Thursday, November 30, 2006

No transmitter for us, thanks.

There is no way I'd go for this new plan on taxing gasoline to benefit the Department of Transportation budget. According to today's Tennessean State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) is proposing that we install transmitters in our cars that will tell the gas pump how far you've driven.

Anyone else concerned about the possible privacy issue having a government transmitter in our cars might become?

How expensive is it going to be to install this transmitters in cars let alone every gas pump in the state?

It never occurred to him to consider having to report the odometer reading at tag renewal time? Of course the odometer in our '91 Grand Marquis hasn't worked for a long time so I guess we'd have to get that fixed.

Drew's right again:

Still, the idea of a program that would ensure money goes to highways is attractive to Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. "It would be positive if money meant for the road fund will go toward the road fund instead of general needs, as it has been," Johnson said.
It's not a novel idea but it's certainly one that our legislators and governor regularly fail to do. I think we should start there. Make sure the TDOT money isn't used for other projects and then evaluate whether TDOT really needs more money. Maybe they should be using Dave Ramsey's envelope system.

And thanks for the reminder that I'm already paying 21.4 cents per gallon in taxes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Grading Pre-K

Tennessee Comptroller John Morgan, who recently proposed a state wide property tax for schools has issued a Request For Proposals to evaluate the effectiveness of the pre-K's we've already got. I'm going to prophecy that the report will say the state-funded pre-K's have an effectiveness (that lasts at least to the 5th grade) and we need more money 'for the children'.

The evaluation will include the short term effects of Pre-K as well as the long term effects (page 18). However, their definition of long term is 3rd through 5th grade. I'd have thought 'long term' would mean 12th grade. This study isn't going to be worth anything but 'proving' that pre-K works in order to enable more classes to be created, more jobs to be created, more money to be made. The end result isn't actually educating the children else the long term effect would be much further out than just the 5th grade. I don't know of anyone that doesn't agree that in the short term pre-K helps. The question really is does it help in the long run--as in do they actually get a good education through to the 12th grade? If we expend all this time and energy on young children only to lose it several years later have we gained anything? It all becomes just a jobs program without real loooong term impact.

We're also only going to look at "state funded" pre-K programs, not those privately run. If we're going to spend funds evaluating pre-K for our children shouldn't we be willing to look everything? What's the purpose in looking at only state run classes? Because we don't recognize that public schools are in a race with private options? Because we don't want the state-run programs to look bad compared to the private ones?

Heritage Foundation info has links and mentions of specific research vs. Pre-K Now which--well--doesn't. Gotta wonder why.

Must read: Reason Foundation's report of May 2006.

“We find strong evidence that widespread adoption of preschool and full-day kindergarten is unlikely to improve student achievement,” Olsen and Snell write. “For nearly 50 years, local, state, and federal governments and diverse private sources have spent billions of dollars funding early education programs. Many early interventions have had meaningful short-term effects on grade-level retention and special education placement. However, the effects of early interventions routinely disappear after children leave the programs.”
Oh, and moms and dads with children in state run pre-K programs and schools you may want to double check the paperwork next year and see if your child is going to be included in this study and if you're ok with the additional testing, monitoring and questions regarding race, economics and other family information. The contract begins in February 1, 2006 and the final comprehensive report is due January of 2010.

You're going to want to read Bill Hobbs take on this also. Thanks to Ben for forwarding the RFP link. It's good to have watchmen on the walls.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

$8.6 million

This is more Ben Cunningham's area but as a mom on a budget I can't help but shake my head in amazement. As a taxpayer I wonder why we don't keep this money closer to home in the first place. Surely, everyone understands that every hand that this money passes through is sticky.

Tennessee taxpayers have spent more than $8.6 million in the past three years for local governments to lobby state and federal officials, according to a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Public bodies and groups representing them, such as the Tennessee County Services Association, spent between $2.7 million and $3.1 million to lobby state officials from 2003 to 2005. (snip)

Steve Ellis, a vice president with the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense, said such spending primarily benefits lobbyists.

