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Editorial Results (free)

1. Early Vote Expands as Campaigns Enter New Phase -

There is a unique and persistent part of the political process that gnaws at candidates, separating them from the voters they court and sometimes stalk. You might call it the day of the ballot.

In the weeks leading up to the start of early voting, they get hit up constantly by those putting out endorsement ballots to be distributed during early voting and on election day, most often by paid poll workers. Candidates must pay to be on a ballot, which those organizing the ballots say is necessary to cover printing and distribution costs.

2. Voters Decide District 7 Runoff Thursday -

Voters in Memphis City Council District 7 on Thursday, Nov. 10, will settle the last election of 2011 as they select the only new member of the 13-member council.

Lee Harris, a professor in the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, faces actress Kemba Ford in the runoff election that grew more intense toward the end of the early-voting period.

3. Ford, Harris Vie for Council District 7 Seat -

Early voting opens Friday, Oct. 21, for the last election of 2011 in Shelby County. The race is the runoff for the District 7 Memphis City Council seat between Kemba Ford and Lee Harris. Election Day is Nov. 10.

4. Wharton, Fullilove & Conrad Re-Elected -- Harris-Ford to Runoff - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. won a full four-year term of office as mayor Thursday, Oct. 6, two years after he claimed the mayor’s office in a special election.

And all 12 of the Memphis City Council members seeking re-election won new four year terms in the city election cycle, marking the largest return of incumbents to the 13-member council in the 43-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

5. Early Voting Kicks Off Friday in City -

Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 16, in advance of the Oct. 6 city of Memphis Election Day. Voters across the city can cast early ballots in the races for Memphis mayor, City Council, City Court clerk and City Court judges at 16 locations through Oct. 1.

6. City Council Change Should Continue -

Every organization can use an influx of fresh thinking, new ideas and a questioning of the status quo.

That is what the current City Council brought to the table four years ago when they took office as the legislative branch to the longest-serving mayor in Memphis history. Nine of the council’s 13 members were newly elected.

7. Vote for Me -

Four years after the biggest turnover on the Memphis City Council, the Oct. 6 city elections could see the biggest return of incumbents ever on the council. Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 16.

Twelve of the 13 incumbents are seeking re-election. It would have been 13 had Barbara Swearengen Ware not taken a plea deal on an official misconduct charge.

8. Political Hobnobbing -

The group of around 100 people in the plaza of AutoZone Park Wednesday, Sept. 7, led a few passersby to think a ballgame was under way.

But politics was the only sport in the plaza during the Greater Memphis Chamber’s annual HobNob In The Park gathering.

9. Council to Approve Schools Budget -

Memphis City Council members meet Tuesday, Aug. 2, to approve a budget for Memphis City Schools that is expected to include a monthly payment plan to cover $68.4 million in city funding.

Passage of the item on the regular council agenda would end a funding standoff between City Hall and Memphis City Schools that threatened to delay the Aug. 8 start of classes for the 2011-2012 school year.

10. Boyd Appointed to District 7 Council Seat -

Berlin Boyd, a small-business owner involved in politics for years, is the newest member of the Memphis City Council.

Boyd was appointed to the District 7 council seat Friday morning, July 22, on the third round of voting by the other 12 council members.

11. 4 Council Members - All 3 City Court Judges To Run Unopposed In Oct. Elections -

Four incumbent Memphis City Council members and all three incumbent City Court Judges were effectively re-elected at the Thursday, July 21, noon deadline for candidates to file their qualifying petitions for the Oct. 6 Memphis ballot.

12. Council to Appoint 13th Member -

Memphis City Council members should be back up to full strength by the end of the day Friday, July 22.

The council meets for the second time in a week Friday at 8 a.m. with one item on the agenda – appointing a citizen to the vacant District 7 council seat.

13. Last-Minute Filers Make Election Deadline -

A flurry of last-minute filings came at the noon Thursday, July 21, deadline for candidates in the Oct. 6 Memphis elections to turn in their qualifying petitions.

Shelby County Election Commission staffers were still checking the signatures on the petitions filed Thursday to make sure those signing were voters and lived in the districts they signed for or the city in the case of the citywide races.

14. Council Approves Redistricting Plan -

Memphis City Council members approved a redistricting plan for the council just two days before the filing deadline for the Oct. 6 city elections.

All 13 city council seats are on the ballot as well as citywide races for Memphis Mayor, City Court Clerk and the three city court judges.

15. 14 Apply For Council Appointment -

Fourteen citizens had applied by the noon Thursday, July 14, deadline for the District 7 vacancy on the Memphis City Council.

The council will fill the vacancy created by the June resignation of council member Barbara Swearengen Ware at a special July 22 council meeting.

16. 14 Apply For Council Appointment -

Fourteen citizens had applied by the noon Thursday, July 14, deadline for the District 7 vacancy on the Memphis City Council.

The council will fill the vacancy created by the June resignation of council member Barbara Swearengen Ware at a special July 22 council meeting.

17. Redrawn Lines Affect Council Contenders -

Mud Island has become a kind of safe harbor for candidates hoping to make it onto the Memphis City Council in the Oct. 6 city elections.

