Friday, May 29, 2009

MNPS taxing authority

Well they had their 'give the BOE taxing authority' rally yesterday and surprise, surprise (not) the news is full of how this would be a good thing for MNPS. Less politics, more accountability, less bickering, yadda, yadda.

I don't understand how having the Mayor, in consultation with the BOE, suggest a budget amount for MNPS and then the Metro Council passes the budget, after budget hearings asking about the needs of MNPS and its past performance (to include how they spent the money they got last time) is LESS accountable than handing over taxing authority to the BOE directly. Please remember, once the Council passes the budget they hand over a lump sum to the BOE who then has the freedom to spend that money as they see fit.

"The public is left out there with no idea which authority to hold accountable,” said Stephen Smith, assistant executive director of the Tennessee School Board Association." City Paper
So the School Board Association instead of educating the public about the process so that we can make wiser decisions about who to hold accountable will "dumb down" the process to ensure this homework isn't too hard for us. Bonus for the education system is they only have to persuade nine people that their pet project is worth reaching into your wallet. Remember, this is all about making it easier for the BOE not easier for taxpayers. I've absolutely no doubt that the BOE doesn't enjoy have to go hat in hand to the Mayor or the Council but that's part of accountability--having to answer for what you've done with what you got before.

And where should it stop? Maybe the police and fire departments should also have taxing authority. The same bogus argument about accountability could be made for them too. Personally, I value public safety over public education. And speaking about public safety...what about the health department? Maybe they shouldn't have to suffer the inconveniences and embarrassment of making a case for their expenditures.

This from the Tennessee County Commissioner's Association back in December of 2008:
"As things stand right now, the Tennessee Constitution would have to be changed in order to directly give school boards taxing authority. That takes time as such a proposal would have to pass two separate General Assemblies and then be approved by the voters. What could happen right away is that the General Assembly could lift the ban on existing school districts converting to special school districts. We have about 14 special school districts in Tennessee currently, but the law has prohibited the creation of any new special school districts for some time. Special school districts levy a property tax pursuant to a private act adopted by the state legislature that sets a tax rate for the school system. So it would take taxing authority away from the county commission, but would give it to state legislators who usually act based on the recommendations of the school board for the special school district." (emphasis added)
How does moving this taxing authority up to the state level make our neighborhood schools and our school board more accountable? Looks like they'll have the same excuse they've got now "Well, we could have done better but the Council/Legislature wouldn't let us have the money we needed."

And what we know about education spending is that the BOE will raise taxes to the maximum the Legislature will allow as quickly as it can with nothing but an election every other year for half of the board to slow it down. You'll have nine folks, most of whom are less financial geniuses than the Metro Council, deciding how much of your money you'll have left to feed and clothe and house your family because they see what they do 'for the children' as more important that what you're trying to do for your own children with the money you earned.

According to the Tennessean the MNPS is 40% of the Metro Nashville budget. 40%! We're getting close to the tipping point. This year the BOE wants $620 million dollars to education about 75,000 children. That's about the current quote for the new convention center. And they've been spending about half a billion dollars for several years now. That's $8,000+ for every one of those 75,000 students and that doesn't include state or federal dollars. They've got enough money.

No matter how many times the Chamber and its partners say 'accountability' this plan is less accountability. They are calling black white and white black. They're going to repeat that often, loudly and in full color brochures as long as we'll let them. I say no. Absolutely no. If the goal really is about we see those teacher value added scores AND we put the MNPS check register on-line?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009-05-27 Education round up

Teacher pay: Suddenly the Tennessean is for it in today's Op Ed. Superintendent of Schools Mayor Karl Dean is also for it. Not surprisingly the head of the teacher's union is against in an article titled "No proof to back performance pay". Little wonder when the unions fight tooth and nail any attempt to provide proof that it does work. If they won't participate...we can't gather data and so their only legitimate argument against it stands. That's convenient.

Their other arguments against get no sympathy from anyone who works for a living. Whining about how it used to be in 1940 smacks of the abortionist fear mongering about hangers. It's not 1940. We've got laws against discrimination and abuse of power and a population that embraces litigation. Whining about how unfair the boss can be won't cut it either. Who hasn't had an unfair boss? Life isn't fair. Whining about how some teachers will 'feeeeel' bad because they don't merit more money sounds just like it came from one of the ineffective self-esteem lessons that pass for education now days. How about we consider how hard working teachers feeeel about the dead weight in the next classroom who is getting paid exactly the same? If the union was half as diligent about policing their own and actually acting like a professional organization taxpayers and voters might be more willing to listen to their concerns.

This is what I'm talkin' 'bout: The MNPS School Board is seeing the light and backing Director Jesse Register's plan to overhaul "adult high school learning"

Students in the proposed program could take classes in the morning, afternoon or evening, or through their computers or independent study. Classes could be taken in shorter, more intensive periods — two courses every eight weeks to move toward earning four credits each semester — and students could schedule class combinations that fit their academic needs. City Paper
Now let's expand this to more students quickly. All this will save student's time and will save MNPS money in the (not too) long run. I've no doubt that this is an option that will meet the legitimate needs and wants of students across the district. It's 2009...surely we can agree that mastering a skill and not warming a seat is the goal.
"Keeping your worst teachers is a crime against children," said [Tim] Daly, president of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit [The New Teacher Project] dedicated to putting highly qualified teachers in hard-to-staff schools. Tennessean
Continuing to pay them as if they were qualified is a crime against the taxpayers.

