Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ethics Town Hall Meeting Postmortem: TTR Grabs The Spotlight Once Again

It has been nearly 8 weeks since the Tennessee Alliance for Progress's Ethics Town Hall Meeting. For all the righteous indignation by conservative commenters on Enclave on November 8 and the days following--because I merely questioned why certain individuals were put on the panel to the exclusion of Barry Schmittou--I have yet to see any blogger of any stripe comment on the Town Hall Meeting's contributions.

The only hard news reportage I could find on it was that of Nashville Public Radio. And even so-called "liberal" public radio mentioned Ben Cunningham (of Tennessee Tax Revolt) alongside powerful legislators Diane Black and Frank Buck while the rest of the panel members were reduced to the nondescript "several others" category. So, I am left with the impression that the event made no splash, even if it perhaps made the slightest ripple as another publicity opportunity for TTR to keep its name in front of an audience until tax-time rolls around again.

But about 10 days ago I did receive an e-mail from Mr. Schmittou, which sheds more light on Nell Levin's November comments to me that he had been "invited to attend and to address the panel during Q&A." What Ms. Levin originally said to me was confirmed to me by Mr. Schmittou, but she also left other important details out of her e-mail to me. According to Mr. Schmittou, Ms. Levin did not send an unsolicited invitation to him. After he read of the event in TAP's publicity a week before, he sent her an e-mail request to attend and to ask a question of the panel. She replied to him by inviting him to attend at that point, just as everyone else in the public had been invited to attend. In fact, when I e-mailed her a couple of days before to ask about Mr. Schmittou's exclusion, she also invited me to attend and to ask a question of the panel. But in her e-mail to Mr. Schmittou she also asked him to make his "question as succinct as possible so that others have the time to ask theirs."

Regardless, Mr. Schmittou seems a lot more qualified than either I am or anyone at Tennessee Tax Revolt is to engage state legislators on ethics issues, and Ms. Levin's invitation to him was not all that extraordinary given Mr. Schmittou's focus on ethics during this sorry legislative episode. That invitation was definitely not worthy of remark in her e-mail to me. She should have just explained why Ben Cunningham was more qualified than Barry Schmittou to be on the panel. That does not seem too much to ask.

In a comment on Enclave in November, conservative blogger Bill Hobbs said that TTR has a right to be involved in the ethics debate. Without question, TTR had the same right as anyone else did to join in the Q&A portion of the Ethics Town Hall Meeting if they so chose (just as long as they make their "question as succinct as possible so that others have the time to ask theirs"). This isn't a matter of rights, but of qualifications. As far as I can tell, Barry Schmittou was more qualified than anyone invited to ask questions and was more qualified than Mr. Cunningham to serve on the panel, and the Tennessee Alliance for Progress was guilty of oversight in not placing him there. How is that progress?

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