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City Hall Changes

The Memphis mayoral transition began Friday afternoon. It involved pink slips for six City Hall employees who work on the seventh floor, which houses the mayor and his executive staff.

The six people reportedly included administrative assistants and an office manager. Lorene Essex, the city’s human resources director, deferred to Robert White, an aide to Memphis Mayor elect AC Wharton Jr., when asked by The Daily News for details of the employee terminations.

White declined to give Essex the OK to release those names out of what he said was a respect for their privacy. He also added that the action was not extraordinary – that it was a function of space being made for the team Wharton will bring with him from across Main Street.

That team will be unveiled Monday.

Also Monday, Wharton will take the oath of office at noon in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall.

The history of the moment is inescapable. Willie Herenton sat behind the big desk at City Hall for 17 years. A new era clearly is getting started.

All of which is to say, it seems a little surprising to this writer that he’s the only one as of 6:30 p.m. Friday to have confirmed his attendance at Monday’s swearing-in on Wharton’s Facebook page.

Update at midnight: Three more Facebook-ers have confirmed their attendance.

Stanford CFO sentencing postponed

James Davis, the one-time chief financial officer of Stanford Financial Group who worked out of the East Memphis Crescent Center, was scheduled to be sentenced next month.

He’s admitted to prosecutors his role in what is alleged to be a massive Ponzi scheme surrounding Stanford’s operations, which at one time included an office in Memphis that employed dozens of financial advisors.

Davis’ date in front of a judge won’t come for a while longer, however.

His sentencing has been cancelled, and a new date will be set for sometime after the criminal trial against Stanford and several former executives is over.

Farrakhan In Memphis

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and County Commissioner Henri Brooks weren’t just in the audience when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spoke in the city this weekend. They were in the front row behind Farrakhan and on stage with him at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Memphis City Council member Joe Brown also welcomed Farrakhan from the stage.

A commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the Million Man March Farrakhan organized on Washington DC, the Memphis appearance was vintage Farrakhan – a lengthy diatribe of over an hour in which Farrakhan praised President Barack Obama but expressed doubts that Obama was strong enough to overcome conspiratorial forces in the government.

In Farrakhan’s view, the H1N1 flu and stimulus programs that help pave roads and repair infrastructure are part of the conspiracy.

“The H1N1 vaccines – they’re telling you there’s a pandemic but they don’t have enough to get an influenza vaccination and many wise people won’t take it,” he said. “You see, years ago (former Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger talked about the work of the new century was culling billions of people from our planet. In the Talmud, the people are called goyem who are useless eaters. They eat but they are useless. … Culling is another word for getting rid of billions of people because they say things are shrinking in terms of what people need, there are too many people for too few resources.”

He also said recent flooding in the Atlanta area was a sign of “how quickly Allah is going to move to destroy the United States of America.”

Later in his speech, he returned to the theme of “the satanic mind at the top.

“We have to develop a science that kills them and make it look as though they died in a pestilence or they died from some disease,” he said speaking for the government conspirators he preached against.

Farrakhan charged America’s inner cities have become “toxic.”

“You tell me, why are the armories now around the major cities filled with armored personnel carriers, 50 caliber machine guns? Why have they fixed the roads around major cities with concrete rather than asphalt so heavy tanks and what not can roll into our communities?” he asked rhetorically. “What you saw in Gaza and Lebanon, you will soon see it in the inner city. You have become toxic waste and the people at the top are planning our destruction as I speak.”

Farrakhan also had criticism for Muslims, who do not consider the Nation of Islam to be real Islam, as well as Christians.

“If you are a Muslim, you are a part of the nation of Islam,” he said as he accused the FBI of terrorizing Muslim communities in America.

In urging Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end the war there, Farrakhan predicted a U.S. defeat similar to Vietnam.

“Many Muslims love death more than people of the west love life,” he said. “It’s not that we’re crazy. We always have believed. You Christians believe the same but you aren’t willing yet. You say you’re going to heaven when you die, but you don’t believe it. I know.”

At one point, he called Obama “poor brother Barack”.
“Don’t let this be on your record, Mr. President,” he said of the war in Afghanistan. “Even if you don’t like the Taliban and their extreme version of Islam, that’s there. That’s not your business.”

A rebound for a homegrown bank

Third quarter earnings season is upon us, and in the next week or so a slew of local banks will be reporting how much they made or lost over the last three months.

The bank with the largest share of the Memphis banking market posted strong third quarter numbers Friday.

First Horizon National Corp. – whose First Tennessee Bank held 34.03 percent of all local bank deposits as of June 30, putting it in the top spot on the FDIC’s 2009 market share report also released Friday – beat analyst expectations handily. The bank reported an earnings loss for the quarter of $52.9 million, a major improvement compared to the net loss in Q3 2008 of $118.3 million. The net loss equaled $.24 per diluted share, whereas analysts were expecting a loss above $.30 per share.

Revenue for the quarter topped $494 million.

The bank saw declines in troubled loans and socked away less money to cover potential losses. Its net interest margin grew from 3.05 percent to 3.14 percent, another good sign. That number is a margin that tells how profitably a bank is lending money at rates higher than the rate at which it borrows money.

One analyst thinks it’s a strong bet First Horizon will pay back its $866 million TARP investment by mid-2010.

Early Voting: The Surge

Early voting totals seemed to take a jump once the final tally was posted today at the Shelby County Election Commission.

What had seemed like a vote total that would maybe top 45,000 in the race for Memphis mayor has jumped to a total of 49,288.

Here’s why:

The Election Commission has been posting daily totals on its website, www.shelbyvote.com, and had been separating the early vote totals in the Memphis Mayor’s race from those in the pair of primaries for State Senate District 31.

The problem, according to local Election Administrator Richard Holden, is some of the voters in the State Senate district are also city residents eligible to vote in the Memphis Mayor’s race. District 31 takes in parts of Germantown and Cordova. The Cordova precincts include areas within the city of Memphis and areas in unincorporated Shelby County.

Of the approximately 6,500 voters who participated in the two uncontested state Senate primaries, Holden said only 631 voted in the primaries only. The rest also voted in the Memphis mayor’s race.

Keeping in mind that the turnout numbers are unofficial, subtracting the 631 voters leaves 48,655 voters in the mayor’s race. That amounts to 11.5 percent of the 423,049 voters in Memphis.

The Election Commission statistics show everything but who the voters chose from the 25 candidate field. By those statistics, 49.8 percent of the early voters were black and 28.7 percent were white. The remaining 21.5 percent were “other”, a category that includes voters who chose not to reveal their race on voter registration forms. Most of the early voters, 62.7 percent, were women.

The statistics also show which election day precincts the early voters live in. In the precinct breakdown, the highest precinct early voter turnout was in Glenview. 27.9 percent of the 1,500 voters in precinct 31-04 cast early votes. Voters in the precinct vote at Glenview Community Center on election day. The community center was also an early voting site.

The East Memphis precinct, 56-03, which votes at White Station Church of Christ, another early voting site, had a 22.8 percent turnout in early voting.

Precinct 75-05, which votes at Lakeview Elementary School, posted a 22.3 percent turnout.

And 21.2 percent of the voters at the East Memphis 57-00, which votes at Independent Presbyterian Church, voted early.

Our plans for election night include tweets as the vote totals roll in. We expect to have the early vote totals at around 8 pm Thursday evening and we’ll post those results on The Daily News website. We’ll tweet more as the election day totals come in. And look for a recap on the website once all of the unofficial totals are in.

Dansette

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