Support for German homeschoolers? The Tennessee legislature is all for supporting homeschooling in Germany but try and let a homeschooler get a job as a police officer or auctioneer and we get a two hour fillibuster by some of these very same Democrats. Come on guys...which is it? It is a legitimate option or not?

Month-to-Month Director: The folks at Cheatham County School Board Watchdog are still doing the grunt work of examining their director's contract and counter offers. One suggestion: dropping the 90 day notice for canceling the contract to just 30 days.

And how much did this special treatment cost? The MNPS budget is getting trimmed and the system has serious needs regarding facility maintenance (and texts and copy paper and ...) but somehow the system finds the money to pay for a second graduation ceremony for Hispanic students? Why should any people group get a second ceremony? I'm all for it if you want to do this with private funds but on the taxpayer's dime? I don't think so. Seems like yet another enabling of cultural separation despite public education being created specifically to encourage assimilation.
UPDATE: This from MNPS Spokeswoman Olivia Brown this morning: "That celebration event is arranged and hosted by COPLA, the Hispanic parents organization. It is not an MNPS event, however, it is one we support and participate in. I don’t know the cost, but COPLA raises funds and solicits donations for it."

Glad to read this clarification from MNPS. So, 'Nevermind'.

And speaking of wasting money: the ACLU has decided to sue MNPS because some websites have been blocked preventing MNPS students from viewing them on school time and with school equipment paid for by taxpayers. I'd like to see a cost benefit analysis of their efforts. How much money is wasted by these folks to benefit so few.

Shuffling kids shuffles teachers, or so it did in Charlotte, WV.
“An important implication of these findings is that policymakers should be cautious when advocating policies such as vouchers, school choice, district consolidation, or school busing that require the reshuffling of students across schools,” the study concludes, because the resulting shifts in student population might also lead to shifts in the quality of teachers. Education Week

2009-05-27 Round up

Metro employee residency: The City paper tells us Councilman Eric Crafton has filed a bill to require Metro employees to live in Metro. I'm glad to see it. I've long thought that the people who make and enforce the rules need to live under them. I do believe if they had to live with the system they're a part of it would bring some accountability to the system. It's Bill 467 which should show up here once they upload it to the web.

Health data info: Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) has a new policy paper out on the privacy grab by the State of Tennessee via HB2289/SB2239 also known as "all payer claims database". TCPR touches on the vagueness of the bill, whether it will be effective, access to the data, privacy, costs and throw in some other important considerations like why is there only one actual health care consumer on this 19 member board? It seems heavily weighted in favor of the bureaucrats in my opinion. Here's a snip:

As with all public databases, there is a significant chance the information could become compromised. This could occur from a computer “hacker” or from someone within state government (as was the case in the State Trooper’s office last year). Exposure to liability should this sensitive data become publically available is virtually infinite and could open the state to decades of litigation from around the country. Also troubling is the potential to cross-reference health care data with other databases such as school records, criminal records, and travel logs.
Pork BBQ: provided by the Tennessee General Assembly, Governor Bredesen and TCPR. 44 pages of waste that makes you shake your head in wonderment. Some of it spent on things so foul they shouldn't be mentioned in mixed company. Some of it making repeat appearances on the report because no one in charge of the checkbook has the backbone to stop it. Only folks who are spending other people's money would allow this to continue. In this telling statement TCPR nails it.
The following is an overview of the amount of money spent subsiding some of the dozens of projects Gov. Bredesen thought were more deserving of taxpayers’ money than taxpayers, themselves:
If these projects were truly worthy why not make direct appeal to investors and donors instead of forcing taxpayers to pay for them? When will 'they' actually understand that it may be just $10,000 of someone else's money...but it's a year's worth of groceries for a family. No golf course, no art exhibit, no imaginary boll weevil is more important than feeding, clothing and housing a family.

Another snip from the Report:
In 2007, when the Pork Report first questioned this improper government expenditure, Gov. Bredesen and the Tennessee General Assembly shook taxpayers down for $2.7 million in state tax dollars to subsidize the “charity.”[Books from Birth] Ah, the good old days. In 2008, the state budget earmarked $3,444,500 for the program. In the Governor’s 2009 proposed budget, another $3,444,500 is requested for Books From Birth.

It would be a heartwarming story if Gov. Bredesen, whose personal fortune is worth an estimated $250 million, funded Book From Birth himself.

Unfortunately, he relies on Tennessee’s taxpayers – almost all of whom are less able to afford contributing to his pet project than he is – to fill up the coffers of his own foundation.

$2.64? I don't think so. I am hesitant to second guess the Chief of Police and probably like most councilmen am willing to give him great latitude in his expenditures as long as his department is doing their job well. But I just don't understand why a finance officer needs a take home car. She needs to make a midnight run to the bank to deposit evidence cash from a drug bust? Needs to authorize a check at 3:00 a.m. for K-9 dog treats? Serpas' unwillingness to explain it doesn't help and saying it costs about one gallon of gas for them to take these cars homes makes it worse. The IRS mileage deduction for 2009 is 55 cents. That's 4.8 miles. Just not believable. City Paper and WSMV.

