VOL. 132 | NO. 28 | Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Rewrite of City Impasse Ordinance Draws Fire from Unions
By Bill Dries
The unions representing city of Memphis employees gave a rough reception Tuesday, Feb. 7, to a proposal to revamp the city’s impasse proceedings for stalled contract talks between the unions and the city administration.
The ordinance proposed by council member Kemp Conrad would change the much-amended procedure dating back to the aftermath of the 1978 police and fire strikes. Instead of having separate impasse committees to decide each dispute, the proposal would create a single impasse committee for all of the disputes.
“Throwing all of the unions together for one thing is unfair,” said Deborah Godwin, an attorney speaking for the coalition of municipal unions on the matter. “Let’s do it right.”
Conrad defended his proposal, saying it will “streamline” the procedure and create a single council vote on the economic contract items at the heart of an impasse that also includes a decision on whether the city budget should be increased at the same time.
“In the new version, the entire process will be clearly related to the budget,” he said, contrasting that with the current process that he described as producing “random and inconsistent results.”
“This all draws clearer lines,” he added.
The full council took no vote on the ordinance Tuesday. The first of three readings is scheduled for the Feb. 21 council meeting.
In other committee action Tuesday, council members continued to question the city’s arrangement for the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority to run the entertainment district for the city and the Downtown Memphis Commission to continue day to day management of the district for the authority.
“I didn’t know all of these organizations and associations we have for one street,” council member Patrice Robinson said at the end of the brief discussion. The session, following one last month, began with council member Janis Fullilove remarking “I see they sent a brother this time,” after DMC president Terence Patterson spoke.
Patterson indicated that after three years of being the district’s interim day-to-day manager, the DMC is taking a longer term look at how to run the street and developing a plan for the next three years.
“We would like to reimagine the market strategy and reinvest nearly $200,000 to think about the new market approach,” he said. “We also would like to think about our capital improvement plan as a more comprehensive investment strategy, which would start with about $120,000 in 2017 … We also want to execute some operational decisions that quite frankly we held off on because we were the interim manager. But given that we’ve evolved into a longer term manager, we’d like to start thinking about some things, making actions that would yield higher margins as we look to the future.”
Council members are still questioning the authority’s decision to pass on a management contract with the 21 Beale Street group. The group of Memphis and Chicago principals in 21 Beale emerged through two rounds of requests for proposals by the authority before the authority voted to end contract talks last year.
Some council members questioned whether the DMC has experience running a street. Patterson cited the DMC’s experience overseeing the Main Street Mall.
The council approved Tuesday establishing a city budget line item for the architecture and engineering design of an expansion of Memphis Zoo parking in Overton Park. The money to pay for the planning will come from the zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy with no expense to the city.
Council members also approved amended plans for a Downtown hotel on the northwest corner of Madison Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard that call for a nine-story building as well as a new five-story 105-room hotel in the Wolfchase area of Cordova, near New Brunswick and Stage Road. The Cordova hotel is the fifth one in that specific area.
And the council approved on third and final reading an ordinance that sets new rules for the sale of surplus city property. The change drafted by council member Kemp Conrad allows the city to get an appraised value for the property and insist the city get that in bidding to buy it as well as set standards for the use of surplus city property.