Yesterday in Knoxville's Metro Pulse, Frank Cagle praised Haslam for extensive "reforms" regarding how state government operates, and deems his résumé after two years to be "impressive." (Note: "Reform" is not a neutral word. Presumably, Cagle uses it here because he means to say the changes to the state's civil service rules, boards and commissions and judicial oversight are positive things. As our former colleague and current Gambit reporter Charles Maldonado is fond of pointing out, you will often notice reporters and media outlets using this word as if it were a synonym for "change." It's not.)
In the Memphis Flyer, on the other hand, Joe Boone, is less impressed. He takes Haslam to task for his brief foray into media criticism and for essentially giving the inmates free run of the asylum in an open letter of sorts.
Excerpts from both, after the jump.
Cagle in the Pulse, where he also argues that Haslam would make a good choice for Mitt Romney's VP, if Haslam were in his second term:
Haslam, worried about the recession and budget deficits, was slow to support a repeal of the estate tax and proposed that it be phased in with a vote this year, the next, and so forth. But legislators did agree to phase it in, in one bill. No further votes are needed and the reductions will proceed over the coming years. The Legislature also passed a Haslam proposal to reduce the sales tax on food this year and next. It is derided as measly, but the sales tax on food, all told, will reduce the state take from 7 to 5 percent.
Haslam has also begun reforming and reducing the size of various boards and commissions. He has moved to take control of their agendas. Over the years there has grown up a separate category of government with unelected people with very little oversight. One suspects Haslam will continue these reforms in years to come — there are still a lot of them around.
The Legislature has also abolished the Court of Professional Responsibility and reconstituted it out of the purview of judges. The members will be appointed by Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell. And some of the members will be non-lawyers. Judges should get more independent oversight in the future.
So judges, boards and commissions, teachers and state employees—groups long sheltered from fret by the Democratic majority—are facing needed reforms.
And Boone in the Flyer:
Anyone who has worked in management in white-collar industry knows that women and gay people are indispensable. This was once made very real to me when I was starting a business here. The potential partner in the concern was an older man, Southern and brusque. He asked me one day in talks, "What do you think of the gays?" As an open-minded child of the New South, I stalled and stuttered wondering what on earth was coming next, when he added, "If I could hire only gays, that's what I would do. They are the best people I can find." He employed many Tennesseans.
You have been made a fool of by Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey. Your nomination was a Pyrrhic victory. (Look it up.) The cost of your failure may very well be the ability to recruit people like Fred Smith (Yale '66) to Tennessee. But speculation aside, you have definitely lost my support — just like John McCain did when he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Until you stand up to it or openly acknowledge that your party's agenda has become that of seeking lobbying money and riling up hatred, I will fail to take you or your party seriously. I sure as hell won't become a Democrat, but I will hound superstition and political avarice at every turn, because educated people read this paper and others. Their voice deserves a place in our state. Tennessee is becoming a place where educated entrepreneurs and doctors of international renown would feel unwelcome.
Blame the media, do you? The media will have to speak to and for people like me until you decide to stand up for Tennessee — and for yourself.