Another reason not to vote for Wamp: Cong. Zach Wamp (R) after voting for the porkulous package gives us another reason to not for him in as governor if this KnoxNews report is accurate:
According to Tri-Cities TV reporter George Jackson, Republican Congressman Zach Wamp "stopped by Dino's restaurant on Saturday to express his support for Tennessee House Speaker Kent Williams" and to have lunch.
Further evidence that Washington DC is a long way from Tennessee. I can't read this any other way than Wamp deliberately made plans to shake the man's hand. He didn't have to. Would have had legitimate reasons not to. Wasn't, apparently, invited and compelled to visit. He just wanted to shake the hand of the pawn of Naifeh and Odom.

Spelling Twitter

The Scripps Spelling Bee is Twittering this year. Live tweets today and tomorrow with the speller's number (sometimes name) and the word and whether it was spelled correctly or not. Sure you could watch it live on ESPN but that's so '08. Finals are Friday night on ABC television.

Homeschoolers in Tennessee are following Derek Williams (#243) from the Jackson area.

Check out the tweets.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Privacy Power Play

Again, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) is on the front lines of a legislative battle and doing yeoman's work in getting the word out about an outrageous power grab by the State of Tennessee.

The bill in question is HB2289/SB2239. Ignore the bill summary at that link. Like many bills that pass through the Tennessee legislature it's been amended. Most of us mere citizens aren't going to like what our sophisticated betters on The Hill have got up their sleeves.

This from Rep. Lynn's blog:

The Governor’s administration is pushing HB2289. As amended the bill claims that the state government needs your information to;

“Improve the accessibility and affordability of patient health care and health care coverage”

“Identify health and health care needs and inform on health and health care policy”

“Determine the capacity and distribution of existing health care resources”

“Evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs on improving patient outcomes”

“Review costs among various treatment settings, providers, and approaches”

“Provide publicly available information on health care providers’ quality of care”
This starts with the assumption that government is the answer to the 'problem' they've outlined. Frankly, government has been more of a hindrance in this than a help.

Seems to me that much of this can be avoided if the state would allow true market forces to determine health care (can you say Certificates of Need) and our right to privacy wouldn't be decimated. Via CON's the government is already determining capacity and distribution of health care resources. If that's working....why do we need HB2289? You want to know about distribution of resources? Hang out in the waiting room of a few of the larger hospitals in this state and ask where folks are from and why they had to come all the way into Nashville or Memphis. Just last week I got a note from a family who'll have to spend weeks in Nashville for their child's medical treatment. There is nothing closer for this life threatening issue.

How about instead of trashing my right of privacy we make doctor disciplinary hearings and outcomes public information so the public will have facts upon which to base our medical decisions?

How about we encourage hospitals to publish a list of fees so we can actually shop around and balance price with the recommendations we've gotten from friends and family?

Rep. Lynn's completely on this. Forget HIPPA...the government has near carte blanche with our personal information. This is a one way street that must not be allowed one more mile of paving. Privacy to them doesn't mean what it does to us. I can't know if my daughter gets an abortion. I can't even see her library records without her permission. I can't know if the fellow next to me has a communicable disease. They all have privacy rights. I've got legislators all too willing to hand over my Constitutional rights to bureaucrats. What I really need is a few more good men like Rep. Lynn who've got a backbone and will say no.

Last week during the guns in parks debate there was some discussion about cities being able to opt in or out of this legislation. Opponents of guns in parks were adamant that the default should be that cities have to opt into that legislation. That cities should have to decide for having guns in parks. Where are those legislators now in regard to this mandate? Shouldn't the privacy rights of citizens demand an opt in clause?

Go here to find and contact your legislators:

Thanks to these Republican representatives already on record as voting against this privacy power play:
Rep. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) ,
Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) ,
Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) ,
Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah) .

So far not one member of the Senate has voted no.

See also: Between you, your doctor and the State of Tennessee.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Examined Life: Stanley H. Kaplan

Recent conversations have reminded me of this oldie-but-goodie from the archives of The New Yorker Magazine.

A Critic at Large
Examined Life
What Stanley H. Kaplan taught us about the S.A.T.
Malcolm Gladwell

