Friday, February 28, 2003

CITY BEAT

How Shelby County came to have a slow-growth policy.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2003 at 4:00 AM

END OF THE LINE This is what a no-growth policy looks like. The mayor of Memphis, the mayor of Shelby County, the mayors of six municipalities, 13 Memphis City Council members, 13 Shelby County Commission members, two school superintendents, nine Memphis Board of Education members, and seven Shelby County Board of Education members can't agree on how to pay for a proposed new high school in Arlington, so nothing happens.

And, for a while at least, suburban sprawl along Interstate 40 in northeastern Shelby County is slowed if not stopped.

That's it. No seminars, no proclamations, no conferences, no consultants. Just good old politics and inaction.

Contrary to a recent Commercial Appeal editorial, no action is always an option, maybe not the best option but not necessarily a bad one either.

One of the stranger notions of our time is the alleged "crisis" that is forcing Shelby County to build a new high school in Arlington, which the great majority of Shelby County residents could not find without a map. Arlington has become the focal point of the whole debate about how to fund public education and the cost of new schools in Memphis and Shelby County.

The Arlington Express looked like it was running out of steam this week. Mayor Willie Herenton showed no signs of budging from his insistence that the only real solution is to combine the two school systems, but no other mayor or elected body has seconded the motion. County mayor A C Wharton's counterproposal has been embraced mainly by the 30 percent of Shelby County residents who live outside the city of Memphis and are represented by an all-white school board.

Other alternatives to the current policy in which new school construction in the county triggers new school construction in the city also lack key support. This week the Shelby County Commission postponed a vote on the use of rural school bonds as a white Republican, Joyce Avery, joined a black Democrat, Julian Bolton, in voicing concern about that idea and the assumption that Arlington is more needy than, say, Millington.

"I really think we're at the end of the line," said commission chairman Walter Bailey, who doubts that rural school bonds have enough votes to pass.

As long as there are two systems, Bailey favors the current funding formula because he thinks it is fair to the city of Memphis. He worries that Herenton's challenge to the county to pay for its own schools without taxing Memphians could come back to haunt Memphis when its own schools need repairs.

"That's letting the camel get his nose inside the tent," he said.

Avery and Bolton's sudden alarm about Millington High School, which is part of the county system, is bad news for Arlington. As Bolton noted, Millington residents have been paying municipal and county property taxes for years and their old high school needs work.

Millington is the designated Needy Old School of the day, but a better choice would be Central High School, which has seen five generations of Memphians walk through its nearly 100-year-old halls with that unmistakable smell of Old Building. If more than 1,000students can go to the same school that Machine Gun Kelly attended and perform capably, even exceptionally, then what's the rush in Arlington?

Here are three things that haven't been done yet in Arlington:

  • Tax the neighbors. Homeowners in nearby Lakeland pay zero property taxes. That's right, zero. Lakeland, with several new subdivisions, is the only municipality in Shelby County without a property tax.

  • Tax the residents. Arlington has a property tax rate of $1, which is lower than Millington ($1.23), Germantown ($1.30), Collierville ($1.45), or Memphis ($3.23).

  • Tax homebuilders. Every time somebody suggests an impact fee of $1,000 or $2,000 a lot, the homebuilders and their agents shoot it down as an intolerable hardship that would cause home construction in Shelby County to dry up.

    The plain evidence suggests this is nonsense. Developers and builders say people are taking money out of the stock market and putting it in their homes instead.

    "The question people ask is how much house can I afford," says suburban developer Jackie Welch.

    The spread of new subdivisions in Shelby County shows strong demand, and rock-bottom mortgage loan interest rates of 6 percent offset the added cost of impact fees that would be passed on to buyers and rolled into the loan. Home loan demand is so strong that Wall Street Journal ran a story this week about truck drivers who are getting rich in their new careers as home mortgage brokers.

    The bottom line is that new schools are magnets for growth or flight, whichever you want to call it. The crowded county school system is the product of an ad hoc "growth policy" that's let developers choose and sell sites to the school board in close proximity to their subdivisions and shopping centers for the last 15 years.

    There has been no formal discussion of changing to a policy of "slow growth" or "no growth." It has just happened by gridlock and inaction. Underlying that inaction is the revolutionary notion that if the Shelby County Board of Education wants a new high school in the boondocks, then maybe it should A) look more like the rest of Shelby County and B) ask the direct beneficiaries to help pay for it.

    POLITICS

    The GOP's new chairman finesses the school issue, aiming at city elections.

    Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    SERVING NOTICE The newly elected chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, businessman Kemp Conrad, let it be known after his overwhelming election at Sunday’s local GOP convention that he intended for the party to take an active role in endorsing candidates in this year’s forthcoming -- and formally non-partisan -- city elections. “I certainly lean that way, but, of course, it’s up to the steering committee,” said Conrad, whose hand-picked slate of candidates for the party steering committee had, with minor exceptions, been elected along with him Sunday. Conrad’s victory was by a vote of 338 to 72 over contractor Jerry Cobb, who indicated he would present to the state Republican Party a challenge to the party credentials of some of Conrad’s delegates. But the number of those named in Cobb’s long-shot challenge -- well under 100 -- could hardly affect the result, and, as Conrad noted, his victory margin would have been even greater if a number of other delegates pledged to him had not been kept from attending the convention by bad weather. Conrad cited current city councilman Brent Taylor, elected in 1995 after receiving official GOP backing, in support of the efficacy of endorsements. “He wouldn’t have been elected without the party’s support,” said Conrad. SIDESTEP: Taylor was the victor eight years ago in a runoff against Scott McCormick, a prospective opponent this year for at-large council member Pat VanderSchaaf, who said Sunday she had the backing of George Flinn, the 2002 Republican nominee for county mayor, who had considered a race for her seat. “He’s also behind my proposal for The Pyramid,” said VanderSchaaf, who wants to relocate the University of Memphis Law School in the facility once the university’s basketball Tigers, as anticipate it, move their games to the new arena now under construction south of Beale Street. Flinn, who at one time had indicated he might have privatization plans for The Pyramid himself, said Sunday he was unlikely to pursue them. As for his political plans, he indicated he was still mulling over a race for the council seat now held by John Vergos, who has not yet decided whether to seek reelection. Conrad promised to continue the minority outreach effort he oversaw as head of an ad hoc Republican committee during the last year. If the Republican Party could not attract more blacks and Hispanic members, said Conrad, “we might have an organization, but we won’t win elections.”
  • Shelby County school board president David Pickler, long regarded as one of the area’s more accomplished political presences (how else could he have gotten the board’s bylaws changed to become a its virtual permanent president?) took the dais at Sunday’s GOP convention to deliver an impassioned nominating speech for losing chairmanship candidate Cobb. Pickler’s speech was notable not so much for what it said about Cobb -- an opponent, like Pickler, of school consolidation -- but for its broadside against Conrad, who was at that point clearly destined to be a sure winner. Noting that Conrad had written an op-ed piece for The Commercial Appeal two years ago in favor of consolidation, Pickler said he couldn’t support a chairman or belong to a party that favored consolidation. The issue may be moot, since Conrad, after his election, announced from the dais that (1) he regarded consolidation as a question to be resolved locally (which, in a sense, states the obvious); and (2) he would distance himself from the issue as chairman. And both Conrad and Pickler, who said he spoke out so bluntly Sunday to see if he could get Conrad to make a public renunciation of consolidation, resolved to keep lines of communication open to the other. The new chairman did, however, observe pointedly of Pickler’s action, “That was a strange way to spend political capital.”
  • John Willingham, the GOP member of the Shelby County Commission who recently underwent emergency multiple-bypass heart surgery, returned to action at Monday’s commission meeting and cast the deciding vote in favor of a $l75,000 renovation of commission quarters. The 7-6 vote for the renovation, which would create independent offices for the commissioners, otherwise went along strict party lines, with Democrats for the expenditure and Republicans against it. “John had to vote that way because he’s running out of people to share office space with,” quipped fellow Republican commissioner Bruce Thompson afterward. Willingham, who was elected last year, had initially been assigned to share a cubicle with Linda Rendtorff, who had been opposed unsuccessfully in the 2002 GOP primary by Willingham’s daughter, Karla Templeton. Willingham, who had a good laugh at Thompson’s joke, said Monday he had declined the office arrangement with Rendtorff on grounds of potential awkwardness. Before going into the hospital, he had shared space with Tom Moss but when he returned found that Moss was now in a cubicle with Marilyn Loeffel, while he had been billeted with Joyce Avery. “I guess Tom decided he couldn’t put up with me, either,” said Willingham, who has feuded with Loeffel. In point of fact, Avery, a former nurse and close friend of the Willingham family, had been asked by Commmissioner Willingham’s wife Marge to move in and keep a close eye on her convalescing husband, who, as Moss noted Monday, has a tendency to ignore constraints. Willingham, a barbecue specialist known in recent years for his several restaurants (the most recent of which, at Perkins and American Way, is about to be sold), was an official of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Nixon administration and has floated his own plan to convert The Pyramid into a casino operated by the Chickasaw Indian tribe, The Nashville Tennessean reported prominently on Willingham’s plan in its Sunday edition.

