Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Myron Lowery for City Council (Again)?

After Cohen and Harris dis the current Council, the former Councilman teases the idea of a return at the annual New Year’s prayer breakfast, presided over this year by son Mickell, a County Commissioner.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 11:57 AM

FATHER-SON COMBO: Once and possibly future  City Councilman Myron Lowery (l) with current County Commissioner Mickell Lowery, his son, at the Lowerys' annual New Year's prayer breakfast. - JB
  • JB
  • FATHER-SON COMBO: Once and possibly future City Councilman Myron Lowery (l) with current County Commissioner Mickell Lowery, his son, at the Lowerys' annual New Year's prayer breakfast.

The Memphis City Council took some serious licks Tuesday at the annual New Year’s prayer breakfast, presided over for a quarter-century by former Councilman Myron Lowery, and this year, by County Commissioner Mickell Lowery, his son.

The upshot was that several of the event’s principal speakers — 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, and finally former Councilman Lowery himself — expressed some of the negative views that have been circulating in the community at large during weeks of gridlock over the appointment of new council members, following months of other questionable actions by the council.

Part of the fallout was the suggestion by the senior Lowery at the event’s conclusion that he had given thought to putting his name up for appointment to the “fractured” council, now three members short. Lowry went on to say he had discarded the idea, but added, as a parting tease: "I am giving consideration perhaps to another run this year.”

Earlier, Cohen had included a dig at the council amid kudos for County Mayor Harris and members of the Shelby County Commission in attendance: “The county commission seems to be doing a little better than the city council,” the Congressman said.

When it came his time to speak, Harris extolled both Lowerys for their service and quipped, “Some of y’all remember when we had a city council in Memphis.”

All of which led to the piece de resistance, Myron Lowery’s floated idea of another council run.

Continue reading »

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Strickland Issues Call for More Citizen Involvement

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 3:41 PM

Mayot Strickland - JB
  • JB
  • Mayot Strickland
Politics as such went largely unspoken of at Mayor Jim Strickland’s annual New Year’s prayer breakfast on Monday morning — the 2019 edition on New Year’s Eve, actually — at the University of Memphis-area Holiday Inn on Central Avenue. 

Dignitaries of all sorts — past, present, and on-the-way-to-being-future — were on hand for the event, which included some extraordinary singing and preaching, the latter notably including a passionate impromptu sermon on the value of persistence through adversity from the Rev. J. Lawrence Turner of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, who was filling in for the absent Rev. LaSimba Gray.

Another absentee was former Mayor Willie Herenton, who was the keynote speaker and guest-of-honor two years ago at Strickland’s New Year’s event, where Herenton called for “10,000 black men” to serve as mentors for the city’s youth population. Two years later, the call for mentors was reiterated by Strickland, who in brief remarks asked for volunteers to commit “one hour a week” to a variety of uplift activities, including “Team Read” and “Rise to Read," two programs aimed at increasing youth literacy.

The 79-year-old Herenton, meanwhile, has demonstrated his own persistence by becoming a declared challenger for the mayoralty again in this year of city elections. The only reference Strickland made on Monday to any previous mayor was indirect and early in his remarks, when he was celebrating the contributions to the city by its faith community, members of which, he noted, had been key supporters of those who “struck against my predecessor [Henry Loeb] 50 years ago.”

By such verbal means, the current mayor deftly put himself on the side of the angels — which is to say, in line with the aspirations of the city’s African-American majority, whom Strickland, who is white, successfully courted in his 2015 victory over then-incumbent Mayor A C Wharton.

The courtship continued through part one of Strickland’s address on Monday, the aforementioned celebration of the Memphis faith community — on the job, he said, “day in and day out” — and extended through part two, which was dedicated to the proposition that Memphis has “momentum” and which allowed the mayor to recount some of what he put forth as recent successes during his administration.

Some of these were the expansion at St. Jude and new jobs through the auspices of Amazon and Indigo, plans for universal pre-K education within two years, reduction of the city’s poverty rate, and increased hires and contracting with the Memphis minority community.

“My job is to celebrate our successes and to be clear-eyed about our challenges,” Strickland summed up in the third and concluding part of his remarks, wherein he issued an appeal to his audience to “get involved” in the task of dealing with the challenges.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Another George H.W. Bush Memory

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 11:44 AM

There have been so many stories from all sides of every aisle reflecting favorably on  the person of the late President George H.W. Bush. I’ll add one:

In 1991 or so, President Bush came to Memphis on some mission, governmental or political or mixed, and landed on FedEx turf, emerging to meet a large crowd of welcomers in a hangar. I managed to be in that crowd and got close to the rope line so as to get a good snapshot of him.

