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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 9, 2019

Posted: 11:15 AM, Aug 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-09 12:15:35-04
Capitol View

(WTVF) — MAYOR DAVID BRILEY ON INSIDE POLITICS AS THE RUNOFF RACE BEGINS; COOPER TRIES TO BUILD ADVANTAGE BASED ON CAMPAIGN POLL; FIGHTING LIKE HELL AND CALLING B.S.; SCOOTERS ZOOM TO THE FRONT AGAIN; NAMES FLOATING AROUND FOR THE METRO POWERS TO BE; DR. NO; NASHVILLE’S CONFEDERATE MONUMENT ISSUE; WILL ANYTHING BE DIFFERENT THIS TIME?; GOING BACK TO MY ROOTS; REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST COUNCIL BROADCAST;

MAYOR DAVID BRILEY ON INSIDE POLITICS AS THE RUNOFF RACE BEGINS

Nashville’s voters have spoken.

But a majority did not decide in the August 1st Metro general election who will be our city’s mayor.

Therefore, there will be a runoff election on Thursday September 12.

To keep our viewers informed about this important decision, we plan to have both runoff candidates on INSIDE POLITICS in the next two weeks.

That includes airing our interviews on the main channel of NEWSCHANNEL5 (WTVF-TV) at 6:30 p.m. each Friday evening.

One of our guests will be At-Large Metro Councilman John Cooper. He finished first August 1 with 35% of the vote.

He is scheduled to be with us next week.

This week, we welcome the other runoff candidate, the current Mayor of Nashville, David Briley. He finished second, with 25% of the vote, 10 points behind Cooper.

We will give the Mayor a chance to explain his surprisingly disappointing showing on August 1 and explain how he thinks he can turn things around in the runoff.

As usual, 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.

COOPER TRIES TO BUILD ADVANTAGE BASED ON CAMPAIGN POLL
To build on the momentum he’s gained with his ten-point advantage in the August 1stballoting, Councilman John Cooper’s campaign released an internal poll on Tuesday (August 6). The survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group. The firm did a survey of 419 likely September 12th, 2019 voters in from August 2 to August 4, 2019. The margin of error is at the 95%, the confidence level is +/- 4.8% The poll includes responses taken on- line and by phone.

The results show Cooper up a whopping 33 points over the incumbent mayor!

My thoughts?

A poll from a political campaign showing something favorable for that candidate.

That’s nothing shocking.

In fact, such polls are always somewhat suspect given their origin and sometimes notoriously inaccurate.

But given the results from the August 1st general election, even if the John Cooper poll is off by half, the results still portend the uphill fight Mayor David Briley faces to come back to win re-election in the September 12 runoff.

If Briley loses, he would be the first incumbent mayor to be turned out of office in the 56- year history of consolidated Metro government.

The poll also raises the questions: Is the Cooper poll an effort to further demoralize Briley supporters and make the Mayor look again at dropping out and not contesting the runoff? Or is the survey just an effort to try to slow down Briley as the runoff race begins. Regardless the Mayor says he is not giving up and maintains he plans ‘to fight like hell” and “leave it all on the field.” More on that later.

The Cooper poll also raises this possibility: Will the lopsided results make some Cooper supporters so overconfident they don’t go to the polls and vote in the runoff contest?

The Cooper poll shows more than an alleged 33-point advantage. From his campaign news release, there are these bullet points:

• Cooper is much more popular than Briley. Cooper is very well-known and popular (69% favorable/17% unfavorable), while just as many likely voters view Briley unfavorably (48%) as favorably (48%).

• Most voters surveyed think Cooper will win in September – including many Briley voters. When asked if “will win the run- off election in September” was a better description of Cooper or Briley, a large majority said Cooper (65%). Those who think Cooper will win include a large number of Briley voters (35%).

• Voters think Cooper is the better candidate for our neighborhoods. Voters also believe by a very wide margin that “will put neighborhoods first” is a better description of Cooper (58% describes Cooper better/19% describes Briley better).”

