Sunday, August 31, 2003

HOWARD DEAN'S STUMP SPEECH

HOWARD DEAN'S STUMP SPEECH

Posted By on Sun, Aug 31, 2003 at 4:00 AM

The entourage of staff, supporters, and media who accompanied former Vermont governor Howard Dean on his cross-country presidential-campaign tour last week got used to hearing variations on the Democratic frontrunner’s patented stump speech. In sequence and emphasis and delivery, it varied somewhat from place to place, but the essentials were the same in all venues. Here was The Speech as delivered by Dean to an overflow downtown crowd of 10,000 in the streets of Seattle last Sunday. You are unbelievable. Can you hear me all the way back there, by that building over there? All right. All the way down that street over there? Well, I was just in Portland, they just set the record beating Philadelphia, and you just set the record beating Portland.This is unbelievable. I’ve got some thank-yous to say first. First, I want to thank Paul Berendt, who’s the chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party. He’s been incredibly helpful to us. Where is he? Professor Hubert Locke, didn’t he do a great job welcoming everybody? Councilman Dwight Pelz, who’s been with us for a long time, we thank Dwight very, very much. One of the great governors in the history of Washington and the United States of America, former Governor Booth Gardner. Karen Marchioro, who’s been a great Washington democratic activist for a long time. I also want to thank Sudden Storms, and I want to thank the Seattle Community Singers for being so helpful. And I want to thank, behind me, all the Meetup volunteers and the hosts and the people who worked so hard to put together the biggest rally that Dean for America has ever seen. You know, we’re going to have a little fun at the president’s expense here. BuT it’s not just going to be about making fun at the president’s expenseÑyou also have to say what you’re going to do, you can’t just say what’s the matter with the other guy, although we will spend a little time on that. If you’re the president of the United States, you’ve got to get two things right. Now, we’re going to spend some time talking about health insurance and the environment, renewable energy and educationÑthese things are important. But if you can’t get the economy right and foreign policy right, then you need a one-way ticket back to Crawford, Texas. You know, in Seattle, I think there’s something like 30,000 members of the International Association of Machinists that lost their jobs alone here. We’ve lost thousands and thousands of jobs since this president took office. We’ve run up the largest deficit in the history of the United States of America, the largest national debt in the history of the United States of America, shipped thousands of jobs to other countries. The president had enough money to give $3 trillion of our money, if you include the interest, away to his friends like Ken Lay. Who do you think is paying for that money? That’s right, your taxes went up because he wouldn’t fund No Child Left Behind. Your taxes went up because he wouldn’t give you the homeland security money, so you had the choice between raising taxes or laying off firefighters or police officers. Taxes went up because he decided it was better to give $3 trillion to Ken Lay and the boys instead of funding special education, making the schools better, and taxes lower. Your college tuition went up, because the president of the United States thought cutting Pell Grants was more important than financing students. [Voice in crowd: “Give ‘em hell, Howard!”] Harry Truman used to say, [when] people used to say, “Give ‘em hell, Harry,” he’d say, “I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and Republicans think it’s hell.” We need a balanced budget in this country so we’re going to have jobs in America again to invest in America. No Republican president has balanced the budget in 34 years in this country. If you want to trust the federal government with your hard-earned money, you had better vote for a Democrat, because the Republicans can’t handle money. You know, the president’s given a lot of our tax dollars away to big corporations, but I think we better change our policy, because those corporations take our jobs elsewhere. What we need in this country is an investment policy for small businesses. Small businesses don’t pay as well as big businesses, their fringe benefits aren’t as good, but they stay in their own community. We need jobs in America. We need to invest in America. Three trillion dollars. Can you imagine, if we could have taken some of that money, to rebuild our roads and our bridges, and our schools, and broadband telecommunications in the most rural parts of America so they can have information jobs as well, and invest in renewable energy and rebuilding the grid, so we can put people to work, and save the environment, and save our national security? We can do better than this. We need jobs, Mr. President, not empty promises and $3 trillion of our tax money going to your friends who are writing you those $2,000 checks to finance your campaign. We can do better than that.Now let’s talk a little bit about foreign policy. I think most of you know that I’m the only one of the people who’s leading in the pollsÑcandidates leading the pollsÑwho did not support the president’s invasion of Iraq. Now, you know some of my friends that voted for the warÑSenator Lieberman, Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards, Representative Gephardt, President BushÑthey all said, “Oh, you can’t get elected unless you voted for the war.” Well let me tell you something. I supported the first Gulf War because our ally was attacked, I thought we had a responsibility to respond. I supported the Afghanistan war because 3,000 of our people were murdered and that was an act of self-defense. But this time, the president told us that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa. That turned out not to be true. This time, the president told us that they were about to make a deal with al Qaeda. That turned out not to be true. This time, the vice president told us the Iraqis were about to get nuclear weapons. That turned out not to be true. And the secretary of defense told us he knew exactly where those weapons of mass destruction were, right around Tikrit and Baghdad, and that turned out not to be true. As the commander in chief of the United States military, I will never hesitate to send our troops to any country in the world to defend the United States of America. But as the commander in chief of the United States military, I will never send our sons and our daughters and our brothers and sisters to a foreign country to die, without telling the truth about why they’re going there. You know, this president talks mighty big about defense. He’s an awful tough fella defending the United States of America. But he didn’t mind cutting 164,000 veterans out of their health-care benefits