Once, in fourth grade, Stanley Kaplan got a B-plus on his report card and was so stunned that he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood, ashamed to show his mother. This was in Brooklyn, on Avenue K in b Flatbush, between the wars. Kaplan’s father, Julius, was from Slutsk, in Belorussia, and ran a plumbing and heating business. His mother, Ericka, ninety pounds and four feet eight, was the granddaughter of the chief rabbi of the synagogue of Prague, and Stanley loved to sit next to her on the front porch, immersed in his schoolbooks while his friends were off playing stickball. Stanley Kaplan had Mrs. Holman for fifth grade, and when she quizzed the class on math equations, he would shout out the answers. If other students were having problems, Stanley would take out pencil and paper and pull them aside. He would offer them a dime, sometimes, if they would just sit and listen. In high school, he would take over algebra class, and the other kids, passing him in the hall, would call him Teach. One classmate, Aimee Rubin, was having so much trouble with math that she was in danger of being dropped from the National Honor Society. Kaplan offered to help her, and she scored a ninety-five on her next exam. He tutored a troubled eleven-year-old named Bob Linker, and Bob Linker ended up a successful businessman. In Kaplan’s sophomore year at City College, he got a C in biology and was so certain that there had been a mistake that he marched in to see the professor and proved that his true grade, an A, had accidentally been switched with that of another, not quite so studious, Stanley Kaplan. Thereafter, he became Stanley H. Kaplan, and when people asked him what the “H” stood for he would say “Higher scores!” or, with a sly wink, “Preparation!” He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and hung a shingle outside his parents’ house on Avenue K—”Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center”— and started tutoring kids in the basement. In 1946, a high-school junior named Elizabeth, from Coney Island, came to him for help on an exam he was unfamiliar with. It was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and from that moment forward the business of getting into college in America was never quite the same.


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Chief explains

This from the MNPD Employee Newsletter of this afternoon from Chief Serpas regarding recent fingerprint legislation that is controversial. This is one of the few instances where the Chef and I disagree.

May 21, 2009
News from the Chief
One of the major benefits of our Advanced Records Management System (ARMS) when it comes on line this fall will be a move to paperless, electronic police reports, including most misdemeanor and traffic citations.

Officers with in-car computers will complete the citation electronically and then print out
a small paper slip, similar to a credit card receipt, containing information on how to satisfy or contest the citation. That small paper slip will then be given to the motorist. The citation will electronically travel to the Traffic Violations Bureau.

Instead of the motorist signing for the citation on an electronic signature pad, this police
department and police agencies statewide, would like to have the option of substituting a single fingerprint in place of the signature on electronic citations. It is really a matter of dollars and sense. Single digit fingerprint readers will save our department $500,000 over electronic signature pads, and should last much longer. The fingerprint would serve as an affirmation that the recipient will appear in court or otherwise satisfy the citation.

Despite skepticism caused by recent news reports, there is no hidden agenda or purpose.
The single fingerprint image from a traffic stop would not be stored in any law enforcement database. Again, it would serve to represent the motorists’ acknowledgement of the citation.

The ARMS system would allow for the single fingerprint to be instantly checked against
those persons wanted on outstanding warrants, provided the wanted person had been booked and fingerprinted for a crime previously. Similarly, it could also aid to detect identity theft if the driver had been arrested previously.

Legislation to allow law enforcement to substitute a fingerprint for a signature has passed
the Tennessee House of Representatives and will be taken up soon by the State Senate. It is important to note that, for many years, Tennessee law enforcement agencies have collected signatures AND fingerprints on misdemeanor citations. In fact, state law authorizing the use of misdemeanor citations makes the submission of a fingerprint a condition for issuance. The concept is not new. The procedure we propose is now being used very successfully by other jurisdictions across the country.

If a citizen should ask you in the coming days about our plan to move to electronic traffic citations, please feel free to use the information from this column.

Thank you all for your tremendous work that is relied upon and deeply appreciated by Nashville’s families, businesses, and visitors.
I've absolutely no doubt the Chief has no other purposes for this fingerprint. I do doubt that everyone will be as careful with it. This flows in the same stream as the medical information in the post below. What is the price of our privacy? At what point do we say...I'm willing to pay a bit more to keep MY personal information private?

More downside: that 'small slip of paper' will disappear as quickly as any credit card or deposit slip ever has. I predict the number of folks pleading "I lost my citation" is going skyrocket. Those big handwritten tickets are hard to lose. Hard to ignore.

Upside: they'll be easier to hide from the spouse or parent.

HB2220/SB2153 can be found here.

Just between you, your doctor and the State of Tennessee

Now here's a legitimate right to privacy being infringed upon.

The plan is to mandate that your insurance company transmit all of your healthcare transactions to the state. You will be assigned a unique encrypted patient identifier by your insurance company. This identifier will be used by the state to track all of your healthcare transactions so that they can evaluate you according to the criteria listed above. Your doctor will also receive a unique healthcare provider identifier; but he or she will be fully identifiable.

What if you should want to opt-out? Well, you can’t.


I fail to see how legislators mandating insurance companies to turn over your healthcare transactions to the state cannot violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution; unreasonable searches and seizures.

Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) explains further at her blog what's going on here with HB2289/SB2239.

No Republican legislators should be voting for this...and clearly some know this as "Rep.(s) Bell, Campfield, Lynn, and Dennis requested to be recorded as voting No" after the vote in the House Government Operations Committee. Kudos to them for sticking to conservative principals. This thing needs to be killed ASAP.

I do wonder, though, will this include information on abortions sought? Or will those get some special exemption?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free to Teach

Sometimes teachers feel like no one is listening. Well, this week someone said "We hear you." The US Dept. of Ed asked teachers about their jobs. The folks at The Friedman Foundation made a picture out of the puzzle pieces of information and give us "Free to Teach: What America's Teachers Say About Teaching in Public and Private Schools".

