Sunday, July 26, 2015

A brief interlude for biographical purposes

Our good friend Trace Sharp would every once in a while on her Newscoma blog have what she called Annoying Autobiographical Pauses where she talked about what had gone on in her personal life recently.  I am going to take one of those now.

A little over eleven years ago I started a temp job with Dell at their kiosk at Wolfchase.  It was selling computers and other Dell products through their website.  We were a display location for people to come and see the product and allow it to be demoed and ask questions before you buy.

The manager of the location was a guy named Ken Tabulog.  Ken and his wife Diane and their three childeren, Dallas, Austin, and Victoria (Vicki) (Yes, he is a Cowboys fan) grew to become very good friends of myself and Pam.

Ken sparked my interest in golf (thanks, I think).  They gave us the table I am typing this on in the dining room.  They gave us the Crock-Pot I use for the chili at Weenie Roast as a wedding gift.

Ken helped me and Pam move before Jack was born.  I helped them move when they left Atoka adjacent for a house near the Quince YMCA.  They and their surrogate son, Nick who they all but adopted when he moved here from Hawaii, babysat Jack on several occasions when they moved in across from St Anne.

There's a picture I break out every once in a while to annoy her that is of her and a 20 month old Vicki at the wedding, Austin is in there, but he doesn't matter :-p.  Diane hates her hair in the picture. I and Pam always kinda treasure it because Pam's mother pointed at Vicki and said that she wanted one of those to Pam.

Now, Pam at this point had just turned 41.  Her mother was 80.  SHE HAD NEVER ONCE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT A GRANDKID.  Pam laughed about it, told me, and we laughed about it.  A week later, Steve asked me while we watched games up at Tracks if we were going to try to have kids.  I said those infamous words of, "If it happens, it happens."  Well, six weeks later it was conceived and it is currently in the other room playing X-Box while I write this before I go for a run in the 85 (soon to be 95) degree heat.

Last night, I went to a going away party for them at El Puerto on Highland.  They are leaving in a few days to move to Monroe, LA where Diane took a job earlier this year as a partner in a staffing firm there.  She previously worked at Vaco doing a similar job.  They expect this to be their last stop on their journey back to Hawaii where Ken was born and raised.

We left earlier than we wanted.  Pam and Jack were tired.  The party I'm told and seen went on to the wee hours of the morning.  We've drifted a little bit aways from each other over the years as you do when you get older and things (kids, work) get in the way, but we remained friends.  We will likely go down and see them, but it won't be on the more frequent basis that we used to see them.

All I can say is safe journey my friends.  Aloha and mahalo.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"You Need To Be Moving"

These are the words of former President Bill Clinton yesterday at the funeral of Judge D'Army Bailey.  They are the words he uses to young people who ask his advice on what they should be doing.

We have young people in this community who are doing this trying to make this county and city better by running for office to improve the lives of everyone, not just a privileged few.  They are working to shake up things and breathe new ideas into the community at large.

John Marek, District 5 City Council

Rachel Knox, District 2 City Council

Chooch Pickard, District 5 City Council

London Lamar, Tennessee Young Democrats Chair

Zach Ferguson, District 9-3 City Council

Alvin Crook, Shelby County Young Democrats Chair

Mickell Lowery, District 8-3 City Council

All deserve your support and time and most importantly, your vote.  Get to know them.  They are the future.

Embrace the change.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What If I Told You

Time for another one of these

What if I told you that a life of Public Service can mean many things to many people?
Is it being a community organizer in a fairly well off Democratic neighborhood?
Is it running campaigns for candidates that are dedicated to Democrat values?
Is it being the chosen one of the business class of a district?
Is it being an advocate for under served constituencies, fighting to have their voices heard to effect much needed changed?
What if I told you that "This is not your time, let XXX run, it's his/her turn" limits choice and the chance for change?
What if I told you that youthful insurgents have helped carry our banner and effect change?
What if I told you that a person of 30 can have lived and experienced more than a person of 40?
What if a certain 32 year old had listened to that in Arkansas?
What if a certain 36 year old had listened to that in California?
What if a certain 41 year old had listened to those calls in Illinois?
What if I told you that public service means fighting for things we don't know we need, before we find out we need them after horrible tragedies?
What if I told you that shining a light on city government and its disengagement from the people is public service?
What if I told you that organizing and fighting for Democratic values is public service?
What if we had a candidate that will campaign throughout the city, not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all Democrats?
What if we had a candidate that will fund raise and make connections throughout the county and country in order to shine a positive light on the city and what it can do?
What if I told you that Republicans are loving the infighting going on in the Democratic party because they feel that makes it easier for them to win?
What if I told you that sniping and innuendo against those that once supported you will result in a loss of that support in the future?
What if I told you that change is coming?
Will you fight it and lose, and set what should be the dominant faction in this county from being what it should be?
Or, will you embrace the change, move to strengthen and protect it, realizing that happiness comes from a legacy you lay down of helping others succeed, not from awards you yourself receive?

