Saturday, March 18, 2006

Three Craters Makes a Trend

For the third quarter in a row WWTQ, the Memphis Air America affiliate, is showing a .5 rating, tied with three other stations for next-to dead last. I think we can safely call this a trend now, and officially pronounce the "anti-Bush, anti-war, MoveOn" Left in Memphis over.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Conflicting Agendas

James Hart is a racist nutball who has been bedeviling the West Tennessee Republicans for many years now. It's their own fault, as I've previously written. (A great corollary post from Matt White here.)

In a nutshell, Hart is a eugenicist; that is, he cloaks his undiluted racism in a veneer of science. He takes advantage of Tennessee Republicans' open primaries to get himself public attention by taking further advantage of FCC rules that require radio stations to accept his ads. Those ads are nothing but platforms for him to proselytise his disease. It's the only reason he runs, to get that media access every two to four years. And the mainstream media furor elevates him to public notice, and further spreads the message.

Hart's been out there for a decade or so now, but in 2004 the Republicans left a primary race open against the "unassailable" John Tanner. No one wanted to run a losing race. Hart pounced and won the primary, becoming the de facto candidate of the Republican party. A returning Iraq War vet was recruited late by the party to run a write-in campaign against Hart. That failed and Hart became a cause celebre in certain political and media quarters.

The press and television news, of course, pounced all over the story and made much hay of it for weeks. It was a true embarrassment for the Republicans, a waste of supposed precious resources in having to fight a rear-guard action against Hart. I wrote the post linked above in response, after the election if I remember right, pointing out what they'd done wrong and how foolish their "this is how we've always done it" attitude was. It earned me a blistering email from a top Republican who defended all their mistakes. The guy all but called me outside for fisticuffs, he was that mad. He claimed they couldn't find people to run losing races; I pointed out that's why parties exist, to find someone to take one for the team. He said it was the Shelby County Republican Party's job to police the ballots, but the State Party's job. Blah, blah, blah.

And then, a few months later, Wendi Thomas had a brief follow-up on the whole mess. Yep, the media were still flogging the story. Thomas noted that the Republicans were instituting changes to prevent scandals like Hart from happening again. The changes were what I'd already blogged.

You'd think they'd learned their lesson, but no. Hart is back again and is being used against the Republicans one more time. In reading this story it was easy to see not just two points of view -- Hart and the Tennessee Republicans -- but a third as well. Commercial Appeal Washington bureau writer Bartholonew Sullivan makes sure to get his shots in. Let me deal with the Republicans some more before I turn to Sullivan.

Proving there's no lesson they can't refuse to learn, the Tennessee Republican party sent notice to Hart that he was not welcome on their ballot, triggering a lawsuit by Hart. Having been criticised before for pre-emptive action that's a little bit too pre-emptive -- like jumping the gun when they sent out a press release urging the County Commission to appoint a Republican to replace disgraced State Senator John Ford before his seat had cooled even -- the Republicans didn't do the smart thing, like have a viable candidate already in line to quash Hart in the primary. No, they gave him an opportunity to appeal to the media about his bad treatment. It could've been handled quietly, possibly at the expense of a primary article or two; although in this hectic and packed primary season there are any number of other stories higher up the food chain to cover. No, they once again give Hart a chance to make a stink, and he does.

Of course Sullivan, the Commercial Appeal's unreconstructed Great Society Democrat, is all too happy to help Hart along. Sullivan's undoubtedly delighted to use phrases like Republican congressional candidate repudiated by the GOP because of his racial views against his political foes. He also gets to fully quote Hart's lawyer:
Mr. Hart is a grass-roots Republican who objects to the 'country club' approach to selecting candidates or conducting elections.
"Country club." You can almost hear Sullivan's cackle as he transcribed that. And note, no scare quotes here; no selected bits of quote, no. We get the whole thing. Very unusual.

And Sullivan pads the story with the kind of detail that almost never makes such extended coverage in the mainstream media:
...Hart's lawyer sent a letter to the Tennessee Republican Party Thursday laying out a Constitutional argument for why his client can't legally be removed from the ballot....

Barrett laid out a constitutional argument, citing U.S. Supreme Court precedents, that he said showed the party can't legally remove his client, who received 59,853 votes in the 2004 general election won by Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., with 173,623 votes.

"It appears that you wish to penalize Mr. Hart for his Eugenicist political beliefs. However, the First and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit such arbitrary and egregious conduct," Barrett asserted, citing a 1992 Supreme Court case.
Now come on. When was the last time you ever heard capital-C Constitutionalist used in the CA? The daily has been very scrupulous in keeping the "fringe parties" and ideas out on the fringe, safely away from the controlling Democratic - Republican axis of evil.

The Republicans screwed up again and gave the local media the opportunity to bash them once again. Dolts.

Once more, some advice that will go unheeded. Run a blocking defense: make sure all primary slots have someone in place for the party to support. That way, when future James Harts show up, you can simply and easily invest a little time and resource into promoting the "real" candidate and overshadowing the problem.

I thought that one of the "reforms" of the Republican party was a screening process in Nashville on all applications for ballot access, to prevent Harts from getting on the ballot. From the story, they seem to have short-circuited that process in favor of purposely snubbing Hart specifically. Wrong way to go. Let the process do its thing, so it's clear that this is all just business as usual for the Party.

Don't deliberately antagonise the Harts of the world, which only stirs passions and makes the story play better for the media. (Conflict!) Make it a story of bureaucratic process, which makes it dull and less palatable to the press.

Heck, play along, like he's the John Jay Hooker of the Republicans, like he's the buffoon, the quadrennial freak. Laugh about it and him. Make sure it comes through in the story that he's not to be taken seriously. That's much more effective marginalising than what you've been doing for the past three years.

The Commercial Appeal story's headline was: TVA hike sends light bills soaring. Wow!

But the story goes on to say it's nearly $7 a month or about 7 to 8 percent.

This is "soaring?"
The $9000 Question

Memphis still wants to know what that $9000 "personal gift" delivered by Dewey Clark of Atlanta on behalf of donors unknown was, Mayor Dr. Herenton.

You can hide, but the questions still await answers. Or will the recall be your final answer?
The Forbidden Lair

I was just trying to access Rachel and the City but got a 403 Forbidden error instead. Is anything up over there? Please tell me it's just a hiccup.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Next to Last Time, I Promise

I don't talk about my employment or my finances on this blog much at all. That was a personal decision, for a variety of reasons most of which I don't want to discuss on the blog. A major reason, of course, is to keep my employers far away from this blog. For example, I was employed by the Shelby County Election Commission during the '04 election and volunteered before being hired to suspend the blog while I was working there. Sensible, yes?

I will say that I made a decision about 15 years ago to live the most stress-free life I could. Part of that was accepting that I wouldn't be taking many high-paying jobs as a consequence. They pay the big bucks for taking the big problems. So, I've worked mostly minimum-wage type jobs ever since.

