximizing its credit card for capital projects, while still adding more.

These questions about debt and budgeted savings are nothing new in the Metro budget process but NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES Ben Hall says the Comptroller’s interest and complaints from high-profile public officials such as Sheriff Daron Hall are raising the volume and stakes about the matter. Mayoral candidate Cooper told me this could be a major issue for the city going forward. He says it could result in the state placing Metro government in what Cooper calls “ a soft receivership!”

THE 2020 TENNESSEE U.S. SENATE RACE

It’s hard to believe. The race to replace Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander will be a couple of weeks into the fall general election campaign by this time next year.
While a number of potential GOP candidates have jumped in and out of the contest, the likely front runner for the Republican nomination, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, has not resigned his overseas post or officially announced his candidacy.

But he did come back to the state this past week and certainly talked a bit like a candidate who is organizing his campaign and one who might be getting high level party support from Tennessee’s other U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (?), along with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and others. Meanwhile, one of Hagerty’s primary opponents , Dr. Manny Sethi is still saying he running against a GOP machine lined up to support Hagerty.

This week another potential Republican Senate candidate, former State Senator and education advocate, Jamie Woodson, announced she would not enter the field.

THE ABORTION BATTLE HEATS UP AGAIN

Normally the summer months are quiet on Capitol Hill in Nashville. When a bill is sent for “summer study” that usually that means a low- key committee meeting, attracting a small audience.

But not this week, when for two days, the Cordell Hull hearing room was filled to overflowing with those both supporting and opposed to enacting new abortion restrictions in Tennessee.

The so-called “heart- beat’ bill passed the full House earlier this year but stalled in the Senate, largely due to concerns about the bill’s constitutionality and the high legal costs that would be paid by taxpayers after the measure is nullified in the federal courts.

That’s even more of a potential issue as lawmakers are looking at an amendment to the “heart- beat” bill. The proposed change is even more restrictive. It that would ban abortion at conception or as soon as a woman realizes she is pregnant. If enacted, the revised bill would give Tennessee perhaps the strongest abortion restrictions in the nation. Supporters say the measure would also put Tennessee, in competition with several other states to provide a test case for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its long- standing Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights.

The debate this week here in Nashville garnered news stories and headlines all over the nation.
CBS NEWS
ABC NEWS
WASHINGTON POST
NEWSWEEK

The fetal heartbeat bill died in the Senate earlier this year because of strong opposition from Senate Speaker and Lt. Governor Randy McNally. He joins with some major pro-life groups in opposing the legislation due to the high likelihood the courts will it strike it down on constitutional grounds. Despite the hoopla of this week’s hearings, McNally feels the same way about the new bill that would ban abortion in the state as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant.

With support from Speaker McNally, there was a new law passed concerning abortion earlier this year. It is called the “trigger law.” It would ban abortion in the state when (if) the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade.

DON’T BET ON IT JUST YET

Earlier this year Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill that allows on-line sports gambling in the state. But don’t expect to be able to do that in time for the upcoming football season. It’s delayed by all the appointments and rule -making necessary to get the program underway.

Sports gambling was legalized nationwide by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. Several states have now approved programs anticipating it being a whole new revenue source for government .

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN OR PAID UP

Disgraced Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada may be gone from his leadership post, but he’s not forgotten with state officials beginning a probe of his campaign finances .

The same state officials are also investigating former State Senator Bill Ketron who is now Rutherford County Mayor.

You wonder if these investigations really mean all that much. The state agency is already owed almost $2 million in fines it has levied against current and past pubic officials.

GOVERNOR BILL LEE DOING HIS HEALTH CARE POLICY PLANNING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

When politicians want to do something, they already want to do, but need some kind of public process to sprinkle “political holy water” on it, they conduct a statewide “listening tour.”

But have you ever heard of a “private listening tour,” one closed to the public, where the elected official seems to be meeting with lobbyists, not voters?

That seems to be what Governor Bill Lee is doing concerning his health care plans. I have never seen it conducted in the strange way his administration is trying to do it. Kudos to THE TENNESSEAN for uncovering this story.

CAROL SWAIN STILL INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY AND MAKING WAVES

On August 1st, retired Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain lost her second bid in two years to be Nashville’s mayor. So far, she is not endorsing anyone in the runoff race but she is speaking out on issues about which she feels strongly, including the controversy over race, mass shootings, guns and white nationalism .

Not surprisingly her TENNESSEAN op-ed is getting some blowback.

MAYBE NOT ON EACH OTHER’S CHRISTMAS CARD LIST

When a recent federal court ruling made it illegal to put folks in jail for not paying court fees or fines, Nashville started a program to help fix the issue. But it appears it has also caused a dispute over record-keeping between the county’s District Attorney Glenn Funk and Metro Police chief Steve Anderson. Others are joining in as well.

Mayor Briley is trying to intervene to resolve the matter. He says state law needs to be changed.

THE TENNESSEAN reports open government advocates are with Metro Police in this controversy.

“Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said police were making the right call.

"When a police officer makes an arrest or issues a citation, the action must be documented and the document is a public record," she said in a statement. "This serves the public because it documents what a local government agency is doing. ...

"If no charges are brought, that is also part of the public record. But erasing the fact that police issued a citation or made an arrest creates a bigger problem by hiding what government has done. And the public suffers as a whole from that."

Late in the week, came news report of another serious disagreement between prosecutors and Metro Police over the handling of child sexual abuse cases.

THE NASHVILLE ORIOLES?

The rumor that Nashville might be getting a major league baseball just won’t go away.

Right now, it might be the hottest speculation about the National Pastime making the rounds on- line.

A Google search Thursday afternoon found close to ten different stories about the Baltimore Orioles relocating to the IT City.

What makes this latest round of rumors different from earlier ones is Nashville would be receiving a relocation franchise not waiting for MLB to expand sometime in the future.

There is a largely out of town-based group which has been formed and has been pushing for MLB to come to Nashville. Of course, one big question is where would a team play since allegedly city officials built the current Triple AAA Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park in the historic Sulphur Dell area near Germantown, so it could not be expanded to accommodate an MLB team? Still the rumors keep flying and getting ink, if not much traction.

NASHVILLE BUSNESS JOURNAL
FORBES
THE YORK DISPATCH
BIS NOW
WHISKEY RIFF

The Baltimore Orioles have a rich baseball tradition dating back to the late 19th century including Hall of Fame players and managers such as John McGraw and “Wee Willie” Keeler. More recently the team won multiple division, league and World Series championships with modern-day Hall of Famers like Frank and Brooks Robinson and the “Iron Man” Cal Ripken.

The modern- day American League Orioles are already a relocated franchise, moving to that city in 1954 after being the St. Louis Browns. A possible move to Nashville raises another question. If the Orioles move here, will the team change its nickname? Nashville never fully accepted its NFL franchise until it changed its name from Oilers to the Titans.

But I wouldn’t start a contest to rename the team just yet.