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.

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I Don’t Understand

With a title like “I don’t understand,” this blog could be about practically anything in my life (especially women). However, that’s a topic I don’t feel particularly safe navigating at this time. Actually, it concerns a story I saw on WMC-TV’s website.  It seems that people are attacking Memphis Light Gas & Water workers. They’re getting beaten, robbed, their trucks are being stolen. And I have to say, I don’t get it.

Targets?

Targets?

Let’s look at what we know. They don’t carry cash. They’re instructed not to wear jewelry on the job. There aren’t any fancy electronics in their trucks. There probably isn’t much of an aftermarket for service trucks with an MLGW logo stamped on both door. Even if you’ve got a beef with the utility, there still doesn’t seem to be much reason to threaten individuals who are just doing their jobs. One of the incidents profiled in the Action News 5 story says the MLGW guy was going to a house to turn the power back on… That’s on, not off.

Let them work!

Let them work!

The people you actually see on the street are the ones that come out in the dead of night or during snowstorms to get us all back online when something happens to knock out power out. It would seem like you’d want to cut those kind of people a break. At this point, some MLGW workers are refusing to go to certain places alone. So, the actions of some of the city’s knuckleheads are going to make getting utility service in some neighborhoods as tough as getting Dominos to deliver there. Nice.

His fault

His fault

I’m not going to go on a “Memphis is riddled with crime” rant. I’m also not going to criticize the work the Memphis Police are doing. I’m laying this one at the very large feet of the former mayor. I know he made a point of saying that as mayor, there was very little he could do about crime in the city. To me, that was one more reason he probably should have left the 7th floor of City Hall a few years sooner than he did.

As superintendent of schools, he should have done more to make sure Memphis children had the best education possible. I know how important it is that parents play a role in their children’s education, but it is possible to help kids when their parents don’t want to (or know how). Are there concrete accomplishments to point to (besides the increased layers of bureaucracy) from his time as Top Teacher?

Get a job!

Get a job!

And as mayor, don’t you have a responsibility to bring jobs, jobs and more jobs to the city, to give your less-well-off citizens fewer reasons to turn to crime? And again, it’s not about white collar or tech jobs. Tailor the type of employment you bring to the type of unemployment you have. If you’ve got large, underemployed clusters of people — that’s where the jobs should go! Not to the clusters of devoted functionaries you’re trying to help get a big payday before you leave office… Geez, I thought I was done with this guy.

It’s all about the “new” at this point

100,000 and counting

100,000 and counting

TOMORROW: Balloon Boy’s Dad & other poor parenting examples

I’ve been in and out of town a lot over the last couple of weeks. Once I got back, two big things happened.  One, the odometer in my 10-year old Toyota Celica rolled over to 100,000 miles.  I was on my way to Memphis International Airport when it happened, on my way out of town again. That trip pushed me over 40,000 combined Northwest & Delta miles in my frequent flier account, which was enough to score me a free ticket home for Thanksgiving.

Well, okay, three things. A small percentage of voters residing in the city of Memphis elected AC Wharton to finish out Willie Herenton’s term as mayor. While AC (what does that stand for, anyway?) is a capable man and should do as well in his new job as he’s done in his current job as county mayor, I’m not sure whether he’s necessarily going to inspire the residents to carry our fair city to new heights. Of course, I don’t know whether it’s possible to any one person to do that, even if they’re loaded with charisma.

Meet the New Boss

Meet the New Boss

He's a Keeper

He's a Keeper

Mayor (and Mayor-elect) Wharton can busy himself with the nuts and bolts of running the city, but if he’s smart (and he is), he’ll put capable people in as division directors, avoiding all the charges of cronyism that plagued the last terms of Mayor Herenton. Of course, Wharton and his people say that’s what he’ll do. There might actually be capable leadership in some of those jobs now (Larry Godwin, yes, Veronica Coleman-Davis, also yes. Elbert Jefferson? Maybe not). While the mayor is the chief administrator of the city, he’s also the moral leader of a town that’s got some serious problems. These do not all stem from the fractious leadership of the former mayor; many of our problems pre-date Mr. Herenton’s 5 terms in office.

While my advice has not been sought (although, as a note to Cato Johnson, who will be on the incoming mayor’s transition team, I know you remember me from my channel 3 days; feel free to give me a call), I would offer this to start. Forget consolidation for now. It’s not a bad idea for many municipalities; cost savings, efficiencies in operations, etc. Things are just too jacked up in this town to make it work – and that’s going to be the case for a while. Instead, focus on the things that we can get together on. Combating crime. Cleaning up neighborhoods. Providing quality city services. Making the parts of the city without economic investment attractive to people with money. We don’t need more industry on the outskirts of town or out by the airport. If companies want tax breaks to bring their business to Memphis, offer them – only if those new businesses are put in economically deprived parts of town. That will force additional economic development to make it possible for those areas to support new business. That, in turn, gives people opportunities where they don’t have any now. With jobs come taxes and improved neighborhoods.

Be the mayor who turns the city into what it can be. People live in the unincorporated parts of Shelby County because they don’t want to be in a city. Which is fine. The people who live in other municipalities don’t want to feel any more connected to Memphis than they currently are. Which is also fine. There’s enough to fix to make Memphis work. There’s a pretty good focus for you right now. And since you’ve already said you don’t expect a honeymoon — Get to work!

WTF?

