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Capitol View commentary: Friday, September 2, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 10:55 AM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 11:55:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

September 2, 2022

DR. ALEX JAHANGIR REVEALS HIS PANDEMIC DIARY ON INSIDE POLITICS; IS THE 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL RACE COMPETITIVE FOR DEMOCRAT HEIDI CAMPBELL?; WOMEN CONTINUE TO RULE IN NASHVILLE ELECTIONS BUT….; ANOTHER STRANGELY TIMED POLL; NASHVILLE AND THE STATE SET NEW RECORDS FOR TOURISM AS A RELATED LONG -STANDING FIGHT IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE IS IN COURT; DEMOCRACY IS AT RISK; THE PANDEMIC SEEMS OVER BUT SIGNS OF IT LINGER; A JOBS REPORT FOR LABOR DAY; WHAT WILL THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT MEAN FOR MIDDLE TENNESSEEANS?

DR. ALEX JAHANGIR REVEALS HIS PANDEMIC DIARY ON INSIDE POLITICS

For the past nearly two and a half years, he has been one of the key figures in Nashville’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now Dr. Alex Jahangir has published a diary of his reflections on the first year plus of this very challenging period for everyone, an experience that also has divided us in so many ways.

The book is entitled HOT SPOT: A DOCTOR’S DIARY FROM THE PANDEMIC.

Dr. Jahangir has appeared on our program several times, even during some of the darkest days of the virus outbreak.

We thank him for joining us again on INSIDE POLITICS.

Our interview will air first on the main channel of the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network (WTVF-TV Channel 5) at 6:30 p.m. Friday night.

INSIDE POLITICS can also be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWCHANNEL5 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 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, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.

IS THE 5th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL RACE COMPETITIVE FOR DEMOCRAT HEIDI CAMPBELL?

Even before State Senator Heidi Campbell announced she was running for the 5th District congressional seat, nobody thought with incumbent Jim Cooper retiring, that any Democrat had a chance to win in the new district redrawn by Republicans to favor the GOP.

But now comes a poll, paid for the Campbell campaign that shows her up 51% to 48% over former Maury County mayor and Republican nominee, Andy Ogles.

Internal campaign polls are notoriously unreliable. Ever seen one that favors anybody other the candidate who paid for it? The Campbell poll was also conducted by a polling firm (FredrickPolls) with only a B/C rating with a well-regarded 538 website.

One poll alone tells you very little about the status of a political race. Wait and see what other polls show. That is if outside polling firms think it is worth doing a survey on a race that has been labeled by the COOK POLITICAL REPORT to “lean Republican” and shows a generic GOP candidate winning by eight points.

But there is one thing this poll may do for an underdog Campbell campaign. It says, or maybe whispers, that the Senator might have a chance. That is something even the most ardent Democrats thought was impossible.

But that chance may be fleeting or even imaginary, so don’t bet money or take it to the bank that the race is competitive…at least not yet.

There are signs across the country (but not yet apparent in Tennessee), that the November big red tidal wave for Republicans in the mid-term elections may not be nearly as big as predicted.

WOMEN CONTINUE TO RULE IN NASHVILLE ELECTIONS BUT….

Three years ago in 2019, the Metro Council achieved gender parity, with voters electing 20 members female and 20 male.

Now after the August local judicial elections, a record number of women (18) are being sworn into office.

Next up is next year’s mayoral race in August 2023. The field already looks to be crowded.

But, except for Metro Councilmember At Large Sharon Hunt, I have not seen or heard of any other woman being mentioned as being the field. African Americans have been increasingly successful in winning local elections. But again, except for Hurt and businessman Quincy McKnight, (who dropped out of the GOP 5th congressional race saying he plans to run for mayor) the number of potential candidates of color are quite small.

Strange.

ANOTHER STRANGELY TIMED POLL

This week the Beacon Center, a local conservative think tank, released a poll showing strong opposition in all three Grand Divisions of Tennessee for the state providing $500 million in bond funding for the proposed new domed Titans football stadium.

The Beacon Center always opposes government subsidies for any kind of project like this. But the General Assembly voted to approve the state’s involvement months ago, so why conduct and release such a poll now?

Might it be to build opposition to the $2 billion stadium as the Metro Council begins debate later this fall over the city’s portion of the project’s funding through raising the local hotel-motel room tax?

Of course, the Council decision is separate from what the state is doing, and I have seen no indication the Republican-led Legislature or Governor Bill Lee are ready to rescind its half-billion dollar bond funding for the stadium.

But remember the gas tax increase, approved by the state five years ago in 2017, back when Governor Haslam was in office? It was a major talking point of contention in the recent 5th District GOP congressional race. The political half-life of many issues can be longer than you’d think.

Another rather unexpected and avoidable controversy over Metro’s Imagine East Bank plan is flaring up. Preliminary plans for the new major boulevards to be built to facilitate traffic flow across the river, don’t include any bike lanes!

Yes, that can be changed, and likely will be, after the current public comment period about the plans are gathered. But for a mayoral administration that constantly has been touting its environmental pedigree, this oversight is puzzling.

Remember this is the same administration two weeks ago, that announced a tightening of rules about closing bike lanes during any nearby construction. Now such amenities aren’t even included in the first plans to build the most ambitious roads project in recent Metro history?

NASHVILLE AND THE STATE SET NEW RECORDS FOR TOURISM AS A RELATED LONG-STANDING FIGHT IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE IS IN COURT

2021 and 2022 appear to be record-setting years for tourism both for the city of Nashville and the entire state of Tennessee.

