Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thus far, this year has proved to be a year that I shall give Thanksgiving. Yet, I almost hate characterizing it in such a way for each and every year I have to thank my God for how much I am blessed in life. I am truly humbled by what, and how much I have been given…with, each, I am thankful:
With my Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, who saved a wretch like me. It is certainly well with my soul.
With my ladies – Jillian, Aubrey & Zella, to immediate family and beyond, I have everything to be thankful for and have been given much, much more than what I deserve.
With my friends, I am truly blessed by those that I can call, do consider and cherish as friends.
With my professional relationships, and the community in which I practice law, serve the County and choose to live and raise my family. I am blessed to work, practice, serve, socialize, worship and live in Robertson County, Tennessee and the United States of America.
It is with such, that I cannot articulate as well as our First President George Washington, who said in the First Thanksgiving Proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Transportation Alliance of Middle Tennessee: Revisited & Discussed

The other day I shared with you a RC Commission topic for discussion at our last Monthly Meeting regarding the Transportation Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

Jim Bellis with The Robertson County Times has since published an article regarding the same topic. Recall that I opined that this is a topic that likely will be brought back to discussion before the RC Commission ("RCC") sometime in January. The topic will be whether to allocate funds for support of the effort.

Here are several items that stuck out in the article, and some of the key factors the RCC must consider in January:

#1 – The Need

"We've got at least 14,600 people commuting to Nashville every day from Robertson County," said Bradley. "We need to address transportation needs both current and future. Mass transit is part of the answer."
Though I do not know exactly where those numbers come from, they would not come as surprise to you, me or any of our neighbors. It seems in my walk that amongst those that I go to church with, sit on boards with or socialize with outside of my professional responsibilities…folks commute to and from Nashville. With the growth that is coming (whether we like it or not! - And, I know that this comment is initially harsh sounding, but the conversation has to be moving towards managing the growth that is coming. The conversation has to center around what we will do, and not if…) to our County, we must keep it in mind, and we must plan for the best way to ensure that Springfield and Robertson County stay in front of ideas and means to manage this growth.

This is an effort that does just that. Whether it is successful or not should not be the focus, it is forward thinking and a way in which we may gauge the needs of our County, and what direction those needs may take the County.

#2 – The Route

Beginning in January, the Regional Transport Authority will initiate a two-month sample of services from the Relaxing Ride program. Consisting of two 55 passenger busses, the service will offer transportation to and from Nashville, originating in Springfield.
Bradley went on to explain that the route will leave Springfield on Highway 49 W. and make a stop in the Coopertown/Pleasant View area before continuing on to Nashville. He said there are options to increase the number of busses serving the county if the need exists.
This should give those a sample size of just what is involved with the project. Something that I did not entirely know was that the route would pass through the Coopertown and Pleasant View areas.

I can immediately hear those in the White House area clamoring for their own or wondering why they are left out of the effort. Yet, this is just what I would like to hear, a discussion about what need may be out there for what and whom. This effort could be just a start, and a sign of what we could put together.

#3 – The Costs

"People who work for Vandy or the state ride free. The rest of us, it's $3.50 each way."

If implemented on a permanent basis, the cost to the county and the city of Springfield would be about $24,000 annually. The state and federal governments would pick up the remainder expenses.
The bottom lines saved for the bottom point.

I would almost say that they speak for themselves, BUT…

…I could not leave it at that for in the community in which we live, mass transit may not be seen as a "need" or a fruitful endeavor.

I probably would have fallen in the category several years ago, but the more I have thought about this topic, the more I have liked the idea. During law school (in Birmingham, AL), Jillian and I lived in a community 20-25 miles (Alabaster, AL) outside of where we both worked and went to school. Traffic was terrible, and the commute was horrible, but we were absolutely happy with where we worked and went to school while simultaneously being happy with the community in which we lived. What was terrible: the means to get to and from both places. We tried each and every way to avoid the troubles with that commute, from waking up and timing, to alternative routes, etc. Nothing worked, and it effected decisions for where we would reside and what we would do if given the chance to stay in Birmingham. Now, I do not want to paint a picture that I think that the commute into Nashville is anywhere near that of what it was for Jillian and I in Birmingham. Anecdotally, my law practice takes me into Nashville several times a month.

Look at what is cited in the article:

Davidson County and the surrounding counties are expected to expand by one-million people within the next 15 years, according to the Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) projections. MPO also says that now is the time to be planning in order to avoid a crippling gridlock then.
This could be something that folks consider when they consider where they would reside, and that "could be" is why exploring these options, and opening up to new ideas is imperative.