Friday, July 10, 2015

A preview of the City Mayor Election

The above video, which matches the depressing lyrics of the great Chris Cornell with the soothing vocals of America's consummate George Gershwin interpreters, Steve Lawrence and the late, lamented Eydie Gorme, sums up the state of Memphis politics in both substance AND style.  Giving us crappy news and ideas in a smooth, slick style seems to be how things are done at City Hall these days.

We are less than a week away from filing deadline, and the Mayor's race has yet to see a few of the Major candidates (and there really are only four or five at most if WHALUM! files) file their petitions.  Those who are major candidates (folks who can pull more than 10% of the overall vote) are Mayor Wharton (who hasn't filed as of Thursday afternoon), Jim Strickland (filed Thursday), Harold Collins (not yet), MPA leader Mike Williams (nope) and the aforementioned WHALUM! (not yet).

No, Justin Ford is NOT a major candidate, even though he filed; I expect him to wait until after the deadline and then withdraw in favor of Wharton, making the biggest spectacle possible.  Hell, if we could have gotten either Patrice Robinson or Keith Williams to withdraw from their Commission race last year, Ford wouldn't even BE in office, much less County Commission chair.  (Note: those two haven't learned a damned thing, either, they are both up against each other again in the Council 3 race).

The rest of those who have pulled petitions either shouldn't file or withdraw after the deadline because you haven't a prayer in Hell of getting 5%, much less winning.  No one cares about your vanity run, so get out and leave this race to the professionals.  I am serious, you are wasting your time AND ours.  And yes, that means YOU TOO, James Harvey.

(UPDATE:  I just found out Prince Mongo is coming home from Zambodia to run.  Your Highness, the prior paragraph does not apply to you, now or EVER.  You are ALWAYS welcome to run).

Of the remaining five, we have the incumbent, who inherited the Administration of his predecessor, the legendary Dr. Willie W. Herenton, and KEPT most of them.  That fact was one reason I voted for Myron Lowery in 2009, whom I thought would clean house; Lowery now supports Wharton for re-election.

The Mayor is slick and smooth and nice, and is very convincing on a one-on-one basis.  He can claim a lot of additional jobs for the city through the additions of Electrolux, IKEA and Bass Pro Shops, although it appears that you, the city taxpayer, is paying for a higher share of those jobs than the companies themselves.

For an African-American Mayor of a majority African-American populace, it is odd that he is most vulnerable among those very people in terms of votes.  I had someone close to his campaign tell me that the Mayor would get 40 percent of the African-American vote, and was HAPPY about it.  I am not sure he will break 25%.  If you think I am kidding, go to South Memphis or Whitehaven and talk to folks out there, you will see what I mean.

He is, frankly, desperate to keep the business community with him.  That is what prompted the Mayor to move out long-time CAO George Little and replace him with former City Councilor Jack Sammons (who served in that same position under interim Mayor Lowery).  This, even though he had someone JUST as competent and politically savvy who could have stepped right in without missing a beat "coughMauraSullivancough".   However, the good ole boy bidness folks love them some Jack, so there he is.

I like Jack too, hard not to like him and he does do a good job.  However, Strickland has a terrific point when he asks why it took Wharton so long to put Sammons there.

Ah, Jim Strickland.  My Councilor for the last 7 years and a good guy, even though we don't agree on as much as I would like.  He reminds me more and more of Dick Hackett, and that is not completely bad or good.  Hackett, for those of you who remember, was a very good public servant with one big weakness: a lack of vision for the city,  ESPECIALLY downtown, even though the rebuilding of Beale Street took off on his watch.  He got things done, all over the city; however, the city was ready for its first African-American Mayor, and Hackett was narrowly defeated in the historic 1991 election.

