Ex-Haslam chief of staff set for $120K state museum gig

Mark Cate, who left his job as the governor's chief of staff at the beginning of August, has been named project coordinator related to the state museum plnned for North Capitol.

The Knoxville New Sentinel reports Cate's contract is between Stones River Group LLC (Cate’s recently established consulting firm) and the Tennessee State Museum Foundation. The latter raises money to support museum operations and will oversee the collecting of approximately $41.75 million in private donations to pair with $120 million in state funds allocated to cover the design and construction of a new state museum building.

KNS reports the contract includes a “retainer” of $10,000 per month for Cate and up to $500 per month in expenses.

"I think this is a project where I am uniquely qualified,” Cate told KNS reporter Tom Humphrey.

Currently housed in the James K. Polk State Office Building in the central business district, the Tennessee State Museum is scheduled to open in a new building in December 2018. The structure, on-site work for which has yet to start, will be located across Fifth Avenue from First Tennessee Park.

Read more here.


Aug 20, 2015 2:01 PM

Stray Thoughts on the First Debate

This originally appeared on Pith in the Wind.

We spent last night drinking our way through the first mayoral runoff debate between Megan Barry and David Fox. The hour-long affair at Belmont University featured 100 percent more head-on confrontation than previous debates, primarily because there were 70 percent fewer people on stage.

Through a bit of a fog — both candidates hit quite a few of our #DrinkYall lines — we came away with a few observations, a few moments that stood out.

You can watch the entire debate here and read some stray thoughts after the jump:

• Barry goes on offense

Starting with his election night speech, Fox has been the clear aggressor in the runoff so far. He's framed Barry as a "far left" liberal, said she "doesn't understand" the challenges facing Metro schools, and responded to her focus on affordable housing, transit, and other issues by publicly reminding her that she's been on the Metro Council for eight years — suggesting she's done little to address those issues in that time. Barry has taken a more subtle approach, talking about "earning" votes and making the occasional reference to Super PACs.

That changed Wednesday night. Barry went right at Fox early and often, claiming his vision for the city was one of "austerity" and that he was "scaring voters" unnecessarily about the city's debt and that he had left the Metro school board "in chaos"  and on and on.

Fox was able to respond to some jabs better than others, but in a televised debate — for better or worse — sometimes the main thing that comes through is who's on offense and who's on defense. By my count, Barry came out on the better side of that equation more often than not Wednesday night. Fox even helped Barry out once or twice, most notably when he responded to a moderator's request to name an effective leader by citing former Nashville Mayor and former Gov. Phil Bredesen — who recently endorsed Barry.

• The candidates question each other

One interesting part of last night's format — which was a little loosey-goosey throughout — was that it allowed each candidate to ask the other a question. Barry used the opportunity to say Fox had been "scaring" voters about the city's debt. She cited Bredesen's comment that "nothing about the city's debt ought to cause any handwringing by any fiscally conservative people." She asked Fox to explain why Bredesen was wrong.

Fox's response:

"I think we've developed a kind of culture of debt and spending in Nashville and there's a time and place for everything. We've added a lot of debt, we've added about a billion dollars of debt in the last six or seven years. And what concerns me through this race is some people believe that the only way we have a strong economy is keep on adding to our debt. Well, I think now it's time to tack back. Our debt was downgraded 18 months ago. I take that seriously. It's still a high rating. So it's not time to, you know, the sky is not falling. But we have to understand, to be good managers, and to leave something that we're proud of to the future, you know, it's time to tack back. Let's spend a little bit less money and we can do that. It doesn't have anything to do with austerity as you said before. I'm for growth. We have benefitted so much from growth in this city. But I think the growth of municipal spending is the issue and the growth of municipal debt is an issue. So people shouldn't be alarmed unless we don't have a good grip on how much spending we have and we have liabilities we need to take care of."

