Thursday, July 20, 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.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 5:21 AM

L to R: David Lenoir, Terry Roland
  • L to R: David Lenoir, Terry Roland


The forthcoming 2018 duel between Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland and County Trustee David Lenoir for the Republican nomination for County Mayor has become a major factor in the Commission’s proceedings, and it figured notably as the county’s legislative body moved this past week toward approval of a budget and tax rate for fiscal 2017-18.

The latest set-to occurred on Wednesday, as a quorum of 10 of the 13 Commission members met in a special called meeting for the final required reading on the $4.11 tax rate that was voted with near unanimity on Monday (12 to 1, with only one Commissioner, Democrat Walter Bailey voting Nay).

The Wednesday meeting turned out to be not quite as pro forma as expected, however. Between Monday and Wednesday, Lenoir let it be known through several means —including at least one speech, a news interview, and a pair of Facebook posts — that he disbelieved in the $4.11 tax rate as being the actual tax cut that the Commission thought it was in adopting it.

Lenoir cited numbers purporting to show that representative homeowners, especially in suburban Shelby County, would actually be liable for higher out-of-pocket property taxes in the coming year, as a result of a recent county assessment significantly raising property values in the county.

The Trustee was an attendee at Wednesday’s meeting, and, though he did not speak directly to the Commission during the meeting, he had with him figures that he cited to reporters afterward appearing to show that taxes would be higher on the average in three suburban communities — Bartlett (up by an average of $100), Germantown (up $150), and Collierville(up $200). “And that’s residential property. Commercial property is up even more,” he said.

The issue had been bruited about by Commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting before they ultimately confirmed the $4.11 tax rate with a unanimous vote of 10 to 0.

Unsurprisingly, the response to Lenoir’s criticism was led by Roland, who maintained that the county administration, with direct concurrence and participation on Trustee Lenoir’s part, had,on the front end of tax-rate discussions, certified $4.13 as a figure that would maintain stable revenues in accordance with a new countywide property assessment that had, on the average, substantially raised real property values.

Inasmuch as state law prohibits “windfall” revenues resulting from such adjustments of a county tax rate to revised assessment values, Roland’s argument went, any overage of the sort claimed by Lenoir clashed with the Trustee’s own prior participation in certifying the $4.13 rate.

In any case, argued Roland, Heidi Shafer, and others, the lower tax rate of $4.11, which was adopted by the Commission on the premise that it gave county taxpayers a two-cent real tax decrease, would by definition make windfall revenues even more unlikely. And the defenders of the $4.11 rate, while acknowledging that some property-owners in the suburbs might end up paying more taxes as a result of dramatically higher assessments, the majority of county property-owners would be taxed at a lesser amount.

Lenoir’s contention is that the balance is in the other direction — i.e., that a majority of the county’s homeowners would end up paying more taxes while a minority would gain some measure measure of tax relief from the $4.11 rate. The Trustee noted to reporters that the lower rate had been achieved via a compromise this week between Democrats and Republicans that saw an additional 1 percent pay raise for county employees, added to what had already been a 2 percent raise in the provisional budget.

“It’s all baked in together,” the Trustee said, in defense of his contention that, on the whole, the final compromise package would, on balance, raise tax rates.

Though Roland et al. won this battle, it seems clear that Lenoir is counting on reversing the outcome during his forthcoming mayoral contest, when each candidate will claim to have acted more responsibly in the taxpayers’ interest and each will be able to cite numbers justifying his position.

This week’s verbal sparring followed a previous round back in the spring, before budget discussions began in earnest, when Lenoir claimed that he had advocated specific tax reductions in previous fiscal years had been ignored by the Commission — a contention rejected by Roland, who said no such proposal had been presented to the Commission, much less ignored.

Tensions between the two had flared up also early in last week’s 7 ½-hour marathon budget session of the Commission, when Roland had proposed transferring $50,000 from the Trustee’s proposed budget allocation to help pay for a needed employee in the General Sessions Drug Court of Judge Tim Dwyer.

Roland based his proposal on a contention that Lang Wiseman, a de facto legal counsel on Lenoir’s staff, was being paid despite “not showing up for work.” Lenoir appeared before the Commission to reject the claim and accused Roland of playing politics. In the end, the $50,000 needed by Drug court was approved through other channels, and Roland, satisfied, withdrew his proposal without a vote being taken.


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Karl Dean, Confident a Democrat Can Win the Governorship, Tours Memphis

The former Nashville mayor, on the first of two days here, says his "moderate," pragmatic positions resonate with those of Tennesseans and that a political pendulum swing will favor a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:37 PM

Karl Dean at Tennessee Voter Project event - JB
  • JB
  • Karl Dean at Tennessee Voter Project event

Thursday was Karl Dean Day in Memphis. Unofficially, of course. And Friday was Karl Dean Day Two. The former two-term mayor of Nashville, now an announced Democratic candidate for governor of Tennessee, devoted a couple of days to making the rounds in the Bluff City, giving folks here a chance to look him over.

What they saw — to judge only by two of Thursday’s stops, a morning drop-in at the Flyer and an early-evening appearance at a Tennessee Voter Project PAC event — was a man whose laid-back presence hinted at a calm, even a steady, self-assurance within. The first name Democrat to offer himself for Governor since Mike McWherter took a drubbing from Republican Bill Haslam in 2010, Dean figures it’s time for a Democrat to win again in a state that’s gone deep-dyed red in recent years.

