Get Involved

Get Involved – Vote

By AMELIA MORRISON HIPPSGet Involved

In roughly four months, all of us will be ringing in 2014, which also will mark another election year for major localand state positions. As each person comes forth and publicly announces his or her intentions to run for office, it’s important to pay attention, learn about each candidate and ask questions about why they want to seek public office.

It’s also important that we all look beyond the campaign rhetoric and become involved. And then forget about a couple of things that really do not matterGet Involved when it comes to his or her ability to govern once elected, such as whether they were born and reared here or moved here from somewhere else. What matters is his or her ability to make the hard decisions that are in the best interest of our counties and Tennessee.

I heard someone say the following recently: “The majority of people concern themselves more with national elections than state or local elections. Do they not realize that state and local elected officials impact their daily lives and livelihood more than any other elected positions?”

The answer is, “No. They don’t realize it.” People turn out and volunteer for U.S., senate, congressional and presidential elections more often than they do for local or state elections because those are the ones that dominate the national news cycles. But if ever there was a time when a little digging and fact checking is necessary, it is when it comes to the state and local candidates for public office. Yes, Congress and the president implement policies that affect everyone in the country, but it’s those at the state and local levels who have the power to enact policies that impact your lives on a daily basis.

Think about this for a minute. Local and state elected officials hold the power to pass policies that impact the following areas of your daily life: the overall safety of your community, your home in regards to where and how you build it, your children’s education, your water, sewage and trash services, your business’s ability to thrive, the ability to attract and/or keep businesses or industries that provide jobs, the condition of the roads you drive daily, the recreational opportunities for you and your children, and much more.

So, as we head into a big election year, take notice, jot down names, get contact information and start calling or writing, asking questions. Invite the candidates to your book club, civic organization, and homeowners association meetings to learn about them and their platform. Then after you’ve learned all you can, select the ones you feel will do the best job and help him or her get elected. Volunteer your time by holding a fundraiser, working a phone bank, canvassing a neighborhood or putting out yard signs.

In other words, get involved. The decisions these individuals will make in the coming years will impact you and our community immensely.

2014 Elections

Scheduled for the ballot box in the Aug. 7, 2014 County General/State Primary Election are the following races:

Wilson County Races

  • Wilson County Mayor
  • All 25 Wilson County Commission seats
  • Sheriff
  • Trustee
  • Circuit Court Clerk
  • County Clerk
  • Register of Deeds
  • Chancellor
  • District Attorney General
  • Public Defender
  • Circuit Court Judge – Divisions I and II
  • Criminal Court Judge
  • General Sessions Judge – Divisions I, II and III
  • Constable – All Zones
  • Lebanon Special School District – At-large Member
  • Wilson County School Board Members – Zones 2 and 4

State Primary Races

  • Governor
  • State Senate – District 17
  • State Representatives – Districts 46 and 57
  • State Republican and Democratic Executive Committeeman and Woman – District 17

Federal Primary Races

  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. Congress – 6th District

Scheduled for the ballot box in the Nov. 4, 2014 State General/City Election are the following races:

City Elections

  • City of Lebanon – Wards 3, 4 and 6
  • City of Mt. Juliet – Districts 2 and 4
  • City of Watertown – Three (3) At-Large Aldermen

State Primary Races

  • Governor
  • State Senate – District 17
  • State Representatives – Districts 46 and 57
  • State Republican and Democratic Executive Committeeman and Woman – District 17

Federal Primary Races

  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. Congress – 6th District

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Get Involved

The Three C’s of Politics

By AMELIA MORRISON HIPPSAmelia Morrison Hipps

Writing about politics roughly two months before the column is to be published is tough. Issues that are hot today have either been shoved aside, moved to the bottom of the priority list, killed, or hopefully, solved. That’s why this column version of Down Home Politics deals with issues in a broader context, while the blog at www.wilsonlivingmagazine.com deals with those more timely issues. So be sure and check it out each week.

So what’s the topic this issue? It’s the failure of politicians to be effective in their jobs, and it’s been happening for the last several years all the way up the political ladder – from cities to counties to states to the nation.

