Though he is not inclined to make an endorsement for Shelby County mayor any time soon, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said Sunday that he was disappointed with the failure of Democratic candidate A C Wharton to come out foursquare for city/county consolidation, and he praised Whartons primary opponent, Carol Chumney, for being courageous and forthright on the issue.
I think A Cs advisers have been keeping the wraps on him or giving him bad advice, Herenton said while attending Sundays NBA game at The Pyramid between the Memphis Grizzles and Seattle Supersonics. He said he still had no plans to endorse a candidate for Shelby County Mayor but might end up doing so between the May 7th countywide primaries and the August general election.
Despite considerable prodding from the media, Wharton -- who served as chairman of two Herenton election campaigns -- has contented himself so far with saying he approved the Memphis mayors recent appointment of a task force on consolidation and would wait on its results before commenting. Meanwhile, Wharton has said, he would welcome functional consolidation of certain joint services.
Virtually every local public figure -- even those, like Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy, who oppose consolidation per se -- has come out for some degree of functional consolidation of services.
Of the remaining candidates for county mayor considered major, State Representative Chumney has endorsed a form of consolidation quite similar to that of Herenton himself and has pledged to push for both it and a form of school funding similar to the Memphis mayors call for separate city and county districts linked via a single-source funding method.
Among Republican candidates, State Representative Larry Scroggs has said he doubts both the desirability of consolidation and the accuracy of projections that it would reduce governmental costs, while radiologist/media mogul George Flinn has not yet been heard from.
Herenton continued to simmer over what he regarded as a snub administered by suburban mayors who, during last weeks annual meeting of the Tennessee Municipal League in Nashville, scheduled a dinner for Shelby legislators concurrent with Herentons own legislative dinner.
Seemingly angered by Goldsworthys recent suggestion that he was advocating city/county consolidation as a means, ultimately, of extending his own power, Herenton nevertheless made some purposely cryptic statements that some might consider consistent with the Germantown mayors interpretation..
I think this current county mayor election should be the last one we have, Herenton said, pointedly making a connection between the likelihood of his being reelected Memphis mayor in 2003 and the timetable he has proposed for consolidation -- which calls for a countywide referendum on the subject in 2004 or 2005 and elections for a metropolitan mayor and council in 2006.
Without elaborating, Herenton said with a sly grin that this set of concurrent facts should lead to the right analysis.