Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just One Herenton: On the Ex-Mayor's Bizarre "Free- for-All" Extravaganza

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM

specially autographed for the author
  • JB
  • specially autographed for the author
At almost exactly the one-hour mark of Willie Herenton’s marathon hour-and-a-half “free-for-all” session with print and broadcast reporters on Wednesday, Jenny DiPrizio of WPTY, Channel 24, asked the former mayor a key question concerning the way he is attempting to run for Congress in Memphis’ 9th District.

“So the strategy then, until now, has been not to really campaign?”

To which Herenton replied, “Obviously, that has been my strategy.”

Indeed, that has been his strategy. Oh so obviously that has been his strategy, and, though Herenton was gentle to the point of being courtly in the way he affirmed the point to DiPrizio, he had been combative to the point of churlishness in disputing earlier suggestions of that sort, including some by this reporter.

To be sure, I had asked a provocative — perhaps too provocative — first question at the press conference (if that is the right term for the ex-mayor’s self-serving extravaganza): “Isn’t this really an attempt to get free media? Are you not asking us to provide free coverage for a campaign you’re not running?”

The question was almost rhetorical, even self-evident, and in one sense I can understand why Herenton took offense — to the point that he launched several gratuitous insults my way in the course of the session Wednesday, held in a sparsely furnished office suite on South Third that may or may not constitute an actual headquarters.

Yet his reaction belied his earlier promise, in soliciting “any question,” not to “lose my cool” in answering. For whatever reason, Herenton was comparatively benign in his response to several decidedly more challenging, even bellicose, questions from worthies like Mike Matthews of WREG, News Channel 3, and Les Smith of WHBQ, Channel 13.

At one point, after Matthews had pressed Herenton hard, and properly so, on his cavalier attitude toward scandals in his last mayoral term at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center — MSARC — and at the Memphis Animal Shelter, Herenton made a peculiarly tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of having “dropped the ball” because “I just want to make you happy.”

Herenton played that one for laughs, and it was almost possible to forget how contemptuous he had been in stating his indifference to what had been genuinely tragic circumstances at both MSARC and the Animal Shelter.

“Who gives a damn about those peripheral issues?” Herenton had thundered. “I say it’s trivial. I never made one visit. I didn’t even know where MSARC was located until you guys covered it.” He went so far as to condemn his mayoral successor, A C Wharton, whom earlier he had called a “disaster,” for turning up at the Animal Shelter to actually see what was going on there.

For a man who would go on to boast that he had been “the best mayor Memphis ever had,” that was rather an odd way to go about defining the quality of his stewardship.

More Giveaway Moments

There were many more such giveaway moments in Herenton’s session with the media. And some of them shall be accounted for here. But I rove. I had meant to provide a background for the ex-mayor’s persistently hostile and intermittently belittling attitude toward me.

Logic played little part in it. At one point, the admirable Kontji Anthony of WMC-TV, Action News 5, had asked Herenton about accusations of indifference toward encouragement of black entrepreneurship made against him by African-American businessman Anthony “Amp” Elmore. After some muttering about “haters,” Herenton went on to claim, “If the guy hadn’t been opposed to me, Jackson wouldn’t have written one word about Elmore.”

Aside from coupling me with the odious and inapplicable term “haters,” Herenton was suggesting that I had broken the story. In fact, though Elmore had importuned me to deal with his charges weeks ago, I had wondered about special pleading on his part (as Herenton, too, did) and held back on reporting them until, first, Anthony, and then blogger Thaddeus Matthews (“FORMER KICKBOXING CHAMP READY TO KNOCK HERENTON OUT”) had.

Herenton’s on again/off again manner of relating to people in the media is perhaps best typified by his history with Matthews, whom he once publicly denounced, after being targeted for criticism, as a “social degenerate” but now enjoys cordial, even mutually supportive, relations with.

As I reminded Herenton on Wednesday, in the 20 years that I have covered him, I had often written about him favorably, even admiringly, and above all, fairly. It was no accident that, upon his leavetaking of office last year, he had favored me with an exclusive “exit interview,” featured in several Flyer issues, beginning with the July 2, 2009 edition.

