Thursday, September 22, 2005

BREDESEN BACKS U of M LAW SCHOOL MOVE

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2005 at 4:00 AM

“This project is going forward,” said Governor Phil Bredesen to tumultuous applause Thursday night. The subject was a proposal for state funding to begin the process of transplanting the law school of the University of Memphis to a downtown location, upgrading it in the process.

The audience which heard this happy news, at a fundraising event for Bredesen at the East Memphis residence of city councilman Jack Sammons, included many representatives of the University of Memphis, who hatched the relocation project earlier this year in an effort to shore up the school’s long-term accreditation.

The American Bar Association had put the university on notice that its present law school facilities on Central Avenue were considered inadequate.

The move, into the landmark Post Office building on Front St., which would be extensively renovated for the purpose, would ultimately cost some $41 million, said Law School dean Jim Smoot, one of several university officials to have lobbied the governor on the point.

“I think this is what you call a full-court press,” said the governor about the university group’s efforts.

Bredesen kept a smiling and relaxed demeanor despite the presence across the street of demonstrators protesting his paring of the TennCare rolls, a move he defended again Thursday night as necessary for budgetary reasons.

“Inviting me is one way to get demonstrators to show up at the end of your driveway,” joked the governor, who said he had spoken with several of the protesters and urged the attendees at the fundraiser to do so. “These are good people,” he said.

The governor’s appearance in Memphis came at the end of a day in which the members of his recently appointed Citizens Advisory Panel on Ethics held the last of several statewide meetings at the university’s Fogelman Center.

Focus on Lobbyists

Presided over by former state Attorney General Mike Cody and former state Senator Ben Atchley of Knoxville, the meeting was attended by several local legislators, including state Senators Steve Cohen of Memphis and Roy Herron of Dresden, and state Representatives Paul Stanley and Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Dolores Grisham of Covington.

Cohen called for ratcheting up the current "cup-of-coffee" law to the end of eliminating all lobbyist-funded favors for members of the General Assembly -- a point that was seconded by Stanley and Kelsey.

Asked how much legislation was currently initiated by lobbyists rather than members of the Assembly, Cohen answered bluntly, "Almost all of it."

Grisham, who said she and two other relatively short-term Republican legislators shared the services of a single staffer, called the absence of adequate staffing for legislators "unacceptable." It meant, she said,that increasingly legislators are forced to use lobbyists as sources of advice on legislation. "The good ones will give you both sides," she said.

At one point, panelist Lyle Reid, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, probed into the basic function of lobbyists. Among those called upon to answer was current lobbyist and former legislator Rufus Jones of Memphis, who provided one of the afternoon's best laugh lines.

"The first thing you've got to do is get a client," Jones said. "You can go up there and lobby all day long, but if you don't have a client, you're in trouble!"

The panel will shortly report its findings and recommendations to Governor Bredesen.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

FORD SQUEAKS BY ROLAND IN DISTRICT 29

Final precinct puts Democrat ahead by 12 votes.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2005 at 4:00 AM

It was back-and-forth for most of the evening, but when the final vote was totaled Thursday night in the District 29 state Senate race, Democrat Ophelia Ford was ahead by 12 votes – count ‘em, 12.

Her Republican opponent, Terry Roland, , refused to concede, however, telling a group of supporters at his Millington headquarters, “We’re still in the race,” and promising to “turn things over to the people who know how to handle things like this" -- presumably a team of both political and legal advisers.

A spokesman for the Roland campaign would subsequently promise to contest the outcome, saying, "We're going to bring in a shitload of attorneys," both from Tennessee and Washington. One of them, he said, might be former congressman Ed Bryant, now a U.S. Senate candidate.

The course of the election drama resembled somewhat the on-again, off-again, back-and-forth progress of the scaled-down East Coast hurricane, Ophelia, that bore the apparent winner’s name. The lead changed hands between Ford and Roland several times during the toting up Thursday evening, as she strove to overcome what had been a 450-vote lead held by Roland after the conclusion of early voting. Going into the counting of the last one of 60 precincts to be vouched for, Ford had been down by almost 80 votes.

