By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
August 30, 2019
DOWN THE STRETCH A TV DEBATE AND MORE FORUMS FILL UP THE MAYORAL RUNOFF CAMPAIGN SCHEDULE; EARLY VOTING IS UP SLIGHTLY SO FAR; A MAYORAL POLL INDICATES THE RUNOFF RACE IS A RUN- AWAY FOR JOHN COOPER; WE’VE HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE; METRO IS HELPING ICE IN ITS IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN; SOME STORIES JUST WON’T GO AWAY; THE DAVIDSON COUNTY GRAND JURY SPEAKS OUT ON THE TREATMENT OF LOCAL TRANSGENDERED INMATES; STEVE GILL; BETH HARWELL’S NEXT JOB?; NASHVILLE’S MLB QUEST KEEPS GETTING MORE CURIOUS; INSIDE POLITICS TAKES ENCORE LOOK AT NASHVILLE’S ROLE IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT;
DOWN THE STRETCH A TV DEBATE AND MORE FORUMS FILL UP THE MAYORAL RUNOFF CAMPAIGN SCHEDULE
With Early Voting approaching the end of its first week, Nashville’s two mayoral runoff candidates sparred back and forth in a live television debate and in more candidate forums.
The TV audience on NEWSCHANNEL5 Monday night likely offered the largest number of voters both candidates will reach collectively before Election Day on September 12. Now being apparently the underfunded, underdog challenger, incumbent Mayor David Briley had to be the aggressor.
He decided to attack his opponent Councilmember At Large John Cooper for not being in the tradition of progressive mayors in Nashville. When Cooper proclaimed in response, he is socially progressive and a Democrat, Briley retorted that he ought “to start acting like one” and speak out on issues such as gun violence and immigration. Briley added that Cooper ought to reach more to those left behind in the city and to those in LGBTQ community who are still discriminated against.
Prior to the debate this week, Briley has been pushing his progressive credentials, perhaps in an effort to get supporters of former mayoral candidate State Representative John Ray Clemmons to support him, and not Cooper. Briley has also received the endorsement of the OUT AND ABOUT NASHVILLE, the leading local LGBTQ publication.
Reads its editorial: “We endorse Mayor David Briley to continue as Mayor. We believe that Briley’s guidance will lead to continued growth and prosperity for Nashville in general, and for its disadvantaged communities in particular.
Mayor Briley was an active supporter of the LGBT community when doing so wasn’t politically safe, even in Nashville…John Cooper has not been proactive on behalf of LGBT rights, and he’s not taken political risks to support the community. Further, his conservatism, we believe, will hamper growth and job creation, and we do not believe that Cooper will make the difficult decisions to go out on limbs for minority communities.”
Briley has also been endorsed by local attorney Abby Rubenfeld, one of the lead lawyers who successfully argued the case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same sex marriage. Here is her YouTube endorsement which the Briley campaign has posted on- line and is now using as its first broadcast/ cable TV ad of the runoff campaign .
John Cooper responded to Briley’s attack during the NEWSCHANNEL 5 debate by saying the most important thing for the city to get right first is putting its fiscal house in order. Cooper says he can do that better than Briley, touting his 47-page policy platform plan posted on his campaign website.
During the debate, Cooper pointed to a letter from the State Comptroller Justin Wilson which raises questions about the city’s budget and bonded debt practices. Metro’s debt has doubled in recent years. Briley says the city’s finances are fine as reviewed by the leading bond rating houses. He calls the Comptroller letter “a political document” requested and pushed for by Cooper and his conservative Republican allies in the Metro Council.
The candidates also disagreed about the importance of having to balance the current city budget which could be as much a $30 million+ out of whack. That’s because a controversial privatization plan to modernize the city’s parking meter system remains unapproved by the city council, even though funds from the change are counted as expected revenue to support the city’s spending plan.
Courtesy of NEWSCHANNEL 5, here is the hour -long debate in full. It was co-sponsored by THE TENNESSEAN and hosted by Belmont University.
This week Mayor Briley also attacked John Cooper on Facebook, It is all about support Briley says the Councilman has apparently received from the Nashville Tea Party.
