Thursday, October 28, 2004

HEAD OF THE CLASS: SCHOOL BOARD RACES

City school board races this year have unusual prominence

Posted on Thu, Oct 28, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Ordinarily Memphis school board elections are little noted. This year's races for five of the board's nine positions are a different story, and there are several reasons why.

First is a panoply of high-profile issues, notably the substandard showing of too many schools on state and federal rating lists in recent years. Second is the simple fact that after the top-of-the-ballot presidential contest, there are relatively few races, other than those for the school board, to engage voter attention.

All of the school board races on this year's ballot are contested, and almost all of them have generated some degree of heat.

Position 1, At-Large: Incumbent Wanda Halbert is standing off a field of five challengers, at least two of whom former city attorney Robert Spence and Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr. have substantial support. Also in the race are Menelik Fombi, Mary Taylor Shelby, and Chuck Thompson.

Halbert's middle name is "Outspoken." She has engaged in running criticism of various school officials, including former Superintendent Johnnie Watson, and initially opposed the appointment of current Superintendent Carol Johnson. She has been a strong voice for vetting the school system's programs but opposed this year's significant budget cuts a position that critics underlined when figures showed she led the board in travel expenses. Her major theme is "parental involvement" befitting her own status as a single parent.

Spence, whose stump style has evolved from an awkward beginning, was initially presumed to have support from Mayor Willie Herenton, who has chosen, however, not to get involved. He also boasts of several other establishment supporters ranging from Sheriff Mark Luttrell to several past and present City Council members to University of Memphis basketball coach John Calipari. He argues that his connections will enable him to create "strong working relationships between parents and educators, among government agencies, and with corporate and community leaders."

Under considerable fire from Halbert and others because his children attend private schools, Spence faltered at first, then began answering that he was not the custodial parent. His listed priorities include "early childhood education, fiscal accountability, parental responsibility, and community partnerships."

Whalum, the unconventional pastor of New Olivet Baptist Church who bills himself as the "keeping-it-real preacher," has campaigned with the same volatility and panache that characterize his pulpit style. While his major competitors are reticent about school closings, Whalum calls forthrightly for the sale of moribund school properties, on the condition that the "manufacturing businesses" that buy them employ local residents.

"Responsibility, Revenue, and Realism": That's how Whalum sums up his major themes.

Candidate Thompson, the only non-African American in this group, has proposed some radical revisions in how the school system operates from "boot camps" to raise problem students' grades to a dismantling of the district's transportation system to the introduction of computer-based "I-books" for general student use.

Says Thompson of these and other proposals: "These measures, if instituted, would make the schools better yet cut the budget by millions of dollars! Any other candidate on the ticket is headed for financial crisis. They all want more money."

Another candidate is Menelik Fombi, who likes to tell audiences that he is a son of the late civil rights leader A.W. Willis and who boasts diverse educational experience as an instructor in the Ohio prison system. He is a forthright advocate of consolidation but only if it encompasses all governmental operations at the city and county levels. Fombi, who was one of the first elementary school students to integrate the Memphis City Schools in 1961, also talks up health and nutrition issues, as well as courses in African-American history and women's history.

Then there is Mary Taylor Shelby, a perennial candidate who has long operated something called "Students, Mothers, and Concerned Citizens" as a vehicle to further her political and social interests. A steadfast opponent of school closures and an advocate of lowered standards for lottery scholarships, Taylor Shelby has in recent years attempted an informal alliance with dissident Republicans. Says she: "I will not view our educational system as a problem that cannot be solved."

District 1: Incumbent Willie Brooks and challenger Stephanie Gatewood have had a relatively good-natured contest. Both ran for the position last year, when Brooks, a FedEx human resources administrator, defeated lawyer J. Bailey in a runoff for the right to succeed the late Dr. Lee Brown.

Gatewood, who is involved with mentoring programs, takes a firm position against the federal No Child Left Behind program. Brooks is just as firmly for it. Beyond that and the issue of paddling, which Gatewood opposes and Brooks supports, shades of gray distinguish the two candidates' positions on most issues.

Controversy of sorts emerged late in the game with last-minute charges from Gatewood supporters that several notable names appearing on Brooks' campaign literature as endorsers were questionable, either carryovers from last year's race or used without authorization. But there is no question that Brooks has good support from establishment types.

District 3: Incumbent and current board president Patrice Jordan Robinson has seen her race with two articulate challengers Juanita Clark Stevenson and Anabell Hernandez-Rodriguez Turner turn into something of a free-for-all, with Robinson's opponents taking her to task for her involvement in last year's abortive effort to fund expensive new chairs for board members. The incumbent has also been one of the board's high-end spenders on travel.

She faces the election's only Hispanic candidate in Turner, who is PTSA president at Overton High School and a member of the parent group at Wooddale High School. She is an advocate of strengthened language instruction. Newcomer Stevenson, a "family specialist" who bills her candidacy as the opportunity for a "fresh start," is parent liaison for Winchester Elementary and the mother of four children.

District 5: The Rev. Herman Powell Sr. is one contender for this seat, vacated by one of the board's most influential members, Lora Jobe. Dr. Jeff Warren, who is backed by Jobe, is the other.

Warren had been one of the few candidates to take a staunch position against corporal punishment, an issue which Jobe has done much to get on the front burner. He also emphasizes "strong principals" as the basic means to improving education and has proposed advancing the role of physical education in the curriculum.

Powell has not advanced a detailed litany of proposed changes but emphasizes his history as a lifelong Memphian and promises to be thoughtful and balanced in his approaches.

District 7: Incumbent Hubon "Dutch" Sandridge Jr., one of the current board's most controversial members and the center of several ongoing dust-ups, is opposed by challengers Terry L. Becton and Tomeka R. Hart.

Though Sandridge has been front and center on a number of issues in his determined opposition to any closings of traditional inner-city schools, for instance he has gotten more attention of late for his on-again, off-again status as an employee of county government. Sandridge was fired from his county job last week.

Sandridge was already facing determined opposition from Hart, an attorney and former teacher, who has the backing of the "New Path" reform group. "Dealing with the community and communicating are the real issues," she says. In defense of his 17-year tenure, Sandridge has put on something of an advertising blitz and is counting on what is, for better or worse, abundant name recognition.

Though Becton has participated in forums, she has largely been overshadowed by the other two candidates. She promises a "fresh start," with an emphasis "on academics rather than attitudes and social agendas."

ELECTION PREVIEW

Which way would Mr. Crump go? Which way will his descendants (that's us) go?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2004 at 4:00 AM

