Tuesday, March 31, 2009

JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS-My letter to The Chairmen

The following was sent earlier today to Shelby County Democratic Party Chair Van Turner, and Shelby County Republican Party Chair Lang Wiseman


First of all our organization wanted to congratulate you both on your recent elections to assume the duties of Chair for your respective local parties. My name is Brad Watkins and I am the Organizing Coordinator for the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center and I wanted to take the time to make you aware of a new campaign launched by the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Our JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS campaign focuses on reform of our local criminal justice system. Chief among these efforts is our campaign to lobby members of the County Commission and rally popular support for the Jail Master Plan, proposed by Republican Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell and supported by Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, a Democrat.
The Jail Master plan offers fiscally responsible,and progressive reforms to our current system by increasing funding to programs like the General Sessions Drug Court, the Jericho Project as well as increasing funding for Pre-Trial Services and Vertical Prosecution. These reforms will allow those offenders with mental illness as well as nonviolent substance abuse related crimes to enter a treatment program as opposed to prison. These programs have shown to be very successful at not only easing jail overcrowding, but also have shown results in lowering rates of recidivism among participants and increasing jail efficiency, resulting in long term savings for Shelby County. The Jail Master Plan, confronts some our most serious and sadly enough, rarely addressed problems in our Criminal Justice system, and does so in a positive and fiscally responsible manner.

I understand that you both are currently very busy with the transition of administrations,but would like if possible to speak with both of you more about these reforms. At a later time, I would also like to speak with your respective Executive Committees and see if this is something that both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan effort could support.

Please feel free to contact me at any time about these issues.

Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Monday, March 30, 2009

DFA Training Academy Update-Apr-25th/26th.

Last summer the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center launched a new program that I feel cuts to the heart of one our communities most pressing needs. That program is called G.O.T. Power or,"GRASSROOTS ORGANIZER TRAINING for POWER". G.O.T. power is a FREE eight week course on all the fundamental skills of Grassroots organizing.
It is the goal of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center to expand our organizational focus to build up the ranks of trained and supported Community Organizers working for positive change here in Shelby County and IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES, ON THE ISSUES THAT MATTER MOST TO THEM.I am proud to announce that as of last week the Peace and Justice Center has just launched our fourth Got Power training session of classes, and that this one is in all Spanish.

As a follow up to our GOT power training,the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is excited to be the local host organization for Democracy For America's Campaign Training Academy. An intense Two day workshop led by organizers of national electoral and issue based campaigns on all the in's and outs of running a POLITICAL/ELECTORAL campaign. Have you ever considered running for office?. Or perhaps and issue based campaign? Are you interested in increasing your skills so that you can be a part of local campaigns? This training is the best place to start.

UPDATE!!!!!! A Section of Twenty rooms have been reserved for out of town attendees to DFA Training Academy at the SUPER 8 Hotel JUST NEXT DOOR To the Macon Cove Campus of SouthWest Tennessee Community College. For the low cost of 39.99 per night. For reservations please call Joyce at the Super 8 and be sure to identify yourself as an attendee of the DFA Training Academy to take part in the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's group rate.

Super 8 hotel
6015 Macon Cove Rd
Memphis, TN 38134

The Super 8 in the Memphis/East/Macon Cove area is located 12 miles from the center of Memphis, and is approximately 16 miles from Memphis International Airport. Local attractions include Graceland, approximately 19 miles from the property. Hotel amenities include a 24-hour front desk,Wireless internet service,Free local and long distance calls, Cable and HBO service, free parking, large vehicle parking, limited room service, laundry facilities, and express checkout. Dining options include an on-site Coffee Plus, serving pastries and doughnuts, and a snack area.

Be sure to pre-register today for the low cost of $60, with a reduced rate of $30 for students or low income attendees.
At the door the cost of the training is $75, and $45 for students and low income attendees.


Event Date: Apr 25,26th 2009
Event Time: 9:00 AM EDT
Venue Name: Southwest Tennessee Community College
Address: 5983 Macon Cove
City: Memphis
State: TN
Zip Code: 38101

So sign up today at and DEMAND CHANGE

Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Friday, March 27, 2009

JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS Update-Expanding the Drug Court.

