September 29, 2007
Lawyers who will bleed for a cause
There is not only unrest in Myanmar, but in Pakistan as well. The US-approved Musharraf government is cracking down on protesters from the country's legal rank and file, according to this report by Time.com. The protests come after a high court ruling that said Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a military coup and later had himself installed as a constitutional executive, can run for a second term in office.
While I recognize that the United States is somewhat dependent on a stable, strong Pakistani government in its (postulated) pursuit of al-Qaeda, I cannot help but find these events unfortunately inverted. I agree with those who say we should avoid too many international entanglements, but the more interventionist among us tend to take up the democratic cause, don't they? (Ahem, that is, except for in Latin America.) What repercussions are due from our praising (and giving billions to) this barely legitimate (if that) potentate?
The contrast of this diplomatic precariousness with our treatment of the Saddam Hussein regime which was also militaristic, and, by the way, kept extremists like al-Qaeda under control cannot be more stark. (Readers will not in any way take this as an endorsement of Saddam's butchery.)
Lastly, when was the last time, in this country, that lawyers would actually stand up and fight; not merely argue in a courtroom or legislative chamber, but throw rocks, get tear-gassed, and bleed for a cause? I'm thinking that all stopped sometime around the end of the American Revolution. The upside is that we do have more civil ways of airing our differences. I'm just saying.
September 28, 2007
What does that shirt say?
A few days ago, I received an e-mail which implored me to wear a red shirt on Fridays, to show my support for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, I suppose, those in South Korea, Germany, Okinawa, and a few dozen other places).
Today, I saw that one of my Facebook friends had participated in an event that called for the wearing of red shirts, also on Fridays, to support the monks and other citizen protesters against military rule in Myanmar (aka Burma).
On most Fridays from August through December, if a co-worker isn't wearing an orange shirt in support of a certain NCAA football organization, he or she is somewhat likely to be wearing a red one out of loyalty to one of a couple of southern neighbor rivals.
So, if you see someone wearing a red shirt on a Friday, don't make any assumptions as to what that means.
Some debate on PBS last night
Others, not so much. I thought the event to be rather interesting without the frontrunners. Of course, having Keyes and Paul on stage keeps things interesting no matter what.
I continue to be impressed with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. I base this on him as a person, though, and that's somewhat separate from the valuation needed to judge whether someone's right for leading the country. Still, he comes across very well.
I like a lot of what Ron Paul says, and I appreciate the voice he brings to the debate, because it is apparently a voice that a great many share, but few ever get to hear on a national stage. That said, he can come across as just a little bit nutty.
Alan Keyes is a whole different galaxy unto himself. He's a very enigmatic figure to me.
September 27, 2007
Enjoy in moderation
One week from tonight, we will know the Democratic and Republican parties' choices for the November 15 general election in Senate District 10.
One week later, the two nominees will face me* in a
guitar-shredding showdown candidate forum hosted by the Brainerd Unity Group. The group has invited me to moderate the event, and I have accepted their kind offer. This will be a new experience.
*More importantly, the candidates will face a group of concerned District 10 voters.
So, for reasons other than as a voter and a blogger, I have an interest in the outcome of next week's primaries. Will it be Andy vs. Oscar? Ken vs. the other Oscar? John Wolfe vs. Travis? I'll need to know the combination as soon as possible, so I can prepare my strategy and approach. (Should I open with the Ibanez, or with the acoustic? When's the right moment to break out the bari?)
My goal in this forum will be to acquire for the citizens of Brainerd (and any of our friends who drop by) the goods they need from the candidates in order to make the best-informed decision in this important election. I welcome the opportunity to try something new, and to take an active role in the decision-forming process; and I will of course blog about it afterward.
Stay tuned for more details.
In this week's Pulse
The little alt-weekly that could, did, and made the AAN this year. Former (as of today) editor Bill Colrus reflects on this and other accomplishments in his farewell editorial. My connection to the Pulse was through Bill and Aaron Mesh, both of whom (along with a couple of recent others) are now gone. The paper is undoubtedly going to experience some changes, so let's all hang on for the journey's next leg.
Angela Tant's feature this week is a very informative and comprehensive list of all the meeting times and locations for local government, along with an encouragement to attend, speak up, be involved. I heartily applaud any publication for providing a service like this.
My column is pretty much a list, too, as I attempted to provide a synoptic view of the nine candidates running for the 10th District Senate seat.
Not-so-hardcore Howard Jones closes out Nightfall this year. Things can only get better, yeah?
Respect Ernie's ears.
September 26, 2007
How many lawsuits does it take to change a city council member?
It was rumored that all, or almost all, of the Council members were against her. It turned out that one was absent, and last night's vote was 7-1, so that's as close as it comes. They looked at the evidence and voted to file suit. (1)
But wait isn't there litigation already in motion? When City Attorney Randy Nelson announced his findings yesterday morning, he filed for the city in Chancery Court. (2)
A short time later, Marti Rutherford's attorney, John Anderson, filed on her behalf in Circuit Court. This suit is pleading to have her case heard by a jury instead. (3)
And don't forget that Stuart James is representing District 6 residents who wish to sue, but it's a little unclear to me now exactly for what. (4±)
It's baffling that it takes so many courts and lawyers to decide such a relatively simple matter. I think the measures that follow the City Council's action are sufficient. That said, I recognize that City Attorney Nelson followed the law. I believe that the Council could have preempted some of this, though. If they knew she was living outside her district, and it's hard to believe that a majority of them didn't, they could have taken care of the matter already.
