Random Thoughts

Blue Collar Bowl

Green Bay dominated on its way to the NFC Championship. I thought that Chicago would have done a little better, but the one thing the Bears do consistently is raise doubts among their fans. Even though the Jets were able to come part of the way back, Pittsburgh was just as dominant on the AFC side. It’s nice to see two blue collar, small market towns in the Super Bowl. And even though both Pittsburgh and Green Bay are small TV markets; the relative size of those areas won’t hurt the TV audience during the championship game. And because of the revenue-sharing makeup of the NFL, it’s possible for small market teams to not only be competitive, but actually dominate. Not so in Major League Baseball, where it would be amazing to see the Pirates and the Brewers in the World Series. Time for profit-sharing MLB.

See Ya, Keith

Good Night and Good Luck

So there’s a programming change at MSNBC. The network, which has managed to pass CNN in prime time programming (not hard, really), has parted ways with Keith Olbermann, its biggest personality. Okay, here’s a guy who’s worked for CNN, ESPN, Fox as well as several major market TV stations – and managed to leave most of them on bad terms.

Keith is smart, well-spoken and has strong opinions. That’s a pretty good thing for the host of an opinion show on cable TV. It would seem that he’s also a bit high strung, which may be why he keeps butting heads with the people who run the organizations where he works. I’m sure that after a little time off, someone will put the guy back on TV. My opinion? When that happens, you should take a pill big man. You’re good at what you do, but don’t go looking to make enemies of the people you work for.

Sowing and Reaping

One Thing Leads to Another

I know that the chairman of the Shelby County Schools would prefer not to have the Memphis City Schools surrender its charter, forcing a takeover by the county schools. However, if David Pickler had not floated the idea of the county seeking special district status, it’s possible that all this noise would not have occurred. That change in status would have set permanent boundaries for the county system, avoiding future annexation by the city schools. But, the Memphis Schools determined that it would probably not survive if it couldn’t grow – or at least expand its tax base into more prosperous parts of the county.

So Dave, did you not think the city schools would act once you made a move to cut off future sources of revenue?

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It’s On (like Donkey Kong)

There’s no compromise tonight. The Memphis City School Board of Education decided not to accept the generous offer of cooperation from the Shelby County Schools in exchange for a decision to surrender its charter. And on top of that, the Memphis City Council has voted (unanimously) to honor the Memphis School Board’s surrender decision – mostly to prevent any action from the Tennessee Legislature to share any opportunity to vote on surrender with county voters.

So, it looks like the Shelby County Election Commission will set a date for an election on Wednesday. That vote, for City of Memphis residents only, should be on March 8.

Tom Guleff, a local blogger who didn’t think much of the proposal to consolidate the city and county, mentioned on this blog that he believes that the current school effort is tied to the politics of consolidation. I respect Tom’s point of view, but I don’t know that I agree with his view, or even if he is right, that a joint Memphis and Shelby County would be a bad thing. Part of my problem is why the suburban cities and county residents are so dead set against letting city taxpayers decide what they want to do about their own school district. City voters chose to have a special school district in the first place; it should pretty much be there decision if they don’t want it anymore, especially since we pay taxes to operate the city schools… and taxes that help operate the county schools.

About that – what’s the deal with Mark Norris? The State Senator has been pushing a bill through the Legislature that would give county voters a voice in a vote in a city school charter surrender. Of course, the senator is from Collierville. One of the city school board members agrees with a Norris assessment of a surrender as a de factor takeover of the smaller county system by the bigger city system. Jeff Warren was in favor of a compromise with the county board. I know Jeff; he’s been my doctor since I moved back to Memphis and for several years the first time I lived here. I’ve got a lot regard for him, but I still believe that one area, one system, one set of taxes. If the way the city school system operates is satisfactory to the people of Memphis, they’ll vote to keep it. If not, they’ll turn it over to the county, which, by state law, has the ultimate responsibility for educating the children who live in that county.

Now it’s up to each side to make their case. Let’s not hope neither side acts like Congressional Republicans on health care reform with their made up claims that the bill is a “job killer,” something for which there is no justification.

I Don’t Blame Sarah

I don’t really agree with Sarah Palin’s politics. I don’t really think much of the way she expresses herself either. Is she continually throwing herself (and her family) in front of TV cameras because she really has something to say; or to position herself for a run for the presidency; or is it just for the money? Well, that really doesn’t matter, does it? If she has the opportunity to make some money for herself and her family; she ought to strike while the iron is hot and she’s still in the midst of her 15 minutes. If she wants to face Obama in two years, she really needs to keep her name out there. Now, I could say that if she were truly interested in being a leader, she should have kept the job she had been elected to do. However, being the governor of Alaska may not be high-profile enough to position oneself for national office.

I don’t have too much of a problem with the ex-governor throwing a couple of jabs at Michelle Obama’s push to get Americans eating a little better. If Sarah thinks encouraging crappy eating is a way to appeal to her base, cool. Even though the First Lady didn’t really say what Palin quoted her as saying. It’s not a lie, it’s just having a little fun with a well-known figure. Kind of what Letterman was doing with that joke about her older daughter getting pregnant during a stop in New York – even though Palin was outraged that Dave would say such a thing.

Since the weekend shootings in Tucson, Arizona, there’s been a series of sidebar stories about a point made by the local sheriff, who bemoaned the vitriol that’s been pouring out of radios and televisions of late (mostly out of the right speaker). That’s had hosts and commentators, both local and national, doing a little sidestep, complaining that no one should blame them for anything that results from their hatemongering. Guys, if you call for violent action, don’t be surprised when a weak mind fails to see through the schtick and does what they’re told.