"It's troubling that cities, counties and other local governments in Tennessee are spending millions of local taxpayer dollars to try to bring back hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars," he said.

From the Times-Gazette

And from the Chattanooga Free Press:

Reports provided to the Times Free Press show lobbying expenses by Tennessee public bodies in Nashville rose by 16 percent, from 2003 to 2005 — from $827,000 to nearly $963,000. The amounts spent to lobby state lawmakers varied widely.

Rose by 16%. That's a million dollars some Nashville teachers could have put to really good use.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Elected Superintendents

Add Cumberland County to the list of folks who want to go back to allowing citizens to vote on who gets the superintendent of schools job. From the Crossville Chronicle:

The Cumberland County Commission voted 12 to 5 to urge the General Assembly to amend state law and allow counties the option of electing a director of schools. (snip)

Lynn Tollett, 3rd District commissioner, said the residents of the county had spoken on this issue in the August election.

"Contrary to what Commissioner Cramer has said, you can either elect a director of schools directly or indirectly, as we did in August by changing the school board," Tollett said. "What we're voting on tonight, this is nothing except asking our legislative body in Nashville to give Cumberland County the voice that Cumberland County folks can go to the polls and vote do we want to do this. And then it turns around and the people have their say."

The resolution states a request for a referendum to re-establish the office of an elected director of schools must pass the county legislative body by a two-thirds majority. A referendum could then be placed on the regular August ballot for consideration by the voters.

Everyday matters?

Was I the only one who got a newspaper sans news? No, I don't mean the usual Tennessean condition, I mean did anyone else get a Tennessean newspaper bag stuffed with ads (and I mean stuffed to the point the bag burst when it hit the driveway) and only the Living section? I know it's a national holiday and all (Black Friday) but are the only things that 'matter' today the articles on salvaging cooking disasters and how to make Black Friday easier?

I've called the customer service counter at the Tennessean but they've apparently taken the day off. All I can access is voice mail which says they're closed and telling me when they're open (hours which include this moment). I did manage to connect with a woman in the news department who apologized for the trouble and tried to directly connect me to the customer service department but I was back on the voice mail trail. Mine was not the only call she'd fielded this morning.

Well, I'm thankful I can at least read Mallard Fillmore, Zits and Ms. Cheap today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Local control is a must

Today's must read comes from Bill Hobbs.

Tennessee Comptroller John Morgan is proposing that the state of Tennessee restructure its tax system to put the state - rather than local governments - in charge of funding education. Morgan told the Basic Education Program Review Committee that public education in Tennessee should be under state control rather than local control.
They'll do it by controlling the money. Please read the rest of what Bill has written.

THIS is what ought to be first on the legislative priorities list for the School Board and their partner the Tennessee School Boards Association--not hiding public business behind closed doors. We barely know what's going on now. Does anyone seriously think that improvements will occur and accountability will improve if we move control of schools from across the state to Nashville? I'm assuming that this will only solidify 'professional' control of the whole enterprise and your complaints and your child's needs will be met with 'I'm sorry, ma'am, but we can't do anything about it here--it's state policy'.

Bill Hobbs quotes from the Chattanooga Free Press:
"Education is not a local issue," Mr. Morgan said. "It really is a state problem, so why don't we use the state tax base to fund an adequate education program to give all children in Tennessee the opportunity to succeed in public schools?"
Not a local issue? Excuse me it doesn't get more local than the corner school bus stop. It doesn't get more local than your property tax rates.

More from the Free Press:
County Board of Education chairman Joe Conner said he was skeptical of Mr. Morgan’s proposal.

“I have no confidence in the state coming up with a formula, which is taking more of our local dollars, when they can’t fix the formula they have today,” he said.
Me either. Metropolitan Board of Education Chairman Marsha Warden needs to weigh in on this as do all the rest of the BOE members. Are they going to sit this out or are they going to fight for local control of local schools?

