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VOL. 132 | NO. 56 | Monday, March 20, 2017

Commission Debates Interim Appointment to State House

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County commissioners have to decide Monday, March 20, whether or not to appoint someone to the vacant state House District 95 seat until special primary and general elections are decided in three months.

Shelby County Commissioners meet Monday, March 20, to determine if they should appoint someone to the open state House District 95 seat or pass on the interim appointment with a special election so close at hand.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The commission meets at 3 p.m. at the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage.

By the time the special elections are decided, the 2017 legislative session will be over.

But the 2017 session includes what are likely to be crucial floor votes in the House and Senate on a school voucher pilot program proposed by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown – a bill Republicans and Democrats on the county commission oppose.

“He’s not pulling back at all and he’s going to push forward on the voucher bill. Every vote may count on that bill,” commissioner Van Turner said in committee sessions earlier this month. “That vote will be critical. … At least send a person there to at least be a voice for that district and a voice for us, quite frankly, on that critical issue.”

The earliest the commission could appoint someone to temporarily replace Mark Lovell, who resigned his District 95 seat, is at its April 3 meeting.

Commissioner Terry Roland is among those who think the seat should remain vacant until the special election decides the matter.

“Us appointing anybody is just not feasible,” he said at the March 8 committee session. “Whoever we appoint, June 1 they’ll be out of there anyway. … The people voted in that district and they will get to vote again. For us to appoint someone – I don’t believe it is the right thing to do.”

Commissioners should have a better idea Monday of where Kelsey’s voucher bill is and how fast it is moving.

The commission also takes up a call by commissioner Steve Basar to end a city government moratorium on the approval of new development in the Pinch District.

The Memphis City Council enacted and has extended the moratorium awaiting a master plan for the Pinch as part of a larger “gateway” plan proposed by Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration.

“I think there are people out there who want to keep values depressed so they can snap up property,” Basar said, referring to plans by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to expand its campus and be a partner in private, mixed-use developments in the nine-block area between the Pyramid and St. Jude’s campus.

The council enacted the moratorium in July 2015 and rejected a proposed hotel the following March on Front Street across from the Pyramid.

Basar’s wife, Brenda Solomito Basar, represented the hotel developer, Front Street Group, and property owner, Buddy Barnett, before the council.

The county commission had no vote on the matter.

“I’m not here today for money. I’m here today to ask for help,” Barnett told commissioners in committee this month.

Barnett said he and other long-time property owners in the Pinch aren’t opposed to the gateway plan or the $1 billion St. Jude expansion. But he added that as a group, the property owners have seen plans come and go for years.

“There’s not many of us over there, but we all own businesses and there’s things we need to do for ourselves. Some people want to sell property,” he said. “The plan is wonderful. But this is one of many. … We simply need the moratorium removed so we can get on with our lives.”

The city’s Pinch plan is scheduled to go to the Land Use Control Board next month with a council vote to follow that same month.

PROPERTY SALES 57 57 1,266
MORTGAGES 48 48 964