Sunday, January 6, 2002

DRUE SMITH REMEMBERED

DRUE SMITH REMEMBERED

Posted By on Sun, Jan 6, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Editor's Note: State Sen. Cohen, D-Memphis, had known the late broadcaster Drue Smith for almost a generation by the time of her death last week. He was the author of the resolution renaming the Legislative Plaza press room in Nashville in honor of journalist Smith. We asked him for a reminiscence to coincide with a memorial for her on Saturday at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This is it.)

The death of Drue Smith leaves a void in Tennessee political journalism and a chasm in the hearts of the multitude of friends she leaves behind.

Webster's Dictionary defines "unique" as "one and only, having no like or equal, and highly unusual, extraordinary." Drue was all these things and many more for she was both a true southern lady and a dedicated journalist. Drue's work ethic existed comfortably alongside her generosity of spirit. Drue's dedication to journalistic integrity will live on through her work on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists scholarship fund.

Drue was a person of whom there are too few left--she knew and liked herself and everyone who met her concurred. In her reporting as in her dress, she expressed herself boldly and eloquently. Drue was always the first with a question at any news conference and her sense of whimsy and fun, while providing a human touch, never compromised her dogged persistence in getting answers to her pointed and informed queries.

The old press conference room, contained in what is now the Drue Smith Press Suite, will surely always echo with her distinctive, lilting voice. Hers was a career marked by grace, professionalism and longevity. Drue probably reported more news stories than any other journalist in the history of Tennessee and had greater institutional knowledge than any member of the fourth estate (or any estate for that matter).

She knew where the bodies were buried, how they got there, and the implement with which the deed was done. Nevertheless, Drue's questions were answered and her calls returned as she dealt fairly with her subjects while never flinching from her journalistic responsibilities. Drue had no hidden agenda. You knew Drue and Drue knew you.

Drue was beloved and respected by legislators, state employees, lobbyists, political activists, and her fellow journalists. She lived her life with zest and vigor, without complaint or acrimony. Drue was a trouper. The halls of the Legislative Plaza and the State Capitol will be drearier without her color and wit. There will never be another Drue Smith and we'll never be the same without her.

(During her lengthy career, Drue Smith provided broadcast coverage of the Tennessee legislature for United Press International, radio station WLAC-AM, and the Tennessee Radio Network , among others.

Smith was named National Broadcaster of the Year by American Women in Radio and TV and Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Tennessee Press Women, the Pilot Club and the Altrusa Club.

By resolution of the General Assembly, the press room at Legislative Plaza was renamed last year in her honor. Sen. Cohen authored the resolution.)

Saturday, January 5, 2002

BRIDGET CHISHOLM MAY LEAVE COMMISSION

BRIDGET CHISHOLM MAY LEAVE COMMISSION

Posted By on Sat, Jan 5, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County Commissioner Bridget Chisholm, who was named to fill a commission vacancy roughly a year ago and served during a stormy period of debate on the NBA Grizzlies and other volatile issues, may be ready to take her leave without seeking reelection. Several people who have had recent conversations with Chisholm report that she has misgivings about the idea of continued service and has decided not to run for her District 2 seat, but the commissioner herself says she hasn’t quite made up her mind. “I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t concluded anything definite,” she said. Elected by the commission in early 2000 to fill the position vacated by Shep Wilbun, who, in a close and contentious vote, had been named by his mates to the position of Juvenile Court Clerk, Chisholm ran afoul of controversy herself, being charged in a Chancery Court suit (later dismissed) with conflict of interest after a business partner had sought the transplanted Grizzlies’ broadcasting rights. Never a political activist as such, Chisholm --a relative newcomer to Memphis -- had made a name for herself in local business circles. Holder of a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wake Forest University and a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she is a co-founder and partner of Mosaic Group, which helps develop business franchises in the Memphis area for such enterprises as Church's Fried Chicken and Applebee's Grill & Bar. A relative unknown to the public at large, Chisholm enjoyed a sudden burst of favorable publicity in late 1999 and was boosted for the Wilbun seat by an ad hoc coalition including the Ford political organization and influential members of the development community. Deidre Malone, a longtime political activist who heads up public relations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is close to Democratic political broker Sidney Chism, is determinedly seeking election to Chisholm’s Divisin 2, Position 3 seat. Already running with a head of steam, she will be an overwhelming favorite if Chisholm drops out.

