Ruining Nashville For Fun And Profit

Nashville is a progressive city, in many regards a liberal city. But all of that is window dressing for the kind of city Nashville truly is: a developer’s city. Always has been, always will be. Developers own this town (always have, always will) and each successive liberal, progressive Democratic mayoral administration seems perfectly happy to turn our quality of life, livability, sustainability and affordability over to the leeches who have sucked this city dry of all that made it special in the first place.

A perfect example of this is our policy regarding short-term rental properties, aka AirBnB, VRBO, etc. Last year Nashville’s Metro Council passed a law regulating (and taxing) these rentals, the logic being not doing so would push this activity underground and cause the city to miss out on a revenue source. Ever since it’s been a nightmare for neighbors and overwhelmed our zoning department:

Enforcing these regulations has forced Nashville inspectors and zoning enforcement employees to devote a large part of their time just to check on short-term renters. What the city thought would be permitting for 200 individuals and investors turned into more than 1,000 applications.

“Since we set our first date for permitting, it has absolutely inundated our department,” Herbert said in an interview with The Courier-Journal.

We’re actually closer to 2,000 now. The ordinance as passed is completely unenforceable, and therefore useless. It has also enriched developers mightily, while making Nashville’s housing crisis worse. That’s because in Music City we allow both kinds of STRs — those operated by actual homeowners, and those operated by LLCs.

The image rental platforms like AirBnB present is of a carriage house or extra room rented out on weekends by a nice family living in the main house; the owners are people who are on-site and available to monitor their renters and able to make a little extra cash to pay their mortgage. Indeed, that is the very image that is pushed by right-wing think tanks like the Beacon Center, an ALEC-spinoff which has sued Metro Nashville over its ordinance (no doubt at the behest of AirBnB lobbyists). Those rental situations may indeed exist but in Nashville, they are not typical. The typical short-term rental in Nashville, at a whopping 80%, are investor-operated businesses, condos and apartments.

And herein lies the problem: years ago, Metro Nashville’s Planning Department (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the private, for-profit development community) commissioned a study about population growth trends. This study found — shocker! — that the region was expected to grow by a whopping 1 million residents, prompting headlines like this one in our developer-friendly news media:

Ledger

Thus launched the long-range plan for Nashville’s growth known as “NashvilleNext,” which included the usual dog and pony shows known as “community input meetings.” I went to a few of these meetings. Attendees were given tasks like putting colored stickers on a map to indicate where they want to accommodate these newcomers; I know of one such meeting in which attendees crammed their stickers into the city cemeteries. Not exactly a useful exercise, but I digress.

The point of this was to give the process the veneer of “community input,” while the Planning Department went ahead and did what it (and the developers) wanted. Thus our new long-range plan calls for infill in our wealthy and desirable neighborhoods. The large lots and green space we once enjoyed are now filled with the dreaded “tall-skinnies,” detached properties which in defiance of all logic are still called “duplexes” under Nashville’s weird definition of a duplex. They loom over their neighbors and sit on concrete pads where one house with a yard and trees used to be.

We have been told by our city leaders that we need to accommodate this infill, that “everyone needs to do their part,” and take that loss of our neighborhood character and history on the chin because “ZOMG a million people are coming!”. And yet, after five years of a building boom and with thousands of new homes being built all over town, we’re still seeing headlines like this one:

Nashville struggling to meet demand for new homes

With all of this building going on, why are so many new houses showing up on AirBnB, VRBO, etc., as short-term rentals for bachelorette parties? Nashville, why are you doing this? If we truly have a housing shortage, why are you letting developers and real estate companies clear away lots that contain perfectly good homes — many times, even, the affordable “workforce” housing we so desperately need — only to build luxurious new homes that are then used by tourists? Why?

Why allow properties like this one, in the so-hot-I-gotta-wear-gloves 12South Neighborhood:

12SouthVRBO

Or these in the (once historic, now transformed) Germantown neighborhood:

Germantown

Or this in the East Nashville neighborhood, one of four adjacent tall-skinnies, all rented out to tourists and therefore off the market to be used as actual housing:

EastNashville

And it’s not just new houses. Old houses are off the market, reserved for tourists. Entire apartment complexes are being built, not for the housing we desperately need, but so developers can make money on the short-term rental market. This has made developers very rich, but it hasn’t helped Nashville’s housing crunch, and it’s also removed any free-market controls on overbuilding. Great for developers, not so great for us residents.