But, there is an answer, something I call The Three Cs of Politics: Communication, Compromise and Clarification = Effectiveness. Just as a diamond’s four Cs – clarity, cut, color and carat weight – determine its worth, so can The Three Cs of Politics determine the effectiveness of a politician.

The first C is Communication, and this is one is critical. An effective politician must be able to communicate his message clearly and precisely to all parties – constituents, other office holders, staff and the media. He must be able to express himself in such a way that the message remains consistent no matter who he is talking to and how little time he may have. In other words, he needs to have an elevator pitch that is as effective in 2 minutes as an hour-long presentation complete with charts and graphs.

In addition, the communication cannot be all passion; it must have facts and/or figures to back the message. Passionate pleas have their place, but they are much more effective when backed by hard proof.

For example, if a government entity needs to raise revenue through an increase in taxes or fees, the members of that body had better have a solid plan in place as to how that money will be spent and why it is critical that the tax or fee be raised.

By the same token, those who oppose tax increases or fees need to have evidence to back their claim that the additional increase is not needed and why. He had better be prepared to show precisely where he could do a better job with the funds at hand than by raising taxes or fees.

Being able to offer specifics – not generalities – is a critical for any politician, which is why many of them fail to be effective once in office. During the campaign, they present beautiful pictures with their words, and they often get elected. But once they are in office, and they need to know how to paint that picture, many couldn’t if their lives depended on it.

The other critical aspect of communication is to not surprise anyone. To be effective, especially once a person is in office, he needs to communicate his initiatives, visions and plans with every single stakeholder as soon as possible.

There’s an old saying, “Never surprise your boss.” Well, that same philosophy can be said about politicians. They should never surprise their constituents, other office holders or staff. Doing so is asking for failure.

Which leads us to the second C of Politics – Compromise. Today, more and more politicians appear to think that compromise is a bad word. They think that if they give a little, they will somehow dilute their power, or the other side will want to take that inch and stretch it into a mile. I contend that neither are true and that the lack of compromise is what is causing the current stalemate in our nation’s capital. I also believe it’s the cause of the growing division between the two parties, as well as the fragmentation inside them, in Washington, in Nashville, and even in local government bodies.

Personally, I’m tired of watching one side or the other dig their heels in and refuse to budge – often times simply because they hold the majority of votes and know they don’t need the other side to pass whatever initiatives they may have. Just because one party or another holds the power by being the majority doesn’t mean they always have to use that power. Sometimes having the power doesn’t mean using it as a sledgehammer just because you can. Sometimes it means truly listening to the other side and compromising for the good of the people who elected you.

Which brings us to the last C – Clarification. After applying the first two Cs – communication and compromise – a politician had better be able to explain or clearly justify his position.

Throughout the years, voters have shown they have no problem with politicians who either stand their ground or who change positions on an issue – as long as they explain the reasoning behind it. As long as a politician can explain the “why” behind their decisions – which is more often than not the most important W in the five Ws of who, what, when, where and why – then the voters will view him or her as being effective, and that’s what we want and need from our elected officials.

A politician who is effective is one who can make us understand his ideas, produce results, and explain why his actions best represent us. And isn’t this what we want from those we elect to office?

Amelia Morrison Hipps is a local freelance writer and political consultant. She may be reached at (615) 442-8667 or via email at amhipps@ downhomepolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics.

Be sure to read her weekly political blogs at www.wilsonlivingmagazinecom.

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Looking beyond the budget

 

By Amelia Hipps-Political Contributor for Wilson Living Magazine

 

 Tuesday night, the Lebanon City Council finally passed the first reading of the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget by a vote of 4-1.

 

Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton, who had been a “present, not voting” for the past several meetings finally voted in favor it, along with Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino, Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes and Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryant. Ward 1 Councilor Lanny Jewell was not there. The lone no vote came from Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath.

 

While passing the budget on first reading is a good step in the right direction so the city can move forward, here are a few takeaways that I hope the council and mayor will remember going into the next fiscal year.

