October 2009 Archives

What kind of flowers should Wharton send Herenton?

 

In a mostly quiet first week as Memphis mayor in which critics of A C Wharton could have pounced on what appears to be a methodical and less-than-bold beginning, the new administration instead is receiving gifts from former mayor Willie Herenton.

On Tuesday, Wharton's first full day in office, he was able to get predawn TV time by simply showing up at the Memphis Animal Shelter, which by all accounts has been managed poorly since before Herenton's resignation. Then Wharton got TV time late Tuesday giving reporters his professional legal opinion on what it means to receive a "target letter" from the U.S. Attorney -- as Herenton did on Tuesday. Whether Wharton could or should have been more bombastic about either issue is almost beside the point; citizens got to compare what appear to be misdeeds dating to the previous full-time administration to Wharton's ruffle-no-feathers demeanor.

Wharton did not assign blame, did not seem defiant or defensive. Herenton's fiercest critics would also point out that Wharton did not make it about race (we'll leave it to the CA's commenters to go into that gutter -- dobermans vs. poodles, etc.).

Then on Wednesday, Wharton received attention for getting invited to the White House while in Washington to meet with the Brookings Institution about urban public policy issues, while Wednesday night came yet more Herenton grand jury news -- his former city attorney, Elbert Jefferson, would be carrying documents and recordings with him during a grand jury appearance on Thursday.

Wharton's critics would probably point out that it's yet another example of the Wharton-Herenton grand conspiracy hatched that night in 2007 at Le Chardonnay -- not only would Herenton resign mid-term . . . but he would make it so a grand jury would be raising the heat on him and making news during Wharton's first week as mayor! As Jon Lovitz's famous Saturday Night Live character would put it: "Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket!"

Wharton appoints animal shelter task force

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is living up to his reputation as a leader by committee.

The Mayor -- who some have playfully referred to as "Appoint Committee Wharton" -- has pulled together a task force to address the recent woes at the City of Memphis Animal Shelter.

That's on top of his transition team tasked with scrutinizing City Hall divisions.

This task force will consist of area veterinarians, local citizens and other animal professionals and specialists versed in areas to address the shelter's needs.

The group, which will meet for the first time at City Hall on Friday at 2 p.m., will monitor progress at the shelter and report to the mayor. While the group may meet on an ongoing basis, they'll pull together a report of recommendations within 60 days.

Wharton has not revealed the names of committee members.

"It could be several months before any criminal complaints or indictments are handed down or are in place," Wharton said in a release. "But we can't wait that long. This is why we are doing our own assessment of this situation with the help of professionals. And we will decide if discipline or termination is called for or warranted."

At the meeting, task force members will discuss best practice procedures, training and retraining of shelter staff and personnel, expanding use of spay and neutering and more robust plans for animal adoption at the shelter.

Control of the shelter was seized by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office earlier this week following reports of maltreatment of animals.

Control of the shelter was returned to the city late Wednesday but investigators are still compiling a report of their findings.

Wharton said in the release that steps will be taken to adhere to all recommendations given in the report when it becomes available.

Wade says grand jury testimony centered around CA report

 

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After City Council attorney Allan Wade left a meeting with the grand jury this morning, he told reporters huddled in the plaza that his testimony centered around an article published by The Commercial Appeal in January.

The article, written by investigative reporter Marc Perrusquia, revealed that former Mayor Willie Herenton had publicly pressed for redevelopment of the Greyhound station Downtown, while he privately held an option to buy the land - an option that eventually made him personally more than $90,000.

It’s a potential conflict of interest that has become the focus of the ongoing federal criminal probe. It has also spurred two separate investigations at City Hall: one led by then-City Atty. Elbert Jefferson at Herenton’s request and a second led by City Council attorney Allan Wade at former City Council chairman Myron Lowery’s request.

The contents of Jefferson’s investigation have never been released because the former city attorney, who resigned almost two weeks ago, has claimed they are confidential.

Meanwhile, Wade opined that Herenton did not violate any state or local laws.

Both Jefferson and Wade spoke with the grand jury on the matter this morning.

Wade wouldn’t reveal any details about his meeting, however, saying only that they wanted to “talk to me about the law. They’re lawyers and can read the law as well as I can, but I helped them out as best I could.”

Wade said repeatedly he told the grand jury he did not believe the revelations in Perrusquia’s article were grounds for a federal probe.

“I wasn’t asked to determine whether laws were broken,” Wade said. “I was asked to determine whether we should investigate a transaction based on Marc Perrusquia’s article and I said no.”

Wade appeared slightly on the combative side, saying his entire investigation centered on the validity of the article. And he added that the Greyhound property in and of itself holds little value. Not even the Memphis Area Transit Authority was interested in it, he said.

“I think it’s a piece of crap property if you ask me,” Wade said. “I don’t even know why anybody would want it.”

Read Allan Wade’s letter to Myron Lowery here.

Jefferson exits grand jury, says he's a witness not a target

 

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Former City Attorney Elbert Jefferson and his attorney, Ted Hansom, were spotted around 11:15 a.m. today leaving the Clifford Davis Federal Building on Front St.

Jefferson spent more than an hour with the federal grand jury this morning, producing "documents, records, whatever he had" related to an ethics investigation of former mayor Willie Herenton, his attorney said.

But Hansom was adamant that, at this point, Jefferson is not the target of the investigation. "He is a witness," Hansom said. "Anybody who is subpoenaed is a witness until otherwise advised.... Who the target is I wouldn't have any knowledge."

Jefferson remained silent until reporters asked him about his health.

"I'm just taking it a day at a time, working with my doctors," said Jefferson, who is diabetic. Jefferson said this was his first time testifying before the grand jury.

He and Hansom then walked to the garage at City Hall where he had parked this morning. Jefferson, Hansom and another attorney were seen pow-wowing outside City Hall.

Elbert Jefferson appearing before grand jury

 

Former city attorney Elbert Jefferson has arrived at the Clifford Davis Federal Building Downtown and entered the grand jury room about 9:40 this morning. He was accompanied this morning by his attorney Ted Hansom.

City Council attorney Allan Wade was also spotted this morning at the federal building, sitting in the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Former city attorney to deliver Herenton recordings to grand jury

 

It should be an interesting day for the grand jurors meeting again today at the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building, just down the street from City Hall.

As Commercial Appeal award-winning investigative reporter Marc Perrusquia tells us in this morning's newspaper, "When former Memphis city attorney Elbert Jefferson appears before a federal grand jury this morning, he will be carrying a secret tape recording and a file several inches thick."

And: "The recording and the paperwork document an ethics investigation that Jefferson conducted of former Mayor Willie Herenton."

If you haven't read it, you should go now. We expect to have more later today about the appearance at www.commercialappeal.com.

Jefferson's attorney, Ted Hansom, told Perrusquia late Wednesday that the documents and recordings -- many of them sit-down interviews with Herenton himself -- would prove that Jefferson did not conduct a sham ethics investigation. It's unclear if Hansom and Jefferson believe that the evidence will help or harm Herenton; Hansom, whose name you may recall because he is the longtime attorney for University of Memphis legend Larry Finch, will only say that Jefferson never reached a conclusion about whether Herenton committed city ethics violations because the investigation "wasn't completed."

Jefferson must've received a fright Wednesday evening when WMC-TV Channel 5 sent out an erroneous breaking news e-mail alert saying that Jefferson had received a "target letter" from investigators similar to the one the U.S. Attorney's office sent to Herenton. The station also erroneously reported that Herenton attorney Robert Spence and former special assistant to the mayor Pete Aviotti had also received target letters, which in most cases mean an indictment is imminent. The station sent a correction out 86 minutes after the initial e-mail. None of those men have received target letters, only Herenton (that we know of).

Jefferson, of course, created controversy when he refused to leave office this summer when then-interim mayor Myron Lowery asked for his resignation and then told him he was fired. The City Council voted to side with Jefferson on the matter, but Jefferson's tactic appears to have backfired because of the way it has put him in more severe legal jeopardy, with Shelby County Attorney General Bill Gibbons beginning an investigation into Jefferson's actions (or inactions, as the case may be).

Jefferson finally resigned for good the day after A C Wharton's landslide victory in the special mayoral election, and Wharton's choice for city attorney, former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division director Herman Morris, is now running the legal office after getting City Council approval.

Morris and Wharton insist they will cooperate and hand over documents requested by legal authorities or media outlets.

Former Memphis Mayor and 9th Congressional District candidate Willie Herenton believes politics are behind a recent letter he received from the FBI, informing him that he's the target of an ongoing criminal investigation.

In a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder, Herenton said the target letter he received "is grounded solely in politics."

He noted that the notification, coming "just weeks" before his first campaign event, "is grounded solely in politics and is nothing more than a well-orchestrated attempt to influence the outcome of the congressional election next year."

But a look at the timeline of events leading up to the letter reveals that this FBI investigation precedes Herenton's congressional intentions.

For more than a year, the federal grand jury has been investigating a $91,000 payment Herenton received in 2006 in connection with the Greyhound bus station Downtown. The investigation is centered around whether Herenton used his position as mayor to benefit his private real estate business.

Initial evidence of the investigation came in December 2007, when the federal grand jury subpoenaed officials at the Memphis Area Transit Authority for e-mail records. The probe followed reports by The Commercial Appeal that a private developer paid the mayor $50,000 in a private land deal after landing $702,000 in no-bid city road design contracts.

Meanwhile, Herenton did not make his congressional intentions known until April 2009, when he announced the formation of an exploratory committee to study a run for the 9th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

What do you think, could the timing of this target letter be designed to thwart Herenton's run for Congress? Or is Herenton's argument just a campaign ploy designed to divert attention away from the cloud of this federal investigation?

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is already putting his Washington, D.C. connections to use.

As reported by Washington correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan, Wharton was in the nation's capital today discussing The Regional Medical Center at Memphis and other regional issues with the White House liaison to big-city mayors.

Wharton said David P. Agnew, deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, called him on Tuesday and asked him to drop by after learning that he would be in town this week to attend meetings at the Brookings Institution, where Wharton is a nationally recognized expert on metropolitan issues such as urban sprawl and intergovernmental cooperation.

Wharton's jaunt to Washington is nothing new. For years he's traveled to national forums as Shelby County mayor.

He worked closely with the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based independent nonpartisan research institution, where he participated in a multiyear initiative aimed at stimulating economic growth in metropolitan areas.

And in March 2008 he was invited by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to participate in a conversation with other big-city mayors about providing incentives for parents to get involved in their childrens' lives.

At the time, Wharton told The Commercial Appeal that through his involvement in national panels, he realized that Shelby County has, for the most part, not been on the radar screen of major philanthropies with dollars to invest locally.

"I view this, if I might selfishly say so, as a product of our efforts to get on that radar screen, " Wharton said at the time, of his efforts to funnel more national dollars locally.

Wharton releases transition team subcommittees

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's administration issued a press release today, unveiling the participants and names of his transition team's subcommittees.

"These subcommittees represent many of the priorities of my administration," Wharton said in the release. "The people leading and serving on these committees will lay the important groundwork necessary to make Memphis the world class city we all know it can be."

The committee members will spend up to 90 days reviewing the current status of divisions, offices and programs that fall under their area of focus, said Mike Carpenter, Transition Team co-chair, in the release.

"They are to look at each department through the lens of the Mayor's platform, identify gaps and make recommendations for the most efficient way to begin implementing that vision," Carpenter said. "All of that must be completed by swiftly approaching deadlines established by the transition team."

The subcommittees appointed by Mayor Wharton include:

Education & Early Childhood: Chair -Tomeka Hart, Memphis City School Board Commissioner;
Nisha Powers, President, Powers Hill Design;
Diane Rudner, Chair, Plough Foundation

Workforce and Economic Development: Chair - Wei Chen, CEO, Sunshine Enterprises, Inc.; Jose Velazquez, former Executive Director of Latino Memphis; Howard Richardson, Political Director, Memphis AFL-CIO Labor Council; Douglas Scarboro, Director of Community Engagement, Leadership Academy

Diversity Business Development: Chair - Darrell Cobbins, President & CEO of Universal Commercial; Nisha Powers, President, Powers Hill Design; Darrell Thomas, Chairman/CEO Thomas Consultants, Inc.

Legal: Herman Morris, City Attorney

Human Resources: Chair -- Cato Johnson, Senior Vice President, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Vice-Chair -- Linda Carter, Managing Director Human Resource Services & Diversity, FedEx; Shannon Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Fed Ex ; Carol Ross-Spang, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Peter Corriveau - former, Human Resources Representative, Fed Ex; Martha Thomas - former, Managing Director Human Resources, Fed Ex

Government Efficiency: Chair - Ed Ford, Jr., Memphis City Council; Paul Morris, Attorney, Martin, Tate & Morrow; Lois Stockton, CEO, The Nail Station

Great Neighborhood Initiatives: Chair - Dwight Montgomery, President & CEO Memphis Chapter of SCLC; Bobby White, Chief of Staff for Mayor A C Wharton; James Nelson, Special Asst. to the Mayor for Youth and Neighborhoods

Public Safety: Chair - Mike Carpenter, Shelby County Commissioner; Cato Johnson, Senior Vice President, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Paul Morris, Attorney, Martin, Tate & Morrow

Finance: Co-Chair - Steve Reynolds, President & CEO, Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation; Co-Chair - Doug Edwards, Regions Morgan Keegan

Wharton calls Herenton target letter "serious"

 

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has been informed that he's the target of a federal criminal probe and he's since blasted the target letter he received for being politically motivated.

But Memphis mayor A C Wharton - an attorney -- spoke to members of the broadcast media Tuesday night and said a target letter is a serious matter.

"Every target letter I've seen - and I've seen a bunch of them - they're serious," Wharton told WMC-TV Channel 5 outside the Freedom Awards Gala.

A target letter signals the end of an investigation usually and is meant to put a potential defendant on notice. It is often also designed to give potential defendants a chance to come in so they can't claim they didn't have the opportunity to defend themselves.

"You don't play with target letters," Wharton said. "It takes a long, long time to get a target letter."

Wharton said he would cooperate fully with the FBI on this investigation.

In first full day as county mayor, Avery gets health department briefing

 

Joyce Avery started her first full day as acting Shelby County mayor by attending the Multicultural Memphis Breakfast sponsored by Leadership Memphis, then met Health Department officials for a briefing, county spokeswoman Rhonda Turner said.

Avery will hear similar briefings from other departments during her tenure as acting mayor, which began Monday morning and is likely to last only 15 days.

Avery's next stop is the county Department of Corrections, which operates the prison facility near Shelby Farms.

Avery also had a short meeting with county chief administrative officer Jim Huntzicker, Turner said.

The Shelby County Commission is set to pick an interim mayor on Nov. 9 who would serve until Sept. 1, filling the rest of A C Wharton's unexpired term.

As County Commission chairwoman, Avery automatically became acting mayor when Wharton took the city mayor's job.

Commissioners are unlikely to pick Avery as interim mayor because she's a Republican and a majority of commissioners are Democrats.

Former Memphis mayoral candidate Carol Chumney issued a press release today with congratulations to interim Shelby County mayor Joyce Avery, the county's first female mayor. Chumney also declared that "breaking the glass ceiling here is a civil rights issue."

Chumney made women's rights a cornerstone of her mayoral campaign, during one debate asking what message not electing a female mayor sends to little girls.

