Demoted

I can’t say that I’m shaken up at the results of Tuesday’s vote on the Ole Miss campus. More than 33-hundred members of the student body voted. A vast majority voted that they wanted a say in a search for a new mascot for the school. Honestly, they didn’t have the best choice; it was either vote to find a new mascot or vote to have no mascot at all.

Gotta Go

Okay, I have friends who attended the University of Mississippi; I’m sure the educational quality of the institution is fine. Banning the Confederate battle flag and deciding that a caricature of a southern gentleman shouldn’t be an on-field mascot were both good ideas. In this day and age, either are just offensive to a lot of people. Please don’t bring up the heritage or history of paying tribute to a proud past. When the history is slavery and subjugation, it’s a decent thing to let that past go and build toward a new future. Besides, C-Reb didn’t officially start showing up on the sidelines of Ole Miss games until 1979. That’s not much of a history.

Welcome to the Grove

I have to admit I’m tickled by the efforts of Reb supporters trying to build a case by saying the mascot was actually patterned after a black man. If you were really trying to honor the guy, you would have made the actual mascot black, too. I never quite got the point of the several Southern states that include some version of the Confederate flag in their state flags. Again, if your history ends up p-o’ing half your population, what are you proving? Let’s move on. Anyway, you’ve still got the Grove – Hotty Toddy!

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Let Me Repeat Myself

Loooong Lines

I was a tiny bit surprised when I saw the Friday article in the CA noting that staffing cuts at vehicle inspection stations has led to incredibly long lines. I know there are budget problems in the city, but seriously? You want to make it more difficult for people to do something that you require them to do? I loved the quote attributed to Mayor Wharton, “I don’t accept the premise that people should have to wait in line.” Of course he doesn’t. The mayor had an employee assigned to take his personal car through inspection. And the employee didn’t want to wait in line either – he finagled registering the mayor’s car without going through inspection at all.

It didn’t take a day for the city to announce they’d extend hours and pay overtime to reduce the wait at the city’s three inspection stations – but only through the end of June. If you’re going to pay all that extra money to keep the stations open long; why did they lay off staff and cut hours in the first place? Is anybody taking the long view around here? Pay the little money up front to avoid paying the big money down the road to fix a problem later.

I wrote about vehicle inspections last June, noting “there are three inspections stations operated by the city of Memphis… for every car in Memphis. The lines are so long, people have to plan entire days around getting their cars inspected. The city has had to install online web cameras to let people have some idea of how long the lines are. Once you get through, you get a piece of paper that you have to take with you to a county office to renew your tags. Only the Washington inspection station has a county clerk drive through window attached.” And I made that point before the recent slow downs.

I also wrote about the inspection process in Atlanta, where I lived before coming back to Memphis. “Drivers in the 13 counties in the greater Atlanta area have to get their vehicles tested each year.  Georgia’s Clean Air Force provides testing for cars & trucks made between 1985 and 2007 (newer vehicles are exempt).  I moved there in 1999 with a 1999 model car, so I didn’t have to go through inspection until 2002.  Having to go somewhere and get your car inspected is always a hassle, but they’ve got it set up so there are 750 testing stations with 900 lanes available.  That includes gas stations, oil change centers, auto repair shops and car dealer service centers.  So, there’s always somewhere you could go – quickly – and get an inspection.  And the inspections only cost $25!  Even better, they entered the information into a database that went straight to the vehicle registration folks… so no need to carry a certificate around showing your car was checked.”

Blowing Smoke?

Okay, that’s 750 testing stations in 13 counties that have a population of more than four million people. The way the city is talking, they’re working on the assumption that a new station on Appling Road is going to be a way to solve the problems around here. There’s 670,000 people in Memphis. They don’t all drive cars, but a lot of them do. Four understaffed inspection stations probably aren’t going to go far enough to solve the problem caused by three understaffed inspection stations. The city couldn’t find a way to split inspection fees with auto shops looking for some extra income?

I didn’t think I was miserable…

…but according to Forbes magazine, the high crime rate and the poor performance of the Grizzlies should be enough to make me sorry I moved back here. Oh, then there’s the rate of government employees committing crimes.

The magazine has its own misery measure and this year’s list ranks Memphis right up there with Stockton, California and a couple of Michigan’s shining lights, Flint and Detroit. I know things have been tough the last year or so. Heck, I got laid off almost a year ago. And my car’s been run into twice in the last two years. Oh, and did I mention that my car battery died today? I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to put AAA on speed dial.

Bridge to Nowhere?

I like the fact that the picture Forbes uses for Memphis is of the monorail over to Mud Island, a place where very few people seem to be going. Of course there’s the Pinch District branch of Bass Pro Shops… you know, the one shaped like a pyramid? And then there’s the preservations’ effort to protect the empty, crumbling buildings of Overton Square, instead of supporting efforts to put in new businesses.

