Consolidation – What’s the Real Agenda?

I’m no conspiracy theorist, though I have been known to come up with some pretty funny stuff to keep the Tin Foil Hat Club busy, but Herenton’s doomed strategy to force county residents into consolidation seems not only destined to fail, but designed to fail.

Herenton’s been beating this drum since the mid-90’s, and he has some compelling arguments in his favor. Unfortunately, at least this time around, he brings up consolidation with no plan, other than the tyranny of the majority, in the form of a state constitutional amendment. A sales pitch like that will have the starving running away from free food.

There are a lot of reasons that the six other cities of Shelby County might not want to be consolidated. Consolidation, particularly in the manner proposed by Herenton, is more like some Star Trek, Borg assimilation than annexing or merging…words that imply a certain level of mutual agreement. Who, in their right mind would think getting “taken over” was a good idea?

Aside from the linguistic intricacies there are some structural issues that could also be a barrier to a unified County government. Currently, the cities of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington, cities that would be consolidated, have 32 Aldermen between them. If there are some 250,000 people in those 6 communities that amounts to a representation rate of 1:7800, far better than the current rate in the City of Memphis, 1:50000. Would you give up that level of direct representation without some guarantee that what you were getting was either as good, or better? I didn’t think so.

Then there’s the rhetoric of our “beloved” Mayor. Herenton seems to believe that he can negotiate this like a boxer, pounding away until the other side gives in. Unfortunately, the Mayor is missing the mark with his punches, effectively killing the idea of unification, instead of the objections. Unifying groups of people with a litany of social, economic and “other” differences into a workable government requires dialogue not dictation. All of the six cities have a right to exist. Until the Mayor’s words acknowledge this right, and bring forth a powerful and compelling argument for unification, there is no chance, period.

And that’s what I’m getting to. Mayor Herenton’s words seem destined…or designed to fail. Why would someone put forth an idea about a constitutional amendment to end-around the cities of Shelby County into a unified government, without first talking to some of the more vocal elements, or even some leaders of the state legislative delegation, only to be shot down the VERY NEXT DAY? What is the purpose of talking about unifying Shelby County with no starting point other than “We’re coming to get you”? There’s only one purpose, and that’s failure. Somewhere in that failure Herenton is gaining something. I’m not sure what it is, but even the dumbest person stops banging their head against a brick wall eventually.

Mayor Herenton, if you want a unified Shelby County, stop hitting and start negotiating…or just shut up, some of us actually do want this to happen.

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