    Serving Notice

    The GOP's new chairman avoids the school issue, aims at city elections.

    Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    The newly elected chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, businessman Kemp Conrad, let it be known after his overwhelming election at Sunday's local GOP convention that he intended for the party to take an active role in endorsing candidates in this year's forthcoming -- and formally non-partisan -- city elections.

    "I certainly lean that way, but, of course, it's up to the steering committee," said Conrad, whose hand-picked slate of candidates for the steering committee had, with minor exceptions, been elected along with him Sunday. Conrad's victory was by a vote of 338 to 72 over contractor Jerry Cobb, who indicated he would present to the state Republican Party a challenge to the party credentials of some of Conrad's delegates.

    But the number of those named in Cobb's long-shot challenge -- well under 100 -- could hardly affect the result, and, as Conrad noted, his victory margin would have been even greater if a number of other delegates pledged to him had not been kept from attending the convention by bad weather.

    Conrad cited current city councilman Brent Taylor, elected in 1995 after receiving official GOP backing, in support of the efficacy of endorsements. "He wouldn't have been elected without the party's support," said Conrad.

    Sidestep

    Brent Taylor was the victor eight years ago in a runoff against Scott McCormick, a prospective opponent this year for at-large council member Pat VanderSchaaf, who said Sunday she had the backing of George Flinn, the 2002 Republican nominee for county mayor, who had considered a race for her seat. "He's also behind my proposal for The Pyramid," said VanderSchaaf, who wants to relocate the University of Memphis Law School in the facility once the university's basketball Tigers, as anticipated, move their games to the new FedEx Forum.

    Flinn, who at one time had indicated he might have privatization plans for The Pyramid, said Sunday he was unlikely to pursue them. As for his political plans, he indicated he was still mulling over a race for the council seat now held by John Vergos, who has not yet decided whether to seek reelection.

    Conrad promised to continue the minority outreach effort he oversaw as head of an ad hoc Republican committee during the last year. If the Republican Party could not attract more blacks and Hispanic members, said Conrad, "we might have an organization, but we won't win elections."

    • Shelby County school board president David Pickler, long regarded as one of the area's more accomplished political presences (how else could he have gotten the board's bylaws changed to become its virtual permanent president?), took the dais at Sunday's GOP convention to deliver an impassioned nominating speech for losing chairmanship candidate Cobb.

    Pickler's speech was notable not so much for what it said about Cobb -- an opponent, like Pickler, of school consolidation -- but for its broadside against Conrad, who was at that point clearly destined to be a winner. Noting that Conrad had written an op-ed piece for The Commercial Appeal two years ago in favor of consolidation, Pickler said he couldn't support a chairman or belong to a party that favored consolidation.

    The issue may be moot, since Conrad, after his election, announced from the dais that A) he regarded consolidation as a question to be resolved locally (which, in a sense, states the obvious); and B) he would distance himself from the issue as chairman. And both Conrad and Pickler, who said he spoke out so bluntly Sunday to see if he could get Conrad to make a public renunciation of consolidation, resolved to keep lines of communication open.

    The new chairman did, however, observe pointedly of Pickler's action, "That was a strange way to spend political capital."

    John Willingham, the GOP member of the Shelby County Commission who recently underwent emergency multiple-bypass heart surgery, returned to action at Monday's commission meeting and cast the deciding vote in favor of a $l75,000 renovation of commission quarters. The 7-6 vote for the renovation, which would create independent offices for the commissioners, otherwise went along strict party lines, with Democrats for the expenditure and Republicans against it.

    "John had to vote that way because he's running out of people to share office space with," quipped fellow Republican commissioner Bruce Thompson afterward. Willingham, who was elected last year, had initially been assigned to share a cubicle with Linda Rendtorff, who had been opposed unsuccessfully in the 2002 GOP primary by Willingham's daughter, Karla Templeton.

    Willingham, who had a good laugh at Thompson's joke, said Monday he had declined the office arrangement with Rendtorff on grounds of potential awkwardness. Before going into the hospital, he had shared space with Tom Moss but when he returned found that Moss was now in a cubicle with Marilyn Loeffel, while he had been billeted with Joyce Avery.

    "I guess Tom decided he couldn't put up with me either," said Willingham, who has feuded with Loeffel. In point of fact, Avery, a former nurse and close friend of the Willingham family, had been asked by Commmissioner Willingham's wife Marge to move in and keep a close eye on her convalescing husband, who, as Moss noted Monday, has a tendency to ignore constraints.

    Willingham, a barbecue specialist known in recent years for his several restaurants (the most recent of which, at Perkins and American Way, is about to be sold), was an official of the department of Housing and Urban Development during the Nixon administration and has floated his own plan to convert The Pyramid into a casino operated by the Chickasaw Indian tribe. The Nashville Tennessean reported prominently on Willingham's plan in its Sunday edition.

    Wednesday, February 26, 2003

    NO ROSE-COLORED GLASSES

    Tennessee's budget-cutting governor urges local governments to practice austerities of their own.

    Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    “Everybody’s in the same boat. We’re all in this together.” That was Governor Phil Bredesen’s message in a conference call to members of the Tennessee news media Monday, as the 2003 National Governors Convention was coming to an end in Washington.

    The “everybody” was not just the governors of these united -- and financially distressed -- states but their denizens as well. After Bredesen and his gubernatorial peers had finished a round of talks with various ranking federal officials -- including President Bush -- the bottom line was this: “We got no encouragement on federal help to the states.”

    One of the consequences, said Bredesen, was that Tennessee had the company of 42 other states in having to cut back on optional programs and various forms of optional eligibility under Medicaid -- or, in Bredesen’s case, TennCare, under the terms of the federal waiver granted Tennessee. Bredesen is hoping to get that waiver revised so as to allow a variety of cutbacks. If the revision isn’t permitted, it would lead to “a disastrous situation,” the governor said.

