Group aims to halt talk of consolidation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Group aims to halt talk of consolidation

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Last Wednesday, a group of African American leaders on the national level met with a group of local leaders at an undisclosed location.

The mission: To stop Memphis and Shelby County consolidation in its tracks.

Though sources would not say exactly who was in that meeting, the pow wow comes with the departure of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton as the notion of consolidation takes a shift.

Some Memphis City Council members and Shelby County Commissioners want to draw up a new charter to see how a combined government would look.

"If you look at the historic problems in this community, having a new government, an opportunity to start over is very attractive," said Council member Shea Flinn.

But those national leaders in Wednesday's meeting say consolidation would reduce Memphis' African American majority.

The U.S. Census shows Memphis is 62% Black and 32% White, while the overall county under a metro government would be 49% Black and 47% White.

Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton is the perceived front-runner in the city mayor's race, and he's believed to be one of few candidates who could pull off consolidation.

"Louisville and Nashville, when they had their metro governments, they were built around a charismatic mayor figure, so I'm sure that's feeding into some people's calculations," Flinn explained.

As Wharton filed his city mayor's petition Monday morning, he said if he led a metro government, district lines would be drawn as they have in the past.

"The laws are very clear," Wharton said.  "It is permissible to draw those boundary lines that make sure you do not dilute the strength of anybody and that's a commitment."

Consolidation proponents hope to fast-track the metro government charter to have it on the ballot for the next municipal election November 2010.

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