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Capitol View commentary: Friday, August 19, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 12:15 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 13:16:48-04

INSIDE POLITICS PROFILES TWO OF NASHVILLE’S YOUNGEST 1960s CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS; METRO COUNCIL CONTINUES TO PUSH BACK ON SUPREME COURT ABORTION DECISION WHILE DÉJÀ VU OVER OLD ISSUES LOOM; FIRST SCHOOL VOUCHER STUDENTS APPROVED FOR NASHVILLE AND MEMPHIS; IF YOU THINK IT’S BEEN HOT THIS SUMMER; DEMOCRATS CELEBRATE THE NEW INFLATION REDUCTION LAW BUT WILL IT IMPACT VOTERS IN NOVEMBER? TRUMP INCREASES HIS HOLD ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY EVEN AS MULTIPLE INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE; THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN ON THE SAME PAGE

INSIDE POLITICS PROFILES TWO OF NASHVILLE’S YOUNGEST 1960s CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS

Nashville had a rich tradition of its African Americans citizens stepping up during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Many of them were young people, college students, who staged successful lunch counter sit-ins, and as Freedom Riders, they desegregated interstate buses across the South, and ultimately the nation.

This week on INSIDE POLITICS, you are going to hear from two courageous young Nashvillians, who were still in grammar school, when they made a difference.

They helped to desegregate two of Nashville’s rites of summer for the young …playing Jr Knothole Baseball and attending the Boy Scout’s Camp Boxwell.

Our guests are long-time Metro Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, and Walter Overton, former Executive Director of the Metro Sports Authority and General Manager of Nissan Stadium.

SPOILER ALERT: Both these men are friends of mine since childhood.

We welcome both these extraordinary individuals to INSIDE POLITICS.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWCHANNEL5 PLUS.

Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on 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. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot 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 early in the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.

METRO COUNCIL CONTINUES TO PUSH BACK ON SUPREME COURT ABORTION DECISION WHILE DÉJÀ VU OVER OLD ISSUES LOOM

This week saw the Metro Council advance two more pieces of legislation that will push back on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision greatly restricting abortion rights.

Without a dissenting vote on third reading, the Council approved an additional requirement to Nashville’s Do Better Law. It would require those companies “seeking economic and community development incentive grant agreements and PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) agreements with the metropolitan government provide their employees with access to obtain medical treatment that is otherwise unavailable in their respective home state.”

The Council also approved a bill on second reading that would ban the use of License Plate Scanner (“LPR”) technology in Nashville to assist with enforcing laws outlawing abortion or outlawing interstate travel to obtain an abortion.

Both measures, along with others the Council has passed in recent weeks will likely have a limited effect on what will be almost a total ban on abortion in Tennessee that begins next week (August 25).

But the measures passed by the Council may raise the ire of Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly who are already mad that the Council turned thumbs down on the city hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Perhaps rubbing further salt in the wound with the GOP, the Council passed another bill on final reading on a different hot-button issue. It would significantly restrict the use of License Plate Readers (LPRs) to assist with enforcing immigration laws. By the way, Nashville does not presently have an LPR program. A pilot program has been in development for the past few months.

By the way, if you are concerned that Nashville will lose major groups and events coming to town because we said no thanks to the GOP National Convention, don’t waste any more time thinking about it. Thursday, the National Hockey League announced our city will host the League’s 2023 Entry Player Draft along with the NHL’s annual Awards Ceremony. The events will occur in the same week next June. It is the second time Nashville hosted the draft and the first time both events have been in the same city since 2006. No wonder when I talked with Mayor Cooper last week about the new domed stadium, he said, without expressing any doubts, that if we build that facility, Nashville will host a Super Bowl.

Tuesday night’s Council meeting found Mayor Cooper addressing the body to promote the city’s new projects tracker. That’s where by going online, taxpayers and council members can track the progress of $3.3 billion dollars in city projects now in the pipeline. It is technology that already seems to be attracting a lot of looks.

The mayor also received strong backing in the Council Tuesday night when it voted 27-1 to adopt the city’s new Vision Zero Action Plan that seeks to cut to zero the number of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in Nashville. But despite the lopsided vote, some councilmembers, including announced mayoral candidate Freddie O’Connell, expressed concern the plan isn’t strong enough especially with some of its timelines to cut deaths to zero extending to 2050. On Friday, perhaps to show some movement on Zero Action Plan, Mayor Cooper announced new city-wide regulations to protect sidewalks and bike lanes, and preserve multimodal access for all. Details on the regulations were not available before this CV column was posted.

As we approach the Metro elections being held less than a year from now, a couple of issues that have dogged the city in the past seem poised to re-emerge. Three years ago, under former Mayor David Briley, the city sought to modernize its antiquated parking meter system. But the plan got held up by complaints from a vendor who did not get the contract. John Cooper, then an At-Large council member also did not like the proposal and used it as a major issue to defeat Briley for reelection. Now Mayor John Cooper has his own parking meter modernization plan which has also been held up by the same vendor unhappy with the bidding process.

This week a city panel ruled the project can move forward towards Council approval meaning the proposal could be before the body in the weeks to come.

Another long-simmering issue, bringing NASCAR racing back to the city and the Fairgrounds Raceway may also be stirring back to life. But several questions remain.

Another mega issue the council will face this fall is, as mentioned before, the new $2.2 billion domed football stadium proposed to be built on the East Bank. Council sources tell me the first piece of legislation will be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that could run as long as 1,000 pages. That’s a lot of details to work out for all the parties involved (Metro, the Titans, the State). And you know what can happen when the details and the devil get mixed together.

I am told the increase in the city’s hotel room tax will be part of the MOU but won’t be finalized until the final stadium legislation reaches the council next year.

