Friday, May 30, 2008

We Hate to Say, "We Told You So"

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 4:45 PM

When the Scene first wrote about the new Preds deal, we were a bit dubious about California venture capitalist William “Boots” Del Biaggio. After all, the man who was slated to own more than 30 percent of the Preds already had an agreement to bring an NHL team to Kansas City. But The Tennesseean dubbed him a “hero” for saving a deal that was quickly going the way of the dumpster, and a few anonymous commenters on this blog told a certain Scene reporter to shut up and perform a certain sexual act in lieu of critiquing the deal—and the seemingly shady Del Biaggio. We hate to say, “We told you so,” but it seems that a certain California hero has run into a little trouble with the feds. From a story in San Jose's The Mercury News:
Federal investigators are probing the business dealings of San Jose socialite and investor William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, the Mercury News has learned. Del Biaggio announced his departure Monday from Sand Hill Capital, a firm he co-founded in 1997. Sand Hill, a boutique lender to startups, issued a terse press release saying he was leaving the company "for personal reasons." The 40-year-old financier was until recently a minority investor in the the San Jose Sharks hockey team and is now a part owner of the Nashville Predators.... Sources familiar with the investigation said federal authorities were looking at loans Del Biaggio obtained in the course of a broader examination of his financial dealings.
Rest assured, the Preds folks say there's no need to fret. From a statement issued this morning: “His departure from Sand Hill Capital has no impact on the Predators organizational operations as we are focused on ticket sales, building long-term business partnerships in middle Tennessee and improving our team for the 2008-09 season, beginning with the 2008 NHL Entry Draft just three weeks away.’’ But last time we checked, Boots was the second-largest investor in the team. And seeing as how it was Boots's bucks that stabilized the on-again/off-again—and apparently, now on again—shakiness of the financing for the Preds deal, that's a little tough to swallow. The good news? If Boots goes bankrupt, he won't be able to foot the gas bill for that U-Haul he was hoping to back up to the Sommet Center.

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It's Called The Constitution: Read It Sometime

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 3:38 PM

So it turns out the separation of church and state is sort of a big deal, at least according to a federal judge who on Thursday ordered a Wilson County school to stop promoting Christianity. After nearly two years of contentious litigation, the American Civil Liberties Union won a lawsuit filed on behalf of a former kindergartener at Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet. Apparently the student’s parents weren't too keen on the fact that a group called Praying Parents gathered at the school each morning to worship, and then distributed fliers to classrooms informing students they had prayed for them. “The school became excessively entangled with the group’s religious activities and abandoned the school’s constitutional obligation to maintain strict neutrality toward religion,” Republican-appointed U.S. District Judge Robert Echols stated in his ruling. In addition to allowing Praying Parents to promote Christianity at the school, the administration also displayed the Ten Commandments in hallways and allowed for the distribution of Gideon’s Bibles to students, both a big no-no according to the U.S. Constitution. Maybe these parents should meet every morning for a civics class.

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Fun on a Friday: the Remix

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 9:21 AM

Could you imagine Dan Miller ever losing it like this? Me neither, though I would love to hear his soothing voice mixed with some mad beats. Garrigan, on the other hand, will throw a violent, profanity-laden tirade if I so much as put too much cream in her coffee. Oh, that was a bad day. Let's just move on. Caution: Do not play in a conservative (professional?) office environment. You've been warned.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kleinfelter Hitting the Sidewalk

