Saturday, December 17, 2016

Treason in Tennessee

Treason is a federal crime, a betrayal of one's country.  But, any betrayal committed by a fiduciary of the state is a treasonous act, such as Gov. Haslam's secretive scheme, which smacks of self-dealing, to privatize state government.

Deadline is Dec. 20 to submit public comments to the state.  There are other ways to make one's opinions known, but this gets it on the record.  Here is a link to the state's site where you can submit your comments.

Here is a story in The Tennessean which shows how a Haslam campaign donor is helping whitewash the governor's scheme.

Another story, in Memphis Daily News.

Here is a story about Haslam's plan to demolish Fall Creek Falls inn and restaurant and privatize the park. 

Op-ed by Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville. 

Here is our comment:

Sub-contracting Tennessee government functions to out-of-state corporations is no less than an act of treason and betrayal on the part of the governor. 

Here are but a few problems:

1—Loss of quality control.  When our employees and administrative staff operate under the wing of the state, we have direct control over policy and practice.  When these positions and functions are subbed out, there is a disconnect that just cannot be bridged.  To get your own job done, have you ever had to depend on somebody in a department in another state?  Productivity declines.  Morale and sense of purpose will suffer, and with management splintered among distant corporations, accountability and oversight will be difficult.  Sub-contractors do not feel invested.

2—Myth of cost saving.  The percentage of state resources going to do the actual work will decline as corporate profits will become an added expense.  Either the sub-contracting will ultimately cost more, or outcomes will suffer.  We can’t have both. 

3—Loss of tax revenue.  As most if not all these corporations are headquartered out of state, the profits will flow across Tennessee’s borders – in the wrong direction.  The payroll to Tennessee residents will decline.

4—Loss of quality of life.  This would be No. 1, if we were ranking.  As Tennessee workers get displaced and lose their jobs, families suffer in every way -- financially, emotionally, psychologically.   We understand some may get rehired, but the working conditions, management and benefits will not be as good as even with these state jobs, which already pay very low on average. 

5—Loss of mission.  The mission and guiding star of a sub-contracting company will be CEO and executive compensation and bonuses, not the actual mission of the work that is required to keep Tennessee running.   Can these distant CEOs and COOs care about Tennessee families the way our neighbors can?  We are not in the same boat; we do not have the same needs and objectives.  What’s best for these corporations is not what’s best for Tennessee. 

6--Loss of transparency in process.  The governor has forged ahead behind closed doors.  Why have we not had public or even legislative input in a media-covered forum?

Was there a bidding process?  Who stands to profit?  How do we get out of these contracts if/when things go badly?  

Which career employees will be terminated?  What are their positions and names?

7—Corruption.  Does corruption or its appearance still matter?  Is the governor making these deals with persons and entities with which he has existing connections, and will he stand to gain directly or indirectly? 

8—Abdication of fiduciary.  The governor took an oath to put Tennesseans first, and he violates his fiduciary duty by subbing out state jobs.   This is a scandal, even by today’s standards. 

We have already seen the effects of sub-contracting in many areas, for example, with the prison system.  Let’s learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Identifying the Enemy

Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Poor

We give breaks to the multinational corporations and large financial institutions -- those who least need a helping hand -- while telling
Noam Chomsky
struggling Americans, You're on your own!  

Noam Chomsky comments on the current state of democracy, the American Dream, income inequality and identifies the enemy.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Memphis Beats the Clock on Police Reform as Citizens Talk, DOJ Listens

One answer to the question, Who Will Watch the Watchers? is the Department of Justice.

But, did Memphis get in just under the wire on the U.S. Department of Justice’s review of the city’s policing practices?
Just 13 days before the Presidential election, the city and the DOJ’s division of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) announced a collaborative and voluntary review and reform of police practices in Memphis. 

DOJ attorneys and career staff, especially in the Civil Rights division, are polishing their resumes in anticipation of a Trump administration that would neuter investigations into police abuses, hate crimes and more.  

