Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another Big Shoe Drops with Lane's Entry in Sheriff's Race

County Homeland Security director holds kickoff rally in Millington; considered major contender for GOP nomination.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:24 AM

The voice on the other end of Dale Lane's cell phone is his chief endorser, County Mayor Mark Luttrell, tied up in Nashville but eager to speak, via microphone,  to Lane's kickoff crowd. - JB
  • JB
  • The voice on the other end of Dale Lane's cell phone is his chief endorser, County Mayor Mark Luttrell, tied up in Nashville but eager to speak, via microphone, to Lane's kickoff crowd.

Close on the heels of Democratic candidate Floyd Bonner’s kickoff of his campaign for Sheriff two weeks ago at the Racquet Club, another big shoe dropped last Thursday when county Homeland Security director Dale Lane, a leading Republican candidate for trhe office, had his own kickoff affair in Millington.

Lane’s was a homier affair, held at the Mid-South Auction Group & Marketplace in Millington, but, like current chief Deputy Bonner, who was endorsed by his boss, outgoing Sheriff Bill Oldham, Lane had some bigtime backing, too. His came from County Mayor Luttrell, who served two terms as Sheriff himself before his election as Mayor in 2010.

An obstacle to Lane’s announcement of the Luttrell endorsement was the fact that the Mayor had been in Nashville and was still en route back to Memphis. That logistical problem was solved via some everyday technology: Lane got Luttrell on his cell phone and had him speak to the assembled crowd by holding the phone to a microphone.
Candidate Lane also gets a boost from wife, Karen, and baby grandson Braxton Allen Lane. - JB
  • JB
  • Candidate Lane also gets a boost from wife, Karen, and baby grandson Braxton Allen Lane.

Luttrell noted the candidate’s impressive credentials, which included several important command positions, including that of chief inspector of the Department’s patrol division and supervision of the Department’s swat team and its training division.

And finally, the Mayor said, Lane had served “as our point person in Shelby County,” as director of preparedness and Homeland Security.

In his own remarks, Lane, a devout Christian, made a point of proclaiming, as he always does in his public appearances, the chief importance in his life of his faith and his family. He reminisced about having begun his law enforcement career 30 years ago as a member of the Millington police force.

Lane said one of his chief preoccupations as Sheriff would be that of youth violence, for which he proposed a multi-layered approach involving partnership with the faith-based and business communities, intervention via youth activities, and direct suppression, by means of street-level enforcement.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Author of Heritage Protection Act Cautions City About 'Consequences'

In Memphis, Rep. Steve McDaniel warns that violators of state law on statue removal can be "prosecuted for felonies."

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:16 PM

State Rep. Steve McDaniel - JB
  • JB
  • State Rep. Steve McDaniel
One day after the City Council agreed unanimously to adopt an ordinance allowing relocation of local statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis regardless of whether formal state ap proval can be obtained, the author of the state’s Heritage Protection Act weighed in with words of caution.

“That’s against the law. They’d be prosecuted for felonies for destroying public property. Or if somebody vandalizes the property, they’d have to suffer the consequences,” said
State Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) in Memphis on Wednesday.

McDaniel was in town to address a Kiwanis luncheon at the University Club and discussed the matter of preserving Civil War history both during and after his remarks to the club. He made the statement about “consequences” when, in the course of an interview after his speech he was reminded that the Heritage Protection Act prescribes no specific penalties for violators of it.

“We did that on purpose,” said Rep. McDaniel, who also functions as Deputy Speaker of the state House of Representatives. In theory, there would be no need to prescribe specific penalties, he said. “We expected governments to follow the law. That’s why we have no penalties.”

But he repeated: “ If [people] don’t follow the law, then they have to suffer the consequences….We’re one of the few states that has a process through law that if you want to move or remove monuments, there’s a process to follow.”

McDaniel was clear about his own outlook. “I disagree with moving the statue. I fully support that statue staying here in Memphis at its current location. I think his and all the statues need to stay where they are.”

A longtime Civil War buff, McDaniel has been city manager of Parkers Crossroads since the Henderson County town was first incorporated in 1981.

That role also gives him direct supervision of the town’s major industry, the large and expanding park and museum area which sprawls on both sides of Interstate 40 at mile-marker 108 and commemorates the Battle of Parkers Crossroads.

The battle, which took place on December 31, 1862, was, as McDaniel explained to the Kiwanians, one of the first encounters which earned distinction for Confederate General Forrest, whom the legislator referred to wryly as “a man you see in the news sometimes now, especially in Memphis.”

Forrest, a commander of cavalry, was in the Parkers Crossroads area as part of a mission to harass Union forces in West Tennessee and to interdict the movement of troops and supplies via railroad. As McDaniel explained, he was surprised at Parkers Crossroads and flanked on both sides by separate Union Army contingents but escaped the potential trap by a bold decision to “charge ‘em both ways.”

McDaniel takes part in periodic reenactments of the Battle of Parkers Crossroads, but as a mere private, letting someone else play the part of Forrest. “I don’t want to be in charge of things,” he says.

He described Forrest as a “natural born military tactician,” who deserved recognition for his feats, though “he gets weighed down by other things.”

Among those “other things” are the fact that Forrest was a slave trader in Memphis before the war, was accused during the war of a massacre of surrendering black Union troops at Fort Pillow, and was Grand Dragon of the newly formed Ku Klux Klan after the war.

McDaniel did not discuss those matters directly during his luncheon remarks, but in the interview afterward alluded to the last charge.

After repeating that Forrest was a “natural born military tactician" and suggesting that “people ought to focus on the positive,” McDaniel said, “This other activity that he got involved in, once he saw what was bad about it, he disbanded it….You can find something bad on anybody We wouldn’t agree with what he did after the war, but he did a lot of good things.”

McDaniel rushed one version of the Heritage Protection Act through the legislature in 2013 in an effort (too late as it turned out) to prevent the Memphis City Council from changing the names of three downtown parks with Confederate associations, including Forrest Park (now Health Sciences Park).

In 2016, he successfully sponsored a stronger version of the Act, mandating that a change in the status of monuments can only be approved by a two-thirds vote of the 29-member state Historical Association. The City of Memphis will seek a waiver from that body when the Association next meets in Nashville in October.

