Parties Party and Pols Plan

As the holiday season begins in Memphis, visions of sugar plums contend with dreams of new office.

| December 05, 2013

Memphis mayor A C Wharton has been at the forefront of numerous initiatives of late, including the recently failed referendum for a half-cent sales-tax increase to provide for a citywide pre-K program, this week's showdown on a prospective purchase by the city of AutoZone Park, and a couple of long-term development projects proposed by housing director Robert Lipscomb that are still hanging fire.


But, whatever his cumulative batting average on these might turn out to be, Wharton has another initiative he has already committed to — that of reelection to the office of mayor in 2015.

The Flyer asked Wharton about his electoral plans during the recent "Strut" fund-raiser held to benefit the Community Legal Center, at which the mayor did a turn as an honorary bartender. Is he, as is generally expected, a candidate for reelection?

"Yes," he answered, unequivocally.

No surprise, and many were already taking the fact for granted, but it occurred to us that we ought to take formal note of the fact, lest Christmas spirits get the best of some of the hopefuls, several on the current city council, who have visions, down the line, of political plums to go with their sugared ones.

• The Shelby County Commission met in a special called meeting on Monday to vote an end to its litigation against Collierville, Bartlett, and Millington, the three latest suburbs to reach agreement with the Shelby County Schools board on terms for the transfer of school properties to the soon-to-be municipal school districts.

Arlington and Lakeland had previously settled with the board and seen the commission dissolve its lawsuits against them. The only suburb with remaining issues is Germantown, where — despite some indications last week that the new Germantown school board might be willing to settle — enough disagreement has remained in the suburb's civic and political circles to keep an immediate resolution at bay.

The sticking point is the plan, proposed by SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson and adopted by his board, to retain three Germantown school properties — Germantown High School, Germantown Middle School, and Germantown Elementary — within the SCS system.

• County commissioner Wyatt Bunker's official notice of resignation on Monday, tendered formally in a letter to commission chair James Harvey, ensured that the commission will have at least one vacancy to fill, and, if Bunker has his druthers, it may have another.

The second potential commission vacancy is that of Chris Thomas, who has been asked by Bunker, now serving as mayor of Lakeland, to apply for the job of Lakeland city manager.

But Lakeland's board of commissioners, which met Monday night, has delayed immediate action on replacing former city manager Robert "Bob" Wherry, who was fired last week. The vacancy has been publicly advertised, with a deadline for applications of December 13th. The board will meet again on December 17th to decide on a hire.

Bunker's letter to Harvey specified that his resignation would take effect on January 3rd. The commission will be tasked with naming an interim replacement for Bunker — and for Thomas, too, if need be.

Thomas, however, is reportedly thinking about remaining on the commission, at least to the end of his current term, if he ends up with the managerial position at Lakeland — a prospect that might call for a certain amount of recusals on his part.

In any case, the former Probate Court clerk seems to relish his place on the commission — a post he decided to run for in 2010, on the evidence of several prior election years, that the demographic tide had finally created an invincible Democratic majority for countywide elective offices.

Famously, though, things didn't turn out that way in 2010. Whether it was the fact of hotly contested Republican primary races at the statewide level that year or shortcomings of the local Democratic slate or the impact of what turned out to be a major political shift toward the Republican Party in Tennessee at large, or, as some Democrats still maintain, electoral hanky-panky, Republicans pulled off a sweep of countywide offices.

Thomas saw his probate job go to GOP activist Paul Boyd, and he himself was faced with finding another full-time job. He ended up with a series of stop-gap positions, and, as is well known, he finally had to file a bankruptcy petition.

As is not so well known, Thomas had been eyed by a number of Republicans as a potential replacement for an embattled Rich Holden as administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission, which in recent years has been the subject of virtually nonstop negative publicity concerning this or that glitch.                  

In any case, Bunker is due to depart the commission, and candidates are beginning to line up to fill his District 4 seat on an interim basis. Names being mentioned are those of former Shelby County Schools board member Diane George, banker Kevin Hardin, retired sheriff's deputy Ron Fittes, mortgage banker George Chism, and Mark Billingsley, a fund-raising specialist for the Methodist Hospital system.

Chism and Fittes have indicated they are active candidates for reconfigured single-district commission positions in the regular 2014 election cycle.

• Yes, it was an informal occasion — one without overt political significance, but the 49th birthday celebration of longtime behind-the-scenes pol David Upton, hastily improvised by his longtime pal John Freeman, drew a fair share of public figures to the party room of Mulan's in Cooper-Young on Saturday night.

