Sep 19 2009

Weekly Round-up: Working for a Living Edition

Posted by Steve Ross in Puke

This week has had me so busy I haven’t even been able to follow ANYTHING. My rss reader is filled to the brink. My email inbox is overflowing. I missed both the County Commission meeting and the City Council meeting due to my return to work. I’m just now catching up on crap from Wednesday! Why am I writing now? My brain is tired from all the catching up, and it doesn’t look like I’ll have a break for some time. Oh well, a guy’s gotta eat, and while I would have liked to slack off a little while longer, I don’t think I could have paid the bills, so this is, as Newscoma says, “of the good”.

The Poll

On Thursday, a poll was released showing County Mayor AC Wharton leading in the Memphis Mayor’s race.

No kidding.

Sorry if I’m underwhelmed, but AC has been running for this thing since the last city-wide election in October 2007. Anyone that’s surprised by this has been living under a rock.

Of course, there have been charges that a sample of 400 people isn’t representative of yada, yada, yada… Polling outfits regularly poll statewide sentiment with 1000 person or less samples. There’s noting wrong with the poll except that it didn’t show “your person” winning.

So, if you don’t like the outcome of the poll, get off your hiney and start volunteering for the candidate of your choice. And those 27% of you out there that either don’t know, or won’t say who you support, put on your reading glasses, it’s time for you to make a decision. Election day is just around the corner.

Kelsey Pulls a Herenton

As reported by Jackson Baker, Representative Brian Kelsey is suffering from acute premature press release syndrome.

Apparently, hitting the send button for the young Representative from Germantown is an automatic response that he just can’t stop himself from, even when he knows he needs to wait. Unfortunately, in the time that elapsed, from initial report to retraction, it appeared to resemble some of the shenanigans of a certain former Mayor. I wonder how that’ll go over with the base.

I know, everyone makes mistakes, but this isn’t the first time Representative Kelsey has suffered from this problem. I hope he seeks medical attention, or at least becomes more familiar with the “schedule”, “draft”, or “delete” buttons in the future. Playing with my emotions like that just isn’t funny, and it makes you look dumber than you look on TV.

Chartering a Course

On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to approve the Metro Charter Resolution.

I don’t have anything snarky to say about that, but out of the same meeting came the revelation that the new official handshake of the Council is the terrorist fist bump. Coincidentally, the Memphis Chamber of Commerce has instituted a no hand shaking policy.

I’m sure that’ll go over well while they try to attract business to the city.

Twitter Twatter

Eye on City Hall blog picked up on the whole WHALUM!!!! Twitter blocking deal thanks to the help of @shaneofmemphis. I got lots of emails, @replies, and DM’s from people who had suffered the same fate, but publishing all those names is really more trouble than it’s worth.

As was noted in the comments, this kind of resembles the activities of another local politician. I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

Have a good weekend!

Sep 16 2009


Frequent readers of this blog know that I am a political junkie. I want to know everything that’s going on, even if I don’t ultimately write about it. That’s just how I am. It’s a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, despite my short time living in Memphis, I have a decent amount of institutional knowledge about who and what and where. On the flip side, I don’t often write about all of that for reasons that run the gambit from the insignificant to not really having ALL or enough of the story to run with it. That’s the reality of where I’m coming from on the whole political scene. I like to know, but if there’s not a story there, or I don’t have a good enough grasp on the situation, I won’t write about it until the pieces fall into place.

Being a political junkie, that’s often in places scattered hither and fro across this country, I have found that there are tools, like twitter and Facebook, as well as the traditional means that are helpful in keeping up with the politicians.

There are few things that REALLY PISS ME OFF in this world, that aren’t somehow policy related, but one of them, more than anything else, is denying me information, particularly if you are currently campaigning for office. From my perspective, part of your gig as a politician is to inform EVERYONE, regardless of whether I’m a supporter or not. The truth of the matter is, whether I vote for you or not, you will likely serve in an office that represents me. You may not like what I say, or how I say it, but denying me my right to both know what your plans are, and an opportunity to respond to your positions, whether you choose to respond or not, is garbage.