But that way, the several citizen groups and individuals would not have gotten the credit for starting it, so I'm taking that as a silver lining in the way events have transpired.
See also: Alice
September 25, 2007
Bring on the broadband
The Chattanooga City Council unanimously approved local utility EPB's plan to sink a cool couple hundred million into expanding their fiber-optics network to all Chattanooga businesses and homes.
I've heard plenty of reasonable arguments (and, uh, others) as to why this plan is doomed for failure; but, for my sake, can we try to make our city an exception to this rule? Everyone sign up, just as soon as you are able. This is something I need. The day I can switch my ISP from the current cable provider (without going to a slower-speed provider) will be a happy day in this house. My little text file uploads (i.e., blog posts) don't need that much bandwidth, but who knows? I may start podcasting, with video.
Yes, I know. There's the little matter of the cable industry's lawsuit to get through first. Stay tuned.
District 6 group calls for unity as Rutherford ouster suit filed
The newly formed Brainerd Unity Group today defended its independence from the citizen alliance that plans to pursue a recall effort against Councilwoman Marti Rutherford, despite some commonality in members. In an e-mail and on the group's blog, BUG founder Candy Corneliussen said the following:
The Brainerd Unity Group's primary goal is to unite Brainerd. Those of us committed to uniting Brainerd are doing so for one reason: we love Brainerd, it is our home, and we want to make our home a better place. The District 6 debate [over Marti Rutherford's residency] affects some of us in Brainerd. In order for Brainerd to unite and move forward, we do not all have to agree on this controversial issue. But after a decision is reached, we should all support it and move forward with our goal to unite Brainerd. [snip] This morning on WGOW, Jeff Styles incorrectly referred to Stuart's clients as the Brainerd Unity Group. Stuart James corrected him immediately.
Ms. Corneliussen is also one of those who hired attorney Stuart James to advise on a potential recall effort, as well as one of the seventeen District 6 residents who signed the formal complaint that prompted City Attorney Randy Nelson's investigation.
In related news, Nelson filed suit in Chancery Court today to commence ouster proceedings against Rutherford. More at Chattanoogan.com and the Times Free Press; this site will follow the developing story with commentary as I see fit/have time.
Finally, Stuart James provided welcome feedback to my questions on how partisan (or not) the recall effort is.
I wanted to let everyone know on this website that Alan and Candy retained me irrespective of any past associations with any political group. Alan and Candy have consulted with me as their lawyer, not as a politician. [snip] I've consulted with them as a lawyer, and I do not represent any political organization or group. I represent Alan, Candy, and perhaps more individual voters who live in District 6--these citizen voters are concerned that their rights have been violated by the election of someone who does not represent their district and who lived in another district at the time she was qualified to run for office.
Layne Country: District 10 candidate series
Sometime after I landed in the Tennessee Valley some eighteen years back, I happened across someone from the area, who at some point got around to telling me where he lived. I kid you not: he said "Wooh-wull." (Pronounce the "oo" as in "foot," stop the breath between syllables, and keep the second syllable nice and short; accent the first.) Sometime later, while driving west on I-24 toward Monteagle, I passed an exit sign that showed me the spelling: Whitwell. "Wooh-wull." Got it.
This past Sunday afternoon, I took an altogether pleasant drive from that exit sign, up through the bucolic Sequatchie Valley, toward the home of Marion County GOP chairman Travis Layne and his family. With Nickajack behind me, the Plateau and mountains on either side; with hay bales (finally) and grazing cattle all around, and mockingbirds in the air, I was acutely reminded what a gorgeous state Tennessee is.
But this isn't about me. I arrived at the Layne home and was invited in for a rap session about the state Senate race, how Layne came to be in it, and the state of politics from a working family's perspective. Mrs. Travis Layne joined us for most of the time, which was a welcome difference from the rest of this series, even though I will admit that Travis and I rather hogged the conversation.
There could not be a sharper contrast in this race than between Layne's good country earthiness and the urbane sheen on a couple of other candidates. But the cultural span among those running for the seat serves to illustrate the intricacies of this district. The same senator will represent Jasper and Battle Creek as speaks for East Chattanooga and Piney Woods, Lookout Mountain and Riverview.
I asked Travis what had drawn him to the race, and he described being approached by co-workers and others in his circle of acquaintances upon Ward Crutchfield's resignation. He is humble yet confident about his capacity for leadership. I tried to get him to enumerate a rivalry between the two counties in the district, but he was too savvy, and wouldn't take the bait. No, there's not a sense of entitlement that it's Marion County's turn to elect someone, he said; but yes, it would be "nice" if it did turn out to be someone from Marion this time.
The biggest difference a Senator Travis Layne would present, he politely mused, would be that "regular working people" would have a voice in Nashville, advocating for keeping their taxes as low as possible and for making sure that the results of those taxes, such as infrastructure, education, and affordable healthcare, were delivered. We didn't delve into many concrete details, and I suspect that the lack of policy-making background on both our parts contributed to that.
On the subject of experience, Layne says that he will, if elected, understandably bring less of it; however, he quickly adds that fresh ideas that work are not exclusively owned by political veterans. Often it takes sheer willingness to act, and the details can get worked out as needed. He named his recent success at helping to rebuild a nearly dormant Republican presence in his county as an example. "We recently had our first Reagan Day dinner in almost ten years," he smiled.