When Bush had got to a point more or less in front of me, I raised my camera, a 35-millimeter sort, to my eye and prepared to press the shutter. The President, observing me two or three ranks back. and imagining me no doubt to be there as a plain citizen, not a news person, interrupted the conversation he was having at the rope line and raised his arms, palms to either side, waving his arms outward in a gesture meant to tell the crowd to move aside, leaving me a good shot-line. Simultaneously, he offered one of the most pleasant smiles imaginable, not the mindless grip-and-grin sort public figures have in such ample stock but one of eye-twinkling complicity (or so it seemed to me).

Just as I pressed the shutter of the camera, the old film-roll sort, I heard the tell-tale sound of the camera’s motor, telling me that I had taken my last shot with that roll and the film was beginning its automatic rewind. President Bush must have heard that whir, too, or perhaps merely read and translated my stricken expression. In any case, he clearly knew what had happened, and his kindly look transformed into one of obvious compassion with my predicament, culminating, seconds later, with a wink and a "so-it-goes" shrug..

That striking display of empathy is what I took away from that day in the hangar, not a photograph but a moment that still remains in my memory as a mini-portrait of the man.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hundreds Rally to Save Mueller Inquiry

Masses of Memphians brave the cold to sound a warning to Trump after Sessions firing and Whitaker hiring: "Hands off the Russian investigation! Justice will be served!"

Posted By on Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 9:58 PM

  • Laura Jean Hocking

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Plaza in Downtown Memphis on Saturday to protest the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Matthew Whittaker to replace him by President Donald Trump.

The Rally to Protect the Mueller Investigation was part of a wave of protests that swept the nation this week that sought to bring attention to the dangers of a president who considers himself above the law.

“No one is above the law” was a common chant throughout the rally.

Speaking through a bullhorn on a crisp Fall day, Emily Fulmer told the crowd her group Indivisible Memphis “…is against Trump’s racist, anti-LBGT, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-democracy, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies.”

She vowed to bring an end to “incompetent and hate-filled leadership in Washington. We’ve been working hard to elect replacements for our out-of-touch, Trump-loving representatives here and across the country.”

Fulmer said Trump had exceeded his authority. “This week he crossed the line when he fired Jeff Sessions and picked the most inexperienced, anti-Mueller, right-wing lapdog loyalist he could find, Matt Whittaker, to replace him…This is an unconstitutional attempt to obstruct the Mueller investigation just as the hammer is about to come down. We cannot allow this to happen. Trump is scared. He saw what happened on Tuesday, when the Democrats took back the house. And now he’s breaking the law to protect himself. We are here to remind him that no one is above the law.”

Activist Theryn Bond opened her remarks by saying “We believe in the rule of law, and we have a president who doesn’t. We are here to stand up to Donald Trump. We the people are the ultimate power in our democracy. Donald Trump can’t take that away from us no matter how hard he tries. It will be we the people who will hold him accountable for his abuses of power and corruption, and it is we the people who must stand up to his latest attempt to protect himself, his family, and his indicted associates from being held accountable. The Mueller investigation must continue without delay or interference. President Trump is not above the law.”

University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy analyzed the legal situation. “Trump’s appointment of Matt Whittaker is probably illegal and unconstitutional. It was probably done designedly to obstruct the Mueller investigation. And he’s probably got a serious conflict of interest. Other than that, everything’s fine.”

He said, due to the complexity of the situation, “Don’t count on the courts to come riding over the hill to the rescue. This is on us. We’ve got to act…It’s going to be us demanding Congress take action. Organize, mobilize, and publicize.”

The focus turned local for a moment when Cat Allen of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center described her experience of being the subject of surveillance by the Memphis Police Department. “You think traffic is bad, imagine being tailed by unmarked cars. That happens to us every day, and it’s got to stop.”

She thanked the ACLU for helping win a recent lawsuit banning political surveillance by the police. “We told the Memphis Police Department that their job is to protect citizens, not to surveil them.”

The she turned to the defeat of the three ballot measures during last week’s elections. “On Tuesday, we told the city council not the first time but the second time that Memphians want instant runoff voting. We’re not going to stop until we get it. And we mean implemented, not just won. And two terms is enough, thank you very much.”