Meanwhile, the show must go on, and five COPS staffers from Washington and three contractors who are part of the review team were in Memphis this week during the "assessment" phase of their project. The DOJ folks seem serious and methodical, taking things in and being circumspect in comments other than to explain their plan and process.  

A good sign is that they sought the locals' advice on where to eat and found their way to Memphis BBQ.  They were guarded in their comments about everything else, so we won't reveal too much here, except to say they reported BBQ was Central to their culinary experience, and it seemed BBQ was the One and Only thing they enjoyed most.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Black Panther Assassination Echoes with Today's Radical Right Politics

Forty-seven years ago today, a special unit of Chicago police carried out a pre-dawn raid against Black Panther members while they slept.  They executed leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and
About 5,000 people attended Fred Hampton's funeral
wounded several other Panthers.

In today's political environment, in which racists have been emboldened to "come out" and say black lives don't matter, do the FBI's and other official government acts of racism and cover-up from that era come echoing back? The FBI set out to destroy the Black Panthers, whose main objectives were feeding and educating kids.

This analysis from Flint Taylor, lawyer for Fred Hampton's family.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

No Slow-Down in Haslam Shipping Tennessee Jobs to his Out-of-State Pals and Donors

Beyond being a corrupt politician.

More than directing millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts to your pals and campaign donors -- all without input from the public or even the legislature.

Way past working opposite your fiduciary duty to the people of the state.

More than just, the numbers don't even work out.

It's jaw-dropping, how-are-you-getting-away-with-this?

Tennessee Gov. Haslam has been cutting Tennessee working families out of jobs by continuing a massive, Machiavellian scheme to "outsource" those jobs to out-of-state corporations.  So much for helping Tennessee's economy, even if you don't care about working people.  Does anybody think out-of-state profiteers care about Tennessee or know best how to "fix" us?

Mass media have not shined much of a light on this, is one way to get away with being a crook and traitor.  Nice to have a $2B net worth, although seems Haslam is still clawing for more.

Here is some information on Haslam's grand plan.

And another. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Secret Transcript of President Obama's Meeting with Trump!

We have obtained a secret recording of the meeting between President Obama and Donald Trump last week, and here is a portion of the transcript with notes. 

Trump walks in stiffly with his handlers and attendants. The President and V-P Biden greet Trump and crew.

President Obama:  “Everybody out, except Trump and Biden.”

Recalling that Biden threatened to “kick Trump’s ass out behind the gym” and that Obama is a black guy, Trump looks worried and watches as his PR flack and Secret Service people leave him unattended.

Obama and Biden bust out laughing and slap hands.

“L-M-A-O, dude,” Obama chortles.

“You heard the expression, Be careful what you ask for?  This is it,” Biden says.

Trump:  “Uh, uh, well….”

Obama and Biden can’t stop laughing.

“I didn’t really expect to win, you know,” Trump says.

“You’re fucked,” Obama says.

“Royally screwed,” Biden adds.

“You think everybody was up your ass while you’re a candidate, once you get to the big-boy chair, somebody is trying to take your head off every minute,” Obama says.

“Yeah, some ass hole like you.  How you gonna like that, a sensitive fellow such as yourself, having millions of you on your case night and day?  You’ll get arthritis in your fingers from tweeting angry comebacks,” Biden says.

“Oh, boy.  What should I do?”  Trump asks.

“Try not being a lying, white supremacist shit head, for starters,” Obama says.

“If you screw up, admit it quickly and put it behind you,” Biden says.  “The more you try to deny and dance around it, the worse it gets.”

“I said I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and it wouldn’t cost me a vote,” Trump says.

“That was then, this is now,” Obama says.

“Apologize publicly to the President, that would be a good start, if you actually want to bring people together,” Biden says. 

