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Editorial Results (free)

1. Haslam Swears In Judges, Gets Flu Shot in Memphis -

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam swore in a new Tennessee Supreme Court justice and two state Appeals Court judges during a busy Friday, Sept. 19, visit to Memphis that also included getting a flu shot.

Haslam swore in Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby of Memphis at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law before a group of 300 people that included former Gov. Don Sundquist, who appointed Kirby to the court of appeals during his two terms as governor.

2. Chancery Court Vacancy Down to 3 Finalists -

Three Memphis attorneys, including two who ran for other divisions of Shelby County Chancery Court in the August general elections, have been recommended for the Chancery Court judge vacancy.

Oscar Carr, Jim Newsom and Mike Richards are the finalists recommended Wednesday, Sept. 10, to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam by the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments. They were among the 15 attorneys who applied for the vacancy and were interviewed by the state commission.

3. Chancery Court Vacancy Down to 3 Finalists -

Three Memphis attorneys, including two who ran for other divisions of Shelby County Chancery Court in the August general elections, have been recommended for the Chancery Court judge vacancy.

Oscar Carr, Jim Newsom and Mike Richards are the finalists recommended Wednesday, Sept. 10, to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam by the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments. They were among the 15 attorneys who applied for the vacancy and were interviewed by the state commission.

4. Carr, Newsom and Richards Finalists for Chancery Court Judge -

Three Memphis attorneys including two who ran for other divisions of Chancery Court on the August county general election ballot have been recommended for the Chancery Court Judge vacancy.

Oscar Carr, Jim Newsom and Mike Richards are the finalists recommended Wednesday, Sept. 10, to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam by the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments. There were among the 15 attorneys who applied for the vacancy and were interviewed by the state commission.

5. Nine Losing Candidates Challenge August Vote -

Nine losing candidates from the August elections are contesting the results in a Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 2 by Democratic candidates Joe Brown, Henri Brooks and Wanda Halbert; judicial candidates Mozella Ross, Kim Sims, Kenya Brooks, J. Nathan Toney and Alicia Howard; and Doris Deberry-Bradshaw, who ran in a state House Democratic primary.

6. 15 Apply to Fill Chancery Vacancy -

A field of 15 Memphis attorneys applied to become the newest Chancery Court judge as Chancellor Kenny Armstrong moves to a seat on the state appeals court in a week.

7. 15 Apply to Fill Chancery Court Vacancy -

A field of 15 Memphis attorneys applied to become the newest Chancery Court judge as Chancellor Kenny Armstrong moves to a seat on the state appeals court in a week.

8. Field of 15 Apply for Chancery Court Judge -

A field of 15 Memphis attorneys applied to become the newest Chancery Court Judge as Chancellor Kenny Armstrong moves to a seat on the state appeals court in a week.

9. Kyle Senate Seat Vacancy Process Begins -

Local Democratic leaders began taking applications Monday, Aug. 18, for the state Senate District 30 seat in the Tennessee Legislature that becomes vacant Sept. 1.

And Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson scheduled a caucus of local party executive committee members from District 30 on Aug. 28 to discuss the vacancy.

10. Commission Reopens Anti-Discrimination Debate -

Six of the 13 Shelby County Commissioners attend their last meeting Monday, Aug. 18.

The finale of the four-year term of office will feature renewed discussion about a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance and attempts to make the residency requirement for county commissioners more specific.

11. State Commission Seeks to Fill Chancery Vacancy -

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments began accepting applications Thursday, Aug. 14, for the vacancy in Shelby County Chancery Court.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ran unopposed for re-election on the Aug. 7 ballot. His new term would begin Sept. 1, but that is also when Armstrong’s appointment by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the Tennessee Court of Appeals takes effect.

12. State Commission Taking Chancery Court Applications -

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments began accepting applications Thursday, Aug. 14, for the vacancy in Shelby County Chancery Court.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ran unopposed for re-election on the Aug. 7 ballot. His new term would begin Sept. 1, but that is also when Armstrong’s appointment by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the Tennessee Court of Appeals takes effect.

13. Commission to Have Different Look After Election -

The first post-election appointment for the winners of the 13 Shelby County Commission races on the Thursday, Aug. 7, election ballot is a Friday luncheon with commission Chairman James Harvey.

14. Brooks Challenge Grows Toward End of Term -

The last six weeks of the current terms of office of the 13 Shelby County commissioners will be marked by a series of political challenges involving Commissioner Henri Brooks.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Attorney Marcy Ingram has resolved a residency challenge of Commissioner Justin Ford, concluding Ford’s “primary residence is probably” at Fairways Apartments, a South Memphis apartment complex in his district, even though Ford claimed in the investigation that he lived there for more than two years without utilities.

15. Brooks Residency Issue Grows More Political -

Shelby County Commissioners seemed to settle one question Monday, July 7, about the residency challenge of Commissioner Henri Brooks.

They voted to make a determination of their own on whether she violated the residency clause of the county charter by moving out of the Midtown house she listed as her home address for years and continuing to use the address.

