Friday, May 27, 2005

Sounds of Silence?

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2005 at 8:03 AM

Lost in the cloud of dust thrown up at the legislature was a curious front page story in yesterday's City Paper about the proposed downtown Nashville Sounds ballpark. The headline labeled the stadium "in doubt," and Craig Boerner's lead said the project "isn't dead yet but it's definitely on life support."

The story described a dispute between developers and the city over how much tax increment financing (TIF) can be used for the project. TIF (as the story didn't bother to explain) is a form of loan for a development project to be paid back by the higher property tax bill that results from the development. It's a public subsidy in the sense that the higher property taxes that follow the development don't go into the city treasury as regular ol' tax revenue until the TIF bonds are paid off.

The story's unsubtle suggestion that the ballpark project is all but doomed by the TIF tiff is odd because just about nothing inside the story supports this. Sounds GM Glenn Yaeger is quoted saying "I cannot see how this deal doesn't get done." Ok, he would say that. But neither does anything said in the story by Metro Finance Director David Manning or Mike Edwards of First Tennessee Bank (leading a group of banks investing in the project) indicate that the deal's feeding tube is about to be yanked. Boerner's spin is either unwarranted or poorly supported.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

'Tennessee Waltz' Indictments - Summary and Excerpts

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2005 at 12:55 PM

Here are some summary details and excerpts from the astonishing "Tennessee Waltz" indictments (Scene has story and links to indictments). The sting operation involved creation by the FBI of an undercover company operated by federal agents called "E-Cycle," purportedly in the business of salvaging and disposing of outdated electronic equipment. The fake corporation was supposedly headquartered in Atlanta. The operation has been going on for two years, with the earliest contacts between E-Cycle and indicted individuals occurring in mid-2003.

Continue reading »

Rocky Top II?

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2005 at 9:13 AM

Hell is presently breaking loose at the Capitol as the Feds are coming to arrest a number of legislators. For what we don't know yet, but the rumors are flying--most of them being something along the lines of taking bribes to pass bills (no!). Thus far, the apparent body count is three: John Ford, Ward Crutchfield and Chris Newton, with more to come--some say as many as 12. It's still early, so don't take any of this to the bank yet (I wish I had that cheesy police siren light that Drudge has), but there's definitely something big going on.

UPDATE: There will be a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Memphis at 11:00 CDT. There are supposedly at least two senators from Memphis involved.

UPDATE: is confirming arrests of Senators John Ford (D-Memphis), Ward Crutchfield (D-Chattanooga), and Kathryn Bowers (D-Memphis), and Rep. Chris Newton (R-Cleveland). Here's the link.

UPDATE: At present this is unconfirmed, but the folks we've been talking to have been batting 1.000 so far: The Feds are arresting these folks pursuant to the Hobbs Act, which is often used to prosecute political corruption at the state level.

UPDATE: Sources tell us that former Senator Roscoe Dixon (D-Memphis) has also been arrested.

UPDATE: Sources tell us that Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis), Senator Jeff Miller (R-Cleveland) and Representative Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) are also on the hook. And Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

UPDATE: This is very unconfirmed, but we suspect that Harold Ford, Jr. is beating his head against a wall right now.

UPDATE: Channel 3 in Memphis is reporting more. Like Matt Pulle, I am shocked that so much of this is coming out of Memphis. Such a nice, well-run town.

UPDATE: Sources tell us intrepid Scene reporter John Spragens has also been arrested for no other reason than he has been at Legislative Plaza for 15 minutes and the Feds figured at this point that anybody who has spent more then ten minutes down there must be guilty of something. (Note to the humor-impaired: This is a joke. Not a very good joke, but a joke just the same.)

UPDATE: Channel 4 in Nashville says on its website it will televise the 11 am news conference. Streaming video of live news coverage from Channel 3 Memphis is also available.

UPDATE: From the press conference. The sting was called Operation Tennessee Waltz. The log so far is as follows:

John Ford: Taking $55,000 in illegal payments. Also three counts of threatening/intimidating witnesses.

Ward Crutchfield: $12,000

Kathryn Bowers: $11,500

Chris Newton (along with Love): $4,500

Roscoe Dixon (along with another non-legislative individual): $9,500

It should also be noted that no mention has been made of the other individuals listed in updates above. But the FBI is neither confirming nor denying that others are on the hook. "This is an ongoing investigation."

UPDATE: Here is the bill in question. (Link fixed)

UPDATE: NewsChannel5 has links to downloadable PDF files containing the actual indictments.

UPDATE: There are conflicting stories regarding Ulysses Jones and Larry Miller. Some are saying that they were merely questioned. It appears that any of the sponsors of the bill are under the cloud. Some may come out from underneath it.

UPDATE: Statement from Governor Bredesen on the indictments.

UPDATE: Clarifications after the fog of breaking news has begun to lift. It is presently unclear whether Jeff Miller is in trouble. He may be in the lay-down-with-dogs-and-come-up-with-fleas boat as Ulysses Jones and Larry Miller. We'll know more when we know more. (Previously, this update noted that Roscoe Dixon was an aide to Mayor Herenton of Memphis. He is actually an aide to Mayor Wharton of Shelby County. So, we still don't know about the Herenton story.)

