(Not the) Endorsement Issue

It’s nice to have your judgment borne out by events; not to reinforce the idea that you’re right about something, more so to give you the idea that you’re not completely wrong.

Get out and vote!

I’ve been telling people since I moved back to Memphis 3 years ago that in my opinion, Deidre Malone would be a good candidate for Shelby County mayor. That is, once AC Wharton decided he wanted to do something else, which of course, would be predicated on Willie Herenton deciding that he wanted to do something else. I know Deidre from her time at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where I was always impressed with her ability. So was the hospital, since they eventually made her a VP of communications before she left to start her own business.

Nicer than the office she had when I worked with her!

Once the former city mayor decided that he wanted to be a former mayor, giving the county mayor an opening to move across the plaza into City Hall, Deidre had her chance to join two other Democrats in the primary for Shelby County mayor. Interesting that anyone would want the job when you consider that the outcome of city-county consolidation could make the job go away, but I guess it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality.

Anyway, since early voting has begun for the May primary, the Commercial Appeal has begun the process of making endorsements for the various positions. I don’t know that there’s a legitimate need to make an endorsement in the Republican primary for mayor (sorry if that offends any Lunati supporters, but Sheriff Luttrell is quite a formidable candidate). But it was nice to see the CA come out for Malone on the Democratic side.

Don't take my word for it!

While I think the world of Deidre and am convinced that she would be an excellent mayor; I’m not actually endorsing her. One, I don’t really think any opinion I’d have on the subject would amount to that proverbial hill of beans that we’ve all heard about.  And two, it would be unfair to my place of business, since there’s the possibility that we could end up working for any candidate, and it’s better not to show really overt favoritism before the fact.

Basically, what I’m saying here is that I’m pleased with myself that the newspaper has pretty much validated my earlier judgment for many of the same reasons I had used in the first place. You however, should use your own best judgement and vote for one of the 5 candidates in the two primaries (or write in your own)!

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Let Me Repeat Myself

Loooong Lines

I was a tiny bit surprised when I saw the Friday article in the CA noting that staffing cuts at vehicle inspection stations has led to incredibly long lines. I know there are budget problems in the city, but seriously? You want to make it more difficult for people to do something that you require them to do? I loved the quote attributed to Mayor Wharton, “I don’t accept the premise that people should have to wait in line.” Of course he doesn’t. The mayor had an employee assigned to take his personal car through inspection. And the employee didn’t want to wait in line either – he finagled registering the mayor’s car without going through inspection at all.

It didn’t take a day for the city to announce they’d extend hours and pay overtime to reduce the wait at the city’s three inspection stations – but only through the end of June. If you’re going to pay all that extra money to keep the stations open long; why did they lay off staff and cut hours in the first place? Is anybody taking the long view around here? Pay the little money up front to avoid paying the big money down the road to fix a problem later.

I wrote about vehicle inspections last June, noting “there are three inspections stations operated by the city of Memphis… for every car in Memphis. The lines are so long, people have to plan entire days around getting their cars inspected. The city has had to install online web cameras to let people have some idea of how long the lines are. Once you get through, you get a piece of paper that you have to take with you to a county office to renew your tags. Only the Washington inspection station has a county clerk drive through window attached.” And I made that point before the recent slow downs.

I also wrote about the inspection process in Atlanta, where I lived before coming back to Memphis. “Drivers in the 13 counties in the greater Atlanta area have to get their vehicles tested each year.  Georgia’s Clean Air Force provides testing for cars & trucks made between 1985 and 2007 (newer vehicles are exempt).  I moved there in 1999 with a 1999 model car, so I didn’t have to go through inspection until 2002.  Having to go somewhere and get your car inspected is always a hassle, but they’ve got it set up so there are 750 testing stations with 900 lanes available.  That includes gas stations, oil change centers, auto repair shops and car dealer service centers.  So, there’s always somewhere you could go – quickly – and get an inspection.  And the inspections only cost $25!  Even better, they entered the information into a database that went straight to the vehicle registration folks… so no need to carry a certificate around showing your car was checked.”

