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Editorial Results (free)

1. City Pension Change Outlined for 2015 -

The administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. made its formal proposal of a “long-term solution” and change in the city’s pension plan to a 401(k) style plan this week with specific terms Wharton has long said would be included.

2. Council Approves Plan for Raleigh Springs Mall -

Memphis City Council members approved an urban renewal plan Tuesday, March 4, for the Raleigh Springs Mall that will start the process of locating city government offices at the mall, starting with the Memphis Police Department traffic precinct. The resolution, sponsored by council member Bill Morrison and approved without debate, also sets the stage for a public hearing on the larger plan.

3. Council Approves Plan for Raleigh Springs Mall -

Memphis City Council members approved an urban renewal plan Tuesday, March 4, for the Raleigh Springs Mall that will start the process of locating city government offices at the mall, starting with the Memphis Police Department traffic precinct. The resolution, sponsored by council member Bill Morrison and approved without debate, also sets the stage for a public hearing on the larger plan.

4. Council Weighs Conflicting Liability Numbers, Approves Mall Plan -

Memphis City Council members cleared much of their committee calendar Tuesday, Feb. 4, to talk for four hours about specifics of the city’s pension fund liability crisis.

The discussion with Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson, Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard and consultants from four actuarial firms was aimed at trying to define the specifics of the problem, see if there is agreement on some of the numbers and better explain the differences.

5. Council Weighs Conflicting L:iability Numbers, Approves Mall Plan -

Memphis City Council members cleared much of their committee calendar Tuesday, Feb. 4, to talk for four hours about specifics of the city’s pension fund liability crisis.

The discussion with Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson, Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard and consultants from four actuarial firms was aimed at trying to define the specifics of the problem, see if there is agreement on some of the numbers and better explain the differences.

6. Three Town Center Concepts Take Shape -

The city of Memphis would move government offices into two shopping malls and the Soulsville Town Center under tentative “conceptual” plans Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. took Tuesday, Feb. 18, to the Memphis City Council.

7. Council Hears More on Police and Fire Budget Decisions -

Memphis City Council member got deeper Tuesday, Feb. 4, into the specifics of Memphis Police and Fire Department budget decisions.

But they didn’t get a clearer picture of what the direction forward will be as they and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. prepare to make some hard decisions about public safety in dealing with the city’s unfunded pension liability.

8. Council Rules Could Change in 2014 -

Memphis City Council members are already starting to adapt some items in a set of proposed changes in how they conduct business.

The proposal took a bit longer to formulate than originally anticipated.

9. Council Rules -

Three Memphis City Council members continue to look at the council’s rules of procedure and how those rules are enforced as the council prepares for the annual election of a new chairman for the new year.

10. Memphis Demolition Moratorium Delayed -

A plan by some on the Memphis City Council to declare a four-month moratorium on all demolitions of Memphis properties on the National Register of Historic Places was put off this week after questions about the legality of the moratorium.

11. Memphis Considers Options for Raleigh Springs Mall -

The city of Memphis is considering acquiring the Raleigh Springs Mall site as part of a civic-driven effort to revive the former retail hub.

“We’re going to explore every option we have, but yes, that is certainly an option,” said City Council member Bill Morrison, whose district includes the area.

12. Property Tax Hike Highlights New City Budget -

Memphis City Council members raised the city property tax rate Tuesday, June 26, by 4 cents above the recertified tax rate and put the rest of a turbulent budget season to rest.

The approval of the $3.40 property tax rate and city operating and capital budgets came in a council session that ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

13. Council Approves Tax Hike in $3.40 Property Tax Rate -

Memphis City Council members raised the city property tax rate Tuesday, June 26, by four cents above the recertified tax rate and put the rest of a turbulent budget season to rest.

The approval of the $3.40 property tax rate and city operating and capital budgets came in a council session that ended at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

14. Events -

New Ballet Ensemble will present Springloaded Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14, at Playhouse on the Square, 66 S. Cooper St. The annual event fuses ballet, contemporary and urban dance with works by local and guest choreographers. Visit nbespringloaded13.eventbrite.com for times and tickets.

15. Ford Jr. Ready for Ascent to City Council Chairman -

If you didn’t know that Edmund Ford Jr. teaches mathematics, there would be clues.

He can almost sense a percentage that is wrong and he prefers not to “ballpark” numbers.

The precise numbers are part of the story of his entry into politics.

16. Council Approves City Tax Collections By Trustee -

The Shelby County Trustee’s office will collect property taxes for the city of Memphis under an interlocal agreement approved Tuesday, Dec. 18, by the Memphis City Council.

The agreement negotiated between Trustee David Lenoir and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. comes after several decades of attempts on both sides of the city-county governments divide at such an arrangement.

17. Ford to Lead City Council in 2013 -

Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford Jr. will lead the council as chairman for 2013.

Ford was chosen by his council colleagues to be chairman for the coming year, and council member Jim Strickland was elected vice chairman.

18. City Leaders Look to New Governing Plan -

When 10 of the 13 Memphis City Council members get together around a table it is usually in their committee room on the fifth floor of City Hall for their regular meetings.

But last week they gathered in Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s seventh-floor conference room at his request.

19. Wharton: ‘Everything is Coming Together’ -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. had to make a decision Monday, July 2: Get up before dawn and catch a flight to Atlanta or stick with a scheduled and extensive bus tour for newspaper editors and others of the three core city neighborhoods he has targeted in a small-business innovation effort.

