July 31, 2006
Taking Voters for a Ride
Friday's special session of the Hamilton County Election Commission was too much fun for eight o'clock in the morning.
I went to witness the Commissioners act on the curbside recycling petition (it was unanimously approved), but got more than I expected when the topic turned to voting machines. That's when the small room got even smaller.
If you'll recall, at the close of the county primaries in May, there were problems with transmitting the voting machine totals back to the Commission office. These problems were blamed on a rat that had urinated all over some modems and thus rendered the equipment useless. The problems have since been fixed, or so we're told.
Still, Elections Administrator Bud Knowles, computer tech Shannon DeFriese, and a representative of Diebold made a decision to not attempt electronic transfers from any precinct at the close of the August 3 election. This decision was not made because of rat pee, but because each precinct will now have two types of machine: the familiar optical scan, and a new touch-screen model that is reserved for disabled voters.
There is an interface available to combine the touch-screen results with the optical scan tally and thus transmit a precinct's total as one set of numbers; but this adapter is pending approval by the state. What this means is that the optical scan results could be transmitted, but the touch-screen machines will have to be manually transported to the Election Commission in order to be counted. Complete results, then, would not be available until these transfers and counts had been made; so the advantage of electronic transfer (for the optical scan machines) is mitigated by the need for some of the votes to be hauled in by hand.
This was apparently unacceptable news to at least two of the Commission members. Commissioner Mike Walden voiced the most vigorous complaints, and made quite a case by asking how many voters had used the new machines (six, including Mr. Knowles and Ms. DeFriese, out of 13,300 early voters) and reminding the group that the county has used electronic transmission for ten years.
Bud Knowles countered that the election workers were having to handle enough with the training on the new machines, and couldn't be burdened with having to keep straight the fact that some results would be transmitted and the others transported. Walden swiveled in his chair and leveled his heavy-eyed, imposing persona at no one in particular: then we ought to hire more competent workers, was his retort. Knowles held his ground and said that this was a one-time decision based on the factors he had already named, and that all the results would be tabulated at the end of their respective journeys across town. He added, in his quiet, country voice, that the extra wait would be no more than 30 minutes or so.
Since Mike Walden serves not only as an Election Commissioner but as campaign manager for an incumbent Sheriff in one of the most watched races this election, one can see how he would be anxious to see instant results. But it was his next statement that opened my eyes to something else: just how entrenched the two-party system has become. The voting machines from every precinct must be accompanied by one Democrat and one Republican at all times while being transported, he reminded the room. Heads nodded all around, and someone backed it up with the phrase "state law."
I haven't looked up the law. Is this true? What about my independent vote? Last I checked, there were more than a handful of political parties in this state. Why guarantee that only two of them will watchdog each other? What if they decided to work together? What about the District 2 County Commission race, which is between a Republican and a Libertarian? Shouldn't every precinct's machine from that district have a Libertarian riding shotgun? (I know, I know: good luck finding that many Libertarians who'll leave their basements for such a trip.)
Furthermore, Administrator Knowles said that when he made the decision to forego electronic transmissions in this next election, he notified the "two party chairmen." I found myself agreeing with Mike Walden and fellow Commissioner Linda Morris-Avila's consternation at being left out of the loop in lieu of
Stuart James and Bobby Wood, but they in turn represent the Democrat and Republican factions of the divided election commission.
I am on the same page as A.C. Kleinheider yet again, who says "parties are a means to an end." I'd rather not have any partisans riding with the votes, if we can't fit all of them in the car (bus?). I want a nonpartisan election commission, ethics commission, and judiciary, for starters. Use parties for their inherent good, but try like heck to avoid their inherent evil. We're all obviously against having a single political party (see China), but I've thought for a while now that we also need more than two. This wink-wink tug-of-war game is beneath us.
July 29, 2006
Hotline: Republicans hope Bob Corker wins the primary
That's what they said.
Perhaps the coyotes operate out of check-cashing firms
Marti Rutherford is nothing if not industrious. She doesn't rest after a single episode.
I haven't even had a chance to point toward the Pulse story on the cash service industry debate at the City Council. Councilwoman Rutherford is depicted as acting somewhere in the range of Fargo's Jerry Lundegaard, fretting that she had "some very specific" private reasons for needing a vote on the matter that day. Ma'am, the City Council is the legislative body for all the citizens of Chattanooga, not for the aims and whims of Marti Rutherford's real estate enterprise. But you've forgotten that before, like when you handed your business card to a prospective client right from your council chair.
So there's all of that, and now comes the real story behind the coyote scare. According to today's Chattanooga Times Free Press, Rutherford "heard" that coyotes were coming down from their, you know, ancestral haunt among the mansions on Missionary Ridge to have brunch with small pets. (Did I personally find it interesting that the alleged wellspring of marauding coyotes was Missionary Ridge? Of course.) Animal Services field supervisor Teresa Grainger points to the fact that these animals have migrated through the region for much longer than we humans have been here. That's just too rational, though. Instead of having a professional trapper come in, or equipping Animal Services to deal with coyotes, Councilwoman Rutherford has the solution:
"The real way to handle this is to capture them and kill them."
So let me get this straight. You want to have them captured, which takes certain specialized resources, and then, once you have the animals safely secured, you want them butchered in cold blood, instead of, say, sent to a wildlife sanctuary or some other less juxtaposed locale.
Public Works director Lee Norris is right to avoid jumping the gun. After all, if we start going after coyotes, what's next? I am extremely fortunate to often see a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Great Horned Owl (or probably a pair of each, just one at a time) right in my back yard. These are extremely dangerous birds, though. I would think it possible for either one to make off with a housecat or a Lhasa Apso. How about we get a big net, round them up, and then wring their necks?
Stay tuned for the next installment in the Rutherford Files. I'm sure new material won't be long at all in coming.
July 28, 2006
John Bailes TV Ad
July 27, 2006
Keep this domain name in local hands
Have you discretionary means? Go put an offer in on a rather excellent domain name. I'm broke, or I'd buy it myself, and build around it the most excellent Chattanooga-centric web presence ever.
So: if you buy it, let's talk.
July 26, 2006
For Your Voting Consideration - The Civic Forum endorsements
There’s no need for a long introduction here—let’s just get right to the point. Each elected office* that will appear on ballots in at least one precinct in Hamilton County on August 3 is listed below, along with indications of which candidates deserve your consideration.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners
In District 2, Joe Dumas. In District 4, Brian Caldwell. These are underdog, outsider candidates who nevertheless bring fresh ideas, no-nonsense pragmatism and generous personal dedication to the process. Along with fellow newcomers John Allen Brooks in District 6 and Jim Coppinger in District 3, each of whom has no general election opposition, Dumas and Caldwell would help give the Commission its much-needed makeover. One only wishes Dumas and Caldwell were each running in a different district (say, 1 and 9), as their current opponents would not be difficult to endorse. Some of this is personal, just so you know.
In District 5, Commissioner Greg Beck. In District 7, Commissioner Larry Henry (unopposed). Each of these men has demonstrated an ability to work with multiple conflicting constituencies and colleagues, and to do so with composure. Let’s ask them to help anchor the newbies and guide the new Board of Commissioners toward consensus governing.
In District 8, John Bailes. Commissioner Curtis Adams has, in recent years, single-handedly accounted for at least 47 percent of the rancor and the demeaning, embarrassing behavior in this body. It is time for him to be replaced, and John Bailes is the candidate to do just that.
A Commission made up of Bailes, Beck, Brooks, Caldwell, Coppinger, Dumas, Henry, and the other two wouldn’t be without its problems (chiefly: where are the women?)—but it would represent the people with a mostly forward-looking, responsive, adult legislative body. Such would be refreshing.
Hamilton County Board of Education
In District 5, Jeffrey Wilson. In District 8, Kenny Smith.
In District 6, Janice Boydston is unopposed, but receives a robust recommendation here for her perseverance and attitude.
Endorsements that are somewhat tepid: In District 9, Kelvin Stamper.
In District 3, Everett Fairchild, because the opposition would be far worse.
Hamilton County Administration
For County Mayor, Claude Ramsey. For Sheriff, Billy Long. Experience is the key word in both of these. Long is short on administrative time, but he appears ready to grow into the leadership role. And he promises to bring back the domestic violence and child abuse task forces.
Public Defender Ardena Garth, County Clerk Bill Knowles, Register of Deeds Pam Hurst, and Trustee Carl Levi are all endorsed here in their unopposed candidacies to return to office. District Attorney Bill Cox is not explicitly endorsed.
Hamilton County Courts
General Sessions Court
In Division I, Christy Mahn Sell. In Division II, Hallie McFadden. Clarence Shattuck, Ron Durby, and Bob Moon are all unopposed, in Divisions III, IV and V, respectively.
Suzanne Bailey is unopposed. No reason is known not to re-elect her.
Chancellors W. Frank Brown and Howell Peoples must be doing it right, because no one stepped up to try and replace them.
In Division I, this column strongly endorses Rodney Strong.
Divisions II and III are uncontested. Judges Rebecca Stern and Don Poole are worthy of re-election.
The only contested race is in Division II. Tom Crutchfield receives the endorsement for your vote.