She promised future action to clean up city government. “We’re going to do this all over next year when we elect a new city council. And I do mean a NEW city council.”

By far the loudest cheers of the day came for Congressman Steve Cohen, who just won re-election by a comfortable margin. Cohen compared the situation to The Godfather, and talked about his experience on the House Judiciary Committee and as the ranking member of the Constitution Committee, both of which are liable to play major roles in the coming political confrontation when the Democrats take control of the House in January.

“The Judiciary committee has been meeting by conference call twice this week with legal scholars. We will be participating, if the Senate does go in, with a legal action to question the appointment of Whittaker. People of standing to bring the action is either Rosenstein for being stepped over or the Senate for not being able to confirm. The house can’t bring the action, but any Senator can, and the House can join with them. We will join with the Senators to come forward. When we get the majority in January, we can subpoena Whittaker. We can subpoena Mueller, and we can subpoena his report.

"We can turn the House of Trump, which is what the House of Representatives has been these last two years, back into what it was supposed to be, the People’s House…I thank you each for choosing me to represent you in Congress and on the Judiciary Committee. I assure you, your thoughts and wishes will be expressed there. We will not let them trample on our Constitution, take away our rights, and hide the Mueller Report. It belongs to the American people. We deserve to know what went on with Russia. You know, Trump’s over in Paris right now, and I understand he’s going to meet with Putin. Putin’s gonna get an update on his account.”

Cohen said the Mueller investigation is in danger from Whittaker, (“He’s the hatchet man.”), and encouraged Democrats in the House of Representatives to sign on the bill he introduced last year to protect the inquiry into the connection between the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. 185 Democrats and 1 Republican endorsed the bill last year, and Cohen said he expected a wave of new co-sponsors when he returned to Washington.

The final speaker was high school student Zoe Gurney, who led the ever popular “Show me what democracy looks like” chant.

“March for Our Lives inspired me, like many youths, to fight for our future. We stand here untied to protect the Mueller investigation. To fight for a nation with liberty, equality, and justice. To let it be known that no one is above the law…Social media posts are not enough. This is our future. Get out of your comfort zone.”

Like other speakers, Gurney took hope from the recent election results. “In this last election, participation by first time voters was up by 700% in the state of Tennessee. The youth are the leaders of the future, and we are the face of tomorrow!”

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Rally to Safeguard Mueller Investigation

Posted By on Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 8:39 PM


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Election 2018: Winners, Losers, and Close Calls

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

The thrill of victory was experienced by (l to r) Aaron Fowles, Steve Mulroy, and Racquel Collins, opponents of the losing referendum to repeal Instranr Runoff Voting. - JB
  • JB
  • The thrill of victory was experienced by (l to r) Aaron Fowles, Steve Mulroy, and Racquel Collins, opponents of the losing referendum to repeal Instranr Runoff Voting.
Note: For reasons that remain obscure, the following text, published in the early morning of November 7, vanished from online, to be replaced by an earlier election-highlights brief that was posted on election night itself. I am happy to see the longer piece, like Lazarus, freed from untimely interment and restored. — jb

When the final report was done, the last round poured, the surviving hors-d’oeuvres wilted, the election results locally mirrored those nationally. There were lots of near misses, college tries, and moral victories — mainly among Democrats who had aspired to overturn the verdict of 2016 (or, in many ways, of the last few decades).

But the inherent limitations of the near miss, the college try, and the moral victory would rapidly become obvious as the reality of defeat and the resilience of the status quo sunk in.

The purest and most unsullied triumph locally was enjoyed by the band of activists in Save IRV Memphis and their sympathizers, who resisted a concentrated effort by the Memphis City Council on behalf of three ballot referenda that, the activists contended, were designed to protect the incumbency of Council members.

To start there, the count was 62,316 for and 104,431 against in the case of Ordinance No. 5669, which would have repealed the prior 2008 referendum authorizing IRV (a method of vote -counting that successively redistributes runner-up votes in a given race until a majority winner emerges). The vote was 67,220 for and 101,607 against for Ordinance No. 5676, which (via language that was ambivalent, to say the least) would have lengthened term limits for mayor and Council members from two to three four-year terms. And Ordinance No. 5677, which would have abolished runoff elections altogether, lost out by a vote of 77,223 for and 91,184 against.
The Democratic candidates, all first-time candidates, who attempted to oust Republican state legislators in the suburbs, made a good run of it, but fell short. In the most avidly watched race, Gabby Salinas, the three-time cancer survivor and budding scientist lost to incumbent District 31 state Senator Brian Kelsey by the relatively narrow margin of 40,313 for Kelsey to 38,793 for Salinas.