Some council members are still not convinced that a new stadium is better for the taxpayers than renovating the current facility. They want an outside independent study funded by the council to be expedited.

It is now clear the council will stay at 39 members. One At-Large seat (Steve Glover) is vacant due to his resignation due to health issues. At-Large seats are not filled by appointment or special election if one becomes vacant. Meanwhile, efforts to hold a recall vote and oust 1st District Councilman Jonathan Hall has failed due to a lack of required signatures after a petition drive.

Finally, country music megastar Garth Brooks is joining many of his fellow stars in having his own honky tonk bar on Lower Broad. But Brooks is going one step further, teaming up with the city to help create a police sub-station for the area.

The collaboration and Brook’s contribution will need to be approved by the Council, raising the question of will he make a personal appearance when the matter is on the agenda. One thing is certain — in Nashville, Garth Brooks will soon see if he has friends in both high and low places.

FIRST SCHOOL VOUCHER STUDENTS APPROVED FOR NASHVILLE AND MEMPHIS

It is about a week late for the start of school, but the first voucher students to attend private schools in Nashville and Memphis, under a controversial state pilot program, have been qualified by officials of the Tennessee Department of Education.

Some 46 students and their parents are now eligible to receive $7,500 in state funds to use to attend the 34 private schools in Nashville and Memphis that have said they are open to accepting voucher students. The next step for the students is to apply and be accepted to one of those schools.

IF YOU THINK IT’S BEEN HOT THIS SUMMER

After enduring one of the hottest summers on record here in Nashville, the city has received a break in recent days. The humidity has been down, and the high temperatures are only in the high 80s (which is slightly below normal for this time of year).

But if a new study is correct, even hotter weather may permanently be on the way due to global climate change. Nashville would be part of an “extreme heat belt” that could see heat index numbers (the impact of the temperature and humidity together) reaching as high as 125 degrees by 2053!

DEMOCRATS CELEBRATE THE NEW INFLATION REDUCTION LAW BUT WILL IT IMPACT VOTERS IN NOVEMBER?

The new INFLATION REDUCTION ACT was signed into law this week by President Joe Biden, amid much rejoicing among Democrats, who passed the measure without a single Republican vote in Congress.

But will the new law, which is poised to make major changes in fighting climate change, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and even reducing the national deficit, have any impacts voters will see in reducing our record inflation in the economy before they go to the polls for the mid-term congressional elections? The White House says yes. Some economists say no, at least not in the short term between now and November.

The Biden administration is headed out across the country to sell the public on the significant benefits of the new law. The trips come as President Biden’s job approval number is rising after being well below water for most of this year.

Senate Democrats have reason to feel better about their chances to hold their slim majority in the upper chamber. That comes after the highly respected COOK POLITICAL REPORT changed its outlook on the key race in Pennsylvania and changed its overall outlook on 2023 control of the Senate to toss-up.

There is also a new poll indicating Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson is down six points to his Democratic challenger.

TRUMP INCREASES HIS HOLD ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY EVEN AS MULTIPLE INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE

After another week of primary votes across the country, Donald Trump’s control of the Republican Party seems to be beyond question.

His dominance seems to grow even as an FBI raid on his Mar-A- Lago home and the ongoing Justice Department investigation of him has reinvigorated his overall support within the GOP.

This week, one of the former president’s biggest critics, GOP Congresswoman Liz Chaney of Wyoming was handily defeated in her bid for reelection. She becomes the fourth, and by far, the most prominent GOP House member who voted to impeach the former President, to go down to defeat. Four others didn’t even seek re-election and only two have survived to be on the November general election ballot.

Chaney will continue to be a thorn in the side of the former President as the January 6 House committee continues its work through the end of the year. And the representative, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney may have more political plans for 2024.

Seemingly regardless of his political strength, the numerous ongoing investigations surrounding Mr. Trump continue to generate headlines. On Thursday, the longtime CFO of the Trump family business pled guilty to 15 counts of tax evasion. He could become the star witness against the company this fall.

This week, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, and former New York City Mayor, Rudy Guiliani testified before a federal grand jury in Atlanta. His appearance came after he was notified, he is a target of an ongoing probe surrounding efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

There was one other important court hearing this week that directly impacts Mr. Trump and the Mar-A-Lago investigation. A number of news organizations are seeking the release of the affidavit the FBI used to get a judge to approve the raid. The Justice Department is objecting saying the release of that information could damage their ongoing investigation in this matter and other investigations.

The magistrate who authorized the search, and held the hearing Thursday, rendered a preliminary decision, later that same afternoon. He says the Justice Department did not sufficiently show the document should be kept entirely secret. He indicated he may unseal portions of the affidavit, ordering the Justice Department by next Thursday to suggest redactions to the document to protect the DOJ’s case and other sensitive information. The magistrate will then decide what will be released.

THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN ON THE SAME PAGE

Ever since Nashville voters created a Community Oversight Board in 2020 to act as an independent body to review cases of alleged Metropolitan Nashville police misconduct, the Board and Metro Police have almost never been on the same page in terms of working together.

The latest disagreement came when the Board discovered that at least one police body cam video it had requested and received for review, had been alerted. What was edited out? Who did it and why?

Police officials reported back it was bad language that had been removed and that those who did it were identified and reprimanded. But no explanation was given as to why it happened.

As to other questions from the Oversight Board as to whether other body cam tapes the Board had requested and received had been edited for bad language, police officials said they didn’t know, and would not even offer a guess.

They did say they will now go back through all the requested body camera videos to determine if any others had been edited for bad language. Good idea. Hopefully, better records will be kept by Metro PD too.

Late this week the relationship between the city and the Director of the Community Oversight Board has gotten so bad it is now the subject of a lawsuit.