News Briefs June 25, 2020

Gov. Bill Lee speaking June 5 at the unveiling of two emergency COVID-19 wards at Nashville General Hospital.

By Peter White

Republicans Give Governor Raise But Not Teachers

NASHVILLE, TN — Tennessee Republicans cut Governor Bill Lee’s budget by $524 million but still gave Amazon and Volkswagen $115 million in subsidies. They took back raises for state employees and K-12 teachers but gave the governor and his top lieutenants raises. 

Tennessee’s Know-Nothings are a nativist bunch of xenophobic crackpots who have a lot in common with the Taliban. Like the Taliban, they are a sexist bunch and think it’s okay to impose their religious values on society at-large and on women in particular. 

As long as they are the majority party, the Crackpots figure they can get away with it. Theirs are not traditional American values but do follow the trend of a polarized American politics.  

Along with the budget, Republicans passed a fetal heartbeat bill last week that would put women in jail for having an abortion and their doctors, too.  The crackpots aren’t as bad as the Taliban who flog women or stone them to death for serious crimes of the heart or for wanting an education.  

But at the bottom of their twisted little souls, these Know-Nothings aren’t good Christians at all–or good Moslems either. They’re just grandstanding bullies. The ACLU’s Hedy Weinberg, who stands about 4 ft. 9 inches tall and weighs maybe a 100 pounds dripping wet, has already called them out.  Weinberg told a Senate Judicial Committee last summer that they were in for a fight if they banned abortions. 

“Make no mistake the ACLU and others will sue if this bill is passed into law. We will sue and we will win,” she said. Good to her word, the ACLU lost no time suing Tennessee officials in federal court the very next day after Republicans passed the abortion ban. 

“A budget is a moral document,” said Vice President Mike Pence and so did Sojourner’s Jim Wallis. The Tennessee Titans will win the Super Bowl before Wallis and Pence ever agree on anything else again.  

Just for argument’s sake, let’s say the Republicans are quite right to force their high-sounding rhymes of good demeanor on the rest of us. Here are a few things in their “moral” budget that would make angels weep:

1) A three-year plan to get to a balanced budget by cutting $524 million from operating costs. Democrats say that will force layoffs or furloughs of state employees. Tennessee has billions in reserve accounts it could tap but refused.

2) The budget will deposit $575 million in the Rainy Day Fund. It’s already got $875 million.

3) Cuts $8.6 million from a TennCare program that would have provided comprehensive health coverage to new mothers for 12 months after they give birth. TennCare officials said some mothers will die without it.

4) Gov. Lee eliminated $21.5 million for the TennCare CHOICES program that would have provided support to Tennesseans with disabilities to live independent lives.

5) Gov. Lee axed $682,000 to pay therapists in TennCare’s Family and Child Crisis Division.

6) Gov. Lee killed $1.5 million worth of funding for a program that regulates air pollution permitting for smaller polluters such as construction sites, small surface coating operations and small printing operations.

7) Medicaid expansion was not in the budget and Republicans would have killed it if it were.

Community Oversight May See Better Days Ahead

NASHVILLE, TN — The George Floyd demonstrations, led mostly by teenagers, and the Peoples’ Budget Coalition, not much older, have given the Community Oversight Board (COB) a new lease on life.

Since its beginning in November 2018, the COB has failed to do its job. Its first Executive Director, William Weeden, gave up after seven months and returned to his successful practice as a Civil Rights attorney in Chicago. Weeden told the Tribune he had to go back home to take care of his mother.

Maybe, but getting stonewalled by the MNPD factored large in his decision to quit. Nashville native Jill Fitcheard succeeded him. She hasn’t gotten anywhere either.

Just last week Fitcheard left the scene of a police shooting in North Nashville because MNPD kept her outside the crime scene tape for two hours Wednesday morning. MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability was inside doing their investigation. They didn’t want Fitcheard there.

She finally gave up and went back to her office. 

Once there, she got a call from MNPD to come on down and see what was happening. MNPD often plays games with the COB and they are frustrated because they can’t independently investigate police shootings. The MNPD has given the COB misleading information in the past. Distrust exists on both sides.

Former Chief Steve Anderson and a powerful police union effectively stymied the COB. Now that Anderson has resigned, and a search for a new chief has begun, the COB will get a chance to vet the applicants.

The new chief may be Black or even a woman, but the COB’s biggest hope is for the next chief to have their backs. 

Black Voters Betting on Biden to Take Trump Down

NASHVILLE, TN — Black voters in the South overwhelmingly supported Joe Biden as the best candidate to unseat Donald Trump in November. Writing in Facing South, Benjamin Barber noted that on Super Tuesday Black voters gave Biden’s flagging campaign a revival and probably assured his candidacy to take on Trump.

“In 2016, for example, African Americans accounted for 37 percent of the South’s Democratic voters. And exit polls

Students in North Carolina headed to the polls by bus on Super Tuesday. African Americans in Southern states showed their power as a voting bloc in this year’s Democratic primaries, but they also showed there’s a big generational divide. Photo via the Democracy NC Twitter page

from this year’s Super Tuesday primaries on March 3 found that African Americans accounted for 49 percent of the Democratic electorate in Alabama, 28 percent in Virginia, 27 percent in both North Carolina and Tennessee, and 20 percent in Texas,” Barber wrote.

In South Carolina, Biden beat Sanders by 30 points. One in five voted for Sanders. Three in five black voters went for Biden. He won a crucial endorsement from U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African American in Congress.

Barber said black votes on Super Tuesday ended the campaigns of both Sanders and Michael Bloomberg. 

Older black Democrats have long gone to the polls in high numbers in Southern primaries because in red states, their presidential votes don’t mean much. They went to the polls this year, too. A lot of younger Black voters, who support Sanders’ Medicare–For-All and dislike Biden’s past votes against school busing and the 1994 Crime Bill that he helped write, didn’t show up to vote in the primaries. 

“Sanders’ campaign was depending on young people turning out to vote en masse, but youth turnout has actually gone down in many states since the 2016 election. Of the 14 states that held primaries on Super Tuesday, participation by voters younger than 30 didn’t exceed 20 percent in any state, according to exit poll analyses.” Barber wrote.

Southern Blacks are a crucial voting bloc and Barber says they have demonstrated their influence over this year’s Democratic presidential primary. The big question remains: will they flock to the polls in November and when they get there, will they get to vote despite all the tricks Republicans are playing to disenfranchise them?

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