Monday, September 30, 2013

Former Mayor Herenton Gets Roasted

Some serious (and controversial) barbs get thrown -- and not all of them at the honoree -- during fund-raising Democratic affair.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 5:23 PM

The inaugural Shelby County Democratic Party roast, this one a $100-a-head party fundraiser in honor of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton (but for the sake of party coffers), took place at Colonial Country Club Saturday night before what looked to be a capacity crowd in the club's main ballroom.

The roast of Herenton — a five-times-elected former chief executive, first elected black mayor in the city's history and a bona fide, if ever controversial, historical figure — was remarkable both for those who were present and those who were absent. Among the former were numerous members of the former mayor’s inner circle and a few erstwhile antagonists, notably including former City Councilman Brent Taylor, whose barb-laced comments {“I didn’t come to toast. I came to roast!”) had the crowd alternately laughing or groaning virtually non-stop.

Few of the other roasters were as blunt or as caustic (or as funny) as Taylor, though there was a fair amount of lese majeste here and there, including stories (whether real or exaggerated or imagined) of former golden glover Herenton beating up on an over-the-hill Joe Frazier (in fact, he danced around poor Frazier in their charity bout) or missing 10 straight free throws in front of basketball great Michael Jordan or, as a principal, breaking up a students' poker game and keeping the change. Councilman and former interim mayor Myron Lowery hit the middle between affection and sarcasm, using the name "Willie" in his recollections perhaps 20 times — which is roughly 20 more times than he ever used the name before.

Many of the recollections, however, were shaded toward respect or even sycophancy, as befitted the event's subtitle, "Celebrate the Legacy."

Among the friends and sympathizers who took part were Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism, State Representatives G.A. Hardaway and Antonio Parkinson, State Senator Jim Kyle, and Sara Kyle, the former Tennessee Regulatory Authority member now being urged by some Democrats to run for governor.

Among the conspicuous absentees at the event were members of the extended Ford family, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, and current Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

Harold Ford Sr., the Ford-clan patriarch, came in for grudging but appreciative mention as a sometime friend/sometime foe of the mayor. What appeared to be an oblique shot was aimed by Brown at Cohen, who had been the featured speaker Friday night at a Truman Day event hosted by Knoxville Democrats and was otherwise staying close to Washington, pending developments in the looming government-shutdown crisis.

Apropos Cohen, one of the roasters was attorney Ricky Wilkins, who in a conversation before the dinner, reaffirmed his intent to challenge the incumbent congressman in next year’s Democratic primary. Wilkins’ “roast” remarks consisted mainly of an account of his trying unsuccessfully to warn the then mayor in advance of the likelihood of treachery from an unnamed lawyer who was clearly meant to be the late Richard Fields.

Judge Joe Brown
  • Gale Jones Carfson
  • Judge Joe Brown

Judge Joe Brown (not to be confused with Councilman Joe Brown,though that confusion has occurred locally more than once, perhaps to the electoral good fortune of the Council's Brown) not only emceed the Herenton roast but had some summing-up words of his own — forceful, scornful, and iconoclastic, even to the point of savaging notable Democrats like President Obama and making pointed statements about women and gays that those Democratic interest groups might well be inclined to take offense at.

It is a fact that several attendees made a point of walking out during a portion of Brown's speech. It is also a fact that others seemed to resonate with his outspokenness.

The words of the former Criminal Court Judge and erstwhile TV judge are worth special attention in view of his professed interest (repeated from the dais and in conversation at the roast) in making potential electoral races of his own, local and/or statewide. Brown's climactic speech is presented here to speak for itself, without further comment:

Current Mayor Wharton was the subject of some withering remarks by predecessor Herenton, who, in remarks that concluded the evening, referred to a recording of my 2009 Flyer “exit interview” with the outgoing mayor, portions of which had been played aloud on the P.A. system during dinner.

