Puttin’ on the Ritz

Earlier I mentioned Mick Wright’s scathing and funny bit about Ritz at the Shelby GOP convention. Jackson Baker, political reporter at the Flyer, wrote about it:

About the recall effort, announced at Sunday’s county Republican convention by a group associated with the Tea Party movement, Ritz contended that most of his critics live outside the area he represents, District 1, which takes in much of the City of Memphis periphery as well as generous sections of its adjoining suburbs.

Ritz says he doubts that 21,000 signatures could be found inside his district for a recall petition. That’s the number — 15 percent of the district’s registered voters — estimated as necessary according to state law by Mick Wright, a vice chair of the county GOP organization who is supporting the recall effort.

“Now, they might have an easy time of it out in the county,” Ritz said, meaning essentially District 4, which takes in unincorporated areas of Shelby County as well as six suburban municipalities which are seeking to form independent school districts and are resisting long-term involvement in the Unified city-county school district which Ritz supports. “The mayors out there might even circulate the petition themselves,” Ritz said, only half joking.

Rather famously, Republican Ritz and seven County Commission Democrats have formed a solid bloc of 8 in favor of completing the unification of city and county schools and litigating against efforts by the suburban municipalities to secede from the school consolidation forced by the December 2010 surrender of the Memphis City Schools charter. Vote after vote on the Commission has produced an 8-5 outcome, with five Republican members —three from District 4 and two from District 1 — voting against the majority.

Wright, who is involved both in the recall effort and a parallel one to have Ritz formally excommunicated from the Republican Party, engaged in a little guerilla theater in the course of a speech supporting his own reelection at Sunday’s GOP convention.

He told the audience, “I was at Kroger, needing to pick up a few things. I found the items on
my list and made it to the checkout. As the clerk was scanning the last item in my cart, I told her to stop — I didn’t choose that.” He paused, then brandished a box of Ritz crackers.

“It was Ritz,” Wright said, continuing, “’I said, ‘I don’t want that.’ She said, ‘Ritz is completely crackers.’
I said, ‘I know, I don’t want Ritz.…’”

Wright continued his routine, using anecdotes that made the case against chairman Ritz for supporting increases in County sales and property taxes, pressing expensive litigation against the suburbs, and allegedly attempting to “pack” the Unified School Board with six new appointed members.

Other Republicans active in the anti-Ritz movement are Yvonne Burton, Brad Snyder, and Joe and John Fox, twin brothers who are also looking into legal ways of having the Cordova section of Memphis de-annexed.

In an interview with the Flyer, Wright drew a parallel between Ritz and state Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethtown, who incurred the wrath of state Republicans when Williams, a Republican himself, became Speaker of the House in 2009 with 49 Democratic votes to go with his own, thereby defeating the designated GOP candidate for Speaker.

Williams was declared persona non grata by the state Republican executive committee, an action which kept him from running for office thenceforth as a Republican. He is now listed as an Independent and won reelection twice under that mantle.

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