Who's your choice for Mayor in 2015?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Drinking Liberally Memphis is under new leadership, and I am happy about it!

Drinking Liberally Memphis faded away for a while because the hosts, of which I was one, got tired of doing it and couldn't attract younger, newer people, so we gave it up.

Fortunately,  Liz Rincon, Allan Creasy and Trenton Woodley have revived DL, which now meets at Celtic Crossing at Cooper & Oliver on the 2nd & 4th Mondays of very month beginning at 5 PM.

In addition, Mondays at Celtic are Pint Night, and the 5 PM time coincides with Happy Hour!

In addition, Allan, who is also a bartender at Celtic, donates tips received during that time to a local nonprofit so that they can give back to our community, which is a win-win for everyone.

For more information, the DL-Memphis Facebook page can be found at

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Drinking-Liberally-Memphis/672725372837484?fref=nf

The next DL gathering is Monday, March 9 at 5 PM at Celtic Crossing at Cooper & Oliver in the heart of Cooper-Young, come on out!

That's Me In The Flyer!

That's me in the Viewpoint, losing my political inhibitions! *

*with apologies to REM.  :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DWSC Political Forum This Sunday!

DWSC logo text

Political Forum
Featuring candidates running for

Chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party

Guest moderator:  Les Smith, FOX 13 Reporter

Sunday, March 1
4-6 p.m.
IBEW Union Hall
1870 Madison Ave.

Everyone is invited.

Candidates must e-mail: veebanks at yahoo.com
to get your name on the program.
www.dwosc.org   Join us on FB

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A sad day ends as it had to end.

As you are now aware, Bryan Carson resigned as Chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party in yesterday's specially called meeting of the Executive Committee.

This had been building for some time, as the EC (on which I serve from House 90)  could not get timely written treasurer's reports from the Chair.  At the February regular meeting (which I could not attend due to recovery from my surgery), the EC voted to have an audit of the Party's books, and requested Diane Cambron and Dick Klenz to conduct that audit.   This was also in light of the fact that the Chair had not filed timely disclosures with the state Registry of Election Finance, which has caused the Party to incur fines.

Unbeknownst to the EC, the results of the audit had triggered a private meeting of the Steering Committee last Sunday, at which time the Chair was asked to provide documentation for over 60 cash withdrawals from an ATM card from the Party's bank account.  These took place in a period from September 1 through February 2.  He was given until Wednesday of this past week to produce them, when the Steering Committee would meet again, in an undisclosed location.  The EC was told that this meeting would occur, but that any comments would have to wait until after the meeting.

Personal note: I understand why this was closed, and then 1st Vice Chair, now Chair Dave Cambron said that they were advised by the TNDP to close those meetings, as well as the meeting yesterday.  I still do not agree with that decision, we are a public body and we have to let the chips fall where they may.  I digress.

After the Wednesday Steering Committee meeting, the EC was notified by Rose Ann Bradley, our peerless secretary, that the SC had given Chair Carson a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE, and it was UNANIMOUS.  As only the EC can vote to remove a member or an officer, that was as much as could be done at that time. What none of us on the EC knew was WHY.

What we learned from the audit was the aforementioned cash withdrawals, that Jonathan Lewis, whom we had approved to serve as the Party Treasurer months earlier, had reviewed the books and refused to accept the position.  Worse, Bryan had, without informing the EC, served as his own treasurer, which is not in accordance with campaign finance laws.

I have worked in politics since 1978.  EVERY donation or expenditure by a campaign or a party must be documented beyond a certain level.  If at all possible, you avoid paying any bills in cash.  If your vendor insists on receiving cash, you have to demand an detailed invoice as to what services were received for this transaction.  Without any documentation, Carson had no way to support his claims that all of these withdrawals from the Party account were to pay for Party business.

Because he couldn't provide documentation, he couldn't fill out disclosures, and the downward spiral escalated at warp speed.

I don't know what happened, and neither do you.  We can all speculate at the end of the day, but we don't know.  When your actions raise questions that cannot be answered, you cannot remain in your position.