16. Commission To Hold Brooks Hearing, Sets Standardized Property Tax Rate -

Shelby County Commissioners agreed Monday, to make their own determination about the residency of commissioner Henri Brooks probably toward the end of July in a proceeding that one commissioner described as a “question and answer session.”

17. Armstrong Rules Commission Can Weigh Brooks' Residency -

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled Thursday, July 3, that the Shelby County Commission can take up the question Monday, July 7, of whether Commissioner Henri Brooks lives in the district she represents.

18. Commission Takes Final Votes on Tax Rates -

Shelby County Commissioners close out their budget season Monday, July 7, by making a decision on two competing county property tax rate proposals – both lower than the current $4.38 rate.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

19. Brooks Residency Case Resumes in Court -

When Chancellor Kenny Armstrong takes the bench Thursday, July 3, to resume his hearing on the effort to unseat Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks, he will likely have the same basic question he had when the hearing recessed Tuesday in his courtroom.

20. Armstrong Questions Finding in Brooks Residency Case -

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong wants to know who made a specific finding that county commissioner Henri Brooks doesn’t live in the district she represents.

21. Brooks’ Residency Hearing Delayed in Chancery Court -

A Shelby County Chancery Court hearing on the residency lawsuit filed by County Commissioner Henri Brooks against the commission was delayed Monday, June 30, before Chancellor Walter Evans.

22. Brooks' Residency Hearing Delayed in Chancery Court -

A Shelby County Chancery Court hearing on the residency lawsuit filed by County Commissioner Henri Brooks against the commission was delayed Monday, June 30, before Chancellor Walter Evans.

23. Armstrong Appointed to Appeals Court -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has been appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

24. Armstrong Appointed to Appeals Court -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has been appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

25. Martavius Jones Weighs Primary Vote Challenge -

As Memphis Democrats gathered for various campaign efforts last weekend, County Commission candidate Martavius Jones received a lot of condolences on his loss in the Democratic primary for commission District 10, and rival candidate Reginald Milton got a lot of congratulations.

26. 8 Apply for Appeals Court Vacancy in West Tennessee -

NASHVILLE (AP) – Eight candidates have applied to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Court of Appeals caused by the Gov. Bill Haslam's appointment of Judge Holly Kirby to the state Supreme Court.

27. Harris Files Ford Challenge at Deadline -

Memphis City Council member Lee Harris is challenging Democratic state Sen. Ophelia Ford in the August primary for District 29, the Senate seat held by a member of the Ford family since 1975.

28. Fields Begin to Gel for May and August Ballots -

With two weeks to the filing deadline for candidates in the May Shelby County primary elections and two months to the deadline for those in the August state and federal primaries and county nonpartisan elections, the fields have solidified enough that some political players are weighing their prospects for a late entry before the filing deadlines.

29. Dueling Election Databases Make Tracking Difficult -

If ever the political axiom of needing a scorecard to keep up with the players applied to an election cycle, it would be the set of three elections in 2014 across Shelby County.

The middle election of the three – the August ballot of county general elections and state and federal primary elections – is expected to be one of the longest in the county’s political history, if not the longest.

30. Judicial Candidates Move to August Ballot -

In the first week to pick up petitions for the August judicial elections in Shelby County, judicial candidates have accounted for most of the activity at the Shelby County Election Commission.

Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael has pulled a petition to run for Juvenile Court judge in the nonpartisan race. Michael has been campaigning for several months in his bid to succeed outgoing Judge Curtis Person Jr.

31. FBI Questions Surprise Local Politicos -

As harsh as the criticism has been of the way the Shelby County Election Commission conducted elections in 2012, no one, including those who filed two Chancery Court lawsuits over the results, have said or presented proof it was intentional.

32. FBI Investigating Shelby County Election Commission -

FBI agents have interviewed a Shelby County Election Commission member in what appears to be a probe of the agency that conducts local elections.

Election Commissioner Norma Lester confirmed in a mass e-mail Friday, Dec. 20, that she has been contacted by the FBI “but advised not to disclose any information.”

33. Two Memphians Among Appeals Court Finalists -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong and Memphis attorney Dorothy Pounders were among three finalists for an upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Appeals recommended Thursday, Nov. 14, to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

34. Two Memphians Among Appeals Court Finalists -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong and Memphis attorney Dorothy Pounders were among three finalists for an upcoming vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Appeals that were recommended Thursday, Nov. 14, to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

35. 3 Memphians Among State Supreme Court Applicants -

Two Memphis judges and a Shelby County Commissioner are among the five applicants for a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Holly M. Kirby and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy have submitted applications to the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Appointments, the newly formed body that will send a list of three finalists to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

36. Political Season Heats Up With District 91 Deadline -

The political tide of late-in-the-year elections begins rolling Thursday, Aug. 29, with the candidate-filing deadline for state House District 91.

The filing deadline is noon Thursday, the day before early voting opens in the regularly scheduled municipal elections in Arlington and Lakeland.

37. School Changes to Continue Beyond Labor Day -

At the start of the fourth week of the school year for the unified countywide school system, interim superintendent Dorsey Hopson and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong talked directly about school security for the first time.

