Friday, July 30, 2004

Show Starters

Cautiously optimistic, the Democrats convene to get their act together.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2004 at 4:00 AM

BOSTON -- So there is justice in the world, after all. Or something that Democrats, local as well as national, would be inclined to use that word for, anyhow. Consider:

n Al Gore, the former vice president who many people (including virtually all card-carrying Democrats) think actually won the 2000 presidential election, got an ovation befitting an incumbent Monday evening as he served as the first prime-time speaker of this year's Democratic National Convention.

n John Tanner, the 8th District Democratic congressman from Union County, got his own standing ovation Tuesday for being -- as Shelby County party chairman Kathryn Bowers put it at a luncheon of the Tennessee delegation -- "the only congressman that would talk to Michael Moore." (Tanner was one of the congressmen ambush-interviewed by filmmaker Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11.)

n A young Memphian named Michael Negron got to address the convention as the winner of a national youth essay contest sponsored by the DNC.

n Add one more: Massachusetts senator John Kerry, who is set up to become the party's formal nominee later in the week, was given enough distance by the schedule-makers to avoid unfavorable comparisons with the first night's show-stopper, former President Bill Clinton.

All in all, Kerry -- who, according to some polls, had actually been losing ground of late to the Republicans' main man, President Bush -- remained the big question mark for a Democratic Party that convened in Boston with a palpable optimism, a heady sort that was scarcely affected by the city's unprecedented security precautions.

Even getting to and from the Fleet Center, the right fancy (if somewhat small) arena where the convention is being held, is no piece of cake for the horde of delegates, alternates, journalists, and rubberneckers who have converged on Boston. Anyone entering the arena must pass through multiple checkpoints and deal with an abundance of pocket searches and scanning moments.

Although some civil libertarians were scandalized by the degree of close supervision by local, state, and federal authorities (there were uniformed personnel from every imaginable jurisdiction on every street corner, it seemed), there has been an obvious and even eerie appropriateness to some of it.

The first checkpoint for all entrants into the Fleet arena on Monday took them by a fenced-in pen where the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, a self-proclaimed prophet and gay-basher, held forth with his flock brandishing such signs as "God Hates Fags," spewing venom at Kerry and running mate John Edwards, and singing "America" with such amended lyrics as "God show his wrath on thee."

Hurling imprecations of various kinds nonstop from his de facto cage, Phelps also made it clear that the tragedy of 9/11 -- the terrorist horror that was the proximate cause of the in-depth security -- was just what "this evil nation" had coming to it.

Serious precautions were also observable at the preliminary event that many of the visitors regarded as on a scale with the convention itself: namely, the weekend Red Sox-Yankees series at Fenway Park, won by the Sox two out of three over their traditional rivals from New York, where the adversary GOP will conduct its nominating rites next month.

As if to prefigure the political combats to come, all three games -- watched by a who's who of Democratic office-holders -- were closely contested slugfests that weren't decided until the last out. The second of them, an 11-10 game won by Boston with a walk-off home run, featured a bench-clearing brawl.

Hard as tickets were to come by for these spectacles, Memphis state senator Steve Cohen (a Yankee fan, it should be said) was handed a freebie outside Fenway for Sunday's finale. The reason? Cohen's Kerry-Edwards pin, which happened to match the politics of a kindly scalper.

Another attendee at that game was businessman Pace Cooper, who, with fellow Memphian Jason Yarbro in tow, was not so lucky but was willing to fork over the premium rates demanded by most scalpers. "After all, we're here, and this is going on, so why not?" was Cooper's thinking.

If the show inside the Fleet Center turns out to be as good as the games were, Cooper, Cohen, and the several thousand other Democrats gathered here will get good value for their money, time, and inconvenience. Clinton's Monday-night stem-winder which contained the memorable line, "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values," was good theater and not bad as exhortation either.

Advance word had been that Monday night's heavyweight Democratic speakers -- Gore, former President Jimmy Carter, and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, as well as her husband -- had been advised to go light on the Bush-bashing, but criticism from all of them, especially concerning the president's conduct of the war in Iraq, was reasonably stout.

Carter's was perhaps the most stinging, all the more so for being uttered in the characteristically soft-spoken drawl of the former president, now almost 80. Said Carter, "The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of 'preemptive' war. With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism."

Arguably, the most poignant moment Monday night came when Gore asked rhetorically if those "third-party" (read Nader) voters who may have deserted Democratic ranks in 2000 still thought there had been "no difference" between the candidates and parties four years ago, when the election was so close between himself and Bush as to necessitate a month's worth of chad-counting in the disputed state of Florida.

"Take it from me," Gore said with evident irony, "every vote counts and let's make sure that this time every vote is counted."

Presumably that will be the case, and the course of events in Boston this week will have a decided impact on which way that count will go.

Meanwhile, the world goes on in its appointed orbit. U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis -- 2000's convention keynoter and a scheduled convention speaker for later in the week -- had a well-attended party for delegates, while the congressman's father, former U.S. representative Harold Ford Sr., was on hand also, along with son Jake, who was involved in a well-publicized wrestling episode two weeks ago in Memphis but smiled civilly and even beatifically Monday night, even during the most stirring rhetorical passages.

Jimmy Naifeh of Covington, speaker of the Tennessee House, meanwhile was keeping things in perspective. "It's raining in Memphis," Naifeh said happily Tuesday morning on the elevator at the Cambridge hotel where the Tennessee delegation is staying. That was good news for his plants, the speaker, a resident of Tipton County, noted with satisfaction.

The remainder of the week will determine whether John Kerry can be a rainmaker and scare up a storm for George W. Bush et al. to worry about. We'll be there and will let you know in detail next week how it came out. n

(For more Democratic convention coverage, see our convention blog at MemphisFlyer.com.)

Front Burner

Next up: the August 5th countywide general election and legislative primary.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Even as the 2004 election season is picking up heat nationally, with the beginning of the Democratic convention in Boston, events locally are gathering momentum too. Next Thursday, August 5th, will see the next major round of voting in Shelby County, with three contests on the general countywide ballot and three contested primary races for legislative positions.

For at least a decade and a half, political observers have predicted a demographic sea change in county voting, with demographic changes -- mainly middle-class out-migration into adjoining counties -- allowing Democrats to overtake Republicans. For whatever reason, it hasn't happened yet.

General Sessions Court Clerk

This is one of two return bouts on the August 5th ballot. The Democratic nominee, challenger Roscoe Dixon, took on Republican incumbent Chris Turner four years ago and fell short -- at least partly because he declined to say forthrightly what he would do, if elected, concerning his seat in the Tennessee state Senate. At a crucial forum held at the Jewish Community Center in 2000, Dixon waffled on that issue but was reasonably forthright in his praise of Senate colleague John Ford. Dixon was chief assistant for Ford during Ford's one-term clerkship from 1993 to 1997, when Ford concurrently served in the Senate.

In the judgment of most campaign observers, neither position did Dixon much good. This year he has been forthright in stating that he would surrender his Senate seat if elected, and he hasn't said doodley-squat about Ford, pro or con.

What Dixon has done is go on the attack against Turner, whose practice of maintaining surveillance of employees the senator likens to a "P.O.W. atmosphere." The incumbent shrugs this charge off, conceding without much reluctance that overhead cameras are placed in a number of locations in his office quarters -- especially, he notes, "where money is handled."

That's about it as far as campaign controversy goes -- with Turner otherwise boasting various economies and technical modernizations in the office and Dixon advocating the implementation of a night-court arrangement like that of Nashville and other state jurisdictions.

Shelby County Assessor

This race too is a rematch. Incumbent Democrat Rita Clark upset then Republican incumbent Harold Sterling in 1996. After an eight-year layoff in which he returned to his prior trade of real estate sales, Sterling thinks he can return the favor against Clark, who in 2000 won a three-cornered race to become the first two-term assessor in decades.

The job is a hot seat for the obvious reason that homeowners are likely to take umbrage as their property values are assessed upward in the successive re-evaluations required by the state. Clark, an admitted novice eight years ago, attacked Sterling then for having on the payroll what she described as a personal trainer. She also took note of a discrimination suit filed against Sterling at the time. Both charges have been reprised in this year's race -- although Sterling has attempted to turn around the former one on the basis that the trainer was the administrator of a general health program for employees that reduced absenteeism and saved the county money.

