Voter recommendations

Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 11:45pm
Staff reports

The primary on Tuesday, May 4, marks the first major local election of the campaign season. As such, The City Paper offers its recommendations for candidates in contested party primaries. We believe the following candidates are best suited to carry forward the duties of their respective offices while continuing to advance the best priorities of the city at large.

Circuit Court Clerk

The City Paper endorses incumbent Richard Ray Rooker.

The most essential part of the job of any court clerk is to ensure orderly and efficient management of the files and documents necessary to keep the courts running smoothly. Rooker has achieved this in a way that draws no local parallel.

Rooker has successfully ushered his office into the 21st century by providing a digitized system of court records that makes documents easily accessible to judges, attorneys and their clients, as well as the general public. The office’s subscriber-based Caselink system allows for smooth interaction with a range of legal filings; such interaction can often be a cumbersome time-suck when handled as if we remain in the pre-Internet era. The system reduces the time burden on attorneys, clients and employees of that office, which saves taxpayer money.

Judges and attorneys alike say Rooker’s employees are responsive, easy to work with and helpful, which also suggests the clerk’s management skills. Some in the legal community have said Rooker’s office should be the standard-bearer for its peers in the criminal and juvenile courts, both in terms of access to records and affability of staff.

Meanwhile, Rooker’s opponent, Preston Crim, has run a virtually invisible campaign and done nothing to suggest he would be a reasonable replacement for the incumbent. We discern no viable reason not to re-elect Rooker.

Criminal Court Clerk

The City Paper endorses incumbent David Torrence.

Torrence has endured a flood of criticism from his opponent, Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. Included among the charges leveled by Craddock are the implications that Torrence is lazy and ineffectual (Craddock issued a gimmicky demand for the release of the incumbent’s swipe-card logs to determine how often he works), and that past complaints against him and his office to the human relations commission are grounds for disposal from office by vote.

It comes as little surprise that such attacks would emanate from Craddock, whose boisterous and overtly political nature has been on public display since his election to the council in 2003. During that time, Craddock has supported regressive English-only legislation and voted against protecting gay and lesbian government workers under anti-discrimination protections.

While we do not believe such history or antics would necessarily hinder his ability to manage a judicial office — in fact, Craddock has developed bipartisan respect on the council — they do suggest an inclination toward politics over substance, and that is dangerous in this context. It should also be noted that Craddock boasts his council credentials, including details about certain votes, on his campaign website as supporting evidence for this candidacy.

To be sure, the charges against Torrence are worthy of consideration. But we believe the advances of the Criminal Court Clerk’s office under his guidance outweigh such criticisms.

Foremost, the office uses a digitized system of file maintenance that allows for easy searches of public record. As we’ve stated, such a system should be standard at this point.

As well, the office has just released a Web application on which anyone with Internet access can produce a map of crimes committed in the past week. That’s a big step in the right direction in terms of transparency and public access to useful information.

Finally, attorneys contacted by The City Paper offered good marks for Torrence’s staff, saying members are typically helpful, responsive and competent. That suggests good office management skills, which are part and parcel of a court clerk’s duties.

Juvenile Court Clerk

The City Paper endorses David Smith.

There are 10 candidates in this race — seven Democrats, three Republicans — but less than a handful seem equipped to handle the job.

Incumbent Vic Lineweaver has had eight years to shape up an office that was in disarray upon his arrival. While Lineweaver has made strides during his tenure, the office is not where it should be.

As well, Lineweaver is known for strange antics and scandal: He was arrested for failing to hand over files in a case; he was caught by a television camera lying to a reporter about being at work when he was actually at home in a bathrobe; he attends random funerals of those engaged in civil and military service, and he signs guestbooks out of what he’s described as a respect for the jobs of the deceased.

None of this would be insurmountable were Lineweaver’s office running in top form, but it is not. In fact, we believe the distractions Lineweaver carries with him have led to a dysfunctional office, and that situation would continue were he re-elected.

We offer our support to challenger David Smith for a few reasons. First, Smith seems to be the only candidate who has avoided political grandstanding during the campaign, instead sticking to the facts of this job: It is not about making Nashville a better place for children or breaking up a “good ol’ boy system”; it is about managing court files effectively. Smith has a lucid understanding of this, and he appears to comprehend the importance of streamlining the processes of filing with and obtaining from the office court documents that are of a particular sensitivity, given the confidentiality restrictions on juvenile records.

