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Capitol View Commentary: March 5, 2010

Capitol View Commentary: March 5, 2010

CREATED Mar 5, 2010

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

March 5, 2010

WAMP ON INSIDE POLITICS; BLIND TRUST; NOT RUNNING; HEALTH CARE; METRO ISSUES; THE FINAL SIXTEEN; NEXT WEEK  

GOP gubernatorial candidate Congressman Zach Wamp is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. He is the first of what we hope will be all the seven major candidates for governor joining us in the next few weeks. We also hope to have them back again later this summer in the final days before the August primary. Hey, with a recent MTSU poll saying almost 75% of Tennesseans surveyed could not name even one gubernatorial candidate, we have to do what we can to help, right? J

No one is running a more energetic or feistier campaign than Congressman Wamp. So I think you will find this interview very interesting.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. That includes on Comcast and Charter cable channels 250 as well as on NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2. Our air times are:

Fridays (March 5)…………7:00 p.m

Saturdays (March 6)…….5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m.

Sundays (March 7)……….5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m.

Join us. And remember if you live outside the Nashville area or want to see previous INSIDE POLITICS shows they are available here at newschannel.com.

BLIND TRUST

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's wallet continues to be the most talked about issue on the GOP gubernatorial campaign trail. Continuing to refuse to release his Pilot Oil income numbers because it might compromise the privacy of other family members, the issue flared up anew in recent days after Haslam told the Associated Press that he did not plan to place his Pilot Oil holdings into a blind trust as governor because everyone is aware of his involvement so why put it in a blind trust.

That brought conflict of interest charges once again from all the other GOP challengers to Haslam. Even the leading Democratic candidate, Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, got involved in the controversy, by announcing that if he is elected governor, he plans to place all his business holdings in a blind trust.

Then Governor Phil Bredesen waded into the fight. Proving to Democrats that he speaks his mind (and doesn't just throw President Barack Obama under the bus), Bredesen spoke up to defend Haslam's decision (at least on the blind trust) even if that meant undercutting his own party's likely nominee to replace him as governor.  The Governor told Jeff Woods of THE CITY PAPER: "In a way, the issue of a blind trust and Pilot is kind of a fake issue. I don't know how you could put it in a blind trust is the reality." Ouch!

NOT RUNNING

Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. ended weeks of suspense and speculation by announcing he will not seek one of the U.S. Senate seats from New York.

While Ford often talked like a candidate, I never really thought he would run. He says he is staying out because, while he thought he could win, he didn't want to divide the Democrats in trying to keep the seat in the fall.

I guess Mr. Ford knows best. He certainly took a licking and a lot of flak just trying to make up his mind, being called every political name in the book including (in a somewhat interesting historical twist) "a carpetbagger."

As I said the very first time I wrote about Ford considering the race, I believe he has learned that what passed for left of center politics in Tennessee is considered way to the right in New York. And in what appears to be one last shot at him by his new political enemies in New York, there are now stories circulating that Ford talked with Karl Rove about joining the GOP to run for the Senate seat. Ford says it was Rove who approached him, not the other way around. Regardless, if they went after young Harold this hard just for thinking about running, can you imagine what would happened had he actually entered the race?

HEALTH CARE

And so the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are teeing it up for one final up or down battle over passing a national health care overhaul. This time President Obama has come up with his own bill (which looks a lot like the version the Senate passed late last year with a few new ideas from Republicans to make it look a bit more bi-partisan). And the Democrats are going to try the ironically named "reconciliation process" to get it passed through both houses.

Usually, reconciliation is done on budget issues, but it has been done for health care legislation before by both parties. Its major advantage is that it only requires 51 Senate votes not 60 for approval.   

But the real problem may be getting enough votes to pass the measure in the House, where the votes of Blue Dogs Democrats like the retiring Bart Gordon and John Tanner of Tennessee loom large. They voted against the original House version of health care change, but now, at least Gordon seems interested in possibly casting one of his lame-duck votes for the new bill. Tanner is not committing yet, but you can be sure he will be getting a lot of encouragement/pressure from the White House and the House leadership to get in line.

Meantime, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says if the Obama health care bill passes, he expects a grass roots revolution to be organized to repeal it. He believes it will be the major issue in the fall elections. Maybe. But with unemployment still above or near 10% you can bet the real number one issue will be the economy which is why both parties are working together to pass a new jobs bill and why retiring Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky made a big error (wrong issue, wrong time) when he singlehandedly held up approval of an extension of unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of Americans because the bill did not say how it would be funded without further increasing the national debt.

Yes the national debt is a big issue. But you don't solve it that way…on the backs of the unemployed. 

METRO ISSUES

I don't know why anybody is surprised that the May Town proposal got pulled from the Metro Council. It didn't have the votes (27) and won't ever have them unless it is drastically scaled back to the point where it can get approval from the Metro Planning Commission.

If that should occur, and I am dubious that it will, it would only take 21 votes in the Council for approval, which also could be tough to achieve given how strong the community opposition is to this giant mixed use proposal.    

