Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 24, 2014

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 24, 2014

CREATED Jan 31, 2014


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

January 24, 2014



As the pace of the General Assembly continues to quicken after lawmakers finish the second week of this year's term, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey joins us on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend.

If it's going to happen (or not happen) on the Hill this year the Senate Speaker will always be in the middle of it one way or another. So we will talk about all the hot topics (wine in grocery stores, the continuing war on meth, new gun laws, TennCare expansion, even lawmakers changing the constitution to restrict abortion, pick judicial nominees, the Attorney General, maybe even U.S. Senate candidates). And there are also all the education issues to discuss (vouchers, charter schools, Common Core, textbook selection).

Like him or not, Lt. Governor is pretty plain spoken on these topics (and others). I think you will find our interview quite interesting.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network. Those times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday and 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 it 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!


Metro's ongoing "education wars" found evidence of both conflict and peace in recent days.

First let's talk about the peace. After squabbling for weeks about how to fund the purchase of $6 million in technology so Metro Schools could buy new computers to prepare for the new Common Core standards and new state standardized tests, a brokered settlement was hammered out between school officials and the administration of Mayor Karl Dean. It appeared Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling brokered the deal.

Rather taking the funds out of reserves (which the Mayor opposed) instead the monies will (Metro Council consenting) come out of an increase in the city's pending Capital plan. The Council postponed consideration of the proposal last Tuesday and it won't come up again until the next Council meeting the first Tuesday in February.

With the Mayor and school officials now concurring on this funding plan, I would think Council approval is pretty certain. I'd also bet Council members are relieved so they no longer have to be caught in the middle as some council members (Bo Mitchell) wanted lawmakers to approve the School Board taking the funding out of reserves in defiance of the Mayor. Now, for the first time in recent months, there is a bit of agreement if not full harmony between Bransford Avenue and the Courthouse.

But there continues to be war among those supporting and those questioning the role of charter schools. Public comments made by the state official (Chris Barbic)heading up an effort to take Tennessee's most struggling schools and revive them as charter operations set off a fire storm of criticism in both mainstream and social media platforms. The issue was the proper role of charters in nurturing diversity and desegregation in public education and whether they should mirror the progress of the last 60 years or merely reflect the often still segregated neighborhoods where charters might be located.

As usual there was much consternation and a few attacks on and from both sides, (even the leadership of State House Democrats and the Black Caucus got involved), but nothing much was resolved.


It's been the coldest winter I can remember in Nashville in recent years. When temperatures are frigid like this, many folks warm their hearts around the old "hot stove league" and pin for coming of spring and the beginning of baseball season.

This year there's a reason to be even more excited with approval of plans to build a new professional baseball park back at the historic home for that sport in this city, the old Sulphur Dell just north of the State Capitol.

While anyone planning an outdoor groundbreaking event for the dead of winter at the end of January is surely tempting fate and Mother Nature, it just can't be helped if you want to play games in the new park by April, 2015.

And so making the best of it, groundbreaking ceremonies are set for 3:00 p.m., Monday, January 27 on site (near Fifth Avenue North & Jackson Street). Those activities will be followed by a family fun festival including free refreshments and baseball-themed activities for kids. Major League Baseball superstar Albert Pujols (one of my favorites from his days with the St. Louis Cardinals) will be present as well.

Sounds like a lot of fun, although I hope Mayor Karl Dean gets to use the shovels on site that day to move some dirt, not snow.


Nashville took time this week to mark the fifth anniversary of an important day in our city's history. It was January 22, 2008 when voters rejected by a resounding 57% to 43% margin an "English Only" referendum which would have required Metro government to do business in English.

This city would have become the largest community in the nation to have such a requirement. Mayor Dean says he thinks of much of the progress we've seen in Nashville becoming a world class city and a national brand in the last few years would not have occurred had voters decided the other way.

One local leader who supported the "Nashville for All of Us" effort, which along with the Mayor and the Nashville Chamber defeated the English Only effort, was long time civil rights and community activist, Rabbi Randall Falk. Rabbi Falk, a founding member of the Metro Human Relations Commission, passed away this week. He was a man championing an open, inclusive community in the early days of lunch counter sit-ins and movement marches back in 1960s, when such activities and ideas were not nearly as popular or supported as they are today.

