But here’s a What-If for you: Given that Wilson, in an interview this week with the Flyer, made a point of citing state law as a basis for his possible intervention in the city’s budget travails, what would happen if the Council, whose members face reelection bids in a couple of years, should allow the Comptroller to do just that, assuming all the onus for a tax increase?
One Council member, asked about that prospect, said, “There have been a lot of jokes about that, but it’s not going to happen.” Instead, he said, it is likely that the Council will reach agreement, when it reconvenes budget discussions on Tuesday, on a tax rate somewhere between $3.30 and $3.40 — in the neighborhood of Mayor A C Wharton’s originally proposed tax rate of $3.36 and up from the present rate of $3.11.
The final tax-rate figure is likely to be based on some restoration of the 2011 employee pay cuts that were temporarily excised again on Tuesday of this week. It will also allow for necessary adjustments in the city’s health insurance programs.
Meanwhile, the Comptroller’s office seems to be brandishing both a carrot and stick in its dealings with Memphis. On Monday, apropos the City Council’s then seemingly stymied budget negotiations, Wilson, citing Section 9-21-403 from the annotated Tennessee code, told the Flyer, “…[T]here’s absolutely no question that I’ve got to approve the budget. If the budget doesn’t balance, I can bring it into balance. There’s no question I can raise taxes…. It’s the last thing in the world I want to do….But just look at that statute. The authority is powerful!”
But on Tuesday, as the Council conducted a come-to-Jesus budget session that gave tentative approval to some $30 million in new cuts, including potential layoffs and abandonment (temporarily at least) of previous plans to restore 2011 reductions in employees’ salaries, the Council and Mayor A C Wharton received a letter from Sandra Thompson, the Comptroller’s director of state and local finance stating that “the City appears to have complied with the Comptroller’s directives.”
Perhaps the operative metaphor should be one of good cop/bad cop.
Wilson’s explicit threat of Monday was in the wake of two letters addressed to city officials. One was to Wharton advising against a debt refinancing plan by Wharton, reminiscent of one employed by the mayor in 2009-10, that Wilson referred to as “scoop and toss” in that it would load too much debt repayment into future years. Another letter, addressed to Council chairman Edmond Ford Jr at Ford’s request, advised that, if the City could not successfully conclude a workable budget within acceptable financial guidelines, “someone else may end up doing this.”
Even as he made Monday’s more explicit reference to potential state action, however, Wilson was at pains to suggest that he thought the Council was moving in the right direction.
Even should the employee salaries be amended upward again next Tuesday, when Councilman Lee Harris, on vacation this week, returns, a tax rate in the range of $3.30 to $3.40 would seem to accommodate the expense and balance the budget, easing the Comptroller’s concerns. (The voters’ concerns, of course, are a different matter.)
Meanwhile, Shelby County’s fiscal plans, apparently on course after the County Commission earlier this month approved County Mayor’s budget and a tax rate of $4.38, increased by 32 cents, hit a snag on the tax rate’s required second reading this week.
With one member, Democrat Melvin Burgess, absent, the tax rate failed to get the required seven votes on the 13-member body. Another Democratic member thought previously to favor the new tax rate, Commissioner Sidney Chism, voted no on second reading. Both Burgess and Chism are targets of an ethics complaint by Commissioner Terry Roland, a Millington Republican who has asked the state Attorney General for an opinion on the two Democrats’ eligibility to vote on the tax rate.
Roland hinges his complaint on the facts that Chism operates a day care center that receives county “wraparound” funds and that Burgess is an employee of the new Unified School System that is directly funded by county government. On the tax rate’s first reading, Burgess declared he would not submit to “bullying” and voted for both the tax rate and Luttrell’s budget, which required only one round of approval for passage. Burgess is still expected to vote for the $4.38 tax rate on July 8, when the Commission has a final vote.
Norris serves as Majority Leader of the state Senate and has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to secure the ultimate independence of the Shelby County suburbs from city/county school merger. He also had a brush with the annexation controversy in 2012, when he co-sponsored two abortive bills on the subject.
