NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — COUNCILMAN AT LARGE & MAYORAL CANDIDATE JOHN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; METRO TEACHERS GET AN UNEXPECTED PAY RAISE; MORE ENDORSEMENTS; A SECOND TV AD FOR MAYOR BRILEY; THE E-SCOOTER SAGA ZOOMS ON; UNFORTUNATE; NASHVILLE GROWS NORTH ACROSS THE RIVER FROM DOWNTOWN; THE CASADA SAGA CONTINUES; A SHADOW STILL LOOMS OVER THE METRO JUSTICE SYSTEM;
COUNCILMAN AT LARGE & MAYORAL CANDIDATE JOHN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS
This week on INSIDE POLITICS we present the third in our conversations with those who would be Nashville’s mayor.
We are featuring all the major candidates one more time, so voters can see and hear from them before Early Voting begins July 12 and before election day itself on August 1st.
Our guest this weekend (July 5-7) is John Cooper who is presently a Metro Councilman At Large.
All these mayoral candidate interviews will air on NEWSCHANNEL5’s main channel in prime time on Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. the next three weeks.
Mayor David Briley’s interview aired last weekend (June 28-June 30).
Next weekend our INSIDE POLITICS guest will be State Representative John Ray Clemmons (July 12-14).
Our first mayoral candidate guest was Dr. Carol Swain, a retired law and political science professor at Vanderbilt University. Her interview ran on the PLUS Channel June 21-23.
Because of severe weather coverage our conversation with her did not air in its entirety on the main channel on Friday night June 21. We are taping another conversation with her to air the weekend of July 19- 21.
Mark these dates down and tune in!
As always, 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.
METRO TEACHERS GET AN UNEXPECTED PAY RAISE
Throughout this election year, I have pointed out several times how Mayor David Briley has used the power of incumbency to help his re-election campaign.
This week saw another example as the Mayor announced an additional 3% cost of living pay raise for all Metro School employees effective January 1, 2020. This is in addition to the 3% cost of living raise given to these same workers this week on July 1st.
Where is the money coming from for the new raise?
For years, Metro has used Tax increment Financing (TIF). TIF funds allow developers to use the extra property taxes the new development generates to help pay the cost of the project.
But there have been complaints the funds never get back to the city’s General Fund and Schools. That has generated calls for change including from a recent Metro Council special committee. Their report and assistance by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) has identified $7.5 million that will now go to schools to help provide the additional pay raise for teachers.
According to a news release from Mayor Briley’s office:
“Thanks to MDHA’s help and the work done by the Council’s Tax Increment Financing Study and Formulating Committee, Mayor Briley is able to free up $7.5 million that would have been paid out of the MNPS budget to repay TIF loans. These funds are recurring, so the raise is “paid for” moving forward. This move does not require Council action since it will simply result in a reduced expenditure for MNPS.
This will bring all teachers to a 6% raise on January 1, 2020, which equates to a 4.5% increase over the course of the year. This is .5% higher than the COLA increase in the proposed substitute budgets that would have raised property taxes.”
The Mayor claims this is part of his effort to find extra pay for teachers without creating higher property taxes.
“I have been working on the MNPS budget with Dr. (Adrienne) Battle and Dr. (Sharon) Gentry, trying to find the best possible way to get recurring dollars to teachers while not penalizing the 40% of MNPS teachers who are “topped out” and while avoiding a property tax increase this year – something that would have hurt in-county teachers more than the proposed raises would have helped,” Mayor Briley said. “With this increase in place, we will continue our in-depth talks about comprehensive pay plan restructuring for teachers so the more than half of all teachers who are topped out of receiving meaningful increases will get them in future years. There’s work to be done, but this is an important first step.”
Indeed, Metro’s Acting Schools Director Adrienne Battle and School Board chair Sharon Gentry are in strong support of Mayor Briley. Dr Battle was quoted this way in the Mayor’s release:
“Mayor Briley’s investment shows a deep commitment to our teachers and staff members, and we thank him for his leadership and support for public education,” Dr. Battle said. “When Mayor Briley saw an opportunity for supplemental revenue, he ensured that it was dedicated to funding a raise for staff members, which is in addition to the raise they are receiving at the start of the year. We are only as successful as our amazing staff, and the Mayor’s actions show how he values them. Our goal is that these resources also ensure that we are able to maintain funding for other new strategic investments. MNPS is thankful to partner with the Mayor and Metro Council who are dedicated to the success of our students and staff.”
