Chattanooga developer Greg Vital said Friday he plans to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Berke, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Meanwhile, state Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is reconsidering a run for Berke’s Senate seat after the two top House Republican leaders told him they want him remain in the House, where Dean serves as floor leader.
Vital, 56, said he plans to file his qualifying petition next week to run in the 10th Senate District Republican primary in August.
“I waited until Andy made his decision, looked at the map and decided to run for what will be an open seat newly created because of redistricting,” said Vital, who is president of Independent Healthcare Properties in Collegedale.
“Half the district is in Hamilton County and half is in Bradley County and I think I can do an excellent job, having been in both districts.”
The new 10th Senate district leans Republican and Vital said he can bring a fresh business perspective to the Legislature. He is a former executive for Life Care Centers of America in Cleveland who started building assisted living centers, nursing homes and other senior housing projects in 1986.
A trio of Republican-backed state development bills, pushed as efforts to “restore” property rights, has alarmed Metro Council members who allege the legislation would “gut” Nashville’s community-led zoning overlays that guide growth along corridors and in neighborhoods.
So reports the City Paper. More: Mayor Karl Dean opposes the state bills, suggesting they threaten local control, a stance that has positioned him opposite of a usual ally: the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which is lobbying for the anti-regulatory land use legislation. Metro government provides the chamber $300,000 annually for economic development services. But on this issue, the chamber is pitted against Metro.
“[The mayor] cannot support anything that limits the power of local governments to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life of our residents,” Dean’s spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said.
Indeed, Metro leaders contend this legislative endeavor is the latest in a now-undeniable trend of the GOP-dominated state legislature: Use state supremacy to override, even circumvent, the autonomy of local municipalities. Moves seem to be pinpointed specifically toward Democratic-leaning Davidson County.
…The three state zoning bills, introduced by Hermitage-area Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, a former Metro councilman, would dramatically curtail Metro’s capacity to make and enforce zoning decisions, Metro officials say. In doing so, measures hand greater authority to private property owners on planning issues, limiting the reach of local zoning laws that developers have long bemoaned.
Gotto, a one-term legislator up for re-election in November, said his bills are “all about job creation.” For too long, he claims, building and zoning regulations have piled up, creating “layers” of bureaucracy impeding businesses from flourishing.
“It’s a restoration of some property rights,” Gotto said of his legislation, which could go before a subcommittee this week. “The pendulum has swung. We just need to re-balance this a little bit. I’m hoping some good, positive things will come out of this. We’re certainly not trying to shut down planning commissions.”
Collectively, the state bills broaden so-called “grandfather” protections for property owners, shielding them from local zoning laws enacted over time. Critics see the proposed policies as an attack on overlays and “specific plans” — sets of guidelines adopted over the past decade — aimed at improving aesthetics and fostering pedestrian-friendly growth in certain areas.
…One of the bills, HB3696, would apply vested rights to a development permit, overriding 70-plus years of Tennessee common law, according to the legal analysis of Jon Cooper, the Metro Council’s attorney.
…Raising many eyebrows is HB3694, which according to Cooper’s analysis rewrites state statute on “nonconforming property.” …According to Cooper’s analysis, the state proposal would protect all nonconforming property “forever” unless the property owner “intentionally and voluntarily relinquishes them.”
…Chamber officials and Gotto both credit Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s recent “Red Tape” statewide tour — which sought to identify ways “government makes life harder” for small businesses — for identifying zoning hurdles. Gotto’s bills resulted.
“While there are some situations when SPs [specific plans] and overlays are useful and beneficial, I have concerns when SPs and overlays are put on properties either without the knowledge property owners, which has happened in some cases, or against the wishes of the property owner,” Gotto said. “That’s what typically happens when you have these massive zonings and overlays.
A related state bill, HB1345, which Williamson County Republican Rep. Glen Casada has introduced, prohibits a local government from rezoning private property without the consent of affected property owners.
Columbia Mayor Dean Dickey said he will run for the new 28th state Senate district seat created in Tennessee’s redistricting process, reports the Columbia Daily Herald. Dickey joins Democrat Ty Cobb, a Columbia firefighter and former state representative, and Republican state Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald as candidates for the 28th District seat, which will encompass Maury, Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Perry and Wayne counties.
Dickey said his familiarity with all those counties played a role in his decision to run for the seat. He grew up in Giles County, worked in all six counties as business services manager for the Tennessee Career Center and also owned and operated a Giant Foods supermarket in Lawrenceburg
. “So, it just seemed to be a natural (fit), and that’s what got my attention there,” he said. Dickey, who was elected mayor in November 2009, is also a former Columbia city councilman. As mayor, Dickey has made bringing more jobs to the city his main focus.
He said as state senator he would continue to work to improve employment numbers, as well as issues dealing with safety and roads.
“I can do that, and I can be successful,” he said.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean are silent on how much state and local taxpayer money will go toward developing a $50 million “water and snow park” in Nashville, reports the Tennessean. The silence contrasts with the fanfare accompanying the announcement of the plans with Dolly Parton last week at a news conference last week.