“Sure, I will, and I apologize now, to you Mr. President, for all the crazy birther and Muslin shit I said. “

“Well, you’re way late for that.  But, tell you what you could do.  You could tell Congress to quickly approve Merrick Garland for SCOTUS and approve my backlog of judge appointments,” Obama says.  “The Republicans were nagging me to appoint Garland, then when I said, OK, they turned against it, just because it was my idea.”

“That is fucked up, I know,” Trump says.  “What else can I do?”

“This side of climbing up the Washington Monument and jumping off?” Biden asks.

“Joe, Joe, we’re not going to be like that,” Obama says.  “We talked about this.”

“How about saying you didn’t really mean that crazy shit, like hating on women, black people, refugees, Muslims, Mexicans -- you know, your laundry list of people to blame for old white people’s problems and insecurities,” Biden says.

“Can I wait and do that at the inauguration speech?  I want these Republicans to keep kissing my ass a little longer;  they doing back-flips to kiss the ring.  It would be sickening if it wasn’t so delicious,” Trump says.

Obama and Biden look at each other.

“Nope, you gotta do that quickly, before the people burn down Trump Tower with you in it.  We’ve heard there is a well-coordinated plot to do just that,” Obama says.

“A plot!  Why didn’t my Secret Service people -- and they are great folks, by the way, they really are -- why didn’t they say anything?” Trump asks.

“They didn’t tell you about the multiple plots to burn you out?  Dude, they must already hate you,” Biden says.

“How’s the intern tail around here?  I heard it’s terrific.” Trump asks.  “JFK, Clinton, everybody else but Nixon, probably, has dipped into the intern pool.“

“That’s a myth anymore.  Ken Starr ruined it,” Obama says.  “Once in here, nobody gets laid.  What with the long hours, the constant stress, listening to butt holes such as yourself and the Republicans in Congress, there’s no going down, going down.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be at least four years before you grab any pussy,” Biden says, “and by then, you’ll either be dead or unable to get it going.”

“And your fake hair will turn white and fall out,” Obama says.

“Damn,” Trump says.

“That doesn’t go for Melania,” Biden says.  “She’ll be bonding with her bodyguards and driver.”

“Shit.  This is sounding worse by the minute,” Trump says.

Obama:  “Well, you could request that she has female guards and drivers.”

Trump:  “Melania swings both ways, you know.  Actually, I could watch, and…”

“Oh, look at the time,” Obama says.

“Can we do this again?  I really need help,” Trump says.

“We’ll call you,” Biden says.

“I think this went well, don’t you?” Trump asks as they get up to leave and shake hands.

“Yeah, a blast,” Obama says.

“When I talk to the press, I want it to look like things went well.  Is it OK if I call you my nigga?” Trump asks.

“Is it OK if we call you Little Putin?” 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

DOJ to Evaluate Memphis Police Department

While Watching the Watchers, researching for several years and making a documentary, at some point we seemingly got ahead of the curve and pointed out some ways the police and the city could improve.  Of course, "local" people do not often get credit for knowing a thing or two -- especially if there's not a big consulting fee from an out-of-state corporation, which is how Memphis tends to roll.

In April, we asked Memphis police brass if they were paying attention to how the Department of Justice was coming down on cities the DOJ civil rights division had investigated.  The idea was for MPD to keep up with best practices and recommendations, not only to have a better police force and city but so the city could avoid the multi-million-dollar monitoring costs borne by cities such as New Orleans and Cleveland that had been subjected to DOJ consent decrees.

We got a fuzzy answer.  Yesterday, we got a better answer when the DOJ said they would undertake an assessment of MPD -- not an investigation as such -- at no cost to the city.

Back in July, one day after protestors shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge across the Mississippi River, Live at 9 on Memphis TV station WREG interviewed Who Will Watch the Watchers? producer Gary Moore.

It was some timing.  The divide between law enforcement and community and regular images of police killing unarmed men make up the hot topic of the day in America.  Who Will Watch the Watchers? is a documentary which examines the increasing ways we see police abuses, and it tracks the struggles of citizens in Memphis who were arrested by police for taking video of police officers.