The source of my own recent difficulties with Herenton appears to be twofold. I had presumed to ask him, on the occasion of his recent impromptu press conference in front of the headquarters of his congressional rival, incumbent Steve Cohen, how he could claim not to have known that the Commercial Appeal 's Otis Sanford and Channel 3’s Norm Brewer would be panelists for the scheduled TV debate which he had agreed to but would subsequently cancel out. His stated reason for opting out was his seeming discovery that the “biased” Sanford and Brewer, who had done every Channel 3 debate since 2002, would take part.

My question on that score had led to a Herenton outburst concerning matter-of-fact statements I had made in print and in interviews to the effect that his campaign against Cohen had, up to that point, been largely non-existent. As I would put it in a new column a day or two later: “No money, no events, no paraphernalia, no organization, no campaign — unless you count the occasional stab at getting some free media….”

"How do you have the audacity to talk about the campaign organization of the longest-serving mayor in this city, who beat an entrenched Republican and had no money, who dismantled the Ford political machine?" Herenton had expostulated on that occasion. (He made similar statements Wednesday, juxtaposed with the snide aside, “Consider the source.”)

The Herenton “Campaign”

To take these points in turn:

*”No money”: Herenton’s last reported financial disclosure showed $5,604 in expenditures on his congressional campaign, and campaign treasurer Rickey Wilkins said the ex-mayor had not yet reached the $5,000 threshold in new contributions.

*”No events”: Herenton had a small fundraiser on April 12. That’s all, folks, except for the aforesaid “free media” events like the one Wednesday and the previous one at Cohen’s HQ.

*”No paraphernalia”: As his answer to this one, Herenton trotted out Wednesday yet more copies of his “What’s Wrong With This Picture”” page showing pictures of the white-only 11 members of the state’s congressional delegation. That plus a few caps and T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Just One — Herenton.” More about all that anon.

“No organization.” Oh, okay, the former mayor sometimes has in tow his chief political ally, Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, and almost always Michael Gray, the former bodyguard whom he appointed to be assistant director of the city library system. Both were there on Wednesday, evidently an all-hands-on-deck day, since he also had standing by Tony Elion, another former bodyguard, whom Herenton had made Deputy Director of Public Works in the waning days of his administration. The ex-mayor could presumably have conducted a full-out staff meeting.

“No campaign”: That point was spoken to in the first paragraphs of this article.

On the score of money, by the way, Herenton acknowledged as unobtrusively as he could on Wednesday that his attorney — presumably Rickey Wilkins — would be settling up with the city some $10,000 in legal fees owed for his private defense during the curse of an FBI investigation into possible conflict-of-interest charges against him.

As for that investigation — which related to the intersection of his business dealings with the public sector, notably in his profiting from the sale and relocation of a Greyhound bus-terminal property — Herenton declined to be forthcoming, pleading advice of attorney, presumably he same attorney he said had okayed his involvement in the transaction.

Herenton seemed to blame his legal woes on The Commercial Appeal, which he said tried “to portray me as a crook” after filing to “beat me at the polls," complaining further, “Man, they wanted me badder’n they wanted a cure for AIDs.”

He accused CA reporter Mark Perrusquia of “lying to win an award,” and he characterized the newspaper itself as “this racist backwater Commercial Appeal.” (Un-stingy with his favors, he also lumped the Flyer and several local TV stations in with “this southern backwater type of mentality.”)

Again on the subject of money, Herenton begrudged the $10,000 he was having to pony up in comparison with the “$6 million” he charged John Elkington and Performa with failing to account for in the company'ss Beale Street management contract with the city. He had opened Wednesday’s session with a denunciation of Mayor A C Wharton’s decision to settle the long-standing legal dispute with Elkington begun under Herenton’s administration (and one which had cost the city several million dollars in legal fees to pursue).

It was that opening salvo that made the most immediate news, since Herenton unhandsomely referred to his mayoral successor as a “disaster” — continuing, “That’s what he’s proven to be. I also knew he had no courage or strength of convictions.”

“Race Matters”

Oddly, Herenton’s invective against opponent Cohen was subdued by comparison, though he reiterated his recent allegation that the congressman, chairman of a House subcommittee and sponsor of several pieces of legislation which he documents in weekly newsletters and almost daily press releases, had “no record.”

