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VOL. 130 | NO. 3 | Tuesday, January 6, 2015

City Council Year Begins With Challenges

By Bill Dries

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The Tuesday, Jan. 6, session of the Memphis City Council is the first council meeting of 2015 and with it the debut of council member Myron Lowery as council chairman for the next year, succeeding Jim Strickland in the leadership position.

Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery makes his debut as council chairman for the next year at the Jan. 6 meeting, succeeding Jim Strickland in the leadership position.

Lowery is the council’s longest-serving member, first elected in 1991, and beginning his fifth term as chairman of the body in a city election year in which he will soon decide whether to run for a seventh four-year term on the body or back his son, Mickell Lowery, in the race for his super district seat.

Strickland, meanwhile, is still weighing a possible challenge of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. in the 2015 mayor’s race. For now, his position is that he will seek re-election to the council on the October ballot.

Strickland and Wharton were present at the New Year’s Day annual prayer breakfast hosted by Lowery. Toward the end of the breakfast, Lowery asked Strickland to stand. Lowery then repeated his support of Wharton for mayor in 2015 while urging Strickland to run for another term on the council and then consider a bid for mayor.

As Lowery begins his one-year tenure as chairman, the council is working with two fewer staff members in 2015.

Council staff members Ann Turner and Danielle Spears were laid off at year’s end taking the council’s complement down to a staff of nine.

The paring of the council staff comes as council members are considering some changes in their internal rules and procedures as suggested by an ad hoc committee chaired by council member Wanda Halbert.

Among other items, Halbert’s committee suggested the assignments of staff to individual council members be on a rotating basis.

Halbert argued the staff assignments should rotate as well as the committee assignments the council chairman makes for council members.

Council member Joe Brown, who along with council member Janis Fullilove was critical of the layoffs of Turner and Spears, didn’t like the idea of changing out staffers every year.

Council members have tentatively set a council retreat for Jan. 24 but at year’s end only four of the 13 members had committed to attending the session, which would include further discussion of the rules changes suggested as well as a look at projections for the city’s finances and other issues on the horizon at City Hall.

“This is some very important work,” Halbert said of the retreat. “I think it should be important to each of us to not be afraid or shy away from going through annual training and an annual retreat.”

Lowery said such a turnout would be “embarrassing” to the council and that if more council members didn’t commit to attending, he would cancel it.

PROPERTY SALES 140 207 19,653
MORTGAGES 128 196 22,629
BUILDING PERMITS 166 367 40,371
BANKRUPTCIES 40 102 12,588