By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
January 27, 2023
FOUR WEEKS IN, 2023 IS ALREADY HISTORIC, SCARY, NOT AS EXPECTED AND INTERESTING; THE CONTINUING CHAOS IN THE U.S. HOUSE; FROM THE RIDICULOUS TO THE SUBLIME FOR THE CLASSFIED/TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS CONTROVERSY; FIRST MAJOR MAYORAL ENDORSEMENTS GO TO MAYOR JOHN COOPER; IT IS LIKE A WHOLE NEW AIRPORT; INSIDE POLITICS GOES ENCORE THIS WEEK; CUTTING THE SIZE OF THE METRO COUNCIL IN HALF CONTINUES TO ROIL THE COURTHOUSE AND MAY SPARK LEGAL ACTION FROM THE CITY; EVEN WITH ABORTION ABOLISHED IN TENNESSEE, THE REPUBLICAN SUPER MAJORITY STILL WANTS TO GET PLANNED PARENTHOOD;
FOUR WEEKS IN, 2023 IS ALREADY HISTORIC, SCARY, NOT AS EXPECTED AND INTERESTING
With all that has been in the news this week, especially the string of mass casualty shootings in California, I found it hard to watch some of the broadcasts.
Maybe that was because we are already on record pace for this kind of senseless violence.
It seems there is also always an officer involved incident in the news that results in someone being killed.
Currently there is one in Memphis involving Tyree Nichols. He was pulled over a traffic stop involving reckless driving. That led to confrontations with police, and then apparently a beating so savage, five police officers involved were fired within days.
While Investigations by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the local U.S. Attorney’s office are underway, Memphis law enforcement officials were quick on Thursday to indict the 5 policemen, each of them on a number of second degree murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Police have been limited in who can view the police video of what happened (investigators, the family of the victim, and their lawyers).
Everyone who’s seen the footage says it is horrendous to watch. Even more than that, with the video likely to be released to the public possibly as early as today (Friday after 6PM ), a memo from the Tennessee Sherrif’s Association has been sent out across the state and the nation, warning law enforcement to be ready to see community responses “beyond traditional protests” and perhaps occurring nationwide.
The Memphis Chief of Police calls what occurred “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” But the Chief urges Memphis residents to protest peacefully. President Biden is calling for peaceful protests as well. Here in Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee, Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Metro Police Chief John Drake have issued similar statements.
The story about the video release is making national headlines.
In both the California mass shootings and the police beating in Memphis, I found the culprits were not who we’ve been told to expect. The shooters were not young white males but senior citizen Asian guys. Meanwhile, the police involved in the Memphis beating are all African Americans. This appears to say there are no pat answers as to who is likely to commit these horrible crimes. Maybe what we ought to be asking is why are so many of us are resorting so quickly to violence, especially those sworn to uphold the law and protect us?
Finally, it also caught my attention this week when Pope Francis said homosexuality is “a sin but not a crime.”
It appears the Pontiff is also denouncing all the anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee, a policy area where our lawmakers seem to be leading the country in such legislation.
THE CONTINUING CHAOS IN THE U.S. HOUSE
As we have chronicled, both here in this column and on INSIDE POLITICS, the Republican-led House of Representatives continues to be in disarray.
The latest major flash point are efforts by new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to remove some Democrats from their committee posts. The move seems to revenge for Democrats doing something similar to Republicans in the last two sessions.
Of course, Democrats are outraged, but it appears even some of McCarthy’s own GOP House Caucus members are not on board.
One of the committee removals (Omar) takes a vote of the full House. With the very slender Republican majority in the lower chamber, could McCarthy come up short on the floor?
Of course, the continuing saga of habitual liar, New York Republican congressman George Santos, remains in the news. This week the focus has been on trying to make sense of his now amended campaign finance report, raising still more questions about the actual source of his reported monies.
And then there’s Nashville’s newest congressman Andy Ogles. He proved he could successfully play the maverick game in opposing House Speaker for 11 votes, then coming over to side to help him and get a top committee seat in return. But what if he keeps playing fast and loose with those financial disclosures of all congressional candidates and members?
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge facing Congress and the nation is how to handle the looming debt ceiling crisis. Believe it or not, there are bi-partisan efforts to find a solution. But don’t expect that to be successful, at least until we reach the final hours of this crisis around June, with the country facing defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.
Moving over to the Senate, they are better than the House, but bi-partisan unity on any issue is hard to find. But it was strongly present in a Senate committee this week, with members of both parties lambasting Ticketmaster for its complete meltdown late last year trying to sell tickets to the Taylor Swift concert tour. Ticketmaster better start looking at itself and updating its technology prowess, rather than just blaming bots and ticket scalpers. Either that or see possible punitive legislation “swiftly” coming from Congress.
