Henri Brooks, a controversial member of the Shelby County Commission, has strong views and, from time to time, an even stronger presence. She is well known for a tenacious pursuit of her objectives once she focuses in on an issue or cause.
That aspect of the former state representative’s personality was on display again at the commission’s regular Monday meeting. Early on, Brooks put her foot down on the matter of re-authorizing a federal Head Start contract with the University of Memphis in the amount of $400,159. Enough other members had questions of one sort or another about the continued usefulness of the contract that five votes were eventually toted up against the re-authorization.
That made the final vote among those present and voting 6-5 in favor, but, since seven votes were needed, the re-authorization failed, with the future disposition of the contract uncertain.
Later on in Monday’s meeting, Brooks would take a hit herself, when Commissioner Steve Mulroy proposed a series of amendments to the commission’s procedures for conducting committee meetings.
The import of his amendments was twofold -- to strengthen a committee chairman’s ability to curtail debate and to allow committee members to call for a vote on the question at hand, as they do in regular session but, up to this point, had not been able to during committee meetings, most of which are held on the Wednesday preceding a regular Monday commission meeting.
Though no commission member was singled out for mention during debate on the Mulroy amendments, it became obvious at some point that Brooks was the probable focus of them – as was, to some extent, Commissioner James Harvey. (Several commission members would later confirm as much.) Both Brooks and Harvey have frequently availed themselves of committee rules permitting, in effect, unlimited debate.
During discussion on the amendments Monday, Mulroy indicated at one point he would be amenable to modifying their thrust, but Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, a Republican who often votes contrary to Democrat Mulroy on contested matters, was insistent this time: “I don’t want to see this defanged!” And commission chairman Sidney Chism, who at first was concerned that the amendments might be superfluous, warmed to them as an antidote to what he called “filibusters.”
The final vote was 9 for and 4 opposed. Besides Brooks and Harvey, the opponents included newcomer Justin Ford and Walter Bailey, a veteran commissioner who was elected this year after sitting out for four years due to term limits.
Acknowledging the implicit targeting at the heart of the amendments, Bailey would say later, “I’m not sure this was fair."
• After making a speech at City Hall last Thursday evening in which he advocated serious reductions in federal spending, Tennessee’s junior U.S. Senator Bob Corker was asked about his presence on a 2012 hit list published that day on Red State.org, a prominent blog catering to both Republicans and Tea Party members.
“I’ve been through this before,” said Corker, who four years ago narrowly defeated Democrat Harold Ford Jr. to win his seat. “In 2006 people tried to nationalize the race I was involved in. This is a small group of people, Washington-centrric, who don’t like the fact that I actually think about what I do, that I actually ask questions about bills, that I just don’t automatically jump up and say ‘yes’ when the electric shock hits the chair. OK? And that concerns some people.
“Yet I think if you look at people in Tennessee, we actually have some data that, when Bill Haslam was running for governor, they polled, Tea Party people in Tennessee actually support me more than Republicans do. So this is a Washington-centric deal. It’s very Washington-centric….What happens is, you have a handful of people who try to manipulate movements like this, and that’s just the way it is….”
Corker’s presence on such a purge list could be considered an anomaly. Though he advocates bipartisan cooperation, Corker is something of a conservative’s conservative, especially on economic matters. He was one of Congress’ most serious opponents of bailouts for the financial and automotive industries, and his speech Thursday was the 41st occasion on which he formally stated his warning against excessive federal spending.
Essentially, what the senator proposes is that Congress fix spending levels at a specific percentage of the country’s annual Gross National Product (GNP) — doing so by averaging out GDP figures for a span of years — and his own recommended spending level is 18 percent — which is 2.5 percent lower than the 50-year average and represents a ceiling that Corker believes would yield balanced budgets.
• Last week’s election results (dismal from their point of view) notwithstanding, Democrats still have George W. Bush to kick around. One opportunity was provided Thursday of this week when Participant Media scheduled a free premiere of the movie Fair Game at the Cordova Malco Theater. The movie, which names names, is an unflattering take on the Bush administration’s apparent outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for the debunking by her husband, special ambassador Joseph Wilson, of the administration’s case that Saddam Hussein had been seeking to buy uranium in Africa.
Germantown’s Adrienne Pakis-Gillon, who participated in a conference, “START Now Summit: Women Leaders for Nuclear Security,” organized by Participant Media, was helping to organize local attendance, with registration and more information available at tnfairgame.eventbrite.
• Sylvia Abraham Holder, shown here at her 90th birthday celebration last December, with her daughter, Tennessee Supreme Court chief justice Janice Holder (right) and other well-wishers, was honored at a memorial service last Friday at Calvary Episcopal Church. Holder, a former jazz chanteuse who performed with many of the swing era's big bands, died on September 28th.
• State representative Ulysses Jones, 59, a Democrat who served as House Ethics Committee chair and held numerous other legislative and civic posts, died unexpectedly Tuesday, apparently of com-plications resulting from pneumonia. Jones, who was re-elected to a 13th term just last week, was universally respected. A Fire Department battalion chief, he was a first responder at Graceland on the occasion of Elvis Presley's death in 1977