last January. He’s a pretty tough fella, he’s got all those folks over in Iraq that are working their butts off and afraid what’s going to happen because al Qaeda’s in Iraq now, but he didn’t mind cutting their pay last Friday, Friday night, when the press wasn’t going to recognize the announcement and pay much attention to it, proposing cutting the pay of the people he sent to defend America in Iraq. We can do better than that. We ought to treat our veterans with respect in this country, and he’s not doing it.President talks mighty big about defense, but he found three trillion of our tax dollars to give away to Ken Lay and the boys. But he couldn’t find enough money to give the city of Seattle and the state of Washington the homeland-security money he promised them. He managed to find $3 trillion of our tax money to give to Ken Lay and all those guys writing the $2,000 checks, but he couldn’t find the money to buy the enriched uranium stocks in the former Soviet Union, which we’re entitled to buy under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement, and if that stuff gets in terrorists’ hands, then we really do have a security problem in America. He could find money for all of those tax cuts for the people writing him those $2,000 checks, but he couldn’t find enough money to inspect 90 percent of the cargo containers that come into this country every single day. Something else I think the president doesn’t understand about defense. A little over a decade ago, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union votedÑAmerica didn’t fire a shot. There was a reason for thatÑthere were two reasons that happened. The first was we had a strong military. The other was, most of the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain wanted to be like America, and they wanted to be like Americans. We had strong ideals that the world believed in and respected. And in only two and a half yearsÑthis president’s reign in WashingtonÑyou would be hard-pressed to find a majority in any country in the world that wanted to be like us anymore. And a promise I’m going to make to you is, if you make me the president of the United States, I will restore the honor and dignity and the respect for this country that we deserve in the world, by having high moral purposeÉ. The president says he’s awful tough on defense, but they’ve got a saying for that in Texas: The president’s all hat and no cattle when it comes to defense. You know, in my state, in my state everybody under 18 has health insurance. Ninety-nine percent are eligible, 96 percent have it. In my state, in my state everybody under 150 percent of poverty, that’s all of our working low-income people, have health insurance. In my state, all of our seniors under 225 percent of poverty have prescription benefits. Seems to me if we can do that in a small rural state, 26th in income in the country, balance our budgets every year, surely the most wealthy and powerful society on the face of the earth can join the British and the Japanese and the Germans and the French, the Israelis, the Canadians, the Italians, the Irish, the Norwegians, the Swedes, even Costa Ricans have health insurance. Harry Truman put health insurance in the 1948 Democratic Party platform. Fifty-five years later, it’s time we stood up for our promises. I don’t want to be a second-class citizen in the industrialized world anymore, Mr. President. I don’t like America being number two. We ought to join all of the industrialized countries of the world, and have health insurance for every man, woman, and child in America. This country, we have nearly two million people in prison. Now prisons are a necessary part of American lifeÑyou can’t have violent people walking around the street. But prisons are the most expensive and the least effective social-service intervention that we do in this country. And, furthermore, any competent, qualified kindergarten teacher can tell you who the five kids are in his or her class that are most likely to end up in prison 15 or 20 years from now. And it seems to me, one of the questions we’ve gotten in this campaign, is that we have some idea who’s going to prison, the most expensive and the least effective social-service intervention that we make in this countryÑif we have some idea who’s going to use that service 15, 20 years from now, why is it that we’re not investing in small children, their families, now, to stop that from happening? In [my] state, we do. We visit every mom in the hospital, whether she’s the wealthiest or the poorest woman in the state, and we ask if she’d like a home visit. Ninety-one percent say yes, so we visit 91 percent of all our newborn children within two to four weeks of their birth. Now, most of the people don’t need any helpÑtheir families are fine, they’re happy to see a friendly face from the community. But the ones that do need help get childcare, health care, parenting skills and parenting classes, job training, programs to keep the dads visiting the kids if it’s a single mom. In 10 years, our child-abuse rate is down 43 percent. Child sexual abuse is down 70 percent. And those kids have a much better chance of going to college than they do of going to prison, and we need to make that change in America. We have got to stop thinking in two- and four- and six-year increments in this country, and start thinking in 20-year increments, if we want to do something for children. And we’ve got to start thinking in 100-year increments if we want to preserve the environment of this country and of this world. We need a president who doesn’t think a renewable energy program consists of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I can see Karl Rove rubbing his hands together and cackling, “this liberal Birkenstock governor from Vermont who’s going to run against us.” Anybody here have Birkenstocks on? The Danes, the Danes get 20 percent of all their electricity from the wind. It used to be that California had 80 percent of the wind turbines in the world. Today, Europe has 75 percent of the wind turbines of the world. Mr. President, I don’t like being second-class in America. We have fallen behind the Europeans. We are supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the face of the earth. Mr. President, how is it that you let the Europeans get ahead of us in renewable energy? