VOL. 130 | NO. 161 | Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Council Gives Final Approval To Forrest Statue Removal
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members gave final approval Tuesday, Aug. 18, to an ordinance setting the stage for removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in Health Sciences Park
The 11-1 vote on third and final reading follows a unanimous council vote earlier this year on a resolution that does the same thing.
The ordinance and resolution mark a move by city government to begin the process of not only relocating the statue of the Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard but disinterring his remains and those of his wife in the base of the statue.
The only council member to vote no on the final reading of the ordinance was Bill Boyd.
Council members also vote down a planned development on the northeast corner of Summer Avenue and Graham Street that would have been a retail center anchored by a coin-operated laundromat.
The laundromat in particular drew opposition from neighboring homeowners and merchants. They cited several other laundromats within a two-mile radius.
Following the council rejection, the developer, Harry Skefos, indicated he will probably amend his application at the Sept. 1 council meeting to do away with the laundromat.
The council approved a rezoning of both sides of Cleveland-North Watkins between Larkin Street and North Parkway in the Crosstown area.
The change, affecting 36 parcels of land – 35 businesses and one apartment building – means they can retain their distance from the sidewalk including allowing parking in the front unless there are substantial changes to the structures or they are demolished to build new structures. In that event, the buildings would have to comply with the Midtown development guidelines that require buildings to be against the sidewalk borders with parking to the side or in the rear.
The council approved on the second of three readings a pair of ordinances involved in the push for a $57 million new façade and interior renovations of the Memphis Convention Center and a still tentative longer range expansion to the west of the center.
The first creates a Memphis Tourism Improvement District with a $2 a day tax on hotel rooms to pay for tourism promotion. The other would raise the hotel-motel bed tax from 1.7 percent to 3.5 percent to fund the improvements.
And the council approved on the first of three readings an ordinance that would allow city employees in the Deferred Retirement Option Program to freeze their participation in the planned retirement program.
The DROP freeze is designed to entice more police officers to remain on the force in the next three years to prevent further erosion of the police complement.
The DROP program allows a city employee to announce their retirement no more than three years before they retire and continue working for the city and drawing retirement. The advantage for the city is it allows managers to plan better knowing in advance when employees will retire.
The administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. proposed the freeze last month specifically as one of several ways to stem the departure of more than 100 Memphis police officers in the next three years, according to DROP agreements.
Chief Administrative Officer Jack Sammons has said the freeze appeals to many DROP employees, most of whom are police officers, because it allows them to maintain coverage under the city’s health insurance plan.
In Tuesday’s council committee discussion, leaders of the Memphis Police Association and Memphis Fire Fighters Association said the unions are opposed to the proposal because of its potential effect on promotions.
Council member Harold Collins, meanwhile, indicated he will probably amend the ordinance by second reading to reach further back than three years to make the freeze offer to more city employees.