Monday, February 20, 2006

Half a billion dollars

I'll cut to the chase--no.

Sunday's Tennessean does their usual side-by-side pro v. con guest columnists about the proposed $445 million convention center. I don't find a link to those columns on their website.

Let's start by just rounding that price tag to Half a Billion Dollars--cause you know there are going to be cost overruns--always are and I'll be surprise if it's contained to just Half a Billion. That 445 million price tag seems a lot like that $199.95 price tag on a new television. The retailer doesn't want us to think it's $200 so they price it just below to avoid that pause for the wallet that the number "2" is likely to create. Well, I'm going to call it Half A Billion and hope that it does cause a pause.

Next I'll apply what's becoming a litmus test for commentators for me--where does Mr. Kelly live? I know he has a very successful business near this project and he freely admitted in his column that:

"This past week, on weeknights that can be slow this time of year, Jimmy Kelly's was busier because of convention traffic."

and so he has a vested interest in advocating for additional traffic near his business. But will he end up footing the bill for this as a resident of Davidson County?

And I take issue with Mr. Kelly's 'out of the gate' statement that "Nashville had nearly $50 million lifted from its pocket." It was never in our pocket to be stolen in the first place. We haven't lost a thing. This thinking reminds me very much like the foolish folks I've known (and been) that say "But I saved $100" after putting a $500 dollar item on the credit card. You didn't 'save' anything, dearie AND you're losing money every day because you're paying interest to boot.

If what Mr. Kelly writes is true "visitor spending has become a critical component of our economic structure." I suggest this is a problem and needs adjustment anyway. We certainly don't need to have a 'critical' portion of our economic health dependent upon something as uncertain as whether folks can afford the non-essentials of conventions, vacations and sports events. Aren't these the things that are first cut in a economic downturn?

I agree with much Ben Cunningham has written against this proposal. The one phrase of his that jumped out at me was:

"...the convention will do absolutely nothing to enhance the lives of the great majority of the 500,000+ citizens of Davidson County."

This has been my experience with the GEC, the current convention center, the Titan's stadium and will most likely be the same for the baseball stadium. These are just not places this family has been to more than a handful of times. BUT I do get to pay higher taxes for the privilege of hosting these venues. I will get to pay an extra tax on the food we do purchase at restaurants. Restaurants that, I assure you, are much lower on the scale than Jimmy Kelly's. I will have to deal with the increased use of public services by these out-of-towners. Kinda reminds me of the poor couple who thought owning a beach house was a great idea until the relatives started making vacation plans.

Finally, I'll add that the shame is not in being a smaller venue. The shame is in being a bad small venue. Sometimes the most successful business are those smaller niche ones like a family business that found what it could do well and is consistently relied on and appreciated by the community for its excellent service.

Monday, February 13, 2006

No minimum wage

Let's just nip this one in the bud.

According to today's Nashville City Paper Rep. Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory) (my own representative) is partnering with Rep. Gary Moore (D-Joelton) to make the miminum wage in the State of Tennessee $6.15 an hour. That's one dollar an hour over the current federal minimum wage. Their rationale?

“We’re trying to help out the lower end of the wage scale,” Turner said. “It’s hard to raise a family on the minimum wage, and the thing about it is, we have some people that are trying to do that.”
I'm sure there are 'some' people that are trying to do that. And I wonder if these gentlemen can provide us with some hard data on those 'some'. I suggest that Rep. Turner turn his efforts toward encouraging them to get better training and help them locate jobs that pay more instead of burdening the entire state with this entitlement effort.

The problem with minimum wage is at least two-fold.

1. Every time the minimum wage is raised this family of six with a median income is left with less buying power because employers raise the price of the goods and services we need to accommodate that raise. We're not buying high end goods and services we could live without. We're talking about a family that shops at Aldi's and the nearby Goodwill in order to make ends meet.

2. Wages need to be set by the free market. We're not a socialist society--well, not quite anyway. If no one is willing to pay for the goods or services at that price the price needs to be changed--but not by the government. People who want to earn more money need to make themselves more valuable to their employers and their employer's customers or find a different employer. You don't encourage self-motivation and success by handing folks a paycheck you encourage dependency and a sense of entitlement.

If the problem is that an employer can hire cheap illegal labor the answer is not a minimum wage, it's heavily fining, jailing and shutting down employers who are enabling the illegal labor pool.

