Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Malone, Long Making Their Moves

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:54 AM

bff0/1244613925-malone_2.jpgStill running by herserlf (at least for the time being) as a candidate for county mayor in 2010, Shelby County chair Deidre Malone was the beneficiary of two fundraising events last weekend. Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd is considered all but certain to oppose her in next year’s Democratic primary but hasn’t yet made a formal announcement.

As Malone notes, it’s now less than a year before next year’s countywide primaries.

Republicans have been slower than Democrats to express interest in the couty mayor’s race, but Malone’s commission colleague George Flinn has confided to her and others an interest in running on the GOP side.

Meanwhile, the other political Flinn, city councilman Shea Flinn, has apparently resisted efforts — from his father and from certain of his councilmates — to promote him as a candidate for city mayor.

* City court clerk Thomas Long last week publicly reiterated his intentions — previously noted in this space — of switching venues as a candidate for county clerk in next year’s elections.

Long had previously considered a race for mayor but discarded the idea. Though most observers reckon Long as the favorite in the race, he may face a stiffer than expected challenge in the Democratic primary from wrestling entrepreneur and former grappler Corey Maclin, who has already formally announced and held a series of fundraising events.

The clerk’s job has in the last few months become a hot potato, with multiple indictments of office employees for a variety of improprieties and illegalities, including extortion. Incumbent Debbie Stamson, a Republican, has not been implicated but has served notice that she isn’t running for reelection.

THE GADFLY: Monetizing Content Redux

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:33 AM

monetizing_content2.jpgI admit it; I'm a snoop. I love to see how other people live their lives, not by peeping through their windows (I draw the line at anything that would land me in jail), but by watching the snippets of their lives they see fit to share with us, the great unwashed masses. Which is one of the reasons I love those “see and be seen” party picture magazines that get published periodically, showing the self-appointed Memphis gliterati in all their splendor. Where else, I ask you, can you see so many boob jobs in one place without being there? That's just one reason I call these magazines “boobs on parade.”

But, the really interesting tidbits of other people's lives is on display in the wedding and engagement announcements of the newspaper. Now, I know many of you prefer to read the obituaries, mostly, I suspect, to make sure your name isn't listed. But I find that to be a bit too ghoulish, and also entirely too reminiscent of my own mortality. But, weddings and engagements? Now, there's a celebration, and a major slice, of life I can relate to.

I find the announcements that appear in our local paper to be particularly amusing. It used to be, back before every conceivable bit of newspaper content (including the electronic kind) had to be monetized, that weddings and engagements, along with births and deaths, were considered “vital statistics,” which were published as a public service by the newspaper. Hence the term “newspaper of record.” Many newspapers still treat these kinds of announcements that way, to the extent that the New York Times insists, as part of its announcement policy, that each of the blissful couple's prior divorces be listed. How's that for throwing a wet rag on the festivities? But not our local paper. They've figured out how to treat wedding and death announcements like car ads. Column inches are column dollars, so pretty much whatever you want to submit for publication in the way of wedding/death announcements is OK with them. The result: malapropisms, typos and the occasional elimination of the identity (or even existence) of one of the bride's (or groom's) parents. Apparently, quite a few test tube babies get married.

I get a particularly big kick out of the differences between the announcements in our local paper and the ones that appear in the New York Times. To appear in the Times, one or both of the happy couple must have at least one degree (and preferably more) from an Ivy League school, be a doctor, lawyer or investment banker and have at least one parent who's written the Great American Novel. To appear in our local paper, one or both of the celebrants must have attended Ole Miss and be employed by FedEx or one of our ubiquitous hospitals. And it doesn't really matter who their parents are, unless, of course, one of them happens to be a preacher. The Times doesn't care where the couple honeymoon, or where they're taking up housekeeping, but that information is de rigeur in the local announcements. After all, more info = more column inches.

