Sunday, April 12, 2009

State Legislature Continues Worst Session

Who do the Memphis City Council members think they are?

They continue to pass ridiculous ordinances without getting the blessings of Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature.

We can only hope that the cowboy legislators who think that taking guns into restaurants and parks is acceptable will take immediate action to reverse the ordinance passed by City Council that bans open containers of alcohol in a car.

That’s plainly a violation of our rights as God-fearing, gun-toting Americans. We don’t know why that on our way to our favorite eatery, we should be denied the chance to take a swig or two. That would give us a head start toward a good attitude, and surely, you want someone carrying a loaded weapon and sitting next to you in a restaurant to have a good attitude.

Majoring In Minors

If the Council wasn’t intent on invading our privacy inside the cabs of our own vehicles, they then went on to say we can’t put our young kids in the beds of our trucks. It’s an obvious attempt to demean and punish rural families driving into Memphis.

To top it off, City Council also passed an ordinance that will fine us for non-emergency calls to 9-1-1. It’s government interference at its worst. Who are we supposed to call to get the time?

If only our “anything goes” legislators would take up these burning issues. After all, in a world upside down with economic crisis and in a state at the bottom in education funding and performance, our legislators have time to get incensed over the public’s access to public records, like who’s carrying weapons, and transfixed on the importance of having a gun handy in a restaurant.

Sitting atop Olympus, they are generous to share their wisdom with mere mortals like us. We sleep more soundly at night knowing that the likes of Curry Todd and Ron Lollar are leading the fight for more guns in public places, and that Paul Stanley is intent in exercising his omniscience to reverse local decisions by local officials that we elected to run local government.

Tin Man With A Tin Ear
Meanwhile, with so much stupidity in their midst, at least our Democratic legislative leaders are focused on issues of real importance. They’re investing their political capital working to ban baggy pants. Maybe it’s part of the economic stimulus package – the hiring of a new cadre of enforcement officers given yardsticks and sent out to measure the pants of teenage boys.

It’s laughable - and depressing - about how much wasted energy is spent in Nashville on such politically motivated agenda items. It’s not really about Tennessee. It’s about getting elected. It’s about self-importance and political gamesmanship. It’s about pandering to your base.

To prove the point, this Tuesday, Senator Stanley’s bill to outlaw Memphis’ living wage legislation goes to committee. In a previous post, we referred to him as our community’s “tin man” in Nashville – someone in search of a heart in the Land of Oz that is the State Legislature.

We thought Republicans hated mandates, we thought they believed fervently in local self-determination, we thought they hated government interference and we thought they believed that the best government is the government closest to its people.

It Must Be Nice To Be So Smart

That’s why we just can’t fathom why Senator Stanley and 17 of his colleagues are trying to force their personal political beliefs on our local city and county governments. Apparently, they are under the impression that a certificate of election endows them with the omniscience to decide from Nashville what our decisions should be here at home.

But that’s precisely what Senator Stanley is doing with his legislation to prevent local government from doing what local government does – make decisions about how our local tax dollars are spent. In this case, it’s making sure that our taxes are used to require that our fellow citizens are paid a living wage.

It may be easy in Senator Stanley’s well-to-do district to think that such things don’t matter. We hope that he’ll take the time to drive out of Germantown and get acquainted with the working poor who have two or three jobs to have a living wage. We dare him to look into the faces of poor Memphians – 75% of whom are women and children – and tell them that their local governments shouldn’t have the right to require their vendors and people seeking tax freezes to pay a living wage.

If Senator Stanley does not believe that every person is entitled to a living wage, he should pass legislation that prevents the government he’s part of – State of Tennessee – from doing it, but his willingness to force his personal beliefs on the rest of us who are proud of our governments’ action on the living wage is equal parts arrogance and paternalism.

Wishful Thinking

That said, if nothing is done to change the trajectory of our city, it won’t matter if he’s in the oligarchy or in the majority. All of us will sink together. There’s no special class of people when a regional economy collapses. We’ve pointed out repeatedly that the indicators for Memphis are headed in the wrong direction, and most of them relate directly to the malignant poverty in our midst.

That’s why the votes on the living wage were so crucial. But equally important, it represented democracy at its best – grassroots groups joining hands to advocate for a change in the way we do business and the way that we treat the working poor. Now, people 210 miles away want to tell us that we don’t have that right.

In its 18-13 vote to prevent any government in Tennessee from passing living wage rules, the Tennessee Senate wrote the most shameful chapter in its recent history. Spreading the mythology that higher minimum wage damages the economy and kill jobs, the state senators have majored in demagoguery and minored in fairness.

In the end, it’s just hard to understand why Senator Stanley believes that the long arm of state government should reach down into the affairs of city and county governments and erase some small measure of justice for the poor of our community.


Naomi Van Tol said...

And then we have the ludicrous House Bill 0818, which would make it illegal for "certain persons who receive state or federal assistance" to win more than $600 playing the lottery.

This seems to be targeted at poor people who get food stamps, but it could also apply to rich people who get tax freezes.

Andromeda said...

Thank you so much for your recent posts and particularly this one. I had been trying to find time to berate our "waste of time" Legislature on some of the bills on which members are spending their time, but you have done it for me. Prime examples included: Interference in our locality's institution of the living wage; Shipley and his "let's forget about probable cause for search warrants" agenda; histrionics about voting; and, despite my great respect for Rep. Deberry, trying to legislate people's clothing. The Republican caucus blocking the Shelby County agenda is just another example. You are correct - the worst session ever. Thanks for saying it.

Zippy the giver said...

Living wage being shot down is one of the worst things to happen in 40-100 years. This was it, this was the last shot and getting it right and sparing this part of the country, we got chopped.
This is the hierarchy, the well to do powerbrokers telling the poor that they don't matter and that the rich do not care about them.
That's a blanket statement and it's as ridiculouson it's face as the first part of the post, but, in reality, that is what it is.
It's time for extraordinary measures on all people's parts.

It's time to march on Nashville!

We just need a list of who lobbied them to get this living wage bill reversed so we can do whatever we will do. I bet that's public info and if it's not some congress people better work only at night if only to hide their faces.
I think there could be a definite count of how much money the poor will not get because of the reversal, there will be damages that can be projected with some accuracy. I bet our recovery from state sponsored economic oppression could be extrapolated and a lawsuit could be brought against all who played a part in this reversal of fortune.

Brad Watkins said...

Consider all the people who NOW qualify for government assistance, because their wages are going to be cut.....Big Business moved these folks off of their payroll and on to the tax payers.

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