Confehr: Debate got weird when Mom called cell phone

Friday, October 22, 2010

A funny thing happened during the Senate debate between Debbie Matthews and Bill Ketron.

I was the moderator - neutral, calm, cool and collected. Then my cell phone rang. Mom called for help with her absentee ballot.

I didn't know it was Mom. I turned the phone off - immediately. It should have been off already. When I called back, I didn't give much help. She's 88, but she's got all her marbles. I did say her candidate was one in a newspaper ad.

Mom moved in with my wife and me last summer, but she's spending the winter with my brother, so she's voting absentee.

The episode could become a stand-up routine by Bob Newhart, the comedian who entertains his audience with only his side of a phone call.

There's another part of the Senate debate that deserves comment. Matthews challenged Ketron about his role in keeping the Jersey herd at the University of Tennessee Dairy Research and Education Center.

Matthews said stimulus money was spent to keep the herd there. Ketron said he caused a spending reorganization. Which was it? County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett confirmed our recollection of UT leaders' discussion when they visited this county.

"Last year they put stimulus money in it, at least that's the way I understood it," Liggett said. "Bill challenged the university on where they're spending elsewhere."

That includes re-arranging management and operations at dairy farms here and at Spring Hill, Liggett said. He and I also understood that when stimulus money ends, Jersey herd funding would be readdressed if it hadn't been solved.

Then there's that unusual word fungible. Money is fungible. Rarely does money have an allegiance to a place for its use. Mostly, it's in an account and is withdrawn to pay expenses, unless Mom skims mad money and hides it in a coffee can. Another example: gas taxes are spent on roads.

The point? If UT got federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, (And how could it not?) then there's a greater opportunity to fully fund the Jersey herd.

None of this is to "get Bill." He's running for re-election and is challenged by Matthews. Both will say things to win votes. Some are said in sound bites. One might also acknowledge Lewisburg and Marshall County leaders' long-term effort to get a traffic light at Rock Crusher Road.

Ketron and I got to know each other when he was a Rutherford County commissioner and I wrote for The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro. This month, he was interested in a debate that wouldn't restrict answers to a couple of minutes, and we did have a more informal debate with more discussion than sound bites in the Marshall County High School Lecture Hall on Monday. Perhaps more time should have been spent on the Jersey herd.

Now, there's another debate. The Marshall County Tribune is leading one for state House candidates Ted Roop, Billy Spivey and Eddie Bass at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Cornersville High School auditorium.

Please come. If you can't, please vote. Early voting continues until 4 p.m. Thursday.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.