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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 25, 2014

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, April 25, 2014

CREATED Apr 25, 2014

CAPITOL VIEW

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

April 25, 2014

THE POLITICAL BIG LEAGUES; IT JUST KEEPS GETTING CURIOUSER; KEEPING A PROMISE WHILE STOKING SPECULATION; DINNER CHAIR; BIGGER THAN YOU THINK; WATCH THIS; COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; 40 OR 50 YEARS, MAN

THE POLITICAL BIG LEAGUES

Nashville has made the first cut (down to 15 cities) to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Are we ready in terms of facilities and hotel rooms? I think so.

Are we ready in terms of financing and timing? I am not sure, but we will likely find out by June 6 when we have to submit local plans for how we would stage and help pay for this massive, (only-two-of-kind- every- four years) political gathering.

So what does the host city have to put up? Media reports say “upwards of $60 million.” WOW! That’s a lot. It’s not the kind of money Metro has sitting around free to spend in its annual budget or from its savings accounts. But I assume Mayor Karl Dean must have something in mind to make it work or he and the city’s Tourist and Convention officials wouldn’t be getting into the game even this far. But with the AMP and other projects already in the pipeline for the city, it sure beats me how it might be funded. Maybe a good bit of the money will come from private sources too. But any significant amount of public dollars would seem to be a stretch to find to me.

Hosting the Convention would definitely put the city on the world stage like it’s never been before (and it would generate millions for the city’s economy). But the timing is interesting and maybe tricky in a couple of ways. By the summer of 2016 if we host the Democratic Convention, we’ll have a new mayor and a new Council (with probably well over half its members being rookies). Also would we host the Convention if we had the chance to get some other large gatherings with definite dates? (Nashville has already turned down bidding to host the GOP convention for this very reason.)

The national Democrats can probably give the city some possible windows of dates when the Convention might be here, subject to the rest of their overall nominating schedule and subject what the Republicans do. And that’s getting tricky than usual this cycle. The GOP thinks compacting their nominating cycle would help them in 2016, so they may want to stage their convention as early as June or July (the party out of power usually goes first). So does that leave the Democrats in August or early September? And (for network TV coverage) how does that mesh with the Summer Olympics?

For Nashville, how many different sets of dates (and other possible conventions) do we want to put on hold while waiting for the Democrats to decide (a host city is expected to be chosen late this year or in early 2015)?

If you look at the list of the convention finalists, you can see Nashville is now truly playing in the political big leagues, vying with a number of cities who’ve hosted national party conventions numerous times (Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit) along with some, like Music City, looking to break into the big time (Indianapolis, Columbus, Phoenix, Salt Lake City among others). All have their selling points. But as a brand, nobody’s hotter than “The It City” and 2016 might be our best shot ever to host, although clearly political considerations for the party, the potential candidate (Hillary Clinton?) and the Obama White House could all play some major role in the selection process (and none of these folks would seem to have any reason to favor Nashville).

Being a blue island in a very red political state might help us (as it reportedly did Charlotte in 2012) but the continued conflict between Metro and state officials could also get into the mix, along with an interesting statement by national Democratic leaders that “because of significant security and construction related issues we also look for a city with strong relationships with organized labor and those they represent.” Given the seeming context of that comment, it would appear that’s aimed more at construction trades, but the state’s on-going controversy and fight with the United Auto Workers would not seem a plus for Nashville even though it’s been focused in Chattanooga.

IT JUST KEEPS GETTING CURIOUSER

The UAW/ Volkswagen union controversy has experienced many unexpected twists and turns in the past several weeks, but nothing like the literal last-second change of plans by the Union this past Monday (April 21). That’s when they hanked their appeal of the worker vote they narrowly lost some weeks back to organize the Chattanooga plant, cancelling a hearing by the National Labor Relations Board just moments before it was supposed to convene.

The UAW had put on quite a PR and media publicity campaign before it backed off, including asking for subpoenas to be issued for Senator Bob Corker, Governor Bill Haslam and lots of other state officials claiming their efforts had unfairly blocked a fair vote for the VW employees (and therefore the need for a re-vote).

Senator Corker and Governor Haslam denied they had done anything improper. Now the Governor says he is eager to get back into negotiations with VW concerning a potential major expansion by VW in Chattanooga. An earlier $300 million “incentive” plan for the automaker got more than a little embroiled in all the controversy, since it appeared to some the proposal (before it was pulled) was tied to the state being satisfied with the resolution of the union matter (i.e., rejected).

Governor Haslam is rejecting calls by the UAW to reinstate the incentive, this time without qualifications, but clearly the focus of both sides is now on what VW will decide about the expansion. It also seems clear that the Union was perhaps concerned with appeals like the one it filed might take years to resolve. Therefore maybe that’s why the Union dropped it , lest it be blamed if the new jobs and expanded facilities went elsewhere.