38. Three-Month Period Sees Spate of County Elections -

Some of the early voting periods and election days will overlap in the set of 11 elections – special and regularly scheduled – in Shelby County this year.

Those elections would take place in less than a three-month period.

39. Ruling Could Add to Busy Special Election Calendar -

If the Shelby County Election Commission sets a new election date for the District 4 countywide school board seat sometime this year, it will be the 10th special election in Shelby County in what was supposed to be an off-election year for much of the county.

40. Armstrong Orders New School Board Election -

For a second time, results in the August 2012 elections have been successfully contested in court.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, in a long-awaited ruling issued Monday, Aug. 19, ordered the Shelby County Election Commission to conduct a new election for countywide school board District 4.

41. Schools Case Moving Under Radar -

With less than a month to the opening of the first year of the consolidated school system, much of the focus has shifted to the classroom and away from the system, the school board and even the ongoing federal court case over the merger.

42. Lawsuit Seeks Restoration Of Confederate Park Names -

A group of nine Memphians called “Citizens To Save Our Parks” is taking the city of Memphis and the Memphis City Council to court over the council’s February decision to temporarily rename three Confederate-themed parks.

43. Lawsuit Seeks Restoration of Confederate Park Names -

A group of nine Memphians called “Citizens To Save Our Parks” is taking the city of Memphis and the Memphis City Council to court over the council’s February decision to temporarily rename three Confederate-themed parks.

44. Whalum Election Dispute Heard by Armstrong -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong heard on Tuesday, May 21, from all sides in a disputed countywide school board race from August 2012.

45. Armstrong Hears Whalum-Woods Election Dispute -

On his way this week to hearing and later deciding the case of a disputed election for a countywide school board seat, Chancellor Kenny Armstrong got a feel for the complexities voters faced in the 2012 election and beyond.

46. Whalum Election Dispute Heard by Armstrong -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong heard on Tuesday, May 21, from all sides in a disputed countywide school board race from August 2012.

47. Whalum Election Lawsuit Gets May 21 Trial Date -

A challenge of the August election results by countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. is scheduled to go to trial May 21 in Shelby County Chancery Court. Chancellor Kenny Armstrong set the trial date Monday, April 29, during a status conference at the Shelby County Courthouse.

48. Whalum Election Lawsuit Gets May 21 Trial Date -

A challenge of the August election results by countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. is scheduled to go to trial May 21 in Shelby County Chancery Court.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong set the trial date Monday, April 29, during a status conference at the Shelby County Courthouse.

49. Whalum Election Dispute Moves Forward -

Two days after the Nov. 6 Election Day, attorneys in the lawsuit disputing results in one of the Aug. 2 school board races were back in Chancery Court.

Depositions are still to come in the challenge by countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. of his 108-vote loss to fellow school board member Kevin Woods in the certified results from the District 4 school board race in August.

50. Dispute Arises Over School Board Race -

The Shelby County Election Commission has identified 837 disputed votes in the Aug. 2 election for the District 4 countywide school board seat.

The information disclosed last week as part of a legal challenge of the results in the district race prompted a delay of a trial in the case before Chancellor Kenny Armstrong until some time after the Nov. 6 elections.

51. Goldin Overturns Millington Tax Vote -

The results of the Aug. 2 election on a Millington sales tax hike were changed Tuesday, Oct. 9, to show the tax hike for a municipal school district was approved by 12 votes instead of losing by three votes.

52. Whalum Challenges Election in Court -

Countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. filed suit against the Shelby County Election Commission Wednesday, Aug. 22, in the first of what are expected to be two election challenges.

Whalum is specifically contesting his loss to Kevin Woods in the District 4 countywide school board race on the Aug. 2 ballot. The 108-vote margin between Woods and Whalum was certified Monday by the election commission as it made official the results in all of the primary and general election races on the ballot.

53. Whalum Goes To Court Over August Election -

Countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. filed suit against the Shelby County Election Commission Wednesday, Aug. 22, in the first of what are expected to be two election challenges.

Whalum is specifically contesting his loss to Kevin Woods in the District 4 countywide school board race on the Aug. 2 ballot. The 108-vote margin between Woods and Whalum was certified Monday by the election commission as it made official the results in all of the primary and general election races on the ballot.

54. Wade Brings No-Nonsense Attitude to Council Work -

During the trial in 2009 between the city of Memphis and the Memphis City Schools district over a complicated funding dispute that has left ramifications even to this day, Allan Wade argued on behalf of the city.

55. Circuit, Chancery Make Move to Paperless -

The day-to-day business of Shelby County’s Circuit and Chancery courts is on the way to going paperless after more than 150 years of ink on paper.

The Circuit and Chancery courts clerks’ offices will go to electronic, or e-filing, of all court records in June.

56. Next Move - To say the now-closed restaurant at 7955 Fischer Steel Road has had an unusual history is probably an understatement.