20. Feds Overlook Elvis Presley Blvd. Work -

A few hours after federal officials announced in Washington Tuesday, June 19, that the Harahan Rail Bridge boardwalk project had been awarded $15 million in grant funding, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. asked Memphis City Council member Harold Collins how he was.

21. City Council To Mark MLK Anniversary -

The Memphis City Council will mark the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the first city street named in honor of the civil rights leader who was killed in Memphis 44 years ago this week.

22. Council Rejects 18 Cent Property Tax Hike -

Memphis City Council members voted Tuesday, March 20, to reject a one-time, 18-cent property tax hike to mop up an estimated $13 million in red ink for the current fiscal year.

Instead the council voted to use $10 million from the city’s reserve fund and cut $3.2 million in the existing budget including money for a voluntary buyout program of some sanitation workers that the Wharton administration has yet to activate.

23. Wharton Q&A Hits on Top Priorities -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. gave representatives of the city’s business community a glimpse into his mind Tuesday, Jan. 31, as well as some background on his priorities within the context of his 100-day plan for the city.

24. Council Considers Quick Annex Of Grays Creek -

Memphis City Council members will meet Tuesday, Jan. 31, to consider a fast track annexation of the Gray’s Creek area of Cordova.

The 4:30 p.m. committee session at City Hall is a reaction to a new bill introduced in Nashville by two Shelby County legislators that would take a swath of land in southeast Shelby County bordering Fayette County out of the city of Memphis annexation reserve area.

25. Council to Delve Into Electrolux Incentives -

Memphis City Council members will talk Tuesday, Jan. 17, about getting more information from the mayor’s office about financial incentives used to bring companies to the city.

A resolution asking the administration to give the council a summary sheet of any executed contracts requiring a city investment of more than $250,000 is the topic of the first chairman’s meeting at 10 a.m.

26. Morrison Begins Term as City Council Chair -

There were some on the Memphis City Council who thought that maybe Bill Morrison wouldn’t be back for a second four-year term – let alone start it by being chairman of the council for the next year.

27. Wharton To Consolidate Three City Divisions -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. plans to roll out a 100-day plan for goals for his administration now that he has started a full four-year term of office.

After taking the oath of office Sunday, Jan. 1, at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, Wharton told several hundred in attendance that his plan will “begin this new term with energy and urgency.”

28. Council Begins Bed Tax Discussion -

The first meeting of the Memphis City Council for 2012 offers some familiar issues and some new moves that point toward a break with the past in city operations.

The council meets Tuesday, Jan. 3, starting at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

29. Council Passes Amended City Bonus, Rejects Water Rate Hike -

Memphis City Council members approved a $750 flat bonus for all full time city employees Tuesday, Dec. 6, and a flat bonus of $200 for part time city employees.

Just as the Shelby County Commission did Monday for county employees, the council departed from the mayoral administration’s plan for a bonus as a percentage of pay.

30. New Chair On Agenda For Council -

Memphis City Council members prepare Tuesday, Nov. 15, for the start of a new four-year term of office in January with the election of a new chairman for the coming year.

Council practice is to elect the vice chairman for the year ending as the new chairman.

31. Trustee Renews Effort to Collect City Taxes -

It’s starting to become a rite of passage for whoever gets the job of Shelby County trustee. David Lenoir is now the fourth trustee since 2004 to make an offer to the city of Memphis for the county office to perform tax collection duties now handled for the city by the Texas law firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson LLP.

32. Despite Low Turnout, Incumbents See Big Wins -

Memphis voters kept the turnout in last week’s city elections at less than 20 percent. About 18 percent of the city’s 426,580 or so voters showed up for the Thursday, Oct. 6, elections.

Some politicos doubted turnout would move into double digits until the relatively healthy 7.6 percent turnout for early voters made it clear.

33. 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.

34. Unions Continue Budget Battle in Thursday’s Election -

No ballot questions are to be decided in the Thursday, Oct. 6, Memphis elections. But at least one of the City Council races will be viewed as a referendum on the clout of the city’s municipal labor unions.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. Six Council Contenders In New Districts Under Redistrict Plan -

A detailed examination of the proposed redistricting plan for the Memphis City Council by The Daily News shows six prospective council candidates would be drawn out of districts they are considering running in for the Oct. 6 elections.

38. Council One Step Closer to New District Lines -

On the hottest weekend of the summer so far, candidates looking for votes in the October city elections had some uncertainty to go with the door hangers and other parts of the hand-to-hand campaign process.

39. 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.

40. 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.

41. 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.

42. Pieces of the Puzzle -

Memphis City Council members left the city property tax rate at $3.19 Tuesday, June 21, as they ended their budget season.

But they added 18 cents to the tax rate on a one time basis with a separate resolution.

43. Council Approves ‘Right-Sizing’ Budget, Tax Hike -

While the Memphis City Council left the city property tax rate at $3.19 as it ended the budget season Tuesday, June 21, it added 18 cents to the tax rate on a one-time basis with a separate resolution.

44. 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.

45. Council to Consider Sewer Fee, Postponing Layoffs -

A voting majority of Memphis City Council members seem to have reached an early agreement on lowering the city sewer fee.

At a 10 a.m. council committee session Tuesday, council members will discuss the proposed ordinance sponsored by eight of the 12 council members to cut the maximum monthly residential sanitary sewer fee from $50 to $25.