A CROSSROADS ELECTION At last Saturday's formal opening of the E.H. Crump Collection at the Central Library, a number of historians --including the eminent Kenneth Jackson of Columbia University -- spoke, as did several local descendants of the legendary Memphis political boss. Betty Crump McGeorge, a granddaughter, concluded her remarks with a highly topical invocation of "Mr. Crump," as even she referred to him: "Being the Democrat that I'm sure he still is, I'm sure he would say, 'Go vote for Kerry.'" This from a lady who -- gracing her bouquet with inadvertent irony - was using a walker festooned with NASCAR emblems. During a break in the program, Robert Smithwick III, who had also spoken sentiments in praise of his great grandfather, mused to a visitor concerning his aunt's declaration, "I'm not so sure Mr. Crump would have said that!" Nor was Dr. Marius Carriere of Christian Brothers University, one of a quartet of local historians who followed in Jackson's wake. Carriere chose to remind the audience that Crump had broken with the national Democrats for the 1948 election and had supported States' Rights Party candidate Strom Thurmond, whose views were famously segregationist. Who indeed knows in what direction that famous wide-brimmed hat would have nodded this year? The man who was Memphis' most influential political figure ever, and, almost by definition, the city's most important Democrat ever as well, is most certainly keeping his peace. His descendants and that includes all of us, not just the family members on hand for Saturday's event have been at political cross purposes in recent years. As George W. Bush, a Republican president seeking a second term, squares off Tuesday against Massachusetts senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, it is certain that Kerry will prevail in Shelby County even if the outcome in Tennessee at large, where Boss Crump's fiat also ran, is more problematical. In a year in which many of the major polls have been at odds with each other, Kerry trails Bush by two points (Zogby), is behind by several points in other polls, and is ahead in the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post polls. One thing is certain: The state that was visited several times in 2000 by both Bush, who won its 11 electoral votes, and his Democratic rival, then Vice President Al Gore, had been largely ignored this year, not only by the contending candidates, but by their major political surrogates. It should be noted that a late Get-Out-the-Vote rally was led in Memphis this week by 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., heir to both the office and the organization of his namesake father, the closest thing we've had to a Crump figure in modern times, though Representative Ford Sr.'s electoral clout was confined to Memphis' inner-city precincts. For that matter, the younger Ford, whose future political designs are statewide and national, had himself spent most of the election season going up and down the country. And Memphis' other major political force, Mayor Willie Herenton, a sometime Democrat who had gone on the line in the past for candidates Bill Clinton and Gore, as well as for assorted local office-seekers, had not yet been heard from even as the current election season entered its final week. This is not to say that local political cadres were not as determined as ever perhaps even more so. Democrats, led by their chairman, state representative Kathryn Bowers, and Republicans, headed by Chairman Kemp Conrad, were goading their troops to intensive G.O.T.V. efforts the Democrats so as to match or exceed the 50,000-odd Democratic majority in Shelby County that won the state for Clinton-Gore in 1996 (and held things relatively close four years ago), the Republicans to cut that local majority in half. This is a year in which in which Tip O'Neill's famous phrase, "All politics is local," may apply but with a difference. Much of the attention of Memphians was focused on five city school board races (see story on page 14), but stepped-up voter-registration figures and higher-than-normal early-vote totals gave indication that, in both city and county as well as in neighboring West Tennessee counties citizens were taking their franchise very seriously indeed. To begin with the periphery: In Tipton County, voters were girding to decide whether longtime Democratic state House speaker Jimmy Naifeh would keep his job or whether he would be replaced by Dr. Jesse Cannon, a popular African-American internist whose campaign was pivotal to the hopes of area and statewide Republicans. And to the east, Lauderdale County's venerable John Wilder, the state's even longer-time lieutenant governor, was in danger, some said, of losing his state Senate seat to GOP challenger Ron Stallings of Bolivar. Either outcome would produce seismic reverberations in the state government of Tennessee, whose Democratic chief executive, Phil Bredesen, was lending his efforts and his prestige (gained from a middle-of-the-road governing style which many said had, in effect, enacted the Republican platform) to these and other beleaguered Democrats in tight legislative races. Republicans, who own both U.S. Senate seats and are hoping this year to recapture a majority in the state's nine-member U.S. House delegation, are intent upon gaining control of at least one chamber of the legislature, and potentially both. The Democrats' current majority is three in the state Senate, nine in the House. In Shelby County, this has resulted in the GOP's targeting of Mike Kernell, the veteran (if still boyish) state representative in District 93. The Republicans' candidate in that race is businessman John Pellicciotti, an earnest and photogenic exemplar who came close to unseating Kernell two years ago on the income-tax issue. Another contested race is that in District 89 (Midtown, Binghamton) between first-term state representative Beverly Marrero, a winner in last year's special election to succeed current City Council member Carol Chumney, and Republican challenger Jim Jamieson, who earlier made two determined, if unsuccessful, races against Chumney. Jamieson is trying hard again, though it's hard to see how he can succeed in a district that, historically, has tilted heavily Democratic at least in local elections. But Jamieson is at least theoretically in play. The same cannot be said for Republican Johnny Hatcher, who along with the perennial school board candidate Mary Taylor Shelby, running as an independent is challenging District 30 state senator Steve Cohen, whose ability to broker the way for candidates like Marrero is dependent on his unshakeable hold on his own Midtown and East Memphis bailiwick. In House District 92 (central Memphis), former legislator (and former Democrat) D. Jack Smith, is carrying the Republican standard against incumbent Democrat Henri Brooks, whose refusal to stand for recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance has no doubt infuriated many voters just not enough of them in her district. And in state House District 86, another forlorn Republican challenge is under way by Republican George T. Edwards III against reigning Democrat Barbara Cooper. But Republicans are not the only ones attempting the im- possible against entrenched incumbents. Several Democrats are trying to do just that too. For example, there's the long-odds challenge of Democrat Susan Slyfield, a political newcomer, against state representative Tre Hargett, the House Republican leader, in District 97 (Bartlett). An only slightly better bet is the race of Democrat Julian Prewitt, a businessman/teacher, against heavily favored lawyer Brian Kelsey, the GOP nominee in House District 83, an open seat vacated this year by long-time Republican incumbent Joe Kent. And the attempt by Democrat Joe Pete Parker to unseat GOP state senator Mark Norris in District 32, encompassing staunchly Republican areas in outer Shelby and adjoining counties, can be regarded as a pro forma effort especially since Norris, a former congressional candidate, is widely regarded as one of his party's coming stars. At the congressional level there are races too sort of. U.S. representative Ford has two challengers in District 9 Republican Ruben Fort (who may be going for the homonym voter) and Jim Maynard, a write-in gay activist who was offended both by the incumbent's support for the federal Marriage Amendment and by what Maynard perceived as Ford's creeping conservatism in other areas. Neither challenge has a prayer of deflecting the congressman from reelection and his planned Senate run in 2006. Another futile race, in the 8th congressional district, is one of James L. Hart against popular Democratic incumbent John Tanner. Hart is an unredeemed racist, and every Republican organization in sight has officially repudiated him. Two of Memphis' suburban neighbors are having municipal elections, and some races are hotly contested. In Germantown, Mike Palazzolo and Kevin Snider are seeking Alderman's Position 3, while four others Rick Bennett, Mark Billingsley, Ernest Chism, and Greg Marcom vie for Position 5. In Bartlett, Alderman's Position 4 is being contested by Eddie Cody, Terry W. Fondren, Phil Inman, Paula C. (McGehee) Montgomery, and Bobby Simmons, while Position 6 is sought by Rick Faith and Jim "Hoppy" Hopkinson. One more race of note: On the ballot in Memphis precincts is a "privilege" (read: payroll) tax that is a proposed answer of sorts to the revenue crisis besetting all local governments. City council member Janet Hooks is the chief sponsor of a measure which has collected a formidable array of opponents but, up or down, may become something of a perennial on the ballot in one or another form. Clarification: The name of state representative Beverly Marrero (D-89) was inadvertently omitted from two recent articles one listing those legislators who complied with an issue questionnaire from Project VoteSmart and another naming the speakers at a local Democratic rally two weekends ago. Marrero was present and accounted for in both circumstances. --J.B. HEAD OF THE CLASS: SCHOOL BOARD RACES City school board races this year have unusual prominence. Ordinarily Memphis school board elections are little noted. This year's races for five of the board's nine positions are a different story, and there are several reasons why. First is a panoply of high-profile issues, notably the substandard showing of too many schools on state and federal rating lists in recent years. Second is the simple fact that after the top-of-the-ballot presidential contest, there are relatively few races, other than those for the school board, to engage voter attention. All of the school board races on this year's ballot are contested, and almost all of them have generated some degree of heat. Position 1, At-Large: Incumbent Wanda Halbert is standing off a field of five challengers, at least two of whom former city attorney Robert Spence and Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr. have substantial support. Also in the race are Menelik Fombi, Mary Taylor Shelby, and Chuck Thompson. Halbert's middle name is "Outspoken." She has engaged in running criticism of various school officials, including former Superintendent Johnnie Watson, and initially opposed the appointment of current Superintendent Carol Johnson. She has been a strong voice for vetting the school system's programs but opposed this year's significant budget cuts a position that critics underlined when figures showed she led the board in travel expenses. Her major theme is "parental involvement" befitting her own status as a single parent. Spence, whose stump style has evolved from an awkward beginning, was initially presumed to have support from Mayor Willie Herenton, who has chosen, however, not to get involved. He also boasts of several other establishment supporters ranging from Sheriff Mark Luttrell to several past and present City Council members to University of Memphis basketball coach John Calipari. He argues that his connections will enable him to create "strong working relationships between parents and educators, among government agencies, and with corporate and community leaders." Under considerable fire from Halbert and others because his children attend private schools, Spence faltered at first, then began answering that he was not the custodial parent. His listed priorities include "early childhood education, fiscal accountability, parental responsibility, and community partnerships." Whalum, the unconventional pastor of New Olivet Baptist Church who bills himself as the "keeping-it-real preacher," has campaigned with the same volatility and panache that characterize his pulpit style. While his major competitors are reticent about school closings, Whalum calls forthrightly for the sale of moribund school properties, on the condition that the "manufacturing businesses" that buy them employ local residents. "Responsibility, Revenue, and Realism": That's how Whalum sums up his major themes. Candidate Thompson, the only non-African American in this group, has proposed some radical revisions in how the school system operates from "boot camps" to raise problem students' grades to a dismantling of the district's transportation system to the introduction of computer-based "I-books" for general student use. Says Thompson of these and other proposals: "These measures, if instituted, would make the schools better yet cut the budget by millions of dollars! Any other candidate on the ticket is headed for financial crisis. They all want more money." Another candidate is Menelik Fombi, who likes to tell audiences that he is a son of the late civil rights leader A.W. Willis and who boasts diverse educational experience as an instructor in the Ohio prison system. He is a forthright advocate of consolidation but only if it encompasses all governmental operations at the city and county levels. Fombi, who was one of the first elementary school students to integrate the Memphis City Schools in 1961, also talks up health and nutrition issues, as well as courses in African-American history and women's history. Then there is Mary Taylor Shelby, a perennial candidate who has long operated something called "Students, Mothers, and Concerned Citizens" as a vehicle to further her political and social interests. A steadfast opponent of school closures and an advocate of lowered standards for lottery scholarships, Taylor Shelby has in recent years attempted an informal alliance with dissident Republicans. Says she: "I will not view our educational system as a problem that cannot be solved." District 1: Incumbent Willie Brooks and challenger Stephanie Gatewood have had a relatively good-natured contest. Both ran for the position last year, when Brooks, a FedEx human resources administrator, defeated lawyer J. Bailey in a runoff for the right to succeed the late Dr. Lee Brown. Gatewood, who is involved with mentoring programs, takes a firm position against the federal No Child Left Behind program. Brooks is just as firmly for it. Beyond that and the issue of paddling, which Gatewood opposes and Brooks supports, shades of gray distinguish the two candidates' positions on most issues. Controversy of sorts emerged late in the game with last-minute charges from Gatewood supporters that several notable names appearing on Brooks' campaign literature as endorsers were questionable, either carryovers from last year's race or used without authorization. But there is no question that Brooks has good support from establishment types. District 3: Incumbent and current board president Patrice Jordan Robinson has seen her race with two articulate challengers Juanita Clark Stevenson and Anabell Hernandez-Rodriguez Turner turn into something of a free-for-all, with Robinson's opponents taking her to task for her involvement in last year's abortive effort to fund expensive new chairs for board members. The incumbent has also been one of the board's high-end spenders on travel. She faces the election's only Hispanic candidate in Turner, who is PTSA president at Overton High School and a member of the parent group at Wooddale High School. She is an advocate of strengthened language instruction. Newcomer Stevenson, a "family specialist" who bills her candidacy as the opportunity for a "fresh start," is parent liaison for Winchester Elementary and the mother of four children. District 5: The Rev. Herman Powell Sr. is one contender for this seat, vacated by one of the board's most influential members, Lora Jobe. Dr. Jeff Warren, who is backed by Jobe, is the other. Warren had been one of the few candidates to take a staunch position against corporal punishment, an issue which Jobe has done much to get on the front burner. He also emphasizes "strong principals" as the basic means to improving education and has proposed advancing the role of physical education in the curriculum. Powell has not advanced a detailed litany of proposed changes but emphasizes his history as a lifelong Memphian and promises to be thoughtful and balanced in his approaches. District 7: Incumbent Hubon "Dutch" Sandridge Jr., one of the current board's most controversial members and the center of several ongoing dust-ups, is opposed by challengers Terry L. Becton and Tomeka R. Hart. Though Sandridge has been front and center on a number of issues in his determined opposition to any closings of traditional inner-city schools, for instance he has gotten more attention of late for his on-again, off-again status as an employee of county government. Sandridge was fired from his county job last week. Sandridge was already facing determined opposition from Hart, an attorney and former teacher, who has the backing of the "New Path" reform group. "Dealing with the community and communicating are the real issues," she says. In defense of his 17-year tenure, Sandridge has put on something of an advertising blitz and is counting on what is, for better or worse, abundant name recognition. Though Becton has participated in forums, she has largely been overshadowed by the other two candidates. She promises a "fresh start," with an emphasis "on academics rather than attitudes and social agendas." --J.B. & J.D.

