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VOL. 132 | NO. 231 | Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Council to Take Final Vote on Confederate Monuments Alternatives

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members are scheduled to take a final vote Tuesday, Nov. 21, on an ordinance that sets out options for the removal of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis statues in city parks, and will discuss amending a city ordinance to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages on Main Street Downtown.

The statue ordinance requires Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to have a plan to remove the Confederate monuments of Forrest and Davis by Nov. 21. Council members had anticipated the city would have made its case for removal before an administrative law judge by Nov. 21, but the city is still pursuing its claim that it does not need the approval of the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove the monument of Forrest in particular.

A hearing on the matter has been delayed to Dec. 20 in Nashville.

Memphis City Council members again come to a final vote on plans for removing Confederate monuments, debate ranked-choice voting and consider changes to rules for public art projects that emphasize using local talent. (Daily News File)

The ordinance outlines several possible resolutions, including the city closing Health Sciences Park where the Forrest statue is, or building a monument to lynching victims in the plaza surrounding it.

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

The council’s economic development and tourism committee is scheduled to discuss Tuesday a proposed ordinance that would allow open containers and alcoholic beverages on Main Street. There are no documents with the proposal and it is not on Tuesday’s council agenda for a vote.

Currently, the Beale Street entertainment district between Second and Fourth streets is the only area where alcoholic beverages in open containers are permitted outside.

The council votes Tuesday on a set of six resolutions totaling $6.9 million in capital funding for the Memphis Area Transit Authority. The funding covers buying new fixed-route buses, rail vehicles, renovations and planning for a new operations and maintenance facility.

Also Tuesday, a referendum ordinance that would put to voters a proposal to repeal ranked-choice voting is up for the second of three readings. The RCV requirement would be used in single-member district city council races where no candidate gets a majority of the votes. It would replace a later runoff election.

Since council member Edmund Ford Jr. introduced the repeal referendum ordinance in October, state election officials have said RCV is not permitted by state law even though city voters passed a charter amendment to allow it.

The council also votes Tuesday on $1.5 million in capital funding for rehab and modernization work at City Hall. The latest renovation work at the 51-year-old structure is already underway.

The proposed sale of what was once Columbus Park Downtown also will be discussed Tuesday. The city would sell the land on the southwest corner of Adams Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard to nearby Calvary Episcopal Church for $65,000.

The statue of Christopher Columbus made for the park when it opened in the 1980s has since been moved to a plaza at Marquette Park in East Memphis with the permission of the city.

Calvary intends to use the property to aid in “Calvary’s improving vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow for the two buildings they have renovated for additional classrooms for the Grizzlies Preparatory School,” according to the council resolution.

Pick-up lines at the end of the school day for the prep school currently back up on Jefferson Avenue east of B.B. King Boulevard on weekday afternoons.

In executive session, the council reviews amendments to the city ordinance that set aside 1 percent of civic construction projects for public art.

The proposed changes would define a local artist as someone “who has current permanent residence within the city of Memphis municipal limits.” The current requirement is an artist “who has lived or worked within the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area for five or more years of such artist’s career.”

For art teams, 75 percent of the team would have to live within the city limits under terms of the proposal.

The city council would be more involved in selecting artists and reviewing designs for a specific project.

The proposed amendments come after council members delayed funding for the UrbanArt Commission during the 2017 budget season over concerns that the art projects approved in the past haven’t been using enough local artists and that the selection process wasn’t open enough.

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