Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inside Baseball Strikes Out In County Government












Here’s the real problem with the appointment of the new Shelby County Mayor.

It’s not the alliance between a couple of Republican commissioners to usher in the era of the Joe Ford Administration.

It’s not the parody of leadership that two days of serial voting produced.

It’s not even the laughable criticisms about the Wharton Administration’s financial stewardship by a leading candidate.

Hope Springs Eternal

The real problem is that from the beginning, the appointment of the interim county mayor was an insiders’ game. It was driven by an impulse that one of the commissioners should get the political plum. It was also about the devaluing of the county mayor’s job by suggesting that almost any commissioner could do the job.

The sad part is that there wasn’t anyone on the county legislative body unwilling to game the process in one way or another – either as a potential candidate or in return for political support. It was probably too much to hope that instead of turning to look at each other first, the commissioners would look beyond the county building to consider who in Memphis would be the qualified person to provide the sound management that the $1 billion enterprise needs over the next nine months.

We suspect that FedEx founder and guru Fred Smith may have even been willing to bivouac one of his top managers at Shelby County Government to keep it on sound footing, particularly to continue the debt reduction plan by the Wharton Administration. With little notice, the amount of debt service payments by county government actually went down last year for the first time in about 25 years.

Getting The Message Right

Or, if the Shelby County Board of Commissioners wanted to send a strong message about the future, its members could have chosen one of the talented, young people who are more than capable of setting the right agenda and sticking to it. It was a move that could have sent a dramatic message about the changing of the generational leadership in Memphis.

Instead, the commissioners sent a different message, the unmistakable one that it was politics as usual in county government. At a time when the hopeful attitude unleashed by the election of a new Memphis mayor could have spread to county government, the commissioners elected one of the hoariest names in local politics.

To put it bluntly, at the precise moment with the commissioners should have been sending a message about a new day and new hope, it chose to elect someone with political baggage that immediately makes half of all Shelby Countians instinctively abandon confidence in him and their county government.

Dashed Hope

This is not to say that Mayor-to-be Joe Ford is not a fine person. But that does not change the fact that his family name is anathema to so much of the public. In the end, a majority of the commissioners essentially said they just didn’t care and did it any way.

It was a valuable opportunity squandered, and because of it, the momentum that could have been born from new hope and enthusiasm has been muted, if not derailed completely.

To further complicate things, Commissioner Ford’s stinging and unfounded criticisms of CAO Jim Huntzicker, whose name was submitted at the 11th hour as a compromise candidate, will now require serious fence mending by the interim mayor. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Commissioner Ford succeeding without Mr. Huntzicker’s institutional knowledge and financial advice. We can only hope that the new mayor does not plan to make any changes to the major appointed officials who operate Shelby County Government day to day.

The Fallout

During deliberations about the mayoral appointment, Commissioner Ford exhibited a regrettable tendency to shoot from the hip wide of the mark. That continued after his election with his half-baked idea to eliminate the board of The Med. Hopefully, this behavior is an aberration and the real Ford style has not yet been previewed.

Already, there is speculation that Commissioner Ford – despite protestations to the contrary - is a possible candidate in the May primary for county mayor, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he could be elected. There are just too many barriers.

Fallout from the appointment came quickly. The two Republican commissioners who voted for Commissioner Ford – Wyatt Bunker and Mike Ritz – already have targets painted on their backs by some irate members of their party. It could be problematic for Commissioner Ritz, who already had created some discomfort for some party members with his iconoclastic brand of representation, and Commissioner Bunker’s critics suggest that he has simply taken his conservative constituents for granted with this vote.

Ups And Downs

It remains to be seen what will develop from the current political rumblings, but the political winner at first blush seems to be Commissioner Deidre Malone’s mayoral campaign. Her vote against Commissioner Ford strengthens her credentials with voters outside Memphis, a place where she needs to gain a stronger foothold and be identified as someone who’s not willing to go along to get along.

Speaking of county commissioners, Steve Mulroy continued his quixotic quest to save the rotting Zippin Pippin at the Fairgrounds. All that’s left are the wood and metal from the track and structure of the old roller coaster, because the cars, motors, and everything else were taken away years ago by a company who bought the ride.

It didn’t want to spend the money to move the track, and as Commissioner Mulroy acknowledged, the wood is in such bad shape that it would have to be replaced anyway. In other words, at this point, the controversy is essentially over whether to save the metal track.