Republican incumbent Mark White turned back Democrat Danielle Schonbaum in the District 83 House of Representatives race, 15,129 to 11,376. And incumbent GOP state Representative Jim Coley defeated Democrat Allan Creasy by a vote of 12,298 to 10,073 in District 97.

More decisive victories were won by Republican incumbent Kevin Vaughan over Democear Sanjeev Memula in House District 95 and by the GOP’s Tom Leatherwood (a ballot replacement for the late Ron Lollar) over Democrat Dave Cambron in District 99.

Democratic state Rep. Dwayne Thompson, an upset winner in 2016 in House District 96, retained his seat by a vote of 14,710 over 10,493 for Republican challenger Scorr McCormick.

In the races for Governor and the U.S. Senate, local totals were:

For Governor: Democrat Karl Dean, 173,699; Republican Bill Lee, 105,369
For U.S. Senator: Democrat Phil Bredesen, 188,923; Republican Marsha Blackburn, 95,351.

Those local totals were almost diametrically opposite the statewide ones, which showed resounding victories for Lee over Dean, 1,291,458 (59.3 percent) to 846,186 (38.8 percent); and for Blackburn over Bredesen, 1,224,042 (54.7 percent) to 981,667 (43.9 percent).

Though arguments on the point can and will rage indecisively, the statewide results possibly reflected the natural dispositions of red-state Tennessee in cases where the Democratic challenge is muted by politesse. Dean and Lee reciprocated their gentlemanly approaches to each other, while Bredesen’s acknowledgement of partisan differences was minimal to the point of non-existence.

Bredesen surely qualifies for the 2018 “Oh, Yeah?” award for his mid-race statement to Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: “I’m in the fortunate position that people on the left are enraged enough that they will find almost anything I do, with the D after my name, acceptable.”
Count that as arrogance or as self-deception. It was demonstrably incorrect.

Bredesen’s public embrace of President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and his suggestion in a late ad that he and Trump (“a skilled negotiator”) could blissfully work together to lower drug prices were downers to his base, whereas Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s throwdown of the gauntlet to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race almost brought him a victory. Texas is clearly no more liberal a place than Tennessee.

The local difference in the gubernatorial and Senate races manifestly arose from the demographics of Shelby County, where Democratic turnout was at levels approximating those of presidential years. The stout showing of the Democratic challengers in legislative races was also buoyed by the turnout, a continuation of sorts of the blue wave that crested so strong in the august election.

The turnout factor was also prominent in the blowout win of 9th District Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen over GOP perennial Charlotte Bergmann, 143,690 to 34,710, though it was not too much help to Democratic challenger Erika Stotts Pearson in the wider West Tennessee expanse of the 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent David Kustoff triumphed, 66,889 to 32,578.

More to Come:

There were races in most of Shelby County's suburban municipalities, too — the most dramatic being those in Germantown and Lakeland, where the issues of city spending and economic development loomed large.

In Germantown, Mayor Mike Palazzolo apparently won reelection by the razor-thin margin of 10,240 to 10,113 for challenger John Barzizza, who declined to concede, pending a final certification of results. The main issue in the mayoral contest was Palazzolo’s backing of Thornwood, a mixed-use development on Germantown Parkway.

Meanwhile, Palazzo’s coattails proved unavailing for two candidates he endorsed for city positions: Scott Sanders, a Barzizza endorsee, defeated Brian White in an alderman’s race, while Robyn Rey Rudisill lost a School Board race to angela Rickman Griff. Two other mayoral endorsees, Alderman Mary Anne Gibson and School Board member Betsy Landers triumphed over Jeff Brown and Brian Curry, respectively.

In Lakeland, where the primary issue was Mayor Wyatt Bunker’s development plans, including those for a new high school, Bunker was upset by challenger Mike Cunningham, 2,648 to 2,324.
Apparent winners for the city Commission were Richard Gonzales and Michelle Dial, while School Board winners were Kevin Floyd, Laura Harrison, and Deborah Thomas.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Latest Bogus Ballot

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 10:22 AM


For the record, the latest entry on the bogus ballot scene is this one, purportedly by longtime pol and former City Councilman Rickey Peete. Billed as an “official” ballot for Democrats, it has no relationship to the Shelby County Democratic Party, whose position on the three ballot referenda is to vote No/Against.