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You don’t believe in global warming, but it’s real. This president’s so tough on defense, I’ll tell you about renewable energyÑit’s an environmental issue, and it’s probably the most important one we face, among a lot of important ones. Although, let’s talk about the environmentÑcan you imagine the clear skies which [unintelligible] allows you to put more pollution in the air? I understand the president was up here talking about the Healthy Forests Initiative, which allows cutting old-growth trees. Thanks, Mr. President, for the healthy forest, thanks for helping these children you didn’t leave behind either, Mr. President, we appreciate that too. Renewable energy’s a matter of creating jobs in this country, as we rebuild our grid. It’s a matter of saving this country, this environment, from global warming and all the things that go with it. And it’s a matter of national security, because right now our oil money’s going to the Middle East to fund terrorism, and teaching its small children to hate America, Mr. President. Until you’re willing to stand up to the Saudis, don’t tell me you’re tough on defense! Now, I need your help. Boy are there ever a lot of you to help. I have to say, this crowd is so enormous that I’m really awestruck. This is a really good crowd. I’m not supposed to use numbers from the podium, because nobody trusts politicians to estimate their own crowds, but this crowd’s about 2,000 people bigger than I was told [to expect], and that’s a much bigger crowd than I’ve ever seen before. The number’s in double digits with three zeros coming after it. This is an unbelievable crowd. And I’ll tell you what. I need your help. I need you to go to deanforamerica.com. We’ve got a little bat up [on our website] this weekend [to track our fundraising]. The president came to Oregon and raised a million dollars, he came to the Northwest and raised an awful lot of money up here. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to raise a million dollars this weekend over the Internet without flying around with all of those $2,000 checks. The average hit’s going to be 53 dollars. We’re going to take back America from all those people writing those $2,000 checks.Go to the net, go to the net, look up deanforamerica.com, give us your e-mail, we will not spam you, except for the last three weeks of every quarter, when we’re desperately trying to raise money. But I’ll tell you something. I’ll tell you how many people I think are here, and do the math. If there’s a hundred names on your e-mail list, give us your e-mail and we’ll send you all the information. If you send outÑthis is the first time I’ve ever been able to say this in the campaignÑif you send [the information] out to your list, if it’s a hundred people, this gathering will reach one million Americans. One million Americans. One million Americans because of you here. You know how we’re going to beat this president? We’re not going to do what the other Democrats in Washington do. We’re not going to beat George Bush by being Bush Lite. We’re going to beat this president, by standing up for what it means to be a Democrat. Be proud to be Democrats, stand up for what Harry Truman said in 1948Ñhealth insurance for every single AmericanÑstand up for jobs, stand up for foreign policy with American values, stand up for equal rights for every single American. We’re going to beat this president by giving the 50 percent of Americans who’ve given up on voting a reason to vote again. And I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. If you make me the Democratic nominee of this party, I’ll make you proud to vote Democrat again. The biggest lie people like me tell people like you at election time is, if you vote for me, I’ll solve all your problems. The truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine. You have the power to take this party back and make it stand for something again, you have the power to give this country a foreign policy that’ll inspire respect around the world again, you have the power to give us back our sense of community again. When I was 20 or 21 years old, it was towards the end of the civil rights movement. And I believed that we were all in this together, and that the promise of America was that if any one of us was left behind, then the country could never be as great as it should be. And so we were all held togetherÑthat it wasn’t just enough for me to say that I wanted good schools in Vermont, or it wasn’t enough for you to say as American citizens that you just wanted good schools in Seattle, or in the state of Washington. That we had and you had an obligation as an American citizen to say that we want good schools in Washington, and in Vermont, and we want good schools in Alabama, and in Mississippi, and in Oakland, California, too. And it wasn’t enough to say we want health insurance for everybody in Vermont, or everybody in Washington, but every one of those 230,000 kids who lost their health insurance in Texas last year, we want their families to have health insurance. We are all in this together. This president, this president ran saying he was a uniter, not a divider. That was one of the things that he said that was the least true, of any of the things he said. We have a president who talked about the quotas at the University of Michigan. Even the most conservative Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision didn’t agree with him on that one. The president knows, his pollsters know, not only did University of Michigan not have a quota systemÑit never did have a quota system. But that the word “quota” is a racially loaded word, which is designed to appeal to people’s fears that they’re going to lose their jobs or their position at the university to a member of a minority group. This president played the race card. And for that reason alone, he needs to go back to Crawford, Texas.I am tired of people divided by race in this country. I am tired of being divided by gender when the president of the United States thinks that he knows better than a woman what kind of reproductive health care she needs. I am tired of a president who attacks Title IX, that’s allowed my daughter to have the same sports programs that my son had. I’m tired of the president dividing us by sexual orientation, saying what a great senator Rick Santorum is, and why Chief Justice Antonin Scalia is the next thing on his plate. I want equal rights for all Americans, every single American.I want my country back, and so do you, and we’re going to take it back. And when we take it back, this time we’re not going to give it up again, because we’re never going to let the Rush Limbaughs and the fundamentalist preachers, we’re never going to let them take over this country again. We’re going to speak up for ourselves this time. I want my country back, we want our country back, we want the promise of America that was given to us by Martin Luther KingÑwe are all in this together, and the day that we stop caring and standing up for things that matter is the day we start to die. This country’s not ready to die, and we’re going to take it back. You have the power to take this party back, you have the power to take this country back, we have the power to take the White House back, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do in 2004. Thank you very, very much.You have the power, you have the power, thank you very, very much. See you around. Thank you, Seattle, very, very much. Thank you, Seattle.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

