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Capitol View: Friday, June 7, 2019

Capitol View
Posted at 1:28 PM, Jun 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 14:29:30-04


June 7, 2019


I remember a few Metro election cycles ago, a candidate for mayor told me that when his campaign put up its first TV ad, that’s when voters began to recognize who he was and that there was a mayor’s race going on.

I suspect today in this age of Twitter, Facebook and the on-line world, that’s happens even sooner, but running TV spots does mark a milestone in any political race.
To that end, the 2019 race has been well behind four years ago. That’s when six well financed candidates ran TV early and often. That was a no incumbent race and the open seat made a difference in the early and often TV buys.

Regardless, with current Mayor David Briley attracting three significant challengers, there were guests on my INSIDE POLITICS show last week wondering why none of the mayoral candidates had begun running TV spots with Election Day less than two months away and Early Voting less than 5 weeks away (starts Friday, July 12).

Maybe they heard us. This week Metro Councilman At Large John Cooper put up his first ad. It is entitled “For All Of Us.”

The Cooper buy was actually not the first mayoral ad of 2019. As I reported in last week’s column, retired Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain ran a few spots last week (May 27-30). But strangely the spots, one entitled “Broke City” and produced by Slick Media Productions of Old Hickory, TN., were scheduled to run only 7 times during the morning news and on just one TV station.

I’d like to show you the Swain ad. But when I looked as late as today (Friday), it is not on the campaign web site or posted on her YouTube site which has several past videos.

THE TENNESSEAN does offer more insight into the Swain ads.

“Swain's campaign released two 15-second ads in late May with the mantra: "Nashville can do better. I'll do better."

In one video she stands on Lower Broadway and talks about how quickly the city is growing.

"We've got so many tourist events. People moving into Nashville every day. How in the world is the city broke?" says the conservative candidate who has the support of honky-tonk owners.
Swain, 65, describes her political affiliation as "a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third." However, Metro elections, she said, are nonpartisan and her goal is to represent the entire community regardless of political leanings.

"And now they're selling our parking meters for fast cash," she says in the ad.” That’s a reference to a controversial on street parking privatization plan which the Mayor has now put on hold.
By the way, Nashville is not the only city embroiled in a parking fight, so is Louisville.

Getting back to the Mayor’s race, in her second video Swain addresses funding for Metro schools. "Our teachers are leaving because of poor pay while city leaders gave $14 million to a water park you can't use," she says, showing a Tennessean report on city incentives for Opryland water park. "That's wrong," Swain says.”

A campaign spokesperson for Cooper says his spot “will run on broadcast TV, cable and digital. Voters will see our ads numerous times each week.” The Cooper campaign is not releasing the length of the buy or dollar amounts involved but, at least in terms of broadcast TV, Cooper already has purchased ad buys of around $35,000 on two of the four local networks station according to FCC records. And that is was just for the next couple of weeks (one of the buys goes through June 23). I assume more buys will be coming. The worse thing to do is to start your TV campaign and then go dark. You’ve wasted your money.

Cooper’s large personal wealth could be a wildcard in the race. It’s a factor that could help him emerge as Briley’s major opponent. Indeed, Mayor Briley has now begun airing his own first TV ad which harkens back to the difficult period when he came into office.

The initial Briley ad buy appears to be about $25,000 total on two of the local broadcast stations through the middle of the month. And I am sure more buys are coming soon.

Mayoral candidate John Ray Clemmons was the first candidate to unveil a digital campaign video to his supporters a few weeks ago. It appears to be running on- line or on Twitter and Facebook. I saw a couple of different ones on my FB feed this week. So far, the West Nashville state representative had yet to produce or buy any spots to air on broadcast TV.

It is interesting to note that Cooper’s first ad is more issue-oriented than introductory. He did a lot of introductions when he ran ads while running for Council at Large. But that was four years ago. If the polls I hear about him are accurate (he runs in the single digits), will he need to mix in some new background ads to reintroduce himself, as well as hitting on the issues?