One of them would have removed the Gray’s Creek/Fisherville area in eastern Shelby County from Memphis’s annexation reserve, and the other would have made the City’s annexations anywhere else subject to referenda by the populations to be annexed.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and the City Council reacted to that prospect by setting in motion an ordinance for the immediate annexation of Gray’s Creek/Fisherville. Pleading that he had acted only to honor constituents’ requests, Norris would subsequently withdraw the bills, which state Attorney General Robert Cooper had meanwhile declared constitutionally suspect. Wharton and the Council would also stand down.
But annexation and the need to clarify the rights of cities, suburbs, and unincorporated areas vis-à-vis each other have continued to be subjects of potential legislation and are sure to be live issues in the next session of the General Assembly. The annexation question has been a particular hot potato in Shelby County, where de-annexation has also received serious discussion of late, both in Memphis and its suburbs.
In any case, TACIR was tasked in the 2013 legislative session with conducting a comprehensive study on annexation and with making recommendations on the subject to the General Assembly in January.
“This study requires in-depth research by the staff and thoughtful consideration by the members of the commission. I am pleased to continue to lead TACIR as we look into this issue as well as many others,” Norris said following his re-election, which took place during a two-day meeting of the commission in Nashville on June 19 and 20.
Norris has served as chairman of TACIR since 2009. He is also chair-elect of the Council of State Governments.
“The annual budget of each local government with notes outstanding shall be submitted to the state director of local finance immediately upon its adoption. The state director of local finance must thereupon determine whether or not the budget will be in balance in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
“If the budget does not comply with the provisions of this chapter, then the state director shall have the power and the authority to direct the governing body of the local government to adjust its estimates or to make additional tax levies sufficient to comply with the provisions of this chapter.” [Italics ours]
Wilson repeated that he had no desire to impose this authority so long as the City Council and the administration of Mayor A C Wharton were making bona fide efforts to pass an acceptably balanced budget and establish clear financing guidelines.
“Oh, absolutely not. I think they’re going to work it out. I really do. I do think they are. But it’s there.”
Regarding the clearly stepped-up sense of urgency apparent in Council budget deliberations, Wilson said, “Well, that’s good. My whole goal is to have a balanced budget.” It was not his concern “how they get there,” and he was expressed indifference about specific controversies, such as that over the restoration of salary cuts made in 2011 for city employees.
“That’s not my fight, how that plays out or doesn’t play out,” Wilson said.
Asked if he had an optimistic attitude about the Council’s efforts to establish a workable budget, Wilson said, “Oh yeah, I do. I really do. And the point is they are now talking to each other. And I’m hearing from council members that they want to come to resolution. Now, they may have different resolutions. But that’s all probable. Once you acknowledge there’s a problem and you all want to come together to solve it you get a solution. I think it’s wonderful, and I hope they do.”
More from the interview and on city and county budgets in this week's Flyer issue.
There are three finalists to succeed U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla, who will shortly be leaving the bench to take senior status.
All Memphians, they are: Sheri Lipman, counsel for the University of Memphis; Steve Mulroy, professor of law at the University and member of the Shelby County Commission; and Irma Merrill Stratton, a lawyer in private practice.
All were recommended by 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, and all have successfully undergone interviews by a screening committee and vetting by the FBI.
Ultimately, the appointee will be named by President Obama and will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
After taking a year off from his annual political picnic, Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism resumed the affair on Saturday at his sprawling property on Horn Lake Rd.
Basically, the Chism picnic serves as a kick-off event for the coming year's politics and, as such, fills the breach left by the passing of the now defunct St. Peter 4th of July event.
Politicians of all political stripes were on hand and got a chance to introduce themselves to a crowd that refreshed itself on hot dogs, cold drinks, and other goodies. For the first time, the event offered tables at which various independent vendors and agencies could offer information about themselves.
Asked why he took last year off from holding the picnic, Chism explained that he had been too busy running a race (ultimately unsuccessful) for General Sessions clerk.
