This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Hospital giant HCA is relocating the headquarters of two of its business units to midtown Nashville in a move that could bring as many as 2,000 jobs to one of the largest commercial office developments in the city’s history. HCA’s Parallon Business Solutions and the Sarah Cannon Research Institute will anchor two new high-rise office buildings to be constructed on a vacant property on the city’s West End Avenue. The development represents a $200 million investment in Nashville by developer Alex S. Palmer and Co.
Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America will lease headquarters for two of its affiliates and add a thousand new jobs over the next few years. For the city’s development, the project will fill a hole – literally. For years there’s been a giant, rocky hole in the ground on West End, near Interstate 65 – fenced-off, full of water and idle since the recession hit. Now HCA is planning to lease space in two towers there, with workers from two of its units in the area: Sarah Cannon Research Institute and Parallon Business Solutions…A thousand current workers will relocate to the towers, while a thousand new jobs are expected through 2017.
A ridiculed office site that has sat undeveloped, collecting rain water as a gaping hole in the ground at 16th Avenue and West End, is about to get new life, and potentially 2,000 jobs for Davidson County by 2017 thanks to hospital company HCA. HCA, city officials and developer Alex S. Palmer said Thursday that two HCA-related operations will put their headquarters into a pair of office towers to go up at the high-profile location in Nashville’s midtown. The $200 million project will eliminate an 80-foot-deep cavity of earth and rock known as “Lake Palmer,” derisively referring to the real estate developer who had failed to build a project there over a six-year period until this week.
HCA Holdings Inc. could receive upwards of $59 million in state and local economic development incentives as part of a deal bringing 2,000 jobs to Midtown Nashville. The Nashville health care giant, along with Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, announced plans this morning to inhabit two new high rises on West End Avenue. HCA affiliates Parallon Business Solutions and Sarah Cannon Research Institute will call the buildings home, occupying a total of 500,000 square feet.
Health care company HCA is relocating the corporate headquarters of two of its business units to the long-vacant West End Summit property in Midtown. Governor Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined HCA Chairman and CEO Richard Bracken for the announcement at the Historic Metro Courthouse Thursday. The two companies are expected to employ nearly 2,000 workers within five years. That figure will about double their current work force, with average salaries of $85,000-$90,000. Governor Haslam said at the announcement the investment will solidify Nashville’s reputation as a health care leader and a great place to do business.
In what Mayor Karl Dean called the largest jobs announcement in Nashville since Dell, HCA Holdings announced this morning it will move the headquarters of two of its business units to the much-maligned West End Summit property. Parallon Business Solutions and Sarah Cannon Research Institute will occupy two towers on Alex Palmer’s property at the West End/Broadway split — for years a giant hole (the result of the development’s stalling after initial on-site work began in the mid-2000s) awaiting a building — bringing with them an initial 1,000 jobs with another 1,000 expected to be added by 2017.
A 225-room luxury hotel will accompany West End Summit’s twin 20-story office towers, developer Alex Palmer said Thursday afternoon. The deal involving a “four-and-a-half-star hotel,” which will push the project’s budget well past the previously announced $200 million mark, is close but not finalized, Palmer said. “The hotel will happen,” Palmer said. “We elected not to announce the hotel until all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. We anticipate in the not too distant future being able to announce it. We want to be able to make sure it’s 100 percent done.”
In case you were wondering, 2,000 jobs — including 1,000 new positions in the next couple of years — don’t just drop out of the sky. And as today’s HCA Holdings Inc. announcement shows, Davidson County is getting more aggressive with its economic development game. At today’s announcement of HCA (NYSE: HCA) locating two spin-offs on West End Avenue, CEO Richard Bracken and government officials discussed scores of reasons why the hospital giant picked Nashville. There is the general business climate, HCA’s commitment to Nashville since the company’s inception and the relationships formed along the way.
During the past four quarters, construction starts for hotels across the nation were up 32 percent by room count from the same period a year ago, according to the latest project report from the Associated General Contractors of America. New hotel project announcements are up 22 percent, according to Lodging Econometrics, which tracks the hotel industry globally, the association reported. “Fueling the construction rebound are rising occupancy and room rates at U.S. hotels since 2009 and a willingness by more lenders to make hotel-construction loans, typically the most volatile and risky of commercial real-estate classes,” the report said.
Governor Bill Haslam says there will be a time to debate whether Tennessee should set up a school voucher program. Haslam’s education commissioner is leading a task force on diverting public school funding to pay for private educations; the group is not talking about whether to do so, but how. A meeting this week saw task force members tussle over whether a voucher program could be underway by next school year, but Haslam insists it’s not a done deal.
Expect lots of discussion about whether taxpayers should send students to private schools on Capitol Hill next year, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday. The governor said the state needs to have a serious discussion about a school vouchers program, but said he’s still undecided whether he’ll throw his full support behind a proposal due to him later this fall. A Haslam-appointed task force stopped short of firming up details of a proposed plan Wednesday.
