During a break in his budget hearings this morning,Channel 4’s Cara Kumari tossed Haslam a softball. It costs thousands of dollars to clean up after the protesters at Legislative Plaza, she said. “The fact that taxpayers may be footing some of the bill, is that a concern to you?”
It was the perfect opportunity for the governor to unleash yet again on the occupation as a band of nasty bums. But Haslam didn’t take the bait. Instead, he said:
I do think there’s been a real effort by Occupy Nashville folks to be really responsible about how they maintain that area. We have to make certain we’re fair to everybody. That’s part of the consideration we take into account.
The governor said he would respond later today to Occupy Nashville’s letter to him. In fact, that letter—gracious and undeniably reasonable—might have done more than all the criticism of the governor to disarm him. All the letter lacked were a few closing hugs and kisses.
While Haslam tries to extricate himself from this controversy, his General Services commissioner—Steve Cates—still is bitching that the protesters are making his job harder. The complaint of the day? Extension cords. Yes, the protesters are operating a sort of Internet café on the Plaza, and all those cords plugged into all those laptops are hazardous, Cates told reporters.
Cates didn’t have much to say otherwise. Questions about extension cords are fair, but don’t ask about the First Amendment. When Tennessee Report’s Andrea Zelinski asked Cates why he slapped that curfew on the Plaza, the department’s lawyer—who we learned today is named Thad Watkins III—piped up.
“I’m afraid that particular point is the subject of ongoing litigation,” he said, “and so we’re going to refer you to the attorney’s general office on that question.”