As Dean is fully aware, he is not alone in so thinking. Another prominent Democrat, state House minority leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley is also expected to become a candidate for governor, setting up the prospect of a competitive Democratic primary in a state that in recent years has experienced significant statewide competition only in Republican primaries. And, as per usual, several Republican candidates have either announced for governor or are reported on the verge of doing so.

"They just want to see things happen"

But, as Dean noted at both the indicated Thursday venues in Memphis, the governorship has see-sawed back and forth between the parties with regularity since the 1970s. And, as he further noted, the last two governors, Democrat Phil Bredesen and incumbent Republican Bill Haslam, have both been big-city mayors like himself.

There’s a reason for that last fact, he suggested during his stop-over at the Flyer. Being a mayor is something like being a governor, Dean said, and, according to him, the voters want somebody with a sense of pragmatism. “They don’t want to hear political philosophy. They want to see if you can get things done….they just want to see things happen.”

And Dean takes pride in his record of making things happen in Nashville, of guiding the state’s capital city through the recession years and through the Great Flood of 2010 into a position of renewed confidence and security. He says that, as governor, he would focus on education and economic development and public safety.

And one more thing, which he sees, citing a Vanderbilt University poll and his own experience, as the major concern of Tennesseans these days: health care. Dean regards it as a “huge mistake” that the GOP-dominated Tennessee legislature, for ideological reasons, declined to accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — and the billions of dollars in federal funding (“including Tennessee taxpayers’ dollars”) that would have come with it.

(Speaking of funding, Dean recently reported a fund-raising total of $1.2 million for the March to June period. “I can compete,” he says apropos the prospect of having to compete with any of several well-heeled Republicans.)

Dean was asked at the Flyer about a reported disenchantment with him among some Democrats in Nashville because of his support for charter schools. He noted that Nashville, like Memphis, was threatened with a state takeover of low-performing public schools. Acknowledging that “there were times that the school board didn’t agree with what I felt,” he said “the difference is that you’ve got to do things as mayor.”

"I know there is a pathway"

Dean is “a little leery of people trying to put a label on me” but sees himself as a “moderate” and thinks that “the state as a whole is more moderate than we give it credit for — certainly more moderate than the legislature.”

At the Tennessee Voter Project event — held in the downtown law officer of Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle, and Cox — Dean shared the dais with state Senate minority leader Lee Harris, Democratic "Volunteer of the Year" Diane Cambron, and newly elected local Young Democrats president Danielle Inez. He joked about a point early in his first race for Nashville mayor, when a published poll showed him, a former public defender then serving as an aide to Mayor Bill Purcell, running last in the candidate field. His then 12-year-old daughter tried to console him: “Dad, you can still get out!”

 Dean stayed the course and would go on to win that race, of course. A basic part of running for any office, he said, is figuring out what the pathway to victory is. Apropos the race for governor in 2018, he told the crowd, “There are no guarantees in politics, but I know there is a pathway.”

Mark Norris Nominated for Federal Judgeship

Opportunity presumably makes Senate Majority Leader’s gubernatorial plans moot. President Trump also taps Thomas Parker for state’s Western District

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 12:12 AM



State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the Collierville Republican who for years
Sen. Norris - JB
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  • Sen. Norris
has dreamed of making a race for governor and had planned to do so in 2018, will apparently trade in that dream (widely regarded as a long shot, but not an impossibility) for the reality of a federal judgeship.

He has that option, in any case, having been nominated on Thursday along with three other Tennessee lawyers to serve in the federal judiciary.

Although Norris’s chances of Senate confirmation would seem unusually good, given the Republican majority in that chamber, the legislator gave out a cautiously measured statement of acceptance to the news of his nomination:

“I am honored by the nomination and appreciate the president’s confidence in me. This is just the first step under the Constitution, and I look forward to the Senate confirmation process. In the meantime, I will continue to serve the citizens of the 32nd District who elected me to the Senate and my Senate colleagues who elected me as their leader.”


Also nominated for a federal judgeship in the state’s Western District, along with Norris, was Thomas L. Parker by Trump was Thomas Parker, a former U.S. attorney in the District and a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz,

The two current vacancies in the Western District were created by the retirement to senior status of Judges Hardy Mays and Daniel Breen.

Norris, who currently serves as special counsel in the Memphis office of Adams and Reese, had previously indicated he was serious about joining next year’S GOP gubernatorial field, but the bird-in-the-hand of a federal judgeship presumably makes the idea or a race for governor moot.

As of now, the announced Republican candidates are Randy Boyd of Knoxville and Nashville, the former state Commissioner of Economic Development; Bill Lee, a Franklin industrialist and entrepreneur; and state Senator Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet. Others said to still be pondering an entry into the race are 4th District U.S. Representative Diane Black and state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville.

The sole declared Democratic candidate so far is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who began a two-day visit in Memphis on Thursday. State House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is another possible candidate.
Two other Tennesseans were appointed to federal judgeships by President Trump on Thursday. They are Chip Campbell and Eli J. Richardson of the state’s Middle District, which includes Nashville.


