August 2009 Archives

Commissioner James Harvey out of mayor's race

 

Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey is ducking out of the race for Memphis mayor - at least for now.

Harvey, a first-term commissioner, had initially announced his intention to seek the office. But today he said he's decided not to run in the Oct. 15 special election and will instead set his focus on winning the Memphis mayor's race in 2011.

Of the many reasons Harvey cited, starting fresh in 2011 would better enable him to leave his mark without having to clean up after Willie Herenton's administration.

"I didn't want to come behind someone who left such a stain on the office that it would be virtually impossible for the person to do well in the next year and a half," said Harvey, who created a stir when he told The Commercial Appeal about a July meeting with candidate and County Mayor A C Wharton, insinuating that Wharton had asked him not to run for mayor.

Harvey said after watching so many people jump in the election, he realized he had no desire to compete in such a crowded field. The filing deadline is Thursday and already 17 candidates have joined the race.

"I don't see any value in vying for a seat in such a crowded race," Harvey said. "You get lost in the shuffle. Even when you're good at what you do, with that many people in the race, you tend to be discredited and not really viewed for your full potential when you have that much going on at one time."

Harvey said the extra time will also give him more room to campaign without personal and professional distractions. He's graduating Oct. 11 from the University of Phoenix with a degree in business management.

Harvey said he plans to make his withdrawal formal in a press conference Wednesday outside the Shelby County Government building, 160 N. Main.

Wharton nabs endorsement from Fords

 

In his bid for Memphis mayor, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton got a boost last week with an endorsement from former City Councilman Edmund Ford Sr.

Ford, who was last year acquitted on bribery charges, had briefly flirted with running for mayor. But he hadn't even pulled a petition when last week he and his son, current City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., announced their support for Wharton at a press conference held at the family business, E. H. Ford Mortuary Services, on Elvis Presley Blvd.

This endorsement could give Wharton an edge over Willie Herenton's former campaign manager Charles Carpenter, who has opened a headquarters in Whitehaven and has campaign signs up around the South Memphis-Whitehaven area.

The Fords have a stronghold on their southwest Memphis council district, where either Ford and his son have held office since 1999.

Wharton unveils campaign ad

 

In a 30-second spot that plays heavy on a unity theme but light on specific campaign promises, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton released his first campaign commercial this week in his bid for Memphis Mayor.

The ad, titled "One Memphis," uses footage gathered at a rally last week at a campaign headquarters opening event. It will air on the major networks throughout Memphis this week.

"There is absolutely nothing we cannot overcome if we work toward that goal as one Memphis," Wharton says to a room of rousing supporters, cast against an epic-sounding score.

 

17 candidates already in the Memphis mayor's race

 

The sign-up deadline for Memphis mayor's race is Thursday, but as of this morning, 17 candidates had already filed the paperwork needed to run.

The special election to replace former Mayor Willie Herenton is Oct. 15.

According to the Shelby County Election Commission, the candidates include:

Leo Awgowhat, Joe Brown, Randy Cagle, Charles Carpenter, Carol Chumney, James Clingan, Wanda Halbert, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, Constance Houston, E.C. Jones, Jerry Lawler, Myron Lowery, Mary Shelby-Wright, Sharon Webb, Kenneth Whalum Jr., A C Wharton and John Willingham.

The circus behind the circus

 
Wonder how Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges and A C Wharton ended up on the same stage Thursday night? There was a threat of a lawsuit by Leslie Ballin and a letter from the Shelby County Mayor. And then there was the event itself.

Mongo madness

 
Christian Grantham, a TV news and new media producer for a Nashville TV station, is introduced to perennial Memphis mayoral candidate Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges.

  

VIDEO: Lowery files petition

 

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery officially threw his hat in the ring today in the special election for mayor, filing his petition with the Shelby County Election Commission.


Godwin fires back at Carpenter over crime plan

 

Attorney and mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter released a crime plan today that drew a harsh response from Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin.

Carpenter's plan, called the "All for One" crime plan, calls for increasing the number of police on the streets and increasing efficiency.

Carpenter said today that morale at the police department is low and that he would replace Godwin, but the police director fired back.

"I have reviewed Mr. Carpenter's crime plan and I have come up with a more suitable title: 'The one-hour crime plan,'" said Godwin. "This is not a plan as it has no notable strategies, just double talk."

"I would venture to say that many of the candidates out there have no idea what it takes to run a police department, let alone deal with the criminal element that wishes to prey on our community," said Godwin. "I do understand that it is the prerogative of any mayor elect to appoint their own directors; however, as a taxpaying citizen I can only hope that the future of this city and the safety of our citizens are taken into consideration rather than any personal or political agenda."

Read Charles Carpenter's crime plan.

Wharton co-chairs include Jim Strickland, Tomeka Hart

 

Some significant names were added to the A C Wharton campaign at a rally Saturday at its Eastgate headquarters. City Councilman Jim Strickland and Memphis City Schools board member Tomeka Hart were among six people announced as chairpersons in the county mayor's bid to win the City of Memphis's special mayoral election.

Strickland, a lawyer, had made serious noise about possibly making his own bid, and the first-term Councilman attracted more than 1,000 followers on a Facebook page dedicated to drafting him to run for mayor. Strickland would have emphasized public safety and budgetary issues as a candidate, but a poll commissioned by his exploratory committee indicated Wharton's electoral support would be too much to overcome.

Strickland's addition adds more fundraising firepower to an already formidable organization that has seen Wharton raise exponentially more money than other declared candidates. About a dozen people have said they are committed to running in the Oct. 15 special election, although nearly three dozen people have pulled petitions from the Shelby County Election Commission to become candidates.

Hart, the 2008 schools board president, serves as president and chief executive officer of the Memphis Urban League.

Four others were also announced: Darrell Cobbins, owner of Universal Commercial Real Estate; Ray Peterson Sr., Wharton's pastor at South Parkway Church of Christ; Lois Stockton, owner of Nail Station and a community activist; and, Jose Velazquez, former executive director of Latino Memphis and now the deputy director of the National Council of La Raza's affiliate services.

The campaign's press release emphasized the "diverse group" of "faith, business, volunteer communities" represented in the announcement.

"They represent a wonderfully diverse cross-section of our community and they share my view for Memphis' future: making sure that all of our citizens have good jobs, safe neighborhoods,
and an effective, efficient City Hall to serve them," Wharton said in a statement.

Wharton pulls petition, Joe Brown follows suit

 

As our county government reporter, Daniel Connolly, reported earlier today, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton picked up a petition to become a candidate in the City of Memphis's special mayoral election, set for Oct. 15. Wharton's campaign team had organized a small rally to coincide with the "event," though there has been no suspense regarding whether Wharton would be running.

"They're looking for disciplined, focused individuals to lead our city, and that's what I bring to the table," Wharton said after picking up the petition in a county administration building Downtown.

Other people pulling petitions on Thursday: City Councilman Joe Brown and Roderic Ford. Last we checked the Shelby County Election Commission website, a total of 34 people had pulled petitions, and at least three more declared candidates -- City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, County Commissioner James Harvey and former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney -- have yet to pick up petitions. To qualify, candidates must return the petition with 25 signatures and $100. 

Might we have 40 potential candidates by the time the Sept. 3 filing deadline arrives? Stay tuned.

Whalum Jr. files petition, ready to "rumble"

 

Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. filed his petition today to become a candidate in the City of Memphis' special mayoral election. He appears to be the first major candidate to get in the paperwork, although 29 others have so far pulled petitions and at least another four declared candidates plan to follow suit.

"I told people when I picked it up last week, if I can't get 25 signatures in seven days, then I don't need to run," Whalum said. "I hope that among those 100 signatures, 25 of them qualify.

"And I brought a fresh, new $100 bill -- a C-note or a Benjamin as the young people say."

Whalum is emphasizing a strategy aimed at energizing young voters to get behind him and propel his campaign. His Twitter post after filing read like this: "It's official! I filed my petition @ noon. Rumble young man, rumble!"

And though the pastor at New Olivet Baptist Church himself turns 53 in November, he takes indirect shots at Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's age when he says, "Why is it we get a septuagenerian who says he is the hope for change in local politics?"

He adds: "That means we haven't done a good job grooming local leadership."