With Mud Island apparently still safely within council District 7, University of Memphis law school professor Lee A. Harris pulled his qualifying petition this week for the only council seat with no incumbent seeking re-election. He’s one of three citizens weighing the district race with Mud Island addresses.

18. Council Redistrict Proposal Shakes Up Dists. 1 And 7 - Memphis City Council members have a redistricting proposal that would change council districts 1 and 7 the most.

The redistricting proposal required by the once a decade census was submitted Friday evening, July 8, by council attorney Allan Wade.

19. Council to Fill Seat July 22 -

The Memphis City Council will meet in special session July 22 to appoint someone to fill the vacancy created by the resignation last month of District 7 council member Barbara Swearengen Ware.

20. City Council Still Debating Budget Decision -

In some ways, the city budget season isn’t over just yet.

Memphis City Council member Joe Brown moved Tuesday, July 5, to reverse an effective 4.6 percent pay cut for city employees through 12 unpaid furlough days.

21. Council Races Slow to Develop -

Only two weeks remain before the qualifying deadline for candidates on the Oct. 6 Memphis election ballot, but there aren’t very many names on the ballot so far – just 13.

Yet there are many more qualifying petitions still making the rounds in several city council districts.

22. City Council To Consider Ware’s Replacement -

Memphis City Council members will discuss who should be the 13th council member during their Tuesday, July 5, executive session.

The executive session at 1:30 p.m. comes before the 3:30 p.m. full session of the council at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

23. City Council Looks to Fill Ware’s Seat -

The Memphis City Council is taking applications to fill the District 7 council seat of Barbara Swearengen Ware, and council chairman Myron Lowery has set a target date of filling the seat no later than July 22.

24. Former Council Member Ware Takes Diversion Plea -

Former Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware has taken diversion in the official misconduct case that led to her suspension from the council late last year and her resignation from the council effective Wednesday, June 22.

25. Ware Takes Diversion Deal -

Former Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware has taken diversion in the official misconduct case that led to her suspension from the council late last year and her resignation from the council effective Wednesday.

26. Ware Resigns From Council -

Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware resigned Wednesday, June 22, from the district 7 council seat she held since Dec. 1994.

27. District Lines Up in Air as Races Near -

The fields for the 13 Memphis City Council races on the October ballot are forming ever so tentatively with about six weeks to the filing deadline.

And the tentativeness is partially a result of the uncertainty about where the council district lines will fall.

28. City Council Redistricting Close To Filing Deadline -

The Memphis City Council won’t vote on setting the new council district lines until two days before the July 21 filing deadline for candidates in the October city elections.

The elections include all 13 City Council seats with all 12 of the active council members expected to seek re-election. The 13th council member, Barbara Swearengen Ware, is suspended from any council duties following her indictment last year on an official misconduct charge. Ware hasn’t indicated if she will seek re-election.

29. Council Continues Mulling Budget -

It’s not the best way to go about setting a city budget. But it does happen from time to time. With the July 1 start of the fiscal year now weeks away, the Memphis City Council is without a clear consensus on any one way to balance the city’s budget, which is $22.7 million in the red by the administration’s count.

30. Wharton Preps for 2011 Mayoral Campaign -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. was still fielding national media flood inquiries with a mantra of “Memphis is open for business” as he attended the latest of the early campaign fundraisers this week for his re-election effort.

31. Council Kicks Off Budget Hearings -

Memphis City Council members begin budget hearings Monday with a new budget committee chairman.

And some council members believe they may have seven votes this year to fundamentally alter the city’s way of doing business.

32. Qualifying Period for City Races Opens -

Here come the city elections. Monday is the first day candidates in the Oct. 6 Memphis elections can begin picking up and filing qualifying petitions for mayor, all 13 seats on the Memphis City Council, City Court clerk and the three divisions of City Court.

33. Dear Santa -

Dear Santa, Please consider my gift list for our local elected officials. After all, they’ve been giving it to us all year.

To all: Common Sense – a simple grid for MATA routes, consolidated city and county services, cutting the grass, sidewalk maintenance, paying attention to review board and appointed commission recommendations.

34. Ware Pleads Not Guilty to Misconduct Charge -

Suspended Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware pleaded not guilty to an official misconduct charge Tuesday during a brief court appearance before Criminal Court Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett.

35. Ware Court Appearance Scheduled for Dec. 14 -

Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware won’t make her first court appearance on official misconduct charges until after Thanksgiving.

36. Ware’s Political Future in Balance -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. opened the city’s newest auto inspection station Monday.

As he did, the political career of one of the Memphis City Council’s most influential members hangs in the balance because of allegations she used her office to avoid the required annual car inspection ritual for city residents.

37. Ware Turns Self In On Misconduct Charge -

Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware turned herself in to authorities Friday afternoon on an official misconduct charge.

38. Swearengen Ware Faces Council Suspension -

For the fifth time in the Memphis City Council’s 42-year history, one of its sitting members has been charged with felony misconduct.