Study co-author Greg Forster via Jay Greene's blog:

"We found that the government school system is not providing the best environment for teaching. Public school teachers fare worse than private school teachers on virtually every measurement – sometimes by large margins. They have less autonomy in the classroom, less influence over school policy, less ability to keep order, less support from administrators and peers, and less safety. So it’s not surprising that they also have less job satisfaction on a variety of measures.
Which of the two sources of influence – politics or parents – do you think is more focused on demanding that schools provide better teaching?
Parents and teachers are traditionally thought of as antagonists. And no wonder – under the current system, parents have no effective control over their children’s education other than what they can extract from their teachers by pestering and nagging them. The status quo is designed to force parents and teachers into an antagonistic relationship."
Here's the link to the .pdf copy of "Free to Teach: What America's Teachers Say About Teaching in Public and Private Schools".

A couple of snips from the study.
  • Private school teachers are more likely to teach in urban environments (39 percent v. 29 percent) while public school teachers are more likely to teach in rural environments (22 percent versus 11 percent).
  • But the claims attributed to “teachers” actually come from self-appointed spokesmen, not from a nationally representative sample of teachers. What if we asked teachers nationwide how things actually worked in their schools, and found out that their testimony tended to confirm what the reformers claimed?
  • The most striking difference between the public and private sectors is the disparity in school size. Public schools have, on average, over twice the number of enrolled students, 804 students per school versus 385 in private schools.
  • This salary difference sheds a different light on the subsequent findings in this study. As the remaining tables show, working conditions for teachers are superior in private schools across a wide variety of measurements. While these are observational data and we cannot perform a statistical analysis to determine causation, the data lend themselves to the hypothesis that public school salaries are higher partly to compensate for the inferior working conditions teachers endure in public schools.
  • Public school teachers report working a total of 52 hours per week and teaching for 27 of those hours, while private school teachers report working a total of 48 hours and teaching for 26 of those.
  • Public school teachers are twice as likely as private school teachers to agree that “I sometimes feel it is a waste of time to try to do my best as a teacher” (17 percent versus 9 percent).
  • The remarkable observation that private school teachers are 26 percentage points more likely to strongly agree that they have all the textbooks and supplies they need is all the more surprising given that private schools make do with much less spending than public schools. The average private school tuition is $6,600, compared to over $10,000 per student spent in public schools. Yet private schools do a radically better job of equipping their teachers.
  • Popular myth has it that the private school sector is a redoubt of racial privilege, while public schools are the only hope for breaking down racial barriers. In fact, while desegregation efforts have repeatedly failed to reduce actual levels of segregation in public schools, the empirical evidence has consistently shown that private school vouchers succeed in providing a less segregated school environment. Vouchers are also the education reform that has the best empirical track record at improving educational outcomes for minority students.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Never say never

Here's a screen shot from the City Paper this morning regarding the Nashville convention center debate.

May 14: "Smart money says no such transparency web site is created."

And just 4 days later on May 18: "Music City Center project could soon have a transparency Web site so those interested can track revenues as they come in, along with an itemization of expenditures."

Kudos to Councilman Eric Crafton. Smart money shouldn't automatically bet against him.

UPDATE: and on May 20: "Crafton was more successful with an amendment calling for a "transparency Web site" detailing revenues for the project and expenses during the "pre-development" and land acquisition stages. The council approved that change, 35-4. Dean's administration and the Metro Development and Housing Agency, which is spearheading the convention center project, have until Aug. 1 to get the Web site up and running." (From the Tennessean)

Saving our liberties

I'm thrilled with the outcome of last night's House vote to restore the Tennessee State Constitution as 'the law of the land' in our state. The passage of SJR127 has taken a lot of time and warriors like the diminutive-in-stature-only Bobbie Patray of Tennessee Eagle Forum are owed an unpayable debt of gratitude. The checks and balances necessary to protect our rights and liberties to govern ourselves are on their way to being restored. The judicial branch usurped their authority. Last night the legislative branch said 'back off'.

This from Bobbie Patray's account of last evening:

[Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) ] even got in a comment about the current debate on judges: "Obviously the courts and how we select them or how we should elect them is an issue before us now. And if we continue to go where the people have no say who sits on the Supreme Court, then we're going to be right back in the posture of instead of the people controlling their Constitution, the courts will..."
He's right. We've got a legal system that thinks they know better than citizens who should be our judges. Those judges, when given half a chance, will make laws over us. It won't take long and the judicial will completely emasculate the legislative and we'll be out of the picture completely.

The left is hopping mad. Spitting mad. You'll get a nasty shower just reading the posts on the Internet. They feel betrayed by Democrat legislators who dared crossed them. This is a huge wake up call for them. Oh, they've got 21 solid votes (and one squishy one) but they are finally realizing that the Naifeh regime, which unfairly kept this issue off the House floor for a vote, really isn't in charge any more.

Is it too much to hope that some point, after they cool down, they'll realize that the greater issue of who gets to make the laws as Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) mentioned is essential to maintaining freedom in America? That's the choice they should be most concerned about. If maintaining freedom and a balanced government is important then last night was a huge victory.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Liz nails it

Today's MUST READ is at the City Paper and is the debut work, for them, of Liz Garrigan formerly of the Nashville Scene. She deserves roses (or the flowers of her choice) for her work this morning. She says it plainly and I dearly hope folks are willing to listen and change their ways. Legislators, especially, need to heed these words.