The timing of the 5th anniversary event was moved back a bit so as not to conflict with the Rabbi's funeral services. It was a fitting action. I am sure somewhere in spirit Randall Falk was present at the celebration. The Rabbi lived a life that was an example to us all of how we should promote an open and inclusive society. That's something we should celebrate and emulate not just every five years, but every day.


After the flurry of activity last week concerning the upcoming 2015 Metro Mayor's race I have gotten some very interesting feedback, quite a bit of which is not for direct attribution to the people who told me.

First, in response to the article in the GCA Publishing newspapers (THE GREEN HILLS NEWS and others) that Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors leads a name recognition poll among possible mayoral candidates, I am told that while she has shown little public interest in a race so far, that may have been more about the heavy demands she's had in the public sector job (Vanderbilt) she holds. Now I am told those demands may be easing, leaving her the opportunity to assess such a race. Does that mean she'll run? That's as yet undetermined. Stay tuned.

The other fallout from the GCA article is that several political sources believe it is suspect because of the close friendship between the author (GCA Publisher Gary Cuningham) and Nashville businessman Bill Freeman, another rumored mayoral candidate and who received glowing comments about how he fits the model of what Nashvillians say they want in the next mayor.

Meanwhile former Nashville Scene editor Bruce Dobie (now writing a periodic column in THE TENNESSEAN) adds more possible mayoral names to the mix, including former Deputy Governor and Nashville healthcare executive Stuart Brunson (who I've mentioned too), along with Nashville Entreprenuer Center chief Michael Burcham and Metro Councilman Carter Todd.

The name of Charles Robert Bone, an attorney and general counsel to the Metro Convention Center Authority also continues to resonant in mayoral speculation. More than one source tells me the younger Bone (his father is also a well-known attorney and Democratic fundraiser) says he can put up to a half million dollars to start a campaign and has a plan to raise another million within the next year. Impressive! That would make him a player in the race, if saying becomes doing.

According to Dobie (and my sources too) both former school board chair David Fox and charter school developer Jeremy Kane are both close to final decisions about jumping into the race and both appear poised to say yes.

One advantage Kane is revealing to potential supporters (as he makes the rounds) is the close personal relationship he has with two very nationally prominent folks, Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former First Lady, Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That relationship began through Kane dating Chelsea Clinton while both attended Stanford and it has continued over the years.

As for District Attorney Torry Johnson (I apologize for misspelling his first name last week), his retirement announcement continues to spark speculation of a 2015 mayoral bid. What I am hearing is that while doesn't plan to do anything to stop speculation, his focus on the future seems more in academia rather than another elected office.

As for who replaces Torry Johnson as DA (that election is in May and August), his endorsed successor, Assistant D.A. Rob McGuire has hit the campaign trail running hard. He has a reception (read fund raiser) set for January 30 with a host committee that looks stronger than political green onions including Johnson and a number of other county officials, council members, state representatives and even a couple of those potential mayoral candidates, along with lots of political activists. At least one other potential candidate (attorney and former assistant DA Glenn Funk) has drawn qualifying papers but he has not yet filed them. McGuire has done so.

Recent days have also seen new activity in the open 201 5 vice mayor's race. Former Councilman At Large and mayoral candidate David Briley indicates to THE NASHVILLE SCENE he plans to run therefore possibly taking on long time Councilman and one-time State Representative Tim Garrett who said some months back he planned to enter the race.

It's a busy time to be sure.


This week's Metro Council meeting (January 31) seemed to be an effort to keep all things equal in terms of chickens and beer. Now that's not a food and beverage statement, rather it refers to efforts allow local residents in all Metro Council districts to keep a limited amount of fowl in their yards (before some parts of the county were exempted). Meanwhile in separate legislation, grocery stores are now to be allowed to sell beer on Sundays beginning at 10 A.M. Before only restaurants and the Titans could do that.

There was a time in years past (when blue laws were on the books and city living was, well, more citified) such proposals would have created some huge controversies. But, apparently, that's not so in case, as the definition of urban living in our town continues to evolve.