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Voting Smart, continued: Our Recommendations in the Memphis City Council Runoff Elections

October 31, 2015
vote again

Early voting began today and runs through November 14 for the Memphis City Council runoff elections. Election Day is November 19. Five positions in the October 8, 2015 election will be decided:

District 2: Frank Colvett vs. Rachel Knox

District 3:  Patrice Jordan Robinson vs. Keith O. Williams 

District 4:  Doris DeBerry Bradshaw vs. Jamita E. Swearengen 

District 5:  Worth Morgan vs. Dan Springer

District 7:  Anthony Anderson vs. Berlin Boyd (I)  

Six incumbent Council members won another term, pulling a majority of votes in their districts:

  • District 1:  Bill Morrison  (with  78.4% of the vote)
  • District 6:  Edmund Ford, Jr.  (74%)
  • Super District 8, Position 1: Joe Brown (71.9%)
  • Super District 8, Position 2:  Janis Fullilove (78.2%)
  • Super District 9, Position 1:  Kemp Conrad (72.4%)
  • Super District 9, Position 3:  Reid Hedgepeth (64.7%)

Former Memphis City Schools Board member and President Martavius D. Jones won the Super District 8, Position 3 seat on the Council capturing 45% of the vote, and newcomer Phillip C. Spinosa won the Super District 9, Position 2 race with  49.4% of the vote.

Back in River City’s 2015 Vote Smart Guide to Memphis Elections published in September provides information and recommendations on the candidates now facing runoffs.  Here are our additional thoughts as you prepare to head back to the polls.

our opinion

First, do make the effort to vote in the runoffs. Voting participation is consistently dreadful in local runoff elections. The selection of who represents your voice in the management of Memphis matters. If you visit the polls during early voting, it will be a quick in-and-out.

Second. Seven Council incumbents will be involved in leading Memphis for the next four years, including Mayor-Elect Jim Strickland, who is exiting as District 5’s representative. The newcomers will have significant influence in determining the group dynamics and culture of our city’s principal governing body.  Let’s hold them accountable for honesty, integrity, preparation, cooperation, civility, thoughtful planning, listening to (and representing the wishes of) their constituents, and effective policy-making. And definitely no pole dancing.


Third.  Too many of our elected Council members are current or former school board members or employees of Memphis City Schools/Shelby County Schools. The decisions of City Council members should be completely independent of their private and professional interests. Memphis can find better Council representation than those associated with a governmental agency  (past or present) known for  inefficiencies, bad decisions, nepotism, incompetent workers, and failure.


Refer to Back in River City’s Vote Smart general election guide for additional information on the candidates.

District Two

In District 2, Frank Colvett won 49.7% of the general election vote against Rachel Knox’s 22.6%.

rachel knox

Rachel Knox

Rachel Knox, a 2011 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate of the University of Memphis, is to be congratulated for winning a runoff spot in a tough race of four. As  the Orpheum’s  Education Coordinator, she organizes  workshops for teachers and manages an internal grant program providing students exposure to the arts. She was inspired to enter local politics just over a year ago after making an impassioned speech before the City Council on behalf of fire, police and other city workers facing pension and benefit cuts as a result of the City’s financial crisis.

Frank Colvett

Frank Colvett

Frank Colvett is co-owner of a family landscape and irrigation business. He is an employer in a city whose populace is massively underemployed. He knows first-hand the problems confronting local businesses seeking to survive in a competitive market while government officials favor set-asides for “disadvantaged minorities.” We believe Mr. Colvett would bring a much-needed skill set to the Council.  Back in River City recommends Frank Colvett in the District 2 race.

District Three

Patrice Jordan Robinson won 48.5% of the general election vote to Keith O. Williams’ 20.8%. Ms Robinson served on the Memphis City Schools Board for 13 years and also served as its President.  She has been employed by MCS and MLG&W. Mr. Williams is a retired Shelby County Schools teacher and immediate past president of the local teachers union. Back in River City makes no recommendation in this race.

District Four

The runoff is between retired Bank of America employee Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw (33.1% of the vote) and Jamita E. Swearengen (24.5%).  Ms Swearengen is employed by Shelby County Schools. The Commercial Appeal reported in July that Ms Swearengen owed back taxes on multiple properties in Memphis. Back in River City makes no recommendation in this race.

District Five

Worth Morgan (32%) and Dan Springer (23.4%) made the runoff in District 5.