The seasoned political analyst would take one look at this candidate, with his unpolished speech and small-town heritage, and summarily dismiss his effort to become elected in a district that also includes a mid-sized city. I too recognize the realities in the current political ballgame, but I hesitate to sideline someone simply because he has a homespun image and lacks a Stanford degree. The joys, hopes, and complexities of life are no less real for a factory worker in Whitwell than they are for anyone else; and, no matter the election outcome, I truly appreciate Travis Layne for his willingness to become a part of the process whereby we of all stripes engage in self-government.
Even the effort put forth to be in the race is unequal: time off work doesn't come as easily in some jobs as it does others, and I'm sure that the fuel costs incurred by driving to events in Chattanooga (every day this week, Travis mildly lamented) put a strain on a somewhat self-financed campaign budget. It was the least I could do to travel west to meet him for our conversation, and I am very glad that I was able to do so. It may not be his "time," yet, for the Tennessee Senate (but I won't rule out anything, given the super-low turnout in a special election primary), yet I have a feeling that we will hear from this earnest, decent young man in the future.
I completed my journey by coming home the shorter, curvier route, through Powells Crossroads and over Suck Creek Mountain, by Prentice-Cooper and down to the riverside. As a schoolmate put it those eighteen years ago, "Tennessee is the place to be."
Jordan Airs: District 10 candidate series
Ken Jordan and I met for coffee at a downtown Chattanooga roaster's on Saturday afternoon. He had some business in town (he currently lives in South Pittsburg), and I had a break from my few other things. It worked out.
We sat down and he gave me a detailed view of the life that he has led to this point. He told of working with the Small Business Association's Disaster Assistance unit, where field agents would follow FEMA (before it was a 4-letter word) to an affected area, set up a bare-bones mobile office, and get to work helping make loans. He cited it as an example of how government can be of true assistance. Many of us groan at the very idea, but he made it sound plausible enough.
Jordan later went into real estate, and a proposal to purchase and develop the area that now houses the Bessie Smith Hall led to his being hired to implement two major initiatives for the City of Chattanooga: the Community Education Alliance, which gave nine inner-city schools a boost in teacher quality and other needed attention; and the HOPE VI project in Alton Park that developed new housing to replace dilapidated units that sat on industrial contaminants.
We talked about teacher pay, and Ken Jordan agrees that area teacher salaries need to be increased, in order to attract, and keep, good teachers in the district; but he also reminded me that a large portion (I think he said 0.41) of every state dollar goes to education already, so merely increasing the overall education budget is not the answer. There must be inefficiencies somewhere that can be tightened up to make room, he concludes.
An issue that will be facing the next General Assembly session is how to best utilize the lottery fund surplus. I asked Ken what he thought about the various alternatives that have been discussed, or if there were new ideas yet unexplored. He favored the idea of lowering the test score threshold to qualify, which is something I have opposed on academic principle. He also mentioned that he would like to find ways to expand the scholarship program to include more adult (or returning, if you will) students. They, he said, are likely to work hard toward collegiate achievement, due to the stakes they realize it carries.
The conversation wound around again to the topic of efficiency, and how the lack thereof has us virtually shooting ourselves in the foot. A shared anecdote about the labyrinthine automated voice response system on the CoverKids hotline ostensibly put in place to save on human call center salaries illustrated one possible reason for low enrollment in the revamped system. The long-term result is higher costs for taxpayers when the healthcare system encounters the still-uninsured kids.
"I'll tell the truth, even if you don't like it." This quote stands out to me, as it echoes how I approach things. Jordan seems like a person who will cut through the BS and get the job done, whether as a legislator or as a businessman. The attitude now associated with "Generation X" (originally we were all considered "slackers" Jordan, at 41, is on the leading edge of this generation) is a harbinger of a new era, one where petty differences are brushed aside, and where "identity politics" becomes a part of history.
September 24, 2007
Who shot (at) M.R.?
Can we get this whole Marti thing over with, like, tomorrow?
I detest the fact that someone vandalized her home. I think that it's cowardly and possibly conspiratorial.
But the very fact that she was "at home" on the telephone where the telephone book says she lives when the incident occurred is further proof, like we needed it, that Marti Rutherford does not live in the district she was elected to represent.
I've got to be careful not to start any bridge fires here, but I'm also not exactly happy to see that the recent former Democratic Party chair is the attorney chosen by the group that wishes to explore a recall. Though I agree with the spirit, and have respectfully asked for Ms. Rutherford to resign, I think that to have Mr. James spearheading the cause reeks of bare partisanship; and the Chattanooga City Council is, by law, filled by non-partisan election. I am probably overreacting, because an attorney should also be free to pick up clients for a case even if they're all in the same political party, and should represent those clients without regard for any of that, but it just gave me pause.
Besides, James might want to be careful to not help hurl stones out of a Democratic glass house when it comes to residency. Not that we care which party a member of council belongs to, but I'm just saying.
Maybe the city attorney will have the fortitude to commence ouster proceedings. Perhaps if he does so, Ms. Rutherford will acquiesce without a protracted battle. A guy can wish, right?
September 23, 2007
Because comedy and tragedy are siblings
Me: "Marcel Marceau died."
Her: "Did he have any final words?"
We'll be here all week.
Disclaimer: our sincere condolences go out to those touched by the loss of this wonderful person and great entertainer.
September 22, 2007
I'm here to help with your weekend reading
If you're not out enjoying the warm but sunny weather which I insist that you do, but you know how you like to defy me here are a couple of things to read. If I'm going to be stuck inside working, but in doing that work having to wait on action from others before I can do ANYthing, I am going to share links. I should be working on next week's Pulse installment, which will be a guide to all the Senate District 10 candidates. But I procrastinate, and it's Bill's last issue.