57. Topless-Club Owner Sues Over Cordova Restaurant -

A little more than a month after a Shelby County Chancery Court judge dismissed a previous lawsuit on the matter, topless-club owner Steve Cooper has filed a new suit over his attempt to open a Cordova restaurant that he says will have Coyote Ugly-style entertainment.

58. Topless-Club Owner Cooper Files Federal Suit Over Cordova Restaurant -

A little more than a month after a Shelby County Chancery Court judge dismissed a previous lawsuit on the matter, topless-club owner Steve Cooper has filed a new suit over his attempt to open a Cordova restaurant that he says will have Coyote Ugly-style entertainment.

59. Election Challenge Lawsuits Back In Court Friday -

Both sides in the two lawsuits over the Aug. 5 election results are due in Chancery Court Friday for a scheduling conference.

Both cases have been assigned to Chancellor Arnold Goldin after Chancellors Walter Evans and Kenny Armstrong recused themselves.

60. Tenn. Supreme Court Refuses Appeal Of MCS Funding Case -

The Tennessee Supreme Court will not hear an appeal of the Memphis school funding case.

The decision by the court to not hear an appeal by the city of Memphis ends the funding dispute that began in 2008 when the Memphis City Council reduced the funding of the Memphis city school system.

61. MCS Funding Raises Flags for City Budget Audit -

Resolving the legal spat between the Memphis City Council and Memphis City Schools that’s put millions of dollars at stake probably won’t blow a hole in the city’s budget.

That’s the opinion former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s administration and the city’s legal counsel shared with the independent auditors who reviewed the city’s books during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The auditors noted the city’s opinion in their just-released review of the city’s financials.

62. 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.

63. Appeals Court Ruling Raises More School Funding Issues -

In the 19 months since the Memphis City Council voted to cut funding to the Memphis public school system, much has changed beyond the borders of the legal issue it raised and the lawsuit it prompted.

64. Tn Appeals Court Rules MCS Owed $50 Million By City -

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled the city of Memphis owes the Memphis school system $50 million in funding by the end of June.

The ruling filed today in Jackson, Tenn. affirms an earlier decision by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong and is likely to be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court or the city could ask the Appeals Court to take a second look at its decision.

65. UPDATE: Appeals Court Backs MCS In Funding Lawsuit -

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled the city of Memphis owes the Memphis school system $50 million in funding by the end of June.

The ruling filed today in Jackson, Tenn. affirms an earlier decision by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong and is likely to be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court or the city could ask the Appeals Court to take a second look at its decision.

66. Commission to Appeal Second Juvenile Court Judgeship -

The battle over more than one Juvenile Court judge is on its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Shelby County Commissioners voted this week to appeal an earlier ruling by the Tennessee Appeals Court to the high court. The Supreme Court could choose to hear the case or deny the request for an appeal, which would leave the appeals court ruling in place.

67. Attorney General Wades Into MCS Funding Dispute -

“The outcome of this case could potentially affect every public school in the state of Tennessee.”

The office of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper used those words in a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals filing to lay out the stakes involved in the funding flap between the city of Memphis and Memphis City Schools. In that filing, Cooper’s office also asks the appeals court for permission to formally weigh in on the long-running legal dispute.

68. Council Faced With School Funding Vote -

City of Memphis officials say a local judge should decline to hear Memphis City Schools’ emergency request for city funding to help pay its budget for the 2009-2010 school year.

MCS earlier this month asked Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong to order the city to fully fund the school district according to state requirements. The school district’s lawyers contend that mandate is implied in Armstrong’s February ruling in MCS’ lawsuit against the city, which said the Memphis City Council flouted state law when it cut $66 million to MCS last year.

69. UPDATE: Council Goes Long to Approve $600 Million Budget -

The Memphis City Council late Tuesday approved a city operating budget of just over $600 milliion after cutting nearly $17 million from the budget proposed in April by Mayor Willie Herenton.

The council also set a property tax rate of $3.19 for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. Some confusion about the new tax rate remained Wednesday morning among council members. At least one council member contacted by The Daily News immediately after the council session said it was a $3.25 tax rate. Council Chairman Myron Lowery told The Daily News Wednesday afternoon, the rate is $3.19.

The state adjusted certified rate including an allowance for appeals of property reappraisals is $3.19. The certified adjusted rate represents the tax rate that will produce the same amount of revenue the city now gets from the $3.25 rate after the recent property reappraisal process.

“This is democracy in action. In the end it works,” said Council chairman Myron Lowery at the end of the eight hour council session which followed seven hours of committee meetings at City Hall.

Lowery’s verdict, however, contrasted sharply with other council members on both sides of a roiling debate about where to make budget cuts.

Most of the $16 million in cuts were made by following recommendations made by the council’s budget committee chaired by Wanda Halbert. But the votes by the full council were close and came with lots of debate instead of a single vote on a package of budget committee recommendations.

Halbert said she was “deeply saddened we have spent so much of the past few weeks coming to City Hall every single day discussing this budget line by line.”

“Some of you weren’t even here,” she continued. “I’m tired. I’m behind on a lot of things.”

The council left intact three percent pay raises for city employees that follow the five percent raise city employees got during the current fiscal year after two prior years with no pay raises.

