Monday, April 24, 2017

Schedule for Local Democrats' Reorganization Efforts

Local party, decertified last August, will begin its reorganization via a series of "community forums," the first of which will take place this weekend.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 11:26 AM


Remember the Shelby County Democratic Party? it ceased to be, formally, when Tennessee party chair Mary Mancini and the state party's executive committee acted, in August 2016, to decertify it after what Mancini called "many years of dysfunction."

But it's on the verge of being reformed. Here's a reminder, in the form of a communication from the state party,  of how that process will operate, Note that the first "community forum" in a series of several will occur this coming weekend:


Beginning on April 29, the Shelby County Democratic Party Reorganization Ad Hoc Committee will host a series of community forums to encourage feedback from Democrats throughout Memphis and the surrounding Shelby County suburbs as the body works to reinstate the area’s largest political body.

Meeting Dates & Times:

Saturday, April 29, 12 p.m.
Black Market Strategies
5146 Stage Rd #102, Memphis, TN 38128
Hosted by State Representative Antonio Parkinson

Wednesday, May 3, 6:
0 0 p.m.
Gallery At Madison Square
1819 Madison Ave, 38104
Hosted by Shelby County Young Democrats & College Democrats

Tuesday, May 9, 6:00 p.m.
Pickering Center
7771 Poplar Pike, Germantown, TN 38138
Hosted by Germantown Democrats

Monday, May 15, 6:
0 0 p.m.
Abyssinian Baptist Church
3890 Millbranch Rd, Memphis, TN 38116
Hosted by Democratic Women Of Shelby County

On August 19, 2016, local leaders of the Tennessee Democratic Party voted to temporarily halt Shelby County Democratic Party operations, recruit new leaders from within the community, and create a framework for winning elections in 2018 and beyond. With support from the TN Democratic Party, local leaders established a Reorganization Ad Hoc Committee – a diverse group of thirteen local Democrats who were unanimously appointed by local party representatives.

Current Status:
The ad hoc committee is headed by local attorney and former Shelby County executive committee member Carlissa Shaw and David Cocke, an attorney whose party involvement dates back to the 1970s. The two will lead the creation of a framework for reorganization that:

· considers past challenges and success,
· is welcoming to local Democrats,
· prioritizes efficiency and innovation to mobilize voters,
· and ultimately helps strong Democrats win elections.

Other committee members include Cardell Orrin, Corey Strong (Community Meetings Chair), Danielle Inez (PR Chair), Dave Cambron, Deborah Reed, Emma Meskovic, George Monger, Jeannie Johnson, Jolie Grace Wareham (Secretary), Keith Norman, and Van Turner.

Together, committee members outlined a framework for developing the Shelby County Democratic Party’s new bylaws and orchestrating the 2017 Summer Convention, where new Shelby County Democratic Party leaders will be elected.

Going Forward:
The Democratic Party has a long-standing reputation of supporting the diverse interests of its constituents. As a result, the ad hoc committee is committed to open communication in various forms – via social media discussions, online surveys, and at several forums across the city.

Members of the community are encouraged to register on for important announcements, follow real-time updates at, and email any questions to

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Low Early Voting Totals for District 95

Most of the voting is in the contested Republican special primary.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 22, 2017 at 10:40 PM

With one day to go before the end of the early voting period on Saturday for the District 95 special state House primaries, voter turnout remains sluggish — but one-sidedly Republican

Totals released on Friday by the Shelby County Election Commission show that 1799 total votes, representing 3.5 percent of those eligible to vote in the district,  have been cast at the several early voting locations. That breaks down to 1639 votes in the GOP primary, which has 7 contestants overalll, and 160 votes in the Democratic primary, where the only contestant is Julie Byrd Ashworth.

Ashworth is assured of a place on the  June 15 general election ballot, along with independents Robert Schutt and Jim Tomasik. The seven Republicans competing for the right to appear on the general election ballot are (alphabetically) Joseph Aaron Crone; Gail W. Horner; Curtis D. Loynachan; Missy Marshall; Billy Patton; Frank Uhlhorn; and Kevin Vaughan.

Purpose of the special election process is to replace former state Rep. Mark Lovell, who resigned his seat in February.

Regular primary voting will conclude on Thursday, April 27.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gubernatorial Hopeful Boyd, an East Tennessean, Has Roots in These Parts

Connects with Shelby County Mayor Luttrell on their collaborative past and common Crockett County ancestry, and stresses local control as against "people in Nashville think[ing] they know best."

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 2:05 PM

GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in the Mayor's office this week - JB
  • JB
  • GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in the Mayor's office this week

Former state Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd of Knoxville, an early-bird candidate for Governor in 2018, was making the rounds of West Tennessee this past week to show the flag — and in the process to divulge some local roots.

Some of them were even more local — and more personal — than he knew, as he discovered from a stop at the Vasco Smith Shelby County administrative building on Wednesday morning. Boyd had a dual purpose there, to sit down for an interview with the Flyer in the11th floor conference room of County Mayor Mark Luttrell and to overlap that with a courtesy call on the Mayor.

In the Flyer interview, Boyd, the founder of Radio Systems, Inc., which manufactures and distributes a line of electronic pet-related products ("Invisible Fence" being one well-known example) had disclosed the fact that he had been the first member of his family line to be born and raised in East Tennessee and that seven generations of his immediate forebears had resided in the West Tennessee counties of Madison, Obion, and Crockett.

"You're from Fruitvale?"

In fact, said Boyd, he had made a point of paying homage to his family connections by including as a stop on his announcement tour last month the Crockett County hamlet of Fruitvale (population 64), where he spoke from the stoop of J.O. Boyd's General Store, which had belonged to one of his relations.

"I believe I set a record for the smallest place to make an announcement from," Boyd said.

Later, when Luttrell, having disposed of some pre-scheduled mayoral business elsewhere, entered the conference room and joined the conversation, he, too, was apprised of Boyd's West Tennessee pedigree.