Barry responded by pointing out (rightly) that despite his concerns about the city's debt, Fox has not said that he wouldn't have pursued any of Mayor Karl Dean's projects over the past eight years. And it's true: Fox is seemingly trying to walk a fine line between criticizing Barry's time on the council and calling for fiscal conservatism without speaking negatively about Dean.

Fox's question for Barry was whether there was a vote during her eight years on the council that she would take back. 

Barry's response:

"Well, I think that one of the important parts of being a leader is always to reflect back on things that you voted for and things that you voted against and how that went down. And when I look back on my time on Metro Council, I see a lot of really great votes that we were able to take to move Nashville forward. And when I think about the votes that didn't go so well, actually I'm proud to say that there are very few of those. I would've liked to have seen the ability to vote to put more money for police officers, more money for teachers, more money for firefighters. Those were the hard votes that we had to make when we were in the recession. And I wish that we could've been in a position at that time but we were being very fiscally conservative, so what we did is unfortunately we were not able to give everybody the raises that they deserve, but now it sounds like we've caught up, so that's good."

When I heard the words "things that you voted for and things that you voted against and how that went down," I thought Barry might cite the fairgrounds as an issue where she would have done things differently. Barry was an out-front supporter of Dean's redevelopment plan, even sponsoring a bill that would have demolished the racetrack. That episode "went down" very poorly, to say the least, with voters rejecting the plan at a historic council public hearing and ultimately in a citywide referendum. It's hard to imagine what Barry would have lost by saying she'd take that vote back, given that she now says the property could be a true gem and the city should invest in it.

• They're different but not so different

Each candidate took a moment last night to declare that voters had a clear choice in this election. Barry opened the debate by saying that "[Fox's] vision is one of austerity, and mine is one of prosperity. I want us to continue to make sure that we are taking that prosperity all the way to the county line."

In his closing statement, Fox took his turn: "If you want somebody who has great passion for taking on national issues, especially socially divisive issues, and getting on a national stage to talk about them, then you have a choice to do that." He added, "if you want somebody who's a little more centrist and pragmatic and focused on the problems facing our city, the challenges of transit, of water and sewer, and making sure our children are not trapped in schools that are unsuccessful, then I think I'm your guy."

It's not that there aren't differences between Barry and Fox. There are. But it's not at all clear that the differences are as dramatic as the candidates' rhetoric would suggest. Is Fox more conservative than Barry? I'd say so, but he's not the fire-breathing right-winger that some Barry supporters have been describing — and that (to an admittedly much lesser extent) Barry herself has suggested. (Although, to be fair, Fox invited the charge with his own rhetoric in the general, the Super PAC mailers, and his attacks on Barry.)

Is Barry more liberal than Fox? Sure. But what makes her a "far left" liberal, as he and his campaign keep saying? Is it her stances on same sex marriage and abortion? Fox started the runoff by saying that those weren't core issues for the mayor and describing his own views on them as "live and let live." Perhaps he differs from her on them, but apparently not that much.

On other issues, the two seem more similar. Take tax incentives, for instance. Both have said they're a necessary part of the city's economic development strategy. Barry has voted for all of them and, although Fox might possibly dislike them more in theory, he hasn't said the Dean administration shouldn't have used them.

What about charter schools? That issue — and education in general — might present one of the bigger distinctions between the two, but still it's not completely clear. Fox likes them a lot and has held up New Orleans' all-charter system as an example of success. But he's rejected the notion that he plans to "charterize" the system. As for Barry, she doesn't dislike charter schools. Here's what she said at a fundraiser in January, as quoted in our profile of her:

"Guess what? People who want to pretend that charter schools are going to go away are wrong. And people who think that charter schools are going to take over our entire schools are wrong too. There is a balance, and they both have a place in our public education system. They are both public schools."

The two have different backgrounds and, yes, some different priorities. But there are also ways in which they seem more similar than they're letting on. There are also reasons to believe that, in some areas, they might not govern all that differently, despite what they're doing and saying to get elected.