In moving forward, I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the issue, and where we must go, and what we should consider for this topic. (Routes? Needs? Costs?) I know that we are in the initial stages of discussing this, but what do you not know that you need to know?


Thanksgiving Day: Today & Tomorrow

A little late on my part, but nevertheless something I wanted to share with the each of you:
In her weekly column with the Robertson County Times, Robertson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Margot Fosnes discusses some of the goings on for Thanksgiving Day. But, not in the usual sense, what she highlights has to do with those in our County in need the most, and those in our community willing to take time from their day to share their own thanksgiving blessings.
The Great Faith Community Action Community Action through the Master's Table & Springfield Baptist Church both will be hosting activities and facilitating outreach today, Thanksgiving Day.
Check out Margot's column here, if you are not able to help those today, she cites groups herein our Robertson County where you can help tomorrow.

OUR New Senator

I knew that this was being discussed, but did not readily know that the decision was imminent. The Sumner County Commission has voted, and elected an interim senator for the 18th district to fill the void left by the election of Diane Black to 6th Congressional Seat.
Our new State Senator: Ferrelle Haille –
Gallatin pharmacist Ferrell Haile was named interim state senator of the 18th District in a unanimous vote by the Sumner County Commission on Monday.
A lifelong Sumner County resident, he is co-owner of Perkins Drugs in Gallatin and a cattle farmer. Haile, who lost his bid for state Senate in 2000 to Jo Ann Graves, has no plans to run for the office in the upcoming special election.
Note I say "our" because lest we forget, this is not all to do with Sumner County. The 18th district is our seat, as well. I trust that Mr. Haille, and soon to be Senator Haille will show the same time and attention shown by Senator Black in representing her constituents of Robertson County.
The timeline is as follows: the primary election for this seat will be held on January 20, 2011 and the general election is to be held on March 20, 2011.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Transportation Alliance of Middle Tennessee

At the November 15, 2010 County Commissioners Monthly Meeting, the Gorham-McBane Library Expansion Project took center stage, and in the days following, it was/is the most heavily discussed topic taken from the meeting.

Yet, there was a video presentation (video found here) made by the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

What a bold vision!

All in all, Nashville has always benefited from bold vision and good leadership in thinking 5, 10 and 20 years ahead. This project seems to be just the latest example of leadership and ensuring that Nashville/Middle Tennessee remains one of the best places to live.

It is a must that Robertson County aggressively participate in these projects encompassing our region. Middle Tennessee and Nashville are on the move, and we need to position ourselves as leaders in this move.

Mayor Bradley shared with the Commission that the County Commission will be asked to join the City of Springfield in funding a trial project involving mass transit to and fro Nashville.


For those interested, here is a link to the Robertson County Times coverage on the Library Funding effort.
This is the first story I have seen that has the break down of YEAs and NAYs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Verdict

Well, as you have probably heard by now, the resolution of floating $2,000,000.00 in bonds (debt) for the Library Expansion Project failed this evening at the Robertson County Commission Meeting.

I must say that I am not happy in the outcome.

Yet, I am happy that the leaders of Robertson County are forging forward in a new direction. A direction in which debt and taxation are NOT the first and second options for funding projects.

I do not want to belabor the point that I have made in prior posts, but there is a third option here, and it must be found.

It will be found:

I was already encouraged by the discussion held immediately after the vote wherein the process of coming back to the table to find a way to make this project work is already taking form. The discussion is not over, and it should not be.

As I said to Robertson County, I look forward to these challenges. These are the same challenges that you and I face each and every week, each and every month when we take a look at our family budgets. Our first option is not to immediately mortgage our future, or look for other income, it is finding a way to make what we need work within our means….

If this project is worthwhile, and it is…then there is another way in which to make it work.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Library Expansion: Heading Into Monday

The proposal on Monday's agenda is for a $2,000,000.00 request submitted at the Robertson County Budget Committee Meeting.

Due to several of the questions posed, and the overall sentiment of Commissioners of the Budget Committee – in my humble opinion, it was not a vote of confidence as much as it was allowing the full body to be involved with the decision whether to fund the expansion project.

In this post, I hope to provide you what I have learned "Heading Into Monday."

City of Springfield

It has been an understanding that the City of Springfield would match what the County Commission allocated.