Wharton, who turned 65 on Monday, is planning to pull his petition on Thursday, and his campaign is organizing a noontime rally around it.

Whalum offered a characteristically blunt reply when asked if he thought 69-year-old former mayor Willie Herenton, who resigned on July 30 after 17 and a half years in office, would follow through and enter the race in a bid to replace himself.

"I don't care," Whalum said. "Bring it. Exclamation point."

Carpenter, Lawler, Willingham pull petitions, push list to 30

 

The list of people who have pulled petitions from the Shelby County Election Commission for the City of Memphis's special mayoral election climbed to 30 today after attorney Charles Carpenter, professional wrestling celebrity Jerry Lawler and former County Commissioner and perennial mayoral candidate John Willingham picked them up.

And with at least four more declared candidates yet to obtain a petition -- Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, County Commissioner James Harvey and former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney -- the number seems likely to rise to at least three dozen. Wharton's campaign has planned an event for Thursday in conjunction with Wharton pulling a petition. There is a Sept. 3 deadline to file the petition, which requires 25 signatures and a $100 fee, and the withdrawal deadline is Sept. 10 for the Oct. 15 election.

Carpenter, who served as campaign manager for former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, invited media and supporters to be there when he picked up his petition. Last week, Herenton picked up a petition himself for the election, which was triggered when he officially resigned on July 30 from the job he held for 17 1/2 years. There has been no further indication whether Herenton will indeed file to run in an election to replace himself, though he made it clear in interviews last week he was untroubled by the prospect of the city spending nearly $1 million on the election.

Willingham, a retired engineer and barbecue champion, has twice run for Memphis mayor and fallen far short both times, most recently when he got only less than 1 percent of the votes in the 2007 election. He got 29.7 percent in the 2003 city election, and as the Republican nominee for county mayor in 2006 got 24.3 percent of the vote.

Also picking up petitions today were real estate broker Harrel C. Moore, Anthony Ryan Guess and Kenneth Baroff. You can view the full list at the election commission's Web site.

Mayoral angst in other big cities

 

Sometimes it is comforting and healthy to peer outside our local boundaries and realize that other people in other places experience angst over some of the same issues.

From this weekend's New York Times is a profile of a controversial big-city mayor who "likes to answer his critics in his own special way."  This mayor is quoted saying: "Everyone wants me to leave, except the people who elected me. My voters are ordinary people, and I speak to them in one language, the language of ordinary people, even though, of course, I am not an ordinary person."

Sound familiar, Memphians? Well, it turns out that Leonid Chernovetsky, the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine (population of nearly 3 million), recently answered critics who suggested he was "acting bizarrely and needed a psychiatric exam" by going to a stadium where he "jogged for the cameras before yanking off his shirt and doing pull-ups. He swam laps and flexed his muscles like Charles Atlas. Then he held a news conference -- in his tiny bathing suit."

The full story lists criticisms that sound familiar to anyone following big city politics anywhere, but this line would ring true to Memphians who have been most critical of former Mayor Willie Herenton: "Above all, they said, his behavior makes Kiev look ridiculous."

Another, longer article in the most recent issue of The New Yorker titled "The Untouchable" looks at New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and considers a different sort of mayoral "problem": Can a good mayor amass too much power?

The impetus for this story is Bloomberg's decision earlier this year to challenge New York City's term limits.

Closer to home, there is Birmingham and mayor Larry Langford, who is facing federal charges and will go to trial on Aug. 31.

So, you see, Memphis is not the only place where mayoral politics can seem so unpredictable, at times unfathomable and often exasperating.   

Lowery reacts to Herenton on morning talk show

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery appeared on a talk radio show this morning and gave an unfiltered reaction to former mayor Willie Herenton pulling a petition to run for Memphis mayor.

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Lowery, who Herenton criticized as having a "reckless style of leadership," told The Commercial Appeal Thursday that Herenton's actions caused "more confusion" and that the five-term mayor "lacked credibility."

On the "Drake & Zeke in the Morning Show" today, Lowery did not expound on those sentiments much but he did say he was, like many, confused to hear that the mayor was considering running in an election prompted by his own retirement.

"Listen, I can't figure out our former mayor. I don't know anyone who knows why he's doing some of the things he's doing," said Lowery, who is running in the special election to replace Herenton.

"We must tell our former mayor that he's wrong and he needs to be consistent," Lowery said. 

Herenton has blamed Lowery for his decision to pull a petition, saying "we cannot allow Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to be elected mayor during the upcoming special election."

When one of the radio hosts asked what Lowery could have possibly done to deserve Herenton's ire, Lowery said he had no idea.

"I opened up City Hall to the public and I know he didn't want that to happen," Lowery said. "...He calls me reckless but I don't know what I've done that's been reckless. Obviously he's annoyed. I'm not the frontrunner in this race, everyone knows this. I'm just doing the best I can to continue leading the city."

Willie Herenton is not the only local personality to pull a petition recently for the Memphis mayor's race.

In the last day and a half, eight new people have pulled petitions, including radio host Ben Ferguson, Memphis City Council board member Sharon Webb and former City Councilman E.C. Jones.

So far, a total of 20 prospective candidates have pulled petitions, the paperwork necessary to run for office, including Herenton, city school board commissioner Kenneth Whalum Jr., Ernest Lunati, Thomas Long and Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges.

While Webb has already made her mayoral aspirations known, both Ferguson and Jones would be surprising candidates if they decide to jump into the race. The filing deadline is Sept. 3 for the Oct. 15 special election.

Ferguson is a conservative political commentator and host of The Ben Ferguson Show.

Jones served on the City Council for 13 years ending in 2007. Earlier today his son, Chris Jones, a former Shelby County Sheriff's deputy, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for shooting a deejay last year at the Windjammer Restaurant and Lounge in East Memphis.

Chumney first suggested charter amendment on succession

 

Willie Herenton and mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter (Herenton's former campaign manager) have implied that Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is tainted because he chaired the Charter Commission that proposed amendments to the city charter in 2008, including the one that changed mayoral succession from the city's chief administrative officer to the City Council chairperson.

However, Carol Chumney, the former City Councilwoman and state legislator again running for mayor, said she believes the process for that amendment began when she wrote a letter early in 2008 to the Charter Commission suggesting it offer the voters an amendment that would call for a special election in the event of a mayoral vacancy.

Voters in 2008 overwhelmingly approved the amendment.

"I did not feel the CAO should be able to serve as mayor for a year or two years," Chumney said. "What I asked them was to have a special election. So we wouldn't be having this special election if I hadn't gone to the Charter Commission."

Chumney said she did not have any role in setting up the succession process that called for the City Council chairperson to become mayor pro tem, but she has been consistent in saying she does not believe the interim mayor should be eligible to run in the special election.

"But that's how the people approved it and I accept it and respect their decision on that," she said.

Lawler weighs in on Herenton news

 

The latest candidate to weigh in on the Willie Herenton news today is Jerry Lawler. Here's his statement, as posted on his Web site

Voters of Memphis:

Once more we are being hounded and polluted by the same tired, old political games. With the announcement that former mayor Herenton has pulled a petition to run in the upcoming special election, this city needs a fresh start more than ever.

Mr. Herenton said in an earlier statement that he "felt obligated to seek alternatives to Myron Lowery and an 'anyone can win' mayoral race." To both Mr. Herenton and the voters of our city, I say, "What's wrong with an 'anyone can win' mayoral race? Isn't that democracy? Isn't that the will of the people? Isn't that what elections are all about and what our country was founded upon? Or is Mr. Herenton only happy with elections that only he can easily win?

The October special election is going to cost our city over a million dollars. That's a million dollars that could have been used to hire and train more police officers to keep our communities safer. That's a million dollars that could have been used to help the dilapidated school system. Instead, our city will have to spend this valuable taxpayer money for a special election that was created by a politician who resigned, but now just a month later, is wanting to resume power again. When does the political circus end? Meanwhile, our city suffers.

I, like Mr. Herenton and many Memphians, am extremely concerned and troubled by Mayor Pro Tem Lowery's overzealous power grabs. Within the Mayor Pro Tem's first week of power, the city was having to foot the bill over a personal battle waged by Mr. Lowery against the city attorney.