We don’t know what the case is in Tucson. The only paperwork extant suggests the accused shooter did not claim to be part of either party. And a spokesperson for the former governor notes that the crosshair symbols used to target certain congressional representatives for defeat weren’t crosshairs like you’d see in a gun scope, but the type of crosshairs you’d see on a map (uh, I must have missed that part of geography class).

I know that Palin comes from a gun culture. A lot of Americans do. I’m friends with many of them. Firearm imagery plays a big role in our language. Battle, warfare and conflict terms factor greatly in political discussions. So, when she used crosshairs in political messaging, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. When people are in a fight, they’re going to talk like it. Has political discourse gone too far? Some days, it seems like some radio hosts are an inch away from calling for lynchings (which makes me a little nervous). But, are the acts of a crazy man the fault of a not-too-bright politician who’s skating by on her looks? Probably not.

Courage of Their Convictions

In the last few days, we’ve seen a number of moves to either delay or propel the effort to surrender the charter of the Memphis City School system. Bill Giannini, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission, asked the State Election Coordinator for an opinion on whether the Commission should go ahead and set a date for Memphis voters to decide whether they agree with the idea of surrendering the charter of the city schools. The state coordinator says the Memphis City Council has to approve a vote first. I take Giannini at his word that his move was clarifying and not political (some question his motives since he’s the former chairman of the Shelby County GOP). But it seems that the Council’s attorney has a more valid point. Allan Wade’s opinion of the law is that the city really doesn’t have any say in the matter.

Now City Councilman Shea Flinn has turned in a petition that calls for a referendum that would lead to the abolition of the Memphis City Schools, which it turns out, is a special district created by an act of the Tennessee Legislature. Apparently, it’s Flinn’s view that no other approval is needed if the petition, which is allowed by state law, has enough valid signatures (they have 100 names, state law calls for 25). This, according to Flinn, bypasses the school board’s vote entirely.

As we’ve heard a few times by now, this is the only large metro area in Tennessee where the city and county systems haven’t been merged into a single system.

Here’s the thought that crossed my mind today. We’ve seen a dramatic political movement over the last year or so. The call for less government, less bureaucracy and lower taxes has gained a tremendous amount of volume – nationally and locally. The Tea Party has made incredible gains at all levels of government. They have been pushing hard for less government, not more. So here we are, faced with a perfect opportunity to wipe a level of bureaucracy and taxation off the books for good, and it seems the feeling from the right of the local political spectrum is ‘hang on, this smaller government isn’t convenient for us, so we don’t want it.’ That seems to be the same concept that helped scuttle the recent city-county consolidation effort.

Who's Really the Angry Horde?

Here’s your real chance, Tea Partiers (and conservatives who don’t quite see themselves as being fellow travelers) – if you really believe that smaller government is better – you should be pushing harder for this than anyone else. One system, one administration, one set of taxes to pay for it. The concern that hordes of savage, uneducatable urban youth will flood your schools is baseless. No one is suggesting taking kids from Orange Mound and shipping them to schools in Germantown or Collierville. The most likely immediate outcome is that there will no discernible change to schools in the suburbs. The worry that hordes of savage, overdressed egomaniacal school administrators will pour from the city half of the Board of Education building into the county half is also unlikely. The county schools will bring in enough people to make the trains run on time, but the featherbedding the city system has always been suspect of will go away – and that will save a couple of bucks too.

Tea Party people – here’s your chance to prove the validity of your argument. This is a legitimate way to push for smaller government – and better education for the children of Shelby County. Put up or shut up.

Ready for the New Year

A Real Fix?

Oh, what will the new year bring? Depends what we’re talking about. If you go to school in Memphis or Shelby County, the first few months of 2011 are going to be so, so Memphis. Yes, the city schools need fixin’. That’s been true for years. Folding the larger city system into the county schools may help improve things for thousands of city kids. However, there’s the very real possibility that the Shelby County Schools could be overwhelmed by the additional student load and things get worse for every kid trying to learn something.

Still, whatever remedies are effected to try and improve the education of local children remind me of putting bandaids on bullet holes. You can’t fix a serious problem by touching up the symptoms. As long as there are so many economically disadvantaged people in our community, their children will have problems learning, regardless of who is running the system.

Welcome to Washington!

It’s also going to be interesting once the new Congress goes to work. The Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership had a very successful lame duck session. Looking at the things they got done (with Republican support), it’s as if they weren’t trounced at the polls. Because of that, I’ve got to think that many of the Tea Partiers coming to town are going to be a little ticked that the GOP was so willing to spend some money before the year ended.

Waiting for My Return

Speaking of money, here’s hoping the economy starts picking up. If Christmas sales are any indication, things are getting a little better. Either that, or people are just trying to spend their way out of their misery. I’m one of those people who file their taxes as soon as humanly possible. Some years, I don’t even wait for all the forms to come in – I either want my money back or to find out what I owe. And, as people told me for years, owning a house is a good thing, at least when you can deduct that mortgage interest. That’s really boosted my refund for the last couple of years. I was not, however, thrilled by the letter I just got from the IRS. They let me know that I can start paying back my First Time Homebuyers Credit. If I had bought a year later, I would have gotten twice as much – and not had to pay it back! Still, I’m hearing that if you itemize, the IRS doesn’t want you even filing until mid-February. All because Congress (oh, those guys) took so long to pass the tax cut plan, the Internal Revenue needs extra time to tweak its systems to handle the changes. At least I’ve got something to look forward to.

Are We There Yet?

Oh, not that I know anything or anything, but shouldn’t something be happening with the Pyramid by now?