A Cleveland, Tenn., businessman says city officials crossed a line when they tore down protest signs he posted outside his business Thursday during a visit by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “There needs to be a public apology,” said Dan Rawls, owner of Cleveland Performance Center, for what he says is trespass and violation of his right to free speech. “I think they need to take a course in the Constitution to learn not only that you can’t violate private property rights, you can’t violate First Amendment rights.”
But City Councilman George Poe said Rawls is the one who crossed the line by planting the handmade signs on city right of way near the South Cleveland Community Center, where Haslam announced $570,000 in grants for the center and the Mouse Creek greenway.
“The governor came to give us a half-million dollars, and I thought that was pretty nice,” Poe said Friday. “We come out the door, and there’s signs all over the place painted on cardboard boxes in orange spray paint. … It was a pretty big embarrassment to us in the city,” Poe said Friday.
Rawls planted signs in the grass near the street in front of his business to protest Haslam’s support for the Common Core standards…K-12 education guidelines that Rawls calls a “federally run school system.”
“Shame on you Haslam,” one read. A smaller sign next to it said, “Stop CC.”
Poe said he went with City Manager Janice Casteel when she said the signs were on the public right of way. He said she called the police codes enforcement officer and began pulling up the signs.
Then, Poe said, “This big muscled-up guy, screaming, yelling, slinging his arms around,” came out of Rawls’ business and ordered him and Casteel off his property. Poe said he “thought he was going to give Janice a shove,” so he used the police radio he carries to call for help.
Rawls said he ordered Casteel and Poe to get off his property but didn’t in any way threaten them. Police showed up in force, but calm was restored quickly.
From photos, it’s hard to tell whether the signs are in the 6-foot city right of way.
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee court has temporarily barred Spring Hill from limiting residents to one political campaign yard sign per office.
According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/YgGNpv ) in Columbia, the restraining order was obtained by George Jones, who is running for mayor of Spring Hill. He says a local ordinance limiting campaign signs to one per resident for each office is unconstitutional. Jones is a former mayor of the city of more than 23,000 residents.
Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway issued the temporary order Wednesday, pending an April 5 hearing. The city election day is April 11.
Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said the city will comply with the judge’s instructions, but he declined further comment.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two collectors in Knoxville are trying to figure out what do with their latest acquisition: about 260 ballots from the 1864 Presidential election, most of which were cast for Abraham Lincoln.
Cole Piper of Knoxville said he and collecting partner Andy Simon of Maryville would probably sort through the items to find the ones they want to keep and may offer the rest to others.
Piper told the Knoxville News Sentinel (full story, by Mal Alder, HERE) that he and Simon bid $8,000 to purchase the collection of ballots, which were auctioned in Maryville last month. He said finding more than one ballot from the election is rare.
Most of the votes went to Lincoln and his running mate, Andrew Johnson, but 32 went to Gen. George McClellan and his running mate, George Pendleton.
Nearly four out of five provisional ballots cast in Tennessee in November were tossed out, according to statewide data. The Tennessean says this indicates that measures meant to ensure all legitimate votes were included resulted in only a few more being counted. Only 1,623, or 23 percent, of the 7,097 paper provisional ballots cast by people who experienced trouble at the polls during the Nov. 6 general election were ruled legitimate by election officials, figures compiled by state election officials show.
The numbers suggest that at least some voters were disenfranchised by steps Republicans took before the 2012 elections, opponents say.
“People ought not to have to fight to vote in a democratic society,” said George Barrett, a Nashville civil rights attorney who is challenging the state’s photo identification law.
Republicans pushed the law through the legislature in 2011 as part of a nationwide attempt to ensure voter integrity, but Barrett and others have called it an attempt to deter voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Election officials say the figures also show that only two-tenths of 1 percent of the 2.4 million Tennesseans who cast ballots in November actually ran into problems when they went to vote, which they take as an indication that the voter ID law worked how it was supposed to.
“I’d like to get to the point where it’s even lower,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, “but I’ll take this number when you look at the full scale of things.”
State Republican party officials never responded to George Korda’s request for a party spokesman to appear on his radio talk show, prompting him to quote scripture in a column. Here’s a suggestion to the Tennessee Republican Party: it should brush up on Proverbs 16:18 as a reminder of what pride goeth before.
Here’s the verse: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.’
This message isn’t directed at Republican voters, officeholders, but at the party apparatus located on Nashville’s 21st Avenue.
…The Tennessee GOP is on top. As the old saying goes, getting there is hard. Staying there is harder. Staying humble and responsive are helpful attributes in this effort.
A check of the state party’s website contains a message from the chairman, Chris Devaney. Its content is not untypical. What’s noteworthy are that the words ‘I’ or ‘my’ appear eight times in five paragraphs.
…The GOP party staff is another issue.
Several weeks ago this columnist contacted both the state Democratic and Republican parties to request guests to appear on my Sunday afternoon radio show on WNOX-FM, 100.3. The Democrats responded with a spokesman in about 15 minutes. The Republicans, not so fast.
