Nashville

What the heck is going on with the Nashville race track? The Banner has the answers

(Image credit: Fairgrounds Speedway)

When Nashville Mayor John Cooper first proposed overhauling the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, the project was supposed to require the city to back $50 million in revenue bonds. After a series of delays, inflation and growing construction costs have now doubled that figure. So is the rehab of the historic NASCAR site now getting underway? Not quite. Here’s what The Banner’s Steve Cavendish writes in a deep dive today:

Multiple sources familiar with the negotiations say the deal has been “95 percent” completed for a year. A press release from Cooper in December 2020 anticipated NASCAR racing as soon as this year. In March 2021, Metro signed a letter of intent with BMS to reach a deal on the fairgrounds, and Cooper said that “I look forward to working with the Fair Board and the Metro Council in the months ahead” to complete an agreement “to bring back high-level racing at no cost to taxpayers.”

An announcement was made at the 2021 NASCAR Banquet this past December that the two sides had agreed to a financial framework. .

“This administration has a case of the slows,” said one source. Another called it a “plodding, hand-wringing group.” Cooper supporters say it’s important to reach the right deal, not the fastest one.

Read the whole thing here. And subscribe to the free newsletter here.

Democratic Rep. Torrey Harris charged with domestic assault, theft

Rep. Torrey Harris, top right, and fellow House Democrats attend a Senate hearing. on Feb. 2, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Torrey Harris (D-Memphis) has been charged with domestic assault and theft. His first court date is scheduled for Oct. 10, well after the House District 91 primary in which he faces Democratic challenger Barbara Farmer-Tolbert.

Harris was arrested on Sunday in Nashville after an ex-boyfriend told police the lawmaker had scratched his arm while trying to prevent him from leaving his apartment. Harris had been at the home to return the man’s dog after a pet-sitting stint. The former partner left the apartment and found on his return that Harris had taken the dog, a gaming console, computer, earphones, and other items. Harris later confirmed to police he had taken the dog but told officers the other items he had taken had been gifts he had purchased.

The assault charge is a misdemeanor, while the alleged theft is a felony.

Harris said he plans to plead not guilty. Here’s his full statement:

I first want to say thank you for all the support and to those who have reached out during this time.

I have retained legal counsel and myself and the team are working diligently to cooperate with the investigation. I maintain my innocence and will plead not guilty to the charges. I know that at the end of this I will be cleared of all allegations.

My focus will remain on serving the people as it always has been, but my ask is that if someone you know – loved one, friend, or neighbor is battling with mental health, that you help them as best as you can. Never deter from supporting those who need us even at their toughest moments.

As for me, I want to say thank you for all the calls and to those who have reached out during this time. This has been a lived example that will help me better help those I serve. Trust me, I have already noticed steps in policy that lawmakers like myself must work to improve throughout the justice system.

Over the next couple of weeks you will learn more about this matter and I look forward to moving on after it is all said and done.

Bid to host RNC in Nashville withdrawn from Metro Council, backers hope to bring it back later

The sponsor of a resolution detailing the framework of hosting the Republican National Convention in Nashville has withdrawn the measure from consideration amid heavy opposition on the Metro Council. Progressive members of the local legislative body have expressed reservations about welcoming the GOP presidential nomination festival to town following the recent Supreme Court decision ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the state high court’s decision to allow a school voucher law to apply only to the capital city and Shelby County, and a slew of other perceived slights by the conservative General Assembly (including splitting the city into three congressional districts earlier this year).

Council members also criticized Mayor John Cooper for negotiating the deal but then having it submitted without any statement of support or accompanying lobbying effort.

The Nashville 2024 Host Committee issued a statement Tuesday to say it wasn’t quite giving up:

This evening we asked Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s administration to withdraw legislation to approve a contract for Nashville to host the Republican Nashville Convention and allow for additional time to address multiple concerns and objections expressed by Metro Council for the event to take place in Nashville in 2024.

It is our optimistic view that Nashville is the ideal American city to host one or both of our nation’s nominating conventions and to demonstrate to the world its ability to host civil and respectful public discourse on issues vital to the future of our country.

As concerns are sufficiently addressed, we hope that Mayor Cooper and Metro Council leaders will refile the legislation at its next meeting this month.

The next council meeting is July 19.

