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VOL. 123 | NO. 219 | Friday, November 07, 2008

Charter Commission Work Not Finished Yet

By Bill Dries

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Here are the unofficial vote totals for all 10 charter questions as of Thursday afternoon:

Shelby County Charter Amendment No. 364
Five countywide offices become charter offices with no salary petitions for four of five offices.
All 274 precincts reporting
Yes    237,032    68%
No    112,438    32%

Shelby County Charter Amendment No. 365
Term limits of two consecutive four-year terms for those elected sheriff, county clerk, trustee, register and assessor.
All 274 precincts reporting
Yes     276,531    79%
No       75,104    21%

Memphis City Charter Ordinance No. 5232
Provisions for the recall of a City Council member.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    171,489    77%
No      50,210    23%

Memphis City Charter Ordinance No. 5265
City residency requirement for division directors and other city appointees.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    161,205    72%   
No      64,013    28%

Referendum No. 1
Term limits of two consecutive four-year terms for those elected to City Council and city mayor post.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    179,844    78%
No      49,852    22%

Referendum No. 2
Staggering City Council terms and moving city elections to even-numbered years in November every two years.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    145,606    72%
No      55,063    28%

Referendum No. 3
No sale of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division without approval by city voters.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    156,570    80%
No      39,116    20%

Referendum No. 4
Any elected or appointed city official indicted or charged with corruption is suspended with pay.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    167,369    75%
No      55,080    25%

Referendum No. 5
Instant runoff voting as an option in school board and City Council district races.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes    154,269    71%
No      64,016    29%

Referendum No. 6
Mayoral vacancy process in which council chairman becomes interim mayor.
All 231 precincts reporting
Yes     188,608    85%
No      33,250    15%

Memphis Charter Commission Chairman Myron Lowery called it “the day after.”

The day after Shelby County voters approved all 10 charter amendments on Tuesday’s ballot, The Memphis Charter Commission held one of its last meetings at City Hall.

“I think we have a lot to be proud of,” Lowery said. “It shows that our work over the past 25 months has not gone in vain.”

The seven-member elected body that drafted six of the eight Memphis charter amendments on the ballot will meet at least one more time on Dec. 9 to vote on a series of “housekeeping” changes to the Memphis charter. The changes do not have to go to voters for approval, according to two legal opinions the group received from Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, as long as they are not substantive.

In many cases they are changes in wording to reflect the mayor-council form of government the city has had for the past 40 years. The charter kept the original wording, referring to the legislative body as a commission.

More Memphians voted on the term limits charter amendment than any of the other seven proposals.

The lowest turnout was on the MLGW charter amendment, the idea that led to the creation and election of the Memphis Charter Commission in 2006.

ONE MORE TIME: All six Memphis charter amendments were approved by city voters this week. But the Memphis Charter Commission, which includes Sylvia Cox (not shown), Myron Lowery, Willie Brooks and Janis Fullilove, has at least one more meeting left to approve housekeeping changes to the city charter. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES

The most active campaign for any of the city charter questions was among those who favored instant runoff voting. It included television ads and poll workers. It had the lowest percentage of “yes” votes of any of the eight questions.

But County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, the most visible proponent of the voting system, said its passage, along with the other provisions, is a message from voters.

“We achieved fundamental structural election reform that’s going to change Memphis politics and Memphis democracy as it goes forward for decades to come,” he said.

Using the voting system depends on approval from state election officials as well as the local election commission buying the necessary computer software and hardware.

Lowery was critical of the way the Election Commission handled Tuesday night’s vote count, which was stalled because of problems with an optical ballot scanner.

He termed it “horrible” and “simply atrocious waiting as long as they did.”

The provision for filling a vacancy in the mayor’s office had the highest percentage of “yes” votes coming eight months after Mayor Willie Herenton talked of possibly resigning.

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