April 30, 2008
Tennessee Ticket is on Twitter
Sometimes one is in too much of a hurry to write a full blog post, so I have set up a Twitter account as a companion to this site.
Also, if you read this site via RSS, you might want to click through to see a new feature I've added on the main page. "Tweets" by those I follow from the tnticket account at Twitter will show up (along with mine) in the left sidebar.
If you have a Twitter account and use it (mostly, or even somewhat) for Tennessee politics, journalism, or related topics, I'll try to find you and thus add some diversity to the aggregation.
By the way, I have a personal Twitter account (http://twitter.com/joelance), and I also manage one for the band I more or less regularly play with (http://twitter.com/shaniheddengrp).
Regular blogging, in addition to these extras, will resume shortly. Right now I'm on vacation, and headed to Nashville for the day.
April 24, 2008
Putting some Sasse back in the symphony
Former Allied Arts director Molly Sasse has been named the new Executive Director of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association, reports the Chattanoogan.
Several of the symphony's core musicians (of which there are a shocking few, as the rest are considered contractors) have come to me in the past couple of years and requested that I write about the deteriorating environment at the CSO. I regret that I have not found the time to do so, but I hope that improvements will come with this change in leadership.
A successful city will have a thriving arts community; and though great strides are being made in the visual arts (think CreateHere and related efforts), a healthy symphony is critical as well. The patronage pool for Chattanooga's symphony is mighty shallow (in more ways than two), even though a few pockets are deep.
We need an infusion of interest. The millennium generation needs to be introduced to quality art music. But it's a two-way street. The board and the conductor need to program works that will appeal to more than just the blue-hair Lookout Mountain contingent. Will doing so risk pissing off said cadre of cash-givers? Yes, perhaps; but one never knows until it is tried. Look, Mozart is brilliant, but he died in 1791. (My music history professors died a little just now when I had to look that up.)
This is not to say that the classics should in any way be abandoned. There is a reason for their endurance thus far. It's just that some of us would like to hear shimmering new sounds (or, heck, even some that were coming out around a hundred years ago, from Stravinsky, Copland, or Poulenc, would be nice too.) And perhaps a new board director can help. We'll see (er, make that "hear").
April 22, 2008
Happy Earth Day
Despite the pollen, I am doing some of my work from home on the deck this morning. The temperature is magnificent, and the backyard songbirds are only occasionally drowned out by sirens on Brainerd Road or jets roaring overhead.
I regard it as fortunate that the only commuting I will be doing today is to a rehearsal this evening at a local high school. Even though Diesel prices are gasp-inducing at the moment, I'm also glad that the tiny TDI engine in our rapidly aging VW Jetta gets the mileage that it does. This is not to brag; just to show how, though no one is "perfectly green," everyone can find small steps to take (every day, not just today) toward the responsible use of resources.
If, unlike me, you are free to get out and about for some Earth Day activities, then go to this website to find out what's going on. I'm interested in the organic lawn care event, since our lawn needs care — but neither our child, nor our pets, nor the wildlife nor the water table needs any added toxicity.
April 21, 2008
More on the war industry, and your evening news
Southern Beale has the odorous goods.
April 20, 2008
How much can YOU borrow from the city, interest-free?
The Chattanooga Times Free Press — or Dave Flessner, to be exact — delivered somewhat of a bombshell report today on the cozy relationship between downtown condominium developers and the Ron Littlefield/Dan Johnson administration.
Yeah, it seems that former Littlefield campaign manager Dale Mabee is among those building that set of condos by Walnut Street. No harm in that, to be sure; but how the land came to be purchased, and the terms under which it was, sure bears questioning.
Not only did Mabee get a three-quarter million dollar loan from the city (aka you and me) free of interest, but he and his business partners also received an option to buy more land, just whenever (an option, by the way, that was not included in the publicized contract); and a free alleyway worth an estimated $96,000. Of course this firm outbid its nearest competitor by $105,000 or so. The giveaways more than make up for that. And Chief of Staff Dan Johnson is in the middle of it all.
As I was preparing to write this, I thought, "better check my feed reader to make sure Billy Blades hasn't put up something about this." There was nothing in Bloglines, but I hit the straight URL just in case. Sure enough: ol' Billy is on it.
Look, I could be convinced that the RiverCity crowd ain't exactly angels; but the sheer hypocrisy displayed by Littlefield, Johnson, and (now) their auditors, repeatedly, since the 2005 election cycle, strengthens my resolve to do everything I can to unseat this administration, and none too soon.
