Posted: Jan 6, 2006 6:15 am
Herenton takes on media, says he was never in drug rehab
Chides businesses for blocking 'revenue' measures
By Jacinthia Jones
January 6, 2006
In a frank discussion with Memphis journalists on Thursday, Mayor Willie Herenton addressed a host of topics from the payroll tax and car allowances to rumors he's been in a drug rehab and a recall effort to oust him from office.
But for much of the 11/2 -hour discussion, during which the mayor was often humorous, he was critical of the media's coverage of him.
"When I receive fairness, I'm surprised. I don't expect it."
Herenton said he understands his personality rubs some people the wrong way. "I don't try to win no popularity contests. I'm very independent. I'm just cool."
He said he's not perfect, but that the media have never given him a fair shake. Sometimes, he says, it's in the subtle ways he's portrayed and pictured in the media as harsh, stern and authoritative.
"I'm 6 feet 6 -- tall, dark and handsome. I intimidate some of these people."
For the first time Wednesday, Herenton responded at length to last year's rumors that he had been in a drug treatment facility. He said he's never been and has been at work every day.
"People that know me, know I like a good Merlot, I love good red wine. But the only drug that's gonna go in my body is an aspirin."
During the discussion, Herenton chastised businesses for fighting city efforts to levy a payroll tax or other revenue-generating sources.
"It's easy for them to pass on cost increases to those of us who are consumers because they have to protect shareholder value. I understand that," Herenton said.
"But the business community has got to understand that government can be efficient, but you can reach the limits of efficiency and you need more revenue. You can't be against everything and not be for something."
The mayor also criticized recall efforts led by political commentator and Herenton critic Thaddeus Matthews as "nonsense."
"I think it was WREG that gave a societal misfit so much coverage on a so-called recall of the mayor."
The discussion drew several citizens, city employees and council members to City Hall Wednesday.
"I didn't get much out of it other than the mayor was talking about how the media wasn't treating him fairly," said Council member E. C. Jones.
-- Jacinthia Jones: 529-2780
On his re-election efforts:
"If it's God's will, I'll be on the ballot in October 2007."
On suburban school funding:
"The suburban communities are getting basically a free ride when it comes to supporting schools. They don't pay their fair share in supporting education."
On the sale of MLGW:
"If I could sell it, it would have been sold."
On his media-reported absences from public events:
"You wanted to perpetuate a rumor that I was in drug rehab. I was in Piccadilly and they'd say, "Mayor they're looking for you and you're over here eating with us at Piccadilly!' "
On his being indicted:
"Do you know how many times I was supposed to go to jail? Gale (Jones Carson, his executive assistant) said the other day, 'They're supposed to indict you today.' I said, 'Indict me for what?' It's just nonsense."
On ethics and public corruption:
"I believe that public officials should be held to a very high standard of public and ethical conduct in carrying out their respective duties."
On term limits:
"It's very interesting that all of a sudden in this period in history that there are some people out there that want to change the rules. ... If you ask me, I think every time there's an election, the public has the opportunity to keep a person in office or kick 'em out."
On countywide payroll tax:
"You may be surprised to learn that I agree with something Mr. (County Commissioner John) Willingham said. Well, I'm surprised I agree with him too. But I do think that looking at a countywide payroll tax is something we need to examine."
On auto allowances at MLGW:
"I'll be very honest with you; I disagreed with the board of commissioners and their decision. ... I wish they had eliminated the car allowances for all the officials. The media has made an issue of car allowances and I just decided to get that out of the arena as far as the city is concerned."