Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Larry King-style Post

No, I'm not wearing suspenders, but remember those crazy, stream-of-consciousness columns the old Brooklynite used to write for USA TODAY?  Well, I am going to write one of my own today. Why?  BECAUSE, THAT'S WHY!

So whyizzit that there are public officials in this town that want to disenfranchise and disempower our own residents from deciding what we should do with our OWN school system? And No, I'm not just talking to Reverend Whalum, either....

I, for one, back Jay Cutler and don't think he "tapped out", as that great tackler of years past, Deion Sanders, put it the other day.  His style is not like others, but he got a team that had no business being in the NFC Championship game, despite being sacked more than any other QB in the NFL.

So why are Rep. Glen Casada and Sen, Bill Ketron wasting the TGA's time with an unconstitutional bill to prohibit unions in Tennessee from making political contributions?  That will last in court about as quickly as my cat Zippy's breakfast when I give it to him each morning. It shows how little some Republicans care about actual governance.  I wonder how long it will take Speaker Harwell to wish she had a chair and whip for her OWN caucus?

While I wish NashvilleNewscoma had been MemphisNewscoma, the good result is that she is back writing regularly, and better than ever.  I seriously wish I had her writing ability.

So Senator Stacey Campfield hates babies?  Well, not all of them, just SOME of them, it seems.  You know, he CAN be a decent person, but once he is on a legislative body, it seems like his non-nice side takes over.  What a shame.

Good on Andy Meek at the Daily News for pointing out the anti-transparency legislation introduced in the State legislature.  If we are going to ofter public monies as pot-sweeteners to private companies in order to draw them here, it is NOT proprietary information to know how much we are giving up and how much we will get back in the process.  This is ANTI-SUNSHINE.

Consistency, thy name is NOT Grizzlies.  They have been all over the lot, and look like they will be a .500 team this year.  Right now, with the Tigers being still too young to make a run into the NCAAs, the Grizz could OWN this town if they could get in the playoffs and win a couple of games, much less an entire series.  We still need more players.

Oh, and Spring Training is three weeks from today.  That ALWAYS makes me feel better, safe in the knowledge that winter does indeed, always turn to spring. However, MLB, the Civil Rights Game is in Atlanta, eh?  If you wouldn't have charged $50 for a ticket, you might have done better here at AutoZone Park.  Just sayin'...

I can't help but notice that, since Chip Forrester's re-election, the trolls attacking him have disappeared from Post Politics.  I presume that is a good thing.  Still waiting to hear what he and the State ExecCom have planned for the coming year.  Oh, wait. it's not Friday yet, is it?

By the way, Shelby Democrats, it appears that for once I will get to attend party re-organization caucuses this year.  The 2007 and 2009 were scheduled the same weekend as the North Texas Irish Festival, so I have had to miss them.  IIRC, caucuses are scheduled for March 26; if that's off, hopefully someone will correct me in the comments.

Love Chik-Fil-A's food?  So do I.  However, I'm giving up what Dabney refers to as "Jesus Chicken" because they have homophobic policies.  Simply, they give money to people and groups whose policies hurt  others.  Do they have the right to do so?  Sure, just as I have the right not to patronize them for doing so.  Bye bye Jesus Chicken!  Besides, why not EAT LOCAL instead?

And how about some props for Lindsey for making the Flyer's 20<30 issue? You should be reading her blog if you aren't; she is to the point and just a great read.

Ok, if you are a liberal reader of this blog and you live in Shelby County, why have I not seen you at DRINKING LIBERALLY? Every Wednesday night from 7-10 in the back room at RP Billiards at 525 South Highland, we are there.  They have a new kitchen menu and the best bartender I know, Scotty James, taking care of you.  Join us!

Enough for now, later on down the road!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

G-Town Democratic Club Meeting TOMORROW NIGHT

You’re invited to attend the

 Germantown Democratic Club Meeting

Wednesday, January 26
6:30 PM
Cordova Branch Library, 8457 Trinity Road

Bill Gillon, a member of the Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board, will be the guest speaker. Gillon will discuss the economic development activities of the Industrial Development Board, including the Electrolux project, the difficulties the IDB encountered with Recovery Zone Bonds, and efforts to streamline economic development operations in Memphis and Shelby County.

Please join us for this very informative meeting!