I'm sorry if that comparison makes me come across like a snob (what can I say?). Either of my marriage announcements, had they been submitted for publication, would have fallen short by the Times' standards. But the second one would have been worthy (in my opinion), if only for the fact that the wedding “reception” was held at the soda fountain of the Wiles-Smith Drug Store in Midtown. See, I told you I was a snob.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bill Hobbs’ Red-Meat Style a Factor in Losing State GOP Job

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 3:04 AM

0d00/1244189749-hobbs_and_smith2.jpgThe abrupt departure of Bill Hobbs of Nashville from his job as communications director of the Tennessee Republican Party — announced Thursday by new state party chairman Chris Devaney — was probably inevitable once Devaney survived intraparty intrigue and won out over two rivals to win the chairmanship last week.

Before making his bid for the chairmanship (against opponents Oscar Brock of Chattanooga and state Representative Eric Swafford of Pikesville), Devaney had served as state director for U.S. Senator Bob Corker, who had publicly objected to official actions taken by Hobbs and the party chair he served, Robin Smith.

Hobbs was widely regarded as a mentor and alter ego for Smith, who resigned her chairmanship last month after announcing her candidacy for the 3rd District congressional seat next year. The two of them drew public rebukes from both Corker and the state’s other GOP senator, Lamar Alexander, on two notable occasions.

The first provocative act was a party press release circulated during the 2008 presidential campaign, referring to then candidate Barack Obama with pointed reference to his middle name of “Hussein,” suggesting that Obama had anti-Semitic support, and mis-identifying a native costume worn by Obama during a visit to Kenya as “Muslim garb.”

The other circumstance was a YouTube video prepared by the Hobbs-Smith team that expressed skepticism about Michelle Obama’s pride in being an American.

Besides their direct criticism on these two occasions, the two senators, both famously urbane in manner, were thought to be generally uncomfortable with the red-meat rhetorical approach favored by Hobbs and Smith, though they gave pro forma support to Smith’s continued service as party chair.

More recently, there had been rumors in GOP ranks, denied by Devaney, that he had been privately impugning Smith's job performance during her tenure as chairman. One of those making the charge was Memphian Frank Colvett Jr., the state party’s finance committee chairman, who said, “I can’t stand by and see a good chairman’s integrity questioned in the name of winning a campaign.”

But Devaney did win, and the announcement of Hobbs’ departure was one of his first official acts Though the new chairman insisted that Hobbs had not been dismissed and would maintain a connection with the state GOP in some sort of consultantship, he was vague about the question of a long-term relationshp with the party for Hobbs.

There has been much speculation In state political circles of late about the possibility of Hobbs’ serving as a campaign aide in Smith’s congressional race.


If indeed Hobbs’ over-the-top polemical style figured in his leaving his communications post, it would not be the first time his penchant for extreme statements forced a job change. Before taking the state party job, he had worked at Nashville’s Belmont University as a media relations specialist and blogging coach.

That relationship came to an end in 2006 after Hobbs posted on his personal Web site a cartoon caricaturing the prophet Mohammad and considered inflammatory to Muslims. Hobbs’ cartoon was published in the afermath of worldwide Islamic resentment of a provocative cartoon published in a Danish newspaper.

Hobbs later disavowed his own cartoon, calling it “appalling” and something composed “in a moment of weakness.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

State House Easily Overrides Bredesen Veto of Gun Bill

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 5:19 PM

3806/1244067774-cox_and_todd3.jpgNASHVILLE -- It took all day, until almost 4 o'clock, for the Tennessee House of Representatives to get around to voting on an override of Governor Phil Bredesen's veto of a bill permitting holders of gun-carry permits to bring loaded guns into bars and restaurants. But such suspense as the wait might have generated was dissipated quickly as it became evident that the House was in a mood to rebuff Bredesen.

Last-minute speeches supporting the veto were mounted by Representatives Jimmy Naifeh of Covington and G.A. Hardaway of Memphis, both of whom quoted remarks critical of the bill from Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell and Memphis police chief Larry Godwin.

If the reception given Naifeh, the body's former longtime Speaker, was at least polite, there was palpable restlessness of members as Hardaway spoke. Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton grew visibly impatient himself as Hardaway was speaking, and, as soon as the Memphian terminated, Williams addressed the membership with a statement of the obvious.

"You know how you're going to vote," he said, and asked for a vote without further ado.

The final tally was 69 votes in favor of the measure, 27 opposed. That meant that the bill, which passed the House originally by a 66-23 margin, actually gained adherents in the interval.