 

 

 

  1. Have the finance department generate monthly reports of revenue and expenditures. At one time, this was done. It made for a lot of colorful exchanges between then Mayor Don Fox and then Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer. Regardless, the point is the reports gave the council, everyone in city government and the public a fairly up-to-date status of the city’s finances. This should be implemented as soon as possible.
  2. Review and modify the retirement benefits policy. Currently, if you work for the City of Lebanon for a minimum of 10 years and are employed at the time of your retirement at age 65, you qualify for lifetime health, life, and vision insurance for you and your spouse. It’s a sweet deal. However, the minimum number of employment years should be lengthened to at least 15, possibly 20, for all new hires beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Current employees should be grandfathered in to be fair.
  3. Increase the amount employees must pay for health insurance. Earlier this year, I was called on the carpet for suggesting employees pay the full percentage increase in their premiums. That may be too much, but at least 25 percent of the increases should be passed on to them. The $40 for individual and $160 for family coverage currently being paid is way below what employees in the public sector pay. And, yes, many of those make on par what city employees do.
  4. Remove health benefits for city council members. Technically, city council members are part-time employees. Therefore, in my opinion, they should be treated like part-time employees and not receive health insurance benefits. Nor should they be entitled to life-long insurance benefits after serving only two terms.
  5. Assign each councilor as a liaison to a department and/or line-item expense. If this were done, as Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino suggested, councilors could keep their colleagues informed each month as to how the departments are doing. In addition, come budget time next year, they would have months of tracking data and information at the ready.
  6. Present the budget figures in a way that the common person can understand them. For the past several years, we’ve heard each year that $2 to $2.9 million out of the “rainy day fund” (money from the sale of the electric company years ago) would be needed to balance the budget. However, each and every year the city has managed to balance the budget without using anywhere near those amounts – if at all. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never understood this type of budgeting.
  7. Use the “rainy day fund” for one-time capitol expenditures and pay it back over time. I wrote about this the other week. Using the $9 million in this account to pay for things like infrastructure improvements (roads, drainage solutions, sewage and water lines, new vehicles and equipment, sidewalks, etc.) is a wise use of the money. It’s the way many households improve their property. They save the money to repair the roof, add a room or remodel one. Once it’s done, they start putting money back into the savings account for the next project. Someone please explain to me why this can’t be done at the city level.

     

    If the city leaders would take just these seven steps, I think next year’s budget process could go a lot smoother and quicker. In addition, I think the City of Lebanon would have seven, better-informed elected officials representing us, which in turn should mean better-informed citizens come election time.

     

    Only time will tell if I’m correct or not.

     

 

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Raising taxes may or may not be the solution

I’m may catch a lot of negative heat for what I’m about to write, but I’m a big girl and I can take it.

 

The City of Lebanon is in a financial pinch, and I’m not sure what the solution is. I do believe that city department heads and employees have cut as steep as they can and still provide the services citizens have grown accustom to over the years.

Does the city need a property tax increase to accomplish this? Maybe. Do they need one as large as what is being proposed? Maybe. I’m honestly not sure.

What I do know is this. There is $9 million sitting in reserves or in the rainy day fund. For the past three years money from the reserves has been budgeted to balance the city’s budget. However, very little was ever used.

At Wednesday night’s budget meeting, the question came up about decreasing property taxes after they are raised. They can’t be done in the middle of the budget year, but they could be increased for the upcoming fiscal year 2013-2014 and then decreased for FY 2014-2015.

However, Mayor Philip Craighead said the problem with that is there are roads to be paved, 20-year-old vehicles needing replaced, buildings that need maintenance, additional drainage issues, etc. In other words, any increase could be utilized.

Here’s where I may ruffle some feathers. Those types of comments are what a lot of us find problematic with government today. Government seeks and gets more money, and then they never seem to find a way to give any back, claiming they need every dollar.

While I will agree with the obvious fact that Lebanon has grown since the last hike in property taxes some 21 years ago (1992), I’m not so sure there is not a way to minimize any proposed property tax increase even more than they’ve already done.

(I must digress here a moment and say I think the job they have done so far in finding ways to whittle the amount of any increase is admirable on the part of Finance Commissioner Russell Lee, the mayor and the entire council.)

Now, back to the point of this column. Most of what Mayor Craighead mentioned regarding needs that could be paid for by keeping the property tax at the level of the proposed increase were capital expenditure items, meaning one-time expenses.