Here is both what Mayor Briley and the Nashville Tea Party posted so you can see for yourself.:
EARLY VOTING IS UP SLIGHTLY SO FAR
Reaction so far to the runoff election shows early voter turnout is up slightly compared to the August general election. But the numbers overall remain low. Nashvillians still seem to be displaying a combination of apathy, or “I’ll wait until later” to vote.
Through the first six days of Early Voting 2,758 people have come to the polls to cast ballots. That is compared to the 2,119 who cast ballots in the first six days of early voting for the August 1 general election.
Only one location has been open for voting. That’s the Davidson County Election Commission offices. With ten other satellite locations opening today (Friday), early vote totals are bound to rise. But given the early turnout so far, and the Labor Day holiday on Monday, I don’t expect to see the total early vote matching the nearly 49,000 we had for the August general election or the total overall voter turnout for the August 1 election (early and day-of) which was 102,000. I really hope I am wrong about that.
It is pitiful that less than 20% of local voters (out of over 400,00 registered) will bother themselves to choose our city leaders for the next four years especially since elections do cost taxpayers money.
A MAYORAL POLL INDICATES THE RUNOFF RACE IS A RUN- AWAY FOR JOHN COOPER
It is a survey paid for by a labor-affiliated group that is backing John Cooper for mayor. It shows the Councilmember At Large is way ahead (by potential landslide proportions at 58%) for the September 12 election. Mayor David Briley comes in at 32% in the poll. The survey says Cooper’s number includes attracting significant percentages of Carol Swain and John Ray Clemmons voters. They were the other two major candidates in the August 1 mayoral general election.
The numbers in the latest poll are about the same as the ones reported in an internal Copper campaign poll released at the very beginning of the runoff campaign on August 5th.
While you should never base the status of a political race on a single poll or two, especially one coming from a campaign or paid for by a group supporting a candidate in the race, you’d be hard pressed to find many political observers who would disagree much with what these surveys indicate.
The Briley did try to counter the Cooper poll by sending out a news release that says. “Mayor David Briley received overwhelming support in a straw poll of the Executive Committee members of Davidson County’s Democratic Party.
“It means a lot to have the overwhelming support of our city’s active Democrats,” said Mayor Briley. “One of the key differences between my opponent and me is that I stand up for progressive, liberal issues that affect Nashvillians, and my opponent tends to shy away from them. It’s clear that Nashville Democrats want to see their mayor be vocal on these issues.”
Mayor Briley secured 87% of the vote in the straw poll, which was conducted over a 24-hour period on August 28th.”
For whatever that’s worth.
As early voting continues and Election Day approaches, mayoral forums continue throughout the county. I had the good fortune to moderate one held at the Lakeshore Christian Church in Antioch Tuesday night. It was organized and sponsored by the Southeast Nashville United neighborhood group. Joined by both candidates, we discussed in detail a wide variety of issues. Our conversation lasted for over an hour and a half.
Despite all that variety, the key topic we came back to, over and over again, is why is it, at a time when Nashville is experiencing unprecedented growth, so many neighborhoods feel they are not seeing any benefit? And as mayor what will these candidates do about it?
In that regard, here’s the latest column written by NASHVILLE SCENE owner Bill Freeman, who endorsed Mayor Briley but now supports John Cooper in the runoff. He has some thoughts on the question I posed above, which is the most vexing one of the entire mayoral campaign.
WE’VE HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE
It is a story that crops up every couple of election cycles for Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper.
Elements of the Democratic Party don’t think he is progressive enough for this deep blue district. They talk about finding someone to challenge him in the August primary next year.
Not much has come of it in the past. But with the renewed energy among progressives nationally after Democrats have re-taken the House of Representatives in Washington, some are saying they want to find a “southern A.O.C.” to take on the nearly 30-year veteran congressman. “A.O.C.” is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). She has become a national political figure after beating a longtime incumbent in the 2018 Democratic primary to win her seat.
Thus far no name has emerged locally to fill the “A.O.C.” role to take on Cooper. The Congressman says: “Great! I welcome the competition. Competition is best….“I’m a hired hand. I’m on a two-year renewable contract, and people can kick me out any time they want to.”