And the charge against council member Barbara Swearengen Ware raises the same questions the other cases did about whether an indicted council member should remain in elected office.

39. Ware Indicted For Official Misconduct -

Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware faces official misconduct charges in a two-year long criminal probe of the Shelby County Clerk’s office.

40. Council Approves Midtown Overlay -

The Midtown overlay is a done deal with this week’s approval by the Memphis City Council.

And the final result is a set of development guidelines that now allows the CVS pharmacy at Union Avenue and Cooper Street that wasn’t allowed by the overlay in its previous form.

41. Preservationists Strike Up Battle Hymn -

The Memphis City Council’s 10-2 vote Tuesday to approve plans for a CVS drug store on the corner of Union Avenue and Cooper Street seems to mean the demolition of Union Avenue United Methodist Church.

42. Midtown CVS Approved By Council -

Memphis City Council member approved a CVS drug store at Union Ave and Cooper St. on a 10-2 vote that followed a two hour debate.

The council also approved an amendment calling on the developers of the store to get as close as they can in their plans to requirements of the advisory Midtown overlay. The two exceptions to that are restrictions on a drive through window for the pharmacy and how far from the street the building can be.

43. City Council Approves Pyramid Lease Deal -

All that’s left is for Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to sign the lease for The Pyramid. The Memphis City Council Tuesday approved a resolution that is the last step in a formal lease agreement between the City of Memphis and Bass Pro Shops.

44. City Council Gives UDC Green Light -

It is complex. It is tedious. Some of its proponents even call it boring. And it took six years to create.

This week the Memphis City Council gave final approval to a new Unified Development Code that won final approval the day before by the Shelby County Commission.

45. UDC Approved Despite Attempts To Delay -

Memphis City Council members approved a new Unified Development Code Tuesday on third and final reading.

The Shelby County Commission approved the UDC on third and final reading Monday. The council approval completes action on the county-wide code that was six years in the making. It’s the first comprehensive rewrite of zoning and subdivision rules in 25 years.

46. Fund Signals Memphis ‘Open for Business’ -

He wasn’t saying “I told you so,” but he came close.

The day after Pinnacle Airlines Corp. acknowledged Mississippi officials had made the Memphis company a generous offer to relocate to Olive Branch, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. reminded at least one person about something he’d won approval for just one week before that.

47. Consolidation Plan to be Presented in July -

After a dubious reception from Memphis City Council members and Shelby County Commissioners on June 24, the Metro Charter Commission is preparing for a series of public hearings in July.

The charter commission has until mid-August to draft a consolidation charter. The proposal then goes to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot.

48. Metro Charter Commission Plays To Tough Audience -

The Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission got their first formal look Thursday at what the Metro Charter Commission has been working on since December.

And the still forming consolidation charter that is the group’s chief task under state law got decidedly mixed reviews.

49. Council Makes Minor Budget Changes -

Memphis City Council members Tuesday made a few changes to the new city budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. But coming up with $57 million in funding for the Memphis school system wasn’t one of them.

50. Council Adjusts Waste Fees - Helps CDC Buy Marina Cove Apartments -

Memphis City Council members made a few changes to the new city budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. But coming up with $57 million in funding for the Memphis school system wasn’t one of them.

51. Opening the City To Reality -

There is a disconnect among members of the City Council about the job of government.

They seem to believe the city of Memphis has responsibilities to provide jobs to as many people as possible and that the city then has an obligation that bars it from ever firing or laying off those workers, ever cutting their pay and probably daring not to give them at least a 3 percent pay raise every year.

52. City Mulls Hiking Sanitation Fees -

Although there is no city property tax hike tied to the city budget the Memphis City Council will vote on next week, a $4.50 increase in the city solid waste fee is on the table as the council prepares for the new fiscal year July 1.

53. Council Members Split on Budget Talks -

The Memphis City Council isn’t finished making difficult decisions about city finances.

The recommendations approved by the council’s budget committee this week set the framework for votes at the council’s June 8 session. Those votes will get the city a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

54. Different Mayor, Same Story in Budget Talks -

Memphis has had three mayors since the last budget season at City Hall, and the latest appears to have picked up where the other left off.

Several City Council members are questioning the budget priorities of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., just as they questioned those of former

55. Fairgrounds Work Continues Despite Flux -

On his way home from church one Sunday last month, Kevin Kane and his family decided to go by the Mid-South Fairgrounds to see what was left of the Zippin Pippin.

56. City Could Change Auto Inspection Requirements -

Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison called it a “first step” in a conversation about changing a fact of life for Memphis drivers.

57. Council Battles Funding Issues -

As Memphis political leaders made another trip to Nashville this week seeking money for The MED, others questioned the hospital’s life expectancy.

Memphis City Council members this week delayed a vote on $2 million in emergency funding for The MED until April.

58. MED MCS Funding Swap Proposal Emerges -

Some Memphis City Council members are working with Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford on a deal in which county government would become the single source of local funding for the Memphis school system. In exchange for that the city would contribute some amount of funding to the Regional Medical Center.

