If state legislators agree to expand the charter school and voucher systems in Tennessee, property owners in Williamson County will likely see a decline in the value of their home, according to the director of the county school system via The Tennessean.
At a Thursday evening event hosted by the Williamson County Democratic Party, Mike Looney, superintendent of Williamson County Schools, emphasized the relationship between home values and a thriving public school system.
If taxpayer dollars are diverted from the district in support of charter schools, suggested Looney, a suffering school district will be suffered by homeowners.
“Your home values and my home value will decline,” Looney said. “In Williamson County, your home values are directly correlated to the value of public schools. People move to Williamson County because of the quality of public schools, and that is fragile.”
The House District 50 seat is open for the first time in at least 28 years, but the two men competing for it are no rookies when it comes to campaigning, reports the Tennessean. Democrat Tim Garrett represented the district in the General Assembly for 20 years until Gary Moore unseated him in a primary fight and went on to win the seat in 2004, starting an eight-year run that will end soon with Moore’s retirement.
Now Democrat Bo Mitchell, who has served with Garrett in the Metro Council since 2007, and Republican Charles Williamson, who unsuccessfully sought a different legislative seat two years ago, are vying to represent the area stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue.
The race has taken on a negative tone lately, with Mitchell hammering at Williamson’s residency issues and Williamson saying in a news release that Mitchell, although welcome to attend a recent campaign bean supper, “may already be full of beans.”
Mitchell, director of sales for Health Cost Solutions, previously worked for former Gov. Phil Bredesen as director of community affairs and ran the state Senate’s Government Operations Committee while working for former Sen. Pete Springer.
News release from Tennessee Democratic party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester demanded state election officials remove state House candidate Charles Williamson from the ballot in light of evidence showing that Williamson submitted fraudulent information on his official nominating petition.
“For the past year, the Republicans have claimed they ‘want to protect the ballot box from voter fraud.’ They now have a chance to do the right thing and demand that Williamson be removed from the ballot based on the extensive evidence showing that he put a false address on his nominating petition, apparently thinking that living in the district he seeks to represent would help him politically,” Forrester said. “Adding insult to injury, Mr. Williamson has voted in the precinct where he apparently does not live.”
The evidence that Williamson does not in fact live in the address is extensively documented:
House District 50 candidate Charles Williamson has told Metro Codes that he’s dropping his attempt to use a Goodlettsville barn as a qualification for his residence in the district after city officials told him he couldn’t legally live there without making major changes, reports Chas Sisk. In a letter dated Sept. 19 and obtained by The Tennessean through a public records request, Williamson said he has moved from the barn property, at 2360 Baker Road, and doesn’t “have any intention to use this building as my residence.” While the Republican candidate recently bought a home elsewhere in the district, he continues to own a much more expensive home on the other side of town, raising questions about where he really lives.
“My opponent seems to be looking for a place to call home,” said Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, the Democratic nominee for the District 50 seat. “When he’s going door to door in Bellevue, he’s from Bellevue. When he’s going door to door in Goodlettsville, he’s from Goodlettsville.”
The Tennessean reported in July that no occupancy permit had been issued for Williamson’s Baker Road property, which he listed as his residence when he registered to vote and when he filed his candidate qualifying petition earlier this year.
Williamson subsequently applied for an occupancy permit, but the renovated barn is at least partially in what Metro Water Services categorizes as an unstudied flood zone. That means a surveyor needs to determine if the barn is at least four feet above flood levels before a permit can be issued. Williamson also would have had to install an expanded septic system to obtain the Metro Public Health Department’s approval for a residence.
“It really was just too great of a distraction while trying to run a campaign,” said Claire Ratliff, Williamson’s campaign manager.
Gov. Bill Haslam met with prominent Williamson County Republicans last week, not long after the Williamson County Republican Party adopted a resolution criticizing him for the hiring of a Muslim in the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Haslam said the critics don’t deserve much of his attention, reports The Tennessean. “I think that probably speaks to a pretty small survey of Republicans here,” Haslam said of the Williamson County Republican Party’s jabs.
Last week, Haslam received more than a handful of resolutions adopted by county-level Republican offices across the state skewering him for employing gay, Muslim and Democratic workers. In Williamson County, where Haslam received 79 percent of the vote in the 2010 general election, local GOP officials focused on Samar Ali, a Muslim-American attorney in the Department of Economic and Community Development.
