The Main Street Journal asks various community leaders about the issues of the day. All opinions expressed are strictly those of the person attributed.
QUESTION: Which office holds more power, the 9th U.S. Congressional District or Memphis Mayor?
Chris Thomas, Probate Court Clerk.
Well, I think that it is the Mayor’s office. All politics is local. A mayor can have more of a direct impact on more people than one congressman. That is what I think.
Richard Thompson, Memphis blogger, Mediaverse Memphis.
This is a loaded question. It assumes that whomever seeks either position is doing so for the power that either seat claims to possess–though we know that this question is aimed at Mayor Willie Herenton. I am intrigued by this kind of consensus building. In any event, I would argue that neither is particularly powerful. The mayor may run things administratively in terms of hiring and setting budget priorities but the City Council holds the purse strings. That’s where the real power lies. Ditto that for the the Ninth Congressional District seat. That position is one of 435. Even having a committee chairmainship is the pretense of power since committees–especially subcommittees–have little overall effect on legislation. Both positions can be high profile. Is that power? Depends.
Mike Ritz, Shelby County Commissioner.
In terms of budget controlled, employees managed, local media attention, and smiles/pats on the back from constituents, the City Mayor hands down. In terms of national lobbyists and their entertainment budgets and world travel, some national media attention, telling the local constituents one thing to get elected and doing/voting otherwise in DC, and personal expense budgets, the Congressman. To do both - the biggest power trip of all?
Mark White, Former Republican nominee, 9th Congressional District.
It could be debated all day long as to who has the most power. A local Mayor over one city or a District Congressman who is one out of 435 in the House. I think the question could best be answered by: What does Memphis need most right now? A strong Mayor or a Strong Congressman. Memphis has so much wealth of talent and industry. We lead the nation in distribution of goods, first class corporations such as FEDEX, International Paper. We are a leader in Bio Sciences and we have the nation’s largest Urban Park with over 4500 acres. We have an entrepreneurial spirit that no other city matches. We have every essential ingredient for a successful city but we lack Character of leadership. No one is at the helm of our municipal boat pulling everyone together. We recently had another major storm hit our city. It caused power outages to over 130,000 people and much damage to property. Our local utility company was working night and day to fix the damage and they have done a good job. But where’s our Mayor? No one expected him to pick up a chain saw or climb a utility pole. But what we do expect is our Mayor to lead. To let the community know that the city has a plan and the plan is being followed. “Give us a few days and all will be right again.” Memphis has been void of leadership for so long that very few even bother to ask why anymore. They just move to the smaller urban communities around Memphis where the mayors and boards of alderman do seem to care. So, to answer the question: what office holds more power, I will have to cast my vote for the City Mayor. Why, because Memphis desperately needs someone to lead. Someone who will tell the young people you have a future here and someone to tell each of us that Memphis is truly a beautiful city.
Steve Ross, Memphis blogger, vibincblog.com.
The office of Mayor has huge power, particularly in Memphis where the office is far stronger than in the County. Not only does the Mayor have the power of the purse (with some oversight), but also has control of the administration of the City, with little oversight power from the City Council. Further, the Mayor has a “bully pulpit” upon which he can influence people and policy with far less background noise than a Congressman.
On the flip side, US Congressmen have a great deal of power too,though they have to leverage it against 534 other Representatives and Senators, not to mention the will of the Administration who ultimately signs or doesn’t sign any legislation. Congressmen have a platform from which to plead their case, but the field is thick and there is far less direct impact on constituents than any Executive position.
In the end, it comes down to big fish in a smaller pond versus a smaller fish in a big, resource rich pond. The Mayor has far more direct influence, and IMHO, ultimately more “power”.
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