Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 17, 2011

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 17, 2011

CREATED Jun 17, 2011


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

June 17, 2011



The 2012 presidential campaign is beginning to take shape. Already it appears from the polls that a frontrunner is emerging on the GOP side (Mitt Romney) to challenge President Barack Obama. But he is a "fragile" frontrunner and who else might emerge on the GOP side? And what about the President, is he at risk of being a "one-termer" in 2012?

This week on INSIDE POLITICS, we are bringing back a panel of experts to tell us what they think is happening and what lies ahead. That group includes Bill Phillips, a Republican strategist and former Deputy Mayor of Nashville along with Nashville lawyer and long-time Democratic consultant Larry Woods and Judson Phillips, a Nashville attorney and the head of the Tea Party Nation.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning on the main channel (WTVF-TV, Channel 5) as well as multiple times on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS which broadcasts on Comcast & Charter Cable channels 250 as well as on Channel 5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2. Our PLUS air times are 7:00 p.m., Friday; 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday; and 5:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Excerpts of this show and previous INSIDE POLITICS shows can also be found here on www.newschannel5.com.


Despite all the talk nationally that we are headed for a potential double dip recession or even a depression, the economic news looks good around here.

According to a story on the NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL's website (June 14) by Jordan Markley, "Nashville's employment outlook is the fifth best of any metropolitan area in the nation" based on a ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey which polled 18,000 businesses in 100 metropolitan areas all across the country. Sixty-six percent of Nashville businesses say they plan to maintain their workforce, while twenty-five percent say they plan to increase staff levels. Only six percent say they plan to cut workers. That's an overall improvement of fourteen percent from last year's survey says the article.

And prospects look even rosier for the future with the groundbreaking ceremonies just held for the new Omni Hotel downtown. That project will compliment the adjoining new Music City Center already under construction. Both developments should generate a lot of visitors to Nashville and a number of new jobs (if projections are correct, and they ever quit digging up the road to install the new infrastructure along 8th Avenue South going in and out of downtown).

When there's good economic news, especially in these times, there are always a lot of people stepping forward to try and take credit. Look what happened when (according to a story on THE NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL web site on June 13) the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released figures showing that Tennessee's economy grew at a rate (3.52%) that was the best in the Southeast and sixth-best in all the nation.

Immediately, Republicans leaders in the General Assembly where quick to try and take credit including House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville who was quoted as saying: "Tennessee is open for business. We have a dynamic, pro-business environment that is attracting the attention of more and more top companies with each passing day. That said, there is more work to be done. I look forward to another successful session (of the General Assembly) next year that will lessen the role of government and enhance the job environment for Tennesseans."

But wait a minute. These economic growth numbers were compiled for 2010 which was before the Republicans took full control of the Legislature and the Governor's office. Democratic House Caucus Chair, Mike Turner said: "This is the result of the pro-business jobs creation under the Democrats and Governor Bredesen. We were very aggressive in going out and recruiting employment as opposed to sitting back and letting them come to us, which appears to be what the Republicans are doing."

""The Republicans haven't been there long enough to damage the economy or help the economy….I'm glad the Republicans are trying to take credit for something they didn't do. I really don't know what they did to create jobs."

Maybe not, but I know what both parties are trying to do….taker credit anytime there is good economic news to talk about…that's called politics.

Sometimes government can be helpful in turning businesses around. I was reminded of that when the news came out a couple of days ago that the city's Hermitage Hotel has been named one of Top 10 hotels in the nation, ranking #6 in a survey by U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT.

What a turnaround from the late 1970s, when the once-proud and famous hotel hit on such hard times that Mayor Richard Fulton got the city to condemn it. As a Channel 5 reporter, I remember chasing Codes Director Elmer Young all over the property trying to get an interview. Many people thought the hotel was on the way to the wrecking ball like its nearby rival, the Andrew Jackson which was imploded to ultimately make way for what is today the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

But Mayor Fulton could see that the Hermitage could come back. And while it took several sets of owners over a couple of decades it has now reached the top among the best hotels in America.



Ok, I know it's a very good idea. But I just had to laugh when I got the news release from Mayor Karl Dean's office that the city was starting its own YouTube Channel.

The social media outlet, renowned for its quirky and often viral videos will now be graced with meetings of the Metro Council, a.k.a., Tuesday Night Live.

Frankly, the Council has gotten kind of dull in recent years in terms of its floor debates and other antics. But back in the day that I was the on-air host and anchor of the twice-monthly Council sessions (1973-1985), televised on Public TV, we had everything from debates over the city establishing a UFO landing pad, to bomb threats emptying the chambers during a debate over a property tax increase. There were even comments by a councilmember about his daughter taking birth control pills from the city's Health Department that made everybody gasp (and I can't repeat them here). I also remember a time when another councilman, being censured by his colleagues over a zoning matter, said out loud to Vice Mayor David Scobey and his colleagues: "Mr. Chairman, now I know how Jesus felt when they nailed him to the cross!"

There is no doubt in my mind that today those comments and debates would have gone viral in a heartbeat all over the nation and world. Maybe even some of the classic speeches made from time to time by Council orators like Dr. Richard Adams (who often told his fellow members with a tough vote looming that it was "time to belly up to the bar") or Bud Hill from Antioch who for some reason always called the city's comprehensive zoning ordinance "Cosmo" (like the magazine). And then there's "Sweet Baby" Bill McPherson, who before the Council got rid of him by electing him County Clerk, made an art form out of giving "I told you so" speeches to his fellow council members .

