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Rural King

Mayor Herenton to resign effective July 31

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Memphis City Mayor Willie Herenton has announced he will resign his office effective July 31, 2008 in order to seek appointment as Superintendent of Memphis City Schools - a post he held before he became city mayor in 1991. Mayor Herenton as everyone knows won a plurity of the vote (<40%) over Carol Chumney (34%) and Herman Morris (21%) in the 2007 mayoral race and was in his record setting 5th term as mayor. The Commercial Appeal along with virtually every other Memphis media outlet is covering this breaking story if anyone wants to read up on what is going on.

The mayor stated live during Fox 13's 9 p.m. newscast that his reasoning was to pursue his passion of helping children, and he thought that calling would best be served by returning to the school superintendent's position he left in 1991. He litereally broke down into tears during the interview and looked very sincere about his conviction that this course of action would be best for the city schools. Herenton also stated he had already written a letter to the school board about the need of the city to find an individual who would actually care about the future of Memphis City Schools, instead of launching another national search for a candidate that he contended would most likely be looking to build their resume in Memphis and leave at the first opportunity for greener pastures - as he stated has been the case with the last two appointees.

So the questions are:

1.)Who are the mayoral contenders for the race that will be held along side the November ballot? Obvious contenders would be Chumney and Morris. Potentials: Wharton, Harold Ford (Jr.), interim mayor-to-be/City Council Chairman Scott McCormick?

2.) Is Mayor Herenton exactly what Memphis City Schools need to get turned around? Would a strong passionate male role model who knows the system inside and out be just the sort of refrom minded agent to be the catalyst to create real reforms in the city's failing school system?

3.) What does this mean for the future of Memphis in terms it's development, leadership, and image in the post-Herenton era?

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I think that King Willie stepping down can only be great news for Memphis!

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I was only in elementary school when he was superindendent, but some posters on various sites says that he was actually a pretty effective leader in that respect?

I do agree with him however, that hiring someone from Anymajorcity, USA will be bad for the city. Its doubtful that you are going to find someone from across the country that is going to be able to effective run one of the largest school system in the country, actually care about memphis and the children, and deal with the political bs and low expectations of the city (who would campagin against a slogan like "every child, everyday, college bound"). I didn't vote for him last election, but its hard to see a better fit for someone to reform the school system.

I did however, vote for Carol Chumney, who i will not vote for again. Her concession speech, and apperance on the news regarding Herenton stepping down, its clear that she still remains bitter and spiteful.

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For Herenton's resignation to be a good thing, we need a new mayor who will go on a crusade to combat the root problems in our city. The typical responses of politicans to urban problems rarely, if ever, go deep enough.

Our urban neighborhoods have become factories for dangerous young criminals. Children are growing up surrounded by guns, drugs, prostitution, promiscuity, domestic violence, illiteracy and ignorance. And they face this not just on the street, but inside their own homes. I can't imagine how I would have turned out if my early childhood was so nightmarish, filled with so many traumas, so frequently that I learned to think they were normal and acceptable aspects of life. W.W. Herenton had an opportunity to do something about this. As an educated, successful black man, with the overwhelming support and admiration of the African Amercian community, he could have been an outstanding role model. He could have turned every resource at his disposal - including his influence with the school system and his close relationships with black ministers - to change how African Americans in the inner city viewed themselves.

But he didn't. Instead, the early days of his administration seemed to cater to the white community and businesses more than anything. While that did have a somewhat soothing effect (racial tensions in the city seemed to be relatively tame through much of the '90s), nothing was being done to curb the decay that was reaching new lows in the inner city. Then, curiously, Herenton wrecked much of the good he'd accomplished in the white community by transforming himself into a divisive, corrosive figure in his last two terms. In a city suffering from the double-whammy of a declining tax base and rising urban problems, the last thing your mayor should be doing is daring the most affluent, productive and peaceful citizens to leave town.

I hope that the next mayor will learn from these mistakes. Most everyone agrees that the city's biggest negative right now is crime. To local residents and outsiders alike, Memphis has the reputation as a wild, dangerous city. This must be reversed, and the only way to do so is to fundamentally change the lives of the young people who are on their way to becoming our next generation of criminals.

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I hate to say it, but if we keep reelecting these nuts, then Memphians deserve what we get as far as leadership goes! I am a product of the Memphis City Schools under Herenton's tenure as superintendent. He ran the schools into the ground and left under questionable sircumstances, just in time to escape a full-fledged investigation. Ditto for his tenure as Mayor. Who knows what kind of deals were made?!?! What happened to the on-going FBI investigation? What happened to the latest allegation that he used his power with code enforcement to condemn the apartment buildings he just bought to drive the price down on purpose? Did I mention they are right across the street from the new Target scheduled to be built in Midtown? That story and many others have not been followed up, and now all of a sudden, a resignation. Let the indightments begin!

It sounds so noble of him to step down because he cares about children. That's nice, nobility kicks in and tears flow when the alternative is a cold cell with bars on it! In his interview, he talks about a "calling" to serve children. Yet, he took his time to comment on one of the most brutal murders in Memphis history (of children on Lester street, just last week) he said that even God could not help those children. And now he cares about children all of a sudden to the point he is brought to tears? The medication must have kicked in.