But Ben Hall of NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES found a somewhat different story when he looked into the matter. The Mayor’s action has also received less than a positive response from one Council leader and from the teacher’s union. In fact, the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) says the mayor’s action “smells of political intrigue, vote buying, and extortion.”
Mayor Briley’s mayoral opponents are also outspoken in their criticism of his pay raise move: Says State Representative John Ray Clemmons:
“Today (Monday), we have witnessed yet another hollow attempt at political preservation disguised as a good faith attempt to provide our teachers with much-needed raises. While I appreciate that our mayor finally acknowledges the detrimental impact his lack of leadership is having on our teachers, we should call this announcement of a fiscally questionable plan right before early voting starts what it really is - the last gasp by a mayor in a tailspin. MNPS leadership's last-minute receipt of this plan demonstrates the lack of transparency and patchwork policy-making that has defined this administration since day one.
Briley has now had two budgets and multiple opportunities to make fundamental, fiscally responsible budgetary changes in Metro that could have directly benefited our schools and teachers for the benefit of students. Unfortunately, he repeatedly kicked the can down the road, costing our teachers a better quality of life and our students two years of fully funded educational opportunities. This mayor has lost the confidence of teachers, public school parents, and advocates across Nashville, and they will see right through his ploy to try and buy their votes with Metro's credit card.
These desperate acts by a desperate politician trying to get reelected will ultimately cost our city and taxpayers more money. We’ve seen numerous eleventh-hour policy proposals out of the mayor's office over the last six months, designed to appease specific constituencies rather than create real, substantive change. Nashville deserves a mayor who will partner with all stakeholders, engage the community, and make the tough decisions necessary to move our city forward in a substantive manner. Under no circumstances should teachers and Nashville residents be used as pawns for a failing reelection campaign.
Another Briley opponent, Metro Councilmember At Large John Cooper was also outspoken in decrying Mayor Briley’s actions.
“The announcement of this sudden discovery of ways to free up funds for employee raises, simply and completely confirms what I’ve been saying all along, both on the Council and on this Campaign: Nashville has a management problem; it’s not an issue of revenue.
This is why I have been consistently unwilling to burden taxpayers with increased property taxes during a time when we have record revenues. The message this announcement sends is that the Mayor can spend an entire year making excuses, only to discover money for employees the month before the election.
We can make this city work better, for everyone, by making a fundamental change in the way we manage the city. That change starts in the Mayor’s office.”
In terms of politics, this pay raise move by Mayor would seem pure genius. It takes an issue he has been playing defense on for months and tries to turn it into a positive. Yes, a 6% raise is not the 10% increase teachers have been demanding, but it is a whole lot closer than the 3% raise included in his budget. That’s a spending plan which the Council allowed (for the first time ever) to go into law by default after failing by one vote to increase taxes to give teachers more pay.
And how much of a raise would the tax increase have given teachers? How about 4% compared to the 6% hike (4.5% for FY 2020) the School Board has approved with the extra TIF monies from Mayor Briley.
But is the Mayor looking a little too cute in how he announced finding this money? Other questions remain as well. If this TIP reallocation is such a great idea, why didn’t the Mayor negotiate with the banks involved sooner and include it in his original budget to the Council back in May? Or suggest the idea to the School Board when it was putting together its money request back in the spring? Why did the Mayor wait to unveil this proposal just one month before Election Day and less than two weeks before Early Voting begins on July 12?
Finally, are there other city TIF fund loans that ought to be renegotiated and the money put into the General Fund to pay for Metro services? When will that happen?
With Early Voting now set to begin in just a week, more endorsements are coming out.
The latest include the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund supporting John Cooper. From a Cooper news release:
‘The group, which includes activists from more than 65 Nashville neighborhoods, shared the following statement from Logan Key, Nashville resident and neighborhood activist:
"Councilman John Cooper was the overwhelming favorite among our members due to his consistent advocacy for neighborhood preservation and commitment to ensuring that business and development interests don’t undermine the long-term viability of our neighborhoods, which are home to the people who truly make this city what it is."