THE AMAZING EXPANDING MAN...

THE AMAZING EXPANDING MAN...

Posted By on Sat, Aug 30, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who began his presidential bid as a long shot several months ago, has now become a full-blown frontrunner among Democrats, his dimensions and prospects expanding in much the way of the giant screen blowup at stage right of his Tuesday night rally at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. The Flyer traveled with the candidate during a 10-city, three-day cross-country tour that began on Saturday in suburban Washington, D.C. We'll share the results with you over the next few days on this website and in next week's issue of the Flyer. Meanwhile, here's a photo scrapbook of sorts.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Map or Trap?

Memphis becomes the scene of resistance to President Bush's Middle East proposals.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Israel's minister of tourism launched a round of stops in the United States last week and made it clear he had no room in his itinerary for President Bush's "road map" for peace.

With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon under pressure to accept American mediation leading by stages to a Palestinian state, "I can be the bad guy," said Benny Elon, adding, "The road map is a road trap." Elon confided his opposition to the plan to a small group of clerics, religious conservatives, and media representatives after addressing a larger group at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

Elon, who acceded to the tourism ministry last year after the assassination of his predecessor, presumably by Palestinian terrorists, told both the larger and the smaller assemblies that the challenge for both Israelis and the country's sympathizers among American Jews and Christians was "not to forget who gave us the power" to inhabit contested territories in the historic Holy Land.

"We are not going to agree to let down our borders, to be without a state, just to have sympathy," Elon said. Brandishing a Bible, he told the assembly in the seminary auditorium, "This is behind the conflict -- not politics." He said there was "no difference" between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and likened the supportive evangelicals in his audience to "Christian Zionists."

Elon said that complications ranging from the ongoing second intifada in Palestine to the after-effects of the September 11th attacks in this country had cut tourism in Israel to almost a third of its former volume but that visits to his country were back on the upswing. He assured his hosts that they would have "absolute safety" as visitors to Israel.

One of Elon's hosts, Religious Roundtable leader Ed McAteer, announced that his group was paying for several billboards in the Memphis area and elsewhere, all urging President Bush to support Israel's claim to the Holy Land on biblical grounds.

Elon, who was scheduled to visit several major American cities during his visit, was welcomed to Memphis by Shelby County commissioner Marilyn Loeffel and city councilman Rickey Peete.