Though almost by definition and specific avowal Herenton’s campaign against Cohen is a hypothetical and future-tense affair, the tenor of it has long since been made clear and was repeated again Wednesday. “Race matters in this particular election,” he said (along with, apparently, religion; in a brief discussion of demographics, Herenton made sure to note aloud that Cohen was Jewish).

Herenton also chided me that if I was any good I would have pronounced the race over with as soon as he, Herenton, had become the only African American Democrat to file against Cohen.

He had taken pains earlier to dismiss as “nonsensical” the only scientific poll whose results have been published to date — the one released last week, conducted by John Bakke with Ethridge and Associates, showing Cohen favored by 9th District voters over Herenton by a margin of 62 percent to 9 percent, with the rest undecided.

The climactic moment of the ex-mayor’s moment in the spotlight Wednesday came with his final act — the revelation of what he called his “P.R.” strategy for pursuing the contest.

As indicated, the piece de resistance of this campaign was a new, improved version of the “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” page — the one distributed previously, showing the nine Tennessee members of the U.S. House of Representatives plus the state’s two U.S. Senators, the idea being that everybody in the picture is white, and that proper representation called for a black congressman: namely, himself

Herenton’s first two tries with the picture page had been replete with misidentifications and misspellings, even of his own name. This third time has proved the charm, and in that respect his campaign really is getting ship-shape. . The Tennesseans on the page he passed out were all correctly identified by name and by party, and the ex-mayor’s own name this time appeared without error. H-e-r-e-n-t-o-n.

The name was also spelled properly on the T-shirts, caps, and campaign signs displayed on Wednesday to the gathered media: “JUST ONE, “they all said, following up with the word “HERENTON.” Presumably that meant that just one member of Congress from Tennessee should be African American, and that one should be none other than Willie Herenton.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the message was somewhat confusing graphically, with the line separating the words “JUST ONE” and “HERENTON” being so indistinct that the slogan could easily be read as saying “Just One Herenton.”

As the exhibition he put on Wednesday demonstrated all over again, politically speaking, there is only one Herenton, and few there are who would dispute that this is exactly as it should be.

Herenton Mimics Norm Brewer, Dismisses MSARC, Animal Shelter Issues

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Senator Lincoln Beats Halter in Bitter Arkansas Runoff Race

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 7:18 AM

So it’s up to Blanche Lincoln, the incumbent U.S. Senator, to carry the burden in Arkansas this fall against Republican congressman John Boozman —the more conservative Lincoln and not the state’s lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, a fresh face who had the support of most declared progressives, in and out of the state.

Lincoln with family on Election Night #1, May 18
  • JB
  • Lincoln with family on Election Night #1, May 18
Lincoln’s victory in Tuesday’s runoff election was narrow. With most of the votes in Tuesday night, she led Halter by four percentage points, 52 percent to his 48. So she got to make the victory speech, declaring, “"The vote of this senator is not for sale and neither is the vote of the people of Arkansas." Even though most of the polls had her leading throughout the primary period, the outcome seemed to surprise a lot of observers, some of whom declared it an upset.

I’d seen both of the candidates on Monday, the day before a runoff election that most of the national political media, who were watching it avidly, seemed to regard as barometric. The Arkansas race was a kind of Chinese-box affair, with the liberal Democrats’ revolt against Lincoln operating within the larger context of anti-Washington feeling that should help the GOP’s Boozman in the fall.

Both Lincoln and Halter were in West Memphis on election eve — Lincoln to tour the Temple Inland factory, a facility that makes dry wall and other housing products; Halter to make a late-afternoon stop at Pancho’s , a family-oriented Mexican restaurant on Broadway, West Memphis’ main drag.

From receptionist to Senator

Disclosure here: While I was seeing Halter for the first time, Lincoln was an old friend, a colleague from the early ‘80s when both of us worked in the Washington congressional office of U.S. Representative Bill Alexander. Lincoln — or Blanche Lambert then, of Helena and fresh out of college — was Alexander’s receptionist, I was his speechwriter and press secretary. She beat me to Washington by a few months; indeed, it was she who welcomed me to Capitol Hill.

By 1992, she had become a free-lance lobbyist in Washington, and I was at the Flyer. When I got wind that she was running for Congress — against Alexander, our old boss! — I went over to Arkansas and chronicled her race for a Flyer cover story. Still Blanche Lambert, she won (using the services of the excellent Steven Reid, who is consultant these days for many a Memphis politician). Subsequently, she was reelected a few times, got married to a physician, had twins, and won election and reelection to the Senate.

