Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Let's talk about the City Council races

Jerome Wright wrote in the CA on Sunday (sorry, behind a paywall) about the upcoming Council races, which I believe are AS important as the Mayor's race, if not more so:

Voters should listen closely to what the council candidates are saying. Do they have solid ideas on how to move the city and council districts forward? Have the incumbents done more than complain or bluster? Are they more than one-issue candidates? 
Have they done a good job managing their own finances? It’s an important point to consider for people who want to determine how to spend millions of your tax dollars. 
Do they have any thoughts about privatizing some city services or providing those services on a sliding-fee scale based on usage? 
Also, listen carefully to what they have to say about city’s debt situation. The city still has to bring its pension fund into solvency by 2020, according to state law, but has not been putting enough into the fund to accomplish that goal. 
That has raised concerns in some circles that a big property tax increase may be coming next summer or in the summer of 2017. The council has the final say on whether that happens.

To a great degree, he is spot on, especially when he talks about privatization of city services, which I believe is a disaster in the making.  Why, you ask?  First, any savings you as a taxpayer MIGHT receive will more than likely be turned into profits for an OUT-OF-TOWN concern.  Secondly, this is also an attempt to KILL public-sector unions, which allow our city employees to have middle-class incomes and be able to buy homes and cars and have disposable income.

You know, like YOU might have if YOU had a PRIVATE-SECTOR union to join.

You should ask EVERY Council candidate (and remember, you have FOUR to choose, one District and THREE SuperDistrict positions) how they feel about privatization, about what THEY intend to do about the debt and pension situation.  And yes, there WILL be a property tax hike in 2017, otherwise the State of Tennessee will attempt a takeover and imposition of Greek-style austerity on this city and its citizens, whom they despise.  (Why do you think I want Strickland for Mayor?  Because he knows how to deal with those schmucks without selling us out, that's why.)

So, I am going to start out (there will be more than one post on this) with the races in which I have a vote.

SUPERDISTRICT 9, POSITION 1 - Kemp Conrad is the incumbent, a man who came to office eight years ago when Mary Wilder and Desi Franklin split the progressive vote and he won (UPDATE: I was wrong about this, that was Reid Hedgepeth that they ran against, thanks to Caroline Todd for the heads-up!), giving us eight years of attempts to privatize most areas of government, even the SANITATION WORKERS.  You know, the very organization that Dr. Martin Luther King was assisting when he was assassinated here on April 4, 1968.  I'm not saying they have sacred posts, but it's pretty damned close, in my opinion.  He is a former GOP chair here (Note, so is interim City Councilman Alan Crone, who is not seeking re-election.  However, Crone has been nothing short of terrific since he joined the Council, to the point that I am sad he is not running. FULL DISCLOSURE: My wife used to work with an associated law firm.

Conrad's opponents are Charley Burch and my neighbor in Humes Heights, Robin Spielberger.  It is Robin for whom I will cast my vote.  No, I don't agree with her on everything, but she does support a Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board and has interesting ideas on using tiny homes to help solve the homelessness issue, which I found interesting, and I think you will as well.  Please consider her if you live in SD 9, unless you like the idea of privatization.  Of course, if you DID, I doubt you would be reading this blog.

SUPERDISTRICT 9, POSITION 2  - This is the seat vacated by Shea Flinn and currently held by the aforementioned Alan Crone.  This is the largest field of these three slots, with several interesting candidates, from former MCS Board members Rev. Kenneth Whalum and Stephanie Gatewood (for whom I would vote if my choice were not running),  Lynn Moss,  Philip Spinosa, an Inside Sales manager for FedEx Services (Flinn's personal choice to succeed him), and MY choice for this position, Paul Shaffer.

Paul is the business manager for IBEW Local 474, a longtime supporter of progressive causes, and a former candidate who lost to Kemp Conrad in 9-1 four years ago.  Now, more than ever, we need Labor to have a seat at the table on the City Council.  Paul is smart and has great experience working with the Council on negotiations, and would be a solid force against the privatization of city government.

