VOL. 126 | NO. 140 | Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Council Approves Redistricting Plan
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members approved a redistricting plan for the council just two days before the filing deadline for the Oct. 6 city elections.
All 13 city council seats are on the ballot as well as citywide races for Memphis Mayor, City Court Clerk and the three city court judges.
With a few questions and no debate, the council approved with no amendments on a 10-0 vote the plan offered by City Council attorney Allan Wade.
Six prospective candidates in four council races were drawn out of the districts they were looking at with the new set of boundaries. And Downtown Memphis was divided at Poplar Avenue, roughly the border between Downtown and Uptown, with the southern part moving into council District 6 and the northern part remaining in District 7.
Poplar is also the border between the Downtown zip codes of 38103 and 38105.
The redistricting is a once a decade process that follows the U.S. Census to reflect changes and shifts in population recorded in the census. Starting with the 1970 census, districts for legislative bodies – local, state and federal – have been required to be redrawn to be of equal size. The requirement originated with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Baker vs. Carr lawsuit out of Shelby County that established the Constitutional principle of one person – one vote.
The federal civil rights acts that preceeded Baker vs. Carr established requirements against diluting black voting strength.
Wade said his plan reflected those requirements and that he had no knowledge of what prospective challengers were in or out of a given district.
“I think we’ve made a pretty good plan,” Wade said. “There is no Constitutional right to run from a particular district.”
In other action, the council:
•Delayed any decision on an already declared impasse between the city and the Memphis Firefighters Association. City Attorney Herman Morris advised the council to delay an impasse decision and any discussion of one because of a federal lawsuit filed by the union and a dozen other municipal unions claiming the city has violated the impasse procedure by seeking a 4.6 percent pay cut and a voluntary buyout plan for sanitation workers. Union leaders said the pending impasse is separate from the lawsuit but agreed to the delay.
•Delayed for two weeks a vote on closing a section of Looney Ave. between Front and Main Streets to realign the new section with the existing stretch of Looney east of Main. The realignment is part of plans to redevelop the area. Council member Joe Brown sought the delay.
•Approved a hotel waiver for the rebranding of the recently closed Holiday Inn on Poplar Ave. at Interstate 240 as a Marriott.
•Approved zoning for a private medical office, art gallery and pharmacy at Collierville-Arlington Road and Washington Road.
•Approved on the second of three readings a Nov. 2012 ballot question that would require a 2/3rds vote by the council to raise a tax rate above the percentage of the rate of inflation.
The council meets again in special session Friday to fill the vacant district 7 council seat. Fourteen citizens have applied to serve the five months remaining in the term of Barbara Swearengen Ware who resigned last month after she took pre-trial diversion on a charge of official misconduct.