Reprising what he had said back then, Herenton basically said his successor preferred to be liked rather than respected and repeated that he had warned Wharton during their famous meal together at LeChardonnay in 2007 that the forthcoming mayoral contest that year would be “ugly” should then county mayor Wharton (who ultimately opted out) decide to challenge his bid for a fifth mayoral term.

The former mayor and current proprietor of the W.E. B. DuBois network of local charter schools also professed gratitude to be back in education after 25 "tough" years in the political sector. He reminded his listeners of his long-expressed intention to publish a tell-all book that would, among other things, expose what he said was a concerted effort within the media and the justice system to unjustly railroad him into prison. "What they intended was Willie Herenton to be a bunk-mate of John Ford," he averred.

Herenton's bottom line: The "haters" cold not change the history he made.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton speaking to roast audience at conclusion of event.
  • JB
  • Former Mayor Willie Herenton speaking to roast audience at conclusion of event.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lamb Fundraiser Indicates District 91 Race Is Still On

Diverse and well-appointed crowd turns out for challenger on South Main.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 12:01 AM

District 91 candidate Lamb (left) and some of the attendees at South Main fundraiser
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  • District 91 candidate Lamb (left) and some of the attendees at South Main fundraiser

The conventional wisdom continues to be that the special Democratic primary election for the District 91 state House of Representatives seat is Kemba Ford’s to lose. But the impressively credentialed crowd that turned out Thursday night for a downtown Terica Lamb fundraiser indicates that it ain’t over yet.

Among those who turned out at the Prohibition club on South Front St. were George Little, Aubrey Howard, Lee Harris, Martavius Jones, George Monger, TaJuan Stout-Mitchell, Michael Hooks Jr., O.C. Pleasant, Nika Jackson, and Beverly Robertson.

Some of these were stout supporters of candidate Lamb, some were friendly encouragers, and others were merely paying their respects, but the fact that each of them — and several more unnamed here, including even sometime Republican Rod DeBerry — represented some substantial corner of the local political universe was a sign that Lamb’s campaign has to be taken seriously by candidate Ford and others in the multi-candidate field.

Ford is regarded as the frontrunner in the race to succeed the late Lois DeBerry for reasons having to do with her membership in a highly pedigreed — and still very active — extended political family, as well as the credibility Ford achieved in an impressive 2011 race for a City Council seat that was ultimately won by Harris in a runoff.

But special elections are notoriously low-turnout affairs, subject to surprise outcomes. The bottom line is: Who has an organization that can turn out the vote at a time when most people aren’t paying attention to the race?

In brief remarks to the crowd at Prohibition, Lamb, an employee of the Trustee’s office, skillfully paid homage both to tradition — especially in a tribute to the late, highly admired Lois DeBerry, whose death this year created the vacancy in District 91 and whom Lamb claimed as a fellow sorority member — and to the concept of change, notably in an observation that the Old Guard of Democratic activists was “aging out.”

The Democratic primary for House District 91 will take place on October 8. There will be no Republican primary, and only one other candidate, Libertarian Jim Tomasik (listede as an independent), will be on the November 21 general election ballot.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Cohen-Wilkins Primary Race Looms for 2014 in 9th District

Congressman’s likely opponent is highly active attorney with longtime Herenton ties.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Potential foes Cohen (l), Wilkins
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  • Potential foes Cohen (l), Wilkins

Next year is an even-numbered election year, and that means that, as in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen will have an opponent to reckon with in the Democratic primary.

The opponent for 2014 appears to be attorney Rickey Wilkins, a longtime member of the circle around former Mayor Willie Herenton, who himself tried Cohen on in 2010 and got a 4 to 1 defeat for his pains.

Other one-on-one opponents for the current congressman and former state senator, who won out in a large multi-candidate primary field in 2006, include Nikki Tinker in 2008 and Tomeka Hart in 2012 — both of whom, like Herenton, finished far back of the leader.

Wilkins, who had acquainted several people locally about the likelihood of his challenging Cohen, may start with more available cash than have other contenders, much of that being his own money. His law practice has been highly active and lucrative, and the history of it may turn out to be both a plus and a minus, politically speaking.

