Council Approves Non Discrimination Ordinance, Adds Resolution

By Bill Dries

Memphis City Council members approved on third and final reading an ordinance Tuesday, Oct. 16, that forbids the city from discriminating in hiring, firing or promotion based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ordinance was amended before the final vote Tuesday to include gender identity and a definition that includes transgendered individuals.

Council attorney Allan Wade continued to raise concerns that the ordinance may be a city charter amendment requiring a referendum and that the council may be overstepping its authority in what is a policy matter.

After hearing Wade’s concerns, council member Shea Flinn proposed and the council approved a resolution directing the city’s personnel director to include sexual orientation and gender identity as non merit factors the city cannot consider in personnel decisions.

The council split 8-4 on both votes after a second emotional debate of the issue that filled the council chambers again a month after the final vote was delayed.

In other action, the council approved a planned development at 1325 Lamar Avenue – the old Annesdale Mansion at Lamar and Snowden Circle. The planned development allows the owner, Ken Robison, to rent the grounds and the house for gatherings like weddings and parties. Robison will also live in the circa 1850 house with his family.

The council also approved $1.9 million in funding that is part of plans for streetscape improvements along Elvis Presley Boulevard from Brooks Road to Shelby Drive. Groundbreaking for the first phase of the improvements starting on the Brooks Road end is tentatively scheduled for next month.

During council committee sessions Tuesday, council members pledged to look for additional city funding to keep the city’s Whitehaven golf course open. The course was slated for closing last spring during the city’s budget season. The Wharton administration last month said it wanted to keep the course open and instead close the Davy Crockett golf course in Frayser.

Council members have yet to vote on any course of action other than the one they took in passing the city budget. But council members discussing the item Tuesday indicated they wanted to see if they could find the funding for Whitehaven without closing Davy Crockett.

In another committee session, council members recommended sending a plan to the Land Use Control Board that calls for the revitalization of the Vance Avenue area that leaves the Foote Homes public housing development intact. The recommendation goes to the full council for a vote at its Nov. 6 meeting.

Foote Homes is the last of the city’s large public housing projects. The Wharton administration’s stated goal has been to eliminate public housing which it has through federal funding to demolish the developments and replace them with mixed-use mixed- income housing.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said the city has not sought any federal funding for the demolition of Foote Homes and approved no plans for that.