Friday, April 30, 2010

David Kernell, State Rep's Son, Convicted of a Felony in Palin E-Mail Case

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 5:11 PM

David Kernell
  • David Kernell
David Kernell, son of Memphis state Representative Mike Kernell, has been convicted by a federal jury in Knoxville of one felony and one misdemeanor in connection with the 2008 hacking of Republican vice presdidential candidate Sarah Palin's email account.

The jury found the 22-year-old Kernell guilty of felony destruction of records to hamper a federal investigation and of a misdemeanor, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. It acquitted Kernell of wire fraud and could not reach a verdict on felony identity theft.

According to news accounts, it was unclear whether presiding federal judge Thomas W. Phillips would order the jurors to continue deliberatiions.

The jury had already reached agreement on the two counts Kernell was convicted on as early as Thursday morning.

On Thursday, a note from the jury had been passerd to Judge Phillips. It read in part: “Some of us feel not all jurors are following jury instructions."

After the discovery two years ago, as the presidential campaign was winding down, that Palin's Yahoo email account had been hacked and some of its contents posted online, federal authorities began a thorough investigation, which led to Kernell.

Further details will be posted as they are received.

One More Time for Jimmy Naifeh's Coon Supper

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Congressional candidate Roy Herron and host Jimmy Naifeh with attendees at the Coon Supper
  • JB
  • Congressional candidate Roy Herron and host Jimmy Naifeh with attendees at the Coon Supper

The annual “Coon Supper” on the grounds of the Covington Country Club — held, as always, under the auspices of State Representative Jimmy Naifeh, the venerable former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives — took place Thursday night.

Yes, there was raccoon meat available, but most guests passed it by, having long ago taken their obligatory ritual bite of the sharp and somewhat acidic-tasting meat and having sworn off any more of it almost immediately. And, of course, there was ample fried chicken and pork barbecue, along with country-style vegetable dishes.

Here and there on the grounds, too, were tables laden with appetizers — cheese cubes, crackers, and dips, all in several varieties. And there were portable bars. Ask and ye shall receive. Just leave your dollar in the tip jar, if you don’t mind.

Whosoever wants to is invited to come to these affairs, timed for what is hopefully some penultimate point in the spring legislative calendar in Nashville, but the guests were predominantly politicians in and out of office, lobbyists, staffers from various governmental offices, state and local (including those of nearby Memphis and Shelby County), hangers-on, political rubberneckers, and, yes, media.

Odd couple Steffens and Giannini
  • JB
  • Odd couple Steffens and Giannini
It is always a good place to catch up on gossip, transact casual business, or, if you’re a candidate like Democratic state Senator Roy Herron of Dresden, now running for Congress in the 8th District, a dandy venue for schmoozing with voters.

Taking a break from his mission, the genial Herron noted that none of the three Republicans running for the 8th District seat were on hand and seemed content with that, as he apparently would have been equally content had they all been there. “I wish them every success but one,” he said with perfect equanimity.

The squire of the proceedings, Jimmy Naifeh himself, was a mite less omnipresent than in years of yore — to the point that some on the grounds were asking, “Have you seen him? Where’s Naifeh?” The former speaker (but always “Mr. Speaker” on these grounds) was sighted at one point “looking for a place to sit,” as he frankly averred.

So, to be fair, had been Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, a surprise drop-in who spent a lot of time holding court from his seat on the country club’s back patio.

Fisher was in and out of his chair, though, being asked more than most to stand and pose for a picture with this or that eager passerby.

One such was Shelby County Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini, one of the relatively few Republicans as such who roamed the grounds. Giannini had one other photo request. He wanted his picture taken with — who’d ‘a thunk it? — “Left Wing Cracker.” That would be Memphis blogger Steve Steffens, who happily obliged.

Other bloggers were on hand as well — hey, this is the 21st Century, after all. Among those present was Steve Ross of Vibinc and, as of three months ago, Speak Truth to Power. He, Steffens, and Memphis gonzo activist Mike Gatlin formed a trio for much of the evening.

Legislative luminaries were all about — like House Democratic caucus chairman Mike Turner of Nashville, who was on hand with his wife Dinah (“my oldest daughter,” he kept maintaining).

Turner delivered himself of what sounded like genuine optimism concerning his party’s election prospects this year. “We’re going to take back the House,” he said. “We’ve got the best candidate class we’ve ever had in an election year.”

Turner also noted hopefully than what he called a “détente” had come to exist between House Democratic Leader Gary Odom of Nashville and Naifeh, whom Odom had spoken of disparagingly on a trip to Memphis back early in 2009. His remarks had not only infuriated the proud and then freshly deposed ex-Speaker, but had caused a schism in the party’s ranks.