Remember this survey is from the Cooper campaign and it likely presents its candidate in the best possible position. But the numbers, even if only remotely accurate, show the challenge the incumbent faces to win next month.

Here ‘s how others in the local media reported the Cooper poll:

NASHVILLE SCENE

THE TENNESSEAN

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, John Cooper won one of the labor endorsements that went almost entirely to State Representative John Ray Clemmons in the mayoral general election. Neither Clemmons nor the third-place finisher in the mayor’s race, Carol Swain, plan endorse anyone in the runoff. So far, it appears one key group that Briley hoped to pick up to narrow the contest is going to his opponent instead.

Here’s the NASHVILLE SCENE’s perspective on possible mayoral candidates and other endorsements .

Meanwhile as the incumbent seeks to regroup to get back in the race, there are questions being raised about Mayor Briley seeking to finance his runoff effort with major funding from those who already do big business with Metro.

FIGHTING LIKE HELL AND CALLING B.S.
Mayor Briley is not going quietly after the August 1 vote. He is not conceding or withdrawing from the runoff race. Instead, he says he plans to “fight like hell’ and “leave it all on the field” to win the September election. In what his campaign called a fiery speech at an event Wednesday, the incumbent called “B.S.” on his opponent. He used the full wording of that expression…more than once.

See and hear it for yourself. I apologize to anyone offended by the mayor’s language.

Frankly, while fiery in tone, I think Mayor Briley’s speech needs a lot of message discipline if it going to be effective. While he says he doesn’t like Facebook, an FB posting on his campaign does a better job of focusing his key attack message of against Cooper, i.e. that the Councilman’s voting record shows he is not pro-neighborhoods. The Facebook post is however somewhat wonky. Here is what it said.

“Here is a reminder that my opponent, who claims to be for neighborhoods, voted against the FY18 and FY 19 capital spending plans. These were investments in our neighborhoods that total more than $600 million. Luckily, they passed anyway.

But here's a snapshot of what all Councilman Cooper has voted against in these proposals: $60 million for sidewalks, $58 million for parks, $16 million for a new library and upgrades to other libraries, $3.5 million for bikeways. He voted against funding for the new Criminal Justice Center and the new Donelson Library. He voted against funding to increase Nashville's recycling pickup from once a month to bi-weekly. He voted against funding for Police Body Cams.

On the Council, John Cooper has opposed almost everything. There's a difference between being a watchdog and opposing any kind of government spending. Cooper's default answer is "No".
Nashville has a history of electing bold, progressive mayors. John Cooper would mark the end of that.”

Will these counterattack arguments against Cooper be coming to a TV or on-line ad for Briley soon? Is it too late? Have voters already made up their minds? Clearly the Mayor and Team Briley must go on the offensive to tighten up the runoff race. But will the Mayor’s pushback, especially his language, create so much blowback it is counterproductive. Will voters never hear or listen to Briley’s argument against Cooper because they can’t get past his language? It’s a high- risk strategy for sure.

Here is some additional background and analysis on Briley’s latest campaign move.

THE TENNESSEAN

SCOOTERS ZOOM TO THE FRONT AGAIN
I am not sure how important the ongoing electric scooter controversy will be in the runoff. But Mayor Briley this week renewed his call for a complete ban of the vehicles in Nashville. He returned unsigned the bill the Metro Council passed in mid-July to further regulate and limit the fleet size, hours of operation and the areas scooters can be driven.

The Mayor’s decision not to sign the legislation means the bill goes into effect anyway . Regardless, it appears the Mayor wants the full Council (and his opponent John Cooper) to pass another pending bill at its last meeting set for August 20. That measure would ban the scooters for good.

What will the Council do with the issue now that is being injected into the mayor’s race?

The city’s commission that oversees transportation isn’t waiting for more Council action. They are considering even tighter restrictions on scooters.

