Turnout over the weekend was pretty light. Just 923 people voted on Saturday, a quarter of them from District 6, which I took a look at yesterday. As of the close of early voting Saturday, just 3018 individuals had voted. That’s pretty low folks.
With 15 hours of voting that we have information on, and 16 early voting locations, that’s about 12.5 voters per hour or 1 voter every 5 minutes. Hopefully, today’s numbers, when they are released tomorrow, will show a little more interest.
The CA Editorial Board endorsed the incumbents in these races this morning. Here’s my look at how the races shape up.
District 1 is currently represented by Bill Morrison an educator in the Shelby County School District. Morrison won a 2007 runoff in a crowded field. However, with only one opponent this time around the math for a Morrison victory is very different this time around.
Morrison disappointed equality advocates by voting against the Employee Non-Discrimination Order in 2010. His opponent Kendrick Sneed has received the endorsement of the TEP PAC.
Kendrick Sneed is a Sheriff’s Deputy, and is currently seeking a degree in Applied Psychology from Christian Brother’s University. Sneed, a former aide to Harold Ford Jr. and Sr., is running in his first campaign.
I don’t make it up to the 1st district all that much, but this should be a pretty interesting race considering the 2007 contest.
Boyd has been in public service, at one level of government or another, for a very long time. That experience gives him some perspective, even if he can’t always remember all the details. I’ve spoken personally to Councilman Boyd on a couple of occasions, mostly about redistricting over the summer, but one thing sticks out in my mind more than anything else, and that’s the day the Council decided on the CVS in midtown.
Councilman Boyd made sure that everyone in attendance knew that he wasn’t impressed nor moved by the hundreds of people that showed up both in support of and opposition to the demolition of the Methodist Church on the corner of Cooper and Union. In fact, he said this exactly:
|…the people in the audience may not be aware of it but this group of Council-people is not persuaded by the numbers of people that appear here…
I was in the audience when this was said, and honestly, I was shocked. Its no wonder people don’t feel they have any say in local government when an elected official speaks so dismissively to interested citizens.
Sylvia Cox is running against Bill Boyd. A former member of the Memphis Charter Commission in 2006. One of Ms. Cox’s primary issues is the management of the Memphis Animal Shelter. She also volunteers for an organization, Real Good Dog Rescue that seeks to find good homes for animals.
Halbert, a former member of the Memphis City School Board is in her first term. He website has an extensive list of accomplishments and items in the pipeline, though it is interesting that her campaign site links to a Powerpoint on the City of Memphis server prepared by the Division of Housing and Community Development, which, to my way of thinking clouds the line between the office and the campaign.
There are three other candidates in the race for City Council District 4. They are Louis Matthew Morganfield III, Michelle Smith, and George Walker.
I travel through District 4 every day and quite frankly, I haven’t seen any signs of life for any of the campaigns.
I am, and have been frustrated that this council has really done little to address quality of life issues for our most needy people. It seems that closing community centers and cutting staff is the first thing that comes to mind with this Council when the budget is tight. I understand that payroll is the single largest expense the City has and considering the population contraction, decades of unbridled expansion, and neglect of neighborhoods in the City core, some services may need to be curtailed.
That said, those problems are the direct result of a lack of leadership and direction from City Hall that started long before Herenton and has continued, for the most part. While I understand that 9 members are in their first terms and probably feel these problems started before they came on the scene, I think its clear we’re still caught in the same mindset that got us into this mess.
With the 2010 Census came confirmation that Memphis has lost a fair amount of population density. This wasn’t a surprise, you can drive through just about any neighborhood and figure that out. Despite the lack of density, the size of Memphis hasn’t gotten any smaller. We’re still the same number of square miles we were last year. Little has been done to motivate people to be a part of the in-fill necessary to reverse this trend, and ensure we’re getting a maximum bang for the buck on our infrastructure investments. I understand it took us a long time to get in this hole and it will take a long time to get out of it,
According to the 2010 Census there are over 41,500 unoccupied housing units in Memphis alone out of 292,000 units. Just under 52% of those units are owner occupied. This trails the national average by about 15%, which is nearly the same as the vacancy rate.
I understand that by and large these vacant residences are getting their property taxes paid. I understand Property Tax makes up about 41% of city revenue, so filling them doesn’t bring in instant money. But those new people will have to buy stuff, which will help the second biggest tax collection area, sales tax, which makes up about 15% of revenue. 41,500 new households with an average of 2.6 people will have a lot of crap to buy every year.
But I’m not sure if any Council members have driven through some of the neighborhoods with lots of homes for sale. Some of them are nice middle class areas that most folks would be proud to call home, others are once nice areas that have been allowed to deteriorate into hit or miss neighborhoods populated by unkempt rental property that ultimately detracts from the value of the owner occupied homes in the neighborhood.
I drive past many of these on my way to school each morning and I wonder why every fifth house or so is boarded up or has the entirety of someone’s belongings on the curb like the house was bulimic and just couldn’t hold it in any more. The neighborhood I speak of looks like the one I grew up in in North Little Rock, a once proud working class neighborhood near the tracks that got bought up by slumlords who care more about the rent check than the property or the people living in the property.
