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VOL. 125 | NO. 144 | Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Charter Commission Recommends 25 Member Metro Council

By Bill Dries

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Metro charter commissioners have settled on a 25 member metro council with four multi member districts.

The commission voted Monday to send to a drafting committee the key decision on what the legislative body of a consolidated government would look like.

The Metro Council would have 13 council members elected from a set of 13 districts covering all of Shelby County. Twelve more council members would be elected from a set of four larger or super districts also covering the county. There would be three council positions for each of the super districts.

The charter commission also approved a district map for the super districts. But it sent the single member district map back to the demographics consulting firm it hired to redraw the district lines. Charter commissioners were concerned about how some communities were split among several districts.

The commission meets again Thursday afternoon as it goes to twice a week meetings in order to get the proposed charter drafted and delivered by Aug. 10.

The charter proposal then goes to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot where it must win both in the city of Memphis and in Shelby County outside Memphis.

The roll call vote by the commission on the structure of a metro council came after a debate in which several commissioners argued for a smaller legislative body in the name of a smaller and more efficient local government. Other charter commissioners countered that more members means smaller district and smaller districts mean running for the offices becomes possible for more citizens who haven’t run before.

Commissioner Jim Strickland pushed the proposal which he says creates a “bicameral” city council and prevents the council from being a group of legislators bound solely by the interests of their districts.

Read more about the discussion in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily News.

The commission also recommended a consolidated government use Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) instead of a separate run off election in races where no candidate gets a majority of the votes. The IRV option isn’t now available for voting machines but if and when it becomes available in Tennessee it would be required under the provision.

In instant runoff voting, voters don’t check a box. Instead they number candidates in the order they prefer them. They can use as few numbers as one or give a number to every candidate in the race. If a candidate is not in the top two finishers, election officials then transfer the second choices of his or her voters to the other candidates to come up with a majority of votes for one contender.

The charter commission also recommended eliminating the $100 filing fee required for candidates in city elections. The fee is returned to a candidate if that candidate gets less than ten percent of the vote. There is no filing fee for candidates in county elections.

Still to come are decisions on:

•Holding elections for the new consolidated government in 2011 or going to the even years schedule now used for county offices. The commission is awaiting new legal opinions from its attorneys. There is also concern that a 2011 election would be too soon, but waiting for a 2013 election would create a transition period between governments that would be too long.

•Changing a proposed 10 percent cap on any property tax increase that can be passed by the metro council to five percent. The commission has heard from financial officers in city and county government that a five percent cap might hurt the new government’s bond rating because it would limit the government’s ability to deal with emergencies or unexpected financial setbacks.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064