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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 30, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, August 30, 2013

CREATED Aug 30, 2013

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

August 30, 2013

CARR ON INSIDE POLITICS; 4TH DISTRICT BLOWBACK; TAKE ME OUT TO THE NEW BALL PARK; MADAME SPEAKER ON THE AMP; CAN'T QUIT SMILING; ONCE THE MOST HATED TENNESSEE REPUBLICAN ALIVE; WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN; BILLY; A WONDERFUL VACATION

CARR ON INSIDE POLITICS

State Representative Joe Carr of Murfreesboro kind of turn state politics on its head last week. Everybody knew he wanted to go to Washington, but that was to be the next 4th District congressman not U.S. Senator!

His switch of races to take on incumbent and Tennessee political legend Lamar Alexander has lots of people taking a second look at 2014. Carr is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week giving us his first extended television interview about why he made the change and why he thinks he has a chance to win (although he admits it's a David vs. Goliath-type contest).

Indeed, the Alexander campaign has already released a new poll showing their candidate up over Carr 64% to 22% with similar commanding leads over other potential "conservative" primary opponents. Carr says those good poll numbers for Alexander (other surveys show him with a 64% positive job approval rating among Republicans alone) are because the Senator has just a long, likeable reputation in politics. None of that will last says Carr when voters realize Alexander is "the most liberal member of Tennessee's Republican delegation in Washington."

But just yelling "liberal" at your opponent may not work. In fact, it almost got Senator Bob Corker beat   against Harold Ford in 2004. Carr has got to find a way to get voters to turn against Alexander because they don't like his recent votes or stances in the Senate, not because they don't like him personally. That means Carr's attacks have to be targeted but not too shrill or over the top.

He also has to keep other candidates out of the race. Even he admits if the "anti-Alexander" conservative vote is split, he's probably done for before he starts. Carr does start out with a $300,000 nest egg raised (and now transferred over) from his congressional efforts. That may sound pretty good until you compare it with Alexander who already has over $3 million in the bank and the entire GOP Republican establishment in Tennessee endorsing him.

Carr seems to indicate his "ace in the hole" in terms of getting the campaign resources he needs, will come from out of state political PAC money.  He told me such groups (who've already been calling him) could be poised to spend as much as $5 million in this state because they want to defeat Alexander. As for counter charges that that would be way too much out-of-Tennessee money, Carr says Senator Alexander himself has already accepted lots of K Street-type money from Washington.

The outside (if not out-of-state help) is already underway. Check out the website www.punishlamar.com

It's sponsored by the Tennessee Campaign for Liberty which says it is not authorized by any candidate or campaign committee. Whatever it is, it's definitely a full-out bashing of "Liberal Lamar" as well as the entire Tennessee GOP establishment which is supporting him.  It also makes some major attacks even on some folks who considered, but decided not to challenge the Senator.

Alexander is not waiting to respond. He's already putting out both a radio spot and a TV ad (airing statewide) which strongly reiterates his opposition to Obamacare, a key GOP litmus test among conservatives. The ads claims Senator Alexander has voted against Obamacare 23 times and "stood up to the President at the White House health care summit."

 By the way, Carr says he's switched races because both voters on the campaign trail in the 4th District and even his own top supporters (such as Nashville businessman Lee Beaman) have been repeatedly asking him for weeks to take on Lamar. Obviously that didn't include his congressional campaign manager, Chip Saltsman who said his ties to Alexander were too deep and too strong to change. Not only that, Saltsman has now quickly endorsed Alexander while one of his top former clients, former GOP Presidential candidate, Arkansas governor and Tea Party favorite Mike Huckabee has also come out strongly for the Senator. Huckabee, by the way, also won this state's 2008 GOP Presidential primary.  

Add it all up, and Carr has a very uphill fight on his hands, a long political putt with a couple of big dog legs to solve. But the GOP nationally is very much at war with itself between its Tea Party and more establishment wings. That has led to some incumbent Republican Senators losing their primary races in other states and even opening opportunities for Democrats with the GOP split.

That doesn't appear likely in Tennessee (the Democrats still seem to have no viable candidate). But as for Carr versus Alexander we may find that the Senator's strong numbers and financial resources are too much to overcome, or we may begin to learn even more in the next few weeks why the Senior Senator did that very early TV ad buy a couple of months back to try and preclude a primary opponent.

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.  Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

And don't forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com. That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime its airs on the PLUS. It no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live.  So watch us!

4TH DISTRICT BLOWBACK

By the way, the conventional political wisdom following Joe Carr's withdrawal from the 4th District congressional race is that you start calling Republican state senator Jim Tracy, "Congressman." Tracy was already well ahead in both fund raising and endorsements.

But Joe Carr told me, not so fast. He says the race could remain close between Tracy and embattled incumbent Scott DesJarlais. But just as Carr believes he has a better shot to win if he's one on one in his race, you can be sure Tracy's campaign feels better about his chances in the congressional contest if it now stays a two-person affair. Of course, even though it's the largest voter concentration in the district, Tracy showing some support outside his Rutherford-Bedford County base would be a plus too.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE NEW BALL PARK

Until last week, Nashville's chances of getting a new professional baseball park looked as unlikely as the home team winning after being down a couple of runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth, nobody on base, and the team's weakest hitter at the plate with a two strike count.

