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On The Ballot: Who has the power to help MLGW?
By On the Ballot

Welcome back to On The Ballot, The Daily Memphian’s newsletter covering the Memphis mayoral and City Council elections coming this October. 


79 days until early voting begins.

If you missed the first issue, read that here. We went over who’s running for what, recapped the residency snafu and reminisced about that time a Memphis mayor gave the Dalai Lama an unforgettable greeting. 

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We have five quick topics today, including a hot one this week: Memphis Light, Gas and Water.


1. Mayoral candidates respond to crime perceptions

If you missed it, The Daily Memphian’s journalists spent the last week digging into the results of a public safety survey and even sent those results to eight top Memphis mayoral candidates. Samuel Hardiman shares what seven of the frontrunners had to say (one didn’t respond) and includes their written reactions in full

Floyd Bonner, Karen Camper, Frank Colvett, J.W. Gibson, Willie Herenton, Michelle McKissack, Van Turner and Paul Young are all running to be mayor of Memphis. (The Daily Memphian file)

Each candidate agreed with the majority of those surveyed — that local crime is a major issue and (spoiler alert) that reducing crime should be a top priority for the next mayor. As for how to address that crime, The Daily Memphian asked candidates about firearm regulations and harsher prison sentences. The candidates agreed with most poll participants, who want gun reform. They were divided on whether tougher sentencing is an effective deterrent for crime.

Storm damage along Seed Tick Road in Lakeland following the Sunday evening storms on June 25, 2023. (Courtesy Wesley Alan Wright)

2. Who’s got the power? 

As of this writing, nearly 30,000 MLGW customers are still without power due to Sunday night’s storms, an outage that at one point left more than 116,000 households in the dark. 


As usual, Memphians took to social media with angst over this round of outages, and this year’s elections were a part of the conversation. 

(Twitter screenshot)

(Twitter screenshot)

But how much power do our elected officials have to fix MLGW? 

The answer: a decent amount. While the city mayor appoints MLGW’s CEO and five-person Board of Commissioners, it’s the Memphis City Council that has the juice. They approve the rates passed on to customers and the budgets used for things such as tree-trimming and infrastructure upgrades. And those are the things that impact the area’s number of power outages. 

It’s also good to know that MLGW’s budget is separate from the city’s operating budget. (Side note: Hardiman answered more questions about MLGW in an explainer this week.)


All 13 City Council positions are up for grabs this election, and if you’re a city of Memphis resident, you have the chance to vote for four of them. (Why four? See “Fast Facts: What district am I in?” below.)

3. Districting drama is over, for now

There will be only one change to Memphis City Council districts before the election: One precinct in the northeast section of District 5 will move into District 2. The Daily Memphian’s Bill Dries covered the final 8-4 council vote approving this change, which affects about 4,800 voters. As Hardiman reports, this came after a months-long battle that might have seen bigger shifts, namely, a Cordova district that could have changed the racial makeup of the council. 

Mayoral lore: What’s in a name?

Elvis Presley rides Bear, one of the many horses he had at Graceland in the 1960s. He named one of the other equines after a mayor of Memphis. (Courtesy Graceland) 

Memphis mayors have given their names to roadways, parks and at least one famous horse. Here are three examples:

Mare Ingram: Elvis Presley kept a stable full of horses at Graceland, and named one mare “Mare Ingram,” after Mayor William B. Ingram, who served the city from 1963 to 1967. Apparently Elvis had some dad jokes.

E.H. Crump Boulevard: Mayor E.H. Crump wielded enormous political influence over Memphis and Tennessee politics for 50 years, despite only serving three two-year terms as mayor. Rest assured, there’s much more to say about Crump in upcoming editions.

Tobey Park: This 44-acre Midtown park offers multiple sports fields, a dog park and a skate park. It’s named for Memphis Mayor Frank Tobey, who led the city from 1953 until his sudden death in 1955.

4. One less thing on the ballot

On Tuesday, June 27, the Memphis City Council voted to make City Court Clerk an appointed position rather than an elected one. After current City Court Clerk Myron Lowery finishes his term in 2024, three judges will nominate a new clerk, and the council will have to approve the nominee.

5. Meet the candidates: part 1

Mayoral candidate Frank Colvett speaks during a Daily Memphian sponsored debate on Monday, April 24, 2023 at the Halloran Centre. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

The Daily Memphian’s Eric Barnes and Bill Dries plan to host the top mayoral candidates on WKNO’s weekly “Behind the Headlines” program as we get closer to Election Day. First up was Memphis City Council Chairman Frank Colvett, who appeared on the June 23 episode. 

Watch the program in full, or listen to the audio online or through your podcast provider (just search “Behind The Headlines”). In the interview, the seven-year City Council member discussed his plans for increasing home ownership in the city, reducing crime and expediting business development. 

Fast facts: Which districts am I in? 

Memphis is divided into seven districts, and each district gets one representative.

Then, the city is divided again into two super districts, each represented by three reps. Find your district and super district numbers by typing your address into this map. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of the On The Ballot newsletter in two weeks, when we’ll have more campaign news and talk about which candidates are ahead in early polls — or if those polls matter. Sign up here to be sure you don’t miss an update.

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