As well, Smith is clearly dedicated. He has spent 25 months campaigning for this office, and he took a leave of absence from his job as a court officer four months ago to focus full-time on it.

Smith also generates praise among the legal community; on his website, the candidate lists nearly 300 lawyers who have offered their public support.

Smith’s downsides are obvious: He doesn’t have experience managing an office larger than six people; Juvenile Court has a staff of 29. He also doesn’t seem to have a dynamic understanding of current technologies, although he has the initiative and would be surrounded by some who could assist in that area.

Perhaps most endearing is that Smith said he would not begin by firing and hiring employees, particularly former Metro Councilman Julius Sloss, who by all accounts has done a tremendous job managing parts of the office under Lineweaver. We urge Smith to hang on to Sloss if he is elected.

Finally, we believe Smith also has the best chance of defeating Councilman Eric Crafton, who appears to be the frontrunner in the Republican primary for this office, in the general election. Crafton is a crank with a nativist credo who, we believe, would politicize the office far beyond anything it should be.

Also on the ballot

The following candidates are running unopposed:

• Public Defender Dawn Deaner

• Sheriff Daron Hall

• County Clerk John Arriola

• Judge Philip E. Smith, 4th Circuit Court

• Register of Deeds Bill Garrett

• Trustee Charlie Cardwell

• Democratic committeemen and committeewomen 

22 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 5/3/10 at 6:25

Can agree on all but the Juvenile Court Clerk office.
Mrs. Karen Johnson, an attorney, and extremely
qualified candidate is given no credit for service to the
community or explanation of her overly qualified
resume for this job. Instead NCP goes with the
Courthouse Crowd to suggest a politically charged
employeed Court Officer (Judge's flunkee) for this
position. The main qualification should not be simply
the one that has raised and spent the most money!
Just saying......

By: dargent7 on 5/3/10 at 6:41

Who even cares about this election? "Register of Deeds"? "Trustee"?
80% of the voters don't know who Tenn.'s Governor, Mayor, Senators and Congressmen are and they're at the top of the food chain.

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 6:58

I've followed Karen Johnson's school board career. She's a nice lady but this is the first time I've heard she's an attorney. For what firm? How long? What law school?

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 7:00

Hey D7, even though you hate me, I have been praying for everyone on this site to be dry and safe. Hope you are; you, also GovSkeptic.

My street was spared the rath of the rain; none of my neighbors to this point have been flooded. Time to set aside our "CP differences" and role up our shirt sleeves to help others.

By: Dragon on 5/3/10 at 7:01

Why are taxpayers on the hook for primaries? Shouldn't the political parties be responsible for deciding who they will run?

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 7:06

Yeah, what Dragon said. And my friend said they are still holding the election, even when people are focussed on getting mud out of their homes and trying to stay alive while driving on dangerous roads.

Who cares who the Juvenile Court clerk is? Why not just hire one, instead of electing one? Same for the other "clerks". After all, they are just administrative assistants - glorified - with high pay checks.

By: MamaG on 5/3/10 at 8:28

Where is everyone this morning? I hope everyone is okay from the weather.

By: gdiafante on 5/3/10 at 8:35

I'm here. How are you Mama? Did you get through the rain ok?

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 8:38

Mama and G, I'm glad ya'll are O.K. Do you know of anyone on our post who may need assistance?

Have a blessed day.

By: dnewton on 5/3/10 at 8:38

By: Dragon on 5/3/10 at 8:01
Why are taxpayers on the hook for primaries? Shouldn't the political parties be responsible for deciding who they will run?

The way I understand it, primaries are optional if both parties agree to eliminate their own competitors. They can elect their own winners in their own elections/selections/smoke filled rooms. I suspect that neither party trusts its own operatives to run a fair elimination process.
It would save a lot of money theoretically but the election of judges would have to be done at another time.

By: MamaG on 5/3/10 at 8:59

My only problem was a roof leak, which I knew about before the rains came. You okay too, G?