* Ordinarily, August would have been the lull before the storm politically, but -- well, we had the storm first this year, didn't we? Then the lull.

In any case, local campaigns have struggled of late to be blips on the radar screen. During the immediate aftermath of the storm, some campaigns even had to discontinue telephone polling because of the negative vibes they were getting to the process.

All that is about to change. With two months to go, door-to-door operations are back under way, ad campaigns are about to be sprung upon us. Among recent developments:

Two District 5 City Council contenders busied themselves with headquarters openings, while a third decided to marshal his resources elsewhere.

State representative Carol Chumney braved the torrid heat to open her headquarters at the Chickasaw Crossing shopping center on Poplar Saturday, with such eminences as Marguerite Piazza and Bob James on hand to lend support. Opponent George Flinn, the physician/broadcast magnate who has the local Republican endorsement, will be holding his headquarters opening this Saturday at Park Place Mall.

Lawyer Jim Strickland, on the other hand, has decided to do without a headquarters and focus instead on electronic advertising and direct mail. Strickland, who began his campaign with a goal of raising $100,000, says he now has $91,000 on hand.

The race for city court clerk has sailed into its first major controversy, with incumbent Thomas Long angrily denying allegations from the campaign of challenger Janis Fullilove that he is a Republican. Long cited a long string of involvements in major Democratic campaigns in an appearance recently before the Shelby County Democratic Women.

A third contender in the clerk's race, Betty Boyette, hopes to benefit from the internecine warfare of Long and Fullilove.

The Long-Fullilove contest, like that between Democrats Strickland and Chumney, has local Democrats moving in different directions. The party executive committee, which was evenly divided in last spring's chairmanship race between state representative Kathryn Bowers, the eventual winner, and former chairman Gale Jones Carson, reflected the same split in this month's key vote on whether to follow the Republicans' lead and endorse candidates in city-election races.

The committee voted 20-16 against endorsements, with the Bowers faction once again in the ascendancy.

* Sometime Memphian Chip Saltzman, who was state GOP chairman during the 2000 campaign year, held his annual "Young Guns" retreat this past weekend on the Ocoee River in Polk County.

Some 45 sub-40-year-old Republicans from across the state were invited for the weekend -- including Memphians Kemp Conrad, the current Shelby County Republican chairman, and David Kustoff.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

POLITICS

POLITICS

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

MAP OR ‘TRAP’? Israel’s minister of tourism launched a round of stops in the United States last week and made it clear he had no room in his itinerary for President Bush’s “road map” for peace.
With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon under pressure to accept American mediation leading by stages to a Palestianian state, “I can be the bad guy,” said Benny Elon, who insisted, . “The road map is a road trap.” Elon confided his opposition to the plan to a small group of clerics, religious conservatives, and media people after addressing a larger group at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Elon, who acceded to the tourism ministry last year after the assassination of his predecessor, presumably by Palestinian terrorists, told both the larger and the smaller assemblies that “the challenge,” for both Israelis and the country’s sympathizers among American Jews and Christians, was “not to forget who gave us the power” to inhabit contested territories in the historic Holy Land.
“We are not going to agree to let down our borders, to be without a state, just to have sympathy,” Elon said. Brandishing a Bible, he told the assembly in the Seminary auditorium, “This is behind the conflict -- not politics.” He said there was “no difference” between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and likened the supportive evangelicals in his audience to “Christian Zionists.”
Elon said that complications ranging from the ongoing second Intifadah in Palestine to the after-effects of the September 11th attacks in this country had cut tourism to Israel to almost a third of its former volume but that visits to his country were back on the upswing, and he assured his hosts that they would have “absolute safety” as visitors to Israel.
One of Elon’s hosts, Religious Roundtable leader Ed McAteer, announced that his group was paying for several billboards in the Memphis area and elsewhere, all urging President Bush to support Israel’s claim to the Holy Land on Biblical grounds.
Elon, who was scheduled to visit several major American cities during his visit, was welcomed to Memphis by Shelby County Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel and city councilman Rickey Peete.

