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VOL. 131 | NO. 13 | Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Council Members Settle In To New Assignments

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members file the last of the paperwork Tuesday, Jan. 19, from the 2015 elections to put City Hall’s power transition on record.

Memphis City Council members meet Tuesday and continue to learn on the job in the first month of their four-year term of office. The six new members of the body elected last year are chairing some of the council committees.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Meanwhile, the six new members are learning on the job as they chair several committees following assignments by council chairman Kemp Conrad: Martavius Jones is chairman of the council audit committee; Patrice Robinson chairs the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division committee; Jamita Swearengen is chairwoman of the parks and neighborhoods committee; council member Philip Spinosa leads the personnel committee, usually the first committee session of the council day; Frank Colvett chairs the planning and zoning committee, which is the last session of the day before executive session; and Worth Morgan is chairman of the public safety committee.

Veteran councilman Edmund Ford Jr. is chairman of the council budget committee, a key post on a committee that includes all 13 council members.

At the first council session of 2016 two weeks ago, council member Janis Fullilove complained of being shut out of committee assignments.

Conrad pointed out that she remains chairwoman of the public services and neighborhoods committee. Fullilove said the committee hasn’t met recently, to which Conrad replied that it is up to her to set the agenda.

In other changes on the fifth floor of City Hall, veteran council staffer Juaness Keplinger is council administrator, leading the council office.

She was appointed following Lisa Geater’s departure to become chief of staff to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

The council meets Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Follow the meeting with live coverage @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, including developments in council committee sessions earlier in the council day.

On Tuesday’s agenda is a pair of resolutions funding the site of the old Walter Simmons housing development at Lamar Avenue and Knight Arnold Road as a new city General Services division maintenance yard.

Veteran council staffer Juaness Keplinger is council administrator, leading the council office. She was tapped following Lisa Geater’s departure to become chief of staff to Mayor Jim Strickland.

Council action on the two resolutions that complete plans for the facility and set specifications to take bids on the work were delayed after the October elections and the interim period between mayoral administrations.

The CoMEM facility, as it is called, includes moving General Services maintenance functions from a yard in Overton Park, which has been mentioned as a possible site for a William Eggleston photo museum and archive.

Conrad’s resolution from last year calling for a “more robust performance review system” for city employees is back on the agenda Tuesday.

The resolution also calls for any city employee with multiple disciplinary actions to be denied pay raises.

In committee sessions, before the 3:30 p.m. meeting, the new council gets its first look of the year at the city’s progress on processing the untested rape kits collected by police over a 40-year period. The update is at a 9:45 a.m. session.

At a 1:15 p.m. session, council members talk over the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s plan to spend $950,000 from its budget to buy a vintage trolley.

At the same session, the council will also hear more about a proposed ordinance that would keep in place the trial program for residential parking permits, which was put in place in the area around Overton Square.

With the square’s resurgence, some of the surrounding residential streets have also seen more cars looking for on-street parking. That continued even after the city-funded Overton Square parking garage opened.

The parking permit program allows residents on a given street to petition the city for on-street parking only by permit. The city charges for the permits to cover costs of signage and other specific costs.

Homeowners on Monroe Avenue were the first to petition for the permit parking.

The council executive session at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday will include a discussion on tax increment financing. The TIF zones use property tax revenue generated in a defined area to finance bonds for economic development projects in those boundaries.

They have been used most notably in Nashville’s current development boom. Memphis economic development efforts have not used TIFs as frequently, relying more on payments-in-lieu-of-taxes – or PILOTs.

Proponents of the PILOT approach say the tax breaks are used in Memphis because of the city’s competition for such development with North Mississippi. They point to Nashville’s lack of similar aggressive competition from bordering states.

PROPERTY SALES 34 34 3,905
MORTGAGES 47 47 4,437
BUILDING PERMITS 190 190 9,458
BANKRUPTCIES 60 60 2,945