Judges Jackie Schulten, L. Marie Williams, and W. Neil Thomas III are each without opposition, and should be returned to office. Well, except for the fact that Judge Thomas is seeking a nomination to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. But if he doesn’t make it, he deserves re-election to his Circuit bench.
Circuit Court Clerk
Paula Thompson is unopposed, and should be returned to office.
Criminal Court Clerk
Please vote for incumbent Gwen Tidwell.
Juvenile Court Clerk
Ron Swafford is unopposed, and, according to reports, does a great job. We’ll keep him another term.
In Signal Mountain, Mark Rothberger. He presides with fairness and treats all who enter his courtroom (law enforcement, attorneys, defendants, observers) with equal respect.
The candidates for Judge in Collegedale (Kevin Wilson), East Ridge (Arvin Reingold), and Soddy-Daisy (David Norton) face no known opposition.
Tennessee House of Representatives
Rep. Gerald McCormick is unopposed in the Republican primary, and there are no Democrats.
Democratic primary: Bill Lusk is unopposed.
Republican primary: Howard Cotter
Rep. Tommie Brown is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and there are no Republicans.
Rep. JoAnne Favors is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and there are no Republicans.
Rep. Vince Dean is unopposed in the Republican primary, and there are no Democrats.
Democratic primary: J. Glenn Moseley is unopposed.
Republican primary: Christian Lanier. Gotta go with the musician.
Tennessee State Senate
Rep. Bo Watson is unopposed in the primary and in the general, and is endorsed in this column.
United States House of Representatives
Democratic Primary: Terry Stulce
Republican Primary: No endorsement, but June Griffin gets honorable mention for her duet with Ed Helms on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. If you transfer that into a vote, though, we need to talk.
United States Senate
Democratic primary: Harold Ford, Jr.
Republican primary: Bob Corker
Democratic primary: Phil Bredesen, with reservations.
Republican primary: Since there are outstanding serious questions regarding the recent arrest of Mark Albertini, it is impossible to record an endorsement in this race at press time.
*Voters will also encounter twenty-seven judicial retention questions on whether to reinstate eligible Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals judges in the state general election. Since these offices are attained through appointment, they are not listed here.
[This column appears in the July 26, 2006 Pulse.]
Posted by joe lance in Elections | Hamilton County Elections | Pulsations | State House Elections | State Senate Elections | TN Gubernatorial Elections | US House Elections | US Senate Elections at 7:34 AM
To Bob or Not to Bob
Why you should—and shouldn’t—vote for each of the U.S. Senate candidates
The major political parties’ respective senatorial campaign committees -- you know, those powerful cadres of cash-wielding kingmakers -- are watching our little long, skinny state very closely. Indeed, many a paid pundit has named Tennessee as the deciding locale in the battle for control of Congress’ upper house. This should come as no surprise, for the Volunteer State has sent history-making sons (not so many daughters, yet) to the national government many times.
That noise you heard coming from the west on April 6 was the uproar of grassroots Democrats howling at their party’s Senate re-election gurus, led by Charles Schumer of New York, for the muscle flexed against a fiery State Senator from Clarksville named Rosalind Kurita. Remember her? The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blatantly backed Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and thus virtually ensured his nomination on August 3. Yes, there are a few other Democrats in this race, namely Gary Davis, John Jay Hooker, Charles E. Smith, and Al Strauss; but these epitomize the term “also-ran.” (Except Hooker; he’s classified as “always-ran.”) You can hardly blame the Democrats for engineering things so as to maximize their chance at taking back the Senate, but it sucks to be an earnest candidate on the losing end of that bargain.
On the Republican side, the national party has been a lot more careful. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, gives equal consideration to the three major candidates: Ed Bryant, Bob Corker, and Van Hilleary. (There’s no mention on the NRSC website of the other Republican candidate, Tate Harrison of Rhea County, though; and Jeff Moder withdrew after seeing little in the way of bigtime support.) Senate Majority Leader and future presidential candidate Bill Frist has also stayed neutral with regard to his potential successor. The fight has been on the ground and in the air—but here in the state, for the most part.
Here are some considerations voters should take with them as they fill out the primary ballots for the United States Senate:
As stated, there’s no way that Harold Ford, Jr. won’t win this nomination, but that fact should not signal Democrats to sit out the primary election. Campaign workers will likely use the vote count in each primary as a focusing tool for get-out-the-vote drives in the Fall. If you’re inclined to vote for Ford in the general election, do your part to make August’s numbers look like they will in November. The national party is counting on you to deliver Tennessee. As a centrist Democrat, Ford has made considerable strides in winning over voters all across the state. It’s just his home district that must be a little hurt and confused by this. Ford’s vote for the bankruptcy bill, seeing that Memphis has one of the highest bankruptcy rates in the nation, was a particularly insurmountable obstacle for progressives. You can bet they’ll come around, though, when the general election is nigh.
This primary has been fun to watch. Van Hilleary’s announcement of his entry was met with genuine disappointment by the Bryant camp; but, for the rest of us, it has made for a great show. Two candidates battling it out, á la Bryant and Alexander four years ago, can be an energized debate, but there’s a reason circuses have three rings. This trinity has not disappointed.
Ed Bryant has made no secret of his desire to join the Senate Judiciary Committee if elected. He did serve on the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former U.S. Attorney, so that seems to be a desire in part based on logic. Only vote for him if you want him to be one of those vetting future judicial nominees, though. Bryant is the most apparently consistent of the three candidates; the most “senatorial” (as subjective as you want to be with that); and the tallest. His two political claims to fame seem to be the prosecution of former Congressman Harold Ford, Sr. in the “Butcher Bank” scandal, and the infamous deposition of one Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton impeachment. Both of these prosecutions failed, by the way.
Bob Corker is a shrewd businessman. His disappointing “run to the Right” during this primary notwithstanding, he has still attracted a leading number of Tennessee voters to his candidacy. (Tennessee Republicans, red as this state is, are by and large more moderate than our Deep South counterparts.) Bob Corker is aiming directly at the general election, as witnessed by his “busting a cap” in the millionaire clause of current campaign finance restrictions. GOP insiders are already hand-wringingly looking for ways to mend fences after such a bitter primary. Get used to saying these three words: “Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.” Okay, five words.
Van Hilleary is a mystery. Described repeatedly as an “empty suit” or worse by his detractors, he evokes near-religious devotion from others. Perhaps a clue to his popularity can be found in the 4th Congressional district, as the voters who elected Lincoln “let’s make adultery a felony” Davis in 2002 and again in 2004 are the same who chose Hilleary in 1994. Here’s the thing, though: if you are a hardcore ideological conservative, consider that Bryant was in this race before Hilleary joined, and that the prediction made by more than a few has come true: having both of them in the race has effectively paved a nice path for the slightly more moderate candidate to stroll down.
[This article appears in the July 26, 2006 Pulse.]
July 25, 2006
You may or may not agree with the recommendations, but for a nice, simple, graphic depiction of the twenty-seven 8x10 color glossy judicial retention questions (come to think of it, a paragraph on the back of each ballot, explaining what each one was, would be a good thing), visit the AlphaPatriot.
Rudeness on the Road
I'm sitting here watching traffic on Frazier, where a delivery truck is (temporarily) double-parked. So the right lane is blocked -- can people not deal with this?
Two problems I see:
1) Some drivers aren't paying attention, and wait until the front bumper is underneath the truck before even thinking of merging into the left lane. These idiots hardly deserve to be let in.
2) Some drivers already in the left lane are either to selfish or too clueless to let people merge, even when those people attempt it in plenty of time before reaching the parked truck.
Between the incompentent and the aggressive/lazy, we have ourselves a real mess.
That is all.
Corker Leads Big; Ford in Town Tonight
Taegan Goddard's Political Wire links to a new SurveyUSA poll that shows Bob Corker at 49%, Ed Bryant at 29%, and Van Hilleary a distant third at 15%. (Van is closer to Tate Harrison than to Ed Bryant in this poll.)
Those who favor pollsters like Rasmussen have often viewed SurveyUSA as garbage. Who knows who's right? I don't put much stock in any polls, except the ones (as both Jay Bush and Bob Corker would say) at the ballot box.
One thing that can be said for sure: Bob Corker has shown a consistent, significant lead in all major polls released in recent weeks. (I'm not counting the Zogby internet fluff.)
Turning now to Corker's general election opponent, Harold Ford, Jr.: it is noted at HamDems.org that the Congressman will be in town for a rally at Bessie Smith Hall at 5pm.
The joe public household is becoming quite split on this US Senate race. It's not contentious or anything; it's just two independent adults making their own decisions. I'll have to tell the wife about this event to see if she wants to go before picking me up from work. I hope she doesn't stay too long.
July 24, 2006
On the missing CDs
I lost a car key during a move one time. And I lost a pair of prescription sunglasses when I played at this dude's wedding.
I hope liberals and conservatives alike will join me in demanding that these items are coughed up.
July 23, 2006
Free WiFi at home
I don't know the source, but someone's network popped up when I opened the laptop to do a little offline writing. I am just sitting in my house.
Having never seen this before, I had to blog about it.
I'll be good and jump off the network when I'm done.
