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Capitol View commentary: Friday, July 2, 2021

Capitol View
Posted at 1:30 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 14:30:13-04

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

July 2, 2021

PLEA DEAL REACHED IN DELKE CASE; BRINGING A NEW THEME PARK TO NASHVILLE: A SOON TO BE REALITY OR AN ON-LINE DIGITAL DREAM; MORE GROWING PAINS GETTING BACK TO NORMAL; EVEN TENNESSEE STATE GOVERNMENT CAN BE SCAMMED; LITIGATION WEEK; MODERNIZING ONE LONG TIME PROBLEM WHILE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIX ANOTHER; A CRAZY WEEK IN WASHINGTON; DR. JOHN VILE ON INSIDE POLITICS DISCUSSES THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE 245 YEARS LATER

PLEA DEAL REACHED IN DELKE CASE

Former Metro Police officer Andrew Delke was set to go on trial on July 12. He was charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Daniel Hambrick. He would have been the first Metro officer to face murder charges based on actions while in the line of duty.

But that won’t happen now.

In a stunning last- minute plea deal, Delke will plead guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and receive a three- year sentence with eligibility for release in 15 months. If convicted, Delke could have faced life in prison.

While the manslaughter plea is the strictest penalty ever imposed on a Nashville police officer, you can expect controversy to continue and probably build.

There was a demonstration Thursday night at the home of Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk who negotiated the plea deal with Delke. The family of Daniel Hambrick led a protest in front of the A.A. Birch Justice Building on Friday morning, when the plea settlement was approved by Judge Monte Watkins. Hambrick’s mother disrupted the court proceedings.

In talking with reporters, D.A. Funk maintains the Delke case shows the city is making progress in moving ahead on social justice with a Nashville police officer, for the first time pleading guilty to a felony and going to jail. He added it was far from certain a murder conviction could have been obtained. In fact, he said he was told by many, the most likely outcome would have been a hung jury.

BRINGING A NEW THEME PARK TO NASHVILLE: A SOON TO BE REALITY OR AN ON-LINE DIGITAL DREAM

Since Opryland closed almost a quarter century ago in 1997, there have been many who say the city’s tourism industry, needs more family-based entertainment.

That’s true, now more than ever, in what appears to soon be a post-pandemic world.

There is also the need educationally to increase the reading skills of both young people and adults.

Is the answer to both needs, Storyville Gardens?

Announced in concept this week, Storyville Gardens, would be an imagination-driven, interactive theme park that will open in the greater Nashville area with a projected date of Spring 2025.

Storyville Gardens is a theme park that uses storytelling to engage and connect visitors with a sense of adventure, fantasy and fun. The Gardens will have four specific areas – Africa, Asia, Europe and America, giving visitors a storybook tour of the world.

Here is an announcement video featuring one of the potential founders of Storyville.

At this point, developers say the Gardens will be built in three phases and will involve 100+ acres. The cost would be of $300 million dollars, with the project generating 2,260 construction jobs, and later, over 1700 permanent employment positions.

The company involved, Guerrier Development, is working on designing Storyville Gardens with Storyland Studios, a firm responsible for attractions such as the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios Florida, the Legoland Hotel in California and other themed attractions.

But the actual site in Middle Tennessee for the new theme park is yet to be announced. Therefore, the theme park, for now, exists only in this fly-through video.

The announcement is certainly raising interest. But it is hardly the first Opryland type replacement to be announced over the years, but never materialized.

Stay tuned.

MORE GROWING PAINS GETTING BACK TO NORMAL

Here is another sign this week that while COVID-19 is still easing, Metro’s downtown tourist district is coming back stronger than ever.

In fact, the crowds on Historic Broadway are again so large, they have led Metro Police to make a change to the flow of traffic on weekends, and it’s working.

This holiday weekend will bring perhaps the largest crowds ever as the city renews its annual Riverfront Park musical and fireworks show, “Let Freedom Sing Music City.”

Speaking of downtown, despite the progress in the recovery on 2nd Avenue following the senseless Christmas Day bombing, the inevitable is likely. Four of the most badly damaged building will need to be demolished. But the owner, asking for a demolition permit, says it will be done in a way that preserves as much of the buildings’ history as possible, brick by brick.

Finally, speaking of the pandemic, the virus seems to continue to ease in Nashville and in many parts of the state. That’s so, even though vaccination numbers across Tennessee remain among the lowest in the nation. Meanwhile the new more contagious COVID-19 variant, the Delta strain, keeps growing in surrounding states such as Arkansas.

The Delta variant is one of many strains here in Tennessee, and apparently not a major threat, especially if you are vaccinated.

EVEN TENNESSEE STATE GOVERNMENT CAN BE SCAMMED

You see or read about it almost every day in the news.

It is stories about folks who have gotten scammed out of their money to the tune of millions of dollars.

Apparently, it can even happen to the State of Tennessee.

Economic development officials admit they are out $3 million in money earmarked to create jobs in hard hit parts of the state.

These officials say they think they did what they could to prevent this from happening, but the state’s own fiscal watchdog agency, the Tennessee Comptroller’s office, says key indicators that a scam might be happening, were overlooked.

Your tax dollars at work. NOT!