"That's the last one," said Chism, who is finishing up the second of his two allowable commission terms. "I'm 74, and that's probably too old to run for anything else, but I'm definitely going to stay involved."
Chism, who served twice as commission chair, said he was open to the idea of being on a public-policy board or heading up a task force.
The commissioner dismissed criticism from longtime Democratic Party activist Del Gill about his billing of this year's picnic event as nonpartisan. "It's always been nonpartisan," Chism, a Democrat, said.
And indeed two prominent guests, each with a significant entourage, were County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Sheriff Bill Oldham, both Republican officials.
Regarding another challenge, an ethics complaint levied against him by commission colleague Terry Roland, Chism called it "without foundation." Roland has charged Chism with a conflict of interest for failing, in the course of appropriations votes over the years, to disclose his involvement with a daycare center that receives some county funding.
During last week's first round of voting on the budget presented to the commission by Luttrell, Roland attempted unsuccessfully to prohibit the votes of Chism and Melvin Burgess, another commissioner against whom he has made similar accusations.
Burgess, who is employed by the Unified School System as an audit official, also denied Roland's charges but made a point of prefacing each of his votes on the budget with a disclosure about his employment.
"Making a mountain out of a molehill," was how Steve Basar, another commmissoner on hand Saturday, described the conflict-of-interest charges.
UPDATE: Former Shelby County Commissioner and advertising/public relations executive Deidre Malone was one of the late arrivals at the Chism picnic and used the occasion to formally announce her candidacy for Shelby County Mayor.
Among the other candidates for 2014 who spoke to the crowd were Reginald Milton, Eddie Jones, Patrice Robinson, Van Turner, Steve Basar, and Justin Ford, all candidates for County Commission seats. Ford and Basar are incumbents.>
That kidney donation by Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy is still making news, nationally this time, more than a month after the late April surgery to obtain it by Dr. James D. Eason of the UT-Memphis Transplant Institute.
In a news release Thursday to both local and national media, the Institute is touting extraordinary benefits from the domino or chain effect of Mulroy’s donation. To wit:
The second largest chain of organ transplants in the world began at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute. Chain 221, as it's known at the National Kidney Registry, started the morning of April 30th when Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy made an altruistic kidney donation. The chain consisted of 28 recipients and ended yesterday, June 5. The largest chain had 30 recipients and took place between August and December of 2011, five months. Chain 221 took only five weeks to complete.
Several of the patients were extremely difficult to match and their chance of receiving a kidney was extremely low. Some of the hospitals involved include Emory, UCLA, Brigham and Williams, Cornell, Massachusetts General, Mt. Sinai, Cleveland Clinic…
As was explained at the time of Mulroy’s surgery, altruistic donations (i.e., organs which are banked for future as-needed use rather than being earmarked for family members, friends, or other specific individuals) free up the matching process of available organs with patients needing them. The resulting “chain” can expand the availability of organs geometrically, and this is what seems to have happened in Mulroy’s case.
Within a week of his original surgery, it was announced that it had created a chain benefiting 8 patients who were then awaiting available kidneys.
Meanwhile, donor Mulroy, who timed his surgery for the break between spring and summer sessions of the law classes he teaches at the University of Memphis and who somehow managed not to miss any scheduled meeting of the County Commission, is knitting well and has tentatively begun to resume his exercise routine.
In the aftermath of Monday’s regular meeting of the Commission, Mulroy reported that he’d made a mile run the day before — though admittedly not at his accustomed 7-minute-per-mile pace. That, he assured his listeners, would come in due time.
"’At the very least there was a cloud over his tenure at Saks,’ said Christopher Ideker, a forensic accountant who has participated in many audit committee investigations for companies. ‘To me, you have a guy calling the shots on an investigation about stealing from customers who was investigated for stealing from vendors. That seems pretty straightforward.’
Only a Zen Master would begin and end a public appearance in Memphis by paying tribute to the ducks of The Peabody as a key to urban success.
Only a Zen Master or Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, who portrayed the hotel’s amphibian wobblers, famous in the tourist trade, as a case par excellence of creating “something out of nothing” — the apparent nothing having been something all the while, just waiting there to be discovered as such and leveraged for a whole community’s benefit.