Stuart James' One-sided View of Impropriety
Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Stuart James is correct to point out the possibility for inappropriateness with regard to Sheriff John Cupp and his campaign manager, Election Commissioner Mike Walden. The point is made, though, without telling the story's other side.
You see, there is another Election Commissioner who has close ties to an elected official. These two just happen to be Democrats, while Cupp and Walden are Republicans.
Karen Lee, who lost a primary election for City Council in March 2005, was named to the County Election Commission soon thereafter. The state legislature votes to install county election commissioners, right? So it would appear that Rep. JoAnne Favors, District 29, would have voted in "favor" of Ms. Lee to join the commission. Their relationship? Mother and daugther.
Furthermore, as Rep. Favors is running for re-election this November, the same potential for conflict named by Mr. James in his diatribe against Cupp and Walden is theoretically possible in the case of Commissioner Lee and Rep. Favors. (I say "theoretically" because it just so happens that Rep. Favors is unopposed in this eleciton; but what if she weren't? The same power to count votes for her Mom would be in her hands as is in Commissioner Walden's hands to count the Sheriff vote.)
This post is not written to defend Sheriff Cupp. The man has done Hamilton County wrong in many ways for several years, and this closeness with court security manager and campaign manager Walden, whom I understand is a great guy (as is Cupp, I might add, from a private-sector perspective), does raise several questions.
But the Democratic party leader, if he is to point out the existence of these questions, needs to first look in his own glass house (conveniently, Rep. Favors is also his party's vice-chair) before throwing the proverbial stones.
Better yet, let an independent (say, yours truly) point out the potential for impropriety on BOTH sides and demand that something be done by the respective parties -- and, if necessary, the legislature -- to ensure absolute fairness to all voters.
Finally, this whole thing is really blowing so much smoke up our hindparts. I have seen no evidence to suggest that Mike Walden would ever abuse his position on the Election Commission to alter the outcome for his friend; and likewise, I have none to suggest that Karen Lee would do anything of the sort regarding her mother's chances. That said, though, it's important for us citizens to be watching our government officials and agencies for these very types of questionable relationships. Let's just watch in all directions, rather than with partisan blinders on.
July 22, 2006
Recycled Petition Approved - Election Commission Meets Friday
The effort to let voters decide on whether Chattanooga should keep, or scrap, its curbside recycling program seems to be gaining in public awareness. The Hamilton County Election Commission has called a special meeting to discuss the potential for this initiative to appear on the November 7, 2006 ballot. Read more at Chattanoogan.com.
I plan to attend the July 28 meeting at the Election Commission so I can post a firsthand account of the proceedings. Hopefully I can also hook up with someone and sign the new petition.
July 21, 2006
Albertini Arrested for Public Intoxication
UPDATE 3: No Silence Here corrects the earlier KNS misprint and tells us that Albertini was indeed found guilty of the public intoxication charge. Read comments from John Farmer below, too: he's not the only one who smells something in this whole affair. It's no secret that party insiders wanted to avoid any obstacles to their boy Bryson getting the nomination; but would they stoop to a set-up in order to rid themselves of the opposition? One angle of the story that needs MUCH more clarification is why Albertini A) wasn't invited to speak at a rally for GOP gubernatorial candidates (he is one), and B) why he was asked to leave said rally by two police officers. What?
UPDATE 2: A.C. does some checking and uncovers a story that needs a lot more explanation. I'll keep you updated as I am able, but VolunteerVoters should have the latest as this develops.
UPDATE 1: Michael Silence notes that the charge has been dropped.
Rob Huddleston posted the first account of this, and I saw it last night, but waited to learn more detail before posting.
Chattanoogan Mark Albertini, Republican candidate for Governor, was arrested after a rally in Knoxville.
This is an unfortunate development in several ways. I don't agree with Albertini's social-conservative positions, but I admire his spirited [how obtuse of me not to see that pun earlier] campaign against latecomer and "chosen one" Jim Bryson.
(I don't have a viable candidate for whom to vote in this election. My friend Howard is running a no-illusions campaign as a Green, and David "None of the Above" Gatchell is doing a valuable thing by raising NOTA awareness, so I'll likely end up deciding between those two.)
Friday Guitar Blogging - Pedal Steel Addition
I'm excitedly nervous but proud to announce plans for the Shani Hedden Group to be joined by none other than Mark Van Allen on pedal steel, lap steel, dobro, guitar, and whatever else he may want to truck up here, this coming November.
That's November 3-5, to be exact, at the Tennessee Valley Theatre in Spring City, TN. Showtimes are TBA, but it's basically a Friday and Saturday night with a Sunday matinee. Make plans to join us!
Mark Van Allen has played with some of the country's greatest performers in the Jamband, Country & Western, Bluegrass, and Americana genres. (Check his bio here.) It goes without saying that I am mucho nervoso about playing next to a guy who so recently shared the stage with Jimmy Herring and Bobby Lee Rodgers at the same time.
The Shani Hedden Group is a Chattanooga-based band led by vocalist Shani Hedden Palmer and bassist Kenny Palmer. Shani has earned gold records for her amazing talent, and is perhaps best known in recent years for performing (and reprising) the starring role in Ted Swindley's "Always...Patsy Cline." The Shani Hedden Group adds to the classic sounds of Patsy Cline by drawing from Alt-Country, Rockabilly, Swing (Western and otherwise), and modern "Nashville" Country material.
"Mark" your calendar for the first weekend in November, and come experience a unique musical event that is at once fresh and timeless.
July 20, 2006
Madam, I'm Atom
I've been reading some things, and..well, I think I want to reduce the number of feeds generated by this blog. One part of me thinks that's unwise, since typically more avenues to a thing raises the possible number of its viewers. But do readers really have that strong a preference as to how they get their Ticket? If there's one good way, will they not traverse it? (Don't forget that you'll still have Chattablogs, Rocky Top Brigade, bookmarks, NashvillesNews.net, etc.)
I've come to the conclusion that, without any hapless tampering on my part, the site's Atom XML feed is the one to which to subscribe. It's a beautiful feed, really.
So, unless the protest against such becomes unbearable, I will begin phasing out other XML formats and promoting the Atom. It won't all happen right away, because I don't want any of my subscribers to be of a sudden without. Wow, this forum can make one sound self-important. I'm just trying to be nice here.
What are your thoughts?
And in case you want to go ahead and subscribe or switch over now, the Atom feed URL is http://civicforum.chattablogs.com/atom.xml
Senate Race Polls and Analysis
Head on over to VolunteerVoters.com and TNPoliticsBlog.com for good coverage of some recent polls, ads, and other activity in this invigorating election. There are more links to be had, sure, but chances are you'll happen upon them at those two sites.
I'm busy writing a piece about the four major Senate candidates and finishing up a list of endorsements for all the races that will be decided on August 3 in Hamilton County, both of which you'll see next week.
July 19, 2006
I want a blogging job so maybe I can afford a pedometer
More about that here.
Oh, but be sure to read Sam Davidson's comment as quoted in this post.
And hey, is Chattanooga not Talking?
Three Big Mistakes
Early-voting vignettes plucked from around the state
When gamesmanship comes home to roost
Just as early voting got underway, Chattanooga acted as host to one of the year’s more bizarre political stories. The tale involves a camera phone, a chicken, a blogger and an automobile. There are at least two sides to the story, but the consensus account has it that one windshield was shattered, one blogger went to hospital, and one chicken-suit-wearing Volvo driver tore across town after the main event. The cell phone didn’t get to play its intended role, as the blogger meant to snap a photo of the chicken running around with its headgear off.
If you had read, some months ago, TeamGOP member Jeff Ward’s assertion that conflicts in West Tennessee Republican circles were often settled with fists and baseball bats, you may not have been surprised to learn of this chicken’s origin (Shelby County). There’s the matter of the blogger, though, who hails from Chattanooga and who, according to some accounts, may have attacked the chicken’s car. Rival campaign volunteers are birds of a feather, it seems. The point is that what should be passion for getting the “right” person elected all too often grows into unhealthy zeal for obstructing another’s campaign. This shows up as sign theft or desecration, phone-jamming schemes and, most unfortunately, physical violence and chicken suits. With the focus so grossly misplaced, lower turnout can be among the widespread effects. Is that what we want? (Like anything else, that depends upon whom is asked.)
And what was a Republican doing driving a Volvo, anyway? Raise your hand if you think those Ed Bryant decals were conveniently covering up a MoveOn.org sticker or two.
Turns out we didn’t need Amendment XIX or the Voting Rights Act after all
The Internet (or, if you prefer, tubes) can be such a wonderful thing. Say you want to find where a chairman of a local political party chapter has misattributed our right to vote to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Just google some key terms and, wham-o, you’ve got the Stuart James article on HamDems.org. (Okay, fair enough: I tried googling for it, and it didn’t show up by press time. But trust me, it was there.) Pundits across the state were left scratching their heads at this display. Just to be clear: the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to vote.
What the First Amendment does cover is the right to confuse the public, even though such wouldn’t be my recommendation. And it covers a small-time political columnist’s right to be snarky about someone else getting his facts mixed up, even though it should be pointed out here that it’s all in good fun.
