This morning’s Commercial Appeal has two articles dealing with MSARC. The first, addresses the reality behind one of the victims from Bartlett who was left to wait 3 hours with a frustrated Bartlett Detective only to find out help was not on the way. The second article deals with the actions of the City and County governments working to determine which entity, City or County government, MSARC fits best with.
Yesterday, Mediaverse-Memphis wrote a post that seems on the face of it to allege any and all discussion of moving MSARC from the City to County government is about politics.
This move isn’t about tax equity. It isn’t about getting other municipalities to pay their fair share for a service that they allegedly use for free.
It is simply about sending a message to Mayor Herenton, who sent a message of his own to the Council Tuesday.
I couldn’t disagree more. Strickland’s proposal is about putting an organization that serves a regional constituency where it belongs, with the County, just like the Health Dept. and other victim’s services. The difference between the Health Dept., and MSARC is that the Health Dept. is mandated by the state, MSARC is not. So, defunding the Health Dept. means that the County is legally bound to take up funding, which they have done. With MSARC, defunding this program means the County could, if it so desires, pick up the program. Several members of the County Commission have expressed interest in doing so.
Listen to the exchange between Strickland and Herenton (6:45). His intentions are both well stated and reasoned. It is Herenton who is politicizing this issue by “resenting” the “public outcry” at the failures of service under his watch. Listen to Herenton’s response starting at 3:10 in the above referenced clip. At 4:45 into the clip Herenton admits that he looked at a County solution for the problem, but turned away from it in the face of public outcry and activism.
Are you serious? In this statement the Mayor has CLEARLY stated that he would rather do what is politically expedient for his administration RATHER than do what is, by his own admission, right for MSARC. This is, quite simply, an unbelievable admission.
In his opening comments (starting at 5:50), the Mayor expressed that he did not know much if anything about MSARC before the failures of last April. This too is a stunning admission, coming from an administrator, the “CEO of the city”, who has held office for some 18 years. MSARC began as the result of a push from victim’s advocates well before the Mayor took office (1975 according to the city site). It should come as no surprise to the Mayor that any failures of the system would be met with a great deal of public outcry after working to create this service. While the Mayor may feel that he has adequately addressed the issue, the lack of transparency coming out of his office, and his propensity to install former bodyguards in positions garnering six figures, as well as the failures at MSARC, make it difficult for those who have spent their lives advocating for victims, to take the Mayor at his word that the problem has been fixed. Councilwoman Halbert’s call for transparency is a clear sign of that lack of confidence.
Perhaps the only thing good that came out of the meeting on Tuesday from the Mayor was his call for all of us to be outraged by crime in our community, regardless of whom it effects. I agree Mr. Mayor, but in the process, we must also do what is right for the victims of crime, not react politically to a situation that may look bad in the public eye.
Herenton stated in the meeting that MSARC was back up to full operational capacity. The words of Dr. Winters the newly installed head of MSARC, are somewhat reassuring, but the Mayor’s unwillingness to address all the concerns of the council with his “you’ll know it when I make it” response is unnerving.
In the end, this whole issue is not about outrage, race, activists, the media, or anything else the Mayor would point at to distract us…it’s about the victims. Herenton’s actions and general posture towards the activists whose primary interest is the victims only strengthens Strickland’s view that MSARC should fall under the purview of County Government. By looking at their actions though a political lens, rather than that of victim’s advocates, the Mayor has further damaged his credibility and acted in bad faith.
Mayor Herenton, taking responsibility is little comfort when, on the other hand, you’re also trying to save face politically.
I’m working on putting together an MSARC resource page that lists all the news stories, blog posts, resolutions, and audio from City and County meetings. This page can be found here. Please submit links to relevant articles by going to the contact page and emailing them to me. I’ll be updating this page as relevant news and information emerges.