Next Tuesday, council members will elect the next pro tem, replacing Rip Ryman, a Goodlettsville council member whose one-year term as pro tem is expiring. The position is largely ceremonial, but the pro tem does preside over meetings when the vice mayor is absent. More significantly, it’s one of the highest honors council members can bestow on a colleague.
This year, two council members are vying for the spot: Ludye Wallace and Erik Cole.
It would be easy to think that Wallace’s chances are miniscule. Perhaps council members will note the gambling charges Wallace faces following his citation for blowing more than $1,500 at a poker game at a North Nashville social club. Or maybe they’ll be deterred by the multitude of public controversies involving the 66-year-old Wallace’s ethical lapses—his acceptance of gratuities, his alleged failure to live in his own district, his trading of votes, his failure to pay property taxes—or perhaps his reputation for disrupting meetings with endless rants.
Oh, and that other wrinkle: Nashvillepost.com reported in June that Wallace is under investigation by the TBI for “shaking down” downtown developers. (TBI officials do not, as a matter of policy, confirm ongoing investigations.)
Regardless, the conventional wisdom is that Wallace will become Metro Council’s next pro tem. Why? Because some time ago, council members noticed Wallace had formed an alliance with white conservative Charlie Tygard. For the past 18 months, Tygard has voted for nearly every piece of legislation Wallace has initiated. Wallace reciprocates by finding votes for Tygard among black caucus members.
Tygard has now taken the unusual step of issuing a formal letter to his colleagues urging support for Wallace’s pro tem candidacy. Apparently, there isn’t much Tygard can tout about Wallace’s record. He mostly notes Wallace’s longevity on the council (28 years). He also includes some “interesting facts from Nashville history at Councilman Wallace’s first election.” Among them, current council member Jamie Isabel “was still being breast fed, Buck Dozier “still had hair,” and “Adam Dread was repeating fourth grade for the second time.”
In an interview with the Scene, Tygard also notes Wallace’s well-known propensity to resort to parliamentary tricks, which council members have criticized as diversionary tactics. A pro tem, Tygard observes, should be proficient with policies and Robert’s Rules of Order since he’s the one who ensures council members follow protocol. “There’s no doubt he knows the rules,” Tygard says. “He’s used them to his advantage for years.”
Tygard says he isn’t blind to Wallace’s legal troubles, though he’s remains unconvinced of Wallace’s culpability. “Innocent until proven guilty,” Tygard says. But he argues Wallace should be given credit for surviving so long, often in hostile territory, especially in Mayor Bill Purcell’s administration—which Tygard says marginalizes council members. “Ludye is as disturbed as I am about the lack of respect this administration gives the council,” Tygard says. “In the past, I knew about the arena a day or two before it became public knowledge. Other administrations would seek you out and ask your opinion about things. I’ve been accused of not being a team player, but how can I be when I’m not on the team?”
So, despite the reservations some council members feel about promoting Wallace, the combination of white conservatives forging an alliance with the black caucus will likely ensure his victory. And Nashville will have a pro tem they can count on for a good game of Texas hold ’em.
Harding, be very afraid
Parents of kids attending Harding Academy had to be a little nervous election night. Returns showed former investment banker Emily Evans, who has fought the west-side school over its attempts to bulldoze eight homes to make way for soccer fields, with a 150-vote lead over paramedic Tim Lee, who was roundly endorsed by Harding parents.
Evans credits an intense door-to-door campaign and an issue-specific campaign for her victory. The Harding issue? “While the press was mesmerized by a three-year-old story,” Evans says via email, “voters were interested in electing someone who will fight hard for them.”
It didn’t hurt that Evans sent a campaign mailing days before the election showing the faces of eight council members supporting her. Lee, by comparison, had one former council member, Chris Whitson, working more behind the scenes. “I looked at the mailer and said, ‘Oh shit,’ ” one Harding parent says. “I’ll bet you’ll see that kind of mailer in the future. It was very effective.”
We didn’t say it: any TV station where Joe Dubin, Brad Schmitt and Steve Gill are on the air has a loose assessment of what looks good on camera. That’s from Gill, who, through flawlessly powdered pores and just the right amount of facial bronze, confessed to us on election night that he’d taken a trip to the upscale MAC cosmetics counter in Green Hills. But, no, he’s not getting a head start on next year’s Pride parade.
It was his producer’s idea at Channel 2, where Gill recently signed on as political analyst. Apparently, he not only has a face for radio, but also a natural shade tough to match.
“I’ve always had respect for women, but I have a new respect for them because of the cost of this stuff,” Gill says. “All I bought was powder and—what’s it called?—foundation. I got stuff you paint on and stuff you poof on.” And he dropped about 180 bucks.
Gill reemerges statewide on the radio Saturday, on WLAC from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Full coverage. Just like his makeup.