Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Liberty Amendments: A Rightful Remedy or Folly?

The Liberty Amendments, written by lawyer and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Mark Levin, was published in August 2013. As of today, it is still one of the bestselling books on Amazon.com (ranked #463) and is among the top 10 books dealing with American politics. His book lays out the case for invoking an Article V constitutional convention to amend the Constitution and proposes ten amendments which, it is hoped, will help restore the American republic. His book has been praised by Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations and, as evidenced above, is wildly popular. However, it has also been criticized and some question Levin's interpretation of Article V as well as the usefulness of added amendments.

Fellow Tennessean and brother-in-arms, Michael Lotfi, recently wrote an article for The Washington Times Communities titled, in part, Why Mark Levin is wrong. Mr. Lotfi has been critical of Levin's book for a while and he is by no means alone. I would like to take a look at Mr. Lotfi's article and address the concerns he and others have raised. Before that, however, I want to state that I do not fully favor nor oppose Levin's solution(s) to our national predicament. That being said, I am in favor having a strong debate and I welcome anyone who offers possible solutions to restoring and then preserving our Republic.

What's the point?

The first main argument Lotfi lays out deals with the usefulness of amendments themselves. He argues that all three branches of the federal government have ignored the Constitution and continually seek to grab powers for themselves which are not granted by the Constitution, and so, what good would new amendments do?

On the surface, it would seem that there is no purpose or use for any further amendments. Many view the Constitution as a near sacred document with a level of perfection closing in on the Holy Scriptures themselves. But when you dig deeper, you find that the Constitution was a document forged by compromise. And, as well intentioned and learned as our Founding Fathers may have been, there were a good many things the Constitution could have had added, or even removed, if certain factions had had their way. A reading of the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalists reveals a long-standing debate between the Founders, the general public, and among the several states - played out in publications and in private - which resulted in the best constitution that could have actually been ratified at the time. Those debates over the scope of federal power, the sovereignty of the states, the role of the individual and their rights, etc. are still raging to this day.

It is often said that the Constitution is written in plain English. And while this was true in the 18th century, one must remember that English is, and always has been, a very fluid language. Words are spelled differently as time goes by and more importantly, the very meaning of the words themselves change over time. The original Constitutional Convention ended in 1787, some 226 years ago, and the farther we are removed from the Founders and their original intent & understandings, the more difficult interpretation becomes. Like it or not, if you hand the Constitution to five different people and have them read it, you will end up with five different understandings of the text. Similarly, if you have five people read the Bible you will wind up with different interpretations - why do you think there are thousands of different denominations of Christianity?

I say all of that to reach my main point: the meaning of the Constitution was debated before the ink was dry and it is debated still. There are 13 federal courts of appeal and 179 judges on those courts (each with their own opinions), and then you have the Supreme Court which, rightly or wrongly, exercises the supreme right to interpret. As often stated, the Constitution is written in plain English and perhaps that is one reason why we're in the mess we're in today. When you combine the nature of our legal system (precedent law), the fact that the modern SCOTUS rarely relies on the non-legal papers of our founders (such as letters, books, publications, etc.), and the fact that we are so far removed from the heated events of the Revolution, to me, it is easy to see that the Constitution lends itself to a broad interpretation - especially if those opinions are not intensely challenged by the states and Congress.

The purpose of adding new amendments, such as those proposed by Levin, is to restrain further broad interpretations by listing specific prohibitions on federal power. Because the federal government was meant to have few and defined powers (while the people retain near infinite powers), it would seem that the Constitution was written using broad language as an attempt to cover as much ground as possible without creating a document that's over 400 pages long (as is the case with India's modern constitution). But in doing so, the reverse has transpired; the government's powers have grown nearly unchecked. In a nation with 315 million citizens, over 7 million businesses with more than one employee, where information and billions of dollars can be transferred at the push of a button, and the ever looming issues of globalization, the roles and powers of our government need to be ever more narrowly defined.

Adding specific amendments would not only help restrain (or in some cases repeal parts of) the federal leviathan, but they would also make violating the Constitution more visible. Modern administrations hide their abuses of power behind the impossibly complex federal bureaucracy and behind the rules & regulations which Congress has unleashed through their inaction and lazy attitude toward legislation. Our government operates under the assumption that if Congress passes a law and the president signs it, it's constitutional by default, regardless of its content (again, unless it's vigorously challenged). It further obscures its actions by justifying any power grab or civil liberty violation as rooted in some thousand-page omnibus bill in which Congress delegates its law making power to an agency or un-elected individuals (such as with the EPA or FISA), even though Congress can't technically cede law making power to anyone without a change to Constitution. New amendments could make such things very difficult if not impossible.


Lotfi's next criticism deals with nullification. It is true Mark Levin opposes the idea of nullification, however, his book has nothing to do with the issue. The book offers up one course of action and provides a list of ten proposed amendments (and their justifications) through which Levin believes the country could right its course. But while we're on the topic, let's briefly explore nullification.

Nullification is a legal theory which would allow individual states to nullify (invalidate) federal laws the state(s) find unconstitutional themselves. Although I support the idea of nullification in extreme cases, nullification can lend itself to abuse far more easily than an amendment process. By agreeing that states can simply ignore Congress and laws they don't like, you end up breaking down the very foundations of the country.
That is to say:

- States are co-sovereign branches of the national government and the will of the people is to be expressed via the elected legislatures of the states and the House of Representatives. Yet, the states and general government (the term used to refer to a federal government) must work in tandem, with the general government holding supremacy over certain areas (such as defense). And once states begin to refuse to adhere to the actions of Congress, the country ceases to function. -

Furthermore, nullification can be exercised by single states, whereas the amendment process requires the agreement of 3/4ths of the states. And a single state is more easily given over to the democratic whims of the populace thus negating the very purpose of a constitutional republic - to provide a stable political system rooted in the rule of law and to defend the inherent rights of the individual against the majority. 

Bullet to the Constitution?

Lotfi claims that while the states can call for a convention, only Congress can control it and only through them can the Constitution be amended; thus Congress would torpedo the process. He argues that a primary risk of allowing the states to run such a convention is that a "runaway convention" could occur and result in the Constitution being totally obliterated.

The full text of Article V states:

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate." 

Article V clearly gives two procedures to amend the Constitution, both of course require 3/4ths of the states to ratify an amendment. The most commonly used is the first, amendments arising directly from Congress. According to the Federal Register"The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures." 

