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Capitol View commentary: Friday, November 6, 2020

Capitol View
Posted at 12:15 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 13:15:48-05

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

November 6, 2020

MAKING SENSE OF TUESDAY’S ELECTION ON INSIDE POLITICS WITH MTSU PROFESSOR DR. JOHN VILE; WINNERS & LOSERS; BACK IN TENNESSEE; ABOUT THAT METRO PROPERTY TAX HIKE AND CHARTER REFERENDUM; LOOKING TO BOOST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; THE VIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE;

MAKING SENSE OF TUESDAY’S ELECTION ON INSIDE POLITICS WITH MTSU PROFESSOR DR. JOHN VILE

The voters have spoken.

It has just take a few days or possibly a little longer to figure who they elected to be the next President of the United States.

In addition to tallying votes that process may also include a recount in one or more states as well as legal fights that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

To help sort everything out, we’ve asked Middle Tennessee State University professor and Dean of the school’s Honors College Dr. John Vile to join us this week on INSIDE POLITICS.

We thank Dr. Vile, so much for joining us.

Tune us in!

WINNERS & LOSERS

All elections have winners and losers besides those directly on the ballot.

Among the losers this year were pollsters (most of whom seemed to get it kind of wrong again), along with those touting “a blue wave” for Democrats to take over the U.S. Senate and increase their majority in the House.

Here is how THE HILL publication saw it on Wednesday, the day after the election.

The biggest goof again this presidential year was the accuracy of the polls on both the national and state levels. They may have picked the winner right, but the margins were sure off. In fact, the errors were worse than 2016 and larger in many cases than the margin of error in the polls themselves. For now, nobody seems to know why.

While the polls were off, the media does seem to have been correct that on Election Night President Trump would look strong because he wanted his supporters to vote in person, day of. But, when the mail in absentee votes came into the mix, a ‘blue shift” has developed in some of the key battleground states to turn the race in Joe Biden.

As it more and more appears Joe Biden will be the President-elect, he is planning a nationwide address sometime this evening (Friday).

BACK IN TENNESSEE

Despite all the turmoil and record- breaking vote totals all over the nation, including here in Tennessee (with over 3 million voters and 67% turnout), the results were pretty status quo and deep red in the Volunteer State.

Donald Trump easily carried Tennessee, and his endorsed U.S. Senate candidate to replace the retiring Lamar Alexander, former ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty matched the President in carrying state, both with landslide victories of 60%-plus of the vote. The national news network called the Republican wins in Tennessee just moments after the polls closed at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday night.

It means no Democrat has carried Tennessee for President in nearly a quarter century (Bill Clinton in 1996) and no Tennessee Democrat has been elected to the Senate in 30 years (Al Gore in 1990). That’s GOP dominance.

In our House delegation, all eight incumbents were easily re-elected. The only new face is a congresswoman from the 1st District in upper East Tennessee. She is a Republican, as every congressional representative has been from that area since the Civil War. Congresswoman-elect Diana Harshbarger is the only woman among our 9 U.S. House members. The overall party designation for the Tennessee delegation remains 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

Tennessee Democrats did pick up a State Senate seat in Nashville but the party remains a distinct super minority in the upper chamber, just as they are in the State House (GOP has 73 of 99 seats). The Democrats picked up no new seats in the lower chamber this cycle.

There are however signs of change on the Hill based on these two elections for the House.

THE TENNESSEAN has this outlook on other changes coming to the next session of the General Assembly.

On the Metro level, the defeat of an interim member of the School Board could bring more tension to an issue that has seen the local school system butt heads repeatedly with the state. New Board member John Little defeated Berthena Nabaa-McKinney. Little is an activist and a supporter of charter schools.

The School Board special election was a rematch. This past summer McKinney defeated Little for the interim post in a vote by the Metro Council. John Little may also be the first member elected to the local School Board after being expelled from a Metro High School in his younger days.

He will also face this troubling lawsuit filed against the school system this week.

ABOUT THAT METRO PROPERTY TAX HIKE AND CHARTER REFERENDUM

The effort to repeal the city’s controversial, recent 34% property tax increase and make significant changes to the city’s charter will not be on the ballot as a part of a special election referendum in December.

Nashville Chancery Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled against allowing the petition drive proposal signed by nearly 30,000 voters to be put to a vote. She said the form and language of the proposal did not met legal standards or state law.