Sterling has been the primary attacker this time around, chiefly on what he regards as the incumbent's spendthrift attitude. Clark has denied any such tendencies and challenged some of Sterling's radio ads -- one of which refers to a California junket she says she never took.

Though Sterling is making a stout race of it, he is handicapped by the fact that Clark's gender and support in the black community are dependable add-ons to her party-base support.

Chancery Court Judge

By their nature, judgeships are relatively free from controversy, and the state judicial canon of ethics basically precludes any adversary tactics. Even so, the candidates in this formally nonpartisan race -- incumbent Arnold Goldin, who is being boosted by the local Republican organization and has Democratic supporters as well, and challenger Karen Tyler, who has a Democratic base in the African-American community -- have managed to communicate their presumed political positions indirectly.

Goldin, a gubernatorial appointee two years ago to fill the term of the late Chancellor Floyd Peete, has TV ads boosting him as a reassuring presence for voters concerned about values, education, and public safety. For her part, Tyler has made outright appeals that voters consider diversity in the judiciary.

Legislative Races

There are interesting showdown races between Republicans and Democrats coming up in the November general election, but the main action in next Thursday's statewide primary has to do with the open seat in state House District 83 (southeast Memphis, Germantown), left vacant this year by longtime incumbent Joe Kent, a moderate Republican. Most of the action is in the Republican primary; Democrat Julian Prewitt is running uncontested.

Kent's 2002 primary opponent, Chuck Bates, a conservative financial planner, got off to a head start, but he has been seriously challenged by lawyer Brian Kelsey and businessman/teacher Mark White, both of whom have serious followings and good financial backing. Teacher Stan Peppenhorst has run a credible race, and Charles McDonald, another lawyer, has had a bully pulpit for his belief that government isn't serving its public, while retiree Pat Collins has concentrated on health-care and other issues of presumed urgency to seniors. If no candidate has a majority on August 5th, there will be a runoff.

Two other legislative primary races: Incumbent Democrat Larry Turner faces opposition from Errol Harmon, a newcomer, and Paul Lewis, a previous challenger, in House District 95 (South Memphis); and incumbent Republican Curry Todd has a challenge from newcomer Dan Dickerson in House District 95 (outer Shelby).

Friday, July 23, 2004

Dinner Theater<

A successful Democratic bash will be followed by one from the GOP this weekend.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County Democrats managed a hearty turnout at last Saturday's annual Kennedy Dinner at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn. Principal speaker was former Georgia senator Max Cleland, who roused the crowd of some 300 with lines like this one, comparing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's service in Vietnam with President Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq: "John Kerry knows how to save lives in war; George Bush knows how to lose them."

Other speakers included actor David Keith, considered a likely candidate for statewide office at some point; state representative Kathryn Bowers, the local party chairman; state chairman Randy Button; and U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. (toasted by various other speakers as a future president of the United States). Present were Tennessee Lt. Governor John Wilder and several state constitutional officers.

Recipient of the first William "Bill" Farris Award for meritorious political service was state senator Steve Cohen. Longtime activist John Freeman received the annual Chairman's Award for service to the party.

· It is the Republicans' time to muster ranks this week. On Saturday night, the East Shelby County Republican Club will hold its annual Master Meal at Appling Manor in Cordova. Featured will be impressionist Paul Shanklin, whose recorded takeoffs on politicians (mainly Democrats) have been a staple of Rush Limbaugh's syndicated radio talk show. Tickets, at $40 a head, cover dinner, reception, and a silent auction.

· Syndicated columnist Robert Novak reports disquiet among Senate Republicans concerning the leadership of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. A grain of salt: Novak was one of the diehard defenders of former GOP leader Trent Lott, whom Frist helped shove aside after Lott's careless remarks in late 2002 seeming to praise the segregationist past of former (and now deceased) Senator Strom Thurmond.

· Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford is regarded as a likely candidate to succeed his nephew in the 9th District seat if Representative Ford makes a U.S. Senate run in 2006. Other names that have received some play are those of Calvin Anderson, a state election commissioner and lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and state representative Lois DeBerry of Memphis, longtime speaker pro tem in the state House of Representatives.

· Though it could end up having only token importance, a write-in challenge to District 92 state representative Henri Brooks is emerging in the person of former state representative D. Jack Smith.

Smith, who served in the legislature as a Democrat in the 1960s, is hoping to get enough votes from Republicans on August 5th (five percent of the total primary vote) to become the official GOP opponent in November for Democrat Brooks. He is being assisted by former legislator and county commissioner Ed Williams, who owns the largely honorific title of county historian. ·

Next week: a preview of the August 5th election ballot. Also next week on the Flyer Web site (MemphisFlyer.com), a running blog from the Democratic convention in Boston.

JACKSON BAKER

What Ford Really Said

U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. has objected to this sentence from last week's report on his June 10th appearance before the Germantown Democratic Club as inaccurate: "Moreover, Bush had 'done nothing' since to ensure that the country would be able to withstand another crisis like that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

Upon reviewing the tape I made of those remarks, I must concur. Here, in a portion of his remarks reviewing the current state of the nation's security under President Bush, is what he actually said (including one of the longest and most complicated sentences this side of Henry James):

"It was this president who in many ways moved forward and, we've learned now, acted on faulty intelligence that has done, I dare say and should say, in all honesty and credibility I can muster, has done nothing to ensure that the next time we are faced with these kinds of threats that we are faced with today, in North Korea and Iran, we're faced with today as we try to prevent countries in Africa from becoming havens and training grounds for al-Qaeda and all its subsidiaries, we're faced with today as we try to convince our friends around the world, even those who don't like us and didn't like us before, to join us in an effort to fight back those who would disrupt and cause violence and pose violence in our country."

Got it? That was followed by this simple and straightforward line: "As strong and powerful as we are, we are despised around the world."

Ford, who has recanted his October 2002 vote for a War Powers resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, said Saturday night at the Democrats' Kennedy Dinner in Memphis that "I was one who was snookered." -- J.B.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Politics

A successful Democratic bash will be followed by one from the GOP this week.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 20, 2004 at 4:00 AM

DINNER THEATER Shelby County Democrats managed a hearty turnout at last Saturday’s annual Kennedy Dinner at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn. Principal speaker was former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who roused the crowd of some 300 with lines like this one, comparing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s service in Vietnam with President Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq: “John Kerry knows how to save lives in war; George Bush knows how to lose them.” Other speakers included actor David Keith, considered a likely candidate for statewide office at some point; State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, the local party chairman; state chairman Randy Button, and U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.. (toasted by various other speakers as a future president of the United States). Present were Tennessee Lt. Gov. John Wilder and several state constitutional officers. Recipient of the first William ‘Bill’ Farris Award for meritorious political service was state Senator Steve Cohen; longtime activist John Freeman received the annual Chairman’s Award for service to the party. It is the Republicans’ time to muster ranks this week. On Saturday night, the East Shelby County Republican Club will hold its annual Master Meal at Appling Manor in Cordova. Featured will be impressionist Paul Shanklin, whose recorded take-offs on politicians (mainly Democrats) have been a staple of Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated radio talk show. Tickets, at $40 a head, cover dinner, reception, and a silent auction. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak reports disquiet among Senate Republicans concerning the leadership of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. A grain of salt: Novak was one of the diehard defenders of former GOP leader Trent Lott, whom Frist helped shove aside after Lott’s careless remarks in late 2002 seeming to praise the segregationist past of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, then enjoying a 100th birthday celebration and now deceased. Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford is regarded as a likely candidate to succeed his nephew in the 9th District seat if Rep. ford makes a U.S. Senate run in 2006.. Other names that have received some play are those of Calvin Anderson, a state Election Commissioner and lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield; and state Rep. Lois DeBerry of Memphis, longtime speaker pro tem in the state House of Representatives. Though it could end up having only token importance, a write-in challenge to District 92 state representative Henri Brooks is emerging in the person of former state representative D. Jack Smith. Smith, who served in the legislature as a Democrat in the ‘60s, is hoping to get enough votes from Republicans on August 5th (five percent of the total primary vote) to become the official GOP opponent in November for Democrat Brooks. He is being assisted by former legislator and county commissioner Ed Williams, who owns the largely honorific title of county historian. What Ford Really Said U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. has objected that this sentence from last week’s report on his June 10th appearance before the Germantown Democratic Club is inaccurate: “Moreover, Bush had 'done nothing’ since to ensure that the country would be able to withstand another crisis like that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.” Upon reviewing the tape I made of those remarks, I must concur. Here, in a portion of his remarks reviewing the current state of the nation’s security under President Bush, is what he actually said (including one of the longest and most complicated sentences this side of Henry James): “It was this president who in many ways moved forward and, we’ve learned now, acted on faulty intelligence that has done, I dare say and should say, in all honesty and credibility I can muster, has done nothing to ensure that the next time we are faced with these kinds of threats that we are faced with today, in North Korea and Iran, we’re faced with today as we try to prevent countries in Africa from becoming havens and training grounds for Al Quaida and all its subsidiaries, we’re faced with today as we try to convince our friends around the world, even those who don’t like us and didn’t like us before, to join us in an effort to fight back those who would disrupt and cause violence and pose violence in our country.” Got it? That was followed by this simple and straightforward line: “As strong and powerful as we are, we are despised around the world.” Rep. Ford, who has recanted his October 2002 vote for a War Powers resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, said Saturday night at the Democrats’ Kennedy Dinner in Memphis that “I was one who was snookered.”