That ill wind had blown some good to Turner, who, as a result of it, had become the Democrats’ undisputed point man in the House. But that, as head of a minority party, was a mixed blessing. “The Republicans can pass anything they want to,” he said resignedly. “But all they do is hot-button stuff. They put off the real business.”

Representatives Stewart, Shaw, and Miller
  • JB
  • Representatives Stewart, Shaw, and Miller

There were other legislators on the grounds, like House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry. State Rep Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, House members Mike Stewart of Nashville, and Larry Miller of Memphis. Stewart was keen to know how the 9th congressional primary race between incumbent Steve Cohen and ex-Memphis mayor Willie Herenton was going.

Told that Herenton had been largely a no-show in the race so far, Stewart seemed genuinely amazed.

As usual, an early arrival at the Supper (and early exiter, too) was former governor Ned Ray McWherter. This being the year of a gubernatorial election and a night on which the candidates were off in Murfreesboro doing a forum together, the ex-governor’s son Mike was not present, not were Bill Haslam, Zach Wamp, or Ron Ramsey, though all of them, singly and in ensemble, were the subject of, much discussion.

Though it is pre-eminently a quasi-political gathering, the Coon Supper doubles as something of a social affair. And there again to chronicle the fact and observe the comings and goings was The Commercial Appeal’s Michael Donahue, his vintage frizzy hair serving as a sort of Daisy’s dock for the denizens of this landlocked Tipton County party.

Ah yes, there are parts of the world where it is forever 1975.

But time does go on, particularly in the highly fluid arena of politics.

“How long will you be doing these, Mr. Speaker,” host Naifeh was asked at one point in the evening. He assumed a look somewhere between bafflement and being puzzle-stumped and gave the slightest shrug, as if to say, When doth time end? What lieth beyond this vale? It will be a while yet, in other words.

There are parts of the world that are forever 1975
  • JB
  • "There are parts of the world that are forever 1975"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Franklin, No Stranger to Challenge, Gets a New One With WIN

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 6:26 AM

New WIN director Desi Franklin
  • JB
  • New WIN director Desi Franklin
The city’s Workforce Investment Network, an often troubled agency charged with retraining workers in obsolescent positions and with helping companies structure their work forces, has a new executive director — Memphis attorney Desi Franklin.

Mayor A C Wharton named Franklin to the position on Tuesday after, as he put it, spending “quite a bit of time combing the profiles and qualifications of candidates to find the best possible fit for this critical role.”

Beginning May 10, Franklin will take leave of her longtime partnership at the Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz law firm, where she has dealt with corporate clients undergoing transitions of various kinds.

Franklin, who was recently returned to the position of vice chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party, is no stronger to controversy and challenge, having immersed herself in the task of restructuring the party in the wake of the Tennessee Waltz scandal of 2005, which had decimated the local Democratic leadership.

Franklin has been tapped for numerous executive leadership positions over the years, and is currently chairman-elect of the annual Memphis in May Festival.

Her task at WIN will be a special challenge, both for Franklin and for Wharton. Under former mayor Willie Herenton, the agency was often charged by state authorities with aimlessness and inaction, and in 2007 it was embarrassingly required to return to the state a half million dollars in unspent federal funds.

Altogether the state had withheld some $11 million in federal funding from the agency since November of 2008 in response to what state authorities regarded as the agency’s failure to turn in accurate financial information or to prepare a satisfactory plan of action.

Ramsey Pays Courtesy Call on Ex-Rival Gibbons, Shelby County Mayors

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:23 AM

Ramsey (right) with Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald
  • JB
  • Ramsey (right) with Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald
Some two weeks after his gubernatorial-campaign rival Zach Wamp did it, so did Ron Ramsey on Tuesday. The state’s Republican lieutenant governor, taking a break from his legislative duties, paid what seems on its way to becoming an obligatory visit to District Attorney General Bill Gibbons of Memphis.

As 3rd District congressman Wamp had done before him, Ramsey toured the facilities of the Criminal Justice Center in the company of Gibbons and Sheriff Mark Luttrell (“it was a real eye-opener,” Ramsey said of the experience), then sat down to talk a little turkey with Gibbons, who had been a GOP candidate for governor himself before dropping his campaign in March.

Wamp had made no secret of his desire to earn Gibbons’ endorsement for his own campaign. Nor did Ramsey on Tuesday. “We talked about the subject,” he conceded. “Bill and I have been friends for a dozen years.” The Shelby D.A. had made it fairly obvious, said Ramsey, that he intended, at least for the time being, to keep a distance from active involvement in other people’s campaigns.