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Alexander for DACA, Still Wants to "Repair" Affordable Care Act

In interview with MSNBC, Tennessee's senior GOP Senator also expresses himself on colleague Corker's relationship with Trump.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 10:54 AM

MSNBC's Chuck Todd (l) with Senator Alexander
  • MSNBC's Chuck Todd (l) with Senator Alexander

NBC News political director Chuck Todd interviewed Tennessee’s senior Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, on the “Meet the Press” daily installment on MSNBC on Wednesday, and covered several subjects, including the Affordable Care Act (which Alexander concedes is the law of the land but still wants to “repair;” DACA, which Alexander supports in principle; and the peculiarities of Donald Trump.

Below, courtesy of NBC, is a synopsis of some of the exchanges between Todd and Alexander, followed by the complete transcript of the interview:


TODD: What have you learned now through all this? You made the – you guys made the six month effort to- repeal a major piece of this legislation. It expires at the end of the month. I assume— your ability to change the law with 50 votes, that you guys are going to let that expire?

ALEXANDER: Well, Senator McConnell says it's still on the table.
TODD: But on September 30th –

ALEXANDER: But it's a longshot. September 30th, it – that opportunity's gone.
TODD: Are you comfortable with that?

ALEXANDER: I don't like it. I voted innumerable times to change it. I mean, the fundamental problem was that too many decisions are made in Washington and it increased the cost of insurance. We wanted to move decisions back to the states, increase the number of choices, lower the costs. And that was the difference of opinion we've had for seven years of a political stalemate.


TODD: You just said there's no U.S. senator the president speaks with more than Bob Corker –


TODD: - then what does that statement say?

ALEXANDER: To me it's probably advice the president would be well-advised to listen to. My suggestion was the president and Corker should go play another round of golf and talk to each other.


ALEXANDER: This gives President Trump an opportunity to do for immigration what President Nixon did for China.

TODD: How do you sell this in Tennessee? How do you sell DACA in Tennessee, the idea of protecting these folks who came over here, you know, as children? How do you sell that and say, "You know what, we're going to give them amnesty essentially, a form of amnesty" - and I know everybody defines amnesty in a different way, but how do you sell this in Tennessee?

ALEXANDER: What you’ve got to say: "Their parents brought them here." And what we're got to say is, "You grew up here. This is the only country you know." We usually don't visit the sins of the parents on the children. So, they're law-abiding. If they graduate from high school, if they - if they're enrolled in college or the military, we'll give them a status here. I - that makes a lot of sense to me. I voted for that exact formula in 2013. I was reelected in 2014.


CHUCK TODD: Let me start with a simple broad question. Is Obamacare the law of the land in perpetuity?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: It's the law of the land until it's changed. And we have to change it because we're talking about 18 million Americans in this individual market. They don't get their insurance from the government. They don't get it on the job. And their premiums are going up. And in some cases, if we don't act, they may not be able to buy insurance next year. So we have to change it.

TODD: When you say - it was always interesting to me - you, throughout this process, have tried not to use the word "repeal." You were somebody that kept trying to use the word "repair" when it came to Obamacare.


TODD: Why?

ALEXANDER: Well, first, it's not accurate, because we need 60 votes to repeal. And we didn't even get 51. So we were using a process that was limited. So, the truth, we were repealing major parts of Obamacare, that was the Republican effort, and replacing it with major parts. So, it wasn't accurate to say it's repealing the whole thing.

TODD: So that's why you always wanted to use the word "repair"?


TODD: But it also seemed to me like an outreach effort, that that was – if you said "repair," Democrats were more likely to listen to ya than if you said "repeal."

ALEXANDER: That's probably true. I mean, I was a governor. So, you know, my job as governor and the president's job, really, is to persuade at least half the people we're right. And that means some Democrats and Independents. So, I'm – I'm always working to try to get a result. In the Senate, that means 60 votes. In the country, that means at least half the people. And in the Republican Party or among the conservative base, maybe we've got a third. So, I'm always reaching out.

TODD: What have you learned now through all this? You made the – you guys made the six month effort to- repeal a major piece of this legislation. It expires at the end of the month. I assume— your ability to change the law with 50 votes, that you guys are gonna let that expire?

ALEXANDER: Well, Senator McConnell says it's still on the table.

TODD: But on September 30th –

ALEXANDER: But it's a longshot. September 30th, it – that opportunity's gone.

TODD: Are you comfortable with that?

ALEXANDER: I don't like it. I voted innumerable times to change it. I mean, the fundamental problem was that too many decisions are made in Washington and it increased the cost of insurance. We wanted to move decisions back to the states, increase the number of choices, lower the costs. And that was the difference of opinion we've had for seven years of a political stalemate.

TODD: So on October 1st, what does this look like?

ALEXANDER: Well, if we're fortunate between now and the end of the month, we'll have a small bipartisan agreement that will lower premiums in 2018 or at least keep them from going up much - and then lower them more in 2019 in this very small part of the insurance market. What people don't realize is, that the whole so-called "Obamacare debate" is mostly about 6% of the people with insurance. Nearly 300 million of us have health insurance. We're arguing about the people who don't have, who have individual insurance.

TODD: Let me move onto the summer of attacks that President Trump went after Mitch McConnell, other Republicans. What kind of – what kind of repercussions is that, could that lead to this month? Is that just, you know - how bruised are the feelings around here?

ALEXANDER: Oh, the people - you know, Senator McConnell's been here a while. He and the president met this week. I think they get along fine. McConnell's very professional. He knows he's got a job to do. He's got an institution to make work. And the president is, you know - he just does things in a different way. He doesn't do things the way I do it or say the things that I would say, but he was elected to the people so my job is to work with him and when I can - as I hope to do on this healthcare this month - we'll try to make the country better.

TODD: I am curious of what your reaction was when your Tennessee colleague Bob Corker said this to the president. "The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability or some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

ALEXANDER: I’m not very surprised by that because Senator Corker always says what he thinks, even about me or President Trump. What most people don't know is there's not a single Republican senator who President Trump talks with more than Bob Corker.

TODD: That’s interesting.

ALEXANDER: I mean, they talk a lot. The president will call him for advice.

