Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Candidates Announce

GREENVILLE — With the 2009 Greenville City Council primary elections for Ward 3, 4 and 5 just over a week away, incumbent candidates and their challengers are working to clarify their views for voters.

The Delta Democrat Times talked with each candidate about their backgrounds, accomplishments and reasons for seeking office.

Ward 3: In the Ward 3 Republican primary, longtime incumbent Councilman Lee Owen is being challenged by Carolyn Weathers. Owen, who first moved to Greenville in 1974 to take over as manager of Charles Connerly Shoes, has served continuously on the city council since 1998. The councilman says he initially decided to seek office as a result of his involvement in successfully fighting to create a buffer between neighborhoods in his ward and the U.S. 82 bypass.

According to Owen, one of his proudest accomplishments on the board was facilitating the negotiations over concerns about building the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Mississippi 1. He said he is also proud of being able to keep scheduled street paving and other infrastructure projects online over the past five or six years, regardless of the tough economic circumstances facing the city.

“It is all about being able to deal with the many infrastructure problems that arise in the most productive and affordable way that can be found,” Owen said. “I am a businessman trying to help my community, not a politician. I try very hard to look at the nuts and bolts of how we go about the business of running the city and am very involved with the budget process and funding mechanisms used to finance the projects we need to make our community a better place to live.”

Weathers, who is making her first bid for public office, is a partner in Weather’s Farms, a mother and grandmother, and a volunteer in various projects.She has lived in Greenville for 37 years and said she decided to run this year because she wanted to be a part of moving the city in a more progressive direction. One specific idea Weathers has is using federal stimulus money to hire local contractors for infrastructure work as opposed to spending the funds on changing the color of the city’s water.“I really want to clean things up in the city and make it more accessible for outside visitors,” she said. “I would like to see us become more-consumer friendly for people coming into town and work harder to clean up all the trash and garbage.”

The winner of the Ward 3 Republican primary will face Democrat Lewis Martin in the general election on Dec. 14. Martin has lived in Greenville since 1951. He is a businessman who built and ran Lewis Martin Air Conditioning, the same company his son currently operates.Martin says his primary motivation to seek office is to open up much of decision-making processes to the public.

“I think City Hall has become a closed society to the people of Greenville,” Martin said, “and if I am elected that is what is going to be changed. I don’t have a bone to pick with anybody on the council necessarily, but I do have something against the way they hide things. If elected, whatever I do is going to be an open book. People can come and ask me what is going on and I don’t care who it hurts, I am going to tell them because they have a right to know.”

Ward 4: In the Ward 4 primary, two Democrats - incumbent Betty Watkins and challenger Carzell Akon - will be squaring off Oct. 5. Watkins, who has served on the council since 2004 when she ran to fill the seat of the former Albert Hemphill, has lived in Greenville and Ward 4 all her life.

Watkins spent a 28 year career working as a coordinating nurse for the Washington County Health Department before moving into politics. When asked about her time on the board, the councilwoman said she is especially proud of the renovation improvements and new technology equipment she has helped bring to the Rounds Recreation Center. S

he says she is a strong proponent of ongoing education, and as an example, points out she is a recent graduate of the Mississippi Municipal League.“I have served in this position for five years and believe I am the best qualified for this job,” Watkins said. “Greenville is my hometown and I love it. I desire for Greenville to be a place where anyone can come and live; a safe and well-rounded place where people can come and have activities to take part in and not become bored.

Akon, who is now retired after a 33 year teaching career in the Hollandale School District, has lived in Greenville since 1969. Akon initially made her first bid for the city council four years ago, and says she decided to run again this year out of a desire to bring long overdue changes to many areas of Ward 4.

“I have serious concerns about my community, especially where I live,” says, Akon. “Of course I would like to see a change in the crime rate but my concerns are also on the level of making sure the city is kept up like it should be and improving our streets.”

There is no Republican candidate who has qualified for the Ward 4 general election.