Good news for residents of District 5! Back in River City’s Eddie Settles recently interviewed both candidates, and we feel that either would be an excellent addition to the Memphis City Council. They shared their thoughts and concerns about major issues such as Memphis policing, finances, and outmigration; and the role of metrics in measuring performance of city government functions. They both answered these questions:

  1.  What do you understand to be the job description of a Memphis City Council member?
  2.  How will your constituents hold you accountable?
dan springer

Dan Springer

Dan Springer believes he is supposed to be a team player, finding a way to help build consensus instead of contributing to discord. Worth Morgan defines his desired Council office as representing the interests of his constituents while also doing his best to seek the common good for all Memphians. Both are committed to holding  frequent townhall meetings in  District  5 to provide information about pending Council decisions and hear constituents’ concerns.

We at  Back in River City are excited to see two such intelligent and capable young men

Worth Morgan

Worth Morgan

interested in serving Memphis. Both are worthy of your support. We have a slim preference for  Dan Springer only because he has more years of hands-on government service experience from previous stints working with Senator Bob Corker and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. We expect good things in the political futures of both candidates.

District Seven

anthony anderson

Anthony Anderson

berlin boyd

Berlin Boyd

The District 7 runoff pits  Anthony Anderson (24.1% in the general election) against incumbent Berlin Boyd (26.5%). Back in River City endorsed Mr. Anderson in the general election and we continue to favor him over Mr. Boyd. Mr. Anderson is CEO of Frayser charter school The Memphis Business Academy. He has been actively involved in Frayser civic affairs since 1995. Mr. Boyd was appointed to his current Council seat in 2014, filling the vacancy left by Tennessee Senator Lee Harris. Earlier, he served for 11 months as the replacement for District 7 Council member  Barbara Swearengen Ware, who was indicted on a charge of official misconduct. In our opinion, Mr. Boyd’s  vocational interests – principal of government relations firm Boyd and Associates and commercial real estate agent – are in conflict with exercising independent judgment in a City Council role.


Source of voting statistics:

Hear Ben Carson Live Tomorrow in West Memphis

October 29, 2015
Image source: Getty Images

Image source: Getty Images

He’s one of the most honored and respected African Americans in the world. His life story is the quintessential American dream:  the impoverished black son of an illiterate single mother, reared on the gritty streets of Detroit, nicknamed “Dummy” by his middle school classmates for his poor school performance, becomes an internationally acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon and is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  He and his wife have raised and donated millions of dollars since 2004 to award over 2000 college scholarships and create 131 reading rooms in public schools to provide at risk-youth the opportunity to realize their own dreams. His books and biographical movie have been studied in classrooms across American and have inspired untold numbers of Americans of all races.

Now Dr. Ben Carson is a top presidential candidate, with new polls daily showing him edging out the infamous Donald Trump and leaving the rest of the Republican candidates trailing in his dust.

But don’t expect the Tri-State Defender or Commercial Appeal to tell you how to hear him in person tomorrow in West Memphis. They fear his viral appeal because he states his mind, faith, and traditional American values openly, denouncing Democrat leaders who manipulate black voters and the political correctness that silences voices daring to speak the truth. People across the country and around the world are eager to learn more about Dr. Ben Carson and to hear his common sense plans for healing and reviving our country.  Back in River City published a   2013 post about his unpublicized, deliberately ignored speech at the University of Memphis. That post has attracted well over 5,000 readers – our most popular ever – and continues to draw new readers to Back in River City every day.

Eddie and I will be at West Memphis High School tomorrow to hear Dr. Carson. The political rally begins at 6:00 p.m., with doors opening at 4:00.  Click here to register. We will report on the rally next week.

Correction:  Ooops! We goofed up. (Thank goodness no one pays us for this gig.) Kyle Veazey noted Dr. Carson’s West Memphis appearance in his Commercial Appeal column on Tuesday, October 27. We are  CA subscribers and readers, but goblins must have been afoot in our house that day because Eddie and I totally missed it.  We apologize for the error and dig at the CA. Thanks to the vigilant Back in River City reader who informed us of this error. Keep us honest, folks!

Sisters Under the Skin

October 29, 2015

How many of your close friendships have been truly life-changing, have re-shaped the way you think and act, have made you wiser and your life more fulfilling?