Peete joins a field that at election time consists of ballots by the likes of such entrepreneurs as Greg Grant, Bret Thompson, and M. Latroy Williams — all of whom charge candidates (and, in this, case, backers of referenda) a pretty penny for the honor of appearing on sample ballots that are either handed out or mailed out to voters. It’s an industry.

Some of these balloteers have been the subject of lawsuits for their linguistic efforts to confuse voters about their party credentials. Peete’s ballot is unusually direct and misleading in that respect.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Cohen, Lowery Hit Council Anti-IRV Ad Campaign as "Deceptive"

The officials maintain that a one-sided Council-backed ad series on behalf of a referendum to repeal Instant Runoff Voting is paid for by taxpayer funds but misleadingly purports to be the work of a private PAC.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 12:13 AM

Lowery (l), Cohen
  • Lowery (l), Cohen
Two public officials backing the local opposition to Memphis City Council-backed referenda on the election ballot have charged that “the ‘public education’ campaign” endowed by the city council with $40,000 in taxpayer funds “is actually a one-sided advocacy campaign designed to influence rather than educate.”

In a press release, U.S. Representative Steve Cohen of the Memphis-based 9th Congressional district and former council chair Myron Lowery joined with the Save IRV Memphis campaign to contend that a series of ads advocating the repeal of Instant Runoff Voting (also known as Ranked Choice Voting) purport to be originated by a private PAC but are actually the products of the Carter Malone Group, a local advertising and PR agency the council has contracted with.

“They shouldn’t be using our tax dollars to fund a Vote Yes campaign in the first place, but if they do, they should disclose on every ad, email, and piece of literature that tax dollars are paying for it,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “And they certainly shouldn’t imply that it’s all coming from a private group.”

The ads — in both audio and video format — are embedded in an email sent out from “," the Carter Malone Group’s email address, and, as the press release notes, “explicitly push a ‘Vote yes’ message in clear advocacy, without neutral public education.” Deidre Malone, who heads the Carter Malone agency, recently confirmed that the council had asked her to handle the council’s paid publicity campaign on behalf of three ballot referenda, including the one that would repeal IRV.

In the wake of Chancellor Jim Kyle’s decision last week not to issue an injunction against the use of public funding for a one-sided advocacy campaign, Council Attorney Allan Wade used the terms “influence” and “educate” interchangeably in discussing the Council’s plans with reporters.

In the required disclaimer as to the source of their funding, the ads list “Diversity PAC,” a private political action committee — a contention that Cohen, Lowery, and the Save IRV Campaign Memphis committee all insist is purposely misleading. “The voters deserve to know when they’re being lobbied by their own money,” Lowery said. “Anything less than full disclosure is downright deceptive.”

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bredesen Says Senate Race is "Knife Edge" Affair, Takes Election Commission to Task

Former Governor urges good Shelby County turnout at close of race and asks SCEC to expend "some time and energy" to resolve local controversies regarding the election process.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 3:20 PM

Speaking to supporters at Railgarden, former Governor Phil Bredesen appeals for a good turnout at the polls. 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen (l) was one of several Democratic officials attending the Thursday lunch, which was hosted by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. - JB
  • JB
  • Speaking to supporters at Railgarden, former Governor Phil Bredesen appeals for a good turnout at the polls. 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen (l) was one of several Democratic officials attending the Thursday lunch, which was hosted by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

With only days to go before final votes are cast on November 6, former Governor Phil Bredesen made it clear that he is counting on a good turnout in Shelby County to bolster his bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Republican Bob Corker.

Bredesen, the Democratic nominee, is opposed by Republican nominee Marsha Blackburn, currently the U.S. Representative of Tennessee’s 7th congressional district. Speaking at a luncheon at Railgarden, he said he thought there were enough Democrats, independents, and independent-minded Republicans in Shelby County to help him across the finish line, but “it really is about turnout.”

But it wasn’t just the numbers and availability of voters that he considered important. Asked about various charges and counter-charges involving the Shelby County Election Commission, Bredesen seconded in general the concerns expressed by local Democrats.

