Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Push To Rewrite History: Comedy or Tragedy?

I look forward to the day when news about politics in Tennessee is not simply easy material  for comedy shows. But that day is not today.

Local Referendum Vote May Be Overturned By State Legislature

Morristown's city council has been stalled since last summer trying to appoint a new person the the board of the Morristown Utility Commission. The council deadlocked when the mayor tried to appoint someone to replace a MUC member, whose term was up and who has been on the board for over 3 decades. In desperation, the fractured council has now pushed a measure forward which would have two legislators, Sen. Steve Southerland and Rep. Don Miller, create a "private act" to change the nominating process to the board - a process set in place when local voters made the change by a referendum vote in 2001. 

Sen. Southerland has said this will be resolved by the end of February, no problem.

That has set off a firestorm of debate, with many seeing the act as an "end-run around voters" and one which will be achieved with very little attention by media or awareness of city voters. So, members of the local citizens group, Citizens for Accountability, have sent a letter to Morristown voters and to the legislature's local government committee which says any change should go before voters via a referendum.

Here's the letter:

"Five City Councilmembers---Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, Kay Senter, Chris Bivens, and Claude Jinks---have voted to cancel out the votes of the 3,202 people (72%) who voted “FOR” changes to the Morristown Utilities Commission in a 2001 REFERENDUM.  MUC already controls three major funds of the City: the Power System, the Water System, and the Broadband/ FiberNet System. These five want to change the 2001 voter-approved process for appointing members to the MUC Board, and they want to give themselves authority to transfer the City sewer system to MUC ---all without a REFERENDUM.

In 2001, MUC supported and 72% of voters approved changes to MUC, including setting up a new appointment process for MUC Commissioners. The voter-approved appointment process provided that MUC would screen all candidates for the MUC Board, and then MUC would recommend three qualified people to the Mayor. The Mayor would select and present one of the MUC-provided names to council for approval or disapproval.

Over the next ten years, no council-member tried to change the selection process that the PEOPLE had overwhelmingly (72% approval) voted “FOR” in the 2001 REFERENDUM.  
 Now five councilmembers have decided that the 2001 voter-approved MUC selection process is not working and they want to change the appointment process-- without sending the proposed change back to the people in a  REFERENDUM.   

 The five councilmembers think that one person should serve on MUC even beyond the 34 years that he has already served. And that person, George McGuffin, adamantly refuses to pull his name in order to clear the way for a new person to be appointed to MUC. 

Instead of compromising and approving at least one of the ELEVEN different people nominated so far by the Mayor from the MUC list, these councilmembers have rejected all ELEVEN over the past seven months.  Since they haven’t gotten their way, these five have voted to change the law and replace the current voter-approved law for appointing MUC Board members with a process that will allow the five to have total control. Plus, they are giving themselves authority to give the City sewer to MUC without a REFERENDUM.

Mayor Danny Thomas and Council-member Gene Brooks support putting the changes to a vote of the people in a REFERENDUM, but the other five refuse to allow the people to vote.

Sen. Steve Southerland and Rep. Don Miller are sponsoring the MUC appointment and sewer changes in the state legislature. Sen. Southerland and Rep. Miller have refused to amend the bill to let the people vote on these changes in a REFERENDUM.

 When a major change to a Private Act is proposed—such as setting up a future sewer transfer—it should go before the people in a REFERENDUM.

When the people have already voted on something in a REFERENDUM—such as the MUC appointment process---any proposed change should go back to the people in a REFERENDUM.
Remember these elected officials who put issues on the ballot and ask you to get out and vote (REFERENDUM-2001) and who then turn around, ignore you, and decide that they will overturn your vote in 2012.
----Citizens for Accountability

With local utility revenues expected to hit the $100 million mark in 2012, whopping utility rate price increases ahead in 2012 for city residents due to critical repairs needed in the sewer system, decisions about who is charge of the city sewer system -- well, there's just heaps and heaps of questions about what's really going on and few answers.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bistro Boots Campfield, Internet Lights Up

pic via the Knox News Sentinel report
The owner of the Bistro By The Bijou Theatre told TN Senator Stacey Campfield to leave the restaurant Sunday in response to some wildly distorted and dangerously wrong information he was preaching about AIDS and gay people, which I wrote about here. (UPDATE: Campfield sued for libel, headed to court)

