You ever wonder why in the adage, "We have to take from Peter to pay Paul" it's always Peter who gets thrown into the lurch? A prime example in this week's edition of "The Wheels on the Bus", subtitled "The MATA Saga," the unenviable role of "Peter" fell to Reid Dullberger head of the city and county's Economic Development Growth Engine agency. He could only watch and listen as his budget for fiscal year 2014 was reduced by a committee proposed resolution from Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris.
Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris says, "We recommend to go ahead and give the 1.6. million dollars to Edge; but, not 2.1. Instead, to redirect about 460-thouand of that to MATA for this year."
The recipient of this monetary sleight of hand was "Paul", stoically represented by William Hudson, President of cash-strapped MATA, who reviewed to Council members why he was forced to cut vital city bus routes, re-route others and proposed laying off 40 to 50 company employees.
MATA CEO/President William Hudson says, "When you are 4.5. million dollars short, you gotta make cuts. Deep cuts."
But, from the moment he entered the room Hudson had already found a receptive
audience in the intimidated Council members who for the past few weeks have heard the moans and wails of their constituents about how the bus cuts would have a dire effect on their lives...namely posing a major threat to their abilities to hold on to their jobs. Beneficial too to Hudson's cause, were a majority of Council members who have inherently viewed the EDGE Board with scorn, ridicule and distrust. As if the organization aimed at bringing more businesses and jobs to Memphis and Shelby County is instead the symbol of some social and economic caste system tyranny. Let's just say, General Custer would have had a better chance of warding off the attacks than Dullberger did.
"When will the least of these be take care of? I guarantee you, not one executive at EDGE has to worry about his or her mortgage. Has to worry about paying his or her utility bill. Has to worry about how you're going to get to work," Janis Fullilove said.
So, the stage was set for Hudson to graciously accept the 469-thousand dollar cash infusion and take those cuts off the drawing board...Well, it's not quite that easy.
Hudson says, "I couldn't put it in if you gave it to me today. Because we so far along the lines of the reductions of services."
George Little from the Memphis Chief Administrative Office says, "He's gotta let the public know of the change. Because he's already told them that they're gonna go away. He has union agreements that he has to keep up with. So, that's gonna require ultimately a delay of 90 days before the routes can be put back as they were before the cuts."
Ironically, it would take a self-admitted "man of streets" to put the whole discussion and offer in perspective to Hudson.
"What I'm saying in so many words or less, this is not your call. Just listen to me real close. This is not your call. This is the Council's call," says Memphis City Councilman Joe Brown.
Maybe "Peter" got off easy after all.