That doesn't leave much room for doubt, there are two distinct paths.

Levin discusses the threat of a runaway convention process and further states on page 16 that the process is a "federal convention" as well as a "limited purpose convention" (the convention could not abolish the government for example). On page 225 (in the notes) the book explains the issue in greater detail: "The state legislatures can recommend specific language or amendments, but cannot seek to impose them through the application process as Article V empowers the delegates to the convention to propose amendments, which the states subsequently consider for ratification."

The Federalist Papers also raises a powerful point. In Federalist 85, Hamilton says, "the national rulers, whenever nine (two-thirds) States concur, will have no option upon the subject. By the fifth article of the [constitution], the Congress will be obliged 'on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States, to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid....when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof."

If Congress were to ignore the desires of 2/3rds of the states by refusing the take up an amendment or by refusing to accept the state conventions, there would be anarchy and in short order the bulk of Congress would be replaced. Congress in the aggregate ignores the Constitution, but should the states convene and propose new amendments (which must be very similar in language among the states to even qualify) the individual congressmen would remember that they are subservient to the people and would be hard pressed to vote on the contrary.

Congress has the power to pick which method: ratification by the state legislatures, or ratification by state conventions called for the purpose. States could create the conventions and through them propose an amendment, which is technically a reversed method (in the usual manor, the amendment is proposed and then conventions occur). But, should the requisite number of states call these conventions and propose an amendment, as Hamilton said, Congress would have very little choice in the matter. And so, even though Congress does have the power in principle, in practice, Congress would be impotent in the face of two-thirds (or preferably three-fourths) of the states. Furthermore, due to the very nature of the amendment process, the potential of a runaway convention is all but impossible - since 38 states would still be required to ratify any amendment(s).

On this issue, Mr. Lotfi gets it partially right, but his overall conclusion is still wrong in my opinion.

Final remarks

In the end, we must operate in the world in which we live, not in the world we would like to live in or think we used to live in. In order to restore the nation, we need to recognize the situation as it is (with the repercussions of Marbury v. Madison, etc.) The fact remains that neither nullification nor a state-led convention as described by Levin have been fully tested. Levin has said many times, in print and on his radio show, that The Liberty Amendments is but an idea, one possible way to stem the tide, not the only way. Mark Levin has helped reignite the discussion over a constitutional convention as a potential remedy, and Tom Woods has framed the debate regarding nullification. Until one, or both, have been fully tested (either by states asserting themselves, or through legislation or the courts) they remain possible methods. It took one court case in 1803 to start the ball rolling, but it has taken over 200 years for us to arrive in the state we are in today. The country will not be saved and preserved by a single "fix all" solution, but by the people and the states using every tool at their disposal.

A possible future example of using the amendment process instead of nullification would be Obamacare. Obamacare has never been supported by a majority of Americans and 34 states have decided to let the federal government deal with the exchanges instead of setting up their own state exchanges (which would have been optimal for the feds). Although a refusal to set up their own state exchanges doesn't mean the majority of the people in those states would want a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it does show that there is a high level of discontent with the law. Since it would take 38 states to ratify an amendment, the fact that 34 are, at a minimum, unhappy with the law means, at least to me, that an amendment would be within the realm of possibility.

Why would we refuse to enshrine in law explicit restrictions on the federal government's meddling in every aspect of our private lives? To dismiss the amendment process in favor of possible factionalism (which nullification could easily lead to) doesn't make sense.

-- Jacob Bogle, 12/31/13

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Has the Federal Reserve Failed?

The Federal Reserve System (commonly called the FED) was implemented in 1913 in an attempt to prevent financial panics. The FED serves as the central bank of the United States, sets interest rates, and issues currency (Federal Reserve Notes) on behalf of the US Treasury Dept. They are deeply involved in monetary policy and do a fair amount of other things not listed above. Contrary to popular belief, the FED is not a government entity. Technically it is a quasi-government entity, but in practice it's a private corporation with its own set of rules and regulations. The inventors of the FED system were among the wealthiest and most powerful bankers and businessmen in the nation at the time and included folks like J. P. Morgan and Rockefeller, and they held a closed-door ten-day meeting at Jekyll Island, GA in 1910.

On paper, the FED is under congressional oversight, however a number of their activities and meetings are not subject to oversight - in fact they're not even required to respond to an individual congressman's inquiries into certain activities. One example of this lack of oversight is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On top of the CFPB, many of the meetings the FED has (particularly with various banks and businesses) are not open to the public, nor are the minutes of the meetings. The FED is made up of twelve regional reserve banks and their Board of Governors (comprised of seven members who serve 14-year non-renewable terms) oversees the entire enterprise.

The original congressional mandates for the FED were: maintaining maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. Since then, the FED's powers and responsibilities have grown significantly. According to the FED's website their primary purpose is:

  • Conduct the nation's monetary policy in such a way as to provide full employment and stable prices
  • Supervise and regulate to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation's financial system
  • Maintain stability and contain systemic risks (prevent booms & busts)
  • Provide certain financial services to the US government, US financial institutions, and foreign government banks  

So how good of a job has the FED done in its 100 year history? 

Maximum and Stable Employment

One of their stated goals is to provide maximum employment. The following graph shows the US labor participation rate since records began in 1948. This rate is defined as the percentage of people working out of the entire available workforce. This chart comes directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

(click on any image for a larger view)

As you can see, the LPR has never been stable nor has it been 100%. And since 1999, the rate has fallen continually. As of July 2013, the rate is 63.4%, a rate not seen since 1978. Furthermore, one would expect that once the country came out of the "Great Recession of 2008", the rate should rise.

Here is the rate since 1999. You will notice the large drop in 2008...and the continued drop.

This metric (the LPR) has fallen at a faster rate in the past 5 years than at any other time since the mid-1960s.  

Next, let's look at the overall unemployment rate. There are six ways to measure unemployment. Some focus solely on those actively looking for work, others include everyone who is looking for work, plus those in part-time jobs who would like to be full-time, and those who have given up looking for work. The officially released unemployment figures, called "U3", does not include the number of people who have lost hope and given up looking for work. The current U3 shows a 7.4% unemployment rate. However, the U6 (which includes those who are working part-time because they can't get a full-time job and those who have given up looking) shows a staggering 14%. 

Of course, stability is a part of the FED's mandate. How stable has the unemployment rate been since 1950?

