Friday, May 18, 2018

Keeping Score in Strickland's Tent at the Barbecue Fest

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley (left) regaled Mayor Jim Strickland and Strickland friend Tim Moran (right) with tales from the campaign season - JB
  • JB
  • Gubernatorial candidate Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley (left) regaled Mayor Jim Strickland and Strickland friend Tim Moran (right) with tales from the campaign season

The annual Memphis Barbecue Festival is under way downtown, and, as usual, the city’s chief executive — these days it’s Jim Strickland — opened things up on Wednesday night with an opening reception at the big mayoral tent, which, by tradition, was the first hospitality tent on the south end of Tom Lee Park, closest to the Beale Street.

The whole repertory of barbecue — mostly the several varieties of pork but including some chicken and spaghetti — was laid out on serving tables, along with beans, slaw, and dessert fixings. And, as the evening went on, the menu expanded to include an impressive number of movers and shakers on hand to sample the wares, guzzle the beer, wine, and sodas, but mainly just to schmooze and — this being an election year — to see and be seen.

A conspicuous visitor was Craig Fitzhugh, there in tow of some of his staffers — notably consultants Matt Kuhn and Mike Lipe. Fitzhugh was still riding a high from the gubernatorial debate the night before at Nashville’s David Lipscomb College, where he’d blindsided Democratic rival Karl Dean with an unexpected verbal thrust charging that Nashville’s mayor had, at the time of the capital city’s devastating 2008 flood, violated “public trust” by draining some $7.4 million from the HUD disaster relief fund extended to the city, in order to build the Ascend Ampitheater downtown.

During the Tuesday night debate, which for the most part had seemed the usual neighborly forum, with platitudes and candidates’ talking points predominating, Dean demanded time to respond and sputtered out something about how the indicated funds had instead been used for “flood mitigation.” By the next day, Dean rallied with a developed email explanation from his campaign manager Courtney Wheeler, the kernel of which was this:

“Let’s settle this right now with some facts: After the flood, the city received $33 million from a Community Development Block Grant. These funds were in addition to $87.1 million in FEMA assistance and $117 million Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for individuals and businesses. The city set up disaster information centers to help make sure people were applying for all of the assistance they were eligible for.

“Three years later, long after people had stopped turning in applications for assistance, Karl and the Metro Council repurposed $7.1 million of remaining grant money to mitigate against future floods and help our city’s economy fully recover with the redevelopment of Nashville’s west riverfront. This decision was vetted and approved by the Metro Council, MDHA, and HUD through a transparent, public process. As part of the project, the city built a below-ground seepage cut-off wall along the length of Nashville’s West Riverfront Park (where the amphitheater sits). This infrastructure fix slows down the movement of underground water and helps decrease the impact of future floods.”

Meanwhile, Fitzhugh press aide Trace Sharp had put out an email as well, this one extending the original attack:

“With all due respect, building a riverfront attraction with disaster relief does not fit my definition of fiscal responsibility,” said Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “I was disappointed to hear how the Dean administration abandoned flood victims in order to divert over seven million dollars in disaster relief to corporate cronies, contractors and consultants who had cozy relationships with the administration.”

“These funds were specifically designated to help 2010 flood victims with down payment assistance, rehab assistance and neighborhood clean-up. 52 counties across West and Middle Tennessee were declared federal disaster areas, including rural areas like Lauderdale County where I am from. There were homeowners who needed help and didn’t get it, people who drained out retirement accounts waiting for help that never arrived.”

However the argument gets disposed of in logical terms, it is serving the purposes of Fitzhugh, who, by his own and well as others’ reckoning, had been having difficulty making headway against his better-financed and larger networked Democratic rival.

Discussing the matter in Strickland’s tent on Wednesday night, Fitzhugh and his aides were downright giddy with excitement. “We had to do something to make a fight of this, and this is an issue,” said the candidate.

The other memorable moment from the Lipscomb debate, subject of a fair amount of chatter in Strrickland's tent,  had come when the five participating candidates — Democrats Fitzhugh and Dean and Republicans Beth Harwell, Randy Boyd, and
Bill Lee — were given a “lightning rod” question asking them to specify whether the public anti-gun campaign of the Parkland high school students after the massacre there had been ‘positive” or “negative.”

Everyone answered “positive” except for Lee, whose answer of “negative” was clearly meant to maintain his standing with Tennessee’s Second Amendment constituency. Recognizing in the aftermath that he might have sounded Scrooge-like in his answer, Lee also went the email route, thusly:

“FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Tonight, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee released the following statement after tonight's Leadership Tennessee Gubernatorial Forum that showed a clear contrast with other candidates about gun rights in Tennessee:
“This is common sense: law abiding citizens should not be punished for the actions of criminals. These kids have been through a horrible tragedy. But I’ve been sickened by how the liberal media, the teacher’s unions and the far left lobby have used these kids as props to push their anti-gun agenda.”

Whether the Franklin businessman had thereby dug himself in deeper or solidified his support with the gun crowd remains to be seen. Most of the reaction among the revelers in Strickland's tent was on the downside.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Candidate List filling up for Vacated Spinosa Seat on Council

Interim Appointment to be Followed by August Special Election

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 10:31 AM

The resignation, Friday before last, of Memphis City Councilman Philip Spinosa to become a vice president of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce has created a mad dash of sorts to replace him — first via interim appointment by the Council and thern by a replacement election in August.
Several names have been floated by themselves or others, either as interim appointees or as candidates in the special election or both.
Likely Council candidate Kenneth Whalum chats with supporter John Elkington at last weekend's Rotary—sponsored "Cafe du Memhis" at Tiger Lane. - JB
  • JB
  • Likely Council candidate Kenneth Whalum chats with supporter John Elkington at last weekend's Rotary—sponsored "Cafe du Memhis" at Tiger Lane.
The newest name to get serious currency is that of Ford Canale, golf coach at Christian Brothers College and funeral director at Canale Funeral Directors. Canale is considered a good bet to have backing from the Chamber/business elite group, including FedEx founder Fred Smith that has helped a substantial minority of Council members get into office. (Spinosa, for example).