Friday, January 4, 2002

CHUMNEY SKEPTICAL OF WHARTON POLL RESULTS

CHUMNEY SKEPTICAL OF WHARTON POLL RESULTS

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2002 at 4:00 AM

The campaign of State Representative Carol Chumney (D-Midtown), a candidate for Shelby County Mayor, has issued a general response to news of a recent voter poll taken on behalf of the campaign of a Democratic rival, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton.

That poll, overseen by veteran operative John Bakke, a Wharton consultant, showed the Public Defender with a huge lead among Democrats of 51 percent to 13 for Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and 11 percent for Chumney. It also showed Wharton beating State Representative Larry Scroggs (R-Germantown) by a 2-1 margin in the general election.

Chumney's response:

'The A.C. Wharton poll is merely an attempt to trick the voters into believing that a winner has been anointed although not a single vote has not been cast in this election.

"Our polling through Yacoubian Research shows very different results and that the voters are ready for true change.

"We are very comfortable with where we are in the campaign and will keep on track with our grassroots efforts. We think we have the right message and we will continue to address issues that are of concern o voters, not those who simply want to preserve the status quo."

OPHELIA FORD BEATS BROTHER JOE TO PUNCH.

OPHELIA FORD BEATS BROTHER JOE TO PUNCH.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2002 at 4:00 AM

"I loved Ophelia...forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up thy sum." - Hamlet, in the Shakespeare play of the same name. There once was a popular superstition that the Ford family of Memphis had a monolithic hold on Democratic politics in the inner city. Despite some isolated election results that might have disproved this, some Memphians still believe it. The fact is, as the recent mayoral filing by 27-year-old Isaac Ford suggested, there is not even a single party line within the family itself. That fact was newly demonstrated at the Election Commission Wednesday by the picking up of a petition for the County Commission by Ophelia Ford. Ophelia Ford is the sister of Harold Ford Sr., the family patriarch, and of several other Ford brothers who have been active politically - including former city councilman Joe Ford and current councilman Edmund Ford. In 1999, she was beat to the punch by brother Edmund, who filed to succeed brother Joe, who would run an unsuccessful race for mayor. For a while, they were both candidates, but eventually Ophelia yielded to her brother and withdrew. Not this trip. Since the death last month of Dr. James Ford, a member of the Shelby County Commission, the supposition in the family - and in the political community at large -- has been that Joe Ford would run to succeed his brother. Indeed, Commissioner Michael Hooks Sr. made a moving speech at the next commission meeting in which he said in effect that it had been one of Dr. Ford's dying wishes that brother Joe Ford succeed him on the commission. Sister Ophelia scoffs at that. "It was extremely poor judgment for Michael to go public talking about our deceased brother's wishes. We don't need Michael to tell our family what our wishes are." So she picked up a petition to run for brother James' District 3, Position 1 seat as soon as the commission had resolved all district boundaries and it was legal to do so. She thereby beat brother Joe to the punch this time, and that was no accident. "I'm borrowing the style of my younger brothers," explained the 51-year-old Ophelia, who said she had been trying to get into government since at least 1984 but had found herself -- a jilted soul like her namesake in Shakespeare's Hamlet -- in the position of deferring to one brother after another, sometimes being taken by surprise after she had confided her ambitions. Brother Joe, for example, had picked up and filed his council petitionin 1995 after she had first expressed interest, she said. "This time they can read in the paper," said Ophelia, who quoted Joe as having informed her of his unexpected filing back then by saying, "Oh, you must not have read the paper!" Reasoning that it was better to sandbag a sibling than to be sandbagged, Ophelia explained Wednesday, "I didn't tell any of my family members I was going to pick up a petition." She maintained,however, that "I had told most of my family members that I was going to go for the next ting available, especially after he [Joe]messed up his stuff with the mayor's situation. I'll be interested to see what reaction is." (Joe Ford might indeed have been taken by surprise; he was doubtless looking in the other direction, for a threatened primary challenge from family political rival Sidney Chism.) Ophelia Ford's decision to go for the Commission seat followed several months of waiting for another brother, State Senator James Ford, to abandon his own seat. Ophelia maintains that brother John had expressed a sense of weariness with continued service in the state Senate. "If I don't get in this time, I'll probably relocate," said Ophelia, who - ironically or not - had expressed chagrin at the recent decision of nephew Isaac, a son of of Harold Ford Sr. and brother of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., to run as an independent for mayor,thereby breaking an emerging family consensus for Democratic mayoral candidate A C Wharton. Ophelia Ford has worked in the fields of public relations, communications, and product development with a variety of enterprises. She is a veteran of service with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, radio station WLOK, the Memphis Board of Education, Memphis Area Legal Services (where she was an aide to Wharton); and the family business, N.J. Ford Funeral Parlor, where she is an accredited undertaker.

