By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
June 14, 2019
A RESOLUTION TO CASADA SCANDAL DRAGS ON; GOVERNOR LEE TO TAKE TRADE MISSION TO ASIA; A MEMPHIS SHOOTING MAKES NATIONAL HEADLINES; THE WHEELS OF CHANGE FOR STATE GOVERNMENT BUREACRACY ARE WAY TOO SLOW; MAYOR BRILEY FEUDING WITH SHERIFF HALL; JOHN A. HOBBS; BUDGET AND TAX DECISION LOOMS FOR METRO COUNCIL; A METRO BUREACRATIC BUNGLE; THE METRO ELECTIONS; THE NEXT METRO TRUSTEE; ANYTHING RELATED TO METRO IS AN ISSUE; COOPER ADDS A CARR; HAPPY NOW BUT WHAT ABOUT 2020?; INSIDE POLTITICS LOOKS AHEAD TO TENNESSEE’S 2020 U.S. SENATE RACE;
A RESOLUTION TO CASADA SCANDAL DRAGS ON
Don’t expect the Capitol Hill scandal revolving around Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to be resolved any time soon.
Governor Bill Lee, who at first said a few weeks ago he would call a special session by the end of this month if Casada did not step down, now tells reporters he will likely wait a couple more weeks before making a decision on whether he will call a special session for the House of Representatives to elect a new speaker.
Reports THE TENNESSEAN:
“Lee on Wednesday said he had been in communication with a number of House members to "gauge their temperature" on whether they're in favor of returning to Nashville to vote on a new speaker.
"It's their challenge and their issue to resolve," he said while speaking to reporters at the Tennessee Judicial Conference in Nashville. "But I do have an opportunity, should they want me to, to weigh into that and to call a special session or not call a special session. When and if hasn’t been decided."
"Over the next couple weeks, I think we’ll have a good sense of where we’re going with it," Lee said.
Casada has gotten in trouble in the wake of multiple scandals including inappropriate sexist and racist text messages, drug usage by a top aide, trying to frame a civil rights activist, and then lying about all of it, even blaming the media, including NEWCHANNEL5 for making it up.
The Super Majority Republican House Caucus voted almost two to one that it has no confidence in Casada. The next day, back in May, the Speaker said he would resign, but then he left the country for a 10-day European vacation. When he returned, he said he’d leave office August 2 and asked the Governor Lee to call a special session then for lawmakers to pick his successor.
But, as we’ve reported, the Governor hasn’t signed off on that date, although if he waits too much longer, an August 2nd special session might even be too late as the Governor continues his temperature- taking process of lawmakers.
A top Republican, House Majority Leader William Lamberth, says he already knows what his members want and that’s a special session now.
Again from THE TENNESSESAN: “"I think it's clear cut that members of the House Republican Caucus would like to have a special session as soon as possible," Lamberth said.
And there’s more insights from this article from Memphis.
So why isn’t this matter being resolved? Lawmakers could call their own special session but that would take the signatures of two-thirds or 66 members to do so, which would cumbersome and unlikely. There are also concerns among a few lawmakers about the cost of a special session would could run more than $40,000 per day.
Another issue that neither the state constitution nor state law outlines how to remove a Speaker if he/she doesn’t resign. It is not even clear that even a special legislative session can be empowered to do so.
When Casada leaves could also impact his successor. If the Speaker just resigns then Speaker Pro Tem Knoxville lawmaker Bill Dunn takes over as Speaker under the rules of the House. But if it happens after he resigns and there is a special session, then the House GOP Caucus would meet to select its nominee (who would be easily elected). That could be someone other than Dunn and might even give the outgoing Speaker leverage on who is chosen. Several of those close to Casada are eyeing such a race.
Meanwhile the Casada controversy and the outcry for action continues across the state.
In the interim, there are other concerns being raised by some lawmakers . They point out that, even though the General Assembly is not in session, Speaker Casada still has major power and influence in state government through his appointments to many state boards and commissions, including the new panel which will oversee on-line sports gambling in Tennessee.
GOVERNOR LEE TO TAKE TRADE MISSION TO ASIA
Just like all his predecessors dating back over 40 years, Governor Bill Lee is heading up his first overseas trade mission to Japan and South Korea later this month.
A MEMPHIS SHOOTING MAKES NATIONAL HEADLINES
An officer-related fatal shooting in Memphis this week involving U.S. Marshals once again seems to show the hair trigger emotions that lie just below the surface in relations between law enforcement and the minority community.
And there is this reaction statement I read on Facebook from Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally.
“I am extremely disturbed by the news reports out of Memphis. Lawlessness like this cannot and will not be tolerated in the state of Tennessee.
Attacks on police and firefighters have become far too common in our nation. No matter what the circumstances of the shooting last night, this kind of indiscriminate violence and mayhem is an unacceptable response.
