Council Delays Schools Vote as Wharton and Haslam Talk

By Bill Dries

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. told Memphis City Council members Thursday that he and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam have been talking about some more changes in the state legislation that would lengthen the schools consolidation process to three years.

The discussions, which Wharton said he wouldn’t characterize as positive or negative or optimistic or pessimistic, were the basis for a decision Thursday evening by the council to delay a vote on ratifying the Dec. 20 Memphis City Schools board vote to surrender the MCS charter.

Some council members believe that if they ratify the earlier vote, it would dissolve the school system without it being necessary to have a March 8 citywide referendum. The option is on shaky legal ground and city council attorney Allan Wade has said such a council decision would not cancel the March 8 vote.

The council is next scheduled to meet Thursday at 4:30 p.m. but it could meet again on 24-hour notice from the chairman or vice chairman if the legislature tries to move up passage of the legislation before Monday’s votes.

Wharton said Haslam assured him that if the bills pass Monday, he would not sign them into law without giving the city a chance to make its case before him on the legislation.

Any amendments to the legislation would be up to state Senate Republican leader Mark Norris and House sponsor Curry Todd, both Shelby County Republicans.