BAKKE POLL SHOWS WHARTON WITH BIG LEAD

BAKKE POLL SHOWS WHARTON WITH BIG LEAD

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2002 at 4:00 AM

A mid-December poll taken under the supervision of veteran political consultant John Bakker shows that Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, the Democratic candidate with whom Bakke is working, commanded a majority of the likely Democratic primary voters asked for a preference among party candidates for Shelby County mayor. Wharton's standing in the poll of 606 voters, surveyed between December 10th and 14th, was at 51 percent, as against 13 percent for Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and 11 percent for Midtown State Representative Carol Chumney.

The poll also showed that, when matched against Republican Larry Scroggs in this year's general election, Wharton would enjoy a ratio in his favor of two to one, Bakke said.

Scroggs, a state representative from Germantown, is the only Republican to have announced for county mayor so far and the only one tested, although Bakke acknowledged that County Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, who has talked about running, would bge a figure to reckon with also, should he decide to make the race.

Isaac Ford, who has filed as an independent candidate, was not included in the survey, nor was radiologist/radio-station owner George Flinn, who filed as a Republican, then withdrew his petition, and is considering re-filing as an independent.

Thursday, January 3, 2002

BAKKE POLL SHOWS WHARTON WITH BIG LEAD

BAKKE POLL SHOWS WHARTON WITH BIG LEAD

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

A mid-December poll taken under the supervision of veteran political consultant John Bakker shows that Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton, the Democratic candidate with whom Bakke is working, commanded a majority of the likely Democratic primary voters asked for a preference among party candidates for Shelby County mayor. Wharton's standing in the poll of 606 voters, surveyed between December 10th and 14th, was at 51 percent, as against 13 percent for Bartlett banker Harold Byrd and 11 percent for Midtown State Representative Carol Chumney.

The poll also showed that, when matched against Republican Larry Scroggs in this year's general election, Wharton would enjoy a ratio in his favor of two to one, Bakke said.

Scroggs, a state representative from Germantown, is the only Republican to have announced for county mayor so far and the only one tested, although Bakke acknowledged that County Commissioner Clair VanderSchaaf, who has talked about running, would bge a figure to reckon with also, should he decide to make the race.

Isaac Ford, who has filed as an independent candidate, was not included in the survey, nor was radiologist/radio-station owner George Flinn, who filed as a Republican, then withdrew his petition, and is considering re-filing as an independent.

OPHELIA FORD BEATS BROTHER JOE TO PUNCH.