So, has the FED achieved maximum or stable employment levels? FAILED

Stable and Sound Financial System

The boom & bust cycle (periods of rapid economic growth followed by a period of recession or depression) has arguably been less severe since the creation of the FED. That being said, our financial system has been far from stable and sound. Since 1913, there have been 17 recessions and two depressions. These periods resulted in an average GDP contraction of 9.5%. If you remove the two depressions, the avg. contractions were still at 7.16% each. 

This graph shows you the growth (or contraction) of national GDP between 1923 and 2008 (the height of the last big recession).

And this one shows you real GDP growth from 1950 to 2010, also not exactly a "stable" situation. The "Great Moderation" refers to a period of less volatility in the economy.  

Without an adequate increase in production and economic growth, the amount of national (public) debt can severely degrade the viability and soundness of an economy. Since 2001, the national debt has increased 176.6% while the GDP has only risen 64.7%. 

Each month the government pays $30 billion just on interest payments. For 2012, we spent nearly $360 billion...just on interest! That's $1,149 for every person in the country. 

Next comes the stock market. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average is only a portion of our economy it is a good indicator of the general health (or at least, mood) of the economy. If interest rates, inflation, wages, employment etc were all stable and growing at a more healthy rate you would expect a nice smooth incline throughout history. Instead, we see a relatively smooth transition until about 1994. Then we see long periods of rapid growth followed by a bust, with multiple periods of tremendous growth and severe busts dotted throughout. 

Wages are a key indicator of economic health. The growth of wages should be fairly uniform year-over-year and the gap between the various percentiles should also stay somewhat uniform. From 1950 to the mid-70s both wages and the income "gap" had remained stable in their growth. From about 1980 onward, things get interesting. 

And since 2000, median household income has been very erratic with a huge drop since 2009. 

The last series of economic indicators I'll use are the historical prices of two popular commodities, gold and silver.

None of this meets the criteria of stable or sound. FAILED

Dollar Strength and Interest Rates

Since 1913, when Federal Reserve notes were first issued, the value of $1 today is the equivalent of $0.04 in 1913. That is a reduction in value of 96%. 

Here is a chart showing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 1913-2006. The CPI measures the changes in pricing of a basket of commodities. Thus, an increase in the CPI equates to an increase in prices for goods & services (and serves as a way to measure the cost of living). Incomes growing at the same rate as the CPI would mean a stable economy. Incomes & CPI growing at a commensurate rate with the changes in the dollar's value should also be expected. 

We do see a relation between the overall CPI and the devaluation of the dollar, but when added to the rest of the economy it does not bode well.
Falling wages, increased prices, and the devaluation of the dollar means that people have to work harder and longer to purchase the same things over time. Wealth is defined not as the amount of currency a person has, but as the amount of goods that currency can purchase. The debasement of the dollar quite literally means that a person who began saving as a teenage worker, when they retire, the money they saved is worth less today than when they saved it - their earnings were in essence stolen. 

The US Dollar Index (USDX) shows the relative strength of the dollar compared to a basket of other currencies (currently six including the Euro, yen, and Pound). A stable and strong money supply is one of the key purposes of the FED.

Looks like a chaotic roller coaster with an overall trend of devaluation. So much for stable.  

The last metric we will look at is the Federal Funds Rate. This sets the interest rates lenders are allowed to use. When the economy is good the FED raises the rate and when the economy contracts the FED lowers the rate to encourage lending and economic growth. The problem is that the FED can't accurately predict market behaviors and often, economic policies actually contribute to the problems they're trying to avoid or fix. A great example of that was the housing crisis.

In the end, looking at the FED's own reasons for its existence and looking at the information provided by the government itself, the necessity and value of the Federal Reserve System must be called into question. The amount of good the FED has brought to the system when compared to all the negatives really equates to a simple grade.

Federal Reserve grade: F

Monday, May 13, 2013

Murfreesboro C.A.P.E to the Murfreesboro Post

In response to the recent Murfreesboro Post article by Jonathan Fagan.

Your recent article concerning the City’s red light camera system was not exactly accurate and more than a little biased.

Here are the facts:

According to the Chief of Police’s report, the total number of crashes (of all types) between 2008 and 2012 has declined 11% per year on average. However, the number of crashes seen at camera enforced intersections has only fallen 1.1% per year on average.  This clearly shows that the camera enforcement system is not working as expected.

Furthermore, side-angle crashes at enforced intersections have decline 32% since 2008, while the decline at all intersections has dropped 42%. The overall trend is a decline in intersection crashes unrelated to the camera system.  In fact, between 2011-12 side angle crashes at camera enforced intersections rose 37.15% compared to a decline of 42.1% at all intersections.

TCA 55-8-198 (and related sections) makes it plain that a violator who does not pay their fine will not have their failure to pay noted on either their driver’s license record or their credit report. Councilman Smotherman’s point was simple – the law, as written, lacks teeth and in reality any driver may simply ignore their citations and the City is without recourse to force them to pay.  Additionally, the system sets up two different punishments for the same crime, a potential violation of the Equal Protection clause.

Consider this:  An individual runs a red light and is caught by the camera system.  They are issued a citation and refuse to pay it (as 70% of those cited do). The violation does not appear on their record and even the collection agency is prohibited from listing a payment failure on their credit report.
Another individual runs a red light and is caught by a physical police officer, they are cited and any failure to pay can result in arrest. The citation itself is also noted on their driving record.

American Traffic Solutions receives 50% of the citation fee which, since 2008, amounts to $1.87 million which has left our community and gone to an out-of-state company. On top of this, the City budget lists that the operation of the red light camera system costs the taxpayers $740,000/yr or $2.2 million since 2010. And while Mayor Bragg has insisted that safety is their main concern, ATS specifically states that their systems are geared toward providing a revenue source for municipalities. 

The videos shown of intersection accidents are a prime example of why the red light camera system fails to offer safety. The offending drivers were not simply running a red light; they were driving incredibly recklessly, were drunk and showed no regard for the safety of others. The threat of being caught on camera is hardly a sufficient deterrence. If there was a police officer watching the intersection, in person, they could have apprehended the driver then and there and prevented any further accidents down the road. As the system stands, the drunk driver could continue on for miles before a police officer catches up to them. 

ATS, a private company, is doing the work of the police and yet is free from any oversight. No one knows how long they keep the day-to-day video they capture, nor do we know if they sell the information they receive or if their systems are protected from computer attacks. Seven states have banned the use of these camera systems and numerous cities have removed them from their streets. On top of that, courts in California and Missouri have ruled against these systems, citing for one thing - a major conflict of interest. We at Murfreesboro C.A.P.E are committed to having these cameras taken down and to return the running of our city, and its agencies, back to the citizens of Murfreesboro. 

