Melissa Smithson Talks Mayor Cooper’s Left-Wing Task Force and Ill Spent Taxpayer Money


Live from music row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy welcomed in-studio guest Melissa Smithson, Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party to the show to speak about her new show on Fox News 17 and Mayor Cooper’s recension of ex-Mayor Briley’s illegal executive order that demanded Metro employees NOT cooperate with ICE officials.

In response to Cooper’s recension, Leahy and Smithson discussed his newly appointed left-wing majority task force which appears to NOT represent a bi-partisan spectrum of the community. They also questioned the decades’ misuse of Tenneseean’s tax dollars.

Leahy: In the studio with us is our special guest and all-star panelist, Melissa Smithson chairman of the Davidson county republican party. Good morning Melissa.

Smithson: Good morning Michael. Thank you for inviting me again. And look, I brought a coffee cup as promised.

Leahy: There you go. That’s wonderful. And you’ve been on as a guest when we did our broadcast from Jason Aldean’s Kitchen and Rooftop Bar. Our election night coverage. Of course, we’ve been tracking the Nashville Metro elections. Mayor John Cooper is now Mayor.

And mercifully we don’t have to say, Mayor David Briley anymore. (Laughter) One of the things that I’ve been criticizing Mayor Briley for was his illegal executive order signed a week and a half before the election that said city employees can’t cooperate with ICE when they’re enforcing immigration law.

Last night Mayor John Cooper made some news. He rescinded that executive order. He said the order as written provides insufficient clarity for either immigrant families as well as Metro government employees as many have noted including immigration advocacy groups. So OK. That’s good, right?

Smithson: Yep.

Leahy: But, here’s the rest of the story. (Chuckles) I’ve got to read this to you. So he says ‘I have said frequently that I want Nashville to be a city for everyone and that certainly includes immigrants. Our city benefits greatly from the many contributions of our immigrant neighbors.

I’m deeply aware that our success as a city depends on everyone both feeling safe to participate and having access to opportunities.’ OK. So everyone’s feeling safe. That’s good. Didn’t he say he wanted to create Nashville a beautiful mosaic? Was that his words?

Smithson: I believe it was. Yes. Yes.

Leahy: OK, now let’s take a look at this mosaic (Laughter) he wants us to create. He creates a task force now to provide advice on how he ought to advise Metro employees to work with or not work with ICE. My advice Mayor Cooper would be yes, comply with the law and if they ask you to cooperate, cooperate with them.

Smithson: Exactly.

Leahy: Does that make sense?

Smithson: Absolutely, yes.

Leahy: Here’s his advisory council. Some of these people you may know. Shanna Singh Hughey with Think Tennessee. Do you know who is Think Tennessee?

Smithson: I do not know that name.

Leahy: Are they conservatives? Do they ring as a sort of like a conservative group?

Smithson: They’re not on our radar.

Leahy: If they were conservative you would know them.

Smithson: I would know them, yes. Yes.

Leahy: Yes. I’ve never heard of them either.

Smithson: I’ve not heard of them.

Leahy: We’ll investigate that. Then Juliana Cospina Cano. Executive Director of a group originally affiliated with La Raza that was funded to get started by George Soros to get started called Conexion America. Yeah. They hate Donald Trump.

Smithson: There’s a lot of people on their list I believe from what I read about.

Leahy: Ok. Then Mary-Kathryn Harcombe. The legal director for wait for it, The Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition. Do they want to cooperate with ICE?

Smithson: Odds are not. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Zulfat Zuara. Metro councilwoman at large. What do we know about her? She’s left-wing. She’s an immigrant from Nigeria and she’s Muslim as the much-celebrated first Mulsim elected to Metro Council. She’s left-wing. Nah, not conservative.

Smithson: No.

Leahy: Now there’s one Metro Councilwoman that I’ve heard of. People that elected her have heard of her. Sandra Sepulveda. Have you heard of her?

Smithson: Not until recently. I drove through that neighborhood and saw the signs. But I have not seen that person active in a lot of the different things that I go through in Nashville.

Leahy: Is she conservative?

Smithson: No. I don’t think so.

Leahy: I can’t see anybody on this list who’s a conservative.

Smithson: No. And it’s not a good mix. If you want a task force like that you need to bring people and make it a good grouping as a representation of Nashville. Lawyers. People who are in and enforcing the law. And then that have that good eye and bias. This is very one-sided.

