VOL. 129 | NO. 199 | Monday, October 13, 2014
Commission’s First Partisan Challenge Lingers
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners appeared last week to be on the way to putting behind them their first political controversy of their term of office.
Six of the seven Democratic commissioners along with Republican commissioner Steve Basar voted last month to delay the slate of committee assignments made by new chairman Justin Ford.
The slate was again recommended last week by commissioners in committee sessions with 12 of the 13 commissioners present and voting on the recommendation.
And the committee slate is again up for a vote at the Monday, Oct. 13, commission meeting.
The commission meets at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.
There was a bit more discussion about political motives in last week’s committee sessions. But still no comments from Ford, a Democrat, whose election as chairman in September with the votes of all six Republican commissioners and his own vote, was at the heart of the move by the other six Democrats.
Basar, however, said he was respecting a motion to delay the vote as a courtesy to other commissioners. He expressed some dissatisfaction with the reaction of his fellow Republicans on the commission.
“I never ever said I wasn’t supporting it,” Basar said. “It’s indeed unfortunate that the new litmus test for being Republican is his or her ability to follow the herd and vote as a block.”
Basar also said he was “disappointed” at “bully tactics” he said some Republicans used against him.
“It’s unfortunate when six Republicans and one Democrat are together and it’s seen as a bipartisan victory,” he added. “But if its six Democrats and one Republican, the Republican is a terrible person and he’s not part of the party and let’s throw him. If that’s the way it’s going to be for the next four year, I’ve got big shoulders and I can handle that.”
Democratic commissioner Walter Bailey, who lost to Ford in the selection of a new chairman, said he has no regrets about trying to hold up the committee assignments.
“Sometime we want to sit here and be sanctimonious and pious and say, ‘Oh, I’m not political,’” Bailey said. “We’re all political. That’s what this is – a political institution. Let’s be frank about it. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.”
Bailey said he was motivated by what he sees as neglect of inner-city issues by the commission.
“A major concern of mine is how do we go forward in terms of trying to shape the policies of our government and address these concerns of the inner-city as well as the working people in this community,” he said.
“There are many racial issues in this community that we have to address that are ignored,” he said. “The appointments have all of the earmarks of a deal cut between the Republicans and one of our Democratic colleagues, which is okay – that’s politics. That’s not to say I have to take it with a smile.”
Republican commissioner Terry Roland said Ford’s election was an attempt to take the commission beyond partisan voting blocks. In recent years, the commission has elected several chairmen with votes from both parties and the last three chairmen with majorities composed primarily of commissioners from the other party.
“You did the same thing with (Republican) commissioner (Mike) Ritz,” Roland said to Bailey. “Six Democrats voted for Commissioner Ritz. Nobody thought about it. Nobody threw a fit.”
Also on Monday’s agenda is the confirmation of Dr. William Evans and Dr. Kennard Brown to the board of the Shelby County Healthcare Corp., the operating company of the Regional One Medical Center, formerly known as the Regional Medical Center or The Med.
Evans, the former director of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Brown, the vice chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, would fill two new seats on the board, which is being expanded because of the new contract between the hospital and the university.
The commission also votes Monday on the sale of 19.2 acres of land in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park by Illinois Central Railroad Co. from the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission at a cost of $12,000 per acre. The land is for an expansion of the railroad existing intermodal facility in the park.
Meanwhile, the commission votes on a five-year lease agreement between the Shelby County Health Department and the university for 1,868 square feet of office space at 711 Jefferson Ave.
The space would be headquarters for the health department’s TennderCare grant programs.
TennderCare is a set of state-funded wellness programs providing check-ups and health care services to children whose families are enrolled in TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid.
The county would lease the space for $23,048 a year in the first year with a five percent increase each of the next four fiscal years.