Tempers flare over proposed school map - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tempers flare over proposed school map

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Schools charter surrender is inciting more infighting on the Shelby County Commission. This time, it's over a proposed school board map and that map helped turn talks to the issue of race.

With undertones of racial tension, some commissioners argued Wednesday's discussion beats a dead horse and wastes taxpayer money. However, others say lawsuits are about to fly, and contingency plans are prudent.

"This is the kind of thing that really makes people throw their hands up at government and wonder why we can't get our act together," said Heidi Shafer, Shelby County Commissioner.

The latest Shelby County Commission squabble centers on a back-up, unified school board map Commissioner Mike Ritz proposed Wednesday.

"If the 25 member board is not acceptable to the court, the back-up plan would be a 7 member district," Ritz said.

However, Shafer says voting on two maps unnecessarily doubles commission duties.

"We're going through a lot of gymnastics here and expending an awful lot of energy on sort of a dual track process," she said.

Shafer says the two laws that passed the merger clearly contradict one another, and the commission should wait for a court ruling on which law prevails.

"Let's just vote this up or down and stop calling names," said Commissioner Brooks during Wednesday's meeting. "Because I have names also, and they're not pretty."

Meanwhile, Commissioner Walter Bailey said lawsuits will last years, so the group must prepare for every scenario.

"So, hopefully we don't have to incur the same wrangling and disputations (as) we did previously," he said.

"I have to respectively ask you - have you fallen off your rocker? Because you know that asking us not to argue over this is absolutely not going to happen," said Commissioner Terry Roland during the group's meeting.

Roland said it's illegal to move forward, but Commissioner Steve Mulroy brought attention to the reversal of demographics in the back-up map. The original map had four majority African American voter districts. The new maps have four majority white voter districts.

Mulroy said he's not worried - for now.

"Before the 2012 elections occur, we're going to be adjusting these district lines," he said. "So, I don't think it's a problem for me now."

"I don't mean to disrespect anybody in this room or in Memphis, Tenn., but how come if you're fighting for something you believe in - in Memphis, Tenn., you're an activist?," Roland asked. "But if you live outside, in the county and you happen to be white and you're fighting for something you believe in, you're considered a racist?"

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly