Wednesday, August 31, 2005

CITY OFFERS ASSISTANCE TO KATRINA VICTIMS

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2005 at 4:00 AM

UPDATE (Thursday P.M.) --Beginning Thursday evening, The Mid-South Coliseum was to have begun taking in 2,000 Mississippi refugees with special medical needs. But shortages of fuel left these Hurricana Katrina Survivors domiciled overnight at points in North Mississippi.

Presumably the refugees' journey into safe haven in Memphis will be accomplished sometime Friday, fulfilling a plan announced Thursday by Mayors Willie Herenton and A C Wharton.

The mayors made the announcement of the Coliseum's proposed role on Thursday, saying Memphis and Shelby County are “in it for the long haul” with no idea when the refugees being brought in by bus will leave. The mayors have asked Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen for state funds for hurricane assistance.

“We are planning as if a new city is coming to town,” Wharton said.

On Friday afternoon the mayors will call a meeting of Memphis clergymen to coordinate relief efforts. The meeting will be at 3 p.m. at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown.

There are approximately 10,000 storm refugees in Memphis already, officials say. Local hotels are near capacity, with 25 percent of the occupants being storm refugees, said Kevin Kane, head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. City officials are looking for vacant apartments and other housing for them as they run out of money.

Herenton stressed that opening the coliseum to storm victims is going to be difficult and is “fraught with complexities.” The facility shares the Mid-South Fairgrounds with the annual Mid-South Fair and Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, host to the University of Memphis-Ole Miss football game Saturday afternoon.

Memphians who want to volunteer are urged to contact the Red Cross or The Convention and Visitors Bureau.

PREVIOUS (Wednesday, Thrusday A.M>.) Memphis governmental agencies, churches, and businesses are prepared to offer victims of Hurricane Katrina assistance ranging from shelter and food to school enrollment for displaced children.

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said Memphis is “ready to respond” and that some 10,000 displaced people are already in the city, with more expected. He characterized the response so far as “a band-aid approach” but promised a “comprehensive response” from hospitals, churches, schools, MLG&W, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

People who need help can call 543-5300. Victim assistance centers have been set up at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau office at Front and Union, at the visitors center on Interstate 40 near Arlington, and at the visitors center on Interstate 55 at the Mississippi state line.

Gary Shorb, chairman of the board of the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said there has been an outpouring of interest and concern from local businesses that want to help. Medical care is the most urgent need. New Orleans officials have asked Memphis to do an inventory of available hospital capacity.

Wanda Halbert, president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education, said city schools that were recently closed for excess capacity will be used for housing victims of the hurricane. She also said Memphis City Schools will educate children from New Orleans whose families will be displaced for long periods.

“Our doors are open,” she said.

Herenton urged Memphians who want to help to contact the American Red Cross. He did not say which public buildings might be used to house refugees. But the scope of the disaster suggests Memphis will play a large role in the recovery.

“In 24 hours, we went from callers asking how to find a hotel room for 24 hours to how to enroll a kid in school for six to nine months,” said Kevin Kane, head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As of Wednesday afternoon, it was unclear how many Katrina refugees had found their way to Memphis. Television news reports featured interviews with managers of overcrowded motels where, in at least one case, a Memphis company (Smith and Nephew) donated free lodging for several families for multiple nights. But American Red Cross officials had not set up any shelters in Memphis. There were five Red Cross shelters in Tunica, Mississippi, however, including the convention center of the Grand Casino, which had about 400 occupants.

Shelby County Health Department was lining up volunteers to staff shelters, but spokesman Brenda Ward said Wednesday that was a case of advance planning.

Bill Hildebrandt, CEO of the Mid-South American Red Cross said he would not know until late Wednesday at the earliest whether shelters would be set up in Memphis. Hildebrandt said Tunica was closer to New Orleans, and therefore more convenient, although most motorists take Interstate 55 into Memphis rather than U.S. Highway 61 through Tunica. He said the best thing Memphians could do to help is to send cash donations to the Red Cross since supplies may not reach the Gulf Coast for several days. The Red Cross does not match families in need with local families willing to help because of liability issues.