Why not pull the majority of capital expenditure items out of the city’s operating budget and pay for them out of the reserves up to a certain limit? Say $4 million? That would leave the city with a still healthy reserve of $5 million. While reducing the reserves may impact the city’s bond rating in the short run, I have to ask, is the city in any position to borrow money anyway?

In addition, the city would implement a plan to pay X percentage of the money back into the reserves each year that city’s revenues exceed its projections by Y percentage.

In other words, operate the city like many folks do their household budgets (when they can.) They establish a savings account to pay for those big, one-time expenses such as household repairs, replacing an appliance, an unexpected health crisis, etc. Then, when things get back on an even keel, they replenish their savings account.

For far too many years, the city prospered because of a growing sales tax base, without anyone giving much thought to the idea that hard economic times could hit. They forgot the Six P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Today, our city’s leaders are paying for that lack of foresight, and I’ll be the first to say, I don’t envy them one little bit. However, long-term solutions require thinking out of the box. Raising taxes or fees aren’t the only answers. There are other solutions out there, provided our city’s leaders are willing to find them.

So, to those who disagree, let me have it. Leave a comment. Give me a call. I’m a big girl. I can take it.

 

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Get Involved

We The People

Apathy has no place in politics

By AMELIA MORRISON HIPPS   A Morrison Hipps

Welcome to Down Home Politics, your source for the straight skinny on how policies and laws may impact your life and livelihood.

First, I want to thank Angel and Becky for giving me this opportunity to write for Wilson Living Magazine, as well as the blog on their website. I’m very excited to be a part of their growing publication, and I hope you’ll find my presence among their pages informative and enlightening.

To begin, let me tell you a little about myself. Next, I’ll give you my philosophy about party politics and why you won’t find them in this space or on my blog. And last, I’ll give you an idea of what you can expect to read in both.

For those of you who may not know me, I’m a former newspaper editor and reporter who has been interested in politics since the 1968 presidential election when I was 8. (Now you can do the math and figure out how old I am!)

I spent almost 25 years in the newspaper business, all at the community-journalism level, because I liked being close to the everyday people impacted by the news we printed. My last newspaper job was as managing editor of The Lebanon Democrat, which I left in January 2012 after almost six years there. My husband and I started Capitol Newswatch LLC, a news service providing coverage of the Tennessee General Assembly to rural, community based newspapers throughout the state.

Today, while I still do this for a few papers, most of my time is spent freelance writing, as well as doing some political consulting and writing press releases for local businesses.

Writing for Wilson Living Magazine will allow me to write about something I’m passionate about, while also being close to those who are impacted by the legislation and ordinances brought by lawmakers at all levels.

My weekly blog, which will be posted on www.WilsonLivingMagazine.com each Thursday, will provide coverage of Lebanon and Wilson County government activities. This may be coverage of meetings that week, or it may be more in-depth reporting of a single issue. And, you may find more frequent postings if news warrants it.

As far as what to expect in this space, you’ll be sadly disappointed if you think you’ll find me promoting one party over another. Personally, I despise party politics. If I had my way, all political parties would be dissolved, but that’s a discussion for another column.

George Washington, our country’s first president, warned of the dangers of partisan politics in his farewell speech. Washington wrote and spoke the following words:

George Washington“Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. … the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are suffi cient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

“… in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

With these words as my guide, you will not read a ranting for or against a particular party, but rather an explanation as to why you need to take heed of a political body’s actions.

Throughout my career, numerous people have said to me, “I just don’t care about politics,” and that is their right. However, I take issue when I hear these same individuals complain that politicians seem to have forgotten that they are accountable to the people who elected them.

Often, my question to these individuals is, “Did you do anything about it? Did you work for his or her political opponent if you didn’t like the job the person was doing? Did you get out and support the law or policy you thought was best?” All too frequently, the answer is no. Apathy has no place in politics. Saying, “I just don’t care about politics,” is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care about the welfare of my children, my spouse, my parents, my siblings, etc.” While that may sound harsh, it is true. By not caring about politics, we are basically relinquishing to the government how we can and cannot live their lives.