While waiting to go on the air in July, in studio we watched a press conference that included Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and interim (now full-time) police director Michael Rallings.  Strickland and Rallings said they needed an "action plan," but did not have one just yet.

The city's typical response to a situation seems to be paying a bunch of money to an out-of-state corporation.  Like, when they paid $40,000 to the International Chiefs of Police to help them hire a new police chief -- then the city settled on local interim chief Rallings, whom they already knew!   We wrote that the whole process was flawed, dead in the water pretty much, before it got off to a late start.

We interviewed nationally recognized police administrators such as Dr. Cedric Alexander, public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, and native Memphian Anne Kirkpatrick, a former FBI trainer and police chief in Washington.  Kirkpatrick was hired by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this year to take on the onerous task of changing police culture at CPD.  The city of Memphis further had expenses in bringing candidates to Memphis for interviews and tours, plus who-knows-what other costs, even after the decision had already been made to retain Rallings.

We told Live at 9's Mary Beth Conley and Alex Coleman that there was already an "action plan," and it was free and on the Internet:  The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Then yesterday, Oct. 26, the U.S. Department of Justice announced they would undertake a two-year assessment of the Memphis Police Department -- at no cost to the city -- in order to improve the police department.   During the press conference, police director Rallings for the first time publicly cited the President's Task Force as the proper blueprint for Memphis and PD's everywhere.


Not trying to go all, told-you-so three and a half months ago, but it usually takes someone from out of town -- I guess no one thinks anyone "local" knows anything -- to say the same thing we said for it to be accepted.

At least one clue they took:  Instead of blowing a lot of money on a nothing-burger, this checkup will be paid for by the federal agency.

Here is a link to the press conference.

Link to Who Will Watch the Watchers? website.

Link to Who Will Watch the Watchers? YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

When It's a Crime to Report Crimes

A government contractor has been arrested for doing approximately what Edward Snowden did,
revealing wrongdoing by the National Security Agency (NSA).  We talk about this like it's a crime, "stealing" government secrets.  But, where is the crime here?  The government spying on private citizens and other wrongdoings seem like the real crimes and contain the real criminals.

Journalists expose themselves when they frame these as stories of people stealing government secrets, because if they report the information, they legally share in the "crime."

Is it criminal to report crimes?  Not usually.

Here's the story:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Government Spying on Private Citizens Ramps Up with Yahoo Compliance Revelation

Whatever threat -- veiled or overt -- the U.S. government laid on Yahoo to get it to spy on its email users, it worked, turning the Internet giant -- and who else that we don't know about yet? -- against people who trust and use its services.

This story from Op-Ed News highlights mass government spying and links to details about the Yahoo debacle.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Children Need Criminal Justice Reform and Breakfast

Breakfast, si, Prison, no
As state legislatures have continued to put corporate profits and kickbacks ahead of people, and for-profit prisons have been built to warehouse children as well as adults, Just City in Memphis, TN, is rightly striving for reform and humanity. Children are the future, as they say, but Children are the Now as how we treat children today turns into our future.
After reading this Smart City story, I flashed back to when the chairman of the Williamson County (TN) Republican Party blasted the county for accepting federal money to serve (at no cost to the county) breakfast to poor and hungry kids. TV reporter Kara Kumari interviewed me for a counterpoint. Skipping over the screwed-up values and everything immoral that goes with the no-breakfast-for-hungry-and-poor-kids position, how about we cut to the cynical and tweak how the No-Breakfast Club thinks, anyway: 

What it costs to feed and educate kids today costs vastly less than what it will cost to imprison them as adults.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Authoritarian Populism in U.S. Harks Back to Nazi Political Techniques

As much as we have heard "Nazi" tossed around and misused by the American extreme right, and repeated by the media, I cringe that I just used it in a headline.  Because, it's a correct use of the comparison between Hitler's movement and what we are experiencing in the U.S. at this time.