Meanwhile, some politicians were either second-guessing the local response or suggesting alternatives. City Councilman Carol Chumney suggested the city should have looked into using gyms and churches to house refugees without waiting for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau to take the lead.

“It seems to me the city of Memphis should some offer of assistance,” she said in an email to city officials Keith McGee and Keenon McCloy 24 hours before the Wednesday news conference at City Hall.

Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn suggested the city and county use The Pyramid and Mid-South Coliseum to house storm victims. Flinn also said that several abandoned or unused warehouses in New Chicago, a North Memphis neighborhood that he toured last week, would be suitable for short-term housing of refugees.

Earlier Wednesday, New Orleans officials began moving thousands of people out of the New Orleans SuperDome into buses to take them to the Astrodome in Houston.

Appeal for Help from Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald

Editor's Note: In response to a direct appeal for communications assistance from the editors of the Biloxi Sun Herald, we append the following editorial from the newspaper.

South Mississippi needs your help

The coastal communities of South Mississippi are desperately in need of an unprecedented relief effort.

We understand that New Orleans also was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but surely this nation has the resources to rescue both that metropolitan and ours.

Whatever plans that were in place to deal with such a natural disaster have proven inadequate. Perhaps destruction on this scale could not have been adequately prepared for.

But now that it has taken place, no effort should be spared to mitigate the hurricane's impact.

The essentials -- ice, gasoline, medicine -- simply are not getting here fast enough.

We are not calling on the nation and the state to make life more comfortable in South Mississippi, we are calling on the nation and the state to make life here possible.

We would bolster our argument with the number of Katrina casualties confirmed thus far, but if there is such a confirmed number, no one is releasing it to the public. This lack of faith in the publics' ability to handle the truth is not sparing anyone's feelings, it is instead fueling terrifying rumors.

While the flow of information is frustratingly difficult, our reporters have yet to find evidence of a coordinated approach to relieve pain and hunger or to secure property and maintain order.

People are hurting and people are being vandalized.

Yet where is the National Guard, why hasn't every able-bodied member of the armed forces in South Mississippi been pressed into service?

On Wednesday reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics.

Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!

When asked why these young men were not being used to help in the recovery effort, our reporters were told that it would be pointless to send military personnel down to the beach to pick up debris.

Litter is the least of our problems. We need the president to back up his declaration of a disaster with a declaration of every man and woman under his command will do whatever is necessary to deal with that disaster.

We need the governor to provide whatever assistance is at his command.

We certainly need our own county and city officials to come together and identify the most pressing needs of their constituents and then allocate resources to meet those needs. We appreciate the stress that theses elected and appointed officials have been under since the weekend but they must do a better job restoring public confidence in their ability to meet this challenge.

This editorial represents the view of the Sun-Herald editorial board:
President- Publisher Ricky R. Mathews, Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point, Opinion Page Editor Marie Harris, and Associate Editor Ed. Tony Biffle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

UPDATES: HOOKS INDICTED; BROOKS REJECTED

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2005 at 4:00 AM

UPDATES: HOOKS AND BROOKS

Hooks Indicted: Shelby County Commission chairman Michael Hooks Sr., long under a cloud after his name surfaced in connection with the first “Tennesse Waltz” revelations, was formally charged Tuesday by the Shelby County grand jury with taking $24,000 in bribes from the FBI’s sham “eCycle” electronics firm.

Hooks, who had acknowledged having some involvement with the firm when the news of the FBI sting broke in May, turned himself in at the federal building Tuesday after releasing this statement to his fellow commissioners: “You will undoubtedly hear in the media today news of my indictment. I want to apologize to you for any cloud this issue may put over the County Commission and staff. I ask for your prayers.''

The indictment charges Hooks with receiving money from eCycle in several installments, beginning in September of last year and continuing through March of this year, months during which he was preparing and launching what proved to be an unsuccessful bid for a state Senate seat – ironically, one that had been vacated by fellow indictee Roscoe Dixon and that was ultimately won by another indictee, Kathryn Bowers.

Hooks will make a formal plea regarding the charge on September 7 – the anniversary of the first sums received by him from an undercover agent last year.