Now again, the city will suffer and pay the price over another political personality clash, more political backstabbing, and more "politics as usual". The politicians continue their in-fighting while our beloved city lumbers along with no leadership and no direction.

Yes, Mr. Herenton, the city I love does deserve better.

On October 15, voters will take to the polls and will have a choice to make -- a choice between a crowded, perplexing field of career politicians or someone with common sense, tired of the sideshow politics that has plagued our city, and is ready to get to work to do what's right for Memphis?

-Jerry Lawler

Photo: Lowery hears the Herenton news

 
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After getting word this morning that former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton had pulled a petition to run in the special mayoral election, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery got on his phone to check for confirmation at the Memphis in May year-end luncheon at The Peabody. (Photo by Nikki Boertman)


Wharton "has not and will not comment on any other candidate"

 

In response to questions today about Willie Herenton's possible entry into the Memphis mayoral race, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's campaign spokeswoman Tonya Meeks issued this statement:

"Mayor Wharton has not and will not comment on any other candidate in the race. His focus is on running his campaign and laying out a progressive vision for this community. As we have said before, the number of candidates--no matter who they are or what their personal agendas may be--will not decide (note: edited from previous version due to press release error) the next Mayor of Memphis. The voters will. In the past several weeks, we have heard the electorate say with unmistakable clarity that they are ready for a city that is unified and moving forward. That is the vision that Mayor Wharton is campaigning on, and one he will continue to advance to all Memphians. The response to his campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Literally every day since this campaign began, we have heard from more and more volunteers and supporters who know exactly what kind of city they want for themselves and for their children. This campaign is about people, because citizens want an administration that will be about people."

Poll in 2007 showed Wharton with huge edge over Herenton

 

It's not just longtime campaign manager Charles Carpenter who Willie Herenton seems unconcerned about showing political disrespect by declaring an interest in entering the special mayoral election triggered by his own resignation. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, who also helped manage several Herenton for Mayor campaigns, is among those Herenton refers to in his statement when he describes a "puzzling field of candidates."

It was also Wharton who delivered unambiguous praise for Herenton at the July 30 retirement ceremony, a move that some political observers said seemed to suggest Wharton was signaling to Herenton's base. Rather than a generic, safe congratulatory speech, Wharton offered what seemed to be genuine admiration and respect for Herenton.

Whether Wharton needs those most loyal to Herenton is another question, and if Herenton does indeed run, it will be interesting to see whether Wharton can keep a constituency that polls are showing is wide, deep and very comfortable with the idea of Wharton as mayor. After all, Wharton did draw just more than 116,000 votes in each of two Shelby County general elections, and won 80 percent of the vote in the 2002 Democratic primary for county mayor.

And in 2007, when a cross-section of Memphis interests came together to form a "Draft A C" movement, a poll commissioned by The Commercial Appeal showed Wharton with a commanding advantage despite not campaigning at the time. Wharton, who ultimately opted not to challenge Herenton in that October's election, had solid support of 30 percent in the poll of 500 likely voters, compared to 18 percent for Herenton. The poll's 4.4-percent margin of error showed that Wharton's lead could have been as large as 20.8 percent or as low as 3.2 percent, although it also determined that 23 percent of voters said they were undecided.

"A C Wharton is the only possible candidate, who, if he were to enter the race, would have a near-certain chance of defeating Herenton," said Steven Ethridge, president and chief manager of the Cordova firm Ethridge and Associates LLC, which conducted the poll.

Herenton's supporters often declare that polls have been very wrong when it comes to measuring his actual level of electoral support, the idea being that white voters who like him are relunctant to say so and black voters are suspicious of answering polls. In a final poll conducted for the 2007 race that did not include Wharton, Ethridge surmised that if many of the people who were refusing to participate in the poll were indeed Herenton supporters, he could likely get more than 40 percent of the vote -- very close to his final tally of 42 percent.

Charles Carpenter: "Our strategy will not change"

 

Charles Carpenter says he is surprised that Willie Herenton would pull a petition to enter a Memphis special mayoral election that is happening because of Herenton's July 30 resignation after more than 17 years as mayor, but Carpenter betrayed no ill feelings toward the man he helped get elected mayor five times.

Herenton's longtime campaign manager did, however, echo Herenton's concern about his interim replacement, Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery.

"Willie Herenton is a private citizen and he is certainly free to express his love for the city of Memphis," said Carpenter, an attorney with a thriving law business who recently opened a second campaign headquarters. "Our strategy will not change. We will go directly to the city of Memphis and share our vision of a new beginning."

Of Lowery, Carpenter said he has "demonstrated he does not have the judgment to be CEO of the city of Memphis" and implied something seemed amiss in the fact that Lowery served as chair of the commission that presented amendments to the city charter in 2008 (note: edited from previous version that said 2007). City voters overwhelmingly approved the amendments, one of which set up a new mayoral succession process that another declared candidate, Carol Chumney, has claimed credit for proposing.

Chumney said on June 26, the day Herenton first announced his resignation, that she wanted the mayoral succession process amended to include the call for a swift special election so that "some political hack" would not be made interim mayor. Previously, the city's chief administrative officer, who is appointed by the mayor, was first in line to serve as interim, but the city charter amendment -- again, approved by a huge majority of voters -- changed the succession process so that the City Council chairperson would assume mayoral duties until after a special mayoral election.

As the most senior member of a very inexperienced City Council, Lowery was elected chair for 2009. So when Herenton resigned, Lowery took over. Had Herenton gone though with his 2008 intent to resign, Lowery would not have been in line, and had Herenton waited until 2010, after Lowery had been succeeded as chairman, someone else would have replaced him (also edited from previous version).

"Myron Lowery was on that Charter Commission, he chaired that Charter Commission and it's interesting that he is the first one to benefit from the changes," Carpenter said.

Herenton's statement explaining the maneuver focused mainly on his desire that Lowery "must be stopped" and that "we cannot allow" Lowery to win the special election, and avoided directly criticizing any other candidates. Herenton's statement does describe as "puzzling" the list of declared candidates. And, at another point, he calls it "a complicated array" of candidates.

Carpenter said he took no offense at the statement, but it is clear that Herenton's move is not exactly an endorsement of his former campaign manager and man whose law practice has done so much business with the city. But Carpenter said he has no intentions of backing out now.

"I supported him because I thought he was the best candidate at the time," Carpenter said. "During this special election, I do not feel that is the case. I feel like I am the best candidate to move this city forward."

Herenton's statement about pulling petition for special election

 

This is the full text of Willie Herenton's statement from today, explaining why he picked up a petition to run in the special election for Memphis mayor after retiring from the job:

"Citizens of Memphis: My primary political goal is to represent the ninth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. I have every intention of being a congressional candidate during the August 2010 election. However, during the interim, recent events have compelled me to step forth to provide leadership and express my sincere feelings on how our city can continue to move forward, despite our current dilemma. My recent retirement from the office of Mayor has created this situation and I feel obligated to seek alternatives to Myron Lowery and an "anyone can win" mayoral race. The city I love deserves better. Therefore, I am also preparing a referendum resolution that would allow the citizens of Memphis to rescind the current charter amendment that elevated Myron Lowery to the office of Mayor Pro Tem. This resolution would prescribe limitations on the powers of a non-elected mayor. It is clear to many citizens that my retirement from office created opportunities for Mayor Pro Tem Lowery and a puzzling list of mayoral candidates to turn our city backward. I am disappointed in Myron's reckless style of leadership. He must be stopped. We cannot allow Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to be elected mayor during the upcoming special election. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict a clear winner with a complicated array of mayoral candidates in the race. Therefore, I have pulled a petition to run in the upcoming mayoral special election."

On Twitter, Wharton promotes rallies, ignores Herenton news

 
wharton-tweet-2.jpgIn the two hours since news broke of Willie Herenton's march into the Election Commission headquarters to pick up a petition to run for Memphis mayor, Shelby County Mayor A C hasn't issued a statement on the latest political upheaval.

But on Twitter, Wharton, who many believe is the clear front-runner in the race for city mayor, is heavily promoting campaign rallies Friday and Saturday. There's no mention of Herenton, who would surely be a worthy rival to Wharton if he entered into the fray.

