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VOL. 132 | NO. 201 | Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: A Centennial, Corker Controversy Goes Wider and Ranked Choice Votes

By Bill Dries

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One of the most influential political figures in the city and state in the last half of the 20th century turned 100 years old MondayLewis Donelson, cofounder and senior counsel at Baker Donelson. A direct descendant of Andrew Jackson, the president from Tennessee who made the mold of the modern Democratic Party, Donelson started out, of course, as a Democrat. But by the 1950s was shaping the modern local and state Republican parties.

He talks of approaching political boss E.H. Crump about holding Republican primaries in the 1950s and being told by Crump that there would be no Republican primaries allowed – only Democratic. For all of his influence, the only elected public office Donelson has ever held was on the Memphis City Council and then for one term – the first term of the mayor-council form of government that began in 1968 – with the sanitation workers strike beginning two months into the term of office.

He wrote his autobiography five years ago with plenty of comments on the here and now including this, just a few years ahead of a new wave of protest and a generational transition and struggle in our politics.

“I describe Memphis as a place with blacks in the majority and whites in the minority, but blacks act as if they are the minority and whites act as if they are the majority. We desperately need more black leaders willing to govern, to get in there and do things for the city, not think about complaints or past disadvantages but about what to do now to make this city a better one. … It might not be the city that white leaders would develop, but it would be a city that represents the community and looks at the future, planning for it and daring to face those challenges unafraid,”

Usually when an elected official announces they won’t seek re-election, it’s a move out of the spotlight and into the sunset – at least until the next election, if there is one. But these are not “usual” times when it comes to U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. The rift between Corker and President Donald Trump continued into the week. Here is the basic account from Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Times on where this may be going.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, called Monday evening on Corker to resign his Senate seat before the end of his term – another indication that the controversy is rapidly becoming much more than a falling out between the president and the senator: From The Hill.

That’s the national part of the story. Back here the week began with former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher on the trail again just nine months after he left office. Fincher had said he might be back as a candidate if either Corker or U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander opted not to seek reelection in 2018 or 2020 respectively. Corker made his decision and now Fincher is on a “listening tour” that started Monday in Mountain City, the easternmost point of the state, and due in Memphis at the end of the statewide journey.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is already in the race and Monday had an ad blocked by Twitter.

When the Shelby County Election Commission took an explanation of Ranked Choice Voting to the Memphis City Council it got real very quickly. After all, the idea of voting for multiple candidates and ranking them in order of preference to avoid having a separate runoff election would apply to only one set of offices in our politics – the seven single-member council districts and five of the seven citizens currently holding those seats on the 13-member body were in runoffs in the 2015 city elections. Next week, council member Edmund Ford Jr. will introduce an ordinance to put the matter back on the ballot in the form of a charter amendment that would repeal the 2008 charter amendment that set the stage for RCV.

In our Health Care Special Edition ahead of the Thursday Daily News Seminar:

Obamacare may be on the ropes politically, but the Affordable Care Act continues to unfold unless or until there is a repeal and next year an ACA sales tax kicks in after being deferred for two years. The estimate of the overall economic impact from that tax next year in Tennessee is put at $485 million. At its basic level this is a tax of an extra 3 percent on health care insurance costs.

First comes the transplant and then come the drugs and medicines necessary to make a transplant a success. The markup on those particular prescriptions is among the highest in pharma if not the highest – especially anti-rejection drugs. Enter Good Shepherd Pharmacy, a Tennessee effort that could go to other states depending on what happens here, including the pharmacy location in Hickory Ridge Mall.

And Monica Wharton, on her transition from chief legal officer at Regional One Health to the same post at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Back to the seminar Thursday at the Brooks for a second... the seminar will focus on the nuts and bolts of the St. Jude expansion into the Pinch as part of the Gateway project. And again, here is the best way to set the table for that discussion -- Andy Meek's cover story in the current issue of The Memphis News.

Do your homework and stay in school.

MLGW President Jerry Collins on Behind The Headlines says we are using less water and as a result our water quality is even better. Collins says it’s also possible TVA could decide to buy water from the utility for the new natural-gas fired power plant being built in southwest Memphis instead of using the wells it has drilled into the Memphis aquifer.

Arkansas has legalized medical marijuana and not marijuana in general. And the state’s attorney general says a move to legalize marijuana as a whole in the state is too broad as drafted to go on the ballot there.

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