Brooks Election Appeal rejected: In the course of an hoc meeting of the state Democratic Party executive committee, one conducted partly by conference call from Nashville, the protest by state Representative Henri Brooks of her 20-vote defeat by Ophelia Ford in a special state Senate race was rejected.

A member of the committee said afterward that no formal motion was ever made, and thus no formal vote was taken, on Brooks’ charges that several potential voters had not been apprised of their eligibility and opportunity to vote in the election, held on August 4th, following a change in address. “She just didn’t make the case, and there was evidence refuting her,” said the committee member.

No information was immediately available on Brooks’ further intentions and her possible recourse in the judicial system.

Tuesday’s decision means that Ford, who was thereby formally certified by the committee as the Democratic nominee, will go on to face Republican Terry Roland and independent Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges in the special District 29 general election on September 15. The seat being contested is the one vacated in late May by ‘Tennessee Waltz’ indictee John Ford.

Friday, August 19, 2005

FORD STANDS BY ORIGINAL SUPPORT OF IRAQ WAR

Congressman declines to offer advice on Cindy Sheehan.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Though he continues to insist that President Bush rethink the nation’s current strategy in Iraq, Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. made it clear Friday night that he would not repudiate his original support of the president’s decision to intervene military in that Middle Eastern nation.

And, while praising as “a brave young lady” Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who has been keeping a well-publicized vigil outside the president’s vacation home in Crawford, Texas, Ford declined to second-guess Bush’s decision not to meet with Sheehan concerning the war in which her son Casey had lost his life.

Addressing the annual awards banquet of the University of Memphis Law School Alumni, Ford expressed his initial support of the war effort this way: “I support this war in Iraq. I supported it from the very beginning for one reason. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Now, there are those who criticize and quarrel with this, and make the point over and over again that perhaps we shouldn’t have done it the way we’ve done it, and I would agree. But I wouldn’t blame the president, or anybody else for that matter, from waking up on September 12th and wondering aloud what would happen if Saddam Hussein and bin Laden married.

"It would be very easy for us to sit back in the comfort of our own homes and say, Well, one is secular and one is religious and they won’t . It wou d be very easy for us to think that 9/11 wouldn’t happen, but it did.”

Bush’s “instinct” had been right, said Ford, who has visited Iraq three times in the last two years and plans a fourth visit, but there is “a lot of room for change” in how the president pursues operations in Iraq. “I love my president. I love him personally,” Ford said. “But he’s just wrong. – wrong for not being willing to admit that we’ve made some mistakes....It was right to take him [Saddam] down but wrong to think that we can’t right this course.”

In particular, Ford said, military action by itself cannot achieve our aims. He said it was incumbent on Americans to understand Islam and suggested the creation of university curricula to facilitate just that. “They understand us, and we don’t understand them,” he said.

Without naming Saudi Arabia as such, Ford was critical of the administration’s policy of “subsidizing the same group of people” who had suppressed women’s rights and otherwise curtailed freedom in their own country and had given financial support to Islamic extremist groups.

Spelling that out, in remarks after his speech, Ford said, “I’m not calling the Saudis bad people, My point is that it’s clear that the majority of the people on those planes were Saudis. It’s clear that the Saudi government supports the radical Wahhabism, as it’s called.”

Concerning Sheehan’s vigil in Crawford, Ford said, ”Americans have a right to express their views, and that young lady lost her son and wanted the president to have a conversation with her about that. It’s clear we really don’t have a strategy. I can’t answer for the president as to why he didn’t meet with her.”

Ford, considered the Democratic frontrunner in next year’s U.S. Senate race, added: “ If I were president, we’d be doing things a lot different than this president is doing them. I do know that we don’t seem to have a clear plan.”

Wharton, Chumney Propose Parks Solutions

Even as Memphis mayor Willie Herenton seemed ready to remove from the table both his proposal concerning Forrest Park and the whole issue of downtown parks, two other public figures have come forward with ideas of their own.

In an interview this week, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton called for amending the sites of three controversial downtown parks – Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate – so as to provide “full disclosure”of the historical facts.