At the end of Wharton's latest tweet, he had this simple message: "We need you Memphis!"

Lowery: "It's more confusion"

 

Upon hearing news today that Willie Herenton picked up a petition to run in the special election for an office he just vacated, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery described the former mayor's actions as perplexing.

"It's more confusion," Lowery said.

"The former mayor lacks credibility. This is another example of saying one thing and doing another. With that said, I welcome him to the race. He is free to run. The citizens will have a wonderful opportunity to fill the remainder of the term he voluntarily gave up."

For an overview of today's developments, read the main news story on commercialappeal.com.

He's baaaaaaack

 
Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has picked up a petition that would enable him to run for mayor in the special election in October.

The story is developing and you can read what we have at commercialappeal.com.

You can also see a copy of Herenton's petition.

Carpenter opens second campaign headquarters

 

Local attorney Charles Carpenter is serious about his run for Memphis mayor.

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The former Willie Herenton campaign manager has billboards up along local highways broadcasting his slogan "A New Beginning," an exhaustive campaign Web site and not one, but two, campaign headquarters.

Carpenter opened his campaign's Whitehaven headquarters last weekend and now he's opened a second headquarters in Poplar Plaza near the University of Memphis. Carpenter said his second headquarters is better situated for residents in Midtown and North Memphis.

He'll be at the new location Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. "meeting and greeting" voters.

"As a business person, may people don't know who I am," Carpenter said. "So, we have to go directly to the people to let them know who I am first. Then we can share our vision and they will be better able to receive it and understand it."

Lowery nominates Janet Hooks for public services post

 

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is nominating former City Councilwoman Janet Hooks as director of the Division of Public Services and Neighborhoods.

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"I've known Janet for decades... I served with her on the City Council for many years, and during that time I got a front row seat to witness her toughness and her intelligence during her tenure as council chair," said Lowery. "She's a born leader, she has a tremendous history of service to this community, and she will be perfect in this new position."

In 2008, Hooks was appointed deputy director of the city's Community Enhancement division, created in 2007 to tackle neighborhood blight. Hooks resigned her council seat in 2005 after 14 years to become Herenton's manager of multicultural affairs.

Public Services and Neighborhoods is responsible for a wide range of offices, including Memphis Animal Services, the Office of Multi-Cultural and Religious Affairs, the Motor Vehicle Inspection Bureau, the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board and the Weights and Measures Bureau.

Hooks would replace Kenneth Moody, who retired last month following a scandal at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, which has been shifted to the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.

Wharton leans on legal community at fundraiser

 

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton leaned on backing of the area legal community last night at a campaign fundraiser at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

As many as 200 attorneys showed up to support Wharton, a former public defender and two-term county mayor now running in the special election to replace former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

While the total amount raised for Wharton's mayoral campaign was not immediately available, guests were asked to make a donation of $250.

The special election is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Local attorney and City Councilman Jim Strickland, who mulled his own run for city mayor, said he showed up last night in support of Wharton because --  in a crowded field of candidates -- Wharton is best-suited for the job.

"He's had tremendous success in bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in pursuit of goals that move this city forward," Strickland said.

Other area attorneys listed on an invitation for last night's event include former County Commissioner Julian Bolton and local Democratic Party Chairman Van Turner. The event was organized by Don Donati and Venita Marie Martin.

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Voters have until Sept. 15 to register

 

Memphis voters who want to weigh in on the special election to replace Willie Herenton have until Sept. 15 to register.

Here are some details provided by the Shelby County Election Commission:

When May A Qualified Voter Register? In order to participate in an election, a qualified voter must be properly registered no later than thirty (30) days before the election. The election commission office will process any by-mail voter registration form that has been postmarked at least thirty (30) days before the election. You do not have to declare a political party in this state.

You may register if you: - Are a U.S. citizen - Are 18 years of age or older by election day - Are a resident of Tennessee - Have not been convicted of a felony or, if convicted, had voting rights restored by court order or pardon.

You must re-register if you: - Move outside your county - Move within the county but fail to transfer your registration and do not vote for two - November general elections - Have had full rights restored by court order or pardon - Change your name and also want to change your voter registration (it's your choice).

You can register in person: - At the Shelby County Election Commission - Motor vehicle office when applying for a driver's license - Any public library - Some designated government offices Take proof of residence, such as a driver's license, tax receipt, or car registration.

You may apply to register by mail using this form.

You may also obtain this form from: - Shelby County Election Commission - Libraries - Post offices - Some city/county government offices

You will receive your voter registration card by mail. Your voting precinct and voting districts are listed on the card. KEEP IT! If you register by mail, you must vote in person the first time you vote.

Mail your application to: Shelby County Election Committee Voter Mail Registration 157 Poplar Avenue

For more information, visit the Election Commission's Web site.

Lowery, Wharton speak at Kyle's gubernatorial announcement

 

For those paying close attention, it was easy enough to sniff out local municipal politics at state Sen. Jim Kyle's announcement today that he was entering the Tennessee governor's race.

Former Shelby County mayor Bill Morris, who was presiding over the event, delivered two enthusiastic, though noticeably different, introductions for two of the most prominent candidates in the City of Memphis' special mayoral election - Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton.

Lowery's came first.

"We're happy to have here today, the mayor pro tem from the City of Memphis, who thought being mayor was easy," Morris said, his signature smile conveying that he was having fun with Lowery. "He was told that, but now I think he's decided it is a full day's work if you don't get the job done."

Lowery accepted the humor gracefully, saying, "Mayor Herenton was right when he said that he does - that he did -- make it look easy. Let me tell you."

Lowery spent his brief remarks focused on Kyle, but did say, "Let me tell you this. A C Wharton, my good friend, he and I do not agree on who should be the next mayor of Memphis but we both agree that Jim Kyle needs to be the next governor in the state of Tennessee."

Morris had more fun before introducing Wharton, saying, "Mayor Wharton, he (Lowery) sounds pretty good."

But then Morris did more than offer a token introduction for Wharton: "I had the privilege of working with A C Wharton for 15 years about, in county government, and I have to tell you I never had a day in our relationship that I didn't have admiration for A C and I thank him a lot for the leadership he's given."

For his part, Wharton never once referred to Lowery, focusing on the trust he feels Kyle has earned by, among other things, keeping his word that he would support Wharton for county mayor if he did not run.

Kyle did indeed choose not to run for county mayor and instead supported Wharton, who won that 2002 Democratic primary going away, with 80 percent of the vote compared to 17 percent for Carol Chumney, who is also declared as a candidate in the special mayoral election. Whether he was trying to make the point or not, Wharton's comment provided a reminder that Kyle had chosen to support him in 2002 over Chumney, who at that point had been a state legislative colleague of Kyle's for more than a decade.

Chumney was not at the event. Neither was Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd, another former state legislator who got out of that 2002 Democratic county mayoral primary but is strongly considering a run in the 2010 race.

County Commissioner Deidre Malone was present. Malone and Byrd have been jockeying behind the scenes as they prepare for a likely battle in the 2010 Democratic county mayoral primary.

Malone said she relished the thought of being involved in a 2010 August election where Kyle and Shelby County's Republican Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons, a Republican, were running in gubernatorial primaries, and former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and incumbent Steve Cohen were generating huge turnout in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary.

No candidates have yet filed petitions with Election Commission

 

So far, none of the candidates in the Memphis Mayor's race have formalized their candidacy by filing a candidate nominating petition with the Shelby County Election Commission.

But since forms were made available last Thursday, 11 people - most of them political unknowns -- have picked up a petition, according to election commission filings.

In order to run for the mayor's race, the election commission requires candidates to fill out a petition, obtain 25 valid signatures from legitimate Memphis residents and pay a $100 filing fee.

The 11 candidates who have picked up petitions so far include Charlotte Bergmann, Constance Houston, DeWayne Jones, Ernest Lunati, James M. Clingan, Johnny Hatcher Jr, Leo AwGowhat, Marcus D. Jones, Randy L. Cagle, Robert W. Hodges (Prince Mongo) and Thomas Long (the city court clerk).

This list is available to the public on the election commission's Web site.

Candidates have until Sept. 3 at noon to file their petitions.

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton underscored his achievements as county mayor in a radio interview this morning and made it clear he would not run a divisive campaign for city of Memphis mayor.

