EDITORIAL: A Marshall Plan 

Though Memphians at large have not yet had an opportunity to peruse the contents of the so-called Marshall Report commissioned by City Council chairman Tom Marshall and other city-government officials at the onset of the still-raging MLGW scandal, the chairman promises that its details will shortly be posted on the council’s Web site for all to see.

Meanwhile, Marshall took advantage of a speaking opportunity downtown at a Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday to offer not only a sneak preview of that report (one bottom line: utility president Joseph Lee should be ousted for specific transgressions) but a prospectus for revising the way city government is organized. As Marshall made clear on Tuesday, city government is badly in need of some restructuring.

“I believe that morality is standing very low,” Marshall said, by way of assessing the moment. He cited some of the issues: incidences of corruption that have resulted, he says, in “ongoing investigation” by various organs of law enforcement; confusion as to the roles that various officials should be playing; a vague sense of ethical obligations in city government; and a need for redistributing authority.

“We have no authority for policing ourselves,” Marshall said, reminding his audience of a recent vote to suspend or expel two council members after their indictment on corruption charges. That effort was thwarted when the two council members themselves were allowed to vote on the issue — a glaring impropriety for which no legal prohibition seemed to exist.

What is needed, in any case, is an “authority beyond ourselves,” an ethics review board, to be composed of retired judges or some other such impeccable and disinterested group of arbiters.

There needs to be a new “master plan,” the chairman said, to oversee zoning issues. Marshall recalled that after the Gray’s Creek plan for suburban expansion in the greater Cordova area was adopted in the mid-’90s, it was promptly overruled in four consecutive majority votes in cases before the council. A reconstructed master plan should require a two-thirds majority to revise or rescind such a covenant, Marshall said.

Another need was for a redefinition of lines of authority. These, the chairman concluded, were embarrassingly vague as spelled out in the current charter. Marshall noted that when members of the new city Charter Commission asked for guidance in the matter, “we couldn’t even tell them what the current charter said.”

Another recommended change involved altering the “strong mayor” formula that now governs important city issues. In particular, Marshall reminded his listeners of contractual problems both with MLGW and with the “garage-gate” aspect of FedExForum’s construction. Marshall’s proposed remedy? Reassigning all contractual authority from the mayor’s office, where it currently resides, to the City Council.

These are not necessarily the only changes that should be considered by the currently sitting Charter Commission, but they belong on that body’s agenda as matters to be considered. Chairman Marshall is to be commended for having thought through some of these problems in so specific a manner.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (August 16-22)

News Blog

REI Opens Next Friday

News Blog

Stat: Gun Crimes in Shelby County

News Blog

State Review of School Security Nearly Complete

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

This Week At The Cinema: The Good, The Bad, and The Anime

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Aaron James

ADVERTISEMENT

Readers also liked…

  • The Buddy System

    Harris and Kelsey hope to effect a good public outcome on the TVA/aquifer issue.
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Cohen Tells It!

    In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.
    • Jul 26, 2017
  • In reading the May 1st election totals, it depends on what your eyes are letting you see.

    Dissenters to "blue wave" theory rely on 2014 Lutrell-Lunati baseline to make cases for GOP having better bounce th9s year.
    • May 10, 2018
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation