Thursday, August 13, 2009

Herenton's Latest Is No Laughing Matter

Today, Willie W. Herenton officially became a punch line.

There are no ways left to describe his behavior except clinical ones - early onset dementia, early stage Alzheimer’s, self-destructive narcissism, obsessive-compulsive behavior or behavior disorder.

Maybe he’s just an addict – a prisoner of the spotlight with a need to always be the center of attention, or maybe he’s like genital herpes. You always know he’s going to show up again; you just don’t know when.

Whatever it is, he’s become the political equivalent of the three-car pile-up on the interstate. We’d rather look away but it’s just so hard to ignore it.

When he strolled into the Shelby County Election Commission this morning and picked up a qualifying petition to run for city mayor, it didn’t create shock waves. We all just need to look away and drive on.

Pot To Kettle

In throwing his hat back into the ring for a possible run for his old seat, he essentially labeled Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery as a menace. It’s hard to imagine a bigger boost that could be given to Mr. Lowery’s campaign.

In our last post, we talked about projection, and it was on display in full force in former Mayor Herenton’s statement charging Mayor Pro Tem Lowery with a “reckless style of leadership.” This from a man whose resignation resulted in a $1 million special election to fill his seat, who put former body guards in appointed offices, who said a mayor can’t do anything about crime, who invited people to leave the city, who berated City Council members at his whim, who inspired a culture of disengagement in City Hall and whose presence had become the most divisive force in our city.

For those of us who remember him from the days when he won his historic election way back and was poised to one of Memphis’ great mayors, the overriding feeling is simply one of immense sadness. How did that person come to this? How did he lose all self-perception and self-worth? Where did the inspirational man go who once inspired superintendent job offers from New York and Atlanta?

It’s a Memphis tragedy. There’s the argument about whether great men make history or history makes great men, but in this case, history apparently just overtook him and he ended up being the stereotype of the self-indulgent politician who treats his city as if it’s his to do with as he wishes, no matter how much damage he does along the way.

Arbitrary And Capricious

Just think about it. His sense of entitlement is so extreme that it leads him to feel that he can inflict a $1 million bill on the rest of us for the special election, because he now wants to be his own successor. The disregard and self-indulgence evident in his decision to pull a qualifying petition are troubling enough for those who once cared about him, but they are unforgivable to the public who now have to pay for his latest act of caprice.

The Herenton script has become such a self-parody that it makes a Sasha Baron Cohen movie look like a documentary.

As usual, his latest erratic action sent theorists contemplating justifications for his topsy-turvy political strategy. The Herenton insiders – the faithful few – didn’t know that he had requested the qualifying petition until the news media called them for comment. Most responded in the same way that the rest of Memphis did – they just shook their head.

Conspiracy Theories

Some said the controversy surrounding City Attorney Elbert Jefferson had been engineered by Mr. Herenton to weaken Mayor Pro Tem Lowery, who has never been mistaken about the former mayor’s disdain for him.

Some said that he resigned only to make sure his pension was locked down, so that in the event of a federal grand jury indictment, his retirement check was protected. With that done, he’s now looking to return to his old job.

Others conjecture that he got back into the race to undermine the candidacy of Memphis lawyer and Herenton confidante Charles Carpenter. The former city mayor has told some friends that he considered some of Mr. Carpenter’s campaign statements disloyal.

Regardless, this time, he may have gone one bridge too far. When Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton toyed with the idea of opposing Mayor Herenton in the last city mayor’s election, polls clearly showed that he would win. But the spectacle of the area’s two dominant African-Americans battling it out in a divisive race is said to have been instrumental in Mayor Wharton deciding against a race. Clearly, Mr. Herenton has no such qualms.

Lame Railings

He said that he’s jumped into the race out of his fear that Mayor Pro Tem Lowery is on the verge of becoming the new city mayor. We’re not sure how he thinks his entry into the race will block a Lowery Administration. They have two entirely different political bases, so there’s little he can do to fatally damage Mr. Lowery.

As Mayor Pro Tem Lowery himself acknowledged in his comments, it’s Mayor Wharton who’s the frontrunner, and despite Mr. Herenton’s political prognostications, it’s not an “anybody can win” race. Of course, it was only a few weeks ago that Mayor Wharton also was the target of Herenton criticisms (shortly after calling Congressman Cohen an asshole).

Today, he said he’s planning to run for mayor because of “the current dilemma.” We’re not sure what he’s talking about unless it was the blessed sense of relief and the stirrings of a new sense of optimism following his resignation.

At any rate, the reemergence of the Herenton political specter was, if nothing else, deflating in an environment where for the first time in eight years, we had a sense of possibility for the future.

Changing Direction

We need to hold that thought. Mr. Herenton will not win the special election, and he will limp into the race against Congressman Steve Cohen, where he will be vulnerable and easy pickings. In politics, the perception of power is always greater than the reality of power. If he enters this election, his air of invincibility will be blown to shreds.

That’s why we predict that today was just a day to tweak the noses of all the people who were pleased by his absence from the local scene, and that in the end, he will not run for his old job. He may be many things, but he is not dumb, and he knows that a run for city mayor is not only sybaritic but he will be a laughing stock.

More to the point, his election would be a blow to our city’s future. That’s because that all of the devastating trends that threaten Memphis’ future actually accelerated this decade under the Herenton leadership – three middle income families a day move out of our city, three 25-34 year-olds a day move out of our community, economic segregation is deepening, college attainment is down, to name a few.