The expansion of funding for the General Sessions Drug Court is a vital part of the Jail Master Plan proposed by Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell and supported by Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton. Securing funding from the County Commission for this worthy project is a major part of the JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS campaign launched by the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

The Drug Court offers a treatment alternative for misdemeanor and felony drug offenders who do not have a charge involving violence or the use of a hand gun in the criminal justice system. This voluntary program offers the option to those who qualify to complete an individualized treatment plan as opposed to spending time incarcerated in the Shelby County Corrections Center. This has a significant impact on curbing drug addiction and the related chronic arrest and incarceration issues. It also impacts jail population opening up beds per year, which results in savings for the tax payers and allow resources to be used more efficiently in the Shelby County Criminal justice system.

The Drug Court offers evaluations, the creation of an individualized treatment program, and case management services for those offenders who volunteer to be apart of this program. The program has had a steady increase in it's rate of success since the initial program completions in 1998.

In 1998 there were 36 program graduates with 12 rearrested for a 33.3% re-arrest rate.

In 2006 there were 155 graduates with only 14 re-arrests for a 9% re arrest rate.

The highest re-arrest rates occur within six months after graduation and then fall off with only 15% being arrested after one year and 9.6 after two years and 5.2 after three years. In the 2007/2008 cycle Drug Court Program Coordinator Roger Henderson reported 120 graduates and also noted that in 2008 the program while budgeted for 164 cases handled an actual caseload of 240 clients.

With proper funding the Drug Court could make more substantial inroads to curbing drug addiction and crime. That is why the JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS Campaign supports adequate funding for The Drug Court and other related programs within the Jail Master Plan.
This Spring, we will be phonebanking and informing the public about this issue. Hosting a Community Forum to invite the public to become involved in the budget process and Meeting and lobbying members of the County Commission for additional funds to be set asides for this worthy program.

Also on a slightly related note the JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS Campaign would like to thank Virginia Senator Jim Webb for his vision and leadership in exploring progressive and fiscally responsible solutions to the problems within our Criminal justice system. The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 was introduced in the Senate yesterday will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. Take a look at the plan HERE

If anyone has any questions concerns or if you wish to become a part of this campaign please feel free to contact me at anytime about this important issue at Brad@midsouthpeace.org


Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SCDP Convention Controversy Part 1

The following was sent in to me by Shelby County Democratic Party Exec Comm member Dwayne Thompson. In an attempt to help everyone understand the current situation involving the allocation of seats on the next Executive Committee, and how this impacts the selection of the next Chairperson I asked Dwayne to send this in, and I want to thank him for responding so promptly.
Jackson Baker wrote an article about this subject in the Memphis flyer which you can read HERE
In the interest of fairness I have also spoken to State Executive committeeman David Upton earlier today and asked if he would also send in a post with his perspective on this current controversy as well. He has graciously agreed and will send his post soon which I will post here immediately afterwards.
NOTE Comment moderation has been suspended for this post. I do this not to invite negativity, but to encourage those with insight on this event to speak out. Let's try to remain civil here.

The gist of this story is that a minority of the Shelby County Democratic Executive Committee has cleverly gone to the State Party to force changes that the majority does not want in an effort to stack the convention this Saturday for Jay Bailey to win the chairmanship.

Several years ago a rather vocal member of the DEC snuck in a change to the By Laws, calling it "One Man One Vote." It's actually a distortion of the original legal case in Baker vs Carr that popularized the term. The member, Del Gill, has tried since that time to change the By Laws of the County Party to add more members to certain high voting Democratic Districts. Whatever the merits, he has received little support until this year. Most members have been satisfied that the current set up rewards more Democratic Districts by more committee members but still gives good balance to those Districts that are working hard to increase the Democratic turnout.

The biggest difference this year is that those members who support Jay Bailey for Chair (running against Van Turner) discovered that increasing the number of committee members, based on Del's plan could help their candidate. However, the Committee overwhelmingly rejected this change, with over 60% voting against.