You can visit the Germantown Democratic Club online at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Today, a special version of Feel Good Friday from the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Bryan Griffin performs for your enjoyment one of my favorite selections, chosen just for this special weekend:

Hey! Are you reading Vibinc or Smart City Memphis? WHY NOT?

If you're not following Steve Ross at Vibinc these days, you're uninformed regarding the MCS-SCS issue.

He does a daily FOLLOWING THE MEDIA post, with links to all media reports regarding this critical issue.  He has sharp takes on all of it, and, like me, he is very much PRO-surrender.  Please make sure you are reading him every day!

Big props as well to our friend Tom Jones at Smart City Memphis, who has been covering this for many years as well.  These are two blogs that are MUST-READ at this critical moment in our history.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What a great beginning for our new Governor!

I'm not really sure why I am surprised at this, but our new Governor, Bill Haslam, doesn't think you have any business in knowing just how money he or his aides make in outside income.  Um, conflict of interest?

Even the New York Times has noted how the Pilot Oil heir moved quickly to gut financial disclosure requirements put in by his predecessor, Phil Bredesen, who was no poor fella himself.

(Um, did I just say something NICE about Bredesen? Wow, times change quickly, don't they?)

Anyway, I'm not the only one not thrilled about this nose-thumbing at the public interest.  One of my favorite Republicans, Jenci Spradlin (and there's not a lot of them, frankly, but there ARE some), noted at MODERATELY MARVELOUS the proper question to ask:
Could those advising Governor Haslam not anticipate how this would be perceived by the public and media, or did they just not care?  Either way, it’s an interesting way to define what many hoped would be a new renaissance for Republicans in Tennessee.
Good question.  Makes you wonder how the meeting went where that decision was made, doesn't it?  (Terrorist Fist Bump to Charlton for the idea).

Friday, January 14, 2011

CRACKER Alert - I'm on FOX 13 at 10 tonight

Yes, despite the fact that I have a face not created for HD, they asked me to tape a segment for the 10PM news regarding the school issue.  Not sure who is taking the other side, you'll just have to watch and find out!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some Free Unsolicited Advice to Chip Forrester

No, I can't write about the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords just yet; I am liable to sound crazy and Stalinist, so let's just pray for her speedy and complete recovery.

Ok, then.  First, just as Ross did, I offer my congratulations to Chip Forrester on his re-election as TNDP Chair on Saturday.  You had your votes lined up, and you received solid support from ExecCom members who wanted to send a message to Democrats around the state.  You did a good job of organizing, that's what winning a caucus election is about.  You have my support.

I publicly call on those who have been attacking you under pseudonyms in various blogs around the state to either get on board, or go away.  While I supported Wade Munday in place of you, and would have done it again, I am behind you.

Now then, while there are some people (old Bredesenites and Blue Dogs) you will never get, you need to seriously make amends with the state YDs and College Democrats.  We need every one that they can get, and they not only need a real place at the table, they need to be be heard, and listened to, with their opinions taken seriously.  These are the FUTURE leaders of this party, and they provide tons of volunteer hours.

(By the way, you might also want to privately smack T. Robert Hill with a wet fish for his idiotic remarks.  He should have KNOWN that in a tightly contested race, his comments would get out.)

I do not blame you for what happened last November; you were hamstrung by the donors and by the staffs of some of our Congressmen.   Now, we can move forward.

In the near future, you know that you need to get the ExecCom and the County Chairs going hard to revitalize the parties in their own counties, we have too many County Parties that are practically non-existent.  Partially, that is because some of the ExecCom members out in those areas hang on to their positions because no one cares enough to take those positions from them.  That is a scary proposition, frankly.

You need to have more small-dollar fund-raisers all over the state, working with the County Chairs and ExecCom members in each area.  You need to find a REALLY GOOD communications director, one who knows better than to send out press releases on Friday afternoon.  (OK, cheap shot, and I'll let it go, but seriously....)

Now then, there's something else that we as a Party need to think about.  While my own Senate District, 30, is an anomaly as we have two relatively new members, the fact remains that by electing our DEC members in August of an election year, we have no way to hold them accountable for election results.  And, yes, just as you had to face an ExecCom for your job after a bad election, the ExecCom should have to face Democrats the spring after every Governor's election.