TODD: What does that mean to you then? If he's saying that, if Bob Corker – you just said there's no U.S. senator the president speaks with more than Bob Corker –


TODD: - then what does that statement say?

ALEXANDER: To me it's probably advice the president would be well-advised to listen to. My suggestion was the president and Corker should go play another round of golf and talk to each other.

TODD: Let ask you about DACA. Where are you on it? Do you think this is something - if this comes on the floor of the United States Senate - first of all, do you think it should be standalone? Or would you support having it linked to other bills if necessary?

ALEXANDER: Here's what I think. I think after we finish tax reform - the president said six months - I think this gives President Trump an opportunity to do for immigration what President Nixon did for China. I mean, President Trump might be the only president who could take this very contentious issue and say to the American people, "Okay, I've got a proposal. Let's secure the borders. Let's develop a legal immigration system. And let's take care of the problems of people without status, like the children who came here with their parents. I don't know any other president who could cause that to happen. If he'd make a proposal like that, I would work with him on it. I voted for something much like that in 2013. Sixty-eight senators did. So, I hope he does that. I hope - I think it's a chance for him to provide extraordinary leadership of which he'd be very proud when it was over.

TODD: How do you sell this in Tennessee? How do you sell DACA in Tennessee, the idea of protecting these folks who came over here, you know, as children? How do you sell that and say, "You know what, we're gonna give them amnesty essentially, a form of amnesty" - and I know everybody defines amnesty in a different way, but how do you sell this in Tennessee?

ALEXANDER: What you’ve got to say: "Their parents brought them here." And what we're gonna say is, "You grew up here. This is the only country you know." We usually don't visit the sins of the parents on the children. So, they're law-abiding. If they graduate from high school, if they - if they're enrolled in college or the military, we'll give them a status here. I - that makes a lot of sense to me. I voted for that exact formula in 2013. I was reelected in 2014.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Democrat Bonner Kicks Off His Sheriff’s Race

Huge crowd sees GOP incumbent Oldham embrace and endorse his chief deputy.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 8:40 PM

Candidate Bonner addresses his large crowd at the Racquet Club. - JB
  • JB
  • Candidate Bonner addresses his large crowd at the Racquet Club.

One political race that looms before the voters of Shelby County as more than usually competitive is that for Sheriff, and, though more candidates, both Republican and Democratic, are sure to make a claim upon the job in the 2018 election, there is general consensus on the front end that the candidates to beat are Republican Dale Lane and Democrat Floyd Bonner, both highly credentialed..

Lane, a former Deputy Sheriff, is current director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, while Bonner is Chief Deputy Sheriff, the first African American to hold that office.

In a reversal of the cross-party situation in 2014 when incumbent Sheriff Bill Oldham, a Republican, was assisted in his reelection bid by a prominent Democrat, longtime political broker Sidney Chism, this time Democrat Bonner can count on the public support of a major figure from the other party, no less than term-limited Sheriff Oldham himself.
Bonner with incumbent Sheriff Bill Oldham,who endorsed him. - JB
  • JB
  • Bonner with incumbent Sheriff Bill Oldham,who endorsed him.
Introducing Bonner to a massive and diverse crowd of several hundred at a combination fundraiser/campaign kickoff in the Racquet Club Tuesday night, Oldham lavished praise upon his chief deputy for his career progress through the ranks and his accomplishments and proclaimed, “I’m going to do something that my predecessor [then Sheriff, now County Mayor Mark Luttrell] didn’t do for me, I’m going to fully endorse Floyd Bonner.” The crowd anticipated Oldham and, before his sentence was halfway through, interrupted him with loud and sustained applause.”

Continuing his introduction with a vow to “put the right man in that chair at 201 Poplar,” Oldham then beckoned Bonner, and the two men embraced before Bonner made his own remarks, beginning with a reciprocal tip of the hat to Oldham, acknowledgment of his family members who were present, and a statement of gratitude at the turnout, making special note of  the clergy in attendance (no small factor, inasmuch as Lane, too, can boast of support from the religious community).

“I love coming to work every day. There’s no other place that I’ve ever thought about working at but the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office,” said Bonner, a veteran of 37 years in the Department. “I’m not tired yet, I’ve still got a little in the tank, and I enjoy getting up every day.”

Bonner mentioned his role in “being in on the ground floor” of the Department’s expanding responsibility for Juvenile Court detention and noted that he had started his ascension in the Department all those years ago with service in the County Jail, nobody’s idea of a glamor assignment and a piece of experience that he cites by way of encouraging new recruits.

“I tell them now, ‘I started just like you did, I started out slick-sleeved and wild-eyed and didn’t know what to expect….But I’ve had a great career, I love what I do….There’s nobody in this race with more experience than me,” said Bonner, who concluded optimistically, “You know, we are going to win!”

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Reginald Milton's Birthday Surprise

The first-term Shelby County Commissioner did indeed have a "major announcement" to make to a generous number of attendees.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 8:21 AM

There was real mystery when County Commissioner Reginald Milton issued an online invitation to a generous number of his friends, who cross all sorts of race, social, political, and gender lines but have one thing in common: A disproportionate number of them are movers and shakers in Memphis and Shelby County.
Reginald Milton and friends - JB
  • JB
  • Reginald Milton and friends

The invitation was to a birthday party at the Stax Museum on McLemore, where, said the invite, a “major announcement” would be made. Immediately the politically inclined among the invitees began to speculate on what race it was Milton was choosing to announce for? President? After all, he is by profession a community organizer, just like the past previous President, Barack Obama. State Representative? State Senator? Governor? Mayor? And, if the latter, which kind of Mayor? City? County?

So what did the invitees find when they arrived? Here is the post-event reveal from Milton himself, on his Facebook page:

I want to say how much I truly enjoyed sharing my special day with all my dear friends. The party was a blast.
For those who were not at my Birthday Bash and wanted to know what the "big" announcement was, it involves my nonprofit, SMA. We have secured additional funding and are moving forward with converting a 57,000 sq. ft. warehouse into a multi-purpose center. Plans for the "Urban Warehouse" include a technical college, a nonprofit incubator, a youth development/mentoring center, and a foster care support agency. Oh, by the way, yes I do plan to run for re-election for Shelby County Commission - District 10. Thank you all!