The vote on English First 2nd reading

Not finding the official vote in any of the local media I called the council clerk's office and spoke with Ms. Jones. She reports to me the vote on BL 2006-1185 "English First" last night was as follows:

Aye Nay Abstain Absent
Adkins Briley Dozier Alexander
Brown Dream Hodge Cole
Burch Forkum Hunt Foster
Coleman Gilmore Neighbors Isabel
Craddock Greer Page
Crafton Hauser

Duvall Jameson

Evans Shulman

Gotto Toller

Hart Williams












Here's the council roster with contact information. It hasn't been updated since the November election so those of you with brand spanking new councilmen will need to call 862-6780 for their contact info.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Officially English IV

This evening will be the second reading, the public hearing, on CM Eric Crafton's bill before the Metro Nashville Council to make English the official language of our government business.

I'm still fully in favor of this bill. I have always been. But my recent reading of a book by Bruce Bawer called "While Europe Slept" solidified my thinking. I would hope that between the heated rhetoric councilmen will hear this evening and the 3rd and final reading every councilman will take time to read this man's testimony of what he has seen occur in Europe. Mr. Bawer left the US with his partner to what he 'knew' would be an freer, enlightened, more tolerant Europe that would allow them to live in peace. What he found instead was a Europe that shockingly, did not match those expectations. The governments there bent over backwards to be accepting, accommodating and "welcoming" to use Mr. Cunza's term and what they got was a fragmented citizenry that turns a blind eye toward the reality of the seething resentment just below the surface and occasionally boils over in dangerous ways and denies, publicly, that there is any problem at all . Instead of finding a free, open and diverse society he discovered discrimination, ghettoizing and violence. Mr. Bawer's book pleads with the US to be smarter and learn the lessons that Europe can teach us.

One of the strengths of the US is that we have been a melting pot. That means that while we celebrate our heritages we embrace this new one of "from many one"--not the other way around. Language is essential to ensuring that we maintain that unity. There are legitimate practical reasons to have English as the official language and there are essential cultural reasons to do so.

Previous posts on this issue:

Offically English where I point out that in 1984 Tennessee declared English our official language and reminded folks that according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service legal immigrants must prove proficiency in English. And just this week they have amended the test for citizenship to ensure that these applicants understand our form of government and don't just parrot the right answers. I also ask folks to consider the liability that will occur when we mis-translate something. Keeping our official business in one language is much more cost effective and efficient. Keeping a cadre of linguists on hand will add expense and opportunity for error that could have terrible unintended consequences.

Officially English II included clarifications from CM Crafton about his intent and included a graph of the Tennessean's online poll which showed respondents were 89% in favor of his bill.
This morning's City Paper's online poll is nearly identical:

Council immigration plan
Do you support the Metro Council resolutions intended to crack down on illegal immigration?
89 89%
11 11%
This poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate.

Clearly, the citizens of Nashville (and it's the opinion of citizens that the Metro Council should be most concerned about) want something done about illegal immigration. This English first bill is a small first step.

Officially English III included the wording of CM Crafton's revised bill along with some comments on the first hearing in the Council chambers.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday 11/20/2006

Snips from here and there.

School uniforms: Weekend conversations with MNPS attendees brought up two questions regarding school uniforms.

1. Why did the telephone survey have the first option as FOR uniforms instead of for the status quo?

2. What is MNPS going to do with Muslim girls and others with specific religious garb?

Teacher accused:
Dyersburg cross country coach is arrested in East Tennessee for raping a 14 year old. (snip)
44-year old Timothy Neal Byars is out of jail on a $50,000 bond. He's charged with one count of rape.(snip) Knoxville investigators plan to call Nashville police on Monday to talk to them about a possible second victim and second assault that happened in Davidson County on the way to the meet. From WBIR

Innocent until proven guilty but if so proven remember the recidivism rate is HUGE. Not around my children.

Flu closes district schools: The Wayne County School District was having problems finding enough substitutes to fill in for teachers who called in sick.

The school district decided to close early Wednesday after 20 percent of students, or approximately 320 students, were out of school because of illness. Classes won't resume until after Thanksgiving. From The Mountain Press

Another advantage of schooling at home. We love our pediatrician but, thankfully, despite having four children we don't see her very often. And yes, the children do leave the house and mingle with others.