“It’s outrageous that they don’t feel any more obligation to let us know how much it’s going to cost us,” said (Ben) Cunningham, who recently started the Nashville Tea Party and previously led a successful campaign to limit Metro government’s ability to raise property
“They’re basically saying, ‘Don’t bother us, we’ve got this photo op with Dolly, and we’ve got to look good for the photo op. We don’t have time for questions about being caretakers of taxpayers’ money.’ Apparently something’s been negotiated.”
…Dean and Haslam said Metro and the state would provide incentives to help with the project, which they touted as a major boon to the tourism industry, with projections of 500,000 visitors in the first year and 450 full- and part-time jobs.
Both elected officials said they couldn’t provide any numbers yet, however. Dave Smith, a spokesman for Haslam, said that wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“In economic development projects, it often happens that it is announced before specific incentives have been finalized,” Smith wrote in an email Friday. “The governor participated because he’s excited about the project and its expected impact on Nashville and Tennessee. The state is prepared to offer infrastructure support to the project, likely through TDOT and/or ECD.”
Redistricting may put more Republicans into state Senate District 10, now held by Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga. If that happens, Republican state Rep. Vince Dean says he’d be interested in seeking the seat, reports Andy Sher.
Berke, meanwhile, says he’d be interested in running for mayor of Chattanooga if things don’t work out for current mayor Ron Littlefield in a recall flap.
Berke is not ruling out running for mayor, although he said Sunday evening his considerations aren’t based on what the 10th District looks like after redistricting next year. Short on people Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Sunday that the 10th District needs more people. The Democratic-leaning district, which includes much of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Marion County, is 16,153 people short of the ideal population of 192,306, based on U.S. Census figures. Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Sunday that the 10th District needs more people.
The Democratic-leaning district, which includes much of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Marion County, is 16,153 people short of the ideal population of 192,306, based on U.S. Census figures.
“Certainly one concept that’s been looked at is can you take the 10th and move it eastward toward Bradley,” Watson said.
“That concept has been looked at, but no decision has been made,” he emphasized.
Taking out Marion County’s 28,237 people, plus the need to add 14,000 to 16,000 people to the 10th, would open an opportunity to add East Ridge and southern Bradley County, both Republican areas.
Dean, a former East Ridge mayor, said he would “certainly explore the possibilities” of a Senate run, but “only after the district lines are finalized.”
“I’m not going to jump out there and say I’m running for a district I haven’t seen,” Dean said.
Berke said he hasn’t seen a map or any proposed lines, but he thinks there’s a constitutional problem with such a redrawing.
“The [Tennessee] Constitution says that you can’t divide counties, and the reason for that is to make sure counties maintain their strength.
“When you divide Bradley County you minimize its ability to speak with one voice,” Berke said. “Any attempt to split Bradley County certainly appears to violate the Constitution and hurts [its residents’] abilities to have power in the legislature.” Note: THe Cleveland Daily Banner has an article on the possibility of Bradley County being split in Senate redistricting. Sen. Mike Bell, who currently represents all of the county, had no comment.
News release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper:
WASHINGTON, D.C – Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced legislation today that would stop congressional pay if Congress fails to pass its budgeted appropriations bills on time.
The bill, which Cooper introduced in the House on Tuesday, would prohibit members from receiving pay after missing deadlines for budget and appropriations bills, and it would not allow for that pay to be recouped retroactively.
“Because America’s credit rating is threatened, Congress cannot afford to be late paying its bills,” Cooper said. “Threatening to stop paying Congress is the surest way to make sure we beat the annual Oct. 1 deadline. Congress must get its work done, or get no paycheck.”
Sen. Heller introduced the No Budget, No Pay Act in the Senate.
“Year after year, Congress has failed to meet its basic budgeting responsibilities. If Nevadans don’t complete the tasks their jobs require, then they don’t get paid. Congress should be no different. If Congress does not do its job, then Congress should not get paid,” Senator Heller said. “I’m pleased to join Rep. Cooper and No Labels in this bipartisan effort to break political gridlock in Washington.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has not passed all its appropriations bills on time since 1997. It has done so a mere four times since 1977.
This summer, Cooper introduced the Stop Pay for Members Act (H.R. 2653), which would halt congressional pay if the country defaults on the national debt. The bill would prohibit members from receiving pay during a default, and would not allow for that pay to be recouped retroactively. The bill, which was referred to the Committee on House Administration, currently has 38 co-sponsors.
Cooper and Heller are both involved with No Labels, a citizen-based organization seeking ways to reform Congress. The No Budget, No Pay Act is one of a dozen proposals the group unveiled today.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will ask state legislators to remove financial barriers so more students can take college courses while in high school, according to The Tennessean. State Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, the House Education chairman, said lawmakers would support Dean’s bill because they want more high school students in dual enrollment and more Tennesseans with degrees, but such measures always come down to money.
Dean’s plan may ask to realign existing lottery dollars to fully cover tuition costs for high schoolers who want to take college classes. The courses are offered more cheaply to high school students while getting them into college earlier, but many still struggle to pay.
