Nashville’s Done, Where Are We?

Current Memphis City Council Districts
With all that’s been going on in Memphis; ridiculous rains, the Grizzlies, the schools saga, and the impending budget battle, as well as life generally; Easter, the end of a semester, work, multiple projects, not to mention all the shenanigans going on in Nashville, I kidna forgot about the fact that the Memphis City Council must redistrict itself before the elections in October.

Apparently, so have a bunch of other people.

I’ve done a little asking around, to no avail. No one seems to know what the status or even if any discussions are underway on the impending districts shifts that will likely come as a result of the 2010 census on the Memphis City Council districts.

This is strange to me, considering what went down in Nashville. As soon as the census data was released, the city’s planning department set out to redraw districts as the result of a potential court challenge. The redrawing process, as far as I can tell from 200 miles away seemed to be fairly open and resolved unanimously, despite some early questions about how the districts might mess with previously organized campaigns.

Here, so far, nothing. Not a peep. Since this is my first redistricting in Memphis, I decided to take a look at previous efforts. The 1991 Redistricting Ordnance was passed on June 25 of the election year. 1991 may be the best year to compare because the election timeline is identical to 2011.

There have, however, been several other ordinances since then that determine districts. First, there was the post consent decree redistricting that came as a result of a 1996 referendum. That was passed in early April of the election year. The 2002 redistricting ordinance came out a full year before the election, but was followed by 2003 revised districts after annexation in July of the following year.

I’m not suggesting anything untoward is going on. I’m just curious.

Heck, for all I know Jim Strickland is sitting somewhere with a map and a crayon doing it all right now, as he jokingly mentioned doing to determine the countywide districts during the early meetings of the Metro Charter Commission.

Jokes aside, I am curious. See, I live near the border of three districts, 4, currently held by Wanda Halbert, 5 currently held by Jim Strickland, and 7 currently held by Barbara Swearengen Ware. In addition, I’m also right on the border of Super Dist. 8 and 9 meaning all 4 of my City Council members could be completely new people for me this October.

So you can see why I might be interested.

But there’s more to it than that. The general openness of the process in Nashville, and the opportunity for community input is really appealing to me. I believe you get more input when you offer more opportunity for input, and while there are lots of opportunities out there that aren’t necessarily taken advantage of, it takes a while for people who may not have had so many opportunities to speak out to get the confidence to do so. This might be a good step in that direction.

There’s another issue that is pretty important. Tuesday was the first day petitions for the 13 seats on the Memphis City Council were offered. The filing deadline is July 21st. If I don’t know for sure what district I’m going to be in, how am I supposed to pull a petition to run against someone? I mean seriously, that’s just patently unfair.

Here I am, with my paperwork to set up a campaign treasurer ready and waiting, but how the heck am I going to ask people for campaign donations when I can’t even say for sure what district I’m going to be running in, and against whom? Seriously, I have the potential to have 9 opponents! How do I prepare for that? Am I supposed to knock on someone’s door and say, “Hi, my name is Steve Ross and I just might be running in your district to be your next City Council member for district 4, 5, 7, 8 or 9.” I’ve got campaign lit to print, signs to order, radio ads to cut, and babies to kiss. Lord knows I don’t want to be kissing babies outside of my district, people might talk!

If I was more of a conspiracy theorist, I would say this is an incumbency protection program, because God knows all 9 of those incumbents are shaking in their boots at the prospect of having to run against me.

So yeah, I’ve got some questions, but lets start with the easiest one, is this discussion going to start soon, or will this effectively be an incumbency protection program? Because late June is too late. The discussion should have already started, and in public no less. I see that an ordinance to do something on redistricting was held until May 17th, on third and final reading, but I don’t see a map.

That’d be a good start.

In the mean time I’ll be polishing up my “phone time” voice in anticipation of all the campaign donations that I’m sure to collect. Be scared any one of the 9 potential candidates I might face. I may seem rough and tumble here on the blog, but I’m smooth as silk on the phone.

Look, I even have a campaign website just in case you thought I was joking.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting your call.

Leave a Reply