By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
April 9, 2009
MR. EDDIE & DAN; GUNS; INSIDE POLITICS; RAMSEY AND WAMP; A GOOD DEDUCTION; BRILLANT
It's been a tough week for all us here at DVL.
We lost our friend and mentor, Eddie Jones.
While he was 85 years old, his death hit with a suddenness none of us expected.
Heck, he was at work as usual just last Friday morning, seemingly doing fine. Yeah, he still smoked and ate things he shouldn't, such as a sausage and biscuit he brought in every day for breakfast. But nobody dreamed we've wouldn't see him again come Monday. That we'd no longer hear his cheerful greetings or enjoy his great sense of humor or listen to him while he regaled us with his wonderful stories. Or that we'd no longer benefit from his sage advice and counsel. The man knew everybody in town and everything about this city, which he dearly loved. He was a mover and shaker in Nashville before that phrase was even invented.
Almost every morning for the 11 years he was here at DVL, I'd stopped by his office for a chat. If I had political scoop or business tidbit, he'd be all ears. If he had one (and he often did), he was like a kid in a candy store in his excitement. He couldn't wait to find a way to share what he knew. Often that meant walking down the hall to come see me during the rest of the day (and of course, I'd do the same thing, going back to his office if I had some hot tip to share). I had known Eddie for some years before he came to DVL, as a news source, mentor, Chamber leader, journalist and a friend. But I will always particularly cherish the special opportunity I had to work him and learn from him every day for over a decade here at DVL.
As for our last conversation, not much was shaking last Friday. I can't really remember what we talked about or even how the conversation ended. But I do know we laughed. You always found yourself laughing and having a good time when you were around Eddie.
Each week, if I had this column done early enough, I'd let Eddie read it and offer his thoughts. I always took it as the highest compliment whenever he told me it was "a good read." Every week, when I sent out the column out by e-mail, knowing how Eddie really didn't do technology, I would print him off a hard copy and place it on his desk or chair before I left the office on Friday afternoon. That's where that last column is today, still sitting on his desk waiting for him.
We didn't get to tell "Mr. Eddie" goodbye. So for me, this week's column will have to do.
If you can define a man's life by the depth and quality of his friendships and the difference he made in the community around him, Eddie Jones was a Nashville superstar. As a fighter pilot and a member of the Greatest Generation, he successfully defended his country against the forces of fascism in the Second World War. In journalism, he was Nashville's first newspaper TV columnist and helped make daily television listings in the paper standard fare for many years. Eddie was also the last editor of THE NASHVILLE BANNER, while also acting as a mentor and news source for close to three generations of Nashville's print and broadcast reporters.
In politics, he was the first gubernatorial press secretary to hold cabinet rank under Governor Frank Clement. Later as Executive Vice President of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, he was instrumental in the efforts to build Nashville's current downtown convention center and create our highly successful conventions and visitors' bureau; to improve local aviation service and facilities through the creation of our Airport Authority; and he sparked a renaissance in Nashville's economic development, especially with new up-scale hotels and restaurants, after gaining public approval of liquor by the drink in Nashville. Eddie could see the greatest that was latent in Nashville and he worked hard to bring out its best, even if, in the area of liquor by drink, that meant ending Nashville's age-old hypocrisy of BYOB (bring your own bottle) and the private club where drinks flowed freely.
Eddie didn't seek out glory. He did a lot of his work behind the scenes, and often accomplished things in a way that didn't leave a lot of fingerprints. Former Mayor Richard Fulton knew that. He once told me: "Eddie doesn't like to leave his fingerprints, but he does sometimes leave some smudges." Indeed, smudges that have helped shaped Nashville into the great city it has become today. That includes his work with the very exclusive and mysterious Watauga Group, which consisted of Nashville's very small, but powerful business elite in the 1960s and early ‘70s. While that kind of organization could have been very detrimental to Nashville's growth, Eddie helped steer the group to do positive things, bringing hotels and new businesses to downtown, and even more importantly the founding (along with Nelson Andrews and Brent Poulton) of one of Nashville's most inclusive groups, Leadership Nashville, back in 1976. (Full disclosure: I am a Leadership Nashville graduate (1983) and a member of its Alumni Board)
On a personal level, Eddie Jones was a man who simply loved life. And that not only included what he did in politics and journalism, and the many friends he made along the way, but most especially, his wife of 49 years, Wanda, and his son, David. And of course, Eddie loved his two dogs, who he freely admitted he spoiled rotten, including frequent rides around the neighborhood in his Cadillac.
Eddie also never forgot where he came from. As a graduate of East High School (Class of 1942), he was one of many in his generation who came out of that school under their beloved principal, William Henry Oliver, to become community leaders. Even in the last weeks of his life, Eddie attended the latest East High alumni luncheon, and he almost never missed the monthly gathering of his beloved fighter pilot group here in town. Flying was another of Eddie's great loves.
We here at DVL will always have a special affection for ‘Mr. Eddie" as we called him. He shared the last 11 years of his life with us, and we loved every second he was here. Eddie has left us now, but his spirit and what he accomplished will live on forever in this city, among his family and friends and here at DVL.
As I finish this column comes the shocking news of the death (heart attack) of longtime Channel 4, WSMV-TV anchor Dan Miller. Combined with the passing of Eddie Jones, Nashville has lost two of its media giants in the space of just a few days. And it was just a few weeks ago that we lost another media great in Jud Collins, the man who preceded Dan Miller as the face and voice of Channel 4 for so many years in the 1950s and 1960s.
As someone who grew up in Nashville, and knew and worked with all these gentlemen, it's frankly a little hard to comprehend what's happened. Dan's death is particularly unsettling, not only because he was still relatively young (in his 60s), but because of the job he performed so well. While I knew Eddie Jones for many years, for many people the death of a longtime newspaper editor, even one who did great things for Nashville in his journalistic, civic and political endeavors, is different from the passing of a TV anchorman. Dan Miller came into peoples' homes every night. He became so much a part of folks' everyday life that losing him will seem like the loss of a relative or a very close friend.
I had the privilege to work with Dan Miller, during my time at Channel 4 from 1994 to 1999. Frankly, going over there and being on set with Dan and his long-time co-anchor Demetria Kalodimos, was a little odd at first. I had competed against both of them for many years while I was a reporter, and then as a political analyst at Channel 5. The competition between the stations has always been an intense one, so I wasn't sure how the chemistry would work.
I quickly had my fears put to rest. Both Dan and Demetria made me feel very much at home on Knob Hill, and I've always appreciated that. I had heard for years before I went to Channel 4, even from my colleagues at Channel 5, how Dan made all those he worked with on the air look great. I can tell you it's true. It was never about ego with Dan. He was as nice and friendly off the air as he was on. He was a real pro.
I will always remember the last time I saw and spoke with Dan. It was just a few days ago (April 2). We were both at a signing event at Davis-Kidd for a new book by Lee Dorman about the history of radio and TV broadcasting in Nashville. I was very impressed that Dan and his co-worker Rudy Kalis took time out to come and stay for nearly an hour and a half to listen to Lee, swap stories, and visit. The time between broadcasts is very precious to TV folks (heck, it's only time they get to eat), so for Dan to come I am sure meant a lot to Lee and the rest of us who attended. I didn't get the chance to do more than shake hands and say hi to Dan. I wish now we'd had a longer conversation. You never know when it might be the last time I guess.
After the very difficult week we've had here at DVL with Mr. Eddie, I can really understand what a very hard time it must be at Channel 4 right now. They must be stunned and broken heartened. The last thing they probably want to do is put a newscast together. But that's a newsroom and a station full of professionals. They will carry on, as Dan would want them to do and perform their jobs in the great tradition of excellence that has characterized Channel 4 and the rest of the Nashville TV market for many years.
My deepest condolences go out to Dan's family, including his wife, his young daughter and his three grown children.
Maybe it's just me. But every time I pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV news, there are our state lawmakers debating another gun bill. Should you be able to possess a fire arm legally in a restaurant that serves alcohol? How about a state park or a college campus? How about judges packing heat in their own courtrooms? Or should gun permit records be secret, kept away from the media and public?
It's like our own little Tennessee version of "Annie, Get Your Gun." J In fact the only group lawmakers have balked at giving the right to go armed (with the proper permits) are themselves. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that.