So it was with a great deal of both disappointment and irritation that I discovered I had been blocked on twitter by Mayoral candidate Kenneth Whalum Jr.

Picture 2

Apparently, Kenneth Whalum Jr. either doesn’t cark about working to win my vote, or he’s just naive enough to believe that he can win on the strength of whatever support he currently has. Not only is this a bad strategy, it’s just plain dumb. I may not be a supporter of WHALUM!, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t write something that turns another voter.

It raises the question: “If this is how Kenneth Whalum chooses to run a campaign, how will he govern as Mayor?” Will he squash dissent? Will he have me removed from government meetings the way he had a gay couple removed from his church, but won’t talk about?

This wouldn’t be a story except that the right reverend has done this to other people that have disagreed with him. It seems that candidate Whalum just can’t deal with differing views.

Well, so be it.

If you are currently following Kenneth Whalum, login to Twitter and do a friend search. If you are currently blocked, take a screen capture and let me know about it on my contact page. Include your twitter name and I’ll contact you about where to email the image. If I get enough people doing this, I’ll publish another post that lists all of us.

Sep 12 2009

Up All Night

Posted by Steve Ross in Puke

My watch just beeped 5am. I arrived back home at 3:30, after another work excursion that has become more rare over the past several months, but was both welcomed and dreaded. In the past 90 minutes I have spent my time listening to the pulsating symphony of noises made by tree bugs and other night creatures along with the sirens and slamming car doors of the city. It’s a calming thing for me, even though it probably shouldn’t be.

The past month has been one interesting turn of events after another. After my self-described pity party of last month, I have emerged from my funk focused on a big goal. That goal is finishing my education, damn the consequences.

I recognize that I’m starting over…again, and I’m ok with that. As I sit here in the dark, listening to the noises of the night, I feel at peace with the permanence of transition.

When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die. – Lillith Smith

This may sound extreme, but it is the thing that drives me…always collecting, learning, experiencing new things. Ignoring this allowed me to get into my funk, embracing my desire to constantly grow is the thing to get me out of it.

It’s 5am and I’m in a damn good mood, so here’s a little ditty that I can’t get out of my head. Enjoy.

Boomtown Rats – Up All Night
by epb21
Sep 11 2009

That Other Election – State Senate 31

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics, TN Senate

I know everyone in Memphis is focused on the Mayoral race, and for good reason. There is another race going on, the race to replace disgraced former State Senator Paul Stanley. You may remember, Fmr. Sen. Stanley resigned after it was discovered that he had engaged in an affair with an intern.

Now that the withdrawal deadline has passed, the race is on. Both parties have cleared the decks for their preferred nominees. On the Democratic side is Adrienne Pakis-Gillon . The Republicans have rallied around current HD-83 Rep. Brian Kelsey.

Pakis-Gillon has some impressive Democratic bona fides, and widespread support from Democrats in Shelby County. However, name recognition will be a bit of an issue for the first time candidate. The hill is steep, but it’s possible that in a special election, she could win this thing.

Kelsey, on the other hand, has no problem with name recognition. Dubbed “the Stuntbaby of Germantown“, Kelsey has made a name for himself through shameless self-promotion and wild stunts that would make PT Barnum blush.

I’m sure it goes back further than this, but let’s just deal with the past 9 months or so:

After the election of Rep. Kent Williams to be Speaker of the House, Kelsey filed an ethics complaint against the new Speaker alleging he had sexually harassed a female member of the Republican caucus. At almost exactly the same time, though it took a week for reports to surface, Kelsey apparently tried to barter with the new Speaker through a text message for a Committee Chairmanship. Ultimately, Kelsey admitted he did it and was not prosecuted because the Nashville DA didn’t see the message as coercion, but rather as a “request”.

Kelsey’s legislative agenda is a cornucopia of right wing pet projects disguised as “good policy”. Late in the session a poorly timed and self-aggrandizing press release nearly scuttled the widely supported Charter School bill, for which he tried to take credit, but had nothing to do with. For more detailed information check out this Post Politics search.