But as Nashville has become, and continues to be, a mecca for tourists, there has also been a growing fight over the entertainment vehicles that fill our streets downtown.

For years, the state prohibited the city from regulating larger size vehicles. But a deal was reached a few months ago with Republicans in the General Assembly. Metro government has now issued new regulations and a permit system that, with the strong encouragement of Mayor John Cooper, Police Chief John Drake and downtown business leaders, significantly restricts the number of vehicles allowed.

The changes are so sweeping that the various businesses who operate the entertainment vehicles have hauled Metro into court with a plethora of lawsuits saying the new rules and regulations are unfair, not feasible and are being applied inconsistently. A hearing in one of the cases seeking an injunction to stop Metro’s rules is set for next week.

And these regulations may not be the end of it. Metro’s new Department of Transportation is conducting a study of downtown streets that could show the need to further limit the number of entertainment vehicles to avoid congestion.

DEMOCRACY IS AT RISK

A remarkable poll was released this week from Quinnipiac University.

It found that 67% of Americans surveyed including Democrats, Republicans and Independents in near equal numbers, feel our democracy is in danger of collapse.

President Joe Biden was quick to amplify on that theme, which is similar to what he emphasized during his 2020 campaign. Then, he spoke of the “battle for the soul of America.”

This time the President made his speech from one of the birthplaces of the United States, Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The President’s address was not carried by the national TV networks and the leader of the Republicans in the U.S. of Representatives struck back with strong criticism of his own aimed at the President.

All this occurs as the U.S. midterm election for the control of Congress are now about two months away. It also comes during another week of controversy in the courts concerning the recent FBI raid and recovery of several classified and top-secret documents at the Mar-a-Lago home of former President Donald Trump.

All week the political world awaited a ruling on a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that a special lawyer or master be appointed to review the documents and that the Department of Justice be barred from using them in the interim. The DOJ objected strongly saying their agents had already reviewed the documents and appointing a master would hamper an ongoing criminal investigation that involves, not just the illegal handling of classified and top secret documents, but obstruction of justice . That includes allegations that Trump attorneys had signed a statement that all the documents the former President had in his possession had been returned to the National Archives, only to learn there were still many more at Mar-a-Lago found in the raid.

The federal judge handling the case, Aileen Cannon, appointed to the bench by Mr. Trump, did order a more detailed listing of what was seized in the raid, be released to the public. But after indicating she would rule from the bench after a hearing Thursday afternoon, on the motion to appoint a master, she instead took the matter under advisement not saying exactly when she would issue a decision.

As the wait and the controversy continues, none of this leaves Republican leaders where they want to be, as they eye the home stretch of a campaign to retake both houses of Congress.

THE PANDEMIC SEEMS OVER BUT SIGNS OF IT LINGER

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to continue to fade into memory even as cases and deaths continue.

Concerned that as fall and winter approach, for the third year in a row, a new surge of the virus might strike, the Biden administration is preparing to stop it with new vaccine boosters tailored to protect from the latest virus variants which have also been the most contagious.

Even as the virus seems to fade, its long term impact, a significant decrease in life expectancy, continues with help from the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.

A JOBS REPORT FOR LABOR DAY

What more appropriate time for an update on the nation’s job market than the Friday beginning the Labor Day holiday weekend?

Non-farm hiring remains rather robust in August, adding over 300,000 new jobs. But unemployment ticked up a bit to its highest point this year. This seems to be because more of those who have dropped out of the labor market are back looking for a job.

There are plenty of jobs available. In fact, by a 2 to 1 margin, there are more jobs available than the number of workers unemployed. Applications for unemployment benefits also continue to tick down, indicating perhaps that employers are reluctant to layoff workers because the labor market is so tight.

Wages are up, but not as much as it has been rising in recent months.

What does it all mean?

So far, early on Friday, the stock market is up. Last Friday, the market nosedived after Federal Reserve officials said another interest rate hike is coming to curb record inflation.

The latest jobs report is likely to make the Fed even more resolute to go ahead with another interest rate jump So far, those increases have slowed, but not (yet?) crashed the economy into a recession.

These would still seem to be strange economic times. But some are looking back a century ago, to the early 1920s when the nation, much like now, was trying to recover from a pandemic (the Spanish Flu).

Happy Labor Day holiday weekend!

WHAT WILL THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT MEAN FOR MIDDLE TENNESSEEANS?

The Inflation Reduction Act has only been on the books for a few weeks, but already outgoing Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper is touting a study that predicts the new law will mean great savings for Middle Tennesseans in terms of health care costs.

The Congressman says 35,000 Middle Tennesseans will save an average of $900 in health premiums by extending ACA tax credits used to help families purchase insurance.

Insulin will be capped at $35 per month for Medicare beneficiaries. Had the Inflation Reduction Act been in place since 2020, the average Medicare beneficiary needing insulin could have saved more than $1,600 per year.

Medicare Part D costs will be capped at $2,000 per year. Had this been in effect since 2020, the average Medicare beneficiary would have saved $250 in out-of-pocket costs annually

“After far too long, relief is finally here to help Tennesseans who have been paying way too much for healthcare, prescription drugs, and energy prices,” says Rep. Cooper. “Democrats promised to help Middle Tennessee families and we’ve been delivering on that promise for many months.”

But these savings will impact only a limited number of Middle Tennesseans. I am sure Republicans will say the new law will only pump too much money into the economy and continue to push up overall spending, prices and inflation.