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VOL. 8 | NO. 41 | Saturday, October 3, 2015

Editorial: Severed Taser-Malone Contract Isn’t a Victory for Anyone

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The controversy over The Carter Malone Group’s community engagement contract with police body camera provider Taser International posed some legitimate questions about crossing the proverbial line.

Word came late Thursday, Oct. 1, that Taser and Malone had mutually agreed to cancel the contract; Malone is Mayor A C Wharton’s campaign manager in his bid for re-election.

Clearly there was enough mud surrounding the deal that both Malone and Taser thought it best to walk away. But it’s not a victory for anyone.

A remarkably small share of private business-to-business and government contracts go to minority- and women-owned businesses – of which Malone’s firm checks both boxes – in a city whose population is more than half women and more than half African-American. The disparity and the way forward is more than figures on a spreadsheet, percentages and reports that tell us what we already know.

We’ve talked before in this space about the role small businesses play in a current environment that encourages startups and explores how to build creativity.

None of that encouragement or exploration goes very far without the realization that a greater inclusion of the city’s minorities will do more to accelerate the pace of change in Memphis than any other factor we can imagine.

Three well-known businesswomen talked Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Salvation Army Memphis Executive Women’s Networking Breakfast sponsored by The Daily News.

The trio of female leaders – Carolyn Hardy, CEO of Henderson Transloading Services; Leigh Shockey, CEO and chairman of Drexel Chemical Co.; and Susan Stephenson, co-founder, co-chairman and president of Independent Bank – were the perfect “girl power” sounding board, having made it to the top of traditionally male-dominated fields.

They were silly and serious, admonishing and uplifting. And their advice was as eloquent at times as it was blunt at other times.

Stephenson – while speaking on women and self-confidence – encouraged all attendees to check their rearview mirror before driving back to the office and “tell yourself, ‘I’m fabulous.’”

Shockey took it further, warning against female stereotypes that have become a pervasive part of today’s world. And Hardy advised women to take constructive criticism seriously and make changes as a result.

All three implored women to be nicer to each other.

Earlier Thursday, a group of businesswomen rallied outside City Hall in light of the Taser-Malone controversy to call attention to the low percentage of MWBE contracts in Memphis. During the rally, one participant said focusing on Malone’s relationship with the mayor, and not on the quality of her work, was wrong.

Hardy, Shockey, Stephenson and Malone are all good examples of powerful females who have, in most cases, had to work harder than their male peers to get where they are.

And yes, questions will remain on the Taser contract. Was there a handshake deal between a member of Wharton’s inner circle to get an unfair advantage? Was the mayor really as clueless as he claimed? And did he ask Malone to pull the plug on the deal so close to election day?

But we submit this: Are those really the questions we should be asking?

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173