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VOL. 130 | NO. 82 | Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shelby County Gets Two Summer Jobs Programs

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners have created their own two-month summer jobs program for 65 teenagers and college-aged adults and voted Monday, April 27, to fund it over two summers with $169,127 from the commission’s contingency fund.

Commissioners will select program participants from those who apply to the commission’s office, which is coordinating the effort with 30 businesses and local governments.

Each commissioner selects five people to participate in the summer jobs program at an hourly rate of $8 for 37.5 hours of work per week.

The allocation of those in the jobs program by commission district is similar to the city of Memphis’ summer jobs program, which also divides the 1,000 positions by council district.

The commission’s program is in addition to the county administration’s summer jobs program through Shelby County Schools in which 425 students in that school system will work 24 hours per week.

“We’re open to all schools, not just Shelby County Schools,” said commissioner Terry Roland. “That’s what makes ours different.”

REAVES

But commissioner David Reaves, who cast the only vote against the spending, said his problem was with commissioners choosing those who get the summer jobs.

“I cannot see how commissioners can be objective and actually it’s very subjective,” he said. “There are some rules within here. But as an elected official, I don’t see how I can be totally objective. I’m not comfortable with that.”

The children of commissioners or relatives living with commissioners are not eligible to participate, avoiding a controversy that consumed a summer jobs program a past county commission approved in the 1990s.

But the children of county government employees are eligible.

Commissioner Van Turner argued that a jobs program that brings together students from the county’s different schools systems – public, private, charter and home schooling – is a key part of the program.

TURNER

“Having a diversity among these students is important,” Turner said recalling his own experience as a teenager in a summer exchange program. “Kids inside the 240 loop meet kids outside the 240 loop.”

Whether it’s summer jobs or capital projects, the commission’s move is part of a larger trend of dividing funds by district.

The city council has disagreed on a proposal to split $14 million in capital funding by council districts.

The proposal by council member Wanda Halbert was part of her belief that some council districts are left out and that the available money to finance one-time construction projects should be given in equal shares. District council members should have a larger say in what projects would be funded in their respective districts, according to Halbert.

But others on the council are sharply opposed.

Council member Shea Flinn called it a “political slush fund” that council members would use in an election year to build support for their re-election.

The measure was whittled down to $7 million, or $1 million for each of the council’s single-member districts. It was attached to a resolution funding $13.5 million in street paving per month in advance of Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s budget proposal that includes $15 million in street paving.

Most council members favored the street paving funding but not when it was attached to the capital funding by council district.

The measure was voted down in committee sessions April 7 and a vote by the full council was delayed at the body’s April 21 meeting.

In other county action Monday, the commission approved a 26-month, $406,250 contract between the Shelby County Public Defender’s office and the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys Law School to start a juvenile delinquency law clinic.

Law school students will work with the defenders office in its representation of juvenile defendants in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court.

The commission also approved amendments to the city-county mechanical code that allows computer monitors on boilers to be used instead of requiring an engineer to visually check a boiler every 20 minutes.

And the commission again voted down an ordinance that would change pedestrian safety ordinances in the unincorporated parts of Shelby County. The measure also failed to garner seven votes on first reading. Despite failing on the first two readings, the proposal by commissioner Steve Basar advances to third and final reading next month.

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