    Under its current obligations, TennCare faces a $500 million shortfall, and even the state’s rainy-day fund, a last-ditch reserve, contains only about $178 million, Bredesen reminded his listeners. In what sounded like jab at his predecessor, former Governor Don Sundquist, Bredesen said the state might have had time to shift around somewhat “if we” (meaning “they”?)”had started responding as soon as [the problem] was clear.”

    In any event, the problem is there. “When I was sworn in, I didn’t have the budget that [Governors] Sundquist and McWherter had. We were seven or eight million dollars out of balance.”

    As is well known, Bredesen is actively considering cutbacks or shifts in other previously protected areas besides TennCare. One such is in the matter of state-shared funds. Asked if withholding significant amounts of these would not force local governments to seeks property tax increases, Bredesen said, “I don’t believe that’s the case. There aren’t very many places that could not find some way to save some of the money that’s out there the way we have in state government.”

    Bredesen reminded his listeners that, not too long ago, he, too, had been in charge of a local government [as mayor of Nashville for two terms in the ‘90s], “and I know what it feels like on the receiving end.”

    Which is to say, the governor, who has asked state agencies to make 7.5 percent cuts across the board, was preparing local governments for the same tough medicine.. He outlined the substantial cuts he’d already begun in areas like health and human services, higher education, and nutrition programs -- “I’m asking everyone to pitch in a little bit as opposed to making Draconian cuts” -- and suggested that local governments could make proportionate reductions of their own.

    Other subjects were discussed during Bredesen’s businesslike chat with the media, but the bottom line of it all was obvious. Tennessee’s First Manager had said in effect that, not only were most of the 50 states in the same leaky boat, so shortly would the state’s local governments be.

    “The mistakes we’ve made in the past came when we put on rose-colored glasses,” Bredesen said. Mayors, city managers, and county chief executives, please note: The governor wasn’t passing out any on Monday.

    '...WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS....'

    '...WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS....'

    Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    For more awesome views of last week's anti-war protests around the world, CLICK HERE. And, for a good time (as they say), CLICK HERE.

    Friday, February 21, 2003

    A READER RESPONDS TO 'A POP QUIZ ON THE FRENCH'

    A READER RESPONDS TO 'A POP QUIZ ON THE FRENCH'

    Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Mark Ledbetter's letter is a bunch of rubbish. Much of his "history" is not factual. He says, for instance that a Frenchman defeated the English in 1066. The fact is that William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, was Scandanavian, not French. Though illegitimate, he was directly descended from the group of Norsemen led by Rollo, who sailed up the Seine in Year 911, and forced the French king to cede French territory on the coast. The Normans, as they became known, progressively expanded their territory, becoming a dominant military power on the continent. It was from this historical base that William defeated English forces under Harold Godwinson, and became King of England. Ledbetter says the U.S. fought the Korean War alone. Absolutely not true! The U. S. went into Korea only after the United Nations resolution condemning North Korean aggression, and authorizing sending armed forces into Korea, under the UN banner. The UN Command, Korea, included military forces from Great Britain, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, to mention only a few, and included the very substantial Army of the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea.) Ledbetter's "opinion" that the U.S. produced no military genius of the order of Napoleon is insupportable. Several of our military leaders through history have shown far more "genius" than Napoleon: George S. Patton, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson, are considered by many military historians to be far superior to Napoleon as military tacticians and strategists. Measured by success, certainly Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur can lay claim to greater military genius than Napoleon. After all, they never met their Waterloo, now did they? Regarding Ledbetter's denigration of the overwhelming role of the United States in defeating the Axis armies in two hemispheres in World War II, he is truly "full of poppy cock." Were it not for our intervention and participation both before and after Pearl Harbor, it is highly unlikely that the other armies of Ledbetter's "coalition of Russia, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and France" could have been so successful against the far more modern and highly developed war machines of Nazi Germany and Emperial Japan. I could go on point-by-point to challenge Ledbetter's rather unpatriotic put down of the United States of America. I think the above examples lay an adequate groundwork to indict all of Ledbetter's arguments as unsupported by historical documentation. Even more, I could destroy his affected glorification of France as America's protector, savior, and friend. To be truthful, the French have never forgiven us that our Revolution was so much more successful than theirs. Finally, I am a longtime (50 years), loyal Democrat. Furthermore, I do not like our current President or his policies. However, I will always put my Country before partisan politics. Ledbetter's letter seems to trash our Nation solely to promote his presumed personal opposition to military action against Iraq. David M. Ginsberg, Ph.D. Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)

    A READER RESPONDS TO 'WORLD WAR X'

    A READER RESPONDS TO 'WORLD WAR X'

    Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    TO THE FLYER: "The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people." President Bill Clinton/December 16, 1998 First, being against war is a legitimate position for people to take. It is NOT anti-American, and traditionally it takes courage to be and advocate for peace. All sane people want to avoid war. War should always be the last thing a nation turns to when resolving matters of national security. There are legitimate reasons for being anti-war. Just as there are legitimate reasons for being in favor of the use of force (as opposed to being pro-war). I'm not writing in an effort to get Jenn Hall to change her 'viewpoint' on what could be World War X. She has absolutely every right to be concerned and to worry about what is to come. In fact, I totally agree with her on the way 'generation x' has been unfairly categorized as a bunch of slackers; many of those 'slackers' went on to revolutionize the economy by being on the leading edge of the internet revolution. I only hope to point out that there are logical, legitimate reasons to disarm Saddam Hussein as soon as possible. I'm anti-war; we're all anti-war. Only a nut is 'pro war'. No one wants to see people die. War is hell. War never solved anything...except for ending fascism, nazism, and communism. Is there something worse than war? War is bad but evil is worse when it gives us no alternative but to go to war or cease to exist. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists (and Saddam Hussein has had contacts with terrorist organizations such as Hamas, and Al AQueda) is the potentially catastrophic threat that we face. The most important thing to consider is whether or not Saddam Hussein has proven to be a danger in the past, and whether he is capable of supplying terrorist organizations with nightmarish weapons to unleash upon the world. What did President Clinton have to say about this back on February 18, 1998? "Now, let’s imagine the future. What if he [Saddam] fails to comply and we fail to act or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, some way, I guarantee you, he will use the arsenal." Is there a 'rush to war'? Is this truly a 'pre-emptive' war? Technically, the Gulf War never ended. During the gulf war, Saddam Hussein's army got it's clock cleaned in just a few days. In order to stay in power (which is what the U.N. wanted, and George Bush 41 went along with) he agreed to a cease fire which involved him agreeing to disarm, with United Nations inspections to confirm his disarmament. For 12 years he has violated United Nations sanctions on this matter, routinely shooting at American and British warplanes flying over the northern and southern no fly regions (in the year 2000 alone Iraq fired at U.S. & British planes about 366 times). He didn't cooperate with the U.N. inspectors then and, when they left in 1998, he wouldn't allow them back in until a he was basically forced to, thanks to George Bush #43. He has violated over 15 U.N. resolutions over the past 12 years and is continuing to do so. One must ask: can you trust a man who has proven that he can't be trusted? would a man such as Saddam Hussein be dangerous if he had nuclear weapons? Is George Bush being unreasonable to conclude that you can't trust a mass murdering, mad-man who has lied to and deceived the international community for the past 12 years? Does the mere threat of regime change by force make a difference when coming from an America President who actually means what he says work? Consider the following - - * "The Iraq story boiled over last night when the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler, said that Iraq had not fully cooperated with inspectors and--as they had promised to do. As a result, the U.N. ordered its inspectors to leave Iraq this morning" --Katie Couric, NBC's Today, 12/16/98/ (during the Clinton presidency) * UNITED NATIONS -- In view of Iraq's refusal to allow the new commission of weapons inspectors into the country, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he saw "no point in sending the team." Iraq also refused to allow the chairman of the Security Council's sanctions committee, Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands, to visit Iraq in an effort to improve the oil-for-food program established in 1996, after a U.S. initiative. - UPI / Sept. 13, 2000 (during the Clinton presidency) * "As Washington debates when and how to attack Iraq, a surprise offer from Baghdad. It is ready to talk about re-admitting U.N. weapons inspectors after kicking them out four years ago. " --Maurice DuBois, NBC's Saturday Today, 8/3/02 (during the Bush presidency) Anyone who has ever dealt with bullies in school knows that they don't respond to logic and reasonable requests. There are times when you have to stand up and defend yourself against bullies or they don't stop their bullying tactics. We are facing as great a danger as great as the rise of Nazi Germany or old style Soviet backed communist aggression: that of Islamist extremism. There precious few womens rights in Islamic countries. They still behead people for adultry in Saudi Arabia. Women are mere property throughout the Islamic world. Homosexuals under the rule of the Taliban had stone walls pushed over on them, crushing them to death. Yet there are many Islamic nations that have not invaded neighboring countries, gassed their own people, torched the oil fields of a neighbor (causing an ecological disaster) or launched scud missiles into Israel; Iraq under Saddam Hussein has done all of this. Make no mistake, the poor people of Iraq are not to blame and have every reason to fear a war; they're at ground zero. They have suffered for over two decades under conditions we can't even imagine. 4 million Iraqis exiled; 60% of the Iraqi population iis dependent on food aid from the government; tens of thousands of political prisoners are in jail and routinely executed; Hussein had his daughters husbands executed. It is worth noting that Iraq has routinely clustered it's military assets in and around civilican populations; this was also a tactic the Taliban used in Afghanistan. In spite of what so called 'peace activists' from the Workers World Party claims, they know that America does not target civilians. If America routinely targeted civilians, they would hide their military assets elsewhere. This alone proves that America does not intentionally target civilian locations. Saddam Hussein has no way of delivering a nuclear, chemical or biological device to America via the conventional means of missiles. But he could easily provide such a device to a terrorist group who has an ax to grind against western civilization in general, and America in particular. The enemy of their enemy is their friend. Is there evidence that Saddam Hussein has worked with terrorist organizations outside of Iraq? Yes. Hussein has clear connections to the homocide bombers of Hamas in Israel in that he provides checks to the families of those very bombers. This alone is helping destabilize the Middle East. As Tony Blair pointed out, if 500,000 marched for peace, that is still less than Saddam Hussein has murdered. If a million marched, that's still fewer people than the number of people who have died in wars began by Saddam Hussein. It's worth noting that almost none of the anti-war protestors were protesting the horrible human rights abuses Saddam Hussein engages in routinely. They might as well have held up signs saying, "Saddam kills his own people, it's none of our business". Why have none of these marchers gone to Iraq to protest Saddam's human rights violations in front of one of his palaces? It's easy to call George Bush a nazi when most people probably know deep down that George Bush won't have their tongues cut out, dip them into acid baths or murder their families in retaliation. Yet people at the recent anti-war marches certainly love to cast Bush as 'evil'; what term would they use for true evil? Most of the anti-war marches to date seem to be more anti-America / anti-Bush than anti-war. While I'm sure that many of the people there are simply against war, one can't help but note that they aren't out there protesting the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. One has to wonder who they would hate more if Saddam Hussein were to turn weapons of mass destruction against the Iraqi people; George Bush for trying to resolve the matter, or Saddam Hussein for actualy doing it? Where were the protestors in 1998 when then President Bill Clinton launched more cruise missiles into Iraq than were used in the Gulf War? Then there's the fact that many of the organizations involved in organizating the anti-war marches aren't pacifist or anti-war in nature at all. They're anti-capitalist, anti-American. The International Action Committee, the Not In Our Name Organization, International A.N.S.W.E.R. (and others) are all closely connected to the Workers World Party, with some members associated with all of the above as well as the Revolutionary Communist Party. They literally support North Korea. They supported the Chinese crackdown on students in Tianamen Square protesting for democracy. Remember the famous picture of the lone student standing in front of a line of Chinese tanks? The Workers World Party supported the guys in the tanks. They supported the 'peoples war' of Nepal, and the brutal Shining Path in Peru. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on the violence associated with these 'revolutionary movements'. Just go online and do a google search on some of their members (Mary Lou Greenberg, C. Clark Kissinger, Ramsey Clark, Brian Becker to name but a few) and read their writings endorsing communist revolutions worldwide. They are not anti-war pacifists at all and, when you look at their writings and web sites, you find that they advocate the overthrow of the United States government so that they can replace it with a 'communist dictatorship of the proletariat'. Those are their words. The unsuspecting folks who truly desire peace, and who march with them, are being used and duped by advocates of an ideology that is responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 million people in the 20th century. The term the Soviet's used to use for such people was 'useful idiots'. Those are their words. This is why many are suspicious of the true intentions anti-war organizers, and the judgement of those who follow them. They're being judged by the company they keep. Historically, peace movements do not prevent wars; they serve to convince dictators that the other side has no stomach to fight, even if attacked. It has been reported that Saddam Hussein has been gloating over the recent marches. In the 1930's there were peace marches to prevent any action being taken against Adolf Hitler. Inaction there resulted in a world war. In the 1960's there were marches demanding the removal of American troops from South Vietnam. History has shown that one of the practical effects of the communist backed anti-war marches (and that is a literal fact) of the 1960's is that it prolonged the war itself. Subsequet testimony by North Vietnamese generals confirms that the Vietcong forces we were fighting in Vietnam were effectively destroyed in 1968; most of the war, and most of the casualities occurred because communist North Vietnam counted on the fact that America would give up due to increasing public pressure from anti-war marchers. The blood of hundreds of thousands of people are on the hands of anti-war activists who handed communist North Vietnam a victory. After communist forces won that war with the help of peace activists, they slaughtered nearly 2 million of their neighbors (see Pol Pot). War for oil. Per Mitchell Cohen, spokesman for the Green Party USA, "I'm no Saddam-hugger, but if we want someone to step down from office, the world would benefit if George W. Bush would do so. . .Now the spectre of Bush's 'war without end' is being extended to other oil-producing countries: the US-backed coup in Venezuela earlier this year is one such example; it was defeated only because hundreds of thousands of workers and poor people poured into the streets there in defense of democracy. The war against Iraq is moving full steam ahead; and, over the coming months, Saudi Arabia's oilfields may be fully expropriated by Exxon et al., under US military occupation". There are a lot easier ways for America to get oil than to wage war. War drums are adding a level of uncertainty in world markets that is destabilizing at best. The countries actually opposing the United Nations resolution (France and Germany) to disarm Saddam Hussein are the ones who are the ones profiting off of the misery of the Iraqi people. France has billions invested in Iraq; France provided Hussein with nuclear reactors; Germany has provided tons of sodium cyanide to North Korea and who knows what else to Iraq. Chances are, they really don't want the world to know how involved they are with providing Saddam Hussein with nuclear material and chemical/biological agents. It is those nations who are worried about how a war would affect their profits off of oil deals they have with Iraq, or the billions France has received from Iraq in the food for oil program. If not now, when? We must nip the Iraqi situation in the bud before it becomes a nuclear threat, capable of blackmail, just as North Korea is today. If a nuclear device were detonated on America soil there would be no way (short of it being track by radar on the tip of a missile)to determine where it came from. An explosion from a suitcase bomb would vaporize the components. Only the radioactive 'signature' could be used to determine its origin. While the cost of inaction could be far greater than the threat of inaction, there are no guaratees. There is plenty of reason to worry about the last desperate actions Hussein will take. Right now there are reports of three Iraqi cargo ships which have been trolling around the ocean since November that are refusing to explain what they're doing (the fear is that they're loaded with who knows what, and that their captains may be ready to scuttle the ships and create an ecological disaster)....then there's Hussain al-Shahristani, ex-chief adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, who's warning that Saddam Hussein might create a 'ring of death' around Bagdad to slow down coalition troops and turn the cities residents into hostages...would peace activists then blame George Bush or Saddam Hussein In a way, the French and Germans are right. We need more inspections. Right now, we have 150,000 'inspectors' right next door to Iraq. It's time to send them in and let them start inspecting. February 19, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Saddam Hussein plans to use chemical weapons to create a ring of death around Baghdad to slow down a U.S. invasion and turn the city's residents into hostages, a former Iraqi scientist said yesterday. Hussain al-Shahristani, ex-chief adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, said at a conference in the Philippines that Saddam has hidden chemical and biological weapons in deep underground tunnel systems - to be unleashed in a last stand around Baghdad. "There has been discussion within his circle to set up what they call a 'chemical belt' around Baghdad using his chemical weapons to entrap the residents inside," said al-Shahristani. (excerpted from the New York Post) In America one is free to protest the government. It is the patriotic thing to do when one sincerely believes that the government is wrong. In spite of the venemous assaults mounted against George Bush this past weekend, you don't see the secret police rounding up dissenters who are exercising their first amendment right to free speech. How does Saddam Hussein handle dissent? According to the Arab news service Al-Hayat Saddam Hussein issued a decree stating that anyone who insults him or his family will have their tongue cut out. The previous penality was a six year prison sentance. With protestors claiming that Bush is a 'Nazi', one must wonder what word they would use to describe Hussein. In closing, the intent of the email is not to change Jenn Hall's mind at all. I prefer a world where people don't agree on everything. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Only in a dictatorship does\ everyone have to 'agree' on something (like the 100% of the Iraqi people who voted for Hussein in their last 'election'). I just wanted to point out that there are sincere, thought out reasons for the actions currently being taken other than people being 'pro-war'. There are sincere people on both sides of this issue who need to respect each others differences, and they can begin by getting past partisan rhetoric and trying to understand where the other side is coming from. Sincerely, Chris Leek Memphis