”We were out at five minutes to 7, still scaring up votes for Ophelia,” said co-campaign manager David Upton about events earlier in what was, by any and all standards, a very tense evening.

Final unofficial totals, including early voting and absentee ballots and all 60 precincts from Thursday's voting were:
Ford - 4332
Roland - 4320

Perennial also-ran candidate Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, running as an independent, had a total of 89 votes.

As push had come to shove late in the campaign, luminaries from both major parties had been pressed into service for the two standard-bearers. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton led a phalanx of local Democrats doing last-minute robocalls for Ford in her effort to accede to the seat held for 30 years by her brother, John Ford. Meanwhile, state Republican chairman Bob Davis of Nashville, who was present Thursday night at Roland's Millington headquarters, personally took a hand in the GOP nominee's campaign. The seat had come open in late May when John Ford, freshly indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal and under fire for months due to other investigations, abruptly resigned it.

Much statewide attention was focused on the Ford-Roland race for the light it might shed on a variety of looming political subjects: the state of the Ford-family campaign apparatus; the possible shift of power in the General Assembly; the signals the outcome would send for races to come, including that of Senator-elect Ford's nephew, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., now a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Long considered a stronghold for the Ford family and for Democratic candidates in general, District 29, which hugs the Mississippi River-front for almost the length of Shelby County, has a largely African-American population, but Roland's Republican team put forth intense efforts, especially in the Millington area.

Late in the game, it had become obvious to everyone on both sides that either candidate could win. Early Thursday, weather forecasts called for intermittent showers, a prospect that was thought to be more threatening for Ford, dependent on a working-class, less mobile constituency. But the rains never came.

Thus did Ophelia Ford, for the second time in a month, squeak by an opponent; her victory over state Rep. Henri Brooks, runner-up in last month's special Democratic primary, a multi-candidate affair, was by 20 votes— an outcome Brooks opted not to challenge legally after an appeal was denied by the state Democratic Party.

As indicated, Roland is unlikely to be so acquiescent. Alleging that a voting-machine cartridge was suspiciously missing from one of the district's precincts, a Roland ally, TeamGOP chairman Jeff Ward of adjacent Tipton County was calling for the state Senate to review the results.

And GOP chairman Davis fired off a letter Friday to state Attorney General Paul Summers asking Summers to investigate the election, citing "the alleged voting of convicted felons, unregistered voters, and an incident involving the questionable voter cartridges of the last precinct reporting."

To that, Shelby County Democratic chair Matt Kuhn, who had served as one of Ophelia Ford's last-minute robocallers, issued a formal response. "It is unfortunate that the Republican party has chosen to not accept defeat graciously and cast needless dispersions on our Election institutions," Kuhn's statement said in part. Kuhn also announced that Memphis lawyer Jim Strickland, a former party chairman, would "be prepared to issue a legal statement" as part of any subsequent process.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

IT'S OFFICIAL! NWA GOES CHAPTER 11

Airline will continue to operate pending reorganization.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Northwest Airlines tonight filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The following is the text of an e-mail message sent to members of the airline's frequent flyer program:

Dear _________,
Your WorldPerks number is ________.

As you may already have heard in media reports, Northwest
Airlines(R) has voluntarily filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The bankruptcy process will enable Northwest to continue its transformation into a new-era carrier in keeping with the permanent changes that have affected the airline industry, such as rising labor costs and a doubling of fuel prices over the past two years.

Because we value your business and proven loyalty, I am writing
to assure you that there will be no impact on the WorldPerks(R)
program as a result of the filing. Frequent flyer mileage
accrual, redemption, and Elite benefits will remain unchanged.
Members will continue to earn and redeem miles according to the
current WorldPerks program guidelines.