One of Wilkins’ signal cases was as attorney for the City of Memphis in long-term litigation against former Beale St. impresario John Elkington and his Performa Real Estate Entertainment Company, which managed Beale St. before turning it over to the city in 2010.

The City, under litigation begun by then Mayor Herenton, spent some $3 million in legal fees, at least $2 million of which were paid to Wilkins’ firm in a suit against Elkington and Performa for $6 million the City claimed it was owed under the terms of a management contract. But a settlement was ultimately reached under the administration of Mayor A C Wharton without any money changing hands.

More recently, eyebrows were raised when it was learned that Wilkins’ firm had been paid some $3.2. million by the Texas firm of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson for assistance in gaining a contract for collecting delinquent taxes owed the City of Memphis. The Linebarger firm was found by a state judge this year to have collected and paid itself more than it was entitled to.

From the Cohen camp comes word that both situations may figure a legitimate issues in a Cohen-Wilkins matchup.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bunker Breezes to Win as Lakeland Mayor on Growth Platform

County Commissioner, strong advocate of municipal schools, will be vacating seat.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Lakeland Mayor-elect Wyatt Bunker
  • JB
  • Lakeland Mayor-elect Wyatt Bunker
Wyatt Bunker, the term-limited Republican who has been a leading advocate of suburbabn municipal schools on the Shelby County Commission, will change venues soon.

Elected mayor of Lakeland Thursday over incumbent Scott Carmichael, and former mayor Jim Bomprezzi, Bunker has made an issue of Lakeland’s lagging commercial growth and has called for aggressive actions to increase it.

Lakeland voters were evidently of a mind for a sea change in their city government, opting to elect newcomers Sherri Gallick and Clark Plunk over incumbents Don Barber and Cecil Tompkins, as well as over challenger John Wilkerson.

In voting the same day, Arlington voters reelected all three of their incumbent aldermenh — Oscar Brooks, Harry McKee, and Brian Thompson.

Bunker, who won 63 percent of the vote in Lakeland, has announced he will be vacating his Commission seat, thereby presenting his colleagues with yet another in the string of several public vacancies they have had to fill with interim appointments in recent years.

Friday, September 13, 2013

City Will Shift to “Defined Contribution” Pension Plan for Employees, Chief Little Says

CAO says Wharton administration is committed to shift from current "unsustainable" defined-benefit plan but has not yet determined which of several alternative plans to pursue. Council has yet to weigh in on matter.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Chief Litle at Kiwanis
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  • Chief Litle at Kiwanis

George Little, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Memphis and a recognized spokesman for Mayor A C Wharton, let a somewhat major cat out of the bag Wednesday in a luncheon talk to the Memphis Kiwanis Club at the University Club.

The secret: The city administration, on the basis of a study commissioned but not yet released, has resolved to convert city pensions to “defined contribution” plans.

At present, city employees are enrolled in “defined benefit” plans, in which factors like seniority determine a precise value of benefits paid out to retirees or their dependents or to disabled former employees and theirs, and those benefits are guaranteed on the basis of a city escrow fund funded jointly by the city and employees in a given, predetermined ratio.

“Defined contribution” pension plans, by contrast, are basically predicated on employee contributions amassed and held in reserve over the time of their employment, usually but not necessarily matched to some degree by their employer, and invested on the stock market. The money reserved for an employee’s pension will vary according to the fate of the chosen investments.

In a defined benefit plan, the essential onus is on the employer; in a defined contribution plan, it shifts to the employee.

Little told the Kiwanians that the city’s current defined-benefit plan “is not sustainable” and that transition to a defined-contribution structure is necessary “to make sure that the money is there” for current and future vested employees. He said the administration had “not made a decision about a particular approach or a particular plan.”

As many employees as possible, whether vested or non-vested, would have to be brought into the plan to make it viable, Little said.