    Thursday, February 20, 2003

    POLITICS: He'll Be Back

    Like another Arnold, the local one surnamed Weiner just canÕt be terminated.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    HE'LL BE BACK Arnold Weiner, a Republican political activist of sorts whose relentless self-absorption is such as to make Democratic state senator John Ford look self-effacing, has a grievance: It is that he did not receive “better press attention” recently when he was making election speeches to neighborhood Republican clubs in his effort to become the next chairman of the local GOP.

    Weiner is anything but bashful -- often to his detriment, as when, shilling for his fledgling (and now defunct) probation agency a few years ago, he boasted in a solicitation letter which inevitably became public that he had the county’s Republican judges in his pocket. Or so his words were interpreted. He was booted from the Shelby County Republican Party’s steering committee as a consequence -- forced to leave by the then chairman, lawyer David Kustoff, who happens to be Weiner’s cousin.

    p>Kustoff, who was in charge of the successful Bush presidential campaign in Tennessee in 2002 and ran a respectable race for Congress in the 7th District last year, is widely considered to be as deft as Weiner is, well, daffy, as able to take the long view as Weiner is typically fixated on himself, as unlike his cousin as is humanly possible -- so much so as to bemuse one concerning the vagaries of DNA.

    Not surprisingly, Weiner and Kustoff are estranged. Weiner, who is not without a self-promoter’s high-octane get-go, campaigned hard against his cousin some years back for a place on the GOP’s state executive committee. He lost, but not before he had peppered the local landscape with campaign signs -- something wholly unprecedented in an intra-party race of that sort.

    Weiner is not without other credentials -- some of them surprising. A longtime military reservist, he maintains a runner’s physique and has surprised many a local fitness buff by showing up in the passing lane and moving briskly past during one of the several Memphis-area 5-Ks held here annually. He and his wife Scarlett, a nurse, are dedicated parents who are successfully raising their adopted son to apparent health and happiness.

    On the record, Weiner can be said to possess numerous virtues, in fact. He is friendly enough, a hard worker on various party and community projects, and clearly without overtly malicious intent -- though try telling that to Joe Cooper, who remembers a speech Weiner made to the steering committee in 1995 that persuaded enough members to endorse another candidate in the city court clerk’s race that year, keeping the hopes of that candidate (lawyer Mike Gatlin) alive and expanding the field just enough to keep Cooper a few votes shy of ultimate winner Thomas Long.

    Which brings us to the reason why Weiner must imagine his chairmanship ambitions to have been unfairly thwarted. It is true that, at one or two of the several forums at which candidates for the chairmanship were invited to speak, Weiner exceeded expectations. His arguments for himself -- focusing mainly on his suggested standard of hard-line party purity for Republican candidates and cadres -- were made with surprising coherence and intensity.

    But the phrase “exceeded expectations” is the rub. Weiner is near-legendary both among his fellow activists and, especially, in local newspaper circles for being something of a stalker -- insistently offering for publication an endless number of screeds on this or that subject, usually on some rarefied international matter on which, to put it gently, his take is not up to the level available from other, better informed and more skilled, writers. It is this reputation that may have kept his speeches at the recent forums from having the resonance he desired for them.

    The real bottom line, of course, is this: Candidates for political office, either exalted or petty, should not be dependent on the independent media for getting their messages across. Arguably, the most basic role of the media in political campaigns is to report the degree to which this or that candidate represents a body of supporters, and why.. The American system of government is representative, and political reporting should reflect that fact.

    From that point of view, both of Weiner’s GOP chairmanship rivals are more deserving of notice. Contractor Jerry Cobb, a perennial aspirant for party office, has long held a reputation as a gadfly and reformer, and has an identifiable and loyal corps of supporters. Relative newcomer Kemp Conrad, the current favorite, maintained enormous visibility during the past year working with other party members on minority-outreach projects and labored hard to turn out supporters at the party caucuses last month that elected delegates to Sunday’s forthcoming convention at White Station High School that will select the coming year’s party chairman.

    To his credit, Weiner has succeeded in attracting some energetic and capable backers -- notably Bill Wood, increasingly prominent in party affairs, but not by the most generous reckoning does the body of his cadres approximate those of Conrad and Cobb. Now as ever, politics is about numbers, not about the quantity of ink or air time one can cadge from a news source.

    For the record, partisans of Cobb and Weiner have challenged the party credentials of 150 or so delegates pledged to Conrad, whom they concede to have done far better with the numbers on caucus night. An appeal was made to a party credentials committee Monday night, but the committee -- equally divided between establishment and non-establishment types -- ruled unanimously against it.

    Another effort will be made at the state party level later on, Cobb indicated this week.

    Meanwhile, win, lose, or draw on Sunday, Arnold Weiner has got some of his devoutly desired press attention this week.