Not to admit defeat, the other side, who formerly opposed Del's change, prepared a grievance to the State Party and submitted it under the name of one of the sponsors, Eddie Jones. This was done on March 9. No one opposing this action was informed of it until March 20, two days before it was to be heard by the State Committee. Cherry Davis,"SCDP VICE CHAIR" quickly put together a good response and emailed it to the State committee. At the hearing on Sunday the 22nd, no one opposing the grievance was allowed to speak. Committee members voting included Gale Jones Carson, a key Bailey supporter. Bailey, who is on the committee, recused himself. The Committee voted to instruct the Shelby County Democratic Party to change it's By Laws, 5 days before the Convention, to reflect the minority's desires. I have heard that they plan to call a meeting for Friday the 27th but no official notification has come out.

Oh yes, the State Party Chair, Chip Forrester, in announcing this decision threatened not to certify the new Shelby County Party if they didn't comply with his rules. Forrester, as some have pointed out, was supported for the chairmanship by Bailey, Carson, and other Bailey supporters on the State committee. Some have suggested this is partial payback.

So a divided Party is even more divided due to State intervention and must decide before Saturday whether to follow their conscience or bow to the wishes of a few people who live hundreds of miles from Shelby County and seem to have little interest in the advancement of the goals of the Democratic Party here but who made a decision based on considering only one side of this issue.

Friday, March 20, 2009


$87 dollars per day, that's the cost per inmate,in jail here in Shelby County awaiting trial. That comes to over $31,755 dollars a year.

$60 dollars per day, that's the cost per inmate incarcerated in a state prison.
That's about $21,900 a year.

Multiply that by two and that's the price for holding inmates with mental illness.

56%, that is the percentage of the Shelby County Sheriff's budget consumed by Jail operations.

Nine to Ten months, that is the average time from arrest to disposition for a person charged with criminal wrongdoing, here in Shelby County.

Two to Five times longer... That is the amount of time a person with mental illness,spends in the jail awaiting trial as opposed to someone without mental illness.

700,000, that's the current estimate of the number of adults nationally entering jails each year that have active symptoms of serious mental illness and three quarters of these individuals have co-occurring addictive disorders.

14. The number of schools listed as high crime sites. These schools account for fifty percent of the crimes committed within Memphis City Schools.

62. That's the average number of children entering the Juvenile justice system, from Memphis City Schools PER WEEK.

Over half, That's the number of Child abuse cases in Tennessee that occur in Shelby county.

Twice as much. The likelihood of an abused child engaging in criminal activity.

75%, the percentage of children nationally Juvenile Detention centers for non serious violent offenses.

50% to 70%... The percentage of youth incarcerated in juvenile institutions that go on to commit additional crimes.

8 times as much, that's the how much more likely juveniles in adult facilities are to commit suicide.

5 times as much, that's how much more likely juveniles in adult facilities are to be victims of sexual assault.

50% more, the likelihood of juveniles in adult facilities to be attacked by a weapon.

0, the number of free homeless shelters in the City of Memphis.

We have a serious problem here in Shelby county. We have an overwhelmed and overworked and criminal justice system, for adults, and a equally overwhelmed juvenile justice system, that largely locks children into the cradle to grave cycle of crime and incarceration. Solutions from the political arena, are largely based not on research but on knee jerk reactions to crime. Reactions like calls for trying more juveniles as adults, or for increasing bail to the point where the poor cannot post bail for nonviolent crimes. Increased sentencing guidelines for petty or nonviolent offenses. The political sphere has long been apart of a campaign of fear against the general public in collusion with the Prison industrial complex. This is especially true in cases of the For Profit Prison industry and in the case of many, but not all juvenile detention centers.

That is why I am glad to see the positive leadership shown by Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, and Sheriff Mark Luttrell and the members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in proposing and supporting the JAIL MASTER PLAN. A plan that will bring some positive and progressive reforms to our local criminal justice system, in a fiscally responsible manner. These reforms include increased funding for such valuable programs like Pre-trial service's Diversion/Release programs. Funding for the General sessions Drug Court,as well as the D.A.'s proposed Vertical prosecution program.

