If Judge Joe Brown’s ears were as large as his apparently mounting political influence, the Fire Department would have had to call in all its shifts Tuesday night. For those ears would certainly have been burning.
Democratic County Mayor candidate Kenneth Whalum Jr. was the featured speaker at the Germantown Democrats’ meeting at Coletta’s Restaurant in Cordova , and he was holding nothing back — on Brown, the former Criminal Court and TV judge and current candidate for District Attorney General, or on anything else.
Perhaps if Brown, who has been described in news reports of late as a “boss” in Democratic ranks, had endorsed Whalum rather than mayoral opponent Steve Mulroy, the New Olivet Baptist minister, famous for his vigor in the pulpit, might not have been so eloquent in his scorn.
Here’s a sample:
“How in the world, how on God’s green earth, can a person be literally gone from Memphis and Shelby County for 20 years and come back and claim to be the Democratic boss? Y’all, Judge Joe Brown has literally been gone — literally! — two decades. If Memphis and Shelby County are stupid enough to let Judge Joe Brown determine how the Democratic Party is going to go, I’m going to be Republican tomorrow.It’s sheer stupidity….It’s unadulterated ignorance.How dare you!”
And more on that question of interfacing with Republicans:
“It’s a foolish loser who says he doesn’t want Republican votes. I’m not going to limit myself.”
And Whalum evinced heterodoxical views on other matters, as well. He has previously made the case that, alone among the three Democratic candidates for County Mayor (the others being Shelby County Commissioner Mulroy and former Commissioner Deidre Malone), he opposed the Memphis City Schools board’s decision in December 2010 to surrender its charter.
Perhaps conscious that his previous campaign rhetoric had been focused on city issues and city voters, Whalum now redefined his positions on schools for the Germantown group. Perhaps “broadened the definition” would be a better description.
“I was the only Memphis official who fought for the suburbs to have their own schools,” he contended, adding later. “...I have a very good working relationship with all the municipal mayors. I stood with them on their school systems.”
Whalum also had kind words for charter schools, which he defined as “lifeboats from the Titanic” in relation to the failures of MCS, mostlhy reconfigured now as Shelby County Schools.
And, while the former maverick MCS board member professed himself in favor of pre-K education, like his rivals, he made a point of noting that Pre-K education was not required by state law and that, in any case, state government is “too broke” to provide for free pre-K. “We can’t afford it. We don’t have enough money for pay for public services for everyone,” he said.
As an alternative, Whalum said, he had proposed establishing pre-kindergarten education in the 9 inner-city school buildings which SCS is now of a mind to close.
That proposal , he noted, would be consistent with his themes of regenerating the City of Memphis through its neighborhoods and reviving the neighborhoods “through the schools.”
If elected mayor, Whalum said, “I’ll guarantee you not one school building will close. I give you my word.
In the course of his brief remarks, followed by a Q and A with the Germantown club members, Whalum reprised several other campaign themes — including “geotourism” (making economic use of such Memphis-specific attractions as the city’s music and exotic areas like Voodoo Village) and taking a revisionist eye to what he regards as an over-promiscuous extension of PILOTs (payment-in-lieu-of-tax abatements) as a means of attracting new industry.
“And they aren’t even paying the discounted sums they’ve agreed to,” said Whalum.
“I can’t be bought, and I can’t be a boy,” Whalum told the assembled Germantown Democrats, apropos the blandishments, economic and otherwise, of the corporate elite. He characterized himself by the initials “C.S.I.” — for “courage, strength, and independence.”