A third Republican candidate, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, has also made frequent visits to Shelby County, though he has not yet scheduled a set-piece meeting with ex-rival Gibbons.

Meanwhile, Gibbons wasn’t the only recipient of a courtesy call from Ramsey on Tuesday. The lieutenant governor and state Senate Speaker from Blountville also made the sounds of suburban mayors in east Shelby County, talking with mayors Stan Joyner of Collierville, Sharon Goldsworthy of Germantown, and Keith McDonald of Bartlett.

“I’m obviously running for governor, and Shelby County is going to be very important in the election,” Ramsey said frankly. “One of seven people in the state live in Shelby County.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Is Councilman Strickland Doing With That Rat? (and Other Blight Initiatives)

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 11:11 AM

An artist's rendering; really, Jim Strickland isn't that fond of rats. (See text.)
  • An artist's rendering; really, Jim Strickland isn't that fond of rats. (See text.)

Urban blight of one kind or another is suddenly very much on the agenda of local politics. In the last few days, two significant independent initiatives have issued from office-holders on the city council or county commission, and Shelby County government itself is now involved in an overall program entitled “Clean Green Shelby.”

“A meeting on the rat problem in Memphis” has been called by Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland for the Memphis Botanic Gardens this Thursday night, April 29.

And county commissioner Steve Mulroy held a press conference Sunday on the site of the once thriving, now deserted and dilapidated Marina Cove apartment complex on Winchester Ave. in Hickory Hill, calling for its immediate demolition.


  • RATS
  • : Strickland said that “over the last 12 months or so,” he had received numerous complaints from residents of his Midtown/East Memphis district complaining of rat infestation. “One from a lady who found a live rat in her toilet,” Strickland said. He added that he had experienced “three rats in the last year and a half” at his own residence, off Poplar Avenue in the University of Memphis area.

    He said his pest control service-person had given the name of “Rat City” to the upscale Poplar corridor — although he acknowledged that other areas of the city had perhaps even more serious rat problems.

    Strickland said he had teamed up with Carpenter to seek a solution to the problem because the commissioner represented essentially the same geographic area and because “the county is actually in charge of rat abatement.”

    The councilman said this week’s meeting was meant to inform the community of activity over the past 9 months of an ad hoc committee formed by himself and Carpenter, who chairs it, and to solicit community reaction.

    “Currently, all of us pay 75 cents a month for vector control on our MLGW bill,” Strickland said. “But the Health Department is very clear that they are not exterminators.” Any more serious action would involve additional costs and would require action by the council and/or commission.

    Carey, Mulroy, and Casey at Marina Cove
    • JB
    • Carey, Mulroy, and Casey at Marina Cove
  • : Commissioner Mulroy, who has worked on the Marina Cove issue with Councilman Harold Collins, said the property has become “a breeding ground for vermin of six legs, four legs, and two legs” and called for concerted city and county action to come up with demolition costs — estimated as “between a million and a half and two million dollars.”

    Those costs could ultimately be recovered from the property’s absentee owners in California, said Mulroy, who proposed a lawsuit to force the property into receivership.

    Such action was needed, Mulroy said, because nothing thus far had resulted from “four different administrative or [previous] legal actions taken against this project,” involving something like 75 court appearance in the last six years.” The absentee owners are meanwhile using the property for a tax write-off, he said.

    Flanked by area residents Jesse Carey and James Casey at Sunday’s press conference, Mulroy noted that the project’s last residents were moved out of Marina Cover six years ago when the Health Department closed it down.

    At present, debris of all kinds litters the grounds and the interiors of the housing units, which have been stripped of appliances, cooper wiring and tubing.

    “We’ve got to get this 500-pound elephant out of our neighborhood,” said Casey, who argued that it held back potential economic progress in the entire Hickory Hill area. He and Mulroy suggested that a non-profit organization could be formed to plan redevelopment of the grounds.

  • : Interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford, who convened a meeting week before last of area environmental activists, held a press conference at Shelby Farms last week on “Earth Day” to announce his “Clean Green Shelby” initiative.

      The project will focus on five areas:

      the “Wolf River Brownfields Assessment Program,” which would avail itself of $400,000 in federal funds to develop several blighted areas along the Wolf River basin in accordance with green concepts;

      recycling, involving a pilot program employing county corrections inmates; air quality, focusing on an immediate inventory of greenhouse gases;

      environmental infrastructure, involving concerted between the county’s municipal mayors to reduce pollution from waste water treatment plans;

      ground water, undertaking a long-range undertaking, in concert with federal agencies and the University of Memphis to address “long-term protection and sustainability of the Memphis Sands Aquifer.”