These reforms will help make our Criminal justice system more efficient and cost effective. It will reduce jail overcrowding as well as shorten the time from arrest to disposition and save the tax payers the expense of incarcerating nonviolent and petty offenders, so that resources can be better used to deal with serious violent and dangerous offenders.

Chief among these reforms is the expansion of the JERICHO INITIATIVE. A program that targets those inmates with mental illness as well as co-occurring substance abuse issues, who's previous criminal records make them ineligible for pre booking public mental health options. This program pioneered by A.C. Wharton and Stephen Bush in the Public Defender's office puts together an individual and comprehensive plan for recovery and addresses the serious medical,and psychological needs of the client as well as access to treatment,safe housing, restoration benefits, and bridge medication. Those who successfully complete this program can have their sentences reduced or dismissed entirely. Securing community support and County Commission funding for the Jail Master Plan initiatives is a major part of the new JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS campaign.

JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS is a coalition effort between The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center and Turning Point Partners. The JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS coalition works to find positive progressive, and fiscally responsible reforms to help our local criminal justice system better serve the needs of this community.

The issue of Criminal Justice reform cannot be raised without also addressing the vital need for intervention and outreach to our young people BEFORE they enter the Juvenile criminal justice system. As a person who once worked in a Juvenile dentition Center, I know first hand that large numbers of our young men and women are entering such facilities each week. These children are there for a variety of reasons. While some are in there for serious offenses, a great deal more are in the system for petty crimes,like truancy and being a runaway, issues that could be better addressed by local school and community intervention and involvement. In fact many of my previous residents had no criminal charges at all, but were locked up for issues stemming mostly from custody disputes or were in fact VICTIMS of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To my employers it did not matter, because for the most part, all they cared about was filling bunks.The quality of the food,the training of the staff and oversight from the administration were all substandard. Sadly these centers make their money by how many beds they fill, as opposed to any real standard of rehabilitation. Yet despite the varied backgrounds of our residents they were all put together, in what I used to call "Boarding School for Criminals".

So, say you have a unit of about forty boys, ages 12-17, about ten of them, are guilty of serious criminal offenses, the other twenty are there for non serious infractions, and the remaining ten are there for non crime related or petty criminal activities. Now despite this range of offenses, and issues, these young men were put into the exact same program. Over time, I saw some of the same kids come back over and over again, either repeating previous offenses or escalating into more serious crimes.

The answer is not more incarceration, but intervention,and not condemning our children to a system that sees our young people as cash cows for a corrupt network of nonprofits that exist to exploit societies ills rather than address them.

That is why the JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS campaign is proposing an innovative new process that aims to decrease criminal activity within our schools, as well as promote greater transparency, and parental and community involvement within school security concerns.
This process is called Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice,"RJ" is a process that allows for the creation of Community Circles, involving the school administration,the offender, victim and parents and concerned community leaders to deal with the less serious offenses on school grounds. This process has made great strides in not only reducing juvenile criminal recidivism but more importantly creates empathy between the victim and offender, thus breaking growing cycles of violence and escalation, that currently leads to more serious acts of violence. In Pre Katrina New Orleans RJ techniques were shown to have reduced recidivism rates in participants at an incredible rate from 77% down to 6%.

This is why, myself and members of the JustPeace Coalition, met with Memphis City Schools Security Chief Gerald Darling to discuss more viable and progressive solutions to these serious issues. We discussed our concerns about the state of crime within MCS and our mutual desire to stem the growing tide of our young people being sent to Juvenile Court. Chief Darling, who is well versed on the benefits of Restorative Justice, was open , helpful and supportive of our efforts, and is working with our coalition to launch a RJ pilot program this fall in four of our local High Schools.

The JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS Campaign is also working with Jennifer McKissick, Community Service Coordinator for Juvenile Court to open our doors to these young people who are assigned Community Service hours. It is our belief that Community service should be just that, service to their community. A major problem facing those who need community service hours is lack of transportation from where they live to service provider locations. Thus the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is redoubling it's efforts to match young people who have court assigned community service hours to have the opportunity to serve these hours in their OWN communities.