As of 2010, U.S. Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln had earned a reputation in some quarters as too conservative. She ran afoul of various unions and would be accused by Democratic progressives of being too accommodating to Republicans — a growing force in Arkansas as in the rest of the South — and indeed her voting record tilted here and there in that direction. She was a declared foe of the public option in this year’s health-care bill, for example (though she would end up voting at one point of the complicated passage process for a version of the bill itself).

Lincoln (in hard hat) campaigning in West Memphis
  • JB
  • Lincoln (in hard hat) campaigning in West Memphis
The Senator had by last fall become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee — potentially a major plus for a state still so agriculturally dependent, particularly in its eastern half.

And though liberal Democrats would successfully recruit as her primary opponent Lt. Gov. Halter, an attractive young former Rhodes Scholar who had served in Washington in some distinguished positions (e.g., provisional director of Social Security) , Lincoln could still boast the support of President Obama — and of former President Bill Clinton, who would campaign for her in the runoff just concluded. Said runoff was necessitated when the regular primary election of May 18, in which a Tea Party-ish third candidate got a share of the vote, resulted in neither Lincoln nor Halter commanding a majority.

A test-case election

As no self-respecting political junkie needs to be reminded, the Lincoln-Halter race became a test case of the Democrats’ intramural civil war, much like the 2006 Senate showdown in Connecticut between progressive Democrat Ned Lamont and incumbent Joe Lieberman, who lost the primary but won reelection as an “Independent Democrat.”

The campaign in Arkansas got rough, and it drew money and cadres from outside the state. After touring the Temple Inland dry-wall plant, Senator Lincoln doffed the hard hat she was required to wear and addressed the point.

She had had stiff opposition in several of her previous races, she noted, but nothing like this:

“This year’s a little bit different. There are a lot of different components just in terms of information. You’ve got YouTube, you’ve got Facebook, you’ve got Internet, you've got texting and twittering — all of these volumes of information that are coming at people.” And there were “special interest groups that are hyping all of that” with some $`10 million worth of TV advertising and door-to-door canvassers and phone-bankers “that they’ve imported from other states” into Arkansas.

“And so I think that there’s just a huge amount of confusion and frustration out there with Washington, and it’s getting, I don’t know, exacerbated. These kinds of activities are just stirring the pot in terms of that frustration and are throwing all this confusing information and all this negativity out there, and I think that’s what’s got voters in Arkansas, certainly, frustrated and confused.”

Beyond all that, she noted, it was mid-term of a new presidential administration — always a vulnerable time for incumbents.

Halter’s hopes

An hour or two later, I intersected with Halter, whom I was meeting for the first time. Discussing the race with me and other reporters, the lieutenant governor indulged in some hopeful opining: “The conventional wisdom is that an incumbent winds up in a runoff, particularly one that didn’t quite get to 45 percent of the vote, that’s very good for the challenger. There have not been that many runoff elections involving incumbents in Arkansas. The last one I can remember for a Senate seat was way back in 1972.”

As one who had logged time in Arkansas politics, I reminded Halter that that year’s runoff race was between Senator John L. McClellan and then congressman David Pryor, “and the incumbent won that one.”

“Right,” he said, “although I have a hard time ever imagining an incumbent senator ever being an underdog.” Though he said that “quite honestly, I’m just focused on 7:30 tomorrow night,” he looked past the then pending runoff vote to the general election against Boozman. “The reason I got in the race was because it’s been demonstrated in poll results that I’m a stronger candidate in the general election. It’s consistent in the polls that I’m 5 to 11 points better.”

Halter noted that Obama had formally endorsed the incumbent but said, a la Lincoln, “I think Arkansas voters like to decide these things for themselves.”

He grudgingly acknowledged that his opponent’s chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee might work in her behalf but dismissed a tough financial deregulation bill introduced by Lincoln as “ten years too late.”

