Though first indications were that Mayor-elect A C Wharton might move with deliberate speed in the naming of his top aides, the news on Monday afternoon that he had settled on former MLGW head Herman Morris as his city attorney-designate indicated that the new mayor already had his mind made up about several of his appointees.
The ascension of Morris, an unsuccessful candidate for city mayor himself in 2007, was vaguely reminiscent of Dick Cheney, who became George W. Bush's choice for vice president in 2000 after being asked by then candidate Bush to look over the various candidates for the position. In like manner, Wharton had asked Morris to "research" the office of city attorney. Now, mere days later, in the punchline of an old joke, he ARE it.
Though his dogged, thoughtful manner was more a hindrance than a help to Morris as a candidate for mayor, it will doubtless serve him well in his new role. Long before Willie Herenton's last city attorney, Elbert Jefferson, tendered his formal resignation last week, he, along with the office he held, had become a liability to Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery and to city government itself. The stalemate between mayor and council over Lowery's attempts to fire Jefferson was a blemish on his otherwise outstanding fill-in tenure.
And Jefferson's suspect diversion of taxpayer funds to pay for Herenton's private legal expenses is one of several actions that had attracted adverse public attention, even legal action in the form of an ouster writ filed by district attorney general Bill Gibbons. Appointment of the stolid Morris by itself may serve to dispel a cloud of doubt over the city's legal doings — as, we might add, would long-term service by Veronica Coleman, who served as Lowery's deputy city attorney, might also have.
Wharton's dispatch in naming this first appointment is encouraging news and symbolically reassuring as we await the final shape of his new administration.
Though there was much to commend in the manner and outcome of last week's special mayoral election, there was much to encourage collective head-scratching, as well. What about that alleged low turnout — roughly 110,000 of the city's 400,000 eligible voters, not quite 25 percent of the whole?
Frankly, considering that there was only one race on the ballot with no "down-ballot" races for city council and no referenda to dispose of, we aren't as down in the dumps about the turnout as many others are. All things considered, one voter out of four doesn't strike us as catastrophic concerning the future of democracy — especially given the virtual certainty of the final outcome, from early on in the campaign.
Several of the losing candidates were outraged by proliferation of published polls, with their implicit predictions of a pending landslide for A C Wharton. So was Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini, who thought the polls were a major factor in suppressing voter turnout.
Maybe so, but given the final spread — Wharton by almost 50 percentage points over his closest competitor — we don't see how things would have been much different if all citizens had been dragooned to go vote, as they are in totalitarian lands that hold "elections."