Paul Morris, another Council hopeful, with children on grounds of Tiger Lane during Rotary's "Cafe du Memphis" - JB
  • JB
  • Paul Morris, another Council hopeful, with children on grounds of Tiger Lane during Rotary's "Cafe du Memphis"
Other names include Paul Morris, scion of a plugged-in Republican family who was recently head of the influential Downtown Memphis Commission; Kenneth Whalum, former School Board member and pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church; Heidi Shafer, the term-limited current chair of the Shelby County Commission; Jeff Warren, a physician who formerly sat on the now defunct Memphis School Board; and Stephanie Gatewood, another former School Board member who just lost a primaery election for the Shelby County Commission.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May 1 Election Signals Real Prospect of 2018 Blue Wave in Shelby County

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 9:18 AM

Democratic mayoral nominee Harris and campaign manager Danielle Inez (foreground) with celebrants Tuesday night
  • Democratic mayoral nominee Harris and campaign manager Danielle Inez (foreground) with celebrants Tuesday night

The bottom-line message of this week’s election results in Shelby County was that, in a low turnout election, Democrats were out in relative force. Their two candidates for Shelby County mayor — state Senator Lee Harris, winner with 34,081 votes in the Democratic primary over runner-up sidney Chism (10,435) — eclipsed the total vote for three ballyhooed GOP mayoral candidates: Trustee David Lenoir, with 18,408; Shelby County Commission firebrand Terry Roland 8,650, and Juvenile Court clerk Joy Touliatos (3,155). The two Democratic mayoral candidates polled roughly 13,000 more votes in their primary than did the three Republicans, who spent vastly more money and dominated news coverage. Shorter version: Yes, Virginia, there is a blue wave.

There were appreciably more Democrats running in the various primary races overall — an effect that will be duplicated in the August 2nd-round (county general election plus state and federal primaries) when, for example, Democratic candidates will be vying for every one of Shelby County’s 17 state House seats and the three state Senate seats on the ballot, while GOP candidates will be cherry-picking their seats from presumably solidly Republican areas. The memory must surely linger, however, of Democrat Dwayne Thompson’s upset win in 2016 over Republican incumbent Steve McManus in House District 96, a southeast Memphis/suburban collage that was showing residential change. GOP incumbent Jim Coley’s adjacent District 97 seat is being targeted in the same way with an aggressive campaign from Democrat Allan Creasy.

There have been other cracks in the once-homogeneous Republican establishment. Ed Roberson, a prominent GOP financial angel who has served as finance chair of campaigns by former Senators Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, has taken the same position locally with Democrat David Weatherspoon, one of two Democrats running in the Senate District 31 primary with the aim of knocking off Republican incumbent Brian Kelsey in November. One other Democrat in that race has an interesting backstory. It’s Gabby Salinas, a Bolivian transplant who came to Memphis as a child for cancer treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, survived, and vows to throw off Kelsey the same way she did her cancer. First, of course, she’ll have to get by Weatherspoon, who has raised far more money.

There will be more than one contested Democratic primary on August 2nd — a state of things reminiscent of the way Republican ballots looked when the GOP began its march to dominance back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The County general election on August 2nd also has the potential of becoming the basis for a Democratic rally. Mayoral nominee Harris is a Yale graduate, a law professor, and a polished African-American candidate with clear crossover potential, as was indicated in his prior victories for the Memphis City Council and state Senate, where he became minority leader of the Democrats’ rump Senate faction. Lenoir was undoubtedly the best GOP prospect to hold the party banner, but, again, this would appear to be a year in which the county’s majority Democratic demographic votes its numbers.

The Shelby County Commision already tilts 7-6 Democratic, and its District 5 bailiwick, now Republican, is shifting into the same kind of swing district that House District 96 became last election. Turnout between Democrats and Republicans was roughly equal during the just concluded county primary, creating grounds for optimism for Democratic nominee Michael Whaley, an educational administrator who is being guided by consultant Steven Reid, who last worked his magic for the winning campaigns of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in 2015 and 8th District Republican Congressman David Kustoff in 2016.

To be sure, the current four-way fight between Republican millionaires in the gubernatorial race will provide a reservoir of active Republican votes in August, but Democrats have their own game going — with Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh — to offset that somewhat.

Again: There’s the real possibility of a blue wave in Shelby County.


Kustoff was the speaker Wednesday at a luncheon of the Memphis Kiwanis club at the University Club, and it became his duty, as a former club member, to recognize guests at the luncheon, calling their names out in turn and asking them to rise for brief applause. One of the guests was John Boatner, a Democratic candidate for Kustoff’s seat. The Congressman said, “Stand up, John,” following that almost instantly with “Sit down,John.”

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Round One Ends With Lenoir, Harris as Ticket Leaders

Few surprises, but an upset or two mark what was a low-turnout election, with Democrats out-voting Republicans.

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 8:34 AM

Republican mayoral nominee David Lenoir faces the press at Evolve Bank on Poplar - JB
  • JB
  • Republican mayoral nominee David Lenoir faces the press at Evolve Bank on Poplar

In the end, there were few surprises. The candidates with the resources and the name supporters — e,g, David Lenoir, the triumphant Republican nominee for Shelby County mayor — won going away. Former office-holders got nominated for another shot — like Regina Morrison Newman, the Democrat who was serving as County Trustee until Lenoir beat her in 2010, or Republican Chris Thomas, the erstwhile Probate Court Clerk who chose not to seek reelection the same year, fearing a Democratic wave in the general election.

There were repudiations of familiar names — as when newcomer Brandon Morrison, flush with prominent suburban backing and lots of cash, easily turned out incumbent Steve Basar in the GOP primary for County Commission District 13; or when another newcomer, Temika Gipson, walloped old warhorse Del Gill by a 3-to-1 margin to become the Democratic nominee for Circuit Court Clerk.

It was something of a surprise when another newcomer, Shelandra Ford, whom most voters couldn’t pick out of a group shot but whose last name obviously reminded voters of a legendary political family that she bears no kinship to, edged out well-known party activist Adrienne Pakis-Gillon in the Democratic primary for Register of Deeds. But it was no surprise when bona fide clan member Edmund Ford Jr., a retiree from the City Council, won a majority vote over a flock of opponents in the Democratic primary for Commission District 9.

In terms of turnout, Shelby County Democrats — thought to represent a demographic majority in the county — finally made their numbers count. As one example of their edge over the Republicans in turnout, the two Democratic mayoral candidates, winner Lee Harris (34,081) and runner-up Sidney Chism (10,435) polled roughly 10,000 more votes in their primary than did Lenoir (18,408), Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland (8,650), and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos (3,155).