I have a few AirBnBs in my neighborhood. So far, most are in condo complexes on my street. These are condos that could be rented out to someone who needs housing, but instead profits some real estate company. I didn’t even know they were there, though I did wonder at the strangers I suddenly saw walking down my street, people I’d never seen before. One couple in particular I thought were homeless and living in the neighborhood park. (Sorry, dred-locked and tattooed tourists: hipster or homeless is a real thing.) When I saw them walking through a neighbor’s yard, I grew alarmed … then saw they were just taking a short-cut to an apartment. Never saw them again after that weekend, and so I’m guessing they were guests at the AirBnB I saw listed on the platform. Thanks for letting us all know, guys.

Telling us we have to build build build to accommodate projected growth and then not putting those houses and apartments on the market for actual residents is the kind of move that makes me call bullshit on Nashville’s planning agenda. It’s one of those glorious moves you can expect from a developer-owned town. Tell everyone we need to build like crazy, then let those houses sit empty most of the time. If Nashville’s city leaders really gave a crap about housing, they wouldn’t have allowed LLCs to operate short-term rentals in the first place.

Our Metro Council is currently weighing in on some tweaks to the STR ordinance, while our state legislature is looking at House and Senate bills that would prohibit municipalities from regulating or taxing short-term rentals at all (of course they are!). It’s all fun and games until someone gets a party house next door.

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Filed under Nashville

Orlando Has PTSD

That’s the best explanation I have for this:

About 3:20 p.m., mall patrons began reporting on social media that an alleged shooting had occurred in the food court after hearing sharp popping sounds and a fire alarm. The unsettling sounds sent fearful patrons running from the mall.

Orange County Fire Medical and Orange County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene, but there was no gunman, OCSO spokeswoman Deputy Rose Silva said.

Instead, the scare was caused by an industry-standard test as part of the inspection for the grand opening of former ‘NSync singer Joey Fatone’s new restaurant, Silva said. An announcement was made over the mall’s public announcement system prior to the test preparing customers for the noise.

“The test consisted of six large balloons popping consecutively, followed by a fire alarm,” Silva said. “This caused people to go into panic mode and run.”

At least 10 people were injured in the ensuing panic, “mostly falls, scrapes and twisted knees.” I guess when your city is home to the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, fears of an active shooter are understamndably prevalent. Indeed, an Apple Store employee said,

“I lost two friends at Pulse, so of course that was my first thought,” he said.

Levane said he ran to the farthest corner of the parking lot, something he learned last week when the store held active shooter training. He called his mother while running and told her he loved her.

Welcome to the NRA’s America. We are truly a nation which has lost its innocence.

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Filed under gun control, gun violence, Guns

Privatize The Gains, Socialize The Losses

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest governor in America, has been working to make his family business even richer, and the rest of us poorer, according to The Tennesseean:

After taking office, Gov. Bill Haslam reconstituted an obscure board that enforces environmental rules for the industry that helped make him the richest elected official in America.

Since then, the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board has taken steps to shift the financial burden of cleaning up toxic spills at gas stations and truck stops from business owners to taxpayers.

The 14-member board, 12 of whom are appointed by the governor, sets rules for the $50 million environmental fund overseen by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC. The fund has been paying to clean up spills since 1990. It is financed by a combination of a gas tax paid by consumers at the pump and an annual fee paid by owners of petroleum tanks.

Since the board has been reconfigured, members representing consumers have been eliminated.

The board, which retained its four petroleum industry members, has voted in favor of a resolution to increase the state dollars available to private companies for environmental spills caused by failures or accidents from $1 million to $2 million. That became law in 2015.

This year, a new law gives the board the power to give all gas stations and truck stops a big break — suspending their annual fees to the cleanup fund entirely. Some board members have signaled their support for eliminating those fees this year — despite hearing from the man in charge of the state’s underground storage tank program that a “historically high burden of this funding has shifted onto the public.”

Suspending the industry’s financial contributions would leave taxpayers, who haven’t gotten the same breaks as gas stations and truck stops, bearing full financial responsibility for toxic spills.

Surpriiiise, surpriiise!

This isn’t the first time Gov. Haslam has used his position to enrich his crooked family business. But … blind trusts, yada yada.

And I know my conservative friends are going to say, “But wait, Beale, those costs get handed down to consumers anyway,” after all, isn’t that what they always say? Isn’t that the whole point of “deregulation” and the glorious, unfettered free hand of the market and all that crap? The thing is, the costs don’t get passed down to consumers on a dollar for dollar basis, there is only so much of this “passing on to consumers” that the market can bear.

And this is the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats believe in making industry pay for the damage they cause. If you pollute, you pay. If you make a mess, you clean it up. If your underground storage tanks are leaking, you fix it, and you fix the mess you made. It’s like kindergarten, people. Easy-peasy.

Republicans think that’s so unfair, you guys! Republicans believe that their rich friends should be allowed to do whatever they want, and let the chips fall where they may. Because they think that when they prosper, everyone prospers. It “trickles down,” don’tcha know. They still believe that nonsense!