Friday, July 16, 2004

High Jinks, Low Jinks

Serious purpose coexisted with some tongue-in-cheek matters in politics this week.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 16, 2004 at 4:00 AM

U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. made a surprise return appearance on Saturday to a venue -- a meeting of the Germantown Democrats at the Germantown Public Library -- where he drew some barbs on a previous visit, and, to judge by a sampling of reaction, recouped a bit of the good will he may have lost at that earlier meeting.

Back in March, when Ford was the regularly scheduled speaker, he had come in for severe questioning of some of his positions which a few vocal members regarded as too easy-going on the person and on policies of President Bush, especially where the Iraq war was concerned.

On Saturday, state senator Roscoe Dixon, a candidate for the office of General Sessions clerk, was the main speaker, but Ford was on hand and ended up delivering extensive remarks of his own.

The congressman was at pains to assuage some of the prior criticism he'd gotten from club members. He began by noting the abundant disclosures of the last several weeks (notably, a finding of the 9/11 Commission) that no WMD of any consequence existed in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion last year, and, further, that there was no reliable evidence of a connection between deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the terrorist activities of al-Qaeda.

Had all of this been known in October 2002, when members of Congress were asked to endorse a War Powers Resolution authorizing Bush to take military action in Iraq, "he would not have had my vote," Ford said.

Moreover, Bush had "done nothing" since to ensure that the country would be able to withstand another crisis like that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"As strong and powerful as we are, we are despised around the world," Ford added, concerning the results of the president's "go-it-alone" war policy.

Looking ahead to this fall's presidential election, the congressman opined, "Some people question whether Tennessee will be a battleground. I think we will." He told the club members he had reported as much to the Democrats' newly designated vice presidential candidate, North Carolina senator John Edwards, in a conversation last week.

That brought Ford, a national co-chair for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts senator John Kerry, the Democrats' nominee-designate, around to the cosmetics of the campaign: "[Former President] Bill Clinton had the look. John Edwards has the look ... [pause] ... John Kerry's working on the look." Everybody laughed, even local Kerry campaign coordinator Kerry Fulmer, the presidential candidate's cousin.

n One of the reasons given by Representative Ford Saturday for having avoided direct criticism of President Bush on his previous appearance before the Germantown Democrats was that, as he pointed out, he had had the sometimes painful experience of growing up in an extended political family that had attracted frequent attention, often on personal grounds.

There's certainly no disputing that the larger Ford clan -- including the current congressman's father, former U.S. representative Harold Ford Sr., and state senator John Ford, as well as assorted aunts, uncles, siblings, and nephews -- have drawn more than their share of attention over the years -- some fair, some unfair, some inadvertent, some all too advertent.

A specimen of the latter occurred last Friday night during a wrestling match at the Coliseum, when the congressman's two brothers, Jake and Isaac, joined Senator Ford and another uncle, Shelby County commissioner Joe Ford, in the ring in an act of mock retribution against Jerry Lawler, a longtime local wrestling eminence and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor against Mayor Herenton, Joe Ford, and others in 1999.

At some point, after Lawler had gone through the motions of publicly taunting Commissioner Ford as having been an obstacle to his election, the aforementioned Fords entered the ring -- ostensibly to intercede in a "beating" being administered by Lawler and a tag-team partner against another wrestler.

Although the performance by the office-holding Fords was largely pro forma, that by the younger Fords -- Jake Ford, especially, who went after Lawler with a belt -- was in greater earnest.

Prominence given the event by local wrestling promoters, as well as tongue-in-cheek statements about it by Commissioner Ford ("I was asked to come there, and it was all in fun," he told WMC-TV, Action News 5), made the prearranged nature of the "brawl" clear.

Reportedly, the event was staged as a trial run for a possible wrestling career by Jake Ford, who would neither confirm nor deny but wanted to know who said so. Answer: various sources, close to the family and/or the promoters.

n Former Georgia senator Max Cleland is the scheduled keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner of the Shelby County Democrats at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn this Friday night. Other guests and honorees will include Tennessee lieutenant governor John Wilder and state House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, as well as the state's Democratic constitutional officers, said state representative Kathryn Bowers, the local party chairman.

Reception is at 5:30 p.m., with dinner to follow at 7 p.m. Ticket price for the fund-raising affair is $125 a head.

Cleland figured in a recent party rally that had its bizarre side. Back in May, lawyer T. Robert Hill of Jackson held a Kerry-for-President rally at which Shelby County mayor A C Wharton was the billed speaker. Wharton was otherwise pledged to be at a Shelby County forum on development that night, however, and Hill made an impromptu substitution at the rally.

He called up Cleland in Georgia and, without putting the former senator on speakerphone or hooking him into his hand-held microphone, asked various questions and relayed the boilerplate "answers" to the rally attendees.

That was a first for most of those present, and it prompted some wags present to imagine and act out privately similar exchanges with various eminences, living and dead.

You had to be there.

n Word is that former Memphis city attorney Robert Spence is getting considerable support from some highly placed movers and shakers to run for the city school board this fall against District 1 at-large incumbent Wanda Halbert.

Spence is regarded in some establishment quarters as a long-distance prospect for higher offices -- like mayor, should incumbent Willie Herenton decide against another race, or Congress, in the event that Rep. Ford vacates his seat, as expected, to make a U.S. Senate race in 2006.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

POLITICS

Serious purpose co-existed with some tongue-in-cheek matters in politics this week.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2004 at 4:00 AM

