There is nothing scarier in the field of political prognostication than trying to figure out what voters were saying through their votes — what the result of an election means.
In 2008, Shelby County voters were asked to vote on two sets of amendments to the Shelby County charter. One of them included a charter amendment that expanded term limits to several other countywide offices but in the process amended the existing limit of two consecutive terms for the mayor and county commission to three consecutive terms.
Voters rejected that package of charter amendments prompting another vigorous debate on the County Commission about term limits. Some on the commission concluded that voters were for term limits and specifically for no more than two consecutive terms. Others on the commission said voters were sending a message that they were opposed to any term limits including the ones they approved in the 1990s.
The next batch of county charter amendments included a two term limit and was approved by county voters.
So, what was the sentiment voters were expressing in their rejection last week of the half percent city sales tax hike?
From talking with a decidedly unscientific sampling of voters — folks I ran across the day after the votes were counted — I heard several reasons among those who voted.
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If you drive the Poplar Corridor, you’ve probably driven past the row of shops near Poplar and Mendenhall that includes Cavalier Cleaners, a 62-year old East Memphis business owned and operated by Ann and Leroy Hidinger Jr. and their children for all of those years.
And if you went to talk with Leroy Hidinger at the business you would find him in a small office off the counter with boxes of paper receipts and other reminders of the way offices were kept before computers. Some heavy brass desk ornaments like a date changer and a pen set were on the desk which showed every indication of a business owner tending to his business with his time-tested methods and knowledge and help from his family.
I was one of those who went to the dry cleaning business to talk with him about a very remarkable life that came to an end a week ago at the age of 93.
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Just from personal observation, the discussions I’ve heard and seen about the no gang zone declaration in the Riverside neighborhood made a week ago Monday have been as nuanced as the issue itself and as complex as the court order that specifies what gang members in the zone can and can’t do — the list of what they can’t do in the area being much longer.
There’s also been a fair amount of frustration expressed about the problem the zone is designed to combat.
“It puts everybody’s name in there – up on Front Street. Just as they tag these buildings, we have tagged them,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said. “It’s going to make it a bit more inconvenient for the higher-ups in the criminal enterprises to work with someone who’s been tagged in a court complaint.”
District Attorney General Amy Weirich and the local and federal Multi-Agency Gang Unit is applying a 2009 Tennessee law permitting the zones. The local effort got advice from authorities in Fresno County, Cal. who have used them extensively. But Weirich is trying to avoid some of the pitfalls that caused the use of a similar zone in Orange County, Cal. to be challenged in court.
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Democrats got more toast than roast this weekend at a Saturday night fundraiser for the local party billed as a roast of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
The crowd of 300 at Colonial Country Club included some past Herenton rivals but was mostly a group of political allies.
But as with any longstanding political icon, many relationships are a mixture of both over the years as circumstances change several times over.
Former Memphis City Council member Brent Taylor stole the show with already high expectations for some friction between the two. Several of those who went before Taylor referenced the stormy council committee session in which Herenton asked Taylor if he wanted to step outside.
The back story is Herenton and Taylor later become friends even though they continued to disagree on the role the council played in working with the mayor. They continue to come from very different political places – Herenton is a Democrat and Taylor is a Republican.
But Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism said Herenton urged him privately to support Taylor’s re-election efforts to the nonpartisan council. Chism and Taylor later served together on the Shelby County Commission when Taylor was appointed on an interim basis to fill the vacancy created by Mike Carpenter’s resignation.
Chism said Herenton’s momentary ire at Taylor during the council committee session, Chism would later learn was because Herenton said “he looked at me funny.”
“Hell has officially frozen over,” Taylor said after a few preliminary remarks. “The nation has a black president. Memphis has a white Congressman. Herenton is out of office and I’m speaking at a Democratic event.”
From there, Taylor pushed further with Herenton sitting just a few feet away.
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Harold Ford Sr., the former Memphis Congressman and founder of the new Harold Ford Funeral Home, has been in town this week for the formal opening of the new business which we will be writing more about in Tuesday’s edition.
Ford, who now lives in Miami, left Congress at the end of 1996 choosing not to seek re-election and a bit uncertain that he would like becoming a consultant and lobbyist. Now Ford says he will gradually be getting out of that business, remain based in Washington and Miami and build what he hopes will be a group of funeral homes that include crematoriums as well as new types of park-like settings for the urns containing the remains of those who are cremated. The operation features computer links that allow for 24-hour remote viewing of services and even the permanent settings for the urns in the park.
Earlier this year, Ford closed on the shopping center at 1638 Sycamore View and the funeral home will take up the entire center. Ford is in Chicago this weekend to prepare for the opening of the same business there.
It’s a business Ford knows well. He has been in it all of his life. It is the family business through several generations. And he maintained his mortician’s license through out his storied and groundbreaking political career.
So, you can understand us asking his view of what will happen in Washington with the potential government shutdown and the future of Obamacare.
“It’s a tough call for Congress. I think the House just might be silly enough not to pass this. I’m not sure they are going to agree with the Senate. If not, we are headed for a shutdown,” Ford said Friday afternoon as he mentally reviewed where the votes appeared to be in the majority Republican house led by House speaker John Boehner. “I don’t think Boehner can get his votes. If he brings his bill to the floor there are 189 Democrats on the floor. All three of the Republican leaders in the House are in support of passing this and funding Obamacare. They don’t want to fund Obamacare but they are willing to let it go through and not have the government shutdown. So all they need is 25 votes. If Boehner can’t deliver that – what Boehner is really afraid of is that if he puts it on the floor they will get a Republican caucus and vote him out of office. … It’s a tough call for him. But I think he ought to be a statesman even if it costs him his speakership. He’ll go down in history as a brave and great guy.”