Halter soliciting votes in Panchos
  • JB
  • Halter soliciting votes in Pancho's
As he put it, “After the meltdown of the market, years after the development of derivative instruments she was and still is on the committee of jurisdiction, the Agriculture Committee. And didn’t provide the appropriate oversight there. As a result, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, tens of millions of Americans have seen their retirement security diminished, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have seen their homes foreclosed on. It’s a very Washington thing to do, slap yourself on the back, congratulate yourself on a reform package that’s necessary because of your failure to act before.”

The high turnout that was being anticipated for the runoff election worked for him, not Lincoln, Halter suggested hopefully, engaging in some elaborate mathematics. “We had 11 weeks from declaring to primary day. [Now] we’ve had three more weeks, that’s almost 30 percent of an increase in time for us, as compared to Senator Lincoln, a 16 year incumbent. Three weeks for her is one-tenth of one percent of extra time.”

Halter contended he’d heard second hand from someone who’d just talked with Rep. Boozman that “he was totally honest. He said he preferred to run against Senator Lincoln.”

If so, the bottom line from Tuesday’s runoff is that Boozman will get his wish. The fractious Arkansas Democratic Party has just five months to heal itself from the wounds of a highly contentious campaign, and, if there’s a silver lining for the Democrats, it may be this: Blanche Lambert Lincoln has been there, done that. In 1998, when she won a special Senate election to succeed the retiring Dale Bumpers, she defeated one state Senator Fay Boozman, the brother of her general election opponent in 2010.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Week Saw Brisk Campaigning at Mayoral, Gubernatorial Levels in Memphis

Posted By on Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 9:04 PM

GOP candidates Luttrell and Haslam exchange handshakes on Saturday.
  • JB
  • GOP candidates Luttrell and Haslam exchange handshakes on Saturday.
Sheriff Mark Luttrell’s run for Shelby County mayor looked a little stronger after a good turn-out Saturday at his headquarters opening at the Park Place Mall. The Republican nominee got a boost from such attendees as former county mayor Bill Morris, who introduced Luttrell to the largish crowd.

(Morris, of course, made the same progression from sheriff to county mayor that Luttrell now seeks to accomplish.)

Meanwhile, rival Joe Ford, the Democratic nominee for county mayor, continued to explore sustainability initiatives with his second summit meeting in as many months with local environmental leaders in the mayoral conference room in the county building.

Among those on hand at Luttrell’s HQ opening was Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, in town for another round of campaigning in his try for the Republican nomination for governor. Haslam, who went on a door-to-door handshaking tour of an East Memphis neighborhood and checked in on the Italian Festival at Marquette Park.

This was Haslam’s second round of appearances in Memphis within the week. Along with his two GOP rivals, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville and Chattanooga congressman Zach Wamp, Haslam had addressed Wednesday’s monthly luncheon of the Republican Women of Purpose at Ridgeway Country Club in Collierville.

Later Wednesday Haslam had gone door-to-door in another East Memphis neighborhood and spoke that night to members of the Shelby County Republican Club.

If there was news made during the week, it was likely in Wamp’s declaration at the RWOP luncheon, in answer to a question, that Tennessee could profit from following Arizona’s example with a law authorizing “probable cause” stops of possible illegal aliens.

Both Haslam and Wamp asserted that legal pressure on employers tempted to employ illegal aliens would be the best means of dissuading them from entering Tennessee. As Wamp pt it, “They talk to each other. They have cell phones.”

Ramsey’s appearance on Wednesday required a quick round-trip via plane from Nashville to Memphis and back to Nashville. While in Memphis the GOP Senate speaker expressed pessimism concerning the likelihood of an understanding with the Democratic leadership concerning the budget. “It looks like another week, maybe two,” he said.

But he and Democratic Senate leader Jim Kyle and House Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) came to an understanding almost as soon as Ramsey got back to Nashville, and both houses approved a budget before the week was out.

New York Times Takes Note of Cohen Bill on Student Loans

Posted By on Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 1:58 PM

There are two Steve Cohen campaigns at the moment — or two-in-one. The congressman’s campaign for reelection in the 9th District of Tennessee coincides rather neatly with his ongoing campaign as a cutting-edge legislator.

Memphis mayor Willie Herenton attacked Cohen’s alleged lack of a record week before last at Herenton’s impromptu press conference in front of Cohen’s headquarters, but the charge would seem tenuous in light of fresh national publicity given the Memphis congressman’s legislative efforts.