The bankruptcy filing will not impact Northwest’s day-to-day
business operations. We remain committed to serving customers,
honoring tickets, flying a competitive schedule safely and
reliably, maintaining our WorldClubs(R) lounge program, and all
other programs and services.

All bookings will be honored, and ticketing policies remain
unchanged. Our existing marketing relationships with other
airlines remain in place.

The decision to file for bankruptcy protection is not related to
the current strike by members of the Aircraft Mechanics
Fraternal Association (AMFA). Our operation continues to run
well and we have experienced no adverse impact on our
operational performance as a result of the work stoppage.

Customers can continue to book travel on Northwest Airlines with
confidence. Although bankruptcy is never a first choice option,
it does provide the most prudent means for a restructuring that
will ensure the transformation of Northwest into a new-era
carrier that is able to compete in the near term and well into
the future.

Thank you for your continued support of Northwest Airlines. For
more information about Northwest’s transformation, please visit
nwa.com(R).

We look forward to continuing to earn your business by providing
the outstanding service you deserve.

Sincerely,

Doug Steenland
President and CEO
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

COHEN: BREDESEN WAGING A ‘KATRINA’ AGAINST THE POOR

State Senator also swipes at Rep. Ford for hoping to "do nothing, except at a higher level."

Posted By on Sun, Sep 11, 2005 at 4:00 AM

State Senator Steve Cohen upped the ante in his ongoing verbal combat with Governor Phil Bredesen Sunday, accusing Bredesen of waging “a Katrina, a war, for political expediency, on poor people” by his paring of the TennCare rolls, a process which, said Cohen, would “deprive 200,000 people of health care and cost many of them their lives.”

Speaking at a seminar on “Rethinking the War on Drugs” sponsored by the Public Issues Forum of Memphis, the Midtown Democrat also took an indirect swipe at U.S. Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr., the Memphis congressman whom Cohen unsuccessfully opposed in the 1996 Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District seat.

Cohen noted that no Tennessee congressman had voted for a bill in Congress that would have prevented federal law enforcement authorities from arresting medical-marijuana users in states where they were entitled to use marijuana by law. “And I submit to you that it’d be a popular thing for one of our congressmen to do, because it would say to the state of Tennessee that we had a congressman who had a brain and who had a vision and who had a heart and was trying to make a difference and not just to promote themselves to another office to do nothing except at a higher level.”

Said Cohen: "There’s a purpose to being in office and that’s to try to do things to make your society better and not just to advance yourself. Basically what I’ve seen in my life, most politicians are just there for the next office. They’re there for the next fundraiser, for the next round, for the next whatever. And I see it when I look to Nashville, and I see it when I look to the 9th District. And it’s very, very disheartening."

The full context of Cohen's remarks about Bredesen went this way: “The people are so far ahead of the politicians on so many issues, it’s a shame, and you don’t see a whole lot of politicians put their neck out on issues to make society better.I have a lot of despair right now…when I look at our president. To be honest, when I look at our governor, who is bringing about a Katrina in Tennessee. It’s just that the 200,000 people he’s depriving of health care aren’t put in front of The Pyramid for the public to see it. They’re spread out throughout this state. That is a Katrina – a war, for political expediency on poor people who can’t afford health care themselves and for the political agenda of a multi-millionaire who wants to be something else in life rather than the provider and giver of health care and a better, more progressive society, but wants to advance himself.

“He’s going to deprive 200,000 people of health care and cost many of them their lives. That’s cruel, and it’s Katrina in Tennessee, and it’s happening now at our governor’s level.”

Cohen, the sponsor of pending legislation that would legalize medical marijuana use for specified classes of patients, appeared at the Forum meeting along with Dr. Ethan Nadleman, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the federal “War on Drugs” as both a wrong-headed policy and a failure.

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Saturday, September 3, 2005

FLYER COMPILES KATRINA INFORMATION

Posted By on Sat, Sep 3, 2005 at 4:00 AM

See "Katrina News" tile above for up-to-the-minute updates on Hurricane Katrina and opportunities for assisting in its wake.
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