Dems tell Haslam to focus on health care instead of roads

The governor is heading out on his roads tour but the TNDP says he should instead be pushing for Insure Tennessee.

Jul 29, 2015 12:37 PM

Council candidate Brett Withers talks 2014 DUI

Council hopeful Brett Withers blew a .143 last summer. He chats with Pith.

Jul 29, 2015 10:17 AM

Rep. Bill Beck's DUI dismissed

A judge dismissed DUI charges against State Rep. Bill Beck because the officer had no probable cause to initiate a traffic stop in the first place.

Jul 29, 2015 5:49 AM

DA won't investigate sheriff's office

The DA's spokesperson told Pith the office won't be pursuing an investigation of the Sheriff's Office based on the information provided by former deputy Jack Byrd:

On Tuesday morning, DA's office spokeswoman Dorinda Carter gave Pith a letter from David Zoccola, the criminal investigator who looked into Byrd's information. It's addressed to Kyle Mothershead, Byrd's former attorney.

After meeting with Byrd on June 12, Zoccola writes, the office "concluded that based on the information provided during this interview, no investigation by this office will be initiated."

"In the event other Davidson County Sheriff's Department [sic] employees come forward with information regarding criminal activity within that office," he adds, "the District Attorney's Office would consider that information in deciding if a criminal investigation is warranted."  

Jul 29, 2015 5:43 AM

TNDP to have conversation about changing the name of Jackson Day

Mary Mancini tells The Atlantic changing the name of the annual Jackson Day dinner is a conversation to be had, but warns against false equivalency:

At the same time, Mancini said Jackson still merited a place of honor in the party. “The spirit of Andrew Jackson is the spirit that flows through the Democratic Party, that the common man gets his day and has his voice,” Mancini said. “We’ll be forever grateful and honor that legacy. But everything evolves, and we can’t really hold anything static. So might be find we find someone else who better exemplifies who we are today? Sure, absolutely. But we don’t need to vilify him in order to do that.”

As for the $20 bill, Mancini said that when the topic came up earlier in the year, Democratic leaders in the state were in agreement that it should continue to feature Jackson. That debate, she insisted, should not be mixed up with the controversy over the Confederate flag. “Nobody is wrapping themselves in the $20 bill and then going into an African American church and murdering nine innocent people,” Mancini said. “So I think we’re looking at apples and oranges when you compare Andrew Jackson’s visage on the $20 bill with the Confederate flag.” (She acknowledged, however, that an African American or a Native American might see things differently, and that they should be part of the upcoming discussion.)

Also in the piece, a reasoned opinion from a Jefferson historian whose name happens to be Andrew Jackson O'Shaugnessy (he's British):

O’Shaughnessy told me it was “inevitable and appropriate that historians adopted a more critical perspective towards Thomas Jefferson, but it is possible to appreciate his contribution to the advancement of democracy while acknowledging his involvement in slavery, which he himself denounced as an ‘abominable crime.’” And the modern Democratic Party, he said, understandably wants “to embrace a much larger audience.”

Yet the problem with the push to scrub historical figures, he said, is that “in the end we dissociate ourselves from our own past.” And where do you draw the line, O’Shaughnessy asked?

“Four of America’s first five presidents were slave owners. Are we going to drop the name Washington? Maybe the capital city should change its name. How far do you take this? Maybe this is a lesson to teach people, that the origins of our country are intertwined with slavery, whether we like it or not. It’s not just confined to a few founding fathers.”

Jul 28, 2015 12:23 PM

Kane campaign says Barry's a self-funder

In a fundraising push, the Jeremy Kane campaign has grouped Megan Barry — who took out a $200,000 loan against her home to help jumpstart her campaign — with the bigger self-funders in the mayoral race (Freeman and Fox, notably).

"False equivalency!" says the Barry camp:

"Megan took out a $200,000 loan against her house in order to show her commitment and resolve to win this campaign and make sure she had the resources to be competitive," Barry spokesman Sean Braisted said. "Since that time, she has not loaned the campaign any more money, and has no intention or capacity to do so. Her loan constituted about 18 percent of all money brought in for the campaign as of the last filing report, and that number will drop to about 16 percent or less after the next filing. Compare that to Bill Freeman whose campaign loans constituted about 71 percent of his overall money, and about 77 percent for David Fox."