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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Local Health Care Advocates in Stout Defense of ACA

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 7:54 AM

Health-care defenders at the IBEW - JB
  • JB
  • Health-care defenders at the IBEW

Even as the possibility of Russian interference with American politics and government once again dominated attention in Washington, the latest effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act was also stealthily advancing in the nation's capital. This week's Flyer editorial concerned energetic local efforts to counter that prospect:

As the editorial begins: "It was a heck of a party, jammed to the rafters and brimming with overflow energy. The only problem was that the chief invited guests were a no-show, though no one was much surprised by that. We're talking about last Saturday's town hall on health-care at the IBEW union hall on Madison, sponsored by a generous assortment of local organizations devoted to the subject and dedicated to the preservation of the Affordable Care Act, currently under threat of elimination by a GOP-dominated Congress and a fellow-traveling tagalong President....."

To read the rest of the editorial, go here.

Proposed Tax Cut in Jeopardy as Commissioners Reverse Course

Meeting in committee on Wednesday, Shelby County legislators cast party-line vote for $4.13 tax rate, edging away from $4.10 rate that dominated discussion in marathon Monday session. Matter to be decided next week.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 6:27 AM



After the Shelby County Commission’s marathon 7 ½-hour special called meeting
Key voter Eddie Jones - JB
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  • Key voter Eddie Jones
on the budget Monday night seemed to produce a consensus in favor of a $4.10-cent tax rate (with the final vote pending), Commissioners engaged in a much briefer discussion in committee on Wednesday.

They recapitulated the opposing positions in the far briefer span of 40 minutes, and this time reversed course with a 5-4 party-line vote in favor of a $4.13 rate — one that maintains a revenue base that the administration of Mayor Mark Luttrell regards as stable and that eschews the prospective tax cut that dominated discussion on Monday.

Wednesday’s vote was a pure party-line affair, with the Democrats present voting for the higher rate and the Republicans on hand going for the lower rate. To be sure, the regular Commission meeting scheduled for next Monday, when more Commissioners (probably all 13) will be present, could swing momentum back toward the tax-cut rate, but one fact argues against that.

The fact is that the Commission’s Republicans, at full strength and unified, add up to only 6 out of 13 members and usually need to peel away one Democrat or perhaps two to vote their way — in this case for the $4.10 rate and for a tax cut.

There are two inner-city Democratic Commissioners whose tendency to vote along with the GOP members is almost proverbial. They are Eddie Jones and Justin Ford, both of whom were being counted on by some key Republicans to cross over one more time. Ford was absent on Wednesday, but Jones was there, and he voted along with the other Democrats for the $4.13 tax rate.

Jones was one of the final speakers on the issue in Wednesday’s opening budget committee. His remarks — including a comment that Wednesday’s vote was “not the end of the road, just a fork in the road" — hinted at some residual flexibility on the issue. But, should he stick with the rest of the Democrats on Monday, and should Ford also hew to the party line, both the $4.10 rate and the suburban GOP dream of a tax cut are dead in the water

That outcome would suit the administration just fine. Harvey Kennedy, Luttrell’s CAO, began the tax-rate discussion Wednesday by commenting that, while the administration could make $4.10 work “if it’s the will of the body,” it continued to be opposed to the lower rate as too restrictive. And County finance director Wanda Richards added a warning that the $4.10 rate “down the road will increase our dependence on debt.

From that point on, a mini-version of Monday night’s lengthy debate ensued.

"Giving back to taxpayers" vs. ""a false narrative"

Millington Republican Terry Roland insisted that, during the seven years so far of his tenure, “this is the first chance we’ve had to give something back.” Germantown Commissioner Mark Billingsley argued in like manner: “I'd like to see us put a few dollars back in our citizens’ hands.”

Democrat Reginald Milton, whose special concern these days is public health, particularly the financial needs of Region One Hospital (formerly The Med), said he was “sympathetic” to taxpayers’ desire for some relief, but that, in view of the ongoing medical crisis, it would be “practical to maintain our dollars until we can see what happens.”

George Chism of Collierville would tilt back the other way. Focusing on the need for business and industrial expansion, he said that, for the sake of all citizens, “We gotta have some victories,” meaning a tax rate that would attract, rather than discourage, new investment.

Veteran Democrat Walter Bailey would have none of that, calling the idea of “giving back” a “false narrative:.” He put it baldly: “Rich people don’t need government. The working class and the poor need government services.” And service, he said, was “where we fail.”

After Roland and Republican Heidi Shafer weighed in again for the $4.10 rate (Shafer making a familiar argument that tax cuts spur growth), Bailey called for a vote, which ended with the aforesaid 5-4 outcome.

Van Turner, who as vice chair was presiding over the discussion, substituting for absent budget chair Steve Basar, then pointed out that, for procedural reasons, another vote had to be taken in order to complete the second reading of what was now an amended tax rate.

But first the Commissioners on hand then went through their appointed motions a second time. Roland began by seeming to suggest that, if necessary to support the lower tax rate, he would favor holding up on a prior vote to add 24 Sheriff’s deputies. Billingsley, who chairs the Commission’s law and order committee, said he, too, could “back away” on the new deputies and went on to interject an unexpected and potentially controversial argument.