"You're from Fruitvale?" exclaimed the delighted Luttrell, who went on to explain that he himself had spent some growing-up time in nearby Bells, (population 2,437), also in Crockett County. "Bells is a city, compared to Fruitvale!"

Some reminiscences were swapped back and forth, until it got to the point that both men were fondly recalling individuals from the area that they jointly knew. At one point Luttrell mentioned a lady named Myrtle Rose Emerson. "Aunt Myrtle!" Boyd responded.

All of that may have been a revelation of sorts, but Boyd and Luttrell could already claim a longstanding relationship in their official capacities. As Boyd had noted to the Flyer, he had worked with both Luttrell and the current Mayor's predecessor, A C Wharton, in developing a program of community-college tuition aid called "Shelby Achieves," which, along with "Knox Achieves," in Boyd's home environs, had been the precursors of the statewide Tennessee Promise program that Governor Bill Haslam has credited Boyd with developing.

For "High Quality Jobs" and "More Local Control"

As Economic Development Commissioner, Boyd had a hand in several of Haslam's better-known major programs, including Drive to 55 and  Tennessee Reconnect, and he made it clear in the interview that, as Governor, his intent would be to keep on keeping on with such initiatives.

Indeed, in discussing the era of technological and economic progress that he would like to oversee as Governor, Boyd's very manner of speaking, a rapid-fire but highly focused and by no means off-putting stream-of-consciousness style bespoke an obvious intensity of purpose transcending ambition.

Boyd said that, upon entering government at Haslam's invitation "my goal was to create a mission for the state. He struck an almost Trump-like note when, in speaking of entrepreneurs, he praised "people who would be disrupters, coming in with new ideas." His three "key goals" he enumerated as completing the Drive to 55 program (the number representing an ideal minimum of Tennesseans with college degrees or certificates), bringing in "high quality jobs," and creating a "rural task force [to] take care of people left behind."

"The state cannot reach its goals unless Memphis reaches its," said Boyd, who extrapolated a bright future for this area from the fact that Memphis was "Number One in the country" last year in FAFSA filings (applications for federal student aid to attend college).

Boyd sounded one note that would surely be of comfort to Memphians who see state government, at least the legislative part of it, as having increasingly overriden the prerogatives of local government. "I prefer having more local control," he said, conferring his disapproval of "occasions when people in Nashville think they know better."

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Serendipity and Synchronicity: Simultaneous Homages to Racial Harmony, 3-30-17

George Wallace's daughter and former Mayor Herenton both gave voice to triumphs in racial relations.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 9:30 AM

  • JB

“We must embody the character and teachings of Dr. King and demonstrate that no one has a corner on the market of the principles of patriotism, compassion, and equality. There are times in our lives that we cannot change the direction of the wind, but there are always opportunities to adjust ourselves for a more just America. And let us pray that we can proclaim that it is through the peace that comes with understanding that we should, we must, and we shall overcome.”

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of the late Governor George Wallace of Alabama, speaking to the Academy of Professional Family Mediators National Conference at the downtown Doubletree Hotel, Thursday, March 30. (Kennedy, center, is pictured here with Paula Casey (left) and Jocelyn Wurzburg, hostess for the event.)

Kennedy, a teen at the time of her father's ill-fated 1962 pronouncement of "Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever" from a doorway of the University of Alabama, disagreed intensely with her father's position, but, as she said in an interview with the Flyer, "I had no power to speak in my family." She speaks now, frequently and powerfully, on the theme of racial equality, and has  joined U.S. Representative John Lewis, a hero of the 1965 Selma march, in a symbolic re-enactment of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge there.

She believes that her father, who, late in life, after being wounded by an assassin, began trying to make amends, came to sincerely regret actions that he took, she said, not for reasons of the heart but for reasons of political expediency.,

  • JB

“It was in this particular Clayborn Temple, I was speaking on the Martin Luther King Celebration on this stage [in 1991], and Congressman Harold Ford walked in from this entrance here and what the audience was talking about was, they wanted Mayor Hackett out, and they wanted a black mayor. I really didn’t want to be the Mayor. Harold Ford walked in and I said…”Harold, you heard the people. Take leadership!”….That was the genesis of the People’s Convention. I did not seek the Mayor’s office…They said, “Dr. Herenton, we want you to be the Mayor. That would give it credibility.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to be the Mayor.’ I was selected on the first round, 70-something percent, and all of a sudden, I said, I’ve got to run!”

Willie Herenton, former five-times-elected Mayor of Memphis, speaking simultaneously in historic Clayborn Temple in Memphis on Thursday, March 30, on how he came to be a candidate and became the first black mayor of Memphis in 1991. (The occasion was the unveiling of Otis Sanford’s book, From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.)

Sanford (right, below), was interviewed on stage at Clayborn by Susan Thorp. The author, former managing editor of The Commercial Appeal and current holder of the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic/Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis, was scheduled to appear also at Square Books in Oxford, MS, at 5 p.m., Monday, 4-3-17.

  • JB

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Mae Beavers for Governor?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 5:01 PM

State Senator Mae Beavers
  • State Senator Mae Beavers
OK, Flyer readers, you will — repeat, will — have Mae Beavers to, er kick around (or to celebrate, chacun a son gout) , depending on your politics, for much of the next two years.

The ever-controversial iron maiden of the Tennessee state Senate is reliably said to be considering a run for Governor in 2018.

A hat tip to Steve Steffens, the LeftWingCracker blogger, who called our attention to an item in the Nashville Scene that quotes Beavers as responding to the prospect of a withdrawal fro the declared candidate list of her Senate colleague, Mark Green (R-Clarksville), who may be offered the position of Secretary of the Army.

Quoth Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), according to the Scene
: "After the announcement of Senator Green possibly being secretary of the Army, I had calls for a couple of days, and we decided to explore the possibility.”