Our GrowMemphis program is expanding this year from five to ten community gardens in low income neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with little access to fresh produce or grocery stores.This results in a larger population of those at risk for preventable medical risks such as ,Obesity,Heart Disease, Stroke and type 2 diabetes. By allowing area youth to serve their hours within these gardens, they not only avoid the transportation barriers that prevent their consistent compliance with their community service requirements, but also will be more directly invested in the work. As they will see the positive effect that these gardens will have on their neighbors,friends and possibly their own families.It allows them to seamlessly reconnect to their communities, and gain a sense of pride that does not stem from criminal affiliation.

Over the next five months the JUSTPEACE MEMPHIS campaign will be working to engage and educate the public about these reforms, and lobbying our elected officials to share the community's concerns. If anyone has any questions concerns or if you wish to become a part of this campaign please feel free to contact me at anytime about this important issue at Brad@midsouthpeace.org


Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie. - Terry Hanning

Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Keith Norman,agreed to answer questions about his tenure as Chairman.Please check out my question to him about Ballotgate. You can read Mr. Norman's responses to other questions as well,check them out at Reginald Milton's blog HERE

You have to be kidding me, wow...where to start?...where to start?...
Why is Keith Norman lying?...or rather,has he stopped lying and is now telling the truth? I resisted using that word, for a long time now, but anyone, with even a cursory view of the facts has to see this for what it is...a lie.

For one,Chairman Norman, who last fall claimed that the "VOTE NO ON REFERENDUMS" box on the SCDP ballot was a "printer error" and later appeared publicly with Steve Mulroy at a PRESS CONFERENCE to state that the SCDP only voted to approve urging voters to VOTE NO ON ORDINANCE 364.

Earlier this month, a group of local Democrats realized that 60,000 copies of the official Shelby County Democratic sample ballot had been printed with a critical error: The ballot said the party endorsed a "no" vote on the 10 amendments to the Memphis and Shelby County charters.

The sample ballot is designed to inform local Democrats on the candidates and issues endorsed by the party, and a number of local officials -- including Democratic County Commissioner Sidney Chism -- do oppose certain amendments, including term limits for county offices.

But according to County Commissioner and Democrat Steve Mulroy, the party had not taken an official position on the 10 ballot measures, meaning the sample ballot could mislead voters into thinking the entire party opposed them.

"I was displeased that there was a ballot misstating the party's position," said Mulroy, who supports a number of the referendum.

Mulroy called local Democratic Party Chairman Keith Norman, who blamed the negative endorsement on a printing error. Last week Norman agreed to reprint the 40,000 sample ballots that had not been distributed, and Mulroy agreed to fund the correction out of pocket.

Source-By Alex Doniach (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

JACKSON BAKER also posted an article on event which you can read HERE
Now from that article here is an important section

Although much of the preliminary activity that resulted in the publication of the party ballot is still shrouded in mystery, the facts would seem to be these: At the September meeting of the full Democratic executive committee, a resounding majority of the member present voted to reject the ballot initiative for county term limits. At the October meeting of the party steering committee, which is the executive committee's smaller governing core, county commissioner Steve Mulroy, the leading local proponent of city-charter referendum Number Five, pitched the initiative, which would approve an instant runoff formula for municipal elections. The issue was not approved -- on the grounds, said party vice-chair Cherry Davis, that the steering committee had not had ample opportunity to study the initiative.

Period. Those are apparently the only formal actions ever taken by an established organ of the Shelby County Democratic Party.

So Norman in the past publicly claimed that the Ballotgate affair was "Printer Error", in and of it'self an absurd impossibility, as a Print shop only prints what you send them, and If the print shop, A-1 Printing had truly made a mistake,then why would Mulroy..or anybody else for that matter, have to PAY Again to correct such a mistake. If it really was a printer error, then it stands to reason that a-1 Printing would have corrected THEIR mistake at no additional charge.

Mr. Norman's statement is nothing short of a confession, an admission of his part in an attempt to mislead the Exec Comm, and to Democratic voters across the County. It also seems that despite Norman's tongue in cheek remarks about Del Gill, that he and Del were playing the same game. This is an email sent to Dave Holt in response to his post titled The Incompetence astounds me The email titled "Machiavelli" vs The Incompetence Astounds Me..." is from Party Activist Del Gill and was sent on Oct 28th just a little while after the Ballotgate debacle was made public.