Are truckers still worried about meeting John Ford along the highways? The Tennessee Department of Safety is placing a temporary moratorium on the approval of new commercial driver training or handgun safety schools and instructors. (snip) Currently, there are 15 commercial driving enterprises and more than 160 commercial handgun schools in the state. From the Murfreesboro Post

FUN: You too can be a famous artist: reminds me of a software program we had around here called Raina II (we renamed it Squiggles). When the young ones HAD to have a few minutes at the keyboard we used this. Be glad this version doesn't come with the sound effects of Raina II. Click your mouse button to change colors. Have fun.

The pre-nup agreement

It's good to read from Rex in the City that the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education is seriously considering hobbling any effort that Superintendent Pedro Garcia may make to flip his contract extension and recent positive buzz about student scores into a better gig elsewhere.

The clause states if Garcia were to resign to accept another offer of employment prior to a certain date, which will be updated in the new contract, he is to pay the Board liquidated damages, and not as a penalty, in the sum of $5,000 for each month from the date of resignation to the end of his contract.
Thanks for pushing that Ed.

In the meantime my question is "Why is Rex covering this and not the education reporters?"

Thank you UT

This is HUGE. From this morning's City Paper.

“I don’t know if people realize how significant this is,” [Stratford High School Principal Brenda] Elliott said “UT has decided that any student that is admitted to their university that attend these six Metro schools, they’re going to ensure tuition is paid.”
Those six high schools are: Antioch, Glencliff, Maplewood, Pearl Cohn, Stratford, and Whites Creek.

This is going to be significant encouragement for these students. The valedictorian at Stratford last year got a full ride to Vandy. That doesn't happen for most Stratford students. For most of them a degree from UT is more likely--especially with this program in place. Thanks to UT for the hand up.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More NO votes for charters

The Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education denied three more charter school applications. Maybe Mr. Kane of LEAD Academy is surprised--I'm not. Considering how the law and approval committees are stacked against charter schools it's nigh on to a miracle that any actually get approved.

From today's City Paper:

Board member Gracie Porter represented the board of education on the charter committee and said the process of examining charter school applications must be handled with caution.

“I can say that in any situation, you want to take all precaution in looking at everything, charter schools or regular schools,” Porter said. “You want to make sure that all guidelines are followed in making sure a quality education is delivered to all children.”
"In any situation..." If only that were so. If only the BOE actually held the Superintendent and the regular public schools to as much scrutiny and accountability as they do charters. These people see charters as direct competition to their system and power. They see the money that will go to these schools as belonging to them and their system. And yet, state law allows these people to decide who they'll be competing against (think Kroger having veto power over Publix). They can't have rogue educators out there with the freedom to create schools that actually work (KIPP Academy) . That might actually make the rest of the system look bad and endanger jobs and power. "Whatever it takes" doesn't go that far.

And what happened to Garcia's plan to turn Maplewood into a charter school? Did that die when the ink on his contract dried?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Public records

I'm going to piggyback on Trent Seibert's Target 2 Report last evening on the unavailability of public records. Trent's report was following up on the Tennessee Center for Open Government audit done last year. After reviewing Trent's attempts at obtaining public records TCOG's Frank Gibson opined that governments still had a long way to go toward fully complying.

I've been struggling since my summer on the school board to get the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education to provide legitimate and timely information for citizens and parents. I started my first Monday morning by meeting with Superintendent Pedro Garcia's cabinet and asking who had fallen months and months behind on posting the agenda and minutes to the BOE website. I followed up with providing Woody McMillan (spokesman) and Lance Lott (in charge of the web site) a list which Woody told me contained 20 items about the web site that needed improvement to make it more usable to mere mortals.

