VOL. 124 | NO. 228 | Thursday, November 19, 2009
Charter Commission Elects Ellis Chair
By Bill Dries
POSITIONING: Attorney Julie Ellis, left, is chairwoman of the Metro Charter Commission. Andre Fowlkes was elected vice chairman at the group’s second meeting earlier this week. -- PHOTO BY BILL DRIES
As Shelby County Commissioners were appointing an interim county mayor this week, the Metro Charter Commission was working four floors above them at the County Administration Building in only its second meeting.
The group that will write a proposed charter for a consolidated Memphis and Shelby County government chose attorney Julie Ellis as its chairwoman. Ellis had been serving as organizational chairwoman of the 15-member body. The group also elected Andre Fowlkes as vice chairman and Lou Etta Burkins as secretary.
For at least the next two meetings, the commission will hear about how the two local governments now function. They have put together a list of people they want to talk to, including all six of the county’s suburban mayors, the Memphis police director, the Shelby County sheriff and leaders of both public school systems.
Some elected leaders in both governments have said any plan that would merge the two school systems would doom the rest of the proposal in the pair of referenda to come in a year that will decide the fate of the proposed charter.
But commission member the Rev. Randolph Meade Walker said he felt the group is “under compulsion” to at least look at how the two school systems are now structured and funded.
Charter Commissioner Rufus Washington agreed.
“I’d like to understand why,” he said.
The commission has about nine months to put together a proposed charter and submit it to voters for their consideration in November 2010.
“When we see something we really like, we should start writing what we think it should look like,” Ellis urged the group. “This is something all of us collectively have to look at.”
The group’s next meeting will be Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Shelby County Administration Building.
“We need to be rolling up our sleeves, getting some white boards out and working it all out,” Fowlkes said.