Willie Herenton will formally announce his candidacy for a fourth term as mayor of Memphis at a rally next Tuesday night, April 3rd, at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The mayor made the revelation at a fundraiser Tuesday night at the East Memphis home of supporter Gene Gibson. "I intend this as a pre-emptive move," Herenton told a crowd of some 50 people about his decision to announce now, two years before the election. "I'm going to build my war-chest and re-tool my organization, starting now," the mayor vowed. As reasons for his decision to run again in 2003, Herenton cited the still undeveloped riverfront and a need to see through to conclusion various other projects, including final arrangements for accommodating a National Basketball League team.
On that score, the mayor, a backer of the drive to bring an NBA franchise to Memphis, expressed disagreement with a suggestion made earlier Tuesday by State Senator Jim Kyle that proponents of any forthcoming general obligation bond issue for completion of arena construction should call a referendum on the matter. "That's how Nashville did it when they were building the arena for the Titans," Kyle, a likely candidate next year for Shelby County Mayor, said by telephone from Nashville, "and it unified the community as only a public vote of confidence can. My first rule of politics is 'Run to the fire,' and I'm encouraging the backers of a new arena to do just that." While not disavowing a bond issue, Herenton indicated he was disinclined to pursue a referendum strategy and said he was considering a variety of other local financing alternatives, including a local restaurant tax.