I guess I won't be moderating any debates among the mayoral candidates, as my bias is and has been duly declared; but that's a small sacrifice toward the much more important work ahead.
The poisoned community
My local neighborhood association (of which I am not an official member, but whose emails I receive) is quite concerned about a new "teen club" being planned for Brainerd Road. Area residents have reason for alarm, too: remember Club KAOS just down the road on Lee Hwy? The former Yee's Crab House was converted to a teen night spot, and multiple reports of violence, including at least one shooting, meant a rather swift demise for the venue.
No one wants scenes like that, or like those that have occurred at certain downtown clubs, mere hundreds of feet from one's door, which is where "TOXIC" — the proposed name of the new club — would be located.
But the neighborhood's justified concerns are invariably and inextricably joined to some troubling sentiments, and these pairings make the situation a little more complicated for me, as much as I might initially be tempted to join the protest.
The first* point on which I take a different perspective is a plea to former City Council member Marti Rutherford, to use her experience in both real estate and local government** to try and somehow block the business from being able to open. This doesn't sit well with me. If I had a dollar for every business I didn't want near me, I'd be able to buy at least some of them out and send their owners off to retirement.
But government should not be the tool used to impede the free exercise of trade, except in clear cases of danger to the public (which can be argued here, but it should be done in a public setting, with a chance for the business owner to fully state his or her case). Should there be resistance from the community at large against a potentially "toxic," if perfectly legal, enterprise? Of course; but codifying the resistance in an inverse zoning loophole is, to me, not the right means of bringing that pressure to bear.
It's a complex situation, because Brainerd, after all, is a complex community. I don't want an increase in violence (nor in aggressive, as opposed to passive, police presence), and the chance of "TOXIC" being anything like "KAOS" does give me pause. But if I were in the neighborhood association, I might suggest having a delegation contact the proposed club's owner, and see if we could first assess the existence of any threat, and work out some mutually agreeable premises under which the club would operate. And I would be sure to include members of the broader community (meaning representatives of the north side of Brainerd as well) in these discussions.
Then, only if the business owner were to shun residents' advances, or was unable to provide sufficient assurances about community safety, would I start seeking other means of dealing with the situation. Thus government action would be the last resort, instead of the first impulse. A kind reader (of a draft version of this post) pointed out that there has to be something in it for the club owner to want to respond to residents' concerns; so I am actively thinking about carrots that could be offered instead of the government stick, and request your input into that thought process.
Openness, understanding, dialogue, compromise: these comprise the antivenin to most, if not all, poisonous elements in our society.
*The second underlying issue is a very sensitive topic: the ethnicity of the neighborhood association versus that of the presumed attendees of the club; and I wish to avoid having any written remarks misconstrued in any direction. Just know that this adds to the complex and delicate nature of the discussion at hand.
**You will doubtless recall Ms. Rutherford's use of double-sided business cards, with her City Council information on one side, and her realty business on the other.
April 19, 2008
Facing South has an eye-opening post about members of Congress who own stock in defense contractors, and the uneasy spot that puts them in (or should).
Biggest surprise? U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., tops the list. Read the rest.
April 18, 2008
Minimalism and blogging
My Bloglines are clogged with over a mile's worth (which would be 5,280) of unread items. And that's after I've flushed the campaign blogs' offerings a few times.
So, here are some links:
Cialis for laptops (Hobbs)
Eye of the Tiger, indeed. Wait, Hillary is Rocky Balboa.
The ABC (read: Disney) Democratic debate: utter foolishness for over half. I missed that half, but my brain just about exploded when I started hearing about it later. The wife filled me in first: she called it the Top Twenty Most Tired Questions when I walked in. Those sorry, soggy excuses for moderators should crawl away whimpering in the face of our wrath.
A decade of citizen journalism began in a whirlwind.
Hamilton County School budget woes cause unfortunately timed layoffs. School Board candidate "team" loses one player.
April 14, 2008
School board candidates team up for August elections
While certainly not unprecedented, it is a little unusual to see a slate of candidates not bound by political party* running as a group for all positions on a particular legislative body -- in this case, the Hamilton County Board of Education.
Calling itself the "Education Team for School Board Change," the group is led by incumbent Rhonda Thurman (District 1), and includes two challengers to incumbents (Districts 2 and 4), and one vying for the open District 7 seat.
The full press release follows the jump, and is also available online.
Recently school system Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz has verified that school system finances have been mismanaged by the current school board and past administrations. Fiscal responsibility is even more important in a troubled economy with stagnant tax growth. Mr. Kranz has set a goal of funding for the classroom from the current 84% to a new high of 90-92% of the overall school system budget. This figure is more in line with successful school systems’ dollar allocation. This would mean approximately 20 million dollars of taxpayer funds, that are currently being mismanaged and wasted, would be allocated to classroom use.