Thanks, sidney. I don't really know where everyone lives but I was thinking Kosh lived near the river and Blanket near the fairgrounds area, both of which were flooded, I think. I hope they are okay. I hope everyone is. And glad you are too, sidney.

By: Loner on 5/3/10 at 11:12

I reckon this is the closest thing to an LTE board today. I agree, Cradock is a grandstanding politician whose priorities do not square with the public's interests.

All the unopposed races indicates a degree of political stagnation, IMO. The Founding Father's liked the idea competition for these various public offices.

Today, the major political parties often concede races even before they begin. Gerrymandering of federal districts, for example, has short-circuited democracy. On the local level, there is very little competition for most of the positions; the electrote has become fat, dumb and incredibly lazy.

By: Loner on 5/3/10 at 11:35

I hope that the flooding has spared all my friends in Nashville. With all the flood control dams etc. I'm surprised that the Cumberland River is still capable of threatening those who live and build on its flood plain.

By: gdiafante on 5/3/10 at 12:53

We're fine, Mama, just a little soggy.

By: MamaG on 5/3/10 at 1:56

Just In: This election for tomorrow has been postponed until May 18. If anyone is interested...

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 1:59

Thanks mama. Now I hopee the others like Kosh, Blanket , et al, check in some way.

Glad they re-scheduled the election stuff. Don't need to deal with that with so many still stranded. The calls into channel 2 are so heart wretching. I feel so helpless. It's like I want to run out and rescue people. Hopefully our country music folk will put on something so we can all donate.

In the meantime, I have not heard of one single foreign country who's jumped in here to help. Have I missed it? Or did it just not happen?

Tennesseans (both native and imported stock) are so proud, self-reliant and roll up their sleeves to get the job done, so heck, we probably don't need foreign aid.

By: MamaG on 5/3/10 at 2:04

sidney, you can volunteer to help at Hands on Nashville, 298-1108. I don't think we need any foreign aid at this time...just my opinion...gone for the day...hope all our other regulars are okay.

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 2:19

Thanks mama; I'll log on line to that. I heard that on the radio and forgot. I was sort of joking about the foreign aid. Have a good day.

By: budlight on 5/3/10 at 7:55

Wow! Lightest day I've ever seen. I'm praying everyone is alright. Tomorrow at 8 a.m. I'm having some serious tests. Would appreciate a few prayers. Take care; good night and hope all ya'll are safe and warm.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/4/10 at 7:47

Hey, guys. Thanks for asking about me. My dogs and I are fine and my house was spared. Anyone heard from house? Doesn't he and his wife live in Bellevue?

By: Ex Civil on 5/8/10 at 8:21

I am amazed that your publication chose to endorse David Smith for Juvenile Court Clerk the day before the Election. The Electoral Commission’s decision to delay the elections for two weeks is one of the few positive results of the storm and flooding Nashville has experienced in the past week. It gives the voters of Nashville an opportunity to consider The City Paper’s endorsement of David Smith for the elected position of Juvenile Court Clerk. Particularly in the context of the coverage The City Paper and other “news” organizations have given to the several candidates for Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk. This coverage leads one to asking why and how The City Paper could endorse David Smith for the elected position Juvenile Court Clerk? The supposed credentials David would bring to the office of Juvenile Court Clerk are his service as a Court Officer. What is a Court Officer and how does one become a Court Officer. The Court Officers are appointed by an elected official, a judge. The individuals and organizations providing financial and material support for the elected official campaign expect and receive consideration when the elected official assumes office. This “consideration” in Tennessee and Nashville Courts includes responding to suggested individuals for positions of Court Officer in the courtroom of the elected judge. Without reviewing the campaign contributions for the judges for whom David has served as a Court Officer I would be hesitant to say from where the suggestion that David be “considered” came from. Are the voters of Davidson County now being asked by the source of David Smith previous recommendation that David, a political appointee, now be elevated to an Elected Official? Has this same source a financial interest in the City Paper? Though I am loathed at the thought Vic Lineweaver might be returned to office, but he defiantly has a better resume than David Smith. It is be premature to suggest that David Smith would less of same, but it is hard to imagine any else.

By: dogmrb on 5/18/10 at 8:05

For the record, Karen Johnson IS NOT an attorney. She's a politician lite.