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VOL. 131 | NO. 234 | Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Ford Rumors, School Plans and Harwell Survives In State House

By Bill Dries

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If the Friday after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday” what is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? You know, the day many of us are scurrying about with our hair on fire to get everything done so we can legitimately claim that we will absolutely not be a part of the Black Friday mob whose hair is also alight.

I am accepting suggestions and my method of finding consensus does not involve the Electoral College … or for that matter any certified vote totals although I might accept provisional ballots.

Tigers 104 – McNeese 65 at the Forum Tuesday evening.

You’ve heard all of the speculation about a possible role for Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker in the Trump administration and you will likely here more about that. But Tuesday evening the name Harold Ford Jr. surfaced on Politico. The former Democratic Congressman from Memphis and part of the city’s first family of politics has surfaced as a possible pick for Transportation Secretary in the Trump cabinet.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider this. I mentioned the Fords are the city’s first family of politics and a decidedly Democratic family although Harold Ford Jr. is much more of a centrist than his father, Harold Ford Sr., was. And as a result the younger Ford has some critics who see this speculation as a vindication of their earlier judgments about him. But the Fords aren’t just Democrats. They have defined the Democratic base in Memphis for more than 40 years.

On the other hand, there are local elected and business leaders across the political spectrum – Democratic and Republican and nonpartisan – who are now watching this transition process more closely than they were to this point because of a possible connection to millions in federal transportation dollars for projects all over this city and county.

Ford told Politico he’s on vacation with him family and to call him Monday. To those of us who ask these kinds of questions for a living and among those who answer these kinds of questions for a living -- that is not a yes and it is not a no. And it appears Ford has not been asked directly by the President-elect or those in his inner circle about a specific post which is also a crucial distinction to be made.

A federal judge in Texas put on hold the Dec. 1 “time card” rule many employers have been preparing for. It moves and draws a brighter line on the point at which an employee must be paid overtime wages. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander among the first to react Tuesday evening in his role as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee. He wants President-elect Trump and the Congress to change the rule while it is pending before the federal court in Texas.

One of the more interesting discussions around education to come in the new year – of several – will be the latest moves in school closings and campus consolidations within Shelby County Schools. It’s really misleading to talk about these moves as just school closings – although there are some schools that will close as a result. But for every school that is closed you can argue that more schools remaining open are affected even if the school that closed only had 200 or so students. In some cases that is enough new students to put the school they are transferred to over capacity.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the proposal by SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson along with other moves the school system has made in this area in the last year short of the right-sizing plan Hopson is now pursuing. You will see more of the pattern set by the construction of the new Westhaven Elementary School in Whitehaven, built to replace the old Westhaven as well as two other elementary schools close by. And an ambitious plan to bring back Woodstock High in north Shelby County that had popular support in the area but not enough teenagers in the area is back on an even more ambitious scale – a k-12 Woodstock.

International Paper makes a $1.25 million donation to the Mid-South Food Bank that will allow the food bank to make an important transition from three warehouses into a single centralized location. The money comes with technical assistance from IP as well in the transition. In the process, the food bank has become IP’s “signature” charity after stepping in earlier to assist during a crisis after the nonprofit had a freezer go down earlier this year that needed to be repaired.

The Republican majority in the Tennessee Senate as expected has nominated veteran Oak Ridge Senator Randy McNally as the next speaker of the Senate and Lt. Gov. This is tantamount to McNally getting the job since Republicans hold all but five of the 33 Senate seats in Nashville.

McNally succeeds Ron Ramsey, who did not seek re-election this year to his Senate seat and will be leaving the upper chamber with the new year.

Republicans in the Tennessee House also caucused in Nashville this week and House Speaker Beth Harwell won the caucus's nomination for another term as speaker, by 10 votes and that was with some help from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

In his “View From The Hill” column, Sam Stockard reviews the political scrap.

Meanwhile, Haslam spoke at the Nashville Rotary this week and renewed his push for a better method of funding road and other transportation projects. But the speech still didn’t include Haslam coming down one way or the other on a state gas tax hike or some other specific method.

Haslam will be in Chattanooga Wednesday as the investigations – civil and criminal – continue into the school bus crash that killed six children.

A new mural in South Main.

And it is again time to begin thinking about public servants – elected and appointed – who may be worthy of the Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Awards given by the family of the late Probate Court Clerk and the Rotary Club of Memphis East. The Daily News is also a sponsor of the award.

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