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Editorial Results (free)

1. Council Could Close Door on Alternative Health Plans -

Memphis City Council members could put to rest alternatives to the health care insurance benefits cuts they approved in June when they meet Tuesday, Sept. 16.

The question is whether they would do that with some kind of vote or indication through discussion or whether they will simply let the June decision stand and take no further votes.

2. Council Bogs Down in Health Insurance Numbers -

When Memphis City Council members meet Tuesday, Sept. 16, they will still be considering alternatives to the health care insurance plan changes they approved in June.

And they probably still will be trying to make sense of a mind-numbing array of conflicting numbers.

3. Budget Changes Include Cooper-Young Garage -

A Cooper-Young parking garage and a pool of capital funding divided equally among the seven Memphis City Council districts are the two biggest ticket items in the way of still-tentative budget amendments proposed by council members.

4. Council Begins Decisions on City Financial Changes -

Memphis City Council members took the first steps Tuesday, June 3, toward major changes in pension benefits for city employees and began delving into the details of even broader changes in health insurance coverage for city employees and retirees.

5. Council Unhappy With Budget Plans So Far -

The administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. got a rough reception at the Tuesday, April 1, Memphis City Council session as it set the stage for Wharton’s budget proposal to come in two weeks.

6. 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.

7. Police Plan New Evidence Storage for Rape Kits -

A backlog of thousands of unprocessed rape kits, some dating back to the 1980s, has gone from a plan to process them to a new DNA evidence storage room for the Memphis Police Department.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said Tuesday, Sept. 3, the new evidence storage room would be built at the current police impound lot at the old International Harvester plant in Frayser.

8. Sales Tax Hike Goes to City Voters -

For months, political forces have been gathering to make the case for a half percent hike in the city sales tax rate that would fund a city administered pre-kindergarten program.

But when the Memphis City Council approved on third and final reading Tuesday, Aug. 6, of the ordinance to put it on the ballot for city voters in October, the debate revealed a significant difference of opinion.

9. City Budget Woes Affect 400 Employees -

The numbers at play so far in the Memphis City Council’s long budget season are big.

Council members tallied $24.4 million in city operating budget cuts Tuesday, June 18, in a marathon seven-hour session before an overflow crowd of angry city employees.

10. Council Approves $24.2 Million In Budget Cuts -

Memphis City Council members tallied $24.2 million in city operating budget cuts Tuesday, June 18, in a marathon seven-hour session before an overflow crowd of angry city employees.

But the council adjourned before taking a final vote on the operating budget as amended or setting a city property tax rate.

11. Police Budget Passes Early Council Test -

The Memphis City Council’s budget committee approved the largest budget for any single city division Tuesday, May 7.

But the committee debate before the vote set the stage for what is expected to be more discussion about how much the Memphis Police Department needs to protect and serve.

12. Severance Pay Ups Ante in Auto Inspections Stand-Off -

Some on the Memphis City Council weren’t certain Tuesday, April 16, about going ahead with a severance package for the city employees who now work at city-run auto inspection stations.

The council entered the budget season for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 just minutes earlier with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s budget address.

13. Sales Tax Referendum Shifts to Late Summer -

A referendum on a half-percent city sales tax hike to fund a city pre-kindergarten expansion and roll back the city property tax rate by 20 cents would happen in August or September instead of May.

14. Council Preps for Late Summer Sales Tax Hike Referendum -

A referendum on a half percent city sales tax hike to fund a city pre kindergarten expansion and roll back the city property tax rate by 20 cents would happen in August or September instead of May.

15. McGhee’s Career of Service Stretches From Police to Bar -

Charles McGhee of Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC grew up in a family dedicated to service.

Born in Japan to a U.S. Marine father and Japanese mother, McGhee moved with his parents to San Diego when he was not quite a year old. Upon his father’s duty coming to an end, they moved to Memphis to be near family.

16. Council Reconsiders Golf Course Closings -

Four city golf courses were scheduled to close for the winter season on Dec. 1, with one of the four – Whitehaven – to close permanently.

That was the decision the Memphis City Council made last spring as it set the city budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

17. Gay, Transgender City Workers Protected From Discrimination -

At the end of a long night at City Hall with a relatively short agenda, Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism told Memphis City Council members that their meetings looked like more “fun” than the commission’s meetings.