HI-JINKS, LO-JINKS U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. made a surprise return appearance on Saturday to the same venue -- a meeting of the Germantown Democrats at the Germantown Public Library -- where he drew some barbs on a previous visit, and, to judge by a sampling of reaction, recouped a bit of the good will he may have lost at that earlier meeting.. Back in March, when Ford was the regularly scheduled speaker, he had come in for severe questioning of some of his positions which a few vocal members regarded as too easy-going on the person and policies of President Bush, especially where the Iraq war was concerned. On Saturday, state Senator Roscoe Dixon, a candidate this year for the office of General Sessions clerk, was the main speaker, but Ford was on hand and ended up delivering extensive remarks of his own. The congressman was at pains to assuage some of the prior criticism he’d gotten from club members.. He began by noting the abundant disclosures of the last several weeks (notably, a finding of the 9/11 Commission) that no WMDs of any consequence existed in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion last year, and, further, that there was no reliable evidence of a connection between deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the terrorist activities of Al Quaida. Had all of this been known in October 2002, when members of Congress were asked to endorse a War Powers Resolution authorizing Bush to take military action in Iraq, “he would not have had my vote,” Ford said. Moreover, Bush had “done nothing”since to ensure that the country would be able to withstand another crisis like that of the 9/111 terrorist attacks. “As strong and powerful as we are, we are despised around the world.,” Ford added, concerning the results of the president’s “go-it-alone” war policy. Looking ahead to this fall’s presidential election, the congressman opined, “Some people question whether Tennessee will be a battleground. I think we wil.” He told the club members he had reported as much to the Democrats’ newly designated vice presidential candidate, North Carolina senator John Edwards, in a conversation last week. That brought Ford, a national co-chair for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the Democrats’ nominee-designate, around to the cosmetics of the campaign. “[Former president] Bill Clinton had the look. John Edwards has the look...[pause]...John Kerry’s working on the look.” Everybody laughed, even local Kerry campaign coordinator Kerry Fulmer, the presidential candidate’s cousin. One of the reasons given by Rep. Ford Saturday for having avoided direct criticism of President Bush on his previous appearance before the Germantown Democrats was that, as he pointed out, he had had the sometimes painful experience of growing up in an extended political family that had attracted frequent attention, often on personal grounds. There’s certainly no disputing that the larger Ford clan -- including the current congressman’s father, former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr., and state Senator John Ford, as well as assorted aunts, uncles, siblings, and nephews -- have drawn more than their share of attention over the years -- some fair, some unfair, some inadvertent, some all too advertent. A specimen of the latter occurred last Friday night during a wrestling match at the Coliseum, when the congressman’s two brothers, Jake and Isaac, joined Sen. Ford and another uncle, Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford, in the ring in an act of mock retribution against Jerry Lawler, a longtime local wrestling eminence and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor against Mayor Herenton, Joe Ford, and others in 1999. At some point, after Lawler had gone through the motions of publicly taunting Commissioner Ford as having been an obstacle to his election, the aforementioned Fords entered the ring -- ostensibly to intercede in a “beating” being administered by Lawler and a tagteam partner against another wrestler. Although the performance by the office-holding Fords was largely pro forma, that by the younger Fords -- Jake Ford, especially, who went after Lawler with a belt -- was n greater earnest. Prominence given the event by local wrestling promoters, as well as tongue-in-cheek statements about it by Commissioner Ford (“I was asked to come there, and it was all in fun,” he told WMC-TV, Action News 5), made the prearranged nature of the “brawl” clear. Reportedly the event was staged as a trial run for a possible wrestling career by Jake Ford, who would neither confirm nor deny but wanted to know who said so. Answer: various sources, close to the family and/or the promoters. Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland is the scheduled keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner of the Shelby County Democrats at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn this Friday night. Other guests and honorees will include Tennessee Lt. Governor John Wilder and state House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, as well as the state’s Democratic constitutional officers, said state Rep. Kathryn Bowers, the local party chairman. Reception is at 5:30 p.m., with dinner to follow at 7 pm. Ticket price for the fundraising affair is $125 a head. Cleland figured in a recent party rally that had its bizarre side. Back in May, lawyer T. Robert Hill of Jackson held a Kerry-for-President rally at which Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton was the billed speaker. Wharton was otherwise pledged to be at a Shelby County forum on development that night, however, and Hill made an impromptu substitution at the rally. He called up Cleland in Georgia and, without putting the former senator on speaker-phone or hooking him into his hand-held microphone, asked various questions and relayed the boilerplate “answers” to the rally attendees. That was a first for most of those present, and it prompted some wags present to imagine and act out privately similar exchanges with various eminences, living and dead. You had to be there. Word is that former Memphis city attorney Robert Spence is getting considerable support from some highly placed movers and shakers to run for the city school board this fall against District 1 at-large incumbent Wanda Halbert. Spence is regarded in some establishment quarters as a long-distance prospect for higher offices -- like mayor, should incumbent Willie Herenton decide against another race, or Congress, in the event that Rep. Ford vacates his seat, as expected, to make a U.S. Senate race in 2006. Commissioner Joe Ford is regarded as a likely candidate to succeed his nephew in the 9th District seat. Other names that have received some play are those of Calvin Anderson, a state Election Commissioner and lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield; and state Rep. Lois DeBerry of Memphis, longtime speaker pro tem in the state House of Representatives.

Friday, July 9, 2004

Hands On

A memo clarifies the roles of Herenton, Lee, and Morris in the TVA prepayment.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 9, 2004 at 4:00 AM

With Mayor Willie Herenton under apparent investigation by the FBI, with a new director of Memphis Light, Gas & Water in place, and with the city hoping to turn a corner in its relationship with MLGW and the Tennessee Valley Authority, a memo has surfaced shedding light on all the above subjects.

The memo, dated last October 3rd and made available to the Flyer from a City Council member, is from former MLGW president Herman Morris to MLGW senior vice president John McCullough, the utility's chief financial officer. It clearly outlines the mayor's hands-on approach to the terms of the city's massive prepayment arrangement last year with TVA, including Herenton's insistence on which brokering agencies should handle the deal and what percentage of the action should be due each.

Further, it shows the extent to which Joseph Lee, the former city finance director who was sworn in last week as the new MLGW head, was the mayor's factotum in carrying out his wishes. And it clearly demonstrates the significant pressure placed on various parties, including Morris and the representatives of some of the big-name brokers involved in the deal, one of whom threatened to sue as a result.

Most of this was known or suspected earlier, but Morris' memo is the most explicit revelation to date of some of these aspects.

Morris begins the memo by writing, "I said that I would try to bring the matters to a conclusion by the week's end. I don't know that any of my efforts had any impact, but here is the deal." Emphasizing Herenton's "concern that there be significant local and minority participation," the then MLGW chief (later forced out by the mayor in the aftermath of the prepayment deal) notes, "The underwriters were concerned that they not be reduced in participation levels as other participants were added to the deal."

Indeed, one of these underwriters, the major Wall Street firm of J.P. Morgan, was "concerned" to the point of threatening legal action. As Morris wrote, a Morgan representative pointedly told him of the brokerage's "willingness to agree to the Mayor's original position" (i.e., prior to the add-on brokers suggested by Herenton). "I was also gratuitously told of their willingness to sue, contact the governor and senators and pull out all the stops over their perceptions of mistreatment if that did not work." (In the memo Morris characterized the Morgan firm's reaction as possible "saber rattling.")

This was the consequence of a series of communications from Herenton, beginning with a letter of August 18th and continuing through various meetings with Morris and others, in which the mayor insisted on adding specific local and area brokers and legal advisers to the prepayment deal already set in motion by Morris, a former MLGW legal counsel.

Added to the deal, with their percentages and other terms spelled out by the mayor in a memo, were such participants as First Tennessee Bank of Memphis and members of a Little Rock law firm which, critics of the mayor have noted, played host to a fund-raiser for him just after July's windstorm.

To accommodate the changes, Herenton had suggested reducing the percentage allotted to the Morgan firm and eliminating altogether another New York firm, Lehman Brothers. When both firms protested, the mayor reacted, said Morris in his memo. "He apparently saw one of them as arrogant and unresponsive to his concerns for local and minority participation he had 'suggested.' The other he saw as more responsive and willing to be sensitive to his concerns and 'suggestions.' He advised that he wanted to consider changing lead underwriters, dropping J.P. Morgan and substituting Goldman Sachs. Goldman was making a major push to take over the lead underwriter position ... by going directly to the Mayor."

Morris' use of quote marks around "suggested" and "suggestions" were possible indications of the intensity with which Herenton insisted on the changes he desired.

Apparently there was a subsequent conversation between the mayor and the Morgan firm, resulting in both parties reaching an agreement. As Morris puts it: "I spoke with the Mayor this morning and got quite a different reaction to J.P. Morgans' participation. He was more supportive of J.P. Morgan in light of their proposal of a new allocation more consistent with his first suggestions. He suggested that including Goldman Sachs at this late date might not be a good idea and should not be added to the deal. He suggested that I get with Joseph Lee, city CFO, and work out the details of the deal. We did that this afternoon."

Ultimately, the deal did indeed get done, with Lee supervising final arrangements under what would appear to be Mayor Herenton's direct oversight. In an interview with the Flyer earlier this year, Herenton acknowledged having taken command of the bond negotiations for the prepay deal.

In the last paragraph of his memo to McCullough, which summarized the situation, Morris said, "I am leaving after a very long day and going home. I am tired and have a headache."

Not long thereafter he would also have the title of ex-MLGW president.

n The picture for the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Tennessee continues to clarify -- at least on the Republican side. The announcement last week by Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker that he will not seek reelection as his city's chief executive frees him up for an expected Senate race. (That probably lets out U.S. Representative Zach Wamp, Corker's GOP-mate and fellow Chattanoogan.)