But now because (according to THE TENNESSEAN's Gail Kerr) the owners of the NASHVILLE SOUNDS AAA team realized going to Sulphur Dell in North Nashville (the historic home of professional baseball here) was better than having no new stadium (maybe ever). So they've apologized to Mayor Karl Dean for not being OK about a New Dell baseball field, and have begun working together on an $80 million deal to build a new ballpark, using mostly state owned property.

But, as Mayor Karl Dean points out after this project "leaked" out in the media, we are a long way from opening day on this facility (which is possibly projected as early as April, 2015, believe or not). It appears almost none of the details of a plan or a financial deal have been settled. The state is due to consider the land deal next month at the State Building Commission. But given the other uncertainties, and Nashville's sometimes less-than-rosy relationship with the state, will it commit now or wait to see how things go? The Mayor says without the state land, there is no deal and no other ballpark site will be considered. No red light or caution signals coming so far from legislative leaders or the Governor. Still, right now, using another baseball analogy, we've only got the tying runs on, ant we still need some more base hits to win the game.

Batter up!

MADAME SPEAKER ON THE AMP

A baseball park is not the only major project of the Dean administration where it needs some major help from the state. Tennessee must contribute several million dollars as a part of the local match to build the new AMP mass transit project to connect East Nashville to West Nashville via Broadway and West End.

With no final approvals, so far federal officials have been favorable…moving along consideration of the project (Washington has to put in the biggest bucks).  The Metro Council has been favorable too, approving some planning dollars. So far, until, this week, the state seemed OK as well.

But hold on. Based on an interview with WPLN, NASHVILLE PUBLIC RADIO (August 26), powerful House Speaker and Nashville Representative Beth Harwell is expressing serious reservations about state participation, not only because of the size of the state contribution but also given the continuing opposition to the AMP in some neighborhoods along the route.

Uh, oh. It looks like some major work needs to be done by the Dean Team to get Speaker Harwell on board. Without her, the AMP could be stopped dead in its tracks.

CAN'T QUIT SMILING

One thing I am sure Metro and state officials agree on. They can't quit smiling about all the good economic and job news coming to Nashville and the Mid-State.

The latest is the announcement (Wednesday) of a $36.5 million dollar investment in downtown Nashville by UBS, one of the world's largest banking and financial institutions.  The firm plans to create a major shared services center that will create 1,000 new jobs downtown in the next five years!

Wow! This private sector development makes an earlier announcement by the Mayor to move ahead on full redevelopment ($40 million) of the green space areas on both sides of the Cumberland River make even more sense. With more jobs, residents and other projects coming to our city, we need to preserve and enhance our precious remaining green space and further make our river a major player again in our civic and cultural life.

I could not help but think about that when I saw and heard the very positive media and public reaction to the Mayor's plans. I was also reminded about all the criticism a previous mayor took nearly 30 years ago when he decided the city needed a Riverfront Park.

Mayor Richard Fulton had it right and the early seeds he planted, not only along the river bank but in all of downtown, are coming to full fruition as Nashville continues its move to become a world class city.

ONCE THE MOST HATED TENNESSEE REPUBLICAN ALIVE

Republican State Representative Kent Williams of Elizabethon is retiring from the Hill after next year. He says he's rather run for Mayor of Carter County than seek a fifth term.

In January, 2009 Williams became the most hated Republican alive in Tennessee. He cut a deal with the 49 Democrats in the House and got himself elected Speaker. The GOP thought they would be electing another one of their own, Jason Mumpower to that top job, which they hadn't held for years. But while measuring his new office for drapes, neither Mumpower, nor anyone else, picked up on William's political power play until it was too late to stop it.

So angry were Republicans they kicked Williams out of the party and refused to let him run for re-election under their banner. But it didn't matter. Williams easily won re-election twice (2010 & 2012) as an independent (he always said he remained "a Carter County Republican").  I don't know who else is running up there in upper East Tennessee for Carter County Mayor, but I wouldn't bet against Kent Williams for being successful and staying in public service up there.

In 2009, Republicans blamed Kent Williams for everything that they couldn't do or when anything went wrong. Now with their super majorities in both Houses (which could grow still larger next year) now they can only blame themselves if they don't like how things develop. And after next year's session Kent Williams won't even be there anymore to be "kicked around" as Richard Nixon once said.  

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN

The war over charter schools in Nashville is heating up again.

Metro Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register says the (Washington) lawyers the School Board has hired advise him that state's laws authorizing charters are unconstitutional. They say the state is requiring local school boards to spend money on charters but don't provide any extra funds. Does that mean a lawsuit is coming by the Board?

House Speaker Beth Harwell certainly hopes not. She is a big charter supporter (even wants more state control over starting those schools). She wants the State Attorney General to weigh in the constitutionality issue/ But those rulings are merely advisory. Only the courts can make the final determination after such a lawsuit is filed.