On the major arteries surrounding this neighborhood there are boarded up buildings and abandoned foundation pads of businesses long lost. Sometimes I see people congregating in these areas, or someone hocking T-shirts or shoes, but most of the time they just sit there, rubble of a retail center, or factory, or warehouse long lost in the decay of the inner city.
How are we going to create this mythical in-fill while this persists? Why do we allow property owners the luxury of leaving these forgotten lots unattended? What penalty do we impose for leaving these scars on our city? Most importantly, why don’t we reclaim this land, and work to fill these gaps with something that would contribute to the neighborhood and ultimately, the city.
I can’t decide if we don’t do this because it’s just too big or if we’re scared of the blowback from folks that own the land.
Instead of addressing the disease we strike out at the symptoms of our problems. Instead of working to build new revenue we focus on cutting expenses, which ultimately penalizes people who who top out at about $16/hr ($33k/yr) because they cost too much to pick up our trash. We plan to contract further by cutting Fire Department staff and equipment. We call this “right sizing” but really its a reaction to a long-term lack of vision that penalizes the very people whose work keeps the city going.
Through all of this the media gives lip service to the token solutions that are put forward in one breath and then trains their eye on some trivial crap that looks good, but is less than .00001% of the total City budget, as if cutting that would solve anything.
And I admit that I’m as guilty as anyone of getting swept up in the tide of this insignificant crap more often than I wish I would.
So while I wish there was some better vision out there, I know that any land reclamation or redevelopment will take a long time to pay off.
In the mean time, the City Government will have to adjust service levels to the population of the city. This means that all 17 City divisions will have to become lean, mean, and highly efficient. This means that, like all of us, some of those workers will have to do more, better and faster. It doesn’t mean these reforms have to turn into an attack on unions a la Councilman Kemp Conrad’s sanitation solution. It means that there has to be cooperation between management and the workers to deliver exceptional service. There has to be accountability. Processes have to be streamlined, transparency has to become more than just lip service, and some positions will have to be eliminated, hopefully through regular attrition rather than furloughs and layoffs that will ultimately increase our already high unemployment rate.
With all that said, it also means that there will have to be some kind of tax increase, and if that’s all people can think about then they’re too selfish to see the real pain people of far lesser means feel in this city every day, not just twice a year when City and County property taxes are taken out of their escrow accounts.
With all that said, I’m happy to pay a little more on my property taxes if I have a guarantee that the money will be spent in such a way that makes government more transparent and efficient. That should always be the arrangement with any government entity. You may think me a fool for saying this, but I have faith in this city and the belief that we all have a responsibility, beyond just paying taxes and expecting services. We have a responsibility to pay attention to what’s going on, beyond what the media feels like reporting. We have a responsibility to understand the process and crawl up someone’s ass when we feel like they’re doing the wrong thing. Through all of that, we have a responsibility to give the city a chance to change and become agents for that change.
Until that happens, nothing will happen.
Maybe one day the City Council, as a body, will decide to take up that mantle and lead with it…but I’m not holding my breath.
One of these lucky Memphis City Council members could have the pleasure of running against me, if only they would reveal their plans for redistricting their seats. Despite pleas from supporters, I can only run against one of them.
Obviously, being that I am but a lowly blogger, I have some preferences. But until they decide who gets the honor, I’m putting the choice up to you. Make that choice, in the comments.
Sorry Councilmen Collins, Ford, Boyd and Morrison. Apparently I live no where near your districts. It’s your loss.
As the old Sir Francis Bacon quote goes, “knowledge is power”. While that may be true, knowing something doesn’t necessarily give you the right to exploit it for personal financial or political gain. But people make choices, right or wrong, and there’s nothing you can really do, other than call them out when you disagree, knowing that it’s unlikely anything, other than the expression of some righteous indignation, will come of it.
That’s where I’m at today.
Now certainly, if this happened it would be news. But to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t happened, which makes it gossip.
Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do know one thing, passing crap like this around is, if not evil, pretty damn rude and self-serving.
Sure, Wanda Halbert is a public official, but she’s also a person, with all the positives, negatives, trials and tribulations that we all, as people have. By running a rumor as inevitability, the author has ignored that humanity for the sake of self-promotion, and that’s just classless.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with someone. Certainly, I have disagreed with Ms. Halbert on many occasions, and will likely do so again. What matters is that you, at least try to treat people with dignity and respect, regardless of your opinion of them, or their opinions.
I haven’t always done that, I know. We all slip from time to time. But in the end you have to ask the question, “What is the net impact of this information.” And if you’re the only one who benefits, then perhaps you should tuck it in your pocket and take a lap, or call the individual personally rather than using it as a platform for self-aggrandizement.
On Facebook Tuesday, Councilwoman Wanda Halbert reposted a note that she originally posted on August 18th. The note, entitled “The Truth Hurts” dealt with several things including the Metro Charter Resolution.
At the end of the note, Councilwoman Halbert states:
I may simply be interpreting the information I’ve read incorrectly (that’s usually not a problem for me).