While on the BOE I would get an "Agenda Packet" the Friday or Saturday prior to the Tuesday BOE meeting. While I maintain the timing of its receipt doesn't allow much real investigation by any BOE member, let alone constituents, there is important information contained in it and I wanted feedback from my constituents. So I started to post large portions of the packet, and eventually entire packets, to this blog and my website. I got positive feedback about providing that information from parents and reporters. After leaving the BOE I did get several more packets mailed to my home and promised on 9/24/06 to continue that practice for as long as I received these packets. Since I wasn't able to persuade MNPS to do this I would do it myself. Well, all that has apparently come to an end.

Since leaving the board I've been told specifically by MNPS Spokesman Woody McMillan that any questions I have about the agenda should be directed to the BOE Secretary. And so when I got the 10/24/06 agenda it contained a note on bright purple paper saying:

This is the last Board Agenda that will be U.S. mailed. The agenda will be posted on the MNPS website at when it is delivered to the Board of Education.
Full agenda packets will be available in the Board Administrator's office at 2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee, 37204 if you prefer to pick one up. 10/22/06 blog post

Keep in mind the agenda in that packet was the larger "Agenda Packet" not the wimpy two pager. I sent an e-mail to the BOE secretary:
I got the agenda packet for 10/24/06 and couldn't miss the purple note. My question is is the agenda that will uploaded to the website be the same as always has been uploaded (literally just the agenda) or will that also include the entire packet--which is so much more helpful?

If it doesn't include the entire packet--how can I obtain those? Does this mean I'll have to come down to the office to pick up a copy and when would those be available?

Is there any chance y'all are creating an e-mail subscription list for a .pdf version of the entire packet?
I never received a response.

What is being posted to the MNPS website is that insufficient 2 page agenda with no legitimate information whatsoever. And they have again fallen behind in posting even those agenda and the minutes of past meetings.

My assumption is that the BOE is not committed to even minimal communication with the very people that are charged with voting for them, providing the money for their salaries or subjecting their children to their oversight. These are the folks that seriously suggested that they approach the Tennessee Legislature to keep more of their meetings private. I maintain, again, that these folks need more sunshine--not less.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ActiveWords does it again

I stumbled upon Dave Shearon's review sometime back of software called ActiveWords. I became addicted shortly afterwards. Buzz Bruggeman talked me into the Enterprise Edition and I'm glad he did. It's been a huge time saver.

Lately I've had to track my time for billing purposes and an Excel sheet seemed ideal. Notepad will allow you to hit F5 for a date/time stamp but I hadn't been able to find something similar in Excel. The closest I could get was Ctrl+; for the date, hit the space bar and then Ctrl+Shift+; for the time. Please--too many keystrokes. ActiveWords to the rescue--again. I created a script


assigned it a keyword and it works perfectly. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

UPDATE: Blogger won't let the script show. It only appears as two semi-colons. Ummm...I'll write it out--type the following:

left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
forward slash
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow

Thanks again Buzz. Great software. Y'all go get your own copy. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cohen follows Campfield

I had to laugh out loud when I read:

US State Senator-elect Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) "wants to become the Congressional Black Caucus' first white member..." (AP via WKRN)
Maybe it'll work better for him than it did Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) last year.

As for the rest of the article on Cohen--I'm not at all surprised that he'd suggest a national lottery "to pay off the national debt". He spent 20 years shepherding the Tennessee lottery into being--this is familiar territory for him. What is surprising is that a bright fellow like him hasn't yet figured out how abusive gambling is on many of the very people he represents.

DOE Report Card site

DOE Report Card web site

Pick the "Part" you want to view. Use the drop down menus to find Davidson County (or your school district). Click on GO across from "View System Report Card" to call the data for the selected district. Scroll to the bottom to select a specific school and then click GO.

Part I is a basic demographic overview and statistics.

Part II is Student Academic Achievement in Math, Reading, Social Studies and Science.

Part III is TVAAS (Value Added) Have the children learned a year's worth of Math, Reading, Social Studies and Science or not at that school?

