A Chicago-based real estate services firm that recommended Tennessee government unload six state-owned office buildings will benefit financially as the state moves to lease new space in the private market, reports Andy Sher. According to state General Services Department documents, Jones Lang LaSalle is poised to take 4 percent off the top on deals with private companies for leased office space in Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis.
Hired as a consultant to review and assess 33 state-owned buildings, Jones Lang LaSalle last year recommended closing five “old and obsolete” state buildings. The list included the 59-year-old State Office Building at 400 McCallie Ave. in Chattanooga and the nearby James R. Mapp Building, which is newer. Both buildings require expensive repairs; the firm said it would be cheaper to build new or move into leased space than renovate.
Then last month, the General Services Department quietly inked a five-year contract with Jones Lang LaSalle to manage and maintain all state property overseen by the department as well as leasing.
“We do not see a conflict of interest,” said Kelly K. Smith, General Services’ assistant commissioner for communications. “The services were publicly procured through an open bid process that was approved by the State Building Commission.”
The department employs 126 people for the duties that Jones Lang LaSalle will assume July 1. The employees will lose their state jobs but can apply for work with the firm, although there is no guarantee they will be hired.
Jones Lang LaSalle beat out CBRE United States for the contract, Smith said.
Smith also noted that Jones Long LaSalle recommended the state build and own new space in Chattanooga as opposed to leasing commercial space because it was cheaper.
“However, the state evaluated their proposal and decided to move forward with the leasing option,” Smith said.
The State Office Building (former Interstate Life Building) and the Mapp Building collectively required $15.8 million of capital investment to continue operations. Yet both would have been functionally obsolete and expensive to operate.
…Smith said General Services chose the leasing route for several reasons, including that it “offered greater flexibility to meet the needs of our clients/tenants.”
Jones Lang LaSalle estimated that over 20 years, the state would save $28.4 million on a new, smaller, more efficient building in Chattanooga. Leasing is expected to save $18.4 million over the same period, according to a February report by the firm.
…What employees think they’re seeing from Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and especially from Cates “is an execution of a certain political philosophy, which is privatization” of what many think of as public functions, McConnell said.
But he said he’s skeptical that privatization is always a big cost saver.
“The prime goal [for the private contractor] is to make a dollar, and every decision they have to make about what they’re going to do has to be filtered through that.”
The state is outsourcing the management of its portfolio of its office properties, a move that will require about 125 employees to apply for jobs with the vendor taking over that work, reports The Tennessean. Officials expect to save roughly $50 million over the next five years from Chicago-based real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle taking over facilities management for 10.5 million square feet of state-owned and leased office properties statewide starting July 1.
Under a previous contract, Jones Lang LaSalle conducted an assessment of 33 major state properties that led to the recommendation that the state should reduce its footprint to 1.4 million square feet by the second quarter next year.
That will come from a combination of moving some employees to space in underutilized state-owned buildings and completely leaving state-owned properties deemed as too costly to maintain and operate.
“We’re having an expert handle the facilities management for us,” said Steve Cates, the state’s General Services commissioner, who in addition to the $50 million in savings sees Tennessee avoiding $25 million in one-time costs, plus $3 million annually, by not having to purchase and maintain the necessary technology and equipment, as well as set up a call center.
…Under the five-year contract, Jones Lang would be paid a management fee of up to $5 million a year. The company also will continue to help General Services with business
analysis to determine whether to spend on buildings and capital projects across the state.
The affected state employees were informed last month the state would no longer be employing people in job categories such as facilities administrators, facilities managers and building maintenance workers. They’re eligible for interviews for positions available under the new operating model, said Peter Uber, a Jones Lang managing director.
Since January, the Department of Children’s Services has reported that 73 children who were brought to its attention died in 2012, but the state now says the correct number is 105, reports The Tennessean. DCS also miscalculated the number of children who died in 2011. In October, the agency said 47 children had died after having some contact with DCS, but now the state says the correct number for that year is 91.
DCS has now revised upwards the number of such child fatalities at least five times since The Tennessean asked for the data in September, prompting frustration as well as a measure of skepticism from lawmakers reached on Monday.
“Can we rely on these numbers? I don’t know. I hope we can,” said state Sen. Jim Summerville, a Republican from Dickson. “It’s strange to me that a big department with lots of professional help keeps having to change their report. Counting children should not be that hard. Counting dead children is an awful thing, but the department must do it right.”
State Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat, began requesting child fatality data in July. On Monday, Jones — like Summerville — said she still had not received an accurate accounting from DCS, asking that the numbers be read to her over the phone.
“This is unbelievable, unprofessional,” Jones said. “Unless the numbers are being manipulated and no one can keep track, they should know these numbers every day, and I’m surprised they don’t.”
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee court has temporarily barred Spring Hill from limiting residents to one political campaign yard sign per office.
According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/YgGNpv ) in Columbia, the restraining order was obtained by George Jones, who is running for mayor of Spring Hill. He says a local ordinance limiting campaign signs to one per resident for each office is unconstitutional. Jones is a former mayor of the city of more than 23,000 residents.
Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway issued the temporary order Wednesday, pending an April 5 hearing. The city election day is April 11.
Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said the city will comply with the judge’s instructions, but he declined further comment.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron said Friday that he’s running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, joining a crowded field of candidates looking for the chance to steer the party onto more solid footing in the state, reports Michael Cass Herron, who did not seek re-election to the Senate in November, said he decided to jump into the chairmanship race after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week. He said he didn’t think it was too late to win this election, which the state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.
“It’s clear no one has a majority,” he told The Tennessean. “If I thought the election was over, I wouldn’t be getting in the race.”
…He joins at least four other candidates for the state party’s chairmanship: Jane Hampton Bowen, the political liaison for a Chattanooga labor group; Dave Garrison, a Nashville lawyer and the party’s current treasurer; Wade Munday, a Nashville nonprofit executive who once served as the party’s spokesman, and Ben Smith, a Nashville lawyer who advised Jason Powell in his successful run for the state legislature this year.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, who considered running, told The Tennessean earlier Friday that she probably wouldn’t seek the position. Jones said she has “too much going on” and that she doesn’t think a woman can win the post right now.
Mother Jones magazine, a decidedly liberal publication, last week provided the capstone to a year filled with national media lampooning of the Tennessee General Assembly by declaring it the worst in all 50 states.
The article is not too serious and certainly not scholarly. It begins with a declaration that Tennessee got “bonus points” for inspiring “a news story with the phrase ‘gateway body parts’ and ‘governor signs’ in the same paragraph.”
In fact, the article is inaccurate and misleading in some respects.
It says, for an inaccuracy example, that a bill to “provide cover for teachers who question evolution and climate change in their classrooms” was vetoed. Actually, the measure critics called “the monkey bill” was not vetoed. The governor refused to sign it, but it became law without his signature.
And for a misleading example, the article credits state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, with sponsorship of a bill that would have prohibited persons who have gone through a sex change operation from using rest rooms for persons of their newly-chosen gender. Actually, credit belongs to state Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. Watson killed the transgender bathroom bill by withdrawing it — after initially signing on as Senate sponsor, at Floyd’s request, without reading it.
But, hey, we can’t expect nationally-oriented folks to keep up with such details in reviewing 50 different states.
On a broad brush basis, the evaluation doubtless reflects what folks in other states hear about legislative doings outside their home turf — and most of what they hear about is the social issue shenanigans that are unusual enough to attract special attention.
So, we’re No. 1. And some can be proud that a liberal publication has rated us the worst, which to them equates to the best. And some can be chagrined or embarrassed. Most, if they care at all, will just have something to mention in a water cooler conversation.
Mother Jones, a decidedly liberal publication, has declared Tennessee’s General Assembly the worst state legislature in the nation. Oklahoma finished second and New Hampshire third.
The full story from Mother Jones, aka MoJo, is HERE. And here’s a chunk of what’s said about Tennessee: MoJo’s cutting-edge algorithm awards a 500-point bonus to any state legislature that inspires a news story with the phrase “gateway body parts” and “governor signs” in the same paragraph. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam accomplished the feat in May when he signed into law a new abstinence-only sex education program that critics warned would prohibit almost any discussion of sexual activity during sex ed. As Bristol’s WCYB dryly reported, “News 5 looked into the bill and learned its language has been mocked across the country…”
The gateway body parts bill was part of a new push to crack down on various other gateways, including gateway words, such as “gay.” GOP State Sen. Stacey Campfield’s bill sought to prohibit the discussion of homosexuality for grade schoolers.
