POLITICS: News Cycle



NEWS CYCLE JANUARY: 2004 At annual New YearÕs Day prayer breakfast Mayor Willie Herenton virtually declares war on his council, while seeming to claim divine sanction. Background? Personnel matters, still-fresh MLGW prepayment deal with TVA, HerentonÕs ID as Alpha male. Darker issues rumored. Readers can chart this pilgrimÕs progress by comparing my interview with Hizzoner (ÒThe Testament of Willie Herenton;Ó just google that title) with mayorÕs year-end sitdown in this issue with my colleague John Branston.

Road duty in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the once high-flying Howard Dean first teeters, then crashes to earth while John Kerry begins his improbable rise to the Democratic nomination.

FEBRUARY: In unexpectedly pivotal Tennessee primary, Kerry disposes of Wesley Clark and John Edwards and virtually seals his eventual win. Former Veep Al Gore, at Nashville rally, denounces President Bush for ÒbetrayingÓ the country in Iraq.

At ClarkÕs swan-song speech, I hear about Bob Mintz, a former Alabama Air National Guard pilot, who Ð with his buddy Paul Bishop Ð ends up telling me about BushÕs 1972 no-show at their Alabama ANG base. The resulting story goes national and perculates throughout the election year.

Councilman Brent Taylor on HerentonÕs issuance of a physical dare: ÒI donÕt want to meet him outside. I want to meet him at the Health Department. I want him to pass in a cup so we can see what heÕs on.Ó

MARCH: New council member (and 2007 mayoral hopeful) Carol Chumney begins yearlong breakaway from her colleagues, charging Òpetty in-fighting.Ó Councilman Jack Sammons: ÒShe makes [former maverick member John] Vergos look like a team player.Ó 9th District congressman Harold Ford gets some flak from Germantown Democratic Club members from what they see as ÒBush-liteÓ attitudes.

APRIL: 7th District congressman Marsha Blackburn comes back from Iraq with rosy prospectus. Former county commissioner Morris Fair dies Ð not long after making dramatic -- and pivotal testimony -- against multi-million-dollar settlement with Clark Construction Co., over Convention Center cost overruns. Co-cover story with Branston (ÒConvention Center Cave-InÓ) documents the settlementÕs flaws, and the commission says no.

MAY: In Topeka, Kansas, for Brown v. Board of Education commemoration.

In Nashville, Governor Phil Bredesen gets heat from fellow Democrats about workersÕ comp reforms Ð but will prevail. Former state Democratic chair Bill Farmer: ÒGovernor, I wish I had voted for Van Hilleary two years ago instead of working to get you elected. He couldnÕt have done the damage to us that youÕve done.Ó State Sen. John Ford in debate on air travel restrictions: ÒI donÕt fly from here to Memphis. I drive Ð though some of you may describe that as flying."

Congressman Ford is incorrectly listed by Washington Times as party to testimonial dinner for Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claims, improbably, to be the Òmessiah.ÓJUNE: The first report that Herenton might resign because of ongoing Ð and at this point undefined -- investigations. Mayoral press secretary Gal Jones Carson: ÒThis mayor has nothing to hideÓ : Republican icon John T. Williams dies, following ex-councilman Bob James, his fellow nonagenarian, by mere weeks. Two Republican county commissioners, chairman Marilyn Loeffel and first-termer Bruce Thompson continue a year-long feud.over both personal and policy issues. Interview with now you see him/now you donÕt gadfly presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

JULY: A memo materializes from deposed MLGW head Herman Morris to the utilityÕs erstwhile financial officer, detailing both HerentonÕs high-pressure lobbying on brokering deal and role in process of MLGWÕs head-to-be Joseph Lee. Several Ford-family members do a wrestling caper. Up in Boston, where the national Democrats convene, a new star materializes Ð IllinoisÕ senator-to- be Barack Obama.

AUGUST: Shelby County holds a countywide general election and statewide primary. Key winners: Assessor Rita Clark, General Sessions Clerk Chris Turner, Chancellor Arnold Goldin, GOP State Rep-nominee Brian Kelsey. Bobby Lanier and Susan Thorp lose county jobs in controversy over retirement benefits for ex-aide Tom Jones, who begins yearlong term at federal prison camp in Arkansas. GOP convenes in New York and renominates President Bush.

SEPTEMBER: Mintz story resurfaces nationally but is quickly trumped by CBSÕ Rathergate . Democratic legislative stalwarts Jimmy Naifeh and John Wilder face determined foes Ð but will survive. Former legislator Pam Gaia, a gallant reformer, dies. Herenton, before Jones-Johnson light-heavy championship fight at new FedEx Forum, acknowledges he has thought about stepping down.

OCTOBER: Religious Right icon Ed McAteer dies. Tragic death of county commissioner Joyce AveryÕs daughter underscores problems with 911 system Ð as does much lamented heart-attack death of ex-mayor Wyeth Chandler one month later. An Arkansas bus crash kills 14 Chicagoans. George Flinn is named a new county commissioner, to succeed Linda Rendtorff, now a Wharton aide. Michael Moore does local no-show. E.H. Crump Collection unveiled at the Central Library.

NOVEMBER: Election year ends with local victory for Kerry-Edwards. Defeated nationally and statewide, Democrats begin long debate over future. Wesley Clark, interviewed at Clinton Library dedication in Little Rock, looks toward Õ08.

. DECEMBER: Chumney again, on MLGW. Wharton pumps for new tax.. Curtis Person squeezed by GOP state Senate colleagues. ÒBombshellÓ promised for HerentonÕs New Year prayer breakfast? ErÉ.To Be Continued.

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