VOL. 130 | NO. 46 | Monday, March 9, 2015
Council Votes Down, Delays Rule Changes
By Bill Dries
While Memphis City Council members are preparing for the upcoming budget season and some key financial decisions, the council is taking its time with a series of proposed changes in the way it conducts the public’s business.
The set of recommendations from an ad hoc rules committee led by council member Wanda Halbert has been partially voted down or delayed by the council as a whole.
“I’m not exactly sure at this time what to do with this,” Halbert said Tuesday, March 3, as she reviewed the remaining recommendations. “Clearly a number of council members don’t seem to be concerned.”
The recommended rule changes voted down by the council include rotating staff members among council members. Currently staff members remain with their council member until or unless the member requests a change. A proposal to rotate committee chairmanships among council members every year or even two years also was voted down.
Several council members who voted against those rule changes said the decisions should be made based on the chairman’s discretion or whether a proposal can muster seven votes.
But there likely will be some new language that clearly spells out what part of city government the council staff falls under as well as a better definition of job descriptions.
Council member Joe Brown, meanwhile, remains miffed about the approved council rule that discourages cellphone calls during committee sessions and calls on council members to put their phones on vibrate if they don’t turn them off.
“It’s really just a waste of time,” Brown said moments after leaving the council committee room when his phone started ringing during the council discussion.
The other council members weren’t talking about the phone rule even as Brown’s phone jingled and he stepped outside the meeting room to take the call. But as Halbert talked about the other rules, the cellphone rule was on his mind as he returned to the meeting. Brown feels like the rule singles him out.
“You better lay low, hustler,” Brown said to Halbert as he re-joined the discussion.
“I ask that we not attempt to bring in personal issues,” Halbert replied without naming Brown. “All of us have had phone issues. Let’s keep it broad. All the rules apply to everyone.”