-- Jacob Bogle
Murfreesboro C.A.P.E (Citizens Against Photo Enforcement) 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Public Debt & Expenditures of the City of Murfreesboro

The City of Murfreesboro is located at the geographic center of the State of Tennessee. It has a certified population of 109,031 (July 2012 census). The City’s population growth has exceeded 42% per decade on average.

Despite a population increase of 4.2%/year, revenues have only increased an average of 2.5% per year. [1-pg 11] Additionally, revenues from property taxes (the largest single revenue source) have remained comparatively flat since 2009. [1-pg 12] For fiscal year 2013, the City of Murfreesboro has budgeted $112,050,683 in revenues for the General Fund and plans to expend $117,311,137 for the year; a difference of $5,260,454. [1-pg 14]

Construction of Phase IV of the Stones River Greenway is expected to cost $4,750,000. While most of this will come from federal grants, 20% of it ($950,000) will come directly from borrowed funds. [1-pg 36]
The City plans to spend $15.2 million for Parks & Recreation and Golf courses which is a 67% increase over the 2009-10 year. Recreation in general (parks, greenways, golf course etc) ranks as the 3rd largest single expenditure for the City which nearly ties the amount spent on the Fire Dept; the Debt Service Fund comes in at number one with $26.1 million budgeted. More is spent on “recreation” than city schools, the drug fund, senior citizens, the street department, and transportation combined. [1-pg s 41 & 63]

The City also boasts about having the highest rate of pay increases for any city in the state of Tennessee. The pay increases amount to $1.3 million per year and in terms of pay increase percentages, is 3 times higher than that of Chattanooga (whose revenue for 2013 is $97 million more than Murfreesboro’s). [1-pgs 20-21] [2-pg 6] 

City Budget Departments (Personnel)

Note: Personnel counts include full and part-time employees. The averages are based solely on the number of employees. All budgets are limited to “personnel costs” only which includes salaries, overtime, medical, retirement (401a), insurance, Social Security, pensions and worker’s compensation. 

The General & Administrative Dept of the city (Mayor, administration, etc) consists of 32 employees with a personnel budget of $1,827,291 or $57,102 per person. [1-pgs 71-72]

Information Technology Dept: 11 employees and a personnel budget of $752,026 -- $68,366/person.  [1-pgs 77-78]

The Communications Dept has 8 employees and personnel costs of $496,000 which averages $62,000 per person. [1-pg 84]

Legal: 7 employees, $715,732 budget -- $102,247/person. [1-pgs 88-89]

Human Resources: 9 employees, $648,608 budget -- $72,067/person. [1-pgs 93-94]

Judicial: 6 employees, $362,743 budget -- $60,457/person. [1-pgs 97-98]

Police: 316 employees (including officers and support persons), $20,114,644 budget -- $63,653/person. Without insurance, retirement etc, the total net salary is $43,711/person. [1-pgs 106-107]

     --The operation of the City’s red light cameras are costing $740,000/yr. [1-pg 108]

Fire & Rescue: 189 employees, $13,793,603 budget -- $72,982/person. [1-pgs 114-115]

     -- For 2012 Fire & Rescue responded to 11,566 calls. For their 2012 budget this equals to $1,077 per call. [1-pg 113]

Building and Codes: 22 employees, $1,574,278 budget -- $71,558/person. [1-pgs 120-212]

Planning and Engineering: 18 employees, $1,476,815 budget -- $82,045/person. [1-pgs 129-31]

Transportation: 25 employees, $1,203,928 budget -- $48,157/person. It is important to note here that 9 employees are part-time. [1-pgs 136-38]

     -- The city will spend $185,000 on traffic signals. [1-pg 138]

Street: 29 employees, $1,677,543 budget -- $57,846/person. [1-pg 144-45]

     -- The Street Dept estimates it will resurface 56 miles of roadways for 2013. When averaged against the department’s operating budget (minus personnel & capital expenses) this equals $43,216/per mile. [1-pg 143]

-- The State Street Aid Fund is managed by the Street Dept. It has no employees of its own but does contain a budget with $2,830,000 in funding and $2,830,750 in expenditures. This fund comes from the State Fuel Tax Allocation to the City and is used to help maintain sidewalks, drainage, and streets within the City limits. [1-pgs 209-212]

Urban Environment: 15 employees, $798,672 budget -- $53,244/person. The personnel budget amounts to 77% of the entire budget for this department which is $1,030,820. [1-pgs 151-52]

     -- The operations & maintenance, supplies and materials budget for 2013 is only 14.6% of the total allocated. [1-pg 152]

Civic Plaza: 1 employee, $47,485 personnel budget. The total budget for this department (which only includes the plaza) is $109, 909 with only $17,000 going to operations and maintenance. [1-pgs 154-55]

Parks and Recreation: 324 employees (254 are part-time), $5,729,787 budget -- $17,684/person. However, full-time wages are $4,073,077 (full personnel budget minus part-time wages) or $58,186/person. [1-pgs 165-66]

     -- Additionally, $11,565 has been budgeted for trophies and $2,500 for “educational animals.” [1-pg 166] As well as, $6,000 for 10 trashcans (yet only $1,090 for 10 picnic tables), 7 computers, a 32” TV, an iPad, 2 video cameras, and a TV with DVD player. [1-pg 167-69]

Senior Citizens: 19 employees (10 part-time), $617,505 budget -- $32,500/person. [1-pg 174]

Public Golf Course: 52 employees (38 part-time), $1,267,943 budget -- $24,383/person. [1-pgs 181-83]

     -- The total combined budget for the Old Fort Golf Course and the VA course is $2,023,404 which makes personnel costs 62.6% of the budget. [1-pg 184]

     -- Based on the budgets given, revenues from the golf courses only constitute $1,920,974 which means the courses run at a deficit to taxpayers. The deficits are: 2010 -$45,653, 2011 -$302,605, 2012 -$271,067, 2013 -$102,430. This is a combined loss of $721,755. [1-pgs 41 & 184]

Solid Waste: 45 employees, $2,517,342 budget -- $55,940/person. [1-pgs 188-89]

Airport Fund: 7 employees (6 part-time), $194,953 budget -- $27,850/person. [1-pgs 217-18]

Community Development Fund: 3 employees, $131,229 budget -- $43,743/person. [1-pgs 226-27]

Risk Management Fund: 3 employees, $275,787 budget -- $91,929/person. [1-pgs 243-44]

Fleet Services: 13 employees, $910,652 budget -- $70,050/person. [1-pgs 247-48]

Interestingly, the Parking Garage department has an $116,975 budget with no employees. 89% of the budget is for the electric bill. [1-pgs 157-58]

In all, the City lists 787 employees. [1-pg 288] If we divide the number of employees by the amount allocated for personnel ($57,134,566), the average City employee makes $72,598. Of course most employees make a good deal less than this (as little as $21,000) and others, such as the City Manager, can earn as much as $163,856. For a full list of pay grades please see pages 283-287 of the City’s budget.