I've had to make a lot of adjustments because of that decision. A major one was not having a car, since I couldn't afford one. Another is living in older (read: shabbier) apartments than I'd rather. Mostly, I don't buy a lot of stuff and make do with older things. It's all about keeping costs way down.

I also don't have a lot of money for extras. Unfortunately, that includes web hosting for this blog. Not the blog itself, Blogger and Blogspot are free, of course. But I have a domain where I have some personal pages, and I also host all the graphics you see here. It's not that expensive, one hundred dollars a year, but that's a lot of money for me.

Sorry to keep harping on this, but if you can help me in paying for the hosting fees, I'd appreciate it very much. Whatever you can give, it will go straight and only to paying for domain hosting. No night-clubbing or subscriptions to "Naked Libertarian Babes." That I promise.

Thank you. And now, back to the hilarity!
Gotta Call BS on This One

I haven't blogged in a good long while on this blog's namesake, Jackson Baker, the political columnist for the Memphis Flyer. In fact, he's Memphis' only political columnist! The lapse has mostly been because I don't read the Flyer all that much these days.

So as part of the "catching up with local media" thing, I surfed on over to their website and read his latest offering. Jeez, what a brown-noser.

The hook is running into Mayor Herenton at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last weekend. You can see a picture of Herenton with his "Frist is my leader" button here courtesy of local Democrat Polar Donkey.

But reading the article, it seems more like Jackson is promoting the ease with which he moves in these circles, the camaraderie he has with political bigwigs, the bonhommie of his relationships with them.

Feh. He sounds like he's polishing the teacher's apple with Herenton.

The real fun is this tidbit:
[Herenton] quickly rose to the bait when told that Duffy agreed with me that 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. had good chances of being elected to the Senate this fall.
First of all, define "good." If he means "not losing horribly," then maybe, just maybe he's right. If he thinks it means really winning, well, he needs to lay off the wacky weed a while.

Second, this is another marker in what I remain convinced is Baker's bid to one day be James Boswell to Ford's Sam Johnson. (Look it up.) For someone with such access to political news, both public and behind the scenes, he can only be serious in this opinion if he's firmly planted in the Democratic camp. He may position himself as the elder observer of the life politic, equally amused and interested, but he serves his party in everything he writes.

However. He may have left himself an out. He writes about "the bait" as though it might have been a joke. I don't believe that; he's been too much Ford's shepherd to think otherwise. But it is there, possibly awaiting the day he must ruefully admit he really believed Ford could do it, but it wasn't meant to be. It's his carefully laid trap door.

Ford's road is all uphill and the chains of his family legacy long and heavy. He faces strident opposition and criticism from his putative supporters right in his home base! A lot of Memphis Democrats will hold their noses and their stomachs when they pull the lever for him in November, does Baker expect independents to follow?

Sorry, I call brown-nose on the whole article.
Wanna Know a Secret?

Want to see the new-look Memphis Flyer website just a bit early? Try clicking here.

And I'm deeply flattered that I made their "Blogs We Like" blogroll. Thanks guys.

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Wow, they changed their mind. I've been dropped from the blogroll already! Petty, petty, petty.

Don't blame me, blame the web designer who clicked a link somewhere. See that Sitemeter link over on your right? It has a thing called a "referrer log," which here is open for anyone to look at. I like to look at it every so often, which is how I noticed that someone had visited from the Flyer, but from somewhere called New Design. I went to investigate (Gosh! Just like real reporter!) and made a discovery.

Next time, be more careful.

AND NOW... When you go to the "normal" Flyer site, you get the redesigned look.
It Was Eighty Years Ago Today...

...Dr. Goddard taught the world to play. On this date, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard launched the first-ever liquid-fueled rocket in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a first step that led, in 1969, to human beings walking on the Moon.

It burns me deeply, as someone who grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, the home of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the American home of Dr. Wernher von Braun, that men haven't walked on the Moon in thirty years, that we haven't walked on Mars yet, visited Venus or Jupiter, nor, in fact, been out of low-Earth orbit (the International Space Station hugs the Earth pretty closely).

There should be multiple stations, in a variety of types, orbiting the Earth, with regular commercial, scientific and industrial traffic. We should have a permanently manned base on the Moon and have visited the major planets by now. We should have explored the asteroid belt and begun mining it. We should be preparing the first missions to visit the moons Enceladus (a world with liquid water!) and Titan around Saturn. We should know if there's other life in our solar system.

We should be doing so much, and yet we aren't. We have turned back on ourselves and lost the High Frontier spirit. I'm no longer the one-world utopia fan of Star Trek, hoping our better selves are out doing diplomatic missions to the stars, but we should be just on the verge of star travel of some kind.

Dr. Goddard is one of my personal heroes because he kept on. When the folks of Amherst got tired of missiles falling into their fields, he moved to New Mexico and kept on experimenting. When the US government came around in the 1940's to see if there were military applications for his work and if he would work with them, he politely said no. He knew what the Germans were doing with his early work -- the V-2 bombs that rained on London -- and feared something similar on our side. Not that he wasn't a patriot, but he was a scientist first and always.

When his lung disease slowed him down, he kept working. When his experiments went awry and crashed, he studied the wreckage and launched again. His eyes were firmly fixed on the stars.

The rest of us have averted our gaze. Ad astra, Dr. Goddard.
How To Write a Happy Story

I had to wait on this until I could check a paper edition of today's Commercial Appeal, and sure enough my suspicions were confirmed.

It was a front page story, above the fold, with a large picture alongside. The news? DeSoto Leads leads way in metropolitan growth: Fayette and Tipton help to fuel suburban boom. The picture? Two women with two children on a playground. Awwww. Doesn't that make you feel good?

But reading the article itself you see odd things going on. For starters, there's the Memphis-centric view of those counties, that they exist not as themselves but as rump states of the mothership, Greater Memphis.

The front page, pre-jump part of the story has plenty of feel-good-itude. It also has lots of clear numbers: percentage of growth and numbers of people then and now. (From the site, wherein this story originated in a press release. Root around in the tables or in the population data sets for more.)
The county on Shelby's southern border, which bumped up its ranking among the country's 100 fastest-growing counties from 35 to 32, grew to 137,004 residents in the new figures. DeSoto's growth accounted for 53.5 percent of the 55,711 population gain in the eight-county metro area since 2000.

Fayette County, immediately east of Shelby, continued its strong growth, with an increase during the same period of 19.7 percent. The county grew to 34,458 residents from 28,796.
But while the story is clear and informative on DeSoto, Tipton and Fayette Counties, when it comes to Big Momma herself, Ol' Shelby, suddenly the paper grows murky and obscurantist:
Shelby County is continuing to grow, but figures reflect that all of Shelby's growth is from births exceeding deaths and from immigration from other countries.