Beaver is well known as a strict social conservative and an advocate, among other things, for severe curbs on immigrants as well as for the “bathroom bill” that would restrict transgender Tennesseans to the rest room corresponding to the gender indicated on their birth certificates.

More about this anon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

An Even 10 Candidates to Seek District 95 House Seat

Seven Republicans, two independents, and one Democrat qualify for special election race at filing deadline.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 11:03 PM

As of noon Thursday, filing deadline for candidates seeking to replace ex-state Representative Mark Lovell in House District 95 (Germantown, Collierville), a total of 10 candidates qualified: 7 Republicans; 1 Democrat; and 2 independents.

The Republicans are: Joseph Aaron Crone, Gail Williams Horner, Curtis D. Loynachan, Missy Marshall, Billy Patton, Frank Uhlhorn and Kevin Vaughan.

The Democrat is Julie Byrd Ashworth.

Ashworth will compete in the June 15 special general election with the winner of the special Republican primary, which takes place on April 27

Two independent candidates, Robert Schutt and Jim Tomasik, will also compete in the June 15 general election..

The District 95 state House seat became open when Lovell resigned it last month amid allegations of sexual impropriety.

Other information relevant to the District 95 election contest may be obtained from the Shelby County election Commission press release below:


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Another Tale of Two Cities: How to Deal With Donald Trump: PART ONE

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 2:01 PM

  • JB


Even as some Tennesseans continued to organize their resistance to Donald Trump — (top) like these Memphians at Caritas Center last Saturday, the group in the foreground writing postcards to the President with some salty and none too fond advice, the group in the background getting a forum on tactics and goals from an ACLU representative, others (bottom) , like this early-morning lineup of first comers outside Nashville's Municipal Auditorium on Wednesday morning, waited around in 25-degree weather to hear The Donald make his case iat a rally at 6:30 that evening. They, too, had mjessages to send.
  • JB

The Flyer is on hand in Nashville to report on how things work out in the capital city for the President. Who knows? He may decide to leak another couple of 1040 cover filings. We'll let you know what happens. Stay tuned. We'll update.

Inside the Nashville Municipal Arena, where Trump will speak this evening. it's not long after 4 o'clock; Trump has only just landed and is at The Hermitage visiting the ghost of Andrew Jackson (to whom, astonishingly, Jon Meacham compared him this morning and whom he would dearly love to be compared to).

Back here in downtown Nashville, I regret I don't have pics of the line snaking around several city blocks hoping to get in — a mile and a half long and containing upwards of 10,000 people (easily).

I know this will be taken wrong by some readers, but I was reminded of those old newsreels of German soldiers, an endless line of them, trudging off to captivity at Stalingrad.


[Updated postscript: Apparently, this bleak analogy was more on target than I realized. As the succeeding paragraph indicates,an enormous number of those who alternately stood and shuffled their slow way forward on that sub-freezing late-winter day would be denied the door, but not for the reason stated below; the slowness of security screening would be blamed for that by everybody from Trump on down.]

But of course these shivering throngs are pilgrims, whose surrender is hopeful and voluntary. Not all of them will find the glory they're seeking today. The arena only holds 9,000.

ON STAGE: One of the warmup speakers, Mae Beavers, the Tennessee state Senator famous for her multi-front war against vice, is "proud to be on the kill list" with Bannon, Miller, et al.....


IN AN AISLE: Happily smiling and posing for pictures with passerby is a short stocky man. Who is that, I ask. "Spicey!" Someone answers. Sean Spicer looks around and says, "You see, people like me!"

FROM THE CROWD: Two chants have so far broken the restless wait: "Lock Her Up!" and "Build That Wall!" (It might as well be 2016 again!)

[Both chants would anticipate the remarks to the crowd by Trump, who would directly incite another prolonged chorus of the "Lock Her Up" chant against Hillary and look on smugly as it reverberated around the floor.

THE STALL IS ON: It gets to be six-thirty and beyond. Late in the series of warm-up acts, which have included various pols, the Gatlin Brothers live and various rock-era Golden Oldies canned, Senator Bob Corker comes out, begins some more obligatory rah-rah,, then says, "I'll tell you what I'm really doing. I'm killing time until he comes out. A lot of people want to get in, and we're trying to get 'em in." Eerily and inexplicably, there are rows and rows of empty seats. Trump is backstage somewherfe here, long since, but you know he doesn't want to appear in front of empty seats.

Enter Lee Greenwood. And he does his usual, one more time. Proud to be an American, at least he knows he's free.He gets done, and then, suddenly, at last...



  • JB

Friday, March 10, 2017

John DeBerry: An Outlier on Vouchers

The Memphis state representative and supporter of the Kelsey bill foresees a close vote when push comes to shove.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 10:50 AM

State Rep. John DeBerry
  • State Rep. John DeBerry

Interviewed by WATN-TV, Local 24, in Memphis on Thursday for a segment to be broadcast on Sunday, State Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) predicted that the forthcoming House vote on school vouchers will be “close” because of exaggerated criticism from opponents, including many of his Democratic colleagues, forecasting ill consequences: “...apocalypse, the zombies are coming, everything is going to fall apart, and so forth.”

The long-serving DeBerry, a businessman and minister whose sprawling, ethnically mixed District 90 takes in much of Midtown, along with large expanses of North and South Memphis,  has long endorsed the voucher concept, whereby public funds can be set aside in selected cases as tuition support at private educational institutions. That sets him apart from most other Democrats and African Americans in the legislature.

DeBerry characterized himself as an early advocate of a vouchers system: “Myself and a few others, we were talking about vouchers before it was cool.” He suggested that a vouchers approach to education was “just another tool in the toolbox, just another innovation” at a time when the state has been “involved in educational innovation for at least 10 years.”

As he put it, “We created this [public education] system, and we have a right to re-create it for today.” Downplaying the potential shock effect of vouchers on public school systems, DeBerry said, “The number of parents who would use vouchers has shrunk because of [the superfluity] of choices.”

