The Question I’d Like Answered


Hi, my name is Phil...


The time is fast approaching when Tennesseans will have to decide who will replace Phil Bredesen in the governor’s office. While I think most people accept the job he’s done, this state, like most, have been hit hard by the economic downturn. One of the things Phil made a big deal out of when he first ran for governor was how his experience as a businessman was going to help him administer the state in straightforward and businesslike manner. Of course, that ignored the fact that he’d have to deal with entrenched civil servants who fight change like barbarians storming ancient Rome. Or with lawmakers more interested in the special interests funneling them re-election dollars than enacting laws to bring about positive change.

Which goes to the point that all of Phil’s “business” experience couldn’t do much to stop the global economic downtown that hit the state like a baseball bat a couple of years ago.

So, it seems that the two guys trying to replace the governor are playing up one particular skill that each believes makes them the best man for the job.


Bill Haslam for Governor


The Republican nominee, Bill Haslam, a member of the family that owns and runs the Pilot Oil empire, notes that he has the business acumen to help pull Tennessee out of its economic doldrums and put people back to work. The guy is the mayor of one of the larger cities in the state, but doesn’t really talk much about his executive experience on the public side (not in his TV commercials anyway). He makes this point on his site: “Bill Haslam’s top priority as governor will be making Tennessee the #1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs. At a time when our state is facing double-digit unemployment and many more are underemployed, Tennessee needs a governor who understands how to create jobs.


Mike McWherter for Governor


Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, is the Democratic nominee. As the operator of his own beer distributorship (and being pretty much in control of his father’s distributorship as well), he also says his business experience will help turn the state around, mostly by continuing Gov. Bredesen’s positive policies. Here’s a pertinent quote from McWherter’s site, on his approach to repairing the economy: “Creating new jobs. Mike is the proud owner of a Tennessee-based company that provides good jobs to working families. He knows how to communicate with businesses and industries that are expanding, and as governor, he’ll work overtime to bring new jobs to Tennessee.”


Jim is the one on the right


Promising job creation is a time-honored method of campaigning for high office. I grew up in Ohio when Jim Rhodes was governor. He was one of the few people to serve 4 four-year terms as a state governor. You could pretty much sum up his campaign approach in three words. “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” When he was mayor of Columbus, he helped convince voters to approve a city income tax. Income tax? That kind of leadership would never fly in the Tennessee Statehouse. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a fan. Even though we worked in the same office building after he left office and saw each other often, I soured on him after Kent State in 1970. Still, his “jobs” mantra worked on voters until he ran for a fifth term in 1986.

However, here’s my question: unless Haslam or McWhether offers every jobless Tennessean a position at a Pilot gas station or at Central Distributors, just how is their “business experience” going to make a lick of difference in getting people back to work? Seriously, the guy in office now is an experienced businessman, and we’ve seen that’s there is damn little he can do about keeping state workers in their jobs, much less other people, until the economic recovery gains steam around the country. Cutting taxes for the rich isn’t an answer. Rich people are interested in being rich – not necessarily using their money to create jobs. If they can get richer by creating jobs inside the U.S., they’ll do it. If they can get richer by moving jobs to other countries, wave goodbye – those jobs are gone for good. If making stock prices rise by laying off staff is necessary, it’s time to look for another job. Trust me, I felt that pain personally.

So Mike, Bill – lemme ask you – instead of joining all the other candidates on TV, slinging all that mud, why not tell us that you’re hoping that a rising tide will lift all boats economically and a governor really can’t do much to bring new jobs anywhere – unless businesses (which are sitting on tons of cash right now) are feeling confident enough to spend that money to create those jobs?


Nothing Like Getting Older


Light it up!


I had a birthday Saturday. Turned 54. That means there are more behind me than ahead of me. And considering the size of my retirement account, I’m going to be working for a lot more of the years ahead than I’d like to. Anyway, one of the things about birthdays is how people respond to that day. Most times, your family, close friends and the people you work with will always say something.


It's my birthday!


The advent of Facebook makes it a whole lot easier for people to touch base with their friends and acquaintances. While not everyone may call or send a card, it’s really easy to send a nice thought to a friend’s page. I had half a thought that I might not get many notes, since my birthday was on Saturday. Still, my page was crowded with notes from tons of friends, including many current and former co-workers. Even on John Lennon’s 70th birthday. Of course, not everybody’s a Lennon fan, so that probably wouldn’t keep people from saying “hey.”

My girlfriend treated me to dinner at Rain, a sushi restaurant in Cordova. I also had a chance to get my oil changed while in the area, but dinner was a much nicer experience. I don’t do many restaurant reviews, but the food was really good and the ambience was very nice. Classy, but not overly fancy.

Anyway, because of the weight-loss contest on work (going on a little too long), I’ve dropped some pounds and because of my Vibram Five-Finger shoes, my annoying knee pain has dropped to almost nothing. So, getting older, while kind of a drag, isn’t as much of a drag as it could be. Take care of yourselves kids, it’ll make getting older a little bit easier.

Blue Skies and the Greenline

Okay, I ride a bike. A lot. Downtown. Which is bad for the tires & spokes and my spine. Since July, I’ve pedaled 328 miles, mostly along a 3-mile loop covering Tennessee St. , Linden Ave., Second St., Mulberry and Front St. I was visiting my girlfriend in Cordova for my birthday Saturday and took my bike along, just in case I felt up to some exercise.

from the Commercial Appeal

We did have the time and inclination to check out the new Memphis Greenline, the new bike & walking trail that runs from Tillman to Farm Road in Shelby Farms. While she covered about 4 miles on foot, I pedaled off to see how far I’d get. I heard someone call my name almost immediately. Turns out my former Channel 3 co-worker Joe Incardona, president of Memphis Media Source, was biking the Greenline too. He made the point that the nearly 7 miles of trail was one of the better things that’s happened in Memphis in a long time.

Joe Incardona, Media Magnate

I have to agree with Joey the I. During my morning ride, sheriff’s deputies and Memphis police were providing traffic control at the places where the Greenline crosses streets like Highland and High Point Terrace. You get to see a real cross-section of area residents on trail. Regular bikers, causal types, people walking, families, roller bladers, etc. I covered about 10 miles in the morning. The trail is so straight and smooth, I went back for a second ride that afternoon, covering the entire trail, both ways. Much nicer ride than the pockmarked streets that line downtown.

Perfect weather and the newness of the trail probably accounts for the number of folks hitting the trail. One of the things I’ve noticed about Memphis is a herd-ish mentality when something new hits town. Things are huge for a while, but people eventually lose interest and move on to the next thing. Or after the gunplay starts.

Putting on the miles

I really like living downtown. I also like riding my bike. However, the streets are so crappy, now that I’ve been on the Greenline, I’m going to have some trouble getting used to the idea of going back to those streets. I will say this; if you have the chance, get on the Greenline. And support efforts to extend it and other paths and trails where you live.