From The Crone Speaks: how accurate are the TSA screenings?
The day I almost got an "Instalanche" was when Glenn Reynolds linked to a Michael Silence post that in turn linked to me. More people picked it up, and there were comments all over the place about how wrong I was; only, no one decided to come here and tell me how to fix my thinking. And here's part of my rebuttal: even though it has been delayed, there is a lawsuit in the works that will challenge the extremely strict legal hurdles upon which Tennessee's two major political parties have colluded to keep independents and "third" parties out of the process. "[N]o party other than the Democratic or Republican Parties has petitioned in that state successfully since 1968." That's as long as I've been alive, folks; and I'm getting old. More examples of how the actual laws here are rife with phrases like "both parties" are in the works. You can start by reading some of the material on the Hamilton County Election Commission's website. It's right there in black and white (or blue and red, if you will).
Speaking of political parties in Tennessee, I'm very intrigued by the possibility of any connection between the "wonderful and crooked" means of doubling campaign contributions through the state Democratic party, alluded to in FBI recordings of Ward Crutchfield's campaign manager (and then-Election Commissioner) Linda Johnson, and the recent big news that the media's current favorite bad boy, Norman Hsu, ran a scheme under which donors were reimbursed their contributions. More from Bill Hobbs and Terry Frank, whose partisan motives are to be well considered. Me, I'm looking at this from the outside. Maybe the timing isn't right, as the FBI sting tapes were made in 2004; but who knows?
No matter how many cool gadgets I get, there is always someone of whom to be envious. Seriously, I want the rest of Tom's rig. I have the MBP. GarageBand is great for messing around, but everyone knows that ProTools is [however the kids say "the best" this second]. Tom has also continued to make me jealous with his stories of the road. My life isn't in a place where doing that would make sense, but that doesn't stop me from hungrily reading his escapades.
But then again, I don't know why we give music the time of day, given this.
September 21, 2007
Where is Ken Jordan? (updated)
Ken Jordan has more signs up than anybody, but his web presence cannot be found, and he was not part of the candidate roundtable I just watched on WTCI. (Don't worry: if you missed it, it will be re-aired on Sunday morning at 10:30.)
Does anyone know what the deal is?
UPDATE Saturday: Got a call from Ken this morning. I couldn't talk at the moment, but we'll be chatting this afternoon to set up a time we can meet. Good.
From the New York Daily News:
A sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was surrounded by troopers carrying submachine guns and arrested after showing up at Boston's Logan Airport wearing a phony bomb, made partly from Play-Doh, strapped to her chest. [snip] Star Simpson, a nineteen-year-old from Hawaii, cobbled together a computer circuit board, wires, and the Play-Doh into a contraption that she wore in plain view over a black hooded sweatshirt, [State Police Maj. Scott] Pare said.
Play-Doh? I have visited a far-out gadget lab on the MIT campus. I don't recall seeing any of that, but it's been a few years back.
Like the article says, this young lady ought to be really glad she isn't full of bulletholes.
September 20, 2007
Are Chattanooga City Council members "deliberating" in private? (updated)
This whole Knox County trial undoubtedly has me a little jumpy, but I received a tip today from an unnamed source, one that conveyed the distinct impression that several members of the Chattanooga City Council are discussing an upcoming vote via e-mail.
The matter in question is the EPB plan to spend over $200 million to string fiber optic infrastructure to Chattanooga homes and thus compete in the residential cable/telephone/broadband market.
The Council is set to vote on the issue next Tuesday; could it be that they are holding "deliberations" outside of public view?
I ask this only to raise the peripheral questions, like, in this BlackBerry age, how much difference is there between a conversation in 3-D and one in text? And so on. I don't know where the line really gets drawn, although I suspect the Knox County case will strike an initial demarcation.
Still, I think that if I were on the Council, I would be extra careful right about now to make sure all appearances were on the up-and-up.
In case you're wondering, the tipster stated that three of the Council members are a definite yes on the proposal, which leaves
two three more to ensure a minimum 5-4 6-3 victory.
I stress that this is unconfirmed, as I do not have any e-mail evidence; but the source is a very reliable one. Check back for updates.
Update 1: Well, according to the blog by Jack McElroy, editor of the Knox News-Sentinel, I might not have much of a chance, or even need, of getting something done about this. In a post on the "sunshine law," McElroy explains that if a governing body later deliberates the matter in public (say, this coming Tuesday night), then there is no penalty to pursue. Furthermore, only citizens with access to lots of cash (not me) have any chance of successfully suing, so there's not much to be made over any and every little private conversation.
That said, I tend to agree with his assessment that the law needs "more teeth." Or there needs to be some way for us to know what our elected representatives are doing, and why.
Sign of the times in Council District 6
One of those website image juxtaposition things
I've seen lists of things like this before though I think they were headlines and advertisements but I wouldn't know how to include this in one of them. I'm just posting it here.
And maybe it's just me, but it was a little humorous to see a headline about a new low-cost carrier coming to town positioned right next to one of the photos from last night's plane crash. Thankfully, no one was gravely injured or killed in that crash, and that makes this bit of humor stay on the palatable side for most. If it offends you, please accept my apology.
Post-publish update: I don't know what the heck happened to my image. Theirs is better.
Residential fiber debate speeds up (updated)
So will David Morton's latest post on the subject.