Another bit of nonsense is the concept that early voting is somehow superior to voting on election day. It’s difficult to see what “message” it sends, with the possible exception being that a few people are just that sure about their choices and/or aren’t available for some reason on the official day. That said, any program that will increase participation is worth considering. (Whatever happened to the practice of handing out free food and booze?)
A friend wrote of his early voting experience that his brain began to shut down just as he was starting the county general section. This is bad news, kids; the local seats are the ones that matter most to daily life, and folks are weary by the time they get to them. Why is this? It could have something to do with the twenty-seven judicial retention questions that formidably occupy so much ballot real estate. (Come on, do they really have to start every single solitary one with the word “Shall” and go through the motions every time? Just give us a heading, the names and the Yes/No boxes, and we’ll figure out what to do.)
Trivia buffs, here’s your question for the week: how many times has a Tennessee Supreme Court Justice or a judge in any of the Courts of Appeals been removed from office due to a majority of “No” votes on this judicial retention ballot? Thought so.
Since it’s just not prudent to go mucking about with the Constitution, I suppose we’ll have to keep doing this every eight years; but can we put the county races first? The state and federal primaries matter still less, to some of us anyway, but there aren’t that many. Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, only every other State Senate seat, and the State House—yeah, that’s doable. 27 up-or-down votes on names you’re not likely to see or hear again until the next time? Please offer stimulants at the polling place entrance. (Fact: you can request a general election ballot that will leave off the primaries, but it still has these judicial retention questions.)
The right thing to do is to make an informed choice on each judicial seat. There’s no way around that truth, but the supporting information is hard to come by. Various interest groups publish recommendations en masse, but their picks are usually so agenda-driven as to be spoiled. Not many of us has time to research the opinions handed down in appeal after appeal over most of a decade—times 27. Do the best you can; and then get some oxygen, and mush on to the remainder of the ballot.
[This column appears in the July 19, 2006 Pulse.]
July 18, 2006
The Ticket: Picks and Predictions for August 3 - County Commission
Well, it's time. Too late, in fact, for those eager beavers who've voted already. Ah well. Here are my picks and predictions for the 2006 Hamilton County Commission election.
District 1 - Fred Skillern is unopposed
I wish there were an alternative to which to point voters, but as there isn't, I will make no recommendation.
District 2 - Richard Casavant vs. Joe Dumas
Pick: Joe Dumas. I'm hopeful for an end to the status quo we've seen for so long on this legislative body, and Dr. Dumas has the dedication and intelligence to adequately deliver real change.
Prediction: Richard Casavant. It's just hard to beat an entrenched incumbent in such a moneyed district.
District 3 - Jim Coppinger is unopposed
He's new, but seemed to have a broad base of support in the primary. Let's give him a term to prove himself.
District 4 - Brian Caldwell vs. Warren Mackey
Pick: Brian Caldwell. Brian is a friend whom I've known for almost eight years. He cares about his community, and would see to it that citizens had an open office to contact with their concerns.
Prediction: Warren Mackey. He has fought for this position since the 2002 primary where he narrowly lost to former commissioner William Cotton (who allegedly sweet-talked an election worker into transferring voters into the district to give himself the edge). Mackey was also named interim Commissioner when Cotton resigned, so that gives him an immediate advantage over Caldwell (not to mention the lopsided fundraising and, whether or not you like this effect, the district demographics).
District 5 - Greg Beck vs. Bernie Miller
Pick: Greg Beck. He came out swinging when he was named to the Commission and developed a plan to meet with School Board officials. He has widespread community support. I don't have anything against Dr. Miller, but I do usually avoid endorsing clergy for public office.
Prediction: This one will be close. Perhaps it will be extremely close. Nevertheless, I'm going to go ahead and call it for Commissioner Beck.
District 6 - John Allen Brooks is unopposed after defeating Lou Miller in the primary
District 7 - Larry Henry is unopposed after defeating Red Burrows in the primary
District 8 - Curtis Adams vs. John Bailes
Pick: John Bailes! Not only am I tired of Adams' shenanigans, I believe we can count on John Bailes to bring the kind of hard work, intelligence, and solutions-oriented approach to the Board of Commissioners that it so sorely needs.
Prediction: John Bailes. Curtis Adams' support is primarily from senior dwellers in East Ridge (single homes and retirement centers). While turnout is highest among senior citizens, many younger voters are energized for change. The Concord area is probably split, or may tilt a little toward Adams, but I believe that with the Brainerd voters and the growing support throughout the entire district (along with the funding from all over the county), John Bailes will prevail in an upset.
District 9 - Bill Hullander is unopposed
I wish there were an alternative to which to point voters, but as there isn't, I will make no recommendation.
July 17, 2006
The Ticket: Picks and Predictions for August 3 - County Administration
County Mayor - Brian Johnson vs. Claude Ramsey
Pick: Claude Ramsey. I agree with the Mayor when he says that the challenger lacks the requisite administrative experience to effectively manage an organization of this size and complexity.
Prediction: Claude Ramsey by a sizeable margin.
Sheriff - Dave Alverson, John Cupp, and Billy Long
Pick: Billy Long. Sheriff Department employees and other law enforcement individuals and support groups have acknowledged Long's
Prediction: John Cupp by a small amount. Sorry, Billy, it's just this town. Sheriff elections should not be partisan. Question for readers, though: could Alverson possibly act as a spoiler and throw off Cupp's chances?
District Attorney (Bill Cox is unopposed)
Pick: Write in someone. I'm still not over the election a few years back when memos were sent to the whole DA department telling the employees how much to contribute to Cox's re-election campaign.
Public Defender (Ardena Garth is unopposed)
Trustee (Carl Levi is unopposed)
County Clerk (Bill Knowles is unopposed)
Register of Deeds (Pam Hurst is unopposed)
Picks: I see no reason why voters should not return these able servants to office.
July 14, 2006
Rock 'n' Roll Candidates
'Tis a useless, silly exercise, I know; but I think it's fun to identify persons running for public office who share names with famous musicians and other celebrities. (Last year, Chattanooga bemused the world by having an Ann Coulter run for mayor -- and there was much confusion on some web forums.)
So who are this year's homonymous contenders?
As always, let's start local: in Hamilton County, we have none other than the (second) lead singer for AC/DC running for County Mayor: Brian Johnson. If he wins, I'll be thunderstruck.
Straight out of Arlen, Texas, Hank Hill is running for General Sessions Judge in Division I. Dangit, Bobby!
I know it doesn't count, but "Mary Sullivan Moore" always makes me think of Mary Tyler Moore. She's also running for Sessions Court Judge, in Division II. However, I don't think she's gonna make it, after all.
For the State House, former Doobie Brother and Steely Dan member Michael McDonald is running for re-election in District 44. I keep forgettin' this guy.
Irish blues guitarist Gary Moore is unopposed, over the hills and far away in District 50.
Latin crossover sensation and former Menudo member Ricky Martin will vie for the Democratic nomination in the 64th District. Word has it that he will indeed shake his bon-bon if he wins.
Out in Memphis, KISS singer and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley is leaving his State House position to run for Curtis Person's old State Senate seat. Don't you let me down, Paul.
Breathy-voiced pop superstar Jack Johnson is wasting no time in trying to beat out the crowded primary for State Senate 23.
That's all I have for now; who is on your celebrity ballot?
The Ticket: Picks and Predictions for August 3 - School Board Edition
I'm still undecided on a couple of County Commission races, but early voting starts tomorrow today, so I'll start with the Board of Education. Remember, these are nonpartisan positions.
District 3 - Everett Fairchild vs. Tim Price
Pick: Everett Fairchild. Go to Chattanoogan.com, search on Tim Price, and read his opinions. Fairchild isn't stellar by any means, but I'd rather keep him than have Price on the Board.
Prediction: Everett Fairchild by a narrow-ish margin. Incumbency and name recognition obviously favor Fairchild, but a slew of voters will pick Price due to a general sentiment of "needing new blood" on the School Board.
District 5 - William "Eli" Jones vs. Jeffrey Wilson
Pick: I'm unfortunately not familiar enough with the candidates to make a recommendation. Please leave a comment if you have one.
Prediction: Jeffrey Wilson outright. This was the 2005 appointee upon whom the County Commission could agree after being in deadlock for half a dozen votes, due to former Commissioner Cotton's obstreperousness (among other things). District 5 was formerly represented by Charles Love, who was snared in Operation Tennessee Waltz for being a bagman. Wilson has been fairly low-key in office so far, which probably works in his favor.
District 6 - Janice Boydston (unopposed)
District 8 - Randy Gutshall vs. Kenny Smith
Pick: Kenny Smith, on personal recommendations.
Prediction: Kenny Smith. He has the apparent funding, and has bipartisan support, including that of the formidable electrical workers union.
District 9 - Chester Bankston vs. Kelvin Stamper
Pick: Kelvin Stamper. He expresses a sincere desire to work with the County Commission and put the students' needs first. He's a parent of public school children. And Commissioner Hullander supports the other guy.
Prediction: I am struggling to call this one. I hate to say it, but the "powers that be" may be able to install their man Bankston, despite Stamper's qualifications.
Early voting is nice and all, but don't vote until you are sure of your choices. There's no shame in waiting until everything has played out -- just make it to the polls by closing time on Election Day, August 3, 2006.