18. Family Law Firm Home for Moskovitz -

Mitch Moskovitz, founding partner at Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC, who has been practicing family law in Memphis for 20 years, said he “always knew he was going to go to law school.”

19. Council Passes Sales Tax Hike Ballot Question -

The pair of questions the Memphis City Council is considering for the Nov. 6 ballot is another chapter in the council’s nearly five-year debate about the size and role of city government.

The council Tuesday, July 17, approved on third and final reading the referendum ordinance that puts a half percent local option sales tax hike proposal to Memphis voters.

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. Shea Touts Law Alternative To Litigated Divorce -

The collaborative law movement has reached Memphis, and Wanda B. Shea, founding member of Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC, has helped an array of people using this relatively new brand of “no court” divorce.

23. 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.

24. Get Out the Vote -

The overall numbers through the first two weeks of early voting seem to indicate a low overall turnout including Election Day in the set of city elections to be decided Oct. 6.

But within the early vote numbers are some indications of voter hotspots.

25. 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.

26. MCS Board Delays Special Meeting On School Funding Compromise - A special meeting of the Memphis City Schools board set for Friday evening has been postponed on the advice of the school system's attorney.

The meeting was a key element in a compromise in which the board would rescind its July 19 vote to delay the opening of schools Aug. 8.

27. 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.

28. Wharton, City Council Mix it Up Over Budget -

The Memphis City Council should vote on an operating budget for the city at its first meeting in June.

There is no schedule for working out the council’s sizeable and long-building difference of opinion on how to balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

29. Council, Wharton Spar Over LayOffs -

Memphis City Council members and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. mixed it up Tuesday evening about where the line is drawn between the two branches of city government when it comes to planned city layoffs.

30. Budget Decisions to Yield ‘Good’ or ‘Tough’ Year -

Several Memphis City Council members will propose ideas to raise city revenues in place of city layoffs and service cutbacks in the new budget year.

The outlines of the coming proposals surfaced on the opening day Monday of hearings by the council’s budget committee.

31. Council Kicks Off Budget Hearings -

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

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

32. Council Approval of MCS Budget Comes With Strings -

The Memphis City Council approved the Memphis City Schools (MCS) system’s $891.7 million operating budget Tuesday for the 2010-2011 fiscal and school year.

But the council left open exactly how much of that budget the city will provide and asserted it has control over which revenue sources the school system can use to fund the budget.

33. MCS Funding Moves Closer to Ballot -

The latest move in the three-year battle over city funding of Memphis City Schools could be a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Memphis City Council chairman Harold Collins is proposing a citywide vote on changing the city charter to abolish the part of it that gives the city the power to fund the Memphis school system with a school tax or any other kind of revenue or assets.

34. 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.

35. A City in Transition -

Just before sunrise on a rainy Tuesday morning, the armed officers raided the city office. They didn’t make any arrests, but they took files, interviewed employees and served search warrants. And they temporarily closed the Memphis Animal Shelter.

36. 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.

37. Morris Confirmed As City Atty. -

Memphis Mayor elect A C Wharton Jr. was put to the test by Memphis City Council members before he even takes office.

The council approved his indirect nomination of Herman Morris as the new city attorney.

And it approved his five indirect nominees to the Metro Charter Commission.

But there was a lot of discussion among council members this afternoon and evening about:

-Morris being paid $140,000 a year as city attorney, $15 thousand more than his predecessor, Elbert Jefferson.

-Whether Morris was the choice of outgoing Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery or Wharton. The answer was Wharton with Lowery making the appointment since he is still mayor.

In another rapid move, Wharton and Lowery teamed up to appoint the five city of Memphis representatives to the Metro Charter Commission. All five nominees were recommended by members of the City Council. Normally, the council votes on such groups of nominees to one body with a single vote on the slate. The council voted separately on all five.

The original five nominees were:

-Damon Griffin, an assistant District Attorney General.

-Carmen Sandoval, an administrative director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

-Steve Ross, a freelance video and technical director who also has a popular political blog.

-Jim Strickland, attorney and Memphis city council member.

-Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and candidate for Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk in past elections as well as in the 2010 elections.

Strickland was named just this week to Wharton’s transition team. But he is giving up the transition team spot to serve on the charter group. Council members Bill Boyd and Joe Brown voted against Strickland’s appointment saying they considered it to be a conflict of interest for an elected official to serve on the commission. Brown didn’t vote on the other nominations. Council member Wanda Halbert passed on Strickland.

Ross encountered vocal resistance during committee sessions from council members upset with critical comments he has made on his blog about council members. Council member Shea Flinn, who recommended Ross, came to his defense during an emotional committee discussion – clashing with Brown as Lowery and Wharton watched from the end of the council committee table.

“I’m a real man,” Brown told Flinn at the end of the exchange. “I’m a real black man. I hope you are a real white man.”

By the time the council voted, Wharton and Lowery decided to pull his nomination and instead nominated Richard Smith, a FedEx executive and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith. Council member Janis Fullilove was the only no vote. Halbert recused herself because she works at FedEx. Brown and Boyd did not vote.

...

38. Wharton Picks Morris for City Attorney Post -  

Memphis Mayor elect A C Wharton Jr. was put to the test by Memphis City Council members before he even takes office.

The council Tuesday approved his indirect nomination of Herman Morris as the new city attorney. And it approved his five indirect nominees to the Metro Charter Commission.

But there was a lot of discussion among council members this afternoon and evening about:

  • Morris being paid $140,000 a year as city attorney, $15 thousand more than his predecessor, Elbert Jefferson.
  • Whether Morris was the choice of outgoing Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery or Wharton. The answer was Wharton with Lowery making the appointment since he is still mayor.

In another rapid move, Wharton and Lowery teamed up to appoint the five city of Memphis representatives to the Metro Charter Commission. All five nominees were recommended by members of the City Council. Normally, the council votes on such groups of nominees to one body with a single vote on the slate. The council voted separately on all five.

The original five nominees were:

  • Damon Griffin, an assistant District Attorney General.
  • Carmen Sandoval, an administrative director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Steve Ross, a freelance video and technical director who also has a popular political blog.
  • Jim Strickland, attorney and Memphis city council member.
  • Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and candidate for Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk in past elections as well as in the 2010 elections.

Strickland was named just this week to Wharton’s transition team. But he is giving up the transition team spot to serve on the charter group. Council members Bill Boyd and Joe Brown voted against Strickland’s appointment saying they considered it to be a conflict of interest for an elected official to serve on the commission. Brown didn’t vote on the other nominations. Council member Wanda Halbert passed on Strickland.

Ross encountered vocal resistance during committee sessions from council members upset with critical comments he has made on his blog about council members. Council member Shea Flinn, who recommended Ross, came to his defense during an emotional committee discussion – clashing with Brown as Lowery and Wharton watched from the end of the council committee table.

“I’m a real man,” Brown told Flinn at the end of the exchange. “I’m a real black man. I hope you are a real white man.”

By the time the council voted, Wharton and Lowery decided to pull his nomination and instead nominated Richard Smith, a FedEx executive and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith. Council member Janis Fullilove was the only no vote. Halbert recused herself because she works at FedEx. Brown and Boyd did not vote.

...

39. 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.

40. Majority Rules In Metro Charter Commission Accord -

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

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

41. 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.

42. 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.”

...

43. 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.”

...

44. New Mayor Lowery Braces for First Council Battle -

Memphis Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery goes to the City Council today with a new nominee for city attorney, former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman Davis, and lots of questions from some of his former council colleagues about his dismissal Friday of the old city attorney.

45. 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.

46. 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.

47. 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.

48. Some Doubt Council Will Finish Budget Today -

The Memphis City Council will have an opportunity today to finalize the city’s operating and capital improvement budgets and set a new property tax rate.

Those items are part of today’s full council agenda and are topics its budget committee has been meeting about until as late as 11 p.m. over the past several weeks.

49. 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.

50. 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.

51. 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.

52. 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.

53. 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.”

...

54. 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.

55. MCS Appropriation Foreshadows City Budget Reality -

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

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

56. 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.