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Less than three months away from the Oct. 15 special election to replace Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, Wharton said his campaign strategy will be to keep working.

"You know the best way to get elected is just to do your doggone job, and those who have watched me over the past seven years know that I have not let up," Wharton said.

Wharton appeared on the "Drake & Zeke in the Morning Show" today as one of a series of interviews featuring Memphis mayoral candidates. Wharton follows recent interviews with Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney and former Herenton campaign manager Charles Carpenter.

Wharton focused a large portion of the interview on crime and specifically on proposed legislation that would make it harder for repeat offenders to get out of jail and for non-permit holders to get their hands on guns.

He also touched on what he sees as his achievements as county mayor, including renovations at Shelby Farms and converting an old railroad line into a 13-mile trail connecting Midtown to Shelby Farms.

He also noted a county-run program that provides free books for 33,000 kids and a criminal reentry program that has become a national model.

Wharton said his enthusiasm for the job hasn't waned at all - despite pulling seven-day weeks for years.

"Every day is just a bright new day for me," he said.

Wharton declined an opportunity to knock at his opponents, including Lowery, saying he never goes around "grading other public servants."

"I have a friendship with all the candidates out there," he said. "That's one thing that hasn't changed at all. I have reached out to everybody and that's been a hallmark of my public service."

A few weeks ago, Wharton made headlines for meeting with prospective candidates for the mayor's race.

But Wharton said today that while conventional wisdom says it may make him look weak to sit down with those considering a run, he was just trying to share his vision.

"I go to them and say, here's my vision, I just want you to know," Wharton said. "If you share this vision with me, when I'm elected, I want you to work with me in this vision."

Wharton said he gets along with the other candidates because "I think that's what the public wants us to do."

City residents pipe up with questions at town hall meeting

 

We're still at Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's town hall meeting, and residents are now asking questions of division directors.

The audio isn't terribly good and it's hard to hear all of the citizen questions. But one resident has asked whether it was a goal of the City Council to decrease the city's tax rate in accordance with increases in the county's rate.

Lowery said that's a goal of the entire city government.

"We are working toward efficiency in government by combining some services," Lowery said, adding that he's looking into merging the city and county fire departments.

"We are going to work together for everyone in this area," he said.

Another resident from Frayser has asked about whether the city had plans to pave its streets.

Dwan Gilliom, the city's public works director, said the city is receiving stimulus money this year, meaning $33 million will be spent on street paving in fiscal year 2010.

"I don't know how many streets in Frayser will receive resurfacing, but if you can give me the names of some streets, I will look at the paving list," Gilliom said.

A University of Memphis student said the Memphis Area Transit Authority does not provide enough bus service to his area. He's asking if MATA will add more routes for later in the evening.

MATA general manager Will Hudson said a MATA board meeting on Aug. 24 will discuss adding and changing routes. He encouraged the student to come.

Another resident is wondering if the city is working with Elvis Presley Enterprises to clean up the area surrounding Graceland.

Lowery said the city is looking at infrastructure improvements in that area.

A resident has also asked whether there were plans to improve the vacant Sears Roebuck building in Midtown.

Lowery said the building has been purchased by a private investor. "He is looking to make needed improvements," he said. "We can't announce that right now but I can tell you that it's under way."

Following questions, residents will be ushered into the Hall of Mayors where they can ask specific questions of division directors. Tours are also starting to the mayor's office on the seventh floor and the council offices on the fifth floor.

No fireworks - yet - at a town hall meeting this afternoon hosted by Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery at City Hall.

The city's directors are introducing themselves to the smattering of residents seated in the City Council chambers. There's about 75 people here, but many are actually city employees.

Despite tensions between Lowery and City Atty. Elbert Jefferson - who earlier this week took Lowery to court over firing him prematurely - Jefferson took the lectern to introduce the city's legal department. Lowery watched from about a foot away as Jefferson explained how the public interfaces with his office.

"You're driving down the street and hit a pot hole, that's us," Jefferson said. "When someone picks up your trash and your mailbox is torn down, that's us. When you see a contract come across someone's desk related to some youth organization you may be a part of, that's us."

Division director have all been asked to explain the purpose of their division.

"Parks services could be categorized as the fun department," said parks services director Cindy Buchanan, adding there are 150 developed parks within a mile of over 80 percent of the community's neighborhoods.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water president Jerry Collins said he's brought several staff members to answer questions about the public utility.

Lowery organized the meeting as part of his ongoing efforts to open up City Hall. A tour of the mayor's lavish seventh-floor suite is to follow.

Donna Davis earning more than predecessor

 
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Former WMC-TV Channel 5 anchor Donna Davis, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's appointee in the job of director of communications, is making slightly more than her predecessor, Toni Holmon-Turner.

On a yearly basis, Davis would earn $81,112, slightly more than Holmon-Turner's $75,704 annual salary. Davis is only serving until the October special election to fulfill the remaining two years on former mayor Willie Herenton's tenure.

Holmon-Turner was moved on Herenton's last day in office to the Human Resources division, where she serves as an HR Specialist.

Holmon-Turner's new salary was not immediately available. Update: Holmon-Turner's new salary is $72,100.

Halbert raises ethics concern against rival in mayor's race

 
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As reporter Amos Maki writes today, City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert has asked embattled City Atty. Elbert Jefferson to explore whether Lowery should have recused himself from the July 21 vote to recognize a vacancy in the mayor's office.

Halbert and councilman Joe Brown questioned whether Lowery should vote, since his pay increased once he moved to the mayor's office.

As chairman, Lowery was paid $2,633 per month. As interim mayor until Oct. 15, he earns about $14,291 per month. A city ordinance says officials should not vote when they could benefit financially.

Whether or not Halbert and Brown raise a valid point, it should be noted that Halbert is a candidate in the Memphis mayor's race. That means she also has something to gain by hurting Lowery's chances of winning the special election on Oct. 15

Halbert said this is not a conflict because she brought this issue up weeks ago when discussion of the mayor's vacancy was going on - before Mayor Willie Herenton had even left office and before she decided to run in the mayor's race. "Why it's coming out now, I don't know," she said.

Candidate Jerry Lawler lays out mayoral platform

 

Mayoral candidate and pro wrestler Jerry Lawler has laid out his mayoral platform with an emphasis on fighting crime, reinforcing his commitment to the community, and promoting transparency at City Hall and open engagement between the mayor and the people of Memphis.

In a press release today, Lawler said he envisions the mayor as a "person of the people."

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If elected, Lawyer said he would relinquish the "fancy" office Downtown in favor of a mobile mayor's office where he would park for two weeks in different neighborhoods so people "could have access to the mayor everyday without getting on a bus or without having to drive."

Lawler also said he "feels that crime is of the utmost importance and is priority number one for his campaign."

He continued with a common anti-crime position, that crime knows no boundaries, color, gender or zip codes: "People are afraid to go out at night; people are afraid someone's going to break-in or get carjacked. Crime is the number one priority and concern," Lawler said.

He called for more cops on the street and a revamped Memphis Police gang unit that would "seek and destroy" gangs and "deadly gang warfare."

Lawler also drew attention to a few of his recent radio appearances, including an interview with NewsRadio 600 WREC's "Memphis Morning News" where he talked about pride for his hometown. To hear it, click here.

He answered listener calls on ROCK 103's "Bad Dog & Ric" show. To hear the broadcast, click here and here.

Lawler is also sharing his thoughts on his Web site and on Twitter.

Recent polls show A C Wharton in the lead

 

Former mayor Willie Herenton may have called the upcoming special mayoral election a "crap shoot," but at least one local pollster says preliminary numbers shows this election is Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's to lose.

Berje Yacoubian, president of survey research firm Yacoubian Research, said in a recent survey of 500 Memphians, Wharton came in the lead followed by Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and City Councilwoman Carol Chumney.

"The poll clearly showed that Mayor Wharton is in the driver's seat," Yacoubian said, adding that Lowery's increased exposure as interim mayor means he can now "generate and in some cases control a lot of media attention."

Yacoubian stressed his poll is not a scientifically accurate reflection of how the race will play out.

The question was asked at the end of another survey conducted by Yacoubian and the 500 people were not a representative cross section of Memphians -- African-Americans only made up 28 percent of those surveyed.