Representative Curry Todd, who represents a Collierville district and was the principal House sponsor of the gun bill, was in no mood afterward to be conciliatory. Asked if he felt like apologizing to Bredesen for his widely criticized remark that the governor knew "where he can put" the veto, Todd responded, "I'm still waiting for his apology."

Dismissing the fact that the state's major law enforcement and restaurant associations had come out against the bill and that several uniformed lawmen had stood behind Bredesen at the veto ceremony, Todd noted that, as he stood in the dock and asked for an override, he, too, had been flanked by former law enforcement officers. There had been six in all, it appeared, all in plain clothes.

And Todd said that restaurant owners had never campaigned seriously against the bill. "I know. I talked to a lot of them."

The override was characterized as a practical response to crime by both Todd and Chris Cox, a former Memphian and the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist, who was in Nashville and was introduced on the floor by Todd as the House convened Wednesday morning.

Soon after the House vote, the governor's office released this statement: "Governor Bredesen said last week when he vetoed this bill that he expected an override. He's disappointed with this action but that doesn't change his belief that we can exercise our second amendment rights and common sense at the same time. He believes guns and bars simply don't mix, and this legislation doesn't provide the proper safeguards to ensure public safety. Governor Bredesen stands by his decision to veto the bill."

A veto override vote is expected in the state Senate "first thing in the morning," said Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville, the Senate Speaker. A similar outcome is expected there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mulroy Confident Anti-Discrimination Resolution Will Hold Up in Court

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 2:40 PM

dab2/1243972114-steve_mulroy2.jpgBoth during and after Monday's meeting of the Shelby County Commission, questions were raised about the legal impact of the anti-discrimination resolution passed, 9-4, by the commission. Commissioner Steve Mulroy, who authored an anti-discrimination ordinance of his own before yielding to a substitute resolution from colleague Sidney Chism, maintains stoutly that the resolution provides substantial protection for gays, lesbians, and transgendered persons who may choose to litigate on the basis of it.

Following is a statement from Mulroy on the issue, dispatched to a reporter at another publication who had raised questions and forwarded also to the Flyer.

I don't think it's correct to say that because the item is a Resolution and not an Ordinance that "it can't be used in court."

If an employee claiming discrimination (wrongful termination, for example) takes her case to the Civil Service Appeals Board and fails to get relief, she can file a Chancery Court suit. In that suit, she would rely on the Resolution and claim that the County violated its own stated, binding policy, and that because of that the Court should order reinstatement.

As a technical matter, she may be relying on the general obligation in Chancery Court for the county not to act "arbitrary or capricious," with the Resolution serving as evidence of that, rather than filing directly to enforce an Ordinance in General Sessions Court. But the distinction seems somewhat technical to me—in either case, the employee is relying on the Ordinance/Resolution in court, and it gives the employee the ability to get a court to issue an injunction against the County.

This was my understanding when I agreed to the substitute language. I just double-checked this with County Atty Brian Kuhn today to make sure I had it right before I presumed to quibble with you.

I hope that clears things up more than muddies things.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Maclin Off to Fast Start in 2010 Clerk's Race

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 12:11 PM

9e24/1243877167-king_cobra_and_corey_mackin_2j.jpgCorey Maclin, who has a background in the entertainment business, began seriously entertaining the idea of politics some time back. Maclin, who for the last several years has been Jerry the King Lawler’s partner in Memphis Wrestling, spent a fair amount of time wrestling with the notion of running for office, and now he’s doing so — as a Democratic candidate for Shelby County Clerk.

That’s the job which, in the last few months, has become a hot potato, with multiple indictments of office employees for a variety of improprieties and illegalities, including extortion. Incumbent Debbie Stamson, a Republican, has not been implicated but has served notice that she isn’t running for reelection.

Maclin expects company in the race, which will still be heating up a year from now, and he’ll likely get plenty of it, from both parties. In the meantime, he’s off to a head start with a series of public events, the most recent of which was a fish fry/fundraiser held in Frayser on Saturday.

Among the attendees were several current office-holders — including county Assessor Cheyenne Johnson, county Trustee Paul Mattila, both Democrats, and Sheriff Mark Luttrell.


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