A Crossroads Election

Which way would Mr. Crump go? Which way will his descendants (that's us) go?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2004 at 4:00 AM

At last Saturday's formal opening of the E.H. Crump Collection at the Central Library, a number of historians -- including the eminent Kenneth Jackson of Columbia University -- spoke, as did several local descendants of the legendary Memphis political boss.

Betty Crump McGeorge, a granddaughter, concluded her remarks with a highly topical invocation of "Mr. Crump," as even she referred to him: "Being the Democrat that I'm sure he still is, I'm sure he would say, 'Go vote for Kerry.'" This from a lady who -- gracing her bouquet with inadvertent irony --- was using a walker festooned with NASCAR emblems.

During a break in the program, Robert Smithwick III, who had also spoken sentiments in praise of his great grandfather, mused to a visitor concerning his aunt's declaration, "I'm not so sure Mr. Crump would have said that!"

Nor was Dr. Marius Carriere of Christian Brothers University, one of a quartet of local historians who followed in Jackson's wake. Carriere chose to remind the audience that Crump had broken with the national Democrats for the 1948 election and had supported States' Rights Party candidate Strom Thurmond, whose views were famously segregationist.

Who indeed knows in what direction that famous wide-brimmed hat would have nodded this year? The man who was Memphis' most influential political figure ever, and, almost by definition, the city's most important Democrat ever as well, is most certainly keeping his peace.

His descendants -- and that includes all of us, not just the family members on hand for Saturday's event -- have been at political cross purposes in recent years. As George W. Bush, a Republican president seeking a second term, squares off Tuesday against Massachusetts senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, it is certain that Kerry will prevail in Shelby County -- even if the outcome in Tennessee at large, where Boss Crump's fiat also ran, is more problematical.

In a year in which many of the major polls have been at odds with each other, Kerry trails Bush by two points (Zogby), is behind by several points in other polls, and is ahead in the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post polls. One thing is certain: The state that was visited several times in 2000 by both Bush, who won its 11 electoral votes, and his Democratic rival, then Vice President Al Gore, had been largely ignored this year, not only by the contending candidates, but by their major political surrogates.

It should be noted that a late Get-Out-the-Vote rally was led in Memphis this week by 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., heir to both the office and the organization of his namesake father, the closest thing we've had to a Crump figure in modern times, though Representative Ford Sr.'s electoral clout was confined to Memphis' inner-city precincts. For that matter, the younger Ford, whose future political designs are statewide and national, had himself spent most of the election season going up and down the country.

And Memphis' other major political force, Mayor Willie Herenton, a sometime Democrat who had gone on the line in the past for candidates Bill Clinton and Gore, as well as for assorted local office-seekers, had not yet been heard from -- even as the current election season entered its final week.

This is not to say that local political cadres were not as determined as ever -- perhaps even more so. Democrats, led by their chairman, state representative Kathryn Bowers, and Republicans, headed by Chairman Kemp Conrad, were goading their troops to intensive G.O.T.V. efforts -- the Democrats so as to match or exceed the 50,000-odd Democratic majority in Shelby County that won the state for Clinton-Gore in 1996 (and held things relatively close four years ago), the Republicans to cut that local majority in half.

This is a year in which in which Tip O'Neill's famous phrase, "All politics is local," may apply -- but with a difference.

Much of the attention of Memphians was focused on five city school board races (see story on page 14), but stepped-up voter-registration figures and higher-than-normal early-vote totals gave indication that, in both city and county -- as well as in neighboring West Tennessee counties -- citizens were taking their franchise very seriously indeed.

To begin with the periphery: In Tipton County, voters were girding to decide whether longtime Democratic state House speaker Jimmy Naifeh would keep his job or whether he would be replaced by Dr. Jesse Cannon, a popular African-American internist whose campaign was pivotal to the hopes of area -- and statewide -- Republicans. And to the east, Lauderdale County's venerable John Wilder, the state's even longer-time lieutenant governor, was in danger, some said, of losing his state Senate seat to GOP challenger Ron Stallings of Bolivar.

Either outcome would produce seismic reverberations in the state government of Tennessee, whose Democratic chief executive, Phil Bredesen, was lending his efforts and his prestige (gained from a middle-of-the-road governing style which many said had, in effect, enacted the Republican platform) to these and other beleaguered Democrats in tight legislative races.

Republicans, who own both U.S. Senate seats and are hoping this year to recapture a majority in the state's nine-member U.S. House delegation, are intent upon gaining control of at least one chamber of the legislature, and potentially both. The Democrats' current majority is three in the state Senate, nine in the House.

In Shelby County, this has resulted in the GOP's targeting of Mike Kernell, the veteran (if still boyish) state representative in District 93. The Republicans' candidate in that race is businessman John Pellicciotti, an earnest and photogenic exemplar who came close to unseating Kernell two years ago on the income-tax issue.

Another contested race is that in District 89 (Midtown, Binghamton) between first-term state representative Beverly Marrero, a winner in last year's special election to succeed current City Council member Carol Chumney, and Republican challenger Jim Jamieson, who earlier made two determined, if unsuccessful, races against Chumney. Jamieson is trying hard again, though it's hard to see how he can succeed in a district that, historically, has tilted heavily Democratic -- at least in local elections.

But Jamieson is at least theoretically in play. The same cannot be said for Republican Johnny Hatcher, who -- along with the perennial school board candidate Mary Taylor Shelby, running as an independent -- is challenging District 30 state senator Steve Cohen, whose ability to broker the way for candidates like Marrero is dependent on his unshakeable hold on his own Midtown and East Memphis bailiwick.

In House District 92 (central Memphis), former legislator (and former Democrat) D. Jack Smith, is carrying the Republican standard against incumbent Democrat Henri Brooks, whose refusal to stand for recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance has no doubt infuriated many voters -- just not enough of them in her district. And in state House District 86, another forlorn Republican challenge is under way by Republican George T. Edwards III against reigning Democrat Barbara Cooper.

But Republicans are not the only ones attempting the im- possible against entrenched incumbents. Several Democrats are trying to do just that too. For example, there's the long-odds challenge of Democrat Susan Slyfield, a political newcomer, against state representative Tre Hargett, the House Republican leader, in District 97 (Bartlett). An only slightly better bet is the race of Democrat Julian Prewitt, a businessman/teacher, against heavily favored lawyer Brian Kelsey, the GOP nominee in House District 83, an open seat vacated this year by long-time Republican incumbent Joe Kent.

And the attempt by Democrat Joe Pete Parker to unseat GOP state senator Mark Norris in District 32, encompassing staunchly Republican areas in outer Shelby and adjoining counties, can be regarded as a pro forma effort -- especially since Norris, a former congressional candidate, is widely regarded as one of his party's coming stars.

At the congressional level there are races too -- sort of.

U.S. representative Ford has two challengers in District 9 -- Republican Ruben Fort (who may be going for the homonym voter) and Jim Maynard, a write-in gay activist who was offended both by the incumbent's support for the federal Marriage Amendment and by what Maynard perceived as Ford's creeping conservatism in other areas. Neither challenge has a prayer of deflecting the congressman from reelection and his planned Senate run in 2006.

Another futile race, in the 8th congressional district, is one of James L. Hart against popular Democratic incumbent John Tanner. Hart is an unredeemed racist, and every Republican organization in sight has officially repudiated him.

Two of Memphis' suburban neighbors are having municipal elections, and some races are hotly contested.

In Germantown, Mike Palazzolo and Kevin Snider are seeking Alderman's Position 3, while four others -- Rick Bennett, Mark Billingsley, Ernest Chism, and Greg Marcom -- vie for Position 5. In Bartlett, Alderman's Position 4 is being contested by Eddie Cody, Terry W. Fondren, Phil Inman, Paula C. (McGehee) Montgomery, and Bobby Simmons, while Position 6 is sought by Rick Faith and Jim "Hoppy" Hopkinson.

One more race of note: On the ballot in Memphis precincts is a "privilege" (read: payroll) tax that is a proposed answer of sorts to the revenue crisis besetting all local governments. City council member Janet Hooks is the chief sponsor of a measure which has collected a formidable array of opponents but, up or down, may become something of a perennial on the ballot in one or another form.

Clarification: The name of state representative Beverly Marrero (D-89) was inadvertently omitted from two recent articles -- one listing those legislators who complied with an issue questionnaire from Project VoteSmart and another naming the speakers at a local Democratic rally two weekends ago. Marrero was present and accounted for in both circumstances.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Final Report

Outgoing Memphis City Schools board member Lora Jobe gives an exit interview.

Posted on Fri, Oct 22, 2004 at 4:00 AM

District 5 Memphis City Schools board commissioner Lora Jobe is not going quietly. Her recent bid to reopen discussion on the district's corporal-punishment policy has set off a debate that has become a key point of the school board election, not only for the two candidates in her district but for the 14 candidates vying in the other four races as well. The Flyer spoke with Jobe about corporal punishment, her tenure, and the prospects for the upcoming election.

Flyer: Why are you leaving the board?
Lara Jobe: I feel like nine years is a good number of years to serve the community in that capacity. Two of my three kids have graduated from Memphis City Schools during this time, and the last one graduates in May. I feel that it's important for some of the board members to have children in the district, and I feel like it's time to pass the baton.

What do you hope to pass on to your successor?

I voted every time we had an opportunity to vote and tried to be prepared. I hope that the person who comes after me will do the same. I've tried to be a person of integrity. I've been careful not to be involved with developers, to take money from contractors, and to do things that would show that my sole purpose was to serve the children.


What should voters be looking for in a school board member?

The community has a good opportunity to watch the candidates this year because of the televised debates. It's important to see the candidates conduct themselves in a professional manner. Voters should ask themselves, "Do [the candidates] have the interest of children first and foremost in their minds?" and "What is their motivation for serving?"


How is the current board different from the board nine years ago?

