Opinion » Editorial

Let There Be Light ...

Let There Be Light ...

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...and gas and water and all the other benefits that Memphis Light Gas & Water Division is expected to provide, with efficiency and at reasonable cost, to the citizens of the Greater Memphis area.

And, to that end, let there be more of the kind of illumination promised by Mayor Willie Herenton in a letter to members of the City Council last week. In his communication, reported on in this issue ("City Beat," page 9), Herenton took note of some of MLGW's recent misprisions -- in the areas of customer relations, billing procedures -- and its penchant for what the mayor called "costly promotions." He did not need to remind council members of the controversies and complications that attended MLGW's cleanup following last July's windstorm. (For a while it appeared that Herenton himself, then running for reelection, might get some of the blowback from a frustrated public.)

The mayor promised to provide the council -- and, we presume, the public -- with "pertinent information" on the eve of hearings concerning MLGW's proposed rate increases.

All this is to the good. Perhaps, with the recent city elections out of the way, we are on the threshold of a new era of seriousness and candor in matters of local governance. We don't mean to offend His Honor, but we regard last week's council turndown of a Herenton pay raise in the same approving way that we see his desire to be watchdog over MLGW. It's not that we don't think the mayor has done a good job or that he isn't deserving of an increase. We did concur, however, with those citizens and council members who thought things were proceeding with an unseemly and -- given that not a word of the pay-raise matter had been broached publicly before the election -- untimely haste. We'll be watching closely to see if the council moves toward a premature reconsideration.

In the recent city election, Mayor Herenton worked behind the scenes on behalf of council candidate George Flinn and against Flinn's victorious opponent, Carol Chumney. Various reasons were adduced for this activity -- ranging from political payback for the official neutrality in the mayor's race of the local Republican Party (which supported Flinn) to Herenton's purported concern that Chumney, a high-profile state representative who launched investigations into derelictions by the day-care industry, might bring an overly obtrusive personal agenda to the council. Our concerns are otherwise. We hope she brings a flashlight.

And, while we're at it, we are not put off by those "naysayers" on the Shelby County Commission who were denounced last week by the mayor, by state senator John Ford, and by Public Building Authority chairman Arnold Perl for presuming to want a closer vetting of matters involving the FedExForum -- a facility that promises much but also asks much of local taxpayers. Given the $250 million price tag attached to the project, we don't find the expenditure of a measly $50,000 to provide some additional oversight by a local engineering/consulting firm to be unreasonable. All things considered, this week's shelving of the matter by the commission was probably inadvisable.
Nobody's perfect -- not our mayors or our legislative bodies or our public agencies. That's why more oversight of public matters -- not less -- is always in order.

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