Revolution in the Volunteer State?
by Steve Trinward
It has been said recently, by many people, that we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift. (Scott Adams calls it a Golden Age.) If you live in Nashville, or many parts of Tennessee, you maybe know this firsthand. I’ll begin with bullet points, to give you a reason to read the whole piece as you wish:
• Nashville: Megan Barry demise, transit scam smashed, new Mayoral election, real chance for change.
• Knoxville: Glenn “Kane” Jacobs wins GOP primary for that city’s mayoral race.
• Tennessee: Take a look at the ballot for Governor. and wonder why it’s so crowded.
A. Nashville on the verge of major changes
The latest “shift” began about two months ago, with the resignation under fire of the incumbent Mayor, Megan Barry, after her use of public funds to support her affair with her chief security guard was revealed. A few weeks later, Nashville went to the polls, not only to reinstate some judges and county clerks, but to vote FOR or AGAINST a $9 billion mass-transit plan (to be funded with four different tax boosts, including several miles of light-rail vehicle tracks and a tunnel under the main downtown section to connect everything. Ousted Mayor Barry had been perhaps its loudest advocate.)
The referendum question attracted opposition from more than the usual car dealers; this time, community activists from all over the political spectrum jumped into the fight. A group called No Tax for Transit formed, with support from both car dealers and conservative/libertarian places like Americans for Prosperity and the Beacon Center, and a front spokesman with “progressive” credentials, jeff obafemi carr (his preferred spelling, apparently). His famous words regarding this “boondoggle” were quite cogent: “We get the bill and the bus, they get the tracks.”
Another group, Better Transit for Nashville, arose from two left-of-center (largely libertarian) fellows, who speculated on using present-day and upcoming technologies, combined with longer hours and more crosstown routes, and using smaller buses, vans (even Uber/Lyft vehicles), potentially covering the needs of the whole city and coordinating with outlying areas, at a fraction of the cost. (The budget for the plan they presented was about half of the present bus-driven system, augmenting instead of replacing it, and maybe even making the rides “free” in the process, thus providing another incentive for people to use the system.)
According to both opponents (and maybe anyone else who looked carefully at it?), the Transit Plan was based on already outdated technology and focused solely on a few miles of downtown, tearing up downtown streets for a decade and more during the construction, streets which would never again be practicably usable by private vehicles once the project was completed. The five major roads leading into downtown would then be dominated by a light-rail system taking up the middle three lanes of each one, moving at a leisurely 15 miles per hour, while leaving only a lane in each direction for private vehicles.
On May 1st the voters spoke; actually. they already had spoken, as the early-voting totals had drawn far more people to the polls than normal, and that tally was about 65-35% AGAINST. On that evening, about ten minutes after the polls officially closed (and before any election day results had been reported), the FOR advocates conceded their defeat.
On to the next battle: Thanks to a court ruling, the election to confirm or deny the official ascension of David Briley (who had risen from Vice Mayor to replace Barry, and was just as FOR the transit plan as she had been) must be held just three weeks later, on May 24th, instead of going down in August as many wished. (If Briley, or someone else, does not get the majority of the votes, there will be a runoff of the two top finishers in that August special election.)
Despite the short notice, nearly a dozen challengers rose up to contend. Along with a few current and former Metro Council members (Erica Gilmore, Ludye Wallace and Roy Dale) and state legislator Harold Love, Jr., three viable candidates from outside the pale of government stepped up to run:
Carol Swain, a conservative former professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, who left her tenured and secure position there after being hounded for her conservative views. Since then she has written books, given speeches and been a political commentator on CNN among other places. Swain called for Barry's resignation prior to her stepping down. She was also an outspoken critic of the transit plan, as she noted months before the referendum: “A bad idea didn't get better simply due to Megan Barry resigning and Mayor Briley stepping in to replace her. I will be encouraging voters across the county to say ‘No,’ to funding the transit plan in the May 1 referendum.” She is also backed by the guys from BT4N, among others. [Full disclosure: I’m backing her as well, and doing all I can to spread the word.]