Steve (Leftwing),

Please pass this on to David Holt. The SCDP is doing exactly the same thing it did as when he WAS a member of its ruling JUNTA as Party Secretary... performing as "flock members" while being led by a shepherd... Keith Norman. DAVID shouldn't blame Keith NOW because it was his FACTION that created KEITH NORMAN the DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN and celebrated joyfully when DEL GILL was defeated by one vote of 88 cast to be an elected Committeeman in House District 85 at the Party's Biennial Convention of March 2007! (Which forced me to pervert the "ex-officio process" and return to the EC anyway!)

For the record, Keith didn't "slick" anything by or on the EC... the JUST SAY NO strategy was proposed by none other than YOURS TRULY! The JUST SAY NO campaign was APPROVED at the September 4, 2008 (NOT OCTOBER, when Mulroy and Cocke decided to showup) Steering Committee meeting just prior to the Executive Committee approving it! (Just as the COMMITTEES ALWAYS has, even which David Holt was a member of both!)

The logic offered was... the instant runoff election (IRV) is NOT in the best interest of the majority voting community which happens now to be the Black Community and it is too risky to suggest a strategy of voting yes for some and no to other referenda at the expense of PROLONGING the voting time within the POLL BOOTH during the MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION in history for the BLACK COMMUNITY!!! Thus, the JUST SAY NO campaign actually helps BARACK OBAMA by decreasing VOTER fatigue from waiting in long lines caused by VOTERS trying to decide on referendum questions, that aren't in their best interest anyway!

Del Gill

Now, months later Norman states that He and The Steering Committee in perfect Ivory Tower infinite wisdom DECIDED that Memphis voters...Democratic Voters,BLACK voters were too dumb, and unsophisticated to understand these referendums and thus need gatekeepers to decide for them what they do or do not need to be aware of. I worked as the Organizing Coordinator for the Change Memphis campaign, which went out into the community and provided Voter education about these Ten Charter amendments. We did not need to mislead people with bogus ballots and dirty tricks, in fact I found that most people were not only interested in the charter amendments but were grateful for clear balanced information on the subject being provided to them.....I posted thoughts on this phenomenon a few months back, so to avoid reprinting it here I posted this Ballotgate

By the way, all this began when Norman presented a letter to the members of the Executive Committee back in September, urging the SCDP to endore voting NO on Ordinance 364. This letter was from a County Commissioner that Norman refused to name, so who was that?

More on this later...

Keeping the Promise: March to End the War on the Poor

U.S. Out of Iraq • Peace in Afghanistan and Palestine • Healthcare • Immigration • Living Wages • Prison Reform • Education
Join with us as we commit ourselves to continuing the struggle for peace abroad and justice at home. A lot of promises have been made by this new administration and it is vital that we prepare ourselves to stand behind the right that will be done and stand up against the wrong that is sure to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2009
12:00pm - 3:00pm
National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry St.
Memphis, TN

View Map
There is plenty of free parking available at the Museum or on Main St.

www.midsouthpeace.org for more info.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Feel Good Friday-Giant Ho

Yeah I know....I'm immature....but the song is alot funnier my way.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Paul Stanley to Kill Living Wage.....if you let him.

Update, It seems that Shelby County's own Paul Stanley is the sponsor of this vile piece of legislation.

Action Alert
Save the Living Wage

State bill to overturn Memphis and Shelby County living wage ordinances is headed to Senate floor

It is urgent that you take a minute to email or call your state senator about Senate Bill 83. This legislation, which has passed out of committee and could be voted on the Senate floor THIS WEEK, forbids local governments from setting wages higher than the minimum wage. That means it will overturn the living wage ordinances we worked so hard to get passed in the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission, and it will keep other communities across the state from passing living wage ordinances. It will also overturn the prevailing wage ordinance passed by the City Council. This will mean lower wages for thousands of workers in a time when so many families are already in crisis. It is also a disturbing interference into local government affairs by our state legislature.