"Their underdog foes, meanwhile, are not only children — who can’t vote, drive or earn a living — but also poor ones at that. They are kids, many of them who have but one parent, who qualify for free- and reduced-lunches, have no books at home and an unfortunate scarcity of adult role models.

What’s truly dangerous is the teachers’ myopic view, which seems to appraise existing schools, however academically insolvent, as more valuable than successful reform efforts. Essentially, the union is in defensive recoil, desperately afraid of competition, which is precisely the component that helps improve all schools. (Rising tides and all that…)"
She's spot on here. ANY public brick and mortar union run school is, in their minds, far superior to ANY other education choice-- truth be damned. Never mind actual results or parent satisfaction, or taxpayer/voter support. They seem to have the mindset that the Pre-K-12 years of our children's lives belong to them as a right and they will not let go of them. Those now standing in the school house door are enabled in their tyrannical thinking by legislators who either owe them for political favors or are are actually one of their number.

It's got to stop. Charters are only part of the answer but it is THE answer for many of these children. Schools are not a full employment program for adults. They're a means to ensure an educated citizenry. It's time these education choice bigots learned a lesson and the legislature writes an Emancipation Proclamation that will allow more children the choice of using the education option that meet their needs. A successful public school shouldn't need Mafia style protection. A bad system only enables bad teachers and frustrates the good ones and the children suffer.

What's just unconscionable is that many of these same legislators pride themselves on being advocates and friends of the poor and downtrodden. What's that saying? It's how you treat the least of these that reveals your true character?

Take a moment and write/call legislators. This important issue will be voted on this week in the legislature. Make sure they hear from you. Tell them, ala Moses of so long ago..."Let the children go."

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009-05-15 Morning pixels

Election Commissions: From the Tennessean this morning:

Lynn Greer, chairman of the Davidson County Election Commission, said it isn't likely that Republicans would seek to oust Metro Election Coordinator Ray Barrett.

"I'm OK with that," said Greer, a Republican who has been on the commission for seven years. "He's a good man to work with. He's honest."
I'm not OK with this. Let's get over it. These are political appointments. They knew this when they got the job. Unfortunately, they've had them so long they've forgotten that and expect job security where there isn't any. It's like acknowledging the Republicans own the house but let a Democrat hold the keys and reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor's character in "Elephant Walk". Shouldn't happen. Do we own it or not? It has nothing to do with competence or honesty. It's politics remember? Republicans need to take full advantage of the opportunities we've got. We need merely look at our national and state legislatures for plenty of examples of where being nice and accommodating got us a knife in the back.

Civil Disobedience: AC Kleinheider at the Nashville Post points folks to a NY Times article where Earth Father Al Gore hasn't ruled out civil disobedience in regard to combating new coal plants.
"Yesterday, he said that he didn't think his time would best be used in such action, even as he said his friends have been out there and he has "not ruled out" the possibility of joining in."
Does he mean ELF eco-terrorism civil disobedience or does he mean a photo op of him being charged with merely trespassing, being cuffed and later released and he'll leave the heavy lifting to his pawns? Seems to me he valued his own property rights so highly they included the air above his own home. Now he's considering violating the property rights of others? He's come a long way from the VP oath of office.

Army of Activists v. Christian Soldiers: From that NY Times piece on the Gore faithful's pilgrimage to Nashville:
"An organization he founded, the Climate Project, is holding a weekend summit here to train a new army of activists to..."
Military terminology in this case is OK but "Onward Christian Soldiers" = the next Crusades?

The Truth is its own defense: CM Pam Murray (District 5-East Nashville) is cleaning up the mess she created and amended her disclosure forms. If she can't remember if she's self-employed or getting a paycheck then she's not fit to help run the city. District 5 citizens need to keep pushing.

Truth II: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) is stumbling her way through life these days trying desperately to remember the truth and finding it inadequate to cover her backside. This is painful to watch.

These women are setting a terrible example and they actually harm legitimate advances women have made in politics. They've squandered the efforts of women who've gone before them. It's shameful behavior.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cleaning those resin chairs

A short break for a household tip on cleaning white resin chairs.

We've had most of our white resin chairs for more than a decade--I'd say 14 years at least. After all that time they're still in good structural shape and sturdy and except for the nasty black stains there'd be no reason to throw them away. We've got six that sit out in the weather 24/7/365. It doesn't take long for them to look just terrible. Granted, I'm not always out there cleaning them either. Today cleaning them was at the top of the household chores list.

After searching the Internet for suggestions and finding that none of them worked I headed for Home Depot. Kenny, the very doubtful Home Depot clerk, didn't think they had anything that would work.

"Are you looking for something you can just wipe on and it'll do the job?" Kenny asked.

"Of course, aren't we all?" I responded.

Kenny's laugh sounded like "Yeah right. Aint gonna happen lady."

Well, Kenny left me in the aisle of cleaning chemicals and I started reading labels. I decided to take a chance on a gallon of this Clorox Pro Results Outdoor Cleaner for about $8.00. I wasn't hopeful because painting straight Clorox bleach on one chair and Clorox Bathroom cleaner on another only minimally improved the look of the chairs and actually gave portions of the chairs awful beige blotches. But I took a chance on trying another Clorox product.