- jeff obafemi carr, a media consultant and spiritual activist who (as noted above) worked for NoTax4Tracks as its paid spokesman, fighting the transit referendum. [Note: I like what I have seen of jeff, but I think Carol has a far better chance to pull this off, and would be much better at the job.]
- Ralph Bristol, a retired conservative radio talk show host on 99.7 WTN, also a vocal transit plan opponent. [Note: I know very little about Mr. Bristol, but I believe his conservative perspective is presented by Dr. Swain, with a lot more of a skill-set to make this happen and then govern effectively, and I hope he realizes this and steps back soon.]
I see three scenarios that could truly revolutionize Nashville: a) Carol Swain defeats Briley, with a majority, later this month; b) Briley is denied a majority, Carol is the runner-up and she defeats him in August; c) both Carol and jeff outrun Briley, and they are the choices in August, in a “friendly-fight” showdown. I think Carol Swain is the kind of citizen-stateswoman, with no aspirations to political careerism; I also think that Vanderbilt’s loss could be Nashville’s gain.
B. Glenn Jacobs maybe Mayor of Knoxville?
Last week, while the transit thing was going down to defeat in Music City, they voted in Knoxville, a couple hundred miles due east, and a libertarian/conservative pro wrestler (known as “Kane” in those circles) won a primary race by less than 20 votes. Given how red-state Knoxville tends to be, and the fact that no Democrat has won this race in a dog’s age, Jacobs would seem the odds-on favorite when they go to the polls again. [I know very little about this beyond the news-stories, so I will let this issue stand on its own. Having a libertarian as mayor of a major city would certainly benefit liberty, regardless of the party-label he had to don to make it so.]
C. Glutting the Tennessee Governor’s Race
[I saved this for last, to see if you were still reading.] This might be the best-kept secret anywhere right now, outside of the room in which it was conjured up, anyway. Back in March, when the Libertarian Party of Tennessee convened for its annual convention in Lebanon, reports on the progress of the ballot-access petition drive were encouraging, but something else needed doin’. Needing 33,844 signatures to run candidates as Libertarians might be doable once; other strategies were also needed. Alongside the petitioning, there were legislative and legal battles in process, to either amend or overturn the barriers to entry set up by the political duopoly to maintain their control of the process, but something was still missing.
Someone spoke up (I forget who was the first to say it): “If they won’t let us run a Libertarian, why don’t we ALL run as Independents?” This led to pledges from about 30 of those in attendance. Why not? It takes a grand total of TWENTY FIVE SIGNATURES to run for office as an Independent in Tennessee; let’s just show them what happens when they deny us ballot identification. Heck, most of us can get that many at work or church, or from neighbors. The brainstorming went on: we could even have gatherings to sign each other’s papers, to make it even easier!
So it went forward, as the fourth prong in our assault on the denial of voter awareness. And when the deadline in April hit, 20 of our folks (heretofore known as “the Tennessee twenty”) succeeded, and their names will be on the ballot in November, along with a handful of others, making a list of about 30 vying with Harwell and Dean, or whomever emerges from their primaries.
Some are doing little things to promote themselves. Tracy Tisdale, a medical-cannabis activist from the eastside of the state, has fashioned a poster, and is posting pics of it on Facebook and elsewhere. Another candidate (Vinnie Vineyard, aka Funkmaster V) has done a video https://www.youtube.com/BIsePOlH0Ps, some local radio and other presentations, and some others are finding other low-cost ways to make themselves known. Nobody to my knowledge is as yet planning any largescale assaults on the game, but who knows? That could certainly change as we get closer.
I could go on, talking about the new minister starting at my “church” tomorrow, or the “Better Angels” organization (mission: to bring Red and Blue together to air their differences and find ways to talk to each other peaceably) in which I have recently become interested (Not sure yet whether we libertarian types could become referees or facilitators for this.), or the success so far of the Predators vying for the Stanley cup in hockey, or the prospects for the 2018 Titans in the NFL.
Suffice to say that my life is seeing that “paradigm shift” in larger relief almost every day.