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VOL. 127 | NO. 154 | Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Proposed Gas Tax Advances to November Memphis Ballot

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members gave final approval Tuesday, Aug. 7, to a second ballot question for the Nov. 6 ballot in Memphis.

On an 8-3 vote, the council approved on third and final reading the referendum ordinance that puts a one-cent-a-gallon local gas tax to Memphis voters. The same ballot will also include a referendum on a proposed half percent local sales tax hike the council approved in July.

Revenue from the gas tax hike, estimated at $3 million to $6 million a year by the sponsor of the ordinance – council member Edmund Ford Jr. – would go to the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

The council vote comes the same month that MATA will be cutting bus service including a Poplar Avenue express service MATA had started just this past December.

Much of the council debate was about how MATA would use the additional revenue. Council member Harold Collins wanted specific assurances that MATA would use the revenue for fuel only and not for administrative positions. Council member Janis Fullilove wanted MATA to use the extra revenue to restore and expand service and keep buses running for a longer schedule.

The council also approved sending $2 million in city funding to the Center City Development Corporation for blight remediation at the Chisca Hotel on South Main and a $1 million loan through a PILOT extension fund for the Downtown Parking Authority to buy and renovate the old South Main area hotel’s parking garage.

Council member Joe Brown, whose super district includes the Chisca and the surrounding South Main area, termed it a “special interest project” and had the Wharton administration verify that the council added the funding to the city budget in June.

In other action, the council delayed for two weeks a vote on grant funds from Wells Fargo Bank that are part of the bank’s settlement with the city of Memphis of a lawsuit alleging Wells Fargo used deceptive practices that targeted African-American homeowners in refinancing home mortgage loans.

Of the $2.4 million in the Wells Fargo grant, $800,000 would pay the city’s legal costs in bringing and pursuing the lawsuit. The other $1.6 million would fund the city’s Innovation Delivery Team as the local match for private funding from the Bloomberg Family Philanthropies.

Council members want a review in two weeks during council committee sessions of the delivery team’s initiatives in three parts of the city to promote locally owned business growth and cut gun violence in those same areas.

The council also delayed for two weeks a vote on a resolution that would end all city funding for vehicle inspections at the end of the current fiscal year – June 30, 2013.

The council approved a rezoning of the Village Plaza shopping center at South Perkins Road and Knight Arnold Road it had rejected in June because the shopping center was to include a pawn shop. After approving the rezoning Tuesday, the council then rejected a special use permit for Premier Pawn & Jewelry Shop which would have been the chain’s first store in the Memphis market.

The council approved a multi-family development in the Tournament Center planned development at Tournament Drive west of Hacks Cross Road and also approved a mixed use planned development of office and commercial uses at U.S. 64 west of Collierville-Arlington Road.

The council set an Aug. 21 public hearing and vote on a planned development for retail and commercial mixed use in the residential single family district on the northeast corner of S. Fourth Street and E. McLemore Avenue.

PROPERTY SALES 28 290 16,197
MORTGAGES 33 165 10,087
BUILDING PERMITS 184 608 38,544
BANKRUPTCIES 33 125 7,597