Part IV Did the school make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remember this quote

Dr. Earl H. Wiman, president of the Tennessee Education Association, praised results of the state Report Card released Friday afternoon. (snip)
“What I see as our overall greatest achievement is our growing ability to use our testing data to help each individual student. After all, for us educators, tests are about diagnoses, not punishments. Chattanoogan
If he really believes this--let's see teacher value added scores too. The system cannot be accurately diagnosed when one of the largest factors impacting its health is kept hidden.

Friday, November 10, 2006

But are they learning?

In the middle of the fuss about dress codes and balanced calendars the measure of the real missions of public schools may get overlooked. Some are opining that's exactly the goal--distraction from the facts about whether these children are actually learning.

10 days late the state Department of Education will finally make this data available at 3:00 p.m. today (note this use of the late Friday news cycle tactic). Hopefully, reporters will take the weekend to go through this and lead with legitimate information Monday and not just MNPS press release quotes.

Metro Nashville Public Schools will hold their own Q & A just prior at 1:15 p.m. in the Board of Education room on Bransford Avenue.

"We expect to see information showing improved achievement in our district," said Paul Changas, district director of assessment and evaluation.

"A lot of data has been reported. What we have seen has been encouraging, but there are still a lot of areas that we need to address."Tennessean

Yes, indeed. I'm looking forward to the comparisons that the Save Our Students folks promised Nashvillians last spring. I'm convinced they will bring essential context to these numbers while providing accountability that the system has sorely needed. And we'll know better whether Superintendent of School Pedro Garcia actually earned his new three year contract.

Undress code

The first dress code in schools is to actually be dressed--in something.

Harpeth Valley Elementary School was put on a security lockdown early Thursday morning – just as most students were arriving for the day – after a teacher found a naked man inside the school cafeteria. City Paper
My question is how is it this fellow got away? Why didn't the teacher keep him in sight while calling for help? Did the teacher even question the fellow?
But [MPD spokesman Don] Aaron said that even if he is found, police may not be able to prosecute if he was merely changing his clothes.

Aaron said that “nothing is suggestive” of the man being a sexual predator. Still, the investigation was handed over to a detective with the Sex Crimes Unit.
I'm not buying it. This is completely unacceptable behavior and IS suggestive. It's not like there aren't bathrooms around or private offices with locks on the doors. Maybe you change your shirt or pants--but it takes a 'special' kind of person to do something so brazen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Neighborhood schools

The following announcement is a banner across the top of the Litton High School alumni page:


Come to Isaac Litton Middle School on Tuesday, November 14th at 6:00 PM to discuss the current condition of our school. As the PTA President, I support Litton alumni efforts to renovate the old gym because it is part of the revitalization of Inglewood. However, some at the Board of Education want to shut it down and if they do, they may also sell the entire 11 plus acres to an apartment developer. Those were the wishes of the former BOE member, Lisa Hunt. Your support and presence will be appreciated. Wendy Poston '77, President, ILMS PTA

While Lisa Hunt has moved on to Houston and is no longer the BOE rep and those apartment complex plans may have changed, the fact remains that that 11 acres on Gallatin Road could be prime development pickings. All it's going to take is for Metro Nashville Public Schools to continue to let the building decay to a point where it's cost prohibitive to repair and Inglewood becomes dramatically different. All that's left of the original Litton High is the gymnasium which MNPS has not maintained well, if at all. I blogged about this earlier here and here. Mike Byrd gave us his perspective of the stewardship of Jones Paideia a year ago here and here. Here's part of what Mike wrote:
Unlike suburban public schools, schools close to the center city often act as one of a few anchors for the walkable neighborhood. When they are good, they are one of the few institutions that actually attract families, rather than upwardly mobile singles or older adults, back to urban neighborhoods, because families with kids require good schools.


As I told you, the destruction done by closing these schools also rips like shrapnel across the fabric of urban neighborhoods. The closure of neighborhood schools represents the closure of neighborhood centers and the closure of the familial dimensions of those neighborhoods.
And it's true. Good schools are an anchor for and an asset to the community.