While the idea of having a Metro YouTube channel is to broaden the openness and transparency of our local government, one day the current Council or another one in the future is likely to have some moments that will gain Internet fame, although I sure hope we will never achieve the infamy of what's happened in cyberspace in recent weeks through the Weinergate scandal in Washington (fortunately, the Congressman involved has finally resigned and is seeking badly needed help).

Maybe one day as well in the near future, many of the meetings of Metro's boards and commissions will be put up on YouTube. If that was happening now, you could see the continuing State Fair Follies going on out in South Nashville. At the command of the Metro Council, the State Fair Board, a city agency, was required to continue to hold an annual State Fair each September at the Fairgrounds (even though the Board earlier voted to shut down the Fair and discontinue it because it's been losing money).

Given that direct order by the Council, you'd think the Fair Board would get it done, post haste. But the process of picking a group to run the Fair has been nothing short of a disaster. First, the Board selected a group that offered to pay Metro the least amount of money. Under criticism, the Fair Board changed its mind and selected an organization offering five times more dough to the Board. But then a dispute arose about whether the newly selected group was really a non-profit organization (which was a requirement). That led to a loss of trust by the Fair Board and a decision to give the Fair contract back to the first group who is still clearly giving Metro much less revenue.

In fact, given the money involved and the very late date of finally awarding the contract (at least we think its final) there is no way the city won't once again lose its shirt financially in holding the Fair. Some of those trying to save the Fairgrounds and the State Fair, believe the actions of the Fair Board, whose members are appointed by Mayor Dean, are another deliberate effort to kill the Fair and Fairgrounds. I don't know about that, but as messed up as this matter continues to be, it will fit right in if and when the Fair Board meetings ever get on YouTube.


My kudos go out to the thousands of local citizens and others (organized over the Internet and Facebook) who turned out last Monday here in Nashville to protect the dignity of a local Marine's funeral.

Sgt. Kevin Balduf lost his life in Afghanistan defending our freedom. But there are those from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas who have made it their duty to come and disrupt these hero's last rites all over the nation.

They have the ridiculous idea that our military personnel are losing their lives because God is punishing America for its tolerance of gays. No matter how hurtful these actions are, especially to the families involved, these protests have been constitutionally protected by an overwhelming majority of our U.S. Supreme Court. But that doesn't make it right in the eyes of the counter-protesters who showed up in such large numbers two hours before the service that when three protestors from Westboro showed up they couldn't be heard, and so they left. Good riddance and don't come back!

My kudos go out as well to those filing the legal action challenging the new state law that overturns Metro's latest anti-discrimination ordinance. I don't know that they will prevail in court, but those in the State Legislature who passed it need to be called to account to defend their claim that this was done for a better business climate in Tennessee (even though many businesses disowned the law after it was passed).

You can't read always people's hearts about their intent in matters like these. Maybe going through courts will help remove the more than faint odor about this new law that it is really homophobic in its intent.

A discussion of gay rights in our community is something that has not frequently occurred in the past. To have three somewhat gay-related topics in the news at the same time in Nashville (including the protest of comedian Tracy Morgan's anti-gay jokes during a recent Nashville concert that led him to promise he would come back to town and apologize) is clearly a sign that there may be more to our city today than just being the Buckle of the Bible Belt.


One again city leaders are in an uproar about all the illegal advertising signs we see all over town usually placed on power poles or in the public rights of way.

So yet another "sign summit" was held a few days ago to talk about it. What will be done? Probably not much, I'd guess. Metro doesn't have the manpower to really police the situation and the $50 maximum fines are a joke (even though state voters refused to take the limit on civil fines out of the state constitution a few years ago).

And here's another reason not much is likely to occur to correct this problem. Those city officials attending the summit never got around to talking about what is likely to be the biggest signage eyesore in Nashville this summer, all the illegal political campaign signs that are already sprouting up all over town in anticipation of the Metro elections in August and then the runoff voting in September.

Meanwhile, up in Washington, our two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, have a sign problem with the federal government. Specifically they have filed legislation "to stop an overreach by the federal government---commonly called an unfunded mandate--—requiring local governments to replace road signs" because of new visibility standards.

I don't get the impression the Senators are against the new standards (especially for safety reasons) but what has gotten their ire is what they call "arbitrary 2015 and 2018 deadlines" to get all the new signs in place. The Senators would like to allow compliance with the new standards when signs are routinely replaced at their end of their normal life cycles.

Makes sense, especially since (according to Senators Alexander & Corker) the cost to replace the signs by 2015 and 2018 (with no federal monies to pay for it) will be at least $50 million according to the Tennessee County Highway Officials Association. Yikes!

The Tennessee General Assembly earlier passed a resolution signed by Governor Bill Haslam, asking the feds to pick up the $50 million estimated cost if it doesn't allow some change in the compliance dates.

Don't hold your breath on Washington coughing up the money, especially since it would likely have to do that nationwide not just here in the Volunteer State.


DVL Public Relations is moving offices next week from 7th Avenue North to the Terrazzo Building in the Gulch. That's quite an undertaking, so there will be NO Capitol View column next week.

Look for my next column on Friday, July 1.