Now I know the Republicans, who more or less control both houses of the General Assembly, want to do some things to show they are in charge up on the Hill. And I am sure to them, and many of their supporters, all this Second Amendment legislation is very important. But to me, it seems like a bit of overkill on one subject, if you'll pardon the pun.
This focus on guns also has to be a bit uncomfortable for one of the leading GOP candidates for governor in 2010, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. He's still catching heat in the blogsphere and from conservatives for his previous membership in what they perceive as an anti-gun group led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Haslam concedes if he had to do it over again, he would not have joined. He says he didn't quit earlier because he was afraid it would be perceived as pandering to pro guns groups. OK, but then why did he quit at all, since he is still being criticized for pandering? I guess it's better to take the heat now, and get it over with it, rather having to deal with it and heat of the governor's race next summer.
Getting back to Capitol Hill and the General Assembly....
I can't wait to see what happens if the bill banning wearing your pants too low makes it to the floor for final debate in either the House or the Senate. That ought to provide plenty of material for the late night talk show hosts to make more "cracks" about Tennessee.
On a more substantive note, another sign of the recent major change in leadership and power on the Hill came in the last few days when a House Committee approved a Senate Joint Resolution that would amend the State Constitution to eliminate any rights to an abortion. The controversy began a few years back when the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the State Constitution gave women a stronger right to an abortion than Roe v. Wade.
Even since there have been efforts to overturn that court decision by a constitutional change. That hasn't been easy, because while the upper chamber has approved the measure several times, it could never get out of committee to the House floor, primarily due to opposition from the House Democratic leadership. Now, of course, that has changed with a vote on the House floor coming soon and with enough votes there from both Republicans and some Democrats to pass it. It will still need to pass in the next General Assembly by a two-thirds majority before it goes to the voters for final approval in 2014.
There may be one final snag to approval of the resolution this year. It has a fiscal note attached, which cites the several thousand dollars needed to inform the public about the vote. In these tight times with the state budget, any bill or resolution with a fiscal note that's not in the proposed state budget is pretty much doomed. But is that really the case here, since I doubt any voters need to be informed about this matter until it gets ready to go on the ballot in 2014 and that's many budget cycles yet to come? Nevertheless, I see the new Secretary of State is ready to step forward and pay for the advertising costs, which should bring a final end to this particular issue.
Nevertheless, watch and see what develops, as Senator Joint Resolution 127 still has a long way to go before becoming part of the Tennessee Constitution.
Also watch and see how lawmakers handle Nashville Representative Brenda Gilmore's legislation expressing regret for the institution of slavery which was allowed in our state many, many years ago. A few states have already passed similar resolutions but some legislators have found references in the Gilmore bill to "apologizing" and they interpret that very differently from having regret about the horrible practice of slavery.
It's obvious that it's going to take some very skillful wordsmithing to get this legislation passed, and it might be wise for the leadership in both parties and houses to see if they can work something out, before the potential hotheads on both sides of this hot button issue lose their cools and this matter turns very ugly.
President Barack Obama has been in office almost three months. He and his administration have been a whirlwind of activity on all fronts, both foreign and domestic.
So how's he doing?
We have a pair of guests to discuss that with me on INSIDE POLITICS this week: Tom Schwartz, a professor of history, political science and European Studies at Vanderbilt University and Mark Schwerdt, a professor of American politics and international relations at Lipscomb University.
You can watch INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network.
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RAMSEY'S CAMPAIGN MONEY & WHAT THE WAMP?
Even though he voted for it, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey now says he wants to change the state law that prohibits legislators from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session. Why? Because the Lt. Governor wants to run for Governor and he has three strong opponents already out beating the bushes for funds, while he must wait until lawmakers go home later this spring.
Does such a self-serving suggestion from Ramsey have a snowball's chance on the Hill? I doubt it. A number of his GOP colleagues are loath to jump in and do something that would seem to give Ramsey new leverage in the governor's race over his GOP rivals. And of course, the Democrats will likely do all they can to block any such bill and make Ramsey look bad in the process. That includes reminding everyone why the fund raising prohibition was put in place. To eliminate lawmakers holding fund raisers just before key legislation comes up for a vote, making lobbyists and their clients feel like there was shake-down underway.