When Carson asked for a show of hands to see who wanted him to resign, there was a backlash from many of the members.  Nate Jackson, who serves on the Steering Committee, and who has known Bryan since Bryan was a child, nearly broke down as he explained to the EC (in particular, members who inexplicably didn't seem to be disturbed by these findings) that the story was in the bank statements, and implored Bryan to resign.  Nate pointed out that had Bryan resigned at the Steering Committee meeting the prior Wednesday, the Saturday meeting would not have had to take place.

Personal note: I have worked on Party matters with Nate Jackson for over 20 years.  I trust him implicitly, he cuts through bullshit like a knife through soft butter.  I could not have been prouder of him for saying what he said.

Next, Virgie Banks (also President of the Democratic Women of Shelby County) spoke and told Bryan that any decision was up to HIM, not the committee.  She told him that he knew in his heart what he needed to do, and he should do it.  She told him to man up at one point.

Terrance Turnage, while a newcomer to the EC, has been around for a while, agreed that Bryan had to make the decision, while chastising other members of the EC (with justification, I will add) that some of them had done little or nothing for the Party while suddenly becoming interested when this situation happened.

While Carson wanted to turn over operational control of the Party to Dave Cambron, including the March 5 meeting and the two re-organizational meetings on March 14 and 28,  he did not want to resign his position.  Presumably, he apparently believed that would allow him viability for a proposed race for City Council District 7 this fall.

Then, my friend, my County Commissioner, and fellow EC member Reginald Milton spoke and disabused him of that notion.  He was forceful yet gentle, and got to the point.

After that, Carson said he had heard enough and said, simply, "I resign".

To be blunt, because of the requirements of the removal process, it would have required 46 votes to remove him and there weren't 46 members there, sadly, so he could not have been removed if he had refused to resign.  However, if he had said he would not resign, I would have made a motion that the Steering Committee take the information to the DAG office to press charges.  I would have cried while doing it, but I was prepared to do so.

UPDATE with CORRECTION: I received the following message from Rose Bradley which I want to share:  As verified with the State, our present number is 56 (we cannot count vacancies in a vote) so a quorum of two-thirds would be 37 which we surpassed at the meeting.  After the calling of the roll several members continued to come in making the 46 that Del keeps thinking that we needed (and we don’t count non-voting members such as ex-officio like he thinks).  The total necessary voting members were there prior to the vote that we didn’t have to have. 

Thankfully, Bryan did the right thing and resigned.  If he had been allowed to walk out of that meeting as Chair, even nominally, it would have sent a message to the public that the Shelby County Democratic Party had no institutional self-control and could not regain it.  No current or future donor would even think about contributing to a party that could not guarantee that their donations would be used as intended.  Bryan saved us from that by resigning, but, to be truthful, he could have done it sooner.

I am sad about this situation, as I like Bryan personally, but this is not personal, it's business.  I feel for his mother, my friend, and force of nature, Gale Jones Carson, who served as Chair from 2001-2003.  I served under her on the EC and she would never have tolerated this.  While we didn't see eye to eye, when it came to finances, she dotted every I and crossed every T and was always on time with disclosures.  This has to hurt and I feel for their family.

Bryan has said he will make full restitution, but the investigation by the Party continues.

It is clear from this situation that we need new people to get involved.  There are good veterans who should continue, but we need new people.  This is why I am going to ask you to come to First Baptist Church-Broad on Saturday, March 14 and join us for our Ward & Precinct Caucuses.  Registration is from 9 Am-10:30 AM, at which time the doors will be locked.  We need you if you are a Democrat, we need all hands on deck, no matter where you live, Arlington or Westwood, Collierville or Lucy, and all points in between.  You won't be sorry you did.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

An update, and a remembrance.

First, for those who thought I may have dropped off the face of the earth, I tore my left quadriceps tendon in my left knee when leaving the SCDP meeting on January 7, thanks again to all my SCDP brothers and sisters who stayed with me in the single-digit weather until the ambulance came.

Even with all of this, I did not stay any nights in the hospital, had outpatient surgery done almost two weeks ago, and, if all goes according to plan, will go back to work this Tuesday.  It has been difficult for me to get to the computer, so I haven't written or emailed.  I thought I would send this update to let you know I am down, but not out.

