Friday, February 28, 2014

Harvey Out, Martavius Jones In; Three Other Candidates for May 6 Primaries in Doubt

Meanwhile, speculation turns to possible contests in state, federal, and judicial races.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Judges Gina Higgins, Bobby Carter, and Karen Massey at a Thursday night fundraising reception for Massey at Jack Magoos Tavern on Broad .
  • JB
  • Judges Gina Higgins, Bobby Carter, and Karen Massey at a Thursday night fundraising reception for Massey at Jack Magoo's Tavern on Broad .

After Thursday’s withdrawal period for Shelby County offices and the Shelby County Election Commission’s preliminary certification of the candidate list, the major remaining mystery is whether three candidates can pass muster at a special called meeting of the S.C.E.C.next Wednesday, March 3, at 3 p.m.

The three potential candidates — — Edith Ann Moore and E. Jefferson Jones,, candidates in the Democratic primary for County Commissions 6 and 121, respectively and Latroy Williams, candidate for Trustee — had all filed by the deadline with the correct number of signatures but will be asked to address what were described in a Commission release as “residency complaints.”

The major changes in the final election list for the May 6 primaries were the withdrawal of County Commission chairman James Harvey as a Democratic candidate for county mayor and the Election Commission’s decision to certify Martavius Jones as a candidate in the Democratic primary for the County Commission’s District 10 seat.

The Democratic mayoral field is now former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone, current Commissioner Steve Mulroy, and the Rev. Kenneth Whalum, a former School Board member.

The inclusion of Jones, a stockbroker and former School Board member, creates a three-way primary race between Jones, community organizer Reginald Milton, and political newcomer Jake Brown. Jones’ previous exclusion had been based on doubts about one of his 25 qualifying signatures.

Local speculation will now center on possible filings for state and federal office, the deadline for which is April 3.

—Several incumbent Shelby County legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, have seen potential opponents pick up petitions for possible races against them, but the most vulnerable incumbent may be state Senator Ophelia Ford in District 29, where Memphis City Council member Lee Harris is in the midst of a highly public and well-organized “listening tour” as a possible candidate for the seat in the Democratic primary.

—Though attorney Ricky Wilkins has not yet filed to run in the Democratic primary, he has pulled a petition and is still considered a probable candidate in the Democratic primary against incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen. The Rev. Isaac Richmond, an activist and perennial candidate, has already filed in the primary.

—Former longtime Democratic state representative Mike Kernell, has pulled a petition to run for Seat 13 on the Shelby County School Board, but, as earlier indicated in this space, the Shelby County Commission has voted for a 9-member district for the School Board, and U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays, who had previously approved the 13-member format, will have to rule on the Commission’s revised request.

—State Senator Jim Kyle is one of two filees so far in a field of 11 people, none of them with prominent public profiles, who have drawn petitions for Chancellor, Part 1, an open seat. The other filee is Ken Besser.


Other judicial seats for which more than one candidate have filed include:

—Circuit Court,l Division 2: Kevin E. Reed vs.incumbent Judge James Russell
—Circuit Court, Division 1: Michael J. Floyd vs. incumbent. Judge Paula Skahan
—Criminal Court, Division 5: Mozella T. Ross vs. incumbent Judge. Jim Lammey
—General Sessions, Civil Division 2: Myra Hamilton vs. Phyllis Gardner
—General Sessions, Civil Division 3: Myra Hamilton, listed as filing here, too, vs. incumbent Judge John Donald
—General Sessions, Criminal Division 11: Former judge Michelle Alexander-Best vs.incumbent Karen Massey

With more than a month left to go before the April filing deadline, all the judicial positions should be considered highly fluid, with more filings expected.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Memphis as Site of 2016 Democratic National Convention?

Well, guess what? The city has been invited by the DNC to think about it! (And so has, er, Nashville.)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 7:11 PM

FedEx_Forum_as_convention_site.jpg

CNN’s Political Ticker website has a story citing the fact that Memphis is one of 33 American cities being asked by the Democratic National Committee to consider applying to be the site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Imagine it, Memphians. Hillary? Joe? Hey, guys, welcome. Grab yourselves a Barbecue and a brew on us!

Among the requirements for the host city are these: a venue seating between 18,500 and 25,000 people (the FedEx Forum can seat almost 20,000) and boasting 100 sky boxes (the Forum has some 80 of those, but, hey, that can surely be fixed, right?).

The host city also must have 17,000 hotel rooms and 1,000 suites. The Memphis area has just under 23,000 hotel rooms available — a tight squeeze, but that can be fixed, too.

Maybe some of our boys in Nashville can arrange a helpful state subsidy to attract another major hotel or two. Mark? Brian? Uh oh, forgot. You guys are Republicans, but still…

And another uh oh: Nashville is also in the list of cities being hustled. Hmmmm.

Anyhow, here’s the link to the CNN story about the Democrats’ hunt for their next convention city:

The Commission's SCS Vote: Confounding or Common-Sensical?

Why did suburban County Commissioners shy away from having their constituents represented on a 13-member Shelby County Schools board? This and other riddles are explored here.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Basar on the spot at Germantown
  • JB
  • Basar on the spot at Germantown

Questions remain in the aftermath of Monday’s pivotal vote on the Shelby County Commission In favor of a Shelby County Schools board composed of 9 single-member districts, excluding the six municipal areas with independent school systems.

That vote was made possible by the late defection Monday of Commissioner Steve Basar from the ranks of Republican suburban commissioners.

The suburbanites had previously deadlocked the decision process by insisting on an opposing format of 7 single-member districts, including representation for the area of Germantown containing what Commissioner Mark Billingsley called three of that municipality’s “flagship” schools.

As it happened, Basar was the featured speaker at Tuesday night’s meeting of the East Shelby Republican Club and took something of a verbal battering from several club members, who accused him of failing to stand with his party and of deserting the cause of the three Germantown schools, all of which are within the current District 1 Commission area which he serves

Basar on the Defense

Basar was clearly taken aback, but he put up a stout, if sometimes sputtering, defense of his vote, the gravamen of which was: There weren’t going to be seven votes for the suburbanites’ preferred format of 7 districts, come what may.

Ironically, it had been Basar who, as he noted in his defense Tuesday night, had proposed an amendment at Monday’s Commission meeting in favor of both the 7-member format and voting rights for the west Germantown area containing the three affected schools.

According to agreements reached between the Shelby County Schools board and the governing institutions of the six suburban municipalities, the three schools in question — Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle, and Germantown High School — are to be administered by SCS rather than by the soon-to-be Germantown municipal school district.

The reason for that, as noted by SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson when he proposed the agreement formula late last year, was that those three schools, considered together, now have a majority student population from the county’s unincorporated areas.

However reluctantly, the suburban members of the County Commission had accepted this result in order to certify the final agreement on the municipal-schools issue and to be done with a long-standing lawsuit pitting the Commission against the municipalities. The impasse of the last few weeks on how to constitute the SCS board was something of a residue of that larger, now resolved disagreement.

Plan 9A, a 9-member Board variant prepared by Commissioner Mike Ritz, had fallen one vote short at Monday’s Commission meeting, and it became clear, as Basar noted to the East Shelby club members Tuesday night, that Plan 7B, a Billingsley alternative that included “the Germantown peninsula,” had no chance of passage.

Basar’s decision at the tag end of Monday’s Commission meeting to ask for reconsideration of 9A was reportedly prompted by assertions from the Shelby County Election Commission that the Election Administrator’s office needed a full month’s advance notice of district lines in order to complete preparations for SCS board elections, the filing deadline for which is April 3.

Inasmuch as everybody’s memory of election glitches in 2012 stemming from last-minute preparations is still keen, the deadline issue loomed large. And, since there were no more Commission meetings scheduled before the ad hoc March 3 decision date, the Commission was faced either with coming up with something definite on Monday or going to default, in which case a 13-member board format previously cleared with supervising Judge Hardy Mays, would prevail.