      “On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we should all vow to take this opportunity to build on the progress of the past 40 years,” Ford said.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Herenton, Kyles, and Cohen: The Case of the Averted Glitch

Posted By on Sat, Apr 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM

(from left) Herenton, Kyles, and Cohen
  • (from left) Herenton, Kyles, and Cohen
Casual observers of the funeral observances last Wednesday for the Rev. Ben Hooks at the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ might have missed a key circumstance — though attendees who were acquainted with the principals and were asked about it later had been fully aware of it.

During the lengthy ceremony, one of the chief presiders was the Rev. Billy Kyles, a major ally of current congressional aspirant Willie Herenton and a politically active minister who had not supported 9th District congressman Steve Cohen during either one of Cohen’s successful congressional races.

The Rev. Kyles was in charge of announcing which dignitaries would speak and in which order. Despite the fact that Cohen was unmistakably and quite prominently sitting on stage (alongside, first, Lamar Alexander, and, later, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia), Kyles never formally recognized his presence (although he acknowledged virtually everybody else of consequence, on stage or off) and never announced that he would speak.

Nor, for whatever reason, was Cohen’s name included among the speakers in the event’s official program.

Cohen, who bore with him a House resolution praising Hooks, bided his time and then, finally, after Lewis had been announced and had spoken, merely hastened to the podium before anybody else was called, made his speech, then walked down to the floor of the sanctuary and presented a copy of the resolution to Hooks’ widow, Frances, who reciprocated with a hug of gratitude.

Cohen and Frances Hooks embrace after presentation of House resolution
  • Earl Stanback
  • Cohen and Frances Hooks embrace after presentation of House resolution
Had Cohen not seized the moment, he would presumably have been left sitting there, unannounced and unheard — though later, trying to put the best face on things, he suggested that “one of the ladies” who was assisting backstage had told him he might speak after Lewis.

And the congressman declined to blame Kyles for the snafu, theorizing that the minister, in the confusion of a three-hour-and-a-half observance that was constantly being reconfigured, might have been honestly confused.

Members of Cohen’s support group in the congregation were not so generous in their estimation of the situation. They had in fact made plans to convey an urgent message to other principals at the event, alerting them to the fact of Cohen’s being overlooked and of his need to present the resolution. The congressman’s move to the podium on his own obviated the need for such action.

At a later point in the funeral observance, Cohen was observed whispering into the ear of the seated Kyles. Asked what his message had been, the congressman said he had informed the minister that State Rep. Johnnie Turner, the former longtime local head of the NAACP, was present and available to speak. But she, too, was never acknowledged or called upon.

As for Herenton, the former longtime mayor of Memphis and Cohen’s current Democratic primary opponent? He did not attend the ceremony -- though at least one passerby had seen him crossing the street, apparently leaving the church, several hours beforehand.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Mississippi Populist Takes His Gubernatorial Campaign to Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 8:03 AM

Luckett (center) with Memphis friends Kris Kourdouvelis and DArmy Bailey
  • JB
  • Luckett (center) with Memphis friends Kris Kourdouvelis and D'Army Bailey
Local Democrats, who often lament the increasing number of their party brethren who seem to prefer cautious, even Republican-style rhetoric to the old-fashioned yellow-dog Democratic kind, should say hello to Bill Luckett.

Luckett, a successful lawyer and businessman, is running for governor on the premise that the state should “help people, with hands up, not hands out.” He thought the recently enacted federal health-care bill had “flaws” but was something “we had to have.” He is determined to try to reverse an historically “disastrous” poverty rate, and is even willing to acknowledge that “we need some alternative revenue streams.”

Democrats who like that kind of talk (and there’s more where that came from) should take note, however: Luckett is indulging in it, not here in Tennessee, but south of the state line. He is running for governor in, of all places, Mississippi.

The Magnolia State. One of “five or six states,” Luckett says, in which, “if you pay a dollar to the federal government, you can an R.O.I. — a return on your investment — of, like, $1.77....;We need to spend all we can on Medicaid. We get a 4-to-1 match on that. Or 5 to 1!”

The Mississippi Democrat was in Memphis Thursday evening for a well-attended fundraiser in his honor in east Memphis. Though he makes his home in Clarksdale, he is something of an honorary Memphian himself, having operated a law firm here — Luckett, Pinstein, and Ritter — until recently, when he shut it down to focus on his Mississippi efforts.