The estimates show that since 2000, Shelby County has had a net loss of 33,012 residents to outward movement of people and a gain of 9,694 from international migration, producing a net migration loss of 23,318. The county had 36,030 more births than deaths.
Say what?

Translated from "Don't look at the man behind the curtain" it's like this: The city of Memphis, just through births and death of the folks who live here, grew by 36,000 people, or 4%. Not bad, but not amazing. (I need to look up the birth data for information on births to women by race to see demographics trends. But that's for another day.)

However, 33,000 people "out-migrated," meaning they left Memphis either for the non-Shelby suburbs or points farther away. That means a net growth of only 3000 people now, or point4%. Why "international" migration is mentioned, I don't know. Does that include Mexicans? Somehow, I think not.

So, I'll show you, from the US Census data, what the CA for some reason doesn't want to say plainly. Shelby County's population grew from 897,472 to 909,035 people from 2000 to 2005, a net gain of 11,563. That's growth of 1.29% during the same time DeSoto was growing 28%.

As the story notes, little ol' DeSoto, with just 137,000 folks provided more than half the total regional growth over powerhouse Shelby with nearly 6 times the population.

What does it all mean? It tends to call into question what the CA has been trying to sell for a while, that Memphis isn't losing people, just "reshuffling" them around the county and nearby counties. Not so. We are losing people. Efforts to attract folks back to the city proper aren't as successful as are being portrayed.

All this was buried at the bottom of the story, the point where very few people bother to read all the way to. Ask a journalist and they'll tell you that's how you sneak past the unpleasant things that refute your story's main point. It happens all the time.

Including our Happy!Happy! daily.
Hey! Over Here!

Once again, we get dissed over here in the flat, humid part of Tennessee. The website did a story on the Tennessee "blogging system" that mentions a double handful of blogss... all of which are in Middle and Eastern Tennessee! Not one from the Western Grand Division.

Now I must be honest and admit that I think I got an email from these folks asking my thoughts on blogs and why Tennessee was such seemingly fertile soil for blogging. But I was on blog hiatus and never replied. Why talk about a dormant blog? (As you can see, I'd never make a good PR person.)

So I bear a measure of responsibility. But jeez, couldn't the guy just... I don't know, read my blog? Or any of the dozens of great blogs we have in and around Memphis? An afternoon of work would yield a healthy crop.

I'm not terribly impressed with the story, as the writer seems to have had his hook before he did his research. One of the blogs he features has been dead for two months now. I don't buy his thesis that Tennessee has some edge on blogging. The only thing I'd grant is that we had a great organising principle early on (SouthKnoxBubba's website and the Rocky Top Brigade) that drew our energies -- and those all-important eyeballs -- together. It was remarkably free of rancor and divisiveness for a long time, which helped us all to develop.

But that was then. Nowadays, it seems there's come a real division between the poles of politics in the blog world. Most of the leftists I read rarely, if ever, read on the right, except maybe when someone else is pointing out some perceived stupidity and they have to go add their mockery. Right-side bloggers aren't nearly so bad, but they tend to keep to their own, too.

Fortunately, we have some bloggers in Memphis who have come to function like social glue, helping provide a place where we can all get along. Rachel and the City is one, in my opinion. The common feature is that whatever the politics of the blogger, their blog's focus is their daily adventures in the City of Good Commodes Abode.

But anyway, my point was that once again we have another Memphian bitching about another slight against our city by those damned stuck-up folks in the rest of the state.

No, no! Wait! I mean... oh, you know what I mean.
Growing Older Sucks

I'm down at the Public Library on Poplar, trying to step onto the escalator, when I have an Old Man Moment. I was about to put my foot onto the moving step when I was seized by worry. I actually had to stop, watch the moving steps, then coordinate my movements so I wouldn't fall!


Then, at the CheckOut Desk, I was told I had $2.00 of late fees. Huh? Turns out that the books I had returned earlier weren't due tomorrow, but last weekend. I had gotten the dates wrong.

I've been realising over the course of the last year that my brain, once a fearsome and potent weapon I wielded with great confidence, just ain't working right any more. My store of data is faulty and incomplete. Things I learn don't stick, or stick funny so that I mis-remember. It's like a light fog or constantly being in the state of waking where you're not sure if this is the dream or the real world.

I've been joking of late that my mind is like a Teflon sieve: nothing sticks and everything falls through. Even though I've been playing the Epic: Armageddon game for a solid year, I still can't remember the basic rules. I'm certain I remember something, only to research it and find out that -- no, not quite it.

It's why I sometimes take blog breaks; I'm just not sure I'm up to pointing out the wrongs I see because I'm not sure of what I remember seeing or that I remember the rights.

And to add insult to indignity, I discovered about three years ago that I'm now talking to myself. Well, mumbling really. But expressing the continuous monologue in my head out loud. Like a crazy guy.

Sigh. I'm just not ready for this.
Update on Joyce

I asked down below where Joyce Peterson had gone, as she no longer appeared on WPTY/24 News. I also emailed THE MAN HIMSELF, Cameron Harper, who was kind enough to provide this answer:
Joyce was freelancing for us while we were down a couple of reporters, but she wanted to do some other things and didn't want to come on staff full time. She may still fill in for us occasionally. She's welcome back anytime. In fact, I hope she'll come back and stay. Joyce are you reading this.....?????
I still say: Joyce Peterson + Saturday morning + WPTY/24 News = Viewer and ratings gold. C'mon, Joyce, what's keeping you?
Two Words, Then Two More

Mark over at The Conservative Zone makes a good point to the "impeach Bush" shouters. Two words that oughta stop them cold, if they were rational.

Then he has two more words that probably never occurred to them.
Hello? This Thing On?

Now that I'm posting again, traffic has certainly picked up. I've been posting on all sorts of hot-button topics, even that red-hot DANGER topic, abortion. People are definitely reading this blog.

But no comments. What's wrong? It can't be that I'm so authoritative and definitive that no-one feels the need to add anything. This is the blogosphere, after all. Folks will argue almost anything. I don't think I've suddenly gone off the rails into derangement, where people edge away and say nothing out of fear or embarrassment. Again, this is the blogosphere, and I've certainly been told before that I'm crazy or paranoid or just plain wrong.

What's up? Why the comment silence?
Memphis Political Incest: A Case Study

Wow. I started Googling from one name and found a trail of connections that blows my mind. Sit down, get comfortable and hold on.

It begins in this story, from WMC/5, about former Herenton political appointee and campaign director Reginald French. Let the excerpts speak for themselves:
...[A] nine million dollar city deal to buy Oracle software that sent a two-million dollar commission to French.

Transcripts taken in a lawsuit last year, show that French left his city job as Director of Public Services in 1997 - amid sexual harassment complaints - to do consulting work with a company called ASW that had information technology - or IT - contracts with the city. He then joined that company and ultimately became its majority owner.

