This being an election season, the same old power brokers are out in force. As always, there is this or that slate of candidates sponsored by this or that self-interested individual or political organization preoccupied more with their own power or prerogatives than with the greater social good.
Well, help is on the way. A new group, the Coalition for a Better Memphis, came into being last year under the organizational aegis of Calvin Anderson of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee and Dean Deyo of the Leadership Academy. Comprising an impressive variety of local civic organizations, the coalition undertook through a series of questionnaires and interviews to rate candidates in the following categories: Vision; Qualifications and Experience; Ability to Implement Initiatives; Integrity and Ethics in Government; the County Debt; and Education Finance.
Without attempting to evaluate the evaluators and making allowances for the fact that not all candidates cooperated with the process, we suggest that potential voters in the May 2nd countywide primaries could do worse than consult the coalition's numerical ratings of candidates at BetterMemphis.org. There are no endorsements, but the coalition's rankings are in-depth, apparently conscientiously determined, and therefore helpful to any voter willing to make up his own mind.
At a time when the trend in local elections is for lower and lower turnouts, partly because of voter cynicism about politics as usual, the coalition and its efforts constitute a welcome addition.
Any time two such different political animals as Shelby County commissioners Bruce Thompson and Walter Bailey agree on an issue, it is worth our while to pay attention. Republican Thompson and Democrat Bailey argued strenuously but in vain Monday for an early meeting by the commission to appoint an interim state senator in District 29.
With at least a month to go in this session of the General Assembly and with last year's special election results voided by Senate action last week, the residents of that district, a sprawling area than runs along the Mississippi riverfront, suddenly find themselves without representation. With the forced departure of Democrat Ophelia Ford, whom no one blames for the irregularities of last year's election, District 29 now lacks both a voice and vote on the important deliberations yet to come -- not the least of which is the final shaping of the state budget.
Thompson and Bailey are unlikely to see eye to eye on the identity of an interim replacement for Ford, but they were willing to take their chances with a vote on May 8th.
That a majority of their colleagues preferred for reasons of political caution to put off the issue for another two weeks, with the likelihood that the legislature will then have adjourned for the year, is a major disappointment -- and a de facto disenfranchisement for the residents of District 29.