This is what is good: technological thinkers, each of whom has demonstrated genuine concern for the city's future and well-being, are engaging in thoughtful public discourse. EPB is itself to be commended for keeping most of the process available for the proverbial tire-kicking. I haven't yet contacted my District 5-dwelling District 6 council member to make my wishes known, because I keep going back and forth as the debate presents all manner of facets to the question. I need to decide soon, and I thank both bloggers above, and others, who've helped me along toward devising a more informed opinion.
Incidentally, one of the above writers occasionally visits this site from a computer hosted on the EPB Telecom business network. How would that affect one's opinion? Or would it?
September 19, 2007
Small plane crashes in Chattanooga
A plane crashed in Brainerd Village, injuring people on the ground as well as those on board.
More as this develops. I heard sirens too. This happened about 2 miles from the house.
9:48 The latest at that Chattanoogan link has a couple of photos, and I removed the strikethrough from the phrase about those injured on the ground, because that seems to be coming back pretty steadily.
In This Week's Pulse
The Queen shoots straight about the scene.
Angela Tant talks outside the box.
I talk about Sons of Volunteers.
Plus, there's all the other Pulse-y goodness.
September 18, 2007
Berke Learnin': District 10 Candidate Series
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, schedules aligned favorably for a meeting with Andy Berke, Democratic primary contender for the state senate in the special election for District 10. We met at his campaign headquarters, which is rented space at the family's law practice.
Andy put his campaign skills, which he began acquiring right after college by working to elect 6th District Congressman Bart Gordon, to use right away. A good candidate never takes his or her eyes off the prize, which is not only the voter being spoken to, but that voter's circle of influence. Berke spoke frankly of his inner drive to personally convince every person with whom he speaks during this campaign to vote for him, and to ask others to do the same. On one hand, it's typical candidate talk; on the other, it seems he really means it.
I couldn't help finding a few similarities between Berke's apparent enthusiasm and that of another Democrat who recently ran in Tennessee: Harold Ford, Jr. I said as much. Andy reminded me that he had spent "a lot of time" with Ford, and had even arranged the photo shoot that ended up on the cover of a Newsweek issue. Our conversation quickly turned to the issues facing Tennesseans today.
We spent a large portion of our time talking about public schools in Hamilton and Marion counties, and what needs to happen in order to correct their current dismal trajectory (overall, with some notable exceptions). A "culture of excellence," says Berke, is essential for area children to grow into innovators in the global marketplace. While we can debate exactly what roles are played by the state, and to what degree, in getting there, it's a shared goal.
I asked, rhetorically enough, if vouchers were an option he would consider offering desperate parents who want the best education for their children, but who cannot afford private tuition. The answer was clearly not in favor of vouchers; instead, Berke spoke of elevating the public schools to the level that will fulfill students' (and thus parents') needs. He says that parents play a critical role in that being able to happen, and that money alone is not the answer.
When asked what made him decide to pursue politics as a candidate himself, after having worked on others' campaigns, Berke paused, and then passionately described the profound effect of having people request his help, such as a Marion County factory worker who pleaded for relief on the costs of insuring a family for medical coverage. It dawned on me while he was saying this that he would have already been campaigning when the anecdotal event had taken place, and I should have called him on that. I know he at least occasionally reads this blog, though, so let this serve. You get the point, regardless of my minor quibble.
It's no secret that Andy Berke is considered the frontrunner in the primary (if not the general); I, however, look forward to conversations with Dr. Lee Whitaker, Ken Jordan, John Wolfe, and anyone else who wishes to present a challenge to the prevailing prognosis.
New HyperLocal Blog
A well-known local activist has started a federation of Brainerd area neighborhood associations (and other collections, including local businesses, churches, and schools) called the Brainerd Unity Group, or BUG. (I'm guessing that this group is antithetical to council member Marti Rutherford's "super-association," but that's only a guess. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)
More important to the topic here is that she has started a blog, called the BUG Blog, where concerned citizens in this area can read and comment on stories that are posted. As has been discussed many times on the internet, the format of a blog, even a group blog, is different than that of a moderated online forum: there is a single voice setting the direction of a conversation, but many voices are able to respond.
An announcement on the BUG Blog last night also caught my eye: a candidate forum for the Senate District 10 primary winners is scheduled (tentatively) for Thursday, October 11 at 6pm. I just don't know if I can make it, given our family schedule. (The wife is in grad school at UTC, and has all evening classes; we have one car, and she starts driving to school at around 6 on Thursdays; and I'm on Dad duty (gladly, let me add) during these classes.)
But here's what I will do: I will work as quickly as possible to try and arrange transportation and childcare so that I can attend this very important event. If there is one candidate forum I get to attend this whole special election cycle, I want it to be the one in my community.
Brainerd, for those who don't know, is a wonderfully diverse community; but unfortunately, the diverse groups haven't been able to work together as much as they have isolated themselves into hopeless little pockets of sameness. Here's hoping that this new Unity Group will achieve something better.
September 14, 2007
Are we lucky, or am I paranoid?
Maybe it was just me, but it kinda made me nervous having Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, September 11, and a presidential address on Iraq all in the same week.
Maybe the New Moon kept everything a little dampened. I know it drags me down to the bottom of the barrel just about every month (and they say women have cycles), but that's due to where I'm starting from.
Meanwhile, the same twenty-seven people have doggedly demonstrated, via Chattanoogan.com's online poll, their 4-to-1 margin in favor of ousting Marti Rutherford, to the tune of 1,446 votes (at last count). That's a sign that all is normal in the Scenic City.
I guess Indonesia's got the only really shaky ground lately. Keep them in your thoughts.