After some back-and-forth concerning a proposal by Commissioner Heidi Shafer to schedule an emergency special-meeting date before April 3, Basar made his motion to reconsider, and 9 members it was.

Why not go to the default?

That leads to Question Number One, which was on the mind of at least a few observers and participants at Monday ‘s Commission meeting: Why, instead of resignedly (or grumpily, as the case may be) giving up the ghost and accepting the 9-member format, didn’t Basar and his suburban colleagues merely let the issue go to default and accept the 13-member formula?

That 13-member format had been developed a year or so ago — ironically, by the anti-municipal-schools coalition composed of Republican Ritz and the Democratic majority — and it was based on the premise of an all-county unified school district.

That meant that one of the major issues being wrangled over Monday — whether suburban areas should be represented on the SCS board — would be settled in favor of the suburbanites if the default 13-district format prevailed.

Question Number Two: What was the magic of a 7-member board, in pursuit of which the suburban Commission members were inclined for so long to go to the mattresses?

Yes, the current 7-member board — a remainder, more or less, of the provisional 23-member pre-merger school board, minus the 16 holdover Memphis City Schools and suburban Shelby County School positions — might be working more or less efficiently. And yes, it gives marginally greater representation to the outer-county suburbs — three members versus four for Memphis.

But that version of a 7-member board was due for expiration anyhow in the proposed 7B plan, which made no allowance for any suburban municipality other than by incorporating a small sliver of Germantown. So then, what else might have made for such passionate dedication to the idea on the part of the suburban commissioners?

In the interests of discretion rather than mystery, the behind-the-scenes skinny — accurate or not — is that some of the community’s traditional philanthropic sources (who double as generous donors to political campaigns) prefer the 7-member format, for whatever reason, and have let the fact be known.

According to this theory, that’s why the suburbanites on the Commission decided to accept the fait accompli of 7 instead of letting the default — and universal county-wide representation on a large SCS board — occur.

Goldsworthy: SCS Districts "Fair"

But maybe not. Commissioner Mark Billingsley, the originator of the “peninsular-inclusion” formula, was asked afterward what his attitude toward such a 13-member board would be. Too large, was the substance of his reply.

As for the defeated peninsular idea itself, Billingsley, in sponsoring it, may have been somewhat more Catholic than the Pope. Asked about his plan during and after her appearance Wednesday as the featured speaker at a Kiwanis Club luncheon, outgoing Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy said she had disagreed with Billingsley and the other supporters of the idea.

“Fair is fair,” she said, citing her own reluctance, during last year’s negotiations over the administration of school properties, to commit her city's district to long-term acceptance of students from outside Germantown’s city limits.

And Goldsworthy, who is not running for reelection this year after serving 20 years as mayor, pointed out that Houston High School in Germantown includes within its student body as many as 1,000 residents of the Collierville school area. To extend the peninsular concept in that direction would have obliged the Germantown School Board to include residents of Collierville within its voting districts.

So maybe the questions we posed are not conundra at all but simply matters of common sense.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Here’s Your List: A Teeming Roster of Candidates to Kick Off the Election Year on May 6

Most county races are contested, as the two major parties prepare to choose sides for a rematch.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM

election2014logo_2.jpg
UPDATE: Kenneth Moody, whose filing information was previously incomplete on the Election Commission roster, has qualified to run in the Democratic Party for Juvenile Court clerk.

Pending any changes by next week’s February 27 withdrawal deadline, Shelby Countians are guaranteed some brisk action in this election season, though most of it will occur not in the May 6 countywide primaries but on August 7 when the countywide general election and the state and federal primary dates coincide.

In the short view, there will be a brisk race among Democrats for the right to challenge Republican incumbent County Mayor Mark Luttrell in August. Vying in the May 6 Democratic primary are Shelby County Commission chairman James Harvey, outgoing Commissioner Steve Mulroy, former Commissioner Deidre Malone, and the Rev. Kenneth Whalum, a firebrand former School Board member. On the Republican side, Luttrell has only perennial eccentric Ernest Lunati to worry about.

Seven of the 13 County Commission seats are open ones and will have contested races, several in both primaries, and three of the six incumbents running for reelection will have contested primaries.

The main drama to watch this year in county races will be the attempt by Shelby County Democrats to capitalize on their presumed numerical majority in Shelby County, thereby capturing or recapturing the several clerkships and other chartered county offices that were lost to the Republicans in a GOP sweep in 2010.

That victory is largely credited to the effects on voter turnout of the Republicans’ highly contested three-way gubernatorial primary in 2010 between eventual winner Bill Haslam, then congressman Zach Wamp, and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.

No such factor will be involved in 2014. If anything, another Democratic primary challenge to 9th district congressman Steve Cohen, this time by well-connected African-American lawyer Ricky Wilkins, will likely boost Democratic turnout disproportionately.

And the X factor will be the presence of Democratic challenger Joe Brown — the former Criminal court Judge who logged 15 years as TV’s “Judge Joe Brown” — in a one-on-one in August against GOP incumbent District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

Brown’s celebrity is expected to pump up Democratic turnout (as well as that of Republicans in their effort to meet the challenge). But he is a high-risk candidate whose demonstrated tendency to overstate matters and breach normal political etiquette could cause an implosion with consequences to the rest of the ticket.

As the keynote speaker at a party “roast” of former Mayor Willie Herenton last year, Brown allowed himself some remarks about gays and women that some attendees considered inappropriate, and at a recent meeting of the Shelby County Democratic Committee he made a series of sensational charges against sitting public officials that went largely unreported by a nervous media for lack of documentation.

But if nothing else Brown will make things interesting.

If there were surprises on Thursday’s filing-deadline day for the May 5 countywide primaries, it was not a case of who filed but who didn’t file by the deadline.

IN SHELBY COUNTY COMMISSION RACES:

Firefighter Dennis Daugherty opted not to challenge GOP incumbent Terry Roland for a DISTRICT 1 County Commission seat, leaving Roland apparently re-elected by default.

Similarly, in Commission DISTRICT 5, Tanya Bartee did not file, clearing the way for Midtown yogurt entrepreneur Taylor Berger, a Democrat and a political newcomer, to challenge Republican incumbent Heidi Shafer.

Colonel Gene Billingsley (not to be confused with County Commissioner Mark Billingsley) decided not to make a token run as a Republican in DISTRICT 7, where incumbent Melvin Burgess’ only rival now is fellow Democrat Brandon Echols.

In Commission DISTRICT 10 — destined to be a race between Democrats, despite a Republican filing by one Geoffrey Diaz — community organizer Reginald Milton had reason for satisfaction, in that his main potential rival, stockbroker/former School Board member Martavius Jones was adjudged to have come up with one short of the requisite number of signatures in the Democratic primary. (Louis Matthew Morganfield also lacked enough signatures.) Jones is expected to make a challenge with the Election Commission.

Newcomer Jake Brown filed, apparently with the right number of signatures, and, as of now, has a de facto one-on-one race against Milton, but, long before filing deadline, the wheels had seemingly begun to come off Brown’s campaign with what is now an open schism between himself and former business associate and campaign manager Liz Rincon.

Other Commission races:

DISTRICT 2 will see two Republicans — David C. Radford Jr., and George Chism — with no Democrats running.

DISTRICT 3, another majority-Republican one, offers a relative free-for-all among Republicans, with candidates Kelly Price, David Reaves (currently a Shelby County Schools board member), Sherry Simmons, and Naser Fazlullah
.
DISTRICT 4 pits Republican Mark Billingsley against Ron Fittes in the GOP primary, with Democrat Jacqueline Jackson running unopposed as a Democrat.

DISTRICT 6, predominantly Democratic, features four candidates — Karl Bond, Willie Brooks, Edith Moore, and Kendrick Sneed. Brooks is a former Memphis City Schools board member, and Moore is a former interim Shelby County Commissioner. David Shiffman is a solitary Republican entry.

