The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation demoted the official who told a group of Mount Pleasant residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered terrorism, reports The Tennessean. Sherwin Smith, who was deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, was demoted effective June 26, the agency said Tuesday. He returns to his prior position with the state’s Revolving Fund Program, which helps fund water projects in the state with low-interest loans.
“This is a lower-ranking position,” said Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for TDEC. “It is my understanding the salary will be less than what he would be making had he not been removed from that position.”
(Previous post HERE)
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism,” reports The Tennessean. “We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees.
“But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio. Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.
The audio was recorded May 29 by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a Smyrna-based civic action group that had been working with Maury County residents to tackle water quality complaints in Mount Pleasant.
Residents there have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill drinking the water. The meeting was organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and attended by residents, TDEC and local officials.
UPDATE: TDEC says the comment was “inappropriate.”
— Note: News release from enviornmental groups is below.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Maxine A. Smith, an influential Memphis civil rights leader, died Friday. She was 83.
Her death was confirmed by Memphis Mayor AC Wharton on his Facebook page.
Smith, retired executive secretary of the Memphis branch of the NAACP and a former city school board member, had chronic heart problems, according to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/11K3KoH).
She was a part of every significant chapter in the city’s storied history of race relations over half a century, from protest to integration to busing to the rise of black political power.
“Today we mourn the passing of civil rights icon, Maxine Smith,” Wharton said on Facebook. “With her death, Memphis has lost a legendary leader for human rights and one of the brightest stars in the great expanse of our city’s history.”
By simply relocating his office space at the Tennessee State Capitol, state Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, learned a whole new side to local history regarding Civil War spy DeWitt Smith Jobe, reports the Daily News Journal. “I asked (Speaker Beth Hartwell) for a new office overlooking the Capitol and the Sam Davis Monument because Sam Davis kind of represents Smyrna,” Sparks said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to do a little research on the Coleman Scouts and I came across (an article) about DeWitt Smith Jobe.”
Sparks, along with several local Civil War aficionados, convened Saturday at Giles Baptist Church on Rocky Fork Road for a program honoring the heroic life of Jobe, who was a member of the infamous Confederate spies known as the Coleman Scouts. About 50 people attended the presentation. Guest speakers included James Patterson, adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Greg Tucker, Rutherford County historian, and John Moore, a descendant of Jobe.
“Here I was, born and raised in Smyrna and I didn’t really know what all (Jobe) went through,” Sparks said, adding that he also discovered John Bridges’ book, “Three Cousins from Mechanicsville,” chronicling the heroic life of Jobe and his two relatives.
Jobe worked alongside fellow Coleman Scout Sam Davis, who is well-known for having hanged after refusing to betray his source. Sparks compared the scouts’ tenacity to that of the modern-day “A-Team.”
….”He was as much a hero as Sam Davis. He just didn’t have the publicity Sam Davis had,” Bridges said.
Jobe met a much more gruesome fate. Right before being captured by Union troops in August 1864, Jobe destroyed information he was carrying — he swallowed it — and refused to divulge the message. He was brutalized for days. Eventually, his tongue was severed and he died after being dragged by a galloping horse.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron said Friday that he’s running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, joining a crowded field of candidates looking for the chance to steer the party onto more solid footing in the state, reports Michael Cass Herron, who did not seek re-election to the Senate in November, said he decided to jump into the chairmanship race after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week. He said he didn’t think it was too late to win this election, which the state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.
“It’s clear no one has a majority,” he told The Tennessean. “If I thought the election was over, I wouldn’t be getting in the race.”
…He joins at least four other candidates for the state party’s chairmanship: Jane Hampton Bowen, the political liaison for a Chattanooga labor group; Dave Garrison, a Nashville lawyer and the party’s current treasurer; Wade Munday, a Nashville nonprofit executive who once served as the party’s spokesman, and Ben Smith, a Nashville lawyer who advised Jason Powell in his successful run for the state legislature this year.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, who considered running, told The Tennessean earlier Friday that she probably wouldn’t seek the position. Jones said she has “too much going on” and that she doesn’t think a woman can win the post right now.
In a sign that the apocalypse could occur on schedule this December, the Chattanooga TFP says, Republican Robin Smith and Democrat Albert Waterhouse have together formed a new consulting agency, SmithWaterhouse Strategies. Smith, a Republican strategist (and former state Republican chairman) who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2010, will maintain her focus on project management, while Waterhouse — a staunch Democrat and well-known political consultant — will continue his work in public relations and crisis management.
The difference is that now, they’ll be working toward the same goals.
“Regardless of how we feel personally, you cannot get things done without bringing all options to the table,” Waterhouse said.
Smith agreed with her political opponent.
“Congress should take heart if two partisan nemeses in Chattanooga can come together,” she said Tuesday.
State Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville is the latest Democrat to declare an interest in succeeding Chip Forrester, who is not seeking a new term as chairman of the Tennessee Democratic party.