Heat Over Community Grants and PILOTS

He turned the subject to something that had generated some unexpected heat during Monday’s prolonged debate — the matter of grants to putatively deserving local community causes and organizations. Mayor Luttrell professed hmself "troubled" and "gravely concerned" about how and whether the grants, administered by individual Commissioners from their own designated funds, were being accounted for.

"If you screw it up, you can go to the pokey," Luttrell said, in support of adding a mechanism to monitor the grant process.

The process of allowing each of the 13 Commissioners to have a de facto fund for designating such outlays -- called "community enhancement grants" -- had been an innovation during this past fiscal year, one sponsored by Commissioner Milton, and on Monday he and the Mayor engaged in some intense sparring over the issue, with the Commissioner defending the purpose and accountability of the process.

Both Luttrell and Milton had grown hot under the collar, at various points each accusing the other of questioning his integrity.

Re-igniting the argument on Wednesday, Billingsley declared that, if necessary to create the possibility of a tax cut, “we cannot support the fluff,” and he spelled that out to mean the prospect of deleting the Commissioners’ individual community grants. (An amendment to that end by Bartlett Commissioner David Reaves had failed on Monday.)

Suddenly the Germantown Republican adopted a surprising and paradoxical-sounding rhetorical position. “I spend every day fighting for the poor,” he said, characterizing the proposed tax-cut rate as a question of “3 cents for the poor in Shelby County.” Roland chimed in that he, too, could be brought to support a “scorched-earth” policy.

Bailey pointed out what he regarded as the obvious, that cutting taxes was not a concern of the poor but that access to services was.

Both Jones and Roland continued in a populist vein and managed somehow to get on the same rhetorical page, though arguing for different tax-rate outcomes, with Jones denouncing the tax giveaways of the county’s PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) arrangements and Roland thundering against the joint city/county EDGE board for its ability, independent of Commission oversight, to approve tax abatements.

Brief as that part of the discussion was, it augured a different, perhaps unifying theme that could potentially be picked up on Monday when, as Turner had said, either the $4.13 tax rate or the $4.10 rate could win out, in whichever case a final reading would be called for in a special called meeting for later next week.


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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Local Democrats Herald Bigger, Better Party to Come

The Shelby County Democratic Party, declared defunct in 2016, will be recreated in conventions to be held on July 22 and August 5.

Posted By on Sat, Jul 8, 2017 at 2:18 PM

Cambron, Cocke, Shaw, and Inez explaiing new party organization - JB
  • JB
  • Cambron, Cocke, Shaw, and Inez explaiing new party organization


In reorganizing the local party organization that was decertified as “dysfunctional” a year ago by state party chair Mary Mancini, Shelby County Democrats are thinking big.

That’s “big” in several senses of the word, as four key members of the soon-to-be reorganized Shelby County Democratic Party explained in a press conference this past week at the IBEW meeting hall on Madison, a frequent party meeting spot.

The four were David Cambron, a state party committeeman, former party vice chair, and president of the Germantown Democrats; David Cocke and Carlissa Shaw, co-chairs of the ad hoc group that held four county-wide reorganizational forums over the last several months; and Danielle Inez, newly elected president of the county’s Young Democrats.

As the four explained to attending media, the newly reorganized SCDP will be numerically bigger, consisting of two separate bodies, an executive committee composed of two members (one male, one female) from each of the county’s 13 county commission districts and a few additional ex officio members; as well as a “Grass Roots Council,” consisting of 130 members.

Both the Council, which will meet quarterly, and the executive committee, will be elected at a convention to be held on Saturday, July 22, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Mississippi Boulevard Baptist Church. A second convention will be held at the same site two weeks later on August 5 to elect a local party chair.

“We think we’ve done it right,” said Cocke. “We intend to be an active party, not just a party that meets once a month to get in trouble….We need a big tent.” He defined the Grass Roots Council as an “activist,” issue-oriented body, whereas the exective committee wold conduct the routine business of party affairs.

Saying that “a lot of Democrats want to hit the pavement,” Shaw elaborated on the Council as a body “able to speak to the executive committee.”

As Cambron noted, “The world changed on November 8. We designed a new party to include new people, new activists, and new groups,” citing the recently founded grop Indivisible as an example of the latter.

On the thorny issue of defining who Democrats are, Cocke said certain requirements would be imposed but not so many as to inhibit party growth.

Inez said that the local party would be guided in large measure by the parameters for membership established by the state Democratic Party. And one thing won’t change: Both she and Shaw said that Robert’s Rules of Order would remain the basis for conduct of meetings and that members of the executive committee would receive training sessions on the parliamentary formula.

(Shaw had noted, in one of the forums conducted by the reorganization group, that confusion had resulted in meetings of the former SCDP because of the differing degrees of familiarity with Robert’s Rules by executive committee members.)

For those who want to know more about the new party and its new rules, Cocke credited Inez with the preparation of a “cheat sheet” on all the details, which can be found on the party’s website shelbydem.org.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Karl Dean in Memphis Next Week

The former Nashville mayor, now a declared Democratic candidate in the 2018 Governor’s race, will be hosted by the Tennessee Voter Project.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Karl Dean
  • Karl Dean
On Thursday, July 13, of next week, a group of Memphis Democrats will host a fundraising event in honor of former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, the sole Democrat so far to have announced a candidacy for Governor in 2018.