DISTRICT 8 sees veteran Democratic incumbent Walter Bailey being challenged by former interim Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd, with David Vinciarelli also in the primary. Julie Diane Ray is running as a Republican.

Educator James O. Catchings, a frequent candidate, dropped out of the DISTRICT 9 Democratic primary, but incumbent Justin Ford still has two name opponents — former MCS board member Patrice Robinson and Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams. No Republicans in this one.

Commission DISTRICT 11, an inner-city one, is totally a Democratic affair and something of a free-for-all, with six candidates qualifying. For the record, they are: Curtis Byrd, Donnell Cobbins, E. Jefferson Jones, Eddie Jones, Hendrell Remus, and Claude Talford.

DISTRICT 12, too, is all Democrat, with former party chairman Van Turner faced with a single opponent, Bryant Boone. Turner, who had a well-attended fundraiser Thursday night, will be highly favored.

DISTRICT 13, a suburban one, is safely Republican, and GOP incumbent Steve Basar is unopposed. One Democrat, Manoj Jain, qualified to oppose Basar in August.

IN OTHER COUNTYWIDE RACES:

In the race for SHERIFF, neither GOP incumbent Bill Oldham nor Democrat Bennie Cobb, a former deputy now running his own security service, have primary challengers.

To the surprise of many, who remember incumbent ASSESSOR Cheyenne Johnson’s victory in the off-year cycle of 2012, she will have to do it again because of new legislation requiring all countywide offices to be run simultaneously. Her primary opponent is Lorie Ingram. Two Republicans, Keith Alexander and Mary Royko, are contending in the GOP primary.

County TRUSTEE David Lenoir has a challenger in the Republican primary, Jeff Jacobs, while three Democrats — Rhonda Banks, Derrick Bennett, and M. LaTroy Williams — qualified on the Democratic ballot. Problem is, Banks is also qualified as a candidate for Circuit Court Clerk. Grist for the Shelby County Election Commission to mill, if they can.

If Banks ends up off the ballot for CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, veteran Democrat Del Gill will get the nomination by default. Incumbent Republican Jimmy Moore, who held a successfully fundraiser Thursday night, has a primary opponent for the record, Michael Finney.

{Interesting aside, for those remembering local Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson’s declaration of non-tolerance for Democrats who support GOP candidates: Democratic attendees at the Moore fund-raiser included Moore’s finance chairman, Karl Schledwitz; his campaign manager, former County Mayor Bill Morris; and such other Democrats as state Senator Reginald Tate and state Representative Joe Towns.)

The race for CRIMINAL COURT CLERK is chock-full. Only one Republican, Richard DeSaussure III, is on the ballot, after incumbent Kevin Key chose not to file. But four Democrats, all with some name recognition, are running: City Council member Wanda Halbert, a late entry; city court clerk Thomas Long; county prosecutor Michael McCusker, making his second bid for office after a faction on the Democratic executive committee challenged his credentials four years ago; and the Rev. Ralph White, a frequent candidate.

JUVENILE COURT CLERK Joy Touliatos is unopposed in the Republican primary, but Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks, is opoposed by Kenneth Moody, the former city director of Public Services, in the Democratic primary.

Republican Paul Boyd, an unsung candidate in 2010 who won an upset victory for PROBATE COURT CLERK, has eight Democrats vying for the right to try to reverse that electoral verdict. They are: Regina Beale, veteran candidate Jennings Bernard, William Chism Jr., Darnell Gatewood Sr.., Cynthia R. Gentry. W. Aaron Hall, Heidi Kuhn, and Clay Perry.

SHELBY COUNTY CLERK Wayne Mashburn, the Republican incumbent, will be opposed in August by one of three Democrats: Charlotte Draper, John H. Freeman, or Yolanda R. King Kight. Draper has run for office previously, and Freeman is well known as a longtime Democratic operative.

Tom Leatherwood, the incumbent Republican REGISTER, is unopposed in his primary; two Democrats, Stephen R. Christian and Coleman Thompson, the latter a 2010 candidate making another try, are contending for their party’s nomination.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brown Files for D.A.; Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk

Both Democrats are potentially competitive in their races against GOP incumbents; each has a primary to worry about first.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Joe Brown at Rotary on Tuesday
  • JB
  • Joe Brown at Rotary on Tuesday

Two important filings took place Tuesday at the downtown offices of the Shelby County Election Commission.

In ballyhooed scenes reminiscent of a pre-cybernetic time, when candidate filings in deadline week routinely drew big and boisterous crowds, former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown — “Judge Joe Brown” of TV fame — and Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks turned in completed petitions and made their 2014 election bids official — Brown for District Attorney General and Brooks for Juvenile Court Clerk.

Brooks. accompanied by Ruby Wharton, wife of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, and members of a support group called “Women for Brooks,” came first, shortly to be followed by Brown with a celebrity-style ad hoc entourage. Both candidates thereby opened up a new chapter in their contrroversial public lives — and new opportunities for a Democratic Party still smarting from an electoral wipe-out by the GOP in 2010.

Hours before his filing, Brown had addressed a luncheon meeting of the Memphis Rotary Club. It was the latest of several public appearances for the former judge, and, as always, he tailored his remarks for his audience — a good omen for those Democrats who need his turnout pull at the polls but fear an implosion resulting from intemperate or impolitic statements.

As the keynoter at last year’s party “roast” of former mayor Willie Herenton, Brown allowed himself some critical remarks about gays and loose women that antagonized some of the attending Democrats (though such rhetoric played well with others). And at a recent meeting of the Shelby County Denmocratic execuive committee, he made accusations against some sitting politicians that raised howls of delight by some and fears by others in his audience that he’d gone too far.

So it was that Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who introduced Brown to the Rotarians, jested that he should overcome his “shyness” and speak his mind for once.

Brown did, but within safe and audience-appropriate limits. He lamented that “our criminal justice system is no longer concerned with securing justice or controlling crime.” It had become, instead, “a device to control surplus labor.” That was his way of addressing the issue of the nation’s — and Shelby County’s — high incarceration rates, and it bespoke his propensity for dramatic statement.

That line of thought, as the judge elaborated, soared in the direction of revolutionary (“labor as a commodity,” “economic control of labor”), but he had fallback lines, too, for the more conservative (“We need to switch over from welfare to workfare”), and he even had some praise for Memphis lowlifes as being morally superior, all things considered, to the riff-raff he had to deal with during his 15-year run on TV (technically as an arbitrator, though his set was decked out as a courtroom).

Brown, who clearly has a propensity for the Big Idea, floated a proposal to convert Memphis into the “point of entry for Eastern seabord maritime traffic. But he could get down to earth, too, as in his denunciation of Memphis’ well-publicized rape-kit back log as something resulting in “12,000 women out there insulted by gross neglect, with not even the opportunity to get justice.”

All in all, it was a tour de force and, as Rotarian Dick Ranta of the University of Memphis noted during the Q and A “a good stump speech.” And, in answer to Ranta’s question as to whether he intended to offer himself for office, Brown allowed as how, having done his non-partisan duty as a Rotary Club speaker, he would be officially filing at 3:15 later on.

Which he did, a few minutes after Brooks had made her entrance, clearly buoyed by the experience and by the exuberance of her entourage, as well as by the fact that she seems to be having a career peak. She not only had Ruby Wharton in tow, but she was recently the recipient of the Ruby R. Wharton Award, given for her determined efforts to seek reform of Juvenile Court procedures, resulting in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and a subsequent mandate for specific reforms by the Court.

Brooks has also organized a group of community monitors to ensure compliance with those reforms, and she earned the public support of her colleagues on the County Commission when Court authorities initially balked in allowing her group to exercise a supervisory function.

That unanuimity of support from hefr colleagues was a signal event in itself, inasmuch as Brooks had previously spent much of her time on the Commission as a dissenter — even (in the Socratic sense, of course) as a gadfly, less intent on achieving comity than in raising aloud issues she considered important to her mainly African-American constituency.

