MyFox Memphis.com
February 14, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Before Shelby County Commissioners met Monday afternoon, they had an opportunity to express their displeasure with Nashville directly to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Haslam tried to defend his decision to sign into law a controversial merger transition plan developed by Collierville State Senator Mark Norris.

It can happen to even the most experienced of politicians. In one of those embarrassing “the king is wearing no pants and who’s going to tell him” moments, energetic Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam tried to humorously wade through during a ceremony honoring a new Mitsubishi plant coming to Memphis.

“I’ve been looking forward to it so much that my notes aren’t up here and I’m hoping somebody can come save me real quick,” Haslam said.

But, considering the results of Haslam’s recent involvement in the potential consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County School systems, there may have been a number in audience who enjoyed seeing him temporarily squirm.

Haslam’s signing into law the controversial transfer transition plan of Collierville Republican State Senator Mark Norris, after reportedly promising Memphis Mayor A C Wharton he’d be in no rush to do so, has prompted questions about why he seems to have gotten a solid seat on the partisan Nashville legislative bandwagon. Haslam said he seeks only to help all sides if a transition is necessary.

“If they vote yes then we’re going to do everything we can to have the very best plan going forward and the state will help in every way that we can,” he said.

However, Haslam’s soft-soap sell of his actions didn’t manage to scrub off the calloused feelings still felt by Wharton and members of both city and county legislative bodies toward Nashville’s approval of the Norris Bill last week.

“If you read that bill, you don’t have to be a lawyer. Nowhere in there does it say there is hereby accomplished a merger and now let’s go through a transition before you kick it in,” Wharton said. “Under the bill as it is presently drafted there is no guarantee that there will be a merger.”

If anything there now seems a joint resolve to not only develop a homegrown transition plan, but to be prepared to muster legal forces to stop Nashville from intervening anymore than they already have. Wait, did I hear the word “unity” among our elected officials?

“Starting today at the County Commission when we start moving toward putting a representative school board in place, we’ll – I think – begin to show everybody that the community is together,” said Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz.”

“This will be decided by court and because the Justice Department is now involved; I think that’s good,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery.

“[There’s] nothing racial about the vote that took place at the City Council. There was nothing racial about the vote that took place and the County Commission,” Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism stated. “It was a bi-partisan effort saying that we want to move this city forward and we don’t need anybody outside this town telling us what to do.”

Haslam added that he will make every effort to find the best qualified appointee in Shelby County if the Mark Norris transition plan comes to fruition.

 

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