“I do think that the Shelby County Election Commission, from what I’ve seen, needs to gets its act together here, and I hope they can put some time and energy to it by next Tuesday,” said Bredesen, who continued without referring to specific controversies. “There have been some issues coming up that don’t exist in other places. I think they should make sure that everybody who is supposed to vote gets to vote and the results are put out in a timely fashion without politics going on. They’re certainly capable of doing that.”

The former Governor said that, as he had anticipated, “the election is very close, on the knife edge, and I think — I certainly hope — I’m on the right side of the edge.”

Bredesen went light on specific issues, though he mentioned health care as a problem transcending ideological positions. “Social Security and Medicare are not Democratic laws. They are American laws,” he said.

As he has stated in his previous public statements and in ads on his behalf, Bredesen made it clear that he intended to avoid taking purely partisan positions, either in his campaign or in office if elected. “I still have this high-school civics view of our government,” he said. “The job of leadership is not to divide each other, but to find common ground.”

Making a point of lamenting the attack-ad nature of the Senate contest and other campaigns these days, he said, “I hate what is going on. It‘s not what the founders intended.” He defended both his recent statement that he would have voted to confirm President Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, for the Supreme Court, and a TV ad in which he suggested working closely with the President, “a skilled negotiator,” to bring down drug prices.

“I think people across the spectrum do not want people of one party or another,” he said.
“I believe fundamentally in working together.”

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Allan Wade: Fast Man With a Phrase

City Council Attorney Allan Wade wins case, then disses protester.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 12:49 PM

Allan Wade, the veteran lawyer who represents the Memphis City Council, among other clients, is a glib talker, both in the courtroom and out, as he indicated once again in a hearing Tuesday in the courtroom of Chancellor Jim Kyle and afterward.

Allan Wade
  • Allan Wade
The hearing concerned a request by several plaintiffs attempting to halt the council’s proposed use of city funds to launch a “public information” campaign in favor of three referenda on the November 6th ballot. Wade argued vigorously against the suit and was gratified when the Chancellor went on to rule that the issue was not “ripe” for judgment.

Wade was explaining as much to a reporter in the hallway of the Courthouse after the hearing when John Marek, also a lawyer and one of the plaintiffs, passed by, muttering something about “corruption.” Wade instantly shifted gears, responding “Kiss my ass,” and then continuing with his exegesis of what he saw as the relevant legal issues in the case.

The outburst was a reminder of another reported incident in the council chambers when, after a meeting, several attendees expressed criticism of an action taken by Wade in his role as attorney for the council. One of them, Theron Bond, said Wade responded with a profane threat, and another, Carlos Ochoa, who was attempting to make a video of the exchange, said Wade called him a “punk.”

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Kyle Passes On Issue of Council Funding of Public Funds for Referenda Campaign

Chancellor says issue not "ripe" for judgment. Decision leaves Council free to launch public-information campaign on behalf of anti-IRV referendum and two others.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 8:34 AM

Kyle listening to arguments in case - JB
  • JB
  • Kyle listening to arguments in case
After a four-day hesitation, during which time a palpable optimism flared among opponents of the three city council-supported referenda, Chancellor Jim Kyle reverted to form on Monday, ruling, as he had on an earlier request to excise the referenda from the ballot, that, as he said both times, the issue of the council’s use of public funds (estimated in the range of $30,000 to $40,000) to “educate” voters was not “ripe” for judgment.

Although Kyle acknowledged that the plaintiffs — three individuals and the Save IRV organization — had standing (a point that attorneys for city had contested), he suggested again, as he had on October 11th, that the rights or wrongs of the matter could best be adjudicated in the wake of an actual election, or at least at a time when specific consequences, as against potential ones (“mays” and “maybes,” he called them), could be alleged.

Plaintiffs Erika Sugarmon, John Marek, and Sam Goff had all presented themselves as past candidates for political office who intended to run in the city election of 2019 and would face improper obstacles favoring incumbent opponents should Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) not be instituted, as provisionally planned by the Election Commission but as opposed in a council-sponsored referendum.

Kyle was not impressed by the plaintiffs' argument, suggesting that he had no intention of granting either side what he referred to ironically as “a fair advantage.”

City council attorney Allan Wade, referring to Ranked Choice Voting as “a failed experiment,” expressed satisfaction with the ruling and claimed to reporters, as he had in the hearing, that the council had the right to use taxpayer funds to “influence” or “educate” voters (he used both verbs at different times) and that Mayor Jim Strickland was legally bound as city administrator to assist in executing the strategy, which opponents had likened to the council’s putting “a thumb on the scale.”