That is way more than anyone should expect from a friendship, but is exactly the gift that two Memphis women have given me. They are both African American, while I am Caucasian –  a fact unremarkable by itself, but in racially-torn Memphis is worth mentioning.  A close cross-racial friendship in Memphis is a stitch in an open wound, a strike against divisive politics and ingrained preconceptions. It is also an adventure of discovering how different and yet how alike two people can be, sharing laughter and experiences and points of view, finding a safe place where trust and love can flourish despite all odds.


In 2014, Back in River City posted about a budding new group called Soul Sisters, formed to facilitate intentional one-on-one relationships between Memphis women of different races and ethnicities. I went to the first Soul Sisters event (a tea at Harding Academy) to learn about the group and write about them. I left with a match-up to an amazing woman who has become a dear friend.

Soul Sisters was inspired by the accidental meeting of the Rev. Dr. Earnestine Hunt and Lorie Affatato at a Collierville garage sale 15 years ago. They became fast friends. After Lorie moved to Florida, Earnestine hoped to find someone who would help her launch an organization that would facilitate and encourage cross-racial friendships. She found that someone in Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer. For more on this story, see Back in River City’s original post here.

(l to r) Lorie Affatato, Earnestine Hunt, Heidi Shafer

(l to r) Lorie Affatato, Earnestine Hunt, Heidi Shafer at February 2014 Soul Sisters tea.

soul sisters logoA second Soul Sisters match-up will be held at the Crescent Club, 4:00-7:00 p.m. on Saturday November 14, 2016. Registrants will enjoy a 3-course dinner, meet dynamic women interested in healing Memphis race relations, hear about successful Soul Sister friendships, and be matched to a Soul Sister for their own “intentional friendship.”  There are no rules to follow, but matched Soul Sisters are asked to make a commitment to get together at least once a month for a year to let a relationship take root.

Contact Tammy Gaitor Miller at (901) 830-6088 for more information and to register for the event. But hurry! Registration and payment ($37 covers dinner, tax and gratuity) are due by Sunday, November 1st.  You may also contact Tammy via the Soul Sisters Facebook page or by email at

black and white dog friends

Our Complete Vote Smart Guide Is Ready for You!

September 19, 2015

The complete and final version of Back in River City’s 2015 Vote Smart Guide to Memphis Elections is ready for you to view. When you send your friends to Back in River City, tell them to  click on the tab marked 2015 Voter Guide. For those of you reading this, just click here. (If I believe you are not reading this, I must be having a senior moment and need to get a grip.)

Hundreds of you have already viewed the mayoral portion of the Vote Smart guide posted Friday. We have added the City Council races (all 60 candidates) and the race for City Court Clerk.

You don’t have to agree with our recommendations, but we hope you will take the time to review the candidates, issues, and the questions that will help you to make your own best choices. Back in River City‘s Vote Smart Guides are the most comprehensive, candid, and insightful voter guides available in the Memphis metropolitan area.  You have asked us to produce these guides and we are happy to oblige.

Let us know what you think and what you want to see next from Back in River City.

Thank you! We love our followers who want to join us in building a better Memphis.


Vote Smart, Memphis!

September 18, 2015

Just-in-time“Just in time” is our motto here at Back in River City. Some people call this “waiting until the last minute.” But those people   don’t have houses in the midst of a remodel, and a hubby who needs his shirts pressed so he can shine as Bow Tie Guy and  lots of other stuff to do.  All excuses aside, however, we just published the first section of our 2015 Vote Smart Guide to Memphis Elections as a new page on Back in River City. Click here to learn everything you need to know about the mayoral candidates. Tomorrow we’ll post our thoughts and recommendations about the City Council and City Court Clerk candidates.  Tell your friends to come to and click on the tab marked 2015 Voters Guide. 


Early voting begins tomorrow, Friday, September 18 for you early birds. The Guide will tell you when and where to go and what to take with you.

Thank you for your gracious and enthusiastic support of Back in River City’s Vote Smart Guides. We prepare these guides because we love our city.  If we all vote smarter, with more information about the candidates and who might be best for the job, together we will make a better Memphis.


Are You Ready to Vote Smart?

September 12, 2015

Big decisions are looming for Memphis – decisions that will affect your health, safety, quality of life and pursuit of happiness. And you, my friend, are key to what decisions will be made.

Are you certain who would be the best Mayor of Memphis for the next four years? Do you know who would come closest to representing your own views, values and priorities on the City Council? Are you clear about what the City Court Clerk does, and why your vote matters in choosing who fills that office?

how to be an informed voter

From Friday, September 18 to October 8, 2015, you have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to have your say in who will lead our city. To elect the folks who will decide how much of your household income will be diverted to pay local taxes, and how those dollars are spent. To elect a Council member you can depend on to be responsive when city problems become “up close and personal” with your family.