Jones, a Nashvillian who has recently been crusading against what she considers ineptness at the state Department of Children’s Services, says she would seek a change in party by-laws if elected so that the position would be part-time rather than full-time. She would continue to hold her legislative seat – just as Rep. Beth Harwell, now speaker of the House, did while chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Jones said last week that she believes the party needs to work toward becoming more inclusive, noting that white men have always served as chairmen in the past – with the single, 1980s exception of Jane Eskind.
“I love all the old white guys, but we’ve got to include everybody,” she said.
Previously declared candidates for state Democratic chair are David Garrison, now the party treasurer; Wade Munday, who previously served as the party’s communications director; and Nashville lawyer Ben Smith.
Former state Sen. Roy Herron’s name has come up in speculation, but he has yet to indicate an interest in the job.
There’s also been speculation about former state Sen. Roy Herron, who did not seek reelection as a legislator this year. But so far Herron, a Dresden lawyer, has not said whether he will seek the post.
The 40th state House District race could be a toss-up this year, according to The Tennessean. Tennessee Republicans see a strong, proven incumbent in Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, of Lancaster, for the new 40th District. Democrats, though, say the GOP legislator needs to fight as hard to keep her seat as Democrat Sarah Marie Smith, of Carthage, does to earn it.
“Sarah Marie Smith and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver are on an even playing field in 2012 because Terri Lynn is also having to introduce herself to new voters in Trousdale and Sumner counties,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “This will be a highly competitive race that will be decided by the 10 to 20 percent of voters who are in the middle.”
The district was historically Democratic before Weaver won the seat in 2008, marking the first time a Republican had represented the 40th in at least 36 years, after longtime legislator Frank Forrest Buck decided not to run for re-election.
All of Macon and parts of DeKalb counties were drawn out of the district, while all of Trousdale and southeastern Sumner were drawn in. Smith County was left intact, leaving the new district of about 800 square miles shaped somewhat like a boomerang.
…Weaver, a gospel singer and songwriter, says she plans to nurture a low-tax, business-friendly environment and cut government regulations so that companies can increase revenue.
“Profit means jobs: it’s a simple formula,” said Weaver, 55. “I will do all I can from a state perspective to help, not hinder, small business, the true job creators.”
Smith, who has a master’s degree in conflict management and works as a court mediator, said if elected she would offer incentives to businesses that hire state workers.
“Companies relocating to Tennessee would be required to hire qualified Tennessee citizens if that company receives a tax break from the state,” Smith, 64, said. “Small businesses and family farmers would receive tax breaks for hiring unemployed Tennessee citizens.”
Some Democrats are boycotting the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s upcoming annual fundraiser in response to Chairman Paul Smith’s continued refusal to apologize for a sexist joke, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. It’s the latest setback for Smith, who’s facing louder calls to step down after an attempt at humor on a Democratic Party business document was perceived by numerous women as misogyny.
An email about Smith obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press began circulating among party officials and board members Wednesday. It explored the possibility of an emergency meeting about a no-confidence vote that could prompt his resignation.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Smith declined to discuss his future as chairman or the Oct. 10 Estes Kefauver Dinner, named after the esteemed Chattanooga lawmaker and considered the local party’s main mechanism for pre-Election Day money.
“I don’t want to get in an argument with that bunch,” he said, describing those he offended and others who are boycotting the dinner. “I’m trying to register people and work for the candidates.”
Smith, 75, included a lengthy joke about women on a board meeting agenda four days after U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” He said he printed it as an attack on Akin, but his explanation baffled and offended high-ranking women in the county party. Smith last week called them “troublemakers” who don’t understand his jokes.
Board member and Hamilton County Young Democrats President Colby Knecht, 20, said his group is withdrawing a $1,500 commitment to the dinner.
Female and male leaders in the Hamilton County Democratic Party are criticizing their chairman, Paul Smith, for including an off-color joke about women on an official business document, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Smith printed the joke, described as a guide to “happy life,” on an otherwise run-of-the-mill agenda for the party’s Aug. 23 board meeting. The joke recommends finding a woman who, among other things, “cooks from time to time,” cleans up, has a job and “is good in bed.”
“It’s very, very important that these four women do not know each other,” the punchline reads, “or you could end up dead like me.”
The joke appeared four days after Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., declared that women’s bodies can block unwanted pregnancies in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.” Akin later apologized for his remarks.
Party board member and Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women’s Club President Rita Fehring, former county party chairwoman, said Smith was “a moron” for printing the joke.
“He claimed that he was trying to make light of the Akin matter,” she said. “You know, there’s nothing light about rape. Misogyny’s not really funny when you’re a woman.”
Smith, a longtime local Democratic insider, refused to apologize last week, claiming he was misunderstood. He said the women he offended within the party were “troublemakers” who should have discussed their concerns with him instead of going to the media.
“It was not meant in any way to be a smear,” he said in an interview. “I think my intent there was strictly to point out that the guy who made the statements over there [Akin] is a political Neanderthal and politically ‘dead,’ and if somebody doesn’t understand that, they have a lack of depth of understanding.”