- Pete Sisson
Some 12 years ago, the relations between city and county government, and between the officials who headed them, were being strained to the breaking point.
As we detailed in our October 16, 1997, and October 23, 1997, issues, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County mayor Jim Rout were proceeding in opposite directions regarding the then raging "Toy Town" controversy.
That term referred to legislation which had been slipped through that year's session of the Tennessee General Assembly enabling quick and easy municipal incorporation for almost any suburban community big enough to have a convenience store. Intended by its sponsor, then Lieutenant Governor John Wilder, as a means of protecting the Fayette County hamlet of Hickory Wythe, it resulted in a proliferation of would-be "cities" in Shelby County — more than a score of them, with names like Independence, New Berryhill, Nonconnah, Fisherville, and Neshoba.
It never came to pass. Herenton's stout defense of Memphis' annexation rights, assisted by a battery of lawyers, would get the "Toy Town" bill, aka "Chapter 98," declared unconstitutional. It was arguably the Memphis mayor's finest moment.
Amid this ongoing melee, a retiring county commissioner, Pete Sisson, made a startling proposal — for full and complete city/county consolidation, accompanied by single-source school funding, but with city and county schools administered by separate school districts. A city-county charter commission should forthwith be appointed to prepare a referendum of consolidation. The proposal gathered some steam but became moot when the state Supreme Court declared Chapter 98 unconstitutional.