Joe Brown and ‘Gingerbread Land’

 

When it meets Tuesday, the Memphis City Council is expected to be done with the Ramesses the Great statue in front of The Pyramid.

The council will vote on what amounts to giving the 50 ton replica of an Egyptian antiquity to the University of Memphis whose Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology was instrumental in curating the Wonders exhibit on ancient Egypt in the late 1980s.

The transfer was held up by council member Joe Brown who had a point. To make his point about the exact wording of the arrangement between the city and the government of Egypt he brought in former Memphis Mayor Dick Hackett and Glen Campbell the head of the old Wonders series. The agreement with Egypt was that the city could not sell the Ramesses replica. So it is being called something other than a sale and the university still pays the cost of moving the icon as The Pyramid is prepped for its arena after life.

Brown is likely to remain a vocal presence on the council which, despite the re-election of all 12 incumbents seeking re-election this past month, is proving to be a volatile group.

Council member Janis Fullilove has pledged to question everything Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. sends to the council after Wharton endorsed her challenger in the elections.

Council member Wanda Halbert joined Fullilove in complaining that she and Fullilove are treated differently because they are women.

And Brown is on a post election tear as well that began before the election when the matter of the Ramesses statue came before the Housing and Community Development committee he chairs.

The matter coincided with Wharton’s ballot which made no endorsement in Brown’s successful bid for re-election.

After weeks of delays and Brown cutting off administration officials, the committee he heads finally cleared the way for the city to do what it wanted to with the statue two weeks ago.

“This ends the issue,” Brown declared as the committee moved it on to the full council for a vote. “It’s all about compromise and understanding. … Everybody can go to gingerbread land now.”

Before that Brown cornered city engineer John Cameron to ask him why Madison Avenue was being “torn up” for bike lanes when other streets hadn’t been repaved in years.

“You work for the mayor,” he added. “I work for the people.”

He asked city chief administrative officer George Little what he was smoking as they talked over another matter.

Brown called the Overton Park Conservancy an “exterior committee” and wondered why Gary Shorb and George Cates of the group didn’t brief him on their plans.

Cates said he had tried repeatedly to talk to Brown about the efforts and had met with every other council member separately about it and would be willing to talk with Brown any time about the plans.

Brown then said he was only kidding.

As quickly as Brown makes points he veers to other subjects and sometimes to other encounters in the committee room. It’s not unusual for Brown to speak so softly the person next to him can’t hear what he’s saying. It’s alternately not unusual for Brown to make a point at an audible level, conclude his point and immediately turn in his chair, spot someone in the committee room and begin talking with them while still at the table as someone else is trying to make their point. He also does the same during the full council session.

To be fair, the noise level can be pretty high during committee sessions which is where much of the council’s discussion and fact gathering takes places every other Tuesday. And Brown certainly isn’t the only council member working the room.

He’s just the second most senior council member on the body now after chairman Myron Lowery.

 

 

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