46. Council Passes Dance Permit Moratorium -

Memphis City Council members Tuesday approved a moratorium to May 1 on the city issuing any new compensated dance permits.

The moratorium was in response to a filing for a permit last month by Stella Marris restaurant in Cordova, the restaurant owned by strip club kingpin Steve Cooper and opened in late 2009.

47. New School Merger Option Emerges -

A second quicker path to school consolidation opened this week, the same night the Memphis City Schools board made a bigger splash by voting down a compromise offer from the Shelby County Schools system.

48. MCS Board Votes Down Schools Standoff Compromise -

The Memphis City Schools (MCS) board voted down a compromise proposal Tuesday from Shelby County School officials.

The 2-7 vote against the compromise sets the stage for the Shelby County Election Commission to meet Wed. and set a date for a March referendum on the MCS charter surrender approved by the board in December.

49. Lowery Named New Council Chairman -

Myron Lowery is the new Memphis City Council chairman for 2011 and Bill Morrison is slated to be vice chairman. Lowery was the only nominee at Tuesday’s council session, as was Morrison.

50. City Anti Discrimination Ordinance Clears First Reading -

Memphis city council members approved an anti-discrimination ordinance on the first of three readings Tuesday. And they requested a study of city hiring policies to determine if there is discrimination in city government hiring practices.

51. Goldin Dismisses Election Challenge Suit -

Shelby County Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini said he learned some things from the Chancery Court lawsuit challenging the results of the Aug. 5 election.

52. Goldin Dismisses Aug. 5 Election Challenge -

Chancellor Arnold Goldin has dismissed the legal effort to throw out the results of the Aug. 5 Shelby County elections.

Goldin ruled Thursday at the start of what was to be the second day of testimony in the trial of the civil lawsuit.

53. Dem Leaders Prepare for Legal Challenge -

Local Democratic Party leaders are collecting affidavits as a start toward formally challenging the Aug. 5 Shelby County election results.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Midtown this week.

54. Candidates Wait on Certified Results Before Legal Challenge -

Before there can be a challenge of the Aug. 5 election results, there has to be a set of certified election results.

That’s the bottom line of a possible legal challenge of the recent county general election results that materialized this week.

55. GOP Carries Countywide Offices -

The only thing Republican candidates in Shelby County were denied in the Aug. 5 elections was a majority on the Shelby County Commission. The local GOP slate swept every countywide partisan race on the ballot with Thursday’s election results.

Voter turnout – early and Election Day – was almost 30 percent of Shelby County’s 600,000 voters. All election returns will be audited and must be certified by the Shelby County Election Commission.

Republican Bill Oldham, the former chief deputy of the Sheriff’s Department under outgoing Sheriff Mark Luttrell, beat Democrat Randy Wade in the race for sheriff.

The unofficial returns with all precincts reporting were:

Oldham: 89,613 (52%)

Wade: 82,981 (48%)

Wade, who was the Democratic nominee for sheriff in 2002, linked his 2010 campaign to the re-election bid of Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. Wade, a former sheriff’s deputy, is Cohen’s district director.

Oldham campaigned on continuing the policies of Luttrell. But his campaign faltered when Oldham was forced to resign his job as chief deputy – the No. 2 position in the department – following a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department that his candidacy violated the Federal Hatch Act.

The civil complaint investigated by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel left Oldham with the choice of either quitting the job or quitting the race. To keep both could have jeopardized federal funding the department receives.

The complaint was unique because deputies and high-ranking officers running for sheriff has been a regular feature of the sheriff’s race for decades. It wasn’t until 2002 that those in the department were required to take a leave of absence if they ran.

In other general election races, challenger Ken Hoover lost to Shelby County School Board Chairman David Pickler in the race for the District 5 seat on the seven-member board.

Pickler has been chairman for 11 of the 12 years the school board has been an elected body. Pickler ran on his record as chairman. Hoover also ran on Pickler’s record, saying his leadership style was too autocratic and not transparent enough.

The unofficial results were:

Pickler: 5,123 (51%)

Hoover: 4,956 (49%)

In the two other contested school board races, former Bolton High School principal Snowden “Butch” Carruthers beat Millington parent Charlene White in District 1. And political newcomer David Reaves beat fellow newcomer Lara A. McIntyre, both of Bartlett, for the District 3 seat.

White and McIntyre both called for change in school board methods during their campaigns.

District 7 school board member Ernest Chism ran unopposed.

The even-numbered district school board seats are on the 2012 county ballot.

After running for Probate Court clerk three other times, Democratic nominee Sondra Becton could not claim the office on her fourth try – even with the incumbent she campaigned against the three other times out of the race. Republican contender Paul Boyd easily beat Becton in the race for the office Chris Thomas gave up to run for and win a seat on the Shelby County Commission.

Becton lost to Thomas by 604 votes four years ago and was among the four Democratic challengers who unsuccessfully challenged the results in Chancery Court. This time she lost by more than 6,500 votes.

The vote totals were:

Boyd: 82,259 (52%)

Becton: 75,702 (48%)

Republican Tom Leatherwood easily defeated Democratic challenger Coleman Thompson to remain Shelby County register. The two faced each other in 2006, with Leatherwood winning.

The results Thursday were:

Leatherwood: 96,531 (58%)

Thompson: 68,784 (42%)

As early voting began, Thompson’s Pyramid Recovery Center was evicted from its longtime South Memphis space that was also an early voting site and an election day polling place. The landlord agreed to leave the voting sites up and running. But the possibility of a change in polling places served to highlight Thompson’s financial problems.