I do feel like there has been a shift in the board. In my first term, we would frequently have differences of opinion, but there was a level of professionalism to our debates. I had a level of confidence that even when we disagreed we had the best interests of children in mind. It was good to work in that environment because even if the vote didn't go your way, I almostalways felt like the votes were coming from an informed and good place.

Now, there has been a lot more political-type stuff, with board members trying to form coalitions and voting for other reasons.

To what do you attribute that shift?
The personalities of some of the members. When some people begin to behave that way, you are put in a position to have to react to it.


Which board accomplishments are you most proud of?

The uniform policy. That was an example of the board really working well together. We sat there and we haggled it, we changed it, we amended it ... and when we walked away that night, we had adopted a uniform policy for the entire district, K-12. I think that has been a good thing for MCS.

You have long championed ending corporal punishment. Debate and a vote on that issue had been postponed. What was your reason for reigniting the debate?

I try to do what I think is right, and the evidence is there that we don't need to be using corporal punishment at school. Systems that use corporal punishment have lower student achievement, higher dropout rates, higher truancy. I just don't think we can ignore those facts when we suffer from all of those things. We need to embrace the research that is out there. It's time for us to stop hitting children at school.


Is this something that should be addressed now or left up to the newly elected board?

My response is: "When is the time to do the right thing? Right now." Children suffer every moment we don't do the right thing.


What will be some of the issues facing the new board?

Student achievement is always a challenge in Memphis. With the current directives of No Child Left Behind, there is continued pressure to increase student achievement. What I think we've seen too painfully in the last few weeks is violence in the schools. That issue is going to need some strong and direct action.

What's next for you?

Spend some family time, rest for a while. But I will probably go back to tutoring in the schools and one-on-one things like that. I would never say never about bids for future elected positions, but it's not in my near future.

Eenie, Meenie

State polls predict different outcomes for presidential race.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2004 at 4:00 AM

In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore sealed his doom quite as much by narrowly losing home-state Tennessee's 11 electoral votes as he did by ending up on the short end of Florida's celebrated recounts. Those 11 votes would have put him over.

Depending on what poll you're looking at, the Volunteer State is either up for grabs again in 2004 or going big-time President Bush.

The last Zogby poll had it close -- even though the Democratic standard-bearer this time, John Kerry, is a supposed "liberal" from far-off Massachusetts. Indeed, though there were occasions both in early summer and early fall when President Bush owned a substantial lead over Senator Kerry, the Zogby poll's soundings have fairly consistently shown the race to be tight. At least three times, Kerry has been ahead.

The poll taken of likely state voters on October 7th showed the GOP's Bush to be leading Kerry by only a single percentage point, 49 percent to 48 percent, with independent Ralph Nader at 3 percent. That sample, of course, was taken after the first presidential debate, one which most observers regarded as a Kerry win. The previous Zogby poll, on September 21st, had it Bush 52 percent, Kerry 46 percent, and Nader 2 percent.

And those previous Zogby figures are in the same universe with findings released this week by pollster Ken Blake of Middle Tennessee State University, whose soundings -- done of 624 Tennesseans in the October 4th-15th time frame -- show Bush over Kerry in Tennessee, by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent.

Reactions to the two polls reflected partisan leaning. Said Shelby County Republican chairman Kemp Conrad, "We've always thought the president had a double-digit lead, because I don't think the liberal ideology of Senator Kerry, who is even more liberal than Al Gore was, plays any better in Tennessee than Gore's did. That said, we're not going to be complacent, and we're going to bend our efforts in Shelby County to cutting Gore's 2000 margin here, some 49,000 votes, in half. That's very doable."

But David Cocke, head of the Kerry-Edwards effort in Shelby County, saw things differently: "The Zogby poll historically has been more accurate than others, and we're encouraged not only by the last one but by the whole series of state polls Zogby has done this year. They make it clear that Tennessee is highly competitive, and we think we can bring it back into the Democratic fold."

Interestingly, both Conrad and Cocke expressed reservations about the methodologies of the polls showing their man behind. And, one way or another, the accuracy of preference polls has increasingly come under scrutiny in this presidential election year. (See Editorial, page 12.)

æ Moore's the pity: The jury is still out on what happened to the much-ballyhooed appearance of Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore, who was scheduled to be the headliner at a Democratic Party rally on Saturday at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

The rally was held but sans Moore. His place was filled by various local speakers, including former Shelby County commissioner Vasco Smith; state representatives Joe Towns and Henry Brooks; Shelby County Democratic chairman Kathryn Bowers; Cocke; local Kerry-Edwards coordinator Kerry Fulmer; and lawyer Ruby Wharton.

Local Democrats had been given the bad news of a Moore cancellation on Friday afternoon via e-mail and telephone. As Bowers put it in part: "In light of the fact that Mr. Michael Moore, the Director of Fahrenheit 9/11, has been ill with the walking pneumonia and the planned demonstration by the local Republican Party, we are relieving Mr. Moore of his commitment to come to Memphis to help us with our kick-off for Early Voting Educational Awareness Rally."

But Conrad, whose Republicans held their own rally at local party headquarters on Saturday, was skeptical. From a Conrad e-mail: "He [Moore] cited illness as his reason for canceling, though he spoke at UNLV and appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, and he is still scheduled to speak at an event in Madison, Wisconsin today. There was not even a mention of a Memphis visit on his official Web site yesterday."

æ The Shelby County Commission's vote on a new commissioner to fill the seat of Linda Rendtorff, now director of county services, was due to happen, finally, on Wednesday of this week after at least two reschedulings. Front-runners were still Billy Orgel and Wyatt Bunker, with leading fallback candidates Mike Ritz, Mike Carpenter, and George Flinn -- the latter of whom was visibly picking up steam among both Republicans and Democrats.

æ Governor Phil Bredesen, in Memphis last week for the swearing-in of state Criminal Court of Appeals judge J.C. McLin, was fresh from two West Tennessee stump appearances with Lieutenant Governor John Wilder, who is in a close race with Republican challenger Ron Stallings. Said Bredesen: "I'm for the Democrat. I'm for Governor Wilder strongly," though he acknowledged, "There's no question that we've had our differences. We've put those behind us."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

POLITICS

The presidential race in Tennessee looks different according to different pollsters.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2004 at 4:00 AM

EENIE, MEENIE... In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore sealed his doom quite as much by narrowly losing home-state TennesseeÕs 11 votes as he did by ending up on the short end of FloridaÕs celebrated recounts. Those 11 votes would have put him over. Depending on what poll youÕre looking at, the Volunteer State is either up for grabs again in 2004 or going bigtime for the GOPÕs President Bush. The last Zogby Poll had it close.Ñeven though the Democratic standard-bearer this time, John Kerry, is a supposed ÒliberalÓ from far-off Massachusetts. Indeed, though there were occasions both in early summer and early fall when President Bush owned a substantial lead over Senator Kerry, the Zogby PollÕs soundings have fairly consistently shown the race to be tight. At least three times Kerry has been ahead. The poll taken of likely state voters on October 7th showed the GOPÕs Bush to be leading Kerry by only a single percentage point, 49% to 48%, with independent Ralph Nader at 3%. That sample, of course, was taken after the first presidential debate, one which most observers regarded as a Kerry win. The previous Zogby poll, on September 21st, had it Bush 52%; Kerry 46%, and Nader2%. And those previous Zogby figures are in the same universe with findings released this week by pollster Ken Blake of Middle Tennessee State University, whose soundings Ð done of 624 Tennesseans in the October 4-15 time frame Ð show Bush over Kerry in Tennessee, by a margin of 50% to 39%. Reactions to the two polls reflected partisan leaning. Said Shelby County Republican chairman Kemp Conrad, ÒWeÕve always thought the president had a double-digit lead, because I donÕt think the liberal ideology of Senator Kerry, who is even more liberal than Al Gore was, plays any better in Tennessee than GoreÕs did. That said, weÕre not going to be complacent, and weÕre going to bend our efforts in Shelby County to cutting GoreÕs 2000 margin here, some 49,000 votes, in half. ThatÕs very doable.Ó But David Cocke, head of the Kerry-Edwards effort in Shelby County, saw things differently: ÒThe Zogby poll historically has been more accurate than others, and weÕre encouraged not only by the last one but by the whole series of state polls ZogbyÕs done this year. They make it clear that Tennessee is highly competitive, and we think we can bring it back into the Democratic fold.Ó Interestingly, both Conrad and Cocke expressed reservations about the methodologies of the polls showing their man behind. And, one way or another, the accuracy of preference polls has increasingly come under scrutiny in the current presidential election year. (See editorial.) MooreÕs the pity: The jury is still out on what happened to the much-ballyhooed appearance of Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore, who was scheduled to be the headliner at a Democratic Party rally on Saturday at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. The rally was held, but sans Moore. His place was filled by various local speakers, including former Shelby County Commissioner Vasco Smith, State Representatives Joe Towns and Henry Brooks, Shelby County Democratic chairman Kathryn Bowers; Cocke; local Kerry-Edwards coordinator Kerry Fulmer; and lawyer Ruby Wharton. Local Democrats had been given the bad news of a Moore cancellation on Friday afternoon via email and telephone. As Bowers put it in part: ÒÉIn light of the fact that Mr. Michael Moore, the Director of Fahrenheit 9/11, has been ill with the walking pneumonia and the planned demonstration by the local Republican Party, we are relieving Mr. Moore of his commitment to come to Memphis to help us with our kick-off for Early Voting Educational Awareness RallyÉ.Ó But Conrad, whose Republicans held their own rally at local party headquarters on Saturday, was skeptical. From a Conrad email: ÒÉHe [Moore] cited illness as his reason for canceling, though he spoke at UNLV and appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, and he is still scheduled to speak at an event in Madison, WI today. There was not even a mention of a Memphis visit on his official web site yesterdayÉ..Ó In any case, Moore was a no-show. The Shelby County CommissionÕs vote on a new commissioner to fill the seat of Linda Rendtorff, now director of county services, was due to happen, finally, on Wednesday of this week after at least two re-schedulings. Front-runners were still Billy Orgel and Wyatt Bunker, with leading fallback candidates Mike Ritz, Mike Carpenter, and George Flinn Ð the latter of whom was visibly picking up steam among both Republicans and Democrats. Governor Phil Bredesen, in Memphis last week for the swearing-in of state Criminal Court of Appeals Judge J.C. McLin, was fresh from two West Tennessee stump appearances with Lt. Gov. John Wilder, who is in a close race with Republican challenger Ron Stallings. Said Bredesen: ÒIÕm for the DemocratÉ.IÕm for Governor Wilder strongly,Ó though he acknowledged, ÒThereÕs no question that weÕve had our differences. WeÕve put those behind us.Ó

Governor Bredesen swears in Judge McLin last week, as Mollie McLin looks on.