Early voting begins today in District 10
There's no way I am voting today, because I haven't met or at least educated myself on all the candidates. If your mind is made up, however, then go for it, I guess. I recommend waiting until election day, but realize that the early voting helps accommodate some schedules.
The list of early voting sites and hours in Hamilton County is on the Election Commission's website (scroll down).
I can't find a website for the Marion County Election Commission, but they are listed at 104 Academy Ave in Jasper.
I have an appointment with the Andy Berke campaign on Monday. Stay tuned.
September 13, 2007
Albertini Time: District 10 Candidate Series
I cautiously walked into the house in Highland Park where I had agreed to meet Mark Albertini, one of five Republican candidates seeking their party's nomination for election to the 10th District seat formerly held by Ward Crutchfield. There was no front door, which made it hard to knock. The sound of a circular saw from deep within (upstairs, it turned out) made it even more difficult to announce my presence.
Eventually, pleasantries were exchanged, and Mr. Albertini and I retired to the front porch for an afternoon conversation. (The house, which he purchased some years ago in a prescient glimpse of the neighborhood's revitalization, is being renovated, possibly for use by the Albertinis themselves.)
The local Pachyderm Club had met just a few hours earlier, and Albertini was buoyant. "I'm having fun with this campaign," he beamed, contrasting it to his 2006 gubernatorial primary bid, which cost him in travel miles and nights away from home. He mentioned having greeted GOP rival Oscar Brock at the meeting. I didn't go in with a set question list or agenda; I just wanted to have a real chat with the candidate, which is the way I'm approaching each one.
The topic of spending surfaced early, and several more times, during our conversation. Albertini has made it clear that he will not accept a pension from the taxpayers, if he is elected. He strongly opposes taxpayer-funded healthcare for state employees. He is adamant that cuts he would propose, even though they would be wildly unpopular among certain demographics, are necessary to get spending back under control. He views a debt-laden society as dangerously vulnerable.
Among other issues near to Albertini's heart are the touchy subject of abortion and the matter of what he refers to as "homosexual rights." This is a candidate for the most ardent anti-abortion advocates, as he would not allow exceptions for rape or incest.
I typically refrain from pressing too many buttons when talking to people about abortion. On gay marriage, though, after Mark expressed deep concern over its potential impact on society, if adopted in more states than his native Massachusetts, I had to ask: what does it do?
Suffice it to say that Albertini, who holds a Master of Divinity degree from Tennessee Temple, bases many of his issue positions on an interpretation of the Bible. He is ready with quotations from its pages, and he referenced the marriage of Adam and Eve in Genesis as a model for an ideal society. Among his positions on education are support for corporal punishment and school-sponsored prayer. He laments the lack of moral instruction in the curriculum.
Even the democratic part is left up to a higher power: citing a New Testament verse, Albertini avows that "the Lord lifts up candidates" and works through our voting mechanisms to install divinely chosen leaders.
It is perhaps the secret behind his enjoyment of the process. If it is God's will, enough of you will go out and elect him. If not well, there's no sense in being a sore loser.
September 12, 2007
Local News I Missed
I couldn't attend the JFK luncheon yesterday, so I missed the campaigning done by Democratic primary rivals Lee Whitaker and John Wolfe. I also didn't get to hear one other speaker in whom a friend says I should be interested.
Then, I did drop by Bessie Smith Hall just as the barbecue thrown by the well-funded Andy Berke campaign was getting started, but I had to leave before things really got underway, so I didn't hear any of Berke's remarks. I saw former City Council member Yusuf Hakeem there, and current Council member Sally Robinson, along with her husband, Sam Robinson; and I did a double take at one gentleman's name tag, because it said "Jack London." It turns out that this Jack London's an accountant. If you were at the event, I'll link to whatever content you wish to post.
Speaking of the City Council, the biggest political event of the day happened without me too, and that was when Leamon Pierce asked Marti Rutherford directly to resign. I saw the story pop up on Chattanoogan.com, and have since seen video on TV. While I agree with the intent, I am not sure that I would have taken the same course as Mr. Pierce. It must have been terribly awkward to be any of the other members as they sat through the exchange, and the rest of the meeting was surely strained.
That said, I don't know of a delicate way for the final matter to be handled: Ms. Rutherford, and any other members of Council who do not live in the districts they purport to represent, will have to step down. But even though I think it's taking way too long, I would have waited for the results of the city attorney's investigation, or perhaps would have spoken to Marti privately. I don't know; your thoughts? Was Pierce right on target with this, or could he have used a bit more tact?
September 11, 2007
Here are some upcoming stories in the blog:
One on One with Mark Albertini
TT chats with the GOP Senate primary contender
Alternative Newspaper Editor Leaves Post
What's next for city's weekly heartbeat, The Pulse
City Council Residences
A guided tour
Who Attended "Berke's BBQ at the Bessie?"
Those donor sheets are so tasty with Rib & Loin's sauce
This last is actually going to be an interactive, collaborative piece, as I was only able to attend the event's prelude, and for a very short time. I'm curious as to how it went.
September 10, 2007
Rush downtown and grab that iron pile
Bloggers vs. radio jocks vs. paper boys vs. tee vee anchors. In a weightlifting contest?
An area fitness company is opening a new downtown location, and they are calling on some of the biggest egos in the whole town* to engage in a little celebratory competition.
During media night, all media representatives will have the opportunity to bench-press as much weight as they can in one rep. Well keep a tally of the efforts of each individual type of media outlet and announce at the close of the night just how much power the press has. Bring as many of your colleagues as you can (even the sales staff, every pound makes a difference!), to help prove you are the strongest media. How much each individual can lift is not important - this is a group effort that is designed to be fun! [Italics originalEd.]
