In remarks to a luncheon of the Rotary Club of Memphis on Tuesday, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell made a strong statement in defense of the media’s role vis-à-vis the government, and the term-limited official, who is destined to leave office at the end of his current four-year term, indicated that he intends to intervene directly in next year’s Republican primary to determine his successor.
On the first score, the former Sheriff recounted for the Rotarians a recent case in which a formerly admired and respected sheriff in California had been convicted for instances of corruption uncovered by the media and said, to loud applause from the Rotarians, “That’s what our society should be about – the media holding public officials accountable.”
Luttrell touted the “healthy relationship” whereby “we rely on the media to get out message out, and they depend on us….to keep the community informed.” He took note of the ongoing shrinkage of media staff and coverage and said, “We should mourn, we should genuinely mourn for the status of The Commercial Appeal.”
On the subject of partisanship in politics, Luttrell appealed for a situation “where Ds and Rs are secondary and declared, “We used to see it in Washington, we used to see it in Nashville,” but that things had become “so partisan and so divided that it’s increasingly difficult to deal with issues that need to get addressed.”
Asked if we had misgivings about the conduct of “the current Republican leadership in Washington,” Luttrell answer, “Yes…I am disturbed about it —the shrillness of thee rhetoric. I have seen a lack of civil discourse that is very disturbing.”
Asked about the forthcoming 2018 race to succeed him, Luttrell said, “Every incumbent wants to leave a legacy….I am not opposed to endorsing in the primary. I’ll do it if I can find a candidate embracing the same general values and principles that this administration has.”
Luttrell did not name names, but the Republican primary for County Mayor in 2018 is expected to be between County Trustee David Lenoir and County Commissioner Terry Roland, with whom the current mayor has been involved in an off-and-on power struggle. (Luttrell had praised Democratic Commissioner Van Turner, who had introduced him to the Rotariqans and encouraged Turner to run but he said afterward than he would probably restrict any endorsement he gave to the GOP primary.)
On other matters, Luttrell:
*Said he “never felt comfortable” with the erstwhile slogan of “every child college bound” and made a point of endorsing the revival of interest in vo-tech offerings;
*Praised the creative instincts and construction projects of “millennials” and said Memphis’ progress in educational innovations had made it a “Teachertown.”
*Declared that the proposed city “rightsizing” formula for de-annexation posed no threat to county government but said massive de-annexation would create a burden county law enforcement.