FLINN NAMED TO COUNTY COMMISSION

The third try's the charm for the determined radiologist/radio baron.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2004 at 4:00 AM


Shelby County clerk Jane Creson swears in new Shelby County commissioner George Flinn on Wednesday.

Dr. George Flinn, who owns two successful careers already, wouldn't take No for an answer in his quest for a third. And the members of the Shelby county Commission rewarded the physician/businessman's doggedness Wednesday by electing him to their ranks. Flinn, who ran unsuccessfuly for county mayor in 2002 and for the Memphis city council in 2003, was the second-ballot winner over three other contenders for the right to succeed Linda Rendtorff, now director of county services. Businessman/developer Billy Orgel was closest behind Flinn and led the voting on the first ballot, with five votes. Flinn had three, and so did Wyatt Bunker. Karla Templeton, daughter of Commissioner John Willingham, had one vote -- her father's. On the second go-round, with Templeton eliminated, Willingham cast his vote for Flinn. Also shifting to Flinn were Deidre Malone and Cleo Kirk, who had been with Orgel in Round One, and Joyce Avery, who had voted for Bunker the first time around. Those four votes, added to Flinn's original contingent -- David Lillard, Bruce Thompson, and Julian Bolton -- made seven, a majority. Besides Avery, Bunker's first-round voters were Marilyn Loeffel and Joe Ford. The other first-round Orgel voters were Tom Moss, Walter Bailey, and chairman Michael Hooks.

Monday, October 18, 2004

FOREIGN -AFFAIRS SPECIALISTS TAKE SIDES

FOREIGN -AFFAIRS SPECIALISTS TAKE SIDES

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2004 at 4:00 AM

October, 2004

An Open Letter to the American People:

We, a nonpartisan group of foreign affairs specialists, have joined together to call urgently for a change of course in American foreign and national security policy. We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policyÑan emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.

[1] We write to challenge some of these distortions. Although we applaud the Bush Administration for its initial focus on destroying al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan, its failure to engage sufficient U.S. troops to capture or kill the mass of al-Qaida fighters in the later stages of that war was a great blunder. It is a fact that the early shift of U.S. focus to Iraq diverted U.S. resources, including special operations forces and intelligence capabilities, away from direct pursuit of the fight against the terrorists.

[2]
Many ofthe justifications offered by the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq have been proven untrue by credible studies, including by U.S. government agencies. There is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible.

[3]
Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was negligible, and its nuclear weapons program virtually nonexistent.

[4]
In comparative terms, Iran is and was much the greater sponsor of terrorism, and North Korea and Pakistan pose much the greater risk of nuclear proliferation to terrorists. Even on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious: the war itself has killed over a thousand Americans and unknown thousands of Iraqis, and if the threat of civil war becomes reality, ordinary Iraqis could be even worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein. The Administration knew most of these facts and risks before the war, and could have discovered the others, but instead it played down, concealed or misrepresented them.

Policy errors during the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq have created a situation in Iraq worse than it needed to be. Spurning the advice of Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, the Administration committed an inadequate number of troops to the occupation, leading to the continuing failure to establish security in Iraq. Ignoring prewar planning by the State Department and other US government agencies, it created a needless security vacuum by disbanding the Iraqi Army, and embarked on a poorly planned and ineffective reconstruction effort which to date has managed to spend only a fraction of the money earmarked for it.

[5] As a result, Iraqi popular dismay at the lack of security, jobs or reliable electric power fuels much of the violent opposition to the U.S. military presence, while the war itself has drawn in terrorists from outside Iraq.

The results of this policy have been overwhelmingly negative for U.S. interests.

[6] While the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime was desirable, the benefit to the U.S. was small as prewar inspections had already proven the extreme weakness of his WMD programs, and therefore the small size of the threat he posed. On the negative side, the excessive U.S. focus on Iraq led to weak and inadequate responses to the greater challenges posed by North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, and diverted resources from the economic and diplomatic efforts needed to fight terrorism in its breeding grounds in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Worse, American actions in Iraq, including but not limited to the scandal of Abu Ghraib, have harmed the reputation of the U.S. in most parts of the Middle East and, according to polls, made Osama Bin Laden more popular in some countries than is President Bush. This increased popularity makes it easier for al-Qaida to raise money, attract recruits, and carry out its terrorist operations than would otherwise be the case.

Recognizing these negative consequences of the Iraq war, in addition to the cost in lives and money, we believe that a fundamental reassessment is in order. Significant improvements are needed in our strategy in Iraq and the implementation of that strategy. We call urgently for an open debate on how to achieve these ends, one informed by attention to the facts on the ground in Iraq, the facts of al-Qaida’s methods and strategies, and sober attention to American interests and values.

Signed (All titles and affiliations listed for purposes of identification only),

See list of signatures



[1] On the mythology, see Jack Snyder, “Imperial Temptations,” The National Interest, Spring 2003.

[2] See, e.g., James Fallows, “Bush’s Lost Year,” The Atlantic, October 2004.

[3] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, “The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004).

[4] The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications,” January 2004; Chaim Kaufmann, “Threat Inflation and the Failure of the Marketplace of Ideas: The Selling of the Iraq War,” International Security vol. 29, no. 1 (Summer 2004). Weapons inspector Charles Duelfer concluded Saddam's Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” October 6, 2004.

[5] See, e.g., James Fallows, “Blind Into Baghdad,” The Atlantic, January/February 2004; Peter W. Galbraith, "Iraq: The Bungled Transition," New York Review of Books, September 23, 2004; David M. Edelstein, "Occupational Hazards: Why Military Occupations Succeed or Fail," International Security, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Summer 2004), Robin Wright and Thomas E. Rick, “Bremer Criticizes Troop Levels” Washington Post, October 5, 2004.

[6] On negative impacts on the war on terrorism, see Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming); Ivan Arreguin-Toft, “Tunnel at the End of the Light: A Critique of U.S. Counter-Terrorist Grand Strategy,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, vol. 15, no. 3 (2002); Robert A. Pape, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” American Political Science Review 97, no. 3 (August 2003), and “Dying to Kill Us,” New York Times, September 22, 2003, p. A17; Anonymous, Imperial Hubris (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2004). Regarding problems in Iraq itself, see Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Critical Role of Iraqi Military, Security, and Police Forces: Necessity, Problems, and Progress,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Third Revised Draft: September 27, 2004 (3.1); David Rapoport, “The Fourth Wave: September 11 in the History of Terrorism,” Current History (December 2001); and Douglas Jehl, "US Intelligence Shows Pessimism On Iraq's Future," The New York Times, September 16, 2004, page A1.

FROM MY SEAT

FROM MY SEAT

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2004 at 4:00 AM

GIMME SOME CHANGE Last month, USA Today ran a series on changes that are needed in the world of sports. I liked some of their ideas (lower ticket prices, drop the DH in baseball), but I’ve got more. Silence the “unbelievable.” This is the most overused -- and therefore the most meaningless -- word in broadcast journalism. The job of a play-by-play announcer (and even more so, that of an analyst) is to make what we see (or hear) . . . believable. So no more cop-outs for the talking heads. Try this game. Get a bag of M&M’s and sit down for one of this Sunday’s NFL contests. Reward yourself with an M&M every time you hear the word “unbelievable.” You’ll need a second bag after halftime. No more elbow-armor for big-league hitters. As if the dilution of pitching talent from expansion and the homer-friendly ballparks weren’t enough to give unfair advantage to the guy in the batter’s box, we now have Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Craig Biggio, and countless other sluggers guarding their exposed elbow with something out of a Batman movie. Think Biggio would lean over the plate with his actual elbow in the way of a Jason Schmidt fastball? The inside part of the plate once belonged to the pitcher and only the fearless (i.e. Frank Robinson) dared cross this line. And Robinson crossed it like a man. “Monday Night Football” will kick off at 7 pm . . . eastern time. I’m 11 years old and live in Atlanta. I love Brett Favre more than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny combined. The Pack is on Monday Night Football tonight! My bedtime? Nine o’clock. See ya in the morning paper, Brett. No more scoring systems that rely on thousandths of a point. Until someone can convince me there are a THOUSAND variables a gymnastics judge weighs during Carly Patterson’s balance beam routine, I’m not buying the current system. Have a scale of one to 10, whole numbers, and tell us how the athlete did. In averaging the scores, you can go one decimal point, no more. If I see the latest Mary Lou slip off the beam and land on her keister, I don’t want to see 9.143. I want to see . . . 4. Unify college football’s AP poll and coaches poll. It’s bad enough that the NCAA and bowl honchos won’t give us a playoff to determine the national champion. But on top of that, they confound things by giving equal credence to a pair of polls, leading to the kind of mess we had last season with the top two teams not even meeting on the field at season’s end. If we had one poll, and only one, this would be mathematically impossible. We’ll fix this, then tackle that playoff. Leave “respect” to Aretha. If one more professional athlete, having signed a multimillion-dollar contract, says “it’s not about the money . . . it’s about respect,” I may just scratch out the word “perspective” in my dictionary. An athlete is paid millions because he makes millions for his franchise. He is a cog in an entertainment machine, and his eight-figure salary has little to do with respect. No, respect is earned by doing what’s right when nobody’s watching. The NFL’s Colts must give their name and uniform back to Baltimore. Just as St. Louis is to baseball towns, so Baltimore is to football towns. Unitas, Marchetti, Berry, Mackey. The 1958 “Greatest Game Ever Played.” The team Namath had to beat to legitimize the AFL. Baltimore deserves its Colts back. The sight of those classic blue-and-white uniforms -- and perhaps the finest helmet in the sport -- on a team that plays under a roof and over a carpet . . . is offensive. Whether or not Indianapolis takes the name Ravens, I really don’t care. But send the Colts back where they belong. Return sunglasses to the World Series. For the love of all things sacred, play a World Series game under sunshine. For years now, I’ve been campaigning for a national baseball holiday that would fall on a Wednesday, when Game 4 is played. All the fat-cat advertisers and television titans would take a small hit for the good of (1) American children and (2) the national pastime. As slim as my chances are for this holiday, the least baseball could do is play Game 2 -- on Sunday, for crying out loud -- before 10-year-olds are put to bed.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Tax Matters

Tennesseans get a new deduction; the Chamber of Commerce says no to the payroll tax.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2004 at 4:00 AM

In a telephone call from her office last Thursday, 7th District U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn hailed what she called "an enormous step forward" in the passage by the House of a tax bill which would allow Tennessee taxpayers to deduct state and local sales taxes from their federal tax returns.