What a gimmick, eh? Invite the media to compete against each other. These are people* who can't say no to something like this, and your opening gets sick amounts of free coverage. (Yes, I know I am posting about it too.)
So, uh, who's going for the bloggers? I have a prior standing engagement. It's true. It's not that I'm shy about bench-pressing in public. Really.
The event is this Thursday (9/13), from 6-8pm, at 403 Chestnut St. But who am I telling?
Oh, right: the fans. Well, go support somebody. Man, if Herman Wang were still in town, the paper would have it, hands down.
But that's discounting Kevin West's secret psycho-kinetic powers. There's no telling how this thing will go. Maybe Billy Blades will finally be revealed, as he (or she) swoops in to save the day for the basement-bound blogosphere.
Seriously, if the television camera crews are included, I don't know how the tube can lose.
The wife wants to know who gets to bench-press Jed Mescon.
*Just kidding, guys and gals.
September 9, 2007
Wisdom in accidental spelling
I got an IM at work the other day from a colleague whose remark inadvertently revealed a major aspect of what we in project work put up with:
She said that she wanted to be "mythodical" in her approach to a particular task.
I know it was a simple phonetic mistake, but it was also very telling. I'm convinced that our (as well as your) methodology is rather aptly spelled using the "y" in place of the "e." It all comes down to getting the code working, in the end. No single volume or style of tracking mechanism changes that. The rest is all just different colors of red tape.
It's one of my favorite puns ever, especially since it was unintentionally composed.
September 7, 2007
Because purchasing stamps to affix to packages of psychoactive vegetative derivatives is eerily reminiscent..
..of the Townshend Acts. Specifically, the one that didn't get repealed, until it REALLY got repealed, which was the tax on tea. Let that steep for a few minutes, eh?
Hey, don't get uptight, I know there are differences. But the similarity is striking.
I have usually found the "crack tax" too confounding a subject to broach. It is hard to see how it got as far as it did, given that it can't possibly be effectively administered, if one can even temporarily leave aside the question of constitutionality.
Unfortunately, the giant question mark that is this law doesn't have an answer yet, as the state Department of Revenue will appeal today's ruling, and will continue attempting to collect the tax in the interim. I like the way Uncle said it:
"Seriously, how many times must this be ruled before, uh, a ruling actually gets rid of it?"
What are other Chattanooga City Council members hiding?
An anonymous source told Tennessee Ticket that Marti Rutherford may not be the only City Council member with residency issues. Rest assured that I am looking into confirming what was stated.
A different correspondent offered a more vague but no less accusatory assertion that one or more members must be "hiding" something. Otherwise, the e-mail explained, the innocent-sounding denials concerning knowledge of Marti Rutherford's residence would not have been so ready at the tongue especially since several members of the Council, along with the Mayor, have been seen at functions which took place at the home she owns on Hemphill Avenue.
The e-mail then rhetorically queries whether or not someone might have photos documenting said 5th District sightings. So, do you? I'll take them, please. I think we're specifically looking for those who have gone on record as saying that they didn't know where Ms. Rutherford lived, or that she lived outside her district, so that's Leamon Pierce, Mayor Ron Littlefield, Linda Bennett, Manny Rico, Jack Benson, Debbie Gaines, and possibly others.
All this is yet unconfirmed (the sexier word is "developing"), but even now makes an exchange at Tuesday's Legal and Legislative Committee Special Meeting take on a slight bit more meaning. I'm paraphrasing (a little) from video I shot:
Council Member Sally Robinson (to City Attorney Randy Nelson): I just have one question. What kind of evidence or documentation will you be looking for during this investigation?
Nelson: I could tell you, but I choose not to.
The rule of law applies equally to all. Of course Marti Rutherford should step down after a deceptive election; but so should any others who are practicing the same, or some other unethical behavior. It's no defense of Rutherford's actions, but there certainly exists the possibility of there being some sort of vendetta (or more than one, even) being carried out. As the kids say, F___ that. It is imperative that all misdeeds by public officials come to light, and not only those of a singled-out person.
The BerMarti Triangle
Just to keep readers up to speed, I whipped together this handy map of the Rutherford residences. If/as more moves occur, I will make a new map.
Note: the Sweetbriar address may or may not be accurate. It is based on information found in the several news stories, which did not specify a street number.
Tipping point reached
I think I have officially crossed the border, and now stand with those who consider impeachment, of the current President of the United States by the House of Representatives, a serious and worthwhile undertaking.
I've seen several blog posts pointing to the Salon.com bombshell pertaining to Bush's knowledge that Saddam had no WMD, for sure. I don't think I've linked to this blog before, so start with Southern Beale.
I want to make it explicitly clear that I don't take this lightly, and that I am not advising impeachment in the sense of "Go Democrats!" or "Bad Republicans!" This is not some trivial game for partisan gain. I am an independent. I have somewhat of a split political personality, and I have reached this conclusion from my right side as well as from my left.
The President apparently lied to Congress and the American public (not to mention our allies don't forget Poland!) in order to lead the country into a war that has been staggeringly expensive in all kinds of horrific ways. Impeachment proceedings are the available and necessary tool to exercise due diligence in finding out for sure, in the legal sense.
(By the way, I'm not letting Congress off the hook for voting to blindly hand war-making power over to the Executive branch. In fact, the only hesitation I retain in terms of starting impeachment hearings has to do with the fact that I wish there weren't so many still in Congress who cast that vote.)
