Wharton Draws 200 At First Town Hall

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. just held his first townhall meeting at Breath of Life Christian Center at about the point where Frayser meets Raleigh.

Wharton picked the area because of four recent homicides in the area, several involving teenagers.

The meeting drew a crowd of around 200 and after two hours, there were still numerous hands in the crowd who wanted to speak, mainly on the topic of crime.

Wharton had his team of division directors on hand to answer some specific questions. Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom fielded several complaints about garbage pick up from residents who say the new system that debuted in July is still not working well.

But Wharton heard a lot about abandoned houses in the area and the role they might play in fostering gang activity and violent crime such as street robberies.

Wharton gave a few clues about a future direction for crime programs that go beyond the round up and board up nature of Blue CRUSH. That will continue, he said. But he also signaled he plans to lobby for a raft of bills in the upcoming session of the state legislature that will speed the process of finding owners of neglected property and holding them more accountable.

Community Enhancement Director Ernest Dobbins told the group that out of town landlords are too often able to “manipulate” the current system that requires the city to take property owners to court.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin also said he and Wharton have been working on strategies that will attempt to reach juvenile offenders to “change their thought process”.

According to Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, the jail he runs has seen a 50 percent increase in juvenile offenders there over last year.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb also said the city is working on a new overall development plan for the Raleigh Springs Mall area. He told those at the town hall that the area has “too much retail” now to give all of the businesses a chance at success.

Wharton and Godwin also said a federal Safeways grant is being talked about for the Frayser area. The grant funded a successful crime fighting effort that targeted apartment complexes in the Hickory Hill area based on crime statistics showing the complexes were the crime hot spots in the area.

Godwin talks about all of this more at the City Council Tuesday.

Look for a full report in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.

Who Wants To Be Shelby County Mayor

Three Shelby County commissioners and a former suburban mayor are vying for the appointment to serve as the next Shelby County Mayor.

The Shelby County Commission is to vote Monday on the appointment to fill out the ten months left in the term of AC Wharton Jr. who became Memphis Mayor after the Oct. 15 special election.

Commission chairwoman Joyce Avery is serving as county mayor for up to 45 days. She is not among the four contenders who filed an application and underwent a background check before today’s interviews during committee sessions.

The four contenders are:
County Commissioner J.W. Gibson
County Commissioner Joe Ford
County Commissioner George Flinn
And former Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley.

Each identified the financial crisis at The Regional Medical Center as a top priority if they are selected. All said they would not be a candidate in the 2010 county elections. Flinn qualified that slightly by saying he would not run in 2010 if he wins the appointment.

There are a few parliamentary wrinkles and considerations going into Monday’s decision.

It will take seven votes to select the interim county mayor. But the three commissioners seeking the job won’t be able to vote even if they are eliminated over several rounds of voting. The ruling by Assistant County Attorney and parliamentarian Christy Kinard means the winner will have to get seven of nine available votes on the commission if all three commissioners stay in the running.

Picking one of the three commissioners would also mean the commission would then have to fill a vacant seat on the body as well.

Look for a preview of the County Commission’s decision in Monday’s edition of The Daily News. We will tweet the commission choice and provide a full account on www.memphisdailynews.com, later in the day Monday.

Dansette

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