Among those present were former Memphis City Schools (and provisional Shelby County Schools) board members Freda Williams and Sara Lewis; legislators like state representatives Larry Miller and Joe Towns, former state representative Mike Kernell, and former state senator Beverly Marrero; city council members Lee Harris and Harold Collins; county commission chairman James Harvey, county commissioner Justin Ford, and former commissioner J.W. Gibson.

Several of them vented their vocal skills during an extended karaoke session, but most were outdone by celebrated opera singer Kallen Esperian, whose highlight was probably her duet with Upton on "Fly Me to the Moon."

• Speaking of karaoke, it seems to be the fashion these days, at least among Democrats. The Shelby County Democratic Party will hold its annual Christmas Party this Friday, December 6th, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Ice Bar and Grill on Hacks Cross Road, and, as was the case last year, karaoke will be the party motif.

Official "hosts" for that event will be city councilman Myron Lowery and county commissioner Steve Mulroy, both inveterate karaokans.

Another annual Democratic event is the party sponsored by the Democratic Women of Shelby County, to be held this year on Saturday, December 14th, from 4 to 7 p.m. at its usual venue, the home of Bob and Myra Stiles on South McLean Boulevard.

Republicans, too, have abundant celebrations in mind. Their Yule season kicks off on Wednesday of this week with a Christmas buffet under the auspices of the Republican Women of Purpose at TPC Southwind ($25 a head, and reservations required).

The other main holiday event by a GOP women's organization will be the Christmas tea held by the Shelby County Republican Women at Windyke Country Club on Tuesday, December 10th, at 11 a.m.

Shelby County Young Republicans have a "Holiday Happy Hour" scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday at the Tower Room on Poplar; the East Shelby Republican Club will hold its annual Christmas Potluck supper on Tuesday night at the Pickering Center in Germantown; and, on Sunday, December 15th, the Shelby County Republican Party is having a "Holiday Open House" at the Clubhouse at Devonshire Gardens in Germantown.


Comments (16)

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Lets pray someone run with a vision of economic empowerment and to think outside the box instead of these projects that are DOA period ! Memphis is at a stand still and its time for a change PERIOD !

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Posted by Wake up on 12/05/2013 at 7:58 AM

I have no idea if Shea Flinn is considering a run for Mayor, but he would be better than what we have now. He is a little too liberal for my personal "taste", but my "taste" has no chance in hell of being elected. Therefore, a fiscally pragmatic candidate is the best I can hope for.

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Posted by thecatsmeow on 12/05/2013 at 8:44 AM


Yes, Shea Flinn is a nice guy, but he cannot win the post of mayor of Memphis. There is also no such thing as a fiscal pragmatist, for any mayor of Memphis, regardless of his fiscal expertise and desires, will be at the mercy of the Memphis City Council who, in turn must cater to the desires of their constituents. The post of mayor in Memphis is a weak position.

WakeUp, it is not the job of government to empower economic development of private business. It can offer incentives for business to move or to remain here, but, that is the extent of it's power. Name the so-called projects that are DOA with the majority of residents of Memphis. Memphis is not going to do things according to the wishes of you or anyone else if it does not have a majority consensus.

So, I challenge you to list the projects, etc that Memphis has backed that is against the majority. Yes, the majority, I believe, is for Autozone Park and the Crosstown project. Now, you show us where Memphis is so wrong? If you can't do that, you are just fartin in the wind.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/05/2013 at 11:02 AM

@ oldtimeplayer

Perhaps, I could have worded my intended description better. A pragmatic candidate as to fiscal issues may have indeed been better.

The majority "want" isn't always the correct course for government. Whether it is Crosstown, Autozone or even Southbrook, when public/private partnerships drain funds from needed public only funded projects such as street repair we are only hurting ourselves. IMO.

I understand the "purse strings" of government. A mayor should have a vision, present that vision and provide a plan to achieve that vision. Where is our Plan?

Then you can make a list of priorities that can be achieved within a budget. You can make a case to the citizens to tell their elected council person to support your goals. Perhaps Crosstown makes the cut, perhaps not.

That is how government is supposed to work. Not every district a kingdom unto itself and scrapping for what it can get. Without a vision and a plan the people perish, or a city.