Says Cooper in response:
“I am honored to be endorsed by the political committee affiliated with the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods: the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund. Neighborhoods are the most important part of our city’s future success. We cannot lose what makes Nashville special. Our neighborhoods are where we live, where our memories are made, and they deserve investment. As your mayor, I will ensure that we prioritize neighborhood investments and that means building sidewalks, improving stormwater, increasing livability, and working on transportation. Let’s create a city that works for everyone.
John Ray Clemmons received yet another labor related endorsement. This time it is from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1235. ATU Local 1235 represents over 700 active and retired transit workers in the Nashville area. The union is comprised of over 190,000 members nationally and is committed to fighting for the interests of its workers and the promotion of mass transit.
Says Patrick Green, President of ATU Local 1235: “The other candidates tout their role in defeating the transit referendum to which the direct result is an underfunded transit agency that negatively impacts the quality of life of working families, underemployed community members, and transit-dependent Nashvillians. A candidate we can trust is what our union and working families need, and the candidate we trust is John Ray Clemmons.”
Says Clemmons about his additional labor-based support: “It’s time for working families to finally have the support of the mayor’s office, and I am committed to improving their quality of life. Throughout my tenure in the state legislature, I have worked to fund and improve our city and region’s transit systems and infrastructure. I will continue this work as mayor by investing in WeGo and enhancing and equitably expanding our mass transit system for the benefit of all.
We cannot afford to wait any longer to begin work on a forward-thinking transportation infrastructure system, and I am fully committed to holding a transit referendum during my first term. I look forward to working with the ATU and its members to build a better future for Nashville.”
In addition to the bus drivers union, Clemmons is also endorsed by Central Labor Council of Nashville & Middle Tennessee, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, Nashville Building and Construction Trades Council, United Campus Workers of Middle Tennessee, Communications Workers of America Local 3808, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 429, Heat and Frost Insulators Local 86, and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 233. The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Cooper.
Finally this week, here is one seeming endorsement that seems to be getting way underplayed by the Briley campaign. Scrolling through the Mayor’s campaign Twitter feed I found this:
It was my honor to have former Mayor and former Governor @PhilBredesen come out and support my campaign last night. Thank you Gov. Bredesen. You laid the foundation for the great city that Nashville is today, and I want to continue that work! #TeamBriley pic.twitter.com/uQnkCqHdnv— David Briley for Mayor (@brileyformayor) June 27, 2019
Is Phil Bredesen endorsing Briley? Despite losing his last statewide race for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the former Governor and Mayor remains enormously popular, especially here in Nashville. His support would be a big boost for any candidate. If this is an endorsement as the twitter post suggests, why is it not being touted all over the county and everywhere else by the Briley campaign? If it is not an endorsement, why even post the picture and a twitter comment? Strange.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND UPDATE: a Facebook posting of former Tennessee Governor and Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen was posted on the Briley campaign Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. I still think the rollout of this endorsement is a little understated.
David Briley for Mayor
Former Mayor and former Governor Phil Bredesen knows that this is a critical time for Nashville, and he knows that David Briley is the right person to lead us through it. Watch the video below to see more of his endorsement. We're honored to have his support.
Former mayor and former Gov. @PhilBredesen knows that this is a critical time for Nashville, and he knows that David Briley is the right person to lead us through it. We're honored to have his support. #TeamBriley #StrongerNashville pic.twitter.com/AqAb18tIKc— David Briley for Mayor (@brileyformayor) July 3, 2019
Can a TV endorsement ad be far behind?
A SECOND TV AD FOR MAYOR BRILEY
After his first TV ad nearly celebrated its one- month anniversary on the air this week, the Briley campaign has debuted its second spot of the campaign. It has the look, feel and sound of the ads he ran last year in the special mayoral race and hits many of his campaign themes in just 30 seconds.
Frankly leaving a first campaign ad up for almost a month is strange. A spot that old is ancient even if you are counting in dog years.