”In other words, you might have an elaborate plaque nearby the statue of General Forrest explaining all his wartime exploits and why it is he was venerated and thought a military genius, but also nearby you should have another plaque or memorial pointing out the criticism he’s received and the actual facts concerning it – the slave-owning, the possibility of a massacre, the Klan allegations, all of that.”

Wharton said it would be a good idea also to add in each of the Confederate-related parks plaques or prominent signs indicating other historical and tourist sites – for example, the National Civil Rights Museum – where visitors could acquaint themselves with another side of the historical context.

And city council member Carol Chumney, in an email response to the issue, also advanced some thoughts – some of them critical of Herenton.

Said Chumney: “First, I would like to know why Mayor Herenton proposed a resolution to lease the Forrest park to UT , with provisions that it could not be used for another purpose without his approval, and then withdrew the proposal with the added language that the Council would also have to approve any alternative use of the park? If the lease of the park is a good deal for the citizens of Memphis as originally proposed by the Mayor, then why isn’t it still a good deal for the citizens of Memphis under the democratic common-sense principles of a balance of powers by adding a Council review? Was there another agenda here all along to develop the park? Even so, this issue is bigger than who sits in any elected position….

And the outspoken councilwoman made her own proposal – one somewhat consistent with Wharton’s: “What has been left out of the debate altogether is a solid review and discussion on how to best market our image and history to attract tourists, bring jobs, and tell the full story of our history from divergent viewpoints. This could include broadening the presentation in the parks, identifying and restoring historical properties, and/or adding exhibits to the National Civil Rights Museum, Wonders, the Pink Palace, or other venues that will share the lessons we can all learn from the former days. The Convention & Visitors Bureau (which to my knowledge has been silent in this debate) can be charged with reviewing and making recommendations, along with the input of other tourism experts and community leaders. I am told that this is a billion dollar industry in some states.”

Such an approach, said Chumney might result in the achievement of “common ground, and a win-win for our community.”

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

WHARTON, CHUMNEY PROPOSE PARKS SOLUTIONS

Both public officials suggest enlarging the focus to include other sites and memorials.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Even as Memphis mayor Willie Herenton seemed ready to remove from the table both his proposal concerning Forrest Park and the whole issue of downtown parks, two other public figures have come forward with ideas of their own.

In an interview this week, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton called for amending the sites of three controversial downtown parks – Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate – so as to provide “full disclosure”of the historical facts.

”In other words, you might have an elaborate plaque nearby the statue of General Forrest explaining all his wartime exploits and why it is he was venerated and thought a military genius, but also nearby you should have another plaque or memorial pointing out the criticism he’s received and the actual facts concerning it – the slave-owning, the possibility of a massacre, the Klan allegations, all of that.”

Wharton said it would be a good idea also to add in each of the Confederate-related parks plaques or prominent signs indicating other historical and tourist sites – for example, the National Civil Rights Museum – where visitors could acquaint themselves with another side of the historical context.

And city council member Carol Chumney, in an email response to the issue, also advanced some thoughts – some of them critical of Herenton.

Said Chumney: “First, I would like to know why Mayor Herenton proposed a resolution to lease the Forrest park to UT , with provisions that it could not be used for another purpose without his approval, and then withdrew the proposal with the added language that the Council would also have to approve any alternative use of the park? If the lease of the park is a good deal for the citizens of Memphis as originally proposed by the Mayor, then why isn’t it still a good deal for the citizens of Memphis under the democratic common-sense principles of a balance of powers by adding a Council review? Was there another agenda here all along to develop the park? Even so, this issue is bigger than who sits in any elected position….

And the outspoken councilwoman made her own proposal – one somewhat consistent with Wharton’s: “What has been left out of the debate altogether is a solid review and discussion on how to best market our image and history to attract tourists, bring jobs, and tell the full story of our history from divergent viewpoints. This could include broadening the presentation in the parks, identifying and restoring historical properties, and/or adding exhibits to the National Civil Rights Museum, Wonders, the Pink Palace, or other venues that will share the lessons we can all learn from the former days. The Convention & Visitors Bureau (which to my knowledge has been silent in this debate) can be charged with reviewing and making recommendations, along with the input of other tourism experts and community leaders. I am told that this is a billion dollar industry in some states.”

