How much money do Nashvillians waste every year by providing “free” advertising for elected officials while stroking their enormous egos?
My introduction to the problem came when, as a teenager, I registered my first car with the Davidson County Clerk’s Office. I was surprised to discover that the vehicle registration form had the clerk’s name printed in large, ostentatious letters at the very top, where it couldn’t be missed. He probably had the best-known name in Nashville, since no one could drive a car without seeing his name heading the bill, as it were.
I remember being puzzled, wondering why a clerk’s name warranted star billing. When Americans decided they didn’t need nobles, did they choose to bow down to clerks and worship them instead?
And I wondered what happened when one clerk left office and another one took over: Did the government throw away all its forms and print new ones?
Today I visited the Davidson County clerk’s website and, sure enough, the clerk’s name is being ostentatiously flaunted there too. Only in the United States do elected clerks have absolutely no shame, parading their names around as if they were Alexander the Great or (much more likely), Ivan the Terrible.
As recently reported by The City Paper’s Jeff Woods, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has identified $371 million in wasteful state and local government spending over the past year in its Tennessee Pork Report.
The pork report slammed outgoing Davidson County Criminal Court clerk David Torrence for taking off Wednesdays and Fridays to play golf and putter around his house, calling his job “the sweetest gig east of the Mississippi.” Citing a WSMV Channel 4 investigation, the report concluded that Torrence worked roughly 50 percent of the time. Since his job paid $125,000 per year, “Torrence pocketed roughly $62,500 to play golf, do yard work and run errands.”
A sweet gig indeed! Did Americans free themselves from egomaniacal monarchs — only to pay homage to egomaniacal clerks?
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.