Things werent exactly lagging in the rest of the public sphere, either. Consider what was going on just one night last week -- last Thursday evening, when the UM-LeMoyne game was going on, with (you can be sure) an ample number of pols and office-holders in the crowd:
The idea, as party chairman Matt Kuhn had announced it, was to initiate a whole series of such outreach meetings, bringing the party message to unaccustomed places in the hinterland. Last weeks meeting, which doubled as a fundraiser, was addressed by state Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers.
Three legislators state Representatives Barbara Cooper and Mike Kernell and state Senator Kathryn Bowers were on hand to hear Montgomery and other panelists, including Dr. Sandra L. Gadson, president of the National Medical Association (a majority-black group) lambaste Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen for his paring of the TennCare rolls and to pledge continued opposition to Bredesens cuts which, all the speakers said bluntly, would result in numerous deaths.
(While he was receiving all this attention in absentia, the governor was downtown at the Cannon Center, attending the National Civil Rights Museums Freedom Awards ceremony.)
Bowers, one of those indicted in this years Tennessee Waltz scandal, had a further vow, relevant to her uncertain legislative future. Im not going anywhere! she proclaimed, to spirited applause.
Actress Angela Bassett, emcee for the ceremony, capably handled introductions honorees and corporate sponsors alike.
In good form, too, was the Rev. Ben Hooks, president of the Museum board, whose continued recovery from a disabling stroke that for some time confined him to a wheel chair seemed virtually complete. Hooks presided over the presentations and delivered a moving benediction to close the proceedings.
n Other recent fundraisers for next years candidates included two at the new riverbluff home of businessman Karl Schledwitz, one for Shelby County mayor A C Wharton two weeks ago and another this week for 9th District congressman Harold Ford, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Continuing his re-emergence as a mover in Shelby County politics is Bartlett banker Harold Byrd, who hosted a well-attended fundraiser for county commission candidate Sidney Chism recently at the Poplar Avenue branch of the Bank of Bartlett.
Ironically enough, this was on the same night as the Schledwitz affair for Wharton, whose entrance into the 2002 Shelby County mayors race would in the long run cause Byrd, an early declared candidate, to drop out.
At the time Byrd made no secret of his displeasure with Wharton for, as Byrd saw it, going back on a prior commitment not to enter the race.
Byrd stayed out of the public eye for some time thereafter, but, as he confided recently, he has decided to leave the bitterness behind him. A well-received commercial for the Bank of Bartlett featuring Byrd, a former legislator, has spurred recent speculation that he might seek public office again.
No plans, said the banker.
The name of Byrds brother, former state Representative Dan Byrd, was floated by hopeful Democrats some weeks back when it appeared that current state Representative Tre Hargett, a Republican, might vacate his seat. But Hargett, who recently gave up his post as House Republican leader, apparently intends to serve out his term.
Like his brother, Dan Byrd has indicated no intention of seeking public office again.
Ford, -- whose Democratic opponent, state Senator Rosalind Kurita of Clarksville, was also omitted from poll results trailed both Bryant and Hilleary by roughly the same margin. Hilleary led Ford 48.4 to 40.8, while Bryants margin was slightly smaller, 47.5 to 41.2.
Ford had made a point recent of issuing his own poll, showing himself running more or less even with his potential Republican opponents. His fundraising, reportedly totaling some $3 million and including funds in his pre-existing House campaign chest, is competitive with Corkers reported totals of $3.2 million. Both Bryant and Hilleary are still looking for their first $1 million.
Willingham and Walter Bailey have led the fight to get more up-to-date accounting from the PBA. Both opposed the building of the FedEx Forum early on and have consistently questioned terms of the deal which created it and brought the NBAs Grizzlies to town. But even they seem to be softening their resistance somewhat.
We have the Grizzlies now, Willingham said. I still want to get all these answers, but like everybody else I want to see them move head and win a playoff game.
Two other controversial matters dominated the commissions attention at its regular monthly meeting. One was a proposed development, Gardens of Grays Hollow, which was widely praised by virtually all commissioners, who agreed with Ron Harkavy, a spokesman for the project, that it was a model of its kind.
But after some heated discussion, during which Harkavy complained that his client was being made the scapegoat for other, less worthy proposals approved previously, the commission deferred judgment on the project for 60 days. Though the Grays Hollow project was already in the pipeline before the commissions recent passage of a yearlong moratorium on new development proposals in the outer county, it clearly fell victim to the new cost-conscious spirit of that resolution.
The other point of contention, a resolution urging the state legislature to impose caps on medical malpractice claims, drew fire from commissioners Bailey and Julian Bolton, both lawyers, but received a positive vote from everybody else. Bailey maintained that the commission should not even take a position on what was essentially a legislative matter -- and, if it did, should favor the other side.
We represent the people here, said Bolton, who said the measure unduly favored a medical establishment that was in no need of special help.
That point was contested was commissioner George Flinn, a physician, who said at one point, Johnny Cochrans dead, I believe, and hes still talking on TV about how you should sue your doctor.