A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant has been awarded to the City of Henry to help fund rehabilitation of several homes in the city. Gov. Bill Haslam appeared at the Henry Civic Center Wednesday afternoon to announce the awarding of the CDBG. More than 100 people greeted the governor, along with State Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan; State Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden; and Henry Mayor Joe Qualls. Haslam said he likes the CDBG program, saying it’s one that “Washington got right.”
Gov. Bill Haslam cinched up his left sleeve Thursday to stress the importance of Tennesseans receiving their influenza vaccinations this flu season. Haslam, Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam, state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero all received their seasonal flu vaccinations Thursday morning at the Knox County Health Department on Dameron Avenue. “I brought my wife with me so I would be OK,” quipped the governor, who gave a fake grimace when he received his shot from Jody Persino, an RN at the health department.
State and local leaders hope you will follow their example to prevent getting sick this winter. Governor Bill Haslam and his wife Crissy, along with state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner and Knoxville mayor Madeline Rogero were at the Knox County Health Department to get their flu shots. Each year, as much as 20% of the population gets the flu, and more than 200,000 people may be hospitalized from complications of the illness.
Education Department has been awarded a federal grant for more than $5.5 million to improve pay structures and provide greater professional opportunities to teachers in high-poverty schools. The U.S. Department of Education announced the Teacher Incentive Fund award on Thursday. It will serve school districts in Haywood, Lincoln and Polk counties. The money will help fund the state’s Recognizing Excellence in Rural Tennessee project. It will build on recent efforts to implement a statewide educator evaluation system that ties student outcomes to educator effectiveness ratings.
Unemployment rates across the state were down in August, reversing an upward swing in July, according to new data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The data shows the rate decreased in 90 counties, increased in two and stayed the same in three. Statewide unemployment in August increased to 8.5 percent, up from the July revised rate of 8.4 percent. The national unemployment rate for August 2012 was 8.1 percent, 0.2 percentage point lower than July.
The Memphis metro area’s unemployment rate moved the right way in August, falling to 8.9 percent from 9.6 the previous month The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Thursday released metro-, county- and city-specific data for the state. The Memphis metro — which includes Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties in Tennessee as well as portions of Arkansas and Mississippi — saw its unemployment fall back in line with May levels. It was 8.8 percent in May before spiking to 9.6 percent in June and July.
Unemployment down nearly a full percentage point Monthly unemployment here showed nearly a full percentage point decline in August. The new Montgomery County jobless rate of 8 percent is down from 8.8 in July. A total of 6,180 people were out of work in the Clarksville area last month, out of an estimated countywide labor force of 76,900. The new rate is also down sharply from where joblessness stood here a year ago – 9.3 percent. Clarksville unemployment is slightly lower than both the state average of 8.5 percent, and the national rate of 8.1.
One of Nashville’s most prominent civil rights attorneys is vowing to keep up his fight against a new voter ID law. This week a state court ruled Tennessee’s requirement for photo ID is constitutional. A federal court ruled the same way in July. The plaintiffs in the case are two women from Memphis who were turned away by poll workers in August for trying to use their city-issued library cards. Attorney George Barrett says they still have time to influence November’s election.
Judge rules law protects ‘purity of the ballot box’ A chancellor’s ruling this week in favor of Tennessee’s voter photo ID act gives further proof that the law is constitutional, state Sen. Bill Ketron said Thursday. “(Wednesday), we had affirmation in state court, in addition to federal court affirmation in July, that Tennessee has the right to guard against voter fraud and ‘to secure the freedom of elections and the purity of the ballot box,’ as our Constitution states,” Ketron said in a written statement.
If an order filed Thursday is any indication, a federal judge is brokering no delays in the upcoming trial of a disgraced former Knox County judge. Former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner is set to stand trial Oct. 23 in U.S. District Court on seven counts of misprision of a felony for allegedly lying to various people, including a judge, prosecutor and child support referee, to protect a prescription painkiller distribution network of which authorities say he and his pill-supplying mistress were a part.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen largely has avoided the partisan political arena since leaving office 20 months ago, but the Democrat is making an exception. At a fundraiser this week, Bredesen gave a endorsement of 4th Congressional District hopeful Eric Stewart, a state senator who is challenging U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the Nov. 6 election. “I think so highly of Eric that I’ve kind of semi come out of retirement here to come out and try to do anything I possibly can to help him in this campaign,” Bredesen told attendees Tuesday in Murfreesboro.
VP candidate wants to win ‘by acclamation’ Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday said he wants the Republican campaign message to be so detailed and compelling that Mitt Romney will be elected president “by acclamation.” The Wisconsin congressman said at a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser at a Knoxville hotel that the GOP message contrasts with what he called the divisive tactics of President Barack Obama. “Since he can’t run on hope and change and all these new promises — because the last ones have been mostly broken — he will have to divide this country. He will have to distort and distract and try to win by default,” Ryan said of the Democratic president.
Paul Ryan’s first trip to Knoxville as the GOP vice presidential nominee proved a rich one. About $1 million was raised Thursday for the Romney-Ryan team. Those in attendance at the Knoxville Marriott contributed at two levels, $1,000 for lunch or $10,000 for lunch and an individual photo with Ryan. The Wisconsin congressman also told the appreciative audience of about 300 that the choice for voters in November is determining how large the federal government should be and who should define it. He and running mate Mitt Romney want a lean government, while President Obama prefers to preside over one that’s bloated, he said.