Meanwhile facing a complete ban of their vehicles, at least one major scooter company is to help matters with an outdoor board in a very visible location downtown.

Nashville is far from alone in dealing with electric scooter issues. In the wake of a rash of fatal wrecks involving scooters, the operation of those vehicles have been banned in the city of Atlanta after sundown.

NAMES FLOATING AROUND FOR THE METRO POWERS TO BE

It’s still too early for John Cooper to start measuring for new drapes for the Mayor’s office.

But not surprisingly, the rumor mill is already in overdrive with names of folks who might play a major role in a Cooper administration.

One is former councilmember Emily Evans. Her name is being linked with the Finance Director’s job. That is a post that is the first among equals among Metro department heads. The person who serves in the position is only top official who serves completely at the mayor’s pleasure, although he or she is subject to confirmation by the Council.

Evans and Cooper did work together over the past year on a special blue- ribbon commission appointed to find savings in Metro government. Cooper has mentioned it often on the campaign trail.

Another former Metro official whose name is being mentioned to play a major role in a Cooper administration is Greg Hinote. He is a former aide to Mayor Richard Fulton and, most recently a top aide (Deputy Mayor) to Mayor Karl Dean. Hinote is also a former top aide to Congressman Jim Cooper, the mayoral candidate’s brother.

Hinote’s name is rumored as the person who would head up the transition team as the Cooper administration is formed in the fall. Stay tuned.

DR. NO
At a time when the city’s mayoral runoff contest shows an intense debate over the city’s spending priorities, our community has lost one of his best fiscal stewards. David Manning passed away at the age of 69 last Sunday (August 4).

At age 37, Manning was the youngest person ever to serve as the State’s Finance Commissioner under Governor Ned McWherter. He then became Metro’s Finance Director under Mayor Bill Purcell. The
Finance Director is among the first and perhaps the most important leadership selection made by any new mayor. Manning’s appointment to serve in city government did a lot to relieve fears in the Nashville business community about how the new Purcell administration would handle money matters. With Manning on board, those fears evaporated.
In both his top government finance posts, David Manning earned the reputation for fiscal toughness and good management. Both friend and foe alike at the State Capitol and the Metro Courthouse called him “Dr. No.”

Not many people may know it. David Manning’s fiscal expertise was well known and appreciated even as far away as Guam.
RIP, David.

NASHVILLE’S CONFEDERATE MONUMENT ISSUE
Ever since the Civil War monument in Centennial Park was vandalized a few weeks back, the question has been: What is its future?

The Metro Parks Board met this week and had some discussion about it. It doesn’t look like any decision will be made soon, especially since it is not just the city’s choice. The state must approve whatever change is made. Based on the ongoing Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in the State Capitol building that doesn’t portend quick action.

WILL ANYTHING BE DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

In the wake of a number of recent mass shootings, including two in less than 24 hours last weekend, the debate over what to do to stop such tragedies has been renewed.

One of the mass murders that occurred in El Paso, Texas seemed to target Hispanics. That is creating increasing concern that a city such as Nashville, which values its diversity, might be the target of such a future hate crime.

Democrats across the country and in Tennessee want action as does Nashville Mayor David Briley . Even President Donald Trump says he is in favor of “red flag” legislation, more background checks and more.

In Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Lee and others in the GOP Super Majority in our congressional delegation seem to want to go more slowly .
Governor Lee’s reluctance to act quickly is in direct contrast to his fellow Republican Governor in Ohio. Mark DeWine was publicly shouted down to “Do Something” by those attending a memorial service for the victims of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio last weekend.

For what it is worth, Mayor Briley is joining with hundreds of other mayors across the country promoting action for new gun laws.

There are indications that at least a debate over what to do will begin in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t end the upper chamber’s August recess, but he says he is open to debating gun legislation when Senators. But exactly what will be discussed, much less passed remains unclear.