OPHELIA FORD BEATS BROTHER JOE TO PUNCH.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

"I loved Ophelia...forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum." - Hamlet, in the Shakespeare play of the same name. There once was a popular superstition that the Ford family of Memphis had a monolithic hold on Democratic politics in the inner city. Despite some isolated election results that might have disproved this, some Memphians still believe it. The fact is, as the recent mayoral filing by 27-year-old Isaac Ford suggested, there is not even a single party line within the family itself. That fact was newly demonstrated at the Election Commission Wednesday by the picking up of a petition for the County Commission by Ophelia Ford. Ophelia Ford is the sister of Harold Ford Sr., the family patriarch, and of several other Ford brothers who have been active politically - including former city councilman Joe Ford and current councilman Edmund Ford. In 1999, she was beat to the punch by brother Edmund, who filed to succeed brother Joe, who would run an unsuccessful race for mayor. For a while, they were both candidates, but eventually Ophelia yielded to her brother and withdrew. Not this trip. Since the death last month of Dr. James Ford, a member of the Shelby County Commission, the supposition in the family - and in the political community at large -- has been that Joe Ford would run to succeed his brother. Indeed, Commissioner Michael Hooks Sr. made a moving speech at the next commission meeting in which he said in effect that it had been one of Dr. Ford's dying wishes that brother Joe Ford succeed him on the commission. Sister Ophelia scoffs at that. "It was extremely poor judgment for Michael to go public talking about our deceased brother's wishes. We don't need Michael to tell our family what our wishes are." So she picked up a petition to run for brother James' District 3, Position 1 seat as soon as the commission had resolved all district boundaries and it was legal to do so. She thereby beat brother Joe to the punch this time, and that was no accident. "I'm borrowing the style of my younger brothers," explained the 51-year-old Ophelia, who said she had been trying to get into government since at least 1984 but had found herself -- a jilted soul like her namesake in Shakespeare's Hamlet -- in the position of deferring to one brother after another, sometimes being taken by surprise after she had confided her ambitions. Brother Joe, for example, had picked up and filed his council petitionin 1995 after she had first expressed interest, she said. "This time they can read in the paper," said Ophelia, who quoted Joe as having informed her of his unexpected filing back then by saying, "Oh, you must not have read the paper!" Reasoning that it was better to sandbag a sibling than to be sandbagged, Ophelia explained Wednesday, "I didn't tell any of my family members I was going to pick up a petition." She maintained,however, that "I had told most of my family members that I was going to go for the next ting available, especially after he [Joe]messed up his stuff with the mayor's situation. I'll be interested to see what reaction is." (Joe Ford might indeed have been taken by surprise; he was doubtless looking in the other direction, for a threatened primary challenge from family political rival Sidney Chism.) Ophelia Ford's decision to go for the Commission seat followed several months of waiting for another brother, State Senator James Ford, to abandon his own seat. Ophelia maintains that brother John had expressed a sense of weariness with continued service in the state Senate. "If I don't get in this time, I'll probably relocate," said Ophelia, who - ironically or not - had expressed chagrin at the recent decision of nephew Isaac, a son of of Harold Ford Sr. and brother of U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., to run as an independent for mayor,thereby breaking an emerging family consensus for Democratic mayoral candidate A C Wharton. Ophelia Ford has worked in the fields of public relations, communications, and product development with a variety of enterprises. She is a veteran of service with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, radio station WLOK, the Memphis Board of Education, Memphis Area Legal Services (where she was an aide to Wharton); and the family business, N.J. Ford Funeral Parlor, where she is an accredited undertaker.

HERENTON TO RUN AGAIN, MAY AFFECT COUNTY RACE

HERENTON TO RUN AGAIN, MAY AFFECT COUNTY RACE

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who many suggest could be Mayor for Life, indicated Tuesday that he might harbor some such notion as well, unveiling the general outlines of a “five-year plan,” adding as a sort of modest footnote “if I am reelected in 2003 -- I don’t want to be presumptuous.”

The de facto announcement of reelection plans was but one highlight of Herenton’s annual speech at The Peabody to participants at city councilman Myron Lowery‘s New Year’s Prayer Breakfast. The mayor also hinted that he might choose to intervene in the forthcoming Shelby County Mayor’s race and reiterated his determination to push for city-county consolidation, with the important exception of city and county schools.

Consolidation was, in fact, the key component of the five-year plan (along with a stated intent to shore up education and the criminal justice system) and, Herenton seemed to suggest, the possible determinant in deciding whom he might support for county mayor.