My thoughts are with the police officers and journalists injured last night. My deepest thanks to all the first responders who helped restore the peace.”
Fortunately, after some tense hours, calm seems to prevail.
THE WHEELS OF STATE GOVERNMENT BUREACRACY FOR CHANGE ARE WAY TOO SLOW
Tennessee is blessed with wonderful state parks. But sometimes protecting those who come to visit wildlife areas seems to be lacking. Recent sudden flash flooding is far from a new issue for those frequenting the Cummins Fall State Park in Jackson County. In 2017, two people lost their lives when suddenly raging waters took their lives. The state said it would address the issue and install a better warning system, but that hasn’t happened. Now a family is mourning the loss of their two- year old.
MAYOR BRILEY FEUDING WITH SHERIFF HALL
There have been several recent tweets coming from Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall that seemed to indicate he and Mayor David Briley were not good friends politically.
This article from THE NASHVILLE SCENE seems to confirm it. Why the Mayor wants to get into a feud with other elected officials while trying to get re-elected (and avoid a runoff) is something hard to figure out. But you can read it here.
THE NASHVILLE SCENE offered another critique on Mayor Briley this week, saying he and his administration (and his campaign) missed an opportunity to take more credit for the new long-term Predators lease. The agreement will not only keep the team in town for decades to come but also end the city’s subsidy to the franchise.
So why do I get the feeling that if the Mayor tried to take more credit for the new Predators lease, one of the first to call him out about it would be THE SCENE?
JOHN A. HOBBS
Another of Nashville’s political icons has passed.
John A. Hobbs was the founder and the “Mayor of the Music Valley” area in Donelson. He saw the promise in that part of town even before the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland (hotel and park) moved in.
For the past twelve years, John A.’s Saturday morning breakfasts, held on the last Saturday of each month, were required stops for anybody running for office in this blue part of the state. The events even attracted an occasional Republican along with those just remotely thinking about running for office.
A devout Catholic, he was generous to his Church, in particular to the Sisters of Mercy whose current convent is located in nearby Pennington Bend on land which he donated to the order.
He was one of a kind person, a great man. His passing is a great loss for Nashville in many ways.
BUDGET AND TAX DECISION LOOMS FOR METRO COUNCIL
Unless the issue is deferred to a special meeting later in the month, the Metro Council must pick between four different operating budgets and three different property tax rates next Tuesday night.
One proposal is submitted by Mayor David Briley. It does not raise taxes. But some lawmakers are unhappy it doesn’t provide enough money to give pay raises larger than the 3% the Mayor is suggesting.
That’s part of the reason At Large Councilman Bob Mendes, for the second year in a row, is suggesting a property tax hike (over 50 cents on the rate) to give raises this year and next and to make up for other shortfalls in revenue the city is experiencing.
Another councilmember Steve Glover is suggesting a lower property tax hike (11.5 cents) to provide a 6% pay raise. That would make up for the 3% hike that was promised but nixed last year due to lack of funds.
Mayor Briley is opposed to both tax hike requests saying this is not the year to do that. In its 56 year history, the Metro Council has never passed a tax increase without the recommendation and support of a mayor to do so.
What will happen? The Council always changes a mayor’s budget. Their “substitute budget” moves money around while leaving the tax rate the same. That proposal is usually sponsored by the Chairperson of the Budget & Finance Committee. The makeup of that plan is usually not known until the day before (or even the day of) the final vote.
Some council members have been looking for more money for schools and pay raises. Let’s see what monies they move around to and what departments and services get cut to find 21 votes to pass the new operating which must be acted on by June 30.
This is not exactly the kind of budget making process council members prefer during an election year. But they are stuck, move money around including cuts somewhere, or raise taxes just a few weeks before Early Voting begins. In fact, it would be in less than a month (July 12)!
A METRO BUREACRATIC BUNGLE
Here’s another puzzling Metro issue uncovered by NEWSCHANNEL5. This is a goof made years ago, but to cut off trash pickup service just before elections and give little warning? It’s not the best timing, that’s for sure.
Speaking of ongoing damage control, Metro this week replanted cherry blossom trees in Riverfront Park. It was the removal of some similar trees, prior to the recent NFL Draft held in Nashville, that created such an intense local political backlash and negative news stories nationally. Better late than never, I guess, especially to resolve a goof like this before the election.
THE METRO ELECTIONS
The August 1st Metro election season is in full swing. But oddly, this past week saw one district council candidate kicked off the ballot over residency issues. The move leaves an eighth Metro Council district incumbent (out of 35) unopposed for re-election, while two first-time council candidates will be elected without opposition. That’s a fourth of the full Council (40 seats).
This week, one of the 15 candidates running for the 5 At-Large Council seats got arrested. It’s not his first time being a Metro candidate or his first brush with the law.
THE NEXT METRO TRUSTEE
The Metro Council has its own election to hold next Tuesday, June 18.
