Shea Flinn is a Memphis City Councilman:
The word change was beaten into the ground, dug up, and beaten into the ground again in 2008. But we as a city and a country did go through a transformation.
For me this was beautifully illustrated by the Police Residency vote and subsequent firestorm. Back in February, when the new Council was really new, we had an extremely similar resolution, with the exact same arguments, and ultimately the same outcome. Councilman Jim Strickland (the resolution’s sponsor at the time) and I showed how green we were by being shocked that there was no response from the public at all.
What a difference a nine months made. Now one can agree or disagree with the stated purpose of the resolution(s), but we can all take some measure of hope from the change in the citizen’s response after the vote. People, on both sides of the issue, got engaged.
My wish for the citizenry of Memphis in 2009 is that they keep the fire burning and stay committed to demanding accountability and results from their elected officials.
My wish for the political bodies is to abandon the words, “ad hoc,” from our vocabulary. We often feel the need to create a committee to study a study committee that came from a legislative body’s committee. Now we should always perform our due diligence, but studying an issue is not the same as acting on an issue (except on political promotional material).
And action is what will be required of all of us in the coming months. We need to stop talking about consolidation and actually draw up a consolidated charter that would explain specifically what a consolidated government would look like. After the “model” metro charter is completed, we call for a vote, we run a campaign, and we see who wins. Because if consolidation is not going to happen, we need to prepare for it, and stop holding it out as the deus ex machina that will turn it all around on that glorious “someday.”
We need to change (that damn word again) how we interact with the rest of the state and region. To this end, I would propose that our federal delegation get in the on the bailout package and try to get some high speed rail for our region. A few billion (remember when that used to be big money, now it seems like small change) would allow us to connect not only our city to Nashville in a greater way, but also with Jackson, MS, and Little Rock, AR, as well as providing the requisite short term jolt to our local economy. We need to remember that while we have a difficult road ahead of us, that we have been heading down this road for years, but it is still not too late to go another direction.
PS: I will also be erasing change from my vocabulary along with ad hoc.