Over 10,000 Memphians voted smarter in local 2014 Elections by reading our Back in River City voting guides.  Back in River City’s 2015 Vote Smart Guide to Memphis Elections will be published next week, just in time for early voting. We’ve been working on your behalf for months, researching candidate positions and attending forums,  gathering facts and insights, sifting through political promises and puffery so that you can enter the voting booth with confidence. Follow us today to receive your Guide, and share the news with your friends: together, we can  Make a Better Memphis.


Feed Your Soul and Get Your Motown Fix July 10-12

July 1, 2015


If you can’t afford tickets to Motown the Musical coming to the Orpheum July 14-19 (or you’re not an Orpheum season ticket holder and, like me,  refuse to sit in an upper balcony for a road show), this deal is for you. Just days before Motown the Musical’s opening night, you can enjoy your Motown favorites sung by an extraordinary Memphis cast and feed your soul to boot. The summertime music-and-more spectacular The Gospel According to Soul will be back with three performances July 10-12 after a three-year hiatus. This theatrical gem, produced by Pastor Dwayne Hunt of Many Thousand Gone fame, will move you, body and soul, and feed you with the bread of life.

Not Just Another Church Musical

jesus-gospel-of-soulIf you haven’t seen one of Dwayne Hunt’s productions, you will be amazed and moved by the professional quality of this first-class show.   Pastor Hunt is one of Memphis’ under-publicized theatrical treasures. Before he became a minister, he studied and excelled in musical theatre in college. His unique skill set enables him to write, direct, and stage productions that deliver audience impact equal to any Orpheum road show. Each cast includes a sprinkling of professional actors. Some are members of the Abundant Grace Fellowship congregation, others  leap at the chance to be involved in a Dwayne Hunt production. Both Many Thousand Gone and The Gospel According to Soul have been staged for multiple years, and  several key cast members have been involved since the shows’ beginnings. That rarely found experience infuses their performances with more depth, nuance, and authenticity every year.

There’s a Reason It’s Called Soul Music

The Gospel According to Soul is akin to Jesus Christ Superstar, substituting the joy, rhythm and passion of vintage Motown music for the rock-opera-meets-Broadway strains of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s biblically-inspired masterpiece. The music of the 1960’s and 1970’s that Baby Boomers dubbed “Soul Music” retells the story of Jesus of Nazareth in a way that even non-believers find compelling.  This soul-stirring night of theatre will inspire and entertain you in ways you may never have felt before. Like Many Thousand Gone, I found The Gospel According to Soul to be unforgettable. Both shows will be don’t-miss events on the Settles’ annual calendars as long as they are performed.

You can also expand the horizons of at-risk Memphis youth by making a contribution via GoFundMe. Fifteen dollars will treat one student to this professional quality theatrical production. Many of these children have never  seen a live stage performance of this caliber. The campaign hopes to treat 200 young people who participate in programs sponsored by Grace Center for the Performing Arts Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis, The Husband Institute ( a ministry of The Pursuit of God Church in Frayser), and Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church in South Memphis. Multiple studies have shown that exposure to the arts can redirect and improve the lives of underprivileged youth. Students with high levels of involvement in the arts tend to have better academic outcomes, higher career goals, and more civic involvement. Most of us have heard or witnessed stories of lives transformed by a visit to the ballet or a magical night in a dark theatre. Reality TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance have revealed numerous inspirational, real-life journeys of young people whose passion to engage in the performing arts has enabled them to overcome adversity, suffering,  and onerous challenges.

Russell Ferguson, Season 6 discovery, So You Think You Can Dance

Russell Ferguson, Season 6 discovery, So You Think You Can Dance

Join Eddie and me at The Gospel According to Soul. The show sold out in 2012, and was last seen in 2013, so don’t wait to get your tickets. Tickets for the three performances, gospel dancersall at 7:00 p.m. at Abundant Grace Fellowship (1574 Shelby Drive at Millbranch in Whitehaven) are available online at Eventbrite for $18.93. Trust us, this is biggest entertainment bargain in Memphis. Take your children (or grandchildren, if you are MOCA’s* like us), your Boomer parents, your church group, or a bunch of friends. Group discounts are available.

* (Memphians of a Certain Age)




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