It is interesting to note that Cooper’s first ad is more issue-oriented than introductory. He did a lot of introductions when he ran ads while running for Council at Large. But that was four years ago. If the polls I hear about him are accurate (he runs in the single digits), will he need to mix in some new background ads to reintroduce himself, as well as hitting on the issues?


John Ray Clemmons this week released his Quality of Life Agenda.

His campaign says this is his overarching vision for how we can put residents first and address Nashville’s greatest challenges. Entitled, Live Nashville: A Quality of Life Agenda for All Nashvillians, this list of core values and priorities is the product of the candidate’s 35 Kitchen Table Talks, 4 issue-specific public listening sessions, and thousands of conversations with residents from across Davidson County. You can read the full agenda here.

The campaign says detailed policy positions regarding neighborhoods, public education, infrastructure, affordable housing, and more will be released in the coming weeks.

This week Clemmons also received another significant labor endorsement. This time it’s from the Firefighters Association.

As for the incumbent, Mayor Briley continued his efforts this week to make Nashville what he believes will be the most compassionate city in the country. It is a goal he first outlined in his recent State of Metro address. In this latest endeavor, the Mayor is appointing a panel to conduct an in-depth assessment of Metro Nashville’s criminal justice fines and fees structure. The assessment will also include recommendations to reduce financial barriers for residents and make the city less reliant on revenues from criminal justice fines and fees.

The assessment is made possible by two separate technical assistance engagements recently approved by the Metro Council: PFM Technical Assistance: Reducing Reliance on Criminal Justice Fines & Fees and the National League of Cities: Cities Addressing Fines and Fees Equitably (CAFFE).

This is a major element of those seeking to implement significant criminal justice reform. Says Mayor Briley:

“This is an equity issue. Residents should not be prevented from improving their lives or moving forward because of often inequitable or antiquated fines and fees practices,” said Mayor Briley. “Thanks to PFM and the National League of Cities, we will carefully study our current system and propose any needed changes. I believe Nashville can serve as a national example for how cities can have equitable fines and fees structures that do not unfairly penalize their most marginalized residents.”

For more information and to learn about the role of Nashville’s former Chief of Police Ronal Serpas in the study click below.

Continuing his push to make Nashville ‘the most compassionate city’” Mayor Briley announced additional resources to make the city’s procurement processes more inclusive.

In yet another of his ongoing outreach efforts this week, Mayor Briley is celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month. The Metro Farmers Market is hosting an “interactive public art installation celebrating immigrants from all over the world. The #CelebrateImmigrants art demonstration proudly displays ‘I ♥ Nashville’ and will invite participants to share their immigrant heritage or that of a loved one by placing a flag of their identified heritage(s) on the heart itself.”


Whatever it is that Mayor Briley is trying to accomplish as mayor and whatever themes he is projecting in his re-election campaign, they are not going over well with at least one writer/reporter at THE NASHVILLE SCENE.

Click on the link below.

It is a piece that doesn’t make any criticisms of the Mayor that haven’t been heard before. But the talking points of the article are bound to be picked and amplified by Briley’s opponents in the next few weeks on the campaign trail.


The August 1st city elections figured quite prominently in the background of this week’s Metro Council meeting. Once again, teachers and city workers filled the chambers and spoke out during the Council’s annual public hearing on the city’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1st.

The employees want a larger pay raise than the 3% recommended by the Briley administration and they say they are willing to support a property tax increase to achieve that.

Much like last year when a property tax hike failed, this year’s final Council vote, set in two weeks on June 18, could be very close. The Council must approve a budget and tax rate by June 30.

This week the Council also unanimously passed a series of bills which supporters say will move Nashville ahead in terms of the government’s environmental stewardship. The measures are even being dubbed “Nashville’s Green New Deal,” although these going- green efforts impact only local government not the private sector.