Last night, on Facebook, I was stunned to learn of the passing of one of the finest human beings I ever knew, Wanda Wilson, former owner of the legendary P&H Cafe, and it was she who made it that way.  For a generation of young Midtowners, she was a voice of encouragement and love, with a dose of straight talk when she thought you needed it, which we usually did.  I hadn't seen her since she sold the P&H, so I was caught by surprise to learn of her passing.

Please remember her and her vast legions of friends in your thoughts and prayers today, as she was truly unlike any one else, and she leaves a massive void in the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to know Wanda.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shelby County Legislators to Hold Community Meeting on December 29 at IBEW

Tennessee State Seal
Shelby County Democratic 
Legislative Caucus

Legislative Plaza | Nashville TN 37243 |  615.741.2134

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Zak Kelley
Shelby County Legislators to Hold Community Meeting
Will focus on increasing citizen engagement
 
Memphis, TN: The Shelby County Democratic Legislative Caucus announced today that they will hold a Community Information Session on Monday, December 29th 12:00pm at the IBEW building 1870 Madison Avenue.

“This meeting is our attempt to engage people in the legislative process,” said district 86 State Representative Barbara Cooper, chair of the SCDLC. “We have another session starting next month in Nashville. We’ll be working on Medicaid expansion, voting rights and more jobs for our people. Our community needs to be engaged in this process and we’re hopeful this meeting can help us toward that goal.”

The SCDLC is comprised of the Democratic legislators who represent Memphis in the Tennessee General Assembly. They include Sen. Lee Harris, Sen. Sara Kyle & Sen. Reginald Tate, as well as Rep. Barbara Cooper, Rep. Raumesh Akbari, Rep. Karen Camper, Rep. John DeBerry, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, Rep. Larry Miller, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Rep. Joe Towns & Rep. Johnnie Turner. All are scheduled to be in attendance.

“For us to be effective in Nashville, we need the community rallied behind our goals. This is the first of many meetings and I look forward to seeing our constituents after the holiday,” said Cooper.
 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Time to show your hand, gentlemen

Well, as we all know now, last week, during the City Council meeting, Mayor Wharton dropped the bomb that he had privately negotiated a settlement to the $57 Million that the City has apparently owed MCS/SCS for maintenance of effort.

As members of the Council, particularly Shea Flinn, had been involved in mediation discussions with SCS that had been under a confidentiality agreement, this did not sit well with the Council at all.  Flinn and Kemp Conrad reminded the Mayor that the Council still had to approve funding for this settlement and indicated that their approval was not likely to occur.

I understand that; they believe that the City has a legitimate counterclaim that would more than offset the $57 million.  However, if I may say so, they have done a poor job of making their case to the public, and this has allowed Wharton, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and the SCS Board to make them look like pikers who are stealing from the schoolchildren of the County.

When I have asked about this, I am told that this is under a confidentiality agreement and they can't really talk about it.  Gentlemen, it's too late for that now; clearly Hopson and the Board have not held to that agreement in settling directly with the Mayor.  There is now no reason for you to do so either.

In poker terms, Mayor Wharton has just gone all in and he wants to see if you will fade him or fold your cards.  Certainly, you can vote to not fund that settlement.  However, you will be made to look like the "designated a-holes" of the County, as Councilor Flinn put it on Drake & Zeke's WXMX-FM morning show last Wednesday.  You may be happy with that; as someone who believes you may well have a point with your counterclaim, I am not.

It's time to put up or shut up here.  The confidentiality agreement is in tatters and this has gone from a private negotiation to a political matter, and the politics of this situation REQUIRE that you make your case to the citizenry of the City.  This is no longer about business; people are TIRED that this negotiation has drug out for years.  It is time for resolution, and that is why you have to take your case to the public.

Gentlemen, if you refuse to make your case to the public, people are going to come to the conclusion that you really don't have one.  That is not good for any of the parties involved.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Southern Democrats: Down, Not Dead

That's the title of the Viewpoint piece that I wrote for the Flyer this week, which you can find right here.  Thanks to Jackson Baker for allowing me to write this column about where we are and where we need to go from here.