July 13, 2006
John Bailes Gets PBA Endorsement
The local Police Benevolent Association chapter has released its endorsements in the August 3 Hamilton County General Election.
I am pleased to see that this influential law enforcement organization recognizes John Bailes as the right candidate to represent the citizens of District 8.
July 12, 2006
That Idea Looks Good On Paper
The Help America Vote Act, or HAVA in bureaucratese, came about as a typically well-intentioned but probably off-center reaction to the whole "hanging chad" and "butterfly ballot" episode in 2000. Part of its "Help" component is to mandate that precincts everywhere switch to new electronic voting machines.
But how is that change going -- and going over -- in the great state of Tennessee? Let's start at the local level. The first word I heard was that Hamilton County was indeed obtaining new electronic voting machines. For those that don't know, for some years now our county has used the Diebold AccuVote system. This involves a paper ballot with ovals that the voter darkens by hand, and the machine scans the ballots and records the votes much in the same way that millions of standardized academic tests are scored.
So at first I was a little nervous that all of a sudden we would be switching to all touch-screen systems, and kept looking for the County to organize some kind of demonstrations or education sessions to, you know, Help America Vote. No deal.
But then we learned that only disabled people will use new machines in the August elections. Therefore the Election Commission is training poll workers on them, but not the general public. This election promises to have the feel of moving, like when you have to mail your bills from your old mailbox but you expect the next statement to come to the new address. The "abled" (more or less) will have to wait until later to change technologies.
However, other areas of the state are for certain making the full switch, and that has some people worried (there was an article on KnoxViews but it has disappeared). There have been repeatable, documented security failures on several platforms. I work with developers, so my opinion on this is informed by the daily fact of human error, and not by some grand conspiracy theory -- but the fact remains that something can go wrong. Also, consider the position of someone who isn't at a computer 10 or more hours a day (I know, weird), especially someone who has really never touched one, and you can surely see cause for concern. The principle behind "Help America Vote" should be to provide usability across the rather diverse spectrum of technological experience levels, shouldn't it?
What that boils down to is this: if a voter cannot register his or her lawful decision on a system that, for all intents and purposes, might as well be Martian, that voter should be allowed to receive a paper ballot. (We'll do well to remember that paper is a technology too, so it's all about the familiarity.) In the counties that say they'll refuse to provide the necessary means for non-digital folks to vote, what impact do you think that decision will have on turnout in the next election? I don't anticipate having a problem with the new machines, whenever they get here, but I am aware that many people will. I don't like that fact, but I must accept its reality. We need to know what our officials plan to do in terms of implementing the spirit of the law.
How I Know It Is Summer
As if the stifling heat and suffocating humidity weren't enough, I also experience an uptick in strange, prescient dreams and other so-called "paranormal" happenings. July and August are the "hottest" months wherein this type of activity occurs.
Now that I've outed myself as a wacko, let me illustrate. I had a dream last night that I was stopped by the side of the road, and was stepping out of (not my) car, when a dog walked out of the roadside brush within about ten feet of the front of the car. My location was, as best as I can recall, on the East side of Missionary Ridge. (Picture I-24W going over the ridge but as a two-lane road instead of an interstate.) It was twilight.
The animal, however, wasn't a dog. In my dream, I said aloud (to myself) "that's a coyote! Right here in the city!" It was an extremely vivid image:
the coyote stepped out of the brush,
I paused in exiting the vehicle as I identified it,
it looked at me,
then it walked away. The dream either ended or moved on into some unrelated scene right after that.
But I didn't remember having that dream at all -- until I was browsing Chattanoogan.com and found this story. Then the image of that coyote on Missionary Ridge snapped into my mind, and I had to blog it. Even now I'm struggling to determine that it actually was a dream, and that I didn't see a coyote on an evening drive somewhere recently. But I haven't stopped on the side of the road since my Valentine's Day car breakdown, and I know it wasn't then.
Okay, Joe, this was just one little dream, and one little Chattanoogan.com recycled press release. But 1) they happened on the same day, and B) I swear this kind of thing happens somewhat frequently, but mostly during the "dog days" of Summer. I've been keeping mental track since 1998, and I really should have been keeping a better written record.
If this gives you a good laugh, I'm glad I provided humor. Laughter is a good thing. If you take it even slightly as my honest word, which is how it is given, I hope I've enabled your mind's question factory. Questioning is also a good thing.
And, for what it is worth, there are coyotes in Chattanooga, and somehow my unconscious seems to have known that before my conscious mind did.
Jacqueline Castillo for President (2036)
Here's why I say so:
[T]he 5-year-old, who stands less than four feet tall, escorted the burglar to the back door and told him, "Get out of the house."
Local Candidate Featured on Third Party Watch
Cassidy is a registered Republican but has developed a must-read blog for all interested in so-called third parties. His site and Richard Winger's Ballot Access News are essential to understanding how "the rest of" America's political playing field works. The MSM are a large part of why the two big parties have a lock on the system, so it's heartening to see these alternative news sites.
We're proud of our homeboy Joe (er, Dr. Dumas) for receiving this honor. Go read what was said about his campaign.
July 11, 2006
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
State Rep. Mary Pruitt acted in a manner that can only be described as bizarre after being confronted with questions about her campaign spending.
Full disclosure: I was tipped to this story by one of Pruitt's opponents, Jim Boyd.
I'll update this post with more links and, if I can swing it, the video. But watch the news at 10 and see the latest on this developing story.
Readers across the state, if you don't get NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, their website is here.
UPDATE: Here is the text of the formal complaint Boyd filed with the Registry of Election Finance:
Mr. Drew Rawlins Executive Director, Registry of Election Finance Parkway Tower, Suite 1614 - 404 James Robertson Parkway Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Dear Mr. Rawlins:
Please investigate alleged misuse of campaign funds by Representative Mary Pruitt, Tennessee State House of Representatives, District 58.
I’ve attached a transcript of an investigative report by Phil Williams, a journalist currently serving with WTVF-TV5. I’ve attached a copy of the transcript of his investigation and NES billing records that support the facts of his story.
If the allegations are true and Ms. Pruitt is illegally pocketing campaign money, then this is yet another stain on our Tennessee State Government in the ‘business as usual’ atmosphere of convicted ex-representative Chris Newton and indicted ex-senator John Ford. A stain we need to remove from our American government.
William James (Jim) Boyd
Candidate, 58th District
Tennessee State House of Representatives
Rep. Pruitt is also opposed in the Democratic primary on August 3. Her opponent is Jason Powell.
*"Another" refers to Hamilton County General Sessions Court candidate Mary Moore, who appeared to accuse Judge Bob Moon and others of tapping her phones.
Piping Hot Endorsements
Adam Groves rounds them up into a nice little paragraph in today's Dose.
The Coalition of Conservative Republicans' list was kindly posted by John Farmer, even though his rival in the US House 8th District primary received the nod. Note the endorsement of Bob Corker for US Senate, by the Coalition of Conservative Republicans.
Speaking of, Abramson lands the third blow in his pummeling and unapologetic defense. I can only wish to write that well. Some samples:
I believe we need some people who are a little less ideologically driven and a little more results-oriented up in Washington, lest we drive off a cliff. [...] As I am of the opinion that Bob Corker's record best demonstrates a commitment to effective governing, I'm willing to live with the spin.
Oh, and the one that I meant to add myself, which led to the post's title: Perry Piper for Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. This is not an elected position (though voters do affirm reinstatement, as you'll see on this year's statewide ballot), but I really hope Mr. Piper is selected. It may be a long shot, but in my view the man is very deserving. His having spent about equal time as a public defender and then a prosecutor in federal court would seem to lend the balance needed for the types of reviews handled by an appellate court.
There will be more, for sure.
July 10, 2006
20 Answers to Chris Clem
I thought I would offer a reply to Chris Clem's much-talked-about email on Bob Corker. Why? Because Rep. Clem asked nicely, and that will usually work with me.
Before I begin, let me reiterate that my support for Bob Corker is unusual (for me). I told a couple of his staffers as much early on, when I met with them to talk about blogging and campaigns. My choice has little to do with ideological similarity, and that's a weird place to be. It may be just as simple as my own sort of declaration of Independence, though I suspect that even that is colored by my utter disappointment in the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee.
Who cares? I view the United States Senate as a place where negotiation rules the day. People should be grown-ups in the House, but they pretty much have to be in the Senate. Therefore, someone who is known as a tough negotiator, who has worked hard to build a business and, yes, a personal fortune, and who has shown ability to effectively manage and get things done, is a prime candidate to get my backing. The hot-button social issues take a back seat to pure ability. These people who act like Bob Corker is "left-wing" have never met a left-winger, if you ask me. You guys ought to meet my friend John Johnson. But I digress. Chris Clem. Right.
1. In 1994, Corker said that the [federal, right?] government has no business restricting abortion. Plenty of anti- and pro-choice advocates agree on this, in their divergent ways. I'm disappointed that Bob Corker has moved away from this position, but if he's personally convinced otherwise, so be it. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a one-issue voter. Get over it.
2. As Finance Commissioner, Bob Corker supposedly made statements that supposedly indicated a possible support for a state income tax that, read your history books, never came about. I have no direct knowledge about these supposed statements or about what they supposedly meant.
