By Wendi C. Thomas Of The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton may have turned 69 today, but he's behaving like a toddler.
With his surprise announcement Tuesday of plans to challenge U.S. Rep Steve Cohen for the 9th District congressional seat, Herenton has effectively thrown a tantrum in the middle of the floor in a crowded room.
He's hoping for attention -- and he got it, with members of the news media (including me) scratching our heads and scrambling to make sense of this latest bombshell.
But what if we as a city, much like a smart parent, would have ignored his latest tantrum?
Could we muster the willpower to not gawk at the spectacle Herenton regularly makes of himself and instead leave the room as he's issuing statements about being well-positioned for legislative service?
If we collectively did so, I'm guessing Herenton would be forced to do what even a 3-year-old has the sense to do: Seeing that he's not going to get the attention he craves from his latest paddling-worthy performance, he gets up, dusts himself off and, for a while at least, behaves.
Make no mistake: Herenton is not leaving the mayor's office. Not for the city school superintendent's job, and not for Congress.
This is just his latest, carefully orchestrated stunt.
Herenton needed to take away attention from the hot mess of a budget he presented to the City Council on Tuesday, a budget that called for cutbacks in some city services.
You'll notice no one is asking just how reduced the hours at libraries, pools and community centers will be in the wake of the potential Cohen vs. Herenton rumble. No one's asking what happens if the city has to provide more money for city schools than the budget currently provides.
And I'm sure Herenton's lip was a bit pouty after FedEx CEO Fred Smith got such a deferential reception from the council Tuesday.
Herenton presented his budget, got no such similar reception, then announced he's forming an exploratory committee to study a run for Congress -- a letter with text superimposed on a photo of the nation's capitol.
Of course, even Stevie Wonder can see the wiggle room Herenton has left himself -- an exploratory committee to study. It's the same kind of wiggle room he left in his March 2008 "resignation" letter announcing "plans to retire" as mayor.
He's a chronic tease. Remember his promises to step down as mayor if the city and county were to consolidate?
I am so very tired of Herenton. He only ran for this fifth term because his challengers, to hear the mayor's narcissistic self tell it, weren't up to the task.
Then he wins, only to demonstrate just about every day since that he has no interest in being mayor.
Interest in the limelight -- yes. Interested in running a city -- not so much.
He belittles the city school board's choice of superintendent candidates, then makes clear that he'd take the job -- if he was asked/begged to.
When that didn't happen, (thank God) he probably started working on ideas for his next stunt -- the one unveiled this week.
His statement said he has received encouragement from citizens to run for Congress. (Note to Herenton: Normal people do not interpret citizens yelling, "Get out of town!" from passing cars as encouragement.)
With apologies to Dr. Seuss, but in language even a toddler could understand, let me make this clear:
I do not want Herenton near a school.
I do not want him cutting hours at the pool.
I do not want him at City Hall.
I do not want him near the Capitol Mall.
I do not want him here or there.
I do not want him anywhere.
To read past columns, go to commercialappeal.com/wendi. Follow Wendi at twitter.com/wendi_c_thomas.
Contact Wendi C. Thomas at (901) 529-5896 or e-mail email@example.com.