Also, the poll was conducted two weeks ago and excluded most of the 10 candidates who have since tossed their name in the ring. People were asked to pick from a limited pool of possible candidates including Chumney, Lowery, Wharton, City Councilman Jim Strickland and former councilman Jack Sammons.

But Yacoubian said this poll is a "good lead as to where they (the candidates) are starting from." He added that Wharton was the only candidate with a high percentage of both African- American and white support.

Word has spread, too, about other polls showing Wharton is the preferred candidate of a formidable swath of voters and with very high favorable ratings, according to reporter Zack McMillin of The Commercial Appeal. It was lost on nobody that Strickland decided not to run shortly after receiving results of a poll. Those with knowledge of that poll say it showed Wharton holding a commanding advantage in public opinion that crosses racial lines.

But the old saying about one day being a lifetime in politics has long held true, and most of the declared candidates can point to a proven track record of electoral success. If the polls are accurate, however, it would appear that beating Wharton will mean persuading many people to change their minds about the county mayor.

Lowery reignites consolidation debate

 

As reporter Daniel Connolly writes today, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has reignited the consolidation debate.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton was never successful in his push for Memphis and Shelby County consolidation, passing the fight off almost a year ago to city and county legislative leaders who pledged to host public meetings on the topic.

Both members of the County Commission and City Council also talked about realizing functional consolidation of city and county engineering and fire departments - mergers that have been consistently thwarted over the years.

While those discussions have gone nowhere, Lowery said in a radio interview Monday that he planned to meet with County Mayor A C Wharton to reinvigorate the topic. Jack Sammons, Lowery's chief administrative officer, said he's been reviewing a stalled proposal to merge the city and county fire departments.

Do you think Lowery has the political capital to make fire service consolidation actually happen in his less-than-90-day stint as mayor?

Kemp Conrad officially out of the mayor's race

 
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Another potential candidate has backed out of the Memphis mayor's race.

First-year City Councilman Kemp Conrad announced in a letter to supporters today that he's not running for Memphis mayor.

"I made a commitment to serving Memphis on the Council and that is a responsibility I take very seriously," he wrote.

Conrad, the former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, was elected to the council last November in the special race to replace former councilman Scott McCormick, who left the council to become the executive director of the Plough Foundation.

Conrad's official exit puts the field of declared candidates at 10.

Earlier this week, two other potential candidates told reporter Zack McMillin they are still contemplating a run: Memphis City Court Clerk Thomas Long and former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president Herman Morris.

Long told McMillin that he had formed an "exploratory" group to advise him and he planned to pull a petition to file but said he would not likely make a final decision until closer to the Sept. 3 filing deadline.

Morris said Herenton officially leaving office accelerated his process and expects to make a decision soon about whether to run.

Here's the letter Conrad wrote to supporters:

Dear Friends,

I want to thank all of you who have encouraged and advised me over the last few weeks to consider running for Mayor of Memphis in October. Upon deep reflection my family and I have decided not to make the race at this time. I made a commitment to serving Memphis on the Council and that is a responsibility I take very seriously. When I ran for City Council it was to make a difference in the direction of our city. I think a new city council has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time, and I strongly believe with a new Mayor, together, we can build a city that is ready for the next generation. A city known for its Safety, Prosperity, and Unity.

It is time for a fresh start for Memphis. We should all be excited about the future of our city and what can be achieved with a Council and Mayor focused on the goals that matter to our families.

Thank you again for your support and for your commitment to Memphis. We live in a great city - A city worth fighting for. I will keep fighting for you and for the future of Memphis.

It is such an honor and privilege to serve you on the City Council. Please let me know if there is ever anything that I can do for you.

Best Regards Kemp

PS - Mayor Pro Tem Lowery and CAO Sammons will be my guests tonight at 7:00 on the local television show Council Call - please see the attachment for more information if you are interested in learning of the Mayor's goals and agenda over the next few months.


Charles Carpenter to open campaign HQ in Whitehaven

 
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Mayoral candidate Charles Carpenter is hosting a grand opening for his Whitehaven campaign headquarters on Saturday.

The office is located in the Whitehaven Plaza on the corner of Elvis Presley and Raines Road., and the event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. The headquarters will be open to the public Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., until election day. 

Carpenter is Herenton's longtime campaign manager who has never run for elected office. He has said part of his campaign strategy is taking his campaign straight to the voters

In a press release, Carpenter said he's "ascended all odds" to become an attorney. His father was an independent dump truck driver who hauled dirt and gravel to runways at the Memphis International Airport.

For more info, check out Carpenter's campaign Web site.

Number of candidates won't sway Wharton

 

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton said he's not intimidated by the number of competitors he'll have in an Oct. 15 special election for former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's vacated seat. Ten have declared so far.

"This is America. This is the U.S. of A," Wharton said. "We have a democratic form of government. It does not change anything that I plan to do or will do."

Last month, Wharton had said he was "troubled" by the possibility that a crowded field might mean the eventual winner would have a thin mandate -- the person who gets the most votes in the mayoral election wins the job, even if he or she doesn't have a majority, and there are no runoffs.

A reporter asked if he's done any polling, and Wharton, who frequently makes appearances as community events, said he hasn't.

"I had last night probably 10 stops," said Wharton, referring to Tuesday evening's National Night Out. "And that's the best kind of poll. You go right into the hundreds of people who tell you one thing: that they just want us to come together . . . They want someone that's looking to the future, not looking at the past."

Lowery to host town hall meeting, open house at City Hall Friday

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is hosting a Town Hall meeting tomorrow at City Hall, starting at 2 p.m. Members of the public are invited to hear from the mayor, meet the city's division directors and take a tour of the mayor's exclusive seventh-floor suites.

Here's the invite:


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Lowery must get council approval to fire city attorney, judge rules

 

This just in: Chancery Court Judge Walter Evans has ruled that Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery must get approval of the Memphis City Council if he wants to fire City Atty. Elbert Jefferson, reports The Commercial Appeal's Amos Maki.

Friday, on his first day as interim mayor, Lowery fired Jefferson. But Jefferson got a restraining order over the weekend to allow him to keep working until a possible council vote on his fate.

If the council decides to leave Jefferson in the top legal post -- which on Tuesday seemed the likely scenario -- Lowery has the power as mayor to suspend Jefferson or change his duties.

For background, read Lowery's letter of termination sent to Jefferson and also Jefferson's petition for a restraining order, which accused Lowery of conduct "so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to be beyond the pale of decency and is atrocious and intolerable."

Photo gallery: Myron Lowery's first week as Mayor Pro Tem

 
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Photo gallery: A look at Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's first week on the job -- in pictures.


View the gallery »


Election for Memphis mayor moved up to Oct. 15

 

The special election for Memphis mayor has been moved up two weeks and will be held Oct. 15, reports The Commercial Appeal's Daniel Connolly.

The Shelby County Election Commission took that action this afternoon and plans to combine the mayoral election with a special election to replace State Sen. Paul Stanley, who resigned following an affair with an intern.

Jefferson says Lowery wants him out without City Council OK

 

City Atty. Elbert Jefferson said he predicts Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery will suspend him in an effort to quickly push him out of City Hall.

Jefferson spoke with members of the media shortly after Lowery asked the council to defer a vote replacing Jefferson as city attorney with former U.S. Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis.

Lowery said he wanted to hold the vote for two weeks in light of a court case - Jefferson has sued Lowery for forcing him out of City Hall prematurely.

But Jefferson said the deferral was part of a larger scheme to get him out of a job without City Council approval.

"When I'm suspended, it doesn't go before the City Council," Jefferson said. "I understand that the City Council has no control over suspensions."

Some council members were adamant in their disapproval of Lowery's attempt to push Jefferson out of a job and it is unclear if Lowery has the seven votes needed to replace Jefferson with Coleman-Davis, who Lowery named as the city's deputy city attorney on Monday.

Jefferson maintains that he's done nothing wrong.

"You can only suspend with cause," Jefferson said. "So, if you've contrived a scheme to suspend me that absolutely is not right, it is absolutely wrong."

Jefferson said he understands that as an appointed official, he serves at the will and pleasure of the mayor. But he contends that Lowery overstepped his bounds by forcing him to leave City Hall last week without council approval.

