Thursday, September 20, 2007

My last take (I HOPE) on the Mayor's race

MemphisBlue's initial LWC post jarred loose the post that has been rattling around in my brain for a few days.

First, on Herman Morris.  Look, I know I've been rough on him, and he's actually a nice guy, and I imagine he'd be a delightful and engaging dinner companion, a hail-fellow-well-met if there ever was one.  We're not electing a dinner companion, people, we're electing an executive.

But wait, you say, he has BEEN an executive, and has won all these awards and look at the MLGW JD POWER rating.  Well, compared to Joseph Lee, he looks like Henry Ford.  So does my 2-year-old godson Jack.

Let me remind you that Herman had three critical moments of his MLGW tenure, which he claims is a record of achievement.  1) While I don't believe that he had any idea that Networx was being ripped off, why not?  As an executive, oversight is a function of the job.  It could well be that he might have been able to right the ship had Herenton not tossed over the side for Lee, we'll never know.

2) Yes, I am aware that Hurricane Elvis screwed up the MLGW system and hurt the grid.  Did he do the best possible job of responding?  What about the Entergy trucks waiting to come and help that weren't allowed to assist?  Herman gets a D minus at best, folks, there's just no way to spin this.

3) I can understand most of the people on the MLGW VIP list, and in many ways it makes sense.  However, it looks bad to see his family members on there, and you have to ask, why?  Are you telling me that his niece or his inlaws had no way to contact him or didn't have his direct cellphone to call and say, look, we're having a problem this month?

Look, folks, these next four years are going to be brutal for the City of Memphis, regardless of who wins on October 4, and we need someone who doesn't fumble in the critical moments.

Next, to the Mayor himself.  You know, for all the rage I have sent in his direction, we need to remember that A) he is a historic figure in this City, and B) his first two terms were among the best by any Mayor that this city has known, with much accomplished.  Give him credit for the explosion of Downtown, which desperately needed it and no one else on the 5th floor had been able to facilitate.

His third term was when he started to drift, however, and since 2003 the city has been in utter freefall.  It's not so much that he did anything to cause it, but neither has he done anything about it until hiring Larry Godwin as police director.  Godwin ended the Spinal Tap-Drummer-like run of police directors under his watch.

I have a new analogy for the Mayor.  His early terms reminded me of the 1951-65 Willie Mays, making great plays, hitting well, always doing the right thing.  However, since 2003, he has reminded of the Willie Mays who kept muffing easy outs for the Mets in the 1973 World Series, embarrassing himself and tarnishing his legacy, which has many good things about it.

That's the problem; the longer you stay, the longer it's been since the good times and the more people remember the more recent bad times.

And so we as Memphians find ourselves with a city that needs attention and repair, and quickly.  I've heard people say that we need unity; well, yes, but it's not happening until we clean up the corruption.  Whoever wins, people, we are going to have a tumultuous four years, either from neglect (Herenton), lack of oversight as the developers continue to run amuck (Morris) or because we will finally begin to clean the city up, and the corrupt influences try to fight back (Chumney).

The fact is, folks, the reason Carol is not looked upon as a "Team Player" is because she knows bullshit and back-slapping when she sees it, and as my godfather said in the CA on Sunday, "We've had all the backslappers we can handle, we need a fighter, a fighter for the people".

She knows better than anyone how the developers have contributed to the sprawl of the city and county that has overtaxed its resources, and she will stand up to them.  That's why they are supporting Morris, because he will turn his head and look the other way.

Look, we desperately need someone who is going to run the rats out of the barn and the foxes out of the chickencoop.  We need someone who will get rid of the excessive political appointees of the prior administration, someone who will hire only the best people for her cabinet, from wherever they may be, to reestablish competence and TRUST in city government, something that has been sorely lacking.

We need someone who has the guts and drive and determination to get this done, and folks, the future of the city is riding on it.  It's time for the men to step aside, we've had our turn, it's time to let a woman lead us to where we need to be.

If you LIKE how things are going, well, vote for Herenton or Morris.  However, if you understand the depths of the problems that we face, your only hope for REAL and POSITIVE change for Memphis is Carol Chumney.

Period.

11 comments:

Chris said...

I have not yet decided on a candidate, except that I'm not going to vote for the incumbent, so I do not make the following comment as a partisan. But I cannot let your criticism of MLGW's response to Hurricane Elvis go unchallenged.

MLGW basically rewired an entire city of a million people in less than two weeks. They were working at the absolute limit of both human endurance and safety regulations the whole time.