The mayor proposed to begin immediate -- but unspecified -- measures to bring about consolidation in the realm of law enforcement but said he intended to “say No to the consolidation of city and county schools.” He proposed instead to “freeze school system boundaries” for the existing Memphis and Shelby County systems and to institute “single-source” funding for the two systems.

As an apparent response to continued complaints from county officials and suburbanites about the current method of routing state funding to the two systems through an average-daily-attendance (ADA) formula favoring the city schools by a 3 to 1 ratio, Herenton proposed “equalized expenditures,” so long as special provision was made for “at-risk youngsters.”

After his public remarks, the mayor would condemn as “divisive” a recent proposal for separate special school districts made to a state legislative committee in Nashville recently by county school board chairman David Pickler.

Though he did not target specific individuals in his speech, Herenton also professed to be outraged by the inability of officials at the state and county levels to solve looming financial problems and at the weaknesses in the Memphis school system revealed by the city system’s disproportionately poor showing in recent state testing.

After the mayor’s speech, various members of his audience, ranging from members of his own circle to participants in this or that mayoral campaign, indicated they thought Herenton’s prospective intervention in the 2002 county mayor’s race would not occur before the end of the primary process, which so far includes State Representative Larry Scroggs on the Republican side, and, on the Democratic side, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton; Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Herenton said he would make no endorsement “at this time,” adding that, aside from his judging candidates on their integrity, experience, and ability -- and on their commitment to consolidation -- he would not be bound, in deciding on an ultimate endorsement, by restrictions of gender, race, or party.

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

HERENTON TO RUN AGAIN, MAY AFFECT COUNTY RACE.

HERENTON TO RUN AGAIN, MAY AFFECT COUNTY RACE.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who many suggest could be Mayor for Life, indicated Tuesday that he might harbor some such notion as well, unveiling the general outlines of a “five-year plan,” adding as a sort of modest footnote “if I am reelected in 2003 -- I don’t want to be presumptuous.”

The de facto announcement of reelection plans was but one highlight of Herenton’s annual speech at The Peabody to participants at city councilman Myron Lowery‘s New Year’s Prayer Breakfast. The mayor also hinted that he might choose to intervene in the forthcoming Shelby County Mayor’s race and reiterated his determination to push for city-county consolidation, with the important exception of city and county schools.

Consolidation was, in fact, the key component of the five-year plan (along with a stated intent to shore up education and the criminal justice system) and, Herenton seemed to suggest, the possible determinant in deciding whom he might support for county mayor.

The mayor proposed to begin immediate -- but unspecified -- measures to bring about consolidation in the realm of law enforcement but said he intended to “say No to the consolidation of city and county schools.” He proposed instead to “freeze school system boundaries” for the existing Memphis and Shelby County systems and to institute “single-source” funding for the two systems.

As an apparent response to continued complaints from county officials and suburbanites about the current method of routing state funding to the two systems through an average-daily-attendance (ADA) formula favoring the city schools by a 3 to 1 ratio, Herenton proposed “equalized expenditures,” so long as special provision was made for “at-risk youngsters.”

After his public remarks, the mayor would condemn as “divisive” a recent proposal for separate special school districts made to a state legislative committee in Nashville recently by county school board chairman David Pickler.

Though he did not target specific individuals in his speech, Herenton also professed to be outraged by the inability of officials at the state and county levels to solve looming financial problems and at the weaknesses in the Memphis school system revealed by the city system’s disproportionately poor showing in recent state testing.

After the mayor’s speech, various members of his audience, ranging from members of his own circle to participants in this or that mayoral campaign, indicated they thought Herenton’s prospective intervention in the 2002 county mayor’s race would not occur before the end of the primary process, which so far includes State Representative Larry Scroggs on the Republican side, and, on the Democratic side, Shelby County Public Defender A C Wharton; Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, and State Representative Carol Chumney.

Herenton said he would make no endorsement “at this time,” adding that, aside from his judging candidates on their integrity, experience, and ability -- and on their commitment to consolidation -- he would not be bound, in deciding on an ultimate endorsement, by restrictions of gender, race, or party.

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