3. The Hyde Amendment - browbeating Corker over his rejection of it hides the fact that it was, indeed, slipped in at the last minute instead of in an open process. Any good government finance official should react accordingly. You who think that it didn't deserve a good review just because it was "pro-life" are fooling yourselves.
4. Chattanooga property tax increase - yes, Mayor Corker did assess a dire fiscal situation and determine that a revenue increase was necessary, but then set out on a path of trimming city government and improving its ability to bring in the necessities without further tax increases. The insinuation that he "did it early" so that voters would "forget" as part of some grand scheme made me laugh out loud when I read it.
5. Would YOU try to get Van Hilleary elected to anything? (Yes, I know some of you are, right this very minute. I don't know what to say to you, except "good luck.") Prioritized partisanship is one of the worst ills of our political life today. You don't have to go way out of your way to support a candidate just because the person shares the elephant or donkey icon. And, uh, he did give Hilleary $5,000.
6. I'm just confused. In #5 the complaint is made that Corker wouldn't "support" Hilleary, but in #6 it's a foregone conclusion, which wouldn't even be brought up. Maybe he didn't support Hilleary more because he was never asked? Naw, I know better. But still. And it's true that the Mayor position in Chattanooga is non-partisan. Moving along..
7. Chris Clem was not Corker's state representative in 2002. (He was in 2001, and for perhaps a few days in January 2002; but then redistricting took effect, which moved Mayor Corker's residence into District 28, which was then, as is now, represented by Tommie Brown.) I did hear of the fundraising advantage Bredesen had over Hilleary, but I had earlier seen the Hilleary ads that attacked his GOP rival (Jim Henry), and chalked up bipartisan support for Bredesen to two things: Hilleary's ineptness, and Bredesen's business background.
8. It's true, Chris Clem rather narrowly defeated his GOP primary rival, John Lively, in 2002. It was the year I started, then had to abort, a run for the State House myself. I met then-Councilman Lively at the Election Commission and we had a nice long chat. He struck me as a candidate with broad appeal who would do well in a district like 27. I think it's just a little paranoid to blame Lively's near upset on one family, as Clem has done. Lots of people supported each candidate, and it was a close election. That's that.
9, 10, 11. These seem to be re-hashing the same thing in several steps. What an individual does in terms of contributions is a highly personal matter. There's not really a point to which to respond. Next?
12. I'm not sure I understand what Clem is talking about, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that the deal with the Legislative Black Caucus was that they wanted to hold their annual convention somewhere, and Bob Corker was Mayor of Chattanooga. So, he and others talked to business leaders and such, and those businesses -- not Bob Corker -- made advertising investments toward bringing the convention here. They came. What the Caucus did with, and how they didn't report, the money is a problem, yes. But it is in no way Bob Corker's problem.
13. I watched the 2005 mayoral election closely, and I never saw evidence that Bob Corker was raising money for any candidate. Former mayor Jon Kinsey, maybe. (Funny - a lot of what is being conveniently blamed on Corker was really Kinsey's doing.) Furthermore, tell me how "agnostic" plays into anything. Are there not agnostic conservatives and Republicans? Not to the TeamGOPurists, I guess, but they do exist in some significant number. Oh, but wait -- Ann Coulter (the urban planner, not the entertainer) is an Episcopalian. Last I checked, they are affirmative on the whole God question. And they're Christian. And George Washington was one. Bad move, Chris. If Corker did in fact support Coulter for Mayor, it was likely because she would have continued his excellent efforts at building a truly world-class city.
14. Pay no attention to what Jimmy Naifeh says on just about anything this topic. (Oops, that must have been the beer talking.) And why is it a mortal transgression to be friends with someone from another political party?
15. Why would Bob Corker be in a back room in Nashville while the State Senate chooses a new leader? He'll be getting prepped on being sworn in to the United States Senate.
16. More about Jimmy Naifeh -- and there's this little matter of a public election that will decide who rules the State House.
17. State legislators have their reasons for supporting either Bryant or Hilleary. For one thing, I'm sure some of them were in a congressional district represented by one or the other. Then there's the whole free will thing.
18. John McCain and Arlen Specter are not liberal. The latter can be called moderate, and the former is downright conservative, depending on the day. How many of those Senators have endorsed Van Hilleary? So a few of the far-right ones like Bryant. Sure, that makes sense. Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, hasn't indicated a preference. That's a good thing, in Tennessee Republican party circles anyway. But I think you can guess, like I can, whom he supports. It's just a guess, I know.
19 & 20. These last two are just here to make an even number, I think. They are so full of speculative nonsense (well, 20's just a rhetorical question) that I can't rightly respond. I don't know any more than you do what Bob Corker will do in 2007 or 2008, but I suspect he won't be turning the Republican Party into a bunch of liberals. It's just a hunch.
Okay, so maybe I didn't hit every single point with a counterpoint. I hope to hear about mistakes I've made, and I promise to correct them if I can validate the correction. I welcome your opinions on this matter. It should be fun!
Last note: I do appreciate Rep. Clem for contacting me and proposing that I put up a response on my blog. It's an honor to correspond with an elected public servant, even if we disagree about 96% of the time. Chris is a good player in this game. My responses above aren't directed at him, but at you, dear reader. There's a handy Comments function here for you to use in your part of the conversation.
July 8, 2006
Vote on continuing curbside?
I just caught an article published on Chattanoogan.com (and, apparently, a Herman Wang story the day before) about a group seeking a ballot initiative so that voters can decide whether or not curbside recycling stays.
Mayor Littlefield should be commended for looking at ways to stop government waste, but I'm concerned that the proposed scuttling would result in a pile of literal waste. Our community already faces a looming solid waste disposal problem. I question Michelle Michaud's assertion that the (Orwell-named?) "convenience centers" would likely result in more materials being recycled. I will ask for something demonstrative regarding the statement about "half" of what's picked up today being hauled to the landfill. (Convenience? Center? The center of my convenience is right about where the sidewalk meets the street, and these two guys come by every Monday to pick up my recyclables.)
The group seeking ballot access for the measure has to get 15% of registered voters to sign a petition. Since only about 18% of households recycle (and that's with curbside), I'm not sure they'll make it. Oh, wait. Registered voters is less than Chattanooga population. Still, it will be tough to get almost 15,000 signatures by September 8.
I'll sign, though, and hopefully I'll get to vote to keep curbside recycling. I wish more people participated in it, because such would help the program stay more cost-effective as well as, you know, do all those good things recycling does.
It sounds like you can catch up with Mr. Frank DePinto and his group on Tuesday at the City Council building at both 4pm and 6pm, as they plan to appear before Public Works and the full Council, respectively. They had a meeting at Mudpie Thursday, but I couldn't determine via online searches where they plan to have the petitions. If I find out about additional ways to sign this petition, I'll post them here.
July 7, 2006
Cotton Patch Whisper: Rumors about future State House backroom deals
One of several great anonymous correspondents to TennesseeTicket.com has passed along some potentially juicy information about how things might go down if the Republicans are successful in their bid to take control of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
There's no sense in even trying to validate something that is constructed entirely of speculation and hearsay, so it's posted here simply for its entertainment value. (However, if it were to come true, you can bet I'd be strutting the "you heard it here first" windbaggedness, but only, again, for fun.)
Apparently, Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) has "some of his supporters" talking about what the handful of GOP Representatives who support Jimmy Naifeh for Speaker might try to do if the Republicans win a majority. According to my source, the talk is that they would approach Naifeh with a deal, like so: share the Speakership, and we'll support you, as long as we get some peachy committee chairmanships. I gather that McDaniel would be the Co-Speaker in such a scenario -- and that it would likely be his last term in office for anything above assistant dogcatcher, as the saying goes, since the right wing would come after him with a vengeance in the 2008 primary.
I hope to be so wrong about posting this that I am scurrilously chastised, because that kind of thing just ain't right, I don't care what party you're for. But I thought it made for some interesting speculation, and the imagined fireworks that would result are better than anything seen earlier this week.
Incidentally, there is also talk of deals being worked up in the opposite direction (again, in the event of a GOP win), in which the name Frank Buck (D-Dowellton) was mentioned.
Some days I just hate political parties.
I Confess: I'm Envious of Nashville's Blogging Scene
We Chatty types had a small get-together last year at Greyfriar's, but there were no adult beverages, no video bloggers, and no hosting television stations that were also offering to pay us for video content. Perhaps saddest of all, we had no Rex L. Camino.
NewsChannel9 and Channel 3 Eyewitness News, are you paying attention? Surely you want to get in on this game. (I won't hold my breath for Channel 12, and isn't the Fox affiliate's news outsourced to NewsChannel9?) What about the Times Free Press? (Never mind: just ask the reporters who do their best at using the "blogging" system set up for them.)
I am going to start asking some specific questions to some specific people, and thus try to boost the Scenic City's resonance in the blogosphere. I can't be thankful enough that Chattablogs was created (although seemingly as an alumni extension service for Covenant grads), and shouts also go out to Mike, who was blogging when we didn't know what it was, as well as smijer, and Joshua Blankenship (and others, forgive me); but it's possible that a full-time Chattanooga-based blog, à la NiT or VV (and I hereby offer my services, in exchange for just compensation), would create the hub needed to give us a more cohesive sense of cyber-community.