Blowing Smoke?

Okay, that’s 750 testing stations in 13 counties that have a population of more than four million people. The way the city is talking, they’re working on the assumption that a new station on Appling Road is going to be a way to solve the problems around here. There’s 670,000 people in Memphis. They don’t all drive cars, but a lot of them do. Four understaffed inspection stations probably aren’t going to go far enough to solve the problem caused by three understaffed inspection stations. The city couldn’t find a way to split inspection fees with auto shops looking for some extra income?

Maybe we should just be friends?

All for One?

I was listening to some talk on morning radio the other day about the movement toward consolidating Memphis and Shelby County. Specifically, the discussion was about the steps the Metropolitan Government Charter Commission will take before a consolidation issue is put on the ballot this fall. I know that Memphis mayor AC Wharton is a proponent of consolidation, noting the savings taxpayers would enjoy without the double spending on city and county services.

Togetherness?

Is that the case? I when I left Memphis in 1998, it was to move to Nashville, which is part of a consolidated government, with Davidson County. One mayor, one cop shop, one sanitation service, etc. From that standpoint, yes, it seemed cheaper to pay for one service rather than two.  That doesn’t take the costs of the actual consolidation into consideration. So – are we hearing everything we to need to hear about the up-front costs of combining all the separate services and systems that would have to become one? Interesting piece in the Sunday paper. It notes that cost savings are not the usual results of merged governments. The piece notes “while some governments have realized modest savings, most see costs stay flat or even go up after a merger, according to Marc Holzer, dean of Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.”

Let's Just Be Friends

There is the argument of having one voice to represent the entire area when it comes to business recruiting, lobbying officials in the state and national capitals. Hey – what’s wrong with everybody making their own best case? If Memphis can use it’s position as a transportation hub, along with its surplus of low-cost warehouse space, there you go. If another of the towns in the metro can demonstrate better quality of life, improved educational quality, lack of crime, then good for them. Maybe Memphis should spend its time and effort on improving the things that need improving, rather than try to be the voice for everyone in the area.


Welcome to Memphis…

Welcome Home

Got back to the city after a delightful Thanksgiving holiday with the family. There’s something interesting about airports. There’s always a sign in every airport I’ve been in. The one that says Mayor So-and-So welcomes you to wherever-you-happen-to-be. I flew into the city during the temporary mayoralty of Myron Lowery a few weeks ago. The large brown sign over the escalators heading down to the ground transportation level at Memphis International Airport had read “Mayors Dr. W.W. Herenton and AC Wharton Welcome You to Memphis.” Because of the temporary change at in city leadership because of Dr. Herenton’s retirement, a temporary placard with Lowery’s name had been pasted over Herenton’s.

Of course, the names have changed since then. Lowery has gone back to City Council. Shelby County Mayor Wharton is now Memphis City Mayor Wharton. I didn’t think of that until I got to the escalator Sunday night. An entirely new sign had been installed. The blue sign, obviously added after Wharton had ascended to the city job, read “Mayors AC Wharton and Joyce Avery Welcome You to Memphis.” D’oh! I guess the version of the sign with the name of current county mayor Joe Ford is at the painters. I guess that’s the benefit of having long-serving mayors.

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright…

The Woods

Having been married (and not married), I know I’m not the right person to give anyone marriage advice. So I’m not going to step too far into the car wreck controversy swirling around Tiger Woods. I don’t know why he couldn’t get his SUV out of his own driveway without hitting anything. I don’t know why his wife, Elin Nordegren, had to use a golf club to bust out the window of the SUV. I don’t know know anything about NYC club hostess Rachel Uchitel and whether she’s ever done anything more than show TW to a seat in a club. I’m not even going to try and guess why Uchitel has retained spotlight chasing attorney Gloria Allred.

