By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
June 28, 2019
MAYOR BRILEY ON INSIDE POLITICS; THE FIRST TELEVISED DEBATE; A DIFFERENT ENDORSEMENT; NO AUGUST VOTE ON A PROPERTY TAX HIKE; PARKS FIGHT; THE LATEST ON SCOOTERS; NASHVILLE AREA & TENNESSEE CONTINUES TO GROW AS A MECCA FOR JAPANESE CAR COMPANIES; CASADA; SEVEN YEARS OLD;
MAYOR BRILEY ON INSIDE POLITICS
This week on INSIDE POLITICS, we continue our conversations with those who want to be Nashville’s Mayor.
Our guest this week is the person who currently holds the job, incumbent Mayor David Briley.
We are doing these interviews because we think it is important to give our viewers one more opportunity to hear from the four major mayoral contenders before early voting begins on Friday, July 12. Election Day is August 1.
All these mayoral candidate interviews will also air on NEWSCHANNEL5’s main channel in prime time on Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. the next four weeks.
Our first 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. But because of severe weather coverage our conversation with her did not air in its entirety on the main channel last Friday night June 21. We are taping another conversation with her to air the weekend of June 19-June 21.
Mayor David Briley’s interview will air the weekend of June 28-June 30.
At Large Councilman John Cooper’s interview will air July 5-7.
Finally, our interview with State Representative John Ray Clemmons will air July 12-14.
Mark all the 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.
THE FIRST TELEVISED DEBATE
The TV lights came on for Nashville’s first televised mayoral debate Tuesday night. The event was sponsored and aired by NEWSCHANNEL5 along with THE TENNESSEAN and hosted by Belmont University.
The candidates have been with each other almost daily in recent weeks attending candidate forums. But apparently the bright lights helped focus their need to differentiate themselves and to begin to criticize each other more directly.
Because I have been out of town this week, I did not see the debate live, and I have not been able to view it on tape either. What I say in the column this week is based on what I have read from the various news accounts of the event (links to which I will post), along with some observations I have received from political observers who were present.
My first debate takeaway is not just that the candidates are starting to go after each other, it’s that the incumbent, and likely front runner Mayor David Briley, is going after just one of his challengers. That would be Metro Councilman At Large John Cooper. With three opponents to choose from, the Mayor picked Cooper to criticize by name. And the attack includes Cooper’s previous profession as a “Williamson County developer” says the Mayor. The attack is a clear sign Briley views Cooper as his major opposition to re-election as compared to the other two major candidates in the race, State Representative John Ray Clemmons and retired Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain.
I understand that Clemmons got one of only two rounds from applause from the debate audience (they weren’t supposed to clap). It came when he charged Briley has taken four different positions on scooters in recent week. But I found Clemmons’ barb against Briley mentioned (briefly) in only one news report. While Clemmons seemed focused, and perhaps was the most energized on the attack among the candidates, his scooter applause line hasn’t (so far) landed the impact outside the debate stage he surely hoped.
What I heard and read about Carol Swain’s debate performance confirms what I thought about her after she came on INSIDE POLITICS last week. She is, as she was last year in the special mayor’ race, running against the establishment, against her “legacy” name opponents (Briley and Cooper), against city leaders who spend “like drunken sailors.” Last year, she did that in a more combative way. This year she seems more reasonable and likeable in how she presents herself and her talking points. I like to say when I see this happen, someone has gone to “candidate school.” But will it help Swain overcome the highly controversial reputation she developed based on her past comments about Islam, Muslims and (in this blue part of the state) in favor of Donald Trump?
Based on this link below to an exclusive NEWSCHANNEL5 story that aired the day after the debate, Swain, her campaign and one of her top supporters have some questions to answer about indications that people were paid to attend her campaign rally in conjunction with the debate.
As for John Cooper he defended himself against Briley’s criticisms about his actions on city financing (voting for job incentives he had previously opposed) and on his involvement in the recent and past budget processes. Cooper again leveled his own criticisms at Briley about a lack of good management in city government and the need to focus more on neighborhoods rather than downtown.