Despite all the shenanigans in Washington, it seems that one thing that can’t be slowed down is the U.S. economy. With skyrocketing interest rates, the war in Ukraine, it has often been predicted by economists we are the verge of a recession. Those warnings continue even as government figures released this week found that the nation’s GDP ended the last year in a positive position both for the last quarter and 2022 overall. Consumer spending remains strong too.
FROM THE RIDICULOUS TO THE SUBLIME FOR THE CLASSFIED/TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS CONTROVERSY
This week the latest development in the ongoing controversy over classified/top secret documents saw former Vice President Mike Pence become the second former VP to have these kinds of documents when and where he shouldn’t.
The discovery came within days after Pence assured some reporters, he did not have any such documents. But then, he did, and he then quickly returned them.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is the other former VP to be found with documents he shouldn’t. He has even been found to have sensitive documents from when he was a Senator. Biden like former VP Pence has returned his documents, even those from his Delaware home. This has raised questions from Republicans about his handling of classified documents while President.
Of course, this whole controversy began with former President Donald Trump being discovered with hundreds of classified and top- secret documents. He fought returning them for weeks in the courts.
Now the Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to investigate both men.
Clearly, we have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. I know everyone has heard that phrase. But what exactly does it mean?
My on-line research says it means going from “something silly, foolish, or absurd to something exceptional or beautiful.”
The phrase was first used by American patriot Tom Paine in his The Age of Reason (1794) article.
In this matter, you can make a case we have reached the silly, foolish and absurd level.
What is now the exceptional or beautiful we’ve reached?
I would suggest that instead of continuing to make this a partisan game of gotcha, maybe we should take a look at reforming our system of how many we have, along with when and by whom these documents are circulated, and make it clear when and how they must be returned. Then enforce it.
The National Archives took a step in the right direction this week, asking all former Presidents and Vice Presidents, dating back 40 years, to look through their documents to see if they have classified and other materials that should be returned.
FIRST MAJOR MAYORAL ENDORSEMENTS GO TO MAYOR JOHN COOPER
While incumbent Nashville Mayor John Cooper has not announced his candidacy for re-election, with a vote scheduled the first Thursday in August, two major city employee unions definitely think his honor is running.
Both the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firefighters Union have endorsed Cooper, giving the mayor a something of a boost from these first major group endorsements.
But police and fire support is not as politically potent as it used to be when those employees were required to live in the county. That law is long gone, and with Nashville continuing to experience a significant shortage of affordable workforce housing, many police, fire and EMTs are finding it even harder to live in Davidson County.
And if they don’t live here, they can’t vote here, diluting the power of their union endorsements. But in a year when crime and public safety remain critical issues with voters, the FOP and Firefighters support is something ever mayoral candidate wants, especially an incumbent.
It wasn’t billed as an endorsement, but NASHVILLE SCENE owner Bill Freeman had some glowing things to say about Mayor Cooper in his latest weekly column. Freeman owns several local print media outlets including The Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and The News. He was mayoral candidate himself in 2015.
This week unveiled Mayor Cooper unveiled his long- awaited Capital Budget plan totaling $478 million. One of the key measures he is seeking funding approval from the Metro Council has a definite law enforcement tie. Juvenile crime and related issues have been rising in Nashville and across the country.
Nashville juvenile facilities on the East Bank are old (early 90s). Therefore, the largest of Mayor Cooper’s capital proposals is allocating $92 million to build better ones on a new campus on Brick Church Pike,. That is much to the delight of Nashville’s Juvenile Judge Shelia Calloway.
The other capital priorities in the mayor’s plan are the same as they have been in recent years with major new capital funding for schools and infrastructure.
IT IS LIKE A WHOLE NEW AIRPORT
Nashville unveiled a major aviation milestone this week with the opening of the new Grand Lobby at the Nashville International Airport.
Under its BNA Vision plan which will be complete at the end of 2023, the airport will have added, along with the gorgeous new lobby, some 90 new shops and restaurants, half of which are local. To accommodate a forecasted 35 million passengers per year in the next 20 years, BNA has been expanding gates and landing new non-stop destinations.
If you been to the airport you’ve already seen major changes and improvements over the last few years. And even more is on the way. The airport is poised to begin another $1.4 billion expansion called New Horizons. That move will expand the number of gates at the airport to nearly 70 by 2028.
How does Nashville pay for all this? It is not from local property and sales taxes.