Congressman Cooper has expressed some discomfort that is brother John is running for (and likely will be) Nashville’s mayor. He supports his brother and says his running is a “coincidence, not a conspiracy.” But with John Cooper now being attacked in the mayoral runoff race for also not being progressive enough for Nashville, will that plant seeds for a future congressional primary opponent to use the same allegations against his Congressman brother?
But who might that congressional challenger be? Stay tuned.
METRO IS HELPING ICE IN ITS IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN
Both candidates for mayor have made it clear over and over again. The city law enforcement agencies are not and will not work in cooperation with federal agencies such as ICE in its crackdown on immigration.
But apparently that has not been true of the city’s Probation Department operated by the General Sessions Judges. According to a TENNESSEAN article, for the past two years (since 2017), employees of “the department have been working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to arrest and detain individuals under probation supervision. They have “alerted federal officials to appointments and shared home and work addresses. The Metro employees also proactively shared personal information for other individuals, including those listed as emergency contacts of those under probation.”
A letter signed by several Metro councilmembers is demanding that cooperation stop immediately. The councilmembers say in the letter “the reported collaboration between probation officers and ICE creates a "significant deterrent to these rehabilitation efforts," jeopardizes the well-being and safety of residents and the community and increases mistrust among immigrant Nashvillians.”
Mayor Briley and immigrants’ rights group are also joining in the criticism. Said the Mayor: “This is absolutely unacceptable under my administration and it does not reflect the character of our welcoming city," Briley said in a statement to The Tennessean. "All of our residents need to feel safe in our community. "I will take every action possible to ensure these actions never happen again," he said.”
Now the presiding General Sessions Judge is firing back saying the probation department of the General Sessions Courts should not be made a “scapegoat.” The political finger- pointing and food fight is on.
Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said in a statement the time for public statements and promises is over. She is calling on Metro leaders to create clear and transparent policies that draw a line between the work of city agencies and federal immigration enforcement.
"The lack of clear policy directives allows individuals to pursue their own anti-immigrant agenda rather than following the mission and best interest of their office and the city and lets ICE use public employees as aids in their enforcement operations. In this historic moment, we need to go beyond welcoming and take real action to protect immigrant families.”
The administrator of the Probation Department says there will be “an internal evaluation of what was shared by the probation department. The evaluation could lead to "possible modification in the future.” But the Probation official also said “a ruling from the Metro Legal Department has determined (the) release of requested information to ICE (by Metro Probation) was applicable with state and federal laws.”
Mayor Briley says he plans to release an executive order strictly outlining what city employees can do or not do in relationship to ICE. But the Mayor himself may not have been so pro-immigrant earlier in his public career.
SOME STORIES JUST WON’T GO AWAY
Its been a week since the Republican Super Majority came back to Nashville to select new House leadership. It was done in an effort to move beyond the scandals that have rocked the Hill, and that led to the forced resignation of House Speaker Glen Casada. Still, there are reports that investigations continue. That’s includes a probe regarding the controversial House vote that approved school vouchers for Tennessee.
In fact, there is already a new bill filed in the House that seeks to repeal the voucher plan. While the measure is sponsored by Democrats, with the GOP Super Majority still split, the chances for repeal are viable.
Looking towards the 2020 election, there are also reports that a Republican freshman lawmaker, who voted against vouchers, is being attacked in on-line ads. The attacks are coming from a pro-voucher group.
Former Speaker Glen Casada continues in his duties as a representative from Williamson County. But questions remain about expelling another member. That would be Republican Representative David Byrd who is accused of sexually assaulting young teens who he coached thirty years ago. That is before he entered politics.
New House Speaker Cameron Sexton has asked for a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General about how to proceed, while a resolution to remove Byrd was sent to committee for further study. It is a complicated matter that could impact the ongoing legal fallout from another legislative ouster just a years or so ago.
THE TENNESSEAN has an analysis piece looking into the other challenges and divisions facing legislative leaders, as they seek to begin a new era on the Hill.
Theirs is also a squabble over an anonymous twitter account that is dividing Republicans.
Another story that won’t go away is the scandalous lack of action by state officials to make any effective moves to stop the closure of rural hospitals in Tennessee. We almost lead the nation in that category and, more and more, it is putting people’s lives in danger.