¥ Ordinarily, August would have been the lull before the storm, politically, but -- well, we had the storm first this year, didn’t we? Then the lull.
In any case, local campaigns have struggled of late even to be blips on the radar screen. During the immediate aftermath of the storm, some campaigns even had to discontinue telephone polling because of the negative vibes they were getting to the process.
All that is about to change. With two months to go, door-to-door operations are back underway, ad campaigns are about to be sprung upon us, and the first fliers should be clogging the mailboxes of potential voters. Among recent developments:
Two District 5 city council contenders busied themselves with headquarters openings, while a third decided to marshal his resources elsewhere.
State representative Carol Chumney braved the torrid heat to open her headquarters at the Chickasaw Crossing shopping center on Poplar Saturday, with such eminences as Marguerite Piazza and Bob James on hand to lend support. Opponent George Flinn, the physician/broadcast magnate who has the local Republican endorsement, will be holding his hq opening this Saturday from 11 to 1 at Park Place Mall.
Lawyer Jim Strickland, on the other hand, has decided to do without a headquarters and focus instead on electronic advertising and direct mail. Strickland, who began his campaign with a goal of raising $100,000, says he now has $91,000 on hand.

The race for city court clerk has sailed into its first major controversy, with incumbent Thomas Long angrily denying allegations from the campaign of challenger Janis Fullilove that he is a Republican. Long cited a long string of involvements in major Democratic campaigns in an appearance recently before the Shelby County Democratic Women.
A third contender in the clerk’s race, Betty Boyette, hopes to benefit from the internecine warfare of Long and Fullilove.
The Long-Fullilove contest, like that between Democrats Strickland and Chumney, has local Democrats moving in different directions. The party executive committee, which was evenly divided in last spring’s chairmanship race between state representative Kathryn Bowers, the eventual winner, and former chairman Gale Jones Carson, reflected the same split in this month’s key vote on whether to follow the Republicans’ lead and endorse candidates in city-election races.
The committee voted 20-16 against endorsements, with the Bowers faction once again in the ascendancy.

¥ Sometime Memphian Chip Saltzman, who logged time as an aide to both former Governor Don Sundquist and U.S. Senator Bill Frist and was state GOP chairman during the 2000 campaign year, held his annual “Young Guns” retreat this past weekend on the Ocoee River in Polk County.
Some 45 sub-40-year-old Republicans from across the state were invited for the weekend -- including Memphians Kemp Conrad, the current Shelby County Republican chairman, and David Kustoff, who held that position during the middle ‘90s and ran the Bush campaign in Tennessee three years ago.
Speaker for the event was former 4th District congressman Van Hilleary, the GOP’s unsuccessful candidate for the governorship in 2092. Hilleary is a potential candidate for either governor of senator in 2006.

Friday, August 15, 2003

A Moving Target

Sheriff Luttrell's budget can be added -- or subtracted -- several different ways.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Of all the facts that are taken for granted in this political and governmental year, none has been more uncontroverted publicly than the following, concerning the office of Sheriff Mark Luttrell, still in his first year as Shelby County's chief constitutional law-enforcement officer:

As the scenario goes: The highly regarded Luttrell, formerly county corrections department supervisor, came into office after campaigning last year on a pledge of fiscal solvency, promising to eliminate the excess spending that had characterized the administration of his tarnished predecessor, A.C. Gilless. The new sheriff, who beat several opponents handily, then set about fulfilling his promise.

First, he eliminated more than 500 positions, most of them in a blatantly overstaffed jail, where nepotism and cronyism had long padded the payroll. The savings attributed to this amounted to $19 million.

Next, Luttrell found himself pushed to the wall by the requirements of a budgetary process he has characterized as "Draconian" and was forced to make a series of further reductions. These, after some serious bargaining with the administration of county mayor A C Wharton and the Shelby County Commission, finally came to some $8.5 million -- cutting his departmental needs to the bone.

Luttrell had fended off even further and more damaging cuts by several means, including a public threat to sue Shelby County government, direct appeals in the media (including an op-ed in The Commercial Appeal), and telling appeals on his behalf, like those made by several sheriffs' deputies to the Shelby County Commission on Monday.

All these approaches had their effect, and both the administration and the commission eventually signed off on an understanding, made public at the commission meeting, that Luttrell could avail himself of another $2 million during the course of the current fiscal year if he could make the case that he required it.

All in all, an impressive accomplishment for a persevering public official, and there is much in this accepted version of events that still rings true.

There is, however, another way to look at it -- and one that stands all these circumstances, and the accepted interpretation of them, on their heads.

Commissioner Tom Moss couldn't shake a doubt or two after Monday's meeting -- which concluded with Luttrell's having been granted a budget in the neighborhood of $126,250,000 and that tacit understanding of another $2 million to come. "Where," asked Moss, "did that $19 million go?"

His question was predicated on the following circumstance: That Luttrell's requested budget of record for the current fiscal year was $134 million and that figure, minus his currently awarded budget of $126-and-a-quarter million, yielded a figure of $7-and-a-quarter million.