He has a Mississippi law firm, too — Luckett and Tyner, based in Clarksdale. He also owns a number of other enterprises down that way — the Ground Zero Blues Club, the Madidi Restaurant (“It’s on the cover of Spoon Magazine right now in every hotel room in Memphis”), BMT Properties, Rent-a-Plane LLC, and Delta Greenpower. (He is a partner in some of these businesses with fellow Mississippian Morgan Freeman, the movie actor.)

Luckett appropriates one sentiment from a previous Mississippi governor, Kirk Fordyce, who once boasted that, unlike an opponent, he was used to signing the fronts of checks, as well as the backs of them.

But that’s about all the rhetoric he cares to borrow from the late Fordice or any other Republican. “I shudder to think that we might get another Republican governor,” he says. “I’m really worried we’re going to step backwards in time and not progress forward.”

Mississippi is a state where “70 percent are carrying the other 30 percent,” Luckett says. “We’re the poorest state, and the Delta, where I’m from, is the poorest part of the poorest state. We’re last in education and first in poverty. It’s intractable, It’s been that way for 60, 70, 80 years. We’ve got to break the cycle of poverty.”

Luckett’s race for governor is his first run for political office, and it won’t become official until the first of next year, when candidates will be allowed to qualify under Mississippi state law.

“I’m making this one try. I’m not a career politician,” he says. He offers a philosophy of government that, he says, derives from sources as diverse as Friedrich Hayek, the late conservative economist, and Paul Krugman, the still thriving liberal one: “There are certain risks in life that ought to be shared by everybody. You can’t protect yourself against catastrophe unless all share for the common good.”

And, in pursuit of that “common good,” Luckett knows his throwback populist campaign will have to run somewhat against the grain. “I hope to get white vote, black vote, Republicans, Democrats, Green, and everybody in between. I’m going to need that.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Last Week's Environmental Forum was Likely Backdrop for This Week's "Clean Green" Initiative

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Kuhn and Marshall with participants in last weeks environmental forum
  • Kuhn and Marshall with participants in last week's environmental forum

The backdrop for a potentially fateful Thursday morning press conference, concerning a “Clean Green Shelby Initiative” and called by interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford at the Shelby Farms Visitors Center was very likely a luncheon meeting held last week in the mayor’s 8th floor conference room at the county building.

One of the most significant acts of Ford’s five-month tenure, the luncheon (catered from organic sources, naturally) doubled as a forum for local environmental leaders, and ironically it took place at a time when Ford himself, sidelined by illness, was not able to be present.

Ford’s deputy Pamela Marshall presided in his stead, along with such attendant county officials as John Freeman and Matt Kuhn of the mayor’s office, Tom Moss of the county Land Bank, Public Works director Ted Fox, and Bob Rogers, superisor of pollution control efforts in Shelby County.

Present were representatives of numerous local organizations, including the Sierra Club, Greater Memphis Greenline, Friends of the Riverfront, various area conservancies, and numerous other groups — almost 30 articulate and keenly interested people altogether, mostly volunteers.

As Don Richardson of the Sierra Club, one of the organizers, put it, “You’re looking at a room of community problem solvers….The ‘E’ word doesn’t cover it. Everybody here is the tip of an iceberg.” Gathered in one room was “tens of thousands of dollars of free consulting,” and, Richardson said, “We need to finish unfinished business.”

That unfinished business included a dizzying variety of subjects: among them bike lanes, greenways, air quality control, protection of the city’s aquifer, community clean-ups, creation of new parklands, waste treatment, clean water — everything and anything, in short, which related to the whole ecology of Shelby County.

As the group found itself coming to a consensus — or at least perceiving that one might be possible — Joe Royer of Outdoors, Inc., summed up, “We’re not going to do this with brochures and website. We’ve got to clean the parks up. Out irrigation system is broken. We never have enough money…We’ve got to treat the waste, treat the air, support these agencies.” Royer looked about him in some wonder. “This is the first time I’ve seen this elevated to the mayor’s conference room.”

After some two and a half hours of animated discussion, those present had discussed numerous practical projects, but their crowning achievement was the epiphany that there should be a county environmental department as such, one concerned with pragmatic planning for a green revolution in Shelby County, step by step.

Maybe something comes of the initiative right away and maybe not, but at the very least an idea was born that, at some point later on, may, like last week’s summit meeting itself, come to seem historic.

Marshall had noted at several points of Friday’s luncheon discussion the prospect of some concerted activity to come, related perhaps to the Sustainable Shelby program initiated by A C Wharton during his tenure as county mayor and continued under Ford.