The Memphis legislator argued that the main vouchers bill, sponsored by state Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and defined so as to be a de facto pilot program in Memphis, is limited to 5000 students, eligible for stipends of no more than $7000 each. Acknowleding that such a sum would be insufficient to cover tuition at numerous private institutions, he noted that the bill stipulates that “private schools participating have to accept students at the amount of money allocated for the student.”

The program would depend on “parent initiative,” DeBerry said. “The state’s not going to put somebody in a school. The parent will.”

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Voucher and De-Annexation Issues Both Headed for Showdowns

The political futures of individuals, parties, and even local governmental institutions are all at serious risk.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 12:42 PM

County Commissioners Steve Basar and Terry Roland during deliberations on Wednesday. - JB
  • JB
  • County Commissioners Steve Basar and Terry Roland during deliberations on Wednesday.

Two matters of significant importance to Memphis and Shelby County (considered both separately and as a single geographic unit) are hanging fire as of this week.

One involves the question of school vouchers, which is sure to come to a head in the state General Assembly before it adjourns in April. The other has to do with de-annexation legislation directly affecting Memphis and its suburbs, and this matter, too, is likely to have a reckoning in Nashville before session’s end.

VOUCHERS: Until this week, it seemed reasonably certain that the Shelby County Commission was prepared, on a tight deadline, to establish the machinery for appointing an interim state Representative to fill the state House vacancy created by the resignation last month of Rep. Mark Lovell in District 95 (Germantown, Collierville).

A schedule had already been prepared, calling for applications for the interim position to be made available between March 21st and March 27th, with applicants to be interviewed by the commission on March 29th and an appointment to be made during the Commission's regular public meeting of April 3rd.

Given that the legislature has plans to adjourn sometime in April, that left little time for an interim Representative to serve. (Governor Bill Haslam had meanwhile issued a writ establishing a schedule for a special election, to be completed in a general election in June — well after the end of the current legislative session.)
The momentum for the Commission’s determination to appoint an interim successor to Lovell was the likelihood that at least one voucher bill, sponsored by state Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), and possibly another, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), would be among the late measures still requiring a definitive vote in the waning days of the General Assembly.

The Commission had voted unanimously on February 20 to oppose voucher legislation pending in the General Assembly. The Commission’s seven Democrats, all African Americans from Memphis districts, and six Republicans, whites with constituencies in East Memphis and the suburbs, were firm on the issue.

They all saw voucher legislation, which would enable public funding for tuition at private schools, as being a threat to the financial and logistical underpinning of both the Memphis-based Shelby County Schools district and the six independent municipal districts in the suburbs.

But a complication arose over the weekend in the form of a concerted effort among various Shelby County Democrats to persuade the seven Commission Democrats to vote as a bloc to appoint prominent Germantown Democrat Adrienne Pakis-Gillon as the interim appointee from District 95.

Inasmuch as District 95 is, by some reckonings, the most dyed-in-the-wool Republican House district in the state, the GOP members of the Commission expressed concern at this possible breach of what they considered a long-standing gentlemen’s’ agreement that governmental vacancies should be filled by members of the same parties that had occupied the seats previously.

Though that tradition had been flouted once before, in the case of a vacant Commission seat, it never had been in determining interim appointees to the legislature.

Consequently, in Monday’s meeting of the Commission’s general government committee, there came a motion from Republican Commissioner Terry Roland of Millington to abandon the idea of appointing an interim successor to Lovell, leaving the District 95 seat vacant until the 2018 legislative session, come what might on vouchers in 2017.

Roland’s motion failed on a vote of 4 ayes, 4 noes, and one abstention among the committee members present, but, ominously for opponents of the voucher bills, one who supported Roland was GOP Commissioner David Reaves of Bartlett, a former School Board member who had been arguably the most determined opponent of vouchers on the Commission and who had spearheaded the unanimous anti-voucher vote of February 20.

As late as Tuesday morning, Reaves was insisting that, as he told the Flyer, “"We need to appoint somebody to represent the district.” But on Wednesday, with partisanship threatening to supplant vouchers as the issue, Reaves had begun to backtrack on the need for an interim appointee.

He had assumed, along with other Commissioners, that the gentlemen’s’ agreement would hold, and that some moderate Republican (Reaves himself suggested former School Board colleague David Pickler) would fill the void in Nashville long enough to express the will of the Commission on the voucher issue.

Now everything was in doubt, with Democrats and Republicans beginning to eye each other across the partisan divide and a showdown scheduled for Monday, March 20, when the Commission will meet again, with one last chance to begin trying to get someone up to Nashville on behalf of District 95 before legislative adjournment.

Much depends on whether, as of March 20, there is anything resembling bloc unity among the Commission’s seven Democrats on the matter of an interim appointment for Pakis-Gillon or any other Democrat.

An informal survey of the Democratic contingent by the Flyer indicates that such is not the case, that as many as three Democratic members have yet to decide on the matter, and one or two have strong doubts about the propriety of risking long-term bipartisan comity for the sake of a transitory and perhaps Pyrrhic symbolic victory.

Especially for its effect on what looms as a forthcoming extra-tight House vote on vouchers.

: On Thursday, the day after the inconclusive Commission vote on District 95, the aforesaid Terry Roland was on his way to Nashville, in tandem with a group of suburbanites from the South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke areas desiring to de-annex themselves from Memphis.

The point, as Commissioner Roland explained it, was to force more or less immediate action on a de-annexation measure in the face of what appears to be a dilatory attitude by the Memphis City Council toward acting on a home-grown de-annexation alternative offered up recently by a joint city-county task force.

“They don’t want to wait around until 2020 or 2021 when the Council might or might not have got something done on the task force plan,” Roland said, referring to a “rightsizing” initiative prepared to the City Council last month by Caissa Public Strategies on behalf of the Strategic Footprint Review Task Force, the ad hoc city/county body created to explore formulas for potential voluntary de-annexations.