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 5:26 PM

It’s a story straight out of a political potboiler. A tough-minded government bureaucrat trying to enforce zoning rules crosses swords with two developers—one the chairman of the city planning commission and the other the vice mayor’s husband. The mayor’s office intercedes, and the bureaucrat loses his job. According to Metro Council member Mike Jameson, that’s what’s happening now in Nashville. Planning Commission staffer David Kleinfelter has been told his contract won’t be renewed at year’s end. Jameson says it happened because Kleinfelter tried to force Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors’ husband Steve and commission chairman Jim McLean to build sidewalks in front of an apartment complex they’re constructing in South Nashville. Kleinfelter learned of his demise after a May 1 meeting between Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote, Planning Department executive director Rick Bernhardt and Eddie Latimer—Steve Neighbors’ partner in the development. At a Planning Department budget hearing this afternoon, Jameson confronted Bernhardt, and Bernhardt essentially acknowledged the chain of events laid out by Jameson—that Hinote interceded on behalf of the developers, and that Kleinfelter is losing his job in the aftermath. After that meeting in the mayor’s office, Jameson says, "Bernhardt came out of there and told Kleinfelter, “ ‘I just can’t defend you anymore’ and advised him that he’s gone at the end of the year when his contract expires.” Jameson says the developers, over Kleinfelter’s objections, won Planning Department agreement to build a sidewalk less than half the length of what regulations require. The council’s budget committee chairman, Erik Cole, cut off Jameson’s questioning of Bernhardt this afternoon. “This is a budget hearing. It is not a deposition,” Cole told Jameson. Jameson then launched into an attack on the Dean administration, suggesting the new mayor is tilting unfairly toward developers. Dean has appointed a new planning commissioner who is seen by some as too cozy with developers. To look at the “seas of asphalt and pavement” across Nashville, Jameson said, and “to suggest that the neighborhoods are somehow winning these wars” and then “to take from us one of the few advocates we have on the planning staff to help us win reasonable negotiated compromises is a real, real setback.” More to come on this story if anyone ever returns our phone calls. Update: Steve Neighbors and Eddie Latimer are both denying trying to exert any political influence in the controversy. Latimer says, “It would be flattering if I had such power but I’m just a very little fish in a big sea.” Neighbors points out that he’s personally no longer actively involved in the construction project, which began in 2003. The developer was Affordable Housing Resources, which was working with a sidewalk construction company owned by McLean, the planning commission chairman. In 2007, Neighbors, who had been president of AHR’s construction arm, became president of 5th & Main corporations, a wholly owned subsidiary of AHR. “I consider David [Kleinfelter] a friend,” Neighbors says. “I don’t have any reason to go after his job, nor does she [his wife, the vice mayor]. I don’t know where all this is coming from but I just think it’s completely inaccurate and outside of who we are and the way we conduct our business.”

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Dems Throw First Mudball of 2008

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 3:28 PM

OK, it's a little unorthodox to start attacking a state legislator this early in his reelection campaign. But Democrats couldn't resist making an exception of Republican Rep. Tom DuBois of Columbia. When he started holding town meetings to boast about his crime-fighting credentials, they decided to make DuBois the lucky recipient of the first mudball of the 2008 campaign. It's a mailer hitting the lawmaker for hosting a Mule Day party that attracted underage drinkers. Download file. DuBois, who's unopposed in the Republican primary, faces a Democrat in November with the catchy name Ty Cobb.

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Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 2:19 PM

This week's Scene cover story by writer Elizabeth Ulrich is, to put it one way, sobering. A collector of Jack Daniel's memorabilia, plumber Randy Piper has been cast by the state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission as a no-good, law-breaking bootlegger whose investment—$600,000 worth of bottles and such—has been seized and, for his purposes, flushed down the proverbial drain. It's a disturbing abuse-of-power case in which state officials illogically claim that Piper, of Goodlettsville, was selling classic, collectible bottles for the liquor. As though someone would pay $300 for Jack when they could spend a mere $10 or so at the corner package store. Your tax dollars at work.

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Tennessee: Forever Red

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 2:14 PM

Democrats are hoping Dixie isn't so solid anymore for Republicans, and Barack Obama sees Southern states as possible November battlegrounds. As USA Today reports:
Democrats haven't carried a Southern state since Arkansas' Bill Clinton topped the ticket. This time, the Obama campaign says it will target Virginia, North Carolina and perhaps other states in the region. Obama's ability to energize black voters and appeal to college-educated whites has made both states more feasible for him than they probably would be for Clinton. "It'll be a tough race in North Carolina, but I think we have a real shot at it," says former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who sought the presidential nomination this year and has endorsed Obama. Obama would "attract a group of voters who have not been voting … and I think the enthusiasm in the African-American community has been and will continue to be extraordinary," Edwards says.
In Tennessee, we like to think of ourselves as New South progressive. We tend to like our Republicans moderate (Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker), and we almost promoted a black congressman (Harold Ford Jr.) to the Senate in 2006. So why isn't Tennessee on the list of swing states? At least in part, Obama has our state's Democrats to thank. They failed to recruit a strong candidate to challenge Alexander this year. Gov. Bredesen even did Republicans a favor by discouraging Mike McWherter from running. That left only an underfunded weakling—either Bob Tuke or Mike Padgett—without a snowball's chance. Without a popular Democrat running down the ballot, Obama can't challenge McCain here.