NEWSCHANNEL5’s Chris Conte has produced an excellent 30-minute documentary on the issue entitled “Emergency in the E.R.” Here is a story about the documentary and some excerpts from Chris’s investigation.
THE CHARTER SCHOOL ISSUE RE-EMERGES FOR METRO SCHOOLS
It seems every governmental body has a recurring issue that constantly demands attention.
For Metro Schools, for several years now, that issue has been the operations of charter schools.
This week for only the second time ever, the School Board has unanimously voted to close at the end of the fall semester in December, three schools — two middle schools and a high school operated by Knowledge Academies of Nashville.
It has been rare for the nine members of the Metro School Board to be unanimous on any issue in recent months. But this school closure controversy may not be over. Knowledge Academy can appeal to the state which has the power to overturn Metro’s decision.
Caught in the middle of this latest charter school fight are the students and parents at the Knowledge Academy schools. They are left somewhat in the dark about their educational future after December, and that is unfortunate to say the least.
THE DAVIDSON COUNTY GRAND JURY SPEAKS OUT ON THE TREATMENT OF LOCAL TRANSGENDERED INMATES
The makeup of the Davidson County Grand Jury changes several times each year.
What hasn’t changed over the years is the tradition of this panel of citizens speaking out from time to time about situations or conditions that they think need to be changed.
The latest issue that has caught the attention of the Grand Jury is the city’s treatment of transgendered inmates in the custody of Sheriff Daron Hall. Not surprisingly, the Grand Jury report is creating quite a controversy inside the city’s criminal justice system.
Long time conservative commentator Steve Gill is having some difficult times. We’ve often had him join us on INSIDE POLITICS where he has been a good, informative guest.
Due to an ongoing dispute over child support with his ex-wife, Gill has been placed in jail. Now the fallout from that is impacting his occupation.
Some of the most recent headlines and news stories about Steve Gill and his current wife are even more troubling.
Late Thursday afternoon Steve Gill was released from jail after posting bond.
BETH HARWELL’S NEXT JOB?
Is former House Speaker and long-time Nashville State Representative Beth Harwell about to be appointed to a very important post by President Donald Trump? I don’t have any say in it, but I think she would do a great job on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Speaking of President Trump, former Governor Bill Haslam seems to have changed his mind. He told a group this week that while he didn’t vote for the President in 2016, he plans to do so in 2020. Former Senator Bob Corker also spoke to the same group.
In his same remarks, the former governor also indicated he may not be through with seeking public office.
NASHVILLE’S MLB QUEST KEEPS GETTING MORE CURIOUS
Major League Baseball has no timetable to expand. But those who want to bring a team to Nashville (Music City Baseball, LLC) already have a nickname for their franchise.
Hopefully, they will also find a place to play soon, since the city’s current AAA baseball stadium, built just a few years ago, reportedly does not have the capabilities to be expanded to meet MLB standards.
The name for Nashville’s MLB team is the Stars. That reportedly echoes the nickname of one of the city’s Negro League teams of many years ago. The potential ownership group is also negotiating a partnership with the Negro League Museum. According to a TENNESSEAN article, the potential agreement is still to be finalized and comes with the hope that it will include “revenue sharing and cooperating with marketing and social media.”
In the past, MLB expansion has taken several years to come to fruition. That means an MLB team coming to Nashville could be as far away as the stars.
There has been talk of existing franchises moving to other cities. Most recently, that has included speculation the American League Baltimore Orioles might come to Music City. But beyond a raft of media speculation stories a few weeks ago nothing else has materialized. If the Baltimore team came here, the question of where the team would play, becomes even more critical and curious.
INSIDE POLITICS TAKES ENCORE LOOK AT NASHVILLE’S ROLE IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
This holiday weekend, INSIDE POLITICS takes an encore look back at Nashville’s leadership role in the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s. Our guests are Fisk University professor Dr. Reavis Mitchell and Nashville historian David Ewing.
Maybe you already know the story of the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. Maybe you have never heard of this part of our city’s history. Watch us! You will learn a lot or be reminded how critical Nashville was to an effort still shaping our nation almost 60 years later.
Our INSIDE POLITICS broadcast 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.