Wharton Comes Out Fighting



Sounding more like the captain of the underdog team than the law professor or the honest broker of compromise, a fired-up Mayor A C Wharton on Friday vowed to fight for the children and voters of Memphis against the will of the state legislature on school system consolidation.

And, if anyone has any doubts, he is officially on record now saying he will vote "for" the referendum on March 8th.

Wharton held a press conference at City Hall to respond to Gov. Bill Haslam's signing a bill setting the terms for the transition period and merger of the city and county school systems. He said Memphis is under-represented on the transition committee as the legislation now reads.

"This bill was flawed from its inception," he said, because "it changed the rules in the middle of the game."

He said he is determined to see "that this does not stand," and he is working with the city attorney and the city council's attorney on a lawsuit.

Wharton said the city school board acted within its rights to surrender the charter — likening its action to returning children to their rightful parents — and the City Council has now affirmed that action. Council chairman Myron Lowery and several Democratic members of the Shelby County legislative delegation joined Wharton in a show of support.

He said this is not about his right as mayor to pick representatives on the board but, rather, the right of 103,000 students in Memphis City Schools to have some representation. He said he and Haslam can still have a good relationship on economic issues.

"On things economic, we can remain one," he said.

Wharton had tried to remain neutral before the legislature took action, but no more.

"When you get to a point like this you can't be neutral," he said.

Pressed a bit, he finally said, "I'm gonna vote yes" and ended the press conference.

At an earlier press conference, state legislators from Memphis said they will continue efforts to convince their colleagues to reconsider their vote this week and side with Memphis. They plan to introduce several of their rejected amendments as bills next week.

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