I plan on being at this meeting. I hope others in the Inglewood community, the Litton community and proponents of neighborhood schools will also attend to support this effort. Here we have a school that is doing well and meeting the needs of the students--well except for the fresh water issue, lack of enough essential readers and AC in the gymnasium (Mayor Purcell may remember how hot it is on the first day of school.) These children and families need you to attend this meeting on November 14 at 6:00 p.m. The school is located at 4601 Hedgewood. Unfortunately, you can't get there from Gallatin Road, you've got to go around 'back' and enter from the neighborhood.

I'll see you there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

National pundit day

Today we'll hear all sorts of excuses and crowing.

For my part --

I'm thankful that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was written into the state constitution. I'm thankful that 7 out of 8 of these amendments across the nation got voter approval yesterday and that it won by a decisive 4 to 1 margin here. I know that some people see this as discrimination and hateful--for my part it's not intended to be. Man + Woman = marriage is foundational to my faith. I can't compromise on it. My thanks to David Fowler and Bobbie Patray for what has been years of behind the scene effort and struggle.

I'm thankful the US Senate remains in the hands of the Republicans. I suggest that they consider their losses as a serious wakeup call to get about being different from the Dems and start leading boldly and decisively.

I'm thankful that the Tennessee Senate remains, barely, in the hands of the Republicans. I've got the same message for you. And if you don't oust John Wilder as speaker this time around you don't deserve to lead.

I'm thankful that Bob Corker beat Harold Ford, Jr. Ed Bryant was my preference but I'll take Corker over a Ford any day. I can only hope this loss is a severe blow to the Ford political machine. I will confess that I have a hard time understanding Memphis politics. Common sense seems completely absent or submissive to a culture that I view as enabling further dependence for Memphians. I'm looking forward to the day when the very freedom that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of actually comes to Memphis.

I'm thankful that Mae Beavers won over Bob Rochelle -- the man who wins my award for most idiotic campaign ads -- and that's saying something this election cycle.

I'm thankful for Ben Cunningham and his efforts to control taxes. He's stood firmly between money hungry legislators and our family budget. We appreciate his help.

I'm thankful that fellow Nashvillians agree that people who oversee our city ought to live here and suffer/benefit from the consequences of their decisions. Now if we could extend that to employees and the Deputy Mayor...

I'm thankful for several people who ran and didn't win --

Jim Bryson enabled Tennessee to have a legitimate choice in this election. I hope he doesn't fade away but stays involved and continues to voice an important point of view and helps hold Mr. Bredesen accountable. I dare say that Gov. Bredesen wouldn't have said boo about immigration or an income tax if Jim hadn't been dogging him about these very important issues.

Bob Krumm is another man we need to stay involved in our political arena. Doug Henry has had a nearly free ride for too long. Keep asking the questions Bob. One day Mr. Henry's voters will begin to require him to answer them.

Surely Terry Roland deserves some sort of award for being the point man in the battle to bring Memphis into the light of political accountability. I suspect law enforcement agencies will have their hands full going through the shenanigans that have gone on during Memphis voting. Obviously the Ford machine isn't dead yet but it took a heavy hit in no small part to Terry's willingness to serve the entire State in this manner. Thank you Terry.

What I've learned after my own election defeat is that I don't have to walk in defeat. I may not have a job with the school board but that doesn't mean I can't still speak and work for the changes I know need to occur. Further, I've got more freedom to speak than I did being on the BOE. And so it can be for these 'losers'. I'm soooo looking forward to reading Bob Krumm's blog this legislative season.

I'm very concerned for our troops in Iraq and the Iraqi people. With Nancy Pelosi in charge of the purse strings this is when Iraq could become another Vietnam. We can't let our troops down or the freedom loving Iraqi people. I don't want to look at the Afghanis if we let them down again. And I'm very concerned that the woman representing a city so far from the mainstream is now in charge of the House of Representatives and third in line for presidential succession.

I'm certain that without serious pressure on Congress my family will shortly be required to live on less as this new House will start redistributing the wealth they think we have.

And a question or two --

How is it that Opehlia Ford and Doug Henry both won their seats without being required to meet the public and debate the issues?

