VOL. 129 | NO. 40 | Thursday, February 27, 2014
Consolidation Talk Surfaces as Races Come to Life
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy says he would pursue city and county government consolidation if elected Shelby County mayor.
Mulroy made the comment at a Cooper-Young fundraiser as campaigns leading into the May county primaries came to life this week.
The Shelby County Election Commission meets Thursday, Feb. 27, hours after the withdrawal deadline for candidates, to certify names for the May primary ballot.
During the fundraiser at Mulan Asian Bistro in Cooper-Young, Mulroy told a group of 30 supporters that consolidation is a “long-term” goal.
“We need to functionally consolidate those areas where we can save money and make government more efficient,” he said. “And I think our long-term goal of city-county consolidation is something – now that the school issue has been taken off the table – we need to pay serious attention too. If I am elected mayor, that is also going to be a high priority for me in the Mulroy administration.”
Other priorities include “direct funding for early childhood education” by the county and blight incentives similar to tax breaks through payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program now used for larger-scale companies locating or expanding in Shelby County.
Mulroy also described county government’s outlook as a “narrow, cramped vision,
a vision of county government that says we run the jail and we incarcerate people and we run the courts and that’s pretty much it and the inner city can take care of itself.”
“With your help, I intend to take county government back for regular people and restore a vision of county government that says it’s time to roll up our sleeves and make job No. 1 doing everything we can to help ordinary people – people who are in need,” he added.
Mulroy is one of four contenders in the Democratic primary for mayor, a field that includes former County Commissioner Deidre Malone, County Commission Chairman James Harvey and former Shelby County Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr.
The winner in May advances to the August county general election for an expected challenge of Republican incumbent Mayor Mark Luttrell. Luttrell faces a May primary challenge from perennial candidate Ernie Lunati.
Mulroy has set a goal of raising $200,000 for his campaign as well as raising half of that by the end of February.
Whalum is touting himself as the outsider in the Democratic primary who will not have the financing other contenders have and campaigning to “fire, retire and replace ineffective politicians and organizations.”
Meanwhile, former County Commissioner Edith Ann Moore opened her bid to return to the commission with a campaign headquarters in Raleigh Springs Mall.
Moore is running for District 6 in a four-way Democratic primary that includes Karl Bond, Willie Brooks and Kendrick Sneed.
The commission converts to a set of single-member districts with the 2014 county elections.
Moore was appointed to the commission in 2010 but lost her bid for a full four-year term to Justin Ford that year.
Ford is in a different district than Moore this year. He faces a formidable challenge in the Democratic primary from former Shelby County Schools board member Patrice Robinson and Memphis-Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams in a primary that will decide who gets the District 9 seat.
Moore says the commission, as it enters the restructuring, is in a different place politically than it was four years ago when she left.
“I think I am a good negotiator. I will compromise,” she said. “But I will look for solutions that will not only benefit District 6, but the county as a whole.”
Moore is a retired IBM executive who counts her business experience “in a group of alpha personalities where I had to deal with it” as essential.
“I have learned to merge into whatever world I need to go in to make things happen,” she added, saying she hopes the campaign will lead to increased political involvement.
“I can be a bee in a bonnet and I can bring forward the issues. I just want the people to look at our qualifications. I want the people to look at our passions and make an informed decision,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission could have a few challenges to the final list of candidates before a certification vote Thursday sets the primary ballot.
Former Shelby County Schools board member Martavius Jones could contest the disqualification of his petition to run in the Democratic primary for commission District 10, which came up short in the required number of signatures of voters who live in the district.