This truth story lines out the comparisons, then and now.    "The Big Lie:"  How Trump Uses Authoritarian Propaganda Techniques.   By Douglas Kellner.

Authoritarianism, as used to whip up the masses who feel disenfranchised but whose suffering is better relieved by democracy and equality than a self-serving dictator, is not only opposite America's founding principles.  It is incredible to see it in action, to see how an "authoritarian populism" as amplified by Donald Trump stirs emotions and draws a Pied Piper line of mindless followers.

"Hillary's a criminal," said an otherwise rational man (I thought) and retired federal employee whom we ran into recently after not seeing him for several years.

"If a candidate's for abortion, that stops it right there with me," he said.  When we pointed out that Trump most assuredly has no problem with a woman having an abortion -- indeed, if he were the impregnator, he would insist on it -- our guy said:

"I would rather vote for somebody who says he's against abortion and is lying about it than somebody who says she's not against abortion."

It seems as if some sort of alien mind meld has mass-infected the populace.

Another former acquaintance, who discussed with me years ago how Americans had become mentally mushed by celebrity TV, recently decried the Democratic National Convention as full of "perverts and child molesters" while the RNC was full of patriots and police and Christians.

I do not get it.  Authoritarians vs. Empathizers is the basis of the divide in America.  While populism naturally fits with the Empathizers, it's this Authoritarian Populism that has taken over the national conversation.

This truth story lines out the comparisons, then and now.    "The Big Lie:"  How Trumps Uses Authoritarian Propaganda Techniques.   By Douglas Kellner.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Happened to the Bird Cage Liner?

"Which Tampon brand do you most use?"

Don't have a bird?  They used to call it fish wrapping, or it's used to stuff packing boxes.  Have you
ever got a mail-order package and it had Chinese newsprint in it?

Talking about newspapers here, printed stuff, you know, what paper boys used to throw.

The demise of journalism, and especially print, is one of the two great threats to democracy in the 21st Century -- the other being unlimited, anonymous money to buy elected officials and thus public policy.

The Commercial Appeal's new corporate master, Gannett, is aggressively reshaping "content management" and "reader experiences," to cut out real people who write, photograph and edit the news we need to be an informed democracy.

Straddling the fence between building a solid pay wall between accessing content online are these odd little survey gatekeepers.  Like this one which asks, "Which Tampon brand do you most use?"

A reader who does not have a subscription must answer the survey before being allowed to view the story.  After so many views in a certain period of time, the user of a particular computer is blocked from content.  This is between requiring a paid subscription and having all content freely accessible.

Here is a link to a great segment from HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" that spoofs and examines our current state of affairs.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mayor Confirms What Everyone Already Knew: Rallings Gets Top Cop Nod

Surprise, surprise!  After spending a $40,000 fee plus expenses to go through the charade of a flawed process, we searched far and wide and found the guy we already had.  Scroll to our story three posts down if you can stand to read background and analysis.  Here is link to the mayor's release on naming Rallings:

Link to City of Memphis release.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Court Orders Memphis to Publish Cop Candidate List

Chancery Court judge Walter Evans ruled in favor of The Commercial Appeal's lawsuit against the city of Memphis and the International Association of Chiefs of Police seeking disclosure of everyone who had applied for the city's police chief job.  Click to see story in Daily News.

Scroll down to see our story on one Memphis chief candidate, Philadelphia Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, who was in charge of Philly streets during the just-completed Democratic National Convention, and down one more to see our analysis, "Was City's Cop Search Doomed from the Start?"

Friday, July 22, 2016

This Top Cop Candidate Is in the National Spotlight for Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

"They disrupt traffic, but so what?  The First Amendment is more important than traffic."  

Memphis police chief candidate and Philadelphia PD Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan will be the cop most on the spot in America next week as Philly PD’s point man for the Democratic National Convention.

Of the five out-of-towners who were turned up by a national search, Sullivan will be in the national spotlight like no other as it will be his task to keep peace on the streets outside the Wells Fargo Center. 

