Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Bus to Nashville

Almost missed it:

"A city’s immovable roadblock; Nashville’s ambitious new bus line seemed to have a green light — until the GOP-led Legislature, with help from the Koch brothers, stepped in" by Michael Kranish Globe Staff  October 10, 2015

NASHVILLE — His dream: a “trackless trolley” line that would connect Nashville’s gentrifying east side with its ritzy west.


The tale of the trackless trolley is, on one level, a prosaic account of a fast-growing city struggling to pay for much-needed mass transit. But as the story unfolded, it became clear that there was something much deeper going on: a bare-knuckle city-versus-state fight at a time when the partisan divide between big cities — mostly run by Democrats — and state capitals, where the GOP largely holds sway, has reached a historic extreme. It showed how national politics, and secretly financed outside groups, can influence even local battles.

Indeed, Nashville had become a sort of ground zero for a series of local brawls infused by an “all politics is national” trend, as some have put it, inverting the mantra of former House speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.

A city ordinance designed to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians was undone by the state. An effort to ban guns in Nashville’s parks was overturned by the state. A plan by the Republican governor to expand Medicaid, providing health insurance for 179,000 Tennesseans, with Nashville the greatest beneficiary, was defeated because it was linked to “Obamacare.”

Then came the battle over the 7-mile high-speed bus line, lyrically dubbed the “Amp,” that was supposed bring together the disparate sides of Music City. Instead, it tore Nashville apart.

Zeroing in on this sort of local battle has become a key to success for groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed organization that counts its Tennessee chapter among its most effective.

The billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch have received enormous publicity for their announcement that they plan to spend $900 million to influence the 2016 elections. But with far less fanfare, they are having a clearer impact on local matters, right down to a fight over a bus line.

“The return on investment in time is much greater at the state than the federal level,” said Andrew Ogles, head of Tennessee’s Americans for Prosperity chapter, which played a key role in the fight against the Amp and Medicaid expansion. “If you have a rogue mayor or governor, our greatest influence is to talk to our state representative and senator. They are much more accessible to us than, say, a governor.”

Under recent Supreme Court rulings, the group is defined as a nonprofit social welfare organization that is allowed to advocate on legislative issues. It doesn’t have to identify who gives it cash, how much it has received, or how it spends the undocumented funds — known in politics as “dark money.” That is different from money given to candidates and political action committees, which generally is subject to disclosure.

What is clear is that the political ground is more fertile than ever for national groups to enter local fights. And it was exactly this divide that opponents of the Amp sought to exploit, pitting City Hall against the Capitol....

This is my stop!



"An off-duty police officer died Sunday after being shot multiple times, the fourth Memphis police officer to be fatally shot in slightly more than four years, authorities said."

He had a fiancee who is four months pregnant, but don't worry, a male suspect is in custody.