Bryce Ashby, attorney for the plaintiffs, said his side still maintained hope that the mayor could exercise independent authority by declining to sign papers that would put into action a public-information campaign as envisioned by the council. Deidre Malone, of Malone Advertising and Media Group, has confirmed that she has been approached by the council about assisting in an organized media campaign in favor of the anti-IRV referenda and two others on the ballot.

Strickland has made no public statement on the controversy.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

DNC Head Talks Up Ranked Choice Voting in Memphis

“It forces candidates to talk to everyone, instead of just that one base," says Tom Perez in appearance at "Seat at the Table" event at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 10:38 PM

DNC chair Tom Perez at the National Civil Rights Museum on Saturday.
  • DNC chair Tom Perez at the National Civil Rights Museum on Saturday.

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, paid a stop in Memphis on Saturday, at the National Civil Rights Museum for an installment of the DNC’s “Seat at the Table” tour, designed to galvanize the involvement of African-American women in the party.

In his farewell message to attendees, Perez took note of one of the major issues on the November 6th ballot — the referendum for Memphis voters on repeal of Ranked Choice Voting, a method for determining winners, sans runoffs, in multi-candidate races in which no candidate has a majority.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on that issue,” said Perez, after giving a hat-tip to Steve Mulroy, the University of Memphis law professor and former county commissioner who has been a major proponent of RCV (aka Instant Runoff Voting), scheduled to be employed in the 2019 city election, unless repealed.

Perez suggested that "the Republicans” were “trying to take it away,” though in fact it was incumbents of the nonpartisan Memphis City Council who implanted the repeal referendum on the ballot.

“If I were living here, I’d vote no on that referendum, because you’ve already voted for it,” said Perez, who referred to a previous referendum, in 2008, when Memphis voters approved the process by a 70 percent majority. “It forces candidates to talk to everyone, instead of just that one base. It fosters civility because you can’t ignore 70 percent of the people.

Perez went on: “Talk to them! What a radical concept. That’s why y’all voted for it, and that’s why they don’t want it.”

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dems Promise Big Reveal on McCormick School Board Attendance

Posted By on Sun, Oct 28, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Stewart in SCS office earlier this month in an unsuccessful first effort to obtain McCormick's attendance records - JB
  • JB
  • Stewart in SCS office earlier this month in an unsuccessful first effort to obtain McCormick's attendance records

State House Democratic chair Mike Stewart of Nashville, who was frustrated by earlier attempts to obtain attendance records of Shelby County Schools board member Scott McCormick, a Republican House candidate,  has apparently obtained those records now and has scheduled a press conference to reveal them at 11:30 a.m Monday in front of the Shelby County Schools building at 160 South Hollywood.

Stewart, acting in support of McCormick’s opponent, District 96 state Representative Dwayne Thompson, has suggested that there is a pattern of negligence in McCormick’s “dismal attendance record” as an SCS board member that would inhibit his effectiveness as a legislator. He had previously made several attempts to obtain McCormick’s attendance records, including an in-person visit to the SCS offices earlier this month, where, he said, he was “stonewalled.”

On the occasion of that visit, Stewart and an aide waited, for hours, along with media, in the lobby of the SCS building to receive records that were first seemingly promised and later declared to be unavailable.

The press release announcing Stewart’s follow-up press conference on Monday had this to say: “ Now we know why they took so long to turn the public records over. “

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Marlo Thomas Endorses Gabby Salinas for State Senate

St. Jude outreach director calls Shelby County home and says Democratic nominee, a former childhood-cancer patient at the hospital, is "the real deal" and a "warrior" for the community

Posted By on Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 1:45 PM

To Gabby Salinas, Democratic nominee for the District 31 state Senate seat, Marlo Thomas is “my angel ... the reason I’m alive.”

State Senate candidate Gabby Salinas (left) and supporter Marlo Thomas of St. Jude prepare to meet with the media on Saturday. - JB
  • JB
  • State Senate candidate Gabby Salinas (left) and supporter Marlo Thomas of St. Jude prepare to meet with the media on Saturday.
To Thomas, national outreach director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, Gabby Salinas is “a warrior” fighting for her community as she had previously fought for her life at St. Jude as a victim of childhood cancer.

On Saturday, the two made a pair of stops together — at a morning fund-raiser at the Belltower Coffee Shop on Highland and later in the parking lot of White Station Church of Christ, an early-voting location.