After filing, Brooks observed that she had honestly thought she would become “a taxi-cab driver” after her two terms as County Commissioner ended (meaning she would be attending to the transportation needs of her grandchildren), but she now felt a sense of mission to follow through on the issues of Juvenile Court.

And, indeed, she might well be an asset to a Democratic Party seeking redemption at the polls. So could Brown, as a galvanizer of the voted. But both will need to restrain a certain tendency for — how to say it? — high-risk rhetoric, and both are up against an odds board that always favors incumbents.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich, the incumbent Republican, demonstrated in the election of 2012, when she won the right to finish the term of former boss Bill Gibbons, now state Commissioner of Public Safety and Homeland Security, that she could pull a significant crossover vote, and she has won points in most quarters for her professionalism.

Similarly, Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, who will be running on the GOP ticket, is regarded as a solid , effective, and non-controversial public official.

And both Brown and Brooks have primary opponents — attorney Linda Nettles Harris for District Attorney General and Cynthia Gentry and Kenneth Moody for Juvenile Court Clerk. Competitive races could well develop at that level.

Whatever the case, Brown and Brooks are going to make things interesting.

Brooks beams after filing as backer Ruby Wharton looks on.
  • JB
  • Brooks beams after filing as backer Ruby Wharton looks on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

District 10 County Commission Race Shaping Up

Reginald Milton has head start, but Martavius Jones et al. could challenge. UPDATE: Consultant Liz Rincon and candidate Jake Brown have parted the ways; J.W. Gibson endorses MIlton.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 12:18 AM

Reginald Milton (center) at recent campaign event with supporters Adrienne Pakis-Gillon (left) and Diane Cambron.
  • JB
  • Reginald Milton (center) at recent campaign event with supporters Adrienne Pakis-Gillon (left) and Diane Cambron.

One of several hot primary races brewing on the Democratic side of this year’s countywide election is that for the new District 10 position on the Shelby County Commission.

As of Monday, with Thursday's February 20 filing deadline three days away, only relative unknown Curtis Byrd and Reginald Milton had filed, but of the three other Democrats who had picked up petitions — Jake Brown, Martavius Jones, and Louis Morganfield — two, Brown and Jones, have previously attracted considerable attention.

They, along with Milton, a community organizer whose previous campaigns for office have given him considerable name recognition, had been the subject of frequent speculation among local Democrats regarding the ways in which they might split the primary vote.

Jones, a prominent — even pivotal — member of both the old Memphis City Schools board and ihe provisional Shelby County Schools board which succeeded it, also has significant name recognition. At this point, he may not have as many rank and file party activists on his side as Milton (who has been endorsed by 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, among several influential others), but he has another ace in the hole.

That was demonstrated at a recent well-attended fundraising affair on Milton’s behalf at the Sidestreet Grill at Overton Square.

Off to the side of Milton’s impressive crowd were J.W. Gibson,k Aubrey Howard, and Osbie Howard, three prominent African Americans with both business credentials and political connections. They were there not as attendees of the Milton affair but in pursuance of a regular social ritual of their own, built around a love of good cigars.

But they were also, it turned out, leaning strongly not to Milton, the man of the hour that evening, but to Jones, whose profession is that of stockbroker, and their presence — though not intended as such — was a reminder that the former School Board member has a potential claim on the loyalty of entrepreneurs in the black community.

Brown, on the other hand, is a young white who has made something of a splash as a party activist and hopes to draw on a youth vote. In theory, he stands to benefit from a split in the African-American vote between Milton and Jones, but his problem, from the beginning, has been two-fold: He is a relative newcomer, and he so far lacks strong ties with the black communities that are predominant in District 10.

Brown also has gone through changes in his professional life and campaign. Formerly associated with Liz Rincon and Associates as a consultant, he says he is on “leave of absence” from that relationship, and Rincon is no longer directly supervising his campaign efforts.

At the moment, Milton would appear to have the upper hand, but Jones remains a strong potential challenger. Both he and Brown said early this week they intended to file by Thursday’s deadline.

UPDATE: liz Rincon, whose renamed consulting company, The Rincon Strategy Agency, continues efforts on behalf of several candidates, notably Mike McCusker, candidate in the Democratic primary for Criminal Court Clerk, says emphatically that, as of December, she had dissolved her professional relationship with Brown.

And former County Commissioner J.W. Gibson (mentioned above) has formally endorsed Milton.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Candidates on the Move

Mulroy’s Monday filing makes it a Democratic quartet for mayor; Brooks has event in Juvy race.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Mulroy (l); Brooks
  • Mulroy (l); Brooks
The slate of Democratic candidates for Shelby County mayor in the 2014 Democratic primary may not yet be complete, but with current County Commissioner’s filing on Monday, the Democrats now have four name candidates in the field — a fact that indicates a degree of optimism in party ranks regarding the task of challenging Republican incumbent mayor Mark Luttrell.

With his filing, Mulroy joins former Commissioner Deidre Malone, former School Board member Kenneth Whalum, and current Commission chairman James Harvey among those who have made their candidacies official.

In a separate press release, Mulroy also included an amended campaign finance disclosure report, showing some $55,000 in cash on hand. The release goes on to note:”This represents the result of only about one week of fundraising since Mulroy's relatively recent decision to get into the race.”

Two other paragraphs in the release speak for themselves:

“Aggressive fundraising efforts proceed apace. A fundraising brochure went out today to over 2000 potential donors, announcing two fundraising events: one this Sunday, Feb. 22 at 6:30 at Mulan restaurant in Cooper-Young; and another on Monday Feb. 24 at 5:00 p.m. at Jim's Place in East Memphis.

“The brochure includes a lengthy list of heavy-hitting endorsements, including former county mayor Joe Ford, Sr.; Memphis City Council members Lee Harris, Shea Flinn, and Janis Fullilove; County Commissioners Sidney Chism and Justin Ford; former state legislators Beverly Marrero, Jeanne Richardson, and Mike Kernell; and former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairs Mark Yates and David Cocke.”

Malone has a head start on the other three Democrats running for mayor, having announced her candidacy last year and begun having fundraisers in the fall of 2013. She, too, can — and surely will — boast an impressive list of endorsers.

Harvey and Whalum are not to be taken lightly, either. The former has the bully pulpit of a highly public chairmanship, and the latter is — as he notes — reasonably fresh from a well-noticed leadership role in the defeat of last year’s city sales-tax referendum. He is also well practiced in the art of using social media — especially Twitter — in publicizing his ideas and activities.

Another county commissioner aiming to move from the legislative ranks to executive status is Henri Brooks, who plans to file in the Democratic primary for the office of Juvenile Court Clerk on Tuesday. Brooks, who has been a declared candidate for some time, will be accompanied by her campaign chairperson, Ruby Wharton, wife of Mayor A C Wharton, as well as by members of “Women for Brooks,” an organization of supporters.

Brooks recently was awarded the Ruby R. Wharton Award for Outstanding Woman of 2014.

The award, given to Brooks for “her continuous commitment to advocating on Youth and Delinquency issues, according to a press release, is in the wake of further recognition the commissioner has received for urging the U..S. Department of Justice to look into the operations of Juvenile Court — an action that resulted in the DOJ mandating numerous reforms by the Court.

Brooks has also founded a Juvenile Court Community Monitors program to assist in implementing the reforms.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Note from a “Political Subdivision”: a Follow-Up

The state Senate votes to strip local jurisdictions of the right to control weapons in their parks.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 9:14 AM

gun.jpg
Last month, during the first organizational week of the 2014 session of the Tennessee General Assembly,the powerful Speaker of the state Senate, Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), who doubles as the state’s Lieutenant Governor, candidly addressed several issues about to be taken up by the legislature.

One of those was that perennial issue these days, guns. Or, more specifically, how to further liberalize their use.

