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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, December 6, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, December 6, 2013

CREATED Dec 6, 2013

CAPITOL VIEW
By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
December 6, 2013

A NEW MAYORAL NAME FOR 2015; ONE CANDIDATE OUT/ ANOTHER LOOKING FOR A REMATCH; NEW DELL DONE DEAL; TWIN TOWERS; MORE ACA FALLOUT; PASTOR IN CHIEF ON INSIDE POLITICS; IN MUCH BETTER VOICE

A NEW MAYORAL NAME FOR 2015

Former deputy governor and Nashville health care (Aid & Assist At Home) executive Stuart Brunson is the newest name on the rumor circuit as a potential Nashville mayoral candidate in 2015. Actually his name is not a completely new one. I found a 2010 NASHVILLE SCENE  article (yes, even before  Mayor Karl Dean was re-elected) placing him on a long laundry list of folks to watch in 2015.

Brunson was Deputy Governor under Phil Bredesen and keeps close ties with the former governor and mayor. I understand Brunson has family ties that could help him partially self- finance his campaign if needed, much as benefited Mayor Dean in 2007. Along with his business experience, Brunson has past political campaign ties to Al Gore and he worked with master fund raiser, the late Johnny Hayes so he knows his way around generating financial support politically.

Brunson's question marks will be his relative youth (early 40s) and lack of name recognition among voters. To my knowledge he's also not been that involved in Metro politics. But his Bredesen connection could be key. It's widely thought the former mayor and governor has been looking for a candidate to support especially if Nashville businessman Bill Freeman decides to run for Mayor as well. Let's just say Bredesen and Freeman do not like each other much (if at all). It was thought Bredesen's mayoral candidate was Stuart McWhorter (after all Dave Cooley was introducing him around everywhere a few months ago). But   McWhorter has decided that family considerations will keep him on the political sidelines in 2015, so Bredesen (and Cooley) may be looking for a 2015 partner.

ONE CANDIDATE OUT/ ANOTHER LOOKING FOR A REMATCH

Family considerations were also a reason why Metro Councilman Jason Holleman announced recently he is dropping his race for State Senate in 2014 to replace the retiring Douglas Henry. But frankly, Holleman's fund raising numbers have been disappointing,  running 4 to 1 behind fellow attorney and Democrat Jeff Yarbro, who nearly  upset Henry in the primary in August, 2010.  

So Holleman is gone leaving political activist Mary Mancini to oppose Yarbro (the Republicans have still not fielded a candidate in this decidedly Democratic district). Will Mancini be a player? Until we see her fund raising abilities it's too early to say and she only got in the race a couple months back. It does appear, for now, that  Yarbro has a major money advantage. But a State Senate race is one that hard work and shoe leather can also make a difference and Mancini is known as a hard worker. So Yarbro shouldn't get over confident and sleep on Mancini or where he might think he is (way ahead) with the primary still eight months away.   

When that Senate race began to develop earlier this year (within days after Senator Henry announced his retirement) it was thought it was to be the hottest 2014 race in the county. It may still develop into that. But if not, the state legislative race in South Nashville featuring incumbent Democrat (and resigning Metro Councilman) Darren Jernigan and former Metro Councilman and republican state representative Jim Gotto may fit into that role (even if it's in November not August).

Jernigan narrowly ousted Gotto from office in 2012 and it's been rumored there might be a rematch. But a few days ago, Gotto first announced he was holding a fund raiser with help from top state GOP legislative leaders (including House Speaker Beth Harwell). But he wouldn't commit about whether he planned to run for the State House or seek to go back to the Metro Council in 2015. Well, you can't hold a fundraiser and not declare your intentions publicly (and name a treasurer). So Gotto came back and has committed to the General Assembly race. 

Gotto's indecision is a bit curious. Until recently he's served on the Davidson County Election Commission and therefore should be very familiar with campaign laws, rules and regulation. The key factor in the Gotto- Jernigan race could well be turnout. Jernigan won in a presidential election year when turnout (especially among Democrats) is usually higher. 2014 is off-presidential election cycle. Usually that means  lower turnout overall and that might be particularly true even in Nashville as the state Democratic Party does not appear to be poised to field competitive candidates in the statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate. But Representative Jernigan is a hard worker. He'll do all he can to try and make up for the weak state party effort if he needs to do that.   

NEW DELL DONE DEAL

While the winning run won't cross home plate until next Tuesday night's (December 10) special Metro Council meeting, Nashville is returning to its professional baseball roots and building a new ball park in the historic Sulphur Dell area in North Nashville near downtown and the State Capitol.

That all became clear after the administration of Mayor Karl Dean and other ball park supporters managed to overcome a couple of political obstacles before the Council's second reading vote (December 3). Those challenges threatened to take the project off the fast track and possibly retire the side without a new park happening.

It's can be hard to get the Council to agree on anything (even the time of day) if it takes a two-thirds vote (27). Yet that's what was needed to make sure the proposal was properly placed in the city's Capital Planning Budget. Like a towering Babe Ruth homer (the Bambino played at the old Sulphur Dell back in the 1920s) approval was nevertheless gained easily with 30 green lights of approval on the Council scoreboard.