Some on the council fought hard to either eliminate any pay raises or cut the size of the pay raises citing the current national economic recession.

“Maybe some of us live in a world where we believe at the end of the day it will all work out just fine,” said Council member Harold Collins. “But it is unfortunate we have others who believe, ‘I’ve got to get mine and get it now.’”

Council member Jim Strickland argued that savings the council has achieved through moving some city funding obligations to Shelby County government have simply been used for more city spending.

“We’ve cut schools and spent it,” he said. “We cut the health department and spent it. The public is aware of this. And they’re not receiving relief from double taxation.”

Still to be debated and determined by the council is a proposed special tax bill that could be issued as early as August that would reflect the amount the council has been ordered to pay the city school system by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong. Armstrong ruled against the city in a city school system lawsuit challenging the council’s decision to cut funding to the school system in the current fiscal year. He ordered the city to pay $57 million to the city school system. The ruling is being appealed by the city and any payment is on hold pending the outcome of an appeal that is expected to go from the state appeals court to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

A special tax bill would not be for the full $57 million under the general framework of a plan being debated by the council. Collins proposed designating $16 million from the city’s $92 million fund balance or reserve fund.

“We don’t have a money tree here in the back of city hall and can’t afford to raise taxes indefinitely,” Council member Kemp Conrad said. “This hasn’t been pleasant but it’s what we signed up for. We have to make tough decisions.”

The council voted to contribute $125,000 in city funding for the transition of the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center (MSARC) to county government control. In budget committee, the council voted to cut the entire $700,000 line item for the department. The committee action prompted an agreement between Herenton and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to move the center to the health department.

The council also included funding in the budget for a set of red light cameras to photograph traffic scofflaws at key city traffic intersections. The cost for the first year of the system would be $480,000, a cost proponents of the system, including Lowery, have said would be paid for with revenues from ticket fines.

...

70. SCOTN Denies Motion to Speed Appeal in MCS Funding Lawsuit -

The Tennessee Supreme Court has declined to hear a direct appeal of a judgment against the city of Memphis in the long-running city schools funding lawsuit.

The city’s appeal of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong’s ruling in the lawsuit filed last year in Shelby County Chancery Court had been sent to the state court of appeals. At the same time, it was requested the Supreme Court reach down and take the case itself, an uncommon maneuver that would have resolved the dispute more quickly and removed a step in the process.

71. SCOTN Declines To Speed Appeal In MCS Funding Lawsuit -

The Tennessee Supreme Court has declined to hear a direct appeal of a judgment against the city of Memphis in the long-running city schools funding lawsuit.

The city’s appeal of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong’s ruling in the lawsuit filed last year in Shelby County Chancery Court had been sent to the state court of appeals. At the same time, it was requested the Supreme Court reach down and take the case itself, an uncommon maneuver that would have resolved the dispute more quickly and removed a step in the process.

72. School Funding Stakeholders Discuss Differences -

Shelby County Commission member Mike Ritz says that if the city of Memphis dropped its appeal in the court battle over school funding, the two governing bodies could talk through their differences.

73. City Declines MCS Offer, Floats New Funding Plan -

If Memphis City Schools had used its surpluses to pay expenses over the past four years, the city could have lowered its tax rate about 40 cents each year, said Allan Wade, attorney for the Memphis City Council.

74. Life After City Hall: The story behind Herenton’s Washington surprise -

You would think that Mayor Willie Herenton’s “resignation” last spring as he thought about trying out for Memphis City Schools superintendent would be difficult to top.

75. Council Wrenched by School Funding -

Around this time last year, Memphis City Council members axed $66 million from the city school system’s 2008-2009 budget request.

Council members hoped the unprecedented move would start to free the body from an expense they’ve long viewed as a financial albatross.

Yet as the first full week of city budget hearings drew to a close this week, it was clear council members continue wrestling with how to shape this year’s city budget because of Memphis City Schools’ unresolved situation.

Last year the big question was how much to cut. This year the question is how much to put back into the budget.

Addition and subtraction

That question does not refer to the council restoring its funding to MCS.

Instead, council members want to be prepared to absorb the financial blow if they lose a related court appeal.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled earlier this year the council needs to give the school district $57 million it should have received for the 2008-2009 school year.

The city doesn’t have to pay that money unless it loses its appeal. Dr. Timothy Webb, the state commissioner of education, sent a letter to MCS general counsel Dorsey Hopson Thursday that read: "The Department fully expects MCS to prevail in the City's appeal of the Chancellor's decision."

Meanwhile, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton recently presented a budget plan for the coming fiscal year that included no financial contingency for returning the money.

The school funding issue is such a sticky legal and financial morass that it’s taken council members several days of lengthy discussions even to get an idea of how large a shock absorber they should build into the budget.

“The budget presented by the administration is truly not balanced and the City Council must now finish making the hard decisions that are required to prevent a massive tax increase of up to $57 million,” reads a resolution councilman Kemp Conrad brought to the council’s Monday night budget hearing.