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Posted by thecatsmeow on 12/05/2013 at 11:48 AM

"As is not so well known, Thomas had been eyed by a number of Republicans as a potential replacement for an embattled Rich Holden as administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission, which in recent years has been the subject of virtually nonstop negative publicity concerning this or that glitch." - - -
Does this make any sense whatsoever? Republicans are eying Chris Thomas to replace someone who doesn't need to be replaced because Thomas needs a job? No wonder people are sick of politics. Even the uninformed know experience is needed for a job running elections!

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Posted by d-tenn on 12/05/2013 at 2:30 PM


I understand what you are saying, but, in a democratic republic, that is not how it works or was intended to work.

Government is, of the people, for the people and by the people. There is no right way or wrong way in government fiscal matters. The people articulate their wants at the ballot box. If it turns out wrong, then, those same voters will have to suck it up and pay for or do without.

We don't have kings and potentates to do as they please, we have, we the people to make decisions on the directions we want to take.

So, your whold theory is completely wrong in the real world. Try another tact!

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/05/2013 at 3:40 PM

This is a message to the "wine and cheese" crowd of Memphis. You brought this economic misery on yourselves. You elected Wharton without any investigation on what kind of vision he had for Memphis. He gave thirty million dollars to Pinnacle Airlines and they flew away to Minneapolis. The city is suffering economically by the bad decisions of the elite few who support Wharton.

If you do not like Wharton, then I suggest the citizens who are not happy with his leadership organize an effort to vote him out of office. Memphis is not the next Detroit, Michigan. It is the next Cairo, Illinois. Memphis is almost bankrupted.

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Posted by stapletondia on 12/05/2013 at 4:41 PM

@ oldtimeplayer

"So, your whold theory is completely wrong in the real world. Try another tact!"

Quite simply, nope.

The founding fathers instituted the electoral college, because might, of the majority, doesn't always make right. Likewise they instituted tricameral government partly for the same reason. When Roe v Wade was decided, it was decided against the "wants" of the American people of the time.

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Posted by thecatsmeow on 12/06/2013 at 7:00 AM


You get another F in civics. The reason why this is a democratic republic rather than just a democratic government is because, the republic part guarantees certain rights that one is born with and cannot be taken away. If it was just democratic, then the majority could overrule any right. In a democratic republic, the guaranteed rights of individuals are not subject to a vote. In Roe v Wade, the case was based on the rights of privacy, a right that is enshrined in the constitution. So, what the people thought at that time did not matter.

The electoral college was instituted because of the balance, weighted by population, had to be made in presidential elections. The states, especially southern states wanted the president to be elected by the number o states won. The north argued that why should a state like Ms have as much weight in choosing a president than NY. You see this government was not made by the states, but by the people. So, the people's votes should determine who is president rather than states.

The reason for a tricameral government was to get away from the monarchy that they fought against. They were concerned that two much power concentrated into one entity was wrong. They also wanted an entity to deal strictly with laws, but, keep the money separate. The other part of this was that, even though George Washington was the most popular man in the nation, they still did not trust giving him (his office) total power. If they did that, it was the same as having a king. This is why the powers of the presidency has been limited. This separation also assured the founding fathers that no one institution could go wrong, away from the peoples wishes, without being replaced, thus, the house of representitives was specifically set up to be the peoples house. They were given the power of the purse and only allowed to serve 2 years before being subject to re-election. This was purposely don
e, to put them closest to the people and to allow the people to not be screwed too long under bad, previously enacted laws.

So, again, thecatsmeow, you have failed miserably in an effort to make things the way you want them to be.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/06/2013 at 9:44 AM

@ oldtimeplayer

You should know, by now, I respect your opinion and thoughts. you have much to add to a conversation or to anyone's point of view. Still, an"f" in civics? Because I was correct?

I am reminded of a post I made earlier:

OTP: But, I had such good jibber-jabber.

TCM: Yes, and some of your jibber-jabber actually made valid points. It had nothing to do with the actual issues in discussion, but it was good jibber-jabber.

OTP: Don't I get points for that?

TCM: No.


Take care in "cold rainstorm" 2013

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Posted by thecatsmeow on 12/06/2013 at 11:36 AM

The catsmeow

I like reading your posts, however, in your series of posts lately, you have ben wrong. On civics, you are definitely all wrong. I won't pull a, CHG, on you and go all into the writings of the founding fathers, but, this information is easy to access.