Like it or not, politics permeates every aspect of our lives one way or another, and for that reason alone, we should all care. So with each issue, my goal will be to try and ignite a spark in those who are currently ambivalent; fan the embers of those who think it doesn’t matter anymore, so why try; and feed the fires of those actively trying to make a difference, so that maybe, just maybe, in this part of Middle Tennessee, I can, in the words of Washington again:

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

Amelia Morrison Hipps is a local freelance writer, political consultant and public relations specialist. She may be reached at (615) 442-8667 or via email atamhipps@downhomepolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CapitolNews_TN.

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Thinking outside of the box in politics

More out-of-the-box ideas needed from Lebanon leaders “The key to success is to risk thinking unconventional thoughts. Convention is the enemy of progress. If you go down just one corridor of thought you never get to see what’s in the rooms leading off it.” — Trevor Baylis English Inventor


As Lebanon’s City Council continues to struggle with the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget, a few out-of-the-box ideas have emerged that if the council is bold enough to embrace could make a difference in the future.

First off, I applaud Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton for raising questions at Wednesday night’s budget work session about amounts spent last year that he was unsure of at a budget meeting. Rarely in the past have I seen this happen.

I realize the budget is huge and it’s a pain to go through line by line (I’ve done it so I know of where I speak), but the fact that Burton has says a lot about the time he’s spent preparing for these budget sessions.

Second, I want to applaud Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino for again bringing up the idea of assigning different council members to monitor different areas of the city’s budget throughout the year.

This is an excellent idea, and I urge the council the implement this. If each councilor were responsible throughout the year of tracking a particular department’s and/or line-item expense, such as health insurance, come budget time, that person would essentially be considered the “expert” on what would be needed in the coming year.

Another idea, again proposed by Cesternino, was to move the start date for the city’s health insurance, one of, if not the largest, annual increase in the budget. Each year the city council struggles to put together the next fiscal year’s budget without all of the data needed, such as the increase in health insurance premiums.

Cesternino is correct when he says this practice needs to stop. The council needs all the information possible to put together a responsible budget.

In a past session, Cesternino broached the idea about making city employees pay more for health insurance than they currently do. While I appreciate Finance Commissioner Russell Lee’s stance to protect the city’s workers, what city employees currently pay as their portion of their premiums is way under what people in the public sector pay.

Lee referenced that many city employees make $10 to $12 an hour and that it would cost them more than $1 an hour of their pay to make up the anticipated 15 percent increase.

Well, the truth is many public sector employees make the same amount of money, and instead of paying $40 for individual coverage or $160 for family coverage, they must pay double or triple those amounts.

Which leads me to this question: Why should the taxpayers of Lebanon pay for a benefit for city employees that they themselves do not get from their employers?

If the 15 percent increase is realized and passed straight to the employees, we’re talking about a $86 a month increase in the employee’s portion for individual coverage, and a $237 a month increase for family coverage.

Is it unreasonable to ask city employees to pay $126 a month or $397 a month for health insurance? Maybe. But at least some portion of the increase should be passed along.

For example, if 25 percent of the increase were passed along, it would cost employees $21.50 more for individual coverage or an additional $59.25 for family coverage, bringing the totals to $61.50 or $219.25, respectively. If half of the increase were passed on, the employees’ portion for individual coverage would rise by $43 to $83 a month, while family coverage would go up $118.50 to $278.50 a month.

In addition, the budge still includes step raises and a $100 bonus on employees’ anniversary hire dates.  It’s time for a reality check. Ask folks in the public sector when was the last time they got a raise. Answer would probably be three or more years. Then ask them if their portion of insurance premiums continued to rise each year. The answer will probably be yes.

This is the type of out-of-the-box thinking the city needs to be looking at when it comes to the budget.

I encourage each and every council member to continue to think outside the box when it comes to every aspect of city government. Lack of foresight and vision, along with a healthy dose of pessimism that things may not always
be as rosy as it was a decade ago, led our city to the financial situation it currently faces.

Lebanon cannot afford to continue to think inside the box. While such out of the box thinking may be painful, it’s price that has to be paid now because of the lack of foresight in the past.

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Taking action CAN make a difference!

