This is the question I ask myself day after day when I pick up the newspaper and read seemingly never-ending headlines on dirty deeds and corruption. From the bottom up, our city is plagued with greedy, feckless leaders who seem to care only about lining their pockets — and those of their buddies. Why are we as a community not making a bigger stink about these despicable city and county politicians? I usually try to be positive in this space, but this month, I'm just plain fed up.
Let's recap, for a moment — shall we — The Tennessee Waltz, and the Main Street Sweeper. Why, the FBI must have a new department charged with dubbing their covert ops with clever, headline-worthy nicknames.
The story so far: Kathryn Bowers accused of accepting $11,500 to influence legislation. County Commissioner Michael Hooks Jr. accused of conspiring to defraud the Juvenile Court Clerk's Office of roughly $60,000, following in his father's footsteps, it would seem, as daddy Hooks pleaded guilty to accepting $24,200 to help along some government contracts. (Surely you remember that March afternoon in 2001 when Shelby County deputies, armed with a warrant for Hooks Jr. for failing to appear in court after being charged with driving with a suspended license, found Hooks Sr. instead, channeling Rachael Ray and cooking up a batch of crack? Nice.)
Let's not forget Darrell Catron, Roscoe Dixon, Barry Myers, Calvin Williams, Ward Crutchfield, Charles Love, and Chris Newton. Rickey Peete clocks in with his second nasty run-in with the law, accused of bribery and extortion. Did we not learn our lesson when the man went to the pokey after his 1989 extortion bust? And then there's the perennial law-breaker, Mr. "Rolex" himself, John Ford. I don't have enough room in this magazine to cover the sordid life of this man and his wives, girlfriends, and offspring. But no matter what he's done lately, the most reprehensible move he's made, in my book, is seeking to change child-support laws that would hurt kids everywhere, just to save himself a few ducats. My head hurts just thinking about it.
And just when we thought the dust had settled, along comes Memphis Light, Gas and Water-gate. As of this writing, what exactly is happening with that organization is still as indecipherable as our MLGW bills.
So it was a much-needed break when my hubby and I flew down to sunny Miami Beach for a week of sand and surf. It was a great week, with the minor exception of taking a jog down the shore one morning (lost in an iPod reverie), and stopping to take a breather only to notice that I was smack in the middle of a nude beach — a stretch of the coast that I now refer to as The Longest Mile. But that's a story for another day.
Even while on vacation, this news-junkie has to get in a good hour of CNN, and when I'd had my fix, I flipped to the local Miami stations, just to see what was happening in paradise. That day, a man granted an interview from a hospital bed after being attacked by a pack of pit bulls. Then, charges of cronyism and corruption at City Hall. I blinked in confusion, then looked out the window to make sure that I was in Miami and had not been transported somehow back home. Things are tough all over, it seems.
But back to the question at hand. What are we going to do to ensure that these politicians are never, ever reelected to anything? Obviously, prior convictions aren't enough to scare voters away. I don't have the answer. But I hope that one day I'll be able to go to sleep at night without worrying that somewhere in the city, a sleazy business person is sidling up to a politician with the same question I have: What's it gonna take?