It appears no candidate made a big mistake, committed a blunder or hit it out of the park with a comment that changed the calculus or momentum of the race.
A DIFFERENT ENDORSEMENT
Most endorsements by labor groups in Nashville’s mayoral campaign have gone to State Representative John Ray Clemmons. But this week the local Fraternal Order of Police went in a different direction.
The union endorsed Metro Councilman At Large John Cooper.
The move was also different because Cooper voted against a property tax increase, which the FOP supported, but one that failed in the Metro Council last week by one vote. The tax hike was endorsed by Clemmons but apparently that was not a deciding factor among the officers who voted on who the FOP should endorse.
The FOP has been at odds with Mayor David Briley ever since he cancelled a 3% cost of living raise for officers and other city workers in 2018. In last year’s special mayoral election, the FOP did not make an endorsement, a move that came before Briley’ pay raise cancellation decision. Many officers supported Carol Swain in the special election, but she did not get the endorsement again this year.
Is the FOP supporting Cooper because it thinks he has the best chance to force Mayor Briley into a runoff election and defeat the incumbent in September? Are they doing so even if he voted against a property tax increase the union supported?
Mayor David Briley also got a major endorsement this week. The Nashville Business Coalition says he is the best choice in the field and is the candidate with the strongest ideas. This is the same group that backed Briley in the special mayoral election last year and urged others not to enter the contest to help maintain civic continuity and stability in the wake of Mayor Megan Barry’s scandal and resignation. This time the group at least interviewed the other candidates in the field before backing Briley again.
NO AUGUST VOTE ON A PROPERTY TAX HIKE
Last weekend Metro School Board officials began looking at invoking their powers under the Metro Charter to put a property tax hike on the August 1st ballot for voters to decide. The tax hike that failed in the Metro Council last week by one vote would have meant $50 million more for schools than what Mayor Briley recommended.
In particular, the tax hike would have funded a larger raise for teachers than the 3% increase the Briley budget contained. The Mayor’s budget is set to take effect by default on July 1. That’s because, for the first time in Metro Government history (56 years plus), the Council failed to approve a budget after the tax plan failed.
School officials believe the system desperately needs the extra funds and so they were eyeing the Metro Charter to try and force a countywide vote. But the voting laws in Tennessee have changed over the years since the Metro Charter was drafted in the early 1960s. State law does not allow referendum items to be placed on the ballot this close to the election. Therefore the 16-cent property tax increase is off the boards.
The School Board is also still struggling on exactly what its budget for next year will fund (beginning July 1). This week the Board rejected what its school administrators suggested. That means, at least temporarily, a delay in a 3% employee pay raise. Before implementing that, the Board instead wants to have its staff identify $8 million in cuts to be able to also provide annual step raises to teachers who are in the early years of their careers.
The money for the additional pay boosts was incredibly not included in Mayor Briley’s budget. The Metro Council didn’t include the funds either. Instead it allowed the Mayor’s proposal to go in effect by default after the Council failed to pass a property tax increase by one vote.
There are few “mom and apple pie “issues in local politics. But expanding or protecting park property would be one. This week, using the power of incumbency, Mayor David Briley announced the acquisition of about 700 acres in the Bells Bend area.
While still subject to Metro Parks Board and Metro Council approval, Mayor Briley is announcing the move now.
From a news release from Mayor Briley’s office:
“The acquisition is composed of the purchase of two separate properties: approximately 107 acres currently owned by Thomas Bros. Grass and used as a sod farm; and 682 acres owned by the Graves family. Both parcels are located off Old Hickory Road in the Bells Bend area.
The purchase prices for the properties are about $1.5 million and $7.8 million, respectively. The parcels will be paid for via Metro Parks Department greenways acquisition funds.
“Preserving and adding greenspace is vital as our city continues to grow and develop,” said Mayor Briley. “These nearly 800 acres of farmable land have great potential for food production, sustainability efforts and agritourism. I’ve been fighting to preserve public greenspace in this particular area for quite some time, and I am so pleased it will now become a part of our parks system.”
