Jun 26 2007

Lien on Me

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

It seems that newly appointed City Council member Henry Hooper II may be in a bit of a pickle. As reported by Fox 13, Mr. Hooper, a former Secret Service agent, is fighting with a division of the US Treasury Department, his former employer, over a $400,000+ tax bill.

And I thought my taxes were high.

The tax liens, dating back to 2000, were not discovered during his background check. Perhaps a refund is in order. Hooper is currently fighting the liens in court.

This can’t bode well for the seat, formerly held by Rickey Pete, who plead guilty earlier this month to charges of accepting $12,000 in bribes.

If this keeps up, people will be running scared from Super 8 Position 2. A word of advice to those who would run for this seat, keep your nose clean and your powder dry. The curse of 8,2 just might rear it’s ugly head on you.

Jun 26 2007

What’s the Plan?

Posted by Steve Ross in Memphis

With just over 3 weeks to the filing deadline for city elections, candidates are starting to come out of the woodworks to drum up support for their campaigns. As of this writing, two of the 3 frontrunners, Herman Morris and Carol Chumney have filed petitions, the third, Mayor Herenton, has yet to file, but he could any day now. These three “frontrunners” and what will likely be a crowded field of up and comers, have a big job ahead of them, making their vision for the city known to the public at large.

Memphis has a lot of challenges facing it right now; violent crime is out of control, poverty is pervasive in many areas of the city, and our schools, while improving, still leave a lot to be desired. All three of these issues are tightly intertwined, and have, in some cases, spanned generations. In order to make any visible progress, we need to come together, as a community and work to solve these problems, but we also need someone who has the vision to both unify and lead us with a comprehensive plan of attack.

I know it’s early, and the candidates are just now getting their organizations together, but it is critical that those who would be our city leaders effectively communicate their vision to their constituents so that we, the people of Memphis, can make an educated choice in the future leadership of this city. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out that way.

Already, there is an effort to make this election the citywide equivalent of a High School class president’s race. Mayor Herenton’s press conference of two weeks ago, alleging a “conspiracy” to impugn his name by ensnaring him in a sex scandal, was laced with racial overtones and wild accusations. That’s not to say that some of the allegations may not be true, but Herenton’s attempt to stir up racial divisions is not what I would call “visionary” leadership.

In truth, it seems like every time the Mayor opens his mouth he’s stirring up divisions. Several months ago he called Mayoral candidate Herman Morris “boy”. I can only imagine some of the names he’ll come up for the other Mayoral candidates.

How long of a shadow will this, and some of the other scandals facing the city, cast on the upcoming election? Who knows, but it’s our duty, as responsible citizens, to cut through some of the crap and demand leadership from those who would be our leaders.

It’s time to start taking seriously about our city folks. Regardless of whom you support for City Council or the Mayor’s office, we need to demand that our elected officials address the needs of this city quickly, forthrightly, and completely. Until we demand better, our leaders will just keep feeding us the same old meal. I’m getting hungry for something else.

Jun 25 2007

What’s so Super about Super Districts?

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago, my friend LeftWingCracker wrote a post that detailed many changes he believes are needed in Memphis. The first thing he mentioned was the need for smaller City Council districts.

Currently, the Memphis City Council has 13 members, 7 from individual districts, and 6 from 2 “Super” Districts. The city’s two “Super” districts basically cut the city in half, east and west. The notion of “Super Districts” is not lost on me at all. In 1966 when our city government moved to a mayor-council arrangement, it provided for 7 districts and 6 at large positions. In 1995 when the Super Districts first went into effect, splitting the 6 at large positions between 2 huge districts made sense, to ensure that one constituency wasn’t running roughshod over the other. As a transitional solution it makes good sense. Still, I have to wonder why most Memphians are more directly represented in the State House than in their own City council.

There are 17 Representatives from Shelby County in the TN State House. Of those, 12 list addresses that are located in the city limits, the other 5 are from Bartlett, Cordova and Collierville. If there are 12 districts in Memphis proper that means an average representation of 1:53500, or 1 representative for every 53500 Memphians. With 13 council seats, one would think that the representation would be better (1:49385), but they would be wrong. Because of the district breakdown we have 2 tiers of representation. In districts 1-7 the ratio is 1:91700, and in districts 8and 9 it is 1:10700 (based on 2005 population numbers and an even distribution of people in the districts).

Unfortunately, that still doesn’t tell the story. Because of the “Super” Districts, some areas have more representatives than others. In Super District 8, which comprises all of 6 and 7, and a majority of 3 and 4, ALL of the members of the Super District 8 delegation reside in District 7, effectively giving District 7 a disproportionate power. There is a similar problem in Super 9, 2 members reside in 5 and one in 2. To break that down, District 7 currently has a 1:23000 ratio (4 members of the council residing in that district with 3 representing Super 8), District 5, my district, has a 1:30566, and District 2 has a 1:45850 ratio.