So, if his prospects for success are that bleak, why did the Lt. Governor bring up the issue, especially this late in the session? Good question. One line of thought is that by speaking out, Mr. Ramsey is sending a clear message to all potential donors that he is running for governor and he wants them to hold back and save some campaign funds for him when the Legislature goes home. That could be. But there are many other ways to send that message without all the risk that Ramsey is taking by talking about or pushing this campaign fundraising repeal legislation.
And I think Ramsey also runs the risk of another problem if he fails in this effort. His strong suit as a candidate (over his current GOP rivals) is his experience in state government and that he knows how to get things done on Capitol Hill. But if Lt. Governor Ramsey's campaign finance bill fails, won't that say just the opposite?
And what's going on with Congressman Zach Wamp? According to THE CITY PAPER he won't apologize for remarks he made on CNN recently where he seemed to refer to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh as "an entertainer." Wamp says he didn't say it. However if you watch the interview now posted on YouTube, there seems to be strong evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, why would Wamp and even want to go there? "Entertainer" is the dismissive word (among other less polite phrases) that Democrats use when they talk about Limbaugh. For his budding gubernatorial campaign, Congressman Wamp desperately needs the conservatives who worship the airwaves that Rush broadcasts on each day. Limbaugh is the last person that Wamp should ever want to offend, although I am told by one anonymous source that when e-mailed about the Wamp controversy, Rush Limbaugh responded: "Who?"
Meantime this controversy could be the best thing that has happened in recent days for the Ramsey campaign which is desperately in competition with Wamp for the support of (and money from) the conservative wing of the Tennessee GOP.
A GOOD DEDUCTION
It's been pretty clear the last few weeks that Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is very opposed to President Obama's budget which has been debated in the halls of Congress the last few weeks.
But that debate seems all but over, as only approval of a conference committee compromise stands in the way of final approval of most of the administration's spending plan when lawmakers return to Washington in a few days.
So what does Senator Alexander do? Well for one thing, not all the amendments he offered to the Obama budget were defeated. Our Senior Senator did manage to get his Republican and Democrats colleagues to add language that would make our state sales tax a permanent deduction on our federal income tax returns. That's always been true for local property taxes and state income taxes, but the deduction for sales tax (a major source of taxation for Tennesseans) has been off and on.
Now, if the Alexander amendment survives the conference committee, the sales tax deduction will be made permanent. Senator Alexander says the deduction could mean another $400 each year in the pockets of nearly 600,000 Tennesseans. That's a nice thing to reflect on, especially this week as Tax Day, April 15 stares us all in the face again.
It's a brilliant stroke of political maneuvering.
Just when it appeared the effort to build a new downtown convention center was running into strong second thoughts from some members of the Metro Council (especially due to these hard economic times), Mayor Karl Dean has seemingly stopped the mini-revolt in its tracks by promising to pass state legislation to prohibit the use of any local property tax dollars to build the new facility.
There is already a bill pending in the General Assembly to help set up the governance body for the new convention center and this property tax prohibition will reportedly be tacked on to that legislation.
Already from media reports, you can see some of those in the Council raising questions about how the Center could be funded, are feeling better about things. The Mayor's move really just reinforces what his administration has said all along, which is: The Music City Center will be funded by new user taxes on hotels, taxis, and other amenities. These are services largely paid by tourists and other visitors to Nashville and not very much, if at all, by local taxpayers. And now, by law, with no property tax dollars allowed to be used on this project at all.
So, from the Dean Administration's point of view, hopefully this legislative move will quiet all the chatter and doubts about using revenue bonds to fund the project. Sure, if everything in town and the government went completely south financially, a court could order any of Metro's taxes (including property taxes) be used to pay off the bond holders who will help provide the funds to build the new Center. But that could happen on any Metro capital project, although the chances of that occurring seem pretty remote.
This move by the Mayor also likely helps open the way for the Metro Council to approve the next step in the Convention Center process....buying the land. A request for the Council to actually approve the bonds is being held back until later, I suspect waiting for bond market conditions to continue to improve. But if I was the Mayor, I might think about moving ahead to get all the project approvals needed now, before another round of second thoughts come into the minds of our Council members.