Icky and sticky

Armstrong’s order was clear about the $57 million due to MCS for last year. That replenished amount also would conceivably be the new baseline for the 2009-2010 school year.

In the worst-case scenario, it would appear as much as $114 million would have to be paid to MCS for last year and the coming school year, although virtually no council members expect the expense to get that large.

“We may cut expenses and still have to raise taxes,” said councilman Shea Flinn. “We might not be able to cut our way out of this.”

Earlier this week, the council asked the city administration for new versions of the city operating budget, with varying levels of cuts to accommodate as much as $57 million. Then the council’s budget committee scrapped its schedule for Wednesday night’s budget hearing to grapple exclusively with the still-unresolved MCS funding and budget questions.

During more than two hours of discussion, council members warmed to the possibility of sending out two property tax bills this year. One would be the usual tax bill, and the smaller one would raise money for MCS.

City finance director Roland McElrath is to report back to the council on the cost of issuing a second tax bill. No date is set for his report.

Tough choices

Meanwhile, council members will continue combing through the city’s proposed operating budget, studying one city division after another to look for savings.

“As grueling as it may sound, we need to look at every division’s budget,” said council member Wanda Halbert.

Several council members said the body needs to do what families are being forced to do because of the economy: make tough choices about what they can do without.

“In my mind, we either cut expenses in the budget or we raise taxes on the citizens of Memphis,” said council member Jim Strickland. “To me, that’s an easy choice. We need to slug it out and go through every single division’s budget.”

...

76. Council Wants new set of Budget Plans from City Admin. -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong stayed his decision that the city of Memphis immediately pay $57 million to Memphis City Schools for the 2008-2009 school year while the city’s appeal of that decision is pending.

But the Memphis City Council wants to get prepared for the financial shock of that decision anyway.

The council’s budget committee Monday asked the city administration to come back with multiple budget scenarios that include across-the-board division cuts and as well as lesser cuts. The goal is to give the council some flexibility and put as many options on the table as possible.

As it did during the council’s first budget meeting last week, Monday’s meeting included an intense discussion among council members about whether the budget presented this month by Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, which included no property tax increase and 3 percent raises for city employees, was indeed a balanced budget.

The sticking point is Armstrong’s decision that the city must restore $57 million in funding to MCS, a decision the city is appealing. A budget that does not take that decision into account or at least begin preparing for it is an incomplete plan, according to some council members.

Herenton’s budget proposal he made to council members included no recommendation on school funding, though he later sent the council a letter with a non-binding recommendation that the council allocate 82 cents on the city’s tax rate toward school funding.

“This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the difference between perception being reality and reality being reality,” councilman Shea Flinn said. “What we’re talking about is the perception about who’s costing taxpayers more money.

“I’m not looking to assign blame, but we have to address this. The chancellor has spoken, and he didn’t speak for us.”

Councilman Jim Strickland presented a resolution Monday along those cost-cutting lines. His idea was to reach into the city’s finance division – the first division up before the council Monday – and recommend more than $480,000 in cuts in the division’s spending.

Council member Janis Fullilove made a motion to amend that motion and sought to allow the administration to come back with a plan of its own on how cuts elsewhere can be made.

“I accept that as a friendly amendment,” Strickland said.

Replied Fullilove: “Thank you. Give me a hug.”

Even though the budget committee asked the administration to come back with multiple budget plans, the council then decided to continue its own budget discussion on a parallel track rather than putting everything on hold and waiting to see what the administration comes back with.

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77. Herenton Urges Council To Restore 82 Cents For Schools To Tax Rate -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has urged the Memphis City Council to restore 82 cents to the city’s property tax rate to help fund the Memphis school system.

78. Herenton Urges Council To Restore 82 Cents To Tax Rate For Schools -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has urged the Memphis City Council to restore 82 cents to the city’s property tax rate to help fund the Memphis school system.

79. MCS Funding Still a "What If" for City Budget -

Right now, it’s one of the city budget’s big What Ifs.

What if the decision of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong is upheld on appeal in the Memphis City Schools funding case? That would mean, in the short term, the city of Memphis has to come up with $57 million that was left out of its subsidy to MCS for the 2008-2009 school year.

80. City Gets Reprieve on Paying $57M to Schools -

The city of Memphis doesn’t have to pay the Memphis City Schools system $57 million – for now.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong stayed the part of his February ruling against the city that said the Memphis City Council was wrong to have cut its funding to MCS for the 2008-2009 school year. In that ruling, Armstrong ordered $57 million to be restored to MCS.

81. UPDATE: City Gets Reprieve on Paying $57M to Schools -

The City of Memphis doesn’t have to pay the Memphis City School system $57 million – for now.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong stayed the part of his February ruling against the city that said the Memphis City Council was wrong to have cut its funding to MCS for the 2008-2009 school year. In that earlier ruling, Armstrong ordered $57 million to be restored to MCS.

“Where’s the harm? I’ve yet to see the harm,” Armstrong said in describing why he chose to let the appeal continue to play out without forcing the city to pay immediately.

He appeared to be referring to the fact that the door is still open for the city’s appeal to not only be denied, but for a reversal of the stay.

