Expensive Breakfast?

There will be a one-hour breakfast meeting at Pilot Corp. headquarters next Wednesday (Jan. 7) where about 100 guests will hear a status report on Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam's plans to run for governor in 2010.

Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot and the mayor's brother, issued the invitations to the group of heavy hitters with a promise the 7:30 a.m meeting will last no longer than an hour. Jimmy Haslam, who was a major player in raising money for the election of his friend Bob Corker to the U.S. Senate, is expected to play a major role in his brother's campaign as well.

Congressman Zach Wamp, R-Chattanooga, recently commissioned a poll on a potential governor's race and has billboards up and down interstates around East Tennessee. The billboards were in connection with his recent re-election to Congress, but many of them aren't even in his district.

Wamp and Haslam have both said they would not run should former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist decide to run. The recent moves by Wamp and Haslam indicate they do not believe Frist will be a candidate.

Hardin Valley Bypassed

President-elect Barack Obama's team has discussed a major infrastructure program as part of an economic stimulus package, but people in Hardin Valley shouldn't expect to see road graders any time soon.

The plan is for "shovel ready" road and bridge projects that can be begun within 180 days of passage. The controversial parkway through Hardin Valley, connecting I-75 north of Knoxville with I-40/I-75 west of town, is not far enough along to qualify for the new highway funds.

In fact, virtually all the East Tennessee projects on the potential stimulus list are bridge replacements that don't require extensive studies or right-of-way acquisitions. TDOT has not proceeded with plans for major projects of late, since they did not expect to have the revenues for major projects. Thus they are not "shovel ready" on major projects. The biggest project in East Tennessee has been re-working the James White Parkway interchange in downtown Knoxville, expected to be completed next summer.

"Puff" Disappointed

Chip Saltsman, former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, has left Peter Yarrow "shocked and saddened" and even "Puff" doesn't think Saltsman should be Republican National Committee chair.

Paul Shanklin lives in Memphis and makes parody songs in his home office using a CD player and a Mac. He sells the CDs online but is mostly known for their play on the Rush Limbaugh talk show. Shanklin did a parody of a Los Angeles Times column calling President-elect Barack Obama a "Magic Negro" who relieves white guilt. The song, to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," is included on one of Shanklin's CDs. Saltsman is seeking the RNC job after managing Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Shanklin is a popular figure among conservatives and Saltsman thought it would be a good idea to send potential voters a copy of the "Magic Negro" CD.

The ensuing flap prompted Yarrow, the writer of "Puff the Magic Dragon," to write the Huffington Post blog saying he was shocked and saddened by Saltsman's action, which he termed an "insult to the presidency" and said he finds it unimaginable that Saltsman would be considered for the RNC chair. And he added that "Puff would agree."

Democrats are having a field day, citing Saltsman as the poster boy for Republican bigotry. Local columnist Betty Bean, on the KnoxViews blog, notably called him "Chip the Magic Cracker."