The first call to the Tennessee Republican Party went days without being answered.
Then a follow-up call came from a young man seeking information about the show. The conversation ended with a promise to confirm or refuse the request. It never came. An e-mail sent through the party’s website went unanswered. A call to the party office was taken by a very nice young lady who said the message would be passed on to the right person. No response.
That’s either wretched staff work or it’s an attitude of we’re the tall hogs at the trough and we’ll get back to people when we want, or if we want. Then again, it could be just me (note to detractors: you’ve been thrown a softball to hit).
On behalf of the City of Memphis, civil rights attorney George Barrett Wednesday filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals of a recent state court decision that found Tennessee’s voter identification law to be constitutional, according to the Tennessean. His application for emergency appeal asks state officials to remove government-issued photo ID as a voting requirement in the November election. The appeal requests a hearing no later than Oct. 12. Tennessee’s early voting starts Oct. 17.
Barrett has been at war for months with state officials over the state’s voter ID law, which took effect this year. He has called the law “an unconstitutional impediment on the right to vote.”
Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled last week that neither of the two Shelby County voters Barrett represented were harmed by the voter ID law, so the question of whether the law is constitutional or not could not go forward.
The lawsuit followed a ruling by a federal judge that Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell, the two voters, could not use library identification as valid voter IDs.
Two lawyers named to a state panel to decide whether Tennessee’s system for selecting judges meets constitutional muster also lead a group that lobbies against judicial elections, according to TNReport. George H. Brown and William Muecke Barker are both listed as board members of Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts, an organization that fights against “misguided individuals and groups … pushing to replace our merit based system with state-wide partisan elections.”
Brown and Barker, along with three other lawyers, were handpicked by Gov. Bill Haslam to decide a lawsuit brought by Tennessee’s most indefatigable critic of the state’s merit-based system of judicial selection, John Jay Hooker.
“(Haslam)’s thrown down the gauntlet,” said Hooker, a two-time candidate for governor who has been fighting this issue in court through various lawsuits since 1996. “He’s said these judges are my people. He’s kind of got me cut off at the pass.”
…A third lawyer Haslam selected to the special Supreme Court, Robert L. Echols, works for the Nashville law firm Bass, Berry and Simms. The telephone number listed on the Tennesseans for Fair and Impartial Courts website rings at Bass, Berry and Simms. H. Lee Barfield, a member of the firm’s state government lobbying arm, is also a board member for TFIC and is past president of the organization.
…Haslam last month handpicked all five members of the Special Supreme Court to rule on the case, a task he said his staff carefully pondered given that the governor himself is a named defendant in the case. He’s standing by his appointees in the face of a push by Hooker to disqualify the trio for the appearance of bias.
“We could have just gone in there and appointed five people who thought exactly the same way. But I honestly feel like we worked to put together a very good panel,” Haslam told TNReport in Clarksville last week.
Gov. Haslam has made no secret of his own opposition to direct judicial elections in the past, saying he fears it would inject excessive and undue political influence into Tennessee’s judicial system. He asked lawmakers early this year to constitutionalize the current appointment-driven practice of selecting judges to clear up any confusion.
Thursday’s Republican and Democratic primaries for the 9th Congressional District seat look like anything but a toss-up, observes Bart Sullivan. Name recognition and funding heavily favor incumbent Steve Cohen and challenger Dr. George S. Flinn Jr. In fact, in a speech to the United Transportation Union’s meeting at The Peabody last week, Cohen was already predicting a Democratic primary win over Memphis City Schools board representative and Memphis Urban League CEO Tomeka R. Hart.
“Then we’ve got a general election going up against a self-funder,” Cohen told the union members. “He’s going to spend probably $3 (million) or $4 million dollars.”
He wasn’t talking about 2010 Republican nominee Charlotte Bergmann, who has raised $19,495 this election cycle and had $531.93 in cash on hand in her most recent Federal Election Commission report this month.
Flinn, 68, raised $3,385 in the period between July 1-13, has loaned his campaign committee $1 million, has already spent $354,417 and has $442,948 in his FEC account.
…Flinn also appears to be looking to November, and Cohen. He said he will take issue with Cohen’s liberal voting record, saying “my views are more in line with Memphis and Shelby County,” which he said he believes are “middle-of-the-road conservative.”
…Flinn, who owns more than 40 radio stations from California to Florida, including Hot 107.1, a hip-hop station in Memphis, said he will spend “whatever it takes to get the message out.” Flinn spent $3.6 million in 2010 in his loss to Fincher in the GOP primary.
State Rep. G.A. Hardaway Sr. owes Memphis and Shelby County $39,000 in taxes and weed-cutting fees on three local properties, reports The Commercial Appeal. Hardaway says his mother died in 2007 and left several properties to her four children, and that there’s confusion over who’s responsible for them. “Well, from my understanding all of the (children’s names) should be on all of the properties,” Hardaway said. He also said he believed his former attorney had made arrangements to pay the taxes.