With the city establishing on-street corrals to bring some kind of order out of the ongoing mess of how electric scooters are used (in this case parked) all over Nashville, the chief guru of city’s booming tourism business is speaking out.

Butch Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said he agrees with Nashville Mayor David Briley, who last month gave scooter companies 30 days to come up with proposals to improve operations in Nashville. Otherwise, Briley said he will pursue a ban on scooters, a move that will need to be approved by the Metro Council.

Spyridon’s comments are particularly significant since tourists and other visitors to Nashville are thought to be among the major users of scooters. This week is also one of the biggest weeks of the year for Nashville tourism with the Country Music Festival jamming downtown with visitors many of whom may want to use scooters to get around in conjunction with the CMA Festival. However, be warned, scooter use is banned inside the Festival area footprint.

The outcry over the continued use of scooters comes as the city has seen its first death related to the vehicles along continued reports of injuries from scooter crashes. It seems the issue has reached the point that how well the efforts to provide the corrals to park the vehicles could well be among the last chances for the service to continue here.

And so, the debate continues both here, and across the country, even in New York City.

The scooter debate includes many elements and opinions here in Nashville.


May 21st

That’s when Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada announced he was resigning from office. His “announced” exit came after nearly three weeks of intense controversy and a nearly 2 to 1 vote of “no confidence” in his leadership from the super majority House Republican Caucus.

Back in May, who would have guessed Casada wouldn’t actually agree to leave until August 2? That’s 72 days later, during which time the disgraced Republican House leader continues to receive full pay ($72,000 salary) and benefits. In fact, he will get an extra $18,000-plus by staying until August.

The Speaker’s announced exit came in the wake of a scandal involving inappropriate racial and sexist text messages along with other allegations including in-office drug use by a top staffer. Casada also initially lied in denying the allegations. Some might think, even urge, the Speaker leave right away.

But that’s not our Speaker Casada’s. First, before leaving his post (and while still on the state payroll), the Williamson County representative left the country for a long-planned European vacation. He said he would work out the details of when and how he would step down after he returned.

He came back on Monday. The next day, he announced he would stay on until August 2nd. He has asked Governor Bill Lee to call a special session of the General Assembly to replace him on that day. I am not sure if his time choice is irony or a parting gift to taxpayers. August 2 is Glen Casada’s birthday. Special sessions cost taxpayers $25,000 to $40,000 a day. Congratulations to all! We are told the birthday date for Casada’s departure would not impact his pension, but given the Speaker’s duplicity in other recent matters you can understand the public being skeptical about that.

So far reaction from Governor Bill Lee and GOP leaders to Casada’s plan is not at all positive. Notice in his statement how Governor Lee doesn’t seem to endorse the idea of a special session on August 2nd.

"Now that the speaker has announced his intended timeline, we will continue to be in close communication with House leadership and members to determine the best outcome for the House and for Tennessee," said the Governor.

Casada says the August special session will give lawmakers, particularly Republicans, more time to decide who his successor will be. But some GOP legislative leaders aren’t buying it. They are outspoken against Casada’s resignation timetable.

That’s starts with the lawmaker who would at least temporarily replace Casada when he leaves.

Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn responded to the news, telling NewsChannel 5 Investigates: “A month ago I advised him to step down, the day before the no-confidence vote I asked him to resign and today I told him he should resign today. He obviously doesn’t value my counsel.”

The controversy and backlash to Casada raged on all week with several lawmakers saying he appears to be holding his Speaker position hostage in order to make sure he can hand pick his successor.

“Several members expressed frustrations after Casada announced the resignation date.

Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, called Casada's decisions unacceptable. "If he is not able to serve as speaker after Aug. 2, then he is not able to serve as speaker today."

William Lamberth, R-Portland, said he still stood by his comments last week that he would like Casada to resign and Lee to call a special session by the end of June.

But Lamberth noted "legally speaking, it is questionable whether or not we can even remove a speaker."