59. UPDATE: MED MCS Funding Swap Proposal Surfaces -

Some Memphis City Council members are working with Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford on a deal in which county government would become the single source of local funding for the Memphis school system. In exchange for that the city would contribute some amount of funding to the Regional Medical Center.

60. School Funding Debate Marches On -

The city of Memphis is pursuing a last appeal in the Memphis school funding court case, and the City Council this week came up with a plan to provide $50 million in court-ordered funding to the school system.

61. School Funding Delay Could Rear Up Again -

The Memphis City Council appears poised to pay the city school system $70 million despite voting two weeks ago to delay such a payment.

But the terms of the payment remains an issue.

Today’s council session begins at 3:30 pm at City Hall, 125 N. Main. An agenda for the meeting is on Page 11.

62. Takeover of Failing Schools Not Done Deal -

A state takeover of any public schools isn’t going to happen until 2011 at the earliest, Memphis schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said late last week after an afternoon of conference calls with state education commissioner Tim Webb.

63. UPDATE: Council Weighs One-Time 31 Cent Tax Hike -

Memphis City Council members will weigh budget cuts in the middle of the current fiscal year as well as using at least $16 million of the city’s reserve funds to pay the Memphis school system $50 million.

64. Political Fault Lines Illuminated In City Attorney Feud -

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson never got the chance to make his case before the Memphis City Council this week. But he did get to keep his job as the council voted down 4-7 a resolution to oust him.

65. Majority Rules In Metro Charter Commission Accord -

Nearly four decades of little more than talk about city-county consolidation is at an end.

With this week’s 11-0 Memphis City Council vote, a metro charter commission will be formed and the group’s consolidation proposal will go to local voters in November 2010.

66. Election Commission to Consider Mayoral Deadline -

The Shelby County Election Commission today is setting the stage for the next step in the coming special election for Memphis mayor.

The commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. to consider setting a deadline for candidates to file and a date for the election itself sometime in late October. In setting the dates, the commission would abide by terms of the Memphis Charter. The charter calls for a special election three months after a vacancy in the mayor’s office if there is no regularly scheduled election within six months of the date the office becomes vacant.

67. City Council Declares Mayoral Vacancy At End Of July -

The Memphis City Council approved Tuesday on a 7-6 vote a resolution declaring the mayor’s office vacant as of July 31.

The vote came after a debate in which council members questioned each other’s motives, Mayor Willie Herenton’s word and several legal opinions.

68. UPDATE: Council Approves Mayoral Vacancy Effective July 31 -

The Memphis City Council approved Tuesday on a 7-6 vote a resolution declaring the mayor’s office vacant as of July 31.

The vote came after a debate in which council members questioned each other’s motives, Mayor Willie Herenton’s word and several legal opinions.

69. UPDATE: Council Approves Transitional MSARC Funding -

The city’s tie to the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center isn’t completely severed yet, even though the city agency soon will be transferred to Shelby County and fall under the local health department.

70. Money Cut From Schools Considered for City Pay Raises -

When City Council members voted earlier this year to cut all funding to the Shelby County Health Department, the Herenton administration followed up.

It proposed and the County Commission accepted a plan to provide one last dose of city funding for the county agency in exchange for a buyout of the county’s share of The Pyramid.

71. Budget Debate on Through Friday -

They’ve been staying until around 11 each night at City Hall in recent weeks. City Council members are moving into the final phase of their budget deliberations.

The council’s budget committee is open to all 13 commissioners, and most have been showing up for the evening sessions chaired by committee chairwoman Wanda Halbert.

72. Pyramid Funding Details Shift to Legal Front -

Now the attorneys begin drafting a contract.

This week, the Memphis City Council signed off on a three-part deal that gives the city of Memphis complete ownership of The Pyramid and continues city funding of the Shelby County Health Department for one more fiscal year.

73. Pyramid-Health Dept. Deal Approved By Council -

Memphis City Council members Tuesday approved an $8.5 million deal giving the city complete ownership of The Pyramid and providing a last installment of city funding for the local Health Department.

74. City Council Approves Pyramid - Health Dept. Deal -

Memphis City Council members tonight approved an $8.5 million deal giving the city complete ownership of The Pyramid and providing a last installment of city funding for the local Health Department.

75. Green Paper Trail Leads to Ware -

It hasn’t been a good week and a half for City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware.

She celebrated her birthday last week with a custom she picked up from a caterer delivering the council members their lunch at City Hall. During a break in committee action, as reporters and other council members wondered about several $1 bills pinned to her red jacket, Ware explained that she had never heard of the custom before but was game for it.

76. Ware Implicated but Not Charged in Bribery at Clerk's Office -

Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware has been implicated but not charged in bribery allegations at the county clerk’s office.

77. State, Local Officials Differ On Living Wage Views -

Memphis City Council members this week were given the first annual report showing the impact of the city’s living wage ordinance. The news was positive in one sense and difficult to categorize in another.

78. Fairgrounds Discussion Becomes More Ambiguous -

For two hours this week the lights were dimmed in the theater of the Children’s Museum of Memphis and Memphis City Council members got a review of plans for the Mid-South Fairgrounds renovation.