Meanwhile, the only thing trickling down is polluted ground water and contaminated soil. But what do they care? They live in their gated communities with the private water source and they jet off to Aspen and Europe and all that, where they don’t have to live with the mess they create. They aren’t really affected, are they? It’s not their groundwater, is it? It’s yours! If you want it to be clean, you pay for it! That’s what they believe.

They are truly horrible people.

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On The Road

I’m on the road. Saw this guy:

RW Trump Guy copy

This was in Dothan, Alabama. A place I’ve actually been to many times before, even spent a few days here. I don’t remember Dothan being so over the top wingnutty. And yes, I get the Florida plates on this vehicle, but I’m talking about a gun shop literally on every street corner. And of course, there’s a gun & knife show appearing at the National Peanut Festival grounds soon. This has to be the most gun-centric city in the nation.

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A New Generation Of Dirty Tricksters

Looks like we have another James O’Keefe wannabe:

The young volunteer seemed like any other when she stepped out of her white pickup and into a campaign field office for Russ Feingold’s Senate campaign in Wisconsin on Monday. She said she was a recent transplant from Minnesota, where she claimed she had done phone-banking for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. She later declared an interest in women’s health, the environment, and labor issues. On a nondisclosure agreement with the campaign, the blonde woman signed her name as “Allison Moss,” and pledged not to share the campaign’s proprietary data and confidential information private.

But when the Feingold campaign tried to vet its latest recruit—standard practice in the age of opposition research—they could find no record of an ‘Allison Moss.’ A Facebook search revealed an account created days before. Her phone number was registered with a New York area code. Her photo matched those of an activist, Allison Maass, caught last year trying to infiltrate the offices of the Hillary Clinton campaign in Iowa.

“I really like, like, women’s health, the environment, that’s something that I’m passionate about,” ‘Moss’ told a campaign staffer when interviewed about her political interests when she returned to the offices Tuesday. “I know in Wisconsin, it’s a big thing, like, union rights, worker’s rights, it’s such a big thing and something that it’s like sad that people in Wisconsin have to fight for stuff like that but Scott Walker has made it just so hard for them.”

Turns out Allison Maass is part of a right-wing ratfucking group called Campus Reform:

AllisonMaass

Campus Reform is itself an education-oriented offshoot of the right-wing Leadership Institute, the same conservative mill which produced James O’Keefe.

The conservative hydra has so many tentacles, all trying to influence public opinion and manipulate the media. I find it almost funny. Here are some of Allison Maass’ “hot scoops” when she wrote for Campus Reform: “SCSU philosophy professor charged with smuggling rhino horns and elephant ivory,” “U of M Duluth adds LGBTQ minor, gender-inclusive housing,” “Univ. of Minnesota hosts golden condom scavenger hunt,” and”Students protest Redskins name, call fans ‘bigots’ at Sunday’s game.” Oooooh! Seriously?

I can’t imagine what she hoped to find at the campaign offices of Russ Feingold. Artisanal muffins in the break room? Failure to recycle the copy paper? Or perhaps she planned to secretly record a staff meeting, where someone suggested something stupid (as often happens in staff meetings). The idea, no doubt, being to “win the morning” by broadcasting someone’s boneheaded idea to use a candidates’ religion or lack of religion against them in a supreme “gotcha” moment. /eyeroll

I really don’t get these tactics. Seems to require a lot of investment for very little return. And hey, it’s not as if campaigns haven’t figured out that they’re being targeted. Gosh, I’m so old, I remember when dirty tricks extended to dumping bogus “campaign flyers” in the trash, and then pretending to be shocked when they’re “found.” Or dressing your son up as a “union thug” who “snatches” a campaign sign from your little girl, who then turns on the waterworks for the cameras.

Aren’t we all a little too savvy for this nonsense these days?

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Filed under 2016 Election, conservatives

When Your RW Media Bubble Backfires

It’s a matter of course that every election, Republican politicians will complain about the “liberal media” being unfair to them. In fact, it’s so ingrained in the conservative zeitgeist that the media is “liberal” and therefore “bad” that years and years ago they were inspired to launch their own “conservative” alternatives. And all was well and good, until it wasn’t. Because conservative spin which is factually wrong doesn’t help conservatives. In the long run, it hurts them.

Those chickens have been coming home to roost for quite a while now, creating an increasingly embarrassing fail parade for the Republican Party. The conservative echo chamber gave rise to the Tea Party, it gave us climate change denialism and birtherism and Sarah Palin and Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair representing the right’s fantasy Obama. It gave us “unskewed polls” and Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich going on national TV to explain how Mitt Romney was going to win in 2012, guaranteed. And it gave us the embarrassment that is Donald Trump.

