The Memphis City Council, which has been entangled in a messy deadlock over filing the District 1 vacancy, has put off filling the seat and two others until Jan. 8.
That decision came after wrangling over the District 1 vacancy seat prompted the council to take Rhonda Logan, Raleigh Community Development Corp. director, out of the running when she could not be elected on two tries Tuesday.
Logan had been the lone remaining candidate in the protracted process.
“I feel violated. I feel slandered,” she said after leaving City Council Chambers. “I feel I came into this race as a community servant/ leader for the people, but the council members didn’t want me to serve my constituents. …
“It feels as though it’s classism, sexism and racism.”
The District 1 position has been vacant since Bill Morrison resigned to become Shelby County Probate Court. District 6 became an empty seat when Edmund Ford Jr. left to serve on the Shelby County Commission. Janis Fullilove resigned after being elected Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk.
Tuesday’s session was the first time the council had been at 10-member strength since Dec. 4, when Councilmembers Joe Brown, Martavius Jones, Patrice Robinson and Jamita Swearengen, walked out in protest of the way the appointment process was being handled. Each supported Logan and did not attend any of the specially-called sessions after their walkout.
The four councilmembers left the Dec. 4 meeting in the wake of rule changes that left Logan with the most votes but one short of the seven needed to secure the seat.
Tuesday’s meeting ran smoothly until the District 1 election item. That smoothness gave way to loud complaints by angry citizens. At one point, Chairman Berlin Boyd lost his composure and made derogatory references to one man’s mother.
Ironically, at the end of the meeting some council members and some members of the crowd held hands and prayed.
Councilmember Reid Hedgepeth made the motion to remove Logan after two votes. He was one of the council members that had backed candidate Lonnie Treadaway. National sales manager for Flinn Broadcasting, Treadaway withdrew his candidacy. He had moved into the district this past July after living in Mississippi.
Boyd said there now are questions about how to go forward.
“According to (Hedgepeth’s ) motion and according to the vote, she’s out,” he said, referring to Logan, after the meeting.
“But she could reapply. But I think next meeting we will probably start discussing the protocol, who is going to do what going forward…Right now, we don’t know how we are going to proceed.”
The council is trying to fill the three vacant seats in the order in which they were vacated, Boyd said.
The decision to remove Logan from the running prompted some audience members to shout at the council. Several times Boyd threatened to have some people removed from the chamber. He quickly apologized for his unflattering reference to one heckler’s mother.
Boyd apologized again for his outburst after the meeting.
“That guy just irritates me,” Boyd said. “That guy sends me things on a regular basis that harasses me. I apologized for it but I’m human. I’m a man at the end of the day and you can only poke me for so long.”
Flanked by state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Logan held a brief press conference outside the council chamber
She was asked why some council members seemed to have a problem with her candidacy in spite of her considerable community support.
“They can’t have a problem with me because they don’t know me,” Logan said. “The community knows me, the constituents know me…They say it’s some of the community members they don’t like. I don’t have anything to do with that…”
During the meeting, one council member had said he had been turned off to Logan’s candidacy by her support from Parkinson and Rickey Peete, a former councilman who was twice convicted of corruption.
“…I came into this race in good faith,” Logan said. “That (to judge her by some of her supporters) is totally disrespectful.”
Parkinson said it seems the rules change every time the council comes together to elect a member to serve in Dist. 1.
“I don’t know about you and the city of Memphis but I am severely disappointed and embarrassed,” Parkinson said. “The fact that as many people across the spectrum of our city have stood up for this woman to be appointed to this council, those voices have been totally ignored.”
Race has been an element of the public discourse. District 1 has an African-American majority. Logan is African American; Treadaway is not.
“I would like to say I am not a racist,” Councilman Ford Canale, who supported Treadaway, said. Some laughed at the remark.
“You do not know me and to come down here and say that is a great insult…Just because there was one candidate I did not choose for District 1 does not make me a racist,” Canale said.
The District 1 seat has been represented by white men for the entire 50-year history of the mayor-council form of government in Memphis. Logan’s appointment would have upped the black majority to eight from the seven-member majority it has had since 1995.
In other action
* The council rejected a 2019 budget proposed by Memphis Light Gas and Water. Councilmember Joe Brown counseled MLGW officials to try again when the council has all of its members seated. The budget included proposed rate increases for electricity, gas and water.
Boyd said MLGW should continue to operate under the 2018 agreement until new agreement is approved in 2019.
* The appointment of a chairman and vice chairman for the council also was moved to Jan. 8.