During the 2010-11 school year, more than 16,000 Tennessee high school students took dual enrollment courses. Tennessee lottery funds covered $7.2 million of those costs. Eligible high school students can take up to eight college courses in their junior and senior years, with lottery-based HOPE Scholarships paying a portion of dual enrollment tuition for students whose ACT score and grade-point average qualify them.
But if students use the money in high school, the amount paid for dual enrollment will be deducted from their first year in college, which could be a discouragement, officials said.
Corker Says Don’t Worry
Despite high-level warnings to the contrary, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said April’s tornado victims shouldn’t worry about getting long-term disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the Chattanooga TFP. “I don’t see any way people are going to be left hanging,” he said Wednesday.
FEMA Director Craig Fugate told reporters on Monday that money designated for long-term, post-tornado rebuilding projects in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia would be diverted to more immediate needs for Hurricane Irene victims.
Based upon FEMA’s current funding levels — less than $1 billion and running low, officials said — any work orders that aren’t in the pipeline could be at risk unless Congress allocates additional dollars. Already-approved FEMA projects are safe, Fugate said.
Corker, a Republican who routinely criticizes federal intervention and once said “you should never vote ‘no’ on spending reductions,” took a different approach Wednesday while offering few specifics for victims reeling from the tri-state region’s deadliest-ever natural disaster in April. Nashville Flood Buyouts at Risk?
Dozens of Nashville flood victims could face delays in receiving government buyouts after the Federal Emergency Management Agency placed a freeze on long-term disaster relief spending this week on the heels of Hurricane Irene, reports the Tennessean. Metro has completed two rounds of buyouts since the May 2010 flood that pummeled Nashville and its neighboring counties. But three additional rounds of buyouts are still in the application process, and owners of those 118 properties remain in the waiting phase.
Mayor Karl Dean’s spokeswoman, Bonna Johnson, said Metro was working with state and federal officials to determine the impact of the freeze on Metro’s buyout program.
“Mayor Dean is concerned that a freeze in FEMA funding could mean delays in the current buyout program and could limit any future program,” Johnson said.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Congressman Jim Cooper, both Democrats, are publicly appealing to Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell to make sure that the 5th Congressional District isn’t carved up into chunks by the Legislature’s GOP majority. The move is being widely reported in Nashville media..
From the City Paper: In a letter to Harwell, Dean wrote that while Harwell has made a “commitment to a fair, transparent process,” others such as state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney have suggested “Davidson County should be divided to achieve particular political goals.”
Dean makes the case severing Tennessee’s 5th congressional district, held by Cooper and encompassing the bulk of Davidson County, could have harmful economic ramifications.
“Splitting Davidson County would not only divide business interests and industry concerns, but would drive a stake in the heart of a cohesive and diverse (ethnically and politically) social and civic unit,” Dean wrote. “In addition, Davidson County’s role as a regional leader could be significantly diminished.”
Also, Cooper and Dean met jointly with the Tennessean editorial board to elaborate on their concerns over redistricting. And WPLN has a story on the matter, including comments from Harwell and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. Rep. Mike Turner, who is a Democrat like the mayor, says he can’t imagine Republican Congressmen would want more Democrats in their districts, but…
“More power to them. I welcome it because it gives us a chance to take back more seats. So if they’re smart, they’ll try to consolidate on what they got.”
The GOP currently has more seats than ever in Tennessee, controlling seven of the state’s nine Congressional Districts. With majorities in the state legislature, Republicans are also in charge of redrawing political boundaries.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican, says outside input is important, but she notes the political interests.
“I know that Congressman Cooper is worried about his job. I understand that. But the bottom line is this is a state’s responsibility. This is an issue of state’s rights.”
Mayor Karl Dean coasted to re-election Thursday but saw voters reject his vision of a redeveloped fairgrounds, reports Michael Cass in a rundown on Nashville’s city elections. Dean’s political strength also wasn’t enough to unseat three councilmen who frequently opposed his major initiatives. He had supported challengers, two of whom were defeated while only one made it into a runoff.
Dean won 79 percent of the vote against a field of three mostly unknown candidates to earn a second four-year term. At the same time, voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment that will make it more difficult to do something else with the 117-acre Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
Turnout was just 19.7 percent, slightly better than the last time an incumbent mayor sought re-election in 2003. More than 50,000 people voted for Dean.
Dean shrugged off the fairgrounds result, noting that he didn’t try to fight it while focusing on his re-election campaign.
….Voters opted to stick with council incumbents Duane Dominy and Jason Holleman over the challengers Dean had endorsed. Mayoral pick Page Turner was able to force a runoff election in six weeks with Antioch-area Councilman Robert Duvall.
The council also will have some new members whose allegiance to the mayor is tough to predict, such as Tony Tenpenny, who upset Councilwoman Anna Page in the Woodbine area of South Nashville; Burkley Allen, a neighborhood activist from the Hillsboro-West End area; Jason Potts, a fairgrounds supporter who defeated incumbent Jim Hodge in a southeast Nashville-Antioch district; and Sheri Weiner, a conservative who won an open seat in Bellevue.