The Memphis City Council, composed overwhelmingly of new members after last year's city elections, has acquitted itself well in most respects — never more so than when it dared last week, by a convincing 10-3 majority, to begin a radical reversal of course in the matter of school funding. By voting to withhold almost $70 million of its expected $93 million annual contribution to Memphis City Schools, the council made two statements at once: 1) As noted implicitly in the budget resolution introduced by newcomer Bill Morrison, a teacher himself, and explicitly in the comments of several council members, MCS has long gone without anything resembling adequate accountability in its allocation of resources. 2) Hard-pressed Memphis taxpayers, long forced by our two-headed local government system to pay two tax bills at once, were due for a modest break and got one.
Add a third statement: This council affirmed that it will not roll over and be taken for granted by MCS, to whose coffers it has been making voluntary, not mandated, contributions all these years. Even one of the three nay votes, that of freshman member Jim Strickland, was based not on disagreement with the majority's essential premise but on Strickland's feeling that school cuts should be phased in and supplemented by more stringent reductions in the city's administrative budget.
Admittedly, there are serious and concerned people in the community who disagree with the council's action. Operation P.U.S.H., which sought an injunction against the budget resolution last week, was rebuffed in Chancery Court but will press forward with litigation. Whatever the outcome of that, the council has taken a resolute and overdue step in the rehauling of local education, one which may ultimately have positive pedagogical, as well as financial, results.
All's Well That Ends Well
Bishop William Graves of Memphis, the first African American to serve on the governing board of the TVA, is due for another term on the board as the result of Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander's apparent victory late last week in a political contest with Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Reid had long blocked President Bush's reappointment of Graves, whose prior partial term expired last year, on the ground that congressional Republicans had earlier purged bona-fide Democrats from the board and that Graves, a nominal Democrat but a past backer of both Bush and Alexander, had insufficient party credentials. Alexander had retaliated by blocking Dr. Ikram Khan, a Reid protégé, from being confirmed to the congressionally endowed United States Institute for Peace. Both blocks were finally removed by mutual agreement, as was an impasse on most of 80 other presidential appointments.
The credentials of Bishop Graves, who represents a sprawling district of the Christ Methodist Episcopal Church, had also been pleaded for by local Democratic congressman Steve Cohen — a fact that speaks to Graves' reputation and that took the issue somewhat beyond the contours of a political grudge match.
We are pleased by the outcome, both for Bishops Graves' sake and for the ultimate triumph of common sense over partisanship.
In the column, Branston references the movie Lean On Me, about a controversial high school principal named Joe Clark, who patrolled the halls with a baseball bat and who called himself the "HNIC" ...