During the storm, I heard about the Entergy offer being turned down, so I called my mother, who has worked in public utilities for more than 30 years, to ask why MLGW would turn down help at such a critical juncture. She told me that in situations where outside linemen have been called in in an emergency, safety regulations specify that there must be someone from the local utility riding along with them to supervise their work. Locals know the area, are guaranteed to have compatible communication equipment and are familiar with the local chain of command. It is imperative that the recovery efforts be well-coordinated. If not, there is the possibility that, for example, a crew could hook up a line in one area that would cause another crew in an adjacent area to suddenly and unexpectedly be handling live wires. Trucks from all over the TVA system and points beyond were working here at the time, and of course MLGW was all hands on deck. There just weren't any more people available to coordinate the offered Entergy trucks. The system was stretched to its limit dealing with an unprecedented, once-in-a-hundred-year event, and merely throwing more manpower into the problem could have made the situtaion more dangerous and less controllable. Repairing a severely damaged grid is not just a matter of hooking up a couple of wires. Remember, there are neighborhoods of New Orleans that just got power restored a couple of months ago.

Critizing Morris for the Networx fiasco is certainly legitimate, but during Hurricane Elvis, he did the best he, or anyone, could with an impossible situation.

LeftWingCracker said...

Chris,

Thank you. That is the clearest and most concise explanation for their performance that I have heard, and I appreciate that.

PeskyFly said...

Cracker: Really the only major crit you can throw at Morris over Networx is for STARTING it.

It was either a good idea that went bad or it was a bad idea that went bad.

Now, in the beginning Networx benefit packages did reflect the overly sweet deals found at the top levels of MLGW. But again, I think this is a temporal situation, not specific to MLGW, Networx or Morris.

I don't have time to elaborate at the moment but may post myself later in the day.

It's a tough call between him and the Chumney. It's hard having to couch criticism in "I like candidate X but....".

Jenny said...

Most areas expecting hurricane damage usually have several days' notice to prepare for the worst; Memphis had less than 30 minutes notice and many of its citizens were still sleeping. Thankfully, most of the MLGW staff was already at work ready to begin a normal workday at 7:00am. This was not to be a normal workday…not by a long shot. This was to be the worst disaster in MLGW's 63 year history. MLGW workers did not know when they headed to work at 6:30 the morning of July 22, 2003 that they would be working 14-16 hour days for the next two weeks. The winds of the approaching thunderstorm suddenly intensified to hurricane strength, reaching 102 mph at approximately 6:42am. In less than an hour, the storm was headed out of town, leaving a trail of destruction and immobilizing over 80% of the city. It was the most destructive storm to ever hit the city of Memphis.

Emergency response by MGLW was rapid. Damage assessment began almost immediately and by 11:15am, President & CEO Herman Morris, Jr. signed an official Declaration of Crisis. All three MLGW services had been affected. Eighty-one percent had no electricity. Eight of the city's ten water pumping stations were down, and there was even damage to gas lines due to trees being uprooted around them. Contractual mutual aid agreements were already in place with numerous neighboring and local contractors and various personnel as a major part of the Emergency Response Plan. At the height of the restoration effort, the original number of 978 workers had grown to over 1935 persons. But as it has been said, "No good deed goes unpunished."

While the men and women of MLGW and their mutual-aid workforce were putting in 14-16 hour days, certain news media erroneously reported that MGLW had refused help from utility contractors working for Entergy in Desoto County, MS. These certain reporters never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Had the media investigated the rumor, they would have discovered the same thing that MLGW management did: 1) Entergy had never contacted MGLW management prior to the media announcement, 2) this contractor would not be available for work until July 29, and 3) they would need to negotiate a contract prior to starting work. MLGW management explained that they already had numerous crews en route from out of town and at that time there was not room to safely incorporate any more workers into the workforce. For safety reasons, at least one MLGW employee had to accompany every out of town crew that was dispatched. As soon as more manpower could be safely utilized, Entergy was called on July 31 and their specialty equipment crews were fully utilized through August 4, 2003.

Evaluation reports from both an internal committee and a Blue Ribbon Citizens Group (made up of 27 citizens) agreed that MLGW had done an exemplary job. Elvis restoration had been completed more quickly than the Ice Storm restoration even though two additional storms hit during the restoration period, causing restoration services to 20,000 more customers, some of whom were repeats. Work was completed in two weeks without any loss of life to any of the workers or serious loss of time due to injury. It was a job well done, thanks to good leadership and the aid of our neighbors.

And speaking of neighbors, Herman Morris had a tree fall on his house during that same storm, taking his utilities out as well. His utilities went back on at the same time his neighbors' utilities did....10 days later.

kiljoyhardluck said...

