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Capitol View commentary: Friday, May 21, 2021

Capitol View
Posted at 11:18 AM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 12:18:27-04

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

May 21, 2021

COVID CASES FALL AND INITIAL VACCINATIONS TOP 60% EVEN AS CDC MASK ADVICE AGAIN CREATES CONFUSION WHILE TENNESSEE STILL LAGS BEHIND; THE WAR ON TENNESSEE’S TRANSGENDERED CITIZENS WIDENS; AS METRO CHARTER FIGHT HEADS TO COURT WILL IT STILL MAKE IT TO THE BALLOT?; METRO POLICE SEEK SOLUTIONS TO A RISE IN CRIME WHILE OTHER ISSUES CONTINUE; KEEL HUNT DISCUSSES HOW THE INGRAM FAMILY BUSINESS TRANFORMED THE WORLD OF BOOKS; THE GOP CIVIL WAR STILL SEES DONALD TRUMP AS THE PARTY’S DOMINANT FIGURE; SEEKING THE LOCAL NEWS;

COVID CASES FALL AND INITIAL VACCINATIONS TOP 60% EVEN AS CDC MASK ADVICE AGAIN CREATES CONFUSION WHILE TENNESSEE STILL LAGS BEHIND

The battle to stop the pandemic continues.

The now months long fight between the virus and its mutants versus the vaccines and how many people get their shots continues to be in the favor of the serum.

For the first time, COVID cases are on the decline in all 50 states and the volume of new cases nationwide is the lowest in over a year.

Vaccination numbers, while not growing as quickly as before, show 60% of U.S. adults have received at least one shot.

And there is hope the vaccine numbers will improve with the FDA approval of the Pfizer serum for use among teens 12-15.

But of course, vaccine reluctance happens among teens and their parents as well as adults. Meanwhile national surveys continue to show getting shots is a decision appears to be guided by partisan political views.

This may explain why Tennessee’s vaccination numbers remain so low. However, Tennessee’s Health Commissioner believes she has the background and the zeal to turn things around. Good luck.

Dr. Piercy’s boss, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has not been much an evangelist during the pandemic. While he has urged everyone to wear a mask, he has refused to require even though science shows it has been the single most effective tool to stop the spread of the virus, until the vaccines came along.

As for the shots, our Governor has been more of the same. He has encouraged people to get vaccinated but said it was their personal choice to do so. He took at least one shot himself but there were no photographs taken to show his “personal” leadership on the matter.

Now when states across the country are offering incentives to get those reluctant to take the serum, Bill Lee says no, even as cities such as Nashville have a program where local businesses are offering free coffee, even beer if people show them their vaccine card.

Finally, Governor Lee says long promised public service ads to promote the vaccines should finally be airing soon. Better late than never, I guess. You do have to wonder, given how many lottery tickets Tennesseans buy (especially on sports gambling), how persuasive giving a free ticket might be for someone to get a shot?

Not to forget those impacted by another of the city’s recent disasters, the March severe storms and floods, the federal TEMA agency is setting up recovery centers this weekend to help.

Nationally, with COVID-19 cases falling and vaccination rates still rising, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance about how people fully vaccinated should procced with their lives especially wearing masks.

But like almost every piece of guidance the CDC has issued during this pandemic, the suggestions have gotten mired in confusion and controversy. For now, the response from the CDC leadership is to shuffle the bureaucratic chain of command and communications. Yeah, that always works. Or not.

As for the reviving economy, the biggest roadblock now seems to be less about virus levels or even vaccination rates. The big holdup, both locally and nationally is a labor shortage.

THE WAR ON TENNESSEE’S TRANSGENDERED CITIZENS WIDENS

Even with the Tennessee General Assembly out of session, the war by the Republican Super Majority in state government against our transgendered citizens continued, and even widened this week.

Governor Bill Lee signed into law two bills bringing “a first in the nation” level of discrimination against this group.

But while the ACLU and other groups decide whether to file suit against the new laws aimed at transgendered citizens, law, another of Governor Lee’s legislative achievements of the last session is being challenged in court by a guns-right group.

AS METRO CHARTER FIGHT HEADS TO COURT WILL IT STILL MAKE IT TO THE BALLOT?

I have said from the beginning that this latest petition effort to amend the Metro Charter was once again headed to the courts.

That’s where it landed last week when Metro government and a local business group took the city’s Election Commission to court.

Will the planned July 27 special election (with a projected cost to taxpayers of close to $1 million) go off as planned? Will the courts again find the proposals in violation of state law?

The Election Commission further muddied the political waters by refusing to place on the ballot some competing charter amendments, unanimously approved by the Council and the Metro Charter Revision Commission. The Council’s rival amendments would give the voters the option to negate the petition amendments.

In the 59- year history of Nashville’s consolidated government, the Election Commission declining to place on the ballot charter amendments from the Council has never happened before. All this underscores the partisan tensions of this situation as the Election Commission is appointed on a partisan basis with a 3-2 Republican majority. The Courts will now also decide whether the Council amendments go on the ballot if the petition charter referendum vote is held.

Interestingly, the Republican Super Majority in the Tennessee General Assembly has been most unhappy with several Chancery Court rulings in Davidson County. They think they have been too blue (Democratic). In the waning days of the recent legislative session, GOP lawmakers approved a bill to set up a new super Chancery Court to hear lawsuits that question the constitutionality or legality of state law. It would appear this Metro Charter legal matter won’t be handled that way. The new law doesn’t take effect until July 1.

