VOL. 132 | NO. 93 | Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Council Hears Railgarten Dispute in 2 Weeks, Appoints Impasse Panels
By Bill Dries
MPD DIRECTOR MICHAEL RALLINGS
Memphis City Council members will hold an evidentiary hearing in two weeks to sort out a Midtown restaurant-bar that ran afoul of the approvals needed to open with annexes including intermodal containers and an outdoor area.
The May 23 council session will include an evidentiary hearing specifically on the question of whether Railgarten’s special use permit, granted by the council earlier this year, should be revoked.
Business owners got permission for the indoor bar on Central Avenue east of Cooper Street from the council. But the other annexes of the same business weren’t approved by the council. Railgarten owners went to the Board of Adjustment later for those parts of the business prompting some council members to question whether the business owners were trying to go around the council.
The Board of Adjustment delayed its decision last month on the matter at the request of the council.
Some council members voting for the evidentiary hearing at the Tuesday, May 9, council session hope the business will have come to terms with its neighbors about parking and other issues in the two weeks before the hearing.
Meanwhile the council put its recently-approved rules for the impasse procedure to use Tuesday.
Impasse committees composed of three council members each were appointed to decide contract stalemates between the city administration and six unions representing city workers.
A seventh union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, did not submit its impasse notice within seven days of the mayor’s budget proposal as required by the impasse ordinance.
Union leaders sought an exception from the council, but the council voted not to grant the exception. AFSCME represents several different groups of city employees.
The unions at impasse and the administration have until noon Monday to submit their final offers for consideration by the different impasse trios.
The council also put off a vote on a resolution that would suspend the Beale Street Bucks program that charges a $10 cover to get into the entertainment district on some weekend nights. The crowd control measure includes a $7 rebate in the form of coupons from Beale businesses.
The council is now scheduled to vote on the resolution at the May 23 council session which would put any suspension of the program past the events of the Memphis In May International Festival, the peak of the spring season for the entertainment district.
REV. JESSE JACKSON WAS AT CITY HALL TUESDAY TO TALK WITH COUNCIL MEMBERS AND MEMPHIS MAYOR JIM STRICKLAND ABOUT MINORITY BUSINESS.
The Beale Street Bucks program is the issue in a pending federal lawsuit against the city by Lucille Catron, the director of the Beale Street Development Corporation. Catron is also contesting a legal settlement among the city, Performa Entertainment and her late husband, Randle Catron – as head of the BSDC – that ended the BSDC’s status as the holder of the city master lease for the district.
The council approved on the second of three readings an ordinance approving the Pinch District concept plan for the nine-block area between the Pyramid and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In committee, city Housing and Community Development Division director Paul Young told council members that the city is in the design phase of a pedestrian bridge between the eastern side of the Pyramid and Front Street.
The council also approved Tuesday on the first of three readings a third freeze in as many years of the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program – or DROP.
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said the freeze on the departure of city employees, including police officers, who have set a fixed retirement date in the future, is necessary again as the police department builds its ranks toward a force of 2,300 to 2,400. The Memphis police force is currently under 2,000.
Without the freeze, Rallings told the council he will have to replace much if not all of his command staff in 14 months.
The police department is scheduled to lose another 21 officers in July. In 2018, another 40 police officers are scheduled to retire under the DROP provisions as well as 39 firefighters.
Leaders of the Memphis Police Association and Memphis Fire Fighters Association say they are opposed to the freeze, citing its negative effect on morale among employees hoping for promotions.
Rallings said the department can’t make promotions anyway until its bolsters police ranks because promotions would take officers off the street.
At the top of the Tuesday afternoon session, the council heard from civil rights leader and two-time presidential contender Rev. Jesse Jackson.
In town for a regional meeting of his Rainbow Coalition-Operation PUSH organization, Jackson also met with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland Tuesday to talk about minority business growth.
“The fairness gap in Memphis is embarrassing,” Jackson told the council on the same topic. He also touched on next year’s 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis.
Jackson was part of King’s inner circle during that trip to Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers.
“We need you to work with us to close the gap … so we can have a celebration 50 years later,” Jackson said.
In planning and development items, the council delayed for two weeks a vote on closing an alley and part of Pontotoc Avenue west of Danny Thomas Boulevard and south of FedExForum as part of 240 units of apartments across what are now five parcels on both sides of Pontotoc at Danny Thomas. The Nashville based developers, ECG Acquisitions LLC, say the rental units will be affordable housing.
The Land Use Control Board recommended rejection. Some council members point out that another section of Pontotoc further west will be closed for the “I Am A Man Plaza” on the south side of Clayborn Temple.