In these transcripts, French says he and his wife simultaneously started another IT company called Integrated Technology and set up shop in the same office space at 100 North Main.
This is the same Reginald French named a couple of weeks ago by Dewey Clark, testifying in the trial of Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell, as a front (he and his wife) for laundering a $2000 campaign contribution to Mayor Herenton.

But check this out, from the same story:
French is now running for County Sheriff. His spokeswoman, Deidre Malone....
This is, if I'm not mistaken, County Commissioner Deidre Malone! She is President of her own business, the Carter Malone Group.

Halfway there. Be patient.

The Carter Malone Group does various PR and marketing work for a number of clients, including the First Tennessee Bank Housing Corporation.

The 1stTBHC is the community investment subsidiary of First Tennessee Bank and First Horizon. One of the projects that 1stTBHC was involved with (to the tune of at least five million dollars) was the Uptown Village renovations.

Uptown Village was the massive re-urbanisation of the former Hurt Village Housing Project just north of downtown. The whole Housing Project was torn down and its residents scattered about the city. A few public housing and Section 8 units have been rebuilt there, but mostly its private development apartments that start at $700 a month. (According to the big sign just down from the bus terminal. Go see for yourself.)

Hurt Village was a part of the Memphis Housing Authority. Guess who sits on the Board of Directors? That's right, Deidre Malone! Small world, huh?

That's just what Googling around for a half-hour or so late at night turned up. And I didn't even get into the Henry Turley / Jack Belz connections to Uptown.

And don't forget the original story that started all this. Reginald French is now running for County Sherrif. His spokeswoman, and possible future colleague as County Commissioner, is Diedre Malone. They will be working together, setting budget and policing priorities.

But wait! There's more.

The current Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development / Memphis Housing Authority is Robert Lipscomb. He was reappointed as Director in January of 2004. His top assistant is former Chief Finance Director Roland McElrath, who was shifted to the Memphis Housing Authority when he had a falling out with the City Council, apparently.

McElrath's replacement was Joseph Lee. The whole complex, sordid tale is related in this Memphis Flyer story. Lee was responsible for the budget projections and plans that depleted the City's reserve fund and sent us into such a severe budget crisis that thousands were sent into temporary layoffs, services were drastically cut, and our City's bond ratings were lowered for the third time, to one step above a B rating.

Lee is now the President of MLG&W, the City's public utility. Lipscomb is doing double duty as Director of MHA, and as our new Chief Financial Officer, along with McElrath.

Oh, and now WPTY/24 just recently reported on a preliminary investigation by the FBI into irregularities in the construction of a home for City Councillor Rickey Peete's grandmother, using an MHA program she is apparently not eligible for! (More here. Do a "Search in Page" for "Peete" twice for both stories.)

Whew! And that's just scratching the surface. For such a large metropolis we sure do have a tight-knit little group running things, don't we?

I'm sure those who follow politics much more closely can undoubtedly tell me more about the past relationship between Lipscomb and Herenton. And remember, this was just Google-searching for less than an hour now, late at night. Imagine what, say, a newspaper could do with all their resources, knowledge and contacts!

Welcome to Memphis.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Herenton Timeline

A commenter named "JT" over at Thaddeus' blog was kind enough to lay out the timeline of fiscal mismanagement by the Herenton administration the past three years. This is longish, and doesn't include some political events that influenced the events listed. (Like the closed door meeting with City Councillor Janet Hooks over approving Joe Lee as President of MLG&W, and her subsequent resignation a few months later to take a political appointment with the Herenton administration.)

Anyway, here we go:

April 15, 2003: Mayor presents FY 2004 budget to Council. During his presentation he makes the following statements:

“Memphis has sustained stable financial growth despite the current downturn in the national economy, the state’s current revenue crisis and the rising county debt.”

“We propose no tax increase for FY 2004.”“Our operating budget includes the use of $4.5 million of general fund reserves.”

“Memphis continues to hold a AA bond credit rating from all the major New York rating agencies.”

“I am truly proud of our fiscal accomplishments and want to thank the Director of Joseph Lee and his outstanding staff for the work they do.”

“Despite today’s dismal economic climate, I am optimistic that our long-term fiscal outlook remains bright.”

* June 2003: Council adopts budget without a tax increase.

* August 15, 2003: Joseph Lee sends out e-mail to a few people in City hall advising them that a website, is spreading gross/misleading lies about the financial situation of the City of Memphis and MLGW.

* October 2003: Mayor is reelected to a fourth term in office.

* October 24, 2003: Memo from Charles Williamson, Deputy Finance Director to Joseph Lee, Finance Director: Williamson tells Lee that FY2004 first quarter revenues were down $15.1 million.

*October 2003: Council gives Mayor a raise. One council member states that Council is giving the Mayor a raise for managing the City’s finances effectively.

* January 6, 2004: Mayor comes to Council with requests for appointments and reappointments of his division directors. The nominees that were not approved by the Council: Darrell Eldred (General Services), Inetta Rogers (Human Resources), Roland McElrath (Finance), and Jerry Crawford (Fire). The Council delayed for 4 weeks the monition of Joseph Lee as MLG&W president and requested Mayor to conduct a national candidate search.

* April 2004: Joseph Lee withdraws his name from consideration for the MLG&W presidency.

* April 13, 2004: Mayor Herenton presents FY 2005 budget to Council, stating that budget is balanced and would not require a tax increase, and would also provide for new police officers, pay raises for City employees and many new investments and expenditures. Receives standing ovation from Council and audience.

Quotes from Mayor on April 13:
“Today our City government is healthier financially with a general fund reserve of $61 million. 453 million of this amount is undesignated reserve. Ladies and gentleman, from $3.5 million to 61 million during our tenure—we’ve raised those reserves.”

“It is a balanced budget that requires no tax increase. And it uses only $2 million of our reserves. More importantly, this budget provides hope and optimism that our best days are ahead of us.”

“We have a very sound AA bond rated credit. I am more proud to say that we’ve had only one property tax increase during the past eleven years. More importantly, we are continuing our efforts to and upgrade our credit rating thanks to the leadership of Joseph Lee, our exemplary Finance Division Director.”

* April 19, 2004: Joseph Lee says to the O&M Budget Committee: “And so, this would be a good time just to remind Council that we’ve got a balanced budget before you that does not require a tax increase and we think that is adequate to fund operations for the fiscal year 2005.”

* May 4, 2004: Concerned that the MLGW Presidency salary will hinder the ability to find a national candidate, administration asks Council to approve a salary increase for MLGW president. Council approves a salary “not to exceed” $230,000. At the time he was fired, Herman Morris made $184,059 in this position.