From a “Political Beat” entry of January 20, entitled “Haslam, Ramsey State Positions on Meth, Medicaid, Vouchers, Guns, and More”:

The Senate speaker said he would vote for revision of a 2009 gun bill so as to remove provisions of that bill allowing local jurisdictions the option to ban guns in parks. “Local jurisdictions are a political subdivision of the state,” Ramsey said. “When it comes to something like the Second Amendment,” he would be in favor of a “blanket statewide law.”

The state Senate has wasted little time in speeding on SB1496 by (ready for it?) — state Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville). On Thursday, Campfield’s bill was approved by a virtual party-line vote of 26-7, and the bill, as HB1407, is now ready for action by the state House. The key provision of the bill, which modifies a 2009 measure allowing gun-permit holders to carry their weapons into parks, is summed up in these words from the official bill abstract, “… deletes provisions allowing local governments to prohibit carrying in parks by resolution or ordinance. “

Maybe the bill will receive some amelioration in the House .Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) has indicated that she anticipates “some amendments,” but no major change is guaranteed.

A moment of silent meditation, if you will, for those local jurisdictions whose ability to control their own destiny on this matter, or even to influence it, is now in jeopardy. As was noted on Friday morning by one twitterer (okay, by me): “Poor Germantown! (No irony meant, sincere commiseration.) Made unable to control its schools and unable to keep guns out of its parks!”

Worth a second look is a recent comment from the Flyer’s editorial page, “Federal, State, Local,” regarding what seems to be an irreversible trend toward state government’s persist overriding of local authority.

That editorial concludes thusly:

Whatever happened to the idea that government is best when it is closest to the people? How is it that the party of "small government" is more interested in keeping power at the state level than allowing its cities and counties the right to exercise it?

The fact is, government in Tennessee could stand a little decentralizing, too.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Harris, Mulroy to Announce Joint Action in Kellogg Lockout

Councilman, Commissioner to hold Monday press conference, contemplate actions including camp-out presence at work site.

Posted By on Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 10:23 PM

Harris (l); Mulroy
  • Harris (l); Mulroy
On Monday, two local legislators will announce plans — including their possible camp-out presence at the work site — to intervene in the long-running Kellogg lockout of some 200 workers.

Here is the text of the Harris-Mulroy press release disseminated on Sunday night:

Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy will hold a joint press conference Monday afternoon, February 10, 2014, to discuss several steps they will be taking to support the workers at the local Kellogg manufacturing plant, who have been locked out of their jobs since October of last year. The press conference will take place at 1 p.m. in the lobby of the County building, just outside the County Commission chambers.

Each local legislator will discuss plans to introduce a resolution before the respective legislative body to urge Kellogg to end the lockout and let the over 200 struggling employees return to work.

Moreover, they will discuss their plans to camp out at the Kellogg site if the matter is not resolved soon, in order to show solidarity for the workers, who have had a continuous 24-hour protest presence outside the factory for the past four months.

In November 2011, Mulroy camped out overnight near City Hall to show solidarity with the Occupy Memphis movement.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rep. Craig Fitzhugh's "Democratic Response" to Governor's Address

The Ripley legislator, his party's leader in the state House, offers an opposing view -- especially on jobs, education, and Medicaid expansion.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 8:58 PM

State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh
  • State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh

VIDEO HERE

Hello, I’m House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

Tonight, Governor Bill Haslam delivered his fourth State of the State Speech. While Democrats remain committed to working with the Governor where we can, we also have deep seated differences in how best to move Tennessee forward.

Democrats want to be proactive. So rather than focus on the shortcomings in Governor Haslam’s spech, we want to outline an alternative vision: one focused on jobs, education and people.

When it comes to jobs, Governor Haslam and Republican leadership have missed the mark. While national unemployment has declined to 6.7 percent, Tennessee’s unemployment rate remains over a point higher at 7.8 percent. What’s worse is that many rural counties, like Scott at 15.6 percent, Lauderdale at 12.2 percent and Wayne at 10.6 percent are being neglected by this administration.

What Tennessee needs is a new approach to job creation; one that isn’t focused on sending millions of dollars to big out-of-state corporations, but instead focuses on helping our Tennessee small businesses grow and create jobs here.

That’s why Democrats have sponsored a Small Business Sales Tax Holiday, so local businesses can get a tax-break to make major purchases like computers, software and other office equipment that will help them grow their company.

That’s why Democrats have sponsored crowdsourcing legislation—similar to that enacted by Republicans in Kansas & Georgia—called the TIE or Tennessee Investment Exemption Act. This bill would cut red tape and allow Tennessee small businesses to raise up to $1,000,000 annually without going through the burdensome process of registering securities.

That’s why Democrats have sponsored the Equity for Entrepreneurs Act, which would extend a $5,000 tax cut to new, small business start- ups. Every year, Tennessee hands out millions of dollars to big corporations; Democrats think it’s time mom and pop shops got the same consideration.

On no issue are Democrats & Republicans more divergent than in our approach to education. Democrats believe that a solid public education is the best economic investment we can make. Over the last few years, we’ve seen this Administration’s plan: attack teachers, raid public school funding and try every way possible to get students out of our public schools. Democrats take a different approach, one that focuses on getting more students in our schools.

A recent Vanderbilt study showed an 82 percent learning increase for students who had at least one year of pre-kindergarten, compared to those who did not. Studies across the country have shown the importance of Pre-K, which is why Democrats have sponsored the Education for All Initiative. This plan would leverage $64.3 million in federal funding to provide an additional 7,861 students the opportunity to attend pre-kindergarten. Other states have done it and so can Tennessee.

It’s also time to revisit Common Core standards. While Democrats have no objection to the standards themselves, we are concerned about their implementation. Across the state we hear stories from teachers about the lack of proper technology to administer tests associated with Common Core. From parents we hear heart-breaking accounts of students in Kindergarten, First & Second grade coming home in tears because of the harsh, inflexible testing imposed on them by PARCC and other assessments. Our children are our most valuable asset; we can’t afford to get this wrong. We must reevaluate these standards now, to keep our public schools strong.

My father, who for many years worked with our family’s small business, always told me that if he didn’t have people issues, he’d have no issues at all. People Matter and they are the most important part of what state government does.

On no issue do people matter more than Medicaid expansion. 34 days, $85,000,000 Tennessee tax dollars lost and this Administration is no closer to a solution for the 330,000 Tennesseans waiting on their chance at quality, affordable health care coverage. This is, as I have said many times before, the worst moral and mathematical failure of our state in a generation.

New information about the importance of Medicaid expansion emerges daily.

For small businesses, a failure to expand Medicaid will mean $75,000,000 in new taxes.

For hospitals, a failure to expand Medicaid will mean 10,000 jobs lost over the next ten years.

But by far, the worst news about the failure to expand Medicaid is what it means for people.

A failure to expand Medicaid means no mental health treatment for 17,000 National Guard veterans—many of whom served our country in the aftermath of 9/11.

A failure to expand Medicaid means no mammogram for 9,744 women who would have qualified for this preventative care under expansion.

A failure to expand Medicaid means 10,000 more cases of catastrophic care for individuals with no insurance—the tab for which will be picked up by local governments. This could easily be avoided in a more cost-effective manner, if these individuals had access to regular care through expansion.

Every day we wait, Tennessee loses $2.5 million federal dollars not to deficit reduction, as some would have you believe, but to other states who have expanded their Medicaid program.
And every day we wait, another two Tennesseans die because of our inaction. We can’t wait any alonger. It’s time to expand Medicaid now.

As Democrats, we’re also focused on helping make the lives of average, middle-class Tennesseans better.

That’s why our Caucus Chairman Mike Turner has proposed a modest increase in the minimum wage. With the stagnation in Washington, our proposal is simple: raise Tennessee’s minimum wage to $8.25, exempting employees under the age of 18 and any employer who provides health insurance for their employees.

Likewise, Rep. Antonio Parkinson has legislation to address the shameful backlog of rape kits that remain untested. His proposal would require testing of rape kits within six months and require the state to come up with a plan for getting through the current backlog.