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Michael Schoenfeld Says Goodbye...Again

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 11:07 AM

In his 12-year career as the flack-in-chief for Vanderbilt University, Michael Schoenfeld kissed a lot of asses, many of whom paid their farewell respects to him at an event at the school last night. The goodbye gala, one of approximately 56 since Schoenfeld announced his departure in February, featured the usual list of nebulous schmoozers, along with a fairly impressive gaggle of notables in politics, media and law. The last two mayors, Karl Dean and Bill Purcell, were in attendance, although I missed Purcell and would have missed Dean had I not ventured into the tiny area of the ballroom that he occupied quietly. Also there were former Tennessean editor and publisher John Seigenthaler, USA Today editor Ken Paulson and Tennessean publisher Ellen Leifeld. Some of the top lawyers I spotted were Lee Barfield, Paul Ney, Keith Simmons, Byron Trauger and his wife U.S District Judge Aleta Trauger. Pith's own Bruce Barry was in attendance rocking a ratty pair of jeans and a gray sweatshirt—his standard uniform—as was former Scene hitman John Spragens, who now toils for Rep. Jim Cooper and probably was the best-looking guy in the room. (Which I don't say as a compliment to Spragens.) ACLU honcho Hedy Weinberg and Hillsboro Village activist and attorney Jayne Gordon rounded out the guest list. Incredibly, I didn't spy Lucius Carroll. New Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos, still sporting an "I can't believe they picked me" grin, said a few nice things about how great Schoenfeld is. Schoenfeld, in turn, said a few nice things about the greatness of Vanderbilt, which apparently isn't great enough to keep Schoenfeld away from Duke, where he'll work as the school's vice president for public affairs and government relations. The next time a Duke Lacrosse player is accused of raping a stripper, you'll probably see Schoenfeld on CNN spinning the story in his employer's favor. Mike, we'll miss you and your expense account. But we're looking forward to ridiculing Vanderbilt again. If only the Gees were still in power.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This House Can't Go Home

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 2:52 PM

After spending 22 years on Tennessee’s death row for a murder he almost certainly did not commit (see earlier blog post), Paul House will not be released today as his supporters had hoped. In fact, it looks like the ailing inmate might not be freed anytime soon. “If I were to order Mr. House released today, I would presume a state officer would come up and say, ‘You are under arrest for murder,’” U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice explained during this morning’s hearing in federal court. Just last month, Judge Mattice declared House’s original trial unconstitutional and ordered the state to either retry him within 180 days or release him. Despite post-conviction DNA evidence proving House did not rape the victim—not to mention the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court determined no jury would convict him based on the evidence—Union County District Attorney Paul Phillips insists on retrying House for the 1985 murder of Carolyn Muncey. A detention hearing in Union County is scheduled for June 6, at which time House will have an opportunity to post bail. But given House is facing a first-degree murder charge, the bail amount likely will be considerably more than the inmate’s mother can afford, meaning he likely will remain incarcerated at least until the outcome of his second trial. “It’s just one let down after another,” Joyce House said after her son was wheeled out of the courtroom earlier today. For years, the inmate has used a wheelchair due to advanced multiple sclerosis, leaving him unable to walk, bath or even feed himself. That, however, did not stop the state from having his feet shackled in court today. Because House is in such poor health, Phillips announced today that he does not plan to seek execution this time around: “We are not seeking the death penalty in the retrial of this case because of his present health, which was not a factor 20 years ago.”

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Image Consultant, Heal Thyself

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 12:21 PM

It's been an awfully humiliating month for Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who recently settled a probe by the Federal Election Commission after she failed to report nearly a half a million dollars in campaign donations and disbursements. Throughout her first three congressional campaigns, Blackburn received a staggering 33 letters from the FEC scolding her for at least 90 possible mistakes in her campaign reports. Of course, like a true conservative, Blackburn didn't blame herself, instead shifting the accountability to her inexperienced campaign staffers, who just happened to include her daughter and son-in law, Mary Morgan and Paul Ketchel. Of course, the Ketchels weren't as naïve as mommy dearest suggests. Congressional Quarterly reported that the daughter and son-in-law collected over $300,000 in campaign donations for their roles in the congresswoman's campaigns but apparently weren't competent enough to fill out a few forms correctly. This is what today's Republicans really think of the free market: Forget about finding qualified help from a competitive group of candidates; let's just make our friends and cronies filthy rich. Give those Ketchels a few years and they'd probably win an oil drilling contract in Kurdistan. Anyhow, we'd rather not kick Blackburn when she's down. That's not what we do here on Pith. In fact, we're very concerned that the congresswoman's ethical problems will brand her as just another slippery pol and not the bright beacon of honesty and intelligence that we know her to be. Already, her primary opponent Tom Leatherwood is making the FEC fine an issue. And even if she manages to win reelection, this is the type of story that will haunt Blackburn for years to come. How do you run for governor with a rap sheet like hers? So we think Blackburn needs a little help from a professional. Someone who can turn around her blighted reputation. Someone who can reshape her entire persona. Someone who can help reinvent the tarnished incumbent as a brave protector of the people. Now who could that professional be? I wonder. I do wonder.... UPDATE: Politico picks us up.

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