The secret revealed: plans for the "Urban Warehouse: - JB
  • JB
  • The secret revealed: plans for the "Urban Warehouse:

Milton was certainly right about the party’s being a blast. Good food, a bar, good company, a band, dancing, and this was Stax, after all, where the walls teem with exhilarating exhibits from Memphis’ musical past.

There was a “show and tell” by Milton of the plans for his forthcoming Urban Warehouse project. There were endless opportunities for group pics and selfies by an endless number of smart-phone photographers, who placed the results on their Facebook pages..

And — piece de resistance! — there was cake, of course, as what well-attended birthday party should not have cake? Everybody got a piece; there was no resistance.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Touliatos Announces for Shelby County Mayor

Entry of Juvenile Court clerk creates prospect of three-way GOP primary race with County Commissioner Terry Roland and County Trustee David Lenoir.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 12:52 PM

Joy Touliatos announces for County Mayor as prominent backers John Bobango and Brent Taylor look on. - JB
  • JB
  • Joy Touliatos announces for County Mayor as prominent backers John Bobango and Brent Taylor look on.

As of Thursday, there's a race on for the Republican nomination for Shelby County Mayor. With conspicuous backing from some GOP luminaries of the past and present, two-term Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, stressing the issues of public safety, taxes, and education,  announced for Mayor at a press conference at Waterford Plaza.

Among the family and well-wishers looking on were former Memphis City councilman and Shelby County Commissioner Brent Taylor and former Councilman John Bobango, both of whom will have major roles in the Touliatos campaign (as treasurer and co-chair, respectively), her political consultant Steven Reid, and Shelby County Clerk Wayne Washburn.

In her announcement statement, Touliatos had this to say about her major  campaign priorities: "First and foremost crime and public safety will be the most important priority of my administration. Second, we need to lower property taxes by making Shelby County Government smaller and more efficient. Third, we must attract new business and create new jobs. And that requires an education system that prepares our kids for college but also recognizes the need to prepare young adults for the workforce. "

Acknowledging the head start, campaign-wise, of Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, who announced for mayor more than a year ago and maintains a high public profile, Touliatos expressed confidence in her ability to bridge the name-recognition gap.

It has long been assumed that County Trustee David Lenoir will also be a candidate for County Mayor, though Lenoir has not yet announced and is rumored also to be looking at the state Senate seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, who has been nominated for a federal judgeship by President Trump.

It is probably not coincidental that, during the course of budget negotiations on the County Commission this year, Roland found occasion to fault the spending priorities of both the Trustee's office and the Juvenile Court Clerk's office.

In a three-way contest with Roland and Lenoir, both high-powered political figures with presumed support in influential Republican Party circles, Touliatos, who can make claims of her own on GOP loyalists, would conceivably have an advantage with female Republican voters.

Meanwhile, as the blanks are being filled in on the Republican side, the picture among potential Democratic aspirants is more opaque, Former County Commissioner and erstwhile political broker Sidney Chism has advertised his likely candidacy, and outgoing Commission chairman Melvin Burgess has also expressed an interest in running.

Two other possible Democratic candidates, University of Memphis law professor and former County Commissioner Steve Mulroy and state Senator Lee Harris, are apparently both deliberating on an entry into th e mayoral race. Whichever one makes the plunge can count on the support of the other.

And there could be a Democratic wild card — former City Councilman and current Chamber of Commerce vice president Shea Flinn, whose name was prominent among those of candidates being asked about in a recently run telephone robo-poll.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Angry Mayor Responds to Critics on Statue Removal

Strickland defends record on minority issues and says that criticism is "an attempt to divide this city."

Posted By on Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 2:31 PM

Mayor Strickland
  • Mayor Strickland

 Mayor Jim Strickland, who is on record as favoring the removal of the Jefferson David statue and Nathan Bedford Forrest statue and grave from downtown parks but is restrained by state law from direct action without going through channels, is under pressure from citizens who want the memorials gone now.

And the Mayor is fuming at what he regards as insults from some of the more demanding and impatient of those citizens. Responding Monday morning to a Commercial Appeal article, Strickland posted a response on his Facebook page:

I want every Memphian to read this article.

I want every Memphian to see the divisive, empty rhetoric that the media chooses to highlight. I want every Memphian to see the absurdity of someone accusing a mayor who is actually working on removing Confederate statues as being an apologist for white supremacists.

Think about that for a minute. I want every Memphian to know what I have been doing. I am a life member of the NAACP. I’ve volunteered to feed the homeless for 30 years. I mentor a kid. My administration has improved our minority business performance by 69 percent. My administration has improved opportunities for young people. My administration has connected people to jobs. My administration is working to reduce crime.

And my administration has worked to find a lawful method to remove these statues, which have no place in our city. My administration is the only one in the history of Memphis to not only vote to remove these statues — but to take real action to do it. We don’t see interviews with members of the legislature, or members of the Tennessee Historical Commission, or our partners working to find a real solution.

We do, however, see people criticize the very mayor who is on their side.

To make the statements made in this article is insulting to the hard work of our staff and is an affront to all of our citizens. The comments in this article are a lie at best. At worst, they are an attempt to divide this city with the kind of racial politics that we should all reject."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gubernatorial Candidate Fitzhugh Wants Forrest Bust Gone from State Capitol

Democratic House Leader from West Tennessee says it's time "to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down."

Posted By on Sun, Aug 20, 2017 at 6:44 PM

State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh
  • State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh

State Representative Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), one of two Democratic candidates for Tennessee Governor, has called for the removal of a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol building.

Fitzhugh, the Democratic leader of the state House, noted that he had called for the action"over a year ago" and was repeating his insistence on the removal of the bust of Forrest — "a slave trader, Confederate lieutenant general, and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK."

Pointing out that Confederate memorials are still in place in the state "150 years after slavery ended," and citing the "horrific events" of Charlottesville, Virginia,  Fitzhugh declared, "It’s time to show that Tennessee is ready to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down". The Senator's statement was apparently broad enough to apply as well to the current controversies in Memphis involving downtown monuments to Forrest and to Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Asked about the two Memphis statues, Fitzhugh said he thought that localities should have the option to do as they wished about such matters without "Nashville telling them what to do."

