Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton refused to attend a City Hall meeting yesterday where 150 citizens, mostly women, came to say they’re fed up with crime and want something done about it, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. What triggered their outrage was the rape and beating last week of a woman by two men as she and her son returned to their home. Herenton said the meeting was organized by a City Council committee. “Had I gone in there, I knew that at least one of the council persons would have used that as an opportunity to politicize a dreadful event,” he said. “And for some self-serving politician to use that occasion to politicize crime, certainly I would have walked into that.”
Councilman E.C. Jones said the mayor has a duty to address his constituents. “It’s already politicized,” he said. “These people came to City Hall asking, ‘Where is the mayor?’ They didn’t ask for the City Council. He could’ve just came by there, and said, ‘Ladies, it was a terrible crime and we’re doing everything we can, but I just wanted to come by and tell y’all that.’ How long would that have taken?” Councilwoman Carol Chumney, who is running for mayor, accused the mayor of neglecting his responsibility. “This mayor has always been hands off, and that’s part of the problem,” she said. “He’s always said, ‘That’s not my job.’ Well, what is his job?” Last year, Herenton asked for 500 new cops he said could be paid for with a property tax increase, but got little support from the council. In the upcoming 2008 budget, Herenton proposed spending $4 million to hire more than 100 new officers. He wants to spend about $700,000 more to implement a high-tech “real time” crime center.