VOL. 130 | NO. 165 | Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Council Candidates Offer Advice, With Verbal Jabs, at NAACP Forum
By Bill Dries
There have been fewer forums this year for Memphis City Council contenders on the Oct. 8 ballot as the 2015 campaign season has focused on mayoral events.
So when the Memphis branch NAACP held its regular forum for council candidates Sunday, Aug. 23, at First Baptist Church on Broad Avenue, 27 candidates in 11 of the 13 council races turned out – about a quarter of the crowd of 100 in the church sanctuary.
The rest of the group included workers and supporters of the various campaigns and other campaigns.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. didn’t speak but showed up to shake hands.
“I’m just passing through,” Wharton said at the end of a weekend that included a Gas or Groceries for Guns trade-in Saturday at the Fairgrounds.
One of the council contenders, incumbent council member Janis Fullilove, took a verbal jab at Wharton as she fielded questions about blight.
Fullilove said the city could more effectively tackle the citywide problem “if our mayor would stop politicking and look at the real issues.”
By then Wharton had moved on to the next stop.
Fullilove also was one of several experienced campaigners who offered advice for undecided voters weighing promises and pledges.
“No they can’t,” Fullilove said of candidates who alone pledge to take specific actions as council members. “No one person can do it. It’s about compromise.”
The most experienced council candidate at the forum was Perry Bond, who has been running for the District 6 council seat since 1991. A member of the Ford family has held the seat since John Ford upset James Netters in 1971.
With current District 6 council member Edmund Ford Jr. close by and former council member Edmund Ford Sr. in the audience, Bond said blight problems and a lack of opportunity in the district are still present, as they have been since he started running.
“Twenty-four years later I am hearing some of the same problems,” he said. “I know Memphis is broke. But it’s not deaf.”
The incumbent Ford touted his record as a two-term council member. “Let me show you what I’ve already done,” he said.
First-time District 4 council contender John Cornes touted 15 years of accounting experience and a proposed plan to redevelop Orange Mound. But he acknowledged his baptism in the political process is something that is “not for the faint of heart.”
It’s also John Marek’s first run for elected office in District 5, but Marek wasted no time in branding rival contender Worth Morgan as a Republican by “welcoming” him to what is a traditionally Democratic part of the city.
Marek is a veteran political operative; he managed U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s latest re-election effort.
Morgan quickly pointed out that the council elections are nonpartisan. “I’m running on the issues,” he countered, as he defined public safety as the central issue.
He also pledged to be “more interested in doing what’s right than being re-elected” and he touted his connections in the Tennessee legislature for tackling issues beyond the council’s impact.