Whether it’s that or something closer to the new department sought by the luncheon participants, the chances seemed better than even that it would be discussed at Thursday’s press conference.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"What's Wrong With this Picture?" 2.0: A New Version of the Puzzle

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 8:11 AM

Former mayor and current 9th District congressional candidate Willie Herenton introduced the game of "What's Wrong With This Picture?" Players will recall that correct answers to the first version of the puzzle were (1) that members of Congress from Tennessee were identified as "state representatives" and (2) that one of the "Tennesseans" pictured in what appeared to be a composite photo spread of the state's delegation was actually from out of state.

Now Herenton has produced a new, improved version of his picture puzzle. Okay, sharp-eyed readers, take a shot at it. What is glaringly wrong about this version, which appears on the ex-mayor's campaign web site? (Scroll down to the bottom for the correct answer, but, no cheating, give it the old college try first!)


OK, here's the correct answer. Has the 7th District's Marsha Blackburn, asssistant Republican whip and the scourge of Democrats' legislation in the Congress, really come over to their side??? We don't think so!


And, yes, there were actually two errors in the picture, of course. The actual congressman from Memphis' own 9th District is still Steve Cohen. But that was a gimme, a red herring to distract the careless puzzle-solver. Stay tuned for future versions of "What's Wrong With this Picture?" We'll bring them to you as we encounter them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Few Early Voters So Far, But Satellite Locations Open on Monday

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 9:28 AM

As of Saturday, April 17, a grand total of 1,085 early and absentee votes had been cast in primary voting for countywide offices since April 14, the beginning of early voting, at the downtown Election Commission office. That’s only .2 percent — a fifth of one percent —of the eligible electorate, which numbers 545,036 voters.

With 20 satellite voting centers (listed below) opening on Monday, April 19, the number is expected to rise dramatically, however.

So far, African American voters seem to be voting disproportionately to white voters — at a rate of 43.4 percent to 30.0 percent, with 25.7 percent for “others,” a category which skews overall analysis, since, besides Asians, Native Americans, and Hispanics, it includes significant numbers of both blacks and whites who decline to designate their race.

More meaningful, perhaps, is the partisan breakdown, 28.2 percent of voters casting ballots in the Republican primary, with 71.7 percent voting in the Democratic primary. That ratio roughly corresponds to normal voting patterns in countywide balloting, as evidenced in the 2002 and 2006 votes.

Gender-wise, 59.1 percent of the voters to date have been female, and 40.8 percent have been male. This statistic reflects the traditionally higher voting rate of women in local elections.

For the record, the total number of eligible Shelby County, 545,036, is down from 602,508 registered voters in 2006. The decrease reflects a purge of the voting list carried out by the Election Commission in the last two years.

Of the total number of registered voters, 193,624 (or 35.5 percent) are black; 161,538 (or 29.6 percent) are white; and 189,874 (or 34.8 percent) are “other.”

Voting hours at the Shelby County Election Commission, at 157 Poplar, Suite 121, are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Satellite voting hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

The satellite sites are:
Agricenter (Rotunda Hallway), 7777 Walnut Grove
Anointed Temple Of Praise (Youth Room), 3939 Riverdale
Baker Community Center, 7942 Church
Bellevue Baptist Church, 2000 Appling Road
Berclair Church of Christ, 4536 Summer
Bethel Church, 5586 Stage Road
Bishop Byrne High School, 1475 E. Shelby Dr.
Bridge at Lakeland, suite 106, 3570 Canada Road
Collierville Church of Christ, 575 West Shelton Road
Dave Wells Community Center, 915 Chelsea
Glenview Community Center, 1141 S. Barksdale
Greater Middle Baptist Church (Fellowship Hall), 4982 Knight Arnold
Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church-Family Life Center, 70 N. Bellevue
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church (Fellowship Hall), 3045 Chelsea
New Bethel Baptist Church-Family Life Center, 7786 Poplar Pike
Pyramid Recovery Center, 1833 S. Third
Raleigh United Methodist Church, 3295 Powers Road
Riverside Baptist Church, 3560 S. Third
Shiloh Baptist Church, 3121 Range Line Road
White Station Church of Christ, 1106 Colonial Road

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Official: Stanton Named New U.S. Attorney

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 10:52 AM

Ed Stanton III
  • Ed Stanton III
Confirming reports that had long circulated in the political and legal worlds, Ed Stanton III has been officially designated by President Obama as the next U.S. Attorney for Tennessee’s Western District, replacing Lawrence J. Laurenzi, who had succeeded former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff on an interim basis.

Stanton, a lawyer for FedEx, had also served as an assistant city attorney for Memphis. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in the 9th District in 2006.