The big losers in this deal are Districts 1,3,4 and 6, arguably some of the most impoverished areas of the city.

The answer to this inequity is simple, “Super” districts must go. In order to adequately represent the people of Memphis there should not be a system in place to continually put those who lack economic power in a situation where they are less served than more affluent constituents. The current arrangement only reinforces class divisions in exchange for the more emotionally charged race divisions that are the constant talk to the city.

With all of the problems currently facing the city, we deserve better and more direct representation in the City Council, and the fairest way to accomplish this is by splitting the city up into 13 equal and equitable districts. This will, no doubt, face resistance from many of the powers that be, but more direct representation is not something that we can afford to put off for too much longer.

Jun 16 2007

The Dog Ate My Homework

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I was going to write this big long thing about the Herenton deal yesterday, but after reading Brassmask, Autoegocrat, and 55-40, I don’t think I really have that much more to add. Couple that with Wendi C. Thomas’ piece in this morning’s CA, and I’m really at a loss…which is strange because usually she pisses me off enough to get my blood boiling.

The primary thing that binds the three main characters, Mayor Herenton, Richard Fields, and Gwendolyn Smith, in this little scenario is that NONE OF THEM HAVE ANY CREDIBILITY.

Mayor Herrenton may well be the victim of some concerted effort to make sure that he didn’t get re-elected, but the thing that is most damning of his administration over the 3 years that I’ve lived here is his lack of vision his polarizing effect on the community, and his irrational behavior.

Richard Fields has no credibility because of his continued character assassination of a number of African-American officials, starting with the Ophelia Ford incident back in 2004, which led to his resignation/removal (different people have different accounts of this) from the Shelby County Democratic Party, and continued on with his infamous letter about Robert Spence, the mailer against Jay Bailey for the Chairmanship of the SCDP, and a host of other things scattered hither and fro.

Gwendolyn Smith has no credibility, not because of her fraud conviction, but because she admits that she took money from Fields to carry out his alleged plan. Only when the money dried up did she chose to go to Herenton. That sounds like a classic double cross. Who was blackmailing whom? Sounds to me like a case could be made that Ms. Smith was blackmailing Fields.

Still, none of this gets to the issue at hand, the mayoral race. In what will be noted as either a stroke of brilliance or just dumb luck, Mayor Herenton has effectively “flipped the script” from a campaign about issues that are devastating the city, to one about racially motivated powerbrokers, intent on the continued subjugation of the black community. By setting the stage to make the campaign an exercise in race baiting, and “white rule” as Thaddeus Matthews calls it, the mayor has used one of the most classic emotionally driven tactics to shore up the African-American community against anyone who would oppose him.

With just over 100 days until the city elections, and 34 until the filing deadline, there’s plenty of time for this molehill to either turn into a mountain, or be swept away in a tide of honest discussion over the future of the City of Memphis. We have a lot more important things going on in this city than some half-baked sex scandal. My hope is that the people of the city of Memphis will chose to focus on the candidates, their issues, and their vision for the future of the city, instead of the old standby of race.

Jun 14 2007

A Conspiracy is afoot…a foot is defined as…

Posted by Steve Ross in Memphis

I’ll tell you one thing, Mayor Herenton was smooth. Smooth as glass. He was calm, cool and collected. And he went out of his way to make sure that people noted that he wasn’t angry, which almost defeated the purpose.

The conference started out a little weird. Herenton spoke in very slow measured sentences, as if he were carefully choosing each word, then went into definitions of Conspiracy, Benefactor, and, perhaps a couple of other words.

I just finished reading the complaint by Ms. Smith and the letter to Bredesen by Herenton and I have to say that even if this is a crock, it’s a well organized crock. If it’s true, we can expect 4 more years of Herenton, like it or not. I haven’t read the letter to USAG Gonzales yet, I’m not sure that it has been made public at this time.

Something that only bolsters the Mayor’s claim are the current investigations by the House and Senate Judiciary committees regarding the DOJ’s shenanigans with vote caging, attempts to fraudulently charge Democratic candidates with corruption near elections, and other attempts to disenfranchise largely minority voters. These efforts have been widely reported at TPM and firedoglake.

Needless to say, if one were able to fold this “conspiracy” into other federal actions in the city, one could make an argument that the malfeasance goes much further than the people named in the complaint.

For my money, I need some more shoes to drop and a little more information from something other than the blogoshpere to really form an opinion. Just like I said John Ford wasn’t guilty until found so by a jury of his peers, so will I reserve judgement for those named in this little imbroglio until there’s a little more substance to gnaw at.

Until then, this definitely gives us something to talk about.

Below are the links to the letters…Thanks to mymemphispolitics for getting these resources us so quickly.

Herenton’s letter to Bredesen
Ms. Smith’s Letter to the DA
Letter to USAG Gonzales

Here is a transcript of the Press Conference provided by the Commercial Appeal.