Thomas said she was actively supporting Salinas, “an old and very good friend” whom she has known since Salinas was seven years old, because of the aforementioned warrior spirit, because of the candidate’s valuable “common sense,” and because of the public positions advocated by Salinas.

“She’s a good-hearted, good human being, and she knows about things like health care first-hand, and she’s fighting very hard for Medicaid expansion,” said Thomas, who mentioned such other Salinas concerns as education, infrastructure, jobs, agriculture, and tourism. “She brings moral values, has a moral sense and family values. When you get the real deal, you’ve got to support it.”

Thomas said, “I am very, very happy to get involved in Shelby County politics.” She said she considered Shelby County “home to the Thomases” and noted that her parents were by their choice buried here (they are interred in a mausoleum at St. Jude).

Salinas has been the subject of a series of attack ads directed against her by the campaign of Reoublican incumbent Brian Kelse and/or its supporters. Some of the ads refer to her as a “socialist” and one says that she "supports stealing benefits from our elderly," and supports Planned Parenthood, which "sells baby parts." Another ad makes a point of saying that Kelsey is “one of us,” and critics have charged it with being a “dog-whistle” message calling attention to Salinas’ birth in Bolivia.

When Gabby Salinas' cancer was detected at the age of 7, her entire family moved to Memphis with her so that she could be treated at St. Jude.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chancellor Finds for Plaintiffs, Orders Election Commission to Redouble Efforts

Says resort to provisional ballots would have “chilling effect” on voters whose incomplete applications for regular ballots have not yet been approved.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 5:49 PM

Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins listens as Election Commission attorney John Ryder (right) questions county Election Administrator Linda Phillips on voting suit. - JB
  • JB
  • Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins listens as Election Commission attorney John Ryder (right) questions county Election Administrator Linda Phillips on voting suit.

“Clearly erroneous”: That was the response from Election Commission attorney John Ryder after hearing Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins find for the plaintiffs — the NAACP and the Tennessee Black Voter Project — in the latest suit involving the Shelby County electoral process.

On the other hand, Alexander Wharton, attorney for the plaintiffs, cited Jenkins’ finding as “a victory for democracy” and a valuable signal to the electorate.

Citing state Code 2-2-109, which guarantees voter registration rights, Judge Jenkins ruled that, as plaintiffs argued,” irreparable harm” could befall potentially eligible voters among an estimated 4 to 6 thousand persons whose applications to vote, received in a final rush of some 30,000 applications just before the filing deadline of October 9th, have not been fully processed.

Jenkins ordered that the Election Commission redouble its efforts to compile an accurate list of the affected applicants, locate and contact the persons involved so as to give them a chance to correct their applications, and post daily updates on the information and the progress made in completing the applications. Ryder, who maintained that the judge’s order was unfulfillable, said the commission would file an appeal with the state Court of Appeals on Friday.

Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips had testified that the incomplete processing was due to such factors as wrong names, missing or non-existent addresses, multiple submissions, the fact of prior felonies, and, in many cases, the appearance of election fraud. Many of the appeals had been turned in by intermediaries who were paid by the piece-load to deliver them, she said. Phillips said that her office would probably be able to sift through the backlog of applications by November 1st, the last day of early voting and five days before the November 6th election day itself.

She said, and Ryder repeated on the commission's behalf, that another part of the Tennessee legal code, 2-27-112, allowed the employment of provisional ballots for persons whose applications were still unapproved or unverifiable on the permanent voter-registration file as of Election Day. The validity of the provisional ballots would later be determined by a bipartisan Provisional Counting Board, composed of two Democrats and two Republicans.

Judge Jenkins, however, agreed with the plaintiffs that the resort to a provisional ballot could have a “chilling effect” on an applicant and that all applicants were entitled to a fair chance at obtaining a regular ballot that was sure to be counted.
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      Accused of racism, anti-semitism, and improper court behavior, beleaguered Criminal Court jurist is target of Sawyer resolution, approved with 7 ayes and 2 abstentions; Lammey invited to respond at Commissions's regular monthly meeting.
    • New Filing: The Background Papers of the Michael Harris Case

      After Democratic litigants filed new documents with the state party executive committee in effort to invalidate last month's election of suspended lawyer Michael Harris as Shelby County Democratic chairman, the issue was remanded back to the local party, which will hear the issue within a 20-day period.[UPDATED]

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