"We all shared with him that we prefer it be sooner," Lamberth said. "But at the same time respect the fact that he is the sitting speaker."

Of course, the Democrats want Casada gone immediately as Speaker and he should resign or be ousted from his seat. Reports NEWSCHANNEL5:

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini says, "Every day that Glen Casada is in office is a slap in the face to women, communities of color, and all Tennesseans who expect real work and not lines of coke to be done at the state capitol. Democrats have been sounding the alarm since Casada's corruption began, and we'll continue to fight to restore accountability and decency to the Tennessee legislature."

Will lawmakers get the Speaker to modify his plans maybe even leave now? Will the Governor pick a different, earlier date for a special session to pick a successor Speaker? The Governor had earlier said he would call a special session if Casada wasn’t gone by the end of June? Does he still mean that? Is holding a special session even a good idea given the costs involved?

There’s also the issue raised by Majority Leader Lamberth: Can the General Assembly even remove a speaker legally? Finally, is this new exit plan by Casada some last- minute ploy to muddy up the political waters and find a way to stay on in office?

The public seems pretty clear about it all. A new Vanderbilt poll says overwhelmingly he should go. In fact, quoting from the poll’s findings “63 percent of voters, across all party lines, say he should resign following the revelation of sexually explicit text messages he exchanged with his chief of staff. However, that condemnation does not appear to have impacted perceptions of Gov. Lee or the state legislature.”

State leaders should be relieved that Casada’s outrageous activities aren’t poisoning the atmosphere for all of them. But that could change in a heartbeat if our elected leaders don’t start to LEAD, i.e. find some consensus to resolve this matter, the sooner the better, to get Casada gone at least from leadership of this state.

Our state leaders would also be wise to study the other findings in the Vanderbilt poll.

Of course, these latest Casada developments just keep this Tennessee scandal in the news all over the country as well as providing fodder for the late- night comics.

Already Casada’s top aide and two others have resigned with more details continuing to come out in the media.

In yet another Casada aide controversy, there are news reports that another of the Speaker’s employees claims public education is a “satanic plot” and the Pope and President Trump are “anti-Christs.”

At week’s end there is another story reporting a GOP lawmaker renovating his one year old offices in the Cordell Hull Building with Speaker Casada’s approval.

The field to replace Casada continues to grow. It’s now includes a freshman legislator who is far from a political rookie. Here’s the latest from THE TENNESSEE JOURNAL ON THE HILL blog.


Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott is courting outrage again.

Now it’s for the comments he made against gay people during a recent speech. Earlier he raised the ire of several folks over what he said against Muslims on Facebook. A complaint is being filed by several hundred Nashville attorneys about this most recent incident.

To make matters even more controversial, Northcutt has been chosen as special prosecutor in the case of Justin Jones, a Nashville activist charged in February with throwing a cup of liquid onto retiring House Speaker Glen Casada. Sometimes in the news, it really can be a small world, isn’t it?

Here’s a link to the story with D.A. Northcutt’s actual videotaped comments about gays.

Finally, there is this terrible act of political insanity breaking late Friday morning. It involves bomb threats aimed apparently at the Tennessee Republican Party.


In the midst of the still ongoing Casada scandal, Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Michael Sullivan is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week along with former GOP state Representative Debra Maggart. Maggart is currently a highly regarded lobbyist on the Hill.

We will discuss the latest in this controversy, what to look for going forward and what the political fallout may be for the General Assembly, the Republican Super Majority and the Tennessee GOP itself.

All our conversations are interesting, but this one has moments (especially towards the later part of our discussion), I think you find especially intriguing.
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 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.

With better known names such as former Governor Bill Haslam, current U.S. Congressman Mark Green and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Haggerty still accessing their chances, Nashville orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi isn’t waiting. He is officially entering the 2020 race for Tennessee’s open U.S. Senate seat, making him the first top-tier Republican to launch a bid.
Sethi believes Tennesseans want a “conservative outsider” to replace retiring Senator Lamar Alexander. From a campaign news release:

“Tennesseans want a conservative outsider who will take on the Establishment, support President Trump, fight illegal immigration and work to repeal ObamaCare,” said Sethi. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”

Dr. Sethi, 41, is a first-generation son of Indian immigrants. He released a video Monday morning telling the story of his family coming to America.