This continuing saga also continues to leave Mayor Karl Dean is a delicate position. He has managed to stay out of the fight so far. But if the project is scaled down and somehow gets Planning Commission approval and 21 Council votes, then the heat comes to him as those against the proposal will put on big time pressure for him to veto the bill.        

 The Mayor is also taking steps to diffuse the Fairgrounds issue a bit. After proposing everything at the Fairgrounds property (the Fair, the Raceway, the Flea Market) be shut down almost immediately and the property sold for redevelopment, he is now further relaxing his hard line position. First he gave the Flea Market and other groups that use the Women's Building another year to have their events on site. Now he says he is OK if one more State Fair is held provided it doesn't cost the city anything. And he is OK for the Raceway to go one more year if a lease can be arranged for such a short season now.

The Mayor has also appointed a task force to study and guide the process to find future uses for the Fairgrounds property. All this is clearly an effort to lower the rising heat of community opposition to changes at the Fairgrounds. Meanwhile a lawsuit claiming that Metro is violating a state law by not holding a State Fair on the site, is awaiting a hearing in the courts. Seems like a lot of fun at the Fairgrounds to me! NOT J

I also see where some folks in the City Of Lakewood here in Metro Nashville may want to give up their charter and become a full part of the city. That would be a first. Since Metro Government was formed in 1963, the surviving satellite cities (Lakewood, Forest Hills, Oak Hill, Berry Hill, Belle Meade and Goodlettsville) have jealously guarded their freedom (especially from the Metro Council controlling of zoning changes in their areas). But apparently some in Lakewood see greener pastures in Metro. We'll see what happens.

Here's a question. Why does it seem that every time the city's NHL team gets close to becoming a really competitive hockey franchise, there are ownership issues that cloud its future? And so it is again. Lead owner David Freeman, who helped save the club just a few years ago, is stepping down from leadership amid federal tax lien issues, while his fellow owners are scrambling to find other investors. While saying they want to stay in town, will the Predators agree to demands from the city's Sports Authority to waive their right to move for the next couple of years? The next few days may tell the tale.

Meantime getting to a Predators game is getting tougher and tougher. Construction of the new Music City Center has decreased the availability of some nearby parking lots which are now part of the construction site. Some of the remaining parking lots have also jacked up their prices.

It's all part of the growing pains of building the largest project in the history of the state ($585 million). Here are some more examples.

While the federal Freedom bonds are helping the city save millions on interest, there are apparently concerns using them violates the state's usury laws. So the State Legislature is set to approve legislation to clear matters up, hopefully within the next two weeks.

The Greyhound bus station also needs to be re-located for the construction (which is already reportedly a little behind schedule). Moving is proving difficult, especially after a previous effort to relocate to a spot on Murfreesboro Road was blocked by angry residents and businessmen led by Bobby Joslin, a politically influential sign company owner. Ironically, the bus station wound up in its current location after being moved in the mid-1980s for the first convention center north of Broadway.

Now, as construction proceeds comes blasting. Starting in the next few days, Monday through Saturday for six months, over 360,000 tons of rock and dirt need to be removed from the site, meaning vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be periodically halted in the area for safety purposes beginning five minutes before every blast.

Finally, Metro is also taking new steps to make sure it is collecting all the tourist-related tax money it should to pay for the new convention center. Apparently according to a story in THE CITY PAPER (3/5), the city has only been getting about half the funds it should from the $2 airport departure tax levied on passengers riding taxi cabs and other shuttle services from Metro International.    

 THE FINAL SIXTEEN

Everyone loves a winner. So when Tennessee was named one of the 16 finalists to possibly receive hundreds of millions of dollars as part of the federal "Race To The Top" program, my e-mail box quickly filled up with congratulatory news releases from the Governor, the Senate Democratic Caucus, even our congressional delegation, although interestingly enough, Knoxville congressman John Duncan was not included in the release and I saw no mention of either Senators Lamar Alexander or Bob Corker.

Anybody know what that's about? Maybe they are waiting until after the state makes its oral presentations next month in Washington or when the Tennessee finds out how much money it gets. A report in THE CITY PAPER (4/4) cites national experts who say the state's proposal is among the best in the competition. That is clearly due in part to the hard work of the Governor, the General Assembly and our Congressional delegation to help pass legislation and help put together the plan. So I guess they deserve their congratulatory news releases. 

NEXT WEEK 

Warm breezes and cries of "Play Ball" lead me away, so there will be no CAPITOL VIEW column next week.

However we will have a very special INSIDE POLITICS show.

My guest is Rebecca Harris Stubbs. She is the author of the new political biography: J. PERCY PRIEST AND HIS AMAZING RACE.

That's right. J. Percy Priest is not just a school or a part of town, or a dam or a recreational area. Priest was a Nashville congressman from 1940 to 1956. And how he got elected to Congress is truly amazing. If you think there is voter anger today, watch the show to learn how voters turned out of office an incumbent congressman with a famous local last name and replaced him with a popular newspaper columnist (THE TENNESSEAN) all in the space of less than 8 weeks time in the fall of 1940.

Congressman Priest also had a very interesting career in Washington, rising to be third in leadership in the House while dealing with many issues that still echo today.

We air this show next weekend (March 12-14) at the usual times on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.