Friday, May 15, 2015

The Race for Memphis City Council . . .

Last night, ~May 14, 2015~ there was a debate for City Council District 7 at the Douglass K-8 Optional School.  The candidates attending were Berlin Boyd, ~current interim councilman~ Thurston Smith, Michael Steven Moore and Anthony Anderson.  The questions were asked by a variety of elected officials and community activists as well as three students from Douglass’ debate team.    Brian Clay invited several candidates and community leaders to speak before the debate.  I've listed the particulars at the end.

What struck me the most about the questions was that not one of them was about economic development.  A couple of the candidates talked about how everyone deserves a livable wage, but no one addressed how to unleash the power of businesses so that there are jobs to provide a wage ~livable or otherwise~.  Education was a hot topic, which, as Terry Roland pointed out, Memphis is no longer in the school business.  How to bring more money into the district was asked.  How long and where they lived in the district was asked.  Blight was discussed.  I have to give kudos to Ms. Carter for bringing up the youth mobs and violence, but each of the candidates’ answers to that was more money for education and community programs.  The first student’s question was about the economic divide in Memphis.  The second student’s question was about mandatory preschool, ~as an aside, Mr. Boyd mentioned that funding for preschool was going to come up again~ and the third student’s question was about keeping Memphis college graduates in Memphis.  There wasn’t a question about smart meters.  There wasn’t a question about restoring the police and fire pensions even though there was a group from the “Just the Facts” group on Facebook sitting in front.  The Bass Pro Shop didn’t get asked about or the PILOT programs either.  It was all about getting public and private funding and how each of the candidates could get the most money.

I have to give Mr. Boyd credit because he did bring up the city budget and the fiscal cliff that we are up against.  He did talk about how the pension plan should have been addressed years ago.  He didn’t discuss his record about voting for some of the high dollar projects that the city of Memphis taxpayers are on the hook for.   I also have to give kudos to Mr. Boyd because he was the only business owner and entrepreneur among them.  He did talk about the tax base and how we need to not allow anyone to tell us how much we are worth, but go out and make it happen.  I also give him kudos for showing up due to the fact that he was in a motorcycle accident over the weekend and was on crutches.

Michael Steven Moore mentioned several times that he was Barbara Swearengen Holt-Ware’s son and had run her former campaigns.  His campaign slogan was "Every inch, every individual, and every issue."  Even when the question was for the candidates to each pick an issue that was important to the community and discuss how they would address it, he came back to his campaign slogan instead of actually answering with a specific issue.  He ran and lost to Lee Harris for this city council seat in 2011.

Anthony Anderson called himself a social-preneur.  For those who might be wondering what a social-preneur is, a social-preneur is an entrepreneur who practices social justice.  Mr. Anderson mentioned that when they started the charter schools they paid everyone down to the custodian a living wage with benefits.His qualifications that he touted was that he founded a network of charter schools that have been successful and that he has experience with funneling private money into infrastructure for schools.  He also talked several times about how we should “spread the wealth.”

Last but not least was Thurston Smith.  The names that he dropped were President Obama and Loretta Lynch.  He even pulled up an email from Loretta Lynch on his phone that he had received from her that day.  He came to Memphis because of his appointment in the Veterans Administration.  Not a real plus in my book because of the fiasco that the VA is in currently.  His idea on getting funding for the district is crack ~taxpayer~ money from various grants.  In fact, he posted this idea on the FB group “Just the Facts” and ended up deleting the post because he was challenged on how the problem isn't enough money, but the breakdown of the family and missing dads.  He deleted the post because it had turned political.  Hello!?!  You are running for a political office that will be spending taxpayer money.

It looks like I left a little too soon.  It was getting late and my bottom was sore from sitting on the hard benches for so long.  They were wrapping up the district 7 debate and it sounded like they were wrapping up the event, but apparently I was wrong.  The event was supposed to be a debate for Super District 8 as well, but since only Martavius Jones was in attendance and it was so late, I didn't think that they would do it.  Apparently, Kemba Ford acted as interviewer for Mr. Jones and asked him pretty much the questions that were asked the district 7 candidates.  Shelby Co Commissioner Terry Roland apparently called out Martavius Jones ~who is also currently on the Shelby County Commission~ in typical Terry Roland fashion and there were words exchanged.  From a video that I saw, it looks like I was with the majority of the attendees.  Most had already left.

The irony to me is that this debate took place in a school and community that was named after Frederick Douglass.  Frederick Douglass was a slave who taught himself to read and influenced President Abraham Lincoln.  Frederick Douglass didn’t make excuses for himself and look for handouts.  He loved the Constitution and worked hard to become successful.  I’ll share with you with a couple of his quotes.

“In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.  Read its preamble, consider its purposes.”
“In regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us.... I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! ... And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! ... Your interference is doing him positive injury.”

I didn't hear any of the spirit of Frederick Douglass last night.  All I heard were people looking for what government could do for them.  Memphis has great potential, but we are in serious trouble because so many of the citizens of Memphis don’t understand economics and the proper role of government.  City government isn't about funding social projects.  From the Memphis City Charter, Article 1, Section 1, the original taxing district ~later changed to city~ was created “in order to provide the means of local government for the peace, safety and general welfare of such districts.”  That means law enforcement and infrastructure.  General welfare means that it benefits all of the city of Memphis, not just certain groups within the city.

Memphis has great potential and I love this city, but we will not move forward until we get back to the basics of a civil society.  We have professional race stirrers.  We have elected officials that spend too much money on things that government ~taxpayers~ has no business funding.  We want safe neighborhoods and quality education for our kids.  Neither of those will happen until we get back to taking responsibility for our actions and parents taking responsibility for their children.  Instead of blaming those that leave Memphis looking for those things, why don't we work on providing them.  We are experiencing the consequences of looking to the government to fix our problems.  Isn't it time to try something different?

The panel who asked the questions were Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, Shelby County Democratic Party Secretary Lexie Reed Carter , former City Councilman Shep Wilburn, talk show host Jennings Benard, community activist Charlie Caswell, and Carlissa Shaw from Horne/Wells as well as three students from the Douglass debate team.  Also asked to speak were Jim Strickland, ~current city councilman and candidate for mayor~ Kenneth Whalum, ~former MCS board member who has pulled petitions for both city council and mayor~ Michael Williams, ~Memphis Police Association President and also running for mayor~ Randa Spears, ~Shelby Co. Democratic Party Chariman~ John Cornes, ~real estate~ and City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert.

No comments:

Post a Comment