    HOW IT LOOKS

    HOW IT LOOKS

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    He'll Be Back

    Like another Arnold, the local one surnamed Weiner just can't be terminated.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Arnold Weiner, a Republican political activist of sorts whose relentless self-absorption is such as to make Democratic state senator John Ford look self-effacing, has a grievance: It is that he did not receive "better press attention" recently when he was making election speeches to neighborhood Republican clubs in his effort to become the next chairman of the local GOP.

    Weiner is anything but bashful -- often to his detriment, as when, shilling for his fledgling (and now defunct) probation agency a few years ago, he boasted in a solicitation letter which inevitably became public that he had the county's Republican judges in his pocket. Or so his words were interpreted. He was booted from the Shelby County Republican Party's steering committee as a consequence -- forced to leave by the then-chairman, lawyer David Kustoff, who happens to be Weiner's cousin.

    Kustoff, who was in charge of the successful Bush presidential campaign in Tennessee in 2002 and ran a respectable race for Congress in the 7th District last year, is widely considered to be as deft as Weiner is, well, daffy, as able to take the long view as Weiner is typically fixated on himself, as unlike his cousin as is humanly possible -- so much so as to bemuse one concerning the vagaries of DNA.

    Not surprisingly, Weiner and Kustoff are estranged. Weiner campaigned hard against his cousin some years back for a place on the GOP's state executive committee. He lost, but not before he had peppered the local landscape with campaign signs -- something wholly unprecedented in an intra-party race of that sort.

    Weiner is not without other credentials -- some of them surprising. A longtime military reservist, he maintains a runner's physique and has surprised many a local fitness buff by showing up in the passing lane and moving briskly past during one of the several Memphis-area 5Ks held here annually. He and his wife, Scarlett, a nurse, are dedicated parents who are successfully raising their adopted son to apparent health and happiness.

    On the record, Weiner can be said to possess numerous virtues, in fact. He is friendly enough, a hard worker on various party and community projects, and clearly without overtly malicious intent -- though try telling that to Joe Cooper, who remembers a speech Weiner made to the steering committee in 1995 that persuaded enough members to endorse another candidate in the city court clerk's race, keeping the hopes of that candidate (lawyer Mike Gatlin) alive and expanding the field just enough to keep Cooper a few votes shy of ultimate winner Thomas Long.

    Which brings us to the reason why Weiner must imagine his chairmanship ambitions to have been unfairly thwarted. It is true that, at one or two of the several forums at which candidates for the chairmanship were invited to speak, Weiner exceeded expectations. His arguments for himself -- focusing mainly on his suggested standard of hard-line party purity for Republican candidates and cadres -- were made with surprising coherence and intensity.

    But the phrase "exceeded expectations" is the rub. Weiner is near-legendary both among his fellow activists and, especially, in local newspaper circles for being something of a stalker -- insistently offering for publication an endless number of screeds on this or that subject, usually on some rarefied international matter on which, to put it gently, his take is not up to the level available from other, better informed and more skilled, writers. It is this reputation that may have kept his speeches at the recent forums from having the resonance he desired for them.

    The real bottom line, of course, is this: Candidates for political office should not be dependent on the independent media for getting their messages across. Arguably, the most basic role of the media in political campaigns is to report the degree to which this or that candidate represents a body of supporters, and why. The American system of government is representative, and political reporting should reflect that fact.

    From that point of view, both of Weiner's GOP chairmanship rivals are more deserving of notice. Contractor Jerry Cobb, a perennial aspirant for party office, has long held a reputation as a gadfly and reformer and has an identifiable and loyal corps of supporters. Relative newcomer Kemp Conrad, the current favorite, maintained enormous visibility during the past year, working with other party members on minority-outreach projects and to turn out supporters at the party caucuses last month that elected delegates to this Sunday's convention at White Station High School that will select the coming year's party chairman.

    To his credit, Weiner has succeeded in attracting some energetic and capable backers -- notably, Bill Wood, increasingly prominent in party affairs, but not by the most generous reckoning does the body of his cadres approximate those of Conrad and Cobb. Now as ever, politics is about numbers, not about the quantity of ink or airtime one can cadge from a news source.

    For the record, partisans of Cobb and Weiner have challenged the party credentials of 150 or so delegates pledged to Conrad, whom they concede to have done far better with the numbers on caucus night. An appeal was made to a party credentials committee Monday night, but the committee -- equally divided between establishment and nonestablishment types -- ruled unanimously against it. Another effort will be made at the state party level later on, Cobb indicated this week.

    Meanwhile, win, lose, or draw on Sunday, Arnold Weiner has got some of his devoutly desired press attention this week.

    'PROTEST AGAINST AUTHORITY IS A WAY OF LIFE'

    One McPeak brother answers another on the divisive Iraq issue.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    The author of this article, a technical writer in Booneville, Mississippi, is the brother of Alex McPeak, the University of Memphis student whose letter opposing war with Iraq ran in On the Fly this week under the title "I Write This in Protest." Shorn of some passages that seemed to us arguably more ad hominem than directly relevant to the essentials of the issue, this is his response. The division of the McPeak clan on the issue of Iraq may be a synecdoche of sorts for a general divisiveness caused by the controversy in the nation at large.

    [W]ere it not for the United States government the very societies that now take pride in themselves, who now protest against us, would not exist at all as free nations. They would be pounded under the regime of one similar to the aforementioned dictator of Iraq who flaunts his image as a warmonger most readily. What surprise that the world, now coming of age, should turn on the most beneficent entity of the twentieth century; the one who made attempts to stay out of wars and urged the powers of the world to simply let it be in the mix of their own war-time affairs; the one that was attacked in spite of its peaceful desires; the one who came into the aftermath to HELP REBUILD the very nations that stood against it and the very precepts it stood for.

    Protest against authority is a way of life. In many circles I have heard George W. Bush called everything from a moron to a warmonger for his attitudes towards the government -- NOT the PEOPLE -- of Iraq. [W]e now have a "to each his own" society where apparently everything goes except justice against egomaniacal dictators, where we now have a world who will, in light of a Saddam Hussein, call into question, not the underhanded tactics of a proven "liar-liar (pants on fire)", but the actions of a nation to rid the world of such a ruler.

    The efforts of the United States government to oust the Iraqi ruler [are] justified by his hesitant attitude to provide proof of the elimination of weapons KNOWN TO EXIST from our previous encounter in 1991. Now there is even more of what is widely known as PROOF that Saddam is indeed playing the innocence card despite the evidence to the contrary.

    .