That said, I am* one of those who rails against the perpetual isolation and lack of community created by television and, to some degree, the internet (free WiFi mitigates, dontcha think?), so if we are to have a more robust blogging scene, it will require face-to-face time.
I could just stomp my feet and move to Nashville, and try to fit in with the cool kids there, but I think it much more worthwhile to actually do something here, even if it could be seen as just a copycat move.
Friday Guitar Blogging
A kind friend shared a CD with me and I am enjoying the heck out of it.
The disc is a live recording of Norman Blake and Tony Rice at Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL. The date was 3/25/2000. (I think that was the same year they made a sudden appearance at Nightfall and I missed it.)
Along with the great pickin' is a timeless quote from Norman Blake:
"I blame all my songs on Guy Clark."
1) Lay Down My Old Guitar
2) Shipyard Apprentice
3) Red-haired Boy
4) Ginseng Sullivan
5) Blackberry Blossom
6) Church Street
7) Sittin' On Top of the World (Norman solo)
8) Shenandoah (Tony solo)
9) Green Light on the Southern
10) I'm Coming Back, but I Don't Know When
11) I Wish I Was A Mole in the Ground
July 6, 2006
A Supreme Appeal for Judicial Wisdom
Have y'all looked at the sample ballot yet? I suggest you do so at your earliest opportunity, because it's big. It's bigger than big. It has a lot of offices on it.
In large part, the positions are the usual: in the federal and state primaries, you have the US Senate, your US House district, Governor, your State Senate (if you're in an odd-numbered district) and your State Representative candidates; and in the county offices, your County Commission district, Sheriff, Trustee, and Register of Deeds, and so on.
But, being that this is 2006, there are a busful of eight-year judicial seats -- and not just the ones where candidates run for the popular vote, but also the higher-court appointees that are re-affirmed with a Yes/No (or, if you prefer, the famed "up-or-down vote").
I have vowed to be different this time around than I was in 1998, and to consciously vote Yes or No with the best of my ability. (I'm afraid that everyone got a Yes last time around, because I didn't know who they were at all. Moreover, I am doubly afraid that I'm not the only one who has opted so glibly.)
There are two flavors of Appellate Judge (Regular and Criminal), and the Supremes, of course. Plus, there are three Grand Divisions that make up the state. In all, each voter will be asked for an up-or-down on something like twenty-seven robed individuals. That's not counting the lower courts: in Hamilton County, we have Circuit (4 divisions), Criminal (3 divisions), Sessions (5 divisions), Chancery (2 divisions), and Juvenile (just one). Now we're up to 42. And if you live in one of our cute little enclave municipalities, you could see even more.
I can't exactly tell you how you're going to know for whom to vote. There are a lot of benches to be filled, and only so much time to research the candidates. But let me tell you exactly how I don't want to see you voting on these offices. Folks, voting blindly on party lines, for judges no less, is just as foolish as voting straight "Yes" or straight "No" or trying to draw a zigzag pattern with the darkened ovals. It unwisely assumes that just because an individual carries your favorite team's letter behind his or her name, or is on a list that TeamGOPurists sent to you, that individual truly judges on matters of law with an even hand.
Wait a minute. Why are judicial positions partisan, anyway? It doesn't make sense. I mean, Barry Steelman and Rodney Strong are prosecutors. Is Barry a "Republican prosecutor" and Rodney a "Democratic prosecutor?" The question becomes more ridiculous when applied to the position these two are seeking. Why should a Criminal Court Judge be affiliated with a political party? Isn't the law the law?
So many questions arise when reviewing this part of the ballot. I freely confess that I'm looking for help in determining what the right choices are. I don't think TeamGOP can help me -- but can you?
July 5, 2006
"Should [Nashville] contribute tax dollars to nonprofit and community groups?"
So asks the Tennessean in its sidebar to an article describing the Nashville-Davidson Metro government's intent to do exactly that, with about $3.5 million. However, I think this comment from the budget director bears notice: "One thing we've tried to do is focus on those things that have a public benefit to them. We look for things that alleviate demands that otherwise would be made on the government."
I'm not writing for or against at this point; I'm merely pointing to the question, plus adding one more: What is Chattanooga's [or your city's] policy on waxing philanthropic with the public dime?
Hamilton County Election Predictions
Not from me, though -- at least, not yet. I'm still in the analysis phase on so many fronts.
However, The East Lake Voice has articulated its vision for a September swearing-in. The county's executive position, its board of commissioners, and the five school board seats that are up this year are forecast, and quite well at that, though I believe that John Bailes can pull off an upset in District 8.
I mean, if for no other reason, since Dr. Jesse Register is staying on a year in a consultant position, don't you want to see Curtis Adams leave the County Commission? Regardless of how you feel about the positions outlined by each man, surely you sense that one of them has to go; and Register will be around; and voters have an opportunity to replace Adams in a few weeks. It is a simple choice, really.
That said, there are plenty of positives for John Bailes. He brings a dedication to openness (remember Adams' secret lunch meetings), to equality (you won't hear John saying that a woman's place is in the kitchen instead of in politics), and to incubating small businesses. I could go on, but I think Bailes' stance on issues is well outlined on his website (click on "Know Where I Stand").
This next Board of Education could be interesting, if ELV's prediction holds. I only know to judge by his letters in the Chattanoogan, but Tim Price makes Rhonda Thurman sound downright moderate. Pit those two against Debra Matthews and, for that matter, Chip Baker, and it's a lively scene.
Check out the predictions. Hopefully there will be more. (I'm interested in hearing some takes on the two contested Sessions Judge races in particular.) Soon enough, I'll be making my own picks. As with the county primaries, the plan is to list both a prediction and a preference, where they might differ.
House Data Gain?
Primaries offer little insight into the major parties’ struggle for Capitol control
All ninety-nine seats in the Tennessee House of Representatives are included in this election cycle. The Democrats have maintained control of the House since Reconstruction, but Republican hopes are higher than ever that this will be their year to take over. The August 3 primary will determine each party’s nominees, and in many cases the outright winner. We’ll walk through the open seats, and ones in which incumbents face opposition from their own party members, and finish up with the remainder of the local contingent.
UP FOR GRABS
District 1 (Bristol, Kingsport)
Republican primary: Rep. Steve Godsey is part of this year’s musical chairs in Sullivan and surrounding counties. He’s stepping out of the House to run for County Mayor. Two Republicans, Sullivan County Commissioner John Crawford and business executive Jon Lundberg, wish to be the nominee. Though there are two Independents and one Democrat lined up for the general election, look for this race to be decided in August.
District 6 (Jonesborough, Johnson City)
Republican primary: Rep. David Davis is a frontrunner in the crowded U.S. House primary to replace outgoing Congressman Bill Jenkins, and six contenders seek to replace him. This seat stays Republican simply because no one else is running. The six in the sixth: Joshua Arrowood, Ethan Flynn, Dale Ford, Patti Jarrett, Michael A. Malone, and Lee Sowers.
District 21 (Sweetwater, Lenoir City)
Republican primary: Rep. Russell Johnson has his sights on a District Attorney position, and either Robert Joe Lee or Jimmy Matlock will end up as the GOP nominee on August 3.
District 24 (Cleveland)
Republican primary: Cleveland attorney and District 24 incumbent Dewayne Bunch is among those seeking to replace State Senator Jeff Miller. Five others have entered the race to replace Bunch. They are all Republicans: Kevin Brooks, Greg Cain, Garry Moore, Hal Roe, and Michael Willis; and this is obviously another safe Republican seat.
District 27 (Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Red Bank)
Voting patterns suggest that Republicans enjoy a comfortable majority in this district of the two big mountains, but Chris Clem’s departure does remove a reliable incumbent, and neither of the two Republicans on the ballot is from one of the two big mountains. The Democrat one of them will face in November lives in Signal Mountain. GOP primary voters will have to decide whether Howard Cotter, a Red Bank City Commissioner, or Richard Floyd, also a Red Bank resident, is the best person to try and keep the district in their party’s hands.
District 31 (Sale Creek, Dayton, Spring City)
Republican primary: This is one in the list of open seats that help define this year’s battle. It’s safe Republican, though, so in that sense it’s just a replacement. Rep. Bo Watson is running (without opposition) for David Fowler’s former Senate seat, and the north Hamilton County contenders looking to replace him are Randy Fairbanks, Chris Lanier, John McDougal, George Thacker and Ed Warren. Jim Cobb is the lone GOP candidate from Rhea County.
District 42 (Cookeville)
Democratic primary: Four hopefuls are lined up to succeed outgoing Democrat Jere Hargrove: Lewis Coomer, Henry Fincher, Thomas Willoughby, and Charles Womack. Politics junkies across the state were astonished that no Republicans showed up to attempt a takeover in this somewhat conservative district. It will be a three-way race in November (the winner of this primary and two Independent candidates), but Tennesseans aren’t known for sending non-major party members to the legislature. The seat stays Democratic.
District 65 (Lewisburg, Pulaski)
Democratic primary: Eddie Bass and Lee Bussart Bowles seek to replace outgoing Democrat Joe Fowlkes.