Since the election, Chumney has underscored the gender bias in the media, last week blasting this blog for portraying her in what she perceived as gender-specific terms.

Chumney, who said she is back at her law practice full-time, is now commending Avery for shattering the glass ceiling - at least on an interim basis. But she also took the opportunity to blame the media - again -- for its bias coverage of women.

"I hope in the future that qualified women will not be limited to legislative positions in state or local government, will be given fair and unbiased coverage by the press and media when they seek higher office, and will have the opportunity to be elected to lead as mayor, Governor, and the U.S. Senate," Chumney writes. "This is a civil rights issue for women in Memphis, Shelby County and Tennessee. "

You can apply to be county mayor

 

Brought to you by Shelby County Government Reporter Daniel Connolly:

If you want to take a crack at being Shelby County mayor, now's the chance to apply.

The Shelby County Commission will interview candidates for the interim mayor's slot on Wednesday, Nov. 4, then vote on Nov. 9. If commissioners deadlock, they'll vote again on Nov. 16. Interested candidates should contact Steve Summerall at 545-4301 or steve.summerall@shelbycountytn.gov for details.

As reported in an article today, outside applicants will face stiff competition from Shelby County Commissioners who want the job for themselves, including George Flinn, Joe Ford and J.W. Gibson II.

The interim mayor will serve until Sept. 1, 2010.

As Shelby County Government's interim mayor Joyce Avery settles into her new but temporary role, she'll have a team of government veterans on her side.

On Monday, Avery unveiled her advisory committee made up of former county commissioners Charlie Perkins, Ed Williams and Cleo Kirk; former city councilman Brent Taylor; Tennessee Republican Party executive committee member Layne Provine; and businessman and former Memphis Builder's Exchange president Jay Weatherington, who has also been a member of the Shelby County Needs Assessment Committee that evaluates school building projects.

Add former Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery to that list. He'll also be around to lend guidance.

On Tuesday, Taylor said the team is heavily stacked with government veterans because both he and Avery thought it was best to have experience on their side.

"There's a lot of institutional knowledge there," Taylor said.

No matter that many of these appointees haven't actually served in government for years - Perkins, Williams and Kirk have all been out of office for three or more.

Taylor also pointed out that the team was diverse, even though Kirk and Lowery are the only African Americans on team.

But Taylor stressed that the team won't function in the same way as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's 12-member team on the city side. Instead, this group will act more as an advisory committee.

"She will use this team as a sounding board and as a resource in helping her reach whatever decisions she might need to reach," Taylor said.

Taylor also stressed that because of Avery's short tenure - she could serve anywhere from two weeks to 45 days depending on when the County Commission selects her interim replacement - she doesn't have a long legislative agenda.

Echoing points made during Avery's speech on Monday, Taylor said Avery's chief goal is to provide continuity in county government.

"That's all she wants to accomplish," Taylor said. "To be a steady head and provide continuity. She's not looking to lower taxes, she's not looking to create some new initiative, she's not looking to replace division directors, she simply wants to provide continuity during period of transition, whether it be two weeks or two months."

Ironically, Avery's appointment has already presented the county with change. Avery is a longtime Republican, replacing Wharton, a Democrat.

But that change will likely be short-lived. The Democrat-controlled commission is expected to pick either commissioners Joe Ford or J.W. Gibson, both Democrats, to serve until the county mayoral election in 2010.

Wharton lands his first crisis on Day 1

 

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton may have been joking about cleaning up City Hall with a broom, but on his first day in office he's already landed his first clean-up job.

As reported by CA writer Hank Dudding, Shelby County Sheriff's Deputies raided the Memphis Animal Shelter this morning, discovering that some of the animals were diseased or required food and water.

Wharton, who was sworn into office only yesterday, made himself available for comment, saying this provided a "dirty slate" from which things will improve.

Looks like the honeymoon period could be short-lived for Wharton, the former two-term county mayor. Any guesses on how many crises Wharton will face in his first weeks on the job?

Herenton stays out of the spotlight amid change

 

Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton's resignation may have spurred dramatic change in both city and county governments, but now the five-term mayor is staying out of the spotlight.

Ally Sidney Chism, a county commissioner doubling as Herenton's campaign manager in the Ninth Congressional District race, said Herenton is taking the time to "relax and have a good time."

Changes have played as Herenton had predicted - Wharton won in a landslide after a low turn in the special election - and Chism said Herenton wishes Wharton well.

"His tenure has come and gone and he's just looking at this thing and hopes the city does well," Chism.

On a related but slightly different note, Chism said now that Wharton has assumed the city's helm, it's up to commissioners to select new interim leadership. County Commission Chairwoman Joyce Avery will serve for only 15 days.

Chism said he's pulling for Commissioner Joe Ford over J.W. Gibson because Ford is the longest-serving commissioner without plans to run reelection in the 2010 election.

Whether Ford has the votes to win the appointment, Chism said Wharton's replacement won't cause a partisan shift in the county.

"There's a Democratically-controlled commission and I think we'll probably choose a Democrat," Chism said.

Commissioners meet Nov. 4 to discuss the county's interim replacement.

Getting the votes from council

 

One thing often lost during a political campaign for an executive office is whether a candidate has the skills to pry votes from legislators, because it does not matter if a mayor or president or governor has great ideas if that person cannot muster the votes.

Members of the City Council will tell you every vote they make contains different variables and predicting how a given vote will turn out is never easy. Nonetheless, patterns do emerge, and with Myron Lowery going back to City Council, we again have a 13-member council.

Meaning that A C Wharton, the new mayor, will need to find seven reliable votes to pass items that advance his agenda (or block items that he believes would obstruct it).

His strong praise of Lowery at Monday’s swearing-in went beyond gracious protocol, with Wharton even going on about Lowery’s family. It was notable that he praised Lowery’s leadership and campaigning style while being completely silent about the man whose term he is actually completing — former city mayor Willie Herenton. Lowery likes to promote himself as being independent in voting, but even before Wharton’s praise, Lowery was saying he respected the mandate people delivered to Wharton in the special election and often pointed out on the campaign trail that he and Wharton agreed on most issues.

So it would appear that Wharton should be able to count Lowery as an ally when items come up for vote.

Wharton also made sure to mention current Council Chairman Harold Collins, who he explained had a previously scheduled trip and was unable to make it. It seems clear he will work to gain Collins’s confidence, too.

Council budget hawk Jim Strickland declined to run in the special election and eventually agreed to co-chair Wharton’s campaign. And last week, when Strickland was named to the Metro government charter commission, Wharton added Edmund Ford Jr. to his transition team. On Monday, the often media-shy Ford was eagerly providing quotes about how much he looks forward to working with Wharton and believes the new mayor will cultivate a new era of cooperation at City Hall.

Other council members have indicated they respect Wharton’s popularity with voters, too. Shea Flinn gave us a quote in Sunday’s paper indicating as much.

So while no vote is guaranteed, it appears that Wharton begins with a foundation of support on Council.

Will broom become iconic image of Wharton administration?

 

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Depending on how his administration operates, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton could do worse than develop the image of a broom as the iconic symbol of his tenure. At Monday’s ceremony swearing in Joyce Avery as the acting county mayor, County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, representing his colleagues, surprised Wharton with a new cheap kitchen broom as a going-away present. Wharton joked that he was unsure which end to use first, making a show of using the handle to wallop something — or someone — before going with the regular sweeping motion he said he hoped would do the trick.

After his swearing-in at City Hall, Wharton was asked about the broom.

“What I need is one of those big push brooms,” Wharton said. “And one with a metal handle.”

Can the new mayor get a Hotty Toddy?

 

Calling all Ole Miss and Tennessee State alumni/fans. Our best research shows that A C Wharton, as a graduate of Tennessee State and with a law degree from Ole Miss, gives City Hall two more firsts at the same time.

Can we get a Hotty Toddy on that? We'll look close in the coming days at former Memphis mayors, but it appears that the city has its first mayor who graduated from either Ole Miss and/or Tennessee State. 

Joyce Avery likely to serve only 15 days as acting mayor

 

Joyce Avery will likely have only a total of 15 days in her new role as acting Shelby County mayor, now that the County Commission has set a Nov. 9 date to appoint an interim mayor who would serve until Sept. 1 of next year.

The vote today to set the date was 10-0.

Avery replaces A C Wharton, who moves to City Hall. She is the first woman ever to hold the mayor's title in Memphis or the county, and promised continuity and a steady hand in a time of change.

Avery acknowledged in her speech after her swearing-in ceremony this morning that her time could be short. "I do not know if my role as acting mayor will be two weeks or two months," she said.

Even during the reception celebrating her appointment, County Commissioner Steve Mulroy said he expected her term would be much shorter than the maximum 45 days allowed.

"There's a sense that the sooner we get an interim mayor, the better," he said. An interim mayor would have the ability to make real improvements, rather than serving as caretaker of the office, he said. "It's nothing against Joyce, obviously."

Avery, a Republican, stepped into the acting mayor's role automatically because of her status as County Commission chairwoman. The leading Democratic candidates are County Commissioners Joe Ford and J.W. Gibson II.

The process will also be open to outsiders who turn in resumes and do public interviews alongside Ford and Gibson.

But they would face long odds. Some commissioners have already committed to a candidate.

Police director Godwin says there's 'excitement in the air'

 

There is no shortage of people who say they want to help Mayor AC Wharton implement his vision of city government at City Hall.

Moments after Wharton was sworn in, police director Larry Godwin, who had most of his high-ranking command staff along with him, said he looked forward to fighting crime with the new mayor.

"I think there's an excitement in the air," Godwin said. "I feel it just like everybody. We're ready to go to work."

Retired Judge George Brown, who has known Wharton for around 30 years and administered the mayor's oath of office, said Wharton would lead the city to new heights under his leadership.

"He's such a class act," Brown said. "I think our best days in Memphis are ahead of us, and I think he has the energy, passion, experience and commitment."

Councilman Shea Flinn said he hopes the council will work with Wharton to solve the many challenges facing the city. Wharton appeared before the council last week, where Councilman Joe Brown welcomed him to the "world of fire" that is city government and directed what many people consider inappropriate racial language at Flinn..

"We'll see if the council is able to take the powerful remarks of the mayor and go forward with his initiatives," said Flinn. "Hope springs eternal."

Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., a member of Wharton's transition team, said he believes Wharton and the council will be able to work well together.

"I believe Mayor Wharton is going to make a wonderful transition, and I believe he will have an excellent professional rapport with the council," said Ford.

Wharton's speech: Excerpts and link to full copy

 

A C Wharton's inauguration speech was short, but, at just less than 10 minutes, the new Memphis mayor's first address to the city had moments of power.

Maybe the most compelling is an excerpt from near the end, as he drew near a conclusion. Click here or see below for a link to the entire prepared text, from which Wharton deviated in only a few instances.

As a consequence of this election, the word mandate is one I have heard used frequently since Oct. 15th. I understand the implication that people make, but I see that term in somewhat of a different light.

Yes I do believe I carry a mandate from the people. I carry a mandate from the neighborhood association in the Rozelle-Annesdale Community that wants some leeway in cleaning up their neighborhodds and getting better support from government in addressing the issue of vacant lots. And I want to say to the group that passed the basket that night and went out to Home Depot and bought their own camera to try to put on a pole so they can watch and see who was living in their neighborhood, I want to tell them they can take that camera down. We are going to take care of that.

I carry a mandate from the pastor and congregation in Hickory Hill who've prayed and protested, looking for heavenly help and earthly assistance in breaking up havens for criminal activity. I carry a mandate from the people of Midtown and Vollintine-Evergreen who want a walkable neighborhood and a cleaner environment. I carry a mandate from every neighborhood, Westwood to Raleigh, New Chicago to Cordova and every community where people want better schools, better jobs and a more efficient government and safer streets. 

But one of the clearest and most universally shared mandates and directives I have heard from people across this community is the desire for me to help bring an end to the rancor and divisiveness that has too often defined our politics and clogged the engine of our forward progress.

http://media.commercialappeal.com/media/static/20091026135511074.pdf

'I had a wonderful time' as interim mayor, Lowery says

 

Moments before A C Wharton was sworn in as Memphis mayor, Myron Lowery was standing outside City Hall waiting for him to arrive. Workers came up to Lowery with some city business. "Let A C do it," Lowery replied.

As City Council chairman, Lowery automatically became Memphis mayor pro tem this summer after Willie Herenton resigned. Then Lowery lost to Wharton in the Oct. 15 special election.

"Life moves on," Lowery said. "I had a wonderful time."

He said one high point in his short term as mayor was going to visit WMC TV-5 to buy advertising for his campaign. Years earlier, he had worked for the station as a journalist and had won a race discrimination lawsuit.

When he came back to the station, he signed the guest register as mayor. "There's nothing that compares with that," he said.

Shelby County Commission to act quickly to name interim mayor

 

Joyce Avery was sworn in this morning as Shelby County mayor, becoming the first woman ever to hold the mayor's title in Memphis or the county. But her time as acting mayor could be much shorter than the maximum 45 days allowed.

As soon as this afternoon's meeting, the County Commission could set a date to appoint an interim mayor who would serve until Sept. 1 of next year. And some commissioners want an early date, said Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

"There's a sense that the sooner we get an interim mayor, the better," he said. An interim mayor would have the ability to make real improvements, rather than serving as caretaker of the office, he said. "It's nothing against Joyce, obviously."

Democrats like Mulroy control the County Commission and will set the timing of the election as well as pick the interim mayor.

Avery, who stepped into the acting mayor's role automatically because of her status as County Commission chairwoman, is a Republican and is unlikely to win a majority of votes. The leading Democratic candidates are County Commissioners Joe Ford and J.W. Gibson II.

The process will also be open to outsiders who turn in resumes and do public interviews alongside Ford and Gibson.

Avery alluded to her short tenure in comments today, when she said, "I do not know if my role as acting mayor will be two weeks or two months."

She said her one goal is continuity and promised the community a steady hand in a time of transition.

Wharton invokes roots in inaugural address

 

At 12:04 p.m., A C Wharton completed the oath of office for mayor of the City of Memphis as administered by retired Circuit Court judge George Brown, who told his old friend, "Congratulations."

The packed Hall of Mayors at City Hall erupted in cheers and applause.

Wharton gave a speech of just more than 10 minutes that began with him referring to a visit he made on Sunday to see his 93-year-old mother near Lebanon, Tenn., where he had grown up. Wharton, a graduate of Tennessee State and Ole Miss law school, came to Memphis in 1973 to succeed Brown as director of then-fledgling Memphis Area Legal Services.

"She told me to act right and I'll do that as best I can," Wharton said, drawing laughter.

Wharton's speech focused strongly on themes of unity and civility in behavior and a promise of robust customer service from his administration. Wharton was effusive in thanking outgoing Mayor Pro tem Myron Lowery, who now returns to City Council.

"I believe that people will not soon forget the notable actions he took during his tenure as Mayor Pro Tem in efforts to promote efficiency and to invite people into the processes of city government," Wharton said.

He also thanked Lowery's family and campaign staff.

"I daresay because of the way you carried yourself, we have lifted campaigning to a higher level in our great city," Wharton said.