This type of legislation has been introduced for many years in the state legislature, but this is the first time since 2003 that it has passed out of committee. Our current legislature is more hostile to workers than it has been in past years, so your action is urgently needed to stop this bill.

Call or email your state senator TODAY or TOMORROW. To find out who your senator is, and his/her contact information, go to State Senate and type in your street address and city under "Find My Senator." Right now, only calls to senators, not representatives, are needed. If you have trouble with this feature, call Rebekah at WIN at (901) 332-3570 or email rebekah@workersinterfaithnetwork.org with your full home street address and she will look up the information for you.

Sample message:
This is ________ and I live in your district. I am calling to urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 83. This legislation takes away control from local governments and will overturn the living wage ordinances passed by the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission. Especially in a time of economic crisis, the state legislature should not act to lower workers' wages.

If you email, be sure to include your full home address to show that you live in your senator's district.

In solidarity,
Rev. Rebekah Jordan
WIN executive director

Workers Interfaith Network, 3035 Directors Row, B - 1207, Memphis, TN 38131. (901) 332-3570. http://www.workersinterfaithnetwork.org/

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lee Harris withdraws from race for SCDP

I'm wondering if you could add a message to your blog
regarding my withdrawal from the SCDP race. I think the race
for chair should be a two-person affair and I don't want
to get in the way. Both Jay and Van are talented
individuals and my hope is that whoever wins there will be
new blood and positive change for the party. However, in a
two-person race, my personal belief is that the best person
for that job is Van Turner. I have known Van for several
years and believe he will do great things and be able to
effectively energize the party.

Lee Harris
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Memphis Law School

Personally I think Lee was a good candidate and a great guy. While I am saddened to see him out of the race, I am glad to see that he was willing to step aside and allow this to be a two person race.I wish him the best of luck in future endeavours. I think Jay Bailey vs. Van Tuner, gives the delegates two clear choices, each with their own vision on how they would try and lead the Shelby County Democratic Party. I think both candidates have their merits. Thanks to Dave Holt for forwarding this email along.

UPDATE-I would like to thank Van Turner for signing up to attend DFA Training Academy , this April 25-26th.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up"

Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, and the check-out you've just witnessed with two state troopers verifying the event, but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You've heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now and you'll be a part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle, no, their task is even harder. They've got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you'll search with them, because you've just landed in the Twilight Zone.

This was the opening narration to an episode of the classic series the Twilight Zone. In this episode a number of travelers are in a dinner waiting to leave on a bus, near the site of a UFO crash.There has been a heavy snow and they are waiting to hear that the bridge is safe to cross. Two state troopers are on the case trying to determine just who among these passengers is a Martian. Despite their suspicions they all leave on the bus and mysteriously the police and all the passengers die. One of them a businessman who was on the bus returns to the dinner, unharmed. He then smugly reveals a third arm and uses it to drink his cup of coffee. He explains to the cook that he is in fact a Martian, and that he is part of an invasion fleet on it's way to Earth, to set up a colony here. The Cook laughs and reveals a third eye, and tells his Martian guest that he is from Venus, and that this town is a Venusian colony on Earth. He also tells him that The Venus forces have already destroyed the Martian fleet.

With the recent selection of Democrat Matt Kuhn to replace outgoing Republican County Commissioner David Lillard, there has been a lot of controversy about how and why the Democratic majority chose to break a "Gentleman's agreement" with Shelby Republicans. Kuhn's selection was a break with past tradition as Lillard's seat in district 4 was a majority republican district, protocol was that the Democratic majority would select a Republican replacement to succeed him. As we all know now this was not the case and Matt Kuhn was selected by the majority to serve the remainder of Lillards term. Now it goes without saying that i think that this was a bad move. I'm a pretty partisan fellow in my beliefs and a proud and unapologetic liberal, but this thing stinks to high heaven. It's voter disenfranchisement, and it's wrong, and let's be real if the Republicans had a majority, and had appointed a Republican in district 2 or 3, the blogs would be filled with outrage and anger and elected officials would be holding press conferences denouncing said actions. Polar Donkey has some interesting thoughts on the subject Here
And Smart City Memphis has some thoughts as well Here

Do I think Matt Kuhn will try to reach out to District 4 republicans?....sure I do, but that's really besides the point, and to the voters in that area who did not vote Democrat, It does not really mean much. They have already witnessed how little their voice counts. It also hurts matters as since Kuhn will not seek reelection, his constituents really won't have much leverage over him.

