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On The Hall of Mayors

 

There is a certain symmetry to the Hall of Mayors with the inclusion this week of the portrait of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

With the shift of William Ingram to another wall, all of the mayors under the current mayor-council form of government are on the same wall in the hall — Henry Loeb, Wyeth Chandler, Dick Hackett and now Willie Herenton – the longest serving mayor in the city’s history at 17 years and change.

To be more precise, Jan. 1, 1992 to July 31, 2009.

Ingram was moved to the east wall, next to Edmund Orgill, but it’s not chronological – at least not strictly speaking.

Loeb was mayor under the commission form of government from 1960-1963 before returning in 1968 for one term as the first mayor under the mayor-council form of government.

Conspicuously missing from the east wall is Mayor James Pleasants who served from 1947-1949.

Pleasants was elected but did not serve a full term, resigning in 1949 citing health concerns. Those few years also weren’t particularly good ones for the Crump political machine, whose namesake – Edward Hull Crump — is featured in his younger turn of the century years when mayors served two year terms and Tennessee had a prohibition law which Crump refused to enforce, leading to his resignation as mayor in 1915.

Herenton now has a portrait at City Hall to go with a statue of himself near LeMoyne Owen College in South Memphis. The statue was unveiled during Herenton’s tenure as mayor. He’s not the only mayor with a statue, however.

The statue of E.H. Crump is at the Poplar entrance to Overton Park standing imperiously with one hand atop a cane, the other – holding a hat – on his hip.

In the Memphis Pink Palace museum is a more animated and much smaller prototype that didn’t make the cut. It shows Crump with one arm raised in what was a more typical pose Crump displayed in photographs.

In both, Crump’s likeness is wearing what looks to be a winter coat that can look very warm on a winter day in Overton Park.

Pleasants isn’t the only city leader left out in the cold when it comes to City Hall.

Lt. Col. Thomas H. Harris and Capt. Channing Richards, the two military officials who ran the city during the city’s years of military rule during the Civil War, are not in the hall.

But the hall does include four other non-mayors. And they are the portraits that are usually the backdrop for announcements in the Hall of Mayors.

They were the presidents of the taxing district during the 12-year period after the 1878 Yellow Fever epidemics when the city of Memphis lost its charter.

They are John Overton Jr., Dr. D.T. Porter, David Park Hadden and William D. Bethell.

Their portraits are directly opposite the wall with the four most recent elected mayors.

If you’ve been at or watched on television a press conference in the Hall of Mayors, those are usually the painted faces in the background.

 

Commercial Appeal paywall apparently goes live Oct. 2

Carole Tarrant, editor of The Roanoke Times newspaper in Virginia, tweeted some interesting comments from Commercial Appeal editor Chris Peck today, who spoke at a tablet/mobile strategies conference in St. Louis on the CA’s new paid digital strategy.

Guy Tasaka, a digital media consultant, also was on the panel speaking.

Tarrant tweeted that, according to Peck, the CA’s new paywall goes live Sunday, Oct. 2. There will be a 10-story limit per month, and it will cost $9.95 after that. Interestingly, she attributes to Peck the comment “Don’t expect much traffic impact.”

She said that Peck, in response to the question of whether there will be a different story selection process for the paper’s digital iteration, said “This is still a work in progress.”

According to her, Peck also estimated that $400,000 was spent on consultants, about the same in staff time, to develop the paper’s digital strategy. “Big investment risk.” She also tweeted that Peck said:

“Memphis has steep challenge – poorest big U.S. city. Much room to grow paid digital? Don’t know.”

And

“Proud we haven’t degraded our journalism while pursuing this strategy.”

Tarrant tweeted that Tasaka said “Memphis was never going to see huge digital growth but paid strategy could ‘future proof their business.’”

For more details, see this story by Daily News reporter Sarah Baker.

Rick Perry, at Memphis fundraiser, elaborates on immigration

In an interview with The Daily News after he introduced Texas Gov. and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry at a fundraiser in Memphis Wednesday, Tenn. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey defended the recent controversial remarks and stance of Perry over immigration – specifically, over a Texas state law that makes possible a college tuition break to the children of illegal immigrants there.

Ramsey has been an early – and ardent – supporter of the Texas governor.

In one of the recent Republican presidential debates, Perry said opponents of that policy were “heartless”. But Perry walked that back somewhat Wednesday, saying “heartless” probably represented a poor choice of words. Perry said pretty much that same thing to Newsmax, and it got wide play nationally on Wednesday as an apparent softening or position-shuffling by Perry.

At his fundraiser Wednesday at the Memphis Botanic Garden, though, Perry at least got to do what he hasn’t always been able to in the rapid-fire setup of presidential debates, and that is to more fully explain himself on immigration.

“I want to share with you why we did what we did in Texas,” said Perry, whose remarks were videoed by Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas and posted to Thomas’ Facebook page.

Perry said Texas had a need to take some kind of action because of an inadequate response to the immigration issue by the federal government.