Despite all this legal controversy and confusion, both groups must already begin to organize their campaigns to the voters. It is unclear where the citizens group (4 Good Government) will get funding to wage its efforts? Might an outside “dark money” Super PAC come in as happened to defeat the city’s Mass Transit plan in 2018?

One of those involved in that referendum defeat was former top Clinton White House aide and Nashville TV journalist Jeff Elder. Based on some Facebook postings last weekend, Eller was in Nashville. Was he talking to one (or both sides) about playing a role in their referendum campaigns? Stay tuned.

Those opposing the petition amendments are already beginning their message campaign through the media.

METRO POLICE SEEK SOLUTIONS TO A RISE IN CRIME WHILE OTHER ISSUES CONTINUE

Metro Nashville is experiencing a spike in crime so far in 2021, especially crimes committed with guns.

Police officials and Mayor John Cooper are scrambling to find ways to get a handle on the problem in particular in the Antioch/ South Nashville part of town.

How the Metro Police Department responds to 9-1-1 and other service calls involving people with mental health issues is also an increasing problem. The Department is beginning a pilot program for officers to get professional help.

At the same time, with the city’s budget season underway, some community groups indicate they again plan to press the issue to “defund police” in the city’s next spending plan. That issue dominated the Metro Council’s public hearing on the budget last year. In fact, the public hearing lasted until sunrise the next day!

This year the public hearing is in less than two weeks on June 1. It will be the first time the Council has met in person in its chambers since March 17, 2020. Will the issue dominant the budget talk from the public again?

Meanwhile the city’s Community Oversight Board says the research it has conducted finds the city’s police department has a gender and racial bias in its recruitment and hiring.

KEEL HUNT DISCUSSES HOW THE INGRAM FAMILY BUSINESS TRANFORMED THE WORLD OF BOOKS

The city of Nashville has been blessed with several entrepreneurial family businesses that have become national leaders in their industries.

That includes the Ingram family.

In fact, one of their companies is Ingram Content.

It has become a $2 billion business in revenue over the past 50 years.

In his latest book, local journalist and author Keel Hunt has chronicled the rise of Ingram to become the country’s largest book wholesaler, print on demand company and the largest independent book distributor in the U.S.

Keel Hunt is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week.

We thank Keel for joining us again.

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. 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 back 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.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.

THE GOP CIVIL WAR STILL SEES DONALD TRUMP AS THE PARTY’S DOMINANT FIGURE

Some of my Republican friends continue to tell me that over the next couple of years, the influence of former President Donald Trump will fade in the Republican Party.

Well, a couple of years can be a lifetime in politics, but looking at current developments, Mr. Trump seems as influential and dominant as ever, especially among House Republicans and with the conservative base of the party.

Just ask Liz Chaney who was bounced from her leadership post in the House because she wouldn’t agree…and said so repeatedly… with Mr. Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Oh, and she also voted in favor of impeaching the former President.

Mr. Trump seems to have gotten his revenge and he even got his choice to replace Rep. Chaney elected to her leadership post, even though her voting record is much more progressive than the Wyoming Congresswoman.

Another sign Mr. Trump is in control is of Republicans in Congress is the emerging strong GOP opposition to a bill to appoint a 9/11 type commission to study the January 6th insurrection by Trump loyalists at the Capitol. It is a bill that some of the leaders of Republicans in the House negotiated but is now being opposed by the top GOP officials in both the House and the Senate.

The full House passed the commission bill Wednesday night but chances for Senate passage seems iffy (it would need the votes of at least 10 Republican Senators). 35 House Republicans did vote for the commission bill. Will they be on the former President’s next political hit list?

On Thursday, the House was divided again in passing a $1.9 billion dollar measure to increase congressional security. This time all the GOP congressmembers present voted no, with divisions among the narrow Democratic majority, nearly scuttling the bill.

As for Mr. Trump’s strategy; Will it work to help the GOP take back the House in 2022?

Believe it or not, others are now becoming persuaded that there is a scenario where Donald Trump runs and is elected President again in 2024.

However, one potentially big cloud on Mr. Trump’s horizon is the growing number of criminal investigations he and his company are facing.

As usual, the former President is hitting back with a blistering response.

After another week that might make you think bi-partisanship is dead and gone in Washington, there was a bill that has passed both houses of Congress that seeks to address one very serious issue that came to the forefront during the pandemic… anti-Asian hate crimes.

President Biden has already signed the bill into law.

SEEKING THE LOCAL NEWS

I am old enough to remember when Nashville had two competitive daily newspapers.

Those days are gone. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t on-going strong efforts to report local news in depth.

THE TENNESSEAN remains the newspaper of record for this community.

NEWSCHANNEL5 and the rest of the Nashville TV stations have for competed for many years in what has been among the most active and competitive local news markets in the nation. WPLN Nashville Public Radio is among the strongest public radio news stations in the country and, by far, the station has the strongest radio news department in Nashville.

THE NASHVILLE SCENE, NASHVILLE POST and THE NASHVILLE BUINESS JOURNAL are all publications I monitor and try to read on- line every week for stories to include in this column.

In recent months, I have added the TENNESSEE LOOKOUT, PATCH and MAIN STREET NASHVILLE to that list.

But even with all those outlets to choose from, there is another national media company, Axios, which is locating a bureau here to compete to cover the local news.

There is a lot of news to cover in this market, but making a profit doing it is not easy, especially with more local news outlets to compete.