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VOL. 124 | NO. 130 | Monday, July 06, 2009

UPDATE: Lowery Bides Time On Mayoral Resignation

Council Takes Up Matter Tuesday

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council chairman Myron Lowery told reporters Monday afternoon that he has no fight with outgoing Mayor Willie Herenton.

But Herenton’s new declaration that he will move his resignation from July 10 to 30 won’t keep the council from at least discussing the already planned resolution on Tuesday’s agenda declaring a vacancy in the mayor’s office.

The resolution, put on the agenda before Herenton’s change, remains on the council agenda. Council members could accept Herenton’s later resignation date. Or the council could keep the earlier date and what is becoming a political crisis could move further into uncharted political waters.

“This obviously gives us more time for the transition,” Lowery told reporters at the outset of an afternoon question-and-answer session, referring to the later resignation date. “I’m going to take a positive spin on this by saying there’s more time for the transition and more time for me to get City Hall – this house – in order in terms of doing those things I need to do.”

Lowery referred questions about different legal scenarios to various attorneys.

Still later Monday afternoon, Herenton sent a second letter to Lowery in which he said he was rescinding his June 25 letter in which he announced he would resign effective July 10.

Lowery had planned to talk at length with Herenton Monday about the coming transition. The two talked, but only briefly, at around noon as Herenton hand delivered the notice of the new resignation date. It was their first conversation since June 25, when Herenton announced his resignation for the first time.

“You have to take an individual at his word,” Lowery said. “The mayor has given his word and now he’s changed it. Is he likely to change it again? I have no idea. I can only accept the mayor at his word.”

Lowery declined to offer an opinion on the change in date. But he did say his desire to seal city deals for the reuse of The Pyramid by Bass Pro Shops and a development agreement and plan for the Mid-South Fairgrounds during his three-month tenure may have prompted Herenton’s new resignation date.

“Because I’ve made those statements, there’s been tremendous movement on both of those issues,” Lowery said. “And both of those issues will be resolved soon. Some people have inferred to me that perhaps that’s one reason the mayor wants to delay – to take credit for this. It doesn’t matter who gets credit. The city will be the beneficiary when Bass Pro is resolved and the fairgrounds issue is resolved.”

Herenton said last month that both projects were goals he hoped to complete by the time he left office. He also said he hoped to work out some new agreement for the governance of the Beale Street development district.

Meanwhile, City Council member Jim Strickland moved a step closer to a bid for mayor in the special election. He has appointed political veteran Paula Casey as his campaign treasurer.

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