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VOL. 131 | NO. 37 | Monday, February 22, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Drum Circles and Voting, Lincoln Day and Carolyn Hardy's Clients

By Bill Dries

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I think I may have stumbled upon a way to increase voter turnout in Memphis.
I would say nationally, but we all know what works in Memphis does not always work elsewhere and what works elsewhere does not always work in Memphis.
It came to me as I was at Overton Park ever so briefly Saturday. It’s part of my weekend run whenever the weather is spring-like or actually spring to see what will happen in the nearly three-year Greensward controversy.
Lots of people having fun and a few kite-flyers coexisting on the greensward with zoo overflow parking but no protest with brass band.
As I filed that away I wondered what happened to that park institution -- the drum circle.
Audubon Park had one too along with the Society for Creative Ananchronism – the folks who dress up like Game of Thrones only they were doing it before the television show.
Anyway, I started hearing the drums in my head as I imagined drum circles outside the early voting places because that's how my mind works in a career spent covering politicians since before I was old enough to vote.
Of course the drums would be outside the 100-foot limits for physical campaigning that state law requires.
But imagine you are in the area of let’s say Agricenter, maybe in Shelby Farms Park, and in the distance you hear drums. Wouldn’t you be curious? If you had the time would you try to find the source? And if you discovered it was outside an early voting place and you were of voting age and registered and if you had not already voted (for you may vote early but not often) would you not vote, once your curiosity had been satisfied?
I thought your answer to all of the above would be a resounding yes.

I was reminded of the drum idea during Saturday’s Lincoln Day Gala at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn and how drums were sometimes used to communicate over long distances.
These days we have all kinds of digital devices for that and if you beat of them they break – so don’t.
A lot of people were using those devices to keep up with the results from the South Carolina Republican presidential primary results.
Trump, Rubio and Cruz in that order and not much daylight between Rubio and Cruz.
Rubio was in Nashville Sunday and we should be seeing some of the Republicans in Shelby County shortly.
The Democrats don’t vote in South Carolina until this coming weekend.
So it may take them a bit longer to put in some quality time with Memphis Democrats.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has opened its Memphis office with some advisory words from the city’s highest-ranking elected Democrat – Congressman Steve Cohen, who is supporting Hillary Clnton.
Basically it was don’t talk bad about Sanders.

Carolyn Hardy almost did not take the position she now holds at the Greater Memphis Chamber. The fact that she did has focused even more attention on the renewed discussion in the last two years about increasing the growth of minority business, especially in the private sector and in business to business spending.
Hardy is the keynote speaker at our Thursday Women in Business seminar at the Brooks in Overton Park.
She is also featured in Madeline Faber’s cover story for our weekly, The Memphis News, that reveals, among other things, that for all of her business success including her latest venture in intermodals – Hardy has no local customers.
She does business from Memphis but not with Memphis – an important distinction given the overtures from Mississippi’s economic development officials to lure her bottling company south of the state line after the 2008 tornadoes that nearly destroyed her bottling plant in Memphis.

This is a busy time of the year for accounting firms – tax deadline and all. But once the tax season is over, Patrick Accounting will be expanding in East Memphis. Firm founder Matthew Patrick has recently expanded the business into payroll accounting and says the business is about more than looking at what has happened financially with a company or other client.

Beale Street could have a new day-to-day manager in March. We talked about this in passing last week. Here’s a look at how this process is working.

In The Memphis News Almanac: Robert Cray plays Huey’s, no more draft registration and a Memphis sports hall of fame.

Now about those drums. Since Tuesday is the last day of the early voting period for the March 1 presidential primaries, it’s probably too late for that election. Although the idea of presidential candidates coming to Shelby County to play drums outside polling places seems like a custom we could work into the nation’s political fabric.
But we have the state and federal primary elections on the ballot in August along with the only county general election this year – the race for General Sessions Court Clerk.
Think about it. The sound of drums on a hot summer day – the prospect of seeing Steve Cohen, all four of the local contenders in the 8th Congressional District Republican primary, incumbent state legislators and their challengers all banging on drums in a circle eyeing each other warily for changes in the beat.
Do Republican favor a faster beat? Is attributing a slower steadier beat to Democrats politically correct? There will be arguments about whether a jimbe is a drum or simply a percussion instrument. Someone will inevitably introduce a drum machine to play while they hand out endorsement ballots. Must you use your hands at an early voting site or are sticks permitted… and foot pedals for that matter. Double bass drums?
The Tennessee legislature is almost sure to take up such questions and debate it extensively before sending it to a summer study committee. And that summer study committee would come here to see the concept in action -- maybe even take a seat in the circle.
Political influence may not have a new face. But it would have a new sound.

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