Or how can Mary Pruitt win with Phil Williams and his powerful video and revelations of her own Memphian mindset?

What are the election commissions going to do to ensure that campaign shenanigans are further minimized and that voting can end at 7:00 p.m. because there were enough resources to accomplish mission one? I can't imagine how frustrating it is to be in line to vote and have the election being called. Talk about disenfranchising voters!

Finally --

Go ahead and remove the yard signs and bumper stickers. You may be very proud that you publicly supported one side or the other--but from where I sit it's unsportsmanlike conduct to leave that sign fading in the sun for months while you grieve your loss or rub your neighbor's nose in your win. The only thing tackier is a "Don't blame me I voted for ___" bumper sticker. Move on folks.

One last thing--if you spent a lot of time standing in line yesterday and will spend a good bit of today complaining about it--seriously consider stepping up and being a poll worker next time . Obviously they could use the help and you know from first hand experience what shouldn't be done. Here's the application form. Print it and fill it in now while you're emotionally motivated.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ted Haggard

This morning we wake to shocking allegations in regard to Ted Haggard a well known and influential member of the Christian faith. Not surprisingly this comes at a time when 8 states are voting on the definition of marriage. Also not surprising is that this happens in the back yard of Dr. James Dobson a strong proponent of the traditional definition of marriage. It's an effective strategy to take out those close to the generals and I can't think of anyone who has fought harder to ensure that the definition of marriage remains "one man and one woman". Ted Haggard pastors a large church in the same town that hosts Dr. Dobson's ministry Focus on the Family. Obviously, Dr. Dobson isn't responsible for Mr. Haggard's conduct, but linkage will occur regardless. Political opponents are counting on it.

Anyone attending the Stand for the Family Rally here in Nashville several weeks back should remember that Dr. Dobson said that he'd heard from high level politicos that outings were coming. What I heard in his voice was not fear that these would be revealed but sadness that there might be anything to reveal.

Later in the evening Pastor Ken Hutcherson gave a strong word to the church about its own unrighteousness. What I heard him say was that the reason the church is hesitant to be as vocal about Biblical principles as it ought to be is because we know we have unrighteousness in our lives. That was a sobering word and entirely true.

No sin is truly private. It has the potential to poison the efforts of so many and harm the lives of untold numbers as we are about to see and have seen in the past. We must walk lives that allow us the greatest freedom to bring about the changes needed. To hobble ourselves, His message and the good work of those around us we've got to ensure that our lives are lived cleanly. Yes, no human is perfect and I believe we all need of a Savior, but we can do a great deal to ensure that those mistakes don't become a crippling lifestyle.

So today, while the facts are still being discovered, is not a day to point fingers at Ted Haggard but to search our own hearts for areas of uncleanness, to ask forgiveness and embrace the Father's grace so freely given. There is a long line of those who have shamefully fallen or been wrongfully accused and with God's help risen better and stronger. My prayer is that Ted will be among those who overcome by the blood of the Lamb.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spanish required

This is the first time I've seen this. I suspect he's not alone.

This Texas dad strongly objects to his kindergarten daughter being required to learn Spanish. The BOE will not allow the child to be transferred to a different school where Spanish isn't required. The best argument they have is that no one gets a high school diploma without 2 years of a foreign language--never mind she won't get high school credit for kindergarten work.

Bell claims it’s just confusing to his daughter.

“There’s no law that says a kindergarten child has to learn another language,” he said. “I honestly believe she’s confused.

“How come I can’t have an English-speaking teacher, if they exist?” Bell demanded.
Bell said that even if he gets in trouble with truancy laws he will stand by his decision.

“I’ll go to jail for my convictions,” he said.

“What they’re doing is wrong.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

America's finest

I'm thankful to have MEN like these protecting me and my family. Thank you gentlemen.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my nephew's death in Iraq and his burial, so these brave patriots are even more on my heart and in my prayers this season.

God bless each and every one of you men and women. God bring you success in your mission. God bring you home safely to your families.

[photo via Michelle Malkin]