The City’s credit rating is AA- (Stands & Poor) and Aa2 (Moody’s). [1-pg 202]

The City has incurred deficits for 3 out of the past 5 years. Although the budget authors assure us that the City is on track to pay off its debts in 10 years, between 2012 and 2013 the City issued $44 million in new loans. [1-pg 236] The budget also does not include the estimated $104 million in unfinanced expansions to the City’s greenway system. [3] As of 2013, the City has $227,015,053 in long-term debt with a debt limit of $421,978,966. [1-pg 207] The 2013 amount budgeted for debt interest payments is $6.7 million [1-pg 42] which, if it were its own department, would be the 4th largest in the entire budget (3rd largest if we take out the Debt Service Fund)  and is the largest single line-item expense. [1-pg 63] The Debt Service Fund accounts for over ¼ of the entire City budget and is the largest item in the budget, eclipsing the Police Department by over $1 million. [1-pg 63] The debt service costs every citizen $61.45/yr in taxes which doesn't sound like much, however the interest payment amount has risen 246% since 2009-2010. [1-pg 42]

The debt per person in Murfreesboro is $2,082. The debt-per-person of the city, state and finally the nation looks like this:

Murfreesboro - $2,082
Tennessee - $937 (the State is $6 billion in debt) [4]
National - $53,300 (using $16.8 trillion) [5]

All of this means that each and every man, woman, and child in this city is burdened with $56,319 worth of public debt.

 -- Jacob Bogle


5. US Debt Clock – www.usdebtclock.org

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

North Korea, the Nuclear Question

Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder, had seen the devastation wrought by the bombs dropped on Japan in WWII and witnessed the obliteration of the Korean Peninsula by Allied forces in the Korean War. Almost from the start Kim Il-sung desired to develop his own nuclear weapons program. But, his desires were placed on hold as more pressing issues were on the table at the end of the Korean War, namely, rebuilding the country and completing his restructuring of the entire economy, military and culture.

With the Soviets as allies, North Korea felt relatively safe from American "imperial aggression" and so they went about more basic national concerns. However, they engaged in lower level nuclear activities with the USSR. In 1956 their scientists were given basic knowledge on how to begin a nuclear program and in 1959 the DPRK and USSR signed a "nuclear cooperation" agreement.

The collapse of the USSR marked the beginning of many changes in North Korea. It precipitated the famine, helped to wreck their economy, and a few years later they restarted their nuclear program after losing their primary defensive shield - the Cold War threat of all out nuclear war with the ruin of the US. Their nuclear program had been on hold since 1994 but in 1998 they tested a ballistic missile and restarted processing nuclear fuel.

Today, North Korea lacks any ability to sustain a long-term, full-scale war. Most of their tanks and other weapon systems are around 25-30 years old and many sit idle or broken because North Korea lacks sufficient fuel, replacement parts and even bullets. But we should not let that lull us into a false sense of security. The North Korean soldier is one who is strongly motivated, loyal to the point of religious zealotry, and is constantly reminded that all of their problems are directly caused by the US.

For us, the Korean War ended in 1953. For the North Koreans, it's still happening. The country's leadership knows full well that without Soviet and Chinese support during the War the North Koreans would have been wiped off the face of the earth...and they very nearly were. And so today, they see South Korea flourishing, they see thousands of US troops stationed in the South and they realize they probably can't count on Russia or China in the event of a new war. At the same time they also remember that prior to the early 1980's they had a stronger economy and better infrastructure than their southern cousins. So what is a tiny country with a schizophrenic superiority/inferiority complex to do?

Their insistence on developing a serious nuclear defense program is one we find difficult to understand. After all, the money they've spent pursuing this goal could have fed the entire population for several years. We have to realize that what the national leadership does is for its own survival alone and not necessarily the well-being of ordinary citizens.

For decades, North Korea has promoted itself to its people as a strong nuclear power and fully capable of sending satellites into space; at the forefront of any and all technologies. The reality is that they're bumbling about with little to go on except what they learned via the Soviets and their interactions with Iran, Syria and Iraq. Their brightest scientists are decades behind the modern world. And so, in an effort to ensure their legitimacy in the eyes of the people, and to reap the benefits of aid monies and arms deals, they have become hellbent on developing nuclear weapons and all the ancillary technologies that goes along with it.

The military is the lifeblood of North Korea. The official policy of North Korea is "Songun" (military-first) which means, in essence, the entire purpose of the nation, its economy, agriculture, technology, everything is to serve and enhance the military. And while the Kim family seems like they have had an iron-fisted grip on the county's affairs the reality is that they (more precisely, he; Kim Jong-un) must maintain an uneasy alliance between himself and the military leadership. It would go a long way toward cementing his rule if the military was well taken care of, which would include a nuclear arsenal.

This leaves us with a few questions:
What about sanctions?
What is the real threat?
Where does all this leave us today?

The first question deals with sanctions. The US and UN has levied multiple rounds of sanctions against North Korea since 2004. The problem with this is sanctions more often than not hurt the people of a country more than the leadership. Sanctions have attempted to squeeze the ruling elite into submission, in reality they have played right into their hands. The sanctions have drastically limited the amount of fuel oil and other necessities flowing into the country thus exacerbating their economic problems and hampering the ability of everyday Koreans to thrive. Exceptions have been made in the realm of food aid but this too has had a negative effect. By their very nature any aid that goes to North Korea must first go through government bureaucracies and the military is usually the one who ends up with the aid. Then soldiers take truck loads of food and sell it on the black market fueling the corrupt and the terminal kleptocratic state of the country.