* May 25, 2004: Joseph Lee says to the O&M Budget Committee during wrap-up: “We currently have a $53 million reserve. We planned to use $3.5 million of that reserve this fiscal year. We plan to use an additional $3 million because of additional costs incurred by the windstorm. And we also anticipate using $2 million of the reserves budgeted for FY2005. That will take our reserves to approximately $44 million.”

* May 25, 2004: Council learns administration did not include $3 million in the budget ($1.7 million is operating deficits at Cook Convention Center, Pyramid & Coliseum). The $3 million will be taken from the reserves. (Referred to in quote above by Joseph Lee)

* May 27, 2004: Council learns from local media that Moody’s Investor Services has downgraded the City’s credit rating for sewer bonds 3 notches, from Aa2 to A2; this is the 3rd major Wall Street firm to downgrade the City’s rating in May. Fitch reasons for downgrading: “The downgrade of the City’s sanitary sewerage system revenue bonds is due to a dramatic decline in debt service coverage in the last two fiscal years to level well below the City’s, and Fitch’s, expectations.” (from Fitch’s report)

* June 1, 2004: Council adopts the budget without any tax increase.

* June 1, 2004: Mayor sends Joseph Lee a letter asking him to reconsider applying for the MLGW President’s position. Mayor states that he wants the opportunity to interview Lee. During committee hearings and council meeting that day, several council members publicly call for Lee to reapply.

* June 14, 2004: Council confirms Joseph Lee as MLGW president in a 7 – 5 vote.

* September 7, 2004: Mayor announces that urgent “austerity measures” were needed and that he has taken an additional $20 million from the rainy day fund and tax increases are needed.

* September 21, 2004: In a letter to the Council, Mayor asks Council to consider his proposal to transfer either partial or total responsibility for funding the City School System to Shelby County.

* October 2004: Bond rating of City is downgraded by Fitch from AA to AA-. Standard & Poor’s does not downgrade our rating, but does give us a negative outlook in our GO debt.

* December 7, 2004: Mayor presents City reorganization plan to the Council. Plan calls for establishing 2 new positions: Deputy CAO of Operations and Deputy CAO of Planning & Economic Development. He also requests the integration of 4 city divisions with MLGW: Auditing, Legal, Information Services & Human Resources.

* December 21, 2004: Mayor informs Council that the City is $28 million in the hole. He tells the Council he will ask for a 45 – 48 cent tax increase for FY2006, which begins July 1, 2005. He also tells Council that he will ask for early retirement from employees and freezes. Layoffs are imminent. Mayor says: “We can’t cut our way out of this dilemma.”

* February 18, 2005: CAO Keith McGee announces the City will layoff 2,100 employees and cut services drastically.

* March 8, 2005: Mayor tells Council we face a large revenue shortfall for FY2005. Outlines plans of administration to cut services. We must cut $6 million in April, May and June alone. Mayor says: “It is clear to this mayor that in order to provide citizens with the kind of City I want and they deserve, it will require a 54 cent increase in property tax.”

* April 19, 2005: Mayor presents FY2006 budget to Council and requests a 54 cent tax increase.
Quotes from Mayor:

“Here in Memphis, and I want to make this emphatically clear, we do not have a management problem, we have a revenue problem. Not an expenditure charge, a revenue charge.”

“I would like to issue a special appeal to the citizens of Memphis……Ask not what your city can do for you but what you can do for your city.”

“But I want to tell you this: at the end of the day, we need more revenue if we are going to preserve and promote a city that we all can be proud of.”

* April 19, 2005: Council denies Mayor’s request to merge 4 City divisions with MLGW.

* May 2005: During CIP hearings, Council learns the City has nearly tripled its debt in a decade and is now at the $1 billion mark in debt.

* June 7, 2005: Mayor requests $650,000 for an efficiency study. He hopes this study will find $40 - $50 million in savings for the City. Herenton City expense and revenues could be more than $200 million out of whack by 2011.

* June 7, 2005: Council approves FY2006 budget with a 27 cent tax increase and increase to Solid Waste fees.

* August 3, 2005: Administration again requests funds for an efficiency study. Mayor says that he knows what the study will say. This time the request is for $500,000 and they promise it will save $50 million over 5 years.

* August 16, 2005: Administration tells Council the City has a $10.3 million deficit for FY2005, which ended June 30, 2005. This is the City’s 3rd consecutive budget shortfall. Keith McGee: “We will manage the process.” Hiring freeze is enacted.
Harold Ford: MIA

For someone who wants to be a leader, Harold Ford Jr has a distressing tendency to go missing at important votes. Yesterday, the House of Representatives, with the Senate concurring, voted 347 - 65 in favor of a Resolution in Support of Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment says that universities and colleges that take Federal money must allow military recruiters onto their campuses or face withdrawal of those Federal funds. It was just upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court.

Where was Ford on this important show vote? I don't know yet, as I'm knocking this out early before heading out the door, but the final roll call shows him "not voting."

Republicans voted entirely in favor of the resolution (with only a few "not votings") while Democrats split two-to-one in favor.

So where was Ford and where does he stand? We don't know yet. And this isn't the first time he's skipped an important vote, including voting on bills he's sponsored! Is this how a would-be Senator behaves? Tennesseans overall, I believe, would want him to support the resolution; Tennessee has Guard units serving in Iraq right now and others just returned. But his base has a vociferous anti-war faction that would pillory him if he voted in favor.

Heck, even his aunt Ophelia and primary opponent Rosalind Kurita had the nerve to vote against the abortion bill that passed the Tennessee Senate!

Where was Harold?

WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: JB over at Blogging for Bryant asked the same question (Thanks for the link!) and got some suspiciously non-responsive replies from Ford's most vigorous non-official blog supporter. I also checked the two main Ford websites (his official House site and his Senate campaign website) but learned nothing. Still waiting to find out where he was.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shane, Come Back! Shane!

Long time readers know the drill. Wednesday is Epic battle day. I'll be away from the computer until late evening, so no updates until late, if at all.

If you need something to do, log off and go outside. Lovely, if slightly chilly, weather and the sun has reappeared. It feels more seasonal now than last week did.

Blazing Fords

Don't ask me how this came about. It's a mix of Blazing Saddles and the infamous National Lampoon magazine cover, "If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog."

Apparently my mind is a strange and dank place. But... my illness is your hilarity. You're welcome!
The Campaign Continues

And now I shamelessly drag my poor mother into this:

Thanks for all the support I've gotten so far. The other banner is popping up all around the Memphis (and Knoxville!) blogospheres. Who in Nashville will now take up the campaign? The folks at the CA have noticed, now let's make them consider it.

What would a campaign be without donations? I would greatly appreciate any donations made via the PayPal button up on the top left, to help offset the cost of hosting all these silly graphics on my website. The hosting fees are due in a few days, so please act now! Your donations may even be deductible!*

*Note: I am not an accountant, so following that advice may result in severe prison terms and/or financial ruin. Caveat donor.
A Peek Inside My Mind's Processes

Bear with me.

