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“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” — Plato

About Coalition for a Better Memphis (CBM)


Volunteer participating in candidate rating.

Early in 2005, a group of Memphis community leaders became aware of a successful project called The Committee for a Better Atlanta that had been operating since 1996 and had been credited with helping to elect highly qualified public officials in Atlanta, GA.

After reviewing the initial research, the Memphis community leaders felt that a similar effort might assist local voters and they traveled to Georgia to meet with the Atlanta Committee. Upon returning, the Memphis community leaders worked together to convene a planning group which led to the development of The Coalition for a Better Memphis (CBM).

The CBM Candidate Rating Process

There are already many well-qualified elected officials in Memphis and Shelby County, but the experience of the Atlanta group has shown that qualified candidates have three elements in common:

  • Qualifications and experience
  • A vision and process to address important issues
  • The ability to implement their vision

AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE about candidates running for office

In order to ensure quality candidates are elected, the CBM believes that voters should have as much information as possible about candidates running for office. Pertinent information includes the candidates' general qualifications as well as an assessment of each candidate's understanding of and commitment to key issues facing the City of Memphis and Shelby County. The CBM believes its candidate rating process will lead to the election of increasingly higher qualified candidates and will encourage novice, yet talented, citizens to offer themselves up for public service.

The CBM ratings process works by rating candidates against a previously established criteria and offering the results to CBM members and to Memphis and Shelby County voters. The criteria generally cover economic development and quality of life issues, as well as the candidate's qualifications and leadership traits. Exact questions and issues of priority are developed through research and consensus by CBM Board members.

There are two parts to the candidate rating process – a written response to the questionnaire and a live interview.

After the candidate filing deadline with the Shelby County Election Commission, all registered candidates receive a CBM information packet that includes details on the CBM and a written questionnaire for the candidate to fill out. The questionnaire includes questions on the candidate's qualifications, personal leadership traits, and their specific plans regarding priority issues. The full response, exactly as received from the candidate, is posted on the CBM website.

In addition to the written questionnaire, each candidate who completes the written questionnaire is invited to participate in a live interview conducted by volunteers from the CBM Board and CBM member organizations. The volunteers score each response from both the candidate's live interview and written questionnaire. The scores for each candidate are gathered from every volunteer and averaged together for the candidate's total score. The CBM strives to have as many volunteers as possible to participate in the candidate rating process to ensure the scores are valid and unbiased.

The CBM's candidate ratings, including each candidate's total score and guide covering the current issues, are widely distributed throughout the community and published on the CBM website. In addition, each Coalition member is encouraged to provide their members and employees with the CBM ratings through their own internal publications.

The CBM does not single out or endorse any individual candidate. The ratings feature every candidate that responds to the CBM requests for participation. The CBM ratings and candidate responses are considered informational tools for voters.

The CBM rating process is not designed to replace any current media or organization's endorsement, system or process. The CBM voter's guide is designed to be a tool for CBM members and voters to provide information necessary to make an informed choice. Individuals and organizations can use this information as a resource for their own process and make decisions about what is important to them in supporting the candidate of their choice.

The organization is funded by its members, in-kind support and sponsorships from area companies and foundations.

Candidate Evaluations Sub-Committee

The Candidate Evaluation Sub-Committee of the CBM is a sub-committee acting through a separate segregated fund pursuant to Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code that prepares and distributes a voter's guide prior to each election. The guide contains educational information concerning the elections as well as evaluations of the qualifications, experience and platforms of each candidate. The Committee believes that informed voters will encourage new candidates to run for office, increase voter turnout and can result in the election of highly qualified public officials. The evaluation panels are made up of representatives of the Business and Organization Members as well as selected individuals. Representatives of the 501(c)(3) organizations do not participate in the projects of the Candidate Evaluation Sub-Committee.