Don't bet on the prospect of ultimate success, but in the wake of Monday's vote by the Shelby County Commission to let the University of Memphis Tigers out of their lease at The Pyramid, Commissioner John Willingham is renewing his efforts on behalf of casino gambling at that downtown facility.
And Willingham, who expects some help this week from his commission mates at a specially called Wednesday meeting, already has some in Nashville, where two "captioned" bills (i.e., legislation whose purpose is specified but whose details have yet to be filled in) have already been introduced to that end.
Shelby County legislators pushing the bills -- one of which would begin a constitutional-amendment process to legalize casino gambling at The Pyramid, the other of which would authorize "lotteries" (not to be confused with the existing state lottery) and games of "skill" in Tennessee -- are Larry Miller in the state House of Representatives and John Ford in the state Senate.
Governor Phil Bredesen, who had previously been thought unalterably opposed to such legislation, relented on that stand last week in Memphis, where, along with state Senator Steve Cohen, he presided over a ceremony bestowing Hope Scholarships, paid for by the new state lottery, to the first crop of local students to qualify for them.
While still professing to be "not at all sure" that gambling would be a solution to the financial predicament of Memphis and Shelby County, Bredesen said he would be prepared to listen to the opinions of "government and business and community leaders."
The commission's proposed action in approving the bills this week would be a partial compliance with the governor's statement.
Willingham thought he had the votes to put the commission on record behind the legislation on Monday, but a vote at the body's regular meeting was delayed by the technicality that a formal vote had not been taken in committee to add the proposition on Monday's agenda.
That was a point made during the regular session by Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel, a declared opponent of casino gambling, and her view was upheld by county attorney Brian Kuhn.
Regardless of whatever show of support the commission or other local sources might provide to the bills, many observers believe they have little to no chance of passage. Said Senator Cohen, who labored for 16 years to get a state lottery approved through the amendment process: "That's about as likely to happen as [the Rev.] Adrian Rogers is to enter Platinum Plus." (Rogers is a prominent local Baptist minister, and Platinum Plus is a well-known topless club.)
• At least one member of the Germantown Democratic Club thought last week's column dealt too kindly with 9th District U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who seemed clearly further to the right than most of those gathered to hear him, and, among other things, exonerated President Bush from lying about the presence of WMD in Iraq and advised members to put aside their conviction that Florida's electoral votes were "stolen" by the Republicans in the 2000 presidential election.
At one point, asked about campaign finance, Ford told the members: "You wouldn't believe how many of my good Republican friends will contribute when I ask them."
Said the member, who asked not to be identified, in an e-mail: "I thought the GT Club was a bit hostile to Jr. ... He sure as the devil became agitated with us. ... Did we attend the same meeting? Of course we are going to be polite. That is what my generation was taught when we were young, but he had some pretty hostile and adversarial questions thrown at him by our members, and I had the impression that many of our members were not pleased with his thoughts."
Gathering at a reception after the swearing-in March 19th of new Circuit Court Judge Donna Fields were (l to r) Circuit Court Judge George Brown, Paula Casey, General Sessions Judge Phyllis Gardner, and Judge Fields. Governor Phil Bredesen officiated at the ceremony, which was held in the old Supreme Court chambers on the third floor of the Shelby County Courthouse. Fields replaces retired Judge Robert Lanier.
GOOD DAY FOR GENEVIEVE: At the express request of Governor Phil Bredesen, Genevieve Cohen (center), mother of state Senator Steve Cohen (left), took her bows Friday at a ceremony at the University of Memphis honoring 20 brand-new Hope Lottery Scholars from Memphis and Shelby County. Mrs. Cohen also received a tribute from Memphis' Morris Fair, a member of the state Lottery Board, who told her, "You reproduce well!" That, of course, was a compliment as well to Cohen, who received praise as "the father of the lottery" from Bredesen, a sometime antagonist during last year's legislative battles over the state lottery structure.
Following is a list of 18 local Hope scholars, their high schools, and their chosen colleges:
1. Amber M. Casem, Ridgeway H.S., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
2. Teundrawl Coleman, Frayser H.S., Undecided
3. DeShawn J. Davenport, East H.S., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
4. Brittany L. Forbes, Wooddale H.S., University of Memphis
5. Candice L. Gray, Craigmont H.S., Rhodes College
6. Jordan E. Hewitt, Mitchell H.S., Undecided
7. Jacob S. Kleiman, White Station H.S., Undecided
8. Truc Nhu Ba Le, Overton H.S., Christian Brothers University
9. Brandon J. Patterson, Germantown H.S., University of Memphis
10. KeShunda M. Pittman, Raleigh-Egypt H.S., Tennessee State University
11. Kelvin L. Pollard, Whitehaven H.S., Austin Peay State University
12. Jarvis J. Randall, Cordova H.S., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
13. Heather L. Ross, Bolton H.S., Rhodes College
14. Fabio A. Sarria, Central H.S., Christian Brothers University
15. Dionne M. Smith, Westwood H.S., University of Memphis
16. Tasia H. Todd, Booker T. Washington H.S., Christian Brothers University
17. James Austin Walne, Collierville H.S., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
18. Earl A. Wynne, Hamilton H.S., Undecided