Under the current defined-benefit plan, said Little, “we are not putting enough money into the program, particularly with the economic downturn of the last several years.” He pointed out that the city’s pension fund had been funded “at 104 percent” just before the crash on 2008, plummeted to as low as 74 percent in 2009 and had hovered at a level of just under 80 percent since.

Kiwanis member Sam Cantor asked Little if the current shortfall of $650 million would not “jump tremendously” during a transition from defined benefits to defined contributions “because the guy you hire tomorrow is not contributing to the retirement of the guy who retires the next days out….”

With a wry grin, Little confirmed the existence of such a potential problem that would need to be resolved. “No one said this was going to be an easy trip….It’s not like we flip a switch and go to defined contribution and everybody lives happily ever after. That’s only fairy tales.”

The City Council, of course, will have to vet whatever proposal the administration emerges with, and there is no guarantee that there is a majority on the 13-member Council for whatever the administration settles on.

Indeed, Council members have not yet received even as full an accounting as the Kiwanians got.

The Wharton administration evidently has a penchant for cart-before-the-horse announcements -- as witness the recent abortive agreement with sanitation workers, subject of a full-blast signing ceremony with Wharton and AFSCME representatives before the Council had even been briefed about it.

See and hear the CAO's statement on plans for defined contributions for yourself below:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Another Ford in the House?

Kemba Ford is getting a little help in District 91 from her friends (and family).

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Ford kinsmen Justin (l) and Joe Jr. (r) chatted with Shelby County Democratic chairman Bryan Carson and Jake Brown at recent political  get-together (unrelated to District 91 race).
  • JB
  • Ford kinsmen Justin (l) and Joe Jr. (r) chatted with Shelby County Democratic chairman Bryan Carson and Jake Brown at recent political get-together (unrelated to District 91 race).

The presence of California show-biz attorney Joe Ford Jr. at a recent Memphis get-together of self-proclaimed progressives sponsored by Liz Rincon and Associates was already an obvious signal of something.

That was even before he clarified it by confiding he would be spending considerable time in Memphis during the next month helping out his cousin Kemba Ford in her attempt to win the District 91 state House seat.

This is the seat made vacant by the death this summer of Lois DeBerry, the revered former longtime Speaker Pro Tem who had held it for four decades.

Kemba Ford, the daughter of former state Senator and Tennessee Waltz figure John Ford, is herself a fairly recent returnee from California, where she spent several years working as an actress. She ran a respectable race for the Memphis City Council in 2011, forcing well-financed establishment opponent Lee Harris into a runoff.

Her inroads with labor and other traditional Democratic Party sources are expected to give her an edge against seven opponents in the forthcoming October 8 Democratic primary. (No Republicans filed in the heavily Democratic inner-city district, and only Libertarian Jim Tomasik, on the ballot as an independent, will contest the November 21 general election.)

And there is, of course, the Ford angle. Joe Ford Jr., who made something of a stir in 2006 as a candidate in the 15-strong Democratic-primary field for the 9th District congressional seat won by Steve Cohen, isn’t the only family helper.

So is his father, a former Councilman, County Commissioner, and interim County Mayor. So is his brother, County Commissioner Kemba Ford. So are Councilman Edmond Ford Jr., and his father, also a former Councilman. And the rest of the extended family, including sometime residents Harold Ford Jr. and Harold Ford Sr., are expected to lend a hand. Even Daddy John, long since released from a prison rap and now working at brother Edmond Ford Sr.’s funeral home, has residual clout in the district and will count for something.

As if all these advantages weren’t enough, Kemba Ford proved herself to be articulate, knowledgeable, and energetic candidate in 2011 and will no doubt be so again.

The rest of the field includes two political neophytes with DeBerry in their last name — one, Dwight DeBerry, an apparent cousin of Lois DeBerry, and another, Doris A. DeBerry-Bradshaw, the sister of District 90 Rep. John DeBerry (no relation to Lois). Others were some traction are Raumesh Akbari, Joshua R. Forbes,, Terica Lamb, Clifford N. Lewis, and Kermit Moore.