Ward 5: For the Ward 5 primary, incumbent Independent candidate Ann Hollowell is unopposed. A native of Louisiana who has lived in Greenville for more than 30 years, Hollowell will be entering her second term in office. In addition to serving on the city board she works as an account executive at WXVT television.

“There are a lot of things I think we have accomplished since I have been on the board but just working to balance the budget and maintaining the budget is of course a big achievement,” Hollowell said. “It is always a struggle to come up with the money and time to take on infrastructure projects, and every ward is in need of street and sewer projects.”

Okay, some old and some new faces, but who is going to stand up to the Mayor? From recent "Scoop" comments, it is our Mayor who needs to go (meaning leave her job, as opposed to leave "on a trip".)

Greenville needs a very strong leader who is a risk taker and not part of the current political machinery. That person will not be easy to find among the few remaining leaders in Greenville.

Maybe we can elect someone qualified this time... now that all of the "cards" (age, race, gender) have already been played. Perhaps we can find someone with proven leadership who truly has an interest in being the Mayor of Greenville, MS.

This next mayoral election will probably be Greenville's last chance to get it right. Five of my friends moved out of Greenville over the past three months. All were lifelong residents, but simply couldn't continue to watch Greenville fall into utter disgrace.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Ray!

Michael Arthur Newdow (born June 24, 1953) is an American attorney and emergency medicine physician. He is best known for his efforts to have recitations of the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools in the United States declared unconstitutional because of its inclusion of the phrase "under God". He also filed and lost a law suit to stop the invocation prayer at President Bush's second inauguration and, most recently, he filed a lawsuit to prevent references to God and religion from being part of President Obama's inauguration.

Newdow is an
atheist and an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church. In 1997, he started an organization called FACTS (First Amendment Church of True Science), which advocates strong separation of church and state in public institutions.
Personal background:

Newdow grew up in the
Bronx and Teaneck, New Jersey, from where his nominally Jewish family moved in 1960. He graduated from Teaneck High School. He told Brown Alumni Magazine that he can’t remember ever believing in God, saying, "I was born an atheist."
After graduating from high school, Newdow attended Brown University, where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology in 1974. He then attended the UCLA medical school, earning his M.D. in 1978. He has worked as an emergency room physician at numerous hospitals, and holds medical licenses in California and five other states.

Newdow later enrolled in the University of Michigan law school, earning a law degree in 1988. He took and passed the bar exam in 2002.

Pledge of Allegiance:

Main article: Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow
Newdow is best known for the lawsuit filed on behalf of his daughter against inclusion of the words "under God" in public schools' recitals of the United States' Pledge of Allegiance. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the phrase constitutes an endorsement of religion, and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, the decision was later overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court on procedural grounds, citing that Newdow did not have custody of his daughter and therefore did not have the right to bring suit on her behalf, nor did he meet the Court's prudential standing requirements to bring the suit on behalf of himself.

Newdow filed suit again regarding the same issue, but this time on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Citing the
precedent set by the Supreme Court in the course of Newdow's previous suit, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that Newdow did not have standing to bring his lawsuit, but the other plaintiffs did have standing. Based on the previous ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the judge ruled that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.
After the 9th circuit decision, Newdow received numerous death threats and other abusive messages on his phone answering machine. His daughter, then eight years old, was living elsewhere for her own safety.

In God We Trust:

In November 2005, Newdow announced he wants to have "In God We Trust" removed from U.S. coins and banknotes. In a November 14, 2005 interview with Fox News's Neil Cavuto, Newdow compared "In God We Trust" appearing on United States currency with racial segregation (specifically separate drinking fountains), saying, "How can you not compare those? What is the difference there? Both of them [whites and blacks] got equal water. They both had access. It was government saying that it's okay to separate out these two people on the basis of race. Here we're saying it's okay to separate two people on the basis of their religious beliefs."

In June 2006, a federal judge rejected this lawsuit, on the grounds that the minted words amount to a secular national slogan, and they do not dictate anyone's beliefs. Newdow stated that he would appeal the ruling.