In the interest of furthering the discussion, I’m happy to try and clear up some of the things that Councilwoman Halbert may have misinterpreted. This is not intended to be a beat down, or anything like that. This is an honest attempt to address the concerns expressed.
First, Councilwoman Halbert raises some questions about the how and why of the Metropolitan Government provisions in Tennessee Law:
a) While Memphis would give up its existence and government, smaller cities (Germantown, Millington, Bartlett, Collierville, Millington) their services and elected officials are not affected. While serving as part of the metro population they will maintain their cities and independant governments. (Slide 1 page 10)
State Law is fairly clear on this. TCA 7-2-101 states that
The commission may be created by the adoption of a consolidation resolution by the governing body of a county and by the adoption of a substantially similar resolution by the governing body of the principal city in the county;
Memphis, as the principal city in Shelby County, has to agree with the County to explore the option. Smaller cities in Shelby County CAN be involved in the process in accordance with TCA 7-2-107
After a charter commission has been created, any smaller city within the county may by action of its legislative body appoint a representative to consult with the charter commission concerning the terms upon which the functions of such smaller city may be included in the proposed consolidation. Any terms proposed by the charter commission with respect to the smaller city shall be filed and published separately as an appendix to the metropolitan charter proposed with respect to the principal city, and shall be submitted independently in a special referendum election for ratification or rejection by the voters of the smaller city and by the voters of the county outside the smaller city in a manner similar to that provided in §§ 7-2-105 and 7-2-106 with respect to the proposed metropolitan charter for the principal city.
Memphis is not giving up its existence. Just like the Nashville Metro/Davidson Co. government didn’t make Nashville go away, this won’t make Memphis go away. Government as we currently know it WILL be fundamentally changed, both in the City and the County. However, we don’t know what shape that government will take until a Charter Commission is empanelled and a determination is made on the roles and size of legislative bodies, executives, etc. At that point, if people don’t like it, they don’t have to vote for it.
b) While Memphis will not have a voice in government at the table in the small cities, they will have a seat at the table and a voice in decisions about new (our) government. (Slide 1 page 10)
I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that Memphis should have a seat on Germantown’s legislative body, or Bartlett’s legislative body?
Everyone in Memphis, Bartlett, Millington, Collierville, and Germantown is a resident of Shelby County. Currently, there are members of the Shelby County Commission that represent these areas, even though all of these municipalities have their own legislative bodies. I have 4 City Council members that represent me in city government (my district, and 3 Super-district members), and 3 County Commission members that represent me in the County.
Memphis will have a seat (in fact, probably a majority of the seats) at the table of the resulting government, just as we do in the County Commission now (citizens of Memphis currently serve on the body). But the resulting County government can no more demand a seat in Germantown’s government, any more than Bartlett could demand a seat on Memphis City Council.
I would invite you to clarify this in the comments or via email using the form here
c) Because there is clearly a desire by some to keep schools separated, in an effort to move forward with consolidation, they (school boards) are elected by the people, they will remain in place and decide if
districts merge, i.e. the schools will stay separated.
Merging the schools is a poison pill that would likely kill the draft charter. Because this is such a fundamental change for all the citizens of Shelby County, it is reasonable to expect that individuals who live in the “General Services District” may wish to maintain control of their schools. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually.
Most importantly, while lots of folks have said that the schools are off the table, until the Charter Commission is empanelled, NOTHING is off the table. I think the phrase “Off the table” functionally means “a bad idea politically”, or at least, that’s my interpretation of the use of the phrase.
Finally, the last section of the note:
For some reason, it appears a decision may have already been made to support the first – county mayor “appointing” 10 members to the charter commission and the city mayor (possibly pro-tem) will appoint 5 members. The county representatives must live outside Memphis territory, city representatives “who are county residents” cannot live outside its territory.
So – - – - the county residents with a little more than 200,000 residents will have 10 votes and the city residents with a little more than 600,000 residents will have 5 votes. Gulp! .
Umm, no. As I said before, citizens of Memphis, Bartlett, Collierville, Millington and Germantown, as well as people that live in unincorporated areas of the County are all County residents. The County Mayor has the power to appoint people from ANYWHERE within his jurisdiction, which includes all of the areas I mentioned above.
Thinking this through to its final conclusion, it is reasonable to expect that between the County and City Mayor’s appointments there will be more people from Memphis on the panel.
That said, some on the County Commission, particularly Commissioner Bunker, have argued that the County’s appointments should include MORE people from outlying areas. Commissioner Bunker is within his rights to hold that opinion, and can vote against people at will in the confirmation process, but ultimately, it’s up to the County Mayor to nominate individuals to fill the 10 seats, and as a result, up to him, with the advice and consent of the County Commission, to determine the appropriate mix of individuals in those 10 seats between the urban, sub-urban, and rural areas of the county.
In conclusion, I hope this is, at the very least, some food for thought in the upcoming discussion of the Metro Charter Resolution. Additionally, I hope you take this post in the spirit of which it is written, as an honest attempt to address the concerns raised.
Thank you for your service to the people of the 4th Council district. I look forward to a spirited debate going forward.