The Merger 

All's well that ends well, as the old saw has it. Since the bombshell news of a proposed merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines began to leak only on Monday, it's premature to forecast how it will end. For one thing, the two airlines bring to this marriage of

convenience two different sets of pilots, with two different seniority systems and other benefits packages, and all that has to be reckoned with before the merger is final. Then there's the matter of possible obstruction in Congress.

Even so, the state of the troubled airline industry is such that the merger is likely to go forward. It promises to provide a real measure of stability at a time when a troubled economy has been causing numerous smaller airlines to collapse, domino-style. Not only would the new mega-airline, to be called Delta Airlines, be a force to reckon with domestically, it would span several continents and become, ipso facto, the world's largest global carrier. And Memphians, who had been exposed nonstop to warnings that Northwest could yank or diminish its local presence, have been assured by the prospective new management that the city will retain its hub status in the newly configured monolith.

However things develop from this point, and whatever the shape of things in the end, local airport officials are expressing optimism. And, if nothing else, a period of prolonged suspense seems to be over with. For the time being, and, hopefully, for quite a while to come, all does seem well.

Budgeting Change

As we had been warned would be the case, both major local governments — those of Memphis and Shelby County — are facing either downsized services or up-sized tax rates, and, quite likely, some combination of the two. Both Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and county mayor A C Wharton had given ample warning of the bad financial weather, and both, in moving to deal with it, have continued to push for city/county consolidation as the only real long-term solution. But, to invert a familiar phrase, that will be then, this is now, and stop-gap measures have to be found.

Even as Herenton was preparing to call for a major property-tax increase on Tuesday, members of the Shelby County Commission were looking for constructive alternatives to another increase for homeowners. Various proposals were floated by commissioners at an unprecedented emergency meeting on Saturday and in a regular budget committee meeting on Monday. Looking for virtue in necessity, the commission considered everything from massive layoffs of county personnel to another rise in the already dreaded property tax — a remedy rendered even more questionable than usual by the currently flummoxed housing market.

In the process, they revived a formerly discarded and now-retooled proposal for a privilege (read: payroll) tax that would both exempt low-income earners and allow for the general property tax to be lowered. It's worth a try, though the state has to give its approval to this county initiative. The city will shortly have to start its own head-scratching. Lots of luck to the members of both bodies.

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