That means, despite all the activity, will anything happen to address our uniquely American mass shooting problem while we wait for the next mass shooting(s)?

GOING BACK TO MY ROOTS

I returned to my television roots Tuesday night (August 6).

I was the Announcer for live, gavel to gavel coverage of the Metro Council meeting from the Courthouse downtown. The broadcast was aired on the Metro Nashville Network, the city's Government Access Channel. That’s on cable Channel 3 on Comcast. I think the Metro Network airs on all the cable systems in Nashville, so check your local system's listings for the channel number.

My first part-time job in TV was with then WDCN-TV, Channel 2 in July 1973. That's when I hosted the first on-going, gavel-to-gavel, live coverage of the Metro Council. It's a job I continued until May 1985 when I went to work in Mayor Richard Fulton's office.

Now, at least for the final two meetings of this term of Council (August 6 & 20), I am back as the Announcer for the live Council coverage which has been without an announcer for a few years. If things go well, the plan would be for me to continue this work beginning with the new term of Council in October.

FYI...I did my Council broadcasts even while I worked full-time at Channel 5 from 1975-1985. My new work with Council is in addition to my ongoing duties with NEWSCHANNEL5. If you are in the area, or you go the Metro Nashville Network website, I hope you’ll watch.

REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST COUNCIL BROADCAST
It was a long meeting…7 hours and 15 minutes to be exact.

It began at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night and ended at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. That’s when I began a brief recap of what happened.

With a 32-page agenda (items printed on both sides of the page) the long night included holding public hearings on 65 different zoning requests. That took four and half hours all by itself.

All this zoning legislation is yet another sign of Nashville’s exploding growth as a city on the rise (as they say). Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning is also a sign that this Council is finishing its term and has a lot of loose ends and important details to wrap up.

That includes legislation to further regulate short term rentals in town. It is an effort still in progress as the measure before Council to bring local regulations into compliance with state law seemed to be acceptable to a majority. But another provision still creating controversy is one to prohibit any new non-owner- occupied short- term rentals in areas zoned residential or multi-family. Another provision of the proposed law that some don’t like is how many times, if any, a n existing short- term non-owner occupied short- term rental owner can pass down the right to have such a privilege when the property is sold. While the full bill passed second reading with 20 votes, it will need at least one more supporter to pass at this Council’s final meeting on August 20.

A bill to better regulate tax increment financing passed, with at least one more reform measure pending on the final agenda. There was renewed controversy over the Fairgrounds and the pending construction of the MLS stadium. Soccer supporters continued to prevail, but the issue will continue to fester into the new term of Council, especially with an appeals court ruling remanding a lawsuit opposing the stadium to be heard again by a local judge.

Rezoning for MDHA to move ahead with its ‘revisioning” of the Napier Sudekum Neighborhood passed on second reading with a number of residents staying late to show their support. There was even approval of $9.8 million dollars to build 372 units of workforce and affordable housing on 10 tax delinquent properties that the city has declared surplus. But while the vote to approve was 31-0 with one abstention, there was unhappiness expressed by several minority council members who are disappointed that none of the Metro grant funds to build the new homes are going to smaller, community-based housing groups based in North Nashville where most of the construction will take place (Council districts 21,5 & 17).

I could go on about the 7- hour plus meeting. What I learned from being back to broadcast my first Council meeting in many years is how much the issues and the personalities have changed, even though some ways they haven’t. I learned so much about Metro government, its challenges and its leaders from 1973-85. I think I will again.

My first broadcast back in 1973 was also a really long one. Dominated by zoning requests (including the Vanderbilt Urban Renewal Plan), it lasted until into the wee hours of the morning. It seems some things don’t change even as Nashville does.

I am hoping with the new Council term the twice monthly meetings might shorten in length at least for a while. Either that, or I may need to take a cot with me for some quick cat naps.
All kidding aside, the length of recent Council meetings is raising concerns among its members, some of whom are puzzling over what to do.