I was working on the computer today, doing some reading and making some blog posts. All the while I've been listening to various podcasts, instead of the usual talk radio fare. Talk radio is getting dull for me because it's too much the hosts babbling on and less and less people calling in getting to speak. I like hearing from the people, challenging the host and forcing a debate from which I can learn. I guess I prefer a discusson over a lecture.

Anyway, I'm listening to the podcast for the season two finale of Battlestar Galactica. I haven't seen this episode yet (I will on Wednesday over at Mark's.) nonetheless I'm listening to the podcast, which is also spoiling the whole thing for me.

Like I said, bear with me.

So the producers are talking about a scene where a character is giving a speech and how that speech and the actor's movements are taken from a member of the Sixties Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California, a man named Mario Savio. Even though the speech was forty years ago, and pretty obscure today, that producer had kept a copy of it.

Not having heard the speech yet, nor knowing the particulars of this scene yet, I went ahead and tried Googling around. I did find the Free Speech Movement Archives, though, and that finally brought me to this famous speech (slightly edited here). I'm not sure if it's the one from Battlestar or not, but it struck me like a clapper strikes a bell:
We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed....

Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I'll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw material[s] that don't mean to have any process upon us, don't mean to be made into any product, don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Now, no more talking. We're going to march in singing "We Shall Overcome." Slowly; there are a lot of us.
And somehow that put me immediately in mind of Operation Fed Up, the movement to recall the Memphis mayor, Dr. Willie Herenton.

We have a city that is managed for us, for which we are the raw materials. The city isn't being run for our benefit and improvement, rather we are being used as raw material to improve the lives of a few at the top. Those who are the Mayor and the City Council, who are their friends, who are their political cronies, who are their financial backers and benefactors and beneficiaries.

Why are we trying to recall the Mayor? To jam the levers and gears of "business as usual." To pry open the machinery (or should I capitalise that, Machinery?) in order to see the rot and deterioration inside. To stop the ruination of Memphis.

Is the Mayor being made a scapegoat? A symbol? Not entirely. He is a source of much that is wrong, and his behavior to the voters and their proxies in the press only reinforces our belief in how wrong this all is. But he is the exposed gear, the place at which the spanner can be thrown that will stop the Machine.

Why? Read Memphis Watchdog and Thaddeus' blog if you really don't know. If your eyes aren't opened, if your heart isn't made sick, if your intestines don't grow cold and then begin to burn, go back to your televisual stupor, your mindless pursuits. You are already lost to us. You are already clay being shaped by someone else.

But, if you are still a man or a woman who can act, then we're calling you. Sometimes, only once in a great while, you have to throw a wrench into the whirring machine. You have to destroy it so that something new can be built after the wreckage is cleared. The factory will not close itself down, it must be closed by force.

That's why there's so much exhiliration and fright surrounding the recall. The idea of completely blowing up the political machine stirs the soul as any enormous act of destruction will. And then comes the contemplation of what's next, the view across the gaping crater into the mists of an unseen land.

As Shakespeare so perfectly put it:
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
We must not be cowards. We cannot live as we are. We wither as others around us prosper. We must not be afraid of what we might become, because we know what greatness is in us, and it is waiting to be set free. We must throw off the past, violently if need be, to make a future.

Thomas Jefferson put it more succinctly: "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Tyrants and Patriots." We are calling for political blood.

Recall Mayor Herenton. Reclaim our city.
History Lesson for Today

He had a pancake breakfast, hung out with his friends and flirted with the waitress, all the while not knowing he carried one of the most important messages of the 1940s. Read the story.
Death Star Takes a Hit

Furthering my discussion of catching up down below, and about the Memphis Flyer's John Branston's look at the ever-evolving Commercial Appeal, a reader points me to this Memphis Daily News article on the labor troubles at the daily.
But 1997 also was the year a relentless, quietly successful Nashville attorney counseled the SR through negotiations that resulted in the decertification of an employees' union at the paper. Almost a decade later, both of those men - the SR's then-editor Chris Peck and Nashville attorney L. Michael Zinser - are embroiled in another labor dispute, this time one that's rocked the Commercial Appeal.

The latest development in this long-running drama at the CA came Feb. 15. That's when J. Daniel Breen, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee, dismissed a lawsuit Zinser had filed against the Newspaper Guild of Memphis, dealing what appears to be a crushing legal blow to the paper, Memphis Publishing Co. and Zinser himself.
It makes me wonder to what extent these labor problems precipitated the exit of former publisher John Wilcox?

The daily is loathe to discuss its internal business, which is something that I've always found inordinately amusing in a company whose business is ferreting out information to give to the public. Why only today they pummel the Mayor (oh... OK, they buffet him with baby fingers) for not being forthcoming.

So why hide their need to trim costs to retain profitability? Is it that they are more interested in maintaining the aura of the priesthood of the Order of Journalism? Are they still clinging to the ideal of journalists standing on a pedestal like Gods above mere mortal men, like doctors once did? Is admitting to the green stains on their fingers somehow demeaning? We all already know that self-interest is always a factor in story selection, point of view and in editorial decisions.

Reading Editor in Chief Chris Peck's occasional Sunday columns, the answer would have to be an unquestionable and resounding YES. He reeks of the smoke of churchly incense. And that's rather sad.

The CA preaches the Gospel of Openness and Transparency. They should practice it as well.
Who Crossed?

One thing about the Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution about abortion that was just passed that leapt out at me was the lopsided vote: 24 yeas and only 9 nays. The ostensible Republican - Democrat divide in the Senate is 17 - 16, meaning 7 nominal Democrats "crossed over" to vote against abortion.

But in no story I've seen yet have the names of those seven been released. I tried the General Assembly's website, but couldn't find it. (You can read the actual resolution, by the way, here.)

Anyone know where to find those names? Who they are?

My guess is that it's tacit proof that Tennessee is a much more conservative (though not necessarily Republican) state than is generally admitted in the leftist-dominated press. Some Democrats apparently see it as more important to support this anti-abortion bill, for their constituents and voters, than to toe the party line.

I also think marriage redefinition activists should heed the implicit warning here. Many of them seem to be counting on blacks-as-Democrats to support their "gay marriage" drive. But as I've noted here, blacks are much more socially conservative than comparable whites. Much more.

I'm not sure how many of the white readers here have had casual conversations with Memphis or Tennessee blacks about gays. In fact, you don't hear "gay" that much, but "fag" sure comes up. So does "sweet" and "down low." Listen to WDIA's talk shows. Many to most of the blacks I talk with are frank, blunt and unapologetic in using those terms, and their attendant "homophobia." It's something white gays and white Democrats rarely address in the larger public arena, but it's a real problem for them. It will sink their efforts, and I think the Senate Resolution is yet another indicator of the debacle they face this Fall.