I don’t pay Comcast for the Big Ten Network, so I couldn’t watch Purdue shock Ohio State on Saturday. But as one of the Buckeyes said post-game, their biggest concern is the Big Ten title now, since the national championship is out of the question. Heck, the way they laid down for USC told me that a few weeks ago.

When Florida (or the University of Tebow, as some call it) could only win by 3 in the final ticks of the clock, I knew there was a good chance they’d lose the #1 ranking. I’ll be interested to see how long Alabama lasts in the top spot. They should be able to handle Tennessee this week.

You're Hurting Me...

You're Hurting Me...

And what is going on with the Titans? They’re letting the Patriots walk all over them right now, including allowing Tom Brady to set a record for touchdown throws in a single quarter. It’s just painful to watch what was a great team just last season look so pitiful (it’s 52-0 right now in the third).

Edit: By the time I got back from my afternoon run, the game was over and the Pats had run up the score to 59-0. Maybe the back luck streak the Lions had going last season has drifted to Nashville. Of course, my co-worker Joe Stuber has a reasonable explanation for why the Titans might be seeing such tough times.

A New Day

Thanks for the Hard Work

Thanks for the Hard Work

First, the city of Memphis owes Myron Lowery a debt of gratitude for the yeoman service he’s turned in as interim mayor. It’s a hard permanent job, so you know he was challenged by the fact that he would have 90 days or less to accomplish anything.  Once he returns to his position on city council, he’ll continue to have an opportunity to serve the people and the city of Memphis. And he was a refreshing change from the effort the former mayor was providing. It seems that Dr. Herenton had lost some interest in the position prior to his retirement.

Mayor to Mayor

Mayor to Mayor

Now it’s AC Time! The county mayor is a bright, capable man. And one that people had been encouraging to run for public office for years. It seems that was a constant drumbeat when he was public defender. The county mayor’s office doesn’t have quite the same level of responsibility as the city mayor, but many people think that Mr. Wharton acquitted himself in the position well, drawing down the county’s debt while establishing fairly good relationships with the suburban communities in Shelby County.

City or County... or one?

Plenty o' Problems

Of course, now that Mr. Wharton has the final two years of former mayor Herenton’s term to complete, what can he do to turn things around? While many parts of Memphis are thriving, many others are not. The economy, while improving, was not kind to many Memphians, who either lost jobs, homes or both. Downtown continues to be an interesting mix of eclectic residences and businesses and abandoned buildings and shady characters on top of the area’s best-known entertainment district.

There’s also the consolidation question.  Mayor (and Mayor-elect) Wharton has long supported the idea of combining the city of Memphis with Shelby County, to streamline services, save money and create efficiencies. That will remain a hard (if not impossible) sell to the other cities inside the county. They are willing to enjoy some level of benefit by being close to Memphis (jobs, transportation, shopping, entertainment, etc.), they do not want to be put in a position of providing additional support to a city they don’t want to be a part of (except for the benefits that already exist).

Once the election is certified, Mr. Wharton can take the oath and get to work. That means that we’ll have to go through a similar process of having an interim county mayor and commission will have to select replacement to finish his term on the other side of the plaza.

Next Up!

Next Up!

And if that’s not enough, we’ve still got the Herenton vs. Cohen race coming up. While some people might not appreciate the point of view expressed by the former mayor and his campaign manager Mr. Chism, the 9th Congressional District of Tennessee kinda was designed to provide a representative who “looked like us.” I don’t know that that’s necessary in this day and age. And Representative Cohen has been doing a fine job, earning the African-American voting support he’s seen so far.

Swan Song?

Swan Song?

If anything, I’m a little disappointed not to have Herenton in the mayor’s office anymore. I think AC Wharton will be way too competent for me to roll out the Mayor McCheese pic anymore. (sigh)

If that’s the case, I’ll guess we’ll just have to bid the big burger farewell and see what the Wharton era brings.

A New Normal

Is there still news on TV?

Running Out of Room

By coincidence, all the spare time I had for exercise during the recent company fitness contest has seemed to have dried up with all the new assignments I’m getting at work. That is much better than the alternative, so don’t think I’m complaining. After spending one day back in town, I’m on my way out again, heading to my old stomping grounds in the ATL. It’s a quick day-and-a-half, but I’ve got a bunch of stuff backed up from the last trip that I’m going to have to get to as soon as I’m back. I had to go through the DVR and clear off some things I knew I wasn’t going to get around to watching. The machine told me I was “dangerously low” on space. That’s what I get for recording in HD.

Or Does It?

Or Does It?

I haven’t mentioned politics in a while. But not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s gone away. More yard signs have popped up while I was away, and the candidates are popping up on local radio to take advantage of any free air time they can get to plead their cases. I won’t be surprised with low turnout for the special election this week. Single-issue ballot items, even when they deal with a big issue don’t always draw as many voters as they should. Still, no matter what you thought of the retired mayor, change should be good for the city, even if it’s just the frenzied activities of the interim mayor, doing as much as he can during his interim-ness.

Winless? Why?

Winless? Why?

I hesitate to talk about sports here. The last time I did, I got an invitation to be a regular blogger for a sports site. Sorry, I don’t know enough about any sport to do that intelligently (I know, who does?). Anyway, I’m really feeling bad for the Tennessee Titans this season. After last year, they were supposed to be a real contender. Did Kerry Collins just run out of gas, or is something else going on in Nashville? No wins, and they face New England next week. Yikes.

Kind of a potpourri tonight, and a little short. I plan to run into some former CNN coworkers after I finish my assignment tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have some inside the news business dirt to talk about.