Late publicity about financial problems took a toll on another Democratic contender.

Newcomer Corey Maclin began campaigning early for Shelby County clerk, with incumbent Republican Debbie Stamson not seeking re-election. Maclin lost to Republican nominee Wayne Mashburn, the son of late county clerk Sonny Mashburn.

The unofficial returns were:

Mashburn: 88,619 (55%)

Maclin: 72,651 (45%)

Stamson’s husband, Steve Stamson, retired as Juvenile Court clerk, setting up the race that was won by Republican nominee Joy Touliatos, the chief administrative officer of the clerk’s office. She beat Democratic nominee Shep Wilbun, who won appointment to the clerk’s office in 2000 but lost to Stamson in the 2002 election and was beaten by Stamson again in 2006.

With all precincts reporting, the numbers were:

Touliatos: 85,849 (51%)

Wilbun: 73,345 (44%)

The remaining votes went to independent candidate Julia R. Wiseman.

Also seeking a return to countywide office was Minerva Johnican. Johnican, the Democratic nominee for Criminal Court clerk, lost to Republican nominee Kevin Key, the son of outgoing Criminal Court Clerk Bill Key and an administrator with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

The results were:

Key: 79,755 (49%)

Johnican: 74,831 (46%)

Independent candidate Jerry Stamson: 8,581 (5%)

Johnican, also a former Memphis City Council member and Shelby County Commissioner lost the clerk’s job in 1994 when she was upset by the elder Key.

Incumbent Republican Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore easily defeated Democratic challenger Ricky Dixon. Although Dixon was part of the effort by Democratic party leaders to get voters to vote the entire party slate, Moore continued to show up at Democratic functions and make his case for crossover votes.

Regina Morrison Newman, the third Shelby County tustee in four years, lost her bid for a full term in the office to Republican challenger David Lenoir. It was an impressive political debut for Lenoir, who had heavy backing from the local GOP.

The results were:

Lenoir: 77,166 (49%)

Newman: 72,618 (46%)

Independent candidate Derrick Bennett: 6,353 (4%)

Newman was appointed to the office by the Shelby County Commission following the 2009 death of Trustee Paul Mattila. Mattila was appointed to the office and won a special election for the position following the 2008 death of Bob Patterson. Patterson was re-elected to a four-year term in 2006.

In the judicial races:

Attorney Bill Anderson Jr. emerged atop a field of 20 candidates for General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Div. 7 with 15 percent of the vote. Assistant County Attorney Janet Lansky Shipman was second and the only other contender to go into double digit percentages. The 20 candidates were the largest field in any race – primary or general – on the Shelby County ballot.

Prosecutor Bobby Carter, who had the backing of District Attorney General Bill Gibbons and former District Attorney General John Pierotti, was elected judge of Criminal Court Div. 3 in a close race with attorneys Glenn Wright and Latonya Sue Burrow.

Carter got 26 percent of the vote to Wright’s 25 percent and Burrow’s 24.7 percent.

The results in the three other special judicial races saw the three appointed judges rejected by voters.

  • Lee Wilson, the appointee to General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Div. 10, lost to former General Sessions Court Clerk Chris Turner by more than 64,000 votes. Turner’s victory was the strongest proof of the strong Republican turnout for races across the general election ballot. Turner had been the General Sessions Court clerk until 2006, when he was upset by Democratic challenger Otis Jackson. He is also a former Republican state legislator.
  • Lorrie Ridder, the appointee to Circuit Court Judge Div. 4, lost to attorney Gina Higgins by about 5,000 votes.
  • Rhynette Northcross Hurd, the appointee to Circuit Court Judge Div. 8, lost to attorney Bob Weiss by more than 12,000 votes.

Ridder and Hurd had been appointed to the Circuit Court vacancies by Gov. Phil Bredesen, who picked them each from a list of three finalists from the Judicial Nominating Commission. Bredesen even taped a robo-call on behalf of Hurd, his first robo-call for any candidate in the state.

Wilson was appointed to the General Sessions vacancy by the Shelby County Commission and adopted a domestic violence case docket for the court.

...

56. Zoo Poised for Millionth Visitor -

The Memphis Zoo this month is poised to welcome its millionth visitor for the year, a feat achieved by only a handful of American zoos.

Only once before has the zoo reached this milestone – in 2006, when more than a million visitors passed through its gates.

57. Bass Pro and Beyond -

"Adaptive reuse” is the term for what city leaders hope will happen at The Pyramid.

Throw in the Mid-South Fairgrounds and the Beale Street Landing projects, though, and “adaptive reuse” seems inadequate to define what is happening among the three concepts.

58. 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.

59. 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

60. City Council to Take Final Panhandling Vote -

The Memphis City Council returns to action after a three-week break with final votes due today on several longstanding agenda items, along with new panhandling and Downtown beer sales points.

The council session will begin at 3:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. An agenda is on Page 10.

61. 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.

62. Fairgrounds Work Gets Greenlight From Council -

Demolition work at The Fairgrounds resumes now that the Memphis City Council has greenlighted the idea of a “great lawn” off East Parkway.

Future council votes are still to come on starting $600,000 in design work and then approving the design.

