All Star Panelist Clint Brewer Weighs in on Beacon Center Pork Report and Partisan School Board Primary Elections


Live from Music Row Thursday 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 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in studio to weigh in on the 2021 Pork Report from The Beacon Center and changing school board elections.

Leahy: We are joined by our good friend, and all-panelist, Clint Brewer. I love that Christmas music, don’t you?

Brewer: It’s great.

Leahy: If we could have the Christmas season for twelve months of the year, would probably enjoy it.

Brewer: Everybody gets mad when you start talking Christmas right after Halloween, and I’m like, why get mad about it? It’s great!

Leahy: Yeah, I agree. I love the music. I love everything about it. Now, you were the former, you were the second director of The Beacon Center here.

Brewer: Right.

Leahy: The conservative think tank in Tennessee, founded by our friend Drew Johnson. You succeeded him. You were there. How long ago was this?

Brewer: Oh, gosh, this was over ten years.

Leahy: So a while back 2010. But one of the things that they did while you were there that they still do is they issue an annual pork report. And our own Chris Butler has a story on that. Here he is.

(Chris Butler clip plays)

Staff at the Beacon Center of Tennessee on Wednesday bestowed the Metro Nashville Public School system with their yearly Pork of the Year Award. The Beacon, a Nashville-based center-right think tank, said the school system entered into an $18 million no bid contract with Meharry Medical College Ventures, which produced a $1.8 million website with, ‘all the visual appeal and functionality of

Beacon officials said in their report that this website should have cost no more than $75,000. Also making the pork list this year was a $702 million government-owned broadband plan in Knoxville, despite 98 percent of Knoxville residents already having multiple choices in broadband Internet.

Beacon also faulted the city of Jackson for taking $20 million of taxpayer money and spending it on a new water park. Reporting for The Tennessee Star and The Tennessee Star Report, this is Chris Butler.

Leahy: So Clint Brewer, as a businessman, I think it’s a pretty good deal if you’re running Meharry Medical College Ventures. You get a no-bid contract for $18 million. I don’t know what they did for it, but they charged them $1.8 million to produce a website that the Beacon Center folks said should only have cost about $75,000.

Brewer: I just want to put it out there. If anybody needs a website, I can do it for a flat million. (Leahy laughs) 

Leahy: You are kind.

Brewer: I just give and give Mike. That’s what I do. Flat million, any website.

Leahy: Interesting. Tell me, in that analysis by The Beacon Center, $1.8 million, no-bid to Meharry Medical College Ventures. What does Meharry Medical College Ventures do?

Brewer: I couldn’t tell you. It doesn’t mean that what they do is not legitimate. I just don’t know. The Beacon Center’s Pork Report is something that comes out every year, and it’s a perspective that’s needed.

And the year that is followed has seen government have to make some hard decisions and some quick decisions. And there need to be watchdogs out there that call attention to those things.

And that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. It’s just the things that have been done, but they need the light of day.  And I think these reports are very worthwhile.

Leahy: You and I have talked about off-air the problems of Metro Public Schools.

Brewer: Yes.

Leahy: And what could be done to fix those problems. And if you just look at the actual performance of the Metro schools, the reading levels, the math levels are abysmal and sinking. And yet more and more money is being spent.

Brewer: Well, yeah. And it’s broader than that. First of all, the product that Nashville Public Schools is offering families in Davidson County is not acceptable. It just isn’t.

You saw here recently in other news reports, the Nashville business community via the Chamber of Commerce has floated an idea to perhaps have an alternate governing strategy out there.

Maybe not have the school board, maybe have an appointed school board to try to shake up the power dynamic in the system. But this is not this school board’s fault. This version of this board.

When I was a daily newspaper editor in this town over a decade ago, it was all the same problems. This is a generational issue with the school system.

And for people listening out in the suburbs if you want to know why there’s so much growth in places like Williamson County, Rutherford County, Wilson County, and Sumner County it’s because people come to the area and they come to Nashville to work and they can’t live there if they have kids. They feel like they have to live in a suburb to go to an acceptable school system.

Leahy: To go to a public school system.

Brewer: To go to a public school.

Leahy: They could live in national and send their kids to a private school.

Brewer: But then you’re talking big-time, big money that many people don’t have. It’s a regional problem. It drives school building projects in other counties. It drives tax increases in other counties.

It is not just a Davidson County problem. It is a greater Nashville area problem. But here’s the thing in my mind. It’s a moral issue in Davidson County. Enough is not being done for these children and these families.

Leahy: Yes. Very good point. Now, there are some changes. I don’t know how significant this will be. Just one change has come about. It’s more political, I think than anything else.

So you know that apparently now school boards in Tennessee in each county, each county’s local parties can determine if they want the elections to have a partisan affiliation or not.

Brewer: Right. Shelby County decided both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party said, no, we’re not going to have partisan primary elections for the school board. And I think that primary would be like in May and then the general would be in August of this year.

And I think out of the nine seats here in Metro Nashville, I think four are up this cycle. So the Davidson County Democratic Party and the Davidson County Republican Party have agreed on something which is unusual.

But they’ve agreed that they want to have a partisan selection for the school boards. So there will be a primary in May where Democratic candidates for those four districts will be picked and Republican candidates for I think at least three of the four have contenders. Maybe the four by the primary and then the general in August. Will this result in any better representation of the school board?

Brewer: Here’s what I think it will do long term. In general, I as a citizen, whether it’s the county I live in or another county in general, I would not be in favor of partisan elections and local races. But for this school system, which is failing at a catastrophic level.

Leahy: But when you say that you’re understating the problem.

Brewer: (Scoffs) Yeah, right. It’s failing at a catastrophic level. If one party or the other wants to take ownership over that and say, we are the ones as Democrats or we are the ones as Republicans who are going to lead, and then they can’t or they can’t change things, then this actually becomes instead of a group of disparate people in districts, there becomes an entity to blame.

And that creates the opportunity for change because it bifurcates the leadership. And you get two opposing entities vying for control of a legislative body like any other legislative body outside of local government, state, and federal.

Then there becomes group accountability for that leadership. And so let’s say, I mean, it’s Davidson County. You got to figure Democrats are going to control the school board. Well, how many years did Democrats get to control the school board?

I mean that to me, gives the Republican Party a perfect opportunity to run right to the middle and say, look, you’ve had two terms as Democratic-controlled school board. You continue to fail. Do you see what I’m saying?

Leahy: I see exactly what you’re saying. A slate of Republican candidates committed to certain reforms.

Brewer: Yes.

Leahy: Versus presumably, the Democrats will be more of the same, whoever they are.

Brewer: One would think.

Leahy: One would think. Very insightful.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio
















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