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VOL. 124 | NO. 155 | Monday, August 10, 2009

Political Antics Will Get Comeuppance During Election

The Memphis News

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Why did Memphians go to the trouble of having the City Charter revised and updated given the quagmire that Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s 75-day tenure is becoming?

In creating the new interim mayor position, the Charter Commission drafted and Memphis voters approved changes that did not adequately prepare for the questions that have been raised.

No one apparently bothered to check state law, which says a special election should be within 80 days of a mayoral vacacy, not 90. And several of the people around the table at Charter Commission meetings were in court last week asking a judge to clarify other points.

Sometimes even the best planning can leave questions that have to be decided by lawsuits, but the mess that some have politely called a “mayoral transition” shows how full of holes the charter is.

In court this month, the City Charter was referred to as a “sacred document.” At this point, we would settle for a document that simply protected us from the political games now under way.

The players?

Well, there’s the recently departed administration in which no one apparently knows how to resign and the ghost of Willie Herenton continues to control who stays and who goes.

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson has sued Lowery because he says his term of office doesn’t end just because Herenton resigned and the new mayor doesn’t trust him. The chain of command, Jefferson says, is simple – there’s the mayor who appointed him two years ago, the citizens who have no direct vote on the position of city attorney, and himself – doing the people’s work with no checks on his ability to use taxpayer money as long as he wants.

Jefferson has complained about being denied access to his office because City Hall is a public building. It’s the same public building where reporters with cameras weren’t allowed even to get off the elevator on the seventh floor, much less ask for the mayor. And it’s the same city attorney who took months and, in some cases, years, to respond to public records requests.

Then there’s the gaggle of political contenders who have left statesmanship behind in pursuit of a political doctrine of mutually assured destruction when they aren’t blathering on in the usual irrelevance that passes for legitimate political thought.

The candidate who ends up filling the rest of Herenton’s term will be the one who realizes these political games won’t sit well with voters.

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