I really want Jim to campaign hard and give folks a reason to vote for him, but we need vision AND execution.  He also needs to back away from privatization, no matter how much his friends in East Memphis want to sway him otherwise.   Also, Wharton will not hesitate to remind voters that Strickland voted WITH the Mayor on a lot of issues in which Jim seeks to separate himself.

The next candidate with a chance at victory is District 3 Councilor (Whitehaven/Airport/Hickory Hill) Harold Collins.  Collins should be strong in his own area, which has the highest turnout of African-American majority sections of the city.  The question is whether he will be able to do well outside that area, and can he draw disaffected whites angry with both Wharton and Strickland for going after the pensions of city retirees.

That last group, of course, is the apparent base of support being counted on by Memphis Police Association Director Mike Williams.  While I agree wholeheartedly that promises were made that MUST be kept, no matter WHOSE taxes get raised, there is a question of just how many votes that will bring, as the majority of city retirees no longer live in the City.

And, of course, there is the wildest of wild cards, Reverend Kenneth (If You Can't Beat 'Em,) WHALUM!  The Right Reverend knows how to get unpaid media, and is a Friday morning fixture on what is not as unlikely a venue as you might think, Drake & Zeke In The Morning on WXMX-FM 98.1.  His pro-corporal punishment stance while on the MCS Board struck a chord with conservative voters all over town, and many of them joined with him to block the Sales Tax referendum to support Pre-K.  WHALUM could very well hurt both Wharton AND Strickland.  Can he win?  I don't think so, but I truly believe his presence, if he files, could well determine who DOES win.

I need to see more from everybody, as I am UNDECIDED  at the moment.  Someone needs to give me a reason to vote for them.  How, you may ask, could they do that?

1) Tell me how we can streamline the PILOT programs to ensure that A) there are SERIOUS clawback provisions for corporations and B) How you will ENFORCE those clawbacks.  PILOTs are not going away, but they MUST be fixed because the city is receiving far too little for the amount of tax base they are tossing at these companies.

2)  Tell me how you intend to address not only residential blight, but COMMERCIAL and INDUSTRIAL blight as well, and some of THAT can be tied to the PILOT issue.

3)  Are you keeping or dumping Robert Lipscomb, and will he continue to be the most powerful person at City Hall if you win?  This has to end, and soon.

4) While I agree with the Mayor that bike lanes are a good thing that attract young entrepreneur types to the city, haven'e we done ENOUGH for the Poplar Corridor for a while?  People in the rest of the city, or the C as Polar Donkey calls it, think of those as WHITE FOLKS/FIRST WORLD Problems, since many of them only have bikes because they can't afford cars!  (Don't get me started about MATA, woefully underfunded, and poorly run under Will Hudson).  If a city is only as good as our weakest link, we must DEMAND that any corporation that gets tax breaks must locate near those who NEED the jobs the most, in North and South Memphis, not Cordova.

5)  How do you intend to deal with a state government in Nashville that, frankly, wants to see most of your poor and working class population die or move rather than to do anything for them?

Well, that's enough for one day.  I'd like your thoughts in the comments.

Black Hole Sun, won't you come, won't you come...........

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Blood Part 3

1 for 93000

1 for 104000

1 for 72000

1 for 63000

1 for 18000

Memphis City Council

Shelby County School Board

Shelby County Commission

Tennessee State Representatives district size in Memphis

Nashville Metro Council district size (unified

Which is more representative of the will of the voters?  Which is easier to break into?

I'm not saying Nashville's way is the better way completely (35 single member plus 5 at large is a lot), but they do allow an easier way to break into politics, forces members to represent their entire district, and allows for a greater range of viewpoints on issues.

Why do we have 7 single member districts and 6 super districts?  Shouldn't it be more of a case of 10 and 3?  You cannot really walk these districts easily and have a full time job outside of the campaign.

It is virtually impossible to run and win locally without being able to raise a lot of money.  Money is the mothers milk of politics here.  We continue to elect the same people because the money game is one that insurgents cannot win.  The first question I always here about a race is not what are your ideas or how will you make things better, but rather, how much money can you raise.

