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Breaking Budget Customs

 

The city budget book is out – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s operating budget proposal – in color.

It’s on the City of Memphis website and here is a link.

Give it a look now because once the City Council budget committee gets into hearings that start April 26, it is expected to change substantially.

That is one thing Wharton and many on the council agree on.

There was a bit of drama in Wharton’s annual budget presentation to the council. Put this under the heading of some blog posts we’ve done periodically about our political culture. We’ve talked specifically about that part of the culture that deals with public presentations and assemblies that at times can seem entirely too ceremonial, too time consuming and too bound to customs that once were more relevant.

The budget address is required by the city charter. It is a time when the mayor assembles his division directors in the front rows of the council chambers and talks about his plans for the coming fiscal year. There are usually some dollar amounts that come with descriptions of how the money will be used and where it comes from.

And when the mayor finishes, he usually gets the first reviews and some questions from several council members. The comments are usually a mix of praise for the administration and an indication of the budget areas some council members will focus on once the budget hearings begin. It’s also par for the course for the mayor to hear some criticism or questioning of his priorities.

Mayor Willie Herenton, during his 17 years as the city’s chief executive, always tried to keep the exchanges at this point in the process short. But he would take a few comments and questions and if a council member was more pointed, Herenton would respond in kind.

Since becoming Mayor in 2009, Wharton has been more conciliatory saying council concerns would be addressed during budget hearings.

But this week, Wharton took a different approach. His budget message was concise and general. There was no specific mention of the 28-cent tax rate hike/tax hike.

And at the end, as council members began seeking recognition from council chairman Edmund Ford Jr., Wharton left the council chamber.

He met in his upstairs conference room a bit later with reporters as the council session downstairs continued.

Some on the council were upset. Council member Harold Collins saw it as disrespectful.

Wharton said he thought the exchanges have led to “fragmented information” and “trying to make a budget on sound bites and scoring points.”

Council budget committee chairman Jim Strickland, who will lead the coming budget sessions and review, didn’t attach much significance to the change.

“I thought it was odd that he just walked out,” he said after the council session. “I don’t think it portends anything for the future.”

 

Memphis Goes To The White House

 

Most of us got our first look Tuesday evening on PBS at the big night for Memphis music at the White House earlier this month.

And if you believe, as I do, that Memphis music is something you identify by feel before you even see who is playing, you have to say the Obamas and their guests got the real thing.

I thought it was interesting to see the President’s daughters taking in the older performers like Sam Moore and Mavis Staples as their mother and father clapped and swayed to the songs.

Older people singing with passion and emotional abandon about the passages of love and life that we probably tend to associate most with the young but which endure as we grow older even if we don’t talk about them in the same ways.

And President Obama said something that I think may be one of the best expressions of the appeal of our music that makes it ours here in Memphis but also makes it the world’s music.

“We don’t even know ourselves how that music has endured for so long,” he said before the show started.

Like all music that matters, if you try to analyze the parts of the music that made and continues to make Memphis great you won’t get to its essence. You also won’t get to it by finding Memphis on the map.

If you don’t believe people beyond our city limits relate to Memphis music on a level just as intense as our own take a look at what Queen Latifah did to “I Can’t Stand the Rain” at the White House and then watch Ben Harper completely forget he is in the White House as he hits a Memphis groove with Charlie Musselwhite on “I’m In. I’m Out And I’m Gone.”

Harper’s performance is a reminder that the influence of Memphis music isn’t a museum piece to be pinned to a board and hung on a wall to look at. It’s living and breathing in the present. And it continues to connect with people who will make it their own and the world’s own for some time to come.

Run at Overton Park to Honor Boston

Breakaway Running is hosting a run Thursday night (April 18) at 6:15 p.m. through Overton Park to honor those affected by the bombings during the Boston Marathon earlier this week.

The approximately 2.6-mile run will start and end at the Rainbow Lake Pavilion. A party at Slider Inn will follow with music by the Michael Brothers Band.

It’s free to run, and donations will be taken to be sent to Boston.

More info here.

UPDATE: This event has been moved to Friday, April 19, at 6:15 p.m. to accommodate bad weather coming into the area Thursday.

Free showing of White House Memphis music concert at Malco Paradiso

For anyone who missed it or who wants to see it again, the Memphis music concert at the White House is being shown for free at the Malco Paradiso Tuesday (April 16).

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and the event starts at 6:30. Tickets are free but limited and can be reserved at http://memphissoul.eventbrite.com.

The showing is hosted by WKNO-TV, WDIA/Clear Channel Radio and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

Raines Leaves U of M

 

More coming in the Tuesday edition on the exit of Dr. Shirley Raines as president of the University of Memphis at the end of June.

Raines announces her retirement after a dozen years at the helm of the city’s largest higher education institution. In that time, much has changed on the campus and off the campus footprint.

Here’s the story we ran in The Memphis News last year that marked the school’s centennial as well as what Raines was working to accomplish beyond the bricks and mortar.

 

 

Dansette

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