Yes, I am aware we are talking Constitutional change here, but it's worth it.  Imagine if the State ExecCom members were elected as our County Parties elect theirs, in the spring, and at caucuses and conventions?  Think this could inspire people to get involved, and actually CARE about what happens to the Tennessee Democratic Party?  I do.

Finally, we may just be bloggers, and in the end we will all say what we think, but all of us who care enough to write have been involved at just about every level, and we didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday.  We will continue to email you, and talk to you.  if we can help, we will, but we need to send a clear message about who we are and what we stand for and THAT we stand for something.  That's not even remotely your fault, but you're the guy out front.

And yes, I have no problems with another Monteagle-type summit; I think the last one helped, and so could another one.

All right, that's enough from me.  Again, you have my support, and let's elect Democrats in 2012, Democrats who aren't ashamed to be Democrats.  Good luck.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Fundraiser/Get Together with Jeanne Richardson THIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Fundraiser/Get Together with Jeanne Richardson

Democrats, Friends and Supporters,
Please join me and my family for a fundraiser/get together at my home, 797 N. Evergreen, this Sunday, January 9th starting at 3pm.
As you may know, State Representatives and Senators are prohibited from fundraising during session, so this is my last opportunity to do so until session ends.
There is no minimum suggested donation, so please don’t let any post-holiday budget crunch stop you from coming. I want to see my friends and supporters before I head off to Nashville for the beginning of session.
Thank you for your love, kindness, and support. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
Representative Jeanne Richardson
House District 89

Thursday, January 06, 2011

An Open Letter to the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee

Folks, you have a big vote this Saturday.  The Party is in the ditch, and we have to figure out who has the best chance to lead us out of that ditch.

Those of you who are leaning to keeping Chip Forrester, I understand how you feel.  I, too supported his candidacy when he was elected two years ago, thinking he would lead us out of that ditch.  And I agree that the good ole boys and Phil Bredesen hamstrung him at every turn, which helped lead to this disaster we had last year.  You feel loyalty to him, and I understand.

However, in my opinion, Chip is the candidate of the present, and he didn't drive us into that ditch, but he hasn't been able to find a way out of it either.  His response to the state YDs and College Democrats' endorsement of Wade Munday was not that of a leader, to be sure.  That was a horrible way to send a message to younger Democrats, who are only the FUTURE of your party.  I have to agree with my buddy Michael Lipe, who responded to Forrester.  So, no, I can't ask you to vote for his re-election.

So, What about Matt Kuhn?  Helluva nice guy, he's been around, run several campaigns, friends with lost of West Tennessee Democrats, a natural, right?  Well, not so much.  First, as Matt is supported by many of the people who DID drive this Party into the ditch, and who want to apparently keep it there by returning to a Blue Dog-friendly message, Matt, sadly, is the candidate of the past, despite his 40 under 40 proposal.

And, with Matt, you have a record to follow, as he was SCDP Chair from 2005-2007.  Other than re-electing Democrat AC Wharton as County Mayor, there's not much to note either way, except for a major faux pas in 2006.  For those of you outside Shelby County, around May or June each year, we have our major fundraiser, Kennedy Day.  In 2006, as we were getting ready to go into our County elections, Matt inexplicably was going to allow REPUBLICAN AG Bill Gibbons to come to Kennedy Day, and didn't seem too upset about it.  Even worse, he didn't seem to want to respond until the whole Democratic ticket sent Matt a threatening letter!  Finally, he relented, and disinvited Gibbons, but his lack of response was very troubling.  Folks, we can't afford another PR disaster like that.

I like all of these folks personally, but I am asking you to vote for the person I believe has the tow truck ready to go to get us out of that ditch, Wade Munday.  As shown with his endorsement by the State Young Democrats and College Democrats, Wade is the candidate of the future.  Wade was the communications director for Gray Sasser, as you remember, and has a great ability to lead and communicate, qualities desperately necessary when rebuilding a Party.

He is an accomplished fundraiser, and is the one person who can reach out to all groups in this Party and unite them as he leads us out of the wilderness.  He has a calm temperament and solid judgment, and I trust him to do whatever is necessary to get the Party out of the ditch and on the road to victory.

Folks, I know that it's a tough thing that you face, but I believe that there is a clear choice, and that choice is Wade Munday.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Steve Steffens
Democratic Activist and Blogger

Tuesday, January 04, 2011



Q: How would school unification work?
A: A referendum would take place throughout Memphis some time in February. If a majority of those voting vote YES, unification would occur.