Along with receiving federal and state grants, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority issues revenue bonds to cover the rest of the costs. That debt is paid off with money made at the airport, including airline fees, concessions and parking.
I must say from watching the news coverage this week, it brought back memories for me from when the original terminal, on this side of the runway, opened in 1987. That’s when I was in Mayor Fulton’s office. That new terminal brought major improvements as well, and ultimately a new runway. Like today, Nashvillians were excited about those changes, even though in many ways they pale in comparison to what has happened now, 35 years later.
It is just another example, that our city remains one “on the rise”….and we probably haven’t seen anything yet as far what as future holds!
I have some airline trips scheduled for this spring and later in the year. I can’t wait to see the airport in person, all the changes and improvements. Yes, I will probably get lost at first. But like I was in 1987 when this original terminal opened (you can’t find much or anything of it now), I couldn’t be prouder of my hometown, and how it showcases our city.
I must also add my pride, but also wonderment, at how Nashville has become a nationally recognized foodie city. When I grew up, Nashville was a desert for world class cuisine. The approval by voters in 1968 of liquor by the drink made it possible for that to change. And based on some award nominations announced this week, Nashville is now certainly on the foodie map.
INSIDE POLITICS GOES ENCORE THIS WEEK
This week’s outstanding live gavel to gavel coverage of the Caitlin Kaufman murder trial on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS makes it impossible to produce a new INSIDE POLITICS program.
Instead, keeping with a theme of food and fine dining, we offer an encore presentation of my recent interview with Mike Kelly, the proprietor of Jimmy Kelly’s restaurant. Mike has produced one of the best books I have read about Nashville and its history. A GENEROUS POUR: TALL TALES FROM THE BACK ROOM AT JIMMY KELLY’S is a fascinating history of his family and of Nashville, from Civil War times right up until today, including prohibition, bootlegging and creating one of Nashville’s best fining dining establishments since it opened in 1934.
If you didn’t see conversation last year, watch us this weekend!
INSIDE POLITICS can be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWSCHANNEL5 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.
CUTTING THE SIZE OF THE METRO COUNCIL IN HALF CONTINUES TO ROIL THE COURTHOUSE AND MAY SPARK LEGAL ACTION FROM THE CITY
The bills to cut size of the Metro Council from 40 to 20 members have already passed two readings on Capitol Hill in Nashville. Now with approvals in committees, and third readings Oks by the full House and Senate, the proposal will go to Governor Bill Lee to be signed into law.
What can the city of Nashville do about it? This week, the Metro Legal Department indicated legal action may be coming.
I am not a lawyer, and I don’t play one of TV. I am also not a supporter of this action of revenge by the Republican Supermajority on the Hill because the Council did not pursue Nashville hosting the 2024 Republican Convention. But from what I know about the situation, and from history, I am afraid the law is on the side of these GOP zealots. When and if this matter goes to court, I hope I am wrong.
There does appear another difference of opinion is brewing between the state and Metro leaders.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has begun work to demolish and rebuild the Broadway Viaduct downtown. That has been the structure’s name, not the Broadway Bridge.
The disagreement comes from local elected leaders and others who believe the new design is too bland and does not seem to be able to accommodate mass transit and other transportation alternatives.
In this regard, before I was even aware of this brewing controversy, I did some research, and found the original viaduct that opened in 1899, did have capacity to host Nashville’s trolley cars, the mass transit of its day.
Perhaps sensing there may need to modify the plans, TDOT officials are now showing some openness to change.
EVEN WITH ABORTION ABOLISHED IN TENNESSEE, THE REPUBLICAN SUPER MAJORITY STILL WANTS TO GET PLANNED PARENTHOOD
I had a Vanderbilt classmate e-mail me recently to say he had watched my INSIDE POLITICS interview with Keel Hunt. He closed by saying: “I guess it is good to know the Legislature doesn’t only hate Memphis” (where he lives).
My classmate is right. Another group that the Super Majority hates is Planned Parenthood even after abortion services are completely banned in our state. Planned Parenthood provides other health care services, including HIV testing and treatment.
Planned Parenthood has been part of a federal grant, along with other non-profits and local health departments. The money passes through the state Health Department. Somewhat mysteriously a week or so ago, it was announced that the state would no longer accept the grant saying it thinks they can continue the HIV services, and perhaps do it even better with state funds. But no details were revealed. The governor then added the federal grant has strings the state doesn’t like.
It appears the strings may be Planned Parenthood.
The controversy became even bigger on Wednesday, when the state’s new Health Commissioner tried to avoid answering questions from lawmakers about this topic. Then he did the same thing with the media.