Sethi has been looking at a Senate race for months but the timing of his announcement caught political observers somewhat off guard.

A decision is expected by former Governor Haslam shortly. That is expected to influence Ambassador Haggerty’s decision, i.e., he will run only if Haslam doesn’t. It is unclear if Congressman Green, a first termer in Washington, will run regardless of Haslam’s choice.

Green is also still facing criticism over his past controversial comments about vaccines.

There is already one Democrat in the U.S. Senate field. He is attorney and war veteran James Mackler. At this point the Tennessee contest does not look like one that will be competitive for the national Democrats seeking to retake the Senate (and the White House) next year. Here is how ROLL CALL sees it.

Despite the bleak outlook, one national Democratic Party leader sees hope for his party in Tennessee to break the Republican monopoly on state political power.


One of the critical organizations that, behind the scenes, has helped make Nashville the successful city it has become, is experiencing a leadership change.
In its 43-plus years of existence, Leadership Nashville (LN) has been headed by only two Executive Directors. Now after running the program since 1994, Jerry Williams is retiring.

She took a highly regarded, very successful leadership program under the late Corinne Franklin and made it even better. In fact, Leadership Nashville has been, and continues to be the envy of other leadership programs all over the country. In many ways, LN has become a bedrock organization to Nashville’s continued success.
From the beginning, Jerry Williams and Corinne Franklin understood the purpose of the program from its co-founders, beloved civic leader Nelson Andrews and Brent Poulton, a long- time leader in local higher education.

To state Leadership Nashville’s primary mission in one sentence, it would be: To give key decision makers, a three-dimensional view of Nashville, while in the process developing a cooperative spirit between leaders from all parts of the community.

Every year since 1976, a diverse group of 40+ Nashville decision makers has been selected to go through the extensive Leadership Nashville training program. It begins with two-day retreats in the fall and in the spring. In between, the class has seven monthly meetings that average 13 hours each. The class makes on-site visits around the city, delving into subjects such as state and local government, the media, criminal justice, healthcare, social services, race relations, religion and the arts. The participants also work as study groups to make presentations at the final retreat.

While developing friendship is not Leadership Nashville’s primary goal, it obviously happens and is the “secret sauce” that takes the LN experience beyond the one year of classes. The shared experiences from that year often builds and solidifies relationships between key community leaders who would never know each other except through the program.

Once they become alumni (as I did in 1983), many LN participants work to plan and put on the various days and programs for future classes. This is one of the great talents that Jerry has. Like Corrine before her, they work with these alumni volunteers to make the days come together, pull them off on time and make each day and year successful.

There is one other genius that should be noted that has made Leadership Nashville successful and unique. It doesn’t take sides. It has never become political. It has never become a clique. It has just brought Nashville decision maker together to get to know each, learn about community challenges and opportunities. Then, working together, outside of Leadership Nashville, these leaders can find ways to address community challenges.

Thank you, Jerry! You have done a wonderful job this past quarter century. You have left some big shoes to fill, just as you did so successfully in following Corrine. The new Leadership Nashville Executive Director is local entrepreneur and civic leader, Evette White. She has been the CEO of Executive Selection and previously worked as chief strategy officer for Saint Thomas Health. White also has served on and led a number of the city's non-profit boards including Family & Children’s Service and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Evette is also a member of the board of Delta Dental of Tennessee.

Like Jerry Williams, Evette White is a Leadership Nashville alum. She knows the history, the traditions and the successes of the LN organization, which is soon approaching a half century of community service. With Evette’s extensive experience in leadership and non-profit management, the future for Leadership Nashville continues to look bright indeed.