To my absent City Council colleagues...
An open letter to my absent City Council colleagues:
How did it come to this? When you walked out at the beginning of our meeting Tuesday night, you walked out on the business of the people. We were scheduled to vote on 56 agenda items that evening including: MLGW’s $1.7B budget, fiber cable for 21 community centers and three senior centers, grant funds to purchase bulletproof vests for our police officers, zoning cases for which neighbors had taken time to show up and be heard, critical grant funds to combat drug trafficking, property code ordinances to target blight, SkyCop cameras for eight Memphis neighborhoods, time sensitive contracts, and many other items crucial to the operations of Memphis City Government and the communities we all serve. Items are left on the agenda that are completely unrelated to the District 1 appointment.
Your failure to engage in good faith with your colleagues has turned what should have been a straightforward process into an embarrassingly intractable instance of failed governance. Our session Tuesday lasted an entire 19 minutes before you staged a walkout. Multiple candidates have stepped forward to fill the District 1 seat. Is it so unreasonable to believe that the way you feel about your candidate is the way other council members feel about theirs? I have no doubt that we were genuinely at an impasse, but there is no valid excuse to leave the job unfinished. Other options and people are available. Over 90,000 Memphians live in District 1. If we put in enough effort, I’m certain that we could reopen the search and find a great interim replacement for Bill Morrison. Please return to the table so that we can collectively finish the work we’ve sworn to do.
For my part, I regret not publicly asking our three former colleagues (Edmund Ford Jr, Janis Fullilove, Morrison) to resign in time for special elections on November’s ballot. Unfortunately, this opportunity has now passed us by. I simply never imagined that our debate and process would devolve and become this dysfunctional. I had faith, maybe naively, that like every other Council before us we could work through what is ultimately not a very complicated decision. If we were to hold a special election in the coming months, the estimated cost of $600,000 to open and staff the polls would be an unfair burden to the taxpayers and a financial blow to our city government that already has more needs than it can fund.
Memphis is moving forward with or without us, so let’s get back to our jobs and the good work that I know we all believe in. Legislative bodies are designed to breed conflict, and that’s OK. Through that conflict our varied backgrounds, skills and viewpoints are supposed to guide the discussion to a better solution for the people. We can’t be a part of the solution or have any discussion without a quorum.
Worth Morgan Worth Morgan represents District 5 on the Memphis City Council.