I had hosed all the chairs with a strong blast of plain water but otherwise I didn't scrub anything. After all, I was looking for an easy fix. Then I put on my gloves, poured a bit of this cleaner into an old plastic bowl and started painting this thick glop onto the chairs using a wide foam brush. It didn't take a full minute before the change was obvious. After less than 5 minutes I was very pleased. There were a couple of places that needed a second coat such as the edges of pressed designs but overall the results were astounding. Another blast with the power sprayer and these chairs looked great. I'll use far less than the gallon I purchased to finish all the chairs. They won't ever look new again but I'm not afraid to sit on them and I won't be embarrassed to have visitors see them. The picture here shows each attempt after hosing. I didn't think to take a shot while they were at their worst--but trust me---they were really bad after sitting on the deck all winter.

So for the price of one cheap resin chair Clorox Pro Results Outdoor is keeping 10 of them out of the landfill and I have time to blog and watch the House Education Committee hearing.

UPDATE: Did the same with the green Adirondack resin lounges. They were already looking chalky from age but the Clorox Pro Results Outdoor didn't make them any more chalky and got rid of the black stains. I also took a chance on spraying them down with a bit of Turtle Wax 2001 Super Protectant (akin to Armor All for the interior of a car). Worked like a charm. Again, they don't look new but they look clean and green again.

Oh, and don't let that foam brush sit in the Clorox Pro Results Outdoor too long while you're cleaning those resin chairs. It'll start to dissolve the foam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Duly, legally and constitutionally elected

Lt. Governor Ramsey should not ask for my vote for governor and the chance to take that oath of office again if he cannot honor the oaths he took on January 13, 2009. He was 'duly, legally and constitutionally' elected. Tennessee's judges should also be 'duly, legally and constitutionally elected'.

The Tennessee plan clearly 'lessens and abridges [citizen] rights and privileges' in direct contradiction to the oath every legislator took. Let the Tennessee plan die. If some want to change the Tennessee Constitution they should start by filing a legislative bill and not by continuing to enable the usurping of the rights of citizens because they can.

It's time for Lt. Gov. Ramsey, and Gubernatorial Candidate Ramsey, to show us his ability to lead this state and that unlike another prominent legislator he can be trusted to fulfill his promises.

For more information on this very important issue: and
Terry Frank

Monday, May 11, 2009

Uncle Milty?

Seriously? I thought Uncle Milty was dead and this schtick went with him. The photos on the Hawkins County GOP website show gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp at a womanless fashion show. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Mayor Bill Haslaam were also in attendance but managed to stay out of the photographers viewfinder or paid off the webmaster to leave them off the site. So they're at least one up on Wamp.

Gentlemen, please. Can we move on and act like adults in the 21st Century ready to lead a state instead of members of the Texaco Star Theater circa 1966?

HT: AC Kleinheider

Friday, May 08, 2009

Legislator all thumbs?

I'm trying to reconcile the recent decision by the Tennessee State Legislature to:

...end a requirement for Tennessee firearms dealers to take the thumbprints of people buying guns.... (NewsChannel 5)
and their desire to authorize:
... the affixing of the person’s fingerprint to the citation instead of or in addition to the person’s signature. (Ben Cunningham)
My understanding is that the thumbprints for guns was often illegible and rarely requested. So now we think that police officer's will be more able to obtain a legible print from drivers on the side of the road in a citation book than a gun dealer can on a post card at a store counter?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Nip it. Nip it in the bud

Because they've done such a good job at picking BOE members and Superintendents the Chamber now wants to facilitate consideration of the BOE having taxing authority. Who didn't know this conversation was going to be renewed in this era of tight budgets, property reassessments and the unquenchable MNPS budget 'needs'?

Education 2020 Speaker Series As Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) continues to struggle to meet the rising benchmarks of No Child Left Behind, Nashville must have a governance system that aligns the day-to-day responsibility of running our schools with clear accountability for results. With the governance of MNPS currently being shared among the school board, director of schools, mayor and the state of Tennessee, there is a pressing need for community discussion about governance reform. Please join us for a panel discussion exploring the possibility of allowing the Metro School Board to control its own budget by having its own taxing authority.

Julia Bernath, vice chair, Board of Education, Fulton County, Georgia
Kent McNish, board member, Franklin Special School District
Stephen Smith, assistant executive director, Tennessee School Board Association Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent, Gwinnett County, Georgia

Let's start with the fact that once the BOE gets more than 1/3rd of the Metro Budget...they pretty much have carte blanche over how it's spent. They've already got control. And what control they don't have can be vastly fixed by refusing Federal dollars and getting out from under NCLB all together.

Then let's move on to the fact that it was Chamber President/CEO Ralph Schultz that trained the BOE in the very flawed Policy Governance system they already use that fails to provide 'clear accountability' for results. Exhibit A: Pedro Garcia. Exhibit B: State oversight.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Video feeds done right and wrong

Let me make it absolutely clear that I'm very thankful for streaming video being available. It makes my job much easier to be sure. But Nashville's Council, committees and Board of Education are far behind where they could be in this effort. Compare the quality of the video from Metro Nashville's legislative body and the one from the State of Tennessee. Nashville's is just pitiful.

