VOL. 131 | NO. 68 | Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Conrad Call for De-Annexation Talks Draws Favorable Reviews
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad wants to open talks with county commissioners on possible voluntary de-annexations.
And County Commission Chairman Terry Roland said he is open to the idea.
Council members will consider Conrad’s resolution Tuesday, April 5, in committee sessions.
The resolution would form a joint committee “to study and recommend to the city council the reasonableness of de-annexing areas of the city and the best way to coordinate the provision of essential services to residents of an affected territory after de-annexation.”
The item could go on Tuesday’s agenda for a vote as well, Conrad said.
“This issue obviously isn’t going away,” Conrad said. “There are a lot of people that think there maybe is a more strategic way to look at the footprint of the city of Memphis to make the city better and stronger.
“But instead of having that just be dictated by Nashville based on when things got annexed or what-not, I think what we’re trying to do is lay out a thoughtful, rational process with all of the key stakeholders to look at the footprint of the city,” he said.
His proposal follows the death for this year of a de-annexation by referendum bill in the Tennessee Legislature last week.
The 10-member body would include two council members appointed by Conrad, two county commissioners appointed by Roland and two representatives each of the city and county administrations appointed by the city and county mayors, as well as two state legislators from Shelby County appointed by state Senate Republican leader Mark Norris and state Senate Democratic leader Lee Harris.
Conrad said he hopes to have recommendations from the group by the time the Legislature starts its 2017 session in January.
That’s when a new de-annexation bill is expected to surface in the Legislature and begin its journey through committees in Nashville all over again.
Roland, on the WKNO-TV program Behind The Headlines, said Conrad’s call is a positive development. Roland has been an advocate of de-annexation by referendum.
“They will be able to de-annex themselves through an ordinance,” Roland said of the possible outcome for residents of areas who favor being drawn out of the city of Memphis boundaries.
“It’s a nightmare to service,” he said of the city’s burden.
The joint committee would also make recommendations on terms like general obligation bond debt and city employee benefits that de-annexed home and property owners might have to pay once they are no longer Memphians.
“The city and county have both had teams kind of feverishly working on what that would have looked like had everything passed,” Conrad said. “That’s a part of all of this. It’s looking at all of the ramifications like the geography.”
But that could be challenging based on big differences between City Hall’s estimate of de-annexation’s impact on the city and the estimates of Shelby County government leaders.
Roland believes Southwind-Windyke and south Cordova are the only annexed areas where there is a sustained interest in de-annexation that would have translated into a referendum.
And he contends if the city kept the sales tax revenue and commercial property taxes in those areas, the city wouldn’t lose money but would profit by about $3.5 million.
“It would be a savings for the city of Memphis and they can take that money and invest it in the city of Memphis,” Roland said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland estimated the city would lose $27 million to $80 million in revenue if all 10 residential areas annexed by Memphis since May of 1998 would vote to de-annex, leading to the loss of 111,000 Memphians in a city of 600,000.
Shelby County Commissioner David Reaves believes the de-annexation bill that the state Senate killed for this year by sending it to a summer study committee is the driving force behind the group Conrad wants to form.
“I like what’s going on now,” he said. “I don’t believe we get to the table to have this without this action in Nashville. … I think this forces the discussion. I think it’s the right discussion. And I think the stability of the outer rim of the county is incredibly important to the long-term stability of the county in general.”
Reaves and Roland were interviewed on Behind The Headlines.
The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Reaves said he attempted to get city leaders to address the issue when he took office as a county commissioner in late 2014. But Reaves said he couldn’t get city leaders to even schedule a meeting on the issue.
Three de-annexation proponents ran for the Memphis City Council in the 2015 city election. None of them won.
Conrad said the group would also look at how the city delivers services.
“Where does it make sense to have urban services? Where does it make sense to have more rural services?” he said. “It’s looking at the whole thing from a strategic standpoint – not what had been reacting to a couple of areas where there are a lot of upset people. We’ve got to look out for the whole city.”