A surprise announcement of availability came from Nashville state Representative Beth Harwell, who is state Republican chairman. If she makes the race, the auguries are not the best. The last major-party state chair to hope for such a springboard was former Democratic chair Houston Gordon of Covington, who lost badly in 1996 to then Republican Senate incumbent Fred Thompson.

The other major Republican candidate meditating on a race is former congressman and newly elected GOP national committeeman Van Hilleary, now of Nashville.

Democrats considered likely candidates are Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. and Nashville mayor Bill Purcell.

All these calculations will be brushed aside if incumbent Republican Bill Frist, the current Senate majority leader, chooses to run for reelection rather than opting out, as expected, to focus on a presidential race in 2008.

n Although summer is full upon us, fur is flying already in some of the countywide races on the August 5th general election ballot. In a three-for-all (which threatened to become a free-for-all) forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the main Memphis Public Library, candidates for assessor, General Sessions clerk, and Chancery Court judge duked it out.

Technically, those adjectives don't apply to the latter contest, between incumbent Chancellor Arnold Goldin, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year, and challenger Karen Tyler. Theirs is both a bipartisan and a judicial race, with built-in canon-of-ethics constraints on the rhetoric that can be employed.

Even so, Goldin was able to emphasize his experience and the fact that he was nominated by a nonpartisan lawyers' panel on merit before his appointment. And Tyler, an African-American female, made an issue of "diversity" on the bench and stressed the importance of popular elections in achieving such ends.

But that was nothing compared to the gloves-off rhetoric in the two other contests. Challenger Harold Sterling, a Republican and former assessor, wasted no time in accusing incumbent assessor Rita Clark, a Democrat, of "inexcusable" delays in putting a new aerial-photography property-mapping system online and of excessive expenditures on "social amenities" and travel.

Clark responded with a defense of her record and with two charges of her own -- that a successful diversity suit against Sterling's administration had cost taxpayers a tidy sum, and that he had improperly employed out-of-county residents and wasted public money on a "personal trainer." These were recaps of charges made in her successful campaign against then-incumbent Sterling in 1996.

Surprisingly, even the race for General Sessions clerk, which in theory ought to be a placid one, got heated when challenger Roscoe Dixon, a Democratic state senator, accused incumbent Republican Chris Turner, who defeated Dixon four years ago, of creating a "prisoner-of-war" mentality among his employees. This turned out to be a reference to surveillance cameras in the office, and, though Turner took no note of the charge during his formal appearance, he later seemed content to have the procedure known. "They're up everywhere money is handled," he said.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

POLITICS

A memo clarifies the roles of Herenton, Lee, and Morris in the TVA prepayment.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 7, 2004 at 4:00 AM