I am not aware of one person who is upset to see him go. July 31 is opening day for people to start moving back to Memphis... developers, real estate investors, prepare for a hot market! Woo hooo!!!!!!

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I hate to say it, but if we keep reelecting these nuts, then Memphians deserve what we get as far as leadership goes! I am a product of the Memphis City Schools under Herenton's tenure as superintendent. He ran the schools into the ground and left under questionable sircumstances, just in time to escape a full-fledged investigation. Ditto for his tenure as Mayor. Who knows what kind of deals were made?!?! What happened to the on-going FBI investigation? What happened to the latest allegation that he used his power with code enforcement to condemn the apartment buildings he just bought to drive the price down on purpose? Did I mention they are right across the street from the new Target scheduled to be built in Midtown? That story and many others have not been followed up, and now all of a sudden, a resignation. Let the indightments begin!

It sounds so noble of him to step down because he cares about children. That's nice, nobility kicks in and tears flow when the alternative is a cold cell with bars on it! In his interview, he talks about a "calling" to serve children. Yet, he took his time to comment on one of the most brutal murders in Memphis history (of children on Lester street, just last week) he said that even God could not help those children. And now he cares about children all of a sudden to the point he is brought to tears? The medication must have kicked in.

I am not aware of one person who is upset to see him go. July 31 is opening day for people to start moving back to Memphis... developers, real estate investors, prepare for a hot market! Woo hooo!!!!!!

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Well, I'm not sure mayors have that much power or influence to create heaven on earth in any city. Nor do I think that Herenton's tenure was the cause of most, or even many, of Memphis's problems.

No candidate will be able to deliver on any campaign pledge to "save the city" or something similar.

I do think the positive thing about Herenton leaving is that he had absolutely lost all confidence among the majority of citizens. So at least a new mayor could restore some of that lost confidence and create a new atmosphere which might lead to something good down the road.

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I do think the positive thing about Herenton leaving is that he had absolutely lost all confidence among the majority of citizens. So at least a new mayor could restore some of that lost confidence and create a new atmosphere which might lead to something good down the road.

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I can't see Mayor Herenton entering the 9th Congressional Democratic Primary either. I think that was just some initial wild speculation on the part of his supporters. I think he wants the Superintendent's position to try to salvage some sort of legacy for himself, and only ran for re-election last year to prove to his detractors and opponents he was still in control of his political destiny and would leave on his own terms. Of course there is still the potential for indictments to come down, and the Mayor might have wanted to weather such political misfortune out of office rather than in for the sake of being able to govern, no matter if said indictments directly effected him personally or just those close to him.

I think he might fair better than many of us might expect if allowed to oversee the school system again. How much success I think he could have would be limited, but any reversal of the system's decline would be a major achievement at this point. I think most Memphis citizens would be happy with their urban school system and all the related problems they are resigned to dealing with if it was at least functional in carrying out the very basics of education, something I think overall the system appears to be having trouble doing at many of its facilities.

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So Mayor Herenton with his now condidtional resignation has managed to politically co-ordinate a series of events that reminds so many Memphis voters why they felt the time was right for him to go last year and denied him a majority of the vote in the election.

Anyone think the School Board will deny the Mayor's request to gain the appointment to School Superindendent? We can only imagine what a PR disaster it will be for the mayor if he loses his bid and takes back his intention to resign.

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For the past 6 years, he's been a walking PR disaster. No reason this will be a bigger deal.

Herenton may or may not be a good candidate for the Superintendent position; however, it would still be extremely lazy and myopic of the Board (no stranger to short-sightedness) to hand it to him just because he's offering his ego-inflated services. There still needs to be a national search. If Herenton is the best find, give it to him, but not until they have weighed all the candidates and credentials.

I have my doubts that the Board will do what needs to be done, however. If Herenton stays Mayor, then he can do us all a favor by taking over MCS so that future generations will not have to deal with the squabbling and uniformed decisions of most of the elected members. Qualified people rarely seem to be elected.

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So are you saying, if the school board does the right thing (by not handing Mayor Herenton the superintendent job) and does not select him, they should then be taken over by the same person they've just judged less qualified to lead the schools?

Memphis needs more democracy, not less. Fewer dictators, not more.

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gatesofmemphis: In answer to your question, I said the right thing is not handing it to him without considering alternatives. He may prove after a national search to be the best candidate; however, MCS Board Member Whalum has already suggested that Herenton be given the post with no search. That is what needs to be avoided. Food spoiling, expensive furniture, failing schools, unfairly extreme negative image (how about a little positive marketing?), shady building contracts, and the like have all become the norm with MCS--something obviously needs to be done.

Fewer dictators means fewer unqualified board members with eyes only for how the job can benefit them and how their rhetoric (not their positive contributions to MCS) can inspire their electorate to vote for them year in and year out. They too often have NO educational leadership background, and yet they dictate the direction or lack thereof of the City's children and our once proud educational system.