State Senator Harris thus goes into the general election campaign with some grounds for optimism, as do the Democrats at large, who in the last several county general elections have endured a series of sweeps and near-sweepts from the Republicans.

Other results:

In County Commission, District 1, Amber Mills, wife of GOP County Chairman Lee Mills, won as expected over Melody H. McLeary; Democrat Raxquel Collins was unopposed.

In Commission District 2, Republican David Bradford and Democrat Tom Carpenter were each unopposed in their primaries.

In Commission District 3, Mick Wright defeated Lindsey Massey in the GOP Primary; Monica Timmerman was unopposed in the Democratid primary.

In Commission District 4, Republican incumbent Mark Billingsley and Democrat Kevin Haley were both unopposed

In Commission District 5, Richard Morton beat Geoffrey Diaz in the GOP primary, and Michael Whaley beat Lawrence A. Pivnick.

In District 6, incumbent Democrat Willie Brooks had things to himself.

In District 7, Democrat Tami Sawyer outpointed Stephanie Gatewood and Eric Dunn; Sam Goff held up the Republican end.

In District 8, Mickell Lowery swamped runner-up J.B. Smiley in a crowded Democratic field;

In District 9, as indicated, it was Ed Ford uber alles, with Sharon Webb being the solitary Republican.

In District 10, incumbent Democrat Reginald Milton was unopposed.

In District 11, Democratic incumbent Eddie Jones turned away challenger Eric Winston.

In District 12, Democrat Van Turner was unopposed.

In District 13, newcomer Morrison blew incumbent Republican Basar away, while Democrat George Monger took care of another newwcomer, Charlie Belenky.

In the Assessor’s race, Republican Robert “Chip” Trouhy easily outpointed white nationalist Keith Alexander, while County Commission retiree Melvin Burgess defeated Lorie Ingram.

In the Sheriff’s race, Republican Dale Lane was unopposed, while Democrat Floyd Bonner easily defeated fellow Democrat Bennie Cobb.

In the Trusree’s race it was Democrat Newman over Joseph Lee and Derrick Bennett, while the GOP’s George Chism, ex- of the commission, defeated Dexter L. Orman.

Circuit Court Clerk: Gipson over Gill among Democrats; Tom Leatherwood easily over two Republican opponents

Criminal Court Clerk: Incumbent Richard DeSaussure was unopposed; Democrat Heidi Kuhn beat Carla Stotts Hills and Amanda Scott Hill.

Juvenile Court Clerk: Bobby Simmons over Robert Hill among Republicans; Janis Fullilove over two Democratic opponents.

Probate Court Clerk: Thomas back in over Boyd and George Summers in the GOP race; Councilman Bill Morrison unopposed among Democrats.

County Clerk: Wanda Halbert over the field among Democrats; Donna Creson over two other Republicans.

Current County Clerk Wayne Mashburn shifts over, unopposed; Ford upsets Pakis-Gillon.

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

GOP Mayoral Hopefuls Repudiate White Nationalist Alexander

Prospective Republican Ticket Heads Roland, Lenoir, and Touliatos all say Assessor candidate does not represent their party.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 28, 2018 at 8:54 PM

Keith Alexander (from a campaign poster)
  • Keith Alexander (from a campaign poster)
The three Republicans vying for the head-of-the-ticket party position in Tuesday’s countywide party primary have all taken note of recent news disclosures of Republican assessor candidate Keith Alexander’s white nationalist background and statements. And all three GOP candidates for Shelby County Mayor — Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, Trustee David Lenoir, and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos — repudiated Alexander for the record.

As pointed out in The Commercial Appeal Sunday in a front-page story by Mark Perrusquia and on the paper’s editorial page, Alexander has taken extreme positions as a former talk-show host on the radio program “The Political Cesspool” and elsewhere.

Some of Alexander’s statements:

“Martin Luther King was really a bad man. In fact, I doubt that very many people in the audience have within their circle of friends and acquaintances a man that was worse than Martin Luther King….[The Communists] had to give him plenty of money to keep him on task because if they hadn’t he would have just gone on into doing what so many black ministers do, which is to, you know, preying on his congregation — and chasing after the women in his congregation, too.”

“[African Americans] can’t solve any real problems like infant mortality or high crime rates or functional illiteracy and illegitimacy, things like that. But they can with the help of certain enablers from a certain religious persuasion start destroying Western civilization and white heritage.” (The remark about “a certain religious persuasion” closely resembles a staple attitude frequently voiced by known anti-Semites.)

Reactions from the would-be Republican standard-bearers to Alexander:

Commissioner Roland: I don’t even take him seriously as a candidate. He doesn’t stand for what I stand for. My record in support of the black community speaks for itself. In these days, we need people who unite rather than divide.

Trustee Lenoir: It does not represent me or anybody else in the Republican party. It surely is not characteristic of what the party is all about.

Clerk Touliatos: I’m shocked that some in the party knew that his opinions existed and didn’t condemn them earlier. His comments and attitudes are not what the party of Lincoln stands for.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Where the Grass Isn’t Greener for the GOP

In Nashville, there are no — count 'em, zero — Republican candidates running for county office.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 4:02 PM

People still contend that Shelby County is the nexus of the Democratic Party in Tennessee. This is despite the fact that Democrats, who in theory have held the demographic edge locally for two decades, have had grievous difficulty winning even isolated positions in countywide elections.

This year could be different, of course. There are numerous signs that the blue wave supposedly building elsewhere in the U.S. will inundate Shelby County, as well. It’s a fact that, in the next election coming up, the county general-cum-state-and-federal primary election on August 2nd, there will be more Democrats on the ballot than Republicans.

But Shelby County is not and never has been the center of Democratic Party strength in Tennessee. That distinction belongs to Nashville. Yup, the prideful sister city up I-40, the capital city, the site of a state government that can be pretty damn laissez-faire about what happens in Memphis.

The fact is that, for better or for worse, Nashville is the last place on earth where the old Solid Democratic South still exists, where whites as well as blacks have a better chance of being elected to countywide (in their case, Metro-wide) office as Democrats.

Here’s some instructive proof of the fact — a Facebook post from Don Johnson, a Memphis transplant (and a Republican) now toiling in the vineyard of GOP Governor Bill Haslam.