But the UAW is not going away, not at all. It says it is still looking at new means to organize the VW plant and don’t forget those earlier reports (from anti-union groups) that VW may just cut to the chase and recognize the UAW based on the number of cards already signed and turned in in favor of unionizing.

Meanwhile (to keep the PR machine humming?) the UAW says it will increase its focus on a Democratically-led Congressional investigation of the failed union vote. That’s bound to generate more news stories and publicity if hearings of some kind are held, although with Republicans in control of the full U.S. House it’s hard to see much else resulting.

Late in the week this UAW/ VW story continued to unfold as NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES reported new leaked documents it has obtained that cast serious doubt on the story the Haslam administration has told about how it offered (then withdrew) that $300 million incentive offer.

Senator Lamar Alexander also jumped into the process telling reporters (MEMPHIS FLYER April 24) that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are looking to submit legislation to “restructure” the NLRB. Alexander has been critical of the board for some time believing it tilts toward unions. Alexander also was part of a successful lawsuit a few months back that challenged President Obama’s recess appointments to the agency.

KEEPING A PROMISE WHILE STOKING SPECULATION

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Nashville next Monday (April 28). His presence is not only keeping a promise, it’s likely stoking more speculation about the city’s upcoming 2015 mayoral race.

Mr. Clinton is friends with Jeremy Kane, the founder of LEAD Academy, our city’s first and only charter high school. When the school opened in 2007, the former President promised he’d come speak to the school’s first commencement if all the seniors graduated and were accepted to attend four-year colleges.

Well, all 44 students did their jobs (several are the first in their families to go to college). And so, Mr. Clinton will uphold his end of the bargain by coming to speak and attending a reception. What a great feel good story, especially about a topic (charter schools) we so often fight about it about in this community.

But Mr. Clinton’s appearance here is also raising eyebrows about any potential role he might play in the 2015 Nashville’s Mayor’s race. Kane has been strongly considering a run for the open seat and he told THE TENNESSEAN “Clinton has encouraged him to run” (April 22).

Clearly having help from the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Tennessee (1992 & 1996) could be a big boost for Kane. But he has not yet announced his mayoral decision (I hear it will come in May or June). So a fundraiser by Mr. Clinton on behalf of Kane will have come another day perhaps.

But the former President is still having a fund raiser while he’s in Nashville on Monday. It’s for his own presidential foundation and it’s reportedly being held (TENNESSEAN, April 23) at the home of prominent Nashville business leader and former Democratic State Party Finance official Bill Freeman. Freeman has been a major political fundraiser in the state, especially for President Obama. Now the GCA NEWS (April 23) speculates Freeman may also be asked to head up Hillary Clinton’s money efforts in Tennessee for her still unannounced presidential bid in 2016.

Oh and by the way, Bill Freeman is also strongly eyeing a race for Mayor next year. Hmmmm…..

All this ought to really stir the local political gossip pot!

DINNER CHAIR

Another upcoming political fund raising event in Nashville may be causing some heartburn. Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn is the Dinner Chair for the annual Statesmen Dinner, one of the major annual money raising efforts for the state Republican Party.

Given the reports I’ve seen from a party official’s blast invitation e-mail, the event appears to be on track to be “record breaking” in terms of sales for the May 30 gala.

Maybe that’s because it’s an election year and Republicans are expecting to do very well, re-electing both Senator Lamar Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam as well as maintaining (if not expanding) the super majorities the GOP holds in both houses of the General Assembly and in the Tennessee U.S. House delegation.

But not everyone is happy, especially party conservatives (and Tea Party supporters). That’s because New Jersey Governor and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is the Dinner’s keynote speaker. Conservatives see Christie as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) candidate and I can see expressions of their unhappiness with him in various places on social media and elsewhere.

I am sure Congressman Blackburn must be hearing it too, since conservatives are such a major part of her political base and she is chairing the Dinner. Ouch! What may make the conservatives even more ill (given Christie’s appearance) is the theme for the event: “Blueprint for a Red Nation.”

BIGGER THAN YOU THINK

One consistent comment I hear from all the campaigns for candidates in the May 6 primary is how low early voter turnout is. And compared to our last election (the presidential vote in November, 2012), they are spot on.

But vote totals are always highest when we vote for president. And believe or not, THE TENNESSEAN reports (April 23) early vote numbers so far (through the first six days) are up compared to the last time we voted on all these judicial posts back eight years ago (2006).

But no matter how you count them numerically it’s hard to get excited about early voter turnout which was just 1,762 through April 22. In 2006, it was 1,252 through the first six days.

Maybe it’s the size and complexity of the ballot or maybe voters just don’t care or think these positions are very important (they are wrong, they are important). But, except for folks involved in the legal community, they don’t come out to vote in these kinds of primaries. Now the vote numbers will improve in size next week as the satellite early voting locations open up (and on some nights they may even stay open after regular working hours). But you better hurry. The last day to early vote is May 1 (Thursday).