District 66 (Springfield)
Democratic primary: Bob Bibb, Larry Fletcher, James Hubbard, and Shannon Polen are the candidates trying to keep this a Democratic seat after Gene Davidson’s retirement.
Republican primary: Patrick Carneal and Joshua Evans, on the other hand, are hoping to boost Republican majority hopes with a seat pickup here. This is one of the few true “battleground” seats in this year’s elections, so we’ll talk more about it in the fall.
District 67 (Clarksville)
Republican primary: Three local officials, who appear to be believers in the idea that the proximity of Fort Campbell and the overall “Red State” quality of the region will turn this district over to Republican control, are waging battle for the nomination. They are Montgomery County Commissioner Reber Kennedy, Jr., and Clarksville City Council members Wallace Redd and Ken Takasaki.
District 96 (Memphis)
Republican primary: When State Senator Curtis Person announced his disinclination to extend his run in the General Assembly past forty years, 96th House Rep. Paul Stanley decided to put in a bid for Person’s seat. Stanley’s House race will be decided on August 3 in a primary race between Brad Jobe and Stephen McManus.
District 97 (Bartlett)
Republican primary: Former House Minority Leader Tre Hargett quit to become a lobbyist for Pfizer, then decided against the career move but kept his plans to leave the House of Representatives. The three candidates seeking to replace him are Jim Coley, Austin Farley, and Charles Pitman. No Democrats or Independents qualified; Austin Farley has been endorsed by the Southern Party of Tennessee.
District 99 (Arlington, Lakeland)
Democratic primary: Forget which party will control the majority; what will the House do without a resident Bubba? Rep. W. C. “Bubba” Pleasant is not seeking re-election. Eric Jones and Stephen Young will face off for the Democratic nomination.
Republican primary: Glen Bascom, Jr., Steve Evans, Ron Lollar, Nolan Manley, Jonathan Myers, Clark Plunk, John Wilkerson, and Mike Wissman are the Republican contenders.
To recap, not many of these open seats appear to afford opportunities for changing partisan representation. The battle will be far from over.
GUNNING FOR YOU
District 9 (Sneedville, Rogersville)
Incumbent Mike Harrison has to beat Ed Baird and Bill Sharp in the Republican primary in order to try to retain his position.
District 18 (Knoxville)
Former Vice President Dan Quayle got into trouble for “potatoe” – but he has nothing on notorious speller and grammarian Stacey Campfield, whose ardent support of a so-called “academic bill of rights” simply leaves one puzzled at the juxtaposition. Two well-funded Republicans seek to take out Campfield in the primary. They are George Dodson and Gary Drinnen.
District 23 (Athens, Tellico Plains)
Incumbent Bob McKee has endured a lot of verbal flak for his support of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, and now he must face a serious challenge from newcomer Mike Bell. The state party appears to be out for some serious revenge, but of course it’s all unofficially so.
District 35 (New Tazewell, Rutledge)
“Coach” Roach has two fellow Republicans aiming at toppling him: Rick Brewer and Judi Runions Swilling. I think Brewer and Swilling should just work together, since their names do so well.
District 39 (Lynchburg, Sewanee)
Democrat George Fraley faces a primary challenger, Wayne Brandon, and then either Ray Burns or Bill Green in November.
District 53 (Nashville)
Quintessa Hathaway will try to unseat Janis Baird Sontany.
District 54 (Nashville)
Edith Taylor Langster has three other Democrats aiming to topple her: Terry Clayton, Melvin Gill, and Metro Council member Brenda Gilmore.
District 58 (Nashville)
Mary Pruitt fights to maintain her position against challenger Jason Powell.
District 77 (Newbern, Union City)
Philip Pinion will probably easily defeat Jim Theriac.
District 85 (Memphis)
Larry Turner gets a double challenge from Errol Harmon and Paul Lewis.
District 89 (Memphis)
Larry Henson will try to unseat Beverly Marrero in the Democratic primary.
District 91 (Memphis)
Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry will face Kavin Carter.
District 92 (Memphis)
Henri Brooks, who is the less famous loser to Ophelia Ford in an extremely close race, draws two Democratic challengers, Elbert Rich, Jr. and Michael Saine.
ON THE HOME FRONT
We covered our two open seats above (27 and 31), and here’s what’s happening in the rest of Hamilton County’s districts on primary day.
District 26 (Harrison, Ooltewah)
Republican Rep. Gerald McCormick is unopposed after his first term in the district long represented by Bobby Wood.
District 28 (Chattanooga)
No primary here; we’ll examine the general election match-up between Democratic incumbent Rep. Tommie Brown and Independent challenger “Ike” Robinson sometime after Labor Day.
District 29 (Chattanooga)
Rep. JoAnne Favors is unopposed. Favors also serves as Vice Chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
District 30 (East Ridge)
Vince Dean was appointed to the House by the county commission after former Rep. Jack Sharp passed away earlier this year. No one else qualified to run, so Vince Dean is unopposed in August and in November, and will keep this seat on the Republican side. Dean is also mayor of East Ridge.
Remember to vote in this important election, even if you’re not a passionate partisan. After all, the county general is held on the same day. The Civic Forum will devote the remainder of July to Hamilton County offices. Early voting starts July 14, but it’s not wise to vote before one has critically examined every ballot.
[This column appears in the July 5, 2006 Pulse.]
July 3, 2006
Help Me Help John Bailes: We Have One Month
John Bailes is running for the County Commission in District 8. John Bailes is a fiscally sensible family man from East Ridge. The district includes the Concord area and a significant part of Brainerd as well.
This I'm writing directly to those in the district: First, if you're not registered to vote, there's good news, in that you have until the end of the day, Monday, July 3. Secondly, please check out John Bailes on the web at http://www.johnbailesforcommissioner.org/. Third, if you are convinced that John Bailes is the right choice for District 8 on August 3, I need to hear from you. You can leave a comment here or you can email me by clicking the "Contact" link above. I hope you will get in touch because support has been pouring in from all parts of the district, and the campaign will be elated to hear that you're joining the effort to elect John.
I have a few yard signs, and I can get more. A map of the district can be found here; or, if you're just not sure what district you're in, you can key in your street address at the Election Commission's site and it will tell you.
I look forward to hearing from registered voters in the district who will be supporting John Bailes. If you can't vote on August 3, there is early voting from July 14-29. The aforementioned Election Commission website has those details and much more.
Out and about: McMinn and Monroe Counties
On Saturday the family drove up to the western NC mountains for a brief respite. It was good to leave work and house chores (and even the blogging and column-writing) behind, but of course I always bring an observant eye when it's an election year.
While driving, about all one can deduce from an area's political leanings is what the number of billboards and yard signs tell. And while that's by no means a perfect measure, often a lopsided accounting does reveal the strength of public sentiment in one direction or another.
Case in point: Mike Bell for State House (District 23). I believe I saw two signs during the entire journey for Bell's incumbent rival in the upcoming GOP primary, Bob McKee. Maybe if I had driven through a different part of the district (McKee is from Niota) I would have seen more. However, Bell signs dotted lawns and byways all throughout the region.
What this says to me is that the state party is out to get Bob McKee. I'm too cynical to think that Mike Bell, as nice as he seems to be, could have occasioned such a groundswell on his own. I could, as you're sure to point out, be wrong. Anyway, it doesn't look good for McKee in 23. I'm not much of a fan of Bell's hyperconservative politics, but I'm disgusted enough with Speaker Naifeh to give anyone a second look who might present a chance to shake up the top-down system we've got in the House.
In the State Senate, District 9, Rep. Dewayne Bunch was the only candidate whose signs seem to have made it to McMinn from down Bradley way. (Monroe County is in District 5, where Sen. Randy McNally has a lock.)
What surprised me on this drive through the beautiful countryside was the lack of signs for the US Senate candidates. I saw one 4x6 for Ed Bryant in Etowah, and a couple of Bob Corker yard signs (paired with Mike Bell signs). Van Hilleary's name was nowhere to be seen (maybe Jennifer's made the rounds?); not as surprisingly, neither was Harold Ford's. The silver lining to this apparent lack of attention on the federal front is the plethora of local election activity. We all ought to be more aware and more involved in our municipal and county races.
Then again, the state and federal elections aren't until November 7, so I'll have to drive through again sometime around the middle of October and see what's up. With so much energy around this GOP Senate primary, one would think that the campaign volunteers would be getting the message out.
What does the signage look like in your neck of the woods, or in your favorite spots away from home?
July 2, 2006
Strong Stuff - Independence edition
Manages to espouse conservative principles without being a complete jerk about it. -- Roger Abramson, describing Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey
Great leaders rise in various ways. The last time we saw The Mayor in any high profile role was at a big party celebrating a prize fight very few “real people” could afford to attend. -- Memphis TV news anchor Cameron Harper, commenting on his local government's response to a deadly spate of violence in the Bluff City
Lastly, don't forget the fundraiser/meet-n-greet for Criminal Court Judge candidate Rodney Strong, a week from Monday (7/10) at God o'clock on the Tallan Building's deck. I've been acquainted with Lynn and Rodney for years, and while I'm sure ADA Steelman is a worthy opponent, I'm backing the one I am certain will judge fairly and uphold the law.