April 24 at 7:53pm ·

If you are a Republican voter in Nashville you may have noticed that there are *no candidates* to vote for in the May 1 Republican primary.
Not one GOP candidate for any office.
No Republican Judges. No Republican Sheriff. No Republican Clerks. ...
Sure it would be near-impossible for a Republican to win a county-wide race here, but we've just given the Dems a free ride in August without having to even pretend that our votes matter.
The blame falls on all of us who failed to act upon the belief that every voter has a right to choose a conservative alternative.
You should absolutely still vote and make your voice heard - one way or the other - in the transit referendum. You can leave the other boxes blank or write-in your neighbor's cat.
Meanwhile in Shelby County, nearly every office has multiple qualified and competent GOP candidates to choose from. Be thankful for these men and women who have proudly stepped forward and for the dedicated and determined party organization that nurtures and supports them.

(Whereupon Johnson, to illustrate his point, prints out the Republican-primary part of the Davidson County Metro ballot. Below.)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Weekend Review: Confederate Statues Loom Over GOP Debates

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 8:59 AM

Candidates Boyd, Lee, and Black at Halloran Center
  • Candidates Boyd, Lee, and Black at Halloran Center

If there was a common theme in the two important debates held in Memphis on Wednesday — one for three Republican county mayor candidates at the Marriott East and another for three GOP gubernatorial candidates at the Halloran Center Downtown — it was one that would surely have gratified the ghosts of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Both sets of Republicans criticized actions by the city of Memphis that resulted in the removal of statues of the two Confederate luminaries from their pedestals last December 20th, maneuvering around an unyielding state law by selling the parks containing the statutes to an ad hoc nonprofit that went on to have them removed legally.

Aside from the unanimity on the point in the ranks of Republican candidates, the most interesting aspect of things was that it was the local candidates — would-be county mayors Terry Roland, David Lenoir, and Joy Touliatos — who went on to justify the harsh action of the state legislature in punishing the city by voting to strike from the state budget some $250,000 previously earmarked for Memphis’ forthcoming centennial celebration. It remains to be seen how much such a stand will cost the eventual GOP nominee in the likely general election race with Democrat Lee Harris.

The visiting Republicans running for governor — Franklin businessman Bill Lee; Knoxville native Randy Boyd, the former state Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd; and U.S. Representative Diane Black of the 6th District in Middle Tennessee — were more cautious, too much on their Ps and Qs to say anything untoward about Memphis (they were here to solicit votes, after all). But they all insisted that the statues should have been left in place and in peace — not as a matter of approbation but as “reminders” of our history. As warnings, if you will.

Right. Like all those statues of Hitler that never were in post-war democratic Germany and those of Stalin that were relegated to a junk yard in Moscow’s Gorky Park after the Soviet dictator’s posthumous fall from favor.

It was the first common appearance by the three GOP candidates to be televised statewide (originating via WATN, Channel 24, locally), and it was billed in advance (and again from the stage) as not being yet another meaningless forum in which everybody would end up restating the same platitudes, but a bona fide battle royal, a “debate.”

It wasn’t. There was little overt disagreement and minimal effort to create it. The Republican “debaters” observed uniformity not only in the politesse of not wanting to punish Memphis for its offing of statuary history, but the three of them — all Middle Tennessee residents — became an outright amen chorus to the idea that Memphis has been shafted by the state relative to other sections of Tennessee.

Black went so far as to say that the city had been the victim of “Nashville neglect,” though her prescriptions for remedying the problems of West Tennessee seemed to focus on doing something about the area’s putative high crime rate. Lee called for tailoring special incentives to West Tennessee, and Boyd, as is his wont, cited statistics to justify his efforts on behalf of the area as former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic Development.

There was a good deal of Pete-and-Repeat to the candidates’ responses on most issues — on their reluctance to consider granting in-state tuition offsets to children of illegal immigrants, for example, or on means of coping with the state’s opioid-abuse epidemic, the three concurring on what Nashville TV anchor bob Mueller characterized as a “treatment-first” approach. (Businessman Lee, who has often invoked his first wife’s accidental death as the impetus for his involvement in public life referred to it in his answer to yet another focusing tragedy, a death in is family from an opioid overdose but declined to discuss any details during his later encounter with reporters in the ad hoc spin room of the Halloran Center.

Some of the candidate unanimity was more apparent than real. When Mueller asked for a show of hands from those who approved arming teachers as a response to gun violence, only Lee shot his arm up right away. Both Boyd and, perhaps surprisingly, Black were more grudging with their immediate responses, each waiting several seconds before raising their hands — and slowly at that.

And Boyd would insist later that he had been more enthusiastic than the other two about pre-K education, allowing for state support of selected programs, whereas Lee and Black were dubious about the “mixed results of pre-K, though each would endorse the importance of “early childhood education.”

In addition to the questions asked of all candidates, the three panelists — Mueller; Richard Ransom of the host station, Channel 24 in Memphis; and Eric Barnes of WKNO-TV, the local PBS station — attempted to nudge loose specific answers with follow-up questions and one round of questions designed for the candidates individually.

Barnes prodded Boyd to explain the lagging development of the West Tennessee megasite (an area on which the former commissioner can expect more gigging from his opponents in time to come). Boyd answered essentially that other industrial sites elsewhere — the Volkswagen site in Chattanooga, for example — had experienced growing pains, too, but had turned out all right. He said that the West Tennessee megasite should be completed by the first summer of his initial term, if elected.

Ransom wondered of Rep. Black how her vote as a state Senator to ease the awarding of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants squared with her "no" answer on the matter of in-state tuition. She had done so at the urging of the Department of Safety, she answered, but had labored afterwards to correct the “mistake.”

The response of attendees at the Halloran Center was, by and large, guarded, in the same way that candidates’ answers had been, with previously known partisan of this or that candidate asserting that their favorite had triumphed but uncommitted persons remaining that way, as well.

It should be noted, however, that Black’s claque in the Halloran Center auditorium made conspicuously more noise when the candidates were first introduced to the crowd.

Sharper Contrasts — and Some Sniping

On the whole, sharper contrasts had been drawn at the earlier debate between Republican county mayor candidates — in the nature of specific answers to questions as well as in the idiosyncratic differences between the candidates. In general, Roland related most matters to his own actions and experience as an eight-year veteran of the county commission, including one term as chairman. Lenoir relied both on what he saw as his accomplishments and in specific, blueprint-like proposals for future action. Touliatos was more general and more attuned to a single theme — that of harmony between components of society and government, which she saw her personality as being well-suited to achieve.