Furthermore, discipline problems at various schools have put our students at risk and embarrassed both the school system and our community. Students deserve a safe environment in which to learn. Teachers deserve to work in safe schools. Current rules need to be enforced to the letter which will send a message to unruly children and their parents that this unacceptable behavior will no longer be tolerated.
These policies were put in place by a school board that usually votes 8 to 1 on over 90% of issues that have been considered. Over the last several years past school board chairman Chip Baker and member Debra Matthews have “led” the school system into turmoil. Now it is in jeopardy of being out of control both financially and from a standpoint of discipline.
It is obvious that a drastic change of direction is needed. To secure that goal an Education Team for change is being offered in the August election. This team is being led by school board member Rhonda Thurman, who is running unopposed in District 1. Rhonda has been fighting for these changes for years and has been voted down by the 8 to 1 school board almost every time. Hamilton County taxpayers need five votes for change. Electing Rhonda Thurman and three new candidates will put us well on our way toward having a successful school system.
The following candidates will be running for school board seats under the banner “BACK ON TRACK 2008″
District 1 - Rhonda Thurman - Unopposed
District 2 - Joe Dumas - Opponent - Chip Baker (incumbent)
District 4 - Gregg Juster - Opponents - Debra Matthews (incumbent) and Kenneth Simpson
District 7 - Michael Dzik - Opponents - Kevin Burke II and Linda Mosley.
A press conference and rally will be held on April 17th at 4:00 PM immediately preceding the school board meeting to release the details of this platform.
*School board races are officially nonpartisan, but I wonder if all four of these candidates are members of the GOP. I know that Joe Dumas recently switched from the Libertarian Party to the Republican Party.
April 12, 2008
Our voices in Nashville are wrapping up a shorter and (mostly) less contentious General Assembly session than we've seen in recent years; but that is not to say there aren't some undesirable bills being considered. Here is a brief rundown of a few of them.
"Girls Gone Wild" ad ban: Sen. Doug Jackson is still up late watching those "obscene" cable advertisements, and hating every second of it.
Status: killed for second year in a row
Rating: See U.S. Constitution, Amendment I
SB3910: seeks to ban adoption by unmarried couples who happen to sleep together. Real target: same-sex couples. Real victim: children that could otherwise live in a happy home.
Status: Placed on S. Jud Comm. cal. for 04/15/2008
The AT&T cable franchise bill: read Joe Powell's excellent post. There's nothing I can add about the bill itself; but it sure was interesting how our local mayors (Ramsey and Littlefield) came around.
Status: nearing a vote?
Rating: iffy at best
There are plenty more; I'll post them as I get time.
April 9, 2008
The open government odyssey continues
Michael Silence brings the (AP) news:
Larger cities would get more time to respond to public records requests and people would have to pay for any search that takes longer than an hour under changes made to an open records bill in a House subcommittee on Wednesday.
The House State Government Subcommittee agreed on voice votes to the changes, most of which were suggested by Rep. Ulysses Jones, D-Memphis, and advanced the measure to the full House State and Local Government Committee.
The panel also agreed to revise the legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve McDaniel, a Parkers Crossroads Republican, to require that only Tennesseans may request records in writing and that elected and appointed officials be notified about any records requests made about them.
See also: more from Knox County
April 7, 2008
Check your Sam Adams beer. Seriously.
Warnings about possible glass fragments in an ingestible liquid should give anyone pause. Read about the affected batch, and drink safely.
HT: Knoxville Talks
April 5, 2008
August 2008 TN candidate database
All I can say is that I wish there were more hours in the day. But then, R. Neal and I would have been doing pretty much the same thing, so maybe it's more efficient overall for one of us to do it and the other to just point readers to it.
Either way, I am very appreciative of the effort, and look forward to expanding on the concept in any way I can.
The more informed choices we make, the better results we can reasonably expect from our elected officials. Or so the theory goes.
Ben Smith: Obama-Webb "looks perfect on paper"
The Politico guides us through a list of hypothetical running-mates for Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, including each as a possible pick by the other.
Best quote: Obama-Bloomberg "creates the Archie Bunker nightmare ticket: African-American and Jew." (Are we still there, as a nation? Sources say yes.)
Note: Governor Phil Bredesen, whose name has occasionally arisen in similar discussions, is not in either list.