63. UPDATE: Fairgrounds Work To Resume -

Demolition work at The Fairgrounds resumes now that the Memphis City Council has greenlighted the idea of a “great lawn” off East Parkway.

Future council votes are still to come on starting $600,000 in design work and then approving the design.

64. 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.

65. 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.

66. 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.

67. 2009 Year In Review -

2009 was a year without a script – and plenty of improvising on the political stage.

It was supposed to be an off-election year except in Arlington and Lakeland.

2008 ended with voters in the city and county approving a series of changes to the charters of Memphis and Shelby County governments. Those changes were supposed to set a new direction for both entities, kicking into high gear in 2010 and ultimately culminating two years later.

68. Once-Embattled Wilbun to Run for Juvenile Court Clerk -

The invitations urged political supporters to “Return Shep Wilbun” to the Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk’s office.

At a club on South Main Street this month as FedExForum began to fill up a few blocks away, Wilbun hosted an evening fundraiser at $100 a head. It drew State Reps. Ulysses Jones, Larry Miller and Joe Towns as well as Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

69. Chaotic Council Welcomes Wharton To ‘Land of Fire’ -

Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton Jr. got an early welcome to the ways of City Hall in the week before he took the oath of office.

It came from the City Council he will serve with for the next two years.

70. Jefferson in Limbo Until After Election -

Elbert Jefferson Jr. remains the city attorney – in name only.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Lammey accepted a consent order Monday morning signed by Jefferson’s attorney, Thomas Hansom, and Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons’ office.

71. 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.

72. Metro Charter Commission Gets Council Go -

The Memphis City Council has approved the creation of a metro charter commission.

The 11-0 vote at Tuesday’s council session makes the consolidation effort the most significant in nearly 40 years. The resolution’s passage means the 15 member commission will be appointed by both mayors – city of Memphis and Shelby County. The charter commission will come up with a charter for a consolidated government that will then go to voters for approval in Nov. 2010.

73. UPDATE: Council Completes Action On Metro Charter Group -

The Memphis City Council has approved the creation of a Metro Charter Commission.

The 11-0 vote at Tuesday’s council session makes the consolidation effort the most significant in nearly 40 years. The resolution’s passage means the 15 member commission will be appointed by both mayors – city of Memphis and Shelby County. The charter commission will come up with a charter for a consolidated government that will then go to voters for approval in Nov. 2010.

74. Gibbons Launches Investigation of City Attorney Jefferson -

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons has opened an investigation into the controversy surrounding embattled City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr.

75. Jefferson, Boyd in Council Crosshairs -

A resolution will come before the Memphis City Council Tuesday authorizing Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery to immediately remove City Attorney Elbert Jefferson from office.

76. Update: City Attorney Out Rest Of Week - Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s scheduled meeting with City Attorney Elbert Jefferson will have to wait until next week at the earliest.

Jefferson and Lowery had been scheduled to meet Tuesday, but the embattled city attorney called in sick. He also called in sick Wednesday and indicated he would be out for the rest of this week.

Jefferson’s fate appears to be in question after last week’s revelation that he authorized a more than $55,000 payment to the lawyer of former Mayor Willie Herenton shortly before Herenton retired at the end of July. At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Lowery declined to say what he planned to talk about with Jefferson.

Jefferson’s future is also likely to be a hot topic at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Councilman Bill Morrison appears set to introduce a resolution authorizing Lowery to immediately remove Jefferson from office. The draft language of the resolution cites Jefferson’s “approval of a rushed payment of city funds” to Herenton’s attorney “in a private matter” and Jefferson’s failure to notify Lowery and Lowery’s chief administrative officer, Jack Sammons.

The resolution reads, in part:

“Whereas, recent revelations that the current city attorney and chief ethics officer Elbert Jefferson is being investigated by federal authorities about his approval of a rushed payment of $55,000 of city funds to an attorney hired to represent Willie W. Herenton in a private matter; his failure to notify the mayor pro tem and CAO that he had been questioned by the FBI about such actions; and his failure to notify his superiors, Mayor Pro Tem and CAO, that records involving the aforementioned payment were recently subpoenaed by the grand jury, cause great concern about the city attorney’s abilities and judgment.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Memphis City Council urges Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to immediately remove Elbert Jefferson from the Office of City Attorney based on these questionable practices.”

In an interview with The Daily News Tuesday night, Herenton took issue with the description of the payment to Robert Spence as “rushed.”

The word "RUSH" is stamped on a check request Jefferson approved for Spence's payment. But Herenton said many of the contracts he left unsigned or requests unauthorized were rushed by various city division directors.

“In my 17 years, I bet you I've signed hundreds of rushed (requests). But in the newspaper it became 'Herenton's trying to get his legal fees paid,'” Herenton said.

Jefferson was the last of four city attorneys Herenton worked with in his more than 17 years as mayor. Herenton praised Jefferson’s work and said he has become a victim of “ruthless, reckless politics.”

“I have nothing but respect for Elbert,” Herenton said. “It is unfortunate that he finds himself caught up in the political arena, where Mayor Pro Tem Lowery is exercising some vindictiveness.”

Lowery told The Daily News Tuesday night that Jefferson’s recent questioning about the Spence payment by FBI agents backs up Lowery’s actions and comments.

Spence’s work involved representing the former mayor during an investigation whose subject appeared to wander over the past year.

It included Herenton's one-time option to buy the land where the Greyhound bus terminal now stands on Union Avenue. Some recent grand jury testimony focused on money paid to Herenton aide Pete Aviotti by business leaders for Herenton's annual Christmas party.