An appeal of the court’s decision is possible, although proponents are mulling whether to redraft the petition and start over, even though the number of voters signatures needed will be much higher based on this week’s record breaking turnout in Davidson County. More than 300,000 voters went to the polls.

Other charter change supporters are looking for state legislative or new local laws to require any tax increases be approved by voters first. Good luck with that.

In light of the strong court ruling, Mayor John Cooper said Thursday Metro plans to go back to “business as usual”, moving away from the administrative steps the city took to conserve its financial resources in case the referendum went on the ballot and was approved by voters.

LOOKING TO BOOST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

While Mayor John Cooper is still pondering his choice to be Nashville’s next police chief, he also seems to be finally moving ahead on filling a key economic development position on his staff.

It is a job that has been more vacant than filled since the Mayor took office in October of 2019, raising concerns among Metro Council members and the business community.

This week the Mayor also released a study showing the city is taking steps to decrease its reliance on court fees and fines. From a mayoral news release:

“Nashville has made progress in reducing fines and fees that disproportionately affect some residents whose incomes are low or lower than others,” said Mayor John Cooper. “I look forward to working with the Metro Council and the judicial community to identify more ways we can reduce the court system’s reliance on fines and fees.”

In 2018, Nashville eliminated its $44-a-day jail fee and $35 pretrial release fee and launched “Steering Clear” to reduce motorists’ fees and fines.

Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry created a compliance division to help defendants comply with court orders, fines and fees and to help judges identify indigent residents for whom fines and fees should be waived.”

The Mayor also signed a bill this week that substantially updates Metro’s building codes and energy standards, which previously relied on 2012 model codes with guidelines dating as far back as 2009.

The new upgrades significantly improve energy efficiency while reducing the environmental impact of building design and construction and strengthen home construction requirements for tornado resistance.

THE VIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE

This week as the United States elected its new president, Covid-19 cases continued to spike across the country with rising case numbers, community spread, increasing hospitalizations and deaths. Nevertheless, the virus was not the top issue among voters.

Whoever is the new President is, he will have to deal with this ongoing crisis even if it is just to get us completely around the curve, not just turning it (whatever that means).

With the election now behind us, there were some indications this week that even Senate Republicans might join in with renewed negotiations during the upcoming lame duck session to pass another badly needed coronavirus relief bill to assist individuals and sectors of the economy and government still hurting from the pandemic.

There were signs late this week of continued economic recovery although the nation is still climbing out a very deep hole by historical standards.

As for next year in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he doesn’t know if he will be the “offensive coordinator” or the “defensive coordinator” to use a football analogy. If the Senate remains in Republican hands, it may be an indicator that voters still prefer divided government in Washington with neither party having complete control. If Joe Biden is president, his abilities to work across the aisle in the Senate will be key for him to getting anything done.

It also means Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the titular head of the Republican Party as the GOP tries to put things back together after losing the White House.

If President Trump still manages to hang on, then the political calculus will have to be reworked again as he has managed to defy the odds and prevail.

Back to the virus here in Tennessee, it has been another week of near-record new virus cases (well over 250,000 now), along with rising positivity rates (above 13%), multiple days of record hospitalizations, and more deaths.

Nashville busted one large Halloween party in East Nashville last weekend, but virus numbers remain elevated. There are no plans to impose restrictions as in the past. In fact, this week saw another reconfiguring of capacity numbers for restaurants, bars and close contract businesses such a beauty salons.

The change in the city’s roadmap to reopening may seem strange, but it could be a sign, that as city and health officials are learning more about this pandemic, it appears that previously highly restricted parts of the economy are not the hot spots for the virus as once feared. In short, virus cases are being spread more by events involving family and friends. Therefore, wearing masks, washing your hands, and staying out of crowds will be even more critical as the holidays approach. Getting a flu shot will help as well.

In response to the virus happening more as a result of gatherings of families and friends Mayor Cooper is offering some tips for a COVID-19 safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Metro health officials are seeing hopeful signs that the reinstitution of mandates to wear masks in some of counties surrounding Nashville is starting to lower our case counts. The city also showed data that counties that have never has a mask requirement (such as Maury County) are seeing a higher and more persistent spread of the disease.

The Metro Council this week began the late dash to decide how to allocate the remaining CARES Act relief funds it has. The scramble is creating some shifts in funds and controversy as by federal mandate all the money must all spent by the end of the year.