Friday, July 10, 2015
A preview of the City Mayor Election
The above video, which matches the depressing lyrics of the great Chris Cornell with the soothing vocals of America's consummate George Gershwin interpreters, Steve Lawrence and the late, lamented Eydie Gorme, sums up the state of Memphis politics in both substance AND style. Giving us crappy news and ideas in a smooth, slick style seems to be how things are done at City Hall these days.
We are less than a week away from filing deadline, and the Mayor's race has yet to see a few of the Major candidates (and there really are only four or five at most if WHALUM! files) file their petitions. Those who are major candidates (folks who can pull more than 10% of the overall vote) are Mayor Wharton (who hasn't filed as of Thursday afternoon), Jim Strickland (filed Thursday), Harold Collins (not yet), MPA leader Mike Williams (nope) and the aforementioned WHALUM! (not yet).
No, Justin Ford is NOT a major candidate, even though he filed; I expect him to wait until after the deadline and then withdraw in favor of Wharton, making the biggest spectacle possible. Hell, if we could have gotten either Patrice Robinson or Keith Williams to withdraw from their Commission race last year, Ford wouldn't even BE in office, much less County Commission chair. (Note: those two haven't learned a damned thing, either, they are both up against each other again in the Council 3 race).
The rest of those who have pulled petitions either shouldn't file or withdraw after the deadline because you haven't a prayer in Hell of getting 5%, much less winning. No one cares about your vanity run, so get out and leave this race to the professionals. I am serious, you are wasting your time AND ours. And yes, that means YOU TOO, James Harvey.
(UPDATE: I just found out Prince Mongo is coming home from Zambodia to run. Your Highness, the prior paragraph does not apply to you, now or EVER. You are ALWAYS welcome to run).
Of the remaining five, we have the incumbent, who inherited the Administration of his predecessor, the legendary Dr. Willie W. Herenton, and KEPT most of them. That fact was one reason I voted for Myron Lowery in 2009, whom I thought would clean house; Lowery now supports Wharton for re-election.
The Mayor is slick and smooth and nice, and is very convincing on a one-on-one basis. He can claim a lot of additional jobs for the city through the additions of Electrolux, IKEA and Bass Pro Shops, although it appears that you, the city taxpayer, is paying for a higher share of those jobs than the companies themselves.
For an African-American Mayor of a majority African-American populace, it is odd that he is most vulnerable among those very people in terms of votes. I had someone close to his campaign tell me that the Mayor would get 40 percent of the African-American vote, and was HAPPY about it. I am not sure he will break 25%. If you think I am kidding, go to South Memphis or Whitehaven and talk to folks out there, you will see what I mean.
He is, frankly, desperate to keep the business community with him. That is what prompted the Mayor to move out long-time CAO George Little and replace him with former City Councilor Jack Sammons (who served in that same position under interim Mayor Lowery). This, even though he had someone JUST as competent and politically savvy who could have stepped right in without missing a beat "coughMauraSullivancough". However, the good ole boy bidness folks love them some Jack, so there he is.
I like Jack too, hard not to like him and he does do a good job. However, Strickland has a terrific point when he asks why it took Wharton so long to put Sammons there.
Ah, Jim Strickland. My Councilor for the last 7 years and a good guy, even though we don't agree on as much as I would like. He reminds me more and more of Dick Hackett, and that is not completely bad or good. Hackett, for those of you who remember, was a very good public servant with one big weakness: a lack of vision for the city, ESPECIALLY downtown, even though the rebuilding of Beale Street took off on his watch. He got things done, all over the city; however, the city was ready for its first African-American Mayor, and Hackett was narrowly defeated in the historic 1991 election.
I really want Jim to campaign hard and give folks a reason to vote for him, but we need vision AND execution. He also needs to back away from privatization, no matter how much his friends in East Memphis want to sway him otherwise. Also, Wharton will not hesitate to remind voters that Strickland voted WITH the Mayor on a lot of issues in which Jim seeks to separate himself.
The next candidate with a chance at victory is District 3 Councilor (Whitehaven/Airport/Hickory Hill) Harold Collins. Collins should be strong in his own area, which has the highest turnout of African-American majority sections of the city. The question is whether he will be able to do well outside that area, and can he draw disaffected whites angry with both Wharton and Strickland for going after the pensions of city retirees.
That last group, of course, is the apparent base of support being counted on by Memphis Police Association Director Mike Williams. While I agree wholeheartedly that promises were made that MUST be kept, no matter WHOSE taxes get raised, there is a question of just how many votes that will bring, as the majority of city retirees no longer live in the City.
And, of course, there is the wildest of wild cards, Reverend Kenneth (If You Can't Beat 'Em,) WHALUM! The Right Reverend knows how to get unpaid media, and is a Friday morning fixture on what is not as unlikely a venue as you might think, Drake & Zeke In The Morning on WXMX-FM 98.1. His pro-corporal punishment stance while on the MCS Board struck a chord with conservative voters all over town, and many of them joined with him to block the Sales Tax referendum to support Pre-K. WHALUM could very well hurt both Wharton AND Strickland. Can he win? I don't think so, but I truly believe his presence, if he files, could well determine who DOES win.
I need to see more from everybody, as I am UNDECIDED at the moment. Someone needs to give me a reason to vote for them. How, you may ask, could they do that?
1) Tell me how we can streamline the PILOT programs to ensure that A) there are SERIOUS clawback provisions for corporations and B) How you will ENFORCE those clawbacks. PILOTs are not going away, but they MUST be fixed because the city is receiving far too little for the amount of tax base they are tossing at these companies.
2) Tell me how you intend to address not only residential blight, but COMMERCIAL and INDUSTRIAL blight as well, and some of THAT can be tied to the PILOT issue.
3) Are you keeping or dumping Robert Lipscomb, and will he continue to be the most powerful person at City Hall if you win? This has to end, and soon.
4) While I agree with the Mayor that bike lanes are a good thing that attract young entrepreneur types to the city, haven'e we done ENOUGH for the Poplar Corridor for a while? People in the rest of the city, or the C as Polar Donkey calls it, think of those as WHITE FOLKS/FIRST WORLD Problems, since many of them only have bikes because they can't afford cars! (Don't get me started about MATA, woefully underfunded, and poorly run under Will Hudson). If a city is only as good as our weakest link, we must DEMAND that any corporation that gets tax breaks must locate near those who NEED the jobs the most, in North and South Memphis, not Cordova.
5) How do you intend to deal with a state government in Nashville that, frankly, wants to see most of your poor and working class population die or move rather than to do anything for them?
Well, that's enough for one day. I'd like your thoughts in the comments.
Black Hole Sun, won't you come, won't you come...........