A case in point was the way in which all three principals answered a question about racial and gender disparities in county business. Roland claimed credit for the very existence of a recent county disparity study and the creation of an MBWE program (for minority and women-owned business enterprises) on his watch as chair. Lenoir said he’d “put my money where my mouth is” by investing $30 million of county funds in Tri-State Bank of Memphis, a black-owned enterprise. And Touliatos said the county should provide potential applicants with assistance on paperwork and other obstacles.

On revenues and the stimulation of new economic development, Roland, as is his wont, criticized PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-tax) arrangements and evangelized for TIFs, which adapt existing tax revenues to developmental purposes. Lenoir said there should be “real tax reduction” and attacked what he said was the “smoke and mirrors” of the 2017 budget resolution, which technically included a tax-rate reduction boasted by Roland but, Lenoir claimed, actually raised taxes on most citizens. Touliatos noted that anything the mayor did would be subject to a commission majority and said she would bend her efforts toward augmenting the relationship.

On that point, Roland said, in effect, that the cause of the ongoing power struggle between the commission and current Mayor Mark Luttrell was that the latter had never served on a legislative body and “never comes down except to fuss with us,” while Lenoir contended that he had worked on building a good relationship with the mayor and other officials.

On relations with Shelby County’s various municipalities and school systems, Lenoir said his preferred mode would be to use the prerogatives of his office to convene and call meetings where agreements could be hammered out. Touliatos said that county government had to “have some kind of control over education” other than merely appropriating money and promised to “talk with the people involved.” Roland said, “Nothing’s going to change in education unless we have overnight and a line-item veto over the school budget.”

All three candidates responded to a question about protecting schools from gun violence by saying beefing up a training security force would help. (Roland noted that sheriff’s deputies already patrol the high schools.) And all three said they would prefer returning to non-partisan elections for county government and abandoning the current party-primary phase of elections.

But there was occasional sniping, even on commonplace matters. Once, after Roland had boasted giving Moore Tech College of Technology funds for a welding curriculum, Lenoir began his answer by saying, “Yes, he gave them your money.”

There were no great surprises in the mayoral debate until there came a question about the best means for local government to resist state encroachments on its prerogatives, like wage and drug policy, matters of discrimination, and authority over local monuments.

That was when the statues matter came to the forefront. Roland said, “Until people quit thumbing their nose at Nashville, there’s nothing we can do.” He said that he and fellow Commissioner Walter Bailey had been working behind the scenes with private interests to remove the bodies of General Forrest and his wife to the general’s birthplace, but that those plans were scotched when the city “came like a thief in the night” to take the monuments down.

Lenoir said that he believed in both limited government and local control but agreed with Roland that the city’s action (technically that of the non-profit to which the city had sold the host parks) in removing the Forrest and Davis statues “late at night, on a Friday, under cover of darkness no doubt sent the wrong message.” And Touliatos agreed that the matter had been handled inappropriately. ‘If you’re going to go against state law, then there are going to be repercussions.”

Statements made at forums can have repercussions, too, and there’s not much doubt that brief moment of discussion about Confederate statues will be revisited, perhaps at some length, during the forthcoming general election. Either one of the two Democratic candidates running — Lee Harris or Sidney Chism — would doubtless make sure of that.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Weekend Review: Focus on Willie Herenton, Phil Bredesen, and Bob Corker

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 4:15 PM

Bredesen, Corker, Herenton - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Bredesen, Corker, Herenton
Willie Herenton became an epochal cultural figure upon his election in 1991 as Memphis’ first elected African-American mayor. He went on to run the city for 18 years before retiring under pressure in 2009. He tried a comeback in 2010, with a race for the 9th District Congressional seat, but lost by a 79-to-21 percent margin to Congressman Steve Cohen in the overwhelmingly black district.

Now Herenton is embarked on a new race for mayor in 2019, announced last Thursday in the wake of the MLK50 commemorations in honor of the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike and assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr. Though the former mayor’s announcement engendered real excitement for many of his former supporters, some political observers see his race against Cohen — haphazard, impulsive, underfunded, and ill-prepared — as foreshadowing the likely result of the 78-year-old Herenton’s latest surprise comeback attempt.

Herenton’s declared reason for running again is to "complete the mission" of Dr. King, and the difficulty of his undertaking is amplified by Mayor Jim Strickland’s relatively good 2015 showing among black voters and by Strickland’s success in increasing black business contracts with the city and in removing Confederate war memorials.

Herenton disclosed some of his views in an interview this week with podcaster Brian Clay at Crosstown Concourse: “I had the privilege of marching with Dr. King on two occasions when he came to Memphis, 28 years ago,” said Herenton, then a Memphis city schools principal and later schools superintendent. “I stood in front of City Hall wearing an ‘I Am a Man’ sign. I always had a social conscience. I’m always addressing injustice.”

The former mayor said that “50 years later, I had to look in the mirror again.” He quoted the Socratic axiom: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Herenton added, ”We have become a very, very poor city. ... We cannot separate economics from education, history has taught me.” He spoke of “a correlation” between failing schools, failing health care, housing, and numerous other issues.

But Herenton cautioned voters to have “reasonable expectations” and said that, while he could promise to “give the very best managerial skill, vision, and boldness” he had, “no magic wand and could not by himself, cure 'generational poverty.'” He said, “I’m not going to promise you that poverty is going to go away or that people will stop killing each other.”
The former mayor faulted himself for not having prepared a proper successor during his 18 years as mayor. While making a point of not criticizing the current administration of Strickland, Herenton said he had the “energy and passion now to make some needed changes. It’s a new economy now. ... Memphis cannot be a growth city paying people starvation wages.”

In addition to earlier reports in the Flyer, here is additional information on recent appearances and statements in Memphis by former Governor Phil Bredesen and retiring U.S. Senator Bob Corker:

In an interview with the Flyer last week, Bredesen, now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, made it clear that his middle-of-the-road campaign rhetoric is no accident: “In our state, I need to capture a lot of middle-of-the-road voters — even a few of what I would call economic Republicans.” To that end, the former governor acknowledged he was "not crazy" about the Affordable Care Act, but "it's on the books, and we've got to try to make it work."

In general, said Bredesen, the Democratic Party has “narrowed too much” and adopted “too many litmus tests. ... We have to win if we want to govern again.”