LITIGATION WEEK

As summer began, and the calendar turned to July, this week there seemed to be a move to the courtroom with legal actions being filed, appeals being made, and decisions rendered in a number of different controversies. July 1st is also the effective date for many new laws passed by the Legislature. That played a role in some of this legal activity.

For example, the state’s new, first-in-the- nation, bathroom transgender signage law is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit got support this week with another legal filing from Nashville music industry businessman Mike Curb, a former legislator and Lt. Governor of California.

Another new Tennessee law that impacts transgender athletes is also being challenged in the courts by the national Human Rights Campaign.

It is not on the exact same issues, but a U.S. Supreme Court decision late this week on transgender rights could be seen as favorable in these latest legal efforts.

Elsewhere, in an already on-going lawsuit, the Metro Nashville Election Commission is appealing directly to the Tennessee Supreme Court, to reinstate a voter referendum to roll back and limit property tax increases in Nashville, and restrict other future actions by the Metro Council. The efforts by a citizens group to amend the Metro Charter have twice been rejected by local judges, but the GOP- majority Commission says it wants to pursue the matter further, to seek a variety of opinions and bring clarity, whatever that means, other than spend more taxpayers’ dollars.

Finally, it is not a lawsuit. but a guilty plea has been entered this week in the firebombing of the Historic Metro Courthouse in May 2020.

MODERNIZING ONE LONG TIME PROBLEM WHILE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIX ANOTHER

This week Governor Bill Lee signed into law a measure to reform the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

With many high minded words about how this move will strengthen Tennessee families and strengthen their self-sufficiency in a news release from the Governor’s office, the real problem that needed to be reformed or modernized was to get the state, under multiple administrations, to quit bankrolling a lot of the federal funds it received each year, saying it was keeping it for a financial rainy day.

When even the pandemic did not get the backlog of funds spent, and critical media stories were increasing, the Lee administration made passing a new TANF law a priority. And so, something passed that appears will help families, finally.

Now the state has another long- standing financial issue to resolve. As one of Tennessee’s two land grant colleges, Tennessee State University was supposed to receive funds from the federal government each year, matched by the state. The problem is for more than 50 years, the state didn’t provide their match, although it did to the other Tennessee land grant school, the University of Tennessee.

The amount TSU didn’t get? It is estimated to be over a half a billon dollars! A state legislative committee is charged with coming with a plan and recommendations of how to make TSU whole.

Bottom line: the predominantly black school didn’t get the funds, while the white one did. And the General Assembly is forbidding teaching Tennessee students about institutional racism?

A CRAZY WEEK IN WASHINGTON

When President Biden said last week, he would not sign the bi-partisan infrastructure bill recently agreed to by Republicans, unless another much larger infrastructure package is also approved by Democrats, using the budget reconciliation process, I thought all hell would break loose in Washington.

It did, although so far, the bi-partisan deal is still intact, and the Democrats have not yet splintered themselves over what should be in the reconciliation bill and how big it could get. Some progressives want up to $6 trillion!

One piece of economic good news for the Biden administration was a stronger than expected jobs report on Friday, even though it will still likely be 2022 before the economy returns to the same number of jobs as the country had pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, partisan sparks flew again on the Hill when Democrats in the U.S. House approved appointing a special select House Committee to study and make recommendations on how to prevent another January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

A bi-partisan commission to do that job was blocked by Senate Republicans, and House Republicans don’t like the special committee either, with the House GOP leader reportedly threatening his members with losing their committee assignments if they cooperate or join the committee.

But what really set things on fire was the announcement Thursday by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Representative Lynn Chaney, has agreed to be on the select committee. Chaney was once third in the Republican leadership in the House. She was stripped of that post after voting in favor of impeaching then President Donald Trump after the January 6th insurrection.

The Chaney move left GOP leader McCarthy fuming and calling for a probe of COVID-19 deaths instead. Really.

Approaching 6 months after he left office, and still banned from most major social media platforms, former President Donald Trump is seeking to raise his profile, beginning a series of campaign style rallies to connect with and energize his base.

Mr. Trump also went back to the southern border, seeking to gain from the ongoing difficulties the Biden administration is experiencing with a continuing flood of migrants seeking asylum.

But Mr. Trump had his own difficulties this week. His business organization, along with its long time CFO, were indicted in New York City on criminal tax fraud and conspiracy charges after a two- year investigation. The former President says it is all politically motivated and that his company’s business practices are standard and lawful. The Trump CFO has pled not guilty, even as speculation continues prosecutors will seek to turn him to testify against Mr. Trump himself. The former President has not been charged.

DR. JOHN VILE ON INSIDE POLITICS DISCUSSES THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE 245 YEARS LATER

July brings the celebration of America’s Independence Day.

But 245 years after it was proclaimed by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, what is the status of our Declaration of Independence, especially after a pandemic, economic challenges, racial unrest, and an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?

To discuss those topics as well as the Declaration’s impact on the history and culture of our country, we welcome MTSU Political Science Professor Dr. John Vile back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Much as he did for the American Flag, Dr. Vile, the Dean of the Honors College at Middle Tennessee State, has produced an encyclopedia on our nation founding document.

We welcome him to the program to discuss his book and this historic document.

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