Tom Ingram and another executive with his influential lobbying firm worked with Mayor Karl Dean’s office more than a month ago to put together an incentive package for the television show “Nashville” but didn’t register with the city as lobbyists at the time, according to The Tennessean.. On June 24, Dean announced $500,000 in incentives, pending Metro Council approval, to keep the ABC drama filming here.
Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said officials in the mayor’s office communicated with Ingram and fellow Ingram Group executive Sam Reed when negotiating the incentive deal. Ingram Group has long been the lobbyist for Gaylord Entertainment, now Ryman Hospitality Partners, which is one of the show’s executive producers.
The Metro code defines lobbying as communicating “directly or indirectly, with any official in the legislative branch or executive branch for pay or for any consideration, for the purpose of influencing any legislative action or administrative action.”
Last week, Reed and another Ingram Group lobbyist, Marcille Durham, registered with the city as representing Ryman. Ingram has not registered.
But government transparency expert Dick Williams, chairman of the nonprofit group Common Cause Tennessee, said Ingram and Reed should have registered with the city when it was negotiating, based on lobbying disclosure requirements
Sales tax on certain goods sold in downtown Nashville would effectively increase by a small fraction under state legislation Mayor Karl Dean’s administration supports as a way to generate new funds to recruit conventions to the Music City Center, according to the Tennessean. The proposal, which originated with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and a handful of Lower Broadway merchants looking for new ways to attract large conventions, would institute a new 0.025 percent fee on goods and services within Nashville’s downtown business district.
Tourism officials plan to use the funds to underwrite the rent of Music City Center as an incentive to lure conventions here. Sales tax in Davidson County is currently 9.25 cents on every dollar.
The legislation calls the measure a “fee,” one that would produce an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million annually. It would go into effect in 2014.
“The CVB and downtown business owners brought forward this idea and we support it as something that will further bolster our tourism industry,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said in a prepared statement.
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, and co-sponsored by the majority of Davidson County’s state delegation, heads to the State Government Subcommittee this week.
The mayors of three of the four largest cities in Tennessee say they support U.S. Attorney General Eric Hoder’s call for universial background checks for gun purchases, reports the News Sentinel. The exception is Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who didn’t take a “clear position” on the proposals when commenting via statement instead of interview. The four mayors differ on some other gun control proposals and only two – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield – are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“That group was kind of a lightning rod,” (Knoxville Mayor Madeine) Rogero said. She’s the second recent Knoxville Mayor to eye the group with trepidation. Gov. Bill Haslam was a member as the city’s mayor, “then he pulled back,” Rogero said.
…Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was not available for interviews, but released a statement Thursday. Like Rogero, he’s not a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
….”It is clear that state law pre-empts any Metro action with regard to the regulation of guns,” Dean wrote. “Hopefully, as this issue is debated on the national level, consensus will be found to close loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to obtain weapons and attention will be given to mental health programs and laws.”
He wrote that “attitudes toward guns vary greatly,” but did not take a clear stance on high-capacity magazines, background checks or other legislation.
…”The key is the three words — against illegal guns,” Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton said.
Wharton wants stronger punishments for gun theft.
“I hope to have the legislature enhance the punishment for criminals who use stolen guns at the local level,” he said. “I want to seek increased bail for folks who are possessing stolen guns.”
…Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield also leaned on the power of the local office in gun control.
“It is our responsibility to engage the public in whatever fashion we can, to use the bully pulpit that we have,” he said.
Littlefield would like regulation expanded beyond just assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
“It’s time, and that has been underscored with more recent tragic events, for us to have a more general conversation,” he said, “of not just illegal guns, but the paraphernalia that has been contributing to illegal tragedies.
“I’m talking about bulletproof clothing, armor-piercing ammunition and large capacity magazines, all of those things which are not hunting-related
From a Tennessean story on state Democratic efforts to find candidates for statewide office in the future: They say those future contenders are already running governments in the state’s biggest population centers.
“The big-city mayors are clearly the future leaders of our party,” said Chip Forrester, the state Democratic chairman since January 2009. “They’re on a platform to run statewide when those opportunities arise.”