By week's end, the Senate too had concurred, and the legislation -- which benefits Tennesseans along with residents of Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming -- was on its way to becoming law. The seven benefiting states are the ones that do not possess a state income tax but avail themselves of major revenue from sales taxes, which heretofore have not been deductible.

Besides Blackburn, a sponsor of the measure who called passage of the bill her "Number One issue," other Tennessee officeholders, past and present, could claim some credit for the outcome. They included two former legislators -- ex-U.S. representative Bob Clement of Nashville and ex-Senator Fred Thompson, each of whom had sponsored a previous version of the measure and had labored for some years to get the issue on the front burner.

Tennessee's two current senators, Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist, each hailed the outcome, as did the rest of the state's congressional delegation. Alexander credited Frist, as Senate majority leader, for his efforts in ensuring the bill's passage.

Another interested party, surely, was state senator John Wilder of Somerville, a Democrat and Tennessee's longtime lieutenant governor, who is in a tough reelection fight against Republican challenger Ron Stallings of Bolivar.

For years, Wilder has been intoning the phrase "Uncle Sam taxes taxes" as something of a mantra. The new legislation would strip Uncle of that prerogative, at least as regards the sales tax.

According to studies by the Congressional Research Service and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the sales-tax deduction would provide an average $470 annually to Tennessee taxpayers itemizing their deductions. Taxpayers could also use a formula estimating the amount of their annual sales tax, based on income and household size.

In effect, the new law, which will be in effect for next spring's filings, will restore the status quo ante that existed before 1986, when tax-reform legislation of that year eliminated a sales-tax deduction as an option on federal income-tax filings.

• Speaking of taxes, the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce has launched a major effort to defeat next month's referendum on a proposed payroll or privilege tax.

In a memorandum late last week to "selected business/community leaders," chamber chairman-elect Gary Shorb called for an "educational campaign to assure the defeat of the proposed Privilege Tax by the Memphis City Council."

Shorb's letter, styled as an "Executive Meeting alert," reads in part: "We have gone on record in the past stating we would not oppose the generation of new revenue on a countywide basis to address the school funding issue, in particular, as long as new revenue was preceded by school funding reform, a definitive plan for debt reduction and implementation of measures to make sure government is operating efficiently.

"The Memphis Regional Chamber believes the best way to address revenue shortfalls is through efficiency and job growth. Over time, the new revenues could then be used to grow our system in strategically identified ways. The city's proposed Privilege Tax responds to none of these criteria and leaves far too many questions and issues unanswered. The last thing we want to become is less competitive in the creation of jobs and wealth in our community."

The letter urges recipients "to join the Coalition For A Better Memphis and attend an informational meeting on Friday, October 15th at 8 a.m. in Hardin Hall at the Memphis Botanic Garden."

• 9th District U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr. was the designated host for this Wednesday night's local Democratic debate-watch party -- the third and last of the 2004 presidential campaign. The Ford party was set for Jillian's on Peabody Place.

Meanwhile, the congressman's newly declared write-in opponent -- gay activist Jim Maynard -- was busy enlarging the scope of his campaign, establishing a campaign Web site, giving out campaign T-shirts, and expanding his list of issues beyond that of opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, which Ford supports.

Said Maynard in a news release: "This is not the first time he [Ford] has endorsed conservative positions.He has supported President Bush's 'Faith-based Initiatives,' which violate the First Amendment's anti-establishment clause and the Constitutional separation of church and state.He supported the Iraq War and wasteful military spending.I have decided that I can no longer support him or vote for him and believe that voters deserve a better choice, someone who stands up for his beliefs and principles, defends civil rights, equality, and social justice for all, and supports the separation of church and state."

• Three members of Tennessee's congressional delegation are featured in the current issue of Runner's World. Third District representative Zach Wamp of Chattanooga, 5th District representative Jim Cooper of Nashville, and 6th District representative Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro all earn space for their competitive racing efforts in a "Running for Office" issue that fronts the Democrats' vice-presidential candidate, North Carolina senator John Edwards, wearing racing shorts, on the cover.

All the Tennessee congressmen, save for Republican Wamp, are also Democrats. Clearly, competitive running is one area where the GOP needs to do some catching up. •

POLITICS by JACKSON BAKER

Ed McAteer's Farewell

Friends of longtime Christian conservative activist Ed McAteer said goodbye to him last week in a funeral service at Bellevue Baptist Church, presided over by Rev. Adrian Rogers and including testimonials from relatives and friends like Conservative Caucus founder Howard Phillips.

The 78-year-old McAteer, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer for some months, died on Wednesday morning of last week. He was active to the end, having made a point of watching the vice-presidential debate on television the night before. He had attended last month's Jones-Johnson light-heavyweight championship fight at the FedExForum and had kept on presiding over the meetings of the Dutch Treat Luncheon, a monthly forum involving local political figures.

A personal note: McAteer was the subject of my very first article for the Flyer, a 1989 cover story during the paper's first few months of publication. He and his wife Faye never ceased being friends, and I spent time with him earlier this year for another cover story. The late Dennis Freeland, the Flyer's longtime editor, and I often talked about what we both called McAteer's "irresistible" personality -- an effervescent one which transcended anybody's and everybody's politics.

There was no doubt where McAteer stood on political issues, of course -- ranging from his opposition to the U.S. surrendering the Panama Canal in the late '70s to his unyielding position against legal abortion. He was a strong voice on behalf of the state of Israel and frequently sponsored national forums and prayer meetings on the country's behalf.

McAteer was the founder of the Religious Roundtable, which mobilized the political sentiment of religious conservatives around former President Ronald Reagan. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and survived a Japanese kamikaze attack that sank his ship. After the war, he became a Golden Gloves champion in the Memphis area. Before his immersion in political and religious activism, McAteer had a successful career in business, serving as a national sales manager for Colgate toothpaste.

Undoubtedly, the toothy smile that rarely left his face was his strongest selling point. •

Friday, October 8, 2004

Decision Delayed

Personal tragedies postpone naming of new county commissioner.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 8, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County commissioners will have a little extra time -- two weeks' worth -- to determine a successor to Linda Rendtorff, the former 1st District commissioner who resigned last month to become director of community services for county government.

The delay is the result of two unexpected deaths last week in the immediate family of Commissioner Joyce Avery. Originally, the commission was to have resolved the appointment issue at a specially called meeting on Monday of this week. That meeting was held, but only so that a bare quorum of commissioners could reset it for Monday, October 18th -- a week after next Monday's regular meeting, which will deal with normal agenda items.

The commission had met on Wednesday of last week to interview some 14 candidates for the position. Midway through those proceedings, Commissioner Avery was informed by cell-phone of the death of her daughter and left, but, after a lengthy interval, questioning of candidates continued. (Commissioner Avery also learned of a brother's death over the weekend.)

Those interviewed last Wednesday were (in order of appearance): Derrick Bennett, Wyatt Bunker, Mike Carpenter, George Flinn, Randy Hendon, Jeffrey Hines, Philip Kantor, Lester Lit, Charles McDonald, Steve McManus, Billy Orgel, Mike Ritz, Karla Templeton, and Mark White.

The delay in effect means that jockeying for the position -- which, according to various commissioners, has been intense, involving repeated lobbying by candidates and their backers -- will continue to percolate, perhaps changing the current state of things.

As of now, the leading candidates for the position -- based on stated or generally understood commitments to them by members of the commission -- would seem to be Orgel, Bunker, and Ritz. Close behind are Carpenter, Flinn, and Templeton -- all of whom are on somebody's "fallback" list in case of deadlock.

The one consideration that commissioners generally agree on is that whoever succeeds Rendtorff should be, like her, a Republican with a record of party activity. That principle was stated by commission chairman Michael Hooks, a Democrat, who pointed out that the body's Republicans, with their technical 7-6 majority, could have named one of their party members to succeed Democrats on prior occasions but had not done so.

Debate Season: As the November 2nd general election approaches, Holy Spirit Catholic Church will be the site for a series of debates this month on politically related subjects. The schedule is as follows:

n Monday, October 11th: "How Sacred is Life?" Democrat David Cocke will debate Republican Paul Stanley on such issues as stem-cell research, abortion, and preemptive military invasions. Dr. Pete Gathje will serve as "Catholic voice," and Joe Birch of WMC, Channel 5, will moderate.

n Monday, October 18th: "Justice and the American Dream." Democrat Jim Strickand will debate Republican David Kustoff on matters ranging from job out-sourcing to fair wages to social security. The Rev. Bill Parham will serve as "Catholic voice," and Channel 5's Ron Childers will moderate.

n Monday, October 25th. "What is a Life Worth?" Democrat Kathryn Bowers will debate Republican Kemp Conrad on issues including health care, the death penalty, and euthanasia. The Rev. Father Joe Tagg will be "Catholic voice," and Channel 5's Bill Lunn will moderate.

Report Card: Tennessee politicians get a failing grade on the 2004 National Political Awareness Test from Project VoteSmart, a nonprofit organization which polls candidates for their positions on issues during campaign seasons.

Noting that Tennessee candidates were "among the least likely in the country to provide issue information to voters," a Project VoteSmart press release this week goes on to say that "only 21 percent were willing to expose their positions on the issues they will have to deal with on the public's behalf, if elected."

Of the 26 candidates for congressional positions who were polled, eight -- or 31 percent -- returned Project VoteSmart's questionnaire. Of these, four were Republicans (out of nine GOP candidates altogether), four were third-party or independent candidates (out of nine), and none were Democrats (out of eight polled).