Jack Sammons approved as CAO

 

The Memphis City Council has approved the nomination of Jack Sammons as the mayor pro tem's chief administrative officer.

After a moderately tense discussion about Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's cabinet picks, the council approved Sammons in a 10-2 vote.

Only councilmen Joe Brown and Edmund Ford Jr. voted against his approval.

Council members peppered Sammons, a longtime former councilman, with questions about whether he would run in the special election for Memphis mayor (no) and whether he lived in the city of Memphis (yes).

Sammons, who is president of hair care company Ampro Industries, said he would dedicate his time as CAO to city matters only until the special election - meaning he won't be out raising money for Lowery or passing out yard signs.

"When my time is concluded, I expect I will go back to making America's No. 1 gel," Sammons quipped. "People all over globe enjoy our products everyday."

Sammons' approval followed tough questions about the residency of Lowery's other picks -- former TV anchor Donna Davis and former U.S. Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis -- both who live outside of the Memphis city limits.

Councilman Shea Flinn said according to the charter, city employees have six months to move into the city, a rule he dubbed the "Barbara Swearengen Ware" corollary because she has often invoked it.

Ware did not seem pleased with Flinn's comment.

"That does not apply to temporary employees," she snapped. "I know that Mayor Pro Tem Lowery knows that, he's been on the council far longer than I have. He knows the charter inside out."

Lowery asks for delay in vote to approve Coleman-Davis

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is speaking before the City Council and he's asking to delay a vote to approve his pick for city attorney.

The council was supposed to vote to confirm Lowery's pick for city attorney, Veronica Coleman-Davis, in place of embattled City Atty. Elbert Jefferson.

But Lowery said in light of the court hearing tomorrow - Jefferson has sued Lowery, saying he overstepped his bounds by forcing him out of City Hall - Lowery would like to delay the vote to approve his city attorney for two weeks.

"I'm here to say I want to cooperate with the council," Lowery said. "I don't want anything that's going to be divisive. I don't want a media circus."

Lowery added: "I want us to work together."

Now the council is debating whether to delay approval of all nominees or approve only chief administrative officer Jack Sammons.

Lowery talks about Jefferson; vote deferred

 

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has asked the City Council's executive committee to support his appointment of former U.S. attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis to replace Elbert Jefferson as city attorney.

But immediately after making opening remarks, council members voted to move the conversation down to the full council at 3:30 p.m.

Lowery told members of the council that he's asking for their approval of Coleman-Davis because, according to the charter, the term of a mayor's appointees are only as long as that of their boss.

"I believe the term of Mr. Jefferson has expired," Lowery said.

Lowery said the fact that Jefferson resigned - and later changed his mind at the request of former Mayor Willie Herenton - suggests that he's "not going to assist me in working toward my goals and objectives."

"You would want to have team members who support you," Lowery told the council.

City Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware asked whether there could be two city attorneys.

Lowery said a vote of the council approving Coleman-Davis would function as a vote to depose Jefferson.

Lowery then moved into the hallway and spoke with members of the media, saying this whole drama is not a personal attack against Jefferson.

"I just want good people to run the city," he said. "...It's not personal with me, but why must it be personal to him that he must remain in this position?"

Lowery questioned Jefferson's intentions: Why did he resign and later change his mind? What does he have to gain by staying? Why did he demand to get into the building by himself on Sunday?

Lowery said he hopes rumors of someone rifling through the city's legal files are not true.

"I certainly hope none of the files are missing," he said.

Executive session starts

 

 


lowerysit.jpg Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has just taken a seat at the head of the table in the City Council's committee room. Executive session has just started to discuss a few of Lowery's appointments. Fireworks are anticipated.

Myron Lowery (briefly) visits council for first time as mayor

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has largely been missing in action this morning.

Lowery made a brief appearance earlier during the council's personnel committee meeting to introduce Jack Sammons, his pick for chief administrative officer, and former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis, his pick for city attorney.

He then left immediately to attend events throughout the morning.

Lowery is expected to return to a 1 p.m. executive session with the council members, when they'll discuss Coleman-Davis and possibly the ouster of embattled City Atty. Elbert Jefferson. UPDATE: The executive session has been moved to 1:30 p.m. to get the education committee out of the way beforehand.

Today marks the first time Lowery, the former council chairman, has spoken before the council as mayor.

This afternoon's meeting could be interesting...

Two Lowery staff picks live outside Memphis city limits

 

As a member of the Memphis City Council, Myron Lowery voted against relaxing residency rules for new police officers.

But as Mayor Pro Tem, Lowery has gone outside the city's limits to hire two key members of his staff: Veronica Coleman-Davis and Donna Davis. Coleman-Davis, Lowery's pick for city attorney, lives in Millington, while Davis, Lowery's pick for director of media relations, lives in Germantown.

The city residency policy gives new hires six months to move inside the city. Lowery said any appointments he makes will only serve until the October special election to fulfill the remainder of former mayor Willie Herenton's term.

Despite legal troubles, Janis Fullilove at City Council today

 

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Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove (left, in file photo) may be facing some legal troubles, but she still showed up for a full day at the City Council.

Fullilove, dressed in a demure gray suit, has sat through most of the meetings this morning. She declined to answer questions from a reporter.

Fullilove, 59, was arraigned Monday in Criminal Court on driver's license fraud and two other misdemeanors.

She was indicted last month with obtaining and possessing a license last year by telling the examiner her license was lost, when it actually had been seized by Mississippi authorities for driving under the influence of medication. She had refused a Breathalyzer test.

She also was indicted for driving on a revoked license in March of this year at MIFA headquarters on Vance.

Fullilove remains free on $5,000 bond and returns to court on Sept. 2.

Which Edmund Ford will enter the mayoral fray?

 

It's a bizarre day at the Memphis City Council.

First, embattled City Atty. Elbert Jefferson poured out his heart in the hallway outside the City Council committee room. He's hurt that Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery had City Council Atty. Allan Wade follow him into City Hall on Sunday - despite a court order allowing him back into the building.

"That's about as embarrassing and as clear a violation of the order," Jefferson said.

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He almost looked like he had tears in his eyes at one point: "My kids will always be able to pull up on the Internet: Elbert Jefferson fired, Elbert Jefferson escorted out of the building."

Now, former City Councilman Edmund Ford Sr. (in photo, right) on is milling around the committee room with members of media.

He won't say whether he's running for city of Memphis mayor, but he's acting coy, speaking cryptically and saying he'll answer all questions "later today."

Blogger Thaddeus Matthews and City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. - Ford Sr.'s son (in photo, left) -- are also in the room. Matthews is pointing to Ford Jr., saying he's running for mayor instead of his dad.

Ford Sr. at one point approached a reporter: "People are very tired in this city."

"You know why?" he said. "Everything that's happening, people think that people are asleep right now but they're watching. Hey, they're sitting and watching everything."

He paused: "That's very important."

Now the room is filling back up for the Parks Committee meeting.

Jefferson says he's been a good attorney for Memphis

 

An emotional Elbert Jefferson defended his tenure as city attorney this morning.

Jefferson, who was fired by Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery on Friday, said he had been a good attorney for the citizens of Memphis and that Lowery's termination of him without City Council approval violated the City Charter.

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"I am a capable attorney," said Jefferson to a crowd of media following a morning committee meeting. "I've done everything the right way."

Lowery says he fired Jefferson because of soaring fees paid to outside attorneys over the past few years. Between 2006 and 2009, city spending on outside legal, consulting and lobbying contracts jumped to nearly $8 million, an increase of more than 100 percent. Lowery has also said the legal division needed "better leadership."

Jefferson, at times coming close to tears, said Lowery's accusation that he was an ineffective attorney and that he was possibly destroying documents over the weekend have deeply hurt him.

Jefferson said his long hours of work for the taxpayers cost him his marriage.

"I'm divorced now," he said.

Lowery wants former U.S. Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis to replace Jefferson. He named Coleman-Davis deputy division director of the legal department Monday. The full council will vote on whether to fire Jefferson this afternoon.

Jefferson offered his resignation last month to former mayor Willie Herenton, who refused it. Jefferson would not explain why he wanted to resign under Herenton but not Lowery.