    Keith McPeak

    Booneville, Mississippi

    Tuesday, February 18, 2003

    'I WRITE THIS IN PROTEST': A LETTER

    'I WRITE THIS IN PROTEST': A LETTER

    Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    TO THE FLYER: With close to 150,000 troops in the Middle East, and more on the way, “President” Bush has committed his country, right or wrong, to war with Iraq. I write this in protest. I write this for the thousands of middle and lower class troops that have to fight in another rich man’s war. Kids whose parents don’t make enough money to keep them off the battlefields. I write this for those who believe this is about oil-- not justice or freedom or democracy or any of those words politicians and public relations firms pervert and try to sell us. I write this for those who don’t believe Bush’s liar, liar pants on fire indictment of Iraq. I write this for those who think Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are monsters created by us, funded by our money, and armed with our weapons. I write this for the careful student of history, who knows our record of state-sponsored terrorism. Who understands the animosity so many nations maintain against us. I write this for Prime Minister Mussadegh, whose overthrow by a U.S. backed Shah paved the way for the Ayatollah Khomeni. I write this for Vietnam and the Iran-Contra affair. I write this for Chilean President Allende, killed by a CIA-sponsored bullet in 1973. I write this for rigged elections and coup attempts from Lebanon to Zaire to Guatemala. I write for villages destroyed by missiles misguided by mistaken intelligence. I write this for Muslim men, women, and children, to inform them that all Americans do not hate and fear them, do not seek their annihilation, and do not always support our government’s behavior. I write this for the citizens of Iraq, none of whom hijacked planes on September the 11th though all now brace themselves for war. I write this for those that died in the years since the Gulf War and for the innocents that will surely die when new bombs start falling. I write this for future generations of Muslims who may look at our actions in the coming months as reasons to accept the stereotypes terrorist recruiters offer them. I write this for France, Germany, and other nations whose conviction does not waver in the face of their ally’s military majesty. I write for those that dissent when the United States violates international doctrines we insist all other nations respect. I demand proof, not propaganda. I write because I am a patriot. I write for the millions of other Americans that concur with me. I write because the United States is a beacon of freedom, a sanctuary from the evils of the world, and that, because of this, we must not abuse our place as the world’s leading superpower. I write because we must do what is right, what is fair, what is true. I write because I protest. Alex McPeak {University of Memphis} Bartlett

    Saturday, February 15, 2003

    No Love Lost

    Shelby County Commissioners Loeffel and Willingham are having a problem.

    Posted By on Sat, Feb 15, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Shelby County Commissioners Marilyn Loeffel and John Willingham were never exactly stablemates, but as fellow Republicans and as colleagues on the commission their relations were always considered satisfactory.

    Until, that is, the events of last December when then commission administrator Calvin Williams became ensnared in a variety of charges, including conflict-of-interest issues and other matters, which would eventually lead to his resignation last month under pressure.

    But the same pressure that brought Williams down would have serious consequences for some of the commissioners themselves -- notably Loeffel, whose initial vote not to fire the administrator (for reasons of Christian compassion, she said at the time) would bring retribution her way in the form of an ouster complaint.

    That complaint -- brought by Dr. Howard Entman, a local physician -- is being weighed for possible action in the office of the Davidson County district attorney general's office, where it was referred by Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who recused himself. The complaint cites Loeffel's acknowledgment that Williams' solicitation of county business for his temporary-employment agency probably violated the letter of the Shelby County charter.

    Loeffel has since been vexed by published articles and accusations suggesting that for years she high-pressured then Shelby County mayor Jim Rout and then county corrections director, now sheriff, Mark Luttrell, to get employment, a series of salary increases, and favorable working conditions for her husband Mark Loeffel.

    (Luttrell, while attending the local Republicans' annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Sunday, confided that he thought the Loeffels had been "ingrates" about such concessions -- admittedly fewer and more limited than were asked -- that were extended to Mark Loeffel.

    Through it all, the Entman complaint has continued to rankle Loeffel. And at some point she began to blame Willingham, an acquaintance of Entman's, with instigating it. Willingham says there was no justice to the accusation. ("Everybody knows nobody else can tell Howard what to do," he says.) Loeffel continues to hold her colleague responsible: "[Commission] staff members have told me he bragged to them that his fingerprints were all over that complaint."

    There followed an incident in which Willingham, responding to what he saw as overt hostility on Loeffel's part, put his hands on her shoulders -- in a caring, avuncular manner, as he describes it -- and asked her what was wrong. Loeffel, who remembers the incident as one in which Willingham "got in my face," told him to take his hands off. Both principals agree that she then said, "Don't you ever touch me again!"

    Willingham, now recovering from emergency surgery for a heart condition he believes was brought on by stress, says he was subsequently told that Loeffel had threatened to file a sexual-harassment complaint against him. At least one other commissioner reports hearing that Loeffel nursed such an intention. She adamantly denies it, and a check with the county attorney's office and the county Equal Opportunity Office failed to turn up evidence of any such complaint.

    Both Loeffel and Willingham agree, however, that her get-well card, sent to Willingham's residence during his recent convalescence, was returned to her unopened. "I was attempting to return a blessing for his insults," she maintains. Willingham says that Loeffel has attempted to portray him in a false light and that he saw the gesture as a form of hypocrisy similar to Loeffel's invoking Christianity as a reason for her vote on Williams' behalf.

    Loeffel says she was merely being faithful to the dictates of her religion in voting, at the commission's pre-Christmas session, to give Williams a "second chance." She recalls, "I said at the time that one act of mercy was called for but that mercy would run out of there were other incidents [involving Williams]." (Amid a welter of accumulating questions about Williams' conduct, the commission was prepared to vote with virtual unanimity against retaining him in January, a fact which prompted his pre-emptive resignation.)

    Loeffel blames political considerations for the complaint against her. "Why weren't the other six targeted?" she says, alluding to the fact that at the December meeting there were seven votes in all to refrain from purgative action against Williams. She says that prior attempts were made by various individuals -- amounting to a form of "blackmail" -- aimed at discouraging her vote.

    Over the last several weeks, various Republicans -- from the rank-and-file level on up -- have wondered out loud if Loeffel, who often votes with current commission chairman Walter Bailey, a Democrat, and, as chairman pro tem, is in line to succeed him, hasn't become too cozy with the body's six Democrats.

    "My Republican record is impeccable, but I vote my convictions," Loeffel maintains.

    Ironically, both Loeffel and Willingham have found themselves often parting company with their Republican colleagues on a variety of matters, mainly fiscal in nature. Loeffel said she recently voted to reconsider an expenditure on renovations to the commission offices "at the request of a colleague," while Willingham parted company with the GOP majority on the matter of taxpayer-funded laptops.

    During a debate on the matter, Willingham leaned over and asked Julian Bolton, a Democrat, "Don't those characters realize the election is over?" as Republicans David Lillard, Joyce Avery, and Bruce Thompson, over on the other side of commission's semicircular table, were making the case against the expenditure.

    Thursday, February 13, 2003

    CITY BEAT

    Dallas Cowboys owner files $16 million in Howell case.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    INVESTMENT UPDATE For Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, what could be worse than the team's 5-11 record in 2002? How about his own investment record? Jones filed $16 million in claims last week against the estate of M. David Howell Jr., the Arkansas banker and investor who committed suicide last October as the scheme was unraveling. Attorneys for Jones, who is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, filed the claims in Pulaski County Probate Court. They are the biggest to date in the case, in which investors in Memphis, Arkansas, and Texas lost some $70 million and counting in unregistered promissory notes with "returns" as high as 40 percent. Until last week, the largest claims against Howell's estate had been filed by Memphians Frank G. Barton Jr. ($5 million) and Logan Young ($4.5 million). At least 15 Memphis-area residents have sued Howell's estate and brokerage firms Refco, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch in Crittenden County Circuit Court. Howell allegedly told them he had devised a system for investing in commodities and securities that was earning returns of up to 90 percent at a time when the stock market bubble was bursting. In fact, the lawsuit says, most of the "returns" came from other investors' money. As the Flyer has previously reported, Howell committed suicide in October in a hotel room in Beverly Hills, California. A few days earlier, the Arkansas Securities Department ordered him to stop selling the unregistered promissory notes and Bank of America sued him over $1.9 million in bad checks written in September and October. Jones made two investments with Howell last year one for $5 million in April and another for $11 million in August. His claim includes a photocopy of a check for $6.125 million signed by Howell and dated January 15th, 2003. Howell apparently post-dated checks for investments plus interest and gave them to investors as a form of security. Another claim was filed last week by Hot Springs banker Richard T. Smith for $7.5 million. Smith, expected to be a key figure in future litigation, co-signed some of the promissory notes with Howell and helped bring in new investors. In Memphis, investors say the sales network included friends of Young, who is from Osceola, Arkansas, and members of Chickasaw Country Club. Several smaller claims were also filed last week in Pulaski County Probate Court. The deadline for filing claims is February 14th. A source familiar with the case said there will probably be an attempt by Howell's side to move everything to Little Rock, which the Memphis group is expected to oppose.

