A Good Get. WSMV-Channel 4 squeezed as much as it could out of the three interviews—totaling six hours—that reporter Dennis Ferrier was able to snag back in November with Janet March’s brother Mark Levine. And who could blame them? While the station ran pieces of those interviews then, it saved the bulk of the footage for this month’s two-part special, “Janet March’s Untold Story,” whose final installment ran Saturday. It was the kind of access any reporter in town would have given his eyeteeth for, but ultimately Ferrier got the break. And he earned it too.Back in 2000, Ferrier was among a host of reporters who traveled to Mexico to either interview Perry March or look into the then-suspected killer’s life south of the border. “I’ll tell you what the deal is: Perry March was the kind of guy who you could sit by his pool and drink margaritas with as long as you kissed his butt and didn’t ask too many tough questions,” Ferrier tells the Scene. “He would talk all day, and he would call you and take your phone calls”—all as long as the coverage was sympathetic or at least didn’t challenge his claims. Ferrier, meanwhile, took a different tack during that trip, instead opting to investigate March’s shady business dealings in Mexico, report how he posed as a Mexican lawyer and notary, and document, as Ferrier puts it, “bullyboy threats against any local who would try to stand up to him.” He suspects those efforts are what landed him six hours with a member of the notoriously guarded Levine family, whom he predicts will never give another interview. “They’ve got these two kids to raise; they just want to move on.” Those efforts also got him a broken viewfinder (when March attacked his cameraman) and parting words from March: “Eat shit and die.” As if that weren’t enough, Ferrier recalls, “As I left, he kept demanding, ‘Where are you staying? I need to know where you’re staying.’ I don’t think he wanted to send me a fruit basket.”Except for That Extra Cannon Shot, It Went Really Well. Phil Bredesen’s second inauguration may stand out as further evidence of global warming for anyone who attended his frigid first swearing-in. This time around, he got the kind of near-pleasant sunny day that made sitting outside almost tolerable for the usual array of dignitaries—or perhaps we should say, “dignitaries”—as well as assorted political hangers-on and a smattering of public-spirited citizens inspired by their love of democracy to come and witness a historic event. Where the latter group may have come from now that we have gotten over our post-9/11 flirtation with hyper patriotism is anybody’s guess, but apparently such people exist—perhaps like some sheltered tribe in the Brazilian rain forest. The ceremonies themselves included all the standard elements for such events—flags, military music, artillery, airplane flyover and a bunch of preachers. The spiritual element, which also included a prayer service for the big shots at Downtown Prez, was apparently necessary to reassure those who were nervous about the prospects that the state would be facing a future without John Wilder at the helm in the Senate for the first time in a generation (or two). Overall, things went off pretty smoothly—Bredesen himself made it to the rostrum without incident, despite the appointment of a dozen or so legislators to the task of escorting him there.Biggest flubs of the proceedings belonged to House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry, who introduced Bredesen as “Phil Governor, Honorable Governor of the State of Tennessee” and an unknown artilleryman who fired off an extra cannon shot after House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh began speaking following the ceremonial artillery barrage. As for Bredesen himself, his speech focused on a promise to make children and education his first priority, given that they represent the future of the state. At least two of the former governors at his side on the platform—Lamar Alexander and Ned McWherter—began their second terms with the same kind of promises, but Bredesen framed his speech with a few theatrical signals as if to say, “And this time, we really mean it.” But then, they all say that too.Well Done, Mr. Fitts. Most Tennesseans know Mike Fitts—if they know him at all—as our state architect. And, after a recent announcement by the American Institute of Architects, they now will know him also as the winner of the 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the national institute’s recognition for lifetime achievement and the highest honor in public architecture it bestows. Or you could think of Fitts as the guy who’s got the key to the cupola. One among many of Fitts’ vast duties chaperoning all the state’s buildings is to serve as keeper of the state Capitol. And that means that if you want to sample the views from that filigreed little structure resting atop Tennessee’s temple to democracy—and in the process become a member of this city’s most exclusive architecture lovers club—you need Fitts to lead you up the stairs.Fitts has been state architect since 1971, the same year that John Wilder became lieutenant governor. Unlike Wilder, however, he still has his title, with nary a voice calling for a change. And it would be naive to think that shepherding $4 billion in public works through seven governors and more than three decades of legislatures requires less political savvy than Wilder’s former job. Maybe his survival can be attributed to his four years as a frogman in the Navy Seals during the early ’60s—swimming in shark-infested waters is great training for working with politicians. Fitts acknowledges the distinction of his longevity with typical self-deprecation: “I always say that the only difference between a rut and a grave is depth.”During his time in the groove, Fitts has commissioned a master plan for the restoration of Capitol Hill and the preservation of the sightlines to the Capitol from the north that removed much of the parking paving on the grounds and produced the Bicentennial Mall. He also convinced the building commission that it was in the state’s interest to develop a master plan for the area between the Mall and the Cumberland River—most of this land the state didn’t own—because what would happen there would affect how the state campus itself looked and functioned. The result was a plan that will re-urbanize this area, with a restored street grid and mid-rise, mixed-use buildings. Fitts also “modernized the concept of design competitions to produce civic buildings of great distinction,” Gov. Phil Bredesen wrote in his letter of support for the Jefferson Award.While Fitts keeps a practiced and wary eye on all the state’s investments in the built environment, he reserves a particularly eagle-like orb for the Capitol. “I’ve always been in awe of the quality of the Capitol, and the spirit of the people in government at the time, their pride in the state that led them to insist on it,” Fitts says.Previous winners of the Jefferson Award include the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston and Tennessee’s own Stroud Watson, the man credited with bringing good urban design to Chattanooga and in the process reviving the fortunes of that city. Good company indeed.
The Metro school board’s final decision on a new school uniform policy is still at least a week away, but students may soon be wishing they had already joined the khaki-clad army of polo-shirted clones.