I'll take a stab at it:
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen
Pro: Plenty of executive experience, as a popular centrist Democratic governor in a southern state, as mayor of a mid-sized city, and as a healthcare CEO in the private sector.
Con: lacks foreign policy credentials; not a dynamic speaker; and it's not clear how well he would play the role of "attack dog."
Electorally speaking, I feel that Bredesen's pros may outweigh his cons. Liberal Democrats will no doubt disagree, but I'm speaking of the general election.
April 4, 2008
Bob Krumm to report to active duty
It sounds like Krumm's responsibilities will focus on helping the Iraqi government shore itself up, which can only be a good thing toward our goal of bringing all of our armed services personnel home from there as soon as possible.
50 years of Peace
Southern Beale shares a nice bit of information about a well-known symbol.
April 3, 2008
Candidate roundups - updated
Qualifying closed at noon today for the August 7 primaries, which include races for all 99 state House seats and 16 of the state Senate's 33 seats; plus all 9 U.S. House districts, and one U.S. Senate seat.
Here are some roundups from around the state:
Jackson (Sun) - scroll down for state races
Chattanooga (John Wilson)
Knoxville (Randy Neal)
Tri-Cities (Kingsport Times-News)
Plus: news of a candidate withdrawal in the Jackson area; via A.C. Kleinheider, blogger Mick Wright is challenging fellow Republican Rep. Curry Todd in the 95th House district; and of course, Adam Groves breaks it down like only he can.
You know you're old when bands that were younger than you the first time reunite
From the "why didn't I think of that?" category: ’80s boy band New Kids on the Block to reunite (AP)
Just think: someone's going to make a lot of money from this.
Stuart James failed to qualify due to technical error
One page of Stuart James' nominating petition was a photocopy, which is illegal according to state election laws. The Hamilton County Election Commission rejected James's petition on those grounds. Therefore the two candidates in the August elections for House District 29 are incumbent Rep. JoAnne Favors, who is now unopposed in the Democratic primary, and lone Republican Basil Marceaux, Jr.
Story at the Chattanoogan.
I'll have more reactions to this news later in the day.
April 2, 2008
Capitalism and scars on the soul
Capitalism has done more to lift more people out of poverty and destitution and into prosperity than every government program, religious faith, military endeavor, or other cause “greater than oneself” combined. In fact, the latter have probably amounted to a net negative when it comes to the betterment of humanity. And capitalism rests on the premise that people are naturally selfish, and generally act in their own interests. It harnesses self-interest in ways that make everyone better off.
The thing is, “causes greater than yourself” are all full of people who act in their-own self-interest, too. But they operate in a way that pretends that everyone involved in them is altruistic. Consequently, they end up being pretty damned destructive. -- Radley Balko
I find the above words more than a little unsettling, and ringing true, all at once. Upbringing having the relative indelibility that it does, my political pedigree -- socially conservative, economically liberal, or, in a word, populist -- along with my relatively leftist academic training in the economic history of Western Civilization (sic), and my general compatriotism with intellectual and artsy types, combine to form an almost impenetrable shield of idealism against which passages such as the above collide.
Key phrase: "people are naturally selfish," which of course I was taught to concede, but as a fatal flaw, not a feature. Gasp! Horror! Eternal damnation! Fix it through redemption: either spiritual, or social, or both.
But notice that I said "almost." A few barbs of reason (some might say) have made it through to the sensitive interior over the years, and I try to strike the right balance between opening myself to insight and flaying myself so deeply that I destroy my psychic foundation and have nothing on which to build.
Then, too, is the truth in this: that organizations which purport to do good (and do), and which are joined by plenty whom are as altruistic as one can get, do also attract their share of scoundrels, the old "wolves in sheep's clothing," and -- worse yet -- even those who, in the interest of protecting the innocent, would take it upon themselves to expose and rid the pack of these knaves (a role I would initially be interested in taking on) have a tendency to become unhealthily attracted to the power therein in wholly irreversible ways.
I still cannot fully reconcile "[c]apitalism has done more to lift more people out of poverty and destitution and into prosperity" with the notion that there isn't so much "lifting" going on as there is "a few people standing on the backs of many others, as in a pyramid," but I'm not opposed to seeking dialogue from all sides about how it all fits together.
April 1, 2008
The topic is the War on Drugs.
Local autistic man featured on CNN
CNN reporter Sean O'Key profiles an area man who lives with autism. Scientists continue to learn new things about the range of behaviors associated to this classification, which manifests itself anywhere from severe disability to instances in which it would be hard to tell that anything is "wrong" with the affected individual. This human-interest piece peeks inside an autistic adult's life.
There is much more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Wikipedia.