Sullivan has somewhat of a reputation for peaceful protests, and he says that during protest rallies, he is on the front lines with his men; that he does not want them to don tactical attire, and that “a verbal insult has never hurt me once in all my years.  People can scream and curse me all they want, and I’m not going to react.”

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Was Memphis' Cop Search Process Doomed from the Start?

Was the city’s search for a new chief of police a political exercise in futility that cost taxpayers $40,000 -- or more?   

When Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland this spring asked his interim appointee, Michael Rallings, to apply for the permanent post of director of police services, it signaled to some potential national candidates that the mayor's mind was made up.  Moreover, why did Strickland or the search entity not even talk with arguably some of the top police administrators in the country -- even one who was a former Memphis police officer?

Now that city council has formally asked Strickland to appoint Railings -- as has the NAACP, the police union and even protestors against police violence -- is Strickland wasting taxpayer money and the time of other law enforcement candidates to continue the charade of a "national search?"  Strickland announced that he will be interviewing five out-of-town candidates in August, and the mayor even posted their bios online.  What the mayor failed to say was how much that will cost the city in travel and related expenses.   

At this point Strickland would seem to have no choice, this side of a political death wish, but to appoint Rallings.  That's not to slight Rallings, who may be the best pick.   

Memphis native Anne Kirkpatrick recently was named to head the city of Chicago’s new Bureau of Professional Standards with the huge task of reforming police culture into a force of “guardians, not warriors,”  as reported by The Chicago Sun-Times.  Kirkpatrick was a Memphis patrol officer in the 1980s; moved to Washington state where she got a law degree, and then climbed a law enforcement ladder that included serving as a police chief and as a trainer of police brass for the FBI.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

City Council Threatens to Pull the 'Tooth' of Citizen Police Oversight in Memphis

Paul Garner of Mid-South Peace and Justice Center shows CLERB members almost 200 citizen complaints of officer misconduct that were blocked from being heard.  Click to see clips from CLERB meeting. 
The ink is barely dry on a Memphis City Council ordinance that refreshed the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), and the board's already limited subpoena power is being challenged by its own city council rep.  New councilman Worth Morgan questions the value and legality of seeking a subpoena to compel evidence and testimony, and he has produced a new ordinance that eliminates subpoena power entirely. 

"Without subpoena power, I don't understand the point or purpose of CLERB besides being a show," says CLERB member John Marek. "Subpoena power is the one 'tooth' that we have."

(At the bottom of this story is a link to a history of CLERB ordinances, passed and proposed.  There is also a timeline of CLERB milestones.  Click here to see Video Clips from the June 14 meeting.  )

Friday, June 17, 2016

Court Upholds Net Neutrality in Latest Battle of Giant Telecoms vs. People

The People of the United States won the latest round in the battle to keep the Internet open and not the lock-stock-and-barrel property of the giant U.S. telecoms, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

Do you want the corporate profit motives in charge of the Internet?  Or, the First Amendment and what's best for the American people?

The U.S. government developed the Internet, first as a military project, and then UCLA scientists working from a government grant helped round the Internet into what we use and enjoy today.

We the People paid for the Internet.  We are not about to give it up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Memphis Set to Raise Salary for Next Chief

The next city of Memphis police chief will get a raise of between about $40,000 and $98,000 over the present pay scale.
Salary Range Posted for Next Memphis Police Chief   

In its recruiting brochure, the city states that the salary range for the next director of police services, aka chief, will be $190,577 to $247,750.  The present salary for the position, held by interim director of police services Mike Rallings, is $150,000.  That itself represented a raise in pay instituted by mayor Jim Strickland earlier this year.  Former chief Toney Armstrong was paid an annual salary of $126,001.46. Strickland previously had said the going rate based on other cities was about $250,000, in his estimation, and Memphis may need to raise its salary level to get the best candidate. This posting is the first time the city has published a new salary range for the job.