How did that square, Moss wondered, with the previously reported voluntary cuts of $19 million, which, when added to the $8.5 million in additional reductions required by the budgetary process, add up to more than $24 million? That's a difference of $17 million.

In other words, if the reported cuts were to be subtracted from his requested budget, Luttrell's budget for the current fiscal year would be expected to be in the neighborhood of $110 million -- not $126 million.

As it turned out, Moss wasn't the only commissioner puzzled by the discrepancy in the arithmetic, which depends on some highly creative accounting. It is the sort of calculation that Commissioner Bruce Thompson, at several points in the budget process, characterized (though not especially with reference to the sheriff's department) as "moving target" bookkeeping.

Here are some of the particulars, as vouched for by the commission's chief administrator and acknowledged budget maven, Grace Hutchinson.

™ The figure of $19 million in reported cuts in paid positions includes a number of positions that had been vacant for some time, as well as many that had never been filled. The actual fiscal reduction in jobs actually held by real functioning employees? Perhaps as low as $4 million.

™ Further, last year's baseline figure of $138 million against which the current budget is measured is not the true yardstick, because it includes an add-on figure of some $13 million in additional ad hoc appropriations granted to Luttrell during the course of the year. Without that, Luttrell's budget for the coming year would be the same as that enjoyed by his "spendthrift" predecessor.

™ Moreover, the case can be made that the legitimate cuts made by Luttrell -- and these are quite real, consisting in the main of jail positions -- when added to and/or subtracted from the actual budgetary figures from the relevant years, leave him in possession of some $7 million more this year than he enjoyed last year.

That figure is arrived at by taking his face-value budget of fiscal 2002-03, with its additions, which is $138 million, then subtracting the face-value $19 million in claimed cuts, which leaves $119 million, and then comparing that figure to the actual allocated spending-money budget of $126,250,000, which the sheriff's department will have at its disposal this year. That's an apparent gain of $7 million. Confused? So has almost everybody been during the course of the current budget year. It's just that Luttrell has been such a success in his public relations that few critics have taken a long, hard look at his numbers. Stay tuned. We'll probably revisit this subject.™

In Passing

The calendar of late has included an usual number of deaths of prominent public figures, with a conspicuous overlapping of mourners.

There was the death of Memphis school board member Lee Brown, whose quiet and conscientious mien had impressed all members and all factions of an often fractious board. Although Brown, who doubled as a minister, had attempted to downplay his illness, he had been suffering from the effects of cancer for more than a year.

There was the passing, reported last week, of 80-year-old music legend Sam Phillips, the "godfather of rock-and-roll," whose public and political concerns had always been more extensive than were generally realized. Phillips lay in state at Memorial Park Funeral Home last Wednesday, attracting an unending line of people, ranging from his faceless fellow citizens to the famous, who paid their respects from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. A "celebration" the next day at the Cannon Performing Arts Center downtown crowned the observance.

There was the death of longtime Memphis political eminence Bill Farris, who himself had almost reached the age of 80. Hundreds of visitors would pay their respects at the Farris home on Sweetbrier on Friday and attend the funeral on Saturday at Eudora Baptist Church. Among them were Governor Phil Bredesen and former Governor Ned McWherter and countless eminences from the political and governmental worlds, including all factions and parties. (Symbolizing this was the participation in the funeral rites of Republican Brent Taylor and Democrat John Ford, both principals of funeral homes and both friends of the deceased.)

Two Memphians, entrepreneur Charlie Burch and Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, recalled in their visits to the Farris home on Friday separate occasions on which they had sat in a back room at Farris' and knocked back a cocktail with -- the aforesaid Sam Phillips.

Finally, there was the death just this week of Oscar Mason, a longtime local Republican activist who had been instrumental -- even of late, when his health was visibly failing -- in attempting to broaden the appeal and outreach of his party to his fellow African Americans.

It is often said after the death of someone prominent that we are the less for their passing. After last week, we are much the less. But much the greater too for the public legacies and contributions of the deceased. ™

The Whole Truth? (Not Really)

The following exchange, lifted directly from a videotape of the event, occurred last week during an attempted interview of MLGW officials by Bill Lunn, a reporter for WMC-TV, Action News 5. Lunn had for two or three minutes been questioning MLGW CEO Herman Morris in Morris' office about details of the utility's ongoing cleanup after last month's windstorm, then attempted to move on to another matter -- the still hazy one of why MLGW turned away offers of help from Mississippi-based Entergy, Inc.

Before Morris could answer, MLGW public relations officer Mark Heuberger, who had arranged the interview, interrupted: "I let you into his private office and you're bringing up this crap!"