State Senator Sara Kyle of Memphis has introduced legislation that would exempt Shelby County from the 2016 Heritage Protection Act requiring a 2/3 vote of the state Historical Commission to effect a removal. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the City Council are also on record as favoring removal.

Fitzhugh and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean are the two candidates who have declared for Governor as Democrats. Four Republicans have announced: Former state Ecionomic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd; Franklin businessman Bill Lee: state House speaker Beth Harwell, State Senator Mae Beavers, and 4th District Congressman Diane Black.

As of now, Fitzhugh is the only active candidate from West Tennessee, though Boyd, a Knoxvillian, claims ancestral roots there.

Fitzhugh's statement on the monuments issue is as follows:

 The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that "there is nothing new under the sun." And unfortunately, that's true for what happened in Charlottesville.

The horrific events came as no surprise to African Americans across this country who — 150 years after slavery ended — still contend daily with its legacy of weakness, avarice and evil. Nor are they a surprise to Jewish and Muslim people, nor immigrants who have faced hate and bigotry committed by those who knowingly and unknowingly benefit from their oppression.

I cannot ever truly know what it is to carry the burden of that legacy. I can, however, acknowledge that it exists, check my own privilege, and use whatever platform I have to help plot the way forward.

In that spirit, I joined Republicans and Democrats calling for the removal of the statue of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest — a slave trader, Confederate lieutenant general, and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK — from the Tennessee Capitol building over a year ago.

It’s time to show that Tennessee is ready to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down. Will you stand with me and ask the Capitol commission and Historical commission to remove the Forrest monument?

History is important, especially that history which we do not wish to repeat. But the place for that history is a museum — not a pedestal in a building meant to serve every Tennessean of every race, religion, and culture.

Moving the bust of Mr. Forrest is a basic first-step toward the greater goal of reconciliation — and one our state legislature must take as quickly as possible.

Only when we acknowledge the sins of our past, can we begin to address the systemic impacts they have had on health care, education, and economics that are so deeply ingrained in our institutions.

Let us resolve to start now.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sen. Kyle Offers Bill to Allow Statue Removal

Would exempt Shelby County from provisions of Heritage Protecton Act requiring 2/3 waiver vote for action on monuments.

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 5:52 PM

State Sen. Sara Kyle
  • State Sen. Sara Kyle
As Memphis city government ponders its best strategy for removing two offending Confederate statues in downtown Memphis parks — those of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis — a Memphis legislator has filed a bill that would facilitate such action.

The legislation by State Senator Sara Kyle (D-District 30) would exempt Shelby County from the Heritage Protection Act, a measure hastily passed in 2016 to prevent what was then (and remains) an official resolve from Mayor Jim Strickland and the City council to remove the Forrest statue from what is now Health Sciences Park on Union.

The 2016 act mandates that any such removal of a war memorial can only be authorized by a waiver, requiring a two-thirds vote by the members of the state Historical Commission. A city request was rejected by the Commission in October last year, but another effort to gain a waiver will be made at the Commission’s forthcoming meeting in Nashville this October.

Here is the press release announcing Senator Kyle’s action:

Legislation filed Friday exempts Shelby from Heritage Protection Act

NASHVILLE – State Sen. Sara Kyle has filed legislation to exempt Shelby County from the Heritage Protection Act, to allow the city to make its own decisions about the removal of Confederate monuments.

“I believe in the people of Memphis to work with our own local officials to make the best decisions for our city,” Sen. Sara Kyle said. “People in Memphis have made it abundantly clear they don't want a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in their park. We shouldn't have to wait for the historic commission to sign off and tell us what we're allowed to do.”

Senate Bill 1467, filed Friday afternoon, would merely amend the Heritage Protection Act of 2016 to exclude any memorial on public property with a population greater than 900,000.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Corker Opens Up on Trump's Shortcomings, Sees Need for "Radical Changes"

Senator tells media in Chattanooga that the President "has not demonstrated" stability or competetence, "doubles down" on his mistakes, and lacks understanding "of what has made this nation great."

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 7:59 PM

Sen. Corker in Chattanooga
  • Sen. Corker in Chattanooga

On Thursday, a day after he had declined to make any statements critical of President Trump during a Knoxville stop, U.S. Senator Bob Corker reversed course, facing the issue of presidential problems squarely while speaking with a media group after a luncheon speech to the Chattanooga Rotary Club.

Asked about Trump’s performance as President in general, and in particular  about the President's  way of responding to last weekend’s clash between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, Corker laid it on the line:

“I do think there need to some radical changes. The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability or the competence he needs to demonstrate….He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great….Without the things I just mentioned happening, the nation is going to go through great peril….We should hope…. that he does some self-reflection, does what is necessary to demonstrate some stability, to demonstrate some competence, to demonstrate that he understands the character of our nation.....

The Senator went on: "We’re at the point where there have to be radical changes at the White House itself. It has to happen. I think the President needs to take stock of the role he plays in our nation and move beyond himself."

Corker was asked to elaborate on the President’s fluctuating response to the Charlottesville situation, in which a professed neo-Nazi is accused of murder after driving his car into a crowd, causing one death and numerous injuries.

Trump had first spoken vague words on Sunday disapproving violence “on many sides,” on Monday was coaxed into making prepared remarks denouncing neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan participants in particular, and in ad-libbed remarks on Tuesday reverted to his first position, actually making the claim that the ranks of the alt-right protesters, who chanted against Jews and gave the Nazi salute, contained “many fine people” who were merely trying to defend their heritage by holding on to Confederate memorials slated for removal.
holding on to
Corker said, “We need to speak to what’s good in our nation. Neo-Nazi groups, KKK groups...are not what’s good in our nation. I don’t think that the President has appropriately spoken to the nation on this issue, and sometimes he get in a situation where he doubles down to try to make a wrong a right. I think he’s done that in this case. I would ask that he take stock of who he is as President of all the people in our nation.

Asked to comment on a current campaign to remove a bust of Confederate General Nathan Baedford Forresrt from the state Capitol, Corker said, : We don’t want to do away with history….Let’s put it in a museum, and let’s have the type of people ... At the places where people go to assemble, to make laws, to discuss aspirational maybe what would be better there is to have aspirational figures, and maybe we keep the history in museums.”