I could probably go on, but what would I write about later? This is going to be a race to watch, as will the upcoming special election for HD-83 if Kelsey follows through with his promise to resign.

Stay Tuned!

Sep 04 2009

Why Now – Metro Government Resolution

One of the biggest questions asked about the Metro Charter Resolution is Why Now?

To be honest with you, I don’t have an answer, but there do seem to be a set of circumstances and realities that make the possibility of creating Metro Government more likely.

Public Opinion

Just days before the 2007 City election, a poll was released that showed 55% of City residents favored some form of “Consolidation”. The poll, sponsored by Fox 13 and carried out by Rasmussen had a MOE of 4.5% and was the most accurate poll of the election (actual election results were nearly within the MOE).

So, taking the MOE into account, back in late 2007 somewhere between 50% and 59% of Memphians were in favor of “Consolidation”. That’s not a huge margin of victory, but only 35% were against, and 15% were not sure, making the “swing vote” very favorable for passage in the City.

The Listening tour

There have been conflicting reports on the results of the listening tour, but that’s to be expected. 15 events, all over the County are going to net at least 2 opinions of success or failure per event, if not more. Obviously, someone thought, taking all 15 events into consideration, that there was enough support to make a go of it.

A Shift in leadership

The departure of former Mayor Herenton may have been a signal to many that the time was now. Herenton was a long-time supporter of “consolidation”, though many of his ideas about how it could, should, or would be done were unsaid. However, Hereton was also a galvanizing figure against “consolidation” to many, particularly in the County. His heavy handed style just exacerbated that situation. His exit from the Memphis Mayor’s office likely played a role, though was most certainly not the deciding factor.


I wrote about this three weeks ago. The provisions in Tennessee law concerning the formation of a Metro government provide for a special election. This, of course, assumes that there is no actual election scheduled. Based on the timeline provided in the resolution, we would be voting on this measure in the November 2010 election. This is a good thing. Thanks to the Gubernatorial race turnout will likely be high. This creates an opportunity to accurately hear the citizens of Memphis and Shelby Co. I’m not sure if the 1962 and 1971 referenda were part of a special or general election, but after some 38 years, it’s about time we hear the voice of the people on this issue.

Stop the Bleeding

As I noted in this post from May, the Western Division is contracting as a percentage of the entire population of Tennessee. Based on 2008 Census estimates, Shelby County has gained just 8000 people since 2000. Davidson, on the other hand, has seen an increase of 55,000 in the same time frame. In fact, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee are responsible for 95% of the population growth in Tennessee.

There are more reasons than I can list that contribute to this condition. Slow income growth, widespread economic stagnation, and societal problems that ultimately affect the entirety of the population are just a few.

It can be argued that a single government solution in Shelby Co. may not be able to address these issues any better than our two government solution currently does. While this may be true, that argument acknowledges that the current arrangement also isn’t working. By uniting the two largest governments in Shelby Co., we eliminate an excuse for inaction and create an opportunity to deal with these issues as a community and a single government with one voice.

Achieving our Potential

In a piece from 2007 that I somehow managed to both forget, and never posted, I found that Shelby Co.

…has a GDP larger than 12 states in the US and 123 countries in the world. With an estimated 911,438 people living in Shelby County, we have a larger population than 6 states and D.C.(Source). With numbers like that, it’s time we started governing Shelby county the right way, like a state within a state instead of a city trapped in a 1960’s era arrangement.

Since then, the numbers have likely shifted a bit, but the message is the same. The totality of Shelby Co. is, both in population and economic activity, greater than, or equal to several states. Unifying the two largest governments in Shelby Co. gives us the opportunity to speak with one voice to ensure that our metropolitan area not only maintains, but builds upon these numbers.


So the question remains, “Why now?” As Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery said in Executive Session on Tuesday, “Why NOT now?”. The stars will never be aligned perfectly, there will always be an excuse to put this off, but looking at the conditions surrounding a broad range of issues, now is as good a time as ever.

Like I said before, regardless of whether this is ultimately successful or not, we DO need to have a frank and actionable discussion about local government. We’d just as well start that discussion now.