Really?

I do have a couple of questions. If Woods isn’t legally obligated to talk to police, why is the Florida Highway Patrol trying so hard to get a statement? If they thought anything was going on, they should have acted on any suspicions that morning and taken someone in for questioning. Of course, if it was just a situation of Woods missing the end of the driveway, why not talk to police and get it out of the way? If he’s been pitching Buicks for all these years, why was he driving a Cadillac? Okay, that’s not that big a deal, but – since he was in a GM vehicle – why not just call OnStar and have them unlock the doors automatically and skip using a golf club to bust into the car? And would someone so widely recognized step out on his wife and two kids step out with someone who works in such a public arena?

Two last thoughts. David Letterman has got to be glad someone else is in that spotlight… And how long will this keep the sports media in a choke hold?

Okay, Now What?

Off the top, a couple of minor adjustments. For longtime readers (if reading from April counts as “longtime”), you’ll remember the original title of this blog was “On the Beach,” representing my jobless status as a recently unemployed professional and the direction of topics, which dealt with unemployment and looking for work. Once I started working again, I celebrated that fact in the name of the blog, “Doug Johnson at Work.”

I’ve been back on the job long enough that I don’t want to give the suggestion that part of me being “at work” is updating my personal blog, ’cause it’s not. Since I speak to a variety of topics, “at large” might be more descriptive (although those of you who followed my recent weight loss know that I’m not personally “large” anymore). Also, new header picture (giving Chaplin a rest, replacing him with the first moving assembly line, as well as a new profile picture). And now, on with the blog!

Two more transfers of power occurred in Memphis this week. Both were quick, simple affairs, and unlike the prophecies of doom offered by the former city mayor, nothing bad happened with either.

Man on a MissionAC Wharton resigned his post as mayor of Shelby County, waited a few minutes, walked across Main Street Mall, and took the oath of office as mayor of the City of Memphis. No muss, no fuss. Myron Lowery goes back to being a member of City Council and the Earth did not fall off its axis.

On the other side of the mall, County Commissioner Joyce Avery took became acting County Mayor, a job she will hold until her fellow commissioners select a permanent replacement to complete Mr. Wharton’s term.

Punched Out?

Punchy?

So, the sturm und drang of the Herenton years in City Hall are finally over. That is, until the various and sundry investigations into business deals, vacation pay and whatever else the local, state or federal investigators have cooking come to a head. For a man who styles himself as the greatest mayor in the history of our city, he’s left a fairly murky wake. And I’m completely flummoxed as to how this helps him position himself as a viable candidate for Congress. Oh well, stranger things have happened. Again, I know Dr. Herenton has a lot of strong support in this community, including people who have voted for him and people who have worked for and with him. Still, the job calls for a uniter, not a divider.

All the talk of a mandate for the new mayor is interesting. Yes, he got 60% of the vote in the special election. But only a tiny portion of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. So, an incredibly small portion of people who could select the new mayor actually did. Is that really a mandate? Either way, the mayor has a pretty big job on his hands. I’m no longer interested in how he got to the office on the 7th floor, and you probably shouldn’t be either. Now, the question turns to how he’s going to manage the city’s problems now that he’s there.

No Controversy PlannedI know a lot of people think highly of Herman Morris, the new mayor’s choice for City Attorney. The Memphis Flyer seems to be pleased with the choice. The Commercial Appeal acts like they’re okay with it too. Of course, the Flyer’s John Branston had some concerns about Mr. Morris’ openness while head of Memphis Light, Gas & Water. He told WREG today that it’s his intention to make the City Attorney’s office one of those places that does not show up in the limelight. Good. After the heat and noise generated in the last days of Elbert Jefferson, we need the office to go about the business of the city without bringing too much negative attention to its operations. It would also be nice to cut back on some of those high legal fees the city ends up paying by using all those outside legal experts.