Wharton took a brief detour from his prepared remarks to recall that when he was in the first Leadership Memphis class, in 1979, some of his colleagues had begun a chant that went: "A C in 1983."

Someone in that class actually yelled it out before Wharton, who identified the voice as that of Rev. Mark Metheny.

"They say a good God may be a little late but He is right on time," Wharton picked up. "I may be a little late getting here, but I am right on time."

The religious allusion fit, with Wharton's pastor, Rev. Ray Peterson, beginning the ceremony with an invocation and Rabbi Micah Greenstein closing it by taking off Wharton's campaign theme of One Memphis and urging Memphians to move "from atonement to at one-ment."

Applause greets Wharton at City Hall

 

At three minutes before noon, A C Wharton made his entrance into the Hall of Mayors, and a steady growing applause built as he made his way to the front of the room.

The fire marshal, who was on his cell phone, seemed to be looking around the room trying to determine if more people should be allowed to enter.

Large crowd gathering at City Hall for Wharton swearing-in

 

And if you thought County Commission chambers were crowded, it does not compare to the gathering at the Hall of Mayors at City Hall. If this were a championship boxing fight, it would take 15 minutes just to bring up all the dignitaries and current, former and elected officials.

Conspicuous this morning has been 9th Congressional District Rep. Steve Cohen. There is no sign yet of his opponent in next year's Democratic primary, former city mayor Willie Herenton. Much of the police department command staff is present to mange the overflow crowd.

Avery includes advisory team in swearing-in ceremony

 

Now acting county mayor Joyce Avery included the members of what she called an advisory team in the swearing-in ceremony.

They are: former county commissioners Charlie Perkins, Ed Williams and Cleo Kirk; former city councilman Brent Taylor; Tennessee Republican Party executive committee member Layne Provine; and businessman and former Memphis Builder's Exchange president Jay Weatherington, who has also been a member of the Shelby County Needs Assessment Committee that evaluates school building projects.

It was hard not to notice the preponderance of older white Republican males. Kirk is the lone African-American member.

City Hall prepped for Wharton arrival

 

City Hall staff and members of mayor-elect AC Wharton's team are putting the finishing touches on the Hall of Mayors at City Hall.

Wharton, who won a landslide victory in the Oct. 15 special election, has resigned as mayor of Shelby County and will be sworn in as mayor of Memphis at Noon.

Workers are now finalizing the set-up in the Hall of Mayors and arranging the podium and microphone for Wharton.

A broom and aspirin for Wharton and Avery

 

County Commissioner Steve Mulroy represented his colleagues on the commission in thanking both just-resigned county mayor A C Wharton and newly-installed acting county mayor Joyce Avery, and he also presented them with gifts.

To Wharton, Mulroy provided a brand new yellow kitchen broom, drawing howls of laughter.

"It was something I thought you might need when you go over to the city side," Mulroy said.

Wharton's bemused smile matched the moment.

"I don't have much of an education," Wharton said, dropping into his strongest Middle Tennessee country accent. "But I don't know which end of this you use."

At which point Wharton turned it around and acted like he was using it to wallop something -- or someone.

Then he turned it back around and acted like he was sweeping: "Maybe I'll start with this and hopefully won't need the other."

To Avery, Mulroy gave a huge bottle of aspirin.

"It's my hope you won't need it," Mulroy said. "It is my fear that you will."

Avery, who said in her brief remarks that she did not know whether her term would be two weeks or two months, said, "Really, on the County Commission, that's where I needed my aspirin."

Avery sworn in as county mayor

 

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners auditorium is rarely as full and bustling as it is this morning, with elected officials everywhere and an energy level that is very high in anticipation of County Commission Chairwoman Joyce Avery taking the oath of office to take over as county mayor for A C Wharton. Of course, in a short while, Wharton will take the oath of office at City Hall to become the City of Memphis mayor.

Brian Kuhn has informed the crowd that Wharton resigned at 9 a.m. Already the plaques have been rearranged, with COMMISSIONER SIDNEY CHISM at the center chairman position. The place where the placard goes next to him is blank.

And at 10:41, former U.S. attorney David Kustoff administers the oath of office, with several invited guests, including Wharton, standing behind her. Avery gets a rousing standing ovation.

Among the first things she does is ask that the room give Wharton a round of applause, and there is another standing ovation.

Wharton resigns as Shelby County Mayor

 

A C Wharton has handed in an official resignation letter to leave his post as Shelby County Mayor, spokeswoman Rhonda Turner said this morning.

A swearing-in ceremony for County Commission chairwoman Joyce Avery, who will take the role of acting mayor for up to 45 days, is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today.

Wharton is expected to be sworn in as Memphis mayor at noon.

Trying to convert experience, popularity into action

 

Charles Crawford, the University of Memphis historian, also confirms the point that in the modern history of the city, Memphis has never had a newly-elected a mayor who combines the experience and undisputed popularity Wharton brings to office.

The experience: For years before becoming county mayor in 2002, Wharton had managed Memphis Area Legal Services, headed the public defender's office, served on numerous community and corporate boards, ran his own private law practice and helped manage political campaigns.

The popularity: Wharton got 60 percent of the special election vote in a hugely crowded field, and won by mega-landslide margins in the 2002 and 2006 county mayor races.

Crawford's analysis, from a story we ran Sunday: "He is starting with a great deal of public support and a great deal of public hope that he can solve problems and pay the city's bills and things like that. Yes, that can be intimidating to other candidates and discouraging to rivals."

Whether that means Wharton can become a great mayor -- the first great mayor in the modern era of Memphis? -- is a question even some of his most staunch supporters will admit they cannot yet adequately answer. See the post below for more on the challenges Memphis mayors face, although Wharton is not shy about presenting an ambitious vision of Memphis's possibilities.

In that Sunday story, Wharton repeated his view that those who choose to challenge his administration will do so at their own political peril. Talking about the way City Councilman Joe Brown's behavior last week had "gone viral" on the Internet, with the entire state hearing about Brown's outburst about being "a real black man" and adopting a challenging tone with Wharton in saying "welcome to the world of fire," the mayor-elect said he trusts voters to determine whether they prefer Brown's approach or his.

"It's not about me, it's about how do the people feel about that, do the people deserve better than that," Wharton said. "I am in pretty good authority to speak about this because obviously I connected with the better side of people. These people who talked to me one-on-one and embraced me sometimes with tears in their eyes crying for a better city, they reject that and despise it and feel it has no place in government.

"I learned in trial law sometimes if a witness is on the stand and he is telling a lie, the worst thing in the world is to jump up and object or whatever. Let 'em keep talking. Let 'em tell an even bigger one. And then they just become ludicrous."

The strongest Wharton critics predicted during the campaign that Wharton was too nice and conciliatory to change the tone. Nobody was more relentless in attempting to paint Wharton as an extension of the Willie Herenton status quo than Carol Chumney, and she has continued to pepper Wharton with criticisms even after her the special election, where she finished third with 10 percent of the vote.

Though Chumney's political attacks appear not to have helped her at the polls, they did plant the seed in the minds of some voters that Wharton could not be a great mayor because he was too much affiliated with Memphis's old way of doing things. It will be interesting to watch what Wharton does in his first days and weeks as mayor to disprove that thesis.

Has Memphis ever had a 'great' mayor? Can A C become one?

 

When A C Wharton and his supporters come to the Hall of Mayors for today's noontime inauguration, they might look around at the portraits of all the city mayors who came before and ask: Has the City of Memphis ever had a truly great mayor with popularity that trascended race and socio-economic status? And if not, why not?

Generations of Memphians have taken history from University of Memphis historian Charles Crawford, and he often makes the point that the problems that plague Memphis, with roots dating back to the 19th Century, are so vast and complicated that even the best and boldest civic administration  would have difficulty solving them. Each subsequent generation of Memphians -- and by Memphians we include all those who live in the eight-county Memphis metroplitan area -- wants to believe that problems just shot up out of the soil, but in fact things like deep-seated poverty, violent crime, lackluster universal public education and a low-wage low-skill job base have been here for a long time.

"He will run into the traditional Memphis problems that previous mayors have run into and that I won't say are impossible but are intractable," Crawford said in a story we have running today. "Some of these things are outside the capacity of anyone as mayor to solve."

Forget going through the entire roster of mayors, dating back to Marcus B. Winchester in 1827 (and who can forget William Spickernagle, 1841-42?), and just look at the four people elected mayor since City Council-Mayor structure began in 1968 and introduced what is known in public policy as the strong mayor form of governance.

That would be Henry Loeb, Wyeth Chandler, Dick Hackett and Willie Herenton. Supporters of all three could point to some successes, but with each of them, critics could point to the bottom line. To use a sports analogy, did any of those mayors provide championship-caliber leadership? And yet, excepting Loeb after his term began with the hardline mishandling of the sanitation workers strike, they kept getting elected, such that someone like your humble blogger, born in 1971, has had only four elected mayors run his hometown.

As Crawford puts it: "They've all passed it on to the new mayor with all those problems still unsolved."

So here's your question to begin a morning of transition: Can A C Wharton's administration rise above the "traditional Memphis problems?" Can Memphis have great mayor?

Transition team meets, sets up deadlines for work

 

Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton's transition team met for the first time collectively today and set a timetable for their work during the 90-day transition period.

Team co-chair Mike Carpenter, a county commissioner, said the 12-member transition team was divvied up into sub-committees that will scrutinize different departments at City Hall.

More information on the committees will be released after Wharton is sworn in next week, Carpenter said.

But he talked generally about what the transition process will entail, including assessments made of each area of government "through the lens of Wharton's platform."

"These folks are on a tight deadline and will have to process a lot of information," Carpenter said. "They will come back with recommendations and at the end of the process, there will be some reporting or updating as to what we determine and what we need to go from here."

Carpenter said the transition process will lay the ground work for division directors and deputy division directors to implement the mayor's plan.

While Wharton has still not made many key appointments, including his pick for chief administrative officer, deadlines were also set for personnel decisions, Carpenter said. A separate team has been meeting to study the city's human resources department, "how it operates and where the gaps are."

Edmund Ford Jr. latest addition to Wharton's transition team

 

City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. is the newest member of Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton's transition team.

At Wharton's invitation, Ford, a Memphis City Schools Algebra teacher, replaces City Councilman Jim Strickland, who resigned from the team to serve on the charter commission tasked with drafting a charter for a consolidated metro government.

Wharton's staff said Herman Morris, who was sworn in as the new city attorney this week, is also off the transition team to devote full attention to his new job.

No word yet on who will serve as his replacement.

The full team will meet today at City Hall.

Chumney makes a point to say she broke the news of Med's troubles

 

Carol Chumney -- fresh off a Memphis mayoral loss to A C Wharton -- is fuming about The Commercial Appeal's coverage of The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

The CA reported Thursday that The Med could pull the plug on its emergency room unless it is able to raise $32 million by Feb. 1 - news out of a Med board meeting that sent ripples through the city's medical community.

But Chumney is now saying that's old news. She first alerted the CA of The Med's vulnerable financial standing in September, she said.

In an angry e-mail to the CA's metro desk, Chumney questioned why the story didn't receive better play when she sent a press release detailing the Med's troubles on Sept. 10.

"Why wasn't it a front page story then?" Chumney wrote. "If we want integrity in government, we must have integrity in reporting the truth when it's known."

Chumney's press release had called for Wharton not to step down from the county until he resolved The Med's financial problems. She pointed out that the public hospital was in danger of closing its doors.

The release didn't specifically mention the possibility of closing the emergency room or put a dollar-figure on the hospital's need.

Update: Chumney has alerted the Eye on City Hall blog that she's been characterized inaccurately. In an e-mail, Chumney points out that she's not "fuming" about this, she's simply making an observation. "I wonder just what on earth about this e-mail says that I am "fuming" or "angry"?" Chumney writes. "I simply point out the truth and make an observation... And, for the record, as I said on election night, I am grateful for my 17 years in public service, to those who supported me in this election, and for all the wonderful people I met during the election. And, I certainly wish Mayor Wharton and his new team all the best. I also wish you and your colleagues at the CA the best too...And, I ask that in the future, let's drop the gender-biased labels with regard to me or any other woman in goverment (sic) or business as being "bitter" or "angry" when we simply make a point. It's oppressive and a disservice to women in the workplace everywhere."

Wharton to be sworn in Monday at noon

 

A C Wharton plans to take the city mayor's oath at noon Monday, spokeswoman Rhonda Turner said. She said the location and other details would be released shortly.

Earlier that day, Wharton is expected to turn in his resignation letter as Shelby County mayor to County Commission Chairwoman Joyce Avery.

Avery will be sworn in as new county mayor at 10:30 a.m. that day by former U.S. Atty. David Kustoff in the County Commission chambers, said the commission's chief administrator, Steve Summerall.

Election Commission certifies Wharton victory

 

As expected, the Shelby County Election Commission voted this afternoon to certify the results of the Oct. 15 special election. The way is now clear for County Mayor A C Wharton to be sworn in Monday as mayor of Memphis.

The board approved the measure by a vote of 5-0 with little discussion.

With transition conversation focusing mostly, at this point, on personnel, Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton isn't saying who in Shelby County Government will move with him across the street.

But the two-term county mayor did reveal that some will follow.

"There will be some," he said earlier this week. "My top people closest around me, many of them will go with me but I'm not naming any names."

While recent talk has focused on A C Wharton's pick for chief administrative officer, there's also the lingering question about whether he'll replace the police director.

Wharton could choose to keep Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin or he could conduct a national search for a new leader -- a decision he's remained vague on throughout his campaign, saying only that he would look at every position individually.

At the East Memphis Rotary meeting on Wednesday, Wharton touched on the issue once again. While he didn't indicate whether he'd try to replace Godwin, he did say it would be difficult to find a new director who could "hit the ground running" and make a dent in crime during his condensed term. With the next mayoral election in 2011, Wharton said he'll have to start campaigning again in 18 months.

"The real world just doesn't operate that way," he said.

Wharton added that if his administration was to "come to the point at which we were to say we need a new police director, you'll have a difficult time finding someone at the top of his or her game. I don't want someone doing a halfway job."

Wharton also said his approach to improving public safety didn't rest solely on the shoulders of the police department's leader.

"We need to look at the structure," he said. "Don't start hiring people until you decide what you want to do."

As for Godwin, he acknowledged the uncertainty of the transition at a meeting today with the Frayser Exchange Club, saying that he's advised his officers to just "go to work."

"This is not about Larry Godwin," he said at the lunchtime meeting at Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits in Frayser. "I think the mayor will know what he wants. As far as I'm concerned it's business as usual."

Godwin said he's not done anything in particular to appeal to Wharton, but emphasized that he's comfortable with the two-term county mayor, who he's worked with on Operation: Safe Community (Wharton was one of the crime plan's pioneers).

"I know that he's very knowledgeable," Godwin said. "I feel very comfortable because I have worked with him before ... but that's a decision he'll make when he's ready."

As city mayor, Wharton will keep focus on The Med

 

Mayor-elect A C Wharton has continued to stress the focus he will continue to aim at preventing Memphis's only public hospital, The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, from going under. In the final debate of the campaign, he answered a question about why he wanted to leave his post as county mayor by using The Med as an example.

"If we operate more efficiently in the city, The Med will operate better," Wharton said. "Just because you go across the street does not mean you go hands-off with The Med."

