On Thursday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed former Wilson County GOP chair, Terri Nicholson on the newsmakers line to talk about the upcoming Wilson County town hall.
During the second hour, Leahy and Nicholson discussed plans for a Wilson County Town Hall which will take place at DT McCalls in Lebanon on February 17 at 6:30 p.m. Hosted by The Tennessee Star, this public town hall will give the Wilson County community an opportunity to openly and publicly discuss the resettlement of refugees in their community.
Leahy: We are joined on the line now by Terri Nicholson who presented a resolution for consideration by the Wilson County Commission to say no to refugees. On Monday evening, the Wilson County Commission, I guess in my view in a cowardly vote, voted to table this resolution indefinitely. 16-6 vote after a couple of weeks earlier the legislative committee unanimously voted for it. We got some news here Terri. What’s going to be done about this?
Nicholson: I am very excited to know that we are going to have a town hall that the Tennessee Star is going to host where we can actually talk about this.
Leahy: Yes! What an idea! Public discussion of an important public issue. (Chuckles)
Nicholson: Imagine that. Getting the public to weigh in.
Leahy: And you were able to arrange this venue. By the way, thank you for doing that. The event is going to be Monday, February 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.. It’s going to be at DT McCall and Sons in Lebanon. Which is located at 1029 West Main Street in Lebanon, TN.
Which is by the way, the county seat isn’t it? You’ll be there. I’ll be there and the master of ceremonies. You’ll be one of the featured speakers along with Don Barnett from the Center of Immigration Studies. We’ve invited several county commissioners to attend. We’ve also invited Governor Lee to attend.
Nicholson: That’s great.
Leahy: Guess what? When the phone didn’t ring it was Gov. Lee telling us he wouldn’t be there.
Leahy: We’ll see. We’ll have a respectful discussion about it. It was very troublesome to me when you were on our program and you described what happened Monday night when this came up for a vote. And I was kind of incredulous about it. Just to repeat for our listeners, when this important public issue came for a vote Monday night, tell us how much discussion was had about it.
Nicholson: Hardly any that we could tell. And I was sitting in the third row from the front and paying close attention to most of anything I could here. And there was virtually zero discussion about this issue. Now I have to say that they weren’t given lots of information by me from an early date. And I feel strongly that I went through the proper channels to number one get it on the legislative committee which they did discuss in depth.
There were five of them. And in that room, there were lots of county commissioners there, and they were there that evening, Thursday night the 21st because they were there to discuss the budget committee second. And there’s always a lot of our county commissioners there on a budget.
We have a good amount of county commissioners that were well aware of legislative. And the chairman gave them the opportunity to speak and ask questions. So overall it was a great ability to ask questions and come together. And how to figure out what it was about and how it would benefit Wilson County. So that opportunity was certainly there.
Leahy: And this was in the previous meeting where the legislative committee like five county commissioners unanimously voted in favor of this resolution that said no more refugees. Magically (Laughs) just on Monday. You know, I think even a couple of them changed their vote. Which is remarkable.
Nicholson: Yes. Sadly, that is what happened. And I still have not been able to speak to them to find out why. So that is definitely disappointing. It was very disappointing.
Leahy: We’ll invite them to attend this town hall meeting. And the important part of this is the Wilson County commission’s purpose is to discuss in public important public issues. And they didn’t do it. They failed in that part of their job. And so you and I were talking about it. And you said why don’t we hold our own town hall. And I said what a good idea. So we’re going to have a good discussion about that on Monday, February 17th.
Leahy: Terri, we’re doing for the public what the Wilson County Commission wouldn’t do. That is to discuss this resolution. Give us a little bit of the background. Why it’s necessary for counties to weigh in on whether or not refugees should be resettled in their area?
Go back for our listeners and explain about the president’s executive order. The various decisions by governors and court actions, etc. It’s a long and convoluted discussion but you’re on top of it. Give us the breakdown.
Nicholson: Like I said, this started back when our president set the executive order on September 26 on enhancing state and local (that is the keyword), and local involvement in local refugee resettlement. And that the purpose all along and the policy of the United States was to cooperate and consult with the state and local government. Otherwise, how are you going to effectively assimilate into an area without conversations to your locals? To those who are going to do it.
Leahy: And pay for it in many cases.
Nicholson: Oh absolutely. And that, unfortunately, is a large consideration. Because you’re looking at a forced cost shift by the federal government. Who’s going to end up absorbing that? Your taxpayers and people in your community. They need to be consulted and weighed in. And say hey, are we willing and able to do this.
That’s not fair to them to place them in a situation that they cannot fully assimilate as well. And the biggest portion and a lot of them are local county commissioners are scared and sketchy of doing this as well as our governor sadly. They are not taking into account that affordable housing in Nashville is zero. Virtually zero. And that is one of your major resettlement agencies.
Leahy: You make a very good point. I just want to elaborate on that. So the governor in December says, well, the state’s going to take refugees. Doesn’t talk to any of the localities or the cost issue. And the counties in multiple. You’ve led this effort around the state. Multiple counties have passed resolutions saying no we don’t want refugees because we don’t want the cost.
Now you make a good point here about affordable housing. So let’s just say that refugees are resettled in Davidson County or originally set there. The charities or the so-called charities getting paid to do this can resettle them in Wilson County and because of the housing issue…explain how this could play out.
Nicholson: The ability for them to reach out to the counties, let’s say that the refugee office in Nashville realizes there’s not affordable housing so based on the funding mechanism, what are they obviously going to do with these refugees? And it doesn’t matter how many. And they’re going to have to go to outlining areas.
And those outlying areas and counties have not said no we cannot do this. Then there’s a good possibility that they can get. That’s because the governor made the statement that the counties defer to the state. Not me I’m not a legislator. I’m here in the county. . .
Leahy: I think your point is, the reason why the county needs to act on this is what happens Terri when the Supreme Court says yes, the president can do that. What happens if the counties haven’t made their voices known by then?
Nicholson: If that’s the direction it goes, then those local counties will almost assuredly get the refugees in them.
Leahy: The no decision by the Wilson County Commission on Monday, in fact, is a decision to say welcome refugees to Wilson County.
Listen to the second hour:
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