VOL. 128 | NO. 5 | Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Council Tackles Blue CRUSH, Wage Theft
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members take up third and final reading Tuesday, Jan. 8, of an ordinance that sets up a local General Sessions Court-based process for settling “wage theft” complaints.
The council meeting is at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.
The complaints involve workers who allege that they are not being paid overtime for extra hours to “fees” taken out of paychecks to working conditions like stopping the work clock when there are no customers.
The concept spurred a lively debate last year on the Shelby County Commission about the need for the local process, the role of state and federal labor authorities and what the impact of a local process is on business owners.
The commission’s vote on third and final reading is scheduled for that body’s Jan. 14 meeting.
The city ordinance would apply within the city limits of Memphis. The county ordinance would apply to unincorporated Shelby County. Neither ordinance would cover Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities.
At an 11 a.m. committee meeting, council members will discuss a December letter from the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission to Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Police Director Toney Armstrong about cutbacks in the Blue CRUSH effort.
Blue CRUSH, begun in 2006 under Police Director Larry Godwin, is a statistics-driven approach that focuses police efforts and resources on crime hot spots. It is given much of the credit for reductions across most Memphis crime categories and in the overall crime rate since 2006.
But the crime rate rose in 2012.
“This concerns us because it has been over the same period that our community has seen the successful violent crime reductions erode by nearly half,” wrote Crime Commission executive director Michelle Fowlkes, chairman Ben Adams and state Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who signed the letter in his role as chairman of Operation Safe Community.
Operation Safe Community is a coalition of law enforcement agencies and elected officials as well as civic groups including the Crime Commission.
The coalition, which also includes Wharton and Armstrong, has as one of its goals or “action items” continuing to use data-driven direction of police resources – a point the executive committee reiterated.
“While the plan includes intervention and prevention action items of vital importance to crime reduction, the executive committee … feels strongly that this action item is the most important short-term step to take in curbing the disturbing increase in violent crime,” they wrote in the letter to Wharton and Armstrong. “We leave it to the experts to run the police department, but they must have the resources to do what works.”
When Wharton appointed Armstrong as police director in April 2011, Armstrong said he planned to continue Blue CRUSH, but would also broaden policing tactics to include a return to community policing. Godwin’s move away from community policing was predicated on his belief that Blue CRUSH was a form of community policing.
Armstrong recently redrew boundaries for the nine police precincts to equalize the amount of calls each handles. He said he hopes the move will also give officers more patrol time between calls instead of shifts where police officers go from call to call.
Council members will also take up three resolutions at a 9 a.m. committee session involving the $300 million expansion of the Nike plant in Frayser. Two of the resolutions transfer city funding for design and construction work as well as the moving of a sewer line. The third resolution backs a city administration request for state grant funds to pay for the infrastructure improvements.
At the 3:30 p.m. meeting, the full council will vote on two resolutions that close streets or alleys off Frayser Boulevard at the plant site.
And during a 10 a.m. committee meeting council members will get a look at city revenues and expenditures for the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1.
The report from city finance director Brian Collins includes a revenue forecast in which he projects total revenues for the city will be $2.8 million below the budget plan approved by the council last spring.
A major factor in the projection is a drop from the expected property tax revenue of about 3 percent. Meanwhile, local sales tax collections are trending 5 percent below last year’s numbers.
The two add up to a possible $8.7 million impact on the budget. That is offset by a projection of $1.3 million above the budget in fines and forfeitures the city is collecting under a revised fee structure.
And ambulance service fee collection is ahead of pace by about $2 million. Collins’ numbers show $3.4 million in unplanned revenue coming from closing on the sale of the old Defense Depot property and money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.