VOL. 127 | NO. 35 | Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Commission Has 9 Votes For Single Member District Shift
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners had nine votes Monday, Feb. 20, to pass a redistricting plan that would change the 13-member five-district body into a body of 13 single-member districts.
The ordinance’s passage on the second of three readings saw four commissioners change their previous votes.
Commissioner Henri Brooks voted against the set of single member districts saying she could no longer support it unless it provided for eight instead of seven majority black voting age districts.
Commissioners Melvin Burgess, Heidi Shafer and Chris Thomas voted for the single- member districts after supporting a tweaking of the current five-district structure at past meetings.
The nine-vote majority is significant because it will take a nine-vote two-thirds majority to approve the ordinance on third and final reading in three weeks. That would put to rest the once-a-decade process that was supposed to be completed by the end of 2011.
After Monday’s meeting, Thomas and Shafer each said their votes could change in three weeks depending on amendments to the district lines between now and then. But each also said they want to see the lingering political dispute resolved and single-member districts in general are an acceptable way of doing that, if not their first preference.
In other action, the commission approved on option agreement between the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission and Illinois Central Railroad for the railroad to buy 800 acres of land in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park. The 10-year option sets a price of $12,000 an acre to develop a Memphis Logistics Park. More than 80 percent of the infrastructure cost would be paid by Canadian National Railway Co., the parent company of Illinois Central.
The commission also approved a resolution that formally removes county government from the Public Building Authority governing The Pyramid. And it approved on the first of three readings an ordinance that removes the county from the appointed commission that governs the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The city of Memphis bought out the county’s interests in The Pyramid in 2009 and in the convention center in 2011.