These are our priorities: jobs, education and people. We Democrats, though small in number, are happy warriors. We plan to back our proposals up with facts, take our arguments to the public and do our best to contribute to the public discourse.

We invite all Tennesseans—Republicans, Democrats, Independents & Mugwumps—to join us in these priorities. If you want to know more about our plans, I invite you to visit the House Democratic Caucus website at www.tndemocrats.com or find us on Facebook & Twitter.

Again, I’m House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. Thank you for your time. God bless you and God bless the great state of Tennessee.

Text of Governor Bill Haslam's 2014 "State of the State" Address

"Tennessee Promise"education proposal highlights annual taking-stock address, delivered Monday night, February 3, at the State Capitol

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Governor Haslam giving State of the State address
  • Governor Haslam giving "State of the State" address

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, Speaker Pro Tem Watson, Speaker Pro Tem
Johnson, Members of the 108th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers,
Commissioners, friends, guests, fellow Tennesseans, and my favorite Tennessean, Crissy:

I count it one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve this great state. I love being your
Governor, and I appreciate the invitation to stand before you this evening to update you on the
state of our State.

But let me start with a story. I want to take you back 50 years to 1963. Merritt Potter, a
Kingsport realtor, entered a contest to come up with a slogan to promote Tennessee.

He won, and the prize was a 21,000 dollar savings bond. A bill was introduced in the General
Assembly to adopt it as the state’s official slogan. It passed and was signed into law.

Fifty years later, Merritt Potter’s words are still our state’s official slogan, and they still are true:
“Tennessee — America at Its Best.”

Today in Tennessee we are more than a slogan. We think we are a model to the nation in so
many ways.

Working with the General Assembly, we have kept taxes low. We have the lowest debt in the
country. We’ve done that while at the same time nearly doubling the state’s savings account.

What we haven’t done, we haven’t cut K-12 education. In fact, since we took office, we are one
of only six states in the country that has consistently increased state spending on K-12 education
as a percentage of our total budget. Since 2011, we’ve had the fourth largest increase in
education spending compared to the rest of the country.

Tonight, I want to give you some good news, ask for your help in facing some tough challenges,
and lay out a vision for realizing our state’s full potential.

Let’s start with some accomplishments.

Tennessee is ranked the third best managed state in the nation. That’s nice, but we want to be
number one. To accomplish that, we are focused on providing the very best service to our
citizens at the very lowest cost.

Our departments have taken this charge seriously. Through the hard work and determination of
the Cabinet and our state employees, we came in $80 million under budget last year. Trust me,
that’s not happening in Washington.

I’ve visited and spent time with state employees in all of our departments. Employees are
always quick to tell me how much they appreciate my visit, but I’m pretty sure that I gain the
most from being there. It is good to see our employees in action and to understand their issues as
we work to be more customer-focused, efficient and effective. Our people play the major role in
that process.

That’s why we’re investing in them. Employee salaries are up nearly 10 percent since 2011.
Two years ago, we conducted a market salary survey, and your approval of the resulting salary
adjustments means we can compete to recruit and retain the best employees.

Here is some more good news that is a direct result of our team members.

For the last 15 years, Tennessee was under a court order known as the John B. case, which was
filed against the state and its managed care contractors. The lawsuit said that TennCare had
failed to meet federal standards for children. Last March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th

Circuit dismissed the lawsuit saying that TennCare had, “vastly improved its delivery of services
to enrollees and indeed has become a national leader in its compliance with the Medicaid
statute.”

We also had been under a court order for the past 21 years in a case involving conditions at the
Arlington Developmental Center in Memphis. This past December, the U.S. District Court of
the Western Division dismissed the case, and the state actually completed the exit plan ahead of
schedule.

Those two lawsuits alone had cost the state millions and millions of dollars over the last two
decades. Every dollar we don’t waste on lawsuits can be put to better use serving the people of
Tennessee.

Due to the work of our Department of Children’s Services, we’re the first state in the nation to
make support services available to 100 percent of our former foster youth as they transition to
adulthood.

Through our 41 drug courts across the state, we are working to treat substance abusers that want
help in a way that is more productive than simply putting them behind bars and looking the other
way. Our proposed budget includes funding for a new statewide residential drug court in Middle
Tennessee. It is modeled after our program in Morgan County. It will give us the ability to
serve women, which we currently aren’t able to do.

We currently have men and women in 14 countries across the world serving the Tennessee
National Guard. Tonight, I’d like to introduce you to Staff Sergeant Tremaine Spencer. He is a
Bronze Star Medal recipient that has served in the Tennessee National Guard for more than 16
years. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 as a squad leader with the 251st. He recently returned
home to Memphis after serving in Afghanistan with the 130th
. Sergeant Spencer, you represent
the many Tennesseans that are serving our country. We are grateful for your distinguished
service. You make us very proud.

Another result of hard work: Business Facilities Magazine, which is a leading source for
corporate site selectors, just named Tennessee “State of the Year.” It was based on our top
projects last year, the number of jobs created, and the capital investment.

Jack Rogers, the editor in chief, said: “Tennessee continues to impress us with its execution of a
diversified growth strategy. The state has put in place a solid foundation for robust job creation
for years to come.”

By the end of this year, we will have reduced state office space by about one million square feet,
and for the first time in recent history, there is a statewide inventory of all state properties. We
have a comprehensive plan to maintain and manage state assets, which hasn’t been the case for
decades. Besides saving money, these changes have created better working conditions for state
employees with efficient, well-lit and functional office space. Other states are reaching out to
learn more about our innovative approach to real estate management.

Being America at its best means not doing government business the way we’ve always done it
before.

Now let’s talk about the budget. Our state has a strong record of fiscal integrity. We’ve been
intentional about not spending money just because we have it, and we’re better positioned to
balance the budget this year because we’ve been fiscally conservative in years past.
I’d like to recognize a member in this chamber tonight that has played an important role in
ensuring that discipline for the past four decades.

Senator Douglas Henry is the longest serving member in the history of the Tennessee General
Assembly, and as chairman emeritus of the Senate Finance Committee, he has seen his share of
budgets over the years. Senator Henry, thank you for your dedicated service to our state. We
wish you the best in your retirement, and we will miss you.

This year’s budget is a conservative one. Revenue collections over the past several months have
not met projections, and our budget reflects that reality.

We have $260 million in new revenue this year. Increased TennCare costs will take up $180
million, employee health insurance costs are up $40 million, and $120 million are proposed for
education. So, if you’re doing the math at home, before putting anything toward employee
salaries, higher education, social services for our most vulnerable citizens, or anything else, we
are already $80 million in the red.

Well that would be ok if we were in Washington, DC, but in Tennessee, we balance our budget.
That’s why this budget also includes some cuts.

When we are talking about the budget, it is important to understand that the major drivers are
education and health care.

In Tennessee, education is a top priority, and this budget reflects that. It includes $47 million to
fund the BEP formula, and as we continue to expect more from our students and teachers in
academic performance, we’ve also set a goal to be the fastest growing state in the country when
it comes to paying our teachers, so more than $63 million is included for teacher salaries.

The largest driver of the budget by far is TennCare, our state’s Medicaid program. In essence,
when you talk about managing the state budget, you’re talking about managing TennCare costs.
And make no mistake; TennCare is one of the best-managed Medicaid programs in the country.
Our annual cost increases are 3.5 percent. The national average is 6.6 percent. Beating the
national average saves us $60 million every year.

Despite strong management, TennCare costs are always going to be a challenge. When you look
back 10 years, TennCare had grown to be about 35 percent of our overall budget. Then, after the
state went through the painful process of cutting 170,000 people from the rolls in 2007, it hit a
low of almost 25 percent in 2009. Today, it has already grown back to be more than 30 percent
of our budget, squeezing out other critical needs.

These are current costs before we even consider expanding our Medicaid program to more
people.

There has been criticism of our approach to pursue a Tennessee plan to cover more Tennesseans
while taking into account cost and health outcomes.