HANDS ON With Mayor Willie Herenton under apparent investigation by the FBI, with a new director of Memphis Light, Gas & Water in place, and with the city hoping to turn a corner in its relationship with MLGW and the Tennessee Valley Authority, a memo {SEE BELOW AT END OF COLUMN}has surfaced shedding light on all the above subjects. The memo, dated last October 3rd and made available to the Flyer from a City Council member, is from former MLGW president Herman Morris to MLGW senior vice president John McCullough, the utility's chief financial officer. It clearly outlines the mayor's hands-on approach to the terms of the city's massive prepayment arrangement last year with TVA, including Herenton's insistence on which brokering agencies should handle the deal and what percentage of the action should be due each. Further, it shows the extent to which Joseph Lee, the former city finance director who was sworn in last week as the new MLGW head, was the mayor's factotum in carrying out his wishes. And it clearly demonstrates the significant pressure placed on various parties, including Morris and the representatives of some of the big-name brokers involved in the deal, one of whom threatened to sue as a result. Most of this was known or suspected earlier, but Morris' memo is the most explicit revelation to date of some of these aspects. Morris begins the memo by writing, "I said that I would try to bring the matters to a conclusion by the week's end. I don't know that any of my efforts had any impact, but here is the deal." Emphasizing Herenton's "concern that there be significant local and minority participation," the then MLGW chief (later forced out by the mayor in the aftermath of the prepayment deal) notes, "The underwriters were concerned that they not be reduced in participation levels as other participants were added to the deal." Indeed, one of these underwriters, the major Wall Street firm of J.P. Morgan, was "concerned" to the point of threatening legal action. As Morris wrote, a Morgan representative pointedly told him of the brokerage's "willingness to agree to the Mayor's original position" (i.e., prior to the add-on brokers suggested by Herenton). "I was also gratuitously told of their willingness to sue, contact the governor and senators and pull out all the stops over their perceptions of mistreatment if that did not work." (In the memo Morris characterized the Morgan firm's reaction as possible "saber rattling.") This was the consequence of a series of communications from Herenton, beginning with a letter of August 18th and continuing through various meetings with Morris and others, in which the mayor insisted on adding specific local and area brokers and legal advisers to the prepayment deal already set in motion by Morris, a former MLGW legal counsel. Added to the deal, with their percentages and other terms spelled out by the mayor in a memo, were such participants as First Tennessee Bank of Memphis and members of a Little Rock law firm which, critics of the mayor have noted, played host to a fund-raiser for him just after July's windstorm. To accommodate the changes, Herenton had suggested reducing the percentage allotted to the Morgan firm and eliminating altogether another New York firm, Lehman Brothers. When both firms protested, the mayor reacted, said Morris in his memo. "He apparently saw one of them as arrogant and unresponsive to his concerns for local and minority participation he had `suggested.' The other he saw as more responsive and willing to be sensitive to his concerns and `suggestions.' He advised that he wanted to consider changing lead underwriters, dropping J.P. Morgan and substituting Goldman Sachs. Goldman was making a major push to take over the lead underwriter position ... by going directly to the Mayor." Morris' use of quote marks around "suggested" and "suggestions" were possible indications of the intensity with which Herenton insisted on the changes he desired. Apparently there was a subsequent conversation between the mayor and the Morgan firm, resulting in both parties reaching an agreement. As Morris puts it: "I spoke with the Mayor this morning and got quite a different reaction to J.P. Morgans' participation. He was more supportive of J.P. Morgan in light of their proposal of a new allocation more consistent with his first suggestions. He suggested that including Goldman Sachs at this late date might not be a good idea and should not be added to the deal. He suggested that I get with Joseph Lee, city CFO, and work out the details of the deal. We did that this afternoon." Ultimately, the deal did indeed get done, with Lee supervising final arrangements under what would appear to be Mayor Herenton's direct oversight. In an interview with the Flyer earlier this year, Herenton acknowledged having taken command of the bond negotiations for the prepay deal. In the last paragraph of his memo to McCullough, which summarized the situation, Morris said, "I am leaving after a very long day and going home. I am tired and have a headache." Not long thereafter he would also have the title of ex-MLGW president. The picture for the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Tennessee continues to clarify Ñ at least on the Republican side. The announcement last week by Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker that he will not seek reelection as his city's chief executive frees him up for an expected Senate race. (That probably lets out U.S. Representative Zach Wamp, Corker's GOP-mate and fellow Chattanoogan.) A surprise announcement of availability came from Nashville state Representative Beth Harwell, who is state Republican chairman. If she makes the race, the auguries are not the best. The last major-party state chair to nurse serious statewide ambitions was former Democratic chair Houston Gordon of Covington, who had lost badly in 1996 to then Republican Senate incumbent Fred Thompson and hoped in vain that his chairmanship (1997-99) might lead to another such opportunity. (Gordon had also been on Governor Ned Ray McWherter's finalist list for the interim U.S. Senate appointment that went to Harlan Mathews in 1993.) The other major Republican candidate meditating on a race is former congressman and newly elected GOP national committeeman Van Hilleary, now of Nashville. Democrats considered likely candidates are Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. and Nashville mayor Bill Purcell. All these calculations will be brushed aside if incumbent Republican Bill Frist, the current Senate majority leader, chooses to run for reelection rather than opting out, as expected, to focus on a presidential race in 2008. Although summer is full upon us, fur is flying already in some of the countywide races on the August 5th general election ballot. In a three-for-all (which threatened to become a free-for-all) forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the main Memphis Public Library, candidates for assessor, General Sessions clerk, and Chancery Court judge duked it out. Technically, those adjectives don't apply to the latter contest, between incumbent Chancellor Arnold Goldin, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year, and challenger Karen Tyler. Theirs is both a bipartisan and a judicial race, with built-in canon-of-ethics constraints on the rhetoric that can be employed. Even so, Goldin was able to emphasize his experience and the fact that he was nominated by a nonpartisan lawyers' panel on merit before his appointment. And Tyler, an African-American female, made an issue of "diversity" on the bench and stressed the importance of popular elections in achieving such ends. But that was nothing compared to the gloves-off rhetoric in the two other contests. Challenger Harold Sterling, a Republican and former assessor, wasted no time in accusing incumbent assessor Rita Clark, a Democrat, of "inexcusable" delays in putting a new aerial-photography property-mapping system online and of excessive expenditures on "social amenities" and travel. Clark responded with a defense of her record and with two charges of her own Ñ that a successful diversity suit against Sterling's administration had cost taxpayers a tidy sum, and that he had improperly employed out-of-county residents and wasted public money on a "personal trainer." These were recaps of charges made in her successful campaign against then-incumbent Sterling in 1996. Surprisingly, even the race for General Sessions clerk, which in theory ought to be a placid one, got heated when challenger Roscoe Dixon, a Democratic state senator, accused incumbent Republican Chris Turner, who defeated Dixon four years ago, of creating a "prisoner-of-war" mentality among his employees. This turned out to be a reference to surveillance cameras in the office, and, though Turner took no note of the charge during his formal appearance, he later seemed content to have the procedure known. "They're up everywhere money is handled," he said.
TEXT OF MORRIS/MCCULLOUGH EMAIL MEMO: From: "Herman Morris" < hmorris@mlgw.org > To: < jmccullough@mlgw.org > Date: 10/3/03 6:10PM Subject Prepaid Deal ** High Priority ** I said that I would try to bring the matters to a conclusion by the weeks end. I don't know that any of my efforts had any impact but here is the deal. As you know there has been significant concern on all sides of whether we would get all the issues and concerns resolved for all parties in order to go forward with the deal The Mayor early on expressed a concern that there be significant local and minority participation. The underwriters were concerned that they not be reduced in participation levels as other participants were added to the deal. MLGW was concerned that there be a good deal for MLGW and Memphis. TVA was concerned that there be a deal good for TVA. While the matter has had its' ups and downs and ins and outs for various participants as it has continued to move. Progress has been made thanks to reasonableness, understanding and compromises on the parts of all. We have kept the Mayor advised as the Prepay "concept" has grown from concept to possibility to a doable deal In my first conversation with the Mayor, following his August 18 letter, I was advised that he supported the Prepay Deal but wanted to insure that there was significant local and minority participation. He suggested reducing JP Morgan and dropping Lehman from the deal to make room for local participation. The Underwriters asked to speak directly to the Mayor. As a result the positions of Lehman and JP Morgan were reversed in the Mayor's thinking and suggestion. He apparently saw one of them as arrogant and unresponsive to his concerns for local and minority participation he had "suggested". The other he saw as more responsive and willing to be sensitive to his concerns and "suggestions". He advised that he wanted to consider changing lead underwriters dropping JP Morgan and substituting Goldman Sachs. Goldman was making a major push to take over the lead underwriter position and around MLGW by going directly to the Mayor. The inrtially proposed underwriters again visited by phone and letter and submitted revised proposals and-spoke with him directly. I spoke with the Mayor this morning and got quite a different reaction to JP Morgans' participation. He was more supportive of JP Morgan in light of their proposal of a new allocation more consistent with his first suggestions. He suggested that including Goldman Sachs at this late date might not be a good idea and should not be added to the deal. He suggested that I get with Joseph Lee, City CFO, and work out the details of the deal. We did that this afternoon. I subsequently spoke with Harris of JP Morgan and was advised of the willingness to agree to the Mayors original position. I was also gratuitously told of their willingness to sue, contact the governor and senators an pull out all the stops over their perceptions of mistreatment if that did not work. As a trial lawyer, fortunately, I donÕt pay much attention to such saber rattling or offend easily. Harris is clearly under the same or greater stress as we all are. He did say his superiors were extremely upset and obviously so are mine. I could see how this could be perceived as arrogant but think it was merely stress. In the interim Peter Hid, of JP Morgan, apparently spoke with the Mayor or sent a letter to Joseph Lee and agreed to a couple of minor shifts in allocation which did not impact their interest Joseph apparently has responded with a proposal that keeps JP Morgan in the deal. At any rate thanks to the most recent reasonable proposal of JP Morgan, lobbying by Morgan Keegan, negotiation skills of John McCullough, several Board members and others this matter seems to be headed back on track. Essentially the Mayor agrees and Joseph Lee proposes: JP Morga @ 35%; Morgan Keegan @ 20%; FTB @ 20; LB @ 15%; DW [Duncan Williams]@2%;HS @ 2%; NBC @ 2%;; SBK @2%;; VS @ 2 %; with the addition as "ADDITIONAL" bond counsel Richard Mays and Cheryl Patterson. (We should be careful to include all the new team in the meetings, discussions and efforts going forward.) MK lost some position in this iteration but I would suggest that all involved take it or leave rt alone. The Mayor also wants the following conditions: Group net distribution per agreed upon percentages; All firms present at the initial formal public announcement; Negotiated Management fee of less than $1.00; Provide Mayor with a fee distribution summary report @ end of transaction. Contingent on the resolution ot the final issue, I have agreed to the following schedule with Joseph Lee for the fast track pursuit to the finish of the Prepay Deal: 10/6/03 - MLGW will develop a bullet point one to two page summary of the deal to use in lobbying the CHy Council; Joseph Lee will develop a cover page for the mayors Office reflecting the good things, innovativeness and benefits of the deal; 10/7/03 - 6:30 pm - meet at Joseph Lee's office to combine the cover letter and summary document prepared by the respective parties; 10/8/03 -10:00 am - Mayor's Office- Brief the Mayor on the status of the deal. Present the briefing document for his review and comment Outline the calendar and game plan going forward; 10/9-13/03 - Brief the City Council on the prepay Deal. Use the combined briefing document (This is a difficult time immediately after an election but it is what we have to try to do.) 10/14/03 -10:00 am - at The Hall of Mayors, City Hall.- Mayor announces MLGW Prepay Deal. City CFO, MLGW CEO, MLGW CFO, JP Morgan, Morgan Keegan, Lehman, MLGW, City Council Chairman. Utility Committee Chairman, TVA Chairman and others in attendance; 10/15/03 - Submit matter to the City Council to be placed on the agenda for Council action; 10/21/03 -1:00 pm - City Council Executive Committee Meeting at Council Conference Room, - Mayor presents MLGW Prepay deal to City Council Executive Committee; 10/21/03 - 4:00 pm - at City Council Chambers, - Mayor presents the MLGW PREPAY deal to City Council for vote and approval. City CFO, MLGW CEO. MLGW CFO, JP Morgan, Morgan Keegan, Lehman, MLGW, City Council Chairman, Utility Committee Chairman, TVA Chairman and others in attendance; 10/29-30/03 -Rating Agency visits with S&P, Rich and Moodys, New York, New York. Mayor, CHy CFO, MLGW CEO. MLGW CFO, JP Morgan, Morgan Keegan, Lehman, MLGW, City Council Chairman, Utility Committee Chairman, TVA Chairman and others in attendance; John you have worked very hard and I believe the deal will close. However there is the issue of the $1.00 Management fee JP Morgan wants to charge as book running manager. The Mayor has suggested that MLGW negotiate a management fee for less than $1.00. We have been at this point before. As such the management fee must be for less than $1.00 or we risk history repeating itself. I am willing to agree to a management fee of $.75, as respectable and responsive. Joseph spoke of a range of $.25-$.50. Once this final matter is resolved we are good to go. Please review all of this and give me a call. I attempted to call you earlier but assume you were traveling. I am leaving after a very long day and going home. I am tired and have a headache. I might be out on Monday but you can call anytime. Herman

CITY BEAT

As FBI probes bond deal, Herenton says he's 'rejuvenated.'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 7, 2004 at 4:00 AM