Memphis has retained the International Association of Chiefs of Police to manage a search for the next chief.  The job was posted May 6, 2016.

Police Career Search Website Shows City of Memphis Chief Job Was Posted May 6, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Top Cop Shopping

Other Cities Recruit Memphis Native for Police Chief

While Memphis Finally Starts Its Formal Search

While local news media press Mayor Jim Strickland about the city’s murder rate
Anne Kirkpatrick

and a search for a new police chief, one nationally prominent candidate for top cop in Chicago and other cities is a Memphis hometowner.

Strickland was reported as saying February 15 that the city would retain the search services of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and that the process would begin within three weeks.                          

More than 11 weeks later, the city has just finished getting its information to the search organization, and the job was officially posted late today May 6.  Deadline for submissions is June 17.  While Memphis has an interim chief in place, and the mayor would say, better to get it right than get it fast, movement on a new chief would quell clamor and uncertainty.  

The Chicago Police Board sifted through 39 candidates and spent $500,000 to conduct a search for a new superintendent of police after Garry McCarthy was fired in the wake of a scandal over a police officer killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

One of three finalists for the Chicago job was former Spokane, Washington, police chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who grew up in Memphis and served as a patrol officer for more than three years in Memphis, 1982-1985.  

Dysfunction in the Windy City
If there is any comfort to Memphians in knowing that other cities have trouble getting out of their own way, consider this:  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rejected the board’s three candidates and named his pick from the existing Chicago police force – but only to be an interim chief, replacing the “old” interim chief of five months.

Emanuel offered the job to DeKalb County, Georgia, director of public safety Cedric Alexander, but then withdrew the offer under pressure from certain Chicago council members and political powers who insisted on a local guy. Alexander, along with Kirkpatrick, were the top two police chief candidates -- not from Chicago -- who were selected during that city's search.  

Strickland has asked interim Director of Police Services Michael Rallings to apply for the permanent post, and Rallings says he will apply.

There are two schools of thought on the subject of a new, permanent chief – that it should be someone who came up through the ranks of the Memphis department, or it specifically should be someone with a fresh perspective from outside. 

Inside Out
If any candidate is uniquely positioned to bridge both those concepts it is Kirkpatrick, who presently travels the country as an instructor for the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.  As such, she teaches leadership to executives in local agencies and covers such topics as the problem employee, credibility, discipline and liability. 

This week Kirkpatrick was in Arizona teaching a class.  But, it seems Memphis is never far from her mind.  In fact, Kirkpatrick’s’ parents and two brothers live in Memphis, and she seems to find herself in Memphis regularly – sometimes for work with the FBI and sometimes to visit – as recently as last weekend.

“I’m a change agent,” Kirkpatrick said while on a break between class sessions.  “I think I would be a good fit for Memphis.

“Memphis has almost double the murder rate per capita as Chicago,” Kirkpatrick noted.

“What I am looking for is to be a part of a city and police department that wants to really change the culture of violence,” Kirkpatrick said. “Chicago met that criteria.  Memphis meets that.

A Time to Heal
“I want to come into an agency that struggles or has some major issues, and I want to be part of the healing of that.  I actually think I would be a good healing leader for them and could set them on a course for an excellent future.

“As a community, too, Memphis needs to not accept the level of cultural violence that they have accepted.  They play a part in that as well.

“If I were to apply for the Memphis job it would be as an outsider with an insider’s foundation,” said Kirkpatrick, who also is a licensed attorney in Washington. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Calling Their Bluff...

Politicians and Lawyers Meet in a Room Called "Bluff" 

Sounds sketchy, right?

Even the district attorney wasn't sure.

"Fasten your seat belts," Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich quipped before an invitation-only forum on body-worn cameras and in-car videos April 6 at University of Memphis.

Judges, defense attorneys and community organizations showed up to hear what a daunting and costly task will be managing body-cam footage and public records requests.  Weirich co-hosted the pow-wow with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

"Body cameras are here to stay," Weirich told the gathering.  She didn't seem to be bluffing.