And it’s this last bit which has finally woken some folks on the right up. Not just the National Review, which recently ran a column about how the conservative echo chamber hurts conservatives (though even this piece seems to have missed the point a bit), but right-wing radio hosts like Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin, who was interviewed by Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy and made this very astute observation:

Cp2BSvnXYAA84Ch

You know, sometimes facts do have a liberal bias. And when you demonize all of your fact-checkers, your “gatekeepers,” you’ve basically normalized the tin-foil hat conspiracy theories and other nonsense. These are your new facts, and you are as married to them as your audience is because you have no other way of rebutting it. You’ve painted yourself into a corner.

In short, you keep people in the dark and feed them bullshit for so long, all you end up with is a bumper crop of mushrooms.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, media

What Am I Seeing Here?

From NRA Board Member Grover Norquist:

GroverTweet

Is he advocating armed violence when Trump inevitably loses? God, I hope not.

What about all those years of Republican fearmongering, the Swift Boating of John Kerry in 2004, the “THREAT LEVEL: ORANGE” manipulations, all that bullshit to keep people afraid of terrorists? I’m so old, I remember being told that WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE if Barack Obama gets elected (or re-elected).

Crazy times.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, gun control

Ha Ha He Was Totally Kidding You Guys

Donald Trump’s surrogates are scrambling to defend the GOP candidate, who mentioned the possibility of “2nd Amendment Solutions” to stop Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominations.

This seems to be a theme with the Republican fringe. Remember this?

PH2011010902150

Someone remind me what happened not long after the above appeared? Oh, yeah. This.

What the fuck is wrong with people?

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, gun control, gun violence, Guns

Congratulations, Rodney Cummings! You’re Our 2nd Amendment Hero Du Jour

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, and there’s certainly been no shortage of candidates! The thing I loved about this Indiana prosecutor who accidentally fired his gun into a wall while eating dinner at a Texas Roadhouse is this bit:

Cummings said he plans to have the gun examined to ensure there are no mechanical problems.

Yeah, must’ve been the gun. Couldn’t possibly have been the gun owner. Which sorta goes against the NRA’s whole “guns are safe, it’s people who aren’t” slogan. And furthermore. which begs the question: if a faulty gun is just going to fire off at will on its own, isn’t that a good reason to not have it in a public place like a restaurant?

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Filed under gun control, gun violence, Guns

Why The GOP Should Hate Donald Trump’s Economic Plan

[UPDATE]:

His one good idea is surrounded by a whole bunch of really bad ideas.

—————————————————

Donald Trump finally has a good idea:

Donald Trump will announce in a major economic speech on Monday that childcare payments will be fully tax deductible under a Trump administration, a senior aide told The Hill on Sunday night.

“We’re going to help working parents by making childcare payments fully tax deductible.
“That’s new policy,” the aide added.

Mind you, we don’t know how he plans to pay for this, or any other details. But on the face of it, a tax deduction for child care is something Democrats have been pushing for since forever. It’s a good idea, but one which is completely at odds with the Tea Nut rhetoric about “simplifying our tax code” and all that.

One of the most reliable complaints from conservatives has always been how complicated our tax code is. They bring it up every April: the moaning and rending of garments over how hard it all is, wouldn’t it be easier to just have everyone play 10% and be done with it?

The problem with that argument, as I wrote back in October, is that the hard part isn’t figuring out what you owe, it’s figuring out what you earn. And that’s because of all of the various deductions which lower one’s taxable income. Deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest, medical expenses, IRA contributions, charitable donations, etc. There are an awful lot of those, and as former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder wrote:

Every tax “gimmick” has an ingrained constituency. I shake my head in disbelief when I hear politicians claim to be able to raise huge amounts of revenue by closing loopholes. Arithmetically, that’s easy. Politically, it’s almost impossible.

So here comes Donald Trump to give us yet another “gimmick” with a very large ingrained constituency: families with children. I happen to think it’s a good idea, but I’m not the one complaining about how hard everything is and how we need to simplify everything by reducing the number of allowed deductions.

And as it happens, Republicans have been working very hard to do just that these past few years. In 2014, Republicans tried to repeal a host of popular tax breaks, including the existing Child Tax Credit. The Tax Reform Act of 2014 died a quick death, but the new GOP tax reform plan, unveiled just about a month ago, goes even further than the last reform effort: it eliminates all itemized deductions save mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

It appears Trump’s plan to add a new itemized deduction would be killed by the Republican’s own tax reform plan. How is it possible that the Republican presidential candidate is proposing a tax gimmick completely at odds with the GOP’s tax reform plan released just last month? And would he sign the GOP’s tax reform plan if it didn’t include his child care tax credit? Dying to know.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, taxes