A Seasonal Summing-Up for Memphis and Shelby County 

As Memphis and Shelby County headed into the heart of the holiday season, the two entities and their resident populations had much to rejoice about and many serious concerns as well.

For purposes of contrast, merely consider the rather different facts reflected in the respective circumstances of the two major local legislative bodies — the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission.

It may be that the council is able to resolve the issue of filling three vacancies this week. Or maybe not. The council will need to produce a quorum even to begin untangling the circumstances of last week's deadlocked vote to fill just one of the seats, and acquiring a quorum has been made tougher by the resignation of two council members who were present and voting prior to last week.

click to enlarge Bill Lee
  • Bill Lee

Those two members — Janis Fullilove and Edmund Ford Jr. — are two of the trio of members who were elected to Shelby County positions on August 2nd but deigned not to resign their council seats in a timely manner that would have allowed their positions to be filled by the vote of constituents on the November ballot. The third member of this threesome — Bill Morrison — had resigned earlier by a week.

It is uncertain the degree to which the foot-dragging threesome held on to their seats for personal reasons versus retaining them on the advice, implicit or explicit, to do so by their remaining colleagues, whose demonstrated passion for replacing departed collegues by the appointment process is equaled only by their fecklessness in actually delivering on the appointments.

In any case, if the deadlock holds, the obvious solution is to call for an election, which should have been done in the first place. Only this time, the taxpayers will be footing some extra expense.

Over on the county commission, things seem a little more Christmas-y. Though there are conspicously different political points of view on display there (of the liberal-vs.-conservative sort), so far they have not created a divide. Instead, there has been a measure of peace, harmony, and compromise. The most obvious difference between the version of county government elected on August 2nd and the one preceding it is that there is no schism between the executive and legislative branches, as there was in the long-running power struggle between the former commission and then Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The current county mayor, Lee Harris, and the new commission, led by chairman Van Turner, have evinced an obvious determination to agree on as many issues as possible, and numerous disagreements of the past have been resolved, resulting in a common understanding on such issues as independent legal representation for the commission and an alignment of views on the conduct of legal action to offset the ravages of opioid distributors.

At the state level, things are a tad uncertain as of yet. While we welcome the positive aura emanating from Republican Governor-elect Bill Lee, we are disappointed by his expressed support for voucher legislation (a specter that we thought had been abandoned by the General Assembly) and his reluctance to see the good sense of long-overdue Medicaid expansion.

Even so, we'll try to be optimistic. Happy Holidays!

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