Terry Roland on a Tear

The (local) world according to the GOP county commissioner from Millington.

| June 13, 2013
Terry Roland
- Jackson Baker
Terry Roland

Shelby County commissioner Terry Roland, addressing a luncheon meeting of the Frayser Exchange Club last Thursday, had something of a field day inveighing against an assortment of adversaries.

A sampling of his views on various subjects, rendered in the commissioner's distinctive idiom:

Ambitious politicians: "We've got to come together as one people against these cotton-picking politicians. Some of these people on this county commission that's making these decisions right now, they're trying to jockey themselves to get ready to run for some of these clerk jobs.

"What's that about? What it is, they've got seven years on the county commission. Now they got to the clerk's office and whatever they make in that clerk's office, which is much more, that's what they're gonna retire on ... . The same people who promised you the world, they haven't delivered, have they? Ain't gone deliver, 'cause they're going to run for clerk next year."

"Do-gooders" and the tax rate: "How many people in here rent? You think the people that owns that property are not gonna go up on your rent? All these do-gooders on the county commission who vote for these tax increases will say 'My folks won't have to pay the tax, but their folks will have to pay that tax, because whoever owns that property is gone raise it [the rent] up."

The Memphis parks controversy: "All this fighting over parks. It's because some developer somewhere wants that Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to build condos for the University of Tennessee. Here's what they're doing — getting the community fighting each other about it. All the time we're fighting they're stealing us blind. That's true! That's God's honest truth."

Charter schools: "Look at who's trying to get these charter schools, who's in office, and who's been in office — folks who voted to merge [school districts] to start with. Follow the money!"

School-merger proponents as responsible for looming county deficits: "If they'd have listened to me to start with, we wouldn't have been $30 million short — it was $157 million to make it a world-class system. We wouldn't have spent $5 million on attorneys who are good friends with the politicians we're talking about. We wouldn't be going up on property taxes."

Corporate Memphis: "Corporate Memphis is running Memphis and Shelby County, and the whole time corporate Memphis is running things, we don't have jobs ... . We're giving away all these PILOTs and stuff ... . Look up financial disclosures. A lot of them have PACs. PILOT programs have been there for years. I'm very upset that only $4 million of their tax money is going to schools. All that tax abatement!"

Municipal school systems: "When this all first happened, the municipalities said, 'Okay, let us have — what was it? — the chancellor model of schools, where they would still have a little autonomy but they would be part of the merged school system, but Commissioner [Steve] Mulroy, Commissioner [Walter] Bailey, they said, 'Heck naw, we gone sue! You see what I'm saying? That's not coming to the table. That's not working together. And that actually happened."

Highbrows: "These same folks who give you all that Memphis State rigamarole, 'constitutional' stuff, you know, trying to talk this far over your head, I promise you they ain't doing it for you. They're doing it for themselves ... . We've got to stop trying to measure everybody's integrity and thought processes by their education. You know what I'm saying?"

• Two of Roland's county commission colleagues are his latest targets. The Millington commissioner has levied ethics complaints against Sidney Chism and Melvin Burgess. Both are Democrats; perhaps more to the point, both are two sure votes for Shelby County mayor Mark Luttrell's 2013-14 budget, which was approved on first reading last week by a commission majority but which must undergo two more votes before final approval at a third reading on July 8th.

Many of Roland's commission colleagues, on both sides of the partisan divide, consider it a given that his real motive — though he denies it — is to invalidate Chism and Burgess as voters at that third reading so as to thwart the mayor's budget, which Roland professes to regard as spendthrift and, as indicated above, a depredation upon the rank-and-file citizen.

Success at that, plus a shifting of GOP commissioner Steve Basar from an ambivalent position on the budget (outlined in a Flyer "Viewpoint" article last week) to a definitive no vote, would make it mathematically impossible for the budget and the increased tax rate it envisions to pass.

Roland is famous (or notorious) for insinuating — or stating outright — that he has big-time pull in the state government establishment, currently predominantly Republican. Though his boast is regarded with some skepticism, among both the commission's Democrats and Republicans, he continues to claim credit for having influenced legislative actions, particularly those relating to the enabling of municipal school systems in the suburbs.

On countless occasions during commission debate on controversial matters, Roland has dropped several names in particular — Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville, state Senate majority leader Mark Norris of Collierville, and state representative Ron Lollar of Bartlett. At other times, he has referred, more generically, to his "allies" in the legislature.

There was, for example, his memorable threat in March, when a commission majority voted to seek the expansion of the permanent Unified School System board from seven to 13. Roland responded: "Just like World War II, I'm going to Nashville to get my allies, and I'm coming back to bomb your Hiroshima!"

Late in May, Roland publicly released a letter to county attorney Kelly Rayne, informing her (and whoever else read it) that he had asked Norris and Lollar to expedite a request to state attorney general Robert Cooper to advise on three issues.

Those were: whether a commissioner employed by the school system could legally vote on school funding, whether a commissioner involved with an institution receiving benefits and services from the school system could so vote, and whether a commissioner who had applied for a charter school could do so.

Burgess was targeted by the first premise, Chism by the second and third. Since school funding is an integral part of the annual budget, Roland was actually or incidentally seeking to disallow the two named colleagues from casting votes on the budget at large.

In a follow-up letter last week to Norris and Lollar, Roland asked the two legislators to communicate to Cooper the fact that, as he argued, Burgess was not continuing in an existing position — presumably a fact providing more latitude in voting on school matters — but had been required, like all other holdover staffers from Memphis City Schools or Shelby County Schools, to reapply.

On the budget's first reading last week, Chism cautiously abstained on voting for the budget itself but voted to approve an increase in the tax rate. Burgess, declaring he would not be "bullied," voted on everything, prefacing each of his votes with a statement of disclosure regarding his employment.