Southern Legislative Conference kicks off in Nashville on Saturday

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to the House Republican Caucus after winning their nomination for speaker on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Southern Legislative Conference is holding its annual meeting in Nashville this weekend. The group is chaired this year by Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

Here’s a release detailing proceedings:

Nashville, Tennessee – Approximately 1,500 Southern state legislators, legislative staff, and government officials convene today in Nashville for the 75th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC).

Guided by SLC chair Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (Crossville), the SLC Annual Meeting provides state lawmakers the opportunity to engage with experts on pressing policy issues and collaborate on state government solutions.

“I am excited to welcome state lawmakers from across the region to Tennessee,” said Speaker Sexton. “The exchange and discussion of ideas with other lawmakers on the many accomplishments and successful policies we all championed the last couple of years is something that we all look forward to. This meeting is about learning from one another to improve our home states and the lives of our constituents. As the Southern states have led us through these difficult times to positive recovery, I can’t think of a more critical time than now for all of us to come together, to learn from each other, and celebrate our successes.”

Tennessee’s leadership role within the SLC is a long-established one. Tennessee has had the distinction of hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in 1947; adopting the SLC’s organizational rules at its ninth Annual Meeting in Gatlinburg in 1955; serving as host to the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting in 1996 and, most recently, the 65th Annual Meeting in 2011 in Memphis.

The conference agenda features several notable guest speakers, including:

— Former Governor Bill Haslam

— Maneet Chauhan, Chef, Restauranter, Author, and Television Personality

— Rick Barnes, Head Coach, Tennessee Volunteers, University of Tennessee, and

— Colonel Littleton, Designer, and Proprietor, The Great American Leather Company.

Site visits highlighting Arrington Vineyards, Lipman Brothers Distillery, and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology Smyrna Campus and Nissan Training Center will offer participants the chance to experience local innovations first-hand.

Attendees also will give back to the community during their stay, packaging 50,000 meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee at the annual Campaign Against Hunger event.

NTT, title sponsor of IndyCar, announces 350 jobs coming to Nashville

Image credit: IndyCar.

Japanese information technology company NTT DATA Corp. is spending $10 million to open a Nashville office and hire 350 employees. The company is the title sponsor of the IndyCar series, which is scheduled to run its first race on the streets of Nashville in August.

NTT is ranked No. 62 on the fortune Global 500, employing 130,000 people in more than 50 countries.

“NTT DATA’s decision to locate a strategic innovation and digital delivery center in Nashville underscores the vibrant economy and highly-skilled workforce of the entire Nashville region,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement.

Here’s the release from the state:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and NTT DATA officials announced today that the company will establish an innovation and digital delivery center in Nashville.

The global IT services leader will invest $9.9 million and create 350 jobs, including a focus on healthcare and manufacturing technology, as a result of the project.

NTT DATA’s new center will focus on developing and deploying digital and industry skills within the IT sector. The company will provide U.S.-based service delivery to local, national and international clients and serve as a cross-industry and technology showcase from its office in downtown Nashville’s Capitol View.

NTT DATA Corporation, based in Tokyo, Japan, is one of the world’s largest IT and business service providers. Ranked 62nd in the Fortune Global 500, NTT DATA Corporation employs 130,000 people worldwide and delivers services in more than 50 countries. NTT DATA Services is a U.S.-based division with headquarters in Plano, Texas that employs more than 50,000 professionals who work with the world’s leading brands.

Over the last five years, TNECD has supported nearly 65 economic development projects in Davidson County, resulting in more than 18,000 job commitments and $2 billion in capital investment.

State Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal over school voucher law

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The State Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal of lower court rulings that Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher to be unconstitutional.

Nashville Chancellor Anne Martin ruled in May that the law violated home rule provisions of the Tennessee Constitution by applying to only Nashville and Shelby County school districts without seeking support from either voters or local legislative bodies. The state sought a direct appeal to the Supreme Court but the justices declined to bypass the intermediate Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld Martin’s original ruling.

Attorneys for Nashville and Shelby County governments argued the Supreme Court shouldn’t take up the appeal because the defendants hadn’t brought new arguments about the case. The state maintains home rule protections shouldn’t apply because school boards are separate from the operations of county governments.

The Supreme Court case will be closely watched as home rule disputes are only expected to multiply as rural-urban tensions largely match the partisan divide in the state.