I believe that more Tennesseans having health care is good for our state. My concern has been
that the federal government isn’t giving us the tools to do that in a cost-effective way or in a way
that will ultimately impact the health of Tennesseans for the better.

The issue of accepting federal dollars to cover more Tennesseans has been politicized on both
sides. Doing so ignores what’s at stake. This is about insuring more Tennesseans in a sound
way that the state can afford. It’s also about changing health outcomes to fundamentally reduce
health care costs. For Tennessee to be America at its best, we must get health care right — for
those who need health care coverage and for the long-term fiscal health of our state.

As revenues have come in below expectations, some have questioned whether cutting taxes was
the right thing to do.

The short answer - yes. Part of being customer-focused is to return taxpayer money when we
can. Working together, we have cut taxes in a methodical, thoughtful way.

When you look at the taxes we’ve cut, several of them will actually create more revenue in
Tennessee over time. For example, we’re in the process of phasing out the death tax, which not
only supports small business owners and family farmers, but will attract investment to our state.
That’s also true for the gift tax, which we eliminated last year. We’ve also reduced the burden of
the Hall Income Tax on seniors.

I don’t think it’s any accident that Tennessee was named the best state in the country to retire in
2013.
And, while lowering the sales tax on food doesn’t generate new revenue or investment, I think
we can all agree that reducing the amount of taxes that all Tennesseans pay on their groceries
was the right thing to do.

Tennessee is America at its best because we employ one of the best tax strategies of all time —
common sense.

When it comes to economic development, we’re on a roll. Not only are we State of the Year, but
2013 was record breaking with over 23,000 new jobs committed from 187 projects. Since
January 2011, nearly 155,000 private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee.

We’ve had some exciting announcements: Hankook, 1,800 new jobs in Clarksville;
ARAMARK, 1,500 new jobs in Nashville; Calsonic Kansei, 1,200 new jobs across facilities in
Lewisburg, Shelbyville and Smyrna; Unilever, 400 new jobs in Covington; UBS, 1,000 new jobs
in Nashville; Eastman, a 1.6 Billion dollar investment in Kingsport; 9to5 Seating bringing more
than 500 jobs from China back to Union City, a town hit hard after Goodyear closed its tire plant
there; and just in the past several weeks, Conduit Global, 1,000 new jobs in Memphis, and
Beretta is putting its U.S. operation for manufacturing and development in Gallatin.

And that is the short list.

In Tennessee we still actually make things, and we make things that are known around the world.
We make things that people use every day like cars, tires, ovens, chemicals, and medical devices,
and we make other things that occasionally get consumed as well like M&Ms, ice cream, and
Jack Daniels.

In fact, we lead the Southeast in manufacturing. These are high-tech, advanced manufacturing
jobs created by businesses, large and small, that make the decision to invest in Tennessee.

Tennessee is known around the globe for a lot of things but music and our state’s natural beauty
have to be at the top of the list. We have put together a statewide, comprehensive plan to attract
more people to Tennessee. That generates more revenue and creates more jobs. I have been
impressed by how the tourism industry from across the state has really come together. As a
result, this budget, like last year’s, includes additional dollars to bring more visitors here.

But even with all of this momentum on the jobs front, one thing we have to work on is our
unemployment rate. We want more Tennesseans to have more opportunities for high-quality,
good-paying jobs.

So, what’s the best jobs plan? Easy answer: education. If we want to have jobs ready for
Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs.

Back in November, I visited West Wilson Middle School in Mount Juliet. While I was there,
Megan Baker, a sixth grade math teacher, gave me this red LEGO. LEGO has become an
acronym for their motto: Let’s Expect Great Outcomes.

Because it sits on top of the alarm clock by my bed, it’s the first thing I see every morning. It is
a reminder of the responsibility that we all have to expect great outcomes.

Expecting great outcomes will insure that Tennessee is America at its best. Let’s expect great
outcomes — in education, in economic development, in quality service to Tennessee taxpayers,
and in everything that we do.

After years of lagging behind, we can say today that we’re making dramatic gains. When it
comes to education in Tennessee, we are demonstrating that we are America at its best.

The National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as the nation’s report card,
announced last fall that Tennessee is the fastest improving state in the country in academic
attainment.

This independent evaluation showed that Tennessee students had the largest growth of any state
from 2011 to 2013 across the four reading and math tests. In fact, Tennessee’s growth was the
largest ever of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP began nationwide assessments 10
years ago.

It is not an exaggeration to say that we are seeing historic gains due to the hard work of our
teachers and leaders.

We are showing that it is possible for all students to grow academically. Tennessee had the most
growth in the country for African American students, continuing significant progress that we
have seen on TCAP and other assessments.

Our superintendents, our principals, our teachers, and our students are working hard and it
shows. We can do this. We are doing this. But the biggest point isn’t about ranking or test
scores. It’s about our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren being ready to
live their best lives.

We’ve raised standards for our students and expectations for adults. There has been a lot of
discussion and debate — and that’s a good thing. But the historic progress that we’re making isn’t
by accident.

Together we changed tenure so that a principal doesn’t have to decide after three years to either
fire a teacher or grant tenure.

We’ve implemented performance evaluations for teachers and principals. You’ll remember that
there was some angst about those, and there were some appropriate adjustments that needed to be
made along the way, and they were. The important thing is that we didn’t back away from them.
Performance evaluations are working, and our teachers are excelling, just like we knew they
would.

More recently, some have raised questions about the Common Core state standards. It is
important to remember that Common Core came out of states working together to raise standards
in a consistent and meaningful way, showing that states can and will lead meaningful education
reform. In fact, many Tennessee educators were involved in the creation of the standards from
the start. It is also important to know that Common Core has nothing to do with curriculum.
Our local school districts are responsible and will be responsible for setting curriculum.
Common Core is about clearly defining common standards that students should know at certain
grade levels. With all of the progress we’re making, how can we argue against higher standards?
They are making a difference.

Tonight, I’d like to you meet Cicely Woodard. She’s an eighth-grade math teacher at Rose Park
Magnet Middle School in Nashville. She is also a Common Core coach. I’ve heard Cicely say
that she walks into her classroom everyday believing that all of her students can be victorious.
She’s gained their trust and built a relationship with them, and they know that she won’t let them
fail. They know that she will reteach, redo and reassess until they get it right. Cicely, thank you.
You represent teachers and Common Core coaches across this state who are changing the lives
of Tennessee children.

We really are moving the needle in Tennessee. We’ve come too far to back up or to settle for
less.

Last year, I introduced a proposal to offer another option for school choice through a program to
allow low-income students in our lowest performing schools a chance to receive a better
education. I’ve included funding in this year’s budget proposal to pay for this approach.

I believe offering choice to families is important and that a focused approach makes sense at this
point. For those who have concerns about vouchers, I encourage you to support this targeted
effort to support students in our lowest performing schools.

Since the days of George Washington, Americans have expected things in this country to be
better for the next generation, but that isn’t the case these days. There are different ideas and
opinions about why the American Dream seems out of reach for some of our citizens. One thing
that is certain is that there are basic skills that we all need to be able to compete in the world.

In the year 2025, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree beyond high school
to get a job. Today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify. To truly be America at its best,
that’s not good enough.

This time last year, I announced the Drive to 55 — our effort to reach at least 55 percent by 2025.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Randy Boyd for taking a leave of absence from his
company and dedicating a year of his life - at no cost to the state - to work on this. He did it
because he loves our state, and he wants Tennessee to be America at its best. Thank you, Randy.

This isn’t just about higher education — it’s about better jobs for more Tennesseans. It’s about
building a stronger economy. We don’t have a choice if we want to be the number one state in
the Southeast for high quality jobs.

I have spent a lot of time over the past two years on workforce readiness. I am more convinced
than ever that our urgent needs are in the areas of access, quality and relevance.
To tackle these, our Drive to 55 initiative focuses on five key goals:

1. Getting students ready;
2. Getting them into school;
3. Getting them out of school;
4. Finishing what we started with adult students; and
5. Tying education directly to workforce needs.

