Though overshadowed somewhat by the heavily ballyhooed chairmanship vote pitting Democrat Deidre Malone against Republican Joyce Avery (see Politics, p. 14), the Shelby County Commission had other fish to fry on Monday and, all in all, it did well.
Though in both cases there was minority sentiment on the commission against doing so, the majority voted both to approve a new county tax rate and to go on record against permitting legalized weaponry in public parks.
The new rate of $4.02, given final approval on its third reading, was a compromise that struck a judicious middle between meeting all of the county's needs and leaving them dangerously unattended to. Technically, the new rate is lower than the rate of $4.04, which it replaced, though its opponents maintain it will represent a tax increase for homeowners whose property was recently set at higher levels. The outcome resulted from months of responsible debate and genuine give-and-take.
Even more to our liking was the conscientious and direct way the commission dealt with recent state legislation allowing holders of gun permits to bring their weapons to public parks. The new state law permits local government jurisdictions to opt out, and on behalf of Shelby County, the commission did so (as did the Germantown Board of Alderman, also on Monday).
Yet a third major issue was dealt with on Monday — that of funding a county school budget that contained raises for teachers and administrators. A minority of commissioners argued that the budget discriminated against other county employees, who are going without raises this fiscal year. But the majority saw it otherwise, and what we liked about the final vote was that members of both parties came down on either side of the issue.
Which is a way of saying that bipartisanship — and the interests, we believe, of the taxpayers — triumphed on Monday in more ways than in the chairmanship vote.
Voter Confidence Let's be frank. We're concerned about arguments from Secretary of State Tre Hargett that state government lacks the capacity to fulfill the legislature's commitments to provide opportunities for statewide use of optical-scan voting machines next year.
Hargett's critics maintain that readily available machines meeting standards established in 2002 are all that the law requires, pointing out that no language explicitly mandates machines meeting later 2005-model standards, though Hargett insists otherwise. The secretary's critics also maintain that the state has unused funds available to purchase enough upgraded machines to go around.
Since Hargett is a Republican and his critics are Democrats, his recalcitrance, whether justified or not, inflames partisan rivalries, especially since the elections of 2010 in Tennessee will determine the shape of redistricting for the next decade. Here's hoping that, for the sake of voter confidence, a mutually satisfactory solution can be found.