Landrieu used the analogy to explain the extravagant success that his city, which was “17 feet under water” after the devastations of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has enjoyed in becoming, eight scant years later, “the Number One place to do business in America” according to Forbes Magazine.
Granted, the Big Easy’s advantages have always been there — indigenous music, cuisine, Old World charm with New World attitude, an intellectual life, a burgeoning sports culture, and a reputation as “a place to have a good time” — but rarely have they been combined to such effect as in the city’s stunning rescue from near-ruin.
Recent visitors to Landrieu’s city (like myself) have seen the revival for themselves — the gleaming shards, the bright lights of entertainment, the burnished glow of restored history — and reveled in the distinct tastes of New Orleans.
Some of the latter were generously sampled by members of the capacity crowd of blue ribbon paying guests, a cross-section of the city’s leadership, that gathered to hear Landrieu in The Peabody’s Continental Ballroom for Thursday’s first annual “Summons to Memphis” luncheon, sponsored by Memphis Magazine.
The menu: “salad of romaine, arugula and red oak, avocado, and Tomatoes; gulf shrimp remouilade; muffaletta sandwich slice, freshly baked rolls and breaks with sweet cream butter; chocolate caramel turtle tart; vanilla anglaise and bourbon Chantilly….
Yeah. Laissez le bon temps rouler, citizens.
Landrieu was the inaugural “Summons to Memphis” speaker — the event titled in honor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the late Peter Taylor, the eminent Memphian who was himself feted at a Memphis-sponsored banquet a generation ago. Like all “Summons to Memphis” honorees who will follow him in years to come, Landrieu offered encouragement by word and by example to a host city questing for its own mojo.
The ducks, the Grizzlies, the river, the people, the barbeque, the city’s disproportionate number of Fortune 500 companies — all these were cited by the mayor. And, of course, the music. Landrieu, an artful politician indeed, may have gotten his biggest hand when he made reference to Memphis’ rivalry with a sister city: “Nashville — claiming to be the music capital of the world. It’s not.”
(It should be noted that Landrieu said that in the course of praising Tennessee’s capital city for having marshaled its assets toward the creation of a formidable music industry.)
Landrieu has a talent for rounding things out in the unexpectedly simple phrase, concept, or example.
To wit: “Less is less;” “It’s possible for government to be too big and too small at the same time;” “We all live together. Or do we? If we don’t, we don’t. If we do, we do;” “Everybody who thinks they can do everything by themselves, build a road, build a bridge, call me later;” “Nobody’s coming to save you. You’re it.”
That Zen thing: He spoke of “The Way of getting to the thing,” pointing out that “if you develop your golf swing, you can use it on any club.
In the case of city-building, this means discovering your assets, letting them mix and thrive symbiotically with each other, and, most importantly, working together, across racial, geographic, and economic lines. “If you leave anybody behind, they will be behind.”
Oh, there was a lot of nitty-gritty practical talk, too — about how to balance the private sector’s contributions with those of government, understanding the pluses and minuses of each, about reforming public pensions, choosing priorities, and expanding only that which you’re willing to pay for.
In sum, Mitch Landrieu, rumored to be a potential candidate for governor of Louisiana in 2014, was a revelation: a formidable speaker, a convivial guest, a dispenser of useful advice, and a perfect lead-off man for a series that will attempt to do on a year-by-year basis just what the mayor suggested: Bring everybody together.
Ken Neill, the editor/publisher of Memphis Magazine and the CEO of Contemporary Media, Inc., the parent organization of both the magazine and the Flyer, concluded the event by paying a well-deserved hat-tip to Ward Archer, Jr., chairman of CMI’s board and, as it happens, son of Ward Archer, Sr., a close friend of Taylor, the title of whose prize-winning novel will continue to adorn the series and summon distinguished visitors to Memphis.
Haslam’s decision was communicated to members of the Memphis City Council Thursday by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, and Council reaction has been furious.