 

By Amelia Hipps

“To him who is determined it remains only to act.” — Italian Proverb

 

My first column for Wilson Living Magazine was titled “Apathy Has No Place in Politics,” and this week a group of Rome Pike residents proved that to be true.

In a nutshell, Donna Womack and her neighbors spoke out against a development that would have split 10 acres into half-acre lots with 20 homes on their street.

The home Womack owns, as well as that of her neighbors, sit on five-acre lots.

They did not passively accept the Lebanon Planning Commission’s approval of a developer’s plan, but rather sought to fight for what Ward 2 Councilor Rob Cesternino called “a certain quality of life.”

Womack came prepared with photos, documents and 30 signatures from residents on Rome Pike and Bonnie Oaks subdivision on a petition.

As a result of their persistence, Lebanon City Council voted against the proposed development.

I want to applaud these citizens for realizing government is only as good or bad as citizens allow it to be. By becoming pro-active, informed and professional, these citizens were able to protect their homes, their way of life and property values. All too often people think, “What can I do? The government’s already made its decision. There’s nothing for me to do.”

Well, I would disagree and would point to Donna Womack and her neighbors as examples of what people can do once they make up their minds to take action.

Will you win every battle? Probably not.  Does that mean you shouldn’t try? Absolutely not.

Helen Keller, the famous blind and deaf author, political activist and lecturer, once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” If we all took to heart the attitude of this courageous lady who became the first deaf/blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in America, think of the changes we could make in this world.

To the residents of Rome Pike who took action and decided to make a difference, my hat is off to you. Well done. Thank you for not being apathetic.

So, the question that remains is this: What cause or policy will prompt you to take action? Apathy has no place in politics or government, and it is up to us – the citizens of our city, county, state and country – to make sure of that by demanding more of those we elect to office.

 

 

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The Cumberland Center in Lebanon TN

City, county needs to apply “The Six Ps” to convention/expo plans

My husband has a slew of what is known as Hippisms, which are short little phrases that capture the essence of something. One of my favorites is his “The Six Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance,” and it’s something that I think all government officials and departments should post in their offices. 

In my humble opinion, there are two stark examples in Wilson County of where that did not happen and where it did happen.

The Cumberland Center in Lebanon TNLet’s start with the one where it didn’t happen – The Cumberland Center. A concept conceived by Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, The Cumberland Center sounds like a dynamic venture on first glance, and in all honesty, it has many positive aspects about it.

The development of the 376-acre area between Highway 231 and Cainsville Road is being overseen by Nashville’s Vastland Realty Group. If, and when, it is completed, it would boast providing additional retail shopping and dining alternatives, including one of each which are up and running now, RCC Western Store and Logan’s Roadhouse. To be rolled out in stages, the plan calls for the phase one to include a one million square foot retail center, as well as 500,000 square feet of office space. Phase two would include an entertainment district to the east, which would be home to a community events center, which will house a hockey arena.

Estimated at today’s prices to cost $40 million, the center would have between 4,500 to 6,200 seats and hold two sheets of ice, with the hopes of attracting a Central Hockey League team to be a feeder for the Nashville Predators. The center would include also 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of meeting halls and the possibility of a hotel next to the center. To pay for the entertainment center, property and sales tax generated from current and future businesses and office development within the designated area would be put in a savings account to be overseen by an appointed, not elected, Entertainment District Authority.

But before phase two can even hope to be implemented, two thirds of the both the Lebanon City Council and Wilson County Commission must approve it. Then the Tennessee General Assembly must approve changes to seven current laws, each of which would create exceptions for Lebanon.

You may be saying to yourself right now, “Hey, the concept is great, because it could possibly generate a boom in growth for Lebanon like Providence has done in Mt. Juliet.”

Whoa, Nelly. Hang on a minute.

Wilson County Expo RenderingThere’s a problem. The Six Ps were not implemented. There was no prior planning to prevent piss-poor performance. Before the announcement in October 2011, not a single feasibility study had been conducted. None. And if any have been done since then, they haven’t been shared with the public. We have no way of knowing if this concept will be supported by retailers, business people, or even hockey lovers, and that is a mistake.