So, if consolidation succeeds, will everyone in the unincorporated areas be as miserable as the folks inside the city limits? And then there’s the email I got from DowntownMemphis.com. They’re urging folks to head down to the City Council committee hearing next week on the ordinance to crack down on aggressive panhandling. I know times are tough for a lot of folks, but there probably are a few people who take asking for help to an extreme. If council acts, there’s going be a few more miserable people.

Ford in Their Future?

I turned on the TV Sunday morning; the first thing I saw was Harold Ford Jr. on Meet the Press, talking about politics. David Gregory spent a little too much (in my opinion) trying to nail him on the whole whether he’s been paying New York State taxes. Don’t worry Dave, between living in Manhattan and working at Morgan Stanley, he’ll pay his share. Got up Monday and turned on the TV, the first thing I saw was Harold Ford Jr. on CBS This Morning. It’s amazing. MSNBC has suspended his analyst contract while he’s exploring a run for the U.S. Senate, and he’s actually on TV more.

Mr. & Mrs. Ford

I’m not hating on Junior. One thing I agree with is the point that his interracial marriage will go down a little bit easier with the folks in New York than it will with the people in some parts of Tennessee. Shouldn’t be that way, but it definitely is. And why not run for Senate in a state that has a tradition of electing people who don’t necessarily have strong ties to the place (think Robert Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, maybe even John Foster Dulles, who was much more a product of Washington than he was of New York).

Maybe I’m old school; but I always thought a little more of Harold Sr. as the representative of the Ninth District of Tennessee. It always seemed to me that his connection to the area was much stronger than Junior’s. Junior didn’t grow up here, didn’t go to school here, didn’t work here. Seemed to me like he just came to town when Dad was ready to retire and he happened to have a very good name for someone who wanted to replace a guy named Harold Ford in Congress.

Kirsten & Hillary

There’s also nothing wrong with holding different opinions on the issues of the day than you used to. Junior has already said he’s rethought some issues and has just changed his mind on things. That hasn’t completely kept some people from calling flip-flop on the former Congressman. Look, if the folks of New York want him, they’ll vote for him. A lot of people wondered how Hillary was going to speak to issues of people upstate when she ran for the Senate. She did her “listening tours” and convinced enough voters to put her into office. Kirsten Gillibrand was lucky enough to be serving in Congress when Democrats needed a replacement for Clinton. Now she has the bully pulpit of her current office to run for reelection. It’s uphill all the way for Junior. It’s hard to unseat an incumbent. There’s a chance that he and former Mayor Herenton will have something to compare notes on after Election Day.

We Missed You

Awww...

So, everything can’t go the way you’d like them to. Our Monday trivia trio was a duo, because somebody decided to stay home and play with her new puppy. I didn’t think she was going to go through with getting the dog, but she did. And she also decided she’d rather spend time with the dog than us. Not that it’s her fault, but we could only manage second place at the Blue Monkey downtown. The big tournament starts next month, hopefully, we’ll have this all worked out by then.

What, Again?

So, we’ve had a couple of snowstorms in the last few weeks.  During a really nice Saturday the forecasters were telling us there was a chance of another inch or two of snow just in time for Monday’s rush hour. By Sunday night, that changed in some places to a threat of an inch of wet snow. The guy on Channel 13 just said one to 3 inches. Of course, I joined a lot of other people in washing the car when it was sunny Saturday, so it figures there’s going to be a mess on the streets tomorrow.

Snowmaggedon 2010!

My big wonder is whether, if the snow is particularly deep, whether everything will shut down again. It’s kind of nice to get an unexpected day off, especially when it’s on a Friday or Monday, providing that 3-day weekend. It does put you behind at work though. I saw how the snow shut down Washington DC most of last week, costing the Feds millions of dollars in lost productivity. I never expect to get out of work, mostly because of my news career. When you work in news, you never get a day off. Amazingly, when travel is the most difficult, that’s when news crews are expected to travel the most. So good luck to the news guys if Monday sucks.

Big Willie’s Back

Photo by Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer

I, for one, am heartened by the recent announcement of the former mayor. If you missed it, Willie Herenton made it official; he’s a candidate for the Ninth District seat in the House of Representatives. He’s taking a not surprising approach to encourage voter support. Rather than point to his often contentious tenure as mayor of the city of Memphis, he’s making note of his view that to get quality representation, all the black folk in the Ninth need a rep who resembles them. Not to make too much of a point of it, but I’m not tall, retirement age, grumpy or under investigation by the Feds. What’s that? Oh, he just means black. Otis Sanford at the Commercial Appeal gives the doctor of education a nice firm smack down by comparing him, politically, to Sarah Palin. Ouch. Stand by, this campaign is about to get silly. I can’t wait.