Then there was the challenge that to ensure the local team, the Nashville Sounds, had enough financial "skin" in the game. So  to "protect taxpayers", there was an amendment offered that if the team owners didn't build a proposed private development next to the park (which isn't required in the plan) then the Sounds would have to pay liquefied damages each year in the amount of the estimated property taxes anticipated from the development. Those funds are needed to keep the city's cost of paying for the park lower.

Ball park supporters called the amendment a "poison pill" and a "lack of faith" in the team. It was easily defeated, although team owners did agree to offer a deadline for when their private residential/ retail development would begin or they would sell that part of the project to some other developer or let the city do that.

And so following the third and final reading vote next Tuesday, it will be on to the final property studies and financial closings for Metro and its private partners, sealing in victory a deal that looked all but dead just a few months ago and which raced through the Council with a speed any major league base stealer would envy.

Now comes an even more challenging schedule, getting the ball park built and ready for play by Opening Day (April), 2015. Will Mother Nature be as cooperative as the Metro Council and the State of Tennessee which is also a partner in the plan?

TWIN TOWERS

It was another good week overall for the Dean administration in terms of downtown redevelopment. After getting several interested groups to submit proposals, the city announced it is entering into final contract discussions with a team that will transform the old convention center site (at 5th & Broad) into a more than 1 million square development, featuring office, retail and hospitality/ restaurant space.  It could also include the long planned National Museum of African American Music.

Renderings show the development of what would be something of a twin tower (up to 28 stories tall) nearly matching in size (30 stories) the existing Renaissance hotel and office development next door. Getting this property redeveloped fills a big hole for the Dean Team which has been looking for a major project to be done here after efforts to create a Medical Mart on the site never got off the ground.

There was a little bad (but not unexpected) news this week as well. Because of the condemnation lawsuit verdict that went against the city in acquiring a key piece of property for the new Music City Center, the overall budget for that project was busted to the tune of $13 million. But greater than expected tourist and visitors taxes are covering that overage and the city can crow a little that actual construction costs for the Center came in $ 7 million below budget. There was also word that the Center has already generated more $43 million in economic impact since it opened earlier this year.

Still the naysayers are already out predicting the busted budget number is just the beginning of bad news for taxpayers. But that's probably premature until it's clear how the new Center does in its first full year or two in meeting predicted room night sales and the tax revenues needed to cover the Center's operating costs and debt.      

Nashville remains a hot city for development. But apparently not yet "hot" enough for Ikea who reportedly has been looking for some time at coming here (Bellevue and the Gulch were possible locations). Instead a new Ikea store is being built in St. Louis (NASHVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, December 5), leaving the company's closest location to Nashville still in Atlanta.

MORE ACA FALLOUT

If the problems for the administration of President Barack Obama in implementing the new Affordable Care Act merely surrounded a bad web site, there might be a light ahead in the deep, dark tunnel they've dug themselves into. Last Monday (December 2) some 29,000 people signed up for new health insurance. That's more in one day than the entire first month the faulty web site was "open for business" during October.

But there are still issues about how many folks will still sign up before deadlines kick in as well as the mix of that population (young and well versus older and more sickly) so the health plan has some chance to work financially.

And then there is the new law suit accepted for review by the Supreme Court challenging the Affordable Care Act on constitutional (religious liberty) grounds. It will be next summer before a verdict is rendered on that and in the meantime the President is likely still going to be working on repairing his job approval and overall credibility numbers which are at all -time lows after he misled the public about being able to keep their existing health insurance policies if they liked them. That hasn't proven to be the case in some circumstances.

And there seems to be even more difficulties arising for companies who provide their employees with health insurance (as opposed to those seeking personal health coverage on the national website and state insurance exchanges). Large premium increases are being imposed with other changes in coverage and deductibles. It could a be a long holiday season and new year for the President on this issue.

PASTOR IN CHIEF ON INSIDE POLITICS

This week on INSIDE POLITICS we have as our guest someone who has developed a very unique and special relationship with President Obama.

He's Joshua DuBois, and he's been a spiritual advisor to Mr. Obama since he was a candidate. He's also a native of Nashville and now the author of a new book which includes a collection of the daily inspirational notes he has sent to the nation's Chief Executive by e-mail, including scripture verses, devotionals and other materials for him to reflect on. I think you'll find what he has to say very interesting and insightful.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network. Those 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. on Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2. 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. So it no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live. It's very easy to see us now live! Log on and tune in!

IN MUCH BETTER VOICE

I had another doctor's appointment this week (Vanderbilt Voice Clinic) and I got more good reviews. Not long after he walked into the examination room, my doctor was telling me how much better I looked and how much stronger and richer my voice sounded compared to my last appointment a few months ago.

So drinking more water works! And that means I'll be drinking even more H2O in the weeks to come because I know I am still not drinking enough every day. It probably means I'll become one of those folks who walks around all the time swigging a water bottle. I've kind of always thought those folks were a bit geeky. Well, I guess I am going to be one (note to family: put a water bottle on my Christmas and/or birthday gift list).

My singing voice has improved but it's still not back to where it was pre stroke and may never be, although I am hoping over time, and by drinking even more water, it will be. The doctor says I could get a voice coach to help me, but I think that's a bit much for me since I now only sing in the shower, the car and in church.

Meantime, excuse me I need to drink a little more water. You should too!