Meanwhile, over at the Wilson County Commission, the idea of an Expo Center at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center emerged. Earlier this year, the idea seemed to be on a fast track to seek the needed approval of the General Assembly as well. But, the brakes were just as quickly applied, and rightly so.

The County Commission voted instead to have a feasibility study done to see if there are enough conventions and events out there that could sustain such a center. The last thing our county coffers’ need is a drain on a project that can’t pay for itself. They applied The Six Ps, and for that I applaud them. It’s better sometimes to slow down and make sure you have all of the information possible before moving ahead. The County Commission realized that, and for that, we should all be grateful.

Before the General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 14, 2014, my wish is that Vastland will conduct it’s own feasibility study of The Cumberland Center. Being in the development business, this concept cannot be alien to them. Surely, they’ve done similar studies before developing other properties.

The last thing we need in Lebanon is for our city leaders to march to Nashville to seek seven exceptions to current laws and not have such a study in hand. It would be embarrassing for the city, especially if county leaders headed down there and sought approval with facts and figures to back up their proposal.

Better yet, I think what is needed is for the city and county to sit down, study both feasibility studies (provided one is done for The Cumberland Center), and see if there is a combined project that would benefit all concerned here locally before heading to Nashville.

Having the county and city in lock-step before going to our legislators would give us a better chance of having a convention/expo/entertainment center of some type in Lebanon, than the two entities seeking separate approval of their respective projects.

If I’ve learned anything about covering the General Assembly the past two years, it’s that they will ask a lot of questions about how the two projects would benefit or compete with each other. So, if our local leaders expect to get a favorable nod, then they better have applied The Six Ps.

Amelia Morrison Hipps is a local political consultant and freelance writer covering the Tennessee General Assembly for TNReport.com. She may be reached at (615) 442-8667 or via email at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics, like her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DownHomePolitics and for her more personal views on politics in today’s world, visit her website at DownHomePolitics.com.

THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN DOWN HOME POLITICS ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY WILSON LIVING MAGAZINE. WLM, HOWEVER, ENCOURAGES A DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS OF TOPICS OF IMPORTANCE TO OUR COMMUNITY. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBMIT AN OPINION ON THIS ISSUE, PLEASE CONTACT US AT INFO@WILSONLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM.

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Welcome To Down Home Politics

Welcome to my new blog for Wilson Living Magazine. I call it Down Home Politics and it’s a companion to my regular column in the actual print magazine, but with a twist.

While the column will take a broad stroke approach to the issue of politics, this blog will be more narrowly focused on the issues in city, county and state government. I’ll be attending city and county government meetings, looking for those little gems that are often hidden from view.

I’ll leave the full coverage to the two newspapers in town, both of which do a great job of reporting the nuts and bolts. What I hope to do is look a little deeper behind the issues. In other words, do a little digging, not for dirt, but for clarity, on issues that may go overlooked and why you probably should pay attention to them.

From time to time, you may find a profile of an elected official or government worker who works diligently in the shadows, but never gets publicly recognized.

Or you may find a governmental department and what it does being featured, so the next time you need to get a permit, pay taxes, look up a record or seek out a specific service, you’ll know where to go and who to talk to about your question or problem.

This blog, just like the print version of Down Home Politics, will strive to be non-partisan. Occasionally, you may find my personal opinion of an issue in this nook of cyberspace, but if you do, know that it is my opinion only and not that of Angel or Becky. If you want to know how I really feel about things, then you’ll have to go to my website, DownHomePolitics.com.

So, come along and follow me here at WilsonLivingMagazine.com. Look for a new Down Home Politics blog every Thursday by 2 p.m. I urge you to leave a comment, start a dialogue with me and other readers, and share with me what you’d like to see covered.

I’m not asking or expecting everyone to become politically active in terms of protests or support rallies, participating in campaigns, or joining petition drives or phone-a-thons. I’m just asking you to become informed and then let your conscious determine what, if any, action you should take.

An informed citizenry is vital to a healthy city, county, state or national government.
Being apathetic and not caring feeds those who would do us harm, while becoming informed about the issues can empower us, the everyday citizen, from allowing such harms to happen.

So if you have a question or issue you’d like to know more about regarding your local or state government, please send it to me at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com.

Until next week …

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