Council budget chairman Jim Strickland, who had voted with the Council majority in February to end such testing by the city as of July 1 for fiscal reasons, wondered why Haslam would reject involvement with an inspection program in Memphis and Shelby County when, as he understood it, the state takes respnswibility for auotomible testing in several of the state's local jurisdictions.
Srickland later provided information indicating that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation hires a contractor to run the auto emissions inspection program for Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson County, while Nashville/Davidson County metro government does the contradcting for its area.
Strickland said he had participated in talks with state officials back in March, at which comnitments had been made by the state to involve itself with local automobile testing.. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell publicly announced as much, though he said the state commitment had been limited to Memphis. He said at the time he would be talking with TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau to work out a procedure for local testing by the state.
“I guess Haslam just decided to overrule the other state officials, but the commitment had been made,” Strickland averred.
Councilman Lee Harris, sponsor of an ordinance that would absolve Memphis residents of testing requirements until some framework can be worked out for them, was also critical of the governor.
“He doesn’t appear to be a real firm administrator, a visionary. He just wants to make everybody happy,” said Harris. “It’s the same thing as wth Obamacare that he dithered on before deciding not to decide. He just dithers. He’s neither solving a problem nor showing leadership. There was no cost factor. The only factor was, he was afraid of suburban legislators who don’t want a testing program in the county.”
Harris said the city is definitely out of the business of funding inspections and that either the County Commission or state government should take responsibility for them. The city has been spending $2.7 annually on funding automobile inspection. County government has never required such testing for residents outside the city limits of Memphis, though the Environmental Protection Agency has declared both Memphis and Shelby County at large to have unsafe emission levels.
The ordinance which Harris hopes to see pass before July 1 would exempt Memphis residents from the existing requirement that cars older than four years be inspected until some, presumably fee-based, system is instituted by county or state government.
Even that doesn’t satisfy Councilman Shea Flinn, who contends that such an exemption pre-supposes that there is a city obligation. Flinn said It is the state’s responsibility to conform to the EPA emissions mandate, not that of local government, and he included Luttrell in with Haslam on the charge of bowing to suburban pressures against testing in the outer county.
Wharton told the Council that he and Luttrell would continue to seek a solution from state sources and that meanwhile the EPA has apparently extended an 18-month window for “good faith” efforts toward rectifying the situation.
There's still time to get to one of the more significant — and different — Memorial Day celebrations: the Celebration of Life at the Overton Park Shell, which lasts until early evening.
The event is under the auspices of Stevie Moore's organization FFUN (Freedom from Unncessary Negatives), founded to combat random street violence in the city of Memphis.
This year's event marks the 10th anniversary of the shooting death of Prentice Moore, the founder's son, and will be attended by numerous dignitairies, including Mayors A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell.
And see and hear extended excerpts of an interview with Mayor Mitch Landreu, who will be guest of honor and featured speaker at Wednesday’s inaugural “Summons to Memphis” luncheon. The event, sponsored by Memphis Magazine, will be held in the Peabody’s Continental Ballroom. VIDEO:
And reed the Flyer report on the interview here.
Mayor Landrieu discourses candidly on Katrina, crime, city financing, "dysfunctional government," and the value of sports franchise to a community, along with much else.
Tickets for Mayor Landrieu’s appearance , as and if they remain available, are $50 per person, $450 for a table of 10, advance sale only at summonstomemphis.com. The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After exciting a surprisingly less-than-overflow crowd at this year’s annual Lincoln Day dinner by recounting the Republican Party’s successes in Tennessee — including the possession of two U.S. Senate seats, 7 or 9 U.S. House seats, and super-majorities in the state legislature — Governor Bill Haslam cautioned his listeners with a qualifier, preceded by a warning.
The “national situation” was different, he noted. “At the end of the day we have to get better at winning elections,” Haslam said, noting the GOP’s failure in the two most recent presidential elections. He contrasted 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney’s 16-point victory in Tennessee with Romney’s 4- or 6-point loss nationwide.