    Disposable City

    You know a piece of property is doomed when people start talking about turning it into a prison. That's one of developer Jackie Welch's ideas for the Mall of Memphis. Welch has no financial interest in the property, and his suggestion came in the midst of some wide ranging musings about the general state of Memphis and Shelby County. But the owner of Welch Realty does know a little about real estate and Memphis demographics, having sold businesses and building sites along Highway 51 in Whitehaven, Winchester in Hickory Hill, and Germantown Road in Cordova as the fortunes of those areas rose and/or fell. The sprawling Mall of Memphis on the south leg of Interstate 240 has lost its anchors and scores of other tenants as retailers and customers moved east, first to Hickory Ridge Mall and then to Wolfchase Galleria. The Raleigh Springs Mall appears headed for a similar fate. Last week, Dillard's announced that it will join Goldsmith's and J C Penney in leaving the 32-year-old mall. Customers and retailers have moved south and east to DeSoto County and the Wolfchase Galleria. Attempting to recapture some of that via annexation, Memphis has stretched its boundaries out Highway 64 nearly to Fayette County. Our disposable city encompasses more than 300 square miles. For now, the most seriously sick patient is the Mall of Memphis, whose vast empty parking lots along Nonconnah Creek are in plain view of thousands of motorists passing through Memphis every day. "They ought to turn those old department stores into schools and save some money," Welch said, noting the general sense of alarm about county debt tied to new school construction. "Or they could put in a minimum-security prison." No cracks, please, about them being one and the same. These suggestions are likely to get about as far as Welch's earlier proposal to sell off a strip of Shelby Farms along Germantown Road or former Shelby County mayor Jim Rout's joking observation that Midtown's old Sears Building would make a swell prison. But the two malls on life supportmay well join the Sears Building on the perennially vacant list if somebody doesn't come up with a better idea than the Community Redevelopment Act subsidies that were proposed and then aborted by the city a few years ago. Welch, who sold nine school sites serving his subdivisions to the county board of education, said he's out of the school business and focusing on a new bank he has started called First Souce which will open in April in Germantown. "We're not going to be the leaders in the residential market for the next few years like we were for the last 10 years," he said.

    POLITICS: No Love Lost

    Shelby County Commissioners Loeffel and Willingham are having a problem.

    Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2003 at 4:00 AM

    Shelby County Commissioners Marilyn Loeffel, a second-termer, and John Willingham, a first-termer, were never exactly stablemates, but as fellow Republicans and as colleagues on the commission their relations were always considered satisfactory.

    Until, that is, the events of last December when then commission administrator Calvin Williams became ensnared in a variety of charges, including conflict-of-interest issues and other matters, that would eventually lead to his resignation last month under pressure.

    But the same pressure that brought Williams down would have serious consequences for some of the commissioners themselves -- notably Loeffel, whose initial vote not to fire the administrator (for reasons of Christian compassion, she said at the time) would bring retribution her way in the form of an ouster complaint.

    That complaint -- brought by Dr. Howard Entman, a local physician -- is being weighed for possible action in the office of the Davidson County District Attorney General’s office, where it was referred by Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who recused himself. The complaint cites Loeffel’s acknowledgement that Williams’ solicitation of county business for his temporary-employment agency probably violated the letter of the Shelby County charter.

    Loeffel has since been vexed by published articles and accusations suggesting that for years she high-pressured then Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and then county corrections director, now Sheriff, Mark Luttrell, to get employment, a series of salary increases, and favorable working conditions for her husband Mark Loeffel.

    (Luttrell, while attending the local Republicans’ annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Sunday, confided that he thought the Loeffels had been “ingrates” about such concessions, admittedly fewer and more limited than were asked, that in the end were extended to Mark Loeffel.)

    Through it all, the Entman complaint has continued to rankle Loeffel. And at some point she began to blame Willingham, an acquaintance of Entman’s, with instigating it. That much both Loeffel and Willingham agree on, but, while Willingham says there was no justice to the accusation (“Everybody knows nobody else can tell Howard what to do,” he says), Loeffel continues to hold her colleague responsible (“[Commission] staff members have told me he bragged to them that his fingerprints were all over that complaint”).

    There followed an incident in which Willingham, responding to what he saw as overt hostility on Loeffel’s part, put his hands on her shoulders -- in a caring, avuncular manner, as he describes it -- and asked her what was wrong. Loeffel, who remembers the incident as one in which Willingham “got in my face,” told him to take his hands off. Both principals agree that she then said, “Don’t you ever touch me again!”

    Willingham, now recovering from emergency surgery for a heart condition he believes was brought on by stress, says he was subsequently told that Loeffel had threatened to file a sexual harassment complaint against him. At least one other commissioner reports hearing that Loeffel nursed such an intention. She adamantly denies it, and a check with the county attorney’s office and the county Equal Opportunity Office failed to turn up evidence of any such complaint.

    Both Loeffel and Willingham agree, however, that her get-well card, sent to Willingham’s residence during his recent convalescence, was returned to her unopened. “I was attempting to return a blessing for his insults,” she maintains. Willingham says that Loeffel has attempted to portray him in a false light and that he saw the gesture as a form of hypocrisy similar to Loeffel’s invoking Christianity as a reason for her vote on Williams’ behalf.

    Loeffel says she was merely being faithful to the dictates of her religion in voting, at the commission’s pre-Christmas session, to give Williams a “second chance.” She recalls, “I said at the time that one act of mercy was called for but that mercy would run out of there were other incidents [involving Williams].” (Amid a welter of accumulating questions about Williams’ conduct, the commission was prepared to vote with virtual unanimity against retaining him in January, a fact which prompted his pre-emptive resignation.)

    Loeffel blames political considerations for the complaint against her. “Why weren’t the other six targeted?” she says, alluding to the fact that at the December meeting there were seven votes in all to refrain from purgative action against Williams. She says that prior attempts were made by various individuals -- amounting to a form of “blackmail” -- aimed at discouraging her vote.

    Over the last several weeks, various Republicans -- from the rank-and-file level on up -- have wondered out loud if Loeffel, who often votes with current commission chairman Walter Bailey, a Democrat, and, as chairman pro tem, is in line to succeed him, hasn’t become too cozy with the body’s six Democrats.

    “My Republican record is impeccable, but I vote my convictions,” Loeffel maintains.

    Ironically, both Loeffel and Willingham have found themselves often parting company with their Republican colleagues on a variety of matters, mainly fiscal in nature. Loeffel said she recently voted to reconsider an expenditure on renovations to to the commission offices “at the request of a colleague,” while Willingham parted company with the GOP majority on the matter of taxpayer-funded laptops.

    During a debate on the matter, Willingham leaned over and asked Democratic colleague Julian Bolton, “Don’t those characters realize the election is over?” as Republicans David Lillard, Joyce Avery, and Bruce Thompson, over on the other side of commission’s semi-circular table, were making the case against the expenditure.

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