RECONNECTED: HERENTON AND MLGW In January, in a column headlined "Get the Mayor," I suggested that the FBI would soon investigate Willie Herenton, if it wasn't doing so already. Last week, Herenton confirmed it in this letter to MLGW president Joseph Lee at Lee's swearing-in ceremony: "I feel compelled to define your new realities," he wrote. "You will amass an interesting array of new friends and supporters. Many who seek to benefit from your position and a few who genuinely wish you well. Often you will be faced with denying and considering the requests of self-serving elected officials. You have entered a political and social world that will test who you are as a man and the values and principles that will guide your actions. I trust you recognize that there are some community leaders and Memphis Light, Gas & Water employees who are not happy with your appointment. They are anxiously hoping that you will fail. Always place God first and your abilities, strength, and knowledge will follow. "It's predictable that you will become the target for an often bias [sic] media. The ugly cartoon in today's is just the beginning. Remember, Joseph, I have been a public official for 25 years and I know the challenges you will face. I am glad to know you are a man of faith, vision, and integrity. "Upon personal reflection, it is ironic that after 25 years of public service as CEO of two of the city's most important institutions, I am possibly facing an FBI investigation for simply being a man and doing the right thing. Young man, welcome to a new world. I have confidence in you and I will often keep you in my prayers." Herenton had learned the night before that the FBI had interviewed an MLGW official about MLGW's $1.5 billion bond deal with TVA and the allocation of the underwriting business to firms in New York, Memphis, and Arkansas. The FBI asked about Herenton, Lee, and Rodney Herenton, the mayor's son, who works for one of the underwriters, First Tennessee Financial. Sources identified the official as general counsel Max Williams. He and former MLGW president Herman Morris did not return calls. It has been widely reported that last August Herenton urged Morris to include more Memphis and minority-owned firms in the deal, including a Little Rock firm that made a $25,000 contribution to his reelection campaign. An October e-mail from Morris to MLGW's finance chief, John McCullough, which became public this week (see Politics), indicates that it was Lee who handled details of the deal for the mayor. Morris notes the mayor's "suggestions" and the stressful nature of the deal but concludes that "this matter seems to be headed back on track." The TVA deal was completed on schedule, but Herenton decided to replace Morris with Lee. In January, City Council members and The Commercial Appeal called for an investigation of Herenton's role in the bond deal. The FBI has not said when its investigation began or whether it will present evidence to a federal grand jury for possible criminal indictments. Herenton preempted leaks about the latest news by announcing it himself. Herenton said this week that news of the FBI probe made him recall the ordeals he underwent as the Memphis City Schools superintendent. "I learned how you navigate through political turbulence when I had no one to teach me," he said. "God gave me a little wisdom, and I got to thinking about Joseph and sat at my conference table and wrote him a letter." The mayor said he figured in January that an FBI investigation might be in the pipeline amid at least four ongoing investigations of state and county government. "Someone has decided to say this government can't be that clean, Herenton can't be that clean," he said. "They simply want to come up and nitpick on some damn campaign contributions." He promised to cooperate with the investigation and said he won't resign. "Now that I know there seem to be some forces and people that want me out, man, I'm rejuvenated," he said. "I'm looking forward to being mayor a long time. At one point I was considering retiring. There are some business opportunities looming that if I were not mayor I would like to pursue. I was leaning toward getting out of elected office, but now that I see political forces trying to put a blemish on my record, I'm a fighter." There is a recent historical precedent. In 1982, then-Mayor Wyeth Chandler resigned to become a judge a little more than a year before the end of his third term and changed the course of Memphis history. Barely a month before the November 1982 general election, the Chancery Court ruled that the mayoral election must be on the ballot. Dick Hackett won in a runoff election. The next scheduled Memphis mayoral election is more than three years away.

Monday, July 5, 2004

PARTIES OPEN UP

The Fouth of July weekend sees both local parties open their headquarters.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 5, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Among the candidates present at the Park Place Mall last week for the opening of the Shelby County Republican headquarters were six 2004 candidates: (l to r) 7th District U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn; State House Minority Leader Tre Hargett; General Sessions clerk Chris Turner; Assessor candidate Harold Sterling; Chancellor Arnold Goldin; and (by cardbroad proxy) President George W. Bush.

As the Shelby County Democrats opened their headquarters Saturday at 2400 Poplar, the party chairman, state Rep. Kathryn Bowers (right) introduced (l to r) General Sessions clerk candidate, state Senator Roscoe Dixon; state Rep. Beverly Marrero; and County Assessor Rita Clark.

Friday, July 2, 2004

BARNSTORMING

So he's published in the NYT. Beyond that there's no empirical proof David Brooks can write.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2004 at 4:00 AM

YOU'VE GOTTA HAVE FAITH? New York Times “political columnist” David Brooks began his June 22 column “A Matter of Faith” oddly, but innocently enough. Brooks: When Bill Clinton was 8, he started taking himself to church. When he was 10, he publicly committed himself to Jesus. As a boy, he begged his Sunday school teacher to take him to see Billy Graham. And as anybody watching his book rollout knows, he still exudes religiosity. He gave Dan Rather a tour of his Little Rock church, and talked about praying in good times and bad. Wow! Brooks the befuddled is expressing genuine admiration for the Clenis? There has GOT to be a catch. More than any other leading Democrat, Bill Clinton understands the role religion actually plays in modern politics. Presuming, of course, Jimmy Carter is too old and irrelevant to be a “leading Democrat.” [Clinton] knows Americans want to be able to see their leaders' faith. A recent Pew survey showed that for every American who thinks politicians should talk less about religion, there are two Americans who believe politicians should talk more. Ah-Hah! There is mischief afoot after all! Let’s watch in awesome wonder as Brooks, an able architect of intellectual dishonesty, builds his mighty cathedral made of straw. Two out of three Americans think our politicians should talk more about God-stuff do they? Well naturally it follows that Democrats Ñand specifically POTUS wannabe John KerryÑ should spend less time discussing the issues of governance and TESTIFY like it was judgment day. Christ on skates. Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not, that a politician's faith isn't just about litmus test issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God. Whoa there, Dave ol’ buddy, maybe you need to step away from the grape Kool-Aid. Politics is like showbizÑsureÑthere’s going to be some razzle dazzle to keep the idiots engaged. But where is all this cult-think coming from, dude? Oh Dave, poor Dave, have you been moonlighting over at the Moonie Times? [Clinton] understood that if Democrats are not seen as religious, they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they will lose. Yale, It’s widely known, has a special clause allowing it to secede from the Ivy League retroactively whenever conservative alums like George W. Bush come into power. History will now report that while Bush was at Yale they were part of the Big 10. A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. That's a catastrophic number. Catastrophic Foxxy Loxxy, positively eschatological! We must run and tell the King! That number should be the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on their lips when they go to sleep at night. Unless they want to pray to Jesus (or John Ashcroft, I get confused) for strength and guidance. They should be doing everything they can to change that perception, because unless more people get a sense of Kerry's faith, they will feel no bond with him and they will be loath to trust him with their voteÉ Yet his campaign does nothing. Kerry talks about jobs one week and the minimum wage the next, going about his wonky way, each day as secular as the last. Kerry would rather empower the weak than talk about how Christ said we should empower the weak. God have mercy on his wonky, secular soul. Of course Kerry has been talking quite a bit about faith lately. “The scriptures say, ‘what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Big John declared. “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?” “[John Kerry’s comment] was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack,” said Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt. Ain’t that the pot calling the crack-rock dope? But back to God’s man at the Times. Can't the Democratic strategists read the data? Religious involvement is a much, much more powerful predictor of how someone will vote than income, education, gender or any other social and demographic category save race. And, in case you haven’t heard Christians are the new, new, new NegroEs, forever doing battle with “the man” just to catch an even break. That’s why only a white Christian man who prays to in public can ever be elected President of the United States. Like the religious right in the Republican Party, the members of the secular left are interested primarily in social issues. What unites them more than anything else is a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists? According toÉ??? While 75 percent of Americans feel little or no hostility to fundamentalists, people in this group are far more hostile to them than to other traditional Democratic b?te noires, the rich or big business. Sourced to thirteen 13-year old girls perhaps??? They don't like to see their politicians meddling with religion in any way. Because of the Constitution maybe? Just as Republicans have to appeal to religious conservatives but move beyond them, Democrats have to appeal to the secular left but also build a bridge to religious moderates. Well, yeahÉ Bill Clinton did this. John Kerry hasn't. Thirteen 13-year-old girls agree. If you want to know why Kerry is still roughly even with Bush in the polls, even though Bush has had the worst year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in 1968, this is one big reason. Except that Kerry’s mostly ahead of an incumbent who is drawing open comparisons to failed Presidents like Nixon who resigned in disgrace, and Johnson who didn’t run for a second term. And Kerry hasn’t even named a running mate. The moral of this little screed: A heroic punditry red-flags the red herrings. A heroic punditry doesn’t beg for artifice and hollow populist pandering. The Times must be proud.