I predict that "gay marriage" will be defeated about 75 - 25% in Tennessee.

Back to the Resolution's language before I close. It says, in full:
Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.
If I read this right -- and I welcome correction if I'm wrong -- if abortion comes before the Tennessee Supreme Court after passage of this language the TSC cannot do as the USSC did and find a "penumbra" of privacy within which to allow abortion.

It seems to mean that, under its language, abortion will be not something inherent to the individual's freedom but a privilege granted by the State. I'm not sure this is the way to go. The libertarian in me quails at this idea.

Abortion is a terrible thing; it's the pre-meditated ending of a human life. It's awful in the Solomonic balance-of-lives way. But as terrible as it is, it's also, sometimes, necessary. I believe that. Sometimes, but not as often as a million times a year, it is necessary for the health of one life to end another.

I also think adoption and personal sacrifice (as in enduring pregnancy for the sake of the other life) are deliberately pushed aside by the pro-choice side to clear away possible middle grounds that they see as breeding fields for opposition to any abortion. And that's sad. I do believe that the State has a legitimate interest in protecting life, and therefore a role to play in suppressing abortion. I'm just not sure what that is or how it plays out.

Polls of Americans show, over and over, that we want abortion available just in case but we also want it made hard to get, to prevent abuse of this horrifying solution. The idea being that if abortions are hard to obtain, then you really want to end the pregnancy. But the poles of the argument -- abortions for all, any time; and no abortions, never -- have dominated the debate and so blasted any middle grounds.

I'm not sure how the State gets into the business of decreasing abortion, but I don't think the Tennessee Senate Resolution is quite the way. I think we'll find, as we so often do, unintended consequences in this law. Unpleasant ones.

But where we want to go, and how we move from where we are, are still questions I wrestle with.
The Dog & Pony Show Continues

It was apparently all for show, all that sound and fury over "ethics reform" in Nashville. It signified nothing, as this Tennessean article shows.
A group of House leaders on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill is using staff to collect money for a dinner featuring a lobbyist as a key speaker.

The lobbyist, John Lyell, will be giving lawmakers “a full report on the current status of the Tennessee General Assembly,” Rep. Joe Fowlkes, D-Cornersville, announced last week on the House floor.

Fowlkes said that his office is collecting money for the Rural Middle Tennessee House Democratic Caucus event, scheduled for tomorrow.

Fowlkes, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has a staff member collecting the money at his office, as do Rep. Stratton Bone, D-Lebanon, and Rep. Gene Davidson, D-Adams.

Fliers have been hung around the Capitol advertising the $35-per-ticket dinner.

Lyell represents special interests such as health-care companies and Realtors. Also speaking will be a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, who will “read a poem on the lobbyists of the General Assembly,” Fowlkes said on the House floor.
Yeah, they sure fixed that problem, didn't they?
Our Daily CA

In an editorial today, the Commercial Appeal rightly takes Mayor Herenton to task for not clearing up the matter of allegations that he accepted up to $12,000 illegally from associates of Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

But I wouldn't be mentioning this unless there were a couple of oddities that caught my eye. First is the opening paragraph:
Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton sometimes gets criticized for saying too much. Last Friday, he said too little.
"Saying too much?" When? He's famously tight-lipped and sarcastic. I think the author was struggling for some kind of device to open the editorial. I'd say he failed.

Then, in the closing:
Although Herenton didn't get into the specifics of the case during a news conference last month, he was very emphatic in asserting that Memphis city government was free from corruption.
He also specifically said he'd address those charges after the trial. We're still waiting. For some reason, the CA leaves that out.

Maybe because he wasn't called to testify, whatever it was he thought he was going to say should best be left unsaid? Maybe he doesn't want to give potential prosecutors something to hang an investigation on?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends

Welcome to the readers who have been showing up here the past few days. It's good to have you back. Who knew? Regular posting increases traffic. Sweet!

It would appear that I'm back to blogging but, please, don't get all excited or anything. Let's keep it on the downlow for now, OK? Except for my campaign to replace Wendi Thomas at the Commercial Appeal. That you can talk about all you want. Even though my chances are smaller than the City's reserve fund, I'm still serious about wanting it.

Why? To have the increased access to the powerful, of course, and the weight of a metro daily newspaper behind my demands for answers. Memphis is a great place being held back unnessarily. Let's get the problems out of the way, so we can get on with our lives unmolested. That's why I'm after her job.
Catching Up: John Branston

I'm going to be playing catch-up for a bit, as I get back up to speed.

One thing is Memphis Flyer writer John Branston. While I like him and think he could be much more useful to Memphis than he currently allows, I also have to admit that I haven't picked up a Flyer in several months now.


So I've missed some good Branston stuff like his look at the Commercial Appeal redesign. He deplores it, as I do, because instead of getting a daily paper with a compendium of news from around the area I get a fragmented thing with micro-news from my immediate neighborhood. Hey, CA, I already know what's up in Midtown, but I'd really like to know what's going on elsewhere in Memphis and Shelby County. I thought that's what a newspaper is for?

Apparently, the redesign is rooted in the old observation that when folks see their picture in the paper, they run out and buy extra copies. Soooooo... if they create whole sections of the paper that are nothing but pictures of people, then they'll sell lots of extra copies, right?

Riiiiiight. No thank you.

Branston also notes how the paper has multiple sections that are all somehow Memphis based, but focus on different parts of "Memphis." Their divisions are arbitrary and overlapping, leading to confusion. Heck, even the website redesign doesn't follow the division patterns of the new redesign, making finding something you read in one version an exercise in hunting in the other.

In another column, John looks at the different utility rates in Memphis and Nashville. Sadly, he doesn't do more than compare some surface figures. Hey, John, how 'bout some phone calls to the relevant parties? You're a big-city newspaper guy, doesn't that have some clout and advantage?

It's a good story as far as it goes; it just doesn't go nearly far enough. Especially since it leaves some disturbing questions about what's going on with MLG&W. Remember a couple of years ago how were were told that the billion dollar deal they made for gas was going to have enormous, long-term savings effects on our bills? That sure didn't pan out and MLG&W's explanations have either been non-responsive, or exposed the initial announcements and PR as a pack of deceptive lies.

And lastly, John casts an eye on the Bass Pro Shops / Pyramid deal. He, like me, thinks it an overal plus for the city. You can read the rebuttal point of view from the good, if misguided and self-interested, folks at the Smart City Memphis blog.

I guess it's fair to say that I like John's columns because our views of what's going on in the city and what's best for us align so closely. Fair enough! I just wish that he'd dig deeper and probe harder.