Since his first election in 2006, Cohen has garnered considerable attention for his various initiatives, including a House resolution apologizing for the history of American slavery, infant mortality legislation, and a variety of bills relating to credit card reform.

The most recent of these latter was cited in a Friday New York Times article, “Student Debt and a Push for Fairness,” which credited Cohen as the author of a measure that would make it easier for recipients of privately granted student loans to mitigate the repayment requirements after graduation.

Cohen’s bill would make it easier to discharge all of part of a borrower’s repayment obligations for such loans in bankruptcy court. “People don’t like to go through bankruptcy. It’s not like going to get a milkshake,” Cohen said in defense of his bill.

Speaking to his motivation, the congressman said, “Philosophy and policy can get you on the Rachel Maddow show, but what you want to do is pass legislation and affect people’s lives.”

As the Times article noted, borrowers have been able to get relief under the 2005 bankruptcy law for such expenses as home theater systems or even casino loans but have thus far been ineligible to apply for relief for student loans.

The Cohen bill would not affect federally granted loans, which are guaranteed by the government.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Infant Mortality, Civil Rights Museum Funds Survive in State Budget Deal

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Kyle moves for budget approval in state Senate
  • Kyle moves for budget approval in state Senate
NASHVILLE — One is tempted to quote the inspiring lines at the conclusion of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol concerning the survivability, against all odds, of Tiny Tim.

The Tennessee legislature, which has produced an austerity budget severely reduced from last year’s levels, has apparently managed, nevertheless, to save several threatened programs of more than usual importance to Memphis and Shelby County.

As of 11:17 Thursday night, the state Senate overwhelmingly passed a version of budget for next fiscal year that contains full funding for the Governor’s Office of Child Care Coordination, including infant mortality prevention programs, as well as $5 million for the National Civil Rights Museum, conditional upon federal matching funds. Also salvaged were funds for demolition of buildings on the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences campus.

The House was scheduled to take up the budget on Friday, likely the last full day for the current legislative session, and was expected to vote its approval.

As part of the cliffhanger negotiations over the budget between leaders of the two legislative chambers, the infant morality programs and the NCRM funds had been in jeopardy, with Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) keeping them at arm’s length until the issue of a $16 million fish hatchery desired by House Speaker Kent Williams (Ind., Elizabethtown) had been dealt with.

Williams, who had been backed by the House Democrats, eventually relented on the fish hatchery, which had been regarded as a bargaining chip of sorts.

A kinder, gentler Brian Kelsey?
  • A kinder, gentler Brian Kelsey?
Infant mortality and the Museum funds had been in and out of danger while negotiations went on, but Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle, who did yeoman work and was widely considered the key broker on the deal, announced Thursday morning, that the impasse had been broken, and Thursday night’s vote confirmed the fact.

One indication of the agreement was the fact that even State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), a persistent foe of state spending who was in the minority that voted against several of the bills that closed out budget arrangements in the Senate, took to the floor Thursday night to approve the inclusion of the infant morality funds in the final budget version.

Said Kelsey: “I think we’re making the right decision in funding these programs, in addressing the infant mortality issue that affects our state.” Kelsey also announced that he and State Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) would be presiding over a breakfast at the Urban Child Institute in Memphis on Wednesday, “and we’re going to get to the bottom of this issue, and we are going to solve this plague that is afflicting our entire state.”

UPDATE: Acting in its turn, the House rapidly concluded consideration of the budget Friday, and, as of 1:58 CST, voted its approval 94-0 -- the first time in history, suggested one member from the floor, that there had been a unanimous vote in the body for a fiscal budget.

As had been true in the Senate, there was a certain amount of last-minute contentious rhetoric, as when gonzo conservative Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) persistently challenged a budget provision calling for an enhanced degree of minority contracting.

At one point, engaged in a prolonged tete-a-tete with Democratic caucus leader Mike Turner, Campfield wondered rhetorically what in a given situation wasn't equal.

Turner's reply: "I'm tall and good-looking, and you're not. That's not equal."