Today, even as The Med's board announced it would close its emergency room in February if it cannot get $32 million in additional funding, Wharton re-emphasized his determination to make The Med a high priority. He was at The Med board meeting.

"I wanted to assure them that even though I'm going across the street, The Med is going to be one of our top priority issues here locally -- and in Nashville and at a national level," Wharton said. "Keep in mind this is the 18th-largest city in the U.S. and what we are facing is being faced across the country. I'm going to be joined by other mayors from around the country just pointing out the fact that in all current discussions on the national health plan there is really nothing in there to help hospitals like The Med."

Wharton pointed out that giving more coverage to more people would make it, "oddly enough," even more difficult for The Med.

"When people have choices, it leaves us with the worst of the worst, the gangbanger that gets shot in the head -- what insurance covers that?" Wharton said.

Even though he takes office in less than a week, Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton said he’s still on the hunt for a chief administrative officer.

And while some of his top appointees and advisors will follow him from Shelby County Government, Wharton said he and his transition team are still searching for division directors who mirror his own dedication to customer service.

“I have a reputation for being probably one of the most accessible people,” Wharton said. “I want a government that reflects that and so technical competency is not enough. I want somebody who mirrors that in everything they do.”

Speaking after giving brief remarks to the Memphis Rotary Club, Wharton said while he’ll choose a CAO, he’s not just going to “rush to have somebody in that spot.”

He met with his transition team this morning and talked about how the person he wants will be someone who shares in his vision for Memphis.

By contrast, he had to move quickly in choosing a city attorney — Herman Morris was sworn in this morning — for legal reasons.

“But I’m satisfied fully with the person I got,” he said.

In his first public speech since winning the Memphis mayor’s election in a landslide, A C Wharton reassured the Memphis Rotary Club today that the city was headed in the right direction.

“We’re going to pull this city out of the doldrums,” Wharton told Rotarians gathered for a luncheon at the Racquet Club in East Memphis.

While his speech was light on breaking news, the two-term Shelby County mayor used the moment to emphasis his campaign theme “One Memphis,” and underscore how it would be reflected in the regional approach of his administration.

He’s planning to convene a big meeting of the county’s mayors to discuss the crime and public safety issues facing everyone in Shelby County.

“What we refer to transcends geographical lines and governmental lines,” Wharton said. “What we’re saying is we in this region are one people and we’ll sink or swim together.” Wharton also touched on his 60 percent win last week — Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery was the runner up with 18 percent of the vote.

Wharton said the overwhelming approval of his campaign signaled Memphians’ desire for change, racial unity and all the aspects he touched on will campaigning, rebuking those who criticized his message and attempted to “spread hate and divisiveness.”

“I am so glad that we won this thing not by eking it out,” Wharton said.

“We beat them like a tied-up billy goat,” he added, with a laugh.

Wharton, who seemed to carry himself with a serene and self-assured demeanor, was greeted by excitement from the crowd. Only two questions were asked: one about curbing teen and unplanned pregnancy and the other about Bass Pro Shop’s plan for The Pyramid (which Wharton said he expects to happen).

And after the brief speech, streams of people came up to shake Wharton’s hand and take a photo with the new Memphis mayor.

Reginald Udouj, a Rotarian and business development manager for Dillard Door & Entrance Control, said he liked Wharton because of his family values and the feeling that Wharton’s goodness “comes from the heart.”

“He’s under the gun but you can see he can control himself,” Udouj said. “I just see really good things with him in control.”

Looks like Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s team will be leaving City Hall when he does. Lowery told CA reporter Daniel Connolly on Monday that his deputy city attorney, Veronica Coleman-Davis, won’t be around much longer.

The former U.S. attorney’s last day is Friday.

Lowery reiterated that all the appointments he’d made were designed to serve only during the interim.
“I said everyone I asked for council approval will leave with me,” Lowery said.

Lowery had picked Coleman-Davis as his interim city attorney, but the City Council voted not to fire embattled city attorney Elbert Jefferson. As a result, Coleman-Davis remained in the deputy’s seat throughout Lowery’s stint as interim mayor.

And now that Jefferson has resigned, Lowery has nominated former Memphis mayoral candidate Herman Morris to replace him.

While Coleman-Davis is leaving, what this means for chief administrative officer Jack Sammons is still unclear. While Wharton could always decide to reappoint Sammons, a former city councilman, he has not committed to doing so.

A call to Sammons was not returned Tuesday.

While lawyers contributed significantly to A C Wharton’s Memphis mayoral campaign, records show that his transition team did not significantly pad the campaign war chest.

Recent campaign finance filings reveal that of the 13 members picked to help Wharton move smoothly across the street, only four donated to his campaign, totaling $2,150 (if you count $500 from a spouse).

In all, Wharton reported nearly $336,000 in receipts between July 1 and Oct. 5, including $30,000 rolled over from earlier fundraising.

Contributors on his 13-member transition team include:

Jim Strickland, an attorney and City Councilman, with $250

Diane Rudner, chairwoman of Plough Foundation, with $400

Stephen Reynolds, president and CEO at Baptist Memorial Healthcare, $500; his wife, Anne, also contributed $500

Paul Morris, attorney at Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston, and member and former chairman of the Center City Commission, $500. Morris is also president of the Memphis Area Legal Services board of directors.

Transition team will try to accomplish a lot in a time crunch

 

Now that Memphis Mayor Elect A C Wharton has announced his 13-member transition team, the team's next task is to ensure Wharton's smooth and productive move across the street.

Enter Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter.

He is one of the transition team's co-chairs, along with Methodist Healthcare vice president Cato Johnson, and his main focus in the next 90 days will be to see that the transition team does its job.

Specifically, that means taking the "mayor's vision," breaking it down into workable pieces, assigning team members research and data-gathering responsibilities and making recommendations to the mayor.

"Our job is just to lay the initial groundwork so when the mayor says go, we begin to implement his vision almost immediately," Carpenter said.

He added that the mayor's three top priority areas are public safety, economic development and transparency in government.

"Our job is to really spend our energy on addressing those issues and seeing what else is needed," Carpenter said, "whether it be personnel, resources or innovation. And making sure we help him map out a plan so there's little lag time and learning curve for him or his staff when he takes office."

Wharton could take office as early as next Monday, depending on when the County Commission accepts his resignation. The transition team met last week and will meet for a second time on Friday. The meeting isn't open to the public, but Carpenter said the public would be briefed regularly.

Carpenter said so far the team hasn't discussed nominations for Wharton's chief administrative officer, but the mayor has asked for a list of suggestions.

They also haven't had a discussion about whether Wharton will keep Memphis police director Larry Godwin.

According to Carpenter, Wharton has said he would look at every position individually and pick the best person for the job "whether it's someone in the job or someone new."

And Carpenter stressed the hardest part about this transition is its short time-frame. When Wharton asked him to chair the team, Carpenter said his mind started working immediately in terms of how to organize the group so "we can deliver the things he wants us to deliver."

'One Memphis' message already being co-opted

 

An early sign that other politicians in town are indeed taking heed of Memphis mayor-elect A C Wharton's popularity comes in the form of a Facebook post, by Tennessee state representative G.A. Hardaway Sr.

In a plug for a Friday fundraiser, he begins by using Wharton's campaign theme: "ONE MEMPHIS! GOOD MORNING!" Apparently Wharton will be a guest at the Cafe Beignet fundraiser Friday evening, and the post ends with, "ONE MEMPHIS begins with ONE HEART, ONE MIND, ONE MEMPHIAN at a time!"

It will be interesting to see to what extent other politicians will try to associate themselves with Wharton -- and to what extent Wharton's team is careful about allowing such associations.

Will Wharton use mandate as political stick?

 

A consensus has emerged among political observers: A C Wharton won a huge mandate in Memphis' special mayoral election on Thursday, taking 60-plus percent of the vote and tripling the vote totals of his nearest challenger. Tom Guleff, a local political junkie who was the engine behind a movement that tried to draft Jim Strickland to run for mayor, is now calling Wharton "the Michael Jordan" of Memphis politics.

Smart City Memphis blogger Tom Jones, in a long missive posted Sunday night, brought up another possibility: Can Wharton wield his indisputable popularity and formidable campaign organization as a political tool -- or weapon, as the case may be? With Myron Lowery, the clear runner-up in the election, conceding that Wharton has a mandate and commands a campaign infrastructure intimidating in its organization and finances, to what extent will anyone choose to challenge the new mayor on issues? And if they do challenge Wharton, will he be willing to say, "No more Mr. Nice Guy?"

Writes Jones: "The possibility that those same weapons could be turned on critics or obstructionists is a sobering thought already whispered between a few Council members."

Clearly, it's something Wharton has thought about, and is a big reason why he says moving from the weak-mayor structure of county government to strong-mayor structure of city government makes such a big difference.

Wharton explained this in a Friday interview: "You make it very clear when individuals come to you and ask you to support them in a countywide race, which is the case quite often, you don't say to them, 'Well, I'll support you if you support me the next time.' What you say is, 'Listen, if you will help me convince our state legislators to pass legislation shortening the time in which we can take possession of some of these tax sale lots then I will support you.' There is nothing illicit about that. You see that's how an urban mayor in the city of Memphis can get someone out in the county who is running for juvenile court clerk or whatever, you say to them, 'Hey partner, it's a big block of votes right here in the city of Memphis and I got 60 percent. I'd love to get that political muscle behind you.' And there is nothing illicit about that. I'm not saying will you support me or help my wife get a job. I'm doing this to support the public."

Wharton says he will also flex that political muscle when it comes to dealing with businesses involved with the city.
 
"You can take that same approach with people doing business with city of Memphis, not to shake them down for political contributions or whatever, but to say,  'Look, we have some social needs in this town; don't you want to be a good corporate citizen?' And when we look at who is the lowest and best bidder, we can look at how socially responsible they are."

Q & A with Wharton: Racial divisions like "ice" on city's wings

 

How is the rest of the state of Tennessee treating the landslide victory of Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton in the City of Memphis' special election Thursday?

The Tennesseean ran a long Q & A interview with the mayor-elect in its Sunday edition, with one of its pegs that Wharton is from just outside of Nashville in Lebanon, Tenn., and graduated from Tennessee State. Interestingly, Wharton presents himself as a "permanent outsider" in Memphis, despite having presided over the county since 2002 and having lived here since 1973:

"I'm a country boy who kind of made good, who is infatuated with and loves the city of Memphis. I moved here after law school. I'm the guy who sees all the potential here. I almost see the city through the eyes of a child, the way someone coming in from the country would probably do that.

I'm not barnacled down by all of the horrible racial things of the past that occurred in this city. I'm willing to look at each day anew. I'm not in the position of being able to say, well, I would work with you, sir, but your granddaddy once had my granddaddy kicked off a farm or had him arrested or whatever and it was because of his race.

So, I am probably sort of a permanent outsider when it comes to seeing what our city can do. I'm almost naive, and that's by choice. I don't really want to dig up bones and pull off scabs. I'm all into let's just plow forward. Obviously you need to know about the wrongdoings of the past so you won't repeat it in the future. I know that, but I don't let it blind me to the possibilities that lie ahead."


Much of what he says in the interview is a repackaging of campaign themes, though as he did in an interview with us on Friday, Wharton emphasized that it is now indisputable that he has political capital and he intends to spend some of it. Wharton told The Tennessean he'll continue to make the "uphill" push for city-county consolidation, supports finishing a deal with Bass Pro on The Pyramid, intends to continue being an "icon" for open government and will focus hard on enforcing existing legislation on illegal guns and lobbying for harsher punishments for crimes involving guns. He also indicated he may push for a new convention center, but not in the near term.

Wharton sounded optimistic about attracting companies and industries to Memphis who might have been reluctant because of the polarizing racial subtext to so many Memphis issues.

"We have been on the verge of taking off for decades, but our racial divisions have been the ice on the wings of our plane and that has held us at treetop levels, and I think, no, I know we are ready to fly with the big dogs now," Wharton said.

He added: "The people are ready to make some leaps and they want to make these leaps together. They're not black leaps or white leaps ... the city is saying let's make this leap together."

Wharton: "No honeymoon"

 

Mayor-elect A C Wharton and his closest advisors definitely believe the resounding victory in Thursday's special election represents a mandate for governing, but they face some massive challenges from the moment Wharton resigns as county mayor and becomes Memphis' mayor on Oct. 26 (next Monday). Nothing looms larger than the budget and nothing is more pivotal for city finances than the issue of Memphis City Schools funding.

We took a look in Sunday's paper at some of the biggest issues facing Wharton and his team after they take office.

"No honeymoon," Wharton says.

On the budget, Wharton said he intends to make all sides on this complicated issue see past the short-term skirmishes to find agreement on feasible long-term partnerships.

From the Sunday story:

"I am optimistic we will be able to reach some accord that does not bring financial jeopardy to either the city or the school system," Wharton said.

But even if he brokers a school-funding solution, Wharton faces a 2010 budget process in which fiscal blood will be drawn. City Councilman Jim Strickland and City Council chairman Harold Collins have lamented the inability of the city and mayor to prevent further spending on nonschools' portions of the budget. But with a down economy, next year's budget will be a challenge.

"Going into the next year, we will have the same budget problems," said Strickland. "The economy is down, the city is losing population and the tax base is static at best. Under normal circumstances it would be a tough budget year."

Wharton lays out priorities for transition team

 

As mayor-elect A C Wharton described it to us in an interview Friday afternoon, his transition team will help focus on his top priorities and guide the strategy for making them come to fruition. He has tapped County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Methodist/LeBonheur executive Cato Johnson to lead the team, which will be announced by the Wharton campaign apparatus on Facebook later today.

"In the longterm it's helping shape the vision and in the short-term helping identify 'quick wins,' particularly in areas where city and county can work together to be more efficient and less costly," Wharton said. "Thirdly, a talent resource helping me find individuals who share my vision."

Wharton has identified what he calls "subject-matter areas" in which members of the transition team will have expertise. They are:

1. Public safety
2. Government efficiency/trust
3. Jobs/economic development/talent development and retention

Of the transition team's role, Wharton said: "I intend to use them to make sure we stay on track. We want to shape up the first 90 days, that will be a part of it, what can I accomplish the first 90 days. That's part of the 'quick win' process. I would hope most of their meetings will have been accomplished by the first 90 days."

In a story we ran Saturday, Wharton said this of Carpenter: "Courage, just flat out courage. He is young, he is innovative ... he stands on principle even at the risk of alienating friends." He praised Johnson's long list of civic involvement and his company's record of recruiting and retaining top young talent, including minorities.

Wharton, who expects to resign as county mayor and take the oath as city mayor on Oct. 26, emphasized that the members of the transition team are being drafted for their expertise, not partisan affiliations, not because they "put up yard signs or had a fundraiser."

Herman Morris to play role in Wharton transition

 

Memphis Mayor-Elect A C Wharton announced Friday that County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Methodist Healthcare senior vice president Cato Johnson would help guide his new administration in its first 90 days.

Wharton will announce the rest of his transition team today on Facebook, but a name you may be hearing more of is former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division chief and mayoral candidate Herman Morris.

When a reporter caught Morris Friday on his cell phone and asked if he would be leading an effort to review the city attorney's office, Morris said, "You've got good sources." Morris then said he would be honored to serve under Wharton and that he would let the mayor elect announce what role he would play.