When the house lights came up and the PowerPoint presentation went dark, many concluded the ambitious Herenton administration plan is “back to square one,” to quote several council members.

79. Officials: Toppled PILOT Rules Should Help Lure Jobs -

The Memphis City Council has signed off on changes to the system of tax breaks used to recruit new businesses and encourage business expansion in Shelby County.

The unanimous 13-0 council vote this week bookends a unanimous vote by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.

80. Events -

A Town Hall Meeting hosted by City Council members Joe Brown, Janis Fullilove, Myron Lowery and Barbara Swearengen Ware will be held today from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Brickford Community Center, 233 Henry Ave. Representatives from the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, Memphis Police Department and the Division of Housing and Community Development will address crime concerns and future economic development projects in the North Memphis area.

81. MCS Appropriation Foreshadows City Budget Reality -

The Memphis City Council has decided to appropriate $2.4 million for a literacy program to benefit Memphis City Schools students.

But the discussion leading up to that decision last week was important in its own right, because it arguably foreshadows the painful financial reality awaiting city of Memphis officials next year. The city’s budget already is awash in red, and elected officials even now are scrutinizing projects and proposals more closely, aware that what gets handed out today means less that’s available for tomorrow.

82. Godwin Optimistic About Cop Policy -

In a month’s time, the debate about how to hire more Memphis police officers seems to bear out staying at least within Shelby County.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said this week that he expects to have a full complement of nearly 2,600 police officers by 2011.

83. City Council Ponders What to Do Next in Lee Case -

The same day this week that each member of the Memphis City Council was served notice they are being sued by former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO Joseph Lee, council members were not yet certain how they would respond.

84. Payday Loan Vote Foreshadows Next Step - This week’s vote by the Memphis City Council regulating the location of payday lenders, check-cashing and title loan businesses in the city generated pointed questions about demographics, money, private business, the threat of litigation and the role of the council.

If that vote is any indication, Monday’s vote by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners on the same joint city-county ordinance likely will do the same thing.

The third and final reading by the City Council on a measure that would put new restrictions on where those fringe-lending businesses can operate passed Tuesday night on a unanimous vote.

The County Commission’s third and final reading of the same ordinance – which limits those businesses to operating no closer than 1,000 feet from each other – will take place during Monday’s commission meeting.

Politics, politics

Bill Morrison is the council member who sponsored the ordinance on the city side and who first got the idea to try and clamp down on where those businesses can operate.

He said he began sketching out a plan for the ordinance, which would create new zoning guidelines for the businesses, with officials such as Assistant City Attorney Thomas Pacello and Mary Baker, deputy director of the city-county Office of Planning and Development.

But for a body that often has gone out of its way to keep a focus on the financial burdens of city taxpayers and residents, Morrison’s idea sparked a surprising mix of responses.

In addition to that, representatives of the businesses and of the fringe-lending industry itself mounted an intense behind-the-scenes effort against Morrison’s original proposal, the basic idea of which was to break up the existing clusters of check-cashing stores, payday loan and title loan shops around the city.

Working the angles

That lobbying effort continued throughout Tuesday night’s council meeting, when individual council members repeatedly left the dais to venture into the audience and huddle with representatives of the industry.

Steve Lockwood, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp. and an opponent of the fringe lenders, brandished statistics at Tuesday’s meeting showing how one debtor ended up paying after one year more than $800 on a $440 payday loan.

Several council members, including Barbara Swearengen Ware, promoted one of the same arguments put forward repeatedly by representatives of the industry in private discussions about the issue. That argument was this:

“When you talk about regulating a legal business, you’re treading on thin ice, to say the least,” she said. “And to say that where they locate – the regulation needs to be in the interest rates (they charge) ... We’re not talking about strip clubs, people.”

After some inaudible whispering among council members, Ware continued: “You say strip joints are legal? Well, let’s make them illegal ... It’s supply and demand that’s driving these businesses. Nobody’s holding a gun to these people to make them walk in and hand somebody the title to their car.”

‘Opening shot’

That argument about the businesses having a legal and proper right to operate is the same idea Chuck Welch, an attorney from the Nashville office of Farris Bobango Branan PLC, shared with The Daily News in a conversation a few days before the council vote. Welch is one of the industry representatives who has been meeting with local legislators who have for the last few weeks been mulling over the issue.

“What you’ve got is a lawful business that’s a commercial retail establishment, and it’s permitted and regulated by the state of Tennessee,” Welch said.

Council member Joe Brown questioned Morrison during the meeting about whether he was being supported in his effort to push the ordinance by any entity that stands to profit from its passage. That’s something at least one of the industry representatives told a reporter privately before the vote – that some of the bill’s supporters might be able to capitalize on legislation curbing the growth of fringe-lending operations.

Morrison, during Tuesday’s meeting, reiterated the fact that he came up with the plan on his own, with help from officials like Pacello and Baker.

“It does leave something to be desired … but (this ordinance) is a step in the right direction for our city,” Morrison said.

Lockwood called it “an opening shot across the bow.”

...