But the race would seem to be Kemba Ford’s to lose. A victory by her would complement the presence in the state Senate of Aunt Ophelia Ford, and that’s one more helper.

Sara Kyle, "a Tennessee Woman," Edges Closer to Running for Governor

Former Memphis judge and TRA member gets encourageent from state Democrats at Jackson Day Dinner, plans listening tour.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 7:52 AM

Sara Kyle with the media in Nashville
  • JB
  • Sara Kyle with the media in Nashville

Sara Kyle, the wife of state Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) and a public figure in her own right from a once powerful Tennessee political family, just may be on her way into the political limelight again — as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014.

Without doing anything more than attending last Saturday night’s annual Jackson Dinner for statewide Democrats in Nashville, Kyle was a dominant personality at the event.

The longtime former member of the now sunsetted Tennessee Regulatory Authority was hailed from the dais by state Democratic chairman Roy Herron and others as a probable party standard-bearer next year, and responded to the crowd’s chant of “Run, Sara, Run” with a smile and broad waves.

"Run, Sara, Run" is also the working name of a website and draft movement, largely based in Memphis; three of its principals — Matt Kuhn, Michael Lipe, and Steve Ross — were on hand Saturday night and basked in Kyle's reception by the crowd.

Kyle certainly is no stranger to politics. She was born into the extended Clement family, a niece to the late eminences Frank Clement and Annabelle Clement O’Brien -- a former governor and a state senator respectively, each for several term -- and cousin to former congressman Bob Clement.

She has also held public office herself, winning races for City Court judge in Memphis and for the old state Public Service Commission. When the PSC was transformed in the ‘90s into the non-elected TRA at the behest of former Governor Don Sundquist, Sara Kyle was appointed to the new agency and remained a member until resigning this year when administration-backed legislation limited the TRA’s scope and made it part-time.

In a later conversation with the Flyer and other media after last Saturday night’s event in Nashville, she would acknowledge a clear interest in running but would stop just short of declaring.

Pointedly, she declared no animus toward Governor Bill Haslam, her potential adversary. “I personally have never met Governor Haslam. I’m sure he’s personally well-liked I some sections of the state….I’ sure he’s a fine person. I understand his wife is from Memphis, and they’re well liked down here. But business is one thing and popularity is another.”

She continued: “I don’t agree with Governor Haslam on a lot of issues.” One of those concerned her own former agency, the TRA. “In his judgment he decided to abolish a consumer agency and make it part-time. Certainly I feel the citizens need a full-time service…an agency that will listen to them, take on problems and solve them.”

Kyle said that “citizens listened to me” in her earlier runs for office, and, in turn, “I sure listen to them.” Specifically, “in jobs where the rules are changing, they want me to hear them and listen to them.” In an apparent reference to Haslam’s decision not to accept Medicaid expansion funds, she cited “federal monies that are not coming into our state help our citizens, that are being blocked.”

She declined to delve into the particulars of that and other issues, emphasizing again that her current role is to “move about the state, listening to people.” Her de facto listening tour would last “for a few more months,” said Kyle, and for the time being she had no specific announcement plans.

If and when she did decide to run for governor, she expected to lean heavily on the help and advice of her husband, “one of the brightest political minds I’ve ever known.: Senator Kyle had launched a tentative gubernatorial candidacy in 2009 but suspended it some months later when he foresaw the Republican electoral tide of 2010. She was asked: How would her own experience be different?

“That was a different time,” she said, noting further that, as a PSC candidate in the ‘90s she had already had the experience of running a successful statewide race.

Kyle noted that her childhood was in Kingsport in East Tennessee, that she had finished high school in Dickson in Middle Tennessee, that marriage had brought her to Memphis, where she raised four children and won her judgeship, and that, from 1994 on, her state job had given her a wide focus.

“I’m a Tennessee woman,” she declared, and she sounded ready to demonstrate it on the stump.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Commission’s New Math

Votes for Shafer and Avant may signify a shift of attitude on the County Commission.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 1:09 AM

Those mad (as in angry) suburbanites who have been railing in local online comment spaces about the Shelby County Commission’s “8-to-5” voting ratio for the last two or three years can lighten up and adjust their arithmetic.