UPDATE: Dispatches from Capitol Hill and the federal courthouse by Scene writers John Spragens and Matt Pulle are pulled together here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ford Gets In (Not That He Wasn't Already)

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2005 at 1:40 PM

Rep. Harold Ford of Memphis, who has saying for months that he will be a candidate, filed papers today officially entering the 2006 race for U.S. Senate. His campaign web site is up with a video announcement.


Purcell's Tax Hike

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2005 at 10:04 AM

The Tennessean has a nice package of stories and charts this morning on Mayor Bill Purcell's proposed tax increases announced Tuesday in his $85-a-head State of Metro speech, but the paper does its readers a disservice with a misleading front page headline implying (in very large type) a 21% or 25% tax increase, depending on where in the county your property is located.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Well That's a Shocker

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2005 at 12:40 PM

Caffeinated Cola May Make Kids Hyperactive

Yes, that's right. An actual doctor studied whether caffeine made first-graders hyper. And guess what? It did!

Stay tuned for more studies by this brilliant doctor, such as: "The Flu Makes You Feel Bad," "Fat People Weigh A Lot," and the ever popular "Death Kills."

TCAP Scores Delayed

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2005 at 11:24 AM

Public school parents in Nashville will be surprised to find no TCAP scores included as planned with final report cards coming home today (last day of school). In a memo last Friday, MNPS Coordinator of Student Assessment Paul Changas informed principals and administrators that because of later TCAP test dates this year, the state would not finish its score processing in time. No district is expected to have scores ready before sometime in June at the earliest.

MNPS spokesman Woody McMillin tells the Scene that little is known about how long the delay actually will be, and no decisions have been made about how test results will eventually be conveyed to parents. He says a mailing to parents is possible, although if the delay drags on long enough it could mean in-school distribution in the fall after school restarts.

With 72,000 students in the system, a mailing to parents in place of in-school report card distribution would certainly cost the district thousands of dollars. And for some parents, this year's test scores are needed for student placement in fall classes at the next grade level, so this delay is more than just an administrative inconvenience.

Meanwhile, as the Tennessean reports, Mayor Purcell this morning proposed an 84-cent increase in the property tax rate and a half-cent increase in the local sales tax. His budget would fund an increase of $30 million in the schools budget (totalling $540 million; the school board requested $573 million).

Maybe I'll Just Stick with the Chicken

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2005 at 10:44 AM

A rather odd chef interview graces the pages of All the Rage this week. Chapel Bistro's Steven Stuart theorizes about fish dishes at his East Nashville restaurant in a way that doesn't exactly inspire confidence:

ATR: Do you have any ordering tips for diners?

SS: I do a fish special everyday. I'm really good with fish, so I'm told. I don't eat it, but supposedly I do great fish. Maybe it's because I have this bizarre impression of what it should be like. So, for someone who has never been here before, always go with the fish special. It's something I have never done before and it's not something I make every day, so I'm not tired of it and I put a lot of passion into it.

In the same interview, Stuart says "We're changing the whole format of the restaurant," which seems to me like a non-trivial statement about his place, but apparently not to interviewer Hollie Shulick, who didn't bother to ask any follow-up questions (such as "Oh really? How so?")

Monday, May 23, 2005

Against Gay Marriage? You Must Be Crazy!

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2005 at 5:46 PM

Representatives of the American Psychiatric Association approved a statement yesterday urging legal recognition of civil same-sex marriages. I still don't understand why people are so opposed to civil recognition of committed same-sex couples. If it's on religious grounds, that's fine and dandy in your church, but this should be a secular issue in the eyes of the government. Are you patriotic enough to want to stir the economy? Let gay people marry and add up all the money in new gifts straight couples will have to buy to return the favor for that fabulous set of linens they got from Adam and Steve as a wedding gift. In or connected to the wedding industry yourself? Think of all the money you're losing at this very minute. I'm not saying same-sex marriages will save the economy, but they sure wouldn't hurt. Mickey Mouse taught me something important on my recent trip to Walt Disney World: no matter what our differences, all that really matters is that we're consumers.

schickel's list

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2005 at 11:54 AM

OK, I know this is a silly parlor game. But this Time magazine list of the Top 100 films of all time by Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss is about as lively as these things ever get. There's plenty here to disagree with (Almodovar’s TALK TO HER? Chen Kaige’s FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE?!?). But the list also has some striking left-field choices (the 1933 pre-Code BABY FACE, DRUNKEN MASTER II, CHUNGKING EXPRESS, David Cronenberg’s THE FLY) and canonical adjustments (Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON, Resnais’ MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE, the Coens’ MILLER'S CROSSING but not FARGO). And of course there are plenty of wild omissions. See ya in hell, BREATHLESS, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, VERTIGO, THE SEVENTH SEAL and (gasp!) THE RULES OF THE GAME. The Sight and Sound poll this ain't--but to be honest, that’s one reason it seems fresher than these exercises usually do.

Glaring omission: no ROAD HOUSE.

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