85. Lee To Announce Next Step In Legal Fees Flap - The Memphis City Council Tuesday affirmed its vote in Oct. to reject paying the legal fees of former Memphis Light Gas & Water Division president Joseph Lee.

The bill for Lee’s legal defense in a grand jury probe that led to his indictment as well as a hearing before the council came to $426,422. The corruption charges were later dropped by federal prosecutors.

The 7-6 vote came at the end of a day in which MLGW president Jerry Collins told council members talks between the utility and Lee’s attorney, Robert Spence, failed to reach any terms for a lesser amount.

Spence told The Daily News an announcement on a decision by Lee about pursuing the legal fees in a lawsuit against the city could be made as early as today.

The council has also given final approval Tuesday to an ordinance regulating the location of financial services, payday loan and title loan businesses.

The council vote was unanimous on third and final reading. Third and final vote before the Shelby County Commission is scheduled for Dec. 8.

The council passed an amended version that emerged as a compromise during this week’s council session.

The ordinance bans the businesses from being with 1,000 feet of each other. The compromise worked out by council member Bill Morrison, with agreement from the payday loan industry, deals with a 90 day grace period for existing businesses to apply for a waiver.

Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware argued the location of the businesses isn’t the problem. It’s the high interest rates the companies charge – up to 264 percent annually.

“We need to deal with the root of the problem,” she said. “And if we could regulate how much (of an) interest rate is charged or how much the fees are, then we would be doing a service to the community,” Ware said. “I know we mean well here, but it’s supply and demand that is driving these businesses.”

But usery rates are regulated by the state and not the city council.

Morrison said the businesses cluster in his district which covers Frayser and Raleigh. Frayser is among the areas of the city hardest hit by home foreclosures.

Council member Harold Collins, whose district includes Hickory Hill – also hit hard by home foreclosures – said there is a connection. He counted at least 20 pay day lenders along one stretch of Winchester.

“Maybe they’re not contributing to the fact that many of the people in my district are losing their homes. But they are sure out there,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of line drawn that will keep the people in Hickory Hill from losing their homes.”

Steve Lockwood, head of the Frayser Community Development Corporation, said the close proximity of the lenders allows people in desperate financial straits to get around a limit of two loans totaling $500 from a particular lender by simply going to the payday lender next door.

He termed the location limits “an opening shot across the bow.” He said his organization’s financial counselors see a connection between the lenders and foreclosures.

“I think that the neighborhoods that are really going to benefit from this are in Cordova,” Lockwood said. “If you want Cordova to look like Winchester or Frayser, don’t pass this.”

In other action, a Fairgrounds development agreement is tentatively set to have the first of three Memphis City Council votes in two weeks.

The city picked Fair Ground LLC to develop a master plan for the property that includes the Mid-South Coliseum, The Liberty Bowl and The Children’s Museum of Memphis. What is still being worked out is a contract with the terms for drawing up that master plan.

There are still several formidable obstacles to putting a development agreement in writing.

Shelby County government owns some of the Fairgrounds land including some of the land under The Liberty Bowl.

City Housing & Community Development director Robert Lipscomb told City Council members he will again pursue an agreement in which the county would sell its share in The Fairgrounds as well as The Pyramid.

The Shelby County Commission rejected such a sell-off by the county during consideration of a development agreement for The Pyramid involving Bass Pro Shops.

The commission eventually approved the development agreement after the agreement won approval from the city council.

Without a sell-off, the Fairgrounds development agreement appears on its way to the same dual track debate and voting process.

Lipscomb also told The Daily News there are conflicting legal opinions on the amount of public infrastructure financing the city would have to put up to leverage private investment.

He said the amounts vary from $75 million to $200 million. The city is seeking legal opinions on the public amount required under terms of Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) financing. If the amount is $200 million or close to it, Lipscomb said it makes the Fairgrounds renovation much harder to accomplish.

Henry Turley, one of several developer partners in Fair Ground LLC, said he considers the city’s contribution to be $75 million. Turley was instrumental in drafting the state legislation that allowed for the Tourism Development Zones.

The TDZs allow for financing of bonds through sales tax revenue generated in the designated area or zone.

Turley wants to include a big box retail store on the site and possibly a hotel according to tentative plans that are fluid on the location of those and other parts of an overall plan. The sales tax revenue from the store would go to pay off the TDZ bonds. No local government general fund revenue would be used.

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86. Council Again Rejects Lee Legal Fees -

The Memphis City Council this evening affirmed its vote in Oct. to reject paying the legal fees of former Memphis Light Gas & Water Division president Joseph Lee.

The bill for Lee’s legal defense in a grand jury probe that led to his indictment as well as a hearing before the council came to $426,422. The corruption charges were later dropped by federal prosecutors.

The 7-6 vote came at the end of a day in which MLGW president Jerry Collins told council members talks between the utility and Lee’s attorney, Robert Spence, failed to reach any terms for a lesser amount.

Council members voting against the proposed settlement were: Bill Boyd, Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Reid Hedgepeth, Myron Lowery, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland. Those voting for it were: Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert and Barbara Swearengen Ware.