The governor compared the voting in Tennessee to that in North Carolina, “a little bit bluer than we are” but a state roughly comparable to Tennessee in its demographics. Romney’s winning margin in North Carolina was only 2 or 3 percentage points, Haslam said. “What’s the difference?” he asked, and answered his own question: The Democrats in North Carolina “went out and engaged,” unlike what was the case in Tennessee.
In the Tar Heel State, “they advertised, we advertised, they organized, we organized,” whereas, in Tennessee, “the Obama campaign wrote it off early. We didn’t see all those advertisements….When both parties engage, you see a difference.”
Haslam’s words presumably meant to inspire Republicans to more dedicated and technologically up-to-date efforts locally and statewide, could have the unintended consequence of rousing the currently dazed and near-impotent Democrats of Tennessee, as well.
An unspoken issue in the Democrats’ state chairmanship election, in January, had been this very question of whether, in the current political environment, contesting elections on a statewide basis was really possible. The governor’s North Carolina comparison could serve as an encouragement to them and to their new chairman, former state Senator Roy Herron, who is already, it would seem, adopting an aggressive strategy.
The other featured speaker at Lincoln Day, held at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn location on Central, was 8th District U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, who was probably being seen for the first time by many members of the audience, residents of the portion of East Memphis which was redistricting into Fincher’s domain for the last election cycle.
Fincher, who seems to be making a conscientious effort to appear locally and get acquainted with his new constituents, made remarks of the sort that Romney, inclined toward verbal malapropisms, might have called “severely conservative” but delivered them with the Frog Jump congressman’s characteristic sunny-side-up manner.
Citing an anonymous Democrat’s comparison of legislation for social programs to the ministry of Jesus, Fincher said, “Man, I really got bent out of shape,” contending that the Bible says that “the poor will always be with us,” and it also says “if you don’t work you don’t eat”. He said that Christians needed to take care of each other but it was wrong for Washington to “steal” from some in the country “and give it to others in the country.”
With 2014, an election year, approaching, numerous candidates helped swell the crowd, including a goodly number of current sitting judges, who are up for re-election next year and, one of them acknowledged, would probably be on hand for the local Democrats’ annual Kennedy Day dinner.
Willingham, who would have been 81 on Sunday, the day after the conclusion of this year’s Barbecue Festival, had looked forward to the event this year with special anticipation. A two-time Grand Champion of the Festival and winner over the years in several event categories, he had argued for years that competitors should be allowed to vend their products at the Festival and had finally convinced the sponsors to allow it.
“Daddy told us a year ago he thought that this year ‘Karla and Clay’ would carry the load,” said Karla Templeton, one of three Willingham daughters. And she vowed that she and her husband Clay would indeed carry forward and try to win the championship in her father’s honor.
Besides Templeton, Willingham leaves his wife Marge, two other daughters, Kristi Goldsmith and Kara Wilbanks, and six grandchildren,
“And there were many others who called him ‘Daddy’ just out of love and respect,” said Templeton.
Willingham, a former Shelby County Commissioner, had been a prominent figure in local politics for decades. He made several runs for both city and county Mayor and was an influence in the careers of numerous office-holders.
An inventor, he held several patents, and he was a high official of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Nixon administration. The versatile Willingham also played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Willingham was perhaps best known, however, as a barbecue maven, who owned several restaurants and packaged and sold a variety of products related to the art of barbecue.
No funeral arrangements have yet been announced.
Billed by its sponsors as “The Working Families Flexibility Act” and characterized by opponents as “The Bosses Flexibility Act,” H.R. 1406 narrowly passed the majority-Republican U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday by a vote of 223 to 204.
The bill, technically an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a New Deal measure, is given no chance of passage in the Senate, and it is also opposed by President Obama, who has indicated he would veto it if need be, and by organized labor.
Its effect, according to its GOP sponsors, is to give employees the option to take time off from their jobs at a later date as an alternative to receiving overtime pay. The Democrats who oppose the bill say that it would give employers the right to decide when or if this ‘comp” time is actually allotted.