Surreality

It’s reached a point where it’s just Kafkaesque – spending close to half a million dollars to disassemble rotting wood and rusty tracks and to store them until there is some unimaginable time when they are needed again.

It’s enough to make the commissioners’ deliberations about the next county mayor look reasonable.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Instead, the commissioners sent a different message, the unmistakable one that it was politics as usual in county government."

No, there's more than that.

Its a statement that says its just fine to break the law and live in a district other than the one you represent, its ok to just decide you don't want to live in your home anymore and just "Let the bank take it back", its dandy to be in debt and can't manage your personal finances, its all someone elese fault and EVERYBODY does it, and then expect to manage the finances of the county.

Its just Memphis being stuck on stupid ALL OVER AGAIN !!

I've said it once and I'll say it again, Memphis is utterly doomed to failure and deserves to be flushed down the crapper.

Here'a ANOTHER thing for you to chew on:

THE BUFFOON PUPPET WINS

It is 5:03 and the foolish Shelby County Commission has just selected a buffoon and a puppet to be the new county mayor, ignoring the county's call for a truly qualified county mayor.

Joe Ford is the new county mayor after an under the table deal that will require fumigation of the entire Shelby County Building.

What this means is that Harold Ford Sr. will be pulling the strings on his puppet brother from Florida. Harold Sr. is really the new Shelby County mayor.


Smart City Memphis... It ought to be Dumb Ass City Memphis.

Hoodsville, USA.

Tom Guleff said...

"An insiders’game" ???

Tom Jones, bite your tongue young man.

Anonymous said...

Now Joe Ford can go out with a huge pension upgrade because of these people.

Anonymous said...

Guleff - What I liked most about T.J. was that he opened up government for me, and did it for bunches of people. No one does that any more.

Anonymous said...

I'm always surprised at what people comment on. Yesterday you guys wrote about government giving away our tax money and misleading us about economic issues and no one had anything to say. But say the name Ford and people always react. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The big Developers of Shelby County have been strong for a long time and seem to be getting stronger. They won't quit until they have gotten every bit of profit they can out of the County, cut down every forest, and build sprawling subdivisions everywhere.

Joe Ford has been a lapdog of the development interests for a long time. Many of us thought the present commission would be more responsible but that hasn't been the case. I believe that those whop voted for Ford have been promised big contributions and other favors, legal and illegal, from the development interests.

Some of those we thought were more honest, like Steve Mulroy and Mike Ritz, have turned out to be nothing more than warmed over hacks.

The Developer candidate for Mayor, Harold Byrd, will finally get a big campaign war chest.

So let's see how this all plays out next year.

Anonymous said...

Zippin Pippin- How about Mulroy's vacant parcels gift to Buehler.

What a detestable lot the County Commission is.

Anonymous said...

Not only is it the County Commission. The deeper story is the institutional corruption of the local Democratic Party. Corruption as in control by, and promotion and tolerance of, hacks and the refusal to mete out any discipline whatsoever -- not, necessarily, fraud. The Buehler example is a good one; David Upton, Buehler's lobbyist, is a major local Democrat and friend of several commissioners. The decades-long indulgence of the openly crooked John Ford, as long as he brought home the bacon. This Ford appointment. But the kicker was the institutional party's defense of the indefensibile Ophelia Ford. Harold was gone. John had just gone to prison. Ophelia lost the vote to replace him and rightly so. Given this golden opportunity to exorcise the Fords from polite Democrat society, or at least let them fade away, what did the local Democratic Party do? It sent David Cocke and Steve Mulroy into court suing the entire state Senate to get Ophelia seated -- to a seat that ANY Democrat would have honestly won in the next regular election.

To be sure, the Republicans didn't shine in this vote either. But the greater story is this example of institutional Democratic corruption that has gone on for decades in this city. It is a primary ingredient in the institutional failure of Memphis to keep up with our competition. And it is an enormous detriment to the city's poor blacks, who continually vote Demorats into office with no change in their circumstances to show for such loyalty.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way: you, Mr. and Ms. State Taxpayer, paid several tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees to the Party's attorneys for the privilege of installing Ophelia Ford into the State Senate.

Zippy the giver said...

If the Beuhler land grab wasn't enough to show that county commissioners are as corrupt as they come, nothing will, these people need to be in prison.
They will be soon.

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