Here’s a primer on the history of the home rule amendment from The Tennessee Journal in May 2020:

The subject of extending greater home rule powers was the subject of the greatest debate at a 1953 constitutional convention, but opposition failed to materialize at the ballot box as the change was approved with over 70% of the vote. The overwhelming approval reflected a sentiment summed up in an editorial in the Knoxville News Sentinel at the time that the change was needed to “make it tough on city charter meddlers in Nashville.”

State Supreme Court Justice A.B. Neil told the delegates to the constitutional convention the home rule question would be key to their deliberations. The General Assembly had handed down “too much unwise local legislation” over the years, the justice said, adding that many of those acts had “no merit other than to serve the basest ends in partisan politics.”

In a historical twist, the president of the 1953 constitutional convention was Prentice Cooper, a former governor who opposed the home rule amendment. Cooper, who died in 1969, was the father of Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who has led the charge to dismantle the voucher law on the basis of home rule violations.

Legislature, other government offices close following Nashville bombing

The damage caused to telecommunications systems following a bombing in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day has caused legislative leaders to tell staffers not to report to the Cordell Hull Building on Monday.

Other state and local government offices are also affected by outages, including:

  • Adult protective services
  • Animal Diagnostic Laboratory services at Ellington Agricultural Center
  • Telephone services for applying for certain programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • TennCare Connect
  • Tennessee child abuse hotline (telephone lines only; web referrals remain operational)
  • Drivers’ license services

Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced his downtown offices would be closed Monday, though various divisions could be reached by email.

The state Supreme Court office building was also closed.

Here’s what Trump told donors at his Nashville fundraiser

The Washington Post has the details of what President Donald Trump told donors at a high-dollar fundraiser in Nashville before the final presidential debate last week.

The president said he expected Republicans to have a difficult time keeping control of the Senate, though he expressed confidence the GOP would claw back a majority in the House. He repeated the latter prediction (which isn’t shared by polls or conventional wisdom) during the debate itself.

“I think the Senate is tough actually. The Senate is very tough,” the Post quoted Trump as saying at the event at the new J.W. Marriott in downtown Nashville. “There are a couple senators I can’t really get involved in. I just can’t do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can’t help some of them. I don’t want to help some of them.”

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said there’s no evidence the president isn’t supporting certain Republican candidates.

“The Republican-led Senate and President Trump have had a great partnership over the last four years, highlighted by the fact the chamber is poised to confirm a third Trump Supreme Court nominee in the coming days,” Hunt told the paper. “Nancy Pelosi has turned the House into a liberal nightmare and if Chuck Schumer gets control of the Senate, he’ll do the same thing.”

Republicans have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, meaning Democrats would need four seats to take control if Trump wins next, or three if the Biden prevails as the vice president serves as a tie-breaking vote.

The Post says Trump aslo bashed the news media, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Democrats for being obsessed with Russian disinformation. Nobody asked any tough questions from audience members, one of whom praised the president for taking on the “medical swamp” over COVID-19.

Tennessee politicos react to upheaval

Nashville Mayor John Cooper walks by the Metro Courthouse damaged during weekend protests on May 31, 2020 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

 

Here’s how some elected officials reacted to statewide protests that included clashes with police, vandalism, and fires.

Continue reading

NRA cancels annual meeting in Nashville due to coronavirus

The National Rifle Association is cancelling its annual meeting in Nashville next month. The gun rights group had planned to hold the event at the Music City Center from April 16 to April 19.

Here’s the statement from the NRA:

With our 149th Annual Meeting scheduled for next month in Nashville, we realize many NRA members and meeting guests have questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impact on our convention.

We have been closely monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health.  In fact, earlier today, a state of emergency was declared in Tennessee.  

Therefore, we have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s NRA Annual Meeting, planned for April 16 – 19 in Nashville. This applies to all events and scheduled programs, including the NRA-ILA Forum. We sincerely regret the need for this action, particularly for our many loyal members who join us for this annual celebration of the NRA and our constitutional freedoms.  Details regarding a rescheduled NRA Members’ Meeting will be forthcoming.

Under the direction of NRA President Carolyn Meadows, the NRA Board of Directors is working with the Office of the Secretary in relation to board elections, meetings, and the like.  

Please know that we did not reach this decision lightly. We were ultimately guided by our responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community.  

Please coordinate directly with any hotels, airlines or others who have assisted with your travel arrangements. Most companies have announced plans to accommodate travelers dealing with event cancellations.    

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.