Haslam’s SOTS 

Given some of the sturm und drang now circulating in several matters having to do with state government, Monday night's maiden State of the State address from Governor Bill Haslam was eagerly awaited for clues to the chief executive's political course.

All things considered, the address was a perfect piece of triangulation — politically equidistant from most of the state's warring factions, studiously devoid of controversial statements, and containing long-term proposals that are (or potentially could be) actual solutions. Haslam sounded, in fact, like what he appeared to be during his gubernatorial campaign — budget-conscious, moderate, and business-minded.

His prescription for dealing with a projected $1 billion shortfall from the previous year's revenues — namely, cuts in administrative costs and via attrition — was realistic. His proposal for modest raises for state employees at a time when right-wing members of his own party are decidedly unfriendly to such notions was compassionate, bordering on heroic.

And his proposals for educational reform were, for the most part, unexceptionable. He shied away from espousing or even mentioning any of the punitive measures being aimed at unionized teachers by right-wing zealots in the General Assembly. By contrast, his own chief proposals — lengthening public school teachers' period of tenure probation from three to five years and tying it to student performance and lifting the cap on new charter schools — were, arguably, reasonable and worth trying.

Neither the governor nor anyone else should be deceived, however. An immoderate and reckless tide is running in the General Assembly — as exemplified by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey's suggestion last week that Memphis City Schools, about to merge with Shelby County Schools, should instead be taken over by the state.

Good luck to Governor Haslam. He'll need it.

bad dog

The laughter that rocked Memphis every morning for 22 years has faded away. John "Bad Dog" McCormack, one of Memphis' most beloved on-air personalities, has lost his battle with leukemia. He was 55.

McCormack's nickname was misleading. He was fully housebroken and famously kind. Nobody called him Bad Dog until his friend and fellow Rock 103 DJ Tim Spencer bought a T-shirt in New Orleans that read, "He wouldn't sit. He wouldn't beg. He wouldn't heel." One mention of that shirt on the air was all it took. The name stuck. But when he wasn't cutting up and cracking up with his Wake-Up Crew co-hosts, the rowdy, round-faced funnyman made time to help those who were less fortunate than himself.

"God's got us by the heart, the devil's got us by the balls, and we're caught in between," McCormack once said, explaining the Wake-Up Crew's commitment to hosting an annual radiothon for Ronald McDonald House, an event that has brought in millions to support families while their children receive treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

John McCormack may have been called Bad Dog, but he was a very good man. He will be missed.

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