On the evidence of Monday’s Commission meeting, the numbers appear revised — to the point that, a year from now, people on the other, city side of various issues might be grumbling about the “same old seven and six.”

Commissioner Heidi Shafer
  • JB
  • Commissioner Heidi Shafer
For, on the basis of the two key votes on Monday —the Commission’s naming of Shante Avant to fill a vacancy on the Unified School System board and its vote of approval for new chairman James Harvey’s appointment of Commissioner Heidi Shafer as the body’s budget chairman — the Commission may now have not only adopted some new math but reversed philosophic direction in the process.

Two members of the long-standing coalition of seven Democrats and one Republican that has determined Commission policy on school-merger issues and the budget, among other matters, have shown clear signs of defection. They are Democrats Harvey and Justin Ford.

It was the latter who cast the decisive vote Monday to defeat a motion by Democratic Commissioner Walter Bailey that would have rejected Shafer, a fiscally conservative Republican, and retained instead Democrat Melvin Burgess as budget chair.

Harvey’s appointment of Shafer to replace Burgess had been a red flag to Bailey and other Democrats, who saw it as a quid-pro-quo concession to the suburban Republican commissioners who had swung their votes to him late in the course of last July’s protracted three-way chairmanship contest involving Harvey; former chair Mike Ritz, a breakaway Republican; and liberal Democrat Steve Mulroy.

Contributing to the suspicions of Bailey et al. was the fact that the GOP vote switch back then had been preceded by Harvey’s dramatic announcement reversing his prior support of the budget and tax-rate increases sought by County Mayor Mark Luttrell and aligning himself with objections to those increases by the suburban GOP commissioners.

Ford, himself a frequent ally of the Republicans on disputed issues, had also gone from favoring the Luttrell proposals to opposing them, but, unlike Harvey, had reverted to his original support in a final Commission vote that had enabled their passage.

But on Monday Ford joined Harvey and the GOP contingent in backing Shafer and opposing Bailey’s motion to reject her budget chairmanship. Supporting Bailey were three other Democrats — Burgess, Sidney Chism, and Henri Brooks — along with Republican Ritz. Mulroy abstained, but, if Ford had voted with Bailey, he, too, would likely have concurred and become the 7th vote for the Bailey motion.

Instead the finally tally was 7 against, 5 for, and 1 abstaining — a reprise of sorts of last July’s circumstances and further indication of a possible realignment of voting sentiment on the Commission.

Shante Avant, after getting Commission nod
  • JB
  • Shante Avant, after getting Commission nod
A further omen of that sort had been the earlier election of Avant to fill the school board District 6 seat vacated by Reginald Porter, who resigned it to become the Unified System’s chief of staff.

Avant the deputy director of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, had always been regarded as well-credentialed and a chief contender for the vacancy, but her victory over four other applicants who received nominations from the Commission may have owed something to her relatively circumspect response to questioning by Mulroy, who tried to pin her and the other applicants down regarding three issues confronting the school board.

They were: whether “fair market value” considerations should be attached to the relinquishing of board-owned school properties to prospective new municipal school districts in the suburbs; whether an “inter-local” agreement between the Commission and the board should have precedence in such matters over legislation by the General Assembly; and the degree to which memorandums-of-understanding with local teachers’ associations should be respected by the board.

Avant’s responses — particularly regarding the disposition of school property — were sufficiently open-ended to gain her support from both Democrats and Republicans to occupy what many believe will be the swing seat on a board balanced between inner-city and suburban interests.