Legislation II

I'm cruising through newly filed legislation. If you've a hankering to do the same go to Keep in mind that Tennessee has two year legislative sessions and that this 104th General Assembly is in its second year. So while there are some bills hanging on from last year the newer stuff started to be filed beginning with, it appears, the 2400's on the House side.< YES!

No Sex Selection Abortions:

*HB2466 by *Stanley.

Abortion - Prohibits abortion when the basis for the procedure is the projected sexual orientation of the fetus after birth. - Amends TCA Section 39-15-201.

I can't understand anyone, especially feminists, supporting the killing of a child based on their sex.

Finally! Plates for Iraqi Freedom veterans. It looked like every other veteren group was in the pipeline for this free token of appreciation.

*HB2488 by *Fraley.

Special License Plates - Authorizes a new specialty earmarked license plate for honorably discharged veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 4.


*HB2490 by *Borchert, *Curtiss, *Shepard, *Shaw, *Maddox, *Litz, *Pinion, *Marrero, *Cooper B, *DeBerry J. (SB2669 by *Herron.)

Special License Plates - Creates new military license plate for veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; reallocates revenue from sale of all military plates. - Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 4.

Eminent Domain:

*HB2481 by *Sargent. (SB2549 by *Bryson.)

Eminent Domain - Prohibits the use of eminent domain solely or principally for economic development, increase of tax revenue, or expansion of tax bases and specifies the types of public uses for which eminent domain may be exercised. - Amends TCA Title 12 and Title 29.

I think this bill is worded better than the one just below. I like the use of the words "critical infrastructures", but I wouldn't include schools, hospitals, public buildings and parks in that category.

HB2473 by *Winningham, *Ferguson. (*SB2422 by *Kilby.)

Eminent Domain - Clarifies that eminent domain can only be exercised for public purposes; specifies what activities are deemed to be within the scope of public purposes. - Amends TCA Title 29. I'd like to see a lot more clarification of 'for the use of the State of Tennessee'.

HB2483 by *Sargent. (*SB2413 by *Woodson.)

Eminent Domain - Clarifies that the taking of land by eminent domain solely for the purpose of improving tax revenue, increasing tax base or economic development is not a legitimate "public use" within meaning of Article 1, § 21 of Tennessee Constitution and provides cause of action to challenge a proposed taking in such cases. - Amends TCA Title 29.

This last version has a lot of potential. I like that the burden of proof is on the government entity trying to exercise eminent domain. Perhaps these folks can manage to get one good bill out of these three.


*HB2460 by *Hackworth, *Winningham. (SB2614 by *McNally.) Education - Encourages LEAs and schools to recycle; requires the department of education to provide recycling curriculum guidelines. - Amends TCA Title 49.
Why does the state legislature even need to do this? Do we still have unenlightened schools out there that are NOT encouraging recycling? And then, file this under 'outside the core mission' of public schools anyway.


Presumption at tax payer expense?

*HB2486 by *Turner M. (SB2576 by *Burchett.) Workers' Compensation - Establishes a conclusive presumption that a beryllium employee, employee with cancer or silicosis, or other employee covered under the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act has an occupational disease for purposes of state workers' compensation claim...

I don't think so.

Bullying bill by Black Part II:

HB2470 by *Baird. (SB2687 by *Black.)

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel - Requires each LEA to adopt a policy addressing bullying of teachers by principals or administrators. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 5.

Senator Black addressed student bullying last year with the encouragement of a student and comes to the aid of the adults this go round. Don't we already have employment policies in place to cover these? The difference between the adults and the children in these situations is that adults aren't 'compelled' to attend these schools.

Re-tooling education

Two interesting articles this morning. The first tells us that a local private school is doing so well that they can consider leaving their Davidson County location and build a new $20 million dollar campus in Sumner County. The second comes from Business Week magazine and tells us

More parents believe that even the best-endowed schools are in an Old Economy death grip in which kids are learning passively when they should be learning actively, especially if they want an edge in the global knowledge economy.

