While we are in a kind of post election lull, let’s talk about voter turnout in the March 8 election.
There was a decent amount of Twitter traffic about this election night shortly after we posted a turnout percentage.
For those who missed it, 17 percent of the city’s 420,000 voters participated either on election day or during the early voting period.
From the reaction to that percentage, a good place to start the discussion seems to be whether it is possible to accept the decision made by those voters as valid and still be alarmed that such an important issue drew so few people to the polls.
Is the turnout a red herring to divert attention away from a decision made by ground rules that partisans on all side of the issue understood going into the voting period?
Does the voter turnout somehow make the issue of schools consolidation less vital? Or is the low turnout an indication of confusion in a political scenario in which the terms of a yes vote changed even as early voting was underway?
Or is this as simple as it rained on election day and people didn’t want to stop on their way to or from work and vote?
The answer could be all of the above and more. It has been ten years since voters in Shelby County have had an off election year. And the next scheduled off election year is 2013.
Give our questions a spin around the block and let us know what you think. Even add a few questions to the pot if you want.
On the one hand …
A tea party organizer for one of the many such groups in Tennessee was quoted this week as follows: “We all love teachers, we need our teachers, and we need to support our teachers, but we need to get rid of collective bargaining,” Northeast Tennessee/Kingsport Tea Party Organizer Britt Buehrig said.
“Tennessee also has a budget deficit. We need to meet it. We can meet it by curtailing some of the benefits that teachers are receiving. The counties and school districts can negotiate contracts that they can afford, because right now the state is going bankrupt.”
In other words, things are pretty bad when it comes to the state budget.
On the other hand …
There’s enough wiggle room for the state to absorb operation of the largest school system in the state.
Tenn. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters this week that the state ought to reach down and, never mind the voters’ wish that the two local systems consolidate and continue on their way, have MCS taken over by the state.
A regulatory filing Wednesday afternoon from First Tennessee Bank’s parent company First Horizon National Corp:
“On March 9, 2011, First Horizon National Corporation completed the purchase and cancellation of a common stock purchase warrant issued to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2008 in connection with First Horizon’s participation in the Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program. The warrant had given to the Treasury the right to purchase 14,842,321 of First Horizon’s common shares for $8.757 per share. First Horizon paid the Treasury $79.7 million to purchase the warrant. The warrant purchase was preceded by First Horizon’s purchase on December 22, 2010 of all outstanding shares of preferred stock which First Horizon had issued to the Treasury in 2008 under the Capital Purchase Program. The Treasury no longer holds any securities of First Horizon under that Program.”
This is the full statement from Tn. Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday’s schools consolidation vote:
“The voters in Memphis spoke clearly that the schools in Memphis should be merged with Shelby County,” Haslam said.
“Now comes the time for city and county leaders – in government, in education and in the community – to come together to develop a comprehensive plan to create a unified school district. There are a number of issues to be considered, but I believe the people of Memphis and Shelby County will get the job done.
“The state Department of Education is prepared to assist in the transition and plan development. I have asked newly-appointed Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to reach out to the two superintendents and the two mayors and offer his assistance.
“The issues in Memphis and Shelby County are about more than a vote or the development of a plan. The vote has occurred and a plan will be created.
“The real focus now needs to be on innovation, taking this opportunity and using the tools available to lay out a classroom approach that offers a quality education for all students.
“Resources already are in place with funds from the Gates Foundation and a number of charter schools that are part of the Memphis school mix. The threads for reform are there. The opportunity is to take them and weave them into a unified approach where there are the best teachers, great principals, strong elected leaders and supportive parents and community.
“Let’s take the opportunity after a local decision was made and transform the schools in Memphis and Shelby County into schools for the future.”
So today is election day.
In my opinion, one of the storylines that hasn’t gotten as much attention in the Memphis City Schools charter surrender brouhaha involves some members of the Shelby County’s Democratic legislation.
Say what you want about their approach – the GOP side of the delegation has been relentlessly effective in what they’ve tried to do.
Barring floor speeches from Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero, I haven’t seen much of anything from local Democrats in the legislature on the issue.
Sen. Ford? Didn’t you go to the mat and fight tooth and nail to get into the Senate in the first place? I don’t know what you’re waiting on, but right now is, like, game time.