Avant received a clear majority of 8 on the first ballot, triumphing over the other four nominees: Cherry Davis, Rosalyn Nichols, David Page, and Rhoda Stigall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A C's Advice to State Dems on “Backin' Up and Gettin' Ready”

Speaking to Tennessee Democrats in Nashville, Memphis’ mayor tries to inspire them with a childhood story about how he got wounded in a sensitive place by a billygoat.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 12:54 AM

Mayor A C Wharton at state Democrats Jackson Day Dinner
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  • Mayor A C Wharton at state Democrats' Jackson Day Dinner

NASHVILLE --In the course of this year’s well-attended and unexpectedly enthusiastic annual Jackson Day Dinner Saturday night in Nashville, Memphis’ A C Wharton, one of four big-city Democratic mayors who spoke to party members from the dais, took an unusual tack by way of encouraging the rank-and-file Democrats who made up his audience.

Suggesting that some of the party’s recent lean years at the polls should be regarded merely as instances of of the Democratic Party’s “backing up” in preparation for great leaps forward. the mayor told the crowd at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum this story, which his listeners rewarded with rapt attention and appreciative laughter:

“It reminds me of what happened when I was growing up in Lebanon. My daddy always said, ‘When you see an animal in trouble somewhere, suffering, go and help the animal’….I was walking home one day,and there was this billygoat up inside a fence...He had stuck his head out of the wire, which was easy to do since his horns went backwards, but guess what? Once he got it there he was hooked.

“So I did what my daddy said. He said,’If you see an animal in trouble, go and help the animal.’ So I go up and I commence to trying to help the old billy goat….He was backing up. ...He was gettin’ ready, all right. About the time I got real close to helping him is when he let it all out. And , of course, I was standing about this tall and you remember where his head was, and you can imagine where he hit me!

“Ruby tells me I got a bunch of boys at home, but, after where that billy goat hit me, I don’t know whether that’s true or not…..[But] that’s what we’re getting ready to do. Y’all remember that old billygoat. We’ve been backing up, but we’re gettin’ ready!...”

(More stories and reports from the Jackson Day weekend will appear online and in this week’s Flyer issue on the stands.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Harvey, Freshly Censured by Local Democratic Party, Faces Prospect of New Rebuffs

State Democrats could add own censure on Saturday; County Commission will consider rejection of new chairman's appointment list on Monday.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 12:45 PM

new County Commission chair James Harvey
  • JB
  • new County Commission chair James Harvey

The reign of James Harvey as chairman of the Shelby County Commission will commence in earnest on Monday, and already it is shrouded in controversy — as is the new chairman’s political future.

Harvey, a Democrat, was formally censured Thursday night by the Shelby County Democratic Committee for his decision, among other eyebrow-raising apointments, to name Republican commissioner Heidi Shafer as chair of the Commission’s budget committee, replacing holdover Democrat Melvin Burgess in that role.

The local censure motion was brought by local Democratic committee member Jay Bailey, who is also a member of the state Democratic committee and has declared his intention to file a censure motion against Harvey at Saturday’s meeting of the state committee in Nashville.

The appointment of Shafer, a vociferous opponent of the recent increases in both the budget and the county tax rate that were approved by the Commission majority, is not an isolated circumstance. Harvey, who had earlier joined fellow Democrats in voting for the increases, proposed by County Mayor Mark Luttrell, joined with Shafer and other Republicans in opposing Luttrell’s proposed tax-rate increase on its third reading.

The tax-rate proposal — of $4.38, an increase from the previous rate of $4.02 — narrowly prevailed, but Harvey’s signaling of his opposition had meanwhile earned him enough votes from Commission Republicans to net him the chairmanship over Mike Ritz, who had wanted another term, and Steve Mulroy.

Ritz, who supported Luttrell on both the budget and tax-rate matters, had offended most of the GOP colleagues regarding that issue and a series of others, including his votes with Democratic members on matters relating to the ongoing school-merger issue.

Shafer and two other Republicans, Wyatt Bunker and Chris Thomas, had adopted an Anybody-but-Ritz strategy in voting for the chairmanship, even to the point of supporting liberal Democrat Mulroy in early rounds of the chairmanship voting, which took place at the Commission's July 9 meeting, where Harvey and fellow Democrat Justin Ford would cast surprise votes, along with most GOP members, to stall the tax-rate increase.