Bredesen theorized about the desirability of having a close working relationship with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, if elected: “I haven’t talked to Lamar about linking, but he’s a good example of people in both parties who, if they got together, could make a comprehensive start to be a block of 10 or 12 to start to do something. I’d like to be a part of a movement like that.”

Two days later, Alexander announced his support in the Senate race for fellow Republican Marsha Blackburn.

Referring to retiring GOP Senator Bob Corker as “a thought leader in the Senate” and a “straight shooter,” Mayor Strickland introduced Corker at a luncheon meeting of the rotary club of Memphis at Clayborn Temple last week.

Corker said he continued to have disagreements with President Trump, though he hadn’t made a point of emphasizing the fact on each occasion. But, among other things, the Senator declared that the president’s tweeting habit was “very harmful, and he expressed concern about the strong likelihood that Trump intends to abrogate U.S. adherence to the current multinational agreement withholding sanctions on Iran if that nation maintains a freeze on its development of nuclear-weapon capability.

Corker said that Iran could be “off and running” on a nuclear pathway if the agreement ceased to be, and he said a better course than renouncing the agreement would be to seek modification, in tandem with America’s European allies, of the pact’s current 10-year “sunset” provision. Otherwise, he said, it was doubtful that the Europeans would follow Trump’s lead in scrapping the agreement.

“I personally think we’d be better off keeping the agreement in place,” Corker said.
The senator also deplored Congress’ recent passage of a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill but said, “The system works better than you think. ... Believe it or not, Washington reflects the country much more fully than you think.”

And he said he’d been “terribly impressed” by the vigor and commitment of the students from Parkland High School who have launched an ongoing national campaign for anti-gun legislation.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Steve Cohen: Not a Fan of Mike Cohen, Roy Cohn

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 9:33 AM

Memphis congressman Steve Cohen was a guest on Lawrence O'Donnell's "The Last Word" program on MSNBC Wednesday night, and he was asked about the latest kerfuffle involving seizure of assets from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

The congressman riffed on the similarity of his own last name to that of Michael Cohen as well as the late Trump/Joe McCarthy mentor and Mafia helper, lawyer Roy Cohn:
  • Jackson Baker
  • Steve Cohen

"I’m a Cohen, and I hate the fact that Michael ... I wish Michael Cohen would change his last name and that Roy Cohn would have never lived, because they’re giving us a bad name. Roy Cohn was one of the worst people in the world, and Donald Trump loved him and emulated him and held him up as a mentor, which says something about Donald Trump, who’s trying to be beyond Roy Cohn as the worst person in the world."

With a big smile, host O'Donnell bid good night to guest Cohen, referring to him as "the honorable Steve Cohen, gentleman from Tennessee."

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

MLK50: A Day to Remember in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 7:05 PM

There was a chill in the air, but the sky was clear and the sun was bright as tens of thousands of people from all over the world converged on downtown Memphis for a full day of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Beginning mid-morning, thousands rallied at Beale and Danny Thomas in front of AFSCME Local 1733 headquarters, where a festival-sized stage had been erected. Speakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, whipped up the crowd for economic justice, with topics ranging from the need for universal health care to the Fight For $15 movement to increase the minimum wage. Performers included 1980s superstar Sheila E. 
  • Maya Smith

Backstage, politicians, and union members mingled. Survivors from the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike were treated as superstars, with Rev. James Lawson attracting throngs of admirers. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean shook hands, praised Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of struggle, and affirmed his support for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.

When it came time for the crowd to become marchers, the schedule slipped, as logistical challenges—as well as the challenge of corralling several thousand fired-up leftists—mounted. There were further delays when media photographers and videographers scrummed as Yolanda Renee King, Dr. King’s granddaughter, took her place at the vanguard of the march. Eventually, organizers and the strong police presence cleared out the media obstructions and the chanting throngs proceeded down Danny Thomas in an more orderly fashion. Included were representatives from the Teamsters, the Airline Pilots Association, and the NAACP, among many other represented groups.

At the National Civil Rights Museum, speakers and music began early in the day as crowds swarmed in and out. From a podium in front of the Lorraine Motel's fateful room 306, speakers emphasized that, at the end of his life, Dr. King was increasingly concerned with economic justice In contrast with the more hagiographic tone of the 40th anniversary ceremonies, these proceedings were explicitly political. “Agitate, organize vote. And we must stay woke!” was a typical comment from the podium, which was set up on the balcony where King was killed. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, leader of the revived Poor People’s Campaign, delivered some of the proceedings most powerful words, quoting King with “Nothing would be more tragic than to turn back now...”

In a pointed reference to incidents in Memphis that occurred earlier in the week, Barber said “We lock people up who fight for $15 when we let corporate crooks go every day.”

Barber pointed out the grinding poverty in Memphis before expanding his scope to the entirety of Tennessee, where 1.4 million poor people “Mostly white, mostly women and children” still struggle, while the “governor and the legislature have refused to pass living wage, but they have passed voter suppression, and you have some politicians so arrogant that they will stand on this stage and say they honor Dr. King, while every day they dishonor him with policy.”

Later, the targets of Barber’s words took the stage to the day’s most raucous—and hilarious—reception. Mayor Jim Strickland was greeted with a growing chorus of jeers and chants, which continued as Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell spoke. When Congressman Steve Cohen took the stage, the crowd fell respectfully silent and applauded his calls for universal health care. Then it was Governor Bill Haslam’s turn. His good natured, conciliatory boilerplate was greeted with boos and laughter. As he left the stage, the term limited governor was sent off with chants of “Hey hey hey, goodbye.”

When Rev. Lawson took the podium to eulogize his friend and call to renew Dr. King’s mission in the 21st century, his words echoed across the rapt plaza. Lawson recalled meeting King for the first time on December 8, 1955, and that same day Rosa Parks had said to him “God has given us our Moses.”

Lawson blamed much of our country’s current ills on what he called a culture of violence. “The nonviolent struggle is true to beginning theology and philosophy of American that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with the inalienable right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness. That is the language of the nonviolent movement...If we continue our worship of the god of Mars, of violence, we will not only destroy ourselves, we will transform our planet into a cold hunk of starstuff.”

Speakers continued right up until 6:01 PM, when the bell from Clayborn Temple rang out at the moment of Dr. King’s assassination. After a moment of silence punctuated by sobs from the crowd, the opening chords of “Precious Lord” rang out across the plaza. Al Green’s soulful rendition of Dr. King’s favorite spiritual was as powerful and profound a musical moment as this reporter has ever witnessed. Then, as he was joined on the stage by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Green said “They told me to do just one song, but I think we’ve got time for another” and whipped his band into “Love and Happiness” as Jackson grinned and sang along. The final moments of beauty and chaos capped the profoundly moving day in the most Memphis way possible.

