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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 12, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 12, 2013

CREATED Apr 12, 2013


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

April 12, 2013



It's still over two years and four months away, but there is a very interesting poll that's already been conducted in Nashville in recent days about the city's next mayoral election (August, 2015).

I don't have any results (darn it) but from several different sources I learned a lot about what people were asked if they consented to be a part of the survey which was reportedly done by a group named Parker Consulting (a Google search finds a marketing research firm of that name with offices in Birmingham and Chicago).

First, it was a 20-minute long poll meaning (experts tell me) its cost (with that many questions and detail) would likely be in the range of $30,000 to $40,000…..serious money for what is likely be just a preliminary  base line study for future polls if someone is serious about running and the race begins to further develop.

As for what candidates were polled and which were not mentioned, that's even more interesting. The first run of names was to gauge overall favorable or unfavorable numbers on public officials such as President Barack Obama, Mayor Karl Dean (who is term limited and can't run) and former Mayor Bill Purcell (assuming he is not making a comeback?). Then came a first round of potential mayoral names for favorable and unfavorable reactions: (Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, Sheriff Daron Hall, At Large Councilmember Jerry Maynard, At Large member Megan Barry, Chamber of Commerce Executive Ralph Schulz, former School Board Chair David Fox and businessman Frank Garrison).

Twice more candidate lists were read during the poll: this time to pick a top choice and a second choice to support for mayor among: Neighbors, Schulz, Barry, Hall, Maynard, Garrison, Fox and Undecided (although Fox was reportedly left out in the third and final candidate question).

Notice who's not on the lists who have been mentioned as potential candidates including businessmen Bill  Freeman and Butch Ely and Charter school leader Jeremy Kane (among others).I'll have more on Kane later in the column.

The questions asked about issues also seemed to be quite interesting with many more focusing I am told on government and business related matters while only a couple were directly on education and mass transit for example. There were potential questions as well that seemed related to testing opposition research such as reaction to a mayoral candidate who was a major "pro-life" activist or who had worked for a "disgraced" previous mayor or a candidate who was "in the pocket of the banks." Yes, it seems some of the questions were pretty pointed and might have tried to lean the respondents. Here's another example on schools: "Would you favor a mayoral candidate who supports vouchers and privatizing schools, or someone wants schools run by the school board and unions."

I will be interested to see if the "results" of this poll leaks out in the days to come, and if that gives us a better idea who had it commissioned and paid for it. Not many among those mentioned in the survey (except for Garrison) would reportedly have the personal wealth to fund it. I have even heard one suggestion that perhaps several of the potential candidates polled their monies together to do it. I kind of doubt that , but who knows, still nearly two and half years away this "mayor's race" is already getting off to a very early and most interesting start.


One of Nashville's leaders in the charter school movement is stepping down as CEO as the LEAD Public School charter system (it now operates four schools in the city with over 1,000 students). Jeremy Kane told friends in a letter: "It's time for me to turn the reins over to a new leader (one of his top lieutenants, Chris Reynolds) and start investigating what's next for me."

Lots of people will be watching what he decides to do. Despite not being mentioned in the poll making its way around town (see above), Kane's name is one of those coming up often as a candidate for Nashville Mayor when the job is open in 2015. He won't need to make a quick decision. In fact, he doesn't officially leave LEAD until June of next year. Kane is known to have interest, but in talking with him, I think he's still doing his homework on the position and what he should do.

His relative youth and overall lack of community wide name recognition are certainly challenges he must address if he runs. So might fund raising although for someone who's built charter schools in Nashville (with a current $18 million annual budget) as well as in several cities including Detroit, Chicago and San Antonio, being able to create something out of nothing, seems to be something he's accomplished several times before.

But should he run for mayor, perhaps his biggest challenge could be overall public perception and support for charter schools in Nashville. The continuing fight over the Great Hearts charter school effort in Nashville and its ongoing ramifications on Capitol Hill and throughout the community have sharply polarized politics in town. And while that's got nothing to do with Jeremy Kane, he could get tarred by the same brush of controversy depending on how this issue continues to develop.


With the Tennessee General Assembly likely headed into its final week of session the week of Monday, April 15, the effort to give the state final approval of any new charter schools (at least in the major cities like Nashville) has hit a snag.