The proceeds from the event will go to the sponsoring organization, the Tennessee Voter Project PAC, and the event will take place in the law offices of Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox at 26 N. Second St., Memphis, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Appearing along with Dean, and given parallel billing on the invitation for the event, will be Diane Cambron, the 2017 Volunteer of the Year, as selected by the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; and Danielle Inez, president of the Shelby County Young Democrats.


The “suggested contribution” for the event is “$40 for those under 40 years old and $100 for everyone else.”

As the fine print on the invitation explains, the Tennessee Voter Project PAC is “a special political action committee formed by Lee Harris that is dedicated to growing the number of registered Democrats.” Harris, of course, is the University of Memphis law professor, former City Councilman, and current District 29 state Senator who is leader of the five Democrats who form the state Senate’s minority caucus.

As the fine print further elaborates: “The last major election saw Tennessee place virtually dead last in voter turnout. We can try to change that through a campaign to register as many democratic voters in Tennessee BEFORE the 2018 election. The time is now to spread democracy and increase political engagement for progressives across the state.”

Hosts for the event are listed as: “Jake Brown, Dawn Campbell, Dr. Davin Clemons, Jeremy Gray, Dan Harper, Lee Harris, Isaac Kimes, Esq., London Lamar, Gavin Mosley, Tami Sawyer, Anthony Siracusa, Bryan Smith, Esq., Thurston Smith, Van Turner, Esq., and Michael Whaley.”

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last Weekend's NAACP Centennial Celebration Looked Back — and Forward

Keynoters Melissa Harris-Perry and Harold Ford Jr.highlighted the event's theme: “Reflecting on the Past, Remaining Focused on the Future: 100 Years of Civil Rights and Human Rights Advocacy.”

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:05 PM



As Memphis prepares for a 4th of July weekend, members and guests of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP are still savoring some moments last weekend from the organization’s centennial anniversary luncheon — particularly from keynoters Melissa Harris-Perry, former MSNBC host and Wake Forest professor, and Harold Ford Jr., the onetime Memphis congressman who now works on Wall Street and keeps his hand in politically, also on MSNBC.

There were notable things happening before keynoters Harris-Perry and Ford took their star turns, of course. Local NAACP president Deidre Malone and MC Mearl Purvis kept things moving from the dais, and a series of local dignitaries, including Ford’s successor, current 9th District congressman Steve Cohen and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, had some trenchant things to say — Cohen about the perils of the Trump presidency, Strickland about the need to boost African Americans’ share of local business opportunities.

Arguably, though, the best crowd reaction early on was to remarks by longtime civil rights activist Jocelyn Wurzburg, 
Melissa Harris-Perry - JB
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  • Melissa Harris-Perry
who (along with Shannon Brown and Roquita Coleman-Williams) was one of three official co-chairs for the event, held at the East Memphis Hilton last Saturday and devoted to the theme “Reflecting on the Past, Remaining Focused on the Future: 100 Years of Civil Rights and Human Rights Advocacy.”

Wurzburg, recipient of numerous citations and the person for whom Tennessee Human Rights Commission's annual Civil Rights Legacy award was named, conflated two tales. The first was about being embarrassed in her early youth when her mother, without asking, signed her up as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy; the second detailed her response, during a visit to New Orleans, when a resident of that city lamented Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s recent removal of Confederate memorials, including a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The New Orleans native insisted that Lee had been done an injustice, in that the Civil War, in which he led a Southern army, had not been done on behalf of slavery. Wurzburg countered that, “as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, I can assure you it was.”

Harris-Perry, utilizing her erstwhile media chops, would wow the NAACP audience with a deceptively stream-of-consciousness rendition, including flamboyant hand-and-arm gestures, of what was actually a tightly organized dramatic presentation, aptly illustrated by a series of slides.

And along with her mastery of the medium (two actually; that of television and that of the lecture hall) came several provocative messages. One was both powerful and original: Taking off from her declaration that America had elected a president who was both “a racist and a pussy-grabber,” she formulated a convincing argument that racial domination, in its various forms, had depended on a distinctly physical domination of black women.

Slavery, which had involved the calculated and merciless separation of children from their mothers, had continued “through us,” Harris-Perry declared. To maintain the current stratified social system, she suggested, “Black women have to give birth,” and thereby to yield up to others “not only the product of our labor but our labor….The people who run this joint are pussy-grabbers.” That, she said, was “the reality of our wombs.”

Noting the incidence of black domestic servants in her paternal ancestry visi-a-vis the fact that her mother’s side was white and relatively privileged, Harris-Perry identified strongly with the former and with the idea of building “from the bottom,” a moral that she said would apply both to the advancement of the NAACP and the redevelopment of a dilapidated Democratic Party. “You always have to start with the least of these, literally, Jesus said. If you start at the top, you will miss so much. If you start at the bottom, you will miss nothing.”

Harris-Perry was the proverbial Hard Act to Follow, but Ford, who came next and last, managed to do just fine.
Harold Ford Jr.
  • Harold Ford Jr.