So from all that you might think that I would be of the same mind as the person who wrote this editorial in the Memphis Flyer
The writer makes a case,"somewhat in jest" for Non-Partisan elections in Shelby County elections. Personally, I think this would be a huge mistake. All of our problems do not simply go away just because you remove a self chosen label,and despite all of the clear flaws in our local partisan environment, I think to go fully nonpartisan would do nothing but further diminish the influence of grassroots Liberals and Conservatives alike, and further increase the already massive influence of the business sector, and developers.

Let's take a moment to be completely cynical, let's say there was a corrupt County Commissioner named John Smith, who was a Democrat, in name only, and could more accurately be described as a Developer errand boy. Now he ran as a Democrat, so even if he is a developer proxy, he will still need to keep up the appearance of being a democrat. That means there are still issues where he will vote in line with the concerns of his district. Same thing goes for John Doe, Republican Commissioner who is also owed by the SAME Developers,Banks, and Business networks as Smith. Doe will still have to vote a certain way on certain issues to keep up the appearance of being a Republican. The adversarial nature of politics, with it's many flaws at times works to the people's advantage, as each side is eager to point out and expose the failures of the other.
In a non-partisan system you'll have elected officials playing partisan to receive votes from Party faithfuls, and then betraying those ideals in office as they can hide behind being "nonpartisan". Memphis politics will become EVEN MORE like Professional Wrestling as Triple H and Randy Orton will publicly beat the tar out of each other, and later that night can be seen at the bar, waiting for Vince Mahon to bring them their checks.
A good example of this is when Mayor Herenton claims to be a Democrat in election years, but in the past has openly endorsed Republicans, in off years claiming to be independent. The Mayor is FAR FAR FAR from being the only person to make a cross party endorsement. In fact it happens now among many local Democrats and Republicans.....alot.

The Problem is not with Partisan races, the problems stems from a lack of accountability within the partisan system. A current climate that is pushing Liberal voices outside the Democratic party mainstream, and traditional Conservative voices out of the Republican party, and seeks to replace them with"Moderates", and by "Moderates" I do not refer to those who seek a balanced view, but those elected officials who use that term to mask cowardly action, and or hide their allegiance to those financial interests that back them.
I am reminded of a few years back when I sent out a email listing the conservative votes of then Congressman Harold Ford Jr. I called him a Diet Republican. Later that week I stumbled on to a Republican blog in Tipton County where a faction of local Republicans had split away from their county local, because they felt their elected officials were "Democrat-lite". It made me wonder...how many sincere people are there on either side of the political spectrum?....outside of the grassroots of course.

The core issue should be how can the gulf between grassroots partisans and elected official be filled, so that the solution based values of voters replace the values of politicians.
That is why now, more than ever people all over the county, of all political persuasions should become active and aware of local politics. One way is to attend DFA Training Academy here in Memphis April 25-26th Shameless plug, to learn all the skills needed to run electoral/issue based campaigns. Here at the Peace and Justice Center, we also offer a free eight week workshop called Grassroots Organizer Training For Power or G.O.T. Power which will teach all the skills needed to work in organizing the power of your communities. There are other ways of course, you can choose to get involved with your local party of choice. The Shelby County Democratic Party is having it reorganization this weekend. At this caucus you can take part in the election of the next executive committee and the next chairman of the local party,Leftwing Cracker has some details for you..HERE

If we do not do a better job of reaching out and training and empowering our communities, well...Rod Serling tells us what we can expect...

Incident on a small island, to be believed or disbelieved. However, if a sour-faced dandy named Ross or a big, good-natured counterman who handles a spatula as if he'd been born with one in his mouth, if either of these two entities walks onto your premises, you'd better hold their hands - all three of them - or check the color of their eyes - all three of them. The gentleman in question might try to pull you into... the Twilight Zone.