Since Armstrong’s decision is now on appeal, city council attorney Allan Wade argued in a roughly hour-long hearing Wednesday morning that following through on the order to pay the $57 million would mean levying a special tax on “hundreds of thousands of taxpayers.” If the city were to win on appeal, the tax would be illegal, Wade said.

Attorney Michael Marshall, arguing on behalf of MCS, said MCS needs the money Armstrong already ruled it is due. And it needs that money sooner than later, Marshall said, because MCS dipped into its reserves for the ’08-’09 school year and claims it can’t do so again.

For more on this story, read Thursday’s print edition of The Daily News.

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82. School System, City Back in Court Today -

In mid-February, Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled the city of Memphis was wrong to have cut some of its funding to the Memphis City Schools system.

83. Attorney Seeks To Amend Schools Funding Decision -

The funding dispute between the Memphis City Council and the Memphis school system has taken its next step beyond a ruling that the council owes the school system $57 million and owes it immediately.

84. City Seeks To Amend School Funding Lawsuit Decision -

The funding dispute between the Memphis City Council and the Memphis school system has taken its next step beyond a ruling that the council owes the school system $57 million and owes it immediately.

85. Despite Budget, City Seeks to Overhaul Convention Center -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton sent a memo last week to Keith McGee, the city’s chief administrative officer, requesting that the city shelve its buyout offer to 100 city employees. The offer would have cost $6.4 million to implement.

86. Herenton Calls Off City Hall Buyout Plan -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced Friday (Feb. 20) that he is calling off a plan to offer buyouts to 100 city employees by April.

87. MCS Funding Foes Go ’Round The Mulberry Bush -

Everyone involved knew it wouldn’t end with one court ruling.

The only question was who would appeal and who would say “I told you so” once Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled on whether the city of Memphis could cut its funding to the Memphis City Schools system. It can’t, according to Armstrong’s ruling.

88. Armstrong Rules For MCS In School Funding Lawsuit -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has ordered the city of Memphis to restore more than $57.5 million in funding to the Memphis school system.

89. Armstrong Rules For MCS In School Funding Lawsuit -

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has ordered the city of Memphis to restore more than $57.5 million in funding to the Memphis school system.

90. Points Pondered Before School Funding Decision -

Nancy Richie, executive director of fiscal services for Memphis City Schools, laid out some dire scenarios in her July testimony in Shelby County Chancery Court.

91. Armstrong to Decide MCS Funding Case by Week’s End -

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong said today during closing arguments in a landmark, closely watched court case over local school funding that he’ll issue an opinion by the end of this week.

92. Armstrong to Decide MCS Funding Case by Week’s End -

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong said today during closing arguments in a landmark, closely watched court case over local school funding that he’ll issue an opinion by the end of this week.

The case involves a lawsuit filed last summer in Shelby County Chancery Court by Memphis City Schools after the Memphis City Council last spring voted to cut the city’s subsidy to the school system by almost $70 million.

For about an hour and a half, City Council attorney Allan Wade and MCS attorney Ernest Kelly presented dueling arguments and alternately answered questions from Armstrong that touched on fundamental issues of legislative intent as it relates to education in Tennessee.

Kelly attacked Wade’s central argument that the city of Memphis is not locked in to providing money to MCS.

“We have been intimately involved with the city since the 1870s,” Kelly said. “Our budget is approved by the city. They have acted almost as our alter ego in selling bonds for school construction.”

Local authority and decision-making, for Wade, is the central issue.

“The power lies with local governments to determine what they can afford and how much they can afford,” Wade said, adding that the city of Memphis is not the largest funding source for MCS.

“The County Commission sets 90 percent of their funding. We’re the tail on the dog, your honor.”

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93. Beale, Lee’s Landing Battles Continue -

Once upon a time there was talk of a change in the management of the Beale Street entertainment district. And for a rare moment in November, it seemed that all of the many sides that have some role in the running of Beale Street were about to agree to it.

94. 2008: World in Flux Mirrored in Court System -

Civil Court filings in Shelby County remained mostly consistent in 2008 compared to previous years, even as the world outside the paperwork and legal motions changed.

Filings for divorces, foreclosures, guardianships and other chapters of life came as various courtrooms reeled from a recession and wondered about a change in power and, likely, philosophy at the White House.

95. Closing Arguments in MCS Funding Case Set for Feb. -

A landmark court case over who bears the ultimate funding responsibility for Memphis City Schools will move toward its conclusion in February.

Both sides in a Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit filed in June by Memphis City Schools will be back in court Feb. 9 to present closing arguments.

96. Next Bell Rings for Crucial Funding Deal - Representatives of Memphis City Schools will be back in court soon to argue that a judge should force the school district and the Memphis City Council to negotiate new terms of a crucial funding deal.

But the circumstances MCS detailed in a court filing last week to show why the school district believes mediation is necessary have since changed in an important way.

The school district wants a court to force MCS and the city council to begin mediation to negotiate a compromise that preserves $423 million in state funding for the city schools. The deal they have now is a funding arrangement that was crafted at the same time the two sides remained locked in a pending Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit over school funding.