Jul 28, 2015 12:10 PM

Stewart to Ramsey: Give Washington-style 'court packing' the boot!

A release from Rep. Mike Stewart a few days after former Chief Justice Gary Wade said he'll retire in September:

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart issues the following response to reports that Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey intends to let partisan politics dictate the choice for the next Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

“Until now, Tennessee Governors of both parties have picked Justices of our highest court based on merit, not politics.  For example, in 2007 Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen selected Justice Bill Koch, who had earlier served as Legal Counsel to Republican Governor Lamar Alexander.  In so doing, Governor Bredesen was following a long tradition of merit-based selection that has for decades made Tennessee Courts a model for non-partisan, fair-minded decision making.”

“Now Lieutenant Governor Ramsey has stated publicly that he wants to end all that, openly pushing for a ‘Republican Supreme Court majority’. Respectfully, the Lieutenant Governor’s position would be a wrong turn for our state.  The Courts are not intended to be just another partisan arm of government.  Our judges have an independent duty to uphold the laws passed by the peoples’ representatives – a duty that transcends the judges’ personal political beliefs.  We have seen in Washington and in other states that infusing the judicial selection process with politics has led to charges of bias and in some cases even corruption - charges that have threatened to undermine the integrity of the judiciary.  We don’t need that sort of thing here.”

“Tennesseans of both parties should oppose the Lieutenant Governor’s plan to turn the selection of our next Supreme Court justice into a Washington-style political circus; they should demand that our next Supreme Court Justice be selected on the basis of his or her qualifications and experience, not his or her ability to pass a political litmus test cooked up by Lieutenant Governor Ramsey.”


Jul 28, 2015 11:41 AM

Haslam hitting the road to talk roads

The governor is heading out on a listening tour:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that he will be traveling the state with Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer over the next six weeks to discuss the state’s transportation and infrastructure needs relating to the functionality and capacity of Tennessee’s state roads and highways, safety issues around roads and bridges, and the impact infrastructure has on economic development efforts in urban and rural communities.

“Tennessee’s transportation and infrastructure system always ranks at or near the top when compared to the rest of the country,” Haslam said.  “We have no transportation debt, and we do a great job maintaining our roads, but we know we have challenges on the horizon.

“We know that we can’t depend on the federal government to be the funding partner that it once was.  We also know that as our infrastructure ages, maintenance becomes more important and more expensive.  And we know that maintaining our roads is only part of the equation.  Right now we have a multi-billion dollar backlog of highway projects across this state that address key access, safety and economic development issues and that’s only going to grow.”

The 15 meetings will be held throughout August and early September in Memphis, Clarksville, Union City, Jackson, Nashville, Franklin, Kingsport, Greeneville, Shelbyville, Murfreesboro, Crossville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Lenoir City and Knoxville.  Participants will include state legislators, mayors, local elected officials, business leaders, chamber of commerce executives, and local infrastructure officials.

“TDOT is responsible for taking care of the assets we already have, for implementing current projects in the most cost-effective way, and for planning for the state’s infrastructure needs of the future,” Schroer said.  “In putting together a long range plan, we look to Tennessee communities to help prioritize these projects to make sure we’re addressing evolving traffic patterns, population growth, safety issues, and the many other things that impact our infrastructure.  These conversations are invaluable to the process.” 

The first meeting will be held Wednesday, August 5 in Memphis at the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce.


Jul 28, 2015 10:31 AM

A second chance for Huff?

MNPS board chair Sharon Gentry has recommended holding off on the search for a new director until after the board's fall retreat; the NAACP and the Rev. Enoch Fuzz ask why not take another look at Angela Huff? Huff was widely seen as the frontrunner until Mike Looney's second interview.

Jul 28, 2015 6:46 AM

Womick tells clerks to ignore Supreme Court

Per the Dean: Rep. Rick Womick has sent a letter to the state's county clerks advising them not to issue licenses to same-sex couples. He says a Supreme Court "opinion" is not the same thing as the Supreme Court finding a law unconstitutional. This is not a theory held by the vast majority of mainstream legal theorists. Womick is an airline pilot.  


Jul 28, 2015 6:42 AM