Spence told The Daily News an announcement on a decision by Lee about pursuing the legal fees in a lawsuit against the city could be made as early as Tuesday.

The council has also given final approval this evening to an ordinance regulating the location of financial services, payday loan and title loan businesses.

The council vote was unanimous on third and final reading. Third and final vote before the Shelby County Commission is scheduled for Dec. 8.

The council passed an amended version that emerged as a compromise during today’s council session.

The ordinance bans the businesses from being with 1,000 feet of each other. The compromise worked out by council member Bill Morrison, with agreement from the payday loan industry, deals with a 90 day grace period for existing businesses to apply for a waiver.

Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware argued the location of the businesses isn’t the problem. It’s the high interest rates the companies charge – up to 264 percent annually.

“We need to deal with the root of the problem,” she said. “And if we could regulate how much (of an) interest rate is charged or how much the fees are, then we would be doing a service to the community,” Ware said. “I know we mean well here, but it’s supply and demand that is driving these businesses.”

But usery rates are regulated by the state and not the city council.

Morrison said the businesses cluster in his district which covers Frayser and Raleigh. Frayser is among the areas of the city hardest hit by home foreclosures.

Council member Harold Collins, whose district includes Hickory Hill – also hit hard by home foreclosures – said there is a connection. He counted at least 20 pay day lenders along one stretch of Winchester.

“Maybe they’re not contributing to the fact that many of the people in my district are losing their homes. But they are sure out there,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of line drawn that will keep the people in Hickory Hill from losing their homes.”

Steve Lockwood, head of the Frayser Community Development Corporation, said the close proximity of the lenders allows people in desperate financial straits to get around a limit of two loans totaling $500 from a particular lender by simply going to the payday lender next door.

He termed the location limits “an opening shot across the bow.” He said his organization’s financial counselors see a connection between the lenders and foreclosures.

“I think that the neighborhoods that are really going to benefit from this are in Cordova,” Lockwood said. “If you want Cordova to look like Winchester or Frayser, don’t pass this.”

In other action, a Fairgrounds development agreement is tentatively set to have the first of three Memphis City Council votes in two weeks.

The city picked Fair Ground LLC to develop a master plan for the property that includes the Mid-South Coliseum, The Liberty Bowl and The Children’s Museum of Memphis. What is still being worked out is a contract with the terms for drawing up that master plan.

There are still several formidable obstacles to putting a development agreement in writing.

Shelby County government owns some of the Fairgrounds land including some of the land under The Liberty Bowl.

City Housing & Community Development director Robert Lipscomb told City Council members he will again pursue an agreement in which the county would sell its share in The Fairgrounds as well as The Pyramid.

The Shelby County Commission rejected such a sell-off by the county during consideration of a development agreement for The Pyramid involving Bass Pro Shops.

The commission eventually approved the development agreement after the agreement won approval from the city council.

Without a sell-off, the Fairgrounds development agreement appears on its way to the same dual track debate and voting process.

Lipscomb also told The Daily News there are conflicting legal opinions on the amount of public infrastructure financing the city would have to put up to leverage private investment.

He said the amounts vary from $75 million to $200 million. The city is seeking legal opinions on the public amount required under terms of Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) financing. If the amount is $200 million or close to it, Lipscomb said it makes the Fairgrounds renovation much harder to accomplish.

Henry Turley, one of several developer partners in Fair Ground LLC, said he considers the city’s contribution to be $75 million. Turley was instrumental in drafting the state legislation that allowed for the Tourism Development Zones.

The TDZs allow for financing of bonds through sales tax revenue generated in the designated area or zone.

Turley wants to include a big box retail store on the site and possibly a hotel according to tentative plans that are fluid on the location of those and other parts of an overall plan. The sales tax revenue from the store would go to pay off the TDZ bonds. No local government general fund revenue would be used.

...

87. Council Resurrects Utility Assistance Program -

About four months after the city of Memphis pulled the plug on a $2.5 million utility assistance program intended to help the working poor pay their power bills, the Memphis City Council has approved another $2.5 million in utility assistance.

88. Stretch In MPD Residency Requirement Rejected By Council On 6-7 Vote - Memphis City Council members Tuesday voted down a proposed loosening of residency requirements for police officers.

The 6-to-7 council vote rejected a resolution which would have allowed the police department to hire applicants who live within 20 miles of Shelby County.

The department is currently able to hire applicants who live within Shelby County including Memphis under a provision that allows the council to waive the requirement that all city employees must live in Memphis. The Shelby County waiver expires in February.

The council vote, which was along racial lines, came after four hours of debate among council members and citizens who filled the chambers. Most of the citizens who filled out cards to speak, over 70, were in favor of hiring outside Shelby County. But opponents, including several retired Memphis police officers, were also vocal in their opposition.

Council member Wanda Halbert argued that Memphians who apply for jobs as police officers are being rejected because they are being discriminated against.

Council member Bill Boyd termed Halbert's comment "trash".

Other council members said they respected council members with opposing viewpoints. But the disagreements were over issues other than the need to hire more police officers. They were over the best way to do that.

