Path Less Traveled

On Tuesday, Nov 1st, the Memphis City Council bypassed a tremendous opportunity to take a new path in selecting the replacement for Janet Hooks in District 4 council seat. The Council had a chance to show that the wants and needs of the community were important in appointing a representative. Instead, through a questionable and clandestine process, it continued down a road that alienates its citizenry creating a wealth of apathy by substantiating the commonly held belief that our elected officials will do whatever they want with no accountability to or respect for their constituents. At a time when cronyism and ethics has the entire state of Tennessee under the national spotlight, they proceeded with a rushed process and no transparency.

At the City Council’s Personnel, Intergovernmental & Annexation Committee meeting, we were shocked, along with the District 4 nominees, to find out that there would be NO questions asked by Council members and NO answers to policy issues given by prospective candidates. The process, as dictated by City Council Chairman Edmund Ford discouraged questioning and encouraged an expedient determination of the appointment. This should be of grave concern to District 4 citizens as they are being deprived of the opportunity to know where their future council representative stands on issues facing the area. Without any basis for the council’s reasoning for this type of process, one is left to wonder exactly on what the Council would base their decision of who could best serve the needs of the people of District 4. There was no indication, on the record, of the level to which each nominee had an understanding of and ideas for addressing the issues of importance to District 4 citizens.

Citizens of this city should expect to see an appointment process that would be reflective of an inclusive and empowering political environment, a process that respects the opportunity to engage in dialogue with citizens and welcomes the opinions of those who will be directly affected by the outcome of the decision. Only with this type of transparent process can we begin to eradicate apathy while selecting the best person for the job as a servant representative. A transparent and open process might include an open nomination/application, open interviews in which the Council would ask questions of the applicants (including questions submitted by constituents), a period allowing feedback to be submitted to the Council, and then a Council vote. This would allow a thoughtful decision to be reached. We are sure that this could be achieved within a 30-day replacement period with a well-planned and executed process.

We encourage the City Council and Memphis City School Board to create a documented policy for appointing replacement members that would include procedures that encourage constituent input and would assist in selection of the best nominee. This path less traveled may lead us to a better Memphis.