Recent discussion has indicated otherwise.

It would look as though the City of Springfield may not be in a position to contribute an additional $1,000,000.00 so that their total contribution reaches $2,000,000.00.

It has been understood that the City of Springfield ("City") would match the effort of the County Commission ("CC") and the Gorham-McBane Public Library ("GMPL").

It would appear that the City is holding firm with the initial commitment of only $1,000,000.00.

Robertson County

There is simply no cash on hand for this project. This was known well before the Budget Committee Meeting. And, with what was reported/discussed by the Financial Advisor at the CC Budget Committee Meeting, Robertson County MUST address one, if not more, of the following options (Much of this discussion will be reserved for a future post, but here is a summary):
  • cuts to the overall budget;
  • a re-financing / re-structuring of the current debt;
  • a sizable property tax increase.
Robertson County is deficit spending.

Not just changes, drastic changes will be addressed in moving forward.

For the project to move forward as it is proposed right now, Robertson County would be forced to borrow $2,000,000.00.

What is NOT Known:

Here are the questions that need answers before a vote on Monday, November 15, 2010.

These questions are many of the questions commissioners have asked, and my own constituents have asked over the last several weeks. The "answers" in italics are the partial answers I have heard thus far.
  • What are the operating costs once this project is completed? The presentation at the Budget Committee set out that there would be a 20-30% increase. I have heard estimates of it even tripling.
  • What entity is going to pay for the operating costs?
  • Is there a third option?
  • Who actually uses the Library? There is a healthy balance between County and City and figures reflecting this will be provided on November 15, 2010.
  • What if the full $6,000,000.00 is not there?

What is going to happen?

More importantly, what should happen?

As it stands, the City's apparent twist definitely throws that many more variables and questions into the discussion.

Further, with the posture of the presentation of this project: the proposition of it being "either/or" - there is not much room as it stands for compromise, or my "third-way." This "third-way" was what I alluded to in my prior post. I am afraid that the "either/or" has caused much of the reservation in fellow commissioners for any momentum moving forward.


We cannot ignore our economic environment.

We cannot ignore our financial outlook.

Many, if not all, of the constituents that I have spoken with have started their statement with one of the following phrases: "Jonathan, we have GOT TO do this project, BUT…
  • ….we do not need more debt."
  • ….if the money is not there, then we can't."
  • ….we cacan't afford it right now."
  • ….the timing is just not right."
I agree.

Without question, this is a worthy endeavor. It is an endeavor that is long, long overdue; BUT, we cannot ignore the financial prognosis of Robertson County.

So, we must forge a way to make this work.

I know this because my family uses the GMPL on a weekly basis. Your family uses the GMPL on a weekly basis.

BUT, this "way" is going to be different than that which is currently proposed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Library Expansion: At a Glance

On November 15, 2010, the Robertson County Commission will likely vote on funding the expansion of the Gorham-MacBane Public Library.

This proposal moved through the Budget Committee for further discussion by the entire County Commission.


What we have before the County Commission is a $6 million project for upgrade and expansion. The project encompasses much more than just brick and mortar buildings and expansion. The project encompasses much more than more shelves for more books. The project encompasses so much more in that it is boot-strapping the Gorham-MacBane Public Library from a facility that was last substantially upgraded decades ago.
Many of the concerns that have been shared with me have to do with the "need" of the expansion and upgrade. Candidly, I think this is out of the question in that the expansion and upgrade is long overdue. Whether Robertson County "needs" this expansion is an entirely different question.


The project will require $2 million from the County. The remaining $4 million being matched by funds raised by the Gorham-MacBane Public Library, and the City of Springfield, respectively.
Though, it is not as simple as allocating the funds. For the County to contribute, it would first be required to borrow more money since we are currently operating on a deficit.
Also, the City of Springfield has not completely guaranteed that they will match. Likely, it will be the County's leadership that will determine what the City of Springfield will do in this regard, though this is not guaranteed.


What I would like to see is a tiered plan that would allow this project to be undertaken over some length of time.

This question was posed at the presentation to the Budget Committee on Thursday, November 4th. It was discouraged since it would pose difficulties in operating the library during protracted construction projects over periods of time.

Candidly, I can sympathize with representatives of the library since this project has been discussed and bantered about for the better part of ten years. Nevertheless, many smart people failed to predict or see this economic downturn that is affecting us all. I think with the resources we have, we have to develop some responsible means through which we approach this or any other project.