"Well, these are legitimate questions," Lunn responded.

Heuberger then said, "Well, we're not gonna -- you know," and signaled that the interview was at an end.

Lunn said that, up until that point, Morris had attempted faithfully to answer without evasion all questions put -- unless one counts the following answer to a pointed question of Lunn's about points raised in the Flyer's coverage of the post-storm aftermath:

"I don't read the Flyer," Morris maintained.

Lunn said he was dubious about the authenticity of that answer. ™

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Payroll Tax?

County lawmakers may take a look at one.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 7, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Some of his colleagues have already expressed misgivings, and some are evidently wide open to the prospect, but, whatever the case and ready or not, Shelby County commissioner John Willingham has prepared a version of what from his hand or someone else's is likely to be the next new thing -- and the focus of the next new battle: a payroll tax.

Moreover, he's won the conditional support of an important ally, Cleo Kirk, the commission's budget chairman.

The idea for such a tax arose several months back when county mayor A C Wharton, facing a budget crisis and looking for some revenue source besides that of a property-tax increase, proposed what he called an "altered facilities tax." That was a diplomatic way of saying "impact fee," and the county's developers massed impressively at a subsequent meeting of the Shelby County Commission to turn it aside.

Wharton had another ace up his sleeve, though. He had already discussed the idea of a payroll tax as a fallback possibility with Commissioner Deidre Malone, and Malone dutifully put the idea forth during public discussion of the altered facilities measure (which would end up being tabled for further study next year). Commissioner Michael Hooks, a Democrat like Malone, promptly took the bait, and so did Republican Willingham.

Currently engaged in an underdog campaign for Memphis mayor against incumbent Willie Herenton, Willingham is not reticent about committing himself to innovative formulas (e.g., converting The Pyramid into a downtown casino).

Nor is Willingham bashful about overlapping his mayoral candidacy with proposals that do double duty on the commission agenda.

Bruce Thompson and David Lillard, two freshman commissioners who have assumed the mantle of conservative reformers, are on record as doubting the efficacy of a payroll tax, with Lillard suggesting last week that such a tax would "probably cost the county jobs." But Joyce Avery, another first-termer who, like Thompson and Lillard, is a Republican and a conservative, is reportedly open to the idea. And so are Malone and Hooks, of course.

So, too, it turns out, is budget chairman Kirk, a Democrat whose willingness to compromise on a 25 cent tax-rate increase (Kirk, like commission chairman Walter Bailey, wanted more to take care of school operating costs) enabled last week's decisive vote for a county budget after months of agonizing deliberation.

"I'm interested in the advantages of a payroll tax. Each year we go through all this intense anxiety over increasing the tax burden on property owners, and each year we go through this concern about finding alternative revenue sources. I think it's time for something like this," said Kirk, who went on to say, "If John's figures are right, and if the legislature gives it approval, I think we're three-quarters of the way there already."

Here are Willingham's figures, through at least seven drafts of his proposal: Setting the proposed payroll-tax rate at 2.5 percent, and assessing that against an estimated annual payroll amount of $19 billion-plus, would yield annual revenues in the neighborhood of $476 million. (For purposes of comparison, Wharton's proposed altered facilities tax would have netted something like $4 million.) That level of revenue collections, estimates the commissioner, would allow the outright abolition of the county wheel tax ($141 million, annually), a rollback of this year's property-tax increase and one from two years ago (totaling $94 million), and the reduction of the county's sales-tax portion from 9 and a quarter percent to 7 percent ($124 million).

The tax, according to Willingham, would provide enough extra revenue to subsidize Oakville Sanitarium, Head Start, and The Med at currently suggested or, in the case of the latter, enormously increased levels. It would allow the county debt to be paid down by $80 million and provide a $9 million sum to be used for an "attack on crime" (a category in which Willingham would include a variety of social services for low-income residents).

"I want to be sure these figures are audited and accurate before I put myself on the line," cautioned Kirk, and, indeed, there are numerous complications to be vetted before a payroll tax could end up even being voted on. The state legislature would have to authorize Shelby County to impose such a tax, for example.

Though he, too, believes a payroll tax deserves to be looked at carefully and very soon, Thompson makes no secret of his wariness. "First off, it's an income tax in disguise. And I think it's one of those variables which could put the county at a competitive disadvantage in attracting new residents and new industry." It also could prompt various businesses to relocate in nearly out-of-state suburban areas or at least to diversify their operations geographically, Thompson said.

But, one way or another, the issue would seem to be about to hit the front burner sometime very soon.

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