57. 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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58. Residency Decision Uncovers Underlying Attitudes -

It may have been the most important debate the Memphis City Council has had since the group of 13 took office in January. And it may affect the way council members see each other for quite some time.

59. 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.

...

60. 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.

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

63. Legal Fallout Looms After MCS Funds Cut -

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

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

64. Council to Talk Money Again Today -

Memphis City Council members resume budget hearings today after an opening session Monday evening in which cutting all the nearly $90 million in city funding for the Memphis school system was a dominant topic.

65. Attorney General To Defend Strip Club Ordinance -

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper will help defend the Shelby County ordinance governing Memphis strip clubs in U.S. District Court.

Cooper's office filed a motion Monday to intervene on the side of the city and county in the case filed by seven strip club owners. The suit challenges the constitutionality of the ordinance as well as the state law on which the ordinance is based.

66. City Council Puts Off Strip Club Ordinance Vote -

The Memphis City Council has delayed indefinitely a final vote on a new city ordinance governing strip clubs.

Tuesday's 7-5 vote to table the ordinance means a county ordinance banning beer sales at the clubs enacted last year remains in effect for the city of Memphis as well as the unincorporated county.

67. City Council Puts Off Strip Club Ordinance Vote -

The Memphis City Council has delayed indefinitely a final vote on a new city ordinance governing strip clubs.

This afternoon's 7-5 vote to table the ordinance means a county ordinance banning beer sales at the clubs enacted last year remains in effect for the city of Memphis as well as the unincorporated county.

68. Strip Club Ordinance Raises Ire -

It was the last major issue for the Memphis City Council that left office at the end of 2007.

Its members passed a city ordinance on the first of three readings that would regulate strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses. And then the council delayed the measure until the newly elected council, with nine new members, took office in January.

69. Council Debates Worker Residency -

The Memphis City Council that took office in January had its first major debate this month and emerged with the appearance that nothing was taken personally.

At issue was a recent proposal by council member Jim Strickland to waive the city's policy of only hiring emergency personnel, including firefighters and police officers who live within Shelby County or move within the county limits six months after they are hired.

70. Sands - and Plans - Shift in Pyramid Deliberations -

At least one Memphis City Council member expects changes to the tentative terms of a development agreement between local government and Bass Pro Shops for use of The Pyramid. Meanwhile, the developer of the rival Pyramid Harbor project has made some changes to his plans already.

71. Sands Shift in Pyramid Saga -

At least one Memphis City Council member expects changes to the tentative terms of a development agreement between local government and Bass Pro Shops for use of The Pyramid. Meanwhile, the developer of the rival Pyramid Harbor project has made some changes to his plans already.

72. Sands Shift in Pyramid Saga -

At least one Memphis City Council member expects changes to the tentative terms of a development agreement between local government and Bass Pro Shops for use of The Pyramid. Meanwhile, the developer of the rival Pyramid Harbor project has made some changes to his plans already.

73. Too Early to Tell How Council Approach Has Changed -

Some things changed and some remained the same for the new Memphis City Council this week. And some remain to be seen.

The twice-monthly council sessions usually mean some long Tuesdays at City Hall - at times 12 hours or more starting with committee sessions at around 8 or 9 in the morning.

74. City Council Races Overflow With 83 Candidates Filing -

It's the year of the open seat on the Memphis City Council.

With seven incumbents not running for re-election and the resignation last month of an eighth, it is already the biggest turnover of council seats in the 40-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

75. Archived Article: Graphic (divattys) - Most active divorce attorneys Most active divorce attorneys Plaintiffs most often represented themselves in divorce proceedings over the past 14 months, according to petitions filed in circuit or chancery court. When an attorney was involved, here's...

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77. Archived Article: Law Offices - Local bar association Local bar association nominees announced The Memphis Bar Association has released the report of its nominations and elections committee for 1999 offices. The 1999 president will be Dorothy J. Pounders and the vice president wil...

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80. Archived Article - Email Template Most Active Divorce Attorneys* Circuit and Chancery courts - Jan. 1, 1997 through June 30, 1998 Attorney Name No. of Cases Filed Julie D. Byrd 258 Michael D. Harrell 182 Sabrina D. Ball 175 Charles E. Rich 121 S...

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