Q: Would suburban voters outside Memphis be able to vote in the referendum?
A: No. State law established Memphis City Schools (MCS) as a special school district within the City only, and only residents of Memphis can vote in the referendum. (Efforts by the Republican-controlled Shelby County Election Commission to change this have no legal basis.)

Q: If the referendum passes, what happens then?
A: A unified school board will then be chosen to govern the new unified school district.

Q: Would a YES vote mean Memphis schools will be run indefinitely by the Shelby County School Board and the Shelby County Schools Administration?
A: No. Those bodies would be in operational control for only a very brief time, until the County Commission could act to appoint unified school board members or set up a special election. See below.

Q: Could Shelby County Schools use its brief “operational control” period to harm Memphis teachers or students—e.g., abolishing union contracts, eliminating the optional program, etc.?
A: Not likely. First, its operational control period would likely be too brief to accomplish such sweeping changes. Second, the Shelby County Schools Administration would not likely be motivated to do so, knowing that its soon-to-be-boss, the new unified school board, would almost certainly oppose such radical changes. (See below). Third, even if it did so, the new unified school board would almost certainly undo such changes once it took office.

Q: Do we know how this new unified school board would be chosen?

A: Pretty much. There are state statutes dealing with similar situations which establish
transition procedures for newly united school boards formed under different circumstances, and also for drawing districts to elect school board members when court decisions require school board redistricting. The County Attorney has stated that similar procedures would most likely apply in our situation as well.

Q: So how would the new unified school board be chosen, then?
A: The County Commission would draw a unified school district districting plan (see TCA 49-2-111) to elect either 5, 7, or 9 members. It could then choose to (a) have a special election within a few months, electing school board members either at-large, from single-member districts, or a combination of the two. OR, it could choose to (b) arrange for interim unified school board members to be appointed by the City Council and the County Commission (depending on whether the districts were mostly in Memphis or mostly outside Memphis). (See TCA 49-2-1202). 3

Q: Would this unified school board adequately represent Memphians and African-Americans?
A: Yes. Seven of the 13 County Commissioners come from Memphis-only districts, and 3 more come from districts which are majority-Memphis. Six of the 13 members are African-American, and 7 are Democrats. There is no reason to expect they would use their appointment or redistricting authority to do anything but fairly reflect black and Memphian voting strength.

Q: How can we be sure the County Commission won’t use its power to dilute the voting strength of African-Americans, or Memphians, or suburban voters, for that matter?
A: Any redistricting scheme which failed to fairly reflect such demographics would be
challengeable in court under state and federal law.

Q: Who would run the school system if the voters voted YES? Who would serve as the

A: The Shelby County Schools Superintendent would serve as Superintendent for a brief
transition period, until the new unified school board could be appointed or elected. Once the new unified school board was sworn in, it could then choose to retain or replace that

Q: What has been the experience of similar jurisdictions which have consolidated an urban school system with the county school system?
A: The closest analogy is Chattanooga, which merged with Hamilton County in 1997. A 2006 Education Week academic article praised it as a success which “went off without any substantial hitch” and led to education improvements. A 2007 Annenberg Policy Institute report detailed specific reforms, like increasing college attendance and improving high school academic rigor through the creation of theme-based high school “academies,” which occurred in the years following consolidation.

And a recent Chattanooga Free Press editorial supported Memphis school merger,
stating it would help to reverse the City-County, black-white division in Memphis. Re: its own merger, it said:
But the evidence here confirms that the merger has focused more effective attention on student performance in urban schools. Efforts to improve teaching standards, raise school test scores and graduation rates, and programs involving magnet schools and minority-to-majority transfers have improved achievement countywide and insured fairer focus on children and schools previously left behind.



1. We are one county. Schoolchildren in Memphis deserve an equal education
opportunity to schoolchildren in the suburbs. We should have a system
where the dollars follow the kids depending on need, regardless of which
side of the city-county line they're on.

2. This is the best chance we have to prevent SCS from getting special
school district status
, which would
(a) permanently wall off the suburban kids from Memphis kids;
(b) permanently prevent us from ever reconsidering school consolidation;
(c) shrink the tax base for MCS, so that Memphis taxpayers would have to
pay higher taxes-the rate would rise over 40 cents
(d) permanently choke off our ability to grow education funding in the
future for MCS.