After genuflecting at the altar of barbecue with a reference to Rendezous’ ribs, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan reminded his supporters that President Barack Obama’s time in office needs to end. “This is the most important election in your generation,” the Wisconsin congressman said at The Racquet Club on Thursday afternoon. “We are picking a path that will set in motion either a reclamation of the American dream,” he said, or one that will result in a “welfare state with a debt crisis” like Europe.
Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan raised approximately $1 million for the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket during a Thursday, Sept. 27, fundraiser at the Racquet Club in Memphis. The evening event raised about the same amount a Ryan fundraiser did earlier in the day in Knoxville. After the event, which ended just before 7 p.m., Ryan also attended a gathering at the home of FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith.
After a budget fight that delayed the opening of school for 10 days, Sumner County school officials say they aren’t getting a huge influx of students after all. Officials had reported bulging classrooms earlier this month, saying their enrollment had grown two or three times more than usual. But by the 20th day of school, most of those extra students had transferred or withdrawn, leaving the system with a lower-than-normal increase of 280 students, Director of Schools Del Phillips said.
The second part of the federal court case on municipal school districts will go to trial Jan. 3 before U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays. Attorneys on all sides of the case agreed Thursday, Sept. 27, on the new calendar for the non-jury trial which was originally to go to trial on Nov. 6. The second part of the case deals with claims by the Shelby County Commission that the establishment of the municipal school districts is a violation of the U.S. Constitution because the suburban school districts would, in part, promote racial segregation of the county’s school age population.
Memphis and Shelby County teachers have aligned to ask a federal judge overseeing the local public schools litigation to protect their currents rights, privileges and benefits should he allow new municipal school districts to form. The non-union Shelby County Education Association of county school teachers and the unionized Memphis Education Association of city school teachers filed a request that U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays allow them to file a third-party complaint against Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
After months of planning and preparation, the unified Memphis and Shelby County school board Thursday began to address recommendations for the merger of city and county schools. Eighteen low-cost recommendations developed by the Transition Planning Commission which had been described as “innocuous” were approved. All of them address either the Teacher Effective Initiative — how to get more teachers hired earlier in the year, how to improve the applicant pool and the like — or early childhood education, by partnering with community organizations to support quality prekindergarten programs, for example.
Erlanger board member Richard Casavant has resigned after serving about 18 months of a four-year appointment. Board Chairman Ron Loving announced Casavant’s resignation at the monthly board meeting Thursday evening. Prior to the meeting, Loving said Casavant called him last week to say he planned to resign. Casavant did not give him a reason, Loving said. “With his experience, it was a great honor for us to have him on the board,” Loving said. Casavant could not be reached for comment Thursday.
There is no substitute for parental involvement in the education of their children; few other factors weigh so heavily in success. So it is understandable that engaged parents, looking for more certain paths for their children, become frustrated when they see school leaders focused on what seem to be extraneous issues. To these parents, fueled by the controversial decision to reject an application to start an open enrollment, academically challenging charter school, it is evident that Metro Nashville schools are not fully committed to preparing our children for success. They have to wonder, in a school district that is intrinsically diverse, with no ethnic majority, and which has a host of the worst schools in the state, yet also the two best-rated high schools, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet and Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet: Why is the school board’s response to parental frustration a diversity plan?
The new film “Won’t Back Down” introduces a new-to-most concept of “parent trigger” laws — laws that enable parents at a school to call for the firing of teachers, closing the school, or turning it over to a private charter school operator. The film suggests that the best way for parents to improve their child’s education is to use the parent trigger law to “take over” the school and hand control over to a charter school. The film never takes into account the reality that parent trigger laws have no track record of success. While the movie offers a heartwarming story of a mother fighting for her child, it is just that — a heartwarming Hollywood story. The reality is that “Won’t Back Down” is divisive and designed to pit parents against teachers, school boards and the teachers union.
This morning in Nashville — 9:30 CDT; it’s a public meeting — the Tennessee Oil and Gas Board meets on the 17th floor of a Church Street building, where six men will vote on approving standards that would allow for one of the most controversial methods of energy extraction today. Hydro-fracking in Tennessee. “They ignored virtually every comment that the public made and adopted virtually all the meaningful comments that industry wanted,” said Mark Quarles, an environmental consultant with Nashville’s Global Environment. Hydro-fracking — better known as fracking — is a monstrous process.
On April 29, 2009, the U.S. Senate passed a budget. America then owed public creditors $6.85 trillion. The federal government owed itself — after raiding the Social Security trust fund, etc. — $4.30 trillion, bringing total indebtedness to $11.15 trillion. On Tuesday, federal debt held by the public was $11.25 trillion, more than the total indebtedness 1,248 days ago. Intragovernment debt totaled $4.76 trillion, for a total U.S. indebtedness of $16.02 trillion. Over those 1,248 days, federal debt grew $4.87 trillion, an increase of 43.6 percent. Our gross domestic product at the second quarter of 2012 was $15.61 trillion. Our debt now exceeds GDP.