You make it difficult for people to run and represent an area because they have to raise money, which is a virtual full time job during election season, and because of the size of the districts, they do not want to anger the well heeled donors.  Our representatives more and more are becoming people who are either connected to a money class or are the money class.  District size means you have to have a job with a very flexible schedule.

Younger people want to be involved.  They get excited.  They don't have the cynicism that older political operatives have.  They want to run for office and help their community.

Why do we make it so difficult for them?  I agree that you want people who have lived a life of some sort (Stacy Campfield is a prime example) and can bring that experience.  But you also want to bring in people with fresh, new ideas and way of doing things.  The system we have now makes that virtually impossible.

Be more representative.  Not less.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Blood Part 2

AC Wharton
Kenneth Whalum, Jr
Michael Williams
Jim Strickland
Harold Collins
These are your candidates for Mayor. Good men all.


You cannot state that the current mayor has done a lot to deserve reelection. Our tax base is shrinking. Six years as Memphis mayor and before that seven as Shelby County Mayor.  So definitely thirteen, maybe as many as seventeen or roughly the same as former Mayor Herenton.

Controversies surround him and his appointees. He has continued many of the same cronyism that his long time predecessor began and did. People move in and out of public service. Unqualified people are appointed to head departments. Promotions based on who you know and not what you know.  People come back and stay long enough to get a higher pension and benefits.  Which reminds me..



The problems we have in this city, and we're talking about pensions?

Not jobs.

Not disastrous PILOTS.

Not crumbling infrastructure.

Not education.

But pensions?


Not cronyism.

Not improving the city.

But pensions.

I am steadfastly on the side of MPD on this issue.  Public sector employees take lower base pay for the promise of a guaranteed amount in retirement.  They have earned every last dime of it.  The differences I have are negiligible.  The real issue I have are double dippers who get there way too easily.


That issue has dominated the news for the last few months.  Distracting us from real discussion of the issues.  Maybe we'll get more once the electoral forums start in earnest in a few weeks.

We cannot continue down the path we have been on for the last 24 years.  There has been some difference between the Herenton and Wharton administrations, but not a large amount.

Change in how we run this city needs to occur.  Ideally, it occurs this year with the election of Whalum (getcha popcorn ready), Strickland, or Williams.

I was not born here in Memphis.  I moved here 20 years ago this August.  But this city is home for me.  I voted for the first time ever here in the 1995 election (Herenton in case you were wondering).

We need new ideas.  New ways of doing things.  Continuing down the path we are on now is not going to grow this city and make it attractive to people to move to and more importantly, for our young people to STAY in.  We don't want to continue to lose people to our exurbs and that city to the east.

More to come.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Blood Part 1

What are these? The ages of top candidates for Council District 5 and Super District 8. Last year with Lee Harris, three years ago with Kevin Woods, and five years ago with Justin Ford the new blood has started to arrive that we have long needed for this city and county.

I know he won't believe it, but one thing that Del Gill was correct on in his quest to become party chair was right, young people don't vote and aren't engaged. He was wrong in that we should only focus on older voters though. That disengagement by the young is in large part due to efforts by the old guard to drive people away. Efforts to keep them from power and moving up to become our future are showing in the lack of change in the power structure in the Democratic side especially for the last ten plus years. If you cannot see a future, if you cannot see hope or the chance for improvement, why should you try to make the change happen?

Wait your turn, it't not your time yet. That gets said a lot to younger people entering races or contemplating races. What should be said to them instead include questions like these: Why are you running? What are you going to do to make a change or improve the situation? How are you going to get your agenda passed and implemented?

Too often our local leaders stay in way too long. While that does give you institutional power and control and knowledge, it also leads to stagnation, corruption, and inflexibility. New people have new ways of looking at a situation and explore new ideas. Our older leaders still have a lot to offer, realizing when the time to step aside is difficult.

All of us want to make this city vibrant and strong. Older officials have a lot to offer in advice and counseling. But too often here, political office has become about the job and the power, and not the ideas and the people. We want our city to grow and be attractive to people to move here. One great way is to have young, energetic, dynamic leadership at all levels of government that will both work with the veterans and serve as examples to the future that will replace them as well. Train them up, step aside, and let them go, perhaps before you are willing to let go, but have faith that you did your job right.

Embrace the new. More to come later this week.