Or maybe I'm wrong. What did you think? 

Aug 20, 2015 12:26 PM

Bone backs Barry

Charles Robert Bone becomes the first of the Fallen Five to endorse, throwing his backing behind Megan Barry:

Former mayoral candidate Charles Robert Bone announced his endorsement of Megan Barry at a press conference to announce the formation of a Business Council to support her candidacy for mayor of Nashville.

“I believe the choice as to who should now lead Nashville could not be more clear, which is why I am honored to chair Megan Barry's Business Council and to support her campaign,” said Charles Robert Bone. “Megan's business experience and her experience serving on the Metro Council is what Nashville needs now.”

In addition to endorsing Barry for mayor, Bone will be chairing the Megan Barry for Mayor Business Council. The Business Council includes over 150 leaders in the business community who have been integral to Nashville’s growth and prosperity over the last eight years.

“For over a year, I had the pleasure of sitting alongside Charles Robert Bone at numerous debates and campaign events,” said Megan Barry. “I believe we shared a common vision for the future of Nashville, and I am truly grateful to have his support for my campaign and I know I will have his support as Nashville’s next mayor.”

“I’m honored that he has agreed to join and chair my business council of over 150 key business leaders who will work with me to keep Nashville moving forward,” said Barry.

The full list of 150 or so is here in a spreadsheet converted to PDF. On the list: David Fox (the other one). Also, the campaign's spreadsheet included (presumably by accident) a list of "not confirmed." That section begins on page 10 of the PDF (it appears in a smaller typeface).

Aug 20, 2015 11:21 AM

Council of Conservative Citizens plans Nashville convention

Seems the CCC — the group that allegedly inspired Charleston shooter Dylann Roof — is meeting somewhere in Nashville this weekend.

Aug 20, 2015 6:37 AM

Planned Parenthood videos prompt lawmakers to eye more abortion regulations

Republican legislators say more new abortion regulations may be in the offing, though they were light on concrete proposals, Chas Sisk reports for WPLN.

Aug 20, 2015 6:37 AM

Runoff rundown

The Scene digs in to the nine district-level runoff elections and the 10-candidate at-large slate ahead of the Sept. 10 election (early voting begins Friday).

Aug 20, 2015 6:36 AM

Haslam defends privatization exploration

The governor isn't worried about folks who think the job of government is to create more government jobs.

Aug 19, 2015 11:22 AM

The latest on LinkedInGate

There's more places other than Wikipedia and LinkedIn where Megan Barry claims she is a principal with Barry & Associates, per the Fox camp:

In most hiring and employment situations, falsification of recent work experience and resume padding matters, but Megan Barry makes light: 

"Funny story," Barry said. "When I left Premier, I updated my LinkedIn page to reflect the company that I used to have when I did ethics consulting. And quite frankly, I haven't looked at my LinkedIn page or paid a lot of attention since I started (running for mayor.) - The Tennessean, August 19, 2015

Oh wait - funny story -- Barry also still promotes herself as "the principal of Barry & Associates" – a one-person company she now admits has not existed since 2003 – whenever it strikes her fancy:

As a current board member of the YWCA of Nashville:


As a current member for Nashville's Downtown Rotary:


Funny story -- Oh well, at least she's not Robert Hodges, perennial mayoral candidate in Memphis, and the self-proclaimed "Prince Mongo -- ambassador from the Planet Zambodia!"


Worth noting: Barry said she hadn't "looked at ... or paid a lot of attention" to her (now updated with Barry & Associates completely removed) page though the page had her listed as candidate for mayor even as the Fox release came out yesterday (mere hours before her big endorsement announcement). Somebody was paying attention to it.

Aug 19, 2015 11:06 AM

First run-off debate tonight

Just as things start getting zingy. Fox and Barry square off at 6 on Channel 4.

Aug 19, 2015 7:03 AM