Professing that he was “glad to be home,” the former 9th District Congressman (who came within an ace of winning a Senate seat as a Democrat in 2006) executed an artful segue from Harris-Perry. Elaborating on the theme of “the power of women,” he recalled the importance of women teachers in his early education, extolled the helpful role played by “women in this district” in the development of his political career, and did some verbal doting on his 4 ½-year-old daughter Georgia.

Ford then shifted to the subject of change and to what he saw as a geometrically increasing demand for it in the society of today, treating the abrupt shift by American voters to Obama in 2008 and, even more precipitously, to Trump in 2016 as a case in point. The silver lining was the fact, as he saw it, that yet another political shift in a wholly different direction could happen, and relatively quickly.

“People want change, and they want it now,” he said, noting the pell-mell transformations of public technology, like the ever-escalating rise in photography via cell phone. He recalled being told two years ago that, within five years from that point, “97 percent of all the pictures in the world” would have been taken.

Ford closed on a note of optimism: “We’ve got to be daring and not afraid of change.” He quoted Babe Ruth to the effect that “Yesterday’s home runs do not win tomorrow’s ball games.”


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

5 Attorneys File for Circuit Court Vacancy

State Trial Court Vacancy Commission to meet in Memphis on July 21 to interview candidates and select three finalists for Governor Haslam to choose from

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:08 PM

L to R: Elsea, Faughnan, Lyons, McNabb, Rudolph
  • L to R: Elsea, Faughnan, Lyons, McNabb, Rudolph


Five local attorneys have applied for the Circuit Court vacancy currently held by Judge Robert L. “Butch” Childers, who has announced his retirement as of this Friday, June 30.

The five, who will be interviewed in Memphis on Friday, July 21, when the state Trial Court Vacancy Commission convenes in Memphis, are listed as follows, along with their current law-firm relationships:


*Shannon D. Elsea: Cordova, John Michael Bailey Injury Lawyers
*Brian S. Faughnan: Memphis, Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg, and Waldrop
*Lewis W. Lyons: Memphis, Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle, and Cox
*Tabitha F. McNabb: Germantown, Harris, Shelton, Hanover, Walsh
*David M. Rudolph: Memphis, Bourland, Heflin, Alvarez, Minor, and Matthews

The Commission’s interviews with the applicants will be open to the public. There will be a public hearing at that venue at 9 a.m., during which members of the public may express their opinions on any or all of the applicants.

Following the interview session, the Commission is expected to have an immediate vote to select the names of three of the applicants and forward them to Governor Haslam for his consideration.
The Commission is expected to vote immediately following the interviews and forward three names to Governor Haslam for his consideration.

Monday, June 19, 2017

County Officials Seek End of Federal Monitoring of Juvenile Court

Letter from Mayor Luttrell, Juvenile Court Judge Michael, and Sheriff Bill Oldham is follow-up to personal request made to Jeff Sessions on occasion of AG's recent Memphis visit.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 10:55 AM

County Mayor Luttrell
  • County Mayor Luttrell
The federal monitoring of Shelby County's Juvenile Court, instituted in a 2012 Memorandum of Understanding with the county, could end forthwith if the Department of Justice responds favorably to a request to end the monitoring from three county officials: Mayor Mark Luttrell, Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham.

The officials discussed the matter of ending the federal oversight with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his recent visit to Memphis  and elaborated on their request in a formal letter to the DOJ.

The DOJ's  MOU with the county and the resultant monitoring procedures began following an investigation of Juvenile Court in response to a request from then County Commissioner Henri Brooks. The Department concurred with Brooks' complaint alleging a series of problems, including administrative inefficiencies and de facto racial bias, and the Memorandum of Understanding followed.

The letter to the Department from Luttrell, Michael, and Oldham maintains that the Court's shortcomings pinpointed in the DOJ investrigation and subsequent order have been fully rectified.

Should the Department of Justice concur with the local officials' request, such action would be in line with a new policy pursued by Sessions, who has called upon local law-enforcement jurisdictions to be stricter in their enforcement of legal penalties.

Local Responses

Reaction to news of the three County officials' request of the Department of Justice generated quick reaction locally -- much of it negative.

One critic was state Representative Larry Miller, speaking as a panelist Monday morning at the National Civil Rights Museum during the kickoff event for a Legislative Black Caucus statewide tour.

Answering a question from the audience about legislative action on juvenile justice, Miller said, "The first introduction to the justice system is Juvenile Court, where the rate of recidivism is 80 percent. Think of it ...I go in, I come out, and I go in again."

He then noted the county officials' letter to the DOJ and took issue with it: "They’re saying, 'We’ve done it, We’ve got it where it needs to be. We no longer need oversight.'" Expressing his disagreement, Miller said, "We're not there yet. The system is based on incarceration of young black men."

During a break in proceedings at the NCRM, Tami Sawyer, a local activist on justice matters and former legislative candidate, also objected.

"We haven’t resolved the issues of our Juvenile Court system," Sawyer said. "We still have high recidivism rates, the services that are being provided are sub-par, we didn’t have electricity for a week, [and]we didn’t have air-conditioning last summer. How can we say we care about our kids when we don’t want to get the help to support them?"

Characterizing Attorney General Sessions as someone who "in the past has had views that are deemed racist," Sawyer said, "That Mayor Luttrell and Judge Michael and Sheriff Oldham want to take that approach, it seems tome that they just want to check something off instead of really making change."