Building a stronger Nashville starts with investing in people and neighborhoods. That means standing up even if it involves going against powerful groups like the School Board or Metro Council or battling developers. That's what I've done as Mayor. #StrongerNashville #TeamBriley pic.twitter.com/kTET7lUIqN— David Briley for Mayor (@brileyformayor) July 2, 2019
THE E-SCOOTER SAGA ZOOMS ON
One more time….
For the next month, the Metro Council says it wants fewer electric scooters and still more regulation of the controversial vehicles in Nashville.
Mayor David Briley wanted an immediate ban on the thousands of electric scooters in Nashville until the Metro Council could redraft the rules. He also wanted a decrease in the number of scooters allowed on the street and fewer cmpanies providing the service. Under lobbying pressure from the seven scooter firms operating in Nashville, and concerned a temporary ban might be misunderstood, the Council rejected the Mayor’s bill at its meeting on Tuesday. Instead the Council passed legislation (with final approval set for July 16) to decrease the size of the e-scooters fleets and mandate greater safety efforts. All this while the city looks to allow only three firms to operate here in the future under more stringent regulations.
Further hedging its bets, the Council says even with all the new legislation, if things don’t improve significantly in thirty days, it will consider a permanent ban on all e-scooters at the last meeting of this term of Council on August 20.
You’d hope Nashville would be bigger and better than this. Metro Council At Large candidate Zulfat Suara is seeking to be the first person of the Muslim faith elected to that 40-member body. But some haters don’t think so, and they are lashing out on-line against her.
Fortunately, the anti-Muslim effort seems to be falling flat and may actually boomeranging to help Suara. The race for the 5 countywide At-Large seats on the Metro Council is a different kind of political contest. You can vote for up to 5 candidates. Therefore, it is difficult to be effective in voting against a single candidate as well as for just one candidate (it is called a single shot and has never worked).
The At-Large race is also one where name recognition is all-important. While the anti-Muslim effort is regrettable, it tends to build name recognition (and support?) for Suara, and thereby helps voters trying to figure out who are the best 5 candidates to support.
Hate may not always win, even in politics!
NASHVILLE GROWS NORTH ACROSS THE RIVER FROM DOWNTOWN
Nashville’s growth continues. This time it’s to the north.
It is a new massive mixed- use development that will connect Germantown to the Cowan Street area across the Cumberland River. Construction of Phase 1 of the project will begin in 2020 and will include affordable housing as well as retail. The two areas will be connected by a pedestrian bridge across the river. Here’s the coverage: · Channel 5 · Tennessean · Nashville Post · Globe Street
THE CASADA SAGA CONTINUES
Disgraced State House Speaker Glen Casada says he isn’t stepping down for another month (August 2).
He won’t be replaced until three weeks after that during a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly called by Governor Bill Lee on August 23.
Still the scandal continues to make headlines. Democratic House Caucus Chair Mike Stewart is calling for a three-prong investigation into what he calls the Republican Speaker’s ‘lost millions.”
Specifically, the Nashville lawmaker hopes the investigation will determine how funds were misspent, misallocated and/or misused during the Speaker’s administration. That includes:
A full financial audit by the comptroller’s office into spending on purchases, salaries and allocations made by the Speaker’s office since Casada’s election.
The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the no-show jobs held by employees of the Speaker’s office.
An open records release of all financial records, receipts, timesheets and other documents for full public review.
At the same time an East Tennessee lawmaker is filing a resolution to have GOP lawmaker David Byrd ousted because of sexual assaults, committed over thirty years ago, against some of the then teenage members of the high school basketball team Byrd coached. The resolution could be considered during the special session although some say a formal ethics complaint and investigation needs to be considered first. Until a recent falling out, Representative Byrd has been defended and protected by Speaker Casada.
A SHADOW STILL LOOMS OVER THE METRO JUSTICE SYSTEM
Two long time local Nashville judges have been disciplined regarding trips they took at the same time to Costa Rica with disgraced Judge Casey Moreland. Moreland is serving time in federal prison on corruption charges. Both Judges deny any wrongdoing. Details of exactly what General Sessions Judge John Aaron Holt and Criminal Judge Monte Watkins did during the trips and what their punishments are remains undisclosed.
The news got headlines even outside the Nashville area.