Leahy: It looks like it. I can’t see any law and order. They’ve got Daron Hall the Sheriff and then they’ve got a bunch of political types in school districts etc. But Daron Hall has a very different view of ICE than all of the suburban and rural Sheriffs that I interviewed at the Federation of Immigration Reform radio event in Washington, D.C.

Leahy: His attitude is trying to thread the needle to not cooperate with ICE but comply with the law. That’s a hard needle to thread.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: During the break, we were looking at the list and found out about Think Tennessee. The woman who heads up Think Tennessee used to head up Mayor Karl Dean’s Office of New Americans. (Chuckles) And she’s involved in the American Constitution Society.

A leading progressive group of lawyers. Yeah, not exactly a conservative. You are working on a new series. You’re being featured on Fox 17 in investing in Nashville communities. Tell us a little bit about that.

Smithson: Yes. On Fox 17 News once a week they do a Nashville Rising series. I was in the studio talking one day about the return of my investment in Nashville over the last three decades.

Leahy: As a taxpayer.

Smithson: As a taxpayer.

Leahy: And you live in the Antioch area?

Smithson: I do. I do. I’m 30 years in Antioch. I was born near south Nashville near the fairgrounds. Just casually talking about how my tax dollars have gone to the Titan Stadium. It’s gone to Bridgestone. You know every time we’ve gotten these new shiny things for Nashville, which is great. I want our city to shine.

Leahy: We like shiny things in Nashville.

Smithson: Yes. Yes.

Leahy: But who’s paying for it?

Smithson: Us. But we also with that, want a return on our investment. Talking about NFL coming and stuff. Oh, this is going to be a great revenue generator for our city. We’re going to be able to increase our services. And build sidewalks. And our neighborhoods will reap the benefits.

Leahy: Also, the big selling point was the money to improve our schools.

Smithson: Exactly.

Leahy: Remember that?

Smithson: Yes. It seems like it’s always our schools but yet here we are today!

Leahy: And the Titans actually came to town in the first year here was 2002 in their new stadium. But the referendum was 1997?

Smithson: 1997.

Leahy: Since the Titans have been here, (Chuckles) have the Metro Public Schools gotten better or gotten worse?

Smithson: You know I don’t have any children but my nieces and nephews go to school and my friends. I’m not seeing an improvement because I hear it from them the parents and my family. And today we’ve got these budget woes which speaks volumes to the spending problem that we have in downtown Nashville. In Antioch, my little sleepy district 28, we’re probably one of the oldest. We are the core of Antioch. We have gotten one sidewalk in the 30 years I have lived there.

Leahy: So 30 years of paying taxes to improve the city of Nashville and for a resident of Antioch for 30 years you’ve gotten one sidewalk.

Smithson: One sidewalk. And after 20 years we got one of our main artery roads paved.

Leahy: That’s it?

Smithson: That’s all I see in my sleepy little district yes.

Leahy: I think it’s a problem not just in Antioch.

Smithson: Oh no. Oh no. I talk to a lot of folks being a native here. I have a lot of friends here and went to school here. And their districts are the same way. Where are my sidewalks? Where is that return on my investment I’m being paying taxes for all these great things? And downtown is reaping those rewards. We’re not.

Leahy: Residents of Nashville that have lived here a long time have helped build it up with their taxes but their neighborhoods are being neglected. But isn’t Mayor Cooper going to solve that?

Smithson: Well, that was his message going forward. Watching him on the council these last four years, I believe that he will do the right thing. He’s fought for the fairgrounds. He’s fought against a lot of the different things that won overwhelmingly with these votes on the transit last year. So I’m hoping that his message and he will ring true to that message and we start seeing it. Now I went to a community meeting in Antioch last week regarding Hickory Hollow Mall.

Leahy: Oh, oh. You’ve got to tell me about this. We moved to Nashville in 1991. And Hickory Hollow Mall was actually a viable working mall. It wasn’t an utter disgrace. It wasn’t a wreck. By about 2000 it was really getting pretty bad.

Smithson: It was. I remember when It opened and I was a mall rat. I hung out there. I’m a product of growing up in the 80s. Malls across America kind of started dying down too. And Nashville with Lavergne expanding and Smyrna they built their roads out and they started getting nice retail stuff. So, it was declining. Hickory Hollow didn’t do the marketing to try to keep up with those changing times. It was sad to see it close.

Listen to the third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “John Cooper” by John Cooper. Photo “Melissa Smithson” by Melissa Smithson. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.




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