I know he can do it.
And It Still Tastes Like Lemon

You know the old saying: If someone gives you lemons, make lemonade. Take a look at this Commercial Appeal editorial on the Grizzlies' move to increase ticket prices:
The Grizzlies have pulled off some smart moves during their five-year relationship with Memphis, and count this one as downright brilliant on the part of the front office: Ticket prices are going down.
They can't sell enough tickets at the regular price, so they're discounting. Does this say something about demand for their product? Or their handling of it and their relation to their city and fans? No, according to the CA. It means they are marketing geniuses! Brilliant!
You can't fault majority owner Michael Heisley for trying to make a buck on the Grizzlies. But the ownership team knew from the start that running a big-time professional sports franchise in Memphis would not be like sitting under a money tree.
Really? When this was being sold to Memphis it sure was presented that way. NBA in Memphis! Prestige! Tourism! Downtown boost! Economic impact! As the only NBA franchise in the whole region, we had a real honeypot on our hands. Or so we were told then.

And the hoopla about the FedEx Forum was unending. A world class facility. State of the art. Every convenience and luxury. Come and see it!
A University of Memphis study conducted prior to the team's 2001 move from Vancouver found that the income needed to finance a new arena would have to come at the expense of other sporting events, Tunica County casinos, savings accounts, vacations and the like.
Really? I don't recall this getting very much press at the time. All I remember hearing was the boost to the downtown, the economic impact on surrounding businesses and hotels and restaurants.

And strictly speaking, the "income to finance a new arena" came from the City of Memphis selling bonds to pay for it. The income the facility generates, and much of the tax revenue, doesn't go to the City or to bond retirement, but into Heisley's hands. To borrow a mindset from the CA: That's a smart move. Brilliant!
The Grizzlies may be the only major league sports game in town, but there is competition for the limited resources in one of the smallest and least affluent communities in the NBA. So the Grizzlies came to town with some of the lowest ticket prices in the league and a big basket of hope.
It sure wasn't presented that way! It was supposedly a no-fail winner, a real coup, making up for the horrible faux pas of letting the Titans slip away. People who expressed reservations were belittled and brushed aside. Remember Duncan Ragsdale and Heidi Schafer? The Mayor, NBA Now, and the paper labelled them nay-sayer and impediments. You won't see the CA calling them prophets now, will you?

I'm a bit surprised on one count, to be honest. No question that Memphis is Roundtown. Basketball was exactly the right professional sports franchise to bring here. The Tigers remain insanely popular.

So if b'ball isn't the problem, what is? Hmmmmm....
Raising prices with the move from The Pyramid to FedExForum simply hasn't worked out well. The Grizzlies are now finding ways to cope with home crowds that average 15,914, ranking 26th of 30 teams in attendance this year.
First, I'd like to know how we rank population wise versus our attendance ranking. In other words, if we're the 28th most populous team on that list, but we're 26th in attendance, then that's not so bad, is it? But if we're 19th, then....

Isn't there a codicil or provision in our contract with them that kicks in if average attendance drops below a certain number? Where the City starts making payments to the Grizzlies? Does anyone remember what that floor is?
Fans aren't staying home because they don't like the team. With most of the schedule available on TV, they're staying home to keep from going broke on tickets, parking and concessions.
So what does the CA suggest the City do about that? I'm still waiting to hear.

Parking for the facility is inadequate. It was in the original design and that was made only worse when some 1000 parking spots were lopped off to keep the FedEx Forum under budget. No additional surface parking was created nor has the City made any efforts to address the horrendous public parking problem downtown. (An elephant in the room story if ever there was one. WPTY/24 looked into this, but I can't find any story links yet. I have an email to them pending and will update this if I hear anything back.)

Stories about getting in and getting out downtown on busy days are everywhere, and they are uniformly awful. So what's being done?
So season ticket prices -- not single-game tickets -- will drop on about a third of the seats in the 18,000-seat arena, mostly in the upper levels, by 40 to 47 percent, starting next season.
This isn't a "pricing adjustment" but a fire sale! It's also rather carefully limited, wouldn't you say?
Not as exciting as a blockbuster trade, maybe, but a move that should pay off in the long run.
At least that's what they're hoping, but don't count on the CA to point that out.

Don't forget, to make lemonade you also need some sugar. It seems the CA is perfectly willing to ladle it out.

INSTANT UPDATE Kudos to the folks at WPTY/24 for responding so quickly. Those stories on FedUp Forum construction can be found here (construction shortcuts), here (follow the money) and here (updated building codes or just shortcuts?). Thanks, Julia.
Touched by the Hand of God

If you've heard about State Senator Ophelia Ford's remarks but haven't read them, here you go.

I didn't read Mayor Herenton's similar statements a year or so ago quite the way I read Ford's. Herenton's really struck me, especially if you hear him making them and not just read them, as the usual "all praise to God who makes things happen, not me" statement. You hear similar stuff all the time on awards shows and after sports games. But this was filtered through the Herenton arrogance and immperiality that makes it sound bad.

Ford, however, is a different story. She's clearly loopy. Either she's a scatter-brain or she's dancing around something she doesn't want to say. My guess is the latter.

She's right about this going on all the time (corruption, electoral abuse and vote fraud). Her family and the larger Democratic Party are some of the worst of it. Republicans do it too. Politics in Memphis and Shelby County really is hardball.

It's been good to see this stuff finally come to light and get some media scrutiny. Heaven knows why it took private investigators, instead of media investigations, to make this happen, but I guess that's the Memphis and modern media world we live in.

It's also been funny watching both the Democrats and Republicans twisting and contorting to bring just enough of the fraud to light to advance their cases without letting too much out that might trigger real, Federal investigations.

There's still a lot out there waiting to be unearthed. One day.
Science Marches On

Google Mars. Tour the Red Planet today. Amazing.

That enormous volcano-looking mountain to the upper left? That's Olympus Mons, the largest mountain in the known solar system. It sticks up 13 miles.

You can even find the locations of known spacecraft on the surface, and view The Face at Cydonia.
Gifts From Islamic Arabia

With all the bad news about Arab Islam and the various wars and uprisings in the Middle East, it's easy to forget all the scientific and engineering and other advances they are responsible for. Follow the link for twenty surprising things that came from the Arab world.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rattle Rattle

Just a quick mention that I'd appreciate any donations to PayPal, if you are so inclined. My domain hosting fees (as opposed to my domain registration fees) are due in a few days and I need help paying for them. If you can help, I'd be grateful.

Grateful enough to not take swipes at you when I become the Commercial Appeal's Metro columnist? Well, your chances are certainly better than the Tennessee Lottery!
Whither Joyce?

I'll be the first to admit I've not been keeping up with news much for the past couple of months or so. (Though I'm changing that now that I'm hoping to be hired by the Commercial Appeal as their new Metro columnist.) But I distinctly remember that ex-WMCer Joyce Peterson was reporting for WPTY this year. I don't recall seeing her of late.

What happened? Did it not work out? Did she get a better offer? New career path? I'd appreciate knowing.