E Pluribus Unum

Locally as well as nationally, the idea of unity is in the air. Or such would be suggested by the verbiage one encounters on all sides.

The theme of city-county consolidation has been sounded forthrightly by Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, who has hit this note more than once over the years.

One of the announced candidates for Shelby County mayor -- state Representative Carol Chumney -- has unreservedly backed the mayor's play. So has the oft-abused Joe Cooper, a frequent candidate who this time seeks a county commission seat. Indeed, both of these worthies were talking up the issue before the mayor reiterated it in a well-heeded New Year's Day address.

Other hopefuls -- including the mayoral candidates deemed by most observers to be "major," Democrats A C Wharton and Harold Byrd and Republican Larry Scroggs -- have not been so forthcoming.

Then there's the matter of school districts. The mayor has proposed what he calls "single-source" and "equalized" funding for the current Memphis and Shelby County districts, which would remain indepedent of the larger governmental consolidaton he envisions.

Meanwhile, county school board president David Pickler has presented a plan to the legislature that would divide the two entities into special, independently taxed school districts that would lack even a figurative umbrella to unify them.

We would like to hear this year's crop of candidates -- all of them -- discuss the issues of governmental and school consolidation with as much specificity as they can muster.

There are no more urgent issues confronting us, and the people, rather than having the buck thrust upon them after the election, should have the opportunity to judge the candidates by what they say about these all-important issues now.

Hot Pursuit

That car chase on WMC-TV Channel 5 on Monday was great television, but was it good police policy?

WMC scooped everyone with helicopter footage of a red car, streaming a trail of sparks like a rocket, racing across the Hernando De Soto Bridge and through the streets of Memphis with Arkansas and Memphis police in hot pursuit.

And we do mean hot pursuit. As television viewers and several Memphis drivers and residents witnessed first-hand, at least eight police cars, sirens blaring and blue lights flashing, gave chase at speeds exceeding 60 miles an hour. They ran so many stop signs and traffic lights during rush hour it's a miracle there weren't multiple crashes and, possibly, fatalities. It made for great television, but it's lousy and dangerous police policy.

As eyewitnesses to part of the chase, we assumed there was an officer down or taken hostage somewhere to draw such a crowd and to warrant such risky driving. It was nice to see the bad guys get caught but troubling to learn the lone suspect was an Arkansas speeder with a gun in his car.

The Memphis Police Department's policy on car chases needs a review. WMC has the footage to prove it. Just be glad you weren't on the streets Monday evening trying to drive across Crump, Danny Thomas, North Parkway, or Summer Avenue when the blue lights went by.

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