One popular critique of conventional education likens it to a mass-production institution that is failing to adapt. Schools, critics say, are like old industrial assembly lines, churning out conformists who could function well in rote factory jobs or rigid corporate hierarchies but not in New Economy professions that demand innovation and independent thinking. Indeed, the Education Dept. states in a report that the most promising learning developments, such as e-learning and virtual schools, are occurring outside the system.
Two things to consider here:

1. If these parents aren't coming to Davidson County anymore, there is little chance they're going to shop and live in Davidson County. I know some of these families and several of them chose that school and based their home purchase on the ease of getting to that campus. Will this be another business that leaves Davidson County for greener pastures in the more prosperous ring that surrounds our county? Will we be more accommodating and supportive of a sports team than this school that for 25 years has been educating our children?

2. It's time, past time, to re-tool our public education system. Every day it becomes clearer and clearer that the goal of the caretakers of this system is less about educating the children and more about preserving their system and their control over the process. When will citizens and parents have their fill of second best? When will educrats and politicans in their pockets let go of their own agenda's and really, really, put children first?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Save A Record Company

Didn't win a Grammy last night? Need to figure out how to stay in business until you do? Well, the American Institute of Public Accountants may be able to help. They've got an online resource called The Turnaround Game. The idea is to keep the virtual record company Big Noizz in the black. Keep playing until you get it right and it may turn into a successful music career or maybe, as this CPA group hopes, a career in accounting. Maybe accountants aren't total number nerds after all.

They've got three other games if music isn't your 'biz'.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Whose school board is it?

Today's Nashville Scene has several important things to consider in their most recent article about the Nashville School Board.

According to this Scene article David A. Fox , founder of the NashvillePost has picked up papers to run for the 8th District seat currently held by Kathleen Harkey.

For a few months, a loose-knit group that includes wealthy megabusinessmen Orrin Ingram and Tom Cigarran, Adventure Science Center CEO Ralph Schulz, union leader Don Driscoll and Sperling, among others, has met informally to contemplate the future of public education in Nashville.
“This isn’t anything yet,” says Driscoll, president of SEIU Local 205, who refers to the group as “some guys who have had coffee on Friday mornings to talk about elections.” “What we’re all concerned about is that we have a strong school board and that we do some work in the community that is good for schools…. People have had some discussions about working together and identifying good school board candidates in the election.”
Seems to me that Mr. Driscoll's biggest concern not long ago was increasing the sales tax in Nashville so his union members could obtain raises. Now he's concerned enough about who is on the board to be actively advocating for candidates. Candidates that may be more willing to provide those raises and benefits?

And also from Bruce's article [Correction--John Spragens is actually the author.]
Others would say an effective board did try to take care of that, only to be undermined by Garcia apologists—many of whom hail from the business community, Williamson County ZIP codes and private schools, and who run in the same social circles as the party-hopping schools director. “It really doesn’t affect them if school starts on the 17th, or if a principal is transferred midyear; they haven’t really experienced it,” says one Harkey supporter.
I'll beat this drum one more time. If you're not from the neighborhood, if they're not your children, if it's not your money going to pay for all of this, you need to sit down and be quiet.

If out of towners and union heads crafting the schools we pay for and our children attend bothers's time to step up. Bob Krumm is more blunt about it and the folks commenting on his blog entry have some great insights.

Finally, if you haven't read the Bruce Berry's [Correction--Bruce's last name is actually spelled Barry] blog entry "Shilling for Pedro" you may want to catch up.

UPDATE: 5/24/06--It's been brought to my attention that there were some errors in this post. I'm happy to make the corrections as noted in the text above. My apologies to both gentlemen.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 6th week of the Carnival of Homeschooling can be found here.

If you're amongst those that have a very narrow view of what homeschooling is you'll find those preconceived notions completely shattered by even a quick cruise through this week's offerings.

At this time of year I get a steady stream of e-mail telling me that the family is just completely finished wrangling with their current school and asking if there is anyway they can start homeschooling immediately. The answer is YES. If you're amongst those seriously considering the homeschooling option I encourage you to 'meet' these folks.

Utilizing those oh so familiar road signs we're asked:

Can you spot a homeschooler in a crowd? Here are some of the "signs".

You'll find all sorts of first person accounts of what a homeschooling day looks like, making changes in how your family homeschools, socialization and why that's not a good enough excuse to keep children in the public schools and comments on that ever present straw man "fake" homeschoolers and the 'fact' that homeschoolers are afraid to let our children mingle with the mere rabble. Lots of enlightenment at this carnival.

And if you didn't get enough the previous five weeks are found here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bring back mud pies

The London Times printed a disheartening review of test scores over 30 years. It seems the children are getting dumber.

Far from getting cleverer, our 11-year-olds are, in fact, less “intelligent” than their counterparts of 30 years ago. Or so say a team who are among Britain’s most respected education researchers.

After studying 25,000 children across both state and private schools Philip Adey, a professor of education at King’s College London confidently declares: “The intelligence of 11-year-olds has fallen by three years’ worth in the past two decades.”


In the easiest question, children are asked to watch as water is poured up to the brim of a tall, thin container. From there the water is tipped into a small fat glass. The tall vessel is refilled. Do both beakers now hold the same amount of water? “It’s frightening how many children now get this simple question wrong,” says scientist Denise Ginsburg, Shayer’s wife and another of the research team.


So why are children now doing so badly? Possible explanations are numerous. Youngsters don’t get outside for hands-on play in mud, sand and water — and sandpits and water tables have been squeezed out in many primary schools by a relentless drilling of the three Rs and cramming 11- year-olds for the national tests.

“By stressing the basics — reading and writing — and testing like crazy you reduce the level of cognitive stimulation. Children have the facts but they are not thinking very well,” says Adey. “And they are not getting hands-on physical experience of the way materials behave.”

I dare say the results will be the same in the States. The folks in England actually have the ability to reach back and compare because they still have at least one test that has remained the same throughout all this time. Some educrat slipped up there, I'm sure.

I'm appalled at the lack of free play time allowed in a child's life now days. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see schools recreating home life at great expense. I cringe when folks write me asking what sort of curriculum they should purchase for their 5 year olds. When I recommend lots of exploring the backyard, crayons and finger paints and cozy reading time with a parent that seems inadequate to many of them. Some have a hard time with that simple prescription because their adult and school trained minds are more comfortable with that school model and they've long ago forgotten their own science experiments which gave them a good foundation for book learning. To adults it looks like foolish play, but to children it's a vital learning time as England is being reminded.

Friday, February 03, 2006

GWB at the Opry

I was privileged to be among the audience that heard President George W. Bush speak at the Grand Ole Opry House on Wednesday. It was an interesting day that included hearing the view of the war on terror from our Commander in Chief and ended with me hearing about the situation from a visiting pastor from Kirkuk, Iraq. And then yesterday my brother returned from his naval reserve duty in Kuwait. Sometimes I'm just amazed at the view of the world I'm privileged to witness.

Two of my daughters and I arrived at the Opry in plenty of time to stand in line and wait for entry. We were so early that there weren't any protesters along McGavock Pike. We milled about the plaza for a bit and came upon a circle of folks praying for the president. We joined our amens with theirs for his safety and that he'd make wise decisions. We sat on one of the benches for a while to absorb what little warm sun was available and observed the media mingling with the crowd, the various gaggles of badge wearers reporting for duty from Gaylord, The White House, the media and other volunteers.

While standing in the security line we were approached by a Knight Ridder reporter who started by saying "You guys look happy." I thought that an odd opening line. Maybe it's unusual for him to meet happy moms, teens, Republicans, Nashvillians? I couldn't tell and so we just moved on to the introductions.

He asked me if I had seen the president's speech the night before (I had) and what I thought of it. That seemed too broad a question to try and answer and so I asked him to narrow that down a bit. He asked what I thought about Pres. Bush's domestic policy and I turned it around and said that I was less concerned about domestic policy than being safe. I'm quoted here saying:

"We need to be as optimistic as we can be to spread freedom," said Brooks, who home-schools her two teenage daughters. "I'm not as concerned about domestic issues. If we can't be safe in our day to day life, nothing else is important."
Sometimes what you say doesn't come across as brilliantly as you thought it was at the time. But the point is conveyed. I want to encourage freedom across the world because I really do believe that free people are safer people and the safety of my family is of paramount importance.

The security check went very quickly. We were prepared for the long wait, did some people watching with me pointing out the folks and players I knew. We played "Go Fish" for a while. There were dozens of folks sitting on hard bleachers on the stage and so we were very thankful to be mere rabble consigned to the balcony on padded seats with backs. It was amusing to see staffers move those folks around for reasons we could only speculate about. One of my daughters called it 'Tetris with people".