The international community has also failed to realize that what constitutes "luxury goods" to the West is not what people in North Korea consider luxury. A simple TV is a luxury good in the North, not necessarily a gold-plated toilet. And the elite have had little problem getting their "luxury" goods since the UN doesn't provide a strict list of what exactly luxury means, rather they let each member country determine what is or isn't.

Sanctions, normally US led, also fits the propaganda. By engaging in sanctions and severely harming their domestic economy the North can easily blame all their woes on the US and can use them as an excuse to use their sovereign imperative for self-defense by citing a "need" for a nuclear deterrence. So while sanctions may make the West feel good about "stopping a rouge regime", the North is busy working their starving people into a frenzy of anti-American sentiment, ready to wage war at the drop of a hat. Not to mention that despite sanctions the North has recently tested two nuclear devices and multiple long-range rockets. Sanctions are clearly not working.

Furthermore, North Korea is not as dependent on outside help as one might expect. Their successful "satellite" launch in 2012 was a prime example. Based on the examination of rocket parts found in the ocean the world was shocked to discover that much of the rocket was domestically made. North Korea also has a fair amount of natural uranium deposits (32,000 TONS of pure uranium to be exact). Uranium enrichment is a rather straightforward process and the technical skills needed to produce a uranium-based nuclear device is much less than needed to produce a plutonium bomb. All of this tells us that while sanctions may make things difficult for the North, they are not preventing them from moving forward with their programs...obviously.

The next questions is a rather simple one, what is the real threat?

North Korea, more a socialist nightmare than utopia. A broken economy and starving people with an obsolete military. What could they possibly do? Well, obviously they can build nuclear weapons and place objects into orbit and we dismiss or poke-fun of North Korea at our own risk.
There is no way the North could launch a nuclear missile (or any missile) at the US mainland and even dream of hitting it. Theoretically, they could however send a bomb over in a shipping container. The North has been able to maintain an armsdrug and information trade with multiple nations the world over so it is conceivable that they could blow up the Port of Los Angeles by sneaking something on board one of the 8 million shipping containers (using another country as a 3rd-party mediator) that flow through the port. After all, ports are a notorious weak spot.

More realistically, I think we should focus on South Korea and the mood within the North. When Kim Jong-un came to power as a young, European educated man, the world hoped for real reforms. Unfortunately, it seems that the young Kim suffers from youth induced arrogance and a desire to prove himself to his people (undoubtedly egged on by seasoned and hawkish military advisers). The North has also been "gearing-up" for war since 1953 and I imagine that the citizenry is growing tired of constant war propaganda without ever releasing the tension.

Historically, North Korea has engaged in small hit & run tactics such as the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and the bombing of Yeonpyeong Island or limited incursions. In fact, the North has technically violated the terms of the 1953 Armistice 221 times. So there is little question that the North is capable of hits, the question is, are they ready to engage in a full blown war? Politically speaking, the time is ripe for an escalated conflict. We've seen the North take provocative actions but now South Korea has also stepped up its rhetoric. The nearly elected ROK (Republic of Korea) president has made it clear he is willing to be much more aggressive in the face of any threat from North Korea and this willingness on both parts will make it very easy for an otherwise small event to blow up into war.

North Korea maintains a secretive and elite rapid strike force of about 180,000 men. These troops are well trained in asymmetric tactics and have a network of tunnels beneath the DMZ which, in the event of war, means that the South could be taken off guard as 180,000 enemy soldiers surround their forward defensive lines. Additionally, Seoul is within reach of thousands of field guns and rocket launchers which could inflict massive damage. North Korea could use its 500-forward deployed, long-rang guns to rain down 500,000 shells an hour for several hours. All of this would result in up to 1 million South Korean casualties within the first few days of war. Not to mention the rest of the North Korean military which in terms of raw numbers dwarfs the South's. And while the North lacks any real ability to engage in a sustained invasion the goal may not be to "win." Like the Taliban, the goal could be to bleed the US dry. We would be forced (by treaty) to send large amounts of aid and soldiers to back up the 28,500 US soldiers already stationed in the South and to help the South Korean military. The disruption in trade between the US and South, as well as the disruption of South Korea's overall $560 billion in global exports, could cause very real economic problems for the "enemies" of North Korea.

In the end, North Korea would be turned into a pile of ashes, as was the case during the Korean War but, not without costing the US and its allies a great deal first.

What do we do now?

I doubt North Korea genuinely wants an all out war. The end game of war would be bad for everyone involved. It is more likely that the North is simply wanting some breathing room. If it weren't for their nuclear program it's doubtful the world would even give the North the time of day. But there can be a positive outcome. Although sanctions haven't worked to stop their weapons programs they have succeeded in making life very hard for them and rumors of assassinations and internal power struggles surface from time to time.

I think it's time we re-evaluate our position with North Korea. The North is like a spoiled child and our approach to keep him from doing bad things is by starving him to death. To me, this doesn't sound very wise -or moral. It is obvious that all of their bellicose language has been in an attempt to gain attention and aid. It is equally obvious that the international community lacks the ability to stop the North from doing as they please since they have a fair amount of domestic capability (even if it's at the expense of other sectors). At the height of the Cold War, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, both sides understood that any escalation would result in both sides losing. There is no doubt that while we would technically win the war we would also lose it. Sanctions against the USSR did little to stop their activities and in the end the USSR collapsed from internal forces and a never ending asymmetric war in the Middle East.

Today, the US trades with many of our mortal enemies, Russia, China, Germany, Japan, Vietnam etc. Russia and China maintain militaries that could easily take our military to task if pushed to. Russian and Chinese human rights abuses are well known and their systems of government and economics are not the same as America's. That being said, the lives of modern Russians and Chinese are better now than at any point in history and at the same time the Chinese Communist Party has never been stronger. I am not saying that their horrid human rights record, or the deaths of millions caused directly by their governments should be ignored. I am saying that there are ways of opening up societies, of making lives better, without bombing the hell out of them or holding such threat above their heads. As is evident by Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, you cannot bomb "freedom" into a culture unable or unwilling to accept it. Sometimes change must be gradual.

The US and China have been at odds over rare-earth metals and there is a grave threat to the world economy if China decided to play bully. North Korea, surprisingly enough, has up to $6 trillion (yes, trillion) in rare-earth metals. Would it not make more sense to extend an olive branch to the North Koreans, to not demand the end of their ruling elite, and instead allow them to implement gradual economic reforms while we reap the benefit of another source of needed materials? Economic freedom breeds personal freedom. The only way for North Korea to really benefit from their natural resources is to change their economic model and in doing so the yoke of serfdom which pervades North Korean society will naturally lessen.