Wharton has announced that he would appoint a team to conduct a full review of the city attorney's office in the wake of scandals under now former City Atty. Elbert Jefferson.

Morris, an attorney and former president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, finished in third place in the 2007 election, finishing behind incumbent Willie Herenton and Carol Chumney.

Also today, Wharton will meet with Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery at 2 p.m.

City Atty. Elbert Jefferson has left the building.

The embattled city attorney resigned Sunday night to Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, who fired Jefferson just after he was sworn in. Jefferson, whose state ouster petition hearing was scheduled for today, also turned in his key card, keys to his city vehicle and laptop computer

“Let’s let the gentleman leave with some grace,” said chief administrative officer Jack Sammons, who met with Jefferson late Sunday night. “It was a kind of uneventful ending to a dramatic story.”

Jefferson, who is under state and federal investigation related to his actions in office, sent a resignation letter Friday addressed to mayor-elect AC Wharton, not Lowery. Sunday night’s letter means Jefferson’s tumultuous career as the city’s top attorney is over. Wharton has said he wanted a top-to-bottom review of the city attorney’s office.

State prosecutors filed the ouster after alleging Jefferson improperly authorized attorney Robert Spence to be paid $55,734.47 in city funds for representing former Mayor Willie Herenton from November to May while he was under investigation by a federal grand jury. Jefferson is scheduled to go before the federal grand jury investigating former mayor Willie Herenton’s business practices later this month.

Jefferson, 45, has said the payment to Spence was related to an ethics investigation Herenton asked Jefferson to conduct on him.

But a look at the legal bills submitted by Spence, which Jefferson said should have been secret, and a letter to Herenton where Jefferson said the city would pay the legal fees for his criminal defense, clearly showed Jefferson knew what the payments were for.

Meanwhile, a hearing on an ouster suit against Jefferson was postponed this morning in light of his resignation letter.

The civil suit is expected to be formally dismissed by agreement next Tuesday in Criminal Court after all legal and procedural steps have been addressed in his resignation.

“Both sides want to be sure everything is done properly,” said state prosecutor Byron Winsett.

Memphis Mayor Elect A C Wharton provided an initial glimpse of his transition team today, announcing his selection of County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Methodist Healthcare senior vice president Cato Johnson to help guide his new administration in its first 90 days.

In an afternoon interview with staff reporter Zack McMillin, Wharton said he would unveil the remainder of his team of about 15 members on Monday.

He said he chose Carpenter because he's shown courage leading tough issues on the commission and Johnson because he's provided Wharton with a trustworthy and earnest ear over the years.

Wharton plans to take over as soon as legally possible. Once the Shelby County Election Commission certifies the special election results on Oct. 26, Wharton said he'll run across the street, raise his right hand during a swear-in ceremony and take over as city mayor.

Legislators weigh in on challenges facing Wharton

 

As Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton prepares to become city mayor, legislators on both sides of the street say Wharton will have to get used to a more challenging and more cut throat political landscape.

Just as Mayor Willie Herenton was known as a lightning rod - both beloved and maligned for making quick and sometimes unpopular decisions - Wharton is characterized by an affable disposition and a reluctance to ruffle feathers.

But County Commission Sidney Chism, who happens to be a longtime Herenton ally, said Wharton is going to have to adopt stronger opinions if he wants to succeed across the street.

"On the city side, it's a different set of circumstances he's got to satisfy," Chism told staff reporter Zack McMillin. "He's got to satisfy a majority of the people who vote in the city to stay there. He will not get to the place where he gets to be a divisive figure but he's going to piss off a lot of people in the weeks and months to come when it comes to making decisions."

Council chairman Harold Collins said it's no secret Wharton is a consensus builder, but because of the nature of the business the city is engaged in, he's going to have to adapt.

"On the city side there are decisions that have to be made that not everyone is going to be happy about," he said.

Collins said sticky issues facing Wharton off the bat will include picking the right team of people and figuring out what employees need to go, school funding, the budget and Pyramid and Mid-South Fairgrounds redevelopment.

"There's just a lot of work got to get done," Collins said. "And I'm sure he's excited about it. And we're excited to have him on board."

City Councilman Shea Flinn said the budget is probably the biggest issue facing the council. In the midst of a battle over school funding, Flinn said a tax increase or layoffs are possible to "right" the size of government.

"There's going to be a lot of tough decisions to be made and he's going to need to start getting his arms around this 8 a.m. on Day 1," Flinn said.

But as for personality, Flinn said maybe Wharton is doing just what he needs to be doing.

"He's the one that got 60 percent of the vote, he should probably be giving us advice," Flinn said.

To get things approved by the 13-member council, Wharton will need to round up seven votes.

And while Flinn said he doesn't think Wharton has a built-in seven council members willing to go to bat for his agenda, reasonable requests will receive reasonable votes.

"He just needs to engage," he said.

City Councilman Bill Boyd agreed that communication is key.

"It's all in communication and advising us early on matters that we have an interest to convey to constituents as soon as possible," Boyd said. "I believe AC Wharton is a good communicator and he'll be on the job so I think he'll pay attention to details like that."

The day after a mayoral election ushering significant changes to Memphis politics, it’s business as usual at City Hall.

The building still smells like Chinese food thanks to the city’s only in-house food vendor, Royal Jasmine Chinese Restaurant, and employees still showed up for work, even though many were likely hired under longtime former mayor Willie Herenton and could face a possible job change in the change of power.

But even after he takes office, don’t expect any drastic shakeups from Memphis mayor-elect A C Wharton. While he has said he would reduce the number of appointed positions at City Hall, he’s made comments both in a debate and on the radio that he wouldn’t commit to cleaning house.

As recorded by staff reporter Zack McMillin, Wharton said during a recent interview with Drake & Zeke In the Morning that he would make no promises on who would stay or go.

“It’s really demoralizing to employees to hear someone say we are going to come in and get rid of everybody,” Wharton said, “You shouldn’t do that. It’s unsavory. I’m not making any commitments. I don’t care if it costs me votes.”

Wharton's call to action a far cry from Herenton's 'haters' speech

 

It was two years ago when the winner in the City of Memphis's mayoral election delivered a combative victory speech aiming bitter, divisive rhetoric at the "haters." Willie Herenton's speech, of course, had the desired effect of raising the blood pressure of his enemies and drawing comments and letters galore.

So it is interesting that A C Wharton's sunny, optimistic and sometimes rousing call to action after Thursday's victory is drawing so little attention. People love accusing the media of wanting to focus on the negative, but it is hard not to notice the lack of reaction to a winning candidate's relentless optimism compared to the attention the winning candidate got in 2007 for something completely different.

In the interest of balance, then, we have posted video of Wharton's speech in several places on the Web site, including below. Click here for the text of Wharton's speech.


Chumney appears bitter about Wharton

 

Former mayoral candidate Carol Chumney doesn’t appear to be adopting the role of gracious loser.

Chumney, who lost to A C Wharton with a third-place finish and 10 percent of the vote, told WKNO-FM Radio that she’s skeptical of Wharton’s sincerity.

“While I was out there fighting for childcare reform he was making money representing the childcare broker. I was doing things in the state legislature and he was bragging about how much money he made as an attorney. I gave a lot of that up to serve the people and, you know, I don’t regret that,” she said.

What do you think, does Chumney have the right to knock her former competitor? Could another political fight with Wharton be in Chumney’s future?

UPDATE: Chumney has alerted Eye on City Hall that she gave WKNO this interview after she voted, not after the election results were in. This means these remarks were not made after she had lost the election.

Does landslide = mandate?

 

Did A C Wharton win a mandate? That's the question that will be bandied about for some time, possibly until the 2011 municipal election. Former county commissioner Julian Bolton, Wharton's campaign manager, believes the numbers back up a huge mandate -- it's the third straight election Wharton has won with at least 60 percent of the vote, and Wharton got three times as many votes as the second most-popular candidate, Memphis  Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery. Wharton got more votes in early voting than Lowery and Carol Chumney got, combined, in the entire election.

Lowery easily outdistancing third-place Chumney, the former city councilwoman and state legislator, is in some ways a vote for Wharton's agenda, as well. As Lowery himself pointed out throughout the campaign, he and Wharton agree on many issues, including some of the most important facing the city like consolidation, single-source funding for public schools and transparency in government.

So throw Lowery's votes into the mix and its 78 percent of voters picking a candidate promising to pursue the sort of agenda that Wharton laid out on his website.

One thing is for sure -- anyone thinking of running in 2011 will have to think long and hard about challenging a candidate who continues to prove his popularity among voters of all races and throughout all neighborhoods.

Rethinking the "low" turnout

 

Much is being made of the "low" turnout, but in fact more people voted in Thursday's City of Memphis special election than voted in the 2003 municipal election, when there was a full ballot that included some heated City Council races where candidates spent lots of money (not least the District 5 slugfest between Carol Chumney, Jim Strickland and George Flinn).

There were more than 109,000 votes (about 5,000 more than in 2003) for an election that was not set until the end of July, and which did not have its final ballot complete until about one month before the election. Most political observers in Memphis also believe the voter rolls are greatly bloated, so the 25 percent turnout figure most likely fails to capture the the true percentage of eligible registered voters still remaining in Memphis. Indeed, the latest census figures show that there are about 467,000 people in Memphis over the age of 18, and the voter rolls in Memphis show 423,049 people registered on the current voter rolls -- and nobody really believes that 90 percent of all adults in Memphis have registered to vote here.

No question, voter turnout was far from robust, but that aligns with trends toward voter apathy in any race not held in November.

Results for all candidates

 

With 227 of 227 precincts reporting:

Candidate / Votes

A C Wharton / 65,491

Myron Lowery / 19,625

Carol Chumney / 10,857

Charles Carpenter / 5,181

Leo Awgowhat / 54

Randy L. Cagle / 29

Dewey Clark / 40

James "Malcom" Clingan / 27

A Willis Menelik Fombi / 36

Wanda Halbert / 372

Johnny Hatcher Jr. / 33

Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges / 267

Constance Renee Houston / 25

De Wayne Jones / 21

E.C. Jones / 85

Jerry Lawler / 4,044

Ernest Anthony Lunati / 22

Detric W. Stigall / 280

Silky Sullivan / 51

David W. Vinciarelli / 27

Vuong Vaughn Vo / 20

Sharon A. Webb / 124

Kenneth Whalum Jr. / 2,094

John Willingham / 437

Mary Taylor-Shelby Wright / 42

Wharton to name team to look into city attorney's office

 

Fresh off an election win to the Memphis mayor's slot, A C Wharton is already making plans to shake up the troubled city attorney's office.

On Friday, his office will release a list of lawyers who will go to the city attorney's office and "evaluate the shop and the mission," Wharton said in an interview with reporters tonight.

Read the whole story here.

All votes are counted

 
It's just after 10:30 p.m. and 100 percent of vote totals are in.

Unofficial totals show:

Wharton, 65,491

Lowery, 19,625

Chumney, 10,857

Carpenter, 5,181

Lawler, 4,044

Whalum, 2,094

Enthusiastic crowd hems in Wharton

 

The band keeps playing as Wharton works the room, shaking hands, giving hugs and kisses and posing for pictures. The crowd is so enthusiastic that he can barely make it through the throng. Large men in dark suits and wearing earpieces have cleared the path back to the big platform, where he's about to do another television interview.

'It's inspiring,' 'a new beginning,' Wharton supporters say

 

After Wharton's speech, Emily Shipman-Lennon was bouncing her 10-month old son Ilan to the music. ("Celebration" again, by Kool and the Gang, this time by a live band on stage.)

"It's motivating and inspiring and pushes us to be better contributors to the city of Memphis and be part of the change," said Shipman-Lennon, a 25-year-old grad student at the University of Memphis.

"It's a much-needed new beginning for Memphis," said her sister, Abby Shipman, 22, a student at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Both women are white and from East Memphis.

People were gathering around a stage in the middle of the hall to watch Wharton do a series of TV interviews. Myron Lowery is here too.

People walk up to take photos of Wharton with cell phone cameras.

Wharton's win triggers chain of events in county government

 
What does A C Wharton's win tonight mean for his current job as mayor of Shelby County government? Read reporter Daniel Connolly's story just posted on commercialappeal.com

Wharton: Sun is 'shining down on one Memphis'

 

Wharton just delivered a stirring call to optimism and unity to fight the big issues facing the city, from crime to shoddy education.

He repeatedly used the metaphor of sunshine breaking through the clouds and cited the city's big accomplishments, from FedEx to St. Jude Childrens's Research Hospital.

"Let me tell you this. I can see the sun breaking through the crowds and I can feel the light streaming down on this great city ... and shining down on one Memphis."

He said tonight marks "the end of a much longer era of apathy, of divisiveness, of carelessness, of hatred, of discord."

"You made it clear that Memphis is ready to come together at last."

"Tonight you and the voters said we will. And I add to that, we shall."

He urged people to support not him, but one another.

Vote totals, with more than half of precincts in

 

As of 9:21 p.m., here are the vote totals, with early voting numbers and 127 of 227 precincts reporting:

Wharton, 50,975

Lowery, 13,619

Chumney, 7,851

Carpenter, 4,235

Lawler, 2,686

Whalum, 1,527

Voters made dream a reality, Wharton says

 

Wharton is now on stage thanking family and friends. His voice sounds strained but happy.

"It's not about me. It's about our city," he says to applause.

A few minutes later, he thanks voters for creating "one Memphis."

"Because of the voters what was once a dream was once a reality."

Wharton declares victory in mayor's race

 

A C Wharton has taken the stage at his Election Day party and is declaring victory. More details to come.

Wharton family thanks crowd that 'represents unity'

 

A C Wharton's wife, Ruby Wharton, and one of his sons, Andre Wharton, are now on stage, about to introduce the man who appears to have won the race.

"Look at this crowd, ladies and gentlemen. This represents unity!" Andre Wharton said to applause.

A moment later, he said of his father, "He didn't degrade; he uplifted. He didn't malign, but he motivated."

Ruby Wharton thanks the volunteers.

"This has been your campaign. ... You are to be commended because you are the ones to sustain and have given me courage."

She asks people to stick with Wharton - to "walk shoulder to shoulder behind the person" to help him lead.

Lowery concedes (and more vote totals)

 

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery just conceded the election to A C Wharton and said he's headed to Minglewood Hall to congratulate him in person.

"I offer my congratulations to the county mayor, who will become our city mayor for the next two years," Lowery told a small crowd of supporters at his Whitehaven headquarters.

As of 9 p.m., here are the vote totals, with early voting numbers and 93 of 227 precincts reporting:

Wharton, 45,012

Lowery, 11,412

Chumney, 6,733

Carpenter, 3,818

Lawler, 2,107

Whalum, 1,268

Latest vote totals

 

As of 8:50 p.m., here are the vote totals, with early voting numbers and 70 of 227 precincts reporting:

Wharton, 40,223

Lowery, 9,949

Chumney, 6,121

Carpenter, 3,522

Lawler, 1,851

Whalum, 1,115

At Wharton's party, a multiethnic theme

 

Now several leaders of Wharton's campaign organizers take the stage and continue the multiethnic theme.

"Together, si, se puede," says Jose Velazquez, a native of Puerto Rico and former head of social service group Latino Memphis. "Together, we can."