So first, let’s talk about getting students ready. We know that nearly 70 percent of our students
who graduate from high school need remedial math or English before they can take college level
courses. But, if they have to take one of those courses, their chances of actually graduating are
less than 10 percent.

To fix that, we’ve been working with community colleges and high schools to expand the SAILS
program — Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support. SAILS gives students who
need extra support in math that attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid
remediation when they enter college. We are only half way through this year’s program, and
nearly 40 percent of high school seniors have already eliminated their need for remedial math in
college. The savings? $3.5 million in tuition.

Based on tangible results and success, this year’s budget includes funding to expand the SAILS
program to allow 4,000 more students - for a total of 12,000 - to participate.
Kim McCormick will you please stand so that we can thank you and Chattanooga State
Community College for pioneering this program and for leading the charge for a statewide
expansion.

Another way to help get students ready is dual enrollment. The program allows high school
students to take college credit courses. Studies show, students that take dual enrollment courses
have a 94 percent probability of going to college, much higher than our state average of just over
60 percent.

We’re proposing to change the way we allocate funding for dual enrollment courses, so that any
student can take his or her first course free followed by discounted courses in following years.

So, after getting students into school, we have to look at getting them out. Companies like
Netflix, Amazon and Pandora tailor their recommendations to what their customers are looking
for. Shouldn’t we be doing that for our students? Shouldn’t we be helping our students find the
subjects and skills that will give them a real shot at success? Well, we are.

The Degree Compass program, pioneered at Austin Peay University, predicts the subjects and
majors in which students will be most successful. The model combines hundreds of thousands of
past students’ grades with current students’ transcripts to make an informed, individual
recommendation.
That’s exactly what we should do - help our students find the subjects and skills that allow them
to graduate and pursue their dreams. This year’s budget includes funding to expand the Degree
Compass program.

We have almost a million Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an
associate’s or a four-year degree. That is an amazing pool of untapped, unrealized potential.

We’re including money in this year’s budget to help our state colleges and universities do a
better job of identifying and recruiting adults that are most likely to return to college and
complete their degree. This is going to take all of our schools — state and independent colleges —
working together to get us where we need to be.

Tonight, I’d like you to meet Erika Adams. In 2002, she made the decision to go back to school.
Despite the pressures of being a single mother with three boys at home, she enrolled at Northeast
State Community College. From there she moved onto ETSU where she earned her bachelor’s
in 2007 and her master’s in 2010. She is currently working on her doctorate, and she is the
Director of College Access programs at Northeast State. Erika has first-hand experience of
fighting through the barriers that come with going back to school, and she is putting that
experience to work in helping others attend college. Erika, congratulations on your
accomplishments, and thanks for what you do to help more Tennesseans further their education.

There are men and women across this state who don’t see a path to earn a degree. Erika is a
great example that while it isn’t always going to be easy, it is worth it, and we have to do all we
can to make going back to school an option for more Tennesseans.

To be successful, we have to measure our results.

I’m asking the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to create a scorecard that measures the
performance of our institutions. It will let all of us know about the percentage of students that
graduate into a job in their field of study along with the average compensation.

We need to do a better job of listening to what our employers are telling us they need when they
hire new employees. Last year Majority Leaders Mark Norris and Gerald McCormick sponsored
legislation to create the Labor Education Alignment Program — or LEAP — to help connect key
stakeholders on the state and local level when it comes to workforce readiness.

To take the next step in this effort, I will appoint a Director of Workforce Alignment that will
work with our departments and local officials. We will also be providing grants to local
communities that have strategic plans to close the skills gaps in their areas.

This year’s budget also includes strategic investments aimed at enhancing our Drive to 55
including:

 $13 million to fund the Complete College Act which incentivizes colleges and
universities based on the number of graduates instead of the old funding formula that was
based on enrollment.
 $63 million for capital maintenance for higher education institutions across the state.

 $65 million in capital improvements to fund a new Williamson County campus for
Columbia State and a new classroom building at Volunteer State — two of our fastest
growing community colleges.
To succeed in our Drive to 55, and to truly be America at its best, we have to change our culture.
More Tennesseans have to believe that earning a certificate or degree beyond high school is not
only possible but necessary.

As we urge more Tennesseans to continue their education, we know we have to remove as many
barriers as possible. For many Tennessee families, cost is the biggest hurdle to further education.

That’s why tonight I am really excited to announce the “Tennessee Promise.”

The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to every student — from every kindergartner
to every high school senior. We will promise that he or she can attend two years of community
college or a college of applied technology absolutely free.

If students then choose to go on to a four-year school, our transfer pathways program makes it
possible for those students to start as a junior. By getting their first two years free, the cost of a
four-year degree is cut in half.

Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are
raising our expectations as a state. We are committed to making a clear statement to families
that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of
community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors.

We are also proposing last dollar scholarships for all adults - regardless of age or previous
qualification for a HOPE scholarship - to attend our TCATs free of charge.

We are putting our resources toward proven results. With 27 locations across the state, our
TCATs graduate 81 percent of their students and match more than 86 percent of those graduates
with jobs. TCATs work with local businesses to understand job demand and to keep up with the
skills and training needed to fill those jobs.

Non-profit, private organizations will be part of the Tennessee Promise to help ensure that 100
percent of the money goes directly to the student by eliminating administrative costs. They will
provide mentors to help navigate the enrollment process as well as provide support during the
school year. Access is only successful when it leads to completion.

So, I know you are wondering, how do we pay for this? The Tennessee Promise can only be a
true promise if it is sustainable over time. It can’t be based on year-to-year budgets, or changing
legislatures, or new administrations. That’s why I recommend funding it through an endowment.

I propose that we transfer lottery reserve funds into the endowment, which is strategically
redirecting existing resources. There will still be $110 million in the lottery reserve, which I
believe is a healthy amount.

Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.

This is a bold promise. It is a promise that will speak volumes to current and prospective
employers. It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans. And
it is a promise that we have the ability to make. I look forward to working with you, members of
the General Assembly, to make the Tennessee Promise a reality for Tennessee families.

As I begin my fourth year in office, I am convinced that “Tennessee - America at its best” is not
just a 50-year-old slogan.

We are often recognized as a national leader in areas that matter like education, job creation, low
taxes and low debt.

As I travel through the state and have the opportunity to meet with so many people, there is a lot
of optimism out there and a lot of pride in Tennessee.

Whether they are dedicated teachers like Megan Baker and Cicely Woodard, or adult students
willing to take risks like Erika Adams, or the Tennesseans like Sergeant Tremaine Spencer who
sacrifice so much to serve our country, I see it every day.

We know our strengths.

We are not afraid to address our challenges head on.

In Tennessee, we truly are America at its best.

Mulroy to Pull Petition for County Mayor on Monday

Second-term County Commissioner joins Malone, Harvey, Whalum on list of declared Democratic hopefuls.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Commissioner Steve Mulroy
The Flyer has learned that Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Shelby County Mayor and will pull a qualifying petition for that office from the Election Commission on Monday.

Mulroy, who has also considered open judgeships, both state and federal, in the last few months, has expressed an interest in a mayoral race for some years.

The commissioner, a law professor at the University of Memphis, is in his second term as representative on the Commission of District 5. Term-limited, he is ineligible to run again for that office.

Mjulroy has a reputation as a liberal, and, while on the Commission, has taken the lead on numerous initiatives, ranging from ordinances dealing with living-wage, ethics, and homeless issues to passage of the county’s first anti-discrimination resolution in 2009.

He attracted national attention last year when he became an altruistic donor of a kidney to the UT-Memphis Transplant Institute, thereby enabling a near-record “chain” of 28 available organs to needy recipients.

Mulroy joins Shelby County Commission chairman James Harvey, former County Commissioner Deidre Malone, and former School Board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., as prominent Democrats who have drawn petitions with intent to challenge the reelection of Republican incumbent County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

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