Ford would end up voting for the Luttrell tax rate at the Commission's next meeting, ensuring its passage, but Harvey, now chairman-elect, continued to oppose it.

Harvey may or may not be able to shrug off the censure votes, one done and one pending, though they could adversely affect his future hopes of winning other public offices as a Democrat. (Harvey, who frequently uses the term “businessman” to define himself and his motives, does, however, have the option of changing his party allegiance — though, at present, that seems a remote prospect.).

But what Harvey must deal with in the short run and can’t shrug off is a Monday vote by the Commission on a motion by Democrat Walter Bailey (perhaps not coincidentally, the father of censure-bearer Jay Bailey)to amend the resolution confirming Harvey’s committee assignments.

That motion, rejecting Shafer and re-appointing Burgess, was voted down in committee last Wednesday when a Republican majority was on hand but could fare differently when considered by the full Commission.

If the Commission’s Democrats, some of whom had supported Harvey for chairman, should vote en masse on Monday for Bailey’s motion, and if they should be joined by Ritz, who has just returned from a family vacation in Russia and professes himself undecided on the appointments issue, Harvey will suffer a serious rebuff to his authority and intentions.

Those inclined to support the new chairman, including the GOP members who determined the shape of Wednesday's vote, consider Bailey's motion a threat to Commission tradition; those likely to oppose Harvey have expressed concern about the possibility of trade-offs made by Harvey to secure the chairmanship.

UPDATE: State Democratic committee member Jay Bailey did in fact submit a resolution aimed at censuring Harvey at Saturday's Democratic executive committee meeting in Nashville. But action on the resolution was deferred until the committee's November meeting, pending receipt of more detailed information requested by committee members.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Fall Calendar is Crammed Full with Elections

Though 2013 is, in theory, an “off” year, there’s a lot left to vote for.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 11:14 AM

In theory, 2013 should be an off year on the Shelby County election calendar — for most county residents, anyhow. One year out of every four is outside the normal cycle of statewide, county, national, and Memphis municipal elections. But, in fact, with 2013 well more than half over, four elections are yet to come.

ON SEPTEMBER 19, regularly scheduled municipal elections will be held in Arlington and Lakeland.
In Arlington, there are three contested races for alderman: Oscar L. Brooks, Sr. vs. Brian “Brian Elder” Groves in Position 4; Joshua Fox and Harry McKee in Position 5; and Larry M. Harmon, Jr. and Brian Thompson in Position 6.

In Lakeland, there is a mayor’s race, featuring challengers Jim Bomprezzi and Wyatt Bunker and Scott Carmichael, and a commissioner’s seat, contested by Donald O. Barber, Sherri Gallick, Clark W. Plunk, Cecil Tompkins, and John Wilkerson.

ON OCTOBER 8, there will be a Democratic primary to determine that party’s nominee on November 21 for the right to succeed the late Lois DeBerry as state representative in House District 91. Eight candidates filed valid qualifying petitions. They are: Raumesh Akbari, Dwight DeBerry, Doris A. DEeBerry-Bradshaw, Joshua R. Forbes, Kemba Ford, Terica Lamb, Clifford N. Lewis, and Kermit Moore.

ON NOVEMBER 7, six Shelby County suburban municipalities — Arlington, Lakeland, Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, and Millington — will hold elections for their soon-to-be-created school boards. Numerous petitions have been issued by the Election Commission so far. Filing deadline is September 26, and the Flyer will publish a complete list of candidates as of that date.

ON NOVEMBER 21, the special general election for state House District 91 will be held, with the winner of the October 8 Democratic primary opposing Libertarian Jim Tomasik, who will be listed on the ballot as an independent, and potential write-in candidates.

On the same date, Memphis voters will cast ballots on a referendum to raise the city sales-tax rate half a percentage point from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent — the proceeds going toward funding a pre-K program for Memphis children, with any leftover monies to be used to lower the city’s property tax rate.


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