On Friday, in a full-page advertisement in The Tennessean, a strongly worded letter to the governor warned him not to ignore their message. The ad was paid for by the Tennessee chapter of the 912 Project and championed the Williamson County Republican Party, among others, for having the courage to “break ranks” with party loyalists.
“We are not afraid and we won’t be intimidated,” the ad stated. “We declare our intentions to reclaim what is rightfully and Constitutionally ours, given by God and won through the blood of Americans. As of today, the choice is still in your hands. Choose the way of common sense while that option is still available.”
Some Republicans here are politely distancing themselves from the leadership of the party’s local chapter, being careful not to fuel further political infighting.
“I think the Republicans need to get on the same page,” Jack Walton, chairman of the county commission, said. “There’s a divide there and we need to have a summit or something.”
…It remains to be seen whether political relationships will be tested by this incident. Clearly, however, politicians are already being careful not to speak too forcefully for fear of alienating potential voters. Rep. Glen Casada said he is interested in learning more about local party members’ concerns, but also said he has no reason to suspect Haslam hired a woman bent on foisting Shariah law onto the state.
“On the surface, I don’t feel an enmity to her hire,” Casada said of the GOP criticisms. “My question is, does anyone want to implement anything that’s anti-American, and Shariah law is anti-American.”
Note: There seems to be little sentiment for adopting Haslam-critical resolutions in Sevier County circles, nor in Hamilton County.
A candidate for the state House of Representatives listed his residence on election documents as a renovated brick barn on a Goodlettsville bison ranch, even though Metro Codes says an occupancy permit has never been issued for the property and anyone living there would be violating the law, according to The Tennessean. Charles Williamson said he resides at 2360 Baker Road in Goodlettsville when he filed his petition to run for the District 50 House seat earlier this year with the Davidson County Election Commission. The gated property contains a renovated barn-style building that Williamson says he has lived in since January.
Mike Kyle, zoning examiner for Metro’s Codes Department, said there is no record of an occupancy permit for the property, and it would be unlawful for someone to live there.
The law does not require a House candidate to live in the district in which he or she is seeking election. They must, however, live there by the time of the general election, in this case in November,
Williamson is vying for the Republican nomination for the House seat vacated by Rep. Gary Moore, who is resigning. Also on the ballot are D.J. Farris and Dave Hall.
The matter is complicated by the fact that Williamson owns a 14-room mansion in Old Hickory and listed that address as his residence when he ran for the state House in 2010.
Williamson said he still owns the home in Old Hickory but doesn’t live there anymore. He said he was investigating whether the lack of an occupancy permit was an error by Metro or on his part.
The engineering firm Williamson owns also lists the Baker Road property as its address on documents filed with the Secretary of State. Nashville Electric Service records show electricity is being used at both the Goodlettsville and Old Hickory properties in his name.
“I wanted to get back to the farm,” Williamson said, adding that he would look into getting an occupancy permit if necessary.
Rank-and-file Republicans, including some in the party’s suburban Nashville stronghold, have condemned Gov. Bill Haslam for policies that include the hiring of gay individuals, Democrats and a Muslim-American lawyer.
Further from Chas Sisk: At least two western Tennessee chapters of the Tennessee Republican Party — and possibly as many as eight statewide — have passed resolutions saying Haslam has shown “a consistent lack of conservative values” and calling on state party leaders to sanction the governor.
Meanwhile, the Williamson County Republican Party has passed a more narrow resolution that criticizes the governor for hiring a Tennessee-born Muslim to a trade position.
The effort highlights the continued concern about Sharia, or Islamic law, among grass-roots Republicans throughout Tennessee. The resolutions also come as Haslam has been elevated to the state’s top spokesman for Republican candidates, including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
…Republicans in Stewart and Carroll counties listed eight grievances. Those include Haslam’s decisions to retain personnel hired by his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen; to allow openly gay individuals to make policy decisions in the Department of Children’s Services; and to hire Samar Ali, a Muslim lawyer from Tennessee, to serve as the Department of Economic and Community Development’s international director.
The county chapters also criticized the governor for not supporting gun legislation and for refusing to sign a legislative resolution that condemns Agenda 21, a 20-year-old United Nations policy document that some believe is a secret communist plot.
They say Haslam’s “policies are worse than the actions of Kent Williams,” the Elizabethton lawmaker who broke from the Republican Caucus in 2009 to elect himself speaker in an evenly divided legislature. And they call on the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee, the board that oversees the state party, to take action against the governor.
