Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Haslam Clicks Heels, Pretends Crackdown Never Happened

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 3:03 PM

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Facing widespread media criticism and the wrath of liberals and conservatives alike for arresting 55 peaceful protesters at Legislative Plaza, Gov. Bill Haslam blissfully kicked off his public hearings on the next state budget today in Memphis.

Shown live on the state’s website, it’s a PR exercise mostly aimed not at uncovering any real new information but at polishing the governor’s image as a serious and thoughtful chief executive. Haslam wears little wire-rim spectacles, strokes his chin occasionally and looks earnest as his commissioners recite their various achievements of the past year and big plans for the coming one.

Today in the wonderland that is Haslam’s mind, it was as if nothing untoward was happening, and there was no deviation from the game plan—even when Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons sat down as this year’s first presenter.

Throughout the hour-long performance, one oblique reference was made to the recent unpleasantness at the Plaza. In passing, Gibbons mentioned the “special circumstances such as the one we’re facing currently” when he was talking about Capitol security, and that was only by way of saying that he’d lay off the four remaining members of the state’s Capitol police if he's forced to cut his budget. That would leave 16 troopers assigned to provide security at the Capitol.

According to Gibbons, when there are no “special circumstances,” the state doesn’t need all that Capitol security. We can install surveillance cameras instead, he said.

“We feel that with the implementation of those steps and more reliance on up-to-date technology that we could eliminate the four Capitol Security officer positions and not take any step backward in terms of Capitol and Legislative Plaza security,” Gibbons said without a trace of irony.

“For what it’s worth … I feel very safe,” Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes told Gibbons. “We’re doing more with less and you’ve got a very effective team.”

At the end, a cheerful Haslam said, “Thank you all very much. That was a very thorough presentation with great information.”

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