As long as we threaten them directly or indirectly they will never relent. Morally, North Korea does have every sovereign right to defend itself and to develop nuclear technologies, and we have no moral (or Constitutional) right to stop them. We do have the moral and legal right to trade with them and if they launched an actual attack against us then fine, we'll erase them from the universe. I would rather have a country of full bellies which still has a Kim leading it than further continue a nation where 1/3 of those under 5 have stunted growth as a result of malnourishment with a Kim leading it.

I think we owe it to the millions of starving North Koreans, to our South Korean friends, and to ourselves to try a new path. Instead of holding on to Cold War fears and maintaining policies which clearly do not work, let us engage.

-- Jacob Bogle, 3/20/13

Additional Reading:
Timeline of North Korea's nuclear program, Wikipedia
Study on nuclear terrorism against US trade, Abt Associates (PDF)
North Korea's nuclear program, International Institute for Strategic Studies

(Originally posted at:  http://mynorthkorea.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-nuclear-question.html)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thoughts on Life in the Universe

---Disclaimer: This is a departure from the things I normally post about and is more a train of thought/ philosophical discussion rather than a true position on a topic. ---

There are a number of theories on the nature of the universe, the existence of life outside Earth and the abundance of such life. My own philosophical leaning is that life is an expression of the will of God (or as Carl Sagan said, "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself") and that humans are the ultimate expression of such will (until we find other intelligent aliens out there). Of course this is just my own leanings and much of this post will deal with theory and belief more than rock-solid science.

The generally accepted theory of the creation of the universe involves a big bang and a period of inflation, which is then followed by a period of matter dominating the universe, which is finally followed by a period in which dark energy dominates. We currently live in the dark energy dominated period and it looks as though the known universe will one day die a slow, cold, dark and empty death many trillions of years from now. However, within this model (the inflationary universe theory) there lies an interesting feature. Some areas within the whole universe (we live in the whole universe but can only study the observable universe which may just a tiny part of the whole) may have undergone a period of rapid and eternal inflation which would create "pocket universes." When you look at the math it seems likely that these pocket universes far outnumber the regions where inflation slowed to allow matter to form.

Generally speaking, our little corner of the universe may be the only place life could ever possibly exist. So in a universe which is, to us, infinite, our observable universe (some 93 billion light years in diameter) is all we have to go on. It is possible that other universes exist, but as far as we know there will never, ever, be a way for one life form in our universe to communicate with life in another universe or pocket universe no matter how fast they travel or for how long. For ease of thought, let us assume that our universe is all there is.

If we agree that evolution is the process which gives rise to life (ignoring the possibility of some one or some thing causing evolution to occur), then it would seem logical that life exists throughout the universe. I think I need to list some points to help you see where I'm coming from.

--In the past we thought that it was probable that the only planets that existed were the ones around our sun. Today, we know of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars and there are literally thousands of other potential planetary candidates. Doing some quick math one could arrive at hundreds of billions of planets just within the Milky Way galaxy.

--In the past we thought life only existed on Earth. Today, while there is no evidence of life on other worlds we have found the building blocks of life, amino acids, in asteroids, interstellar gas clouds, and practically everywhere you could look.

--On Earth there are many millions of species. Life takes the form of plants, fish, land animals, birds, bacteria, fungi, and a myriad of other forms.

Now, depending on the assumptions used, with Drake's Equation:

You can come to one of three general conclusions; 1) we are completely alone in the universe, 2) life exists but is far and few between, or 3) life is practically everywhere.

The Fermi Paradox plays into my thoughts for today and I consider it a stronger idea now than when it was first discussed in the 1950's. Given that we know of a vast number of planets, that many of them lie within habitable zones, that the building blocks of life are found in every corner of the universe in some form and given that life on Earth exists in so many forms - including within rock itself and free from the need of sunlight, why haven't we found any?

One might expect that some type of life (or evidence of a metabolic process) evolved on Mars or perhaps in the deep oceans of distant Jovian moons. The simple fact is, we have no evidence. There is no doubt that Mars once had a magnetic field, liquid oceans and a thicker atmosphere. There is little doubt that life on Earth began within a few hundred millions years of the planet's formation, so, would it not stand to reason that life should have evolved on Mars as well? There are many features (like stromatolite formations and oil) which are made up of the compressed bodies of trillions of tiny critters and plants. Shouldn't a similar thing have occurred elsewhere?

We have found life on Earth almost everywhere we have looked. Life above, on, and within the Earth's crust and seas; even miles above Mt. Everest and thousands of feet within solid rock. Every time (to my knowledge) that we thought Earth was unique or special in some way we have found out that we are as common as sand on a beach, albeit pretty sand. The only area without even circumstantial evidence is in the arena of life.

Everything I have discussed brings me to this question, what if life really is unique to Earth? Would it be a stretch to assume we alone (life on Earth) might actually have been created for a purpose (again, ignoring any single faith and even the concept of a god as commonly understood, but simply, the ultimate expression of will) or are we indeed the result of the most random of random fluctuations? Either way, it gives me pause.

If we exist simply because we are here and, as Stephen Hawking has said, the only purpose or meaning in life is what we give it, then shouldn't we take the opportunity to achieve all we can achieve in our short life spans? If there is no heaven or hell then the only things we will ever learn or experience will happen while we're alive. I think that regardless of how we came to be (via chance or God) we owe it to ourselves to stop acting so incredibly childish and really seize the moment. Mankind figured out the Earth orbited the Sun 2,300 years ago (although it was forgotten) and we have truly wasted hundreds of millions of lives in conflict. Can you imagine where we would be if we had not been afraid of logic and reason, if we had not been so bent on destruction? Do you really think our purpose (either from God or the purpose we give ourselves) should be to waste the only existence we will ever have? To waste the only intelligent life that possibly has ever, will ever, arise in the universe?

--Jacob Bogle, 3/19/2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Murfreesboro Greenway Situation

Tonight, the Murfreesboro, TN City Council approved a 25 year plan to add an additional 150 miles or so of new greenways and bike paths to the Murfreesboro Greenway System by a vote of 4-3. This plan had a minimum cost of $104 million - with no current financial security. Tonight's vote was the final step of a process that began several years ago.[1]

I and many others made our views very clear and at times they were impassioned pleas but in the end the Council ruled, in all their wisdom, that this was something worth doing. There is little chance of stopping the ordnance now, at least until the next election, and I wish I had made my little speech with greater force but all I can do is make my case here in hopes that it can be used in future discussions.