Notice of the appointment comes not quite a month after reports in the Flyer and elsewhere that Stanton was the apparent presidential designate. Official confirmation may have been delayed by complications arising from the prolonged investigation, now apparently terminated, of former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, although other Justice Department appointments in Tennessee had also been withheld.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pellicciotti Censure Resolution Fails in Commission, But...

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Pellicciotti (left) and Thomas during showdown
  • JB
  • Pellicciotti (left) and Thomas during showdown

County mayoral candidate Otis Jackson, who is now serving as General Sessions Court clerk, got a scare last week, but one which, ironically, resulted in his getting a pass this week.

Commissioner Mike Ritz, something of a self-appointed fiscal watchdog on the county legislative body, pressed a relentless interrogation of Jackson last week, on the basis that the latest county audit had revealed the clerk’s books to have been seriously “unreconciled.” That word, and its variants, got a strenuous workout during a committee hearing which revealed mismatching account entries dating back several years.

In the end, it was decided that several of the problems were attributable to a dysfunctional computer system installed under the previous clerk, Chris Turner, who was defeated by Jackson in 2008. But the most serious shortcoming involved a matter of some $3 million directly traceable to Jackson’s administration that remained (that word again) “unreconciled.”

Jackson was not under suspicion of malfeasance, but, still, the discrepancy in his books, coupled with Ritz’s previous accusations that the clerk had spent prodigally on dining occasions for his staffers, threatened to put his mayoral campaign (already of the dark-horse variety) in crisis mode.

Two things occurred to, er, reconcile Jackson’s situation. One, he was able to submit a supplemental report adjuged by the county auditing team to have properly resolved the discrepancies. Two, in the meantime interim county commissioner John Pellicciotti, who was appointed last year to fill a vacancy in District 4, Position 3, levied a motion to censure three clerks — Jackson, Chancery Court clerk Dewun Settle, and Probate Court clerk Chris Thomas — for what county audits and “management letters” had revealed to be persistent problems in reconciling their books.

Inasmuch as Thomas is now a candidate for the commission’s District 4, Position 1 seat — the same seat being sought by Pellicciotti, who is switching tracks because he had promised, upon his appointment, now to seek reelection for the Position 3 seat — his colleagues were sufficiently diffident as not to offer him a second.

But his motion, with all its potential political volatility, returned to the full commission’s regular public meeting, and, when Commissioner J.W. Gibson, who hadn’t been at last week’s committee hearing, seconded the motion, Pellicciotti was given a platform to make his point against Thomas. Clerk Settle had meanwhile been excused from blame, and Jackson, too, having already undergone his ordeal, was now off the hook — at the behest of Ritz, no less, who, perhaps seeing a dilemma that cut both ways, partisan-wise, professed a desire to “get [it] behind us and move on.”

Thomas, speaking to the commission in his defense, offered an apology “that my opponent is doing this to y’all” and observed that, as several commissioners already had, “this is political.” He pointed out that he had corrected the indicated fault — a failure to resolve his ledger precisely on a monthly, as against an annual, basis — and lamented, “This is exactly why…y’all don’t want to appoint someone to fill out a term that says they are not going to run, and then they run.”

(He would pass out copies of his own charge — that Pellicciotti should return the money, some $110 month in county funds, that paid for the interim commissioner’s recent public hearings on consolidation, on grounds that Pellicciotti had used the occasions for his own campaigning, something Pellicciotti would staunchly deny.)

In the end, votes were held on the Jackson and Thomas matters. Jackson was exonerated by a 13-0 vote, with Pellicciotti himself concurring, and Thomas, too, saw his censure charge defeated. That one went 12-0, with Pellicciotti recusing himself.

On the surface, then, it appeared that Thomas was victorious, but Pellicciotti, who probably entered the race as an underdog, got a bully pulpit to display himself as a self-declared and single-handed reformer. Speaking to reporters later one, he would condemn an “old boys’ network” that “the people who have been there too long are tied into.”

He went on, “Nobody is willing to call each other out. We have got to hold these people responsible…We [meaning himself] will continue to hold people accountable. We will not put up with people not managing the people’s money appropriately. We are past the time of just ‘trusting’ politicians.”

And, finally: “We’ve got to get rid of these guys who are been in office forever.” [Thomas had boasted his 16 prior years of service as clerk.] “We need young people who can tell us that’s not right.”

Wamp Commits Himself to "Memphis Renaissance" as Governor

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Wamp and Gibbons after CJC tour
  • JB
  • Wamp and Gibbons after CJC tour
Republican gubernatorial candidate Zach Wamp came to Memphis on Monday for a round of activities beginning with a tour of the Criminal Justice Center at 201 Poplar in the company of District Attorney General Bill Gibbons and Sheriff Mark Luttrell.