Those voting yes were: Boyd, Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Reid Hedgepeth, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland.

Those voting no were: Halbert, Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Myron Lowery and Barbara Swearengen Ware.

Read more about the issue in Thursday's edition of The Daily News.

In other action, the council elected Myron Lowery as its chairman for 2009. Lowery has been chairman since the resignation of chairman Scott McCormick.

Council member Harold Collins was elected vice chairman for the coming year.

Tuesday was also the first council meeting for Kemp Conrad who was elected on the Nov. 4 ballot to fill the vacancy created by McCormick's resignation.

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89. Council Rejects Police Residency Stretch Outside Shelby County - Memphis City Council members have voted down a proposed loosening of residency requirements for police officers.

The 6-to-7 council vote rejected a resolution which would have allowed the police department to hire applicants who live within 20 miles of Shelby County.

The department is currently able to hire applicants who live within Shelby County including Memphis under a provision that allows the council to waive the requirement that all city employees must live in Memphis. The Shelby County waiver expires in February.

The council vote, which was along racial lines, came after four hours of debate among council members and citizens who filled the chambers. Most of the citizens who filled out cards to speak, over 70, were in favor of hiring outside Shelby County. But opponents, including several retired Memphis police officers, were also vocal in their opposition.

Council member Wanda Halbert argued that Memphians who apply for jobs as police officers are being rejected because they are being discriminated against.

Council member Bill Boyd termed Halbert's comment "trash".

Other council members said they respected council members with opposing viewpoints. But the disagreements were over issues other than the need to hire more police officers. They were over the best way to do that.

Those voting yes were: Boyd, Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Reid Hedgepeth, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland.

Those voting no were: Halbert, Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Myron Lowery and Barbara Swearengen Ware.

...

90. Council Could Revisit Lee’s Legal Bill Payment -

The Memphis City Council has a chance next week to reconsider its decision not to pay more than $426,000 in legal fees incurred by former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO Joseph Lee.

91. Lee’s Legal Fees Suit Could Surface Again -

It was one year ago this week that nine new members were elected to the Memphis City Council.

It was the largest turnover of seats on the 13-member body in its 40-year history.

This week, the council had its most serious difference of opinion to date over a controversy that began onthe watch of the previous council. And it was one of the previous council members that made the difference in the outcome.

92. Mall Purchase Idea Spurs Further Debate -

It would be called the Southeast Satellite Multiplex. The new name is not as snappy as Hickory Ridge Mall, but it does fit the government facility the Herenton administration proposes to retrofit into the mall severely damaged by a tornado in February.

93. Committee Recommends Approval of Lee Settlement -

Memphis City Council members set the stage Tuesday for a vote in two weeks on settling the legal bills of former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president Joseph Lee.

A council committee voted to recommend the $425,000 settlement of a lawsuit against MLGW filed by Lee. Lee sued to recover money he spent defending himself from a criminal investigation and then a federal corruption indictment. Federal prosecutors later dropped the charges.

94. Motel Project Causes Council Tension -

When Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton shows up in the City Council’s committee room, it usually means he wants to make a point – maybe several.

This week, Herenton took the elevator from his office down two floors and waited his turn before the council’s Planning and Zoning Committee to protest plans for a hotel in the inner city neighborhood where he grew up.

95. Kumar’s Proposed Lamar Ave. Motel Gets Nod at Last -

Two years ago, developer Jay Kumar began his effort to build a new upscale motel off Lamar Avenue. He finally got the green light this week.

To reach that point, it took several meetings with elected officials and appearances before local government bodies. He frequently encountered rejection and resistance as he doggedly attempted to pitch his idea.

96. School Board Pleads for Funding – Again -

Since Friday, members of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education and the Memphis City Council have continued haggling over the council’s decision earlier this month to withhold more than $70 million from the school district’s budget.

97. MPD Gains As Council Weighs Recruiting Future -

The Memphis Police Department grew last week, as 50 new police officers took the oath and received their badges in a ceremony at World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church in Hickory Hill.

The graduation of the 99th class of recruits since formal police training began in 1937 comes as police brass and city leaders continue to talk about the goal of a police force totaling 2,500 men and women in blue.

98. Legal Fallout Looms After MCS Funds Cut -

The two finalists for the job of superintendent of Memphis City Schools will face the public tonight at a two-hour forum in the Board of Education Auditorium at 2597 Avery Ave.

Those finalists, Dr. Kriner Cash and Dr. Nicholas Gledich, will take questions from the public during a session that comes two days after a new item was unofficially added to the superintendent’s job description.

99. City Council To Scrutinize MLGW’s Practices -

For top executives of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, the political heat at City Hall can be stifling.

Some of those executives are due back before a Memphis City Council committee in the near future to finish a free-flowing discussion that began last week and they might argue took on the character of a withering interrogation.

100. Lamar Ave. Hotel Developer Struggles for Approval -

Local cab business owner Jay Kumar has tried for two years to build an upscale, 35-room motel along Lamar Avenue, a project for which he estimates spending $2.5 million. And because he temporarily failed to get the final approval from city officials that he needed this week, he’s still trying.