Such an approach, said Chumney might result in the achievement of “common ground, and a win-win for our community.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SCHOOL FUNDRAISING PLAN LAUNCHED

Central High School Alumni Aim to Raise $3.5 million

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Private financial contributions to public high schools usually take the form of $20, $100, or $1,000 checks to the booster club or PTA for athletic equipment, computers, or books for the library. But Central High School alumni are launching a $3.5 million fundraising campaign along the lines of what major colleges and universities do.

The campaign was announced Tuesday evening at the Midtown school by Dr. Tom Stern, a Central alumnus, cardiologist, and former member of the Memphis Board of Education. One more unusual note: Stern wants to raise the money in just three months. The crowd of about 25 people included board members Jeff Warren and Carl Johnson.

As one of the oldest public schools in Memphis, Central — once known as “The High School” — has thousands of well-to-do alumni. But the sizable goal and timetable for reaching it prompted Huey’s founder Thomas Boggs, Central Class of 1962, to ask whether donations could be made in the form of pledges over three years.

Stern said they could, but there is some urgency to the drive. Renovations at Central, parts of which were built in 1909, are overdue, and adjacent Crump Stadium is scheduled to be demolished this fall. The board of education and Memphis City Council have approved a $24 million package of improvements, but only about $21 million of funds are available. Delays will escalate the costs even more.

City Councilman Tom Marshall, an architect whose firm is working for the school board as overseer of new building projects, presented three plans in three price ranges. The major differences involve seating and lighting at the football field, which will remain in place after the old concrete stadium is demolished. The most expensive option would include lighting and 4,000 seats, concession stands, a storage building, and an eight-lane 400-meter track. The brick entryway and wrought-iron gates of the stadium would remain part of the new sports complex.

All three plans include a new classroom addition in space currently used for parking, new air conditioning, and extensive painting and replacement of doors, windows, and lockers. Donations are being sought for science labs, retractable bleachers, dressing rooms, the track, and concession stands.

A brochure being sent to prospective donors says contributions will be tax deductible because they are being handled through the nonprofit Jewish Foundation of Memphis. Naming rights will be awarded for large donations. And Stern said an anonymous donor has already pledged $500,000 as a challenge grant.

Shelby County Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel asked why Central did not ask the city and county for the money for the total cost of the project. Marshall said that is still an option but private donations could expedite the work and avoid cost-cutting measures in the design.

Stern said the football field and track will be used by other schools such as Northside, Southside, and Hamilton, and alumni of those schools will also be asked to donate funds.

Central is the second Memphis high school whose alumni have launched a major funding drive. Last year East High School alumnus Charles McVean announced the formation of a foundation that would raise $3 million for the school. But after spending about $200,000 on building improvements and tutoring, McVean said this year he was going to delay asking others for contributions until the school and the foundation could better define how the money would be spent.

Central and East were considered two of the best schools in Memphis prior to school desegregation and white flight. Central has maintained its academic reputation and standing as an optional school. It has about 1,200 students in grades 10-12 and will add ninth-graders when the new buildings are finished in 2007.

Friday, August 5, 2005

FORD, ROWE, ROLAND ARE PRIMARY WINNERS

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Political newcomer Ophelia Ford may not have been the smoothest candidate for the District 29 state Senate seat. But she was the only one named Ford, and that fact proved enough – if just barely – to give Ford a victory Thursday ( by 20 votes) in the special Democratic primary for the seat held for 30 years by her brother John Ford, who vacated it after being indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal last May.

Finishing second in the eight-person Democratic field was state Rep. Henri Brooks. Third was political newcomer Steve Haley, who campaigned hard and outpolled state representative Barbara Cooper, at one time considered the favorite in the race.

On the Republican side, Millington businessman Terry Roland easily beat John Farmer in the Senate primary, while newcomer Gary Rowe won the Democratic nomination for the District 87 state House of Representatives seat. No Republican sought the House seat, vacated by now state Senator Kathryn Bowers, ironically another Tennessee Waltz indictee.

