Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Memphis City Council: District Five

Yours truly lives in this district, which largely encompasses Midtown. Our City Council representative for the past few years was John Vergos, local restauranteur. He was not spectacular, but I felt comfortable with his representation. Mostly, he was a successful businessman (Rendevous restaurant; very highly recommended!) who brought that approach to the Council and a long-time resident of Midtown. He was the true citizen-representative, not a professional politician.

Well, Mr. Vergos is stepping aside, having given back to the city, and we have five folks running to replace him. Not a one is worth it. Two are life-long professional politicians, one is a new politician looking to move up, one perennial runner and a newbie. Not an impressive, nor compelling, slate.

Carol Chumney is a long-time professional politician, of the orthodox post-Seventies Democratic variety. She has been making noises for some time about retiring from the Tennessee House of Representatives to become Memphis mayor. She's running for City Council as a placeholder until Mayor Herenton steps out of the way. She's been trying to make a name as a "women's" candidate, focusing on childcare and education issues. Her run for District Five is not about representing the district but about Chumney. Bleh.

George Flinn ran unsuccessfully for Mayor last time as a spoiler primary candidate who upset the Republican Party's chosen straw man but then lost to the Democrat when the party was less than willing to help him win. The Republicans had already decided to fall on their sword against Wharton, whom they believe to be willing to play ball with the usual business interests. Flinn ran as a populist and "clean government" man. He's a widely liked guy, nice by all descriptions, a local physician and owner of a small radio empire, a successful businessman.

But he's in the District Five race only to secure a political office. One of the criticisms he received in the mayoral race was his novice status. He's out to remedy that by being a City Councillor. Again, it's not about my district, but about Flinn's political ambitions.

Then we come to Jim Strickland, also a Democrat. He's an attorney, so right away that's one strike against him. (All you attorneys and lawyers can hold your protests. Government is infested with lawyers to our great detriment. That's my opinion, and I'm stickin' with it.) He's also been involved in local Democratic politicss for various campaigns for years. Strickland has one of those impressive resumes that sounds more like a template for political points.

The Commercial Appeal endorses him, which is pretty close to a deal-breaker, but then his predecessor John Vergos also endorses him and that carries some weight for me. Still, Strickland is a Democrat, and that's almost always a deal-breaker.

Next, we come to Mark Follis (no web site), an "arborist" and owner of Bluff City Tree Preservation. He is a member of the Sierra Club and appears to be making himself the "environmental" candidate. I admire his decision to become a citizen-representative, but without more knowledge of his politics and knowing his apparent environmentalism...I'll pass.

Last, there's the only African-American candidate in the race, Kerry White (also no web site). He's the perennial office seeker. He's an "adviser" to the South Memphis Merchant's Association, whatever that means. I have a hard time taking this man seriously when you see comments like this, where he proposed toll roads as one revenue solution:
I wish we would get a toll here so we wouldn't have to increase taxes so much,'' White said. "Those (property tax) funds are going to have to be replaced some kind of way, but I don't think it should be from new taxes.
Sorry? What is a toll but a tax on road use? That's not the kind of thinking I need on the public purse strings.

So where does that leave me? There's no Libertarian to support out of principle. Chumney seems to have the edge here, as a recent story suggested she has very strong support from women in the district. God help us if she wins. So do I vote defensively and give Flinn the nod? Do I give up effective representation of my district for one man's ambitions to Mayor so I can block one woman's ambitions to Mayor and her repugnant politics?

I wish there was some other choice. I'll probably trudge to the polling place and glumly vote for Flinn. And hate every minute of the years to come, I'm sure.

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