The chapters do not specify what that action might be, but the executive committee stripped Williams of his Republican Party credentials after his election to the speakership.
The Williamson County Republican Party passed a separate resolution last week that criticizes the governor for hiring a “Sharia complaint finance specialist” at ECD, a reference to Ali and her prior work as a financial adviser to Muslim-owned companies.
Although Ali is not involved in finance in her current role, the Williamson County GOP says Haslam has “elevated and/or afford(ed) preferential political status to Sharia adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution.”
The Williamson County GOP does not call for any sanction against Haslam.
…The Tennessee Republican Party urged members to remain united in an election year.
“All Republicans should stand together on the core Republican principles that unite us,” Chairman Chris Devaney said. “Anything else is just a distraction.”
— Note: Chas has copies of the relevant resolutions posted on a Tennessean blog, HERE.
Tennessee Republicans think they can turn yet another state House seat their way this year in a district stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue, reports the Tennessean. But Democrats believe they have a strong candidate to keep the District 50 seat in Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, who will face one of three relative newcomers from the GOP ranks. Democratic state Rep. Gary Moore, a union advocate like Mitchell, is retiring after representing the district for eight years.
Early voting starts today. Mitchell, 41, is running unopposed on the Democratic side. The Republican race features Dwight “DJ” Farris, a 25-year-old Realtor; Dave Hall, 24, who works with data for Wyndham Resorts; and Charles Williamson, 51, a geologist, business owner and bison rancher.
…Both Williamson and Hall ran for House seats in 2010, while Farris is making his first bid for public office. Williamson lost to state Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory in District 51. Hall was the Republican nominee in District 50. He drew more than 42 percent of the vote but couldn’t unseat Moore.
Moore made an issue two years ago of the fact that Hall lived with his parents, which still appears to be the case. Hall and his father, Senate District 20 candidate David Hall, listed the same address and phone number when they qualified to run in April.
Hall said he’s legally old enough to run and that he would focus on cutting taxes, confronting illegal immigration and communicating with the people he hopes to represent.
“If you’re here illegally, we need to deport you,” he said. “We need you to come here through the proper channels.”
Farris, who said he closed his first real estate deal when he was a 20-year-old sophomore at Lipscomb University, said he would work to reduce regulations on businesses and create an environment that encourages student achievement and rewards successful teachers.
“People are ready to see someone that’s focused on creating jobs,” he said. “They understand that government does best when it gets out of the way of small business.”
Farris has been endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life, a pro-life group.
Williamson did not return two phone calls or an email seeking an interview this week. In a response to a request for basic information last month, he wrote that he decided to run because “I want to give back in a meaningful way and represent my neighbors with common sense leadership and a sincere willingness to work across party lines for solutions that keep Tennessee vibrant and strong.”
As more Williamson County schools begin to serve breakfast to students, the county’s Republican Party chairman, Kevin Kookogey, says it is not the role of the government to feed people, reports The Tennessean. School officials announced in January the goal to offer breakfast at all schools as a part of the National School Breakfast program, which reimburses the district through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal served.
Whether students qualify for free and reduced prices for the meal or they pay full price, the district essentially receives money back from the government. Kookogey took aim at schools providing students with breakfast via a letter posted on the county Republican Party website.
“I am sure you have heard about this happening in other areas, but ladies and gentlemen, Williamson County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation by any measure, is now operating under a perverse incentive to increase the number of students taking government hand-outs,” Kookogey wrote. “Of course, those handouts are courtesy of you and me, the federal taxpayers.”
Republican Rep. Glen Casada of College Grove has told a GOP gathering that his home county, Williamson, will be intact after redistricting with three state House districts – even though that will mean the district population is under the ideal population number. The report comes from Drucilla Smith Fuller.
The Tennessee constitution has a provision against splitting counties in drawing district lines, but courts have ruled that is secondary to population balance. When the current House districts were drawn, they had a population variance of 10 percent between the highest population district and the lowest population district.
A couple of excerpts from Dru’s report: “When we go before a judge, and we will, I guarantee you, the Redistricting Committee wants to be ready to defend their plan,” according to Rep. Glen Casada (R-63).
…Eight counties will remain whole after House district lines are redrawn to reflect growth: Blount, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Robertson, Shelby, Tipton and Williamson. Davidson County will retain its current 10 seats.
Hat tip: Trace Sharp