We have to do something dramatic to change our trajectory and the chance for new leadership, consensus-building leadership, healing leadership is too important to squander. That’s the ultimate irony of the Herenton sideshow. Today, as he often does, he talked about how he “loves” our city, and we take him at his word. However, his action today was anything but an act of love.


vast_conspirator said...

Very well said.

>>>Mr. Herenton will not win the special election,

Not sure I agree with that one, though. Herenton has a rock solid -- and large -- base.

Steve Steffens said...

He's just trying to scare people out of the race, this is a stunt and he won't file.

Well said, Tom, thanks for writing this piece.

Anonymous said...

Great writing. A different take, and a funny/maddening one.

lilaruby said...

when he says he is doing this because he loves the city, what comes to mind is an abusive relationship. this is about control;he has been the abuser of the city and it's people.

Zippy the giver said...

The entire troup of Herenton, Chumney, Morris, Carpenter, and Wharton, sure as hell don't want Myron Lowery to fix anything they've spent years screwing up. It serves their purpose to make sure Memphis never recovers from their crookery.
For the majority of Herentons absent minded terms, Schools sucked , police sucked, economy sucked, pay sucked, jobs sucked, the things we were #1 in were undesirable. You couldn't make a worse mayor than Wily Herenton if you tried.
" He loves our city" who wouldn't love a place you can hoodwink into getting yourself elected with a minority of the electorate, scam money in shady real estate deals, grow senile in office with no one on your team noticing, molest an assistant and get away with it, appoint felons to $100k+ salary positions, and then move your team into civil service jobs before exiting just to keep your claws in the carcass.
He feeling and acting exactly how someone who got away with all that would act, like he's the almighty.
He's not. He's a crook.

When I moved here, I had ideas to get some people from out of state to bring in a good bit of work and money while working for one of the bigger facilities here, having that snowball, and building a decent industry here, but, due to the reality and mindset here, none of that materialized. I'd ask people and they didn't want to hang here. CRIME. Now the facilities are going out of business and bottom feeding for cheap on the way out.
Having him in office destroys possibilities for Memphis.

If the election commission gets reformed he has no chance of winning, but, that hasn't happened yet, they need to get the names of dead people off the rolls in less time than it takes to hold an election. These thugs no exactly how to subvert an election, it's old time politics down south.
Herenton even hedges his bets, with cooperation from cronies. Last time Morris and Chumney ran just to split the vote up so Herenton could win with minority of the electorate, they should be in jail for that and barred from ever running again. In fact, we should run them out of town on a rail, and anyone else engaged in that while we're at it, like Carpenter, who do you think came up with the tactic?

They sure as hell don't want Lowery to fix anything they've broken.

Anonymous said...

Herenton's base is wavering and each time he brings up Lowery's name he strengthens him as a candidate.

Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better!

PeoplesChamp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeoplesChamp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeoplesChamp said...

This issue is that Memphis Citizens are either uninterested or uneducated about what it takes to make our city strong. As the citizens become more informed we will establish higher standards of accountability. I have a plan to educate the citizens of Memphis.

We don't need a Mayoral campaign. We need an interesting, influential political education campaign. That asks the hard questions to people in leadership position without being hateful or mudslinging.

Aristotle said, "To truly resolve a matter you must become more of an arbitrator and less of a participant." I translate this as saying that you must seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

Check this out:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I'm not nearly as confident as Smart City about the certainty of Herenton not winning. In fact, I think he'll probably win if he enters the race for city mayor. (At worse, he'll finish a close second to Wharton.)

Keep in mind that a big chunk of the Memphis electorate is dominated by the kind of folks who re-elected Ricky Peete to the City Council after his prison sentence. It's dominated by the kind of folks who have elected an endless string of Fords (John, Joe, Edmund, Ophelia, etc.) to represent them on the City Council and in the state legislature. It's dominated by the same kind of folks who re-elected Marion Berry in Washington.

More oten than not, brash anti-establishment and anti-white candidates who "keep it real" seem to appeal this segment of the electorate. Herenton is a master at playing to this segment of the electorate and inspiring them to go to the polls.

Anonymous said...

I think he might win because he's got some people who will always vote for him, while everyone else will draw their bases.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope AC slaughters him, but with Chumney and Lowery pulling votes from him, it might be hard.

Zippy the giver said...

Thank goodness you guys are wrong, he's NUTS, he couldn't get any weirder, and for the damages he's wrought there will be a lawsuit, maybe even an injunction based on term limits. They only pertained to his last term. Once he is out of office it is not legal for him to return. He's out, so, he can not legally come back even if he does pull his same old crap and win with less than 50%.
Maybe he should get a cape and wear his underwear on the outside of his pants from now on, and hire a dude to hold up a mirror for him to use, add a silent E to his name and grow a beard.
He ran the city into the ground, his minions are a bunch of "dupes".

Smart City Consulting said...


There is no legal obstacle to Mayor Herenton running again, and the term limits change does not apply retroactively.

But we still stick with our prediction that he won't run. If he does, he will not win.

Zippy the giver said...

Ha ha, I was dreaming big!
If he runs, which isn't necessary when you're appointed by the almighty (his allusion to the vote not meaning crap here), Memphians will just deal with it and all the crap that comes with him. I don't think he gives a rip for Memphis and I don't think he has any fire in his belly or vision in his eyes to make Memphis a better place.

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