Chism addressed the matter last Saturday, in the course of his annual political picnic on Horn Lake Road, an affair resumed this year after a one-year caesura, dismissing it as "without foundation."

He got some validation on the point from Basar, an attendee at the picnic, who in a separate conversation described the charge as a matter of "making a mountain out of a molehill."

That, of course, is for the attorney general to decide, though, in this and other matters, his opinion would be advisory and not legally binding. Generally, though, what he says has been reinforced in subsequent judicial rulings.

• Basically, the Chism picnic serves as a kick-off event for the coming year's politics, and politicians of all political stripes were on hand on Saturday. Chism dismissed criticism from Democratic Party activist Del Gill about his billing of this year's picnic event as nonpartisan. "It's always been nonpartisan," Chism, a Democrat, said. And indeed two prominent guests were Luttrell and Sheriff Bill Oldham, both Republicans. Among other attendees was a potential opponent for Luttrell, former county commissioner Deidre Malone, who used the occasion to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for mayor. Other candidates for 2014 who spoke to the crowd included Reginald Milton, Eddie Jones, Patrice Robinson, Van Turner, Justin Ford, and Basar, all candidates for county commission seats. Ford and Basar are incumbents.


Comments (18)

Showing 1-18 of 18

And we thought Bill Ketron had a few 'roo loose in the upper paddock! Bet Bill's one of this guys friends in "Nashville".

report 5 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by MidTN Guy on 06/13/2013 at 6:49 AM

Self-serving politicians, Mr. Roland ... who'd a thunk it.

report 6 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by CEBorst on 06/13/2013 at 7:36 AM

Terry Roland is the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS of politicians, just barely enough truth in his commentary to make you think it might NOT be satire.

report 8 likes, 5 dislikes   
Posted by LeftWingCracker on 06/13/2013 at 7:50 AM

One point! Take a drive thru and around Millington and then tell me what Roland has done that is so good!

report 8 likes, 7 dislikes   
Posted by oldtimeplayer on 06/13/2013 at 7:56 AM

Wow! I had no idea he was that crazy. I mean, I knew he was a nut, but I didn't know he was actually crazy.
From now on, people from Millington can say nothing disparaging about Memphis politicians. They've had more then their fair share of political scandal lately.

report 9 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by nobody on 06/13/2013 at 8:33 AM

LWC nails it.

There's no denying that Roland is crazy, but sometimes it takes a certain amount of crazy to balance out the self-important egomaniacs on the CC. And at the very least he's entertaining

report 9 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by mad_merc on 06/13/2013 at 9:57 AM

Hmmm, the some of the same folks that elect Curry Todd, elect Roland too! Losers all....

report 9 likes, 7 dislikes   
Posted by Dropkick on 06/13/2013 at 9:58 AM

"It's harder and harder trying to do the Lord's work in the city of Satan," John McCain.

report 1 like, 1 dislike   
Posted by tomguleff on 06/13/2013 at 12:25 PM

Well there's no doubt he's a couple of bricks shy of a full load. But he does hit the truth on a few things. I am glad he is getting the AG to look at the voting of Chism and Burgess. It seems he has something there. But is will not be the first time either councils, Memphis and Shelby County, commissioners have voted when they should have recused themselves. Plus he has been for the MSDs and against the merger. Like I said he has some good points on somethings.

report 8 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by diogenes323 on 06/13/2013 at 12:35 PM

Hmmm. Mr. Roland is speaking to the people of Frayser? Did Mr. Roland tell the people in Frayser that when he speaks to the people in Millington he tells them that we do not want to become "North Frayser"?

report 6 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Applebunny on 06/13/2013 at 2:11 PM

Tom, I thought you LIKED Millington! :)

report 1 like, 4 dislikes   
Posted by LeftWingCracker on 06/13/2013 at 2:46 PM

I will keep my opinion about Roland to myself. However, Millington has its problems like many other communities. Keep in mind there are people who have made Millington their home and are making a difference. A baby has to crawl before he/she can walk and we are past the crawling stage. Keep watching eventually Millington will get some respect from the rest of Shelby County.

report 1 like, 0 dislikes   
Posted by blindersoff on 06/13/2013 at 6:26 PM

Maybe condos would be a good idea.

report 1 like, 3 dislikes   
Posted by TruthBeTold on 06/13/2013 at 8:46 PM

I would rather have Roland thanthe putz Ritz or any of the no account baboons on the CC8. And he beats the head baboon of the CC8 Chism. What a jerk.

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Posted by Clarion on 06/15/2013 at 8:20 AM

I wonder why anyone would refer to the CC8 as baboons? It seems as though there are plenty of names to disparage a person with, but, to refer them to baboons seems like it takes on other connotations.

Just asking?

Btw, those are some of the same descriptions used to describe President and First Lady Obama. What a coincidence!

report 0 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by oldtimeplayer on 06/15/2013 at 11:37 AM


Would turkeys suffice?

report 2 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by TruckStop on 06/15/2013 at 3:01 PM


Turkey's would be just fine. You could also try bird-brained, Emu, Jackass, mule, skunk, etc.

But to use the time worn, African Americans are monkeys and baboons is just not envogue anymore.

At least the CC8 got elected by the people for something, I wonder if Clarion has ever been called, took the challenge and been elected to anything?

report 0 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by oldtimeplayer on 06/15/2013 at 4:14 PM

Terry Rolan is all Talk and all he does is point fingers everybody on the County Comission need to go and both City and County Mayors can go to ,Raising property taxes and unable to come up with one solution to ease the rise of taxes and bring in something that make money ,but people get on here and attempt to defend these guys they care nothing but about themselves

report 3 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by REALLY ! on 07/30/2013 at 10:00 PM
Showing 1-18 of 18

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