Candidates with Memphis-area constituencies who returned their questionnaires were 7th District Republican congressman Marsha Blackburn and 8th District GOP candidate James L. Hart. Not returning questionnaires were 8th District Democratic congressman John Tanner, 9th District Democratic congressman Harold Ford, and 9th District Republican candidate Ruben Fort.

Legislative candidates from the Memphis area who complied were: (among Republicans) Brian Kelsey, House District 83; John Pellicciotti, District 93; and Mark Norris, Senate District 32; (among Democrats) Julian Prewitt, House District 83; Barbara Cooper, House District 86; and Steve Cohen, Senate District 30.

State House candidates not complying were: (among Democratic candidates) Joe Towns, District 84; Larry Turner, District 85; Kathryn Bowers, District 87; Larry Miller, District 88; John DeBerry, District 90; Lois DeBerry, District 91; Henri Brooks, District 92; Mike Kernell, District 93; Susan Slyfield, District 97; and Ulysses Jones, District 98; (among Republican candidates) George Edwards, District 86; Jim Jamieson, District 89; Dolores Gresham, District 94; Curry Todd, District 95; Paul Stanley District 96; Tre Hargett, District 97; and Bubba Pleasant, District 99.

Democratic Senate candidate Jim Kyle in District 28 did not return a questionnaire, nor did Democrat Joe Pete Parker in District 32; Republican Johnny Hatcher did not comply in Senate District 30; nor did independent Mary Taylor-Shelby in District 30.

A complete tabulation of responses by candidates in various issue categories, as well as information about candidates' financial disclosures, biographical information, and interest groups' ratings is available at vote-smart.org.

n The contest between Democrat Joe Pete Parker and incumbent Republican Mark Norris in Senate District 32 took an unusual turn last week, as Parker issued a lengthy statement accusing Norris of being, in effect, soft on abortion.

Said Parker: "I am strongly opposed to abortions and will always vote against this procedure except for rape and medical reasons."

Party positions being what they are, it is rare these days for a Democrat to be challenging a Republican on grounds of being insufficiently pro-life, but in any case Norris was promptly upheld by the Tennessee Right to Life organization, whose president, Brian Harris, issued an official endorsement of Norris.

Said Harris in a news release: "West Tennessee should be commended for sending a leader of Senator Norris' caliber to Nashville. During this session Senator Norris' demonstrated leadership was critical in helping to move forward meaningful pro-life protections and policies. His clear commitment to promoting respect for human life is matched by his compassion and concern for the women, children and families of this state."

The organization commended Norris for his sponsorship of a variety of bills, including one calling for a specialty pro-life license plate and another seeking a "public vote" on the restoration of former state laws outlawing abortion.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

POLITICS

Personal tragedies cause a postponement in naming a new county commissioner.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2004 at 4:00 AM

DECISION DELAYED Shelby County commissioners will have a little extra time -- two weeks’ worth -- to determine a successor to Linda Rendtorff, the former 1st District commissioner who resigned last month to become director of community services for county government. The delay is the result of two unexpected deaths last week in the immediate family of Commissioner Joyce Avery. Originally, the commission was to have resolved the appointment issue at a specially called meeting on Monday of this week. That meeting was held, but only so that a bare quorum of commissioners could reset it for Monday, October 18th -- a week after next Monday’s regular meeting, which will deal with normal agenda items. The commission had met on Wednesday of last week to interview some 14 candidates for the position. Mid-way of those proceedings, Commissioner Avery was informed by cell-phone of the death of her daughter and left, but, after a lengthy interval, questioning of candidates continued. (Commissioner Avery also learned of a brother’s death over the weekend.) Those interviewed last Wednesday were (in order of appearance): Derrick Bennett, Wyatt Bunker, Mike Carpenter, George Flinn, Randy Hendon, Jeffrey Hines, Philip Kantor, Lester Lit, Charles McDonald, Steve McManus, Billy Orgel, Mike Ritz, Karla Templeton, and Mark White. The delay in effect means that jockeying for the position -- which, according to various commissioners, has been intense, involving repeated lobbying by candidates and their backers -- will continue to percolate, perhaps changing the current state of things. As of now, the leading candidates for the position -- based on stated or generally understood commitments to them by members of the commission -- would seem to be Orgel, Bunker, and Ritz. Close behind are Carpenter, Flinn, and Templeton -- all of whom are on somebody’s “fallback” list in case of deadlock. The one consideration that commissioners generally agree on is that whoever succeeds Rendtorff should be, like her, a Republican with a record of party activity. That principle was stated by commission chairman Michael Hooks, a Democrat, who pointed out that the body’s Republicans, with their technical 7-6 majority, could have named one of their party members to succeed Democrats on prior occasions but had not done so. Debate Season: As the November 2nd general election approaches, Holy Spirit Catholic Church will be the site for a series of debates this month on politically related subjects. The schedule is as follows: Monday, October 11th: “How Sacred is Life?” Democrat David Cocke will debate. Republican Paul Stanley on such issues as steam cell research, abortion, and pre-emptive military invasions. Dr. Pete Gathje will serve as “Catholic voice,” and Joe Birch of WMC, Channel 5, will moderate. Monday, October 18th: “Justice and the American Dream.” Democrat Jim Strickand will debate Republican David Kustoff on matters ranging from job out-sourcing to fair wages, to social security. The Rev. Bill Parham will serve as “Catholic voice,” and Channel 5’s Ron Childers will moderate. Monday, October 25th. “What is a Life Worth?” Democrat Kathryn Bowers will debate Republican Kemp Conrad on issues like health care, the death penalty, and euthanasia. The Rev. Father Joe Tagg will be Catholic voice, and Channel 5’s Bill Lunn will moderate. Report Card: Tennessee politicians get a failing grade on the 2004 National Political Awareness Test from Project VoteSmart, a non-profit organization which polls candidates for their positions on issues during campaign seasons. Noting that Tennessee candidates were “among the least likely in the country to provide issue information to voters,” a Project VoteSmart press release this week goes on to say that “only 21% were willing to expose their positions on the issues they will have to deal with on the public’s behalf, if elected.” Of the 26 candidates for congressional positions who were polled, 8 -- or 31 percent -- returned Project VoteSmart’s questionnaire. Of these, four were Republicans (out of 9 GOP candidates altogether), four were third-party or independent candidates (out of 9 altogether), and none were Democrats (out of 8 polled). Candidates with Memphis-area constituencies who returned their questionnaires were 7th District Republican congressman Marsha Blackburn and 8th District GOP candidate James L. Hart. Not returning questionnaires were 8th District Democratic congressman John Tanner, 9th District Democratic congressman Harold Ford, and 9th District Republican candidate Ruben Fort. Legislative candidates from the Memphis area who complied were: (among Republicans) Brian Kelsey, House District 83; John Pellicciotti, District 93; and Mark Norris, Senate District 32; (among Democrats) Julian Prewitt, House District 83; Barbara Cooper, House District 86; and Steve Cohen, Senate District 30. State House candidates not complying were: (among Democratic candidates) Joe Towns, District 84; Larry Turner, District 85; Kathryn Bowers, District 87; Larry Miller, District 88; John DeBerry, District 90; Lois DeBerry, District 91; Henri Brooks, District 92; Mike Kernell, District 93; Susan Slyfield, District 97; and Ulysses Jones, District 98; (among Republican candidates) George Edwards, District 86; Jim Jamieson, District 89; Dolores Gresham, District 94; Curry Todd, District 95; Paul Stanley District 96; Tre Hargett, District 97; and Bubba Pleasant, District 99. Democratic Senate candidate Jim Kyle in District 28 did not return a questionnaire, nor did Democrat Joe Pete Parker in District 32; Republican Johnny Hatcher did not comply in Senate District 30; nor did independent Mary Taylor-Shelby in District 30. A complete tabulation of responses by candidates in various issue categories, as well as information about candidates’ financial disclosures, biographical information, and interest groups’ ratings is available at www.vote-smart.org. The contest between Democrat Parker and incumbent Republican Norris in Senate District 32 took an unusual turn last week, as Parker issued a lengthy statement accusing Norris of being, in effect, soft on abortion. Said Parker: “ I am strongly opposed to abortions and will always vote against this procedure except for rape and medical reasons.” Party positions being what they are, it is rare these days for a Democrat to be challenging a Republican on grounds of being insufficiently pro-life, but in any case Norris was promptly upheld by Tennessee Right to Life organization, whose president, Brian Harris, issued an official endorsement of Norris. Said Harris in a news release: “West Tennessee should be commended for sending a leader of Senator Norris’ caliber to Nashville. During this session Senator Norris’ demonstrated leadership was critical in helping to move forward meaningful pro-life protections and policies. His clear commitment to promoting respect for human life is matched by his compassion and concern for the women, children and families of this state.” The organization commended Norris for his sponsorship of a variety of bills, including one calling for a specialty pro-life license plate and another seeking a “public vote” on the restoration of former state laws outlawing abortion.