Spence told The Daily News earlier this week his client has not received a letter from prosecutors or any other type of notification that Herenton is the target of the investigation. Prosecutors sometimes make such a notification, but it is not required.

Jefferson, meanwhile, is not the only person who may be on the hot seat Tuesday before the City Council. Another resolution has been drafted that seeks to vacate Councilman Bill Boyd’s seat.

That resolution, sponsored by Councilman Joe Brown, reads:

“Whereas, it has been reported that council member William Boyd has attempted to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the authority of the mayor of Memphis and the city attorney to settle a lawsuit; and whereas the charter prohibits any council member interfering with the mayor’s administrative powers; and whereas the charter provides that any council member that interferes with the mayor’s administrative powers may be removed from office.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the position held by William Boyd, councilman, District 2, be declared vacant for violating the city charter or, alternatively, that the city take such court action necessary to have him removed from office.”
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Boyd has filed a motion to intervene in a bitter court fight involving a legal settlement between the city and former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division chief Joseph Lee. In a motion to dismiss the complaint Boyd wants to be part of, Jefferson said the city was appropriately exercising its authority in settling the suit Lee filed.

Boyd disagrees and thinks the more than $426,000 paid to Lee should be recovered by the city.

“The plain language of the charter gives the mayor and city attorney exclusive power and authority to settle lawsuits if the city is a party to such suits,” Jefferson’s motion reads. “This power is not subject to approval of the Memphis City Council or the public.”

Without mentioning Boyd’s request to intervene in the case, Jefferson’s motion to dismiss also cites a section of the city charter that prohibits council members from interfering with the operation of the city’s administrative departments.

The charter goes on to stipulate that the office of any council member found to be in violation of that part of the charter could be vacated.

...

77. UPDATE: City Attorney Controversy Gets Uglier -

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s scheduled meeting with City Attorney Elbert Jefferson will have to wait until next week at the earliest.

78. Metro Charter Update: Rockier Reception, But Far From Over -

The formation of a metro charter commission cleared the Shelby County Commission but ran into some turbulence on the Memphis City Council this week.

The discussions by both bodies have demonstrated the complexity of the most significant move toward local government consolidation in nearly 40 years. It also has shown the power other political events can exert on the issue.

79. City Council Questions Consolidation Fast Track -  

Most of the members of the Memphis City Council Tuesday talked over the move toward appointment of a Metro Charter Commission.

And they decided they need more time to talk even more before a vote. The resolution would set in motion the appointment of the group that would draft a charter to consolidate Memphis city and Shelby County governments.

The issue for most of the eleven council members expressing on opinion wasn’t the concept of consolidation. The issue was timing and the push toward consolidation by Memphis Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Commission chair Deidre Malone.

“Clearly some decisions have been made. … I’ve got a big problem with that,” said council member Wanda Halbert who is running for Memphis mayor in the Oct. 15 special election.

Lowery, a rival in the election, said voting for a charter commission was not a commitment to a specific form of consolidated government.

“Somebody had to make the decision to present it to you,” Lowery told the council. “And that’s what we have done. But the final option is up to you. And if you agree the final voice will be the citizens.”

Any charter proposal by the appointed commission would go to city and county voters in a pair of referenda – one inside the city of Memphis and the other in the county outside of Memphis. The proposal must win in both elections in order to consolidate the governments. The resolution sets the date for the election as Nov. 2010.

“Why now?” council member Janis Fullilove asked.

“There’s never going to be a great time. Why not now?” Lowery responded. “We have wasted so many years. We would like to give the citizens of this county to say yes or no.”

As Memphis Mayor, Lowery would have five appointments to the 15 member body. Those appointees would have to be confirmed by the City Council. Lowery said he will only consider citizens recommended by council members. Wharton is already soliciting names from the County Commission for his ten appointees to the body, which must be confirmed by the County Commission.

Wharton, who is also running for Memphis Mayor, has said he will wait for Lowery to make his picks first. But if the council doesn’t approve the resolution at its Sept. 15 or Oct. 6 meetings, Lowery might not be making the city appointments. And Wharton might not be making ten appointments as county mayor, but five as city mayor.

For council member Jim Strickland the timing of other political events, including the special election and next year’s county elections, was a factor.

“I’m in favor of consolidation,” Strickland began. “But I’m not convinced next year is the right time to move forward. And I have serious concerns that the efforts so far do not reflect an ability to successfully pass this measure.”

Strickland, like Halbert, was also troubled by several suggestions in the power point presentation used by Lowery and Wharton and Malone that all three have said are “suggestions.”

“There are several things that appear to have already been discussed and almost decided – smaller districts, creating an office of innovation and strategic vision, that (Memphis Light Gas and Water Division) should not be sold without a referendum,” Strickland said.

The council is scheduled to talk over the resolution in two weeks during its executive session and the item is on the agenda for the full council to vote on later that same day.

This week’s council discussion came the day after Shelby County commissioners voted 9-2 in favor of the same resolution creating the Metro Charter Commission.

“There is a conventional wisdom out there. … Everyone in the city is jumping for joy to get this and everyone in the county is real reticent about it. And so, the entire sales job has to be directed to the county,” said Council member Shea Flinn, sponsor of the resolution on the city side of the proposition. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. The city will be dramatically impacted as well.”

