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VOL. 125 | NO. 176 | Friday, September 10, 2010

Proposed Metro Council Would Be Two-Tiered Body

By Bill Dries

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The metro consolidation charter going to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot would create a metro council that is just one shy of the total when you add the current City Council to the current Shelby County Commission.

The metro council is a two-tier legislative body with single- and multi-member districts, a combination featured in the structure of both the council and commission.

Council Structure:

The county is covered twice by a 25-member metro council that has 13 single-member districts that cover the entire county and a second tier of four multi-member districts that also cover the entire county. Each multi-member or super district has three elected representatives. The net effect is every voter chooses four representatives on the metro council because every voter lives in one of the single-member districts and one of the multi-member districts.

Thirteen is a majority. Seventeen members is a quorum and a two-thirds majority.

This is the third in a series of articles detailing parts of the metro government charter on the Nov. 2 ballot. The series will continue each Friday through Oct. 29.

The body would meet the first and third Tuesday of each month.

Council members or “councilors” are elected to four-year terms of office. There is a limit of two consecutive terms, and there are no staggered terms; the council members are all elected at the same time every four years.

Those serving on the council must be at least 18 years old, a registered voter and current on all local taxes. Each council member must have lived continuously for a year in the district he or she represents. Council members must live in the district they represent for their full term of office or the office can be declared vacant.

Serving on the council is a part-time job with no government pension, and council members cannot change their own salary, although they are allowed to redraw the district lines once every 10 years.

The starting pay for the first council would be $29,100 a year, which is the pay of Memphis City Council members and Shelby County Commissioners as of Sept. 1.

The council passes resolutions and ordinances including ordinances setting the city’s operating and capital improvements budgets as well as tax rates for the urban and general services districts. The urban services district tax rate is set by three members of the council who live in Memphis, the urban services district, and are required by state law to set the urban services tax rate each year. They are selected each year by other council members to serve on the body whose only function is to set the tax rate.

District Lines:

The metro council district lines had to be drawn based on the 2000 census because the 2010 census results aren’t expected until December. The goal was to have districts that as much as possible separated the urban district areas or the city of Memphis from the rest of the county.

That wasn’t possible in every case. Nine of the single-member districts are entirely within Memphis. District 5 includes the unincorporated Bridgewater area, which is surrounded by Memphis and is in the Memphis annexation reserve area.

Seven of the 25 council members – four single members and three from one multi-member district – would be elected from outside Memphis, comprising 28 percent of the council. That corresponds to the percentage of the county’s population that lives outside Memphis, according to the 2000 census.

Each of the 13 single-member districts has an average population of 69,036.

Six are majority white and seven are majority black

Each of the four multi-member districts has an average population of 224,368.

Two are majority white and two are majority black. In each case, the racial majorities are 70 percent or higher.

Vacancies, Resignations, Removals:

No special elections will be held to fill vacancies on the council. If more than two years are left on the departing council member’s term of office, the position goes on the next scheduled metro election ballot. The rest of the council can appoint an acting council member until the election results are certified. If less than two years are left in the term of office, the council appoints someone for the rest of the term. In either case, the person appointed cannot run for the seat in the next election.

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