Another audience member, however, was more accepting of the thee officials' desire to see direct federal oversight lifted from Juvenile Court.

This was former County Commissioner Sidney Chism, now an employee of the Sheriff's Department and a declared candidate in next year's race for County Mayor.

Said Chism, evidently speaking on behalf of Sheriff Oldham: "He has taken the goals seriously and has worked hard to achieve them, and I think he believes they have been achieved."

Two legislators who were on Monday's panel at the NCRM commented afterward to the effect that the Memorandum of Understanding should remain in effect but acknowledged that Luttrell,Michael, and Oldham seemed to have made good-faith efforts to raise the standards in effect at Juvenile Court.


Congressman Weighs In

Later in the day, 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, noting that he had strongly supported the original intervention by the Justice Department, issued this statement:

“I am concerned about efforts to end Shelby County’s agreement with the Justice Department to address the routine violation of due process and equal protection at the Juvenile Court.

“While progress has been made since 2012, there are still reports of race playing a factor in court hearings and reports of the juvenile detention facilities becoming more dangerous. I was disturbed by DOJ’s initial findings, and I was proud to work with then-Attorney General Eric Holder and others at the Department of Justice to help resolve this matter in a fair and transparent way.

"I urge the Department of Justice to continue to monitor the Shelby County juvenile justice system to ensure the constitutional standards of all children are met.”


MTK

Friday, June 16, 2017

GOP's Vaughan Wins Special Election for House District 95

Republican defeats Democrat Ashworth and two independents with 60+ percent of final vote.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 7:54 AM

District 95 winner Kevin Vaughan
  • District 95 winner Kevin Vaughan
With all votes counted in the special general election for state House District 95 (Collierville, Eads, Germantown), Republican nominee Kevin Vaughan has won a decisive  victory over Democratic challenger Julie Byrd Ashworth and two independents, Robert Schutt and Jim Tomasik.

The precinct totals, which include early and absentee vote totals, are as follows:

Kevin Vaughan 3,099
Julie Byrd Ashworth 1,737
Robert Schutt 143
Jim Tomasik 25
Write-ins   3

TOTAL VOTES CAST: 5,007


When formally sworn in, Vaughan, a real estate developer with an engineering background, will become the third person to represent the east Shelby County district within the last year. Former longtime representative Curry Todd was defeated in the 2016 Republican primary  by Mark Lovell, who won that year's general election. The seat became open again in February when Lovell was forced to resign his position amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Vaughan, who finished ahead of six other Republicans to win the April special Republican primary for the vacated District 95 House seat ,l,is an established civil figure in Collierville.

Married with two children, he is both a licensed professional engineer and a prominent real estate developer; he is the towner of Township Development Services and township Realty Service.Vaughan was born in Bolivar and was a 1980 graduate of Bolivar High School. He graduated from the University of Memphis in 1984 with a B.S. in electrical Engineering. He was a Presidential Scholar at he U of M and has been named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University.

For the last 30 years, Vaughan has lived in Collierville, where he has a lengthy record of membership on civic boards and commissions, several of which he has headed up.

He is a member of the Collierville Chamber of Commerce Board of directors, a past president of the town’s Rotary Club and a former Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary.

At present, Vaughan is vice chairman of the Collierville School Board.

In the last couple of years, he has attracted considerable attention (and, in some circles, notoriety) for his proposal to develop a new retail shopping development on currently rural land in Collierville Plans for the development are apparently back on course after it was temporarily withdrawn due to adverse public reaction to Vaughan’s indiscreet statement in 2016 that he envisioned his development in the mode of Wolfchase Galleria, a mammoth mega-mall in Cordova.

The proposed development, which has not yet received preliminary zoning approval from the Collierville Board of Alderman but is under reconsideration, was the subject of a whispering campaign by Vaughan’s opponents during the recent GOP primary, and was the subject of similar criticism in the general election campaign from supporters of Democratic opponent  Julie Byrd Ashworth, a lawyer..

Vaughan, a self-styled conservative, is pro-life and an adherent of 2nd amendment gun rights and expressed concern about Governor Haslam’s ultimately successful gas-tax proposal when the measure was being  during the late legislative session.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gubernatorial Candidate Boyd Stresses Post-Secondary Goals

The former state Economic Development Commissioner, a partner in Haslam’s innovations, talks tech education in visit to Whitehaven campus of Southwest Community College.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 11:55 PM



Boyd at Finley Road on Thursday - JB
  • JB
  • Boyd at Finley Road on Thursday
 After a tour Thursday of the Finley Road (Whitehaven) campus of Southwest Community College, in a repurposed former shopping center, Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd touted a remedial catch-up program underway there and spoke of the irony that Shelby County, with its larger-than-usual poverty base, was experiencing a “flipped” ratio, whereby only 20 percent of tech-school certificates issued in the county are via public schools and 80 percent by private schools..

In the rest of Tennessee, the former state Commissioner of Economic Development said, 80 percent of such certificates are issued through public schools, as against 20 percent by private institutions. The imbalance in Shelby County, Boyd said, was due in large part to the simple lack of both accessible public facilities and adequate training equipment.

“We also need to do a better job of telemarketing,” he said.

