TN media appears to take sides on taxpayer-funded Nashville Amp

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Middle Tennessee resident Rick Williams, a private citizen who opposes big government, is apparently as much of a boogeyman to the mainstream media as was another private citizen, Lorne Fleming.

Fleming, a San Diego resident, famously stumped then-President Bill Clinton at a televised forum in 1993.

Clinton wanted to raise taxes.

Fleming’s transgression — he merely asked Clinton to name one country that taxed itself into prosperity.

AMP: An artist’s depiction of what the Nashville Amp would look like, if fully-funded.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reacted not by investigating Clinton’s tax hike proposal — but Fleming himself.

The Tribune subjected its readers to in-depth articles about the Canadian-born Fleming’s status as a U.S. citizen as well as a claim his ex-wife made that he hadn’t paid his taxes.

Let’s suppose Fleming was the worst kind of human being imaginable— he still posed a good question.

Williams, a member of an organization called Stop Amp, found himself in a similar spotlight last month in Nashville.

The Nashville Tennessean released a 735-word story about what it called his past financial problems, none of which appear relevant to his opposition to what city leaders are calling the Amp.

The Amp is a proposed full-service 7.1 mile bus rapid transit system for one of Nashville’s major corridors. Amp supporters, including Democratic Mayor Karl Dean, say it will allow residents and visitors to move along the corridor faster than if in a car stuck in traffic.

Dean, along with the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, has pushed for federal money to fund a significant portion of the $174 million project. The state and localities would contribute, too.

Williams, along with other Stop Amp members, say Nashville already has bus service along that route that runs well below capacity.

Additionally, Stop Amp members say the Amp will only increase congestion along Nashville’s historic West End.

LAB RATS: In this Facebook post, the Tennessean newspaper makes it clear that they believe the Koch Brothers are involved in efforts to stop the $174 million Nashville Amp.

A Tennessean editorial recently tried to link Amp opposition to the Koch Brothers and what the paper called their “diabolical experiment.”

“Our state, thanks to the dominance of a single political party, has been selected for a series of not-so-scientific experiments. The objective? Whatever Charles and David Koch want it to be,” Tennessean staff members wrote.

The Tennessean said the Kochs were instrumental in helping pass legislation in this year’s General Assembly that would make it illegal for buses to pick up or drop off passengers in the center lane of a state road.

But Andrew Ogles, the state director of a Koch-funded lobbying organization, told the newspaper his group didn’t back the effort financially.

As for Williams, the Tennessean’s story about him appeared in its news section and clearly identified him as an Amp opponent.

The story focused on claims Williams hadn’t paid a bill for a paint job on his parents’ home. The story said multiple lawsuits had been filed against Williams and his limousine companies in the past, as well as allegations of misconduct at his business in 1989.

Williams has run for public office before, has involved himself in political causes and is a lobbyist. He is therefore a public figure.

Rick Williams

But what is the relevance of any of this to his and others’ opposition to the Amp?

Williams is not the only person who opposes the Amp, as numerous Stop Amp signs in front of Nashville homes and businesses show.

Perhaps the mainstream media could instead use their energies showing more skepticism toward politicians and their claims that the benefits of the Amp will outweigh the costs?

Perhaps the real boogeyman is hiding elsewhere, in plain sight?

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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