Bum Rap

Michael Moore perversely lumps Bush critic John Tanner in with the usual suspects.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Everywhere you look these days there is 8th District U.S. representative John Tanner of Union City involuntarily playing straight man for Michael Moore.

He's in the promos for Fahrenheit 9/11 on all the TV channels, getting his hand pumped in front of the U.S. Capitol as Moore ropes Tanner in for one of the filmmaker's patented ambush interviews. In the film itself (which is doing blockbuster business in virtually every kind of venue), Tanner is Exhibit Number One among various congressional foils as Moore sallies forth, a compliant U.S. Marine in tow, to do some mock recruiting for the war in Iraq.

The idea -- or, more accurately, the dramatic frame -- is: These congressional hypocrites have voted for the war but aren't willing, as Moore straight-facedly implores them, to send their own kith and kin to fight in that Middle Eastern cauldron.

Never mind that Tanner explains to Moore that his children are grown adults with families.

Never mind that he doesn't challenge anything the filmmaker says, even attempting to express sympathy for Moore's antiestablishment views. He's still presented as a fall guy, a stand-in for President Bush's war policies. Why?

Tanner, though a Democrat from a rural West Tennessee district that historically has included portions of Memphis and Shelby County, has the blue-suited clean-cut look one might otherwise see in many a suburban Republican member of Congress. And he has a broad Southern accent. That makes him a perfect foil for Moore, a tubby Michigander who's gotten rich from his barn-burning books and films but still affects the look of a rumpled day laborer. A "tribune of the people," you see.

One of the other congressmen set up by Moore has complained that he told Moore he had a nephew who was headed for military service in Afghanistan and that he'd be glad to help with the "recruiting" effort but that these parts of the conversation were trimmed from the film. (A transcript available last week on Moore's own Web site seems to bear out the congressman, Representative Mark Kennedy, R-Minn.)

Tanner was placed in an even more misleading context. True, he voted for the October 2002 Use of Force resolution that would ultimately, for better or for worse, give President Bush the go-ahead to commence hostilitiesagainst Saddam Hussein. For the record, so did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry; Senator John Edwards and Representative Dick Gephardt, Kerry's two most likely choices for a running mate; and 9th District U.S. representative Harold Ford, among others.

But here's a scene you won't find in Moore's movie. Let us fade to election night in November 2002. The scene is the downtown Hilton in Nashville, where various Tennessee Democrats, including Tanner, have been following the televised returns showing a surprise Republican sweep in congressional elections. Quoting from my report in the following week's Flyer, we see a troubled Tanner, "who nursed a libation in his hotel room ... and professed outrage at Bush and the GOP as the bad news from national contests streamed across the bottom of his TV screen.

"'Those people ought to be arrested and tried for fraudulence!' Tanner said. 'They took our minds off what was important, the economy, and sold us a bill of goods about Iraq. The idea, trying to convince us that a two-bit tinhorn dictator with 20 million starving people was a threat like Adolf Hitler! They don't have any weapons to bother us with! The whole thing was an election fraud. Nothing but!'"

How's that for buyer's remorse? And how's that for a far-sighted presentation of the same point of view that film-splicer Moore labors so hard and cleverly to assemble in Fahrenheit 9/11?

Though a Navy veteran, Tanner is no war hawk. Au contraire. And though I was impressed by the forthrightness of his election-night remarks, I almost came to feel guilty in reproducing them, since a right-wing Nashville blogger exploited them for a whole week thereafter to accuse Tanner, a certified "Blue Dog" conservative, of being a lefty know-nothing.

But that was no more unfair or ludicrous than the way Tanner just got treated by that celluloid blogger of the left, Michael Moore. Not that Tanner will be impacted much among his home folks. His official Republican opponent this year, one James L. Hart, is an avowed racist who has begun to be repudiated by official spokespersons for the party.

Hart got the GOP nomination by default, since it's hard to dig up credible opposition to Tanner in the 8th District, whose voters know him to be a levelheaded, fair-minded centrist. Michael Moore has no idea who he is. n

Bum Rap

Michael Moore perversely lumps Bush critic John Tanner in with the usual suspects.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Everywhere you look these days there is 8th District U.S. representative John Tanner of Union City involuntarily playing straight man for Michael Moore.

He's in the promos for Fahrenheit 9/11 on all the TV channels, getting his hand pumped in front of the U.S. Capitol as Moore ropes Tanner in for one of the filmmaker's patented ambush interviews. In the film itself (which is doing blockbuster business in virtually every kind of venue), Tanner is Exhibit Number One among various congressional foils as Moore sallies forth, a compliant U.S. Marine in tow, to do some mock recruiting for the war in Iraq.

The idea -- or, more accurately, the dramatic frame -- is: These congressional hypocrites have voted for the war but aren't willing, as Moore straight-facedly implores them, to send their own kith and kin to fight in that Middle Eastern cauldron.

Never mind that Tanner explains to Moore that his children are grown adults with families.

Never mind that he doesn't challenge anything the filmmaker says, even attempting to express sympathy for Moore's antiestablishment views. He's still presented as a fall guy, a stand-in for President Bush's war policies. Why?

Tanner, though a Democrat from a rural West Tennessee district that historically has included portions of Memphis and Shelby County, has the blue-suited clean-cut look one might otherwise see in many a suburban Republican member of Congress. And he has a broad Southern accent. That makes him a perfect foil for Moore, a tubby Michigander who's gotten rich from his barn-burning books and films but still affects the look of a rumpled day laborer. A "tribune of the people," you see.

One of the other congressmen set up by Moore has complained that he told Moore he had a nephew who was headed for military service in Afghanistan and that he'd be glad to help with the "recruiting" effort but that these parts of the conversation were trimmed from the film. (A transcript available last week on Moore's own Web site seems to bear out the congressman, Representative Mark Kennedy, R-Minn.)

Tanner was placed in an even more misleading context. True, he voted for the October 2002 Use of Force resolution that would ultimately, for better or for worse, give President Bush the go-ahead to commence hostilitiesagainst Saddam Hussein. For the record, so did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry; Senator John Edwards and Representative Dick Gephardt, Kerry's two most likely choices for a running mate; and 9th District U.S. representative Harold Ford, among others.

But here's a scene you won't find in Moore's movie. Let us fade to election night in November 2002. The scene is the downtown Hilton in Nashville, where various Tennessee Democrats, including Tanner, have been following the televised returns showing a surprise Republican sweep in congressional elections. Quoting from my report in the following week's Flyer, we see a troubled Tanner, "who nursed a libation in his hotel room ... and professed outrage at Bush and the GOP as the bad news from national contests streamed across the bottom of his TV screen.

"'Those people ought to be arrested and tried for fraudulence!' Tanner said. 'They took our minds off what was important, the economy, and sold us a bill of goods about Iraq. The idea, trying to convince us that a two-bit tinhorn dictator with 20 million starving people was a threat like Adolf Hitler! They don't have any weapons to bother us with! The whole thing was an election fraud. Nothing but!'"

How's that for buyer's remorse? And how's that for a far-sighted presentation of the same point of view that film-splicer Moore labors so hard and cleverly to assemble in Fahrenheit 9/11?

Though a Navy veteran, Tanner is no war hawk. Au contraire. And though I was impressed by the forthrightness of his election-night remarks, I almost came to feel guilty in reproducing them, since a right-wing Nashville blogger exploited them for a whole week thereafter to accuse Tanner, a certified "Blue Dog" conservative, of being a lefty know-nothing.

But that was no more unfair or ludicrous than the way Tanner just got treated by that celluloid blogger of the left, Michael Moore. Not that Tanner will be impacted much among his home folks. His official Republican opponent this year, one James L. Hart, is an avowed racist who has begun to be repudiated by official spokespersons for the party.

Hart got the GOP nomination by default, since it's hard to dig up credible opposition to Tanner in the 8th District, whose voters know him to be a levelheaded, fair-minded centrist. Michael Moore has no idea who he is. n

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