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Cohen to Introduce Articles of Impeachment against Trump

Ranking member of House Judiciary subcommittee, says, apropos Charlottesville and Trump's apparent defense of the white nationalist fomentors there: "There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen."

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 8:49 AM

In the wa
Rep. Cohen
  • Rep. Cohen
ke of Charlottesville and President Trump's apparent defense of the white nationalists who were the focus of disturbances there, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen, ranking member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, announced Thursday morning that he will introduce articles of impeachment against the President.

The Congressman's statement follows:

August 17, 2017

Ranking Member Cohen to Introduce Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump After Comments on Charlottesville

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today announced that he will be introducing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump following the President’s comments on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I have expressed great concerns about President Trump’s ability to lead our country in the Resolution of No Confidence (H.Res. 456) that I introduced in July with 29 of my colleagues; however, after the President’s comments on Saturday, August 12 and again on Tuesday, August 15 in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office. Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”

“We fought a World War to defeat Nazis, and a Civil War to defeat the Confederacy. In reaction to the downfall of the Confederacy, and the subsequent passage of the Reconstruction Amendments to our constitution, the KKK embarked on a dastardly campaign to terrorize and intimidate African Americans from exercising their newly acquired civil rights. Subsequent incarnations of the Klan continued to terrorize African Americans with lynchings and civil rights murders such as the assassination of Medgar Evers and the killings of Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and other civil rights workers.”

“When I watched the videos from the protests in Charlottesville, it reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of Kristallnacht in 1938 in Nazi Germany. It appeared that the Charlottesville protesters were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘blood and soil,’ an infamous Nazi slogan, as they marched with torches that conjured up images of Klan rallies. None of the marchers spewing such verbiage could be considered ‘very fine people’ as the President suggested.

And it certainly appeared the participants were in lock-step. Some of the white nationalist protesters were interviewed by the media, such as Sean Patrick Nielsen. He said one of his three reasons for being there was ‘killing Jews.’ Another was Christopher Cantwell, one of the white nationalist leaders, who said he couldn’t watch ‘that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl’ and said he hoped ‘somebody like Donald Trump, but who does not give his daughter to a Jew,’ would lead this country

 As a Jew and as an American and as a representative of an African American district, I am revolted by the fact that the President of the United States couldn’t stand up and unequivocally condemn Nazis who want to kill Jews and whose predecessors murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and could not unequivocally condemn Klansmen whose organization is dedicated to terrorizing African Americans.

“President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists

 Senator John McCain rightfully tweeted this week that there was ‘no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate.’ Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”

President Trump has shown time and time again that he lacks the ethical and moral rectitude to be President of the United States. Not only has he potentially obstructed justice and potentially violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, but he has also shown that he is incapable or unwilling to protect Americans from enemies, foreign and domestic. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are domestic terrorists. If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.”

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler, said:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

“They have come for me, and for the majority of my Congressional constituency. Accordingly, I must speak out today after what happened on Saturday and our President’s subsequent response. It is morally and legally incumbent upon me, based on my oath of office, to introduce articles of impeachment.”


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"What, Me Worry?": Local Party Officials Slow to Criticize Trump for Reaction

But call out White Nationalists and Neo-Nazis by Name for Charlottesville Blame

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:55 PM

The  President and friends
  • The President and friends

In the wake of the events last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which self-avowed white nationalists led a violent protest of the city’s intent to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, and a woman was killed by a neo-Nazi who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protestors, President Donald Trump’s reactions became a focus of controversy.

At first Trump seemed to express a sense of moral equivalency regarding the two groups, then corrected himself, then, to increasing public dismay, doubled down on such sentiments in an impromptu press conference on Tuesday..

The President’s actions generated a good deal of pressure on his Republican partymates and GOP officials elsewhere to make more explicit their original, somewhat generalized statements deploring the events in Charlottesville.

On Wednesday, Tennessee’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and local 8th District GOP Congressman David Kustoff, all issued statements clarifying their views, making more specific reference than earlier to the hate groups considered to be the source of the violence but, in all cases, shying away from any direct disapproval of the President.

8th District U.S. Rep. Kustoff, in a prepared statement:

“We know that our nation has had a rough several days after the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. Make no mistake – White Supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis and all groups that preach hate, prejudice, racism and bigotry have no place in our country and must be explicitly condemned. As a United States Attorney, I prosecuted federal hate crimes. I strongly encourage the Department of Justice to follow through on the investigation from last weekend’s events.”

U.S. Senator Alexander, also in a statement:

"Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, like any racists, tear apart the American character. They deny that we are all Americans, without regard to race, creed or background.

"That is why even going back to when I was governor of Boys’ States in 1957, I called for outlawing the Ku Klux Klan, and as a student editor in 1962, I helped to desegregate Vanderbilt University. To open doors to African Americans, as governor, I appointed the first black Supreme Court Justice and the first black Chancellor. As president of the University of Tennessee, I appointed the first black UT vice-presidents.
"I will continue to oppose those who would close doors to Americans based upon race, religion, or background."

U.S. Senator Corker, at an impromptu Wednesday press conference of his own:

“Every day I go down to vote and [there are[ numbers of reporters down there waiting to ask questions, many times about tweets and those kinds of things.. Look I don’t respond. Okay? I just don’t respond. I respond for myself. I think what happened in Charlottesville was repugnant. White nationalists, white supremacy groups have no place, to me. They obviously have fundamental rights to peacefully, peacefully, express their views, but what happened when one of their members drove a car into a crowd, that was terrorism, I couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t respond to someone else’s comments. I speak for myself, and I’ll let others editorialize about other people’s comments.”

Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was also asked about budget cuts indicated by Trump for programs countering what the reporter called “domestic terrorism, including white nationalism”:

“This is no any president….Every president’s budget is a two-day story, and it goes into File 13…. Nobody pays any attention to a President’s budget. ...When Rex Tillerson came before our committee as Secretary of State — my friend Rex Tillerson I talk with all the time —  I didn’t spend a moment going through the president’s budget for the State Department, because we’re not going to act on it.

