Mayoral candidates point fingers at each other in debate
Like schoolchildren pushing and shoving to be the next in line, the Memphis mayoral candidates jostled one another with accusations on Sept. 22 at a University of Memphis debate.
Current mayor A C Wharton was the lone wolf Tuesday, spending most of the evening deflecting criticism from the other three contenders, Harold Collins, Jim Strickland, both city council members, and Mike Williams, Memphis Police Association president,.
“I would like to make a rebuttal, but I’m all out,” Wharton joked.
The Millennials for Memphis organization focused the debate on the interest of the 202,000 young people in Memphis between the ages of 18 and 34.
“So often when it’s time to make decisions concerning what is going to happen in Memphis they don’t include us (millennials) at the table until the very end,” Teniesha Pender, the debate co-host, said. “Well, this time we ask that they include at the table from the very beginning.”
Unfortunately, the candidates turned what was meant to be a conversation with a panel of 16 millennials into a war of words among themselves.
“Be careful,” Williams said to the audience. “He (Wharton) may look great up here under the shining lights, but is he giving us the truth?”
Though questions from the panelists ranged from entrepreneurship to crime in the city, the majority of their responses from Strickland, Williams, and Collins all emphasized the need for a transparent administration.
Rachel Knox, panelist and current city council candidate, sparked tension among the four candidates when she asked how they will improve the communication between the administration and the city council.
The three contenders agreed that Wharton’s should be more transparent and implied that the current mayor is not direct and honest with his City Council. When he answered, he disagreed, saying that he consistently communicates with City Council members. He cited the budget posted online as an example of his transparency, but did admit that most people don’t have the accounting degree needed to understand it.
“It’s not a matter of deception,” Wharton said. “It’s a matter of misinterpretation and it happens every day.”
Wharton’s rebuttal did little to convince Collins, who stayed pugnacious throughout most of the debate.
“Three of us up on this stage all said that the administration doesn’t tell us the truth and did you hear the mayor say that we weren’t right?” Collins asked.. “What does that tell you?”