Meantime charter school supporters are holding protest demonstrations at the Board of Education saying the Board is not doing enough to create and support such publicly funded, but privately operated schools. Metro officials say such charges are quite odd since Nashville probably has more charters in operation or in the planning stages than any other city in the state (except maybe Memphis.

Mayor Karl Dean is also a big charter supporter. He made perhaps the most telling comments of the week when he told reporters how wonderful it would be if the School Board (and I'd add the charter advocates as well) spent as much time delivering a quality education to every child as they are fighting each other in this matter.

BILLY

It was said many times during Metro Nashville's 50th anniversary celebration.

The city has been so successful because of the leadership and stability of the six mayors we've had over the past five decades. It's true.

But another reason Metro has done so well is because of the strong cadre of department heads we've had managing and delivering city services.

And no one more so than John William (who's ever called him John William anyway) He's Billy" Lynch and he is retiring after 45 years of service including time under all six of Metro's chief executives. In fact, Billy could be called "Mr. Metro Department Head."

He's been the leader of three different city agencies, four if you count his time as chief deputy sheriff under the legendary Fate Thomas. And in several of those departments, Public Works and the Fire Department, he's served more than one stint as the head guy. He's also been the head of Metro Human Resources too…I think it was still called Personnel in those days.

As a reporter, it was sometimes difficult for me to cover Billy. A generation or so back, our families intermarried which is why all the Irish in Nashville seem to be related. They are.

 When I was growing up, Billy was one of my heroes. Heck, he's in my First Communion picture from the Cathedral. He was an altar boy that day. Can you imagine Billy as a sweet little altar boy? Well, never mind. I don't think he was. But he was a heck of an athlete, becoming a star and playing on championship teams at Father Ryan in both basketball and baseball.

But I think football was his best sport. Even today, nearly 50 years later, he is still considered one of the greatest middle linebackers to ever play for the Irish, although they went more by the nickname of Purple Panthers in those days. He played on a Clinic Bowl winning team in 1963, in those days the equivalent of a state championship.

I had the opportunity to have Billy coach me a little when I was in grammar school. Let me tell you, he could be very tough. At the time, I thought he was mean. But maybe he was just disappointed in what a terrible athlete I was and he thought he could "motivate" me to be better. No, it didn't happen. I was blessed with the four Ss (slow, short, skinny and small) and while I love sports, I could never play them (sorry, Billy, you tried)

Whatever he did, playing sports or working for Metro Government, Billy Lynch is a leader and someone who knows how to get things done. That's been true whether it was getting this city cleaned up after its worst disaster ever (and while his own home was damaged by flood waters) or how he managed to get more ambulances on the street when no one could get it done even with tax increases. Billy did it without extra tax dollars.

It's how Billy could successfully run city agencies in which he had no direct expertise. When I first heard he was going to be Fire Chief, I thought to myself, "The only thing Billy knows about a fire is, he doesn't want to have one in his home." That's true, but again, Billy is a leader and knows how to get things done. You can see that when you drive down Church Street or Deaderick Street or across the rebuilt Demonbreun Street viaduct or the new Korean Veterans Blvd just behind the new Music City Center. It's how he got the city's Solid Waste Code revised for the first time ever and without raising the dirty word "landfill."

Finally it's how he accomplished his greatest feat. He re-organized the Metro Fire Department (where everyone really IS related). In summary, you can see why no mayor would want to lose a Billy Lynch to retirement. And so, Mayor Dean has found a way for Billy to "retire" but stay on part time as a consultant to the city on issues regarding the Fire Department, Public Works and what's called "special projects."

I don't think Billy was a relief pitcher when he played baseball. But it seems Metro still has a "stopper" in its bullpen when the Mayor needs help in the later innings of his second term and a department needs a little help as only Billy can give it.

Congratulations on your "retirement", John William "Billy" Lynch! Whatever your retirement turns out to be, this city and its taxpayers are already in your debt for 45 years of service. Thank you!    

A WONDERFUL VACATION

I had a great time last week staying in the North Carolina mountains. It was so relaxing and refreshing. I got to visit all the old haunts I'd missed for health reasons last year and partially the year before. Yeah, I ate too much "bad" food for me, but my blood pressure was very good almost all week and it's still good now that I'm back to work (as low as 98/76 in the morning one day and 112/77 Wednesday night). It was even good (122/80) after Vanderbilt's disappointing late-minute loss to Ole Miss in football. I also had to walk back and forth to the game from where I had park over near the Cathedral Church on West End. It's a trek I couldn't have done this time a year ago.

While Betty Lee and I were in North Carolina last week, we did hour-long workouts at the YMCA in Linville twice. The only odd thing was the Y is located in the same complex as the hospital where I stayed in September of 2011. The hospital pharmacy is directly connected in the same building. I didn't even remember the Y being there. I guess it shows how much my perspectives have changed in the past several months.

Happy Labor Day holiday weekend, everyone!