Rex: Taxpayer-funded lobbyists?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 1:30am

Can he, or can’t he?

As Beth Harwell’s charter school bill limps its way out of the state legislature, critics of Mayor Karl Dean are telling Rex that this may foreshadow — or rule out — efforts of Nashville’s mayor to push for changes in state law that would allow Dean to take over Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Dean pushed hard in his support for the charter school, both publicly and behind closed doors. The thinking is that Dean’s lack of success bringing legislators around to his point of view could indicate trouble getting other education-related measures through.

Dean certainly seems interested in becoming the chief executive officer of Metro schools. If MNPS passes all federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks for this school year, or if the state Department of Education decides that Director of Schools Jesse Register is where the buck ought to continue to stop, it would take a change in state law for Dean to be given control over the schools.

But Rex isn’t sure he believes that the charter school situation is a direct barometer of Dean’s legislative advocacy prowess. A mass transit bill supported by Dean was passed without a hitch. And some strong statewide opposition to charter schools was in place long before Dean threw in his support.

If Dean isn’t appointed trustee of the system by the DOE, Rex thinks the biggest obstacle to seeing a legislative change allowing mayoral control would be the fact that Memphis’s mayor has long lobbied for such a privilege — without success.

Epicentricity of Cleveland

There’s something smoldering in Cleveland. And no, it’s not the Cuyahoga River. It’s bitter jealousy over recent news that Nashville may soon be home to a massive 1.5 million square foot medical trade center.

In an utterly asinine quote, which bowled Rex over when he read it from a Cleveland news source, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones stated the following:

“I’m not terribly worried about the boast and the brag of those from Nashville. If we were building something for the Grand Ole Opry, they would have the edge on us. But Nashville is not known as an epicenter for health care as we are.”

While you let the mind-boggling hilarity of that sink in, Rex will go ahead and suggest that officials from the Nashville Health Care Council add Commissioner Jones’ name to its distribution list for the 2009 Health Care Family Tree. And maybe they could even staple a little note to it saying something like, “Your move, chief!”

To say that Nashville is not an epicenter of health care simply defies logic.

It’s not like Market Center Management, the Dallas-based company proposing the development, was out to make a television vehicle for an overweight bespectacled comedian or a movie about a perennially down-and-out, yet lovable baseball team.

Because in those cases, Cleveland might have an edge on us.

Favorite son of swooshy progressives

Michael Craddock made official his decision to run for criminal court clerk last week when he filed treasurer documents with the Election Commission.

No doubt Craddock will give incumbent Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence a run for his money when the two square off next year. And Craddock will have a hand from some of his progressive Council brothers and sisters.

Some of the first Council members to offer Craddock their support, Rex has learned, were at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and Sylvan Park Councilman Jason Holleman.

Look for Craddock to join Holleman and fellow pro-neighborhood Council members Mike Jameson, Emily Evans and Jerry Maynard at next month’s inaugural meeting of the progressive Council Caucus.

Taxpayer-funded lobbyists?

Davidson County taxpayers are essentially funneling money to lobbyists who are hounding Metro Council members over the Music City Center deal.

Start with the subsidy Metro provides the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Employees there have been e-mailing Council members in support of the project since the Music City Center land acquisition bill was introduced last month.

CVB members also planned a “rally” outside the historic Metro courthouse prior to the vote on second reading, although from what Rex saw that night industry support isn’t exactly soaring. Only a few workers showed up.

Then there are the funds given to the Metro Development and Housing Agency for the predevelopment phase of the project. More than $9 million has already been spent, including hiring Nashville super firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox as the public relations contractor. More than one Council member told Rex that MPF has been working the phones on the land acquisition bill as well.

If Rex has this straight, the money goes from taxpayers to Metro to private workers, who turn around and lobby Metro. Government at its best.

Rex Noseworthy appears Mondays in The City Paper.

4 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 5/26/09 at 7:15

Yay Rex. Someone should look at the books and see how much money was given to MPF. I want to see the invoices published detailing the activities on our dime. You use public money, then all billing is public record. Show us what MPF has done to earn the money. Request a copy of all MPF billings to MDHA and Metro. MPF ran the mayor's inauguration, lets see what they did to earn that money as well.

By: JeffF on 5/26/09 at 10:05

It should be pointed out that the same firm hired to pump up the MCC is the same one recently hired to represent the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund in the onslaught of news about its deceptive lending practices to Tennessee governments.

Governments participating in legitimate public services do not have to hire large, expensive PR firms to sell them to elected officials. Wonder what that says about the entire convention industry that they feel like they have to do this?

By: JohnBirch on 5/26/09 at 6:40

Didn't you defend the TMBF on these pages when they did that shady loan with Metro? I am pleased that now you agree their pracitces are shady! A victory for the good government guys!

By: JeffF on 5/27/09 at 8:20

I have indeed turned on the TMBF once I saw the hidden fees to the various small cities to small to have expert advise.