Thereafter he stood on the 3rd St. side of the CJC with Gibbons, and, while he couldn’t at this point claim the endorsement of Gibbons, his former opponent for the GOP nomination, Wamp did what he did to lay the groundwork for such serendipity, including a virtual declaration of honorary home-boy status.

“Memphis matters,” Wamp declared. “It matters to the future of Tennessee. Just because I didn’t grow up in Memphis doesn’t mean I won’t be fully committed to Memphis.” The Chattanooga congressman expressed a wish for “a long overdue Memphis Renaissance” and pledged himself to that end.

He promised that, if nominated, the first place he would come would be Memphis. Ditto with his initial destination as soon as he got inaugurated as governor. And he vowed, too, that, once installed as governor, he would devote “most of my time” to the concerns of Shelby County.

“As Memphis goes, so goes Tennessee,” Wamp said.

Asked if an endorsement by Gibbons might be in the cards, Wamp said, “There’s 96 days to go [until the gubernatorial primary], plenty of time for that. I hope that that’s the case later on. It’s for him to consider. I didn’t ask for that yet.”

Meanwhile, he praised Gibbons’ now folded campaign as something that had made him “a better candidate” himself and promised to support Gibbons’ goals. He said he considered Operation Safe Community to be a model. “I’ll continue to try to win General Gibbons’ support,” he said.

Wamp said he was still committed to full support for the Med, but hedged modestly when asked if he intended to sign a specific pledge sought of all gubernatorial candidates by the Shelby County Commission. The commission wants all candidates to commit themselves to rout all federal funds generated by indigent care at the Med back to the Med itself.

“I still haven’t seen it,” Wamp said of the pledge, but indicated he was still committed to sign it.

Wamp expressed support of the burgeoning state sovereignty movement but unequivocally distanced himself from the rhetoric of “states’ rights,” which, he said, smacked of “segregation and going backwards.” He said his recent vow to resist federal health-care legislation by meeting the federal government “at the state line” was metaphorical, not literal.

“I am a fighter. I’m a nice guy and a compassionate guy, but I also from time to time will stand up and fight,” said Wamp, who characterized the new federal health-care act as a “billion-dollar mandate that we can’t afford” and something that was worth fighting. “Fighting may be in a court of law, fighting may be at the ballot box,” he said.

Wamp is battling Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam and state Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blouneville for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. The winner of that contest will oppose Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, a Democrat, in the fall.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cohen Plays Hardball on the Tea Party Issue

Posted By on Fri, Apr 9, 2010 at 7:02 AM

Cohen with Chris Matthews on "Hardball"

9th District congressman Steve Cohen continues to be the focus of attention — national as well as local — on the issue of Tea Partiers and who they are.

Most recently the congressman was Chris Matthews' guest on Thursday's installment of the MSNBC cable show Hardball. Did he walk back his statements critical of Tea Partiers? He did not. Check out the congressman's appearance here.

Locally, Cohen was a guest this week at Republic Coffee's weekly series of open chats with political newsmakers. There was some spirited back-and-forth between Cohen and members of the Tea Party movement at that event. Video of that conversation — which was part confrontation and part genuine dialogue — is available at the Blue Collar Republican blog..

And the Flyer's cover story this week in part discusses the contretemps and related circumstances.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ernest Lunati's Greatest Hits , #1: On the Trail of the 'Elusive White Man'; PLUS: Update, Greatest Hits, #10: 'Snitching for Safety'

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 9:08 AM

During a forum for county mayoral candidates Wednesday night at the Institute for Success Center on Shelby Drive, few new points were made by the participants, with one exception. Candidate Ernest Lunati, who has had severral brushes with the law himself, lincluding a felony conviction on pornography charges, aid out several unique strategies for coping with the crises facing Shelby County.

Here, in the presence of Democratic candidates Joe Ford and Otis Jackson and his Republican opponent, Mark Luttrell, Lunati dicslosed the secret behind the county's drug trade and how he proposes to deal with it.

UPDATE -- 'Snitching for Safety: An Answer to the Hair-Pulling Epidemic'

    • Haslam Out of Senate Race, Blackburn In

      Governor, after pondering, says race would be a "distraction" from gubernatorial service; Congresswoman, meanwhile, says, "Bring it on."
    • David Lenoir Makes It Official: He's a Candidate for County Mayor

      County Trustee makes long-awaited entry in race, boasting his record and a tax-cutting agenda, and meanwhile signaling an intent to ignore any provocations from an opponent — specifically those of Terry Roland.

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