We were very pleasantly surprised to be entertained for nearly an hour by about two dozen Grand Ole Opry members. Larry Gatlin MC'd using what I'm sure were tried and true Opry jokes. I was concerned that many of the songs were Christian hymns or assumed agreement with Christianity. And as a Christian I wasn't offended in the least but I did wonder how that came across to any in the audience that weren't. I'll just suggest that if the Republican party is wanting to embrace folks who are conservative but not Christian, and I think they should, they may want to consider being more...well, considerate. We head for big trouble when we muddy our politics and our religion. For me this gathering wasn't church...but there were moments when I wondered if it might have been for some.

The end of the performances coincided with the landing of the president's plane which we witnessed on the large TV monitors in the hall. Unfortunately, we only got about a two minute view of that and then it was switched over to rerunning the Opry performances we'd already seen a couple of times. The audience was disappointed. We would like to have seen him deplane at least.

Bored and desperate for some sign the president was near the audience was glad to see staffers bring out a glass of water and the presidential seal for the podium. With great solemnity the staffer affixed the seal to the podium. We good naturedly applauded his hard work. Then, just moments later, he was back to straighten the seal which brought much applause and laughter.

Eventually the president did actually arrive to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Someone shouted out "We love you George" and he good naturedly asked if that was meant for Laura (who was also there). He provided a few more of those self-deprecation jokes that he does very well and then moved on to repeating and elaborating on what he'd said the night before in the State of the Union speech.

One thing President Bush mentioned was that the only real weapon the enemy has is fear. Interestingly, my brother said the same thing yesterday in our conversation. What he had witnessed in Kuwait was how fear rules everything. Everyone is afraid to say or do anything for fear of offending another and then suffering huge consequences for small infractions. He said what nationals tell you one on one in private is very different from what they'll say in larger groups. What comes across is that terror has been a weapon of choice for eons in that culture and there are some trying to export that fear to us.

And so when President Bush said:

"I believe there's an Almighty. And I believe the Almighty's gift is freedom to every single person in this world."

I was among those clapping loudly, cheering and standing in absolutely agreement. Freedom is a fundamental of my religion. Jesus came to set the captives free. When I look across the world I see lots of people that are not free and I'm proud that America is helping to free so many people. Granted, we don't do it perfectly and we can't do it all, but we're at least making the effort.

I did disagree with the president on a couple of points. He said "It's the job of the federal government to take care of the elderly and the poor." I don't believe that. I think that that's the job of family and near neighbors. I believe the job of the federal government is to take on the big issues like defending our borders from terrorists and invaders of all sorts. The rest of us can then focus our efforts on doing what we can to 'love our neighbors'.

I also disagree that there are jobs that American's 'won't do' and so we've got to provide some sort of temporary worker visas for non-citizens. I know it's a complicated issue but I believe that if American's won't do these jobs then employers aren't providing sufficient incentives to American workers. And just like I think that government employees ought to live in and pay taxes in the districts they work for, I think that we shouldn't accommodate non-citizens in their efforts to work here and send their money elsewhere. There should certainly be benefits to citizenship and access to a job ought to be one of them.

And then, that very evening, I had to opportunity to get another view of this war in Iraq. I was able to listen to a man who started by saying that CNN had shown us 60 degrees of the situation in his country and he was going to show us the other 300 degrees. This man had spent 10 years in the Iraqi army defending his country in the war against Iran. He has suffered death threats and near escapes for changing his religion and helping others do the same. One of his daughters has suffered bomb wounds. He is a man who has had to consol the widows of those who were killed for no other reason than they decided that being Muslim wasn't working for them. At one point while he was speaking he turned to another man in the congregation and thanked him for helping smuggle in Bibles and radios to Iraq. When he said that I realized that both of those contraband items contained opporunities for freedom and freedom is a dangerous thing when your power is based on control.

I left the president's speech believing that he understands that freedom is essential, that these efforts have his full attention and that he has a definition of success that seems essential to me. I'm thankful so many members of my family have literally put their lives on the line for freedom. I'm encouraged that this Iraqi pastor is thankful for our efforts on his country's behalf and welcomes our partnership in the freeing of his country. I'm prayerful that efforts to export fear will fail and the efforts to export freedom will succeed beyond our wildest expectations.