Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year, Old Focus?

New Year's Eve and Day are filled with their share of traditions: Some people watch the ball drop every year, others get fitshaced, there's all the kissing at midnight. And don't even get me started about the foods ...

(My parents made me eat black eyed peas every year on New Year's Day. They said that the "eyes" look out for you and however many peas you ate, you would have that number of days with good luck. Most years, I started with about a week of mushy, forced good luck. But I digress ... )

In Memphis, we have a special New Year's tradition: What will Mayor Willie Herenton say at his/Myron Lowery's annual prayer breakfast/State of the City address?

Mayor Herenton likes to start each year off with a bang. We don't know what he'll do or say this year — odds are, he doesn't even know! — but here are some of his ideas from previous years:

2008: A renewed push for consolidation. In last year's case, his plan was to change the state constitution so that suburban voters wouldn't have a say (meaning they couldn't block it, if that's what city residents wanted).

2007: Out of seemingly left field, Herenton says he wants to build a new football stadium to replace the aging Liberty Bowl. He thinks the idea will stimulate economic development at the Fairgrounds.

2006: Herenton is in recovery mode. After budget shortfalls in the previous year, he pledges to get the city's finances back in the black and restore its bond ratings.

I think (so don't quote me) it was around this time when he brought in Robert Lipscomb as the city's chief financial officers.

2005: He once again pushes for consolidation of city and county government and schools.

2004: He claims God gave him a vision for the city and that he'll keep running for mayor because there isn't another elected official in the city that could do the job.

He also says he has enemies on the City Council and County Commission — and no wonder if he's going around saying none of them are mayor-material.

2003: Focusing on education, Herenton says the city school board is a disaster. (Maybe he's not always controversial, after all ... Just kidding! Sorry, cheap shot.)

He also says he has a plan to overhaul funding for both the city and county schools and that, essentially, he's ready for a fight with suburban leaders.

2002: He says consolidating the city and county governments will be his major goal in the coming years (well, he stuck to it as a goal, that's for sure).

2001: Herenton says he wants to see a light rail system in Memphis. But he also thinks local government should consolidate.

Actually, looking back on it, I predict he's going to say something about consolidation, maybe with a focus on crime and outward population migration.

Frankly, as long as he doesn't say anything about black eyed peas, I'll be fine.

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