I find it really odd that a state senator who claims "Homosexuals represent about 2 to 3 percent of the population yet you look at television and plays and theaters, it's 50 percent of the theaters, probably more than that, 50 percent of the theaters based on something about homosexuality." would patronize a place which is itself part of a "theatre" - they even spell it like one of those places where "plays" are. Gasp!

Bistro owner Martha Boggs says:

""I didn't want his hate in my restaurant," Boggs said in a interview this morning. "I told him he wasn't welcome here. ... I feel like he's gone from being stupid to being dangerous, and I wanted to stand up to him."

Reactions are lighting up the internet:

Sean Braisted: "There is nothing inconsistent or incoherent about discriminating against those with power who actively discriminate against those without power.  There is no difference between refusing to serve David Duke than there is Stacey Campfield.  While Campfield's views may currently have more resonance among the American populace, it doesn't change the fact that he wishes discrimination against people based on who they are.

Mike Donila
Southern Beale
Betsy Phillips
Trace Sharp
Towle Road
Daily Kos
Think Progress 
No Silence Here has a roundup of comments
And, Free Republic: Gays have their own street in Knoxville?

Sen. Campfield isn't backing away from his uneducated commentary - he's adding to it, urging folks to think that someone who has hemophilia or anyone who might be ill must be avoided because they are not "normal":

"Most "Normal" people I imagine would also stay away from the IV drug users, hemophiliacs, known disease carriers, prostitutes and other high risk people. Also conceding a man less likely to receive the disease then (sic) a women because of the nature of sex, the odds of a man getting AIDS from a female are pretty low."

Classy. At least he says "I imagine" as his imagination is completely running wild. And the real question is - will voters forget all this when his re-election efforts begin?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Camera Obscura: A Real 'Artist" of Silent Film Era

Just as Hollywood is lining up to celebrate the movie romanticizing the silent film era, "The Artist", one of the era's very talented and outspoken screenwriters, Frederica Sagor Mass, passed away in early January at the age of 111.

Fortunately, she crafted a most memorable memoir of her days as a screenwriter published in 1999, "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim", where she revealed the greed, lechery and brutal nature of the early days of filmmaking. Her memoir reminded readers that Hollywood has always been first and foremost about one thing - business, not artists. Here she is from a 1999 interview:

"I know I’ve been hard on the motion picture industry [in the book],” she remarks. “The facts and the stories I tell — about the plagiarism and the way I was handled and the way other writers were handled — are true. If anybody wants to take offense at the fact that I tell the truth and I’m writing this book …” She pauses a moment, collects her thoughts, then — Whammo! “I can get my payback now. I’m alive and thriving and, well, you SOBs are all below, because I’ve lived to 99. And I quit the business at 50.”


"Maas doesn’t think much of current films. “There’s no lack of material, there’s just lack of incentive to make anything else but what they consider box office. And, hell, who can dispute them? Pictures are making money. And people are getting stupider and stupider. They’ll pay seven and a half dollars to see a motion picture and it’s all in the same vein: sex, sex, sex, sex, sex and violence, violence, violence, violence. You know what they’ve done? They’ve taken the vulgar, low part of old-fashioned vaudeville — all those terrible little acts — and they’ve put it on TV.”

"Both she and her husband, Ernest Maas, saw their ideas stolen and plagiarized, and they were blackballed by the industry after being wrongly accused of being communists, she wrote.

"Her book is perhaps the best muckraking memoir about early Hollywood," film historian Alan K. Rode said Friday. "She was one of the last living connections to silent film, and her autobiography is an irreplaceable record written from the rare perspective of a woman who lived through those times."

Her life and works deserve to be celebrated as much as or more than any box office hit of the moment. Here's to you, Frederica.