“With the growth the city is experiencing, the preservation and acquisition of greenspace is critical, and the benefits to our health and ecosystems are enormous,” said Parks Director Monique Odom. “This acquisition is also a big step in helping us to continue our very active mission to provide all areas of the city with an inviting network of parks and greenways that offers an improved quality of life through recreation, conservation and community. I applaud the efforts of Mayor Briley to help us in our mission to preserve and sustain greenspace whenever and wherever we can.”
The proposed purchase has brought one mostly-positive news story from THE NASHVLLE SCENE.
None of Briley’s opponents are criticizing his parks land acquisition. It appears the Parks Board and Council will approve the move. Nevertheless, Briley opponent John Cooper is using the opportunity to spotlight his record on saving historic parks properties such as Ft. Negley in a new :60 second TV spot.
In releasing the new TV (his third) Cooper added this statement which included more of a direct attack on Briley’s record regarding park property.
“ As a council member, I opposed Mayor Briley’s effort to give Church Street Park to a preferred developer for a new high-rise, luxury condo tower. I helped lead the successful effort to stop the city from selling a large portion of one of our most significant historic sites, Fort Negley, which was once the home of thousands of black refugees during the Civil War. I was against the attempted sale of Trinity Ridge, 11 acres of hilltop, creeks, springs and historic stone walls adjacent to existing banked land for Metro Parks that the administration tried to sell this year. And I also opposed Mayor Briley’s proposal to auction off Edgehill Community Memorial Park, which includes the land where the folk art sculptor William Edmonson lived. That is twice in recent years Metro has tried to give away public land that is significant in Nashville’s African American history.
The previous administration proposed handing over 21 acres of Fort Negley Park to private developers in exchange for $1 million over 10 years, plus infrastructure improvements. Fort Negley Park is one of Nashville’s most historic sites. I quickly joined a broad coalition that formed to stop this giveaway. Vice-Mayor David Briley stayed silent. We succeeded in saving Fort Negley. Today, it is a UNESCO ‘Site of Memory.’ Yet instead of protecting other parks and public spaces, Mayor Briley has continued to attempt to sell them off. He steered ten acres of public land at the Fairgrounds to private development. He attempted to sell eleven wooded acres at Trinity Ridge. He proposed auctioning off Edgehill Community Memorial Park. Finally, he tried to swap Church Street Park downtown to a private developer offering a less valuable parcel. The pattern is clear. Bad deals and park giveaways will end when I become mayor.”
Getting back to TV ads, if you think you seeing John Cooper on the air more than David Briley, you are correct. from what I understand, Cooper is outspending the incumbent as much as 3 to 1 on one local TV station. While Cooper is airing his third spot, I am still waiting to see a second Briley ad. The first one has been for about three weeks, which is close to an eternity in a campaign.
Some sources tell me that if any candidate is moving in the polling right now, its Cooper. But he admittedly has some way to go to be competitive. My sources add he’s still not there yet, and he may not make it to force a runoff election or defeat Briley unless he uses more of his major advantage in personal wealth to air more ads. A second election in September seems more likely, my sources maintain, because in the polling they’ve seen, Briley is having trouble getting much above the 40% level.
I want to make one other point about the latest Cooper TV ad. It seems to be making a direct pitch to gain support in the African American community. That’s a voter bloc Briley has been working hard to get as well. With long -time and well -respected black leaders offering testimonials in the TV ad to John Cooper’s leadership in preserving Ft. Negley, the spot also seems to be an effort to take away an initiative Mayor Briley went public with his first full day in office back in March 2018.
What will the focus of Mayor Briley’s next TV ad? Based on his comments to me on INSIDE POLITICS, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he goes on the attack that Councilman Cooper has been misrepresenting himself and the Mayor on city budget and financial management issues.
THE LATEST ON SCOOTERS
Mayor David Briley’s recommendation to the Metro Council to ban electric scooters, and start over on a process to allow them to operate safely, is part of a growing debate that stretches from Great Britain all the way to Omaha Nebraska. That’s where I spent much of this past week attending the College World Series. The scooter invasion has just begun here.