Council member Bill Morrison said the meetings among Wharton, Lowery and Malone weren’t the right way to approach the council even though the trio only talked of a structure for establishing a plan for a consolidated government.

“You have two weeks to fix what some of us felt like has left us out,” Morrison told Flinn. “There does seem to be things that have already been decided on. That may just be a perception.”

...

80. UPDATE: City Council Puts Off Metro Charter Commission Vote For Two Weeks -  

Most of the members of the Memphis City Council Tuesday talked over the move toward appointment of a Metro Charter Commission.

And they decided they need more time to talk even more before a vote. The resolution would set in motion the appointment of the group that would draft a charter to consolidate Memphis city and Shelby County governments.

The issue for most of the eleven council members expressing on opinion wasn’t the concept of consolidation. The issue was timing and the push toward consolidation by Memphis Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Commission chair Deidre Malone.

“Clearly some decisions have been made. … I’ve got a big problem with that,” said council member Wanda Halbert who is running for Memphis mayor in the Oct. 15 special election.

Lowery, a rival in the election, said voting for a charter commission was not a commitment to a specific form of consolidated government.

“Somebody had to make the decision to present it to you,” Lowery told the council. “And that’s what we have done. But the final option is up to you. And if you agree the final voice will be the citizens.”

Any charter proposal by the appointed commission would go to city and county voters in a pair of referenda – one inside the city of Memphis and the other in the county outside of Memphis. The proposal must win in both elections in order to consolidate the governments. The resolution sets the date for the election as Nov. 2010.

“Why now?” council member Janis Fullilove asked.

“There’s never going to be a great time. Why not now?” Lowery responded. “We have wasted so many years. We would like to give the citizens of this county to say yes or no.”

As Memphis Mayor, Lowery would have five appointments to the 15 member body. Those appointees would have to be confirmed by the City Council. Lowery said he will only consider citizens recommended by council members. Wharton is already soliciting names from the County Commission for his ten appointees to the body, which must be confirmed by the County Commission.

Wharton, who is also running for Memphis Mayor, has said he will wait for Lowery to make his picks first. But if the council doesn’t approve the resolution at its Sept. 15 or Oct. 6 meetings, Lowery might not be making the city appointments. And Wharton might not be making ten appointments as county mayor, but five as city mayor.

For council member Jim Strickland the timing of other political events, including the special election and next year’s county elections, was a factor.

“I’m in favor of consolidation,” Strickland began. “But I’m not convinced next year is the right time to move forward. And I have serious concerns that the efforts so far do not reflect an ability to successfully pass this measure.”

Strickland, like Halbert, was also troubled by several suggestions in the power point presentation used by Lowery and Wharton and Malone that all three have said are “suggestions.”

“There are several things that appear to have already been discussed and almost decided – smaller districts, creating an office of innovation and strategic vision, that (Memphis Light Gas and Water Division) should not be sold without a referendum,” Strickland said.

The council is scheduled to talk over the resolution in two weeks during its executive session and the item is on the agenda for the full council to vote on later that same day.

This week’s council discussion came the day after Shelby County commissioners voted 9-2 in favor of the same resolution creating the Metro Charter Commission.

“There is a conventional wisdom out there. … Everyone in the city is jumping for joy to get this and everyone in the county is real reticent about it. And so, the entire sales job has to be directed to the county,” said Council member Shea Flinn, sponsor of the resolution on the city side of the proposition. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. The city will be dramatically impacted as well.”

Council member Bill Morrison said the meetings among Wharton, Lowery and Malone weren’t the right way to approach the council even though the trio only talked of a structure for establishing a plan for a consolidated government.

“You have two weeks to fix what some of us felt like has left us out,” Morrison told Flinn. “There does seem to be things that have already been decided on. That may just be a perception.”

...

81. Paul Stanley's Fall From Grace -

Jim Kyle, a Memphis Democrat who serves as minority leader in the state Senate, gave the first lunchtime address of 2009 to the Memphis Rotary Club.

Rotarians got a bird’s-eye view of the state’s financial picture from Kyle, who described choices needed to close the state’s budget shortfall. Kyle this week announced his candidacy in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

82. 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.

83. 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.

84. 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.

85. 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.

86. 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.

87. 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.

88. Credit Card Legislation Nearing Success -

WASHINGTON (AP) - Responding to a wave of populist anger, the House moved toward passage of a consumer protection bill to rein in credit card practices and eliminate sudden interest rate increases and late fees that have entangled millions of consumers.

89. 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.

90. Cop Hiring Incentives Clear Council - A month after the Memphis City Council voted down a plan to hire police officers within a 20 miles radius of Shelby County, the council Tuesday approved a package of hiring incentives that keeps the hiring within the county.

The incentives were passed on an eventful day at City Hall in which Mayor Willie Herenton announced the administration is moving the hiring of police officers from the police department to the city’s human resources department.

Some council members who opposed the ability to hire police officers who didn’t live in the city or Shelby County have also questioned how the police department was hiring officers.

In announcing the move, Herenton denied the police hiring process has been unfair.

Council member Bill Morrison proposed the new incentives that would apply to officers hired who apply after Jan. 1. The incentives are:

-- Up to $5,000 on any existing student loans.

-- $3,500 in moving expenses if the new officer moves within Shelby County.

-- $5,000 in moving expense if the new officer moves within Memphis.

The incentives would remain in force for those hired until the department reaches its full compliment.