Meanwhile, new Shelby County Democratic chairman Matt Kuhn presided over his first meeting of the local party’s new executive committee at the IBEW union hall on Madison. The meeting produced virtually no fireworks, and Kuhn’s self-effacing remark, “I better not say too much; I might end up endorsing everybody in the room,” was the closest he came to apologizing out loud for his apparent endorsement at a rally last Saturday of the U.S. Senate candidacy of 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., Ophelia Ford’s nephew.

However, Kuhn had earlier released a statement of apology to members of the new 67-member executive committee for remarks he described as "not appropriate" that seemed to back Rep. Ford. (See text at foot of story.)

The party’s Ford faction received its share of party offices Thursday night on a Kuhn-backed “unity” slate that was voted in by virtual acclamation

Together with the Ophelia Ford win, spurred on by intensive last-minute campaigning overseen on the part of onetime Democratic boss and former congressman Harold Ford Sr, the Democratic committee election underscored the fact that the Ford era in local politics was not quite over.

Winner Ford polled a total of 1,336 votes, followed by 1,316 for Brooks and 647 for Haley. Further back were Cooper with 598 votes and State Rep. John DeBerry with 425 votes. Other candidates with vote totals: Jennings Bernard, 118; Kevin McLellan, 111; John A. Brown, 104; Laura Davis, 26.

Roland defeated Farmer by 1,217 to 126. Ford and Roland will square off in the Sept 15 general election, which will also feature as an independent perennial candidate Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges.

In the Democratic House primary, Rowe’s 323 votes gave him an unexpectedly comfortable win over Andrew "Rome" Withers, with 183; Alonzo Grant, with 163, and Omari Faulkner, with 123.

As the relative scantiness of the vote total indicated, turnout for Thursday’s special election, which took place with temperatures in the mid-90s, was sub-par.

KUHN'S LETTER TO DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

Statement on Endorsements

I have become aware that my remarks at the recent breakfast reception hosted by Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. for the Shelby County Democratic Party have led some to wonder whether I endorsed Congressman Ford in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

In the excitement Saturday of seeing so many Shelby County Democrats coming together, I made comments that were not appropriate for the Chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party. My remarks about Congressman Ford were intended to show our gratitude for his significant accomplishments on behalf of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, my words went beyond my intentions; I regret any misunderstanding this has caused.

As chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party, I cannot and will not endorse any Democratic candidate for elected office unless and until that candidate is the sole Democratic candidate for the position.

This is a new day for Shelby County Democrats. Our newly elected executive committee reflects the diversity of our community, and is a mix of new energy and political experience. Together we have the opportunity to ensure that the Democratic Party elects great Democrats to local and national offices.

I look forward to being with you Thursday.

Sincerely,

Matt Kuhn
Chairman

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

HERENTON SHIFTS PARKS ISSUE TO RDC, UT

Mayor proposes to deed over three downtown parks with Confederate associations.

Posted By and on Wed, Aug 3, 2005 at 4:00 AM

"The buck stops here" is how Memphis mayor Willie Herenton began a keenly awaited press conference in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall Wednesday. That was his preamble to distancing the City of Memphis from any formal response to the current name-change controversy raging about three downtown parks that have associations with Confederate history.

By the time he had finished, the mayor seemed clearly, in the judgment of most news media present, to have passed that buck.

What he did, basically, was to propose deeding over Forrest Park to the neighboring University of Tennessee medical school and Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park to the Riverfront Development Corporation which now maintains them.

The mayor said the park issue had become "a distraction" and that the city should neither rename them nor associate itself with a recent proposal to disinter the remains of General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the park that bears his name.

"In the aftermath of the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our city, we do not need another event that portrays Memphis nationally as a city still racially polarized and fighting the Civil War all over again," the mayor said. Herenton pointedly added that "digging up and moving graves or renaming parks is not the proper way of dealing with the issue," but just as pointedly left the door open for agencies other than city government to do just that.

"If somebody else wants to do it, that’s fine," he said, in response to repeated questioning on the point.