Spinosa has more signs and is the candidate of the big business community (drive down Walnut Grove and you will see what I mean).  He may well be a good guy, but I fully believe Paul Shaffer is the best candidate in the race.

SUPERDISTRICT 9, POSITION 3 -  The incumbent is first-termer Reid Hedgepeth who won a lot of people over when he voted for the Non-Discrimination Ordinance to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination by city government or contractors with city government.  As he was elected with a lot of conservative votes, that took guts and I applaud him for doing so.

That said, the rest of his voting record has been pro-developer and anti-union.  This is why I do NOT support his re-election.  In the race to unseat him are former County Register candidate Stephen Christian, with whom I served on the SCDP Executive Committee this past year, and my choice, local activist Zachary Ferguson.  Ferguson is one of two openly gay candidates for Council, and faces an uphill battle, as it's always tough to unseat an incumbent.

However, he has been very active in civic organizations as well as his church, St. John's United Methodist. He is currently President of the Board of Directors for the Workforce Interfaith Network.  He shares our progressive values, not just socially but ECONOMICALLY as well, and I urge you to vote for him in this race.

DISTRICT 5 -  This is the tough one for me.   There are seven people in the race; however, I confess that I have no clue who Jimmie Franklin or Jennifer James Williams are, couldn't pick them out of a lineup.  Of course, I haven't gotten mail from them or had them knock on my door yet, either.

There WILL be a runoff in this race (SuperDistricts and Citywide races are not allowed runoffs due to a quarter-century old consent decree), because the remaining five candidates are, for all intents and purposes, running for two spots in that runoff.

28-year old Jonathan Worth Morgan, who uses his middle name as his first name n the ballot and on his signs, is the son of Morgan-Keegan Financial founder Allen Morgan.  He raised a good bit of money to start, and was seen as a favorite to make the runoff.  However, Dan Springer, a veteran of Mark Luttrell campaigns who does have the occasional progressive supporting him, may well take a lot of that vote.  Springer has a good website with a good video promoting the good things about the city,on which we all can agree.  However, there is not much in the way of specifics on how he might vote on say, the Pension issue.

Fighting for what might be the liberal spot in the runoff are three people I like a lot, of whom only one can receive my vote.  (insert Chicago joke here.)  Mary Wilder is a community activist well-known in the Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association, and sat in Carol Chumney's vacated House 89 seat in the early Oughts after Chumney resigned to take a City Council seat (this one, as it were).   She has a base of the older Midtown Democratic stalwarts who cut their teeth on Steve Cohen campaigns.

Next is the person whom I originally intended to support,  Charles (Chooch) Pickard.  He is an architect who has lived in Memphis for twenty years and has a keen eye for how the city SHOULD be developed, rather than how it HAS BEEN developed.  He is a first-time candidate but he is very calm with a good head on his shoulders with a good vision.  If he won, he would be a great voice, and he is the other openly gay candidate for Council this year.

I can easily support Mary or Chooch if they get in the runoff against Springer or Morgan.

However, at the soiree Mr. Carroll and I throw each year, Bratfest, our friend John Marek showed up with a petition for this race, catching me off guard.  I signed his petition, and began to re-think my position.

For those who don't know John, he has been Congressman Cohen's campaign manager the last two elections, and has been associated with the campaigns since 2006.  He is an attorney and would be the ONLY attorney on the Council if elected, as Alan Crone is not running.  (How do you NOT have an attorney on the Council?  Allan Wade can't do EVERYTHING, no matter what he may think!)

John has an incredible passion to serve.  He sits on the CLERB and supports its strengthening.  His work led to the MPD agreeing to have body cams for all uniformed policemen, which will take effect this fall.  He is also the local president of NORML, which has a following among people of ALL political stripes.

You want to know what he wants to do?? You can read it here.   John also has the endorsement of his mentor, Congressman Cohen:

John has the energy to move this community forward RIGHT NOW, because he is already doing it.  Let's give him that chance, I URGE you to vote for John Marek for District 5.

More on the other races in the next day or so.


Ralph Noyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph Noyes said...

Good article, and I agree with your endorsements, too.