He's joined by speakers including Darrell Cobbins, a Memphis Light, Gas and Water board member who's African-American, and Jim Strickland, a white Memphis City Council member.

"I feel jubilant," Wharton supporter says

 

The crowd at Wharton's event is a mix of African-Americans and whites, demonstrating Wharton's transracial appeal, which had already been apparent in polls.

(Ironically, the deejay is now playing the 80s rap song with the chorus, "play that funky music, white boy.")

Campaign volunteer Andrew Harvey, 63, of southeast Memphis, is among the people soaking up the atmosphere. He's watching proceedings from a table with his wife, Joan Harvey, who doesn't give her age.

"I feel jubilant," Andrew Harvey says. "I'm excited. I'm just thrilled."

On Saturday, he was with other Wharton supporters waving placards at an intersection in Whitehaven.

He says Wharton is a "professional, consummate politician" with a magnetic personality who will make things happen and will help Memphis and the economy.

A few moments later, the deejay is playing "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang.

Lowery says chances look bleak after early voting

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery isn't making a concession speech, but the interim mayor says his chances look bleak as early vote totals show a commanding lead for Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton.

"It looks as though from the early vote that Mayor Wharton will pull this off," said Lowery.

Lowery, who had virtually no ground campaign and relied mostly on the bully pulpit offered by the mayor's office to propel his candidacy, is mingling with supporters at his campaign headquarters at 3256 Elvis Presley Blvd.

The Cupid Shuffle is under way

 

The crowd is growing thicker and the mood is upbeat at A C Wharton's party.

Wharton hasn't been declared victor yet, but people are already line dancing to the song "Cupid Shuffle."

Some early totals

 

As of 8:15 p.m., here are the vote totals, with early voting numbers and 20 of 227 precincts reporting:

Wharton, 33,243

Lowery, 7,567

Chumney, 5,030

Carpenter, 3,058

Lawler, 1,266

Whalum, 899

Also, read reporter Clay Bailey’s early take on commercialappeal.com.

Wharton's manager claims victory

 

A C Wharton's campaign manager Julian Bolton is now on stage.

"I already claim this victory on behalf of the name of the Lord and the citizens of Memphis!"

He interrupts his speech to announce Wharton is way ahead in early vote totals. There's a big round of applause.

Then Bolton moves on to say critics have called Wharton a "yes man."

"He is a yes man! People say yes to A C. And people said yes to A C today, isn't that right?"

More applause.

Finally he leads them in a chant of "A! C! Fever!"

Then he walks off stage and the R & B music starts again.

Inspirational rapper takes stage at Wharton event

 

Now an inspirational rapper named J Smoove is at the podium, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with the red, white and blue A C Wharton logo on the front, plus a white head covering.

"Sometimes when life gets hard, you gotta let go, you gotta let God," he says, waving his hands for emphasis.

The room is vibrating from a bass-heavy recorded track. He finishes, and the speakers play what sounds like Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean." It's either a remix or the CD is skipping.

Red and blue light up Wharton function

 

Shortly before 7:30 p.m., supporters of A C Wharton were flowing into Minglewood Hall in Midtown, where the campaign is holding what's billed as his victory celebration. It remains to be seen if Wharton's campaign staff was effective enough to get him elected, but one thing is clear: they're great interior decorators.

The inside of the hall has been carefully lit with red and blue light bulbs.

Even the outside of the building has been lit up with the same red and blue lights, giving a visual impression that's noticeable from blocks away.

Grapelike clusters of balloons hang from the ceiling and a carefully arranged arc of balloons frames the podium on the stage. There's a raised stage where television reporters are doing live shots.

People are chatting and munching on chicken and other snacks as recorded rhythm and blues music plays.

County Commissioner Mike Carpenter, a Republican who supports Wharton, a Democrat, said he was impressed when he entered the space, which is normally used for concerts. "This looks really official. Really big time."

Wharton supporters upbeat at "victory party"

 

As the polls were closing this evening, A C Wharton's campaign staff was occupied with trying to get their Minglewood Hall hosts to cast a brighter light on the large banner hanging behind the stage, emblazoned with the campaign theme: OneMemphis.

But because of the TV lights competing with the backdrop, it remained dim.

Omen? Judging from the upbeat mood and declarations welcoming people to a "victory party," nobody seemed fazed.

Lowery says he ran best campaign he could

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is at his Whitehaven election headquarters, joined so far by a small group of family and supporters.

Lowery, 62, said he ran the best campaign that he could and that he demonstrated what type of changes he would bring to City Hall with the actions he took during his brief stint as interim mayor.

"I have run the mayor's office and the campaign the way I thought it should be done,' said Lowery, who was first elected to the City Council in 1991. "I gave the public a chance to see what I would do."

Lowery's bold moves, including firing City Atty. Elbert Jefferson in his first day on the job and immediately making City Hall more transparent and open, combined with several initiatives he championed as a councilman that came to fruition during his brief stint as interim mayor - red light cameras and a prescription drug discount card - were enough to propel him to second place behind front-runner Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton in the most recent poll.

Now, Lowery is waiting on the voters to tell him if he did enough to remain in the mayor's office.

"I've done the best I could under the circumstances," said Lowery. "I am extremely proud of what we have done."

Photos: Lowery on Election Day

 
lowery-on-phone.jpgAbove: Memphis Mayor Pro Tem and mayoral candidate Myron Lowery works the phone at his campaign headquarters on Election Day. Below: Lowery chats with campaign worker Charles Etta Chavez at Cummings Street Baptist Church.  (Photos by Mark Weber)

lowery-at-polls.jpg

Wharton spent more money than rest of candidates combined

 

According to the campaign finance disclosure reports filed with the Shelby County Election Commission, some of which did not post until late Wednesday, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton raised and spent more money on the City of Memphis' special mayoral election than the rest of the candidates combined.

Wharton's form shows he raised $335,711 for the reporting period and spent $333,016, with a large amount of that taken up by marketing and advertising expenses. He still had more than $90,000 in cash on hand.

Attorney Charles Carpenter had spent $122,549, with $27,030 raised from contributions and $98,225 coming in the form of a personal loan Carpenter made to his campaign. One notable expense was $3,500 to Reginald French, a longtime ally of former mayor Willie Herenton whose name was raised in a debate by Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery. French does not appear on Wharton's financial disclosure form.

Lowery's campaign shows that he raised $41,141 -- $14,000 of it in loans -- and had spent $28,737, with another $8,416 in outstanding obligations.

Former city councilwoman and state legislator Carol Chumney had raised $30,180 and spent $25,439. Memphis City Schools board member Rev. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr. raised $23,115 -- $13,465 of it in a personal loan he made to his campaign -- and had spent $22,910.

Professional wrestler Jerry Lawler showed $18,282 in funds raised -- $9,000 in loans to the campaign -- with $4,390 in expenditures and another $10,500 in outstanding obligations.

Photo: Wharton casts his vote

 
Memphis mayoral candidate A C Wharton talks to fellow voters in line today at the Galloway Methodist Church polling station, where he cast his own ballot. (Photo by Jim Weber)

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility has dismissed a complaint filed by City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert against deputy city attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis and a lawyer the city hired to recoup legal fees paid for the criminal defense of Joseph Lee III, former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO.

The administration of Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery hired local attorney Ronald D. Krelstein, who originally filed suit against the city to recoup Lee’s legal fees, to go after city money paid to defend Lee against a 2007 federal probe.

The MLGW board approved paying bills related to Lee’s criminal defense, but the City Council refused. City Atty. Elbert Jefferson, who is on leave while Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons pursues an ouster motion against him because the attorney paid Robert Spence $55,000 related to the criminal defense of former mayor Willie Herenton, later arranged to have the city pay the bills.

When Lowery took office after Herenton left, he hired Krelstein to recoup the legal fees.

Halbert then filed a complaint with the state disciplinary body for lawyers, claiming a “serious breach” of professional conduct.

Krelstein says the claim was frivolous and that he is owed an apology.

“It seems to me that an apology is due to me and Ms. Coleman-Davis with the same sort of fanfare that accompanied the announcement that she was filing a complaint,” said Krelstein. “And the lawyer who assisted her ought to be ashamed of himself.”

The state board notified Coleman-Davis today that the complaint was dismissed administratively. Administrative dismissals are not subject to appeal.

“Naturally, I’m pleased,” said Coleman-Davis.

Lowery blasted Halbert, who is running against Lowery in today’s mayoral election.

“Clearly, the fact that this complaint was dismissed so quickly shows that the complaint had no merit,” said Lowery.

Halbert could not be reached for comment.

Poll workers working through electronic poll books

 
Staff reporter Daniel Connolly files this report:

Soon after polls opened this morning at Balmoral Presbyterian Church in East Memphis, a staffer with The Commercial Appeal noticed that poll workers were having trouble locating some voters' records using the new touch-screen electronic poll books.

This led to delays and a long line, but the workers resolved it relatively quickly.

Shelby County Election Commission administrator Richard Holden didn't address what happened at Balmoral directly, but said there are some problems around the city because poll workers are still unfamiliar with the electronic poll books.

"The issue is that we are using the electronic poll book for the very first time, and so in the future it will be much smoother for those voters who have an up-to-date voter registration," he said.

Election officials use paper methods to handle voters who don't have an up-to-date registration, which takes longer, Holden said.

The gray touch-screen poll books are about the size of a sheet of paper and allow poll workers to register and sign in voters as well as program the cards they use to vote on electronic machines.

The devices are portable, which means a poll worker can walk up to voters in line and quickly determine if someone has gone to the wrong polling place.

The Election Commission bought 670 of the devices last year for a total of $2.25 million.
Until now, the election commission has used paper poll books.

Near Germantown, looking for change

 

At the Kirby Woods Baptist Church precinct, near Memphis's border with Germantown, workers celebrated bringing their 100th voter of the day through the process, around 8:45 a.m.

The voting staff at Kirby Woods began instructing voters to bypass the manual application for a ballot and go straight to the lines with the electronic poll books. Voters could also go to another line if for some reason their queue got backed up.

Brenda Ozier said she waited late so she could settle on a choice between Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton and Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery.

"I went back and forth between A C and Myron and finally decided for Myron," she said. "I know A C is going to win but I wanted to make sure A C knows I want change."

Mike Gates said he had not been able to get to an early-voting site but wanted to make sure and vote for Wharton.

"I think he's the best-qualified," Gates said. "A lot of people want to portray this as electing anybody but the last guy, but I really think Wharton is the best person to take this city forward."

Some late deciders in East Memphis

 

At the Richland Elementary School precinct in East Memphis, 25 people had voted as of about 8:15, and election staffer Kathy Stafford said things had gone smoothly.

 "We did have some people in early," Stafford said. "Hopefully this weather clears up and we get more."

Sharon O'Guin said she traditionally prefers to wait until Election Day to vote, rather than do early voting, in part because "it adds to the excitement."

"In a way, I'm disappointed there's not a longer line," said O'Guinn, who preferred not to disclose her voting preference.

Laurie Martini said she had wanted to wait for all the debates and forums to complete before voting, and said she had not made up her mind until Wednesday night. She, too, preferred not to share her voting preference.

Voting smooth but slow

 

So far so ... slow.

That's the report from the Shelby County Election Commission after the first two hours of voting in today's City of Memphis special mayoral election.

Commission chairman Bill Giannini did say the electronic poll books have by and large operated effectively, except for a few hiccups like a malfunctioning printer in one case. Essentially, the electronic poll book replaces the old paper polling books and works as a voter's application for a ballot -- a worker looks up a voter's information on the computer, prints out a receipt with relevant information on address, etc., and the voter signs it before heading to a voting machine. If something goes wrong, the Commission can go to the paper books as backup.

"Turnout is every bit as slow as early voting," said Giannini.

Commission statistics show that 48,655 people voted in the 14 days of early voting, and recent elections show that early voting makes up about half of the total vote, so 90,000 to 100,000 votes are expected overall. That would be less than 25 percent turnout.

Councilwoman Halbert questions Lowery's Fairgrounds project launch

 

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery hosted a groundbreaking at the Mid-South Fairgrounds this morning, but now a City Council member and mayoral opponent has questioned how a groundbreaking can be hosted for a project that was never formally approved.

Lowery's spokeswoman Donna Davis sent a press release last night inviting the press to a groundbreaking of Phase 1 of a four-phase plan to revitalize the fairgrounds.

Phase 1 includes demolition of many unused and unsightly structures formerly used by the Mid-South Fair and will be funded by $2 million already approved by the City Council.

But the rest of the $175 million project - which Lowery's administration recently unveiled and which stands in competition to a rival project backed by developer Henry Turley - has not received formal council approval.

City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, a Memphis mayoral candidate, has now questioned how such a groundbreaking could be billed as the launch of the project.

Halbert wrote an email to Davis, pointing out that the $2 million in capital funds allocated for fairgrounds cleanup was not specifically assigned to a particular project.

Davis responded in a terse email: "Talk to (chief administrative officer) Jack (Sammons) if you have questions. I'm busy. My release was accurate."

Incensed, Halbert fired off another e-mail to government officials and members of the media, calling Davis' tone "completely inappropriate and disrespectful."

"Furthermore, it appears a ground-breaking ceremony may be established for a project that does not exist because it has not been approved by council," she said. "Would someone from the administration please send this requested information to council ASAP..."

A call to Lowery was not immediately returned.

Candidates stay busy on eve of Election Day

 

On the eve of Election Day, Memphis mayoral candidates canvassed the city in a last-minute bid for office.

Even though his days as mayor could be numbered, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has treated today like any other in office, attending events including a groundbreaking at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, pro-wrestler Jerry Lawler and his flock of supporters seem to be hitting up every major intersection in Memphis to wave signs and rally support.

He'll be on the corner of Shady Grove and I-240 around 4:30 p.m. this afternoon - when four of his top rivals face off in a mayoral debate on WREG-TV Channel 3.

Lawler said he's stuck to intersections and highway overpasses because "it's just the visibility you can't get anywhere else in this late date."

"I guarantee more people will see us at 4 today than those four candidates in that Channel 3 mayoral debate," he said.

Memphis City School board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. is also shaking hands and rallying supporters today. The pastor and his entourage made a pit stop at the Midtown Piccadilly for lunch.

Meanwhile, attorney Charles Carpenter will be canvassing the city from 2 until 5 p.m. this afternoon. He'll return to his Whitehaven headquarters this evening for a get-out-the-vote rally.

Despite a recent Channel 3 poll showing Carpenter's popularity waning in the days approaching the election, his campaign spokeswoman said spirits are still high.

"We will be victorious," said spokeswoman Yvette George.

Timeframe for newly elected mayor's oath of office

 

When will the person who wins Thursday's City of Memphis special election be sworn in to complete the term vacated when Willie Herenton resigned?

It appears it could happen by the end of next week but likely will not occur until Oct. 26 or 27, the Monday or Tuesday of the following week.

According to City Council attorney Allan Wade, state election laws mandate that the Shelby County Election Commission must certify results of an election "no later than the second Monday after the election," which in this case would be Oct. 26.

According to an e-mail from Wade: "The Election Commission must meet and certify the results in writing signed by a majority of the Commissioners. This certification must be delivered to the City's chief administrative offices. Once this has been done the winning candidate is eligible to take the oath of office and is then Mayor."

Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini said that the earliest they believe an audit could be completed and certification of voting delivered would be Oct. 22, or next Thursday. A more realistic date, however, is Oct. 26.

Pro-wrestler Jerry Lawler won't challenge latest poll

 

Memphis mayoral candidate and pro-wrestler Jerry Lawler threatened legal action when he was excluded from a mayoral debate sponsored by this newspaper and a local TV station a few weeks ago.

He's been left out of another debate on the eve of Election Day, but Lawler said he won't put up a fight this time.

Inclusion in both debates was based on the results of WREG TV Channel 3 polls.

Only the top-four finishers were asked to participate, meaning candidates facing off tomorrow at 4 p.m. on Channel 3 include Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton (who won support from 53 percent of those surveyed), Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery (16 percent), former City Councilwoman Carol Chumney (9 percent) and Memphis City School board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. (5 percent).

"I'm not going to try and challenge this latest poll because obviously it was designed to make Wharton look good," Lawler said. "Polls are just numbers that can be manipulated... I'm just trying to tell voters don't let a poll decide who you vote for."

In other news, Whalum replaces attorney Charles Carpenter in the upcoming debate. While Carpenter finished fourth in the first poll with 5 percent, he slipped to sixth with three percent this time around, behind Lawler with 4 percent.

Whalum told CA reporter Zack McMillin in an e-mail that he's pleased to be in a debate tomorrow but "I still want to know who was polled, whether the sample is exactly reflective of the gender/economic/age/racial demographic of Memphis, and I still think it's grossly unfair to the other candidates not to include them somehow."

He said the debate "could" have an impact and "will allow viewers to hear without the filter of media editorializing."

Election Commission prepped to make use of electronic poll books

 

The Shelby County Election Commission is ready for Thursday's special election and plans to make use of new electronic poll books for the first time citywide.

Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini said the poll books -- which will cost taxpayers around $2 million -- will speed up the voting process by replacing paper ballot books. The poll books will be able to access a database containing information on all registered voters, allowing poll workers to quickly prepare voters to cast their ballots and inform them about locations where they are eligible to vote.

"It will simplify the ballot application process tremendously and will certainly reduce the number of folks we need at the call center," Giannini said.

The new poll books were rolled out in last year's presidential election at select sites, but battery and time stamp problems forced the commission to discontinue their use.

Giannini said those issues have been resolved and now the commission is ready to test out the poll books for the first time citywide.

Attorney Charles Carpenter's campaign has issued a lawyerly sounding press release calling for the Shelby County Election Commission not to count or release early voting ballots before 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The issue, Carpenter said, arose from a commission-issued letter indicating ballots would be counted at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Carpenter contends that because there is no paper trail in the electronic voting system, "having votes calculated before the polls close will allow the opportunity for voting results to be manipulated, thereby tainting the tabulation process for the Mayoral Special Election."

Carpenter said he's asking Richard Holden, the administrator of elections, to discuss this "urgent matter."

A call to Holden was not immediately returned.

Beyond a meeting, Carpenter hasn't asked for any drastic action. But his fear of vote tampering harkens back to Willie Herenton's 2007 mayoral campaign -- which Carpenter managed -- when the five-time mayor called the voting machines "faulty" and asked the Election Commission to actually halt early voting. His plea went largely ignored; Herenton wound up winning the election anyway.

UPDATE: Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini said by state law, the election commission is not allowed to tabulate any votes until after polls close at 7 p.m. He said the commission has numerous public meetings discussing this timeline for tabulation.

"He obviously doesn't understand the process," Giannini said. "It seems like this is an attempt to get some free press coverage. He needs anything he can get right now."

Lowery unveils latest campaign video

 

In a last-minute appeal to undecided voters, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery has released a 30-second campaign video this week asking for support.

"For those of you who are still undecided, consider what we've done during the past two months. We have complete transparency in city government, we're actively fighting crime and we're cleaning up Memphis," says Lowery, in a blue suit and blood-red tie above the caption "Mayor Myron Lowery."

"Look at my report card on the city's web page and just imagine what we can accomplish together during the next two years. You know I have the courage to lead and I thank you for your support."

With the special election only two days away, Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery is using every opportunity to underscore his accomplishments as interim mayor.

Lowery hosted a gun round up last weekend and, in a press release this week, he reports that the "Gifts for Guns" program pulled 160 firearms off the streets.

In the sixth annual gifts for guns event, Lowery asked people exchange their firearms for $100 in gift cards from Kroger and New York Suit Exchange.

Police said they collected 111 handguns, including 58 semi-automatics, 51 revolvers and two derringers; plus 49 long guns, consisting of 21 shotguns and 28 rifles.

No word on how much the program cost taxpayers.

Lowery also talked up his new initiative combining efforts of the Memphis police and community volunteers to rid the city of blight and fight crime. A total of 814 volunteers have already lent a hand to clean up their neighborhood and get the program off the ground.

Wharton aiming messages at governing

 

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton says he is working harder than ever in the final days of Memphis' mayoral special election, but he appears to be pivoting to a message that goes beyond winning over voters.

Wharton is already appealing to constituents, even as he talks to people behind the scenes about the possibility of joining him at City Hall. That of course is contingent upon Wharton winning Thursday's election, although he says he is operating now as if that will definitely happen. The WREG-TV Channel 3 poll released late last night confirmed Wharton's view of the race, showing him with 53-percent support in a Mason & Dixon Research survey of 400 likely voters, far ahead of Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery at 16 percent and former city councilwoman and longtime state legislator Carol Chumney at 9 percent.

Wharton's campaign is buying more TV and radio airtime ahead of the election, and the latest advertisement is not asking for votes -- it is demanding action on behalf of those who say they want Memphis to improve. It appears that Wharton is taking a page from the Barack Obama playbook and replacing a call for votes with a call to action.

Speaking to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, Wharton says: "If you came out here and you were expecting me to start telling you all that is wrong with our great city, you are in the wrong place. Now if you came out here because you said you want to work to make our city the great city it can become and that it is destined to be, you are in the right place."

As a side note, the YouTube links showing "related videos" next to the campaign ads are always interesting. For example, the top "related video" to A C Wharton's "Right Place" is of course -- what else could it be? -- "AC/DC Get It Hot Jessica Cirio" with 46,900 views and a screen capture showing scantily clad dancers. Gotta love those Google algorithms. Sample lyric:

Gonna have ourselves a party
Just like we used to do
Nobody's, playin' Manilow
Nobody's, playin' soul

Yet another unfair advantage for the county mayor, right? An inadvertent link to that all important demographic in Memphis, party-goin' hard-rock fans with disdain for Barry Manilow and soul music.

Live chat today at 1 p.m. with Otis L. Sanford about the mayoral race

 

With the Memphis mayoral race coming up this week, Otis L. Sanford will do a live chat today at 1 p.m. about what to expect on Election Day. Sanford is The Commercial Appeal's editor/opinions and editorials.

Channel 3 poll coming at 10 p.m.

 

WREG-TV Channel 3 is keeping the results secret from the poll it commissioned over the weekend of likely Memphis voters in the City of Memphis special election, but some indications are beginning to leak out. The station will release the results of the Mason & Dixon Research poll on its 10 p.m. newscast.

The Charles Carpenter campaign told radio talk-show host and "controversial" blogger Thaddeus Matthews that Channel 3 said he was not getting an invitation to Wednesday night's election-eve debate, meaning that Carpenter was not getting 15 percent of the vote and was not among the top four in overall support.

A representative of the campaign of Memphis City Schools board member Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. sent an email earlier Monday saying Whalum would be doing a "live stream" event commenting on the Wednesday debate, but then said it was canceled because of news Whalum received that would become official at 10 p.m. That would seem to indicate Whalum believes he is in the top four.

Wharton told The Commercial Appeal that Channel 3 told him he held a "strong lead" but had no specifics. Wharton did say he felt the poll and his daily interactions with voters validate his decision not to engage in skirmishes with other candidates who have been increasing their attacks on him as Thursday's election draws near. Wharton also indicated, in comments that will run in tomorrow's newspaper, that he has already begun talking to people about joining him at City Hall if he wins.

Wharton will show for final debate on eve of special election

 

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton confirmed today that he will attend a mayoral debate at 4 p.m. the afternoon before Thursday's special election to replace Willie Herenton.

Wharton has weathered criticism for missing candidate forums and debates. And up until late-afternoon Monday, his campaign was still debating whether or not to attend this week's final debate - which, as Wharton pointed out, will compete with Oprah in the 4 p.m. time slot.

But Wharton ultimately decided to show up, and he dismissed criticism that he's tried to duck his opponents by skipping previous events.

"When you don't have the issues going your way, you complain and try to make an issue out of appearances and things like that," Wharton said. "I'm not harping on the past, we're going forward."

Young people not turning out for mayoral vote

 

One more note on the demographic breakdown from the 14 days of early voting, adding to something that Otis Sanford wrote about this weekend.

Of the 48,655 who voted early, 39,141 are 45 or older -- so just more than 80 percent of those who have voted were born born in 1964 or before. This would not appear to be good news for Memphis City Schools board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., who has focused on the youth vote.

The Shelby County Election Commission reports that only 4,232 voters under the age of 35 could be bothered to vote early, or 8.7 percent of the vote.

As Alex reported, 62.7 percent of voters were female and 49.8 percent of voters were registered black voters (you can assume some large percentage of those in the "other" category are also black voters; the "other" category is dominated by voters who do not identify race on their registration forms). So the model voter in this election -- female, black and entered adulthood sometime before 1980.

By the way, there was a crossover of around 6,000 people who voted for Memphis mayor and for the Tennessee state senate District 31 primaries. There were only 630 people who voted for state senate but not for Memphis mayor.

The Shelby County Election Commission has released voting totals today showing 48,655 people voted early in the special election to replace Willie Herenton.

That makes up 11.5 percent of registered Memphis voters - down from the 16 percent who voted early in the 2007 Memphis mayoral race.

Early voting ended Friday; Election Day is on Thursday.

Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini said early voters generally make up about half of all voters in an election, meaning turnout in this special race will probably be on the lower end.

He attributed the relatively lackluster turnout to factors ranging from Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's presumptive lead, to the election's abbreviated time frame and a general sense of apathy. A recent CA-Channel 3 poll showed Wharton ahead with 45 percent of the vote.

"Some of the media coverage of the perceived front-runner probably was a disservice to the process in some ways," Giannini said. "I think some of the polls in the past have been inaccurate and when some polls are widely regarded as fact, it dissuades voters."

The early figures also show that African-American voters and women far outpaced other demographics.

Women made up 63 percent of the vote, while African-American voters made up 50 percent, followed by 29 percent of white voters and 21 percent of other races.

The male-female ratio may appear particularly lopsided, but voting totals in past Memphis elections show women traditionally outvote men here. In 2007, women outvoted their male counterparts 62.8 to 37.2 percent. In 2003, the ratio was 61.8 to 38.2 percent.

On Lowery as mayor, Drake & Zeke get all past tense

 

When Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery began making regular appearances on "Drake & Zeke," the popular WXMX- FM 98.1 morning program, it seemed a curious choice.

Drake and Zeke cultivate a program anchored in a classic-rock sensibility but do not mind engaging bigger community issues with an intelligence not always evident on morning talk radio -- and a humor that sometimes resonates pitch-perfect and sometimes tries too hard to push politically incorrect boundaries.

In other words, aimed at an audience that may well have more people living outside of Memphis than people eligible to vote in the City of Memphis' special mayoral election. But Lowery's regular Monday gig turned into a hit for him, and some days included Lowery asking division directors to call in and provide answers. Perhaps more than any other venue, it has helped Lowery to find his voice as interim mayor and develop a strong campaign message some believe has helped him gain ground on Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton.

The radio hosts do not hide their affection and respect for Lowery, although today they definitely offered Lowery a valedictory tone, already speaking in the past tense about Lowery's appearances as Memphis mayor.

Lowery, of course, tried his best to keep it present tense and even offer future tense assurances -- he wants to keep doing it if he's elected Thursday.

Lowery insists that low turnout in early voting is a good sign for him, because he thinks it means many voters remain undecided and have wanted to gauge his performance since being sworn on July 31 after Willie Herenton's more than 17 years running the city ended with a resignation (or retirement, as Herenton likes to call it).

"Many people are still trying to make up their minds," Lowery said.

Lowery's background as a TV newscaster serves him well in getting out a clear, coherent message. It also helps when he goes after opponents, because he does not sound like he's attacking. Today, for instance, he became more aggressive trying to link Wharton with Herenton, but did it without ever raising his voice or even sounding the least bit irritable. It's a trick none of the other candidates can play -- with many of them, their voices rise or it begins to quaver or it sounds threatening, even when just stating facts like Wharton did help lead Herenton's mayoral campaigns in the 90s.

"The former mayor has already passed the baton to the county mayor and said his mother is voting for the county mayor," Lowery said, referring to an interview in which Herenton was otherwise disdainful of Wharton but said he did not see anyone beating him. Lowery also raised that infamous "Le Chardonnay" meeting between Herenton and Wharton in 2007, when Wharton was considering answering a call by many in the community to run against his longtime ally.

Knowing well the demographic for Drake & Zeke, Lower also linked Herenton again to Carpenter, who managed Herenton's campaigns in 1991, 2003 and 2007: "He's running commercials with the former mayor in them." Whether anyone considering voting for Carpenter was listening is another question.

One caller late in the show, who sounded like maybe he was fond of another candidate, pointedly asked why Lowery voted for the 12-year pensions for city employees that created such a huge uproar early this decade. Lowery ducked the question by pointing out that a) the Council later voter to overturn the 12-year pension and b) he has continued working well past the 12 years and therefore has not received personal gain from it.

(And that sound you just heard was Carol Chumney making sure you know that while on City Council, she led the charge to repeal the 12-year pensions .)

Lowery's 17-plus-year voting record as councilman has mostly avoided scrutiny, an odd dynamic considering the thousands of items opponents could easily sort through to find inevitable bad decisions or votes-gone-wrong that could be exploited for most anyone with long service as a legislator.

Two have come up in debates -- why Lowery flipped his position on providing funding for Memphis City Schools (he was for increased funding to MCS for most of his career before making the deciding vote to drastically cut it in 2008) and why he says he is now against a tax increase to pay MCS money he and the Council have promised (he said in June, before Herenton's announcement, that city taxpayers would accept a rise in taxes on a separate bill for schools). On the former, Lowery said he felt it was time to send a clarion call on what he considers an inequity for Memphis taxpayers, who pay taxes twice on schools while those in Germantown, Millington, Collierville, etc., only pay once. On the latter, Lowery says that he now believes, as mayor, new efficiencies and sources of revenue can be tapped to cover the $34.6 million shortfall.

With a poll from WREG-TV News Channel 3 coming out tonight, it will be interesting to see if Lowery has made up ground with Wharton. And, if he has, whether Wharton's campaign will determine it needs to do more than play prevent defense and ask more probing questions about the interim mayor's record as legislator.

Wharton is the winner of Children's Museum faux election

 

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton is the winner of the The Children's Museum of Memphis's 2009 Children's Choice special election.

Wharton walked away with 45 percent of the vote in the faux mayoral election among 235 children.

Pro wrestler Jerry Lawler came in second with 17 percent, while former County Commissioner John Willingham came in third with 11 percent. Former City Council woman Carol Chumney and Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery tied for fourth with 6 percent.