WATCH THIS

Here’s a story you need to watch when the 109th Tennessee General Assembly convenes next January. It could not only “grow legs” as we say in the media, but it could also attract some horns.

Our federal Highway Trust Fund is near bankrupt. Our state gas tax monies are trending down as fuel economies improve. So how will the Tennessee Department of Transportation keep up and build our roads?

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer recently told a regional transportation planning group in Knoxville (KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL April 24) that we need to replace our “archaic system” with “some sort of usage fee using how many miles you travel and how much your vehicle weighs. “ The Commissioner claims according to the story, “cars can travel on roads constantly and do no damage. Commercial rigs cause all the damage to the road surface.” That spells big trouble he predicts because “Tennessee will see a 25% increase in overall vehicle travel and a 64% hike in commercial truck travel” in the years to come.

Assuming Governor Haslam is on board with his Commissioner, does that mean the second Haslam administration will seek to redo or scrap the current state gas tax and replace it with the kind of usage fee system mentioned by John Schroer? Are those trucker air horns I hear off in the distance as they line up their rigs to drive around the State Capitol in protest (ala the State Income Tax Horn-Honkers of a few years ago)?

COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. There’ll always lots to discuss with him, although I must say looking over my question list. I’ve got a lot more foreign policy related matters than I’ve had in a while (Cooper is on the House Armed Services Committee). And, of course, there’s local and state politics to discuss too, like the AMP.

Cooper is also very concerned about Congress’ lack of action on immigration reform; how Veterans Administration employees not doing their jobs goes well beyond just a recent case here in Nashville; and how the city’s long-delayed effort to build a new Federal Courthouse is now endangering public safety downtown. Watch us!

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include 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.

40 OR 50 YEARS, MAN

We are celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary this weekend. My wife Betty Lee and I will be husband and wife for 40 years come Sunday, April 27. In some ways it’s hard to believe four decades have passed, but we’ve got the two grown children, the two grandkids, the mortgage (almost paid off), and the multiple dogs, grand dogs, cats, cars and all the other things that are part of your life as you get older. We also still love each other!

One thing we weren’t when we got married was old. We were 22. Seemed pretty old to me at the time but it was less than year out of college and looking back I am not sure why we didn’t more push back from our parents, although my mother in law did keep telling us to “elope.”

Age sure wasn’t an excuse I could use with my children who were a few more years into their 20s before they went down the aisle. I not sure either of us at the time really appreciated what a commitment to another person for 40 years or more would mean.

In fact, watching a movie (the 1972 film, THE HEARTBREAK KID by Neil Simon) we laughed about it. We had just started thinking about getting married and we found one of the characters (Jeannie Berlin) to be hilarious. She kept telling her new husband (Charles Grodin) over and over again on their honeymoon how they would be married “40 or 50 years, man!” It kind of freaked out her new husband who had serious commitment issues anyway and he winds up leaving her while still on their honeymoon to chase the new love of his life ( Cybill Sheperd). Long story short, that didn’t work out either.

The film was quite successful with the critics. It’s ranked #91 on the American Film Institute’s list of the funniest American movies ever made while THE NEW YORK TIMES declared it to be “a first-class American comedy, as startling in its way as was THE GRADUATE.” Both Jennie Berlin and Eddie Albert (who played Cybill Sheperd’s father) were nominated for Best Supporting Oscars.

The line that endures from the movie is: “There’s no deceit in the cauliflower.” But for Betty Lee and I the line we will never forget is “40 or 50 years, man!” We laughed about it again and again over the years.

I think we’ll try and find THE HEARTBREAK KID and watch it again. Or we may watch the remake done in 1999 starring Ben Stiller and Malin Akerman. We’re also taking a trip to Boston soon where my wife grew up and where a team named the Red Sox play (you knew there’d be a baseball angle in here somewhere).

Speaking of Boston, this special anniversary made me do some research on the date of April 27. In 1773, this is the day Parliament passed the Tea Act (and that ultimately led to the Boston Tea Party). April 27 is also when Beethoven composed “Fur Elise” (1810); U.S. Marines conducted their first amphibious invasion (1805), which give inspiration to “the shores of Tripoli” lyrics of the Marine Hymn; (1667) a destitute John Milton sold the rights to “Paradise Lost” for only 10 pounds. And finally, on the very day we were married in 1974, 10,000 people marched in Washington demanding Richard Nixon resign as President. On an unrelated matter, Betty Lee and I flew into D.C. that very night to begin our honeymoon (not very romantic huh?)

But 40 years later we’ve somehow made it together! She’s a saint for sure to put up with me (especially with my health issues the last few years). But I’d sure do it all over again! I love you, Betty Lee! 40 or 50 years, man!