It is interesting to note how many headlines I have seen about the Nashville scooter situation which say the Mayor’s decision has already banned the vehicles, which it hasn’t. I guess why let the facts stand in the way of a good story.
Mayor Briley’s move to ban scooters is raising some questions from Metro Councilmembers, and perhaps not surprisingly Briley’s mayoral opponent, At-Large Councilman John Cooper who has issued this statement:
“Of course, it is time to take action. Action should have started with the mayor enforcing existing regulations. The irony is Briley is not actually even banning scooters, but redoing the program with the two big operators. Metro needs to issue citations when scooters block sidewalks, just like if a car is blocking a sidewalk or bike lane. Scooters can be a useful mode of transportation, but we need to facilitate safe operation, and that involves increasing our protected bike infrastructure.”
Cooper is the only mayoral candidate who will get to vote on whatever legislation comes to the Metro Council to ban scooters and then reinstate them under new regulations.
NASHVILLE AREA & TENNESSEE CONTINUES TO GROW AS A MECCA FOR JAPANESE CAR COMPANIES
Yet another Japanese automotive company is moving to the Nashville-area from California. This time its Mitsubishi that is coming to Franklin with its American HQs by the end of this year.
These articles from the Left Coast focus as well on the exodus of other California firms here and Tennessee’s growth in attracting corporate headquarters in general.
Here is some of the local news coverage.
With General Motors and Volkswagen also having major car manufacturing plants in the state, we are truly an automotive center for the nation.
This week there’s another non-automotive business relocating here. It is the on-line bookkeeping service Pilot.com coming to Tennessee from the West Coast, again more specifically, California. It has Governor Bill Lee channeling the Mamas and the Papas from the ‘60s.
Calls for an immediate special session of the Tennessee General Assembly to force the resignation of scandal- plagued Speaker of the House Glen Casada and pick his successor continues to be heard in the state.
Early this week the appeals took a decided religious tone. That is perhaps an effort to put pressure on Governor Bill Lee who often cites his religious convictions as a part of his politics.
Despite this push, the Governor stuck to his plan to hold off calling the special session until well past the middle of August. August 23 is the exact date he has announced. That’s three weeks after Casada now says he will step down (August 2) and three months after he first conceded he needed to leave (August 2).
Concerns continue to be raised that the Speaker is still making important appointments to state boards and commissions, well after he said he would step down in the wake of multiple scandals involving himself and his staff.
The Governor’s special session will technically focus on having the House pass some criminal justice reform resolutions that the Senate has already approved. The call is also broad enough to lead to the ouster of another controversial lawmaker who has been protected by the Speaker.
Whoever the House Republican Super Majority chooses as its nominee will almost assuredly be the next Speaker of the House. The 70-member plus GOP Caucus has many potential candidates to choose from when it meets to make its decision on July 23. That’s about a month before the special session is called, making you wonder why the extra four weeks is needed before lawmakers come back to Nashville to install a new leader in the House?
SEVEN YEARS OLD
I turn seven years old today.
Seven years old since I suffered a near fatal stroke on June 28, 2012.
I still thank my dear friends, and then-mayoral aides, Janie Conyers and Tam Gordon. They convinced me to let them call 9-1-1 for help when I was too clueless to know I was in trouble.
Their actions saved my life. Then my family and friend brought me through recovery and rehab with their never-ending love and support. They’ve also helped me weather some other health setbacks since then. However, in the last year and a half (since late 2017) I have avoided any more hospital and emergency room stays, and I now have my diabetes under control with diet and exercise alone.
This past year I did some additional rehab work to address the most long -lasting impairment from my stroke. I am happy to report my walking is so much better. No more dragging my foot or stubbing my toe as I walk. I learned it was largely a weakness in my ankles and feet that was causing the issue. I still exercise to gain strength in those areas, and I try to walk more to stay strong. In fact, this past week, in 4 days traveling to, from, and all around Omaha, Nebraska, my wife and I walked almost 15 miles, while we enjoyed attending the College World Series (especially seeing the Vandy Boys bring home a national championship!)
I am blessed many times over, and so happy to celebrate another year of my post-stroke life.