Residents react to mayor's suggestion to cede city charter

Local residents from Midtown to Germantown sounded off Saturday in response to Mayor Willie Herenton's suggestion that the city should surrender its charter and form a consolidated city-county government.

This isn't the first time Herenton has supported consolidating Memphis and Shelby County governments, but under this proposal the City of Memphis would essentially disappear, becoming an unincorporated part of Shelby County.

The city mayor and council would cease to exist, and the Shelby County mayor and commission would take over local government.
Residents like Mary Burns of Midtown say they're still learning about the proposal, and aren't quite sure what to think of it yet.

"If we loose Mayor Herenton and only have one mayor, that would also be a good thing," said Burns, owner of Java Cabana Coffee House.

Burns says she's more comfortable with consolidation over a charter surrender.

"As a business owner, I don't enjoy paying city and county taxes."
If Memphis surrenders its charter, not only would its governing body dissolve, but so would its police and fire departments.

City councilman Jim Strickland says the name "Memphis" would cease to exist.

"Some think of Memphis as Elvis, some think of Memphis as Stax Records, some think of Memphis as Beale Street," said resident Anthony Bell at his family reunion in Audubon Park Saturday. "We cannot just wipe away Memphis."
The charter surrender would only need to be approved by city voters, not by county voters, who are seen as an obstacle to consolidation.

Jim Steen, a father who lives in Germantown, isn't pleased with the idea that his family would have no say in the matter.

"I think keeping the governments separate is the best thing for the county and the city."

to e-mail Lori Brown.