Ritz: Commission Should Block City’s EDGE Appointments

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz wants to hold up county approval of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s nominees to the board of the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).


And he will press the issue of money the city of Memphis pledged in the creation of the joint economic development body with a resolution on the agenda for the Monday, Oct. 28, meeting of the county commission that would effectively block the city appointments.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting via Twitter @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.

Ritz’s resolution is a “resolution of intent” of the commission that it will “withhold approval of future nominations by the mayor of the city of Memphis.”

The issue for Ritz is the original plan for the city and county governments to each contribute $7.5 million to EDGE that each government got from the sale of the old Memphis Defense Depot.

The county put up its share. But the city diverted its share to other projects and later reached an agreement with EDGE and the county to pay the money in three installments, the last of which is due by June 30, 2015.

“What I’m trying to do, frankly, is send a message,” Ritz said, adding that by not acting on Wharton’s new appointees, old city appointees would continue to serve and the EDGE board would continue to function.

“The money is not due, unless you are a purist,” Luttrell said as he agreed with other commissioners critical of other fronts on which they say the Wharton administration has not paid money the city owes in joint city-county obligations.

“I have tried to work with the city,” he added, saying he has tried to “compartmentalize” such matters and deal with them on an individual basis.

“I’m pretty disappointed in your response,” Ritz replied.

Luttrell said he took “exception” to what Ritz said and that Ritz, who is a non-voting member of the EDGE board, should have raised the matter with the board.

“I don’t see the relevance of what you are talking about to the situation at hand,” Luttrell added.

The new installment plan for the city is a “gentleman’s agreement” between the two mayors, according to Luttrell, but a more formal agreement with the EDGE board.

County Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy said based on that agreement, the city is not in arrears.

Ritz’s resolution got nine “yes” votes in committee.

Also on Monday’s agenda is a vote on a planned development on Millington-Arlington Road at Austin Peay Highway in the Rosemark area of north Shelby County.

James and Richard Freudenberg of the Freudenberg Trust want to rezone the vacant 21-acre site from residential and conservation-agricultural uses to a commercial mixed use planned development for retail sales and/or a mini-storage warehouse.

The immediate area includes a Dollar General store on the other side of Austin Peay Highway.

The commission will vote on accepting a $797,809 grant from the federal department of Health and Human Services for the children and families of those re-entering society after serving prison time.

The item drew attention in committee meetings last week when commissioner Wyatt Bunker questioned the resolution’s use of the word “partners” to describe family members. Bunker interpreted that to mean the grant money could be used for same-sex partners and he voted against it in committee.