Our political columnist Jackson Baker was on the way to cover the day’s events when he fell ill and asked me to fill in for him. I hope I have treated his space with the respect it deserves and wish him a speedy recovery.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Calling B.S.

Posted on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 10:59 AM


In the wake of the tragic shootings at Parkland, Fla., student Emma Gonzales famously called B.S. on some of the evasive pseudo-solutions to gun violence being talked about. So did this week's Flyer editorial about the absence of serious proposals on the subject from a debate for GOP County Mayor candidates. Go here to read.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mayoral Forums Provide a Side-by-Side Contrast

Political audiences profit from chances to evaluate joint appearances by the candidates for county Mayor.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 11:38 AM

Filling in the Gaps — That will be the task of future mayoral forums, including the one scheduled for Monday night at Rhodes College. Absent from last Thursday's NAACP forum, moderated by WREG's Alex Coleman and April Thompson,  were Republicans David Lenoir and Joy Touliatos. - JB
  • JB
  • Filling in the Gaps — That will be the task of future mayoral forums, including the one scheduled for Monday night at Rhodes College. Absent from last Thursday's NAACP forum, moderated by WREG's Alex Coleman and April Thompson, were Republicans David Lenoir and Joy Touliatos.
 UPDATE AND REVISION: This version of a previously published online story has been revised by the light of more accurate information than was available for the first version, which — not to dance away from it — contained a suggestion or two that, in the light of a better understanding of candidates and their motives, may not have been justified.

Monday night provided a high public opportunity to see a one-on-one involving two prime contenders for the job of Shelby county Mayor this year. The two — County Commissioner Terry Roland and Trustee David Lenoir — may well be the leading contenders in the mayoral race, at least on the Republican side, and they clearly have no great affection for each other. The outcome of Monday night's forum is dealt with in a separate story, to be published in the Flyer's print edition this week and to be made available online as well.

Roland, who is — relative to Lenoir, anyhow —cash-poor but whose name recognition in Shelby County may well be unexcelled, has certainly been much on display and has turned up at every attempt to arrange a mayoral forum so far — including one held by the NAACP at the National Civil Rights Museum last Thursday.

Lenoir and another GOP candidate, Juvenile Court clerk Joy Touliatos, were absent from the NAACP affair on account of what were said to be schedule conflicts, though apparently there have been a couple of other joint appearance opportunities recently at other forms, one at a local Republican club.

Some cynics had been known to voice suspicions that Lenoir, who has a good deal of support from the GOP establishment and is the leading money-raiser by far among all candidates, might choose to pursue a low-risk strategy of avoiding confrontations and letting his money speak for itself in the form of advertising and yard signs.

That strategy has been followed before in local political races — notably by a couple of well-heeled City Council contestants in 2015. But, on the evidence of Monday night, it would not seem to be the strategy of Trustee Lenoir, who remains the favorite to win the GOP primary, in many people’s minds.

In any case, the Rhodes College Republicans created a clear opportunity for a joint appearance by Roland, Lenoir, and Touliatos on Monday night at the college’s Briggs Hall, and all three Republican contestants rose to the challenge.

If, as a rule of thumb, Roland has been more ubiqutous at various stump opportunities and called events, that, as indicated, is related to his need for, and reliance on, free media, in a campaign against opponents who have, for whatever reasonl raised more funding.

As he told the audience at Thursday night’s NAACP affair, “I don’t have the banks backing me, so I have to work to get m
Almost all of the NAACP forum consisted of an informative back-and-forth between Democratic candidates Lee Harris (l) and Sidney Chism. - JB
  • JB
  • Almost all of the NAACP forum consisted of an informative back-and-forth between Democratic candidates Lee Harris (l) and Sidney Chism.
y money to talk to y'all.” That was his way of telling the crowd that, after making his obligatory opening statement, he would have to be off to a long-scheduled fundraising affair elsewhere.

That made the Millington County Commissioner’s brief stint something of a cameo appearance, during which he professed an intention to “redo” distressed urban areas while avoiding “regentrification.”

Almost all of the NAACP forum consisted of an informative back-and-forth between Democratic candidates Lee Harris (l) and Sidney Chism.

Acknowledging that in a previous forum (in which Roland had appeared alone with Touliatos) he “didn’t answer it right” when asked about Black Lives Matter, having answered with the phrase “All lives matter,” he took another stab at it. He told the predominantly African-American attendees at the NCRM that he knew the issue denoted such matters as police injustice against black youths. He went on to stress his involvement on the Commission with generating a disparity study of black employment opportunities and an MBWE program to increase the proportion of women and minorities with county jobs and contracts, as well as with the renaming of the Courthouse for the late D’Army Bailey.

Roland’s departure after his opening statement turned the rest of the NAACP forum into a one-on-one involving the two Democratic contenders — state Senator Lee Harris and former Commissioner and longtime political broker Sidney Chism, a former interim member of the state Senate himself.

Though in his campaign kickoff event last fall, Chism had lambasted Harris as a candidate of “the fat boys that make all the decisions in this town” and vowed to “beat up on him morning, noon, and night,” both he and Harris were paragons of politeness to each other.

And they were on the same page on most issues, including that of the “fat boys,” if that term is meant to apply to the established powers-that-be in Memphis and Shelby County. Early on, Harris made a point of challenging most local growth initiatives as schemes for “transferring tax money to corporate interests,” expressing himself in perfect solidarity on such points with Chism.

The two Democrats also sounded similar notes on other subjects — crime, which they saw as needing preventive approaches and re-entry programs more than punitive responses per se; education, where they both favored building up pre-K and providing vo-tech opportunities; gun violence, with both candidates disdaining the idea of arming teachers and favoring strict background checks for gun sales and restriction or banning of assault weapons; opioid addiction, regarding which both candidates favored litigation independent of state action.

Both candidates also endorsed the city’s action in having removed controversial Confederate monuments from city parks and cited their own prior activities on behalf of various minority populations — including those based on gender identification.

Both expressed concern about the county’s limited access to revenue, and Harris came up with a novel approach for taxing non-residents who use county infrastructure, whereby city residents could have their downtown parking fees rebated and visitors could not.