Anthony "Amp" Elmore Kicks Out at Former Hero Herenton

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 8:24 AM

For intensity and persistence of message, Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner had nothing on Anthony “Amp” Elmore, the one-time kick-boxing champion whose thrusts these days are aimed at former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

Elmore, who says he supported Herenton in each of the ex-mayor’s five previous election campaigns, is backing Herenton’s opponent, incumbent 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, in the August 5 Democratic primary for Congress. In fact, Elmore has been pictured as one of three “Home Town Heroes” along with Civil Rights icon Maxine Smith and the late Isaac Hayes, on a Cohen reelection billboard.

But Elmore is not just supporting Cohen. He is vehemently opposed to Herenton. Why? As he explains it, at great length, both in personal meetings and on a website created for the purpose, Herenton failed as mayor to uphold the interests of black businesses in general and of Elmore’s businesses (he is the owner of Elmore Carpets and African Imports) in particular.

Citing a recent City of Memphis disparity study to buttress his claims, Elmore says the former mayor “personally discriminated against me” and had the “the worst record of Minority Participation of Black people doing business with a major City in the nation,” with only six African-American businesses listed among the 2800-odd businesses certified as doing business with the city’s General Services divisions.

In the video clips below, Elmore is shown making his case in a recent conversation with businessman Trennie Williams.

Here ( Elmore is the subject of a news report by WMC-TV reporter Kontji Anthony.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

County Commissioner Opts Out of Wamp Endorsement

Posted By on Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 4:30 AM

Wyatt Bunker
  • JB
  • Wyatt Bunker
A collective endorsement of Zach Wamp for governor by six present and future Republican members of the Shelby County Commission sprung a leak Wednesday when one of the six, Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, said he had never given the Wamp campaign permission to use his name.

Commissioner-elect Terry Roland, who helped organize the mass endorsement, which was announced last week by the Wamp campaign, disputes Bunker’s account, contending that the commissioner had consented to join the others in an endorsement but theorized his colleague-to-be had changed his mind after “hearing from some of his donors.”

Bunker, like Roland and Wamp a Republican, insisted that he never made any commitment and intended, at least for the time being, to remain neutral in the governor’s race. “They’re all good guys,” he said, referring to Wamp, Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville,

Commissioner-elect Heidi Shafer said her name, too, had been used by the Wamp campaign without her permission, but she added that she had resolved to endorse the Chattanooga congressman, anyhow, so didn't object.

Wamp earned public and apparently sincere plaudits from Shelby County commissioners of both parties after his announcement two weeks ago that he would sign a pledge of full support for the Med that the commission had requested of all gubernatorial candidates.

The pledge obliges Wamp, as governor, to allocate to the Med all monies received by the state from the federal government in reimbursement for uncompensated patient care performed by the Med, a trauma center which doubles as a charity hospital.

Such a move would amount to an estimated $50 million additional annually for the Med — enough, it is generally conceded, to resolve all the beleaguered hospital’s recurrent financial woes.

No other candidate — not Haslam nor Ramsey nor Democrat Mike McWherter of Jackson — had been willing to make such a firm declaration of guaranteed support for the Med.

The six commission names circulated by the Wamp campaign last week as endorsers of the congressman— besides Bunker, Shafer, and Roland (the latter a declared member of Wamp’s campaign team) — were commission chair Joyce Avery, Commissioner Mike Ritz, and Commissioner-elect Chris Thomas.

Wamp himself was in Shelby County on Wednesday for a joint appearance, along with rivals Haslam and Ramsey, at a luncheon of rhe Republican Women of Purpose in Collierville. Asked about the endorsement imbroglio involving Bunker and Shafer, the congressman seemed genuinely surprised.

"I don't doubt that they've come under a lot of pressure from people trying to get them to take it back," Wamp said. "But I'm convnced that all the endorsements were genuine and freely offered." He said he had personally talked with Shafer and had been assured of her desire to be counted a public supporter.

Earlier,in his address to the luncheon audience, Wamp had proudly cited the six commission endorsements as a response to his "Memphis Matters" initiative.

    • Cohen Tells It!

      In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.

Speaking of School Consolidation


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  • Cohen Tells It!

    In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.
    • Jul 26, 2017
  • Roland vs. Lenoir: Next Year’s Mayoral Battle Flared Up in County Budget, Tax-Rate Debate

    The County Commission gave final approval to a $4.11 tax rate on Wednesday despite public claims by the Trustee that it will cost taxpayers.
    • Jul 20, 2017
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