VOL. 125 | NO. 238 | Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Council Moves To Set Up School System Summit
By Bill Dries
Memphis city council members are setting up a summit meeting to talk about the political standoff between the county’s two public school systems.
Council members approved a resolution Tuesday calling for a meeting of the two school boards, the council, the Shelby County Commission, both mayors and Shelby County legislators to Nashville.
The resolution was the work of council member Wanda Halbert and council chairman Harold Collins.
The meeting comes as the Shelby County school system has prepared to again win approval of special school district legislation in Nashville. In reaction to that and the increased likelihood it could pass with the strengthened Republican majority in the House, some city school board members have proposed the city school system surrender its charter.
A vote on the charter surrender resolution could come at the city school board’s Dec. 20 meeting. If the resolution passes, it would set up a referendum of Memphis voters on the surrender. The referendum could come as early as March.
The council is tentatively working on a meeting date before the city school board’s Dec. 13 meeting. That is a non-voting meeting of the school board but it is a critical date in the movement of the charter surrender resolution. At the meeting, the board will decide whether to put the item on its Dec. 20 agenda for debate and a vote.
The resolution is being proposed by board member Martavius Jones who said as recently as Monday evening that he intends to push ahead with it. Board member Tomeka Hart has also been a proponent of the charter surrender. But other board members have either said they need more information before voting or are opposed to a charter surrender.
The school system also made clear to legislators at a Monday meeting with the delegation that it opposes the special school district legislation.
The meeting is one of several efforts local elected leaders outside both school systems have made in the last two weeks to get both school systems at the same table to talk about some compromise.
In other action, the council:
•Sent to the Memphis-Shelby County Industrial Development Board (IDB) the city’s allocation of federal Recovery Zone Facility Bonds. City Finance Director Roland McElrath confirmed that the Pinch redevelopment project that is part of the Bass Pro Shops redevelopment of The Pyramid is not expected to secure its private financing by the end of the year. Dec. 31 is the deadline for allocating the $42 million allocation. The allocation goes to the IDB with two projects on the list: the Royal Phoenix Hilton hotel at Fourth St. and Linden Ave. and the Poag-McEwen Highland Row development near the University of Memphis. The IDB holds a special meeting Friday to get an update on both projects.
•Met as a rate making body and approved a 5 percent hike in water rates for Memphis Light Gas and Water Division effective when meters are read in January.
•Delayed for two weeks a vote on a new leasing arrangement for red light cameras installed in the city approximately a year ago. The city would lease the cameras from Bank of America under the new arrangement that would save the city money. Several council members wanted more time to review the terms as well as data about the use of the camera. Council member Kemp Conrad objected to the last minute addition of the contract to the council agenda.
•Put a Tobey Park skate park in the current fiscal year’s capital improvements project (CIP) budget for preliminary design work. The estimated construction cost is $440,000 and the design plans are to come back to the council for approval.
•Approved John Cameron as the new city director of engineering.