3. This would end the double taxation of Memphians, who pay for schools
through county taxes and then again through City taxes. The City would
no longer have to pay for MCS. That's $78 million per year that
Memphis could save

4. This would spread the funding among the whole county. We've been
saying for years we like "single source funding" of schools. This would
accomplish it.

5. This would lead to more efficient spending of our education dollars.
(a) eliminate duplicate levels of higher-up bureaucracy, and
(b) get rid of the ADA formula (the state rule which says that every
time the county spends a dollar on county schools, it has to spend 2.5
dollars more on city schools), which, while good sometimes and needed as
long as we have separate school systems, also causes a lot of wasteful

6. Even if the day-to-day experiences of schoolchildren didn't change all
that much, the fact that they would grow up in a unified school
system would help to get rid of this "us versus them" mentality that has
held us back for so long.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tonight, a TNDP Chair debate

With a doff of the chapeau to Mr. Neal:

What: Tennessee Democratic Party Chair candidate debate
When: Monday, January 3, 2011 - 7:30pm
Where: TNDP HQ in Nashville, webcast, conference call-in

From Brad Parish:
As promised, here is the access information for Monday's TNDP Chairs Debate...

We will be broadcasting "live" on this Monday from the TNDP Headquarters in Nashville directly to you.

You can watch and listen live through your computer at the website or you call-in on our conferencing line at 1-712-432-0075, then enter access code 112002. Every interested Democrat in Tennessee is definitely invited to tune-in.

We've made the cut-off for questions tomorrow (Saturday, January 1st) at 9:00 a.m. in the morning. If you still have questions that you would like to submit for consideration, please email them immediately to
Brad Parish
12th District Executive Committeeman

P.S. Please remember to mark your calendars and join us this Monday at 6:30 CST (7:30 EST).

Sunday, January 02, 2011

It was a year ago today

I took this picture of Lauren in our favorite getaway place in the world, Bethlehem, PA.  This was taken on the PA 309 bridge over the Lehigh River, over which we walked each day when we were at the Celtic Classic.  She loved visiting here more than any place we went, and talked of having a house there some day. A SECOND one, of course, because she could never leave this city that was a part of her every day of her life.  She remains the most wonderful human being that I ever knew, or likely will know.

As you know, right about this time one year ago today, she hugged me, collapsed and, despite the work of me and the EMTs, never regained consciousness.  What I remember of the days that followed were the kindness, love and support that our family and friends received, it stunned me and I will never forget it.  2010 was a particularly hard year, as we later lost Lauren's cousin Henry, who inspired our family with his courage and strength for over two years before succumbing this past summer.

I take every day as it comes, whenever possible, because, as we all learned, one never knows what is around the next corner.  We are in a new year, but always be careful.  I remember saying on New Year's Eve 2009 that 2010 HAD to be a better year than 2009, because it couldn't get worse.  48 hours later, I was sitting in the ICU waiting room at St. Francis.

As the late Warren Zevon told David Letterman as he was dying of cancer, "Enjoy Every Sandwich".  Hug the people you love just a little bit tighter, because you never know what could happen.

I want to thank all of you who have done so much for me over this year, and if I put all of you on here, I am sure I would leave out someone.  I remember so many things about that week, but always the people who were there at every step, and who would do so many things, whether just being there to relieve some of the strain, or driving two hours each way every day to work and back to Memphis just to be there at night, or helping make the program which we used at her funeral.  I will never be able to repay that, but I will damn sure try.

As you know, Lauren passed away the day after her 44th birthday, which was also my 51st.  That's why I don't plan to celebrate my birthday, but I will acknowledge it.  However, as my friends and I realized, while the annual party that Lauren and I threw to celebrate our birthdays can't be the same, one thing can:  Raising food for the Mid-South Food Bank.

And so, on the night of January 15 at Garibaldi's on Walker (across from Tiger Book Store), I am asking those of you who knew and loved Lauren (and, let's face it, if you knew her, you had no choice but to love her, right?)  to bring non-perishable food items or checks made out to The Mid-South Food Bank.  (Thanks to Rick for pointing this out, we are starting at 7 PM and going until 10 or so.)

This night shall be her night, and we will raise much-needed food and money for a wonderful organization that always needs it right after the holidays.

I hope you can come by, or if not, send a check to the Food Bank, they can always use it.

Lauren would have loved that.