Morrison removed plans to include a hiring bonus that had drawn opposition from Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin. Godwin as well as Herenton argued a bonus would hurt morale by appearing to give preferential treatment to some officers.

Godwin said his department appears to be on target to hire its full compliment of nearly 2,600 officers by 2011. He also said a local advertising campaign that began last month has produced a torrent of applications.

Some council members contended that the police department needed the ability to hire officers who live outside Shelby County to meet the goal. Other council members were just as adamant that police officers should at least live within Shelby County and preferably in Memphis.

The plan to allow hiring within 20 miles outside the county line failed on a 6-7 vote.

Morrison’s resolution passed Tuesday on an 11-2 vote. Only council members Joe Brown and Wanda Halbert voted no.

Read more about the latest chapter in the council’s ongoing debate about beefing up the police force in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.

The council also approved a resolution on a unanimous vote that would end the city’s share of funding for the local Health Department at the end of this month.

The pull out of city funding in the jointly funded department may not be final however. Shelby County commissioners are expected to discuss today a resolution that would extend talks between city and county leaders about the joint operation through January. Council members question why the city of Memphis helps fund the department but no other municipalities in the county provide funding.

Council members took the action in case the talks go nowhere, so the city won’t be bound under contract for another fiscal year.

The city and county jointly fund several government agencies. The health department is the only one governed by a contract. The other shared entities are provided for in the annual budget process which begins in April.

Herenton provided the council with a decidedly downbeat preview of what is to come in April. He confirmed earlier reports in The Daily News that his administration would seek to cut the number of city employees with a buyout plan. The specific plan is to cut 100 positions from the city payroll through one time only buyouts to counter a $25 million budget shortfall projected for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

An $8.8 million city budget deficit is projected for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

...

91. Council Approves Cop Hiring Incentives - A month after the Memphis City Council voted down a plan to hire police officers within a 20 miles radius of Shelby County, the council tonight approved a package of hiring incentives that keeps the hiring within the county.

The incentives were passed on an eventful day at City Hall in which Mayor Willie Herenton announced the administration is moving the hiring of police officers from the police department to the city’s human resources department.

Some council members who opposed the ability to hire police officers who didn’t live in the city or Shelby County have also questioned how the police department was hiring officers.

In announcing the move, Herenton denied the police hiring process has been unfair.

Council member Bill Morrison proposed the new incentives that would apply to officers hired who apply after Jan. 1. The incentives are:

-- Up to $5,000 on any existing student loans.

-- $3,500 in moving expenses if the new officer moves within Shelby County.

-- $5,000 in moving expense if the new officer moves within Memphis.

The incentives would remain in force for those hired until the department reaches its full compliment.

Morrison removed plans to include a hiring bonus that had drawn opposition from Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin. Godwin as well as Herenton argued a bonus would hurt morale by appearing to give preferential treatment to some officers.

Godwin said his department appears to be on target to hire its full compliment of nearly 2,600 officers by 2011. He also said a local advertising campaign that began last month has produced a torrent of applications.

Some council members contended that the police department needed the ability to hire officers who live outside Shelby County to meet the goal. Other council members were just as adamant that police officers should at least live within Shelby County and preferably in Memphis.

The plan to allow hiring within 20 miles outside the county line failed on a 6-7 vote.

Morrison’s resolution passed tonight on an 11-2 vote. Only council members Joe Brown and Wanda Halbert voted no.

Read more about the latest chapter in the council’s ongoing debate about beefing up the police force in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.

The council also approved a resolution on a unanimous vote that would end the city’s share of funding for the local Health Department at the end of this month.

The pull out of city funding in the jointly funded department may not be final however. Shelby County commissioners are expected to discuss Wednesday a resolution that would extend talks between city and county leaders about the joint operation through January. Council members question why the city of Memphis helps fund the department but no other municipalities in the county provide funding.

Council members took the action in case the talks go nowhere, so the city won’t be bound under contract for another fiscal year.

The city and county jointly fund several government agencies. The health department is the only one governed by a contract. The other shared entities are provided for in the annual budget process which begins in April.

Herenton provided the council with a decidedly downbeat preview of what is to come in April. He confirmed earlier reports in The Daily News that his administration would seek to cut the number of city employees with a buyout plan. The specific plan is to cut 100 positions from the city payroll through one time only buyouts to counter a $25 million budget shortfall projected for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

An $8.8 million city budget deficit is projected for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

...

92. Payday Loan Issue Could Move Forward Tuesday -

A proposed law that would put new restrictions on where payday lenders, check-cashing businesses and title loan establishments can operate in Shelby County still has a few more political hurdles to clear.

93. Commission to Consider Fringe Financial Ordinance -

The third and final reading of an ordinance that was designed to limit the spread of check cashing, title loan and payday lending businesses in Memphis and Shelby County will be voted on today by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

94. 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.”

...

95. 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.

...

96. 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.

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97. Lobbyists Increase Efforts To Blunt Payday Ordinance -

Over the past couple of weeks, Shelby County Board of Commissioners member Mike Carpenter has met privately with at least six representatives of two high-powered lobbying firms that are working to counter a proposed local zoning ordinance.

98. 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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99. 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.

...

100. Payday Lenders Grouse About Proposed Ordinance -

Lobbyists representing check-cashing businesses, payday lenders and auto title loan shops are meeting with Memphis and Shelby County lawmakers to voice their concerns over a proposed zoning ordinance designed to curb their growth.