If the council does not agree to Lowery's termination of Jefferson, Lowery could suspend him, something Jefferson said he expects to happen.

Sammons gets committee OK

 

The City Council's personnel committee has approved one of Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's new appointments.

The committee approved former City Councilman Jack Sammons unanimously as Lowery's new chief administrative officer.

The committee voted to move the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis as City Atty. to executive sessions so all council members can speak on the issue. Sammons and Coleman-Davis will have a final vote before the council this afternoon.

Coleman-Davis would replace current City Atty. Elbert Jefferson, who Lowery fired on Friday. Jefferson got a restraining order over the weekend to allow him to keep working until the council decides his fate later on today.

Lowery says he fired Jefferson because of soaring fees paid to outside attorneys over the last few years. Between 2006 and 2009, city spending on outside legal, consulting and lobbying contracts jumped to nearly $8 million, an increase of more than 100 percent.

Jefferson and Coleman-Davis are now both sitting at the council's table in the fifth-floor conference room while council members discuss police hiring.

More to come later.

Halbert cites platform, past electoral success

 

As a parting off-camera request to assembled media members, first-term City Councilwoman and newly-declared mayoral candidate Wanda Halbert said, "Y'all can talk about the fact that no other candidate has offered a platform. Thank you."

While other candidates would take issue with that assertion, Halbert did personally pass around a "core platform" of seven key areas she says she will emphasize in the City of Memphis' special mayoral election. The four-page bullet-pointed memo listed government efficiency first followed in order by economic growth/development, public safety and health, education, tax equity, socio-economic challenges and tourism. Her opening remarks also included conspicuous mentions of three names -- former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith (Halbert, 42, works at FedEx) and Robert Lipscomb, the city's housing director. 

Though she did not mention Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery nor Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton in her prepared statement, she hit on areas where she clearly disagrees with them (Lowery and Wharton are both running, too). She attacked the view promoted by Wharton (and Herenton) that consolidation of city and county government should include the city giving up its charter while other towns in the county retained theirs. As for Lowery, Halbert said she felt he has moved too fast on some issues, most especially his actions in his first day on the job attempting to fire city attorney Elbert Jefferson.

Halbert's entrance into the race brings the number of declared candidates to 10 -- seven of whom have won elections and six of whom are currently serving in elected office. Another elected official, City Court Clerk Thomas Long, has also given strong indications he plans to run. The election is scheduled for Oct. 27, but the Shelby County Election Commission is expected to vote Tuesday to move it ahead two weeks to mid-October to coincide with a special election to replace state Sen. Paul Stanley, a Germantown Republican who resigned last week because of an intern sex scandal. 

Asked about how she can compete with candidates who will likely raise more money and attract more media coverage, Halbert pointed to her successful 2004 re-election campaign for the Memphis City Schools board in which she defeated attorney Robert Spence (who now represents Herenton) and a prominent "Baptist preacher" -- Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr., another mayoral candidate who won a 2006 election for the City Schools board.

Halbert had her two grown sons, 25-year-old Kelvin Burrus and 20-year-old Stephon Woods, stand right behind her as she made the announcement, and she spoke of how "it has been difficult as young men to endure the life that has been thrust upon them," one that has included "character assassination." Halbert also said her family had been victims of "injustice."

On June 13, police called Halbert to the scene where Burrus had been handcuffed by police following a loud early-morning argument with his girlfriend. After officers at the scene initially planned to charge him for resisting arrest (which would have meant a trip to jail), a supervisor who arrived later ordered the officers to instead issue Burrus with a misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession and let him go.

Police later backed up Halbert by saying she did nothing improper, but demoted two high-level officers for their actions. Halbert has expressed her view that the incident was retaliation for her criticism of the police department, but MPD director Larry Godwin strongly denied holding any vendetta against her or her family.

Lowery halts several Herenton personnel changes

 

Interim mayor Myron Lowery has halted several personnel changes former mayor Willie Herenton made in his last days in office.

Lowery has halted, for now, four new hires in the city's legal department and the transfer of Herenton's former scheduler, Joyce Douglass, to the legal department.

Douglass was moved from her position handling Herenton's calendar to the position of Contract Compliance Officer in the legal department July 18. When asked specifically about Douglass over the last two weeks, Human Resources director Lorene Essex said Douglass' move had not been finalized.

Former city spokeswoman Toni Holmon-Turner has been moved to the Human Resources department, but it isn't clear if Lowery has held her move.

Besides Douglass, Lowery has halted the hiring of a senior assistant city attorney, an assistant city attorney, a contract compliance supervisor and a claims analyst.

Lowery said he wants former U.S. Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis to review the proposed hires. Coleman-Davis is now serving as deputy director of the city's legal vision until a City Council vote on her nomination to replace current City Atty. Elbert Jefferson takes place Tuesday.

Lowery fired Jefferson Friday and had him escorted out of City Hall by security. Jefferson sued and a judge granted Jefferson an injunction allowing him to stay on the job.

Councilwoman Wanda Halbert running for Memphis mayor

 

City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert has officially jumped into the race for Memphis mayor.

Halbert, a first-term councilwoman, made the announcement at a noon press conference outside of City Hall.

In a morning talk radio show today, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery pledged to give up the mayor's Cadillac Escalade and otherwise open up City Hall to the public during his short stint as mayor.

Lowery also announced his appointment of Veronica Coleman-Davis, a former U.S. attorney, as deputy director of the city attorney's office until City Atty. Elbert Jefferson is formally removed from the top legal spot.

As we reported today, Lowery on Friday fired Jefferson, who later refused to leave City Hall. Jefferson, who was appointed by former mayor Willie Herenton, was eventually escorted out by Lowery's security detail but has since received a court order allowing him to return to his job.

Lowery said if his new pick for city attorney, Coleman-Davis, is confirmed Tuesday by the City Council, she'll automatically replace Jefferson.

"I didn't want this controversy to start off my term for mayor," Lowery said. "This has been a distraction that should have been avoided."

Lowery, who is running in the special election to replace Herenton, spoke for about 30 minutes on the "Drake & Zeke in the Morning" show, casting himself in starkly different light from the former mayor.

Lowery said on Friday at 2 p.m., he's hosting a town hall meeting at City Hall, after which members of the public can ask questions of the city's deputy division directors and even take a tour of the mayor's lavish seventh floor suite.

"We have many individuals, including city employees, who have never been on the seventh floor," Lowery said. "My office is their office and it's going to be open to the public."

He also said he's moving ahead with a long-range plan to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County Governments. He said he would meet with County Mayor A C Wharton in the near future to discuss the merger of the city and county fire departments.

As for the taxpayer-funded Cadillac, Lowery said he took his one and only ride in the company car last week.

"The Escalade is going back, the city will save money on that lease," Lowery said. "I'm not going to keep it."

Ex-Channel 5 anchor Donna Davis to be city spokeswoman

 
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People could be seeing a lot more of Donna Davis over the next three months.

Interim mayor Myron Lowery is moving Davis, the former WMC-TV Channel 5 anchor, to the post of city spokeswoman. Davis was laid off last December.

Davis, originally from Jackson, Tenn., anchored newscasts at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. A University of Memphis graduate, she began her career as a local radio reporter and returned to Memphis in 2000 after TV stints in Fresno, Calif., and Cleveland, Ohio.

Councilwoman Halbert to make mayoral announcement this week

 

City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert is strongly considering a run in the special election to replace Willie Herenton.

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Halbert said Sunday that she'll make a decision at some point this week.

The first-term councilwoman, who has long been encouraged by "diverse constituents" to seek the mayor's office, said it's time for a change at City Hall.

"We've been struggling with the same issues for too long," she said. "At what point does this city get bold enough to make a decision that it is time to pass on the torch and try something new and try something different?"

In his farewell speech Thursday, Herenton said before running for mayor, he didn't see any portraits hanging in the Hall of Mayors that looked like him.

Now that Memphis has had a longstanding black leader, Halbert said it's time for a woman to take the office.

"When I look in the Hall of Mayors, I still don't see anyone who looks like me," she said.

Halbert said education, crime, unity and economic development top her list of legislative priorities.

"There is clearly a socioeconomic problem in this city and it is broken down by class and race," Halbert said.

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