While there’s virtually no prestige attached to serving on the Metro Counciland no real money, influence or career building at stake eitheran influx of former members have picked up filing papers to run for their old jobs.
Meanwhile, the familiar John Jay Hooker, a multiple Democratic nominee for governor and senator whose rampant litigiousness has targeted virtually every elected official in Tennessee, is eyeing the mayor’s office, having picked up the necessary papers Monday. While the loquacious Hooker will cause no trouble for the popular Mayor Bill Purcell, he may be the only person in the city who could outtalk him.
“My purpose for running is to say, 'the election is rigged, don’t vote,’ ” he says. “The problem with America is that the plutocrats and the oligarchs, of which Purcell is one, have taken over the process and, consequently, the system is rigged against all those people who don’t happen to have money.”
He continues, “In addition to freeing Iraq, we ought to start with freeing America from the tyranny of the election process being controlled by rich people. The people should be advised that the time has come not to vote.”
Surely, a one-of-a-kind political platform.
Moving on to the people who want a chance to either rubber-stamp or throw obstacles in the way of Purcell’s second-term agenda, former Metro Council members Eric Crafton, Frank Harrison, John Kincaid, Tom Alexander, Jerry Graves, Roy Dale and Charles French are just some of the body’s one-time members who are considering running in the Aug. 7 elections. Most of these guysGraves, Alexander and French especiallylean to the right on social issues, one of the few domains where the council acts independently and, alas, often foolishly. Many of these members were term-limited out of office and want to reclaim their spot on the city’s 40-member legislative body. (The term-limit statute doesn’t prevent former office holders from running again later.)
“By the time some of us got the experience we needed, it was time to go,” explains two-term council member Frank Harrison, who’s running for term-limited council member Melvin Black’s North Nashville seat. “Personally, for myself, it’s a chance to take what I learned last time around and use it to the fullest.”
Tom Alexander served a four-term tour of duty in the council representing the Hickory Hollow area. He had plenty of time to get to know the legislative ropes and yet did little to distinguish himself while he was there. But, apparently, he had fun.
“I enjoyed the time I was there,” says Alexander, who is considering running for the District 32 seat. “I have 16 years of experience, and I think that will play well.”
Interestingly, Alexander’s nephew is council member Jason Alexander, who was an outspoken opponent of the recent measure to outlaw discrimination against homosexual city workers. He also introduced legislation that would have prohibited the ACLU from speaking at public schools. The Alexander family is not likely to be confused with the Kennedys anytime soon.
Former Donelson-area Metro Council member Roy Dale may be one of the few candidates running for office who’s actually willing to take issue with Purcell’s agenda. Dale, who’s seeking an at-large spot, feels like the tens of millions of dollars Purcell has allotted toward sidewalk construction could be better spent. “I believe that the administration feels like sidewalks are important to the whole county; I don’t think they are,” says Dale, an engineer. “In the outer-lying areas, I think we would spend our money a lot more wisely on road improvement projects. There are a lot of dangerous roads, some of which are not any better than they were 20 years ago.”
There are some candidates who have never served on the council but are nevertheless rats around the proverbial Metro barn. Actually, it would be unfair to call the unfailingly polite Rip Ryman a rat, but he has been involved in Metro politics for decades, having most recently served as a special assistant to Mayor Phil Bredesen. At 69, Ryman, however, has never run for public office. “A lot of people ask me, 'What do you want to do that for?’ Well, I worked for the last three mayors lobbying the council, and I think I could do a good job.” Ryman plans to run for the District 10 spot against incumbent Bettye Balthrop. “I think that term limits is one of the worst things to ever happen to Metro Nashville,” he says. “I think that I can bring something back to the council that appears to be lacking.”
There are some relatively fresh faces ruminating over whether to run for the Metro Council, including frequent Scene contributor Roger Abramson. “It’s sitting on my desk staring at me,” he says about his petition. “The money for one thing, you make big bucks,” he jokes about why he might run.
A lawyer, writer, researcher and the Scene’s resident neo-conservative voice, Abramson seems to beand we’re biased hereone of the few people running who understands what the Metro Council is all about. “The council has a ton of members, as we all know, but it’s about as close we get to direct democracy,” he says. “I’m not running because I’m angry about anything; there are some things in my area that I’m working on. We definitely need a left turn lane off of Edmondson Pike onto Cloverland.”
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