That report cited six areas considered suitable for de-annexation via City Council action. Several of the areas were large but thinly inhabited land masses where the cost of providing essential city infrastructure was judged to outweigh returns to the city via sales and property tax revenues. But included also and key to the proposal were the South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke areas, both annexed by Memphis relatively recently, both sources of significant revenue for the city, and both hotbeds of de-annexation sentiment.

Some residents of both those areas, while pleased at being included in the “right-sizing” plan, professed themselves at subsequent public meetings to be dissatisfied by the plan’s proposed scheduling, which put off final implementation of their de-annexation until 2020 or 2021.

These residents’ restlessness has been increased further by the apparent disinclination of the Council for a definitive vote on the right-sizing plan before the legislature’s planned adjournment in April, and further yet by a growing consensus on the Council to arrange instead for referenda down the line in the affected city areas.

Hence the decision by the Roland group to exert direct pressure on the legislature to act on its own during the current session. “I’d be fine with having the Council act on it, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to,” declared the Millington Commissioner and declared candidate for County Mayor in 2018.

If the legislature should act on its own, it could well favor a reprise of the 2016 measure proposed by two Hamilton County suburbanites, state Rep. Mike Carter (R-Oooltewah) and state Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson), whose original measure enabled easy referenda on de-annexation by any community annexed by a city since 1998.

The Carter-Watson measure, considered Draconian by Memphis and other affected cities, passed the House last year and was tabled in a Senate committee only by dint of monumental last-ditch exertions against it by officials of Memphis and other urban areas and by the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce.

One word of caution for the politically ambitious Roland from a Council source: “Curry Todd (R-Collierville) and [Steve] McManus (R-Cordova) got a message last year” — the idea being that former state Representatives Todd and McManus may have lost their reelection battles last year at least partly due to their zeal for the Carter-Watson bill and the resultant disaffection of influential donors in commercial and financial circles.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Haslam Clears Way for District 95 Special Election

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 12:51 PM

See full-size district map in PDF below.
  • See full-size district map in PDF below.

On Thursday, March 2, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a writ ordering the special election to decide who will replace Mark Lovell as state representative for District 95 in the Tennessee General Assembly.

The Governor’s writ specifies that the primary election for District 95 will be held on Thursday, April 27, with the general election to be held on Thursday, June 15.

In the meantime, as of the Governor’s announcement, the Shelby County Commission is empowered to meet and set dates for advertising the position, interviewing candidates for it, and finally selecting an interim state representative for District 95.

On February 14, it will be recalled, Lovell resigned under pressure from the House Republican leadership following allegations of sexual misconduct with a female staff member. He had only begun to serve the term he was elected to after defeating incumbent State Representative Curry Todd in the Republican primary last August and then winning the general election unopposed.

According to Shelby County election administrator Linda Phillips, “There will probably be one early voting location in Germantown and one in Collierville, but ultimately that decision is up to the [SCEC] commissioners.”

The five-members of the Election Commission will make that and other relevant decisions about the election at the next SCEC meeting on March 21 at 4 p.m. at the Operations Center at 980 Nixon Dive.

Would-be candidates for the seat may pick up a candidate nominating petition at either of the two offices of the Election Commission, at Nixon Drive or downtown. Phillips advises that the petitions must be accompanied by the signatures of 25 voters who are registered to vote in the 95th district and that the qualifying deadline for submitting a petition is Thursday, March 16, at noon, with the withdrawal deadline set for Monday, March 20 at noon.

Further information is available below in the press release containing the Governor’s announcement.

Go here to see the press release as a PDF:
Go here to see the map of District 95 as a PDF:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Members of Congress React to Trump Speech

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 5:56 PM

The President on Tuesday night
  • The President on Tuesday night

Here’s how the four men who represent Memphis and Shelby County in Washington reacted to President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

9th District Congressman Steve Cohen (Democrat):

“We should be focusing on creating good-paying jobs, restoring faith in our criminal justice system, fine-tuning the Affordable Care Act, and improving educational opportunities. We should be increasing funding for programs that are vital for the health and well-being of my constituents and so many people across the country such as food stamps, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, energy assistance and community health care centers.

“We should be protecting the environment and addressing the undeniable threat of global warming. Unfortunately, based on what we heard from the President tonight, I fear we may see the opposite. The President's plan to increase defense spending to historic levels will likely result in cuts to these important programs and services.

“I don’t feel that this apparent billionaire who lives a lifestyle of the rich and famous understands, much less is trying to serve, the middle class who often live paycheck-to-paycheck and find themselves in need a helping hand.”

8th District Congressman David Kustoff (Republican):

"Tonight, we heard an uplifting and unifying speech from President Trump that outlined bold plans to strengthen our country. I’m glad the President addressed the need for a new health care law with patient-centric, cost-efficient choices. After years of struggling to recover from the devastating recession, we can expect relief for small businesses and individuals through reduced regulations and lower taxes.

“I was also pleased to hear how this Administration is prioritizing American safety by increasing defense spending, strengthening border security and supporting law enforcement. It is clear President Trump is already keeping his promises to the American people, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to achieve real solutions and revive the American spirit.”

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican):

Here is the Senator’s anticipatory statement before the speech

“What I hope to hear from the president tonight is his determination to restore local control to public schools the way Congress passed the law fixing No Child Left Behind more than a year ago. I want to hear more about deregulation of this country – getting rid of the regulations that are smothering job growth. I’d like to hear more about tax reform – lowering taxes and making it easier for companies to stay in the United States.

“And of course, in Tennessee, we badly need a rescue team to deal with Obamacare because it is failing in our state, according to our state insurance commissioner, and we need a new system of healthcare that will move decisions out of Washington back to the states so people can have more choices of lower-cost insurance.”