Here is 9th District U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) called Wednesday “one of the saddest days the House of Representatives has probably ever seen” expressed his opposition to H.R. 1406 on the House floor:
In a news release, Cohen made the following points against the bill:
What this misnamed bill really means is more work and less pay for workers, not flexibility:
o Workers will not get paid for hours that exceed 40 hours per week. That pay will instead go into an employer-controlled pot to be paid later.
o An employer can refuse to allow a worker to take time off to deal with a family member or attend a parent-teacher conference. This is not real flexibility for workers.
o Employers could schedule excessive overtime hours and only offer overtime work to workers who agree to take comp time instead of overtime wages.
o Since unused comp time will not be paid to workers until the end of the year, this amounts to an interest-free loan out of workers’ pockets to the employer.
As the Flyer first reported in March, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy had resolved to donate one of his kidneys to the National Kidney Registry through the UT-Methodist Transplant Institute, the Registry's sole medical partner in Tennessee.
That was then, this is now — mere days after the Institute’s famed director, Dr. James D. Eason, extracted the kidney via laparoscopic surgery on Tuesday. And if the science of transplant surgery should need a poster boy to represent its potential to the general public, it couldn’t do much better than Commissioner Mulroy, whose regular job is that of a University of Memphis law professor.
Mulroy appeared at a press conference at Methodist Hospital on Union Ave. Thursday with Dr. Eason; Dr. Luis Campos, who administers exchanges along the organ-transplant network; and transplant coordinator Melissa Moore.
Wearing a pajama robe, but looking more like a denizen of the Playboy Mansion than of a hospital ward, Mulroy was bright-eyed and ebullient, cracked jokes, did impressions, elaborated on the fine points of his surgery, and vowed to be in full “argument mode” for the next Commission meeting on Monday, when a contentious debate on a gun-rights resolution is expected.
On the other side of that debate from Mulroy will be fellow Commissioner Terry Roland, author of the resolution and no miser with energy himself. Mulroy was asked: Would he be able to handle Roland in debate?
” I don’t know if anyone is ever up to handling Terry Roland,” he answered. “That’s a tall order. But I will say that, come Monday, I will be there. I will do my duty for the voters of Shelby County.”
Mulroy this week became what is known in the transplant-surgery world as an “altruistic donor” — meaning that he did not donate his kidney to a particular individual but to the Registry at large, so that his organ might go — as Mulroy said, quoting (and doing) the Ned Flanders character from a Simpsons TV episode about transplant surgery — “to whom it may concern.”
The way he and the Institute personnel explained it Tuesday, the acquisition of an unencumbered organ makes it easier to arrange ideal matches through the transplant network’s computerized system, to “break the log jam,” in Mulroy’s words. As Dr. Eason said, “We didn’t just do one transplant on Tuesday, We did six.”
Dr. Eason emphasized that the laparoscopy done on Mulroy was relatively “non-invasive,” done via a small incision and employing a camera and a fiber optics system — or in Mulroy’s words, “so easy-in-easy-out it’s not a big deal.”
Asked if he’d like to meet the recipient of his donated kidney, Mulroy affirmed that he would, jesting, “First, I’d like to find out if they’re a registered voter in Shelby County.”
Mulroy said, “People ask me, ‘can you still drink?’” He said that, “as a good Irish Catholic,” he intended to. A running and exercise addict, he added that he expected eventually to resume his full round of activities. “It doesn’t change your life all that much,” he said. “The remaining kidney grows and takes over the function of the other kidney.”
Mulroy’s wife Army, daughter Molly, and son Quinn were on hand for the press conference. Asked if his loss of a kidney might in any way inconvenience them, he said he had done extensive preliminary research on the point and argued convincingly that their medical histories made the odds infinitesimally small that they would ever be in need of a kidney transplant requiring him as a donor match. He had looked for “red flags” and was assured there were none, he said.
Dr. Eason said, “We do approximately 35 living-donor transplants a year. We’d like that to be more.”
Melissa Moore is the Institute’s contact person for potential donations and can be reached at (901) 516-8466.