The Knoxville-based Boyd was a major force in the development of several of Governor Bill Haslam’s innovations in post-secondary education, including Tennessee Promise, which offers free tuition to the state’s community colleges and technical schools and Drive to 55, which offers incentives for adult Tennesseeans to complete college degree programs left incomplete.

The pilot program in remedial English and math at Finley Road is meant to as a precursor to similar programs elsewhere that are designed to improve the preparedness of tech- and community college students, thereby to raise their graduation rate.. Candidate Boyd envisions further state programs to achieve that goal and has developed two non-profit programs that are potential models to that end, Tennesse Achieves and Complete Tennessee.

Clearly, Boyd intends, if elected Governor, to develop further the kinds of programs pioneered in the Haslam administration..

The former Commissioner professes not to be concerned about the activities of other announced gubernatorial candidates, who at this point on the Republican side include Frankiin businessman Bill Lee, who recently claimed significant fundraising results, or state Senator Mae Beaver, the most recent candidate to make a formal entry. Nor is he preoccupied with the matter of who else might enter the race

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the competition,” said Boyd, whose pre-governmental career was that of a highly successful entrepreneur. He recalled having “about 12 competitors” when he was developing Invisible Fences, a tech product designed to contain pets without the use of overtly physical barriers. “I just sold the features, and things worked themselves out.”

Not that Boyd is entirely oblivious to the practical task of dealing with rival candidates. His visit to Memphis included what he expected to be “a significant fundraiser” on Thursday night, and he has already spent a great deal of time criss-crossing the state on campaign tours. And while he runs, he runs. Literally.

Boyd begins each day with a five-mile run. (On Thursday, his schedule was brisk enough that he had to start his morning run at 4 a.m “Believe it or not, it’s my way to relax and compose myself.” he said.

After Shooting, Kustoff Sees "Reset" of Bipartisan Feeling

8th District GOP Congressman is hopeful that partisan rhetoric will now be "toned down."

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 7:44 AM

Rep. David Kustoff
  • Rep. David Kustoff


David Kustoff, the first-term Republican U.S. Representative elected last year to serve  the 8th District, keeps himself in good physical trim and is known to be a baseball fan, but he was not intending to play Tuesday night in the annual charity baseball game between congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats.

“I’ve been focused on my work,” said Kustoff. But he will definitely be in the full house expected to attend the game, still scheduled to go on at Nationals Stadium despite a gunman’s savage ambush Monday morning of several of his GOP colleagues, who were having an early-morning practice session for the game at a baseball diamond in suburban Alexandria, Virginia.

The attack would leave four victims wounded by automatic rifle fire, one severely — GOP House whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was in critical condition at a Washington hospital Monday night. The gunman was himself killed, apparently in a shootout with Capitol security guards who were assigned to guard Scalise and with Arlington police, who were late on the scene.

Kustoff, who with other House members attended an emergency session Monday morning that was addressed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and minority leader Nancy Pelosi, spoke of a sense of solidarity binding members of both parties in the wake of the attack said the catastrophic incident had brought about at least a temporary sense of unity.

"We all agreed that it was important that the game go on as a signal. All of us are concerned about violence and the tone of our discourse,” the Congressman said. “I think members of both parties are. Rhetoric has been heated, but hopefully it will be toned down, and we’ll see a reset.” The House is, after all, "the people's house," Kustoff said.

He expressed confidence also that Congress can successfully go about its business despite the ongoing crisis atmosphere stemming from the continuing investigation of possible collusion between members of the Trump administration and Russia.

On that point, Kustoff alluded to a remark made by Speaker Ryan. “As he said, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”


Monday, June 12, 2017

Commission Staffer Gets Award

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 3:44 PM

Clay Perry, longtime administrative assistant to the Shelby County Commission, was presented an award as "Administrator of the Year" from the National Association of Black County Officials" at Monday's meeting of the Commission. Presenter was Commissioner Terry Roland,

Federal Judgeship Rumored for Norris

State Senate Majority Leader has also been contemplating a gubernatorial race.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 11:53 AM

norris_contemplating.jpg


For months now state Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), majority leader of the Senate, has been suspended between a long-standing ambition to run for Governor and the possibility of an appointment to a federal judgeship. Norris deemed the latter prospect “an honor” when asked about it by the Flyer in February.

New reporting from various Tennessee media sources would indicate that the honor could be imminent. Both the Tennessean of Nashville and the Chattanooga Times-Free Press have run stories indicating that Norris has lately been the subject of the kind of FBI background check that precedes such a judicial appointment.

Two District judgeships are open, one vacated by Judge Hardy Mays, another by Judge Daniel Breen.
Appointment to one of the judgeships, besides being a career milestone in itself, would make irrelevant an existing dilemma faced by Norris in his acknowledged contemplation of a gubernatorial race.

The GOP-primary candidates already declared — former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and Franklin businessman Bill Lee — as well as another possible entry, 4th District congresswoman Diane Black, possess sources of funding, including private wealth, that Norris would have difficulty matching. And state House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), who would draw on some of the same legislative support as Norris, is also thinking of entering the race.

Under the circumstances, there is little doubt that Norris, trained in Constitutional law and possessor of a contemplative mind beyond his demonstrated skills as a legislator and conciliator, would accept a judicial appointment.

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