We have a bunch of Willie Herenton's in government (MCS, Mayor, City Council, County Commission, etc.), not just one. Sadly, Herenton's appointments will probably be little or no better than those elected since he is strongly prone to spoils system appointments. If he were to take control, I would be hopeful more for the future than for the present.

I like the chances of Memphis electing a capable mayor in the future over the chances of a majority of capable and qualified School Board Members being elected, and THEN finding some way to cooperate and make informed decisions based on the good of the City and its children.

I'd rather have the best man or woman for the job rather than the winner of a popularity contest--which is what many elected positions in the local political landscape have become. Too few people locally vote on basis of qualifications and more on race, religion, name recognition, and political rhetoric.

The misconception is that the public will have no say over appointed positions. Not true: appointed positions would still be made by those in elected positions (Think Supreme Court--appointed by President (Mayor), subject to approval by Senate (City Council). Disagree with an appointment? Cast your vote(s) accordingly next time. Appointed position not doing his or her job? Raise a stink to City Hall and media outlets--petitions, editorials, letters to the editors, rallies, and the same things that are used to voice displeasure towards the jobs of elected officials will get the point across.

But you're right, the Mayoral option may not be great either--but it may work better than the current system. Many major cities have adopted a mayor-responsible school system. USA Today Article.

BEST OPTION (in my opinion): I much prefer the election process IN THEORY, but the political landscape is gone amok in Memphis. So, while we are revisiting the Charter, I suggest that provisions be made to require certain job-appropriate qualifications and backgrounds prior to allowing someone to throw his or her hat in a race. Then we have an election, but we only pick among qualified candidates.

Who would you rather have on the School Board:

Option A:

No degree in Education

No experience in teaching

No experience in school administration

No PTA experience

Option B:

Doctorate degree in School Administration, Masters in Teaching

Teacher for 10 years

Assistant Principal for 5 years

Option A is Billy Citizen, Option B is John Q Educator. Too many Option A's are elected.

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qwertycc I believe you make some solid arguments at this junction for the Mayor to look at a more top-down authority struture over the crumbling school system. I tend to agree that if the elected leadership of the school board is a primary issue retarding reform of the school system then it might be beneficial for another elected body to oversee the school system's functions in the reform minded manner you propose.

PR wise this would be extremely dangerous for any mayor to attempt.....however Mayor Herenton really has nothing to lose and could weather the political back-lash that would insue better than a future mayor with further political ambitions could.

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qwertycc, I too would go with Option B. But I think the Mayoral control advocates overemphasize the dispassionate technocracy of appointed boards and underemphasize the bureaucratic and political sucking-up that a Mayor-controlled board could easily be capable of.

As for the future, I don't believe we should grant greater power to the Mayor based on our hope for more enlightened Mayors; we should hope, but the history of Memphis (and probably most cities) shows that mayors will likely be mediocre, or worse. They will have more power to do mediocre things and individual citizens will have less power to do great things.

But you are right -- there would be democratic control at some point. I just think the higher up it goes, the less power citizens have to influence and change, and that is not good, imho.

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Who would you rather have on the School Board:

Option A:

No degree in Education

No experience in teaching

No experience in school administration

No PTA experience

Option B:

Doctorate degree in School Administration, Masters in Teaching

Teacher for 10 years

Assistant Principal for 5 years

Option A is Billy Citizen, Option B is John Q Educator. Too many Option A's are elected.

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Mayoral control certainly poses the same dangers the current system has--unqualified people may still be put in positions to make decisions they are not suited to make and to lead in ways they have no experience going. I suppose I have grown too jaded towards the decision-making of the electorate (especially concerning district level positions that are not voted for as heavily and lack media attention & information to help voters make informed choices--if even presented with qualified candidates in the first place). As such, I feel (only minimally so) better about allowing appointments from the elected office that already appoints Police Director, MLG&W President, Library Director, Fire Marshall, numerous City/County boards, and many other positions. Granted, I haven't been impressed with all of the current Mayor's appointments, but on the whole, the process has worked well. Herenton has taken flak for MLGW (Joseph Lee) and Library appointments/firings in the past 3 years or so. Generally though, even Herenton has appointed people with some credentials in their specific area, even if they are friends/campaign contributers/"non-haters", though not always as highly credentialed as the positions would seem to demand. Anyways, MCS, just like City and County government and like the 2 police agencies, needs a serious shot in the arm--maybe something radical is required (compare to consolidation talk of the governments and/or law enforcement)--or maybe things will just work out through our current election process.

We agree on the most crucial issue--change is needed, and soon. Question is, will any change be effected? As long as positive steps are made, I don't care which of the discussed methods/philosophies (or any others not mentioned) are taken.

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I would like to have school board members who follow the law--basically school board members, as I understand the law--aren't to have any role in day to day management of the system. That is solely the province of the superintendent under state law as I recall.

And having been a teacher in an urban public school system worse than Memphis--New Orleans--with a board even more corrupt, I would say that the sort of individuals you advocate in Option B epitomize those folks who couldn't wait to get out of the classroom, generally because they were lousy teachers, and viewed education as a series of bureaucratic stepping stones to leave teaching.

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Assuming the worst of both options, I'd still prefer an educator with questionable motives than an non-educator with questionable motives.

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