Every four years the Children's Museum surveys kids about their choice for U.S. president and Children's Museum communications director Randy McKeel said this year they decided to do something similar for Memphis mayor. The candidates were invited to spend Saturday "campaigning" with the kids. As the afternoon drew to a close, the kids were invited to cast their vote.

Clearly this poll is far from scientific, but it's interesting that Wharton won with 45 percent, a result mirroring that of a semi-recent poll by The Commercial Appeal and WREG-TV Channel 3.

Another mayor's office open house

 

If you didn't get to explore every nook and cranny of the mayor's office at City Hall when Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery held his first open house, the interim mayor is giving you another shot.

Lowery is hosting another open house Saturday, conveniently scheduled on the last weekend before the Oct. 15 special election to replace former mayor Willie Herenton, an election Lowery is competing in.

Lowery, who has made open government a priority during his brief tenure, will open his seventh-floor office to citizens, allowing them to take photos and ask questions.

The event is from 2-4 Saturday afternoon. Visitors should use the main entrance at City Hall and take the elevator to the seventh floor. For more information, please call 576-6000.

Candidates address controversy over vacation cashout

 

The candidates were asked point blank if they intended to go after the money that former Mayor Willie Herenton and former city CAO Keith McGee received, apparently in violation if city law.

Lowery said he wanted to talk to the City Council, the Shelby County District Attorney General and others, but said he believed the payments were inappropriate and should be recouped. He also pointed out that those records "only came out" because he had been so forceful in pushing city attorney Elbert Jefferson out of the daily operation of the the city's legal office.

"I believe those funds were obtained illegally, policy or not," Lowery said.

Will he go after them? "I think perhaps we should," Lowery said.

Wharton signaled he would go after it: "Yes, based on what I understand the law is unless some lawyer just tells me I'm dead wrong."

Carpenter, Herenton's campaign manager in three mayoral runs, straddled the issue, saying that he did feel there is a difference between salary and benefits and that if there was a policy in place allowing cash in lieu of vacation time, the city had to follow it.

"Salary and benefits are two different things ... vacation benefits is a benefit," Carpenter said. "If the policy says that is the policy, we have to follow our policies. If it turns out there is some improper payment in violation of the policy, certainly we owe it to the taxpayers to get those dollars. But we have to look forward to what we are doing to move our city forward. Everything that we see is looking in the rearview mirror. We're going after this, we are going after that, we're investigating this. We say we are trying to save legal fees and we are already behind."

Chumney said she would go after the money.

Chumney: Isn't it time that we gave someone else a chance?

 

Former state legislator and city councilwoman Carol Chumney found new ways to compare Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton to former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, and at the end of the debate even implied a conspiracy by Herenton and Wharton to prevent her from becoming city or county mayor.

"I ran for county mayor in 2002 and was in the lead in the Democratic primary," Chumney began in her closing statement. "The Mr. Wharton who said he wasn't going to run jumped in the race and became the new mayor."

Wharton defeated her in the primary, 80 percent to 17 percent.

Chumney continued: "Then I ran for city mayor in 2007 and Mayor Herenton decided to run; after the election he told everybody he ran to stop me. So now I'm running for city mayor, a vacant position, and all of a sudden Mayor Wharton wants to leave county mayor and run for city mayor.

"At some point, you have to ask yourself, 'What is this about?' Isn't it time that we gave someone else a chance to have some leadership in this city?"

Earlier in the debate, Chumney made a plea to become the city's first female mayor: "Here I am running for mayor after finishing a close second (in 2007). What message does it send if someone like me doesn't get to be the mayor, ever? What message does it send to little girls? What message does it send to women we want to attract to our community?"

Lowery defends vote to cut Memphis City Schools funding

 

The first question at the Memphis Rotary Club debate went to Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, asking why he changed his mind about the city providing funding for Memphis City Schools with a vote to drastically cut that funding in 2008.

As he did in an article in today's newspaper, Lowery said that he made his decisive vote because he felt the time had come to strike a blow for tax equity on behalf of the citizens of Memphis. And he said that while the city now must find $34.6 million to make up a shortfall of that 2008 funding, based on a court decision, the end result will be single-source funding for MCS from Shelby County.

"That is a revolution in this community," Lowery said. "Single-source funding will be the rule of the day. If we had not voted to slash the funding this would never have happened."

Lowery's three opponents all criticized him and the council, however, saying the issue could have been confronted and resolved without "drastic" action.

Chumney: "I've never been a fan of brinksmanship."

Carpenter criticized it because of the additional legal fees it created and the uncertainty it caused the schools: "It created more legal complexities, more costs and less benefits for our city students."

Wharton said that while he supports single-source funding from the county, "The (state) Supreme Court says if a city is going to do it, it should not do it in a way that wreaks havoc. That's the problem."

Lowery, Wharton and Chumney all said they believe the $34.6 million can be raised without raising taxes, either using cuts or finding new efficiencies or using money from the city's reserve fund.

Carpenter was skeptical that his opponents were being forthright, saying that his honest view is that it will be difficult to find that money without additional taxes. He did point out that taxes had gone down slightly after the 2008 vote to cut school funding, so it might equal out in the end.

Rivals attack Wharton for skipping debates

 

The debate's second question went to Wharton, but it quickly became a hammer for the other candidates. Why had Wharton chosen to skip some of the debates and forums other candidates were making?

Nobody was going to give the real answer, of course. Wharton was not going to say that a clear frontrunner has everything to lose and little to gain by going to forums and debates, and the other three were not going to say that when you are behind in a campaign, you must go anywhere to talk to anyone at any time about anything.

Wharton claimed he is "probably the most accessible public official you will find anywhere," that his home phone number is listed, that there is no fence around his house. When Lowery tried to one-up Wharton by saying he gives out his cell phone number, Wharton interrupted and gave out his personal cell phone number, drawing laughs.

Wharton explained that his schedule stays filled and he cannot make every event: "I imagine I have made more appearances than probably everybody up here combined," Wharton said.

Carpenter's criticism went like this: "It's not a matter of being accessible six months ago. It's a matter of sharing your vision with the community now. To fail to do that is taking a lot for granted."

And Chumney would not miss the chance to go after Wharton, either, comparing him to Willie Herenton by saying he skipped one debate to attend a fundraiser: "It's important for the voters to know this is an election, not a coronation, and the people's voices matter. These neighborhood debates and forums matter."

Wharton, Carpenter clash over county debt

 

Although Carol Chumney is not letting any opportunity pass to question Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton's record as mayor and desire to "quit," as she calls it, the hottest exchange came between Wharton and Charles Carpenter.

Carpenter took issue with Wharton for saying: "We implemented a debt reduction plan, and I am proud to say that our debt for the first time in a long time is going down."

Carpenter pointed out that county debt stood around $1.2 billion in 2002 when Wharton was elected and is now at $1.8 billion.

"I don't understand how Mayor Wharton can say debt is going down," Carpenter said.

Wharton explained that much of the debt he had inherited had been backloaded for maximum profit and that "Mr.Carpenter was involved in some of those bond deals with some of those bond daddies."

The exchange generated the only real buzz from the room during the hour-long debate.

Prince Mongo shows at debate -- but only as a spectator

 

One guest at the Memphis Rotary Club's mayoral debate was perennial candidate Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges, who purchased a seat for $18 but got a table all to himself. Wearing his crazy old-fashioned aviator goggles, Hodges also brought his own rubber chicken to the luncheon, which he had pinned to a coat. He was barefoot.

He claimed the event was organized "by the Communist Appeal" to include only a select group of candidates. Rotary invited Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, former state legislator and former city councilwoman Carol Chumney and attorney Charles Carpenter to participate, based upon "most recent polling data."

Hodges also said he had his own poll which showed him with a lead of 13 percent over the field, and decried what he described as a conspiracy to exclude candidates from mainstream coverage of the race.

The debate is about to begin. More to follow.

MPD event to celebrate drop in crime

 

There is no question that the Memphis Police Department feels proud of the results achieved from the intensely data-driven Operation Blue Crush initiative. Director Larry Godwin, at every opportunity, has been for several months reminding media members and others that crime is down more than 16 percent -- 17.28 percent, to be precise, according to the latest numbers. MPD just sent a release announcing it will celebrate that success on Saturday with ceremonies that will honor those helping improve crime-fighting efforts. The event is planned for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Doctors Field at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, just off Linden near Southwest Tennessee Community College.

As our recent package debuting a series of stories focusing on crime points out, however, even when crime is "down" in Memphis, there are hundreds of troubling incidents happening on a weekly basis, most often assaults between people who know one another or economic crimes like burglary, theft from motor vehicle and motor vehicle theft. But criminologists do believe that the perception of crime plays a role in how a community responds, and if the public believes crime is under control and large swaths of a city are becoming safer, they are more likely to remain and more likely to engage in community activities that help deter criminals (sometimes as simple as sitting on the front porch).

The New York Times "Economic View" columnist, Robert Frank, wrote over the weekend about a new book, "When Brute Force Fails" by UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, that indirectly endorses some of the strategies at the heart of Blue Crush. Godwin likes to talk about using the data, which the University of Memphis helps MPD organize and analyze,
to be at the right place, at the right time, on the right day. Better understanding crime patterns and trends, MPD believes, allows them to work smarter and more efficiently.

"When Brute Force Fails" focuses more on the argument that "instead of making punishments more severe, the authorities should increase the odds that lawbreakers will be apprehended and punished quickly," according to Frank. The connection with Blue Crush -- besides MPD's lament that repeat offenders here are too often given puny bonds and released too early -- is the assertion Kleiman makes that criminals too often are "blinded by the temptation of immediate reward and largely untroubled by the possibility of delayed or uncertain punishment," according to Frank.

One of the things Blue Crush tries to accomplish aligns neatly with a summary of Kleiman's theories about the risk/reward calculations made by criminals: "The evidence suggests that when hardened criminals are reasonably sure that they will be caught and punished swiftly, even mild sanctions deter them. But not even the prospect of severe punishment is effective if offenders think they can get away with their crimes."

MPD believes it is doing a better job catching more criminals. Of course, Godwin also realizes a mayoral election is upcoming and isn't shy about advocating for his approach. Saturday's ceremony will give citizens an opportunity to meet "Memphis's finest," as they say, and ask their own questions about how crime is being fought.

U of M's NAACP holds Tuesday forum, too

 

Another forum on Tuesday. This one at the University of Memphis. No word on who has committed to attend. Release is below:

On Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 8 p.m., candidates for Memphis mayor will face-off in a live forum at the University of Memphis, Michael D. Rose Theatre, hosted by the University of Memphis Chapter of the NAACP. All 25 candidates have been invited to participate in the forum.  Local jobs, economic security, education, health, business development and many more issues will be addressed in a substantive forum moderated by political consultant Joseph Kyles.

Anthony Jones, the NAACP Chapter's president, said, "The format will be thorough and the date will be close to the election, giving voters a clear and conclusive understanding of the choice they face at the polls on Oct. 15."

Early voting behind 2007, way ahead of 2003

 

Many are suggesting that the City of Memphis' Oct. 15 special mayoral election is being marred by unusually low turnout, but the numbers do not support that theory. Heading into the second and final week of early voting, turnout is running only about 13 percent behind early-voting totals from 2007, but the huge caveat here is that in 2007, the mayoral candidates and dozens of City Council candidates had been spending many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars reminding people to get out and vote.

In 2007, the mayor's race generated much more heat not in the least because of former mayor Willie Herenton's appetite for conflict and confrontation and his campaign's ultimately successful strategy of asking his base to validate his previous four terms of office by "shaking off the haters." That race also gained a boost when a "Draft A C" movement sprang up in July in a failed attempt to convince Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton to challenge Herenton.

Early voting turnout this year is outpacing early voting turnout from 2003 -- another year with a full slate of candidates for other city offices -- by more than 25 percent. It's also worth noting that in 2007, about 60 percent of votes cast during the 14 days of early voting were cast  in the final six days. In 2003, about 56 percent of votes cast during the 14 days of early voting came in the final six days. The final Thursday, Friday and Saturday of voting traditionally see the heaviest turnouts, as well. If that pattern holds this year, between 58,000 and 64,000 votes will be cast in early voting, fewer than the 74,300 in 2007 but well more than the 34,400 from early voting in 2003's full municipal election.

The Shelby County Election Commission also shows that 12,945 votes (51.3 percent) have been cast by registered black voters, 7,172 (28.4 percent) by registered white voters and 5,139 (20.3 percent) by those grouped in an "other" category, which is dominated by voters who do not identify themselves by race.

White Station Church of Christ in East Memphis is the No. 1 polling station so far, with 3,199 votes, followed by Bishop Byrne in Whitehaven with 2,784 votes and four others drawing nearly identical numbers, ranging from 1,810 at the Agricenter near Cordova to 1,846 at Greater Middle Baptist Church in Parkway Village. The biggest dropoff has been in the city's northernmost areas, with the pace at Gaisman Community Center falling well below the traffic Berclair Church of Christ drew in 2007 (when it was the second most-visited early-voting site) and Raleigh United Methodist also lagging behind its 2007 pace.

Early voting continues through Saturday for the Oct. 15 election.  Polls will be open at the Shelby County Election Commission, 157 Poplar, Suite 121, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday and  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The following satellite sites  will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Agricenter (Rotunda Hallway), 7777 Walnut Grove
Anointed Temple Of Praise (Youth Room),  3939 Riverdale
Bethel Church, 5586 Stage
Bishop Byrne High School, 1475 E. Shelby
Dave Wells Community Center, 915 Chelsea
Gaisman Community Center (replaces Berclair Church of Christ),  4221 Macon
Glenview Community Center (replaces New Salem Church), 1141 S. Barksdale
Greater Middle Baptist Church (fellowship hall),  4982 Knight Arnold
Mississippi Blvd.-Family Life Center  (replaces Mississippi Blvd. Church Counseling Center),  70 N. Bellevue
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church (fellowship building),  3045 Chelsea
New Bethel Baptist Church-Family Life Center, 7786 Poplar Pike
Pyramid Recovery Center, 1833 S. Third
Raleigh United Methodist Church,  3295 Powers
Riverside Baptist Church, 3560 S. Third
Shiloh Baptist Church, 3121 Range Line
White Station Church of Christ, 1106 Colonial

Tuesday's schedule: Debate at noon, forum at 6 p.m.

 

Tuesday will present another opportunity for voters to hear directly from candidates, with a Memphis Rotary Club debate starting at noon and a forum in Frayser at 6 p.m.

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton has committed to join Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, former state legislator and city councilwoman Carol Chumney and attorney Charles Carpenter at Memphis Rotary's lunchtime gathering at Rhodes College in the McCallum Ballroom of the Bryan Campus Life Center. Cost is $18 per person and advance registration is required; the meeting begins at 11:30 a.m. with the debate starting at noon. For more information, contact Taylor Hughes at 526-1318.

Dr. Bill Byrne of the Frayser Community Association says that Carpenter, Chumney, Lowery, Memphis City Schools board member Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. and professional wrestling businessman Jerry Lawler all have committed to attend its 6 p.m. forum at Ed Rice Community Center at 2907 North Watkins. Wharton is listed as having been invited to the forum, which will be run by the League of Women Voters.

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