Although, it should be noted that Aronow v. United States was decided on the same grounds in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the lower court was required to return the same ruling, likewise the Ninth Circuit does not traditionally overrule previous Ninth Circuit rulings.

On December 4, 2007, Mr. Newdow argued before a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit to remove both "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance (Roe v. Rio Linda Union School District), and "In God We Trust" from US currency.

In a 2006 interview on the day that the United States House of Representatives passed the Pledge Protection Act, Newdow told WERS-FM's David Goodman,[citation needed] "A few hours ago, the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America voted 260 to 167 to completely gut the U.S. Constitution of its separation of powers and violate numerous other clauses because they thought it was important enough to keep 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think people would've done that for our political heritage or anything else. They did it because they want God in their government because it stands for a religious view that they adhere to, and they want to see that religious view espoused by government, which is exactly what the Establishment Clause forbids."

Newdow also filed a lawsuit in
federal court after Franklin Graham gave the invocation at George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration. The lawsuit claimed that inaugural prayer was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. It also was unsuccessful.

California textbook case:
Newdow also represents California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials (CAPEEM), a group that has filed a lawsuit against the officials of California Department of Education and the California State Board of Education. The lawsuit challenges the teaching of biblical events as historical facts and was brought upon by CAPEEM which was formed by Hindu parents in California.

Obama inauguration:

On December 31, 2008, Newdow and 17 other people, plus 10 groups representing atheists, sued Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts and others involved in the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama. The first count of the suit sought to prevent the Chief Justice from saying "so help me God." The Constitution specifically defines only this single oath of office of 35 words, that do not include these four words.

The Associated Press ran several reports including one picked up by the Washington Post, Yahoo News and many other affiliates that inaccurately stated that the suit was an attempt by atheists to prevent the President from saying "so help me God", while the suit specifically states that the president is not a subject of the injunction, rather it is the Chief Justice.

In addition, in other counts was the demand to end all religious prayer at the inauguration based on the establishment clause of the first amendment, which he had sued to prevent in the two previous inaugurations unsuccessfully.
Federal District Judge Reggie Walton refused to grant Newdow's motion for a preliminary injunction on the basis that he, as a United States District Court Judge, did not feel he had the authority to issue such an order against the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
He also reasoned that the inclusion of such words is an exercise of the incoming President's right of free speech, although the president's right to express his private prayer in words of his choosing was specifically not challenged in the law suit.

Newdow later reported that he would not challenge the denial of his preliminary injunction motion, but will appeal the case through the appellate court.

Well, it seems that no one is willing to confirm that we have the real Dr. Newdow, but he certainly fits the profile. Ray would hire a three-legged dog if it would help him keep his dynasty alive... even if it goes against all of his bible-thumping beliefs!

But...let's not be to hasty to dismiss Newdow as a qualified ER doc. After all, we do support the separation of church and state and during my most recent visit to an ER, the last thing I was thinking about was the Pledge of Allegiance.

Whether your ER Doc is lesbian, Hindu or Atheist, if you are in crisis, you need a skilled physician to keep you alive, so personal belifes quickly becomes a "non-issue". We are in the 21st century and we need to be more tolerant of political and religious views.

When my heart stops beating, I will forego the interview of the person trying to revive me... in hopes that he/she won't ask me the same questions! At the end of the day we are all mortal beings, subject to the same rules of life and death... and we need to remember that!


Friday, September 11, 2009

"Boil the Mayor" Alert?

Wow! I had minor surgery over the last three weeks, but it pales in light of the "dissection" our mayor has taken on the Scoop! She and Obama seem to be in a race to the bottom for public approval.

On the mend now, I have to catch up with the "calling a spade a spade" political arena... both locally and nationally. Unfortunately, the Med in Memphis does not have wireless Internet, so I have become delinquent in my duties as blog master.

Glad to see the "sparks" becoming "fires" in the Delta... Fall brings both change of season as well as hope.