Further, the state has a copy of the agenda right next to the video that you can easily scroll through as you watch the session. With Metro you have go get the agenda, open that in a new browser window and then watch the live stream in a different window.

Also note the vast difference in size between the state video and Nashville's video. I've got aging eyes and viewing the Nashville video on-line is very tiring. Too many details, like who voted which way, are muddy and fuzzy.

Unlike the state's video which allows viewing of the entire session at any time Nashville's video is aired several times a week via Metro 3 and then archived in 15 minute +- sections with no indication of what portion of the agenda is in each section. The BOE's video I consider even worse because the lighting is so bad. If you're black your face too often disappears completely.

I don't know if Metro's streaming is so poor because it's not a priority for the city or it's a money issue. If it's a money issue, I'll be patient. But if it's just lack of priority--let's do better. Considering all the talk about wanting Nashville to be a first class city maybe it would help if our on-line visitors could 'see' that clearly demonstrated.

Pam's loss, neighborhood's gain

CM Pam Murray (District 5-East Nashville) was forced to withdraw her sweetheart mobile vending bill for Cleveland Street at last night's Metro Council meeting. District 5 residents owe a big debt to CM Karen Bennett (District 8 Inglewood) who acted as their advocate last night by forcing the bill to the table which resulted in Murray learning that 27 of her fellow council members sided with those who came to speak but were about to be silenced by Murray's last minute decision to defer the bill. Deferral is a low and desperate political tactic and I'm glad to see the Council deferred to citizens rather than councilmatic courtesy.

In this four minute video you can see the crowd as the camera pans across the gallery. Those wearing red were against Murray's bills. You can also see less than stellar oratory when Murray asserts "It's not fair" and then vows "I will bring it back in another way."

Prior to the meeting Channel 5 followed up on the Phil Williams investigation of Murray with another report which included the news that CM Bennett had gone to the police after last week's community meeting and filed a police report accusing Murray of "verbal intimidation" which seems a vast understatement of the behavior after that meeting.

Murray's other two controversial bills, another mobile vending one and the retroactive spot zoning of a fire trap were also not heard. Now we need codes and the fire department step up and close the mobile vendor and, more importantly, close that firetrap quadplex before lives are lost.

Kudos to the neighborhood and the Council for all the effort extended to rein in a rogue councilman. Nashville is better for it. Thank you all.

UPDATE: Votes on tabling Murray's motion from the Council Clerk's office:

Noes: Coleman, Foster, Gilmore, Langster, Maynard, Murray and Wilhoite.

Abstain: Harrison and LaLonde (who had only moments before been sworn in as a Council member)

Absent: Gotto, Hunt, Matthews, Stanley.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Worlds collide

It's happening all the time now. A news article or feed about one candidate that is nearly overwhelmed by the advertising of the rival candidate. This first screen shot from my Google Reader. Actually go to Politics.NashvillePost and you'll get a different set of dueling candidate ads. It seems like it's going to be a loooong election season.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Thank you, Billy Graham

Pat Boone was in church today. That's not unusual. What was was his taking the pulpit and introducing the video below. A song and video tribute to an American hero. Boone shared that several years back two famous women died during the same week in 1997. The life and death of the simple woman serving in Calcutta was completely overshadowed by the death of an English royal by marriage who died tragically as a result of our insatiable "People Magazine" culture. Boone didn't want that overshadowing to happen again and so decided that it would be best to 'give honor to whom honor is due' while the honoree was still alive. I agree. You can view the details of this effort at the website or see Boone explain the project via this YouTube video.

So here's the touching collaborative musical tribute to a man who during some of America's most turbulent times spent his life sharing the simple and profound Good News: God loves you.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The right kind of change

Great overview of the current braying by the Rutherford County Democrat Party over Rep. Donna Rowland's (R-Murfreesboro) record of not voting on most resolutions that do nothing but waste time, cost money and curry the favor of future voters and donors. The RCDP is calling her "one of the worst legislators on Capitol Hill" all because a vast majority of the House's business to this point (thanks to Newbie Speaker Kent Williams) has been comprised of many non-legislative pieces of legislation and Rowland has decided she's had enough. Do they seriously think she's worse than Ophelia ("What your saying ain't hitting on nothing with me") Ford (D-Memphis)?

I think the Blue Collar Muse has it nailed down when he writes:

I think Donna Rowland ought to be commended, not crucified. She’s made an about face for very principled reasons. Is she perfect? Nope. Is she right on this matter? Absolutely. If I cannot let her change for the better, then I cannot expect that same grace to be extended to me. But when did Real Life ever matter in politics?
Too many folks will not allow for a legitimate change of mind. It's not possible, in their world, for folks to obtain additional facts or experiences that would lead to a reasonable reconsideration of a POV. According to them your first utterance about an issue is set in stone until your death. I tend toward believing that a change of mind can be growth and can be a sign of maturity...not hypocrisy.

Though, I'm not sure that's the case with Arlen Spector D~R~D-Pennsylvania.