Hardaway’s situation was just one of the discoveries The Commercial Appeal made as it reviewed paper trails for more than 40 candidates in contested races in the Aug. 2 elections. The newspaper looked at criminal records, bankruptcies, civil lawsuits and property tax payments, among other documents.
…House District 84 (Democrats)
Hendrell Remus: The University of Memphis sued Remus and in January won a judgment of about $6,000. Remus said the case came about when he used a check to rent a stage for a performance of an inspirational play he had written. The check bounced.
He said he’s almost cleared the debt. “I think next week will be the last payment and we should be done with that.”
Incumbent state Rep. Joe Towns Jr. has missed the deadline to pay 2011 Shelby County taxes of $1,050 on his property.
…Incumbent Rep. John DeBerry Jr. agreed to a General Sessions consent judgment of about $6,500 in 2008 after not making payments on two leased recliners from Ashley Furniture. The company attempted to garnish his state wages, but paperwork shows the state won’t do it because it’s already garnishing his legislative wages for another judgment.
I didn’t default on anything,” DeBerry said Monday. “Those recliners are sitting in my office right now, paid in full.”
A judgment in a Chancery Court lawsuit filed by Penton Publishing Inc. in 2003 led to years of garnishments against DeBerry’s state legislative salary, according to an online summary of the case. The case file wasn’t available in the Downtown courthouse.
DeBerry says the garnishment is an old business dispute involving his advertising agency. “I’m responsible and I was the logical person to go after, and everyone went after me.” He said he’s let the garnishment stay in place because the opposing side “went behind my back and got the judgment when we could have had a settlement.”
He added: “I don’t have much debt. I’m 61 years old, and the only thing I haven’t paid in full is my house and my car.”
…(In the 9th Congressional District Republican primary)
A collection agency sued Charlotte Bergmann in Shelby County General Sessions court earlier this year, seeking payment for $9,600 owed on her Chase Bank account. Bergmann said this case is related to a foreclosure of her home in 2006. She said the foreclosure forced her to sleep in her car for some months; that the bank actually owes her money, not the other way around; and that the issue is coming up now for political reasons. “I am the strongest candidate at this point, so there is some political dirt being thrown up.”
Savage Construction Co. filed suit against George Flinn in November 2008, saying that it had agreed to renovate a house near Memphis Country Club for about $621,000 but that changes ordered by Flinn and others caused the size of the contract to increase to about $1.4 million.
The contractor filed suit in Chancery Court, seeking to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars. The two sides settled last year. “We’re friends and we’re moving on,” Flinn said.
Ernest Lunati is a perennial candidate whose Shelby County criminal record lists a nickname, “The Amazing E,” and more than 30 encounters with police, starting in the 1960s. Several of his arrests are for promoting prostitution or pornography, and he was convicted under an obscenity statute in 1983.
In 1998, he fired a shot at a father and son who were looking at what a police officer described as a possible stolen pickup truck on a parking lot on Summer Avenue. The bullet bounced off the truck’s tailgate and hit the father in the leg, according to a police affidavit. Lunati later pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment charges and was sentenced to a year in prison.
It has been a long time since Memphis and Shelby County saw a truly competitive Republican primary race in the 9th Congressional District, observes Bart Sullivan. And then came 2012. Charlotte Bergmann, 59, a Republican businesswoman who won 25 percent of the general election vote in 2010 when she ran against incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, drew a primary election opponent this year in deep-pocketed Dr. George S. Flinn Jr., 68, a former Shelby County commissioner. Two other candidates, Ernest Lunati and Rollin Wilson Stooksberry, both of whom have little support and few resources, are also on the GOP ballot this year.
…Bergmann had two little-known Republican opponents in 2010 and won the nomination with 13,285 votes. Voting records dating back to 1980 show only seven contested Republican Party primaries in the 9th District and nine uncontested races.
The contested race this time, and the prospect of big money being spent, “shows that there’s a lot of interest on the Republican side to replace Steve Cohen,” said Justin Joy, the Shelby County Republican Party chairman. With the changes in the 9th District’s boundaries that resulted from this year’s congressional redistricting, he added, “there’s a possibility” a Republican could win.
Flinn ran in the 8th Congressional District in 2010 and lost in a three-way Republican primary to political newcomer Stephen Fincher despite spending $3.6 million, most of it his own money
Flinn has loaned his campaign $1 million, and according to his most recent quarterly statement to the Federal Election Commission in April, he had raised $11,599 and had $699,092 in the committee bank account. Bergmann had raised $7,497 and had $3,283 in cash on hand in April.
Bergmann’s campaign manager, Randy Lawson, resigned last week because of what she described as “the impact of the current severe economic conditions.”
Flinn’s campaign-spending history translates into a man accustomed to “dropping big bucks” with nothing to show for it, according to Bergmann.
“I respect Dr. Flinn; don’t get me wrong,” she said. “His heart is in the right place. But he’s been a nine-time loser. It’s not only just money that enables one to win a campaign.”