And here is what Alexander said after the speech:

“The president’s speech was hopeful and well-delivered. I especially liked his focus on the importance of national defense, on restoring local control of schools, and on repairing the damage Obamacare has caused and replacing it with health care systems that provide Americans with more choices of health insurance at a lower cost.”

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (Republican):

Here is what the Senator had said prior to the speech:

“There is a lot of anticipation about the president’s speech tonight to Congress – his first. I know that a lot of people will be tuned in.

“I spend a lot of time with him on foreign policy issues – and those throughout government – so for me, what is more interesting tonight is to hear what he is going to talk about regarding domestic issues.

“I hope there is going to be some clarity around repealing and replacing the health care bill. I hope there is going to be some clarity as to how he plans to deal with tax reform in a way that will grow our economy and at the same time cause us to be able to reduce our deficits. And, finally, just the whole issue of out-of-control spending, in general.

“Those are three areas that I hope he will address. I know he will talk about a number of other things, but I look forward to it and hope it goes well.”

Afterward the Senator was quoted by a television station as saying, apropos the President’s recommendations for bipartisan action on a number of subjects:

“It’s up to us.”

And he tweeted as follows:

“It was great to see members of @realDonaldTrump’s impressive Cabinet last night. Honored to have a front row seat for the #JointSession.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Surprises Galore at Local GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner

Strickland says he eschews local media; Keynoter Alberto Gonzales picks a bone or two with President Trump; and candidates turn up in droves.

Posted By on Sun, Feb 26, 2017 at 10:37 AM

Two revelations in particular stand out from Saturday night’s Lincoln Day banquet, the Shelby County Republican Party’s annual ceremonial event.

Mayor Strickland (r) shmoozing at Lincoln Day - JB
  • JB
  • Mayor Strickland (r) shmoozing at Lincoln Day
The first concerns Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, whose busy schedule takes him to any number of after-hours public events of this sort, regardless of their politics. (After a fair amount of hand-shaking and dutiful schmoozing with attendees at the Lincoln Day event, held at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn, the Mayor left early, destined for a Young Democrats event featuring Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.)

The revelation is that Strickland has a personal policy of reading no newspapers and not availing himself of news reports on TV or in social media, as well. Really. “Never,” he insists.

“I find out what I need by going to the source of things, the people I represent,” the Mayor said. He asserted that he has no home subscription to the daily newspaper, for example, though his press assistants, Ursula Madden and Kyle Veazey, keep him briefed on news of importance from that and other sources. As might others in the administration.

Strickland sounded almost like another well-known chief executive when he said the media tend to focus on sensation and irrelevance instead of the actual substance of city government.

That other chief executive, President Donald Trump, figured large, though mainly by cautious and critical indirection, in the remarks of Lincoln Day keynoter Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. Attorney General under President George W. Bush, and currently Dean of Belmont University School of Law in Nashville.

A presidential quartet at Lincoln Day - JB
  • JB
  • A presidential quartet at Lincoln Day

•And that’s the other main revelation from Saturday night. At a time when polls show Trump’s approval ratings going south among Democrats and independents but mounting sky-high among Republicans, Gonzales, who underwent ample controversy of his own during his tenure as Attorney General, was more than willing, as one prominent GOP voice, to dissent from party orthodoxy vis-à-vis both Trump and the Republican Congress.

Hardly had Gonzales got beyond the opening courtesies of his address to the Lincoln Day audience when he declared, “We have just endured one of the most remarkable and bitter presidential campaigns in recent memory. Our new President has now begun the business of carrying out an aggressive agenda that he promised the American people, and those efforts have not been without some mis-steps, and I would be less than honest if I said that nothing that has been reported in the press or tweeted directly by the President concerns me.”

Gonzales signing copies of memoir, "True Faith and Allegiance," for Republicans at Lincoln Day - JB
  • JB
  • Gonzales signing copies of memoir, "True Faith and Allegiance," for Republicans at Lincoln Day
Gonzales promptly softened that rebuke by noting “how hard it is to govern a nation as vast and diverse as ours,” that “mistakes are going to happen,” and that “we should be careful about rushing to judgment.” He further acknowledged, “It is a dangerous world, and we need Donald Trump to be strong.”

The former Attorney General then announced he would concentrate his attention on two subjects: immigration and the Supreme Court.

Approaching the subject of immigration “from the standpoint of a grandson of Hispanic immigrants,” Gonzales declared, “Diversity is one of the great strengths of the United States — diversity by the migration of cultures, ethnicities, and ideas.” While paying homage to the need for secure borders, he said that goal was “best achieved not through executive action, but as part of an effective, comprehensive immigration law.”

Gonzales, who had earlier gone public with the notion that Trump’s declaration of an immigration ban had been “botched,” went on to call for a policy that could “accommodate an effective but controlled response to humanitarian crises around the world.

Further Gonzales pronouncements on immigration, all contrasting with the current Trump administration line: “Let there be no question about this. Our government is incapable of forcibly removing 12 million people,” and “mass deportation of millions of workers would hurt our economy.”

Those illegals who have stayed out of trouble and been good citizens, by “paying a fine and back taxes, for example, should be able to remain in the country and obtain some kind of legal status” even to the point of ultimately “qualifying for citizenship.”

Amnesty? The word was given too broad a definition by immigration foes. The wall? Much of the “problem” with illegals in this country results from people who overstay their Visas, and “not even a 50-foot wall is going to address this problem."

And, as for “the fate of immigrant children brought unlawfully to this country, Gonzales pronounced himself “in favor or comprehensive federal legislation that gives these children [“these dreamers, he would call them] the opportunity to seek legal status.”

All in all, about as thorough a deconstruction of Donald Trump’s immigration policy as could be imagined — though couched here and there with faint praise for the President’s determination “to make America great again” and an insistence that he be given “an opportunity to succeed.”

