Mayor Phil Bredesen has never been one to follow the pack. Here’s an instance in which his independent spirit paid off:This past summer, Wayne Huizenga, the wealthy sports mogul who owns the Florida Marlins, announced that he wanted to sell his major-league baseball team. In response, New Times, the newsweekly that is Miami’s equivalent of the Nashville Scene, took it upon itself to help Huizenga find a new home for the team.
With no solicitation from anybody, New Times created its own “Marlins Relocation Search Committee” and sent letters to 100 cities in North America. The letters, addressed to the mayors of those cities, said the committee had been “empowered to gauge interest in the team’s relocation” and encouraged the mayors to call the committee for more information. A lot of them did.
Responses came, for example, from an enthusiastic Mayor Vincent Cianci Jr. of Providence, R.I., who lobbied for his city and even offered to find a buyer for the team. Gary, Ind., Mayor Scott King called, offering the possibility that the state of Indiana could finance a new ballpark.
But when Bredesen got the letter, he didn’t call the relocation committee. Instead, he went straight to the Marlins organization itself and called the team’s front office. Bredesen’s action led the Marlins’ lawyer to write a nasty letter to the sham committee, demanding that it stop its “unauthorized” communications. After threats of lawsuits and restraining orders, New Times decided it had had its fun.
The paper published a playful story about the effort, quoting various mayors and the Marlins’ lawyer, and giving credit to Bredesen for blowing the fake committee’s cover.
Wise up, Vic
Members of the Nashville Bar Association have given Juvenile Court Clerk Kenny Norman the second-worst marks of any of the publicly elected judges or court clerks planning to run for re-election in Metro this summer.
Norman, the brother of popular Circuit Court Judge Barbara Haynes, has been lucky enough to have a politically savvy, well-liked sibling, and Haynes has been invaluable in helping him get elected. But Norman doesn’t seem to get much respect on his own. The recent poll of local lawyers reflects that. Only 37 percent of those polled recommended that Norman be retained as juvenile court clerk, and 24 percent did not recommend him. Another 39 percent had no opinion. The only elected official who scored worse in the poll was General Sessions Judge Phil Sadler, who was recommended by slightly more than 36 percent of those polled and was not recommended by 33 percent.
Although he was elected to the juvenile court clerk’s post twice, in 1990 and 1994, Norman is considered one of the county’s weakest elected officials, a political animal whose abilities as juvenile court clerk are limited. Juvenile crime is a growing problem in Nashville and lawyers seem either unimpressed or unfamiliar with Norman as a juvenile court clerk.
Meanwhile, a former Haynes family antagonist says he may challenge Norman during the county elections this summer. Considering the race in May is Metro Council member-at-large Vic Varallo, himself a very nice guy who readily admits he’s woefully lacking in political prowess.
Varallo says he’d really like to run for re-election to Council in 1999, and he may be able to do that if, as expected, there is a referendum this summer and Nashville voters lift the current term limit for Metro Council. Although Varallo would prefer to retain his seat in Council, and even though he describes Norman as “my friend,” the 75-year-old Council member says he has been asked to consider the race and is “listening” to the advice.
Varallo says he regrets his 1996 challenge to Barbara Haynes’ husband, state Sen. Joe Haynes. In that bizarre episode, Varallo was convinced to run as a Republican against the popular state senator, who is a Democrat. The results were embarrassing. Varallo walked away with only 39 percent of the vote, and only then did he realize he shouldn’t have allowed himself to be snookered into the impossible challenge.
It’s unlikely Varallo will run against Norman, but it’s worth noting that, just as in the race against Joe Haynes, this is not his idea. Once again, someone is trying to use the naive Varallo to make trouble for the Hayneses. Chances are that, this time, he’ll realize it before it’s too late.
Traffic accidents marred the holiday season for a Nashville judge and his family and for a local lawyer campaigning for a judicial post.
General Sessions Judge Leon Ruben and his wife, Myra, were struck by a car on New Year’s Eve as they attempted to cross Old Harding Pike to a local restaurant. Leon Ruben suffered a sprained ankle, but his wife, who was thrown onto the hood of the car, sustained more serious injuries, including a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken rib, and a broken ankle. She remains hospitalized and is expected to move to a rehabilitation center to recover from her injuries.
In a separate incident, a few days before Christmas, attorney Gloria Dumas, who is running for the general sessions seat now held by Penny Harrington, was involved in a one-car accident on the interstate. Her car hydroplaned and hit a wall, and her right arm was broken in two places.
While she can’t shake hands very well, Dumas has wrapped her cast in red. It’s the official color of her campaign.
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