The main thing that most people get wrong about government is that they think the government is some entity, sitting on a lofty perch, far removed from reality. Of course the politicians want you to think this. The reality is, there is no entity called government that is far removed from the people, the, we the people, are the government. We, the people hold the ultimate power in our hands, our votes. Politicians serve at our pleasure, not the other way around. We, the people, have the power to demand laws, modifications, repeals, etc. If it is not done, we have the ultimate weapon with our votes. We simply refuse to re-elect that or those particular individuals. There is a saying that is true, the people should never fear government, the government should fear the people.

It is like Grove, you and others who put everything on corporate wishes. It is one thing that rings true, corporations can have all of the cash, but corporations don't vote, individual citizens do.

Not only do you get an F for content, but you get an F for not realizing that, we, the people, collectively can make the government do our bidding and if the government makes us do their bidding, we can and have the power to change that also.

That is why I gave you an F.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/06/2013 at 2:56 PM

To the old time player Memphis need good Paying Jobs period so that residents of this city will spend and do something to stop all this tax money from exiting every exit out of here , look around Red Bird park Fail ,Pyrimid Fail, The new boat dock and resturant on the river front Fail, Mud Island Fail Fed Ex form missing garage floor mata bus lane missing from the arena , My freind you blind poorest city in the south for its size Highest airfare in united states highest sales tax property tax high crime broken school system theft of 48 millon in items missing or should i say Stolen fom school , Yes Economic Empowerment for this city will work Politicans in this city have Fail the residents of Memphis , Sears Crosstown has line the pockets of the rich Cates family who appeared to be shady by hiding the fact they own the property you my freind couldnt get 15million with secrets and hiding things from any lender Wake up!

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Posted by Response on 12/06/2013 at 8:15 PM

Carol chumney needs torun again. For county Mayor

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Posted by memphonian on 12/07/2013 at 7:16 PM


You are 100% right about the political shortcomings of the area. You hit the nail right on the head about all of those failed projects.

What you didn't do is acknowledge why those particular projects failed. All of the projects except one failed because they were not built or financed for the majority of Memphians. How many blacks own and need the use of a boat dock downtown? How many blacks needed the pyramid downtown? How many blacks give a damn about redbirds park, or for that matter, the redbirds? All of these projects were doomed to fail because they were not built for the majority of the population, but, for a few, many who don't even live in Memphis proper.

I have to withhold judgment on Crosstown because if done right, it has the potential to benefit all of Memphis, not just a select few.

Yes, we need political leaders that think outside of the box. We need political leaders that do not kow-tow to a select group of people, but to all, if not the majority of the population. We need leaders who will give tax breaks where it is needed, in the most impoverished and underserved areas of the city. We need to give Kroger tax and hiring credits for building superstores with in the areas of the city that definitely need them, not to a super store in midtown. We need leaders to re-calibrate the deal with the conservancy groups on Overton Park and Shelby Farms with people that are more attuned to the needs and wishes of the large neglected population and not just to the whims and wishes of a few. We need leaders who think first of being all inclusive instead of exclusive when it comes to the tax payers dollars. We need leaders who will demand that MLG&W, not just cover expenses, but, make a profit out of contracting services to non Memphis communities.

Btw, response, when was the last time you visited Memphis Schools? Memphis has very good schools, physical plants and all. It is not the fault of the schools that a certain portion of children won't learn, for they all have the opportunity to learn. If you think that Memphis schools are bad, visit some schools in Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, La, Miami, Jacksonville, Birmingham, etc.

Response, your problem is that you are already bigoted to anything that has connotations of being run by and for blacks.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/08/2013 at 2:27 PM

The OTP said:

"We need to give Kroger tax and hiring credits for building superstores with in the areas of the city that definitely need them, not to a super store in midtown."

Did you know there are no national grocery chains with stores in the Detroit city limits?

Do you know why?

Posted by JuliusJones on 12/08/2013 at 5:26 PM

TO the OTP , majority of those projects were voted on by black elected officials and some of these projects came under a black mayor and a black director who holds three positions ?, this what you get greedy leaders in this city black or white a rip off ,Not one white mayor let someone have three postions and im far from a bigot my freind stop turning things into black and white thats a cop out, Memphis need new leadership instead of the hand pick we got right now , give younger politicans a chance black or white Wharton is a lawyer and never made a good mayor for the county or city , Herenton was ok he did some goood things but fail in job creation ,Ive been in city along time and school system has failed us point blank find ways to educate those who are struggling dont give up and tell us to look at NEw York OTP im in Memphis Tn

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Posted by Wake Up on 12/17/2013 at 8:26 AM
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