“For people who have fears, Congress spends money. Okay? Congress never pays attention to a President’s budget. Okay? I mean, it’s nice to look at, [but] again,I haven’t even read the President’s budget.So don’t be concerned about what’s getting cut or whether the State Department’s going to have this happen or other departments....It’s just not a factor in what we do….”

Councilman Calls for Local Control, Wants Confederate Monuments Removed

District 1's Bill Morrison challenges state law, says Memphians should have "right and power" over public monuments.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:55 PM

District 1 Councilman Bill Morrison
  • District 1 Councilman Bill Morrison

Even as events, in the wake of Charlottesville, are forcing state and federal authorities to deal with the issue of Confederate monuments and the influence of hate groups, a move is act on the subject is developing in local government. District 1 City Councilman Bill Morrison issued the following statement on Wednesday:

The power to alter or remove local statues and monuments should be in the hands of local communities and leaders.

Those are the people who live with these monuments day in and day out.

Those are the people most affected by statues and monuments that have become symbols of hate, such as our monuments to Confederate figures Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Here in Tennessee, local communities and leaders no longer have the power to remove such monuments from our own local parks or public spaces.

That must change.

In recent days, we've seen the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Va., all of it centered on a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

We've heard some — but not enough — of our elected officials renounce and condemn that domestic terrorism committed in Virginia by white supremacists defending the statue.

President Trump, ever the Twitter wordsmith, was uncharacteristically equivocal as the events were unfolding in Charlottesville.

Monday, he condemned the hate groups. But two days later, he all but defended their actions.

We should remain hopeful that our state leadership demonstrates what true leadership is by confronting, denouncing and removing true symbols of hatred in our state.

That's why I am calling on Governor Bill Haslam to call a special session of the legislature to repeal the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016.

That's the law that requires two-thirds of the 29 members of the Tennessee Historical Commission to approve any changes in monuments to historical figures, no matter where they are or what they stand for.

The law states that "No statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, or plaque which has been erected for, or named or dedicated in honor of a military conflict that is identified in a list of conflicts in which the U.S. has participated and is located on public property, may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed" without the state commission's approval.

The bill was co-sponsored by some of our own, including state Sen. Mark Norris, who is President Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship position in Tennessee. Another co-sponsor was state Sen. Mae Beavers, a Republican candidate for governor.

The law is wrong and must be repealed. It doesn't protect our heritage. It only serves to protect memories of white supremacy and shrines for modern-day followers.

In 2013, I joined my fellow members of the Memphis City Council to change Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park, Confederate Park to Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park.

In 2015, my fellow Council members and I voted to remove from Health Sciences Park the statue of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as the graves of him and his wife.

The 2016 law stopped those efforts. The state commission rejected the city's request to remove Forrest's statue.

The people and leaders of the City of Memphis should have the right and power to decide which monuments and statues will stand in our parks and public spaces.

All of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents and others — must stand united in denouncing the evil and hatred spewed by white supremacists.

Bill Morrison represents District 1 on the Memphis City Council.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Doubling Down with David Kustoff

In which the 8th District Congressman, on a district-wide tour, meets his public, sort of, in a pair of local gatherings.

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 8:47 PM

Ron Lollar, the veteran GOP state representative from Bartlett, was making a show of gently teasing his friend and fellow Republican David Kustoff, after Kustoff, the congressman from Tennessee’s 8th District, had been the featured speaker at a National Federation of Independent Businesses luncheon at the Regions Bank on Poplar.

Referring to a recent occasion on which they’d been together, administering to constituents in some of the east Shelby County turf they represent in common, Lollar said, “He ate an ice cream cone!” Kustoff, known for his disciplined habits, including an unvarying wake-up time of 3:15 a.m. and an insistence on limiting his dietary intake to one meal a day, in the evening, blinked his eyes momentarily but made a quick recovery.

“But it was at night!” he pointed out with an indulgent smile.

In an easy-going but focused way, the congressman manages always to stay on message. His stop at Regions last Wednesday was one of several, including a luncheon speech he made the day before to the Rotary Club of Memphis, that he had committed himself to in a recess tour of the 15 counties in his sprawling West Tennessee district.

And there were common threads to his remarks at all his appearances: One was an allegation that the Dodd-Frank Act passed in the early years of the Obama administration had harmed both individuals and banks in his district by overloading the lending process with too many governmental strictures. Another related contention was that West Tennessee, alone of the state’s three grand divisions, had a stagnant economy — one that, more than most, required market-friendly remedies, including tax relief and an easing up on regulations.

And, like most Republicans in Congress, Kustoff warns that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is in terminal throes — “crashing down,”,as he put it to the Rotarians, with “companies pulling out, insurers leaving the system, and exchanges ... with no competition.” Choices were disappearing, and premiums rising, with only a single insurer being available to the system within Shelby County.

Beyond the talking points and generalities he shares with so many other congressional Republicans, Kustoff, a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, can deal with specifics as well, as when, at the NFIB luncheon, he responded in detail to a highly nuanced question about the operations of the Federal Reserve System, throwing in some informed conjecture about the Fed’s likely management in years to come.

Overall, Kustoff gives the impression of having done his homework. But — as with any other able politician, perhaps — there are matters on which his responses might be characterized as somewhere between indirect and evasive.

He demonstrated this during a Q & A session at Rotary when he got three consecutive questions regarding what so many observers, across the political spectrum, regard as disarray or worse in the White House.

During the 2016 campaign year, Kustoff had been unusually steadfast in his support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, even when other Republicans displayed hesitation or outright aversion. The congressman was asked: Had President Trump done anything to disappoint him since?

Kustoff at Rotary with Otis Sanford and David Cocke. (Susan Thorp can also be glimpsed at left.) - JB
  • JB
  • Kustoff at Rotary with Otis Sanford and David Cocke. (Susan Thorp can also be glimpsed at left.)
Kustoff answered, essentially, that he had been dismayed by Anthony Scaramucci’s famously profane interview with The New Yorker but was gratified that the administration had done the right thing in quickly parting the ways with the now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t communications director. And the Congressman went on to praise Trump’s “terrific nominations” to federal positions in Tennessee.