All in all, the two-man portion of Thursday night’s forum (which was most of it) proved to be an ideal way for an audience to compare the candidates side by side and to get a sense of where they were coming from on issues.

It remained for the Monday night Rhodes event to provide what may have been the best opportunity to date for the three Republican candidates to interact with each other similarly. And they did, making some clear differentiations as to the nature of their outlooks and candidacies.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Race to Watch in County Commission District 13

A surprise newcomer, Brandon Morrison, emerges as a threat in the Republican primary to incumbent Commissioner Basar, while Democratic favorite George Monger vies with another novice, Charlie Belenky,

Posted By on Sun, Mar 25, 2018 at 11:08 PM

  • District 13 Commissioner Basar
For the third time in his relatively brief political career, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Basar is up against a determined political  woman. His  batting average so far is .500, with 1 win out of 2 tries, but he’s up  against what would appear to be a serious challenge in his reelection effort this year in the Republican primary for District 13.

Basar won his seat in 2012 after defeating the comeback bid of once-influential social conservative Marilyn Loeffel in the GOP primary for a Commission seat vacated by Mike Carpenter. In the general, he would win an expected victory in his preponderantly Republican multi-member district over blogger/high-tech professional Steve Ross, the Democratic nominee.
GOP challenger Brandon Morrison
  • GOP challenger Brandon Morrison
Once in office, Basar became chair of the Commission’s economic development committee and made a point of opposing some well-backed high-profile developments in the downtown area while cheerleading for others, incurring controversy both ways.

He would become Commission vice chair and began to harbor ambitions for the Commission’s budget-committee chairmanship, a fact which did him no good with a onetime supporter, then committee chair Commissioner Heidi Shafer, also a Republican. For that reason among others, Shafer would devote her considerable influence to blocking what Basar had thought to be his automatic elevation to the chairmanship in 2014. Democrat Justin Ford would become chairman instead.

In the fallout from that defeat, Republican Basar entered into an operative alliance with the Commission’s Democrats on a series of procedural issues, then lost a second bid for the chairmanship in 2015 when fellow Republican Terry Roland pried away the vote of Eddie Jones, one of Basar’s Democratic allies.

Here it is 2018, and Basar assumed he could at least count on a safe reelection in his East Memphis/suburban District 13. There was no sign of anxiety on his part during a well-attended fundraiser of his last week at East Memphis restaurant Owen Brennan’s. Basar seemed unconcerned at the prospect of businessman George Monger and newcomer Charlie Belenky publicly competing for the Democratic nomination.

But it is now obvious that Basar has serious trouble in his own party primary from the previously unheralded Brandon Morrison, a political novice herself but a woman with good standing in social and civic circles, well-steered by seasoned consultant Brian Stephens, and with increasingly visible support from Republicans — and well-heeled ones at that — in District 13. Indeed, as yard signs bearing her name began to sprout, the word was getting out — and fast — that she might actually be the favorite in the GOP primary
Monger (l) with supporters at Novel fundraiser - J B
  • J B
  • Monger (l) with supporters at Novel fundraiser

Democrat Monger is a former Election Commissioner and business/political prodigy of sorts who is the clear favorite in his own primary (though Belenky, a newcomer to Memphis, is certainly working hard). As Monger, a fiscal conservative capable of appealing to moderate Republicans, noted to supporters at a Friday fundraiser at the Novel bookstore, “We started out thinking we had a ‘Bye-bye Steve’ campaign to run, but now it looks like he’ll be taken care of before we can get to him.”

Democrat Belenky
  • Democrat Belenky

Whoever wins out in the Democratic primary may find it necessary to compete hard for crossover votes in the general election. Basar himself is considered a moderate, and, while Morrison is still something of a mystery to the general public, her campaign website makes a point of underscoring the principle of “diversity” and contains this passage:

“…We are a city with soul, offering a wonderful and welcoming vibe that appeals to young people. We must work hard to keep them here.

“We also face serious challenges, such as crime and poverty. It is unthinkable that so many Shelby County School students live in extreme poverty. About 40,000 of our 115,000 Shelby County School students live in a household earning less than $10,000 annually. We must do better….”

Whatever happens, the race for District 13, a swing district of sorts in the narrowly divided Commission, is going to be one worth watching.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Some You Win, Some You Lose...

Memphis representatives fight the good fight in committee, on student voting and Confederate statues — with varying results.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 10:56 AM

Students protesting "No justice, no peace!" after House subcommittee refuses to hear their plea to authenticate student IDs for voting.
  • Students protesting "No justice, no peace!" after House subcommittee refuses to hear their plea to authenticate student IDs for voting.

A foiled attempt on Wednesday by Memphis Democrat G.A. Hardaway to secure inclusion of photo IDs from state colleges as legitimate qualifiers for voting ended in vocal protests from attending college students when, after extended argument, Hardaway’s attempted amendment of HB2457 was turned down in a roll call vote of 4-2 of the House Local government subcommittee.

Students in the audience from Fisk and Tennessee State University had been prevented from speaking on the measure by chairman Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), and when the voting was over, rose as a body, protesting the outcome and chanting “No Justice, No Peace” until, at the chair’s direction, they were escorted out of the hearing room by the sergeant ay arms.

An attempt, a week earlier in the House Criminal Justice subcommittee, by another Memphis Democrat to block legislation pertaining to Memphis’ removal of its Confederate statues was more successful. Rep. Antononio Parkinson (D-Memphis) objected on constitutional grounds to HB2552 by Rep. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), which would make it a Class E felony by members of local bodies to knowingly vote in conflict with state or federal laws on immigration or memorials.

Though White never acknowledged it as such, the bill was clearly, as Parkinson said, aimed at Memphis’ recent action in removing memorials to Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis. There was an extended back-and-forth between Parkinson and White about legal nuances of the legislation during which Parkinson asked the sponsor if she was a lawyer.

The same question was turned on Parkinson by committee member Tilman Goins (R-Morristown), to which Parkinson gave the answer, “No, but I slept in a Holiday Inn last night.” White's bill meanwhile was ultimately voted into the limbo of summer study.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On Doing No Harm

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 3:45 AM

Maybe Tennessee, just now without any pro- or anti-gun legislation on the docket in deference to Governor Haslam's appointment of a task force, is in a position to practice the maxim "First, Do No Harm." Read this week's editorial here.

Speaking of School Consolidation


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