Under the terms of the current funding compromise – which has the state’s blessing – the school district would be able to submit a balanced budget to the state even though the city council earlier this summer cut $66 million in funding to MCS. The City Council’s funding cut is what led to the school district’s lawsuit.

New stalemate

The deal approved by the state to keep the $423 million flowing to MCS took what had been described as a potential fiscal crisis off the table. Both sides will be back in court this morning, however, because MCS doesn’t like the terms of that deal.

Not only does MCS not like the terms of the funding deal, but in asking for the mediation, the school district pointed out that no decision about accepting the deal had yet been made by either MCS or the city council. MCS also argued that the nature of the opposing parties made it difficult to “effectively negotiate an agreement.”

“The State Department of Education has approved an outline for meeting maintenance of effort requirements,” the school district’s motion reads. “However, neither the Memphis City Schools nor the City Council has agreed to any arrangement which allows the Memphis City Schools to submit a legal budget and to avoid a … crisis.”

That’s no longer the case. The city council on Tuesday formally approved the terms of the funding compromise approved by the state.

Two weeks ago, the state commissioner of education gave his OK to the compromise deal, which had been weeks in the making. And while the compromise does not address the $66 million hole left by the council’s decision, it still keeps MCS from automatically losing the state’s larger funding contribution.

The fine print

Under the terms of the arrangement, MCS would transfer $57.5 million from its reserve funds to the city to settle a countersuit from the city over unpaid bond debt. The city, in turn, would give that money back to the school district so MCS can submit a budget to the state that maintains the school district’s state-mandated funding obligations.

But since the state’s acceptance of that plan was announced at the city council’s public meeting on Aug. 5, MCS officials have insisted the plan is unacceptable. They argue that the deal is not a genuine compromise because there is no net gain for the school district and because the district still will be forced to deplete the school’s reserve funds over time as a result of the council’s $66 million cut.

In an editorial written by school board president Tomeka Hart that appears in next week’s edition of The Memphis News, she argues: “When the transaction is final, the ‘financial position’ of MCS will not have changed, and it is easy to see that MCS will still have to make major cuts to its budget.”

Said Irving Hamer, the school district’s deputy superintendent of academic operations: “It’s very clear to me this is not full funding. This is what I call a pass-through. The money is coming from us, to the council then back to us. And that doesn’t correspond to my understanding of what full funding means.”

Context of compromise

But that misses the point of what the compromise was intended to do, the city likely will argue when the motion to compel mediation is heard Sept. 12.

“The issue of resolving the proposal with the state was never intended to encompass the $66 million. That is not on the table,” city council attorney Allan Wade said this week. “That is what they are arguing will make them financially unsound going into the future. That is a discussion we can have for another day, but that is not impacted in this proposal.

“This (compromise) is not intended to solve every problem MCS has. That’s what the lawsuit is about.”

At a council committee meeting Tuesday, council member Wanda Halbert rebuked MCS officials for criticizing a deal she said they had a hand in shaping.

“This compromise, or this agreement, was not reached by the city council alone. You all had representatives there,” she said. “And now to come back because you realize that whatever decision was made… that it doesn’t necessarily help you in the way you thought it would – there’s always a different way to approach it and deal with it.”

Final briefs in the chancery court school funding lawsuit were due this week. Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has not yet set a date to hear closing arguments.

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97. Closing Arguments In MCS Case Set -

Shelby County Chancery Court Chancellor Kenny Armstrong has set a date for closing arguments in the Memphis City Schools funding lawsuit.

Closing arguments will take place Aug. 11, which also happens to be the first day of classes for the city school district. Armstrong set that date Monday after it became clear all sides in the funding dispute still need time to review tapes and transcripts of legislative hearings from Nashville relative to various hearings and votes about bills that pertain to the matter.

98. School Funding War Wages in Court -

The term “whale” is used in the world of casino gaming to describe the kind of gambler able to bet millions of dollars.

In the Memphis City Schools funding debate, the Memphis City Council is the whale, and its members are betting $423 million they will come out on the winning side in a potentially precedent-setting court action. A lawsuit that was filed last month by Memphis City Schools over the council’s decision to cut the city’s subsidy to MCS by almost $70 million went before Shelby County Chancery Court Chancellor Kenny Armstrong in a non-jury trial that began Thursday.

99. Steady as She Goes -

Memphis City Schools in June filed a lawsuit in Shelby County Chancery Court against the city of Memphis because of the City Council’s cutting of nearly $70 million in funds for MCS.

The city school board, along with state education officials, stand behind their position that the city never should cut its funding to MCS.

100. Most Press Shut Out Of MCS Hearing -

A Shelby County Chancery Court hearing on the Memphis City Schools’ lawsuit against the city of Memphis began Thursday morning with most of the press not allowed into the courtroom.

The case is a critical point in the whole debate about the way local government funds public education. But Chancellor Kenny Armstrong’s courtroom was quickly filled to capacity with onlookers as well as attorneys and potential witnesses in the matter.