The public chorus of groups and individuals dissatisfied with the moves the Memphis City Council has made to fill the vacant District 1 seat rang out again on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s council session.
“The Memphis City Council did not follow their own process in filling that vacant seat,” said Tajuan Stout-Mitchell, a former council member. “If they think we are just going to shut up and go away quietly, they are sadly mistaken.”
During a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum, Stout-Mitchell was part of a show of force that included the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC), the Democratic Women of Shelby County and several other current and former elected and appointed political leaders.
Filling the vacant District 1 position and two other vacant seats – District 6 and Super District 8-2 – is expected to be addressed at today’s (Tuesday’s) regularly scheduled meeting.
The District 1 position became vacant after then-City Councilman Bill Morrison was elected Shelby County Probate Court Clerk. A Dec. 4 council session ended abruptly when four members – Joe Brown, Patrice Robertson, Jamita Swearengen and Martavius Jones – walked out over concerns about the appointment process. None attended any of the subsequently called special sessions.
The four council members that walked out support Rhonda Logan, who was one of two remaining candidates before Lonnie Treadaway withdrew. The council had been deadlocked on Logan and Treadaway, including a marathon session on Nov 20 that extended into the next day.
There are varying positions about how many votes actually were needed for a candidate to secure the appointment at the time the council took its earlier votes.
MWPC President Latrivia Welch said, “We are calling on the Memphis City Council to be fair and balanced as they move forward with this appointment process tomorrow. We are beyond the 30-day window given according to the charter.
“The body has voted over 100 times without arriving at a resolution, and yet there is clearly a female candidate, Ms. Rhonda Logan, who has garnered enough of the vote to be appointed. However, she seems to be overlooked. Our question is why?”
Norma Lester, president of the Democratic Women of Shelby County, said the “Me Too” movement doesn’t stop with sexual harassment.
“We want and demand an equal playing field and when that is not afforded, we certainly deserve an explanation as to why,” Lester said.
“What has/is happening at the Memphis City Council has extended beyond District One. It’s a reflection of this Council towards women in general. This is about power and greed and without consideration of the long-term consequences for candidate Logan.
“They’re willing to mar the reputation of this woman and throw her under the bus based upon hearsay and unfounded allegations. We want a reasonable and sensible explanation as to why the story seems to change each time it’s told.”
Giving her take on the heart of the matter, Former City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove said, “They want a white man in that position. …That’s what it looked like and that’s what it is.
“I don’t personally know Rhonda Logan, but she won the process fair and square. That District 1 seat has always been filled by a white man. But Ms. Logan is well qualified for that seat.”
There also was a collective concern expressed about the vacancies in District 6 and Super District 8-2 and about what is deemed the unfair treatment of women who run for political office in Shelby County. Edmund Ford Jr. and Fullilove won county positions in the last election. Their resignations from their council seats created the District 6 and Super District 8-2 vacancies.
The significance of hosting the press conference at the Civil Rights Museum was seen as meaningful and significant for participants.
“Every time I come here, I am reminded that I stand on the shoulders of so many who came before me,” said Stout-Mitchell.
“They want a type of apartheid government. But we will not be quiet. The minority will not dictate what the majority will do.”
(This story includes reporting from the TSD Newsroom.)