I told you last week with strong support from Nashville Representative and House Speaker Beth Harwell, the measure is likely in good shape to pass in the lower chamber (in fact it is on the House floor for a final vote next week). But I wasn't so sure in the Senate. Sure enough, the bill has been deferred in the Finance Committee (according to the Associated Press 4/9) "after members expressed concerns for a new entity that will pay its executive director more than $100,000."

There was also concerns expressed that "the bill doesn't spell out the qualifications needed to be a part of the (nine member authorizer) panel' made up of appointees by the governors and the speakers of each state house.

Can the bill get back on track and approved before the end of session next week? That's looking a bit doubtful with the Senate committee deferral, but never count out what leadership can get done even in the final days and hours of a session. In fact, my sources are still insisting it can get through the Senate.  Nevertheless, the faint cheering you may hear about the delay is coming from the Metro School Board which strongly opposes the measure. They should remember however, as long as the bill remains alive, it can and likely come back up again when lawmakers return to Nashville in January, 2014, if not this session's upcoming  final week.


For a while this past week it looked like nothing would stop Senator Stacy Campfield and his bill to cut welfare benefits 30% for parents whose children do not do well in school. Despite torrents of negative national publicity and mounting local public opposition, the bill has been making progress in committees and was set for a final vote on the Senate floor Thursday morning (April 11).

But, then out of the mouth of babes and under the sponsorship of local church and religious groups, a choir of young children came to the Hill to express in song their concerns (singing JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN), and presenting Campfield with a petition with over 2,500 signatures in opposition.

 According to an on-line TENNESSEAN article (April 11), one of the youngsters, 8-year old Rasheedt Fetuga, personally expressed her concerns to Senator Campfield who responded by saying: "How are you. Thanks for coming!" Then added: "I love it when people use children as props."

Not surprisingly that comment offended the child's mother (one of the organizers of the event) who "shouted after Campfield (as he walked to the Senate chamber) that her child was not a prop and that he worked for the people." Campfield got still more bad news later when his bill came up for debate and it was clear he didn't have the votes.

To save the measure, he withdrew it so it could go to a summer study session. He vows he'll bring it back in 2014 (and no doubt given his seeming love for controversial legislation, he will). But let's hope,  at least for one day he and other lawmakers heard the children loud and clear!


After seemingly losing momentum in recent weeks to toughen the nation's gun laws, President Barack Obama won a major victory Thursday (April 11) when the U.S. Senate returned to Washington and with 16 Republicans joining all but 2 Democrats to vote down a filibuster effort to block debate.

Both of Tennessee's Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted with the President to break the filibuster, no doubt disappointing and angering some conservative elements in their party. In fact, it might bring back to life the faint embers of any remaining long-shot effort to mount a primary re-election campaign against Alexander in 2014. That's particularly true since the National Rifle Association is threatening political revenge against those who voted against the filibuster and/or for the bills to extend background checks on guns purchases as well limits on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition clips.

Senator Alexander (who points out he has had an "A" rating from the NRA) has already issued statements that he will do nothing to infringe on "Tennesseans' Second Amendment rights "and he will oppose in particular any amendment to expand background checks. That was a key area of compromise that apparently did swing some Republicans over to break the filibuster.

It's still not certain exactly what kind of gun legislation, if any, will pass the Senate or for that matter, the GOP-led House of Representatives. But what is clear is that the President will get what he wants at least in the upper chamber: a debate or the issues and maybe up or down votes ( there are reports Republicans may filibuster each amendment being offered to the pending legislation).

But regardless, the White House continues, for now, its post-election momentum while Republicans continue to show they can read public opinion polls and the November vote totals in assessing how to deal (compromise) on major issues including not only guns but immigration reform and even same-sex marriage. But remember, nothing is a done deal for change on any of these issues just yet.     


As I mentioned in this column a few weeks back, Metro is looking at getting out of the nursing home business. According to a TENNESSEAN on-line article (April 11) Mayor Karl Dean has retained an investment banking firm to explore "options for the city's two smallest hospital facilities, Bordeaux Long Term Care ….and the Knowles Assisted Living and Adult Day Services." The hope is a "private sector buyer will take over the facilities as is." The city has no idea how much the facilities and the 100 acres they sit on are worth, but officials do know taxpayers have been subsidizing the services there by about $11 million annually. It's a service few cities provide directly anymore.