At the top of the list is Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who has his share of critics but has managed to guide the capital city through a recession and a flood with a pro-business, education-reform platform. Forrester said being the mayor of “the media center of the state” also gives Dean an advantage.
Dean, who will leave office in 2015, is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and was mingling — in his affable but soft-spoken way — with other delegates and party officials at the delegation’s breakfast Tuesday. But his office said in a statement last week that he’s not laying the groundwork for any statewide run at this point.
…Forrester and other Democrats said Dean is just the first of several mayors with potential. They also praise A C Wharton of Memphis, Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, Kim McMillan of Clarksville and state Sen. Andy Berke, who is running for mayor of Chattanooga.
Forrester called Wharton “a uniter” and said McMillan — who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor two years ago — and Berke have put together strong records as state lawmakers. He said Rogero showed “tremendous crossover appeal” by getting elected in a “traditionally Republican city.”
“Coming from East Tennessee gives her some panache,” he added. “Madeline has really been focused on results in Knoxville, not party labels. And we’ve been working hard to encourage women to step up and run.”
Dean, Rogero and Wharton are scheduled to speak to the state delegation here in Charlotte on Thursday.
Nashville is considering making a pitch for a future national political party convention, according to the Tennessean. “We’re clearly at a position as a city that we could do it,” Mayor Karl Dean said. “With the new convention center, the new hotels coming online, we have the infrastructure to do it, and I think Nashville would have a great appeal.
“There’s an enormous cost involved. It’s something that would involve a lot of work. But it’s something we should be thinking about, and we will.”
Dean, who will go to Charlotte next month as a voting Democratic delegate and pay attention to how the city operates, said a political convention is “the ultimate convention.”
The numbers bear that out. Tampa is expecting 50,000 delegates, media members, campaign officials, celebrities and other guests, and 16,000 hotel rooms have been set aside, said James Davis, communications director for the Republican National Convention, which has booked more than 90,000 room nights for various groups in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Saying Nashville has a choice to make that will guide its trajectory “for decades to come,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean proposed a 53-cent property tax increase Tuesday to fund his $1.71 billion Metro budget proposal.
From The Tennessean: The tax increase would generate about $100 million in new revenue, Dean said. It would raise the tax rate to $4.66 per $100 of assessed value in the Urban Services District — 3 cents below the rate when Dean took office in 2007, before a countywide reappraisal — and $4.09 in the General Services District.
Assessed value is 25 percent of the appraised value for residential property and 40 percent for commercial property. The mayor said the 12.83 percent tax increase for a typical homeowner would amount to about $16 a month, or $192 a year, on a $145,400 home, the median price in Nashville. Assuming the home was appraised at the purchase price, that would raise the annual tax bill to $1,693.91.
The city would use the revenues to raise starting teacher salaries by $5,000, moving Metro Schools into the top tier of Tennessee school districts; retain 50 police officers whose federal grant funding soon will run out; give a 4 percent pay raise to most city employees, and pay debt service on building projects that will touch schools and the general government alike.
Without new revenue, the city would have to make big cuts in government services, Dean said.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has written a letter to the state Senate, urging lawmakers to reverse their reversal of Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinance, reports Chas Sisk. In a one-page letter given to members of the Senate State & Local Government Committee last week, Dean says he supports Senate Bill 2762. That bill would let Metro reinstate a nondiscrimination ordinance that the city passed last April but the legislature quickly nullified in May.
“That local ordinance prohibited Metro Government contractors from discriminating in their employment practices based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dean wrote. “I believe it was an important expression of the fact that Nashville is an open, welcoming place that does not tolerate discrimination, and I was proud to sign it into law.
“A number of cities throughout the country have passed local ordinances similar to Nashville’s. Such ordinances represent the decisions of locally elected government bodies, and I believe they deserve the respect of the state legislature. Now is not the time to abandon our belief in local government.”
The letter once again put the mayor on the record in favor of the Metro nondiscrimination law. But it’s not likely to do a whole lot else. Note: A vote on the bill was postponed last week after Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said he was undecided and asked the sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, for more time to think about it… leading proponents of repeal more optimistic than before. Still, as Chas says, a Republican reversal is rather unlikely.
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.
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.”
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.