….Things went downhill from there. The legislature passed a bill in April (later vetoed) to provide cover for teachers who question evolution and climate change in their classrooms, along with legislation that classified miscarriages as murder, and a bill cracking down on saggy pants. Democrats complained that the saggy pants bill did not go far enough. Although Haslam declined to sign a resolution, passed by the legislature in May, condemning Agenda 21, a spokesman emphasized that the governor did, in fact, oppose the 1992 UN action plan on sustainable development.
Comedy Central described New Hampshire’s state house of reps as “a bunch of part-time real-estate agents throwing monkey feces at a wall.” But that’s not entirely fair–some of them are lawyers too.
As impressive as the laws it passed were, though, the Tennessee legislature was perhaps defined by its individual acts of #fail. In January, GOP state Sen. Bo Watson introduced legislation designed to crack down on the scourge of transgender citizens, by introducing legislation that, per Think Progress, “would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex identification on his or her birth certificate.” In April, state Rep. Matthew Hill (R) introduced a bill to disclose the names of all doctors who perform abortions in the state, along with demographic information about patients that could possibly be used to identify them. In July, the Huffington Post reported that GOP state Rep. Kelly Keisling “emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening.”
State Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville is the latest Democrat to declare an interest in succeeding Chip Forrester, who is not seeking a new term as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic party.
Jones, a Nashvillian who has recently been crusading against what she considers ineptness at the state Department of Children’s Services, says she would seek a change in party by-laws if elected so that the position would be part-time rather than full-time. She would continue to hold her legislative seat – just as Rep. Beth Harwell, now speaker of the House, did while chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Jones said last week that she believes the party needs to work toward becoming more inclusive, noting that white men have always served as chairmen in the past – with the single, 1980s exception of Jane Eskind.
“I love all the old white guys, but we’ve got to include everybody,” she said.
Previously declared candidates for state Democratic chair are David Garrison, now the party treasurer; Wade Munday, who previously served as the party’s communications director; and Nashville lawyer Ben Smith.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron’s name has come up in speculation, but he has yet to indicate an interest in the job.
There’s also been speculation about former state Sen. Roy Herron, who did not seek reelection as a legislator this year. But so far Herron, a Dresden lawyer, has not said whether he will seek the post.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Jones as a director on the newly reconfigured Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA).
Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) jointly appointed Jones, and he joins fellow TRA directors James Allison, Kenneth Hill, Herbert Hilliard and Sara Kyle.
“It is our job to make state government as accountable and responsive to Tennesseans as possible,” Haslam said. “David Jones brings 30 years of experience in the energy industry to TRA. I am grateful for his willingness to serve our citizens and appreciate Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Speaker Harwell for their efforts throughout this selection process.”
Passed during this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Haslam, HB 2385/SB 2247 changed the membership of the TRA from four full-time directors to five part-time directors and established the executive director position.
The TRA sets utility rates and service standards of privately-owned telephone, natural gas, electric and water utilities.
Jones has direct experience with large corporations, small businesses and in consulting. He spent 16 years in human resources with a Fortune 250 energy company, and 14 years in field operations, ultimately becoming vice president of Eastern Operations for El Paso Corp. He is the founder and president of davidjonesgroup, a management consulting and executive coaching services company, and he is president of Complete Holdings Group, which provides workers compensation revenue solutions to healthcare providers and payers.
He served as a member of the Southern Gas Association’s Corporation Telelink Network Board of Directors; chairman of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of American Security Committee; vice chairperson of the Oil and Natural Gas Security Coordinating Council; and member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee Pandemic Work Group.
Jones has a bachelor’s degree in Management from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Houston. He and his wife live in Franklin, and they have two grown children and four grandchildren.
Rep. Sherry Jones, a Democrat, has made women’s and children’s issues the centerpiece of her 18 years in the legislature, reports The Tennessean in a review of the House District 59 contest.. Her opponent, Robert Duvall, the Metro councilman and Republican nominee for the race, said he is focused on bringing jobs and retail back to the district — and he is characteristically blunt about making his priorities clear, even in a year in which the “gender gap” has been an obsession of political analysts nationwide.
“What is more important right now? Women’s issues or putting people back to work?” said Duvall, who has been a councilman since 2006.
And that, as much as anything, explains the clear contrast in priorities between the candidates running to represent State House District 59.
“My number one priority has been children, healthcare and abuse issues,” Jones said. “Nobody else is as deeply invested in this issue.” The politicians are running to represent a somewhat economically depressed district in southeast Davidson County, including much of Antioch.