ED MCATEER, CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE

Genial activist had friendships across social and political lines.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2004 at 4:00 AM

E.E. "Ed" McAteer, founder of the Religious Roundtable and a conservative activist whose friendships crossed social and political lines, died at his East Memphis home Wednesday morning after a lengthy bout with cancer. He was 78. Though Republican candidates and office-holders were most often the beneficiaries of his support, McAteer professed no party-line credo. He always said that it was he who had brought together the Christian conservatives who later became known, generically, as the Moral Majority. It was certainly McAteer who sponsored the 1980 Texas summit with presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that organized fundamentalist support for the Republican nominee and put the Christian Right on the political map. McAteer came to the activist phase of his life after a long and successful career in business, during which he had served as national sales director for Colgate-Palmolive-Peet In recent years, McAteer, always a steadfast supporter of the state of Israel, had bent most of his efforts toward organizing prayer meetings and conferences on behalf of the embattled Middle Eastern nation. After the swearing-in of George W. Bush in 2001, McAteer lobbied the new president to become ambassador to Israel and won a surprising amount of support from other government figures. In his youth, McAteer had been a Golden Gloves boxing champion in Memphis. During World War Two, he served in the Navy and was a survivor of the first ship sunk by a Japanese kamikaze plane in 1945. Even in recent months, when he was undergoing treatment for his illness, McAteer maintained a busy round of activities He continued to preside over the monthly Dutrch Treat Luncheon, a forum involving local political figures. He made sure to take in the Jones-Johnson light heavyweight title fight at the FedEx Forum last month, and on Tuesday watched the televised vice-presidential debate attentively. A member of Bellevue Baptist Church, he is survived by Faye McAteer, his wife of more than half a century; two sons, Edward McAteer II of Murfreesboro and Timothy NcAteer of Bartlett; six grandchildren; and 9 great-grandchldren. Visitation will be at Bellevue at 9 am. Friday, followed by the funeral at 10. Ronk Funeral Home of Alamo is in charge.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

FORD DEFENDS STAND ON MARRIAGE AMENDMENT

FORD DEFENDS STAND ON MARRIAGE AMENDMENT

Posted By on Sat, Oct 2, 2004 at 4:00 AM

The following statement was issued Friday by U.S. Rep.Harold Ford, a day after Memphis gay activist Jim Maynard announced his write-in-candidacy to oppose Ford in next month's congressional election:
Statement by Congressman Harold Ford on H.J. Res. 56, the Federal Marriage Amendment "My position on same sex marriage has been clear from the beginning. I am opposed to it. The Defense of Marriage Act - which I support - is likely not to withstand a court challenge. To ensure that the institution of marriage remains one reserved for the union of a man and a woman, yesterday I supported the effort to enact a constitutional amendment. "However, my support for rights for gay Americans remains strong and intact. I am able to distinguish between marriage and work place, labor, benefits and civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Americans. I am unapologetic in my support of anti-discrimination efforts against gays and lesbians and will remain so. But when it comes to marriage, I differ with friends and allies in the gay and lesbian community."
Ford's write-in opponent was critical of the congressman's stand and, in a statement, suggested that Ford had been less than forthright about it and accused Ford of "an appeal to bigotry." Said Maynard in a statement:
"In voting for H.J. Res. 56, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. reversed his prior position and statements in opposition to amending the Constitution of the United States to prohibit states from supporting equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. "In an email to oppponents of the amendment, Rep. Ford stateds his belief that the issue of marriage should be left up to the states; in an email to supporters of the amendment, Rep. Ford stated "While I question whether an amendment to our sacred Constitution is needed at this time, I will carry out the wishes of citizens who favor a constitutional amendment." "It is disappointing that Rep. Ford has caved in to religious intolerance and sacrificed the principles of the Democratic Party to appeal to bigotry. While we can agree to disagree on our different religious and personal beliefs about marriage, we cannot ignore the constitutional separation of church and state. Following the constitutional separation of church and state, we must separate the religious institutution of marriage from the civil institution of marriage. Churches should be free to follow their religious teachings about marriage, and gays and lesbians should be free to share in the legal benefits of civil marriage," says Jim Maynard. "Because Rep. Ford has failed to defend the constitutional separation of church and state, I offer my name as a write-in candidate to allow voters a choice on Nov. 2 between a candidate who sacrifices his beliefs and principles and one who defends his beliefs and principles.'"

Friday, October 1, 2004

Not Quite a Go

Herenton acknowledges he has doubts about further service as mayor.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 1, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Yes, Willie Herenton had a fund-raiser Saturday night, at $250 a head, but its purpose -- though earmarked on the invitation as being for the honoree's "reelection" -- remains obscure, as does the political future of Memphis' erstwhile "mayor for life." The bottom line: He is uncertain whether he wants to continue in office.

A year ago, Herenton was in the process of walking through a smashing election victory, his fourth since 1991, and there were no conceivable rivals in sight. Things have changed though, as the mayor acknowledged during his evening-long, drop-in event at Beale Street's Plush Club, one that wrapped around the Johnson-Jones light heavyweight title fight at the FedExForum.

"There are a lot of names you hear," said the mayor about potential aspirants for his job, "and some of them are frightening to even think about. I mean that as a citizen. People should be frightened to think about some of these folks trying to take over."

But, though Herenton said he was getting active encouragement to run again in 2007, "from the business community, in particular," his message Saturday night -- an unusual one for this preternaturally assertive ex-Golden Glove champion, an alpha male if there ever was one -- was that he was doubtful about his future political course.

"There have been so many ups and downs this past year," confessed a mayor who has conducted a running battle with members of his City Council and of late has endured the specter of an FBI investigation and a whispering campaign about possible improprieties on his part or on that of his administration.

"None of that is what it seems to be. I'm okay," insisted Herenton. But the troubled look in his face as he dealt with the matter clearly attested to a measure of strain and anxiety.

"You're probably right," the mayor said when it was suggested that he appeared dubious about seeking reelection and that such a course was chancy, repeating, "You're probably right." But he noted that, in addition to Saturday night's event, he would be holding a "major fund-raiser" sometime in 2005.

Asked about persistent rumors that he intends to resign shortly after the New Year, the mayor hazarded a thin smile and shook his head slowly in apparent dismissal, but his murmured denial sounded anything but firm.

Instead, he looked beyond the current time frame. "People wonder what my legacy will be," said the man who has never been bashful about asserting either his agenda or what he regards as his accomplishments. "I don't know. That's something that people who write the histories will have to judge."

That Herenton is thinking out loud about his legacy rather than about his next move in the chess game of politics is itself something of a revelation. Hours later, at the Forum, the city's chief executive was at ringside when longtime boxing icon Roy Jones suffered a surprising knockout loss to International Boxing Federation light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson.

"When I was with Roy last night, I could tell his heart wasn't in boxing," the mayor said sadly. One was tempted to conclude the same thing about Her-enton and politics.

Command Performance: Remember when Memphis' Anthony "Amp" Elmore used to be simultaneously the holder of a championship kick-boxing belt and the promoter of various championship fights in which he would take on an opponent? You had to wonder how on-the-level such a thing could be.

Similar thoughts crossed the minds of some of those invited for an open house at the home of Shelby County commissioner John Willingham and his wife Marge on Fairchild Cove in East Memphis Sunday night. It was billed by Commissioner Willingham as a reception for the several candidates seeking to succeed the recently vacated District 1 commission seat of Linda Rendtorff, now director of community services for county mayor A C Wharton.

Since one of the aspirants for that seat is teacher Karla Templeton, daughter of Commissioner Willingham, some of the skeptics might have been forgiven for their doubts. As it turned out, however, most of the serious contenders for the vacancy were on hand, as were a fair number of Willingham's commission colleagues, media people, and others. In fact, it was a right smart party -- with a wet bar and food furnished by barbecue maven Willingham himself -- and all of the politicking seemed to be congenial and on the up-and-up.

Best yet, nobody made speeches.
Among the candidates for Rendtorff's vacancy who showed up, besides Templeton: Billy Orgel, Wyatt Bunker, Mike Carpenter, Mike Ritz, George Flinn, Jay Sparks, Mark White, Lester Lit, and Phil Kantor.

The same cast of characters, plus others (one new entrant is Jeff Hynes, son of Dr. Leonard Hynes and county election commissioner Nancy Hynes), were invited to a specially called commission meeting Wednesday, at which all the hopefuls were extended the opportunity to state their credentials and purpose for the record.

District 1 Candidates Face Off: Some, perhaps most, of the races this fall for Memphis school board positions will be dry, civil affairs conducted in dry, civil ways. The race for District 1, at large, isn't like that at all.

Sparks -- or, more aptly -- mortar rounds flew Monday night at the Central Library on Poplar during a League of Women Voters forum for the six District 1 contestants. Most of the action came in a three-way battle royal involving incumbent Wanda Halbert and her chief challengers, Robert Spence and Kenneth Whalum Jr.

Though each of the three other contestants -- Mary Taylor Shelby, Menelik C. Fombi, and Chuck Thompson -- had their moments, they were largely in the position of onlookers as the fireworks flew.

Former city attorney Spence, who has a current radio commercial attacking Halbert head-on for excessive travel expenses and other alleged offenses, took shots from the incumbent for the fact that his two school-age sons do not attend public school. "I am not the custodial parent" was the response he gave Monday night. He defended his commercial -- which includes a dig at Halbert for purportedly disdaining a bologna-sandwich lunch once proffered to school board members --as being based on "facts."

Halbert also took aim at opponent Whalum, making a reference to "sexual innuendoes" that would mystify some until after the forum, when sometime radio shock-jock Thaddeus Matthews made the rounds, passing out CD copies of an on-air interview he'd done with Whalum, one in which Whalum, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, appeared to acknowledge occasional use of profanity and other unconventional pulpit techniques.

Whalum -- whose claque was somewhat more demonstrative than those of Halbert and Spence, clapping loudly whenever he spoke -- repeated several times that he decided to enter the school board race after seeing TV news broadcasts in which "I saw members of the school board publicly berating staff members at MCS [Memphis City Schools]."

Among candidates' specific proposals: Halbert suggested more computer programs and extension of the system's optional school program to every school in the district. Whalum suggested arrangements with the business community whereby parents could have paid leaves to address their children's school issues. He and Thompson both called for closing underutilized schools, while Spence argued for a go-slow policy in school closing, in recognition that some such schools were "integral to the community." Shelby called for undercover officers at schools to police gang activity.

Among the other issues addressed were those of extracurricular activities (everybody was for it); corporal punishment (opinions varied, with Shelby and Whalum strongly for, Fombi against, and the others qualifying their support); and construction contracting (proposals ranged from Whalum's call for stronger enforcement of existing standards to Fombi's suggestion that projects be scaled down to Shelby's advocacy of a crackdown on "nepotism, favoritism, and cronyism").

Some proposals -- such as Thompson's suggestion for drastic revision of course offerings -- seemed beyond the scope of board members, a point Halbert noted when she said the board was limited in its charge to general policies, budgetary oversight, and supervision of its "one employee," the superintendent.

Left unaddressed at the forum were the question of consolidation and the issue of the federally mandated No Child Left Behind program.

After the forum, one or two advocates for Halbert pointed out with evident satisfaction that candidates Spence and Whalum were likely to split up the anti-incumbent vote.

Whalum, addressing that point independently, volunteered that he'd been approached by one of Spence's backers seeking his withdrawal. "I told him to tell Robert he could withdraw," said Whalum.

That was then; this is now. Whoever is in is going to stay in on the ballot, and the candidates for this position will no doubt generate a good deal more of both heat and light between now and November 2nd. •

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