Click photo link to watch video of the presentation and question-and-answer session.

Link to video of Body-Cam Forum, Memphis, TN

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Story that Never Ran

Departing here from the usual working over issues that are not covered in the mainstream media.  Although the following story involves bad decisions by an official city body -- and have we seen a bunch of that lately -- this is a piece of Memphis history, a bit of nostalgia and a twist of fate.

The Story that Never Ran

Just how close did Memphis come to getting a National Football League team in 1974?

So close that as a 22-year-old Commercial Appeal sportswriter covering pro football, I had a story in the can, which was to run the day after the NFL made its announcement,  recounting the history of the successful effort to bring big-league football to town. 

Of course, it was a story that never ran. 

In fighting the unending battle against clutter and keeping way too much stuff,  I recently came across the 10-page hard copy of my story in a trunk stored off the garage.    

On April 24, 1974, the NFL named Tampa Bay as the location of a new franchise, and the league said a second city would be named June 4.

The Commercial Appeal had thoroughly covered efforts of local businessmen, including promoter Mike Lynn, to convince the NFL expansion committee that Memphis was the place to be – next.

We ran a story saying the deal was about to go down, per unnamed NFL insiders, and E.W. ‘Ned’ Cook was to be the owner. 

Instead, the NFL picked Seattle on June 4, 1974. 

What happened?

Although there was much gnashing of teeth and finger-pointing at the time, the Memphis Park Commission cast the city’s lot with the fledgling and short-lived World Football League on May 6, 1974,  instead of waiting one more month for the NFL to act.

After the park commission had voted 3-1 to lease Memphis Memorial Stadium to a World Football League team headed by John Bassett of Toronto, the NFL could not award Memphis a franchise for fear of a certain anti-trust lawsuit.   Besides, the lease terms that the park commission approved effectively barred another team.  If the park commission had turned down the WFL, it would have been on the city – and the NFL would not be bowling over a new team in a competing league. 

Park Commission members, including chairman E.R. ‘Bert’ Ferguson, took a bird-in-the-hand view of things.  

Some bird.

Only ad executive John Malmo voted against the lease, urging fellow commission members to wait on the NFL to come around.   Since the World Football League was a new outfit, and since its owners and cities were already being shuffled around, it seemed likely that Memphis would have ample opportunity to get a WFL team later, should the NFL fail to come through. 

Bassett, who owned TV and newspaper outlets in Canada and who was married to Carling Beer (“Hey Mabel, Black Label”) heiress Susan Carling, had famously signed Miami Dolphins Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield to give the new league credibility.  Bassett’s WFL franchise, originally the Toronto Northmen, turned to Memphis when Canadian politicians threatened to enact a law forbidding a foreign football league from entering Canada.  

In those ancient days of print journalism – you know, when every city had two major newspapers as God intended – the ongoing pro football story created an opportunity for competition between The Commercial Appeal and The Press-Scimitar.  The Commercial Appeal’s editorial position basically was, Run the WFL scoundrels out of town (which made things extra dicey for me as the beat reporter covering the team).  So, the Press-Scimitar decided to take the opposite tact and became the new team’s biggest cheerleader.  In fact, it was the Press that somehow ginned up calling the team “Grizzlies,” instead of the official name, “Southmen,” although the closest grizzly bear to Memphis is 1,500 miles.

The World Football League folded in the middle of its second season, and a spate of lawsuits with various theories from various persons got nowhere in pursuit of the NFL.  We don’t know for a dead-solid fact if the NFL would have chosen Memphis over Seattle as its next expansion city, but there is little doubt that the park commission sealed the city’s fate when it voted to lease Memphis Memorial Stadium to the WFL team, instead of waiting 29 more days. 

We have some pro “Grizzlies” now, and Memphis is happy about that.  But, amid some dried and faded newspapers shoved in a box in my garage, oh, what could have been and almost was.