…or A Dark and Stormy Night
I got called a news whore today. It was an accurate description; I had two web browsers open to watch the mayor’s swan song and a third with weather radar showing the approaching storm with its attendant tornado warnings. There are days for ex-news types when we’re like the horses that pulled the fire wagons of old… we hear the bell ring and we’re ready for action, even if our time has passed.
In the summer of ’91, most of the People’s Convention events took place on weekends, and I was the weekend reporter at channel 3, so I did some of the station’s first stories on Herenton’s nascent campaign. By the time of the actual election though, I had been reassigned to the health beat, so I actually spent that historic election night at home, watching the coverage.
I never expected to still be in Memphis when the mayor actually stepped down; I guess we never know where fate will take us. But there I was, just watching the coverage again, tossing up Twitter posts during the event. One good thing; a friend who had to be out of town was following the action through my tweets — hey, I’m kind of a reporter again!
It’s a little strange. There are people who are practically adults who have never known anyone else as mayor of Memphis. Herenton made the point during his last mayoral news conference that he “wins elections.” Can’t argue with that; he’s won every one he’s been in so far. And he didn’t have to start small and work his way up to mayor; he started there.
Now, with a 30-year pension from the school system and a 17-and-a-half year pension from the city, as well as the promise of employment with his son, you’d think it would be a perfect time to reflect and relax. Maybe write about his historic role in the city or teach political science at one of the colleges in town.
No, instead of “take it easy,” Willie Herenton is going to “keep it real,” and run for Congress. It’s quite possible that he and his supporters are right; he might just have enough support to mount a reasonable challenge to Steve Cohen. It’s hard to imagine unseating a popular incumbent, but as Willie’s been telling us for years; he’s a fighter.
I liked that last punch he threw, calling City Council President Myron Lowery to the podium to make a presentation of handing over his resignation letter. He told Myron that he couldn’t give the council the letter when they were “demanding” it, but I don’t remember him being too clear on why that was. Still, if he was trying to accomplish one last bit of political theater, he can rest easy knowing that mission was accomplished.
But gee, couldn’t the weather have been a little more cooperative? Bad enough that most of the TV stations relegated coverage of the resignation to their websites, rather than interrupt whatever game, court or talk shows that were on (although I saw that WMC did go on the air finally). Just as the news conference was getting close to wrapping up, the skies exploded.
The rain was coming down in sheets when I drove home Wednesday. I knew more storms were expected Thursday, but the early forecasts had them blowing in around 6, when I would be safe in my cozy little home. But we not only got thunderstorms, we got tornado warnings and reports of cyclonic and straight line winds… sending the local meteorologists into full “weathergasm” as my good friend Joe Larkins likes to put it.
That meant no recaps of the retirement on the 5 or 6 o’clock newscasts. It also meant no network news, so no coverage of the “Beer Summit” at the White House with the president, the cop and the Harvard professor (kinda sounds like the start of a bad joke… “so, the president, a cop and a Harvard professor walk into a bad…”).
Willie, who has been pretty good at stealing the thunder of others for nigh on 18 years, had some of his stolen… by actual thunder… and lighting… and possible tornadoes.
The outgoing mayor did promise to brief the interim mayor Thursday. And since the resignation goes into effect at 12:01 am Friday, we’ll wake up to a new mayor… and a lot of storm damage. Myron Lowery has wanted an opportunity like this for a while. We’re not good friends, but we’re both from Columbus, Ohio, so I’m going to wish him good luck in getting through this 90 days successfully.
And much like Dorothy, I’m hoping to get through the storm (got through the literal one, now hoping to get through the figurative one of all the jockeying to see who wins the special election). Cross your fingers and gird your loins folks, I’m betting we’re in for a few bumps before it’s all over.