Pivoting to his other main topic, the United States Supreme Court, the former U.S. Attorney General made a point of praising as “well qualified” former President Obama’s Court nominee of 2016, Merrick Garland and, after chastising Senate Democrats for withholding approval of past Republican nominees, said “I believe that obstruction by Senate Republicans over the Garland nomination was also wrong.”

Gonzales got firmly back on base by praise of Trump’s current Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, as “exceptionally well qualified” and called for Senate Democrats to do the right thing by allowing a floor vote where their GOP colleagues had done the wrong thing by refusing to do so with Garland.

In sum, however heterodoxical it was in relation to current GOP strategy, Gonzales’ speech was thoughtful and well received by his local Republican audience. In a sidelight to his remarks, Gonzales had been asked, in 
Gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee with pollster/consultant Steven Reid, a campaign associate - JB
  • JB
  • Gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee with pollster/consultant Steven Reid, a campaign associate
a pre-speech chat with reporters, whether he had any interest in joining the growing field of Republicans who intend to run for Governor in 2018. “I’m happy where I’m at,” was the firm response of the Dean of the Belmont Law School.

•If Alberto Gonzales, a transplanted Tennessean, was hesitant to join the crowd of GOP gubernatorial candidates, there were no few Republicans on hand at Lincoln Day who were more than eager to profess their willingness to run. Whether announced or not, these worthies were already running, and their presence attested to the fact.

Among them were U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-6th District), whom Rep. David Kustoff (R-8th District) had described as his “mentor;” state Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksdale); Shelby County’s own state Senator Mark Norris (R-District 32), the Senate majority leader; businessman and recently resigned state director of Economic Development Randy Boyd; and Nashville-area businessman Bill Lee.

(So far, only one major Democrat, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, has announced for Governor,  via a weekend statement in the Nashville Tennessean, although others are considering a gubernatorial race.)

•Also on hand at Lincoln Day on Saturday, and looking to be in prime shape after a lengthy battle with cancer, was former longtime 
Uhlhorn (l) with Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo - JB
  • JB
  • Uhlhorn (l) with Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo
Germantown alderman Frank Uhlhorn, who pronounced himself a candidate for the now open District 95 seat in the state House of Representatives. That is the seat previously occupied by Curry Todd, who incurred multiple controversies and was ousted in the 2016 election by businessman Mark Lovelll. In his turn, Lovell was forced to resign his office amid charges of untoward sexual conduct (which he denies).

In the short term, Lovell’s successor will be an interim appointee by the Shelby County Commission, which, in a unanimous vote just last week, put prospective candidates on notice that opposition to the currently proposed school-voucher bill in the General Assembly is a de facto prerequisite for appointment.
Uhlhorn, for one, had no trouble with that and declared himself an exponent of public education.

•The voucher bill’s sponsor, state Senator Brian Kelsey (R-District 31), was also at the banquet. He declared himself unfazed by the Commission’s position on the issue. “My concern is for these children who have been condemned to attend failing schools for 13 years in a row, and they need help this year,” Kelsey said, boasting that his bill, with Democratic co-sponsors Sen. Reginald Tate (D-District 33) and state Rep. John DeBerry (D-District 90) had bipartisan support.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kelsey, Harris File Legislation to Regulate Future Water Policy in West Tennessee (UPDATED)

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 11:11 AM

UPDATE: (Bill would not directly affect already approved applications like proposed new TVA wells, though ongoing lawsuit from Sierra Club and Protect Our Aquifer might.)

Though currently approved projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority's plan for operating five wells to draw water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer won't be affected, a piece of legislation filed by two Shelby County legislators could substantially affect future water policy locally.

Senators Lee Harris (l), Brian Kelsey - JB
  • JB
  • Senators Lee Harris (l), Brian Kelsey

State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Lee Harris (D-Memphis) have filed a bill that would establish a Memphis Sand Aquifer Regional Development board with approval powers over any pumping of more than 10,000 gallons of water from the aquifer, source of the Memphis area's drinking water.

A TVA plan to drill into the aquifer via five new wells has been sanctioned by the Shelby County Water Quality Control Board but is still opposed by a group of environmentally minded citizens, who are concerned about possible leak-through contamination of the aquifer, among other issues.

The expressed purpose of the TVA drilling is to obtain some 3.5 million gallons of water daily from the aquifer to serve as coolant for the Authority's forthcoming natural-gas power plant. Though the bill presented by Kelsey and Harris will not offset the Shelby County Water Control Board's previous approval of that project, it was directly inspired by environmental concerns and would impose stringent new conditions for any future such proposals.

And a current lawsuit filed in Chancery Court by The Sierra Club and the Protect Our Aquifer nonprofit group challenges the Water Quality Board's action and offers a possible means of reversing TVA's license to pursue with its aquifer-drilling project.

As Ward Archer, founder of Protect Our Aquifer, explains in a memo to the Flyer:

"On February 1, 2017, Protect Our Aquifer, along with the Sierra Club, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Shelby County Chancery Court seeking judicial review of the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board's decision upholding the issuance of well permits to TVA to draw potable water directly from our Memphis Sand Aquifer.

"The case was assigned to Chancellor Jim Kyle. On February 9, 2017, Chancellor Kyle signed an order instructing the clerk of the court to issue the writ requiring the board to submit the record from the administrative proceeding to the court within thirty days.

"This is the first step in the appeal process."
The petition from Sierra Club and Protect Our Aquifer can be accessed here:
And here is the news release announcing the Kelsey/Harris bill:

(NASHVILLE), February 14, 2017 — State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Lee Harris (D-Memphis) have filed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly setting up a Memphis Sands Aquifer Regional Development Board to protect water supplies in West Tennessee. Senate Bill 776 also requires board approval to pump more than 10,000 gallons of water from the aquifer to ensure its long-term viability.

It is sponsored by Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) and Rep. Curtis Halford (R-Dyer) in the House of Representatives.

“Clean drinking water is very important to our citizens and our future,” said Sen. Kelsey. “This legislation aims to ensure the aquifer remains a clean and reliable source for future generations.”