The next question concerned a new book by Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, Conscience of a Conservative, which is outspokenly critical of Trump and calls on other Republicans to acknowledge the fact. Kustoff’s response was that, in his travels in the 8th District, he encountered no such disillusionment with the President, and, in particular — using a phrasing that would later generate some controversy — that “real people” were not concerned about charges that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia.

Yet a third question on the putative misdeeds and misprisions of the president yielded a knowing look from Kustoff, who spoke of a “media bias” against Trump before, during, and after his election. “They want to cook his goose. I get that,” said the congressman, who expressed a desire to let various investigating committees — as well as the president and the Congress — “do their job.”

“How’d I do?” Kustoff would ask someone the next day at NFIB. And the truthful answer would be that, like it or not, he had a done a decent job of fencing the questions.

At the NFIB affair, the congressman allowed himself a bit more latitude to speak of bipartisan concerns, particularly in the sphere of foreign policy, but he had a dog-whistle ready when one was called for. One questioner from the predominantly conservative audience at Regions extolled Trump as
Kutoff answering questions at NFIB meeting - JB
  • JB
  • Kutoff answering questions at NFIB meeting
 a champion of “capitalism” and asked pointedly, “What is it that the opposition is for?”

Kustoff’s answer was to say, “I read today that one of my colleagues wants single-payer health insurance.” He paused to let such unspoken implications as were implicit in that sink in, threw in the name of Bernie Sanders, and then went on to lament that the ranks of “Blue Dogs,” centrist Democrats, had been seriously depleted.

The innuendo aside, and by the standards of partisan politics, it was relatively smooth and fair-minded. There is a reason why Kustoff is a success at his chosen field.

And when he says that, by and large, the folks in the 8th District — the aforementioned “real people” — simply aren’t interested in the perspectives, crucial as they may be, that animate CNN and MSNBC or the big national newspapers, he may well be right.

For the most part.

But the fact is, there are citizens, even in the 8th, who are genuinely troubled, not just by the fits and starts and confusions that they see in the administration in power, nor by the still unexplained Russia circumstance, but also by policies that seem to them both short-sighted and wrong. Even purposely cruel.

How can this not be the case when GOP Senators like Flake and his Arizona colleague John McCain and Ben Sasse of Nebraska have voiced similar misgivings?

In his expressed forebodings about “Obamacare,” the Congressman spoke to uncertainties that may cause even more insurers to drop away from participation in the system, causing premiums to rise even higher. And he viewed with alarm the tenuous circumstances that rural hospitals in Tennessee find themselves in, citing in particular the case of Brownsville, which lost its local hospital as far back as 2014.

Kustoff is undoubtedly correct that matters like these are are more concerning for his constituents than whether or not Donald Trump Jr. plotted with Russian operatives to do in Hillary Clinton.

But these anxieties are nowhere more pronounced than they are in the ranks of self-described “resistance” groups like the recently founded Indivisible — whose members, like a large proportion of the nation’s punditry, see the uncertainty of insurers to have arisen directly from President Trump’s threats to withhold the funding called for by the ACA in order to see that system, in Trump’s words, “implode.”

And who point to the decision, concurred in by Kustoff, by Republicans in the General Assembly to reject Governor Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal and the billions of dollars in federal Medicaid money that could have salvaged the Brownsville hospital and other endangered medical facilities in the state.

Several times recently a group of Indivisible members have attempted to coax Kustoff into holding an open, no-holds-barred town meeting on health care and other issues. So far the Congressman has declined, although he has met with individual members of such groups in at least one highly structured scenario in which questions were confined to a limited, pre-arranged formula.

They were at it again this past Tuesday, dogging the Congressman and trying to pin him down to a free-wheeling discussion in the future, picketing him after he had appeared at a Kiwanis Club breakfast at the Pickering Center in Germantown. A member of the protesting group later networked an email saying: ”Kustoff left building intentionally keeping his back to us, got in car and drove past us but he kept his head down the entire time. Too chicken to look at us so he knew we were there.”

This may or may not be a fair-minded description, and, to be sure, the protesters this time around were just a handful, but they were there — and very likely will be there again, to reckon with at some point.

Indivisible group at Pickering protest
  • Indivisible group at Pickering protest

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Corey Strong Elected to Head Revived Shelby Democratic Party

New chairman wins out over four other aspirants to lead the party.

Posted By on Sat, Aug 5, 2017 at 10:23 PM

Clarissa Shaw (l) and David Cocke, co-chairs of the ad hoc committee that saw to the reorganization of the Shelby County Democratic Party, presented the revived party's gavel to newly elected party chair Corey Strong on Saturday. - JB
  • JB
  • Clarissa Shaw (l) and David Cocke, co-chairs of the ad hoc committee that saw to the reorganization of the Shelby County Democratic Party, presented the revived party's gavel to newly elected party chair Corey Strong on Saturday.

After roughly half a year of public listening sessions, a convention process that elected an executive committee and a larger ,“grass roots council, and two public forums featuring five chairmanship candidates, there is once again a functioning Shelby County Democratic Party.

And it has a newly elected leader, Shelby County Schools special projects director Cory Strong, a former naval officer and law school graduate whose solid résumé and thoughtful, informed manner helped him out-poll four other chairmanship aspirants in a vote taken at the IBEW union hall on Madison Saturday morning.

All of the five candidates — includes, besides Strong, political consultant Ken Taylor, charter-school and activist Anthony Anderson, free-lance policy analyst Thurston Smith, and retired law professor Larry Pivnick — had their moments during the brief chairmanship campaign, and especially in two forums this week, one at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church on Tuesday night and another on Friday night at the IBEW hall.

But in the balloting on Saturday, Strong took ad early lead and never lost it, heading the list on the first ballot and handily out-polling runoff opponent Taylor 66-25 on the second ballot.

State Democratic chair Mary Mancini, whose decertificaton of the former SCDP for what she termed “many years of dysfunction” opened the way for a newly formed party and a fresh start, was on hand Saturday to swear in Strong.

The meeting was presided over by David Cocke and Clarissa Shaw, who for the several months of party reorganization had served as co-chairs of the ad hoc committee charged with bringing back into being an official Democratic Party unit in Shelby County.

See slideshow for photographs of this week’s final leg in that process.


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