I will start by repeating what I told the Council as my opening remark.

"When governments use money for something, be they the federal government or local, they are by definition taking money from someone else." 

At first glance the idea of greenways and bike trails sounds really nice. Currently Murfreesboro has 12 miles of riverside greenways and they are used fairly often. Murfreesboro is also a fast growing city and so the expansion of the system sounds like a logical step to improve the over-all quality of life for the city's inhabitants. 

The problem is that whenever government decides it needs additional land to expand something it almost always comes from private citizens. The City's vice mayor, Ron Washington, assured us all that this was simply a "plan for the future" and that nothing was set in stone; no ones land was being taken. And yet, two landowners rose and testified that they had been approached by city agents discussing the acquisition of their land for the Greenway expansion project including a man who turned a rundown property 27 years ago into his own paradise.[2] Another had his land appraised by the city at $1,000. $1,000 for 1.6 acres of well maintained land, with 300 feet of river front and a re-enforced concrete private bridge spanning the river. 

Several spoke out in favor of the project and a few even asked that the city go above and beyond the current plan. A supporter said (paraphrasing) "When you break it down you're only spending $4 million a year, well worth it." Of course that ignores the simple fact that what they're asking for is the local government to seize private property for the benefit of the few. Vice Mayor Washington added that land seizure is "unfortunate" and "the cost of doing business." I doubt he would feel the same if it were his land being taken. 

Proponents also discussed the positive environmental impact of such greenways. They claimed that the greenways connect small parcels of natural spaces and help wildlife move about. I find that somewhat illogical; in order to protect the natural environment they want to clear cut an area some 45 feet wide and extend that along hundreds of miles; something another opposition speaker mentioned. Then they want to pave a 15 foot wide section of it for all those miles. 

From an environmental standpoint, the first few feet of soil (depth) and the plants that grow above are instrumental in filtering out pollution and keeping soil erosion at bay. Clear cutting and paving over miles of territory will negate this natural action. The cleared land will remove the trees and bushes, along with their roots, and replace them with a single species of grass - so much for biodiversity. The paved portions then become a strip of open run-off with no ability to protect the rivers and creeks from surface pollution. One needs only look at the Greenway section which goes along Lytle Creek and beneath Broad Street. Lytle Creek is incredibly polluted at that point. In fact, much of street runoff city wide goes directly into the very waterways they're professing a desire to protect.

Not only does the paving of natural areas to protect natural areas strain the rules of logic you must ask yourself, why are there so few green areas today? The answer is rather simple. The government has continued to approve new constructions, new annexation of properties, and helped to direct the course of environmental destruction. So now, we're asking government to solve a problem it had a hand in creating.  

Then there is the economic factor. In a time when every working citizen has had to adjust their budgets to reflect the 2% increase in their taxes and everyone has had to factor in higher gas prices it boggles the mind that our leaders would think such a plan is a good idea. You can't drive to the local mall without seeing homeless people begging for money or a job, but this is a worthwhile expenditure of resources? Supporters have brought up the fact that some of it would be paid for via federal grant money, however, this is a 25 year plan and it is completely foolhardy to expect that the federal government will continue to dole out funds as they rapidly approach insolvency.

The plan also did not take into account the cost of paying "fair market" value for the confiscated land nor the costs for continual maintenance. The plan would cost approximately $700,000 a MILE just to build. Then the City will be on the hook for the additional employees they will need to hire to mow the grass, trim the trees, repave the paths, replace damaged signage, and the additional man-hour costs for security which I will discuss in a moment. All of this is at a time when the City is $396 million in long-term debt, more than double that of 2004.[3] Yes, our debt is slowly being paid off, however there is still no mechanism in place to pay for this program. 

A number of supporters talked about the fact that so many families use the system and how they feel safe and love going there. For them, this may be the case. Yet for others, not so much. Even one of the Council members expressed the fact that he did not feel safe on the Greenway and others talked about their cars being broken into.[4] There are many examples of crime on the system which are not limited to adult victims.[5] I also told them that one need only step off the cleared path to find any number of less than enjoyable problems. For example, the Greenway in and around Old Fort Park (a very popular park, especially among children) has illegal encampments of homeless people, used condoms and drug paraphernalia can be easily found. I showed the Council a picture of 4 hypodermic needles which were within 100 feet of the Greenway path right in the middle of the park grounds. 

(The image I showed)

If the City can not adequately protect the 12 miles of paths we have now, how do they hope to protect the additional 150 miles of paths? Most of the paths lead away from the city's core into areas that tend to have a smaller police presence. A good many people, including myself, have stopped using the system for this very reason. To me, this is a very real a grave concern; one the Council decided to ignore. 

In the end, we have a city in debt who wishes to go further into debt for the sake of recreation. There are multiple parks, recreational facilities and the current Greenway system is popular. That being said, no one is complaining about the crowding, no one has to endure "people-jams" on the Greenway and many citizens flat out do not use it. No one suggested that we destroy the Greenway we have, we just don't think that robbing people of their land to build a massive expansion or financing it with debt or money likewise stolen in the form of taxes is the best way to go. If we need new paths let's build them as we grow. It is a sad state of affairs when we can not finance our own programs without begging for federal money, money that never comes without strings or moral hazard.

As I said, the vote happened and for now there's little we can do about the situation. However, I think this issue should be kept in our minds and remembered during the upcoming election. We may have to wait but there is no reason why we can't reverse this action if we have leaders who will actually defend the rights of citizens and not try to be "progressive" (as some members suggested we expect of them). Rather, we should be a city which places a great importance on private property rights and does not plunge itself into greater financial troubles for recreation.

The 3 brave council members who voted no were:
Toby Gilley, Madelyn Scales Harris and Eddie Smotherman

The 4 who voted for this $104 million "plan" with no means to finance it were:
Mayor Tommy Bragg, Vice Mayor Ron Washington, Shane McFarland, and Doug Young

Jacob Bogle, 3-8-13

2. Landowners Fear Eminent Domain, News Channel 5
3. Election 2012, Murfreesboro Post
4. Thieves target cars, Murfreesboro Post
5. Man Sexually Assaults Teenager, News Channel 5 

Additional reading:
25 Year Master Plan, 217 pages (PDF)
City Council members Feel free to message Gilley, Harris & Smotherman to voice your thanks, or to message the others and let them know you won't forget this.