Mayor Coaxes Council to Support "Dramatic School Reform" 

Making a deceptively brief and low-key pitch to members of the city council Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Willie Herenton solicited their help in arranging a referendum on the November ballot to determine whether the city school board should henceforth "be appointed or elected."

Herenton further suggested to council members Myron Lowery and Janis Fullilove, who double as members of the city Charter Commission, that they might consider authorizing such a referendum as part of their own forthcoming ballot initiative in November.

Absent from his presentation to the council was any hint of the slight edge with which the mayor had first broached his proposal for "dramatic school reform" at a press conference in the Hall of Mayors on Monday. At the heart of it was a variation on a vintage Herenton proposal, a five-member board to be appointed by the mayor and ratified, in effect, by the council.

And Herenton seemed intent Tuesday on being as ingratiating as possible to the current council, beginning by complimenting it for having "demonstrated that it could really make a difference in this community on some very important fronts." As he would put it, contrasting the current 13-member body, nine of whose members are in their first year, with previous ones, "This is not a status quo council. I see a different mix here."

The mayor drew an implicit contrast, too, between the council and the school board, which had just rejected him as a prospect for the school superintendency and whose existence as an elected body he now proposes to abolish. The council, on the other hand, "as that body that takes the heat for the tax rate, ought to have greater authority and accountability for the schools."

Insisting that the plan he was broaching was "not about me," Herenton said it should be structured so as not to take effect until 2012. "That's when Willie Herenton is history. You follow me?"

The mayor credited a "different climate" of opinion in the state and the nation, and factors like the No Child Left Behind Act, for his sense that now was the time to "make these changes while we can."

In a brief give-and-take with reporters following his session with the council, Herenton was asked about his current opposition to the council's decision last week to withhold funding from Memphis City Schools. A reporter reminded him that he had proposed just such an expedient several years ago as a means of forcing the issue of consolidation.

"Somehow or another, you have to send a shockwave," said Herenton, who said, "Nobody heard me then." Now, however, there was a different council and a different attitude toward change in Nashville. The mayor seemed to be inviting a different idea - that of state intervention, reminding the reporters of what he had also mentioned to the council, that state government under the Bredesen administration had begun to intervene directly in the Nashville school system.

Had the mayor been functioning then, or was he functioning now, s as a "puppetmaster?" the newsman wanted to know. "I'm not going to let you personalize the issue. We're trying to change the culture," the mayor said.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Scrum for Corker’s Seat?

      With gubernatorial field remaining static, speculation turns to U.S. Senate prospects; Shelby Dems about to reorganize.
    • Luttrell’s Triple Whammy

      County mayor’s composure wears thin after commission action (and inaction) on a triad of issues.

Blogs

Politics Beat Blog

Shafer En Route to Commission Chairmanship — and Maybe More

News Blog

Passengers, Flights Up at Airport

News Blog

Latino Memphis Mobilizes in Response to ICE Surge

Politics Beat Blog

Luttrell Endorses Randy Boyd for Governor

Music Blog

Listen Up: Ben Abney

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen Tells It!

Hungry Memphis

Royal's Yvonne Mitchell Cooking Up Hits

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Jackson Baker

Readers also liked…

  • Filling the Space

    For all the in-fighting, we’re all looking for the same thing, and sometimes we can realize it.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • 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
  • Jill Stein in Memphis

    An impressive turnout for Green Party presidential nominee at Amurica.
    • Oct 6, 2016

Flyer Flashback

Six Memphis Characters

Eccentrics, artists, and oddballs — six Memphians who live life their way.

Read Story

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

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