A century after Forrest Park became the resting place of Confederate Forrest, the battle has been joined again. Local black leaders have invited Rev. Al Sharpton to come to Memphis and lead a march through Confederate parks on August 13th. But Herenton made it clear he won’t be marching with "national hell-raisers" or "local hell-raisers," either.

"During the last decade, our city has made great strides in race relations, economic development, rebuilding neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for our diverse citizenry," Herenton said. "We will continue to build this city and not tear the city down with needless controversy."

Ironically, in light of the spreading controversy, Forrest Park, which Herenton says he recently learned was once a cemetery and may include other graves besides those of Forrest and his wife, is more debated than used. Herenton said he wants the City Council to consolidate and reinvent some of the city’s 187 public parks ecompassing 5,300 acres.

Also ironic, given the buffeting the mayor went on to take from skeptical reporters on the matter of buck-passing, was Herenton's assertion that the Forrest Park question was "a tough issue" and that some normally outspoken council members, including "some who want to be mayor," haf ducked it and were "shaking in their boots."

An unusually large crowd of about 50 people attended the press conference in the Hall of Mayors, where portraits of past mayors hang on the walls.

"See anyone who looks like me?" Herenton joked by way of establishing his own civil rights credentials. A final irony? Several of the bearded gentlemen in the portraits actually look like Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Monday, August 1, 2005

LOW COMEDY IN FEDERAL COURT

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2005 at 4:00 AM

When Chattanooga’s Charles Love turned up in federal court in Memphis Tuesday to change his plea to guilty in the Tennessee Waltz matter, he might as well have come straight from Central Casting. Love looked just like what he was charged with for his role in the scandal – a bagman.

Dressed in a literally baggy brown four-button seat with cuffs that buckled low and overflowed onto the floor, Love let his attorney, Brian Hoss, do all the talking for him as the two of them listened to Judge Daniel Breen read from the inductment and, later, assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza detail portions of the government’s proof against Love.

The reading of the two documents and Love’s appearance together created a scenario that hinted at every sordid thing one could imagine, not only about the specific crimes of bribery and extortion but about the increasingly disgraced Tennessee legislature itself.

Love had after all led the FBI’s make-believe “eCycle” moneybags men to one of the state Senate’s presumed pillars, the venerable Ward Crutchfield, also of Chattanooga, whose legislative influence could be had, he told them, if they had “gifts to bear.”.

And what the courtroom audience learned about Crutchfield, a co-defendant who has (so far) not changed his plea of not guilty, was in some ways more embarrassing to the senator’s reputation than the offenses he was charged with.

Crutchfield, said DiScenza, fastidiously avoided being so gross as take in the eCycle bucks he got and kept asking for with his own hands. He let his unnamed secretary do that, and when the FBI’s “undercover informant” (presumably the now infamous Tim Willis) came inquiring as to whether the main man had got his money, she was instructed to say that bagman Love had been “mighty nice to us today” or “mighty good to use today.” On those occasions when Crutchfield himself was coaxed into saying something for the FBI’s ubiquitous video- and audio-tapes, he acknowledged receipt with words like “Thank you for being my friend.”

Right. Some friends you got there, Senator.

But the tale of ignominy became pure slapstick when DiScenza’s account got around to the part of the sage involving another co-defendant, state Rep. Chris Newton of Cleveland.

It was not just that Newton the sole Republican bagged in the FBI operation, was charged with taking the bottom-dollar sum of $4500 for his promise to expedite legislation favorable to eCycle, it developed that Love had repeatedly skimmed from Newton’s payoffs, sometimes halving them. So the poor shlepper ended up, as compensation for the fate that now awaits him, with roughly enough change to run a bar bill at the downtown Sheraton in Nashville.

Afterward lawyer Hoss met with reporters and assured them, among other things, that despite what they’d heard in court, his suddenly repentant client had “never done anything like this before.”

Right.

Like the other defendants, who include ex- Memphis legislators John Ford and Roscoe Dixon as well as current state Senator Kathryn Bowers, Love was accused with a series of “offenses against the United States.” If Love turns state’s evidence, which seems likely, he might get off light on those charges, but his offenses against credibility will be a little harder to expiate.

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