While the Shelby County Commission grapples with setting a tax rate, one of the more interested parties, federal Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays, Jr., has yet to rule on the potential expansion of the Shelby County Schools board.
Once it's reduced from its current 23-member roster to just seven by Sept. 1, Jude Mays has to decide whether the county commission or a special election is need to fill six additional slots.
Neither option, though, looks all that attractive.
A federal judge can deal with a plethora of cases. There's the gamut of drug smuggling, embezzlement, racketeering and murder. But, for Judge Mays the 2.5 year struggle over the merger of Memphis City and Shelby County schools continues to be a never-ending saga even as the supposed end draws nearer.
Unfortunately, considering the openly dysfunctional way in which the current Shelby County Commission has conducted its business in recent years, real politics can be perceived as more of a threat to progress than a recognized part of the governmental system.
An even more unsettling prospect is this fractious commission could potentially be handed the opportunity to battle over the appointments of six additional SCS board members after the present 23 member board is reduced to seven on Sept. 1.
"Even when there's a meeting of the minds there are personal rivalries and differences that get in the way," said Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer columnist. "There's so many, coupled with the ideological differences, that it's hard for me to believe they could agree on what time it was."
But, what about the long-awaited decision to be rendered by Judge Mays as to how the eventual court-mandated 13-member board will be assembled? The judge's choices would seem none to appealing: allow the commission to handpick the six new members to join the seven incumbents who are elected or wait until a special election can be staged for the positions which Mays has been assured by the Shelby County Election Commission couldn't happen until sometime in October?
Baker believes, like the rest of us, Judge Mays is waiting for some key events to unfold before making a ruling.
"I think Judge Mays is also waiting for the municipal vote which happened (Tuesday), but, until there's a tax rate, until there's a budget - which is going to be a mess in itself - it's going to be delayed," he said.
Let's say the commission gets to make appointments. Commissioner Melvin Burgess, Jr., gives us an indication of the kind of intricacies that will have to be brought up in the selection process.
"I represent District 2, which is a very large district, and of course, with the concerns and ills in my community, my district is involved in closing schools," Commissioner Burgess said. "The schools are failing so we would possibly or we need more representation."
Among the interested bystanders are the seven school board incumbents who Judge Mays may allow to go it alone well after the school term's already started.
"I'm looking very much forward to a smaller board," said SCS board member Chris Caldwell. "I think we can be more efficient. I think we can get more things done. The whole purpose of it is to make sure that there's fair and equitable representation for all the people in the county. So, if it addresses that, I'm going to work with whatever cards we get dealt."
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