Emergency response by MGLW was rapid.---------------Not anywhere that I saw ? While the men and women of MLGW and their mutual-aid workforce were putting in 14-16 hour days, certain news media erroneously reported that MGLW had refused help from utility contractors working for Entergy in Desoto County, ALL NEWS OUTLETS REPORTED THEY HAD PEOPLE AND TRUCKS READY AND THEY EVEN SHOWED THEM ARE YOU SAYING THEY MADE THAT UP TOO! WE THE PUBLIC ARE NOT DUMB ASSES!
Contractual mutual aid agreements were already in place with numerous neighboring and local contractors and various personnel as a major part of the Emergency Response Plan. WHY SO THEY COULD PROFIT BIGTIME OFF US THE RATE PAYERS.
Entergy had never contacted MGLW management prior to the media announcement, 2) this contractor would not be available for work until July 29, and 3) they would need to negotiate a contract prior to starting work. MLGW management explained that they already had numerous crews en route from out of town and at that time there was not room to safely incorporate any more workers into the workforce. THis ain't hitting on nothing just a bunch of gobbeled de gook. More people could have cleared trees if nothing else?Evaluation reports from both an internal committee and a Blue Ribbon Citizens Group (made up of 27 citizens) agreed that MLGW had done an exemplary job. WHO DID THEY ASK BECAUSE EVERYONE I KNOW THINKS IT SUCKED? Herman Morris had a tree fall on his house during that same storm, taking his utilities out as well. His utilities went back on at the same time his neighbors' utilities did....10 days later. THEN HE MUST HAVE HAD A HELL OF A GENERATOR BECAUSE I MYSELF WENT BY THERE DELIVERING MIFA MEALS AND SAW HIS LIGHTS ON WHEN NO ONE ELSE HAD ANY??? THIS HAS EVEN BE PUBLISED AS IN THE FLYER THIS WEEKS EDIT> SOMEBODY HAS BEEN FEEDING YOU A PRESS RELEASE FULL OF BULL.....

Memphis For Morris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Memphis For Morris said...

The power at the home in which Herman lived was out for 10 days.

The power never went out at the house that Herman and Dr. Brenda Morris had just bought but had not moved into.

Herman never used MLGW resources to reconnect himself or any friends or family.

If you are so desperate to find a flaw in Herman that you are willing to ignore the truth, maybe you should join the Thaddeus Matthews school of journalism.

MemphisPI said...

Regarding MLG&W and Hurricane Elvis I think they did a commendable job. But it was a mistake not to bring in outside help at the very begining. The bigger job was for tree trimmers not electricians.
I was out twelve days and the crew that fixed my pole all came from South Carolina. The sole MLG&W guy never got out of his pickup. Now that is some superior coordination to supervise the job in my backyard from inside his truck.

journeyman said...

To memphispi,
MLGW DID have outside help fromt he very beginning. As soon as the disaster was declared, MLGW had crews form surrounding communities enroute to Memphis within hours.

That sotry that WREG ran about Entergy's offer of help being refused was NOT TRUE. They had never even contacted MLGW to offer help. And when MLGW contacted them, they wanted to negotiate a contract first. Even then, they wouldn't be available to work until after 1 week into the restoration process.

Elvis was a storm that knocked out utilities in 80% of the city, yet the power was back on within 2 weeks time. It took longer than that in 1994 to restore the 60% of the city that was wiped out by the Ice Storm. Much progress had been made in emergency response from 1994 to 2003.

dwayne said...

LWC,

We can go back and forth on your comments. As you know, I've worked for Carol many times as a volunteer and am proud of each time I've helped. I'm for Morris this year because I feel he is the best qualified both in executive experience and temperament.

However, I am concerned about the lack of either candidate reminding voters of Herenton's record over the past few years. Poor and African American voters were abandoning him left and right when the Edmund Ford-MLG&W scandal came out. It appears that Herenton is successfully wooing many of them back.

No campaign should be based on total negative but Herenton has credible opposition this year because he has a bad record and has abused the Mayor's office so much. Does anyone know if comparative ads will be coming out soon?

Jenny said...

Regarding Networx, "Being sold too soon" is the simple answer. There is a much more complex answer. Those who are even remotely investment saavy will understand.

Some investments are short-term like the Wall Street stuff you see in movies where people are yelling, "Buy....Sell,....buy...sell." Those type of investments may make a profit in just hours or a few days.

Other investments are long-term. That is, they require a good bit of capital investment on the front end putting them in the hole for a while until the profit is able to surpass the original investment. These types of investments require time and nurturing. This was the type of investment that Networx was.

The problem with Networx wasn't the inception of it. The problem was that Willie Herenton fired the man who was just getting it started, and then he put a failed and grossly inexperienced man in that same position of CEO--a man who knew nothing about long term investment, Joseph Lee. Joseph Lee already had two strikes against him: Kimberly-Clarke and the City of Memphis. Would you hire a man who had already proven twice that he couldn't handle the finances of a large corporation or city? Willie Herenton did.

Once Joseph Lee was in office, he then gave away the controlling interest in Networx to a group of investors for a "promise to pay." No money changed hands. He GAVE it away for the investors' promise to bail Networx out of trouble if the day came that it could not pay its bills. Then when the private investors saw the opportunity to make a good return on the little bit of money that they had invested, they decided to sell...and sell they could, because they now held the controlling interest.

It couldn't be that bad of an investment when suddenly numerous companies were competing to make the purchase, now could it? (Not to mention the fact that a couple of them were extremely upset when their better offers were turned down.)

Chattanooga has made this same investment in their utility company. Other cities have done it as well and are succeeding. Why couldn't Memphis? The problems: Willie Herenton, Joseph Lee, the city council for failure to do its job of oversight of the utility and its investment, and the MLGW Board of Commissioners. Who's minding the store? They're all running amuk!