“Texas is a unique place, from the standpoint of a 1,200-mile border with a foreign country,” Perry said. “For decades, we’ve had this open border that has allowed people to come into the state of Texas. The federal government is not going to round everybody up and send them back to the country of their origin. That’s not going to happen.

“We made the decision we would rather those young people go to our institutions of higher learning and be educated. You either keep them uneducated and have them on the rolls of the government, or educate them and let them become part of the workforce in that state.”

Ramsey said even if a state like Tennessee wouldn’t have pursued the same policy choice, that doesn’t mean Texas was wrong for doing so.

Ramsey said the states are “50 laboratories of democracy. And until the federal government does its job, the burden is on Texas, whether they like it or not.”

On The Election Forum

 

The Daily News moderated a city council candidates forum this week for the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Downtown was split in the recent redistricting of the council earlier this year. The area south of Poplar Avenue was moved to council District 6 and the area north of Poplar including Uptown remains in council District 7.

Seven of the 14 contenders for district 7 made the forum. Three of the four contenders for district 6 were there.

I asked how the candidates if elected would respond when the next city budget season rolls around in the spring and another council member proposes making this year’s 18 cent “one time only” property tax hike a permanent part of the city property tax rate.

Most on the panel said they would not favor extending the tax hike, but also said the city may very well need more revenue which it would have to get from somewhere other than the property tax rate. A few said they would have to know where the revenue from the 18 cents would go if it was renewed and made part of the property tax rate.

Several pushed a payroll tax but with the distinction that the tax should not apply to those who work in Memphis and live in Memphis – only to those who work in Memphis and live outside of Memphis or the state. There have been numerous legal opinions over the years concluding that such a distinction would not be legal.

The biggest disagreement and the best discussion, in my opinion, came as the candidates talked about the recent U.S. Census numbers that show the Memphis area has the highest poverty rate of any metropolitan area in the country.

District 7 contenders Raymond Bursi and Kemba Ford talked bluntly about their belief that the Memphis City School system was failing its students and not preparing them to compete in the workplace. It brought an equally blunt response from Rhoda Stigall and Clara Ford, candidates in the District 6 race and educators who have worked in the MCS system. They defended the school system and said it was unfair to put that much of the blame on teachers. They also pointed out that many of the other candidates were also MCS graduates who turned out pretty well.

Another dominant theme was the belief that the city of Memphis should do more of its business with Memphians.

Equally interesting were the life stories about what brought these candidates to the point of deciding to run for office. Campaigns are a mix of constant introductions to voters and opinions about what should happen. Both are valid topics for voters to consider.

Our politics gets some deserved criticism for being too much about personality and name recognition. But knowing where a candidate comes from can help voters get to the next step, which is how the candidates feel about a particular issue or what they would do if elected or re-elected. A balanced mix of the two elements is where voters can feel like they are taking less of a chance in weighing what one stranger promises to do versus what another stranger promises to do.

The forums are probably not the best use of time for campaign strategists who want their candidate blitzing toward the end of the early voting period – making contact with as many potential voters as possible. Those voters sometimes see the forums as a place for candidates to perform a well honed tap dance that delivers the message the candidates want regardless of what the questions are.

Some candidates get angry when they show up at a forum that features more candidates than uncommitted voters. Some uncommitted voters get frustrated when a large group of candidates show up and they don’t recognize any of them.

Having noted that, the DNA forum was an interesting discussion among a group of ten candidates across the district boundaries.

I cover more of these forums than I moderate. And it can be a perilous assignment because each candidate is watching to make sure their rivals don’t get an unfair advantage – a few more seconds to speak, always being called on first or last to answer a question.

What I found was that the candidates, this time around, really got drawn into the discussion. They were listening to one another for more than mistakes or points of attack to use in future encounters.

 

 

First Tennessee takes a leap forward on the tech front

Just in time for the debut of the new iPhone in matter of days: First Tennessee Bank is the first Tennessee-based bank and among the first in the country to allow customers to deposit checks by snapping iPhone photos of them.

Using the iPhone to photograph a check sends an electronic image to First Tennessee for deposit. Mobile deposit is now available for eligible iPhone users currently enrolled in mobile banking, and First Tennessee is developing mobile deposit for other smartphones.

More information is available at www.ftb.com/mobiledeposit.

“With mobile deposit, we are able to accommodate our customers’ fast-paced lifestyles and provide added convenience and security,” said First Tennessee chief marketing officer Dan Marks.

At a presentation in New York City earlier this month at the Barclays Capital 2011 Global Financial Services Conference, Bryan Jordan – president and CEO of First Tennessee parent co. First Horizon National Corp. – said the company is spending big on tech upgrades and revamps.

“Over the last three years, we’ve gone through a $100 million dollar-plus investment in our technology platforms and systems,” Jordan said.

He added that the company has largely completely refreshed its platforms on the sales side and in the back office, which he said would help with things like efficiency and customer services levels.

Dansette

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