It must select a new Metro Trustee to replace the late Charlie Cardwell, who passed away last month.
The person chosen will serve until the summer of 2020. Voters will decide in the May primary and the following August election in 2020 who will serve out the remainder of Mr. Cardwell’s term which expires in 2022.
Normally the Council almost always selects one of its own to fill this kind of vacancy. But that may be difficult to do this time with three current council members seeking the post.
They are Council members Jacobia Dowell; Erica Gilmore and Tanaka Vercher. All are African Americans leaving the Council Black Caucus split over who to back. In addition, Vercher chairs the powerful Budget & Finance Committee while Gilmore is an At-Large member elected countywide. Gilmore also withdrew from running for Vice Mayor to seek the Trustee post.
Assuming all three current councilmembers are splitting the vote, that could leave the door open for a fourth candidate, former Councilman Parker Toler to get the Trustee appointment. He was a long -time employee in the Metro Water Services Department and in recent years also worked with the Trustee’s office.
That likely means Toler would be the choice of many current employee in the Trustee’s office.
Council members wishing not to have to choose between three colleagues might prefer to support Toler and let the other candidates fight it out on the ballot next year. But would Toler be just an interim Trustee? Would he run for the post next year as well? There is a long history of those appointed by the Council to local state constitutional offices getting elected by voters to stay in office, with the Council’s appointment giving them a springboard to stay there.
Stay tuned. The debate and vote on this next Tuesday will be fascinating.
ANYTHING RELATED TO METRO IS AN ISSUE
It has been mentioned several times in this column that a Nashville mayor’s power and control over Metro schools is limited. That includes how the lawyers for the Metro School Board are defending their client in a major sexual harassment lawsuit.
But the mayoral candidates sure don’t seem to like the defense of the School Board by their lawyers, and I can’t say I blame them.
COOPER ADDS A CARR
Community activist jeff obafemi carr has joined the John Cooper for Nashville Mayoral campaign.
carr has been named Senior Advisor. He brings over three decades of experience in intersectional community organizing, activism, social justice work, institution-building, youth development, and arts administration to the table.
Carr was a candidate in last year’s special mayoral election finishing sixth in a field of 13. He received 3,790 votes.
Carr also worked to defeat the transit referendum last year which Mayor Briley supported.
As Senior Advisor, carr will be involved in all aspects of the campaign, particularly community awareness. I suspect he will make a particular outreach in the black community to help Cooper who is a metro Councilman At Large. In the news release announcing his campaign appointment, carr came out swinging against the incumbent.
“Nashville wants a change in leadership. Councilman Cooper was there to actively stop a ﬂawed transit plan; he was there to help preserve Ft. Negley from private development; he voted for Community Oversight when the current administration worked against it; he’s been a ﬁerce opponent of wasteful spending and corporate giveaways. Of all the candidates, he’s clearly the one with the best vision, knowledge, and solid ideas.”
HAPPY NOW BUT WHAT ABOUT 2020?
The Bonnaroo festival is sold out for the first time in several years. But are organizers in Tullahoma and those in charge of traffic, both locally and from the state, ready to handle the onslaught? Reviews so far are not good including complaints from motorists saying they waited in their cars for up to 12 hours to enter the festival grounds. Yikes!
I had a personal experience in this regard when my wife and I drove through the area along I-24 coming back to Nashville from Atlanta on Wednesday. The line to enter the Festival along the shoulder of the interstate was long and moving very slow. But so were the so-called “through lanes” to keep traffic moving for those not attending the festival. It was bumper to bumper for miles.
What I experienced was nowhere near 12 hours long, but anyone coming to a music festival attracting tens of thousands of fans (80,000) should expect delays and pack some patience to match. But will they come back next year? You may not able to answer that question until you see what artists are coming next year. Talent can trump even gridlock.
One other point to make. It appears folks who are complaining are more unhappy about the festival not opening its gates earlier. They stayed in line so long not because of traffic per se. They were in line so long because so many folks wanted to get in early. Maybe organizers need to adjust their gate opening times next year, but the issue wasn’t because I-24 couldn’t handle the traffic.
INSIDE POLTITICS LOOKS AHEAD TO TENNESSEE’S 2020 U.S. SENATE RACE
Tennessee has an open U.S. Senate seat next year.
Long-time Republican Senator Lamar Alexander is retiring.
Several prominent Republicans are eyeing the race including former Governor Bill Haslam, Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty and Congressman Mark Green.
But the first GOP candidate in the 2020 GOP primary field to take Senator Alexander’s place is a Nashville trauma surgeon, Dr. Manny Sethi. He says he is running for office for the first time as “a conservative outsider.”
Dr. Sethi is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week.
Like many of you, I will be meeting and talking to him for the first time. It is a most interesting conversation.
INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:
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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.
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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.