So what about Metro's largest hospital facility, the city's full-service General Hospital? It too has been operating at a deficit and has required even more millions to subsidize along with declining patient numbers just like Bordeaux and Knowles. So far, no decision has been made about General's future by the Dean administration. But if Metro can find buyers for its nursing homes that could further encourage a similar move to either privatize General or go to out-patient care only there.

A move to close or downsize services at General may well create a lot of controversy, especially since historically black Meharry Medical School would then lose the residency positions it uses at General to train its young doctors.  


We are taking a little different track for this week's INSIDE POLITICS show. With the news being filled with threats of attack from North Korea against the United States and some of our allies (South Korea & Japan), we are bringing in to be our guest,  Professor James Auer, the Director of the Vanderbilt Center for U.S --Japan Studies and Cooperation. 

From his time both in the military and as a diplomat, Professor Auer has spent most of his adult life focusing on that particular part of the world. So I am sure he can give us an expert's view about what this is all about and what is likely to happen next.

A story by THE WASHINGTON POST (April 11) says there is unusually strong interest in the American public about this matter. In fact, "Google searches for North Korea (are) currently seven times the previous peak during (North Korea's) 2006 nuclear tests (and) are dramatically outpacing (Google searches) for Beyonce or even President Obama." The article added: "Last week, North Korea was the third most popular term on Twitter, following only Easter and Good Friday."  

Wow! So I guess if you want to know more about North Korea, tune in to INSIDE POLITICS! By the way, we decided to focus on this topic and book this guest a couple of days before we found this POST article.  

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5.  We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m. Friday, 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel. For those outside Nashville or who don't have cable access, portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.


It's been a while since I updated this group about my stroke recovery. About nine and a half months out, things are good.

As always I measure my progress not day by day or even week by week. Instead, I compare events that re-occur in my life and evaluate how I am doing now compared to the last time. I had something to compare last weekend when I attended Metro's 50th anniversary party at the Courthouse.

First, it was a wonderful event, well planned and executed by Beth Seigenthaler Courtney, Tam Gordon and many others (especially the Co-Chairs of all of the Metro@50 efforts:  John Seigenthaler,  Senator Thelma Harper and Metro's first Vice Mayor George Cate).  The weather was picture perfect too, which I took to be the Lord's blessing on a successful half century of good government for our town.

I was a part of the planning committee too but can take little credit for its success. I did come early last Saturday and helped do some logistics work backstage and as well as conducting an audio interview of a couple of founding members of the Metro Council. I found them (Jim Tuck and Carlton Tarkington) very honored and grateful to be recognized and perhaps a little bit surprised at how well consolidated government has done in Nashville over 50 years.

It was at the first Metro@50 ceremony back in June, celebrating voter approval of combining local governments, that I suffered my stroke (while then interviewing some of our former mayors). So while I determined to be there for the final celebration, looking back on the day Metro began on April 1, 1963, more than a couple of folks warned beforehand to be careful and not overdo it. I responded there would be no drama from me on this occasion and I was careful, stopping to sit down and rest from time to time, enjoying the wonderful entertainment and getting something to eat to keep up my strength.

So many people I saw that day asked me how I was doing and told me I that Iooked well. That always helps. It was a long day, and I sat in my chair for a while when I got home. But I am much stronger now. I don't think I could have made it through the event a couple of months ago. That's why I think my weekly exercise and life style changes in what I eat and drink is paying off. I'll know more at the end of the month when I go back for a regular check-up with my doctor.

I must say when you reach a certain age life has a way of reminding you how the years have rolled on. I've had that feeling in the past few days with the passing of Margaret Thatcher and Annette Funicello, both women I greatly admired for vastly different reasons.  Any man my age (or a little older) who tells you they didn't have a crush on Annette when they were young boys is probably lying.  You also had to admire her courage later as she suffered from MS and set such a terrific example.

Courage and determination is what I admired about former  Prime Minister Thatcher, not only for what she did for her country while in office, but just being tough enough to outdo the English good ole boy system to become the leader of her nation and elected Prime Minister three times. That's going to happen I hope one day soon in our country when a woman is finally elected president. 

I hope I live to see that day…as I am grateful to continue to be "spared" to continue my life and enjoy my family, my many friends, my community and most especially my grandchildren.