The action follows approval given to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to pump approximately 3.5 million gallons of aquifer water each day to cool its new power-generating plant in Southwest Memphis, a move which is deemed controversial by some scientists and environmentalists.

Under the bill, the board would have all of the powers, rights, and privileges necessary to manage, conserve, preserve, and protect the aquifer, and to increase the recharge of, and prevent the waste or pollution in, the aquifer. The nine-member board would be fairly comprised of the mayors of Shelby and two other West Tennessee counties overlying the aquifer. The governor would appoint the remaining members with two from the agricultural community, two from commerce, and two from the environmental/research community.

“This board would also help ensure that the flow of rain and water into the aquifer prevents pollution and waste,” Kelsey added. “I believe this legislation provides a well-balanced approach to ensure the aquifer is protected for many years to come.”

In addition, Senate Bill 886, sponsored by Harris and Kelsey, requires anyone planning to drill a well to give at least 14 days advance notice to the state commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation with the notice published on department’s website. Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), Rep. Lollar and Rep. Halford are sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives.

Senator Harris said, “Everyone should know that our aquifer makes West Tennessee a very special place, as compared with other areas of the country. We need to work to preserve that asset. We know that there’s enough drinking water for today’s generation, but that’s not the worry. We want to make sure that the aquifer is preserved for future generations. That means we need to be careful with respect to the precedents we set today, since those precedents have a funny way to leading to negative consequences later. Because this aquifer is so special, we also want to do what we can to make sure that the public knows what’s happening with it and how it’s being utilized. When there are proposals to use that resource, we need to have a serious conversation with the public, and sometimes we need to be able to modify or even reject some of these uses.”

The water stored in the Memphis sand aquifer, which is also known as the Middle Claiborne, first fell as rain 332 BC. It covers 7,500 miles in portions of seven states, including 20 West Tennessee counties. Although aquifers are used for drinking water by more than 100 million Americans, Kelsey said the quality of the Memphis aquifer is unsurpassed.
The bill itself (SB0776/HB0816) may be seen here:


Tags: , , , , , ,

Shelby Legislator Lovell Resigns

Allegedly engaged in “inappropriate touching [and] sexual contact with a woman last week....”

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 10:54 AM

Mark Lovell
  • Mark Lovell
The latest casualty resulting from newly tightened ethical rules in the Tennessee General Assembly is state Rep. Mark Lovell (R-Eads), who had held his District 95 seat in the state House of Representatives for little more than a month.

According to an online article by the Nashville Tennessean on Tuesday, Lovell has submitted a letter of resignation amid allegations that he had what the newspaper, quoting an unidentified Republican legislator as its source, termed “inappropriate touching [and] sexual contact with a woman last week ...”

Ironically, Lovell had resoundingly defeated former longtime House member Curry Todd (R-Collierville) in the GOP legislative primary last August, at least partly because of a variety of ethical transgressions charged against Todd, including most recently the vandalism of Lovell’s signs in the election campaign.

Lovell's letter of resignation, addressed to House Speaker Beth Harwell, may be accessed here:
And a statrement from the former legislator follow here:

“Earlier today I submitted a letter of resignation to The Speaker of the House, Honorable Beth Harwell, to resign my seat serving the 95th House District in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

"This was a tremendously difficult decision. I can only hope everyone who placed their trust in me to represent them in the State Legislature including all my constituents, neighbors, family and friends can accept my sincerest apology for having to resign at this time.

"Over the past few months, it has become evident to me that I was not fulfilling the promise I made to myself and my family to continue to be available to my family needs both physically and mentally. While I am extremely disappointed that at this time I do not feel I have the capacity to serve my constituents and represent them to the best of my abilities while also giving my family the attention they deserve, I must choose to focus on my family and myself at this time.

"Again, I am extremely grateful for all of the trust the great people in my district have placed in me and I apologize greatly for not being able to fulfill my campaign promises to them.

"Regarding any sexual harassment allegations, I stand by my statement that no improprieties happened and the allegations are completely false.

"So that I may begin focusing on my family, any further inquiries need to be directed to Valerie Morris, my communications representative.” – Mark Lovell

Cohen Gets New Committee Assignment: Ethics

Democratic House Leader Pelosi makes the appointment.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 9:38 AM

Rep. Steve Cohen
  • Rep. Steve Cohen

In a political season in which ethics issues may come to predominate, 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen has been named to the House Committee on Ethics. Here's the news release from Rep. Cohen's office:

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today was appointed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and approved by the House Democratic Caucus to serve on the House Committee on Ethics. In 2008, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi referred to Congressman Cohen as the “conscience of the freshman class.”

“The Ethics Committee is critical to maintaining the dignity of the People’s House,” Leader Pelosi said. “With his leadership, integrity, and courage, Congressman Steve Cohen will be a strong addition to the Ethics Committee. As a Member of the Judiciary Committee with many years of dedicated service representing Tennessee, Congressman Cohen knows the high standards hard-working Americans have for their elected officials. Congressman Cohen will be a strong advocate for ensuring every Member of Congress honors this sacred trust.”

“I am proud to be appointed by Leader Pelosi to serve on the House Ethics Committee,” said Congressman Cohen. “One of the most important reasons I came to Congress in 2007 was to fight against the culture of corruption in Washington. I strongly advocated for and voted for the strongest ethics and lobbying reforms since the Watergate era and for the creation of the nonpartisan, independent Office of Congressional Ethics that Republicans sought to dismantle earlier this year. Throughout my legislative career, I have been aware that elected officials must be, like Caesar’s wife, ‘above suspicion’ as the public trust is most sacred. During my time in the Tennessee State Senate, I was the only Senator to twice receive the Common Cause Bird Dog Award for ‘dedication to honesty and integrity in government.’ I welcome the opportunity to serve on the Ethics Committee during a time when the trust and integrity of our government is being tested.”


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