I will be contacting my U.S. Representative, Zachary Wamp, as soon as possible. I know it's a hopeless effort where he is concerned, as I have no doubt that he is among the hapless neo-crusaders who've been bamboozled into thinking that the United States is embroiled in some kind of religious conflict. He has made that very clear in the press. But that won't stop me from requesting that he sign on to impeachment proceedings.
This is a sad day. I was but a child during the Watergate era, so I don't know that pain, except through the filter of history. The Clinton impeachment was a partisan farce, and I fear that many a Democrat will try to make this one the same kind of thing. Shame on them already.
September 5, 2007
District 10 candidate website updates
Over the long weekend, I was informed that Republican candidate Mark Albertini has a website. The URL "www.VoteMarkAlbertini.com" did redirect to his Blogger site, but now doesn't seem to. Here's Albertini's blog.
Now, where are the rest of yours?
Fred hits the airwaves
To me, he looks rather frail in this ad. What do you think?
I haven't confirmed this, but I don't think she needed "Two Men and a Truck" to relocate from her mother-in-law apartment to a fully furnished house on Sweetbriar. Instead, I believe she employed the services of "Two Mice and a Thimble."
I continue to believe that she lives on Hemphill Ave.
Library headed for the landfill?
Alice of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera exposes a disquieting bit of information regarding the future of our municipal library system.
Please read it. I will simply reiterate her statement that a public library and an academic library are quite different entities, with pretty much mutually exclusive consumers and purposes.
Join me in watching for updates on this.
September 4, 2007
Council member residency investigation could take weeks
Chattanooga City Attorney Randy Nelson said that he will need about three weeks to investigate whether Councilwoman Marti Rutherford has been living outside the district she was elected to represent. The Chattanoogan has the breaking story. More links listed below.
As to the matter of votes cast by Rutherford during
this term the investigation period [thanks to TV channels 3 and 9 for helping clarify], Nelson cited a City of Knoxville case where it was found that an official's actions are de facto legitimate, even if taken during a time when the official's eligibility to serve is in question.
Councilman Leamon Pierce, along with several in attendance, questioned the need for such a lengthy investigation. "What is there to investigate?" asked one concerned citizen.
When the special meeting was adjourned, several were heard asking what the point was of being there today.
If I may editorialize: I'm glad people on both sides, as well as the curious, showed up, even if the matter didn't receive much action today.
I took some video, and as the saying goes, "film at eleven."
September 1, 2007
We're off to see my mother and other family in Virginia, so send us happy thoughts.
I'll be back on the blog on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend, and don't forget why we have this one.
Maybe I could have run against Chris Clem in '02 after all
Bud and Charlotte (Knowles and Mullis; Hamilton County Election Commission Administrator and Deputy Administrator, respectively), said this week that they will not verify a candidate's stated address as given on a nominating petition.
While I do understand that there is not sufficient staff to mount exhaustive investigations, it would seem that in the case of a former City Council member, whose residential phone number continued to match her "former" address, which would have been known to be outside the district, they could have spotted a discrepancy without too much effort.
It therefore turns out that, back in 2002, all I would have had to do was pay $8.00 a month in electric bills in my former landlord's mother-in-law apartment, and I could have run against Chris Clem in District 27 after all, whether I lived in the 28th, the 30th, or heck, who knows? maybe Ringgold.
The year 2000 marked the real beginning of my civic awakening. It started upside-down, with national politics; but perhaps that is the way it is for many of us. I had been so ambivalent during the 1996 presidential election that I can honestly tell you that I do not remember for whom I voted. It was either President Bill Clinton or former Senator Bob Dole. I can tell you that much. It was in Berrien Township, Michigan, where I lived as a grad student. I don't know what I did with regard to the 1998 midterms. I was back in Chattanooga then.
Sometime late in 1999, I got bitten by the politics bug, and the itch has yet to subside. In 2000, I started paying attention to local and state elections for the first time. I went to candidate forums. It was at one of these, at Alexian Village on Signal Mountain, that I heard several candidates vying for retiring Rep. Bill McAfee's seat. Among these was a social conservative named Chris Clem. I found his remarks to be so off-putting that I was determined to vote against him at every opportunity. I voted for one of his GOP primary opponents, and then for Stuart James in the general. Clem won, obviously.
In 2002, the wife and I were renting a house in the Riverview precinct of North Chattanooga. When we moved there, I had taken note that the area was in the same 27th House district that I had occupied on Signal. When it came time, I walked the surrounding neighborhoods asking for signatures to put me on the ballot. I was determined to give voters an alternative to Clem. During the process, however, I learned that the Riverview precinct had recently been redistricted into the 28th, represented by Tommie Brown. The news was disappointing, because I wanted to give Clem as much of a challenge as I could muster. I decided to keep going, though, just to learn the system in case I ever wanted to mount a serious campaign. However, to complicate matters further, the wife and I found a house in Brainerd that met our needs (we had been looking in North Chatt), and we moved to yet a different district that summer.
The election commission would not take me off the November 2002 ballot in the 28th, even though I had moved out of the district. The reason given was that the deadline for withdrawing from the race had passed. It would seem that the move to the 30th would have disqualified me immediately, and there would have been no need to withdraw. For whatever reason, that argument didn't go very far with them, so some 3% of voters in the 28th cast ballots for someone (me) who was not eligible to serve.
(Readers should note that I have since corresponded with Chris, and though he and I still disagree on a number of things philosophically, I hold him in much higher regard than a less mature version of me did.)